The sad decline of music: Cole Porter vs. The Beatles

Paul McCartney has once again crept upon our shores. He was, of course, vanguard in the original “British Invasion”, which occurred in early 1964. Now, an invasion is something to be resisted, to be fought off, to be repelled. Sadly—quite, quite sadly—we had no Winston Churchill on our shores to boost our morale with stirring words like these:

We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in New York,
we shall fight on the seas and oceans,
we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Culture, whatever the cost may be,
we shall fight on the beaches,
we shall fight on the landing grounds,
we shall fight in the fields and in the streets,
we shall fight in the hills;
we shall never surrender;

and so the invasion was a success, our surrender quick, our cultural defeat total. All that is left is rebellion.

Here is the first of many examples of what appeasement and acquiescence has wrought. Try not to sit too close to your screen when reading the ride-hand column. There is a danger of, what they call on the professional eating circuit, a reversal.

Every Time We Say Goodbye I Want To Hold Your Hand

We love each other so deeply
That I ask you this, sweetheart,
Why should we quarrel ever,
Why can’t we be enough clever,
Never to part.


Every time we say goodbye,
I die a little.
Every time we say goodbye,
I wonder why a little.
Why the Gods above me,
Who must be in the know,
Think so little to me
They allow you to go.


When you’re near
There’s such an air
of Spring about it.
I can hear a lark somewhere
begin to sing about it.
There’s no love song finer,
But how strange the change
From major to minor
Every time we say goodbye.


When you’re near
There’s such an air
of Spring about it.
I can hear a lark somewhere
Begin to sing about it.
There’s no love song finer,
But how strange the change
From major to minor
Every time you say goodbye.


Oh yeah, I’ll tell you something
I think you’ll understand.
When I say that something:
I wanna hold your hand,
I wanna hold your hand,
I wanna hold your hand.


Oh, please, say to me
You’ll let me be your man
and please, say to me
You’ll let me hold your hand.
Now let me hold your hand;
I wanna hold your hand.


And when I touch you I feel happy, inside.
It’s such a feeling,
That my love,
I can’t hide
I can’t hide
I can’t hide.


Yeah you, got that something
I think you’ll understand.
When I say that something:
I wanna hold your hand
I wanna hold your hand
I wanna hold your hand.


And when I touch you I feel happy, inside
It’s such a feeling,
That my love,
I can’t hide
I can’t hide
I can’t hide

Yeah you, got that something
I think you’ll understand.
When I feel that something:
I wanna hold your hand
I wanna hold your hand
I wanna hold your hand [repeat, repeat, and repeat some more until fade out].

So that the contest wasn’t too unfair, I tied one hand behind Porter’s back and chose one of his simplest, and shortest, lyrics; certainly not his best. Can we say (forgive me) that Porter wins, hands down?

UPDATE: Friday morning Round one is over; the battle continues; no blows have been landed by the Beatles yet. Not one person has attempted a defense of the “Hand” song—one of a set, I must remind us, that made this group famous. If the song has no defenders by tomorrow at this time, Mr Porter’s tune will be declared winner.

UPDATE: Saturday morning The contest is over, the winner, as expected, Mr Porter. The fight—a brief one, but intense—focused on lyrics. The outcome, we surmise, would have been the same had the battle ranged over the stave. No champion of the “Hand” song (or any other song from that early era) left the field unbloodied. Most tellingly, not one critic of Porter emerged.

The larger war is not over. Stay tuned for next week’s contest.

UPDATE: later Saturday morning We have just learned that Mr McCartney ended his concert with his song “Let it Be.” Appropriate, no?


  1. MaximumBob

    Paul McCartney wrote and recorded “Yesterday” you old geezer.
    Cole Porter never wrote anything even remotely as good.

  2. Jim Brown

    Oh, to be around 100 years from today — so as to learn which lyric and which melody is best remembered. I think I’ve seen it written somewhere that more American teenagers can now recognize “Stardust” than they can recognize the number one Billboard hit from ten years ago. Apocryphal or not, it’s a beautiful thought!

  3. Briggs

    The first step in realizing you have a problem MaximumBob, is admitting it to others. Thus, you should have hope. For consider these comparisons between the song you mentioned and another by Porter (also expressing an opinion on a failed love affair), and tell me how your master stands up to mine:

    Yesterday (snippet)

    I’m not half the man I used to be,
    There’s a shadow hanging over me,
    Oh, yesterday came suddenly.

    Why she
    Had to go I don’t know, she wouldn’t say.
    I said,
    Something wrong, now I long for yesterday.

    I Hate Men (snippet)

    I hate men.
    I can’t abide ‘em even now and then.
    Than ever marry one of them, I’d rest a virgin rather,
    For husbands are a boring lot and only give you bother.
    Of course, I’m awfly glad that Mother had to marry Father.
    But I hate men.
    I hate ‘em all, from modern man ‘way back to Father Adam,
    He sired Cain and Abel though the Lord above forbade ‘em,
    I’d hate both Cain and Abel though Betty Grable had ‘em,
    Oh, I hate men!

  4. Jim Brown

    Now as I read Briggs, he was analyzing only lyrics. So MaxBob has missed a crucial point.

    “Yesterday” is built on a fantastic series of chord changes. I’d say that’s why its melody has become a standard — perhaps beloved even more by musicians than by the general public. But the lyrics? About as trivial as can be imagined.

  5. By strange coincidence I’ve just been watching a documentary series by the English composer, Howard Goodall, looking at what he considers the most important contributors to the development of music in the twentieth century. Part one looked at the Beatles and part 4 at Cole Porter. The other two were Bernard Hermann and Leonard Bernstein.

    It’s probably fair to say that the Beatles’ music was better than their words, although you are probably cheating by putting up one of their very early pieces. It’s also fair though to say that Porter was a master of song lyrics as well as of music.

  6. Briggs

    Big Jim & Bishop,

    Now we’re on to something—your criticisms have substance.

    I chose the “Hand” song carefully because it was early and because, even though it was early, the group managed to gain their fame by singing it and others songs equally poor. Why, after hearing that song—or any of their songs from the early 1960s—for the first time did teenage girls scream in pleasure and not in horror? Where people thinking to themselves, “I really like the way they repeated ‘I wanna hold your hand’ so many times”? After being confronted with this music, why were the Beatles invited back to the USA the next year?

    It can’t be because people thought that someday they would improve so that they could create something musically harmless, like the Yesterday melody (which I’d say comes in a distant second in interesting chord changes to, for example, I Get A Kick Out Of You). I admit I have no answer.

    And Jim, I’d say that the lyric in pop music is just as, perhaps even more, important than the tune. Pop tunes, even Porter’s, don’t stand up to Mozart, even any of his divertimenti, for example. We are not talking about high art. We judge a popular song by how well the words and the melodies mix. Thus, I think it’s entirely fair to criticize pop music by examining the words.

  7. Doug M

    I seem to remember reading years ago that “Sir Paul” said that lyrics were unimportant. A song had to have them, but no one really listened to them.

