It was 50 years ago today/a month ago…

I write today about the 50th anniversary of the release of what has become arguably the most hallowed rock and roll album of all time: Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. This post comes in full awareness that I’ve missed the official anniversary of June 1st by over a month, but as John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” I suppose I’ve just been too busy living for the past month to acknowledge this momentous occasion, but I have plenty to say, and so here goes.

For the entire duration of my Beatles fandom, which officially stretches back over five years, Sgt. Pepper has never been among my favorite Beatles albums. I gave it a shot, doing the classic “listen to a full album at night in the dark with headphones in,” and while tuning out the world, I managed to gain at best a casual appreciation for what I had heard for years was the album to end all albums. I can’t quite quantify why I never felt that connected with Sgt Pepper. The best explanation I can come up with is that I’ve always felt that the songs overall just are not as good as the songs on Revolver and, especially, Rubber Soul. Sure, the production value of Sgt. Pepper is spectacularly high, but I bet some would agree that the actual songwriting of “Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite” and “Fixing a Hole” does not compare to anything on either of those albums. I do believe that “Within You Without You” is among the most beautiful songs in the Beatles’ catalog, but I have long felt that the songs on this album overall are, frankly, overrated by the Beatles’ own standards.

Before I completely slander what is, I acknowledge, an extremely cherished album, I now delve into an event that has dramatically reshaped how I view Sgt. Pepper in the context of the Beatles’ music and rock music in general. I was lucky enough to attend a multimedia lecture about Sgt. Pepper with my dad last month. This took place at my local library, and was so jam-packed with fascinating information that I felt seriously compelled to take copious notes the entire time. The lecturer, a Beatles expert who happens to work at this library, spoke about everything from the planning behind the famous album cover, to the initial takes of songs like “A Day In The Life,” to other artists who the Beatles were influencing at the time, to so many other cool tidbits I don’t even remember them all.

It was absolutely fascinating, and even I, who foolishly believes I know everything about the Beatles, learned many new things. For example, I had no idea of the scope of album covers that have parodied Sgt. Pepper since its release, and I also did not know that the Beatles had a connection to a little known band who, a few years earlier, released an album with a cover very much like that of Sgt. Pepper. I was also unaware that this album is the most “British” out of all the Beatles’ albums, featuring many references to aspects of British culture like “Meet the Wife,” meter maids, and the Royal Albert Hall. This lecture also put Sgt. Pepper in a new context in my mind, for I had never really thought about it as a tribute to Britain within the confines of a psychedelic rock album. It got me thinking more about the brilliance of Sgt. Pepper than I ever have before, and also made me consider how the album would have been different if it had included, as originally planned, “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields Forever.” Personally, I am of the camp that believes these two songs would have made this album truly perfect, thematically and musically, but of course I can’t rewrite history. When looking more closely at the album as it was released, it is pretty perfect just the way it is.

I struggle with calling Sgt. Pepper a “concept album” in the traditional sense, because its songs do not tell a continuous story like those of, say, “Tommy.” But the more I think about it, the more I realize that Sgt. Pepper is absolutely a concept album, though of a different nature. It is a concept album in its artistry, not in its narrative. Songs like “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” which features possibly my favorite opening to any song ever, are an entirely new concept for songs in the rock genre. This redefinition of what the boundaries of rock encompass, or don’t encompass, also applies to “She’s Leaving Home,” “Within You Without You,” and basically every single song on the album. Sgt. Pepper is an artistic departure even from the psychedelia of Revolver, which was largely contained in songs with a familiar structure. It is the first Beatles album that is truly a spectacle much like its artistic predecessor, “Pet Sounds” by the Beach Boys, an album which I actually have never loved either but which is probably worth another shot.

