Rock in 67

I may have covered this playlist hidden somewhere within the many posts throughout the year but after receiving the email that it was not completed I sought the opportunity to dive deeper into these songs as a standalone playlist. Rock in 1967 was becoming a sort of psychedelic rock style that was brought out through distorted instruments, surreal visuals whether that was album covers or live concerts, and lyrics that reference the use of drugs in the form of slang. Many of these artists were heavily influenced by the drugs that they would write about and therefore allowed them to express themselves freely and openly. Before I dive directly into the main artists that utilize the drug movement as a source of material I will first talk about the Beatles rivalry with The Rolling Stones in roughly 66 and 67. If the Beatles were the good guys then the Rolling Stones were the bad guys who were talking about themselves and the masogoney of character that comes along with the fame that they were receiving. The song Under My Thumb is a perfect example of how different the Beatles and the Stones were from each other. The Beatles throughout their career cover the theme of love and the care for women. This is really brought out in songs such as And I Love Her, In My Life, and Something. Under My Thumb shows how the Rolling Stones are very manipulative of women and see themselves as better or powerful where the Beatles took a more gentle approach to the sex part of rock and roll. The Rolling Stones were essentially the anti-Beatles because for any band in Britain at the time to sound anything like the Beatles would be an absolute flop.

1967 my be my favorite year for rock music because many of my favorite artists were making some of their best music. Not only did the Beatles release the Magical Mystery Tour and Sgt. Pepper, but American artists like The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, and Jefferson Airplane were releasing classic albums. The Doors took the songwriting to a new level where Jim Morrison’s poetic lyrics produce thick discussion and cryptic meanings. Their debut album showcases the many different styles that the Doors would be recognized by and this all started with the first song on the album. Break On Through in my opinion is the one song that they made where it really doesn’t sound like the rest of their work. However, I love how Jim sets the stage for how people were supposed to view and listen to their music because it is very apparent that Jim himself had broke through to the other side. The Doors were composed of a classic band set except the iconic keyboard that really characterized their sound throughout their career. After setting the stage the Doors come back with their song Light My Fire which is perhaps their most successful song. The keyboard intro is what really makes this song so perfect because Ray is able to create chaos and rhythm which helps to stabilize Jim for his lyrics that are so out there. Love Me Two times is an interesting song to place on this playlist because there are so many songs that could have been placed here. Jim was the poster boy for American drugs, sex, and rock and roll because he was all in. His death at age 27 is sad but not shocking because of the way that he lived his life. The sex aspect of the Doors’ music is quite explicit when you look past the slang of their words. Songs like Alabama Song, Back Door Man, and Touch Me are straight to the point and very much unlike the style of love that the Beatles would be talking about except for maybe Happiness is a Warm Gun.

Jimi Hendrix was the artist that raised the bar on lead rock guitar. The man was a magician with the guitar and even played the guitar upside down. His ability to improvise with a guitar fits the loose style of rock and lifestyle that Jimi was living. He was another true rock and roll star bent on living it up as fast as possible with no brakes. Songs like Purple Haze really emphasis the distorted nature the songs of the time and how that effect can be a successful work of art. All Along the Watchtower was a song that was originally written by Bob Dylan but Dylan was so impressed by Hendrix’s rendition that he was pretty much like yeah that is your song. His pure ability to play was something to treasure and his impact on the genre goes on to influences how to raise the bar on instrumentation. Jefferson Airplane was also known for their psychedelic influence and with their song White Rabbit suggest going down the rabbit hole is like falling into the acid trip. The example of Alice in Wonderland as a metaphor to their work’s influence really characterized the music of the time and the style of writing that rock music was becoming.

