Back In the U.S.S.R.: The Obsolete Beatles

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The next time someone who's too "cool" to "get" the Beatles asks what makes them so important, ask that person what's so great about his or her nose. First, if you're lucky, you'll be treated to an entertaining look of befuddlement. Then, when you're done being amused by that, avoid launching into a diatribe about the Beatles' production values or how they introduced Eastern instruments or drug culture to rock music, blah blah blah.

Just explain that Beatles songs are like noses: there's a lot of 'em. Some are longer than others, some are hairier. We favor some over others, but, they're all essentially built from the same mold. They were created from a classic design to pass down usefully from one generation to the next, and the next after that.

John Lennon and Paul McCartney focused on universal themes and wrote lyrics that are largely bereft of the sorts of cultural references that doom a song to a specific time and place. How good at this were they? They wrote a song called "Birthday" that will never stop being sung as long as people keep being born and living for at least some years.

All that said, not every Beatles tune is the perfect proboscis. They were tough to sniff out (I know...I'm sorry), but here are four that are starting to lose their relevance, if only in even the slightest of ways.

"The Ballad of John and Yoko," single release
I admit, this has always been my least favorite Beatles song, so maybe that's why it's found its way onto this silly list. It's really just a crybaby rant from the man who otherwise gave us genius stuff like "Imagine." The events in the song occurred nearly a half-century ago. Even Yoko Ono can't feel that strongly about them anymore, and they happened to her.

Of course, the argument could be made that "The Ballad of John and Yoko" is timely as ever. After all, its theme is the kind of obsession with celebrity that's even more prevalent today, thanks to all things cyber. But, think hard about defending this song before you do: if you're still okay with "The Ballad of John and Yoko," you better not complain when "The Ballad of Kanye and Kim" hits the iTunes Store.


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"Lovely Rita," Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Yes, I'm starting this list with a song from the most hallowed album in rock history. Paul McCartney's ode to a comely, hard-working law enforcer is inching near oblivion thanks to the term "meter maid." That expression has long gone the way of stewardesses and secretaries, deemed derogatory by those in the profession who now prefer to be known as "traffic enforcement officers."

It's unclear to me why they have such a problem with "meter maid" since these good people been called much, much worse by practically anyone they've ticketed. When I was a kid I always thought the line was, "Lovely Rita/ Meet her maid," which was confusing. If Rita was so adorable, why would anyone care to meet her housekeeper? I didn't get it.

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9 comments
Britt37
Britt37

Respect for creating a thing & putting it out in the universe, but whoever pitched this topic was clearly having a spell of dry well.

MadMac
MadMac topcommenter

 Oops, double post.

MadMac
MadMac topcommenter

This reads like a Ronald Reagan speech, "Well, yes but no..." To me all their tunes are outdated and make me change the station or glare at the driver until he/she/it does. But as long as there's some geezer bumping the Beach Boys' inane, "California Girls" in his Rad Rod, "Back in the USSR," will be relavent. Fun stuff, Mr. Sendejas.

Jimi Austin
Jimi Austin

Good music and movies never go out of style.

Tony Gutierrez
Tony Gutierrez

With Putin in charge there's hardly a difference between Russia and the USSR!

JimWC
JimWC

@MadMac Funny you mention the Beach Boys.  I always thought the thing about them that kept them from staying relevant was Mike Love's instance on using catchphrases that were hip, cool, and with it at the time - and made them sound embarassingly dated five months later.  The music, though, is still timeless.

MadMac
MadMac topcommenter

Like many novelty acts, I can see the appeal it's just not my kinda party. Mike Love is probably the main reason for it. So-Cal cool didn't play in Eastwood when I was a kid.

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