Tomorrow marks the first of my two favorite spring Saturdays. Since 2007, the third Saturday in April has celebrated independent record stores around the world with exclusive vinyl pressings, re-issues, and live performances. April 21, 2012, is Record Store Day. Dust off the turntables, and wake up early, because with runs as low as 1000 copies on some sexy seven-inches, there won’t be much left on the racks come April 22.
The next big brick-and-mortar blowout happens the first Saturday in May. Don’t worry: expect a post on Free Comic Book Day 2012 in the very near future.
Here are the five exclusives atop my wishlist:
5. M83 – “Mirror” (Mute) 7″ etched disc
M83’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming dropped in at eighth on Idle Time’s favorite records of 2011, and the standout single “Midnight City” was on the shortlist for Top 100 songs of the Idle Time Decade. The also great “Mirror,” a hidden track on Dreaming, gets the limited edition etched vinyl treatment tomorrow. Limited to 2000.
This week gives us three books under the AvX banner: Wolverine and the X-Men 9, Avengers 25, and the second “round” of the main series, Avengers vs. X-Men 2.
Check out those tie-in books, True Believers. Jason Aaron just might be the best there is at what he does. And what he does is write Wolverine. Bendis is united with a real legend on this Avengers book. Welcome back, Walt Simonson. I could make the same “best there is” comment about you and drawing Thor. But what we’re really waiting for is that second issue of the limited series and the expected showdown between Captain America and Cyclops.
Only one book with the AvX banner this week, and New Avengers 24 is mostly flashback setting up the opening bell of last week’s Avengers vs. X-Men 1.
Even so, there’s a tense stretch of four or five pages featuring Luke Cage all riled up and dealing with a crowd of protesters outside Avengers Mansion. Come on, Luke… Say it… Say it…
But no. “In this house” is as close as he gets. Those of you who predicted that “Luke Cage yells “In MY house'” at some point during the event, are going to have to sit tight. No points scored this time around. But don’t worry: there’s a really good chance Cage is going to get pissed off again before this story wraps, and it could very well happen at home.
But for now, the points tally from last week hasn’t changed.
Over the last few months doing the Beatle Battles I’ve lived and breathed John, Paul, George, and Ringo. Can I possibly find any more to say about this band for this last Beatles Post*? Yeah, I think I can….
The Beatles are the greatest band that ever was or ever will be. Sure that’s just my opinion, but it also happens to be the truth. I could on for days about how their music influenced generation after generation, and how most likely your favorite band at the moment owes a debt to the Beatles, regardless of the genre. But you’ve heard it all before. I think instead I’ll talk about a word The Beatles sang about over and over. Love.
“All you need is love.” Absolutely goddamn right. If I’ve learned one thing in my 40 years on this planet is that love is the guiding force of human beings. It is what we are here for. Carl Jung said…
“As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.”
I believe that light he is talking about is love. Carl Sagan said…
“For small creatures such as we the vastness (of space) is bearable only through love.”
That’s my favorite quote of all time and one I want on my tombstone, because I believe 100% that it is the truth. The Beatles sang this message to us countless times.
Don’t get the wrong idea, I’m not praising the individual men of The Beatles and placing them in some sort of high pedestal next to Jesus, Gandhi, Buddha, or Mohammad. Shit, I think John Lennon was kind of a prick for abandoning his son Julian. Ringo and George did more cocaine in the 70’s than Tony Montana in Scarface. And McCartney? I downright loathe the man. But together, these flawed guys made something important. Something lasting and significant. Human beings are not perfect – but we can create perfection in our art. That is the magic of our existence. The Miracle of us.
Events with odds against so astronomical they’re effectively impossible, like oxygen spontaneously becoming gold. I long to observe such a thing. And yet, in each human coupling, a thousand million sperm vie for a single egg. Multiply those odds by countless generations, against the odds of your ancestors being alive, meeting, siring this precise son, that exact daughter…
Until your mother loves a man, and of that union, of the thousand million children competing for fertilization, it was you, only you, that emerged.
To distill so specific a form from that chaos of improbability, like turning air to gold, that is the crowning unlikelihood.
The thermodynamic miracle.
The miracle of The Beatles will last forever. It started with my father’s generation. My Dad bought the White Album when it came out in 1968. Almost 20 years later his son would discover that record in his collection and place it on the turntable and listen as the music changed his life. Another 20 years pass and my 13 year old daughter is singing “Penny Lane” with me in the car as we drive down the highway and I can see her smile as the same music that moved me and her grandfather is now moving her. And in another 20 years, perhaps her own child will dig out some old mp3’s of their Mom’s and hit play and hear what those four boys from Liverpool created all those years ago.
The message will always be the same – all you need is love. Without love we are lost. The Beatles preached this to us all time and time again. For this reason alone, The Beatles are my favorite band of all time.
The current Avengers vs. X-Men event seems like a pretty big deal. In reality, it’s just the latest in a long line of summer superhero spectaculars. These character-heavy, game-changing crossovers have been annual staples for Marvel and DC for decades, and in recent years the Big Two have made promotion of these events a top priority. In 2008, Marvel ran a TV commercial heralding their Secret Invasion, and just last year DC went viral with their promo for the New 52 reboot, even securing space in the advance screenings blocks of major movie auditoriums.
Marketing gimmicks and overused superlatives aside, there have been some genuinely entertaining superhero events that have stood the test of time. The best of these may be important in relation to continuity, or how they change the way comic book stories and characters are handled, but first and foremost they’re meant to be fun, like good Hollywood blockbusters. For this reason you won’t see DC’s seminal Crisis on Infinite Earths on this list. Yes, it was important and ground-breaking, but it was never meant for casual readership. Quite the opposite in fact. Personally, I could give a shit about justifying decades of continuity; just tell a good story and rattle the cages once in a while. These are four-color soap operas, not scrolls of apocrypha.
I’ve also disqualified storylines that were developed specifically within the confines of regular monthly titles. Marvel’s Age of Apocalypse had “event-like” gravity and ramifications, and was a damn good yarn, but it really was just a massive crossover. The events on this list, like this summer’s Avengers vs. X-Men, are built around a central limited series, with story extensions crossing over and tying in with existing books. And hopefully, like the central blocks of each of the events on this list, AvX will be a damn good yarn all by itself.
