George Martin, The Real 5th Beatle

george martin

The man who made the Beatles into rock pioneers.

Hello followers and readers of Beatle Me Do! I have returned from a hiatus for which I greatly apologize, but I have a few ideas for fun posts that I will be publishing throughout the summer! In the meantime, I have decided to dedicate a post to the late Beatles producer, George Martin, who died on March 8 of this year at age 90. Before becoming a music producer with the Beatles, Martin primarily produced comedy albums. However, he is most well known for signing the Beatles to a record contract in 1962 and producing every single Beatles album except for Let It Be, which was (some say) infamously produced by Phil Spector.

The debate over who is “the fifth Beatle” has gone on for decades and is practically a cliche by now. Some Beatles fans support awarding this illustrious title to members of the Beatles camp such as their manager, Brian Epstein, or their first drummer, Pete Best. However, if there really is such a thing as “the fifth Beatle,” I strongly believe that George Martin deserves that title.

His work in the studio with the Beatles helped transform their songs from acoustic demos into sonic masterpieces. He was a major player in the Beatles’ studio experimentation starting in around 1965 and strongly supported their use of the studio itself as an instrument. When the Beatles were on top of the charts and the musical world, George Martin was the man behind the curtain, the wizard of Oz who literally orchestrated their success. His death marks the passing of a figure essential to the Beatles’ musical innovation.

I’d like to touch on a few Beatles songs on which Martin had a particularly noticeable influence. First up is the acoustic version of While My Guitar Gently Weeps from the Beatles Cirque de Soleil show, Love. This show features some remixes of Beatles songs, but these remixes are composed only by compiling bits and pieces from different Beatles songs. This particular version of While My Guitar Gently Weeps originates from a demo version from the Beatles Anthology 3. It features a George Martin-composed orchestration that was the only original music composed for the Love album. I absolutely love this version of While My Guitar Gently Weeps; it’s a beautiful song made even more poignant and striking by the orchestra. Seeing the Love show is definitely on my Beatles-related bucket list!

Next, I’m going back to one of Martin’s first orchestral contributions to Beatles music, the famed song Yesterday, which features only Paul McCartney, an acoustic guitar, and a beautiful Martin-composed string quartet. Supposedly Paul was a bit skeptical about the idea of putting a string quartet on a song released by a rock band, but was convinced otherwise after Martin explained exactly how he planned to arrange it based on the chords of the song. This song is now legendary among the many iconic tracks in the Beatles’ catalog, thanks not only to the beauty of its melody and lyrics but also to the perfect melancholy accompaniment that the strings provide.

Another song which has an unmistakable George Martin touch is In My Life, on which he plays the sped-up piano break at the end of the song. I believe this is one of, if not the only, Beatles songs to feature a piano solo, or if not it was definitely the first to do so. It’s songs like this that truly embody the spirit of Rubber Soul, an album which challenged the definition of rock and roll and began pushing the boundaries of musical experimentation in rock music.

Eleanor Rigby is one of those Beatles songs that features an orchestra arrangement so strikingly iconic that I could listen to just the instrumentals and enjoy the song just as much. This is all thanks to George Martin, who insisted on creating a relentlessly staccato string arrangement that I regard as an absolute masterpiece. You can listen to the instrumental version of Eleanor Rigby, a track on the Beatles Anthology 2 album, here. Every time I listen to this track and try not to let my inner sing-along drown out what I’m actually hearing, I notice new little intricacies of the arrangement. It’s songs like this that absolutely astound me as to their fearless musicality and give me a true appreciation for the power of orchestral music. This song is just perfect.

Finally, what better way to close out this George Martin tribute post than with the behemoth of all classical arrangements in rock songs, the string section in A Day In The Life. This song is often ranked as the #1 best Beatles song, and while it’s not my #1 personal favorite, it is without a doubt an absolute, indisputable masterpiece. This is largely due to the enormous, chaotic, vaguely conducted orchestra part that builds and builds and always makes me feel like a car is about to hit me. Martin’s touch on this song is evident in its sonic power to completely overwhelm your senses and leave you breathless at its conclusion. What a song to close out Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. What. A. Song. Period.

Rest in peace, George Martin. I know this tribute is a few months late, but I tried to make a post that pays the proper respect to a man who was literally  and figuratively instrumental in crafting many of my favorite songs of all time. He was among the giants of the musical world, and he will certainly be missed.

 

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Happy (almost) Thanksgiving!

