DMA Central

THE OFFICIAL COMMUNITY FOR DIGITAL MEDIA ACADEMY

What’s the Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band Ever? (Part 2)

And The Winner Is…
We recently undertook the task of figuring out who was the greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll of all time. The conclusion? The Rolling Stones.


The four core members of The Rolling Stones: (from left) Charlie Watts, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger and Ron Wood.

Here are five reasons the “lads from London” are the greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll band ever:

1. Endurance
July 2012 will mark the 50th anniversary of The Rolling Stones’ first gig (at London’s Marquee Club). In all likelihood, the band will commemorate the occasion with a 2013 tour. Industry analysts are already predicting that a 50th Anniversary Tour will become the most profitable music tour of all time. No other Rock ‘n’ Roll band of this stature has lasted this long. Put in perspective, The Beatles existed for only about 10 years, or just one-fifth the amount of time The Stones have been playing together. The Stones have outlasted the administrations of eight U.S. presidents.

And the band has lived through one technological advance after another; The Stones started out appearing on black-and-white television, then prospered on MTV during the 80s music-video explosion and now have taken up permanent residence online. (The Rolling Stones was also the first big act to broadcast a concert via the Internet, when a 20-minute video was “streamed” in 1994.) Many passing fads have come and gone during this time, yet The Stones remain as steady and unchanging as the Rock of Gibraltar. The group is one of the few musical acts to chart Number One albums in three separate decades—yet more proof of its enduring appeal.


The five-decade writing partnership between Jagger and Richards has created some of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s most durable songs. The pair produces music under the name “The Glimmer Twins.”

2. You Can’t Get Them Out of Your Head
Tune in to any Classic Rock channel and you’ll hear reason after reason why The Stones are our top pick. The group’s signature tunes (and there are many) include “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” “Brown Sugar,” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “Honky Tonk Women,” “Start Me Up,” “Paint It, Black,” “Wild Horses,” “Get Off My Cloud,” “Street Fighting Man,” “Tumbling Dice,” “Ruby Tuesday,” “Gimme Shelter,” “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” “19th Nervous Breakdown,” “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” “Angie,” “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It),” “Miss You,” “Shattered” and the list rolls on and on.

Aside from its long string of hit singles (which includes nine Number One smashes), the group has racked up an amazing number of album sales. Among the 24 studio albums, 12 live albums and various compilation albums, The Stones have amassed worldwide sales topping 200 million albums. Beyond that, starting with “Sticky Fingers,” the group had eight straight albums hold the Number One spot on the U.S. charts.

3. The Live Performances
The Stones’ last tour is now considered the highest-grossing tour of all time, earning $558 million. During this tour alone, some 4.6 million fans caught one of the band’s 147 shows. Calculating the total number of people who have seen The Rolling Stones in concert over the decades is probably impossible, but some estimates have claimed the band has played between 2,000 and 2,500 total full-scale concerts, which excludes television appearances and similar gigs. (Another way to think about that total is one show per night, every night…for almost seven straight years.)

In addition, The Stones played the single biggest concert ever, when its February 2006 concert on the Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) was attended by an estimated 1.5 million people. At this point, it’s safe to assume that The Rolling Stones have played Rock ‘n’ Roll music live to more human beings than any other group ever. And each and every audience member has gotten their money’s worth.


The cover of The Stones’ sprawling 1972 epic “Exile on Main Street,” which “The ‘Rolling Stone’ Album Guide” called “the best double album in rock & roll history.”

4. Artistic Achievement
Judging artistic achievement can be tricky, because it’s partly a subjective exercise. Nonetheless, over time a critical consensus is reached about the worth of certain works of art. And among Rock ‘n’ Roll acts, no other outfit can match The Stones for musical masterpieces—not even The Beatles, whose classic works really consist of five albums (“Rubber Soul” (‘65), “Revolver” (‘66), “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” (‘67), “The Beatles” which is usually called “The White Album” (‘68) and “Abbey Road” (‘69)).

