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In 1960, no one would have known that a small band in Liverpool England would become the most influential rock band in the world. Paul McCartney, George Harrison, John Lennon, and Ringo Starr are the famous fab four members of the group that is known as the Beatles. The music this group created was like no other music heard before. The heavy influence the group had on pop, rock n roll, and the psychedelic culture changed the music industry and the music generation as a whole. Even from the style of the group with their famous mop tops, the Beatles carried an atmosphere of utmost individuality that inspired millions. By working together to be individuals within their music, fashion, art, and culture, they brought people together from all around the world in a time of divide. This paper aims to analyze three Beatles’ songs that were very influential to the Beatles’ career: “Can’t Buy Me Love”, “Yellow Submarine”, and “Across the Universe”.
The first song is “Can’t Buy Me Love” written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. The reason I believe this song is important to discuss is because of the current time period and stage in the Beatles success. The song came out in 1964, which was near the beginning of their career. During the time period of the 1960’s, the generation was going through a time of drastic change and separation. Adolescents were beginning to form their own identity and rebelling against traditions and societal roles, which created a mass counterculture.
This time period was a perfect time for the Beatles new sound of music to immerge into the culture and “Can’t Buy Me Love” spoke directly to the younger generation during this time. In the lyrics, “Say you don’t need no diamond ring and I’ll be satisfied, Tell me that you want the kind of thing that money just can’t buy,” the Beatles were expressing their opposition over the notion that money is the most important thing in life. McCartney’s goal was to express how he does not care about materialistic objects and what he truly wants cannot be bought. The idea that money cannot buy love ties right into this time period’s cultural attitude.
The song creates a carefree attitude where the Beatles were expressing themselves as happy, free, and not caring what anyone else thinks. The tone has a bluesy feel to it, but holds unique elements as well. For instance, the song is unique in that instead of having an introduction the song goes straight into the chorus and the tone is created straight from the beginning. The single also only had one lead singer, Paul McCartney, while George Harrison and John Lennon sand the harmony vocals in the background. The structure of this song consisted of ‘verse/verse/ bridge/ verse’, then repeated a verse as a guitar solo and followed by repeating the bridge and third verse. This structure created a song that was marketed as a pop song in which the younger generation could easily catch along to. For example, when I listened to the song I noticed that the title of the song was used at the end of each verse, which imprinted the title as a catch phrase into my mind that I could easily remember.
The song “Can’t Buy Me Love” created a long-lasting impact on the generation of this time period by creating a lyrical message that people could relate to, using an consistent beat throughout the song, and having a vocal melody that created a sense of happiness and excitement. I believe “Can’t Buy Me Love” was a major catalyst in the Beatles’ success that set their triumphant career in motion. This song proved that the Beatles were not just a short-term popular band but one that was going to make a huge impact on the musical industry forever.
The second song I chose to analyze was “Yellow Submarine”, which was recorded in 1966 and released for the first time in the album Revolver. The song was written by Paul McCartney and sang by Ringo Starr. This song was a stepping stone from the traditional period of the Beatles to the evolution period of their new level of mastery music from 1965-1966. Unlike most of the Beatles songs that address heavy messages and deep controversies, this song is somewhat of a children’s song and the song contains a slow pace mood that is similar in tone to folk or bluegrass music. The instruments used were a bass, tambourine, bass drum, and guitar.
