Are Black Sabbath and the Rolling Stones Better Than the Beatles?

In partnership with the new fiction publishing platform Liberty Island, PJ Lifestyle is going to begin promoting and co-hosting a series of debates and discussions about popular culture. The goal is to figure out what works and what doesn’t so that in the future we can promote and create better fiction and culture of our own. These are public brainstorming sessions for writers and culture advocates interested in developing a more vibrant popular culture. You’re invited to submit your answers to any of these questions — or a related one of your own! — that interests you:

A) in the comments

B) Via email to PJ Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle.

C) at your blog, then let us know in the comments or via email. 

The most interesting answers may be linked, crossposted, or published at PJ Lifestyle. Also check out the previous weeks’ writing prompts: 5 Geek Questions To Provoke Debates About the Future of Sci-Fi and Fantasy5 Controversial Questions To Inspire Spirited Debates About Music.


Again with the Beatles, what are they your singular obsession for defining how music influences popular culture? There were several other bands from Britain that had enormous influence as well. The Rolling Stones and Black Sabbath come to mind. How come you don’t write about them?

And before you assume that Black Sabbath is satanic music, did you know that all the original members were middle-class Catholics? In fact, the bass player and primary lyricist, Terrence Butler, had been studying in a seminary to become a priest before he decided to become a musician, which is why their music has overtly religious themes. Their greatest hit and most recognizable song, “Iron Man,” is actually about the Second Coming of Christ. It’s apocalyptic rock, hence name of the band; it’s the judgment day.

On his last day of work at a steel factory, Tony Iommi accidentally sawed off the tips of his fingers. He had been trained in classical guitar and was planning on forming a band, so he made these plastic caps for his fingertips in order for him to play. In a loft in Birmingham, he invented an entirely new form of music. People call it heavy metal, but actually it’s heavy jazz. Once he teamed up with Terrence Butler and Bill Ward, the drummer, then their music became apocalyptic rock, but they needed a vocalist and along came Ozzy Osbourne. They recorded their first album in twelve hours and changed the music world forever.

Unnoticed, underground and misunderstood, they spawned thousands of copy cat bands, although most of them didn’t clearly know what Black Sabbath’s music was really about, and created the heavy metal craze. I would say they influenced popular music and culture tremendously. Their best and most unappreciated song is “Spiral Architect” on Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, by the way; it’s about the Creation–“I look inside myself and see my world / And know that it is good.”

The Rolling Stone were equally if not more influential. They were the original bad boys of rock and roll. How many copy cat bands did they spawn, and how much did that influence popular culture?

In America, of course Elvis started it all. How many bands did he spawn, and how much did that influence popular culture?

But he wasn’t the only one. Buddy Holly changed music, when he basically invented overdubbing. He didn’t have too many imitators, but he did change sound engineering.

If you want to write about American popular culture, why don’t you ask questions about country and western music? That’s the most popular and influential music in this country. I could run off a list of names, but Lynyrd Skynyrd comes to mind first. They defined southern rock, but they were country through and through, and they changed country music. How much influence did they have and how did it change popular culture?

Other bands include the Eagles and Kiss. Talk about two sides of the spectrum, but both enormously influential. Alice Cooper as well. And AC/DC, except they were from Australia. The Who and Led Zepplin also come to mind.

This single minded obsession with the Beatles is getting boring. You want to write about how popular music influences culture? There are lots of other bands to write about and more interesting questions to pose than what is the most overrated and what is the most unappreciated song by the Beatles.

If you want to write about music and popular culture, you really need to broaden your horizon.

What pop culture questions do you want to debate and discuss? Leave your suggestions for upcoming Pop Culture debates also. This week we’re going to focus more on music genres.



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