The Strypes’ “Spitting Image” Is A Spitting Image of Brilliance

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I know it’s been quite a while since I posted two blog posts in one week, but I figured that it was high time I blogged about one of my favorite bands from this decade, The Strypes. If you happened to see the movie ‘Sing Street’ last year, about a teenage band from Ireland who is trying to make it big, this band is essentially the real-life version of Sing Street. They’re all Irish and around 20 years old, but instead of drawing from 80s bands like Duran Duran, they reach farther back in their bucket of influences to the blues, the Rolling Stones, Nick Lowe, and other artists from the 60s and 70s. I’ve been following them since their first album, Snapshot, came out in 2014. That album was much rawer and more bluesy than this album, which feels more fully produced. I also recently became aware of their sophomore album, Little Victories, which came out in 2015 but is not available on iTunes or Spotify. Out of the few songs I’ve listened to on that album, “Get Into It” is a standout, and I may end up buying the CD on Amazon and uploading it to iTunes to hear it in its entirety.

One memorable moment from their promotion of Snapshot came when they performed on The Late Show with David Letterman, which I believe was their live debut on American television. Take a look at that here, and notice how fired up David Letterman is after their performance. I don’t blame him, I bet they’d be electrifying to see live.

However, though I enjoyed their loud, unapologetic rock ‘n roll sound from Snapshot, I think that Spitting Image is a huge step forward for them musically. Their lyrics are more mature and complex here, they dabble with musical elements like a saxophone solo, harmonicas, keyboards, and more, and in general their sound feels a bit more modern and acoustic. They still sound delightfully retro to me though, which is one of the things I love most about them. Song after song on this album is musically interesting, and when I first listened to it, I couldn’t believe I was hearing an album that was released this year. It sounded like it should have been released 35 years ago, which for my musical taste is an excellent sign.

As I’ve done before when discussing specific albums, I’m going to write approximately one-two sentences about every song on the album, to give you a good overview of my thoughts:

  1. Behind Closed Doors – This song has a fantastic music video to accompany it, but besides that it has a bouncy, poppy melody and interesting lyrics that stick in your head. It’s a wonderful, upbeat opening track that sets the tone well for the rest of the largely upbeat album.
  2. Consequence – The guitar tone on this song shifts effortlessly between somber and bouncy, which helps make it one of my favorites on the album. It makes me feel nostalgic for something, though I’m not sure what, which is always a sign that a song has grabbed my emotions tightly with no intention of letting go.
  3. (I Need A Break From) Holidays – This sounds SO MUCH like the band Squeeze, especially during the verses, that it’s almost uncanny, but I see it as more of a loving tribute than a direct copy. Either way, it’s a really fun song with a tightly packed structure that is another of my favorites on the album and one that I already intend to listen to as much as I can.
  4. Grin And Bear It – I love the opening guitar riff for this song, which also sounds reminiscent of a Squeeze song, and the drums throughout drive the song nicely. This one stands out less than the other songs on the album, but despite that it’s a very likable song that’s worth many listens.
  5. Easy Riding – I absolutely love the chorus to this song, possibly because it is quite Beatle-esque and very infectious. The whole song is fun and a great feel-good song to pass the time during lazy summer days.
  6. Great Expectations – This was my introduction to Spitting Image, and is one of those rare songs that I fell in love with after hearing only 10 seconds of the song. This may be the best overall production of a song on the album. From the opening acoustic riff, to the very singable chorus, to the closing sax solo, it fits my definition of an “instant classic” as a song that should immediately be cherished.
  7. Garden of Eden – This is probably my least favorite song on the album, if only because it sounds like a dated tribute to psychedelic 60s rock with a bit of bluesy harmonica thrown in. It’s all right, but it’s a bit tedious and plodding, though it’s still cool to listen to.
  8. A Different Kind Of Tension – The opening here reminds me a lot of the song “Laughing Out Loud” by the Wallflowers, which I love. This song also features an inviting harmonica part and a driving bass line. This song also blends into the album a bit for it to be one of my favorites, but it is still a wonderful song.
  9. Get It Over Quickly – Another Strypes song that derives its strength from a driving guitar part that bleeds into a solo and then morphs back in to the opening riff, it features I believe one of the overall best guitar parts on the album.
  10. Turnin’ My Back – This song has possibly the most infectious guitar riff out of all the wonderful guitar riffs on this album, and it’s a really fun highlight of the second half of this album! There really is nothing like a great, memorable guitar riff that repeats just the right amount of times in a catchy song.
  11. Black Shades Over Red Eyes – The second half of this song is a beautifully melodic interplay of guitar parts that feed into a very Beatles-esque outro. The first half is also great, with a very catchy chorus, so overall it’s a very worthwhile jam.
  12. Mama Give Me Order – This song is a lovely acoustic departure from the album’s largely upbeat, electric sound. It’s very Lennon-esque, which for an guitar ballad, and coming from a Beatles fan, is a huge compliment.
  13. Oh Cruel World – You could practically sing the Who’s “Magic Bus” along to this song and you wouldn’t notice the difference, but aside from that this is a really fun song with a GREAT harmonica part that’s worth singing along to, with no shame.

