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The Beatles

Author: Robert Benson

Robert writes about rock/pop music, vinyl record collecting and operates ""
Collecting vinyl records blog

The Beatles
It was forty years ago today

It's amazing that these four lads from Liverpool are again recapturing the hearts of music lovers and adding a new fan base to their legacy. From the reissues of 09/09/09 to the "The Beatles: Rock Band" video game, they continue to build on their astonishing career and historical career.

The Beatles were the most prolific, respected and innovative rock 'n' roll bands of all time. One could argue that The Beatles are the best band of all time. With their unique Everly-Brothers-like harmonies and a mixture of folk, pop, blues, and rock 'n' roll, the Beatles defined music and raised the bar, so to speak, for all singers and songwriters.

Their influence and contributions to pop music cannot be measured in pure record sales because there is no comparison. From their early days as the Quarrymen, when John, Paul and George were just teenagers, to the early days as The Silver Beatles (later dropping the Silver from their name), music fans in Liverpool were enthralled and mesmerized by the "Fab Four." In the early sixties, with their constant "gigs" at the legendary Cavern Club and their engagements in Hamburg in 1961, the local music scenes were abuzz and the Beatles caught the attention of a local record store manager, Brian Epstein, who went on to manage the group.

Beatle mania kicked in around 1963 when "Please Please Me" was released and topped the British charts. The hysteria soon crossed the ocean and the "British Invasion" was in full swing and the Beatles became a part of American music and pop culture.

Early in 1964, the Beatles owned the Billboard charts with such hits as "I Want To Hold Your Hand," "She Loves You," Can't But Me Love," "Twist and Shout" and the aforementioned "Please Please Me"; all reaching top ten status. (An interesting fact is that "Can't Buy Me Love" is probably the Beatles greatest single, which had an international advance order of 2,100,000 copies)

The rest, as they say, is history. The Beatles followed up these singles with a barrage of best-selling albums, appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show, and dominated the best-selling singles market in a way that had never been seen and probably never will again. They also released the motion pictures, "A Hard Day's Night" and "Help," which only cemented their place in rock 'n' roll history, spawning hits such as "I Feel Fine," "She's A Woman," "Ticket To Ride," "Yesterday" and of course the song "Help." (Did you know that "A Hard Day's Night" was recorded in one day?)

Their producer, George Martin was probably the most brilliant, innovative and to some extent lenient producer in rock 'n' roll history. As the Beatles grew musically and the Lennon/McCartney song writing duo continued to churn out hit after hit, Martin allowed them to push the limits of studio improvisation, devising unique guitar and bass textures and experimenting with distortion, multi tracking and using unconventional instruments.

In 1965, the Beatles released "Rubber Soul," a revolutionary and classic pop-folk rock album and what George Martin described as "The first album to present a new, growing Beatles to the world." Songs such as the melodic "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)," the self-portrait style "Nowhere Man" (which was one of the first Beatles' songs to move beyond a romantic theme), the harpsichord sound of "In My Life" (which was a piano made to sound like a harpsichord), the Dylan/Byrds influences of "I'm Looking Through You," George Harrison's "If I Needed Someone" and hits including "Drive My Car," "Girl," and "You Won't See Me", all suggested that the Beatles had matured and song writers and men.

The Beatles released "Revolver" in August of 1966 and McCartney quickly established himself as the consummate pop song writer with "Eleanor Rigby" and "For No One," while Lennon's "Tomorrow Never Sleeps" proved to be influential as the Beatles experimented with unheard of studio techniques (such as a backwards tape loop on of Paul's solo guitar work on "Taxman") and a droning tamboura. Harrison was maturing as a prolific song writer with "Taxman," "I Want To Tell You" and "Love You To." Other gems included "Good Day Sunshine," "Got To Get You Into My Life," "I'm Only Sleeping," "And Your Bird Can Sing" and the whimsical child-like "Yellow Submarine."

