Sunday, October 10, 2010

Music – The Beatles – 2006

The Beatles

The best music group of all time, and my absolute favorite, is The Beatles, but when asked what my favorite group is, I say it’s Led Zeppelin because I think it is a given that The Beatles would be a person’s favorite music group, or at least one of the tops.

If someone is a human and can appreciate music, that person has to like The Beatles.  The Beatles crafted perfect songs.  Perfect.  Perfect melody.  Perfect lyrics.  Perfect harmonies.  How could anyone not love The Beatles?  How could The Beatles not be anyone’s favorite band, or at least one of the favorites?  Therefore, as it is expected that The Beatles are and should be everyone’s favorite band (or near the top), I don’t name them my favorite.  A favorite band should differentiate yourself from others.

The Beatles are so essential to popular music that asking someone if they like The Beatles is like asking if they like music.  Not everyone may like Led Zeppelin (and, to my great sadness, many people don’t), but you would be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t like The Beatles.

And I really would question the human-ness of someone who doesn’t like The Beatles.  I don’t think it’s possible to not like them, unless you consciously try to not like them so as to not be like everyone else, to try to assert your independence, but this is a foolish position to take, as you are only depriving yourself of wonderful music.  Or perhaps you haven’t heard their whole catalogue of music – what breadth and depth is then awaiting you!

When people say they don’t think The Beatles contributed to popular music, I feel it is analogous to people saying they don’t believe in God.  I mean this in a logical way, not a blasphemous way. When I’ve read interviews where popular musicians or songwriters say they don’t think The Beatles had much effect on music, it is similar to someone saying there is no God, that God did not create us, did not create this world, did not give us talents to develop.

This amounts to not giving proper credit (though I know that many people’s hurtful experiences would cause them to certainly give up on God and doubt that there is a God at all, and that is completely understandable – a good heart is more important than a belief in God - but I just think it’s logical to believe in God, even if you don’t want to – I myself had to reluctantly admit that God exists).

While I can understand why many don’t believe in God due to being hurt and let down, and again, I have been there myself (or not necessarily not believing in God, but hating God), when one doesn’t believe in God because of one’s own ego, then it is a conceited and hubristic position, similar to a musician/songwriter saying The Beatles had no effect on music.

An ego-related denial, whether to deny that there is a greater power than us, or to deny that The Beatles had any influence on popular music, is the issue I have.

(I also find it interesting that some people will not say they believe in God but they will say they believe in a higher power, as if it is somehow safer, not as much of a commitment, or supposedly less primitive, to think of a higher power rather than divinity, but I do appreciate the belief in a higher power rather than no belief.

Although, when it comes down to it, belief in a higher power or not doesn’t matter at all if you don’t try to love others and treat people kindly, and you don’t need to believe in God or any higher power to treat others well.  Some of the kindest people I’ve met are atheists.  Kindness is more important than anything else, in all truth; nothing else matters if you’re not kind, and kindness doesn’t require a belief in any God or higher power – but that’s a conversation for another time).

Anyone who has made popular music after The Beatles first appeared on the world stage has been affected and influenced by their music.  Their influence was too pervading to be denied.  You cannot logically argue that any popular music since 1964 has not been somehow affected by The Beatles.  Likewise, anyone who can recognize the miracle of the human body and mind and how they work, how life grows on this Earth, how planets revolve around stars, how there are billions of stars and how perfectly our planet was calibrated to be conducive to human life must acknowledge that some sort of a creator, a being greater than us, produced this.  It is folly to suggest that this all happened by accident.

I believe in the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe, until we find out more information otherwise, and I believe in evolution, but these beliefs don’t take away from the creation story in The Bible (allegories are scripture, as we still learn from their lessons – scripture does not need to be historical, though often it is.  And do you think the actual scientific creation of the universe could have been told to, and understood by, the ancient Israelites, when we today are still trying to figure out the origins of the universe?).

In fact I think it is our duty as humans to try to find out as much as we can about our planet, our galaxy, the universe, life forms on this earth, prehistoric and current, life on other planets, and to grow in science and understand our world and our bodies and our origins.  The art of questioning does not negate the idea of a divine designer but actually corroborates it, for God gave us brains.  We should use them.

The beauty of science only reinforces that this universe was planned.  It is up to us to find out how that was done.

As far as the members of The Beatles, my favorite was always George, because I always prefer the person who seems to be the most humble of any band.  Humility is my favorite quality in a person because humility recognizes that talents are a gift and something to be grateful for, something you have developed, yes, but nevertheless something you were given.  And humility is coupled with true confidence.

As I’ve already noted, lack of humility often corresponds to those who deny The Beatles’ influence and gifted talent and to those who deny God.  So I always love people who are talented but humble, and George certainly is.  And I adore “Long, Long, Long” as a melodic prayer and “Piggies” as a tuneful and clever indictment, and the lyrics and melody of “If I Needed Someone” are powerful, lovely, and relatable.  I am fascinated by “Think for Yourself” – I could listen to that song forever and never get enough of it – love it.

