A Beatles Journey: Don’t Hate On The Octopus

What is, and always will be so astounding to me about The Beatles is the immense diversity of their songs and music.  There is no question in my mind that, starting with ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ all the way through ‘Let It Be’ (the album) that their knack for hit making (or as Sir Paul McCartney recently said “being of the hit making variety”) is unchallenged.  For me this would also encompass the pre-hit Hamburg years where they did mostly covers, on through the post-Beatles days (yes, to me their solo stuff still resonates with ‘Beatle juice’). The musical contribution of The Beatles covers virtually all ends of the popular music spectrum.

Yes, that’s right, virtually all.  ‘Norwegian Wood’ is a friggin Waltz for cryin’ out loud (Yeah it is, check the count).

Injected into their body of work is pure Rock & Roll, Rockabilly, R&B, Waltz, Country, Bluegrass, Skiffle, Blues, Folk (can I stop yet?), Orchestral, Psychedelic (which they perhaps invented),  Ballads, Metal, Soul… and the list goes on.  That said, what truly makes The Beatles body of work so brilliant and so remarkably unique is that there is honestly something for everyone.  They cover virtually every angle as well, from satire to parody, self portrait to self deprecation and certainly no shortage of political and social commentary exist in their musical and lyrical genius.

I haven’t even gotten started…

How about ‘Twist & Shout?’  Originally recorded by The Top Notes, and then later covered by The Isley Brothers, yet The Beatles simply did it better, and as a DJ I say that with assured confidence.  There’s also ‘Back In The U.S.S.R.’ which, at the time of its release, crossed all kinds of lines while at the same time accomplishing a spot-on Beach Boys parody which is so darned good that I really have to wonder if they are parodying the surf sound of simply paying homage to it.

The Beatles (John, Paul, George and Ringo) loved music, and from their earliest time together in Liverpool they would scrutinize photographs of rock & rollers not just because they were their idols, but to dissect where the fingers were on the instrument in each particular photo (and I thought I was obsessive).  They loved Elvis, and although he was a great inspiration to them both musically and stylistically, they were destined to outshine him.  They didn’t have the ways or means to buy the songs (or have them bought for them) so they bucked the system and simply wrote their own.  How’s that for rock & roll rebellion?

I recently read an article/blog published on the ‘Music Obsessive’ blog which penned what the author felt were the five worst Beatles songs.  There were two songs listed there which I take issue with, and in fact will make an argument for, as I believe them to be not just good, but significant treasures in and of The Beatles catalog.

(Click here for The Music Obsessive’s blog post)

The two songs I refer to are ‘Ob-la-di Ob-la-da’ and ‘Octopus’s Garden.’  Whimsy, yes, but not deserving of being on any ‘worst of’ Beatles list.  Don’t get me wrong here, I know that bad Beatles songs do exist, but these two are as far from that list as Leif Garrett is to making a comeback.  As Mary Poppins said “In every job that must be done there is an element of fun,” and what I think the author misses about these two songs, along with other ‘whimsy’ Beatles tunes like ‘Yellow Submarine’ and ‘Maxwell’s Siver Hammer’ (dark, but still whimsy) is that these songs are just that… silly fun.

It’s the silly fun ditties that will hook the next generation of Beatles fans, just as they pulled me in as a kid.  Certainly as an adult ‘Octopus’s Garden’ isn’t on my favorites list, as my musical tastes have matured over the years and I find other Beatles tunes more appealing, but I still have the wherewithal (is that even one word?) to recognize them (the whimsy ones) as what they are.  Call them ‘Beatles light’ or perhaps even the kiddie pool for the future Olympic swimmers of Beatlemania, they are part of a Beatles legacy that appeals to the kid in all of us from ages number nine to sixty four and beyond.

And one more thing Mr. Music Obsessive… I for one can never get enough of ‘lovable’ Ringo.

Long Live Shining Time Station!

-Craig Sumsky

P.S. The Music Obsessive blog’s author is a guy named Martin, who although I don’t agree with on this particular point, I do find his blog (which has a huge emphasis on popular music) to be quite enjoyable, well written and thought provoking, being a popular music enthusiast myself.

Music Obsessive http://mwarminger.blogspot.com/


‘Ringo The Octopus’ illustraton by Sean Gallohttp://seangallodesigns.wordpress.com/



8 Responses

  1. On sober reflection (!) I think what I am getting at here is context rather than absolutes. I have no argument over the sheer diversity of the Beatles’ output – it shows there massive talent. What I object to is the mix. Sure, many of their songs are very attractive to children but there is a time and a place for such material. I’m not sure that the White Album, for example, is that place.

    Would you want Roger Waters’ version of ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ in the middle of ‘Dark Side of the Moon’, cute as it may be? 🙂

  2. Hello There, I linked to you from music Obsessive’s(Martin)site and have to entirely agree with you on your takes on Ob-la-di-Ob-la-da and Octopuses Garden. It is the whimsy and the timelessness of these two tracks which will lure in future generations of fans en infinitum. My three year old is obsessed with the Beatles and I am proud to know that the band could be either a stepping stone or music appreciative point of origin for him.

    I would also like to say that 40 year old “filler” (as some of Martin’s commenters described it as) is better than most charting “hits of today. That would be my cranky, classic rock loving statement for the day.

    Good to see a fellow Pennsylvanian blogger(I live in chestnut Hill,Philly)out there. I will be following.

  3. Pingback : In a Cephalopod’s Back Yard « SeanGallo_Designs

  4. Martin – Point well made. No, I would not want ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ to suddenly appear on a Pink Floyd album or a Led Zeppelin album for that matter. It just wouldn’t fit. But, at the same time, ‘Big Bad Bill,’ which appears on Van Halen’s ‘Diver Down’ works somehow. I suppose that – at least to me – when a band is less occupied with being taken seriously and isn’t afraid to ‘color outside of the lines’ so to speak, I find that to be part of their charm. Pink Floyd could never have pulled off ‘whimsy,’ which is clearly a sign of limited diversity (IMHO).

    So Van Halen and The Beatles are bands that are somehow endearing in their own charming way, by being able to weave whimsy with serious rock. How many bands can pull that off without compromising their greatness? Doesn’t that only lend to their uniqueness?


  5. Joe Tom

    I must admit, though I myself am not an enormous fan of the Beatles, Craig, you make a fantastic point in the fact that they did cover every genre. My girlfriend loves the Beatles, but mostly the stuff that’s mushy and gushy and about love, whereas i love ‘I Am The Walrus’ and some of their “trippier” stuff. That right there proves it to me, for my girl loves opera and i am fascinated with screamo and underground rap, yet there is still a classic band that we both enjoy. Amazing. whether or not you love their music, one must give credit where credit is due, and the Beatles deserve all that anyone can give. Great blog, Craig

  6. The thing I liked the most about the Beatles was great range they had in their music. They have song with a country tinge (I’ve Just Seen a Face, I don’t want to spoil the party etc.,) Hard Rock songs (Helter Skelter, The End, etc.) Ballads (Yesterday, Here, There and Everywhere) and many songs that are hard to classify at all (Tomorrow Never Knows, I am the Walrus). Listening to the Beatles is one of the unique and wonderful experiences of my life. I am glad I live in an age when their music is so available. I get excited when new generations discover their music. There are great groups now and will always be but I don’t think there will ever be a group like The Beatles in our lifetimes.

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