The Beatles' influence on popular culture

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The Beatles influence on rock music and popular culture was, and remains, immense. Their commercial success commenced an immediate wave of changes—including a shift from US global dominance of rock and roll to UK acts, from soloists to groups, from professional songwriters to self-penned songs, and to changes in fashion and lifestyle.

Music[edit]

Album format and covers[edit]

Prior to The Beatles' influence, record albums were of secondary consideration to singles ("45s") in mass marketing, generally devised to contain "filler" material along with one or two hits. As their career proceeded, however, The Beatles began to increasingly focus on the album as an artistic medium in its own right. In general the Beatles did not include their singles on their albums. Several Beatles album covers have been copied or parodied, for example:

Music videos[edit]

Richard Lester received a formal letter from MTV declaring him the father of the modern pop video, for the work he did directing both of the early Beatles films, A Hard Day's Night (1964) and Help! (1965). His revolutionary camera techniques together with short lines of dialogue and rapid editing cuts to the beat were all seen as the precursor to the modern rock video.

In the mid-1960s, The Beatles began filming promotional music videos for their songs, which they sent to television networks in lieu of appearing in person. Starting with the promotional clip for "Rain" in 1966, these films began using many techniques previously only seen in experimental film, such as intensive use of slow-motion and reversed film. This approach was further taken to new heights with the groundbreaking promo clip for "Strawberry Fields Forever", directed by Swedish television director Peter Goldman in January 1967 which, besides the techniques already seen in "Rain", also used intricate jump-cuts that rapidly alternated between night and day, switching colour temperature filters during the song's outro extensive post-production colour filtering and other avant-garde devices. These techniques were later copied and the use of such film and videos started the now common practice of releasing a video clip to accompany singles.

Cover versions[edit]

In May 1966, John Lennon said of people covering their songs, "Lack of feeling in an emotional sense is responsible for the way some singers do our songs. They don't understand and are too old to grasp the feeling. Beatles are really the only people who can play Beatle music."[2]

Although many artists have performed covers of songs by The Beatles, the following are among the most notable:

Jimi Hendrix[edit]

On 4 June 1967, the Jimi Hendrix Experience played their last show in England, at London's Saville Theatre,[3] before heading to America. Two Beatles (Paul McCartney and George Harrison) were in attendance, along with: Brian Epstein, Eric Clapton, Spencer Davis, Jack Bruce, and pop singer Lulu.

Hendrix opened the show with his own rendition of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", which he had learned in the few days leading up to the show. Harrison and McCartney were extremely impressed by this, especially because it was played on the Sunday after the release of Sgt. Pepper the previous Friday. McCartney had publicly endorsed Hendrix for months, before Hendrix broke into the UK music scene.[4] Hendrix also played "Day Tripper," which can be found on the live albums Radio One and BBC Sessions.

Joe Cocker[edit]

Joe Cocker's first album was called With a Little Help from My Friends and contained a song with the same name. He had completely revamped the Lennon/McCartney song by changing it to a 12/8 blues/rock song. The Beatles heard it before its release, as the producer was uncertain as to how they would react to such a radical overhaul of one of their tracks. The Beatles agreed that it was a great version.[citation needed]

Cocker's version was later used as the theme song for the TV show The Wonder Years.

In the album "Joe Cocker!" he also sang: "She came in through the bathroom window" and "Something".

Cocker later sang and acted the song "Come Together" in the feature film Across the Universe.

David Bowie[edit]

David Bowie covered "Across the Universe" on his 1975 album Young Americans. John Lennon was partly involved in the making of the album. Bowie revamped the song into a soul version, eliminating the monotone vocals used in the Beatles version (and other covers of the song), as well as eliminating the "jai guru deva om" part of the chorus.

Also, in the title track from Young Americans, a chorus sings "I read the news today oh boy" alluding to "A Day in the Life".

Keith Moon[edit]

In 1976, Keith Moon of The Who covered the Beatles' "When I'm Sixty-Four" for the soundtrack of the documentary All This and World War II, and sang backing vocals (with many others) on "All You Need Is Love".[5] Moon also covered "In My Life" on his album Two Sides of the Moon.

