Elvis Costello gave a rock ‘n’ roll history lesson about The Beatles’ influence. On the same wavelength, the BBC had a lot to say about The Beatles’ importance.
The Beatles are undoubtedly the most acclaimed rock band ever and yet it’s easy to miss the scope of their influence. Elvis Costello gave everyone a rock ‘n’ roll history lesson when he decided to break down how The Beatles inspired artists as varied as Nirvana, Prince, and Green Day. On the same wavelength, Paul McCartney had a lot to say about The Beatles’ importance.
Elvis Costello said The Beatles’ influence paved the way for Outkast and Green Day
In a 2020 piece he wrote for Rolling Stone, Costello ruminated on the Fab Four’s impact. “The word ‘Beatlesque’ has been in the dictionary for quite a while now,” he said. “You hear them in Harry Nilsson’s melodies; in Prince’s Around the World in a Day; in the hits of ELO and Crowded House and in Ron Sexsmith’s ballads. You can hear that Kurt Cobain listened to The Beatles and mixed their ideas with punk and metal.
“They can be heard in all sorts of one-off wonders from The Knickerbockers’ ‘Lies’ and The Flamin’ Groovies’ ‘Shake Some Action,’” he continued. “The scope and license of The White Album has permitted everyone from Outkast to Radiohead to Green Day to Joanna Newsom to roll their picture out on a broader, bolder canvas.”
Costello also said The Beatles inspired his music. “Now, I’ll admit that I’ve stolen my share of Beatles licks, but around the turn of the ’90s, I got to co-write 12 songs with Paul McCartney and even dared to propose that he too reference some of The Beatles’ harmonic signatures,” he wrote.
The Fab Four changed the world in ways Elvis Costello didn’t mention
According to a 2001 article from BBC News, historians and sociologists dispute how much The Beatles changed the world socially. Despite this, everyone agrees that they changed the face of music. For starters, the band crafted a British style of rock, which was originally an American art form. They created the expectation that artists should write their own music instead of relying on Tin Pan Alley songwriters.
They also added a new eclecticism to popular music, as they drew from so many styles. The White Album alone runs the gamut between folk ballads, lo-fi music, ska, vaudeville, musique concrète, and a Western parody about a Davy Crockett type. The article also credits The Beatles with popularizing the use of the music studio as an instrument. While the band normalized making studio recordings that couldn’t be recreated live, The Beach Boys helped innovate that approach as well.
Are The Beatles influential to modern popular musicians?
The real question now is whether The Beatles’ influence can still be felt today. The most recent artists Costello discussed in his article peaked in the 2000s. It’s difficult to see how current stars like Dua Lipa, Doja Cat, and Olivia Rodrigo owe much to the Fab Four. Of course, trends ebb and flow, so the pop charts could be inundated with Beatles wannabes any day now.
Costello did a good job cataloging a few decades of The Beatles’ influence. Who knows what the future holds?
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