The Beatles were the first band to take their concerts from theaters to stadiums. Their first venture into this area was at New York’s Shea Stadium with more than 50,000 fans attending.
The Beatles had stopped touring in 1966. To meet demands for concerts, they opted to send out videos, inventing the first music videos. Their first videos were of “Paperback Writer” and “Rain” back in 1965. They were also first to issue standard videos in color. They also created the first album video with Magical Mystery Tour in 1967.
The first time a satellite was ever used to broadcast anything worldwide was for The Beatles’ live performance of “All You Need Is Love,” in 1968. The Beatles were putting the finishing touches on their “Sgt. Peppers” album when they were invited to be featured in “Our World,” the first television program transmitted live around the world via satellite. The 125-minute program would be broadcast to 26 countries. The Beatles were asked to write a simple song that would be understood by viewers of all nationalities. In a matter of weeks, both John and Paul wrote songs for the show, agreeing that the best song would be performed. Paul’s song, “All Together Now,” was rejected, and Lennon’s song was chosen. “All You Need is Love” was first introduced live to a worldwide audience estimated at 400 million and quickly became the anthem of a generation.
The Who and Jimi Hendrix were using feedback in concerts, but The Beatles were the first band to use feedback in a recording. John Lennon once set his acoustic electric guitar down against his amplifier and the ‘A’ string started feeding back through the amp causing an ear catching distortion. That ‘A’ string distortion was used purposely at the beginning of “I Feel Fine,” marking the first time distortion was used in a recording.
Speaking of recording techniques, The Beatles were the first to record with headphones as monitors and not just open sound everywhere. They were also the first band to use electric keyboards and synthesizers in their music, including a mellotron as featured in “Strawberry Fields Forever.”
The Beatles were basically the first to use any sort of sampling in their songs. For example, they were the first recording artists to use the grunt of a pig on one of their songs (“Piggies” from the White Album.) They were also first to use the sounds of several different barnyard animals, as evidenced in “Good Morning, Good Morning.” They also used jet engine sounds (“Back In The U.S.S.R.”) and the sounds of the singer inhaling (“Girl” from the Rubber Soul album).
They were the first artists to use backwards recordings on a record. John Lennon had taken the tape home from that day’s recording session and when he put it on his machine at home he was a bit stoned and put the tape in the machine backwards. When he played it, he liked what he heard and came back to the studio to announce that he had found an ending for that song—”Rain.”
Others had used the backward tape procedure before. There was a song called “Scratchy” from 1964 that used spoken words backwards, but “Rain” used backwards vocals first in any song. The sound of backwards guitar can be heard on “I’m Only Sleeping” while the sounds of backward cymbals was used on “Baby You’re A Rich Man.”
Buddy Holly had used a string section in the late 1950s when he recorded, “True Love Ways,” but The Beatles were the first group to use a full orchestra in popular music. The band Chicago was influenced by a 1966 recording from the Revolver album called “Got To Get You Into My Life,” which featured a horn section with a rock band. Chicago even played that particular tune in their concerts.
The Beatles were the first to use a sitar in popular music. George had become interested in the Eastern religion, culture and music while filming “Help!” in 1965 and decided to incorporate the sound of that Eastern stringed instrument in the “Rubber Soul” album. He did so in the first cut, “It’s Only Love.”
The Fab Four were the first band where you heard more than one singer. Most bands had a lead singer with maybe some backup singers, but The Beatles had every member of the group singing lead.
They were the first band to have a record go over the standard 2 –3 minute mark for length when they released “Hey Jude” at more than 7 minutes total length.
Other Beatle firsts include having the drummer sit higher than the others in concert, with Ringo and his drum set up on a riser. They were the first band to simultaneously take a bow after the end of the song. They were first to have one song run into another, an uncommon practice of the era. They had the first rock-concept album (Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band).
They were the first artists to say informal things like “yeah” or “turn me on” in a song. They were the first to release an album with a completely blank cover (The White Album.) They were the first band to incorporate subliminal messages in their songs. Listen closely to the end of “Strawberry Fields Forever” and you’ll hear John say “I buried Paul,” a reference to one of the many hints or so-called clues they planted to further the rumors that Paul was dead. Turns out he wasn’t. Go figure.
These four lads from Liverpool conquered England in 1963 before setting their sights on the United States. Unlike other British performers before them, they took America by storm. On February 9, 1964, 73 million television viewers witnessed the Beatles’ first live performance in the US on The Ed Sullivan Show. According to Neilson ratings, an astounding 43 percent of all television sets in the country were tuned in. There were no recorded crimes in the whole United States during the whole time they were on.
In early 1964, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” was number one on the US Top 100. Two months later, on April 4, 1964, the Beatles occupied all five top positions on Billboard’s Top Pop Singles with “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Twist and Shout,” “She Loves You,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” and “Please Please Me.” This phenomenal feat was a first for rock and roll, and the record still stands in the twenty-first century.” The next week, they held 14 positions on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, beating Elvis’ record of nine.
Although many British acts had attempted to crossover to America, the Beatles were the first to hit it big in the States. Between 1958 and 1964 there were probably around 500 different bands in the Merseyside area. The Beatles were the first to rise to the top. The rest is history.
The American and British singles of “A Hard Day’s Night” as well as both the American and British albums of the same title all held the top position in their respective charts for a couple of weeks in August 1964, the first time any artist had done this.
The American single began its 13-week chart run five days after release, and on August 1st started a two-week long run at the top, setting a new record—nobody before had ever held the number one position on both the album and singles charts in the United Kingdom and the United States at the same time. The Beatles were the first to do so, and continued to be the only ones who had done this until 1970 when Simon and Garfunkel achieved the same feat with their album Bridge Over Troubled Water and its title track.
The Beatles were the first to debut in the US top 10 with their ‘68 hit, “Hey Jude. And their 1964 single, “Can’t Buy Me Love” was the first record to sell a million copies before its release. This tune is one of the first songs ever to start with the chorus, as opposed to most other songs that began with a verse.
On a non-musical note, a report revealed the presence of a chemical in 12 to 14-year-old girls that causes them to get extremely agitated when a musical idol is onstage. The Beatles were the first to cause scientists to study this phenomenon.
Until the days of The Beatles, almost all sales were a single with a B-side, more normally referred to the 45 or the 78 before it. They were first to have million-selling 45s with TWO A-sided hits, as evidenced with “Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever.”
The Beatles were the first to make an album so interesting musically as to have people want it all. Until this time most albums contained one or two hits from that artist with the rest of the tunes as “fillers” to round out the album. When you think about it, there are no “obscure” Beatle tunes. Even lesser played album cuts are instantly recognized. No other band can claim that distinction.
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