Meet the Beatles

Nov 17, 2011 by

 

These things matter.  For me personally, a music conversation with friends or strangers trumps all others.  I become even more engaged when the conversation turns to a heated debate. On a whim, I began emailing random people, as well as a few friends, a list of questions pertaining to the Beatles.  Mostly because this type of information interests me, but I also thought I might uncover a new perspective from one of the all time great bands,  who’s music will endure long after we all leave this world.

I prefaced the email that the answers to the Beatle questions were to be used for a research project.  I lied.  I had no intentions to conduct any research.  I used the term “research project” just to sound meaningful and important, in hopes for a bountiful response rate.

I sent the list of Beatle questions to three thousand people.  My responsee rate for this project- .001333%.  Four replied.  Four friends replied.

Below are their responses.

Wes: Always happy to contribute to research.  Sorry about typos.

Alan: This was really hard and I spent way too much time on it, but here you go… 

Stacy: The questions gave me something to pass the time on my recent trip home from the beach.

Dave: This was stimulating and fun to think about.  Thanks for including me in your survey!

 

Do you find yourself listening to Beatle records from any particular timeframe?  If so, what era or years?

Wes:  Love them all, but Rubber Soul and Revolver era have always been faves.  In this era they progressed beyond the oldie radio hits of the early albums but hadn’t progressed to the experimental phase

 Alan: Rubber Soul/Revolver, I think they hit their creative peak as a BAND with these two albums.  Also, Lennon and McCartney really came into their own as individual song writers, not relying on each other as much as they had in the past, yet not tearing each other part as they would in later years.

Stacy: No but I do tend to avoid their earliest songs. Too bubble gum for me…

Dave: I listen to the earlier stuff the most, but have to admit that I like almost all of it.  Hard   Day’s Night, Help, Revolver, and Rubber Soul are among my faves.

 

How do you typically listen to Beatle songs?  Do you listen to full albums or a various mix of singles?

Wes: Albums, unless a song comes up random on the iPod

Alan: Full Albums.  Never a mix, I had some greatest hits albums when I was in high school, but they never sounded right.  It makes me think what it must be like to be a kid with swinger parents and seeing your mom or dad with someone different at the breakfast table. 

Stacy: Full albums typically.

Dave: Loud! ……and definitely the full albums.  Every once in a while I will listen to multi era mixes in shuffle mode but most of the time I enjoy listening to the albums straight through as they were recorded…..sometimes I’ll listen to the albums in chronological order as well.

 

Favorite song/Favorite album?

Wes:For No One”, Revolver

Alan: Jesus, favorite song?  I’m going to say “Happiness is a Warm Gun”, but it could be totally different tomorrow.  Revolver is my favorite album with the White Album a close second.

Stacy: Rubber Soul and (I realize how silly this answer seems considering my answer to number 1) Sgt Pepper are my favorite albums. Too many favorite songs!!!

Dave: Damn……that’s a tough one……so many good songs….among the top songs would have to be “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, “And Your Bird Can Sing”,” The Night Before”,” That Boy”, and “Blackbird.” Favorite Album (another tough choice) would probably be Rubber Soul or Abbey Road.


Least favorite song/least favorite album

Wes: “Wild Honey Pie” is song, Yellow Submarine is album

Alan:Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” Yellow Submarine

Stacy: Not fair!  

Dave: Least Favorite Song……”#9” (I like the really musical, harmonic stuff).  Least Favorite Album…..Let It Be.

 

What songs written by what Beatle do you find yourself gravitating towards-Please separate McCartney and Lennon.

Wes: I respect the Lennon songs more and think that they are better but gravitate towards the McCartney tunes

Alan: I like the McCartney songs where I don’t feel like he’s trying so hard to be clever or going out of his way to prove he can write a tight arrangement.  His work on Revolver is amazing.  “Good Day Sunshine” and “Got to Get You Into My Life” or favorites as well as the White Album’s “Why Don’t We Do It In the Road” – that might be my favorite McCartney song, simple, to the point, and balls out from start to finish – I don’t think he ever wrote anything like that before or after.  “Helter Skelter”  is pretty great, too.
It’s easy to overlook Sgt Pepper -but that really is McCartney on all cylinders.  Nowadays a lot of it comes off as campy, but really it’s all great.  I’ll find myself looking at the play list and thinking I don’t want to hear it, but then it comes on and it still blows me away. I love Lennon’s work on Rubber Soul/Revolver/Sgt Pepper and the White album. – I really like “I’m Only Sleeping”, “Norwegian Wood”, “Dr. Robert”, “Yer Blues”, “ Happiness is a Warm Gun”, “Sexy Sadie”, “I’m so Tired”, “Revolution”, “Being for the Benefit of Mister Kite”.
Of the more collaborative Lennon/McCartney works I tend to like the ones that are heavier John.  “A Day in the Life” might be the best of their collaborative work.  I never get tired of listening to it.

