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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A Very Beatley Christmas

Well hello, blogosphere! I realize that the last time I posted was around Thanksgiving, and I am very sorry it’s been so long. Today I wanted to talk about a few fantastic Beatle-related gifts I got over the holidays, as well as discuss a couple of new Paul McCartney songs that have been in the news recently. It’s truly amazing to me how Paul is over 70 years old, has been world-famous for 50 of them, and has accomplished basically everything under the sun, and yet he’s still motivated to create innovative, interesting music. I suppose that the drive and motivation that led him to be so successful in the first place has never really left him.

Anyway, this holiday season was festive as always. I listened regularly to my favorite rock Christmas songs and sang along enthusiastically (while others cringed) when “Wonderful Christmastime” came on the radio. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it may be the actual #1 most annoying Christmas song ever on some official lists, but I genuinely love it and will defend it until Santa tells me otherwise.
I was lucky enough to receive a couple of really thoughtful, awesome Beatles-related presents that I wanted to share with you. One was an adorable mug-and-saucer set, where the saucer looks like a record from the top and both say “All You Need Is Love.” I now have two Beatles mugs to rotate through while drinking tea. The more the merrier!

I really love this!

I really love this!

As a secret Santa gift, I also received a fantastic Beatles Anthology-like book called “John, Paul, George, and Ringo: The Definitive Illustrated Chronicle of the Beatles”. I haven’t looked through the entire thing yet, but from what I’ve gathered, it’s basically like The Beatles Anthology but with more pictures and graphics, and not written by the Beatles. It’s definitely a valuable addition to my (admittedly small) collection of Beatles books.

With that cover, how could I not be excited to read this?!?!

With that cover, how could I not be excited to read this?!?!

This isn’t really Beatley per se, but my parents were awesome and gave me a really cool Kinks shirt that I now sport proudly in addition to my many Beatles shirts. Although I think upon first glance, most people probably just think it’s a Beatles shirt and don’t inquire further. Oh well, I know that I’m wearing a Kinks shirt, and that’s all that really matters!

I honestly didn't even know they made Kinks shirts!

I honestly didn’t even know they made Kinks shirts!

In other news, Paul McCartney has released two songs recently that have caught the media’s attention. One of them was a collaboration with Kanye called “Only One” which, honestly, is better than I thought it would be.

Still, the song is basically all autotuned-Kanye with Paul playing keyboards in the background. I respect that Paul enjoys collaborating with modern artists, but next time, I hope he does something more like that reuniting-with-surviving-members-of-Nirvana thing he did that resulted in “Cut Me Some Slack,” a fantastic rock song. But aside from that, it’s really not a bad song.

Another song Paul has released recently is called “Hope For The Future,” and it’s part of the soundtrack he did for a huge new video game called Destiny. This one I really like; it’s cool, modern, and edgy without being too overly experimental.

Again, if doing stuff like this is where Paul is in his career right now, I’m completely in favor of that. As long as he’s still relevant to music and today’s youth in some way, he can basically do whatever he wants. After all, he’s Paul freaking McCartney.

So that’s where my Beatley world is at right now. I’m not sure what my next post will be, but I can guarantee that it will be soon. Until then, have a fab week!

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!

A Smorgaspost

Hello! The month of August always seems to fly by, doesn’t it? Before I knew it, it was August 20th and I hadn’t blogged since the first day of the month… Cue the guilt. But here I am! Today I figured I’d talk about a few things, Beatley and not, that have been going on in my life and in the world recently.

First, I was very fortunate to see one of my current favorite musicians, Gavin DeGraw, in concert last week with my friend. I’d been looking forward to this for months, and he did not disappoint in the slightest! Gavin was charismatic, funny, and charming, and he sounded amazing! If there’s anyone out there today who will never need autotune, it’s him. He is also a fantastic piano player, and if there’s anyone even close to a modern “piano man” like Elton John or Billy Joel, it’s also him. I love him for constantly restoring my faith in today’s popular music, and I sincerely hope I get to see him live again soon.

Here are a couple of pictures I took at the concert:

We were pretty close to the stage!

We were pretty close to the stage!

I zoomed in, we weren't actually right in front of him, but it was still really exciting!

I zoomed in, we weren’t actually right in front of him, but it was still really exciting!

