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December 22, 2013

SINGER: A half century spent with the Beatles

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Tonawanda News — Nostalgia for this moment in pop culture history has run amok, but really, that moment is long gone. The ‘60s was a decade of overturning prior norms, but today, the stakes in the world are much higher. It’s almost as if we’ve gone from the poetry era to one of prose, and increasingly dire prose at that.

It simply won’t help to try and unearth certain Beatles’ cuts that never made it to the light of day. We’ve already done oldies to death — I’ve said this before; and when an entire civilization is struggling for survival, as ours is, it’s long past the time of being “in your face” and shocking the older generation via music.

However, Paul Anka has declared that each generational contingent does require its own sound. Which oldsters then deride? Well, there were graying bandleaders of the Swing Era, who in the ‘60s lamented that they had “done more” musically (as one put it) than did the Beatles with “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” etc. Perhaps such fare sounded puerile to the Goodmans or Ellingtons, bubble-gumish ...

However, the Beatles did make an undeniable impact as musical pioneers, and when they “hit,” no one could fully ignore them. (Witness the excitement their first appearance on Ed Sullivan created, a show virtually everyone watched on Sunday nights.) The difference today is that the musical scene is much more diffuse, and there’s no artist or group one could call significant in some degree to pretty well everyone. And maybe standards have gone down as well?

But that gets us into the old argument about everything being relative (which by the way, I don’t believe), and if I join that argument by arguing that things were indeed better back when, then I lay myself open to sounding like a bitter, aging codger.

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