The Beatles re-arrived yesterday, in their ongoing, 40-year, British Invasion of melody, mind and matter. Most of the good radio stations in New York City played hour-long Beatles song cycles yesterday in honor of their latest remastered music mastery.
There is no denying the Beatles are the greatest modern rock band is music history — but why are we so quick to offer them that accolade?
Yes, their music is timeless.
Yes, the understood the power of melody.
Yes, the Beat Boys are just as popular today with kids raised on the raw sound of digital music as those of us who were originally immersed with them in warm tubes and vinyl and needles.
I think the reason for Beatles mega stardom is in their later work and not their early hits.
The early songs are easy to play and are often imitated. Their later work, however, is more mysterious and harder to reproduce — so when you think of a Beatles song, you always think of the original version and not a remake.
When we see Beatles impersonators, they always honor the clean-shaven mop top gang and not the bearded and angry old men of the Apple Corps.
The reason why so few can touch the music of the later Beatles is because they were studio based and not performance based. When you don’t have to worry about recreating “that sound” live on stage on tour every night, you are freer to bleed on the cold edge of experimentalism.
The Beatles also played with off-tuning and odd semitones and they would, at times, artificially slow down and speed up certain portions of their songs to basically make their work so complex that it was “un-copiable” by lesser talents.
The only way to really match the later work of the Beatles is to throw away the original and make your own way. That takes an amazing amount of hubris and harmony to successfully pull off and yet you can see how the incredible talent Jeff Beck did just that in his live rendition of “A Day in the Life.”
We think Jeff Beck’s “A Day in the Life” is even better than the Beatles original and that is not only an honor for Beck, but it also proves the Beatles were so much more than melody and lyric.
The Beatles were about expressing the very essence of being in the song singing within all of us.