To be honest, though, words really cannot describe just how happy this album makes me that it exists. It represents a type of quality song construction and production so rarely seen among younger mainstream artists today, in my opinion. Every one of these songs feels complete and packed with instrumental and vocal goodness, with no stone left unturned in terms of production possibilities. This album, along with the upcoming Foster the People album, will surely be played heavily in my summer musical rotation. It also gives me hope that the Strypes will have staying power in the music industry for years to come.

I am sincerely thankful that I stumbled upon the Strypes a few years ago while reading something about Elton John, as apparently he is among their celebrity fans. While their lyrics may be, to quote a review I read, “sophomoric” at times, this band shows so much untapped musical promise that they deserve a bigger stage. This summer alone, the Strypes are supporting Liam Gallagher and The Killers, among others, which is a huge chance for them to break into some new fans’ hearts. I am always happy to hear of their new concert announcements on Facebook, but unfortunately their popularity is still contained mostly in the UK and they seem to only tour there.

If anyone connected with the Strypes is reading this, please know that you have at least one big fan here in the U.S. who would absolutely love for you to do concerts stateside. Part of my intention with this post was honestly to give the Strypes some free publicity for their fantastic album. Given that about 1500 people read this blog every month, hopefully some of those visitors are also looking for some new music and check out the Strypes after reading this. I believe so much in the future success of this band, and Spitting Image further solidifies how much I appreciate that this type of music is still being produced. This may sound cliché, but the Strypes truly restore my faith in modern rock music. Rock may seem like an old man’s game now, but the Strypes show me that there are younger bands who are a “Spitting Image” of their musical predecessors, just waiting to make a splash. I’ve been listening to this album on repeat for days, and I can’t wait for more hours of repetition in the coming weeks. “Spitting Image” is what good music is all about.

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.

 

What Makes a Song Good?

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George clearly contemplating the writing process, with guitar in tow

Today I’d like to discuss a topic that’s been coming to my mind recently as I’ve listened to Beatles songs and other songs alike, and that is, how do we as music listeners actually decide why a song is good or bad? The most important thing to remember here is that there really is no objective measurement of “goodness” or “badness” of a song. You can pretty much conclusively determine if someone is a skilled or unskilled piano player, but it’s a bit more murky to extend that level of objective analysis to judging the quality of an entire song. Of course, there are certainly songs I think are better than others, so here are a few points of comparison between songs and some examples to support that, both from the Beatles and from other artists I admire.

One point that’s recently been floating around in my mind is the idea of “good” songs balancing vocal and instrumental melodies. That is, the melody of the instruments is as important to the beauty and structure of the song as the melody of the vocals. This is assuming we’re discussing traditionally structured “pop” songs here, not 11-minute long instrumental jams. I hate to sound like a grump, but I find that so many modern pop songs have little instrumental substance and it’s all about highlighting the singer and their impressive growl or sky-high vocal riffs. There’s something about a song that has, say, an interesting opening guitar riff, melodic vocals, and other scattered instrumental breaks that just feels more complete to me. Songs like this also communicate that the quality of the song is what is most important, not the singer’s vocal talent. There’s a distinct, noticeable difference to me between a song that exists to celebrate beautiful, thoughtful music and a song that exists for a singer to show off how high they can belt.

