Monday, January 31, 2011
Robert Bunter: Okay, there are two things about this song that everybody knows: it was the first time they were able to get that much of Paul's bass into the mix (Lewisohn tells us this was achieved by using his loudspeaker as a microphone, whatever the hell that means), and, as the flipside of "Rain," it is one of those perfect Lennon/McCartney contrast 45's which exemplify their respective tendencies (the others, of course, are "Penny Lane" b/w "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Hello Goodbye" b/w "I Am The Walrus"). McCartney - fun, happy, shallow songs about everyday people; Lennon - unsettling, dark, deep songs about himself. Great, thanks for the completely unoriginal, hackneyed insights. We're here for "Something New," so let's go!
Richard Furnstein: Paul really opens up this baby with the "dirty story about a dirty man and his clinging wife doesn't understand his son is working for the Daily Mail" verse. He knocks it out with such ease that you don't realize that he just told a better story than one of those million verse Springsteen songs. He got the whole family in there and you get an idea of what their Sunday dinners were about. No fuss, no muss.
Robert Bunter: Paperback Writer is really about Paul's relationship with his father. I don't know. The falsetto backing vocals (overdubbed completely by an out-of-his-depth Ringo and oafish assistant Mal Evans) show the nascent Townshend/Who influence which would later inform such late-period masterpieces as ... I can't think of anything here. I'm sick of this blog.
Robert Bunter: This was the first Beatle track that really crystallized their many strengths. The infectious excitement, innovative composition/arrangement and flawless performance are all present and accounted for. The world was about to fall in love, and songs like this explain why.
The end of this song adds the perfect note of melancholy resignation to an otherwise supernaturally peppy rocker. Leave it to the Fabs to know just when to pull a stunt like that! Did I mention this was a
great band? Why did they have to break up? I tell you one thing: the '70s, '80s and '90s would have been so much better if they'd kept going. It is completely inconceivable to me that they wouldn't be able keep up similarly superhuman levels of achievement for another 30 years. I'm sure they wouldn't have put out any bad songs or albums in years like 1974 or 1981 or 1993.
Richard Furnstein: I've had endless daydreams about that 1993 album. Don Fleming produced it, so it's got that bright grunge sheen. John is still dead in this scenario, but George picks up his slack nicely. Features some ace guest percussion from Porno For Pyros' sticksman Stephen Perkins.
Wait, why am I wasting time on this hair brained fantasy. Leave that filler for our write-ups on "A Taste Of Honey" or "Boys." This song is the real deal. The Beatles distill their rock and girl group roots and write one of their greatest songs. Lennon talks about crying over a girl again, and it doesn't matter if it is his dead mama or some local cutie pie. He's gotta make this happen, and he's excited about the prospects (probably not his dead mama, then).
Hand it to the Beatles on this one. They took their early "yeah yeah yeah yeah" trademark and beat it into the ground in the greatest manner possible. A god damned all time triumph. Dig it out immediately and your brains will explode with delight.
Sunday, January 30, 2011
Richard Furnstein: To be fair, I think we were more afraid of "The Inner Light." George delivers the only real groovy on Sgt. Pepper's; an album overrun with glimpses of English suburbia--a clear retreat from the flirting with urban subcultures on Revolver. George doesn't give a shit about meter maids, boring housewives, or a man catching his morning bus. Big deal, says George, you smoked some ganja in the work bathroom, but can you see inside your own self righteous aura like I can? George opens the dorky Pepper's concept to the whole world. Paul is walking with a tea cup through his childhood memories, but George comes riding in on an elephant decked out in spring blossoms. He's not looking for some hip kids to get on his level, he's going to create a batch of degenerates that can see his indulgent inner visions. It's a few quick steps from Fabian to snorting opium in a park with a blonde girl with terrifying eyes. George gave everyone a road map that smelled a bit too much like dal makhani.
