Friday Favorites 2/8/2013
Sometimes, when I mention a song by The Beatles to someone quite a bit younger than I am (there are a lot of them out there), their Younger Eyes glaze over and they mumble something like, I don’t really get The Beatles. Often, they seem apologetic, as if they don’t want to hurt the old guy’s feelings, not that there’s any need. I know that musical styles change and what once was cool can become passe and unfashionable. Getting a particular artist often has more to do with what you’re used to than the actual music. And the truth is, it is impossible for me to judge the music of The Beatles objectively because it is so much a soundtrack of my formative years. The first Beatles song I remember noticing was I Want to Hold Your Hand. It was 1963 and my friend, Russ, and I were driving to our apartment in Waterbury, CT, where we were going to school. I wasn’t that impressed, and not by the B-side, I Saw Her Standing There, either. It was simple and exuberant pop rock and roll, yes (great beat … easy to dance to) but too unsophisticated for a sophomore in college who liked jazz. But by the time I graduated from college three years later, Yesterday was the sad theme for a break up with Muri, and Eight Days a Week the theme for the rest of our time together. And Hey, Jude was the song I played over and over on the Student Union jukebox until everyone wanted to kill me. Na, na, na, na-na-na-na. Na, na, na, na, Hey Jude.
In the seven years from the time I first noticed The Beatles until they broke up in 1970, the group evolved as no other rock group has done. They incorporated novel instrumentation (like the sitar on Norwegian Wood and a string octet on Eleanor Rigby) in music that spanned genres from pop ballads to folk to psychedelic rock and raga rock based on Indian classical music. Themes became increasingly philosophical and revolutionary as the band members experimented with drugs and Eastern religion. As the individual members, particularly Paul McCartney, John Lennon and George Harrison grew creatively, tensions between them led to kaleidoscopic variety in the music, as far as I’m concerned, unparalleled by any other band. They dominated popular music, producing 19 number one albums and 20 number one songs. They would have likely had more than that if one of their songs wasn’t blocking another from being number one. During the week of 4 April 1964, The Beatles held the top five positions on the Billboard singles chart, something no one had done before. It was an incredible explosion of music, each new recording bringing new sounds and ideas. I think it’s possible that for those of us who were of a certain age during the sixties, The Beatles were defined by the entire musical experience rather individual songs. Perhaps that’s why younger people, listening a song at a time, are unimpressed.
So, how do I pick a favorite? I don’t. I pick a few. There’s an exuberant pop love song that meant a great deal during my courtship of Muri. Eight Days a Week was not one of The Beatles favorites but any time I hear it, it lifts my mood:
There’s the folk-rock, introspective Norwegian Wood from the Rubber Soul album, complete with the first sitar accompaniment on a rock record. Many say that Norwegian Wood really means Knowing She Would. Listen and you’ll see that it seems possible. According to Wikipedia, the song is described by writer Mark Lewisohn as pure Lennon genius … one of the most original pop music songs recorded to date:
And finally, there’s the medley from the Abbey Road album, the finale not only of the album but of The Beatles recording career. It’s over 16 minutes long but if you want at least a taste of the entire Beatles musical experience, this is a good place to get it. Hint: TURN IT UP !!! The cover, showing The Beatles crossing Abbey Road outside EMI Studios, is one of the most famous in rock and roll. It is also a popular destination for Beatles fans and can be seen on a live webcam, here.
And … Na, na, na, na-na-na-na. Na, na, na, na, Have a good weekend.