DID GEORGE BREAK UP THE BEATLES?

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“To love that well which thou must leave ere long” —Shakespeare

It was Yoko. It was John. It was Paul. George, the “quiet Beatle,” cared about the music, and sat on the sidelines.

No, it was George.

George Harrison broke up the Beatles.

George, who grew up working class with John and Paul, was only 20 when the Beatles became world famous on February 7th, 1964.

For George, and the Beatles—though Ringo was more laid back about it—we need to understand the following: 1. How fast everything was happening. 2. How easily the lads thought it could end. 3. How much they obsessed on keeping the miracle afloat.

To understand how fast it was happening:

The Beatles made it big with their trip to America in early 1964—because they were cute, tuneful white boys with new, trendy haircuts, playing American black music. Their first albums featured many 1950s style rock n’ roll covers.

By the end of 1965, George—a mere 22 years old—had received the Order of the British Empire, starred in a major motion picture, witnessed Paul (with his solo hit “Yesterday”) and John moving apart, experienced Paul’s bossiness, and introduced the sitar on Rubber Soul—the acclaimed sophisticated album released at the end of 1965, in which the Beatles “grew up.”

In 1966, John effectively ended the innocence of the Beatles by bragging in public that the Beatles were bigger than Jesus; the story went nowhere in Britain, but when America discovered the news, Beatle records were burned. The Beatles barely escaped the Philippines after riots erupted, when the Beatles turned down a meeting with Imelda Marcos. The Beatles’ 32 year old manager, vital to their success, died in August 1967, while the Beatles were in Wales meeting George’s Indian guru—a video shows 26 year old John Lennon in shock after receiving the news, with 23 year old George by his side, looking far more relaxed, as George chats to the interviewer about the wisdom of the maharishi.

By the end of 1966, George is more interested in Indian music and Indian religion, than the Beatles.  Revolver (with three George songs) is released in the middle of 1966, and the recording of Sgt Peppers is under way—George’s track on Pepper features George, not with the Beatles, but with Indian musicians, and profoundly inward-looking lyrics.

In September, 1967, George and John appear on the David Frost show with some western experts on meditation and other assorted intellectuals in the audience, one who accuses George and John of mystical selfishness. John, rather abashed and listless, weakly defends himself (“you only meditate for 20 minutes in the morning…”) George, on the other hand, comes across as a religious zealot, and hints that he’s convinced there’s a yogi who has been alive since Christ, by mastering the secret laws of the universe. In a few months, George will record an entire record with respected Indian musicians in Bombay.

As one watches the 1967 Frost program, several things are apparent:

George, not John, comes across as the intellectual leader of the two, passionate, articulate—albeit fanatical and headstrong bordering on lunacy. That’s the first thing.

Secondly, where is the famous humor of the Beatles? It’s gone. George comes across as caustic and defensive, as does John, though a little less so. John wavers, politely holding back his usual sarcasm for the sake of his mate, who in terms of mystical religion, has gone all in. George is almost snarling as he rebuts a gentleman for calling him “mystical.”

And thirdly, not once, even though Sgt Peppers and “All You Need Is Love” have been released, do John or George point to their music, point to a Beatles composition, as an example of their mission or their meaning—are they afraid of being laughed at?

The Beatles are on top of the world, music-wise, money-wise, and yet John and George are telling the world “money is not the answer and now they want meaning,” and instead of discussing their music, they are brow-beaten by older British intellectuals—at one point a gentleman says “let me finish!” when George tries to interrupt him—on the subject of Eastern Mysticism.

The death, in 1967, of the Beatles manager, Brian Epstein—ending the early, performance-oriented career of the Beatles, coincided with the Beatles meeting the maharishi—at the behest of George. Thanks to George, mystical sounds by 1966 defined the Beatles, though few fans noticed—due to Paul’s songwriting skills. Sir Paul, the Pop Chairman, worked overtime to save the “Pop Chart Beatles” against George’s foreign “invasion.”

By 1965, with “Yesterday,” Paul emerged as the band’s leader, too good for Ringo, too good for George, and almost (but not nearly) too good for John. George and John both mocked Paul (on stage!) when Paul performed “Yesterday.” The dynamic, one year into the Beatles’ great success, was Paul on one side, John and George on the other (with Ringo, neutral, on drums—even as the other three Beatles begin to write songs which didn’t need drums.)

Paul was committed to the Beatles, and just happened to like all kinds of music, and could write—and perform—all kinds of music; Paul had that kind of talent and background; he filled out the Beatles’ choice of sounds.  John, married with a kid, living in the suburbs, but who went to art school as a lost juvenile delinquent type, delivered to the Beatles their frantic, melancholy edge; John and Paul both expanded the quality of the lyrics moving forward. George had input even on songs he didn’t write, and though he was songwriter no. 3 in the band, by using the Indian influence, and just by being a good musician with a critical ear, as the lead guitarist, he added a great deal to the Beatles’ sound from the very beginning.

George also had the most to prove. By 1969, with “Something” and “Here Comes the Sun,” he would finally equal Paul and John as the no. 1 songwriter, but in 1965, with Paul contributing “Yesterday,” and John, “Hard Day’s Night” and “Help” (though co-written with Paul) George is hungrier.  He’s 3 years younger than John, 2 years younger than Paul.

Paul picked on George, treating him badly in the studio; when the rift opened up between Paul and John, George sided with John.

But George also began to reach out to other musicians, much more than Paul or John. George released the first solo album when the Beatles were still together, in 1968. George befriended musicians like Dylan and Clapton. George brought in the Indian influence.  It was George who visited Haight Ashbury and checked out the West Coast rock scene in America in 1967. By comparison, Paul and John were almost stay-at-homes. For all of John’s “leadership” qualities, he was basically a person who liked to laze about drawing, creating, and doodling, with Aunt Mimi making him soup.

Paul, as everyone knows, wanted to keep the Beatles together. Paul thought the Beatles were the grownup thing to do. In Paul’s mind, the Beatles were a lifetime ticket to glory, fame, and security; he thought John and George were too easily distracted by ego-driven projects. Paul did write songs for other artists; he had his projects, too, but his main priority was always The Beatles.

Look at what Paul is doing today as an old man: still happily touring and playing Beatles songs.  He probably admires that the Rolling Stones are still together. (And is sure the Beatles are the better band, thanks to him).

John and George, however, felt the Beatles were a kid’s a thing, a childhood fantasy which needed to be left behind.

