Four young lads from Liverpool who released some albums in The Sixties, and are credited by many for changing the face of rock and popular music, while for others they were at least major pioneers of the new style of pop rock, and were a major force of The British Invasion. For many people, they are also the face of the 1960s. Which is not bad work, really.The Beatles formed in 1960, with the initial stable line-up consisting of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison on guitar and Stuart "Stu" Sutcliffe on bass. After a brief stint with drummer Tommy Moore, they settled with Pete Best. Sutcliffe didn't last too long, quitting the next year to focus on his art work, and McCartney switched to bass. He didn't live to see the Beatles become world-famous, dying of a brain haemorrhage in 1962. Best lasted longer, right up to their first recording session with Parlophone Records. Then, he was infamously sacked and replaced by Richard Starkey(AKA Ringo Starr) just as they were about to make it big.Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is considered by many critics to be the greatest album in history and is credited with really changing the way people listened to pop music; it also has one of the most parodied and homaged album covers in the history of music. The simpler image on the cover of Abbey Road of the band walking in near-lockstep across the street is a close competitor for most homaged cover, as is the half-shadowed band portrait that was used on the British album With the Beatles and its American equivalent/MacekreMeet the Beatles.The Beatles were the first band in history to make music video equivalents to their own songs, which every musician does now. They played themselves in three fictional films: the pseudo-documentaryA Hard Days Night (1964), the James Bond parody Help! (1965), and the critically-panned surrealist television film Magical Mystery Tour (1967); they were also the subject of the documentary film Let It Be (1970). Their Celebrity Toon equivalents starred in two very different Band Toons, each with a distinct set of character designs for the Fab Four. Their wacky 1965Animated Series was the first made-for-TV cartoon based on a real band (or any real people), and therefore both the Ur Example and Trope Maker. Meanwhile, the 1968 feature Yellow Submarine brought kid-friendly psychedelic imagery to the masses.Once Brian Epstein died in 1967, the writing was on the wall for the Beatles. Ringo Starr briefly quit during the making of The White Album, and George Harrison did the same during the Let It Be sessions. Finally, John Lennon quit for good in September 1969. The band broke up in 1970 under circumstances painful to think about. Everyone went on to solo careers of varying success, most notably McCartney with Wings. The dissolution was finalized in 1974, but Apple Corps (the Beatles' management company) was left intact. For perhaps fifteen years, few people saw any purpose for that...But then a second wave of Beatlemania gradually hit — too late for John Lennon, who sadly had been getting the Dead Artists Are Better effect since 1980 when he was murdered by Mark David Chapman, but everyone else got to see it. The events leading to this, in order: the initial release of the British Beatles catalog on CD in 1987; Paul McCartney finally embracing his Beatles heritage fully in 1989, in the process settling the last couple of lawsuits and freeing Apple Corps to act; and most noticeably, The Beatles Anthology which is a box set released in 1995, with Beatles singles "Free as a Bird" and "Real Love" (which Covered Up Lennon versions). Since then, Beatles-related stuff has come out just often enough to keep second-generation fans on their toes and the fandom active and aggressive.George Harrison died of cancer in 2001. Sir Paul McCartney (he was knighted in 1997 and handled it in a way that ensured no one would let him live it down) and Ringo Starr are still out there touring, doing a bunch of miscellaneous projects, and occasionally making records — and they both still write GOOD music. Even Pete Best released an album and began touring circa 2008.The legacy lives on. An installment of Rock Band was made featuring Beatles songs and only Beatles songs. Not quite coincidentally, the entire catalog has been remastered and was rereleased on CD the same day. After years of legal disputes having to do with the "Apple" label, iTunes has added Beatles music in 2010!In 1966 John Lennon gave an ill-thought-out comment that The Beatles were "more popular than Jesus now." He promptly apologized for it, but it had already been taken out of context by the press. John wasn't saying that the Beatles were more important than Jesus; but if you were the kind of "thick-headed disciple" who would burn Beatles albums over this, then the context — his thoughts on the state of Christianity — would not be much comfort. Still, in 2008, the Vatican admitted that he had a point.
1968 - Yellow Submarinenote Although only four of the songs ("Only a Northern Song", "Hey Bulldog", "All Together Now", "It's All Too Much") are not pre-existing material from previous albums, the existence of this new material, as well as the flip-side original instrumental orchestral soundtrack by producer and "fifth Beatle" George Martin, makes the soundtrack officially a Beatles album instead of a compilation
1965 - "Ticket To Ride" note Otherwise available on their 1965 album Help! / "Yes It Is"
1965 - "Help!" note Otherwise available on their album Help! / "I'm Down"
1965 - "Day Tripper" / "We Can Work It Out"
1966 - "Paperback Writer" / "Rain"
1968 - "Lady Madonna" / "The Inner Light"
1968 - "Hey Jude" / "Revolution"
1969 - "Get Back" note Otherwise available on their 1970 album Let It Be / "Don't Let Me Down"
1969 - "The Ballad Of John And Yoko" / "Old Brown Shoe"
1970 - "Let It Be" note Otherwise available on their album Let It Be / "You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)"
"The Fab Tropes":
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Aborted Arc: Apart from the Intro, the introduction of Ringo in the persona of "Billy Shears" at the beginning of "With A Little Help From My Friends", and the Reprise, the Sergeant Pepper album largely ignores the "concept" of the Sergeant and his band.
With the Beatles being as popular and as influential as they were, there are literally more of these than can be counted. There's an episode of The Powerpuff Girls, for example, that's basically a protracted parody of every bit of Beatles trivia that the writer could remember. And Abbey Road Crossing can usually be considered a subtrope of this.
Deface the Music by Utopia is a particularly good Affectionate Parody which, like The Rutles, goes through a large portion of the Beatles' career.
The 1978 novel Paperback Writer by Mark Shipper. A hilarious absurdist revisionist history of their career (for starters, their debut album is called We're Gonna Change The Face of Pop Music Forever), ending with an ill-fated late 70s reunion album and tour.
Beatles For Sale is considered to contain a lot of filler due to the fact there are six covers the band had been playing since their Quarrymen days (as well as "I'll Follow the Sun", which was one of the first songs Paul McCartney ever wrote).
The Beatles also covered the Larry Williams song "Bad Boy" solely to fill out the US-only album Beatles VI. The song would not see British release until 1966.
From Rubber Soul, "Wait" was a song that remained from the Help! sessions.
Sometimes John composed songs just because he didn't have enough in the record (such as "Run for Your Life" in Rubber Soul, "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite" in Sgt. Pepper's).
And of course, there's "The White Album". George Martin even asked them to trim it down to one album since he felt there was too much filler, but the band didn't listen, being eager to fulfill their album commitment to the EMI record label as quickly as possible.
The inclusion of "Across the Universe" and "One After 909" on Let It Be couldn't be anything but filler. The former was recorded in early 1968, long before Let It Be was released, and the latter was one of the first songs Lennon and McCartney had ever written; they recorded a version of it in 1963, which was never included on an album because they were never satisfied with it. They recorded a new version of it for Let It Be.
"Dig It" from the same album was certainly that. When the album was remixed as Let It Be... Naked in 2002, it was even dropped from the track list.
Some consider the George Martin composed orchestrations to be this on the flip side of the Yellow Submarine album song track.
Aluminum Christmas Trees: The 1966 fan club Christmas record has a bit set aboard HMS Tremendous. Given the wacky absurdist humor used throughout the disc, this sounds like something they made up, but there really was a Royal Navy ship called that.
And Starring: Billy Preston's work on keyboards with the band during the Get Back sessions earned him a special credit; the "Get Back"/"Don't Let Me Down" single was attributed to "The Beatles with Billy Preston". This was the only time the band shared billing with another artist.
Apple Corps Owns This Trope: Apple Corps and Apple (Computer) Inc. had an argument dating back to the 1980s over the use of the name "Apple" as a trademark. The original agreement—that Apple Corps could never sell computers, and Apple Inc. could never sell music—seemed pretty sensible until the introduction of iTunes. This is part of why it took until November 16, 2010 for The Beatles' output to be available through that service.
Antiquated Linguistics: "Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite!", its lyrics being drawn from a Victorian circus poster.
Artifact Title: The name The Beatles is a pun on the genre Beat, which is what the band started off playing, but they changed their sound so much over the years that it wasn't really accurate by the time of Revolver. The casual music crowd of today doesn't listen to any other 60s artists apart from The Beatles, so they are unaware of the context of the band's name. Luckily, it can also refer to the Beat of a song rather than just the genre.
The boys have admitted that the majority of their movie Help! was filmed in "a haze of marijuana," and that this was part of the reason that they didn't bother to take much creative control of the movie.
Ascended Fangirls: Two of the "Apple scruffs"—mostly female fans that lurked outside Apple studios constantly while the Beatles were recording—were brought inside to sing backup on "Across the Universe". Their off-key bleating was one reason why "Across the Universe" was given away to a charity album, and when the song was remixed for Let It Be the girls were mixed out.
