The Shepherds of the 60s: The Beatles

This article was written by Sarah Weisswasser, an 8th grader at Montclair Kimberley Academy

Society is like a herd of sheep following a shepherd. The shepherd is typically a celebrity, and the sheep are the people. We follow what celebrities do like robots.

Unconvinced? Look up for a moment, and watch as the teenage boy next to you quickly flicks his hair to the side, making every strand of hair perfectly aligned. Who was the shepherd that led the hair-flicking sheep? Justin Bieber, the shepherd puppy and pop star who one day flicked his hair out his face, but instead ended creating the most popular trend amongst all teenage boys.

Before Bieber’s era, however, the 60s generation was following shepherds that changed the world with new trends, styles, music, and ideas. Who were these shepherds, one might ask? The answer: the Beatles, the most talented, and unique group of men to walk planet Earth. That’s only half of it.

Unlike today, no one dared step out of line in the 50s and early 60s, as it was frowned upon. The Beatles, however, were different and spontaneous, thus were those always off the line. They were unique with their love and passion for rock music, as art was typically frowned upon in that era. Earl Slick, David Bowie’s lead guitarist and a friend/peer of John Lennon, explained that most people liked them for being spontaneous, “Nobody stepped out of line, but the Beatles stepped out of line. We looked at that, and we liked that.” The Beatles were able to present society with new ways of thinking and interacting with one another. They showed the 60s generation that there is more to life than just school, dresses, hair gels, and the senior prom.

In a society where everyone wore the same clothes, had the same hairstyle, listened to the same music, and had the same jobs as their parents, it is obvious that the sheep followed each other. Once the Beatles arrived, however, everything changed. They invented a style in the 60s that was classic, even to the modern day. The classic tight pants, long hair, and most rock music, is attributable to the Beatles. The Beatles were an international icon of fashion, peace, love, and music. The sheep followed their shepherds, thus thus began to wear long hair, tight pants, and listened to Beatles music more. The Beatles lived in a society similar to the movie Pleasantville; their society was black and white, but they colored it in with undiscovered colors that no one had ever discovered before.

The Beatles were not only the shepherds of style, but they were also the shepherds of every band coming out of England in the 60s. When asked which specific bands the Beatles influenced, Slick simply answered with a few examples such as Jerry Peace Makers, Dave Clark 5, and Freddy and the Dreamers. However, according to Earl Slick, the list is endless. One of the most popular bands the Beatles influenced were the Rolling Stones, as the Beatles wrote one of the Rolling Stone’s biggest hits, I Wanna Be Your Man. According to Slick, “Even to this day, everything you see when it comes to art and music you can trace it back to the Beatles.” So to answer your question, yes. the Beatles influenced Justin Bieber.

The Beatles had a particular and unique way of both playing, and recording music. In the 60s, it was common for bands to have a lead singer and a back up band. However, being the unique people they were, the Beatles often had Paul McCartney singing with Lennon, and most uniquely, the drummer, Ringo Starr, even sang the occasional song as well. Not only was their style of music uncommon in that era, but the Beatles also had a unique and influential style of recording music as well. For instance, the Beatles were the first to flip the guitar tracks in certain records. By doing so, the guitar sounded backwards in the final record. It is no coincidence that when Paul McCartney flipped the guitar track in Please Please Me, Hendrix flipped the guitar track in one of his records as well.

Aside from their impact and power over society, the Beatles were inspirational in many ways as well. To many, it was their perseverance and confidence that made them so inspiring and powerful. It was obvious during my interview with Earl Slick that he believed the same. “They gave outliers like me something to look up to.” Slick explains that the Beatles were special for being hard and devoted band members who practiced and put many hours into their music. The Beatles did whatever it took to accomplish their dreams, thus provided people with something to look up to.

Unlike most teenagers of the 60s, the government was not a huge Beatles fan. The Beatles influenced many teens to the point of breaking the law, especially with drugs. Though people who took drugs were considered demons in the 60s, teenagers began to take drugs once the Beatles did. Drugs were not the only thing that made the government concerned with the Beatles. The Beatles were also very outspoken of their political views regarding the Vietnam War. Because the Beatles were anti-war and anti-killing, many people agreed with them, causing them to like the Beatles more. The government, however, did not like powerful people, especially musicians, who were outspoken on their political views. Lennon eventually was thrown out of the U.S because of his political impact and outspokenness in society.

The Beatles created the biggest social revolution of all time. Though much more powerful, the Beatles were like Facebook today. Facebook grows as a network because people become members everyday. It has become so popular and valuable, that everyone wants to have a part in it. Such a phenomenon is similar to the Beatles. Though Slick does not compare the Beatles to Facebook, he believes in the same concept, “You create something so big, so undeniable, that everyone wants a piece of it and wants to be like that.” The Beatles were so profound, that everyone wanted to have a part of them.

The Beatles were one of the few, and probably only people, to ever create such a profound social revolution. Though offensive, perhaps John Lennon had a point when he said, “The Beatles are bigger than Jesus”. The Beatles were like a religious figure that gave people something to look up to. They and presented society with an entirely new way of thinking. They gave both society and other musicians new styles and interpretations on music and life that no one had ever thought of before. The Beatles were the most powerful and influential shepherds to herd the sheep. So profound, that the sheep still follow.

Jack Handy April 30, 2011 at 07:46 PM
Lennon said The Beatles were more popular than Jesus, not bigger than Jesus. And they were more popular than Jesus at the time.
gary pacheco May 02, 2011 at 03:56 PM
outstanding article about music's most influential, fun, and yes, greatest acts


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