Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Greatest living Briton: Wilson on the hustings

While, as I think was established beyond reasonable doubt earlier this week, the nomination of Robbie Williams for The Sun's Greatest Living Briton was a bit of a joke, you could make something of an argument for Paul McCartney at least being seriously considered.

Trouble is, they've invited Ricky Wilson to promote his cause, which leaves McCartney not that seriously considered:

FOR those among you who are unaware, Paul McCartney used to be in a band called The Beatles, who played out of Liverpool.

Hahahahahahahaha. Did you see that? That's yer actually drollery, that is.
During his time with the group they changed the face of popular music, wrote some of the world’s most recognisable tunes and inspired generations of kids to form bands and make music.

He says that last bit like its inarguably a good thing. If it wasn't for the Beatles, the Pigeon Detectives - by their own admission - would have been putting their efforts into playing football.
To be a critic of The Beatles and what they achieved is to be a knob-head.

Wilson can be expecting the call from Tory central office pretty soon with this level of rhetoric. The Beatles, certainly, made some actually, truly memorable music. They also knocked off a fair bit of so-so stuff. But to suggest that only a "knob-head" could even consider any criticism - like the nasty taint of racism that hangs over some of their studio work, for example; or the slightly Madonnaesque films; the subsequent solo careers; even their part in the creation of a music industry where the photos are as important than the records. Even the bloody Look-In "Story of The Beatles" comic strip I read when I was a kid managed to slip in a few critical frames into the hagiography.
I have met people who claim not to like the band. Most of them do this purely for effect (and will usually try to convince you that their favourite, obscure Sixties band Snake-legs were far superior).

Actually, there are some people who are left cold by The Beatles. And, frankly, nearly everyone I've ever met who likes The Beatles argues with more passion that other bands were better.
For me this only helps to solidify the truth. The Beatles were, and are, the greatest band ever.

What helps solidify the "truth"? You've effectively just said "because I think you're a knob-head if you disagree with me, and I don't believe people who disagree with me, makes me even more convinced that I'm right" - that's not evidence, unless you're being prosecuted by Kafka.
Other critics of Paul McCartney often try to belittle the role he had in The Beatles. To have one great songwriter in a band is a good thing, to have two is lucky, to have more than that is phenomenal.

And a group full of great musicians and songwriters can only help to make a better band.

We seem to have slipped from trying to argue that McCartney is better than Julie Andrews and Thatcher, and started to try and defend Ringo as a songwriter.

"Having people who can play their instruments and write songs makes a good band" is blindingly obvious and somewhat meaningless in trying to determine if Paul McCartney is a great man.
You would think that when The Beatles came to a close Paul McCartney would want to put his feet up. But, like all great musicians, it seems that making music is just something he HAS to do, and something he has done ever since.

Yes. Can you imagine how he would have tossed and turned, unsettled and unfulfilled, had the theme from Spies Like Us been left unwritten?
Whether it be with his post-Beatles band Wings, or as a solo artist, he has continued to write fantastic tunes.

And some absolute clunkers. In fact, probably more clunkers than fantastic tunes. (I probably can't convince Wilson on this one; maybe I should add '... and if you say not, you smell.')
The nomination of any other musician in the Greatest Living Briton category is nothing but a joke.

Aha! Common ground. If this is a pop at Robbie Williams. Although we'd suggest David Bowie has more right to be here, for although he shares many of Macca's faults, he surely has a more interesting hinterland, and a better back catalogue.
I tried to think of anyone else non-musical deserving of the label and I honestly can’t think of anyone who doesn’t sound silly next to Paul McCartney.

Really? Tony Benn? Sarah Tisdall? David Attenborough? Eric Sykes? Steven Hawking? Richard Dawkins? Shirley Bassey?
I believe that to be Greatest Living Briton you should be self-made, but at the same time not do what you do simply for personal gain. I know that his music has made him a very rich man, but it certainly isn’t the reason he gets up in the morning.

