I know, this is supposed to be a writer’s blog. I’m supposed to be posting stuff about what I’m working on, what’s ready for release, what’s already out there. Maybe some stuff on the process of writing, and of course on other writers’ books and indie publishing.
So what is this about a 1960’s pop band?
Well, I haven’t been writing much — I’m not in a creative place, mentally, and the stories I have going are sort of stuck with me not having a clear picture of where to go from here. But I have been reading a lot, and I’ve been listening to a lot of music. Well, a lot of Beatles music. I treated myself to a year of Sirius XM radio in the car, and I keep it tuned to the Beatles Channel (18), where I’ve been hearing lots of stuff I never heard before. Not so much the Beatles’ tunes, but the covers, the stuff that influenced them, and the solo stuff from John, George and Ringo (I have almost everything Paul recorded as a solo artist and with Wings).
But with the Beatles songs that I am very familiar with (and those that I have a passing familiarity with), I’m hearing stuff that I didn’t know about them. Alternate versions, information about when and how they were recorded, who played on them, what inspired them…that sort of stuff. And as I listen to the songs, I realize how “loose” some of them are. Even the later stuff. There’s vocal stuff that was “thrown in” and left there, doesn’t sound rehearsed and is maybe a little off time or off key, but it works. There are guitar parts and harmonies that weren’t perfect, bass lines that were a little sloppy at times, that weren’t cut and pasted like so many modern songs’ individual parts are.
Most stuff I have listened to has a certain level of perfection in the recording itself. Even the new wave/punk stuff. It’s like even the parts that sound “sloppy” sound rehearsed, like they’d do the exact same sloppy bit every time. I’ve been in the studio myself, recording on pro-level setups, and I remember doing a keyboard part that sounded perfect the first time I did it, and less so on subsequent takes. The sound engineer (Craig Williams of Dr. CAW studios) took that first one, copied it, then pasted it everywhere in the song that it was supposed to be, about two or three other spots. He’d then tweak it till it lined up perfectly and get rid of my original playing and just copy the good one in. He did that with vocals and guitar licks and other things as well.
There’s none of that in the Beatles’ recordings. There seems to always be a spontaneity to each song, a joyfulness that you don’t hear in a lot of studio music. There’s an interplay between John and Paul that comes through on a lot of songs, even later stuff when they were not the best of mates.
This morning I heard “Hello Goodbye” and “All You Need Is Love” on the radio, back to back, and I became aware of this imperfection, but it didn’t matter. The song was the song. They both stand up incredibly well today as songs. They didn’t have to be perfect because they were so strong on their own. They’d be good if they were just being strummed on an acoustic guitar and hummed. In fact, I have a couple CD’s by a guy named Lawrence Juber, who played in one of the incarnations of Paul’s Wings, and he does Beatles songs on acoustic guitar, no vocals, no other instruments, and they work!
I am constantly amazed at the depth and joy I am finding in their work.
On to more Beatles listening…