What drove the lads, what really got the best out of them? Creating? Sure: they just had to write music. Girls? Uh-huh; perhaps.... Money? (Maybe; they actually had no idea at all how much they were worth and how dreadful most of their early deals were until the death of manager Brian Epstein). Leadership by George Martin and Brain Epstein? Certainly a factor. But perhaps the real get-out-of-bed-every-morning factor was this: they simply wanted to be 'toppermost of the poppermost' and simply no one, no one, not even the best of the best was going to beat them. And there was some really good competition arriving on the scene.
As happens when you are really good, you inspire imitation and competition. Initially the Beatles were the next natural evolutionary step after Sinatra, Elvis and Cliff Richards/Buddy Holly. They had grown up on an eclectic selection of music heard in snatches on the radio, practised skiffle and then rapidly created their own field. But not for long.
Suddenly Northern towns and cities were cool. There was something called ‘Mersey Beat’ and everyone was of course looking for 'The New Beatles'. Plenty of bands had a few hits but most came and went. But there were three forces the Beatles had to contend with: The Beach Boys. Bob Dylan. And of course The Rolling Stones.
Just as had the Beatles, the Stones initially did covers but a combination of seeing how quickly Lennon and McCartney ‘knocked out’ I Wanna be Your Man (which they gave to the Stones and it became their second single) and also being envious of their full-length leather coats, vocalist Mick Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards became a formidable writing team in their own right. John in particular remained envious of them in the early years for their ‘bad boy’ image, for wearing whatever clothes they fancied and their harder-hitting lyrics.
Bob Dylan introduced the Beatles to both drugs and to the autobiographical ballad approach of which The Beatles excelled in their own way: Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields had been the first two tracks on what was planned to be a Liverpool Concept Album, but George Martin needed to release something to a hungry market and the idea was forgotten. Drug influenced tracks became a true speciality…turn off your mind and float down-stream…in return The Beatles got Dylan plugging-in.
Beach Boy harmonies were a true inspiration, too and for several albums the Beatles and Beach Boys leap-frogged each other in the ‘concept thrills’ they provided for their respective fans. But in the end- just as Paul’s cleverly constructed and powerful little rocker Back in the USSR shows-the Fab Four were unstoppable.
24: Simply Different
25: A Time to Think
27: Yeah, Yeah, Yeah
28: The B Side
29: The Philosophy