 

Postmodern Politics/ The White Album

The Beatles continue to progress through their constant evolution remaining consistent with the counterculture that was progressing right along with them. Their recent successes with Sgt. Pepper can created quite a buzz about the Beatles making them larger than life icons of this generation perhaps more than they were already, if that is even possible. If Sgt. Pepper was the climax of the Beatles career then their falling action was quite a spectacle of songwriting achievement. They would spend much of their time in India where they would write many of the music that would be released on self titled album otherwise known as the White Album. This album was along the lines of the counterculture that they were to remain consistent with except that they were refraining from the strong drug influences that has inspired them in the previous two albums and more towards political action as a response to the Vietnam War. Although they were advised not to make anti-war songs in relation to the war at hand the Beatles instead did what the Beatles do best. That is they made music that was up for interpretation and song lyrics that allow the listener to experience for themselves rather than to send a message. Their time in India allowed them to make music that was to sound more like an actual rock band rather than to tinker with everything in the studio like they did previously. This was an added effect to the overall purity of the work that was to be placed on the massive White Album.

The death of Brian Epstein was a major event in the career of the Beatles because he was someone who had been there for the long run. Not only was he influential to their success and continued success but he was the backbone of the business that the Beatles were. Sure they were 4 members of a band who made music together but they had no business sense and without Brian they were placed in unfamiliar territory. He was the one who advised them not to make protest songs and his wish was true except for one tune in particular. The song Revolution 1 can be seen as an explicitly anti-war song but what the Beatles do so gracefully is make fun of their message as they are creating it. The message that John is relaying is powerful but like many songs they had made earlier, the harmony singers Paul and George in this instance are during the chorus singing “ShooBeDooWop” which to me is quite clever and very Beatles-like. The chorus of the song is the perfect undertone of the verses that standout as some of the best writing that John as done to date.

The White Album is something to treasure even when it sometimes gets criticized as a step down compared to the previous album. Personally I think this is one of their best because of the sheer amount of music that they released. Sure there are forgettable songs that are more used for humorous reasons such as Piggies and Wild Honey Pie. The reality is that if this album was to be condensed to the regular 13 or so songs that would be on a normal Beatles record this could be their greatest body of work. I love that the album opens up with Back in the USSR which is a very traditional style of rock that has been absent from the Beatles work for quite some time. It was refreshing to hear a song where all the Beatles are utilized for their original talents that formed the band and the topic is of them returning to their home. Dear Prudence is another great tune that showcases their time in India in a creative way with their common Beatles satirical humor and expert songwriting. Perhaps my favorite song on the record is Martha My Dear for its simplicity in telling the tale of love and how things can get out of hand when to get away from things that are around you. The experience that they speak of in this tune really speaks to me and I just love listening over and over because it puts me in the best mood. The other tunes that need to be mentions are Blackbird, Happiness is a Warm Gun, Revolution 9, Helter Skelter, and Julia. There are all songs that are reasons as to why the White Album is so ahead of its time and a sample as to why the Beatles do it better covering so many different genres of music.

The Mystery Tour

The Magical Mystery Tour is one of my favorite pieces that the Beatles have done and it sets up Sgt. Pepper so well. Before diving into these songs I would like to first discuss the articles which come down to the points that the Beatles were “Men of Ideas” and also the counterculture that they were becoming a part of as well as influencing through their music. Counterculture at the time was focused on change and this was becoming very evident through the music of the time that was inspiring those to rebel against the old society. This became very evident with the major drug culture that was becoming quite popular. The LSD movement became a major factor in this movement and allowed the youth generation to express themselves in new ways. The electric kool aid acid tests were a perfect platform for this to be expressed in a wide sense. Although the Beatles never played at these events they were definitely major contributors to the popularity of acid and showed exactly why it helped them create the best music possible. The Beatles became men of ideas because they were able to think in a new light when utilizing Timothy Leary’s methods in his manual to establish a comforting experience of spiritual journey through LSD.  This was mainly evident with John Lennon and is really brought out through the song Strawberry Fields off the Magical Mystery Tour. The song was something personal to John and you could feel that emotion through the lyrics and the way John connects with the song. “Let me take you down” showing his pride of the area as well as his artistic comfort in representing this in a major song. “Nothing is real” is my favorite line in the song that really sums up the entire year of 1967 for the Beatles. This was a year of yet another change for the Beatles in order to create things without limits and express something that they would not be able to as just the Beatles that everyone knew. Paul shows his artistic creativity and response to John with Penny Lane. This song is much different in tempo and emotion but fits well to the style of Paul’s song writing. This was a stretch for a Paul song but it was the first step in getting Paul towards his full on approach to the LSD method that is evident in Sgt. Pepper. My favorite song on the tour though is I Am the Walrus which broke all the rules and allowed the whole group to expand their ideas to something questionable. This song is what really embodied what they were trying to do in terms of being different and innovative. The Mystery Tour was the perfect experiment for the Beatles to get into full gear and create quite possibly the greatest album of all time.

