Posted in 1960s, Adicia, Ernestine, Girl/Deirdre, Music

WeWriWa—In loving memory of John

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. In honor of John Lennon’s 39th Jahrzeit (death anniversary), I’m taking a detour from my holiday-themed snippets.

This excerpt comes from Chapter 25, “Ernestine and Girl Are Beatlemaniacs,” of Little Ragdoll. It’s set over 9 February 1964, the day The Beatles first played Ed Sullivan. This is the first time young Ernestine Troy or her friends the Ryans (whose disinterested parents called them simply Girl, Boy, Baby, and Infant) have ever watched television.

The Ryans eventually take the names Deirdre, David, Fiona, and Aoife (EE-fa).

Ernestine thinks it’s pretty rude how the majority of the girls in the studio audience are screaming. Even if one really likes a band and is excited to see them perform, that’s no excuse for screaming nonstop. They’re probably making it hard for the band to hear themselves play, and are missing the entire show because all they’re doing is screaming.

During the next song, a cover of what Mrs. van Niftrik says is a Broadway tune, “Till There Was You,” there are closeups of each bandmember, providing each one’s name. Ernestine rolls her eyes when a caption appears under John’s name, saying, “Sorry girls, he’s married.” As though any of the girls in the audience or watching at home stand a chance of marrying someone that much older and that famous. She and Girl both think he’s the handsomest, married or not. The others are cute, but John has a more mature face, like a handsome adult man, not carrying the look of a cute, soft-faced boy into early adulthood. Girl also feels a special energy coming from him, an aura she has a very good feeling about.

Posted in 1960s, Music

Happy 50th birthday, Abbey Road!

Image used solely to illustrate the subject for an album review, and consistent with Fair Use Doctrine

Released 26 September 1969, Abbey Road was The Beatles’ last studio album in terms of when it was recorded. Though the painfully spotty Let It Be was released in May 1970, the bulk of it was recorded before AR.

This would’ve been the perfect swan song to go out on. The album is absolutely brilliant, lightyears away from LIB. Though some people complain about all the song snippets on Side Two, they work perfectly in the musical context. Without all these miniature songs blending in and out of one another, it wouldn’t be the same album.

Recording began 22 February 1969, with producer George Martin agreeing to work with the band again on strict condition they let him produce it “the way we used to do it.” They also had to promise to adhere to a reasonable measure of discipline and behave themselves properly.

It seemed an impossible proposition after the acrimonious mood during the recording of their previous two albums, but in spite of continuing interpersonal tensions, it was a much more enjoyable experience all around.

The resulting album was a compromise between two schools of style. John wanted a traditional album with distinct, unrelated songs, while Paul and George Martin wanted a running theme like they’d done on the most overrated album of all time. Side One follows John’s style, while Side Two famously adheres to the latter vision.

John, never one to mince words, wasn’t exactly fond of the resulting product. He would’ve preferred his songs on one side and Paul’s on the other, and lit into Paul’s lightweight “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” as granny music. As for Side Two, John thought the medleys were “junk…just bits of songs thrown together.”

The band did little to promote AR, though it shot to #1 regardless, in the U.K., the U.S., Australia, Canada, The Netherlands, Japan, Norway, Sweden, Spain, and West Germany. Over the last fifty years, critics have by and large highly praised it. It’s in my own Top 5 of fave Beatles’ albums.

Track listing:

“Come Together” (#1 in the U.S., #4 in the U.K.)
“Something” (#1 in the U.S., Australia, West Germany, Canada, and New Zealand; #2 in Norway; #3 in Ireland; #4 in the U.K.; #5 in Sweden; #11 in Austria)
“Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”
“Oh! Darling”
“Octopus’s Garden”
“I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” (recorded the last time all four Beatles were in the studio together, and a forerunner to doom metal)
“Here Comes the Sun”
“Because” (Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata played backwards)
“You Never Give Me Your Money” (first of the mini-songs)
“Sun King”
“Mean Mr. Mustard”
“Polythene Pam”
“She Came in Through the Bathroom Window”
“Golden Slumbers” (a poem from Thomas Dekker’s play Patient Grissel, written 1599 and published 1603)
“Carry That Weight”
“The End”
“Your Majesty” (an ultra-short snippet after fourteen seconds of silence)

My fave tracks are “I Want You” (which wasn’t so popular originally), “Something,” “Here Comes the Sun,” and “The End.” I love the emotionally expectant mood of the final few songs (not counting hidden track “Your Majesty”), this tension building and building till the most perfect, bittersweet swan song ever.

