Newsweek, on the Cutting Edge of Pop Music, Then and Now
September 22, 2011 - 7:21 pm
Newsweek in 1964, when the Beatles arrived to America:
Visually they are a nightmare: tight, dandified, Edwardian-Beatnik suits and great pudding bowls of hair. Musically they are a near-disaster: guitars and drums slamming out a merciless beat that does away with secondary rhythms, harmony, and melody. Their lyrics (punctuated by nutty shouts of “yeah, yeah, yeah!”) are a catastrophe, a preposterous farrago of Valentine-card romantic sentiments.
Which actually, was a perfectly understandable reaction to the Beatles’ arrival; if it sounds surreal in retrospect, it’s only because the Beatles’ role in demolishing the post-war pop culture, and the resulting boomer mythology that essentially paints the 1960s’ pop culture into three phases:
- The JFK/Mad Men/Rat Pack early ’60s.
- The mud at Woodstock.
The entire overculture of the 1960s has been largely erased by the mythology of the decade’s counterculture. (See The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Sixties and vast tracts of James Lileks’ archives to get a sense of the forgotten dominant culture of the decade.) And the superstar musicians at the top of the era’s primary culture — Bing, Frank, Dino, and Nat ‘King’ Cole, for example — all thought exactly the same way as Newsweek did back then. (So did my father; the timeline on his vast music collection essentially ended the day the Beatles touched down in the US.)
But as Newsweek’s wonderfully flinty screed concluded back then:
The big question in the music business at the moment is: will the Beatles last? The odds are that, in the words of another era, they’re too hot not to cool down, and a cooled-down Beatle is hard to picture. It is also hard to imagine any other field in which they could apply their talents, and so the odds are that they will fade away, as most adults confidently predict.
Oh, would that it were true. Flash-forward nearly 50 years, and Tina Brown’s Daily Beast, which bought (for a dollar) the rights to the Newsweek name is still, in its own way, very much into dad’s music today:
And while Kiss has had some great songs from time to time, it’s tough squaring the idea of a band in kabuki make-up, featuring half the original members gone, and replaced by clones wearing the old greasepaint as a band to believe in.
But then, as Roger recently noted, cool died a long time ago.