Did The Beatles Help Kill Rock and Roll?

Michael Gerber
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John, Ringo and Paul de-planing.

Sure, they seem harmless enough. But were they leading rock off a cliff?

Commenter Hologram Sam (nice handle, man) pointed us to a nice little screed by Gene Sculatti, where he compactly autopsies the music we love. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Sculatti was the main brain behind the fun pop culture compendia The Catalog of Cool and Too Cool.

I thought the piece was provocative enough to surface on a post of its own. Read it and give an opinion: were The Beatles part of the problem? Or can their example lead rock back to life?

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  1. Avatar J.R. Clark wrote:

    I don’t blame any one artist for the death of rock ‘n’ roll.

    I do have some mugshots for you to identify as potential murderers, though.

    Bob Dylan

    Jim Morrison

    Practitioners of the “singer/songwriter” genre of the early 1970s (I’m looking at you, Melanie and James Taylor)

    Practitioners of “pomp rock” (I’m looking at you, Yes, Emerson, Lake, and Palmer)

    Practitioners of the easy-listening “California” rock of the mid-1970s (I’m looking at you Fleetwood Mac, Eagles, Poco, Kenny Loggins)

    Rock musicians who had nothing new or noteworthy to contribute, but kept releasing mediocre albums with only their name to guarantee sales (I’m looking at four ex-Beatles who gave us “Wild Life”, “London Town,” “Back to the Egg,” “Walls and Bridges”, “Living in the Material World,” “Rotogravure,” “Press to Play”)

    MAD magazine-versions of rock musicians (I’m looking at you, Rolling Stones, KISS, Alice Cooper, Guns and Roses, Nirvana)

  2. Myths can be destructive and stupid (American exceptionalism), or they can go on being nourishing and useful for a long time (the utopian wish recently tracked here by Josh Glenn). But most myths are good for a limited time only, because they clarify what is important in a moment and, in this case, a music.

    Rock as rebellion; rock as adolescent angst; rock as dance music; rock as sex; rock as automobile worship; rock as art–all have been useful at different times for different reasons. If the myths persist long enough to mold over and choke out fresh air and fresh thought, that’s our fault for not being able to outgrow them until we realize we’re fat and slothful and half-dead, our ears dripping with mythic Cheez Whiz.

    Dr. Devin’s Rx: Stay lean and open, take nothing for granted; question your shibboleths and kill your cows periodically. Hold on to what feels true and SUBSCRIBE TO NO IDEOLOGY.

    Of course the Beatles helped kill rock ‘n’ roll. All creation is destruction. Creation on their scale is like a Nagasaki dropped on the past, and a curse on the future: witness this discussion. Witness the world of Beatle worshippers and Beatle debunkers, all those who make lifestyle attitudes out of either loving or hating all things Fab, often skipping the intermediate step of simply listening to and judging their music qua music.

    I liked this article a lot, Hologram Sam, partly because I have my share of disdain for Lizard King Morrison, partly because I loved his quoting Andy Kim. (Baby, How’d We Ever Get This Way is a great LP!)

  3. Avatar Anonymous wrote:

    How, exactly, are we defining “rock and roll” here? What are we saying was “killed”?

    And why should any genre of music stay in one place? If you want that you can listen to the same 6 records on repeat for the rest of your life and close out the world.

    — Drew

  4. Let’s not forget our own Devin McK’s review of Elijah Wald’s HOW THE BEATLES DESTROYED ROCK ‘N ‘ROLL:


  5. Avatar J.R. Clark wrote:


    One of the great things about modern music technology is that I can easily collect, store, and play music made between 1956 and 1969. It’s slightly more than the “same six albums” but at least I can refuse to acknowledge the music of the 1970s, 80s, 90s, 00s, and 10s existed.

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