Ethics Quiz: “Pop Hates The Beatles”

I actually remember this number. Alan Sherman was a briefly popular novelty act, a pleasant schlub who wrote not too terrible song parodies which he sang himself, badly. Had a hit record with “Hello Mudda, Hello Fadda” and a few successful albums. Ed Sullivan also inflicted him on America a few times.

The Beatles Channel on satellite radio played this the other day along with some other less famous anti-Beatles songs. Boy, do they sound stupid today. Here are Sherman’s lyrics, in case you can’t stand listening to the recording all the way through, which is likely:

My daughter needs a new phonograph.
She wore out all the needles.
Besides, I broke the old one in half.
I hate the Beatles.

She says they have a Liverpool beat.
She says they used to play there.
Four nice kids from offa the street.
Why didn’t they stay there?

What is all the screaming about?
Fainting and swooning.
Sounds to me like their guitars
Could use a little tuning.

The boys are from the British Empire.
The British think they’re keen.
If that is what the British desire,
God Save The Queen.

No daughter of mine can push me around.
In my home I’m the master.
But when the British come to town,
Gad, what a disaster.

Little girls in sneakers and jeans.
Destroyed the territory.
‘Twas like some of the gorier scenes
From The West Side Story.

Of course my daughter had to go there.
The tickets are cheap, she hollers.
I was able to pick up a pair
For forty-seven dollars.

When the Beatles come on stage,
They scream and shriek and cheer them.
Now I know why they’re such a rage,
It’s impossible to hear them.

Ringo is the one with the drum,
The others all play with him.
It shows you what a boy can become
Without a sense of rhythm.

There’s Beatle book and T-shirts and rings,
And one thing and another.
To buy my daughter all of those things,
I had to sell her brother.

Back in 1776
We fought the British then, folks.
Parents of America,
It’s time to do it again, folks.

When they come back, here’s how we’ll begin,
We’ll throw ’em in Boston harbor.
But please, before we toss ’em all in,
Let’s take ’em to a barber.

(See, the Beatles had long hair, so this was funny.)

Thanks to the internet and social media, uninformed opinions stated in a smugly assertive manner has become a cultural plague. This tends to spread ignorance and misconceptions, and also risks one looking like a compete ass when reality raises its head and the opinion registered with such certainty looks certifiably dumb. This a special risk when one is rendering an opinion on artistic genres that one has not studied or  taken the time to understand, and is unqualified to analyze competently. I know what I like, but as opinionated as I am, I would never dare to make  qualitative declaration about the quality of rap, hip-hop, progressive jazz, heavy metal rock, or Asian music forms. There is something infuriating about listening to an equally clueless 1964 audience of middle-aged Lawrence Welk fans chuckling along with Sherman’s jibes at the classic band’s musical ability.

There is a fair question to ask about what Sherman was doing. Was he just pandering to public biases? Was he singing in the voice of someone like the father in the song? Maybe Allan Sherman was a Beatles fan! Are really uninformed opinions acceptable from comedians and performers?

Your Ethics Quiz of the Day is…

Was there anything wrong with Sherman’s song, other than the fact that it makes him look like an idiot 54 years later?

For those of you who answer in the affirmative, here’s a poll to drill down deeper:



One last question: Do today’s kids even know “Pop Goes The Weasel”?

38 thoughts on “Ethics Quiz: “Pop Hates The Beatles”

  1. I see this as nothing more than a precurser to Weird Al Jankovic’s parodies. One did not need to be a middle aged Lawrence Welk fan to find it funny. In 1964, I was years old and thought the hoopla over the Beatles was overblown and did not understand why they wore their hair that way. It wasn’t till much later that I fully appreciated them. Nonetheless, I still cannot comprehend the crazy swooning that young girls engage in over singers and celeberaties. That is what the song parodies. So in fairness to Sherman he created a product that people would spend money to obtain. It is no different than any other genre that is marketed.

    • As a long, long time professional parody-writer myself, I am mostly offended by Sherman’s mediocrity, without even considering his singing. Weird Al knows his genres, and his lyric and text-setting are impeccable. Sherman was a hack.