And one of my all-time favorite songs is “I Want to Tell You.” Songs do not get much better than that. Or, again, more relatable.  And I absolutely am entranced with “Love You To.”  These songs are some of the most perfect songs ever written and performed. George truly does not get enough credit as a songwriter.

Not to mention, John and Paul had each other to write with and against, and their partnership and competition led to an infinitely higher quality of songwriting, even in their later, essentially solo Beatles work, than they could make on their own without the benefit of the unique Lennon/McCartney partnership/competition.  George wrote on his own.

However, once I started hearing people say John was the true genius of The Beatles and not Paul, Paul became my favorite because I saw him as the underdog.  How could anyone deny Paul’s songwriting genius?  Because his melodies are so accessible people think they can denigrate him?  Or is it because John was heartbreakingly murdered, and entertainers become more mythical and legendary at death?

Now, if Paul had died (for real, of course, not in the rumors back in the day) and John was then seen as the lesser of the two in terms of songwriting, John would be my favorite. That’s how my logic goes (ironic because I always think I’m so logical).

But it must be noted that when I first heard Paul’s “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” I thought it was a Beatles song I’d somehow missed.  None of John’s solo songs ever sounded like Beatles songs to me.  This shows the huge contribution Paul made to the Beatles, and his effect on improving John’s songwriting, for, without Paul to push him on or to compete with him, John grew (I think) somewhat lazy in his solo work (and likewise, Paul’s solo work cannot match his Beatles work).  Still, I value both John and Paul highly and equally.

In terms of actual songs, I like slightly more Beatles songs that were written by John -- “Baby, You’re a Rich Man,” “Run for Your Life,” “Ticket to Ride,” “Tomorrow Never Knows,” “Norwegian Wood,” “Hide Your Love Away,” “I’m Only Sleeping,” “She Said She Said,” “I Want You (She’s So Heavy),” “Bungalow Bill,” “Happiness Is a Warm Gun,”  “Because” – all some of my all-time favorite songs that I never grow tired of listening to -- than by Paul.  I’ve certainly never been a fan of “Yesterday” -- though I can recognize its simple brilliance, it just doesn’t appeal to me.

But Paul wrote some of the most beautiful and touching songs, like “Eleanor Rigby” (how could such a young man write something so compassionate and feeling without it sounding sappy?), “For No One,” and “Things We Said Today.”

The most touching for me, though, is “She’s Leaving Home,” for I felt like that song was written for me.  I know he wrote it based on an incident that really happened, and I am still to this day amazed that he had such a grasp on both sides of the story, of my own story, at such a young age.

Also, although Paul’s forte was melody (“Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End,” “I’ve Just Seen a Face”), he could write songs in many styles.  I love the three parts of “You Never Give Me Your Money,” for instance, and the bouncy rock of “The Night Before,” and Paul wrote by far the hardest Beatles rocker – “Helter Skelter.”

At any rate, both John and Paul were songwriting geniuses, and, as most people agree, their genius worked best when they were together in The Beatles.  Not just writing songs together, though when they did, it was pure magic (in the early songs, like “There’s a Place,” and in the later works like “Two of Us” and “I’ve Got a Feeling,” and the likable “Cry Baby Cry” sounds even better with Paul’s unrelated coda at the end), but having that competitive bent between each brought out their best.  Both of them were essential to The Beatles.

Another favorite Beatles song is “A Day in the Life” but I used to absolutely hate it.  I thought it was pretentious, trying too hard to be deep and simple at the same time with its “I read the news today, oh boy,” etc. But the more I listened to it, the more I loved it, and what converted me was the “Aaah” section after Paul’s “Woke up” sequence.  I don’t know if that “Aaah” section is all Paul or George Martin or all The Beatles, but that section alone is what made me love the song and appreciate the rest of it.  The entire production of the song owes great debt to George Martin, who was a genius at producing and integral to The Beatles.

The same goes for the song “In My Life.”  I used to be annoyed by that song, but grew to love it due to the middle eight section with the sped-up harpsichord, arranged by, yes, George Martin.  His contributions to Beatles’ songs cannot be stressed enough. And so humble and down-to-earth throughout – a true gentleman.  Because I didn’t think he was getting enough credit for his genius, he became my favorite as well!

Thus I have three Beatles favorites: George Harrison, Paul McCartney, and George Martin.  I know that’s cheating, but I’m discussing The Beatles, after all. They broke the rules, so I am breaking my own rules re: favorite member of a band. I love all the members of The Beatles, everyone who helped bring their music to fruition, but these three are my favorites.

Some people may be only a John fan or a Paul fan, but that’s pointless.  The Beatles were a group of four individuals who came together perfectly and a producer who perfectly brought out the best in them.

But in acknowledging the contribution of everyone connected with The Beatles, we cannot overemphasize (though it may appear that I have, I assure you, I have not) that the songwriting of John and Paul is the engine which drove The Beatles, the nucleus, inseparable from what made The Beatles The Beatles.  Their songwriting is miraculous, genius, a gift -- a gift John and Paul each had separately but could only fully realize together, a gift they shared with us.

I am very grateful for The Beatles.  The Beatles saved my life, and I know I’m not alone.

No comments:

Post a Comment