Note from Shard: My good friend Jackson (as mentioned before) runs a little review site you might want to check out, especially if you enjoy his lesson today. I did not write any of this, so all credit (and potential hate mail) should go to him. Students should also note that if they want to get in on this Guest Teacher action, they should message me and we’ll see what we can work up. Enjoy!
Is this bloody thing on?
Oh right, this is text. My error.
I’ve been severely engrossed in trying to review music recently. Which is a very subjective thing to do, mind you. In my previous reviews of Across The Universe soundtrack, I’ve found that no matter what I can ultimately say about the tracks, there will always be people who like them, even if I don’t. While a lot of people can agree that a movie is bad or a book is horribly written, they won’t always agree that a song is terrible or not. There is a very fine line between love and hate in music, and it’s a line that brings about a great deal of guilty pleasures and absolute loathing.
I had been trying to dwell on a way to make my reviews a little bit meaningful, yet have a bit of that humor that I try to maintain when watching a rather embarassing film.
And that’s when I realized that all I needed to do was slap on some Beatles music and just ride the wave of auditory LSD.
So to commemorate this event of total procrastination, here’s a couple rumors about The Beatles that I decided to dissect for you, the mildly pleased audience. Please hold all questions until after the tour, and go wait at the corner of 167 Parsonfield Rd in Effingham, New Hampshire, and I will be happy to tell you to Effingham off.
Let’s start off with a small (yet rather large) rumor:
RUMOR 1: MOTHER MARY IS MARY MOTHER OF JESUS IN THE SONG “LET IT BE.”
Standard fare. In the song, Paul McCartney finds himself in times of trouble. Being in the trouble that he is, Mother Mary comes to him, and she speaks words of wisdom, which basically culminates to the phrase “Let It Be”. Now, those are fine words of wisdom, unless we’re talking about a rabid wolf that has invaded your home and started chewing away at your arm.
Incredible occasions notwithstanding, it is a rather profound message on how to react when given a trial and tribulation in your life. Even the chorus itself is rife with sage advice on any given situation:
“Let it be, let it be
Let it be, let it be.
Whisper words of wisdom
Let it be.”
OK, I’ll stop ragging on the song now.
However, being how insanely inquisitive the audience turned out to be when given the notion that Paul might have been killed by a walrus, it should come as no surprise that the same crowd immediately began to ask themselves “Hey! Who’s this Mother Mary person?”
And then an idea slowly began forming in their heads: where do we generally hear anything in regards to the terms “Mother”, “Mary”, and “Mother Mary”?
That’s right. The Catholic religion.
Naturally, this lead to the belief that this is a religious song, since it calls out to Mary, Mother of Jesus, for help in his hour of darkness, hoping she’ll be standing right in front of him, speaking those sacred Biblical words “Let it be”. But there was division; “Surely,” said the atheists and possibly the agnostics “this song is NOT about that fictitious woman who bore a fictitious son. You people are IDIOTS!” And then there was a massive sponge cake battle that no one was invited to.
And then the news: it wasn’t about Mary, Mother of Jesus. Not at all. And the broken hearted people (who were Catholic) who lived in this world agreed “There must be an answer!”, to which Paul simply told them “Just let it be, you sick people. Don’t you have anything better to do?” And though the atheists (and possibly the agnostics) were parted from their enjoyable enemies, there was still a chance that they would see just who the hell Paul meant by Mother Mary, instead of simply letting it be, cause what kind of advice is that, yeah?
Finally, there came the news:
Mother Mary was referring to Paul McCartney’s own mother, who just so coincidentally happened to be named “Mary”.
And thus there never could have been a more famous example of Occam’s Razor.
But we shouldn’t be too hard on them. For one thing: The Beatles were always very mysterious (read: silly) when it came to song meanings and origins. Hell, look at “I Am The Walrus”. If you can find a meaning in that, you probably deserve your own planet. But the most prevelant trait in The Beatles’ character was that they were a group of young guys who got famous at an early age and lived out their career to try and remain with the changes that time had brought to rock and roll (and, vicariously, to their method of transportation to super stardom, since it obviously wasn’t going to keep them afloat for years and years). Also, they were four people who were REALLY getting tired of seeing each other, each one trying to mature in their own way, which meant not wanting to be with the other. The only reason they kept coming back was because of the record companies and people saying “WE WANT MORE BEATLES GIVE US MORE BEATLES YUM YUM BEATLES STEW!!!” That kind of pressure is not going to help your psyche one bit.
And secondly: information was nowhere near as accessible as it is today. Back then, the only way that you ever got news about your favorite bands and artists was through the ancient, almost caveman writings of small scraps of paper called “Mag-o-zeenes”. And the people who wrote for these things usually had more pressing matters to ask them about, like “Who are you seeing now?” and “What kind of equipment do you use?” and “When are you going to release another damn album?” It’s not like today where some asswipe can go onto Twitter and start trending “LOL RIP OBAMA!11” and everyone on Twitter becomes abuzz about the sudden death (as they usually are) of someone who is absolutely famous, which then ends with a press conference released to all web news hubs of Obama saying “I am not dead. That guy is an asswipe.” Likewise, The Beatles did not have access to a way to tell people what their true intentions on a song were about. And even then, you have to keep in mind the first point above, in that they would still probably make light of whatever they came out with.
