As Influential as the Beatles.

Lily and I were having a talk about this in the car…
I’d say the most influential music of the 20th Century was the Beatles. Or the most noteworthy. Or the most popular. Or something. Basically, it’s the band with the biggest name recognition and basically everyone likes at least some of their stuff.
What would be second runner-up? And is there anything of this age (3 decades later) that even compares?
I threw out a few names like Nirvana, Radiohead, Aphex Twin, and Lily said Green Day or ACDC… but none of them were or have been around for as long as the Beatles, nor do I really see them being recognized as so important in, say, 30 years.
We were also talking about how in an MTV era, it’s almost impossible to gauge something like influential music. Throw charts, MTV, radio, whatever into the equation and you’ve got skewed results from the majority of people (read: SHEEP) who will listen to what’s popular. This isn’t to say that the Beatles’ popularity wasn’t skewed by stuff like this… but back then when music was under less attack by corporations and IP debate, it was quite a lot harder to become an “overnight sensation,” or something like that.


  1. Elvis is the obvious answer. Others you could make an argument for include Miles Davis, David Bowie, Michael Jackson, The Rolling Stones, Iggy and the Stooges, and Kraftwerk. Frankly though, who gives a shit? I think the best band of the 20th century is the Talking Heads, and there’s absolutely no way they were anywhere close to the Beatles in terms of influence. The whole thing just drips of wankery: of course you can’t know what current bands are going to be considered influential in the future, unless you think you can project what direction important bands in the future are going to take, which I doubt. Even then, how exactly are you judging this, since influence over the masses (i.e. chart success) is absolutely not equal to influence on the state of music as a whole. If it was, the most important band of the 20th century would be The Eagles: the most successful corporate created band ever.

  2. Nirvana was an excellent group but I think their musical influence is pretty regularly over-estimated. Culturally, though, their impact was huge. I think ACDC and Green Day are pretty fucking totally unimportant in the grand scheme of things. The recent “rock revival” or whatever is much more about the Rolling Stones than any ACDC stuff, and Green Day is like a fuzzy-ass photocopy of a photocopy of a ditto’d mimeograph sheet that some kid at CBGB’s wiped his ass with and vomited on. Fuck them. As far as groups that have influenced the punk/indie rock world… Drive Like Jehu maybe? But that’s a small niche.
    I think artists like Aphex Twin and Brian Eno will be remembered in 30 years and have been hugely influential, and not just inside their niches. Everyone from Timbaland to BT to The Neptunes have been biting Aphex Twin’s shit for years, and he’s equally indebted to Eno… but they’re not really popular among anyone but electronic music dorks and academia. The Beatles have the popularity to back up their influence.
    Radiohead is a pretty serious contender. See also Jimi Hendrix. Bob Marley is also really big, and his influence is pretty fucking international.
    As P-Funk derivative as he is, Dr. Dre might also be one of the most influential composers ever. His work brought rap out of its extremely small ghetto and in to the world of the mainstream, and since then popular music is pretty much entirely either hip-hop based or bears a serious hip-hop influence, even bands like Korn bite hip-hop beats and have Ice Cube get up on stage and scream shit. In fact, yeah, put me down for Dr. Dre.

    1. “but they’re not really popular among anyone but electronic music dorks and academia”
      I’m not sure i’d agree with this when it comes to Eno. His solo stuff like Here Come the Warm Jets, sure. However, when you include his production work with U2, Bowie’s Berlin albums, Devo, that fucking Windows startup sound, and the Talking Heads, I think there’s little doubt that he’s crossed into “legend” territory, or whatever we’re calling this.

    2. Biggie Smalls before Dre, because he is arguably the best rapper that ever lived, and he’s got OG status.
      And I think Pink Floyd should be mentioned somewhere in here.

