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.

 

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!

Happy (belated) birthday Ringo Starr!!!!

Priceless. :)

Priceless. 🙂

Sorry this post is a little late, but I wanted to wish Ringo a very happy birthday! Even among Beatle fans, Ringo often gets a lot of flack for not contributing as much to the Beatles as the other three members, but I genuinely feel that he was just as important to the band’s dynamic as John, Paul, and George. I’m also happy that Ringo was featured prominently in the Beatle movies after being designated “the acting Beatle” by the critics after A Hard Day’s Night. Generally, I feel that with a name like Ringo, how you go wrong???
In honor of Ringo’s birthday, here are some of what I’ve determined are his “best moments” that I’ve come across on Youtube. Enjoy!

This is a pretty well known part of AHDN, and also the scene for which Ringo was most critically lauded. Now, do I think this scene is Oscar-worthy? Not really. But it certainly is charming, and sometimes, that’s all that matters. 🙂

We all know that George was very involved with Monty Python, but when I was watching an episode recently, I had no idea that Ringo would be in it! Needless to say, it was a pleasant surprise.

This video mostly features Elton John (I haven’t done an Elton post in forever… That must change!) and Marc Bolan, but in case you’re wondering, that is in fact Ringo dressed as a clown holding a camera in the beginning. He also drums fantastically in this song. What a great group of musicians all in one room.

I just discovered this. It is by far Ringo’s best moment ever. That is all.

Well, once again, happy birthday Ringo!!!!! I wish I was seeing him on his current All Starr Band tour, but hopefully I will see him one day. Then, I will have seen not one, but TWO Beatles in person! My life would essentially be complete. 🙂

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!

The Beatles, still fab after 50 years!

We love them, yeah yeah yeah!

We love them, yeah yeah yeah!

So I wanted to wait until after I watched the televised special commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ appearance on Ed Sullivan to do a blog post, but now that it’s over, here I am!

Overall, I thought it was a wonderful tribute. It had a good mix of old and new musicians, and while I didn’t really care for some people (why did Katy Perry oversing Yesterday??? Why did the Imagine Dragons do a boring version of Revolution???), I enjoyed it very much. My favorite performances were probably Jeff Lynne, Dhani Harrison, and Joe Walsh doing “Something” and Dave Grohl and Jeff Lynne doing “Hey Bulldog.” Both were done respectfully and not with too many vocal runs or falsettos or any of the annoying things that modern pop singers love to do. I also thoroughly enjoyed Eric Idle’s frequent Rutles name-drops and commentary on each of the Beatles’ childhoods. I had no idea he would be involved, so this was definitely a pleasant surprise!

But of course, Paul and Ringo (and John and George) were the stars of the show. Throughout the broadcast, the cameras frequently cut to Paul singing along or Ringo doing some air drumming, and I got the impression that they were rather touched by the whole extravaganza. It made me so incredibly happy to see Paul grinning with delight as Stevie Wonder sang “We Can Work It Out” or Ringo sang “Yellow Submarine.” It must be nice to be so loved by the entire world for half a century!

Paul and Ringo’s performances were also wonderful! Ringo sounded great as always, but Paul really sounded AMAZING!!! I mean, he rocked the house! I was singing along as he and Ringo sang With A Little Help From My Friends together and as he played Hey Jude to close the show, and I think I had a tear in my eye at the end. Seeing everyone from the show together onstage showing how much they love the Beatles and seeing all of the audience members dancing and singing along reminded me once again why the Beatles are still so revered today. Their music makes people love life, and that’s something that I don’t think will ever go out of style.

From seeing another fabulous Fab Four concert with my friends last night, to listening to a celebratory Breakfast With The Beatles this morning, to watching the TV special tonight, my weekend was filled to the brim with Beatleness. And I wouldn’t want it any other way!
In case you missed the special, here are some brief interview clips with David Letterman, Paul, and Ringo that were shown during the program.

Wow, what a great weekend to be a Beatles fan! I feel so fortunate to have even lived at the same time as two of the Beatles, and I know that while they were never together while I was alive, their music will live in my heart and the hearts of millions of others for 50 more years and beyond. Long live the Beatles!

My Top 10 Favorite Solo Beatle Albums

So with an unexpected snow day today, I thought I’d post what I said I would post yesterday! For each album, I’ll also post some songs that I would recommend in particular. Keep in mind that this list is just my opinion, and because I mostly listen to George and Paul’s solo music, 90% of this list is composed of George and Paul albums. Sorry John and Ringo fans if you feel neglected, but I feel that even when John was still alive and making albums, George’s and Paul’s albums were better overall and more interesting. So anyway, here we go!