5. Avengers Disassembled / House of M (Marvel, 2004-2005)
I’m already breaking rule number two. Sort of. The “Disassembled” story was an Avengers family crossover, incorporating the main book’s storyline with plots in Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man. The real event took place when series author Brian Michael Bendis connected this story to 2005’s House of M limited series.
Hard to believe now, but there was a time not too very long ago that The Avengers was a struggling, stagnant book. In fact, a decade ago, had you asked the average pop culture enthusiast to name teams of superheroes, you probably wouldn’t get further than The Justice League and The X-Men, maybe Fantastic Four and Teen Titans. What Bendis did for this team, by destroying and rebuilding them, was revelatory. Marvel today features four groups of Avengers, each with its own monthly title, and two monthlies for each of the three aforementioned primary characters (although Journey into Mystery is more Loki’s book than Thor’s). And of course the upcoming movie, and the five Marvel Studios films that have led up to it, have made The Avengers a household word. It started with Bendis.
Bendis displayed a penchant for dialogue, and sharp stories, with a pair of crime series for Caliber in the 90’s. He earned his superhero stripes with Ultimate Spider-Man beginning in 2000. What he hadn’t demonstrated prior to this Avengers stint, was an incredible ability to script team books. It’s not an easy task juggling great dialogue with clever plots all while respecting the ensemble dynamic. Some of the best comic book writers have failed miserably when trying to work with a big cast of big personalities (I’m looking at you, Geoff Johns). The Avengers have had some great stories since Stan Lee first assembled this team back in 1963, but some of the most memorable have come courtesy of Brian Michael Bendis.
This phoenix-esque Avengers burnout sees The Scarlet Witch go crazy and break down her former teammates in every way imaginable. Tony Stark has a drunken meltdown; Vision helps demolish the mansion; and characters like Hawkeye, Ant-Man, and Jack of Hearts perish (comic book deaths, which are famously temporary, but still…) Then comes the Scarlet Witchhunt. And House of M.
The Avengers and X-Men may be dueling this summer, but in the summer of 2005 they were united to deal with a common problem: the reality-warping powers of Wanda Maximoff and her less than tenuous grip on reality. Wolverine’s solution: kill the bitch. Cap: now wait a second. But before either has a chance to sway popular opinion, the Witch shows off the full extent of her powers and reshapes the universe into a world in which mutants are dominant, and daddy dearest Magneto rules the roost as the head of the House of M. The epic climax includes the famous last words, “No more mutants,” which has had repercussions in the Marvel universe ever since. Cyclops’s current state of violent mania in Avengers vs. X-Men, actually, has everything to do with mutants’ current position as an endangered species.
The tie-in series and crossovers are fairly worthless, although House of M: Spider-Man focuses on the fun fact that Peter Parker is a celebrity, secretly pretending that he, too, is a mutant and part of the ruling class.
64 Beatles songs went in, only 4 came out. Here they are, the winners for each Division:
Winner of Division 1: The Clean Cut Years (songs written between 1961 and 1964)
“Hard Days Night”
My thoughts on the song:
I’m just gonna get this out-of-the-way here first – I’m not the biggest fan of The Beatles work during this period of their career. “Love, love me do…” come on, pretty trite lyrics and simple melodies, but such was all the rage in popular music in these years – and popular music was just learning to crawl at this time in history. Before Elvis, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, Gene Vincent, and others burst onto the scene in the 1950’s, music was dominated by the “doo bee doo bee doo” crooner’s and the death rattle of classical music. Rock and Roll showed up with three cords and a southern back beat – it showed everyone that music could be much more than they ever thought it could. This was music people grew to love. This kind of music was a hit. It was popular. This was birth of “POP” music.
Over in Liverpool the kids were eating this popular music up. John Lennon and Paul McCartney spent their days and nights playing covers of these tunes. Honing their skills as musicians playing covers of “Be Bop A Lula” and “Long Tall Sally” – like I said, simple songs but ones that people loved to hear. This shit was new and fresh and made you tap your foot. This music spoke to generation that had previously only been given what their parents listened to. Finally, there was a movement for the youth to latch onto – and latch onto it they did. Beatlemania was a result of this. A result of the birth of Popular Music and rebellion that followed. Beatlemania was not about the “songs” – it was about the message being delivered across the airwaves. The song “A Hard Days Night” is a by the numbers pop song with some hints at things to come from these four guys. That opening cord to the song is one of those hints. Check it out…..
That one single cord blows the doors off anything Elvis or Richard or Holly had ever done. It opened the flood gates and made us all turn our heads and take notice. But the best was yet to come.
Winner of Division 2: The Shaggy Years (songs written between 1965 and 1966)
“In My Life”
My thoughts on the song:
Drugs are bad mmmmkay. But there was a time when drugs helped the musicians in the mid 60’s look beyond those 3 cords they were playing over and over again and try something “different”. When The Beatles met Bob Dylan and smoked weed with him, brand new doors were opening in the heads of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Doors that would have stayed shut if not for the drugs influence on them. McCartney in interviews today is reluctant to talk about the things they did back then because of what drugs have become in our society today. It was a more innocent time back then and Paul doesn’t want to send out the wrong message – that doing drugs will make you write songs like The Beatles. It won’t. Believe me I tried. McCartney is completely right – things were different then and weed did indeed cause these dudes to write songs that they never would have even attempted before. Songs that were about more than just holding hands. Dylan should be given full credit for putting The Beatles on the path to better songwriting – well that, and the ganja.
“In My Life” is one of my all time favorite Beatles songs. I sang it for my sister’s wedding. I’ve played it in my car countless times and cried a couple of those times. Not many songs can make me do that. It is absolutely and completely beautiful and true. Lennon is writing his first true song here, and he knows it. You can feel Lennon’s spirit in the melody (even though Paul tried to take credit for writing the song). It is Lennon’s presence we are in when those opening notes played by Harrison ring out. It is Lennon’s touch we feel when the George Martin harpsichord solo shows up in the middle of the tune. And it is Lennon alone we hear when he sings the very last line of this song, by himself, with no music – in that stunning falsetto , “… in myyyyy life…I love you more.” This is John Lennon’s gift to us all and he means every word. It is one of the greatest songs to ever be written. Ever. Thanks John.
take a listen one more time
Winner of Division 3: The Mustache Years (songs written between 1967 and 1968)
“Strawberry Fields Forever”
My thoughts on the song:
George Martin has proclaimed the biggest mistake he ever made with The Beatles was leaving “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane” off of the Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album. Both of these songs were to be the foundation of this new album by a brand new “non-touring” Beatles. But the record company executives wanted a single out so Martin and the crew gave them these first two songs and left them off the album. Total fucking mistake.