Lyric analysts at the time were confused behind the message of this song. Paul McCartney, who wrote the song, said that he came up with the idea to write “Yellow Submarine” while lying in bed. He intended for the song to be different and to be a children’s song about friends in a yellow submarine. He claims that he purposely used lyrics that had short and simple words because he wanted kids to pick up on the song quickly and create a sing-along song. For example, the chorus is eight measures long and contains a lot of repetition in the four-note melody line harmonized by all the Beatles saying “We all live in a yellow submarine, yellow submarine, yellow submarine. We are live in a yellow submarine, yellow submarine, yellow submarine.” The repetition in the chorus clearly portrays McCartney’s desire for the song’s sing-along and catchy tone for younger audiences. However, the “Yellow Submarine” also seems to tell a story about someone’s experience serving in the Navy. In the beginning of the song it states that “in the town where I was born lived a man who sailed to sea and he told us of his life in the land of submarines.” These lyrics make it seem as though one of the Beatles members had a conversation with someone about their experiences in the Navy. The experience is shown in line that states, “Full speed ahead Mr. Boatswain, full speed again. Full speed ahead it is sergeant, Cut the cable, drop the cable. Aye sir, aye, Captain, Captain.” Although the song uses a 4/4 meter, Ringo uses the bass drum on every even quarter note to create that feeling that a story is being told. Although this interpretation of the song could be true, many believe this song was seen as a joke, especially those that served in the Navy.
Even though critiques were confused as to why the Beatles created this type of song, the song was a huge success and reached the top five on the records charts in the United States and in England. The song also led Ringo Starr to his fame, since this was the first song he sang and it became a record hit. Overall, the song “Yellow Submarine” was a stepping stone for the Beatles to go outside their comfort zone and create new sounds and lyrics in their music, which ultimately led them to their new movement of mastery music.
The next song that I believe was important to analyze was “Across the Universe” because of its influence on the Beatles’ Transcendental Meditation movement in the late 1967 and early 1968 time period. This song was written by John Lennon, whose lyrics came to him one night after arguing with his wife Cynthia Lennon. After listening multiple times to the song’s lyrics, I understand exactly what Lennon was feeling at the time. The song portrays a sense of meditation, about being in a state of mind where you don’t need to think and all your worries and concern go away. Personally, it reminded me to become one with myself and to lose individuality to become one with the universe instead. The first lines of the song start of by saying “Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup, They slither wildly as they slip away across the universe. Pools of sorrow waves of joy are drifting through my opened mind, Possessing and caressing me”. These lyrics illustrate how a paper cup cannot hold water, just like our words cannot be held onto as well. One needs to let go of the words and sorrows to move on and have an “open[ed] mind”. The line “Nothing’s gonna change my world” runs through the entire song and it reflects an attitude of open-mindedness and accepting the world for what it is.
Not only does Lennon’s lyrics in “Across the Universe” create a feeling of meditation, but many other musical aspects play a role in this song as well. The song is played as a D major and with the combination of DEF#GABC#, it gives the song a feeling of comfort. The instrumental use of the guitar solo that embedded Jazz and Bossa Nova also create a relaxed and calm realm. The song is shown to have been influenced by the Beatles’ time in India in 1967. In the refrain, Lennon sings, “Jai Guru Deva, Om” which means “Victory to God divine”, and is an example of Lennon’s ability to incorporate a different language, Hindu. In addition, I believe the line “Nothing’s gonna change the world” was influenced by the Beatles time spent in India because it shows that they were free from worldly distractions while there. George Harrison’s influence from India is shown in the song through his use of instrument, the sitar. He learned how to play the sitar while overseas and used this instrument throughout the song. As I listened to this song, the sitar made me feel like I was in a state of meditation, so I believe that’s why Harrison used this musical aspect in the song. The musical aspects of “Across the Universe” show the talented ability the Beatles have in immersing themselves within a culture and within themselves to create something magical.
As an individual who grew up listening to the Beatles with my parents, I have felt an emotional connection to their music for years. Specifically, “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Yellow Submarine,” and “Across the Universe” are songs that were not only highly influential to the world, but to me as well. The Beatles were able to not only produce popular music that opened the doors to a new musical era, but they connected with the environment to create meaningful music and connect with people’s feelings no matter what situation they were in. The Beatles musical legacy will be listened to for generations to come because of their influential art they exhibited within their various musical styles, instruments, messages, fashion and attitudes.
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