Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Good Day Sunshine!

Good morning good morning!

Ah, the Beatles. How I love the Beatles. I want to tell you -- there hasn’t been a day in the life when their music, their very presence, wasn’t lurking somewhere in the background of my subconscious. Blame it on my parents. I was born on New Year’s Eve in 1964, to VERY young parents for whom having then state-of-the-art stereo equipment AND the latest in popular music was an absolute must. There was ALWAYS music playing in the house when I was growing up. ALWAYS. And though my parents’ tastes ran the gamut of 1960s rock and pop (Rolling Stones, The Who, Aretha Franklin, The Beach Boys, Jimi Hendrix, Big Brother & The Holding Company [starring Janis Joplin], etc. -- with a little classical music thrown in here, there and everywhere), the Beatles were always at the forefront. I had the album Revolver memorized by the time I was five years old. The first piece of recorded music I ever, personally owned was an original 45 record of the Beatles song “Let It Be.” It’s still my favorite song of all time.

One of my favorite movies of all time is even Beatles-related. When I was between the ages of three and five years, Dad regularly took me to see movies in the theater, just me and him. From that period are three movies that I have never forgotten and adore unconditionally to this day. One is 2001: A Space Odyssey. Another is Walt Disney’s Fantasia. The third is the Beatles’ animated film, Yellow Submarine. I love Yellow Submarine. Not only is it a visual feast and unique among animated films, it’s also a very clever movie. It accurately depicts a very important, other talent that the Beatles possessed and included in their music -– humor.

What’s made the Beatles so influential? It’s been debated endlessly by many, many people over the last four decades, but I have my own theory. People often forget that though the Beatles were influential, they themselves were influenced – not only by Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, and other early-rock pioneers, but also by just about every other form of music and entertainment available. Listen to the entire Beatles catalog and you’ll hear songs based on almost every genre of the time -- rock, classical, blues, jazz, country-western, Broadway, gospel, soul, folk, children’s songs, “beach” music, British dance hall/vaudeville tunes, you name it. The Beatles embraced every form of music and musical experimentation, resulting in an expansion of popular music sounds and styles that persist to this day. Yet they never took themselves too seriously, which is something few modern musicians and bands can claim. In addition to the music, they also brought a myriad of emotions to their songs. There was a strong sense of irony and humor in their music, but even when the songs were sad and serious, the emotions seemed genuine rather than forced.

To me, the Beatles were the true kings of rock and roll. As much as it shames me to admit this, when Elvis Presley died, I had no idea who he was. I remember thinking my mother should know. I asked her, “Mom, who’s Elvis?” She was horrified. Mom and Dad both wondered where they’d gone wrong. However, when John Lennon was assassinated, I felt despair. I KNEW who the Beatles were. I was a freshman in high school at the time of Lennon’s death. Half of my schoolmates wore black armbands to school that week. There was speculation that Lennon’s death would trigger the “end of an era,” and that the Beatles’ music would fade into obscurity. Obviously, that didn’t happen. The Beatles are now more popular than EVER.

Now the entire Beatles catalog has been digitally remastered for modern sound quality. I haven’t heard any of the remastered albums yet, but you can bet I’ll acquire them just as soon as I am able. Stereo or Mono? Oooooh, decisions, decisions. I already have a pretty good idea of how the stereo versions will sound, though.

Two summers ago, I saw Cirque du Soleil’s show “Love” in Las Vegas -- Cirque’s Beatles show. At the time, the show had only been out a month, but with a little help from my friends, Mr. Sea and I were able to get tickets. I was totally blown away not only by Cirque's astonishing and beautiful tribute to the Beatles, but also by the soundtrack of remixed Beatles recordings. I'd had the songs memorized since childhood, and I was a bit worried about how they would be presented in the Cirque show, but I shouldn't have doubted the mixing talents of Giles and George Martin, or the input and approval from the Beatles and their estates. From the opening a capella version of “Because,” I was transfixed by the music -- familiar but amazingly clear. The vocals and instrumentation were of such high clarity, and some of the reinvented tracks were so gorgeous, I actually had tears of joy in my eyes a couple of times during the performance. My only complaint at the time was that the soundtrack wasn't available for sale after the show!

When the soundtrack finally WAS available, months later, it was as beautiful, sumptuous, and clear as I remembered. No, it doesn't take the place of the Beatles' original recordings -- heavens, no -- but as a nonstop montage of the sheer artistry and talent of the Beatles AND of the Martins, it can't be beat. If the remastered Beatles albums sound anything like “Love,” they will sound wondrous indeed -– like sitting in the actual studio with the Beatles while they were recording.

I still intend to keep my old set of CDs, though, just to remind myself of how the Beatles recordings originally sounded on CD. And my dad still has his old, original Beatles LPs, if I ever want to remind myself of how the Beatles REALLY, originally sounded – still revolutionary for their time, though it’s safe to say that the music itself has transcended that time.

I'll still be listening to this stuff when I'm 64. It’s getting better all the time!

“Can’t Buy Me Love,” from the classic Beatles movie, A Hard Day’s Night (1964):

From The Yellow Submarine (1968): The Beatles and “Jeremy Hillary Boob, Phud (PhD)” searching the Sea of Holes for the entrance to the SEA of GREEN:

Batman addresses the old "Paul is Dead" conspiracy theory in Batman #222 (1970):


SallyP said...

My favorite Beatle, was George. Not really sure why, I just liked him best.

RAB said...

My favorite Beatle was George Martin. And still is!

That Face! said...

Ditto what Sally P said, mostly because he was always treated as the little kid within the group and was only allowed to include some of his wonderful songs in the later albums. Though he was the youngest, he was possibly the more mature of the four. He was great friends with Micheal Palin and Terry Gilliam and produced the Monty Python films. He was the most human of the beatles.

I'm forwarding this post to my father, who is an outstanding beatles fan and has been since he was very young. He would definitely not agree with your view of Let it Be but certainly that they were the true kings of rock and roll. It's been Beatles Week on BBC this week and they've broadcast a series of wonderful documentaries about the fab four, their records and their trip to America.

It's nice to see that not all you americans are as crazy as I thought you were :-P

P.S. I too am a massive beatles fan... mostly a fan of the 'quiet one'.

Sea-of-Green said...

For me, the Beatles were never greater than the sum of their parts -- I liked all four of them, but primarily when they were together.

I've always been greatly impressed by Paul's workaholism, though. I don't think the man has come up for air since 1959.

Swinebread said...

I saw that Cirque show too, wonderful... although I was disappointed with the Lucy in Sky with Diamonds number.

Sea-of-Green said...

Really? Did you think it was too tame? It was an act I'd seen them do before. They probably should have come up with something more original.

I loved the "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" number. It was absolutely gorgeous.