As it is, Pepper is a great album – artistically it was ground-breaking and revolutionary. No other band had done anything like this before: a record as a piece of art. musically though I think it is a tad over-rated and not my favorite Beatles record. BUT, if “Strawberry Fields” and “Penny Lane” had been on the album, two of the greatest songs to ever been written by a human being, well shit dude, Pepper would be my favorite album of all time.
So for fun let’s see what Sgt Pepper would have looked like if George Martin hadn’t of fucked up:
SGT PEPPERS LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND
Track 1. “Sgt Peppers Lonely Heart’s Club Band”
Track 2. “With a Little Help From My Friends”
Track 3. “Penny Lane”
Track 4. “Being For the Benefit of Mr Kite”
Track 5. “She’s Leaving Home”
Track 6. “Strawberry Fields Forever”
Track 1. “Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds”
Track 2. “Getting Better”
Track 3. “Fixing a Hole”
Track 4. “Within You Without You”
Track 5. “Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band (reprise)”
Track 6. “A Day in the Life”
Open up your iTunes, pop in a blank CD and try it out for yourself. Pretty great album yeah?
It was during this time of change that Paul McCartney began to grab the reins of the band away from John Lennon, who had started The Beatles back in 1961. Lennon was becoming less and less interested in what a Pop Band was supposed to do and more interested in what they could get away with. McCartney on the other hand loved the attention and loved the spotlight. He pretty much kept The Beatles together after the “Bigger than Jesus” fall out, and Pepper was just the cure the band needed at the time. Pepper was a big “fuck you” wrapped in a colorful package.
As I talked about before, drugs played a big part in John Lennon’s development as a songwriter. Strawberry Fields has a very hallucinatory effect on the listener. The song is not about drugs, but its influence is felt in the construction of the tune. I ran across this awesome YouTube clip where it shows the complete evolution of the song. It shows that John had been thinking about the melody all the way back in 1964, but just didn’t know what to do with it. Years later and a couple of acid trips under his belt, Lennon began assembling his masterpiece. Check this shit out…
Pretty fucking awesome yeah? I love this song. I can remember the first time I heard it, around 1986. I was just getting into The Beatles thanks to my Dad’s record collection and was playing the shit out of the White Album. I took a quick trip to the local record store and picked up a cassette of Magical Mystery Tour. I played the tape in my parents Toyota Van driving around town and when Strawberry Fields came on I had to stop and listen. There are 3 moments in my life where music changed everything. The first was when my Mom was driving me to the dentist around 1981, after John Lennon had been murdered and his song “Watching The Wheels” was playing on the radio. And when Lennon gets to the part of the song where it goes, “No longer riding on the merry-go-round!” that was the first time I knew music could speak to me like nothing else. Another time was when I first heard Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit“. After years of hair bands dominating the radio and MTV, I couldn’t believe what my ears just heard coming out of the speakers. I immediately went to The Underground and bought a copy of Nevermind. But in between those two events, there was “Strawberry Fields Forever”. A single song that made me want to write music as beautiful as that. It made me feel alive in a way that I can never fully explain. It showed me the ultimate power of music and what it can do to your soul – fill it with wonder and restore your faith. In all intents and purposes, it was my first religious experience.
(side note: all these musical events took place in a car, which explains that to this day, there is nothing I like better than popping in a cd and driving.)
Winner of Division 4: The Beard Years (songs written between 1968 and 1970)
My thoughts on the song:
Well, whatta know – it’s a John Lennon Sweep. All the songs that won their division were written exclusively by Lennon (with a little help from his friends to be sure). One of his last contributions to the band before its break up was “Come Together” – a mind fuck of a tune, and more than any other Lennon song, has stood the test of time and feels like it could be released today and still hit number one. It is a timeless composition and one that kicks off Side One of possibly the greatest Beatles album of them all, Abbey Road.
But I didn’t always feel this way about this song. In fact there was a time when I fast forwarded it to get to the next song on the album “Something”. I blame this on Michael Jackson. Behold….
Jackson covered this song back in 1995 for his “HIStory” album, and for some reason every time I heard the REAL “Come Together”, I couldn’t get Jacko grabbing himself out of my head. So for years I avoided the song like the plague, for fear of visions of crotches dancing in my head. Then one day in 2006 I ran across the soundtrack to the Cirque du Soleil show of Love, which was set to the songs of The Beatles. It was like listening to a brand new Beatles album. George Martin and his son Giles poured over the orignal master Abbey Road recordings and “reassembled” brand new versions of the songs we loved, using only stuff recorded by The Beatles – no outside recordings were used. The result is pretty goddamn awesome.
Here is what George Martin had to say about the song while working on this album…
“Listening again to all these great tracks in such detail you can’t help but be knocked out by the band’s writing and performances. “Come Together” is such a simple song but it stands out because of the sheer brilliance of the performers. Paul’s bass riff makes a fantastic foundation for Ringo’s imaginative drumming, and John’s vocal with heavy tape echo has a marvelous effect when he claps his hands and hisses into the microphone. George’s guitar is equally distinctive, and altogether I believe this is one of the Beatles greatest tracks.” – from the liner notes of Love, the soundtrack
And as usual, he is absolutely right. Take a listen to the song here….
That is motherfucking bad ass. I love it when after years of hearing a song you rediscover it in some new way, the album Love did that for me with “Come Together”. To quote Macaulay Culkin, “I’m glad I got the Micheal Jackson stain off me.”