Badass Boast: "When I was a Beatle, I thought we were the best fucking group in the goddamn world."—John Lennon, 1980
The Beat Generation: The name of the band was partially inspired by the Beats and Lennon in particular named Jack Kerouac as an influence. Allen Ginsberg later on became friends with the band, with Paul McCartney actually playing guitar on one of Ginsberg's albums.
Bifauxnen: "Well you should see Polythene Pam/She's so good-looking but she looks like a man..."
Bigger Than Jesus/Blasphemous Boast: The Trope Namer came from a John Lennon interview in which he did NOT say "we're bigger than Jesus" but rather "we're more popular than Jesus now". Given the intensity of Beatlemania, that was a defensible statement. It still garnered a great amount of ill will from the kinds of people who weren't inclined to like The Beatles in the first place—mostly religious fundamentalist types from the southern States. The protests that dogged The Beatles over their American tour played no small part in convincing them to give up touring for good.
Biopic: Backbeat (1994) depicts the group's Hamburg days, and in particular the relationship between John Lennon, Stu Sutcliffe, and the latter's girlfriend/muse Astrid Kirchherr.
Nowhere Boy focuses on Lennon and his complicated family history, but also dramatizes his meeting with McCartney and the formulation of the band.
Biting-the-Hand Humor: Paul wrote "You Never Give Me Your Money" to voice complaints about the financial practices of Apple Records and Allen Klein.
Black Comedy: The original, infamous "butcher" cover of the album Yesterday and Today. Also, at a stop in Australia, there's a brief clip of them mockingly shouting "Deutschland uber alles!" at the adoring crowd, just to prove they could say or do just about anything and the fans would keep screaming.
Book Ends: The original Get Back album was supposed to have a 1969 photo of the Beatles in the exact same pose that they used for their breakout 1963 Please Please Me album. This idea was abandoned when the Get Back album was reworked into Let It Be, but the photo was eventually used for the cover of the 1967-1970 compilation album.
Sgt. Pepper's opens with the title track, and the penultimate track is a reprise (if "A Day in the Life" is an encore of the band's concert or just a random song is up to you).
Possibly unintentional, but Ain't She Sweet appears twice on the Anthology albums- on the first disc of Anthology 1 and the last disc of Anthology 3.
To a lesser extent, the 2005 Live 8 concerts opened and closed with Paul teaming up with another artist to perform a Beatles song, though not the same one ("Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" with U2 for the opening, and "Hey Jude" with every performer for the finale).
"Rocky Raccoon": At the beginning and the end of the song, he's checking into a hotel room and finding "Gideons' Bible".
Break Up Song: "Don't Bother Me", "No Reply", "Baby's In Black", "I Don't Want To Spoil The Party (So I'll Go)", "You Won't See Me", "For No One", "Yesterday", "Not A Second Time", "I'll Follow The Sun",...
Brilliant but Lazy: Journalist Maureen Cleave wrote of John, "He can sleep almost indefinitely, is probably the laziest person in England."
John even wrote a song about it called "I'm Only Sleeping."
He also wrote "I'm So Tired" — though that was about more than laziness and his despair.
British Brevity: Averted, with around 200 commercially-released songs in an initial run of eight years.
Broken Record: "Wild Honey Pie" ("HONEY PIE! HONEY PIE!") and "Why Don't We Do It In The Road?", widely considered to be WhiteAlbum Filler, although John once said the latter was the best thing Paul ever wrote.
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band contained a few seconds of audio in the usually-empty runout groove of the record. On players that didn't have automatic pickup arm return (fairly common for cheaper players in the 1960s), this would loop until you got sick of it and turned it off.
The lyrics of the last four minutes of "Hey Jude" consist entirely of "Na, na na, na na na na, na na na na, Hey Jude" being repeated. Nineteen times.
"Blue Jay Way" ends with variations of a certain phrase being repeated 18 times. The phrase? "Don't be long."
"I Want You (She's So Heavy)" ends with 3 minutes of the same guitar riff repeated over and over.
B-Side: The Beatles' B-sides often weren't the typical throwaway song. Among the notable Beatles tracks released as B-sides were "This Boy", "She's A Woman", "Yes It Is", "Rain", "The Inner Light", "Revolution" (!!), "Don't Let Me Down" (!!!), and "Old Brown Shoe".
Sometimes they had two songs that were so strong they wouldn't even say one was the A and the other the B: "We Can Work It Out"/"Day Tripper", and, even more powerfully, "Strawberry Fields Forever"/"Penny Lane". This practice was invented by the Beatles, and is now usually referred to as a "Double-A Side".
Call-and-Response Song: "It Won't Be Long", "With a Little Help From My Friends", "Getting Better", "Baby You're a Rich Man" and many others.
Call Back: In the middle of "Carry That Weight" they break into a new verse of an earlier '"Abbey Road'' track, "You Never Give Me Your Money", then they switch back to "Carry That Weight".
The lyrics of "Glass Onion" consist almost entirely of references to the band's previous songs, including "I Am the Walrus", "She Loves You", "The Fool on the Hill", "Fixing a Hole", and "Strawberry Fields Forever". In the latter case the song even includes a little snatch of flute as a musical echo of the original's introduction.
"She Loves You" and "Yesterday" are also quoted at the end of "All You Need Is Love"
Probably not intentional, but the first Christmas record for their fan club in 1963 uses re-worded renditions of "Good King Wenceslas" as a Running Gag. In the final fan club Christmas record from 1969, John sings a bit of that carol.
The American version of Magical Mystery Tour, which added the band's 1967 singles to Side 2 in order to make it a full album, solving the problem the Beatles had with the soundtrack in the first place (there were not enough songs in the movie for an album, and there was almost no incidental music to pad it with). The American version is now the canonical version, so much that the version in the 9/9/09 re-release also has the American box art. (Even the artwork on the actual disc is modeled after a record label from EMI's American Capitol Records brand, instead of its British Parlophone imprint as with the band's other pre-Apple albums.)
The stereo versions of their early work could also be considered this. They were mostly produced without the Beatles' involvement. The mono versions of all albums before The Beatles could be considered the "canon" versions.
Captain Obvious: "Come Together" informed us that "One and one and one is three" and "He got feet down below his knee".
Careful With That Axe: The creepy screaming on "Revolution 9", Ringo's quite unsettling "I'VE GOT BLISTERS ON MY FINGERS" at the end of "Helter Skelter", and John Lennon's full-throated screams (after a blistering opening guitar riff) on the single version of "Revolution"; he does another one on "I Want You (She's So Heavy)", which is so alarming that somebody off-mic shouts a response.
The Beatles made videos for both sides of their "Hey Jude"/"Revolution" single. Both are filmed performances, semi-live (live vocals with at least some instruments synched from the recordings). The "Revolution" video is a hybrid of the single "Revolution" and the album version "Revolution 1", with the harder sound and faster tempo of the single but the "shoo-be-doo-wah" backing vocals from the album version. "Hey Jude" is a good minute shorter than the single, and if you listen to the long coda, Paul McCartney ad-libs different words, like when he gives a Shout-Out to The Band by quoting the "take a load off, Fanny" chorus from Band single "The Weight".
The filmed performances of "Let It Be" and "The Long and Winding Road" from the 1970 Let It Be film are different from the versions which were later released. The "Let It Be" recording, both single and album versions, is based on take 27-A from the Jan. 31, 1969 session, while the film version, which has never been released as an audio recording, was the next take, 27-B. In the filmed video, McCartney sings "there will be no sorrow" in the last verse instead of "there will be an answer". Similarly, the filmed performance of "The Long and Winding Road" is from the Jan. 31 session, while the released song is based off a recording from five days earlier. Also, the live performance is in accordance with Paul's original conception of the song as a simple piano ballad, while the released version includes the stringed instruments and backing choir overdubbed by Phil Spector.
Christmas Rushed: Rubber Soul was rushed into production before Christmas 1965. Beatles For Sale was also rushed (hence the name and the presence of a few covers after the all-original Hard Day's Night).
"Here it is right here. A check made out to you, The Beatles, for $3,000. All you have to do is sing three Beatles songs. She loves you, yeah yeah yeah. That's $1,000 right there. You know the words, it'll be easy."
According to John Lennon in a 1980 interview, Paul was visiting John in New York City (during one of their very few friendly meetings post-breakup) and they were actually watching SNL together when Michaels made his appeal. Apparently, they strongly considered going down to the studio but decided not to.
George did show up in a subsequent episode in 1976, wherein he demanded the money and was apalled when he was informed that the $3000 was for all four Beatles. "$750 is pretty chintzy."
The joke got replayed when Paul McCartney did SNL in 1993 — apparently, he was hoping his touring band would also get paid. Good thing Alec Baldwin was there... (Or was it Jack Donaghy?)
Concept Album: Sgt. Pepper's is widely considered to be one of popular music's first concept albums, although there's little about it that intrinsically makes it such. Lennon admitted that after the first two songs they abandoned the "concept", picking it up only for the reprise of the title track.
You could alternately view it as a collection of vignettes about British working class life, though a few songs don't really fit that interpretation.
Concept Video: The Beatles were among the first to make music videos. The video for "Strawberry Fields Forever" is a Concept Video.
