03 September 2010

John, Paul, George, Ringo

{ Everyone goes through phases. }

My love obsession with The Beatles is pretty well documented through out the course of Pet Bear Sounds history. I have spent countless hours poring over Beatles-related fan web pages, biographies, critical analyses, magazines, and music theory books. Add that to the untold hours that I've spent listening to The Beatles[1] and it is safe to say that a good 25% of my (faulty)memory banks are filled with Beatles knowledge.

Keep in mind, I have a hard time remembering what I had for dinner yesterday.

With all this study of The Beatles, I should have a Ph. D. or something. Oh, wait, I can at least get a masters degree! I'm pretty sure my obsession with The Beatles would be complete if I got my MA in "Beatles, Popular Music And Society."

I'm looking into the program now.

I wish I could point to a day or a moment in my history where I can say, "There! That's when I fell in love with The Beatles" but there isn't. There was no Paul(ha!) on the road to Damascus moment for me, there's no lightning-bolt moment or hand of God on my shoulder sort of thing.

It was a love born from the oldies radio station, from "Hey Jude" played on the family piano, "Yesterday" blasting from my dad's work area in the garage, "Let It Be" on the family road trips.

Love to obsession doesn't happen overnight, it takes years of cultivation[2].

Anyone with a slightly-greater-than working knowledge of the Beatles will inevitably gravitate towards one Beatle or the other. You still listen to Beatles songs and other Beatle solo work, you enjoy it, love it, but you ultimately identify more with one more than the others. And as time goes by, you find that you certainly associate with one more than the others.

Paul McCartney

{ Paul McCartney & Wings - "Maybe I'm Amazed" }

The saccharin-sweet diabetes-inducing songs of McCartney was the soundtrack through much of high school and college.

McCartney is the best at writing those uplifting campy love songs like "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" and adorable pop tunes like "I've Just Seen A Face."

Without the rest of The Beatles to temper his maple-syrup-like tendencies, McCartney's solo career certainly dives deeper into that sugar-pop realm. How can you forget "Silly Love Songs" or love-anthems like "My Love."

I suppose McCartney does hark back to a more simple, hopeless romantic time, doesn't he?

Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy listening to Wings as much as the next person, but, I suppose, I feel like I've outgrown McCartney a bit. Or, rather, I just don't identify with him as much.

John Lennon

{ John Lennon - "Woman" }

If McCartney induces diabetes, then Lennon is the insulin.

While McCartney may reflect the romantic part of me, Lennon certainly reflects the thrill, confusion, anger, excitement, and rebellion of one's mid-20s. That whole "fuck you" to the establishment sort of feeling.

Well, I feel like I've always been somewhat "anti-establishment" but I think punk rock filled that void in high school. (See the dichotomy there? McCartney and punk rock in high school? That's me in nutshell).

I love that Lennon songs have that anti-establishment socially-conscious quality, that "fuck you" quality. Again, it's the solo career where you see his true personality without the filter of The Beatles.

Just look at powerful songs like "Imagine," "Instant Karma," "Power To The People" or "Working Class Hero." Sure, he was capable of an achingly gorgeous love song like "Love" or "Woman" but there is a raw quality to his work. A flawed, confused character just trying to do some good in this crazy, fucked up world.

George Harrison

{ George Harrison - "My Sweet Lord" }

Whereas the McCartney-to-Lennon switch may have just been a violent reaction, like when lava meets the sea, then my George Harrison phase is the resulting island. (Not quite sure if the metaphor works. Just roll with it).

Over the years, I find myself more in the Harrison camps these days.

Harrison was always known as the "quiet Beatle" but he wasn't so much as quiet as he was introspective and - I hate using this word because it sounds so damn cheesy - spiritual. His peaceful and spiritual outlook contrasts sharply with his dry-wit, thick sarcasm, sharp tongue, no-bullshit attitude, intense desire for privacy and short temper (when provoked). Most of the qualities that I tend to find in myself these days.

His songs - like his personality - tends to have a stark and frank look at love and life. Songs like "Something" and "My Sweet Lord" and "Isn't It A Pity" lack the perfectly-crafted, sappy qualities of McCartney or the intense sometimes shock-value-like quality of Lennon tunes. Harrison songs are introspective, slow-building, and completely frank and are delivered with a stark beauty.

I suppose that's how I view Life these days.

Ringo Starr

{ The Beatles - "Don't Pass Me By" (Remastered mono version) }

And what of Ringo Starr?

Well, I've not reached the Ringo Starr stage yet.

I figure it's the stage I reach when I'm hitting my mid-life crisis and I just want to drive sports cars and listen to good ol' fashioned rock 'n' roll from Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band at Humphreys By The Bay in San Diego.

By the way, Ringo gets a bad rap. He's no Keith Moon or John Bonham but his drumming is more complicated than you think. Don't believe me? Play some Beatles Rock Band and do the Ringo parts and see if you can keep up with the beats. It's a lot harder than you think. Trust me.

And in the end...

{ The Beatles - "The End" (Remastered) }

Every Beatles fan goes through their phases with the Beatles. The fact that I even identify this closely with people that I've never met in my entire life really does speak to the cultural power of The Beatles.

The force and impact of The Beatles have been well-documented (ad nauseum) but I feel I have to throw my $0.02 into the din.

The Beatles benefited from the right time and the right place. Malcom Gladwell's book Outliers offers an extremely interesting look - albeit too short for my tastes! - on what made The Beatles as successful as they were.
Like the 10,000-hour rule. Greatness requires enormous time, [Malcom] Gladwell says. This explains why The Beatles were the best rock group and [Bill] Gates is a billionaire.

From 1960 to 1964, The Beatles played live 1,200 times and racked up more than 10,000 hours of playing time, Gladwell says.

"Lennon and McCartney had a musical gift of the sort that comes along once in a generation," he writes. And all that playing time shaped their talent, so by the time they returned to England from Hamburg, Germany, "they sounded like no one else. It was the making of them."
[USA Today]
For the understatement of the year: The Beatles are truly a unique rock 'n' roll band. This is why so much ink (and pixels) have been spilled over their songs, the structure of their songs, their personalities, their growth, their impact.

We'll never see a band like this ever again.

Of course, all this much to the chagrin of The Beatles. As John Lennon once famously said, "We were just a band that made it very, very big, that's all."

That's all.

Comment below and let Pet Bear Sounds know which Beatle describes you!
[1] I started obsessively tracking my music-listening habits (via iPod and my computer) on Last.fm since September 2006, I have listened to the Beatles nearly 4,000 times, more than twice as much as the next band (Radiohead).

[2] Like an avocado tree! If you start with a seed, it can take up to 20 years before your tree will start to bear fruit.

{ If you've got the cash, get the mono set. It's how God intended. Or The Beatles. Almost the same thing. Actually, I take that back, Clapton Is God. }