In 2003, longtime Friend of the Program Jeremy L. commented that, while he enjoyed the hell out of the Best of ’03 compilation, there was nary a female vocalist in the batch. Ten cycles later, a quarter through 2012, and I’m in love with a half-dozen recordings featuring the fairer sex, not a one of whom is Swedish, Japanese, or even Swedish-Japanese.
Atop the list is the debut LP from Poliça, Give You the Ghost (Totally Gross National Product). The Minneapolis group is dueling drums, haunting synths, and slick basslines, all stitched together by the hypnotic vocals of Channy Leaneagh. Had you told me before I listened to this album that every track would feature varying degrees of auto-tunage, I probably wouldn’t have bothered. Instead, I’m blown away by the dichotomy. Frenetic percussion Pinocchio wants so desperately to be a real boy. It breathes and yells and runs around the stage… and is then soothed by a tender voice reverb-ed into robot binary. Check out “Dark Star” and fall under the spell.
It didn’t take long for the scoring opportunities to pop up in our AvX Pick ’em Points Pool. Even before the actual “versus” action unfolds, Cyclops gives that bratty Hope kid an optic blast to the gut.
The following contest entrants, who all successfully predicted that “Cyclops optic-blasts a fellow X-Man,” are up 5 points after just one week and a single issue. Remember: everyone can score an easy two points just by liking The Institute and our partner in this endeavor, Comics & Collectibles, on Facebook. And if you’re heading over to the C&C Facebook page, you can check out pictures from Tuesday’s Avengers vs. X-Men Launch Party. Thanks to Gene, Pam, Rex, and Erik for making it happen!
Well after weeks of battling here are the 8 songs that have made it to the Division Championships. The winners of this battle will go on to the Final Fight to determine which Beatles song is the greatest of all time!
Let’s get to it!
DIVISION 1: THE CLEAN CUT YEARS – CHAMPIONSHIP FIGHT!
Hard Days Night vs Things We Said Today
The Tale of the Tape:Hard Days Night
John Lennon wrote this song in 1964. The lyrics were written in ball-point pin on the back of an old birthday card.
John Lennon – double-tracked lead vocal (verses), electric and acoustic rhythm guitars
Paul McCartney – double-tracked vocal (middle-eight), harmony vocal, bass
George Harrison – lead guitar
Ringo Starr – drums, bongos, cowbell
George Martin – piano
The song is composed in the key of G major and in a 4/4 time signature.
The Opening cord to this song is the “The Cord heard around the world!” Played by George Harrison there are many different opinions on the cord itself. Is it a G7add9sus4 cord? Or a G7sus4 one? Or maybe G11sus4? Regardless it is a cord that defines the early years of the Beatles and one that you can “name that tune in one note“.
Chart Position and Awards:
Spent 13 weeks on the billboard charts, 2 of them at number 1.
In 1965 it won The Beatles the Grammy Award for Best Performance by a Vocal Group. In 2004, this song was ranked number 153 on Rolling Stone‘s list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”.
The Tale of the Tape:Things We Said Today
Paul McCartney wrote the song in May 1964 while cruising the Caribbean aboard a yacht called Happy Days with his then-girlfriend Jane Asher.
Paul McCartney – double-tracked vocal, bass
John Lennon – acoustic rhythm guitar, piano
George Harrison – lead guitar
Ringo Starr – drums, tambourine
McCartney was particularly satisfied with his chord change, F major to B flat major—instead of the more obvious F minor—which first occurs beneath “…wishing you weren’t so far away” in the song.John Lennon accentuates McCartney’s strident acoustic guitar strumming by triple hitting a low A note on a piano. The tempo of the song moves from ballad to rock and back with a minor to major key change during its middle eight section.
Chart Position and Awards:
Things We Said Today was first released on 10 July 1964. On that day Parlophone issued the A Hard Day’s Night album and single in the UK. The song was on the second side of both releases, which were both chart toppers.
It was also included on the EP Extracts From The Album A Hard Day’s Night, which was released on 6 November 1964.
In the US it first appeared on the album Something New, which was released on 20 July 1964.
DIVISION 2: THE SHAGGY YEARS – CHAMPIONSHIP FIGHT!
We Can Work It Out vs In My Life
The Tale of the Tape: We Can Work It Out
Paul McCartney (with some help from John Lennon) wrote the words and music to the verses and the chorus, with lyrics that “might have been personal, probably a reference to his relationship with Jane Asher.
Paul McCartney – double-tracked vocal, bass
John Lennon – harmony vocal, acoustic rhythm guitar, harmonium
George Harrison – tambourine
Ringo Starr – drums
Paul says, “I took it to John to finish it off, and we wrote the middle together. Which is nice: ‘Life is very short. There’s no time for fussing and fighting, my friend.’ Then it was George Harrison’s idea to put the middle into waltz time, like a German waltz. That came on the session, it was one of the cases of the arrangement being done on the session.”
With its intimations of mortality, Lennon’s contribution to the twelve-bar bridge contrasts typically with what Lennon saw as McCartney’s cajoling optimism, a contrast also seen in other collaborations by the pair, such as “Getting Better” and “I’ve Got a Feeling”. As Lennon told Playboy in 1980:
“In We Can Work It Out, Paul did the first half, I did the middle eight. But you’ve got Paul writing, ‘We can work it out / We can work it out’—real optimistic, y’know, and me, impatient: ‘Life is very short, and there’s no time / For fussing and fighting, my friend.'”
Based on those comments, some critics overemphasised McCartney’s optimism, neglecting the toughness in passages written by McCartney,such as “Do I have to keep on talking until I can’t go on?”. Lennon’s middle shifts focus from McCartney’s concrete reality to a philosophical perspective in B minor, illustrating this with the waltz-time section suggested by George Harrison that leads back to the verse,possibly meant to suggest tiresome struggle.
Chart Position and Awards:
Day Tripper was originally intended to be The Beatles’ final single of 1965. However, We Can Work It Out was felt by the group and Brian Epstein to be the more commercial song.
Lennon disagreed, and fought to retain Day Tripper as the lead song. The result was the single being marketed as the world’s first double a-side, which was released on 3 December in the UK – the same day as Rubber Soul; and three days later in the US.
Of the two songs, We Can Work It Out was more commonly requested by record buyers, and was likewise favoured by radio stations. In the UK it entered the chart at number one five days after its release, where it remained for five weeks and sold over a million copies.