Stacy: Essay-worthy. It’s hard for me to separate them as Beatles because they did so much on their own after the Beatles…Rubber Soul songs were written by both of them but I feel like the songs are more of a Lennon vibe. Does this answer help or confuse?

Dave: Actually……I find the George Harrison stuff the most interesting but I feel that McCartney’s styles are the most musically diverse and generally the most popular.

 

Do you listen to any solo material?  If so, mostly from what Beatle?  If not, why?

Wes: Love All Things Must Pass, Double Fantasy, and Band on the Run.  Never delved into the Ringo.

Alan: I don’t listen to any of it unless I happen to be listening to traditional radio.  They each have their moments, but for the most part I could live without the entire body of solo work.

Stacy: I think George Harrison was kind of a genius.

Dave: Yes. I have most all of the solo albums (Ringo is the exception!) Most of my collection of solo work would probably have to be McCartney but then again he was the most prolific.  Also have most of the Harrison solo albums.

 

What Beatle solo stuff do you despise and why?

Wes: 1980’s, 90’s, and 00 McCartney blow.  Death did wonders for the quality of Lennon’s solo career               

Alan: I despise anything McCartney did after the 70s, I don’t like his work in the 70s either, but I don’t despise it.  Most of Lennon’s solo career was spent trying to prove he was never in the Beatles, but outside of his Yoko shit, which I despise because it’s awful, I don’t really care.  Double Fantasy is nice.  On a side note –  I hate that John Lennon turned into that guy who spent all his time trying to convince his friends how cool his girlfriend is – also at no time should the phrase Avant-Guarde be associated with one’s music.  Another side note – I said despise three times, I’ll make sure to use my thesaurus next time I participate in one of your “research projects”.
Cloud Nine by George Harrison – “I got my mind set on you” reminds me of the Michelob commercials that Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood did.

Stacy: Surprise Lennon w Yoko. Some of it was just weird!  I don’t despise it though. 

Dave: I don’t really despise any of it, but Ringo’s offerings are not very creative or innovativ

 

Did Phil Spector ruin Let it Be or help it?

Wes: Like that there is such a thing as a Spector produced Beatles album.  Ditto for the Ramones

Alan: If the album was ruined, The Beatles ruined Let it Be.  It’s really tough for a producer to come in after a band has recorded the work and then produce the album.  If the original album was better, and they shelved it in favor of having Spector produce it, then it’s still their fault for having their heads up their asses and making that kind of decision.   That being said, put Let it Be into almost anyone else’s discography and it would be the best album they ever made – Spector or not.

Stacy: Don’t really have a strong opinion about it other than I think it’s cool that it was released the day I was born and Let It Be is one of the most moving songs I have ever heard. Quite frankly, I could give a shit if he ruined it. The title song stands alone. 

Dave: I don’t know, but he definitely played a role in what I think is one of their most disappointing efforts.  There were a lot of things in disarray during that period so it’s hard to say.

 

Do you find George Harrison likeable?  Outside of All things must pass, does any of his solo work hold up?

Wes: yes and no.

Alan: I like George Harrison.  I like All Things Must Pass.  I don’t care if I ever hear anything else he did, and the album cover for Cloud Nine is unforgivable.

Stacy: Don’t know enough about his solo work. Drat. 

Dave: Absolutely likeable!  From his early days as a member of the fab 4 and throughout his lifetime.  I think that he was a pretty “stand up” guy….he had tons of friends, was a true humanitarian and a thinking man especially in his later years.  Yes…….notably the Travelling Wilbury’s.  Most of the “transcendental” stuff that he produced during the years when he was trying to find himself (and to understand life in general) was not that publicly acclaimed because it did not fall into a popular music genre.  I get bored when I hear too much of it, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t meaningful music.

 

If you could relate one sports figure to Paul McCartney who would it be?

Wes: Kenny Powers.  The skills are all gone but he keeps making comebacks and banging one legged ladies.  (Actually i’m not certain kp ever did that last thing)

Alan:  I think I’m going to go with Cal Ripken, Jr.  He was a ground breaking shortstop, who had a great 10 year run.  Then he was just mediocre for a few years and then he just sucked, but kept on playing anyway.

