By Max Rettig
The Beatles captured the minds of so many people and accomplished so many things in such a short period of time. They changed the world forever in ways that no one, not even they could imagine ever possible. But this article is not about that. This article is aimed to show you how a simple band is still relevant and still prevalent in today’s world. This is an attempt to show you how The Beatles have influenced and changed the way we produce music, especially hip-hop and rap, as well as the way we consume our music. Hopefully after reading this article you will have a new appreciation of The Beatles and maybe it will even turn you on to a new type of music.
According to renowned Beatles historian Robert Rodriguez in his book Revolver: How The Beatles Reimagined Rock & Roll, “The Beatles are the most scrutinized and overanalyzed band in rock history.” (Rodriguez, 1) While this may be true it is for very good reasons and I will attempt to do it in a way different from anyone else’s. But first, in case you are not familiar with The Beatles from 1962-1970 created the greatest and most popular Rock group of all time. In just around 8 years they changed music and the world forever and here’s a short timeline to show you some of their most prominent achievements.
As you can see from the timeline, The Beatles reimagined and changed music forever. Most artists of this generation grew up worshipping The Beatles. Even many Hip-hop and rap artists have let the influence of The Beatles shape their music. This may seem like a stretch since the genres of music are on polar opposites but many rap artists have accredited The Beatles as inspiration and influence. Some, including the Wu-Tang Clan have taken it a step further and have chosen to honor The Beatles in their music. Rolling Stone Magazine’s Christian Hoard wrote that “The Clan’s upcoming fifth album, 8 Diagrams, has a track RZA is currently calling “Gently Weeps.” It features a sample of the Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,”” (Hoard) Here is a video that compares The Beatles’ original recording of While My Guitar Gently Weep and Wu-Tang Clan’s Gently Weeps. The videos will show you The Beatles ’version first then the Clan’s version. Notice the similarities, especially in the chorus of the two songs.
You can really see how the songs have very similar structures and the the Wu Tang-Clan was definitely trying to get as close to The Beatles version of the song while still trying to put their own tastes on it. However, this was not Wu-Tang Clan’s only mash-up with The Beatles. Wu-Tang Clan has since also released Enter the Magical Mystery Chambers, a whole mash up album between Wu-Tang Clan and The Beatles. Produced by Tom Caruana everything in this album has Beatles influence in it even the name of the album was derived from The Beatles’ LP Magical Mystery Tour. In an interview with the New York Times Caruana said, ““Uzi (Pinky Ring)” has got a lot of samples on it. There’s “Glass Onion,” then it went to an Arif Mardin version of “Glass Onion,” then when Ghostface comes in it goes to “Getting Better,” then RZA comes in and it’s a Ramsey Lewis version of “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey.” Then Inspectah Deck comes in and it’s a cover version of “Hey, Jude.” Then Method Man comes in and that’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” And then GZA’s at the end, and that’s “Why Don’t We Do It In the Road.”” (Itzkoff) Here is a video of the song. See if you can find all of the hidden references and uses of Beatles material in the song.
The song shows again how much The Beatles have meant to the Clan and how they want to honor them in their music. Wu-Tang Clan is not the only artists to do mash-ups With The Beatles music. Caruana also did another Beatles mashup for Danger Mouse’s “Grey Album” Combines Jay-Z’s Black Album, named after The Beatles’ White Album and Beatles songs. Forbes music and entertainment contributor Leor Galil claims that, “The Grey Album became a cultural tipping point that established the mashup as a bona fide pop phenomenon; It transformed into a symbol for the burgeoning online remix culture.” (Galil) Here is a video that further promotes and enhances the Grey Album. All of these mash ups show that The Beatles, even in today’s hip-hop/ rap music are influencing music.
While The Beatles influenced a whole genre in the production of music they also heavily influenced the way we consume our music today. For one, The Beatles were the first to play in large stadium concerts ever. Listverse’s Tom Daniels claims that’“When manager Brian Epstein initially booked the Beatles to play a concert in New York’s Shea Stadium in August, 1965, the idea was considered almost too absurd to consider. However, the tickets sold out within hours… and over 55,000 berserk, screaming fans (mostly teenage girls) packed Shea Stadium for the first-ever stadium rock concert.” (Daniel) This may seem odd to us now because almost all band play at large venues in today’s world but back in 1965 it was a foreign concept. But thanks to The Beatles we now have a better chance to see our favorite artists because of larger concert venues, here’s a video of Twist & Shout from the historic concert. Notice in the video some similarities and differences.
As you can see in the video just like in stadium concerts today The Beatles stand right in the middle of the field, facing loud screaming fans playing to them from the infield, just like today’s concerts. Just like today’s concerts, the fans go crazy when they see the band, especially the women. While it may look similar there are also some big differences. The Beatles as you saw did not have very many big amplifiers on stage because they hadn’t made large enough ones for stadium concerts yet. They had to play through the baseball pa system so what the fans were hearing was delayed from what they were playing. Also the band, and most of the crowd, could not hear themselves even playing because of how loud the crowd was. In today’s concerts the bands have their own traveling sound systems which are much better for playing in front of huge crowds but The Beatles did not have the technology at that point in time. Also The Beatles played at this concert for just over 30 minutes while today’s stadium concerts go on for well over two hours.
