When The Beatles first emerged at the forefront of The British Invasion, few could have predicted the impact they'd have beyond the world of rock and pop. Early albums, and songs like "Love Me Do," "She Loves You" and "I Want to Hold Your Hand," were hardly the grist for something more.
But by the time The Beatles reached the turning point of Rubber Soul
(Apple/EMI, 1965), a change was in the air. The Fab FourJohn Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starrbegan to transcend the simple (but undeniably appealing) pop structures of their early hits, incorporating elements from farther afield. They'd already scored a major hit earlier in the year with the surprisingly sophisticated ballad, "Yesterday," from Help!
(Apple/EMI, 1965), but with "Norwegian Wood," the beginnings of an interest in Indian music was made manifest by George Harrison's simple but effective sitar work, while "Michelle" represented another move towards richer songwriting.
From that point forward, The Beatles' may still have been a pop band at heart, but experimentation was also at its core, a heady combination of the lightening speed growth by Lennon, McCartney and Harrison as writers and producer George Martin's sonic innovations. Revolver
(Apple/EMI, 1966) led to a string of seminal albums, all groundbreaking in individual ways. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
(Apple/EMI, 1967), Magical Mystery Tour
(Apple/EMI, 1967), The Beatles
(Apple/EMI, 1968) and Abbey Road
(Apple/EMI, 1969) were all filled with vividly memorable songs, and remarkable, forward-thinking production.
The Beatles' impact on the pop world was already cemented, but it wasn't long before artists in the jazz world realized there was plenty of potential to be found. Over the past 40 years, Beatles tunes have been stretched, twisted and reworked by artists ranging from Buddy Rich
, Wes Montgomery
, Marian McPartland
, Sonny Rollins
and Benny Goodman
to Herbie Hancock
, Brad Mehldau
, Cassandra Wilson
, Chris Potter
, Tony Williams
and Jaco Pastorius
. Entire albums have been devoted to the music of The Beatles by John Pizzarelli
, Mike Mainieri
, and Joel Harrison
, while the BeatleJazz trio has released four full albums dedicated to the music by the Fab Four.
With the recent, long overdue release of the remastered Beatles collection
, All About Jazz decided to reach out to the jazz world, to find out just how pervasive the group's reach has been. Here are the words of nearly 80 artists, telling how The Beatles affected their music... and, in many cases, their lives.
I remember very well hearing and then seeing the Beatles for the first time, listening to their records and, I confess, getting a Beatle haircut in my Mom's kitchen! Who wasn't affected by the Beatles? I didn't really learn guitar like many others did from that school but sure listened to and loved their music. I also had the rare privilege of of being George Harrison's second guitarist on the only full blown tour he ever did, known as the Dark Horse Tour with Ravi Shankar, sixteen Indian musicians and a host of rock heavyweights in the band. Wow! I hung at George's place at Hendley On Themes, listened to Ravi rehearse there, drank tea and recorded with George.
He was a sweet cat, always nice and complimentary, full of life and humor. Sad he left so soon.
The Beatles enriched us all, so glad we had the Beatles.
There were ten kids in our family. We played at being the Beatles down in our cellar. We'd wait for our chance to be John, or Paul or the quiet ones wanted to be George, or Ringo with the pots and pans... the first 1/2 hour one person would be Paul and then you'd switch out. How did they influence me musically? Its hard to tell because they were so integrated into our lives for a while there. I always knew I wanted to be a musician, and seeing how they just sang about whatever was happening to them showed me that music is not separate from one's life. Their songs have a perfect combination of simplicity and fearless elaborating, always fresh and unexpected. I just loved 'em. Here's a little clip
of Peter Eldridge
and I singing "She's Leaving Home" at Birdland.
One of the most groundbreaking units in the history of music, their music is arguably the most captivating example of creativity from the 20th century!
Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah
There never was and will never be another band that I loved as much as The Beatles. I was eight when I bought Rubber Soul
, my first album purchase ever. The magisterial excitement of that moment, as I gazed at the four long faces staring back at me from the record bin, handed the clerk $2.97, and dashed home to put it on my record player, will never leave me. The Beatles were the first at many things, including: destroying the division between high and low art, introducing Indian music into the pop realm, combining pop, avant-garde, and classical impulses in meaningful ways. Their humor was joyous, politics righteous, their tunes and harmony were gorgeous, exhilarating, new. Like great jazz players they were always evolving, not satisfied with the status quo. Each new record felt like a blast of fresh airI'd spin it for days, trying to dress like them, think like them. I stopped listening to them for many years, but it all came back to me when I did the Harrison on Harrison
CD of all George Harrison music. I chose him partly because he was an underdog, but they were all absurdly brilliant.
In 1966, when I was 8 years old, John Lennon said, "We're more popular than Jesus now. I don't know which will go firstrock and roll or Christianity." I was living in the South when he dropped that devil of a quote and pretty soon Beatles music was banned and people were stomping on their albums and Beatles material. This reaction proved a windfall for me, because my GODfather gathered his daughter's entire Beatles album collection and released the devil's music on me. I promptly put the first record on my player, got on my drum set, and pretended I was Ringo.
When I heard "Revolution," "A Long and Winding Road," and "Let it Be" I realized they were the first examples of pop-fusion music. The Beatles fused melodicism and harmony with the spirit of rock and roll. I was writing songs at an early age, so I incorporated this 'fusion' in my compositions. They paved the way for experimentation in the studiowhether it's Lennon doing a vocal track lying on the floor to create a different sound, they just let it be. When I'm in the studio, I keep that spirit of experimentation. Whatever goes!
I see their body of work mirror the arc of great jazz musicians. Their music changed from song to song and record to record. The Fab Four has inspired me to keep high standards of creativity with every project that I undertake.
I think the Beatles were the most influential band in pop music history. Think about it, their music is known all around the world and to this day their music is still on the radio and TV commercials daily. The main four members were only a band for about 7 years and changed the face of music in that short time. Forty years later they still have a mystique and fan base that will probably never be topped.
If you look at the evolution of what the Beatles sounded like from Please Please Me
to Let It Be
, their sound completely changed. The one absolutely amazing thing that they did was they took their fans with them on their musical journey. How many bands/musicians can evolve so much in a short time and not only keep their fan base but grow it? To me that is amazing.
So much of their song writing was from an era where songs were truly songs, that's why so many jazz artists have recorded Beatles tunes. Melodies, chord changes, and actual song structure. Because of that their songs will last forever because many of them are not trendy and time period based.
I personally have recorded five Beatles tunes and I am sure I will record more.
"Come Together" on Wood
(Artistry Music); "Let 'Em In" on Wood II
(Artistry Music); "And I Love Her" on Brombo
(King Records, Japan); "Day Tripper," "Yesterday," "Eleanor Rigby" on Hands
(King Records, Japan)
To me their body of work is tremendous and there is always something you can do arrangement wise with a great melody. Plus, being a bassist it is awesome to me that Paul McCartney is also a bassist. He also spent a fair amount of time in my home Town of Tucson, AZ. I hope I get to meet him one day!
I've been listening to The Beatles since I was a teenager, not just because their's was the popular music of the day, but because, especially in their earlier works, the sentiment of their lyrics touched so many feelings that I was having at the time. I remember listening to "The Long and Winding Road" over and over again, because it gave me a sense of hope in connecting deeply with another person and finding true love-the lyrics "lead me to your door," touched me to the core. All the things that affected me when I was young seemed to be found in their lyrics of one tune or another. I've always believed that the three keys to a great original song are a memorable melody, a universal story and lyric, and a timeless quality. I don't know anyone who can't remember most of The Beatles' tunes-music and lyrics. That is the most revealing testament to the power, mastery and genius of their enormous body of work.
