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Michael Gerber

Publisher at The American Bystander
is Blogmom of Hey Dullblog. His novels and parodies have sold 1.25 million copies in 25 languages. He lives in Santa Monica, CA, and runs The American Bystander all-star print humor magazine.
Michael Gerber
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The AV Club lists 18 anti-Beatles songs. (Readers of my other blog might recall a post about Sissy Spacek’s song contra Two Virgins, included on this AV Club list.)

Has anyone heard of this one?

4. The Exterminators, “Beetle-Bomb”The mysterious, little-known, mostly instrumental group The Exterminators specialized in the kind of R&B-slanted dance numbers that were huge in the mid-’60s. An inordinate number of those songs bore ostensibly anti-Beatles titles, including “Beatle Wig Party,” “Beatle Stomp,” and “Stomp ’Em Out”—which was perhaps only natural, considering the band’s name. With “The Beetle-Bomb,” however, The Exterminators got a little more personal. Parodying “She Loves You” as well as The Fab Four’s accents (both badly), the suddenly vocal group lays down a generic surf riff as a backer for its anti-Beatle sentiments: “Hey, old chap, I’m not putting you on / Here come The Beatles, get the Beetle-Bomb!” Following that zinger are cracks of the snare drum and hissing from the band members—intended to sound like someone alternately stepping on bugs and spraying them with insecticide.

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16 Comments

  1. Does anybody besides me always think, “Buncha guys threatened by shifting gender roles”?

    Maybe I’m overthinking it–this song seems very much in the tradition of “Monster Mash” and other quick-hit novelty records.

    Anyway, here’s the song:
    http://youtu.be/hzAsbshQpjQ

  2. The Barbarians inclusion is unfair: “Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl” is not an anti-Beatle or anti-hair song. It’s clearly from the perspective of a clueless elder, not the Boston garage rockers themselves.

    The Peter, Paul & Mary is fair, though. I think it was Hologram Sam who recently mentioned that song here, and though I always liked the sound and the wit of it, there’s no denying it’s a snotty shot at post-Beatles pop for veering away from the painfully explicit, nothing-left-to-the-imagination protest lyrics that were in vogue when PP&M were peaking. I love “If I Had a Hammer” as much as I love “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” but history shows that one had to evolve into the other for us to get anywhere.

    I look at all the American singers, groups, and producers who got blindsided by the British Invasion and responded with records and sentiments like the ones on this list: “If not for these shrieking long-haired foreigners, I’d be a millionaire,” etc. I have always cherished the response of Huey Meaux, the Texas record producer, label-owner and pioneer of Tex-Mex rock ‘n’ roll, who had a few hits with Sunny and the Sunliners and others and was generating momentum when, in his words, “The Beatles came along and wiped me off the fuckin’ map.” Did he grouse and bitch and slap together an anti-Beatle one-shot? No, he got a local kid named Doug Sahm and told him to “grow some fuckin’ hair,” and they recorded some good organ-driven grooves under the name of the Sir Douglas Quintet, a faux-British band made entirely of Caucasian and Hispanic-American Texans. “She’s About a Mover” was a great hit, and the band outlasted its novelty moment to have a run of terrific cowboy-hippie albums in the late ’60s and early ’70s (Mendocino, 1+1+1=4, Together After Five).

    The moral: If you can’t beat the Beatles, rip them off–and make some great records while you’re at it.

    Huey Meaux was arrested and jailed years later on child pornography charges. Decency demands that that be noted and known as well.

  3. Avatar Anonymous wrote:

    Sonny Curtis (who wrote I Fought The Law as well as the “Mary Tyler Moore Theme” Love Is All Around) composed the song A Beatle (I Want To Be) for the post-Holly Crickets. He also recorded an instrumental album of Beatle songs. (I love him because he’s the guy who wrote the wonderful Rock Around With Ollie Vee for Buddy Holly.)

    IMHO the truly talented in America appreciated what the Beatles were doing, the quality of the songwriting. Bob Dylan got the Beatles immediately. In the Scaduto biography written in the ’70s, Dylan is quoted as loving I Wanna Hold Your Hand, even while other “folkies” hated the new music. Phil Ochs appreciated the early Beatles.

    In Waylon Jennings’ autobiography, he says he used to sit with Chet Atkins and marvel at the arrangements on songs like Norwegian Wood.

    I believe the truly talented American rock ‘n rollers “got” the Beatles. Link Wray did a beautiful version of Please Please Me.

    It was the hacks who were anti-Beatle. The hacks were the ones who spat out the hostile, mediocre novelty songs.