Gould Preface

The Gould preface is a fantastic introduction to a very detailed look at the Beatles career with a strong criticism and analysis of their work. Gould opens up by introducing the band as the second coming of Elvis in a sense as they come to America for the first time and begin their first press conference at Kennedy Airport. Then he heads over to their impact through the Ed Sullivan show which was a major moment in their career and shot their career from the top to through the roof. The popularity of the Beatles was an interesting effect on the world of popular music and for 4 young brits to come to America and take over music was quite and interesting turn for the course of popular music. Something today that would represent what the Ed Sullivan show meant then would probably be MTV. Although MTV has declined over the past few years it is still the major platform for letting people here new up and coming artists and get them on the map to boost their popularity. In my mind the major event to play at during the course of the year would be to perform at the Grammy’s. These awards have been around since the Beatles were active and they even won for Sgt. Pepper but to perform on that stage now means that you were one of the greatest artists of that year and therefore get to perform your music to the greatest stars and critics of the time.

Ideas for the final project

For the final project I have come down to two ideas for what I would like to do. The first idea would be to make a compilation of poems that are about the many stages of the Beatles as well as each individual member. After reading some of Lennon’s work in class I got the idea to make something similar but from the perspective of each member representing their style and contribution to the group. This would be a fun exercise and I would probably end up with about ten unique poems placed together in a strategic order and hopefully finished as to look like a published work. The other idea that I had was to make a traditional paper comparing and contrasting John Lennon and Jim Morrison. We have covered plenty of Lennon throughout class but I would really like to dive into how these two icons of their generation were so similar but also what made them so different. Also is is incredible to me that these two never seemed to have done anything together. I truly believe that some influence was transferred one way or the other and I would like to explore how this would have been should these two have encountered one another. Please let me know which one seems like a better idea because I am very comfortable with putting in plenty of effort on both ideas.

The Beatles and Counterculture

After discussing many indications of counterculture throughout the presentations in class it is shocking the amount of overlap that the Beatles have on that counterculture. The Beatles were a major part of the movements that were associated in the 1960’s such as the heavily use of LSD for experimental purposed as well as gaining rights for those who were oppressed. From Rubber Soul to Sgt. Pepper the drug use became a major indicator of their success as professional musicians who took their work very seriously and made music for an artistic audience. The counterculture of drugs became huge for the 1960’s especially with key figures like Timothy Leary and Ken Kensey. Although Ken was part of the Acid test that never feature the Beatles, they were a major factor in why this drug would revolutionize the way that music would be written and experienced. On the other side of the counterculture the trend of activism became huge. At this time there was the civil rights movement happening in American and women were also trying to get away from the standards society had placed on them. This also goes to show with the gay and lesbian activists as well. Sgt. Pepper was an album of limitless change which allowed a generation to take notice and feel comfortable to make that change themselves and do so properly. As John says in “A Day in the Life”, ‘I would love to turn you on…’ which can be interpreted in many ways. Turn you on to LSD, or their new musical style, or simply the new way of thinking utilized by the Beatles which would come to represent the counterculture of the time. In the Gould reading Paul is often saying how the Sgt. Pepper band was a parody of the Beatles themselves which in a sense is themselves becoming part of the counterculture that stands against the music that they were making just 4 years earlier. The progressive changes that the Beatles went through symbolize the changing of the times and how the boarders should be pushed in order to achieve greatness.

