SOUNDTRACK: THE BEATLES-The Beatles (1968).
Despite the sound effects, it’s clear from the start that this album is going to be different from the psychedelia of previous albums. And the whole album is very stark—guitars, bass, drums, occasional piano and organ but not much else. True there are some strings and horns, but it’s all very much in the vein of rock and roll–nothing trippy. Turns out that most of the songs were written during a Transcendental Meditation course with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in Rishikesh, India–a period that was free from drugs (except or marijuana of course).
“Back in the USSR” is a fun rocker, although it always confused me and there’s some explanation that this is sort of a joke on the Beach Boys. “Dear Prudence” is a mid tempo song (with some cool bass lines). I should have been keeping track of all the Beatles songs that I know better from other artists. This one I know better from Siouxsie and the Banshees. I had no idea what this song was about, and the story is weird and fascinating. I love the way it builds band builds. “Glass Onion” has a really groovy sound, and I love all the self referential nonsense in it. “the walrus was Paul” and “I told you about the Fool on the Hill” (McCartney overdubbed a record part to reference the original)–sounds like Lennon goofing around but making cool music out of it.
“Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da”is a goofy song (Paul is good at those it seems). Evidently it was meant as a pastiche of ska (with Jimmy Cliff contributing initially). According to Wikipedia this song is one of the factors that led to the break up of the band because they got so sick of it. “Wild Honey Pie” is a weird 50 second snippet of a song. This seems to foreshadow the medley tracks on Abbey Road. Evidently it was just McCartney goofing around and referencing “Honey Pie” from later in the album. “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill” is a song that I always sort of liked because it’s so weird. But I never understood it. While it may not be necessary to know all of the details of songs, it’s fascinating to learn that this one was written by Lennon after an American visitor to Rishikesh left for a few weeks to hunt tigers. The recording features vocals from almost everyone who happened to be in the studio at the time. Yoko Ono sings one line and co-sings another. The Spanish guitar at the beginning of the recording was overdubbed later by Harrison.
I’ve always really liked “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and thought Harrison was an underrated songwriter because of it (although I find that I don’t really like most of his other stuff that much). I never knew that Eric Clapton played the leads on this song, which may be why I like it so much–not that I’m a huge fan of Clapton but he really scorched this song in a way that I don’t think Harrison every would have.
“Happiness Is A Warm Gun”always surprises me because the first verses sound so unlike the rest of the song–I really don’t recognize it as this song, always assuming it starts at the “I need a fix” part. Of course, there are so many different parts that it’s really more like several different songs. And that was all for side one. Side Two opened with “Martha My Dear” a jaunty piano ballad played entirely by McCartney. “I’m So Tired” reminds me a lot of “Bungalow Bill” and seems unnecessary. “Blackbird” is, simply, a beautiful song.
“Piggies” is an interesting criticism of modern society–I love that they used a harpsichord for it (evidently Charles Manson was inspired by it as well as “Helter Skelter”). Like “Bungalow Bill” I never really understood “Rocky Raccoon.” McCartney’s crazy accent at the beginning and the whole premise of the song is peculiar–unless of course you don’t think of Rocky Racoon as a raccoon (which I have a hard time getting past). It’s a pretty decent folk song. though, I suppose. “Don’t Pass Me By” is a song I really don’t know at all–a honky tonk piano (which was the first solo song Ringo wrote). It’s fine and kind of nice.
I had always assumed that “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?” was a Lennon song, but it was all McCartney–Lennon didn’t even play on it. It’s just a weird noisy track (written when Paul saw monkeys doing it in the road in India) Despite its brevity (less than 2 minutes), I actually find it goes on too long. “I Will” is a sweet acoustic song. I always assumed that “Julia” was a McCartney song, but it’s a beautiful Lennon ballad.
I asked Sarah, who was a huge Beatles fan, if she listened to sides 3 and 4 as much as sides 1& 2 because listening to these sides, I feel like I don’t really know them that well. She says they did, so what do I know?
