February 21, 2020

The Beatles Branding Machines Charges Ahead

“Yesterday, a new musical dramedy debuting this Friday, conjures up a world we can’t begin to imagine: one in which the Beatles never existed. Somehow, after a global blackout, no one on Earth has ever heard of the band, except for the protagonist Jack Malik (Himesh Patel), a scrappy musician from a small English seaside town. Performing the Beatles discography as his own, he’s suddenly elevated to worldwide stardom, and we’re led to accept that the world will always laud songs like “Hey Jude” no matter who the performer is.

Yesterday, a new musical dramedy debuting this Friday, conjures up a world we can’t begin to imagine: one in which the Beatles never existed. Somehow, after a global blackout, no one on Earth has ever heard of the band, except for the protagonist Jack Malik (Himesh Patel), a scrappy musician from a small English seaside town. Performing the Beatles discography as his own, he’s suddenly elevated to worldwide stardom, and we’re led to accept that the world will always laud songs like “Hey Jude” no matter who the performer is.

Though the Beatles broke up in 1970, their legacy has been repeatedly and consistently promoted in the following decades. Whole radio stations are dedicated to their music; video games, re-mastered albums, and documentaries are still being produced about their musical career; remaining band members, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, still release music and trade on their Beatles cred today. In the eighth grade, my classmates and I — born nearly 30 years after the release of their final album had to perform a musical version of Dr. Seuss’ The Sneetches, set entirely to the Beatles’ hits.

According to Peter Doggett, music journalist and author of You Never Give Me Your Money: The Beatles After the Breakup, we can blame the baby boomers for all this. “The 1960s have been constantly marketed to subsequent generations as being the golden era of all time,” he said. “It’s all part of a sort of wider cultural domination of subsequent generations by the people who were alive in the sixties.” Adding to that, the band’s company and individual member’s estates have jumped on every commercial opportunity to secure their legacy. Objectively, they’ve succeeded.”

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