The Beatles again and again
The Beatles were big. Huge, as DJT might say. They were too big for one little blogger to cover in five hundred–odd words. Today I would like to focus on the original leader, John Lennon, and later give equal time to the remaining three. These are opinions; I'm not presenting anything as absolute fact.
"I Want to Hold Your Hand" hit the airwaves with a bright crunch, the rhythm guitar pushing a whole band and its generation.
That was John Lennon on rhythm. The sound was thin, yet it held a controlled urgency. When they hit the middle eight, the whole accompaniment suddenly soared, propelled into space; the boys were following John's force. I think John Lennon made that song.
Yet I'm not that big a fan of John Lennon. Politics, I suppose.
One thing that separates the Beatles from most bands of the era is that as the initial leader, Lennon, was fading due to self-induced chemical imbalance another leader, McCartney, discovered his complete self and took firm control of the ship. If you listen to any song on the poorly produced but highly engaging Meet the Beatles and immediately follow it up with the end of Abbey Road as originally released, the evolution comes at you in a rush. You can divide it into three periods if you like: All John followed by Fading John/Ascendant Paul, and finally Full Bore Paul.
George Martin grew quickly and by a mid-point of about "Paperback Writer" was up for the challenge Paul would present. Yet John was always ready with at least one great composition — one that served to set up a whole album as "Come Together" did for Abbey Road. You couldn't start that album with any other song in the world.
John wrote some beautiful melodies and often filled them with very personal impressions.
From "No Reply" to "In My Life" and through "Julia," John Lennon could touch you.
Most of his solo albums absolutely fail from a production standpoint. The piano in "Imagine" sounds as though it were recorded with one of those long telescopic mics they used to train on the field of a Cleveland Browns game back in the sixties. There is no depth or resonance or even warmth to the mixes.
Lennon's last album, released in late 1980, sounded better, but by then, he didn't really have much to say.
Today, kids come in for a guitar lesson and ask to learn a Beatles song — there's always one they love.
I remember that Lennon once said, "You have to be a bastard to make it, that's a fact, and the Beatles are the biggest bastards on earth."
Well, John, you made it right into the second decade of the twenty-first century, where a new generation of musicians is surveying the songs that you made and the songs that made you.
Dream sweet dreams for me, dream sweet dreams for you.
Michael James has been a professional guitarist and public school music educator for over forty years. Mr. James holds a Master's degree in music education.