Meanwhile, The Rolling Stones have made no fewer than eight albums which are now considered undisputed Rock ‘n’ Roll masterpieces: “The Rolling Stones, Now!” (‘65), “Aftermath” (‘66), “Beggars Banquet” (‘68), “Let it Bleed” (‘69), “Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out!” (‘70), “Sticky Fingers” (‘71), “Exile on Main Street” (’72) and “Some Girls” (‘78). The Stones’ five-year period between 1968 and 1972 is considered one of the greatest creative streaks Rock ‘n’ Roll music has ever seen.

5. Consistent Personnel
No major older band still retains its original line-up, but The Stones come close. Three of the original five members (lead vocalist Mick Jagger, rhythm guitar genius Keith Richards and master drummer Charlie Watts) are still active. Even the band’s replacement members have been around for a long time.

Guitarist Ron Wood, for example, has been playing with the group since the mid-70s—more than 35 years. Even “newcomer” bassist Darryl Jones, who replaced original member Bill Wyman, has been with the band for nearly 20 years. Only two members of the group ever officially quit, and Richards has repeatedly stated that The Rolling Stones is a lifetime gig. (“The only way out of this band is in a box,” he once quipped.)


Secret Weapon: Drummer Charlie Watts, seen here on stage and behind plexiglass screens containing that show’s set list.

Keepers of the Flame
Although The Rolling Stones have assimilated other forms of music into its overall sound, at its core the band has remained faithful to its Blues-steeped influences. (The band was named after a song by Blues legend Muddy Waters, as was Dylan’s classic “Like a Rolling Stone” and the magazine “Rolling Stone.”) Even now, whenever he travels, Keith Richards carries Chuck Berry’s entire body of music with him—so obsessed is he with the great early rocker. And like the great Blues artists, The Rolling Stones have always planned to carry on playing their unique style of music even into their senior years. Back in 1972, an interviewer asked Mick Jagger if he could see imagine himself still belting out “Satisfaction” on stage in his sixties. “Yeah, easily” replied Jagger, without hesitating for a single second. And on they roll.

The Debate Rages On
Music lovers root for their favorite bands like sports fans supporting their preferred team. Emotions can run high, because music is precious to nearly everybody. No wonder so many young people want to learn music production and join the recording industry.

What do you think is the greatest band of all time? Oh yeah? Well maybe you’d like to step outside and settle this thing once and for all…

SIGN IN TO LEAVE A COMMENT – or – SHARE THIS ARTICLE WITH OTHERS:  

[Bloglines] [del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Furl] [Google] [LinkedIn] [Mixx] [MySpace] [Newsvine] [Propeller] [Reddit] [Squidoo] [StumbleUpon] [Twitter] [Email]
posted by Phill Powell in Music Production,News Blog and have No Comments

Who Was Edgar Allan Poe?

“The Raven,” stars John Cusack as one of America’s greatest literary figures. The thriller, set in 19th century Baltimore, involves a string of brutal and horrifying murders, crimes that seem inspired by the shocking stories of a local writer—Edgar Allan Poe.


In “The Raven,” John Cusack plays Poe in a tale of murders most monstrous.

This isn’t the first time Poe has appeared in a motion picture. In fact, the famous writer/poet/critic is featured in Francis Ford Coppola’s experimental horror film, “Twixt.” In that story, the main character (played by Val Kilmer) has an eerie dream in which he visits with a very-much-alive Poe…despite his death in 1849.

Haunted from Birth
So who was this strange little man with the haunted eyes and drooping moustache? In many regards he was America’s first professional writer; before Edgar Allen Poe, the thought of a writer actually making enough money to support himself was laughable. Poe was one of the first writers to make his living completely from his pen.

But it wasn’t an easy life. An orphan at age 2, Poe was dead by 40 (and under mysterious circumstances: found delirious on the streets of Baltimore, incoherent as if drunk and wearing clothes that he did not own). To this day, there is no final verdict on what killed him.


One of the few photographs of the real Edgar Allan Poe, taken about a year before his mysterious death.

During his short life, Edgar Allan Poe experienced much tragedy. He grew up in a foster family where he received harsh discipline. As a young man, he dropped out of the University of Virginia, in part due to mounting gambling debts. Later he was court-martialed out of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point for neglecting his duties.

