Are the Beatles the reason why modern music exists

I believe that the Beatles are the reason why modern music exists. The album that ushered in modern music was "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band". Although I consider it maybe their 4th best album, this is the one(One person said it was the Rolling Stones, but do you remember what their equivalent album was? It was called "Satanic Majik Mysteries", or some such{you had to be there}.) It definitely wasn't Elvis. Although good, Elvis was not the innovation that allowed modern music. One interesting thing is to ask youngsters what the Beatles' "White Album" is.
You've only touched the surface with The Beatles. They were of course immensely influential but they were also influenced. And no, it wasn't The Rolling Stones either although they also influenced what has developed into today's "modern music".

You cannot come even close to adequately defining why modern music exists in such a limited context. It is a deeper study than that. A crash course in all this can be had via a visit to the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. There are also many fine books on the subject.
I'm not sure what you mean by "modern music", I wouldn't call something that's 40 years old "modern music", particularly having regard to what's developed since then. However, if you mean "rock and roll" in a generic sense, and its derivatives, offshoots, etc, then I disagree with your statement. It's been around a lot longer than the Beatles or Stones. I think that the end of the big band era after WWII and the early 50's was the period when a newly identifiable musical trend emerged from various sources and influences, and which coalesced into rock and roll, and subsequently, "modern music".

I think that people are imprinted with the music of their youth, particularly in their adolescent years. That is the time which is most important to them musically. My parents think rock and roll started with Elvis. People of my generation think it started with Beatles/Stones. I know a few "younger" people who think Deep Purples' "Smoke on the Water" started modern rock and roll, for no reason other than the fact that it was the first rock and roll they listened to. Ask the great rockers of the 60's what their influences are, and more often than not, the names will be Muddy Waters and other people in the American, black, blues tradition.

By the way, is it just me, or does Bill Haley and the Comet's "Rock around the Clock" from the 50's sound like the "Charleston" and other flapper era music from the 20's and 30's?
I think what the poster is trying to express is not, "who invented R&R", or "what are it's origins", but rather "what made R&R what it is today?" (i.e. Modern Rock).... and no, it wasn't Debussy, Schoenberg, Stravinsky).

While it isn't as easily quantified as saying "Sargent Peppers" was/is the reason; you must give The Beatles (and for me Dylan) their due. They may not be THE reason, but they are pretty high up on the list........... Along with social, political, demographic, yada yada......

Sorry for my somewhat flip first response, but "modern music" does mean something, and it ain't mainstream rock-n-roll. The Beatles were, in Sir Paul's words, "a great little band," but their artistic innovations were definitely at the margins. I'd give more credit to the generation that preceded them--the 50s artists who walked the distance from blues to pop. And Dylan, who in his own way expanded the boundaries of popular music.

As for Sgt. Pepper, it was indeed hugely influential in its time, though not necessarily for the better. (Think prog--and apologies to its surviving fans.) By 1980, however, the punk-New Wave axis was looking back to the Velvet Underground (Eno's famous quote: Almost nobody bought their albums, but everyone who did formed a band) and blues-rock innovators like Hendrix and the Yardbirds. In the 80s, people who thought Sgt. Pepper was the Beatles' best album were decidedly unhip.

The Beatles are probably more influential today than they were 20 years ago, but more credit probably goes to albums like Rubber Soul and Revolver than to their Mannerist period.
CMO,The Kid,Mmakshak,

I've gotta' say, it is hard to describe just how far off of the facts you are without coming off cruel, which I have no care and NO intention to do.


Markphd is so much closer as to how "it" happened to be. Today's music has been a long evolution in coming and many, many, many talented people are the reason. And,by the way,it goes beyond what the western world created.

Have you read anything on the topic? It's quite facinating and inspiring. Music is exciting in large part because it is a constantly evolving communication. It has life as its creators have life.

I am not minimizing the contribution The Beatles and The Stones made to "modern music". I am a huge fan and grew up with this music. But it is only a small fraction, albiet a larger small fraction, of what influenced "modern music".