Stacy: Can’t think of one.

Dave: (I don’t really understand what you’re trying to get at with this question, but I’ll give it a try…..) Babe Ruth….loved by MANY, they both had fabulously good experiences in New York baseball venues, neither of them conformed…they both did things their own way, and they both lived exciting lives “on the edge”!

 

Do you consider Ringo Starr a great drummer?  If so, what song or songs would you point to supporting your argument?

Wes: no. Another fine example of right place at the right time

Alan: No.  They needed someone to keep the beat and play loud – he was able to do both. 

Stacy: If so, what song or songs would you point to supporting your argument? Eh, he was average

Dave: In the sense of technical drumming…..no….he was however very creative and developed a very unique “style” that contributed heavily to the Beatles music.  “She Said She Said” is a pretty good example of his contribution to a tune that is in 4/4 time.  He added a lot to the song with a pretty nontraditional beat.  At times he went way beyond his straight back beat Mersey roots.  “Here Comes the Sun” is another similar example of the same,

 

Would any of the Beatles been replaceable from a playing perspective?

Wes: Ringo. Just keep a steady beat

Alan: Ringo Starr – Lennon and McCartney played drums on the white album when Ringo “quit” and they overdubbed most of the drums he did record.

Stacy: Ringo

Dave: In think that their most significant contributions to music were as a collaborative team.  They “clicked” and worked together (complimented each other) best as a group.  Everyone is replaceable but it would not have had the same result with a different roster.  It would have been interesting to see how their music would have been with Pete Best remaining behind the kit.  He was a better technical drummer but its all speculation as to how their music would have evolved with a different mix of players.

 

If the Beatles continued on as a band, would their sound echo their solo stuff from the 70’s or would they have given us something completely different?

Wes: Geez that’s hard.

 Alan: Really hard to say – after the meltdown of Let it Be, they kicked serious ass with Abbey Road.  I think if the Beatles stayed together, they would have given us something different than their solo work.  I think this is also why they couldn’t have stayed together because as bad as it is – they really wanted to sound like their solo work.

 Stacy: I think it would at first be different but then echo back. 

 Dave: I think that they each went their own separate musical ways when they went solo, but their best and most creative work was done as a group.  I don’t think their music would have echoed the solo stuff.  We would have seen the continued influence of their individual styles but they worked off of each other so much that I believe that their music would have evolved into stuff that was fresh and different had they continued together.  They were all about exploring new musical avenues.  Their collective effort always seemed to be greater than just the sum of the parts.

 

Please rank the following albums from best to worst-With the Beatles, Help, Revolver , Let it Be, & Magical Mystery Tour

Wes: Revolver, Magical Mystery Tour, Help, Let it Be, With the Beatles

Alan: Revolver, Magical Mystery Tour, Help, Let it Be, With the Beatles

Stacy: With the Beatles, Help, Revolver, Let it Be, Magical Mystery Tour

Dave: Revolver, Magical Mystery Tour, Help, Let It Be, With the Beatles

 

Better album, Sgt. Pepper’s, White Album, or Abbey Road?

Wes: Gonna be lame on this one: Sgt Pepper

Alan: White Album – Love the other two

Stacy: Ugh. I guess the White Album

Dave: Another tough one! I’ll go with The White Album.

 

Did you find the sitar Beatle songs annoying?

Wes: I did when I was a kid, but dig the variety now.  Plus “Norwegian wood” pretty much unstoppable.  

Alan: I really like “Norwegian Wood”

Stacy: Kinda…

Dave: Not annoying….radically different (obviously heavily influenced by the place that George Harrison was in at the time).

 

Why should there be no argument between the greater band: Beatles Vs. Stones

 Wes: They’re both unquestionably great, but for me the Stones have always been more of a singles band, and the Beatles more of an album band, and that gives the Beatles more cred to me.  That’s not to downplay Exile on Main Street or Beggars Banquet, cuz they’re amazing.  The Stones have always seemed like such a swagger pull between Jagger and Richards, whereas the Beatles had more interesting interacting parts.  Bands also get bonus points if the hit it big and break up with the same members.  Stones lose big in that category (other bands that win that one: U2, Police, Led Zeppelin discounting recent reunion, etc)

Alan: I love the Stones, but it really is no argument
The Beatles were great because:

