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.

 

A Magical Mystery Post

Well it’s late at night and I’ve decided to do a post where I just talk about a few Beatles and music-related things that come to mind. In the past with blogging, I’ve found that my favorite posts are borne out of an utter lack of initial ideas that then becomes an uninterrupted stream of consciousness. So let’s just see where this goes!

It’s been 23 days since the news broke that David Bowie had died, and though some of the initial shock and disbelief has passed for me, I still find myself listening to his songs a lot more than I ever have before. I stand by my favorites that I posted last month, but as I’ve continued to dig deeper into his catalogue, I’ve discovered more songs of his that I absolutely love, including Hang On To Yourself. I had never heard of this song until about a month ago, but one day it came up on shuffle and I could not stop listening. I think it’s one of his catchiest and most fun songs, and certainly an underrated cut from the Ziggy Stardust album. It also sounds kind of punk-ish, yet another example of Bowie being musically ahead of his time. Definitely take a listen if you don’t know it already! (or even if you do, because it is a fantastic song)

This week also marks 52 years since the Beatles first landed in America to perform on the Ed Sullivan show, thus spurring the Beatlemania we all know and that I’ve posted about many, many times before on this blog. Once again, I continue to admire how strong of a presence the Beatles have in society today. They’ve even made it into children’s books!

Awwww this is just so cute!

Awwww this is just so cute!

My mom sent me this picture of a cute book she saw recently, which made me realize that the Beatles are truly at “textbook-status” now. They’re basically historical figures, synonymous with an era in history defined by revolutions in music, politics, fashion, and countless other things. The fact that books like this are being published to make the Beatles accessible to young children is truly heartwarming. It gives me continued confidence that the greatness and brilliance of the Beatles will never fade from the world.

Random Beatles Song I’ve Been Listening To A Lot Recently: You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away

For some reason I couldn’t find the original version of this on YouTube, nor could I find the clip with it from the Help movie. 😦

Anyway, one thing I’ve realized about this song as I’ve listened to it more and more is that it is, in my opinion, one of the Beatles songs that has aged the best. It really sounds like it could be released today, that’s how timeless it is, and I absolutely adore the melody. As much as I love the Beatles’ more experimental songs like I Am The Walrus, I also admire their simpler, more folksy songs that can be performed with just a guitar and a voice. This is one of my favorite Beatles songs to walk around singing to myself. I never get sick of it! If I one day learn how to play guitar, I will learn this song for sure.

That’s all for now folks. I’ll be back soon!

 

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 Kinks: They Really Got Me

They are looking very ponderous and thoughtful here.

They are looking very ponderous and thoughtful here.

It seems that every few months, I become obsessed with a new band or artist that’s already famous to most humans and their household pets. Last summer, it was Elton John. February break, it was Gavin DeGraw. Spring break, it was the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

But as I’ve delved into the wonderful world of British Invasion-era bands, I’ve recently fallen deeply in love with the Kinks. I’ve enjoyed their music for a long time, but since I heard a couple of their songs on the radio last week, I’ve listened to them more than ever before. They are not completely unlike the Beatles, but they definitely have their own, distinctly British sound. There are so many things about them that I love, so I’ll list a few of them here.

1. They are (in my opinion) extremely underrated.
Sure, I like bands like Led Zeppelin and Queen a lot. They’re great. But I honestly feel that their overall musical output is just a tad over-celebrated. However, the Kinks, for some reason, are not on as much of a lauded pedestal as many other bands (yes, the Beatles are very lauded and celebrated, though deservedly so). I don’t know why this appeals to me, I guess I just like the idea that they are not as “mainstream” popular. And I always root for the “underdogs” of rock who never seem to get the accolades they deserve. Like George Harrison!

2. Ray Davies. Need I say more?
I’ve basically been listening to the Kinks nonstop for about three days, and I can safely say that I haven’t discovered a Kinks song I don’t like. I finally understand why Ray Davies is considered, as my dad has been telling me for years, a musical genius on par with the Beatles. His lyrical style is honest and accessible, but also clever, witty, and often amusing. I also love his voice, because it’s very different from any of my other favorite singers. Variety is, after all, the spice of life!
His songs are very melodic and easy on the ears, but they also make me stop and think about life. And his utter British-ness is, to me, very appealing. Just watch this video and you’ll see what I mean.

Yes, uninformed interviewers from the 60s and 70s always make me cringe (did this guy really think that people at a Kinks concert in 1977 would be screaming the whole time?), but Ray is so quietly charming and witty that I don’t even mind. He has fantastic hair, which always helps. He also says here that he isn’t as good looking as Mick Jagger, but I respectfully disagree. 🙂
Hmm, soft-spoken, underrated musical geniuses from the sixties with fantastic hair. Have we, at Beatle Me Do, seen this before…? 🙂

3. The Kinks invented a whole lot of things.
I did not know this, but apparently the 1965 Kinks song “See My Friends” is the actual first pop song credited with Indian influence, BEFORE the later, sitar-flavored “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)” on the Beatles’ Rubber Soul. Now that I listen to it, I definitely hear it. Take a listen for yourself!

