More than any ideology, more than any religion, more than Vietnam or any war or nuclear bomb, the single most important reason for the diffusion of the Cold War was … the Beatles.”
–Mikhail Gorbachev, former President of the Soviet Union
It sounds ridiculous but it’s not. I’m convinced the Beatles are partly responsible for the fall of Communism.”
–Milos Forman, Czech film director/screenwriter/actor/professor
“We were driving through Colorado, we had the radio on, and eight of the Top 10 songs were Beatles songs…’I Want to Hold Your Hand,’ all those early ones. They were doing things nobody was doing. Their chords were outrageous, just outrageous, and their harmonies made it all valid… I knew they were pointing the direction of where music had to go.”
“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is probably the greatest single album I ever heard.”
“The Beatles ultimately “eclipsed a lot [of what] we’d worked for … [they] eclipsed the whole music world.”
–Brian Wilson, the Beach Boys
“It was just magic – it was like being hit by a bolt of lightning. I even remember where I was and what I was doing. I was walking down the road in Aston one day, with my light blue transistor radio, and this song came on. I thought, ‘What the f**k is that?’
“It changed my life forever, and at that point, I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I never knew it would turn out the way it did – it turned out way bigger than my wildest expectations – but I knew that I wanted to be the singer in a band.”
“The Greatest Band to Ever Walk the Earth!”
–Ozzy Osbourne, Black Sabbath
“My favourite artists have always been Elvis and the Beatles, and they still are!”
–Johnny Ramone, the Ramones
Just the Facts, Please.
John Winston Lennon was born during a German air raid on October 9, 1940, in Merseyside, Liverpool, England. His middle name was a tip of the cap to Britain’s Prime Minister, Winton Churchill.
John died from gunshots wounds fired by a certified lunatic in his beloved New York City on December 8, 1980.
Growing up in a tumultuous household, to say the least, John was raised by his aunt Mimi. Given her dire circumstances, his mother Julia was not able to raise young John. She did however visit the lad often and bought him his first guitar. Unfortunately, Julia was tragically killed when an off-duty police officer ran over her when John was seventeen years old. Young Lennon was deeply traumatized by her death.
Forming the Beatles
Elvis Presley’s explosion onto the rock music scene inspired a 16-year-old Lennon to create the skiffle band called the Quarry Men, named after his school. Lennon met Paul McCartney at a church fete on July 6, 1957. He soon invited McCartney to join the group, and the two eventually formed one of the most successful songwriting partnerships in musical history.
McCartney introduced George Harrison to Lennon the following year, and Harrison and art college buddy Stuart Sutcliffe also joined Lennon’s band. Always in need of a drummer, the group finally settled on Pete Best in 1960. Ringo Starr would come along later to make to take the quartet to new heights.
The first recording they made was Buddy Holly’s “That’ll Be the Day” in 1958. In fact, it was Holly’s group, the Crickets, that inspired the band to change its name. Lennon would later joke that he had a vision when he was 12 years old — a man appeared on a flaming pie and said unto them, “From this day on, you are Beatles with an ‘A.’
One particularly poignant moment in the Beatles history came during the making of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. During this period, the expectations for the Beatles were sky high as the entire world looked to them for innovation and creativity. As John was becoming increasingly withdrawn from the group with Yoko constantly at his side, he went home to try and add his signature touch to the epic LP.
As producer George Martin’s ace engineer Geoff Emerick recalls in his must-read
Book; Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles, “John came in from the weekend and told Paul he had a song that might make the album. As John strummed his guitar and sang; “I read the news today, oh boy…. Paul began to weep. He knew their masterwork was now complete.
Pure magic A Day in the Life. By the way, Paul McCartney ends his 2021 Documentary McCartney 3,2,1 with his experience working on that song. It’s a must-see.
Now, rather than write about the Beatles and their immense impact on the world that resonates to this day, I’ll just let these quotes speak for themselves.
