by Samuel Litman
Beatles are the most talked about, loved, adored, and even
overrated band in the history of rock music. The Beatles were
only together for eight years, from 1962 to 1970, but made
a lot of memorable music that has crossed listeners’ ears. There have been
endless debates over the last couple decades from people who
are on both sides of the issue. The Beatles fans, including myself,
are mainly the people who have always agreed that, yes they are
the greatest rock and roll band. However, rock music singers,
such as Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones, and also Brian Wilson
of the Beach Boys disagree simply because they have been around
a lot longer than the Beatles were, although the Beatles have
influenced them in some way. Other musicians in bands that have
been around a lot longer than the Beatles also concur with Mick
Jagger and Brian Wilson. However, the Beatles are the greatest
rock and roll band, because of their revolutionary recording
techniques done in ways that other musicians had not even dreamed
of, especially in the early to mid 1960’s. The Beatles
producer, Sir George Martin and their engineer Geoff Emerick
starting in 1963, steered the Beatles in these new and exciting
ways. The Beatles used several experimental ways in how they
recorded their music during their entire career.
They were the first band to use the mellotron, in the song “In My Life”.
The sitar, an instrument from India is played on the song “Norwegian
Wood”. The Beatles also used tape recorders played backwards in a lot
of their songs, which is how they experimented like no other band had done
up to this point.
The Beatles consisted of John Winston Lennon (1940-1980), Sir. James Paul
McCartney (1942-) George Harrison (1943-2001) and Richard (Ringo) Starkey (1940-
). Ringo Starr was not an original member of the band; he joined in 1962 replacing
Pete Best (1941- ). after Best was fired from the band. At the beginning, since
the band was only just starting out, they did not have much experience in a
recording studio, except they were honing their chops in a live concert setting.
The Beatles and producer
George Martin in the Studio 1963
The Beatles released their first album “Please Please Me” in 1963,
in which they first started using three-part harmonies. Since this is the debut
release from the Beatles, some rock critics were not very impressed. However,
this was the start of “Beatle mania” originating in Liverpool,
the Beatles' hometown.
The Beatles Second Album, released in 1964, had a first when their song “Thank
You Girl” featured the only “True” stereo version. In some
of the Beatles recordings, John Lennon played the harmonica, which was not
widely used by other artists at this time. For the album “Beatles for
Sale,” John Lennon became more personal in his songwriting.
The album also contained cover versions of other artist’s songs.
From the album, “Beatles ’65,” two songs, “I Feel
Fine” and “She’s A Woman” were recorded in mono, but
added extra echo and reverb for the single and album mono release. By this
time, Ringo Starr had started using a “cha cha” drumming style,
which other drummers had not experimented with yet.
From the album Beatles VI, the song “Ticket to Ride” has a couple
of firsts. It was the first Beatles single to run past three minutes, and on
the day the single was recorded, John Lennon passed his driving test. As for
recording, the Beatles overdubbed drums, guitars, lead vocal, tambourine, and
From the song “We Can Work It Out” from the album “Rubber
Soul” released in 1965, the Beatles were the first rock band to use a
keyboard-like instrument called the harmonium. A rock critic from “Melody
Maker” said that” the album was not their best on first hearing,
and that it may not receive as much acclaim.”
The album “Yesterday and Today” from 1965, was the first rock
album to have a front cover that was banned and had to be redone. The album “Revolver” from
1966 had many new innovations recorded in the studio. The song “Eleanor
Rigby” was the first song to have a complex string arrangement, scored
by Sir. George Martin. It’s also unique because each Beatle contributed
a lyric idea. On the song “I’m only sleeping,” The Beatles
perfected a backward guitar sound, which some sources say took more than 14
hours to record. For the song “Tomorrow Never Knows” another key
innovation was John Lennon’s processed lead vocal. For “Revolver” a
production technique that was used for the first time was called “Automatic
The Beatles in the Studio
The album “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” has the
distinction from “Rolling Stone” magazine for being one of the
most influential albums in the history of rock music. Even rock critics, who
in the past didn’t give the Beatles more credit than they deserved, gave
the album the title of the greatest album of all time. The album took an astounding
129 days to record. The album was also the first “concept album”.
For it, The Beatles used four French horn players. It was the first album of
its kind to have a gatefold sleeve. The cover also was the first to have its
lyrics printed on the back. The song “A Day in the Life” also had
a first when three grand pianos, in the key of E major were all struck at the
same time and lasted 53 seconds total. After the piano chord has faded, a high
frequency sound was recorded because John Lennon wanted to “Annoy your
dog” followed by “Beatles chatter”.
From the album “Magical Mystery Tour” the song “I Am the
Walrus” Sir George Martin himself calls the song “Organized chaos”. “Magical
Mystery Tour” was the only Beatles record to be divided into two halves.
The first side was the film’s soundtrack and the second side was a collection
of A and B sides released in 1967.
From “The White Album” released in 1968, it was the first Beatles
record to transition from 4-track tape to 8-track tape. The album was also
the band’s first double record, spanning over 95 minutes. A reviewer
from the New York Times, Nik Cohn, considered the album “Boring beyond
The Beatles' Final Photo
Session - 1969
The album “Yellow Submarine” from 1969 turned out to be the Beatles
weakest release. It was not considered a “proper Beatles” album
because they weren’t as involved in the recording sessions, as the last
six songs were not recorded by them.
The Beatles' last two albums “Let It Be” and Abbey Road were recorded
during a time of upheaval and disagreements within the band. “Abbey Road” turned
out to be the Beatles best-selling album ever.
Even though the Beatles started off 1962 with a bang, and ended quietly in
1970 when they broke up, they are considered one of the best rock and roll
bands in the history of rock music. Because of their innovations in how they
recorded their albums, they are revered by rock critics and fans alike. There
are always going to be some rock critics and rock singers from other rock bands
that argue this point, but still appreciate and respect the music, and the
Guest article by Samuel Litman (with some editing by BeatlesLane).