The success and longevity of the Beatles as a cultural and creative force is undeniable. And, as discussed here, their legend has a solid place in history.
But is wasn’t all plain sailing. To the people of 1962 (1964 in America) the Beatles seemed to have appeared out of nowhere, fully formed. Behind their overnight success lay many years of hard work, heartbreak, sweat and coincidence. They then went onto have hit after hit, everything they touched seemed to turn to gold for longer than seemed believable, evolving and innovating and getting better and better.
But there were a few, at first unnoticeable errors and mistakes and then later bigger decisions which nearly sank the ship.
Most people are aware of the criticism of the Magical Mystery Tour TV (the less-than) Special and the Get Back/Let it Be misery, so here are some perhaps lesser-known and hopefully more insightful decisions made, that had repercussions for the Beatles and their post-Beatles lives.
There are quite a few, so let’s choose just just one for now and it’s this:
They thought their All Powerful god-like success could be transferred to projects outside their experience and knowledge
In 1968 the Beatles launched Apple Corps (The name was a joke as it was pronounced Apple Core, although a more accurate pronunciation would have been Apple Corpse). It was a mess from the start. They attempted to transfer the hippy mentality of boundless creativity and expression, or freedom, peace and love into a retail outlet and a open door talent agency.
The Apple store lasted a few months before they knocked it on the head by announcing that everything in it was free. It brought out the worst in people who reportedly stampeded and fought to get their hands on kaftans and beaded garments. In the ugly scene that day, they even ripped out the shelving and flooring. That was the end of the Apple Store.
Apple’s idea that anyone who has a talent should just send in their stuff or turn up at the door showed another level of naivety. Like every record company and publisher, then and now, they were inundated with the bad, the ugly and the untalented. Of the handful of new acts they did pick up, only Mary Hopkin, Badfinger and James Taylor amounted to anything and they’d been discovered by the Beatles themselves, not from the slush pile of submissions.
Lennon showed admirable idealism in a 1968 interview about their business plans, for championing the unheard talented, creative masses, but also revealed his ignorance when he said that the Beatles were also going to be involved in “…what you call it, manufacturing …or something”. They really had no idea. Less than a year later Lennon admitted that if Apple continued to lose money at the rate it was, “We’d be broke in three months.”
Their decisions were bad and the implementation poor. But looking again at the ideas, they are actually very sound indeed.
The Apple Boutique was the first store of what is now an accepted concept. A shop that sells multi-cultural clothing and World music. Unheard of in 1968 and now everywhere.
The idea of encouraging talent, to give it the break it deserves is a magnificent idea. They just went about it the wrong way by using the old methods of opening the floodgate with no thought to how to manage it. Compare it with the different ideas of running initiative in schools or even television talent contests such as the X Factor. They have similar aims, but more manageable processes.
When I do my creativity talks and training, or my book writing workshops, one of the common ‘problems’ people have is that they say they ‘have too many ideas’.
So the problem is not, ‘not having a clue’, it’s more like being able to make the right choice from your ideas, to do the right thing at the right time.
The answer to this problem is easier than you might imagine: you chose the idea that you feel you can do best, that you will enjoy the most and that will give the greatest reward (in whatever measurement you choose to measure success, be it fulfillment, money or whatever).
We need to realise that we shouldn’t flitter to the glitter of the next and most brightly glimmering exciting looking idea. We should expand and innovate around our core and make the jump into something completely new only when it too has a solid foundation, just like the thing we’re leaping from.
This is the problem the Beatles had. They had too many ideas that all sounded to them as brilliant as every single idea they came up with. The mistake they made was to jump into these crazy ideas without looking where they were leaping.
The Beatles diversion into ‘business’ with Apple Corps showed them, eventually, that they were very, very good at making music. But little else. Sometimes we need to realise that it’s no bad thing to be very, very good at doing just the one big thing. If you’re going to expand into new areas, get the talent in to help so you don’t take your eye off the ball that you can play so well.
Ayd Instone works with people to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation in their lives, and their business.
Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.
For more interesting info see: www.aydinstone.com
This is adapted from my forthcoming book, Creativity and the Beatles.