Dig Those Groovy Tunes!

the only sound that's left after the ambulances go

Cover Story: “I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself” April 15, 2013

Hey, after over a year, I finally got around to posting a second “Cover Story”.  This time, it’s “I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself”, which I chose because its title perfectly describes how I feel about my life right now, although for different reasons than those detailed in the song.  This oft-covered break-up song was written by prolific songwriting duo Burt Bacharach and Hal David, and was first recorded in 1962 by Tommy Hunt.  Whom I’d never heard of until doing research on this song, but you learn something new every day.

 

 

Probably the most famous version of the song (at least for pre-millenials, but more about that later) was recorded in 1964  by Dusty Springfield.  Who, if you are one of those young’n’s who aren’t as oldies-literate as yours truly, was basically the Adele-meets-Florence-Welch of the 1960s.  She was frickin’ awesome, mmkay?  Springfield sang the hell out of this song, which peaked at #3 on the singles chart in her native UK, but never charted in the US.  Two years later, Dionne Warwick released her own version of the song, which made #26 on Billboard’s Hot 100.  Warwick’s version is very similar to Springfield’s in sound, if only a tiny bit slower and softer.

 

 

 

In 1968 yet another version of the song was released by Dionne Warwick’s aunt (and Whitney Houston’s mother) Cissy Houston.  This version never did anything in the charts (I’m not sure if it was ever even released as a single), but I have to say, this version really stands out to me with its faster tempo and more upbeat sound (not that the lyrics are any less melancholy).  This is probably the most unique-sounding version of the song I’ve yet encountered.

 

 

The following version of “I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself” I decided to put here mostly because I know my mom reads this blog and that she is a big fan of Elvis Costello (and, well, so am I) and seems to be fond of his interpretations of other artists’ works.  It also just happens to be an awesome version of the song, a slinky new wave renditions with a nice creeping bassline.  Elvis Costello & the Attractions released this in 1978 on their Live Stiffs Live album.

 

 

And finally we have  the White Stripes’ cover of “I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself”.    Released on their 2003 album Elephant, this particular version is what you might call “stripped down”, using Jack’s guitar and Meg’s drums as the sole instruments and throwing out about half of the song’s original lyrics.  It is probably my favorite version of the song, as it is the first version of the song that I ever remember hearing (which is actually pretty surprising, considering I’ve been raised on oldies music since before I can remember and only really started listening to The White Stripes in 2009), and there’s just something about the jangly repeated guitar riff and Jack’s over-the-top falsettos.  And, well, obviously, those who have read this blog before should know by now how much I love The White Stripes.  Depending on how far back you’ve been reading this blog, you might also have some idea of how much I absolutely loathe the video that was made to go along with this song.  So for this song, I’m deliberately including a clip of it being performed live.  But it’s not just because I think the music video is dull unimaginative poop that doesn’t deserve to ever again see the light of day.  It’s also because, frankly, this song as interpreted by The White Stripes is best appreciated as it’s performed live, in all its jangly, falsetto-y, vibrato-tastic glory.

 

 

There are like a gazillion other artists who’ve covered this song as well, including (but not limited to) Isaac Hayes, Linda Ronstadt, and even Gary Puckett (whose version is surprisingly not as nauseating as I’ve come to expect from him, but that’s probably because “I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself” doesn’t have the words “woman”, “girl”, or “lady” anywhere in its lyrics).  Those that I mentioned on this post are merely those that I found to be particularly noteworthy and/or enjoyable.  If you have a favorite version of this song that wasn’t mentioned here, please feel free to comment (or even if you just feel like commenting on this song in general.  And definitely leave a comment if you’ve got any suggestions for future “Cover Story” songs I might feature.  But I would really appreciate some feedback.  It gets lonely here sometimes).

 

In infinitely awesome news… August 9, 2012

Filed under: Rants and Raves,The Monkees — yourbirdcansing88 @ 3:19 AM
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(note for all you cynical types who think that just because a band got together in a way that was less than organic and at least partially for the purposes of “selling a product” other than music automatically negates any kind of musical talent or cultural merit:  I fart in the general direction of your elitism.  That means you too, Jann S. Wenner)

The Monkees

The Monkees: a guilty pleasure for some; for me, just a pleasure.