      • I agree with your assessment. However, the poll responses would not accurately reflect my opinion of the work’s quality.

        Saliari criticized Mozart’s work, many were offended by Elvis, and even more condemn Rap for its misogyny and violence. I consider Jackson Pollack the artist, and the many that followed, using abstract art as a method of communicating an idea as charlatans. Did they achieve success because viewers were unwilling or unable to assess actual merit? Perhaps, I am the cretin, not intellectually developed enough to appreciate certain artists.

        Isn’t it sufficient to know that virtually everyone knows John, Paul George, and Ringo yet while I remember the first stanza of Camp Granada I never knew who wrote it. That is the truest test for mediocrity

  2. Allan Sherman’s Revenge: The cut and pasted lyrics completely screwed up the post formatting. No matter what I do, I can’t get a jump-break to stick to the post: I had to reformat twice before the spacing works. When I preview the page, it looks right, and then is messed up when it’s published. None of this has happened before.

  3. I think you’re being a bit harsh here, Jack. Let’s remember that part of the appeal of rock and its various subgenres is its ability to scare the shit out of Mom and Pop. My father didn’t like The Beatles one bit (though his distaste for the Fabs paled to the night that The Doors had their one appearance on Ed Sullivan. He was positively livid). Dad would have thought Sherman’s parody was hilarious.

    Although he never grew to like them, he did finally start to come around to respecting them a little bit, especially after a TV special (hosted by no less than Leonard Bernstein) that analyzed the band’s music (this was right around the time Revolver came out). Dad would grudgingly admit that they were good tunesmiths and that there was more going on rhythmically than he’d originally thought.

    When Sherman did that song, The Beatles were still largely the province of teenagers and it was only later that everyone – including the kids – realized what a staggering force that band was, both musically and culturally. Yeah, Sherman’s ditty is doggerel, and not particularly clever doggerel at that. But if The Beatles’ songs reflected the attitude of youth at the time – and they did – Sherman’s parody certainly reflected the attitude of many of their parents. Seems fair to me.

    • That attitude, however, fueled the destructive Sixties to come, convinced arrogant teens who were just as ignorant and arrogant, but about other things, that anyone over 30 was idiot. Hence a drug culture, promiscuity, STDs, unwed parents, the erosion of civility and dignity, respect for the military. What else could a kid think when music they loved and got was being ridiculed like that?

      When any form of popular culture hits phenomenon status, history is very clear. The nay sayers are always wrong. Always. Whatever it is that makes a show, a song, a movie, a band, a national or international mania, it has tapped into something primal, Denying it is not just futile, but stupid.

      HMS Pinafore, Hamilton, Sinatra, Elvis, Oklahoma!, Mozart, Death of a Salesman, Charlie Chaplin, John Wayne, “Gone With the Wind”, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”,…the list is long, and the list of “experts” who dismissed each and more is longer, and appropriately obscure.

      • Are you actually arguing that the rejection of a rock band – certainly, the most important one ever, but still, a rock band – by parents resulted in all the social ills that followed? I’m not buying it – unless you’re arguing that if parents had embraced The Beatles the kids would’ve dropped ’em like hot rocks before they recorded Tomorrow Never Knows and interested kids in LSD.

        In which case something else would’ve come along and the same stuff would’ve happened anyway.

        • Of course not—but it was part of the tapestry that led to a breakdown in generational trust, which is essential to long term cultural stability. Hence adults need to act adult-like…be wise…be right now and then. Otherwise kids make up their own rules cut off from history, tradition and experience.

          The Sixties was the worst thing that happened to US society since Jim Crow, and its rot is with us still. Every factor that contributed to the era is complicit.

          • Although I don’t disagree that the sixties had some long-term unforseen consequences, I’d argue that that breakdown was already well under way when The Beatles came along. In a real sense, they weren’t that different than a lot of kids of their generation – they just happened to be ferociously talented. I suppose an argument could be made that they were something of a catalyst, but they were more the spokespeople for what was going on than they were its originators. And very, very good spokespeople they were.