The scene in A Hard Days Night set to "Can't Buy Me Love" was among the first to pace quick cuts with the rhythm of the song. This technique has since become a staple of music videos and quite common in film and television.
Continuity Nod: A few shout outs to older songs exist. Notably "Glass Onion", which seems to be built entirely on this. Others include:
"I am The Walrus" - "See how they fly, like Lucy in the Sky"
"Come Together" - "He got walrus gumboot.."
"All You Need is Love" — they begin singing "She Loves You" as the song fades out. "Yesterday" can also be heard at the end of "All You Need is Love"
"Savoy Truffle" - "We all know 'Ob-La-Di-Bla-Da'..."
The promotional music video for "Hello Goodbye" was one these, jumping between the band on stage wearing their early, mop-tops-and-suits look and their colorful Sgt. Pepper uniforms.
When the band was running through "Mean Mr. Mustard" during the Get Back sessions, Mean Mr. Mustard's sister ("she never stops, she's a go-getter") was named Shirley. When they reconvened to record Abbey Road and John Lennon revived the song, he changed Shirley's name to Pam to go along with another new song of his, "Polythene Pam".
Continuity Porn: "Glass Onion". Good to know the true identity of The Walrus and what has become of the fool on the hill and Lady Madonna... but it's also a good thing this is an album track and not a single.
The Cover Changes The Gender: Their cover of "Boys", although, oddly, they did not change the title. Also their cover of "Please Mr. Postman".
And "Devil In Her Heart", and "To Know Her Is To Love Her". They covered a lot of songs by American girl groups in the early days.
Cover Version: On their first, second, and fourth albums there are almost as many covers as there are Lennon/McCartney tunes. Afterwards they got away from this and stuck almost entirely to recording original material.
Cover songs were common practice in the pop industry for the time, and it was largely the Beatles who turned the tide towards original performances. Their third album (A Hard Day's Night) may not have been the first album of entirely original compositions, but it was one of the most important.
Cut-and-Paste Translation: Before Sgt. Pepper, Capitol Records of America released different Beatles albums from its parent company EMI/Parlophone, the original British publisher. Specifically, they removed songs from some albums to tack onto other albums; since the American albums typically held eleven songs and the British ones held fourteen, and the American albums would include tracks from singles not included in the British LPs, there were two or three albums made from whole cloth. One of these, the 1966 release Yesterday... And Today, was a compilation with "new" songs that had been issued the previous year in England, as well as rough mixes of three songs from the then-forthcoming Revolver.
Tropes Are Not Bad: The American cut of Rubber Soul inspired The Beach Boys' Brian Wilson to make Pet Sounds, which, in turn, inspired Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The American album Meet the Beatles! is also well-received (partly because it added the "I Want to Hold Your Hand" single to the core of the British With the Beatles album and removed all but one of the earlier title's cover versions to create a nearly entirely Beatle-written album), and even made it at the Number 59 spot on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums list.
The American version of Magical Mystery Tour became the canonical version (see Canon Immigrant above).
Darker and Edgier: The Beatles universe became significantly darker as they earned more freedom to write songs not just for the money, became more jaded at the superficiality of fame and lust, and transformed into very different people through their frequent drug experimentation. The definitive turning point was the single "Yesterday", which both dramatically went against their current image, and managed to be a great success. Their light and fluffy teen-pop image entirely dissipated after Rubber Soul came out, and after realizing how vapid and meaningless their live shows had become, they ceased all touring.
In 1966 they constantly created unintentional controversy through some of their flippant statements and actions, angering many groups of people and shocking the classic fans who wrongly believed them to be the perfect role models. This was part of why they changed; they wanted to prove that they weren't teen icons with halos over their heads.
Though their spiritual drug use and studio experimentation allowed them to create many songs considered timeless classics, it also severely damaged their unity. By the end of and after their career, the four Beatles were stressed, bitter and thoroughly sick of each other. Breaking up was the only logical option.
Dead Artists Are Better: John Lennon. While his musical accomplishments certainly can't be denied, he was a self-admitted Jerkass throughout his life. After his death, he was practically canonized from certain quarters. George also benefited from this following his passing.
Ringo. He was born into a poor working-class family and was chronically ill as a kid, spending so much of his childhood in hospital with various ailments (pleurisy, an almost-fatal case of peritonitis, and then he busted his stitches while recovering from peritonitis so he had to spend even more time in hospital) that, when he finally emerged as a teenager, he'd missed so much of his education that he couldn't get a job doing anything clerical, while he was so physically puny from spending so much time in hospital that he couldn't do the only other thing available to a working-class Liverpool teenager, namely get a manual job. He was literally good for nothing — except that he loved drumming. He managed to score a gig with a skiffle group, and before long he was one of the most-wanted drummers in the city. The guy would not lie down, which is a clue to why the rest of the band respected him so much.
George. He had to deal with two songwriting giants at the time and considering how Paul, who was unwilling to cooperate with him (considering their volatile relationship) and John, who even though helped him a bit with some tips still couldn't care less, he still persevered and continued to steadily improve his songwriting skills until pretty soon, one of his songs managed to be featured on the A-side of a record by 1969. Not to mention, he pursued a solo career that was on par with John's and Paul's.
Brian Epstein was well-to-do via his record store chain NEMS, but was determined to make more of himself than that. He took on the job of band management in spite of never having done so, and managed to do a reasonably great job at it given his inexperience. He also managed to hawk the same demo tapes to all of the record labels in England for many years; Parlophone, a small label known for classical and novelty records at the time, was literally the last gasp—if it had failed, the band would have given up. Epstein may have had much naivety in his dealings—the band stated often that he was as green at his profession in many ways as the Beatles were at theirs—and perhaps that may have led to the legal maze that the Beatles' copyrights and publishing/royalty issues are to this day (2014), but no one had expected or really knew how to deal with that unprecedented level of success the band achieved. It happened that many particularly shrewd business minds took advantage of the situation, and with Epstein's death and the confusion of Apple and the band's breakup, things understandably took a toll for the worst by 1970. (Brian also managed a number of other groups, such as Gerry And The Pacemakers, at that time.)
Dreadful Musician: The two Beatles that didn't make the cut, The Pete Best himself (George Martin suggested the band use a session drummer for their first record, whereupon the other Beatles fired Best) and Stu Sutcliffe (who only bought a bass to join the band at John's insistence, and usually was facing backwards on stage to hide his lack of skill).
Egocentric Team Naming: For a short time before they hit it big, they were called "Long John and the Silvermen", and also "Johnny and the Moondogs". At an earlier point, when they were just John, Paul and George, they billed themselves as "The Japage 3", pronounced jay-page, a sort-of-acronym based on their own initials.
Epic Rocking: Throughout their first seven studio albums (up to and including Revolver), there are six songs which exceed three minutes. Epic Rocking for the Beatles is on a smaller scale, but they do have their share of longer songs.
Hardcore Beatles fans are dying to get a hold of the legendary 27 minute long version of "Helter Skelter".
There's a reason Ringo shouts "I GOT BLISTERS ON MY FINGERS!" at the end of the White Album version.
"Hey Jude" is over seven minutes long.
"I Want You (She's So Heavy)".
"It's All Too Much".
"While My Guitar Gently Weeps", followed on the White Album immediately by another example:
Everything Sounds Sexier in French: "Michelle" has a line in French, and a line in English, that mean the same ("these are words that go together well") and are sung to the same tune.
Evolving Music: "Revolution 1" was initially recorded as a single, despite being a loping, ten-minute blues number that morphed into a chaotic sound collage. The Beatles decided to put this version aside, and instead recorded "Revolution" for the single - a faster, harder-rocking version of the same song. "Revolution 1" eventually appeared on 'The White Album'' with its first four minutes standing alone, and portions of the bizarre ending incorporated into the separate "Revolution 9."
John Lennon's "Child of Nature" was originally conceived and demoed by the band following their trip to India in 1968, but never released. Three years later both was rerecorded with entirely new lyrics and released as "Jealous Guy" on Lennon's Imagine album. Likewise, George Harrison's "Not Guilty" was originally recorded for the The Beatles ("The White Album") in 1968, but never released until Harrison revived it, gave it a much bluesier take, and released it on his self-titled solo album in 1979
A number of Beatles songs had their genesis in their early days but did not get album releases until much later into their career. "I'll Follow the Sun" and "Michelle" (released on Beatles for Sale and Rubber Soul in 1964 and 1965, respectively) date back to at least 1960, where it shows up on home recordings made by Paul McCartney. "The One After 909" even went through a number of studio takes in 1963 before being scrapped. It was returned to for the Let It Be album in 1970.
Expy: By Design The Monkees, the "Pre-Fab" four created to basically make a TV show out of the movie Help! and spin off hit records along the way. Notably, John Lennon is on record as saying he enjoyed the series and said that the writing and performances reminded him of the Marx Brothers.
Fading into the Next Song: "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" → "With a Little Help from My Friends". Then the "Sgt. Pepper" reprise → "A Day in the Life". "Back In the U.S.S.R." → "Dear Prudence" on The White Album.
