“Just a band?” – A conversation about language

A: “The Beatles, just a band”. Too true, the Beatles were ‘just a band’, as were Led Zepplin, the Beach Boys….”

B: “How can you say that? The Beatles defined a generation of cultural trends! They had massive influences beyond the realm of just music! They created peace movements, wrote songs that have lasted forever! They, they, well, they were simply amazing!”

A: So?

B: So!?? So!????

Yeah. So?

What do you mean ‘So’?

I mean, so what? I don’t disagree with you, but that doesn’t mean that they are anything more than just a band. A group of 4 guys who got together and played music. They weren’t even the best musicians.

It doesn’t matter that they wern’t good musicians, their songs were beautiful in their simplicity and they spoke to a world of music-lovers with their inspired lyrics. They caused mass-hysteria and changed the lives of millions of people around the world!

Yeah but that’s the actions of others, not the Beatles themselves.


I mean, what you’re describing is people’s reactions to them. Not them – if you see what I mean.

No. No I do not.

What I’m trying to get at is that John, Paul, Ringo and George are the Beatles. They are a BAND. Just a band. You can preach all you want about the way in which they changed the world, but you’re conflating their influence with their ‘band-ness’.

Now your just being facetious.

Well maybe, but isn’t that necessary?

Only for a pedantic troglodyte like you.

Why thank you – but it is. If you start drawing in the practices and performances of the Beatles into their ontology then you’re creating something which is more than a band. In other words, your labeling the nodes and the networks by just the nodes.

I’m sorry, you’ve lost me.

What I mean is that if you want to a label to describe the way in which the Beatles influenced the world and all those millions of people, then why use a term that is linguistically designed to signify just a band? The term ‘the Beatles’ refers to the four members as a collective and not anything else. Think about the Beatles as a node in a network. Why would you label the entire network after one node? There is a multiplicity of actors in play which went into the ‘network’ of the Beatles and their global influence. What about them (and it’s not just people)? What about their instruments? What about the television? Ed Sullivan?? The reason anything gains popularity of influence is through the heterogeneous power of networks which are created by people’s actions and performances. Therefore, the Beatles were just a band, what they achieved is a result of action.

Ok – so it is just about semantics. Well done, you’ve proved a point that people have known about for ages. It’s just an expression. Chill out. People understand that words used can often mean more than what is actually said.

Yes but at the expense of the performativity of the networks. What you’ve just said is that words mean more than what they mean? Don’t you see how silly that sounds?

No. But then perhaps you should have asked: ‘don’t you understand the paradoxical rhetoric that you just articulated?’


Post inspired by Scroobious – Thou shalt always kill

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