Everyone knows that without John, Paul, George and Ringo, the world would be a very different place – but how many people really know how they changed the course of pop-culture? Today, I thought I’d do a post on how those four lads made the world into what it is today, following on from a speech I wrote for a Public Speaking unit in English earlier this year. So, take a plunge into the Beatles ‘revolution’ (cue crunchy overdriven guitars), and enjoy!
6. Guitar Feedback Usage
Take a listen to the above song (the music clip was filmed in late 1965, by the way) – in particular, that noise at the start, just before that infamous riff begins. That ‘noise’ at the start is called ‘feedback’, and is created by plucking a guitar too close to its amp. Feedback was used a lot in the late-1960s/1970s by artists such as The Who, Jimi Hendrix, The Velvet Underground and The Grateful Dead. But guess who the first artist(s) to use such a thing was (were)? The Beatles, of course! Here’s what Wikipedia had to say about the innovation:
“I Feel Fine” starts with a single, percussive (yet pure-sounding) feedback note produced by plucking the A string on Lennon’s guitar. This was the very first use of feedback preceding a song on a rock record. According to McCartney, “John had a semi-acoustic Gibson guitar. It had a pickup on it so it could be amplified . . . We were just about to walk away to listen to a take when John leaned his guitar against the amp. I can still see him doing it . . . it went, ‘Nnnnnnwahhhhh!” And we went, ‘What’s that? Voodoo!’ ‘No, it’s feedback.’ Wow, it’s a great sound!’ George Martin was there so we said, ‘Can we have that on the record?’ ‘Well, I suppose we could, we could edit it on the front.’ It was a found object, an accident caused by leaning the guitar against the amp.” Although it sounded very much like an electric guitar, Lennon actually played the riff on an acoustic-electric guitar (a Gibson model J-160E), employing the guitar’s onboard pickup.
Later, Lennon was very proud of this sonic experimentation. In one of his last interviews, he said, “I defy anybody to find a record… unless it is some old blues record from 1922… that uses feedback that way. So I claim it for the Beatles. Before Hendrix, before The Who, before anybody. The first feedback on record.” 
The other Beatles song to extensively use feedback was the six-minute (or eight, depending on the version) psychedelic work-of-art ‘It’s All Too Much’, which was penned by George. As most people will recall, it was the last song (excepting the reprise of ‘All Together Now’) used in the 1968 animated masterpiece Yellow Submarine, and appears over an equally-psychedelic animation sequence almost bursts off your screen! Feedback was also used in the Toronto Rock & Roll Revival Festival performance of Yoko’s ‘John, John (Let’s Hope For Peace)’. Hmm… I was watching the footage of TR&RF the other day (thank you to my godparents for recording it!), and I absolutely loved it – especially John’s bit – until Yoko started screaming her head off. Now, I like/respect Yoko as an artist (as physical art that you can see) and as someone who made John very, very happy, but her “music” (if you can call it that) is too avant-garde for me – and that’s coming from someone who’s a bit quirky, herself! I’ll put ‘It’s All Too Much’ below, but I’ll spare you Yoko…
5. Stadium Concerts
I’m sure that most people reading this have seen a music gig at a large stadium – here in Adelaide, the Stones were coming to open our new Adelaide Oval (our stadium), but Mick Jagger’s girlfriend tragically committed suicide, so they’re playing in October. But the first stadium concert is not credited to the Stones, but to their ‘rivals’ (not really…), The Fab Four! The Beatles – having performed in numerous halls/theatres/clubs for about seven years – played to a full house of 55,600 fans at Shea Stadium (a sporting stadium in the city that would later become John’s home, New York) on the 15th of August, 1965! Brian Epstein almost stopped this milestone from happening, as he was worried that the tickets wouldn’t sell out – but they did! The Shea Stadium crowd – apart from beginning a trend that would go on for decades to come – was the largest crowd The Beatles ever played to. But we all know it’s not the largest crowd they ever received – that’s reserved for my town, Adelaide! Oh, and how could I forget those gorgeous suits – they all look so darn handsome! Here’s a clip from that historic concert – hope you don’t mind screaming girls!
