I’m going to come right out and say it: things suck right now. The COVID-19 pandemic has taken lives, cancelled major milestone events, and stolen our freedom to do simple things we took for granted; like going to the store or visiting a friend without having feelings of caution and worry lurking in the back of our minds. In the midst of this and trying to keep up with my online classes, I’ve found myself deep-diving into things from the past; tv shows, movies, music, books, anything and everything from what now feels like simpler, more freedom-abundant times. I’ve become wistful and nostalgic for both the near and distant past, and one of my greatest escapes to mentally hide myself within has been The Beatles.
I grew up and fell in love with their music from a very young age, and having to do research on them for a recent 11-page essay assignment only reinvigorated my appreciation for their musicianship. With joyful songs of simplistic sincerity like “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “A Hard Day’s Night,” and “She Loves You,” to more contemplative tracks like “Help!,” “Yesterday,” “Ticket to Ride,” “And I Love Her,” and “If I Fell,” John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr ignited a cultural and musical phenomenon that the world hadn’t, and likely will never see the likes of again.
Their existence incited fans to follow them in droves wherever they went; crowding airports, hotel fronts, and The Beatles’ private homes by the thousands, leaving police at a severe disadvantage to keep John, Paul, George, and Ringo from being mobbed to death. They’re credited with creating the first music videos and for utilizing editing techniques that are still used in music video creation today. They also painstakingly engineered new, revolutionary song recording methods that are still regularly incorporated in the recording studio, but done more easily now due to technological advancements. Along with all of that, their 1967 release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band popularized and brought life and longevity to the concept album genre, a genre that artists from David Bowie (Ziggy Stardust), Pink Floyd (The Wall), Green Day (American Idiot), My Chemical Romance (The Black Parade), to Beyoncé (Lemonade) have followed in The Beatles’ footsteps in.
These accomplishments by The Beatles are ones that even today, 50 years after their breakup, still ranks them at #1 of the 125 greatest artists of all time, according to the analyzation of Billboard’s records of nearly 80-years-worth of chart trajectories and touring successes of thousands of artists. But these accomplishments aren’t what has been bringing me comfort during this strange time in our world’s history. It’s the fact that decades later, The Beatles’ songs and performance videos on YouTube can still incite joy and whimsy in my lonely, anxiety-filled heart; that they remind me of more normal, freedom-filled times and fuel my hope that the things we all miss in our day-to-day lives will eventually return sometime in the future. Until that day comes, to quote one of the group’s songs, “[I’ll] get by with a little help from my friends”: The Beatles.