The Birth of Rock: "Ladies and Gentlemen . . . the Beatles!"
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The Birth of Rock: "Ladies and Gentlemen . . . the Beatles!"

As of 2009, the Beatles have won an Academy Award, 7 Grammy Awards, had 24 multi-platinum albums, 39 platinum albums, 45 gold albums, a one silver. Inducted in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, they are ranked #1, hold the record for most #1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 chart (with 20), and have certifiably sold more albums in the US than any other artist. Collectively (John, Paul, George, and Ringo) were included in Time magazine's compilation of the 20th century's 100 most influential people, with the recording industry acknowledging them as the best-selling band in history, with estimated sales over one billion units. (With the resurgence of interest in Beatle music over the past 3 years, this figure is most certainly tens of millions of units higher by now.)

While Elvis Presley’s extraordinary contribution to American Rock music can hardly be overstated, unless you were there to witness the phenomenal impact of the Beatles--not just to American Rock music but the American cultural scene--it’s virtually impossible to imagine.  As Beatle Ringo Starr stated so succinctly in recent years, “There were a lot of good rock bands, and a few great ones.  But we were f**king rock monsters!”  And indeed, they were (and continue to be).

When the Beatles entered the American music charts in March of 1964 with “Please, Please Me” and “Love Me Do,” the top-charting Billboard songs were “Telstar” by the Tornados, “Walk Like a Man” by the Four Seasons (featuring Frankie Valli), and “Our day Will Come” by Ruby and the Romantics.  Although the Beatles had attempted to made their presence known to American audiences in January of that year, having appeared on the music variety show Thank Your Lucky Stars performing “Please, Please Me,” their initial impact was minimal since the show had limited faithful viewers and the Beatles performed last of seven acts.

While the Beatles had acquired a small but loyal following due to their American released singles, it was their momentous appearances on the famed entertainment show The Ed Sullivan Show that set into motion a culture-storm the likes of which has never experienced before or since in America. 

While Elvis had made three appearances on Ed’s show (in September and October of 1956 and in January of 1957), Elvis was regularly accessible to American audiences, frequently appearing on stages all across the country.  The Beatles, however, carried a much more exotic fascination.  From Liverpool, England, their growing worldwide popularity was like a travelogue of distant lands; foreign places most Americans only dreamed about. 

On February 9th, 1964, viewers tuned in with great anticipation and fanfare to the highly popular show to get their first glimpse of these “mop-topped” boys who played what many already considered the most catchy music since Elvis, as they performed "All My Loving,” "Till There Was You,” "She Loves You,” "I Saw Her Standing There," and “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (which had been the #1 song in the country since January). 

Drawing over 73 million viewers (the American population was estimated at just 190 million at that time)--a record for a US television broadcast--viewers watched a studio audience composed primarily of screaming hysterical teenage girls in tears in the throes of what would be termed “Beatlemania.”  The Beatles would appear again on February 16th, February 23th, and on August 14th, 1965 to even greater audience reaction.  (After that, Sullivan could neither afford the Beatles nor was willing to risk their safety.)

During the 1960s, the Beatles recorded 217 tracks of music which (according to their producer and engineer George Martin) were distributed through 27 studio albums, 4 live albums, 57 compilation albums, 21 EPs, and 55 singles, in addition to conceiving and producing the first ever music videos.

As of 2009, the Beatles have won an Academy Award, 7 Grammy Awards, had 24 multi-platinum albums, 39 platinum albums, 45 gold albums, a one silver.  Inducted in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, they are ranked #1, hold the record for most #1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 chart (with 20), and have certifiably sold more albums in the US than any other artist in history. 

Collectively (John, Paul, George, and Ringo) were included in Time magazine's compilation of the 20th century's 100 most influential people, with the recording industry acknowledging them as the best-selling band of all time, with estimated sales over one billion units.  (With the resurgence of interest in Beatle music over the past 3 years, this figure is most certainly tens of millions of units higher by now.)

