Cultural impact of the Beatles

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For cultural depictions of the Beatles, see The Beatles in popular culture.
Fans and media swarm the Beatles at Schiphol Airport in 1964 during the height of Beatlemania.

The cultural impact of the Beatles had many effects on popular music and fashion. While the group was subject to Beatlemania, their commercial success helped spur many trends—including a shift from American artists' global dominance of rock and roll to British acts, the proliferation of young musicians in the 1960s who formed new bands, the album as the dominant form of record consumption over singles, the term "Beatlesque" used to describe similar-sounding artists, and several fashion trends.

In 1999, the Beatles were collectively included in Time magazine's compilation of the twentieth century's 100 most influential people. As of 2009, they are the best-selling band in history, with estimated sales of over 600 million records worldwide.[1][2] As of 2015, they hold the record for most number-one hits on the Hot 100 chart with twenty.[not verified in body] The Beatles have had myriad cover versions from a variety of artists, while "Yesterday" is one of the most covered songs in the history of recorded music.[3]

Beatlemania and the British Invasion[edit]

Main articles: Beatlemania and British Invasion


Beat groups and garage bands[edit]

Main articles: Beat music and garage rock

The Beatles' influence touched off a worldwide proliferation of beat groups.[citation needed] Their impact on the US was particularly strong, where a garage rock phenomenon had already begun, with hits such as "Louie Louie" by the Kingsmen, but was about to receive a major lift. On February 9, 1964, during their first visit to the United States, the Beatles made a historic appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show watched by a record-breaking viewing audience of a nation mourning the recent death of President John F. Kennedy.[4][5][6] Bill Dean writes: "It's impossible to say just how many of America's young people began playing guitars and forming bands in the wake of The Beatles' appearance on the Sullivan show. But the anecdotal evidence suggests thousands – if not hundreds of thousands or even more – young musicians across the country formed bands and proceeded to play ..."[7]

Tom Petty, who played in two garage bands in Gainesville, Florida during the 1960s, is quoted mentioning the Beatles' appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show and how it influenced him to be in a band. According to him: "Within weeks of that, you could drive through literally any neighborhood in Gainesville and you would hear the strains of garage bands playing ... I mean everywhere. And I'd say by a year from that time, Gainesville probably had 50 bands."[7] For many, particularly young baby boomers, the Beatles' visit reignited the sense of excitement and possibility that had been momentarily taken by his assassination.[4][7][8][9] Much of this new excitement would be expressed in music, sometimes much to the chagrin of parents and elders, as kids raced to start bands by thousands, and this proliferation of new groups was not limited to the United States.[4][7][8][10]

Album format[edit]

Further information: Album Era

The dominance of the single as the primary medium of music sales changed with the release of several iconic concept albums in the 1960s, such as A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector (1963), the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds (1966), the Mothers of Invention's Freak Out! (1966), and the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967).[11][page needed]

Recording methods[edit]

Music videos[edit]

Richard Lester received a formal letter from MTV declaring him the father of the modern pop video, for the work he did directing both of the early Beatles films, A Hard Day's Night (1964) and Help! (1965).[citation needed] His revolutionary[according to whom?] camera techniques together with short lines of dialogue and rapid editing cuts to the beat were all seen as the precursor to the modern rock video.[citation needed]

In the mid-1960s, The Beatles began filming promotional music videos for their songs, which they sent to television networks in lieu of appearing in person. Starting with the promotional clip for "Rain" in 1966, these films began using many techniques previously only seen in experimental film, such as intensive use of slow-motion and reversed film.[citation needed] This approach was further taken to new heights with the promo clip for "Strawberry Fields Forever", directed by Swedish television director Peter Goldman in January 1967 which, besides the techniques already seen in "Rain", also used intricate jump-cuts that rapidly alternated between night and day, switching colour temperature filters during the song's outro extensive post-production colour filtering and other avant-garde devices.[citation needed] These techniques were later copied and the use of such film and videos started the now common practice of releasing a video clip to accompany singles.[citation needed]

Cover versions[edit]

