So hey, here’s an outright fact for you: The Beatles are the greatest band who ever lived. Period. Write that down.
But despite 99% of the Earth’s population accepting this as the OBVIOUS, ABSOLUTE truth, for some strange reason there are still people in the world who dispute it.
One argument I hear often is Bruce Springsteen. Who is no doubt exceptionally talented on a variety of levels, which I am not disputing. But there are people who maintain that he is the greatest musician who ever lived – even better than the Beatles.
I know what you’re thinking, and the answer to your question is YES. I do believe there is a chance these people were dropped on their head as a child. I do not exaggerate when I say that this point of disparity has very nearly ended friendships for me on multiple occasions.
And so, in light of the recent CBS 50th Anniversary Beatles Tribute, I decided to once and for all put this debate to rest.
Okay, so for starters, let’s talk about the fact that Bruce’s sheer volume of work is staggering. He and the E Street Band have been touring since 1972 – that’s a solid 42 years. ARE YOU PAYING ATTENTION? Forty-two years! That’s almost twice as long as I’ve been alive. In that time frame, eight different presidents have sat in office. 61 new sovereign states have been added to the United Nations. When he started his music career, he was promoting 8-tracks and vinyl (and I mean, not just to hipsters because they prefer its textural quality – because that was the available technology). He then watched – and was an active participant – as the music industry graduated to cassette tapes, CDs, MP3s, and then whatever the hell we’re calling iTunes now. Is that true of anyone else still touring today?
Over that time he has released 18 albums, sold more than 120 million copies, and become the 15th highest selling artist of all time. And it’s not like he was just this flash in the pan and then rode on the coattails of his former success for the rest of his career – during his 42 (and counting) years active he’s continued to be at the top of the charts, and his Grammy awards span over almost three decades.
How many Grammys, you ask? I dunno, how about 20? That do anything for you? Let’s also throw in two Golden Globes and an Academy Award, what the hell.
All stats aside, though, he truly is a sensational musician. Listen to ANY of his songs (I’m serious, just pick one out of a hat for all I care) and tell me he isn’t one of the greatest lyricists you’ve ever heard. Which makes sense I guess, since he’s not only a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but also the Songwriters Hall of Fame. His stage performances are electrifying and legendary, with concerts lasting upwards of four hours. He crowdsurfs, takes song requests, chugs a fan’s beer when he’s parched… and is so energetic and passionate (and well, sweaty) that in some outdoor venues steam can literally be seen rising off the man’s back. He is regarded by many, including Rolling Stone Magazine, as the greatest live performer of all time.
…But he’s not the Beatles.
By contrast, the Beatles’ body of work seems puny. They were active for only 10 years, and released only 12 studio albums. (Literally even just writing that sentence makes me cringe, because using the word “only” in relation to the Beatles seems like a sin against nature) But luckily my cringing can be short-lived, because it seems this is the only advantage Springsteen has over them – and, arguably, that makes their success even more extraordinary. Because even in the band’s comparatively short lifespan, the Beatles were still able to squeeze out seven Grammy awards and one Academy Award. And to this day they still hold dozens of rock and roll world records, including the record for the most number one hits on the Hot 100 chart.
Do you get what I’m saying here? The band hasn’t even existed in half a century. Two generations of music have come and gone since they first made their debut. Almost half of their fan demographics were not even alive when they were touring and they are still credited with being the best band of all time. And I’m not just using that as a figure of speech, they were ranked the best artist of all time by both Billboard Magazine and Rolling Stone Magazine, both of which were both issued in the last decade.
Also, remember how Bruce was the 15th highest selling artist of all time? That’s quite an impressive feat, truly. But it means that 14 artists are still above him… among them Garth Brooks, Mariah Carey, and Rihanna. And # 1? … Let’s be honest here, I don’t even have to say it.
But okay okay, popularity does not automatically equal quality, I know that. (I’m looking at you, Beibs.) So aside from their 6 Diamond albums, 24 Multi-Platinum albums, and 39 Platinum albums, let’s just look at their raw musicianship.
OH MY GOD THEIR MUSICIANSHIP. I cannot even wrap my head around Paul McCartney’s musical talent. He’s best known for playing the bass guitar, but he also dabbled in acoustic and electric. He also played piano in hits like “Hey Jude,” “Let It Be,” and “Lady Madonna” – and stood in Ringo’s place as drummer in “Dear Prudence” and “Back in the U.S.S.R.”
…And oh, by the way also provided lead vocals and WROTE HALF OF THE SONGS.
Meanwhile, I get excited when I can successfully pound out chopsticks at the family Christmas party.
And here’s the rump, kids: He was self-taught and can’t even read sheet music. WHICH MEANS that he became one of the most iconic musicians of all time based on pure instinct and perfect pitch.
I could go on to outline the musical attributes of the rest of the Fab Four, or talk about the other awards and accolades they’ve received and records they hold… but the excitement of this post has me shaking like a Chihuahua, so it’s probably time for me to take a break. And anyway, I would like to believe there aren't actually many people on the other side of this debate.
But if there are, SHOW YOURSELF! You and me. After school. By the flagpole. BE THERE.