          • I think alot of it also was merely the massive increase in idle young people. More youths could push off having to be responsible until later while simultaneously having their ignorant and inexperienced notions about life reinforced.

      • When any form of popular culture hits phenomenon status, history is very clear. The nay sayers are always wrong. Always. Whatever it is that makes a show, a song, a movie, a band, a national or international mania, it has tapped into something primal, Denying it is not just futile, but stupid.

        Or a Presidency…

        You would have to classify the election of Trump a sort of mania, no?

  4. Your assessment strikes me as a bit harsh. It seems a harmless little song poking fun at generational differences, something that goes back quite a ways (damn kids and their stupid music/fashion/politics!). It may not be the funniest little ditty ever written, but I don’t see anything deliberately cruel or morally/ethically out of bounds.

  5. Sherman’s breakthrough album, My Son the Folk Singer, came out in late 1962. He then released two albums in 1963, and three more in 1964. They’re not all going to be classics when you’re recording everything that pops into your head. Given that Sherman was essentially a fad, I can’t fault him much for churning out all he could before the magic ran out.

    As the record illustrates, Sherman’s base audience was drunks,.and specifically prosperous young couples. They had cultivated a tasteful after hours world where Sinatra and Torme defined the good. I think it’s basically a good-natured tune, but with an undercurrent of realization that these young musicians were a direct assault on Sherman’s audience found very comfortable.

  6. I don’t think it is any of those (except terrible).

    Is Camp Cranada a sincere criticism of summer camps, or the attitude of campers. No, it pokes fun of their silly, over dramatic ways. This song appears to be nothing more than poking fun at parent’s silly additudes towards the Beatles.

    It piles on the silliness as it progresses, and ends on the old fogey-est of notes, complaining about the length of their hair. And no one uses Pop Goes the Weasel to make a sincere criticism of the Beatles music. It is tongue and cheek, and purposely too ridiculous to taken seriously.

    • Allan used tunes like that one because he couldn’t sing anything more complicated. As Weird Al showed, the best way to parody a singer or group is to parody one of their songs…if you can.

      I half-buy the “he was mocking everyone else” theory, but it’s a bit like someone singing a song employing anti-Jewish stereotypes and arguing that HE doesn’t feel that way….while his audience of bigots laughs.

  7. There’s always going to be doggerel that served a need when it came out but easily lost later. That doesn’t lessen the creative efforts. Satire and parody depend heavily on the listener getting it. It rarely ages well. And parodies were not as protected as they were for Wierd Al’s day.

    This is a particularly lame one, but it doesn’t lessen my enjoyment of his other works. I find the hippo one an amusing break among the holiday music.

  8. “Thanks to the internet and social media, uninformed opinions stated in a smugly assertive manner has become a cultural plague. This tends to spread ignorance and misconceptions, and also risks one looking like a compete ass when reality raises its head and the opinion registered with such certainty looks certifiably dumb.”

    What I call discourse by snark. Find a cloud of supporters who will never hold you accountable for the incorrect things you say who will rapidly rush to your defense any time an intrepid soul mentions you may be wrong, solidify that echo chamber and then pump out your inane ramblings like you are guru on top of the mountain.

    This is especially noticeable on twitter, but yes is a phenomenon ubiquitous throughout the internet and social media.

    The latest craze is over-analyzing that G7 picture that supposedly shows Trump in a bad light while demonstrating the superiority of the Europeans at the summit.

    The craze, in reality, merely reveals just how stupid many people are.

    • Actually, G&S were on my mind, as I am doing a 3 hour program on them and their influence on the US culture for the Smithsonian this month. They were derided..hell, SULLIVAN derided them. They didn’t grasp their own popularity: Gilbert was stunned that they were still performing his shows in the 20th Century.

  9. your survey shows bias. It does not allow for a different opinion. namely that it was a merely an amusing. Personally, I thought that the Beatles and the Designated hitter rule of the American league were the precursors to Armageddon. That is why we are presently living in a post-apocalyptic dystonia.

    • Now, Dan: you didn’t read carefully.