Currently, their songs are being repackaged for a new generation to discover. The Beatles will forever be relevant because they were able to put their fingers on the pulse of the emotions and consciousness of an entire generation. They awakened in our awareness the need for love, peace, and unity in the worldand echoed those sentiments musically. Their message is timeless. With every lyric and melody, their songs will continue to reach people throughout the world in every country, language and generation, insuring their immortal place in music history and in our hearts.
I think the qualities of the Beatles that most come out in my music are the energy of the live performance and the sense of humour. The Beatles, to me, seemed to live for the live performance as much as they wouldn't admit it. I remember seeing the film Let It Be
in a the Tampa theater in 1979 and the place went crazy watching the concert on the roof... and that was a film! The energy was amazing. The general charisma of the band was captivating. The outfits and haircuts, the general setup of the group was something we all wanted to aspire to, no matter what our style of music would be. I liked the uniformity of the presentation, but the outside the lines thinking that went into the music.
Even as they made their way to the fur coats and the wild outfits, they had a sense of the "group," but each member seemed to maintain his musical and literal personality. All these things combining for a great musical experience and hopefully, in some way, making its way into my music.
I recently bought the reissued version of Rubber Soul
at a Starbucks. This was one of my favorite recordings when I was a teenager. Here it is 45 years later, and the music sounds just as good! The writing is so clever, and the production is totally happening. These cats were bad! And George Martin was a master of production. The sound of the instruments are killing! And the vocals are so cleverly doubled and arranged in a very musical way. Great arrangements, period!
Ringo gets that classic snare drum crack that became so influential for years to come. The lyrics are poetic, heart-felt and clever. What can you say! It's all there.
Really the only thing I noticed that I hadn't before is that on "Drive My Car" Ringo does these funny little snare drum fills that are totally out of time, but he manages to make them work anyway. This reminded me of when I was on Buddy Rich's band and he would have smoked a little too much weed, and on his drum solo launch into an imitation of a bad rock drummer, playing fills all out of time, kind of like someone trying to talk after having novacaine for a dental procedure. But in all fairness, Ringo set the standard for rock drumming during that time. He made the music feel so good!
The Beatles took the tradition of great songwriting and put their own thing on it is such a contemporary and timeless way. It all still sounds great today.
I'm a jazz singer, but I'm also a songwriter. I grew up admiring great songwriters, and three of the Fab Four, Lennon, McCartney and Harrison, were brilliant songwriters. Not only did I grow up loving, devouring and studying the Beatles' albums, I've covered their songs on my jazz records. When I cover a modern pop song, I take it apart and reduce it to its essence and then rebuild it as a jazz tune. If it's a great song, it can stand up to re-interpretation in many different styles. I'd rather start with a song that isn't "jazzy" when I cut a pop song, so the first tune I tried was "I Feel Fine" which was a rock and roll song, rather than something like "Michelle" or "Norwegian Wood," which are commonly covered by jazz musicians. I like to take a song a long way from it's original recorded version. That's a lot more interesting to me. I've also covered two wonderful John Lennon tunes, "Love," and "Jealous Guy, which appears on my latest album.
"I was in competition for who had the most Beatles records with a few of my friends at around age 10. Still listening and loving those records. Been through vinyl, cassettes, CDs, and now MP3s. i was pretty blown away when Sir Paul showed up at a gig of mine a few years back. He's still hungry for new energy and music. Maybe that's one of the many reasons they were such a great band."
The timeless music that The Beatles created remains a source of listening enjoyment and artistic inspiration. The collective growth that occurred in their songwriting and album concepts amazes me every time. I listen to some of their later records like Sgt. Pepper's
or Abbey Road
. I would be hard pressed to name another rock band that had the musical breadth and depth of The Beatles.
The Beatles have always been an enormous influence on my music and playing. Specifically, different harmonic passages they use have found their way into my music time and time again. I'll also find myself trying to imitate Lennon's voice or McCartney's bass sound at the piano or keyboard. But one of the main influences I get from their music time and time again are the recordings. The sounds they achieved at the time with such limited technology. "Tomorrow Never Knows" from Revolver is an excellent example. On that song, McCartney came in with the idea of using tape loops and tape reversal. Also, Lennon's vocals were run through a Leslie speaker which had never been done before. It's these kind of techniques I find myself using constantly when recording at home or elsewhere. Don't even get me started on Sgt Peppers
I grew up with the Beatles. My mother had a bunch of their records, like Magical Mystery Tour
and Sgt. Peppers
, also a live concert from Hollywood Bowl in which all that is audible is screaming girls. I think it's fascinating that a group that gained super popularity based on idolatry ended up making music that rivaled any of the great composers in it's creativity and purpose. John Lennon and Paul McCartney were one of the most prolific songwriting teams of the modern era: how many Beatles songs are immediately recognizable?
I was one of the few people on February 9, 1964 who didn't see the Beatles performance on the Ed Sullivan show, but boy did I hear about it the next day at school.
I liked some of their songs but at the time I was more into Motown and James Brown. Every Beatles album always had songs that I liked. AM radio played them every hour on the hour. Rubber Soul
got my attention as full LPs but it was Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
that pulled me all the way in to them on a deeper musical level.
What I discovered was that the Beatles weren't afraid to break convention in their songwriting and records. "Good Morning" and "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" have odd meter bars. From the beginning they always used Major 6th and dominant 9th chords reflecting their affinity with jazz and rhythm and blues. The use of interesting choices in rock/pop music instrumentation (piccolo trumpet, sitar, french horn, string ensembles etc). They used the recording studio to experiment with extensive editing techniques and innovations like running a track backwards and recording on top of that. They wrote and recorded pop, country and western, rock, blues and ballads.
My writing as a composer and arranger is most directly influenced by the Beatles work. I have always admired how colorful and vivid their music sounded. They opened minds and musical ears to possibilities.
One might not expect a jazz vibraphonist to have that much in common with the Beatles. However, they set the bar for creating enduring popular music, and I think about them all the time. Any performer has to be in awe of the virtuosity of the young Fab Four. Any studio musician has to be amazed by the recordings they achieved with producer George Martin. And any composer has to be inspired by the sheer beauty of their melodies, and the inventiveness and timelessness of their songs.
The Beatles are part of my musical DNA. I grew up listening to them on my parents' stereo, and I can still remember putting on the "White Album" to listen to "Julia" and "Blackbird" over and over again. I also recorded a version of "For No One" with Bill Charlap
, Avishai Cohen
and Andy Watson for a demo many years ago that not many people have ever heard! I still think it's one of the great heartbreak songs. I don't think I consciously ever tried to write like them, but I think the emotion in their songs is what I carry with me. I've always been most attracted to the wistful and sad songs in their catalog. "She's Leaving Home," "Eleanor Rigby," "Because," "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away," etc...
I am still inspired by the incredible heart and craft of their music. I aspire to be so joyous and creative in my own expression.
When the Beatles first come on the scene, I wasn't too impressed. With Sgt. Pepper's
, everything changed about the Beatles. I was amazed how they had grown as a band and individually. The musicianship and compositions were stunning. They had elements of all types of music which made me think they were truly a "Fusion" band. After Sgt. Pepper's
, I went back and listened with different ears to their earlier records. They stood up extremely well. I have everything they've recorded plus numerous videos and have admired and enjoyed their music. The "White Album," Abbey Road
, Let it Be
, they're all special in some way. Long live the Beatles!
