The Ron Kane Files

Writing About Music

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Beatles



7-14-08 The Beatles

After all the record collector type ‘venting’, I thought I would write about an old topic (after all, I am a bit of an old topic myself!)

It becomes increasingly more difficult to think of the members of The Beatles as real people, as opposed to pop culture icons. But mortality helps keep things real – I was saddened by the news of the death of Neil Aspinall, the ‘true’ fifth Beatle. I once sent a telex to him, for Research Video – and he responded!

The CD’s of The Beatles change the way the original records sounded – my recommendation is to not think about The Beatles in the digital era – just remember the way you first encountered them – on an AM radio, or being played on a small, portable stereo system. Did you ever discuss The Beatles with your friends, when you were too young to comprehend ‘the bigger picture’? (That they were all very rich young men etc.)

For people of my generation (am I a post-boomer?), The Beatles were an interesting unifying artistic force. If you were talking to someone young, if they knew about (or liked) The Beatles – they were probably cool. I looked up to my three older siblings – all of them liked The Beatles, and I have always thought all three of them were “OK”.

So, is Ringo going to be the last Beatle standing? I wonder what the ‘betting shops’ in England have to say on that topic?

I’ve been listening to The Beatles for so long that…(comedian joke punch-line). But, seriously – Coming up on 45 years of Beatle fandom. Heard pretty much everything; my favorite album has changed 3 or 4 times. My favorite Beatles’ song has changed 6 or 7 times. My favorite Beatles has changed at least 3 or 4 times.

I like The Beatles’ records better than Elvis Presley or Rolling Stones records. I have a full set of ‘em (on LP and CD; and I’m talkin’ the 13 contiguous albums). The Beatles are at least partially responsible for me being a life-long Anglophile (the other things that ‘made me this way’ are Peter Sellers, “The Prisoner” and “The Avengers”).

I am a big fan of records that sound like The Beatles, but are not The Beatles (think Jackie Lomax “Is This What You Want” LP or Badfinger). I absolutely love cover versions of songs by The Beatles – preferably ones from the time that The Beatles were together. I generally think that The Beatles’ records are better than any of their solo albums (though I do like some of their solo records a lot).

So, I remain a fan. “Beatles or Stones?” Uh, Beatles. Any one of 5 or 6 different Beatles’ LP’s deserves to be revered as the pinnacle of British 60’s pop music – take your pick!

Thanks for the music, boys. And the lifestyle, the legacy etc. And thank you for employing Ronnie Ross (on “Savoy Truffle”!).

6 Comments:

Anonymous Jim Donato said...

I'm old enough to remember the Beatles songs on the radio not as oldies. I also vividly remember their breakup. But the breakup of Creedence Clearwater Revival a few months later really got me down as a child. I'll admit that the Beatles were the first albums I ever listened to as a child, courtesy of cool Karen Morrow (not the actress), a Santa Monica teenager who would let a 7 year old kid listen to her stereo/records, I've heard The Beatles far too much as cultural wallpaper to have any enthusiasm for them. But the Rolling Stones resonate with me far more - even though The Beatles are the group I should like better; being more "artistic" and varied in approach, etc. Heck, I did not "get" blues based music until I was almost 30!! Lately, I want MORE Rolling Stones other than the fine London Years box or the true stereo Hot Rocks v1. I need some albums like Let It Bleed or the Jimmy Miller material.

I can't deny that The Beatles artistic development arc is the greatest in rock music - and it will never be matched by any other band - but nonetheless, I can't work up much enthusiasm for 'em. In fact, I even try to maintain "Beatles virginity" to the greatest extent that I can. In spite of reading voraciously about music I avoid The Beatles as a topic. I can't tell you what songs are on which album, for the most part. I have no idea what the differences between the US & UK LPs are. Sometimes I see titles to Beatles songs I don't recognize - and I want to keep it that way! I want The Beatles to remain distant and mysterious to me for about the same reason why I advise people who have not seen a Star Wars film to never watch one. If I can live without the imprint of yet another cultural juggernaut on my skull, so much the better.

