Why It’s Okay If You Don’t Know Paul McCartney

Courtesy of Def Jam Recordings
Courtesy of Def Jam Recordings

We need to give a bit of sympathy for our Baby Boomers and early Gen X’ers this week. If the rest of 2015 treats them like this first week, the world’s bound for eternal damnation by Easter. The bitter chill of winter finally swept through most of the East Coast and Midwest America. Post-holiday work and bills are back in people’s minds. Bono might never be able to play guitar again. And then the story of the year (so far): Kanye West collaborated with Britain’s greatest import, Paul McCartney, and Kanye’s fans responded a tad ignorantly with multiple tweets questioning who this Beatle guy is that everyone’s getting so riled up over

Personally, I think we’re overlooking the fact that Twitter is a Mecca of sorts for misunderstood jokes and satire, but the tweets still went all the way to national news within hours. This, of course, was followed by certain music magazines being forced to take a break from their usual coverage of weed legalization to shake their wrinkly fists at the youths in the form of clickbait-y articles like “10 Reasons Why Teens Suck and McCartney Must Be Worshipped until the Sun Collapses.”

I’m not speaking on behalf of everyone my age or endorsing that every tweet must be taken seriously, but I feel one thing needs to be said loud and proud: you can survive if you don’t know the music of Paul McCartney. Before the angry emails come in though, I took a stab at what the top complaints might be and answered them in advance.

“Kids that don’t know who Paul McCartney is are idiotic and uncultured. Why don’t these Twitter users just do a Google search or have common sense before posting?” Look, I’m all about Twitter not being a cesspool of misspelt conspiracy theories and pointless life updates. If only kids looked up to Boomer-era Twitter users like Anthony Weiner, Roseanne Barr, or pretty much every fast food chain, we’d all know how to tweet appropriately. Basically, even though Twitter’s ancient in internet history, people are still figuring out how to conduct themselves, so it’s better to positively encourage observant, relevant tweeting versus promote every half-baked one to national news.

Let’s address the first half of that complaint though. Personally, I feel like I’ve never been to an outdoor event where the DJ didn’t play a single Beatles song. The older folks nod along to “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” until a nap sets in. The kids jump around to “Helter Skelter”. It’s rare that a band has subconsciously been burned into several generations’ musical lexicons like The Beatles, but instead of framing it like that, Baby Boomers choose to state how “not one modern band has had a Beatles-like impact since them.” I mean, a claim like that disregards societal implications surrounding The Beatles’ rise, the ever-changing mediums that have allowed millions more musicians in the last decade alone to release music to the public, or the fact that most people that followed the Beatles in the ‘60s likely stopped comparatively looking at rock music a while ago. Such reasonable debate is probably getting in the way of their back-patting though, so it’s just wasted breath. The rhetoric of Boomers suggests that our generation is terrible whether we appreciate Paul McCartney or not and there doesn’t seem to be a way we can change that. And here I thought taking our entry level jobs post-retirement was enough to keep them copacetic with us…

But The Beatles created worlds inside their albums and all these popular records today are rapping about dirty “anacondas” or using nonsense words like “bazinga.” Nothing is good anymore! How can you defend that? I assume you’ve done the research on current music to qualify that statement fully, yes? You’ve gone through all the Brit pop and rock released since The Beatles, heard there were glimmers of the Fab Four’s more straightforward days in modern acts like JD McPherson or King Khan & The Shrines, been told Tame Impala’s singer almost sounds like he was possessed by Lennon circa Sgt. Pepper’s, and tried opening your mind to the idea of a whole world of alternative music not on pop radio…but nothing’s clicked.

If that’s truly where you’re at, I’ve got nothing for you. Music has failed. Carry on and pray for our poor, unenriched souls.

So essentially, you approve of kids worshipping Kanye over McCartney…The same Kanye who still refers to his wife derogatorily in his lyrics and has written some severely ableist and sexist lyrics? I don’t think we shouldn’t worship Kanye, Paul, or any famous human to be frank. Anamanaguchi or Daft Punk are the only exceptions because I’m pretty sure they’re mostly robot parts by now. Kanye is far from a perfect or likable figure, but if you’re the kind of person that discourages something like drug use in your house, I’m not sure if you want to be bandying around Paul McCartney as your saint. Why can’t we just love these two people for their craft and not be so morally absolute? The reason they collaborated is because they recognized each other’s talents and/or the fact that people derive positive responses from the relevance of their songs. Name any other job where a guy in his 70’s and one in their 30’s agree to create and promote a project together while genuinely showing respect for each other’s choices. I can wait.

Okay, but at the end of the day, it wouldn’t hurt for this generation to learn McCartney’s music and see the impact he had on the world, no? Sure! I don’t see any harm in that whatsoever. In fact, it’s great that Kanye collaborated with such an influential musician and exposed him to his younger fanbase.

But then why did you title this article, “Why It’s Okay If You Don’t Know Paul McCartney”? Because it is okay to not know who he is. Unlike every comment thread I’ve seen related to this issue, I don’t believe our generation’s downfall is because some of us don’t know who Paul McCartney is. For how enjoyable discussing music can be, I’ve found again and again that the most obnoxious exchanges are often related to The Beatles. I’ve seen fans attack each other over which b-side was on which single. Others prefer shoving all of The Beatles’ positive press in new listeners’ faces and expecting them to feel the same way. And finally, there’s the classic aghast when someone admits they never really grew up on The Beatles. It’s fairly easy to see why there are factions of people that avoid or don’t care for McCartney, which is tragic given that Paul has little say in how fans present him.

I feel an obligatory “moral wrap-up of the Kanye/McCartney Twitter Fiasco of 2015” coming, so I’ll try to speed it up. Yes, Twitter users could stand to search Google more before posting, but it’s not like vocal McCartney supporters have gone out of their way to make their fandom more inviting. If you encounter someone that doesn’t know/like The Beatles, but are open to (re)trying them, try suggesting songs along with your personal experiences that made you love the music so much. Mention influences like Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, or Ravi Shankar to further the appreciation. Avoid any alienating factoids for a bit. And above all, accept that maybe some people won’t love his music in the complex way you do.

Crazier things have happened in music than a couple people not knowing who Paul McCartney is. If you’re still upset, give this another week or two. Someone else famous is bound to tweet something stupid in that time and you’ll forget all about this. Vegas odds are on Azealia Banks or Iggy Azalea if you feel like gambling while sharpening your pitchfork. 

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