Some Beatles Cannot be Squashed
I recently went on a trip to Costa Rica and our group met local children who lived just above the poverty line and barely had money for school supplies. The kids kept asking me questions about where I was from, what it was like and I showed them pictures of the United States. Somehow, I ended up listening to music with a ten-year-old boy named Alfred.
I tried to play songs that he might know but I was unsuccessful until I found one group we both loved: the Beatles. It seemed as though ‘the Beatles’ were some of the few English words he knew. I questioned how a young boy from Costa Rica could know about a band that was not only before his time, but also from a country that is so far away? I began looking at the things around me and I saw the profound effect that a small group from Liverpool had on the world. Jonathan Gould, who wrote an entire book on the Beatles and their importance, says, “to this day they are widely regarded as the greatest concentration of singing, songwriting, and all-around musical talent.” (Gould 9) I believe that the Beatles changed the music industry forever and their legacy lives on today. Looking at the world before, during, and after the Beatles is the only true way to grasp their importance.
Before the Beatles, there was Elvis Presley, Chubby Checker, and Little Richard. Throughout history, the build-up to rock is hard to believe, from its origins in folk, jazz, and the blues. Gould calls Elvis Presley the catalyst of rock and roll, which fits perfectly because it all had to start somewhere and he was a perfect test subject. Elvis, originally a gospel singer, was a pioneer in his distinct style and infamous popularity. Leading up to the 1950s musicians never became superstars based on their music but the American crooner shattered that mold and he personal life was publicized like nobodies had been before. It was 1954 when Elvis released his cover of “That’s All Right,” for which he gained notoriety for his rich tone and swooping notes.
The track spread like wildfire and within a couple of weeks, the song was playing on radio stations across the United States. To go with his skyrocketing fame, he acted in various movies to promote himself more. He was the first superstar-musician and he is commonly known as “the King” because of his domination. He is often cited as a profound influence on four boys from England that would become the Beatles. John Lennon and Paul McCartney of grew up in the same suburb of Liverpool but their lives were quite different.
Lennon lived with his aunt and uncle in a middle class neighborhood. He struggled to follow the rules and he had a knack for trouble that made school difficult. McCartney, on the other hand, lived with his tight-knit, working class family where he valued organization and following the rules. After meeting and bonding over their similar experience with finding solace in music, they formed their first band, the Quarrymen, a skiffle band that sounded like a mixture of folk, blues, and jazz with kids from their school. (Greenhalgh) When they decided to move on to a new sound, they joined George Harrison and Ringo Starr to become the Beatles. After officially forming in 1960, their careers took off in England and their name became known everywhere.
It was not until 1964 that they made their debut in the United States but they were already known by a large number of teens and young adults. Upon arrival at JFK International Airport in New York, they found teens that idly waited for their highly anticipated arrival. In what is called the British Invasion, the floodgates holding English culture out of the mainstream media opened with the quartet.. The young and handsome Beatles became astoundingly popular with teens around the globe.
Within the culture sphere that surrounded the young adults of this era, there was a fascination with singers and their music that continues to this day. Lyrics became proverbs to live by and personalities of stars became a template for their adoring fans to act like. Their role is even described as “cultural and educational” and they became a sort of cult leader. (Frith and Goodwin 23) According to the Tribeca Film Institute, “he Rock musicians not only addressed contemporary events, they pushed the conventional musical boundaries.” They were members of the world but they challenged the legacies of those before them with their “complex instrumentations, elaborate arrangements, and ambitious compositions.
” (McGovern) Sadly in 1969, a rift appeared in the band. John signed with Allen Klein with George and Ringo joining him shortly after. Paul refused and media outlets across the globe jumped on the boat. Headlines read “PAUL IS QUITTING THE BEATLES” and other misled articles were written about the news. After interviews with terse responses, the band is known to have officially broken up on April 10, 1970. While the prolific group branched off into their own careers, they remained in good terms with each other.
