John’s still dealing from a deck stacked with anger, jealousy, spite, uncertainty and betrayal, thanks to his childhood traumas.
Friday, December 30, 2011
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Everybody starts to cry but George just stares into the infinite, spiraling center-point of limitless potential.
Thursday, December 22, 2011
I'm feeling the spirit, heavenly angels.
Richard Furnstein: I think you are wrong. I love those songs, except for Ringo's song because it is garbage. I can probably do without hearing "Happy Xmas" ever again. Melissa Ethridge and her Ovation 12-string may have ruined that song forever. "Wonderful Christmastime" and "Ding Dong" are personal favorites. Sometimes I want to be reminded of going to Amesway with my mother, man. And George had the nerve to write a New Year's song.
Friday, December 16, 2011
Paul's here to deliver the Cliff's Notes to Lil Rick. Leave your wig and high heeled boots at home, sir. Prince ripped you off, you say? Fascinating. If you don't mind, I'm going to get back to listening to London Town.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
Lack of awareness is the only respite from the harsh realities (John Lennon) that surround us. Go to sleep, Paul (he’s singing to himself). Being awake is too painful.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
I’ll tell you what: I’d be bobbing my head up and down really hard and asking George for a cigarette. I don’t even smoke!
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Robert Bunter: And it's all the more amazing that this recording was done as a middle finger to the other Beatles, who'd rejected the slow, acoustic Revolution (1) as too slow for a new single. "Oh, it's too slow, is it?" So Johnny Moondog just increases the tempo and cranks up the knobs until every meter is in the red. "Take that, pigs. You can't tell me that's not a single now, can you?" But unfortunately, they could. It's just a B-side, because Paul had written "Hey Jude," one of the highest achievements of mankind, a song inspired by John's horrible abandonment of his first wife and son. Foiled again, John. It's a shame that you're a right bastard, mate. Your stirring political anthem will make a nice Nike commercial someday. This single is the main reason that The Beatles broke up.
Are you into hardcore music? Well, that music stinks and sounds like dirt.
Richard Furnstein: It was getting ugly, that's for sure. John was a few years away from the primal scream, but this song serves as an escape from the rage and frustration that had been developing for years. Even John's appearance at the time suggested a fierceness. His angular Liverpudlian features had sharpened even more; he now looked like his face could open a can of Heniz Beans (soft stomached Ringo's favorite). The Beatles faced a peculiar artistic dilemma after the peaks of Revolver and Sgt. Pepper's (not to mention the personal and business issues brewing since the death of Brian Epstein), and The White Album was a band trying to simultaneously strip down while pushing forward. That's certainly a weird road to travel, but they found a way to charge and change in "Revolution." They would certainly go back to the Chuck Berry well again (that was Lennon's default rock mode), but "Revolution" was ultimately their most successful attempt at hairy rock.
Robert Bunter: John makes a good political point along with the sonic assault. If you want to topple the system, what is your plan to replace it? Rebel John liked shaking the foundations of society as much as anybody, but he had enough wisdom to realize that the denim-clad rabble marchers carrying megaphones and peace signs were, all too often, a bunch of callow ego-trippers. Lennon could be a dope, but I'm giving him big points for this one. You want to change the world? Mow the damn yard. Clean up the dishes. Tend the to the washing. That's how you do it. Nice electric piano by studio ace Nicky Hopkins on this track.
Richard Furnstein: I made a promise to myself long ago that I would consider a write up on "Revolution" to be perfect once the stellar piano work of Nicky Hopkins was acknowledged. That day has come. Alright!
Monday, November 21, 2011
Richard Furnsten: I agree completely. Imagine leaving the dank overcoat and toothless grime of London for the cheerful kurtas and toothless majesty of Rishikesh. I'm frankly surprised that The Beatles didn't write more variations on "Butterfly Kisses" in that setting. Mike Love alone could be inspired to write endless Indian fingerpicked fantasies about does gently lapping the pools of an emerald waterfall. "I Will" is a true wonder. Paul's melody is one of his guaranteed red stamp all time "how did this not exist before Paul wrote it" treasures. John throws on a bunch of percussion without slipping in his old British lady voice or making jokes about erections or disabled people. Ringo plays some nice bongos and boy oh boy I wish there were some beautiful photographs of him hitting the calf skins on this session. The visual in my brain is striking and I wish the rest of the world could see it.
Robert Bunter: You know, I don't think "I Will" was among the tracks the boys previewed to each other on the Esher demos. Hold on, let me consult my copy of "From Kinfauns To Chaos" disc one. Wait a sec.
Richard Furnstein: Oh for chrissake. The fact that you still rely on "Kinfauns" for your Esher demos needs instead of something credible like the Acoustic Masterpieces box, the purplechick bootleg master, or one of the lovely Vigotone editions is total proof that you are out of your element.
Robert Bunter: What? I'm back. Nope, "I Will" was not on the Esher demos. That actually makes some sense; two of the White Album songs that sound most like Esher demos ("Blackbird" and "I Will") were not actually recorded on that magical, mythical day. The mostly-solo acoustic presentation, with lo-fi recording ambience and playful background percussion is a beautiful setting for Beatlemusic. I wish they'd done more of it. Luckily I'll always have my copy of "From Kinfauns To Chaos!"
Ringo plays some nice bongos and boy oh boy I wish there were some beautiful photographs of him hitting the calf skins on this session. The visual in my brain is striking and I wish the rest of the world could see it.
Richard Furnstein: Makes complete sense to me. Why do you need to demo "I Will" and "Blackbird"? They both just existed in the magical air before Sir Paul could conjure the collective melody dust and present the gift of vision to the world. You don't need to record loose acoustic versions in George Harrison's house to preserve these fleeting melodies (no offense to John, who dominates the Esher sessions). "I Will" isn't a delicate song despite its wispy qualities. "I Will" was meant to exist eventually. It's structure and lyric were a gift from God. He just decided that the world was ready for this song in 1967. God let a lot of cavemen go to hell before he decided to drop Jesus into their lives. Paul is indeed the light.
Robert Bunter: The placement of "I Will" in the crazy tracklisting of the White Album is worth mentioning. Paul flaunts his bad-boy side with the freaky blues grease of "Why Don't We Do It In The Road," then does an abrupt 180 into cutesy-Romeo mood with "I Will." Our ears are becoming accustomed to the low-key acoustic sound palette, which John proceeds to deploy to devastating effect in "Julia." The Beatles displayed more emotional range and breadth of inspiration in that single three-song excerpt than most other bands manage to conjure in an entire career. I'm talking about limited artists like Simon and Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Marvin Gaye, the Cars, Joni Mitchell, Tribe Called Quest and Radiohead. I'm sorry but it's the real truth.
Richard Furnstein: Sure, but pick any three song stretch on The Beatles and prepare for a mindblow. "Honey Pie"->"Savoy Truffle"->"Cry Baby Cry"? Complete annihilation, man. And that's like the weakest corridor on that album!
Friday, November 18, 2011
George Martin did his best to cover up the corpse stink on the dreadful basic track, dumping lots of woooshing sounds, British jibberish, and klaps and flaps and torts.
Robert Bunter: Ha! You fell for it again. Hey, your fly is down. Whoop! Made you look. Got your nose! It’s so easy to get your goat, you should hang a “free goat available” sign outside your home. OK, fun’s over. Let’s get down to business. “Yellow Submarine” is a drag, but you have to admit, the animated cartoon feature which it inspired was a truly joyful psychedelic romp. Also, the “Eleanor Rigby / Yellow Submarine” single is a fine example of the striking contrasts they deployed to such great effect (“Strawberry Fields” b/w “Penny Lane,” “Lady Madonna” b/w “The Inner Light.”) From the sublime to the ridiculous; fun for the kiddies, the dawning of a new growth. Beautiful!
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Richard Furnstein: A frightening thought. The listener is lulled into an exotic world (red wine in cups, suited monkeys clearing tables) where leisure and mental awakening sits next to poverty and bug eating. The Don Flamenco runs that open this particular terror fantasy serve as the soundtrack to some grainy credits. We see the back of a Caucasian hunter ambling up a hill, okapi pelts draped over his corn fed frame. He reaches the apex of the hill just as the gang singalong starts. Ringo once again is the loudest in the room. Tell me more about the campfire, I can't get that image out of my head. Fascination and retreat. The fear of the unknown. Kill or be killed.