Wait, what's that beat I hear in the distance? Are those tribal drums?
I'm still not sure what modern music is.

However, now that I think about it a little more, I think the biggest influence on modern music is Les Paul, who is attributed with inventing the solid bodied electric guitar.

Well, I'll bet nobody was expecting that for an answer.
Bob Dylan influenced the Beatles. Look at how their music changed after meeting him. Not that his didn't change, but in a lot of ways I think Dylan influenced more musicians than the Beatles. BUT I'm usually wrong, or so it's been said...
Buddy Holly influenced them along with Little Richard and many others. The Beatles took it to the next level with style.
Dylan introduced The Beatles to marijuana which led to everything from LSd to heroin. I think because of that you would have to say that Dylan influenced their sound more than any one person. Running tape backwards to create certain passages in the Sargent Pepper and Magical Mystery Tour came about when one evening when John was tripping on LSD and listening to music he realized the tape on the reel to reel was being played backwards.
As John would go on to say

I don't believe in Elvis
I don't believe in Zimmerman
I don't believe in Beatles
I just believe in me
Yoko and Me
That's reality.

We wouldn't be having this conversation if not for the Beatles. The Beatles changed not just the face of music but of culture as well. The simple act of growing ones hair was all it took to pick your side. The ripple affect of the four mop-tops from Liverpool can still be seen and heard in modern culture around the world.
Ok,so I'm reeeally old. (DOB'38.) No mater how many books you read on 'today's music' You're reading the author's opinion. I have my opinion as well. I think it started in the late '40's with what was called "rhythm and blues" By the mid '50's it had taken a good hold on what the kids wanted to hear or to buy. The Beatles were a band; Rhythm and blues was a "movement" At that time many white artists just jumped on the bandwagon with cover versions of the r&b hits.
I* think Elvis existed for the white folk,of that generation.( I don't think he ever wrote anything;nor was he much of a guitar player.)
Every generation MUST distance itself,musically speaking,that is the way it has always been,and will always be.
So, yes, everybody influences everybody, and the young have to be different/better.
While I love the guys from Liverpool I'm not a fanatic. I love the music,not the trivia.In 3 short years they evolved into so much more but it was the songwriting.
R&B was the catalyst that changed what direction music took.(With MANY offshoots,since)
IMO,today, music is much more diverse than it has ever been. While the Beatles were a 'spike' in the curve of the '60's,they are NOT the reason why modern music "is".
Perhaps it is due to a place instead. The juke joint, honky tonk, roadhouse, speakeasy, New Orleans brothel, jazz club and countless garages. Just a thought.
OK so i'm not as old as Avguygeorge, but i've been performing really old music for forty years. IMO R&B was an electric version of what began 30 years before with artists like Skip James, Charlie Patton, Robert Johnson.... that music was the catalyst, R&B was a variation.

what happened with the Beatles was that music became a cultural power. people were fanatics, lots of people, and their lives to a large degree revolved around 'music', and that music wasn't just about someones lovelife.
walk on the street today and observe how many people are wearing headphones... someone from a hundred years ago would think we're all lunatics for the way we define our identities with music. Huxley would have pointed to it as the Soma of the 21st century. on the other hand, this music culture connects us all in some sense and cummunicates ideas.

oh yeah , and the Beatles wrote great songs!
Jaybo got it right. Little known fact: The Ramones were trying to be a New York version of the Bay City Rollers, but something went awry. And, for better or worse (worse, I think), more "modern" pop music sounds indebted to the Ramones than to the Fab Four.

By the way, "modern" music has always existed. Most of it just isn't modern anymore.

I love the comments. That doesn't mean that I agree with them. Think about it. Would the music be the same today, if not for the Beatles(not that it is any good, or it might be?)?
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Tvad, Brian Epstein is the one who made them change from Levis and leather jackets to a more "respectable" look (enter the famous "Beatle Suit"), so isn't HE the reason that modern music exists? :)

Would music be the same today if not for the Beatles? That's akin to having Clarence the guardian angel show George Bailey what the world would have been like had he never been born. Music would certainly be different, but in what ways you can never know. Who knows, music might be better, had the Beatles never existed. Maybe their presence squashed the rise of another band that was going to have an even more profound effect?