Years later, after he was steadily making a name for himself as a writer, he published the classic horror poem, “The Raven,” but although the poem made Poe world-famous, there was no such thing as copyright law at the time and Poe only earned $7 for his masterpiece. Shortly thereafter, his young wife died—emotionally scarring the brilliant writer. Within seven years, Poe himself was dead.


In Francis Ford Coppola’s “Twixt,” Val Kilmer consults with Poe (played by Ben Chaplin).

Tortured Soul…But Productive Life
And yet, in spite of a brutally hard life, Poe achieved some amazing things:

  • He’s considered the father of American horror, as writers like Stephen King have often acknowledged. Many of his scariest works have been adapted for film over the years.
  • Poe is one of the first American writers credited with popularizing the short story as a literary format.
  • The father of the modern detective story, Poe’s famous “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” was the very first ever in which a detective solves a mystery by piecing together clues and using deductive reasoning. (Modern TV shows like “CSI” owe Poe an enormous debt of inspiration.)
  • Poe helped establish the genre of science fiction.
  • A great poet, Poe published classic verse like “The Bells” and “A Dream within a Dream.”
  • Poe was also a hugely influential literary critic, who commented on the work of other writers and poets.

Finally, Poe was a larger-than-life character whose own personal misfortunes seemed to mirror the awful and mysterious aspects of his writing. There are only a few photographs of Poe and he’s never smiling in any of them. Furthermore, there are few if any “happy endings” within his stories and poems. Poe seemed to be as haunted as his imagination, and the public image of a troubled, unhappy artist has stuck with him for well more than a century.

Poe in Pop Culture
Edgar Allan Poe cast a very long shadow and he’s rarely been out of public circulation. This “master of the macabre” keeps turning up in the strangest places:

1. “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” The Beatles…Poe is one of the many celebrities and public figures featured on this 1967 landmark album’s equally famous cover. The collage mixes the images of more than 70 figures, with Poe anchoring the back row (between pioneering psychiatrist Carl Jung and Fred Astaire, Hollywood’s greatest dancer).


Even The Beatles saluted Poe; he appears in the middle of the back row of celebrities on “Sgt. Pepper.”

2. “Play Misty for Me”…In the first film Clint Eastwood directed (1971), Clint plays a DJ who has a brief fling with a fan, not realizing that she’s a complete maniac. But he finally gets the point…or nearly does. Played by Jessica Walter (now the mother on TV’s “Modern Family”), the unhinged fan quotes from Poe’s tragic love poem “Annabel Lee,” and it’s never gotten a spookier reading.

3. The Baltimore Ravens…The pro football team (which captured the 2000 Super Bowl championship) needed a new name when the Cleveland Browns franchise was bought and moved to Baltimore. A fan contest was conducted to select the new name. Although other titles were considered (e.g., “The Baltimore Marauders,” “The Baltimore Americans”), the team was eventually named in honor of Edgar Allan Poe and his most famous poem because Poe had lived and eventually died in the northeastern city. Now the team’s three raven mascots share his name; one’s called “Edgar,” another is “Allan” and a third is called “Poe.”


When a new NFL franchise came to Baltimore, a fan contest chose “Ravens” in honor of Poe’s famous poem.

Putting Poe to Work
Edgar Allen Poe would have loved the medium of digital filmmaking—now it’s possible to bring a writer’s vision to life and take audiences even deeper into their world. All it takes is an active imagination and some Hollywood visual effects to help create nightmares that leave a lasting impression on people. Poe would be proud.

SIGN IN TO LEAVE A COMMENT -or- SHARE THIS ARTICLE WITH OTHERS:

[Bloglines] [del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Furl] [Google] [LinkedIn] [Mixx] [MySpace] [Newsvine] [Propeller] [Reddit] [Squidoo] [StumbleUpon] [Twitter] [Email]
posted by Phill Powell in Digital Filmmaking,News Blog and have No Comments

Music Legends: The Beastie Boys

It seems like only yesterday that the music world first turned on to three dudes from New York City. But ever since they exploded onto the scene, the Beastie Boys have defied all expectations.