We Can Work It Out/Day Tripper also topped the charts in the US. It was The Beatles’ fastest-selling single since Can’t Buy Me Love. It was with this release that Lennon’s dominance of The Beatles began to cede to McCartney, who was steadily becoming more influential as a musical leader of the group.
The Tale of the Tape:In My Life
John Lennon is credited with writing this tune but Paul McCartney has said in later interviews after The Beatles broke up, that he contributed to the final version and in some cases taking full credit for the entire melody (see, whatta dick!). The extent of Paul’s contribution may never be known but this song will forever be a “Lennon” one to me and to most people.
According to Lennon, the song’s origins can be found when the English journalist Kenneth Allsop made a remark that Lennon should write songs about his childhood. Afterwards, Lennon wrote a song in the form of a long poem reminiscing on his childhood years. The original version of the lyrics was based on a bus route he used to take in Liverpool, naming various sites seen along the way, including Penny Lane and Strawberry Field. Those original lyrics are on display at The British Museum.
However, Lennon found it to be “ridiculous”, calling it “the most boring sort of ‘What I Did On My Holidays Bus Trip’ song”; he reworked the words, replacing the specific memories with a generalised meditation on his past. “Very few lines” of the original version remained in the finished song. According to Lennon’s friend and biographer Peter Shotton, the lines “Some [friends] are dead and some are living/In my life I’ve loved them all” referred to Stuart Sutcliffe (who died in 1962) and to Shotton.
John Lennon – double-tracked vocal, rhythm guitar
Paul McCartney – harmony vocal, bass
George Harrison – harmony vocal, lead guitar
Ringo Starr – drums, tambourine, bells
George Martin – electric piano
The song was recorded on 18 October 1965, and was complete except for the instrumental bridge.At that time, Lennon had not decided what instrument to use, but he subsequently asked George Martin to play a piano solo, suggesting “something Baroque-sounding”.Martin wrote a Bach-influenced piece that he found he could not play at the song’s tempo. On 22 October, the solo was recorded at half-tempo (one octave lower) and tape speed was doubled for the final recording, solving the performance challenge and giving the piano solo a unique timbre, reminiscent of a harpsichord.
Chart Position and Awards:
Released on the 1965 album Rubber Soul, it is ranked 23rd on Rolling Stone’s “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time” as well as fifth on their list of The Beatles 100 Greatest Songs. The song placed second on CBC’s 50 Tracks. Mojo magazine named it the best song of all time in 2000.
DIVISION 3: THE MUSTACHE YEARS – CHAMPIONSHIP FIGHT!
Strawberry Fields Forever vs A Day in the Life
The Tale of the Tape:Strawberry Fields Forever
The song was written by John Lennon. It was inspired by Lennon’s memories of playing in the garden of a Salvation Army house named “Strawberry Field” near his childhood home.
Lennon began writing the song in Almería, Spain, during the filming of Richard Lester’s How I Won the War in September–October 1966. The earliest demo of the song, recorded in Almería, had no refrain and only one verse: “There’s no one on my wavelength / I mean, it’s either too high or too low / That is you can’t you know tune in but it’s all right / I mean it’s not too bad”. He revised the words to this verse to make them more obscure, then wrote the melody and part of the lyrics to the refrain (which then functioned as a bridge and did not yet include a reference to Strawberry Fields). He then added another verse and the mention of Strawberry Fields.The first verse on the released version was the last to be written, close to the time of the song’s recording. For the refrain, Lennon was again inspired by his childhood memories: the words “nothing to get hung about” were inspired by Aunt Mimi’s strict order not to play in the grounds of Strawberry Field, to which Lennon replied, “They can’t hang you for it.”The first verse Lennon wrote became the second in the released version, and the second verse Lennon wrote became the last in the release.
John Lennon – double-tracked lead vocal, lead guitar, piano, maracas
Paul McCartney – Mellotron, bass
George Harrison – electric slide guitar
Ringo Starr – drums, backward cymbals
John Lennon – double-tracked lead vocal
Paul McCartney – timpani
George Harrison – swarmandal, bongos
Ringo Starr – drums, percussion, backward cymbals
George Martin – cello and trumpet arrangement
Mal Evans – tambourine
Neil Aspinall – guiro
Terry Doran – maracas
Tony Fisher – trumpet
Greg Bowen – trumpet
Derek Watkins – trumpet
Stanley Roderick – trumpet
John Hall – cello
Derek Simpson – cello
Norman Jones – cello
The song was originally written on acoustic guitar in the key of C major. The recorded version is approximately in B-flat major; owing to manipulation of the recording speed, the finished version is not in standard pitch (some, for instance consider that the tonic is A). The introduction was played by McCartney on a Mellotron, and involves a I- ii- I- ♭VII- IV progressiontowards not the verse but the refrain: “Let me take you down” (which involves a chromatic 8- 7- ♭7 melody note descent). In fact we are not “taken down” to the tonic key, but to “non-diatonic chords and secondary dominants” combining with “chromatic melodic tension intensified through outrageous harmonisation and root movement” The phrase “to Strawberry” for example begins with a highly dissonant G melody note against a prevailing Em chord (in the key of A), then uses extremely dissonant A and A# notes (against the Em chord) till the resonant E note is reached on “Fields”. The same series of mostly dissonant melody notes cover the phrase “nothing is real” against the prevailing F#7 chord (in A key). A half-measure complicates the meter of the verses, as well as the fact that the vocals begin in the middle of the first measure. The first verse comes after the refrain, and is eight measures long. The verse (for example “Always, no sometimes…”) starts with an F major chord in key of B♭ (or E chord in key of A) (V), which progresses to G minor in B♭ key (or F#M in A key) (vi) in a deceptive cadence. According to Alan Pollack, the “approach-avoidance tactic” is encountered in the verse, as the V chord (for example E in A key) appearing on the words “Always know”, “I know when” “I think a No” and “I think I disagree”) never resolves into a I chord (A in A key)) directly as expected. Instead, at the end of the verse, the V chord turns (on the word “I think I disagree”) into a I chord (A in A key)) at verse end after passing through the E-flat major in B♭ key (or D chord in A key) (IV) chord “on “dis-agree“. In the middle of the second chorus, the “funereal brass” is introduced, stressing the ominous lyrics. After three verses and four choruses, the line “Strawberry Fields Forever” is repeated three times, and the song fades out with a guitar, cello, and swarmandal. The song fades back in after a few seconds in to the “nightmarish” ending, with Mellotron playing dissonant notes (achieved by recording the Mellotron “Swinging Flutes” setting backwards ), scattered drumming, and Lennon saying, “cranberry sauce”, after which the song fades back out.
