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Author Topic: Beatles as innovators  (Read 19455 times)

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Kevin

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Beatles as innovators
« on: December 09, 2010, 11:51:58 AM »

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.
« Last Edit: December 09, 2010, 11:57:28 AM by Kevin »
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nimrod

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Re: Beatles as innovators
« Reply #1 on: December 09, 2010, 12:43:30 PM »

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

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Re: Beatles as innovators
« Reply #2 on: December 09, 2010, 01:00:57 PM »

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

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.
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Joost

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Re: Beatles as innovators
« Reply #3 on: December 09, 2010, 02:44:00 PM »

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.
« Last Edit: December 09, 2010, 02:47:51 PM by Joost »
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Kevin

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Re: Beatles as innovators
« Reply #4 on: December 09, 2010, 04:32:42 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.

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.
« Last Edit: December 09, 2010, 04:38:06 PM by Kevin »
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Ovi

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Re: Beatles as innovators
« Reply #5 on: December 09, 2010, 04:38:22 PM »

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.

Yes, you're right. They were smarter, and they were not afraid to try new things. They were both original, creative and musical talentated. They did a nonsense song from the lyrics point of view(I Am The Walrus) and people loved it mainly because it sounded damn good and it was catchy. The fact that it's very original just makes you respect it and love it more.Just like your sitar example Kevin, when I first heard Norwegian Wood I had no idea that that was a sitar playing back there, but I extremly enjoyed the song because it sounded good.
They tried new stuff and they made it look cool. (the Abbey Road Side 2, the Rooftop concert, the whole Sgt. Pepper's and I could go on...)
Original stuff and ideas + Musical talent = Why the Beatles got famous and influential.At least, that's my opinion.  ;D
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Kevin

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Re: Beatles as innovators
« Reply #6 on: December 09, 2010, 04:51:47 PM »

They tried new stuff and they made it look cool. (the Abbey Road Side 2, the Rooftop concert, the whole Sgt. Pepper's and I could go on...)
Original stuff and ideas + Musical talent = Why the Beatles got famous and influential.At least, that's my opinion.  ;D

And an opinion very much respected.
Sorry I can't help myself - Abbey road side 2 isn't the first rock/pop medley, nor the first that has a common theme. Check out 1965 Freak Out. Just that The Beatles do it so much better.
Google "Jefferson Airplane roof top concert 1968", and you'll see a filmed rooftop concert almost identical to the one in Let It Be, complete with rooftop panorama, hand held cinima verite, office workers gawking from windows, crowded streets  and even the police arriving at the end.
Sgt Pepper - concept albums had been done by Peppers arrival. Just that Pepper was bigger, brighter and more better.
« Last Edit: December 09, 2010, 04:58:08 PM by Kevin »
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nyfan(41)

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Re: Beatles as innovators
« Reply #7 on: December 09, 2010, 05:04:02 PM »

i dont know . .
i often hear/read the opinion that the beatles had their ear to the street and popularized what was an underground trend on the rise....
some debatable/accurate beatle 'firsts' i've heard include:
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use of feedback ( i feel fine) - john himself called this a first

backwards music (rain) - a technique john stumbled onto through a mistake whilst under the influence

classical (yesterday/eleanor) . . use of classical in a pop format anyway..

album cover as art/lyrics included/concept album - sgt pepper

tape loops (tomorrow never knows- but more famouslly rev #9) john said everyone would be making music this way one day because anyone can do it. he was right ! most modern popular music uses samples and loops

indian music - - george on love you to thru within u without...

hard hard rock - -(helter skelter) . . this is indeed a hard track

long hair, neru jackets, assorted fashion trends, drug use...... they were certainly popularizers along these lines.... did they reflect their times or change their times or both. can anyone really say?
------------------------------------------
to me the real innovation by the beatles was that they were the first really popular act wher the artist wrote the songs, played the instruments and sang the songs
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no songwriters, studio musicians behind the scenes. in my opinion that set the standard and changed everything
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Ovi

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Re: Beatles as innovators
« Reply #8 on: December 09, 2010, 05:52:45 PM »

Just that The Beatles do it so much better.


That.
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nimrod

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Re: Beatles as innovators
« Reply #9 on: December 09, 2010, 11:16:16 PM »

I dont like these lists of 'first' by them, as Kevin is right that some things were done by less famous people before, The Yardbirds tried to put sitar on a single called Heart Full Of Soul, it didnt sound right so Jeff Beck used a sitarish setting on his amp & guitar.........I never knew there was a concept album before Pepper though with a gatefold cover and lyrics though or did the full orchestra thing  ???

