“HERE TODAY,” THE BEATLES ARE BACK TOGETHER

It will always be the great Boomer dream that never came true.

The Beatles getting back together.

The 1940s: Ringo, John, Paul, and George born during the Blitz.

The 1950s: Rock n’ roll

The 1960s: the Beatles.

The 1970s: hoping the Beatles will get back together.

The 1980s: grieving that the Beatles will never get back together.

The 1990s: angry that the Beatles will never get back together.

The 2000s: relieved that the Beatles will never get back together.

The 2010’s: Paul and Ringo still producing solo albums

What would it be like to experience a Beatles reunion?

By now everyone must realize how anti-climactic it would have been, as the Beatles themselves surely understood back in the 1970s, when the world was waiting for it to happen—while listening to Elton John, the Bee Gees, John Denver, Queen, David Bowie, Led Zepplin, Stevie Wonder, and the Rolling Stones.

The Beatles were so BIG to so many people in a splendid window of time of unprecedented material and social change that the idea of the group took on extra dimensions, supplemented by the magic of widespread musical recordings, as well as the varied interests and personalities of the four men themselves.

One could blather on like this forever, as so many journalists and rock critics have done, but words can’t do justice to the Beatles phenomenon, nor can the banality of it finally be grasped, either.  The Beatles now occupy a little space on the shelf of history, and that’s about it.  All that’s left is for the Yoko and Paul estates to gain what they can in publicity squabbles as the sun sets on all the living participants.  A few songs, like “Imagine” and “Yesterday,” remain iconic, but it’s hard to judge what a hundred years from now will look like.

The Beatles made records from 1962 to 1970, and the original albums and greatest hits still sell moderately well.

The solo Beatles released their first original recordings starting in 1968, Paul wrote for other bands even earlier, and Paul and Ringo are still putting out records as of this day in 2012.  (Ringo’s latest will be released this month. http://kool.radio.com/2012/01/03/ringo-starr-earns-his-wings/)

The Beatles, 1962-1970

The ‘solo’ Beatles, 1968-present.

8 years v. 44 years.

Three of the four Beatles probably produced work outside of the Beatles as interesting, if not more interesting, than what they produced as Beatles; only Paul is more interesting for the work he did as a Beatle than for the work he did afterwards—though Paul might disagree, and insist it’s true for all four.

In terms of musical output and interest, then, it’s safe to say post-Beatles music is at least as important as Beatles music, and yet the former remains scattered, suffers from the indignity of not being Beatles music, and has never been anthologized into anything resembling a Beatles (Solo) 1968–present album or albums.

The Beatles have produced records for 50 years, but production-wise, only 8 of those 50 years really exist.

Ringo has been releasing songs on his albums, recently, which musically quote solo Paul songs.  The Beatles used to do this (‘She Loves You” is quoted at the end of “All You Need Is Love”).  Why can’t Ringo?   Paul and Ringo have released songs for John and George, and both Paul and Ringo, even as old guys, have produced songs on their solo albums that sound more Beatle-esque than the Beatles did.  The two remaining Beatles are still behaving like Beatles.

Recently I experienced a Beatles reunion, where one should really experience it—in my own ears.

I put together a CD mix many months ago, and forgetting what songs were on it, I gave it a listen.

The CD player was on random shuffle, so the experience of the ‘concert’ felt entirely ‘new.’

It began with Paul saying to an appreciative crowd, “Fancy a bit of rock n’ roll?” and then “Hi Hi Hi” from a live Paul album, and, in no certain order (I’ve already forgotten exactly what order the songs were in) I heard a live, up-tempo recording of “Give Peace A Chance,” a wailing Indian music instrumental composed by George from the soundtrack album he made without the Beatles in 1968, called “Crying,” a live version of John’s agonized “Mother,” Paul’s 1980 “Dress Me Up As A Robber,” a live version of Paul doing his tribute to John, “Here Today,” with the words, “you were in my song,” and Paul’s live version of “Something” with only a banjo, the spicy “When We Was Fab” by George, the up-tempo numbers “Whatever Gets You Thru The Night” and “Oh Yoko!” by John, “See Yourself” (musically sweet, lyrically preachy, just like we love him) from mid-70s George, classics “Imagine” by John and”My Sweet Lord” by George (that glorious, ground-breaking song ripped from a 50s melody) and, of course, one Ringo song, recorded not that many years ago, called “Elizabeth Reigns,” a song that almost sounds like it could have been written by late 60s Paul or John, sweet, over-produced, and campy.  If the Beatles were finally an homage-driven, semi-meaningful lark, “Elizabeth Reigns,” fits the bill nicely, with its loving, yet cheeky, lyrics:

