In just the very last entry, I gave John Lennon kudos for his creative spark in 1964, but he was also on fire in 1968. Chalk it up to transcendental meditation or his newfound muse in Yoko Ono, but when the Beatles convened for an acoustic demo session at George Harrison’s house–a session that was eventually released on the 50th anniversary edition of The White Album–John brought in 15 of the 27 songs recorded that day.
One of those tracks was the delicate “Dear Prudence,” inspired by fellow Rishikesh meditator Prudence Farrow. Prudence was one of the Maharishi’s more intense students, with John accusing her of “trying to reach God quicker than anybody else.”
This gentle plea for Prudence to take a break from meditating is one of the Beatles’ most beautiful recordings, with angelic harmonies, shimmering acoustic guitar, and a powerful bass line that should induce even the most stringent prayer warrior to come out to play.
There are a lot of reasons why the Beatles were so great–I mean, you put four talented, innovative musicians together and you’re bound to get impressive results no matter what–but one factor that really elevated them was the way they embraced competition. Their rivalry with the Rolling Stones inspired both bands to up their games, but the Beatles were confident enough to actually donate a(n admittedly lousy) song across enemy battle lines. Even within the group itself, Lennon and McCartney’s constant urge to outdo the other fueled a slew of hits.
There’s a certain joy and comfort in discovering that someone else shares an uncommon habit or preference of yours. When I find a person who also acknowledges that cereal is far superior without milk, I know I’ve found an ally who will pick up a spoon and go to war with me.
Back in the earliest days of my Beatles obsession, I had relatively limited access to their music. My parents were never big fans, so the only albums I was able to inherit from them were my dad’s vinyl copies of the Red and Blue compilations. During a record shopping excursion in Philadelphia, I was elated to come across Abbey Road on vinyl for the bargain price of $2.98. It turned out that it skipped at the very end of “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window,” resulting in the final line of that song repeating ad nauseum (“Sunday’s on the phone to Monday, Tuesday’s on the phone to *vrrp* Sunday’s on the phone to Monday, Tuesday’s…”)
Writing about “Rocky Raccoon” is an inevitably losing proposition. Because no matter what jokes or elementary level of music criticism I’m able to produce, it will not be one iota as good as the lyrics to “Rocky Raccoon.” This is the most clever song the Beatles ever released. Meanwhile, a lot of folks in the media consider my other Beatles write-ups better than the songs themselves. For more info, read the cover story of next month’s Deaf Life magazine.
Ladies and gentlemen, introducing John Lennon, AKA the greatest troll in rock ‘n’ roll. As the Beatles’ lyrics became more…shall we say, obtuse, listeners were determined to interpret what the hell the band–well, let’s be frank and just call Lennon out, because he was the culprit–was talking about. “I Want to Hold Your Hand” in 1963? I think I understand. “I Am the Walrus, goo goo g’joob” four years later? Slightly less clear.
Considering what a rock icon Lennon is, it’s borderline bizarre how he approached popular music as a listener. He didn’t like seeing his favorite artists in concert, because live performances never exactly replicated the familiar sound of the records he loved. He also couldn’t fathom why fans would be compelled enough to analyze his lyrics. Why can’t they just turn off their minds and enjoy the music?
So John Lennon got an idea! An awful idea! John Lennon got a wonderful, awful idea!
The one constant in the Beatles’ early years was evolution: in 1962-3, they recorded electrifying pop songs that birthed the Beatlemania movement. They rode that wave in 1964 but upped the ante on their songwriting, raising the bar for all their contemporaries. By 1965, they wore their Bob Dylan influence on their sleeves on the folksy Help! and explored even more styles on the diverse Rubber Soul. Revolver in 1966 took that sense of curiosity and experimentation to another level, and a year later their psychedelic work was unlike anything that had ever hit the mainstream before.
One of the most gorgeous and endearing songs in the Beatles’ catalog, “Good Night” not only serves as a palette cleanser from the atrocious “Revolution 9,” but caps off the entire White Album so perfectly. After a chaotic ride through 29 songs that run the gamut both stylistically and qualitatively, we finish with this lovely lullaby written by John and sung delicately by Ringo.
As a result of singing songs like this and “Yellow Submarine” (not to mention hosting Thomas the Tank Engine), Ringo is an obvious choice to be the preferred Beatle of children, but most people grow out of that. That doesn’t mean we should Continue reading “#133: Good Night”→
Time for me to be a hypocrite. I ranked “I Wanna Be Your Man” the worst original Beatles song largely due to its lousy, basic 18-word vocabulary. “Why Don’t We Do it in the Road?” clocks in at just 17 unique words, yet here it is, nearly 75 slots higher. I mean, obviously there are plenty of legitimate reasons for that which I’ll get into, but I’ll admit, that’s a pretty wide jump. You’re probably thinking, Continue reading “#136: Why Don’t We Do it in the Road?”→
There’s very little middle ground when it comes to rock drummers–they’re either highly regarded (Nirvana’s Dave Grohl, Led Zeppelin’s John “Bonzo” Bonham, Rush’s Neil Peart) or unjustly ridiculed (pretty much every other drummer on the planet). The running joke is that it’s every band’s worst fear when their happy-go-lucky drummer, once so content to pound on the tom-toms however he was instructed to and occasionally perform a drum solo during a concert when the rest of the group needed a bathroom break, writes a song for the next album.