A Year with the Beatles: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Beatles_Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club BandWell, it’s way past time for me to talk about the Beatles’ eighth U.K. studio album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. I’ve been losing enthusiasm for my Beatles project of late, mostly because Real Life has been taking up the lion’s share of my time. Sgt. Pepper is usually regarded as the Beatles’ most experimental/weirdest/trippiest album, and I have to say, it wasn’t one of my favorites. Here are my thoughts on the individual songs:

“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” — This song is actually pretty boring, musically speaking; it’s really just a standard blues harmony. But I like how the song sets up the rest of the album as a “live” show.

“With a Little Help from My Friends” — Whenever I hear this song, all I can think about is “The Wonder Years.” Apart from that, it really doesn’t do anything for me.

“Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” — The  chorus of this song doesn’t really seem to match the verses; the song goes from a creepy little waltz to a rock chorus. Which is an interesting idea, but I don’t particularly like the way it came out.

“Getting Better” — I like this song, probably because it’s not trying to be too clever. It’s a straight-up rock song with a catchy chorus and a fun driving pulse.

“Fixing a Hole” — Liked this one as well, particularly the cool little sound effects on the guitar.

“She’s Leaving Home” — I like the way the song alternates from the parents’ point of view to the daughter’s. It’s a nice twist on the “my parents don’t understand me” idea. It’s also a very sad song.

“Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” — I like the trippy-circus-carnival feel of this song. Also, is it just me, or is there something a bit menacing about it? Like, “we’re inviting you to this show, but if you don’t come, we’ll kill you.” Definitely something sinister going on…

“Within You Without You” — Oh goody, more sitar! Aren’t the Beatles sick of it yet? I thought this song was dull, dull, dull.

“When I’m Sixty-Four” — This song has a charming old-timey feel to it, like maybe Glenn Miller recorded it first. I love the clarinets! And the lyrics are charmingly romantic.

“Lovely Rita” — Meh, this song didn’t make much of an impression on me. It did sound very similar to the chorus of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” to me, though.

“Good Morning Good Morning” — Not a huge fan of this song, but I would definitely like it to play loudly every morning in lieu of my alarm clock!

“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)” — Nothing new to say about this one…but it does continue the “live show” feeling of the album, which is cool.

“A Day in the Life” — Meh. Boring.

Yes, I’m obviously a little burned out on the Beatles reviews! I do have The Beatles (the white album) on deck, so hopefully I’ll post a review for that one soon. But honestly, I haven’t started listening to it yet, and it’s LONG. So we’ll see.

A Year with the Beatles: Revolver

Beatles_RevolverOnce again I’m late with my post on the Beatles’ seventh studio album, Revolver, which I listened to throughout July. This album should really be subtitled: “In which the Beatles discover the sitar.” There is a lot (A LOT) of sitar on this album, just sayin’. But I am liking the Fab Four more and more with every album, it seems. This one has a lot of great songs, many of which are instantly recognizable:

“Taxman” — I have to say, it surprised me to hear the Beatles singing such fiscally conservative lyrics! It’s one of the first overtly political songs in their oeuvre, and while I quite enjoyed their earlier boy-meets-girl stuff, this is a refreshing change.

“Eleanor Rigby” — This is a great song, albeit terribly, terribly depressing. Love the violins and other orchestral touches.

“I’m Only Sleeping” — I hated this one…something about John Lennon’s whiny vocals just grates on my nerves. I don’t know why he chose that vocal style for this song, but it is super, super annoying.

“Love You To” — Sad to say, I couldn’t actually remember this song when I sat down to write this post! A quick refresher online reminded me: this is the one that sounds like Bollywood. First major appearance of the sitar! I like the driving beat of the song, though.

“Here, There and Everywhere” — Blehhh. This one’s pretty, I guess, but I found it incredibly boring.

“Yellow Submarine” — A Ringo song I actually like! After all, who hasn’t wanted to run away from the world and live a life of ease, sailing the sea of green?

“She Said She Said” — I dig this song a lot. It sounds more like modern rock than a lot of their earlier stuff…seems to be looking forward rather than backward.

“Good Day Sunshine” — Another one I really, really like! As I’ve said before, the Beatles tend to write well about the sun. 🙂

“And Your Bird Can Sing” — I like this one too…I’m intrigued by whatever story it’s telling.

“For No One” — This is the other one I couldn’t immediately remember. Don’t have too much to say about it, although I like the prominent piano.