Also, the B Side Medley on Abbey Road, aside from "She Came In Through The Bathroom Window" → "Golden Slumbers". SCITTBW fades out completely before GS starts up.
Failed a Spot Check: No one in the court noticed Maxwell getting the murder weapon and stalking the judge in the courtroom? Rose and Valerie must have been making a hell of a commotion for no one see what Max was doing with his silver hammer.
Fake-Out Fade-Out: "Hello Goodbye", "Helter Skelter", "Strawberry Fields Forever", "Free As a Bird".
Faux Symbolism: Deliberately invoked with "I Am The Walrus," written after John received a letter from a student who attended Lennon's old primary school about an English master there who was forcing his students to analyse the band's Word Salad Lyrics. Upon finishing the song, complete with his classic "first-thing-you-see" lyrics, Lennon turned to his friend and said "let the fuckers work that one out!".
The completely random and nonsense line "semolina pilchard" is a reference to semolina pudding and pilchard sardine cans, according to John's childhood friend, Pete Shotton circa 1983. Another interpretation is that it is a Take That to Moral GuardianDetective Norman Pilcher, who was more fanatical about arresting pop stars on drugs charges than about smaller things like actually following the rule of law, and had arrested both John and George on separate occasions.
The Fifth Beatle: Billy Preston was called this after he joined The Beatles for Let It Be. Producer George Martin, roadie Mal Evans, personal assistant Neil Aspinall, manager Brian Epstein and former bassist Stuart Sutcliffe have also been called "Fifth Beatle"'s.
Flanderization: All of the Beatles were annoyed at the simplistic roles and stereotypes they were reduced to in the media as the 'Fab Four' (John the 'smart' one, Paul the 'cute' one, George the 'quiet' one, Ringo the 'funny' one, etc).
In modern times, the Lennon/McCartney writing partnership tends to be oversimplified as 'Lennon wrote all the angsty, complex, rebellious and therefore 'good' songs, whereas McCartney wrote all the Silly Love Songs and fluffy album filler.' This not only tends to unfairly deny McCartney the credit in several cases, but collapses entirely when you remember that Lennon wrote "Mean Mr. Mustard", "Polythene Pam" and "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" (although he did claim that the latter was In the Style of... Paul) as well as the florid lullaby "Good Night", while McCartney wrote "Eleanor Rigby", a stark song about the human struggle with loneliness with a Downer Ending, plus of course "Helter Skelter", one of the hardest rock songs they band ever recorded and one frequently classified as "proto-metal". Lennon did tend more towards Creator Breakdown in later years, though...
Foil: Lennon and McCartney tended to write a lot of songs on the same subject or with very similar musical techniques which showed the personality of both songwriters as well as the similarities and differences between them. Their singles tended to provide the best example of this - compare "Paperback Writer" and "Rain", or "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane", or "Hey Jude" and "Revolution", or...
"Paperback Writer" and "Rain" is probably the best example of this - both are in the key of G, both are full of special effects, neither uses that many chords, and neither is a love song. However, where "Paperback Writer" is a gritty, fast-paced, journalistic sorta-first person letter, "Rain" is a mystical, slow-paced sorta-third-person rant. It's even better if you compare both songs with "Taxman", Harrison's first song on the album that follows, which is again very similar and very different to both.
"We Can Work It Out" is usually taken to be an example of this, but the differences between their respective contributions has been exaggerated: Paul wrote the cautiously optimistic refrain "We can work it out" with the somewhat arrogant insistence "Try to see it my way", but his bits also include the borderline-despairing "There's a chance that we may fall apart before too long", while John wrote the philosophical and passive-aggressive "Life is very short, and there's no time..." middle eight (with the time signature change as George's sole contribution to the song).
"I Will" and "Julia", which are even paired together on the White Album, are also good for this - both songs are about a far-away love, someone whom the singer can not (and it's implied may never) be with. "I Will" is optimistic and hopeful, and written for 'you' - Paul is certain that you are out there, that you are the one for him, he is the one for you, and you will be together. "Julia" is melancholic and wilting, and written about 'her' - John knows that he'll never see her again, and is still nursing his broken heart.
Their breakup happened only after they'd all taken a turn at being the Conflicted. John became it after he discovered LSD, then George's turn came when he discovered Eastern religion, and Ringo became it when he got sick of the intra-band fighting during the making of the White Album. Paul held out longest, but when the band's legal troubles got too much for him, he finally announced that he was quitting, thereby precipitating the timeliest breakup in popular music history.
John was sanguine/phlegmatic because of his charismatic yet insecure and sensitive nature along with his tendency to be a brooder at sporadic moments. He was especially very witty and had his moments of having his head in the clouds. He himself stated that he had a big mouth and was once considered by a reporter as lazy and disorganized. He also had moments where he would have random anger outbursts, but was able to forgive and forget. He was an impatient and sarcastic man who would be happy one day then cruel the next. He had a habit of exaggerating his accomplishments and being vain, arrogant, and a narcissist. He was classified as the agitator of the band since he was a total dick to a lot of people (including his family and bandmates) and was willing to leave the band by 1966 when he made the "Bigger than Jesus" remark.
Ringo is sanguine because of his warm and unassuming personality although he has his moments of mood swings and having a bit of an inferior complex in the band. According to Here, There, And Everywhere, a memoir by Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick, Ringo was actually the quiet one in the band who said very little, always seemed to have his guard up, and lacked confidence in his drumming abilities. He was also very uptight and nervous when it came to singing since he was not much of a vocalist. He's the only ex-Beatle who collaborated with all the other Beatles, which shows signs of potential leadership that Ringo unfortunately failed to attain. The reason why could be because as previously stated, he was the quiet one of the band or he just never even bothered to care.
Paul is sanguine/melancholic because of his cheerful nature yet conservative and domineering personality. According to the traveling journalists, Paul and George were known as the pranksters of the band. He has a massive ego so he can have moments of being a control freak who wanted things to go his way, and a perfectionist towards a lot of his songs (Maxwell's Silver Hammer anyone?). He is the only ex-Beatle who hardly ever collaborated with the others (if he did, it's mostly with Ringo) and he has a habit of being thin-skinned or sensitive to criticism. Despite his flaws, he was classified as the diplomat of the band since he only wished to keep the band going even though he knew that the band's dissolution was inevitable (according to John, Paul was only keeping the band going for his own sake, not everyone else's).
George was phlegmatic/sanguine because of his immense need to be independent, moody yet friendly nature and indifference towards fame. He had a fearsome temper, started fights with policemen and photographers during his early years touring with The Beatles, and was a red-blooded man. According to a biography by Bob Spitz, George was very stubborn and despised authority figures. He was the one who argued a lot during numerous sessions like the White Album and Let It Be sessions. He almost got into a fist fight with John because he acted rude towards his wife Yoko Ono. Another thing was his nearly life-long resentment towards not only Paul for "ruining him as a guitarist", but his overall experience as a Beatle almost to the point that he possibly suffered from post traumatic stress disorder. The people who knew him clarify that he hardly was the "Quiet Beatle" fans view him as! In fact, some of his friends recalled how he would never stop talking. Altogether, he was more of the "Stubborn Beatle" than anything else.
Friendly Rivalry: With fellow beat group The Big Three when they were still playing the Cavern and Hamburg. Ironically, despite (or because of) Epstein being the Three's manager as well, they failed to gain much of any commercial success and were sadly forgotten.
To some extent, true of The Rolling Stones as well - supposedly, Paul and John met Mick Jagger and Keith Richards at a club in 1963, and during the conversation the two Stones off-handedly suggested that the two Beatles write a song for them. Paul and John went off to a corner of the room, and returned a few minutes later with "I Wanna Be Your Man"...which not only gave the Stones an early UK hit, but spurred Mick and Keith to take up songwriting themselves.
The two bands actually made a point of coordinating their release schedules so that their respective singles and albums would come out at different times of the year, thereby ensuring that they wouldn't cut into one another's sales.
Also with The Beach Boys. To some extent, Sgt. Pepper was the Beatles' attempt to outdo Pet Sounds - which was Brian Wilson's attempt to outdo Rubber Soul.
And, of course, this existed within the band between John and Paul. John would write a song, Paul would top it, John would top that, Paul would top that, and so on and so forth. It's been argued that part of the reason John came out of retirement was because Paul was writing good music again.
From Bad to Worse: For the band, after Sgt. Pepper. The music was still damn good, though.
Garfunkel: Ringo in public perception, though the band reported he was the one who kept them together.
Furthermore, utterly inverted in reality. The other three had tried and failed previously to lure him away from his job with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, with whom he was already wildly popular in the local music scene. It wasn't until the Beatles had secured a record deal that they had something to offer him that he didn't already have.
Generation Xerox: When John's oldest son Julian tried to make it big as a pop star, many people felt that he was trying too hard to imitate the style of his father.
Hell, everything about Julian Lennon. Both he and his father were born to parents too young and immature to raise a child; both were pretty much abandoned by their parents (though Julian did still live with his mother); and then, by the time they had mended their respective relationships, both times the parent gets killed by someone else. And Julian looks like his mother, Cynthia, and sounds a lot like his father.
