John Lennon: The Beatles Felt ‘Very Exclusive’ Listening to These Artists

John Lennon was very open about his feelings towards other artists’ music. He once revealed The Beatles would listen to certain artists who made them feel very hip because they were so obscure. Here’s a look into those artists’ careers — and whether they truly were obscure or not.

The Beatles at a table
The Beatles | Roger Viollet Collection/Getty Images

John Lennon said no one was listening to these artists — but the Fab Four did

In a 1970s interview with Rolling Stone, Jann S. Wenner asked John about his feelings towards America. John had some kind things to say about the country, but he said The Beatles’ looked down on the nation in their early days. “You tend to get nationalistic, and we would really laugh at America, except for its music.” He then praised two American artists.

“[We] felt very exclusive and underground in Liverpool, listening to Richie Barrett and Barrett Strong, and all those old-time records,” John revealed. “Nobody was listening to any of them except Eric Burdon in Newcastle and Mick Jagger in London. It was that lonely, it was fantastic. When we came over here and it was the same – nobody was listening to rock ‘n’ roll or to Black music in America – we felt as though we were coming to the land of its origin but nobody wanted to know about it.”

“Summer’s Love” by Richie Barrett

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How the public reacted to The Beatles’ favorite ‘underground’ artists

Is it really true that no one was listening to Barret and Strong? Well, AllMusic reports Barrett was a singer, songwriter, and producer who helped create a number of 1950s hits which aren’t well-remembered today, including “Woo Woo Train,” “Lily Maebelle,” and “Summer’s Love.” He might be most well-known for producing an act called the Three Degrees.

Strong may have had a stronger fan base. Strong had a minor hit: “Money (That’s What I Want).” It climbed to No. 17 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming Strong’s first and only hit on the chart. While the pop charts are often filled with love songs, “Money (That’s What I Want)” took the novel approach of declaring love inferior to money. Although Strong did not become a major pop star, “Money (That’s What I Want)” would remain a major pop song years after its initial release.

“Money (That’s What I Want)” by Barrett Strong

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“Money (That’s What I Want)” would go on to be covered by The Beatles themselves during their early period, when they covered lots of pop hits like “To Know Him is to Love Him” and “Twist & Shout.” In addition, The Flying Lizards released a new wave cover of the song in 1979 which heavily altered the original and became famous in its own right. “Money (That’s What I Want)” seemed to resonate with a number of different audiences, even if Strong never had another big hit. Barett and Strong didn’t become major forces on the pop charts — but they managed to impress The Beatles.