So John and George stood in stark contrast to Paul.

But John and George were very different, too. George befriended Dylan. John ridiculed Dylan. In this sense, John was closer to Paul—the Beatles were closed off, and in John and Paul’s heart, the best.

But this is clear: before the arrival of Yoko, the uneasy division between Paul and George/John threatened to break up the band.

George, however, had found two things to escape the Beatles—playing with other famous musicians, and defining himself with Indian music and religion.  Even many John songs in the Beatles had an Indian sound.

Paul was the driving force behind Sgt. Peppers, and by 1967, he’s the clear leader of the Beatles. George had found Indian religion, and we see from the David Frost show in September, 1967, that John is in the shadows, lacking direction; Lennon wants to leave the Beatles, but he doesn’t know how. He’s with George on the show, defending meditation, but you can tell this is George’s thing; the humorous, acerbic John is kept in check—he wants to bond with George (against Paul) so he bites his tongue; otherwise he would be mocking George’s religion–and of course this is what the future will shortly reveal. John’s most famous composition post-1967 is “Imagine”—“Imagine no religion.”

Yoko was John’s ticket out of the Beatles; at first she was a “project,” just as Paul had his Beatles and Apple records projects, and George had his projects—the first Apple Record in 1968 was a soundtrack album by George.  John mentions Yoko as a “project” explicitly on a 1969 David Frost show; he says before he and Yoko were a couple, he agreed to produce a record of hers. Only after they sleep together, does John join her on the record, Two Virgins.

John was following George’s lead.

John did not want to be outdone by George, who, in breaking away from Paul’s Beatles, was using his worldly and sophisticated Indian vibe to do so.

John, realizing how artistically ambitious and crazy Yoko was, in 1969 was finally ready to strike out on his own.

In January of 1969, George did quit the Beatles for two weeks. John, holding fast to Yoko, followed George to the exits.

Paul had made a grave miscalculation by treating George shabbily in the early days.

George, like Paul, was sick of Yoko, and just as George and John could not agree over religion, George and Paul could not repair the damage Paul had made pushing around George, starting in 1965.

Paul made it official, leaving the Beatles in April of 1970, when he realized both John and George were making fun of him behind his back.  George, as much as John, was the mocking, caustic Beatle. And George had much more reason to lash out at Paul, because Paul had insulted him as a man and a musician, just by being Paul; Paul and John had a deep, respectful bond that went way back—their songwriting together made the Beatles.  But John was in George’s orbit; John knew George had what it took to leave the Beatles, and John didn’t want to be left out. It’s hard to say what John would have done had Yoko not come along.  He probably would have begged George to stay with the Beatles on behalf of Paul.
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George’s personality was based on male friendship.
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Patti Boyd, George’s first wife, says she once carefully cooked George an Indian meal—and his response was to hire a chef from India: George, the sexist perfectionist. His male bond with Clapton was such that he let Clapton have his wife. “Something” and “Layla” were written for the same woman. For all of his spirituality, earthly George was headstrong and common. Male friendship was George’s guiding star, and George’s ability to bond with males certainly must have contributed to the chemistry and success of the Beatles—but the seed of creation is often the seed of destruction. Paul violated George’s sacred bond and treated George like a junior, and this is what ultimately broke up the Beatles. We often lose sight of the personal in mystical abstraction.  George’s Indian mysticism was an unconscious manifestation of his hatred of Paul.  When George sings on “Within You, Without You,” to Indian music backing, “Try to realize you’re very small and life flows on within you and without you,” he is singing to Paul: ‘You may think you’re a great success, big shot, but you’re nothing.’ Wise philosophy is used to soothe and speak for the wounded. George is repressed, and all the more beautiful and civilized for it; our most abstract dreams and missions finally come from the small and personal.
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John’s identity was based on being pampered by women.
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John and George both had children by non-Anglo-American women.
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George, the priest, and John, the political activist, advertised idealism, but were deeply flawed, earthy, sarcastic and vengeful, and finally defined themselves in opposition to Paul, the insufferably successful and happy businessman.
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Paul’s identity was fidelity to the family unit; loyalty to the Beatles and the family defined Paul, whose practicality contrasted with John and George’s self-destructiveness, and George, embittered by Paul, led the way: John and Yoko, on a very profound level, were created by George, the rebel angel, who sought to punish Paul—the workaholic Pop Machine.
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There you go, Beatles fans.
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It was George.

BEST ONE HUNDRED SONGS TO BREAK YOUR HEART, MAKE YOU SAD, CRY.

We need a list like this, because songs do assault the heart, and the two most readily accessible lists we find on the web of “songs that make you cry” are so-so, mostly devoted to recent and mediocre indie rock songs.

The “songs that make you cry” lists are further limited by a lame criterion of a close-reading of lyrics—many people don’t know this, but this song is really about a friend of a friend of the songwriter who was dying of cancer, etc.

A great sad song should strike one as sad immediately, by itself, on its own, with its own poetry and music and mood—it should not require an actual sad reason why it was composed revealed to the listener—one shouldn’t need to have the lyrics explained in order to be saddened by the song.

And yet, and yet…secret sad meanings hidden in the lyrics…okay, who can resist those?

But here’s the deal: First, if the actual tragedy the lyrics allude to is the source of the heart-breaking song, then how is this any different than if someone simply told you of a heart-breaking tragedy?

Second, it is the discovery of the hidden aspect in the lyrics which does most of the heart-breaking work, for it is this ‘finding out’ which imitates the mechanics of regret: oh if I had only known how much they really loved me! It is this dynamic which is at work in the oh this is what the song means! trick.

Whether the song is about something that actually happened is beside the point. If we are really moved by a song, on some level it is real for us—and nothing more needs to be said on the issue.  Obviously, the point is, when compiling this list, we have considered the total impact on the heart by the song itself. The tragedy (imagined or real) matters, obviously, but more importantly is how it all comes together in the way it is conveyed by the song, so it stays pleasantly in our memory. The melting of the heart by a song (whether “tragic” or not) should be a pleasant experience. Bewitching perhaps, but ultimately a pleasure, since happiness is (or should be) the end of existence. The songs on our list may, or may not, make you cry. But it should be a happy cry.

But the more we ponder this whole question of context, the more it threatens to explode the whole project: what about a song like “Un Bel Di,” from Puccini’s opera, Madame Butterfly, also known as “One Fine Day?” Does one have to know Italian, or the opera’s heart-breaking story from which the song emerges, to appreciate this song?

