Thursday, September 10, 2009

Hey, Kids! Meet The Beatles!

John Lennon
Paul McCartney
George Harrison
Ringo Starr

Let them take us down....

I realize that the times we live in are just too damned weird to focus any degree of attention on a rock 'n' roll band that released its final recording forty-years-ago last month - two of whose members are gone from our midst. Think about it. In 1969, at the height of all that was then going on, any columnist who would have devoted a entire page to the greatness of the Paul Whiteman Orchestra would have been laughed out of the business. But this isn't just any band we're talking about here. With the exception of the President's address to a joint session of Congress last night, I didn't spend much time yesterday dwelling on affairs of state. September 9, 2009 belonged to the Beatles.

Yesterday marked the long-awaited release of a box set containing every commercial LP and single made by the lads from Liverpool between the years 1962 and 1970. What makes this package different from what has previously been available is the fact that the engineers at EMI (the studio in London where they did most of their work) have digitally remastered the recordings from the original multi-track tapes. It was like listening to them for the first time all over again. The Beatles have never sounded better - To tell you the truth, I never dreamed that was possible.

To the best of my knowledge, I was the first person in Orange County to purchase the set. I was there bright and early at the FYE store in Middletown, NY. They were ten minutes late in opening and I'm afraid my impatience got the better of me. You should have seen me, rattling the closed gate, yelling only half in jest, "I WANT MY BEATLES, DAMMIT!!!" Nothing worked; not even when I threatened to write a letter to my congressman in protest would they budge an inch. Fortunately, the people who run the place are all-too-familiar with my little eccentricities and did not feel threatened enough to phone the authorities. Their restraint was truly impressive.

After purchasing the package, I wandered aimlessly on the back roads that separate the mall from where I live, listening to
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - from beginning to climactic end. The songs have a clarity that is indescribable. The miracle of recorded sound will be bought home once again in the next few weeks to the millions of people who purchase any of these recordings. Those incredible voices, eternally young, forever alive, resonate across the decades. Close your eyes. You're back in Studio Two at the Abbey Road Studios, sitting in with the lads on a long-ago recording session. In the classic song, Strawberry Fields Forever, John Lennon told us that nothing is real. I would beg to differ. The sounds emanating from these new mixes are very real.

To most people over the age of fifty, the Beatles have a special place in our hearts. Fellow Baby Boomers: Can you even IMAGINE your childhood without the Beatles? Not me! There had never been a band like them before. The likes of the Fab Four are not likely to pass this way again. They arrived on our shores at just the right moment - two-and-a-half months after the assassination of a beloved president. We were not only ready for the Beatles in February of 1964, we needed them like a tonic.

We all have our personal memories of the phenomenon that was Beatlemania. I remember the Ed Sullivan Show. I remember seeing A Hard Day's Night at the movie theater around the corner from where I grew up. I remember being at my cousin Mike Cullen's home when I first saw the Sgt. Pepper cover ("Mike! They're wearing mustaches! What's that all about???") I remember exactly where I was standing in the summer of 1968 when I happened upon a girl from the neighborhood who
was listening to the new Beatles record, Hey Jude, on a small transistor radio. I remember my reaction to the news that they had broken up. It wouldn't last, I thought. Someday they'll Get Back to where they once belonged. I really believed it - for an entire decade I believed it. You may say I'm a dreamer. That dream ended forever on a horrible night in December of 1980 when John Lennon was forever taken from us due to an insane act of cold-blooded murder.

"Nothing to do to save his life, call his wife in."

"I read the news today, oh boy!"

"The dream is over."

Two years ago, on the fortieth anniversary of the release of the landmark Sgt. Pepper LP, I wrote a piece on this site called, Why the Beatles Still Matter:

"Late one night, not very long ago, I had a dream that the Beatles were still among us, making us laugh and sing in the same way they did when they were the undisputed princes of the Planet Earth all those years ago. That's what was so wonderful about the Fab Four; they not only sang like the scruffy angels they were, but they were so damned funny! All one has to do is view the films, A Hard Day's Night and Help, and you're once again reminded that they were a great comedy team - one of the greatest. When I awoke from that dream - thinking it had been real - the blunt realization that the Beatles are gone forever was too depressing to even contemplate.

