Twelve Apostles of Rock

Michael Gerber
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While buying an obscure album of  Beatles covers from Weirdo Records ( ), I was intrigued by their “Top Tens & Stuff” section. Here they post top ten lists by staff members and customers, ranging from “Ten Greatest Jazz Artists” to “Favorite Hip-Hop Instrumentals.” One of the lists is “Twelve Apostles of Rock,” posted by Gordon Marshall in November 2009.

Like most personal best-of lists, Marshall’s includes the pretty-much-expected (James Brown, Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix) the less-expected (Brian Eno, Bob Marley, Morissey), and the surprising (Holgar Czukay of Can, Robert Wyatt of Soft Machine, and Christian Vander of Magma). Here are his comments on the two Beatles he includes:

John Lennon

“The late great Johnny Ace,” Paul Simon called him. Bigger than Elvis, his succession to the latter is the Oedipal story of the modern age. He means more things to more people than any artist who ever lived, period.

Paul McCartney

Wings notwithstanding, Macca makes us all swoon, even the moonlight.

I think Lennon and McCartney make sense if you’re making a list of individuals, as opposed to a list of groups—but it’s also true that the Beatles, as a group, were exponentially stronger than the individual members. Readers of Hey Dullblog, who would make your list of rock apostles? And are you more inclined to make one of individuals or of groups?

P.S. You can send your own music-related lists to the Weirdo site. They say “If you have a list or just a passing thought that you’d like included here, just email it on over. We’re pretty damn friendly about that sort of thing.”

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  1. Avatar Anonymous wrote:

    My own list of individual apostles would have to include:

    Ike Turner (his “Rocket 88” has been called the first r&r record)
    Chuck Berry
    Little Richard
    Fats Domino
    Everly Brothers
    Eddie Cochran
    Buddy Holly

    – hologram sam

  2. Avatar J.R. Clark wrote:

    The Messiah was Elvis, and His Twelve American Apostles of Rock were:

    Buddy Holly (the Peter “Upon this rock I will build my Church” Apostle)

    Gene Vincent

    Eddie Cochran

    Chuck Berry

    Jerry Lee Lewis

    Carl Perkins

    Phil and Don Everly

    Ricky Nelson

    Little Richard

    Bob Dylan (the Judas Iscariot Apostle: remember Don Maclean called him the jester who stole His thorny crown)

    Roy Orbison

    Elvis’ Twelve British Apostles of Rock were:

    Cliff Richard (maybe a false prophet? or a British John the Baptist)

    Tony Sheridan (based on his Oh Boy!performances in the late 50s)

    John, Paul, George, and Ringo (yes, all of them)

    Keith Richards

    Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey

    Robert Plant

    Dave Edmunds

    Freddie Mercury

    The Beatles themselves were Messiahs to more than Twelve Apostles:

    All those Merseybeat and ersatz-Merseybeat groups in the early-to-mid 1960s who copied The Beatles’ style, haircuts, performance mannerisms, etc. (The Hollies, I’m looking at you and Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick, and Tich)

    All those dreadful “psychedelic” groups who aped The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper and Magical Mystery Tour material for well over a year past its’ sell-by date (1968? Really?)without quite getting the point of it. (Anybody remember The Flowerpot Men?)

    Eric Carmen (he and Billy Joel made a career out of mimicking Paul McCartney’s songwriting and singing manner)

    Alex Chilton

    Billy Joel (see above)

    Elvis Costello

    The Smithereens (the most devout apostles of the Beatles)

    The Bangles

    Matthew Sweet

    Oasis (of course)

    The Spongetones (an obscure band out of Charlotte, NC but are rivals to the Smithereens for most devout Beatle Apostles: you tube a song they did called “She Goes Out With Everybody” – it sounds like the lyrics of “She’s Leaving Home and the music of “Please Please Me.”

    The Rutles (of course)

    Todd Rundgren (his “Deface The Music” was a Beatles parody so close to the original material he could have been sued for plagiarism by J & P)

    Marshall Crenshaw (he made a career out of hybridizing Buddy Holly and John Lennon)

    Split Enz

    Crowded House

    and probably hundreds more I’ve overlooked.

    I should also point out that Elvis was also A Messiah of Country Music (well, maybe co-Messiah with Hank Williams, Sr.)

    Some of those Apostles are:

    Conway Twitty

    Johnny Cash

    Charlie Rich

    Buck Owens

    -Hey! This was a fun exercise!

    • Avatar Anonymous wrote:

      Along the lines of the Spongetones … have you ever heard “Thank You” by the Redwalls? Beatle chords, lyrics rife with Beatle references, band who looks like the Beatles on their MySpace page (if it’s still up) …

      -S. L. Martin

  3. Avatar Anonymous wrote:

    How about non rockstar apostles… the folks behind the scenes who made success possible for the apostles?

    Sam Phillips, who took a chance on Elvis and produced the Sun Sessions with that hypnotic “slap back” echo

    Norman Petty, who gave Buddy Holly enough studio time to experiment with celestes and overdubbing

    Brian Epstein, who believed in the lads when people like Allan Williams were warning everyone not to “touch them with a barge pole.”

    George Martin, of course, who added strings to Yesterday without making it sound like a lounge/cabaret number

    There must be thousands more heroes who worked quietly offstage so that the apostles would be called “apostles” by us all these years later.

    – Hologram Sam

  4. Avatar Nancy Carr wrote:

    Thanks for those thought-provoking responses, Hologram Sam and J.R.! People I’d want to include who haven’t been mentioned:

    Brian Wilson

    Janis Joplin

    Mick Jagger & Keith Richards (you mentioned Richards but not Jagger, J.R., and I think both are needed, just as both Lennon & McCartney are)

    The trouble is you really need more than 12. At the very least you need groups of 12, divided by era (J.R.’s solution). That’s the catholic (little-c, as in “all-inclusive”) beauty of rock.