Pepper Side 2

Within You Without You in my opinion is a great addition to the album. I feel that what we have learned about the Indian culture and its impact on the career of George Harrison, that he has embodied it quite well in this piece. Perhaps critics don’t look into the fact that this album is about each individual Beatles doing exactly what they want. Each artist was able to experiment with their musical talents and show listeners exactly why they love what they do. I personally love this tune compared to other Indian influenced track that George produced and its only fitting that it is on their masterpiece. When Im 64 is so great because it transitions the listener back from the Indian sounds that George was portraying earlier. Considering this album is meant to be listened to all the way through, it would be a bit harsh to listen to another slower mellow song after Within you Without you, so I believe that this song provides the perfect transition and really embodies the quirky humor that the Beatles have has since their Beatlemania years. Its interesting that John was not fond of Paul’s third party songs. I really do like the quote about John writing about what he knows and that being himself. I feel like if John wrote about something else it would not be as interesting considering his extraordinary journey to fame. For me this is my least favorite song on the album and I almost agree with Paul, sometimes there isn’t enough emotion for these style of songs that Paul writes and when the Beatles write from their experiences then their best work comes out. I although agree with you about the ending being the best part of the song and keeps with the strong transitional value of each song into the next that makes this album so special. Its odd to see that comparison but I think it helps the song out a bit because of the Beatles spice added on that makes it a bit more crazy but still very memorable. I find it ironic that John would deny that this is something similar but perhaps he heard it while tripping LSD and it got caught but he never realized that this was the case until after its release. I could be terribly wrong but that is a small possibility. The songs mood however is very challenging to pin down because of the lack of emotion in John’s voice as he sings this tune. What I love about Lennon songs is the emotion that he is able to weave through the melody of a song and almost create an additional instrument with his voice that add so much quality. For this song he is very mono-toned for his own work and  perhaps gives off a negative feel compared to a song like Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. I like the reprise for this album and I think what makes it more effective is that Day in the Life is what follows. The reprise almost make Day in the Life a standalone track that is meant to be analyzed and enjoyed above all others. Perhaps my favorite Beatles track of all time and for some many reasons. “Id love to turn you” gives me chills even after I have heard this song over a hundred times. I do view that part as subversive because it allows the listener to travel through their creative ability and yet the soft beginning comes to a screeching conclusion with the harsh crescendo and the lasting notes at the end are just pure art to finish the greatest album of all time.