The (three remaining) Monkees have announced that they’re going back on tour!  Yes, even Nesmith (who, contrary to popular belief, wasn’t so much opposed to joining previous Monkees reunions as he was insanely busy at that time being a multimedia renaissance man and coming up with the prototype for MTV)!  Of course it won’t be quite the same without Davy Jones, but I’m sure their departed bandmate will be anything but forgotten on this tour.  There ought to be many a moving tribute in his honor, I’d imagine (just so long as they don’t do one of those creepy duet-with-a-holographic-dead-guy numbers).

 

Signs point to today being a good day… March 14, 2012

Ya know why?  ‘Cause just a few minutes ago this morning, I tuned into Q104.3 just as my favorite song ever, “Whiter Shade of Pale” by Procol Harum was beginning.  Aaaaaaahhhhhh…good tunes…

 

Video of the Week: “Daddy’s Song” by Davy Jones March 4, 2012

Filed under: The Monkees,Video of the Week — yourbirdcansing88 @ 5:20 PM
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There’s actually two reasons why I chose this video for this week.  The first is to honor the memory of Davy Jones, who passed away earlier this week.  The second is that my dad’s birthday was also this week.  Happy birthday, Dad.  And rest in peace, Davy Jones.

 

This video is a scene from HEAD, The Monkees’ one and only feature film (and one of my favorite movies).  The movie kickstarted my obsession with The Monkees which lasted almost the entirety of my freshman year of college.  I’d always been a fan of their music, but HEAD introduced me to the prefab four as individual characters.  What’s also awesome about this video is that it features cameos from Toni Basil (yes, that Toni Basil.  Who apparently had a huge crush on Monkee Micky Dolenz, hence the title of her one and only hit) and Frank Zappa (and Frank Zappa’s talking cow).  Oh, and just a warning, there are some parts of this video that feature rapid, flashing cuts between shots, and so might be problematic for those of you with photosensitive epilepsy or other such conditions.  But otherwise, enjoy.

 

 

New Regular Feature: Cover Story December 5, 2011

After a few months of serious writer’s block, inspiration struck me one morning a couple of weeks ago.  It came to me on the car ride to work, in the form of “Dandy” by Herman’s Hermits.[1]  I’ve heard The Kinks’ version of the same song at least a dozen times, it being a track on my much beloved Kinks compilation CD set The Ultimate Collection.  However, until that morning, I’d been completely unaware that Herman’s Hermits had also recorded a version.  This was kind of a big deal for me because, despite my being less than a quarter century old, I’ve been practically raised in a vacuum of pop, rock, and folk hits of the ’60s, so it’s not every day I encounter a previously undiscovered song[2] from that era.  And so it got me thinking.

 

First of all, it got me thinking of the differences and similarities between the two versions.  For one thing, the Hermits version didn’t sound a whole heck of a lot different from the Kinks version, and yet the very subtlety of those differences only enhanced the feeling that two completely disparate moods were being expressed between the two.  Now I realize that part of this observation might be colored by my own understanding of The Kinks and Herman’s Hermits from the standpoint of someone who was born long after both bands ceased to be contemporary and whose views of each — i.e. Kinks =”rock” and Herman’s Hermits = “pop” — are therefore inevitably informed by modern-day popular opinion and the retrospective pigeonholing of once unclassified groups into newly invented and ever-narrowing categories or “subgenres.”  But to me, there’s a trace of venom in the Kinks version that the Hermits version seems to lack completely.  I’d even go as far to say that Herman’s Hermits aren’t capable of the acidity, of the subtle mean-spiritedness that’s so prevalent in The Kinks’ body of work.  The Hermits’ softer edge does not necessarily make an inferior version of “Dandy;”[3] if anything, it makes both versions more interesting, because why bother covering something someone else has done if you’re not going to put your own spin on it?[4]  Like I said, it might just be that Peter “Herman” Noone — or his musical persona, anyway — comes off as a much more benign and amiable person than Ray Davies does,[5] but to me, while the Hermits version comes off as the kind of playful taunting that could only a close friend of the eponymous good-natured playboy could get away with, Davies’ tone on the same song is anything but friendly; he can barely contain its contempt (or perhaps bitter envy?) for the womanizing ne’er-do-well.