"In 1995, the night the video Free As a Bird premiered on national television (the first "new" Beatles song in over a quarter-of-a-century) I watched it with a young woman who was born in 1970, the year they broke up. Hearing them sing together again - Paul and George sounding strong and clear; John, by that time long-dead, his voice transferred from an old and faded cassette tape, sounding as if he were singing from far, far away - was a very moving experience. When she noticed my reaction, she laughed and said, "Oh, Tom! What's the big deal?" I told her that no one who did not live through that turbulent era could possibly understand what that band meant to their troubled generation."

BREAKING NEWS:
Music industry officials are now predicting that by the end of 2010, the Beatles will prove to be the best-selling band of the first decade of the twenty-first century. People who should know better are blaming the utter implosion of the record business on downloading and bootlegging. This is not a laughing matter, they're telling us. Oh really? Tell that to Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. Tell that to the heirs of John Lennon and George Harrison. They're laughing all the way to the bank, baby! Maybe - just maybe - there is a certain creativity that is somewhat lacking today. That's just a harmless little theory of mine. Pay no attention to it.

There's nothing you can know that isn't known
There's nothing you can see that isn't shown
There's nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be
It's easy!
All you need is love....

All you need is love. I believed it then; I believe it still. It's a fairly safe bet that in the next week or so, I'm going to be just a tad distracted by the magic and mystery of John, Paul, George and Ringo. When I'm done writing this latest screed of mine, I have a long drive to take. En route, I plan on listening to the new mix of Abbey Road in its entirety. Last night before I retired for the evening, I had a glass of wine and listened to Harrison's Here Comes the Sun. Beautiful! In the words of another one of his songs, "It's all too much for me to take". If your budget precludes you from buying the entire package (Times are tough, I know) you can purchase each album separately. It really is an incredible listening experience. The Beatles are back.

Unlike so many today, the Beatles stood for something. Decades of biographical scholarship now tells us that they were four very flawed and imperfect men - "a bit like you and me". But the recorded legacy they left the human race is incalculable. Let me attempt the impossible and sum up the Beatles' message in one sentence: We are the makers of our own dreams. That works for me.

Dream. Dream away....

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY
tomdegan@frontiernet.net

SUGGESTED READING:

Shout!
by Phillip Norman

The Beatles
by Bob Spitz

AFTERTHOUGHT, 12/23/09:

EMI has also digitally remastered the Beatles original mono mixes which I have recently obtained. For you purists out there, these really should be listened to - particularly the Sgt. Pepper mix. To quote John Lennon, "You haven't heard Pepper until you've heard it in mono."

AFTERTHOUGHT, 9/26/11:

When I wrote this piece on September 10, 2009, I never dreamed that eight months, one week and one day later, I would be standing inside Studio Two at the Abbey Road Studios in merrie olde England. I still can't believe it actually happened.

We followed her down from a bridge by a fountain, and she led us to the doors of the Abbey Road Studios. A splendid time was guaranteed for all, and the nice folks there delivered - BIG TIME.

http://www.tomdegan.blogspot.com/2010/05/excellent-adventure-at-abbey-road.html/

To read more recent pieces from this site, please go here:

"The Rant" by Tom Degan

Having been some time in preparation a splendid time is guaranteed for all!

30 Comments:

At 6:38 AM, Blogger Mean Mr Mustard said...

I was listening to the remastered 'Abbey Road' (my favourite album ever) on my way into work this morning, and I must say it sounds absolutely fantastic. There is a clarity to the voices, the instruments and all the sounds which makes you feel like all these years we have been listening to the Beatles music behind a wall. Now someone has knocked the wall down, and the whole sound reaches us in all its brilliant clarity and strength. They have really done a beautiful job.

http://atasteofmustard.blogspot.com/

 
At 6:45 AM, Blogger Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...

