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The Influence of The Beatles on Pop Music

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Words: 1837 |

Pages: 4|

10 min read

Published: Aug 6, 2021

Words: 1837|Pages: 4|10 min read

Published: Aug 6, 2021

Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Lyrics
  3. Musical Composition
  4. Production techniques
  5. Conclusion

Introduction

In a career span of ten years (1960-1970), The Beatles successfully emerged in influencing and changing the music of the world we live in today. They were pioneers in building the bridge between post production and live recorded music whilst blooming with creative, artistic, yet thorough musical ideas which also led to crossing boundaries and cultures in the 1960s. The Beatles known as the Fab Four were Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, Ringo Starr. In August 1965, The Beatles played at the Shea Stadium for the first time and introduced Arena Rock to the world.

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Along with their cheeky personalities, stardom and dynamic energy, their music led to several chart topping tunes, massive tours, creating a huge sensation. Beatlemania was introduced, and due to the hysteria and stardom, whatever the Beatles did, the world could follow. This essay will examine how the Beatles influenced popular music by looking at their lyric writing, song writing, blending of styles, innovative studio techniques and the use of the studio as an instrument.

The members were constantly establishing their own style, each uniquely contributing to The Beatles’ repertoire. Ringo backed the Beatles with a percussive foundation for their hard-driving yet imaginative music. Featuring his Ludwig Super-classic set, he provided the classic groove with mostly articulation of strong beats on the bass drum and backbeats on the snare, extensively using crashes and cymbals, reserved for the articulation of a song’s structural points. Fully immersed in the contemporary art scene, McCartney’s Hofner violin bass parts would provide a distinctive visual image, adding direction to the song’s journey, often mixing with unique chords to colour the music. Lennon was to fill up with lyrics and rhythm guitar. Harrison, also known as the quiet Beatle, would provide the lead guitars, occasionally vocal harmonies to the group. He would also merge eastern flavour to the group’s spirituality pursue in the music of their later half of their career. Producer and sound engineer George Martin and Geoff Emerick also provided a key developing role in The Beatles, bringing in studio technology into pop music.

Lyrics

With the main songwriting team comprising on Lennon and McCartney, they brought forth a vast library of lyrical stories. Often whimsical and dreamy, songs were written in a spectrum ranging from topics from love, autobiographies, world peace, and revolution.

John’s ideas were often songs about personal experiences, sex, pain, politics or peace. He frequently wrote in first person with a satirical/cynical sense of humour, and loved word play. McCartney on the other hand, were more often in 3rd person, and fictional. He wrote more story songs, and songs about love, being generally more optimistic. They were typically more grand and dramatic while Lennon’s were more acerbic witty. (Hartzog) This made a great balance with both pushing their differences and ideas together. Some songs were also to be written in a surrealist and theatrical fashion. Like ‘I am the Walrus’ with Lennon making up psychedelic influenced phrases like “Sitting on a cornflake, waiting for a van to come” and “Yellow matter custard, dripping from a dead dog’s eye”. ‘Come Together’ started the song with word play like “Here come old flat top, He come groovin’ up slowly, He got joo joo eyeballs”. Through their music, The Beatles also parcelled out little bits of wisdom: Money Can’t Buy You Love, Beware of The Taxman, Think For Yourself, Revolution, and Keep Your Bathroom Window Closed. In ‘Blackbird’ for The White Album (1968), McCartney diverted the song’s meaning directly to speak about the Civil Rights for black Americans struggling for equality in the states, particularly women. Blackbird would eventually lead to mass Youtubers on the media and several musicians like Herbie Hancock, Corinne Bailey Rae, Dave Grohl and Bobby McFerrin performing it. All in all, The Beatles wrote stories and looked around at the world, striving for a better one.

Musical Composition

Incorporating with odd time time signatures, and odd melodic phrases, the Beatles experimented with new music and would often converge styles from their influences. In 1965 when Rubber Soul was written, it was very “Motown flavoured, with a “feel” inspired by Motown bassist James Jamerson,”, as McCartney described. Having a Motown style as the main groove for the album, Rubber Soul also incorporated a blend of musical styles with soul, eastern and folk music. New instrumentations were also prominent in the album and instruments such as sitar, harmonium and fuzz bass were introduced. The sitar was heavily used in “Norwegian Wood”, playing lead lines in the song’s melody. The song marked the first example of a rock band playing a sitar or any Indian instrument on one of their recordings. With the adding of the sitar in several later Beatles albums, it was influential in the development of raga rock and psychedelic rock during the mid 1960s, helping Ravi Shankar and Indian Classical music to mainstream popularity in the West. 

In the song “I Feel Fine” in 1964, the feedback on the guitar was one of the first appearances in Popular music. 

In Revolver (1966), the Beatles bloomed with a new creative wizardry, directly using the studio as an instrument, which will be discussed in the paragraphs for studio production, adding a mystifying blend of sounds and unusual instruments. Producer George Martin was also known for inserting motives and ideas from classical music to the album.