 

 

 

So that’s what the Herman’s Hermits version of “Dandy” got me thinking a couple of weeks ago.  But that’s not all.  It also reminded me of all those times I’ve thought critically (or maybe even not so critically) about cover songs, and all the times I’ve wanted to geek about the subject on here but never really had enough incentive to do so.  I’ve toyed several times with the idea of compiling a top-ten list revolving around cover songs, such as “Top Ten Cover Songs You’ve Never Heard” or “Top Ten Cover Songs That are at Least as Good as the Original.”  I’ve ultimately rejected such ideas for numerous reasons:  the tedium of choosing just a select few songs that I deem worthy out of an innumerable and ever-growing entirety of cover songs;[6] the presumptuous nature of phrases like “that you’ve never heard” or even “that are at least as good as the original”; the fact that “little-known cover” just as often means “song that is well known but, unbeknownst to many, is not the original version”;[7] the whole tricky question of, “if Singer-Songwriter A writes a song, Group B records it, and then, years later, Singer-Songwriter A decides to record the song themself, who’s covering who?”[8]  You get the idea.  So I figured I’m gonna make this a regular, recurring feature on this blog instead.  ‘Cause I’ve got a lot to say about different interpretations of songs, and one blog post isn’t gonna be enough to say all I’ve gotta say.  Plus, this’ll give me a lot more to blog about on a regular basis.  Y’know, between the infrequent and ill-named Video of the Week posts; tirades against sexism, stupidity, bad radio, and what used to pass for music television; occasional Top-Ten lists involving long-defunct bands that no one my age has any excuse to know as much as I do about; and geekfests over Jack White/Noel Fielding/Muppets/etc.  Oh, yeah, and that apology to Kate Moss I’ve been meaning to write.

 

Oh, and feel free to post in the comments section.  I’d be happy to hear whatever suggestions my readers (readers?  What readers?) might have about what cover songs they’d like me to…well…cover here.  Or anything else you’d like to say, as long as it’s not nasty or immature (I’ll take criticism as long as it’s not name-call-y or irrational).  It gets lonely here sometimes.

 

Edit:  I couldn’t get the footnotes to work properly because I’m not sure how to link to another place in the same document.  So when you see a number between brackets, [like this], it means that there’s a correlating footnote at the bottom, but you’ll have to scroll down manually for now to read because I’m not tech-savvy enough.  I was hoping the footnotes would be a good alternative to the parenthetical asides that always seem to clutter up my posts, but I guess I’ll have to go back to posting like that for now.

 

[1]   And I know that this particular version was by Herman’s Hermits because it was on satellite radio and that little title screen thing told me so.

[2]   Or, in this case, a familiar group’s unfamiliar rendition of a somewhat familiar song by another familiar group.

[3]   I, for one, will always think of “Dandy” as a Kinks song.  But then, I’ll always think of “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” as a Cher song, which has spurred arguments with friends who swear by the Nancy Sinatra version.

[4]   David Lee “Just a Facsimile Gigolo” Roth, I’m looking at you.

[5]   To put things in perspective, I’m pretty sure Ray doesn’t get along too well with his own brother.  Who was also his bandmate.

[6]   Compiling a list of top studio albums or music videos of a band that’s long gone:  tricky, maybe, but manageable.  Trying to pick a tiny handful of end-all-be-all essential out of an eternally-expanding wellspring of material:  impossible and futile.

[7]   See also “Cum on Feel the Noize”; “Tainted Love”; “House of the Rising Sun”; “I Shot the Sheriff”; “All Along the Watchtower.”

[8]   See also Kris Kristofferson; Carol King; Bob Dylan.

 

So something kinda awesome happened on Q104.3 this morning. September 21, 2011

Filed under: Rants and Raves — yourbirdcansing88 @ 7:52 PM
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Former Monkee Micky Dolenz was the guest on Jim Kerr’s morning show.  Just thought I’d mention that.  And congratulations, Jim Kerr, I no longer hold a grudge against you for that ridiculous “Strange News” story from a couple months ago.  Especially since this morning I also heard you and Maria make fun of a similar “study”…something about how married men’s lives suck more because they’re married.  Y’know, the same old crap a bunch of quacks have been trying to feed us for years.  Thank you for totally not even pretending to take such a “finding” seriously.  And thank you also for having someone as awesome as Micky freakin’ Dolenz on your show.