Robert Bunter: You hear that spooky raucous laughter they dubbed onto the end? That's the sound of relieved listeners who are about to be swept away by the unstoppable charm of "When I'm 64."
Richard Furnstein: Stop hiding yourself behind the wall of illusion. George tried to warn you, dip.
Richard Furnstein: George is particularly inventive with his incredibly awkward spazz leads on this one. The bridge is nothing more than an obligation; Paul doesn't seem particularly keen on throwing it in the song and it fails to present the joker card of many early Beatles bridges. Maybe cowbell would have helped? Also, Ringo's cymbal work gives me a damned headache.
Robert Bunter: Let's look at the lyrics for a minute. Paul is spending a lot of time addressing one girl, telling her about how much better some other girl is. "I don't wanna say that I've been unhappy with you / But as from today well I've seen somebody that's new" - aside from being grammatically incomprehensible, Paul forces the listener (me, Robert Bunter) to wonder - why is he taking such great pains to explain all this to the first, inferior girl? Why doesn't he just break up with girl number one in favor of the other, who "through thick and thin...will always be my friend?" We are left to wonder, and to weep at the beauty of this immortal track from the second-worst album the Beatles ever released.
Richard Furnstein: Paul plays a gigantess blonde as a bass guitar in the movie clip; it's as if this song just exists for that fetish exploration. Somebody should have probably told George that the song was over. NEXT!
Saturday, January 29, 2011
Richard Furnstein: My "Fool" story: Bunny Bryant (senior year English teacher) used to throw in little extra credit questions at the end of her weekly oral quizzes. A lot of times the questions were pop culture related (I'm with it, kids!), so I think one week she wanted to test the Beatlemaniacal kid who was seen lugging around "The Love You Make" (Peter Brown's accountant-focused telling of the Beatles saga). So her bonus question was "Which Beatles song was written about their experience with the Maharishi?" I've got this one tied up: "SEXY SADIE." John's original draft of the song featured "Maharishi" in place of the title words. Bam-Pow-Boom, extra credit points are mine. No way that Shannon Groft knows that. Stephanie Carlstrom? Please, she just listens to that double disc Billy Joel hits collection, and I doubt she's into the minor hits on disc two. This one extra credit question could change the entire course of my academic career.
Robert Bunter: Great story, that must have been a real triumph for you.
Richard Furnstein: Wait, THERE'S MORE. So, she reads back the quiz answers so we can grade our own tests (what a lazy move for a teacher). Bunny gets to the extra credit question and reveals the "answer" as "THE FOOL ON THE HILL." I raise my hand to tell her about the "Sexy Sadie" title switch and Paul wrote it about himself when he was on holiday and the fact that the Beats didn't even meet Maharishi Mahesh Yogi until 1967 so her answer is impossible and she is embarrassing us all and where are my extra points for being a super fan...
Bunny denies me the points. I even bring in Brown's book the next day to show her the passage about Lennon responding to his disillusionment to the Maharishi. Still, no points. I can't handle "Fool" to this day.
Robert Bunter: Completely unacceptable. I would have sued the school...Also, nice use of bass harmonica left over from the Pet Sounds sessions. Brian Wilson loaned it to McCartney after Paul did his guest spot on "Vega-Tables" from the abandoned "Smile" album. Paul said, "Hey, Brian, can I borrow this thing?" and Brian said, "Sure, keep it." (I just made that up in my fantasy.)
Friday, January 28, 2011
Robert Bunter: The Beatles sound surprisingly polished and wonderful on this early gem. The studio version, great as it is, sounds limp compared to the energetic live readings on "Live at the Star Club" and the "Last Night In Hamburg" bootlegs. What must it have been like to be in the audience in those raucous subterranean German beer cellars in 1962? We can only imagine.
