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Don McLean’s “American Pie” is one of the most famous classic rock songs of the 1970s. In an interview, McLean discussed why he thinks it’s similar to The Beatles‘ “A Day in the Life.” During the same interview, McLean explained why he didn’t want to explain the meaning of “American Pie.”

The Beatles’ Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, John Lennon, and George Harrison standing in a row
The Beatles’ Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, John Lennon, and George Harrison | John Pratt/Keystone/Getty Images

What Don McLean felt about The Beatles and other classic rock artists

During a 2020 interview with The Telegraph Online, McLean discussed his musical taste. “I was listening to all the stuff that was on the charts, The Everly Brothers, Elvis Presley, The Kingston Trio, and the single guys like, ‘At the Hop,’ ‘Skyliner’ song,” he recalled. For context, “At the Hop” is a song by Danny & the Juniors and “Skyliner” is an instrumental by Charlie Barnet.

McLean also discussed other songs and artists, including “Since I Don’t Have You” by The Skyliners. “In fact, I made a really nice record of ‘Since I Don’t Have You,’ which is one of the best records I ever made,” he said. “Then, you know, I really loved The Beatles and The Stones; and I was very impressed with the early Bob Dylan records.”

Why he compared ‘American Pie’ to The Beatles’ ‘A Day in the Life’

During a 2017 interview with the Library of Congress, McLean said he didn’t want to comment on the meaning of “American Pie.” He worried that would make the song lose some of its luster. “Sometimes people who knew me at the time, old road managers or sidemen, will come out and say,’ Well, I know what this means! Because he told me!,'” McLean said. “Well, they’re lying, I never told anyone.”

McLean compared “American Pie” to The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life.” “It’s sort of like the song ‘A Day in the Life’ and what they [the writers] did with the music and lyrics: it has strange lyrics — mundane, even — and then they turn on you,” he said. “It’s like Technicolor almost, but with words. It’s a different kind of drug.”


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How Don McLean’s ‘American Pie’ performed in the United States and the United Kingdom

The American public had very different responses to “American Pie” and “A Day in the Life.” “American Pie” became McLean’s biggest hit, topping the Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks. For 19 weeks in total, it stayed on the chart. The song’s parent album, American Pie, became a hit too. The album was No. 1 for seven of its 48 weeks on the Billboard 200.

According to The Official Charts Company, “American Pie” charted several times in the United Kingdom. It was most popular in 1972, when it reached No. 2 in the U.K. and remained on the chart for 16 weeks. Meanwhile, American Pie reached No. 2 and spent 54 weeks on the chart.

“American Pie” was a popular song and McLean thought it was similar to a Beatles classic.