Ha!!! Yet another essay about the Fab Four! Well, since there has been a mini-revival of the Beatles once again with the best-selling 1 compilation, I thought it timely to consider the concept of the Beatles as a genre. 30 years on from the final proper Beatles album - Let It Be - bands have built songs around sounds, arrangements, instrumentation (even entire tunes - heh!) and most crucially, the inspiration of the work of John, Paul, George and Ringo.

The word commonly used by critics is "Beatlesque," let’s see what it entails.

Intros and outros  

Rather popular is the misleading introduction whereby the unwary listener is tricked into assuming he or she is familiar with what comes next… For example, Seattle's finest, the Screaming Trees used the memorable keyboard opening to I Am the Walrus for All I Know off the solid album, Dust. A similar instance can be found on Brad Jones' excellent solo album where the clipped staccato guitar at the beginning of Blunderpuss is a clear reference to Getting Better. The reverse of this ploy would be tacking on an the end of a song an oh so recognizable Beatles outro. Cases in point: Is that Elvis Costello or You Never Give Me Your Money on Party Girl? And doesn't that closing echoing piano chord on Leave the Biker (off Fountains of Wayne eponymous debut) remind you of A Day In A Life? No?  

Guitar solos

Nothing defines a Beatle song as much as a George Harrison guitar solo. Think of such classic moments as those ethereal lines in Nowhere Man or that shimmering break in Old Brown Shoe or the fuzzy serpentine licks on Good Morning Good Morning or the reverential hooks on Let It Be (album version) - you get the idea. I now give you the good and the bad side of this phenomenon of utilizing a guitar solo in the George Harrison style. Positively speaking, it was used to great effect on Billy Joel's ode to his mother, Laura (off Nylon Curtain) whereby the solo topped off a superb Lennonesque vocal by Joel. On the downside, Oasis's Noel Gallagher has made a mini-career of being a Beatle copyist. On Don’t Look Back In Anger, the song started with the piano chords to Lennon's Imagine and featured an unimaginative faux Harrison solo. Brrrrr…

Entire riffs, etc   

A Day In The Life is probably my all-time favourite Beatles track. It features John and Paul singing different parts and includes an instrumental break unlike any others. Why then would British band Embrace seek to replicate that unique moment on their song, All You Good Good People? Ignorance? Arrogance? Who knows? Bad enough that the tune sounds too close to Badfinger's Day After Day for comfort! Electric Light Orchestra was formed by Roy Wood and Jeff Lynne to perform psychedelic Beatles masterpieces like Strawberry Fields Forever ’live.' No surprise that after Wood left, Lynne would bring the Beatles influence to its logical conclusion. But it was never as blatant as on Mr. Blue Sky where both Ringo's drum patterns and Paul's middle section backing (y'know "Woke up/Fell out of bed…") were 'borrowed' to maximum effect. Similar flattery (imitation being its sincerest form) has been bestowed on George's Taxman where both The Jam (Start!) and Mansun (Taxloss) have pillaged heavily from the pivotal riff off Revolver.  

Don't get me wrong, my intention is not to denigrate any of the artists raised in the above examples, rather I hope this will highlight the obvious debts that many artists still owe to the Beatles. More than merely reproducing specific familiar moments (which in most cases were conceived with artistic intent), many great modern-day artists have been inspired by the Beatles to write wonderful songs using the Beatles reference as a starting point. From Nirvana's About A Boy to Myracle Brah's Loli Laletta, from Redd Kross' Mess Around to XTC's Earn Enough For Us, from Blur's Beetlebum to Supergrass' Alright, the list is endless… 

Here's hoping we are treated to many more in 2001 and beyond.