The Beatles and the Guitar
There are moments when a film, an album, a book, or even an idea, comes along and changes everything. From that moment nothing will ever be as it was before. Life is forever changed. I’ve experienced it a couple of times, but momentous things like that don’t come along often.
As I look back at the development of music there is an obvious moment like this.
Actually several moments, and all created by the same band.
I had a conversation with a friend once who said they thought The Beatles were overrated. With all the things they achieved, I can’t see that. The breadth of their sonic achievements is quite frankly astounding. A musical journey that goes from the teen pop of Please Please Me, to the depth of Rubber Soul in just three years, and then on to Sergeant Pepper and beyond.
The arrival of The Beatles and their creativity gave permission to future bands and artists to write and record their own songs, rather than being the front piece of a faceless corporate machine, churning out hits written in the offices of Tin Pan Alley.
Again, a huge step forward.
Then there are the creative methods they used and invented in the studio. An incredible thing to consider in this age of digital recording, where I can record my own music in my home with an almost infinite number of tracks, is that the Beatles did a lot of their recordings on a simple 4-track studio machine, bouncing tracks and creating their albums.
And the results – I think it’s fair to say that with the arrival of The Beatles modern popular music arrived, and it’s stayed pretty consistent since then. To give an idea of what I mean – Please Please Me was released in 1963. Sixty years ago. Listen to it now and of course it gives the impression of its era, but the songs still stand up well. When the album was released sixty years prior to that was 1903. Listen to music from that era and you can immediately hear the changes from that to the Beatles. The Beatles, their songs and music, and their attitude paved the way for modern music.
Since 1963 music has (mostly) been ageless. Music by the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Ramones, Deep Purple, and Rainbow, to name just a few, and then later (but still decades old) Metallica, Slayer, even going back a few decades to some of the Nu Metal bands, all of the music really still stands the test of time.
All of this is of course also linked to the guitar. There has been music that has tried to make that incredible instrument redundant, but every time it comes back, most recently with Britpop in the 90s and now the modern Singer/Songwriter. All the time the guitar is picked up by someone, learned and played in bedrooms, emotions poured into song, it will forever live on.
And almost every new player will learn a couple of Beatles songs, that’s for sure.