Just think, if there had been no Beatles, there would be no one to sue Apple Computer all the time. And life without litigation just ain't worth livin'. And if there had been no Beatles, none of us would ever have heard Yoko's "Kiss Kiss Kiss Kiss Me Love". :)


Some unbelievably crass comments and some funny ones.

The Dylan influence went far far beyond drugs indeed it was inevitable that drugs would have became available to them.
What wasn't inevitable was Dylan, he changed the focus on what a song could be and The Beatles,Lennon in particular were massively influenced by that.

With all due respect to the original poster not only is his definition too loose (Well,what is modern music?) his understanding of how music cross pollinates seems sadly amiss.

Neither Dylan nor The Beatles nor The Stones could have existed without Elvis,Buddly Holly,Robert Johnson,Muddy Waters,Howlin' Wolf,Hank Williams,Woody Guthrie and countless others.

Music is a big chain and examining the individual links can be interesting but none of it would have existed without the influences that made them pick up an instrument in the first place.

The chain goes back centuries............
Music has been a cultural force long before the Beatles. I'm more in the Ben C. school of it being a long chain going back years, but if I had to name one person who influenced 20th century popular music (English language only) the most it would be Louis Armstrong. He perfected the modern pop vocal style as well as jazz instrumental improvisation.

His direct musical descendants are Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, Frank Sinatra, but it really gets interesting when you cross Armstrong with other innovators. Armstrong + Woody Guthrie gives you Hank Williams, Buddy Holly and Bob Dylan. Armstrong + Charlie Patton leads to Robert Johnson, T-Bone Walker & Muddy Waters. Armstrong + Duke Ellington leads to both the big jazz dance bands and Nat King Cole. It's more of a matrix going back years.

BTW, using this type of thinking, Buddy Holly + Bob Dylan leads to the Beatles.
the beatles were the first musicians to openly and regularly 'question authority' and given a worldwide media to do it. they also had a great sense of humor which took the edge off. up until that time guthrie,dylan, ochs and others did it through their music, but unless you were listening, it wasn't necc reaching everywhere. they were a cultural force, and bigger than jesus. in fact they still sell more music than jesus.....and they had the good sense(as a band) to quit on top, which only made them bigger. their songwriting was influenced as much by meredith wilson as chuck berry, buddy holly and dylan....and that a special sound indeed.
There's no doubting that in terms of cultural impact (which is a completely different issue) The Beatles were unique.

I love that Brian Eno story about how in the early 70's he had a conversation with a classical composer who told him "everything in rock music had already happened in classical music by 1832"
Eno said "That doesn't account for Elvis,though"
The composer replied "Well that wasn't a musical revolution but a social one"
The Sgt. Pepper album came out after George Harrison paid a visit to San Francisco. Think of them more like Pat Boone making hits out of Little Richard tunes. There was music coming out of LA and San Francisco that was much more interesting than the Beatles, at least until Mr. Martin started working with them. Just like today, however, Pop music sells more and has more influence than the music it copies.
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Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis, Fats Domino and many others prior to the Beatles.
Rather than disagree that they were the most influential, I would tip that on its head and say the Beatles were one of the most influenced bands. Where the Beatles made a big contribution was that they channelled those influences into music that affected many millions.

For everything you might claim they were the first at, it is easy to find someone that did it earlier, that probably influenced the Beatles, but didn't take it to anything like the market the Beatles were able to reach.

So, of course the Beatles were incredibly influential - but not because of any originality in their music or even style ideas, but in the sheer marketing genius. It has often been said that hit tunes rarely have enduring merit (except for how they remind us of how we felt when we listened to them at the height of their popularity), and succeed by delivering the right song at the right time. The Beatles did that repeatedly and led the market for pop songs by the nose for several years till they got bored with it.

