Re-thinking The Beatles

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Not long ago I referred to The Beatles as “THE Band,” with emphasis on “THE” in all capital letters.

In the world of my teen years, the boys from Liverpool took the nation by storm. The outpouring of affection and idolization was such that the term “Beatlemania” was coined. On their heels, such a plethora of rock bands from their home country came to America that the phenomenon was referred to as “The British Invasion.” In my junior high and high school years my favorite band was, truly, The Beatles.

Music has the ability, unlike any other, to transport people from where they are to where they have been — in their minds, at least.

For example, when the song, “Brandy. You’re a Fine Girl,” recorded by Looking Glass, comes on the “classic” rock station, I am immediately back in the Summer of 1972 on thirty days of mess duty at the Officer’s Candidate School at Marine Corps Base Quantico, VA. I am with my friends, scrubbing pots between meals, and all of us singing along with the music piped into the mess hall during off-hours.

The same type of experience happens in my car when certain Beatles songs are played. I go back in my mind to a simpler time. It really wasn’t all that simple, of course. The Civil Rights Movement was underway, Vietnam was tearing the country apart, the Kent State massacre and Watergate were just down the road, and Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy would be assassinated in 1968, the same year the Beatles released “The White Album,” which included the songs, “Happiness is a Warm Gun, “Hey Jude,” and “Revolution.”

But I didn’t buy that album. It seems that my affection for the Beatles centered then, and now, on their earlier songs.

A few months ago, I subscribed to Sirius XM Radio which, among the many channels, features “The Beatles Channel.” As I have listened to that channel over the months, I began to realize that the songs I really liked and listened to were are recorded from 1962 – 1965. After that, they lost me as a listener. There were a few songs that were exceptions, but not very many.

The Beatles had 17 songs in eight years that hit #1 on the charts. Nine of those occurred during the three years of 1963 – 1965. The remaining eight were #1 over the next five years. The songs I cared about back then, the songs that transport me back to those days in my mind, are confined to a very narrow time period. I realized just recently that I am a fan of the Beatles early years only.

What changed? Well, the music scene changed. There were many more bands to choose from as the ’60s geared up and many of those bands were simply great. I would say that my tastes changed but I don’t think they did all that much.

I liked then, and still like, the songs that tell a story, that are optimistic, that speak of joy, of lost love found or love found for the first time, of hope. “From Me to You” was the first #1 song followed by “She Loves You,” a song that is still a favorite. “A Hard Day’s Night” held out the promise that a hard-working man could still come home to someone who loved and cherished him.

But the Beatles changed, too. Whether it was politics, drugs, attitude, fame, money, Eastern religious influence, or something else, I can’t say. All I knew and know is that, by 1967, for the most part, they lost me.

From 1962 – 1970, the Beatles released 213 songs. After the break-up they released about 100 more. As the members of the group went their own way, they continued to write and record. I almost never listened to those songs.

John Lennon was murdered outside his apartment in 1980 by a man who had just gotten his autograph. He admitted that he had no ill will toward Lennon and killed him for the attention he would get. He was 40 years old.

George Harrison continued to record and enjoy success as a solo artist. However, after a long battle with cancer, he died in 2001 at the age of 58.

Richard Starkey, best known as Ringo Starr, was the quiet member of the Beatles and was the drummer. He continues to write and perform. At the age of 80, his financial worth is estimated at $150 million dollars.

Paul McCartney, along with Lennon , was one of rock’s most prolific songwriters. Together, Lennon and McCartney were the world’s most successful songwriting partnership in history. McCartney continues to perform to packed-out stadiums, occasionally appearing with Ringo Starr. At age 78, he is worth $1.2 billion. Paul McCartney was, and remains, my favorite member of The Beatles.

In 1965, the group recorded “In My Life.” As I have grown older, the lyrics have taken on a much deeper meaning that when I was 14 years old and had not lived very much of my life. This song takes me back to my freshman year of high school but it also brings back memories of people and places of that time until now. So, over 50 years later, the Beatles can still take me back.

In 1965, Queen Elizabeth II knighted the four young men. As of 2012, The Beatles had sold over 600 million units. One of their songs won an Academy Award. They were the best selling band in history and, in 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine named them the Most Significant and Influential Rock Band of the last 50 years. A list of their awards and accolades is too lengthy to publish here.

So, are they “THE” band, as I recently described them? I can’t speak for everyone but, “in my life,” yes. Even though I was only influenced by the very early slice of their music years, yes they are. The Beatles are THE band.

[David Epps is the Rector of the Cathedral of Christ the King (www.ctk.life). During the crisis, the church is live streaming at 10:00 a.m. on Sundays at http://www.facebook.com/cctksharpsburg/ He is the bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-South He may contacted at davidepps@ctk.life.]

2 COMMENTS

  1. Nothing to rethink here. The group’s earlier albums and 45s contained many memorable singles for sure, but heading into the late 60s, the songs matured and the band took on a more progressive sound. The White Album, their best selling at 19x-platinum, is regarded as one of the greatest albums of all time, highlighted by its multiple track diversity and the classic “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” with Eric Clapton on solo guitar.

    Abbey Road, their last studio recording (but not their final release) continued with a more progressive rock sound with “Come Together.” George Harrison’s tracks of “Something” and “Here Comes the Sun” would elevate his status and rise within the group as a songwriter / composer. The earlier or albeit their last album, Let It Be was a return to their more simplistic, less complicated sound (but over produced by Phil Spector) and is clearly, clearly their most underrated.

    All told, you can say that the Beatles musical catalog captured the young listeners early on with their pop ballads, but they definitely progressed with their writing and their sound (along with the times) to become one of the most influential and significant of all the rock & roll bands. You should give a re-listen to their later works, but by all means discover “All Things Must Pass” by Harrison from 1970. As for now, I’ll just “Let It Be.”