Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Send In The Clowns.


Being a Beatles fan in Australia can be an unsettling experience. I first noticed this when talking about The Beatles with an Australian girlfriend in 1999. I had assumed that, being of reasonably sound mind, she would agree with my contention that the Beatles were, in fact, avatars of the Godhead, sent by a merciful and compassionate universe to light our way through the dark valley of this existence. Something like that. Anyway, she stopped me short, sniffed and said: "I don't really rate The Beatles. The Stones were much cooler". The Stones were much cooler? Huh? Now, obviously The Stones have got some Tunes. I bow to no man in worshipping Wild Horses (that they didn't write it and I prefer The Sundays version is neither here nor there) and Gimme Shelter is colossally good, but really, come on. You don't gaze up at the Horsehead Nebula and complain that it isn't cool enough. Nor do you don't look up at the Taj Mahal and sniff that it's not hardly rock'n'roll. To do so would be point-missing on an epic scale; when things are too sublime for mere human minds to grasp, the only correct response is awe. So lay off the Beatles-hate. Let me say again: you may think that The Beatles were four pleasant chaps from Liverpool who started making beat music and then went on to take some drugs and go a bit mental. You may also think that you can fruitfully compare The Beatles to the Stones. Not so. It's not a case of comparing apples with oranges. It's more a case of comparing apples with Sublime Manifestations Of The Benevolent Godhead, sent to light our way. Got that? Good.

And yet, I've met more than a few people in the land Down Under who seem to think that The Beatles are just too weird, not rocky enough, not my cup of tea, thankyou. Why this I don't know, and is a subject for another time. The Australian Girlfriend made some noises to the effect that Australia shared with America a preferrence for blue-collar, earthy, no-frills music, not yer pretentious art-school nonsense. Which would certainly explain why bands like John Butler Trio, Something For Kate, Eskimo Joe, You Am I, [fill in revered Aussie pub rockers here. There are millions of 'em] etc. But I digress.The release of A New Beatles album should be an occasion for national rejoicing (and would drown out the Ashes crowing that's sure to turn the next coupla months into a living nightmare) but I suspect that it won't.

Love, the giant Beatles mash-up that soundtracks that latest Cirque Du Soleil extravaganza, is pretty damn awesome. Which is that least you expect from yer average Godhead. What's so good about it? Haven't we heard mash-ups before (the Grey Album, Revolved)? Sure, but none of those guys have had access to the original masters, and it's the fact that so many of the songs have been so beautifully remastered that's so cool - songs that had previously been mixed down onto an eight-track have had their constituent instruments split out and polished up, so now songs like I Am The Walrus and A Day In The Life sound reborn. A Day In The Life is especially wonderful. You can hear all the instruments in the symphonic freak-out, and the vocals after "I fell into a dream" are now startlingly clear. There's some kind of reggae breakdown in Hey Jude, with bass parts I've never heard before. As for the mash-ups, it all works astonishingly well, given how awful it could have been. Being For the Benefit Of My Kite rolls out on the psych noise of I Want You/She's So Heavy, Within Without You has been given Tomorrow Never Knows pummelling undercarriage, and there's a brand new string part written by George Martin for a demo of While My Guitar Gently Weeps.

It's all too good. I'm off to worship.

6 comments:

shana said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
shana said...

Can't speak for all yanks, but while I was growing up there was never a question as to who's alter to worship at. There was only one Godhead in my household, 8 days a week.

(The pub rock obsession is particularly unique to the 'oi oi oi' crowd)

ant said...

Those who want to compare the Beatles and the Stones need to be put on an island somewhere and left to ponder their silliness. There is room for both in this big world.

Having said that, for sheer diversity of style and form, the Beatles have to be rated supreme beings. From straight blues, rock and roll, old dance hall tunes, psychedelic explorations, perfect pop, sublime ballads, even children's songs (octopuses garden anyone?)....the Beatles nailed every genre with at least one classic track. Who else has come close to that record?

Jason said...

Good points all, my dolphin-scrumping music obsessive. However I take umbrage at your suggestion that they didn't write Wild Horses (or did I just mis-read what you were saying? Ah, well, let me persist in my folly). Keith wrote it for Anita Pallenberg. And for me there's no contest between the Stones and t'Beatles. Lord knows the Glimmer Twins have made enough classic albums to allow them their own sub-genre to rock'n'roll, but the Godhead/Deities are Bob (Zeus) and the Beatles (some erm, other Greek gods). I love Love. Can't understand those who don't. It's colossally unfair to deride it just because Giles Martin produced Kula Shaker. No fair. My mum confessed to me recently that she wanted to shag Paul McCartney and then let slip that one of her mates from uni DID in fact shag John during their tour of New Zealand. Funny old world, innit?

Lee said...

No you're write, I'm somehow got it into my head that it was written by Gram Parsons. Which is clearly balls. Obviously I was paying enough attention to Gram and his cronies. I find when I do, I fall asleep. My bad.

Lee said...

And clearly I can't spell 'right'. I'm off for a lie down.