Also, their first big hit, “You Really Got Me,” is commonly recognized as one of the first proto-metal and punk songs because of its power chord structure and overall rawness. I’m not really into metal as a genre, but this is definitely one of the best harder rock songs of the early sixties.

4. They wrote my favorite rock Christmas song.

I listen to this year-round, with no shame whatsoever. It’s a really great song!

Now that I’ve introduced the Kinks on this Beatle blog, I will at some point in the future describe my favorite songs by them. In the meantime, I need to actually go through their discography in detail beyond their greatest hits compilations. I refuse to be an uneducated fan for long!
I’m also praying that the supposedly confirmed reunion album and tour between Ray and Dave will actually happen. How awesome to see these legends together in concert! One can only hope they will put aside their differences long enough to make their fans happy.
In the meantime, have a fantastic week! 🙂

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!!!

Happy birthday Paul McCartney!!!

Paul's hair... That is all.

Paul’s hair… That is all.

It’s that time of year again where Beatle fans everywhere gather and celebrate Paul’s birthday!!! I’ll try not to make this a repeat of last year’s birthday post, but I will say that in light of Paul’s recent health scare, I’m glad he seems to be doing better. He’s one of those people that has an aura. I experienced that first hand last year when I saw him at the Barclays Center; as soon as he came onstage, the entire atmosphere of the place changed from extreme excitement to a giant outpouring of joy and affection and tears unlike anything I’ve ever seen. As I’ve said before, it was magical, and I hope that everyone is fortunate enough to experience his brilliance in person at least once.

Paul is 72 now, but he doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. I admire his energy and passion for what he does, and I can only hope that I am the same way in my adult years.

Obviously I love Paul a lot. Here are a couple of videos that explain why if I haven’t done a thorough enough job.

Wow, what a voice he still has! I’m so glad he did this!

This, folks, is the best Paul McCartney tribute video on Youtube. It captures his youthful exuberance perfectly.

I love how Paul can still relate to the youth of today. Also, as I’ve said before, he and Jimmy are great together.

Well, I hope Paul has an absolutely fab day!!! And I hope you do too! Listen to his music, watch some videos of Paul, or just think about why he’s the best. Satisfaction guaranteed. 🙂

More Beatlesque Songs

I saw this online a while ago. It's so true.

I saw this online a while ago. It’s so true.

So, I know it’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve blogged. With SATs, finals, APs, and whatnot, May will certainly be a crazy month. But I promise to keep blogging as often as possible! Today I’ve decided to do a part 2 to the post I did way back last year about Beatlesque songs, because while I love entertaining people about the Beatles, I also love showing just how much the Beatles have influenced music by posting songs by other artists. So, here we go!

Universally Speaking- Red Hot Chili Peppers

I’ve been listening to this band a lot recently, and one thing I love about them is their versatility. Their songs range from being funky and hip-hoppy to more mellow alt rock to… Well, this one, the opening to which could absolutely be part of a Beatles song. This song is really cheery and upbeat and makes me feel happy about life, which is definitely a sign of a Beatlesque song.

10538 Overture- Electric Light Orchestra

If you’ve seen the movie “American Hustle,” then you know this song. I firmly believe that had the Beatles continued making music through the 1970s, they would have morphed into something similar to ELO. This song contains a lot of clear nods to the Beatles, like the psychedelic vocals and the strings throughout, without ripping them off of any direct melodies. ELO is just brilliant. It’s a crime that they’re not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Addicted to You- The Smith Bros

I love this song, mostly because of this video. 🙂
But if you can get past the pictures, the song itself is actually pretty Beatle-like, especially the bridge part in the middle. It’s a great song that very accurately summarizes my love for all things Beatles.

God On My Side- World Party

I think this sounds more like an Oasis song than a Beatles song in actuality, but it has a lot of wonderful Beatley qualities and is just an all-around beautiful song that I had to post it here! This whole album, “Goodbye Jumbo,” is fantastic and has a very diverse collection of songs, but all of them are subtly Beatlesque in their own special ways. Definitely check out the rest of the album if you like this song.

Flesh Number One (Beatle Dennis)- Robyn Hitchcock

If you’ve never heard of Robyn Hitchcock, he’s a British musician whose entire catalog is practically an homage to the Beatles. All of his songs are lovely and relaxing, like this one. Also, this song has the world “Beatle” in the title, so there’s that. 🙂

Hopefully these songs will tide you over until I post again, which I promise will be soon. Until then, enjoy spring, enjoy the nice weather, and enjoy the Beatles!