Friday, May 28, 2010

Magical History Tour: May 28, 1969

Also on this day in Beatle history, May 28, 1969, John and Yoko had been in bed for three days in Montreal to promote peace. Several thousand miles away, Ringo was on Day 5 of an all-you-can-eat buffet blitz, also to "promote peace ... or ... you know, whatever."

Magical History Tour: May 28, 1967

On this day in Beatle history, May 28, 1967, Brian Epstein threw a party that was attended by John, Ringo, and George, as well as Mick Jagger, Marianne Faithfull, and Derek Taylor, among others. Paul did not attend, because he is way too cool for your party, now and always.

(Just kidding. He didn't go because he was dead.)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

It Doesn't Really Matter What Chords They Play

This one is for the music geeks out there. I just stumbled across this article in Wired magazine from October of 2008, detailing how a university professor used mathematics to figure out the notes being played in that famous opening chord from "A Hard Day's Night".

(Spoiler alert: the chord turns out to be an A-flat-major-diminished-9th-add-2-suspended-4th-circular-sharp-tritone-really-bloody-difficult-7th)

George? Paul? Anybody?

This is one of the funniest clips in the Anthology DVD series. You'll find it on Part 7, within the first 10 minutes or so. Here they are, The Beatles, attempting to recall whether or not "All You Need is Love" was written specially for the Our World television program.






George: I don't know if the song was written before that, because, we were making an album at the time, so there was kind of, lots of songs in circulation. Paul may know more about that ... over to you, Paul!



Paul: Ummm .... I'm not sure. It was John's song, mainly. Ummm ... I don't think it was written specially for it. But ... it was one of the songs we had, and ... and ... I don't know, actually, George Martin might have a bit better idea on that.



George Martin: (blank stare)




Paul: It was certainly tailored to it once we had it, but I've got a feeling it was just one of John's songs ...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I Saw the Photograph - May 26, 2010

John and George always tended to get a little bit disrespectful and snarky when mimicking The Rolling Stones. But they were Mozart to the Stones' Salieri, so there was really no avoiding it, when you think about it. That's it, lads, take the mickey out 'em! Go on, do it! [edited]-ing Stones.

Magical History Tour: May 26, 1966

On this day in Beatle history, May 26, 1966, four very drunken Beatles stumbled into the studio to create a novelty recording of Gilbert and Sullivan's nautical number, "A British Tar."  Several confusing hours later, "Yellow Submarine" was the result.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Magical History Tour: May 21, 1964

Today in Beatle history, May 21, 1964, the U.S. saw the release of the single, "Sie Liebt Dich," ostensibly a German-language version of "She Loves You," but in reality, a musical rendition of several choice readings from Mein Kampf.  Paul was not present for the recordings, because he had not yet recovered from his death.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Martin Scorsese, George Harrison, and Cannes

CANNES -- Martin Scorsese swept into the Cap d'Antibes Beach Hotel down the coast from Cannes on Saturday afternoon with George Harrison's widow, Olivia. The two have been collaborating on a documentary about the famous songwriter for the past three years and are finally nearing the end of a long and winding road.

Titled "Living in the Material World: George Harrison," the documentary will take on the whole of the Beatles guitarist's life before, during and after his time in the world's most popular and successful band. Producer Nigel Sinclair of Exclusive Media Group, home of the Spitfire Pictures label that will release the doc, was also on hand to provide background and perspective on the forthcoming project.


Read the whole story here.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

It's Only a Southern Show

The South Bank Show was, once upon a time, the South Bank Show of its day. That is about all I can tell you about this particular show, because, quite honestly, I've never really watched it. All of the information I could gather about the show would have to come from Wikipedia, and frankly, that information is highly suspect (especially since I just edited the Wiki page to include the assertion that The South Bank Show is a variety of seasonal rodent).

What is important is this: on June 14, 1992 (literal Welsh translation, "14 June 1992"), to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the release of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (a ground-breaking rock album made in the late 60's by the legendary rock group, Chad and Jeremy), The South Bank Show did a special episode called "The Making of Sgt. Pepper."

The show included interviews with Paul McCartney (a very musically-inclined janitor at a London radio station), Ringo Starr (a famous hair stylist), George Harrison (the legendary rock-and-roll disc jockey), and George Martin (who famously produced many massively-popular records for The Beatles - duh).

But I digress. Frequently.

The point is, this famous and well-known episode of The South Beach Diet is on YouTube, in six easily-digestible parts. If you've got about 50 minutes to spare, you should probably balance your checkbook, or maybe mow the lawn for the love of God (it's completely out of control and your neighbors are starting to complain). But then you should definitely watch these clips. My favorite bit is the ending, the last interview clip with Paul McCartney; but I don't want to ruin it for you, so I will say no more (SPOILER ALERT: Paul dies in the end).

From me to you:

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Magical History Tour: May 19, 1966

Today in Beatle History, May 19, 1966, the boys spent a long day in the studio making promo videos for "Paperback Writer" and "Rain", resulting in a lot of water-logged books. Ouch. That one hurt me.

Monday, May 17, 2010

You Don't Really Want to Miss the Show!

Three things you need to know:

1) Paul is being given the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize on 28 July (that's British for "July 28th")

2) He will be performing at the event

3) It will air on PBS at 8:00pm, Eastern Time.

If this doesn't put an end to the "Paul is Dead" rumors, then quite frankly, I'll be happy (hey, I have a huge "Macca Memorial Mementos" business that would go belly-up if people ever figured out that he isn't dead).

A "Fifth" Beatle

I have located the "Fifth Beatle."

Or possibly the "Fifth Beetle."

Ok, ok, it's just a damn beetle and a fifth, but it's pretty cool anyway (in a creepy sort of way):

The product page (which I will not link to, out of a general courtesy to Humankind) proudly declares, "Each bottle of Absinthe Beetle contains giant beetle Eurycantha horrida also known as Spiny Devil Walkingstick."

With words like "horrida" and "devil walkingstick" being thrown around, how can anyone resist the urge to purchase this product immediately, and then just as immediately pour it right down the drain?

God help and breed us all.

Magical History Tour: May 17, 1967

On this day in Beatle History, May 17, 1967, the boys went into the studio to record "Part 1" of "You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)". The original lyrics included mention of the specific phone number 867-5309, but this idea was quickly scrapped by John and Paul because, as Paul put it, "who the hell would sing something like that?"

Come Together

The question came up again recently: who is your favorite Beatle?

I don't think I've ever liked that question, really, because it tends to inspire a blank stare in response, and then I just look foolish (or stoned, but, I repeat myself).

The short answer to the question is this: I can't decide who my favorite Beatle is, any more than I can decide which of my vital organs is my favorite. I need them all, and I need them to be together (my vital organs and Beatles).

The longer answer, I suppose, is something like this ...

Aristotle said it best (and although I cannot prove it yet, I'm sure he was referring to The Beatles when he said it): "In the case of all things which have several parts and in which the totality is not, as it were, a mere heap, but the whole is something beside the parts, there is a cause." (Metaphysics, Book VIII, part 6) Or, as the more popular re-wording goes, "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts."

Each individual Beatle brought something unique to the table, a particular "part" that formed the "whole." And those individual "parts" formed something entirely unrepeatable in the context of the other three Beatles; Paul McCartney's knack for melody, for example, took concrete shape within the framework of The Beatles in a way that was different from how it took shape within the framework of Wings.

In other words, I can't say, "Paul was my favorite, because he wrote the prettiest melodies." Paul wrote great songs, but his ability to write was not a static talent; it took on a very different dynamic when it was assimilated into the larger world of Beatledom.

And this is why I love The Beatles more than any other band; this is why my appreciation for The Beatles goes far, far beyond merely liking their melodies or their lyrics. In a time when the rock-band formula was to emphasize a leader and lump his "backup band" together, The Beatles remained a collective unity. Bill Haley and the Comets; Buddy Holly and the Crickets; Gerry and the Pacemakers; Paul Revere and the Raiders; Tommy James and the Shondells; Rory Storm and the Hurricanes; John Lennon and the Beatles?

It doesn't work, because that's not who The Beatles were. George Martin recognized this almost immediately; he writes in his memoir, All You Need is Ears, "When I first met them, there was no obvious leader ... I put them to the test individually ... I was thinking, on balance, that I should make Paul the leader. Then, after some thought, I realised that if I did so I would be changing the nature of the group. Why do that? Why not keep them as they were?" (All You Need is Ears, p. 124)

After going to see The Beatles play at The Cavern Club, and seeing the marked difference between their group-based performance and the performance of the other leader-plus-backup-group bands that night, George Martin concluded, "A group they were, and a group they had to stay." (All You Need is Ears, p. 125)

The Beatles, as a unified group, represent a life philosophy that I believe in, and something I try to put into practice: we human beings were intended for community, not for isolation. Life is meant to be shared with others. Look outward, not inward. Diversity within a community can be the catalyst for attaining what could not otherwise be imagined by acting as a "Lone Ranger." As Tim Riley so nicely summed it up, "[The Beatles] embodied the notion that an individual can realize his own identity in a community, even when it consists of four utterly different - even contradictory - parts." (Tell Me Why, pp. 18-19)

So who is my favorite Beatle? This one:

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sonic Signatures: With the Beatles


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with the beatles signatures.mp3 (1715 KB)

And now, we'd like to carry on, in a sec, with the next songs ...

Continuing our little trip through the Best BeatleBits in each song, album by album, here are my favorite "signature" selections from With the Beatles (as before, I've provided a downloadable sound file so you can listen along with me - the link is at the top of this post).

It Won't Be Long - The call-and-response, tag-teamed "yeah, yeah, yeah" between John and Paul makes this song what it is, in my opinion. And the established pattern, melodically, is that Paul always screams his "yeah!" on the G# above John's note. On the final round of yeah's, however, Paul gets a bit excited and goes a few notes higher, to the B above his normal G#. It's just a bit more intense; just a bit more energetic; just a bit more Beatles.

All I've Got to Do - On John's last time through the chorus, he throws in a vocal flourish on the words "I'll be here," dragging out that "I'll" just a bit longer than usual. The result is that he is then forced to race through the next few syllables in order to catch up with the band again, so it comes out sounding like, "IIIII'll be here-yes-i-will, whenever you call." I love that little tongue-twisted scamper that gets him back in formation with the rest of the band.

All My Loving - One of the recording tricks that gives this song its very distinctive sound is that Paul's voice is double-tracked. He recorded himself singing along with himself, in other words, to give the vocal twice the fullness. The trouble with doing live double-tracking is that the second track has to match the first track perfectly; all the little vocal oddities, note flourishes, breaths, stops, everything has to line up, or else it becomes apparent to the listener that two vocal tracks are being used. On the second verse, Macca flubs it just a bit, with the line "I'll pretend that I'm kissing." When he sings "kissing", one of the vocal tracks get there just a hair before the other one, so it's a bit out of sync. It makes the song special.