This lecture also introduced me to the new remixed version of Sgt Pepper, produced by Giles Martin, the son of George Martin who was, as I’ve said before on this blog, the real 5th Beatle. When you hear the term “remix,” don’t be alarmed; here there are no trap beats added to this album’s beloved tracks. Instead, Sgt. Pepper was literally remixed in that the sound levels of instruments and vocals in each song were re-mixed together to create a more balanced sound. If you’re interested in hearing more about the album’s construction, here’s a lovely interview with Giles Martin when he was on The Tonight Show recently:

Knowing that Giles is the man behind the “Love” album for the Cirque de Soleil show of the same name, among many other acclaimed projects, gives me immense respect for how carefully he treats Beatles-related material. I don’t know how many other Beatles remixing or remastering projects there are in the works at the moment, but it would be a definite shame if he were not at least partially involved with them.

I still have one Sgt. Pepper-related project to finish this summer, and that is watching the new PBS documentary that aired in early June about the album, entitled “Sgt. Pepper’s Musical Revolution.” However, from what I’ve heard it offers a lot of insight into the album’s lyrics, which I definitely feel I have neglected to examine over the years. Even without having seen this documentary, I feel that I have definitely gained a greater appreciation for the genius of Sgt. Pepper this summer. It dared to be loud, over-the-top, and unconventional even for the ever-changing Beatles. Though not universally admired by critics of the time, it was adored by millions of Beatles fans in the 60s and is still adored and respected today. I haven’t actually listened to the album straight through in a long time, but these recent Sgt. Pepper-related projects make me more interested than ever in indulging in all of the goodness that Sgt. Pepper has to offer. I suggest you do the same, and I hope you will enjoy the show. So, sit back, and let the evening go.

 

A Hard Day’s Poll

As many of you may know, this year marks the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ arrival in America. It also marks 50 years since the release of their first movie, A Hard Day’s Night. To commemorate this, about 500 theaters across the US are re-releasing A Hard Day’s Night this July! Although I own the movie on DVD, I still sort of want to experience it in a actual theater. If only the movies would charge 1964 prices for this special event… 🙂

After reading an article about this in the newspaper today, which included an original review of the movie from 1964 (the reviewer back then apparently did not know George’s name…), I was inspired to break out my DVD and watch this movie, yet again. I’ve probably seen it about six times in its entirety by now, and I found myself reciting a lot of the lines under my breath, in attempted Scouse accents. I love how fast paced this movie is, which shows how crazy and hectic the Beatles’ actual life was back then. In fact, this movie plays more like a documentary than a traditional movie.

Just as a side note, a couple of famous teenage extras in this movie include Phil Collins and Meryl Streep. How awesome it would have been to be an extra in this film! That would surely be a story to tell the grandkids. Also, considering that this movie was made to capitalize on the Beatles’ fame at the height of Beatlemania, I don’t think the screaming girls throughout the movie were really acting… 🙂

Anyway, with this movie in mind, I’ve created a poll devoted to the Beatle movies. Personally, I would probably vote for both Help! and A Hard Day’s Night as my favorites, but I’d love to see how others vote. Enjoy!

Song of the Week: “Come As You Are” (Nirvana)

With the 20th anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death this week, I’ve been listening to this song a lot recently. I wouldn’t consider myself a huge Nirvana fan, but I do like their music a lot, especially this song. I was inspired to do this post after my dad showed me the Beatles take off-video that Nirvana did for their song “In Bloom” in 1992. What he also said that I didn’t realize was that Nirvana’s immediate impact on radio and music in general was basically equivalent to the Beatles’ musical impact in America in 1964. I do know that Kurt Cobain idolized the Beatles, John Lennon in particular, and his melodies definitely reflect that Beatley influence.
There we are for this week. I’ll definitely do a longer post next week, since it will be spring break and all. (!!!) My, how this year has flown by. It’s hard to believe that my junior year is already almost over. But I digress… 🙂
Have a great week!

Happy (belated) Birthday George Harrison!!!

I just found this picture, and it's so adorable!!!

I just found this picture, and it’s so adorable!!!

I know I haven’t blogged in quite a while. Don’t worry, I did not fall off the face of the earth; I was in a show last week that took up most of my time, and so unfortunately I have not had time to do a George birthday post until now. But that’s all about to change!