Our camp leader has a weird look in his eye behind the granny glasses, this unfamiliar Japanese lady is making me feel uneasy, and who the hell brought a Mellotron out here to the woods?
Robert Bunter: "Bungalow" Bill is actually William "Billy" Shears, the Ringo-esque Everyman from the happier days of Sgt. Pepper's first side. Remember those happy moments? That was back when group singalongs represented heartening declarations of brotherly togetherness. Those days, Mr. Shears, have passed. As the bumbling, mustachioed Englishman trundles his way out of the dusky gloaming, he is confronted by a really large fire. His haunches clench nervously in his colonial hunting garb and drab festoons. The long-haired, bestubbled hippies seated around the fire are garbed in dhotis and saris. He pretends not to see or hear as the lyrics of their hypnotic, pagan song start addressing him directly, mocking his hollow machismo.
Richard Furnstein: The band leader leers at him over his glasses (far sighted?) as he delivers the verse with a chiding tone. The lyrics seem to build up Bill's manly exploits in the heart of darkness while poking at the flabby insecurities hiding under his puffed chest. It's a heavy handed commentary on masculinity in the late 1960s (a hunter is reduced to a cartoon character, much like the fictional Captain Marvel). Way to be a man, Bill. We just couldn't help notice that you brought your mother along, you insecure manchild that can't do your own laundry or heat up a can of soup.
Robert Bunter: "Hey, come on over and join the fun, Bill. We didn't mean to frighten you. No, please. It's just a meditation retreat. Ha ha! Come on, would you like some wine? Look at these lovely girls! Surely a brave, virile hunter like yourself is not afraid of a few scrawny, wild-eyed freaks, are you?" Look, this whole fantasy sequence is a lot of fun, but the truly terrifying implications of the two Beatles songs with characters named "Bill" or "Billy" only becomes fully apparent when you watch every single one of iamaphoney's YouTube videos. Let's wrap this thing up. "Bungalow Bill" is really scary, just like most of Lennon's work from this period. Can we agree on that, Furnstein?
Richard Furnstein: No doubt! "His mommy (mummy?) butted in" always put "Revolution 9" level scares in me. John Lennon didn't need brown acid. He didn't need bad junk. His mind was scarier than any hippie nightmare that mere drugs could conjure.
Friday, October 14, 2011
Robert Bunter: I disagree. In defense of “I Me Mine,” I’d like to point out that it offers a really unique sound that was never really developed elsewhere in the Beatles catalog or George’s solo work: a sort of grey, wintry waltz with strings, organs and diminished chords which is leavened with periodic rave-ups (I guess you could say he pursued the rave ups on LP three of All Things Must Pass, but still). In terms of arrangement, I’d rank this track as the best thing Phil Spector did for Let It Be … his strings and choirs suit the spiritual theme of the lyric, plus he edited an extra verse onto the end by taking a previous verse and repeating it. Lyrically, George is treading the well-trod Beatles ground of warning the world about the dangers of the human ego, but between the lines you can sense he’s really directing his barbs at the grasping, selfish fighting of Lennon and McCartney; and, beyond that, at himself. I think you’d have to admit, that’s further than most of the lyrics on this album take us. We’ve got a buddy song (“Two Of Us), a weird sensual party (“Dig A Pony”), a transcendental hymn (“Across The Universe.” OK, that disproves my point a little bit, but is that even a proper Let It Be track? Come on now. World Wildlife Foundation and all that. It should be considered separately), an unfocused rant (“Dig It”), an admittedly great McCartney hymn (“Let It Be”), a stupid folk busker (“Maggie Mae”), a Badfinger template (“I’ve Got A Feeling”), a 1958 retread (“One After 909”), a less-great McCartney hymn (“Long And Winding Road”), a Harrison stinkbomb (“For You Blue”) and a throwaway rocker (“Get Back”). With the possible exception of “Let It Be,” “I Me Mine” is the only track that maintains the Beatles’ status as a religious band.