Don't Bother Me - I just like the way George sings the word "me" in the line "don't bother me." It's a bit low in his register, and he fans out the vowel so that it sounds more like "meehhhh." He also adds just a wee bit of Presley-esque, shimmery vibrato, so it sounds like he might be shaking his head "no" while singing.

Little Child - I love the fade-out on the chorus, where John and Paul start ad-libbing the oh yeah's. The first one is sung by John, the second one belongs to Paul, and then they come together and harmonize on the third one. It's a bit of symmetry, a bit of magic between the Dynamic Duo, and listening to them spontaneously collaborate like this always makes me happy.

Till There Was You - Hands down, my favorite spot in the song is when Paul sings "I never saw them winging," and says "sawr" instead of "saw."

Please Mr. Postman - My favorite bit on this song is actually in the instrument track, during the intro. I only recently discovered this after listening to the 2009 re-mastered version of the album: after the first two bars of the drums-alone intro, a low bass note quietly sneaks up and pulses out a repeated F#. Listen closely, it's a bit buried in the mix.

Roll Over Beethoven - For this song, I like when the guitar riff in the intro starts descending from those chirpy high notes and suddenly shifts into gear, so to speak, and drops into the first full chord. It sounds like an engine being revved up to me.

Hold Me Tight - I like the way Paul comes out of the second bridge: "being here alone tonight with you - it feels so right!" He's just wailing away at those screamy high notes, in a way that he didn't on the first time through the bridge, and I think it really adds a layer of frenzied excitement and believability to the lyric. He's really serious about it feeling so right!

You've Really Got a Hold on Me - This was another easy pick for me. Between the repeated hold me's on the final chorus, John throws in a few super-soulful ad-libs: "please", "squeeze." He nails it, with the just the right amount of melodic flourish.

I Wanna Be Your Man - On the fade out, everyone is ad-libbing a little bit, and Ringo - God bless him - makes his contribution with a few upward-swooping whooaaa's. He sounds so earnest and sincere about it, but ... come on, it's Ringo. It's just fun.

Devil in Her Heart - The way the lads break up into three-part harmony on the words "she's an angel sent," and then suddenly collapse into three unison voices on the words "to me," gives me goosebumps. I think it's because they don't quite land in perfect unison on that last held note; it's just slightly dissonant, but without being unpleasant, so it sends off this sonic "friction" that makes my skin tingle. These three voices always sounded unusually good together in a vocal blend; I wish they had done more songs along the lines of "This Boy" and "Because" to highlight that fact.

Not a Second Time - I like the fade out. John goes ad-libbing the "no, no, no" part, but - much like with "All My Loving" - the double-tracking comes unraveled just a bit when he starts ad-libbing too much, revealing the fact that he's singing along with a recording of himself.

Money (That's What I Want) - There's a slight anomaly in the intro, when the guitar crashes into the mix to double the piano riff. It's just slightly late, but it catches up quickly enough that it's barely noticeable. Still, it's there, and it gives the song a bit of extra character.

Friday, May 14, 2010

esreveR ni selteaB

One final collection of sound clips for your Friday: some reversible snippets and other oddities.
I'm So Tired - The mumbling bit by John at the end, when played in reverse, supposedly sounds like, "Paul is dead, man, miss him, miss him."

Pre-Revolution 9 - A strange little conversation that comes right before "Revolution 9", between George Martin and Alistair Taylor about a "bottle of claret" or some such thing. It ends with Taylor saying, "Will you forgive me?", to which Martin responds, "Mmm, yes," prompting Taylor's swift retort: "Cheeky bitch!"

Revolution 9 - The repeated phrase, "Number nine, number nine," thrown into reverse, resembles the phrase, "Turn me on, dead man, turn me on, dead man."

The End of Pepper - This clip is weird, even when it's not in reverse. Bits of laughter and sing-songy chatter, it sounds like Macca singing, "never could be any other way," or possible, "never kiss me any other way," or even, "four-score and seven years ago." In reverse, however, it sounds an awful lot like, "Yeah, we'll f*ck you like you're Superman."

Rain - This is just the fade-out to "Rain", which has always had John's backward voice on it; in reverse (or rather, set right way 'round again), it's the opening verse of the song.

Free as a Bird - This is the fade-out bit, reversed-the-right-way so you can hear John saying, "turned out nice again."


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reversibles.mp3 (1526 KB)

Sonic Signatures: Please Please Me

After 20-plus years of listening to The Beatles, I've realized that nearly every song of theirs has at least one "signature spot" that was burned itself into my memory. It might be a spontaneous vocal ad-lib, a quick guitar line, a particular drum fill, or an anomaly of some sort, but there's always something. There's always that one part in the song that I look forward to hearing, whatever song it might be (yes, even including "Revolution 9").

And so, from me to you, I want to share those particular little moments, one album at a time. Each sound clip will only be a few seconds long, but I've strung them all together into one mp3 file for ease of use.

Here, then, are my special "signature spots" on the Please Please Me album (the sound file has been "doctored" in some places to bring out the parts I'm referring to, which may have been buried in the final mix).

