I have spent the last several weeks since SiriusXM inaugurated The Beatles channel studying their music. It has proved to be a rich field of study. The earlier songs had simple chordal structures and rich but simple harmonies. As their careers progressed so did the sophistication of their music and lyrics. They were motivated by an attempt not to repeat themselves.
We often get to hear interviews with contemporaries. They tell some of the behind the scenes stories that may not have been public knowledge when they happened. But now that we’ve lost John and Paul it is much easier to get permissions for constrained material.
As it turns out, we all were a lot more naive back then. Things that wight have been scandalous in those days would hardly cause the batting of an eyelid these days. They smoked marijuana with Bob Dylan, took LSD with Timothy Leary, and meditated with the Maharishi.
They started out writing simple love songs but soon moved on to break new ground writing more experimental songs often contrasting the lyrics of their songs with the simplicity of their songs. On the other hand, their songs explored many topical subjects. For example, Blackbird was about a young black woman. Sexy Sadie was actually about the Maharishi.
There is Breakfast with the Beatles, The Fab Forum, and Peter Ashley’s From Me to You. And there’s the feature they call “My Fab Four” where a listener sends in a list of their favorite Beatle songs along with why they like them. Then the get to actually guest DJ those four songs.
There is also much to be learned by listening close to the various instrumental parts of their recordings. I recently bought an acoustic bass guitar and have been listening closely to Paul’s bass parts. He was so good that you hardly notice what a fantastic bass player until you focus on listening to him play.
Some songs are clearly written by McCartney while others are just as inarguably Lennon compositions. Of course they all bear the Lennon/McCartney writing credit. The most exciting ones were those where they truly collaborated and you couldn’t tell who had written which parts of the song.
This is not to slight Ringo or George. They both wrote their share of incredible songs. I particularly liked Ringo’s Octopuses Garden and George’s The Inner Light. All four of the Beatles had successful solo careers after the band broke up. That was just one more testament to how incredibly talented they each were and how well that talent blended while they were together in the band.
When I first started listening to The Beatles channel and studying their music, I thought I would get burned out on the Beatles in a couple of week or maybe a couple of months at the longest. After a couple of months it has become apparent that I will still be discovering interesting musical details about their music after years of study. And they will be years well spent. I hope to learn to play bass as well as Paul.
Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.