Edited by Bill Gibron and Stuart Henderson and Produced by Sarah Zupko
Where do you begin? How do you encapsulate the legacy of a media myth that is still rewriting and refining its legacy some five decades after the fact? The influence is undeniable, entire generations of musicians and songwriters stumbling through their archive, marveling at the achievement and strident originality. The iconography is ever-present, their sound synonymous not only with a specific genre, but with the entire artform in general. Toss out all the clichés you want — they were the voice of an era, the soundtrack to our lives — but the truth remains that John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr set the benchmark for lasting pop stardom, a standard that to this day has the four lads from Liverpool earning the endearing tag of greatest rock and roll band ever.
Do people today realize how all encompassing the Beatles phenomenon was back in the 1960s when mass culture still reigned supreme and the millions of niches fostered by the growth of digital technology still had many years before taking shape? Do they recognize them as more than the recent digital remasters available on iTunes or Rock Band video game avatars? Are they dismissed as a ’60s boy band with just a smidgen more talent than their overhyped ’90s equivalent? It seems unusual for a band, especially one that literally shaped the notion of a modern pop culture phenomenon (for good and “Bigger than Jesus” bad) to be so randomly dismissed this way. Outside of all the Anthologies and regular anniversary hype (“It was 20… 30… 40 years ago today…”), the talented foursome remains elusive in some quarters.
So let PopMatters reintroduce the Beatles to you. Let is fall back in time to a moment when music was at a crossroads, when the conservative Establishment and burgeoning counterculture were looking for a post-Camelot sonic subject to wrestle over, with a quartet of lovable UK moptops answering the call. Let us show you the brilliance — and occasional bungling — within their stunning creative catalog. Understand their role as amazing media giants (they conquered them all — including film, TV, books, and art). Explore the darker side of their personalities, as well as the uplifting message of peace and love that permeated their still unmatched way with a tune. Though their time together as a band was only 10 short years (in contrast, U2 have been together for 33!), the maximized it in a way few have ever dared.
Over the next five days (and a couple more come the week of Thanksgiving), our staff will dissect their discography, look at their success — and failure — as film stars, and address the many songs that both perfectly captured their seminal song craft (as well pinpointing a few forgotten gems). They will deconstruct their four-piece paradigm, as well as explain that most intangible of group insanities known as Beatlemania. Their magnum opus, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band will be studied (and critically reconsidered) while some personal perspective on the group’s influence throughout the decades will be explained. In 1964, America was formally introduced to the band when a bastardized version of their With the Beatles LP hit these shores under a now familiar title. Forty-five years later, it’s time for PopMatters to help you Re-Meet the Beatles.