Tag Archives: The Beatles

13 Reasons Why

Earlier this year, my wife and I (yes, IDROS is married…sorry ladies) watched the titular Netflix show thinking it might be good for us, as parents, to learn a little about what the youth of today may be experiencing. Also, perhaps we could glean why the series became such a viral sensation so we could seem in tune with “Non-Fake News” topical subject matter at the proverbial water cooler, or while mingling with our counterparts at kiddy parties or activities. I can’t say I hate-watched it…In all honesty, IDROS was generally entertained by many aspects of it, and found some eerie similarities to Season One of Twin Peaks (which I might just discuss in another post)…but what your author enjoyed most about the series, hands down, was the music.

Which brings me to the much more interesting event of 2017, IMHO, that plays on our triskaidekaphobia for the low and totally worth-it price of 13 easy installments of $74.99 plus whatever applicable fees and charges various sources inexplicably get away with shaking us down for these days.

And I suppose now is as good a time as any to forewarn you. This will be a long(ish) post. Not quite as long as that Lawn Boy Supreme served up on July 25…but let’s just say it might run you a deuce and a half or even two jaunts.

This Baker’s Dozen run has been extraordinary from the starting gun. Even people who aren’t phans have taken notice, and if they haven’t, they should. Phish sets the gold standard for a live convert experience. This was going to be special from the moment it was announced.

MSG-Bakers-Dozen-AZN-2-480x270

So without further ado, here is the MEAT of this post. 13 reasons why IDROS loves the foursome named Phish:

