1957-1970: The Beatles Give The World a New Sound

The Marvelettes “Mr. Postman” (Beatles Cover, from the 1994 film Backbeat)

The Beatles did a lot of covers in their early days. This is a cover from the film.

 

After their time spent as the Quarrymen, they became Johnny and the Moondogs. Their next incarnation was the Silver Beatles, partially derived from Buddy Holly and the Crickets.
Finally…simply…..just The Beatles.

In 1961, Brian Epstein, a record-store owner in Liverpool, kept getting requests for “My Bonnie”. He decided to check them out at the Cavern Club, a smoky underground club where they frequently performed during lunch.

Once designated as manager, Epstein transforms their style from wild, unkempt greasers…

into sophisticated, polished suits…

Epstein writes to a journalist, predicting that his group will “one day be bigger than Elvis”, and he was right.

What made The Beatles special from the beginning was their playing…..
simple, intelligent, skillful, but not virtuosic.
Extreme technical skill might gain you respect, but it doesn’t guarantee a widespread audience. Three members composed and sang lead, contributing to their varied songwriting style.

I’m sure Ringo was too busy smiling, off in his own world, to bother singing.

The Beatles “Money” (Cover of Barrett Strong Original)-with Pete Best on drums

Pete Best, loved by the locals in Liverpool, was often considered
the most handsome and popular of the group.
He failed to mesh with them on a personal level though,
and they eventually replaced him with Ringo Starr.
Unlike Ringo, who couldn’t help but grin when behind the kit, Pete never smiled on stage. Ringo was a better fit in terms of personality, and also a more talented drummer. Born Richard Starkey, he got his stage-name ‘Ringo Starr’ from all the rings he wore on his fingers, and from his drum solo called “Starr Time”. Here’s a hard rock cover of Barrett Strong’s “Money”, featuring Pete on the drums.

I’m really glad that Ringo came along.
He’s my favorite Beatle, very funny and much more relaxed than the rest of the group,
He seemed like he didn’t know what was going on most of the time.

 Sandwich?

The Beatles “There’s a Place” from The Beatles Anthology

Here’s another early recording from The Beatles.
This footage is great, they’re so silly.

 

On November 22nd, 1963, JFK was assassinated, a death which broke America’s heart. He was essentially a rock star president. Very handsome. Young family. Beautiful wife.
JFK was also the first genuine “TV president”.
Put simply, he was cool.
Not Bill Clinton “cool”, but actually cool.

I’m fucking cool

His assassination was probably due to his being a person of substance.
The big guys probably wanted him to do something, he probably didn’t want to…
Conveniently he’s dead.

I think they write whole books on this.

By the time John, Paul, George, and Ringo arrived in the States,
Americans were ready to fall in love again.

With Elvis in the Army, there was a void of teen heartthrobs.
To fill that space, they marketed Jersey Shore guys like Frankie Avalon (actually from Philly) causing un-hip teenagers already obsessed with cars and surf music to have little time to appreciate the blues and rock ‘n’ roll of the prior decade.

Frankie Avalon “Venus”

Do you think this is how Dick Clark got his New Year’s Eve job?

Although Frankie had a nice voice, there had to be better music than this.

There definitely was.

In 1964, The Beatles gave rock and roll back to America, and it was good stuff.
To Americans they seemed charming, deflecting heated questions from the press with their collaborative and witty interviewing style.

Young girls around the world were hopelessly in love, generating a collective swoon, completely unforeseen and unprecedented, even compared to Elvis, though they differed from him in one key way.
Generally, they had more respect from adults and were given ‘permission’, in a sense.

The Beatles “Please Please Me”

Released in March 1963, it was the group’s second single, though their first number 1 hit on most of the UK charts.

The Beatles “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”

This song was released in late November 1963, making them famous around the world. Parents liked them because they just wanted to hold hands.

 

The Beatles “Love Me Do”

Despite writing several songs, this one inspired John and Paul to record, making it their first single.