Moon once approached the Beatles' table at a London nightclub. "Can I join you?" he asked. "Yeah, sure," said Starr, as he pulled up a seat for Moon. Moon then said, "No, can I join you?", implying that he wanted to join the band. Ringo replied with, "No, we've already got a drummer."[6] The last photo of Lennon and McCartney together was owned by Moon.

Moon's final night out was as a guest of McCartney at the preview of the film The Buddy Holly Story. After dinner with Paul and Linda McCartney, Moon and his girlfriend—Annette Walter-Lax—left the party early and they returned to his flat in Curzon Place, London. He later died in his sleep.

Peter Sellers[edit]

Peter Sellers recited the lyrics of "A Hard Day's Night" in a "Shakespearian" voice, (in the style of Laurence Olivier playing Richard III) with minimal backing music. Sellers' recording reached #14 on the UK charts in 1965.

He deliberately changed the tempo and dynamics of the original lyrics to make them comical. He left definite pauses between words, such as:

"But when I get home to you... I find the things that you do... will make me feel (pause) all right."

This version was re-issued in 1993, and reached Number 52 in the UK Top 75 Singles chart. He covered several other Beatles hits, including "Help!" and "She Loves You".

Sellers had casual friendships with Harrison and Starr. Harrison told occasional Sellers stories in interviews, and Starr appeared with Sellers in the anarchic movie, The Magic Christian (1970), whose theme song was Badfinger's cover version of McCartney's "Come and Get It". Starr also gave Sellers a rough mix of songs from The Beatles. The tape was auctioned, and bootlegged, after his death.

Other successful cover versions[edit]

Live concerts[edit]

The Beatles were the first entertainment act to stage a large stadium concert. At Shea Stadium, New York City on Sunday, 15 August 1965 the group opened their 1965 North American tour to a record audience of 55,600. The event sold out in 17 minutes.[7] It was the first concert to be held at a major outdoor stadium and set records for attendance and revenue generation, demonstrating that outdoor concerts on a large scale could be successful and profitable. The Beatles returned to Shea for a very successful encore in August 1966.

Fashion[edit]

Hair[edit]

The Beatle haircut, also known as the mop-top (or moptop) — because of its resemblance to a mop — or Arthur amongst fans, is a mid-length hairstyle named after and popularized by the Beatles. It is a straight cut – collar-length at the back and over the ears at the sides, with a straight fringe (bangs).

As a schoolboy in the mid '50s, Jürgen Vollmer had left his hair hanging down over his forehead one day after he had gone swimming, not bothering to style it. John Lennon is quoted in The Beatles Anthology as follows: "Jürgen had a flattened-down hairstyle with a fringe in the back, which we rather took to."

In late 1961, Vollmer moved to Paris. McCartney said in a 1979 radio interview: "We saw a guy in Hamburg whose hair we liked. John and I were hitchhiking to Paris. We asked him to cut our hair like he cut his." McCartney also wrote in a letter to Vollmer in 1989: "George explained in a 60s interview that it was John and I having our hair cut in Paris which prompted him to do the same…. We were the first to take the plunge."

Because of the immense popularity of the Beatles, the haircut was widely imitated worldwide between 1964 and 1966. Their hair-style led toy manufacturers to begin producing real-hair and plastic "Beatle Wigs". Lowell Toy Manufacturing Corp. of New York was licensed to make "the only AUTHENTIC Beatle Wig". There have been many attempts at counterfeiting, but in its original packaging this wig has become highly collectible. At a press conference at the Plaza Hotel in New York, shortly after the Beatles' arrival in the United States, Harrison was asked by a reporter, "What do you call your hairstyle?" He replied "Arthur". The scene was recreated in the movie A Hard Day's Night with the reporter asking George Harrison, "What would you call that, uh, hairstyle you're wearing?"

Mikhail Safonov wrote in 2003 that in the Brezhnev-dominated Soviet Union, mimicking The Beatles' hairstyle was seen as extremely rebellious. Young people were called "hairies" by their elders, and were arrested and forced to have their hair cut in police stations.

