Monday, May 28, 2012

Legends: The Beatles

“There are two kinds of people in this world,” My grandfather told me. “Elvis fans and Beatles fans. And nothing in between.”

I was an Elvis fan. But that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate what The Beatles brought to the musical table. They took what Elvis was doing, and made it different. Without Elvis, would there have been The Beatles? The world may never know. However, between the man and the band, the music was plentiful and the music charts were full. The truth is, while I really did not get inspired by The Beatles, I was inspired by Lennon and loved what Paul McCartney was doing as a solo artist with his 70’s string of hits. (Band on the Run, Jet, What the Man Said and Let Me Roll It To You) Those are some really good tunes right there. The music Lennon was putting out was also top of the line. (Mind Games, So This Is Christmas, Give Peace A Chance)

Known also as the “Fab Four” - The Beatles were an English rock band formed in Liverpool in 1960 and one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed acts in the history of popular music. The group's best-known lineup consisted of John Lennon (rhythm guitar, vocals), Paul McCartney (bass guitar, vocals), George Harrison (lead guitar, vocals) and Ringo Starr (drums, vocals). Rooted in skiffle and 1950s rock and roll, the group later worked in many genres ranging from pop ballads to psychedelic rock, often incorporating classical and other elements in innovative ways. Their enormous popularity first emerged as "Beatlemania"; as their songwriting grew in sophistication, by the late 1960s they came to be perceived by many fans and cultural observers as an embodiment of the ideals shared by the era’s socioculture revolutions.

As a five-piece line-up of Lennon, McCartney and Harrison on guitar and vocals, with Stuart Sutcliffe (bass) and Pete Best (drums), the band built their reputation playing clubs in Liverpool and Hamburg over a three-year period from 1960. Sutcliffe left the group in 1961, and Best was replaced by Starr the following year. Molded into a professional act by manager Brian Epstein, their musical potential was enhanced by the creativity of producer George Martin. They gained popularity in the United Kingdom after their first single, "Love Me Do", became a modest hit in late 1962, and they acquired the nickname the "Fab Four" as Beatlemania grew in Britain over the following year. By early 1964 they had become international stars, leading the "British Invasion" of the United States pop market. The band toured extensively around the world until August 1966, when they performed their final commercial concert. From 1966 they produced what many critics consider to be some of their finest material, including the innovative and widely influential albums Revolver (1966), Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), The Beatles (1968) and Abbey Road (1969). After their break-up in 1970, the ex-Beatles each found success in individual musical careers. Lennon was murdered in 1980, and Harrison died of cancer in 2001. McCartney and Starr remain active.

The Beatles are the best selling band or musical act in history, with estimated sales of over one billion units according to Guinness World Records. They have had more number-one albums on the UK charts and have held the top spot longer than any other musical act. According to the RIAA, as of 2012 they have sold 177 million units in the US, more than any other artist, and in 2008 they topped Billboard magazine's list of the all-time most successful Hot 100 artists. As of 2012, they hold the record for most number-one hits on the Hot 100 chart with 20. They have received 7 Grammy Awards from the American National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, an Academy Award for Best Original Song Score and 15 Ivor Novello Awards from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors. They were collectively included in Time magazine's compilation of the 20th century’s 100 most influential people.

Through it all, The Beatles released over 12 albums, a television film, “Magical Mystery Tour”. And did a cameo for the animated movie “Yellow Submarine” which featured a cartoon version of the band and a soundtrack with eleven of the group's songs, including four unreleased studio recordings which made their debut in the film. Released in June 1968, it was well received by many critics for its music, humor, and innovative visual style. A soundtrack album followed seven months later.

On 8 May the Spector-produced “Let It Be” was released. The LP and its accompanying single, "The Long and Winding Road", were the band's last. The Let It Be documentary film followed later that month, and would win the 1970 Academy Award for the Best Original Song Score. Film critic Penelope Gilliatt calls it, "a very bad film and a touching one ... about the breaking apart of this reassuring, geometrically perfect, once apparently ageless family of siblings." It was the opinion of several reviewers that some of the performances in the film sounded better than their equivalent album tracks. According to Unterberger, Let It Be is the "only Beatles album to occasion negative, even hostile reviews", though he describes it as "on the whole underrated", praising in particular the McCartney contributions "Let It Be", "Get Back", and "The Long and Winding Road", calling "Two Of Us" a "highlight" and adding that "there are some good moments of straight hard rock in "I‘ve Got A Feeling" and "Dig A Pony" McCartney filed suit for the dissolution of the band on 31 December 1970, and the partnership legally ended on 9 January 1975.

Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, and Starr all released albums in 1970, beginning solo careers for each that sometimes involved one or more of the others. Starr's “Ringo” (1973) was the only album to include compositions and performances by all four ex-Beatles, albeit on separate songs. With Starr's collaboration, Harrison staged The Concert For Bangladesh in New York City in August 1971. Other than an unreleased jam session in 1974, later bootlegged as A Toot And A Snore in ‘74, Lennon and McCartney never recorded together again.

Two double-LP sets of the band's greatest hits, compiled by Klein, 1962-1966 and 1967-1970, were released in 1973, at first under the Apple Records imprint. Commonly known as the Red Album and Blue Album respectively, each earned a Multi-Platinum certification in the United States and a Platinum certification in the United Kingdom. Between 1976 and 1982, EMI/Capitol released a wave of compilation albums without input from the ex-Beatles, starting with the double-disc compilation Rock N Roll Music. The only one to feature previously unreleased material was The Beatles At The Hollywood Bowl (1977); the first officially issued concert recordings by the group, it contained selections from two shows they played during their 1964 and 1965 US tours. The band unsuccessfully attempted to block the 1977 release of Live! At the Star-Club in Hamburg, Germany; 1962. The independently issued album compiled recordings made during the group's Hamburg residency, taped on a basic recording machine using only one microphone.

In April 1974, the musical John, Paul, George, Ringo and Bert, written by Willy Russell, and featuring singer Barbara Dickson opened in London. It included, with permission from Northern Songs, eleven Lennon-McCartney and one Harrison composition, "Here Comes The Sun". Displeased with the production's use of his song, Harrison later withdrew his permission to use it. The Broadway musical Beatlemania, a nostalgia revue, opened in early 1977 and proved popular, spinning off five separate touring productions. In 1979, the band sued the producers, settling for several million dollars in damages. "People were just thinking The Beatles were like public domain", said Harrison. "You can't just go around pilfering The Beatles' material." Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978), a musical film starring the Bee Gees and Peter Frampton, was a commercial failure and "artistic fiasco".

In December 1980 Lennon was murdered. In a personal tribute, Harrison re-wrote a new but yet to be issued song "All Those Years Ago" in his honor. With new lyrics, McCartney and his wife Linda contributing backing vocals, and Starr on drums, the song was released as a single in May 1981. McCartney's own tribute, "Here Today", appeared on his Tug Of War album in April 1982. In 1987 Harrison's Cloud Nine album included "When We Was Fab", a song inspired by the Beatles era.

When the band's studio albums were released on CD by EMI and Apple Corps in 1987, their catalogue was standardized throughout the world, establishing a canon of the twelve original studio LPs as issued in the United Kingdom, as well as the US LP version of Magical Mystery Tour (1967), which had been released as a shorter double EP in the UK. EMI also deleted all but the Red and Blue compilations from its catalogue. The remaining material from singles and EPs not issued on these albums was gathered on the two-volume compilation Past Masters (1988).

The Beatles were inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1988, their first year of eligibility. Harrison and Starr attended the ceremony with Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, and his two sons, Julian and Sean. McCartney declined to attend, citing unresolved "business differences" that would make him "feel like a complete hypocrite waving and smiling with them at a fake reunion." The following year, EMI/Capitol settled a decade-long lawsuit filed by the band over royalties, clearing the way to commercially package previously unreleased material.

In their initial incarnation as cheerful, wisecracking moptops, the Fab Four revolutionized the sound, style, and attitude of popular music and opened rock and roll's doors to a tidal wave of British rock acts. Their initial impact would have been enough to establish the Beatles as one of their era's most influential cultural forces, but they didn't stop there. Although their initial style was a highly original, irresistibly catchy synthesis of early American rock and roll and R&B, the Beatles spent the rest of the 1960s expanding rock's stylistic frontiers, consistently staking out new musical territory on each release. The band's increasingly sophisticated experimentation encompassed a variety of genres, including folk-rock, country, psychedelia, and baroque pop, without sacrificing the effortless mass appeal of their early work.