  1. It’s my thesis, man – Let me first say that I have never witnessed a full Gamehendge set in its entirety. Until TBD, the closest I ever came was a group of four shows I caught where they played all but 2 songs (non-consecutively). I don’t know how many of you faithful readers actually researched, wrote and defended a thesis, be it in college or grad school, but it is no joke. Still, when I think of someone writing a thesis I don’t usually harken back to my own terrible experience. I tend to conjure up images of the guy in PCU who apparently spent his senior year watching every movie that featured Gene Hackman or Michael Caine. When, toward the end of the cult favorite (which starred a young Ari Gold, obviously before he found a dentist), said thesis writer stumbled upon a movie that starred both Caine and Hackman, he yelled out “this is my thesis man!” It was pure comedic gold…but it was funny because to those who have toiled in the stacks for hours, coughing up dust from never before read tomes, scouring microfiche, developing blisters from banging on a Mac keyboard at all hours of the night, pumping our bodies full of Mountain Dew (or worse), blinding ourselves staring at the small endlessly blinking cursor on a screen the size of a pack of cigarettes, editing, re-editing, and then waking up in a cold sweat the night before our defense/presentation…we only wish our thesis could have been that entertaining to research…and that fulfilling when proven. We all know the plural of thesis is feces. But Trey Anastasio’s thesis at Goddard College, The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday, is a masterclass in and of itself. If you’ve never listened to the Gamehendge chronicles from beginning to end, played a rare cassette tape until your car radio ate the tape, permanently scratched CDs from overuse, or were lucky enough to attend one of the rarest of Phish shows where the band played the rock fantasy operetta in its entirety…my advice to you is take an hour and do it. Oh…and read the friggin’ Book!
  2. Then Once More – every band has a gateway drug…a song that speaks to so many, inviting them in for further inspection with its pleasant beat, catchy hook and major chord melody. Bouncing Around The Room is a song guaranteed to bring a smile to pretty much every face at a Phish show because of all of these things. An early Phish tune, BATR has been reeling in Phish phans since 1990, but the thing I love most about the song is that it really encapsulates, and even showcases, the strengths (and to a lesser degree, the limitations) of the band. Fish establishes the beat from the jump and Mike lays down the bassline. With the structure in place, Trey and Page harmonize the vocals, with Page quickly demonstrating he has greater vocal range, but Trey, ever consistent (vocally), holding down the melodic fort. Page and Trey sprinkle in some keys and guitar as appropriate. The song slowly builds…Mike eventually spearheads the vocal and musical magnificence that ends the song in a round with his limited but deep baritone voice. Trey and Page beautifully layer both their voices atop Mike’s and begin to really unleash their respective instruments in what amounts to three minutes or so of pure musical bliss. All the while, the Wolfman’s Brother keeps the whole thing together.
  3. Deep Cover – Phish is a super talented band…not only do they prolifically write their own music, tour often, and sit in with other musicians…but all four lead their own side projects, experimenting in a multitude of musical genres, from funk to bluegrass to jazz to classical and even some dabbling in musical theater. It should be no surprise then that Phish, when together, is able to draw on these experiences as well as their vast talents, channeling their musicianship in ways few bands can. They play other people’s music with respect, but also have the courage and ability to take songs and give them a personal and unique take. I won’t say that every Phish version of a covered song is better than the original, and vocally, most of the time, Phish versions fall short. But musically, and occasionally, comedically, most Phish versions are superior, if not simply more entertaining. They have covered artists across pretty much every major musical genre, primarily alone, but a number of times on stage alongside the musicians they are covering. From Aerosmith to ZZ Top, BB King to Jay Z, Katy Perry to Chaka Khan, Miles Davis to Rage Against the Machine, Neil Diamond to the Beastie Boys, Jimi Hendrix to Bob Marley, Joni Mitchell to Elvis Presley…they are not afraid to take chances, and they have added hundreds of songs to their repertoire. And during this current TBD run, they are adding dozens (pun intended) of new and exciting covers to their songbook. Which leads nicely into…
  4. Ghost – One of IDROS’ favorite differentiators of the band has to be their Halloween costumes. Instead of dressing up in traditional costumes, however, Phish, beginning in 1994, has donned musical costumes, playing a full album of one of their inspirational musicians or bands. This has included the Beatles’ White Album, The Who’s Quadrophenia, the Talking Heads’ Remain In Light and The Velvet Underground’s Loaded, which IDROS was lucky enough to witness live. These musical costumes are stuff of legend…and for some lucky fans, unexpectedly in Utah in 1998, just after that year’s Loaded Halloween show, Phish played Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, leading many phans to speculate that the band rehearsed both albums for Halloween and made a game time decision to go with the VU album. Many classic songs from these Halloween shows remain fixtures in Phish’s normal tour set lists.
  5. Say Yes to The Dress – With everything going on in the world today, and especially in our own country as it relates to discrimination, hostility and the giant step back basic human rights and equality seem to have taken this past year, Fish’s donut-laden muumuu, which has been a fixture for decades, seems to say to the LGBTQ community, “feel free to join us….you are safe here.” This makes IDROS happy.
  6. The Women Are Smarter – Phish have written some amazing songs about women over the years. From Suzy to Esther, Tela to Eliza, Reba to Olivia, Jennifer to the incomparable Landlady…and have mentioned many others (Liz, Millie, Jill, Vanessa, etc.). So here’s a shout out to the women of Phish. IDROS is partial to Esther, which is one of the most terrifying but beautiful songs ever written. A short story…Phish rarely plays Esther anymore. This has been the basic trend for over a decade. Many times, the band eschews the song for entire tours, even years. IDROS has attended exactly one Phish concert with his beautiful bride (who was merely IDROS’ girlfriend at the time). At that show, Phish played Esther. We were engaged the next day. To give you an idea of the odds – since 1998, there have been about 635 Phish shows. Phish has played Esther exactly 12 times in that stretch. That is once every 53 shows, or less than 2% of the time. Since our “engagement show” Phish has also played the song on my wife’s birthday as well as on another very significant date to us. In other words, the song Esther is very important to my family, and the cosmic Phish gods know this.
