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No Love at First Sight: Critics vs. The Beatles

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While most of America was swept away on a wave of Beatlemania when the Fab Four launched the British Invasion on February 9, 1964, the reaction of many cultural critics was far less giddy. In fact, many of them loathed the four lads from Lancashire. 50 years on, their sniping and sneering commentaries come across as both laughable and shortsighted. Here are some of their more choice disses:

William F. Buckley Jr. in The Boston Globe:
The Beatles are not merely awful; I would consider it sacrilegious to say anything less than that they are god awful. They are so unbelievably horribly, so appallingly unmusical, so dogmatically insensitive to the magic of the art that they qualify as crowned heads of anti-music…

George Dixon in The Washington Post:
Just thinking about the Beatles seems to induce mental disturbance. They have a commonplace, rather dull act that hardly seems to merit mentioning, yet people hereabouts have mentioned scarcely anything else for a couple of days.

Alan Rinzler in The Hartford Courant:
Stiff lip, old chap, even the Beatles will pass! The question is, what next?

Donald Freeman in The Chicago Tribune:
The Beatles must be a huge joke, a wacky gag, a gigantic put-on. And if, as the fellow insisted on What's My Line?, they're selling 20,000 Beatle wigs a day in New York at $2.98 a shake — then I guess everyone wants to share the joke. And the profits.

Theodore Strongin in The New York Times:
The Beatles' vocal quality can be described as hoarsely incoherent, with the minimal enunciation necessary to communicate the schematic texts.

Percy Shain in The Boston Globe:
They … sound like a group of disorganized amateurs whose voices seem to be fighting each other rather than blending.

Los Angeles Times:
With their bizarre shrubbery, the Beatles are obviously a press agent's dream combo. Not even their mothers would claim that they sing well. But the hirsute thickets they affect make them rememberable, and they project a certain kittenish charm which drives the immature, shall we say, ape.

Time:
They look like shaggy Peter Pans…The precise nature of their charm remains mysterious even to their manager.

Alexander Kendrick on CBS Morning News:
They symbolize the 20th century non-hero as they make non-music, wear non-haircuts, give no “Mersey.” Meanwhile, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, the fan mail keeps rolling in and so does the money.

In subsequent years, as The Beatles honed their craft as songwriters and musicians, attitudes changed. In time even some of the staunchest defenders of high art came to appreciate the Fab Four’s artistry. Safe to say, some of the critics would have dearly loved to retract and revise their original impressions.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Tags: The Beatles

Comments  

# D Harvey 2014-03-29 01:48
Four lads from Lancashire. I was just wondering if that was anywhere near Liverpool. Sir Paul might be a bit surprised to learn they moved Penny Lane. Wonder if there is a Strawberry Field there in jolly old Lancashire. I must be getting bloody old.
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