Well—to truly appreciate the song, yes.

“Context,” which, for the sake of “artistic purity,” we have been trying to mitigate, if not eliminate, keeps looming up, like a moon which needs to shine.

The best conclusion, we think, is this: if the moon is a really beautiful one, and is really shining beautifully—if the song itself really is magnificent—we can expect the listener to also understand the clouds heaped up around that moon—especially if the song is already deservedly popular; or, if the song itself, because of what it is, really deserves, in our opinion, this extra knowledge and attention.

We will not worry ourselves that lists like this can never satisfy everyone, for this does not mean lists such as this are not worth doing. Scarriet’s One Hundred Hippie Songs of All Time, published a year ago, is consistently visited two thousand times a week.

But of course “hippie” is more readily understood than “heart.”

And here we might as well add that the heart needs protection—and this is what T.S. Eliot meant when he famously said poetry is “an escape from emotion”—the heart-breaking song is restrained and cool and artificial to a certain degree precisely so the heartbreak doesn’t overwhelm us. But… isn’t that the point? To be overwhelmed, so the heart “melts?” Yes, but some cry at almost anything—commercials, other people crying—so that the songs on this list aren’t even necessary. Keep in mind we speak of ideal, aesthetic, and universal “melting.” This entire list, obviously, cannot be heart-breaking for you.

Further, in this list we attempt to appeal to all tastes.

The genres of hard rock and blues, the music that “sold its soul to the devil” receives its due punishment by not being included on this list. We could have picked a song like “The Thrill Is Gone” to honor the late, great B.B. King, but we could not find it in our hearts to do so. Work like this is admirable, but, for us, just not heart-melting. The stretched-out, pounding attitude of ‘ain’t life a bitch? doesn’t quite fit what we are after.

The “melting” is not finally from pity, but from the extraordinarily beautiful and wise.

Occasionally the beautifully wise is like ice—but as this list shows, icy perfection rarely melts the heart.  Often it is just a warm, slow melody.

Puccini might be said to have invented the modern pop song, or maybe it was Mozart?  Or Bach?  The hook—and then creeping behind it, another equally as sweet!  And so sweet—it has to be brief.

And then, added to the music, the story and the poetry.  What mortal can resist it?

Anyway, we hope you enjoy our latest, One Hundred Songs To Melt The Heart.

1. One Fine Day (Puccini’s Madame Butterfly Aria, “Un Bel Di,” is the heart-breaking standard: beautiful, involves a young girl’s heart—that sings the song—a sailor, and two cultures on either side of the world—and the “one fine day” never comes. 

2. Nothing Compares 2 U (Sinead O’Connor’s performance of Prince’s song proves sadness is best when it is majestic, observant—“7 hours and 15 days”—and has no bitterness. A tear-jerker for the ages. An electronic standard.)

3. Someone Like You (Adelle’s voice inhabits this Edna St. Vincent Millay-type song’s every pitch, timbre, and mood—resigned, but not resigned—almost as if her very heart were the instrument. Too recent to appreciate? No, this performance is timeless.)

4. Just Say I Love Him (Nina Simone’s six and a half minute, poignant, subtly electric guitar-soaked revery from her neglected masterpiece Forbidden Fruit—1961. If women are dominating this list so far? That’s why they call them divas, fellas…)

5. Video Games (The video of this casually, stupidly languid but passionate song by Lana Del Rey has 83 million views and yes we are in a different era now of perfecting heart-tugging—technically and artistically. A female’s hungry, proud, sultry, deeply expressive voice is still key, however.)

6. Sue Me (Duet between Frank Sinatra and Vivian Blaine.  When her voice tearfully cracks on “I could honestly die.” From Frank Loesser’s Guys and Dolls. The scene itself is semi-comic—it doesn’t matter.)

7. Hurt (Johnny Cash. Noble, yet agonizing. Tears the only defense against this.)

8. Honey (Bobby Goldsboro makes a goddamn movie with a song. Sentimental, perhaps, but the vocal and the lyrics expand possibilities in a way that practically forms a template of its own.)

9. O Mio Babbino Caro (Puccini and Callas. The song doesn’t need translation. Puccini invented pop, perhaps.)

10. There Is A Light That Never Goes Out (The Smiths. Urban, angsty poetry at its very best. The Smiths’ signature sound is divine, in a fake-casual sort of way.)

11. Stranger in Paradise (The Four Aces’ hokey-histrionic performance of this exquisite song is the formula of homely passion which is necessary; it is not icy, classical perfection we’re after. Sigh deeply if you agree.)

12. It’s All In the Game (Tommy Edwards. It’s all in this glimpsed not quite sad perfect gem of a song.)

13. Alameda (Elliot Smith almost wallows too much in self-misery to project: “Nobody broke your heart. You broke your own cause you can’t finish what you start.”)

14. Hello In There (John Prine made a masterpiece for neglected seniors.)

15. Heart of Gold (Neil Young. It’s very hard to write a truly beautiful sad song. The slightest trace of self-pity ruins it.)

16. Saint James Hospital (Pete Seeger’s Youtube ‘video’ of this beautiful, beautiful, somber, ‘dying cowboy’ folk song has only about 3,000 views. A pity.)

17. Turandot  (Puccini. Pavarotti. Music so sweet it hurts.)

18. Lacrimosa (Mozart. The Requiem. The happy genius feeling indescribable pain.)

19. Green Fields (Brothers Four. Layers of slow, trembling, lush, melancholy. Gorgeous.)

20. Wild World (Cat Stevens. An achingly sad ‘lover leaving’ song tinged with impotent fatherly advice. )

21. Blue Velvet (Bobby Vinton sings this as schmaltzy pop–the velvety tune itself transcends its setting.)

22. My Sweet Lord (George Harrison took the most powerful secular format ever: rock music, blended it with religious feelings, in a way which still sounds like a love song: “I’d really like to know you.”)

23. Auld Lang Syne (The Bobby Burns’ tear-jerker.)

24. April Come She Will (Simon and Garfunkle. We can never get enough, it seems, of lost love and seasons. A couple of guys from Queens, New York. Maybe the best singing/songwriting team ever.)

25. You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away (The Beatles. John Lennon had this love/hate thing with the music of Bob Dylan. Lennon was a genius who hated/loved.)

