Strawberry Fields Forever

Feb 16 2014, 01:58 IST
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SummaryThe Beatles are still loved by successive generations and their status as a dominant force in pop music remains unchallenged

Exactly 50 years ago, on February 9, 1964, a phenomenon was born: Beatlemania. It was a historic moment in music history, and it almost didn’t happen. After refusing to release previous songs such as She Loves You and Please Please Me (both were number one on the UK charts), Capitol Records in America finally decided that another number recorded by four mop-haired Englishmen may have a chance in the American market. The song was I Want To Hold Your Hand and the reaction was mass hysteria. The band, largely unknown in the US, was to appear on one of America’s most popular TV shows, The Ed Sullivan Show, a Sunday night variety show, which featured a live audience. A week before their first appearance before an American audience, the new single went to the number one spot on the US charts. On the show, the screaming fans were to become a common sight as the Beatles went on to become one of the most successful bands—commercially and critically—in the history of popular music. Fifty years later, there’s a hot debate going on about just how important the Beatles actually were.

The Beatles are still loved by successive generations and their status as a dominant force in pop music remains unchallenged. There are Beatles courses being taught today in universities across the world. The legacy of the Beatles lies in the music they made. Their music had a significant impact on how popular music styles changed and developed. What the fab four—John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr—brought was music as a communal celebration that found resonance across the world. No other comparable cultural phenomenon brought together people from all over the world in a common journey. According to Rachel Rubin, a professor of American popular culture at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, solo pop star Bruno Mars, boy band One Direction, indie rock band Cornershop and power pop band Fountains of Wayne all have echoes of the Beatles in their current work. Even hip hop owes a nod to the Beatles, who were the first musicians to use recorded samples of non-musical sounds in their recordings. Says Rubin: “The Beatles created their own ‘musical vocabulary’ that has become so much a part of music today that any melody-driven pop group act will have been indirectly influenced, if not directly.”

Professor Bonnie Hayes, professor and chair of the songwriting

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