    – Hologram Sam

  4. Avatar J.R. Clark wrote:

    “I Dig Rock ‘n’ Roll Music” is one of those songs that has aggravated me my entire life to the point that I would reflexively change the radio station the instant I heard that corny-ass vocal start up, “I dig..ho! ho!…”

    Peter, Paul, and Mary should have passed on this instantly dated, clueless song.

    As far as the lyrical subject matter went, I believe The Byrds did an infinitely better job making the same point with “So You Want To Be A Rock ‘n’ Roll Star?”, and managed not to call out any group of musician.

    Have any of you ever felt the lyrics “get in the way” of Mamas and Papas songs? I suppose it would have been too difficult to sing, “they’ve got a good thing going when the band’s interpersonal problems and drug addictions don’t get in the way, yea-a-ah!”

    My guess is that the songwriters felt betrayed that The Mamas and Papas and Donovan abandoned folk music for Brian Wilson-esque pop, and psychedelia, respectively.

    As for The Beatles, the songwriters made a pun on the lyrics of the Rubber Soul song “The Word” to dismiss the group as a commercial entity solely concerned with selling “love” to their fans.

    The last line, “They mean exactly what they say,” is amusing to us Dullblog fans since we spend a good amount of time and bandwidth trying to suss out EXACTLY WHAT THEY MEANT TO SAY!

  5. Avatar J.R. Clark wrote:

    I don’t understand why the serious “folkies” resented The Beatles and Dylan. If anything, the serious “folkies” should have reserved their hatred for the cornball practitioners of commercial folk music like The Kingston Trio, The Chad Mitchell Trio (who indirectly gifted us with the cheesy musical scourge that became John Denver), Barry McGuire, The New Christy Minstrels, and, yes, Peter, Paul, and Mary.

  6. In fact, the folk purists did hate the Kingston Trio, PP&M etc. with a specific passion. (See the “Initial Criticism” subsection of the Kingston Trio Wiki page for that story.) Whereas the Beatles, like the rest of pop and rock ‘n’ roll, were so impure as to be beneath the purist’s contempt, let alone comment–hence a lack of comment on them from the hardcore roots-music camp of the day. (Unless you want to count English folk commissar Ewan MacColl’s dismissal of Bob Dylan’s new [1965] electrical music as a concession to “the watery pap of pop music.”)

    PP&M in particular were at the very least ambivalent about the Beatle juggernaut. On their 1964 In Concert album, they did a rock ‘n’ roll parody, a rather good one, on the old folk standard “Blue,” which ended with Paul getting a laugh on an improvised “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” Around 1965, the group was being forced to acknowledge in its own liner notes that the Beatles were eclipsing them. The relevant quotes (along with a most interesting photo) are in this Hey Dullblog scrap I posted a few years ago:

    http://heydullblog.blogspot.com/2009/03/live-and-let-pooh.html

    Two years after that album comes “I Dig Rock ‘n’ Roll Music.” Ambivalence. Unlike, say, the Kingston Trio, who welcomed the Beatles’ contribution by covering a couple of their songs (which PP&M never did or would have done).

    For the record, I’m a big fan of the Trio’s early work, and enjoy a good deal of PP&M’s. There are four or five John Denver songs I love. But whatever. All music is cheese. It is a malleable mix of the fresh and the curdled, the clean and the vomitous, originating in the loins and intestines. It is then tested, tweaked, sectioned, and stamped into uniform shapes to be sold on the market shelf. There is no such thing as pure or impure, authentic or inauthentic. There is only good or bad, phony or felt. Purists in all genres–not just folk but rock, jazz, blues, country–have never been willing to understand or accept that.

  7. Avatar Peter Deville wrote:

    @J.R. Clark

    “The Byrds did an infinitely better job making the same point with “So You Want To Be A Rock ‘n’ Roll Star?”, and managed not to call out any group of musician”

    I think of “So You Want To Be A Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” being more of an insiders’ view looking out, rather than the outsiders’ view looking in of PP&M – a key difference.

    In a way, the Byrds were calling themselves out. This was, of course, the sea change period of 66/67 – the kind of ‘that was then, this is now’ statement the Beatles themselves were making with their decision to quit touring, and later the juxtaposition of their old personae with the new on the cover of Sgt Pepper and the promo of Hello Goodbye.

    Which makes PP&M’s effort seem all the more sour and pompous. It’s like they feel more threatened than they should, or than they admit. Methinks they doth protest too much.

    @Devin McKinney – spot on about the Barbarians.

