Recently watched Ron Howard’s documentary: “The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years.”
Although almost everything that could be documented about the Beatles world-changing, meteoric rise to prominence and dominance in pop music and our social consciousness has been written about, recorded or filmed, it still is exciting when a new telling of the tale comes out. Ron Howard focuses on the brief period of time that the band played concerts live, roughly 5 years if you count the small clubs in England and Germany, and makes clear why The Beatles couldn’t possibly continue touring. Besides the “mania” that kept them running from cars, trains and planes onto stages and into hotels through back entrances, the screaming frenzy when they played live overshadowed the sounds of the extraordinary musical innovations they were making on an almost daily basis.
None of the Fab Four were virtuosos on their instruments, like Eric Clapton or Billy Preston, who recorded some memorable riffs on Beatle albums, nor were they master vocalists like contemporaries Stevie Wonder or Aretha Franklin. Even their lyrical poetry wasn’t the equivalent of Bob Dylan or Paul Simon at the time. What made The Beatles so outstanding was the way they put it all together.
As I listened to some of those DNA-engrained songs recently, I had this realization - many good songs, even some great ones, are written around the virtuosity of the musicians. In other words, the song serves as showcase/vehicle for the talented musicianship of the artist. Those are the songs I always listened to on the radio in the 60’s and 70’s, appreciating the gifted playing and singing. But it was only the recordings of The Beatles that I saved up my allowance to actually buy and treasure. Their instrumentalism and vocalizations wrapped around and served the songs, you see, and so the songs freely came from... well, they seemed to be channeled from their souls. And indeed, well before “Father Joe” and “Doctor Joe,” The Beatles were my first gurus.
“Nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be.” (“All You Need Is Love)
“It really doesn’t matter if I’m wrong, I’m right where I belong.” (“Fixing A Hole”)
“Let it be.” (“Let It Be”)
“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” (“The End”)
That last lyric was the very last line on the very last song on the very last album that The Beatles recorded together. Their final message.