Elizabeth reigns
Over and under
Elizabeth reigns
Lightning and thunder
Elizabeth reigns
Since I Was younger
She’s head of the family
Elizabeth reigns over me

When the album finished playing, and I took my ear phones off and stretched, alone in my house, half-shrugging, I thought to myself: that may not have been the best 50 minutes of my life, but you know what?  That’s probably the closest anyone will ever get to the Beatles getting back together.

Welcome back, boys.

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23 Comments

  1. John said,

    January 11, 2012 at 4:42 am

  2. thomasbrady said,

    January 11, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    To get an idea of how long Paul and Ringo have been around, impose it on different centuries to get an idea:

    the reign of Louis XIV, the Sun King, at the height of the world French Empire, to Waterloo,

    or: from Poe and Longfellow and horses to Pound and Eliot and airplanes.

  3. Jasmin Lopez said,

    January 11, 2012 at 5:39 pm

    The Beatles will musically live on forever in our ears. ❤

  4. Nooch said,

    January 11, 2012 at 8:12 pm

    They got me when I was young,
    And I know their songs by heart—
    But now I mostly ignore them,
    ‘cept when making karaoke art.

  5. thomasbrady said,

    January 11, 2012 at 9:52 pm

    I should have mentioned that in that nearly 45 year span of solo Beatle history, many solo Beatles recordings have significant musicial contributions from other Beatles, another reason to say that if you only know “Beatle” music (62-70) you don’t really know the Beatles (62-present).

  6. January 14, 2012 at 9:06 pm

    From the memoir Closing Time by Joe Queenan:

    [As a teenager in the 1960s] I would rush out every weekend to hear the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Cream, The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, the Kinks, Big Brother & the Holding company, the Mothers of Invention, Procul Harum, Sly & the Family Stone, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Steppenwolf, the original Fleetwood Mac, the Grateful Dead, and, whenever possible, the Rolling Stones. For reasons he never made clear, my father did not object to any of these bands, but he refused to let us play any songs by the Beatles within the confines of his house. Shortly after the lovable Liverpudlians made landfall in America, a Catholic newspaper published an article branding them minions of Lucifer, scions of Baal, and wolves in sheep’s clothing—the malefic trifecta—whose sole purpose in life was to corrupt the youth of America and lead them down the road to rack and ruin. After reading this, my father never relaxed his animosity toward a pop combo that, by comparison with many other ensembles of the time, seemed cheerful, upbeat, innocuous, and actually kind of cute.

    When the Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show on three consecutive Sundays in February 1964, my father refused to let us watch them. He also refused to let us go out and watch them elsewhere. He forced us to stay indoors, staring at the clock, fully aware of what we were missing, while the sands of time ran out. It was as if he were inviting us, nay, encouraging us, to slip rat poison into his lager. The most disorienting thing about his cruelty was that it had no detectable pattern or theme, as he didn’t object to our watching the Rolling Stones on a Saturday night variety show called The Hollywood Palace, nor did he raise a fuss when we reserved the console to watch Jim Morrison & the Doors the night they appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show four years later. None of this made any sense, because the Stones and the Doors really were minions of Lucifer and made little effort to disguise it.

    • thomasbrady said,

      January 15, 2012 at 3:06 pm

      Everyone knows Ringo’s the devil.

      • Ashu अशु said,

        December 31, 2014 at 11:39 am

        The only two Beatles to survive are the circumcised ones. Make of that what you will.

        • Andrew said,

          December 31, 2014 at 1:59 pm

          Where are the other 2 now in your opinion?