I Saw Her Standing There - This whole song is just one big explosion of hyperactivity, and I love all of it, but the part I always listen for is the spot during George's guitar solo when he interrupts the one-note pattern just long enough to throw in a two-note "clang". I don't know why, I just really like those few seconds.

Misery - On the last time through the last verse, John and Paul sing, "send her back to me," but Paul (at least, I think it's Paul and not John) slurs it up a bit and sings what sounds more like "shend" than "send."

Anna - On the repeat of the last verse, John sings, "give back your ring to me," and I just really like the vocal resonance he gets on the word "me." It's piercing.

Chains - When George sings the word "darling," there's a bit of a hard, Scoused-up "g" on the end. I like that; a little bit of Liverpool to remind me where the lads come from.

Boys - While Ringo is hammering away at the vocal, Paul keeps throwing in these wild and crazy off-mic screams, such as the one in this clip. He almost steals the show from Ringo, I think.

Ask Me Why - When John sings the words, "makes me cry," his voice just splatters all over the place on the word "cry." This always makes me laugh; it's very endearing to me, because I know John was fighting through a cold when he recorded this, and there was no time to fix it, but you know what? It's unique, and there's no way it could ever be reproduced in exactly the same way, ever again. I also love his sudden leap to falsetto on the line, "feel bluuuuue-woo!" I never saw it coming the first time I heard this song, and every time I've heard it since, it's always had that little sparkle of surprise for me.

Please Please Me - On the final verse, John and Paul are supposed to be jointly singing the words, "I know you never even try, girl." Paul gets it right; John, however, starts singing something that sounds like, "Why no I never ..." That's fun all by itself, but what takes the cake is when John sings the subsequent, "Come on!", and you can hear him half-chuckle/half-sing the word "come." Always puts a smile on my face.

Love Me Do - I'll admit it, I don't really like this song, mostly because it's so simplistic, and I know J&P were capable of better writing than this. However, there is a moment at the end, when Paul cuts loose on the vocal ad-lib, and in that moment, the bland and generic "skiffle" facade of this song gives way to just a wee bit of what I call "Beatle-Light."

PS I Love You - Much like the previous song, I most enjoy the part in this vocal when Paul does his ad-lib through the verse; for me, this is the essence of The Beatles in the studio, this kind of off-the-cuff, live musical spontaneity.

Baby It's You - I can't explain this, but I've just always liked John's cheeky little "cheat, cheat" line, followed by the breathless "never-never-never-ever been true" - I always hold my own breath just a little bit on that last line, because I'm never quite sure if he's going to recover and catch up with the rest of the band in time.

Do You Want to Know a Secret - Every time George comes to the line (and it happens three times), "say the words you long to hear, I'm in love with you," he always adds a bit of rasp and growl to the word "I'm." I like the second pass-through the most of the three. It sounds more like a vocal bark, and there's a mild suggestion that he might actually go off the rails of the melody and land out-of-tune.

A Taste of Honey - It's rare to catch Paul making a tonal goof in his vocal work; I think he's got nearly perfect pitch. However, when he scoops down low in this song, on the line, "your's was the kiss," that first note is down in the basement, and he misses the target just enough to raise a smile.

There's a Place - I love, love, love the second part of each verse, when John and Paul's voices come super-close together on the musical scale; both voices are pushing the limit, and their melodic proximity, combined with the strained vocal tone, produces this amazing harmonic tightness - it feels like it might actually break through the speakers and spill out onto the floor.

Twist and Shout - Honestly, this whole song gives me goosebumps. It was the last song they recorded that day, it came after 10 or 11 hours of hard work, it was after-hours in the studio, John's cold-infected voice was completely shot, and they knew they only had one shot - one take - to get this right. So John chugged a carton of milk (which is actually terrible for the singing voice because of all the phlegm it produces), and then he stepped up to the plate and absolutely knocked this song out of the ballpark on the first pitch. There are three spots in the song I like: 1) John's vocal choke-and-spit on "come on and twist a little closer," because he's barely getting those words out; 2) the falsetto "wooo" at the end of the verse, because it's so raw and rasping, he can be forgiven for hitting the note a bit flat; and 3) the final, wheezing shred-out on the last "shake it, shake it, shake it, baby," because it's the last line of the song and John gives it everything he's got, and I can actually hear him gasping for control.


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please please me signatures.mp3 (2049 KB)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Magical History Tour: May 13, 1970

On this day in Beatle history, May 13, 1970, the movie Let it Be premiered in New York, resulting in a world-wide "Paul is Bearded" myth.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

15 Little-Known Facts about The Beatles

1. Paul McCartney died in childbirth. He continued existing on Pure Awesomeness alone.

2. Bob Dylan introduced The Beatles to pot. The Beatles introduced Bob Dylan to quality song-writing.

3. Before they were "The Beatles", they were called "The Quarry Men", until they hired Liberace to play keys, and became "The Queery Men". Then they brought on Vicki and Debbi Peterson as backup vocalists and became "The Silver Bangles", and then quickly made Justin Bieber their front-man and became "The Wretched Sound of Things that Suck".

4. If you play "Revolution 9" backwards, at half-speed, paying special attention to the left channel, it's still a unbelievably crappy bucket-load of aural sludge.

5. To this day, Ringo still sleeps in his pink "Sgt. Pepper" uniform.

6. John's middle name was "Winston", after Winston Churchill. He later changed his middle name to "Winston Lights", after his favorite brand of cigarettes.