I just know that before them, the music world was very much different and out of all the bands Ive heard (and it is many) I think they had the most talent for constantly coming up with great songs, hit after hit after hit, you literally never knew what was coming next, Im old so I remember the day Strawberry Fields and Pepper came out, the effect they had was phenominal, sounds on pop records that you had never heard before like Mr Kite, the slurpy cello's on Strawberry Fields and the strange mellotron intro.

Ive always been very into bands that created new sub genres especially in prog, like Yes, Floyd, King Crimson, Genesis (early) and I love those bands with a passion, they were so clever and were such brilliant musicians (well maybe not Floyd) who adopted their own sound and complxity of arrangements........but for me at the end of the day, none of them can compare to magic of The Beatles and the sheer power of their melodies.....and I think most members of those bands would agree.
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Musicfan67

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Re: Beatles as innovators
« Reply #10 on: December 09, 2010, 11:30:25 PM »

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.


What is your problem with the Beatles? They are easily one of the most innovative bands in music period. The Beatles were the first band or George Harrison was the first rock guitarist to play the sitar and tamboura on a rock record. That's the innovation they played and employed it on rock records. Roger McGuinn of the Byrds and Jeff Beck actually never played Indian instruments on their records. They just imitated the sound on guitar.

Read this  book "The Dawn of Indian Music in the West" is a book by Peter Lavezzoli he states “Love You To” it’s considered the first pop song to emulate a non western form in instrumentation and form.


Do you even know why the Byrds went electric in the first place?

“When the Beatles had come out, the folk boom had already peaked," McGuinn notes. "The people who had been into it were getting kind of burned out. It just wasn't very gratifying, and it had become so commercial that it had lost its meaning for a lot of people. So the Beatles kind of re-energized it for me. I thought it was natural to put the Beatles' beat and the energy of the Beatles into folk music. And in fact, I heard folk chord changes in the Beatles' music when I listened to their early stuff like 'She Loves You' and 'I Want To Hold Your Hand.' I could hear the passing chords that we always use in folk music: the G-Em-Am-B kind of stuff. So I really think the Beatles invented folk-rock. They just didn't know it.”

Rock Music which is a popular form of music is really a synthesis of established past styles. There is nothing wrong with mixing the traditional aspects of music with elements that are not normally associated with pop or rock music.

Frank Zappa's innovations especially in the beginning consisted of incorporating avante-garde musical language of the early twentieth century—such as atonal and serial composition influence by Iannis Xenakis, and Edgard Varèse into rock music.










« Last Edit: December 10, 2010, 12:22:38 AM by Musicfan67 »
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Musicfan67

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Re: Beatles as innovators
« Reply #11 on: December 09, 2010, 11:51:25 PM »

And an opinion very much respected.
Sorry I can't help myself - Abbey road side 2 isn't the first rock/pop medley, nor the first that has a common theme. Check out 1965 Freak Out. Just that The Beatles do it so much better.
Google "Jefferson Airplane roof top concert 1968", and you'll see a filmed rooftop concert almost identical to the one in Let It Be, complete with rooftop panorama, hand held cinima verite, office workers gawking from windows, crowded streets  and even the police arriving at the end.
Sgt Pepper - concept albums had been done by Peppers arrival. Just that Pepper was bigger, brighter and more better.

First get your facts straight? Freak Out was recorded in 1966. Freak Out is not a medley but Abbey Road is. Freak Out is not even the first concept album period. So you can innovate or expand on something. You think Jimi Hendrix invented feedback and distortion?

 Also the structure of Sgt Pepper is what influenced later concept albums. The tracks faded in with loops, the introductory song and then it is reprised at the end followed up with encore.
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Musicfan67

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Re: Beatles as innovators
« Reply #12 on: December 10, 2010, 12:15:21 AM »

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.

Rock Music which is a popular form of music is really a synthesis of established past styles.

Actually "A Day in the Life" is the first rock song that I know that uses a full symphony orchestra. Even it isn't the way they used as a orhestral orgasm of sound is why peolple talk about. You think Joe Meek was first to use distortion? Well it was done before Joe Meek so what is your point? If you can find me song like "Eleanor Rigby" that has an arrangement of strings and vocals with no rock instruments then tell me? Also clearly they were using the studio as an instrument much differently than Joe Mek also.

The Beatles (Rubber Soul) 1965 Brian Wilson cited it as an inspiration for "Pet Sounds." This was where rock became a true art form. They incorporated different time signatures, new instruments, and other musical styles. This album also uses the studio as an instrument before Pet Sounds. "Think for Yourself" and "If I Needed Someone" has guitar tones and vocal harmonies closer to what would be the standard in the psychedelic movement.