They did not give birth to modern music, but they did give it huge momentum.
I might not credit the previous thoughts mentioned on this forum, so please forgive me. A couple of thoughts, though. One, would music have evolved to the point it is now from Elvis or Louis Armstrong? I don't think so. That is not intended to denigrate what those great musicians provided. Also, the point about drugs is well taken. I lived(and still do) in the San Francisco Bay Area during that time(Quicksilver Messenger Service, and Santana[3 times] played my high-schools). I think the point about reaching a mass audience is relevent here. I just think that the Beatles broke down the walls, and that breakdown occurred with "Sgt. Pepper's "
Mmakshak I tend to agree with the general point but I don't think that point is a musical one.

In a cultural and experimental sense Sgt. Pepper is a landmark,touchstone album but imho (any many others)musically it's not their best work.

It also only broke down walls in a sense-what a generation thought it meant however but what did it change in real terms longer term?
What did it achieve?
by way of fanning the flames, when Paul played Sgt Pepper for Bob Dylan, he got up and walked out of the room.
MUSIC IS CULTURE..... Chuck Berry- Muddy Waters- Son House-Louis Armstrong-King Oliver-Jelly Roll Morton-whoever........... It goes on forever, and all of these guy's influenced the people and culture that came after them. The big difference is because of modern media and communications you can legitimately argue the Beatles had a much greater impact than those that came before them.

What strikes me as unique in regard to The Beatles is the fact that they continue to be the topic for so much discussion. I can't think of another rock band that has had their "staying" power (maybe Elvis??) or continue to sell at such a rate. A lot of the mega popular albums that have came since are already starting to fade........ And yet we are still discussing Sgt. Peppers...... And no, I am too young to be of "the Beatles generation".

Music of course isn't culture.

It can be a massive part of Culture as The Beatles were or it can be absorbed into the culture in a way that is no longer obvious as Beethoven and Mozart are.

Musically something can be actually be very important and viewed as world class and yet have minimal cultural impact.

Much of the music that makes up modern culture is viewed as worthless by many here on Audiogon.

Sgt. Pepper had a massive cultural impact but I'm not so sure it has led to what modern music has became at all.
Indeed one major impact of SP was the time and effort spent making the recording and the studio effects part of the music.
That legacy to a large extent burned out in the 70's and has only seen glimpses of it returning in the current scene...not to say it won't return though.

