Our Experts weigh in on The Beatles.
The Beatles are by far the group that changed the face of rock music. Who cares if their music by today's standards would be pop music? All music back in the early '60s was pop. However, they lost their innocent '60s pop sound with the 1966 release of Revolver (right), which is considered by some to be the first pure rock album.
My favorite Beatles album would also have to be Revolver, because of its diversity and influence. Tracks like "Yellow Submarine," "Tomorrow Never Knows," and "She Said She Said" pioneered a new genre called psychedelic rock. "Eleanor Rigby" shows what The Beatles can do with just a string section and melancholy lyrics.
I know about 300 million Americans who would vehemently like to disagree, but I side with a select few members of Dogs, Pigs, and Sheep when I say that The Beatles are over-endorsed by Americans and Brits.
This is not to say that they weren't a great band. The Beatles were the pioneer of pioneers, paving the way for every pretty-boy pop band to dive into the money barrel music industry. 40 years ahead of their time, they're still swimming across the airwaves in their ever-peppy yellow submarine with some of the greatest pop hooks ever penned. Their brilliantly fresh use of studio sounds in musical miracles like The White Album (left) blew every axe-wielding competitor out of the water. Lyrically, a Beatles song was so simple (yet genius) that it'd make a fool of anyone not on the dance floor.
Although the wet dream of every teenybopper pop-punk party girl, The Beatles have little to offer in the serious music department. You can't withhold the fact that they literally and in every way possible set the standard for modern pop music, but it is for this reason that many serious music fans both then and now find them hard to take seriously. Easily the biggest factor is their lyrics, which very rarely dealt with anything of importance. However, with gems like "Something," "Let it Be" and "Hey Jude," they showed they had the capacity, just not the will, to create great music. Instead, they chose to feed the masses. They were a band for the screaming girls, not for the artists.
And yet, despite their glaring detractions, I respect them dearly as founders of today's pop music industry. Wait - shouldn't I now hate them?
The Beatles are interesting as you look at them in today's light. Quite a few rock fans don't like them much because they're cheery, simple, and bubblegum compared to later rock. Yet, it seems that most Beatle fans today are young (as in, under 30). A study was done that 75% of people at Beatle conventions the last 15 or so years were under 30. The Beatles have obviously been a group that has been passed from generation to generation. Do I think they were the most influential artist(s) ever? No. I believe that title belongs to Bob Dylan, but The Beatles are in the top 3. With that said, I do think the Beatles were the most influential when it comes to studio effects and experimentation, because of how insanely big they were. Since they were mega superstars to the max, they could try anything and everyone would praise it for breaking new ground. Take "Revolution 9" on The White Album. If any other group did that, everyone would call it 9 minutes of random noises bunched together just to take up space. But because the Beatles did it, it was genius. Or that horrible noise at the end of "A Day in the Life," that horrid screeching noise that was put there, in the words of John Lennon, "to annoy the dog."
My personal view on the Beatles is I like them a lot. I can listen to them in any mood, be it good or bad. They're a smart band and great storytellers even with being zany and wacky to the extreme sometimes. I'm not sure what my favorite lick of theirs is; it depends on my mood. It might be "Let It Be," "Helter Skelter," or "A Day In The Life." They're a strange band that has been imbedded in pop culture and probably will be forever. You had the more experimental McCartney, the lovable Lennon, the backbone of the group George Harrison, and the luckiest S.O.B. ever in Ringo Starr (above, right). The Beatles had another drummer before Ringo but he quit because he "didn't like where the band was going." That has to be the worst career move anyone has ever made in history. Quitting the Beatles. I can't even remember his name. If he was on the Beatles, I'd know his name. Maybe it was meant to be, as Ringo Starr is such an awesome name anyway. The Beatles were a group of 4 very different people. But it somehow worked.
Ah, the Beatles. The band that is revered as the greatest thing to happen to rock n' roll, and possibly in music as a whole. From Please Please Me to Let it Be (albums) the Beatles captivated the American people, along with a lot of the world with their incomparable ability to consistently be unique and innovating in their music. Always upbeat and never stale, the Beatles provided refreshing rock n' roll for a good while, and even as their music has been done for a few decades kids of a new generation have found it and loved it.
Influential, yes; beyond their time and excessively creative, yes again; but I still cant get into them like everyone else.