  7. Somewhere between Erie and Pittsburgh – Many great bands have at least one movie/documentary that captures them, realistically or fictitiously, at the peak of their popularity and creativity. From A Hard Day’s Night, to The Grateful Dead Movie, to Stop Making Sense to Purple Rain to IDROS’ personal favorite, The Last Waltz. Phish’s movie, Bittersweet Motel, came out in 1998, pretty much capturing the foursome at the height of their powers with footage from their 1997 tours. It is funny, filled with great live concert footage and captures the band members in rare candid moments most fans seldom see of their idols. In retrospect, the film is also aptly named as it is poignantly capturing the beginning of the end for the band, who would break up for the first time a couple years later. Fortunately for all of us, the band was able to put their differences aside, Trey was able to get the help he needed to move forward, once briefly in 2002-2004, and again hopefully for good in 2009-present. So now, hopefully a sequel is in the works, capturing Phish 3.0 in all its glory. Maybe it will be called Blissful Bed and Breakfast, or perhaps, just, JOY (oh, wait…).
  8. A Higher Purpose – There have been many articles written about the “religion” of The Grateful Dead and Phish. Loyal fans who follow them, an earthy way of life, drug based and sober “religious experiences,” and the artists themselves, assembled upon the pulpit or bimah, rifling through the newest testament of all…the music. Like the Dead, Phish has a number of spiritual and religious songs, both originals and standards, that they play regularly. From Daniel Saw the Stone, and of course Avinu Malkeinu all the way through Trey’s opus, The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday, which is as spiritual a story as any you would find in the Bible, there is no denying that there is a large spiritual element to both Phish and its congregation of phans. Every time IDROS sees TMWSIY->Avinu live, your author hopes Fish or Mike would say “Tekiyah Gedolah” into the microphone, and TMWSIY would be played on shofars, or rams horns to kick it off. IDROS’ favorite version of a spiritual song ever played by Phish is Yerushalayim Shel Zehav, which ends their song Demand on the Hoist album, but has only been played as part of the song Demand once live. Phish has played YSZ twelve times in history (here is a favorite)…. And yes, to IDROS, Chris Kuroda is the Ner Tamid.
  9. Page side, rage side – IDROS plays the piano. Page plays the piano. IDROS believes Page is the greatest pianist in the world. Trey may be Phish’s “front man,” but for my money, Page is the MVP…a close race to be sure, but it is what it is. When given the choice IDROS sits or stands on the left side of a venue facing the stage…cause that’s where Page’s keyboard surrounded throne sits on the stage.
  10. A Festival to End All Festivals – Ever notice how SOAM can be a viable acronym for both Split Open and Melt AND Scent of a Mule? Yeah, I know I’m deflecting. There are not a lot of positive things to say about the great mudfest of 2004 (IDROS refuses to mention its name). The storm-ravaged fairgrounds resembled a third world country that had just been decimated by a hurricane…to those of us lucky enough to make it in. Thousands were stranded on a highway that could have been a scene right out of an apocalyptic movie where everyone is trying to flee the cities. And poor Cactus…the ace of bass was clearly forced to announce on the Phish radio channel set up for the festival for everyone to turn back and go home. Well my group persevered. We made it, came equipped with fly fishing boots we picked up along the way, hiked miles to and from the fairgrounds, slogged through the muck and the general malaise and melancholy that hung like a guillotine over the downtrodden faithful, and bid our farewells to our favorite band. Oh yeah…Phish was hanging their instruments up after this “Un-festive All.” Calling it quits for good this time. I mean, they say nothing ends well…that’s why things end. Well if this were to be the end for Phish, they were going out in a spectacular pool of vomit and putrescence. And for that, and because I had been to three other glorious Phish festivals, I got to see my musical hero, Page, melt down and cry on stage during Wading in the Velvet Sea, and because it wasn’t really the end…but rather an end to a bad time in the arc of the band’s story…I can include those three awful days in Vermont among my 13 (you can have good without bad…and sometimes it takes hitting bottom to rise up and attain true greatness).
  11. Dancin’ On My Lawn – Phish is an amazing band if you wanna dance. When the band is bringing the funk, almost any song could be an opportunity to showcase your Camel Walk. Some songs (like MOMA, SOAM, Jibboo, Boogie On) let you break it down from start to finish. Other tunes, like YEM, begin with a composed section, which is difficult to dance to (read: sober), but builds into a funkier, free-flowing dance party after a few minutes (think Bowie, Hood, DWD, the Lizards, etc.) Reba, in IDROS’ opinion, is in a class all by itself. While it seems to fit into the latter category of a song that builds to a dance fan’s crescendo (it does), the beginning is not so much the orchestral building block that is the staple of many other early (read: core) Phish songs. In fact, deep into Reba at the opening show of TBD, IDROS came to the following conclusion: Reba, as a song, is very much like the love scene in the move Armageddon. The whimsical silliness of the beginning is like the animal cracker-based foreplay, which gets more and more inane, until…even if Liv Tyler and/or Ben Affleck aren’t your thing, you get the idea. Out of the ludicrous comes pure, unadulterated bliss…some of the best dance jam music Phish ever unleashes.
  12. Atama Ga Shock – Because a long time ago, IDROS lived in Japan and developed a working knowledge of the Japanese language, your author was over the moon when, in 2000, Phish toured Japan and unveiled the Japanese lyrics to the chorus of their song, Meatstick. It would have been incredible to have lived in Japan during said tour, but I have seen Meatstick performed half a dozen (yes, we are counting in dozens for this post) since 2000, and every time I hear them break out the Japanese lyrics it brings a huge smile to my face.
  13. You Can’t Always Get What You Want – TBD has taken Phish’s unique live concert experience to new heights. No repeats in 13 days (this was posted after 12 shows but IDROS has faith) ensured not only every show was unique, but that every song was as well. Phish fans know, however, like Dead fans, that a lack of repeated songs aren’t what make this band so fun to see live…rather, it is the freshness of the setlists, and the trill of the chase. Phish has a number of rare songs that they play once in a blue moon. They also can be full of surprises, playing new covers, or old songs in new ways. We all treasure those shows where we can say “we were there when.” And just like the Stones forewarned all of us…we may not hear the exact songs we were hoping for when we had that ticket stub in our hand…but we always get what we need…and the Phab Phour always give us everything they have.