Even more prominent in the way we consume music today is the music video. Everyone has a favorite music video. Artists commonly release promotional videos to go along with new singles and fans love it. The Beatles, in fact, invented music videos. In 1966 The Beatles had such a hectic schedule that they didn’t have time to make all the appearances that were demanded of them, so they decided instead of going places to promote their new singles that they would make a video of their new single and send that around for promotion instead of themselves. “The Beatles were the pioneers of marrying the two ideas into the concept we now know as the music video – a short, stand-alone film of a musical act presenting a current song that may or not be a live performance.” (Daniels) Here’s a mash-up video between The Beatles’ first music video and one from Justin Timberlake called mirror. In the two videos you can see how much music videos have changed and evolved from 1966 to 2013. While Paperback Writer is short and simple, just showing The Beatles playing their instrument and messing around in the studio Justin Timberlake’s Mirrors is a whole mini movie production. There’s actors and scenes just like a real movie. Timberlake’s video focuses more of the art of the word’s being said and the meaning of the song while The Beatles’ video focuses on primarily themselves and the music.
The Beatles are also the reason why music today is played on FM instead of AM radio. In America in the late ‘60s music was played on AM stations and talk radio on FM stations. On AM stations songs would be cut off at the three minute mark. This became a problem in August 1968 when The Beatles new single “Hey Jude” was released at over 7 minutes. Tom Daniels regular music blog contributor on listverse claims“AM stations simply chopped off the song at the 3:00 mark, which denied listeners the chance to hear their favorite part – “Na na na nanananaaa.” At KSAN-FM in San Francisco, radio pioneer Tom Donahue used the promise of a whole “Hey Jude” single as a means to lure listeners away from local AM stations to his uniquely programmed FM station, and the idea eventually snowballed across the country. Within ten years, American radio stations had almost completely switched places, and put music on FM and talk radio on AM.” (Daniels) This is why we have The Beatles to thank for the radio being the format it is today.
The Beatles made so many contributions to the production and consumption of music including inventing feedback with “I Feel Fine”, they have some of the most covered songs in history (including the most covered song of all time Yesterday), were the first band to market themselves and create a self-containing record label (Apple), and were one of the first groups to write their own music. All of these things part of every musician’s daily lives. The Beatles may not just be the most popular group of all time but also the most influential and innovative and as they sang themselves “In the end the love you take is equal to the love you make.” While The Beatles received a lot of love and popularity during their time they left behind an everlasting legacy that changed pop culture and the music world forever in ways that are still relevant and prevalent today in the production and consumption of music. Through the mashups and influence in the production rap and hip-hop music as well as all the ways they helped changed the way we consume music today The Beatles still matter and are here to stay.
- Rodriguez, Robert. Revolver: How The Beatles Reimagined Rock & Roll. Milwaukee, WI: Hal Leonard Corporation, 2012. Print.
- Help From George Harrison’s Son, John Frusciante.” RollingStone. N.p., 14 Aug 2007. Web. 12 Apr 2013. <http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/wu-tang-clan-cover-the-beatles-with-help-from-george-harrisons-son-john-frusciante-20070814>.
- Itzkoff, Dave. “Roll Up: The Beatles Meet the Wu-Tang Clan in ‘Magical Mystery Chambers’.” New York Times. N.p., 26 Jan 2010. Web. 13 Apr 2013. <http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/01/26/roll-up-the-beatles-meet-the-wu-tang-clan-in-magical-mystery-chambers/>.
- Galil, Leor. “The Story Behind The Newly Remastered Version Of ‘The Grey Album’.” Forbes. N.p., 28 Nov 2012. Web. 13 Apr 2013. <http://www.forbes.com/sites/leorgalil/2012/11/28/the-story-behind-the-newly-remastered-version-of-the-grey-album/>.
- Daniel, Tom. “10 Beatles Innovations that Changed Music.” Listverse. N.p., 11 Oct 2012. Web. 13 Apr 2013. <http://listverse.com/2012/10/11/10-beatles-innovations-that-changed-music/>.
- The Beatles sing Twist and Shout at Shea Stadium. 2013. video. YoutubeWeb. 13 Apr 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oLfAQfHzX5A>.
- besik18041987, , prod. Uzi (Pinky Ring). Youtube, 2011. Film. 14 Apr 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9mmdIkMMCM>.
- peaches97062, , prod. The Grey Video. Youtube, 2006. Film. 14 Apr 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3zJqihkLcGc>.
- BeatlesArchivesHQ, , dir. Paperback Writer. Youtube, 2012. Film. 14 Apr 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eK-_7kpkFWw>.
- granmacco, , dir. While My Guitar Gently Weeps Dreamscape. Youtube, 2009. Film. 14 Apr 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5mvhIqTgIyI>.
- Justin Timberlake, , dir. Mirrors. Youtube, 2013. Film. 14 Apr 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uuZE_IRwLNI>.
- bodog, , dir. The Heart Gently Weeps. Youtube, 2008. Film. 14 Apr 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u72nMAIJkno>.