I am still inspired by the incredible heart and craft of their music. I aspire to be so joyous and creative in my own expression.
When the Beatles first come on the scene, I wasn't too impressed. With Sgt. Pepper's
, everything changed about the Beatles. I was amazed how they had grown as a band and individually. The musicianship and compositions were stunning. They had elements of all types of music which made me think they were truly a "Fusion" band. After Sgt. Pepper's
, I went back and listened with different ears to their earlier records. They stood up extremely well. I have everything they've recorded plus numerous videos and have admired and enjoyed their music. The "White Album," Abbey Road
, Let it Be
, they're all special in some way. Long live the Beatles!
The musicality and arrangements of much of the Beatles' compositions has impacted how I arrange American Songbook tunes and jazz standards because of the similar pop style that each possesses. I also grew up playing and listening to them a lot on the radio before I listened to or learned anything about jazz. Their harmonies were and still are quite hip for pop music.
Growing up I was exposed to my two older brother's recordings of The Beatles such as For Sale
, A Hard Day's Night
. The music with its beautiful melodies and fascinating sonorities impressed me immediately. It seemed to connect to my other interests in jazz, classical, theater music and R&B. However, it was really the later stuff that knocked me out! Their music really started changing when they stopped performing live and became a studio band. This transformation began around the time of Rubber Soul
and especially Revolver
and continued through all the subsequent recordings. These albums contain many beautiful examples of studio experimentation, orchestration and song writing. Their lyrics combine elements of surrealism, postmodernism and social commentary. The idea of the concept album or suite in pop/rock music really takes off with Sgt. Pepper's
and continues with beautiful sequences such as the second half of Abbey Road
. Seldom if ever has avant-garde strains been as popular or exposed to a wider audience as in pieces from "The White Album," Revolver, Abbey Road
or Magical Mystery Tour
The Beatles, with considerable help from George Martin, created a body of work which influenced highly divergent musicians in multiple ways.
In the months prior to 1993, my ex-wife Nancy often played the Sgt. Pepper's
CD at home while working, and her interest in The Beatles served to rekindle mine, especially for George Harrison's "Within You Without You." As The Beatles arrived on the scene in the early '60s, my sister Laurie was the first in our household to go nuts for them, and she was the only one, amongst her girlfriends, to be totally wild for George. So, when Mike Mainieri asked me to contribute a track to his project: A Guitar Tribute To The BeatlesCOME TOGETHER
(NYC Records, 1993), a two-song George Harrison medley seemed fitting, and "Blue Jay Way" from Magical Mystery Tour
appealed to my bizarre musical sensibilities.
Of course, The Beatles, in their way, opened the doors to breaking down the rigid boundaries that then existed between all forms of popular music, and, even at the time, "world music." Anything seemed possible in the mid to late 1960s. Hard to believe that, at that same point in time, we had the great Miles Davis Quintet; the John Coltrane Quartet; and Ornette Coleman's Quartet too. I think everyone, no matter what their particular musical aesthetic leaning might have been, could appreciate the fantastic songwriting, the great singing, the incredibly creative production values, and the expansion of the popular song form. The music of The Beatles was so wonderful for its time, and it remains so today."
The Beatles energized the entire world, musically and otherwise, with their look and their sound. The strongest impression that I have had over the years is that their music has a timeless quality to it, and I would guess that this must come from their gift for melody as much or more than anything else. Their tunes became production standard-bearers, of course, but it's the musical haiku-quality of their artistry that has most intrigued me over the years. The compactness and clarity, specificity and simple wonderfulness of their songs is what makes their music timeless to me.