26. Space Oddity (David Bowie. Alienated by technology, a theme of this great techno-song from our modern era of passionate contradictions.)

27. The Man That Got Away (Judy Garland. Ju-dy Gar-land. Man-that-got-away. Okay?)

28. The Way We Were (Barbara Streisand. Nostalgia from one of the greatest pop divas.)

29. And The Sun Will Shine (Bee Gees. Robin Gibb. Sweet. Vaguely sorrowful. That is all.)

30. I’m Not In Love (10cc. “Big boys don’t cry.” Yes, they do.)

31. If You Go Away (Shirley Bassey best performs this Jaque Brel number of what we all fear.)

32. Dream Brother (Jeff Buckley. A superbly expressed song of beautiful primal longing.)

33. High Your Love (Donovan, from his 1996 Sutras: “Looking for you in the longing of life, and all the time, you were here by my side.” Wow. It’s rare when embarrassingly wise wisdom breaks your heart.)

34. Do You Realize?? (Flaming Lips. A sentimental song that grabs sentimentality by the throat.)

35. Hey That’s No Way To Say Goodbye (Leonard Cohen. The nearly atonal baritone delivery manages to be a mesmerizing diversion. Anyone can sing. Anyone can make music. Anyone can cry.)

36. What Is A Youth (from Zefferelli’s Romeo and Juliet—also known as “A Time For Us.” This lovely song, sung as Romeo and Juliet first cavort at the home of the Capulets is a happy/sad cinematic, musical stunner)

37. Knocking On Heaven’s Door (Bob Dylan. Zimmerman was so sentimental he had to be tough.)

38. The Only Living Boy In New York (Simon and Garfunkel. It is about tall Art going off to an acting gig and leaving small Paul alone, who takes the sweetest revenge in it.)

39. It’s All Too Much (The Beatles from Yellow Submarine. A lesser known song, but it could be the best Beatles’ recording. A pounding, psychedelia of heart-melting sweetness from George.)

40. The Incest Song (Buffy St. Marie. There are tragic ballads galore; this one is quite good—from her 1964 It’s My Way! one of the greatest original folk albums—no, albums—ever recorded.)

41. Go Way From My Window (John Jacob Niles.  An old man’s heartbreaking voice. Bob Dylan would later use the title of this song as a lyric in his sad-but-slightly-snarling “It Ain’t Me Babe.”)

42. Lonesome Valley (Erik Darling. “You’ve got to cross that lonesome valley by yourself.” Lyrics, music, delivery. Easily one of the greatest recordings of all time.)

43. While My Guitar Gently Weeps (George Harrison’s third on this list! “They bought and sold you.” They did.)

44. Chasing Cars (Snow Patrol. “Would you lie with me and just forget the world?” Asked sadly and sweetly.)

45. Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying (Jerry and the Pacemakers. String section strains to slow down the finger-snapping beat of the sad, optimistic shimmer. “Ferry ‘Cross the Mersey” is equally as good.)

46. Your Song (Elton John was a throw-back to the Tin Pan Alley days when composers and lyricists were separate people; John wrote all the music; Bernie Taupin, the lyrics: “how wonderful life is that you’re in the world.”)

47. I’ll Be Seeing You (Billie Holiday. This is perhaps the poetic trope: seeing the beloved in other things. And Holiday’s voice is one of those sad ones we love because it talks/sings.)

48. Bridge Over Troubled Water (Simon and Garfunkel. Their album of the same name beat out Let It Be for the Grammy as the 60s came to an end, Art & Paul and the Beatles splitting up.)

49. I Think It’s Going To Rain Today (Judy Collins sings it from her magnificent 1966 covers album “In My Life.”)

50. It Was Sad When That Great Ship Went Down  (Honestly, we couldn’t find the definitive recording of this great, great folk song of the Titanic disaster. Probably Pete Seeger.)

51. Perfect Day (Lou Reed. Languid masterpiece from another artist with “a voice that came from you and me.”)

52. Lady Jane (The Brian Jones era Rolling Stones. Old people back in the 60s who hated noisy rock must have been taken aback when songs like this were produced.)

53. A Day in the Life (Beatles. The reflective, sad quietness of this song reflects the touring band, going in the studio, growing up.)

54. Walk On By (It can’t help but feel a little like Bacharach, David and Warwick is music as business. A perfect business. Imagine these three as unknowns, turning out hundreds of songs a year, and then the whole cache is discovered.)

55. Sarah (Scarrietmeister. We include our own singing, songwriting, and producing only to prove that Poe was right: only a good poet can be a good critic. We humbly write and record music, and that’s why we can sensitively and lovingly make these lists.)

56. Smile (The lyrics are iconic; the musical credit goes to Charlie Chaplin, who first sang it in his 1936 film, Modern Times. Which is how life works: you’re working on a movie and then a song comes to you…)

57. End of the World (Skeeter Davis asks “Don’t they know it’s the end of the world?” in one of the sweetest, simplest, and most poignant songs of all time.)

58. Do You Really Want To Hurt Me (The reggae beat, the bend-y notes, the hopeless, self-effacing melancholy required, perhaps, a Boy George, to make it happen; or was this song inevitable?)

59. Smoke Gets In Your Eyes (The songwriting team of Jerome Kern and Otto Harbach wrote this for their 1933 musical. Great songs are inevitably written for something…a musical, a movie, a friend, etc)

60. Moon River (Once lyricist and Georgia native Johnny Mercer put “moon” with “river, the song probably wrote itself; he originally tried “blue river,” but found it was already taken. “Huckleberry friend” worked, too.)

61. Over the Rainbow (The best songs are simple ones: “somewhere,” became for the songwriting industry what “nevermore” was for poetry; the octave jump from some to where launched us “over the rainbow.”)

62. Good Night Irene (Leadbelly learned the song in the South from family in the beginning of the 20th century. Pete Seeger with the Weavers—before Elvis—made black music for the American masses: Billboard’s no. 1 song for 1950, the year after Leadbelly died.)

63. I Will Always Love You (Written and recorded by Dolly Parton in 1973 and made into a monster hit by Whitney Houston in 1992. Both times for a movie.)

64. Come All You Fair And Tender Maids (Pete Seeger sings it best. You hear a beautiful, old, neglected folk song like this and you can’t help but wonder how easily today’s pop machine could make it a “hit.”)

