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Fifty years of The Beatles

Indrajit Dutta
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The Beatles:(Clockwise from top left) Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, John Lennon and George Harrison. —Photo: AP
The Beatles:(Clockwise from top left) Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, John Lennon and George Harrison. —Photo: AP

I Saw Her Standing There was the first song on the first Beatles record. That was 50 years ago in 1962. Much to the amazement of people the amount of fame that the Fab Four gathered as a band stands the same way now the way it stood when they were a band. It’s not clear now who’s more famous — The Beatles or Harry Potter. The four from Liverpool have enthralled millions of various ages over the ages. The euphoria that followed the release of a Beatle record can be compared to be the craze that followed Harry Potter. While they as a band have split up four decades earlier and lost two of their members, their fan following, if anything, has increased. What could possibly have led to such adulation? They composed songs of different genres. We have the skiffle influenced Love me Do , the melodic Yesterday , the surreal Day in the Life , the flowing Across the Universe , the earth shattering Revolution , to name a few. The list, a never ending one, encompasses genre after genre with equal ease.

The story of The Beatles began at St. Paul’s Parish Fete in Woolton in 1957 when Paul McCartney first met John Lennon. Lennon at that point was a member of a band called the Quarry Men. Lennon was impressed with McCartney as he could play a popular number then called Twenty Flight Rock . McCartney shortly after that was invited by Pete Shotton, a member of the Quarry Men, to join the band. Soon after George Harrison joined too as a lead guitarist. Thereafter, the three of them with a few other members played under various names such as Johhny and the Moondogs and The Silver Beatles at quite a few places.

In 1960, they travelled to Hamburg, Germany to play at clubs such as the KaiserKeller and the Indra. They also made their first professional recording at Akustik Studios, Hamburg. After Germany, in 1961 they started playing at The Cavern, nightclub in Liverpool, England. It is here that they came into contact with Brian Epstein, a record retailer in Liverpool. Epstein became their manager in December, 1961.

The year 1962 was to be a turning point for Lennon, McCartney and Harrison (Starr still had not joined). On May 9, they were offered a recording contract with Parlophone records, an offshoot of EMI. In August, Ringo Starr replaces Pete Best as the drummer. On October 5, in the same year the single Love Me Do is released. By March 1963, their first album Please Please Me is number one in the charts.

This was a watershed moment for them and thenceforth it was success after success with every album they recorded and released. By 1964, I Want to Hold Your Hand was the number one record in America. They became the first British act to thrive in America and began the British Invasion. The Beatles ceased to exist as a band in 1971 causing a great deal of heartbreak to fans the world over. Any hopes of a Beatle reunion were dashed when John Lennon was tragically shot dead on December 8, 1980.

One knows and reads about the hoopla that surrounded them when they were a band. For many fans it was a frenzy that they would manage to create. The frenzied state existed to such an extent that they were forced to stop touring and performing live. According to them, when they performed the four could not hear what they played at times because of the noise. Interestingly their last live concert, a short performance, was on the rooftop of Apple in 1969. This was one of a kind as The Beatles were too. The hysteria that enfolded the band can perhaps only be rivalled by Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra.

Among the albums, The White Albums are arguably their most complete where each song is different from the other and yet equally good. At the beginning, they were heavily influenced by Rock and Roll and love songs which is seen in their earlier albums. As they came into contact with some of their contemporaries such as Bob Dylan and The Bryds, they began to be influenced by them too. The Bryds were one of the earliest musicians to fuse Indian classical music with rock music.

The Beatles after meeting them too started to compose music like that. This can be seen in the album Rubber Soul . The album marks a change in the way popular music began to compose. Rubber Soul with songs such as Michelle, Nowhere Man, In My Life, Norwegian Wood (where the sitar was used) set new trends in music. Their lyrics began to change. Some songs were poignant, some were witty, some were dreamlike and some were irreverent.

Indian music became popular in the west solely because of The Beatles and Ravi Shankar. Their quest to find out more about numerous elements led lead guitarist George Harrison to even collaborate with and learn from legendary sitar player Ravi Shankar. This said, they did not stop recording love songs and rock and roll numbers altogether. The Fab Four added to their repertoire. Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club amongst all the albums is often considered their most acclaimed album.

Many of their songs have become standards in their own genres. Hey Jude was even sung by McCartney in the 2012 Olympics. Their songs, such as Hard Day’s Night , Daytripper , While My Guitar Gently Weeps , to name a few, never grow old and to this day enthuse people with a range of emotions.

In short, old and young alike come together to sing the songs of The Beatles as the music flows across the universe.

( The writer’s email:

indrajitdutta13187

@gmail.com )

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