His younger half-brother Sean did better, at least from an artistic POV. Sean's 1998 indie rock effort Into the Sun was different enough from not only Julian's more pop efforts, but also the works of a certain other band who played the same genre as him who were endlessly indebted to his father, that it wound up being very well received. Sean reportedly shopped around the world for a record label that cared about his music and not his family name, and found it in Beastie Boys' label Grand Royal.
Sean unfortunately has decided to imitate his parents in his own pretty creepy way. (Link NSFW).
There's also Dhani Harrison, who is half of the alternative rock duo, thenewno2. And by the way, his voice sounds nearly identical to that of his father. And he somehow looks just like George.
He looks so much like George that during the big tribute concert that Eric Clapton arranged a year after George's death, Paul quipped that with Dhani onstage alongside himself, Ringo, Eric Clapton, Tom Petty, and a lot of George's other longtime friends, "It looks like George stayed young and all the rest of us got old."
Zak Starkey - Ringo's son - plays drums for both Oasis and The Who.
His style is a lot different, though; he owes a lot to Keith Moon, though without playing exactly like him. Might have helped that Keith was his godfather...
Genre Roulette: The albums post Rubber Soul go everywhere: folk, psychedelic, Indian, avant-garde...
Grand Finale: The Long Medley on Side Two of Abbey Road, ending with, well, "The End". Abbey Road as a whole was intended to be this for the band, though the release of Let It Be (which was begun first) ended up being pushed back long enough to cause an accidental subversion of the trope.
Gratuitous Panning: Early stereo mixes of albums separated entire tracks to one side. All Beatles albums were mixed in mono and different people handled the stereo mixes. It wasn't until Abbey Road that they actually did an album in stereo (Her Majesty starts entirely on the right, and moves until it's entirely on the left by the end of the song.)
Capitol Records' "Duophonic" process, which artificially turned a lot of songs recorded in mono into pseudo-stereo. The Beach Boys and Frank Sinatra also underwent this particular form of Executive Meddling. Capitol Records would take a mono recording, delay the right channel by a millisecond, play it through their famed echo chamber, and — presto! — fake stereo. Reportedly, Brian Wilson's father Murry preferred Duophonic, so much so that 8 of their albums were only available in mono or Duophonic.
Greatest Hits Album: Several of them. Most notable are The Red and Blue Albums, Past Masters and 1 (all of which seen remastered issues since 2009).
Grief Song: "Let It Be" and "Julia" about Paul and John's mothers, respectively. "Baby's in Black" is about someone else's grief. "She's Leaving Home" about a girl who ran away from home. "Yesterday" would be the most famous of quite a few "lost love" songs.
The weird cacophonous noise loop that comes after "A Day In The Life" on Sgt. Pepper, if you count that as a song.
"Her Majesty" on the end of the Abbey Road album. Possibly the Trope Maker, being the first known song to be left at the end of an album after a period of silence, and without being listed as a track. (Later printings of Abbey Road include "Her Majesty" on the track list.)
"Can You Take Me Back", the song fragment on Side 4 of The White Album (included at the end of "Cry Baby Cry" on modern CD tracks), which to this day doesn't even have an official title.
"Please Please Me", their first real hit, was a deliberate and blatant homage to Roy Orbison, who they toured with soon thereafter; the original was a much slower, Orbison-style ballad and was sped up to its current tempo by producer George Martin. Now, without doing anything else to it as it is now, just try listening to this track from now on without ever being able to imagine Roy's characteristic warbling tremolo voice...I dare you!
"If I Fell" from 'A Hard Day's Night' also...that "chord strumming" intro and song structure/style is classic Roy, vis a vis 'In Dreams', etc.
PS: if you ever wondered how or why Roy and George ended up together in the Traveling Wilburys, there's your answer!
"You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" is basically John doing Bob Dylan (with John himself saying he'd never have used the "clown" line/rhyme otherwise).
"I'm a Loser" is also reminiscent of Dylan. And, of course, there's the "Like a Rolling Stone" pastiche of "Dig It".
"If I Needed Someone" in the style of The Byrds. (George, by his own admission, took his guitar riff from their version of "The Bells of Rhymney".)
"Here, There and Everywhere" and "Because" being in the style of The Beach Boys (no, seriously — listen to those harmonies).
This one always gets played straight or inverted, however, with almost no one seeming to get the joke; it still gets played regularly on any and all Rock radio stations around the world with no tongue-in-cheek whatsoever, and even today Paul himself still plays it straight as part of his standard live-stage set...and he *wrote* the damn song!
Although Paul playing the song in his set doesn't mean he's forgotten its intent.
Some of their early hits, like "She Loves You" and "I Want to Hold Your Hand", display an unmistakable Buddy Holly influence.
"Honey Pie" is a direct homage to the Tin Pan Alley/British music hall style.
"When I'm Sixty-Four" as well, even more famously.
"Lady Madonna" in the style of Fats Domino, and even covered by Fats himself.
"I'm Down" in the style of Little Richard's "Long Tall Sally", which they also covered.
Indecisive Parody: "Yer Blues". Lennon wrote it as a parody of the English blues scene, but the song rocks so hard that it succeeds on its own terms as a straightforward tune. Beatles scholar Ian MacDonald characterized "Yer Blues" as "half-satirical, half-earnest".
Instrumentals: "Cayenne", "Cry for a Shadow", "12-Bar Original", "Flying". Though only the latter is part of their official catalog.
Insult Backfire: All four were skilled at giving smart assed answers to criticism, but Paul may have achieved the crowning moment at a 1966 press conference:
Reporter: In a recent article, Time magazine put down pop music. And they referred to "Day Tripper" as being about a prostitute, and "Norwegian Wood" as being about a lesbian. I just wanted to know what your intent was when you wrote it, and what your feeling is about the Time magazine criticism of the music that is being written today. Paul: Well, we were just trying to write songs about prostitutes and lesbians, that's all.
Intercourse with You: "Please Please Me," "A Hard Day's Night," "Drive My Car", "Why Don't We Do It In The Road?", and others.
Ireland: Three of the four Beatles came from Irish immigrant families on at least one side, Ringo being the only 100% Englishman among them; Paul is the only one who was Irish on both sides. John and Paul even professed their love for Ireland during their solo years; John had Luck of the Irish and Sunday, Bloody Sunday, and Paul had Give Ireland Back to the Irish, although none of them are exactly crowning moments of anything.
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978) — All-Star Cast fantasy that tries to wrap a storyline around Beatles songs and characters in them, as a vehicle for popular acts of the time: Peter Frampton, the Bee Gees, Alice Cooper, etc. While Aerosmith's take on "Come Together" and Earth Wind & Fire's cover of "Got to Get You Into My Life" are well-regarded, this movie also gave us George Burns singing "Fixing a Hole" and Steve Martin performing "Maxwell's Silver Hammer". The silly story and frequent poor match-ups of songs to situations render it all So Bad, It's Goodat best, and it was a major flop.
LOVE (2006) — This is the only one of the three that actually involved the Beatles, and it's not a standard example of the trope, but a Cirque du Soleil show. This live theater super-production (in a specially-built showroom at the Mirage Hotel, Las Vegas) sets the company's trademark acrobatics and dancing to remixed versions of the group's original recordings, creating a metaphorical telling of their career and impact. The development of this show became the subject of the documentary All Together Now.
Across the Universe (2007) — Director Julie Taymor brings us a movie that uses cover versions of Beatles songs to recount the love lives, political exploits, and other adventures and misadventures of 1960s youths. Very much a Love It or Hate It experience.
Having said that, if you are a big fan of The Beatles in general and don't mind a few lyrical changes, you're bound to at least enjoy the songs.
There's also "All this and World War II", which is a WWII documentary with covers of Beatles songs. It largely has a reputation for making no sense.
A Broadway show called Beatlemania! was around in the 1980s. A home video release of it, however, was plagued with problems. Glenn Burtnik (who played Paul McCartney in the show) does many Beatles-themed tribute concerts nowadays.
Lampshaded Double Entendre: "I Saw Her Standing There". "Well she was just 17/You know what I mean/And the way she looked/was way beyond compare..."
"Strawberry Fields Forever" is the canonical example. It fades out with a gorgeous swarmandel before fading back in with a dissonant mellotron, vicious drumming, trumpets that sound like ambulance sirens, and (most disturbingly) John Lennon's slowed-down voice saying "CRANBERRY SAUCE".
Even worse if you're a little kid and you think it's "I buried Paul." Ever since then, that song's end is the sound of death.
"Helter Skelter" is a different sort of Last Note Nightmare, as it finishes with Ringo throwing his drumsticks across the room and screaming "I GOT BLISTERS ON MY FINGERS!!" The version that wound up on the 'The White Album'' was the 18th take of the day. That explains the blisters.
The dissonant swirling effects at the end of "Blue Jay Way".
The manic laughing sound effect at the end of "Within You Without You", meant to bring relief to the heaviness of the lyrics. It didn't work.
"Cry Baby Cry" ends this way, and that's not even counting Paul's creepy "can you take me back" coda.
The Last Straw: "But you'll have to have them all pulled out after the Savoy truffle..."