Is this entirely true? Many of the post-Beatle activities of the Beatles have seemed to involved trying to scrape in money, and it's certainly arguable, although not, perhaps, provable that the publicity surrounding his divorce could have been avoided if he hadn't been so keen to hold on to so much of his money quite so tightly.
Outside music Paul McCartney has been able to use the fame and respect he has earned for many noteworthy causes.

He is well known for his animal rights work and anti-landmine campaign, as well as for putting his weight behind the Make Poverty History campaign, Live Aid, Band Aid and many, many others.

Hasn't he pulled out of the landmine thing now?
You also get the feeling that everything he does is genuine, not to increase his popularity or sales.

Well, that's true. The whole fighting with his own publicist for having publicised him thing was purely to add to the gaiety of nations.
He continues to make music not to fulfil any contracts or prove he’s still the best. He simply does it because he wants to — always the best reason.

He's not the best, Ricky, he's simply in a position where anything he does - Give My Regards To Broad Street - will find an audience simply because of his profile.


Thom Cuell said...

I went on a tour of the Colisseum in Rome a while ago, which had suffered significant structural damage after a McCartney concert there.

'Barbarians don't just come from Rome,' our guide pointed out. 'They also come from Liverpool.'

Cobardon said...

What 'racism' in the studio work would that be though? All I can think of is the original 'Get Back', which was just poorly conceived satire.

I've done a few polls on different sites now and the Beatles are consistently most popular group for more people than any other act. Not to say they are as good as that, but certainly more people seem to think they are.

Wilson's rhetoric is terrible though, no denying. Again, though, remember his audience. You don't drop Moliere or Plato quotes in to your bits for Murdoch rags, after all.

It is hard to see how Robbie could possibly be in any shortlist ahead of Bowie or even Elton, for that matter, on any criteria you care to mention.

simon h b said...

To be honest, Cobardon, I was thinking of the Get Back tapes - which, arguably, could have been misplaced political satire, although the lack of any other examples of political satire on the band's part that I can think of makes that seem unlikely. And I could see that if they'd written a song about an Arizonian which they then re-recorded as a "and this is how Enoch might do it..." piece of satire, that could stack up. But the order in which the versions came does make it look less like a foolhardy piece of satire, more a nasty bit of work subsequently tidied up for mass appeal.

Either way, even if it is just wooden satire falling flat, it still makes the point that there is much of the Beatle's work open to criticism.

I think the thing about the Beatles is that they will consistently come top in polls because they're a band that most people like a bit. The passionate love is spread over too many heads for them to defeat a love that is wide, but not as deep.

Cobardon said...

No argument that there's plenty to criticise in the Beatles' work, let alone the solo stuff. But I don't think the 'No Pakistanis' thing was racist at all. More of a poor man's knock off of Alf Garnett, which someone a bit more savvy than Macca probably realised quickly wouldn't go down as intended given the difficulty of spotting satire in music. That Billy Preston was in on those sessions would surely indicate the intent? Can't see George, for that matter, having anything to do with knocking citizens of that area, can you? This was the year after the 'Rivers of Blood' speech after all. I'm certainly convinced of the intent. But you're right that such leaden satire was worthy of attacking in itself. (Though it also speaks of their knack for editing that they ditched that idea quickly.)

And any group that cut 'Maxwell's Silver Hammer' is not beyond reproach.

I do think you underestimate the love people still feel for the group though: they are many many people's favourite band.

Anonymous said...

"And any group that cut 'Maxwell's Silver Hammer' is not beyond reproach."

Maxwell's Silver Hammer is pure drivel that is true but then again it presents us with an opportunity to look at it from Wilson's point of view. He couldn't even dream of getting close to writing anything as good as Maxwell's Silver Hammer and so it must seem to him that they are above criticism.

Anonymous said...

wait a sec... If it's the Greatest living Briton then how can Paul McCartney win?

Webbo said...

No other political satire? What about the brilliant political satire of Taxman in which rich people protest against, um, rich people paying taxes?

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