Was Nick Cave right when he said that the best thing Yoko Ono did was disband The Beatles?
Record producer Rick Rubin once spoke so lyrically of the Beatles that even a desperate used-car salesman might blush: “It’s top notch,” he praised, “it’s so much more than four kids from Liverpool. For me, The Beatles are proof of the existence of God. It’s so good and so superior to everyone else that it’s not them.” This might sound like a grandiloquent thought, were it not for the fact that so many people agree with it.
Rubin’s words were spoken in 2013, nearly half a century after the Beatles’ last release. Let it be— and this is an important point to think about. You see, there were a lot of other artists in the 1960s that people spoke of piously, maybe not at the Fab Four level, but they had comparable contemporaries. After all, Paul McCartney himself said that meeting Bob Dylan was like discovering “the meaning of life.”
However, while Bob Dylan may still be one of the greatest entertainers in history, he also has a strange twist. Empire Burlesque gets wet in his notebook just to show us all that he is human after all. The Beatles never had that; their trajectory was perfect. They went from captivating the younger generation with songs that enlivened the coming zeitgeist to a band pushing the decade forward with experiments that fit the arc of the children of the revolution. And then, when a wonderful decade came to an end, they said goodbye to him.
They didn’t give themselves a chance to be disappointed. They may have had their solo career blunders, but this was different, and the sanctity of the Fab Four was maintained while those potholes on the solo road were considered inevitable. If they had kept going, then surely shit like “Ebony and Ivory” or “The Hottest Gong in Town” or Ringo Starr selling the Skechers would have befallen them as a band.
But that didn’t happen, and that’s exactly what Nick Cave was thinking when he announced on carnage Q&A: “I would also like to say that the best thing Yoko Ono did was disband The Beatles. The band is in decline and Yoko Ono stepped in and gave everyone the freedom to keep making really beautiful records.” Just so you know that this chatter was laced with irony, he added, “John Lennon and the other guy.”
No matter how nonchalant his statement was, the feeling remained. And Cave is not alone in his opinion. As Keith Richards said Esq.: “I get it – The Beatles sounded great when they were The Beatles. But there are not so many roots in this music. I think they got carried away. Why not? If you’re the Beatles of the 60s, you’ll just get carried away – you’ll forget what you wanted to do. you start doing Sergeant Pepper. Some people think it’s a genius album, but I think it’s a hodgepodge of garbage.”
Interestingly, Ringo Starr himself almost also endorsed this notion that they lose themselves in the expansion. “We were more like a band,” he said, comparing Sergeant Pepper with their less experimental efforts. “I never really liked sergeant pepper‘ he told Elliot Mintz. “I think I felt like a session person on it.”
Ultimately, it was this sense of confusion that contributed to the band’s breakup. There were a thousand factors involved, and Yoko Ono was only a small part of them, but she also, unfortunately, personified them all. But if she pushed them to new avant-garde heights that ultimately proved insurmountable, then she certainly solidified the arc of their unblemished legacy forever, so it’s hard to argue with Cave in that regard.
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