By Amanda Seamayer
Music, like most art forms, is subjective. In other words, what one person may like, another could skip over; therefore, making it very hard to critique. After all, critiques are just strongly worded opinion pieces.
However, that still doesn’t stop music lovers from debating which band is the best. Many will argue that the English band, The Beatles, deserves the title of the greatest rock group of all time.
The Beatles, formed in 1962 and disbanded in 1970, is composed of John Lennon (rhythm guitar and vocals), Paul McCartney (bass guitar and vocals), George Harrison (lead guitar and vocals) and Ringo Starr (drums).
In their prolific career, they recorded 13 studio albums, acted in four films, and were involved in countless international concert tours, until 1966. From 1966 until their breakup, they stopped touring in order to focus on music that could not have been performed live in those days.
After The Beatles stopped touring, they created music that no one had heard before. For example, the song “Tomorrow Never Knows” from their 1966 album, “Revolver” combines experimental music techniques, with its use of tape loops and backward recordings with an overall Eastern vibe.
“Tomorrow Never Knows” was a song that was a stark contrast to their contemporaries at the time. After all, the public was used to simple songs about love and heartbreak. It is an example from their catalog of the music inspired by the philosophical ideals and beliefs that was beginning to dominate the hippie subculture during the 1960s.
“Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream,” as Lennon sings in “Tomorrow Never Knows,” couldn’t easily top the music charts. In this particular song, The Beatles weren’t concerned with selling a lot of records; instead they were starting to contribute to a new way of making and listening to music.
In 1967’s “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band,” as many music historians can agree, was one of the first “concept albums.” A concept album strives to create a vibe or feeling throughout the track listing, instead of taking each song for what it was.
For the group, Sgt. Pepper’s concept was that they wanted to distance themselves from The Beatles. They wanted to be a “new band”—that band being Sgt. Pepper’s. The idea of the album was that they were to record as another band, yet remain a Beatles album all at the same time.
Whether or not they succeed is another question. But, at that time, concept albums were popular. They were challenging the status quo in regards to music, and how it would be perceived: at face value, or as an art.
This is not to say that The Beatles only recorded music during their career. In their early career, they were the cause of international “Beatlemania,” causing young girls and teenagers to flock to their concerts and movie premieres.
Their early albums were filled with typical rock and pop songs that people would not deem to be revolutionary. But, starting in 1965, with the release of “Rubber Soul,” they were challenging their audience. They were no longer becoming a typical boy band; rather they were now forming into a musical powerhouse group.
Over fifty years later, how can any music group’s catalog still hold up? For starters, for someone, or a group of individuals, to make history, they must change the norm. But does that make The Beatles the “greatest rock band of all time?” It depends on your opinion or perception of their music.
It is hard to label a subjective art form with a definite title like that. However, it is difficult to argue their lasting relevance in popular culture, even today. After all, if they weren’t at least slightly good, would people still be discussing and listening to their music?
Whether or not someone agrees that The Beatles are the greatest band in history, they are still influential in modern music history. Give their albums a listen to form an opinion on their music, and join the conversation.