On How I Rediscovered the Genius of the Beatles
My earliest memories are the songs that my mom used to sing to me. I can still remember the words and melody of certain ones, even though I surely couldn’t truly understand what they were about at the time. It’s only natural that when it came to soothing my own tiny crying offspring, Noémi, I started singing these songs to her. But being the persistent little baby she is, I would fast run out of material, and would have to start over again, which was kind of boring. So I started singing all kinds of other songs I knew the words to and I noticed she seemed to like the Beatles songs best. In fact, she wouldn’t let me stop singing Yellow Submarine (a song that her mom sang to her ever since her very first day, by the way).
I had to relearn a bunch of Beatles songs I used to know to keep up. On the surface, they’re all relatively simple, pretty easy to sing and play, there are no super fancy chords. They’re also great fun, there’s not a dull verse or a plain melody. The words flow, they just stick in your head once you’ve played the song two or three times. The songs have a quirk that wasn’t present in pop music until they came along. You can hear that they had to learn a wide range of material in their early days, show tunes, R&B, country, rock ’n roll, the whole lot. And they were also constantly soaking up influences from their contemporaries, like Bob Dylan, for example. Their greatest feat was bringing all these genres together in their own, very original way.
They were, of course, great performers, too. None of them were true virtuosos on their instrument but they played with tons of taste. Clapton and Beck could play rings around George Harrison, but George knew way better how to serve the song. While others had solos with memorable licks, if you don’t play George’s solos note for note, everyone is going to notice. You could say the same of Paul’s bass lines and John’s air tight rhythm guitar, not to mention Ringo’s idiosyncratic drumming.
You hear a lot about their ground breaking work in the studio but the thing is, if you strip it all away, the songs are still very imaginative, they hold up. You can sit down and play them with just one instrument and they still work their magic. Beatles songs each seem to have a little surprising element that makes you want to go back to them again and again.
It’s no wonder that they have such a strong appeal to the most innocent among us.