Just using 1971 as a starting point because it’s close enough. 40 years. Why hasn’t there been a musical act as revolutionary as the Beatles? And don’t try to say there has been. There hasn’t. No one has had the impact or influence or incredible popularity. Were they that unique? Is it that the cultural difference between the 50s and 60s hasn’t been duplicated in the recent decades?
In pop music and sociology circles, there’s been much debate about questions like this, although professors like mine prefer to use “Elvis” than “The Beatles.” Although you’re adamant there hasn’t been any since, I’d give Michael Jackson an HM, at least.
If I had to theorize, I’d have to say that they occupied a unique place in history with mass manufactured recorded music, TV, and a still relatively homogeneous musical environment. Today, there’s dozens of sub-genres of rock music alone, and albums recorded by black people aren’t (as) taboo to buy. There’s online music, Youtube, and record labels in every country in the world…no one can ever hope to have the same level of saturation which they did. There’s big artists, there’s millionaires, but my generation doesn’t have the same type of quintessential artist as the baby boomers…Madonna, maybe?
The Beatles occupied a unique landscape – pop culture was still narrow and homogenous, they were musical expressionists when that was just becoming possible, and they enjoyed a unique position of not having to tour and being able to concentrate on their recording while travelling the world and being exposed to tons of other creatives.
This isn’t really possible anymore; pop culture is much more fragmented, most “huge” artists give are heavily under the thumb of their handlers, and every “boundary” has pretty much been pushed.
There certainly has been bands as ‘large’ as The Beatles. Which dominated sales and concert listings and such for an equivalent (or longer period of time).
I would argue that, in the 80s, both Bruce Springsteen (following Born in the USA) and U2 (following The Joshua Tree) were every bit as big a phenomenon as The Beatles were and possibly bigger. Even more astonishing was the fact, as mentioned above, that they did it in a much more crowded space.
What gets The Beatles (and more deservingly Elvis) the special place in the pantheon is that they did it first. That allowed them to be the first big thing that people got to see in this sort of mediascape. Instead of having a jaded ‘we’ve seen it before’ audience they got teenyboppers and such excited in a new way due to television and radio networks and such.
Nonsense. You won’t find a bigger Springsteen fan than me, but there’s no way you can compare his cultural impact to the Beatles.
Just like there’ll never be another Elvis, Michael Jackson or Madonna: once that ground is broken, it can’t be broken again.
Exactly. It’s like asking why there hasn’t been another Nirvana. Because we already had one.
More broadly, it’s because the music industry is absolutely nothing like it was in the 60’s.
The closest we’ve gotten to another Beatles was grunge back in the 90’s.
Thank you Nirvana.
Let’s put the Beatles into perspective: Prior to Sgt. Pepper (or perhaps Rubber Soul), they were of very little interest to anybody but teen-aged girls, and they broke up three or four years later. They are remembered as being a lot more important than they actually were, and they benefited from a cultural vacuum in American music that existed for several years after Elvis got drafted. (The top-selling album before the Beatles went on the Ed Sullivan Show was probably made by Mitch Miller or Skitch Henderson.) Whatever their undeniable merits, the Beatles were very lucky to be in the right place at the right time; if they had broken after the Rolling Stones instead of before, I doubt they’d be as fondly remembered.
Comparisons with Michael Jackson and even Justin Timberlake are quite fair, at least for the early part of their career. Yeah, Justin hasn’t had a Sgt. Pepper or White Album yet, but give him time. The Beatles were never in a movie as good as The Social Network.
Pink Floyd, Fleetwood Mac, U2, and Metallica have all been at least as successful and influential as the Beatles. The Stones were more so, and the Who more influential, if maybe less successful.
Exactly. If the Beatles hadn’t been the Beatles then there would have been an opening for some other group, like the Rolling Stones or the Who, to fill. But once the Beatles filled that spot, no other group could fill it a second time.
I like all those bands but looking at Wikipedia’s (I know, but there are citations) list of best-selling music artists it becomes pretty clear that none of those bands can come close to The Beatles in terms of overall success. Pink Floyd are the closest and according to that list they’re about 140 million certified sales short.
Influence is arguable but you can’t possibly say those bands you listed - or any band at all - have been “as successful” as The Beatles.
Nonsense. The Beatles were of important cultural interest from the day they first appeared on Sullivan. Teen-aged girls did the screaming, but music critics very quickly realized they were more than just pop idols. A Hard Days Night opened to rave critical reviews in 1964 (less than six month after Sullivan), as did Lennon’s In His Own Write. By 1965, they were a cultural phenomenon unmatched before and since, being critically acclaimed as music, movies, and literature. “Yesterday” was considered a great song from the time it was released in 1965.
Granted the cultural vacuum, but you cannot overstate the importance of the Beatles in music. They killed the folk music boom in the US. They created the English Invasion. Without the Beatles, there would be no Rolling Stones (literally – the Stones got their recording contract on George Harrison’s recommendation) or any other British musician hitting it big in the US (American record companies didn’t think UK groups would have any success until the Beatles). They pioneered psychedelic music and the concept album. They may not have been the first to do many things, but once the Beatles did something, the floodgates opened.
Their influence even extends to non-popular culture areas. The MRI scan was developed by EMI – the parent company of the Beatles record company – at least in part due to the fact that EMI was awash in profits from sales of Beatles items.
There isn’t a musician today who doesn’t owe a debt to the Beatles – and most will admit that freely.
A Hard Day’s Night was is one of the great musicals of all time, and the direct influence of the music video. Yellow Submarine also makes best musicals lists. I suspect in 40 years, The Social Network will be forgotten, while the Beatles movies will still be watched.
The answer to the OP is “Because it isn’t the 1960s any more”.
The Beatles were hugely talented, but they also existed in a time and place that allowed them to become what they became. Things were different within a few years. Times changed.
There will never be another Beatles because there will never be another World War Two, there will never be another 1950s, and so on. Times changed. Culture changed. The Beatles were hugely talented, but they didn’t come out of a vacuum. Culture is dynamic. You can’t separate the art from the times.
Just for curiosity, who did you think was as big as the Beatles in 1931? That’s about 4 or 5 years early for Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Benny Goodman… Louis Armstrong, maybe?
Music doesn’t go in nice, convenient cycles, however much we’d like it to.
Same reason as how teenage girls wear skimpier and skimper clothes every season, teenage boys’ behaviour is nothing like as respectful as it was in my day and there are more and more kids on my Og damned lawn.
I think you can only talk about marketing and ‘right place right time’ etc so much…if the music wasn’t as amazing as it is, no amount of marketing would have propelled them to such lasting fame.
The Beatles were simultaneously the ultimate cheesy commercial boyband and the most diverse experimental pop group ever. how they managed to accomplish that is pretty mind boggling.
I agree with RealityChuck’s points too
I’d argue that Garth Brooks was pretty popular.
Al Jolson! And whoever wrote “Lady of Spain!”
(My research in the Hockey Organ compels me to mention “Lady of Spain,” lol)
The single largest group of wealthy kids in history with lots of money and nothing to spend it on.