The Beatles, a English rock band from Liverpool in 1960, came to America in 1963 and changed rock n’ roll as the music world had known it. At least that is what the consensus. The members, John Lennon (1940-1980), Paul McCartney (born 1942), George Harrison (1943-2001) and Ringo Starr (born 1940) are considered rock geniuses who influenced many bands who have come out generations after them. They are the best-selling band in history with estimates range from one billion discs and tapes (1982) to 600 million records, CDs, and tapes in 2004. Despite their influence, despite their sales and their records, could they be overrated? It was a question that came up in the conversation. So I searched on the internet and found many, many debates on this very question.
On Debate.org, 72% of respondents said yes, the Beatles are overrated. One user commented “It’s just ridiculous how much they’ve been worshipped in the last 50 years like none of the bands that came after them even mattered.” Many commenters called The Beatles the boy band of the 60s, putting them with boy bands like New Kids on the Block, NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys. One website I found called The Beatles a media creation of Brian Epstein. Beatlemania was a heavily produced marketing ploy by Epstein and the bosses at Vee-Jay Records. Another commented that how they are overrated since no member was the greatest at what he did. I was curious about this claim, so I searched. According to a 2011 Rolling Stone reader poll, the greatest bassist of all time is John Entwistle of The Who. Paul McCartney was number 3 and George Harrison wasn’t mentioned. In another Rolling Stone list, David Fricke listed Jimi Hendrix as the greatest guitarist of all time. Paul McCartney wasn’t even in his top 20. John Bonham of Led Zeppelin was named the greatest drummer of All Time by Rolling Stone in 2016. Ringo Starr was number 4, which is not bad but it’s not the top. And John Lennon wasn’t named the greatest vocalist by the Rolling Stone in 2015, Aretha Franklin got that honor. In a list of the greatest lyricists of all time, Bob Dylan received top honors. George Harrison was number 65, John Lennon number 3, and Paul McCartney number 2. But does not being at the top of these lists mean they are overrated?
On the other side, 28% of respondents on Debates.org said no, no way can the Beatles be overrated. The comments ranged from The Beatles being beyond comparison to pioneers can’t be overrated. Majority of commenters said that the Beatles cannot be overrated because they were too influential for the musicians who came after them. Many artists and bands from a variety of musical sounds credit the Beatles as a source of inspiration. Dave Grohl of Nirvana and The Foo Fighters, Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, Nancy Wilson of Heart and Billy Joel are credit the Beatles as major influences. Robin Gibb (1949-2012) of the BeeGees credited the Beatles with their sound because they dared the break the rules. He claimed that the Beatles created artistic credibility in the pop music business where there wasn’t any before. Essentially pop music started with the Beatles. Joni Mitchell, one of the greatest songwriters of the 1960s and 70s credited the Beatles 1965 album Rubber Soul as her main influence. Someone commented that people were confusing overrated with hugely over-popular. The Beatles were overhyped, maybe but not overrated. When The Beatles hit in 1963, the music world was in a decline with singers and bands sounding alike. “They burst onto the scene with great new music, cheeky charisma and good looks,” essentially their timing was perfect. Right place, right time. Does this mean musical innovation, influential across genres and perfect timing are reasons they can’t be overrated?
In my opinion, you cannot deny The Beatles influence on the music world. Artists and bands who were never think would be influenced by them were heavily influenced. In my opinion, I feel The Beatles are an important part of rock and roll history but now are overrated. I grew up listening to them; however, I’m not a big Beatles fan. I like a few songs but I don’t own any of their albums. My favorite song by them is Yesterday from the Help! (1965) album. I also loved the film Across the Universe which features Beatles songs. Were they influential? Absolutely! Were they the only influence in music at the time? No way. Many influences named predate The Beatles, such as Robert Johnson who influenced many in rock and roll with his songs such Crossroad Blues (1936) and Hellhound on My Trail (1937). I asked this question on my Facebook page and the responses I got were mixed. Those were thought they were overrated gave reasons why they thought so and for the reasons I stated above. Those who didn’t think they were overrated really didn’t give a reason why just simply said no, they weren’t overrated. I realized that those who didn’t think they were overrated did so due to nostalgia and that’s fine. When you have an emotional connection to a band and their music, it would be hard to see or even fathom that they could be overrated. For instance, the band U2 has had a big influence on my husband and myself through the years. We’ve connected with their music and connected with each other. I’ve heard from people who are not fans that they think U2 is overrated. I feel it is the same situation with Beatles fans and non-Beatles fans.
In conclusion, no one can discount The Beatles influence on music. Whether or not they are overrated, is simply a matter of opinion. If you are a fan of them, you love everything about them and their influence on the rock and roll world and their music speaks to you. If you are not a fan, you aren’t going to have the connection and may have a negative opinion about them. The love of music is very subjective. It’s in the ear of the listener. What one person will find pleasant and a great song, others will not. Therefore, The Beatles have a place in rock and roll history, and deservedly so, their music and legacy will live on. The question is will future generations of musicians find them influential?