“Doctor Robert” — Not a huge fan of this song. I guess songs about drugs just aren’t my bag (see what I did there?), “Hotel California” being the obvious exception.

“I Want to Tell You” — A cool thing about this song is that the verse seems to go on longer than you think it should. I like when musicians think outside the box and thwart listeners’ expectations.

“Got to Get You into My Life” — Love this! It’s just a cool, fun rock-‘n’-roll song.

“Tomorrow Never Knows” — The sitar really exploded all over this song. It’s not very catchy or melodic, and I found all the different sound effects and percussive cacophony distracting.

For the month of August, I’ll be listening to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which is widely regarded to be the Beatles’ trippiest album. Should be fun, so stay tuned!

A Year with the Beatles: “Rubber Soul”

Beatles_Rubber SoulWhen I first started my Beatles project, I intended to post about an album on the last Saturday of every month. Obviously, this did not happen, but I seem to be back on track now with Rubber Soul! I think I can say with certainty that this is my favorite album so far; it’s more musically interesting, and the songs’ intellectual content is deeper. But of course, there are still six more albums to go! Here are my thoughts on the individual songs:

“Drive My Car” — Such a great way to start this album! The song is catchy and kind of sexy and sounds like a quintessential rock-‘n’-roll tune — which, of course, it is.

“Norwegian Wood” — Can you believe I’d never heard this song before? I like the 3/4 meter and acoustic accompaniment, both of which have been rare in the Beatles’ oeuvre so far. The song has a somewhat dreamy, melancholy quality that I really like.

“You Won’t See Me” — This song is a bit boring compared to the previous two, but it’s still a solid pop song that sounds very professional and confident.

“Nowhere Man” — I feel like this song is trying to be too philosophical and clever for its own good. At the same time, though, I have to admit that it paints a vivid picture.

“Think for Yourself” — This song seems to be made up of two halves that don’t always quite mesh. I like the minor groove of the “Do what you want to do / Go where you’re going to” sections, but the verses don’t seem to match it.

“The Word” — The Beatles keep saying that “the word is love,” but they’re wrong; the bird’s the word. I do like the unusual harmonies in this song, and I can’t help interpreting the hippie-ish lyrics ironically…sort of a satiric version of “All You Need Is Love.” I’m probably wrong about that, but I can’t help contrasting the two songs anyway!

“Michelle” — I really like this one! For some reason it makes me think of a bizarre circus or carnival setting…something a bit creepy about it, perhaps? But definitely a great love song for those lucky girls named Michelle!

“What Goes On” — Poor Ringo; I just don’t seem to like his songs as much! This one is perfectly pleasant, but it’s just not particularly interesting.

“Girl” –Anyone else think this is an early musical depiction of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl?

“I’m Looking Through You” — Love the dissonance at the end of the chorus, which is such a contrast with normal musical expectations.

“In My Life” — To me, this song is the emotional equivalent of “Yesterday,” almost sugary-sweet in its nostalgia. I’ve heard of people using it as a wedding song, and it’s certainly emotional enough to fit the bill, though a bit sappy for my taste. I do like the Bach-esque keyboard solo in the middle, though!

“Wait” — This song reminds me a lot of the Beatles’ earlier work. It almost sounds like a track from Please Please Me, but it’s a bit more layered and complex; I like the more inventive percussion and harmonies.

“If I Needed Someone” — I like the near-constant syncopation of this song, which gives it a slightly “off” feel.

“Run for Your Life” — I didn’t like this song much, but that’s due to a personal pet peeve of mine: I HATE when male singers refer to their love interests as “little girl.” It’s infantilizing and creepy. Of course, this song is quite creepy overall — a man telling a girl that if she ever cheats on him, he wants her dead. Um, no thank you!

The next album up is Revolver, which I’ll (theoretically) discuss on July 27, so stay tuned!

A Year with the Beatles: “Help!”

Beatles_HelpTime to talk about the Beatles’ fifth U.K. studio album, “Help!” Apparently this is also the soundtrack to a Beatles movie wherein the Fab Four battle an evil cult. This sounds totally insane to me, but apparently it is a real thing, according to Wikipedia! I have not seen the movie, so perhaps my impressions of the songs lack the appropriate context. But I really enjoyed this album overall; I feel like I’m really getting into the meat of the Beatles’ oeuvre at last! Here are my thoughts on the songs:

“Help” — Great song, even if it is a bit repetitive.

“The Night Before” — I like the bridge of this song; it’s got some cool, unexpected harmonies.