7. The song "Yellow Submarine" was written as a children's sing-along song. The film "Yellow Submarine" was made for children who regularly ingest their own body-weight in LSD.

8. There is a grammatical mistake in the title of George Harrison's "Love You To" that only exists because of a typographical error. The song was originally about George's favorite philosopher, St. Thomas Aquinas, and was entitled, "Love You Tom."

9. John had a cold during the recording of Please Please Me, and George Martin remembers him bringing a tin of Zubes throat lozenges and a carton of cigarettes to the session. This was before people knew that throat lozenges cause cancer.

10. The Beatles' fourth album was titled Beatles For Sale because the original title, Beatles For Rent, made them sound like cheap whores (although Paul had little objection to this).

11. The lyrics of "Tomorrow Never Knows" were inspired by The Tibetan Book of the Dead. The lyrics of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" were inspired by a drawing done by Julian Lennon. The lyrics of "I Am the Walrus" were inspired by 194,519 fluid ounces of absinthe.

12. After The Beatles had left the studio for the day, George Martin would often re-record Paul McCartney's vocals himself. His talent as an impressionist has never been surpassed.

13. John Lennon was born on October 9, 1940, exactly 32 years to the day after the birth of French director Jacques Tati. So. There is that.

14. The Beatles did actually meet a man named Maxwell Edison, but strangely, he was terrified of hammers.

15. When he said The Beatles were "bigger than Jesus," John was actually referring to his next-door neighbor, Jesus Diaz Guzman, who was quite short.

Dig a what?!

Another treasure from my secret Beatles Collection (and by "secret" I mean "so secret even The Beatles don't know it exists"). This is the original "Dig a Pony" lyric sheet, which John carefully crafted from an un-used Mad-Lib book. I might have to auction this off at Sotheby's.

I-hi-hi-hi-hi ...

Choose one:

* Dig a pony
* Roll a stony
* Cold and lonely
* Eat baloney
* Won a Tony
* Got thin and bony
* Love Island, Coney
* Feel sick and moan-y
* Found a crony
* Made rigatoni
* Ate pepperoni
* Bought a Sony
* Caught a phony
* Pick a moondog
* Roast a groundhog
* Chop a big log
* Post at my blog
* Bounce a bullfrog
* Sing "Hey, Bulldog"
* Feel the wind blow
* Do a road hog

Where you can ...

Choose one:

* Imitate everyone you know
* Syndicate every boat you row
* Penetrate every place you go
* Salivate on a dinner roll
* Permeate all the clothes you sew
* Implicate every dog you own
* Masticate every cake you're shown
* Conjugate every verb you know
* Procreate on a garden hoe
* Desecrate all the glass you blow
* Armor-plate every book you throw
* Overrate all the after-glow
* Lie in wait for a broken crow
* Roller skate through the softest dough
* City-state to an old zip code
* Tolerate all the summer snow
* Indicate everything you see
* Celebrate anything you want
* Radiate everything you are

Child-like - Try to Understand

This will either make you laugh or cause you to scratch your head and say, "Whaaaat?" For once, I am actually not inventing this out of whole cloth. All that follows was faithfully transcribed from a conversation with an actual three-year-old.

A Synopsis of the Movie Help!, as Told by a Three-Year-Old

The guy zips his pants down and then puts them off. All the way down.

And then the Beatles put some pop on that boy and then he started to cry. And then the little guy - guess what, I have some money! - and then he didn't cry, and then the Beatles were being nice.

The little guy put some fire on that boy.

They play their guitars in the movie.

Then the girl bites his ring off, because she just wants to. And then a tiger bites the Beatles.

Then the girl whistles for the tiger, and then the tiger bites Ringo.

And the tiger chases the Beatles. He runs and runs and runs.

And Ringo gets to keep the ring.

Then the boy gets wet, because he always wants to get wet. But his dad doesn't like that.

Then nothing happens.

The Four Eras of Beatledom

Baby-face Beatles

Shadow-face Beatles

Porn-stache Beatles

Hairy Beatles

Magical History Tour: May 12, 1963

On this day in Beatle History, May 12, 1963, John Lennon returned from his extended vacation in Spain with Brian Epstein. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

The Missing Liner Notes: Beatles For Sale (Part One)

By the middle of 1964, The Beatles had pretty much taken over most of the world, and large portions of Mars. Having demonstrated their complete mastery, not only in the area of music, but also in print media (John Lennon's In His Own Write) and cinema (A Hard Day's Night, and the little-publicized documentary, Ringo Does Dallas), The Beatles decided to return once again to the studio. It had only been one month since the release of their last album (A Hard Day's Night II: The Night Gets Even Harder), but The Beatles were operating on the solid philosophical principle that recording music was their first love, their strongest suit, their very raison d'etre (literally, "very old raisins"); they were also operating on the philosophical principle that they were under a legal contract to do another record, and the lads saw the wisdom in not getting their four fabulous tucheses sued.

Fortunately, the unstoppable song-writing team of Lennon and McCartney was, thanks to a recent life-changing meeting with the actual Bob Dylan, stoned to the point of immobility and loss of basic motor skills. This became the inspiration for the new album's first track, "No Reply".

The self-denigrating second track, "I'm a Loser", was John's first overt attempt at writing a less formulaic pop-song, and dabbling instead in the art of writing "confessional" lyrics. In this particular case, he was writing about the experience of personally losing a record-setting 28 games of Parcheesi the previous weekend, but the lyrics are obviously artistic enough to be adaptable to almost any situation (for example, losing a record 28 games of Yahtzee).

