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 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!

Random Songs I’ve Been Obsessed With Recently- Part 2

So today I thought I’d compile a list of songs that I’ve been enjoying a lot recently. I’d recommend them all to any music lover! Here we go!

Come With Me Now- KONGOS

I heard this song on the radio in Montauk a couple of weeks ago, and I was hooked immediately. A few days later, I downloaded it, and I’ve been listening to it on repeat ever since. I honestly don’t think I’ve heard a song as awesome as this on mainstream pop radio in years. Probably not since “Pumped Up Kicks,” which was what? 4 years ago? Anyway, it’s refreshing to hear an actual guitar solo on the radio. I sort of thought those had gone to the grave, along with cassette tapes, B-sides, and other things generally existent before I was born.
Anyway, I can’t wait to hear more from this band, who I believe is currently opening for Kings of Leon. I hope this song becomes a huge hit and gets lots of accolades. It’s just that good.

Dirty Work- Steely Dan

As if I didn’t love Jim Parsons enough, I saw on a blog I’m subscribed to that he posted a clip of this song on Instagram recently. It didn’t list the title, so I spent a while furiously trying to identify it, and when I finally did, I listened to it nonstop for probably two hours. I don’t normally listen to Steely Dan, but I absolutely love this song. The vocals and harmonies are beautiful, and there’s an awesome sax solo! Thank you Jim Parsons for indirectly introducing me to one of my new favorite old songs!

Do it Again- The Kinks

I’m currently listening to this on repeat, so I thought it would be appropriate to post here. 🙂
The Kinks have a lot of songs I listen to on repeat, and this is just one of them. I love the lyrics here, which depict monotony and dullness, but the song is anything but boring. It’s one of those songs I can just listen to over and over on any given afternoon and never tire of. With each day that goes by, I more and more can’t believe how underrated the Kinks are by the general population.

Don’t Stop Me Now- Queen

This is one of the few popular Queen songs that surprisingly gets no radio airplay on my local classic rock station. That’s a shame, because it really is an awesome song. The piano is very Elton John-esque, which is just one of the things I love about it, and as always, Freddie Mercury proves his generally accepted status as “greatest rock vocalist of all time” with this song.

Anyway, that’s all for today. If you were unaware of any of these songs before reading this post, I highly suggest you check them out.
More Beatles coming your way soon! In the meantime, have a great week!

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! 🙂

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. 🙂