“You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” — When I first listened to this album, I recognized this song immediately; I just never knew what it was called or who sang it (if you can believe that!). Good song…I especially like the “Hey!” parts. 🙂

“I Need You” — I really like the verses of this song. Once again, the Beatles seem to be branching out in their harmonies.

“Another Girl” — I have to say, I love the way the Beatles pronounce the word “girl”! They sort of say “gel” (with a hard G) instead, and it’s great! This song does have a very similar beat to the last one, though…makes them sound quite similar.

“You’re Going to Lose That Girl” — Love the jump to the high notes when they sing the word “lose.” The verses are pretty boring by comparison.

“Ticket to Ride” — This song makes me nostalgic for summer afternoons spent at my neighborhood pool…and I’m not sure why! It’s not like I heard this song that often as a kid. One of those mysteries of the human brain, I guess. At any rate, good song!

“Act Naturally” — I have to say, I hated this one! Definitely a huge clunker in an otherwise really good album.

“It’s Only Love” — Meh. I find this song very musically boring, but I like the lyrics.

“You Like Me Too Much” — Just what every girl wants to hear. 🙂 At least he says he likes her too! Also, I dig the honky-tonk piano vibe at the beginning of this one.

“Tell Me What You See” — I like the call-and-response feel of the verses. But overall, I find this song very forgettable.

“I’ve Just Seen a Face” — Love, love, love this song! It’s so sweet and happy and romantic. It just makes me smile! 🙂 Also, I like the sort of fake-out at the beginning…it sounds like a totally different kind of song at first.

“Yesterday” — What can I possibly say about this song? It’s iconic and quite lovely. I feel like it’s a bit of a cliché now, but that’s not really the Beatles’ fault!

“Dizzy Miss Lizzy” — Great song title, less great song…but it was still a fun listen.

Next album is “Rubber Soul,” which should be really interesting, so stay tuned!

A Year with the Beatles: “Beatles for Sale”

Beatles_Beatles for SaleOkay, this post is unconscionably late — I meant to write it at the end of April! Life has just been so busy lately that blogging has fallen by the wayside. Hopefully I’ll be able to catch up this weekend, since I don’t have to work on Monday. Anyway, here are my thoughts on Beatles for Sale, the Fab Four’s fourth U.K. studio album. Overall, my impression is that it still qualifies as “early Beatles”…they hadn’t yet really started experimenting or pushing boundaries. Still, there are a few great tunes on this album! Here are my thoughts:

“No Reply” — This one doesn’t quite have the “wow” factor I’d expect from the first song of an album. It’s pleasant enough but ends kind of abruptly.

“I’m a Loser” — Here’s the jaunty song about heartbreak that the Beatles are so good at! I like this one a lot, particularly the low vocal notes.

“Baby’s in Black” — I like the very short chorus in this one. Otherwise, the song is a little bit dull.

“Rock and Roll Music” — A Chuck Berry cover. I guess I can understand why the Beatles did this, but their sounds are just so different! I’d rather listen to the original, personally.

“I’ll Follow the Sun” — Love this sweet little song! The Beatles seem to write about the sun well. 🙂

“Mr. Moonlight” — I really don’t like the melody of this one; it’s boring and just drags on and on. Probably my least favorite song on the album (and, incidentally, not a Beatles original).

“Kansas City/Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey!” — Not bad, but I couldn’t help thinking it was extremely weird that the Beatles would sing a song about Kansas City. I suppose they were covering it as a marketing technique, but it just seemed silly to me.

“Eight Days a Week” — One of my favorite Beatles songs thus far. It’s just so happy and romantic!

“Words of Love” — For some reason, this song reminds me of “Turn, Turn, Turn” by the Byrds. It’s a Buddy Holly song originally, which may explain why I felt it sounded derivative.

“Honey Don’t” — This song sounds strangely like the Beatles are channeling Elvis.  Lots more 12-bar blues, also…although I did enjoy the cute little guitar solos.

“Every Little Thing” — I liked this one! So far I haven’t been a huge fan of the Beatles’ slower songs, but this one had some interesting harmonies.

“I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party” — The Beatles obviously DO want to spoil the party.

“What You’re Doing” — The guitar lick that repeats throughout most of the song is my favorite part. There are some fun vocals on the verses, too.

“Everybody’s Trying to Be My Baby” — Another cover tune. When I listened to this album, I found it was pretty easy to pick out the songs that were not Beatles originals. Perhaps my Beatles immersion project is starting to pay off! 🙂 In other news, I’m writing about Help! next…I’ll probably post about it tomorrow, so stay tuned!

