Ok, I know I overdo the anniversary thing. But this week does warrant a commemoration. Fifty years ago, the greatest band that ever was—the most successful musical ensemble of all time—took shape.
On August 13 1960, Pete Best joined the Beatles—finally giving the band a permanent drummer and stable membership. (For more, read my 2007 interview with Pete.) On August 16 they departed Liverpool for Hamburg, to begin their first club residency.
Within two-and-a-half years The Beatles had their first #1 hit in the UK. A year later they exploded in the US and began their domination of the world pop charts.
Their accomplishments include:
- Resurrecting rock & roll (which was dead in the water between 1960 and 1964).
- Displacing the musical milk toast in the Top 10 (bye-bye Pat Boone and Steve Lawrence);
- Transforming the record album into an art-form (instead of a cash cow of second-rate songs).
- Selling over a billion units of product (more than any other artist by far).
- Become ridiculously rich in the process (e.g., McCartney's net-worth today exceeds $1billion).
No wonder they're the subject of more than three thousand books. (Some sources say twice that!)
The Beatles were the first—and, I would argue, the last—musical act to be simultaneously the biggest and the best.
But what are the business lessons we can gather from The Beatles? As mentioned previously, when business leaders speak of innovation as the "game changer" in a ruthlessly competitive global economy, they should remember the Fab Four.
Because it was the Beatles' creativity—radical, disruptive, and iconoclastic—that put them on the map, generating world media coverage and an insatiable demand for their products.
From their songwriting craft (featuring bold melodic leaps, wildly inventive chord changes, and poetic lyrics), to their record production (breaking new technological ground on albums including Revolver and Sgt Pepper), to their hair and dress (driving global fashion trends), to their lifestyle (political outspokenness and drug experimentation), they were artistic, cultural, and commercial revolutionaries.
This is what game-changing innovation looks and sounds like. As Newsweek later proclaimed: "What the Beatles did in the 60's remains the most thrilling surge of creativity in the history of pop culture." (More about this in the comments.)