Hey, Mr. Mustard! How's your sister, Pam?

I haven't gotten around to listening to the entire Abbey Road LP - I'm saving that for last! Thanks for posing, pal.

Looking through a glass onion....

Tom Degan

 
At 7:02 AM, Blogger Jefferson's Guardian said...

"I didn't spend much time yesterday focusing on affairs of state. September 9, 2009 belonged to the Beatles."

The release date couldn't have been a coincidence: "Number 9, Number 9, Number 9..."

Undoubtedly, they were, and continue to be, the greatest influence on rock music. Their creativity was second-to-none.

Peace to all...

 
At 9:30 AM, Blogger Jack Wegener said...

Mr. Degan:

You made a related post to the Newsweek site at Pop Vox which was
more emotional in your recollection of first seeing the “Free As a Bird” video and
ended by quoting some of “Within You, Without You”. I want to
express that I too lately can become emotional when recalling “that turbulent era”
that you referenced and totally agree that if one did not live
through it then it is not possible to understand what The Beatles meant “to their troubled
generation”. I was and am a Beatles aficionado and collector.
I am slightly older than you having been born in 1951. I grew up in the Deep South and began
growing my hair longer emulating The Beatles in junior high and
high school. The wrath of disapproval that descended upon me from my family, the school system,
and society in general is still with me all of these years later.
I was ostracized by every adult including my parents as a
teenager, and it did not end well with my immediate family either.
Each Beatles LP release was a bit of salvation (and hope) across those years to a teenager in a
close-minded Southern society. Those four British individuals
offered inspiration that if one follows his true nature that any dream is possible to achieve.
Today, I am a successful fine-art photographer of the female nude and
I owe a vast amount of gratitude to The Beatles who by example
showed it was OK to step out of the “normal” expectations
fostered on us by our elders and sheep-like society. They were a beacon in the darkness as I was
trying to grow up in the 1960s and I cannot imagine what life would
be without their presence.

Jack Wegener

 
At 9:39 AM, Blogger Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...

Great posting, Jack!

Seriously, what you just wrote sounds like the outline of what might prove to be a great book. An isolated, sensitive kid, growing up in a closed society whose only succor was the release of a new Beatles LP.

Think about it, Jack. The possibilities!

All the best,

Tom Degan

 
At 10:16 AM, Blogger charles moore said...

Hey Tom, a great tribute. One thing that must be acknowledged is that love them or hate them (I love them, but there are some that don't) they completely changed the direction of pop music forever.

And now I am showing my age (sorry JW, I am 10 years older than you), but do you realize that when they hit the scene the big pop tune at the time was How Much Is That Doggy In the Window?

I am looking forward to the new updated remastered recordings, because even as limited as recording technology was back then, they pushed it to the limits.

I still remember very vividly standing in my kitchen hearing Sgt Pepper for the first time. There had NEVER been anything like that in pop music before.

 
At 10:53 AM, Anonymous Jonny said...

Hey thanks for dropping by to Distorted Loop...

Your blog is very interesting. Good comment too.

Have fun out there
Jonny

 
At 1:42 PM, Blogger Darlene said...

I was the mother of a teenage son when they Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan show. Even though I was of the Big Band era, I recognized their incredible talent and used to accompany my son when he played their songs on the clarinet. I was especially fond of 'Yesterday'.

To watch them was to admire their youthful vitality, talent and good looks.

 
At 5:12 PM, Anonymous otautahi outrospective said...

The look like babies in that photo!

 
At 5:23 PM, Blogger Naomi said...

Hi Tom

Thanks for stopping by and for the nice comment. Glad you enjoyed your visit to my site. We are certainly masters of our own destiny and the Fab Four lived the ultimate dream. I don't think there will ever be anybody like them. Their hits are timeless classics and they are true icons of our time. The Beatles Rockband game (which has just been launched in England) will introduce them to a whole new legion of fans and unite children, parents and grandparents as they play the game. It will also give others the chance to live the dream and be their own Beatle (in the game)! I love Ticket to Ride. In fact I love most of the Beatles songs. They're great. We had the radio on at work yesterday listening to some of them. Great morale booster to get through the working day! I'm sure the digital versions sound better than ever!