  8. Briggs

    Doug M,

    Well, that’s one way to squirm free. Doesn’t work as an excuse, though. Just look at hip hop.

  9. Briggs

    Incidentally, Jim, I am K2JM.

    Also, TCO, please don’t bother to post such racist drivel on the site. Your misguided and foul-mouth satire is tiresome. (Note: I had to delete some comments made by our young friend.)

  10. The Atomizer

    This always comes down to “my generation was better/more interesting/had more to say” issue, doesn’t it? At my ripe old age of 43, I am already putting down the music twenty-somethings are listening to, deriding it as unmusical and a rehash of what has come before.

  11. Briggs

    The Atomizer: it does not. To idolize the past because it is the past is silly. But in this case, it happens to be that it is in the past when popular music was, on average, better than it is now. We are admiring what was better not because it is old but because it was better.

    It is also impossible to idolize the future, a place where we can hope things will improve.

    (We are also within a year of one another: both Cole Porter and the Beatles were before our time.)

  12. I think you have to separate what initially made them popular from what made them lastingly popular. Those first songs were just simple pop songs. They were good pop songs, but nothing out of the ordinary. This may have been enough to get them an invitation to the US. They became lastingly popular because of all the interesting things they did to the pop song at a later date.

    To compare them to Cole Porter is tricky. Sure, Porter could do some really clever things with chords – he was a classically trained composer after all – but that’s food for the head rather than the heart anyway. To my mind the cleverness of Cole Porter’s music is just slightly too obvious. The point Howard Goodall made about the Beatles was that they smuggled all those clever chord changes into pop songs without anyone actually noticing. This was really clever, and is probably the basis of their claim to genius.

  13. Jim Brown

    Briggs wrote:

    >> I’d say that the lyric in pop music is just as, perhaps even more, important than the tune <<

    As a once-upon-a-time musician and as a jazz fan since about 1953, I'd be inclined to disagree except maybe for the famous explanation by Lester Young when he stumbled musically and stopped improvising in the midst of some fabulous solo — then blurted out something like,

    "Oops! I forgot the words!"

    Or except maybe for Charlie Parker's legendary habit of playing country music on the jukeboxes of 1940's roadhouses — in the face of ridicule from his fellow-traveling bopsters — because he liked so much the lyrics!

    (Still, I hold by my position that "Yesterday" is a terrific song, one that will long be remembered — but strictly for its changes and its melody, NOT for its lyrices.)

    73 de W5DRP

  14. In America, if the Beatles had first sung those lyrics on Ed Sullivan’s show in anything other than their Liverpudian accents the feminine reaction would have been much less exhuberant. But they didn’t and it wasn’t, and thus history was made. Love their music. Lyrics, not so much. But Cole Porter’s words and music were good for all seasons and all places. Truly universal. And he was so much more productive over time than the fab four. They were good but he was better. Imo.

  15. The Atomizer

    I disagree, Herr Briggs, even more strenuously than before. Your assertion that “popular music was, on average, better than it is now” is an entirely subjective observation. It’s all the same sort of music, separated by generations and individual tastes.

    To illustrate my point, Justin Timberlake’s music has a pop music structure not entirely dissimilar to what was around in the sixties, like the Beatles, or the forties, like Cole Porter. In comparison to classical music it’s all a kind of folk music, filled with simple structures, melodies, and lyrics. While most readers of your blog here would say that both the Beatles and Cole Porter are better than Justin Timberlake, that’s STILL a subjective viewpoint.

    So who is to say, definitively, that any period or artist is definitively better than another. Just opinions. I got mine, you got yours.

  16. Briggs

    Let’s see if we disagree as much as you think Monsieur Atmoizer. Presented for you consideration are the lyrics I have just written for a song entitled “You Have a Pretty Hand.”

    You have a pretty hand
    I would like to hold it
    I would like to hold it
    I would like to hold it

    Yes, I would like to hold your hand.
    [Repeat to loud beat, middle C to C# on a harmonica, for 4 min, 20 sec.]

    Pretty good, or pretty bad? Obviously, it could have been worse; I could have said, “wanna” instead of “would like to”; it could have been three nonsense syllables repeated; etc.

    Now, in your (subjective) opinion, does it stink? Wouldn’t most people agree that it stinks? Could we not agree, definitively, that nearly all humans (over age eight) would say it stinks?

    Countering my argument requires you to posit a human who not only doesn’t hate my song, but finds artistic merit in it such that it is superior to Cole Porter’s tune we quoted. This is a logical point I am making. It’s no good dismissing my song as ineligible, because that leaves you in the position of of defining eligibility, which eventually depends on quality at least in the sense of finding a human who enjoys it.

    I used to believe, as you do, that beauty is “just opinions”, but I no longer do. This little example is in no way a proof of my thesis, but it’s in the right direction.

  17. Gary C

    I must be older than Mr. Briggs, Porter was before my time Beatles in my time. I think the Beatles remain famous not so much for the music but for their cultural impact. Some never get out of the 60″s as I am sure you know. My kids, upper teens, like the music from the 70’s-80’s much more than the current music. I still like the music of my youth but I enjoy most music.

    But to your point, when I watch an old musical, or hear old standards there is no comparison in music or lyrics. But I am talking about the true classics as there were old clunkers also way back when.

  18. Briggs


    There are four things you cannot criticize safely: the wearing of blue jeans, Ayn Rand, Apple computers, and rock/pop music.

    Say anything bad about Apple or Ayn Rand and legions of fan boys and ardent sycophants descend upon you like a Biblical plague. George Will was nearly lynched after daring to suggest that jeans should not be worn unless one is laboring. And hot scorn was poured upon Allan Bloom when he wrote in The Closing of the American Mind that rock music was inferior to classical (and even artistically harmful).

    So it’s understandable that Howard Goodall would say, publicly, only nice things about the Fab Four. But what he did say is revealing.

    We already agree that the early Beatles music is, at best, simplistic (artistically, null, I claim). How were they eventually able to have “smuggled all those clever chord changes” into their songs?

    The word “smuggle” implies that they improved their music surreptitiously, both knowing what they had been playing was bad, and fearing that if they played good music, they would lose fans, who must have been, it follows, expecting bad music. To also say that nobody noticed their changes can’t be exactly true, or nobody would have recognized that their music did, in fact, improve over time (never, I say, to the point of listenability). And it’s not as if good, and vastly superior, music wasn’t available as an alternative to people who sought it. Nobody then was forced to listen to the Beatles (but go into any grocery store now…).

    Or Goodall was being dramatic and didn’t mean “smuggle” at all, merely that their music improved. It’s not surprising that as they kept at their trade they learned something about music and were able to produce slightly better pieces.

    I accept your critique of some Porter tunes, the odd one was studied, but certainly not always or consistently.

  19. Joy


    Briggs have you ever composed?