Clearly, Harrison was on autopilot at this point; counting down the days until he could cash in his unused sick pay and vacation days.
Richard Furnstein: I have no idea what you are talking about. A religious band? Just because of the church organ? Listen harder and better, my friend. I could hear "I Me Mine" clogging up the arteries on Side Four of All Things Must Pass (flows nicely out of "I Dig Love") but the vocal take is closer to the restrained hysterics that defined that album's poorly received follow up Living In The Material World. I will admit that "I Me Mine" sounds incredibly delicious; it is by far the best Spector touch on the album. The production walks the line of becoming a full on choir in the barn rave up, but ultimately it is the unlikely restraint in the horn and orchestral swells that give balance to the song's bloated subject matter.
Robert Bunter: I don’t say religious band because of the church organ but because they were sent by God to bring Love to the Universe. And that’s just what they did, when they weren’t behaving like indulgent clods. What is bloated about the subject matter? “A heavy waltz … a dissection of the ego, the eternal problem” as George put it. Nothing bloated about that. OK, I’ll admit, that is a bloated thing to say. But the lyrics themselves are concise and well-placed. If you don’t like my take on “I Me Mine” so far, try this on for size: it is FAR SUPERIOR to its companion track, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
Richard Furnstein: Well, I'm glad that statement is on the public record so that you can plead insanity in the future. This is making me think about everything that you've written in a new light. I'd love to hear your ridiculous theories on George's Gone Troppo or his "I Don't Want To Do It" from the Porky's II Original Soundtrack.
Robert Bunter: It’s all in the mind.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Richard Furnstein: There are three moments of this song to live in. First, the recording session with Admiral Pinwheeleyes dictating the waltz bridge to his less zonked companions. I think you nailed that one, old friend. Second, the moment that the shaggy headed youth first heard this song, revealing a world of fear and chaos and gruesome discovery. They were just catching up with the playful marijuana games ("Hey Todd, play back that part on "Girl" again, is John smoking a jay?") and now Lennon removes the mountains, trees, and gentle deer from the landscape. It's all been replaced by a terrifying abyss where orange smoke plays the role of furniture, castles that house the wandering dead yawn out of the bubbling ground, and a series of malevolent fauns are at play in the whispering dew. Things have changed, Todd. It's brutal underground after you die. All you have is your mind to keep you company as your mouth fills with dirt. You know what the third moment is?
Robert Bunter: Of course I do, dummy. It's the party where this song was born (or was it? Get it?). Cast your mind back to Los Angeles, 1965. It's a brief break from the endless touring; they've rented a lovely house with a pool and filled it with semi-celebrities and gorgeous women with whom they do it, over and over again. John and George just had their first acid experience a few weeks ago, when they were unknowingly dosed by a horny dentist who wanted to drill Cynthia and Patti. Now they bought their own, and they're ready to try it again. Paul's not ready, but Ringo's more than game.
It's brutal underground after you die. All you have is your mind to keep you company as your mouth fills with dirt.
Richard Furnstein: Yeah, but Ringo's a lightweight. He takes a dose and then wanders off from the party a few times. He's redirected by the police, and is found later passed out behind a drum set in the basement. John's on cloud nine, though. It's the first time that his brain seems on center with everyone else. David Crosby's smiling eyes wander into his brain as they discuss Shunryu Suzuki and Norwegian women. It's a meaningful fix, like a helix fornicating with a three headed snake. Peter Fonda wanders up and gives new meaning to get your motor running and heading out on the highway. The motor is your psychological fears and the highway is psychotheraputic explorations of the inner spirit.
Robert Bunter: Fonda's not exactly a mental heavyweight himself, if you acquire my drift. So the drug takes a turn in his brain and he starts remembering the time he accidentally shot himself as a kid. He becomes fixated and starts mumbling about "I know what it's like to be dead." John tells him to bugger off, but it's too late. Once an idea like that gets into your acid trip, the fun is over. You may as well just head inside and try to have some dinner. The problem is, you're too confused from the drug to operate your knife and fork correctly, so you end up spilling all your food onto the floor. What a bummer. It's all you can do to drag yourself upstairs and do it with another three Playboy girls before going to sleep. Meanwhile, Peter Fonda is puking into the fireplace after he tried to eat the food you spilled on the floor. We're not in Kansas anymore. This is late August, 1965 at 2850 Benedict Canyon Drive in Beverly Hills. If you invent a time machine and go back there, be cool. Don't disturb the Beatles with your dumb obsessions. I'm certain that if it had been me, I would have behaved in an appropriate manner.