I see myself swaying drunkenly under the influence of many "pints" of dark brown lager, my arm snaking playfully across the midriff of pixie-haired existentialist Astrid Kirchherr (she needs comforting because of the loss of inferior bassist Stu Sutcliffe a mere two months ago in April 1962) as my leather-jacketed buddies from Liverpool on the cramped stage belt out this yearning rock and roll lament. Then there's that augmented chord right before the bridge, and next I hear "I can't belieeeeeeeeeve / this happened to meeeeeeeeeee" and my heart soars as I feel a hand in my pocket, a delicate female German hand that isn't my own. "Do you fancy some fish and chips, bird?" I say to her. "That would be gear, mate," she replies. And then we leap onto my moped, racing towards what sweaty, nude, tousled German sunrise?
Don't wake me up, it is too beautiful.
Richard Furnstein: I'm quivering with excitement right now!
Robert Bunter: The inimitable gawky younger brother persona of George Harrison was never more apparent than here. However, just like his betters (John and Paul) George was already using startling, out-of-the-ordinary chord progressions and song structures. Not too bad! A quintessential distillation of the elusive "Mersey Sound." You can just see the dark overcoats and black-and-white photography and tins of beans with English "crisps."
Richard Furnstein: The other Beatles all contribute percussion and clicks and clacks to George's song, perhaps in an attempt to shadow any awkwardness in his delivery. It's like when Michael Wagener famously dumped banging percussion overdubs all over the crummy basic takes for Mötley Crüe's debut album Too Fast For Love.
Robert Bunter: George would not write a comparable song until 1974's "Far East Man." I must admit, I'm supposed to be listening to "Don't Bother Me" over and over while I write this, but I just put on "Far East Man" instead. When can I talk about this one?
Thursday, January 27, 2011
which they wrote and recorded with their old friends from Liverpool, or the millions of listeners the world over whose lives and hearts were touched by their immortal message of PEACE, LOVE, and
COMMUNICATION), they are really hating their own reflection in the psychic mirror (of the mind) (their own).
Richard Furnstein: Again with the "psychic mirror." John reminds us of things that he told us about a few months earlier. I guess "dovetail joint" was on some rare b-side that I don't have. What, so Lady Madonna came out before White Album? I guess so. His vocals peak and crack, he's really selling this song about gibarooshgabloogook.
Robert Bunter: In my opinion, this track works better as one element of the disorienting mashup on the "LOVE" version, along with Penny Lane's piccolo trumpet and Paul's vocal from Hello Goodbye. Is there any nightmarish Lennon bile song that would not be improved by Paul's ameliorating balm of melodicism and commerciality?
Wait a minute, my iTunes playlist just switched to an extremely different mix from the "More Sweet Apples" bootleg! Oh god, this is so much better. Rocks harder, with more unnecessary phasing and echo on the organ. Why was this not chosen for the final tracklist?
Richard Furnstein: George Martin classes up the joint with a mystery movie lurch in the outro. Everybody wins the "I guess this is good enough" award on this one. Undoubtedly left off of the single album version of The White Album.
Robert Bunter: Hmmmm ... YouTube comments just informed me that this is an "out-fake"- the intro and phasing were not actually the Beatles at all. Furnstein, please delete my previous comments from this post.
Richard Furnstein: Ha, good one. But it's playing right now: "Bad Boy." This is an oddity in the boys' catalog as stupid Capitol Records needed another song to fill out their latest money grabbin' collection. They hit up our heroes, who delivered this Larry Williams boogie from the Help! sessions.
Robert Bunter: It's chilling to hear the agonized Lennon howl that would later adorn such soul-crushers as "Cold Turkey" and "Mother." But there he is talking about his fears and paranoia, this time his voice is just a throat scorching adornment to a story about a mischievous child. However, close attention reveals that he was already wrestling with themes of childhood alienation and dislocation from his mother, Julia Lennon (née Stanley).
Richard Furnstein: Wait, are you talking about the line about putting tacks on the teacher's chair? That talks about the pain of his mother leaving him?