    • Andrew said,

      December 31, 2014 at 3:13 pm

      I had a similar experience to your CD mix private concert when a local radio station played a selection of G. Harrison songs together with an ambient dub-style Beatles medley – very atmospheric and mystical. Normally I don’t go for post-mortem remixes but that night (it was Harrison’s birthday) the music had me unraveling with joy and melancholy. A very magical moment it was.

      The album is called “The Beatles; Love” : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DKNFQhFZgYs&list=RDDKNFQhFZgYs#t=36

  7. thomasbrady said,

    December 31, 2014 at 2:37 pm

    The two surviving Beatles always loved their fans. The two who are gone mostly hated them.

    • noochinator said,

      June 21, 2015 at 12:47 pm

      Well, one of the two that’s gone was murdered by a fan, and the other was stabbed almost-to-death by a fan — so maybe they were on to something….

      http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2000/nov/15/stevenmorris

      • thomasbrady said,

        June 21, 2015 at 1:10 pm

        That’s an amazing would-be murder scene. It could open a very sophisticated Beatles bio pic. It has all these emotional and symbolic elements, St. George statue, the Beatle’s rash bravery, the wife’s desperate heroism, Hare Krishna yelled in the dark house, and would feel new in the telling, not cliched. Take something very iconic and tell it in a completely new way. That’s the secret of art and great journalism, right?

        • noochinator said,

          June 22, 2015 at 10:04 am

          Rash stupidity is more like it — he should’ve locked the bedroom door and called the cops. He almost got himself and his wife killed….

          • thomasbrady said,

            June 22, 2015 at 12:18 pm

            But his mother in law was also somewhere in the house and he feared for her safety as well. Lunging at him and trying to disarm him was a grave mistake though. Perhaps all his life to be successful he had taken risks and done rash things..it was just who he was…

  8. noochinator said,

    June 2, 2015 at 11:28 am

    “Elizabeth reigns over me.”

    I thought Barbara Bach reigned over him!

    • thomasbrady said,

      June 21, 2015 at 11:16 am

      Well technically Elizabeth is his monarch.

  9. noochinator said,

    June 21, 2015 at 11:03 am

    From A Load of Hooey by Bob Odenkirk

    THE ORIGIN OF “BLACKBIRD”

    Paul McCartney was generally seen as the generous, “upbeat” Beatle. However, some claim he had a well-hidden dark side: envious, resentful, belittling. If that’s true, it rarely showed. Evidence of this tendency in McCartney can be found in abundance on the day he premiered the song “Blackbird” to the other three Beatles. Unarguably a masterpiece, it was also written and arranged by McCartney alone. Legend has it that “Blackbird” came to “Macca” fairly easily and completely, with almost no conscious effort on his part. Despite being a solo creation, “Blackbird,” like all Beatles songs, is attributed to “Lennon/McCartney.” This shared-credit situation has been known to irk McCartney, and yet even that tension doesn’t explain the unbridled assault of sarcasm and peeve that issued from “the cute Beatle” on this singular occasion.

    August 18, 1968, Abbey Road Studios, Studio 4, 11:15 a.m.
    Engineer’s notes:

    Band members came in fairly early (and fairly shagged-out) from another night of “creams and ales and whatnot.” Mini jam session. Lennon kept asking Starkey to “play quieter” and finally to “Stop! The drums in me head are all I need.” After a tea-and-jam-butties break, McCartley [sic] grabbed an acoustic and said, “Here’s something, see what you think,” then played a song called “Blackbird” in its entirety. Excellent song. Excellent, excellent song. Unbelievable song. Like God humming. When he finished, he suddenly became vituperative…

    Transcript from the audio tape:

    McCARTNEY [As the final notes of “Blackbird” ring out]: Well? What do you think? Anything to it? “Ugh,” right? Don’t say anything! I know. I’m sorry. Get the trash bin out! I’ll reimburse for the studio time. Please forgive me…

    RINGO: Well, I thought it was really pretty…

    McCARTNEY: Stop—it’s no “Octopus’s Garden”! Am I right? Let me play it again, in its entirety, just the way it came to me, when I was alone, writing it…

    [McCartney plays “Blackbird” again, from beginning to end, and again, it’s an impossibly beautiful and perfect composition. The other Beatles stare at their shoes.]

