The Beatles’ 8 Pioneering Innovations: A Video Essay Exploring How the Fab Four Changed Pop Music

In mod­ern soci­ety, some facts are sim­ply accept­ed: one plus one equals two, the Earth revolves around the Sun, and The Bea­t­les are the great­est band in his­to­ry. “So obvi­ous­ly daz­zling was The Bea­t­les’ achieve­ment that few have ques­tioned it,” writes Ian Mac­Don­ald in his study of the band Rev­o­lu­tion in the Head. “Agree­ment on them is all but uni­ver­sal: they were far and away the best-ever pop group and their music enriched the lives of mil­lions.” Today, just as half a cen­tu­ry ago, most Bea­t­les fans nev­er rig­or­ous­ly exam­ine the basis of the Fab Four’s stature in not just music but cul­ture more broad­ly. Suf­fice it to say that no band has ever been as influ­en­tial, and — more than like­ly — no band ever will be again.

To each new gen­er­a­tion of Bea­t­les fans, how­ev­er, this very influ­ence has made the band’s inno­va­tions more dif­fi­cult to sense. For decade after decade, prac­ti­cal­ly every major rock and pop band has per­formed in sports sta­dia and on inter­na­tion­al tele­vi­sion, made use in the stu­dio of gui­tar feed­back and auto­mat­i­cal­ly dou­ble-tracked vocals, and shot music videos.

But the Bea­t­les made all these now-com­mon moves first, and oth­ers besides, as recount­ed in the video essay above, “8 Things The Bea­t­les Pio­neered.” Its cre­ator David Ben­nett explains the musi­cal, tech­no­log­i­cal and cul­tur­al impor­tance of all these strate­gies, which have since become so com­mon that they’re sel­dom named among The Bea­t­les’ many sig­na­ture qual­i­ties.

Not absolute­ly every­one loves The Bea­t­les, of course. But even those who don’t par­tic­u­lar­ly enjoy their records must acknowl­edge their Shake­speare­an, even Bib­li­cal super-canon­i­cal sta­tus in pop­u­lar music today. This can actu­al­ly make it some­what intim­i­dat­ing to approach the music of The Bea­t­les, despite its very pop­u­lar­i­ty, and espe­cial­ly for those of us who weren’t drawn to it grow­ing up. I myself only recent­ly lis­tened through the Bea­t­les canon, at the age of 35, an expe­ri­ence I’d deferred for so long know­ing it would send me down an infi­nite­ly deep rab­bit hole of asso­ci­at­ed read­ing. If you, too, con­sid­er your­self a can­di­date for late-onset Beat­le­ma­nia, con­sid­er start­ing with the half-hour video just above, which tells the sto­ry of the band’s ori­gins — and thus the ori­gin, in a sense, of the pop cul­ture that still sur­rounds us.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

How “Straw­ber­ry Fields For­ev­er” Con­tains “the Cra­zi­est Edit” in Bea­t­les His­to­ry

Hear the Beau­ti­ful Iso­lat­ed Vocal Har­monies from the Bea­t­les’ “Some­thing”

Is “Rain” the Per­fect Bea­t­les Song?: A New Video Explores the Rad­i­cal Inno­va­tions of the 1966 B‑Side

A Vir­tu­al Tour of Every Place Ref­er­enced in The Bea­t­les’ Lyrics: In 12 Min­utes, Trav­el 25,000 Miles Across Eng­land, France, Rus­sia, India & the US

A 17-Hour Chrono­log­i­cal Playlist of Bea­t­les Songs: 338 Tracks Let You Hear the Musi­cal Evo­lu­tion of the Icon­ic Band

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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