Billy Joel once picked out “the greatest band that ever was”

Billy Joel

Forward motion has always been at the heart of rock & roll. There will always be nostalgic acts who want to relive the good old days. But there are also musicians who are willing to combine their favorite songs from all of their past listening experiences to create a musical collage on each record. Billy Joel claims that even if someone sets the world on fire, they will never be able to match The Beatles. Billy Joel may have given up on trying to stay current.

However, anyone creating pop music of any kind is inadvertently drawing inspiration from The Beatles’ past work. The Fab Four developed a daily routine of casually dismantling barriers whenever they entered the studio. Even though they didn’t believe they were doing anything revolutionary at the time.

Although they recorded their first original songs and the classic rock they were raised on for half of their first albums. Their experimentation from Rubber Soul onward is still regarded as some of the greatest classic rock ever. While many musicians were revolutionizing rock & roll overnight. Few bands could boast of fusing raga rock, orchestral balladry, and psychedelic freakouts all in one album.

Joel saw The Beatles above all as part of a long line of musicians who continued the style of music that classical composers had pioneered. Their musical instincts led them to the most complex music imaginable. Including the massive way that Abbey Road’s back half layers songs together. Even though they had no knowledge of music theory at all.

Joel declared, “They were and are the greatest band that ever was,” expressing his belief that a talent like theirs only appears once every century. They weren’t particularly talented musicians. They were simply a fantastic, tight band. Very rarely does a great combination of talents come together like that. I doubt that we will ever see them again.

Of course, Joel wasn’t exactly speaking in the voice of the irate elderly man either. Nearly every Top 40 performer that emerged after The Beatles shares many characteristics with them. All of that praise wouldn’t be justified if the songs weren’t good. From Billie Eilish expressing her love for the band now to Oasis copying the band’s entire look and aesthetic in the 1990s to ELO creating Beatles pastiches.

Joel was also subjected to some comparisons to The Beatles. Although he was more than happy to take cues from musicians such as Bach and Beethoven. The Nylon Curtain is the most obvious instance of him attempting to learn how to sing in the style of John Lennon on one of his records.

The Beatles not only created hit songs and endearing personas but also paved the way for future generations of musicians. They demonstrated the freedom to experiment with new ideas, influencing countless artists across genres and eras. Joel needed to release an album like Abbey Road before he could ever fully capture the magic of “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant.” Even though they still primarily adhered to the pop song format.

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