The Legendary Beatles
There has been so much written about this band over the years. There have been numerous books on the band. There have movies about them or entire soundtracks from movies using their songs. You may not even like them and may think they were rock's best band ever. Yet, there must be a reason why the Beatles name continues to be known.
Think Mozart or Beethoven. During their living time, they were known along with many other composers of symphonic music. In some circles, they were thought as radical for their time. Now, hundreds of years after their death, one continues to hear their compositions in a variety of forms. It is quite possible you have heard their compositions, yet, had no idea they had written it.
The Beatles are in this class of music history. They are what all bands aspire to in regards to song composition for modern rock music. You probably have their music covered in various TV ads as background music or in movies.
The Beatles and their legend had humble beginnings. As teens, they simply aspired to be like Elvis Pressley, rock's first legend. It began with John Lennon. While he was in local band in Liverpool, a band member recommended his friend, Paul McCartney, as another guitar player. John auditioned Paul and immediately knew he would be a great asset to his own limited knowledge of guitar chords. In an odd sense, they fell in love with one another's abilities in songwriting and singing. As time went on, Paul recommended another friend of his, George Harrison. John did not know Harrison and was skeptical because he was quite young, yet, after the audition was impressed with his lead guitar skills. Neither John or Paul had these skills. Together, the essential core of this legend had been formed. Ringo would be the last to join as the drummer much later. He had always liked John's band and found them amusing personalities that matched his own. When John offered Ringo a job as the band's drummer, Ringo asked how much would it pay. John laughed. The band was complete by 1962.
Brian Epstein, the band's manager said it best, in that, in 1964, the Beatles were a supernova (to paraphrase). All played a key role in their success. John had wit and edge with attitude, Paul was cute and polite, George was quiet, mysterious. Ringo was the comic. All had excellent skills of their craft. Epstein said that if any of the members quite being a Beatle, the supernova band would falter and that magic would be gone.
Much of the legend happened on the fly or by mistake. Their haircut was revolutionary for 1964, it was unheard that men would wear their hair as they had. Most men combed it like Elvis to some degree using hair grease. The impact of this single item was their trademark that changed men's hair styles to this day. Their collarless suits would be copied many times in men's fashions, as were their Beatle boots. But all these items, except for the hair, none of the Beatles had anything to do with. The Beatles brought long hair and bangs to the modern man.
But it was their music that recreated how any rock band should be. They had taken American rock, changed it to their style, and returned it. All of the Beatles could be a vocalist and all had very identifiable distinct vocals. That set them apart from all other bands. During press interviews, they all expressed wit and coy remarks to win the hearts and charm and minds of reporters. Few could walk away NOT liking them as people. Of course, girls and women simply went into a frenzy when they were close.
The Beatles as a group were irresistible. They charmed everyone and while older generation reporters mocked them as a fluke, they seemed to like them as people. And with the Beatles, mass marketing to the public oversold them with Beatle fashion, guitars, ice cream, combs and cartoons for kids (too young to appreciate them). The Beatles' brand was everywhere and took AM radio like a tsunami with 24-hr. Beatle music.
But it was their music that kept them on top until their breakup in 1969. There has been debate whether Lennon or McCartney was the more gifted songwriter. Paul answered this by stating years after their breakup that his best songs were when the Beatles were together. I think Lennon would say the same thing. You see, each member contributed brilliant ideas to either a Lennon or McCartney song. McCartney would improve Lennon's song with harmony or great bass lines. Lennon would improve McCartney songs with better lyrics or his voice provided a rough edge to Paul's smooth melody. Each would add critical guitar licks that could make the song great. George gave the song a lead guitar and guitar licks. Ringo's drumming was often his own idea or feel about the song. A great example is their famed "Get Back" from 1968. The original song had a different drum rhythm until Ringo changed it to replicate the sound of a galloping horse. Once that happened, the whole song's pace changed. While it is a McCartney song, Lennon changed some lyrics and Harrison's guitar lead made it better. The combination sent it to No.1 for months. This is the magic.
After the band's divorce, as Epstein predicted, the magic was gone. Each Beatle could never get away from being a Beatle and each could only create good songs by themselves, not great songs. As soloists, each's weaknesses and strengths were on display. Lennon's songs lacked the harmony of McCartney and were bare bones in sound, while McCartney was too much fluff and silly lyrics despite good melody. Harrison simply produced songs you mostly forgot, as did Ringo. By themselves, they were ordinary artists for the most part.
The Beatles will be remembered 100 years from now. It has already been 50 years. They were like the Mozart in classical music, forever to be remembered in Beatlemania and rock music.