T H E B E A T L E S
Any Date From Now Through April 10, 2020 Should Be An Excuse For A Beatles 50th Anniversary Celebration
1. The Beatles are back. 2. The Beatles never went away. 3. In the future, the Beatles will be back and never go away. (New Beatles fans will assure that their music is still heard.)
Although they disbanded 44 years ago, the Beatles’ impact is still felt as their shadow is cast over almost every musical style and aspect of the U.S. and international music industry. With the release of new social media accounts, websites, CD’s, DVD’s, books, collaborations, interactive media, “authorized mashups,” television specials and more, longtime fans are being reminded of their greatness, while new generations of Beatles’ fans are being created. They still sound great to those who were there in the 1960’s, and because no other comparable artists have come along since, they keep sounding better in hindsight.
The Beatles revolutionized popular music – the intensity and depth of the public’s reaction to them has never never been approached since that they first burst onto the world’s stage. Elvis had 14 #1 hits before the Beatles, but only 1 after the Beatles. Only a few Motown acts and the Beach Boys were popular before and after the Beatles.
The Beatles arrived at the perfect moment historically when they began recording in 1963 and invading the U. S. and the rest of the world in 1964. Between 1959-1963, rock & roll was in its dullest period as the careers of many of its pioneers were in hiatus or had ended. A plane crash had taken the lives of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J. P. Richardson, Chuck Berry had been jailed for violation of the Mann Act, Little Richard had left the secular for the religious world, Jerry Lee Lewis had drawn the wrath of the public for marrying his 13 yr. old cousin before legally divorcing his second wife, and Elvis Presley was softening his image by trying to appeal to adults and becoming a movie star. In addition, the large out-of-touch record labels were trying to hoist bland and safe white cover artists (principally, Pat Boone, Frankie Avalon and Fabian) onto the public. And on November 22, 1963, three important events occurred, only one of which caught the world’s attention – President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. (The Beatles released their second album in England – “With The Beatles” – and novelist Aldous Huxley died also on that day. Who could have known that the best and worst events of 1963 would have occurred on the same day?) Many of us alive then will remember just how bleak a time it was – our popular young President had been killed, it was a cold winter, and except for a few Motown artists, there was little exciting popular music.
So, on February 9, 1964, when the Beatles made their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, the public was ready for good news and good revolution. The reaction to this television show and the Beatles cannot be overestimated. In 1964 alone, The Beatles had 19 Top 40 hits! In comparison, Michael Jackson’s best year was 1983 with 6 Top 40 hits; Elvis’s was 1956 with 11 Top 40 hits.
The Beatles convincingly fused widely disparate influences throughout their seven-year recording career as they assimilated U.S. rock ‘n’ roll, rockabilly, country, Motown, R & B, soul, Tin Pan Alley, Afro-Cuban, bossanova, classical, and Indian music influences. They also steadfastly avoided following any fads or attempting to be “cool” or something which they were not. Each of their albums was a significant musical event complete with the seemingly incongruous achievements of important artistic innovations and great popular appeal.
The Beatles had many firsts. They were the
first to have all five of the Top 5 songs in the same week (April 4, 1964)
first to have 11 songs in the Top 100 in the same month
first to create music videos (16 years before the debut of MTV) – Paperback Writer
first to use feedback and distortion at the opening of a recording – I Feel Fine (0.00-0.06)
first to use the fade-in – Eight Days A Week (0.00-0.07)
first to use the electric 12-string guitar – You Can’t Do That (0.00)
first to use the sitar – Norwegian Wood (0.08)
first to use an Indian ensemble – Within You Without You (0.00)
first to record a song for string quartet and acoustic guitar – Yesterday (0.23)
first to record a song using only string octet – Eleanor Rigby (0.00)
first band to use the French horn as a solo instrument – For No One (0.49-1.02; 1.27-1.38. 1.53-1.56)
first band to use the piccolo trumpet as a solo instrument – Penny Lane (1.09-1.27; 1.56-2.00, 2.21-2.26, 2.38-2.43, 2.47-2.49)
first band to use tape speed manipulation – In My Life (1.29-1.47)
first band to use backwards tape – Rain (2.35-2.58)
to name only a few Beatles’ firsts.
The Beatles were the antithesis of “safe” – with each album released, they had the “safe” and extremely successful product. Almost any other artist/s who could attain this much success would certainly do only ONE thing next – repeat the exact steps to try to repeat the exact success. Almost all artists then and now would not stray from a winning formula.
This is exactly where the Beatles differed completely from everyone else. The Beatles would always take the adventurous and risky path by throwing away the proven recipe for business success and doing something which ARTISTICALLY pleased them. Against all odds and “common” sense, they would succeed and then lead society and other musicians down new roads.
In the next post, we will explore the universality and themes of many Beatles songs.