Like any famous musical act, the Beatles have often been imitated. Whether done out of opportunism, admiration, or parody (or a combination thereof), the imitations help us recognize the unique elements of the original – the qualities which, when demonstrated by other acts, are instantly found to be “Beatlesque.” Two- or three-part vocal harmonies, chiming guitars, emphatic drums, and jangly minor chords were integral to the Beatles’ identity from 1962 to 1965 and were adapted by many of their rivals and followers of the same era, including the Byrds, the Hollies, the Searchers, and even the Rolling Stones (“Tell Me”) and the Who (“The Kids Are Alright”).
Later groups distilled those devices further down into more obvious tributes, somewhere between pastiche and plagiarism, occasionally even adding historical touches like sounds of screaming girls to augment the homage. It’s noteworthy that what gets copied now is more the sonic signature than any particular lyric or melody: when we listen to pop music we aren’t just hearing music but the aural texture of the recordings themselves, just as a movie from 1960 looks different than a movie from 2010, regardless of the dramatic content. Again, the effect is to make us reevaluate the formula as it was first employed, crediting the designers of the prototype while still appreciating those who elaborated or even improved on it. Give an ear to these songs and consider how the musical language of the Beatles isn’t exclusive to the Beatles themselves.
An early example of the form, from 1965 (ignore the cheesy lip-sync):
From the classic 1978 Rutles mockumentary, using songs by Neil Innes and featuring Monty Python’s Eric Idle as Dirk McQuickly:
I’ve said it before: these guys were the Beatles of a parallel universe (resemblance to “All I’ve Got To Do” is no accident):
A mind-blowingly close approximation from Todd Rundgren and his Utopia, right down to the Rickenbacker and the Hofner:
This is actually a Lennon-McCartney original but never performed by the Beatles – here’s an Aussie group, the Beatnix, doing it justice:
And one more from the Rutles – funny, but still great: