Within his book IV, Chuck Klosterman expounds upon the idea that people need to have both a nemesis, as well as an arch enemy in their life. The idea being that a nemesis is someone with whom you battle (either overtly or passively) as a means of bettering yourself. In sum, your nemesis motivates you to better yourself and to better your life's work.
It recently occurred to me that The Beatles had a Nemesis – the Beach Boys.
The Beatles released Rubber Soul in 1965. Brian Wilson later credits this album's cohesion and song writing virtuosity as the catalyst for the composition of the Beach Boys 1966 opus, Pet Sounds. Subsequently, in 1967 it was the Beatles who felt pressure to perform as they released Sargent Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Needless to say, this ground breaking concept album was up to the task.
Within the same year, 1967, the Beach Boys released Smiley Smile. Although this record contained the cut Good Vibrations, it remains a controversial and commercially mediocre album. Finally, in 1968 the Beatles-Beach Boys nemesis relationship came to a head with the release of The White Album. This ambitious album was the Beatles attempt to compose a Pop song in every style. Furthermore, the success of this album completely buried Pet Sounds in terms of Pop significance and thus solidified the Nemesis relationship between the two artists.
Additionally, this album is the Pop equivalent to J.S. Bach's Well Tempered Clavierin which Bach composed a Prelude and Fugue in all 24 major and minor keys. Both Bach and the Beatles were aware of the historical significance of their work upon its release.
But this discussion is for another day.
The Beatles achievement in comparison to Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys is evidenced by the selection of Back in the U.S.S.R for side 1 track 1 of the White Album. Moreover, this song is not only a clever allusion to the Beach Boys but it is also very understated and politically conscious.
Back in the U.S.S.R. was released at the hight of the Cold War in which the greatest British band (the Beatles) wrote a song in the style of the greatest American band (the Beach Boys) that glorified the greatest American enemy of the time (the U.S.S.R).
Back in the U.S.S.R. has obvious harmonic and rhythmic similarities to the Beach Boys style, but the influence is solidified in the lyrics of the third verse when the Beatlessatire/parody a line from the Beach Boy's song California Girls. They write, "Well the Ukrain girls really knock me out…" as opposed to the original, "Well East coast girls are hip…".
Another lyrical lampoon is contained within the third verse as the Beatles make mention to the Ray Charles classic, Georgia on my Mind with the line, "The Georgia's always on m-m-my mind…". At the time of the song's release Georgia was both a providence of the U.S.S.R as well as a state in the U.S.A.
Finally, in the chorus previous to the third verse the Beatles stutter out their lastparody of American culture with the line, "Back in the US, Back in the US, Back in the U.S.S.R.". If this song is really as politically aware as I believe it is, then this is The Beatles taking note that at the hight of the Cold War, both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. are the same thing, the only remaining World Powers post WWII.