09 October 2007

what's in a northern song

Posted by at 3:09 PM Read our previous post

I found the paperback "Beatlesongs" at the used bookstore. It Has some fascinating bits of trivia about every song they recorded:

  • the idea that sparked that song,
  • how much Lennon and McCartney did on each (actual collaborations, with exceptions, were few and rare - they each wrote separately, it turns out)
  • who played what,
  • who hated it,
  • who fought for it,
  • etcetera

It's pretty cool. A friend once said that what the Beatles were the first to do was be the first rock group to write one (in some cases two) of every kind of song. He was all drunk and we got a good laugh, but it's kinda true. They blazed a trail, let Pandora out. That flood made popular music change its course forever as a result. As both an admirer of their work (the first record I ever bought was the Red double album -1962-1965) and student of songcraft, I've enjoyed leafing through this book.

Did you know that the song "Yesterday" came to Paul in a dream?

Did you know that "Rain" was Ringo's all time favorite performance?

Did you know that the last piano chord at the end of "A Day in the Life" (the only tune that Lennon thought was exceptional on the whole Sgt. Pepper record) was played by all four Beatles plus George Martin on three different pianos in the room? (the inputs were lowered for the initial attack of the chord and then slowly raised gradually all the way up to max . . . you can hear the air conditioning units if you listen carefully.)

Thought I'd share a few tidbits from the book here:

On the topic of Lazarus and the rich man
. . . . Baby You're a Rich Man

This was one of those rare occasions where Paul and John "collaborated"; instead of creating the song from scratch, they fused together two songs which they individually had already written. They stitched the verse of one's and the refrain of another's together to create the song as we now know it. That's weirdly cool.

Harrison:(on the songwriter's aim) "For a while we thought we were having some influence, and the idea was to show that we, by being rich and famous and having all these experiences, had realized that there was a greater thing to be got out of life - and what's the point of having that on your own? You want all your friends and everybody else to do it too."
Strange. A mission statement of "money don't matter" from the rich and famous? It's easy to preach from the top of a hill, as my friend Frank likes to say . . .

On Jesus in '69 . . . .
The Ballad of John and Yoko

This song, of course, with its refrain of

Christ, you know it ain't easy
You know how hard it can be
The way things are going
They're gonna crucify me!
was going to get banned in rural America for sure. The memory of the record burnings incited by John's "more-famous-than-Jesus" remark was still fresh on their minds then. The fact that they got along so well at this session might be evidence that they didn't care what the fundies did in the end. Though John wrote the tune, they were united in this. I think it was a joint statement, as well as a wedding gift to a hard-headed brother.

Despite the animosity that had built up between Lennon and McCartney by this time, they came together for this session in good spirits and with affection.

They concentrated first on the basic rhythm track, recording eleven takes with Lennon playing acoustic guitar and McCartney playing drums. Before take four, John says to Paul, "Go a bit faster, Ringo!" and McCartney replied, "Okay, George." After deciding on the best take, the two then overdubbed all the other instruments. [Just the two of them in the studio.] They worked together so efficiently that the session ended one hour earlier than scheduled.

In return for McCartney's recording help, Lennon gave him coauthorship credit for "Give Peace A Chance", which McCartney had nothing to do with.

On Jesus in '67
. . . Fixing A Hole

McCartney: "The night we went to record that, a guy turned up at my house who announced himself as Jesus. So I took him to the session. You know, couldn't harm, I thought. Introduced Jesus to the guys. Quite reasonable about it. But that was it. Last we ever saw of Jesus."
Do you suppose? . . . ??? . . . . (scratches head in wonder . . .)

Hmmmm . . . . . . . . . . . . . I wonder what I'd hear if I played the song backwards.

Finally, not to be too morbid, but it would be kind of ironic, considering all the hullaballoo regarding all the "hidden clues", if Sir Paul outlived us all.



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