My sister Susan, ten years older than me, was a huge Beatles fan in the early 1960s. She especially liked Paul.
Later, when I was in college and discovered the Beatles myself, I bought a copy of the White Album, which contained four terrible cheesecake photos of the Fab Four. I had the bright idea of mailing the dewy-eyed picture of Paul to Susan, who was then a farm housewife in Pasco, Washington. She sent it back to me hidden in a box of cookies. I sent it back to her in something else. We kept the back-and-forth up for years and years, right up to the time she passed away in 1995. She sent it to me one last time, and told me on the phone that evening: “I win!” She died soon after.
Like Susan, I love the Beatles. I have absorbed all kinds of abstruse Beatles lore over the years. (White Album quiz! Who was “Martha”? Who was “Julia”? Who was “Sexy Sadie”?)
Paul and John wrote together, of course. They critiqued each other’s work, very sarcastically sometimes, and ended up writing brilliant songs.
But sometimes you can tell who was in charge on any particular day.
Paul was (and is) a showman with vaudevillian inclinations. He likes broad gestures, peppy tunes, bright lyrics. Listen to “Martha My Dear” for an extreme (but very likeable) example.
John was moody. He liked slow, bluesy, simple tunes. His lyrics are darker. (EXPERT TEXPERT CHOKING SMOKERS DON’T YOU THINK THE JOKER LAUGHS AT YOU HO HO HO HEE HEE HEE HA HA HA!) Listen to “I Want You” for a polar/extreme example.
And then, of course, there is “A Day In The Life.”
The story goes like this: John had a poignant melody and some moody mysterious lyrics. Paul had a bouncy little riff and some chirpy little lyrics. Neither could make any headway. So they just jammed the two into one another. John’s sad quasi-pentatonic lament - “I heard the news today, oh boy” – is the opening and ending. Paul’s cute piano-driven tune - “Woke up, fell out of bed” – is the bridge. George Martin, their very smart producer, introduced echoes of either in the other. Those sighing riffs in the bridge passage are echoes of John’s melody; the piano chords in the opening and closing sections, that begin so quietly and become more and more pronounced, are Paul’s contribution. And then there’s that huge dissonant orchestral crescendo that ends both sections: George Martin’s own creation.
I am still amazed at the creativity of the Beatles. Even fifty years later (fifty years!), they still sound fresh and new and interesting.
Susan would be pleased.
And, Susan, if you’re listening: Paul’s a jerk. I always liked George better.
Posted via email from FutureWorld: everyday life in the third millennium | Comment »