Prologue: SeemsI abandoned this project for a minute. Work got the best of me. Actually, I was embarrassed to admit how much Beatles music I was missing. Still am. But it’s been long enough.
It’s hard to quantify, but I think I’ve gotten some good out of this project. I have a much easier time reevaluating bands I once thought were awful (woohoo, right?). I still often think they are awful, but I’ll never not give someone a second chance. I still have to listen to the radio at times, and I guess I’ll never get over my dislike for most of that stuff unless I spend some time away from it. It’s not my prerogative to have some fantastic revelation about any of today’s top pop country hits, so we’ll call it a truce? It’s not important! I get so much more out of music now. I really encourage everyone to look at music differently: see it’s small, moving parts; see the forest for the trees; see what the artist says and feel what they want you to feel; get outside of whatever box in which you are trapped. I have much more music to get through, and maybe I’ll actually complete my Beatles discography, which is as much of a public good I could expect from anything I ever do.
Also, I don’t know if any of you readers have any questions about law school, but I go to a very good state law school and I’ve had some success with it. I’d be happy to answer questions about that if you have any.
The Beatles - Help!
I treasure the ability of The Beatles to influx big pop hits with a progressive ingredient that would lead to the more polarizing material of the band’s later career. For example, George Harrison’s guitar really acts out, almost teasing the melody and structure when the guitar slides down in main the transition riffs. Other times, Harrison hits strong bass notes that give “Help!” a respectable backbone, but still sticks out with an uncommon boldness. The drums come in stereo left, which gives the wall of sound some thoughtfulness that it really deserves.
The verses have a surprising amount of momentum. The speed and intensity of this song almost seems to big for its own good. That works both for and against The Beatles. For example, the final, stripped down verse seems like an afterthought because this Juggernaut of a song doesn’t allow us to catch our breathes when we listen (or perhaps hold on for the ride). However, this song moves so quickly and so powerfully to convey the frustration around which the lyrics center. Because of how strongly the Beatles move this song, it feels just like the maelstrom that perhaps makes us feel the need for help described in this song. Really impressive. It leaves me wondering what I’ll uncover when I view the other early Beatles tunes, which I tended to not listen to because they seemed so poppy.
3.5 out of 5 stars.
Epilogue: I can’t even tell if there is an album that’s supposed to go with this song. From what I can tell, it’s a single that went along with the film, Help!, so I guess I’m not missing a goldmine. Correct me if I’m wrong. Here’s the real Beatles pickle for me. I have “Hey Jude”, but then I have some incomplete albums. I guess there’s no getting around cheating and trying to listen to the full albums despite not owning them, but I can’t seem to find them on my reliable music sources. I’d hate to listen to these albums on youtube or something. This is why I haven’t included any kind of link, as I usually do. If anyone is interested in trading some music to help me complete my Beatles repertoire, hit me up!
The first half or so of this album consists of several powerful songs worth going through individually. “Come Together” beings with a mischievous, playful backbeat. The slow and steady guitar solo is the essence of fit, gliding on top of a crescendo in volume and gravity. Lennon and McCartney sound slightly demented together, which complements the disjointed, jiving lyrics. Like many parts of the album, this interesting opener eases the listener into a sound that is more interesting and vivacious than meets the casual ear.
In “Something”, a slightly jarring introductory hook makes the verse seem even smoother than it is alone. This must have been pretty tough to accomplish, considering the verses’ gliding harmony and soothing guitar chorus echoes. The bravado of the “you’re asking me” section feels like rising into the clouds might feel. Laying those vocal harmonies on top of the later verses is almost too much; they just barely sell it with sincerity, but I do genuinely feel the sweetness as the natural texture of the vocals soothes my ears.
“Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” is the kind of song hilariously termed “granny song” by John Lennon, but the levity is probably needed between “Something” and “Oh! Darling”. Also, the guitars raise the sonic existence of the song like a scaffolding allows buildings to reach higher into the sky. Plus, how did they figure that the odd synthesizer in that number would make a good fit? It does, but just barely.
