While Wald never says in so many words that the Beatles destroyed rock ’n’ roll, he does take a stance several degrees removed from standard-issue Beatles worship. He suggests that their ambitious later work, widely hailed as a step forward for rock, instead helped turn it from a triumphantly mongrel dance music that smashed racial barriers into a rhythmically inert art music made mostly by and for white people.
I love the Beatles, but most of my favourites are from their early days, up to 1966 and 67. Of course, they continued to make great music later. Tracks like Get Back and Ballad Of John And Yoko are among their very best. But I fell in love with the Beatles when I first heard songs like I Want To Hold Your Hand, Help, She Loves You, Ticket To Ride and my favourite – A Hard Day’s Night.
How The Beatles Destroyed Rock ‘n’ Roll also sounds interesting in what has to say about music from the 1950s. The New York Times review says:
He doesn’t deny that rock ’n’ roll delivered a new energy and a new attitude, but he maintains that Elvis and Perry (Como) had more than a little in common — and he notes that plenty of teenage record buyers liked them both.
He also makes a case for the importance, and the lasting influence, of artists like Paul Whiteman, a bandleader who was phenomenally successful in the 1920s and ’30s but has rarely received anything more than grudging respect from music historians…
And he finds parallels between Whiteman — who commissioned “Rhapsody in Blue” and whose quasi-symphonic approach was said, in the unfortunate terminology of the time, to have made an honest woman out of jazz — and the Beatles.Whiteman, he explains, took a music that had been seen as rough and uncouth and made it respectable to a wide audience; the Beatles did the same thing with the string-quartet elegance of “Yesterday” and the operatic grandiosity of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
Sgt Pepper is great but so are the earlier Beatles albums. I love the Beatles more for their exuberance and harmonies than for their musical experiments.