    This is like comparing a long stemmed rose to a wild one. I have to admit that I don’t love lots of the Beetles music, for the reason you mention about lyric and “I am the walrus” was utter drug induced, self-indulgent tripe. I could have done better. I fear you are picking on the wrong enemy, for who brought rap to the world? And all its so called spin-offs? Was that influenced by the Beetles?
    Sir Paul McCartney didn’t need to write anything but Yesterday for me and he would have done enough. That song is probably ONE OF the most powerful ever written, because of the tune. The simple language is necessary in that song. Over flowery words wouldn’t work as each note is emphasised due to the tempo If you want to sound sincere, keep it simple. “Speak low if you speak love.”

    “Michelle”, beautiful, but not Lyrically clever.
    ”Let it be” is repetitive, but that’s the point.
    “Live and let Die” one of if not the best Bond themes, although “nobody does it better” is my fave.
    As Churchill said,
    “If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use the pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time a tremendous whack!”

    Don’t laugh, “The frog chorus”, a masterpiece, there, I said it,

    If in a mad moment you were to humour me and listen to the orchestra, you will surely agree that the flutes at the beginning, strings seeming to answer the flutes and trumpets at the end help make up the many ‘frog’ voices. Maybe McCartney should have carried on writing for orchestras instead of pop but the man is a genius. It’s funny, dramatic, triumphant, rousing, optimistic. Problem is, it’s too idealistic, too cute, pretty, positivity is childish, to be hidden, it is only clever if it has a negative overtone.

    Lyrics rarely make a great song, it’s the tune, followed by the lyrics. I do agree with the table at the top though, a rigorous look under the magnifying glass at two ditties. Our sample is too small. It is not statistically significant. However, the song on the left does beat the one on the right for lyrics. The song on the left is beautiful. Apparently that man had chronic pain. As lyrics go, the left one is a poem, the one on the right, a football chant.

  20. D Johnson

    I think “When I’m 64” had clever lyrics. Not sophisticated, but entertaining and one that you probably would never attribute to the Beatles without prior knowledge. Can I say, almost Cole Porteresque.

  21. Karen

    I think Lennon had the more interesting lyrics and McCartney the more tuneful melodies. That’s not to say that every Lennon lyric was interesting: “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” is a late song that is even more repetitive than “IWHYH” and kind of undermines Bishop Hills point (sorry). I absolutely loath “Imagine” though.

    A lyric like “Strawberry Fields Forever” is more about evoking an atmosphere than being understood as a independent piece of writing. Many others like “I Am The Walrus”, “A Day In The Life”, “Across The Universe” are similar and I think they work at that level. In a sense they require the listener to complete the picture and so are different for each. Rock lyrics seem to work better when they are suggestive rather than explicit. A clearer distinction can be seen in say the Pink Floyd lyrics on Dark Side of the Moon, where they usually express a general sense of angst with modernity and on Animals where all ambiguity is lost and the explicit message is hammered home.

    The point about the Beatles is that they captured the zeitgeist and played it back to the people. They remained at the cusp of fashion during the sixties always changing ahead of their competitors. However they remain at best a better than average pop band. Other acts from the modern era are thought to have better lyrics: Bob Dylan & Paul Simon spring to mind as obvious examples. Perhaps we should compare one of Britains leading acts of the 1940s: George Formby with a US act from the 1960s: Paul Simon.

    In the Red corner: “When I’m Cleaning Windows”; in the Blue corner: “Sounds of Silence”

  22. John M

    Well, Briggs, it’s obvious you don’t have memories of dancing to the melody and lyrics of “The Long and Winding Road” at a 70s graduation party with the girl that sat next to you in History class whom you’ve never seen again.

    But hey, at least they didn’t write “MacArthur Park”!

  23. D Johnson

    I sing in a male quartet, doing everything from old barbershop standards to swing era tunes, a few gospel tunes, and a few parodies. After a performance a guy came up to us and thanked us for not singing any 911 songs. Of course we had to ask…
    and he answered… “Those modern songs with 9 words repeated 11 times”.

  24. AW Moya

    How fair of you to pick one of the earliest and simplest Beatles song.

    Let me educate you by providing you with two of Mr McCartney’s lyrics

    For no one
    Your day breaks, your mind aches
    You find that all the words of kindness linger on
    When she no longer needs you

    She wakes up, she makes up
    She takes her time and doesn’t feel she has to hurry
    She no longer needs you

    And in her eyes you see nothing
    No sign of love behind the tears cried for no one
    A love that should have lasted years

    You want her, you need her
    And yet you don’t believe her when she says her love is dead
    You think she needs you

    And in her eyes you see nothing
    No sign of love behind the tears cried for no one
    A love that should have lasted years

    You stay home, she goes out
    She says that long ago she knew someone but now he’s gone
    She doesn’t need him

    Your day breaks, your mind aches
    There will be times when all the thing she said will fill your head
    You won’t forget her

    And in her eyes you see nothing
    No sign of love behind the tears cried for no one
    A love that should have lasted years


    Here, There and Everywhere

    Here, making each day of the year
    Changing my life with the wave of her hand
    Nobody can deny that there’s something there

    There, running my hands through her hair
    Both of us thinking how good it can be
    Someone is speking but she doesn’t know he’s there

    I want her everywhere and if she’s beside me
    I know I need never care
    But to love her is to need her everywhere
    Knowing that love is to share

    Each one believing that love never dies
    Watching her eyes and hoping I’m always there

    I want her everywhere and if she’s beside me
    I know I need never care
    But to love her is to need her everywhere
    Knowing that love is to share

    Each one believing that love never dies
    Watching her eyes and hoping I’m always there

    To be there and everywhere
    Here, there and everywhere

    Pure poetry. Mr McCartney wins.

    I have nothing against Mr Porter, but I can’t read such a biased and ingnorant article without responding.

  25. A rather non-random sample there. I would question the homogeneity of the distributions from which you have drawn your data. That will always lead to poor inference.

    Try looking up a contemporary song writer like Paul Kelly, a favourite in Australia and oftened called the people’s poet. Wonderful music and resonanting lyrics (although more likely to hit home with an Australian due to the subject matter and allusions.

    You will have to trust me, but the lyrics from “Bradman” give me goosebumps – an excerpt:

    He was more than just a batsman
    He was something like a tide
    He was more than just one man
    He could take on any side
    They always came for Bradman ’cause fortune used to hide in the palm of his hand

    Summer 1932 and Captain Douglas had a plan
    When Larwood bowled to Bradman it was more than man to man
    And staid Adelaide nearly boiled over as rage ruled over sense
    When Oldfield hit the ground they nearly jumped the fence
    Now Bill Woodill was as fine a man as ever went to wicket
    And the bruises on his body that day showed that he could stick it
    But to this day he’s still quoted and only he could wear it
    “There’s two teams out there today and only one of them’s playing cricket.”

