soundstreamsunday: “I’m So Tired” by the Beatles

paul john mixing white album 68Released in November 1968, the White Album did a Pollock on all the principles of freedom the Beatles had been shaping since 1965’s Rubber Soul kicked off their long, disciplined freakout, and splattered the canvas with every elementary Beatle colour: rock and roll, British music hall, folk-and-pop, country, novelty songs, in no apparent order or thematic unfolding.  In its elemental, revelatory mess and as a rock double album it bears resemblance to Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde (1966) or even Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland (released just the month before), and if you took the long view you could, I suppose, think of it as part of the strengthening trend in the late 1960s towards the belief in rock music as art.  While The White Album may not be a lot of things to otherwise die-hard Beatles fans, it is very definitely Art.  Self-conscious Pop collage.  If the grinning nods-and-winks of yore are replaced by the dour four studiously not having a good time together during these last years of their existence (or perhaps merely shrugging the veil of idolatry), the music gives the lie to this not being good for the rest of us and for popular music in general across the timeline of centuries.  That Abbey Road and its blueprint for rock’s next steps was still in their future is almost impossible to believe.

“I’m So Tired” is a late Beatles-era Lennon masterpiece, a song of yearning and uncertainty.  Its central line,  “I’d give you everything I’ve got for a little peace of mind” is both a call of desire for Yoko Ono and, in its cultural context, maybe the expression of the need to cool off for a bit, get some bearings amidst the drugs and money and politics and war and bullshit.  This is what makes great songs.  And of course it doesn’t hurt that there’s a lazy kind of rhythm to it, torch ballad sway giving way to hard rock march in the B section.  Twice through and out, nothing to it really, but in its barely 2-minute glory it contains in its molecules everything the Beatles were and would be.

soundstreamsunday presents one song or live set by an artist each week, and in theory wants to be an infinite linear mix tape where the songs relate and progress as a whole. For the complete playlist, go here: soundstreamsunday archive and playlist, or check related articles by clicking on”soundstreamsunday” in the tags section.

Sgt. Pepper’s at 50. Meh.

I turn fifty in two months.  I’m about six months younger than SGT. PEPPER’s.

As almost all of you surely know, Apple/Parlophone/EMI/Capitol/Universal has released a new stereo mix of the uber-famous 1967 album.  Just as the convoluted name of the company suggests, the new album comes in a variety of packages from one disk to innumerable ones.


Growing up in a family that loved music of all types and genres, I’ve had the Beatles running through my head from my earliest memories.  No one in the house was a fanatic, but we certainly appreciated the music.  My two older brothers tended to like the pre-REVOLVER Beatles best, but I always loved REVOLVER through ABBEY ROAD the best.  For about a six-to seven-year period in my life—mostly in college and early graduate school–I was obsessed with the band.  I bought and read all of the books about the band, and I knew every song and every lyric from REVOLVER through ABBEY ROAD.  I knew the most minute details about the recordings, the controversies. . . well, everything.

Continue reading “Sgt. Pepper’s at 50. Meh.”

Great pop & rock music is NOT dead


I thoroughly enjoyed Brad’s righteous, even rockin’, post earlier this week in response to the “Rock is dead!” crowd. Mankind, it seems, has an innate attraction to the apocalyptic, including in the realm of rock. It brought to mind a piece I wrote in November 2008 on the Insight Scoop blog regarding a number of silly stories about how the Pope (then Benedict XVI) was somehow and in some way embracing and celebrating the music of the Beatles on the 40th anniversary of the release of the “White Album”. That led to a little rant on my part about how stupid it is to say, as did L’Osservatore Romano, the semi-official newspaper of the Vatican, that the popular music of the late 1960s was far superior to that of the early 21st century. To that end, I made five points. Here is the post, below the fold (the pic above, by the way, is “The Music Man” painted by Norman Rockwell in 1966):

Continue reading “Great pop & rock music is NOT dead”

The Musical Odyssey: A Long and Winding Road

Jane Monheit

Robert Sibley reflects on what the power of music has to do with nostalgia:

The word comes from the ancient Greek words “nostos,” referring to “homecoming,” and “algia,” meaning “grief or pain or suffering.” Hence, nostalgia reflects the desire “to escape pain by returning home,” or, as some etymological dictionaries have it, “to return home safely.”

What this suggests is that nostalgia can be a form of psychological therapy, a break from the madhouse vagaries of contemporary life — you know, terrorism, killer weather, crashing airplanes, exploding towns, rampaging gunmen. To listen to fondly remembered pop songs, whether on the car stereo heading to work or at a concert, nostalgia provides such a respite. …

One of the major narrative inputs for my generation was the Beatles. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr were effectively members of what psychologists refer to as our “fictive kin.” We didn’t know them personally like we did family and friends, but their music — from ebullient adolescent love songs such as She Loves You and the drug-mediated experiments of A Day in the Life to the symphonic farewells of Let it Be and The Long and Winding Road (the Beatles split as a group in 1970) — made them an intimate presence in our lives. The Beatles, in short, provided the musical accompaniment for many of the most meaningful moments of our lives.