Robert Bunter: You don't understand the demons in that main's head. I've listened to this on headphones and wept like a child. John literally didn't go to school to read and write, he just sat around and played that rock and roll music all night.
Richard Furnstein: I think you are making too big of a deal about this. It's catalog filler with a fun vocal take. Later featured on A Collection of Beatles Oldies, some dumb compilation for ugly British people that can't buy complete albums by the best band of all time.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Richard Furnstein: This song is a real trombonerfest. I guess this kicks off the concept-album-that-never-was (it loses momentum after track three). Absolute pathetic effort, guys. Still, this did confuse the hell out of me when I was a kid. The band was playing dress up on the cover, they were welcoming the Rolling Stones (three years too late), and making up daft characters that only existed in their acid-addled minds. I'm a kid, help me out here!
Robert Bunter: McCartney turns in his usual bravura performance on lead vocals, and proves the wisdom of the old "less is more" adage with his simple yet appropriate basswork. Not bad at all, but they're really just setting us up for the one-two punch of "With A Little Help From My Friends" and "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds," unquestionably the two finestsongs ever waxed by human men.
Richard Furnstein: Sick demented guitar lead at 1:54. It really pops on the mono version. Leave it in there said a blissed out Magic Alex!
Robert Bunter: Can you imagine how threatening this song was to the adolescent boys who heard it in 1965? Picture it: a pimply lad with an already-out-of-date moptop (Fabs were flirting with shoulder-length by now) stares at the Help! album sleeve and sees the four grown men who
are already the sole romantic focus of every girl he knows. Maybe he's just finally now made a tentative connection with a young Mormon girl with pretty eyes who smiled at him during lunch at the telemarketing place ... and now he's got to listen to these wealthy globe-trotting sex symbols' mocking voices droozling out of his inferior hi-fi speakers: "I'll make a point of taking her away from you!" How is that supposed to make me feel? Why don't you just stick with your wife, John, and leave Christine Walker alone? I wish I'd never bought this album.
Richard Furnstein: Really good call and response on this one. John is up front declaring his intention of stealing every girl in the world and George and Paul are all like "watch what you do." Yeah.
Robert Bunter: Afterthought - nice bongos throughout; even better when they're faded up in the mix during the guitar solo.
Richard Furnstein: I think Ringo is just banging them harder. Bare hands on leather, man. Oh, and this song has perhaps the most perfect ending of any Beatles song. Also, the stereo mix is absolute crud, John's choppy guitar is way too present and the drums are five miles away.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Robert Bunter: This is a true Abbey Road highlight. Not the album Abbey Road, THE STUDIO. The Fab Four just don't do anything better than this: soul-crushingly projound Lennon lyrics, classic John-Paul-George vocal blend (and is that a hapless Ringo humming low in the mix at 1:18? Ask Lewishon!), analog synthesizer droplets of squirmy tonal processing and a chord progression taken from Yoko's conceptual backwards recital of the Moonlight Sonata.
Richard Furnstein: The acapella version has become increasingly in vogue (Anthology, the Love remix album, Elliot Smith in that Wes Anderson movie about sleeping with your sister), but the O.G. mix is still tops. John polishes off his gentle heavy riffery from "I Want You" and "Happiness Is A Warm Gun" while the Moog kicks up some star stuff in the studio. The neatest thing possible.
Robert Bunter: This is the song that I hope will be played at the party after my funeral (funeral playlist is already taken by endless loop of mono "Day In The Life," of course! "I read the news today, oh boy / about a lucky man who made the grade" ... not a dry eye in the house.)
Richard Furnstein: I can't wait!
Monday, January 24, 2011
Richard Furnstein: The second song on the first album by the number one band in our hearts. "Misery" is proof of why all those girls were screaming their fool heads off and dudes were wetting their pants with pure hetero man love excitement.
George Martin plays some neato monkey piano in the reverb tank and Harrison nails the harmony because he did what everyone said because he was the youngest.