Elder statesmen of Hip Hop: the men called Beastie.  From left: Mike D (Michael Diamond), King Ad-Rock (Adam Horovitz) and MCA (Adam Yauch). 

Has it been 25 years already? Originally considered a novelty act, the Beastie Boys have endured and grown musically. Now the men known as MCA (aka Adam Yauch), Mike D (Michael Diamond) and King Ad-Rock (Adam Horovitz) are respected elder statesmen of the Hip Hop movement. Recently inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, the Boys have accumulated total sales exceeding 20 million albums and have carved out a lasting musical legacy.

At the beginning, they were just three white guys trying to make rap music – and have fun. The band originally had two other members and the Beastie Boys played primarily Punk Rock, or some variation of it. But they were in New York right at the time when Rap started taking off and they eventually channeled their inner MCs.

In celebration of their recent Hall of Fame triumph, we thought we’d sift through a quarter-century of Beastie madness and salute a handful of their top tracks:

Track: “Cooky Puss”
Album: Some Old Bulls*&% (1983)
Why You Should Listen: In the beginning, there was the turntable. And it was funny. At least it was how the Beasties used it in their ’83 breakthrough single, “Cooky Puss,” a series of prank phone calls overlaid on a Hip Hop beat and mixed with plenty of turntable scratching.

It’s difficult to decide which is more amusing—the goofy sounds of a Steve Martin comedy album being slowed down and stretched on the turntable or the comical rudeness the Beasties display when phoning a local Carvel Ice Cream shop. At first, the Carvel worker mistakenly assumes that the caller wants to order a Cooky Puss ice cream cake. Instead, the Beasties act as if the cake were a real person. “Yo, I said I’m calling you, babeee!” Mike D tells the unlucky worker. “Yo man, Cooky Puss there? I want to speak to Cooky Puss!” (The Carvel worker then hangs up, prompting a hilariously unprintable response from Mike D.)


The early Beastie Boys yukking it up, not long after emerging from the New York club scene with “Cooky Puss.”

Now collected on 1994’s Some Old Bulls*&%, “Cooky Puss” first appeared on an EP with three other songs. As fate would have it, a British Airways TV commercial used a piece of one of the other numbers (“Beastie Revolution”). In what may have been the first lawsuit based on illegal sampling of music, the Beasties successfully sued the airline for $40,000. That sum provided the seed money for the Beastie Boys to rent an apartment in New York’s Chinatown district, where they dug in and worked on mastering the rhythms of Rap and the nuances of Hip Hop. Meanwhile, the group released a series of 12-inch singles which stoked their following within the New York club scene. The Beastie Boys were on their way. And within just a couple of years, they would be world famous.


The inspiration for the Beasties’ first success: Carvel’s “Cooky Puss” ice cream cake.

Track: “Fight for Your Right” (To Party!!!)
Album: Licensed to Ill (1986)
Why You Should Listen: The cover illustration shows the back half of a sleek Beastie Boys jet; the back-cover illustration shows the front half—with the plane crashed right into the side of a mountain. Such humor pervades Licensed to Ill, the first Beastie Boys album and the very first Rap album to shoot to the Number One slot on the Billboard charts (where it remained for five weeks). Furthermore, the album got positive acclaim, even from publications like Rolling Stone, which titled its review, “Three Idiots Create a Masterpiece.”

What made Licensed worthy of becoming the best selling Rap album of the 1980s? For starters, it was brilliantly assembled by Rick Rubin, who is now acknowledged as one of the music industry’s greatest producers. It was also successful in part because people didn’t quite know what to make of it. (Was it a serious Rap album? Was it a novelty comedy record? And why was there Heavy Metal guitar and drums on some numbers?) Furthermore, there was a racial aspect that surrounded the Beastie’s success. At the time, there really were no commercially successful white rappers, although Licensed would inspire legions of white kids to pick up a mic and get their MC on. (One of them was a 14-year-old from Detroit named Marshall Mathers, aka Eminem.)


When Licensed to Ill exploded with sales of 5 million albums, the Beastie Boys became a headlining act.