In 1967, most memorably on the cover of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, all four of The Beatles sported prominent moustaches, sparking a trend for facial hair towards the end of the 60s and through the 1970s; additionally, Harrison also began to sport long hair while Lennon began to wear his signature round glasses. This look signalled a new, more mature image for the "mop tops." By the late 1960s, The Beatles generally had much longer hair than they had during the Beatlemania era, and often wore full beards, much like rock stars such as Jeff Lynne and Phil Collins would do so in the 1970s.

Suits[edit]

In the early Beatle-mania years, The Beatles would occasionally wear black, and then later grey, Edwardian collarless suits.[8][9] This style of suit was adopted from the Mod youth cult, then at its peak in the UK.[10] These suits (instead of leather trousers, plaid shirts, and slacks) became extremely common for new bands to wear after 1964.

Later, during the psychedelic era of 1966–1968, The Beatles popularised bright colours, and wore paisley suits and shirts and trousers with floral patterns. The Beatles also popularised Indian-influenced fashions such as collarless shirts and sandals.

By the late 1960s, The Beatles had adopted trends toward more casual fashions, with t-shirts, blue jeans, and denim jackets. Lennon also popularised wearing solid white suits, reflecting an interest in minimalist design that also influenced the cover of the album The Beatles. This mixture of casual wear and unconventional formal clothing could be seen in The Beatles' later years as they grew beards and drifted towards more hippie and Indian clothing.

Footwear[edit]

Beatle boots are tight-fitting, Cuban-heeled, ankle-length boots with a pointed toe which originated in 1963 when Brian Epstein discovered Chelsea boots while browsing in the London footwear company Anello & Davide, and consequently commissioned four pairs (with the addition of Cuban heels) for The Beatles to complement their new suit image upon their return from Hamburg, who wore them under drainpipe trousers.[11]

Other fashions[edit]

The style of hat worn by Lennon and his wife Cynthia on the Beatles' tour of the U.S. in 1964 was adopted widely by both men and women. In 1966, during the filming of How I Won the War, Lennon adopted round, thin-rimmed "teashade glasses," which became a signature element of Lennon's look. This style of eyewear is still popularly known as "John Lennon glasses."

Theatre[edit]

Television[edit]

Absolutely Fabulous[edit]

The hit UK TV show Absolutely Fabulous, better known as "Ab-Fab", filmed a whole episode based on finding the "Lost Tapes" of the Beatles. Robert Lindsay played a fictional tape engineer who used to work at Abbey Road Studios during the time that The Beatles worked there.

A long scene was filmed in the Abbey Road Studios: Joanna Lumley pressed the record button by mistake on the reel-to-reel recorder while she was looking for a second bottle of champagne in the control room. In the meantime, Jennifer Saunders unknowingly sang over the tapes, and they were lost forever. When Robert Lindsay played the tapes at the party and realised that they were lost forever, he promptly collapsed on the floor.

The Simpsons[edit]

In the The Simpsons Season 5 opening episode, "Homer's Barbershop Quartet", Homer, Skinner, Apu, and Barney form a group called the Be Sharps, which rapidly rises to the top. There are numerous references to the Beatles, such as Barney dating a Japanese conceptual artist (a parody of Yoko Ono) playing a song that repeats "number 8", a "Revolution 9" parody, and the Be Sharps naming their second album "bigger than Jesus". It ends with them singing on the rooftop of Moe's bar, a reference to the 1969 concert on the roof of Apple Studios in Savile Row, London. The episode even includes a cameo by George Harrison, who meets Homer (but Homer cares more about his brownie than the legend), and later appears in a limousine while the Be Sharps sing on the rooftop, remarking that "It's been done." Homer later states to the crowd, "I'd like to thank you on behalf of the group, and I hope we passed the audition", but Barney is the one who does not understand what he means. ("I don't get it.")

In the Season 7 episode, "Lisa the Vegetarian", Paul McCartney and then-wife Linda McCartney appear at the roof of the Kwik-E-Mart to give Lisa guidance of being a vegetarian. In the end they ask her if she would like to hear a song, Lisa is thrilled and agrees. But in a twist they go to Apu to sing a song (on a tabla – an off key version of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band") – while they snap to his beat, and when Lisa says she ran away from home Paul says the line,"What! She's Leaving Home!?",a reference to She's Leaving Home from the Beatles album "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band".

