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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

A Few Random Thoughts About The Beatles

I remember back when I was eleven years old and my friend Kenny Stillwell and I stole his older brother’s new copy of Abbey Road. His brother was about 18 or so and didn’t much like us kids so we were risking an ass kicking if we got caught. We went up to his attic where Kenny had a sort of clubhouse and we listened to this masterpiece on his little record player for the very first time. I don’t remember how I felt but I have always kept the memory of this moment.

Fast forward to about 1990 or so and I was living in Maryland. I was sharing a place with a former Air Force buddy. Tom and I were farting around the house one day when he put on Abbey Road. After just a few measures into the first song we were both sitting on the sofa listening intently. We listened to both sides straight through without exchanging a single word. When the record finished playing we just sort of looked at each other with an expression that said, “Damn!” No drugs were involved.

I don’t think that it is possible not to be a Beatles fan; it’s like saying that you don’t like Gershwin or Cole Porter. You may as well say that you don’t like music. If you tell me that you don’t like the Beatles I simply won’t believe you.

It’s not like I’m this huge geek of a Beatles fan; I’m just like everyone else on the planet that can recognize wonderfully crafted songs when I hear them. It’s not like I even listen to their music all that much these days. I was just lucky enough to have grown up with their albums playing in the background of my childhood. They left a fairly vast body of work in their wake so I often find myself rediscovering one of their tunes. It is often like hearing it for the first time.

Ritchie Havens did a cover of Here Comes the Sun from Abbey Road that was one of the first Beatles covers I have ever heard and still is one of the best. It has this amazing acoustic intro that lasts over one minute. When Havens finally decides that he’s ready to sing it is absolute bliss.

I read a recent interview in The New Yorker with Paul McCartney where he said that If I Fell was his all-time favorite John Lennon Song. I would have to say the same. I discovered a great cover of this song by Brazilian artist, Rita Lee. She sings it in Portuguese which may even be an improvement, if that is possible on this bit of pop perfection.

The reason I am writing this right now, and the reason for my most recent return to The Beatles was inspired by another Brazilian pop star, Caetano Veloso. He covers a lot of Beatles songs and the other day I was at someone’s apartment when I heard his version of For No One by McCartney from Revolver. I have heard the song a million times but I couldn’t recall the title. I had to sort through a bunch of empty CD cases to find the right one. I would have to say that it isn’t one of their more well-know songs. I don’t know why this is because it about as good as pop music gets. Every singer in the world has covered this tune but no one comes close to McCartney. I think this song, more than any other, demonstrates just how great a voice he has. Don’t take my word for it, watch this video.

I’m trying to learn a really good arrangement of The Long and Winding Road on the piano. I can’t find any good sheet music for this so I am watching a video on youtube that shows you how to play it. Why anyone would prefer this to reading music is a real fucking mystery to me. I think that some musicians think that reading music is some sort of rocket science. If I can read music I think that it is something that can be grasped by anyone.

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