Chart Position and Awards:
When manager Brian Epstein pressed Martin for a new Beatles’ single, Martin told Epstein that the group had recorded “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane”, which in Martin’s opinion were their two finest songs to date. Epstein said they would issue the songs as a double A-side single, as they had done with their previous single, “Yellow Submarine”/”Eleanor Rigby”. The single was released in the US on 13 February 1967, and in the United Kingdom on 17 February 1967. Following The Beatles’ philosophy that songs released on a single should not appear on new albums, both songs were ultimately left off Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but Martin later admitted that this was a “dreadful mistake”.
For the first time since “Love Me Do” in 1962, a single by The Beatles failed to reach number one in the UK charts. It was held at number two by Engelbert Humperdinck’s “Release Me”, because the BBC counted the two songs as two individual singles; discounting the fact that The Beatles’ single outsold Humperdinck’s by almost two to one. In a radio interview at the time, McCartney said he was not upset because Humperdinck’s song was a “completely different type of thing”. Starr said later that it was “a relief” because “it took the pressure off”. “Penny Lane” reached number one in the US, while “Strawberry Fields Forever” peaked at number eight. In the US, both songs were included on the Magical Mystery Tour LP, which was released as a six-track double-EP in the UK.
“Strawberry Fields Forever” was well-received by critics, and is still considered a classic. Three weeks after its release, Time magazine hailed the song as “the latest sample of The Beatles’ astonishing inventiveness”. Richie Unterberger of Allmusic hailed the song as “one of The Beatles’ peak achievements and one of the finest Lennon-McCartney songs”. Ian MacDonald wrote in Revolution in the Head that it “shows expression of a high order… few if any [contemporary composers] are capable of displaying feeling and fantasy so direct, spontaneous, and original.” In 2004, this song was ranked number 76 on Rolling Stone‘s list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”. In 2010, Rolling Stone placed it at number three on the 100 Greatest Beatles Songs. The song was ranked as the second-best Beatles’ song by Mojo, after “A Day in the Life”.
Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys said that “Strawberry Fields Forever” was partially responsible for the shelving of his group’s legendary unfinished album, Smile. Wilson first heard the song on his car radio whilst driving, and was so affected that he had to stop and listen to it all the way through. He then remarked to his passenger that The Beatles had already reached the sound the Beach Boys had wanted to achieve. Paul Revere & The Raiders were among the most successful US groups during 1966 and 1967, having their own Dick Clark-produced television show, Where the Action Is. Mark Lindsay (singer/saxophonist) heard the song on the radio, bought it, and then listened to it at home with his producer at the time, Terry Melcher. When the song ended Lindsay said, “Now what the fuck are we gonna do?” later saying, “With that single, The Beatles raised the ante as to what a pop record should be”.
Tale of the Tape:A Day in the Life
A Day in the Life comprises distinct segments written independently by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, with orchestral additions. While Lennon’s lyrics were inspired by contemporary newspaper articles, McCartney’s were reminiscent of his youth. The decisions to link sections of the song with orchestral glissandos and to end the song with a sustained piano chord were made only after the rest of the song had been recorded.
According to Lennon, the inspiration for the first two verses was the death of Tara Browne, the 21-year-old heir to the Guinness fortune and close friend of Lennon and McCartney, who had crashed his Lotus Elan on 18 December 1966 in Redcliffe Gardens, Earls Court.Lennon’s verses were adapted from a story in the 17 January 1967 edition of The Daily Mail, which reported the coroner’s verdict into Browne’s death.
“I didn’t copy the accident,” Lennon said. “Tara didn’t blow his mind out, but it was in my mind when I was writing that verse. The details of the accident in the song—not noticing traffic lights and a crowd forming at the scene—were similarly part of the fiction.”
The second verse contains the line “The English Army had just won the war”; Lennon was making reference to his role in the movie How I Won the War, released on 18 October 1967. In Many Years from Now, McCartney said about the line “I’d love to turn you on”, which concludes both verse sections: “This was the time of Tim Leary’s ‘Turn on, tune in, drop out’ and we wrote, ‘I’d love to turn you on.’ John and I gave each other a knowing look: ‘Uh-huh, it’s a drug song. You know that, don’t you?’.”
McCartney provided the middle section of the song, a short piano piece he had been working on independently, with lyrics about a commuter whose uneventful morning routine leads him to drift off into a dream. John said: “I had the bulk of the song and the words, but he contributed this little lick floating around in his head that he couldn’t use for anything.”McCartney had written the piece as a wistful recollection of his younger years, which included riding the bus to school, smoking, and going to class. The orchestral crescendos that link the verses and this section were conducted by McCartney and producer George Martin.
The final verse was inspired by an article in the Daily Mail in January 1967 regarding a substantial number of potholes in Blackburn, a town in Lancashire. However, Lennon had a problem with the words of the final verse, not being able to think of how to connect “Now they know how many holes it takes to” and “the Albert Hall”. His friend Terry Doran suggested that they would “fill” the Albert Hall.