 

16 Ways to Celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Woodstock for the Rest of the Month (or Longer) August 19, 2009

Filed under: Woodstock — yourbirdcansing88 @ 1:28 PM
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This month marks the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock Music and Art Fair (now often referred to simply as “Woodstock”).  Those who are old enough to remember the 1960s (or, like me, were brought up on a steady diet of Peter, Paul, and Mary; The Beatles; and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young), you probably have a good idea of how important a milestone in music and American culture Woodstock was.  But after hearing my mom talk about some recent conversations she’s had with slightly younger colleagues, some shocking information was revealed to me:  a great deal of people (mostly from “GWoodstock Postereneration X”, and possibly from my own generation as well) don’t realize how huge and unparalleled this event was.  Sure, Woodstock may not have been the first large-scale rock music festival (I believe the Monterey Pop Festival of 1967 was the first), nor the last one (Altamont happened only a few months later, and today there are festivals like Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo, which are held annually), but it was unique in that, for three whole days (and then some), half a million people got together and were able to mingle peacefully the entire time.  And believe me, the conditions at the concert site were far from ideal.  Attendees had to deal with heavy rainfall, scarce food, overflowing portable toilets, and having to listen to The Grateful Dead play “Turn on Your Lovelight” for over 40 minutes (no disrespect to all you Deadheads out there – I find the Dead quite enjoyable myself – but surely 40 minutes is a bit much for a song that doesn’t have too much going on in the lyric department).  Not to mention all the people who paid for their tickets and got ripped off when Woodstock was declared a “free concert.”  That is, those who even made it to the festival and didn’t get caught up in miles upon miles of traffic.  It’s a wonder, and a testament to the mutual cooperation of the concert goers, that no riots broke out (no real riots, anyway.  The only thing that may have even remotely resembled a riot was when a bunch of hippies started chanting “No rain!  No rain!” in an effort to halt the heavy downpour, while others slid through the mud in various stages of undress.  But that was all in good fun).  So anyway, what I’m getting at is this:  there’s never been any event to match the outcome of Woodstock, and the likelihood of their ever being another is incredibly slim.  Which is kind of unfortunate for me, since I was born about two decades after Woodstock and have to rely on my DVD of the documentary to even get a whiff of the essence of Woodstock (though now that I’ve put that into words, it sounds king of wrong.  I’m sure the essence of Woodstock wouldn’t smell very good, what with the Port-a-Sans and the various substances being smoked and all.  But you get what I’m driving at).  But if you want to celebrate Woodstock’s anniversary this month, or possibly the rest of the summer, or – heck – the rest of the year (as I’m very likely to be doing) here’s some (legal) ideas of ways that you can party like it’s 1969:

 

  1. Macramé something for yourself and/or loved ones.  For the most authentic experience, I’d suggest using natural hemp cord, but just about any type of string/thread/twine/yarn will do.  I’ve been working with embroidery floss myself lately).
  2. Make yourself a mixtape/CD/playlist of late-1960s hits.  Listen at full volume (or as loud as you can get away with, anyway).  Feel free to play air guitar/drums/keyboards/bass/sitar/harmonica/flute.
  3. Next time you get a heavy rainstorm, chant “No rain!  No rain!” until it stops.  Or until you lose your voice.  Or until your family and/or friends beg you to stop.
  4. After a heavy rainfall, put on a bathing suit you don’t mind getting dirty (or, depending on how private your property is, get naked) and slide through the mud.  It’s Mother Nature’s Slip ‘n’ Slide, man!
  5. Start incorporating suede fringe vests and jackets, peace sign necklaces, and Birkenstocks (I don’t care what anyone says; they’re NOT ugly shoes!) into your wardrobe.
  6. Make your own tie-dye t-shirt.
  7. Learn some yoga moves, and practice several times a week.
  8. Neglect shaving for a week.  Or two.  Or more.  This means you too, ladies.
  9. Take a road trip up to Bethel, New York (the site of the original Woostock festival.  There is also a town called Woodstock in upstate New York, but the festival didn’t actually take place there.  Still, the town of Woodstock is definitely worth checking out.  It’s very laid back and has lots of head shops and antique stores).
  10. Watch a video/DVD of the documentary Woodstock.  I recommend the 40th anniversary special edition of Woodstock that came out a couple of months ago, which I will probably be posting a review of later this week.
  11. If you don’t already own a video or DVD of the movie Hair, and if you still think capitalism isn’t that weird, go out and rent it.  Or, better yet, go and see Hair live on Broadway.  Unfortunately, I’ve not yet had the pleasure of seeing it live, but I hope to soon.
  12. Throw a Woodstock themed party.  As a bonus, encourage guests to dress up as their favorite Woodstock performer (I myself would probably go as Alvin Lee.  Either that or Arlo Guthrie).
  13. Hug a tree.
  14. Grow your hair out.  This means you too, fellas.
  15. Go and see Taking Woodstock, which will be out in theaters on the 28.  I, for one, can’t wait to see it.
  16. Incorporate the words “groovy” (meaning “cool”) and “cat” (slang term for a person of the male persuasion, although “cats” as a plural can mean a collective group made up of both males and females) into daily conversations, and tack the word “man” at the end of your sentences.
 