The Beatles (Revolver) 1966 Revolutionary in early preoccupation with "psychedelic" effects as a studio instrument, including electronic/tape effects, sound distortion, influence of Indian music, and avant-garde.

The Beatles (Sgt Pepper) 1967 An album psychedelic classic with electronic music, avant music, world music, tape, Art SONG, reversed effects, varied time signatures with the songs that are in which the song are in either song cycle form or songs linked together

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nyfan(41)

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Re: Beatles as innovators
« Reply #13 on: December 10, 2010, 01:45:48 AM »

didn't know about joe meek
just googled and found that his technical ingenuity was responsible for the 1956 hit record bad penny blues... the piano of which paul borrowed for lady madonna (learned that on this website! ;D) at the time george martin was the a&r of the record company that released that single. he surely knew of meek's innovative work. cool !

and it seems that meek wrote a psychedellic concept album in 1960 !!! . . .  but it was shelved
it was called outer space music fantasy/i hear a new world and it combined skiffle/rock with unusual sound effects, harmonies & studio wizardry to approximate what music was like on other planets.
just checked it out and it gives tomorrow never knows a run for its money. nice !
meek was given the chance to work with the beatles and passed it up. he would go on to describe them as "just another bunch of noise, copying other people's music" lol
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anyway-> as far as using the studio as an instrument . .  that breakthrough really goes to Les Paul
and
for unusual use of orchestra in a pop song.... can't forget spike jones ! a big influence on the beatles ! (did some youtubing and (besides the unorthodox use of orchestra) kept hearing all the barnyard animals of good morning, sound effects of yellow submarine etc)
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Hello Goodbye

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Re: Beatles as innovators
« Reply #14 on: December 10, 2010, 02:26:21 AM »

and it seems that meek wrote a psychedellic concept album in 1960 !!! . . .  but it was shelved
it was called outer space music fantasy/i hear a new world and it combined skiffle/rock with unusual sound effects, harmonies & studio wizardry to approximate what music was like on other planets.
just checked it out and it gives tomorrow never knows a run for its money. nice !


1960, man.  Far out!

Joe Meek (The Blue Men) - I Hear A New World



 ;D


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Musicfan67

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Re: Beatles as innovators
« Reply #15 on: December 10, 2010, 03:48:21 AM »

didn't know about joe meek
just googled and found that his technical ingenuity was responsible for the 1956 hit record bad penny blues... the piano of which paul borrowed for lady madonna (learned that on this website! ;D) at the time george martin was the a&r of the record company that released that single. he surely knew of meek's innovative work. cool !

and it seems that meek wrote a psychedellic concept album in 1960 !!! . . .  but it was shelved
it was called outer space music fantasy/i hear a new world and it combined skiffle/rock with unusual sound effects, harmonies & studio wizardry to approximate what music was like on other planets.
just checked it out and it gives tomorrow never knows a run for its money. nice !
meek was given the chance to work with the beatles and passed it up. he would go on to describe them as "just another bunch of noise, copying other people's music" lol
-
-
anyway-> as far as using the studio as an instrument . .  that breakthrough really goes to Les Paul
and
for unusual use of orchestra in a pop song.... can't forget spike jones ! a big influence on the beatles ! (did some youtubing and (besides the unorthodox use of orchestra) kept hearing all the barnyard animals of good morning, sound effects of yellow submarine etc)




Again it's nothing like "Tomorrow Never Knows". The track is one or two chords it depends on how you see it. They added multiple loops layered them by them fading in and out all over the track, processed vocals, one bass line note and Ringo basically playing a drum bar loop. The style of that track basically all over the place in pop music today to the point even people in hip-hop have acknowledged it's influence.

http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,588111,00.html



There so many things.

Pete Townshend implicitly made the distinction when he said 'The Beatles brought songwriting to rock 'n' roll'. That's not to say that the legacy of Three-Chord Trick classics, from Chuck's 'Johnny B Goode to the Rolling Stones “Satisfaction” aren’t great songs. But the point is the Beatles that they were using a complete arsenal of resources. The Beatles dramatically broadened the potential of the pop song.

The 12 string Rickenbocker was the instrument George Harrison influenced Roger McGuinn to use which became the sound of the Byrds and much of folk rock, power pop, and jangle pop. The Who and the Animals also used the instrument.


"They the Beatles were doing things nobody was doing. Their chords were outrageous, just outrageous, and their harmonies made it all valid. They were pointing the direction music had to go”.

Bob Dylan

There have been plenty written how the Beatles harmonic and melodic tendencies differed from the American rock and roll and R&B music that came before them.

