The Beatles were, and still are, the best band that has ever been. Though there have been numerous brilliant contenders nobody has quite surpassed them – and there are good reasons for this.
It all started right back at the beginning and is clearly audible on that first and second album (particularly the first). These two albums really represent the Beatles early stage act. It was dynamic and rocked liked no other.
Coming from Liverpool the Beatles had access to the R&B and Rock ‘N’ Roll from the States. The merchant seamen brought it in and the Mersey Bands lapped it up. The band played the little Mersey clubs and had a long stint in Hamburg. They had to compete. The post-war kids wanted excitement. They wanted it loud and they wanted it fast. They wanted to dance and let their hair down. The Beatles did it as good as any and were almost the best live act in Liverpool (the most exciting being The Big Three). What the Beatles did was take the Black R&B and Rock ‘n’ Roll and give it a driving beat. They rocked it up. Few people had heard anything like it.
Back in England we did not have much in the way of radio. There were no commercial stations. We just had the Beeb and they censored the life out of everything. We never got to hear any of this stuff. It was dire. So when the Beatles did all that fabulous Black R&B it was all fresh to us. We hadn’t heard it first time around. Even the White American had’nt heard a lot of it. The establishment had cleaned up the radio and TV. Rock and R&B were considered a bad influence.
By the time that first album came out they had honed their craft and had an act that stomped, harmonies to die for and a unique sound. You can feel the energy bursting off that first album. It was basically recorded live in the studio and still retains the force of those live performances. They arrived ready-formed.
But the Beatles were clever. They varied the pace. They put in ballads and the odd one or two of their own songs – which stood up well against the rest of the repertoire. They not only had the power but also the craftsmanship so that the harmonies and musical interaction was spot on.
Those first two albums exploded. That was partly because the scene was pretty dead with diluted Rock and partly because of the energy and raw power that the Beatles injected into them.
The other thing of note was that they wrote all their singles – and those singles were great, different and of a high quality. They set them apart from the other bands. It was another string to their bow.
At the age of fourteen I was already a seasoned Rock aficionado. I liked my vintage Buddy Holly, Little Richard, Gene Vincent, Elvis Presley, Everly Brothers as well as the Shadows and whatever Pop stuff was around. I liked rockin’ music but on first hearing the Beatles hit me like a rock. I was blown away. It was instant. They were that visceral.
It is hard to explain to people who weren’t there. When you have already heard Hendrix, The Doors, Zappa and the Stones Rockin’ in the Seventies, Nirvana and the Ramones and all the other Rock Music that followed, the impact of those first albums could not be understood. But there had been nothing quite like them. They were pioneers. They blasted the doors open and Rock Music lived again.