Richard Furnstein: Is there a better use of a time machine than to head to that Beverly Hills home on that historic day? I'd play it cool as well. Maybe a dip in the pool (proper swimming attire optional!), eat some snacks (I am thinking fancy cheeses and salted pea pods), and thumb through their magazines. I'd be careful not to drastically impact the continuum of reality. Sure, I'd like to get in on that conversation with Pete and John, but I'd hate to throw John's creative drive off track. I would never forgive myself if "She Said She Said" didn't end side one of Revolver!
Robert Bunter: Oh man!
Monday, October 10, 2011
Robert Bunter: Whooo, Rich! Go get 'em, boy! You just set the bar really high. How am I going to top that brilliant analysis? Alright: I'm going to put on my thinking cap here. Let's start with the music. It starts out warm and funky, all deep bass tones and what sounds like a combination of Rickenbacker strum and soulful electric piano. You could imagine some present-day crate digger DJ/producer mashing those elements up with a sparse, stripped-down snare beat, but he would need the master tapes in order to remove Ringo's blissful idiot bashing in the background. It's called "The Mersey Sound" and it sold millions of copies, Madlib. Go back to your turntables and vintage synth patches, Danger Mouse. You can't handle this dope joint. OK, that's just the first eleven seconds. Now you've got Paul's voice, passionate yet cool and restrained, like President Obama discussing fiscal policy with Jack Bohner (as I call him) on the golf course. Then, John and George appear in the background with their perfectly complementary harmonies, adding both musical and emotional depth; they're not casting judgement on the confused regret of the Paul-figure, but they're not pulling any punches, either. They know what happened at the club, they were there, too. It's the same emotional tone they adopted with "Ah, look at all the lonely people" on Rigby, as I call it. In fact, I'd like to posit that John-George backup vocals actually constitute ANOTHER MEMBER OF THE BEATLES with "his" own distinct personality and role. Okay, that's just the first verse. I'm going to start hyperventilating if I approach the bridge, the solo or Paul's amazing interpolations ("Yesssssssss" and "Yeah!") too quickly. Can you step in here, for a second? I need another cup of coffee.
Paul channels his imagined feelings with this imaginary woman, focusing almost solely on his own character flaws. It's Paul writing as John, all insecurity and aggression and misdirected anger towards women.
Richard Furnstein: Sure, tag me in. Here's the deal. This song starts like so much unfocused post-Hard Day's Beatles. Lennon's Hohner Pianet is the type of frosting they would throw on turd cupcakes from this era (think about the unnecessary gourd striking of "Tell Me What You See" or the saloon flourishes that fail to buoy "You Like Me Too Much"). However, the novel sound of John's choppy keyboards on "The Night Before" propel the rhythm and underline Paul's rough case of rockin' pneumonia. The bridge finds the boys employing an old trick: a percussive gear shift that heightens the urgency of the verse. And you know what? It works perfectly here. "Last night is the night I will remember you by." Shit, man. She's about to walk out of his life and Paul is ready to pause and rewind to the precious memories of the previous night. Chicks aren't just a well worn Maxell XL-II, man. You can't just rewind time. It doesn't work that way, Paul.
Robert Bunter: I'll tell you another thing you can't do - you can't deny that this song is brilliantly constructed. The chord progression sounds assertive and confident, until you get to that amazing chord (on "find" in "Now today I find") which just explodes with melancholy regret. When it repeats on the next line ("You have changed your MIND"), the impact is doubled. Then we're back to the aggressive Ray Charles sound on the tag ("Treat my like you did / The night before"). The second verse consolidates the triumphs of the first. The bridge twists the knife. The next verse is all about setting us up for the solo. Listen to Paul's voice at 1:30, when he says "Yesssssss" with an air of grim certainty. The unspoken rest of the statement is: "Yesssssssss ... I'm a full-grown man and I've just destroyed your heart with my great song. Now listen to my friend George because he's about to erupt forth with a series of distinctly separated musical thoughts, on doubled guitars. We're The Beatles and we're highly advanced. Yep."
