One thing common among the musicians that emerged after the Beatles era is a mandatory song or album by the Fab Four in their favourites list. In truth, although Beatlemania emerged and intensified during the 1960s, it has never ceased to exist, inspiring countless artists of future generations.
The English singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and visual artist Graham Coxon is one such Beatles disciple. Coxon, whose long and illustrious career includes his time with the Britpop legends Blur as well as his own solo endeavours, grew up listening to The Beatles like many other artists. Recalling the first Beatles song which imprinted the band’s name in his mind, he told NME during an interview: “I first heard ‘Revolution’ when I was four years old, I guess I was just lucky enough to be able to work the record player and recognise it from the apple in the middle. I liked to play with the knobs on the front of the record player, turn the bass right up… I probably even only got the right-hand speaker. I just wanted it to be as big as possible.”
The Beatles, who had already shaped modern rock as we know it, clearly influenced Coxon’s musical taste and technique. Coxon’s restless playing style, his sliding chords, short arpeggios, fractured runs and quick pull-offs, all carry a subtle taste of The Beatles, among others. Naturally, it dominates the Coxon-founded soundscape of Blur as well.
On being asked the question: “What is the farthest-reaching consequence of the erasure of the Beatles?”Michael Bauman of The Ringers gave a bang on answer by stating: “No Beatles means no Britpop, which means no Blur, which means no ‘Song 2’, which causes air guitar to disappear as an art form.” Blur’s lead vocalist Damon Albarn confirmed this fact by telling how John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ inspired him to write songs.
Coxon even participated in the re-recording of the Beatles’ debut album Please, Please Me, recording ‘Baby It’s You’ live as a part of ten hour-long recording marathon hosted by BBC Radio 2. Talking about the experience, Coxon remarked: “I’m quite pleased to be doing that because it’s not one that people immediately think about a Beatles song, so it’s a sort of a soul song, which has its own challenges.”
After learning about Coxon’s relationship with The Beatles, the immediate question that pops into our mind is, ‘which Beatles album was his favourite?’. Thankfully, Coxon answered this question for the Liverpool Echo, putting an end to all the speculations. “Out of habit, I always say Rubber Soul is my favourite Beatles album. I like the way it’s recorded – you can hear microphone feedback, there are no effects, and it sounds great,” said Coxon.
Though recorded and released in 1965 – four years before Coxon’s birth – it lingered long enough to woo young Coxon and continued to grow in esteem with every revisit. The Beatles started to work on the project after their North America tour in August 1965. The album includes a mix of pop, soul and folk music whose sound was clearly influenced by African-American soul singers. In fact, the reason behind naming the album after the colloquial term for ‘plastic soul’ was that The Beatles wanted to be honest about their sound’s Black origination. The title was a pun combining falsity that is intrinsic to pop music and rubber-soled shoes. “We are white and haven’t got what they’ve got,” explained the band in their 1966 press conference discussing the record.
The album also marked the band’s growing interest in recording songs over live performances and expressing themselves more personally through their lyrics. George Martin explained it by saying, “The first album to present a new, growing Beatles to the world… For the first time, we began to think of albums as art on their own, as complete entities.” The band recorded the album over hours of uninterrupted studio sessions and experimented with various sounds including some eastern instruments such as the sitar and harmonium.
Though he tilted towards Rubber Soul, Coxon also mentioned Abbey Road, White Album and Let it Be. “What makes me think a lot about the Beatles, and English 1960s people in general, is the way they expressed a blackness and a soul in their singing,” added Coxon. However, he clearly had a favourite in the band; Paul McCartney. Not only did Coxon find McCartney a much better singer than Lennon but also found his creations genuinely radical. “McCartney was just as into the avant-garde and so on, but he was exploring it rather than mouthing off about it. I think he was more sorted than John, who comes across as a bitter arsehole most of the time. But Paul does put his thumbs up too much,” he joked.