What was the Beatles Revolution about?

Fifty years of the Beatles : You say you want a revolution

A cultural revolution occurred fifty years ago. After that August 1960, so much can be said from today, the world should be a different one than before: more youthful, more exciting hairstyle, filled with better music. The world just didn't notice it back then. When the former Quarry Men and Silver Beetles first appeared on August 17, 1960 - other sources cite August 18 - under the name The Beatles in the Indra Club at the infamous Große Freiheit in Hamburg, they were just five boys from Liverpool, the leather jackets wore and played rhythm & blues songs for a mostly drunk audience. Bassist Stuart Sutcliffe died of a cerebral haemorrhage while still in Hamburg, drummer Pete Best was replaced. About five hundred club concerts later, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr rose to the Fab Four after their manager Brian Epstein put them in band uniforms and got them a record deal with EMI.

Her first number 1 hit was the single "From Me To You" in April 1963. What followed were the Beatlemania with screaming fans halfway across the world, drug madness and India trips to the guru, record burnings by religious fanatics, Yoko Ono and increasing disputes in the band. Oh yes, and with “Rubber Soul”, “Revolver”, “Sgt. Pepper’s ”and“ Abbey Road ”some of the best pop records of all time. The end was sealed when Paul McCartney announced forty years ago, on April 10, 1970, that he had left the group because of “personal, business and musical differences”. The Beatles have sold more than 1.3 billion records to date. Last year they dominated the charts again when a digitally refined version of their complete works was published.

The Beatles, no question about it, revolutionized pop music. But were they also revolutionaries? In principle yes, thinks the American musicologist Steven Baur, who examines the relationship between the band and Marx in the recently published anthology “The Beatles and Philosophy”. The Beatles not only put Marx's head on the “Sgt. Pepper’s “album, her career also seems to bear witness to an awakening political awareness in the spirit of the German thinker. All four musicians came from the lower stratum of the English working class, at first they had to submit to the mechanisms of exploitation of the capitalized music industry as cheap labor. But their hit “A Hard Day’s Night” was the first song to address the world of work in 1964, while Manfred Mann was still singing “Doo Wah Diddy Diddy”. And when they founded their record company Apple Records, they even took control of the means of production in 1968.

However, the sobering counter-thesis claims that the stars' jump into entrepreneurship was not so much about freedom, but more about tax evasion. In general, the class consciousness of the Beatles always remains indistinct and their attitude towards the overthrow of the situation aimed at by Marx is ambivalent. It is true that Harrison insulted the bourgeoisie on the "White Album" with faded in animal noises as "Piggies". But Lennon gave the famous line you can count me out in "Revolution", the single B-side of "Hey Jude", its involvement in violent change a rejection. The Beatles saw themselves as part of a counterculture, but stabilized capitalism with the success of their music. The outstanding quality of this music, so Baurs résumé, shows, however, “that capitalism cannot be bad through and through”. In a corrupt system, the creation of songs like “A Day In The Life”, “Rain” or “In My Life” is ultimately unthinkable.

"It had something to do with revolution," says Tony Sheridan in the memory book "Beatlemania". The singer performed with the Beatles in Hamburg in 1961. “It was about freedom - break free, break free, dance.” This dance has not stopped for fifty years. Christian Schröder

To home page