beatles

I apologize for the length of this piece, and I suppose it should only be read by true music lovers or real Beatle fans. You have been warned.

I touched on this subject in a previous blog entitled A Few Thoughts Regarding The Beatles, but I thought it was worth delving into a little deeper. I always amazes me when I hear somebody actually downplay The Beatles and their contributions to rock music. Hell, I quit listening to Simon & Garfunkel for 5-years after Paul Simon made this asinine statement back in the late 70’s:

The world is waiting for two great reunions. Simon and Garfunkel and The Beatles.”

That’s right, Paul. You guys and The Beatles, that’s what we wanted. I guess one out of two ain’t bad.

But back to The Beatles and the groundbreaking things they did. They did so many things first, and the fact is, virtually all of today’s music can be traced back to The Beatles in one way or the other. And nobody comes close to them as far as being innovative musically.

Nobody. They just made it up as they went along, and everyone since has followed.

So without further ado, an amazing list of Beatle firsts . . .

  • Believe it or not, The Beatles were the first rock band to have every member of the group singing lead on various songs. Paul and John also traded leads during songs, a first. Most bands, even now, have one lead singer with the other members providing backup.
  • The Beatles released the first single with two A-Sides. Before, all singles had an A-Side (the hit) and a B-Side (a random throwaway song). This all ended when the Beatles released a single with “Strawberry Fields Forever” on one side and “Penny Lane” on the other. Both became major hits.
  • The Beatles were the first band to use feedback in the recording of a song. Listen to the guitar feedback at the beginning of “I Feel Fine”to hear it.
  • The Beatles were the first band to sell a million copies of a song before its release. That single was “Can’t Buy Me Love” in 1964.
  • The Beatles were the first band to put out an album (Please Please Me, 1962) on which over half the songs were written by the group members. It was normal in the world of popular music (before The Beatles anyway) for a singer to simply perform songs written by others. Elvis, for example, wrote none of the songs that he made famous. It was a startling event when the Beatles released their first album and eight of fourteen songs were written by members of the band. Soon they’d be writing all of their music. In fact, the album “A Hard Day’s Night” in 1964 contained all original compositions.
  • The Beatles were the first band to take their concerts from concert halls to stadiums.  Their first venture into this area was at New York’s Shea Stadium where more than 50,000 fans watched the show.
  • The Beatles were one of the first bands to use electric keyboards and synthesizers in their music, including the mellotron that was used in “Strawberry Fields Forever.” Totally groundbreaking at the time.
  • The Beatles were the first band to star in a feature film (“A Hard Day’s Night” in 1964). Now it’s pretty common for popular bands to make movies.
  • The Beatles were the first band to make a rock video. In 1965 they made videos for both “Paperback Writer” and “Rain.”
  • The Beatles were the first rock band to use a full orchestra in their recordings.
  • The Beatles once had the Top 5 selling singles in the United States (“Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Twist and Shout,” “She Loves You,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” and “Please Please Me.”), a record that still stands.
  • The Beatles wrote the first “concept” album, where all the songs were tied together in a collective theme. Before “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” albums were simply a collection of unrelated songs.

  • The Beatles were the first rock group to have the lyrics printed on the album’s back cover.
  • The Beatles were the first band to record a song that faded out, then back in. They did this on “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Helter Skelter.”
  • The Beatles were also the first band to release an album with a completely blank cover. “The Beatles”, more commonly referred to as “The White Album” was completely white. Note the original printings had “The Beatles” in raised white lettering in the bottom right corner.

  • The first time a satellite was ever used to broadcast anything worldwide was for The Beatles and their live performance of “All You Need is Love” in 1967. Over 400-million people watched. Oh, and since it was live they obviously did this in one take.
  • The Beatles were the first to use subliminal messages in songs. As I mentioned in my blog Turn Me on Dead Man: The Great McCartney Death Hoax , you just have to listen to the end of “Strawberry Fields Forever” and hear John say, “I buried Paul” to get a sample of this.
  • The Beatles were the first to use any type of sampling in their songs. They used a pig grunting in “Piggies”, farm animal noises to “Good Morning, Good Morning”, and a jet engine in “Back in the U.S.S.R.” It’s since become commonplace to use non-musical sounds in studio recordings.
  • It has been said that The Beatles recorded the very first Heavy Metal/Speed Metal song with the release of “Helter Skelter” in 1968.
  • The Beatles were the first band to use a sitar on a record. George played one on “Norwegian Wood.”
  • The Beatles were the first group to use backwards music in their songs. Again, since then it’s been done many, many times.
  • The Beatles were the first band to have the drummer sit higher than the rest of the group.
  • The Beatles released the first single in the history of rock and roll that was longer than 4-minutes with “Hey Jude” in 1968. It was over 7-minutes long and included rock’s first “extended fade-out”.
  • The Beatles were one of the first bands to use a horn section. It was in the song “Got to Get You Into my Life.” Groups like Chicago and Blood, Sweat & Tears were influenced by this song when they created their bands.
  • The Beatles were the first band to have songs run together into each other on an album.
  • The Beatles were as avant-garde as any group has ever been. Their experimentation was simply amazing. Listen “Revolution 9” and “You Know My Name, Look Up My Number” and and tell me if you’ve ever heard anything like it since. “I Want to Hold Your Hand” it ain’t.

I’ve always argued that The Beatles advanced popular music more in their short lifespan (basically 1960 to 1970) than popular music has advanced since then (1970 to 2013). Not even an argument in my opinion.

And believe it or not, non-believers, but I actually left some Beatle Firsts out. There are more from whence these came.

The Beatles were creative, inventive, talented, and groundbreaking. Musical geniuses really. But the bottom line is, they wrote really, really good songs. My man Mark Oliver Everett (E), creative genius behind The Eels, perhaps said it best:

“Kids know what’s going on. They always respond to The Beatles, for instance. Doesn’t matter when they were born, they always seem to respond. Show me a kid who innately doesn’t like The Beatles and I’ll show you a bad seed.”

Amen E. Amen.

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Comments
  1. InMyHead says:

    Under your last video you wrote ‘“I Want to Hold Your Hand” it ain’t.” I didn’t know if this was a comment or if there’s supposed to be videos underneath. Have I ever heard anything like the last two songs? No, not really. “Revolution 9” creeps me out!…reminds me of something I’d hear on a paranormal show. “You know my name…” obviously has simple lyrics (only the title), but the musical composition is genius…from the tempo changes to the fluidity of many styles/ genres/ eras–broad-based audience. I’m not sure that I can think of any songs that combine more than two styles/genres. I’d be interested in reading an extension to this containing artists/songs that were greatly influenced by The Beatles.

    • Shoe says:

      The “I Want to Hold Your Hand” comment was intended to be about the song above it. My point was that The Beatles progressed and morphed a LONG way in a few short years. And I’ll write something about artists influenced by The Beatles, but it’ll be impossible to include them all. LOL.

  2. larrychapman says:

    My 13 year old granddaughter was sitting on my deck yesterday singing the lyrics to a Beatles number. There music is indeed, timeless. I recall watching the Shea Stadium concert while sitting in a friends living room in Lakewood, CA. That’s when they made a believer out of me!

Gimme a holler.

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