A Year with the Beatles: “A Hard Day’s Night”

Beatles_A Hard Day's NightI intended to write this post on Saturday, but my parents were visiting for the weekend, and we were busy with our Easter festivities. I have been listening to A Hard Day’s Night all month, though, and I have a theory: This is an album about men whom women should avoid. I used to have this notion that the early Beatles albums were all sunshine and happiness, but some of these songs are dark, y’all! At the very least, the album made me stop and scratch my head more than once. Read my thoughts on the individual songs, and you’ll see why:

“A Hard Day’s Night” — I like this song; it’s upbeat and catchy and melodically interesting. But it kind of seems like the guy in the song is just using his lady love for sex, right? He’s tired after a long day’s work (or a long day’s night, which makes no sense when you think about it), and he just wants her to make him “feel all right.” Way to be selfish, dude.

“I Should Have Known Better” — Another good song, and nothing particularly dubious about the lyrics that I remember…unless it’s that he is a bit over-confident that “when I ask you to be mine/ you’re gonna say you love me too.”

“If I Fell” — OK, I genuinely do think this song is a bit creepy. It’s purportedly a love song, but the guy is clearly not over his ex! Everything he’s saying to this new girl is a direct result of his obsession with his former love. “I must be sure from the very start/ that you will love me more than her” — creepy, right?!

“I’m Happy Just to Dance with You” — Ladies, if a man ever says this to you, it’s because he is just not that into you…or women in general. Sure, there could be a totally innocent meaning behind these words: “I don’t need to hug or hold you tight/ I just want to dance with you all night.” But don’t say I didn’t warn you. 🙂

“And I Love Her” — This is not a sketchy song, to the best of my recollection, but it is kind of a boring one.

“Tell Me Why” — I like this one! So far, the Beatles seem to be really good at writing jaunty songs about heartbreak — first “Misery” from Please Please Me, and now this!

“Can’t Buy Me Love” — Nothing bad to say about this one; it’s just a flat-out great song!

“Any Time at All” — Another favorite of mine from this album. I like how each line of the verses slides into the next one without the usual pause.

“I’ll Cry Instead” — Annnd we’re back to the theme of men whom women should avoid. This song is about a man who’s so destroyed by his breakup that he plans to have  a whole lot of revenge sex…once he’s done crying. “You’d better hide all the girls,” indeed.

“Things We Said Today” — I don’t like the slow tempo of this song. Nothing much to say about it; t’s just kind of boring.

“When I Get Home” — For some reason this song didn’t stick in my memory, so I looked up the lyrics online, and hey, it’s about a guy cheating on his girlfriend! Avoid the cheaters, ladies.

“You Can’t Do That” — Also to be avoided is the jealous lover: “If I catch you talking to that boy again/ I’m going to let you down and leave you flat.” To quote “Gilmore Girls,” there’s cute jealous, and then there’s Othello.

“I’ll Be Back” — And finally, there’s the guy who keeps hanging around even after you’ve shown him the door. Sure, it’s nice to know that he’s not over you yet, but being stalked is just not a good thing.

Well, I hope I haven’t offended anyone with my thoughts on A Hard Day’s Night! Hopefully it’s obvious that I’m joking about many of these interpretations, and I really do like most of the songs. I just think it’s fun to step back every once in a while and really examine the lyrics of the songs I’m singing along with. Anyway, I’ll be talking about Beatles for Sale at the end of this month, so stay tuned!

A Year with the Beatles: “With the Beatles”

Beatles_With the BeatlesTime to talk about the Beatles’ second U.K. LP, “With the Beatles,” originally released in 1963. This album is interesting to me because there are lots of covers on it. My hypothesis is that the band was still introducing itself to the world, so it wanted to draw in some new fans by playing familiar songs. I like the mix of songs, though I’m guessing that future albums will feature mostly or exclusively Beatles tunes. I like the album overall, but I think the covers are a bit hit-or-miss. Here are my thoughts on each song:

“It Won’t Be Long” — I like this one! There are some interesting melodic choices that keep the song from becoming too predictable. Also, we get some “yeah, yeah, yeah”s in this one — a precursor of things to come!

“All I’ve Got to Do” — Not a big fan…it just kind of plods along.

“All My Loving” — My favorite song on the album. It’s just so endearing and sweet (even if the chorus is basically just a scale up and down)!

