When I was in middle school, one of my classmates bought a braided leather belt about 10 inches too long. The guy was always meticulously dressed so, naturally, I wondered what he was doing. The pendulous accessory hung down his khakis below the pockets and swung as he walked down the hall in a phallic, eye-drawing manner. In retrospect, it was probably a little risqué for tween fashion in the hallowed halls of my midwest alma mater, Portage North Middle School. I’ve never been too fashion-forward, nor interested in following the trends of the day, so I diverted attention from the guy and passed it off as a fashion faux-pas.
Within a week, however, I noticed a few others had adopted the strange, over-sized accouterments. Within a month, there were dozens of other braided belts accessorized over the in-crowd’s fashionable attire. Then, it caught like wildfire an even teachers and staff were seen following the trend. I found it a little perplexing to watch the style grow in my little microcosm and attributed it to flukish nature of a town secluded from fashion. What I hadn’t realized, however, was that that, in itself, WAS fashion. This is how the world worked. Fluorescent macramé necklaces, rat tails, sillybands, metal-snapping bracelets, waterfall bangs, pegged jeans and acid-washed jeans ruled the day. And at some point, with each of these trends, someone undoubtedly shared my befuddlement: what was going through their minds when they decided to wear that to school?
Sir, this area is just for waiting
After just having returned from a month researching my family in Italy (we were able to trace our family back to 1200 when previously we couldn’t get past 1860), I noticed the prevalence of the green man over The States’ preference for the red word “Exit”. But I also saw a number of signs that I felt were funny. Here’s one for the “waiting area” of an airport. In a place where iconography is especially important due to so many international speakers around, I initially thought this was a sign for the bathroom.
Photo Credit: The Beatles Quake #9. My recommendation for the next Beatles Video Game.
I used to like The Beatles. I mean, I never loved them. My first direct encounter with them was a high school friend, Sean, singing their praises every chance he got, replying to my dismissals of repetitive, dated, jingle-sounding ditties with “then why are they the best selling band of all time?” exclamations.
Most of their songs (“Paperback Writer”, “Blackbird”, the entire “Sergeant Pepper…” album, etc.) I hate with a passion. However, over the last decade — since Sean’s proselytizing — I’d grown to tolerate a handful of their songs and actually like a few (David Cook’s rendition of “Eleanor Rigby“, Alanis Morrisette’s live “Dear Prudence“).
This is no more. The recent death of Michael Jackson (and the sale of his rights to their music), the recent concerts by Sir Paul McCartney, the sale of “The Beatles’ Remastered” collection, the release of The Beatles’ Rockband and the “Mono” boxset (the 13 CD set that is currently/still out-of-stock at Amazon.com) have put the final nail in the coffin of my Beatles tolerance. The guise has been lifted and whatever respect I had for the remaining members as people and artists is no longer. The over-saturation has presented their canon as a corporate money-making machine and, worse, exposed how formulaic and near-identical their songs actually are. I’ve joined the ranks of Starbucks boycotters, but may be the only disgruntled ex-customer to do so ONLY because I cannot stand their endless repeating of Beatles songs (I happen to believe them when they say they’re fair trade, good to employees, and provide a service different from local non-franchised cafés). Last Saturday, my penultimate visit to the caffeine behemoth, I left after 45 minutes; enough time to hear “We Can Work it Out” three times. I walked in yesterday, temporarily forgetting my moratorium on patronage, was rudely re-awakened with the unsettling harmony of the walrus, and promptly exited before I could hear one “coo-coo cachoo”.
I vaguely remember this feeling bubbling over with the release of The Beatles “1” (One) album during my high school years but have never felt such execration toward them as artists, only against their team of marketers and publicists. And this whole situation which, besides making me physicially nauseated by their music, has created two new truths for me:
1. If you throw enough money to promote something (boxsets, collections, video games, whatever), people will unwittingly be tricked into not only BUYING something, but believing they actually like it.
2. There is no longer any direct correlation between album (or book, or movie, or whatever) sales and talent/quality products, only marketing dollars. Yes, I realize this is the same decree that conservatives shouted from the rooftops about the 2008 presidential campaign. No, I do not believe it applies.
So thanks go to you: Sir Paul McCartney, Harmonix Music Systems, EA Distribution, MTV Games, Amazon.com, 104.3 FM, Starbucks, EMI and the partially rotting, mostly unbiodegradable corpse of Michael Jackson.Thank you for proving my instinctive reaction to The Beatles back in high school when I first told Sean they were crap. I firmly know now the answer to his question: millions and millions of marketing dollars.
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