 
At 6:31 PM, Blogger Vic said...

Hey Tom, this is Vic from Flaming Milk. Just wanted to let you know I just read the comment you left at our blog, and really liked, great writing, and awesome description of the best band there is and ever will be.

Greetings from Mexico City!!!

 
At 6:37 PM, Blogger Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...

Thanks so much, Vic....

Admittedly, I could not read a lot of the language on your site (my eternal shame for never having learned how to speak and read Spanish - I will someday). But I have to tell you, I just loved the graphics!

All the best,

Tom Degan

 
At 11:40 PM, Blogger reeljerc said...

Who'd of thought it? Four scrappy lads from Liverpool changing the world. Well actually, like any good artist, they had the ability to accurately and poignantly reflect what was going on around them. The bullet points describing why their success was so immense on so many levels are too numerous to express here, but..the musicianship was solid, the songwriting was honest and they had the latitude to control the final cut.
As John Lennon once said,(I'm paraphrasing) they could fart on stage and people would've cheered.
They had complete creative control, the adulation and unconditional love of millions and chose to use that power to simply tell us how they honestly felt. After all the corruptive influences rife in the music business and the culture of greed in which it resides, the Beatles did not bow to speculation from paranoid record execs or the selfish concerns of the cesspool of bottomfeeders leeching off their fame. They had a conscience and actually cared what happened.
Is there a better reason why their legacy has endured?

 
At 12:40 AM, Blogger Dearest Friend said...

Back then long time ago when they was fab...(to paraphrase...)

Ah, don't pick on the younger crowd when it comes to the Beatles, my dear, none of us were alive when Mozart premiered his greatest works in Vienna...Beethoven himself never heard his final symphony! (OK - he probably heard it in his head before he ever commited it to paper!)

There's a reason why there's the phrase "Beatles Forever"!


My point - the remastered albums, the Rock Band video game...all of it is handing this glorious legacy to another group of kids...who have parents that were mostly younger then we were when the Beatles broke up!

How wonderful is it that the top 5 best-selling albums as of the end of the evevning 9/9/09 were by the great rock band ever?

I must point out that you did not mention the passing of "The Quiet One" which sealed forever any hopes of even a reunion on stage of the three remaining Beatles. A quiet peaceful passing - a bit like one of Tolkein's amazing elves "going into the west" rather then actually dying is the way I picture it.

But would we have really wanted to see three without the fourth? I think not. It just wouldn't have felt right somehow. Lennon and McCartney knew how to work off each other - Paul's love songs weren't so "silly" (with a capital S)with John there to give them the edge. John's rougher songs were softened by Paul. When people talk about the greatest love songs ever written Lennon and McCartney's names invariably come up..right along with the Gershwin brothers, Rogers and Hart...etc...can any of those others say that they wrote the most-recorded song in history? Or the 2nd most-recorded song in history - wait - that one belongs to George! Incredible!

When they made Abbey Road, they asked George Martin to come back and produce one last album with them...he did so on one condition - that it just be the four of them...and his staff...and bless that great man...his idea was pure "Half-crazed genius." He deserves so much of the credit, too.

And in the end...the love you take...is equal to the love you make.

Nuff said, right? Yeah, Yeah, Yeah...

Mary
(Long time Beatlesmaniac - and confimred George girl!)

 
At 11:06 AM, Anonymous Marvin said...

So far I've only been listening to the mono box set (I haven't got the stereo box yet... it's in the mail...) And it sounds pretty fantastic. Especially over speakers (I find mono to be a bit weird on headphones.) I think in particular the early albums sound much better. I've always been more of a later Beatles fan - but more and more I'm appreciating the brilliance of their early work in context.