Richard Furnstein: I guess, let's talk about the song, which is their best ever. George Martin plays some neato monkey piano in the reverb tank and Harrison nails the harmony because he did what everyone said because he was the youngest. Lennon's "shalalalalala" during the fade is a top five Beatles moment of all time, and you need to listen harder if you don't agree. Also neat: Paul singing "shend" instead of "send." Whattariot!
Robert Bunter: OK, here's one. By the time this song came around, it had become customary for John and Paul to bestow a second-rate filler tune on hapless sticksman Richard Starkey. With the low bar that had already been set by "I Wanna Be Your Man," what is there to lose?
Richard Furnstein: I'll tell you what: quality. Self-respect.
Robert Bunter: This is a track that every half-wit "20 Greatest Hits"-on-cassette semi-fan feels justified in putting down. Well, guess what? This is a true classic. Reason number one: killer drum intro. Should I continue? OK: what about "You think I'm soft in the head / Well try someone softer instead, pretty thing?" This is the kind of vintage Lennon mind game wordplay that makes people drive over to Strawberry Fields in NYC and weep for opportunities lost. Number three: "Ah, rock on, anybody" followed by classic Harrison Gretch fumbling.
Richard Furnstein: It's like a theme for a really shitty 1960s spy movie that I never want to see!
Robert Bunter: Man, we've really been talking about stinkers lately.
Richard Furnstein: I know, I feel bad. (Reaches into hat). Uh-oh, looks like our luck has changed. I just picked one of my favorites: "The Word." John finds out about love and can't way to lay it on his friends. Paul's like "been there already dude" (Jane Asher), but still contributes the greatest bass line possible.
Robert Bunter: This is one of the first times John explores the messianic impulses that will later cause him to spout embarrassing garbage like "If you want to be a hero then just follow me" and "Can you hear me?/niaaaaaaaaaar." I can in all honesty say that if I took acid and got turned on to the fact that love is the transcendent mystical universe force of all creation, I would respond by writing a bad 12-bar boogie with lyrics like "Everywhere I got I hear it said/In the good and the bad books that I have read."
Richard Furnstein: Liner notes claim that George or Paul or somebody played the screeching organ, which was probably fun for that person. Top ten Beatles track!*
*Don't hold me to that.
Sunday, January 23, 2011
Richard Furnstein: Man, this Pink Floyd song is especially boring!
Robert Bunter: Good one. It's our heroes again, but George is in a crummy mood. I'm so completely surprised. When this earnest, awkward goof wasn't sitting on his high horse and offering high-handed judgments of everyone's spiritual shortcomings, he was bitching and moaning in a most unbecoming manner.
Richard Furnstein: Don't upset the applecart, George!
Robert Bunter: Nice harpsichord and "sh-cha-cha" background on the pointless guitar break.
Richard Furnstein: Ringo seems particularly bored with the old pop and roll on this one. I imagine this one would have had trouble making a triple album version of the White Album. The fade is pretty neat, though.
Robert Bunter: Possibly the saddest McCartney track ever. Paul sees the writing on the wall and makes a desperate plea for unity. He'll revisit similar territory on "Two of Us" and "You Never Give Me Your Money," but none of it will work. They were doomed.
Richard Furnstein: Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn noted that Ringo was particularly keen to commit this diarrhea drip to tape, in the hopes that it would be a worse song than “What Goes On.” He was successful.
They were doomed.
Robert Bunter: You've never been more wrong in your life, Richard.
Richard Furnstein: It's not my fault you like to eat garbage.
Friday, January 21, 2011
Robert Bunter: Perfect horn section, perfect melody. The White Album doesn't get better than this!
Richard Furnstein: Imagine: it's a windy day in Rishkanonakish, India. Paul is sitting in the lotus with a battered Martin acoustic. Mike Love is re-energizing his chi on a rock or something. Nag champa blossoms carry the sweet sound...
Robert Bunter: Uh huh. Please keep going.
