What influenced The Beatles?

“An impossible task.” “The least interesting thing you can do.” “Are you just going to map everything then?” These were the kinds of reactions we got to our first foray into influence mapping. But hear us out. It is the very supernova-esque nature of The Beatles, arguably the most influential musical act of the modern era, that drew us here as a starting point. And, as Bob Stanley describes it, The Beatles were “cultural omnivores.” They are a beautiful example of how influence can be a pathway to illuminating where we’ve come from while creating something entirely new. If we can’t find well-documented influence citations for The Beatles, then do we have a shot at mapping anything else?

Version 1.0, 10/27/20 – A few notes: 1.) We have not built out the legacy of The Beatles – this is only inbound influence, with some bi-directional influences; 2.) We’ve provided textual context for the map above and source link wherever possible, or acknowledged when we cannot find the source; and 3.) We’ve included contextually-relevant Spotify playlists to add color to the narrative. Enjoy, and as always, let us know what you think: feedback@influenced.it

The Beach Boys

In an interview published in the liner notes of the Pet Sounds 1997 box set, David Leaf asks: “You’ve talked about how Pet Sounds influenced you. What kind of impact did it have on John?” McCartney replies: “I played it to John so much that it would be difficult for him to escape the influence. If records had a director within a band, I sort of directed Pepper. And my influence was basically the Pet Sounds album.” (via The McCartney Project)

Bob Dylan

Can’t find the direct source of the 1980 Playboy interview with John Lennon where he describes his Dylan period, but it is referenced in several articles: “Dylan would go on to be a major influence on John Lennon following this meeting when he went into what he described as his ‘Dylan period‘, which saw him try to emulate the singer-songwriter. “

Buddy Holly

Cannot find direct source for this but it is referenced in this Readers Digest article: That’ll Be the Day was the first song John Lennon learned to play and the first song the early Beatles recorded. Paul McCartney publicly admitted that the “first forty songs we wrote were Buddy Holly influenced.” (via Reader’s Digest UK)

Carl Perkins

Wikipedia cites a press release for a 2007 Carl Perkins biopic: Paul McCartney said it best, “If there were no Carl Perkins, there would be no Beatles.” I cannot find the source of this quote.

Chuck Berry

Tribute post on Paul McCartney’s website: “From the first minute we heard the great guitar intro to ‘Sweet Little Sixteen’ we became fans of the great Chuck Berry. His stories were more like poems than lyrics – the likes of ‘Johnny B Goode’ or ‘Maybellene’. To us he was a magician making music that was exotic yet normal at the same time. We learnt so many things from him which led us into a dream world of rock ‘n’ roll music.”

Cliff Richard and the Shadows

According to Wikipedia: Richard dominated the British popular music scene in the pre-Beatles period of the late 1950s to early 1960s. His 1958 hit single “Move It” is often described as Britain’s first authentic rock and roll song; in the opinion of John Lennon of the Beatles, “before Cliff and the Shadows, there had been nothing worth listening to in British music.” Back to top

Elvis Presley

John Lennon said in 1965: “Nothing really affected me until I heard Elvis. If there hadn’t been an Elvis, there wouldn’t have been the Beatles.” (via Wikiquote)

Eric Clapton

“As well as being sought as Harrison’s replacement after the guitarist walked out on The Beatles during the Get Back sessions, Clapton was also employed by Harrison to help craft some of his most iconic songs for the Fab Four.” Editor’s Note: I totally hear Get Back in Crossroads in this context. (via Far Out Magazine)

The Everly Brothers

Paul remembered musician Phil Everly when he passed away in 2014. Via Facebook: “Phil Everly was one of my great heroes. With his brother Don, they were one of the major influences on The Beatles. When John and I first started to write songs, I was Phil and he was Don. (via Facebook)

Little Richard

The Beatles’ love of Little Richard went back to their very first days as a band. On 6 July 1957, the day John Lennon met Paul McCartney, the two Liverpool teenagers bonded over their shared love of Little Richard’s music. Hoping to impress the older Lennon, McCartney sang a selection of tunes including Eddie Cochran’s ‘Twenty Flight Rock’, Gene Vincent’s ‘Be-Bop-A-Lula’, and a medley of songs by Little Richard. Shortly afterwards McCartney was invited to join Lennon’s band, The Quarrymen.

The Beatles released versions Richard’s ‘Long Tall Sally’ and ‘Kansas City/Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey!’ in 1964. They recorded both songs again for BBC radio, along with versions of ‘Ooh My Soul’ and ‘Lucille’. (via The Beatles Bible)

The Marvelettes

This is one of the band’s earliest recorded covers, and helped garner more recognition for The Marvelettes in turn. That said, I’m not sure if I’d classify this as an influence so much as an early cover song. Cover song ≠ influence. I encourage someone to argue with me about this! Back to top

What about the rest of it?

It’s coming. Perhaps you’d like to help? If so, get in touch with us at i.know.what@influenced.it!

Stay tuned…

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