The Better Beatles

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Not to be confused with Better than the Beatles.
The Better Beatles
Origin Omaha, Nebraska
Genres New wave, post-punk
Years active 1981
Labels Woodgrain Records, Hook or Crook Records
Associated acts The Legendary Stardust Cowboy
Past members Jean pSmith
Kurt Magnuson
Jay Rosen
Dave Nordin

The Better Beatles were a short-lived post-punk band formed in Omaha, Nebraska in 1981. The group consisted of Kurt Magnuson on bass, Dave Nordin on synthesizer, Jean pSmith on vocals, and Jay Rosen on drums and vocals.[1] Their repertoire consisted entirely of cold, minimalist covers of the songs of The Beatles in an irreverent manner comparable to covers performed by The Residents.[2]

Nordin has stated that he considered the Beatles “an oppressive influence,” and pSmith has said their goal was to “[strip] the songs of their sacred status.”[3] After a handful of shows, they recorded an album’s worth of material in late 1981. They broke up shortly before their debut single "Penny Lane”/“I’m Down” was released on Woodgrain Records, leaving the bulk of their music unreleased.

The single received some play from John Peel in the UK and the band was mentioned in The Village Voice by critic Robert Christgau as a candidate for the Best Name Award in the annual Pazz & Jop Critics Poll.[4] There was some interest from labels, but the members had already moved on, with pSmith and Magnuson having relocated to Seattle. Attention died down and the band was largely forgotten for over two decades. Rosen went on to perform as a guitarist with the Altamont Boys, the backing band for The Legendary Stardust Cowboy.[5] Due to a growing cult interest online, pSmith tracked down Rosen and the two of them compiled the “Penny Lane” single and the remaining recorded material into an album, Mercy Beat, which was released in 2007.[6] The cultural organization Hear Nebraska has described the album as “some of the definitive Nebraska recordings of the punk-rock era.”[7]


  • “Penny Lane”/“I’m Down” (1982)
  • Mercy Beat (2007)


  1. ^ Retrieved 2011-11-03.
  2. ^ WMFU’s Beware of the Blog MP3 Download Dinner Bell, January 9, 2008. Retrieved 2011-11-03.
  3. ^ Interview for Hook or Crook Records. September 2007. Retrieved 2011-11-03
  4. ^ Christgau, Robert. Pazz & Jop 1981: The Year The Rolling Stones Lost the Pennant Village Voice, Feb. 1, 1982. Retrieved 2011-11-03
  5. ^ Retrieved 2011-11-03.
  6. ^ McMahan, Tim “The Better Beatles again...” Lazy-i. Retrieved 2011-11-03
  7. ^ Wenz, John "Hello Goodbye" by The Better Beatles | Echoes Hear Nebraska, March 3, 2011. Retrieved 2011-11-03.

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