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The Band vs The Beatles


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Initial post: Dec 21, 2012 7:08:45 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 21, 2012 7:09:51 PM PST
alexwilbury says:
I chose to compare The Band and The Beatles because they were were two famous "foreign" groups that were infatuated with American music. They are also THE two greatest musical groups ever.

The Band:

-Better performers (Garth Hudson alone could easily outplay The Beatles)
-Better singers

The Beatles:

-Much more creative, and nearly every song was great
-Tended to get better as they went on (even in the midst of breaking up!)

Things they had in common:

Love of American music
Each had very cool, unqiue personalities

Posted on Dec 21, 2012 7:31:31 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 21, 2012 7:32:09 PM PST
The Band did have an Arkansas native, Levon Helm, within the mix of the canadian Hudson, Robertson, Danko and Manuel which, coupled with their "Americana" sound, at least on their first 4 records, it was an interesting match of chemistry. Manuel gave quite a bit in the early days and unfortunately faded into the woodwork after Cahoots. Their last great record was Northern Lights, Southern Cross.

The Beatles. Innovative, of their time, pioneers of popular music, yet specifically were responsible for the growth of modern pop culture. People can argue, disagree and/or flat out deny them, but John, Paul, George and Ringo were in the right places in their lives when they were as a band. I'm more of a fan of their latter day material, although Help, Rubber Soul and Revolver were just as important records. Revolver is definitely in my top 5 favorite Beatles discs.

Posted on Dec 22, 2012 7:43:46 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 22, 2012 7:46:37 AM PST
doodah man says:
Classy the way The Band closed out with "The Last Waltz" when they decided to call it quits as a band, although Helm/Danko/Hudson continued to tour as 'The Band'. (I was fortunate enough to see them play in this incarnation, if not the first time around)

What if the Beatles had done something along the same lines, had a farewell concert guesting people who had influenced them, played with them, friends, etc.? That would have been quite a show, maybe Chuck Berry, the Stones, Dylan, Ravi Shankar, Elvis?
Who else?

Posted on Dec 22, 2012 4:19:41 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 22, 2012 4:21:16 PM PST
Michael Ary says:
Your opinion that "The Band" should be included as one of the two greatest bands in the world flatters them too much. Don't get me wrong, I liked them too... but they certainly wouldn't make most peoples list of even the top half dozen bands in the world. So, it's just your opinion. Be that as it may, "The Band" were classy enough to go out amicably, and, as doodah man pointed out left behind a great treasure for fans and future fans to enjoy with their "The Last Waltz" as a parting momento.
I do indeed wish that the Beatles had done something similar... although, I guess it could be argued that their roof-top concert at Abby Road Studio was akin to a farewell present. Also, in a way, the Beatles (at least a couple of Beatles) did get together with several "friends" and other bandmates to do the Concert to Benefit Bangladesh, so maybe this can count?

Posted on Dec 23, 2012 12:09:16 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 23, 2012 12:50:06 AM PST
alexwilbury says:
There was nothing classy about The Last Waltz. It was nothing more than one big ego trip for the group's guitarist Robbie Robertson, which the coked up Martin Scorsese was all too happy to go along with. The other four members of the group thought it was a dumb idea, as touring and entertaining was their life. Levon Helm especially hated it, and nearly refused to participate, especially after Robertson wanted to kick Muddy Waters out in favor of his new buddy Neil Diamond.

And of course after The Last Waltz, Robertson made off like a thief with all the song credits as well as all the profits from the film, and lived the highlife as a hollywood bigshot while his former bandmates had to actually work for a living by constantly touring. To add insult to injury, Robbie went on to brag in an interview about how he was "evolving musically" while his former bandmates were "playing the same old songs every night". Garth Hudson ended up losing his house and had to file bankruptcy several times, and after Levon Helm was dianosed with cancer, he had to start holding special concerts in his barn in order to pay for his outrageous medical bills.

As for The Band's position among most talented bands, Geore Harrison once called them "the greatest band in the universe", and of course Eric Clapton changed his whole musical approach after he heard their first album.

Posted on Dec 23, 2012 5:45:09 AM PST
Working Man says:
I agree with Michael Ary that The Band wouldn't make my top twelve or even to 25 for that matter. I have no problem with them at all but they just aren't as high on my list or high on the list of most people I know. Yes, they were influential, Clapton and others, Paul Rodgers from Free and Bad Company comes to mind as well. I believe much of Rodgers country/southern style music was influenced by The Band. That being said, there were many influential bands over the years. I just don't see the band as one of the top two greatest bands ever. The Beatles and the Stones are more likely to have that title, while I would probably go with the Beatles and Led Zeppelin. So, it's all a matter of personal opinion.

