Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Here come the sons: the return of the Beatles?

It is the secret fantasy of every Beatle obsessive: what would you get if you put the scions of the greatest group ever in a recording studio together? It’s like a musical science experiment, mixing the creative DNA of John, Paul, George and Ringo to see how much is nature, how much nurture, and how much nepotism? What would a Next Generation Beatles sound like?

The Beatles can never reform, but perhaps they can continue as a family business: Beatles & Sons.
 They all look a bit like their musical parents, although you also have to factor in Yoko, Linda, Olivia and Maureen, which is possibly not quite such a compelling line up.

Sean Lennon (now 36) has been the most musically interesting of the Beatle boys, in ways his father would certainly approve of, creating whimsical experimental rock, sometimes with his mother, Yoko Ono, and sometimes with his own Japanese girlfriend, Yuka Honda. His vocal tone is very close to John’s, his instincts are for the avant garde, but there is no sign in his work of any of his father’s populist flair or driving anger.

James McCartney has been a bit of slow developer. He has played guitar on a couple of his father’s solo albums, and released a couple of pleasant EPS that reference Sixties beat music, although more the kind of jangly rock of the Byrds and Searchers than the muscular pop of the Beatles. Never likely to challenge his dad as a pop pin-up: he looks like a slightly plumper, sadder and balder ginger Paul. But his old fashioned guitar group tastes and melodic sensibility could combine well with the more experimental instincts of Sean.

Dhani Harrison (33)
looks and sounds a lot like George, contributed guitar to some of his father’s solo work, and played with a couple of decent bands (thenewno2s and Fistful of Mercy) where he sounds very much his father’s son, to no great success.Yet there is a suggestion in the best of his work that he has the makings of a great sideman.

Zak Starkey (46) is the most established as a professional musician, as a drummer with The Who and Oasis. He is fierce drummer, more Keith Moon and John Bonham than Ringo, and arguably the only Beatle son who has surpassed his father, in a purely musical sense at least. And it turns out, not surprisingly, that
he is the least interested in a Beatles 2.0: “I don’t think it’s something Zak wants to do,” admitted James.
 “Maybe Jason would want to do it.” Jason Starkey (44) is another drumming son of Ringo and Maureen,
 who has played in a couple of bands that made no impression whatsoever.

And where’s Julian Lennon in all this? Poor fellow has been suffering from comparison to his famous
 father all his life, now it looks like he’s getting left out of the party again. Where, to be fair he is probably better off.

The Beatle’s offspring may be talented musicians in their own right, but they are also privileged musicians who grew up in wealth and comfort. Their dilettantish careers suggest that they lack the fierce drive and hunger of their fathers, raised in a post-War world or rations and deprivation, where rock and roll exploded as a new and exciting creative force, offering them a chance of escape.
 The Beatles were playing professionally in the strip clubs of Hamburg before they were twenty years
old, a sink-or-swim experience that was the making of them, binding them together as friends and players, and setting them off on a path that would shake the world. They were younger than their sons are now by the time they had broken up. 
Different people, different world, and no matter how their fans long to see it recreated, the Beatles can never happen again.

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