Both categorizations have their place in the music industry, but the Beatles were musicians first and foremost and wrote songs that nearly always fall into the former category. Take “Eleanor Rigby,” for example. The staccato strings are really the iconic part of this song, not the Beatles singing. They sound great, obviously, but this song is a fraction of its final self without George Martin’s incredible string arrangement. Luckily Beatles fans are blessed with an officially-released instrumental version of this on the Anthology 2 album, and this may be the finest example of a Beatles song in which I actually prefer the solo orchestration to the complete song. There’s just so many interesting things to notice when you listen to only the string part, so many percussive strokes and instrumental counterparts, and it conveys the message of the song’s lyrics almost as well as the singing itself. But the complete song itself is what I highlight as a perfect example of a song that values its instrumentation just as much as its vocals.

In case that all weren’t enough to celebrate, it’s just over 2 minutes long and it feels perfectly complete. The song doesn’t thematically or instrumentally need to be any longer. There are no wasted notes here; they all contribute to the moving final product. The song’s inherent structure is so well-thought-out that it carries the beauty of the song all by itself. The more I listen to “Eleanor Rigby,” honestly, the more I marvel at it. It’s quickly moving up my list of favorite Beatles songs.

Another Beatles song that demonstrates their mastery of vocal and instrumental balance is “Here Comes The Sun.” This song features such a delicate, airy acoustic guitar part that I do wish there were an official version of just the instrumental parts without any of the Beatles’ vocals. It also features a lovely string arrangement, but rather than that being the star of this song, the interplay between the strings and the guitar combine to support the beautiful vocal part. “Here Comes The Sun” is absolutely a George Harrison masterpiece that is quickly becoming my new favorite Beatles song, mostly because the guitar is soothing and relaxing. I once heard a rare version of this song that features an additional overdubbed guitar solo, but I felt that it overpowered the rest of the song and did not mesh with the existing acoustic part. “Here Comes The Sun” is simply perfect and musically balanced the way it is.

In general, I feel that with songs I really admire, I could take out the vocals entirely and listen to only the instrumental backing and I’d love the song just as much. One example of a non-Beatles song that perfectly fits this description is “Sultans of Swing” by Dire Straits. The separated, choppy, yet beautifully melodic guitar part always hooks me from the second that the song comes on the radio. I really do feel that this song would function almost as well as a wholly instrumental song. I say “almost” because I do also feel that part of the reason the guitar here is so enchanting is because of how it counters the vocals by providing continual instrumental breaks throughout the song. These “breaks” wouldn’t exactly be breaks if they were not broken up by an intervening vocal part, now would they. This song, unlike the previous two, does not feature any sort of orchestration. Its notable instrumental part is almost strictly guitar, but the guitar here has a life of its own and  beautifully carries the melodic weight of the song so that no additional instrumentation is necessary for the song to feel complete.

Slightly unrelated, but this song also directly connects to the Beatles by featuring a lyrical reference to “guitar George” who “knows all the chords” and “doesn’t want to make them cry or sing.” There’s a chance this isn’t intentionally referring to “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” but it seems more likely than not. After all that, I’m actually not 100% positive that this is a Beatles reference, but given that George Harrison is by far the most famous rock guitarist named George that I can think of, I’ll stick with this theory until proven wrong. Perhaps the guitar part throughout this song is meant as an ode to George’s carefully crafted Beatles guitar parts, which would certainly  explain why I love the song.

Much of the Beatles’ legend rests on their reinvention of the very idea of successful pop songs, and as this blog continually states, I do believe that they are still the masters of crafting songs with incredible attention to vocal and instrumental balance. However, they also epitomize the magical formula that I find takes a song from average to excellent, and that is a balance between highlighting vocals and highlighting instrumentals. It doesn’t necessarily have to be split 50/50, but I do feel that songs with a celebrated instrumental part, like the songs all mentioned above, possess more overall beauty than songs without.

I could go on and on about Beatles songs that feature a beautiful balance between vocals and instrumentals, and how this is also present in wonderful songs by other artists, but I’ll save that for another post. Until then, continue braving the long, cold, lonely winter and finding sunshine in your favorite songs.

I Finally Saw The Beatles On The Big Screen!

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One of the biggest news events in Beatle-land this year has been the recent release of the Ron Howard documentary about the Beatles’ touring years, entitled The Beatles: Eight Days A Week. As I have mentioned before, it’s been a dream of mine for years to go see a Beatles movie in the theaters and pretend I’m a fan from the 1960s seeing A Hard Days Night upon its release.