The Beatles’ Films March 26, 2009

During their career as a band, The Beatles made five films together — in fact, if I’m not mistaken, they were under a contract to make at least five films.  For a while, after filming their first two or three films, they were throwing some crazy ideas around which never came to fruition, including a “Lord of the Rings” adaptation (I kid you not), but what they ultimately wound up with were  two full-length comedies, one short “experimental” film, an animated feature, and a documentary.  Each film has its own particular style and plot (when there is a plot, that is.  Not all their films had one) that sets it apart from the other four, and each film shows a different side of the Fab Four, due in part to their ever-changing interests, musical style, appearance, and tolerance toward each other.

 

 

The Beatles attempt to flee from their screaming fans in "A Hard Day's Night"

The Beatles attempt to flee from their screaming fans in "A Hard Day's Night"

“A Hard Day’s Night” (1964)

 The Beatles made their first film, “A Hard Day’s Night”, right when Beatlemania was on the verge of becoming an international craze.  What better way, then, to represent The Beatles in film, than to show them running from flocks of screaming fangirls?  With the exception of “Let it Be”, “A Hard Day’s Night” is the most realistic portrayal of The Beatles as a rock band.  Not that “A Hard Day’s Night” is an extremely realistic movie, but it does feature the band having to deal with the usual strains that come with superstardom:  bossy managers, humorless newspaper reporters who don’t “get it”, humorless teen magazine publishers who think they “get it” but don’t, fussy TV producers with no fashion sense, and of course, the stampedes of hormone-charged teenagers.  And when they’re not dealing with those things, the boys have to struggle to keep Paul’s sinister grandfather from causing mayhem.  Songs featured:  “A Hard Day’s Night”; “I Should Have Known Better”; “Can’t Buy Me Love”; “And I Love Her”; “Tell Me Why”.  Recommended if:  You’re a fan of The Beatles.  Avoid if:  You simply cannot endure to watch anything in black-and-white (what’s wrong with you?!  Don’t you know how many great films you’re missing out on?!  Jeeeeeez).

 

The Beatles making music on a snowy slope in "Help!"

The Beatles making music on a snowy slope in "Help!"

“Help!” (1965)

After making a relatively realistic (if a little far-fetched) black-and-white film about a day in the life of a typical world-famous rock group, The Beatles took a totally different approach with “Help!”  While the majority of “A Hard Day’s Night” took place all in the same city, “Help!” has The Beatles traveling all over the world with the life of their very own Ringo at stake.  It all starts when a religious cult all the way out in the “East” (i.e. Asia) are about to make their daily sacrifice to their goddess, Kaili (at least I think that’s how it’s spelled), when they find that their sacrificial ring, without which they cannot continue the sacrifice, has gone missing.  But how did it wind up on the finger of The Beatles’ drummer?  And what will happen to Ringo now that the ring won’t come off?  And why are a couple of third-rate mad scientists suddenly after the ring as well? Whatever the case, pretty soon the boys will either have to find a way to get that ring off their drummer’s finger, or find themselves a new drummer.  “Help!”, unlike “A Hard Day’s Night”, is in color, which really enhances the aesthetic effect of certain scenes, like the ones inside the band’s groovy color-coded apartment.  Songs Featured:  “Help!”; “You’re Going to Lose That Girl”; “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away”; “Ticket to Ride”; “She’s a Woman”. Recommended if:  You like action/adventure films; Ringo Starr is your favorite Beatle; you enjoy Monty Python-type humor.  Avoid if:  You are extremely sensitive to outdated ethnic stereotypes, particularly those pertaining to Asians.  This movie isn’t racist or anything, and the stereotypes are pretty mild for a movie made at that time, but I know those things bother some people, so I’m just putting it out there.

 

John is the walrus!

John is the walrus!