The musicality and arrangements of much of the Beatles' compositions has impacted how I arrange American Songbook tunes and jazz standards because of the similar pop style that each possesses. I also grew up playing and listening to them a lot on the radio before I listened to or learned anything about jazz. Their harmonies were and still are quite hip for pop music.
Growing up I was exposed to my two older brother's recordings of The Beatles such as For Sale
, A Hard Day's Night
. The music with its beautiful melodies and fascinating sonorities impressed me immediately. It seemed to connect to my other interests in jazz, classical, theater music and R&B. However, it was really the later stuff that knocked me out! Their music really started changing when they stopped performing live and became a studio band. This transformation began around the time of Rubber Soul
and especially Revolver
and continued through all the subsequent recordings. These albums contain many beautiful examples of studio experimentation, orchestration and song writing. Their lyrics combine elements of surrealism, postmodernism and social commentary. The idea of the concept album or suite in pop/rock music really takes off with Sgt. Pepper's
and continues with beautiful sequences such as the second half of Abbey Road
. Seldom if ever has avant-garde strains been as popular or exposed to a wider audience as in pieces from "The White Album," Revolver, Abbey Road
or Magical Mystery Tour
The Beatles, with considerable help from George Martin, created a body of work which influenced highly divergent musicians in multiple ways.
In the months prior to 1993, my ex-wife Nancy often played the Sgt. Pepper's
CD at home while working, and her interest in The Beatles served to rekindle mine, especially for George Harrison's "Within You Without You." As The Beatles arrived on the scene in the early '60s, my sister Laurie was the first in our household to go nuts for them, and she was the only one, amongst her girlfriends, to be totally wild for George. So, when Mike Mainieri asked me to contribute a track to his project: A Guitar Tribute To The BeatlesCOME TOGETHER
(NYC Records, 1993), a two-song George Harrison medley seemed fitting, and "Blue Jay Way" from Magical Mystery Tour
appealed to my bizarre musical sensibilities.
Of course, The Beatles, in their way, opened the doors to breaking down the rigid boundaries that then existed between all forms of popular music, and, even at the time, "world music." Anything seemed possible in the mid to late 1960s. Hard to believe that, at that same point in time, we had the great Miles Davis Quintet; the John Coltrane Quartet; and Ornette Coleman's Quartet too. I think everyone, no matter what their particular musical aesthetic leaning might have been, could appreciate the fantastic songwriting, the great singing, the incredibly creative production values, and the expansion of the popular song form. The music of The Beatles was so wonderful for its time, and it remains so today."
The Beatles energized the entire world, musically and otherwise, with their look and their sound. The strongest impression that I have had over the years is that their music has a timeless quality to it, and I would guess that this must come from their gift for melody as much or more than anything else. Their tunes became production standard-bearers, of course, but it's the musical haiku-quality of their artistry that has most intrigued me over the years. The compactness and clarity, specificity and simple wonderfulness of their songs is what makes their music timeless to me.
I came of musical age with The Beatles accompanying my journey alongside the albums of Cannonball Adderly, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Stan Kenton, Oliver Nelson and Buddy Rich. And then along came Weather Report just about the time The Beatles stopped recording; and, for me, Weather Report became a new Beatles in the sense that all that band's recorded music, or most of it at least, had and retains that quality of timelessness. Most bands who added back beats to their swing vocabulary (i.e., went straight 8th-note), well, when I hear many of those recordings I see bell-bottomed pants and dumb shirts and far-out hair styles ... Weather Report, I hear great tunes with production qualities that have stood the tests of time as well as the Fab Four's music.
So, in many ways, The Beatles were not only a great band with great tunes: they became a reference point for all that followed.
I never bought a Beatles album. I heard a lot of their songs ,but even being 20 in 1965, I did not hear many songs before they had actually broken up.
There was too much other music going on in the '60s that I was listening toMiles Davis, Archie Shepp, Albert Ayler, Paul Bley, Art Ensemble of Chicago, John Coltrane. What I heard on the radio from The Beatles was not something that really caught my attention, compared to the jazz that was happening at that time.
Later I listened more and, while I like a lot of their songs, they never really had an impact on my own music.
The Beatles' legacy is wound up with the entire history of the American popular song and, in a sense, the last step in the story. Gershwin, Rodgers, Porter, etc., all used the diatonic harmony of the four hundred year history of Western classical music, linked with lyrics to describe a situation, usually centered around love and the like. Lennon and McCartney distilled the harmony down to its bare elements in their songs, stripped of harmonic sophistication (compared to Porter, for example) but, in turn, even more direct in its communicative power. And of course the lyrics were clear, to the point and centered on subjects besides lovethings of fancy and delight to a young mind.
They really challenged themselves and the audience when Sgt. Pepper's
and Magical Mystery Tour
, followed by The White Album
, were released. They raised the ante both lyrically and texturally and, in the end, burned the candle to the end. What a great contribution to the western art song tradition and from a cultural standpoint. Of course, their look and "interests" (LSD, Indian stuff,etc.) did speak to a generation looking for spokesmen. As a direct effect on me musically, I can't really say there was much but, as noted, culturally for sure.
I began playing the guitar in the summer of 1963, approximately one year before The British Invasion took place. There were just as many accordion students as there were guitar students at the local music shop in the summer of '63. The Beatles' first performance in the States was in New York City on The Ed Sullivan Show
in '64, kids were abandoning the accordion and switching to guitar like mad.
The Beatles pulled the rug out from Planet Earth in the '60s; the songs had incredible melodies and harmony and they made us smileI knew, then and there, that I wanted to be a musician forever, and I never looked back.
Fast forward from 1964 to 2004. I was working with Dave Liebman in London at the Pizza Express. I went for an afternoon stroll somewhere on a deserted part of Dean Street; a limo pulled up to the sidewalk and Paul McCartney emerged from the limo. He and I face-to-face; I told him I was working at the Pizza and invited him to the gig. He never showed up but what a thrill to see him on the street. It is great to see that the next generation is picking up on The Beatles; they were and are the greatest!
"Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play"that's for sure! Sgt. Pepper's
taught me to play as well. My friend had the album on at his house and gave me his guitarthe first time I picked one up. As he puts it, he was so mad that I already played better than him and he was the one taking lessons (ha!).
It was through playing along to that record that I fell in love with the guitar and decided to take lessons too. Later, I remember playing along to the whole album of Help
over and over in my living room, my guitar plugged into the stereo.
The Beatles have always given me a vivid world of escape and adventure, and the uncompromising creativity and honesty of the group as a whole and John Lennon in particular has been a guiding light for me in my own journey in music. I love The Beatles!
In 1961, I was still performing with the Buddy Rich Septet. Although we played the usual circuit in the US, Birdland in NYC, Pep's in Philly, Blue Note in Chicago, et al, Buddy veered from the tried and true and accepted a booking of a State Department tour. The tour included performances in Afghanistan, Nepal, Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Singapore and Iran. Our home was base Bombay, India where we also performed and included stints in New Delhi, Bangalore and Madras. We returned to NY in 1962, exhausted, but filled with the music from these diverse cultures.
During that year, The Beatles were recording their first hit single "Love Me Do," which I believe became a hit in the US in 1964. I checked them out on The Ed Sullivan Show
, and frankly I didn't see what the fuss was all about. I grew up not only listening to jazz but was a fan of "The King Of The Moondogers," Alan Freed, who played R&B and Rock and Roll on his radio show in New York City on WINS.
As a teenager, I played jazz but danced to Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and Bill Haley and the Comets. In the '40s I was hearing live big band jazz at the movie theaters on Broadway, and Diz, Bird and Bags 78s at home; in the '50s, I was attending the Alan Freed shows at the Paramount Theater in Brooklyn, where we kids were dancing in the aisles to Fats Domino and Little Richard. I also dug that there was always a big band backing up these acts! It was during that time I also got hip to Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters and other legendary blues artists from friends who loved the blues. So upon first hearing the Beatles, I thought they sounded like a ripoff of the Everly Bros.