I tried to do that back in 2012, when a documentary called The Beatles: The Lost Concert was scheduled for wide release in theaters. This documentary (supposedly) captured the frenzy of the Beatles’ first concert in North America, which occurred in Washington D.C. on February 11, 1964. Unfortunately, it was never released in theaters due to copyright issues. When I learned of its canceled release, I was heartbroken, but I never stopped believing that perhaps one day another Beatles documentary would find its way to a theater near me.

I first heard about The Beatles: Eight Days A Week over the summer, and even after watching the official trailer on the Beatles’ YouTube channel and visiting the movie’s website, I still sort of thought it was too good to be true. I reserved mild hope that I’d be able to see this movie, but I figured that my efforts to see the Beatles on the big screen and learn new Beatles trivia would be thwarted once again.

However, as events fell into place, the stars aligned, and my prayers were answered, I actually was able to see this movie at a theater near my school just a few weeks ago! I was so excited at the prospect of seeing 90 minutes of remastered Beatles footage and audio, and the movie definitely exceeded my giddily high expectations.

At this point in my Beatles fandom, I’ve read and watched so much about them that it’s difficult for me to be shocked by any aspect of their narrative. And yet I continue indulging in Beatles-related releases like this movie because I am always amazed at their magical story. The Beatles’ rise to success in the 1960s is a remarkable tale, filled with astounding chart domination, incredibly concentrated musical output, and incalculable influence on the culture of their era. I keep coming back to Beatles movies, articles, and programs because I revel in hearing about how they took the world by storm and altered the whole concept of rock music and success for a band. It’s infectious and endlessly fascinating.

Back to the movie at hand, it certainly did not blow my mind with a wholly new perspective on the Beatles’ touring years. However, it was a thoroughly enjoyable movie-watching experience for a Beatles fan. I was pleasantly surprised to see a lot of backstage footage that I had somehow never come across on YouTube or television. These clips emphasized that the Beatles really were a hilarious four-headed monster, at least in their early days. The movie also detailed a few points about the Beatles’ stops in specific areas of which I was not previously aware.

These included a 1964 Beatles concert in Florida that they flatly refused to perform unless they sang to an unsegregated crowd. Though the Beatles were from England, they were very conscious of the racial tensions present in the US at the time and took this opportunity to maintain their belief that any form of segregation was morally wrong and unacceptable to them. This isn’t really a huge spoiler, but I previously had no idea that the venue actually agreed to unsegregate the seating for that particular concert so the Beatles would still perform,  which helped set a precedent for unsegregated concert venues in that and surrounding areas.

This movie also focuses a lot on the difficulties that the Beatles faced during their rise to worldwide acclaim through their tours. I was not wholly aware of the actual danger that they were in just entering a building or driving around. There were many clips of near-riots on streets all over the world that stemmed from the Beatles’ arrival in that particular city. This is a helpful reminder for aspiring musicians that the only sustainable reason to become a musician is because you deeply love music, not because you want to be famous. I am always in awe of the immense scope of Beatlemania in the mid 1960s, but it certainly was not all good days and sunshine.

Despite all of this, I would trade just about anything to spend one day experiencing the height of Beatlemania. However, seeing this movie in the theaters is probably the next best thing. The Beatles: Eight Days A Week may not be groundbreaking, but honestly, barring some huge, covered-up scandal I don’t know about, it is difficult for any new Beatles project to be groundbreaking. What I absolutely love about the release of this movie is how it contributes to keeping the Beatles’ music and story alive in today’s generation. As long as there is the occasional Beatles-related project or musical re-release, I’ll have confidence that they will remain eminent figures in cultural lore.

‘The Getaway’: A Soaring Musical Getaway For RHCP

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Today I’m continuing my trend of occasionally diverging from Beatle-centric material to discuss the recent release of The Getaway, the 11th studio album by what is probably my second favorite band of all time, Red Hot Chili Peppers. This album has reaffirmed my belief that they are actually underrated by the general population for the incredible creativity and musicality of their catalog. They’re not just a funk-alternative-rock hybrid that sings “Under The Bridge” a lot, they are a genius musical conglomeration that has blessed the world with many, many awesome songs.

Speaking of awesome songs, this album is absolutely full of them! The Red Hot Chili Peppers strayed from their usual producer, Rick Rubin, on The Getaway, choosing to work instead with popular producer Danger Mouse. I’m not hugely up on music producers and their individual styles, but I do think that the change in producers is evident in this album’s more polished, modern sound. Some devoted fans of RHCP have complained about this, presumably longing for the days of yore when RHCP jumped all around the stage and wore nothing but socks during their concerts.