Don't know what George is eating here, but he certainly looks good. :)

Don’t know what George is eating here, but he certainly looks good. 🙂

Well, it’s time again for a glorious few days off in honor of Thanksgiving. I love Thanksgiving not only for the delicious foods associated with it and the fact that it’s much less stressful than Christmas, but also because it has a warm, friendly message. Although the Beatles are from England, where Thanksgiving isn’t really a holiday, here are some Beatles songs to help get you in the Thanksgiving spirit. And perhaps to help you fall asleep on the couch after the meal if you eat too much. 🙂

Come Together

So I suppose if you listen to the words of this song, it doesn’t REALLY have to do with a family coming together to sit around the table at Thanksgiving… But based on the title alone, I think it fits.
The song is supposedly about John criticizing the other band members, but if you look at it from a different perspective, maybe what he’s really saying is that despite their differences and frustrations with each other, they all managed to “come together” to make one last album, Abbey Road. Then again, maybe that’s not it. I’m purely theorizing here.

All Together Now

This is possibly one of the most adorable Beatles songs I know. Again, it’s not really about families joining together to celebrate a holiday, but you can imagine whatever you’d like. If anyone has ever enjoyed being “All Together Now” with their family on Thanksgiving, this song should work for you.

It’s All Too Much

I can never get over the cool electronic guitar blast in the beginning of this song! It’s perhaps one of my favorite single moments from any Beatles song, along with the feedback opening to “I Feel Fine”.
This song should inspire you to limit your food-related intake on Thanksgiving day. Don’t starve yourself, but please folks, be sensible. 🙂 Also, one of the lyrics is literally, “All the world is birthday cake/So take a piece, but not too much,” which I think is pretty self-explanatory.

I’m So Tired

This is definitely in contention for “laziest Beatles song,” along with “I’m Only Sleeping”. The Beatles were hard workers, sure, but of course they needed a break every now and then. I think this song pretty accurately represents anyone who has recently eaten a large meal and can’t get off the couch, and it’s also, in my opinion, one of the more underrated cuts from the White Album.

Cold Turkey

Yes, this song is about heroin withdrawal, and no, it doesn’t have anything to do with turkey itself, but it’s the only Beatles-related song I know with “turkey” actually in the title, so here you go. A not-always-publicized fact about this song is that John lobbied for this to be on Abbey Road, but Paul didn’t think it was enough of a “Beatles song,” so it was nixed. Personally, I think that if Revolution, a far more controversial song subject-wise, was okay to release as a Beatles song, this definitely could have been worked within the Beatles catalogue. But what does it really matter? I’m still very “thankful” for the song. (see what I did there?)

If you’re celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow, have a very happy holiday. If you aren’t, cheers. 🙂
Since I have a few days off, I will hopefully blog again sometime this weekend! Yay for (briefly) having actual time to blog again!

Some things I’ve been meaning to blog about

"On my honor, I will try, to blog once a week"

“On my honor, I will try, to blog once a week”

Hello everyone! I know I’ve been gone for a while, so today I’d like to chat about some things I’ve been wanting to discuss. It’s been a pretty busy month, what with senior year and college applications and such, but it’s also been fun and exciting in the Beatle world and the rest of the world!

First, last month, Conan O’Brian had a special “George Harrison Week” on his show in honor of the release of George’s early Apple solo albums in a box set. The performers included Norah Jones (Ravi Shankar’s daughter, in case you wanted to know the George connection), Paul Simon (George performed with him on SNL in 1976), Dhani Harrison (his son), and Beck (no idea what the George connection is here). I watched all of the performances, and of course, seeing people keeping his music alive made my little George heart very happy. My personal favorite was Dhani Harrison, simply because I love him and he, in addition to sounding a lot like George, is VERY musically talented.

There was also a George tribute concert in LA that same week called “George Fest,” which I really wish I could have seen. As I learned at the Fab Faux concert last year, George’s music sounds amazing live. Still, I’ve been pretty lucky with Beatle-related tribute concerts, so I’m not really THAT mad… 🙂

John Lennon’s birthday was two weeks ago, so clearly that passed already, but I’d like to do a belated-John’s birthday shout out. His music is really just as powerful today as I’m sure it was when it first came out 30-something years ago. If there’s one Beatle who has inspired multiple generations of songwriters to express themselves in their music, it’s probably him.
For some reason, John seems to have retained the image of the “cool” Beatle in this day and age. I wonder where that came from. Maybe it’s from his effortlessly cool look during the Rain and Paperback Writer video shoots…

I wish I looked that cool in sunglasses...

