Panic at the Disco's Secret Influences - Rolling Stone
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Panic at the Disco’s Secret Influences

From the Beatles to Alice in Wonderland to Fellini, the cultural inspirations that make up the band’s sound and vision

The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

In case the marching band costumes in the video for “Nine in the Afternoon” didn’t give it away, the sounds on Panic’s second disc draw heavily on the harmonies, horns and psychedelic narrative concepts that are staples on Sgt. Pepper. “In the past couple of years we were listening to stuff that was a little bit different than what we were on the first record, and the Beatles would be an example of that,” drummer Spencer Smith explained to Rolling Stone.

Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde

Ryan Ross, the band’s guitarist and primary songwriter, says the first time he heard “I Want You” from Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde, “it caught my ear and I just put it on repeat a bunch of times. It’s kind of a dreamy song, and really melodic for Bob Dylan — at least in that time.” Ross expained he looked to Dylan for literary influence because he was “fascinated by how [Dylan] could be so smart, but really funny and clever.”

The Who

Also part of the band’s tour through the music of the 60’s is the Who, and Ross says Panic became fans of the band’s My Generation era after checking out Amazing Journey: The Story of the Who on DVD. “After seeing that, I just had a higher appreciation for the band overall,” he says.

Alice in Wonderland

While 2005’s A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out was peppered with direct literary references (such as the references to Chuck Palahniuk’s Invisible Monsters on “Time to Dance”), Ross said he limited his reading material for Pretty. Odd. to “more classical stuff, like a re-read of Alice in Wonderland.” Look no further than the flowery, hallucinogenic quality of Pretty. Odd.‘s album cover and the song “Mad as Rabbits.”

The Last Waltz

The Band’s Martin Scorsese-directed concert DVD is one of several music documentaries Panic at the Disco stock the back of their tour bus with (along with films on the Who, Tom Petty, Queen and the Beatles). Panic also covered the Band’s “The Weight” during their 2007 gigs in a move that perhaps foreshadowed the earthier sound of their new record.


For three months in 2007, Panic spent time in a cabin in the woods coming up with songs that would eventually get scrapped in favor of the ones that became Pretty. Odd.. Singer Brendon Urie also hinted the set for Panic’s upcoming tour revolves around the words “flowers,” “weather” and “organic.” The band’s experiences were channeled into the song title “From a Mountain in the Middle of the Cabins.”


Irish Folk Music

Love it or hate it, Brendon Urie says his inspiration for “Folkin’ Around” — a sweet country line dance-sounding track that clocks in at just under two minutes — was Irish folk music (including the mutated brand that Shane MacGowan has made famous). “The song is very light-hearted, it’s just a bit of fun,” he told NME. “For a couple of tracks [the rest of the band] let me explore the boundaries.”

Renaissance Faires

While the orchestrations on Pretty. Odd. are likely the result of high tech recording techniques, there is a certain lute-and-minstrel quality to many of the more ornate tunes (especially the woodwinds and gentle string plucking — is there a zither in there? — on”She Had the World”). While the Panic boys have never expressed a fondness for leather mugmaking or jousting, it wouldn’t shock anybody if they thought a trip to Medieval Times was a good idea for a birthday party.

The Recording Studio at the Palms in Las Vegas

The boys in Panic (three fourths of whom hail from Sin City) claim they were holed up in the Palms’ recording studio so long that the hotel’s staff brought them food out of concern for them. But one has to wonder whether the city’s charms didn’t entice them to create a room where it was “Nine in the Afternoon.”

“A Clockwork Orange”

No, Panic at the Disco don’t endorse ultra-violence, but they do borrow from the fashion aesthetic of Stanley Kubrick’s most notorious film. Even though the band has promised to ditch their eye-makeup when they hit the road for Pretty. Odd., the pale pallor and the attraction to dandy hats sometimes makes Brendon Urie look like a stand-in for Malcolm McDowell’s Alex. Plus, underage drummer Spencer Smith would have to order milk at a bar.

The Joker

The band’s super-successful tour for A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out (in addition to their awards show appearances) found Panic dressed in harlequin make-up, with Urie as the ringleader of their demented circus. No doubt their affinity for the original evil clown informed this tribute. While they may have left the big top for Alice’s Wonderland with Pretty. Odd., certain things are hard to shake.

The Smashing Pumpkins

Panic covered “Tonight Tonight” on their 2006 summer tour, and Urie’s vocal stylings often seem to be channeling Billy Corgan.

Abbey Road Studios

While the new album heads in a different direction from their 2005 debut, Panic at the Disco didn’t abandon the strings that were so prominent on Fever when recording Pretty. Odd. Instead, they laid down that portion of the record at the Abbey Road studios — especially fitting given the Beatle footprint on Pretty. Odd.

Federico Fellini

As Contributing Editor Christian Hoard noted in the New Music Report, the video for “Nine in the Afternoon” is quite Fellini-esque in its hallucinogenic, dream-like imagery. The combination of romance, dancing, violence and sex that informs much of Panic’s work recalls classics like 8 1/2 and Satyricon.

In This Article: Panic! At the Disco


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