Updated: Jan 14
If you can say that any group of musicians could possibly influence a whole society at any given moment, then without doubt, it has to be the Beatles. More than any band in the sixties, the Beatles in music captured global attention in an era that was trying to find itself, particularly through a youth inspired relaxation of society's limitations and restrictions.
Through their brand of quirky, innovative and high quality music, they seemed to embrace exactly what society was experiencing and put it into simple musical terms that everyone could relate to. Their music through their lyrics, consistently expressed the message that, despite all the world's troubles and challenges, certain aspects of our lives remained constant, such as relationships, peace and war, racism, job difficulties, poverty and wealth.
And of course it was never just four guys playing and singing, but rather a team of people around them who not only encouraged them but helped them develop into the iconic musicians that they later became.
Was It Real?
As students living in London, UK in the sixties, we can vouch for the fact that it was very real. Robert actually lived in the same area of London as Paul McCartney, and would often see his psychedelic VW or Rolls Royce cruising through the main street of that part of town. He would always wave if he bothered to look out of the vehicle window, and of course we would all wave back. There was a kind of informality in those days (that no longer existed until recently due to the pandemic), in which even super stars would often connect with the public spontaneously.
As a music student, Robert was naturally drawn to classical music, although he had always been attracted to jazz and its improvisational elements, and musical theatre. Popular music was never on his radar - until the Beatles. He was (and still is) fascinated not so much by their lyrics, but by the unusual and unique musical elements in their songs.
It was quite common at the time for music critics, historians and even music students to analyze the music and try to compare it to classical songwriters of the past such as Franz Schubert, Robert Schumann and even further back, some of the composers of the 16th century England, such as John Dowland. For the uninitiated, the sixties was sometimes compared to that era in 16th century England when a whole host of composers, having composed a multitude of 'pop' songs, called Madrigals that appealed to the masses, were treated like super stars in the same way we treated the Fab Four.
Our Beatle Mania
We would like to share a personal Beatles story: As you probably know, most students are always broke and looking for odd jobs to help them survive. We were no exception. Luckily for us, we knew a guy whose job it was to find music students to record background tracks for well known artists who often did not have the time of ability to sing harmony. He approached a few students. including us and asked if we could be available to do this.
Naturally, we all jumped at it, knowing that it would mean money in our pockets. As it turned out, we were assigned to one of the studios at none other than Abbey Road. Here we recorded numerous tracks for unknown artists, one of whom would have been the Beatles, who did record there. While they never revealed any really pertinent information about the tracks that we had recorded, we are confident that at least one of the tracks appeared in a Beatles album at some time, for which we are eternally grateful and proud!
You may think that we could easily have discovered which album our vocal harmony was used for, but believe it or not, it is really difficult to know for sure. When you sang these vocal backgrounds, you were not singing words but mainly vowels that could be from any song.
Also, the harmonies are fairly generic, and cannot be connected to any one song in an album. These vocal harmonies were edited and merged with existing sounds, and so you can see why it was virtually impossible to know for sure which song or album they were inserted into.
As we mentioned earlier, it was always a team effort to promote and develop this amazing band. Aside from the financial elements, their manager, Brian Epstein molded them from a talented but raw rock band into a highly professional and accomplished performing group. In addition, all the musical arrangements were achieved by music producer George Martin. With his creativity and vision, and Lennon and McCartney's songwriting abilities, the Beatles' music was prolific and completely unique as they produced song after song, album after album. At the final count there were an incredible thirteen albums, all of which became instantly and globally acclaimed.
We all have our favourites of course. We find it impossible to single out just one album, and so will go for Rubber Soul, Revolver and Abbey Road. As for individual songs, that is much more difficult. Those that come to mind include Michelle, Yesterday, Eleanor Rigby, Here, There and Everywhere and Blackbird, but there are so many others. If you feel like adding your faves, we would love to see them, so please feel free to do so in the comments box below this post.
Impact Or Not?
We don't believe there's any doubt that the Beatles impact in the ten years that they performed together, was immense. Music should reflect the society in which it is conceived, and both as a group and individually, the Beatles achieved that in spades. In addition, with their songwriting genius, they paved the way for later music groups to shine in the 70s and 80s, and generally raised the bar in popular music for subsequent generations of songwriters, musicians and ordinary people everywhere.*
To quote the famous author Kurt Vonnegut:“I say in speeches that a plausible mission of artists is to make people appreciate being alive at least a little. I am then asked if I know of any artists who pulled that off. I reply, 'The Beatles did'.”
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