I wish I looked that cool in sunglasses…

John is definitely one cool dude. I hope he had a happy birthday wherever he is now. And depending on your beliefs, THAT, my friends, is up to you to decide… Because as John once said, “It’s up to you, yeah you, cause we all shine on, like the moon and the stars and the sun.” 🙂 Bonus points if you know what John solo song those lyrics are from!

Finally, I think my dad and I are officially Fab Faux groupies, because we were fortunate enough to see them for a third time in NYC last week. The theme was “Lennon vs. McCartney: A Heavyweight Battle” or something like that. It was basically just an excuse to play alternating John and Paul songs for a solid 2.5 hours, which is exactly what I was hoping for! As always, the Fab Faux did a fantastic job. As far as musicianship is concerned, they’re definitely the best band out there at playing Beatles songs. They always add the most special elements to Beatles songs, like a sitar on Norwegian Wood or a piccolo trumpet on Penny Lane, to really make the song perfect.

What I enjoyed about this show in particular is that they played a number of solo Lennon and McCartney songs in addition to their Beatles catalog. Having gone to more than a few Beatle tribute shows by now, I’m used to hearing the Beatle stuff played a lot. It never gets old, of course, but hearing their solo songs played live is a special treat. I think my favorite moment of the show, if it’s even possible to choose, was when they played “Jet,” from the Band On The Run album. I hadn’t heard that song in a while, but as soon as they started playing it I got really excited! It’s a fantastic song! The Fab Faux are the best, plain and simple. (sorry Fab Four, I love you guys too!)

Whew, that was certainly a large explosion of Beatleness. I should never stop blogging for a month, because then I’ll have far too much to say at once to cram into one post. And that wasn’t even all I had wanted to say! My friend and I saw a Foster the People concert last night, which was absolutely unbelievable, but I’ll save that for a separate post. They’re definitely worth an entire post.

I’m sure I’ll still be busy in the coming weeks, but I promise to blog again ASAP! Have a fantastic week!

Top 10 Beatles songs to listen to in the car

I got the idea for this post while listening to Breakfast with the Beatles in the car this morning, and I thought it might be helpful if any readers are looking to make a Beatles driving playlist. The songs here don’t necessarily have to do with driving subject-wise, but I think that the vibes of all these songs are conducive to driving (or passenging). Feel free to disagree or come up with your own list. Here we go!

10. I Want To Hold Your Hand

I’m not going to say a ton about each song on this list, but the opening riff to this is just so good. It’s a great song to sing along to and it’s always a crowd pleaser. If it comes on the radio, crank it up and enjoy!

9. If I Needed Someone

Again, it’s really the riff here that makes this a “car song” for me. The relaxing, slightly lazy pace makes it perfect for any drive, any time. This is one I would listen to with the windows open, unless it’s snowing. Then, definitely close the windows. 🙂

8. A Hard Day’s Night

This is a great car song mostly because the opening chord is so instantly recognizable. It’s nice to know exactly what song is playing in the car without having to take your eyes off the road (or if you’re passenging, your phone, most likely), so this song is a great candidate for any Beatlemaniac’s car playlist.

7. I Am The Walrus

I’m going to assume that no one driving will be tripping on LSD (which would be very dangerous indeed), so I don’t think listening to this in the car will blow your mind TOO much… Anyway, I’m not exactly sure why I chose this song for this list. Once again, the opening is very famous, but aside from that, I just like it a lot. Not that I ever really do this, but if I were driving around with friends late at night and the car windows were open, this is the song I would want to bother the neighborhood with.

6. Day Tripper

For anyone who thinks this song is literally about taking day trips to the countryside, you’re wrong. It’s slightly more metaphorical (and naughtier) than that. But anyway, this riff combined with the awesome harmonies and the chorus makes it a fantastic song to listen to in the car. As I’ve said before, this is definitely one of my top 5 favorite Beatles songs. For a brief time, you can at least imagine that it’s about day trips. 🙂

5. Help!

Once again, the instantly recognizable opening makes it a good car song. I also think that the layered, call and-response harmonies throughout have a sort of Beach Boys-ish vibe that makes me think of driving cars in California. (again, I am clearly not a Californian…)

4. Get Back

This song is literally about going back to somewhere, and it mentions California and Arizona (two states 3,000 miles from me), so I thought it would be a good addition to this list. I think I’ve said this before, but I really like the drums on this song for some reason. Even after everything they had already accomplished musically in such a short time, the Beatles still found ways to innovate on this album.

