Saturday, March 27, 2010

Are the Beatles the Greatest Band of All Time?

By James Magary

Looking over the last few decades of popular music, it is almost easier to make the case today about the vast importance and cultural significance of the Beatles than it would have been in the 1960s. The music that they made, and the influence that they hold even today, in terms of songwriting and recording innovation, holds up incredibly well compared to any artist one can name, from any decade.

This is especially true considering that the recording industry is several times larger than it was in the 1960s, and that advances in digital recording technology, which did not exist at all when the Beatles did their work, have made almost anything possible in recorded music. Despite these facts, many fans and critics agree that no one has come close to the particular brand of creative innovation, not to mention worldwide popularity, achieved by John, Paul, George, and Ringo during their heyday as the Beatles.

In the 1960s, a frequent debate among rock fans posed the question about who was better: The Beatles or Rolling Stones? Some would even throw in The Who, or later, Led Zeppelin, to add to this debate. All of those bands are widely respected and could make a legitimate claim to the throne of the greatest rock band. However, if you look at the influence of the Beatles, and the cultural significance of their work beyond the limitations of just "rock music", it is clear that they have gained a different type of credibility than their peers, and have made a level of impact on history that the other bands have not.

The Beatles songwriting not only holds up to modern standards, but is actually seen as much more professional and polished than it was at the time they were a current band. In a way, the influences that went into their records, which included a lot of music from the first half of the 20th century, as well as classical music influences brought about in the studio through the help of classically-trained producer George Martin, make the Beatles' work a bridge between the old and the new, between the first half of the 20th century, and the post-rock-n-roll era.

Much of the Beatles legacy is connected to the incomparable decade of the 1960s, which saw unprecedented changes in human culture, geo-politics, global communication, mass media, and naturally, the music business. The Beatles' haircuts, outfits, and other superficial aspects of their fame present the risk of having them appear dated. But it always comes back to the music, and on that measure, their music is only growing in popularity, significance, and stature. Albums like Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Abbey Road, and the White Album are even better reviewed today than they were when they came out, which cannot be said for the work of many of the Beatles' imitators from that decade.

The Beatles have a solid case for being considered the one artist that will be named from the 20th century after hundreds of years have passed, much as previous centuries of music are defined by Mozart or Beethoven, or in literature by William Shakespeare. Of course those artists had peers as well, but most people don't hear or learn about them nearly as much.

In late 2009 the Beatles re-released their primary catalog with long-awaited remastered recordings of their original works. They followed this up with a unique box set available in a green aluminum apple device containing a USB drive with the entire stereo box set, contained in a high-resolution audio format.

To read more about the Beatles and their influence, and to see a review of the Beatles USB box set, go to this site: Beatles USB Box Set Review

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