Why The Beatles Are the Most Life-Affirming
Music Group of All Time
In some ways, all you have to do is listen to ‘Here Comes the Sun’ and we can leave it at that, but it’s actually just as inspiring to write about The Beatles as read about them, so here we go.
It is strange to think that while Beatlemania was first exploding across the UK and the world in 1963 and 1964, that the old guard of culture rolled its eyes and dismissed it as a fad. Not so much that they would be wrong, since popular culture certainly goes through turbulent changes and what is hot one year is certainly not in the next, but that they thought so little of the Fab Four’s overall message of peace and love and getting a little help from their friends.
While the band worked ridiculously hard in their early years - both in terms of playing for hours a night in Hamburg clubs and improving their songwriting - to become successful in the music industry itself, their combined positive outlook on life itself came through in the music. It may have started as the most basic sort of love that would come in the form of personal relationships, but their muse and message matured over their brief existence to become much more spiritual and political at the same time. Because all you need is love.
While the Beatles certainly wrote rock and roll tunes thanks in part to the basic fact that they used two guitars, a bass and a drum kit to write their songs in the early days (occasionally accompanied by piano), it’s bright and sunny sound have many people retrospectively classify it as pop. That term is shorthand for ‘popular music’, which doesn’t do much in terms of aural description. What can be said, then, is that it is immediately catchy and melodic, with a simple beat augmented by two or three chord guitar riffs. Yes, even though the bands’ friendly rival The Rolling Stones will be better known for ‘the guitar riff’, The Beatles were no slouches in that department.
What did separate the Beatles from their peers however, was how they merged playing their own instruments with having an compelling, addictive vocal presence. All four band members sang, and while the lead would be taken by whoever had written the song, the backing vocals on the chorus is truly what made the women swoon (which is why when on tour they were mobbed by everyone, from New York cheerleaders to Toronto escorts).
That hordes of imitators spilled out of the UK and America after the band’s breakout success shows just how these two minute songs of love had captured the hearts and minds of millions. The fact that their 2000 compilation of their number one singles (sensibly titled ‘1’) ended up selling thirty one million copies showed that their popularity hadn’t waned even three decades after they broke up.
The time that the Beatles existed cannot be ignored, either. The sixties were a turbulent decade that saw changes to the social structures in many western countries, and The Beatles were not afraid to stand and share their opinions, which many other young people at the time agreed with. At a time when Civil Rights were a major issue, the Beatles made a point of refusing to play for segregated audiences, insisting everyone be allowed to attend and sit or stand together. The band was outspoken about their support for all forms of peace, obviously coming out as critics of the Vietnam war. Even birth control being readily available for women meant the summer of love was certainly full of it (whereas today everyone could just join a hookup forum).
However, just as important as the exterior changes were the interior ones. George Harrison noted that once they achieved astounding success, the question became what do you do with it, and while at first drugs for the purposes of partying and having a good time was the answer, it was fleeting. Enter LSD, a hallucinogenic drug that had many mind-expanding properties, and changed the way Harrison and Lennon looked at the world when they tried it in 1965 (when it was not yet illegal in England).
The music the band was making clearly reflected these changes, and there was a growing maturity not only in lyrical content, but sonic exploration as well. This includes bringing in more unconventional instruments as well as experimental recording techniques. While other artists may have already dabbled in these ideas, when the Beatles’ did it, its effect across the industry and society was seismic.
Since Harrison had been interested in Indian music, he quickly dived into Indian spirituality as well thanks to LSD changing the way he looked at the world. Since he was a member of the biggest band on earth at the time, plenty of other people followed in his wake. The Beatles’ trip to an Indian meditation retreat in early 1968 was a sign of global interest in spiritual ideas beyond one’s own western upbringing.
At the same time, the modern environmental movement was gaining steam during this decade, and the Beatles showed their support by giving their song ‘Across the Universe’ to a World Wildlife Fund’s charity album (which became a very popular tune to cover by other artists).
While it is sad to note that The Beatles broke up simply because they got tired of working with each other (which could happen to lots of people after ten crazy years), the music that they left is undeniably positive and up-lifting. The fact that the final song on the final album they recorded (which is Abbey Road, even though Let it Be was released after) was called ‘The End’ was very fitting, and the ending couplet - ‘the love you take is equal to the love you make’ - is perhaps one of the best outlooks to have for life in general.
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