Composer Danny Elfman Discusses The Beatles’ Orchestral Influence On His Music

Renowned composer Danny Elfman recently opened up about how the orchestral arrangements in some of the Beatles‘ most iconic albums have shaped his own music. In a conversation on Amoeba Music’s YouTube channel as part of their ‘What’s In My Bag?’ video series, Elfman talked about how he traces his musical roots back to the legendary band.

Elfman shared that his journey into music began as a child, with the Beatles albums ‘Revolver’ and ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ playing a significant role. He went on to mention the songs’ I Am the Walrus’ from ‘Magical Mystery Tour,’ ‘A Day in the Life,’ and ‘Eleanor Rigby’ as prime examples of the orchestral influence that still resonates in his music today. Although he clarified that the Beatles didn’t influence his songwriting per se, it’s their string arrangements that left a lasting impact on him.

It wasn’t until Elfman started working on his album ‘Big Mess’ two years ago that he realized just how deeply the orchestral elements from the Beatles’ music had become ingrained in his own creative process. He noticed that his desire to create an album that fused rock band elements with strings harkened back to ‘Revolver.’ In fact, he admitted that the influence of George Martin’s arrangements in songs like ‘I Am the Walrus’ can still be heard in the way he approaches string arrangements and their use in his music.

The composer’s words on the Beatles’ influence on his music:

“I guess I’m kind of going back to the beginning. I’m thinking what made me now is all present in this store, and all the different phases of my musical life are all spread out here, and I could spend seven hours more looking through stuff, but if I’m going back all the way as a kid, it would be these two Beatles records [‘Revolver’ and ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’].

‘Magical Mystery Tour’ had ‘I Am The Walrus,’ then you’ve got ‘A Day In The Life,’ which is a huge one for me… ‘Eleanor Rigby.’ Now I’m not talking about songwriting influence; this is the orchestral influence that you’ll hear in my music now because I was influenced by the string arrangements.

The thing that didn’t occur to me until I was working on this [‘Big Mess’] two years ago was I wanted to do an album with a rock band, and strings took me right back to this [‘Revolver’], and of course, that’s why I have that in my head. You can still hear ‘I Am the Walrus’ and George Martin arrangements in my writing now, just in terms of how I arrange strings and use it.”

This revelation serves as a testament to the far-reaching impact of the Beatles and their innovative orchestral arrangements on contemporary artists. Danny Elfman’s recognition of their influence on his own musical style highlights the timeless nature of their work and the enduring legacy they continue to leave on the world of music. As fans and fellow musicians alike delve into Elfman’s compositions, they are sure to hear echoes of that unmistakable Beatles magic woven into the very fabric of his sound.