Influence Beyond Measure
“The minute I saw The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show — and it’s true of thousands of guys — there was the way out. There was a way to do it. You get your friends and you’re a self-contained unit. And you make the music. And it looked like so much fun. It was something I identified with. I had never been hugely into sports. … I had been a big fan of Elvis. But I really saw in The Beatles that here’s something I could do. I knew I could do it. It wasn’t long before there were groups springing up in garages all over the place. ”
“The Beatles were the first to actually find that middle path between the artistic and the intellectual, and at the same time still be on the street.”
–Keith Richards, The Rolling Stones
“The night The Beatles first played The Ed Sullivan Show, boy, that was something. Seeing them on TV was akin to a national holiday. Talk about an event. I never saw guys looking so cool. I had already heard some of their songs on the radio, but I wasn’t prepared by how powerful and totally mesmerizing they were to watch. It changed me completely. I knew something was different in the world that night.”
–Joe Perry, Aerosmith
“After the Ed Sullivan Show, Feb. 9, 1964, at approx. 8:04 pm, after that moment every album, every guitar, every set of drums that was ever sold … 10% should have gone right into their pocket!”
“John Lennon has been my idol all my life.”
–Kurt Cobain, Nirvana
Michael Jackson can sell records until the end of time, but he’ll never matter to people as much as The Beatles did. Every record was a shock when it came out. Every single was an event.”
–Elvis Costello, Elvis Costello & the Attractions
“From one generation to the next, The Beatles will remain the most important rock band of all time.”
“The Beatles are the foundation of everything we do.”
“If it weren’t for The Beatles, I would not be a musician.”
–Dave Grohl, Foo Fighters
“They completely turned the world upside down.”
–Phil Collins, Genesis
“The greatest rock band of all time. Nobody even comes into the same planetary system in terms of songwriting and presentation. They never repeated themselves. They kept going from strength to strength.”
–Lemmy Kilmister, Motorhead
“I remember exactly where I was sitting. It was amazing. It was like the axis shifted … It was kind of like an alien invasion.”
–Chrissie Hynde, The Pretenders
“I say in speeches that a plausible mission of artists is to make people appreciate being alive at least a little bit. I am then asked if I know of any artists who pulled that off. I reply, ‘The Beatles did.’”
“That’s when the world turned. That’s when we escaped from the doldrums and moved on to a brighter, better, more joyful future…. Every record was an event, every cut was an opera, the entire story told ours.”
“It was like hearing the future.”
“Growing up, I liked all the stuff that everyone else was listening to, like Motown, but the biggest group of all was The Beatles.”
“I love the Beatles.”
–Eddie Murphy, actor, comedian
“Whenever a Beatles song comes on the radio, I reach for the volume and turn it up, because I still haven’t gotten enough of them.”
–Jerry Seinfeld, comedian
“The Beatles saved the world from boredom.”
“From a standing start, knowing only a handful of chords between them, John Lennon and Paul McCartney turned themselves into the most influential composers of the late twentieth century. Their music wasn’t just immensely popular. It also proved that traditional western harmony – the main building block of European music – still had plenty to offer. (Even though avant-garde composers had turned their back on it.) By mixing pop and classical techniques, and cross-fertilizing them with Indian, and electronic music, The Beatles refreshed and revitalized western harmony. They also transformed the recording studio from a dull box where you recaptured your live sound, into a musical laboratory, of exciting and completely new sounds. This was one of the most crucial advances in the way popular music was to be produced. But Lennon & McCartney didn’t just influence all popular music that followed them. They influenced classical music too. The leading classical composers of our own era have turned back to traditional harmony. More than anyone, Lennon & McCartney prefigured this trend. They showed that the old musical forms could be refashioned and refreshed, to make music that was both exciting and popular, and sophisticated and new. They, more than anyone, saved the western musical tradition from extinction and gave it a new purpose and a direction. Not bad going for two boys who met at a local church fete and taught themselves their instruments.”
–Howard Goodall, music composer named “Composer of the Year” at the 2009 Classical BRIT Awards
If one could have a wish, or an alternative life, I would’ve liked to have been John Lennon.
No, well, the list is rather lengthy you might say. Not much of the latter part of the 20th century would be worth talking bout, would it now?
And In the End
I’ll leave you with this from John.
“Life Is What Happens When You’re Busy Making Other Plans”