Aside from great production and an intriguing mix that seems to change its sound with each track, Licensed had attitude—massive, unyielding tons of attitude. And nowhere was that ‘tude louder and prouder than in the classic rock ‘n’ roll anthem, “Fight for Your Right.” Promoted through a hilarious MTV video, “Fight for Your Right” is about a teenager’s defiance of social restrictions and parental authority.

Upon its release the song was already being compared to great previous statements of teenage angst such as Kiss’s “Rock and Roll All Night,” Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” and Cheap Trick’s “Surrender.” Before Licensed, the Beasties had already toured with big acts like Madonna, Run DMC and LL Cool J. After Licensed sold 5 million copies, the Beasties returned to the road as headliners.

In the scandalous tour that followed, there were lawsuits and arrests. At one unhinged 1987 performance in Liverpool, England (the Beatles’ home town), the crowd went completely nuts and a riot ensued…only 10 minutes into the show. The Beastie Boys were now officially a phenomenon.

Track: “B-Boy Bouillabaisse”
Album: Paul’s Boutique (1989)
Why You Should Listen: The term sophomore slump is used in the music business to illustrate what happens to many recording artists who are lucky enough to strike gold with their first album. What do they then do for a follow-up? Few understood this dilemma better than the Beastie Boys. Sure, the group had made a big splash with Licensed to Ill, but was there anything else they could do? The answer would come with 1989’s Paul’s Boutique, one of the strongest and strangest albums that any branch of popular music has ever produced.

Tired of their label (DefJam) and unsure of their next move, the Beasties relocated to Los Angeles in 1988 and hooked up with the Dust Brothers production team. Together they spent 16 months crafting Paul’s Boutique. Now considered one of the touchstones of Rap (as well as a production masterpiece in the same league as The Beach Boy’s Pet Sounds and The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band), Paul’s Boutique was initially considered a failure, largely because it only rose to Number 14 on the Billboard album charts.

The album contained a couple of moderately successful singles (“Hey Ladies” and “Shake Your Rump”), but nothing like its predecessor. And few listeners knew what to make of it, considering that its densely layered sound was like nothing else that existed anywhere in commercial music. And it was a song cycle that contained few (if any) breaks between the tracks, which made it even more difficult to follow along and know which song you were listening to at any point.


One of the most iconic images in Rap music: the cover shot of 1989′s masterpiece, Paul’s Boutique. As you can see, it was a real clothing store in Brooklyn. (The album even contained a brief radio spot for the boutique.)

A wonderland of cultural references, Paul’s Boutique seemed to draw inspiration and samples from everywhere…Rap songs, Rock music, TV shows, movies, whatever…and contained samples from more than one hundred songs (most of which were cleared for use by their copyright holders, to the tune of approximately $250,000). And because it’s the odd Rap album indeed that includes a sample from Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” Paul’s Boutique remains a piece of music that requires numerous repeat listenings in order to untangle all the lyrics and pop references.

Its odd sonic touches remain endearing, such as the brief hillbilly hayride that opens Side 2 (“5-Piece Chicken Dinner”) and the starting seconds of “3-Minute Rule,” when we clearly hear the unmistakable back-and-forth clip-clop of a ping-pong match.

The album closes with “B-Boy Bouillabaise,” a conjoined 12-minute suite of 9 mini-songs which itself contains 24 individual samples. Among the album’s tracks, this may be the best overview of Paul’s Boutique. Like the album, it’s crammed with pop references and showcases the band’s intense creativity and artistic ambition. Before Paul’s Boutique, many considered the Beastie Boys a fluke. Afterward, most critics were in awe of a musical group that could capture a sound this wild and dense. The Beastie Boys were now artists…and Paul’s Boutique would eventually be understood as the group’s magnum opus.

Track: “So What’cha Want”
Album: Check Your Head (1992)
Why You Should Listen: It’s important to remember that the Beasties started out as a Punk/Thrash band before sliding into Rap and Hip Hop. After Paul’s Boutique stiffed, the group was looking for a new direction—so it went backwards. For their next album the band members returned to their roots and started playing their own instruments again…with Mike D pummeling the drums, MCA mastering the bass and Ad-Rock attacking the lead guitar (as he had done in an earlier band named “The Young and the Useless”). Is there a Grunge influence to Check Your Head? Quite possibly, given that this same period saw the meteoric rise of bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam. And the playing has a rough edge that was common to Grunge.


