The Beatles’ career from 1956 through 1965 represents a oneway trip from powerful teenage identifications with Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly, through a dominion achieved with their own well-crafted, adolescentinspiring refrain of “yeah, yeah, yeah,” to an increasingly serious focus on the artistic expression of their experience and hopes. Whereas the Beatles could do little wrong with critics or fans in this ascendancy, their image would occasionally be tarnished and their future would often be stamped as uncertain in their remarkable final years together, 1966-70.
It was during the earlier period that the group mastered what was given them; from 1966 onward, their confident and constant drive for originality in the production of studio masterworks would push the rest of the rock-music world to reset its goals from the ground up. The Beatles would no longer be seen by their peers as producers of a style that begged to be imitated before the fad had passed but as visionaries who were able to convince the establishment that each new rock album might have a fundamentally different set of rules and that these rules would be dictated by the artists. And from 1966 to the present day, the Beatles’ highly personalized music would be understood by their audience in as many different ways as there are listeners.
While the Beatles’ activity in the years following 1965 is the subject of this volume, the highly creative work of this period can be appreciated only in the context of what had come before. So we begin with a brief precis of the group’s development through the release of Rubber Soul in December 1965. This introductory sketch will highlight the earliest musical influences on the band, its general approaches to composition, instrumental and vocal performance techniques, lyric writing, rhythmic, formal, harmonic and melodic practices and innovations,
and early recording procedures. It will then present more extended discussions of one composition each by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Table 1.1 provides a time line summarizing the major events of the first “half” of the Beatles’ career.