Happy ever after in the marketplace?

Mollie W. O'Reilly
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McCartney Lansbury

In 1966, after a secret car accident, bassist Paul McCartney was replaced in the group by actress Angela Lansbury

MOLLIE WILSON REILLY • This week, Mimi Smartypants expresses a dislike of the Beatles. Generally I feel like this is her funeral (and it’s amusingly put as always) — but the specific circumstances have me puzzled:

During these last few workdays I have been running a lot of stupid errands—post office, Walgreen’s, etc—and could I maybe just go one day without hearing a goddamn Beatles song? I don’t know who decided that the Beatles are the Lowest Common Denominator of crowd-pleasing shopping music, but I am mighty sick of it…

Does this ring true for anyone else? Because to me, it sounds like she is describing my fantasy world, rather than the actual world in which we live (in). (Well, I guess my fantasy world would not involve trips to the post office or drugstore at all. But let’s say we’re keeping our dreams modest.) When I run errands around New York, I hear all kinds of music I hate — see related post on my own blog. A long string of punishing pop (or muzak renditions of same), almost never broken up with Beatle-y goodness. Contemporary hip-hop. Treacly 1980s ballads. Basically anything marked by prominent drum-machine usage. Sometimes, when I shop for clothes, I hear whiny, underwritten, emo-y songs that have probably been used to accompany the closing sequence of one or more WB teen dramas. But seldom do I hear anything Beatles related. I suppose if I lingered long enough in Duane Reade, I would probably hear “Ebony and Ivory” or “Silly Love Songs.” But I shudder to think what I’d have to listen to first. (Oh, and: Just before Halloween, while shopping in Gristede’s, I heard an Olivia Newton John cover of Dylan’s “If Not for You,” in the style of George Harrison. I think it goes without saying that my fantasy in-store radio station would not feature that particular recording.)

So, to sum up: How great would it be if stores really did play Beatles songs all the time, in place of what they currently play? And if this is already coming true in Chicago, should I move there?

P.S. Although I do not share Mimi’s distaste for Sir Paul, this made me laugh out loud: “On the way out I passed Paul McCartney, on his way to buy some Look Less Like Angela Lansbury pills…”

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  1. Avatar Mollie wrote:

    It occurred to me after I posted this that — aside from my basic inability to believe that this crisis of too-much-Beatles-music-in -public-spaces actually exists — the one thing I take issue with is the phrase “lowest common denominator.” I’d say that describes the sort of music I hear at Duane Reade all the time — the passionate ’80s ballad “Never Gonna Let You Go,” for example. Heard that one in its excruciating entirety just the other day. But if indeed the Beatles catalogue is something many people can agree to love, or at least endure, I would argue that it is the highest common denominator.

  2. Avatar Michael wrote:

    Bah. And feh.

    I’m willing to cut somebody some slack if they’re a good writer, but all we need to know about Mimi Smartypants’ taste in tunes is that a Van Halen song is cause for celebration. Van Halen? Really? I mean, not drunk?

    If you were 16 in 1980, Van Halen rawks. If not…ehh, not so much. I’d bet a dollar that somebody in M.S.’ life–somebody that she was desperate to define herself against–liked The Beatles. This dynamic has been responsible for countless atrocities of pop culture.

    It’s frankly amazing that anybody under the age of 50 likes The Beatles at all. And yet they do. That means something, and if Mimi doesn’t get it now, she’ll get it when Nora turns 7 and loves “Yellow Submarine.” Or 10, when she loves “1.” Or 15, when she loves “Revolution #9.” If people couldn’t get drunk or high, a lot of rock bands wouldn’t exist. VH is one of these.

    Mollie, I don’t hear much Beatles out here in LA, although when I do, it’s usually a drugstore. It’s charming to be waiting for a prescription (something I do a lot these days) and hear “Strawberry Fields Forever.” Nice. What I hear constantly–Target, Von’s, Whole Foods–is stuff from Double Fantasy. Hm. Must be nice to be able to hear that and not think of John Lennon twitching in a puddle of blood. (I was 11 in 1980.)

    And by the way, no Van Halen fan has any room to talk when it comes to rock star decrepitude. Which do you prefer, Angela Lansbury or this?

  3. Avatar Ed wrote:

    “Highest common denominator”! Great post, Molls. I find it *so rare* to hear the Beatles in a public space—it always gives me a little boost.

    You know what I kind of liked? I’m hiding it here in this comment rather than posting: That Target ad version of “Hello Goodbye”!

  4. Avatar Michael wrote:

    Mollie: Songs like “Never Gonna Let You Go” should be controlled by the FDA. No, the CDC.

    Ed: I like that commercial too. It always makes me sing along. Lennon dissed “Hello Goodbye” but I’ve never seen anything wrong with it. It was clearly the A-side, not “Walrus”–which is a great song, one of my favorites, but hardly a threat to go #1.

    BTW: is it me, or is the version of “Real Love” Yoko licensed to Target better than the basic track she gave the Threetles?

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