The Beatles

Beginners Guide To The Legendary “Fab Four” : Part Two

In this article I’m going to talk about some the most successful albums by The Beatles. This article is rather long but i assure you that after reading this you will definitely update your playlist. But before that I suggest that you read little bit of history about The Beatles and their earlier albums, make sure you check out my last article on the Fab Four.

Beatles on a Vacation(rare photo)
The Beatles taking few days off at British actor Reginald Owen’s Bel air mansion, Los Angeles, Aug 1964. (photo: Bob Bonis)

I’ll try to explain how Beatles evolved with their music and created stuff which was way ahead of that time period while keeping their pop/rock ‘n’ roll image intact. In my opinion Beatles produced some of their best music in the second half of their career. While it’s a little controversial but many think that various drugs majorly influenced band members in the late ‘60s, in an interview with the Life Magazine in 1967 Paul McCartney even admitted that Beatles used to take LSD. It is said that Beatles never actually used drugs in studio recordings, but some lyrics in their post ‘65 albums definitely had drug references. First let’s talk about the change in their music.

From 1965 to 1970 Beatles released 8 studio albums, by now Lennon and McCartney were so mature that lyrically they didn’t have to rely on the outside material. Previously Beatles had recorded many songs under the musical influence of Buddy Holly, Little Richards, Chuck Berry and such, but after ’65 you could hear a lot of originality in their music. We can’t say for sure what were the effects of drugs on the Beatles, but their music significantly changed after 1965. It was much heavier in the later part of their career and the lyrics were much deeper. Till now John and Paul were writing the lyrics but from ‘Help!’ which was their 5th studio album, even George Harrison started writing some lyrics. The amount of ‘jolly good’ songs were less and songs with diminished chord progression were applied more in this period. But before I dive into these albums, let’s talk about the success of Beatles in America.

Hard Day's night album cover 1964
‘Hard Day’s Night’ was one of the most successful album by The Beatles. It sits as a benchmark in the band’s career because  4,235,000 certified units of this album were sold worldwide.

1964 was a big year for ‘The Beatles’, by this time they were pretty famous in England. They even released two albums in ‘64, “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Beatles for Sale” in July and December respectively. But the turnaround was their American debut album ‘Introducing… The Beatles’ which was released in the same year. American youth just couldn’t get enough of The Beatles, every radio station was getting tons of request for their songs. And Beatles on The Ed Sullivan show is considered as the start of “British Invasion”, a term which meant that rock and pop artists from England were taking over the American music scene. From ‘64 Beatles started becoming a global phenomenon, songs like ‘I Should Have Known Better’, ‘Kansas City’, ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ and ‘Everybody trying to be my baby’ were big hit in Europe as well as in USA. Both the album did extraordinary well in USA which was expected after their increasing popularity and presence in American radio stations.

Throughout their career Beatles always gave importance to the lyrics, that was the great thing about them. It always connected with their listeners, but their lyrics and music was somewhat inspired by the famous artists from the ‘50s. Now, after 3-4 years into the business, you can sense the originality coming in their music but at the same time that pop/rock feel was not lost. By ‘originality’ i mean that their music was much more different and you could easily identify them, so I hope you don’t take it in a wrong way.

'Help!' was the 6th studio album by The Beatles
Album cover of ‘Help!’, 1965

‘Help! The Film’ was released in July 1965 which was a musical comedy-adventure film directed by Richard Lester, while ‘Help!’ music album was released on 6th August 1965 in Britain. Here I am going to talk about the album (obviously) but do watch that film if you are a total Beatles geek. This album was swift a transition from pop songs of ‘Beatlemania’ era to something more mature. It had 14 songs from which two were written by George Harrison. ‘Help!’ had something to share with everyone, ‘Ticket to Ride’ was a typical Beatles classic but with unique drum beat. ‘I’ve just seen the face’ had that country-ish feel and a freaking fast tempo. ‘You’ve got to hide your love away’ was that great melodic song with sad but beautiful lyrics which we listen to after a breakup. In my opinion side A or 1 is a sheer bliss of pop perfection songs and the side B has that transitional Beatles music I was talking about earlier.

beatles-play-shea-stadium-1965
Beatles performing at the Shea Stadium in front of 55,000, fans at the peak of Beatlemania. New York, 1965.