65. September Song (Lotte Lenya sings this sad song written by her husband, Kurt Weil)

66. You’ve Got A Friend (Carol King wrote it and James Taylor recorded it in a comforting blast of singer/songwriter bliss.)

67. Ave Maria (Schubert. Uplifting. Can the heart follow?)

68. Are You Lonesome Tonight? (Elvis Presley was a rocker, but also country western—a genre, we are aware, that is not represented well by our list. Hank Williams moans and cries, and we won’t deny the greatness of this music, but heart-wise, it often sounds too quirky or cornball to our N’eastern ears.)

69. Sheep May Safely Graze (Kirsten Flagstad does a pretty good job with this Bach cantata.)

70. The Three Ravens (Alfred Deller sings in the “sweet and high” style this ancient English ballad about a dead knight and his faithful animals.)

71. An Affair To Remember (Nat King Cole. One of the great heart-melting singers. Beautiful, sad song from the beautiful, sad film.)

72. Is That All There It Is? (Peggy Lee gets deep.)

73. The Winner Takes It All (ABBA. Is this really true?  Is there a “winner” in love? It doesn’t matter, because the song makes it true.)

74. Where Have All The Flowers Gone? (Pete Seeger’s song, fashioned from other sources in 1955. It led to Dylan’s question “How many roads must a man walk down?” and the rest is folk/rock/pop history.)

75. Those Were The Days (Mary Hopkin. Does history kill nostalgia? The Beatles produced this.)

76. My Cherie Amour (Stevie Wonder recorded it; he and two others wrote it. Sweet, sad, pop perfection.)

77. Cry Me A River (A jazz standard embracing heartbreak for two.)

78. Another Day (Paul McCartney wrote a lot of sad, clever, touching songs; he sang this one with Linda.)

79. A Day In The Life Of A Fool (Jack Jones does a solid job with this sob-fest from Brazil. Black Orpheus is the 1959 Academy Award winning film which made the song famous.)

80. It Was a Very Good Year (Songs that look back over life are usually a pretty good bet to be at least mildly heart-breaking. Frank Sinatra is the wistful deliverer in this case.)

81. Oh What Wondrous Love Is This? (A spiritual which is similar to “Amazing Grace,” and just as good.)

82. Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd. Syd Barrett was their songwriter, and then, after he tragically left, the subject of their best work.)

83. I Don’t Like Mondays (Boomtown Rats. A big hit in England, Bob Geldoff wrote this song in 1979 from a news story out of San Diego, California: a 16 year old girl went on a shooting spree for no apparent reason.)

84. Hey There Delilah (Plain White Ts. Songs with girls’ names are usually a good start.)

85. Indian Summer (The Doors had a bunch of haunting little numbers like this. It is argued often that Morrison was not a “real” poet, but this group used Brecht/Weil and William Blake in their recordings. They were one of the truly poetic rock groups, far more sensitive than most.)

86. Time Of Your Life (Green Day. A breakup song that doesn’t quite sound like a breakup song—the most noble kind.)

87. La Vie En Rose (Edith Piaf is the world’s favorite female French singer. This one song will have to represent the lovely French cafe tradition. Our favorite album of this type is April In Paris by Jacqueline Francois.)

88. You Are My Sunshine (First recorded in 1939; covered numerous times. Sing it to your kid.)

89. Bittersweet Symphony (The Verve. We love the video of Richard Ashcroft knocking people over in London as he lip-syncs.)

90. Viva La Vida (Cold Play. An uplifting number. The lyrics are somewhere between profound and hazy, but the song is catchy enough so one doesn’t care.)

91. It Will Rain (Bruno Mars. Perhaps the best from this visceral writer/performer. This one was co-written for a movie—“Twilight.”)

92. Careless Whisper (George Michael. Co-written with his Wham! partner when they were unknown. Sexy. Depressing. Very 80s.)

93. Come As You Are (Nirvana. Kurt Cobain generally expressed pain very well—some might feel this song is heart-breaking.)

94. Maggie May (Rod Stewart. A sad, in-love-with-an-older-woman, not-knowing-what-to-do-with-my-life song.  Doesn’t try to be a heart-breaking song, but it is.)

95. Fortunate The Man With None (Dead Can Dance. The lyrics come from a Bertolt Brecht poem.)

96. I Say A Little Prayer (Aretha Franklin sings one of the sweetest songs of all time.)

97. Nights in White Satin (Moody Blues. “Just what you want to be, you’ll be in the end” is a killer.)

98. Dear Mama (Tupac. The late rapper appreciates his mother.)

99. Everybody Hurts (R.E.M. Many songs tell stories, give advice, but not that many are written specifically to reach out and comfort.)

100. Blue (Marina and the Diamonds. Released this year; energetic and vapid, as all ‘young people’s music of today’ seems to those who are older. But it’s still about the heart.)

FIFTY SHADES OF GAY: THE SCIENCE OF EXCLUSION

Is the exclusionary ever a good thing?

In a democracy, not really.

The exclusionary is always a bad thing.

Philosophers champion “freedom” to make the choice to be exclusionary an important value, a good thing. But if the result is exclusionary, it is always bad, because the exclusionary result is always bad in a free, and open, and friendly society.  We want to give people “choices,” the freedom to be exclusionary—but in vain.  And here lies the crux of all political disagreement, and war, and tyranny.  In a just society, the exclusionary must be excluded.

Yet the exclusionary sentiment has been creeping into vital aspects of modern life since the modern as an aesthetic brand became synonymous with the progressive.

And the modern (in art) and the progressive (in politics)—in terms of every kind of intellectual validation—are, we are told, without question, good things and breed good people, who love, without reservation, democracy.  This is not to say the modern in art cannot be strange, but it is always strange in the inclusive, not the exclusive, sense.  The progressive makes war on the exclusionary.

When the anti-exclusionary virtues of the Modern and the Progressive are questioned—in works such as Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, Allan Bloom’s Closing of the American Mind, Dana Gioia’s Can Poetry Matter, or Camille Paglia’s Sexual Personae, the antibodies move, the professors leap from their chairs, and the warrior ants swarm, to protect the Modern Progressive Queen.

We do not intend to champion, or condemn, the works just mentioned, and works like them: the reader will be mistaken if they think this is our intent; we merely note an intellectual phenomenon of contemporary life.  We are merely exploring a principle, the principle of exclusion.

The exclusionary is chiefly seen in how we exclude those who do not think as we do. The progressives see fit to exclude conservatives. And why? Because conservatives are exclusionary. Thus the irony.

