Fifty years later, the melodic and memorable tunes of the Fab Four are still embedded into our collective DNA. On this golden anniversary, their songs sound as vital and fresh as ever and continue to enchant new generations. It is safe to say that there is no other band so beloved by 8-year-olds, their grandparents and an astounding number of people in between. "In My Life", an award-winning musical retelling of the Beatles history through the eyes of manager Brian Epstein and featuring the live music of renowned tribute Abbey Road, performs on Sunday, September 29 at the Redding Civic Auditorium.
Why are the Beatles still so profoundly popular and enduring? Their records are in heavy rotation on radio, continue to sell in massive quantities and are covered by present day rock and pop artists? Even the Beatles themselves expected success would be fleeting.
“Oh, yeah, we thought a couple years, that would be it,” Paul McCartney told USA TODAY in 2009. “We never thought it would last at all.”
Growing up in the seaport town of Liverpool, teenagers Harrison, McCartney and Lennon had access to American records imported by merchant seamen. They listened to artists like Elvis, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Carl Perkins and the Everly Brothers. The Beatles were unsurpassed in their eclecticism, willing to borrow from not only R&B and blues songs, but popular standards, gospel, folk, or whatever seemed suitable for their musical vision. They supplied an unmatched songwriting savvy, a brash guitar-oriented attack and wildly enthusiastic vocals. They synthesized all that they loved about their musical idols and changed it into something original and even more exciting.
“They dropped the “roll” from rock ’n’ roll and replaced it with ‘pop,’” said Axel Clarke, who plays “Ringo” in “In My Life”. “They combined rock and popular music in a unique fashion without losing rock’s primal, driving sound.”
Listen to one of the Beatles early songs like "Love Me Do". Compared with their later work, it is not a great Beatles song, but it’s energetic and fresh. Most strikingly, it has not grown old. You can almost imagine a contemporary band releasing this song. This is because the performance is so exuberant and that the Beatles’ sound has had such a widespread influence. The lads from Liverpool may have built their music on the shoulders of American giants like Perkins and Presley, but their intricate harmonies and jangly guitars were unique and endlessly imitated.
The Beatles most lasting legacy was their refusal to stand still or exploit song writing formulas. All of their subsequent albums and singles would show remarkable artistic progression. Even on their second LP, With the Beatles (1963), it was evident that their talents as composers and instrumentalists were expanding furiously, as they devised ever more inventive melodies and harmonies, and boosted the fullness of their arrangements.
Relentlessly imaginative and experimental, the Beatles always stayed ahead of the pack in terms of creativity but never lost their ability to communicate their increasingly sophisticated ideas to a mass audience.
"They never tried to appease the tastes and preferences of the public or be fashionable,"
"I think this has been the reason for our continued success,” McCartney told Hit Parader in 1967. “We could have stopped thinking up new things and brought out 'Son Of Please Please Me' or 'The Son Of Love Me Do,' but that was not on. We work on one song, and record it, and then get tired of it. So we think up something very different. The strength of any act is doing something that you wouldn't associate with them."
Additionally, producer George Martin was the perfect foil for the group, refining their ideas without tinkering with their cores. During the last half of their career, he was indispensable for his ability to translate their concepts into arrangements that required complex orchestration, innovative applications of recording technology, and an ever-widening array of instruments.
When the Beatles were signed to EMI’s subsidiary, Parlophone Records, Martin was not impressed with John, Paul, George and Ringo as musicians or songwriters and he demanded that they only record songs written by professional songwriters.
In “In My Life”, a scene is recreated in the “Abbey Road” Studios with the Beatles recording a song written by Mitch Murray called “How Do You Do It?” at the insistence of Martin. The Beatles convinced Martin (portrayed by voiceover) to instead record “Please Please Me”. Upon completion of the song, Martin exclaimed the now infamous line: “Congratulations boys, you’ve just recorded your first number one single.”
The Beatles established the prototype for the self-contained rock group that wrote and performed its own material. As composers, their craft and melodic originality were second to none, and key to the evolution of rock from its blues/R&
For better or worse, they also made the studio, not the stage, their natural home. Their success meant that EMI gave them carte blanche access to the Abbey Road studios—they were not charged for studio time[ and could spend as long as they wanted working on music. The Beatles increasingly used the studio as an instrument in itself, spending long hours experimenting and writing.
"I've never figured it out, and I don't think anyone has ever been able to,” Beatles publicist Derek Taylor said about the band’s enduring popularity."
More than any other top group, the Beatles' success was very much a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. Their phenomenal cohesion was due in large degree to most of the group having played together in Liverpool for about five years before they began to have hit records.
McCartney summed it up this way in 2009: ”I think the music is very well-structured, like a good house. It's going to stand for a long time.”
In My Life - A Musical Theatre Tribute to The Beatles is the award-winning musical biography of The Beatles through the eyes of manager Brian Epstein and features the live music of renowned tribute band Abbey Road. The multi-media musical plays at the Redding Civic Auditorium on Sunday, September 29 at 7 pm. Tickets may be purchased by phoning (530)-229-0022 or online at www.reddingcivic.com. (http://www.reddingcivic.com/