See also: Ferry Aid

In May 1966, John Lennon said of people covering their songs, "Lack of feeling in an emotional sense is responsible for the way some singers do our songs. They don't understand and are too old to grasp the feeling. Beatles are really the only people who can play Beatle music."[12]

Live concerts[edit]

The Beatles were the first entertainment act to stage a large stadium concert.[citation needed] At Shea Stadium, New York City on Sunday, 15 August 1965 the group opened their 1965 North American tour to a record audience of 55,600. The event sold out in 17 minutes.[13] It was the first concert to be held at a major outdoor stadium and set records for attendance and revenue generation, demonstrating that outdoor concerts on a large scale could be successful and profitable.[citation needed] The Beatles returned to Shea for a very successful encore in August 1966.[citation needed]


ELO in 1978. The band was formed with the intention of "picking up where the Beatles left off".[14]

Beatlesque /ˌbtəlˈɛsk/ is a loose term which refers to music which sounds like the Beatles. It is widely used to an inconsistent degree, as the Toronto Star notes: "[some people's] notion of that sound includes everyone from Panic! at the Disco to Billy Joel to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. With those reference points, it’s debatable whether the Beatles themselves would qualify for the adjective their music has spawned."[15] After consulting producer Kevin Howlett, music professor Rob Bowman, and Klaatu drummer Terry Draper for the true meaning of the word, the three formed eight potential answers: "Penny Lane"-inspired piano; "the big ending"; bluegrass-influenced harmonies; "I Am the Walrus"-inspired cellos; the stylistic contrast between Lennon and McCartney; the left-handed, right-handed drumming; the listener's perception; or a simulacrum of the Beatles' reputed sound that ultimately means nothing.[15]

Associated artists[edit]



The mop-topped Beatles in 1964.

The Beatle haircut, also known as the "mop-top" (or moptop), because of its resemblance to a mop, or "Arthur" amongst fans,[nb 1] is a mid-length hairstyle named after and popularized by the Beatles, and widely mocked by many adults.[16] It is a straight cut – collar-length at the back and over the ears at the sides, with a straight fringe (bangs).[citation needed][nb 2] Because of the immense popularity of the Beatles, the haircut was widely imitated worldwide between 1964 and 1966.[citation needed] Their hair-style led toy manufacturers to begin producing real-hair and plastic "Beatle Wigs". Lowell Toy Manufacturing Corp. of New York was licensed to make "the only AUTHENTIC Beatle Wig". There have been many attempts at counterfeiting, but in its original packaging this wig has become highly collectible.[citation needed]

Mikhail Safonov wrote in 2003 that in the Brezhnev-dominated Soviet Union, mimicking The Beatles' hairstyle was seen as extremely rebellious. Young people were called "hairies" by their elders, and were arrested and forced to have their hair cut in police stations.[full citation needed]


In the early Beatle-mania years, The Beatles would occasionally wear black, and then later grey, Edwardian collarless suits.[17][18] This style of suit was adopted from the Mod youth cult, then at its peak in the UK.[19] These suits (instead of leather trousers, plaid shirts, and slacks) became extremely common for new bands to wear after 1964.[citation needed]

Beatle boots[edit]

Main article: Beatle boot
A pair of Beatle boot replicas.

Beatle boots are tight-fitting, Cuban-heeled, ankle-length boots with a pointed toe. They originated in 1963 when Brian Epstein discovered Chelsea boots while browsing in the London footwear company Anello & Davide. He consequently commissioned four pairs (with the addition of Cuban heels) for the Beatles to complement their new suit image upon their return from Hamburg, who wore them under drainpipe trousers.[20]

Other fashions[edit]

The style of hat worn by Lennon and his wife Cynthia on the Beatles' tour of the U.S. in 1964 was adopted widely by both men and women.[citation needed] In 1966, during the filming of How I Won the War, Lennon adopted round, thin-rimmed "teashade glasses", which became a signature element of Lennon's look. This style of eyewear is still popularly known as "John Lennon glasses".[citation needed]

Appearances in popular culture[edit]