Posted in 1960s, Music

Happy 50th birthday to The White Album!

The Beatles released their one and only double album on 22 November 1968. Though it’s eponymous, just about everyone has always called it The White Album, due to its plain white cover. Its working title, A Doll’s House, had to be changed when prog-rock band Family released Music in a Doll’s House in July.

This album is known for its solo showcase of each Beatle. Many of the songs weren’t recorded with all four in the studio at the same time, and the distinctive voice and style of each bandmember emerges loud and clear on his respective songs.

Many people know a lot of the songs were written and/or inspired by The Beatles’ sojourn in India. None were released as singles.

The album was recorded from 30 May–14 October 1968, and the sessions were fraught with acrimony. Ringo briefly quit the band in August, feeling like he no longer belonged; producer George Martin took an unexpected leave of absence; engineer Geoff Emerick quit; and John’s new love Yoko famously moved her bed into the studio.

Album one:

“Back in the USSR” (Paul)
“Dear Prudence” (John)
“Glass Onion” (John)
“Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” (Paul) (an immediate skip button, and a song the other three Beatles HATED)
“Wild Honey Pie” (Paul)
“The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill” (John)
“While My Guitar Gently Weeps” (George)
“Happiness Is a Warm Gun” (John)
“Martha My Dear” (Paul) (written about his Old English Sheepdog)
“I’m So Tired” (John)
“Blackbird” (Paul)
“Piggies” (George)
“Rocky Raccoon” (Paul)
“Don’t Pass Me By” (Ringo)
“Why Don’t We Do It on the Road?” (Paul)
“I Will” (Paul)
“Julia” (John)

Album two:

“Birthday” (Paul and John)
“Yer Blues” (John)
“Mother Nature’s Son” (Paul)
“Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey” (John)
“Sexy Sadie” (John)
“Helter Skelter” (Paul) (an obvious outlier he likes to point to as “proof” he was really the hip, hard-edge, avant-garde Beatle)
“Long, Long, Long” (George)
“Revolution No. 1” (John) (never liked the slow tempo)
“Honey Pie” (Paul)
“Savoy Truffle” (George)
“Cry Baby Cry” (John)
“Revolution No. 9” (John) (a sound collage which is famously among fans’ most-hated songs, but which I’ve always adored and often listened to on repeat)
“Good Night” (Ringo) (almost the last song I heard in this lifetime)

There’s also an unlisted song snippet between “Cry Baby Cry” and “Revolution No. 9,” “Can You Take Me Back,” by Paul.

The majority of critics loved it, though a few were less than enthusiastic. It débuted at #1 in the U.K., and spent a total of eight weeks there (seven consecutively). In the U.S., it débuted at #11, shot to #2 the next week, and climbed to #1 in the third week, where it stayed for nine weeks.

The album was also #1 in Australia, Canada, France, Norway, Sweden, Spain, and West Germany.

I’ve always adored this album. My favourite tracks include “Revolution No. 9,” “Glass Onion,” “Dear Prudence,” “Julia,” “Long, Long, Long,” “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey,” and “Savoy Truffle.”

Posted in 1960s, Music

Happy 50th birthday, Revolver!

Revolver

Used solely to illustrate the subject for the purpose of critique, and consistent with Fair Use doctrine

Revolver, one of my favoritest albums and one of the greatest albums of all time, turned 50 on 5 August. This album has been in my personal Top 5 for years and years, and I can’t see it ever not having one of those most coveted top spots. It’s just absolute perfection, a timeless classic.

The album spent seven weeks at #1 on the U.K. Albums Chart, and 34 weeks on the chart altogether. In the U.S., it spent six weeks at #1 on the Billboard Top LPs chart. This was the last proper album to be repackaged by Capitol, and like its predecessor Rubber Soul, the name and cover were left alone.

Whereas RS has been called The Beatles’ pot album, Revolver was their acid album. Trippy sounds are all over the album, like backwards tape loops, sitars, and varispeeding. So many of the songs are lightyears away from their early offerings, with such mature, complex, surrealistic, and, yes, drug-induced themes. They’d moved beyond only doing simple love songs.