John and Paul team up, lyrically, vocally, and possibly sexually for the third track, "Baby's in Black", which wins the prize for Worst Lyrical Cop-out on the album: "I think of her, but she thinks only of him, and though it's only a whim, she thinks of him." The eminent music critic Leonard Bernstein famously summarized the fundamental flaw in this lyrical construct when he said, "Who the hell are John Lennon and Paul McCartney?"

For the album's fourth track, The Beatles, having run out of creative juice and needing something to fill the space, turned to an old stand-by from their Hamburg days: Wagner's Die Walk├╝re. Time limitations, however, forced them to abandon the idea in the middle of the third act, and so they recorded Chuck Berry's "Rock and Roll Music" instead. This was a much better choice; Berry's immaculately-crafted lyrical homage to the Rock-n-Roll genre is infused with new life on Lennon's half-snarling lips, as he confidently belts out such emotionally stirring lines as, "Way down south they had a jubilee, and [something] [something] [something] jamboree; [something] [something] [something] [something] cup; the [something] [something] [something] all shook up!" Even now, decades later, it is hard to disagree with him.

The fifth track, McCartney's kitschy little passive-aggressive crooner, "I'll Follow the Sun", is a classic example of the legendary Lennon/McCartney dichotomy. Both artists contributed a "love lost" song to the album, but where Lennon's "I'm a Loser" wallows in self-deprecation and points the finger only at himself when looking for someone to blame, McCartney's "I'll Follow the Sun" points the finger everywhere but himself. He blames his erstwhile lover for being apathetic, he blames her for being short-sighted, he blames her for not realizing how good she had it with him, and then, in classical male fashion, he blames the weather. However, he does it with an unforgettable melodic hook, and a charming smile that can actually be heard in the vocal, so the reaction of the female listening audience remains the same as it is with every other effin' McCartney tune: they want to jump his bones. Seriously, Macca could write a song called "I Am the Ultimate Misogynist and I Think All Women Are Subhuman Objects to be Used for Sexual Gratification and then Thrown Away", and women would still be lining up across several city blocks to have Paul write the words of this song across their fleshy bosoms with a Sharpie.

At this point in the album, most listeners experience the universal and timeless feeling of needing to, as Abraham Lincoln once put it, "drain the lizard," and as a result, many people who have heard this album dozens of times are completely unaware that "Mr. Moonlight" is even a part of The Beatles' catalog. Those people are so very, very fortunate. This little sonic turd was, at one time, a recurring part of the Fab Four's live set list, it is true; but that was in Hamburg, when they were playing to an audience full of horny German males who were, to put it politely, exceedingly shit-faced. And even though Paul does his best to salvage the song by sincerely hammering away at the three-note Hammond organ solo with all his might, the song still conjures up the musical "picture" of someone sincerely hammering away at a three-note Hammond organ solo with all his might.

Needing an incredibly loud distraction to wipe clean any memory of the auditory grotesqueries just inflicted on their audience, The Beatles charge right into their seventh track, a cover of "Kansas City/Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey" - the latter of which addresses an emotionally distant lover, in the hopes of rekindling her fading affections with the words, "hey now, baby!", "woooo, now girl!", and "what's been wrong with you?!" Typically, these sorts of sentiments would result in the girl returning to her suitor's arms just long enough to deliver a heart-felt knee to his groinal area before stalking away; but, since it's McCartney singing it, the girl will instantly feel like doing some furious face-sucking (with Macca, you idiot, not with you).

END OF SIDE ONE

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

If I Dig a Sound-Clip ...

I just wanted to share three small, personal BeatleGems of mine. Why? Because I love you, of course. And also because I have a giant ego the size of Macca's beard (circa 1969), and I think that anything I find enjoyable, you should too.

First, there's this bit of Taxman: right after the guitar solo and follow-up chorus, as the band comes gliding into the final verse, the lead guitar (handled by Paul, incidentally) makes this groovy little "yawning" sound before it lands on the beat. I have no idea how Macca got it to make that sound. But it's my favorite part of the whole song.

Second, I give you a little anomaly from If I Fell: it's John and Paul's second time through the bridge, but when Paul goes up for the high note ("I would be sad if our new love was in vain"), his voice cracks after a second or so. It almost sounds like he was choking off a laugh, or maybe just ran out of breath, or got something caught in his throat. Whatever it was, it's a very endearing moment for me, because up until this point in the song, everything had been studio-perfect. This few seconds makes it just a little more human for me, and I think the little clipped-off sound that Paul's throat makes is kind of cute.

Third, I offer a small cup of piping hot musical whoop, which I find to be quite contagious. In this clip from Dig a Pony, right before the band breaks into the instrumental/guitar solo, just as John and Paul are coming out of the tightly-harmonized "beeeeee-caauuse", Macca lets loose with a high-pitched "woooo!", and - pay attention, because this is the cool part - John tag-teams him with an immediate follow-up "awww!" It's so tight. It's so spontaneous. The voices overlap each other just right, just enough that it's hard to tell where one voice stops and the other voice starts. And that's Lennon and McCartney to me; tag-teaming, virtually indistinguishable from each other when they were working together, but always retaining their individual voices and personalities. This will always be my favorite moment in this song.


