10 Modern Bands Defined By Single Beatles Songs
Say what you will about the roots of rock ‘n’ roll — chances are whatever you’re rocking on your Beats by Dre headphones derives from the Beatles. Everything John, Paul, George and Ringo did was new — and many have imitated them, with varying degrees of success. In this list, however, we’re not simply calling out imitators. We’re digging deeper and highlighting 10 Modern Bands Defined by Single Beatles Songs. These groups, you might say, owe their sounds and styles to individual Fab Four tracks. Maybe they should throw Sir Paul a few bucks?
‘Day Tripper’ is a playful Beatles track framed by a killer lead riff. What’s more, it tells a quirky story of fleeting love and a “big teaser” of a girl who gets the most of the men she romances. When we hear this song, we immediately think of the retro-pop of the first two Shins albums, ‘Oh, Inverted World’ and ‘Chutes Too Narrow.’ This would be a great song for the Shins to cover.
Every couple of years, fans make it cool again to be an acoustic dude with a really high voice. First, it was Chris Martin of Coldplay, then it was Justin Vernon of Bon Iver. Paul McCartney’s ‘I’m Looking Through You’ sets the template. It’s an extremely catchy acoustic ballad that shows off his ability to stretch his vocal chords beyond their normal range. From here, it’s no great leap to ‘For Emma, Forever Ago,’ which started it all off for Bon Iver.
We’re always shocked at how seamlessly the Beatles were able to switch styles. They could rock really hard, do bubblegum pop and then pump out something light and foreign-sounding like 1964’s ‘And I Love Her,’ which is one of their better early acoustic numbers. The Flamenco-style lead guitar and sparse percussion strikes us as a template for Jose Gonzalez’s solo stuff — or at least something that paved the way for his style of indie folk. Gonzalez often gets compared to Nick Drake, but this predates the acoustic troubadour by some five years.
Belle and Sebastian
File ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,’ from 1969’s ‘Abbey Road,’ under “pre-twee.” We always think of this as the original twee rock song — more so than ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’ or ‘Rocky Racoon.’ The story-song is about a kid who runs around banging people over the head with a silver hammer — one that gets its own sound effect, no less! Scotland’s Belle and Sebastian have become kings of this type of song in recent years. For proof, check out ‘Dear, Catastrophe Waitress’ and ‘The Stars of Track and Field.’
Echo & The Bunnymen
From ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,’ ‘Fixing a Hole’ is one of those odd little numbers that’s nestled among better-known songs. It strikes us as a tune you might find on the Kinks’ ‘The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society’ (1968) or ‘Face to Face’ (1966), with a real Brit-tastically formal sort of melody and lyrics that smack of someone who is a deep thinker (or possible LSD taker). This pretty much sums up Echo & the Bunnymen for us, and you can imagine Ian McCulloch and the boys discovering this track and glimpsing their futures.
If you’re not a fan of Gomez, the Mercury Award-winning English (plus one Yank) outfit, we’d suggest grabbing their debut, ‘Bring It On,’ sparking up a “friendly” cigarette, shall we say, and tuning out for a few hours. You will not be let down. ‘Getting Better’ is the up-tempo Lennon-y number on ‘Sgt. Pepper’s,’ which gets a little serious when John starts singing about beating his woman and holding her back from enjoying life. It’s just weird enough to be seem like a precursor to Gomez. The band has actually covered the song, and oddly enough, the amazing rendition landed in an American light-bulb ad.
Elliott Smith, who really hit his stride with latter-day albums ‘Either/Or,’ ‘XO,’ and ‘Figure 8,’ undeniably channeled the Beatles in his mellifluous chord changes, doubled lead vocals and unforgettable melodies. We’d say he was more of a McCartney than a Lennon guy, and you can hear Smith echoing ‘For No One,’ Macca’s epically downhearted number, at many a turn. Smith, of course, is no longer with us, but Fortunately, there are some great recordings of him covering the tune.
Queens of the Stone Age
Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age is one of those national treasures more people need to be aware of. Plus, he’s friends with guys like Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl, his bandmate in the side project Them Crooked Vultures. QOTSA defy simple explanation, but if we were to assign them one defining Fab Four jam, it would be ‘Helter Skelter,’ the early “metal” song that finds Paul McCartney going from zero to bat-s— insane in a matter seconds. The machine-gun guitar and bass line remind us a lot of QOTSA.
Everyone gave Oasis a grief in the 1990s for ripping off the Beatles — and the band never really tried to refute the charges. Instead, they openly mocked the fact. But we’d argue that cribbing from Liverpool’s finest sons is no crime, as sounding like the Beatles is the dictionary definition of sounding great. As for what Beatles tunes define Oasis’ sound, ‘Rain’ (a 1966 B-side to single ‘Paperback Writer’) and the 1967 ‘Revolver’ cut ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ are good candidates. You can hear songwriter Noel Gallagher in both of those songs, and on his own ‘Morning Glory,’ he even name-checks ‘Tomorrow’ as his “favorite tune.”
‘Hey Bulldog’ is actually a really good song that’s buried on one of the Beatles’ most average albums, the soundtrack for 1968’s bizarro psychedelia cartoon movie ‘Yellow Submarine.’ We’d even go out on a limb and say that its intro riff is one of the band’s best. And the incredibly odd, free-associated-sounding lyrics make us think of Beck’s ‘Mellow Gold’ and ‘Odelay,’ albums that brought him into the public eye and made him a huge alternative rock success.