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The Beatles's Celebrity

A unique and un-repeatable form.

It’s amazing to think about the impact The Beatles had on the history and shape of music in the short seven years when they were world famous. They restructured the concept of celebrity, expanding it around the globe and across traditional music-listening demographics. We always talk about “our” version of historical events—what’s our day that JFK died? When the bomb hit Pearl Harbor? Our Beatles?

We will never have our Beatles. Music tastes and culture in general has become so stratified that there will never be a modern band that stirs the same kind of superstardom as those kids from Liverpool. Simply because of the diversity of media sources and publications advertising new artists, a new Beatles could never happen again. The Top 40 charts—that popularized the band in the United States and the United Kingdom—doesn’t hold nearly as much weight as it did in the 1960’s.

If we even think about The Beatles’ accomplishments, there’s no band in history that has ever accomplished anything similar. The Beatles came out with four new records within the course of a year, traveled to little-known countries like Japan and the Philippines and sold out their shows. They made films and made-for-TV movies and coordinated their album releases to come out at the same time as their films. They started a recording studio, called Apple Studio, and expanded it to a multimedia corporation that included a production company and a clothing store.

The craziest part about all of their innovations was that it took place essentially in seven years--from the time their first album was released in 1963 until their final album, "Let It Be" was released in 1970.

Now, celebrity tries to mimic the patterns established way back when with The Beatles. Singers start starring in terrible movies--i.e. Justin Timberlake and Jennifer Lopez, but then they aren't taken seriously as musicians. Some musicians make clothing lines or start corporations, but most of them don't have the kind of control over their product that The Beatles had over Apple Studios. We simply don't believe in multitasking celebrities--although they continue to multitasks--calling them frauds or sell-outs in their new artistic enterprises.

I don't know if we'll ever completely understand The Beatles or their rare brand of super celebrity. And I know no group will ever replicate it.

Do you think that a band with the same influence as The Beatles will ever come around again?