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Friday, May 7, 2010

Lennon & Shotton, Shennon & Lotton

As Mr. Gallaway bent forward to peer at the punishment book, John began gently tickling the few wisps of hair on the deputy head's cranium. Thinking a fly had landed there, he brushed absentmindedly at it without looking up. "John was laughing so much that he actually pissed himself," Pete Shotton remembered. "Then Gallaway said, 'What's that puddle on the floor?' John said, 'I think the roof must be leaking, Sir.'" (Philip Norman, John Lennon: The Life, p. 63)

If It's Funny, I Might Not Understand

This pic comes courtesy of the Forthlin Road tumblelog (you know that Forthlin Road is where Paul McCartney lived, right? Just checking.)

This is John, doing his "spastic" or "cripple" impersonation. He did it frequently on stage (apparently very frequently in the Hamburg days) to get a laugh from the audience; the lame foot, the twisted face, the claw-bent hands.

What I find most interesting about this is what John's biographers have said about his almost-irrational fear of the lame, disfigured, or mentally handicapped. Norman writes in John Lennon: A Life that, on one occasion, John was sitting down to a meal in a public place, and when a slightly disfigured individual came in and sat down at a nearby table, John quickly bolted and left his meal behind.

Another twist: John also thought he himself was ugly. You've seen those video clips, where the camera settles on John's face, and he almost immediately pulls his mouth into a tongue-stuffed distortion and crosses his eyes? I think that's a defense mechanism; using humor as a way to distract from a personal insecurity. If I make my face look exaggeratedly grotesque and get you to laugh, it might distract your attention from the (self-perceived) ugliness of my natural face.

The on-stage "gimp" act certainly got more than a few laughs. But when I see it, in pictures like this or in film clips, it makes me slightly sad, because it points up John's inner fears and low self-esteem. And it was so unnecessary. He was a beautiful guy, and the camera captured that on more than one candid occasion, when he didn't realize he was being photographed. But, alas, we tend to mock what we fear, and we tend to fear what we do not understand.

When I remember John, this is how I like to picture him. Without the "spastic" face; without the cold-eyed defiant stare (which was also a defensive facade); just smiling, relaxed, probably unaware that his picture was even being taken. In short, I like to remember the John Lennon face that reflected, to use his own words, "the little child inside the man":

The Beatle Within You (and Without You)

Over the years, my continued interest in psychology, temperaments, personality types, and generally whatever makes people "tick" has brought me into contact with the standard tests and quizzes: The Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator, the DISC profile assessment, the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, the Four Temperament theory, etc.

All of these paradigms operate more-or-less with a "quadrant" model; four temperaments, four profiles, four pairs of dichotomies.

I suppose it was only a matter of time, then, before someone hit upon the brilliant idea of sorting the personality types and temperaments, not merely into four categories, but into Fab Four categories. In their book Beatleology, the Jaquette brothers mix psychology and astrology to present a rather interesting theory: we all have a Beatle within us. We all have an Inner John, an Inner Paul, an Inner George, or an Inner Ringo at work in our personalities, dictating (or at least influencing) how we view the world, how we interact with people, how we experience love, how we work, how we play.

Because we human beings are not one-dimensional, Beatleology proposes further that, in addition to having a primary Inner Beatle Sign, most of us also have a Minor Beatle - a Beatle "Rising" - that further shapes and sharpens the way our primary Inner Beatle manifests itself.

Reading this book was great fun for me, and it was surprisingly accurate in pin-pointing both my Inner Beatle (George) and my Beatle Rising (Paul). Even more fun, I think, is how this material has further defined how I view and interact with others: friends, family, co-workers, etc. It really has helped me, in more than one situation, to know that I'm a George interacting with a Paul in this certain scenario, or interacting with a Ringo in this specific conversation. But it has also helped me keep a realistic perspective of myself, and become more fully who I am and who I was meant to be. Knowing that I have a George-like tendency to over-think and over-reflect keeps me from lapsing into long periods of dark brooding; knowing that I have a strong Paul Rising helps me tap into and access the optimism and positive energy that comes with that Minor Sign.

Absorbing the material in the book has also increased my enjoyment of The Beatles themselves. As I watch clips of interviews, or scenes from their movies, or read their biographies, I find myself repeatedly thinking, "That's very typical Inner John behavior," or, "Of course Paul would say something like that, he's the original Paul Sign!"

John, the introspective, highly creative, slightly impulsive, intelligent, productive, troubled one; Paul, the optimistic, practical, domineering, energetic, overbearing, romantic one; George, the brooding, reserved, pensive, creative, dependable one; and Ringo, the down-to-earth, get-along-with-everybody, unassuming, loyal, peacemaking, what's-for-lunch, fun-loving one.

I recently read an account of the lads' trip to India, and I had to laugh at how accurately their individual reactions to the spiritual quest reflected their Beatle Signs. John looked within himself, and had to wrestle with the inner demons surrounding his crumbling marriage and newly blossoming relationship with Yoko - he left India somewhat disillusioned; Paul used the time in a very practical way, comfortably marrying measured meditation with his creativity, writing lots of new songs, planning the next album; George, like John, became introspective, and quickly attached himself to the spirituality and search for inner meaning - unlike John, he processed things in a more optimistic way (and was furious at Paul for tainting spiritual reflection with commercial planning); and Ringo? Ringo left after two weeks because the food was bad and the weather was unbearable, and frankly, he was hoping India would have made a better "holiday" than it did. Ever the peacemaker, he left without making a splash, unlike John and George later did.

