Rock Geeks Listen to and Discuss the Beatles’ Love

Xmas Eve, 2007

Cristy: [as the album ends] Those voices might have been from one of their Christmas records. Have you heard those before?

William: No.

C: They used to put out Christmas records for their fan club. I have some of them. They always had a message and a little song. And they would banter.

W: I just had an epiphany. It’s Christmas Eve, I’ve just listened to the Beatles’ Love album, and the only other time I listened to it was a year ago on Christmas day when I gave it to my nephew and we all sat around and listened to it (one of the most subtly cool things we’ve ever done for a family Christmas). Today, driving home from Cristy’s parents’ house on I72, the sun was brilliant, the sky full of clouds, and as we passed beneath a flock of black and white birds George Harrison was singing “we’re all very small and life goes on within you and without you.” And I got it.

Although a lot of the CD was interesting technically—how they got the guitar solo from “Taxman” to fit into “Drive My Car”—or how they got the guitar solo from “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” to fit into... whatever song that was—

C: —I can’t remember—

W: —might have been “Lady Madonna”—

C: —yeah—

W: —mostly it was a fresh way to listen to the Beatles’ music again. The mix spanned their career, taking things out of chronological order in a way that didn’t seem jumbled, because there was a lot of continuity built in.

C: Mm-hm.

W: So during that part in the middle with “Tomorrow Never Knows” mixed with “Within You/Without You” and “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite” mixed with “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” I heard afresh how beautiful, shiny, and holy that music is.

C: Timeless.

W: I didn’t approve of the idea of the Love album, but they did a good job with it.

C: It’s exhausting. That’s not something that you just put on, you have to listen to it, and then—I mean, that lasted our whole trip home. Didn’t it? We put it on near Springfield...

W: An hour and a half?

C: At least.  It was exhausting. It jumped from the the end of their career to the beginning to the middle to the end to the beginning to the middle to the end to—you know? Not that that’s bad. But it’s very stimulating to the ear and the mind.

W: You have to stay on your toes. Because some of the songs didn’t seem to have any alterations—maybe a very subtle remix—while other ones had quiet stuff mixed in that the ear was straining to identify.

C: I liked hearing the music in a new way. I think purists would argue “why mess with the albums—they should stand on their own,” and they do, but this is a good way to appreciate how talented they were all over again.

W; I think that’s how the producers felt—Geoff Emerick and George Martin and George Martin’s son: if somebody’s going to mess with it, it better be us messing with it, since we put the records together in the first place. I think they also felt that way about the Anthology. Some moments of Love seemed inappropriate for new audiences. The melding together of three songs from Rubber Soul was cool but a corruption of the songs—it would be unfortunate if that were your first exposure to the material—but it was a neat surprise to ears trained to hear the original.

C: The Grey Album (Jay-Z and Dangermouse) does the same thing—not to the same degree, because they mix it with rap—but I think it’s an awesome way to expose the Beatles to new audiences. That’s really important.

W: Listening to The Grey Album is cognitively fascinating in a way that cuts close to the Rock Geek project. It’s bewildering how a single note extracted from a Beatles song and given a new context is so disorienting. When the sample is just long enough to be familiar but too short to be identified, it makes the ears itch. The Grey Album and Love, for Beatles fans, are at worst a listening quiz—testing your knowledge and ability to identify bits of music—and at best a way to hear the music for the first time again. In the case of Love, surprises came not just through the remixes but the mix: putting songs next to songs they’ve never been put next to before, with cool transitions. For example, “I am the Walrus” after “Eleanor Rigby” was nice, because both songs depend heavily on string arrangements, they sandwich my favorite part of the Beatles’ recording  careeer, they’re both surreal, one’s sort of Paul, but one’s very John. Hearing them together brought out sparkle in both of them

C: Oh my gosh. To hear “I Want to Hold Your Hand” next to “Come Together”—you can’t believe their styles changed that much in less than eight years. I can’t think of any other band that’s done that.

W: As a whole, it has a strong composition according to the rules of mix tapes. Framing the collection with forward and backward takes of the crashing piano crescendo of “A Day in the Life,” for example. “All You Need is Love” is a good closer, I think, as it was a live recording broadcast around the world from the peak of their high-mindedness, and the most concise expression of their ethic of love as, more than a romantic, a social or spiritual force. One gets a sense of how sweeping their vision was, with the Eastern, mystical sixties concentrated around “Tomorrow Never Knows"/"Within You Without You,” and the harpsichord solo from “Piggies” and its placement bringing to mind European history and its centuries of art music. The baroque and the psychedelic.

Perhaps the lack of extensive liner notes is for the best, forcing one to listen harder.

We need to get groceries. Do you want to walk to the store after we get home, or drive there?

C: Maybe we should unpack the presents from the car first. Survey the havoc that our little kitten wreaked... [pulling into the driveway]
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