Help! It’s The Return Of The Sixties: Beatlemania 2009 (written Sept ’09 for Toggle Magazine)

     The miniskirt may no longer be the epitome of rebellion, the Woodstock Festival is long over, and the memories of England’s World Cup victory may be fading further into the realms of ancient history, but one only has to look at the Amazon CD and game charts to know that one thing’s for certain – Beatlemania is back. Whether you’re strumming a plastic guitar in accordance with brightly coloured prompts from a games console or head-nodding along to a newly-remastered Abbey Road album on the train, you’re part of the second wave of Beatles-appreciation. Can you imagine such a fuss being made over The Jonas Brothers in nearly fifty years? Thought not.
     But why do The Beatles have such a lasting impact on our culture? After all, the lyrics “She loves you – yeah, yeah, yeah” are hardly Shakespeare or Wordsworth. Their voices aren’t exactly of a Pavarotti or Presley standard. The beginnings of their fame had silly, youthful bowl-haircuts, while the end was marked by hippyish, overgrown locks – and that’s not even delving into the Sergeant Pepper-era moustaches. And arguably, they’re not even particularly attractive; especially not when one looks at the bands of today – bands of disputable ‘talent’ such as JLS apparently sell well because they have whiter-than-white teeth and toned abs (according to my friends – incidentally, I have absolutely no idea who they are). To the untrained eye and ear, by rights The Fab Four should have been a flash in the pan. Was Simon Cowell onto something when he claimed that they would never have made it past the first round of The X Factor?
     Well, quite frankly – seeing as most of the flotsam that The X Factor produces is dire, unimaginative and back to the dole queue after a few flop singles, while the Beatles’ popularity marches on with an unassailable reputation and generations of avid fans – it’s a bit like comparing the literary merits of War And Peace to those of Twilight, but more ridiculous. One simply cannot underestimate the influence that the four boys from Liverpool have had on the world. For example – do you like any songs with guitar feedback in them? The Beatles started it, with the distortion that opens ‘I Feel Fine’. Like concept albums? Look no further than Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Do samples in songs rock your iPod? Yes, you guessed it, The Beatles did it first. Their influence is tangible in many current songs and albums: Muse’s latest album is heavily orchestrated, but The Beatles were the first popular band to have a full orchestra playing in the background. The recent 3OH!3 single ‘Don’t Trust Me’ is peppered with frequent refrains of “woah” – but The Beatles started the trend for putting informal fillers in songs. You get the picture; many of the things that we take as givens in popular music were innovated by The Beatles.
      And, frighteningly, that’s just an argument for them being the most pioneering band of all time; not taking into account the actual music. Their music is timeless: while the early hits, such as ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ and ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ may sound somewhat tinny, they’re feelgood hits. Everyone recognises the opening of ‘She Loves You’ – lyrically profound it is not, but it’s nearly as infectious as an attack of headlice (though, of course, in a much nicer way). But it’s their progress from the innocent love songs of the Please Please Me era to the psychedelia of Sgt Pepper and Magical Mystery Tour that is most astonishing – if you weren’t well informed, you’d be quite happy to think that ‘Love Me Do’ and ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’ were written by entirely different bands in entirely different ages. The brash harmonica that accompanies ‘Love Me Do’ is totally at odds with the other-worldly ethereality that personifies ‘Across The Universe’ (from final album Let It Be). It’s de rigeur these days that a band must constantly evolve its sound: but I’m yet to hear a greater progression of sound than the one undertaken by the Fab Four.
     Yet, despite all this, it’s still incredible just how enduring The Beatles’ legacy is. While their current monopoly of the top 30-selling albums could be a backlash at the hordes of depressingly uniform R’n’B acts that congest the Top 40 these days, the sheer amount of articles, TV programmes and what-have-you being circulated about a band that split nearly forty years ago is phenomenal. It’s hard to understand for the younger generations how much of a fuss is being made over a collection of remastered albums. But, as a clever marketing ploy to involve us youngsters, they’ve released The Beatles: Rock Band game. Whether it makes you go out and buy the £200 limited-edition Beatles In Mono boxset as a result of playing the game, or whether you spend hours with your parents, zombie-like, perfecting the ‘Paperback Writer’ chords, you’ve helped keep the greatest band ever at the forefront of our culture. Strawberry Fields Forever, indeed.

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One response

  1. […] retract that opinion, borderline blasphemous as it sounds. Much as I love The Beatles (proven here), and despite the fact that they were famously ‘bigger than Jesus’, they were never […]

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