It’s been a fun month people! (All 5 of you) But unfortunately this series must come to an end, and what perfect day to do it than the 11 May, the day ‘Long Tail Sally’ was released in Canada. What a momentus day in the history of the likely lads of Liverpool and what quite possibly is the most important rock band of all time! (It’s my fault really, bad planning. No Please don’t leave, there are still plenty of Ringo jokes, I didn’t even do a stupid gimmick like putting ‘so’ at the start of all the captions for the photos). So for those who have enjoyed this series let us delve for the last time into part 4, Publicity.
-Worlds largest tv audience
On February 9, 1964, 73 million Americans sat down in front of their TVs to witness the immortal words “Ladies and gentlemen, The Beatles!” This was an unprecedented television event as about a third of the population of the United States sat down to watch, essentially The Beatles had both taken the horse to water and made it drink, and the horse lapped up every single drop of the water.
This event was the start of the Brit invasion, paving the way for bands like The Who, The Animals and The Rolling Stones (I’m sensing a pattern here) to also find success in the states (alas not Cliff Richard). The events following this event also drew up the blue prints for future British artists to find success in the US, with a number of British artists achieving number ones in the charts in the 70s & 80s (Queen, Bowie, The Police, Elton John, Bee Gees etc), and the emergence of Brit pop in the 90s with artists like Oasis and Blur finding relative success, however in the 90s British acts were having less influence on the American music industry and while they achieved modest success this was not reflected in the mainstream charts, Oasis being the band to reach the highest place with ‘Wonderwall’ which reached number 8. Blur (who were considered Oasis’s primary competition) lagged behind in the us mainstream charts, only reaching 55 for ‘Song 2’. However these bands both had a little more success in the ‘alternative rock charts’, Oasis achieving 2 number ones for ‘Wonderwall’ and ‘Champagne Supernova’, Blur once again lagging behind having reached number 4, 5 and 6 for ‘Girls and Boys’, ‘There’s No Other Way’ and ‘Song 2’ respectively.
The success of Oasis and Blur in the alternative charts can be attributed to the new surge of British artists in the alternative charts, the success of British artists had started to wane in the mainstream charts in the 90s. British rock acts exploded in the ‘alternative rock’ charts, with acts like The Cure, Morrissey and Depeche Mode. However this too started to wane with the increased popularity of American alternative rock acts and the emergence of nu-metal. However in the late 2000s the likes of Coldplay and Muse managed to break back into the charts, further success was found by British artists in this new decade, Muse and Coldplay continuing to be successful, while new acts Mumford and Suns, Bastille and Arctic Monkeys achieving varying degrees of success in the mainstream and alternative charts (mostly in the alternative).
-First music videos
Music videos are highly lucrative in the modern music industry, excellent for promoting singles and generally getting a bands sound out to the public. Some artists combine the art and music aspect to create truly unique short movies. There are even awards ceremonies dedicated to music videos where big stars with heads and egos to match can declare ‘so and so’s’ music video was the “greatest video of all time.” in the middle of someone else’s speech (not naming names, we all know who they are), before preceding to allow a very confused artist on what may have been the most important night of their life up to that point to finish their speech (even if ‘they’ then continued to take home Grammy awards for country music after stopping being a country singer years before, not naming names of course).
Essentially music videos originally came about because The Beatles were sick of touring. Once again popular culture and music have crazed fans to thank for great innovation. Their fans were so crazy that they forced The Beatles inside the studio and behind the camera, rather than on stage, where they could have their ear drums further damaged by the sounds of shrill screaming.
Now there is evidence of early music videos in the late 50s/early 60s, and it wasn’t unheard of artist appearing in movies that showcased their musical talents (Cliff Richard, Elvis Presley and The Beatles included), and it certainly wasn’t the first time prerecorded music and footage of it being lip-synced had been used for promotional purposes. The Beatles certainly hadn’t created this concept, however they had popularized it, and through the strong desire to not tour but still cultivate their image and keep a foothold in the states The Beatles accidentally created music videos.