However, perhaps unsurprisingly, I am always a champion of a band’s musical evolution if I feel that they are still staying true to their musical roots. As good an album as Californication is, it really would be tedious if RHCP released six albums exactly like it. In my mind, there’s a distinct difference between a band evolving their sound and a band “selling out” with pop drivel. The Getaway certainly represents the former for RHCP; it features just enough experimentation that is well-balanced with more straightforward songs, and to me, it all sounds like the signature Chili Peppers that I love so dearly.

To give my more specific opinions on the album, I’m going to do a quick song-by-song rundown! Here we go!

  1. The Getaway– This is definitely one of the less rock-sounding songs on the album, but I love the scattered guitar work in the beginning, and it has a well-deserved place among the RHCP canon as a soothing, mellow track.
  2. Dark Necessities– I feel that the album version could benefit strongly from a more prominent guitar part. However, it is a fantastic song with an addicting base line, and I absolutely love the guitar solo break near the end!
  3. We Turn Red– This song didn’t stick out to me upon my initial listening of the album, but it certainly is funky and has interesting lyrics. I’ll have to listen to it some more to truly get into it, I think.
  4. The Longest Wave– THIS, my friends, is I believe the best song on the album! From the guitar introduction, to the soft verses, to the majestic chorus, I am obsessed with listening to this song on repeat. Ride the wave, because this song should become a RHCP classic if there’s any justice in this world.
  5. Goodbye Angels– This song really rocks, I love it!!! One of my favorites on the album as well, it builds beautifully and the guitar slashes throughout the song will get stuck in your head. Also that guitar break near the end is just brilliant.
  6. Sick Love– Important to note that this song features the one and only Sir Elton John! It’s interesting and honestly I think I’d prefer it as a classic Elton John song than a RHCP song, but I appreciate it nonetheless.
  7. Go Robot– Wow, there’s not one but TWO bass parts on this song! I think it sounds better as a live version, as the album version sounds a little overproduced even within the context of this album. Still, it’s extremely catchy and should be a single soon, I’d love to hear it on the radio!
  8. Feasting on the Flowers– I love the breezy guitar style throughout this song. I don’t have a ton to say about it honestly, but it’s not a bad song at all.
  9. Detroit– This song rocks pretty hard while still fitting in to the Chili Peppers’ more modern musical style. Again, the guitar here definitely drives the song and keeps it fun!
  10. This Ticonderoga– This awesome song weaves back and forth between two very musically distinct parts, though I do think the two sections are a little randomly put together. Still, the song’s internal diversity is a new, interesting musical step for the Chili Peppers.
  11. Encore– My other favorite song on the album!! It’s much more mellow alternative than the Chili Peppers commonly go, but the guitar is hypnotic and addicting. I actually like its verses better than the chorus, which is unusual for me, but the driving, sort of poppy beat here actually works really well as a constant thread throughout the song.
  12. The Hunter– This song is honestly a little slow for me and drags a bit to be a favorite of mine, but if you’re in the mood for a much slower Chili Peppers song, this one has a lovely airy guitar part.
  13. Dreams of a Samurai– This is probably the most overtly experimental song on The Getaway, but upon multiple listens, it’s quite a fascinating song and a grand, inspiring closing gesture on this amazing album.

One thing I love about this album as a whole is how it features their current guitarist, Josh Klinghoffer, much more prominently than did the previous Chili Peppers album, I’m With You. The aforementioned album was his first as an official member of the band, but his contribution to RHCP truly blossoms on The Getaway with the increased guitar presence and his lush backing vocals and harmonies. I’ve seen a lot of Josh-bashing on RHCP videos by overly nostalgic RHCP fans, but I think he’s a fantastic musician with a lot to offer for the Chili Peppers. I can’t wait to see what he’ll bring to the table for future RHCP albums!

So in conclusion, I love this album and I’ve been listening/harmonizing to it a lot this summer. With each listen, I continue to notice just how many diverse and interesting sounds there are on this album. For someone who enjoys unpacking individual elements of songs as they listen to them, this album is definitely for you. I’m so excited by its presence in my life, and I am keeping my fingers crossed that the Red Hot Chili Peppers tour the US soon to promote it! They are #1 on my current bucket list of concerts to see, and I have every faith that if/when I see them live, I will be transported on a musical getaway.

George Martin, The Real 5th Beatle

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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.