The three Beatles who were alive in the 1990s recorded their voices for The Simpsons. Ringo appeared on "Brush with Greatness", Paul and Linda McCartney on "Lisa the Vegetarian", and George on the "Homer's Barbershop Quartet" episode. The John Lennon song "Mother" appeared in one episode ("My Mother the Carjacker").

Other television appearances[edit]

Film[edit]

Video games[edit]

Beatlesque[edit]

Beatlesque /ˌbtəlˈɛsk/ music and artists are those rock and pop bands and musicians who were influenced by The Beatles and make music that is very similar. New bands are promoted as being "The next Beatles" or "The new Fab Four", and members of the media refer to musical acts as being "Beatlesque". This practice has itself been parodied; for example, the band Type O Negative often refer to themselves as "The Drab Four".

Badfinger Badfinger was a Welsh rock/pop band that formed in the late 1960s. They became closely associated with The Beatles due to their close work relationship with Beatles members and producers. The Beatles' producer George Martin was also their producer, and the band released their records on the Beatles' Apple Records label. Their interpretation of the song "Come and Get It" was based on Paul McCartney's demo version. Their song "No Matter What" is Lennon-inspired.[citation needed] George Harrison also worked with Badfinger, not only producing much of their music but also contributing the slide guitar solo on the song "Day After Day".[citation needed] The band was even named after "Badfinger Boogie", the working title for the Beatles' "With a Little Help From My Friends".[citation needed]

Electric Light Orchestra Electric Light Orchestra, also known as ELO, was a successful British rock music group of the 1970s and 1980s. ELO grew out of a former band known as The Move, and when the remaining members decided to regroup as ELO, they announced their intention to "continue where 'I Am the Walrus' left off". They recorded a tribute song called "Beatles Forever", but it is still unavailable, as band member and Beatles fan Jeff Lynne was reportedly embarrassed by it.[citation needed] "Can't Get It Out of My Head" (on The Mike Douglas Show) with a quartet and horn section is very Lennon-like and included the line, "I saw the ocean's daughter", a play on the name of Yoko Ono, whose name means "Ocean child"[citation needed].

Frontman Jeff Lynne later produced George Harrison's Cloud Nine album, worked with him on the Traveling Wilburys albums, and completed Harrison's final work Brainwashed. Lynne also produced the new songs for the Beatles' Anthology.

Julian Lennon Julian Lennon is the son of John Lennon. The songs "Valotte", "Saltwater", and "Too Late for Goodbyes" are all Beatlesque. The music video for the song "I Don't Wanna Know" features Julian and his band dressed up as the Beatles. Julian also covered "When I'm Sixty-Four", which was originally sung by Paul McCartney.

There was wild media speculation that a Beatles reunion might take place with Julian Lennon in his father's place, even though neither Lennon nor the remaining Beatles ever endorsed the idea, and the remaining Beatles denied that there had ever been any truth in the reports. (The Beatles Anthology)

The Monkees The Monkees was initially a TV show developed by US television in 1965, about an imaginary band that wanted to be The Beatles, but were never successful, whose cast members soon became a real band. This occurred at the height of Beatlemania. At the peak of their success, the Monkees outsold The Beatles and the Rolling Stones combined, selling over 35 million records, and having four consecutive Number 1 albums in the year 1967 alone. The craze has become known as 'Monkeemania', as the remarkable teenage craze had not been seen since the peak of Beatlemania. Much controversy has been put down by the "Pre-fab" (pre-fabricated) four as the public believed they did not play their own instruments; but all four had musical backgrounds, with some form of previous acting experience, and within four months of their public debut, they were recording in the studio as a self-contained, fully functioning band. (See The Monkees#Independence) "Randy Scouse Git," a song written by Monkee Micky Dolenz about partying in London with The Beatles may be the first song reference to The Beatles in the line "the four kings of EMI," EMI being the Beatles' label. The song title was censored in England and it was released as a single there as "Alternate Title".