“Oh! Darling” smashes together some really fun doo-wop sound with George Harrison’s progressive, plucky guitars. The oddness of the chorus’ arpeggio almost distracts me from the powerhouse vocals. Almost. I sometimes wonder if these gentlemen put songs like this, and “Octopus’s Garden”, on their albums just to anger other musicians over how easily these peculiarly memorable and enjoyable melodies come to the band. By this point, the guitars sound otherworldly, like they emit a sound that should not be impossible. Paul McCartney on bass moves songs (especially in “Something”) so vitally that I sometimes wonder if the Beatles would be any good without him. Things have locked in step to prepare you for the most mind-blowing moment of the album…
“I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” is nigh-incredulous. The total picture of this song is so torrential that it almost shouldn’t work. Sometimes listening to the Beatles easily fools me into thinking that the music is not that great. This is probably because they have the kind of mastery of music that, like that of great sports players, makes the execution seem effortless from the outside. The complex flow of “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” and the immaculate arrangements of “Something” and “Oh! Darling” zoom past you because they are buried under the impressive performance of these gentlemen. The outro of “I Want You” takes a different approach than that, though. The dark, menacing guitar/bass riff helps the white noise escalate the senses into overload, and the stark cutoff at the end is nothing short of cruel. I often think of the ocean at its most stormy and horrific when I experience such rocky dynamics, but somehow my senses escape Earth altogether during this smashing number.
In all likelihood, this happened to me at some point.
“Here Comes The Sun” should feel schizophrenic after “I Want You”, but again these gentlemen suck you in with a comforting, reassuring and heartfelt song. It’s like they are bringing you back down to Earth but reminding you of what you saw when you went all the way up and out there, wherever and whatever that may be, with them. Finally, I enjoy hearing “Because” at the end of the first half of the album’s barrage of intense, stand-alone songs. The heavily paced exposition of “Because” and the gorgeous, impossibly huge-sounding vocal arrangements that follow raise more questions than resolutions, and that kind of mystery is exactly what counts when beginning the next part of the album.
The second half of the album begins and finishes a journey that has a complex, wistful tone, perhaps underscored by the imminent breakup of the band. Different sections flow like water in “You Never Give Me Your Money”, which sets up the oddness of the next few songs. After the bizarre lushness of “Sun King”, a funky rock trio kicks off that ends with a real sleeper hit of the Beatles, in my opinion. “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window” is what I experience to be the most passionately forceful song on the album. It powers through the passionate composition and arrangement. The acoustic rhythm guitar smashes the beat’s emphasis while McCartney’s bass adds more of his own touch of sophistication. The real center of the song, for me, is the lead guitar part. Harrison shines with a sound that holds up the rest of the band while still existing in its own world. Moreover, each guitar note throughout this suite hits with an air of importance, as if this entire segment of the album is meant to have your full attention and care.
The Abbey Road sound gives way to one last grand endeavor, beginning with “Golden Slumbers”. The heavy orchestration shifts the album’s world suddenly, like the wistful outro of a musical so emotionally intense that an experience any more worldly would be too much to experience. “Carry That Weight” picks up perfectly the somber, beautiful tail end of “Golden Slumbers” with a rousing chorus that makes me feel like I’ve climbed to the top of a mountain. “Carry That Weight” and “The End” are a very fitting “end” to this album (even though “Her Majesty” sends us off) because they fit not only the cycle beginning with “Golden Slumbers”, but also the second half and totality ofAbbey Road. I love how “Carry That Weight” amplifies triumph through its emotional lyrics and lush orchestration, and then “The End” picks up that escalation in a more viscerally exciting manner by turning towards a rock form that distills almost everything about each individual member of The Beatles.
Finally, everybody has had some exposure to the “…and in the end” portion of the song, but if you haven’t experienced it as a grand pre-“Your Majesty”-finale, you need to take the time to sit through this whole album with a caring ear.
5 out of 5 stars.
I’m pretty blown away by this album. It’s easy for that to have meaning to me, because I have never been a much of a Beatles worshipper. That being said, this album has always been the easiest of the Beatles’ to understand in my head. I think it will be even more interesting to learn more about how this band’s sound developed up until this point. Gotta go search for more Beatles music, my collection is woefully incomplete. Also, sorry about lack of links; it seems that grooveshark has been policed of Beatles songs. I find that odd, considering King Crimson is lying around, but alas.