10 Little-Known Songs That Directly Inspired Beatles Classics

by (@JordanRuntagh)

4. “Lady Madonna” (1968)

The Song You Know: 

The One You May Not: “Bad Penny Blues” by Humphrey Lyttleton (1956)

On the surface, “Lady Madonna” is most obviously influenced by the rollicking piano of New Orleans’ rock pioneer Fats Domino, particularly “Blue Monday” which chronicles a week in the life of a hard working man. Paul McCartney decided to write the female equivalent.”It reminded me of Fats Domino for some reason, so I started singing a Fats Domino impression,” he told Barry Miles in 1994. “It took my voice to a very odd place.” Fats provided the spiritual bravado, but musically McCartney borrowed more from the piano part to Humphrey Lyttleton’s 1956 trad-jazz track “Bad Penny Blues,” which was actually released by the Beatles’ producer George Martin.


3. “Do You Want To Know A Secret” (1963)

The Song You Know: 

The One You May Not: “Wishing Well” from Snow White (1937)

This song from their debut full length Please Please Me album had its roots in Disney’s debut full length film, Snow White. It was written primarily by John, based on the song he used to hear his mother Julia singing around the house, featuring the opening lyrics “Do you want to know a secret? Do you promise not to tell? You’re standing by a wishing well.” These opening lines (and the backing echo) provided the germ of an idea for the tune, which went on to be sung by George Harrison. John was never fearful of borrowing lyrics, repurposing lines from Elvis Presley‘s “Baby Let’s Play House” to open “Run For Your Life,” and also from Chuck Berry’s “You Can’t Catch Me” for “Come Together.” More on that one later… (spoiler alert: they caught him).


2. “It’s All Too Much” (1969)

The Song You Know: 

The One You May Not: “Sorrow” by The McCoys (1965)

A bit more of an obscure cut, this one is for the true Beatlemaniacs in the crowd! The long and winding number was recorded in ’67, but shelved for a few years before surfacing on the Yellow Submarine soundtrack, a grab-bag of previous releases, studio off-cuts, and the odd new song or two. Although not terribly well known, it’s an extremely interesting track, weaving in musical tributes from not only Jeremiah Clarke‘s trumpet-led “Prince of Denmark’s March,” but also this song originally by American group the McCoys (although probably better known to the Beatles from the version by British Invasion band, the Merseys). Clearly the Beatles were in a sampling mood in 1967, as they used a similar technique for “All You Need Is Love;” incorporating Benny Goodman‘s “In The Mood,” the classical piece “Greensleeves” for the outro, and the French anthem, “La Marseillaise” for the intro.

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