Progressives say: we exclude only those who are exclusionary.

But everyone is exclusionary—aren’t we?—and so progressives exclude more than they at first realize.

Paradise is not so easily attained, even in our own calculations in our own bedrooms. Progressive inclusivity steers us, by a simple twist of fate, into this, our present time, our present day: an exclusionary, estranged, lonely, culturally crass, icily-techno, nightmare: an old, sick, aging population without poetry, without beauty, drowning in ugly commercialism, puritanical political correctness, and non-fat yogurt.

Progressives, who are the loudest, are also the most unhappy, tripped up by a logic they hardly understand.

Mozart-hating progressives cannot tolerate those who only love classical music—since ‘only loving classical music’ is an exclusionary position, and it doesn’t matter if it is a matter of taste—and taste cannot be judged. The anti-exclusionary trumps even in matters of taste.

For the smart, progressive, post-modern individual, there is but one evil: the exclusionary. Embrace everybody and every taste (except the exclusionary) or you are a scumbag. This is the implicit mantra of the cool person.

To criminalize is to exclude, and the progressive does not like to criminalize, does not like to judge, and will exclude only those who, it is deemed, themselves too sternly exclude.

Do not judge the traitor—the country, not the traitor, is wrong.

Do not judge the woman who has an abortion—the judgement, not the woman, is wrong.

Do not judge the thief—the circumstances, not the theft, is wrong.

Do not judge the moment—the future, tied to old-fashioned considerations, is wrong.

Do not judge the adulterer—the marriage, not the person, is wrong.

Judge only restrictive judgement—the only thing that is truly wrong.

If we are to properly and fairly judge, we will pronounce only against those who judge too strongly.

As one can see, the whole formula is simple, and it is intellectually easy to be included in this far-reaching and politically influential club—which ISIS, and every rightwing fanatic under the sun, will come after, and kill.

The mental ease of belonging to the non-exclusionary club is the secret to its popularity, and since judgement is dour, one is not only welcomed lovingly, but one assumes a happier visage automatically; and since morals exist for the happiness of all, happiness is properly combined with its moral, non-exclusionary agenda, as well.

So, all is good?

Yes!

The snake in the garden is simply the selfish one who opposes democracy, who opposes happiness for all:

The rich person who wants to keep others down, the priest who wants others to feel guilty, the cop who wants to stifle his fear by making others fear, the man who wants to boss a woman, the bully who bullies simply because they can do so, picking on animals, the weak, the planet.

How wonderful life would be, if not for those meanies who deceptively sweeten power and mean behavior!

Isn’t it obvious to all what is good?

Well, no—because of that deceptive sweetening.

But it is good, then, all this self-congratulatory non-judgement.

Good to know what the good is, and to know that you are good.

But you are not good. You just say you are.

The progressive’s dream is an idle dream.

Your “good” is a baseless fantasy.

You, the modern progressive, belong to your “group” only to belong.  You belong to ‘the glue’ and nothing else. You are—glue. You belong to the political faction as a political faction, and for no philosophical basis, or truth. Your mind has been captured and put in a dark room. As George Harrison put it in “While My Guitar Gently Weeps:”

I don’t know why nobody told you how to unfold your love.
I don’t know how someone controlled you, they bought and sold you.
I don’t know why you were diverted, you were perverted, too.
I don’t know how you were inverted, no one alerted you.

Those who oppose gay marriage are called exclusionary.

Why?

That’s easy. Because only marriage between a man and a woman count for them.

When it comes to marriage, what is exclusionary?

By the simplest rules of natural logic, the only non-exclusionary match is the following:

Man/Woman

This is easy. It excludes neither man, nor woman.

Black/White is always better than Black/Black or White/White.  Always.

Black/White is less exclusionary—and calls us into the progressive future.

As in the black/white example, all other marriage arrangements are exclusionary, and for immediately obvious reasons:

Man/Man

Excludes woman.

Woman/Woman

Excludes man.

In precisely the same way White/White and Black/Black excludes.

Woman/Woman/Woman/Woman/Man

This example might be more difficult to discern, but Woman/Woman/Woman/Man is highly exclusionary, as well.

Woman/Man/Woman/Man is also exclusionary, simply because any longer list allows for exclusionary combinations.

I guess we could call this fifty shades of gay.

The only combination which is not exclusionary is Man/Woman.

Now we might object vigorously in the following manner: A society which defines marriage as Man/Woman must be more exclusionary than a society which defines marriage as Man/Woman and Man/Man and Woman/Woman.  This may seem correct, but it is not, simply because the unit Man/Woman is not exclusionary, while the unit Man/Man is, and therefore any society which has more of the latter must be a more exclusionary society, since it contains more exclusionary units.

The freedom in which Man travels across space and time to link up with Woman or Man merely deceives us that the “choice” is a non-exclusionary counter to the exclusionary result of Man/Man. The result is what finally matters to progressives—not imaginary “freedoms.”   Freedom is the chimera of the right wing.

The logic here (as old-fashioned and exclusionary as it may appear) is inescapable.

Man/Woman is the only unit which does not exclude.

Except if we posit the notion that man excludes woman and woman excludes man, and therefore gender itself is wrong because it is exclusionary.

Is gender itself wrong?

Is nature wrong?

Some would go so far as to say to be human is to know nature as a wrong.

It is tricky to question nature, and our essay’s scope will not us allow to pursue this question.

We will only say that humans are tricky, and our place in and against nature measures everything that we are.

In our strict mathematical logic, then, the only way to embrace homosexuality in a non-exclusionary way, the only way to embrace exclusionary gender combinations, is if we posit that gender itself is exclusionary—which it is.

Yet we are trapped by this logic, since homosexuality is acutely aware of gender—it not only chooses based on gender, it exists because of gender.

Is homosexuality, then, democratic?  No, it is not.

Homosexuality is either exclusionary, or cancels itself out.

Yet the exclusionary may be the way human evolution is heading.

Freedom may be too much to resist.

THE ONE HUNDRED GREATEST JAZZ VOCAL STANDARDS THAT WORK AS POEMS

When poetry was killed off in the first half of the 20th century by the tendentious artlessness of Modernism, did it go somewhere?

Yes. It went into popular music.

It went here:

Somewhere there’s music.
How faint the tune.
Somewhere there’s heaven.
How high the moon.

