The Beatles’ career is a brilliant exemplar for what went on widely. While England had an Instro-music overload, “The Beatles” and compareable groups built a counterpart, the so-called Merseybeat. You will automatically associate it with “The Beatles” once you hear it. If you love them like me, it’s probably a pleasure to know that there are a lot of bands with a similar sound. However, Merseybeat started as a magazine for the Liverpool (since the late 50’s the second largest pool for music besides London) music scene and later became a synonym of this specific sound.
Skiffle (washboard tubs, jug’s etc.), British R’n’B and Rock ‘n’ Roll were the major precursor and formative influences that helped to shape Merseybeat. Of course, it’s impossible to make a straight start at 1960 to ring in the decade of Beat Music. Actually, the beginnings of Merseybeat can be traced back to the late 50’s, which was also the same time “The Quarrymen” (pre-Beatles) formed in Liverpool. Kids listening to the US Rock ‘n’ Roll and R&B of the day mixed it with the common skiffle drenched sound that was quite present at that time in England. While bands like the Shadows seemed more popular before, the Instro sound couldn’t do against the Beatles’ success a few years later. The high peak of Merseybeat was in 1964 before it fell into a deep sleep. Likewise, also “The Beatles” started to change their sound if you think of the album “Rubber Soul” with Sitar tracks like “Norwegian Wood”. But it would still take two years until they (and with them a whole generation of bands) took further steps into psychedelic spheres. It was even the Beatles’ chart breaking hit “Please Please Me” that helped to make Merseybeat a worldwide success.
But what does it sound like? It’s a highly melodic music, with a rhythm that’s dominated by the rhythm guitar and where the Skiffle music influence is clearly visible. Regularly there’s a lead-singer and backing singers (2-3 vocals in total) that also cover the instrumentation of the band. This normally covers a line-up lead-, rhythm-, and bass guitar and drums. Typically the bass and drums play synchronally in one line. The choruses are mostly sung in two and three-part harmonies and close to the lead vocals. ~Written by DJ Kahuna, 2021 for www.rum-n-coconutwater.com
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