Sunday, April 13, 2008

Laibach: Across the Universe

I have the same problem with the Beatles as I do with Mozart. I can see that they are good, but for the life of me I cannot see why people think they are the greatest.

If asked to name my favourite band on the sixties, I would think of the Who, the Small Faces, the Kinks, the Rolling Stones and, yes, the Spencer Davis Group before I mentioned the Beatles. But this cover version of "Across the Universe", sung by two women's voices, sounds rather wonderful.

Unless you are a fan of Slovenian experimental rock, I had better say a word about Laibach. They have courted controversy by using the imagery of totalitarian regimes to satirical effect - hence the military cadets in this video, I suppose.

Some have misunderstood Laibach's purpose, but translating Queen's "One Vision" into German and presenting it as a Nazi anthem surely tells us a lot about the questionable ethos of stadium rock.

And, incidentally, isn't a limp pun like "the Beatles" a crap name for a band?


Anonymous said...

It's because for six years the Beatles led pop music. I'd agree that many of the bands inspired by them ultimately produced better songs - but would they have existed without the Beatles?

They created the four piece pop band format - which is still the basis for most rock music although, regrettably, not for pop music. And for six years they pulled a whole range of external influences into pop music.

If you listen to Abbey Road for instance it's like listening to a musical doodle - not comfortable to play on a continuous loop but the feeling of a remarkable creative team still trying out melodies and musical constructions towards the end of their careers.

Anonymous said...

Yes, The Beatles is a crap name by today's standards, but this WAS almost 40 years ago...and it still displays more imagination and creativity (andless ego) than "The Spencer Davis Group"!

Jonathan Calder said...


I wonder how much of an influence the Beatles were on the groups I named? I suspect the majority of them drew their direction directly from American RnB artists.

In 1963 Steve Winwood (just for example) was backing stars like John Lee Hooker when they came to Birmingham. I am not sure how exciting the Beatles' early singles would have sounded after that.


Why do you think people had less imagination and creativity 40 years ago than they do today?

The name of the Spencer Davis Group reveals the band's jazz roots more than anything. The name was chosen by Muff Winwood so that the loquacious Davis could do the interviews while the rest of them stayed in bed.

And if Spencer Davis had such an ego, why did he allow Steve Winwood to dominate the group?

Anonymous said...


First, I didn't say that people had less creativity and imagination 40 years ago - what I actually said was that The Beatles (while pretty rubbish) was a more imaginative and creative band name than simply naming a band after a member. I do think that 40 years ago there were probably more commercially- and societally-(self)imposed constraints on what it was thought acceptable to name a band -how many radical and interesting band names dating from 1960 (as opposed to mid-60's) can anyone think of?

As to the modus operandi of the SDG, you are more expert than I, but naming a group after only one member does appear to imply a certain reliance on that member for the band's celebrity - a bit like, er Paul McCartney & Wings.... (i'll get my coat)

Jonathan Calder said...

The cleverest point of the SDG's name was probably that it sounded American.

There are lots of commenters on YouTube amazed to discover that the singer is a skinny white teenager.

Soon, of course, you didn't have to be American to be cool. The Beatles were a part of that move, but not its sole cause.