I find the Beatles to be a band that is very easy on the ears and mind. It's a free-wheelin' time when listening to the Beatles, from "I am the Walrus" (above) to "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds." The Beatles are very upbeat and simple. They have their musical epics showcasing their true genius, but predominantly, I'm never swept off my feet when listening to a Beatles song, or album for that matter. Sgt. Pepper isnt special to me whatsoever, nor is Abbey, or The White Album, or Rubber Soul, Revolver, or even Let it Be. They all have exemplary songs that I love, but also carry with them such lighthearted and overly simple songs, both musically and lyrically. I get bored of listening to the Beatles, and am a bit frustrated when I see others glorifying their music and declaring Sgt. Pepper as the greatest album ever. I doesnt make sense to me...
So, because of such things, if given the choice between the Beatles and other artists like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Bruce Springsteen, The Doors, Metallica, Iron Maiden, or even Supertramp, I'd pick the other. I enjoy the Beatles, but don't gush over them.
John, Paul, George, and Ringo: collectively known as The Beatles. Where to begin? I guess their debut release, Please Please Me (right), would be a good place to start. The Beatles' first album showcased a lack of musical maturity. It was a simple start to an amazing career. Two years later, they would give the world Rubber Soul, and after that, Revolver. It was these albums that set them on the path to permanent stardom. Their studio innovations and techniques were unmatched in the music world. Take, for instance, "In My Life," from Rubber Soul. A highly underrated track about John Lennon's childhood, the track includes a short piano section. However, the interlude was too fast for George Martin, the Beatles' producer and pianist, to play, so they recorded it at half-speed, one octave lower, and later sped it up to tempo. The end result was a great success.
After these albums, The Beatles kept rolling. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (left), my personal favorite, continued the pattern of astounding studio work, with its cover art becoming an icon for '60s rock. The album closer, "A Day in the Life," features two spine-tingling orchestral crescendos, again showcasing The Beatles' musical ingenuity. Following Sgt. Pepper's were, most notably, The White Album, Abbey Road, and Let it Be. Each showed a new side of The Beatles; experimentation, superior songwriting, and the feel of a semi-live performance.
But I think the main thing that attracts me to The Beatles is their mystique. Much like Led Zeppelin, they rarely appeared in press interviews or on television during their most productive years. Hearing the music they created during that period, I've always thought it would be the most amazing experience to witness one of their rehearsals, or sit in on a studio session, just to see how their minds worked as one. Let it Be, the movie, tried to accomplish this, but when it was made, The Beatles were irritated by each other, and Yoko Ono was constantly by Lennon's side. Nevertheless, I consider the rooftop concert (below) shown in the film to be one of the most amazing rock performances ever. The crowds teem on the streets below as The Beatles are, quite literally, on the top of the world. In a classic display of rock's defiant nature, they put on an impromptu performance on the rooftop of their recording studio. The residents are visibly stunned as the concert continues, until the police arrive to put an end to it. Something about this performance has always left me mesmerized.
There will always be Beatles haters, looking to dispute their reputation. Perhaps they will remark, "The Beatles were only a pop band, in it for the money and fame, not to write great music." I scoff at this simplification. If they were only in it for glory, then why did they stop touring in 1966? "Their music is dated today." What's dated about it? The sound? The guitars, bass, drums, and vocals can be easily distinguished on every track of their later years. The style? Today's music is crap, so if you want them to sound like today's mainstream rock (Nickelback, All-American Rejects, etc.), there's probably something wrong with you. "Their lyrics are dumb and are drug-influenced." I'm not going to argue for the sanity of tracks like "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" or "Mean Mr. Mustard," but The Beatles had the ability to make their supposedly "pointless" material matter to listeners. Even strange stuff like "Doctor Robert" is credible because The Beatles wrote it, but one must remember that they earned that credibility with everything they achieved. Were they messing with us by making this crazy stuff? No, but they weren't going to be so serious that they made every song about a problem with the world. This is the easiest criticism of The Beatles; that their lyrics and ideas weren't serious enough. Maybe I'm oblivious to the wrong in the world, but I turn to music as an escape from the problems of the world, not as a reminder of those issues.
The reason I've written so much is not only because The Beatles are my favorite band, but because, despite their position in music history, The Beatles are often disrespected, as I mentioned above. Will this review help? I hope it will. I know most people who are reading this are firm in their stances on The Beatles, but maybe this will change their minds just a little. As for me, I believe The Beatles were rock and roll pioneers, and pioneers for modern music in general. If there were a Mount Rushmore for music, I think you know who my four nominees would be.