Did The Beatles Destroy Rock 'n' Roll?

Newsweek just reviewed a new book by Elijah Wald with a provocative title: How The Beatles Destroyed Rock 'n' Roll.

It's a title most likely contrived to boost sales more than anything, but Wald makes the argument that the artier, studio-based music of The Beatles segregated styles that used to be more unified under the "Rock" umbrella, and ultimately isolated listeners from one another. In the beginning, The Beatles, like many other artists, drew as much from white artists like Carl Perkins and Buddy Holly as from African-American musicians like Little Richard and Chuck Berry. But when The Beatles became more experimental, and other bands followed, black and white musicians split into two different directions. By 1965, Billboard magazine, which once grouped pop and R&B together, created separate charts for each. At the same time, the rhythmic and danceable styles of earlier rock gave way to the experimental music of The Beatles, which people were more likely to listen to by themselves on headphones.

This is all debatable, of course, and Wald's book explores much more than that (there's a more detailed synopsis on his Web site). But it's a compelling argument. What do you think?

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