“The Beatles are not merely awful…

The Beatles are not merely awful; I would consider it sacrilegious to say anything less than that they are god awful. They are so unbelievably horribly, so appallingly unmusical, so dogmatically insensitive to the magic of the art that they qualify as crowned heads of anti-music, even as the imposter popes went down in history as “anti-popes.”

William F. Buckley, Jr, Boston Globe, Sep 13, 1964

Ah, you gotta love Buckley. Okay, admittedly this was the early Beatles, not the critically acclaimed later material (1967-69), of which I am not fond either. Buckley was not alone in his criticisms of this British invasion, some of which were hilarious:

Visually they are a nightmare, tight, dandified Edwardian-Beatnik suits and great pudding bowls of hair. Musically they are a near disaster, guitars and drums slamming out a merciless beat that does away with secondary rhythms, harmony and melody. Their lyrics (punctuated by nutty shouts of “yeah, yeah, yeah”) are a catastrophe, a preposterous farrago of Valentine-card romantic sentiments….

Newsweek, Feb 24, 1964

The Liverpool lunacy is merely the 1964 version of a mild disease which periodically sweeps across the country as the plagues of the Middle Ages once did. In its current manifestation it is characterized by an excessive hair growth, an inability to recognize melody, a highly emotional state with severe body twitches and a strange accent that is more American Southwest than Mersey dockside…. So now it’s “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “yeah, yeah, yeah.” The disease is at the height of its virulence, but the fever will subside and the victims may receive immunity for life from fads.

Boston Globe, Feb 16, 1964

You can read more at the Los Angeles Times, which complied the quotes for an op-ed a couple months ago. The real British invasion should have happened five years later:

Led Zeppelin (1969)



  1. I doubt Buckley was very fond of Zeppelin either. And I’m sure the people who complain their haircuts weren’t! 😉

    • Ha, yes, you are probably right about Buckley. He had to maintain his old Tory image and persona!

  2. Beyond the Beatles (which I won’t argue over), it is interesting to see how some artists are received in their time. Rolling Stone thought Led Zeppelin was mediocre pretty much throughout their career until they abruptly decided they were classic. They also called Queen “the first fascist rock band” (real quote)!

    • Ha, I didn’t know that about the Stones. I would have thought Keith Richards would have at least recognized Jimmie Page’s brilliance.

      As for Queen, I have a really hard time getting into them, apart from “Bohemian Rhapsody” of course. Everything is forced, so that is probably what the Stone’s sensed by calling them “fascist.”

      • Ha, I should really read closer. That makes more sense! I am now intrigued to go find the relevant RS articles. On a related note, I love the movie, Almost Famous.

  3. I know Bonhoeffer loved the African American spirituals he heard at Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, but I wonder what Barth would have made of Zeppelin?

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