The Beatles – It Was 50 Years Ago Today



 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.


9 Replies to “The Beatles – It Was 50 Years Ago Today”

  1. The title reminded me of Beatle lyrics, which I’m sure was your intention.

    It was ___ years ago today
    Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play
    They’ve been goin’ in and out of style
    But they’re guaranteed to raise a smile
    So may I introduce to you
    The act you’ve known for all these years
    And _______________________

  2. Hello Soooooze:

    I’m glad you caught that lyric and yes, you’re right – I meant it in deference to and the memory of a 1967 song lyric aimed at that 1964 event!!!

    We are in for six more years of “it was 50 years ago today,” thankfully! 🙂

    Thanks for writing!

  3. Great article. I, too, have often thought about and was impressed by their ability to continue to make incredible music without “playing it safe.” Think how many westerners would have never heard a sitar (or learned about Ravi Shankar, or Indian/Hindu culture) had it not been for them (obviously, George, specifically). You have a fertile ground to explore with them and I’m already ready for your next installment!

    1. David:

      I’m glad that you too were impressed with their uniqueness. Thy really pulled off the amazing feat of being artistic – creating original music of high quality that was always new and often daring – while still appealing to the masses. They were the exception to what Arnold Schoenberg once observed and stated – that if it is art, it is not for all and if it is for all, it is not art.

      I can’t imagine how different music and culture (and certainly my life) would be if George Harrison had not heard the sitar and played it on “Norwegian Wood,” and then continued to absorb all things Indian, learn from Ravi Shankar, and expand the Beatles’ Indian musical, cultural and spiritual influences.

      Thanks so much for your very thoughtful comments, David! I hope you like my next posts – I think I’ll have at least two more Beatles posts soon.

  4. Great in-depth piece, Mike. Especially was pleased to see the “firsts” you mentioned. As a kid, I recall getting really sick of Sherry Baby, Big Girls, Hey Hey Paul., etc. The best moments on Boston AM radio, (WBZ was it in MetroWest) were when they played a tune from the early rockers you mentioned. In that respect, The Beatles time was way overdue. I’ll never forget the lightning from my folk’s car radio when I first heard “I Want to Hold Your Hand”. As I grew up I realized that for me anyway, it was John (and George) that pushed the envelope. Paul just had a real knack for songwriting, playing, and singing 😉

    1. Hi Andy:

      I love your remark – the lightning from your parents’ car radio! The Beatles were so different from what had been happening. I too was not enthused by most of the music that was around at the time. I remember getting some classical recordings from my Dad who had gotten them from a relative of his I had never met. (But it was tough to be a classical music fan at that age and in solitude about it in my neighborhood – later, I’d spend all of my energy learning classical.) I liked some of those classical recordings as well as some of the Latin recordings my parents had but I too was tired of most of the pop of that time, except for Motown. I loved the bass lines in Motown best – I heard them much better than the vocals or lyrics and the bass lines influenced me much more than other things I was hearing. But I never got to see many musicians or hear too many exciting new things until that Ed Sullivan Show when what I heard and saw instantly walloped me! I knew from that moment what I wanted to do and that’s never changed.

      It is fascinating how the Beatles evolved over time and who was pushing the envelope. I agree with your observations.

      Thanks for posting this, Andy! You’ve expressed it as only one who was there at the time, and getting changed by them, can!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *