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Is the "simple" great music of the Early Beatles in some ways more complex and/or organized than the best of Classical Music? If not, was it still a "progression" in music? Or just Something New?

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Showing 1-25 of 47 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 5, 2012 2:48:57 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Sep 27, 2013 9:49:21 PM PDT]

Posted on Oct 5, 2012 3:14:08 AM PDT
DRM, there was a definite progression overall musically and technically on ''Revolver and ''Sgt. Pepper. However, that cohesiveness was not the same as the early albums. The harmonies were still great too, but again there's a certain special ''thing'' about those earlier albums. I like both the early and later work for different reasons. I guess I can't really explain it.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 5, 2012 3:19:05 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Sep 27, 2013 9:49:28 PM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 5, 2012 3:33:04 AM PDT
Don't forget The Beatles ideas and songwriting improved too. The Beatles still needed each other to make it work overall.

Posted on Oct 5, 2012 3:38:08 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Sep 27, 2013 9:49:36 PM PDT]

Posted on Oct 5, 2012 8:58:08 PM PDT
John D. Muir says:
I think the problem with trying to compare two very different genres (early Beatles and classical music) is that they don't have many common points of reference. Your title question, DRM (was The Beatles early music more complex and/or organized than the best classical music) is a bit like asking whether Usain Bolt is a better athlete than Gabby Douglas. Yes if the comparison is who runs fastest, no if it is who does the best forward somersault on the balance beam.

Some classical music is wonderfully simple- Beethoven's sonatas for violin and piano, for example- and some early Beatles music is more complex, though not perhaps more organized, than that. Some classical music is much more complex- sticking with Beethoven, his 9th Symphony lasts over an hour, has an orchestra of close to 100 musicians, four vocal soloists and a choir of up to 100 voices. Rather more complex than 'Love Me Do'!

I just ask myself what I feel like listening to today. Then I put that on.

Posted on Oct 5, 2012 9:54:06 PM PDT
Dr. Mikey says:
@DRM. The questions you raise are interesting and, unlike "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?", there are no final answers. I have got a lot of information and enjoyment from the Rolling Stone publication "The Beatles: The Ultimate Album-by-Album Guide" which was issued in the fall of 2011. They provide some good critiques raising many of the issues you bring up.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 6, 2012 2:18:57 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Sep 27, 2013 9:49:46 PM PDT]

Posted on Oct 8, 2012 5:47:10 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 8, 2012 5:51:20 AM PDT
John D. Muir says:
You make some very interesting points, DRM. I see where you're going with this; I think maybe the term 'complex' is not the one I'd use in this context.

Great pieces of music, in any genre, do have this in common: everything the piece contains adds to the total listening experience. There is no filler. If you take anything away, be it an instrument, a passage, a harmony or a chord, then the whole piece is weakened. In that sense The Beatles music is like great classical music; there is astonishingly little filler in Beatles songs. One of the trends that I regret in the post-Beatles, or indeed post-sixties era, is the tendency to make songs longer not because the artist has anything more to say but simply to pad the length of the recording. Unless there is some kind of development, either musically or lyrically, in a piece of music, making it longer is ultimately tedious. The Beatles, as you rightly say, produced songs which were a concentrated and focussed slice of genius.

I chuckled at your description of 'a major work by a well-known classical musician'. It reminds me of an experience I had back in the 1970s. I've always enjoyed the singing of the great German baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, who sadly died this year. I have various recordings by him, including the simple but beautiful songs by Schubert as well as opera. I had a chance to see him in the Festival Hall in London. I didn't know the piece he was performing and when he was introduced found that it was a contemporary work by a German composer (who was in the audience) scored for cellos, trombones (if memory serves, 10 cellos and 6 trombones) and baritone. I sat there in utter disbelief as for 40 minutes the most appalling cacophony issued forth; every now and then this lovely voice could be heard before the trombones and cellos resumed their racket. Certainly the most disappointing experience I've ever had in music. However, your description in no way fits Beethoven's 9th. It's a work of great majesty and I defy anyone to hear it live (no recording can really do it justice) and not be moved.

The Beatles DID take a number of songs amd merge them together to make a work of considerable complexity- the second side of Abbey Road. I think it is among their best music and maybe could have led to an entirely different direction for them had it not also been their last music.

Has music progressed? Again, the word 'progressed' is not the term I'd choose. Bach is still popular today and other baroque composers, like Vivaldi, are more popular than ever before. Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert from 200 years ago are all very popular. The bel canto operas of Rossini, Bellini and Donizetti have become staples of the operatic repetoire. The Beatles broke up more than 40 years ago and we're still talking about them.

I guess I'd say that quality is quality whenever and however it is produced. In that sense, The Beatles are part of the lineage of great music of all types.

Posted on Oct 8, 2012 11:15:13 AM PDT
@DRM: I don't think anyone would argue that The Beatles--both their early and later work--brought a new, fresh direction to music that had not been heard before. However, this is usually a separate idea from what people usually talk about when they talk about "complex" music. I think your revised question "what is quality in music" would have been a better way of phrasing it, originally.

I simply cannot agree, however, that "Revolver" was a 'regression' from earlier work, less of a band effort, or only the result of multiple tracking. This idea is so alien to me, I'm not sure I can even grasp my head around it enough to give an adequate response to this claim.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 13, 2012 2:40:22 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Sep 27, 2013 9:49:57 PM PDT]

Posted on Oct 20, 2012 5:25:08 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Sep 27, 2013 9:50:03 PM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 20, 2012 6:43:24 AM PDT
John D. Muir says:
Good example, DRM. By using the word 'Mummy', a small child's word, John conveys his sense of inability to deal with his loss at an adult level. The enormity of the loss diminishes him, even as he acknowledges that it happened many years ago.

Very subtle and, as you say, very profound.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 21, 2012 12:20:41 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Sep 27, 2013 9:50:09 PM PDT]

Posted on Oct 22, 2012 2:20:12 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 22, 2012 2:21:54 PM PDT
DRM says:
A fairly short song that contains So Much is my Favorite Byrds Song: "Wasn't Born To Follow".

Posted on Oct 30, 2012 5:03:41 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Sep 27, 2013 9:50:17 PM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 1, 2012 8:00:15 AM PDT
Dee Zee says:
Well said DRM.

Posted on Nov 1, 2012 3:54:22 PM PDT
Maybe it's just me, but I like seeing The Beatles frolicking around doing merry zany things. :)

Posted on Nov 1, 2012 4:50:15 PM PDT
Dr. Mikey says:
I agree, Michael. Part of it for me is the times: 1967 was a time of frolick, before the '60s turned dark, with violence, harder drugs, etc. I liked the Monkees for the same reason - the fun, the good music, and the personalities of the band (in both Beatles and Monkees). This was a time when everyone was kind of innocent and goofy, unlike today when it's cool (at least acording to the media) to be rude, surly, and downright mean. As I've said before, people are always asking me why I'm stuck in the '60s. One more reason.

Posted on Nov 6, 2012 4:46:06 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 6, 2012 4:49:08 PM PST
KV Trout says:
Interesting discussion. I didn't come here to write today - don't have time - but I'll knock out some quick thoughts on this one:
DRM wrote:

"Was any of their early work "pre-psychedelic"?

Did any of their early work "alter consciousness" as much as the most psychedelic music contained in Revolver, but just in a different way?

Or was their "late sixties work" just more cool because of the drugs and the culture at that time and the glorification of that era?"

As to the question in the thread title, I think it's impossible to really compare the Beatles to classical music. It's apples and oranges. Both are awesome but quite different. In fact, though, I'm not even sure classical music and the early Beatles can be compared, they're so different. I think you can certainly compare SFF and IATW to classical music though...