The fact is I can keep on talking about this or any other Beatles album and even write a whole blog about it, but even that might not do the justice because there is so much to say about each album and the story behind it. But I came across a great blog/review on ‘Help!’ which pretty much covers the whole thing about this album, so here’s the link if you want read in detail.

 

Now onto the next album…

Rubber Soul was like a Christmas album by The Beatles released on 3rd December 1965. This album was a masterpiece, no doubt about that – but not even Beatles realized that they could go this far, no other band from that era was producing this kind of music. Lyrically Beatles used to write songs about romance or romantic doubts and ups and downs in life, but in this album lyrics were much more sophisticated, ambiguous, truthful and influential rather than influenced.

Use of grass is considered as one of the main reason behind this change in music, you could clearly see the dominance of marijuana in this album’s music, but by the time Rubber Soul was released the band had already moved on to LSD for their next masterpiece -‘Revolver’. Timeline was somewhat like this… The Beatles were at a career junction on which you could see the desire for artistic expression in their music rather than the goal of commercial success, in a way creating good music took the center stage.

rubbersoul by The Beatles
Is it just me or the album cover of ‘Rubber Soul’ looks a little trippy…

In an interview George Martin says, “Rubber Soul was an indication of the way things were going to go for The Beatles – it’s one of my favorite albums. I think it’s a great album”.  In those times a typical ‘boy band’ with pop music had the lifespan of 2 to 3 years, but The Beatles wanted cross that curve and maybe even wanted to leave a legacy behind.

After Rubber Soul, they went full-time into the masterpiece-making business. George Harrison’s increasing interest in sitar and experimentation with instruments, Ringo’s fierce drum rolls and advanced beats with Lennon-McCartney’s critical songwriting was taking Beatles on the next level. I’m not going to talk about the style of music or the songs from this album because I really want you to listen to those songs without making any presumptions about it.

Now let’s talk about the major change in their music that I mentioned earlier or to the good stuff as I mentioned at the end of my last article:

The-Beatles-Revolver-cover-art-2
Album cover of ‘Revolver’, first step towards the psychedelic rock era of music.

In the mid ‘60s a new kind of genre was getting a lot of attention, it was called as the psychedelic rock. As you can guess, the name kind of relates with drugs. This was the time in which music artists were immensely attracted to different drugs like weed, dope/cocaine and magic mushrooms, but LSD was the most famous among them. The Beatles were highly affected by LSD and by using it while recording ‘Revolver’ you could clearly see how much Beatles as a band had evolved in their music. Here’s the link to an article in which members of The Beatles explain their LSD experience. But of course it wasn’t all because of the drugs, Beatles had come a long way from playing in small music clubs of Liverpool and Hamburg, they were much more matured by now.

The music had a wider appeal and was able to attract people from different music genres. ‘Revolver’ was the album with the classic English rock songs which your grandpa always bragged about. Many people consider it as the greatest rock album in the history. Well that might be debatable, but core Beatles fans believes that this album was at the top along with ‘Abby Road’. It was also considered as one of the first album in

george-harrison-right-had-grown-fascinated-with-the-sitar-shankar-left
George Harrison and Sitar maestro Ravi Shankar, 1973.

psychedelic rock era. In 1965-66 George Harrison got into Indian music and in Indian culture as well, in coming years he even studied and followed Hinduism. In June 1966 George was introduced to Ravi Shankar by David Crosby and Roger McGuinn who were the founders of The Byrds, this introduction was going to change the music direction of The Beatles. Ravi Shankar was an Indian sitar player who would largely influence George’s playing style after mid ‘60s and he was also like a mentor. George started using sitar in practice sessions and studio recordings. The musical direction of many western bands was moving towards Indian classical music.

You guys might say that I’m lazy and I just don’t want to write, but I’m not going to talk about the songs or the lyrics from this album, because I want you to dive into this album without any expectation (and please listen to their earlier stuff, only then you will get truly amazed by this album). I’m going to biased here and say this one is my favorite Beatles album. Just a little note: ‘Revolver’ has a song in which not a single western instrument is used! And there’s a song called ‘I’m Only Sleeping’ which is in my list of top 3 Beatles songs. Hope you enjoy this legendary album…

On this abrupt note I end the 2nd article about The Beatles… Part 3 will be uploaded in some days, in which I will talk about the most famous Beatles album and how the band broke up in 1970. Finishing this article with an obligatory cheesy line:

Stay tuned for more!

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