The first post about Training with a Purpose discussed Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “Outliers: The Story of Success”. I’ve watched some YouTube clips of interviews with the author and I failed to mention his discussion of The Beatles in the first post. I found it so interesting I wanted to add this to the discussion.
Most of us “old timers” remember The Beatles’ arrival to the U.S. in 1964. It was such an uproar both from those who loved the band as well as those who hated them. We all thought this little-known band from Liverpool had skyrocketed to the top of the charts from nowhere. However, Gladwell noted the time the band spent in residency at strip clubs in Hamburg, Germany. One residency was two years where they reportedly performed all night seven nights per week. Gladwell noted that by the time the band touched U.S. soil they had performed over 1200 shows together and had been recording in the studio together. At the time, we were unaware of the long exhausting hours already logged by the band. But now we can easily see the 10,000 hours rule although it wasn’t 10 years. Lennon and McCartney first joined up in 1957; George Harrison joined in 1958, and Ringo Starr followed in 1962. They concluded their fifth and final residency in Hamburg in 1962 and recorded their first album in 1963. Their European success was finally felt in America when they performed on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964 and the rest is history.
My conclusion in Part I was that outliers are born with a gift or talent that they discover at an early age and they are passionate about that gift which drives them to practice the 10,000 hours. The discussion above is a testament to the passion of these four band members; the hours and exhaustion of performing as they did in Hamburg would have been the end of many bands. But what about their talent or gift? Rolling Stone’s list of greatest songwriters includes #2 Paul McCartney, #3 John Lennon and #65 George Harrison. Three of the band’s four members are recognized among the best songwriters ever. Listed below is the band members and their instruments.
|John Lennon – vocals, rhythm and lead guitar, keyboards, harmonica, bass guitar (1960–1969)
Paul McCartney – vocals, bass guitar, rhythm and lead guitar, keyboards, drums (1960–1970)
George Harrison – lead and rhythm guitar, vocals, sitar, bass guitar, keyboards (1960–1970)
Ringo Starr – drums, percussion, vocals (1962–1970)
I don’t think there is any question about the talent or gift of each of the band members. They were quite young when they started, 15-17 years old and as they grew, so did their music.
They toured for only three years, 1963-1966 but decided together that it was not productive. No one could hear them play because of all of the screaming; they couldn’t hear themselves so they felt they could never improve. Once the decision was made they retreated to the recording studio where some of their most brilliant work was done. There was a program on Public Television a few weeks ago about the making of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band which was the first project after the touring years ended. The historian who narrated the program included two songs during this project that were not included on the album but were the first songs released during the project: Strawberry Fields and Penny Lane. He noted that this project was the “most real” of the group’s work. Strawberry Field was a children’s home not far from where John Lennon grew up and Penny Lane was a real street where Paul and John used to meet up “in the roundabout”. Essentially all of the lyrics in the song “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite” came from a poster that John purchased at an antique store. The narrator noted that the studio became a laboratory for the band since they didn’t have to worry about recreating the sounds on stage and he said things that we can do today on a cell phone at that time had never been done. The Abbey Road engineers were constantly inventing new ways to make new sounds. Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is still the number one song on Rolling Stone’s list of greatest albums of all time. So I believe The Beatles are a classic study for anyone wanting to know what it takes to be at the top of one’s chosen field: a gift or talent, a passion for that gift, and 10,000 hours of practice and hard work. The results are clear: from Wikipedia-
“The Beatles are the best-selling band in history, with estimated sales of over 800 million physical and digital albums worldwide. They have had more number-one albums on the British charts and sold more singles in the UK than any other act. They are also the best-selling music artists in the United States, with 178 million certified units. In 2008, the group topped Billboard magazine’s list of the all-time most successful artists; as of 2017, they hold the record for most number-one hits on the Hot 100 chart with twenty. They have received seven Grammy Awards, an Academy Award for Best Original Song Score and fifteen Ivor Novello Awards. The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, and all four main members were inducted individually from 1994 to 2015. They were also collectively included in Time magazine’s compilation of the twentieth century’s 100 most influential people.”