Anyone out there have a thing for the Beatles?
OK…I’ll admit I’ve been a fan of the “Fab 4″ since my high-school days in Leonia, NJ. Maybe “fan” is too light a term.
And, having just spent the past 2 days touring Liverpool (I described it to friends and family as my “Pilgrimage to Mecca”) and reading Jonathan Gould’s 2007 book Can’t Buy Me Love, I’m thinking about what turned the Beatles and “Beatlemania” into the biggest musical sensation of the 20th Century. What was the spark of creativity that allowed these four tocreate their own style out of the Liverpool “beat” scene?
Liverpool in 1962 was like Florence in 1452?
I think I have some answers after exploring Liverpool, learning about it’s history, going through the Beatles Experience/Story (museum) and reading Gould’s book. Liverpool became a modern-day musical version of Florence of the 15th Century. Liverpool emerged emerged out of no-where, as the newIntersection of rock-and-roll, “beat” music and new attitudes and it was the Beatles that turned creativity into innovation – invoking a new style of music that was different from anything else the world had heard before…and as a result, the Beatles catapulted to stardom unlike any other band before or after it.
How did this happen?
Liverpool has held a reputation – even before WWII – as a blue-collar, rough-and-tumble town. (although I found it actually quite gentrified when I visited this week). As primarily a shipping port after WWII the city was also far smaller, more blue-collar and far less “metropolitan” than London. At the time John Winston Lennon, James Paul McCartney, Richard Starkey (Ringo Starr) and George Harrison met , Liverpool was well-known for it’s territory-based teenage gangs – and although they weren’t as troublesome as today’s street gangs, they tended to grow and thrive in small groups – competing with one another for neighborhood supremacy. These mini “city-states” as it were had another interesting characteristic that was found in Florence of the 1500s – they were quite DIVERSE. The city, more than the average city in Europe was a melting pot of Gaelic, Scottish, Welsh, Irish and English – and the Irish and Welsh are know for their singing abilities. Thus was born a minor “warfare” between opposing gangs to see who could produce the most “new age” music of the time – and that music which emerged was called “Beat” music.
Diversity, as it turns out is the major theme of Frans Johansson‘s work The Medici Effect, in which he describes the creative results of highly diverse cities or groups of people. I talk about the Medici Effect in a prior post on Intersection, Medici Effect and Creativity. The melting pot of Liverpool created this same kind of diversity for music and entertainment.
While Liverpool was diverse in its musical talent, it’s people and its neighborhoods, it wasn’t completely immune to changes taking place in the world. Elvis Presley, a hero of Lennon and McCartney, had risen to global fame just 2 years previously. Little Richard was also admired and studied by the Beatles, as were many other rhythm and blues singers (mostly American) of the early 1960s.
In 1961 and 1962, the Band played extensively in Hamburg, Germany – another melting pot of musical talents from around the world. The Beatles, though, were able to create something new from existing elements. It was the combination of their own local British music known as “Beat” music, with what they learned in Hamburg watching others, and combined with a look and feel that their manager (Brian Epstein) brought to them (hair styles consistent mop-style hair, the “group” feel enhanced by one “mod suit uniform for each).
It is uncertain whether fan hysteria brought the Beatles to life, or whether their music and attitudes did the trick. Whatever the reason, the Creativity and Innovation by this one group of four men still four lasts decades after their 1970 split. I even find that my own children, Millenials every last one of them, know and recognize Beatles music. What other groups in the history of rock and roll can claim this much of a renaissance and this long of a lasting impression on generations of music-lovers?
I’d like to hear your opinion….