Friday, June 22, 2012

Weekend reading

"Why are the Beatles so popular 50 years on?" by The New Yorker's Adam Gopnik
The Beatles were not provocateurs, though often mystics, and their great subject was childhood gone by, and what to make of the austere, rationed, but in many ways ordered and secure English world that they had grown up in, and that was now passing before their eyes, in part because of the doors they had opened.
Their most enduring work, the singles Strawberry Fields and Penny Lane, tell on one side of the dream memory of a Liverpool garden where a lonely alienated boy could find solace, and on the other of a Liverpool street where a bright, sociable boy could see the world.
. . .
The Beatles' music endures above all because we sense in it the power of the collaboration of opposites. John had reach. He instinctively understood that what separates an artist from an entertainer is that an artist seeks to astonish, even shock, his audience. Paul had grasp, above all of the materials of music, and knew intuitively that astonishing art that fails to entertain is mere avant-gardism.
We see the difference when they were wrenched apart: Paul still had a hundred wonderful melodies and only sporadic artistic ambition, while John still had lots of artistic ambition but only a sporadic handful of melodies. But in those seven years when John's reach met Paul's grasp, we all climbed Everest. (Not an arbitrary choice by the way: Everest was to be the title of their last album, and the place they had meant to go before they ended up going outside to Abbey Road instead.)

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