Given my long winded response, my vote would go with the Beatles over the Band.

Posted on Dec 23, 2012 6:08:34 AM PST
D. Mok says:
> There was nothing classy about The Last Waltz.

Too bad for you and Bill Graham, it is considered one of the greatest rock films ever made, and most of the performances and shooting were scorchingly good. I couldn't care less what the backstage quibbles were.

As for "song credits", Robbie Robertson had been The Band's chief composer since the second album. If the rest of the band members had a problem with that, they should have done something in the beginning, especially when Levon Helm was actually considered the band leader. Robertson was the producer of The Last Waltz and put together the package. If the other members of The Band had not wanted to do the film in the first place, why should they deserve any profits from it? If you spit on an idea, don't expect to share the pie when the project comes together.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 23, 2012 11:12:14 AM PST
Well said!

The only thing I would add is if Robbie Robertson wanted to stop touring, why should he have been forced into doing so just to support his bandmates? Robbie was their chief songwriter and the Band is in this discussion largely because of him. Everyone has to make choices in life and Robbie did what he felt was best for him.

I'm not a very big fan of The Band but am a huge fan of "The Last Waltz".

Posted on Dec 23, 2012 11:42:52 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 23, 2012 11:53:12 AM PST
alexwilbury says:
"That being said, there were many influential bands over the years. I just don't see the band as one of the top two greatest bands ever. The Beatles and the Stones are more likely to have that title, while I would probably go with the Beatles and Led Zeppelin. So, it's all a matter of personal opinion. "
Influential is not the same as best. Madonna was highly influential too, and we ended up with style-over-substance singers like Lady Gaga. For the record, I can't stand Zeppelin, and feel like (though the members were talented individually) they were a one-note band that had a horrible lead singer who ruined all their songs. They also led (no pun intended) to all of that faux-machismo of 80s hair bands, and the overemphasis on the guitar over the song itself..

"Too bad for you and Bill Graham, it is considered one of the greatest rock films ever made, and most of the performances and shooting were scorchingly good. I couldn't care less what the backstage quibbles were."
Oh yes the performances themselves were good, no disputes there. But as a FILM it is over-the-top ridiculous. There is shot after shot of Robbie as if he was somehow "conducting" the band. Poor Garth and Richard are barely seen. The interview segments, which are sloppy and poorly shot, fawn all over Robbie, while they make the other guys look like idiots. Robbie hams it up for the camera every chance he gets, especially in those interviews. And I LOL at his "touring is an impossible way of life" comments. Bob Dylan must have had a good laugh out of that! The whole idea of The Last Waltz was dumb, thus it deserves very little respect.

"As for song credits, Robbie Robertson had been The Band's chief composer since the second album. If the rest of the band members had a problem with that, they should have done something in the beginning, especially when Levon Helm was actually considered the band leader."
Helm was the only one who understood what was going on (the other guys were out of their heads and didn't worry about it), and he DID try to put a stop to it, but Robbie was a very sly businessman who was in bed with all the lawyers and music people. After Levon's book was released, Rick and Garth both quietly agreed with Levon, and even The Band's producer John Simon has admitted that Robbie swindled him out of his rightful share of the money from their first two albums and his work on The Last Waltz.

"The only thing I would add is if Robbie Robertson wanted to stop touring, why should he have been forced into doing so just to support his bandmates? Robbie was their chief songwriter and the Band is in this discussion largely because of him. Everyone has to make choices in life and Robbie did what he felt was best for him."
OR he could have simply quit the band and let them go on without them. Eric Clapton would have been anexcellent replacement. Too bad Robbie's ego got the best of him and he tried to sick the lawyers on Levon and the boys when it was LEVON'S BAND in the first place.

Posted on Dec 23, 2012 12:04:14 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 23, 2012 12:28:34 PM PST
D. Mok says:
> if Robbie Robertson wanted to stop touring, why should he have been forced into doing so just to support his bandmates?

In a normal band, this difference in opinion would have resulted in Robertson leaving the band. The fact that he didn't -- and the fact that the other members were able to tour as The Band later -- means they gave in to Robertson's demands. And you know what, if one member were that important in your band that you can't let him go, then he *does* have that creative and political power. If Helm, Danko, Hudson and Manuel were unhappy with it, they could have all left The Band and done something else.

> But as a FILM it is over-the-top ridiculous.