Do you actually know anything about music theory again? I don't know anyone prior to rock and roll whose music that had classical musicians compare rock artists to the Schubert like flow of musical invention and that was Leonard Bernstein saying that. Also the Beatles went way beyond their rock and roll and pop roots. Yeh they were well versed in pop, country, R&B, assorted styles in rock and roll, European Folk and Skiffle. But went way beyond that with, bolero, ska, reggae, vaudeville, cabaret, musical hall, modern aleatory, musique concrete, atonality, electronic music, avant garde, jazz, baroque and the extended dissonant sonorities George Harrison would explore on "I Want to Tell You” and "Only a Northern Song". Again people like George Gershwin did nothing of the sort. The Beatles freely added jazz harmonies, unusual time signatures and employed varying styles of vocal harmonies to their music. They composed long songs, short songs to songs with many parts. Any listen to songs like "Blue Jay Way" or "Within You Without You" and they went way beyond the norms of popular music convention.


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nimrod

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Re: Beatles as innovators
« Reply #16 on: December 10, 2010, 04:20:57 AM »

Ive often wondered, was there a hit song with a reggea beat before Obla Di ?
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nyfan(41)

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Re: Beatles as innovators
« Reply #17 on: December 10, 2010, 04:49:12 AM »


the 'i hear a new world' track that reminded me of 'tomorrow never knows'
wasn't the title track that hello goodbye posted, it was this one:

Joe Meek (The Blue Men) - The Bublight

it starts with guitar feedback fading in just like tomornevknos and then turns into a tribal drone. it even has the same 'haunted house' piano you hear at the end of tomorrow never knows and its playing a kind if atonal indian melody over the droning bass-
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. . .  like a raga. then the hawaiian guitar comes in bending notes into semitones like a raga . .
ok, i didnt listen to the whole thing when i made my first comparison- just the beginning . . . now im going further and comparing this to classical indian music (ragas).
so im changing my comparison from tomorrow never knows to within you and without you ! haha  ha2ha
seriously though - this track is growing on me as background music !

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Musicfan67

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Re: Beatles as innovators
« Reply #18 on: December 10, 2010, 04:51:03 AM »

The Beatles used a ska beat as early as "I Call Your Name" in 1964. "I Call Your Name" on April 10, 1964, on the US LP The Beatles' Second Album (putting it on a British ... The insistent pounding beat, the electric 12-string guitar, the unexpected ska-tempoed instrumental break.

Getting back to this. So Les Paul or Joe Meek used the studio as an instrument before people Byrds, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Led Zeppelin etc... That doesn't mean they didn't use it differently or expand the use of it or innovate a new sound. The one main between difference between Joe Meek and the Beatles is the Beatles were great songwriters who was combining studio experimentation with unconventional songwriting.

A lot of what the Beatles did at the time was considered unacceptable by the musical academic's, but it was obviously acceptable to the record buying public. It was not unusual for the Beatles to have more than one record in the top ten in England at the time, and not only that but they often occupied number 1 and number 2 positions as well.

Paul and John were real innovators of music; they used unusual key changes together with unusual chords and complex chord changes, as well as total shifts in tempo, and sometimes two songs were mixed together, for example "A Day In The Life" was two totally different songs, one written by Paul and the other one written by John, but it worked, it has to be heard to be believed


Take for example compare this song sonic texture to what the Doors and the Velvet Underground were doing at the time.

LUCY IN THE SKY WITH DIAMONDS  
The musical complexity—odd metres alternating in sections and 3 key changes, tambouras, Lowrey organs, altered vocals and guitars—is perfectly balanced by childlike lyrics. Talk about being proto-prog a song King Crimson used to cover when they started out.


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nyfan(41)

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Re: Beatles as innovators
« Reply #19 on: December 10, 2010, 04:53:45 AM »

I don't know anyone prior to rock and roll whose music that had classical musicians compare rock artists to the Schubert . . .  the Beatles went way beyond their rock and roll and pop roots. Yeh they were well versed in pop, country, R&B, assorted styles in rock and roll, European Folk and Skiffle. But went way beyond that with, bolero, ska, reggae, vaudeville, cabaret, musical hall, modern aleatory, musique concrete, atonality, electronic music, avant garde, jazz, baroque and the extended dissonant sonorities George Harrison

yeah that's a pretty good argument. there are a few compendiums with excerpted articles from 64-66 where 'serious' music and high brow intellectuals give an instant nod of approval to the beatles for their musical sophistication
-- that nod of musical approval that was denied to elvis, fabian and all of the post-sinatra youth music..
there's a scene in an elvis movie wher the girls parents and all their friends are jazz snobs. lol
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that article on hip hop and the beatles was good - thanks !
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