I see Sgt Pepper more as a marker for a certain time-music since then has been more of an explosion and it has veered off in many many different directions.
It's only part of the story but I would agree The Beatles cultural impact will largely remain unsurpassed.
Ben_campbell, you have made very good points. It just keeps sticking in my mind that SP changed everything. I agree that it wasn't their best work(their double white album comes to mind). Maybe it had to do with the change from their roots(some of which John Lennon acknowledged had to do with blues). Fleetwood Mac came from the same blues roots, yet their change from that didn't have the impact(and not just do to sales) that the Beatles did. The impact had to do with breaking down walls. Those walls are now broken, for better or worse.
I believe that the Beatles, the Kinks, the Who, the Rolling Stones, etc. and all that promoted them are the reason that modern music is, in a lot of cases, homogonozed and predictable. These sort of groups consist of average musicians, at best. I find most music created by the above mentioned groups to be only somewhat interesting and with little feeling or emotion with only a basic level of musicianship.
In most cases, there is not even good recording techniques or engineering utized.
If one looks beyond the hyped and promoted groups that have made up and make up 'modern music', there are much better composers, musicians, and groups than the typical groups that receive the majority of press and air play. I agree with 'markphd' regarding Les Paul. He was/is a great inventer, composer, musician, recording engineer, etc.
In a word , YES !
The Beatles were influenced by many things , culture , religion , people etc. That was what made them what they are . They took these influences and expounded on them to the point of ever changing music . It is also why they "evolved" into their seperate entities . They showed us that it was ok to be different than the norm as well as from what we once were .
Are You kidding ! Modern Music exists because of artists like Howling Wolf, Muddy Waters, & Bo Diddley. A big influence for the Stones is Slim Harpo. Jethero Tull, The Doors, Rolling Stones, Hendrix all played BLUES in the beginning. I love the Beatles but I am sick of hearing that penicillin was discovered because 'She Loves You' was herd playing in the backround. Early Fleetwood Mac,
Savoy Brown hasd a bigger influence than the Beatles. And What about Elivs, should he take a back seat to he Beatles.
If you had to pick one artist, I recommend that it be Les Paul, one of the pioneers using the electric guitar.
Sgt Pepper was indeed a milestone....a studio album that took you on a journey rather than just a collection of songs...IMHO, it kind of helped to create the rock opera era that followed where artists embellished and further explored the concept.
Louis Armstrong is the reason "modern music " exists. He and other early Louisiana jazz pioneers were the first to perform the solo instumental displaying extemporanious virtuosity. This is the basis for every guitar riff not strictly playing the melody and every "jam" session. Vocaly he invented "modern" pop (pun intended) singing. Every singer since (ella,Billy etc.)owes a debt to his phrasing and presentation. Prior to this it was choral singing or very,very bad pop singing. Later this jazz/blues style mixed with delta blues sounds like Sun House and Muddy Waters . This lead to people like Little Richard and the folks at Chess records which the Rolling Stones copied(stole) and the other modern pop groups which leaned heavily upon. So the Beatles used Louis's inventions with the deltas rythms and "whitened" them up a bit with pleasant harmonies for the mostly white pop audiences which created a sometimes very good "candied" version of some very seriously soulful roots. - Jim
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Yes, hats off to Aldavis. But I would add that there where other artists in the south, Robert Johnson for ex. and folks we'll never hear of, that contributed to the blues. The blues had two off-spring, jazz and rock 'n roll. Most of the British rock 'n rollers gave due praise to music that was comin from the mid-west Mississippi region. To carry that further, most of the Chicago artist were from or influenced by the black culture of the southern US. The blues, in my opinion, is where all modern popular music starts. The blues, started from poor, uneducated, untrained, folk teaching themselves how to play an instrument and express how they felt about their lot in life. Even country music has to tip a hat to the blues.
It is impossible to condense this subject into a forum like this. Too many important people will be left out. I agree with Dan_ed that Robert Johnson deserves mention. To expand this a little further it is also important to mention Jelly Roll Morton. He claims to have invented the 4/4 signature upon which Jazz/Blues/Rock are based. This is obviously not verifiable but on his smithsonian recordings it's pretty cool to hear him tapping out 4/4 with his feet. Also, as an aside, while it's true that most early Jazz performers were largely self taught and poor there was the important influence of the Creoles who had real classical training. For diverse modern echos of all this check out 1956 Evis, any early Stones, and Led Zepplin 1. Each one DIRECTLY "borrows" from the melding of early jazz/blues pioneers and the progression through modern blues masters. - Jim
"The Blues had a baby and called it Rock "N" Roll" I can't believe only one person mentioned Led Zeppelin, I think they were as big a influnce on music as any group ever will be. I found the Blues by listening to them! As far as modern music today that most mindless people like, it exists because of MTV, Radio, Kurt Cobain, Metallica, Pearl Jam, Snoop Dog, Ice Tea, Ice Cube, Madonna, Janet Jackson etc. I don't think it would be fair to blame the Beatles for this crap! Thank God for CD players
Blblues68 Zep were a big influence (but not in the universal way The Beatles were)indeed they are a massive influence on two of the bands on your hate list!

Tee hee that really made me laugh......
Over 300,000 million albums sold worldwide, ok so there not as big universally as the Beatles. Mabey if they would have made singles, appeared on Ed Sullivan, talked to the press, made songs like Love,Love Me Do & Yellow Submarine there influence would have been bigger. The list of Bands and Musicians that were influenced by them goes on forever! I could have named another 20 bands on my hate list besides Motley Crue, Mettalica, and Ozzy that were greatly influenced by Zeppelin those were just the one's I had to listen to the most growing up. The Beatles would appear on my most overated list though I must say! I will apoligize ahead of time for offending anyone with my last comment.