Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Teenage Angst

In yesterday's post I mentioned that I moved away from rock music in the late 60s. In truth I did not completely shutdown to what was currently playing on the radio, and I did acquire The Beatles aka. White Album. That spurred me to purchase Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band several years after its release. Oddly enough I would not venture into Abbey Road for many years - and was totally blown away when I finally heard it for the first time.

But I digress from the point of this post regarding the three Beatle's singles that ruled my life during my junior high school years. My family was dysfunctional for sure, but at the time I did not imagine it to be any different than any other. There was usually a lot of drama going around, and I found the best cure was to place some vinyl on my nifty General Electric turntable and tune out what was going on around the household.

The three 45rpms that I would repeatedly play ad naseum have been labeled by some as the Beatle's "Indian Summer" singles, coming between the pyschedelic year of 1967 and the White Album in late 1968. These songs are etched into my inner fiber, a part of who I am, and to this day they elicit a feeling of euphoria. After 40 years and thousands of listens I never tire of them. At the time of their release, I was oblivious to the notion that they were "Paul" songs, although it was clear to me that he was they lead singer on them.

Hello Goodbye got the short straw for some folks, John Lennon included. He called it "three minutes of contradictions and meaningless juxtapositions". It is mentioned that it is too repetitious, but I never want it to end. For me, the clever harmonies, delicious guitar fragments, and overall sunny disposition have always been a soul lifter. And Mr. McCartney knows his way around a chord progression or two. More than any other song, this would go on the turntable as a mood changer, a relief from the sturm und drang of being a teenager.

Lady Madonna is the odd one out here, the first Beatle single not to go to number one in the USA since Yellow Submarine just barely missed the top spot in August of 1966. Both would be chart toppers in the U.K. The first time I heard it on AM radio in early 1968 I was blown away by the opening piano riff. And speaking of chord progressions, the middle eight skillfully constructs a bass line that carries the tune like a baroque passacaglia. Everything about the production works for me - the gorgeous vocal harmonies at the end of each verse ("see how they run"), the tight little guitar riff that pops in for maximum effect, the saxophone, the hand claps, the kazoo middle eight. Paul's meaningless yet clever lyrics leave everything to interpretation. This is the pinnacle of the lost art of writing a hit single. At barely two and a quarter minutes in length, it says what is has to say and rolls to an end with some of the most delicious pop piano pounding in history.

Hey Jude Speaking of feel-good songs, one must have a stone heart to avoid the vibe that came out of the EMI studio on that day in 1968. Even John knew this was the real deal. "Hey Jude is a damn good set of lyrics and I made no contribution to that." I will leave the genesis of the lyrics to you to decide who it was really written for (John? Julian? Paul?, Francie?, Dylan?). I do not spend much energy pondering, I just listen. And listen. And listen some more. For a real treat, try the new mono remaster version. When that build up to the first "la... la la ladda da da" occurs, my life is transfigured. Just as when I was 13 sitting in my room hiding from the world.


Charlie_Mac said...

You and I are definately on the same wavelength - for me it was wandering over to a church basement record hop when I was 13 or so hearing "I Saw Her Standing There" blasting away and kids (mostly girls) boppin' to Paul's "One Two Three Fo'" introduction. Sadly, shortly thereafter I started playing drums in an R&B band, and listening to the Beatles wasn't cool in my circle of friends - I had to rediscover them when the CD's came out in '87. And I think I'll stick with my "orignal" CD's and vintage vinyl - I'm sure my wasted ears won't be able to tell the difference in the new remasters...

Mister Pleasant said...

Hey Charlie - you are absolutely right that there is nothing better than vintage vinyl. All of my Beatle's vinyl (UK and US) is stereo. I never acquired the full catalog on CD, so I made the leap to the Mono box set. Not better than vinyl but it does have a big fat bass sound and none of the odd pan-and-scan of some of the early stereo.

Funny how the Beatles were out of favor with many of us during different points in their career. In my case there was the initial mania from 64-66, then a passing interest through 68, then basically they fell off my radar until I entered college in the mid 70's.