Live Album: Let It Be was supposed to be this, with the band rehearsing and recording their new songs live. The sniping and tension within the band (as well as the creative funk John Lennon was mired in at this time) led to several songs being dubbed or altered in the studio, most infamously Paul's "The Long and Winding Road". However, despite all the band's problems seven tracks were still laid down live: "I've Got a Feeling", "One After 909" and "I Dig a Pony" from the Apple rooftop performance, and "Get Back", "Two of Us", "Dig It" and "Maggie Mae" from studio performances. ("Don't Let Me Down", left off the album after being released as the B-side of the "Get Back" single, was also recorded live.)
Please Please Me. The Beatles recorded "Love Me Do" and "P.S. I Love You" for their first single on Sept. 11, 1962, with no overdubbing. They did the same for their second single, "Please Please Me"/"Ask Me Why", on Nov. 26, 1962. After "Please Please Me" shot to the top of the UK charts, EMI wanted an album in a hurry. The Beatles and George Martin convened in the studio on February 11, 1963 and over a little less than ten hours recorded ten more songs, which were added to the A and B sides of the first two singles, with relatively few overdubs, and put out as an album.
The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl. Out of print for many years.
"I Want You (She's So Heavy)" clocks in at 7:47, but just repeats the two lines:
I want you, I want you so bad, it's driving me mad, it's driving me mad
She's so heavy
Also from the White Album, "Why Don't We Do It In the Road":
Why don't we do it in the road (4x)
No one will be watching us
Why don't we do it in the road
"Wild Honey Pie" repeats the line "honey pie" over and over, with the line "I love you" at the end. (Not to be confused with a separate song on another side of the double album called "Honey Pie", which is done in a totally different style, with the "normal" amount of lyrics.)
And then there's the short ending gag song on Abbey Road called "Her Majesty":
Her Majesty's a pretty nice girl but she doesn't have a lot to say
Her majesty's a pretty nice girl but she changes from day to day
I wanna tell her that I love her a lot, but I gotta gotta belly full of wine
Her Majesty's a pretty nice girl, someday I'm gonna make her mine oh yeah
Lyrical Cold Open: They liked this trope, doing it in "All My Loving", "No Reply", "I'm A Loser", "Mr. Moonlight", "Wait", "Eleanor Rigby", "Girl", "Happiness is a Warm Gun", "Help!", "The Long and Winding Road", "Maxwell's Silver Hammer", "Nowhere Man", and "Yellow Submarine".
Catchy, up-tempo, begs-you-to-sing-along "Run For Your Life", in which John Lennon promises to hunt down and kill his girlfriend if she ever cheats on him.
"I'm a Loser" is an up-tempo, major-key rocker. The lyrics feature Lennon mourning a lost love and proclaiming himself a loser. The next song on the album, "Baby's in Black", was written in response to Stuart Sutcliffe's death and is also in a major key but once again is lyrically full of anguish.
Malaproper: Ringo Starr, who inadvertently spawned the titles "A Hard Day's Night", "Eight Days A Week", and "Tomorrow Never Knows".
Mondegreen: Anybody who doesn't realize Paul is singing in French in the song "Michelle" might come up with "Sunday monkey no play piano song", among other things. OK, technically it's a soramimi rather than a mondegreen as such, but still...
Mind Screw: "Revolution 9". While "Revolution 1" is a nice, slow, relatively tame rock song, "Revolution 9" is eight minutes of pure, untapped, minimalist cacophony. A Last Note Nightmare, that really is a nightmare, regardless if it's a whole song...
The single, "Revolution", is a much faster and heavier (and louder) version of "Revolution 1". As Giles Martin said on the sleeve-notes for Love, "even today it defines 'distortion'."
" I Am The Walrus". I Am He As You Are He as you are me and we are all together, now.
Minimalistic Cover Art: The Beatles is all white, save for the name of the album embossed onto it, and a unique serial number stamped on it (going for a bit of irony in something so plain also being unique from every other copy of it). Ever since, fans have called it "The White Album".
"You Can't Do That" (from the A Hard Days Night soundtrack) is from the POV of a jealous, possessive boyfriend who does not like his woman talking to any other men at all...
If I catch you talking to that boy again,
I'm gonna let you down,
And leave you flat
Because I told you before, OH,
You can't do that.
...though, it's pretty tame in comparison to "Run for Your Life" (from Rubber Soul). At its heart, the message of this song is that if you decide to end a relationship with the singer, he will brutally murder you if you don't escape him first.
In fact, John Lennon (who wrote both of those songs) was a noted womanizer in his earlier years. He later tried to atone for these attitudes and the songs he wrote with these attitudes during his solo career, with songs like "Woman" and "Jealous Guy".
Lennon also claimed that both "You Can't Do That" and "When I Get Home" (both on A Hard Days Night) were his attempts to emulate American R&B star Wilson Pickett. "Run For Your Life" seemed to be a throwaway song written to fill out side 2 of Rubber Soul, wih an opening line stolen from "Baby Let's Play House" (a blues song popularized by Elvis Presley) and the rest of the song branching out from there. It and Help!'s "It's Only Love" were considered "Old Shames" by Lennon, partially over the lyrics, which embarrassed him.
"Norwegian Wood" implies (and McCartney has confirmed that this was the intention) that if a woman invites you into her home and doesn't sleep with you, burning the place down after she leaves for work the next morning is a reasonable response.
Momma's Boy: The titular character of "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill" is "the all-American bullet-headed Saxon mother's son." And behind that tough exterior, he really does rely on his mom's defense when people start to question him - hence why he always brings her along on hunting trips "in case of accidents."
Money Song: Subverted with "Can't Buy Me Love", played straight with their cover of "Money (That's What I Want)"
Mood Whiplash: In its original context, "Revolution 9" is supposed to sound like the revolution inspired by "Revolution 1". Since the song was cut in half on The White Album, "Revolution 9" comes out of fucking nowhere. After all of that, the overly saccharine final song, "Good Night", appears.
Mundane Made Awesome: Triumphant strings rising as John passionately sings "SEMOLINA PILCHARD CLIMBING UP THE EIFFEL TOWER" in "I Am The Walrus").
"Helter Skelter." One of the first metal songs ever was about a slide.
Paul's passionate yelling in "Golden Slumbers," to some.
No Ending: Both sides of the Abbey Road album. "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" ends abruptly in the middle of a riff, after three minutes of repeating the same sequence of chords. John Lennon told engineer Alan Parsons to "cut it right there", and Parsons did. "Her Majesty" was originally slated between "Mean Mr. Mustard" and "Polythene Pam", but the band decided to delete it. Tape engineer John Kurlander clipped it out of the master, cutting out the last crashing guitar chord of "Mean Mr. Mustard" along with "Her Majesty", but missing the last note of "Her Majesty", which was left at the beginning of "Polythene Pam". Since EMI's policy was to never throw away a Beatles recording, Kurlander then he spliced "Her Majesty" onto the end of the master tape after 14 seconds of silence, creating a Hidden Track that ends one note too soon. The band liked the effect and left it that way. (The cut was a test-run of the crossfading and editing sequence, on rough mixes, not the final edit (if you notice, in the album version the final chord of "Mean Mr. Mustard" is also missing but because the new sequence makes it redundant; the final chord of "Her Majesty" is totally absent though). The "Her Majesty" part, however, is the original clip tacked on to the final master just the same it was in the rough edit.)
Non-Appearing Title: "A Day in the Life", "Tomorrow Never Knows", "The Ballad of John and Yoko", "The Inner Light", "Revolution 9".
Non-Indicative Name: The "Remastered In Stereo" box set released in 2009 is not quite what the name says; "Only A Northern Song" from the Yellow Submarine album is still in mono (though a stereo version appeared in 1999 in the film's "songtrack" album), as are the few mono tracks on Past Masters. Original master tapes for four early songs have long since been erased, making a true stereo release impossible; and the 1970 song "You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)" has yet to be mixed for stereo despite its master tape being extant, though a different edit of the song did appear in stereo in the Anthology series.
Nothing But Hits: Arguably the only artists whose entire back catalogue is familiar to the general public, although, due to copyright issues, they rarely appear on compilation albums alongside other artists.
The Obi-Wan: Manager Brian Epstein, who died shortly after "Sgt. Pepper". Doubly subverted, as Epstein's death didn't cause the band to become more mature; instead, his absence left a vacuum which led to their eventual breakup.
Obsession Song: "For No One" and "Julia". "I Will" kicks it up a notch - the singer is obsessed with the hypothetical someone he could fall in love with.
Also of note: "I Want You (She's So Heavy)", which was about Yoko. John famously explained why it was lyrically simplistic thus: "When you're drowning, you don't say, 'I would be incredibly pleased if someone would have the foresight to notice me drowning and come and help me.' You just scream."
Ode to Intoxication: Did you think "Got to Get You Into My Life" was a love song? It is. A love song about how much Paul McCartney loved to smoke marijuana.
