Paul McCartney says the Beatles used Motown as a template – for what not to do

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The Beatles memorably covered the Motown classics “You Really Got a Hold On Me,” “Please Mr. Postman” and “Money,” but that doesn’t mean they fashioned themselves after Detroit’s hitmaking juggernaut.

Instead, as Paul McCartney said during a talk at the Liverpool Institute For Performing Arts, it was quite the opposite: The Beatles wanted to smash the Motown model.

“I mean, you’d hear like the Supremes and Motown, Diana Ross’ group, those records are very similar,” McCartney says. “‘Stop! In the Name of Love’ or ‘Baby Love,’ they’re all very similar things. We wanted to avoid that. So, I think that was one of the good things for us, because we just kept on going and never sort of did the same song twice.”

Of course, Motown wasn’t the only label chasing copycat hits. Still, as the Beatles began to feel their songwriting oats, they not only to aspired to a different kind of layered complexity, they craved it. Together with producer George Martin, they became restless musical explorers.

“We didn’t want to bore ourselves,” Paul McCartney admits. “A lot of people were doing records, they’d get a winning formula and so they’d repeat it. It’s probably their producer who makes them do it. But we always spotting that happening, and we’d go: ‘Don’t want to do that.'”

The Beatles records themselves bear that out. “So, if you listen a lot of Beatles stuff, the songs are completely different,” McCartney adds. “There’s ‘Eleanor Rigby,’ and then there’s ‘Octopus’s Garden.’ There’s ‘Strawberry Fields,’ and there’s ‘Penny Lane.’ They’re all quite different. And that was only because we would have gotten bored, if they were all the same.”

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