Thursday, June 27, 2019

The F-absent Four

Yesterday, the new film from Danny Boyle and Richard Curtis, imagines a world in which The Beatles don't exist, paving the way for a young hopeful to take credit for their songs and rise to superstardom. For critic Dorian Lynskey, however, it fails to properly answer the questions that it raises - namely, what would that world be like, and would the songs stand up without the Fab Four behind them?

Lynskey, like Dreaming The Beatles author Rob Sheffield (whom he quotes), is in no doubt as to The Beatles' enormous significance in all manner of respects, from concept albums and psychedelia to fashion tastes and off-stage behaviour. But the film, he laments, ignores the fascinating butterfly effect that The Beatles' non-existence would have on pop culture and beyond, Boyle and Curtis instead preoccupied with a standard romantic comedy narrative. Lynskey notes: "it left me fantasising about a Black Mirror-style anthology series in which half a dozen writers were given the same basic idea and asked to track the implications of a Beatleless world without having to worry about whether Himesh Patel gets together with Lily James".

Guardian deputy music editor Laura Snapes may have branded the film itself "diabolically shit", but she shared Lynskey's fantasy - or at least saw it as a potentially fruitful features idea. So it was that five music writers and Beatles fans/experts were asked to imagine what Boyle and Curtis' parallel universe might actually be like. It's her Guardian colleague Alexis Petridis who puts in best in the resulting article, admitting that The Beatles weren't always or even often the pioneers that they're claimed to have been, but that they nevertheless functioned as an essential "unifying force" bringing so many things together; without them, he argues (rightly, I think), pop "might have remained a series of scattered developments that never coalesced into a world-shaking force".

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