Posted by: ben | September 9, 2009

focus: the beatles – yesterday and today

 

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Ben:
Being a music blog, and given that today is officially Beatles day, we are spending most of the day lusting over lovingly remastered stereo discs of wonder with swish, shiny inlay booklets. It’s an odd day because, if the rumours are true, by around eight o’clock all these lovely tracks will be available to download off of iTunes sans packaging and disc.

Dan and I have both recently got given some original Beatles vinyls. Before the new versions, we wanted to listen to the albums in their unsullied, original state. This, then, is a little post about the Beatles as they were yesterday, rather than what they are right now.

Dan: First things first: The Confession. Until recently, I never really ‘got’ The Beatles.

SgtPepperWith all the Love Me Do and Can’t Buy Me Love rubbish from their early days I’d been dissuaded from exploring further. I  eventually got The White Album last year and while there are moments of genius on it there are a few dull tracks too. The fact that it feels more like a collection of songs than an album didn’t convince me.

I borrowed Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club and Rubber Soul from my parents’ record collection. They were on vinyl and I’d never heard them before, so at least if I didn’t like them I could say the first time I heard them was on their original format.

WhiteAlbumSmallI’ll put it simply: I was wrong and I have been converted. I played Sgt. Pepper first and was utterly blown away (as most people are I should imagine). Apart from the ridiculous imbecility of When I’m ’64, it’s an almost perfect record, absolutely stunning soundscapes from start to finish. If someone had bothered to play this to me before I’d never have had any problems with The Beatles. While Rubber Soul is not as good (it feels like the turning point from early nonsense to later brilliance), it is another great pop album. With this revelation still fresh and my current CD collection comprising of only The White Album, I’ve pre-ordered the stereo boxset. Can’t wait!

BeatlesBen

Ben: Late last month one of my old university friends came to visit. Over bouts of Mario Kart and vodka-based Vimto drinks ‘like in the old days’, he smilingly handed me a gift bag. Inside that bag was a big pile of original Beatles seven inch records.

Nice!

I’ve already had a firm grounding in The Beatles so thought that a lot of this would be a little boring to listen to. Boy, was I wrong! The nine releases now firmly residing in my collection are:

  • EPsTwist and Shout and All My Loving. Two particularly early EPs which, though charming in their early skiffle way, are pretty pedestrian. The first track of the first EP does allow you to do this:

Look at those last three. Look at them! Any band would kill for one of those tracks as a lead single – to cram two stonking songs on the same single release is incredible. When was the last time that happened? I particularly like that last single there – John and Paul taking it in turns to sing songs about their childhood. It’s a good illustration of where they were diverging too.

This may be the single coolest thing I own. This the nice rawky version of Revolution as opposed to that acousticy one on the White Album.

I stand corrected – this is the coolest thing I own. It’s the original issue – not a big 12″ album but a double EP totalling six tracks. There’s some especially good tracks included – most notably I am the Walrus – but the joy is in the packaging. Gatefold with glossy cover and containing 28 pages of pictures, cartoons and lyrics.

MagicBegins

This isn’t just a blog post showing off my record collection, it’s me saying that these forty year old records are still perfectly serviceable.When I put Revolution on at ten o’clock on a Saturday morning, I was pestered by a neighbour who wanted to know how I got the remastered CDs so clearly. He initially refused to believe that I was listening to a record because the sound was ‘too clear’. I’ve only got a very basic stereo set-up (see here for a few wee details) which reproduced the songs in wonderfully, even the really early stuff like Twist and Shout. Some modern vinyl releases sound absolutely rubbish, being either very tinny or very muffled, whereas every one of these discs sounded sharp and clear.

But this is all largely beside the point. I recognise that today’s album re-releases aren’t superfluous in a ‘just buy the vinyl from a car boot’ way. I’ve no problem with them being re-released – in fact I welcome it. You see, far from being the trudge I suspected it might be I loved listening to these EPs because they gave me a chance to rediscover the music. I can get all nerdy about the printing in the Magical Mystery Tour packaging to my hearts’ content but what makes that EP isn’t the cover or the booklet inside, it’s the music. For lots of people, 09/09/09 doesn’t represent the day when they have to spend £150 on records they already own; it’s an excuse for most people to rediscover music which we all know but is still amazing forty years later.

(And an excuse for Apple to make a few million quid.)

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Responses

  1. Nice!

    I also prefer the rock version of Revolution. I have an Elliott Smith cover of it worth hearing, too.

  2. Ha! Told you it wouldn’t be Beatles on iTunes day!

    • Yeah… Oops.

  3. Nice article. I’m also in the ‘I Prefer The Souped-Up Version of Revolution’ club. And I want all your records.

    I would also posit this as another Beatles/tea moment:

  4. Paul Simon!! hahahaha!!

  5. I must watch ‘All You Need Is Cash’ again soon. The more I read about the actual Beatles, the more unnervingly accurate it becomes.

  6. As I read this blog post it almost seemed like you’re saying that there are certain Beatles tracks you’d never heard before, like Sgt Pepper’s. Is this actually true? Maybe it’s just because I’m a little older, but I’m still under 40 and I knew most of the Beatles songs from the radio here in America. Of course I can’t argue with the fact that the music usually wins a person over. –Spirituality of Tea


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