Of course I know “Birthday.” i find it to be a weird song–why would you write a song about a birthday unless you didn’t want to sing the Happy Birthday song anymore? It is evidently meant to be in the style of Little Richard. I didn’t know and rather dislike “Yer Blues,” which I simply don’t believe the lyrics of. And um, what is the reason why? It’s a pretty dull blues song although the guitars solos are pretty good.
I don’t really know “Mother Nature’s Son” that well–I feel like I know the little bass line between verses as significant but not the song itself. It’s a pretty acoustic song that kind of reminds me of “Julia.” “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey” has some really sharp piercing guitars on it. I like the ringing bells and c’mon c’mon section. The whole song is fun, whatever it’s about. “Sexy Sadie” is a song I’ve never been too crazy about. I like the middle part better than the verses. Apparently this was originally called “Maharishi” and was written about him–he changed the words later–which makes it all make a bit more sense.
It’s a shame that Manson has co-opted “Helter Skelter” because it’s a wonderfully blistering song. The guitars and vocals are just awesomely rocking and raw. I also love that a helter skelter is just a slide and not something sinister (duh, Charles–see what happens when you try to read into Beatles lyrics). I actually knew Siouxsie and the Banshees and Mötley Crüe’s versions before the original, but now I think the original is the best version. I love that the song just never really ends–it’s got codas and extras and blisters on fingers.
“Long, Long, Long” is a song I don’t really know. I like the melody although it’ a bit too slow for me.
“Revolution 1” is weird to me because I knew the more rocking version first and this sounds like a kind of jokey version (with the shoobie doo wops)–although it was actually recorded first. “Honey Pie” is a cute dance hall/1920s era song–Lennon played the guitar solo on the track, but later said he hated the song, calling it “beyond redemption”. (He was quite nasty about a lot of Paul’s silly songs). “Savoy Truffle” is yet another Harrison song that I just don’t know–did radio stations ban his songs? It’s a decent rocker with electric piano and saxophone. “Cry Baby Cry” is a song that I kind of know. I like that there’s accordion on it. It builds very nicely. The end has a little coda called “Can You Take Me Back.”
“Revolution 9” is probably the most notorious track on the disc. I have to assume it was left on because there was a lot of empty space to fill in order to make the album a double album. It’s such a strange creation and has really been responsible for so many cut and paste songs I’m sure. There’s some sophisticated tape manipulation going on, but at 8 minute sit is just too long for what it is.
“Goodnight” is a sweet song that I have to assume was often ignored by fans who took the needle off the record during “Revolution 9.” i actually didn’t even know there was a song after revolution 9. Indeed, I only know the song because it was on a children’s CD that I used to play for my kids every night. And while Ringo’s voice is nice, I like the other version (which I can’t think of) a little more.
So there’s the big white album–an album I never owned until recently. It could probably have been reduced to a single album, but there are some undoubtedly brilliant songs on it.
[READ: July 3, 2014] “Road Kill”
I was curious to see how many short stories of older New Yorker magazines I had read. It turned out that I have read nearly every story in every issue for the last several years from 2009-2014 (and many from 2008). However, I have missed a few over the years. Like this one. I had typed up a post but just never finished it for some reason.
So, I’ve decided that I will go back and make sure that I’ve read each story from each issue from 2008-2015 (but not right away, I’ve done a lot of New Yorker stories recently. So, I’ve got 13 from 2009, 6 from 2010, 2 from 2011, 1 from 2013 and 1 from 2014 (and, uh 27 from 2008–that’ over half, so maybe I wasn’t quite in the spirit of things yet back then). But in the meantime, here’s one from 2013.
This is a brief story about a taxi driver in Sri Lanka. He has been traveling the same route (across country) for two years. This necessitates a stop in Kilinocchi, a town associated with the nerve center of terror (it is even commented on that it sounds brutal in English). But the driver is a pro now—he says all you have to do to stay safe is keep your eyes open to drive all night.
On this trip, he is driving Mr and Mrs Arunachalam to see their soon-to-be house. She is hugely pregnant and complains much of the way and they are both relieved when the hotel pulls into view. (more…)
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