Richard Furnstein: It was that easy for them. Paul wrote a great song in the morning, brought it to the studio. John would whine about not wanting to play guitar, so Mal Evans would dial up his rep at Hofner ("Send up a pianet this afternoon. Mr. Lennon is hungry for new sounds.") Time to start working out the arrangement. Killer from the start. Ringo gets in late (car trouble). It's cut in an afternoon or two days TOPS. The next day, they are in a field in awesome turtlenecks and drab wartime clothing, miming this song for the camera. In the evening, it's back to the clubs. More lies, loose women, and broken hearts. Hell, they had more albums to write and they needed constant inspiration. We were all hungry for new sounds.
Robert Bunter: Hungry for new sounds, new experiences, new frontiers of expanded consciousness. But not so hungry that they forget their craft, which was writing concise, beat-heavy pop songs for LP's. Maybe there's a kid in a record shop (Gloanburg's?) in 1965, looking at the Help! album. If I could rewind time, I'd go back there and hover behind him, just out of sight behind the next rack, and I'd say, "Go ahead. Buy it because it's the greatest record the Beatles have yet recorded. Better than "With The Beatles," better than "The Beatles Vs. The Four Seasons" on Vee-Jay, better than "The Early Beatles" on Capitol, better than "Something New," better than "Hard Day's Night" on Parlophone. It's better than all the other records they've put out. Go on. Purchase this thing and take it home. You probably should buy two and keep one shrink-wrapped mint. Trust me, kid." And then I would disappear and fast forward back to the present day, as I sit here facing my computer screen and looking at a shrink-wrapped mint first-press of "Help!" on the wall of my den. Do you know the identity of that little kid from the past?
Richard Furnstein: Christ, you won't stop bragging about that shrink-wrapped Help! Big deal, you didn't take the wrapper off. It's still a stereo version of the inferior Capitol issue of the album. I'm sorry that I don't have a pristine copy with all those instrumental fillers that clogged up the turdbucket American release.
Friday, October 7, 2011
Nice bongos. Cultural revolution. Musical innovations.
Robert Bunter: So, I guess that’s all there is to say about this early smash. Great stuff that we can all relate to. Nice bongos. Cultural revolution. Musical innovations. Just another day at the salt mines for four excellent humans who wore moptops instead of hard hats. Now it’s Friday. Cash the check, make dinner reservations and don’t worry about making the bed. It would be pointless to bother with that tonight.
Thursday, October 6, 2011
Richard Furnstein: I love this one. (Singing) "Oh who killed the miner? Say the grim bells of Blaina." Woops, wrong song, but you get the idea. George was in frantic "who am I?" mode at this point. He was way into Indian music after hearing some extras play a raga on the set of help. Then he got way into David Crosby and went out to San Francisco to hang out with the diseased masses. Hey man, pick a lane. You are making us all nervous.
To be fair, George wouldn't be fully comfortable in his skin until 1973's Living In The Material World LP, where he decided to just focus on his talent at writing miserable dirges with unnecessarily complicated chords.
Robert Bunter: Yeah. What I'd say to George is, "Hey, the Beatles set the trends, not follow them. We don't need any more Byrds songs. Why don't you stick with your strengths, which include clumsy lyrics and thick, phlegmy vocals?" But we should cut him some slack. As he pointed out, John and Paul had a head start. They'd already written all their dumb songs before the group got famous. George had to write his dumb songs and have them appear on immortal masterpieces like Rubber Soul. Oh, life!
"Hey, the Beatles set the trends, not follow them. We don't need any more Byrds songs."
Richard Furnstein: Let's stop right there, Robert. I can't let this go any further. I think it's important for you to remember that this song is in the top 75% of Rubber Soul, perhaps the greatest album by The Beatles. It's a chimer, sure, but don't let that diminish its beauty. George plucks out the melody in primo McGuinn fashion and carries the "aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah's" in the solo by himself. The Beatles had to write songs like this so that The Monkees had a better idea how to mature. Chime and whine, let's get it on.