    He was longer than a memory, bigger than a town
    He feet they used to sparkle and he always kept them on the ground
    Fathers took their sons who never lost the sound of the roar of the grandstand

    Or another one of my favourites “Deeper Water” has led me to shed a tear. Just the opening, but is a wonderful emotional ballad (especially for anyone with kids):

    On a crowded beach in a distant time
    At the height of summer see a boy of five
    At the water’s edge so nimble and free
    Jumping over the ripples looking way out to sea
    Now a man comes up from amoungst the throng
    Takes the young boy’s hand and his hand is strong
    And the child feels safe, yeah the child feels brave
    As he’s carried in those arms up and over the waves
    Deeper water, deeper water, deeper water, calling him on

  26. Briggs

    Geckko, There is never a need for “random” samples. On the other hand, your song selection appears as it would be good to drink beer to at the ballpark (or pitch?—I don’t know the proper terminology).

  27. Briggs

    AW Moya,

    Thank you for responding. You are one of the few who have attempted to support the Beatles with examples of their work, which is the idea behind this debate. First, it is fair of me to pick that song, and I’m glad you agree with me. Curious, isn’t it, as Bishop Hill and I were discussing, how they ever became popular when their early songs were so awful?

    Your selections from McCartney are poetry, I grant that. But maudlin, sappy, poetry. The kind you see on the backs of Hallmark greeting cards, say, or the sort Danielle Steel might have one her characters spout. Or the kind a love sick 16-year old boy might scratch on some lined paper in his notebook after his girlfriend dumps him.

    “Your day breaks, your mind aches — You find that all the words of kindness linger on…”? “She wakes up, she makes up — She takes her time and doesn’t feel she has to hurry…”?

    A song about a woman putting on her makeup who is now indifferent to a man, who “finds” that some “words of kindness linger on”. Oh, my; oh, dear.

    How about this song? Better or worse?

    When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,
    I all alone beweep my outcast state
    And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries
    And look upon myself and curse my fate,
    Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
    Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
    Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope,
    With what I most enjoy contented least;
    Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
    Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
    Like to the lark at break of day arising
    From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
    For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
    That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

  28. Briggs

    D Johnson,

    Hilarious story. Also sorry being slow in responding. I had to look up the lyrics for “When I’m 64”. Not their worst effort, I’ll agree. Catchy tune, but simple. And the lyrics contain some clunkers, like this passage:

    oo oo oo oo oo oo oo oooo
    You’ll be older too, (ah ah ah ah ah)
    And if you say the word,
    I could stay with you.

    But I don’t find myself filling with an intense desire to flee the room when I hear it (as I do with their other music).

  29. Briggs

    John M,

    At our high school dances, it was always Led Zepplin’s “Stairway to Heaven” that closed the proceedings. This was in the just-born 1980s. I haven’t seen any of the females from back then, either. Maybe it was the music?

    I can’t resist being just a bit catty. Here’s a snippet from “Long and Winding Road”:

    But still they lead me back
    To the long winding road
    You left me standing here
    A long long time ago
    Don’t leave me waiting here
    Lead me to your door
    Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

    “Yeah, yeah, yeah” That group really like that phrase, did they not?

  30. Briggs


    Thank you. I enjoyed your analysis, and I’m wondering how true it is that rock lyrics are better when suggestive and not explicit. I had never considered that, and you might be right. I’m not sure I agree, but if I did, I think it would imply that rock music is even worse than we had thought. It would make the songs even less considered, less meaningful.

  31. Briggs


    I tried my hand at composing in school. I stank. I did play various woodwinds in jazz bands and was nearly reasonable at improvisation. But note that “nearly.” I flatter myself that I played the contra-alto clarinet well in concert bands and clarinet choirs.

    Apt Churchill quote, too.

  32. Anne

    Comparing a 1944 song by Cole Porter, who was a song writer in WWI, 1917, to the Beatles first commercial hit is totally unfair.

    As poster #1 said, Yesterday beats that WW2 piece by Porter hands -down.

    What insightful piece did Porter write??

    “I Get a Kick out of You”, “Well, Did You Evah!” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” man those are real philosophical gems. Cole Porter is boring and out of date.

    I enjoy following your page for the humor, the statistical insights, the anti-alarmist AGW thoughts, but your musical tastes leave me cold.


    by the way, I’m older than you, hey almost as old as the Beatles.

  33. masmit

    I think the point about lyrics vs. music misses another important point – the recorded performance itself. One of the differences between Porter’s and The Beatles’ eras was that in Porter’s time, sheet music was as important (commercially) as discs – what sold The Beatles in the first place was their records. “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” was not just a catchy little pop song, but an exciting and memorable performance.

    Later on, as others have noted, The Beatles got considerably more sophisticated, musically, lyrically and technically. Look at “Eleanor Rigby” for an example of McCartney’s more interesting lyrics.

    Ultimately, I think your comparison doesn’t really shed much light on anything except that the particular Porter lyric you chose is obviously more interesting than the particular McCartney lyric you chose.

  34. William,

    I took it that you were making inference about “the decline in music”. You present to samples (both of size 1), one from era of COle Porter, one from the era of the Beatles. Are you claiming that it makes no difference how you selected the data you are now presenting to test your hypothesis?

    Even if this was Cole Porter versus Beatles, does your method of selecting the songs for comparison not matter?

    Anyway, Cole Porter himself had a dim view of the aesthetic arts of his own day – something that might even suggest a temporaral relativism (” remember the good old days”). Don’t forget Cole’s words:

    “Good authors too who once knew better words,
    Now only use four letter words
    Writing prose, Anything Goes. “

  35. This is you most popular post yet!

    My point, as with others, was you are cherry picking. Let’s redo.

    “The happy ascent of music”

    Then – a massively popular hit:

    On the farm, Ev’ry Friday
    On the farm, It’s rabbit pie day
    So ev’ry Friday, that ever comes along
    I get up early,And sing this little song…

    Run, rabbit, run, rabbit, run, run, run
    Run, rabbit, run, rabbit, run, run, run
    Bang, bang, bang, bang! goes the farmer’s gun
    Run, rabbit, run, rabbit, run, run, run

    Run, rabbit, run, rabbit, run, run, run
    Don’t give the farmer his fun, fun,fun
    He’ll get by without his rabbit pie
    So run, rabbit, run, rabbit, run, run, run

    On the farm,No poor rabbit
    Comes to harm, Because I grab it
    They jump and frolic, Whenever I go by
    They know I help ’em, To dodge the rabbit pie!


    Any one of dozens of Dylan songs. Pick your own.

    There is no evidence of a “sad decline in music”.

    Maybe you have a future in climate research??????????

  36. Gary Moran

    The Beatles are arguably the first true rock band. They largely wrote their own music and lyrics, and produced artistically meaningful albums (in comparison to the pop and rock n roll groups around at the time). Rock music is simply more exciting than Cole Porter because of its beat, rhythm, electric instrumentation etc. Because of the importance of beat in rock music, lyrics are less important artistically than how they service that.