“Magical Mystery Tour” (1967)

“Magical Mystery Tour”, having virtually no plot and playing out like an hour-long acid trip, is panned more harshly than any other Beatles movie.  However, there are many who still enjoy it nonetheless (Me, for one.  Steven Spielberg is apparently also a big fan, and it just so happens to be my roommate’s favorite Beatles movie).  It also features some memorable musical sequences, which are basically music videos inserted between scenes.  And keep in mind that this is almost two decades before MTV.  Also notable is a guest appearance by The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band (I’m not quite sure who they are, either.  But my Uncle Mark loves them), who sing “Death Cab for Cutie” (way before the title became the name of a band) during a striptease (nothing explicit — a huge censor bar covers up all toplessness).  There’s not much more I can really say about “Magical Mystery Tour”, since the movie is just too weird for words.  But if your movie tastes are anything like mine, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, now is it?  Songs Featured:  “Magical Mystery Tour”; “Fool on the Hill”; “I am the Walrus”; “Blue Jay Way”; “Your Mother Should Know”  Recommended if:  You like weird movies; you’ve even heard of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band; you’ve always wanted to see John Lennon in a walrus suit.  Avoid if:  You prefer movies that have plots.  There’ll be none of that in this movie!

 

The Beatles in cartoon form.

The Beatles in cartoon form

“Yellow Submarine” (1968)

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this one.  I’ve been watching “Yellow Submarine” since I was a little kid, even though the first time I saw it, it scared the crap out of me.  In this film, animated versions of the Fab Four travel the seven seas in the titular submarine in order to aid their new friend, Old Fred, in rescuing the undersea utopia of Pepperland from the tyrannical Blue Meanies.  How do The Beatles defeat the Meanies?  With music, of course!  Sadly, The Beatles do not provide their own voices for the cartoon versions of themselves, and in fact had very little to do with the film at all.  It wasn’t until after they saw the film that they decided that they liked it, and a brief live action scene of the four of them was filmed and tacked onto the end of the film.  Songs featured:  “Yellow Submarine”; “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds”; “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”; “All Together Now”; “When I’m Sixty-Four”.  Recommended if:  You’re looking for an animated movie that looks nothing like Disney; you like fantasy films.  Avoid if:  You hate the sight of 1960s psychedelic posters; you’re looking for a good animated movie to show your very young scaredy-cat child (just wait a few years, and then they’ll love it).

 

The Beatles' rooftop concert at the end of "Let it Be"

The Beatles' rooftop concert at the end of "Let it Be"

“Let it Be” (1970)

“Let it Be” was a documentary filmed in 1969.  It was meant to document the recording of an album, but it wound up being most of all the portrait of a band falling apart.  The Beatles were practically at each other’s throats at this point, with Paul bossing everyone around and John’s girlfriend Yoko Ono encroaching on the band’s recording space.  At one point, Paul and George get into a huge argument over a guitar solo in a song.  Nevertheless, this film also shows that, when The Beatles put aside their differences long enough to make music together, the result still sounds incredible.  And in spite of all their quarrelling, they really all seem to have a lot of fun during the rooftop concert at the film’s end.  The movie also features lots of great keyboard work by Billy Preston, one of the people most frequently regarded as the “fifth Beatle”, due to his work on the “Let it Be” album.  Unfortunately, due to the fragile egos of the two remaining Beatles, “Let it Be” will not be released on DVD any time soon.  But if for some reason you ever get the opportunity to see “Let it Be”, I would not recommend that you pass it up.  Songs featured:  “Let it Be”; “The Long and Winding Road”; “Don’t Let Me Down”; “For You Blue”; “I’ve Got a Feeling”.  Recommended if:  You ever wondered what a band breakup looks like; you want to see an honest portrayal of The Beatles, warts and all.  Avoid if:  You want to continue thinking of The Beatles as a happy band that never had a quarrel in all the years they were together.

 

5 Beatles Albums Every Fan Should Hear March 24, 2009

Think you’re a Beatles fan after listening to “1” and/or the soundtrack to “Across the Universe”?  Think again, my friend.  If you really want to get acquainted with the Fab Four’s most significant material, I suggest that you check out at least a couple of the following albums as soon as possible.