By the time the Beasties recorded Check Your Head, the group was playing its own instruments, as it had when just starting out.

Of course, it’s still a Beastie Boys album and that means plenty of Rap along with lots of Rock. The album’s biggest and best single, “So What’cha Want,” seems more like a traditional bragging Rap, wherein the Rapper calls out the weakness of other MCs. Mighty MCA wastes no time putting all chumps in their place: “Well, I’m as cool as a cucumber in a bowl of hot sauce/You’ve got the rhyme and reason but no cause/So if you’re hot to trot, you think you’re slicker than grease/I got news for you crews, you’ll be sucking like a leech.”

Track: “Sabotage”
Album: Ill Communication (1994)
Why You Should Listen: Check Your Head provided the rough blueprint for the Beasties’ next album. Like its predecessor, Ill Communication was part Rap and part Rock, along with a few novelty bits and a couple of instrumentals. And although Check Your Head had broken into the Top Ten, by the time Ill Communication dropped in 1994, the group had amassed a sizeable following—enough for the new album to enter the Billboard Hot 200 chart at Number One. And when ticket sales began for the following year’s tour, few were surprised to find that tickets sold out within only a few minutes.


The action-packed music video for “Sabotage” replicated the opening of a 1970s cop show.

While Ill Communication was well-executed with numerous memorable songs (e.g., “Sure Shot,” “Heart Attack Man”), the album’s stand-out track was a three-minute howl of rage called “Sabotage.” Built around a savage one-chord guitar riff invented in the 70s by Rock wild man Ted Nugent, “Sabotage” is Hard Rock with a Rap lyric. By this point, the Beastie Boys had become so free with their allusions that they weren’t afraid to mention a once-famous Jazz drummer who was known as much for his explosive temper as his skill (“But make no mistake and switch up my channel/I’m Buddy Rich when I fly off the handle”). Of course, few members of the Beasties’ audience would have had any idea who Buddy Rich was…but that’s part of the point with the Beastie Boys. They don’t pander to their audience and never really have.

The Beats Go On…
This past summer, the Beastie Boys returned with the long-anticipated Hot Sauce Committee Part Two album. Despite a cancer scare that had temporarily sidelined Adam Yauch, the group came back strong with another wily mix of sounds that leans more toward the group’s Hip Hop heritage (as did 1998’s Hello Nasty). And through tracks such as “Too Many Rappers (Not Enough MCs),” “Here’s a Little Something For Ya,” and “Don’t Play No Game That I Can’t Win,” the group proved conclusively that despite more than 25 years as a performing and recording unit, the world hasn’t heard the last from the Beastie Boys. Not too bad a legacy for three punks from New York.


From bratty punks to respected studio masters, the Beastie Boys have defied time and expectations.

Making Beats Like the Beasties
The Beastie Boys have long been able to come up with fresh and complex beats, and use those rhythm tracks in interesting ways. Today music production is an elemental part of all forms of mass communication and is used in everything from TV commercials to the latest chart-topping album. If you’re still wanting to learn how to make your own beats and take you rightful place among the next generation of musicians and music producers, why not start now? Music production is a multi-million dollar industry, and music production summer camps like the one sponsored by The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus can get you on your way.

The Music Legends series pays tributes to influential artists, music personalities and styles of music. If you have an artist or type of music you’d like us to showcase, let us know via the comments.

SIGN IN TO LEAVE A COMMENT -or- SHARE THIS ARTICLE WITH OTHERS:

[Bloglines] [del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Furl] [Google] [LinkedIn] [Mixx] [MySpace] [Newsvine] [Propeller] [Reddit] [Squidoo] [StumbleUpon] [Twitter] [Email]
posted by Phill Powell in Music Production,News Blog and have No Comments

The Best Beatle Movies & DVDs

Music fans regularly discuss The Beatles and their legacy. They were – and many would argue, still are – the most-beloved pop/rock music group in history. For some fans, their favorite Beatle album is Abbey Road. For others, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club and Revolver get high praise.


