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William C. Altreuter
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Monday, February 20, 2006

Although I find Terry Teachout's blog to be self-absorbed and pretentious, I gotta admit that when he turns his hand to writing actual critisism he's among the very best working today-- and in the tradition of Edmund Wilson. Here he is on The Beatles:

"[T]he Beatles were the first rock-and-roll musicians to be written about as musicians. Elvis Presley, for instance, had attracted vast amounts of attention from the press, but for the most part he was treated as a mass-culture phenomenon rather than as an artist, and so were the other rock musicians of the 50’s and early 60’s (and the swing-era band-leaders and vocalists who came before them). Not so the Beatles. Almost from the time they began making records in 1962, their music was taken seriously—and praised enthusiastically—by such noted classical composers as Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, and Ned Rorem and such distinguished critics and commentators as William Mann, Hans Keller, and Wilfrid Mellers.

"Most of the Beatles’ hit singles were Lennon-McCartney songs, many of which would later be performed and recorded by other artists. It was the best of these songs that initially won them the respect of musicians who had hitherto been indifferent or hostile to rock-and-roll.

"Lennon and McCartney began to write together as teenagers. Their first hits—“Love Me Do,” “She Loves You,” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand”—were largely derivative of the lyrically naïve styles of the American pop stars of the 50’s whom they most admired, including Elvis, Little Richard, and the Everly Brothers. But even back then their music contained surprising glints of originality, in particular the modally colored tunes that would become one of their trademarks.4 Within a brief time it became evident that, for all their lack of formal training, they were naturally gifted composers whose fast-growing musical sophistication was reminiscent of the similarly rapid stylistic evolution of another self-taught songwriter of genius, Irving Berlin."

A couple of weeks ago I discovered that my hard drive was maxed out. After some investigation the light dawned and I found that I had gorged on music files, so I set about deleting artists who had more than two CDs worth of material from my iTunes library. I reasoned that the songs would remain on my iPod, and if I wanted them back, I could re-load them (since I have the cds). It didn't quite work out that way, which means that I have been listening to a different mix of random music: more Clifford Brown than Miles, more Ray Bryant than Monk, and a lot of miscelanious rock'n'roll rather than the Beatles. Nothing wrong with that, but CLA has been loading her Beatles library onto her iPod, and I'm going to have to restore them to mine as well.

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