Robert Bunter: Oh, wait, I made a mistake. I forgot about the part about how I love this crucial Rubber Soul gem. It's got that perfect mid-period Beatles sound that I enjoy listening to so much. You've got to look at everything in context. Good job, Dark Horse. It's nice to hear your music.
Richard Furnstein: If there was a Beatle that was better at writing the soundtrack to The Beatles Saturday morning cartoons than George Harrison, I haven't met him!
Robert Bunter: You've never met a Beatle, Richard. The closest you came was shaking hands with Joe English from Wings at Beatlefest 1994.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Robert Bunter: The powerful Beatles unleash another crucial track, casting a loving eye to yesteryear and the Carl Perkins rockabilly roots they all shared. From the striking re-invention of the classic blues turnaround in the opening seconds, the Fabulous Four revisit the primal excitement of manly, self-assured rock and twang. John's powerful acoustic anchors the ship, while George's jazz-inflected major sixth flourishes and irresistible boogie-woogie set the sails of joy wide and high. Unlikely captain Ringo stands at the ship's weathered wooden wheel, a tight smile of grim approval on his face which breaks into a full-spectrum grin when the salty breeze blows in (from the west, as in country-and-western) on the guitar solo. Meanwhile, Paul's admirable restraint suits the occasion just perfectly. In his mind he was getting ready to write half of Rubber Soul and experiment with tape loops and William S. Burroughs cut-ups, but for the moment, Ringo's in the spotlight. Hang back and play the old classic riffs with conviction while Ritchie's calm hand guides the tiller. The seas are smooth and we're making great progress. What's the destination? SERGEANT PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND, the greatest record ever made! All aboard, humans! The cooler is below-decks, help yourself to a goddamn beer. We're singing country music.
All aboard, humans! The cooler is below-decks, help yourself to a goddamn beer. We're singing country music.
Richard Furnstein: Imagine it in your mind: It's Autumn, 1964. A group of young geniuses check in as usual to Abbey Road's state-of-the-art studio in London. They were at the epicenter of creative change in an already turbulent decade. It's time to master their next holiday offering. The boys sit in calm wonder as they listen to the fruits of their recent sessions. Everyone is excited about John's clutch of songs about love and misery, sure. But a feeling of dread takes over once they listen to their final takes. They had all forgotten about that late night session where Ringo fumbled through a Carl Perkins number. To be fair, the song itself was crap to being with. The band's performance took that underwhelming Perkins number and added a layer of white calcium deposit on the limp pile of dog feces that is "Honey Don't." The band quickly debated inserting the infinitely superior "Leave My Kitten Alone" onto the track listing, but it was determined that they needed a Ringo song on the album. "It's not that bad, is it lads?" Ringo offered to his exhausted band mates. "It's terrible, Richie. We need to become a better band or we're going to have to break up," Paul replied. And then George said: "Hey, maybe we can add some weird instruments or something and re-energize?" John didn't say anything. He was working on A Spaniard In The Works and didn't really care to listen to "Honey Don't" ever again.
Robert Bunter: The times they were a-changing. The love revolution which the Beatles had ignited was progressing nicely. Strange new sickly-sweet smoke smells were starting to drift up to the streets from the shuttered basements of advanced bohemia. The children of the greatest generation were beginning to question the grey assumptions of Establishment rules, but slowly. The flower people are still just germinated seeds for the moment, waiting underground for the sunshine of Revolver to bring them springing forth from the brown, earthy loam of Rubber Soul. Beatles For Sale, meanwhile, was the spring rain. Gentle, melancholy showers that keep you inside for the afternoon but lay the groundwork for the morrow's budding sprouts. "Honey Don't" is the music that was playing on the AM radio during that gentle rainy afternoon, while you sat inside and listened and smiled gently to yourself about something that you haven't quite been able to put your finger on yet. Put the teakettle on the boil and consider purchasing a brightly-coloured, flowing cloak. Something tells me we're in for a hell of a summer.