3. One After 909

This isn’t a hugely popular Beatles song, but it REALLY makes me think of cruising along a highway on a nice day. I love the keyboards and guitar on this track. A relatively unknown Beatley tidbit is that this was actually one of the first songs the Beatles wrote, way back in the late 1950s. There’s a couple of versions of this on Anthology 1, but I definitely prefer this faster Let It Be version to any of the earlier ones.

2. Back in the USSR

This is a classic, and the plane sound effect at the beginning gets me every time. Again, I love listening to this in the car because it’s so upbeat and has a fantastic guitar solo. Many of you may know that Ringo quit the band for a bit while they were making the White Album, so who do you suppose plays drums on this song? That’s right, it’s the multi-instrumentally talented Paul!

Annnnd…

1. Drive My Car

So it might be a bit of a cop-out to have this as #1, but I honestly could not think of a better choice. The “driving cars” in this song may be metaphorical (I bet you can guess what it refers to…), but it’s still a great song to listen to in the car! And come on, who doesn’t love the “Beep beep, beep beep, yeah!” part? Just don’t honk the horn along with that part, as you may get some Looks of Doom from neighboring drivers. 🙂

So, that’s it for this list. On my list of “future posts,” in case you’re interested: Top 10 non-Beatles songs to listen to in the car, reviews of Phillip Phillips’ “Behind the Light” and U2’s “Songs of Innocence,” my thoughts on Conan’s George Harrison Week, and much more. Stay tuned folks!

1964 The Tribute!

Clever take-off of the Rubber Soul album cover!

Clever take-off of the Rubber Soul album cover!

So last Friday I was fortunate enough to see yet another Beatle tribute band, 1964 the Tribute, in concert with my friend. It was sort of a spontaneous decision, but I’m glad we went because it was a really fun outing!

These guys have been around for a while. They formed sometime in the 1980s, presumably with rotating members since then. Unlike some others I’ve seen, this band specializes in the material from the Beatles’ touring years (1963-1966). As such, they don’t play any of the Sgt. Pepper or Abbey Road-era stuff. However, that didn’t really bother me because they played obscure early stuff that I loved, like George’s “Don’t Bother Me” from With The Beatles and “It’s Only Love” from Help. I also loved the encore medley they did with all early Beatle covers like “Money,” “Long Tall Sally,” “Rock and Roll Music,” and “Matchbox”.

Musically, I thought they sounded great. The instruments were all Beatle-accurate, and they had a lefty Paul, which is a major sticking point with me and Beatle tribute bands. It may seem nit-picky, but for me, if the Paul guy isn’t left-handed, it just doesn’t look right and throws my impression off.

So how do these guys compare to the likes of The Fab Four or The Fab Faux in terms of Beatle-tribute excellence? Well, I personally preferred the guys, looks-wise, in The Fab Four. I thought the John in 1964 The Tribute was actually the best I’ve seen; he was amazing and sounded and looked a lot like John. Honestly though, I liked the Paul, Ringo, and especially George in The Fab Four better in just about every aspect. I also don’t think 1964 was quite as instrumentally perfect as either of the other two bands.

However, this is not to say that these guys weren’t good; in reality, it’s the opposite. One thing I loved about 1964 was how funny they were, definitely the funniest Beatle tribute band I’ve seen. Some of their jokes were a little far-fetched for the actual Beatles (would George really insult John’s guitar playing on stage and promote his own? I don’t think so), but overall they were edgy and really entertaining. One hilarious moment came when “George” was talking about some guitar thing that he gave to Eric Clapton, and “John” quipped, “Is that all you gave him?”
Yes, I, George’s biggest fan, laughed at this joke. It was genuinely funny. I guess George-Eric-Pattie wife swapping jokes are still in style…? 🙂

Do other Beatle tribute bands offer a more comprehensive look at the Beatles than 1964? Yes; I think for pure accuracy and entertainment value, The Fab Four are still my #1 choice. However, would I recommend 1964 The Tribute to Beatle fans? Absolutely; they definitely do the Beatles’ music and legacy justice. I really enjoyed seeing them and if they come to a nearby theater soon, I would love to see them again.

That’s all for now. I hope you enjoy the start of September and thank you to anyone who regularly or occasionally reads this! I’m glad you find my endless Beatley/musical rants entertaining!

Beatles Song of the Week: Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds

The man. The myth. The legend.

