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Why Were the Fab Four So Influential on Modern Music?

This article looks at how The Beatles influenced the entire music industry.

The Fab Four

As a child, The Beatles were not unknown to me. My dad (who is not an avid fan, but in fact prefers the Rolling Stones) owned the 1 Beatles album, and in my unscholarly opinion, music makes the greatest effect on you when you are a child and a certain style imprints on your brain. However, it was many years later that I really started to listen and admire the Fab Four's work.

The Beatles, across their career, moved from Skiffle (a type of Jazz/Blues influenced music) to R&B (in the footsteps of many artists at the time), to Rock and Roll, to World Music, to Rock. The list is endless on what kinds of music they made, and this is a primary reason for their success and influence in the music industry, and how non-musically trained audiences came to understand what was being played for them.

On the 5th of August 1966, The Beatles released their seventh studio album. This album would come to be the last album to be performed live. This album is considered the turning point in The Beatles' musical careers. The band was unsatisfied with how restrained they were as musicians on the stage and how they couldn't properly convey their music. Songs such as "Tomorrow Never Knows" and "Eleanor Rigby" would have been impossible to perform at the time as the technology available to them would have either been too primitive or far too expensive to move around as quickly as The Beatles did when touring. It was at this point The Beatles chose to stop touring, not only because of the screaming girls which would drown out the music to the point that the band couldn't hear each other, but because they wanted to be musicians and create music freely with no restriction.

George Harrison's influence upon the band to introduce Indian instruments such as the sitar created a whole new table for the band to lay. These instruments created a more diverse dynamic and a totally original sound for the time, especially on the level of popular music at the time. The amalgamation of popular western instruments and classical Indian instruments was a peak of originality. Despite any of The Beatles not knowing properly how to play the sitar, the basic use of the instrument is all that was needed to light an interest in the modern, young audience of The Beatles. "Tomorrow Never Knows" is a perfect example of this combination of instruments.

In 1967, one of the most critically acclaimed and highly regarded albums ever created was released. Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. This album created a whole new platform, not just for The Beatles, but for the popular music world as a whole. This is thought to be one of the first "concept" albums to be made and has been said to have influenced albums such as Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd. Paul McCartney first initiated the thought of creating a whole new persona for the band, a whole new, completely separate identity. The new image was based on an old picture of McCartney's father in his jazz band, which depicts a whole room of people gathered around a bass drum which signified the name of the group. The concept behind the music is meant to depict a day in the park, more than likely at a fun-day, mostly set at a bandstand. When the album starts with "Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band" it comes in with muffled voices and brass and string instruments tuning and preparing, which is resonant with a bandstand, as in older periods (such as in the era of McCartney's father, or when The Beatles were younger) it wasn't uncommon for bands to play regularly. The song then ends with claps, which then segue into the next song "With a Little Help From My Friends." The use of such techniques as medleying was quite uncommon when creating albums, this technique adds to the creation of the concept album, as it creates a smooth and clear transition with other types of music, which again, is resonant with performers at a park. 

All of The Beatles music (bar "Let It Be") couldn't have been made without George Martin. Along with The Beatles, Martin created a whole new style of coordinated and well-thought out music production. He innovated the field of stereo music, especially in The Beatles' later music such as "I am the Walrus" which uses extreme panning to the point that if you aren't paying enough attention, parts can really take you by surprise. Martin's innovations in production throughout The Beatles' career only excelled them, and this is why when Phil Spector took over as producer for Let It Be, many believed the music on the album to be technologically inferior as Spector implemented his technique of "Wall of Sound" which means to bring all the music to the same level with minimal panning. All of the music he produced would have been recorded as a live band. Abbey Road was recorded after Let It Be, with Martin at the helm of production, and here we see all the elements of Martin's intellectual and extremely processed technique.

This article hasn't been necessarily long, however, I feel that The Beatles speak for themselves if you were to listen to their whole catalog. By noticing the medley techniques, the sound production enhancement, instrumental amalgamation, and album type innovation, you will be able to signify the importance of The Beatles upon the whole music industry, including the audience that consumes it.

So, go, sit back, and listen to The Beatles from Please, Please Me to Let It Be, you definitely won't regret doing it.

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