The Beatles “All My Loving” “Till There Was You” “She Loves You” “I Saw Her Standing There” and “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”
(Live, First Ed Sullivan Show appearance, February 9th, 1964)

Apparently, Ed Sullivan was at London Heathrow when 50,000 (or so) girls showed up and prevented Queen Elizabeth from taking off. As lovely as she might be, they weren’t there for the Queen. Impressed, Sullivan booked the group for 3 shows in one month (for half-price, I hear).

What the hell is going on?

Please stop crying.

For their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan show, an estimated 73 million viewers tuned in, meaning 73 million people had heard this new sound, and there was no going back from that.

 “She Loves You” was released in August of 1963, a hit that essentially began  “The Year of the Beatles”.

In the song, Paul uses a falsetto “WOOO!”, paying homage to Little Richard.

“All My Loving” is probably my favorite from their early work.

The Beatles “A Hard Day’s Night”

That spring, they returned home to film A Hard Days Night, a fictionalized documentary that dramatizes an exaggerated day for the group, while simultaneously portraying the excitement that surrounded them.
On a low budget and a tight schedule, they released the film in July 1964.
In doing so, they brought Beatlemania to viewers around the world.
People who couldn’t go to their concerts now had intimate access to them.

This film in particular helped to establish their mythological roles in the public mind, also functioning to create four distinct personalities within one group.
John was sarcastic and intelligent.
Paul, boyish and charming.
Ringo had an excellent sense of humor.
And for George, they constructed him as the “quiet one”, although that’s a common misconception.
Despite being a rather private person (understandably), he was very outgoing.

The Beatles “I’m Down”

The harder, grittier flip side to their single “Help!”, “I’m Down” was released August 6th, 1965.

The Beatles “Tomorrow Never Knows”

Revolver, released in August of 1966, was considered ‘avant-garde’.
1965-66 marked the beginning of their drug use, mostly pot and LSD.
Around this time, John meets Yoko Ono, an avant-garde conceptual artist.
You can hear the influence of drugs in their music.

The Beatles “Eleanor Rigby” (The Beatles Cartoon)

Another one of my favorites. Music starts at 2:15

 

The Beatles “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band”

Sgt. Pepper came out June 2nd, 1967 during the “Summer of Love”.

Claymation Beatles.

 

The Beatles “A Day in the Life”

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band took 700 hours to record,
in extreme contrast to the 12 hours it took for their first album.
It includes experimental techniques, giant orchestras, overdubbing, and the like.
The public responded with euphoria and excitement.
The ‘counterculture’ was growing in opposition to the establishment, and they loved what they were hearing.

As a group intimately linked with the 60s, The Beatles both created and reflected the times.

The Beatles “Strawberry Fields”

Magical Mystery Tour was a TV film that aired in Britain, Christmas, 1967.
It did horribly, making it the group’s first real failure.
The movie didn’t even make it to the U.S.

 

Heavy, heavy drug use.

“I Am The Walrus”

The Beatles started becoming more experimental, allowing things like chance happenings to influence their work.
In “I Am The Walrus”, a broadcast of King Lear happened to be on the radio during recording, so they mixed it into the song, an early instance of ‘sampling’.
They also incorporated fragmentary thoughts, stream of consciousness, and other collage-like elements to their already creative and innovative style.

            

The Beatles “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”

Off the 1968 Beatles White Album, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” was written and performed by George Harrison.

Definitely my favorite Beatles track.

The Beatles “Helter Skelter”

I guess they did a lot of drugs while recording the White Album.
One take of “Helter Skelter” clocked in at 27 minutes of jam time, and many Beatles fans claim they could die happy if they heard that version. The one that made the album is cut down to roughly 4 and a half minutes.

It’s borderline punk, just listen to the intro!

The Beatles “Come Together”

“Come Together” was on the album Abbey Road, released in 1969.
The album was the last of their studio records, but not the last to be released.

The Beatles “Let It Be”

Released with the film in 1970, Let It Be marked the last of The Beatles as a cohesive unit. It was an unraveling of their mythological persona and pseudo-religious aura. Originally titled Get It Back, as in “getting back to their roots”, it turned into a film documenting their breakup.

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