Influencing The Beatles
John, Paul, George, and Ringo are four of the most recognizable names in the music world. These four musician masterminds came together to create some of the most well-known, and classic songs that are still praised today. Some of today’s biggest musicians cite The Beatles as being one of their biggest influences. It is difficult to fathom that The Beatles were once the starving artists waiting for their big break while admiring other artist and styles. Three great influences that shaped The Beatles’ music include Buddy Holly, Little Richard, and The one and only King, Elvis Presley. While all three of these musicians impacted The Beatles strongly, Elvis’ style, sound, and all around charisma left a lasting impression on all four of the young, eager members. These iconic artists excited the band, and influenced their music career, which in turn shaped the lives of so many other musical artists.
Buddy Holly had a major impact on The Beatles, right down to the naming of the band. Holly’s band was The Crickets, and the Beatles thought naming a band after an insect was quite smart. Paul McCartney noted that Buddy Holly’s group was unfamiliar with the actual cricket game (Krerowicz, par.1). However, The Beatles were appreciative of the double meaning in the name, and wanted that for themselves. Lennon even reiterated that he wanted a double meaning of their band name, and he liked the idea of using bugs. After playing around with the word cricket and other insects, he came up with beetles. Lennon recalls, “When you said it, people thought of crawly things; and when you read it, it was beat music” (Krerowicz, par. 1). Both Lennon and McCartney were drawn to Buddy Holly and The Cricket’s name, charisma, and infectious sound. Holly was the one that influenced the duo to actually write and perform their own songs in the band (Krerowicz, par. 2). Early on the band performed both covers and originals, but as their popularity grew, they performed originals for the majority. The Beatles played tribute to Holly and The Crickets: “they played a total of at least 13 Buddy Holly songs in live shows” (Krerowicz, par. 2). Buddy Holly played the guitar and performed on stage together, which was not popular during that time for performers to do both on stage (Krerowicz, par. 2). The Beatles aspired to sing and play their instruments on the stage, like Buddy Holly, to capture their audience and show off their talent.
Little Richard was another influence in The Beatles’ musical career. According to Lennon, he was one of the all time greatest musicians (DiCesare, par. 1). McCartney was infatuated with Little Richard’s vocal range, and even tried to impersonate his style during his performances (Krerowicz, par.2). As recalled in the Krerowicz journal, when Paul McCartney auditioned for The Quarrymen he did his Little Richard style vocals, which Lennon was majorly impressed (par. 3). The band even performed various Little Richard tunes on the radio and at concerts. Little Richard’s style can be identified in some of The Beatles’ classic songs, such as McCartney’s ‘woooo’ in “I Saw Her Standing There” (DiCesare, par.2). According to DiCesare, “not many people could wail like Richard…[but with] Paul’s screaming lead vocals, they nailed hits like “Good Golly Miss Molly,” “Tutti-Frutti” and “Lucille”” (par. 5). Little Richard’s influence is definitely noticeable with all The Beatles’ “falsetto ‘wooos’” in their songs (Krerowicz, par. 11). Even though the Little Richard influence greatly affected McCartney, Lennon also interpreted Richard’s style in his 1975 solo album Rock 'n' Roll (Krerowicz, par. 13). Little Richard even went on tour with the group as an opener in Europe of 1964. The flamboyant performer was a huge fan of The Beatles, and most notably said, “I’ve never heard that sound from English musicians before. Honestly, if I hadn’t seen them with my own eyes I’d have thought they were a colored group from back home” (Luling, par. 19). Little Richard’s eclectic style and sound turned out to be an outstanding influence on the band’s sound, especially on Paul McCartney.