It was even rumored that they were going to reunite in the late 1970s but, John Lennon was shot and killed on December 8, 1980 by a crazed fan in New York City. (Shenk) With the shock of losing one of the most ingenious musicians and songwriters of his time, the entire globe mourned. Paul McCartney, Ringo Star, and George Harrison continued on with their careers but now they carried a scar from the loss of their former bandmate. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988 with Lennon and McCartney being inducted as solo artists in 1994 and 1999. George Harrison died from cancer on November 29, 2001.
(Rolling Stone) It has been almost thirty-five years since the end of the Beatles and almost twenty-five years since the assassination of John Lennon and people still listen to the Beatles. Any song on the radio has elements of the famous pop group like the catchy melodies and relatable verses. Stores sell Beatles shirts, shoes, and even vinyl records of their albums. They were recognized as the highest selling musical group ever with one hundred and thirteen million records sold in America alone in 2000. That number grew to one hundred and seventy million in America by 2008. (Rolling Stone) In 2009, Apple released remastered versions of all of the albums the group created and it included a higher sound quality that was not possible before. The date that the digital albums hit the iTunes store, September 9, is even dubbed the day of twenty first century Beatlemania. (Rolling Stone) While Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney remain alive today, they are only half of the historic quartet and have not created any more music together. They have released solo albums as recently as 2010 and continue to tour around the world. Jonathan Gould, in his book about the life and legacy of the Beatles, describes their legacy by saying: With the Beatles, there would be no downfalls or comebacks, no scores of singles and albums, no headlining appearances in Las Vegas, no catalog of Hollywood films. With the Beatles, there would be nothing that could properly be described as a ‘show business career’ at all.
While the extent of their commercial success, artistic influence, and enduring popularity would qualify them as one of the greatest phenomena in the history of mass entertainment, by their own insistence they never considered themselves to be ‘entertainers’ in the accepted sense of the word. (Gould 8) The Beatles set a zenith that will probably never be reached again. The song-writing duo of Lennon and McCartney, a group with opposing methods and ideas, created a team that could compromise and create inimitable anthems for people throughout the world. Thirty-five years later, their music remains relevant and relatable to the masses and that is what sets them apart. Music is timeless and whatever era it is from, it can be applied to almost any situation or idea.
The Beatles exemplify this idea and their message morphs to remain important for years after they had stopped making music. Nobody could have seen their significance and that is part of the beauty in what they did; creating a reality that did not end perfectly but left a lasting mark on the world. It helps to see their role by looking at the industry before, during, and after their era. The Beatles have greatly influenced my life and I hope that kids for generations to come can find a way to relate to their music. I hope that kids like Alfred, kids that come from underprivileged areas, can continue to discover the magical music that was created by those four young boys from Liverpool in the sixties.
? Works Cited Brackett, David. Interpreting Popular Music. Oakland: University of California Press, 2000. Frith, Simon and Andrew Goodwin. On Record: Rock, Pop, and the Written Word. London: Routledge, 1990.
Gould, Jonathan. Can’t Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain, and America. Illustrated,Reprint. New York City: Crown Group, 2008. Mansfield, Ken. The White Book: The Beatles, the Bands, the Biz: An Insider’s Look at an Era.
Nashville: Thomas Nelsom, 2007. McGovern, Charles. Rock. 2014. Tribeca Film Institute.
6 January 2015. Norman, Philip. Shout!:The Beatles in Their Generation. Illustrated, Revised. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005. Nowhere Boy.
By Matt Greenhalgh. Dir. Sam Taylor-Wood. Perf. Aaron Taylor- Johnson.
2009. Riley, Tim. Tell Me Why: A Beatles Commentary. Boston: Da Capo, 2002. Rolling Stone. “The Beatles .
” Stone, Rolling. The Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2001. Shenk, Joshua Wolf. “The Power of Two.” The Atlantic July/August 2014.