Track listing:

“Taxman”
“Eleanor Rigby” (one of only two songs, the other being “In My Life,” which John and Paul significantly disagreed on the authorship credits of)
“I’m Only Sleeping”
“Love You To”
“Here, There, and Everywhere”
“Yellow Submarine”
“She Said She Said”
“Good Day Sunshine”
“And Your Bird Can Sing” (the throwaway)
“For No One”
“Doctor Robert” (about the dentist who gave John and George their first acid trip)
“I Want to Tell You”
“Got to Get You into My Life”
“Tomorrow Never Knows”

Unusually, George got three songs (“Taxman,” “Love You To,” and “I Want to Tell You”). He’d really begun coming into his own as a songwriter by this point.

Also by this point, the four Beatles’ personalities were showing through most loud and clear in their songs. Even if you haven’t heard the songs but just read the lyrics, it’s pretty obvious which is which, and that each had distinctive interests and themes.

The album met with huge critical acclaim, and has continuously been praised over the ensuing decades. Many folks, myself included, consider it The Beatles’ very best. It holds up incredibly well over time, and doesn’t sound dated like a certain other Beatles’ album surrounded by massive hype. Revolver has more than enough substance underneath the acclaim. It’s not just a bunch of trippy noises with a classic album cover, more famous for being famous than for timeless, outstanding musical merit.

I absolutely adore this album! Even the throwaway, “And Your Bird Can Sing,” is listenable.

Posted in 1960s, Music

Happy 50th Birthday to Rubber Soul!

RS U.S. Front

Don’t blame me for the shoddy condition of this record! The U.S repackagings of most of The Beatles’ albums came into my possession in 2008, and they were all in less than very good condition when I got them.

Released 3 December 1965, the same day as The Who’s début My Generation, The Beatles’ sixth studio album is widely established as one of their all-time best, both then and now. It holds up very well over time (unlike the most overrated album of all time), and marked the start of the band’s middle period, my favorite of their three eras. Even Capitol Records recognized what a special album it was and didn’t change the title or cover art.

Though this wasn’t the gigantic sea change many people portray it as, it was still a rather noticeable evolution from the types of songs on their last album, Help!, released just four months earlier. Their songwriting was starting to reflect their growing maturity, moving beyond simplistic boy-loves-girl songs to more introspective, complex scenarios, with artsy, sophisticated lyrics.

The songs:

“Drive My Car”
“Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)”
“You Won’t See Me”
“Nowhere Man”
“Think for Yourself”
“The Word”
“Michelle”
“What Goes On”
“Girl”
“I’m Looking Through You”
“In My Life”
“Wait”
“If I Needed Someone”
“Run for Your Life”

As per usual, Capitol Records changed the track listing and used songs from earlier albums. I can now understand this widespread practice in historical and economic context, but I still really, really dislike how it was once considered acceptable and appropriate to mess around with a band’s artistic vision and integrity. It would be like releasing a book or movie with scenes and chapters in different orders, and material from earlier works scattered in, for different international markets. The only repackaging Capitol got right was Magical Mystery Tour.

RS U.S. Back

The album was a huge chart and critical success, knocking The Sound of Music soundtrack out of Britain’s #1 spot and holding that most coveted position for 8 weeks. It stayed on the charts for 42 weeks, later returned to #1 upon the CD release on 9 May 1987, and most recently came to the charts again in 2007. In the U.S., it entered the charts on Boxing Day 1965, went to #1 on 8 January 1966, and stayed on the charts for 59 weeks.

My own favorite Beatles’ album is Revolver, but RS is nevertheless on my Top 5 (the others being The White Album, Abbey Road, and MMT). My favorite tracks are “Girl,” “Wait,” “In My Life,” “Think for Yourself,” and “If I Needed Someone.” The lattermost two songs were George’s, marking the first time he got more than a token song. Like John and Paul, he really began growing and maturing in his songwriting around this time. He got three on the next album, but then was back to just one for the next two albums.

The album’s not perfect, however. I totally agree with John’s assessment of the closer, “Run for Your Life.” It was a silly, substanceless throwaway that should’ve been left on the cutting-room floor or not even written. This isn’t even closing track material. Still, I’d rather listen to a throwaway from The Beatles (with a few certain exceptions) than anything from most modern-day pop groups. There’s just no comparison.