"No other entertainers in history have been as popular, as influential, as important or as groundbreaking" as the Beatles. So wrote USA Today.
Thebeatles.com suggests the band’s influences include film ("Help!," one of their 10 movies, inspiring rock musicals and music videos), politics (thawing "the Cold War more efficiently than missiles or diplomacy"), speech (making British accents acceptable in pop music) and music itself (revolutionizing its "sound, style and attitude").
They influenced fashion with the "tailored mohair suits with narrow lapels," Jeremy Roberts writes in "The Beatles." Even more influential were their longish hairstyles, nicknamed "mop tops."
"The best-selling act ever sold 600 million albums worldwide," USA Today continued. "The band hijacked the entertainment media and transcended music to become a chapter in world history. Its members had political clout, spiritual authority, cultural sway and the ears of the planet." Of course, the Beatles had their own influences. "The Beatles taught themselves to play by listening to American performers," said Wilmington resident Joel Glazier, referring to what is now called Motown and rhythm & blues sounds. "They idolized America."
"Paul said ‘Rock Around the Clock’ sent a tingle down his spine," recalled North Wilmington resident Johnny Kay, who played the song often as lead guitarist for Bill Haley’s Comets. Kay said George Harrison told him then that "without ‘Rock Around the Clock’ there would be no rock."
The Beatles trace their musical history to the Quarrymen, a Liverpool group formed in 1956 by John Lennon, adding Paul McCartney in 1957, George Harrison in 1958 and Stuart Sutcliffe in 1960. In August of that year they started performing with drummer Pete Best in Hamburg, Germany, under the name of the Beatles. The name was inspired by Buddy Holly’s Crickets and the "Beat" generation. At first, they covered many bands, with the Isley Brothers’ "Twist and Shout" as a finale.
Sutcliffe, who left the band in 1961 to continue studying art, died in 1962. Following complaints about his performance, Best was replaced in 1962 by Ringo Starr.
The Beatles’ first single was "Love Me Do" from their first album "Please Please Me" in 1963. Tours in Britain, heavy radio play and strong music sales led to shrieking mobs of fans that were dubbed "Beatlemania." The quartet arrived with great fanfare in the U.S. in February 1964. By 1966, Lennon said they were "more popular than Jesus" – a statement that that resulted in the band’s records being burned and removed from radio playlists in the U.S.
"Let It Be" was released as their final studio album in 1970. All four continued in solo and group careers. John was shot and killed outside his New York City home on Dec. 8, 1980, while George died of cancer on Nov. 29, 2001. Paul and Ringo still write and record music, fifty years after they came to the U.S.
A LITTLE PRAISE FROM THEIR FRIENDS
Local musicians weigh in on the Beatles influence
• Johnny Kay, guitarist, Bill Haley and the Comets
They’re great songwriters, and their songs can be played in any genre: elevator music, jazz, country. I remember a great blues, slowed-down, pleading version of ‘Help!’ People a hundred years from now will be listening to the Beatles."
Favorite Beatles song: "In My Life," was playing on the hospital sound system when his daughter was born.
• Scott Birney, Sin City Band
"With songs, musicianship and humor they changed the world, one young soul at a time.
Favorite Beatles song: "I Saw Her Standing There"
• David Bromberg, singer-songwriter
"They were extremely creative and inventive. George Martin did some amazing arrangements, and even their stripped-down tunes just cook. They created a new style of drumming that included more space. Paul’s bass playing was more exciting and beautiful than anything in rock before. Their songs were extraordinary."
Favorite Beatles song: "Hey Jude"
• Nik Everett, singer-songwriter
"They were the first boy band, but deeper than that. They were the first self-contained band, doing their own writing and own playing. So tight musically, so innovative. They were part of the big bang for rock with Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan."
Favorite Beatles song: "All You Need is Love"
• Joe Trainor, musician
"They were magnificent songwriters, with a philosophical approach, also showing psychedelic and Indian influences. All their messages were about love, peace and hope." Trainor’s trio is doing an "Abbey Road" set at the Kennett Flash on April 19.
