Despite all the poetic truth in the output of the greatest songsmiths of the 20th century, one line must be corrected: It was “fifty” years ago today that Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play.
It was an artistic feat of no small measure, no pun intended. Within five years, i.e. between 1962 and 1967, the band transformed all points of reference of popular culture by single- handedly combining everything in a kaleidoscope of creative genius. It didn’t exactly begin with the first single credited to The Beatles, Love Me Do. The latter was the first surfacing of a still naive musical endeavour that was to become a socio-musical phenomenon within a mere twelve months.
When it was issued on October 5, 1962, the musical landscape was a Cliff Richard-, Frank Sinatra-, Pat Boone-dominated territory full of banalities. The Beatles’ first single simply had to succumb to these realities in order not to be locked away by the British moral watchdogs. They had already worked hard in previous years to establish a rock act that simply had no predecessors. Their early field studies in Hamburg’s street of love added some profound German roughness to their refined British tastes.
Whilst coming of age, the four soonto- become legends unconsciously developed a USP, if you pardon the anachronistic use of the word, that would set them apart from anything and anybody before. At the same time, it defined the modus operandi for all ensuing bands of the following decades: The Beatles not only wrote their own music but also performed their own music. This simple fact made all the difference and made The Beatles the most influential social phenomenon to occur in the 1960s – the love, peace and happiness sermons and mantras would have been inconceivable had these four lads from Liverpool not sensed their irresistible inherent logic of having become a one-stop-shop for music, fashion, teenage- sorrows-solving, friendship, religion, metaphysics and establishment-shaking creativity. The simple fact of them being an autarkic community assured them historic impact. Of course there is the music. But having become a subconscious ersatz model for a Western family they gave the youth of the 60s a reason to rebel and besides established a durable blueprint for careers in pop music.
The folks at EMI Zürich were kind enough to let us dig into the treasure trove of timeless music and celebrate this fab anniversary with you. Besides John Lennon’s Signature Box there’s the entire back catalogue of the band of bands up for grabs – and in full glory too, remastered by the best-trained ears the Abbey Road staff had to offer.
Putting any of the new Beatles remastered versions on your stereo, you immediately ask yourself whether the music had been recorded yesterday, such is the sheer contemporary brilliance.
But again, that’s how George Martin worked in those days, making sure the mics were placed just at the right position to let the magic in the legendary studio seep into the multi-track tapes as well.
Also there is the immaculate version of Yellow Submarine, fully restored in Blu-Ray quality, which is enough to blow anybody’s mind. The DVD version is mind-shaking too. Funny enough, back when Yellow Submarine was conceived as a full-length animated movie in 1967, the Beatles didn’t even want to get involved. They suspected there was some vapid PR deal behind the flick and they had had enough with lukewarm Beatles cartoons flooding American TVs. But when they finally got wind that this movie was going to become a piece of art – directed by the late Heinz Edelmann, a genius in his own right – it was too late for them to fully contribute. In the end, they couldn’t even lend their real voices to the cartoon characters of themselves and were thus confined to a short spoof at the end of that hallucinogenic masterpiece.
So it’s turn off your mind, relax and float downstream… and tell us who’s this rubber soul sporting a yellow-red tie. Send your answer to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Article by Oliver Kaiser