Fair Warning: We’re going on a trip that will cause music purists to lose it. I’m ok with that (I think). Let’s go.
I’ve heard it said, somewhat controversially, that the Beatles were pioneers of their craft, and without them the world would sound quite differently.
Agree? Sure, their absence would create a vacuum that would be filled by another type of sound, so yeah it would sound different.
Who would all the bands that claim to have been inspired by them be left to be inspired by? Take your pick. The Rolling Stones? Paul Revere and his Raiders? Dick Dale and the Del-tones? Del Shannon? the Beach Boys? They all had a similar sound early on, which was all rooted in early R&B (Yes, kids, R&B sounded much different in the late 50’s. It’s called Rhythm & Blues for a reason). Perhaps without the Beatles, the Beach Boys would’ve been forced to change their sound instead of keeping with the circa ’65 arrangement. Maybe.
Here’s a (fun?) idea. Instead of taking them out of music history, let’s clone them and place them as 24 year olds in 2010. John, Paul, George, and Ringo are here, including a youthful George Martin with a budding spirit for innovative arrangement and use of current technology. These five decided to bring some raw tunes to the table. What in the world would that sound like?
The 60’s Beatles may or may not be an inspiration to the 2010 lads. Delta Blues and Rockabilly were an inspiration to the 60’s Beatles, but the 2010’s Beatles have 50 years of music by which to be inspired. Hmmmm.
I will posit, controversially, that the mid-to-late Beatles would sound like a mix between Fleet Foxes (tight harmony) and Lord Huron (spacey arrangement, but rock-solid hook writing). George Martin would produce the way Justin Vernon and Jack White produce; Take old tech and make it sound new and exciting. Although……(keep your hands and feet inside the vehicle at all times. Screaming is allowed. What follows has been written about before, just not by me. Yet.)
The Beatles in the early 60’s were considered a pop outfit. Some have concluded that they were the equivalent to a late 90’s boy band. Uh-oh. If we go in That Direction (keep up), we’ve got a bonafide One Direction outfit touring the world, with legions of pre-teen girls going bonkers at their shows. Yet, One Direction wouldn’t have to give up touring because they could hear themselves play (in-ear monitoring systems: problem solved). Am I a fan of One Direction? I haven’t given them the opportunity. In other words, no.
I’m going to step back and read again what I just wrote. Am I saying that boy bands like One Direction are as good as the Beatles? No. I’m saying their status in the mind of a pre-teen were/are the same. But they don’t write their own songs!? Sure they do, and the Beatles covered Chuck Berry. They’re certainly as popular, given the musical landscape and it’s scale from then until now. Hmmm.
I’m uncomfortable with where this is going. I’m way too young to remember the Beatles as being written off for being a dumb pop group. All I can think of is “Yesterday” and “Helter Skelter” and “Get Back”. I’m going to go put Rubber Soul on my turntable…
Wait. This song is about a girl. Wait wait. The next one is too.
Bullocks. Hold on. Let’s go to Sgt. Pepper’s.
Good. Dirtier. Groovier.
Wait. Screaming girls?! You’re kidding me.
Ok, ok. This record is self-deprecating. Very meta of you, Beatles. Sgt. Pepper’s is a national treasure. I don’t care what anyone else says.
SO, where does that leave us? The Beatles are undoubtedly a collection of gents that wrote fistfuls of hooky songs, and in a relatively short period of time took over the world. They got tired of playing for screaming girls, so they totally changed their sound and subject matter. Without George Martin inventing new ways of using the 4 track recorder, they’d be popular but not essential to some. The also got by with a little help from their friend the AM radio. A luxury to which most new bands that write fistfuls of hooky songs don’t have access. They now rely on iTunes and Spotify. They now rely on Facebook and Twitter for marketing. The Beatles relied on their marketing team at their major label and their radio airplay, which was the only way to hear music besides owning a record or having a friend that hosted listening parties. Times certainly have changed.
Let’s just agree to keep musicians in their proper era. It’s cleaner that way.