In 1964, I began playing with keyboardist, Warren Bernhardt, drummer Donald MacDonald, flautist Jeremy Steig and bassist Eddie Gomez. They had formed a jazz/rock group called Jeremy and the Satyrs. The band also featured a blues singer and guitarist, Adrian Guillery. The group began performing at the Cafe Au Go Go, Bitter End, Electric Circus, and The Fillmore opposite folk, blues and rock bands. They also became the backup group for the folk-singer Tim Hardin. I joined the band after the Satyrs' first recording on Columbia Records, and suddenly I was exposed to hearing the music of Dylan, Hendrix, Zappa and the many rock and folk artists who played that circuit.
When I first heard "Help" in 1965 I was hooked, and then upon their release Rubber Soul
, I was blown away! By then the Satyrs were heading into a more psychedelic free/jazz-rock band, as were The Beatles on Rubber Soul
. 'Til this day, I'll occasionally play "Yesterdays," "Norwegian Wood" or "Here, There And Everywhere" as a solo piece at one of my group concerts.
Those Beatles albums and all of their later works shifted my musical world off its axis. I recall feeling the same anticipation and excitement from rumors that a forthcoming Beatles album was about to be released, as I did any jazz record during the years the group recorded.
When I first formed my label, NYC Records, the second release was A Guitar Tribute To The BeatlesCome Together
. I wasn't at all surprised by how The Beatles shaped the artistry of the many diverse guitarists who participated in the project. The performances on that first album and the subsequent second CD with another lineup of great guitarists are a testament to the musical magic inspired by The Beatles.
Like a lot of people, I was really influenced by The Beatles. I had been playing the guitar for about six months when they came along. I'd say they impacted my music in several ways, but most importantly that they inspired me to keep going and work harder. It was quickly obvious that guitar playing was "cool" and a pathway to personal success and satisfaction. It never even occurred to me that it might not work out. They were certainly a big part of my early music experience, but not who I was emulating. I was a dork who wanted to play the blues, and looked down at all the other 15 year-olds who didn't know "the real shit." I had Beatle boots but my mother wouldn't let me wear them.
It's funny, as a kid I really didn't like The Beatles. I was into Hendrix, Stevie Wonder, Sly Stone, even Elton John (his early stuff is great), but I didn't really didn't dig The Beatles. Maybe it was because they were older or something. But of course, as with anything great, I couldn't ignore them at a certain point in my career and I realized how fantastic they were.
What I learned to appreciate is their unbelievable songwriting. It really doesn't get any better than The Beatles. And then the production. Incredible. Pop music at its best. The Beatles also informed so much of the other music I love. Especially Brazilian pop music like Caetano Veloso, Ivan Lins, Djavan, etc. And The Beatles influence has only gotten stronger with time, as their sound and ideas are more prevalent in current pop music now than ever.
When reflecting upon how important The Beatles' work has been in my life as a listener and musician, the first thing that often comes to mind is the longevity of my enthusiasm for their music. I first heard and loved them when I was very young, and I continue to be as enthralled by their music today as I was then.
There are relatively few artists who seem to get such a huge percentage right in terms of what's important in making an artistic endeavor successful. The combining of an absolutely Herculean ability to write reams of unforgettable songs that frequently pushed standard ideas of harmony and melody in popular music forward with their seemingly unquenchable desire and skill in creating completely new ways to record music was unprecedented and, I think, unequaled to this day.
Their music has impacted upon me in so many ways. As a composer they have always presented a sort of near perfect example of what a great song could and should be. The songwriting so purely melodic and harmonic, the songs can be played in any context. In terms of their playing and the production of their recordings, the sounds and parts on their records are always somewhere in my brain as reference points for what a brilliant and succinct recording conception should be when all that is superfluous is cut away.
I still listen to their albums all the time. The songs, the singing, the playing, the production and recording, the album covers. Everything is of a thread. It is music that inspired me to become and continue to be a musician.
I was a boy when The Beatles exploded onto the scene in the U.S. My brother Alex and I wrote them off as a "girls band," embracing The Rolling Stones and others of the day. By the time we saw Help!
, by chance on a double bill with Fantastic Voyage
, we were finished. The music and the amazing charisma of the band was irresistible. We went back to A Hard Day's Night
and were blown away. Then Revolver
came out. The ultimate mind-blow was watching the film (they weren't called videos yet) for "Strawberry Fields Forever" on The Ed Sullivan Show
. They had, by then, dragged us all into a world of imagination, sophistication, and infectiousness beyond anything else, beyond any genre. Few of any persuasion can claim to be immune to this magic. I know I am not.
It never ceases to amaze me how kids, usually just preteen, seem to go through a Beatles phase. I have heard about this and witnessed it in my friends' families to some degree very often. It brings up the startling and timeless universality of The Beatles' music, from all phases of their amazingly/relatively short career together. And of course one then hears the music over and over, and almost invariably this leads to an even deeper awe and appreciation for the infectiousness and craft of even their "lightest" songs. It is so inspiring. somewhat daunting, and a bit mysterious, no?
The music of The Beatles' has been a source of inspiration for me from song writing to arrangingto live performance and studio recording. I especially felt a connection to George's music after discovering that we shared the same passion for the ukulele. His song "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" will always be my favorite song to play on the tiny four string.
The Beatles were the first popular music I remember hearing as a child in the early 60's, starting with the song "Help." We got Sgt. Peppers
the week it came out in 1967 and it was the first record that I really played over and over at age 6.
I didn't realize it until mixing my CD Narrow Margin
40 years later that this record had more influence on the way that I hear music in general than anything else, and is in all likelihood the reason I gravitated to the guitar. The great songwriting, density of textures and the amount of activity on many tracks, and the sheer number of different colors in the orchestration became the blueprint for what music is to me. Of course I had no way of knowing at the time that Sgt. Peppers
was exceptional in this way vis-à-vis other records.
The Beatles' musical influence on American culture was all-pervasive. Not only the music, but also their "mop-topped" look transformed the way America dressed and cut their hair! Hair
, the musical, is a perfect example of that influence. As usual for the rock and soul bands of that time, their own influence was Black American music, so it was interesting to see how, through their own prism, something truly unique was born.
The songs and lyrics were simple, yet each and every one had a phrase, a word, a chord change that was just brilliant and, with the addition of George Martin as producer, they forever set the bar for the pop music of the '60s and thereafter.
Growing up in that same era, I couldn't help but be influenced by their records you would hear them all day on the radio and couldn't get them out of your head... they were some of the first pop records that I took seriously. Besides the great songs and production, they played and sang so well togetherit was really a group with a symbiotic affinity much like Coltrane's classic quartetthere were no weak links.
In 1966 I took my first trip to Europe and Asia with the Indiana University Big Band. We landed at Heathrow for a day of sightseeing and lo and behold, from a second floor balcony at the airport, we looked down and there they were (!) just milling around the airport togetherwe couldn't believe our luck in seeing themthey were dressed super mod and each had a walking stick... just too cool. On that same trip, some of us spent a day at the beach in Beirut after taking LSD (my one and only "trip!"). I went back to the hotel room and eventually listened to "You Won't See Me" from Rubber Soul
over and over and over...
Later on in 1974, Mike and I toured Japan with the Plastic Ono Super-Band featuring Yoko Ono, a tour "sponsored" by John during the time he was having the affair with his secretary May Pang (who later worked for the Brecker Bros office), and that was as close as we got to playing with The Beatles, but that tour was a lot of fun.
