Paul McCartney – “Plastic Beetle” (2000)

November 22, 2008 at 2:40 pm (Electronica, Music, Paul McCartney, The Beatles)

Taken from Liverpool Sound Collage, features the voices of the other Beatles. This is McCartney swimming in ambient techno waters. Interesting if strange stuff… 

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Mudcrutch – “The Mudcrutch Story” (2008)

November 22, 2008 at 10:38 am (Music)

The great Mudcrutch resurrected…

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George Carlin – (TV -1967)

November 22, 2008 at 10:34 am (Comedy, George Carlin)

From Feb. 25, 1967…George was still clean-cut and “safe” at this point. Not sure what TV show this was taken from.

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The Beatles – “The White Album” (1968)

November 22, 2008 at 8:32 am (Reviews & Articles, The Beatles)

Written for the PopMatters website earlier this week (Nov. 17th), Zeth Lundy discusses the so-called White Album (officially known as simply The Beatles) in this 40th year (this week) anniversary celebration of this brilliant, but often misunderstood double album classic. It was released on this day (Nov. 22, 1968)… 

 

Birthday: The White Album Turns 40

Every time I listen to The Beatles, I regress. Although every Beatles album will be forever linked to my childhood, their 1968 double-LP—the ninth official full-length studio album the group had released within a five-year period—is especially conducive to sudden bouts of youthful nostalgia. It’s the one album where the band really gets back, a motley patchwork of nursery-rhyme ditties and communal sing-alongs; it is, on its surface, a collection of songs about tigers, blackbirds, raccoons, monkeys, and piggies, songs that are alternately fleeting and preoccupied, songs both abstract and concrete, songs that turn gibberish into mantra—the stuff of pop fantasy and digressive whimsy that is so appealing to the less grown-up geography of our so-called sophisticated palate.

But The Beatles is, aesthetically, its own regression, a regression into the tropes, truisms, and motifs of rock ‘n’ roll’s creviced shell. It’s a chameleon of form, hollowing out the foundations of Chuck Berry and the ghosts of British music hall, moving from faux reggae to pastoral folk, from reductive blues jams and progressive proto-metal vamps to whispered balladry and late-night lullabies. The Beatles both summarized the splintered British music scene of the late ‘60s, with tongue firmly in cheek, and served as a crib sheet for its origins. Self-referential, perverse, and impishly stock-taking, The Beatles is the first post-modern pop album: it nestles into form and fractures it, making the familiar suddenly fantastical, for the first time and for all time.

At this point, in late 1968, the Beatles had changed the course of pop music countless times over, and now they were predicting the paths it would follow in the future. The endearing mess that is The Beatles—producer George Martin has conceded that they “should have made a very, very good single album rather than a double”—forecasts upcoming ego-driven sprawls of concept like the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main St., Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life, Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk, and the Clash’s London Calling, all of them sharing a perfection wrought from a tapestry of imperfections. Albums could be whatever they wanted to be, for better and for worse, self-editing and artistic restraint be damned. (I would also argue that Lennon’s contributions to The Beatles, mostly disparagements of hypocrites and authority figures, were the beginnings of punk, at least in attitude.)

The album’s sprawl, dissociative and in search of a greater purpose, also predicts the anything-goes, DIY methodology of late-20th century indie rock and bedroom pop—indeed, a record like Guided by Voices’ fractured Bee Thousand (1994) is a direct descendent of The Beatles‘ slackened tactic. The Beatles destroyed the notion that pop records had to be made in one room of a professional recording studio by a unified collective. In fact, the album was made in simultaneous pieces, within different rooms at Abbey Road and nearby Trident Studios; many songs were recorded by a fraction of the band, while others were completed entirely by one Beatle alone. And so although The Beatles is a perennial fan favorite (if you were bringing one Beatles album to a desert island, why wouldn’t it be the generous one with 30 tracks?), it is actually the least Beatles-esque of all their albums. As Bob Spitz wrote in his masterful 2005 biography of the band, “The new repertoire, almost to a song, had lost its collaborative aspect…the writing process would forgo the critical feedback—the suggestion of a phrase, a few bars, or a middle eight—that helped shape a Lennon-McCartney song in the past.” (It’s also important to note that by recording so many songs, the band was effectively getting closer to the end of its contract with EMI. The Beatles was the first of the group’s albums to be released on its own Apple label, rather than Parlophone/Capitol—yet another connection that can be drawn to the burgeoning indie trends of later decades.)

Formally, therefore, the songs on The Beatles aren’t always up to classicist snuff. The puzzle-piece functionality of a song like “Happiness Is a Warm Gun” replaces the compositional neatness of a past song like “I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party,” to pick an arbitrary example (or even a more similar experiment like “A Day in the Life,” which still attempted to emulate the existence of a middle eight with its pasting-together of separate sections), while tracks like “Helter Skelter,” “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?,” and “Yer Blues” eschew any sort of formal ingenuity in order to satisfy more primal urges. This isn’t to say that these songs are inferior examples of the Beatles’ genius, but for the first time (perhaps the only time) Beatles songs were being dictated by mood, imagery, and/or instinct rather than by compositional intellect.

To put it another way: The Beatles appeals to us on a gut level. It’s pop music that’s unhinged and presumptive, excitable and unashamed, blessed with the unpredictable acumen of a mood swing. This is an incongruous menu of music, and our brains duly inform us that it shouldn’t make any sense, that it is all too much, a consequence of our gluttonous desires for more. But it does work, against our better judgment: it is a place where ambivalent political sentiment can rub up against a sentimental showtune distraction, where declarations of carnal and spiritual love can exist in close proximity. It works because it wills itself to work, and because the child inside us deems it so.

Zeth Lundy

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