10. Imagine- John Lennon

Imagine

Imagine

I felt obliged to put one of John’s albums on here just to make it a bit more complete, and between this and Plastic Ono Band, I prefer this. For some reason, I prefer listening to John’s songs on shuffle rather than as full albums, but I do genuinely love this album. It has a number of my favorite John songs on it and it’s generally regarded as his best album, and I completely agree.
Recommended songs: Imagine, Jealous Guy, How Do You Sleep, Oh Yoko

9. Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1- Traveling Wilburys

Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1

Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1

This supergroup formed by George Harrison only made two albums, but I prefer this over the other one and listen to it quite frequently, which is why I’ve included it here. The songs are a good mix of compositions from George, Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, and Tom Petty, and I love that it doesn’t sound like any individual member, but like a completely unique band. This is a great album to throw on when it’s a sunny afternoon and you just feel like listening to some cheerful music, and it always puts me in a good mood!
Recommended Songs: Handle With Care, End of the Line, Dirty World, Tweeter and the Monkey Man, Heading for the Light

8. Band On The Run- Paul McCartney and Wings

Band On The Run

Band On The Run

This album is consistently ranked as Paul’s best, and while I personally prefer a number of his other albums, I do concede that this is a stellar album. All of the songs are well-crafted and interesting, but the reason that it’s #8 on this list is that, for whatever reason, I just don’t listen to it all that much. Therefore, I can’t really consider it a favorite of mine. But I am listening to it now, and loving it!
Recommended songs: Band on the Run, Jet, Let Me Roll It, Mrs. Vandebilt, 1985

7. Flaming Pie- Paul McCartney

Flaming Pie

Flaming Pie

I often listen to this album while I’m doing homework, but it’s definitely not a background music-type of album. What I love most about it is the incredible diversity of songs on it that I don’t think Paul had done since Tug of War, another great album. This album sounds very timeless to me, and many regard it as Paul’s modern-day “comeback,” but honestly, I don’t think he ever left!
Recommended Songs: The Song We Were Singing, Flaming Pie, Somedays, Young Boy, Beautiful Night (which also features Ringo!)

6. Cloud Nine- George Harrison

Cloud Nine

Cloud Nine

Here it is, the first George solo album on this list, and I guarantee it won’t be the last! This is regarded as George’s major comeback album because it was a huge hit and featured his last #1 single “Got My Mind Set On You,” which was originally recorded in 1962 by Rudy Clark. I think this is probably George’s most fun and upbeat album, and I love that it was produced by ELO legend Jeff Lynne and also features Elton John on electric piano. What a great combo!
Recommended Songs: Cloud Nine, Got My Mind Set On You, Fish On The Sand, This Is Love, When We Was Fab, Devil’s Radio

5. Brainwashed- George Harrison

Brainwashed

Brainwashed

This was produced by Jeff Lynne and Dhani Harrison and released posthumously in 2002. I believe it won a Grammy for something, but even if it didn’t, this is an absolutely beautiful album. George’s lyrics here are better than ever and the songs are his most honest since All Things Must Pass. Knowing that this was his last album, I sometimes get a little teary while listening to it, but I’m glad that he left us with one last beautiful creation before he passed.
Recommended Songs: Brainwashed, Any Road, Looking For My Life, Stuck Inside a Cloud, Pisces Fish

4. Venus and Mars- Paul McCartney and Wings

Venus and Mars

Venus and Mars

Here’s why I like this Wings album better than Band On The Run: The songs all tell an individual story, something that I don’t quite get with Band On The Run. I love that fellow band members Denny Laine and Jimmy McCullough each get to sing a song, which makes it feel more like a Beatles album. This album also contains my #1 favorite Paul solo song, Venus and Mars/Rockshow. Basically, if you like good old fashioned rock and roll, get this album!
Recommended Songs: Venus and Mars/Rockshow, Listen To What The Man Said, Magneto and Titanium Man, You Gave Me The Answer, Call Me Back Again

3. Chaos and Creation in the Backyard- Paul McCartney

Chaos and Creation in the Backyard

Chaos and Creation in the Backyard

Out of all of Paul’s solo albums, this is perhaps his most honest and intimate. I love how piano-heavy it is, and the songs each have a certain magical quality that harkens back to the Beatle days. This is definitely Paul’s darkest album, and somehow after 40 years it also manages to be quite inventive and new-sounding. Paul is always reinventing himself, and that is definitely evident on this album.
Recommended Songs: Fine Line, English Tea, Too Much Rain, Riding to Vanity Fair, Friends to Go, How Kind of You

2. NEW- Paul McCartney

New

New

You may be thinking, “Didn’t this just come out? How can it be one of your favorites?” Well folks, it’s just that good. While many may not agree, I think this might be Paul’s best album ever; from start to finish, it’s perfection. It also sounds completely unlike anything he’s ever done, and for that I applaud him. Also, out of all of his albums, I think that I honestly enjoy listening to this the most. While the lyrics may not be his most inspired, this album is a true listening pleasure, and that’s why I love it!
Recommended Songs: Just get the whole album. Really. You won’t regret it!

1. All Things Must Pass- George Harrison

All Things Must Pass

All Things Must Pass

This is definitely the easiest #1 choice on any list I’ve done so far, because there’s just no competition. All Things Must Pass is BY FAR the best solo Beatles album! This was a huge hit back in 1970, reaching #1 on the charts and featuring a #1 hit in My Sweet Lord. George made a lot of fantastic albums in his career, but none quite reach the mastery of this one. Song after song after song, it’s brilliant. If you own one album by a Beatle that’s not a Beatles album, it should absolutely be this one.
Recommended Songs: No even remotely subpar songs here. Get it all!

Whew, that was long! Sorry about that. But I hope you enjoyed this list, and if you’ve never listened to any solo Beatles music, it’s time to start! Enjoy the week!