Phish – Thanks for a great three weeks, and for an amazing 35 years.

And to my faithful readers, IDROS hopes you caught at least one show during this outstanding Baker’s Dozen run.

Let’s all live while we’re young. We can still have fun!

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Entertainment, Movies, Music, Uncategorized

This Is 50…And Counting…Happy Golden Anniversary To Mick, Keef And The Rolling Stones

From Rolling Stone Magazine

From Rolling Stone Magazine

Lezbeonest. I don’t care what it is (or who, for that matter). Doing it (or him or her) for 50 years…in a row…is worthy of significant celebration. It is a rare feat, celebrating a 50th anniversary of any kind. And the half century the Rolling Stones have endured and bestowed upon us is no exception. In fact, it borders on incredible…the stuff of myth. I mean, the band had to overcome the incarceration of its two primary songwriters (in 1967, Mick and Keith were jailed for drug possession and shortly thereafter were released on bail), the “firing” and subsequent death (by drowning but due to drug abuse) of a founding member and close friend (Brian Jones), the resignation of another band mate and talented guitarist (Mick Taylor), the ubiquitous shadow of the Beatles the Stones were relegated to live in (the band was basically labeled the “evil” or dark yang to the Beatles light, angelic yin and were viewed as ruffians parents should never let their daughters date, a characterization these well-schooled middle class musicians took a few years to fully embrace), the unfortunate and horrifying experience that was Altamont (where unruly, drunk and drugged up Hell’s Angels provided “security” (read: incited a riot) while a fan was murdered by throngs of out of control concert-goers and the band feared for their own lives), a self exile to the South of France for financial reasons (mostly exorbitant back taxes owed), a massive heroin problem that enveloped some members of the band (notably Keith) as well as many important crew members, and finally, the imprisonment in Canada of Keith for heroin possession (he faced a lifetime sentence, but was released upon a vow to go straight)…and that was all in the first 15 years of the band’s existence. The subsequent 35 years were similarly rife with highs and lows, the worst of it stemming from a tumultuous and deteriorating relationship between Richards and Jagger, the de facto leaders of the band.

And yet here they are, fifty years later…mostly intact, and somehow still churning out the best soundtrack you are likely ever to hear at a Golden Anniversary party (not that there’s anything wrong with a one-man band’s rendition of In The Mood, The Way We Were, Unforgettable, I’ve Got The World On A String or any of Frank Sinatra’s great love ballads). So in anticipation of the American leg of the Stones 50 & Counting mini-tour, which will culminate with a Pay Per View-streamed performance on Saturday, December 15 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, I felt it was high time to give the original bad boys of rock and roll their due. Having already dedicated a post to that other mega-success story of a band from England, the timing couldn’t be better to roll out the red carpet, and fittingly paint it black, for the only other band in history besides the Beatles that arguably deserves its own wing in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Sure, scoff all you want. Insert a joke or two here under your breath regarding said wing that evokes images of a nursing home…the wing should be in Florida; its snack bar should offer an early bird special; hope there’s round the clock medical staff on call. Blah, blah, blah. If you could throw down on stage like the Stones at any age, you would, and you know it.

While I agree that the Stones are old (arguing this fact would be as foolish as arguing that water is not wet), the band’s two stalwarts, both nearly 70 years of age, continue to defy the odds. Mick, who inspired a song regarding his moves, has the energy of a man fifty years his junior, and the waistline of an anorexic supermodel. And Keith…what can I say? What can anyone say really? He is a medical marvel that continues to mystify… with blatant disregard for logic and the laws of science.  (To get a taste, I do recommend his autobiography, Life, if you haven’t yet read it.) So perhaps it isn’t such a conundrum that these relics continue to bring it while on stage.

