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The Beatles

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Quick: you have to write a piece summarizing the Beatles and their influence on the world in general and music in particular. Where do you even begin? Do you bother with the Cavern Club days or the Pete Best years? How Brian Epstein hearted Lennon? The “more important than Jesus Christ” comment, and the subsequent record burnings? Or do you merely point at the thousands of bands that their music spawned, from Tears for Fears, Oasis and Jellyfish to Nirvana, Queen and the Chemical Brothers?

How about some grand hyperbole instead: The Beatles are, without question, the single biggest influence on pop music, ever. Sure, they weren’t the first rock band, and they, were they all still alive, would be the first to tell you who inspired them, from Little Richard and Buddy Holly to the Byrds, Bob Dylan and LSD. But the one thing that cannot be ignored is that if the Beatles hadn’t come together when they did, the world – the world – would be a much different place. Some have even argued that rock ‘n roll would have died in the ‘60s, had the Beatles not come along. After all, this whole rock ‘n roll thing was just supposed to be a fad, and before long, all the kids would go back to Johnny Mathis and Nat “King” Cole, right? Personally, I don’t think that’s true, since the Kinks, the Stones and the Who were nipping on the Beatles’ heels. Rock would have survived, but it wouldn’t have been anything like it is today.

One other aspect of the Beatles that I think goes overlooked is that they were a pop band, but that pop band could outrock every rock band in sight. The Stones, great as they were, never made anything as visceral, or as heavy, as “Helter Skelter” or “Revolution.” Not even Led Zeppelin could touch John, Paul, George and Ringo when they had their game faces on. Amusingly enough, that battle began anew in the ‘90s, when Nirvana (Beatles) and Pearl Jam (Stones) hit the scene. Pearl Jam had their thrash-y moments, but they never did anything that could hold a candle to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” or “Territorial Pissings.”

You’ll also be hard pressed to name another band that was so good at so many different things. Name a genre, and the Beatles contributed something extraordinary to it. Looking for a ballad? Try “Yesterday,” the most recorded song in pop music history, “Here, There and Everywhere,” or “Michelle.” How about a folk song? “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away.” Want a west coast pop song? Here, have “Ticket to Ride.” Soul? “Got to Get You into My Life,” “I’m Down,” and “Oh! Darling” (not coincidentally, all Paul songs). Wanna get psychedelic? Where do we start? “Tomorrow Never Knows,” “A Day in the Life,” “I Am the Walrus,” “Because” (not coincidentally, all John songs), the list goes on and on. You name it, they did it, and they did it better than anyone else. Hell, they made a classical song in “Eleanor Rigby,” the lyrics of which were dissected in one of my college English classes, twenty years after the song was recorded.

The beginning and the end of pop music are both inside the Beatles’ catalog. Even Chuck D acknowledges that Revolver is the best album of all time. Artists as diverse as Marshall Crenshaw and Jon Brion performed in Beatlemania. The band’s reach was limitless, their inspiration was boundless, and their influence is endless. They were one of the few bands that literally changed the world, and infinitely for the better. Would you like to know more? I’d love to turn you on…

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Four Boys From Liverpool

(Ringo) On joining the band:
"The Beatles drummer was sick, so they asked me if I would sit in, you know, just for the day... just until he got better. I did that, and then I went off with another group when they got him back. Then he was sick again. So every time he was sick they used to come and ask me to sit in. I loved it, you know, because they were a much better group than the one I was with."

(John) On their haircuts:

(John) On how long the band's fame would last (in 1963):
"How long are you going to last? ...well you can't really say, you know. You can be big headed and say, 'Yea we're gonna last ten years,' but as soon as you've said that you think, 'We're lucky if we last three months,' you know."

(George and Paul) On the Beatles dolls:
George: They're actually life size, you know."
Interviewer: "The ones we've seen are only about five inches high."
Paul: "Well, we're midgets, you see."

(George) On being a musician:
"I'm a musician and I don't know why. Many people feel that life is pre-destined. I think it is vaguely, but it's still up to the person which way your life is going to go. All I've ever done is keep being me, and it's all worked out... like magic. I never planned anything, so it's obvious that that's what I am destined to be. I'm a musician. It's my gig."

(Ringo) On touring: "It was the best time and the worst time of my life. The best because we played alot of good music, and we had alot of good times. And the worst time because touring is never a pleasure. Playing was always the pleasure, but what goes with it, especially for a group as big as us. It was like 24 hours a day with no break... with the press and people fighting to get into your room, and climbing 25 stories of drainpipes knocking on your window. I mean it never stopped. And if you do too much touring... with what was going on around us... I personally would have gone insane."

(Paul) On the "Paul is Dead" rumors:
"Do I look dead? I am fit as a fiddle. I am alive and well and concerned about the rumors of my death. But if I were dead, I would be the last to know."