Many consider the British rock band, The Beatles, to be the greatest rock band of all time. Their popularity during the 1960s created a phenomenon known as Beatlemania. Before this class, I was familiar with some of their music and their overall popularity as a band. However, I failed to recognize the amazing contribution they made through their influence on other musicians. I now have a greater understanding of why the music of The Beatles deserves a place in academic study. In the last half century, one band created an overwhelming influence on the majority of musicians to follow them.
The Beatles listened to early rock-n-roll legends, such as Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Buddy Holly. Their earlier songs clearly sound more like the 1950s rock-n-roll era. There is an innocence to the early songs. They sang about holding hands and other sweet topics. Chuck Berry’s influence can be heard in the song “I Saw Her Standing There”, also another innocent-sounding rock song.
As their music developed through the sixties, its composition and subject matter increased in difficulty. By the writing of Abbey Road, the entire second side appears as an almost continuous song in composition. The album possesses a tremendous cohesiveness, despite a wide variety of topics in the lyrics and song titles. Their development as a band truly was remarkable.
Their influence as a band on future musicians is also remarkable. The Beatles broke up in 1970. By the early 1970s, the Beatles’ influence on Elton John and Pink Floyd appeared obvious. By the end of the decade, the punk rock and new wave movement began. Despite the obvious differences in music styles, The Beatles still played a vital part. Elvis Costello, The Police and The Squeeze drew inspiration from The Beatles (Glassman, 2001).
In the late 1980s, The Stone Roses discovered their inspiration in the Fab Four. Their guitarist cited The Beatles as his main influence. However, since their music relied on a heavy assortment of sounds, the influence cannot be heard. It is present in the song arrangements though. In the early 1990s, the band Cast found success with vocals reminiscent of John Lennon.
By far, the British band most influenced by The Beatles remains Oasis. The band included brothers, Noel and Liam Gallagher, who readily admitted to an obsession with The Beatles’ music. The band, Oasis, claimed that they wrote every song and compared it to The Beatles’ music. They strived to create music as good as The Beatles’. The influence of The Beatles is so strong that Liam Gallagher named his son, Lennon (Glassman, 2001).
The current most popular British band is likely Coldplay. Coldplay’s front man, Chris Martin, also claims inspiration from the Fab Four. He acknowledges that his song “Violet Hill” comes from The Beatles. Violet Hill is a street that intersects with Abbey Road (Gregory, 2008). The song is on the album Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends. Furthermore on the album, the song “Viva La Vida” runs into “Violet Hill”, similar to the music on the album Abbey Road. Perhaps the lack of a clear break between songs further indicates the influence of the album Abbey Road on the band.
It is doubtful the influence of The Beatles will cease anytime soon. Musicians will likely continue to find inspiration in the albums and songs of a band that broke up over forty years ago. The Beatles clearly have earned their place in the study of music. After all, they have influenced a half century of it.
- Glassman, J. (2001, November 30) The Beatles’ musical footprints. Retrieved March 23, 2013, from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/1452393.stm
- Gregory, J. (2008). Chris Martin: Coldplay’s “Violet Hill” inspired by The Beatles. Retrieved March 23, 2013, from: http://www.gigwise.com/news/48307/chris-martin-coldplays-violet-hill-inspired-by-the-beatles