“Don’t Bother Me” — I like that it’s in a minor key but up-tempo. The lyrics also make me laugh — very blunt and straightforward! And hey, George Harrison wrote this one!

“Little Child” — I dig the harmonica bits, but overall I don’t really like this one. It makes me feel icky that the singer refers to the object of his affection as “little child.”

“Till There Was You” — From “The Music Man”! I like what they did with it, though…there’s almost a Latin feel to the song. I also like the way Paul McCartney hits the T really hard in the phrase “at all” — not sure why, but it’s cute!

“Please Mister Postman” — I never realized the Beatles covered this! It was originally a Marvelettes song (which is the version I know), and the Carpenters also did a cover in the ’70s. It’s a good song, but I don’t think the Beatles added much to it.

“Roll Over Beethoven” — Not bad, but not as good as the Chuck Berry version.

“Hold Me Tight” — A fairly straightforward rock song with a few cool chord changes.

“You Really Got a Hold on Me” — Smokey Robinson! The Beatles version is definitely not as good as the original, but it’s interesting to hear Lennon and McCartney sing the song.

“I Wanna Be Your Man” — Has a similar feel to “Don’t Bother Me,” mostly because of the fast, driving pulse. It’s a bit repetitive for my taste…not particularly clever lyrics, for sure! But it was nice of them to let Ringo sing.

“Devil in Her Heart” — Bleh. Not a fan, but it’s nice to hear another Latin beat amongst all the rock ‘n’ roll.

“Not a Second Time” — I like Lennon’s vocal gymnastics in this one (lots of note changes mid-syllable). On the CD, it fades out really early, though — sounds like half the song is cut off!

“Money (That’s What I Want)” — I actually heard the Flying Lizards cover of this song first (thanks, “The Wedding Singer” soundtrack!) and didn’t realize it was a Beatles song. I like both versions, but they’re vastly different!

The next album on my list is “A Hard Day’s Night,” which I’ll write about on March 30, so stay tuned!

A Year with the Beatles: “Please Please Me”

Beatles_Please Please MeTime to kick off my Year of the Beatles by talking about their first U.K. LP, Please Please Me. It originally came out in 1963, which makes 2013 its 50th anniversary! Overall, I really like the album, which is basically 14 songs of happy, innocent, fresh-faced rock and roll. I think the Beatles’ later work is going to be more interesting, but I can see why this album made them so popular.

I actually did write up my thoughts on all the individual songs…but then I lost them somehow when I published this post! 😦 I had tried to put them under a jump, but in so doing, I inadvertently deleted them. Despite my efforts to restore an earlier draft, it looks like they’re gone for good. So I apologize for not providing the in-depth discussion of individual songs that I wanted to do…I just don’t have it in me to rewrite the whole thing. I’m crushed, but what can you do?

My next Beatles post will be on February 23, when I’ll talk about their second U.K. LP, With the Beatles. (And I’ll have the jump thing figured out by then, I swear!) Stay tuned, and feel free to join me!

2013: The Year of the Beatles

Confession time: when it comes to the Beatles, I’ve never really understood what all the fuss is about. I’m well aware that this is heresy to music lovers — the Beatles are arguably the greatest band of all time, and certainly one of the most beloved. But while I do like several Beatles songs, I never truly became a fan of the group. As a result, there are many Beatles songs that I’ve never even heard before…and I’m thinking it’s time for that to change.

Therefore, I’ve decided to make 2013 the Year of the Beatles. According to Wikipedia (that ever-reliable source), they released 12 original U.K. LPs. There are also 12 months in the year. Coincidence? I think not! So here’s the plan: I will immerse myself in one Beatles album per month. I’ll listen to it repeatedly and attentively, making notes on the individual songs. Then, on the last Saturday of every month, I will write a post about the album and my reactions to it.

The album for January is Please Please Me, released in 1963. I just realized that this is perfect timing, as 2013 is its 50th anniversary! I already own the CD, so accessing the music won’t be a problem. I’ll post about it on Saturday, January 26, so stay tuned!

My hope in doing this is that I will gain a newfound appreciation for the Fab Four. Maybe I will finally understand what everyone else is talking about when they gush about how amazing/seminal/life-changing this group is! At the very least, this project will make me a more culturally literate and musically knowledgeable person, which is always a good thing!

So what do you think about my musical project? Are you a Beatles fanatic or just a casual listener? What’s your favorite Beatles album or song? I’d love to hear your opinions — and if you’d like to join me in my quest, you’re certainly more than welcome!