Pepper Playlist 1

Strawberry Fields Forever was awesome to listen after hearing the demo versions before the final song that was released. Hearing the snippets that came together to create the whole song was interesting on how many different ways that they could have taken the track. I love the overlying melody that the soft back beat and John’s voice create together and give this track more life and meaning.  The song itself sounds very drug fueled from first glance but the more than I listened to the song it made more sense and I could definitely tell that the track meant alot to John and his passion came through in the lyrics. What I wish would have stayed was the section in the second version with a very wavy guitar riff that sounded very distorted and gave the version an edge that was not present in the more mellow final version. Penny Lane is a great way to show the different styles that separate styles of Paul and John. Penny Lane has the addition of piano and the horn instrument that makes it much more happy in a sense.  There approach to songwriting could be considered polar opposites because Paul focuses more on the positives of life and creates the happy contrast to the mellow and darker lyrics that John typically produces. The similarities in harmonic qualities seems to be the trademark of the Beatles because both John and Paul have the incredible ability to have their voices travel along a track with such precision. Sgt. Pepper the song is a great introduction into what they are wanting to do with the rest of the album. The song opens up like a regular rock song with some heavier distorted guitar that I personally like but then it loses me when the applause becomes overwhelming and the horns come into play. What I do like about this song was the fact that they are showing how they will utilize their new studio production quality and what it can do to their new style as the Sgt. Pepper Band. The applause is a good transition however into the next song and a personal favorite of mine. With a little help from my friends is a great song that reaches beyond what they or anyone else had been doing in the past and making it so simple. The lyrics of the song speak to people in an everyday sense whether you do drugs or not because everyone can use a little help from their friends from time to time. The simplicity of the music puts me in a good mood and wants me to put the song on replay. Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds is very controversial considering the LSD speculations that surround the title. Whether that was meant or not the song vividly describes and sounds like the common effects that this drug gives off. The opening sounds are very strong and powerful which provide the perfect calm before the imagery that John provides. Collideascope eyes is a strong lyric that emphasizes the mental imagery associated with the drugs that were influencing John and the rest of the Beatles at the time but also the ability for someone to see things in a new light and have positive influences on their artistic ability. If Lucy is the trip, then Getting Better is coming out of the trip and having a positive transition. This song is the perfect contrast to Lucy and honestly makes the story of Stg. Pepper so much more vivid. Fixing a hole is an interesting song that seems to be a John song but is infact a Paul song. This song is an attempt to demonstrate how their new way of thinking and songwriting has reached a new height of creativity. Where it will go… is a great line that depicts that mind and its ability to learn new things without the restraints that had previously limited them.  This song seems to be Paul’s experiment to taking a risk outside of his normal comfort zone which is a major part of their new identity as the Sgt. Pepper Band. She’s leaving home doesn’t stand the test of time quite like the rest of the album. This is an elite group which means that I am not taking anything away from this song I am simply stating that if I was going to listen to this album, this would not be the first song I would play. I love the intro however and the classical accompaniment is a refreshing change of pace for the previous songs on the album. I love that Ringo got to experiment with this one like the rest of them did throughout the album. Mr Kite is simply good fun and in my opinion makes for a fantastic intermission for the two parts of the album.

Pepper Post #1

Sgt. Pepper, the album that let the Beatles do whatever they wanted because there was no restraint from live performance and booked scheduling. They had the motivation to take their talents to the studio and as a response to the Beach Boys setting the standard for studio singles with “Good Vibrations” it was time for the Beatles to grab hold of the top of the charts again. I learned a ton reading through some of the selected reading especially through the Gould reading. I was unaware that “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields Forever” were released as singles prior to the launch of Sgt. Pepper which made many believe that the next album would be autobiographical about the Beatles in Liverpool. This was not the case (thank god) because instead the Beatles used their skills and the expanding possibilities in the studio to create and alter ego who was a band in which each member could be whoever they wanted to be. This transformation was the next step in the Beatles evolving career and perhaps the climax in many people’s eyes. Shifting toward the playlist and some the music that the Beatles were definitely hearing during the recording of Sgt. Pepper, bands included Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Doors, and Jefferson Airplane. Starting with the Doors we hear songs like “Break on Through” and “Light My Fire” which are very different in comparison but both very much the Doors and what they represented. “Break on Through” is very edgy and in your face with a soft bass intro before coming in with some distorted guitar to allow the audience to literally break through as well. Jim Morrison is arguably crazier than John Lennon and did more drugs, as a result dying at age 27, but his poetic lyrics what cryptic messages posed to be a real influence for the Beatles when they were making Pepper because of multiple meanings that lyrics can have. “Light My Fire” is a more moderate song for the Doors but what makes this song so special and allows the Doors to stand out as a the controversial psychedelic group that they are what there live performance where Jim emphasizes the word “Higher” when told to replace the word entirely, this was just foreshadowing for his later live performances that would create a ton of conflict. Jimi Hendrix was another musicians during this time who really pioneered the psychedelic guitar and mastered the art of distorting sounds, like the Beatles, he took an interest in Bob Dylan and even covered his song “All Along the Watchtower” which later Dylan gave to Jimi because of how good it was. “Purple Haze” is a song no doubt about weed and or drugs in general but its the distorted guitar riffs and the raspy sound that makes the song more powerful. Hendrix was less cryptic in his writing but more of a musical mastermind when it came to performance and studio production with The Experience. “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane was a breakthrough song, not only because of the rare female lead singer but just the mellowed out sounds and capturing that drug induced sound while taking the listener down the rabbit hole much like Alice.