In 1960s emerged a band that took the world by storm, a commercial and cultural phenomenon, the Avant Grande band – The Beatles. They marked their territory and single-handedly managed to burgeon the music industry.
The Beatles were an extraordinary band, along with their producer George Martin, and they made it evident with each of their successive record. While they were a prominent figure in both pop culture and counterculture, they also catalysed variety of new artistic ideas through their records, interviews and their approach.
With a major influence of Indian music on the band members (especially Harrison), they walked in the studio to and created “Tomorrow Never knows”. This transcendental track became an epitome of sublime experimentation by pushing the boundaries of music crafting a devastatingly beautiful song. For the starters, Indian songs were made in one chord unlike their songs. They used this technique and added another layer with a secondary chord to give it more colour. Apart form this, they created a tape record of sounds they hear. More than a bunch of such tape loops were used to overdub the track and more than 6 men were handling these tapes while they recorded.
“The whole point is that we are the song. The self is coming from a state of pure awareness, from the state of being. All the rest that comes about in the outward manifestation of the physical world (including all the fluctuations which end up as thoughts and actions) is just clutter. The true nature of each soul is pure consciousness. So the song is really about transcending and about the quality of the transcendent.” – George Harrison on the creation of the song Tomorrow Never Knows
It is common for artists to write their own songs today however in the early 60s, Beatles was the only band to do this. Within a year, all artists were trying to do the same. Many of their techniques involved writing background vocals, giving some dimension to the perspective it is written from and to the song itself. Their lyrics were a concoction of themes that many mainstreams artists did not sing about. Initially what started with love, positivity and happiness, escalated to more serious themes such as loneliness and suffering and then an eventual shift to spiritual and transcendental. The partnership of Lennon-McCartney is considered one of the most successful collaborations in the music industry. In fact, when Beatles made the record of holding all the top 5 positions on the Billboard top 100, four of these songs were written by Lennon-McCartney.
Concept Albums and Album Art
Beatles were not the first to produce a concept album but they did make it famous with their eight album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. “We were fed up being the Beatles. We were not boys, we were men and thought ourselves as artists rather than performers”, McCartney said. Although, the songs particularly added value to the ‘concept’, and remained significant. However, the album art, made by Peter Blake (father of British pop art), was an extension of the enigma created by the name of the album in the first place. One can easily make the assumption that the people in the cover were their influences. It was a confusing juxtaposition of people from unrelated fields. Many suggest that through this, they challenged high culture to abandon the exclusion pop culture and challenging their audience to look beyond the mere love songs.
Along with their art, they brought ideas. Even after years, we can see artists, bands and the music industry still follow the trails that Beatles created. Their legacy continues. It is only fair to say that music industry would not have been the same without The Beatles.