  1. ^ At a press conference at the Plaza Hotel in New York, shortly after the Beatles' arrival in the United States, Harrison was asked by a reporter, "What do you call your hairstyle?" He replied "Arthur". The scene was recreated in the movie A Hard Day's Night with the reporter asking George Harrison, "What would you call that, uh, hairstyle you're wearing?"[original research?]
  2. ^ As a schoolboy in the mid '50s, Jürgen Vollmer had left his hair hanging down over his forehead one day after he had gone swimming, not bothering to style it. John Lennon is quoted in The Beatles Anthology as follows: "Jürgen had a flattened-down hairstyle with a fringe in the back, which we rather took to."[full citation needed] In late 1961, Vollmer moved to Paris. McCartney said in a 1979 radio interview: "We saw a guy in Hamburg whose hair we liked. John and I were hitchhiking to Paris. We asked him to cut our hair like he cut his." McCartney also wrote in a letter to Vollmer in 1989: "George explained in a 60s interview that it was John and I having our hair cut in Paris which prompted him to do the same. ... We were the first to take the plunge."[full citation needed]


  1. ^ Staff Writers, (9 September 2009). "Beatles' remastered box set, video game out". Retrieved 1 December 2011. 
  2. ^ Hotten, Russell (4 October 2012). "The Beatles at 50: From Fab Four to fabulously wealthy". BBC News. Retrieved 28 January 2013. 
  3. ^ "Most Recorded Song". Guinness World Records. 2009. Archived from the original on 10 September 2006. Retrieved 12 May 2009. 
  4. ^ a b c Lemlich 1992, pp. 2–3.
  5. ^ Kauppila, Paul (October 2006). "The Sound of the Suburbs: A Case Study of Three Garage Bands in San Jose, California during the 1960s". San Jose State University SJSU Scholar Works (San Jose, California: San Jose State University Faculty Publications): 7–8, 10–11. 
  6. ^ Spitz 2013, pp. 5, 39, 42–49.
  7. ^ a b c d Dean, Bill (February 9, 2014). "50 Years Ago Today, The Beatles Taught a Young America to Play". Scene. Retrieved October 10, 2015. 
  8. ^ a b Gilmore, Mikal (August 23, 1990). Wenner, Jann, ed. "Bob Dylan, the Beatles, and the Rock of the Sixties". Rolling Stone (Rolling Stone) (585). Retrieved July 9, 2015. 
  9. ^ Spitz 2013, pp. 5–6.
  10. ^ Spitz 2013, pp. 55–59.
  11. ^ Oliver 2013.
  12. ^ "Flip Magazine, May 1966". Retrieved 25 October 2014. 
  13. ^ The Beatles Off The Record. London:Omnibus Press p193. ISBN 0-7119-7985-5
  14. ^ Picking up where the Beatles left off ... Jeff Lynne and ELO. Photograph: Andre Csillag/Rex Alan McGee (16 October 2008). "ELO: The band the Beatles could have been". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 December 2014. 
  15. ^ a b c d e f Sakamoto, John (November 1, 2013). "What do we really mean by ‘Beatlesque’?". Toronto Star. 
  16. ^ Gilliland 1969, show 27, track 4.
  17. ^ Miles. p77.
  18. ^ Beatles suits at
  19. ^ Hewitt, Paolo. 2003. The Soul Stylists: From Mod to Casual. Mainstream Publishing, UK.
  20. ^ Sims, Josh (1999). Rock Fashions. Omnibus Press. pp. 151–152. ISBN 0-7119-7733-X. 


  • Lemlich, Jeffrey M. (1992). Savage Lost: Florida Garage Bands of the '60s and Beyond (First ed.). Plantation, FL: Distinctive Publishing Corporation. ISBN 0-942963-12-1. 
  • Julien, Oliver (2013). Sgt. Pepper and the Beatles: It Was Forty Years Ago Today. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2013. ISBN 9781409493822. 
  • Spitz, Bob (2013). Koepp, Stephen, ed. The Beatles Invasion (TIME Magazine special issue) (newsstand special issue). 135 West 50th St., New York, NY 10020: TIME Books, an imprint of Time Home Entertainment, Inc. 

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