It’s been 55 years since The Beatles formed and they’re still hailed as the greatest band of all time. Countless musicians and bands have named The Beatles as their inspiration, but who were the bands and artists who inspired John, Paul, George and Ringo?
Here's a list of 10 artists and bands that inspired The Beatles
Cliff Richard and The Shadows
Cliff Richard and The Shadows were the first, truly British rock and roll stars, creating a unique blend of British and American rock and roll that appealed directly to a new generation. The Beatles were impressed by Richard’s appeal and the reaction of his audiences. As a young band in search of stardom, they wanted to experience similar success and he played a big part in shaping how they performed in their early days.
Ask people today who The Marveletes were and you’re likely to find a lot of blank expressions. Back in the 60s, though, this four-piece, all girl quartet from Michigan, USA were a well-known Motown group. When The Beatles covered their 1961 hit Please, Mr Postman, the influence went in the other direction as Motown star Otis Williams pointed out: “I must give credit to the Beatles. It seemed like at that point in time white America said, 'OK if the Beatles are checking them out, let us check them out.'"
In the early days of The Beatles’ career they were highly inspired by American rock and roll and their biggest influence was Chuck Berry. Not only did he have an impact on how their own music began to sound, they also recorded cover versions of his biggest hits, like Roll Over Beethoven and Rock And Roll Music. Even late in their career, Berry’s influence can be heard in the songs, Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey and Come Together. In fact, John Lennon was sued for using elements of Berry’s song, You Can't Catch Me, in the writing of Come Together.
Carl Perkins and his backing band were an inspiration not only to the Beatles but to Elvis Presley; Blue Suede Shoes being a hit for Perkins before Elvis covered it a year later. For guitarist George Harrison, it was Perkins’ rockabilly sound that appealed. The Beatles’ early performances included several Perkins tunes and Harrison continued to use a rockabilly style in Beatles’ recordings until the band disbanded.
The Beach Boys
The Beach Boys and The Beatles famously acknowledged their mutual inspiration. The Beatles Album Rubber Soul (1965) inspired Brian Wilson to create the acclaimed Pet Sounds album (1966) which in turn inspired Lennon and McCartney. Back in the USSR (1968) in particular is reminiscent of California Girls.
Buddy Holly and The Crickets
Buddy Holly’s untimely death in a plane crash in 1959 brought to an end a career that saw him become one of the most famous rock and roll artists of the 50s. However, his music style was woven into The Beatles fabric at an early stage. 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."
The Everly Brothers
The harmonies of 60s singing sensations The Everly Brothers were such an inspiration that they were positively poached by the Fab Four in songs like Love Me Do and Please Please Me. To give The Beatles their due, the song Two of Us, on the album Let It Be, has McCartney acknowledging the Everlys when he says "Take it Phil."
Another instance of musicians influencing each other can be found in the relationship between George Harrison and The Byrds’ guitarist, Roger McGuinn. When Harrison appeared playing a 12 string guitar in the movie A Hard Day’s Night, McGuinn was inspired to follow suit. It wasn't long before the two guitarists became friends. Harrison was so impressed by a riff McGuinn had played in his song The Bells Of Rhymney, that Harrison admitted to Rolling Stone magazine that he used it himself in Rubber Soul’s If I Needed Someone.
The Influence of The Byrds was not limited to their own music. The Byrds used the same studio as Indian musician, Ravi Shankar, and this led to them using elements of his style in their songs. It wasn’t long before they introduced Harrison to the sitar and he broke new musical ground in the west by using it in the recording of Norwegian Wood. In 1966, Harrison spent six weeks in India studying the sitar under Shankar’s tuition and this influenced such memorable songs as Love You To and Within You, Without You.
Goffin and King
Not a band as such, Goffin and King were a husband and wife musical partnership. Gerry Goffin was the songwriter whilst his better known wife, Carol King, was the singer. When John Lennon and Paul McCartney first began composing together their ambition was to be "the next Goffin and King." The Beatles' genius was to take Goffin’s sophisticated arrangements and marry them to the rhythms and structure of early rock and roll.