The music of The Beatles
The Beatles had a relatively short career by the standards of many of the bands of the era, many of which survive today. But in their decade of prominence their music followed an identifiable path that took in mainstream pop, psychedelia and some quite challenging arrangements. Analyzing sheet music of the Beatles reveals that even their early music, a blend of skiffle and rock ’n’ roll, was far removed from the three-chord compositions of many of their contemporaries. Once notable feature of Beatles music is the ease with which it translates to different styles. Much of it retains its distinct feel regardless of whether it is being strummed on a guitar, played on a piano, automated on a sequencer or being performed by a complete orchestra. This is one measure of its quality.
Collaboration and mutual inspiration
Although Lennon and McCartney did indeed write and sing the lion’s share of Beatles music, all four members contributed to the writing. Some of the most iconic songs were by George Harrison, including Something, Here Comes the Sun and While my Guitar Gently Weeps; and Starr’s contribution in the form of Yellow Submarine and Octopus’s Garden (among others) should not be overlooked. Glancing through the credits of the entire Beatles collection, however, will show just how much cross-fertilization and collaboration occurred in the creative heart of the band. In fact, it can come as a surprise how few were purely McCartney and Lennon creations as a percentage of the entire body.
Because of the undisputable quality that binds together every note of the Beatles’ output, it comes as no surprise to see how often their songs have been covered by other artists. Whether it’s Bowie doing Across the Universe, The Carpenters’ Ticket to Ride, Oasis belting out I am the Walrus or Elvis Presley performing Yesterday, the songs’ power survives many vocal and instrumental styles. In fact, anyone with a modicum of talent can cover The Beatles and end up with at least a passable rendition, be they sitting by a roaring campfire with a guitar, tinkling the ivories at a cocktail party, warming up a rock band or singing in the shower.
The melodies and backing music of The Beatles guarantees it a listen, and is part of the universal success of the band. The lyrics are often not given the attention they deserve, however. Whilst probably not being as notable as would be the case in a Bob Dylan or Billy Bragg composition, most Beatles lyrics show a certain depth that is appropriate for the medium they were intended for – namely pop music – but reading them in sheet music can be quite surprising. There’s plenty of dry humour, a sprinkling of wackiness, lots of heartfelt emotion and some psychedelic traces, especially in their later period. First and foremost The Beatles were a pop group extraordinaire, and their songs were intended to be sung, listened to and enjoyed, no doubt a throwback to their early days in Liverpool, but a successful formula none the less.