So for better or worse, if it wasn’t for The Beatles MTV wouldn’t be a thing.
-First British band to clash with the bible belt
August 1966 was a terrible month for free speech, and greatly foreshadowed what was to become of the American media and the popularity of the religious right in the US.
I’m sure every Beatles fan knows the story, John Lennon gets asked a question by the British media in regards to the decline of Christianity in Britain and he naively makes an earnest point about how it seems like Rock and Roll seems more important to kids than religion and Jesus. At which point the American media proceeded to take what was said and misquote him as saying that “The Beatles were bigger than Jesus.” This of course created pandemonium within the Christian behemoth that is the United States of America.
Some particularly evangelical radio hosts had then taken it upon themselves to use this as a way to gain their own publicity, officially refusing to play Beatles records, and in a scene reminiscent of Nazi Germany in 1933, young folks were encouraged to come and burn Beatles records and other promotional material, and America, the country that constantly throws the word ‘freedom’ down our throats allowed the world to witness a grand hypocrisy, proud citizens of the ‘land of the free’ advocated the burning of art and expression. Though I was not born until several decades later, as a strong believer in free speech and freedom of expression i am truly sickened by the actions of August 1966.
Oh it also brought domestic terrorist group the KKK into the fold, because as Al Qaeda will tell you, if a crazy fundamentalist ideology needs anything, it’s publicity and screen time, as the KKK in what i assume was their version of a f***** up membership drive, threatened violence at Beatles shows.
Of course not all Americans were up in arms, I’ve always held that a lot of Americans are mainly intelligent and progressive people, but can’t be heard over the sound of ignorant, misinformed morons. When The Beatles tour of 1966 commenced in Shea Stadium it was business as usual, and The Beatles played to a crowd of about 55,000. A more open-minded Kentucky radio station even giving The Beatles more airplay citing their reason as ‘contempt for hypocrisy personified’, and while the possibility of the KKK threat being genuine was hanging over their heads, it was only the deep south that they had to worry about.
Essentially The Beatles had created the first pop scandal. In the past conservative parents had worried about the sinful influence of Rock and Roll, but nothing anyone said had really brought fuel to the fire. There is a saying in the media that ‘all publicity is good publicity’ and considering the things artists have said, how artists act or how artists have changed their image (Miley Cyrus cough cough) in order to increase their publicity or public attention, and quite frankly being sensational and controversial works in gaining publicity, however i don’t think our 4 likely lads from Liverpool shared the same sentiment while watching out for sniper fire on a summer afternoon in Memphis.
There are many other people who should give thanks to The Beatles, some of which i will list below;
- Phil Collins, Don Henley, Roger Taylor, Dave Grohl etc – Making it cool for drummers to sing lead vocals
- The Monkees – You know why
- Every British performer – For creating the Americans perverse obsession with ‘exotic, classy Brits’
- Joe Cocker – For probably a little less than half of his singles
- Michael Jackson – I’m pretty sure the rights to Lennon-McCartney songs bought plenty of bananas for bubbles
- English teachers – Giving them an excuse to seem hip by presenting a Beatles song instead of a poem to interpret during English class
And finally Yoko Ono, for if it wasn’t for John Lennon she would still be a obscure conceptual artist sitting on a stage having people cut pieces of clothing off of her (that said if it wasn’t for Yoko Ono ‘I’m So Tired’, ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy), ‘Don’t Let Me Down’, ‘Jealous Guy’, ‘(Just Like) Starting Over’ and ‘Woman’ (to name a few) would probably never been written. And of course ‘Ballad Of John and Yoko’, which is a good song. (I don’t care what anybody says)
I sincerely hope i don’t sound like a gushing fan boy when i say this when i say that music, popular culture and the world has a lot to thank The Beatles for, however while The Beatles enhanced and innovated in the studio they are also famous for defining what it was to be a modern rock star, a world full of scandal, controversy and crazed fans feeling entitled to being a part of a celebrity’s life just because they like a movie that they’re in or the songs that they play.