      I wrote, “For those of you who answer in the affirmative, here’s a poll to drill down deeper.”

      That means that anyone who thinks nothing is wrong with the song make their choice by not answering the poll. Presumably “it was a merely an amusing” is the equivalent of “there was nothing wrong with it.” There have been 517 views, fewer individual visitors, presumably. Only 46 visitors felt strongly enough that the thing was wrong to take the poll.

      I’m not biased: when I hold a quiz, it means that I have no clear answer myself.

  10. “The Sixties was the worst thing that happened to US society since Jim Crow, and its rot is with us still. Every factor that contributed to the era is complicit.”

    Amen to that! This is something I have been saying to friends and family for years, who politely nod and metaphorically pat me on the head as if I were a slow child. (They are mostly boomers, who think the ruination of our cities and our culture to be a “good” thing, heaven help them.)

    But all of the rot in our current society — from inter-personal isolation, drug culture, a particularly toxic brand of feminism, the failure of multiculturalism, racial hatred, moral relativism, censorship from the Left, a degraded pop culture and a preening narcissism — have their roots in the poisoned soil of the sixties.

    I do admit to ambivalence about this particular post, though. The Beatles were avatars of the rot to come, and I think derision was then (and is now) the only reasonable response.

    I would recommend some of the essays of Joseph Epstein. He has written at length on the deleterious effect of the benighted decade.

  11. As a card-carrying member of “the 60s”, I have to chime in to defend. HS graduation in 62 and on and off with school and the draft board before entering Army in 67, then marriage. The Beetles were very popular (duh) so were the Stones, Kingsmen… and the surf crowd of Beach Boys, Jan & Dean, etc. not to mention folk. The 60s had a varied sound track.

    I never heard the topic parody song, but recall the “My Son, the Folk Singer” album (Harvey and Sheila and Camp Granada).

    There were many facets to those days, the druggie, tuned-out hippies were only the most celebrated. Many of us held real jobs, managed to get degrees as well as meet military obligations and start families.

  12. Being an old hitter, I like the DH. Being able to bat as DH would have extended my imaginary MLB career. Given me more chances to be thrown out of games for arguing balls and strikes. Lordy! How I wish I could have had the chance on the ballfield to out-tantrum Earl Weaver and Billy Martin! To be another self-parodying exemplar in the History of Angry White Men…

    Jack, people laughed when Sherman did those songs. It doesn’t matter what we think of the quality of his work today. Back then, when it was spanking-new, it was something. The people of that time liked it in large numbers. It was good, fresh stuff, with mass appeal to reasonable people. (There were fewer idiots back then, simply by the laws of numbers.)

    Heck, I was a kid, and I liked a lot of it. We sang “Hello Muhdda, Hello Fahdda” at YMCA summer day camp. Over and over. Day and night. Then, we got tired of it, and started listening to the Beatles, because we all wanted girls just as badly as they did; I picked up a guitar for the first time because of them – well, them, and others like Dylan, Pete Seeger, and Peter, Paul and Mary.

    And I STILL like BOTH Johnny Horton’s 45 with “The Battle of New Orleans” (“Ol’ Hick’ry said we could take ’em by surprise/If we didn’t fire our muskets till we looked ’em in the eyes/We held our fire till we see’d their faces well/Then we opened up our squirrel guns and really gave ’em…well…”), AND Homer & Jethro’s “cover” of that song, “The Battle of Kookamonga” (hearing that was the first time I remember literally “rolling on the floor laughing”). Before Lennon’s song…imagine: Boy Scouts chasing naked Girl Scouts. The memories still make me laugh.

    Horton’s BONO (maybe that should be “BONOLA”) on YouTube:

    Homer & Jethro’s Kook-In – lyrics to TWO songs using the same tune:

    H&J YouTube – unfortunately, without the inter-verse interjections, shown in the lyrics – which, on the record, enhanced enormously the overall humor and quality of the song, er, “battle:”

    Then, we “grew up,” and our sense of humor…evolved to “something completely different:”

    And now…our evolution is complete, so some say:

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