        1. But the Beatles were so major, musical acomplishments aside, because they were the first true band as we know it. ie: they wrote AND performed their own music.
          Elvis was huge too, he made rock n roll, which was considered a “black” style of music marketable to the white majority, for better or for worse 😛

          1. The Beatles weren’t really the first of anything. That’s part of the formula of their success. Their producer was working with or at least keenly observing many of the bands of the day, taking what was new and fresh and packaging it in the form of 4 completely talentless little whelps. Sure, in the course of their career the beatles actually learned how to play their insturments properly, write proper music, and all that. But the fact stands that everything they built was from a year to a decade old and done better. When Pink Floyd was in the studio putting together the piper album they had the same producer. This was arguably the begining of the beatles being hand-held into experimental music and drugs. Some rabid beatles fan even sent me some psychodelic jaunt that was only released in some modern huge collection…. It had a fucking DAT tape sample brought to the studio from pink floyd’s late night dirty underground experimental club days.

          2. Whoa there homeboy. It is true, a lot of musical ground had been covered by jazz and classical music by the 1960s, but as far as the pop music world goes, I think the Fab Four were really, really innovative. They approached harmony in pop music from a totally different angle than the 3 chord standard form do wop shit that preceeded them, were unafraid to write modal harmony in pop songs, modulated all over the goddamn place all the time, created what is widely recognized as being the first proper “concept” album, integrated musique concrète techniques into the pop vocabulary, all kinds of shit. It’s not to say other people (Zappa) weren’t contemporary to the Beatles and also busting out with awesome (perhaps even more awesome) stuff, but the Beatles were there and they really blew the door open for the rest of those guys as far as pop goes.
            As far as whether or not they are “talentless little whelps…” They might not have had wicked awesome chops, but is songwriting talent not talent? They were masters of the songwriting craft, chops or no.

          3. The beach boys were a great influence of the beatles as far as pop went. I’d rather not get into a huge discussion about the lack of innovation in the beatles, as it does get to be large, but relating to your rediculous claim of the first concept album:
            Concept Album

          4. From that wikipedia article you linked to comes this quote refuting your shit:
            The 1967 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles is generally considered to have been the first true concept album.
            Thanks bye.

          5. “Thus, there is some debate over whether Sgt. Pepper really qualifies as a true concept album”
            “The earliest example, however, is Woody Guthrie’s 1940 debut album, “Dust Bowl Ballads”.”
            “What may have been the first example of a concept album in rock of any form was the Beach Boys’ 1963 Little Deuce Coupe”
            “Three years later [1966], Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention created an odd farce about rock music as a whole with Freak Out!.”
            “Sgt. Pepper was itself inspired by an earlier work: the abandoned Beach Boys album SMiLE.”
            Thanks for proving you’re too dumb to read you fucking retard.

          6. Yes, there is some debate about this apparently.
            There is also some debate about those other albums, especially considering that Sgt. Pepper’s really is actually widely considered to be the first genuine concept album, despite the debate.
            Just because there is some debate about it doesn’t mean that like, I can’t read. ‘Cause I can clearly read. I think.

  3. my friend found a rolling stones magazine in our house and it listed the beatles as the number one musical artists of the 20th century or something.



    1. Robert Johnson was nobody’s inspiration and nobody’s start. He was an unknown that never got a record contract except for a single 72 album, I think. He died before he got the deal that would make him dead. He survives today only on his legend. Sure, he was a hell of a bluesman, but he was nobody’s inspiration other than as some kind of distant legend. I think I heard plant in a concert mentioning him, and we all know clapton’s famous song is his, but these weren’t artists inspired by listening to robert johnson 45s all day in their grandmother’s basement. He’s the entry level hero in the world of pretentious blues rock.

  5. long
    Its hard to say who was the most influential when you don’t look at the full scope. I would have to agree, Elvis and maybe the Beatles influenced a whole new genre to form, and from those branch off other genres, but don’t forget about other genres, also. What about Gershwin? Stravinsky?Or some sort of an influential country singer (Garth Brooks?)
    Some other bands to throw out there are Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Ray Charles.
    One could even argue that Brittany Spears influenced a whole spew of bubble-gum-pop-boppers, like Christina Aguilara, and those other girls who paraded around like whores.
    What about Queen? Led Zepplin for sure. And Pink Floyd. Bob Dylan.
    In the world of jam-bands, Phish.
    In reggae, undoubtably, Bob Marly.
    In ska, maybe Reel Big Fish?
    Punk, hands down, the Sex Pistols. And the Ramones.
    Electronica, of course, Kraftwerk.
    Metal, Black Sabbath.
    I guess you have to look at it in perspective. Were they influential to music as a whole? Or are they a more proportionally larger influence in their genre?
    Also, I found this:
    Solidifies the rock and roll names that have been listed for sure.

