Why Are the Beatles Important to Music History?

It’s been over 50 years since the Beatles made their debut on the Ed Sullivan Show. Opinions vary with each subsequent generation over the significance of their influence, from “The Beatles are the greatest band in history!” to “The Beatles are terrible, I don’t care about them.”  Usually the latter is due a generational gap, so let’s revisit why this most influential band in history is so important.  There have been many books written on the subject, but here are the finer points.

The Beatles Ushered In a New Type of Music

Music has a long history of individuals that have consistently created a new age of sound. From Bach to the Beatles, music evolves in periods that change the way we listen, write and imitate.  Their arrival triggered the musical revolution of the Sixties, introducing a modern sound and viewpoint that parted ways with previous decades.
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The Beatles Changed the Way We Bought Music

Before the Beatles, recorded music was primarily delivered through 45’s. Usually just containing two songs and some filler. The goal was to sell the singles. The Beatles looked at the entire album as an opportunity to fill blank space and didn’t include singles on their albums. They also changed the way we look at album art which inspired some of the most imitated album covers of all time.

The Beatles Created the Music Video

Richard Lester, whom MTV declared the father of modern pop video, worked on the Beatles’ films A Hard Day’s Night and Help!

The Beatles Reinvented Live Concerts

shea-stadium-concerts-beatles-1966They were the first act to play a large stadium in 1965 when they sold out Shea Stadium in just 17 minutes. The record audience was over 55k.

Your Favorite Band Might Not exist Without the Beatles

Because the Beatles radically changed music, they inspired many other artists.  So even if you don’t like the Beatles, you owe them a debt of graditude for the artists below:

Pink Floyd, Nirvana, Green Day, Franz Ferdinand, The Beach Boys, U2, The Rolling Stones, Soundgarden, Queen, The Cure, The Police, The Velvet Underground, Smashing Pumpkin and just about any Motown act you have ever heard.

Most of these are only the first generations influenced by them. Many of these bands listed went on to inspire even more musicians. Motown went on to influence R&B, Rap and Hip Hop performers. If a more heavy sound is your taste, the Beatles were the inspiration behind Led Zeppelin, which is the godfather of metal.

The Beatles Disliked Being a Boy Band

They were also the template behind every boy band that ever existed.  But that isn’t their fault. 091112rocknroll They quite amazingly did not tour to support the second half of their career. That’s the half of their career that included all of their most popular albums. They bucked all standard practices and chose to grow up in the studio versus standing in front of 16-year-old fans at oversold baseball stadiums.

They Knew When to Quit

The Beatles quit young, all under the age of 30. Some people are quite bitter about this, even blaming Yoko Ono.  But they quit when they were at the height of their popularity, because they knew that as a band they were at their pinnacle and wanted to go in other directions.  

The Beatles also changed fashion, consumerism and stood up against government. So when someone from any generation asks, “Why are the Beatles so special?” You now know the answer.

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