 
At 3:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom, it looks like you missed the latest real important news. Here two articles you should read.
1-"CAMPS FOR DISSIDENTS READIED"
by Victor Thorn in american free press.
2-"Obama Extends Bush 9/11 National Emergency" in newsroomamerica.com.

 
At 8:08 PM, Blogger kathy said...

Hey Tom,
Just found your blog from a comment you wrote somewhere? Great blog, yes, I love the Beatles too!

Joe Wilson, was an azzhat! Your post about Obama's speech to school children was right on!

 
At 8:16 PM, Blogger Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...

Hello, Kathy!

Please keep tuning in. Eventually it all comes 'round again - in the words of the great British band, "Fairport Convention".

Love and Peace,

Tom Degan

 
At 6:48 AM, Blogger T said...

Well said Tom, well said. As a Beatles fan you sound delighted with the re-issues. I'll grab a copy of Sgt. Pepper's ASAP and check it out for myself.

Cheers for checking out my blog!

 
At 6:53 AM, Blogger T said...

I mean to add in my comment - another book for your suggested reading list:

"A Day in the Life: The Music and Artistry of the Beatles" by Mark Hertsgaard.

 
At 11:21 AM, Blogger Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt said...

Just ran across your blog. Funny, I've been singing Beatles songs lately and just put one in a short piece of fiction I wrote. Ha! Karma.

Happy Day to you!

 
At 11:27 AM, Anonymous Andrea said...

I grew up with hair bands and pop, but I'll never forget the day I listened to the Beatles; my insides moved and I was never again the same! They were so talented and their music so inspiring. They will always be a favorit of mine.

Andrea Triplett

 
At 1:25 PM, Blogger Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt said...

I still wear a hair band : )

 
At 1:33 AM, Anonymous Jeff Blanks said...

"From the original multi-track tapes"? Are these remasters or outright re-mixes? (I'm not quite a purist--I think good re-mixes would do a lot of good, as they've done for Genesis' oldest albums.)

Funny about the Beatles--I grew up in a world that had been transformed partly by what they did (though much of the lineage of what we call "classic rock" comes from elsewhere, especially the blues revival in England in the early '60s), but the Beatles themselves seemed a bit remote from it. The first band I ever fell in love (at the age of six) was Chicago, who were coming from a very different place in their early years and yet also owed something to the Beatles. My beloved Olde English Progressive Rock also owes a lot to them; bands like Yes and Genesis walked through a door that maybe only the Beatles could have opened, even if the Beatles could never have made that music themselves.

I'm of two minds about their continued popularity; it's good that their music has held up, but it's bad that subsequent generations haven't seemed to hold up their end quite as well. Some strange confluence of corporate timidity and an inflated sense of "propriety" on the part of the post-punk hip consensus seems to have something to do with it. We're too afraid that people will think us "ridiculous" to try to be creative or let our imaginations run truly free.

 
At 8:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make."

The Beatles

 
At 2:30 PM, Blogger Jefferson's Guardian said...

So true, isn't it Anonymous? There are ultimately many paths to the truth, but none greater than this line from The End.

 
At 6:24 PM, Blogger Dr Jenn said...

you might like to check out my husbands posts on this set...
http://drsardonicus.blogspot.com/

 
At 11:09 AM, Anonymous fred garnett said...

Hey Tom, love the passion in your Beatles post; I got the boxed set too and happily worked my way though from beginning to The End. Unlike most I think you can make sense of The Beatles today and I've been blogging it! Here is my latest attempt to do so; http://fred6368.wordpress.com/2009/10/17/learning-with-the-beatles/

 
At 4:34 PM, Blogger Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...

I read what you wrote on your site about the fabulous Fabs, Fred. Very well put!

Isn't it amazing that after all these years - after two of them have passed from this life - they just refuse to go away. I hope they never will.

Tom

 
At 11:14 AM, Blogger Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...

To anyone who might read this so long after the fact (I wrote this column seven months ago). My brother Pete and I are going to Abbey Road Studios soon for a guided, private tour! We won it though a charity auction.

I've got to admit it's getting better!

 

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