  6. I don’t know about influential… but ALOT of people cover Bob Dylan songs … Knocking on Heaven’s Door, Forever Young and of course, All along the Watchtower being the more famous covers.
    If anything, the man’s good to crib from… and you can probably sing better than him.
    You can make arguments that the Police were influential too…
    Johnny frickin Cash.
    Diana Ross for the concept of how the diva should look, Aretha Franklin for how she should sing. Donna Summer for both reasons.
    James Brown. Rick James. Marvin Gaye. Little Richard. Smokey Robinson. Ike/_TINA_ Turner. The Beach Boys. Elton John/Bernie Taupin. Bruce Springsteen.
    Bone316 was right about the blues scene:Robert Johnson, Howlin Wolf, Willie Dixon, B.B. King, Muddy Waters and more… Especially in the british scene, the stones, the yardbirds, the Who, the Animals, the Beatles, Led Zep, Clapton… all of them can be in contendership for influence, themselves… acknowledge the blues as a big influence.
    As for today… I dunno… Pharrell is responisble, tied into, dating or otherwise having dinner in the booth next to alot of the music today.
    Chris Cornell was my favorite part of the Grunge scene.
    And GNR.

  7. I’m going to go with an underdog on this one. George Clinton carried funk from its birth years long past its graduation into disco. He’s the man responsible for the grittiest, funkiest, and longlastingist funk. But in what way is he extrodinaraly influential?
    He is the sole reason Dr. Dre exsists in the mind of today. Dre took arguably almost all his influence, and much of his beats and samples, from the grandmaster of funk. There’s a reason they call his particularly stale version of hiphop G-Funk. Snoop Dogg, who’s become a household name ever since he jumped on the clinton built bandwaggon, is a product of all this hullabaloo. And the record companies spawned by dre and snoop and their comrads filled the hearts and minds of hip-hop wannabes for close to a decade, killing east coast political underground before finally being replaced by the dirty south.
    But not only is george responsible for the single most creatively destructive force in rap (though arguably the _most_ mainstream and _most_ loved for its time). He can also be credited with a hand in modern electronic music. Trance, house, techno, and anything else with a 909 that you can pop an x to and dance like you have no bones to is in some way tied directly to disco, the danced and tarted up version of the hard and nasty funk. George Clinton’s child.

    1. *Not* George Clinton. F’real. He’s kind of funny and shit, and I giggle a little when he says “vagina” because black people aren’t supposed to say that, but Dre was not biting Clinton, he was biting Parliament, and the core of the interplanetaryfunksmachine was undoubtedly Boosty Collins and Bernie Worrell.

  8. Also worth mentioning: The musicians that are responsible for the stones, beatles, zeppelin, and countless others being anything more than cookie cutter shit. Native indian musicians. It was the in thing to do for rich rock and rollers, take a trip to india, learn how to actually play music. I’d say that’s influential.

    1. You’re missing the point. We’re talking about name recognition and influence DUE to that. Like I said, no one cares about the first caveman who sung and caused the rest of the world to follow suit.

    2. Smoking a lot of pot and bringing home a sitar does not constitute learning to play Indian classical music. It may have opened some cats minds to some hip new ideas, but really the influence of actual Indian music has been (until very, *very* recently) negligible. This is largely because Western pop is based on functional harmony and Indian classical music is definitely, definitely, definitely not, and that’s a pretty big diff.

  9. Kraftwerk, Joy Division, Human League, David Bowie. There you go. All much better than The Beatles, too.
    Screw Nirvana, they just rode the wave.

      1. Me neither. I like Nirvana, they just haven’t had any influence at all, musically. They even stole their riffs from Killing Joke.

        1. They were just the first of many grunge bands to get forced out the birth canal of the music industry. Which is what this discussion is about I guess. Whoever got spat out first and made it to everyone’s ears.

          1. I saw it more of a “most influental” thing. Or revolutionary, inventive, or whatever. Which Nirvana definitely isn’t.

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