I went to a Paul McCartney concert a few years ago where he told the audience a great story about Jimi Hendrix. There was mutual admiration between the Beatles and Hendrix and they often saw each other play live.
One day Paul and the rest of the band, went to a Jimi Hendrix concert in London shortly after the release of their Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band album and they were greeted with a wonderful surprise.
As Paul told us “The album came out on a Friday and we went to see Jimi play the following Sunday and he had already memorized the entire album, and he played it at that show…it was amazing!”
After I heard this story it occurred to me that I never thought of Jimi Hendrix as being a fan of the Beatles. I know they were both rock stars in the 60s but for some reason I always assumed Hendrix would be a fan of other musicians (like the Rolling Stones) more than the Beatles.
I was also amazed that a musician on the level of Hendrix would forego doing a set of his own music to do a cover set list of a contemporary artist. Something like that would be unheard of today.
Then again, that was the power of the Beatles.
Always popular, but not always cool
I’ll admit, growing up it was always easy being a fan of the Beatles. By the time I was in high school most of their catalogue was nearly 30 years old. So while friends and classmates were listening to the (mostly terrible) music of the 90s here I was listening to “grandpa music”.
My friends would argue and try to convince me that I was listening to dated music and “the Beatles sucked”. My response is that there are two ways of knowing when music is good:
First of all, does it stand the test of time? The Beatles certainly did because we’ve been listening to them for over 50 years now (as an aside none of my friends still listen to the music they did in high school…so I think I won this round).
Secondly, are they respected by their peers? Well, as we can see from the Jimi Hendrix story that Paul told us, the Beatles were most definitely respected by their peers.
Covers are the sincerest form of flattery
I thought about all of this recently when there was a thread on Reddit that listed the number of covers for each Beatles song. It’s almost jarring to see how many covers each song has, and the total overall number of covers.
Even as a huge fan, I find this impressive. While I’ve always known that “Yesterday” was the most covered song of all time, I couldn’t believe how many other songs have 10+ cover versions (and seriously, who’s doing a cover of “Revolution 9?”).
It just further solidifies the second point I always used to make about the amount of respect the Beatles had in the music industry. It’s also telling that the trend of covering songs from them hasn’t slowed down, with many coming over the last few years.
Even though music continually evolves, with new acts coming and going, the influence of the Beatles is unparalleled. Love them or not, it’s impossible to deny how influential they’ve been in the music industry.
People tend to dismiss the Beatles for a variety of reasons but they don’t realize how much the music they like have roots from them.
One of my friends found out the hard way just how influential the Beatles really were.
A few years after we would have our music discussions he was listening to a “new” song from one of his favorite bands. He was telling me how it’s quickly becoming one of his favorite songs from the band.
As the song was playing I started singing along to the lyrics. He was shocked. How is it that I knew this “new” song so well, he asked me?
I laughed and told him it was a Beatles song. He was listening to Pearl Jam’s cover of “You’ve Got to Hide your Love Away.” He didn’t even realize he was liking a Beatles song!
He underestimated the Beatles and their music but this cover song opened his eyes to how great the Beatles really were. It also helped that one of his music heroes respected the Beatles enough to do a cover of their song.
It goes without saying that this friend is now a fan of the Beatles.