I still remember doing my homework at the kitchen table in our house in north Red Deer when I first heard that brief trill of drums that opens She Loves You, my head snapping up to look at the countertop radio as if to ask “what’s this?” An insignificant moment in a life, to be sure, but somehow embedded with epiphanic clarity in my memory. Of course, I’ll never forget working up the courage to ask Maxine Edwards for a dance at the local community hall as Lennon belted out Can’t Buy Me Love. And when I hear the lyric “Out of college, money spent/ See no future, pay no rent/ All the money’s gone, nowhere to go/ … oh that magic feeling” from 1969’s Abbey Road album, I’m once again on the veranda of a dingy seaside café in western Morocco, hypnotized by the endless wash of the Atlantic Ocean as I celebrate my 24th birthday. Sun, sand, sea and song; it was pure magic.

Is this “homesickness,” an inability to cope with the world? I think not. The Beatles once sang, “Once there was a way to get back homeward/ Once there was a way to get back home.” The way, I suggest, is in the song itself. Listening to the old songs is like visiting your hometown after a long absence. You know you’re not staying, but there’s a feeling of rejuvenation in visiting times and places past.

And there’s something truly rejuvenating about cover versions of songs, especially when they defy jaded expectations and are done well.

For example, Jane Monheit has a very cool, head-turning jazz cover of “Golden Slumbers / Long and Winding Road” on her new album, The Heart of the Matter.

Jane seems to have a gift for doing terrific covers. Explore her discography and have fun discovering all her clever musical remakes and reconfigurations.

In particular, be sure to check out her stunning versions of Eric Kaz and Libby Titus’s “Love Has No Pride” (on In the Sun) and of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You” (on Come Dream with Me).

But, getting back to the Beatles, let me end by recommending a personal favorite — Laura Crema’s soaring cover of “Blackbird.”

Rock Docs, Volume One – It Was Twenty Years Ago Today

In May of 1987 I had just finished my sophomore year at Texas Christian University, was one year away from getting my first computer, and had a fairly serious obsession with rock and roll, mostly of the classic variety and with a heavy dose of the Texas blues-rock revival thrown in.  I had maybe two dozen CDs at this point, my riches were all vinyl, and I read Rolling Stone and Spin voraciously.  No VH1 Behind the Music or Classic Albums Series, no 33 ⅓ books, Lester Bangs was dead, cultural interpretation of rock was in its infancy, and while MTV was redefining the visualization of music, there weren’t many filmed histories of rock’s great bands — I think maybe this was because the idea of a “rockumentary” as historical narrative didn’t occur to a lot of the era’s musicians, simply because they were still actively working.  There had been great rock documentaries, but they generally captured a moment in time, a tour or concert:  Martin Scorsese’s The Last Waltz, Albert and David Maysles’ Gimme Shelter, D.A. Pennebaker’s Monterey Pop and Don’t Look Back, Michael Wadleigh’s Woodstock.  Rather than tell a story of an artist or era, these films became a part of their respective subjects’ legends, and only occasionally, as with the movie Jimi Hendrix, released three years after Hendrix’s death, was there an attempt to provide historical perspective or commentary from contemporaries.

Derek Taylor in 1970, from Wikipedia

Into my 1987 world dropped the British documentary It Was Twenty Years Ago Today, which, as you might expect, looked at the Beatles album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, echoing in its title the first line of the first song on the album.  But, rather than profile just that record, or just the Beatles, the movie used Sgt. Pepper’s to explore the larger cultural shifts happening across the world in 1967.  By combining new interviews with vintage footage, and maintaining an appreciative but balanced perspective, It Was Twenty Years Ago Today manages in its 105 minutes to be both entertaining and speak with some authority on rock’s coming of age.  Produced by Derek Taylor, the Beatles’ press officer up until his death in 1997, the film is both an “inside job” and broadly illuminating, portraying 1967 through the lens of one of that year’s, and rock’s, greatest recordings.  Taylor also published an accompanying book. [It’s interesting that when the documentary came out none of the Beatles albums were yet on CD — Sgt. Peppers still had to be dealt with in its original linearity.]

Needless to say, the local public broadcasting station (KERA — also the first PBS station in America to broadcast Monty Python’s Flying Circus!) played this film through the summer of 1987, and on one occasion I managed to tape it.  The VHS cassette bounced around the country with me for another twenty years before I transferred it to a DVD, and now I bring it to Progarchy.  It exists in bits and pieces on YouTube, but it’s hard to upload there because of YouTube’s copyright protections — it “hears” the Beatles songs embedded in the video, god knows how — and returns a polite but firm notification that Apple Corp won’t allow the post.  Fair enough (I guess), but meanwhile the piece languishes in the dustbins, unavailable on any format commercially.  So with that said I’m posting it here, and if anyone objects I’ll take it down.

Ever ancient and ever new

Take a look at Unboxing: The Beatles Vinyl Boxed Set from Mark Judge on Vimeo.

Nothing like the tactile pleasure of opening a new vinyl LP!

Mark Judge writes over at Acculturated:

One of the reasons that I love rock and roll is that, when it’s at its best, it exemplifies St. Augustine’s observation about God being ever ancient and ever new. When you hear a great pop song for the first time there is a sensation of both familiarity and innovation; you feel like you’ve discovered something wonderful and timeless that has always existed that at the same time is fresh and mysterious. Contemporary pop music is good at the evoking the first feeling, but not the second.

He pins down the mysterious side of the Beatles this way:

Today’s bands usually begin weird and adventurous and grow bland and mainstream over time (a great exception is Radiohead). The Beatles did the exact opposite.

Prog seems to especially strive after the mysterious and adventurous. But prog’s Achilles’ heel is when, at its worst, it lacks the truly rocking sensation of freshness.

Which is why prog always needs to rediscover that fountain of eternal youth, to be found, perhaps, at the rock show