The Beatles and the Guitar

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.

The Beatles.

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.

6 responses to “The Beatles and the Guitar”

  1. Such an appropriate tribute; thank you! What gifts the Beatles gave us. Penny Lane and Eleanor Rigby, for example, are so moving. The Beatles’ range of creative paths, their energy and vision, were inspiring. Growing up in Birkenhead, across the Mersey from Liverpool, I knew of the Beatles from early on. My high school history teacher was in the same class as John Lennon as a teenager. So many stories… . Even now there’s a great deal of pride on Merseyside because of them. I think the film “Yesterday” really captures the actual quality of their music, especially the beauty of their melodies.

  2. I couldn’t agree more Dave – I was 5 when the Beatles hit the big time and remember the impact they had – even if I did prefer the Dave Clark 5 at the time! I wanted to play the guitar so bad at that age that my parents bought me a chad valley one which all I did was pose with it! I totally agree about the guitar and songwriting – guiar performers will never go away. My ukulele band do a Beatles medley, 8 Days a week, And I love her, Paperback Writer, I saw her standing there and others. Their music will live on forever.

  3. Damh, you are spot on regarding the Beatles and all of their music. Their talent for writing and recording music that people want to hear is ageless. Rubber Soul and the White Album will forever be my favorite albums. Thanks for the walk down Penny Lane. /|\

  4. I’ve noticed it’s common for people to take things for granted as they are today, without realizing how they’ve changed. The Beatles were groundbreaking 60 years ago, but if people don’t remember it for themselves, if they’re only comparing them to music they personally remember, then I guess they might be tempted to call them “overrated.”

  5. Loved this article Damh, thank you! I remember dancing (mostly the shake, LOL) to songs on the Please Please Me album with my friends as we were just entering our mid-teens, all of us crazy about the Beatles! Their music has stood the test of time. Early Beatles music still takes me back to days worth remembering. Incredible to think that was all of 60 years ago! 🙂

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