My love for George has grown exponentially in the last year, but I do feel like he serves a different purpose in my life now than he did a year ago. As I’ve ended sophomore year and dived headfirst into junior year, I’ve realized that there are a lot of important life decisions that have to happen this year, and of course, the nature of high school in the 21st century is that it is supposed to be stressful, competitive, challenging, and hard to get through without some guidance. I don’t have as much time to just be obsessed with the Beatles and George Harrison as I did freshman year, but that does not mean that I love them any less. In fact, during the often stressful and occasionally frustrating days, I find that I need George’s music more now than ever. His lyrics are words of wisdom to me, and I have yet to find a song of his that is not inspiring in some way.

George is more of an imaginary life coach than an imaginary husband at this point in my life, but that’s okay with me. As George frequently said, the point of life is to change, and it would be boring if everything and everyone stayed exactly the same all the time. On his birthday this year, as I proudly wore my George shirt to school and had a 5-hour dress rehearsal, I kept thinking about how much I enjoyed what I was doing and how much George loved everything he did in life. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from George, it’s that if you truly feel love and passion for something, you should stick with it.

Here are some songs that I may or may not have previously posted on this blog, but I feel that they embody George’s spirit and attitude about life. They’re not necessarily my favorite songs of his, although I love them all, but they are the ones that remind me of him the most.

I Need You

I Live For You

Stuck Inside A Cloud

Pisces Fish

Here Comes The Sun

So, on this (approximately) 71st anniversary of George’s birth, I am reminded yet again why he is and will always be my favorite Beatle. He was thoughtful, loving, insightful, patient, and a beautiful human being inside and out. I love him with all of my heart! Happy birthday Georgie!!! 🙂

I promise it will not be another 2 weeks before I blog again. Be on the lookout for a post of my favorite covers of Beatles songs in the near future! Have a great week!

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!

Beatles Song Of The Week: “I Want To Hold Your Hand”

So, I didn’t end up having time today to do my top 10 solo Beatles albums, but seeing as this week is going to be a HUGE week in Beatleland, I thought I’d kick it off by posting the song that basically started Beatlemania in America.

This song was #1 when the Beatles arrived in America on February 7th, 1964, and since then it’s been a perennial favorite among critics and Beatle fans alike. While it’s not my favorite early Beatles song, I do concede that it is a fantastic and surprisingly intricate song. The opening guitar riff is great and the harmonies between Paul and John are just brilliant. As with many Beatles songs, there’s a lot more going on than meets the ear. I also love how innocent this song is in reality; I mean, how many songs about love today would end with just handholding??? You know what I mean! 🙂
So, enjoy this song, enjoy the Beatles, and enjoy the week! I’m not exactly sure what I’ll be posting next weekend, but I guarantee that it will be fab!

George and Pattie, the perfect 60s couple

So, although this post is a day late, today I’m commemorating the 48th anniversary of George Harrison and Pattie Boyd getting married. While it’s really a shame that it didn’t work out between them (and based on her book, he got over her a lot faster than she got over him), they certainly were a attractive couple. I honestly think that George and Pattie are two of the most beautiful people who have ever walked the earth, so it makes sense that they fell in love! Here are some equally beautiful pictures of them to celebrate their marriage!

George and Pattie on their wedding day in 1966

George and Pattie on their wedding day in 1966


On their honeymoon. I really don't blame her for being all over him.

On their honeymoon. I really don’t blame her for being all over him.


What a stunning picture. I love how he's leaning on her head a bit.

What a stunning picture. I love how he’s leaning on her head a bit.


They're so snazzy and stylish!!!

They’re so snazzy and stylish!!!


I just love this picture, for rather obvious reasons... :)

I just love this picture, for rather obvious reasons… 🙂


Matching belts!!! And George looks really hot.

Matching belts!!! And George looks really hot.


One final picture. And isn't it a beauty!

One final picture. And isn’t it a beauty!

While I do think that in the long run, Olivia was probably a better match for George, I’m still a George/Pattie fan. It’s nice that they stayed friends even after they got a divorce, and the fact that George told her she could always come back to him if things didn’t work out with Eric is really sweet. I know this is probably for the five hundredth time, but I just love George so much. 🙂
Have a wonderful rest of the week!