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Tuesday, December 15, 1998 Published at 15:46 GMT


Sgt Pepper's band plays on

The Beatles: Attacked in a music magazine's poll

Britain's newest pop stars may have voted the Beatles' Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band the worst album of all time - but BBC News Online readers think they should respect their elders and betters.

Pop stars, DJs and journalists poured scorn on the 1967 record in a poll for music paper Melody Maker.

But a furious flurry of e-mails to BBC News Online shows the Fab Four are still fantastic in many pop fans' eyes.

Many people made the point that the panel, which included teenage pop singer Billie, Texas singer Sharleen Spiteri, Alice Nutter of Chumbawamba and Catatonia frontwoman Cerys Matthews, should remember the Beatles' role in defining modern pop music on both sides of the Atlantic.

[ image: Sgt Pepper: Credited with changing the face of pop music]
Sgt Pepper: Credited with changing the face of pop music
"If it wasn't for the Beatles and other British artists, where would the popular music industry be today?" asked Cheryl Dean. "During the early 1960s, Americans were writing and listening to songs about cars and sidewalk surfing!"

Trista McCamley added: "If there had been no Sgt Pepper, there would be no Catatonia, no 'club scene' as we know it, and we'd all be dancing to Singalonga War Years with Babs Windsor and Cliff Richard."

Another point made was: how can this album even be judged by people who were not even alive in 1967?

John Sheehan said: "Looks like the kids are trying to shake up their Mom and Dad's generation again," while Dr Jorge Munoz in Chile wrote: "To judge it now simply isn't fair."

Unflattering comparisons

Many compared the contributions to pop music of the panellists with the Beatles' work - and came to some unflattering conclusions.

"Something tells me that the Beatles will survive to be criticised by another few generations long after Chumbawamba is just another forgotten name," observed Jon Livesey.

David Robinson in the UK said: "Maybe the list could be more accurately titled '20 albums we're jealous of.'

[ image: Chumbawamba: Will they be remembered in 30 years?]
Chumbawamba: Will they be remembered in 30 years?
"Sgt Pepper is striking because - even if you don't understand how revolutionary it was in 1967, the songs still sound creative, original and memorable in 1998. They created tunes that lock into your subconscious without annoying you."

But there was some sympathy for the artists - and Melody Maker editor Mark Sutherland's view that "people are sick and tired of having the Beatles rammed down their throat".

Tony Fry said: "I can understand young musicians being irritated with the idea that little that has come since has matched it.

'Pop music is supposed to be ephemeral'

"It's how I would have felt at 15 if people had kept telling me that no good albums had been made since the 1940s. Pop music is supposed to be ephemeral, isn't it?"

Cheryl Dean added: "It is a shame the hype that surrounds the group is god-like. The Beatles were and are not gods. They were a group of young men who just happened to write good songs."

She has her own reason for the attention that continues to surround the band 28 years after they split up.

"Record and concert sales have been declining for years. The music industry moguls knew there was an entire generation out there that had not heard of the Beatles. Thus, came the Beatles' Anthology, all of the hype and all of the money."

For some, there were always going to be worse offenders than John, Paul, George and Ringo.

Jeff Myhre in the US commented: "It's a bad hippy caricature of itself 30 years after, but let's not forget the true ickiness of everything done by KC and the Sunshine Band, Blue Oyster Cult, The Electric Light Orchestra, and Yoko Ono - and that's just the 1970s!"

Here is a selection of some of your other comments:

"Sounds like simple jealousy to me. Who cares about their opinions? The only people who are 'sick and tired' of the Beatles are those who imagine, arrogantly, that they compare, and that some nefarious scheme is stopping them getting their due."
Benjamin Broadbent, USA

"Many of the people in the poll will only remember what influenced them in the post Beatles era, and will quite rightly quote these. After all, if you asked the Beatles (or others of that era) they would point to the people who influenced their direction in music as being far more important than those of years before!"
Trevor Alexander, UK

"Even today, it stands up well to the test of time as a milepost in the development of 'serious' rock. This album played a major part in the 'death' of singles and the growth of longer, more ambitious works. It also sits at a point in time at which rock morphed itself into a thousand styles and became free from the constraints of any individual style. No longer would a single "hit song" ever be good enough - no longer would an album be just a disjointed collection of songs. Rock and roll finally finished it's puberty and became an adult."
G. Gottlieb

"I chalk it up to age, the arrogance of youth and lack of experience. Relevance is not sending a bunch of 13 year old girls into a tizzy, transfixing a bunch of stoned kids with a few chords, or getting your song sung as at soccer matches: relevance is about helping to change the course of events and moving people in ways you never imagined."
Ryan Smith , USA

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