    I was talking to someone about this last week: they were a teenager when the Beatles hit, and he was explaining how seismic they were – although rooted in rock n roll, blues, and the teenage pop of the time, there were still many differences; they set the modern template.

  37. DAV

    Well since the focus is on lyrics instead of musical qualities, I’d be inclined to say this is a poetry contest. Why not include Robert Frost? But if you’re looking for clever lyrics, try some of the Little Feat stuff like “Texas Twister” or “Down on the Farm” or try the Supreme Being’s of Leisure “Nothing Like Tomorrow” and “Golddigger”.

    I never did like the early Beatles and could never understand their appeal although I have to agree “Yesterday” had moving structure. I do agree with McCartney that lyrics are less important. Ask Lisa Gerrard as well whose “lyrics” are tones that sound like words. Probably why I don’t like hip-hop but like house and chill.

    But pop is the topic here so I guess we’re comparing one brand of hamburger to another and lamenting that it isn’t steak.

    . . . _ . _ . . _ _ . .

    OT: . . . _ . ___ is ’30’ in American Morse. Neat how that was retained.

  38. Briggs


    What your example of a truly awful song proves one thing, possibly two. First, that ugly is always with us. Second, that perhaps all pop music is bad. But, I don’t think all is bad—in each decade you can easily find instances of good music. But not with the Beatles, certainly.

    No, my point was statistical. In the 1940s, say, while Porter flourished, while you could find bad music, it was more probable that adults listened to good music. And also more probable that adults would acknowledge the difference between good and bad music. And this is even more true earlier (but not too much earlier; not many centuries earlier).

    My point of picking the Beatles tune, this sample of 1, though many others equally bad were available (“She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah…”), was that it was this song that helped make them popular. Why? Nobody has yet, except 49erDweet attempted that answer. And nobody has yet rose to the defense of this song.

    More pointedly, nobody has yet found flaw with Porter’s tune.

    Your quote of Porter is apt (when I get home I’ll have to dig up a quote by Stove on that song). Porter is agreeing, with his lyric, that music was already in decline. “Good authors too who once knew better words.” “Once knew” means “now don’t.”

  39. Briggs


    Precisely. They “set the modern template”. They share a large portion of the blame for the current state of music—at least, on the performing side. The audience is even more culpable.

    “Artistically meaningful.” Like, say, “I wanna hold your hand [repeat, repeat…]”. Or any of the other examples so far mentioned?

    I take your point about rock being more exciting, in some senses, than any of Porter’s music. There are certainly examples of rock which is more vibrant, electric, and seriously musical. But most of it is not. And none of it could beat, say, the energy and compelling emotional content of the last movement of Beethoven’s Fifth.

  40. Briggs


    Let me warm you.

    I get no kick from champagne
    Mere alcohol doesn’t thrill me at all
    So tell me why should it be true
    That I get a kick out of you

    Philosophical? No. Clever, witty, yes. Great tune, too.

    “Yesterday” insightful? Can you give us an analysis of the lyric which shows it to be so? I claim that, as poetry, it is puppy-love-sick doggerel. I think the best continuation of the lyric “Suddenly, I’m not half the man I used to be”—it’s perfection, if you will—was the gentleman who penned “Pieces keep on dropping off of me; Oh, how I hate, my leprosy.”


  41. Briggs


    You and Gary Morgan are on to something with the youth angle. We’ll have to explore that one more closely.

    But let me ask. I think we agree the Beatles tune is awful; tinny music, limited, almost monotone, clunky, and the lyrics are childish. So how could a performance of it have been convincing? Was was it, except ordinary teenage rebellion and a thirst for newness, that allowed the Beatles to become popular by playing this (and their other early) music?

    I’ve already agreed that the group got better as they practiced, through time, though they never attained any worthwhile height.

    From Eleanor Rigby:

    Father McKenzie writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear
    No one comes near.
    Look at him working. Darning his socks in the night when there’s nobody there
    What does he care?

    Eleanor rigby died in the church and was buried along with her name
    Nobody came
    Father mckenzie wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave
    No one was saved

    This aims at deepness but lands in the shallow end of the pool. Does he need whole socks to deliver his sermon on poor, unlamented Rigby? Who appears to be alive at the beginning of the song and mysteriously dead at the end of it? Where she was “was buried along with her name.” A little padding at the end of that, wouldn’t you say? Looks like he was trying to find a word to rhyme with “grave” and couldn’t think of anything else. The assonance between “name” and “grave” is as weak as you can get, too.

    Another failure, I think.

  42. Briggs


    You’re right. We haven’t talked nearly enough of the music sans lyrics. It does seem, though, that country music takes a delight in clever lyrics, whereas angstyness is favored in rock.

    I don’t know the styles “house” and “chill”. Perhaps you could give some links?


  43. Joy

    Now come on Briggs, where exactly have you shown or proved anything? Asserting that something is childish doesn’t make it true. Also, asserting that the entire pop wourld and it’s audience is ‘culpable’ or whatever word it was doesn’t make a convincing argument either. Briggs against the world?
    You start with the post in good humour, maybe to lull the readers into false sense of fair play, you then try to claim victory when you are nowhere near. What is childish is stating that your own two choices must be the standard, and that all must dance to your tune! THAT IS childish.

  44. Briggs

    Joy, you’re right. I withdraw the word “childish.” But you’re wrong, too. I am in excellent humor.

    And you must also be wrong on the other point. Surely, somebody out there agrees with me. Anybody dare admit it?

  45. Wade Michaels

    I would contend the quality of pop music has everything to do with the presentation medium and nothing to do with the artist. (TV has this same issue).

    The old radios and speakers just didn’t lend themselves to fully appreciating the depths of the music, so lyrics was where the money was, so to speak. Poor presentation medium + great lyrics = Cole Porter. As radios became better, and tv starting showing the musicians, the focus moved to catchy hooks and goofy dancing and swaying…. oh, and those dreaded Elvis hips….tsk tsk. Catchy sounds + goofy actions = Beatles, Stones, etc…

    With the advent of the music video and US Weekly, I’d argue all pop music depends on aesthetic capabilities of the performer (nee musician, nee artist). The further they deviate from *normal*, the more albums they sell (Eminem, Brittney Spears, etc…). So naturally, it would seem that music is less about the band quality and more about brand management.

    This is why the only CDs I’ve purchased in the last 10 years is by Brad Paisley. I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for country musicians because their songs tend to actually tell a story instead of just the “9-words, 11 repeats” mentioned above. In Brad’s case, the stories are funny and self-deprecating.

  46. Briggs


    Brilliant point!

    It suffers a little because Porter’s music was made known mostly through Broadway and music hall performances. But also through the sale of sheet music. Your example works better for the later, of course.

    However, I’m inclined to agree with your other point. The performance capabilities and how these fit into the larger scheme of things must account for a large share of popularity.

    Country music performed live, sans electricity, can be wonderful.

  47. Joy


    Well I was getting the distinct impression you had the serious hump.