    McCARTNEY: Garbage, right? Yeesh! I am so sorry. SOOOOOO sorry. George, please forgive me. Do favor us with another of your sitar explorations so as to wash the taste of that dreck from our ears! Do, please! Where’s the sitar? Hurry, get a sitar!

    HARRISON: Well, I liked it…

    McCARTNEY: Shows what you know! I’m sorry. I’m just embarrassed. John! The Great John Lennon! Sir, I am so sorry to waste YOUR time with that!

    LENNON: Well…it’s a little lullaby-ish for my taste, though.

    McCARTNEY: Of course! It’s just a throwaway lullaby! People hate lullabys! They’re awful, awful! John, save the day and yowl us all one of your patented free-form political diatribes to obliterate the memory of my gummy treacle!

    HARRISON: Look, man, I think your sarcasm is unnecessary, you know? It’s going to be on the album and all, there’s no need—

    McCARTNEY: Oh! Do you think it’ll make the album?? Oh, will it?! Oh, thank you, George! Thank you! You deign to have one of my songs grace the next Beatles album? Because usually I do have to fight pretty hard to get my usual 90 percent of the songs on there next to your 10 percent! Oh, joy! Did you hear that, Ringo! I’m going to have a song on a real Beatles album! Me, Paul McCartney!

    [At this point, Harrison rises to leave—]

    McCARTNEY: Don’t leave! Don’t leave, please, we need you to noodle around in the background! Where’s that sitar?

    [Harrison slams the door—]

    McCARTNEY: Oh, no! Now who will noodle around? Nobody?

    LENNON: Look, man, we get it, you wrote a perfect song. Congratulations, but really, I mean, what’s next?

    YOKO: [unintelligible “artistic” clucking noises]

    McCARTNEY: YOKO! Is Yoko here? There you are, dear, under the covers! Do you play the “bed” now? Is it an instrument? Uh-oh, have I accidentally given you a new idea for a performance? Oh well, by all means please scream out one of your bloodcurdling antisongs to strip away the execrable beauty I just plastered all over the room because I just wrote the greatest FUCKING MELODY EVER FUCKING FUCK-WRITTEN! Let’s hear it one more time just to check—

    [Paul plays “Blackbird” again…and again, it is a perfect song. Note: no overdubs needed.]

    McCARTNEY: Yup: THE GREATEST SONG EVER WRITTEN! Glad I double-checked! Hey, where’s everybody going?

    [The remaining Beatles have left the room. McCartney, exhausted, stays behind and plays “Blackbird” to himself three more times, smiling the entire time.]

    http://thecomicscomic.com/2014/10/13/the-origin-of-blackbird-from-bob-odenkirks-a-load-of-hooey-book-excerpt/

    • thomasbrady said,

      June 21, 2015 at 11:28 am

      Pretty funny except Blackbird is not by any means my favorite Beatle song. In 1968 George was writing amazing things. I can really see Paul almost throwing that song out; he wrote better melodies. But it is a funny piece and almost sounds authentic.

      Yesterday I heard Beatle Juice at an outdoor Renew Vows ceremony; Brad Delp of Boston used to play for them; still an amazing Beatle cover band who use psychedelic era sound effects, the clanging of the fire truck on Penny Lane, etc… Paper Back Writer, again not one of my favorites, sounded especially good, especially the bass part…the band’s original arrangements were often very solid…Golden Slumbers sounded very pretty… John’s sad really complimented Paul’s happy…but Paul lost his mum as a boy…I’m sure Paul was making a lot of his sadder songs for her…I think to be a great artist you need to have suffered a profound loss…

  10. Andrew said,

    December 5, 2015 at 4:33 am

    THIS JUST IN from His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I
    (who, by the way, LOVES John, Paul, George, & Ringo…)

  11. thomasbrady said,

    December 5, 2015 at 2:19 pm

    Lucy in the Sky sounds great as reggae…


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