Getting back to the question I quoted above:

Yes their early work did alter consciousness but not in the way their later "psychedelic" music did. No, the early Beatles altered consciousness in a way that was like ELECTRIFYING a whole generation, exciting and turning on millions of young people (and some older ones). So yes it certainly altered consciousness and by way of doing that it changed the entire society and societies all over the world. It ushered in a Renaissance of Music and changed the world. So in that sense, yes it was pre-psychedelic; exactly like Revolver but in a different way.

Their late 60's work wasn't "just more cool because of drugs and the culture at that time" it was "more cool" because it was more serious, it was more art-full, it was more musically and lyrically complex. Thus it was indeed more akin to classical music, opera and "high art".

But when it comes to SHEER MAGIC (and there really is no better way to describe it imho), those early songs were just that. It never ceases to amaze me how I still get the CHILLS when hearing certain of those older songs. "I Should Have Known Better" is one of those that totally takes over my consciousness and gives me some kind of whole-body happiness when I hear it, and even more so when I watch that scene in "A Hard Day's Night". Can classical music do that? Not for me, though of course classical music can and does move people; but can it move them like THAT? Again, not me; others, I don't really know. Maybe.

Were the early Beatles songs mind-altering? Are you kidding me? Of course they were! They changed the entire world, and had they not made that music, at that time, the world would be a much less rich and *magical* place. Ken Kesey, Tim Leary and Kurt Vonnegut - all icons of the sixties, though admittedly Vonnegut was in a slightly different category though he did smoke pot - have all said the Beatles were "saints", "magical", "avatars" etc. and that is absolutely true. Their music and personalities as "The Beatles" goes beyond normal everyday existence or that of "a popular musical group"; way Beyond.


In reply to an earlier post on Nov 11, 2012 3:00:34 AM PST
[Deleted by the author on Sep 27, 2013 9:50:28 PM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 11, 2012 3:14:47 AM PST
DRM says:
Thanks Dee Zee.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 13, 2012 10:07:39 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 15, 2012 6:32:29 AM PST
Tero says:
If you compare a Beatle song to a baroque concerto, the concerto has a little more complexity. Mostly in the same key, except the middle of three movements might be a related key. The allegro of a concerto would run about 5 minutes, so verse chorus and middle 8 add up to about the same number of bars. Repetition fills up a song to 4 minutes or so.

As far ast the work, a 15 minute concerto is about the same work as 2 or 3 Beatle songs stuck together.

Symphonies are much more complex.

The Beatles did not really jam well, so the solos of say Light My Fire make that a more complex work already.

Posted on Nov 14, 2012 8:02:37 PM PST
KV Trout says:
Thanks for the kind words DRM.

DRM wrote: "The album and film combination of "A Hard Day's Night" captured Art, Culture, and Music at a Height not seen since."

There is no way that anyone who was not a young person at the time AHDN came out could ever really understand the significance of the early Beatles.

In my view, though, as great as the early Beatles were, it took the greatness of the later Beatles to make them as significant as they are. While the early Beatles captured a generation, it's the later Beatles that made that capturing of a generation significant.The fact that they grew into artists and put out significant social messages in their songs and interviews, that they took the art of studio recording to a whole new level, that they took rock music to a whole new level - this is what makes the early Beatles so signficant. And than goodness it did! Because the early Beatles are just so incredibly joyous!

To back-pedal a bit here, let me clarify that even if there had not been a later more artistic Beatles, the early work would have still been huge on "oldies" radio etc. and people would still enjoy that music. But in my view it's the later Beatles that made them what they are, which is to say the greatest rock music group that ever was and ever will be.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 18, 2012 9:43:30 PM PST
John D. Muir says:
Nice post, KV. I've always thought that the remarkable thing about the Beatles was their ability to change and grow ahead of the curve. Throughout their career the group never sounded like anyone else and although they were influenced by other artists they used those influences to create their own unique material, rather than copies of others' styles or sounds.

Take away any part of The Beatles career and body of work and the band is diminished. Everything is necessary in making the band what it was; the greatest, as you rightly say.
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Discussion in:  Beatles forum
Participants:  13
Total posts:  47
Initial post:  Oct 5, 2012
Latest post:  Jun 2, 2013

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