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If you want to know about the Sixties, play the music of The Beatles (Aaron Copland) How accurate is this statement in relation to the development of popular music in Britain?

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Introduction

'If you want to know about the Sixties, play the music of The Beatles' (Aaron Copland) How accurate is this statement in relation to the development of popular music in Britain? The Beatles were a phenomenal success throughout the 1960s as they began a new era of music that changed the state of play in the music industry. Their simple chord structures, epitomised on 'Love Me Do', and intricate vocal harmonies led them to being a huge success in Britain, as well as the rest of the world. There was a "charge emitted by their music" (p1, MacDonald, 1998) and the new genre of music undeniably inspired other bands to write and perform in a similar style. However not all credit can be given to The Beatles for the development of popular music in Britain. Popular music from America was the initial influence as it "found its way into the UK via the ports" (BBC - h2g2) and as Liverpool was the main port into the UK from America, inevitably the music initially had an effect on musicians in the Merseyside area. This particularly had an effect on a four-piece skiffle group formed in 1956 by John Lennon, The Quarry Men, who over time developed and formed The Beatles in 1960 (MacDonald, 2002). They were young and brought a new image that was idolised by teenagers. The "four young men behind the music" amazed people and their image resonated "with a youthful and halcyon ideal of those times" (p17, Frontani, 2007). ...read more.

Middle

- The Beatles - Discover music at Last.fm). The lyrics 'I need somebody', 'Help me if you can, I'm feeling down. Help me get my feet back on the ground' are evident as Lennon recalls, "I was fat and depressed and I was crying out for help" (p317, Everett, 2001). The use of marijuana was only just emerging in the sixties as more people were "trying to find new ways to explore pleasure" (Bacig, 2002). It can therefore be deduced that The Beatles would have been one of the first bands to use it and other bands would no doubt experiment with it in the future. Smoking marijuana definitely would have had an effect on the music that The Beatles were producing, hence the change in instrumentation, texture and structure in the mid-sixties. The songs had also dramatically increased in length and with the release of 'Magical Mystery Tour' in 1967 (Magical Mystery Tour - The Beatles - Last.fm), songs like 'Strawberry Fields Forever' and 'I'm the Walrus' were now over four minutes in length. At the beginning of their career, songs would only have lasted for a maximum of three minutes and mainly featured electric guitar, bass guitar, drums and perhaps a keyboard/piano. Instruments used previously in classical music were now evident in their music and in many cases dominated the music. The use of strings and brass are particularly evident in the accompaniment in 'Strawberry Fields Forever', before the music takes a very unexpected turn in the last thirty seconds of the song, which features a modal flute passage. ...read more.

Conclusion

It is clear from the evidence pulled together that The Beatles were undeniably a huge influence on the music of the sixties, as Aaron Copland states. They are certainly an iconic feature of the sixties and the majority of us would agree that they are "probably the best example of the development of British popular music in the 1960s" (p20, Reeve-Baker, 2010). However, Harry, 2004 also writes "there is no denying that the impact of the Beatles and the other British bands and artists did have a profound effect on the American music scene" (p57) so we can only agree with Aaron Copland to a certain extent and not give all credit to The Beatles when thinking about the music of the sixties. It is therefore fair to conclude with Shuker's statement in Popular Music : The Key Concepts as he writes "The Beatles were the crucial performers and their success opened the way for the Dave Clark Five, Gerry and the Pacemakers, the Rolling Stones, etc." (p32) as they changed the way in which music was composed and performed to the British public and indeed the rest of the world. We can also go as far to say that they could have opened the way for other emerging bands in the sixties such as Deep Purple, Pink Floyd and even Led Zeppelin, who would go on to develop further experimental techniques, both in terms of harmony and technology. In the words of Ian MacDonald: "Though ultimately the product of influences deeper than pop, the Sixties' soaring optimism was ideally expressed by it, and nowhere more perfectly than in the music of The Beatles" (p1, MacDonald, 1998). ...read more.

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