By Hans Ebert
Everything that can possibly be written about the Beatles has been written, and, almost every day, something new is discovered to keep the dream alive- the Number 9 Dream that was the reality of four young rockers from Liverpool who changed the world and set a benchmark that no one else is yet to reach through such an incredible output of music- not Bowie, not Prince, not Dylan.
What’s particularly interesting to hear is how the Beatles evolved- the huge difference from the first album to Rubber Soul. The difference between Sgt Pepper’s to The White Album, and their final goodbye that was the brilliant Abbey Road.
But we cannot talk about the Beatles in the past tense, because though the band is no more, and two have left us to embark on their next life’s journey, the music lives on. And why the music will always be with us is that there’s so much of it that are favourites with so many for so many different reasons.
What I keep coming back to is just how the Beatles never ever repeated themselves. It’s that word again- evolved. They evolved. In seven short years, Ringo, John, George and Paul toured, they made films, recorded singles, EPs, albums, produced short films for their songs, which today are called music videos, and, what’s important to remember is that the technology was never the idea. The songs were always the stars, and through the ingenuity of Producer George Martin, who was able to transcribe what was in the minds of the main songwriters- Lennon and McCartney- musical stories were created on four-track machines and experimenting with bumping tracks, looping tracks, playing takes backwards, speeding up tracks, adding sound effects. Whatever it took to go on that adventure where there was no turning back.
Whether it was uppers or a visit to Dr Roberts, the journey from one album to the next was a rush. Same with the release of every single. Each release was just so different- not in any contrived way, but through natural osmosis.
So why hasn’t this same level of creativity still to be recreated? Firstly, where are the bands? Then there’s the usual three years between releases that seems to be caste in stone to promote the obligatory world tour. There are no surprises. Music today seems shackled in formulas and rules. The Beatles created their own rules by never putting a timer on what they were giving the world. Or what they were creating for themselves, and which almost always resonated with so many of us.
We were happy to go on that Magical Mystery Tour. Some of us were adventurous enough to drop acid to enter the parallel universe going on inside Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Some of us saw and heard the hidden stories in “She’s Leaving Home”, “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds”, “Lovely Rita” and “A Day In The Life”, all linked with secret “byes” from John, roosters crowing and THAT end chord to the record before we heard- or thought we heard-them tell everyone how they’d like to “f*ck you like Superman.”
It was almost investigative music journalism when trying to figure out the “Paul Is Dead” theory and how at the end of “Strawberry Fields Forever”, John admitted, “I buried Paul”. Actually, what he said was, “I’m very bored”, but this only became clear when that strange, long trip was over.
And on the subject of trips, there were the album covers- most with various messages. The Beatles seemed to want to turn us on to another world, a different time, and tap into that part of the brain that was still only sleeping.
The Beatles were creative, they were productive, they were so ahead of their time that fifty years later, others are still forced to play catch-up, but they were also silly with a Goonish sense of humour, Lennon was outspoken (Remember “The Beatles Are More Popular Than Jesus” dramady), and they were brave enough to experiment to see where it would all lead- that opening chord to “Hard Day’s Night”, the sitar on “Norwegian Wood”, the stripped down brilliance of The White Album, the false ending to “Rain”, Ringo’s drumming on “Come Together”, and the entire Side Two of Abbey Road. And you still think any of this will pass our way again? Please.