A while ago I wrote that I plan to write some posts about music that was defining for me, and I started with this post, listing fifteen such bands and artists. I mentioned that it would be a starting point or index of sorts, and that I plan on writing a full post about each of them.
And the first band on there is The Beatles.
Which presents a bit of a problem.
I mean, there’s really not a lot I can say about them that hasn’t been said before.
I could go the whole Personal route. I could say I started listening to The Beatles because my mom had one of their albums. I could mention that the first album I bought was going to be Magical Mystery Tour, but instead I got an album named Beatles Rarities. And then went back 30 minutes later and got Magical Mystery Tour, too.
I could write that when I was about 15, and had about 12 Beatles records to my name (yeah, on vinyl, must do post on vinyl being crap) and both our record players died and we got a CD player, I sold all my Beatles records and got juuust enough money to buy one CD, and that the one I got was Rubber Soul (and I could mention that by the powers of coincidental synchronisity, Drive My Car just came on the media center).
I could go on about how George Harrison was extremely undervalued in the band, and that John Lennon was really kind of a whiner (which would be a lot cooler to do if anyone actually read this thing and we could get a nice flame war going, especially if I went on to say that the original lyrics for Imagine were “Imagine no possessions, it’s easy when you’re rich”).
Instead, I’m going to write about my favourite Beatles song, which happens to be Strawberry Fields Forever.
Come on, coincidental synchronisity! No? Ok, fine, I’ll put it on myself.
Strawberry Fields Forever is one of those songs you don’t really appreciate till you get a nice sound system. This is because it is just so well engineered. It kind of had to be, since it’s really an amalgamation two different versions which were recorded at different tempos and in different keys.
It is also one of the first (if not the actual first) recordings to feature a Mellotron, which is a very very strange instrument – it’s basically an old-school sampler but without the electronics and synthesis (obviously). It’s a keyboard instrument, and playing the keys activates actual loop tapes.
And the cellos! Nevermind George Harrison, it’s George Martin who never gets any credit. Most of the orchestral/instrumental stuff in any Beatles songs was actually scored by him.
The song is also a fine tribute to obfuscation, which is another thing John Lennon was really good at. Consider the following verse from the song:
No one I think is in my tree
I mean it must be high or low
At first glance that seems semi-nonsensical. But when you consider that the original line was “No one I think is in my frequency“, it suddenly seems to make a lot more sense.
And of course right at the end it’s got some further obfuscation, where John Lennon decided to say “Cranberry Sauce”. Not to anyone in particular, it apparently got picked up by the drum microphones, so it’s faint and hard to hear… and a lot of people think he’s saying “I buried Paul” which is another piece of that whole bit of nonsense.
Ok, that’s enough about that. Hopefully the next band on my list is a bit more obscure and… what? Pink Floyd? Oh, great! Well I’ve got some time to come up with an original take on that one.