    Actually, I now have the serious hump as well! I am officially narked, naffed off and generally miffed.

    I’ll tell you what the problem is here:
    You are upset with John Lenin for being such “A dreamer but he’s not the only one; I hope some day you will join us and the world”, in the majority, who all assert that the Beetles were tallented, gifted, and skilful enough at least to please their tiny little minds.

    Here’s a snippet of Ted’s lyrical offering, I may have some of the wangos and tangos the wrong way round but you’d never know. Also, sorry if I left in something rude but it’s hard to tell.

    Come on boys
    Time to Wango

    My baby she like to rock
    My baby she like to roll
    My baby she can dance all night
    My baby got no control
    She do the Wango Tango

    My baby she can scream and shout
    My baby she can move it out
    My baby she can take a chance
    My baby got a brand new dance

    Wango Tango
    Wango Tango
    It’s a Wango Tango
    Ooooh yeah! (oooooh..)

    My baby like to rock
    My baby like to roll
    My baby like to dance all night
    She got no control
    She do…

    Wango Tango
    Wango Tango
    Wango Tango
    Ooooh yeah! (oooooh..)

    Baby! Baby! Baby! Ooooh I like the way you look baby
    You look like you’re made for me honey
    If you wanna take a little chance
    I’m gonna show you a new dance
    Baby I gotta Wango down one time with you honey
    I like it, I like it, I like it, I like it, I like it
    Well, it’s a brand new dance
    Yeah been sweepin’ the nation
    I said a brand new dance
    A rock ‘n’ roll sensation
    Yeah I like it baby, I do it every night
    I got to do it ‘cos I like it so much
    Oh honey believe it baby
    You see it’s a crazed gyration of the rock generation
    It’s my motivation to avoid the nauseation, frustration
    Kinda like, goes kinda like this…oh no it doesn’t Ted.

    Now, he rhymes talcum with Malcum! Hillarious!
    I’m gonna borrow it from Malcolm
    heh heh heh (
    Yeah you look so good baby, I like it, I like it, I like it
    You know what I been talkin’ about honey
    It’s a nice dance, we gotta a nice dance goin’ here
    Now what you gotta do, I’ll tell you what you gotta do
    You got to pretend your face is a Maserati
    It’s a Maserati
    It’s a Maserati
    It’s a gettin’ hotty
    It’s a Maserati, Maserati, Maserati
    It’s a fast one too man, that thing’s turbocharged
    You feel like a little fuel injection honey?
    I’ll tell ya about it, I’ll tell you about it
    I gotta get that hood scoop off, shine and shine and buff
    I gotta buff it up, buff it up, buff it up, buff it up, buff it up,
    Yeah, shiny now baby, heh heh heh
    You’ve been drivin’ all night long
    It’s time to put the old Maserati away
    So you look for a garage, you think you see a garage
    Wait a minute, Hey!, there’s one up ahead
    And the damn thing’s open
    Hello! Get in there!

    At this point I begin to wonder whether this was a real person, Ted just didn’t notice.
    Is my baby alive? (Is my baby alive?)
    Is my baby alive? (Is my baby alive?)
    Is my baby alive?
    She Wango’d to death

    Wango Tango (Wango Tango)
    Wango Tango (Wango Tango)
    Wango Tango (Wango Tango)
    Wango Tango (Wango Tango)
    Wango Tango
    Wango Tango
    Wango Tango
    Wango Tango
    Wango Wango
    Tango Tango
    Wango Wango Wango Wango
    Tango Tango Tango Tango


  48. Briggs

    Sister Joy,

    You nailed it. Uncle Ted’s lyrics are abysmal. Hell of a bow hunter, though (but don’t listen to his “Fred Bear”).

  49. Katie

    As a later-comer to this string, let me say that Briggs is not trying to deny anyone tender feelings that might swell to the surface when one listens to one’s favorite pop song. If the song dates back to one’s teen years, it is not just the music that moves us, but also the memories of youth, love, or the combination of the two. Most modern people can track milestones in their lives by what was playing on the radio (or on the record player or by the band).

    What Briggs is showing is that if an unknowing third party (say, the oft-cited visitor from space) came to Earth and was presented with the two sets of lyrics (perfectly translated) that the creature could judge one’s value over the other. For some of us it is more difficult to make an honest and objective judgment because of other, non-music related associations we have with a particular song or artist.

  50. John M


    “What Briggs is showing is that if an unknowing third party (say, the oft-cited visitor from space) came to Earth and was presented with the two sets of lyrics (perfectly translated) that the creature could judge one’s value over the other. ”

    And then perhaps, we could have said creature take brain waves of each human being and tell us which of us has the “perfect human brain acitivty” based on some completly objective and non-emotional criteria.


    yeah yeah yeah yeah

    The point is it’s a song, not a poem. Listen to those yeah yeahs in context and they fit in like the instrumentals (go to 3:00).

  51. John M

    Whoops, that was Katie, not Kathie.

  52. My dear Briggs, surely this has to be a wind-up 🙂

    Nearly half of early Beatles melodies & lyrics were by the likes of Arthur Alexander, Gerry Goffin, Carole King, Wes Farrell, Mack David, Burt Bacharach, Bobby Scott, Bertrand Russell (no, I’m not joking) Berns, (aka Bert Russell and Bert Berns and Russell Byrd).

    The most notable thing about all of these composers is that they are AMERICAN. The second most notable thing is that the Lennon & McCartney compositions on those early recordings were INDISTINGUSHABLE from those by the AMERICAN composers.

    Yes, Cole Porter was an excellent composer; I have many fine examples of his work among the 2,000+ album titles I possess. But did Porter produce anything of the stature of Sergeant Pepper for example?

    For what it’s worth, Beatle fans did not invent screaming in appreciation; the bobby soxers as Frank Sinatra’s teenaged female fans were called, beat them to it in the 1940s. Oh yes, just in case you missed it, the bobby soxers and Mr Sinatra were AMERICAN.

    For sheer repetitiveness (perhaps even banality) in a lyric, it’s hard to go past one of my favourites:

    Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
    Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

    Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

    Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

    for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.
    Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

    for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.
    Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

    for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.
    Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
    Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
    Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
    Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

    The kingdom of this world is become
    the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and of His Christ;
    and He shall reign for ever and ever
    and He shall reign for ever and ever
    and He shall reign for ever and ever
    and He shall reign for ever and ever

    King of Kings,
    for ever and ever. Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
    and Lord of Lords,
    for ever and ever. Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

    King of Kings,
    for ever and ever. Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
    and Lord of Lords,
    for ever and ever. Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

    King of Kings,
    for ever and ever. Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
    and Lord of Lords,
    for ever and ever. Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

    King of Kings, and Lord of Lords,
    and He shall reign for ever and ever
    and He shall reign for ever and ever

    King of Kings
    for ever and ever. Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

    and He shall reign for ever and ever,
    for ever and ever,
    King of Kings,
    and Lord of Lords,
    King of Kings,
    and Lord of Lords,
    and He shall reign for ever and ever,

    King of Kings,
    and Lord of Lords.
    Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

    I highly recommend the Portsmouth Sinfonia’s rendition 😉

  53. My favourite lyricists of the second half of the 20th C:

    Bob Dylan
    Leonard Cohen
    Joni Mitchell
    Richard Thompson
    Loudon Wainwright III
    John Cale
    Tom Waits
    Laurie Anderson
    David Byrne
    Kevin Coyne

    … in no particular order.