However, this still didn’t stop people from still assuming the “It’s Mary, Mother of Jesus!” view towards the song. This one is based more on ignorance and time than any error on The Beatles’ part. And it certainly didn’t help things that Jule Taymor, the director of the movie Across The Universe, had a Catholic-themed rendition of that particular song in her movie. But fear not; for I’m sure that, given a little patience and a lot of duct tape, we can slowly re-educate people on the excellent applications of Occam’s Razor.
Though, to Taymor’s credit, her rendition of “Let It Be” is completely awesome, even if it is incorrect.
RUMOR STATUS: FALSE
And now for Act 2:
RUMOR 2: GEORGE HARRISON DID NOT SOLO ON THE SONG “WHILE MY GUITAR GENTLY WEEPS”.
This is an interesting little statement, because as much as people love the song, there’s also a group of people who believe that he did not actually play that guitar in the song. “But wait a moment!” says the casual Beatles beatnick “The song was written by George Harrison! It MUST be him playing!”
This leads to an analysis of the recording style of The Beatles. Between the four of them, they could cover a lot of instruments. While Ringo was mostly left to percussive instruments (castanets being one of his most notable), the other three were given access to guitars, pianos, keyboards, sitars, and who knows what else they could fit in their studio. In fact, for a time, Ringo left the group for some alone time, and Paul McCartney did drums for a couple tracks, so in essence, the three of them could pretty much do whatever they wanted. Also, they didn’t perform live anymore, which meant that they didn’t need to decide how to work in their effects and instrumentation for touring and transportation for those tours. Everything was handled in the studio, and all the instruments and sound effects were maintained in the spirit of the album.
All of that lead to the question “If they could do everything they wanted on their albums, then how is it possible that George Harrison didn’t do that solo in the song?” And it’s a very valid question. As people knew back then, no one came in and collaborated with The Beatles. NO ONE.
The Beatles were not people who branched out with other groups and singers. These folks worked the best when it was just them, and they knew better than to try and change what was basically a winning forumal for them. Sure, they gained a “fifth Beatle” towards the very end by the name of Billy Preston, and there were rumors of Mick Jagger having popped in to sing a bit of “All You Need Is Love” (and that’s headache inducing right there to get through that nonsense), but The Beatles generally did not have other famous people come in and do stuff with them.
The key word here is “generally”.
Harrison had thought of doing a backwards guitar solo (like he did for “I’m Only Sleeping”), but he did not care much for it. Instead, he found a good friend of his to do the track for him. This friend wasn’t initially interested in doing it, seeing as how he knew that people like him don’t usually play for The Beatles. But Harrison insisted, and the lone stranger had his guitar recorded.
And the stranger turned out to be none other…
… than Eric Clapton.
Forgot that they were good friends, did you?
Well, it’s true. Eric Clapton recorded the awesome guitar solo for George Harrison, who, not to be completely left behind by the cloud of awesome kicked up in his face, did a pretty good job on acoustic guitar and vocals. They never mentioned it in the liner notes, so this became a rumor that no one even knew existed except for very devoted Beatles fans. And I do mean VERY devoted. We’re talking Beatles-printed underwear, here.
“But hang on a moment!” responded the ever present Beatles beatnick from earlier. “If there’s no mention of it in the liner notes, then it can’t be possible! George Harrison did the guitar solo!”
This is why I’ve devised a little game that all of you can do at the comfort of your own home. It’s called “Hear The Difference.”
First, we’ll need two videos. The first is the guitar solo from “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” that has been isolated from the rest of the song.
Special thanks to these dudes for uncovering a video like this.
And now, the second video, which is a song that we all know features George Harrison on guitar. For the sake of consistency, let’s go with a song that was also written by George Harrison, and also features a guitar solo in it:
Now, here’s how you play:
1. Listen to the isolated guitar track in the first video.
2. Listen to the guitar in the second.
3. Now listen to them both again.
What you might discover is that (aside from me coming up with terrible ideas for games) there is a difference between the two tracks. Assuming that it’s George Harrison who played for the first track, you might have to wonder why he doesn’t use some of those techniques done in the first song with the second. You see, there’s a very distinct blues feeling to the guitar in “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, a large sense of technical difficulty. Bending strings. Not just that, but the finger taps are done very differently than in the second video. While Clapton’s guitar soloing has always been rather smooth and meandering into different tempos, Harrison’s has always remained a bit… rigid, you might say. Like clockwork. In another type of comparison, it would be like comparing a work of Mozart to a work of Lizt. Very different composers from very different walks of life with very different disciplines in music creating… well, very different pieces.
It helps support the idea that someone else is playing the guitar for the track than the original writer of the song, considering the different playing style and overall sound of the instrument.
Unfortunately, like it was mentioned before, it was never written in liner notes that Eric Clapton had a hand in the song we hear today. Due to record companies and their… rather obsessive qualities, we never knew for a long time that a beloved Beatles song actually contained 1/3 of Cream.
But then, Eric Clapton eventually got George Harrison’s wife, so I guess it all worked out in the end.
RUMOR STATUS: TRUE
And that about does it for me today.
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Come in next time for our very first Recess!