While it would be impossible to comprehensively cover the Beatles’ contribution to Rock music without devoting many pages of text to the subject, it may be possible to put their contributions into relative perspective. 

While many people equate the Beatles’ impact on American culture with that of Elvis, it’s important to recognize that Elvis was not a songwriter and not an instrumentalist; he was a performer, a vocal stylist of other people’s songs. 

Today, most musicologists world-wide acknowledge the Beatles with being the most musically innovative, forward-thinking group of musicians of the 20th century.  Many compare their creativity and out-right genius to classical composers such as Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart.  Dozens of universities across America offer music courses on the Beatles' music.  Their methology and sheer musical creativity is used as teaching devises.

Even fifty years later, it’s impossible to turn on the radio without hearing the Beatles’ influence on current artists.  The vast majority of current pop stars--whether Country, Hip-Hop, New Age, Indi, or any other pop field--credit the Beatles with being among their greatest influences.  A great deal of what attracts listeners to many of today’s artists are elements that can be traced directly to Beatles songs. Absolutley no band in the world is as imitated, emulated, and revered. 

The Beatles virtually created “World Music.”  While past performers had sung their songs in other languages, not only did the Beatles sing several of their songs in foreign tongues (such as Italian and German), they promoted the infusion of French culture (“Michelle”), Jamaican culture (“Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da”), and Indian culture (“Within You and Without You”)--among others, opening the door for inclusion of music from all over the world.

References:

Rock: A History of Change, T. C. Carr

The Rock Revolution, A. Shaw

http://www.britishbeatlesfanclub.co.uk/

http://www.fanpop.com/spots/the-beatles

http://www.beatlesfannext.com/

Thumb via: http://www.leader-values.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Beatles.jpg with my sincere appreciation

Visit JAMES R COFFEY WRITING SERVICES AND RESOURCE CENTER for more information

 

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Comments (22)

":I love you yeah yeah yeah" wonderful account of the history of the Beatles. I am a big fan and pleased that their music is often played on our local stations here in NC...voted

I am a fan of the Beatles as well and I couldn't agree more with what you have presented here, James.

Ranked #1 in Music

Thanks, Francina!

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Thanks deep blue. Their contribution is indisputable.

Excellent job on this one James!!! Voted and tweeted!!

Ranked #1 in Music

Thanks, Diane. I'm guessing you're a fan!

The Beatles were pure magic. I was 5 years old when they made their appearance on Ed Sullivan and I was instantly infatuated. Voting up.

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Thanks for your contribution, Marilyn. Pure magic--I couldn't have characterized it better myself. If younger generations only knew what they missed!

I liked the beetles but I was not gaga over them

Greatest band of all time! Very well-presented. Thanks for sharing.

Great information about a great group of true artists

Ranked #2 in Music

As a Beatlemaniac I find this article very useful to sharing the magic of the Fab Four. Indispensable history here! Voted Up. Thanks!

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Thanks, all! I very much appreciate the readership and comments!

I was never an Elvis fan, and not really a true Beatles fan, they were just a wee bit before my time, but between them both I honestly prefer the Beatles. Dare I say it? I felt the Beatles were more original - Elvis was just taking things from others and making it "his own". Good history of music.

The Beatles' music is still relevant today, classic!

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Thanks, Brenda and Christy!

Ranked #17 in Music

The Beatles? Oh, yes, that "little group" from Liverpool. Say you want a revolution? Count me out (in)...

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So . . . it rings a bell, William?

Without a doubt the Lennon McCartney song writing due was the greatest of all time.

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Astonishing talent, Peter!

I just attended a wedding where the father of the bride chose the song, "In My Life" for their dance. It's much later than the songs in your article, but it shows how powerful the Beatles are. Well done.

Ranked #1 in Music

What a stunningly poignant song. I could write several pages on just the beauty of their lyric.

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