Also, Steve Gadd
, Rick Marotta, Don Grolnick
and Steve Khan were in the band. Mike and I both did some recording with John right before he was shot, and played on a Paul McCartney session. Also when I was doing some ghostwriting for Arif Mardin in the '70s, Arif handed me a bunch of tracks on tape with lead sheets that needed horns. I asked him who might be singing on the tracks because that might help me in the writing of the charts. He said rather brusquely "Oh, I don't know, maybe Aretha, maybe Carly or Bette, or maybe Ringo (!), we'll figure that out later!... "I said "thanks for narrowing it down!" :) ...so maybe there's a Ringo track out there with some Brecker Bros. horns on it!
As a child I fell in love with the later compositions of the Beatles, especially "Eleanor Rigby" and "Yesterday," both written by Paul McCartney. But of course the "bassist" would be the most melodic one in the band. ;-)
The music of The Beatles has had an impact on my writing and my appreciation of their music. I must admit that for many years I never considered myself a fan of The Beatles and I actually became more interested in exploring and studying their music as I heard jazz musicians record and perform some of their compositions like "Eleanor Rigby," "Can't Buy Me Love" and "Blackbird." The Beatles have written many songs with simple melodies and pretty harmonic movements and I enjoy the simplicity of their music. Throughout the history of music, the songs with longevity are quite often the ones with simple melodies and this is why I like the music of The Beatles.
As a huge fan of The Beatles, sometimes it's hard to quantify how they have impacted my own music, because I think their influence runs pretty deep on me. While I'm not sure my ability to win a trivia contest about Revolver
-era recording techniques has much influence on my jazz piano playing, I think I've learned two very important musical lessons from them that I can apply to my own music. The first is a reminder of just how vital and important a truly great, memorable melody is (especially when it allows me to cover the song and screw up all the harmonies!). And the second lesson is that it's always worth it to truly be what you want to be musically, to not get constrained by genre or other people's expectations; to have the courage to go ahead and record "Tomorrow Never Knows" or "Strawberry Fields Forever" or what not, even when it departs from the formula that initially brought you success.
Sometime during my 8th year of life, I discovered that my parents had a collection of Beatles albums. They were Rubber Soul, Magical Mystery Tour, Sgt. Pepper's, Abbey Road
, and the two collections with the cover of the band looking down over the railing ("Red Album" 1962-66
, and "Blue Album" 1967-1970
). I remember every detail of these records, the condition of the jackets, which songs had scratches, which song marked the point of flipping the album over, etc. During that year, I learned every song on them, and in so doing, learned a lot about the guitar and music in general. I generally think about this as the point in my life of discovering real music. But there was a missing link in the collection, a mysterious recording I had heard about called "The White Album." The unattainability of this record (remember, this is pre-internet, and also in small-town Pacific Northwest) made it even more desirable, and the idea that there were more Beatles songs out there to hear was driving me crazy. Throughout that year, I dropped hints, then asked for, then begged my parents for a copy of this record. On my birthday, it finally arrived, mysterious as I expected with its blank cover and title "The Beatles" at a slightly skewed angle. I immediately went to the record player and listened through the first three sides, in total amazement, with the feeling of hearing a great storynot wanting it to end, but at the same time wanting to know the final outcome. Then, at the end of the fourth side, a strange voice began chanting "number nine, number nine, number nine..." panning left and right, followed by the strangest and most beautiful collection of sounds I had ever heard. It was my ninth birthday, and the appearance of this chanting voice was confirmation to me that The Beatles were not only the greatest thing in the entire world, but also that they were speaking to me personally, that there was some convergence of the fates that led me to hear that song on that particular day.
I've always been a creative musician. Even as a teen I could always conjure up some pretty interesting music even though my experience was narrow and my chops limited.
For awhile I studied with a great composition teacher who surprised me with a question when I was mired down in the middle of a piece. "What are you trying to say?" he asked. I was sort of dumbstruck. I guess I was just trying to solve musical problems... you know, establish an intro, get a tempo going, state a main idea, and then...? Well I didn't have an answer for him and it took awhile to even figure out the question.
Finally, in a few years, I began to understand that solving composing issues, one measure at a time was OK, but after awhile all the pieces can start to sound the same! It really helps to have a scene, an imaginary movie or a personal feeling to act as a springboard. With those in mind, you can actually write many different pieces, not just one piece many times!
During those years of musical soul searching, the Beatles came along and I was awed that so much of their music not only portrayed vivid emotional landscapes but that the breadth and scope and variety seemed limitless. They were just kids! It was almost like people were mailing them weird little movies and they would just set them to music. In just a few years they created a little universe of scenes that one could never visit in real life. To this day, so much of what they created was so personal that I don't think many singers can touch it. I speak of course about "Lucy in the Sky" or "Strawberry Fields" or "She's Leaving Home." That stuff is the musical equivalent of Salvador Dali or Rene Magritte!
Even the great songwriters like Gershwin, Kern and Porter merely wrote an awful lot of love songs... they fell into the categories of "me," "you" or "us." But the Beatles tapped into the first generation where youth split away into their own pot filled, rebellious "baby boom" universe, turned culture on its head and were there with a correspondingly original soundtrack.
All these years, the Fab Four have been acting as a silent tribunal, inspiring me and making me aware of the importance of breaking rules, being bizarre, taking chances and leaving no doubt about what I'm setting out to "say." Nobody was ever better at that-not Duke Ellington, nor John Williams or even Stevie Wonder.
I fell in love with The Beatles when I was a very young kid and they became a bit of an obsession for me as I got older and their popularity grew. I was along for the ride from the beginning when they had their first major hits on the charts in the early 1960s, "Love Me Do," "P.S. I Love You" and "I Wanna Hold Your Hand." (This was before I was five years old!) In '68 when the White Album was out I had learned all of the lyrics to the songs and was intrigued by the 'Paul is dead' rumors, trying to identify the clues that were supposedly etched into that album cover and in the lyrics of "Revolution Number 9" when played backwards.
As a songwriting team, the duo of Lennon and McCartney were unsurpassed in the second half of the 20th Century. And like the great teams before them, their songs have had lasting value not only in American society but worldwide. There are blues tunes like "Come Together" and "Can't Buy Me Love," standards like "The Long and Winding Road," "Hey Jude" and "Michelle" and so many others in between.
Because The Beatles' music is not only classic, but was like a soundtrack for so much of my early life, it's no wonder that I would be compelled to play songs from their rich catalogue. The depth of their songwriting, harmonically and melodically, has enticed me to want to play and record them on many occasions.
Even before I knew what music was, I knew The Beatles. The first music video I ever saw was George Harrison's "I Got My Mind Set On You." I don't know if it changed my life or not, but I remember it was pretty awesome. Wrapping my head around all of the things that they accomplished in less than 10 years is like trying to wrap my head around the size of the universe. When I was in high school, there was an exchange student from Russia who loved The Beatles. We played in a band together. His accent went away when he'd singit was my first realization that music knows absolutely no political, or geographical boundaries. I wish I had been in The Beatles.
"My mom had an original serial numbered version of "The White Album," and when I was a kid that was the first record that I fell in love with, and played endlessly. It really changed the way I think about everything. I still listen to it today, and each time I hear new things in the recording."
The music of the Beales had a major impact for me being as they appeared on the scene as I was in the process of making the the first Gary Burton Quartet, so we included a lot of different musical influences, not just types of jazz.
I have been and am seriously influenced by the Beatles in so many ways. They personify some many interesting qualities. The Beatles were so creative on so many levels.