Nonsense. The documentary segments are masterful, the shooting is classic (not surprising, with Michael Chapman, Laszlo Kovacs and Vilmos Zsigmond among the cinematographers, and Boris Leven on production design), the editing is a landmark in music filmmaking, and some film critics even said it should have been nominated for the Best Picture Academy Award, an unprecedented acclaim for a concert film.

> Poor Garth and Richard are barely seen.

So what? You should learn something about film editing -- you don't cut to the boring guy. When Levon Helm is belting out "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down", you don't cut to friggin' Garth Hudson or the horn section unless they're doing something really interesting. (And Garth Hudson almost *never* does anything visually interesting or emotional.) If not, the camera won't be shooting them at all. Keyboard players are almost always the most boring musician to cut to. There was plenty of Richard Manuel when he's singing lead on "The Shape I'm In", and Rick Danko was extremely prominent in the film because he's up front and interesting to look at. You're just bellyaching because you like the lesser Band members, and that's irrelevant to a smart filmmaker like Martin Scorsese.

Posted on Dec 23, 2012 12:21:33 PM PST
Two totally different bands, two totally different sounds and approaches to music. Why even bother making the comparison ? Besides, the Beatles covered more ground stylistically than any other band before or since.

As far as live performing, the Beatles were a powerhouse live before they became famous and were forced to play six hours a night in the sweaty clubs on the Reeperbahn in Hamburg, Germany as well as at the Cavern in Liverpool. They themselves admitted that once Beatlemania exploded and they were reduced to playing 30 minutes per show with the same set list every night in front of screaming girls that rendered the music inaudible, their live abilities deteriorated. It was one of the main reasons they stopped giving concerts after 1966.

Posted on Dec 23, 2012 12:25:53 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 23, 2012 12:56:58 PM PST
All of The Band look like they are enjoying themselves quite a bit in The Last Waltz. They were grown men and if they were dead set against the movie at the time they didn't have to do it.

And here is a newsflash...The band member who writes the songs winds up being the bandleader by default. No explanation necessary.

Posted on Dec 23, 2012 12:57:18 PM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Dec 23, 2012 1:08:23 PM PST]

Posted on Dec 23, 2012 1:10:46 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 23, 2012 1:14:52 PM PST
D. Mok says:
> The musical stuff was indeed masterfully shot, but the interview segments were a complete joke. They were clearly on-the-fly, and the camera jerks all over the place.

That's what's good about it. Instead of setting up perfect lighting with multiple cameras, Scorsese saw that the subjects were already reluctant (despite what you want to believe, Robbie Robertson came off just as reticent, uncomfortable and drugged as every other member of the band, except Richard Manuel, who was clearly farther into the deep end than everybody else). So Scorsese shot them in the most comfortable way possible. He jump-cut from part to part to get the most economical and logical flow of thoughts going, and he allowed the camera to be handheld so the musicians felt less need to "perform". It wasn't completely successful in making the musicians comfortable, but only natural camera actors can act completely natural when a big, bulky film camera is pointed at them.

This is why modern documentarians never get much insight from their subjects. They're so concerned with "camera jerks" that they'd rather sacrifice the true story just so the picture would look prettier. Watch Barbara Kopple and Frederick Wiseman's work sometime if you want to see real documentary filmmaking. And Martin Scorsese's. If he were to worry about jump cuts, the "You're talkin' to me" monologue in Taxi Driver would never have existed, or would have been butchered by desperate attempts to hide camera flaws.

> WHY didn't they include all of Garth's wonderful "genetic method" and "chest Fever"?

As much as *you* like keyboard solos, these two pieces were not major The Band works. Or the camera coverage may have failed. Or a solo segment on the least important member of The Band (no vocals, no visual presence) would have dragged down the pacing of the film.

And if you're going to ask why they didn't include the whole thing, the opposite question also applies: If you think Robertson could have manipulated Martin Scorsese into minimizing the other Band members, why did they include *any* part of these two Garth Hudson showcases to begin with? Why would they have had so much Levon Helm in the interviews? And why would they have included the story about Hudson joining The Band in the first place?

> why did they not include Richard and Van Morrison's wonderful duet of "Tura Lura Lura"

Because Van Morrison already had his segment, and "Caravan" is 10 times more invigorating, and also more dramatic because of Morrison's strange exit, during which the entire band was so juiced that it wanted to keep going and get Morrison back to the stage.

The only guest on The Last Waltz to get more than one song was Bob Dylan, and for obvious reasons.