  54. But hark! What about R.L. Stevenson or H.W. Longfellow?

    For instance, this by HWL:

    The tide rises, the tide falls,
    The twilight darkens, the curlew calls;
    Along the sea-sands damp and brown
    The traveler hastens toward the town,
    And the tide rises, the tide falls.

    Darkness settles on roofs and walls,
    But the sea, the sea in darkness calls;
    The little waves, with their soft, white hands
    Efface the footprints in the sands,
    And the tide rises, the tide falls.

    The morning breaks; the steeds in their stalls
    Stamp and neigh, as the hostler calls;
    The day returns, but nevermore
    Returns the traveler to the shore.
    And the tide rises, the tide falls.

    by RLS:

    The infinite shining heavens
    Rose and I saw in the night
    Uncountable angel stars
    Showering sorrow and light.

    I saw them distant as heaven,
    Dumb and shining and dead,
    And the idle stars of the night
    Were dearer to me than bread.

    Night after night in my sorrow
    The stars stood over the sea,
    Till lo! I looked in the dusk
    And a star had come down to me.

  55. (I Married A) Monster From Outer Space by John Cooper Clarke:

    I fell in love with an alien being
    whose skin was jelly – whose teeth were green
    she had the big bug eyes and the death-ray glare
    feet like water wings – purple hair
    I was over the moon – I asked her back to my place
    then I married the monster – from outer space

    The days were numbered – the nights were spent
    in a rent-free furnished oxygen tent
    where a cyborg chef served up moon beams
    done super rapid on a laser beam
    I needed nutrition to keep up the pace
    when I married the monster from outer space.

    We walked out – tentacle in hand
    you could sense that the earthlings would not understand
    they’d go, nudge nudge when we got off the bus
    saying it’s extra-terrestial – not like us
    and it’s bad enough with another race
    but fuck me, a monster from outer space

    In a cybernetic fit of rage
    she pissed off to another age
    she lives in 1999
    with her new boyfriend – a blob of slime
    each time I see her translucent face
    I remember the monster from outer space

  56. Joy

    “She woke up, she had a biscuit, she stubbed her toe, she did this she did that” are not pure poetry, nor, are the rhymes in greetings cards, not even bad poems. A subjective view, but the average limerick has more poetic merit about it with humour conveyed instead of sentimental nonsense. Poetry “is thoughts that breathe and words that burn”. If they just make you sick, it doesn’t count. While I think about it, Eleanor Rigby is great because of the strings. That is often played by string orchestras without the lyrics, and I’ll bet I can find a Porter duffer to compare with any equivalent ballad.
    The army band plays Beetles, along with Jazz, metal and even Star Wars and Bond tunes, many modern pieces only popular tunes.

    It’s rare to find any lyric that can stand without the help of the music. I don’t care where that song comes from and who’s army they support. A poet will write a poem and then be troubled by trying to set it to music so either do a sub-optimal job, or collaborate. Musical composers have the opposite problem. The tune’s there, they now rummage around looking for words to fit the emotion conveyed in the music. Rarely the pairing is a perfect one and a masterpiece is made where both lyric and music match in quality and both together are more than the separate parts. That’s the ideal.
    On Modern music, (thoroughly ruined and debauched by the Beetles)
    The Col Porter above is not the greatest tune. In fact, sometimes we listen to music for the sound, the noise if you like, this would be true of much modern music that can’t be reproduced with any effect by anyone else, ever. It is the mark of a weak song. Genesis is a good example of a band that does not lend itself to this treatment; they aren’t ideal song writers.
    That’s the obvious difference about modern popular music. Although I do accept the fact of a decline in modern music, absolutely, but to hold the Beetles responsible is ridiculous. They had a huge impact, but it is economics, the industry and the quick buck that lead to laziness, forced output from artists of all kinds with contractual obligations. Good art requires money, lots of it, time, inspiration and sacrifice. The richer nations display the greatest architecture, music, fine art, “commerce alters the fate and genius of nations.”. NOT four fellows from Liverpool.

    However Ella Fitzgerald has sung Beetles songs, I’m prepared to put money on Frank singing Yesterday and Michelle. They’re right up his street. Nat King Cole, also covered many other artists tunes and quite rightly being one of the greatest singers ever to grace us with his velvet tones, but he sang Michelle too. Any man with a guitar has played that at some time to impress a lady, and if they haven’t they’ve missed a trick. The point is, all of those had a choice they probably sang Cole Porter too, but no soloist would choose the “hand song”
    “Did you ever” is, in fact on my itunes playlist. I can honestly say that I don’t listen to the Beetles often, and normally Paul McCartney. But I would Never listen to Elvis. His singing is nauseating.

    To construct such a poor argument for a faulty premise and then claim a victory is exactly like the Eurovision song contest. Which you will not have had the pleasure of being subjected to. Proper scoring rules did not apply there either.

    I beg to differ, Briggs Is mickey-taking. Exactly where are people not being objective about their evaluation of the two specimens? We didn’t listen to the Beetles in the eighties, it was considered old fashioned! Any fond memories of discos involve completely different tunes.

    Mr PG,
    Hallelujah! Excellent example of how using the pile driver is the way. I love the alien poem, bet the tune stinks.

    John M, Ah, “True” by Spandau Ballet for me. Come to think of it “Gold” the 12-inch had a great intro. An example of quality eighties music, which can be hard to find. I bet she remembers you.

  57. Briggs

    PG, John M,

    Git, you echo John M’s argument that the lyrics must be placed “in context and they fit in like the instrumentals.” This is called “word painting”, and Handel originated it.

    Handel’s simple structure is purposeful, as you well know, to allow the different voices of the chorus—voices as complex instruments—to be now distinct, now whole, both sublime and soaring. These are lyrics for a chorus, we emphasize, not a near monotonic quartet. Handel word-paints a Michelangelo-like canvas, where upon each viewing (listening) some new delight is discovered. The Beatles daub a four-color paint-by-numbers cartoon of a horse cavorting in a field with a tear in its eye. Deep, deep. (Sorry, Joy.)

    Git, I’m with you on Wainwright. Here.

    Yeah you got yer dead cat and you got yer dead dog
    On a moonlight night you got yer dead toad frog
    Got yer dead rabbit and yer dead raccoon
    The blood and the guts they’re gonna make you swoon!

    Love it!

    As to your charge that much abominable music originated from within our shores, I am sad to say, I agree.

  58. Joy

    The Emp has spoken.