 

Rubber Soul“Rubber Soul” (1965)

After several relatively homogenous albums of upbeat pop-rock love songs (which are the main reason why some of my peers dismiss The Beatles, claiming “all their songs sound the same”) , The Beatles came out with the folk-infused “Rubber Soul”.  While this album still features many songs about love, they tend to focus on less-than-perfect romantic situations.  In fact, many of the songs on the album were inspired by the real-life relationship issues Paul McCartney was going through with his then-girlfriend, actress Jane Asher.  The most positive love songs on “Rubber Soul” are about a different kind of love entirely:  “The Word” deals with universal love, a subject which The Beatles would later expand upon with “All You Need is Love”; “In My Life” is about love for every person who’s had an impact on one’s life.  This album also marks the first time a sitar was ever used in a pop song, on “Norwegian Wood” (the sitar would figure prominently in popular music for the rest of the 1960s).  And then there’s the album’s closer, “Run for Your Life”, which is so catchy that it might take several listens before you realize how horribly misogynistic it is.

 

Revolver“Revolver” (1966)

“Revolver” came out right after “Rubber Soul” and right before “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, and the transistion between the band’s folksy rock sound on the former and the psychedelic and orchestral sounds they adopted for the latter can be plainly heard on this album.  “Revolver” has The Beatles experimenting with instruments not typical to rock music (“Eleanor Rigby” features a string quartet; several Indian instruments are used in “Love You To”), backwards tracking (“I’m Only Sleeping” features a backwards guitar solo),  social commentary (“Taxman” is told from the point of view of a ruthless tax collector, who asserts “You’re working for no one but me.”), and just altogether weird sounds (i.e. “Tomorrow Never Knows”).  Love songs are even fewer on “Revolver” than on “Rubber Soul”, although it does feature the tender “Here, There, and Everywhere”, and the joyous “Got to Get You Into My Life” (which is for all intents and purposes a love song, even though I’ve heard that it’s actually written not for a woman, but for a certain mind-altering herb.  But you’d never know that just from listening to it).  And of course there’s everybody’s favorite (NOT!), “Yellow Submarine”, which I’m sure you’ve probably heard countless times before (I know I have.  And if you ever meet a hardcore Beatles fan, my best advice is to NOT sing “Yellow Submarine” to them.  I shudder to think of the possible consequences), as well as one of my own personal favorites, “And Your Bird Can Sing”, which the typical Beatles novice has never heard of.

 

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” (1967)

What can I say about this album that hasn’t been said already?  Honestly, this isn’t one of my favorite Beatles albums, and I have serious doubts regarding the claim that it’s “the first concept album ever”, but the fact is that “Sgt. Pepper” is an important album and therefore is essential for anyone who claims to be a Beatles fan to hear.  Highlights on this album include the trippy “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds”, the heartbreaking “She’s Leaving Home” (try not to cry the first couple of times you hear this one.  I dare you), the bawdy “Lovely Rita”, and the epic “A Day in the Life”, which I consider to be one of the greatest songs The Beatles ever did.  I’d advise you not to doze off around the end of this album, or you might be startled out of your skin by some weird noises that come up after “A Day in the Life” fades out.  Fear not:  it’s just the boys messing around in the studio.

 

The White Album“The Beatles”, a.k.a. “The White Album” (1968)

Remember those people I was talking about before, the ones who complain that “all The Beatles’ songs sound the same”?  They’ve obviously never heard “The White Album”, which is by far the most ecclectic album The Beatles ever recorded.  There’s thirty tracks on this double album, and not a single one sounds like any of the others.  On “The White Album”, The Beatles dabble in genres such as the blues (“Yer Blues” and “Why Don’t We Do it in the Road?”), country (“Rocky Raccoon” and “Don’t Pass Me By”), ragtime (“Honey Pie”), folk (“Mother Nature’s Son” and “Blackbird”), and doo-wop (“Revolution 1”).  The album also includes some harbingers of future rock genres, most notably with the shockingly proto-metal “Helter Skelter”.  And then there’s “Revolution 9”, a creepy, 8-minute montage of noise that defies explanation.  This album has something for everyone.

 

Abbey Road“Abbey Road” (1969)

“Abbey Road” was the last album The Beatles ever recorded (“Let it Be” was released after “Abbey Road”, but was recorded before it), and one of their best.  The fact that the band’s members could hardly stand to be in the same room at that point clearly had no bearing on their ability to sound more amazing together than they ever had.  The first half of the album includes gems like “Something”, “Oh! Darling”, “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” (a delightful little ditty about a homicidal maniac which, for some reason, even my most Beatles-resistant friends seem to love), “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”, and “Here Comes the Sun”; the second half of the album is made up of a couple of medleys, plus “Her Majesty”, the brief and charming “extra track” tacked on a few seconds after “The End” ends.  I don’t think The Beatles could have ended any better.