One Man Song: Hey Jude, The Ballad Of John & Yoko, Mother Nature's Son, The Continuing Story Of Buffalo Bill
One Woman Song: "Michelle", "Eleanor Rigby", "Julia", "Lovely Rita", "Lady Madonna", "Polythene Pam", "Martha My Dear" (although, fun fact, it was written about Paul's dog), "Dear Prudence", "Sexy Sadie".
Performance Video: The Beatles were among the first to make music videos, and some of them are basically the band pretending to perform, such as the video for "Ticket to Ride."
Please Retain Old Street Name: Penny Lane in Liverpool is named not after the coin but after an 18th-century slave trader of that name. Were it not for the Beatles' song, it would have been renamed years ago.
The Poppy: "Behind the shelter in the middle of a roundabout/A pretty nurse is selling poppies from a tray..."
Protest Song: Subverted with "Revolution", a protest about protesters (and specifically the Cultural Revolution with John's "Chairman Mao" reference".)
Or maybe not. All versions of the song take a swipe at Mao, but Lennon's vocals in "Revolution 1" have a more ambivalent take on protest in general, with his introductory "don't you know that you can count me out" being immediately followed by a parenthetical "in".
Played straight with "Taxman", a song protesting, uh, high taxes.
Punny Name: Apple Corps. Especially since it's always spelled "Corps" (and thus pronounced "core"). John loved wordplay.
Before settling on Revolver, the group went through several other working titles for the album. One (probably facetious) suggestion from Ringo was After Geography, a play on the Stones' Aftermath from earlier that year.
Also, the name "Beatles" itself, though hardly anyone notices anymore, because everyone grows up knowing "The Beatles".
Putting the Band Back Together: Fourteen years after John's death, the other three reunited for The Beatles Anthology. During this time, Paul, George, and Ringo worked on fleshing out two of John's demos, "Free as a Bird" and "Real Love".
The Quiet One: George's image, although several of his friends have noted this wasn't true in real life. He just didn't give as many interviews as the other Beatles.
Ringo. According to a book by Geoff Emerick (Here, There, and Everywhere), Ringo was actually the one in the band who said very little, always seemed to have his guard up, and lacked confidence in his drumming abilities. He was also very uptight and nervous when it came to singing since he was not much of a vocalist.
Race Fetish: "Back in the USSR" has a few moments of this, parodying "California Girls".
Real Life Writes the Plot: The film Let It Be was originally conceived as a documentary of the Beatles' "rebirth" as a live performing band. Instead, by capturing the tension and infighting among the band members (including a famous spat between McCartney and Harrison), it became a chronicle of the band's break-up.
Lampshaded by the choice of name. When originally conceived as a chronicle of the band's rebirth, the project was entitled "Get Back". By the time the pieces had been picked up and enough footage cobbled together to release as an album and film, it had metamorphosed into "Let It Be", effectively serving as the band's epitaph.
A more benign example is the movie Help! The band members have admitted they basically wanted to go skiing and hang out on the beach, so that's what got written into the script.
Real Life Writes the Song: "Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite!", "A Day in the Life", "She's Leaving Home", "Blue Jay Way", "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window", many others. Lennon in particular did this constantly.
One very significant effect of the band playing to packed stadiums in 1964-66 with less-than-adequate guitar amps, equipment or PA systems, no monitoring as we know it now, and an understandably bad attitude to performing, to deafeningly loud screaming teenagersonly interested in seeing four cute boys in person for 25 minute shows all over the world, was that the band's musicianship suffered, (it didn't help that they ceased touring in 1966 and piecemealed a lot of their music in the studio) and they were unable to keep up with the new wave of more virtuosic performers like Cream or Jimi Hendrix Experience. Although obviously they never attempted to showcase virtuosity, this effect led the band to downplay their musicianship in favor of playing parts rather than solos, but their rustiness only showed through and the group often felt inadequate as players, George Harrison in particular, who had in addition spent more time for a while learning how to play sitar rather than guitar. It was also according to George why he took up slide guitar when guitar playing became more of a priority.
Rearrange the Song: The two different versions of "Revolution" released in 1968—the original low-key version, actually released second as "Revolution 1" on The White Album, and the hard-rocking version released as the B-side to "Hey Jude".
Retraux: "Honey Pie" was already a song done In the Style of...Cole Porter, but the effect is strengthened by having one line—"Now she's hit the big time"—sound like a scratchy old record being played on a tinny old record player.
Revisiting the Roots: Let It Be. It bears pointing out that the Let It Be project was originally called Get Back because this was precisely the idea (and that of course is also the reason the song was called "Get Back"). This was an attempt to return to the sort of spontaneous, energetic rock and roll they'd played at the beginning of their career - as opposed to the sophisticated and intricately produced music they'd moved on to. The recording sessions were a disaster, and they largely abandoned the "back to basics" approach for their last recorded album, Abbey Road.
Rhyming with Itself: "Met" with "met" in "I've Just Seen a Face" and "better" with "better" in the first verse of "Hey Jude".
Ripped from the Headlines: "Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite!" was pretty much John just reading out a Victorian circus poster to a tune, and "A Day in the Life" was based on the headlines from a single day's newspaper.
"She's Leaving Home" was also based on a newspaper article, about a girl running away.
The Rival: John and Paul were at least a little competitive when it came to songwriting. This would make George an Unknown Rival to both of them.
Also, the first few seconds of "Strawberry Fields Forever" are made up of flute samples.
Which was played on the first sample a Mellotron. It was an analog sampler with different instruments sampled to tape. So when one pushed a key, the tape was played. This made the whole thing huge and as the tapes were being played all the time, it had the tendency to go out of tune after a while.
Scare Chord: At the beginning of "A Hard Day's Night" and "Her Majesty", and at the end of "A Day in the Life".
The end of "Strawberry Fields Forever". The song fades out, and after a few seconds comes in a dissonant flute riff, some Scare Chord horns, and someone repeating "Cranberry Sauce" several times into another fade.
There's also a negative one at the end of "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" (where a sudden silence in the middle of a riff has this effect).
Scatting: "La la la la la la" chanting on the otherwise wordless "Flying" (off Magical Mystery Tour). More famously, "Hey Jude" with it's four minute coda of "Na na na na na na na, na na na na, hey Jude".
Self-Backing Vocalist: Usually averted - the person who'd written the song took lead vocals (with some exceptions, especially involving the songs they gave to Ringo) and the other two (Ringo usually opted out) joined on harmonies. Exceptions were mostly Paul: "I Will", "Wild Honey Pie"... John also had a duet with himself (interpolating lines) on "Julia".
Self-Deprecation: During many, many press conferences at the height of Beatlemania, all four members of the band frequently joked that they expected to flop at any moment. George Harrison also referred to himself and Ringo Starr as "economy-class Beatles," and in the 1980s freely described himself as "a middle-aged ex-pop star."
The song "With A Little Help From My Friends" is a humorous song about Ringo needing constant help from the other three Beatles in order to get by durng their career, as he was easily the least talented of the four.
Series Fauxnale: Throughout their career, the press perpetuated rumours that the band was on the verge of splitting, particularly around the Revolver/Pepper period.
Serious Business: It eventually got to the point that they had to stop touring after 1966, because their fans would reach such levels of hysteria that not even the band itself could hear their music.
Perhaps the ultimate case of Serious Business is the fact that John was murdered by one crazed fan, and George and his wife nearly stabbed to death by another.
Speaking of whom, this trope is what he was really, genuinely talking about when he uttered the famous words destined to be taken out of context: "more popular than Jesus". Anyone who has heard more than that one sentence fragment of the interview will tell you that he was talking about what Serious Business the Beatles were becoming for the fans, to the point of absurdity, and how he was not comfortable with being taken so seriously.
The very name of the band was a Shout Out to Buddy Holly and the Crickets.
The reference in "In My Life" to "lovers and friends/I still can recall/some are dead and some are living" is a Shout Out to Lennon's close friend and former bandmate, Stuart Sutcliffe, who died in 1962.
The cover to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts' Club Band is one of the most famous Shout Outs in history, filled with images of figures the Beatles regarded as significant. Wikipediahas a list of all the notable personages pictured on the cover.
"Martha My Dear" is a Shout Out to Paul McCartney's dog.
"The eagle picks my eye/The worm he licks my bone/Feel so suicidal/Just like Dylan'sMr. Jones"
The line "With your long, blonde hair and your eyes of blue" from "It's All Too Much" is a quote from "Sorrow" by the Merseys.
Siamese Twin Songs: "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" and "With a Little Help From My Friends".
And later, the reprise of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" and "A Day in the Life".
The Side 2 medley on Abbey Road. (You can hear John Lennon shouting "Oh, look out!" right before "Polythene Pam" segues into "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window".)
Silly Love Songs: Literally every last original song on their first five albums counts. Not that there weren't plenty later on; "Paperback Writer" was the result of Paul's aunt telling him to please find a new subject.
Paul McCartney composed the trope namer, "Silly Love Songs", during his career with Wings after The Beatles, as an answer to the critics. That says a lot about the reputation he had acquired during The Beatles.
"Nowhere Man" off of Rubber Soul was the first original Beatles tune that wasn't a Silly Love Song.