So in honor of the centuries of combined rock experience that is the Rolling Stones, I felt a list was in order. Lists are great because they demand thought, from both the writer and reader(s). There is always room for debate, particularly in a good, well-reasoned list, but generally the conversation is lively and worthwhile. And that is why we’re here, right?  At least it’s why I’m here. Tapping on the keys like Thelonius Monk in the wee hours of the morning, eyes bloodshot, head pounding, but thoughts racing…ahh. And the Stones are incredibly list-worthy. Exile on Main Street could be its own list. So could Let It Bleed. So in the spirit, of Rob Gordon from High Fidelity, from whom music-themed lists seemed to flow like cheap beer at a frat party, we begin.

My top ten Stones tunes of all time (at least for today):

10) I had a hell of a time choosing among Miss You, Emotional Rescue and Salt Of The Earth, but for the sake of a clean list, I am going with Emotional Rescue. Perhaps my list would be different on any other day. I dig the disco influence. And the tune is catchy as hell. This is not your typical Stones song, but that doesn’t make it a bad song.

9) Sweet Virginia. Raw, gritty and heartfelt. This will not be the lone gem from Exile to crack my top ten, but a great tune in its own right.

8) As Tears Go By. An oldie but goodie. Penned by the Jagger/Richards dynamic duo, this classic was first recorded and released by Marianne Faithful in 1964, and then by the Stones a year later. Just a beautiful song, emotional and powerful despite the restraint that was a trademark of that era. I would put this tune up against almost any from the mid-60s, and it holds up well, even today.

7) Loving Cup. Just give me little drink. Please.

6) Shine A Light. Wow. Just Wow. Maybe this one should be higher on the list (probably), but the bottom line is, it needs to be on the list. Such a powerful message. Marty Scorsese named his 2008 Stones documentary after this tune, and we all know what Marty thinks of the Stones.

5) Gimme Shelter. That creaky floorboard percussion effect is eerie as hell. And speaking of Marty Scorsese, we all must thank him for recognizing the genius in the Stones in this tune, and for marrying its theme to your own particular genius (Scorsese used this song in 3 of his films…thus far). Violence and war is everywhere; not just on the battlefield, but on the mean streets of every city across the world.

4) You Can’t Always Get What You Want. Can’t help but think of The Big Chill opening here, but the message is clear and pure, and the melody is perfection personified. Interestingly, it seems Brett Morgen, the director of the most recent Stones documentary, Crossfire Hurricane, drew inspiration from Lawrence Kasdan as he used this song during his own post-death funeral procession music to honor Brian Jones’ passing.

3) Sympathy For The Devil. Perfection in capturing and breathing life into a theme by overlaying incredible lyrics on transcendent music. Timeless.

2) Waiting On A Friend. Profound emotional ballad capturing man’s need for companionship after his wild oats have been sown.

1) Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’? Here’s the thing…I love music. And even before this tune kicked off the great mini-mix on my iPod shuffle that ushered in the greatest day of my life, it would have topped this list. The meaning behind the song is murky, like the drug-addled paranoia some of the lyrics evoke. But if your ears could smile, this song could have that effect on them, from start to finish. The jam toward the end of that track is so incredible it has moved me to tears on numerous occasions. Everything was clicking there, from Keys’ blistering sax solo to Richards’ guitar. And then Mick Taylor steals the show with a completely improvised virtuoso performance lasting nearly 4 minutes to end the song. There are hints and influences of numerous other great musicians and musical genres intertwined in the rich, mellifluous orgy of musical delights. To quote Richards, “the band’s music was influenced by everyone from Mozart to Marley.” That is clearly evident in this song alone, a virtual microcosm of the Rolling Stones vast and impressive oeuvre. And make no mistake, Charlie gets the last “word,” which is quite fitting for a tune titled “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’?”

So that’s my list. Hope nobody was offended by my selections. I would love to hear some of yours, so feel free to share below.

As always, thanks for reading.

Happy holidays,

IDROS

Oh, and for another blogger’s take on the same subject matter, feel free to click here.