Oasis[edit]

The Beatles' influence on the 1990s rock group Oasis has been noted by critics ("Beatles copyists") as well as the band members themselves; guitarist Noel Gallagher has stated "It's beyond an obsession. It's an ideal for living. I don't even know how to justify it to myself. With every song that I write, I compare it to The Beatles." Vocalist Liam Gallagher (whose vocal style imitates aspects of John Lennon's) named his first son Lennon.[22] The two brothers shared the role of frontman, a concept made popular by The Beatles. The band has been known to perform live covers of "I Am the Walrus", "Helter Skelter", "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away" and "Strawberry Fields Forever", which have seen release on live albums and as b-sides. From 2004 to 2008, Ringo Starr's son Zak Starkey was Oasis' drummer. Noel Gallagher sat on a panel in 2004 to decide on the most influential of pop artists to be included in the UK Music Hall of Fame, and was quoted as saying "[The Beatles] inspire me more now than they did when I was a kid and are still the greatest".[23]

Oasis have been successfully sued for plagiarism by Neil Innes, ironically himself a member of Beatles-parody band The Rutles sued by McCartney over plagiarism of The Beatles' songs, as Noel Gallagher's 1994 song Whatever directly lifted parts of its melody from Innes's 1973 song How Sweet to Be an Idiot. This event was subsequently referenced in The Rutles song Shangri-La off their 1996 album The Rutles Archaeology, itself a parody of The Beatles Anthology.

Lyrical/musical references to The Beatles in Oasis music[edit]

Oasis songs also often contain references to Beatles' songs, such as:

References/Influences of The Beatles in imagery used by Oasis[edit]

Outside of Oasis[edit]

Both Noel and Liam Gallagher have continued to show the influence of The Beatles music outside of their work with Oasis.

In 1995, Noel performed on a cover of "Come Together" with Paul McCartney and Paul Weller under the guise of the Smokin' Mojo Filters, recorded at Abbey Road for release on The Help Album. In 1999, he provided acoustic guitar for Claire Martin's cover of "Help!". In 2000, Noel Gallagher was a guest performer at a John Lennon tribute show performed at George Martin's AIR studios, performing with other musicians on "Tomorrow Never Knows", "All You Need Is Love", and "I'm Only Sleeping". For a large part of Noel Gallagher's acoustic solo tour to promote the Oasis release Stop the Clocks in 2006, his set-list inclulded "Strawberry Fields Forever".

Liam Gallagher's new band Beady Eye have stated one reason they selected that name was so that as part of an alphabetised CD collection, their music would most probably be next to someone's collection of Beatles albums. As a charity single, the band recorded a cover of Beatles song "Across the Universe".

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.thewigglesshop.com/ProdView.aspx?popup=1&Product=AVCM050000
  2. ^ Flip Magazine, May 1966
  3. ^ Jimi Hendrix Sunday At The Saville Theatre at eil.com
  4. ^ Jimi Hendrix at britannica.com
  5. ^ Magical Mystery Tour product page on jr.com
  6. ^ Two Sides of the Moon sleeve notes (Waybacked)
  7. ^ The Beatles Off The Record. London:Omnibus Press p193. ISBN 0-7119-7985-5
  8. ^ Miles. p77.
  9. ^ Beatles suits at liverpoolmuseums.org.uk
  10. ^ Hewitt, Paolo. 2003. The Soul Stylists: From Mod to Casual. Mainstream Publishing, UK.
  11. ^ Sims, Josh (1999). Rock Fashions. Omnibus Press. pp. 151–152. ISBN 0-7119-7733-X. 
  12. ^ Beatlemania at the Internet Broadway Database
  13. ^ "Love official website"
  14. ^ Rain at the Internet Broadway Database
  15. ^ "Let It Be official website"
  16. ^ Let It Be at the Internet Broadway Database
  17. ^ "BBC NEWS | News Front Page". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 14 September 2009. 
  18. ^ "Beatles References in "Meet the Beat-Alls"". Rowdyruff.net. Archived from the original on 18 April 2008. Retrieved 14 September 2009. 
  19. ^ Game screenshot
  20. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7hjeuBRpRyM#t=121
  21. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M78ycz9S47Y#t=238
  22. ^ "The Beatles' musical footprints". BBC News. 30 November 2001. 
  23. ^ "Beatles fly flag in hall of fame". news.bbc.co.uk. 9 September 2004. Retrieved 6 March 2007. 

External links[edit]