  5. Avatar J.R. Clark wrote:

    Good points, Hologram Sam and Nancy.

    I would definitely put Norman Smith and Geoff Emerick in the non-rockstar category.

    Brian Epstein is a real enigma. He deserves a masterful biography and one that focuses on something other than his homosexuality. On the one hand, I can’t think of any one person outside George Martin who had a greater role in putting The Beatles in position to become the worldwide sensation they became. But on the other hand, what did Eppy really do beyond convincing Martin to listen to their demo recordings, loving the Boys and believing in them when no one else did, convincing them to wear suits, booking them in more prestigious venues, settling Paul McCartney’s paternity suits, and doing The Boys’ dirty work when they were too ashamed to?

    He had no input on the creative side. He treated his employees abysmally. He was the instigator in putting Jimmy Nicol behind the drums on tour when Ringo fell ill. He was an honest but inept businessman. He lost hundreds of millions of dollars in Beatles merchandising royalties, signed the Boys to a terrible film deal, and was responsible for the Marcos incident in Manila. Yet when Brian died, John Lennon’s first thought was, “We’ve f***in’ had it.”

    I thought about Brian Wilson as an apostle of rock, but it seemed to me that his influences were more rooted in pop than rock—he loved the Four Freshmen, 50s doo-wop vocal groups, Nelson Riddle orchestral pop, and Phil Spector’s brand of girl-group melodrama.

  6. Avatar Anonymous wrote:

    J.R., interesting points about Brian Epstein:

    “…on the other hand, what did Eppy really do beyond convincing Martin to listen to their demo recordings, loving the Boys and believing in them when no one else did, convincing them to wear suits, booking them in more prestigious venues, settling Paul McCartney’s paternity suits…”

    Yes, but these are extremely important things he did. Like getting George Martin’s attention… can you imagine their recordings without George Martin? A more conventional producer would have ruined Yesterday with schmaltzy showbiz strings, and would have been baffled by Pepper. Quietly making Paul’s maternity issues disappear… if they hadn’t, would the U.S.A. morality police have stamped out any attempt at a “British Invasion” with ugly publicity stinking up the moptops cute, lovable image?

    Of course, his bad merchandising decisions cost them millions, and reportedly he rejected a very nice Yellow Submarine movie script because he didn’t like the color paper it was printed on, but he was a father figure (okay, maybe an uncle figure) who guided them through a minefield of possible bad outcomes early in their career.

    I agree with you that he was an enigma. I’m not sure if anyone will ever bother doing a serious biography of him at this point.

    I don’t know much about Jimmy the substitute drummer. I remember seeing some pictures, and a European tv interview where he seemed nice, not particularly bright, and deferring to Lennon’s more dominant personality. I’m not sure of the backstory with Epstein on this brief, weird phase of the moptop saga.

    – Hologram Sam

  7. Hologram, agreed 1000%.

    I don’t think you can overestimate the importance of Brian Epstein in The Beatles’ story, and I think had he lived, the group probably would’ve survived in some form or another.

    If I was well enough to travel, I would try to sell a Brian Epstein biography TOMORROW. It’s a book that simply must be written.

  8. Avatar J.R. Clark wrote:

    Hologram Sam,

    When you put it that way, you are right.

    Michael, I wish you were well enough to do the research for an Eppy biography. I would love to read in detail about his early life, his mid-60s adventures in London clubland, and how and why he became so powerfully addicted to drugs.

  9. JR, Eppy’s a fascinating guy, and the circles he moved in brought him in contact with some really fascinating (and I would wager pretty alarming) people. If I ever pick up the Beatle-novel habit again, I’ll do one ca 1958-64 where my Eppy-character features prominently. That’s a happier, more glamorous story than the one I was planning.

    As to why/how he got so addicted to pills, I can tell you from my own family that those pharmaceuticals were not treated with proper respect back in those days, so addiction was common enough. And once it got its claws into you, that type was very brutal. You’re taking something to get going because you took something to sleep last night, and because you took something to get going you need something more to keep going, and because you took all that, you need something to go to sleep tonight…

    Remarkable, sad, tragic guy–without which there wouldn’t have BEEN a Beatles, IMHO. Every Beatle fan is following in the footsteps of the original, Brian Epstein.

  10. Avatar CMO#9 wrote:

    “That’s a happier, more glamorous story than the one I was planning.”

    What story were you planning, Mike? I’d love to hear it or read it bc Life After Death was just a terrifically fun read.

    I agree, I would absolutely LOVE to read a 700 page detailed bio of Brian. I’m sure there’s some bios about him out there already, but I’m not aware of them and/or they might not be the kind of bios I’m interested in.

    BTW – anybody else excited about Lewisohn’s new Beatle bio being published (I think, I hope) this year? I believe it’s the first out of a planned trilogy entirely about the Beatles. I actually corresponded a bit with him a few years ago while he was in the middle of writing this book. He was very nice, very reserved.

  11. CMO#9, I actually got quite far working out a plot set in the mid-80s, touching on a lot of the stuff I mentioned to you and Nancy last month. But it was just too upsetting to write. When I write something, I have to BE there in it, and it was just too horrible.

    I can’t wait for Lewisohn’s books!

  12. Avatar CMO#9 wrote:

    Interesting, Mike. Makes you wonder what’s going on in Stephen King’s head sometimes…

    Why do you think it is that there is no definitive bio of Brian? It would seem that there is certainly a market for such a book.

    I apologize if I’ve asked this of you already, but do you think he was: Killed/Suicide/Accident-OD/Other?

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