1 Comment

Filed under Entertainment, Music

And in “The End” an iconic band broke up…Reflections on the final song recorded by The Beatles

It was the worst of times for Rock and Roll’s greatest act. But even as their dissolution hung ominously over the Fab Four, they decided to put their differences aside and head into EMI Studio on Abbey Road for one last hurrah, just like they had so often in the good old days of the preceding eight years and eleven albums.* (Please reference footnote below for more historical context)

The Beatles’ grand finale, Abbey Road, was just the bittersweet opus fans, critics and band-mates alike would universally agree delivered a fitting encore to perhaps the greatest Rock and Roll act to ever grace a stage or studio. A sweeping and ambitious album comprised of two stylistically different sides, Abbey Road showcased the greatest strengths of the band, individually and en masse.

Most notable in Abbey Road was that the four distinct personalities that came to define John, George, Paul and Ringo shone brightly throughout the album, musically, lyrically and stylistically. This was most evident, and perhaps most hauntingly appropriate, in the song that would close the album (or at least was initially supposed to), the final segment of the epic Side B medley, aptly named “The End.”

The Beatles’ public personas were encapsulated early on in their careers with nicknames that emerged:

John: The smart/witty one

George: The quiet one

Paul: The cute one

Ringo: The funny one

But there was more to each of them, obviously, and their personalities became more defined as Beatlemania enveloped the world. John was intelligent, but he also was a rebel and a dreamer, deeply profound and affected by the world around him, the more creative and less overt leader of the band. George was quiet and shy at times, but also was mysterious and spiritual with a jocular side. Paul, though known for his “puppy-dog eyes,” was seen as a clean- cut, romantic, perfectionist – the driven, technical leader of the band. And Ringo was funny, though no more so than John or George by all accounts. Ringo was a people pleaser, the consummate team player and the veritable backbone of the band.

Tom Robbins, in his 1980 classic, Still Life With Woodpecker, opined through his eponymous anti-hero, that you can derive pretty much all you want to know about a person by asking them who their favorite Beatle is and listening to their answer: “Bernard Mickey Wrangle had developed a psychological test of his own. It was short, simple, and infallible. To administer the test, merely ask the subject to name his or her favorite Beatle. If you are at all familiar with the distinct separate public images of the four Beatles, then you’ll recognize that the one chosen reveals as much about the subject’s personality as most of us will ever hope to know.”

Just as the Woodpecker’s test has proven its merits over the years in our own armchair psycho-analyses of the people in our lives, Abbey Road’s release revealed the album to be a Rorschach test or dream interpreter in its own right. The album was like a compilation of inkblots or dreams that revealed a great deal about the personalities of each Beatle. And if Abbey Road was a dream interpreter, judging by its opening lyric, “The End” was the key dream interpretation on that test that led to a major breakthrough.

“The End” emerged as a virtual highlight reel of the great band from Liverpool, stunningly crammed into just over two minutes of smile-coaxing, heart-warming musical genius. The song’s central theme, love, is a running theme throughout the Beatles’ vast songbook. But the structure and free-spirited curtain call nature of the tune set it apart.

As the final song recorded collectively by the four principles of the band, “The End” provided a forum for each of their individual personalities and musical strengths to shine in one last masterful performance. Each Beatle has at least one solo, during which his own distinct style radiates. Even Ringo, who always maintained a vehement aversion to solos, preferring instead to target his percussion toward whoever sang or played the melody in a particular performance, has a stand-out solo sequence on the record. Apropos to Ringo’s personality, his solo was actually recorded with tambourine and guitar accompaniment, and the other instruments were later muted during editing to give the effect of a Ringo drum solo. Ringo Starr was true to himself even as “The End” showcased a “hypocritical” moment, leaving listeners with a stunningly honest portrayal of Starr despite being tainted by a bizarre feeling that something is amiss.

And John, George and Paul perform a rotating sequence of three two-bar guitar solos which flow out of the “Love You” chorus about a minute into the song. Each solo echoes the personality of its artist, and in three separate two bar segments (about twelve cumulative seconds of virtuoso wailing for each of them), the listener can truly differentiate who is playing. Paul comes in with flawless, stinging licks reminiscent of his guitar work on earlier tracks such as “Another Girl” and “Taxman.” George uses a technically advanced slide technique that was becoming his trademark as he plays off of Paul’s lead in each go around. John‘s contribution was rhythmic but heavily distorted, a nod to his guitar work on “Revolution,” and signifying his growing dissociation with his band mates and his “former life.”

