Monday, June 29, 2009

beatle lust

[Author's Note: Can't believe I missed a week. Been a busy man, and my Wi-Fi went out for six days. Anyway...I'm back.]

Eight of the nine customers who participated in last week's "Name Five Beatles Songs" pop quiz failed miserably. I'm concerned. Only one dude managed all five, but not before trying to pass off Abbey Road as a song, not an album. After me and my Paragon coworkers granted him a mulligan (in Golf Speak, mulligans are unpenalized 'do-overs' after poor shots), he pulled on through.

All this Beatle talk got me thinking. How many can I name?

For many, many years, the Beatles were my band. My father spun their LPs when I was 2 or 3 years old (fave songs at the time: "When I'm Sixty-Four," "Come Together," and "A Taste Of Honey"), so you can say I've grown up with them. In college I took a dream vacation to Liverpool (<--link here) and spent four days exploring sacred Beatle grounds. Along the way I read eight or ten biographies on the band, met Pete Best (drummer before Ringo) at Chicago's Beatlefest, attended a Paul McCartney concert at London's Earl's Court Theatre, and spent hours upon hours in small music shops poring over their records. I've at one time or another owned every U.S. Beatles release and have given each of them dozens, if not hundreds, of spins, so 100 songs didn't seem entirely out of the question.

Tally at one hour: 102. Not bad, I thought, but there's got to be a few dozen I'm leaving out. Later, while on the subway, I realized I'd neglected Magical Mystery Tour entirely, an unconscionable omission. Nine tracks brought the number to 111. Then I apprehended a few stragglers from Help and Please Please Me, and some singles ("Rain," "Day Tripper") that never appeared on a studio album. I kept at it, nose to grindstone.

Shortly after dinner, surrender.


Of course I went back to check myself, anxious to see what'd been forgotten. Turns out a few BIGGIES were overlooked. Here's the short list:

"Can't Buy Me Love"
"Eight Days A Week"
"Happiness Is A Warm Gun"
"While My Guitar Gently Weeps"
"The Long And Winding Road"
"Hello Goodbye"


I'd remembered "Wild Honey Pie," a one minute throwaway from The Beatles, but not "Happiness Is A Warm Gun," which is often cited as one of the strongest numbers on that record. When thinking of how best to size up my exclusion of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," I realized it'd be equivalent to compiling a list of the 50 states and leaving out only, say, Colorado. Sorry, George.

I didn't limit myself to Beatle originals (on their first two albums, many of the songs were covers), but chose not to exploit the live BBC Sessions, which probably would have yielded twenty more. After some deliberation, I decided both Past Masters records were fair game.

Isn't it amazing how well our brains receive music? Even if you're not a musical person (or even a casual fan), I'll bet you can sing or hum along to tunes you haven't heard in fifteen years. Think about that! Most of us probably can't remember the plot of a movie we saw six months ago, but we'll respond to a Sesame Street ditty that captivated us at 6. (Remember that kick-ass song about numbers by the Pointer Sisters? 1 2 3 4 5...6 7 8 9 10...11 12? I rediscovered it a few weeks ago after twenty years and recognized every note, every vocal inflection. The vid--which is a must see--has been attached at the base of this post.) We've all owned LPs/cassettes/CDs at one time or another. Think back to what you were listening to during your formative, adolescent years; chances are, many of those melodies will remain with you until late adulthood.

'Bout a month ago a friend lent me Daniel J. Levitin's This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession, a book which I'd highly recommend to any and all music nuts. Sometimes it's a bit overbearing, since it's so technical, but Levitin does an admirable job trying to explain the goings-on in our craniums as we listen. Humans store sound in impressive ways.

Anyone feel like quizzing themselves? How many songs from your favorite band can you name? Let's see what you got.

Also, if anyone out there can beat my Beatle total, your next beer is on me.


Sean said...

Hey Mike,

Your post today was actually quite timely. My favorite bar in Chicago always hosts Jeopardy at 3:30 (if you get the final question correct you get a free beer). Today's final Jeopardy category was "The Beatles" (question was something about which album shows them doing Semaphore? answer-"Help"). But when they revealed that as the category, I knew I wouldn't know.

Now, you know as well as I do that I have a fairly good knowledge of music (you actually brought it up to me when Ron Asheton died, as I was the first person to hand you a Stooges record) yet the Beatles have gone completely and utterly unrecognized in my pathology. At 24 (and honestly at 19 when I was hanging out with you more) I feel as if I am too old to actually like them and fully appreciate their canon because I did not delve into it further. Maybe one can take it to my punk rock upbringing, but the Beatles were never MY band the way the The Clash, The Ramones, etc. were. On some level one realizes that a certain movement has passed one by, without giving the even most cursory acknowledgment. It's odd, and possibly a failure in my upbringing, but I actually feel complete (musically) without that knowledge.

Thoughts? (btw. I'm fairly bombed)

Sean said...

Sorry to post again, but I guess my larger question is: Can one label him/herself as being a music geek, despite having such a large gap in his/hers musical knowledge?

Anonymous said...

During a circle of death drinking game, I chose Beatles songs for the "category." Even after the first person was eliminated and had to drink, my friend and I kept going for like 30 straight minutes. We didn't count how many we named. Also, I was in Las Vegas last weekend and saw the Circ de Soleil Beatles LOVE show--amazing! T-Pow