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Beatles as innovators

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Carrying on from our prog rock discussion.....
Years ago, like most people, I was amazed by the amount of innovation accreditted to The Beatles. Then one day I thought "how can this be?" How can one band, musically illiterate, who in 1960 counted much for nothing, have been responsible for so much change? It seemed as if they were responsible for every major change in music since 1963. This, as far as I could tell, had never happened before or since. How could this be? It seemed to defy the odds. One change, maybe, but three, or four?
The more I looked, the more I became convinced the answer was the most simplest one (as answers often are) - they didn't. I'm not saying they didn't contribute to changes, just that so did a lot of other people, big name acts and little heard "underground" bands. I think what makes The Beatles stand out is that they were so famous that when they did something every one noticed. I still baulk at the notion that the Beatles invented anything. Contributed -yes. Exposed to a greater audience - yes. But invented - no.
I think the sitar is a good example. Other bands had tried recording with the sitar, but dumped the idea because it sounded rubbish. David Crosby was fooling around with the sitar before George ever picked it up. Other bands had deliberately recorded guitars to sound like sitars. So yes, The Beatles were the first band to release a song with a sitar on it but by no means the first band to try. They made it popular, but certainly didn't invent the idea.

can I ask, are you a fan of The Beatles Kevin ?


--- Quote from: nimrod on December 09, 2010, 12:43:30 PM ---can I ask, are you a fan of The Beatles Kevin ?

--- End quote ---

I used to be really really into them, had the whole bedroom wall shrine thing going on. Now I'm more interested in them. And I guess interested in the way people look at them (in the late seventies they weren't highly regarded at all. That was, of course when I was really into them.) When I first heard them properly /1975 Blue Album they blew my mind in more ways than music has before or since. But I think it's a bit like your first love. You'll met a better person, but nothing will ever match that crush of first love.
I like talking about them, and deconstructing all the myth that has built up around them. I get a kick out of trying to look at them objectively. I try and look at what's there, not want I want to be there. And it's fun digging around, looking for things.
I really like their music, don't care for them much as people (though I'd like to have hung out with George - though not between 1970 and 1975, when I'd be safe from his sanctimonious sermons. I far prefer drug taking funny George  :), never listen to them as solo artists and like dissecting them.
Phew. But a fan......probably. I've got the Blue Album, Rubber Soul, two books, and I can put all the singles in chronological order in my head. Life is wonderful.

I do think The Beatles were responsible for a whole lot of changes. Not just because they were more talented than pretty much everyone else, but perhaps even more important: they could get away with a whole lot more than pretty much everyone else. In the early and mid 60s, you were a slave to your record company as a musician. If you'd try something knew, you'd be whistled back and urgently asked to please just stick to the tried and true formula. If you look at where pop music was in 1954 and then see where it was in 1962, there's no progression whatsoever. But The Beatles had so much credit, they could do whatever they want. If every single you've released for the past few years has been a #1 hit, then who's going to tell you you're doing it wrong? I think that creative liberty made them the innovators that they were. They were simply the only band that could afford to try something like hiring an orchestra and ask each musician to get from the lowest to the highest not in their own tempo.


--- Quote from: Joost on December 09, 2010, 02:44:00 PM ---I They were simply the only band that could afford to try something like hiring an orchestra and ask each musician to get from the lowest to the highest not in their own tempo.

--- End quote ---

I see your point. But like in this example, what innovation are we celebrating. A rock/pop act using an orchestra? No - done.  A rock/pop act using distorted or non-rock sounds on a pop record? No - done. Using an orchestra to make distorted or non-rock sounds on a pop record? Maybe - can't think of another.
So yes, The Beatles were powerful enough to use an actual orhestra, and the skill to use it well, whereas Jo Meek would have to have used a bucket and a straw (as he did on his effects laden 1962 Telstar.) But isn't the real innovation the fact that non-rock instruments were being distorted to create a sound, which we can trace back at least far as Meek. What The Beatles did was find a very effective (but horribly expensive) way of doing it? Maybe.


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