For the first time in decades, the thought of the Beatles’ respective children uniting and forming a group to honor the work their fathers have laid before them had become a very real possibility. James McCartney, son of Sir Paul, has emerged, only fairly recently on the music scene with his own efforts — predominantly EPs — since 2010 (he also contributed to three of Paul’s solo records in the 1990’s) that were well received. Still, much like his father and his ability to co-lead, he’s made the first statement that a Beatles Junior band is potentially in the works.
On one hand, this ensures the world that as long as the Beatles’ and their children (and, extrapolating here, solely on the basis of the current popularity of sex) are fruitful and multiplying, we will always have the world’s greatest rock band, both in their original essence and in their progeny’s ability to look like their dads and play instruments. But the question is, is this really something to be excited about? Is this something that can be held to the original band’s standards, or the expectations of their output — both then AND now?! It would seem to me that just because you grow up born with some rose-tinted glasses before your eyes doesn’t mean you can just come along and assume a mantle that was earned a very long ago, and one that has since been embellished in tribute by everyone who takes the Beatles as seriously as, oh, I don’t know, the rest of the planet.
After the Jump: The Beatles 2: The Legend of Curly’s Gold.
According to Yahoo News, quoting an interview with the BBC, the young squire McCartney has already approached the rest of the band’s young’uns about the potential to form a band “bigger than the Beatles,” or at the very least, “on par with the Beatles.” At this point, Sean Lennon is on board, Dhani Harrison is somewhat keen. The only holdout is Zak Starkey, son of Ringo, and established drummer for the now-disbanded Oasis, and the only drummer since Kenney Jones to be asked to join the Who officially (he declined, but he is their touring drummer — after all, he learned drumming theory from Uncle Keith himself).
Starkey’s got the right idea. Beyond the fact that he is fairly well-established compared to his fellow friend-of-the-family-bretheren, he’s also been the most dissuaded to go into the music business; Ringo’s well-known aversion and single drum lesson a legend in and of itself. But there’s absolutely no reason for Zak Starkey to go on such a venture, already enjoying the a spotlight removed from being just Ringo’s kid. To go forth with this, it would seem, would be the ultimate giving in to his father’s legacy, which probably nips at every one of these men’s heels with every attempt to do something of their own. And while it’s not as though they have anything to be ashamed about, nor should they have any malice toward their fathers for paving such a bright future for them through their own music, there’s something to be said about staking your own claim and making something for yourself, even when you have pretty much the entire world already sown into your pockets.
More than that, perhaps nobody else is more aware of the public perception of Ringo’s contributions to the band than Ringo’s kid. In beginning a Beatles 2.0, the question of expectations for each of these songwriters is a given. Do we anticipate a collaboration between Sean and James, with a few solo efforts coming in for Dhani, and everyone writes one that Zak can sing? Sounds ludicrous, doesn’t it? And that comes to the central heart of the argument why the Beatles’ children should avoid joining for anything more than, say, a tribute performance at the Grammys or some such business: These are the Beatles’ kids, and not the Beatles. Much in the same way that John Bonham’s Kid is not John Bonham, assuming greatness or even equal talents can be passed through genetics is an absurd idea. And for James McCartney, who, I’m sure is plenty talented and in fine enough voice, to come along and say, ‘yeah, we should do this’ is forgetting a lot about the the circumstances that made the Beatles who they were, and what made their popularity mind-bogglingly possible, and part of it is personality. Sean Lennon, Dhani Harrison, and Zak Starkey have done as much as they could to play tributes to their respective fathers as much as they’re willing to show while also putting forth their own fantastic material, written away from the influence of their families. There is not one Sean Lennon recording that sounds like John’s, and Dhani Harrison (though, perhaps the closest in musical talents to his father) has yet to release a record that sounds as though George Harrison were still alive. And it doesn’t take much to know that Zak Starkey’s drumming style is wildly different from that of his father. And while collaborations are always interesting mixes, what can be said about mixing Sean Lennon’s already eclectic approach to songwriting, and adding a lauded-yet-generally unproven McCartney son in the mix?
Of course, interesting questions about expectations are never concrete, and far from solid arguments as to why something should or should not happen. But the expectations are quite different on both sides of the argument here: What’s James expecting in order to be as great as the Beatles? Or even, will they sound anything like the Beatles? Could a ‘next Beatles’ even happen, in the age of ecclectic multiculturalism and mash-ups, where genres cross and simplify at whim? Part of the Beatles’ success was the introduction of new ideas into seemingly set traditional forms, and vice versa. Now everyone’s band experiments at will, and even avant-garde techniques are acceptable to the mainstream audiences that demand so much more. Not that I’d accept ‘too great of expectations’ to be a reason not to try something, but it boils down to the question of what is hoped to achieve by forming such a band. The assumption is that a band could achieve Beatle-like status nowadays, which the business has changed in such a way that it simply cannot allow. There are no more A-sides/B-sides to take advantage of artistically, and, so it seems, even the indie labels are stepping away from emphasizing album sales in favor of singles. The Beatles may have been successful with singles, but given the options in today’s market — worsened by the digital aspect — just because the Beatles’ kids get together for a jam and release a single out of it would mean diddly squat, aside from the fact of being, hey, it’s John’s son, Paul’s son, George’s son, and Ringo’s son.
Even with my curiosity piqued at a point never thought imaginable, I remain skeptical that such a grand experiment could be pulled of. Beyond the appeal of one-off shows, or even maybe a short tour of tributes (and one or two originals?), this is the sort of venture that comes off as high-risk, low-reward to me. While the appeal of a continuously existing band of Beatle brethren is also fascinating, it’s also something too absurd to possibly exist. Still, I for one will wait for their inevitable album to be released, when the Fifth and Final Beatle passes away, thus freeing up the Beatles name to those who claim it first.