Saturday, October 8, 2011

Few Could Approach The Spark Of Lennon/McCartney, The Pop Music Songwriting Team Of The '60s

Screenshot of The Beatles from the trailer for...Image via WikipediaBy Seth Frank

No dyed-in-the-wool record collector who indulges in rock music could possibly call his collection complete without including some Beatles vinyl in the group, because those discs helped define that wild, creative time in our history.

It's still amazing what a lively time for popular music the 1960s was, and the Beatles were in top form, producing many record albums with songs that got played on radio stations everywhere.

While other acts that emerged in the era may have enjoyed greater longevity, or at least managed to stay together longer than did the Beatles, the four Liverpool lads ignited the most excitement, by far.

While the Stones and the Who keep running like the Energizer Bunny, their attraction to most these days is as relics of the past - '60s survivors whose top performances are well behind them. Much of the Rolling Stones 1960s catalog consists of cover versions of classic rhythm and blues music that were composed by black American acts who certainly didn't receive the widespread acclaim they deserved.

Mick and the boys slayed with their pop tributes to the game-changers of Chess Records in Chicago, and they even recorded tracks in that storied studio, but they were no Beatles when it came to creating hits. Lennon and McCartney got more kudos, grudgingly at first, from the older generation than did any other band for their songwriting and production genius, which they ably displayed on many record releases.

But all good things must come to an end, and one of them was live Beatles performances with all four members, which became a thing of the past when they decided to limit their creative work to the recording studio.

After a difficult 1966 tour of America, during which Lennon was harangued for comments he made that offended the religious community, the Beatles decided to avoid live concert performance, and they became a recording act that stayed clear of the public eye.

Lennon and McCartney dove into songwriting and recording in earnest, and during the post-concert phase, the Beatles created a number of conceptually-based albums that stretched the band's musical and production skills, as they burrowed deeper into the technology of the studio.

You can't work as closely as did the Beatles without nerves getting ragged from time to time, and after years of confinement together as Beatlemania paralyzed the nation, the members of the band experienced the inevitable claustrophobia that one would experience from the pressures they faced.

Increasingly, the Beatles were functioning more as a group of independent artists than as one united front, and indeed some members created their own solo projects isolated from and without the aid of the others. And so it all came to an end in 1970, a short while since they made that premiere appearance on American TV, performing their material on the Ed Sullivan show and changing popular culture like never before.

They gave us the impression they were with us for most of our lives, but when the Beatles finally split up, what was remarkable to think about was how much they had created in such a short time.

It's a mark of their greatness that people not only remember and play Beatles music today, musicians must still measure up to the very impressive standards they set back then in order to succeed.

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