  59. dearieme

    A large part of the impact of the first Beatles’ recordings is explained by the dire state of pop music between the decline of the swing bands and the arrival of the Fab Four. Syrupy crooners, Bill Haley and Elvis bloody Presley – Dear God, it was awful. Perhaps that is what really needs explanation – why did the world of Porter, the Gershwins (whom I rate even higher) and so on dwindle away? Why did, for example, a fine jazz pianist like Nat King Cole find it more lucrative to sing dim lurve songs? Come to that, why did pop music decline all over again after the Beatles?

  60. Briggs


    Good question. I’d love to hear suggestions.

  61. Joy

    “Now for the low-pass filter….
    What can we conclude from this?
    The obvious.
    Boring details follow.”

    “Bad blocking, aka arbitrary binning, aka dividing of the data into a priori subsets, is the principal source of bias in any type of analysis, not just the statistical kind. Very dangerous, too. Leads to wars, Holocausts, confiscatory taxes, shoes that don’t fit, and a variety of other evils, small and large.
    We don’t hand churn data anymore like Granny churned butter. We have computers now to do it for us. Give me all the data all the time. I’ll deal with the problems of autocorrelation and lack of independence. Don’t block me up.
    Don’t get all jiggy about the extreme data points. There are no such thing as outliers, there are only ordinary liars.”
    I particularly like ‘don’t get all jiggy about the extreme data points.’
    Mike D.

    “The idea…, is that, as long as there is no measurement error, you are stripping away useful information in the data and introducing spurious “information” when you smooth. This is utterly uncontroversial and even trivially obvious.
    The only reason people suddenly care about this dark backwater of statistics, and want to defend the use of certain sub-optimal techniques, is that some guys used these techniques to show something about…” the Beatles.
    William the bloggerer, from whom I have learnt so much!

    But Hardy says it very well too.
    How’s this assonance, At A Lunar Eclipse.

    Thy shadow, Earth, from Pole to Central Sea,
    Now steals along upon the Moon’s meek shine
    In even monochrome and curving line
    Of imperturbable serenity.

    How shall I link such sun-cast symmetry
    With the torn troubled form I know as thine,
    That profile, placid as a brow divine,
    With continents of moil and misery?

    And can immense Mortality but throw
    So small a shade, and Heaven’s high human scheme
    Be hemmed within the coasts yon arc implies?

    Is such the stellar gauge of earthly show,
    Nation at war with nation, brains that teem,
    Heroes, and women fairer than the skies?

  62. John

    It’s too darn hot,
    It’s too darn hot.

    I’d like to sup with my baby tonight,
    And play the pup with my baby tonight.
    I’d like to sup with my baby tonight,
    And play the pup with my baby tonight,
    But I ain’t up to my baby tonight,
    ‘Cause it’s too darn hot.

    It’s too darn hot,
    It’s too darn hot

  63. Dr Slop

    Coming late to the party …

    I recall McCartney saying (about 20 years ago) that the lyrics were *completely* unimportant to him. I also recall a quote attributed to Lennon that reading Finnegan’s Wake was “like meeting my father” — a laden phrase. I love Porter — “even Latvian and Letts do it” is one of the best lines ever, ever — but if you want to do head-to-head on words, then McCartney’s not your man. I put up Lennon: “Across the Universe” for the karmic stuff; “Working Class Hero” for the blood and guts (yeah, yeah, two years too late). Maybe, high society versus Joyce is not a real comparison, is it?

    Peace and love, — Dr Slop

  64. Briggs

    Dr Slop,

    Aha! That explains all. And the music, apparently, was just as important as the lyrics to him.

  65. Joy

    I wasn’t sure where to put this comment, I mean that in the politest way.
    Before this Beatles phase, In a bar in Dunster I heard ‘Blackbird Singing’ by a female vocalist that I still can’t find. ‘isn’t that a Beatles song’ I said to the south African bar lady.
    I’ve looked for this on the web and in doing so, I discovered this cute lad with his guitar.

    He’s on my desktop now for a while anyway. Have you ever seen someone so little take so much delight in playing music, and adding his own blues twangs as he goes. It’s infectious.

    In my view hip hop, house, dance, trance, are not music because they are written by computers all or partly with an operator pressing a few buttons like a screen saver or so many crystals in a kaleidoscope. For this reason, it doesn’t concern me that these sounds are played in clubs and some bars, because the people frequenting these places are rarely if ever there for the music anyway.
    (spoken from experience). I’ve never heard of a “house concert”. Rap seems to serve yet another purpose entirely that again has nothing to do with my idea of music or dance. Let them do it and burn themselves out, I say. The choices for comparison were a non-starter in my view.

    It’s the decline in the visual arts that grate, and none more than architecture. But then I am never, or rarely, subjected to rap or hip hop. If I heard it every day I’d feel differently.

    On balance, I believe the seventies had better quality music than the following decades with a more recent improvement in the nineties, but when I say this, I’m thinking of other types of music, not the examples offered so far.

  66. How about this for lyricism from American singer/songwriter/mathematician Tom Lehrer?

    I hold your hand in mine, dear,
    I press it to my lips.
    I take a healthy bite
    From your dainty fingertips.

    My joy would be complete, dear,
    If you were only here,
    But still I keep your hand
    As a precious souvenir.

    The night you died I cut it off.
    I really don’t know why.
    For now each time I kiss it
    I get bloodstains on my tie.

    I’m sorry now I killed you,
    For our love was something fine,
    And till they come to get me
    I shall hold your hand in mine.

    Move over Cole Porter!

  67. Joy

    John A,
    This is the trouble! Never mix maths and song writing.

  68. Hi – can I just ask what specifically is your problem with the Beatles lyric? I am a fan of both and I can’t really see where you’re coming from…

  69. Mel Atkey

    If you’re going to make a comparison, it would be more fair to compare “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” with “Don’t Fence Me In”, which is early Porter. “Every Time We Say Goodbye” should really be compared to “The Long and Winding Road”. Porter would still win, but it’s not such a stacked contest. And I remember hearing once that McCartney’s early ambition was to be the next Cole Porter, to which he added “It still is”. So the man himself may not disagree with you.

  70. steve james

    the beatles wrote some amazing melodies, and with such beauty, along with some poignant lyric. i d say cole porter wrote some clever lyrics, and some nice jazzy melodies. the bealtes melodies tend to be, better than porters melodies. his melodies were simple, and sometimes unoriginal. anything goes was a clever song. long winding road, for no one, strawberry fields, yesterday, she s leaving home, were works of genius, with poignant ,poetic lyric. a song like anything goes has a somewhat simple and mediocre melody. you re the top is clever, fun. and a simplistic melody that has no infinite value. i don t know what william briggs is talking about frankly. i wanna hold your hand is suppose to be very simple, the beatles developed in great strides afterward. so he must not really have studied bealtes songs, and their beauty and timeless songs. in a nutshell, i strongly disagree with him, and his choice of song comparison, showing how ignorant he may be about the beatles.

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