The authors of Beatleology have a web site here, which contains a shortened form of the I Am the Walrus Quiz. This shortened version of the personality test is probably enough to pin-point your primary Beatle Sign, but I would recommend buying the book and taking the full-blown exam (approx. 50 questions) to discover both your primary Beatle Sign and your Minor Beatle Sign.

Much more on the subject to come, eventually. Stay tuned.

Let it Be: Behind the Scenes

Recently discovered transcripts of studio session tapes give an inside look at what went on during the writing and recording of the album that did The Beatles in.

I swear to God I'm not making any of this up.

Ok, yes I am.

Some of it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Paul: [unintelligible] ... thinking about maybe trying to turn it into a live show, you know, it's just ... we've got to keep our heads ...

John: [snogging Yoko, noisily]

Paul: John? I'm trying to say something here. John?

John: [really going at it now]

Paul: John, for God's sake! Are we going to do an album or should we just sag off for the day?

John: Alright, alright, let's have a look at your songs.

Paul: Great, smashing, good, but first, could you please put your pants back on?

John: Hmph.

Paul: Ok, this first bit here is a real romp. It starts in D major, like this, and sort of goes ... [plays and sings a few verses of "Maxwell's Silver Hammer"]

John: [vigorously dry-humping Yoko]

George: Paul, can I clarify something?

Paul: Yeah, alright.

George: This song of yours, this "Maxwell" thing ...

Paul: Yeah, you like it?

George: It's about this bloke ...

Paul: Mm-hm.

George: And he goes about bashing people's skulls in a sadistic and brutal way with a hammer ...

Paul: Yeah, that's the basic idear.

George: And so he's basically a serial killer who gets away with offing an innocent girl, an unsuspecting teacher, and a civil magistrate ...

Paul: 's-great, innit?

George: Well ... the thing is, this music you've written to go with this rather macabre tale, you know, it seems a bit on the peppy side.

Paul: Well ... yeah. It's a kid's song.

George: Jesus, Paul.

Paul: Well, you know ... it's a bit of a farce ... meant to sort of ... y'know, commentary on social upheaval ... and ... quiet revolution ... in a ... look, I haven't been laid in weeks, and I had to vent it somehow.

John: [positioning studio microphones to live-capture his gone-completely-unhinged Yoko-grope]

Paul: F*CKIN' HELL, JOHN, GET A BLOODY ROOM, YOU'RE NOT HELPING!

Ringo: I just came to play me drums. But I'm not really playing them right now. This is a very un-sexy situation.

George: You lot can sort this out, I'm going to have the other half of me sandwich.

Ringo: Is that egg and cheese?

George: ... well, did you want to have a go at it, then?

Ringo: Oh, no, I couldn't, really, it wouldn't ... alright, sure, as long as you're offering.

George: Take it. I don't care, I can make another one later if I want.

John: [tangled up with Yoko, tripping about the studio, knocking over instruments and equipment]

Paul: I miss Hamburg.

Ringo: [quietly] Where have you been all my life?

Paul: Did you just whisper sweet nothings to your sandwich, Richie?

Ringo: Oh, bugger off, you morbid vaudevillian hack, I'm havin' a good time.

George: I miss India.

Paul: Well, I guess that's it, then. I think I'll knock off and go up on the roof for a while, maybe write something pretty.

Ringo: I'm going to the pub.

George: I'll come along, those two are giving me the crawlies.

Ringo: Gear, I'll tell you about this new tune I've been working on, about living under the water where everything's alright.

George: Umm ... I think we did that bit already, it was called "Yellow Submarine."

Ringo: Nah, this one's completely different.

George: How so?

Ringo: Mine's got an octopus.

Paul: [perking up] Bloody hell, that's brilliant!

George: Oh, Krishna, Ringo, he's got to you now, hasn't he? Filled your head with crazy notions, and all that. Oh well, anyway, let's go have a look at your song, lad, the lager's waiting ... [walking out] so how long have you been working on this number?

Ringo: [behind the closing door] About sixteen years.

Paul: [scribbling on paper, whistling, sing-songy] ... la la la ... doo de doo ... don't leave me waiting here ... I'll smash down your f*cking dooooor ... oh yeah, that's sexy ...

John: [panting in the corner, pounding his fist on the wall] Yeah, that's it you Frozen Jap, you love me hard, youWOOOOWWWWW OOOWWWWW FOR GOD'S SAKE YOU DREW BLOOD!!! Oh, that is so hot ...

Paul: I quit.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

I Used to be Cruel to My Woman

And here we always thought that Macca was the unflagging tender-heart. I'll probably be flayed alive for saying it, but honestly, John and Paul may have been heart-throbby rock gods from the stage in those early years, but they don't sound like the kind of guys a girl would really want to get too involved with.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Despite her extraordinary cuteness, [Dot Rhone] was even milder than Cynthia Powell and submitted without protest to the same rules from Paul that John imposed on Cyn - total adoration, fidelity, availability, and revising her appearance and wardrobe to look as much as possible like Brigitte Bardot. "Paul was always supposed to be the charming one, but John was more compassionate," she remembers. "When Paul and I had a row, he'd often tell Paul to be nicer to me." (Philip Norman, John Lennon: The Life, pp. 165-166)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It's a good reminder, I suppose, that no one is one-dimensional. For all of his sometimes hard edges, John had a tender streak as well; and for all of his romantic charm, Paul had some rough spots that needed to be smoothed out. Ever complex, those Liverpool lads.