John Lennon – lead vocals (verses), acoustic guitar, maracas, piano (final chord)
Paul McCartney – piano, lead vocals (middle-eight), bass guitar
George Harrison – maracas
Ringo Starr – drums, congas, piano (final chord)
George Martin – harmonium (final chord) and producer
Mal Evans – alarm clock, counting, piano (final chord)
Geoff Emerick – engineering and mixing
Orchestrated by George Martin, John Lennon and Paul McCartney
Conducted by George Martin and Paul McCartney
John Marston – harp
Erich Gruenberg, Granville Jones, Bill Monro, Jurgen Hess, Hans Geiger, D. Bradley, Lionel Bentley, David McCallum, Donald Weekes, Henry Datyner, Sidney Sax, Ernest Scott – violin
John Underwood, Gwynne Edwards, Bernard Davis, John Meek – viola
Francisco Gabarro, Dennis Vigay, Alan Delziel, Alex Nifosi – cello
Cyril Mac Arther, Gordon Pearce – double bass
Roger Lord – oboe
Basil Tschaikov, Jack Brymer – clarinet
N. Fawcett, Alfred Waters – bassoon
Clifford Seville, David Sandeman – flute
Alan Civil, Neil Sanders – french horn
David Mason, Monty Montgomery, Harold Jackson – trumpet
Raymond Brown, Raymond Premru, T. Moore – trombone
Michael Barnes – tuba
Tristan Fry – timpani
The Beatles began recording the song, with a working title “In the Life of…”, on 19 January 1967, in the innovative and creative studio atmosphere ushered in by the recording of “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane” over the preceding weeks. The two sections of the song are separated by a 23-bar bridge. At first, the Beatles were not sure how to fill this transition. Thus, at the conclusion of the recording session for the basic tracks, this section solely consisted of a simple repeated piano chord and the voice of assistant Mal Evans counting the bars. Evans’ guide vocal was treated with gradually increasing amounts of echo. The 23-bar bridge section ended with the sound of an alarm clock triggered by Evans. The original intent was to edit out the ringing alarm clock when the missing section was filled in; however it complemented McCartney’s piece well; the first line of McCartney’s song began “Woke up, fell out of bed”, so the decision was made to keep the sound. Martin later said that editing it out would have been unfeasible in any case. The basic track for the song was refined with remixing and additional parts added at recording sessions on 20 January and 3 February. Still, there was no solution for the missing 24-bar middle section of the song, when McCartney had the idea of bringing in a full orchestra to fill the gap.To allay concerns that classically-trained musicians would not be able to improvise the section, producer George Martin wrote a loose score for the section. It was an extended, atonal crescendo that encouraged the musicians to improvise within the defined framework.
Following the final orchestral crescendo, the song ends with one of the most famous final chords in music history. Lennon, McCartney, Starr, and Evans shared three different pianos, with Martin on the harmonium, and all played an E-major chord simultaneously. The final chord was made to ring out for over forty seconds by increasing the recording sound level as the vibration faded out. Towards the end of the chord the recording level was so high that listeners can hear the sounds of the studio, including rustling papers and a squeaking chair.
The piano chord was a replacement for a failed vocal experiment: on the evening following the orchestra recording session, the four Beatles had recorded an ending of their voices humming the chord, but after multiple overdubs they wanted something with more impact. This final E chord represents a VI to the song’s tonic G major, although it has been argued that the preceding chord shifts from F (“them all”) to Em (“Now they know”) Em7 (“takes to fill”) C (“love to turn you”) and B (“on”) followed by the chromatic ascent, shifts our sense of the tonic from G to E; creating a feeling of tragic inevitability instead of the usual hopeful uplift associated with a VI modulation.
Chart Position and Awards:
“A Day in the Life” became one of the Beatles’ most influential songs. Paul Grushkin in his book Rockin’ Down the Highway: The Cars and People That Made Rock Roll, called the song “one of the most ambitious, influential, and groundbreaking works in pop music history”. In “From Craft to Art: Formal Structure in the Music of The Beatles”, the song is described thus: “”A Day in the Life” is perhaps one of the most important single tracks in the history of rock music; clocking in at only four minutes and forty-five seconds, it must surely be among the shortest epic pieces in rock”.
The song appears on many top songs lists. It placed twelfth on CBC’s 50 Tracks, the second highest Beatles song on the list after “In My Life”. It placed first in Q Magazine’s list of the 50 greatest British songs of all time, and was at the top of Mojo Magazine’s 101 Greatest Beatles’ Songs, as decided by a panel of musicians and journalists. “A Day in the Life” was also nominated for a Grammy in 1967 for Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist Or Instrumentalist. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked “A Day in the Life” at number 26 on the magazine’s list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”, and in 2010, the magazine deemed it to be The Beatles’ greatest song. It is listed at number 5 in Pitchfork Media’s The 200 Greatest Songs of the 1960s.
In April 1967, McCartney played a tape of the song to Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys, in Los Angeles. The song deeply affected Wilson, who was suffering growing emotional problems. Soon after, Wilson abandoned his work on the Beach Boys’ album Smile, and would not return to complete it until 2003. Van Dyke Parks later said, “Brian had a nervous collapse. What broke his heart was Sgt. Pepper.”
Following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the song was placed on the list of post-9/11 inappropriate titles distributed by Clear Channel.
DIVISION 4: THE BEARD YEARS – CHAMPIONSHIP FIGHT!
Come Together vs Let It Be
Tale of the Tape: Come Together
The song was written by John Lennon. The song’s history began when Lennon was inspired by Timothy Leary’s campaign for governor of California titled “Come together, join the party” against Ronald Reagan, which promptly ended when Leary was sent to prison for possession of marijuana. It has been speculated that each verse refers cryptically to each of The Beatles (e.g. “he’s one holy roller” allegedly refers to the spiritually inclined George Harrison; “he got monkey finger, he shoot Coca-Cola” to Ringo, the funny Beatle; “he got Ono sideboard, he one spinal cracker” to Lennon himself; and “got to be good-looking ’cause he’s so hard to see” to Paul); however, it has also been suggested that the song has only a single “pariah-like protagonist” and Lennon was “painting another sardonic self-portrait”.
John Lennon – lead vocal, harmony vocal, rhythm guitar, handclaps, electric piano
Paul McCartney – bass guitar
George Harrison – lead guitar
Ringo Starr – drums, maracas
This classic 1960s rock anthem with deep bluesy style was unlike any other song of its time in that it was constructed entirely of verse/refrains. There is no chorus and only one short guitar solo, acting as a bridge to interrupt the radical song structure. For the first eight bars, the tonic note D is repeated, eventually moving to the V chord and then to the IV chord. It then moves to the VI minor chord, which is a progression rarely used; the song “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” being a rare example. The refrain in actuality is three bars long, because the melody keeps going after the last A5 chord and comes to rest on the D5 chord after that. It is also important to mention the introduction of F# in the melody with a B minor triad. The tonic is held for four bars between each verse and is the same as the contents of the introduction.
