We Still Love You Beatles

Charles Paul Freund's "Still Fab" (June) came to the triumphant conclusion that the roots of the Beatles were based in "the music and imagery of the Victorian and Edwardian pleasure palaces of the industrial working class." Even granting the truth of this dubious conclusion, I fail to see how it sheds any light on why today's American teenagers are listening to the Beatles' music.

Meanwhile, in his sidebar, "The Long and Whining Road," a grumpy Nick Gillespie seems to claim that, because he personally does not care for the Beatles, their continued popularity must be a plot of the boomer-controlled mass media.

Instead of crediting the British industrial working class or blaming the boom-ers, perhaps REASON should have attempted a market-based analysis. Today's teenagers have an unparalleled and overwhelming choice of music, with pop music recordings reaching back more than 40 years easily available through the Internet. If they choose the Beatles, it must be because of the fundamentally high quality of their music.

The group demonstrated unparalleled creativity and emotional impact, using a medium nearly as constricting as a sonnet—the 3-minute pop song. Like Shakes-peare's poetry, their music will live for hundreds of years, Nick Gillespie's preferences notwithstanding.

Peter Bell
Santa Monica, CA

Charles Paul Freund's emphasis on the British music hall tradition to explain the Beatles' enduring success misses the mark as widely as the explanations he challenges. His argument requires a severe devaluation of John's contribution. The "White Album" may be the most uneven of the group's prolific oeuvre, but it is a naked key to their achievement. Alternating Paul's sentimentality with John's dyspepsia from cut to cut, and spicing the mix with George's quirky ear and glimpses of John's alter ego, it illustrates the group's creative tension so starkly that one wonders how they ever played together.

The one sure thing that explains the Beatles' lasting success is their astonishing creativity. They didn't cover Anita Bryant's "Till There Was You," they played Rodgers & Hart's classic and made it sound like an original. By 1965, every song was a fresh canvas. The Beatles' sound was unique because there was no "Beatles' sound," only a rich trove of individual works, each an experiment handled on its own specific terms.

Critics consider the courage to approach each work with a fresh, exploring spirit to be the rarest of artistic qualities, one that sets true greatness apart from the merely superb (often technically more adept) work of contemporaries. Even more remarkable, the Beatles were able to achieve artistic status comparable to Picasso and Miles Davis within a truly popular format. Mr. Freund glanced the heart of it when writing about the music itself, but kept whittling until a mere sliver of his subject remained.

James Brooks
Worcester, VT

The jealous anger that your generation doesn't have anything that could remotely compare to the Beatles—the most artistic, creative musical force of the 20th, and, dare I say, 21st century—comes across loud and clear. Reading that ignorant drivel was the best argument I've heard yet for any "generational exceptionalism." Thanks for making that abundantly clear!

R.J. Wagner
Cincinnati, OH

Imagine my horror when I opened the mail and, for a split second, thought we had mistakenly received a copy of long-since-canceled Rolling Stone. Truly a near-acid-flashback experience!

I wish to take issue, on behalf of my husband and I, ages 56 and 45, with being lumped in with all of the boomers who can't seem to let go of the past. Yes, both of us went through Beatlemania, but thankfully have had the good sense to move on. We would have missed out on so much had we remained mired in the '60s swamp of pseudo-music. Our evolution has taken us through classical, swing, blues, rock, fusion, and alternative.

See you all in 45 years when we'll be 101 and 90 years old, respectively. We'll be the couple roaring down the highway in the turbo-charged, 8-cylinder, fossil-fuel-guzzling dinosaur, white hair flying, Kim Wilson's version of "Feelin' Good" blaring from the ancient car stereo. Meanwhile, the rest of the boomers—and the Gens X, Y, and Z—will still be puttering along, glassy-eyed and zoned out, listening to the treacly plinking of Beatles tunes.

Sandy Hebenstreit
Norcross, GA

Power Tripped

I commend Michael W. Lynch and Adrian Moore for their excellent article regarding the California energy crisis ("Power Tripped," June).

I am in the electric utility industry in Arizona and have been watching the situation develop with both amusement and frustration. This is a homegrown problem with an obvious solution, but the apparent cure for this foray into socialism will be more socialism. California's electric system will soon become one huge public power entity if the clueless Gov. Gray Davis gets his way. All of the adults must have left the Golden State years ago.

My sense of frustration stems from the failure of the major utilities to raise a huge red flag early when the problem became obvious. Why didn't PG&E and the rest of the companies just throw in the towel and say, "We can't operate like this!" when they saw the river of money start to flow out, knowing that the trickle of customer payments coming in could in no way cover their obligations. I'm sure that these large aggregators could have exercised some power over the suppliers had they acted sooner.

What were the suppliers' options? Most of the other states in the West have not deregulated yet and are far less dependent on spot prices, so dumping that capacity elsewhere would be difficult.

When businesses have gone bankrupt and industry leaves the state for more friendly environments, California will finally achieve the demand reduction it seeks to cope with the supply problem it alone created.

Bill Twardy
Phoenix, AZ

"Stranded costs" is not merely a euphemism for goofy expenses caused by bureaucrats, as this article implies. It refers primarily to expenses from constructing nuclear power plants, which, not surprisingly, the utilities were unable to sell.

The floating barge plan was shot down because no one wanted a pollution-belching diesel plant in the middle of the bay. The Coyote Valley power plant plan likewise has issues. Cisco opposes it, because it will be built next to the huge new campus the company wants to build there—poetic justice, many feel. Naturally, environmentalists are opposed to the plan as well. But your authors will be pleased to know that several weeks ago, the mayor of San Jose gave in to pressure and approved it. Now citizens are attacking the huge subsidies the city has agreed to pay.

Also absent from the article was mention of the fact that there is no crisis in Los Angeles, due to its city-owned power system.

Steven Barnes
Palo Alto, CA

Editor's Note: Assistant Editor Sara Rimensnyder takes a more critical look at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power in "Power Shocked" on pg. 16.