what is this, you ask? Okay, here's my premise, briefly stated: For every
song the Beatles ever did, it's possible to find a 'rewrite' done by someone
else. Not meaning a cover of a Beatles song, (for that, see Jim Phelan's
terrific "Exotic Beatles" collections, at www.exoticarecords.co.uk)
but an original -- one that, to one degree or another is a "copy" of
a Beatles song. You know, the same way that "My Sweet Lord" was
a copy of "He's So Fine." According to Phil Spector, anyway. (Well,
him and the judge.)
So this is not really the same as groups who do "Beatlemania" type acts, or who generally imitate the Beatles stylistically. We will discuss many of the acts you'd expect, like the Rutles and Utopia and -- if absolutely necessary -- the Knack, but the emphasis here will be on the songs, and on trying to find 'matches' for specific Beatles songs.
And at this website we will attempt to recreate the Beatles' entire catalog with songs done by other people. Now, as of this writing, that lofty goal has not yet been completely met, but since your author hasn't yet heard every record ever recorded (never did pick up that collection that Robert Klein used to joke about), and since there are new Beatles-influenced songs being created all the time, this will always be something of a work in progress. Someday, perhaps, the list will be complete. Even now, though, we do have matches for about 90%, and when you think about it, for what other artist could you do that? There have been lots of people who copied Elvis, or the Rolling Stones, or Dylan, or the Kinks, or even Frank Sinatra or Bing Crosby -- and it's fun to make collections of those imitators, too -- but could you imagine trying to duplicate their entire catalogs, song-for-song? Not a chance. Which is probably a testament to the Beatles' songwriting talents, even ignoring everything else they brought to the party. Anyway, what we wind up with here is a kind of 'Bizarro World' version of the Beatles' catalog.
So what's my criteria? Well, this site reflects one man's opinion, and is therefore inherently subjective to some degree -- you may disagree with some of the choices here. (Heck, you may disagree with all of 'em. That's fine. Build your own website.) Some examples are so obvious that there's no argument. With others the resemblance may not be as clear, but a little scrutiny (and analysis of the song's or artist's history) can reveal roots in Beatledom. There are some instances where I might seem to be trying fit what are, if not square, then perhaps "oblong" pegs into round holes, but I'll at least try to have valid reasons to discuss them. And there are some parameters that I want the songs to meet:
First and best is a similarity in the melody, and not merely in style, although many of these songs will have both. In some cases the melodic resemblance may not be so apparent, but there will be something else in the chords or arrangement that is on target. For example, a plodding, piano-based ballad with a repetitive 3 chord ending and big football-chant vocals and a mile-long fadeout, is almost certainly a "Hey Jude." (Find me one that came out before 1968 and I'll stand corrected.)
Second, and perhaps more importantly, a song's potential lineage to a particular Beatles song has to be plausible -- i.e. it has to have been created at a later date. For example, the Kinks' "Fancy" might be seem to have been a rewrite of "Love You To," but when you look it up you find that "Fancy" was recorded in May of 1966, whereas "Revolver" didn't come out until August. On the other hand, "Love You To" was actually recorded in April, so maybe Ray got to hear an advance copy and ran off and wrote his song. Or George might have based his on hearing an early version of Ray's. I dunno. Perhaps I can find a better example anyway. You see how it goes.
Knowing something about the artist can make a difference, too. Jeff Lynne, Emitt Rhodes and Badfinger are pretty obvious Beatles imitators -- leave alone for the moment comedic and/or tribute acts like the Rutles -- but all songwriters have their influences. (As Nick Lowe said, "They don't call me 'Nick' for nothing!") Some are just more obvious about it than others. I'm coming at this from the point of view of being a songwriter myself, and I know how I get influenced by others ("ripoff" is such an ugly word); sometimes it's subconscious, sometimes it's deliberate. And the same applies to the songs by the groups here. (The Beatles themselves did it all the time.) So knowing a little about a group's time and place and sensibility can help lead to an educated guess or two about the genesis of their songs. Take the Sir Douglas Quintet, the Texas band with the English name. You read in the Nuggets liner notes that their producer wanted to replicate that magic British Invasion sound, and then you see that "She's About a Mover" came out 4 months after "She's a Woman," then you listen to the two songs and compare them...well, of course. (Then there's the Knack...)
Other clues include the authorship of the song -- professional songwriters are generally more skilled at disguising their influences, but the Beatles inspired a whole generation of a young, DIY songwriters, who would be more apt to show their influences. So songs written by the performers, and/or from early on in a band's career are likely candidates, particularly from bands like Herman's Hermits, who didn't get to do a lot of their own songwriting.
For the most part, you'll find the groups you might expect to find here, like the the Rutles, Badfinger, the Raspberries, the Easybeats, the Bee Gees, the Merry Go Round, ELO, etc., but also some people you might not expect, like the aforementioned Kinks and Sir Douglas Quintet, Bob Dylan, the Jam, the Rascals, the Four Seasons, REM, the Shadows, Creedence Clearwater Revival (well, Golliwogs), Steely Dan, Chicago, Joe South and Matt Monro, as well as some people I'm sure you've never heard of (people who fall into that "Every Record Ever Recorded" category.)
After all, the Beatles were the most popular band in their generation -- and beyond -- so if there was any one artist that musicians wanted to be like, it was them. As Stephen Stills said, in describing an early, pre-Springfield encounter with Neil Young, "Neil wanted to go to New York and be Dylan. I wanted to go to L.A. and be the Beatles." And that's it. (And thence the source of our title, by the way.) Everybody wanted to be the Beatles (many of us still do) and it's easy to hear that desire coming through in people's music. It also makes for an interesting "mirror image" of the Beatles' catalog; first the music went out from the Beatles to the entire world, and here it is being reflected back by the entire world to the Beatles.
The songs and the site are organized according to the original Beatles (U.K.) albums, with the intermediate singles tacked onto the end of each. The "Yellow Submarine" page will collect the 4 original songs from that album, plus all the singles from that period. (I am not going to try to find matches for the George Martin soundtrack songs.) So this puts them into convenient album-sized collections.
There are also a few downloads, but only if copyright doesn't appear to be an issue. Sorry. You'll have to do your own music collecting -- but I will try to point you in the right direction with appropriate links, etc.
Feel free to write to us at email@example.com.
Coypright Bruce Gordon, July 2002