Today marks the 50th anniversary of the release of the Beatles' debut album Please Please Me. Just think of those young Beatles when they were just beginning: pre-Yoko, pre-psychedelics, pre-facial hair. But it wasn't just that their sartorial choices were simpler, their instrumentations were as well. That's evident in a series of chart from Pop Chart Lab. Each song listed on the charts has color-coded lines emanating from it that indicate which member played which instrument. At the beginning, it's not that complicated. Take a look at what Paul McCartney's contributions to songs off of Please Please Me include:
Now compare that to his work on songs off The White Album. It's nearly impossible to follow:
Managing editor William Prince told The Atlantic Wire that the information for the chart was mostly gathered from Internet sources—some "manic Beatles fans" he said have chronicled these minute details. A statement Prince wrote we got gives a some more background on the inspiration:
We all agreed it would be nearly impossible to map the instrumentation of songs from Sgt Pepper and Magical Mystery Tour--it just seemed like there were too many bells and whistles (perhaps literally). But impossible is one of favorite words, and the best motivator for us to lose ourselves in research and chartography. And boy were we rewarded: we found that at the height of their experimentation, the Beatles used nearly every instrument imaginable, from sitars and dilrubas to full on brass arrangements to banging on an anvil and having someone count eerily in the background of a track.
Just take a gander at how web-like the charts appear on those albums mentioned above:
Prince told us that it's Ringo who "throws a wrench in to the gears in everything. He starts to play maracas and bongos on every song. The lines start to cross and get a little crazy."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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