While Buddy Holly and Little Richard impacted The Beatles’ career early on, Elvis Presley served as the greatest inspiration to the group from the very beginning in their teenage years. According to John Lennon, “Nothing affected me until I heard Elvis. Without Elvis, there would be no Beatles.” (Elvis Presley Influences, par.5) This was a huge claim spoken by the band’s leader. When talking about Elvis’ Heartbreak Hotel song, Paul recounts, “Elvis looked so great: 'That's him, that's him - the Messiah has arrived!' Then when we heard the song, there was the proof” (Krerowicz, par.1). Elvis Presley “took the musical styles of gospel, rhythm and blues, and country and western and combined them all” to make rock and roll (Kaos, par.1). Presley exuded confidence, sex, and style, which infatuated the up and coming members of the Beatles. With the infamous hair and hips, Elvis was The King of Rock and Roll, and The Beatles dreamed for the fame and fortune. John Lennon was influenced the most by Mr. Presley. Lennon was connected with Elvis on a more personal level: they were both lonely. In Elvis’ classics revolving around his baby leaving him, John felt a connection in Liverpool with the loneliness that Elvis must have been feeling performing his music (Buskin, par. 5). In his teenage years,
John even trashed his old look and mimicked Elvis’s sideburns, hair, and tight pants. (Buskin, par. 9). As Buskin writes, while John Lennon was a difficult child to raise, once Elvis came into his life, his guardian had a lot on her hands. Lennon wanted to be King, just like Elvis, and he was not going to stop until he reached his level. (Buskin). His first love was Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel.” This tune “opened his eyes to the true power of rock and roll” (Kaos, par. 3). Lennon recalls being sixteen years old, mesmerized by Elvis’ voice and the guitar sound. He would stare out the window, dreaming that one day he would be the next Elvis Presley (Kaos, par. 3). It was ultimately Elvis Presley and his music that encouraged John Lennon to form The Quarrymen and continue his musical career (Yannicos, par. 7). However, while the Quarrymen donned their leather jackets and tough guy look, manager Brian Epstein wanted nothing to do with that look once he signed the four bandmembers. Epstein transformed The Beatles out of their leather look into a more trendy, British rock and roll style (Thompson, par. 3).
The Beatles’ album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club, is majorly influenced by Elvis Presley. McCartney recounts that they all got ideas about the album from Elvis and his Cadillac (Kaos, par. 4). The Beatles modeled this album and release it the same way Elvis Presley did at this time. They released the album, and did not tour; they decided, “the record itself would go on tour for us” (Kaos, par.4). The Beatles played tribute to The King by playing a total of thirty-one songs during their live shows (Krerowicz, par.2). This amount alone proves how much the four Englishmen admired Elvis and his talents. Even after The Beatles separated, three out of the four of the members covered Elvis’ songs (Krerowicz, par. 18). While Presley’s career is separated into two parts, pre and post army, the band members looked up to him more in his pre army days when he “was young and gorgeous and had a twinkle in his eye,” as stated by Paul (Krerowicz, par. 23). Post-war Elvis returned with a different vibe than what The Beatles fell in awe of.
McCartney recounts him coming back too “tamed” from the war with “the light gone out of his eyes” (Krerowicz, par. 23). The Beatles fell in love with the original Elvis; someone who created this monstrous rock and roll genre, who captivated his crowd of screaming females, and who was this larger than life star. Elvis was the type of musical act that The Beatles wanted to emulate, and eventually exceeded his stardom (Yannicos, par. 10). Lennon stated, “Before Elvis, there was nothing” (Kaos, par. 3).
The Beatles are continuously viewed as an iconic musical ensemble to this day. The band members had many influences that assisted into their climb to stardom. The three that stand out the most are Buddy Holly, Little Richard, and Elvis Presley. Each of these musicians shaped the band’s musical styles in their own, unique way. Buddy Holly and The Crickets influenced the band’s name choice, as well as encouraging the band’s choice when writing and performing their own music. Little Richard’s notable screams and diverse sound played a huge influence to Paul McCartney. However, the most prominent influence for The Beatles was Elvis Presley. Elvis’ fame and persona captivated the Englishmen, and tremendously influenced their style. They played tribute to numerous Elvis songs in concert by covering them. Lennon especially was drawn towards Elvis’ style, and dropped his boyish look for the Presley hairstyle and maturity to go along with it. Elvis also greatly impacted their desire to become a worldwide phenomena. The band members diligently worked to create music that was meaningful to their own lives, and sing it with all the passion they had inside of them. All three of these artists influenced The Beatles to create a recognizable sound for generations to come.
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- Quote paper
- Phyllis Economy (Author), 2016, Influencing the Beatles. How Buddy Holly, Little Richard, and Elvis Presley Impacted the Iconic Band, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/367242