The Beatles rock the Meeting House

Nov 7, 2019 by

Published November 6, 2019


LYNNFIELD — The Beatles’ musical impact continues to resonate today, music educator Bill Sano told a large crowd in the Meeting House on Oct. 31.

The Friends of the Lynnfield Library sponsored Sano’s presentation. Assistant Library Director Abby Porter said Sano has been a pianist, organist, vocal music teacher and choral conductor for almost 50 years.

“Bill holds degrees in music from Baldwin-Wallace College in Ohio and the New England Conservatory in Boston,” said Porter. “He was a music director for the Choral Art Society of the South Shore from 1979-1986 and had conducted the Concert Singers of Greater Lynn for 29 years prior to retiring in May. Mr. Sano taught vocal music in Marblehead Public Schools from 1968 until his retirement in June 2002.”

Sano’s discussion about The Beatles was included as part of his British Connection series, which involves him giving history lessons about legendary musical acts from the United Kingdom. He said The Beatles have written some amazing songs.

“I don’t know about the stuff on the radio today,” Sano joked.

The Beatles consisted of vocalist/rhythm guitarist John Lennon, vocalist/bassist Paul McCartney, vocalist/lead guitarist George Harrison and vocalist/drummer Ringo Starr. He said the band formed in Liverpool, England, and Lennon and McCartney were the primary songwriters.

“They became wildly regarded as the greatest and most influential act of the rock era,” said Sano.

Sano noted The Beatles’ sound was inspired by a variety of different music such as skiffle, beat, 1950s rock and roll, traditional pop music, Indian music and psychedelic music.

MUSIC EDUCATOR Bill Sano gave a history lesson about The Beatles to a large crowd in the Meeting House on Halloween morning. (Dan Tomasello Photo)

“In the early 1960s, their enormous popularity first emerged as Beatlemania,” said Sano. “As their songwriting grew in sophistication, they became perceived as the embodiment of ideals shared by the 1960s’ social-culture revolution.”

Sano said The Beatles, dubbed “The Fab Four,” cemented themselves as international stars and led the British Invasion of UK-based bands finding success in the United States.

“From 1965 onwards, The Beatles produced what many consider to be their finest material, including the innovative and highly influential albums ‘Rubber Soul,’ ‘Revolver,’ ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,’ ‘The Beatles’ and ‘Abbey Road,’” said Sano.

Sano noted the Recording Industry of America (RIAA) has classified The Beatles as “the best selling band in the United States.”

“They had more number one albums on the British charts and sold more singles in the UK than any other act,” Sano continued. “In 2008, The Beatles topped ‘Billboard Magazine’s’ list of all-time most successful pop 100 artists. As of 2014, they hold the record for most number one hits on the Hot 100 Chart with 20 number one hits. They received seven Grammy Awards, an Academy Award for Best Original Score and 15 Ivor Novello Awards. They were collectively included in ‘Time Magazine’s’ compilation of the 20th century’s 100 most influential people.”

Sano said The Beatles have sold over $600 million records worldwide, which includes both albums and singles.

“They are the best-selling band in history,” said Sano.

Sano recalled that The Beatles made their U.S. television debut on Feb. 9, 1964, when they performed on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”

“It was watched by approximately 73 million viewers in over 23 million households,” said Sano. “An estimated 34 percent of the American population watched The Beatles. According to the Nielsen ratings service, it was the largest audience that had ever been recorded for an American television program.”

While millions watched The Beatles perform live on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” Sano recalled that newspapers gave the band poor reviews the following morning.

“But a day later at their first U.S. concert, Beatlemania erupted at the Washington Coliseum,” said Sano. “Back in New York the following day, The Beatles were met with another strong reception during two shows at Carnegie Hall.”

Sano recalled that The Beatles’ kicked off their third U.S. tour by performing at Shea Stadium in New York City on Aug. 15, 1965.

“It was perhaps the most famous of all Beatles’ concerts,” said Sano.

Sano said “Sgt. Pepper” featured a more experimental sound compared to The Beatles’ previous records.

“The album’s engineer, Geoff Emerick, said the album’s recording took over 700 hours,” said Sano. “‘Sgt. Pepper’ was the first major pop and rock LP to include the complete lyrics, which appeared on the back cover.”

Sano said the song “All You Need is Love” was released in June 1967, and became known as a “flower power anthem.”

The Beatles broke up in December 1970. Sano said the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.

“That was the first year they were eligible,” said Sano.

Sano played a number of Beatles songs including “A Hard Day’s Night,” “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” “In My Life,” “Love Me Do,” “Michelle,” “She Loves You,” “Ticket to Ride” and “Yesterday.” A number of the presentation’s attendees sang along with the songs.

“Fifty years later, these are still great songs,” said Sano. “The words are easy to remember. There are no dirty words in their songs.”

Sano also gave a history lesson about two songs, including “Penny Lane.” He said the song appeared on a single along with “Strawberry Fields Forever” in February 1967.

“The song’s title is derived from the name of a street near John Lennon’s childhood home in the band’s hometown of Liverpool, England,” said Sano. “Paul McCartney and John Lennon would meet at Penny Lane junction to catch a bus into the center of the city.”

Sano noted Penny Lane became a well-known landmark in Liverpool after the song was released. He said Penny Lane street signs have been stolen multiple times by Beatles fans.

“They had to be continually replaced,” said Sano. “Eventually, city officials gave up and simply began painting the street name on the sides of buildings. This practice was stopped in 2007 after more theft-resistant Penny Lane street signs were installed, although some were still stolen.”

Due to the song’s popularity, Sano said the Penny Lane area has become “one of Liverpool’s most sought after neighborhoods.”

Sano also gave a history lesson about “Eleanor Rigby.” He said McCartney wrote 90 percent of the song.

“It’s poignant,” said Sano. “‘Eleanor Rigby’ was released on their 1966 album, ‘Revolver.’ The song continued the band’s transformation from a mainly rock and roll, pop-orientated act to a more studio-based band. With a double string quartet arrangement by producer George Martin and striking lyrics about loneliness, ‘Eleanor Rigby’ broke sharply with popular music conventions, both musically and lyrically. They dared to be different.”

Sano noted a woman named Eleanor Rigby was born on Aug. 29, 1895 and lived in Liverpool. He said the woman died from a brain hemorrhage in Oct. 1939.

“Regardless of whether this Eleanor inspired the song or not, her tombstone has become a landmark for Beatles fans visiting Liverpool,” said Sano.

In response to a question from a woman in the audience, Sano noted most of The Beatles’ songs were written in 4/4 time signatures.

Sano recalled that Lennon was shot and killed on Dec. 8, 1980 at the age of 40. He said George Harrison passed away at the age of 58 in November 2001 following a battle with lung cancer. He said McCartney and Starr continue to perform music at the ages of 77 and 79, respectively.

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