The Beatles also quit touring in 1966, which was an unprecedented move at that time in music history. Tired of being drowned out by throngs of screams and crowd noise, the Beatles played their final concert on August 29, 1966 in San Francisco and focused their attention to the music they could create in the studio. The Beatles were in turmoil though, as Lennon and McCartney were no longer writing together and George was grumbling with resentment. Amid break up rumors and personal projects, the Beatles released the "Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever" single in February 1967 to appease the public as they delved into psychedelic territory for their next release. (This was their strongest single to date)

The Beatles did not disappoint the masses and had more astonishing success with the next release "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," which is arguably the most important rock 'n' roll album ever made. Issued in Britain 6/1/67 and a day later in the United States, "Sgt. Pepper" dominated radio air waves with "the summer of love" with irresistible melodies such as Lennon's dreamy/kaleidoscope-like song "Lucy In The Sky with Diamonds," McCartney's "Fixing A Hole," Lennon's carnival-like "Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite," the Ringo-led anthem "With A Little Help From My Friends" as well as classics "Lovely Rita," "When I'm Sixty-Four," "She's Leaving Home" and "A Day In The Life" among others. The Beatle's collaborative talents gelled into the pinnacle of a pop/rock masterpiece that can never be duplicated.

Moreover, the Beatles broke new ground with an album cover (created by artist Peter Blake) that still is one of the most intriguing and famous cover of all time. With a collage of cardboard cutouts of historical figures and the Beatles dressed in satin marching band outfits, the album oozed of psychedelia and was the first rock album to incorporate lyrics to go along with their masterful concept album. (Did you know that Jesus, Hitler and Gandhi did not make the final cut and were omitted from the cover?)

With that type of critical success and acclaim how could the Beatles follow "Sgt. Pepper?" In November 1967 they continued their psychedelic sound with the album "Magical Mystery Tour," and although it was pale in comparison to "Sgt. Pepper" it had all the elements that the Beatles had become famous for: sharp and finely crafted pop and rock songs. Hits included "All You Need Is Love," "Penny Lane," "Strawberry Fields Forever," "Hello Goodbye" and "The Fool On The Hill." Furthermore, the Lennon-led "I Am The Walrus" cemented their status as psychedelic icons.

About a year later the "White Album" was released and to some this was and still is their best effort. Although they were taxed by growing tension within the group, each Beatle played each others compositions with great results. Combined, the "White Album" was a double LP set of pop, blues, folk, hard rock and smooth rock with innovative songs such as "Back In The USSR," "Sexy Sadie," "Rocky Raccoon," "Dear Prudence," "Blackbird," "I'm so Tired," "Glass Onion" among others. Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" was an instant classic. Other popular cuts included the harakiri "Helter Skelter," "Why Don't We Do It In The Road?", "Cry Baby Cry" and "Savoy Truffle." The Beatles again broke new ground, although there wasn't a "single" released from the album, the "White Album" sold two million copies during its first week in the US alone.

But by this time the group was falling apart, with inner turmoil that only festered with the emergence of Yoko Ono, Lennon's soul mate and constant shadow. Their next release, "Abbey Road" (with yet another famous cover) was to be the last album to be recorded (but "Let It Be" was the last to be released) and to some arguably is the Beatles' best work. With some of the greatest harmonies ever to be recorded, "Abbey Road" contributed radio hits such as "Come Together," Harrison's rebirth-type song "Here Comes The Sun" and his splendid ballad "Something." Other notable songs were Lennon's metal-like "I Want You (She's So Heavy)," McCartney's "Oh Darling" and "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" and the Ringo led "Octopus's Garden" among others. This also marked the last day all four Beatles were in the studio (Apple) to record.

The Beatles' last release, "Let It Be" in May 1970, was recorded largely in 1969 before "Abbey Road." The original concept was a live-in-studio album and film, but the project was abandoned to create "Abbey Road." Nonetheless, there are some remarkable Beatle hits such as McCartney's lead track "Let It Be," the Harrison sung "I Me Mine" about greed and sin, the dreamy "Across The Universe," "Two Of Us" and the popular "Get Back."

To top all this, each separate Beatle embarked on successful solo recording careers. Beatles' music continues to be among the top sellers, not only in the US, but across the world. Generations of Beatle fans continue to buy and enjoy this timeless music and it's my belief that they will never go out of style.

I am not sure if I have utilized every adjective I could have to describe the Beatles. The Beatles were an institution, they not only influenced pop music, they influenced culture as well. Countless musicians have counted the Beatles as their influence and in my opinion people will read about them hundreds of years from now as their supremacy of the Billboard charts, music, and culture are immeasurable.

Article by: Robert Benson

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