Great Albums: A Parodic Quartet

I love music, and I have a special affection for cleverly written, expertly performed, lovingly produced tunes that not only deliver the musical goods but also take a satirical jab at convention with a dry sense of humor. Fitting that bill perfectly are the songs on four very different albums that never fail to amuse me.

The Rutles was released in 1978 as the soundtrack album for Eric Idle’s All You Need Is Cash, a television mockumentary that parodies the rise and fall of The Beatles. The show itself is uneven, but its incredible attention to detail is mirrored in 14 songs written and produced by Neil Innes, a founding member of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band and Monty Python collaborator. Innes and a group of session musicians manage to emulate the Beatles as faithfully as any tribute band while slyly stretching a variety of Fab Four styles into the absurd without so much as a wink or a nod. Read More

Group Dynamics

Indispensible

The Beatles:  indispensable leads, colorful supporting characters, and no extras?

Imagine the public outrage that would ensue if Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr were to announce their intention to reunite and tour as The Beatles.  Though they would have no trouble selling tickets, a critical consensus would condemn the endeavor as false advertising, even though the deaths of John Lennon and George Harrison obviously would have prevented them from participating.  Yet there is no hue and cry over Roger Daltry and Pete Townsend appearing as The Who in spite of the unavailability of late bandmates Keith Moon and John Entwistle.  Why?  The answer rests in the peculiarities of rock group dynamics, by which the members of most bands can be subdivided into indispensable leads, colorful supporting characters, and extras.

Now let us entertain an alternative history in which Lennon and McCartney are today’s surviving Fab  Two.  They hold a press conference under a giant Beatles logo and announce a reunion tour.  The world rejoices.  Everyone laments the losses of Harrison and Starr, but few seem to mind Lennon and McCartney hiring session players and billing themselves as The Beatles.  This is because within Beatle group dynamics, Lennon and McCartney were the indispensable leads.  You can’t have The Beatles without either of them, but you conceivably could have The Beatles with both of them and some hired hands. Read More

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