They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and the same goes for parodies and tributes. Allusions to the Beatles are scattered throughout entertainment in both overt elements and subtle nods. Below are six of our favorite “Beatles-esque” scenes, songs, bands, and clips. Obviously, there are countless more, so make sure you share yours in the comments!
1) “The Beatles” in Walk Hard (2006)
Picked by: Allison
NOTE: The above clip is NSFW.
Oh, Walk Hard. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. For those out of the loop, the film is a biopic of fictional rock star Dewey Cox, played ingeniously by one of my favorite actors, John C. Reilly. Cox’s life story is gleaned from folks like Ray Charles, Brian Wilson, Johnny Cash, and more, weaving them into one hilarious parody that takes a good-natured(?) jab at those artists we know and love. I could give a play-by-play of everything I love about the movie, but my absolute favorite part is when Cox and his band join the Beatles in India in 1967. A running theme throughout the movie is the mismatching of actors to musicians (Frankie Muniz as Buddy Holly, puh-leeze!), and “the Beatles” are no exception: Jack Black as Paul McCartney, Paul Rudd as John Lennon, Justin Long as George Harrison, and Jason Schwartzman as Ringo Starr. The banter running through the four is classic; any Beatles fan will find the truth in lines like Black/McCartney’s self-assured “I’m the leader of the Beatles,” Black and Rudd’s back and forth about songwriting (“I don’t know why you have to be so dark when I’m so impish and whimsical!” – Black), and Schwartzman/Starr’s addition to the scene: “I’ve got a song about an octopus.” Some of the best lines make me blush, but also make me laugh until my sides hurt — and are even better to litter into normal conversation.
2) “Meet the Beat Alls,” The Powerpuff Girls (2001)
Picked by: Jim
It’s obvious to anyone that followed Powerpuff Girls’ creator Craig McCracken‘s career that he was influenced from an early age by the animated Beatles; his villain Him from the series clearly sports the voice and mannerisms of the Chief Meanie from Yellow Submarine, and the episode “Mime for a Change” is a clear homage to that film. “Meat the Beat Alls,” however, is the ultimate expression of his appreciation of all things Beatles, and he bounces off and name-checks more aspects of their career in 12 minutes than most referential pieces with more time can muster. As far as I know, this is the only Beatles referential work that manages to name-check Stu Sutcliffe (as above), one of literally hundreds of aspects pulled into some of the most brilliant animation ever mounted, Beatles-related or otherwise.
3) “Homer’s Barbershop Quartet,” The Simpsons (1993)
Picked by: Carey
There are so many reasons to love this episode, which kicked off season five of The Simpsons in 1993. “Baby On Board,” one of the catchiest songs the show’s ever produced; the countless visual references to the Beatles, including the album covers and the outfits the band wears at their rooftop reunion concert; the band’s second album, Bigger Than Jesus; Barney’s Yoko-esque girlfriend asking Moe for “a single plum, served in perfume, floating in a man’s hat”; The cameos by David Crosby (“You’re my hero!” Barney tells him, only to reveal that he knows nothing of Crosby’s music career) and George Harrison (“Oh, my God!” Homer exclaims when he meets the ex-Beatle. “Where did you get that brownie?”). And then there’s the decision to do a Beatles parody episode without including a single Beatlesque song (unless you count “Number 8”), instead focusing on, of all things, barbershop music — which, as Bart informs us, “Ain’t been popular since aught-six, dagnabbit.” The episode is full of great gags and quotes, but it’s also got the heart that kept The Simpsons grounded in its early years. It’s clearly a Beatles parody by people who loved the Beatles, as well as a Simpsons episode by writers who still loved their audience.
4) “Love Take Me Down (To the Streets),” Role Models (2008)
Picked by: Erika
Ok, it’s more a Wings-esque pop culture moment than Beatlesque, but it’s amazing. There’s a running joke through the film Role Models that there’s this Wings song called “Love Take Me Down (To the Streets).” People sing a few bars of it a couple of times, and there’s a debate over whether it’s really a Wings song or not. The big payoff is at the very end, when this song plays as the credits roll. The first time I heard it, I had to listen to it a few times to absolutely make sure that it wasn’t some long-lost McCartney track, because it sounds just like a Wings song. Not like any one Wings song in particular… more like all of them at once. It’s got everything: a melodic hook that devolves into crazy guitar work, a female backup singer with Linda-style harmonies, a totally random ending, and a singer that sounds so much like Paul it’s uncanny. The only thing that really gives it away are the very un-Macca-like lyrics about going to get some love on the streets if you’re not getting it at home! It turns out that Role Models had a couple of Wings fans on staff who just happened to be composers. Once they wrote the song, Joey Curatolo, who’s played the “Paul” role in the Beatles tribute show Rain for years, performed it, sounding exactly like Wings-era McCartney. Even funnier, they brought the joke back in their next movie, Wanderlust, where a group of hippies can be heard singing it in the background.
5) Hark!, The Fab Four (2002)
Picked by: Emma
I know it’s not Christmas, but my Christmases have been simply a joy since I was in Bath and Body Works a few years ago and heard a Paul McCartney Christmas song I’d never heard before, namely “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” After some research, I found that it was not, in fact, Paul McCartney, but that there was also an entire album of these really clever Beatles arrangements of Christmas songs. I hope that everyone can someday experience the wonder of Hark!.
6) The Rutles
Picked by: David
The Rutles are to the Beatles as Spinal Tap is to heavy metal. Created by comic legends Eric Idle and Neil Innes, they’re a pitch-perfect but loving parody of everything Beatles, from sound to overall aesthetic. They originally appeared in a sketch in Idle’s sketch show Rutland Weekend Television, but soon grew beyond that and became Their Own Thing. In 1978, a mockumentary on them was released called All You Need Is Cash, and if you’re a Beatles fan (if you’re reading this, you are) you need to track this down ASAP and watch it. It’s a top-to-bottom parody of the Beatles’ life, music, and story. The movie is absolutely star-studded, and the simple fact that Bill Murray plays a DJ named Bill Murray the K should be enough to convince anyone to watch it. Even George Harrison makes a cameo. The soundtrack to the movie plays like what we now know about the Beatles album 1, riffing on music from each era. Their legend goes beyond the film — around the time Anthology was released, the Rutles released their own (faux) retrospective called Archaeology. They also released a follow up to All You Need Is Cash in 2002 called Can’t Buy Me Lunch, which isn’t quite as good but features a young Jimmy Fallon as a reporter, so you take what you get. Linked here is the only Yellow Submarine parody you’ll ever need.