  8. Avatar Stew wrote:

    I don’t think it’s fair to include “Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl?” The Liverpool joke is not necessarily a reference to the Beatles. People in port cities have used “Liverpool” as a reference to gender-bending since the 1800’s, and this band is from Cape Cod and dresses like pirates.

  9. Avatar J.R. Clark wrote:

    There is a lyric in the Kinks’ song “Where Have All The Good Times Gone?” that I’ve always felt was a snarky comment directed at Paul McCartney:

    “Well, yesterday was such an easy game for you to play/

    But lets face it things are so much easier today/

    Guess you need some bringing down
    And get your feet back on the ground/”

    Perhaps Ray’s acidity toward Paul (if that is the case) stems from an incident I once read about in a book about The Beatles.

    Paul happened upon Ray, Dave Davies, and Pete Quaife at the Scotch one night in 1965 shortly after The Kinks released the song “See My Friends.”

    Paul allegedly rounded on them and said, “You bastards! How dare you! I should have written that song!”

  10. LOL! True, Stew–the mega-hits probably had something to do with it, too. 🙂 You’re kidding about Liverpool, yes? Or deadly serious?

    Just hearing “See My Friends” for the first time…GREAT!
    http://youtu.be/S2Al7u0cKRk

  11. Avatar Peter Deville wrote:

    As Kinks/Ray Davies fans often point out, the Indian-influenced See My Friends predates Norwegian Wood by around half a year, making it all the more impressive somehow.

  12. Avatar Anonymous wrote:

    Does anyone remember the god-awful film Beach Blanket Bingo? I remember seeing it as a ten year old, and Frankie Avalon plays a foppish character named The Potato Bug, who competes with the real Frankie Avalon for Annette Funicello’s affections.

    For the role, they put Avalon in a beatle wig, and he plays the part as an upperclass british twit (the complete opposite of our working class lads) and performs a song in the Liverpool style. I remember thinking as a ten year old “gee, they’re making fun of the Beatles.”

    postscript:

    After writing the above, I visited wikipedia (that font of correct information on all things) and saw that the director of Beach Blanket Bingo claimed the script was written with the actual Beatles in mind, but that their fee went up after the Sullivan appearance, beyond the film’s budget, so hence Frankie Avalon’s double role.

    I have no idea if this is true or not.

    – Hologram Sam

  13. Avatar J.R. Clark wrote:

    Is this anti-Beatles snark, or playful ribbing by The Hollies?

    It begins at 1:15 with Graham Nash,

    Of course, George Harrison engaged in some anti-Hollies snark when they covered his song “If I Needed Someone”.

  14. Avatar Stew wrote:

    I’m not kidding about Liverpool. Their long, proud history of drag is described here:

    http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/maritime/exhibitions/gaylife/

    and Herman Melville wrote about the effeminate sodomites in Liverpool in Redburn: His First Voyage in 1849.

    http://www.google.com/search?q=redburn+homosexuality&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&hl=en&client=safari

    People who know about merchant ships know about Liverpool’s special claim to fame here. 🙂

  15. Avatar Anonymous wrote:

    All music is cheese. It is a malleable mix of the fresh and the curdled, the clean and the vomitous, originating in the loins and intestines. It is then tested, tweaked, sectioned, and stamped into uniform shapes to be sold on the market shelf. There is no such thing as pure or impure, authentic or inauthentic. There is only good or bad, phony or felt. Purists in all genres–not just folk but rock, jazz, blues, country–have never been willing to understand or accept that.

    Well said, Devin.

    Michael, your point about “buncha guys threatened by shifting gender roles” is very true. I clearly remember the week after the first Sullivan appearance, the genuine hostility expressed by many otherwise good-natured people. The conversation would turn to the Beatles, and you’d see people’s expressions darken. All sorts of violent talk.

    It was as if a gang of lipsticked transvestites in platform heels had spouted obscenities in a church, rather than a neatly-dressed quartet of musicians singing melodic rock tunes on a variety show.

    I loved the Beatles immediately, couldn’t get the songs out of my head, and I remember feeling vaguely threatened myself by some of the hatred expressed against them. Because at my young age, I wanted to be like them – maybe not musically, but witty, smart, creative, funny, confident… and it disturbed me to think if I had those qualities, I’d attract such hatred, such violence.

    If I’d known in 1964 (when I was six years old) that in a few years John (the funny one) would be gunned down in front of his house, I would have cried for days.

    When it finally happened, I went numb. It wasn’t until a few weeks later that I wept, not only for Lennon, but for myself, for what I’d failed to become, how I’d failed to live up to my childhood aspirations.

    – Hologram Sam

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