No, you're *not* familiar with film editing. Trying to include everything is one of the biggest no-nos of film editing. Cinema is about *exclusion*. No camera frame ever sees as much as the human eye can see at any given time. The power of photography and cinema lies in what it can capture that the human eye cannot (such as macros, extreme close-ups and slow-motion). If Garth Hudson doesn't do anything interesting, he doesn't deserve to be in the shot, and if you're his fan, too bad. Tell him to be more interesting as a performer if he wants to be in the film more.

Posted on Dec 23, 2012 1:25:24 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 23, 2012 1:27:15 PM PST
alexwilbury says:
"Or a solo segment on the least important member of The Band (no vocals, no visual presence) would have dragged down the pacing of the film."
LEAST IMPORTANT?! He was the most talented man of the whole group! He even gave the rest of them music lessons! After they reformed, Danko and Helm even said that, without Hudson, there is no band. Garth is a huge part of what makes their sound so unique.

"Trying to include everything is one of the biggest no-nos of film editing."
I did not say "everything". But I fail to see how Neil Friggin Diamond deserved a spot over a beautiful, brilliant Garth Hudson organ solo.

"If Garth Hudson doesn't do anything interesting, he doesn't deserve to be in the shot, and if you're his fan, too bad. Tell him to be more interesting as a performer if he wants to be in the film more."
Have you SEEN Hudson perform? It is mesmorizing to watch him do his magic with those keyboards! Watching him perform is like watching one of those classic composers perform.

Posted on Dec 23, 2012 2:01:59 PM PST
D. Mok says:
> LEAST IMPORTANT?! He was the most talented man of the whole group!

Most talented? Instrumentally and theoretically, maybe. But Garth Hudson couldn't sing, and he wrote very little. Yeah, I've seen live footage of Garth Hudson. He always looks like he's bored. The Band would have been just fine without him, especially at this late juncture.

> But I fail to see how Neil Friggin Diamond deserved a spot over a beautiful, brilliant Garth Hudson organ solo.

That's why you wouldn't have been hired to direct or edit this film. I hated Neil Diamond's performance. But his marquee value alone earned him a spot. If anything, they should have cut Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Michael McClure, who were useless and sleep-inducing. Poetry readings...and McClure wasn't even reading original material. Just what the hell The Canterbury Tales had to do with The Band or the American musical tradition, I have no idea. However, both of them combined would have freed up less than 60 seconds of running time.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 23, 2012 2:49:49 PM PST
Working Man says:
When I talked about influential vs. best, I was being kind. I think the Band were very influential but FAR from one of the best two musical bands. It's all a matter of taste and perspective. Are we talking 60's or overall? My tastes fall more into the 70's and as I mentioned Zeppelin, I would lean there and not the Band. I totally respect the Band but I just don't see them in the top two, as musicians, popularity, influence and any just about any other category. They may be one of your top two favorite Bands but I cannot say they are generally considered the Beatles peers or right behind the Beatles and ahead of the Stones, the Who, and others. Again, it's a matter of taste. I am not a big Stones fan either but I recognize them as along with the Beatles the top two bands and as you get into different decades and subgenres there are others such as Zeppelin, Hendrix and others that would give The Band a run for their money in various categories. I am not wanting to get into a debate because who's the best cannot be measured. Music is an art and art appeals to different people in different ways, so unless you want to measue best base on record sales, #1 hits, concert revenue etc. it's all a matter of taste and perspective.

Posted on Dec 23, 2012 5:01:25 PM PST
alexwilbury says:
"The Band would have been just fine without him, especially at this late juncture."
I'm pretty sure The Band would strongly disagree with you on that!

" I hated Neil Diamond's performance. But his marquee value alone earned him a spot."
Helm didn't want him there either. He's even quoted in his book as asking Robbie "What the **** does he have to do with us?" At first, Robbie was even going to kick Muddy Waters to the curb in favor of Neil Diamond. That's when Helm put his foot down and told him he wasn't going to participate at all unless Muddy Waters was there.

Posted on Dec 23, 2012 5:27:34 PM PST
D. Mok says:
> I'm pretty sure [the members of] The Band would strongly disagree with you on that!

Yeah. Doesn't mean they're right. AC/DC thought it was done when Bon Scott died. And then came Brian Johnson and Back in Black. Just because they were impressed with Garth Hudson doesn't mean Hudson wasn't the least relevant member. Hudson wrote none of the songs, he sang none of the vocals, he didn't write the lyrics, he didn't have anything to do with the groove, he didn't come up with the image or the vibe. Instrumental virtuosity impresses on a shallow level, but at the end of the day, Neil Young is always going to be a greater creative force than Yngwie J. Malmsteen, and Ritchie Blackmore could only dream of having as many songs considered classics as Jimmy Page.