  • The Beatles were a BAND, the Stones were two guys and a revolving supporting cast.
  • Beatles made more complete albums comprised of great songs.  The Stones made decent albums (Exile on Main Street, Some Girls and Beggars Banquet were great albums) with some great singles .
  • When it came to creativity – The Beatles absolutely blow the Stones away.  The Stones were a one, maybe two trick pony, and they beat that fucking horse right into the ground (I can mix metaphors with the best of them)
  • The Beatles recorded 12 albums, arguable creating the best library of songs of that considerable size.  Seriously, how many bands do you listen to right now that you can say made 12 albums without a serious stinker in the bunch?  Then they quit before they could make a parody of themselves.
  • They had to quit touring because their fans were so fucking loud they couldn’t hear themselves play.

 Stacy: Beatles delivered in one decade what Stones are still trying to deliver after five decades together. 

Dave: I think that it’s a matter of creativity.  Charlie Watts has played the same damned drum beat for his entire career.  Musical diversity and experimentation was a lot more prevalent with the Beatles music.  In my mind the rich melodies and fantastic vocal and instrumental harmonies also set the Mop Tops in a place far ahead of the Stones.

 

Did you stumble upon the Beatles at any early age in Life? (Before 10 years of age) and if not then at what age?

Wes: I was 5 when my dad brought home the Red and Blue albums

Alan: Before 10 I mostly heard the Beatles on the radio when I was in the car with my mom.  I thought “I Want to Hold Your Hand” was the gayest song I’d ever heard.  Then when I was 15 I started doing drugs and went through my Mom’s record collection and found Meet The Beatles, Rubber Soul, and Revolver.  I couldn’t believe how much better “I Want to Hold Your Hand” had gotten.  At that time I was moving away from all the Hardcore Punk I was listening too and had gotten into the poppier stuff like REM, Husker Du, Replacements, etc and so I had found an appreciation for a well crafted song and when I through those beetles records onto the turntable I realized who the inspiration for all of that stuff was. Hooked for life.

Stacy: Yep. Don’t remember a time when I didn’t know them. 

Dave: I got sucked in at about age 10.  These were the years when I was just beginning to discover my own musical tastes.  I was fortunate to be in that age bracket just as the boys were breaking onto the scene.

 

Do you like any of the following British Bands-Oasis, Stone Roses, pre OK Computer Radiohead, The Verve?

 Wes: Oasis-no, Stone Roses-yes, Radiohead-yes, Verve-no

 Alan: Oasis – no, god awful band.  Stone Roses – yes.  Radiohead – yes, The Verve – no.  – Honestly, except for Radiohead, I’d rather listen to Eliott Smith doing his worst Lennon impression than any of the Britpop bands.

 Stacy: I like all of them!

Dave: Sure……but they have not influenced me significantly.

 

 Is Sgt. Pepper’s overrated?  If so, why?

Wes: some album has to occupy that spot.  You have to have that “greatest of all time” placed somewhere, and anytime you do its way more fun to knock it off that perch rather than build it up.  I don’t know if it really is the greatest ever but it is quite good

Alan: If anything I would say it’s underrated.  It’s the album that everyone likes to malign.  You’ll be hard pressed to find a “serious” fan/critic who will say it’s their favorite album and the only time you hear “masterpiece” associated with it anymore is if you’re listening to the oldies station.  But the fact is, it’s a masterpiece.  Its fucking ground breaking in its production, recording, and composition.  And, it made Brian Wilson have a complete breakdown and abandon music for almost 30 years.  Not that I don’t like Brian Wilson, Pet Sounds was complete genius, but that’s how fucking good Sgt Peppers is, it made a musical genius give up because he could never do anything nearly as good.  That’s a win in my book.

Stacy: I think it’s trippy and kooky and interesting. May have been so unusual at the time that it was overrated. I think if you compare it to most music today it wouldn’t be. 

Dave: No.  From a historical perspective that album was truly innovative compared to other music from the period.

To validate everyone’s time I had them waste, I guess I need to offer some type of analysis through my fabricated research project.  What I tried to do is to quantify that anyone could hold a conversation, answer random questions, or state an opinion regarding the Beatles.   No matter gender, age, or music they gravitate towards; most have some thought on the Beatles and for many, an obsession.  The Beatles are the only band-past or present-who  have this power over the earth’s population.

For those who responded, I thank you.  Each of you have introduced me to new sounds, I am positive I would have never discovered without knowing you.  For that I am forever grateful.

 

 

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