Within months of The Beatles’ first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, the group was charting four songs in the Top Ten.

Still others debate what was The Beatles’ best performance or best music video, or what was their best film. The outstanding catalog of work (The Beatles also made five movies) makes it hard to pick a single song or movie, or DVD, but since we’re professed Beatlemaniacs we thought we’d try anyway:

Top Three Beatle DVD’s
The best Beatle DVDs cover the initial rush of Beatlemania that swept over America in early 1964. While it may seem strange to focus on one era, considering their massive catalog, there is a valid reason: Later-period Beatle movies were mostly bizarre comedies and psychedelic romps that were often difficult to follow. Still, each Beatles video cited here captures the infectious energy the band originally generated, while each is from a different cinematic angle:

1. The Four Complete Historic Ed Sullivan Shows Featuring The Beatles (1964)
Why It Tops The List: The Beatles’ Ed Sullivan performance is one of the most famous television broadcasts of all time.


The Beatles share a candid moment with host Ed Sullivan.

If you really want to witness how The Beatles upended American entertainment, you need to watch the original Ed Sullivan shows, which made the band an international phenomenon. On this two-disc collection, not only do you get The Beatles in all their mop-top glory (with the most appreciative studio audience in broadcast history), but you also see the “normal” TV acts that usually populated American variety television…an assortment of comics, singers, jugglers, impressionists, etc. In addition, you even get some of the original network TV commercials that ran during the original historic broadcasts. This is living history.

2. The Beatles: The First U.S. Visit (1990)
Why It Tops The List: This behind-the-scenes documentary captures the moment when pop culture took over not only America, but the world


In this AP Photo, The Beatles meet reporters at Kennedy Airport in New York City on February 7, 1964, after their arrival from London for their first American tour.  The band (from left to right): Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, George Harrison and John Lennon.

NYC erupted when the Fab Four landed at JFK Airport. This movie captures that moment in a fascinating documentary. The filmmaking Maysles brothers had unprecedented access to the band members, following them around as they remained shut-ins at their hotel, which was then under siege by thousands of crazed teens screaming as if they were being boiled alive. Best moments: The boys break free and head to a dance club where they shake and shimmy with the rest of the crowd: “There’s the Peppermint Lounge crammed to the limit with continental hipsters and transistor sisters all razor-cut and Fabu-lashed, moving and grooving to the Push and Shake,” wrote critic Ronn Spencer.

3. A Hard Day’s Night (1964)
Why It Tops The List: This crazy, backstage comedy featuring the antics of the Fab Four is considered a cinematic classic.


Paul, Ringo, John and George run from frantic fans. The chase was real and director Richard Lester used it in the amazing opening of A Hard Day’s Night, which perfectly captured all the energy, the fun and the excitement. This was Beatlemania.

Made quickly and with tremendous energy – as Beatlemania was still very much happening - A Hard Day’s Night follows the band on tour on England, in much the same sense as The Beatles: The First U.S. Visit follows the group around New York. Add bright, punchy jokes, some of the greatest tunes in Rock ‘n’ Roll history, and a ridiculous sub-plot of Paul watching over his mischievous grandfather, and you’ve got A Hard Day’s Night. Now considered one of the inspirations for modern music videos, director Richard Lester’s quick cutting, visual wit and marriage of image and sound make A Hard Day’s Night play fresh even now, almost as if it was made just a few weeks ago.

The Rest of The Beatles on DVD
From this point forward, reviewing the rest of the Beatle movies requires some degree of patience. The plot lines get weirder, the visuals become more psychedelic (as was all the rage back then) and the stories become harder to follow. These films also take place as the band is becoming more of an introverted studio band and less of a touring group. Consequently, gone (for the most part) are the lovable, cheerful mop-tops who charmed the world just a few years before.

Help! (1965)
Why Watch It: For the songs, The Beatles and John Lennon’s glasses.


The Beatles in Help! on location in Austria.