4. Heavy Metal
Yes, The Beatles were the first major band to write songs that would now be classed as ‘proto metal’ – all those crashing drums and bass and guitars! No doubt about that. There is, however, an argument between Beatles fans as to which Beatles song was the first heavy metal tune. Most people know about ‘Helter Skelter’ – the heaviest song around at the time of its recording – and its influence on bands like Black Sabbath and Motley Crue, but two other Beatles songs have also been credited with the invention of a genre. The first is ‘Ticket To Ride’ – the first song ever to involve stormy drums and heavy guitar/bass lines, important components in heavy metal. People such as Richie Unterberger, Ian MacDonald and John himself (plus me!) say the record was influential in the evolution of heavy metal, and because it was recorded three years before ‘Helter Skelter’ and four years before ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’ (the other song up there), it is sometimes named the first heavy metal record. Now for ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’ – this is arguably the heaviest song recorded by The Fab Four, and appears on Abbey Road. The music magazine Guitar World says that it may “have inadvertently started doom metal” – listen to the song, and you’ll see why. It’s heavier than ‘Helter Skelter’ and ‘Ticket To Ride’ put together, and that ending is very metal-ish. So, as you can see, that although people who favour Paul say argue that ‘Helter Skelter’ began metal, and Lennon Lovers argue back with ‘Ticket To Ride’, The Beatles invented a genre. And the rest is history.
One thing that really irritates me is when people call The Beatles a pop group, when – in actual fact – they rocked dead hard. Even their pop-iest song – ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ – has a rocky rhythm guitar/bass part, and early songs such as ‘It Won’t Be Long’ and pretty much the whole of Please Please Me rock real hard, too. And when people call them poppy, they seemingly forget about every song they recorded after 1964, and those songs I just mentioned. In my (and many others’) opinion, they were just as much a rock band as The Rolling Stones and other 1960s cited as ‘rock’. In fact, those songs above are three of the hardest-rocking songs recorded in that period, if not of all time…
3. The Three-Minute Pop-Song (Breach Of)
Ah, ‘Ticket To Ride’ strikes again! In 1965, it was the unspoken rules of music that a pop song must not go over three minutes long. But The Beatles being The Beatles, this didn’t matter (I salute you for not conforming, John, Paul, George and Ringo!). They recorded ‘Ticket To Ride’ in early 1965, which – apart from arguably being the first heavy metal song (see above) – went for a rebellious 3:10 minutes (gasp!)! This was the first pop song to go for an amount of time longer than three minutes, and thus was the basis for all sorts of late-1960s psychedelia!
2. “Long” Hair and “High-Heeled” shoes (for men, that is)
Sure, in the early 1960s, the world’s definition of long hair (for men, anyway) was quite different, but The Beatles were really the first rock band to wear long hair! Their moptops were outrageously long for the 1960s, at first – but of course, they changed that! As everyone knows, their hair got longer and longer as time went by, and because of this, society’s perception of the appropriate length of men’s hair dissipated. This eventually amounted to John and George’s Jesus looks in 1969, and because those two’s earlier pioneering, nobody cared. And as for the Cuban heels… here’s what Wikipedia has to say:
Beatle boots are tight-fitting, Cuban-heeled, ankle-length boots with a pointed toe which originated in 1963 when Brian Epstein discovered Chelsea boots while browsing in the London footwear company Anello & Davide, and consequently commissioned four pairs (with the addition of Cuban heels) for The Beatles to complement their new suit image upon their return from Hamburg, who wore them under drainpipe trousers.
1. The Music Clip
Those two video clips above were made in 1967, but The Beatles first started making music clips (or ‘promos’, as they were then called) in late 1965, to substitute for live performances. This eventually amounted from black-and-white footage of the band miming to colour clips of them parading around the grounds of an English mansion (and still miming), the latter of which used for accompanying clips for their new single, ‘Paperback Writer’/’Rain’ in early 1966. These clips hit their peak in 1967 when the mad masterpieces used for promotion of ‘Penny Lane’, ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ and ‘Hello Goodbye’ were produced. Because of these (and the song-sequences in each Beatles film), the world now has the modern music clip. The rest, as we all know, is history.
So there we go – a list of just six of the hundreds of ways the four lads from Liverpool revolutionised the world. I’ll leave you with one final picture of The Fab Four, but good day sunshine for now! 🙂