The Sixties were an incredible decade. From the beginning to the end of that ten-year span our worldwide culture grew and expanded at an incredible rate that no one standing at the precipice of 1959 could have foreseen.
As a country we saw pop music go from bland to biting, the Vietnam War, political assassinations, the rise of the counterculture, recreational drug use, casual sex, JFK, Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I Have a Dream Speech”, civil rights legislation…
You can hyperventilate just trying to talk about it. Thousands of books have been written about the Sixties.
But this is not a book. I just wanted to set a little context for what the Beatles did with marketing their ‘brand’ in the 60s.
Well, maybe not their marketing exactly, but the essence of who they were. It’s what people saw, felt and heard. So in a way they were marketing.
The Beatles came out of working-class Liverpool. There were a lot of other bands out of the Sixties that started in similar circumstances – looking for a way out. Look at The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Yardbirds, the Dave Clark Five, Chad and Jeremy, Peter and Gordon, Freddie and the Dreamers, The Animals, The Zombies, Herman’s Hermits, Manfred Mann and other Sixties bands.
On this side of the pond we had Paul Revere and the Raiders, the Beach Boys, Jefferson Airplane, the Byrds, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, the Righteous Brothers, The Turtles, Tommy James and the Shondells, the Ventures, The Monkees, The Mamas and the Papas, Lovin’ Spoonful, Simon and Garfunkel and more.
But in looking back at the music, the photos and music chart listings from that time, very few bands were able to sustain anything beyond their initial ‘look and sound.’
Not the Beatles.
They evolved, changing from mop-top pop teen idols in ’64 and ’65 to experimental psychedelia in ’66 and ’67 that incorporated worldwide influences, to mature radio rock in ’68 and ’69 to a rootsy farewell in 1970.
From “I Want to Hold Your Hand” to “Ticket To Ride” to “Paperback Writer” to “Penny Lane” to “All Your Need Is Love” to “Strawberry Fields Forever” to “Rocky Raccoon” and “Back In The USSR” to “Hey Jude” and “Revolution” to “Come Together,” “Something,” “Octopus’s Garden” to “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” to the final LP ‘Let it Be.’ (Yes, I know that Abbey Road was recorded after Let it Be…don’t quibble…I’m on a roll)…
And that’s just the music.
How about the looks they incorporated?
Early 60s: skinny ties, identical suits, Beatle Boots, identical mop-top hair cuts that were more than cutting edge.
Mid-60s: casual, relaxed mod clothing, individuality…to the psychedelic look of the Sgt. Pepper album.
Late 60s: more individuality and variety. Paul moved to more conservative clothes, John let his hair grow (until he shaved his head in the early 70s); Ringo was always dapper; George was the uber-upscale hippie.
Few of their contemporary bands can claim that type of evolution in music or looks. Which is probably why they are much more ‘trapped in time’ than the Beatles, who remain timeless in many ways.
When you picture Paul Revere and the Raiders you conjure images of those three-cornered hats and the Revolution outfits. Think of the Dave Clark Five and you picture those black ties and coats. And so on.
By the time the rest of the rock bands of the mid-60s tried to play-catch up it was too late. They were already pigeon-holed to a time and place.
But not the Beatles. They led the way, changing fashion and music by being true themselves, true to their creative spirits and urgings. The ultimate test came in 1970 when, to continue to be true to themselves, they had to disband. They had been together for over ten years. They had changed the world. It was time to move on.
As a company or a personal brand, are you being true to yourself? Or are you jumping in the slipstream looking to catch a ride on someone’s coattails and hope that they eventually fade away and leave you standing alone?
It’s not gonna happen.
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