Somewhere there’s music.
It’s where you are.
Somewhere there’s heaven.
How near, how far.

The darkest night will shine,
If you come to me soon.
Until you will, how still my heart—
How high the moon.

Lyrics by Nancy Hamilton

The sultry romance of poetry, sentimental as it might be, just happens to be a significant template for poetry, the art.

Let us admit, at once, that this kind of poetry is perhaps the worst kind of poetry possible, whenever it fails, and it fails often.

This is perhaps why many conclude—in error—that poetry of romance is of a lesser quality than other kinds of poetry, an error which has been perpetuated by a certain tribe of academics.

The error comes from not examining the reason for this kind of poetry’s rather vast failure, which is twofold:

First, since sentimental love poetry is by far the most well-known and practiced of the templates, there will inevitably be a great number of failures, providing countless wretched examples for those looking to dismiss this kind of poetry as poetry.

Second, it is easy to fail in rather spectacular and embarrassing fashion when writing love poetry precisely because of the significance of the template itself.  The template lives in a place where all poetry lives—skill at meter, versification, sentiment, irony, universality, unity, richness, and originality will naturally aid the poet attempting love poetry, and, it also lives where we all live; because it lives close to the heart, to the social embarrassment, and drama, and ubiquitous nature of love and romance, writing this kind of poetry will have a greater risk of failure, since readers are passionately familiar with the tropes involved.

This does not mean, however, that this kind of poetry is inferior in any way to other types of poetry, and it may be superior, in fact, no matter what academics may say, and which is why, perhaps, it tends to be more popular—which should never be a strike against anything good.

Take a song like “Autumn Leaves.” One could almost say it’s inevitable that a song like this exist in the ‘jazz standard’ category, given the mood, subject and sentiment of the ‘jazz standard’ love song. Now the critic must ask: should such inevitability be held against “Autumn Leaves?” Or should we honor it for the very reason that its existence seems destined? We must know the category intimately to appreciate the example. The category is a simple one (not inferior for that reason) and consists of six sub-categories.

1. The Beloved Receives Heavenly Praise —All The Things You Are

2. Praise Without Quality (ironic, indirect) —My Funny Valentine

3. Love Gone Wrong (Revenge) —Cry Me A River

4. Love Gone Wrong (Resigned) —Autumn Leaves

5. Introspective (Narrator talks with their heart) —My Foolish Heart

6. Love Against the World (Time, Fortune, Necessity) —When Sunny Gets Blue

The whole category of the jazz standard is simple, but already we see some complexity. “Autumn Leaves” invokes, with its natural fact, the fourth sub-category—sad resignation of lost love—as we might expect; the leaves of “red and gold” falling past the window of the bereaved lover join other things in the mind: “summer kisses, the sunburnt hands I used to hold” and the dying leaves are then used with the idea of time, already invoked by “summer” (before the leaves fell) with: “but I miss you most of all, my darling, when autumn leaves start to fall.” This is rather brilliant. It is one thing to come up with autumn leaves as an image for the sad resignation of lost love, another to use the image economically and in a way that feels inevitable. The drawback to these songs working as poetry: extreme brevity within a simple and well understood context—is precisely that which allows us to see the challenge overcome if we are alive to both the challenge and the traditional actuality of the love lyric itself, so that instead of dismissing it for that reason, we instead appreciate what is, in fact, a poetic challenge, an extremely difficult one, to be poetically met and overcome.

The brevity of the effect in these songs is such that the title practically writes the song. The immediate is almost everything.

The jazz song usually has a lot of minor keys and notes (brilliantly used to multiple effects of course) with the general tendency to heaviness, intricate mellowness, and melancholy, so we would expect a lot of ‘love gone wrong’ and sad songs, and that’s what we do indeed have. This musical fact will of course impact the lyric. This general sadness is probably why jazz is not nearly as popular as other genres—but its poetry, as we attempt to isolate it, has its own, and under-appreciated, excellence, and the sad also happens to be a richer field for poetic loveliness.

As for jazz’s “sophisticated” reputation; the term is empty; there is nothing smarter about jazz; the ‘maudlin refined into beauty’ perhaps best sums it up; it cannot substitute long for the best of classical music, and the worst of it is horribly chained and pretentious.

Its reputation for being “sophisticated” may be due to the fact that jazz contains very little story-telling, and here is where jazz distinguishes itself from Folk and Country, its hayseed cousins. Frank Sinatra self-consciously introduced the slight exception, “It Was A Very Good Year,” which almost tells a story, as a “pretty folk song.” One can’t imagine Sinatra singing one of those endless folk ballads like “Frankie and  Johnny”—even though this song is on some ‘jazz standard’ lists. ‘True art’ has a certain reticence; the jazz femme fatale doesn’t say very much; as “Yesterday” puts it: “Why she had to go, I don’t know, she wouldn’t say.” The best heartaches are beyond analysis.

In fact, anyone who makes a list like this one has probably had their heart broken, has it associated with a song, which, for that reason, will not be on the list, the ultimate reticence of heart-broken cool. So if you notice a song you think should be on the list below and it is not, be comforted. The song is playing somewhere—and breaking a heart.

 

