“I must say I enjoyed even the music enormously, possibly because I have not yet been traumatized by transistors into open rebellion against the ‘top 40′ and such. (I just heard ‘Hello, Dolly’ for the first time the other day, and the lyrics had been changed to ‘Hello, Lyndon.’) Nevertheless I think there is a tendency to underrate rock ‘n’ roll because the lyrics look so silly in cold print… I like the songs the Beatles sing despite the banality of the lyrics, but the words in R&R only mask the poundingly ritualistic meaning of the beat. It is in the beat that the passion and togetherness is most movingly expressed.”
Andrew Sarris, from his review of A Hard Day’s Night, Village Voice, Aug ’64. I love Sarris’s review of this, and it puts him in an exclusive club of pre-war critics who got — or anyway, who at least attempted to get — rock and roll. (We’re talking about an extremely exclusive club here: McLuhan’s in it, for sure, Kael… and who else?). Not suggesting that Sarris became any kind of major fan of rock and roll — I strongly doubt it, in fact — but that’s beside the point, what matters is that, before such a thing as rock criticism even existed, he evaluated the music on its own terms, heard something special in the beat, took for granted its “importance” from the get-go (well, from the second get-go — not sure he has any words on Elvis, Chuck Berry, et al.).
Of course Sarris will be recalled by many for a hell of a lot more than that, and rightly so, but it’s a small moment in a giant career which, to me, seems at least worth a mention. More about Sarris here.