Wednesday, September 09, 2009

You're Number 37 Have a Look

It might be a crass thing to say, given two of them are dead and one's Ringo Starr, but I come to bury the Beatles, not to praise them. I do this not for mere provocation, either. I do it to argue for the secret history as opposed to the official, for that which barely touches commercialism's trampy hem of its cheap miniskirt. For it's hard not to think of the Beatles as anything but a whored day's night at this point, repimped, repackaged, re-gamed, re-fucking-Cirque-du-Soleiled. How can anything as brittle and lovely as Lennon's "I'm Only Sleeping" stand up to the onslaught? Of course my position partially comes from the belief their own success hurt them--can anyone really argue they topped the one-two of Revolver and Rubber Soul? The line to defend "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" say, no matter how many stupid people sing it in stupid unison at whatever stupid Boomer nostalgia party, starts far away from me.

True, I was four in 1967 the year the gods dictated Sgt. Peppers into the Fab Four's ears, so maybe I should just shut up, but I've got a bunch more entries to write to get 2500 and anyway, that's not my style. Not being too conscious by the time the Beatles broke up does mean they were already kind of reified by the time they got to me--simply part of the world like carbon, Chevrolet, and Coca Cola. I've even had trouble getting into classic 1960s Dylan, just because the songs seem so much of their time and place I wasn't of, and so many people want to claim them, I feel a bit shut out. Which might just be a way to say that I like walking the fine line of discovery and snobbery, which do sort of rhyme, don't they.

Turn to 1967, though, and all I can think is it's the same year that The Velvet Underground with Nico was released and it exposes Sgt. Pepper's as the juvenile play-acting it is (day-glo military, represent!). Think of "Heroin"--scary and thrilling all at once, honest about the danger and attraction of drugs. Now think about the cutesy, coy "Little Help from My Friends," or "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," which now reads like Lisa Simpson's visions after drinking the bad water at Duff Gardens. That comparison alone might be game set match, Velvets. The rest is all noise and beauty, life, goddam messy life. Nico's voice too icy to be pretty on "I'll Be Your Mirror," Cale's viola sawing its way through sadism on "Venus in Furs," Cale's bass running away from the rest of the song in "Waiting for My Man," and then "All Tomorrow's Parties," about which Lester Bangs, in the essay in which he admits, "I would suck Lou Reed's cock, because I would also kiss the feet of them that drafted the Magna Carta," wrote: "It's the best music ever made, the instrumental intro to 'All Tomorrow's Parties' is like watching dawn break over a bank of buildings through the windows of these elegantly hermetic cages, which feels too well spoken, which I suspect is the other knife that cuts through your guts, the continents that divide literature and music and don't care about either."

But, to quote Dramarama, "The records never sold and that was bad." When does sold become sold out is the question, and I'm pretty sure my answer isn't the one most people have. But then again, I'm probably just privileging my own viewpoint fed by my own life--I give most my words away for free (even many of the ones I get "paid" for, practically). Would I write a "Yesterday" if I could? That's the million dollar question, isn't it.

(23 of 31 in the drive to 2500)

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Blogger regina said...

What you wrote about Dylan: yes, yes, yesssssss. You hit it on the head for me. I've always felt as though I *should* like his music, but, well, it's just never clicked for me. Thank you for answering the big Why.

This was a most excellent piece of writing. While I don't suspect you would ever sell out, I must say I am now really curious to know what a George-du-Soleil show would be like.

12:15 AM  
Anonymous James said...

I really identify with this. I first heard VU & Nico about the same time I discovered Sgt. Pepper and the Beatles. I wondered at the time way VU wasn't more well-regarded and just generally known. Their music has, for me anyway, stood the test of time in ways the Beatles' hasn't. Nice, too, to see that I'm not the only one who thinks Revolver and Rubber Soul were their best moments.

6:33 AM  
Anonymous Freealonzo said...

Oh Lord, as you know I got raked over the coals for espousing similar sentiments. (click my name)

IMHO, SPLHCB has really shown its age. The Rolling Stones still get crap for Her Satanic Majesty's Request, but Sgt. Peppers is just as embarrassing.

VUwN is a great album. It was in 1967, it is now. Heroin is one of my all-time faves and I've always said I never needed to do the drug, all I had to do was listen to that song.

I will maintain however, that She's Leaving Home is a better song than Sunday Morning, but I guess we can just agree to disagree.

8:54 AM  
Blogger George said...

Thanks, Regina and James. And Free, I did see how you got attacked, but I guess not as many weenies read my blog. Actually, not as many people do, so that naturally keeps the weenie count down.

And Free, have you ever heard Bryan Ferry's "She's Leaving Home" from All This and World War II? Pretty interesting. As is Peter Gabriel's "Strawberry Fields Forever" on the same soundtrack. (I've got it on vinyl somewhere, so this is my non-digital memory speaking.)

9:30 AM  
Blogger E-6 said...

Someone once said that only a few thousand people bought the Velvets records, but most of them started bands. I'm of the belief that the Fab 4 and VU are two legs of the table of 60's rock that went on to influence much of the music I love today. (Hendrix and Dylan being the other two, with Brian Wilson a acting as a TV dinner tray stand.)

I had that Ferry cover on a mix tape, Geeorge. A beautiful version, for sure.

The Rolling Stones still get crap for Her Satanic Majesty's Request, but Sgt. Peppers is just as embarrassing.

Free, I don't know what yer smokin', but I'm pretty sure I don't want any. ;-)

1:21 PM  
Anonymous freealonzo said...

Free, I don't know what yer smokin', but I'm pretty sure I don't want any. ;-)

Yea, that was probably over the top. Sgt Pepper's isn't even close to as embarrasing as OHMSR. Need to talk to the Doc about readjusting the Adderall dosage.

6:34 PM  
Blogger Marty said...

Dylan was already an icon past his prime--blowin' in the wind, I suppose--by the time I encountered him, but I was alive for the Beatles, singing "I Want to Hold Your Hand" over and over swinging on the swing set with Julie next door. We were four and this was as close as I would ever be to love for more years than I'd care to count. Although I like some Sgt. Pepper, its shimmeriness and "juvenile play-acting" essentially all that's left after one has achieved that much pop authority. "A Day in the Life" still has power for me on that album, though it sets the stage for many prog/orhcestral excesses to come in the 70's (Moody Blues, anyone?). I certainly can't argue, though, about the Velvet Underground's essential place in rock and roll history, and Bangs' prose beautifully captures it.

But Sgt. Peppers wasn't even the most important album recorded at Abbey Road in 1967. Syd's Pink Floyd, Piper at the Gates of Dawn changed music more.

7:25 PM  

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