Truly eerie in their guitar solo sequence (and I apologize for this morbid correlation) is the order in which they play. Paul takes the lead, followed by George with John closing each sequence. And in their true “end,” it was John exiting first, George following and Paul, still with us, who will bow out third. Paul did get the “last word” in “The End” by penning a lyric to close the song (and the album…at least in its original layout). Drawing inspiration from one of his heroes, Paul decided to write a rhyming couplet in the style of the Bard. Its message is timeless.

Sure, the song’s powerful ending lyric seems to speak to society at large, a philosophical directive to which all of us could and should relate and adhere. But even more so, the equation set up by Paul’s couplet – “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make” – resonates as the defining credo, even epitaph, of four men who forever changed the musical landscape of our world. For ten years, they put everything they had into their music. Malcolm Gladwell’s ten thousand hours in dark clubs throughout Europe, and thousands more in the studio and on arena and stadium stages around the world. And in return, they received the love and adulation of a worldwide fan base that literally could not get enough. The Beatles’ music was love: love of being musicians, love of creative freedom, love of women, love of spirituality, love of rock and roll, love of rebellion, love of their fans and certainly, at one time, love of one another. We as fans all felt that love, and continue to feel it even today every time we hear one of their songs. We felt their love and loved the band right back. And if their continual popularity and relevance in today’s art, culture, literature and of course, music is any indication, we still love the Beatles today as much as ever.

*Historical background leading up to the release of Abbey Road:

Friction already created a poor showing on their tenth album, The Beatles, now highly regarded as the White Album, but critically lambasted upon release as disjointed and sloppily performed and generally dismissed as ego-driven solo efforts thrown together in a mish-mash of discontinuity. (And that, in a nutshell, proves how incredible the band truly was, because The Beatles has come to be included among the greatest albums of all time in all critic and fan-based music-themed articles, rankings, research and analyses that matter.)

And their twelfth album, Let It Be, though released after Abbey Road, was recorded, in large part, before Abbey Road had been. Originally slated to be released before Abbey Road in mid-1969 as Get Back, the Beatles were displeased with the sound and feel of the cut and shelved the effort. By all accounts, bad vibes, discontent and a general festering of acrimony boiled over throughout the recording and editing of Let It Be. Some of the songs from the Get Back recordings were released as singles before Phil Spector came in and re-edited and mastered the album, renaming it Let It Be. Let It Be drew mixed reviews at the time of its release and to this day is seldom included among any short list of the band’s greatest albums. A film of the same name was also released, and has gained mass notoriety for vividly capturing a number of conflicts among band members during the making of the album, and has often been referred to as a documentary intended to highlight the making of an album, but instead diagrammed “the break-up of a band.”

The “why” is debatable. Perhaps it was all Yoko’s fault, as many Fab Four fans like to opine. Maybe creative differences ran amok and were the culprit. Undoubtedly, Paul and John had a very different approach to music and leadership, which helped to inspire the varied styles and depth of musical genius throughout the band’s impressive oeuvre, but also laid the foundation for the Beatles’ demise as well. A grueling tour schedule and constant in-your-face idol-warship that accompanied Beatlemania took its toll on everyone, particularly George, who was retreating more and more into a spiritual lifestyle in the late 1960s. And the demands of fame in general were exhausting, from financial negotiations to promotional obligations. Finally, these are four people who, along with their few trusted insiders such as Brian Epstein (whose accidental overdose and death in 1967 caused problems of its own), and George Martin, spent a great deal of time together throughout the 1960s. So much time, in fact, that any petty disagreements, differences and moments of weakness that emerged became magnified exponentially.

Regardless of reason(s), in mid-1969, the four principles knew the end was nigh. After the disharmony and infighting that plagued the band’s previous two recording efforts, Paul went to George Martin, long-time producer and music arranger for the band sometimes referred to as the Fifth Beatle (though Paul maintained “if anyone was the Fifth Beatle, it was Brian [Epstein]”), and basically pleaded that the band needed to end on a high note and get together to make an album “the way they used to.” Martin agreed, and Abbey Road was born.

Additional sources and fun links:

1970 Rolling Stone Interview with John Lennon

1980 Playboy Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono

1971 Life Magazine Interview with Paul McCartney

1969 Interview with George Harrison in Apple Offices

1977 Interview with Ringo Starr

2007 Review of “The End” by Richie Unterberger

1 Comment

Filed under Entertainment, Music