Richard Furnstein: ...I assume he was sitting by a mountain stream. He sings what he feels.
Robert Bunter: Is that Ringo playing a chair?
Richard Furnstein: Probably, they were doing lots of weird shit at this point (heroin). It's better than "Child of Nature," I'm sure John did a lot of crying to Arthur Janov about that.
Robert Bunter: The mono mix is a revelation! You can actually SEE the swinging daisies sing their lazy song beneath the sun. Hearts around the world rejoice when those first amazing acoustic guitar notes dispel the sour mood everyone is in after Lennon's turgid "Yer Blues" stinks up side three.
Richard Furnstein: Spoiler alert!
Thursday, January 20, 2011
Richard Furnstein: John drops off his soppy laundry at that studio. The kind of song that he would give Paul a pink belly over, but I guess Lennon gets a pass. This one pretty much coasts on the vocal, melody, and beautiful arrangement, but really very little else here.
Robert Bunter: It's no wonder he felt this way, trapped in a loveless marriage with the hapless Cynthia. His soul was just waiting for an abrasive conceptual artist to come along and awaken his wandering spirit. Thank you, John, for this immortal melody.
Richard Furnstein: He rolls his r's on this one like a Latin lover. Beats do World Music! Also the use of "it's so hard" probably got some guffaws from Mal Evans. Top track. Shoulda made the red/blue comps that your aunt had. It probably did.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Richard Furnstein: Anthology filler, a supposed pant-wetter that any Beatles fan worth their salt already had on Unsurpassed Masters Volume 3. Help! outtake, and just think about the shit they put on the actual album.
Robert Bunter: Phil Spector, meet Paul McCartney! This could easily be considered the finest Beatles song. Why the group did not release it during their original lifespan is one of the mysteries that could keep a man up at night.
Richard Furnstein: Canyon-sized echo was deployed by Sir George Martin, at considerable expense to EMI Parlophone Swan Capitol records. The fifth Beatle (ambience) almost prevents this from being a total sonic abortion. Wait a sec: "Love can be suicide"!?! I take it all back. This rules.
Robert Bunter: Told ya. The "can't you seeeeeeeeeeeeeee, yeah!" fade is the stuff Beatlemaniacal dreams are made of!
Robert Bunter: John creates a nice percolating groove on this track, then pisses in the punchbowl with his usual sardonic gibberish.
Richard Furnstein: Paul gets some more sideways aggression out on immigrants in the UK (“Don’t look at me I only have ten children!”); a theme that he would trot out for the Paki-bashing “Get Back” on some other album.
I like it when they act like dogs at the end!
Robert Bunter: A true highlight of any bonus track selection of deleted scenes from the US theatrical prints of the "Yellow Submarine" film.
Richard Furnstein: Oh good point. I forgot that this song was marketed as "The Great Lost Beatles Track" when the bullshit Yellow Submarine Songtrack was released in 1999. Thanks for the shit we already own, EMI/Capitol.
Robert Bunter: I like it when they act like dogs at the end!
Richard Furnstein: This one is special. The sun rises in Paul's heart and he wants to tell everyone about a beautiful parking authority girl. New love is in the air and Paul digs out some neat car metaphors (barely dusty from the previous year's Rubber Soul).
Robert Bunter: One of the worst ragtime piano solos the Beatles ever recorded. Their career was littered with them, unfortunately. Rocky Raccoon is the only other example.
Richard Furnstein: It's dire, sure, but let's focus on the JOY in this track. Lots of fun was had in the raucous vocal overdub session, including George wearing a flaming ashtray on his head, Ringo preparing cucumber sandwiches in the Abbey Road echo chamber, and John making racist jokes about the mentally challenged. The offensive humor is barely audible on the audio version (he was underwater).
Robert Bunter: Ha, is that a dog howling at the end?
Richard Furnstein: Possibly. The barnyard was getting ready for "Good Morning."