Friday, September 23, 2011
Richard Furnstein: The slow drag on that augmented chord is one of my favorite Beatles moments. The boys just got done rearranging your pubescent brain with "It Won't Be Long," and that funny chord helps you settle into one of a few primal steamers on With The Beatles (their best album). Lennon keeps it minor, but Ringo's sloppy gallop gives this song plenty of rock and roll push. There are few progressions prettier than that F#m-Am-E resolution in the verses. Mercy!
Robert Bunter: Yep.
Richard Furnstein: "Yep." That's all the second song on the best album by the greatest musical group in world history gets me? From a supposed Beatlemaniacal expert? Disappointing. This is the second song on the album that saw The Beatles in the international spotlight. The hitter before the knockout "All My Loving" (the crucial All Corridor). A song that linked The Beatles' love of primal girl group sounds (dig those distorted drums and simple soaring backups) to their sweaty testosterone filled stage show. The skeleton of all that was potent and groovy about these alien geniuses. A song that fades away like a late summer's day, all still air and content sighs. "Yep." That and a plate of meatballs gets you a greasy handshake in Little Italy, my friend.
Robert Bunter: Yep.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Richard Furnstein: Oh my. I've been dreading pulling this card. "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" is behind probably forty percent of any ill will towards Mr. McCartney. It's like if "Rocky Raccoon" and "Honey Pie" and "Teddy Boy" had a disfigured gloss child. I can sit here and tell you that the drums sound great and the synthesizer in the third verse is lovely, but we would both know that I was hiding my silent rage. And to think this overlong turd comes after the one-two punch of "Come Together" and "Something." "Maxwell's" is Paul taking his last step towards Wings freedom (and to be fair, it would have been an excellent single in the post Wild Life era) in both sound and self-focused control (the sessions were notoriously tedious and long). I'm having trouble here. I love this band, but I wish this song never happened.
Robert Bunter: Paul is playing for the broadest possible audience, just like when he shoehorned "Til There Was You" into the raucous rock assault of With The Beatles. You have to realize, he's not trying to please the Bunters and Furnsteins of the world. He'd already done that with glorious triumphs like "Mother Nature's Son," "I'm Down," "The Night Before" and "Helter Skelter." "Listen, lads: I've written enough for you. You and I both know what I'm capable of, and it's truly great. You can sit there and wet your pants over the rare "Carnival of Light" bootlegs (which I've decided to let you listen to and keep) but there is a whole world of children and old ladies out there who also need music to listen to. I'm inclined to please everybody, unlike John who only cares about himself and George who only cares about God. Sure, it's possible that my eagerness to please comes from my traumatic childhood and emotionally distant father. I'm willing to grant you that. Please, everybody, if we haven't done what we've could've done, we've tried.
I'm skipping to the next track. Dang, it's the crummy "Oh! Darling." Can we jump past this one? "Octopus's Garden"? What is wrong with this album?
Richard Furnstein: Oh please, don't compare this to "Til There Was You." That was a nice breather that suggested their gentle musical roots while looking forward to future treats like "Yesterday" and "I Will." This is Paul trying to write a story song (and failing) with more high handed/misguided social commentary than your standard issue early 70s Lennon song. It's all audio candy.
I guess it's neat when Paul giggles after singing the word "behind" (supposedly in response to John mooning him). That's a fun story but I don't have to sit through this. I'm skipping to the next track. Dang, it's the crummy "Oh! Darling." Can we jump past this one? "Octopus's Garden"? What is wrong with this album?
Robert Bunter: "Oh! Darling" is the best song on Abbey Road's first side and you're just being difficult. What about my point? It doesn't matter if you think "Maxwell's" represents failed candy or misguided social commentary. It's not there for you. Weren't you listening earlier when I pretended to be Paul McCartney talking to us? Wouldn't it be great if that had really happened, including the part about getting the "Carnival of Light" recording to keep? I think the best thing for us to do is keep listening to "You Won't See Me" and "Lady Madonna." Songs like "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" are there for the other people. The other dumb people who caused Paul to squander his considerable potential on insipid fluff. AAAAArgh. I'm about ready to hit myself over the head with a goddamn hammer. It's difficult to simultaneously hold two contradictory opinions.
Richard Furnstein: Paul is a dead man. Miss him. Miss him. Miss him.