Whether it was the music, the production values and the inventiveness of both. The image they created, even from project to project how they changed their focus artistically, their musical vision and how they matured, progressively challenging the audience yet drawing the audience right into what they were doing at that moment. Sure they had some awesome help from visionary producer George Martin. No matter, they were open to experimenting and creating new music at every turn. Something I feel has been lost in music of today on some level.
I remember being totally blown away in succession, by two of their recordings; Rubber Soul
is the sixth album by The Beatles, Released 3 December 1965, which seemed to appear in the record racks at the Sam Goodies record shop in my hometown over night with no fanfare. I remember taking the album home to listen with bated breath and after listening through, I couldn't believe how prolific they were and what amazing texture the recording had. Revolver
was the seventh album by The Beatles, released on 5 August 1966. I think these recordings eventually changed the way I listened music and this music on these recordings introduced me to a greater sense of what music should be, especially learning from the experimental aspects and techniques in the recordings themselves. Willing to take risk in composition and in the sound of different instruments. I still enjoy listening to these recording some forty years later. There's something to be said about that.
As a producer, musician and composer, I have excelled by mere fact that I intently listened and studied this music and feel that it was a true master class in sound design, recording technique, performance and music composition.
For me, The Beatles were the beginning of everything. I think they triggered my life long obsession with music. Aged 7, I used to get my parents to put on the record Sgt. Pepper's
and I was in a magical world till it ended. I always particularly loved the 1967-70 Blue album compilation. It is simply the soundtrack to my life. I love the songs, the voices, the incredible arrangements, the imagination, the musical ambition, the power and heaviness, the melody and lightness, the sheer beauty and way the songs touch the soul. In addition, most of my favourite rock bands cite The Beatles as a major influence and the later Beatles music is clearly the birth of progressive rock too.
As a musician and composer, I have been inspired by all the above elements of Beatles music and sometimes it is almost weird when I realise that a compositional idea is directly derived from a Beatles track.... again! Shame there were no more saxophone solos other than "Lady Madonna" though (Ronnie Scott R.I.P.). Across the Universe
and In My Life
, and in the end... the Beatles rule!
The Beatles were a HUGE part of my formative musical years. I was, I will admit, a "Beatlemaniac."
When I first saw the Beatles on TV, I was amazed at all those silly girls screaming. Well, I guess it was contagious, because I became one of them. I had every single Beatles record. From Meet The Beatles
to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
, I knew by heart, and still know, pretty much every single song they ever wrote. How's that for being a fan? Their harmonies and melodies became a big influence on my young musical ears.
They were amazing as a band of musicians because they did not stay stagnant. They evolved with the cultural changes that were happening all over the world. And in some ways they even led the way. This was their strength, I feel, both musically and culturally. Their music was magical (like a mystery tour!) I think it was the dynamic between the combined polar opposite genius of John and Paul's writing. Paul being accessible and sweet in his lovely lyrics and boyish charm and John being a bit of a rebel with a bohemian poet's edge and naughty-boy mystique. Their styles were so vastly different, that when they wrote together it was like a chemical brew that burst into an explosive energy that seemed to ignite something in the hearts of everyone. Even my parents loved them.
George and Ringo rounded out that dynamic with George's spiritual sensitivity and Ringo's light-hearted playfullness and obvious joie de vivre. I had a huge crush on Ringo. When he played drums and shook his hair back and forth I just went wild! It still gives me a big smile to think how much I was in love with them and their music!
I saw them Live at The Cow Palace in San Francisco. It was crazy to be in that wild audience of prepubescent girls all standing on their chairs screaming so loud you couldn't even hear the music. My God, what a cultural experience! But I grew with them and I changed with them as the times changed. From the innocence of "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" to the sly coded lyrics of "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" (only those who were really hip, we thought, knew what that really meant!). Life is funny. They say it all goes round and round. So in the end I have to tell you a story: I was singing at Ronnie Scott's Club in London.
Paul McCartney's MPL offices are 2 blocks away from Ronnie's at #1 Soho Square. Occasionally he would drop into the club to check out who was playing there. One night when I was performing there, my visiting friends who were in the audience; pianist extraordinaire, Amina Figarova
and bassist, Ruth Davies
, whispered to me," Paul McCartney is here!" I said, "Help! I wish you hadn't told me that!" As you can imagine, I was a bit intimidated!
The club's audience is dark from the stage... but, when I got onstage I looked out and there sitting against the back wall under the only light was Paul. Yes, I could see him very clearly. In fact he was the only person in the audience that I could see! But there he was, digging my music and clapping along! I had such fun singing to him. Remembering how I had once sat in the audience and listened to him and the Beatles, I just had to shake my head! On the way home I dropped off my CD at his office as thank you gift for staying for my show, and congratulations to him, his wife and newborn baby (born that very day). Do you want to know a secret? Life may indeed be a long and winding road, but sometimes it all just comes back full circle. It certainly can be a fun ride if you're patient!
As far as the Beatles impacting my music itself, I don't believe I had any interest when they first exploded in the United States. I was with Don Patterson
, and Billy James at the time, ("burnin'"). The entrance of The Beatles into America took place at a time when my personal focus was completely absorbed by the culture that surrounded me. At that time I was very active in Harlem at places like Small's Paradise, Count Basies, etc., as well as performing throughout the States in what was known as the "Chitlin Circuit" with leaders like Willis Jackson, Jimmy Smith
, Jack McDuff
, etc., etc. What was effecting me more than anything was the nature of different cultures. Although I was completely dedicated to jazz alone, I was there to study the people more than the music, it seemed that the playing in context was always second nature to me, as it is to this day.
By 1968, I began to notice for the first time the interest that George Harrison, as well as John Lennon held on eastern spiritualism. Once I began to turn my attention on listening to what they had to say, a broader view on music as a tool, (not a craft) began to amplify my intentions. It started to become more obvious how successfully they used the message in their lyrics. Although quite different, what they achieved was similar, (in a broader social context) to what John Coltrane
achieved with A Love Supreme.
I was discovering The Beatles in college around the time I first heard Miles Davis
, John Coltrane
, and many "jazz" artists for the first time. I was amazed at how they could use influences of ragtime on something like "When I'm 64," world music influences from India on "Within You, Without You," then do something totally avant-garde like "No. 9," and have it all work. The Beatles taught me that being a great artist, jazz or otherwise, has more to do with concept than technique.
When I was a little kid (aged 5 to 8 or so) I would spend hours listening to the same classical records all over again, trying to remember every single note I heard and singing imaginary lyrics to instrumental tunes. I would never get tired of a Karayan recording of Beethoven's Eroica symphony the old pick-up played repeatedly all day long.
A year or two later, I discovered the Beatles and began collecting their records. I was blown away by their psychedelic pyrotechnics on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
. Like other major artists of the 20th century (Satie, the Italian Futurists, Joyce, Chaplin...) they understood the music hall's potential for disjunctive, collage-like techniques and did a lot to undermine distinctions between the high and the low or, rather, render them irrelevant. The festive avant-gardism of some pieces I wrote for the Wrong Object and other recent bands still owe a lot to that approach.
"Revolution 9" urged me to explore new sonic territories and it was my first introduction to musical concretism. Without The Beatles' "White Album," Zappa and a few other pop mavericks, I would probably not have had the patience to listen to Pierre Henry or Edgar Varese, who has exerted as much influence on my solos as any jazz or rock guitarist. At the time, McCartney and Lennon were increasingly drawn to experimental art and launched the short-lived Apple subsidiary Zapple label, which intended to release electronic music alongside spoken word performances by Beat poets, Lord Buckley and Lenny Bruce.
