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  • Paul McCartney said The Beatles’ “Michelle” was inspired by the bassline of another song.
  • Paul said “Michelle” had a similarity to another Beatles song: “Julia.”
  • The star who inspired “Michelle” later recorded his own cover of the track.
Paul McCartney and John Lennon on horeseback during The Beatles' "Michelle" era
The Beatles’ Paul McCartney and John Lennon | Mirrorpix / Contributor

Paul McCartney revealed The Beatles’ “Michelle” was inspired by a country song. He said he emulated a country star’s guitar playing to write “Michelle.” In addition, he said John Lennon also learned that style of guitar playing.

Paul McCartney said The Beatles’ ‘Michelle’ was inspired by Chet Atkins’ ‘Trambone’

In the 1997 book Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now, Paul said “Michelle” was inspired by a 1950s country music star. “‘Michelle’ was a tune that I’d written in Chet Atkins’ finger-pickin’ style,” Paul said. “There is a song he did called ‘Trambone’ with a repetitive top line, and he played a bassline whilst playing a melody.

“This was an innovation for us; even though classical guitarists had played it, no rock ‘n’ roll guitarists had played it,” he added. “The first person we knew to use finger-pickin’ technique was Chet Atkins, and Colin Manley, one of the guys in the Remo Four in Liverpool, who used to play it very well and we all used to stop and admire him.”

John Lennon later learned guitar picking and used it on The Beatles’ ‘Julia’

Paul said John Lennon had his own take on fingerpicking. “Later, John learned how to do it folk-style from Donovan or Gypsy Dave, which he used on ‘Julia,'” he said. “I never learned it.

“But based on Atkins’s ‘Trambone,’ I wanted to write something with a melody and a bass line on it, so I did,” he added “I just had it as an instrumental in.” It’s interesting that “Michelle” and “Julia” employ the same musical technique even though they sound nothing alike. They’re not even in the same genre, as “Michelle” is an imitation of French pop music while “Julia” is a stark folk ballad.


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Atkins’ “Trambone” was not a hit in the United States, as it ever charted on the Billboard Hot 100. The tune appeared on some editions of the album Finger Style Guitar, which similarly did not hit the Billboard 200. Subsequently, Atkins recorded his own version of “Michelle.” That cover did not hit the Billboard Hot 100.

Atkins’ “Michelle” appeared on the album Chet Atkins Picks on The Beatles, which also features covers of “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “I Feel Fine,” “A Hard Day’s Night,” and “And I Love Her.”

That album reached No. 112 on the Billboard 200, lasting on the chart for 13 weeks. Chet Atkins Picks on The Beatles became one of Atkins’ most successful albums by a long shot. Notably, Atkins was one of the numerous acts to release Beatles covers album during the 1960s, including Judy Collins, Charles River Valley Boys, and Ramsey Lewis.

Atkins inspired “Michelle” and he later made “Michelle” his own.