Confession: I’ve been on a Beatles kick for a month or more now, as a quick glance at my Past Listening pages will show. Ironically, I think it started the last time I was in Las Vegas, with all the ads for the Cirque du Soleil show Love, based on the Beatles catalog. I also finally got a chance to listen to some of the Beatles discs I had ripped as part of The Project.
Now, coming back to the Beatles might not seem to be such a Big Thing, but consider: I basically gave away my Beatles collection, consisting of all the albums from Rubber Soul through Abbey Road, when I was in college. I had been nuts about the music when I was in high school, but by that point I had started to see it as juvenile, somehow. I had become aware of the roots of rock in American blues and folk music, and I had become captivated by the irony and anger of the better 90s alternative music. The Beatles seemed too pat, too earnest, too pop. So I gave the discs to my sister and forgot about them.
Except I had to go back and buy a new copy of The White Album, later.
And then in grad school, I sang lead on an a cappella arrangement of “Got to Get You Into My Life” … and fell in love with that song’s brassy soul. It had always seemed a throwaway track to me, tucked as it was right before “Tomorrow Never Knows” on the totally brilliant Revolver, but now as I studied it it was revealing hidden depths.
I was also becoming aware of how difficult it was to write the sort of melodies and nail the sorts of harmonies that the Beatles pulled off album after album. And I think my investigation of the roots of rock and roll was starting to make me curious… after listening to Elvis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, and others I wondered: what happened when this music hopped the pond to stir up four lads from Liverpool?
So in the last month I started picking up the early Beatles albums on the cheap. I had always dismissed the albums before Rubber Soul, preferring the clever songwriting to the albums that made teenage girls scream. I mean, come on… most of the early albums had cover songs on them. But after hearing a lot of 1950s Sun Records, I got curious. And I’m glad I did. Hearing the Beatles’ version of Carl Perkins’ “Honey Don’t” is very very cool. Hearing some of the great originals on the earlier albums (“You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away,” “You’re Gonna Lose That Girl,” “Money”…
Fast forward to today. A coworker of mine lent me the George Martin mixtape Love, and I listened to a fair percentage of it today. And to my surprise it’s good. There are some really imaginative things in it: Ringo’s drum solo leading into “Get Back,” the merging of “Blackbird” and “Yesterday,” playing “Sun King” backward… It plays like a quiz recording, “spot the song.” It’s a lot of fun to listen to and very pleasant—not groundbreaking but fun.