The two acts who performed first, Andrew McMahon and Matt Nathanson, were also fantastic. I didn’t know any songs by either of them before the concert, but they are now officially on my musical radar!

And now, for something completely different…
Apparently, Paul McCartney and Kanye West are collaborating. I’m not really sure what to make of this. On one hand, Paul has probably done just about everything on his musical bucket list, so why not collab with Kanye? On the other hand, if this means Paul will be rapping… Well, actually, I’d love to hear that. Who am I kidding? But I hope whatever they come up with will be skewed more towards Paul’s musical senses than Kanye’s.
To quote Forrest Gump, “And that’s all I have to say about that.” 🙂

Paul also made news recently for performing the last-ever gig at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, CA. I was reading reviews of the concert recently, and while it sounded like an amazing concert, the highway traffic getting there was so bad that thousands of people didn’t even get to the stadium in time for the concert.
If that were me, I would have gotten out of the car and walked. As I’ve said, for Paul, it’s always worth it. If I had to walk from New York to California with the promise of seeing Paul again, I probably would. Just give me a few weeks… 🙂

Finally, the Emmys are coming up, and remember that Beatles special from way back in February? Well, it’s nominated for… Something technical sounding in the TV special category. I think it’s also nominated for writing for a TV special. Anyway, I’m hoping some Beatle-affiliated people will be there solely for this reason. If this special doesn’t win anything, I’ll have to be content hoping that The Big Bang Theory, The Tonight Show, Sherlock, and The Normal Heart (the only other programs nominated that I really care about) win everything. Should be an exciting evening!

Anyway, school unfortunately starts soon for me… 😦 I’m a senior in high school this year. Yikes. Time really does fly. I was a mere sophomore when I started this blog! Though I’m sure it will be a busy year, I promise to continue blogging as often as possible and keep you updated on all things Beatles. After all, if there’s one thing I’m sure of, it’s that I am never too busy to listen to the Beatles!

I’m planning on posting a sequel to the “Random songs I’ve been obsessed with recently” post I did a while ago, so be on the lookout for that in the near future. Aside from that, have a fab rest of the week/weekend/summer/year! (depending on how often you read this…)

The news today, oh boy, in Beatleland

This picture describes me so well!

This picture describes me so well!

For today, I thought I’d do a relatively quick post highlighting some important things going on across the Beatleverse. First, I just saw this article today, and it got me very excited! A new feature-length documentary about the Beatles! There can never be too many of those! Hopefully this one, unlike The Beatles: The Lost Concert, will actually make it to theaters without being pulled due to copyright issues…
http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/ron-howard-directing-new-beatles-doc-focusing-on-bands-early-years-20140716
As much as I already know about the Beatles’ existence, there’s nothing quite like the thrill of seeing the same magical story told over and over again. It’s almost like seeing a favorite musical continually revived year after year.

I also watched a fantastic program about the Beatles on CNN last week entitled, “The Sixties: The British Invasion”. It was the sixth part in a ten-part series about the most important and revolutionary events of the sixties. As you might have guessed, this episode focused on the arrival of the Beatles in America and the impact of the entire British invasion on American life. I will admit that I saw a VERY similar program on PBS a while back, but that didn’t make this one any less interesting. I always enjoy hearing about how groundbreaking, innovative, and fab the Beatles and their 60s counterparts were back in the day. 🙂

In other news, Paul has begun touring again after a health scare in May. Thank goodness he is better, and judging from a video of a recent concert, he appears to be in his usual top form. I know this may sound greedy considering that I’ve already seen Paul in concert once, but I would give just about anything to see him again. Those fireworks during Live and Let Die were even better than advertised!

This is a bit unrelated, but thanks to tangerinetrees99, I found this incredible list of symptoms of Beatlemaniacism, which I will share with you. I think at least 90 of these apply to me. And yes, I did bother to read the entire list. That’s what any true Beatlemaniac would do!
http://www.quibblo.com/quiz/fvKWJLM/101-Ways-to-Know-Youre-Too-Obsessed-With-the-Beatles

There are no particularly Beatley events coming up in the very near future for me, but if anything comes up, I will definitely blog about it. I hope everyone is enjoying a wonderful summer/winter, depending on what side of the world you’re on. 🙂