In The Beatles As Musicians, Walter Everett describes Lennon and McCartney's contrasting motivations and approaches to composition: "McCartney may be said to have constantly developed—as a means to entertain—a focused musical talent with an ear for counterpoint and other aspects of craft in the demonstration of a universally agreed-upon common language that he did much to enrich. Conversely, Lennon's mature music is best appreciated as the daring product of a largely unconscious, searching but undisciplined artistic sensibility."

Ian MacDonald, comparing the two composers in Revolution In The Head, describes McCartney as "a natural melodist - a creator of tunes capable of existing apart from their harmony". His melody lines are characterized as primarily "vertical", employing wide, consonant intervals which express his "extrovert energy and optimism". Conversely, Lennon's "sedentary, ironic personality" is reflected in a "horizontal" approach featuring minimal, dissonant intervals and repetitive melodies which rely on their harmonic accompaniment for interest: "Basically a realist, he instinctively kept his melodies close to the rhythms and cadences of speech, coloring his lyrics with bluesy tone and harmony rather than creating tunes that made striking shapes of their own." MacDonald praises Harrison's lead guitar work for the role his "character-full lines and textural colorings" play in supporting Lennon and McCartney's parts, and describes Starr as "the father of modern pop/rock drumming .... His faintly behind-the-beat style subtly propelled The Beatles, his tunings brought the bottom end into recorded drum sound, and his distinctly eccentric fills remain among the most memorable in pop music."

The Beatles made innovative use of technology, expanding the possibilities of recorded music. They urged experimentation by Martin and his recording engineers, while seeking ways to put chance occurrences to creative use. Accidental guitar feedback, a resonating glass bottle, a tape loaded the wrong way round so that it played backwards—any of these might be incorporated into their music. Their desire to create new sounds on every new recording, combined with Martin's arranging abilities and the studio expertise of EMI staff engineers Norman Smith, Ken Townsend, and Emerick, all contributed significantly to their records from Rubber Soul and, especially, Revolver forward. Along with innovative studio techniques such as sound effects, unconventional microphone placements, tape loops, double tracking and vari-speed recording, they augmented their songs with instruments that were unconventional for rock music at the time. These included string and brass ensembles as well as Indian instruments such as the sitar in "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" and the swarmandal in "Strawberry Fields Forever". They also used early electronic instruments such as the Mellotron, with which McCartney supplied the flute voices on the "Strawberry Fields" intro, and the clavioline, an electronic keyboard that created the unusual oboe-like sound on "Baby, You‘re A Rich Man".

The Beatles' influence on popular culture was - and remains - immense. Former Rolling Stone associate editor Robert Greenfield compares the band to Picasso, in that they were "artists who broke through the constraints of their time period to come up with something that was unique and original". Greenfield comments, "In the form of popular music, no one will ever be more revolutionary, more creative and more distinctive". From the 1920s, the United States had dominated popular entertainment culture throughout much of the world, via Hollywood movies, jazz, the music of Broadway and Tin Pan Alley and, later, the rock and roll that first emerged in Memphis, Tennessee. The Beatles not only "ushered in" the British Invasion of the US, they also became a globally influential phenomenon.

Their musical innovations and commercial success inspired musicians worldwide, and many artists have acknowledged their influence, or have enjoyed chart success with covers of Beatles songs. On radio, their arrival marked the beginning of a new era; program director Rick Sklar of New York's WABC went so far as to forbid his DJs from playing any "pre-Beatles" music. The Beatles helped to redefined the LP as something more than just a few hits padded out with "filler", and they were a primary innovator of the modern music video. The Shea Stadium show with which they opened their 1965 North American Tour attracted an estimated 55,600 people, then the largest audience in concert history, which Spitz describes as a "major breakthrough" and "a giant step toward reshaping the concert business." Gould observes that the emulation of their clothing and especially their hairstyles, which became a mark of rebellion, had a global impact on fashion.

According to Gould, the band changed the way people listened to popular music and experienced its role in their lives. From what began as the Beatlemania fad, he writes, grew to be perceived by many fans and cultural observers as an embodiment of the ideals shared by the era‘s socioculture revolutions. Gould further claims that as icons of the 1960s counterculture, they became a catalyst for bohemianism and activism in various social and political arenas, fuelling movements such as women’s liberation, gay liberation and enviromentalism. According to author Peter Lavezzoli, after the "more popular than Jesus" controversy in 1966, the Beatles felt considerable pressure to say the right things and "began a concerted effort to spread a message of wisdom and higher consciousness."

It's been a hard days night

Source: Wikipedia -

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