6. Michelle Phillips, the Mamas and the Papas
By 1965, the Mamas and the Papas – vocalists Cass Elliot, Denny Doherty and John and Michelle Phillips – had performed in folk music groups with little success and were ready for a change. “We were trying to get out of folk music and into whatever this was that was coming out of Britain. I don’t think we even called it the British Invasion at that point,” Michelle Phillips told Retrosellers.
“The first night we ever took acid we heard our first Beatles album. It was such an eye opener. We wanted to do commercial music but we just didn’t know exactly what it was. And it wasn’t folk anymore.
“We knew we had to get out of folk music as it was dying a quick death but when we listened to that Beatles album, and it wasn’t the first Beatles album – I don’t know where we were when the first Beatles album came out. It was the second Beatles album and our jaws just dropped and I remember Denny was the one who said, ‘Now, we wanna be doing more stuff like this.’”
I Call Your Name by the Mamas and the Papas:
5. Gene Simmons, KISS
For Gene Simmons, lead singer and bassist of heavy metal’s KISS, Liverpool had always been a place he’d wanted to play. “I’ve been fascinated by the place ever since I heard the Beatles,” Simmons told the Liverpool Echo when he arrived in 2010. “There is no way I’d be doing what I do now if it wasn’t for the Beatles. I was watching The Ed Sullivan Show and I saw them. Those skinny little boys, kind of androgynous, with long hair like girls. It blew me away that these four boys in the middle of nowhere could make that music. Then they spoke and I thought, ‘What are they talking like?’ We had never heard the Liverpool accent before.
“I thought that all British people spoke like the Queen. The only time you heard a British accent was when they played the Nazi in war films.
“Overnight I became an Anglophile,” Simmons continued. “I read up on the Beatles, who they were, where they were from. I learnt about Liverpool, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, Ringo’s band, and the Quarrymen and all that. I read up on everything they did in the news. I followed their failures and their successes. The Beatles were a band, of course, and I loved their music. But they were also a cultural force that made it OK to be different.”
4. Maurice and Robin Gibb, the Bee Gees
Barry, Maurice and Robin Gibb formed the Bee Gees in 1958 and have sold more than 200 million records in a career that spanned four decades. The brothers told CNN that the music industry was a far different place before the Beatles showed that singers could write their own songs. “In those days, I used to think like Sinatra and Elvis and all of them used to write their own songs and do their own thing,” said Maurice. “You never knew what label the pop people were on. You never knew who produced them. You never knew the names of the people in the band.”
“They were a great influence to us because they were songwriters, they broke a lot of rules and they created an artistic credibility in the pop music business, which was never there before,” added Robin. “The Beatles broke those walls down and started selling a lot of albums, which pop artists didn’t do before them… When the Beatles came on they changed all that. And pop music started.”
3. Joni Mitchell
Early in her career, singer Joni Mitchell was best known as the writer of Chelsea Morning, The Circle Game and Both Sides, Now – all hits for other folk artists. Mitchell told Rosie O’Donnell that after playing a song for John Lennon at a recording studio, the Beatle was puzzled. “You want a hit, don’t you?” Lennon asked. “Why do you always let other people have your hits for you?”
Like Brian Wilson, Mitchell was influenced by the Beatles’ 1965 masterpiece, Rubber Soul. That year the Canadian folk singer had moved to the United States, where her music evolved to include rock ‘n’ roll and jazz elements. “Rubber Soul was the Beatle album I played over and over,” Mitchell related in Lava. “I think they were discovering Dylan, and the songs often had an acoustic feel. I used to sing [Norwegian Wood] in my coffeehouse days in Detroit before I started writing for myself.
“The whole scenario has this whimsical, charmingly wry quality with a bit of a dark undertone. I’d sing it to put some levity in my set. I got a kick out of throwing it in there amongst all these tragic English folk ballads.”
Norwegian Wood by the Beatles:
Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell:
2. Roger McGuinn, the Byrds
When the Byrds topped the charts in the midst of the British Invasion with 1965’s Mr. Tambourine Man, the media dubbed them “The American Beatles.” The jingle-jangle of Roger McGuinn’s 12-string Rickenbacker guitar and the voices of McGuinn, David Crosby, Gene Clark and Chris Hillman defined the band’s sound. “Early on the Byrds went to see A Hard Day’s Night, a kind of reconnaissance trip,” McGuinn recalled in Modern Guitars. “And we took notes on what the Beatles were playing and bought instruments like they had. We got a Gretsch Country Gentleman and the Rick.
“I got really jazzed by the Beatles. I loved what they were doing… I imagined that they were more folk-oriented than they really were. I thought they were probably more a folk band that could play bluegrass banjo and mandolin, but they chose to do pop music because it was more commercial. Turned out not to be the case. But in my imagination this whole thing developed and I started mixing up old folk songs with the Beatles beat and taking them down to Greenwich Village and playing them for the people there. To the point where a guy put out a sign outside that said, ‘Beatle Imitations.’ I was kind of put off by that.”
Anna by Roger McGuinn:
1. Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen was thrilled when Paul McCartney asked him to join the band at the 2012 Grammy Awards for a performance of the Abbey Road closing medley. “I’ve been waiting since 1964 for you to ask!” Springsteen told McCartney. In a documentary produced by the Grammys, Springsteen said, “There’s a basic realization that you simply would not be here, the way you are here, without this specific person. Who actually is a person!”
At an emotional Philadelphia concert in 1980 shortly after the murder of John Lennon, the Boss shared with the audience how important the Beatles were to him. “It’s a hard night to come out and play tonight when so much has been lost. The first record that I ever learned was a record called Twist and Shout. It was a Beatles record. If it wasn’t for John Lennon, we’d all be some place very different tonight. It’s an unreasonable world and you get asked to live with a lot of things that are just unlivable. It’s a hard night to come out and play but there’s just nothing else you can do.”
Of course, this list merely scratches the surface. Countless musicians, artists, songwriters and the like can call the Beatles a driving influence in their careers…if you think of any we left out, please let us know in the comment section below!
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