Much has been written about the influence of Black American music on the Mersey Beat and British Invasion bands. It is well known that Paul McCartney & John Lennon and Mick Jagger & Keith Richards bonded over imported Blues and R&B records. It is often said that British Invasion bands repackaged American music and sold it back to Americans. In the case of the Beatles, this may be true of their early music (say, Twist and Shout) which was strongly influenced by R&B.
The Beatles soon transcended their early influences by incorporating other styles including vaudeville, showtunes, orchestration, and their distinctive harmonies. Even so, Far Out magazine quotes John Lee Hooker: “At one time, fifteen years back, the blues was just among the Blacks – the old Black people. And this uprise started in England by the Beatles, Animals, Rolling Stones, it started everybody to digging the blues”. All this leads to a fun project: the Blues Beatles. Let’s take a listen:
This rollicking Blues version of A Hard Day’s Night shows that the song fits fairly comfortably on a basic blues structure – scholar Richard Middleton says the song has a “latent” blues structure – but also how far the Beatles had moved from their American influences as early as 1964. There is a distinctly British sound to the Beatles’ vocals and production. Interestingly, the Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night is said to have inspired the folk-rock sound initiated by the Byrds back in the USA.
As you would imagine, there are a lot of positive comments on YouTube about the Blues Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night. The Blues Beatles originated as a side project of the Brazilian band Today. During rehearsal breaks, Marcos Viana, the singer, would play Beatles songs on an acoustic guitar. Band members started to join in, and, being blues players, they added blues parts. They realised that it was a fun mix, and gradually the rehearsal-break Beatles jams supplanted Today. Here is their Yesterday:
It was roughly ten years ago that Today became the Blues Beatles. They first gained attention when they posted their cover of Ticket to Ride on Facebook. The band then worked on expanding their catalogue of Beatles covers. Speaking of their method, they say that they try out different arrangements until everyone is satisfied. Mostly, they keep the original vocal melody but allow room for the instrumental solos and improvisations typical of the blues. The song is done when all the band members are happy.
The Blues Beatles are not trying to imitate The Beatles. They are a group of musicians who happen to like both the blues and the Beatles, and they’ve found an international audience for their lively and enjoyable blend of the two. The band has played in Brazil, USA and Europe, where they have developed followings for the dynamic performances. In Brazil they have played on many TV shows. According to their agency, Intrepid Artists International, since 2017 The Blues Beatles have undertaken 13 international tours, including 7 to the US.
The Blues Beatles have released two albums. Get Back to The Blues (2016) and Let it Blues (2019).
Writing on The Beatles and Black Music for Black History Month 2022, Les Spaine points out that The Beatles were also influenced by white acts (e.g. Elvis). He also says “Although it may have started with bands like The Beatles hearing records by black artists and covering them, The Beatles then added their own interpretation of such music in their own compositions, which in turn were covered by (or at least influenced) Black artists later on.” He mentions Jimi Hendrix, Prince & Lenny Kravitz as examples. He concludes “In the end, music is made by everybody, for everybody.” This spirit is exemplified by the Blues Beatles.