In my recent obsession over Teenage Fanclub, I’ve done a lot of examination of their music and career, and I’ve found some eerie similarities between the Scottish band and the four lads from Liverpool. Lots of bands have had the “Next Beatles” thrust upon them – Badfinger, the Raspsberries, Duran Duran, Squeeze, Oasis – but the way the band is set up is what struck me:
For most of Teenage Fanclub’s career – every album except the last two – they’ve been a band of four, albeit with plenty of studio help from session musicians. The Beatles also had four musicians and relied on session musicians as well.
The two main songwriters in both groups were the bass player (Gerard Love in Teenage Fanclub, Paul McCartney in the Beatles) and the rhythm guitarist (Norman Blake in Teenage Fanclub, John Lennon in the Beatles).
The bass player was the more melodic songwriter of both groups.
Both incorporated strings and handclaps into their songs, Teenage Fanclub even incorporating a harp in their latest release.
A third songwriter, the lead guitarist, eventually emerged from both groups (Raymond McGinley of Teenage Fanclub, George Harrison of the Beatles). Their tracks were generally considered inferior to the two main songwriters at first, but as their songwriting experience grew, they eventually challenged the two for supremacy on later albums. (McGinley would eventually write as many songs as Love and Blake on later albums – something Harrison never got to experience, although he had the material to do it.)
Their first albums are rough and raw while offering promising melodic sounds; their later albums express a maturity beyond their years. However, Teenage Fanclub grew more mellow with age, while the Beatles, it can be argued, never lost their edge.
As both bands aged, they relied on more session musicians to complement their sound.
There are some differences, of course:
The Beatles survived for only eight years, while Teenage Fanclub have been at it for over 25 years. There seem to have been no major quarrels between the members, and they continue to put out spectacular music, this year’s Herebeing a wonderful addition to their collection.
Both McCartney and Lennon vied for stage time on their tours, with both being outgoing and in control; Gerard Love of Teenage Fanclub tends to eschew the spotlight – literally – and leaves the talking to Norman Blake, who handles the job with aplomb.
Teenage Fanclub also never reached the chart supremacy and fan worship that the Beatles experienced; you have to look to groups such as Westlife and Oasis to find anything approaching Beatlemania.
Sadly, Teenage Fanclub is another diamond that few have found, but those that have appreciated every note that’s emanated from the band. We’re lucky to have more music from them than the Beatles gave us, and I’m lucky to have discovered them. In a way, they’re my own Beatles.