Favorite Beatles songs: "I am the Walrus" and "Happiness is a Warm Gun."
• David Amado, music director of the Delaware Symphony Orchestra
"I, like so many, just find the Beatles are a wonderful combination of great, great tunes ("Yesterday"), great riffs ("Day Tripper") and powerful un-pop-like social commentary (for the time…"Eleanor Rigby"). And all this wrapped up in a now-iconic package. It makes it irresistible. It is great music."
Favorite Beatles song:
• Charlie Phillips, songwriter
"They had the ability to create memorable and emotionally moving melodies. Their music evokes joy. They constructed songs like a painting and experimented with sounds. I’ll forever find that fascinating and continue to learn from them."
Favorite Beatles song: "She Said She Said"
• Mike Stone
"The Beatles influenced our taste in music and our lifestyles. It was a time when you were excited to your core to hear their new music. The Beatles made us happy." Stone worked at Warner Bros. and with George Harrison in the 1970s, whose restaurant, Stoney’s in Brandywine Hundred, is hosting a Beatles party all month.
Favorite Beatles song:"I’ve Just Seen a Face"
Larry Kane, the veteran Philadelphia broadcaster, was the only U.S. journalist at every stop on the Beatles’ 1964 and 1965 U.S. tours. Kane, just 21 then, wrote a 2003 book – with a CD of his radio reports – called "Ticket to Ride." The chronicle shows him becoming a confidant, playing Monopoly, enjoying a pool party, and helping the Beatles around security issues.
It covers 51 concerts, encounters with celebrities like Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Jayne Mansfield, and the draining routine of touring. "What impressed me most about all of them was their indisputable naturalness and, to varying degrees, the depth of their humanity and their lack of phoniness," Kane writes.
IN HIS LIFE
Wilmington resident Joel Glazier has often used Beatles songs to teach. "Their songs make the kids think," he said. For example:
Geography: "Back in the U.S.S.R" has inspired discussions on political change, and "Penny Lane" leads to a lesson about micro-geography and neighborhoods.
Art: "Yellow Submarine," with its sea of green, leads to learning how blue plus yellow makes green.
History: "One cannot escape mentioning the influence of the Beatles on modern England."
Music: "Even the most reluctant of learners sits up for those drumbeats in ‘She Loves You’."
Glazier is retired from public schools but continues sharing his knowledge of the Beatles at universities, fan conventions (three times in Liverpool for a lecture on the 1969 rumor that "Paul is dead") and programs sponsored by the Delaware Humanities Forum. He’ll also speak about Beatles history at 2 p.m. Feb. 27 at the South Coastal Library, Bethany Beach, and 2:30 p.m. March 8 at the Kirkwood Library.
Of course, he saw the Beatles perform (in Philadelphia in 1966) and all of them later perform separately. And he has had conversations with them all. Lennon, he said, "was the most friendly, the most cordial and my favorite."
BY THE NUMBERS
1 – The title of a 2000 compilation of 27 hit singles. It was the best-selling album of the decade.
18 – Number of Beatles songs that include a woman’s name in the title.
19 – Number of weeks "Hey Jude" charted, the longest of any Beatles song.
20 – Number of No. 1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart – the most of any band.
23 – Length in seconds of the shortest Beatles song, "Her Majesty." The longest, at 8 minutes and 15 seconds, is "Revolution 9."
24 – Number of "yeahs" in "She Loves You."
28 – Average length in minutes of a Beatles concert in their first American tour.
75 – Number of faces on the cover of "Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band."
217 – Number of songs released in the U.K. from 1962-70. Thanks to remixes and other versions, there were 251 – Beatles songs in the catalog that Michael Jackson bought in 1985.
1,278 – Number of weeks Beatles material charted on Billboard.
SOURCES: From Entertainment Weekly, www.infoplease.com and other sources.
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