Today we continue our new feature at A Sound Day, which we hope to run from time to time throughout the year – Turntable Talk. In it, we’ve invited several other ardent music fans and bloggers to discuss one topic. To start off, a timely one : “The Beatles : why are we still talking about them 50(+) years on?”
It seems that The Beatles are more in the news and public’s eye now than they have been in decades, with the release of the Get Back documentary last year. But, then again, they never really went away. So we’ve got a group of fellow fans to discuss what it is about the Beatles that makes them stay relevant, decade after decade. Today, we have Max, from the Power Pop blog. Although based near Nashville, Max writes daily about great rock and pop songs from the ’50s through the ’90s and at times, some of the great TV of that era as well. We recommend you checking it out! Max writes:
So why are The Beatles still popular with older and younger generations? Their influence seems never-ending. It’s as though they have never left. There are other bands that left a legacy but nothing like the footprint of the Beatles.
The Beatles shaped culture instead of following it. Society changed after that appearance on the Ed Sullivan show. They cast such a large net in music compared to everyone else. They influenced everything from rock, folk-rock, power pop, psychedelia, progressive rock, and heavy metal. They practically invented the thought or image of a rock band. They moved passed that and have become a huge part of the culture they helped create.
The Beatle’s breakup was announced in 1970. Many rumors flew that they might regroup through the years but that ended on December 8, 1980, in New York with the assassination of John Lennon.
Through the seventies, the Beatles were still quite popular with the Red and Blue greatest-hits albums released in the early seventies. The greatest hits album Rock and Roll Music (terrible silver cover) was released in 1976. Capitol released “Got To Get You In My Life” as a single off of the album and it peaked at #1 in Canada and #7 in the Billboard 100 in 1976. This was 10 years after it was released as an album track on Revolver.
I bought my first Beatle album (Hey Jude) in 1975 when I was 8 and then bought the Rock and Roll Music album. So, I was a 2nd generation Beatles fan and there were many of us. The solo Beatles dominated the charts to the mid-seventies. After 1975 they had hits but not as many as before. Beatles’ popularity waned in the mid to late 70s when the “newer/ younger” generations considered the Beatles as belonging to their parents. Many youngsters believed Led Zeppelin, Queen, and all newer bands would replace the Beatles in scope and success.
Everything changed when Lennon was murdered. A newer generation heard the music. Their popularity would go up and down but with the first Beatle CDs released in 1987…again another generation heard the Beatles. Sgt Pepper was re-released 20 years after the original and it went to number one.
What really cemented them in the public’s mind happened on November 20, 1995. The Beatles Anthology CDs were released, and the documentary was viewed during prime time on ABC. Since then, they have never left. On November 13, 2000, they released the compilation album “1” which was the best-selling album of the decade worldwide. The Beatles were also the largest selling band between 2000-2010. In 2009 The Beatles Rock Band game came out and…yet another generation found their music. One was my son who was born in 2000.
Between 2010-2020 they remixed and reissued many of their classic albums with 50th-anniversary editions. The Get Back film by Peter Jackson is the latest project that has thrust them in the spotlight again…but really, they have never left.
The bottom line for their staying power is their music. The songwriting was outstanding. Even the early music was something new. They used minor chords, and different rhythms, along with harmonizing over the top. I’m not going to go into musical theory, but they never repeated themselves. Every album stands on its own. John Lennon’s rhythm guitar was quirky and inventive, George Harrison brought in a Chet Atkins style along with jazz chords, Paul brought bass playing to a new level, and Ringo was a left-hander that played right-handed with an open high hat. The main thing was the songwriting, quality, and quantity that is rarely if ever seen.
Bob Dylan: “Their chords were outrageous, just outrageous, and their harmonies made it all valid.”
They rarely included their singles on albums. Most bands used singles to sell albums, but The Beatles treated both formats as different entities. Songs that weren’t released as singles include “Norwegian Wood”, “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away”, “With A Little Help From My Friends”, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”,” All My Loving”, “A Day In The Life”, “Back In The USSR”, “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds”, “Helter Skelter”, “Michele”, “The Night Before”, and one of the most popular Beatles song “Here Comes The Sun”, and many more. Any other band would have released these songs as singles but with the Beatles…they were just album cuts. That is how deep their songwriting was at the time, and from 1966 onward George was contributing to the quality as well. George developed into a great songwriter in an impossible situation of being with two of the best in history.
They had more of a variety than many others. They were rockers in Hamburg and The Cavern. They were pop stars in the Beatlemania years. They were rock-folk-pop in the middle period of Rubber Soul and Revolver. They were Psychedelic rockers during the Sgt Pepper and Magical Mystery Tour era. Then they went back to their roots and were rockers again with the “White Album” and Let It Be. Abbey Road saw them perfecting their craft in all genres. They knew when to make an exit…while still on top.
They broke up because they outgrew each other and were together constantly, much like brothers. John, Paul, and George grew up together in Liverpool and they knew Ringo well early on. They were never made to stay together like the Stones. The Stones developed a business/brand attitude, but the Beatles were more of a family and things were more personal.
They were not this clean polite band that Brian Epstein and the press created. In fact, the Stones and Beatles’ images should have been reversed… but to make it…they had to clean up to get through the international door. After they did, the door was open for all others. They did however speak of whatever was on their mind. They said things stars just didn’t say, even in the early days. There was something honest about them that is still there to this day.
They were symmetrical… John brought in Paul, Paul brought in George, and George brought in Ringo.
Their story adds depth to their legacy. The odds of them finding Brian Epstein, George Martin, Stuart Sutcliffe, and everyone on the way was nearly zero. If one key person would have would have gone the other way…the story would not be the same or had not happened.
In a hundred years…the question will still be asked… why are the Beatles still relevant?