Public Transit Helped Make the Beatles, Says Paul McCartney

Not all musical influences are musical

The Beatles at the London Palladium
Paul McCartney and George Harrison of the Beatles performing on stage at the London Palladium, UK, 13th October 1963.
Edward Wing/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Most of the time, when iconic musicians discuss their influences, they’re musical ones. Frank Sinatra was inspired by Billie Holiday, Frank Ocean was inspired by Brian Eno and so on. But some artists draw inspiration from more abstract concepts — like, say, the influence that public transportation had on The Beatles. That doesn’t mean that there’s a lost album where the Fab Four attempted to emulate the sound of the London Underground with guitar, bass and drums — instead, it has to do with a broader view of the world.

A new article at Ultimate Classic Rock cited Paul McCartney’s explanation for this, which makes more sense than you might think at first. While discussing his newly-released The Lyrics, McCartney addressed the public transportation system in the post-war U.K. — and how it changed the nature of that society.

“This gave everyone over Britain this opportunity to be more mobile and better educated — and that was a big factor in the cultural revolution,” McCartney recalled.

The diverse population of Liverpool also led the group to object when they were asked to play to segregated audiences in the south on their first tour of the United States. The band famously threatened to cancel a show in Jacksonville if the audience wasn’t integrated. Sometimes, the things that shape a band go far beyond music; even for a group as musically savvy as The Beatles, this was very much the case.

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