I do have some Beatle solo (Harrison, Lennon) albums that my wife picked up! I like them fine. I don't consider them classic listening but I'll give 'em a spin every now and then. I find I can approach the solo material without the overwhelming level of cultural expectation overpowering me and I can more easily judge them on their own merits.

8:51 AM  
Blogger Brian Ware said...

Interesting comments, Jim. Being of a certain age and since I vividly remember the Ed Sullivan debut, I can't overemphasize the impact the Beatles have had on my life and my musical tastes. It's always been the Beatles over the Stones for me, and Beatles music has always been THE point of reference for so many of my musical choices.

As always it's interesting observing my children's exposure to various classic rock music and seeing what sticks. After hearing Beatles music for two weeks on American Idol, my daughter begged to hear more. It's now prominent on her iPod right along with her contemporary faves and to her it's NOT OLD MUSIC. It's all new to her! She doesn't really have the point of reference to say that someone like Drake Bell ( a current young artist who is rather Beatlesque) sounds any more or less "contemporary" than something off "Rubber Soul".

Same thing goes for my sixteen year old nephew who I'm "Johnny Appleseeding" with everyone from The Vapors to Boom Crash Opera To Blam Blam Blam. Watching it all being appreciated with unjaded ears is very rewarding indeed.

6:57 PM  
Blogger Ron Kane said...

I find I can somewhat continue my fandom of The Beatles by looking at the less flogged music a different way - such as "Who were those jazz musicians playing on "Savoy Truffle"? etc.

I like The Beatles and The Stones.

11:13 PM  
Anonymous Jim Donato said...

gdlzhlxStrangely enough, I don't have the same "problem" with the only other equally iconic 60s rock musician - Bob Dylan. I can take him at face value easily. The childhood perception of Dylan vs Beatles couldn't be more stark, though! As a child of 6 someone gave me a 45 of Hey Jude/Revolution. I thought Hey Jude was repetitive drivel, but dug Revolution a lot! Like I said, I heard Beatles songs on the radio from 67-68 onward. I have a vivid memory of hearing Lady Madonna on the radio for the first time.

I also remember listening to the white album of Karen Morrow's and seeing the side with Revolution No. 9 on it, I immediately skipped to it since I liked Revolution so much! Big mistake! Though I carry the memory of that track from that solitary listening with me to this day, I don't think I ever listened to the rest of that side, so the manifold delights of Mr. Ross' baritone sax went unheard by my young ears. At least in 1970. His great sax on "Walk On The Wild Side" at least had a chance to hit my ears in a good way. He also contributed a lot to the great Matt Bianco sound! He was also young David Bowie's sax tutor - proof that them that can't teach - DO! (I kid Mr. Bowie...)

Whereas with Bob Dylan, the only song of his I ever heard before adolescence and the discovery of FM rock between junior and senior high school, was the feculent "Lay, Lady Lay!" The top 40 station I listened to as a child would slip it in the playlist as a oldie every now and then in the mid-70s.

Brian - you make an interesting point about the ground zero Beatles on Sullivan performance. I was an infant at the time and never saw it. But do you know the one TV rock music performance to hit me with the same degree of impact? I had seen lots of rock music on TV as a youth, but I never felt the impact that said "Jim, your life is changing!" That would have been in 1978 when I saw DEVO on Saturday Night Live doing their deconstruction of "Satisfaction." For the first 45 seconds my biases had the better of me and I stared at the tube in disbelief at what seemed to be the worst music I had ever heard. Then the DEVO receptors in my brain roared to life and by the song's end I HAD TO HAVE THIS ALBUM!!

5:58 AM  
Blogger Brian Ware said...

I had a similar SNL epiphany, but in a slightly different context. It was when Gary Numan performed "Cars". During that four minutes I came to the realization that my modest keyboard talent and non rock star looks should not discourage me from trying to start a band. So I did.

12:19 PM  
Anonymous Jim Donato said...

Mr. Ware:

Your SNL epiphany can only be called... pragmatic!

5:16 AM  

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