1. SOMEWHERE OVER THE RAINBOW “That’s where you’ll find me.” Poignantly ideal.

2. YESTERDAY Formally perfect.

3. SMILE Best and saddest advice.

4. AUTUMN LEAVES  “I see your lips, the summer kisses, but I miss you most of all when…”

5. STORMY MONDAY “Tuesday’s just as bad.”

6. MOON RIVER “waiting round the bend”

7. ALL THE THINGS YOU ARE “when all the things you are, are mine.”

8. THE VERY THOUGHT OF YOU “Your eyes in stars above…my love.”

9. MY FUNNY VALENTINE “Your looks are laughable, unphotographable”

10. DREAM A LITTLE DREAM OF ME “stars fading but I linger on”

11. DON’T GET AROUND MUCH ANYMORE “couldn’t bear it without you…”

12. MOONGLOW “way up in the blue…”

13. IT HAD TO BE YOU “even be glad, just to be sad, thinking of you.”

14. ALL OR NOTHING AT ALL “half a love never appealed to me”

15. WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DAY MADE “and the difference is you.”

16. SPEAK LOW “speak love to me and soon”

17. PENNIES FROM HEAVEN ” be sure your umbrella is upside down”

18. AS TIME GOES BY “hearts full of passion, jealousy and hate”

19. SUMMERTIME  beautiful impressionism.

20. I’LL NEVER SMILE AGAIN “until I smile at you.”

21. STARS FELL ON ALABAMA “we lived our little drama, we kissed in a field of white…”

22. I’M A FOOL TO WANT YOU “to want a love that can’t be true…”

23. HOW HIGH THE MOON “somewhere there’s music…”

24. CONQUEST “the hunter became the huntress”

25. SINGING IN THE RAIN “I’m laughing at clouds”

26. I LEFT MY HEART IN SAN FRANCISCO “little trolley cars climb halfway to the stars”

27. PRELUDE TO A KISS “that was my heart trying to compose a prelude…”

28. STRANGER IN PARADISE “if I stand starry-eyed…”

29. ALL OF ME “you took the part that once was my heart so why not take all of me?”

30. AINT MISBEHAVING “I’m home about eight, just me and my radio”

31. THE NEARNESS OF YOU “it’s not the moon that excites me…it’s just the nearness of you…”

32. UNFORGETTABLE “That’s why, darling, it’s incredible…”

33. THE MAN I LOVE “One day he’ll come along”

34. IT WAS A VERY GOOD YEAR “soft summer nights, we’d hide from the lights on the village green…”

35. QUIET NIGHTS AND QUIET STARS  “quiet thoughts and quiet dreams, quiet walks by quiet streams…”

36. WHO’S SORRY NOW? “Who’s heart is aching for breaking each vow”

37. I DON’T STAND A GHOST OF A CHANCE WITH YOU Well of course not if that’s your attitude!

38. THE LADY IS A TRAMP A unique way to admire.

39. THE GIRL FROM IPANEMA “she looks straight ahead not at me”

40. WHAT KIND OF FOOL AM I? “Who never fell in love” Sammy Davis Jr. nailed this.

41. WHEN YOU WISH UPON A STAR “makes no difference who you are…”

42. SEPTEMBER IN THE RAIN “The leaves of brown came tumbling down, remember…”

43. ALFIE “what’s it all about?”

44. MONA LISA “they just lie there and they die there…”

45. HAVE YOURSELF A MERRY LITTLE CHRISTMAS “a shining star upon the highest bow…”

46. A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A FOOL “a sad and a long lonely day…”

47. STARDUST “You wander down the lane and far away…”

48. WHEN I FALL IN LOVE “the moment I can feel that you feel that way, too…”

49. SEPTEMBER SONG “When the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame…”

50. FOOLS RUSH IN “but wise men never fall in love, so how are they to know?”

51. YOU’D BETTER GO NOW “I like you much, too much…”

52. JUST ONE OF THOSE THINGS “a trip to the moon on gossamer wings…”

53. BLUE MOON “I saw you standing alone…”

54. YOU BELONG TO ME “Fly the ocean in a silver plane, see the jungle when it’s wet with rain…”

55. I GOT IT BAD “and that ain’t good.”

56. IF I HAD YOU “I could start my life anew”

57. A KISS TO BUILD A DREAM ON “my imagination will thrive upon that kiss…”

58. WALK ON BY “and I start to cry…”

59. I THOUGHT ABOUT YOU “every stop that we made…And when I pulled down the shade…”

60. WHEN SUNNY GETS BLUE “Hurry new love, hurry here…”

61. THE GOOD LIFE “kiss the good life goodbye.”

62. IS THAT ALL THERE IS? “I remember when I was a little girl…”

63. STORMY WEATHER “Don’t know why there’s no sun up in the sky…”

64. TWILIGHT TIME “heavenly shades of night are falling…”

65. I’VE GOT YOU UNDER MY SKIN “I have tried so not to give in…”

66. EMBRACEABLE YOU  “you irreplaceable you…”

67. NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT “won’t you tell me how?”

68. HERE’S THAT RAINY DAY “Where is that worn out wish that I threw aside…”

69. GEORGIA ON MY MIND “No peace I find, just an old sweet song…”

70. FOR ALL WE KNOW “Tomorrow may never come…”

71. MACK THE KNIFE “and he keeps it out of sight…”

72. I’VE GOT THE WORLD ON A STRING “I can make the rain go…”

73. CRY ME A RIVER “I cried a river over you.”

74. IF YOU GO AWAY  If you go away on this summer day…”

75. WHAT ARE YOU DOING THE REST OF YOUR LIFE? “East and west of your life…”

76. MY FOOLISH HEART “it’s love this time, it’s love, my foolish heart.”

77. ALMOST LIKE BEING IN LOVE “What a day this has been, what a rare mood I’m in, why it’s almost…”

78. LET’S DO IT  “even educated fleas do it…”

79. AINT SHE SWEET  “now I ask you very confidentially…”

80. LET’S CALL THE WHOLE THING OFF  “potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto…”

81. FLY ME TO THE MOON “let me find out what love is like on Jupiter and Mars…”

82. TILL THERE WAS YOU “There were bells on a hill, but I never heard them ringing…”

83. A STRANGER ON EARTH “The day’s gonna come when I prove my worth and I won’t be a stranger…”

84. I’LL BE SEEING YOU “I’ll be looking at the moon but I’ll be seeing you”

85. TROUBLE IN MIND “the sun’s going to shine through my back door one day”

86. ROMANCE IN THE DARK “we’ll find romance in the dark…”

87. SOMETHING Sinatra said this Beatle (Harrison) song was the best.

88. ON A CLEAR DAY “rise and look around you…”

89. THE MAN THAT GOT AWAY Made for Judy Garland.

90. IT’S ALL IN THE GAME “Many a tear has to fall…”

91. WHY SHOULD I CARE  “Will she wake up knowing you’re still there? And why should I care?”

92. LOVE IS HERE TO STAY “the Rockies may crumble, Gibraltar may tumble, they’re only made of clay…”

93. IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU “Don’t count stars or you might stumble…”

94. I SURRENDER DEAR “We played the game of stay away…”

95. YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT LOVE IS “Until you’ve faced each dawn with sleepless eyes…”

96. COME RAIN OR COME SHINE “I’m gonna love you like nobody’s loved you”

97. LAURA “The laugh that floats on a summer night…”

98. I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT TIME IT WAS “And I know what time it is now”

99. DO NOTHING TILL YOU HEAR FROM ME “if you should take the word of others you’ve heard”

100. THEY CAN’T TAKE THAT AWAY FROM ME “the way we danced till 3”

 

 

 

“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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