In 1967, they decided to only write as members of “Sgt. Peppers’ Lonely Heart Club Band”, an alter ego created by them. This would be then known as an early ‘concept album’, introducing a new compositional method for future artists. The alter ego group would give them the freedom to experiment musically. With musical styles including vaudeville, circus, music hall, avant-garde, and Indian Classical music, The Beatles bended/broke genre boundaries, adding psychedelia to their repertoire. Another example of an artistic merge is when The Beatles included photographs of people together from the Arts, Politics, Science, Philosophy, and Athletes on the album’s legendary cover. They included personalities like Bob Dylan, Oscar Wilde, Marilyn Monroe, Fred Astaire, Karl Marx, and Hindu guru Sri Paramahansa Yogananda. 

Dedicating to soundtrack for film, The Beatles introduced their ninth studio album Magical Mystery Tour (November 1967) to film, with 6 out of 11 songs dedicated to the comedy television film “Magical Mystery Tour” and tenth studio album Yellow Submarine (1969) with 6 songs written specifically for the animated film “Yellow Submarine”.

In ‘The Beatles’, also known as The White Album (1968), they would continue having a contrast and change in their songwriting ideas. Having 30 songs in the The White Album it ranged from British Blues and Ska and all the way to Karlheinz Stockhausen and avant-garde electronics.

In Abbey Road (1969), The Beatles introduced an eight-song medley, joining each song together as a single piece. The edited song fragments would then spark an operatic structure for Side B to be listened as a whole. Many bands would latch on, joining several pieces into a one-piece idea for their album work. One example would be Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of The Moon”.

Their last album Let It Be (1970), The Beatles spoke about wisdom in songs like “Let It Be”, “Across The Universe”, and “The Long and Winding Road” and adding blues and classic Rock N Roll to the album’s flow. They came out of their eastern philosophy, and their teachings, concluding their process as a band’s journey.

Production techniques

Geoff Emerick would be the sound engineer in “Revolver”. Revolver was a spark in the addition of studio innovation to Pop Music. Knowing they would not have to perform the tracks live, The Beatles incorporated musical elements and special techniques that were unconventional in Pop Music including musique concrete, avant-garde composition, and electro-acoustic sound manipulation. With the creation of ADT (Automatic Double Tracking) invented by Ken Townsend, it enabled The Beatles to transform their sound by having a second signal playing alongside their original signal but with a slight variance in timing, it gave a “tape delay effect” to the sound. The signals would often be panned to opposite channels, creating a wide stereo image. Another innovation added was vari-speed, where they played with the songs speed during post-production, recording songs with the tape at different speeds before playing it back at normal speed. Some examples of vari-speed were used in the vocals of “Here, There, and Everywhere” and “I’m Only Sleeping”. In George Martin’s keyboard solo on “In My Life” from Rubber Soul, the faster playback evoked the sped-up piano to sound like a harpsichord. Another technique introduced was the application of “tape loops”. Removing eraser heads from reel-to-reel tape recorders, McCartney learnt to capture any random sounds he’d fancy, from talking, laughter, instruments played in unconventional ways and ambient noises to their songs, adding sound effects to create a livelier storyline to their music. One example was an alarm clock going off in ‘A Day In The Life’ (Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band).

Popularising musique concrete into Pop Music, these sounds would often manage to find its way to the songs. Orchestral overdubs, sound effects and other methods of tape manipulation would then continue to be added in The Beatles later album, changing changing Pop Music and its compositional process.

Conclusion

Influenced by the studio innovations and their song writing, the world shifted in musical direction from musicians constantly looking up and citing The Beatles as major influences. The introduction to studio technology led musicians to finding new sounds in the studio, and enabled any recorded sound to be bended with overdubbing, tape editing, sound synthesising and audio signal processing. This would have opened a vast library of new sounds which was not heard solely by instruments. With their song and lyric writing imagery and techniques, it has also inspired new musicians to write creatively, adding stories and concepts to their musical writing.

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Numerous musicians to this date have tribute covers, songs, and even albums to The Beatles including Green Day, Amy Winehouse, Nirvana, The Ramones. The music of the Beatles also found its way in different genres of music, with jazz musicians like Wes Montgomery with “Eleanor Rigby” (Revolver), Buddy Rich with “Norwegian Wood” (Rubber Soul), and with Grant Green on ‘Because/Come Together’ (Abbey Road) covering them as jazz standards or players in their own style. Goth Band Siouxsie and the Banshees even had a cover of ‘Dear Prudence’ in their album ‘Nocturne’. On Daily Star, Pop musician Lady Gaga, mentioned in an interview “I don't know if anyone knows this about me but when I wrote 'The Fame' I listened to The Beatles' 'Abbey Road' obsessively.” In 1988, Mick Jagger from The Rolling Stones inducted The Beatles into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, saying “I’m really proud to be the one that leads them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.” in his speech. Gene Simons from KISS tweeted, “Thank you, Ringo! Can’t begin to tell you how much you and The Beatles have meant to me all my life.” The Beatles changed Pop music because they were able to talk about world events in their music and connect to the world through their various forms of art.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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The Influence Of The Beatles On Pop Music. (2021, August 06). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 19, 2024, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-influence-of-the-beatles-on-pop-music/
“The Influence Of The Beatles On Pop Music.” GradesFixer, 06 Aug. 2021, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-influence-of-the-beatles-on-pop-music/
The Influence Of The Beatles On Pop Music. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-influence-of-the-beatles-on-pop-music/> [Accessed 19 Jun. 2024].
The Influence Of The Beatles On Pop Music [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2021 Aug 06 [cited 2024 Jun 19]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-influence-of-the-beatles-on-pop-music/
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