Within the verse there are four one-bar structures; each one a non-sequitur. The lyrics end each time on the abrupt beat four of each measure, giving the verse an AAAA phrasing structure. The phrasing structure in the second half of the verse is two bars of BB. The C phrasing structure of the refrain has three measures becoming one long phrase and ending on the word “me” which ties everything together. There is an eleven-bar verse/refrain from a ten bar form. The one bar phrase into the two bar phrase and the three bar overlap creates plenty of deceleration and pushes the title line of the song to the spotlight. The melody of the verse stays within the range of a perfect fourth. Using mostly three notes (D, F, C) the tonic, flat three and flat seven, it moves away later only for contrast when it hits the II (E) and stays on that note for two bars. The refrain stands out as the highest notes in the piece (A). John Lennon decided to use modal interchange.
Chart Position and Awards:
“Come Together” was released as a double A-side with “Something” and as the opening track of Abbey Road. The single was released on 6 October 1969 in the US and 31 October 1969 in the UK.
Rolling Stone ranked “Come Together” at #202 on their list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time” and #9 on their list of The Beatles’ 100 Greatest Songs.
On the compilation album Love, “Come Together” is the 19th track. Instrumentals and some backing vocals from “Dear Prudence” fade in followed by the “Can you take me back” section of “Cry Baby Cry” as a transition.
Tale of the Tape:Let It Be
The song was written by Paul McCartney. McCartney said he had the idea of “Let It Be” after a dream he had about his mother during the tense period surrounding the sessions for The Beatles (the “White Album”). McCartney explained that his mother—who died of cancer when McCartney was fourteen—was the inspiration for the “Mother Mary” lyric. He later said, “It was great to visit with her again. I felt very blessed to have that dream. So that got me writing ‘Let It Be’.” He also said in a later interview about the dream that his mother had told him, “It will be all right, just let it be.”
George Harrison – lead guitar, backing vocals
John Lennon – Fender Bass VI, backing vocals
Paul McCartney – lead and backing vocals, piano, maracas
Ringo Starr – drums
Linda McCartney – backing vocals (on single release only)
Billy Preston – keyboards
Uncredited performers – two trumpets, two trombones, tenor saxophone, cello
The first rehearsal of “Let It Be” took place at Twickenham Film Studios on 3 January 1969, where the group had, the previous day, begun what would become the Let It Be film. During this stage of the film they were only recording on the mono decks used for syncing to the film cameras, and were not making multi-track recordings for release. A single take was recorded, with just McCartney on piano and vocals. The first attempt with the other Beatles was made on 8 January. Work continued on the song throughout the month. Multi-track recordings commenced on 23 January at Apple Studios.
The master take was recorded on 31 January 1969, as part of the ‘Apple studio performance’ for the project. McCartney played Blüthner piano, Lennon played six-string electric bass, Billy Preston played organ, and George Harrison and Ringo Starr assumed their conventional roles on guitar and drums. This was one of two performances of the song that day. The first version, designated take 27-A, would serve as the basis for all officially released versions of the song. The other version, take 27-B, was performed as part of the ‘live studio performance’, along with “Two of Us” and “The Long and Winding Road”. This performance, in which Lennon and Harrison harmonised with McCartney’s lead vocal and Harrison contributed a subdued guitar solo, can be seen in the film Let It Be. The film performance of “Let It Be” has never been officially released as an audio recording. The lyrics in the two versions differ a little in the last verse. The studio version has Shine until tomorrow…there will be an answer whereas the film version has shine until tomorrow…there will be no sorrow.
On 30 April 1969, Harrison overdubbed a new guitar solo on the best take from 31 January that year. He overdubbed another solo on 4 January 1970. The first overdub solo was used for the original single release, and the second overdub solo was used for the original album release. Some fans mistakenly believe that there were two versions of the basic track—based mostly on the different guitar solos, but also on some other differences in overdubs and mixes.
Chart Position and Awards:
Critical reception for “Let It Be” has been positive. In 2004, it was ranked number 20 on Rolling Stone‘s list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”. In 2010, the magazine placed the song at #8 on The Beatles’ 100 Greatest Songs. Allmusic said it was one of “The Beatles’ most popular and finest ballads”. Ian MacDonald had a dissenting opinion, writing that the song “achieved a popularity well out of proportion to its artistic weight” and that it was “‘Hey Jude’, without the musical and emotional release.”
“Let It Be” won Academy Awards in 1971 in “Original Song Score” category as a part of documentary film “Let It Be”. It also won Grammy Awards for “Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or a Television Special”.
Marvel’s billing this as the biggest event in comic book history. And here at The Institute, the only thing we love more than superheroes is superhype. We’re pretty excited. In fact, for the next six months, Avengers vs. X-Men figures to dominate a good deal of real estate on this here website in a way the goddam Beatles could only dream of. In fact, that might make for an interesting battle itself: will The Institute house more pictures of mutant mayhem or Liverpudlian pop stars?*
To properly celebrate this auspicious occasion, Idle Time, in collaboration with Sacramento’s Comics & Collectibles, is sponsoring a contest with a degree of complexity and inanity completely commensurate with the average comic book storyline. The faculty here could no sooner decide on an appropriate contest than we could agree on a side to support. Clearly, the smart money is on the Avengers, but there are those among our collective still blindly allied to the misguided mutant agenda. That’s why we created two different contests, with two completely different ways to win!
Bear with me, and I’ll try to make this explanation only slightly less verbose than the typical RPG player’s manual.
First, get your hands on one of these: AvX Ballot. You can download the pdf, or you can pick up a copy in person at Comics & Collectibles. Don’t waste any time, True Believer! After you’ve finished reading Avengers vs. X-Men #0 (out this week!), submit that completed form to the store, or email a copy to firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline is 6:00 PM on Tuesday, April 3rd. Then, to celebrate the real event kick-off, come back to the shop starting at 8:00 for anAvX Launch Party! Pick up your first issue a day early! Pick up some variant covers! Pick a fight! Continue reading Avengers vs X-Men: The Idle Time Contest!→