Perhaps more than anything, the Abbey Road
Medley encouraged me to explore the significance of modular and narrative approaches in musical compositions that were poised between closed and open forms. Many years later, I realized that I was spending more time working out the transitions than the compositional units themselves.
The Beatles were one of the most musically diverse bands that ever existed. Their albums, especially the "White Album," comprised or introduced a variety of genres including rock, heavy metal, blues, folk, psychedelic, cabaret and even country. I too compose using many textures, instruments and by mixing genres. Listening to The Beatles inspired me to meld different sounds and styles together.
The Beatles are one of few groups in music history that made several songs that will live on forever. What I like about The Beatles are that their songs have such melodic and harmonic qualities. It means that they can be re-arranged and played in any style of music and as a result, many jazz musicians have done great renditions of songs from The Beatles repertoire.
My introduction to the Beatles came much later than the '60s, more the '80s, for me. I was a young girl when they first exploded on the scene, and my two sisters and I had a vocal group singing three part harmony to the Andrew Sisters and Maguire Sisters songs. So I missed that period. But when it hit me, I totally fell in love, musically and lyrically. They definitely inspired me to take chances, to be different and honest with myself as an artist. To this day I still perform their songs, and recorded "Drive my Car" on a previous CD. What a gift they have been no matter what your musical orientation is. They individually and collectively changed the landscape... long live the Beatles!
I've always admired the Beatles as a group, as musicians, as writers. I grew up listening to all kinds of music, especially classical, which involved a lot of harmony and intricate chords. I guess you could say that's what drew me to the Beatles... their awesome harmonys, and the chord progressions. They had a freedom in their music that I think every artist can relate to. If they impacted me and my music in any way, it was and still is the sheer fact to continue to be myself, and to keep going in the music that I truly love.
I've genuinely enjoyed listening to the Beatles recordings for years (still do!) as well as introducing my children to them along the way. Of course, The Beatles impact on legions of pop musicians/songwriters is simply undeniable. However, I have to admit if they have influenced my writing in any way its certainly minimal and I'm completely unconscious of itunlike, say, the influence of late '60s/'70s R&B/Funk artists (Stevie Wonder/Sly) or even some of the folk artists of the time (James Taylor/Paul Simon). Now that's not to say the Beatles didn't have an impact on my career in any way. I remember hearing Sgt. Pepper's
for the first time in 8th grade just as I joined my first rock band (...my one and only "gig" as a drummer!!). I wore that album outthoroughly enchanted by the variety of colors and completely unique sound achieved through the combination of the group with orchestral instruments and creative recording techniques. I wasn't writing at that point yet; but my fascination with that recording and those aspects may well have stimulated my move in that direction not too long thereafter.
To ask how the Beatles impacted my musical expression is like asking how water impacts a fishes way of swimming. I was raised from age 5 on a steady diet of Beatles, I sang along with every tune. As a teenager, I picked out guitar parts and harmonized their songs with friends at parties, at the beach. We smoked pot and wore our copies of Rubber Soul, Revolver, The White Album, Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club
thin. Although perhaps the influence of Paul Simon or Joni Mitchel or even Harold Arlen may be more noticeable in my style at times, upon reflection, perhaps I should trace my sense of arrangement, my taste for eclecticism and my sense of what a good song is, my need for tension, emotion and theatricality in arrangements back to the Beatles. A song like "A Day in the Life" ...it's pop, it's classical, it's theater, it's even jazz in many ways. I love story songs and they were kings at that. I love a cacophony that resolves. They were into that.
For me, in great music, melody and rhythm rule together, and are driven by an urgent spiritual or emotional need, expression or intention. From the teeny-bopper love anthem "I love You Yeah Yeah Yeah" to the soul searching "Within You Without You" the Beatles fearlessly revealed their evolution and affected my evolution without my even knowing it. Lennon's emotional honesty and courage as a songwriter mentored me invisibly. Back then, I never even noticed his courage. I think, because I was too young to connect to him as a person. I just connected to his songs. McCartney's too. "Blackbird" is a beautiful prayer I've played for thirty years and never tired of. Recently I revisited the song "Within You Without You." I stripped it down to just African hand drums and voice. It really works that way. The words have a lot of power.
...I'd never noticed before how deep those lyrics were cause the original got layered behind so much production. For sure my taste for Indian music and for mixing genres and creating soundscapes can be traced at least in part to their adventurous approach to arrangements. ( I think my exposure to Bernstien's West Side Story also takes some credit here). Sure, lots of their songs, of course, are just simple pop tunes, but so many of are also classics that bear the test of time, and like all good poems, they change meaning each year if I revisit them. Not sure if I've answered the question really. I don't listen to them that all much any more, but one thing is clear, I simply cannot imagine my musical life without the Beatles. They were just always there.
Of all pop/rock bands in history, the Beatles created the greatest collection of outstanding melodies and innovative chord progressions. Compared to the three or four chord songs of their contemporaries, this music revolutionized pop music. Because of the sophistication of their songs, jazz and classical musicians have been able to reinterpret their material through a staggering array of arrangements and orchestrations. Few songs in pop history have stood up to the test of being successfully performed and recorded as instrumentals.
[Free track: Listen to Chuck Anderson's "Eleanor Rigby / Norwegian Wood Medley
Advisory Board Member of The Liverpool Institute for the Performing Arts
John and Paul could just write a good tune. Tight, economical, tuneful, bluesy undertones. Here's a video
of my sextet Liquid Jazz reinterpreting the lyrical Norwegian Wood
. Long live the Fab 4 (maestro Martin)!
The Beatles were music's perfect storm. While we all watched in amazement, they defined a generation of pop music and culture. The Fab Four influenced virtually every other musician on the planet with their distinct combination of songwriting, performing, wit and charisma. Each member brought something special to the band as a whole, and George Martin was just the right individual to seize the chemistry and wrap it up in such an appealing package. Simple, yet sophisticated. Edgy, yet accessible. British, yet universal. Yes, the Beatles were music's perfect storm, and their legend continues to captivate and amaze us.
I was lucky enough to play on sessions with both Paul McCartney and George Harrison. George ended up inviting me to play piano his 52nd Birthday Party at his house. He was a real gentleman, a great songwriter and it was really inspiring to meet someone so famous, and yet so "NORMAL!!!"
Too much melody for any one person! Each member of the band brought their own element (all of which were tremendous by themselves) and the whole was more than the sum of the parts. Paul's sweetness, John's edge, George's wisdom, Ringo's humor. We should all be so lucky to contribute any part of the equation.
"Limitless undying love which shines around me like a million suns, it calls me on and on across the universe." The Beatles unfolded a torrent of creativity in pop music which reverberates until today, beyond borders. Miles Davis also did something very similar in jazz, breaking down barriers. We are all richer with possibilities because of them.
They were geniuses as far as I'm concerned. You can take almost any of their songs, on any album, play just the melody on any tonal instrument and you'd recognise it as a great tune. How many other people can say that?
In my opinion there's not been any other group before or since that can match their genius in pure, original, melodic line, and few as prolific. But better still, so much of their music had such strong and visual atmospheres. They often entered a world somewhere just beyond the real, sometimes way beyond, yet somehow very much relating to people's lives and daily reality.
They were so innovative in the studio pushing the boundaries of technology and multi tracking at the time. But unlike so much that has come since, the artistic and musical results outweighed the sum of the technology by a long way.
They influenced me hugely melodically as well as with the atmospheres they created in so many of their songs, that links in very much for me in what I do.
