I’m a Beatles fan…guilty as charged. I’m no different from all the others who love the “Fab Four,” except that I do not splatter the Beatles all over You Tube or Google+. Don’t get me wrong. I love the folks who take the time and the effort to put Beatles material online for people like me to enjoy. However, I part company with my fellow fans, many music critics and other assorted gurus when it comes to dividing up the Beatles’ recordings.
Most people discuss either the “Early Beatles” or the “Late Beatles.” I disagree with this division. As a self-confessed Beatlemaniac, Beatle historian, and guitarist, I divide up the Beatles into the following four distinct eras, using the Parlophone British Discography to demonstrate. After all, these LP’s are the way that The Beatles intended to organize their work.
The Early Beatles:
The LP’s released during this period are Please Please Me, With the Beatles, A Hard Day’s Night, Beatles for Sale, and Help. On these records, the Beatles demonstrate their harmonizing skills and maintain a heavy skiffle influence. Also, the track listings include covers from other artists, like “Twist and Shout” which was originally released by the Isley Brothers, and “You Really Got a Hold on Me” by Smokey Robinson.
If you listen to these songs, you’ll get the idea of the Early Beatles sound.
The Transitional Beatles: During this period, the Beatles stopped being songwriters/performers and became artists. The songs sounded different due to tape effects, backwards tapes, new instruments like French horns, Indian sitars, and alternate tunings. There’s a lighter and crisper quality to their sound, but the subject matter changed as well, focusing on the influence of drugs, societal commentary, and introspection. This era would only last for two LP’s: Rubber Soul, Revolver and some assorted singles.
The Psychedelic Beatles: Here we have the LP Sgt. Pepper and the soundtracks for Magical Mystery Tour and Yellow Submarine. Some songs were singles meant for Sgt. Pepper, but they were later folded into the film soundtracks.
In this period, the Beatles expanded the use of special effects and added orchestrations to their music. Also, the latest electronic gadgets like the Mellotron were brought into the studio.
The Late Beatles: The three LP’s here are The Beatles (a.k.a. The White Album), Let It Be, and Abbey Road. The Fab Four returned to a very blues-dominated rock-and-roll sound. Although occasionally it drifts off into a folk/country sound, and sometimes even heavy metal.
Also included in this period are the songs “Get Back,” “Don’t Let Me Down,” “I’ve Got a Feeling,” “One After 909,” and “I Dig a Pony” are linked here to the Beatles rooftop concert from the film Let It Be.
Do you agree with the four distinct eras of Beatles music? Was this helpful for you to understand the Fab Four better?