I was first and foremost raised a Rolling Stones fan. Let there be no question about that. My parents let me know early in my life that I lived in a Mick and Keith household and not a Paul and John one. I knew it was only a rock ‘n roll rule, but I liked it, liked it, yes I did.
That’s not to say, however, that my parents ever discouraged any of us from listening to The Beatles. Before I was old enough to truly appreciate an album, I was the proud owner of The Beatles 1 album, which was released in 2000 and featured virtually all of the band’s number one singles in America and the UK from 1962 to 1970. I was enamored by songs like “Love Me Do,” “Eight Days A Week,” and “Ticket To Ride.” They were remarkably simple tracks, but undeniably classic.
It’s crazy to think that today marks the 50th anniversary of The Beatles first appearance in America on The Ed Sullivan Show. If you tried to explain the concept of an iPod or Spotify to a Beatles fan back then, they’d probably call you a Communist. That’s why it might be hard for our generation, the millennials, to understand exactly how enormously popular The Beatles were. Everyone loved them. They weren’t just the most popular band, they and their fans would make Justin Bieber and his Beliebers look like a performer and frenzied crowd at preschool talent show.
The Beatles changed everything. They were music stars, movie stars, cultural icons, and the torch carriers of rock and roll. Ask your parents their favorite Beatles story and it probably starts with a smile. It might not be about a concert that they attended, but they definitely have a story about seeing the band on TV or about their older brother and sister passing down a coveted Beatles album.
It’s amazing that The Beatles were able to affect so many generations of people. It’s easy to see how the UK’s favorite sons shaped the music landscape forever. What’s more impressive – and maybe not as obvious – is how they changed the average music consumer forever, too.
I am not a historian, but I’d argue that The Beatles are one of the biggest reasons we millennials listen to music the way we do. Think about it. Even though everyone loved The Beatles, everyone had a favorite Beatle. Mine is George. He has a bunch of great solo albums you should check out if you haven’t heard them yet. Plus, he sings “Here Comes The Sun,” my favorite Beatles song. Once The Beatles broke up, everyone followed his or her favorite Beatle. They owned Paul, George, John – and sometimes Ringo – proudly. They had lists of reasons why one was better than the other.
These days, all we do is listen to our favorite music. We’re a create-our-own-playlist generation. It’s pretty awesome. There are a lot of artists that we can agree on, but we each have our own music. It’s kind of like part of our soul that we can decide to keep wrapped up or share with everyone else. I think in a way, The Beatles belonged to everyone, but each person had their own Beatle.
There will be people who say silly stuff like, “One Direction is so similar to The Beatles in terms of popularity.” But that’s just not the case. The Beatles formed a bridge between pop music, rock, and rhythm and blues. They gave a generation something to rally around. A way to express themselves. Then, when they broke up after years of unprecedented success, they gave a bunch of other generations an opportunity to find music that was even closer to their hearts.
Today we have specialized advertisements on our Facebook pages and on a whole multitude of websites. Advertisers check out our internet history and get frighteningly relevant commercials in front of our faces. I think it’s so great that we get to create playlists of music just for us. If the tradeoff is that I have to stare at advertisements that try to sell me flights to Boston and Chicago, then so be it, I guess.
While I think historians use hyperbole too often, I don’t think there’s any overstating the wide-ranging impact The Beatles had. Hell, they still continue to influence us. Paul and Ringo dominated the Grammys. People still go nuts when they get on stage – especially together.
The Rolling Stones will always be my favorite classic rock band, but I want to thank George, John, Paul, and Ringo for starting a movement. I think they would all agree that it’s pretty groovy that we can create our very own playlists eight days a week.