When the Beatles were around, a new album by a major band was a major event. People would line up outside the record store to get their copies on the first day of release. It was more than about buying entertainment. It was, hopefully, about inspiring, about making you think.
So it was when the Beatles' "White Album" came out. I was standing in line waiting for the record store to open. They had a raffle for a free album. I was 12 years old. When they called my name as a lucky winner, I was the happiest kid in the world.
What did I learn from The Beatles? Don't worry about whether your lyrics follow standard forms. If you have a 15 bar lyric, that's just the way it's meant to be. Once I understood that you could break rules like this, an entirely new way of writing songs opened up to me.
The Beatles weren't afraid to be funny. They weren't afraid to be literate. In fact, they were completely fearless and took risks that no pop musicians would take today. Be fearless. They certainly aren't the only musicians to have followed this rule, but I know from them that it's rule number one for anyone serious about making music.
If there's a single reason why I started making music, it was the advent of the Beatles.
What I find most fascinating about the music of the Beatles is that it consistently defied labels, genres and categories. If you take a dozen Beatles songs, you would have to probably put each one in a different bin at the record store these days: rock, soft rock, pop, blues, folk, psychedelic, ambient and so on.
The Beatles were possibly the only group ever to consistently climb to the top of the charts without being 'labeled' and forced to fit in a certain category. I just wish there was even one record label today that would even consider signing a group like the Beatles, the music industry would be better off.
My teenage years were spent immersed in rock music and the Beatles clearly were the most influential of their time. What started out as English rock and roll morphed into their own genre. Sgt. Peppers
and Magical Mystery Tour
represented a new kind of popular music without peers.
The Lennon-McCartney collaboration was so unique and productive that not only were the songs cutting edge but the production values were revolutionary.
As a player, composer and arranger, I have the utmost respect for the Fab Four's ability to really play as a band and to craft tunes that will bear the test of time. One can hear classical, rag-time, blues, rock and jazz influences but in the final analysis this music stands by itself.
There's no question that this music has subtly infiltrated my compositions and one can only hope to bring that inventive spirit to their own creations.
The Beatles were a supernova. Over a span of less than ten years they moved music from rhythm and blues into the rock era, while paradoxically contributing mightily to the Great American Songbook. With "Yesterday," "Michele," "Something," "Julia," "Blackbird," I'll Follow the Sun," "Here, there and Everywhere," "A Little Help from My Friends," "Eleanor Rigby," "For No One," "Penny Lane," and so many other great compositions, the Beatles proved that the era of great songwriting was not over. Their music continues to provide inspiration to my creative output.
The Beatles went from "I Want to Hold Your Hand" to "Revolution Number 9" and meant it. You saw both an evolution of sound and consciousness in one phenomenon. They had a large portion of the Spirit of Truth.
Myself, I'm a fan mainly of the Beatles last albums. Timeless masterpieces: Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper, White Album, Abbey Road.
But at the same time I'm a fan of evolution, and like in jazzyou gotta' know the past to appreciate what comes after. Gotta' know Louis Armstrong to truly appreciate Don Cherry. To see the progress from 1963's "Please Please Me" to 1970's "Let It Be" is mind blowing to me. Similar to Miles's approach of constant change, or Coltrane way of never staying in your comfort zone. Howeverthe Beatles did it in relatively a very short period.
I got to listen to the individual tracks of the "White Album" once. Another mind blowing experience. Without mentioning the technological adventures they went through in order to achieve what anyone can do today from home in a click of a button, it was simply shocking to realize how clear and in-tune their singing was. To nail two and three voices harmonies in one take and have it be so correct and beautifulI don't know many who do it today like that. And even more shocking is how they did it on stage. Imagine trying to sing in tune when all you have is couple of amps on stage and thousands of people are standing in front of you screaming their lungs out... Have no idea how they did it...
Avishai Cohen - Trumpet
The Beatles were, are and will forever be THE greatest rock band of them all! They covered all the basses, and the sheer body of work recorded in such a short period of time is astounding, simply because it's quality material. This amazing band of writers/musicians and personalities literally changed the world and music forever...they continue to inspire generations with timeless tunes of every genre. Finally, let's not forget the genius of producer George Martin, and engineer Geoff Emerick who worked hand-in glove with the band to create these wonderful soundscapes. There won't be anything like The Beatles again for a looooong time...if ever. BRAVO Gentlemen!
Growing up in Motown was a great thing as a child. I always felt I could excel in my art because there was so much wonderful music all around. If you worked hard you could have a career in musicit never felt unattainable to do what I wanted to do.
Having said that, after first hearing The Beatles, watching the rapid growth of their music wasand still isthe most incredible thing musically that I've seen. I think so many musicians of my age would agree.
Theirs was the first music I heard that really started me thinking about record production. Not only playing the music, but writing, arranging and using the studio as an instrument to construct your own musical landscape free of restrictions. They changed the world! Earl Klugh
The Beatles, in many respects, represent the ultimate fusion of innovation and mass appeal. They managed to push the boundaries of their genre, while at the same time, touching massive numbers of people, across all social and economic lines.
We, in the jazz world, could learn a thing or two from them!
Sometimes I think it's difficult to fully appreciate how brilliant The Beatles were. Perhaps it's because they were so instrumental in creating what we now view as the standard for contemporary music. They have become part of our language. They raised the bar and completely changed the game.
The Beatles were the strongest musical influence on me when I decided that I wanted to play music all my life and the was 44 years ago when I bought Beatles 65
. Since I am left-handed I naturally took Paul as my role model and bought a Hofner 500/1 and that was the start of my long and winding road with the bass. I have since concentrated on universal music and double bass and I am eternally grateful to the Fab Four for their musical vibes and example.
Manny Flores Jr.
The Beatles are one of the most important things in my life. I have a band BeatleJazz
and we have four CDs of Beatles music and been touring around the world and I feel very happy to be able to do that. From a musical standpoint, The Beatles' compositions are original in their use of modesharmonically as well as melodically, but at the same time breaking the rules. I think part of it was an intuitive musical sense rather than a formal approach. As we all know they never studied formal music theory but what they came up with is something I've studied and continue to do so. In a way it's easier to break rules if you don't know all of them, but that is too easy an explanation.
There is something special about their voices blending that are just sheer magic. John had a profound use of words and a great natural harmonic gift and Paul would take some of his few note melodies and come up with a harmony melody that many times complemented the melody with an amazing counterpoint. The Lennon/McCartney partnership is one of the main ingredients for there wonderful music. George and Ringo were great also. And then there was their style, the way they looked, and talked, their hair, clothes, wit etc. Maybe for being a youngster when I first got into them it represented youth itself. It was something that was different than what my parents were used to. That in itself was appealing for me and my generation. The words spoke to us in a way that was not heard before from Cole Porter, George Gershwin, etc. But really, none of that is the main reason. For me the main thing is the feeling I get when I get when I hear them. It actually goes beyond anything I've mentioned. It can't really be put into words. All I know is it makes me be happy to be alive.
At the age of 8, between Peggy Lee's Things Are Swingin'
and Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Rodgers and Hart Songbook
I discovered my mother's copy of Meet the Beatles.
...and we'll go on meeting 'til we die, Paul, George, Ringo, John, and I.
The Beatles were for me the first introduction to being obsessive about music as a listener (and later as a musician, and I mean this in the best of ways. I spent many hours from around grade 4 and on listening to the amazing breadth of their work. Started from the "White Album," and made my way slowly through the catalog. Thanks for the great music!!
The Beatles always impressed me with the diversity of their songwriting. They're probably the first group I acknowledged as experimenting with and ultimately shaping several styles of popular music. More than any particular song I've always admired The Beatles for the confidence they had in their own curiosity.