One Two Three Four: The Beatles in Time by Craig Brown

Contrary to popular belief, lots of people have always hated the Beatles. “Musically they are a near disaster,” said Newsweek, calling their lyrics “a catastrophe, a preposterous farrago of Valentine-card romantic sentiments”. Their music was “vapid … twanging nonsense”, wrote the novelist Anthony Burgess. They were “not merely awful”, agreed the conservative writer William F Buckley, but “appallingly unmusical” and “dogmatically insensitive to the magic of the art”.

But at least the Beatles weren’t as awful as their fans. “A mass masturbation orgy” of “squealing young maniacs”, wrote Noël Coward. With their “huge faces, bloated with cheap confectionery and smeared with chain-store make-up”, agreed the New Statesman’s Paul Johnson, they were a “bottomless chasm of vacuity”. The good news, said Johnson, was that “the boys and girls who will be the real leaders and creators of society tomorrow never go near a pop concert. They are, to put it simply, too busy.”

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