Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup: Beatles critics across the decades

Critics can pick a fight over anything, even artists who have received nearly universal acclaim, like Mozart, Shakespeare and…the Beatles. Herewith a list of sharply dissenting views on the Fab Four.

Guitar groups are on the way out…the Beatles have no future in show business.

—Dick Rowe, head of Decca Records, 1962

[BEATLES1]Sean Connery, 1964

Drinking Dom Perignon ’53 above the temperature of 38 degrees” is “as bad as listening to the Beatles without earmuffs.

—James Bond, secret agent in “Goldfinger,” 1964

The noise was deafening throughout and I couldn’t hear a word they sang or a note they played, just one long ear-splitting din.

—Noel Coward, British composer and playwright, summarizing a Beatles concert in 1964

[BEATLES2]William F. Buckley Jr.

The Beatles are not merely awful, I would consider it sacrilegious to say anything less than that they are godawful. They are so unbelievably horrible, so appallingly unmusical, so dogmatically insensitive to the magic of the art, that they qualify as crowned heads of anti-music.

—William F. Buckley, author and commentator, 1964

Musically, they are a near disaster; guitars 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 reviewer, Feb. 24, 1964

[BEATLES3]David Susskind

The most repulsive group of men I’ve ever seen.

—David Susskind, American TV host, 1965

My teacher always talks about the Beatles but they have no lyrical skills, my cousin Rodney is a better songwriter than these clowns. I think they should remix these songs with 50 Cent or Snoop, then they’d really get some fans behind them.

—Amazon customer review, 2005

BEATLES4

The Beatles performing at the Prince of Wales Theatre.

The Beatles are the absolute curse of modern indie music… my favorite Beatle is Yoko Ono; without Yoko’s influence I don’t think there would be any Beatles music I could listen to.

—David Keenan, author and music critic, 2009

…why making records on drugs isn’t always a good idea and why you shouldn’t let Ringo sing… if not the worst, then certainly the most overrated album of all time.

—Richard Smith, reviewing “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” 2007

[BEATLES5]Elvis Presley

The Beatles laid the groundwork for many of the problems we are having with young people by their filthy unkempt appearances and suggestive music while entertaining in this country during the early and middle 1960s.

—Elvis Presley, as recorded by an FBI memo, during a 1970 visit to Richard Nixon at the White House and FBI headquarters

‘Love Me Do’…a melody so weepingly banal it sounds like a fingering exercise for primary-school recorder practice.

—Michael Deacon, music critic, 2009

wsj

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