The man. The myth. The legend.

I wasn’t entirely sure what to post today, so I decided to discuss in detail one of my favorite Beatles songs: Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. I don’t think this originally made my list of “Top 10 Favorite Beatles Songs” (although I might do an updated version of that list… Stay tuned), but it is extremely well deserving of praise. The synth in the beginning is just hypnotic; it’s one of those things where I’m almost sad when the song actually starts because I loved the opening so much. The melody in this song is absolutely amazing. See what I mean…

After consulting my trusty Beatles Anthology book, I’d like to debunk a popular myth in Beatleland. This song, according to John Lennon, is NOT an ode to LSD. He supposedly came up with it after he saw his son Julian drawing something named “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.” Some may not buy this, but I personally believe that John was correct. Although this is the same guy that claimed he dreamt about a man on a flaming pie who told him, “From this day forward, you are Beatles with an A,” and from there, the band name was born. So, who really knows. I think I’ll consult George for that one.

Still, a lot of the Beatles’ story is comprised of myths like this one, which I think adds to their overall mystique and appeal. People like to make up their own stories about the Beatles, or in some cases, make money off of their chance encounters with Beatles (some guy wrote an entire book about a brief conversation he had with John in NYC once, no joke). I think that the fact that so many aspects of the Beatles’ history remain a mystery actually fuels their ever-growing fan base, a generation of new fans eager to find out the ultimate truth about the lads.

But so much has been written about the Beatles at this point that we probably know almost everything about them that we will ever know. I doubt Paul or Ringo will be writing tell-all autobiographies any time soon. And I’m sort of content to never really know what Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds was all about. I like not knowing EVERYTHING about them. It preserves their artistic integrity in a way. The music is what the Beatles are known for, and it will last no matter what theories it inspires.

Frankly, although I love reading about the Beatles, there are only so many “Life and Times of the Beatles” books I can read before they honestly all sound the same. Their history at this point has been rehashed by so many different authors that it’s hard to know what actually happened. I prefer to make up my own theories about the Beatles, which I probably won’t put into a book, but you never know…. 🙂

Okay, I’ve digressed long enough. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. It’s a great song. A true classic, in fact, in the Beatles classic-laden catalogue. Now go off, listen to it, and believe whatever you will about its origin. Enjoy the week!

Oh yeah, and Ringo’s birthday is tomorrow! I’ll do a post for him, but in the meantime, happy early birthday Ringo!!!

Good day sunshine everyone!

Hello again! Wow, I feel like I’ve been away from blogging forever. I sincerely apologize for that, all 30 people who check this regularly. I don’t really have a specific Beatley plan for this post. I think I’ll just talk about some random stuff for a while and post some cute Beatle pics at the end, okay? Okay. (sorry, I’m still in The Fault In Our Stars mode from last week…)

Monty Python is reuniting for a show in London on July 20th, which will be simulcast in theaters around the country INCLUDING one near me!!! I really hope I can go see it. Please forgive me; I watched a few episodes of Python earlier today and I’m in a very silly mood at the moment.

You know what makes me sad? Ringo is performing in my area twice in the same month, once yesterday and again next week, and I have tickets to neither concert. I don’t really know how those slipped away, and I as a Beatlemaniac am sincerely sorry for not trying harder to get tickets. 😦

A couple of days ago marked the 1 year anniversary since I saw Paul McCartney in concert and he told me he loved me. Let’s relive that glorious moment one more time, shall we?

Wow, it really does not seem like an entire year since I saw Paul in concert. The time has absolutely flown by! I could have sworn that it was just yesterday that I was at the Barclays Center, hearing Paul serenade 16,000 of his closest friends. Good times… Hopefully I will see him again one day.

I also cannot come to terms with the fact that I will be a senior in high school next year. When I started this blog, I was a mere sophomore, an amateur in the world of college and SATs compared to now. It’s going to get crazy, but I promise to keep blogging!

All righty, I think it’s time for those Beatle pictures I promised earlier. Enjoy!

George, looking fab with sunglasses and his son Dhani

George, looking fab with sunglasses and his son Dhani


The lads gathered around a piano

The lads gathered around a piano


This is just adorable Paul at his best

This is just adorable Paul at his best


One of the best pictures of Lennon/McCartney I have ever seen

One of the best pictures of Lennon/McCartney I have ever seen

That’s all for now. I swear that it will NOT be a month until I blog again! 🙂
In the meantime, have a lovely weekend and enjoy the start of summer!