Primarily a secret-agent spoof (remember, the film was made in James Bond’s heyday), Help! has some great numbers in it (like the title track and “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away,”). It also has a plot that’s more tangled than a game of Twister, but it features some interesting bits of Beatles trivia, including the first appearance of John Lennon on film wearing his trademark round granny glasses. (Recommended, with Reservations)

Magical Mystery Tour (1967)
Why Watch It: There are some great songs, but with a confusing and psychedelic plot, it’s a movie only a Beatlemaniac could love.


John Lennon as a spaghetti-shoveling waiter is one of the highlights – and low lights – of Magical Mystery Tour.

The soundtrack ain’t bad, but the plot (featuring a bus tour of oddball characters and Beatles) was (and maybe still is) too far out for public consumption. Some of the images—such as John Lennon costumed as a mustachioed waiter serving spaghetti literally by the shovelful—are amazing, but often too surreal. This film was one of the few Beatles projects that bombed with both critics and fans. (Not Recommended)

Yellow Submarine (1968)
Why Watch It: It’s an animated classic. Although sadly, currently it’s out of print and unavailable.


John, George, Paul and Ringo’s animated counterparts. The band didn’t even lend their voices to the characters. 

One film later, The Beatles returned to form with this charming animated feature. Yellow Submarine is an eye-popping presentation that took existing Beatle themes (such as Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the title track) and spun them into a wondrous, pop-art excursion. The film is still as entertaining as it is colorful and Yellow Submarine is being remade by Robert Zemeckis as a 3D computer-animated release. (Highly Recommended)

Let It Be (1970)
Why Watch It: It showcases The Beatles’ last public performance and their squabbles, which would ultimately permanently separate the band. Also, currently out of print.


The decision to release Let It Be as a film was based on financial reasons. The Beatles spent so much money on the project that their accountants informed the band they couldn’t afford to bury it, as much as the Beatles wanted to.

The Beatles were always light years ahead of the contemporary culture; here the band anticipates today’s reality TV obsession by creating the first portrait of a four-way divorce ever filmed. Let It Be is supposed to capture the taping of the next-to-last studio album, and it does that. But it also recorded all the ugly in-fighting that was taking place within the band as it started heading toward complete meltdown. You’ll hear great songs if you can stand wading through all this painful bitterness, especially the impromptu rooftop jam that would mark the group’s last public performance. (Highly Recommended)

The Beatles Anthology (1995)
Why Watch It: It’s the comprehensive and final word on all things Beatle.


The Beatles through the years.

There is one mega-DVD package to rule them all. The Beatles Anthology was made with the extensive cooperation and many interviews with the three remaining Beatles of the time – Paul, George and Ringo. It’s a five-disc documentary that starts at the very beginning, back when the four lads were starting out. From the band’s Liverpool origins, to its rugged apprenticeship in Hamburg, to the extraordinary early recordings, to worldwide celebrity and critical acclaim, all of the important themes are covered in depth. For dedicated Beatle fans who want a good ten-hour overview of the world’s top pop band.  (Highly Recommended)

Following in The Beatles’ Footsteps
The Beatles’ creativity knew no bounds. Not only did they dominate and revolutionize popular music, they also triumphed in the world of film. In addition, they were visionary in their approach to blending the two.


Even in later years, The Beatles still championed the use of new technology. 

Music and film have been fused together for years now and both media are constantly overlapping in today’s global entertainment marketplace. If the Beatles were still around today, you’d see them using some the technological tools now available to create powerful music and films. Thankfully, unlike the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, technology is considerably more accessible and cheaper. Today all you need is a computer and a little direction to follow in The Beatles’ footsteps.

For teens and kids, computer summer camps like Digital Media Academy can teach both music production and filmmaking. In some cases, music and filmmaking summer camps and programs are combined for the best of both worlds. The Beatles would certainly approve.

SIGN IN TO LEAVE A COMMENT – or – SHARE THIS ARTICLE WITH OTHERS:

[Bloglines] [del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Furl] [Google] [LinkedIn] [Mixx] [MySpace] [Newsvine] [Propeller] [Reddit] [Squidoo] [StumbleUpon] [Twitter] [Email]
posted by Phill Powell in Digital Filmmaking,News Blog and have No Comments