Friday, February 02, 2007


The Beatles

I cannot overstate my love for The Beatles. I adore The Beatles. I love The Beatles. They are everything a band should be. Musically, they were untouchable; visually, they were unimpeachable (although I think two of them have probably seen better days). They did everything right from the Hamburg-echoing hiss and clutter of 'Please please me' through to the sonic sunshine of 'Abbey Road' this was a group who, in my dimming eye, deserved every word of praise issued at them.

Listen to records again. go on, I'll wait.

What did you hear?
"The Beatles," you say "I've heard it.". Well yes, you heard The Beatles the same way that you've heard them a million times before. I want you to listen in a different way.

A much younger(ahem) friend remembers being a child in the 1980's and hearing George Harrison's 'Cloud Nine' album. He asked his dad about Harrison and the parent told him he had been in The Beatles. My friend says it struck him like a thunderbolt that The Beatles had been people; not some all conquering monster sent by God as "The best band in the World", but a group of young men with some musical instruments. Nothing more. No special advantage. No special privilege. They were four "shit-kickers" (Thanks Ringo) who worked hard and struck it lucky.

Listen to those albums again.

Hear it? What. The footsteps on the floor of studio 2. The air-conditioner buzzing in the background. Missed notes. Forgotten chords. The same as any other band, The Beatles stumbled and staggered and got up and played again. These were four boys in ordinary rooms with six-string guitars and tea towels over their drumskins. Yes, they had musical ability (more than they are often given credit for). But listen to how they changed, how they progressed. That's the sound of education and improvement. Of people looking around and taking things in (sometimes inhaling) and letting it shape the way they think.

As I say, I love The Beatles. I could go on for hours about their use of chords, McCartney's positive post-'Revolver' leadership of the group or Ringo's tom-tom fills on 'A Day in the life' but this isn't a musicology essay. This is about how you approach this band; next time you put on 'Rubber soul' and hear 'In my life' look over at the acoustic guitar in the corner of your room and try to imagine how much hard work went into writing that beautiful song. Imagine what it took to stop being lauded for ten minutes to come up with 'Drive my car'.

As I say, I love The Beatles. If you don't, then you don't but do yourself a favour and spend three and a half minutes with 'hey Bulldog' before dismissing them completely:

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