Posted on Dec 23, 2012 5:37:59 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 23, 2012 5:38:09 PM PST
alexwilbury says:
"Just because they were impressed with Garth Hudson doesn't mean Hudson wasn't the least relevant member. Hudson wrote none of the songs, he sang none of the vocals, he didn't write the lyrics, he didn't have anything to do with the groove, he didn't come up with the image or the vibe."

On the contrary, his work was a huge part their image and vibe. His classical training and skill at playing pretty much any instrument you can think of was what always set the band apart from the crowd. His organ frills, masterful piano playing, etc. always gave a certain texture to their songs.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 24, 2012 6:32:36 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 24, 2012 6:34:12 AM PST
Working Man says:
BTW, andydefense:

""That being said, there were many influential bands over the years. I just don't see the band as one of the top two greatest bands ever. The Beatles and the Stones are more likely to have that title, while I would probably go with the Beatles and Led Zeppelin. So, it's all a matter of personal opinion. "
Influential is not the same as best. Madonna was highly influential too, and we ended up with style-over-substance singers like Lady Gaga. For the record, I can't stand Zeppelin, and feel like (though the members were talented individually) they were a one-note band that had a horrible lead singer who ruined all their songs. They also led (no pun intended) to all of that faux-machismo of 80s hair bands, and the overemphasis on the guitar over the song itself.."

I quoted you about The Band being influential and they you respond by saying that being influential is not the same as the best as I stated that The Band (creative name, BTW) was influential but not the best. I meant to say they were influential and there is no denying it, also they might be talented, but I will state that in my opinion they are NOT one of the two best bands ever.

Also, while "The Last Waltz" is always sited as one of the best if not the best concert films, I never cared for it. I've seen it a few times and for me at best it's okay. But I won't go as far to say that it sucks because it's just my opinion anyway.

Posted on Dec 24, 2012 8:02:29 AM PST
alexwilbury says:
"Also, while "The Last Waltz" is always sited as one of the best if not the best concert films, I never cared for it. I've seen it a few times and for me at best it's okay. But I won't go as far to say that it sucks because it's just my opinion anyway."

Agreed!

Posted on Dec 24, 2012 10:38:07 AM PST
I enjoy the Last Waltz for what it is, nevermind the inside crap that was surrounding it. Robertson was creatively done in regards to keeping up with the juggernaut the Band had become. The other guys, seemingly, just wanted to keep on playing, and this is where the line in the sand was drawn. As far as the original thread title and comparing the two groups, both were innovative in what was offered to the growth of popular music, yet the Beatles were much more revered, whereas the Band have an underdog status.

I don't feel its a valid argument here as to whom is better when the styles are obviously different, not to mention song structures and ensemble sound. I think the Band were extremely creative and different for the time period and brought a different kind of "roots-rock" music with their first 2 records. Some people might have been aware that they had backed Dylan in 65/66, but, for the most part, those first two albums displayed a group of players whom were well seasoned, mature and innovative musicians.

The Beatles grew as songwriters and musicans along their climb to prominence within the first 3 years or so and one can see the maturity level from Please Please Me to Beatles for Sale. By the time of Help and Rubber Soul, their sense of commercial pop was still there, but the songs became more and more interesting, esp. lyrically, and I think that artists like Dylan influenced them a bit, at the same time, Bob was also influenced by them and crossed over into electric music thus creating folk-rock in the process. Blonde on Blonde, anyone?

The great question is, were the Beatles influenced by Music from Big Pink when it was out? Can there be any evidence of the Band found in songs like Old Brown Shoe, Don't Let Me Down, Honey Pie or Get Back? Hmmmm.....

Posted on Dec 24, 2012 11:43:25 AM PST
alexwilbury says:
"The great question is, were the Beatles influenced by Music from Big Pink when it was out? Can there be any evidence of the Band found in songs like Old Brown Shoe, Don't Let Me Down, Honey Pie or Get Back? Hmmmm..... "

There's a video on YouTube of The Beatles in the studio during the Get Back/Let It Be sessions, and they're playing the guitar part from "To Kingdom Come" off of Music from Big Pink.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sNI5B6lQaSE

Also, here's George singing and playing "I Shall Be Released"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HmYqp6NKoRs

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 24, 2012 12:18:31 PM PST
I rest my case.
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Discussion in:  Rock forum
Participants:  9
Total posts:  26
Initial post:  Dec 21, 2012
Latest post:  Dec 16, 2013

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