1 - Why we love The Beatles
1 - Why we love The Beatles
The term "The Beatles" can be used in either singular or plural. It can be "Beatle music" or "Beatles music." They are one, and of the many; separate entities, but also a complete whole.
They were of the same "oneness" in their physical state as the "oneness" of their signature sound. Their indivisibility as a group preceded the ‘oneness’ of their sound. They not only grew up together, in the same place, but went through their late teens and early adulthoods together, as a cohesive unit.
Says David Bedford, author of the incredible book: Liddypool: Birthplace of The Beatles:
"By the time they stepped into the recording studio for the first time, John, Paul and George had already been performing together for nearly five years. They were already ‘bonded’ due to their common background."
Pete Best was fired because he ‘didn’t fit in.’ McCartney remarks in Anthologies: "As soon as Ringo joined the group everything started to jell." This cohesiveness strengthened when they became famous as they lived with each other, literally just the four of them in hotel rooms, for years. All they had was each other. They inhabited a world where it was the four of them on one side, and the rest of the planet on the other. It was the four of them, as close human beings, which fertilized the soil for their music to flourish.
This "forced coagulation" explains their brilliant musical timing. It created an instinct in them when it came to harmonizing with each other and the give-and-take between the lead and back-up vocals. As their personalities blended, so did their musicianship.
Tim Riley, author of Tell Me Why: A Beatles Commentary, writes:
"One of the key strengths of their sound – early or late – is their symbiotic blend, the warm ensemble playing that communicates so much meaning as well as the joy of playing together. There is a natural give-and-take between the four players that is special in any style of music. The wealth of shared experience in their sound never gets in the way of each member’s individuality."
How we perceived them
They were able to create and impart this magical world because they always remained true to themselves, while at the same time being all things to everyone. They never tried to appease the tastes and preferences of the public or to be fashionable. They self-consciously reached out and embraced the world, but always on their terms. They were able to remake themselves by creating their own unique rhythm, harmony and tones. In this way, they were able to move so gracefully from one musical genre to the next – sometimes even on the same album.
They were both their own show, and their own audience. They welcomed us into their world. They created their own world but also emerged from it. A drama where art not only imitates, but constitutes life itself.
In this world there were wonderful things: people lived in yellow submarines; guitars cried; octopuses invited you to sit in a garden; a lonely person sat by the door knitting a pair of socks; diamonds soared into the heavens. You could take a tour full of mystery or go down to a place where nothing is real; take a plane ride or sit back and listen to stories about cowboys and singing blackbirds; visit a circus or go for a ride in a submarine. You could think about a box of chocolates or a traffic warden, or just sit back and watch the sun.
This world was open for engagement to anyone who wanted to visit just by sitting back and listening to the song. The images they created were always on a short track to our emotions.
We love The Beatles because they offer us a brief reprieve from our daily corporeal existence. We can quickly hop over into their world and grab a dose of enjoyment at no cost or effort. When we return, we feel just a little bit better.
In The Sound of Our Time, David Laing says: "Before almost any of their song moves, it delights – the ‘creation-elation’ element to their sound and the consciousness of themselves as performers, delighting them and us."
Adding to this concept, in A Day In The life: The Music and Artistry of The Beatles, Mark Hertzgaard, remarks:
"What we hear in Beatles songs are words which invoke and convey the joy, sorrow, struggle, laughter, wisdom, anger, love, fear, and other emotions and experiences that make up the human condition."
We wanted to be like them
Michael Conway of Humboldt State University believes that the reason The Beatles were so special is because they were everything to us:
"They were the preachers, the psychologists, our best friends, big brothers, and fathers all rolled into one. They provided us with advice set to a melody. They let us know they were feeling the same things we were feeling; doing the same things we were doing."
Conway compares them with the wandering minstrels of the Middle Ages, the itinerant poet-musicians who used their musicianship to fulfill a multiplicity of roles – entertainer, critic, chronicler, and commentator. The music itself becomes the medium or vehicle transmitting the pattern of personal experience and it has the potential to function as persuasive communication. They set life into motion with every word, song, and action. Each song tells a story of love, friendship, and regret – emotions common to the general listener.
Ken Womack of Penn State University believes that the main reason they meant so much to us, and to Western culture in general, is that their musical canon functioned as a master-text, a socio-historical touchstone, and as a grand narrative. They believed in the existence of a grand narrative, albeit not an exclusionary macro narrative for understanding the world.
"By authoring the text of their lives via their music in the 1960s, they engaged in a self-conscious effort to tell their own stories about the inherent difficulties that come with growing up and growing older. They shared a series of experiences that clearly challenged (yet also validated) their individual and collective senses of self at nearly every turn. The Beatles’ modernism involves the invocation of a universal, unifying ethical center and a persistent optimism about an unknowable future in contrast with a lingering nostalgia for the past. Time and time again, we can revisit their unifying vision of love, hope, and community, because the overall theme of their musical canon is universal."