Single Stanza Song: "Wild Honey Pie" and "Why Don't We Do It In The Road" off of The White Album; "Her Majesty" at the end of Abbey Road. Also, "Can You Take Me Back", the Hidden Track between "Cry Baby Cry" and "Revolution 9".
Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: At the beginning of their career they were far down the idealistic side, and if "Here Comes the Sun" is any indication, they missed it at the end. The rest of their career is open to interpretation on this point. But then that shouldn't be surprising.
Smarter Than You Look: George felt that Ringo's second song, "Octopus' Garden", was this. He described it as accidentally deep and spiritual.
Some of My Best Friends Are X: Paul, after an unfortunate misunderstanding about the title "Hey Jude". Jude happens to be the German word for "Jew", and was used as an insult by the Nazis, so some people who hadn't heard the song itself found it offensive. Paul explained that the title wasn't meant to sound antisemitic and added that some of his best friends were Jews. The very idea that this song would be antisemitic shows that people didn't pay attention to the lyrics at all, where Jude is comforted by the singer to refrain from being sad.
Song Of Song Titles: "Glass Onion" on The White Album name-checks "Strawberry Fields Forever", "I Am The Walrus", "Fixing a Hole", "Lady Madonna" and "The Fool On The Hill".
Song Style Shift: Several abrupt ones in Paul's "You Never Give Me Your Money" and John's "Happiness Is a Warm Gun".
The Southpaw: Paul's left-handedness allowed the Beatles to perform a little bit of stagecraft in which Paul would face John, or George, and sing into the same mike with their guitars pointing the same way.
Ringo was a lefty playing a right-handed drum kit, which gave him a unique sound.
Spoken Word in Music: "I Am The Walrus" famously includes snippets from a BBC radio production of "King Lear". John Lennon drones out "cran-berry sauce" at the end of "Strawberry Fields Forever". "Revolution 9" is made up almost entirely of various spoken word samples. "Yellow Submarine" features the captain issuing orders like "Full speed ahead". Ringo whispers "good night" at the end of "Good Night". And the novelty song "You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)" includes John Lennon as a faux MC introducing Paul McCartney's nightclub crooner.
C'mon, Ringo...there was nothing wrong with "Richard Starkey".
In his defence, it was a popular convention at the time for pop musicians to come up with a catchy stage-name rather than use their own.
In fact, Ringo only came up with a stage name because his entire band, The Hurricanes, was doing it (what, you thought their lead singer was *born* with a name like "Rory Storm"? His real name was Alan Caldwell.)
The rest of the Beatles toyed around with stage names during their early years, especially in Hamburg.
Step Up to the Microphone: Usually once per album for Ringo and twice for George. John and Paul's failure to allow George to grow out of this role, even after George had become their equal as a songwriter, was a key factor in the breakup of the band.
Stop and Go: "I'm only sleeping...[Pause]...keeping an eye on the world going by my window..."
Studio Chatter: Quite a bit, mostly from John, on Let It Be. More on The White Album, including the end of "Piggies", the beginning of "Revolution 1", and most famously Ringo's "I'VE GOT BLISTERS ON MY FINGERS!!!" at the end of "Helter Skelter".
While never legitimately released, there's a widely-bootlegged (and absolutely hilarious) 20-minute outtake from a session for the Rubber Soul track "Think for Yourself". You can hear it (in two parts) here and here.
Stylistic Suck: The intentionally awkward guitar solo in "All You Need Is Love".
The slightly off sounding "I think I know, I mean, ah yes, but it's all wrong" in "Strawberry Fields Forever".
And, of course, "You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)".
George Harrison's "Only a Northern Song" is intentionally dissonant, as it is a protest song against being contractually obligated to write songs for which he received few royalties (see below).
Subliminal Seduction: From Revolver onward, the band got into the habit of including backwards messages on many of their tracks. Unfortunately this — along with a whole of unconnected, obscure and sometimes outright random "evidence" — somehow managed to persuade a fair chunk of their audience that Paul McCartney was dead. The vast quantities of drugs consumed by many of them probably had something to do with it.
Some versions of Sgt. Pepper had the inner groove of side 2 as a perpetual final track - first a higher-than-treble sound only dogs (and some young listeners) could hear, and then backwards music.
Unfortunately, modern record players have auto-return, so you don't hear it. On compact disc, the "inner groove" plays for about 20 seconds before fading out.
Take That: George Harrison's "Only a Northern Song" is a swipe at Lennon and McCartney's publishing company, Northern Songs Ltd. Harrison wrote it to express his dissatisfaction over being screwed over on royalties from his own compositions. (The following year George would found his own publishing company, Harrisongs Ltd.)
"It doesn't really matter what chords I play/What words I say/What time of day it is/Cause it's only a Northern song".
George certainly loved this trope, as his opening song on Revolver, "Taxman", is a giant take that against Harold Wilson's supertax.
"Don't ask me what I want it for/Ah ah, Mr. Wilson/If you don't want to pay some more/Ah ah, Mr. Heath."
Actually, John wrote the part with Harold Wilson and Edward Heath. George went to John for help on "Taxman" during a period of time when Paul had a grudge against George for a publicly unknown reason.
"Doesn't have a point of view/Knows not where he's going to/Isn't he a bit like you and me?"
Three Chords and the Truth: Much of their early stuff in particular was based around simple three-chord melodies; they started experimenting with various other formats later.
Some of their later work — on The White Album, for example — reverted to this format. They rarely did "folksy" acoustic songs in their early days, and so some of these later songs probably represent this trope more accurately.
In their early Pre-Beatles days, they would actually learn from word of mouth who knew this chord, or who knew that chord, and would take a bus across town to wherever they needed to get to, ride back home and then they'd know how to play chord x.
The "Get Back" project was an effort to, uh, get back to this. It met with mixed success due to the dissension in the band.
Title Only Chorus: "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", "I Want to Hold Your Hand", "Girl", "Don't Let Me Down"
Translated Cover Version: "Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand" ("I Want To Hold Your Hand") and "Sie Liebt Dich" ("She Loves You"), both in German.
They were the Trope Maker for, basically, the entire music industry as it stands today. The idea that real bands play their own instruments, the idea that real bands write their own music, the idea that real bands should get mega-popular and make gajillions of dollars: all these originated with the Fab Four. (They also made the music industry the financial juggernaut it is today, since all the money that was going to the session musicians and songwriters and stuff ended up in the record companies' pockets instead.)
It is worth noting that the Beach Boys, in the early years when they were strictly a surf band, were also writing their own songs and playing their own instruments, and their first singles were recorded and released before those of the Beatles ("Surfin' Safari" gave the Beach Boys their first US Top 40 hit in June 1962, "Love Me Do" gave the Beatles their first UK Top 40 hit four months later). However, by the time of Pet Sounds, Brian Wilson was using session musicians extensively, not only for the orchestral instrumentation, but the basic rock instruments as well. The Beatles were, with few exceptions, responsible for their own basic instrumental backing for the entirety of their career. Furthermore, as recording artists, the two bands are nearly exact contemporaries, just on different sides of the pond. Given that, it's probably fair to say that the Beatles, with their overwhelming popularity, were the ones who changed the industry more.
Music videos. The idea of the music video, a short film meant to promote a song, was pretty much unheard of before the Beatles made videos for their "Paperback Writer"/"Rain" single. The videos they made for the "Penny Lane"/"Strawberry Fields Forever" single were even more innovative, as they featured avant-garde images of the band set to the music rather than simply miming a performance.
The Paul Is Dead theories, all based on supposedly hidden messages on the Beatles album covers and song lyrics.
The 1970s saw a lot of urban legends concerning the possible (secret) reunion of the band. The most famous example was the initially anonymous Canadian progressive rock band Klaatu, whose vaguely "Beatlesque" sound fueled speculation that they were a front for a reunited Fab Four.
Uncommon Time: The bridge of "Here Comes The Sun" rotates between 11/8, 4/4, and 7/8. "Happiness is a Warm Gun" (from The White Album) has alternating measures of 9/4 and 10/4 in one section. While the chorus of The Beatles' "All You Need is Love" is in Common Time, the verses are all in 7/8.
"Good Morning, Good Morning" is a subversion. Because John's singing on the verse is so syncopated it sounds like a strange time signature, but if you listen to the drumming, it's in straight 4/4.
"I Am The Walrus", by accident. John Lennon based the title on the Lewis Carroll poem "The Walrus and the Carpenter", but he didn't know at the time that the walrus was the villain. He went on to say that "I Am the Carpenter" wouldn't be as catchy, however.
Vitriolic Best Buds: The whole group could be like this at times, but no one more so than John Lennon and Brian Esptein.
Vocal Tag Team: Most albums had at least one song sung by each member of the band. (Ringo does not sing on A Hard Day's Night or Let It Be.)
What Happened to the Mouse?: Paul later noted that he forgot to add Saturday in the lyrics of "Lady Madonna," and guessed that after a busy week like she had, she probably went out for a good time.
Word Salad Lyrics: After their introduction to drugs, a lot of songs, most notably "I Am The Walrus".
World of Chaos: Some of their songs, including "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", "I Am the Walrus", "Glass Onion", and the Yellow Submarine animated movie, take place in such settings.