The Beatles. The Fab Four. The most important band of all time. And I will fight you to the near-death if you disagree. More on that in a bit, but first the idiotic — though completely predictable — issue at hand: the notion of four white guys in a band.
Before we continue, give me a minute to indulge myself.
“I Feel Fine” – The Beatles (Live) pic.twitter.com/cSXwsxzUwK
— The Beatles (@BeatlesEarth) December 20, 2021
Anyway, as a musician who played in a couple of bands back in the day, have music in my soul, and know a fair amount about the stuff and its history, it turns out there’s one person in particular who knows a hell of a lot more about all things music than I do: NPR music critic Ann Powers.
It also turns out, according to Ms. Powers, that four white guys in a band is all kinds of bad, including “homosocial and mostly segregated.”
Incidentally, you ever think these progressive snobs who know zero about life or the real world sit around and try to come up with crap more ridiculous than the last ridiculous crap they wrote or read? Me, too.
How did we get stuck with the idea that four white guys make a rock band?https://t.co/MD7uF8m5SP
— NPR (@NPR) December 21, 2021
In a long silly piece titled The Fellowship of the Rockers, Powers begins by drawing a parallel between former Beatle Paul McCartney and Dave Grohl, who rose to fame as the drummer for the grunge band Nirvana, now of Foo Fighter fame. Powers was apparently set off in October when the former was part of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s second induction of the latter.
Dave Grohl drumming along to Smells Like Teen Spirit the other day in NYC 🤘🏻😎 #Nirvana pic.twitter.com/W6eXQzMy9g
— 𝔚𝔶𝔩𝔡𝔢 𝔎𝔶𝔩𝔢 🎃🦇🏜 (@KCThrash) October 8, 2021
Inducting his fellow white guy in a band, Paul McCartney noted the parallels between Grohl and himself.
Paul McCartney e Dave Grohl no backstage do Rock & Roll: Hall Of Fame", em Cleveland (30/10) pic.twitter.com/X8yRTrZpaT
— The Beatles BR 🍏🎲🌳☮️ (@TheBeatleBR) October 31, 2021
Of McCartney, Powers wrote:
Blending Hobbit-like charm with Aragorn-ish glamor, this figure took shape within the dreams of countless men following in the wake of John, Paul, George, and Ringo teaming up as the Fab Four. The romance, familial connection, and creative exchange that sparked for The Beatles in their Cavern Club days grew mythic as they became the biggest act rock ever produced.
“Over the decades,” Powers continued:
Band guys traded leather for Spandex for skateboarder shorts, blew up the genre like punks and reassembled it as grunge; but what bore repeating was that story of men growing up together through music, turning into a family and finding glory on the battlefields of rhythm and noise.
Here’s where the silliness begins in earnest:
In 2021 this notion that rock’s essence spews forth from acts of male bonding feels somewhat trite. Yet there’s no way to accurately comprehend the genre’s history without acknowledging its remarkable staying power.
“Everything I learned about rock and roll I learned from this man right here,” Grohl exclaimed when McCartney joined the Foo Fighters onstage for “Get Back,” the song that provided a title for Fellowship of the Ring director Peter Jackson’s new Beatles doc-cum-band-guy-disquisition Get Back.
McCartney gazed at Grohl as they sang together with a fondness that read as both fatherly and filial. Guys on a stage together, bashing it out.
It occurs to me that Ms. Powers hates men in general, but that’s neither here nor there.
What does it mean to be a band guy?
Great question, Powers asked and ridiculously answered. “A musician who’s a band guy is happiest when locked in with his fellow players in the studio or on stage, his ego paradoxically subsumed and enhanced by the creative exchange.”
Turns out, though, according to Powers, the term “band guy” is “problematic.” And racist, of course. Or at the minimum, race-centric.
The term “band guy” is problematic, though, isn’t it? In 2021 it’s as common for women, trans and nonbinary people to jump into rock’s timestream as it is for men.
Yet something continues to infuse the rock mythos with the sweaty-socks scent of conventional, if boyish, masculinity. Whiteness, too.
Band guys stand alongside other heroes of homosocial, mostly segregated histories: astronauts, high school state champions, foxhole dwellers, a rugby scrum.
“Homosocial.” Defined as “relating to social interaction between members of the same sex, typically men.” Oh, the humanity!
The threat of Black bands.
What attack on “four white guys in a band” would be complete without spewing silly crap about Black bands? Powers did not disappoint.
The threat Black bands may have brought to mind to white observers was that of Black people finding their power together. It’s not a coincidence that the music industry itself became more segregated during a period when civil rights defined the spirit of protest in America.
The Beatles and the other English soul transformers/appropriators that quickly followed in their wake, from The Rolling Stones to Joe Cocker, personally protested the divisions that greeted them on tour and sometimes in the recording studio.
While Powers’ point about the industry at the time was mostly correct, the Beatles did so much work with Black keyboardist extraordinaire Billy Preston that he was dubbed “the fifth Beatle.”
As I said at the top, the Beatles remain the most important group of all time. IMHO, of course.
Not because the music they made was the best — certainly later bands played far more sophisticated, soulful, meaningful, et al., music — but because they were the first.
The fact that in just eight short years, the Beatles moved music forward with every album they made. That will never happen again. Not to mention they begat bands that would follow them.
The bottom line:
Powers goes on and on and on, partly for the purpose of immersing herself in her own twisted music fantasy land, mostly in a boring effort to convince the reader that the time has come to finally realize that the notion of four white guys in a band should be dead and buried.
Not progressive enough, gang. Too systemically racist.
And it is all a bunch of crap.
Says an erstwhile member of four white guys in a band.
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