The beatles, Coming Together and the ultimate circle jerk
Circle Jerk definition:
1. A circle jerk is a sexual practice in which a group of men or boys form a circle and masturbate themselves or each other.
2. A boring or time-wasting meeting or other event
3. (beatles) Worthless or oversimplified ideas; drivel: intellectual pap
What do you get when you combine idiotic lyrics sung without a hint of melody over a turgid, plodding beat? If you said one of the dumbest songs ever recorded and one of the most revered rock anthems of the beatles career, give yourself a pat on the back.
Come Together also happens to be one of the most covered songs of all time, and the second most covered beatles song after ‘Yesterday.’ Every year bands continue to cash in on it’s easily recognized Oompa Loompa stoner groove. It’s become a staple of the live music scene. If you want to make it in a bar band playing lame covers to a room full of disinterested drunks you really need to learn this this cursed monkey paw of a song, alongside of Mustang Sally and Black Magic Woman.
They Muddied Water
Many fans of the FF point to this song as proof of the beatles originality. It stands as confirmation that not only did this band revolutionize rock music by singing about holding hands, they also saved it by showing the world how to rock hard. According to these experts, when this song hit the airwaves nothing came close to matching the rawness or groove of this inspired song.
It might come as a shock to these fans that when this song came out rock music did not need to be saved by a group of semi-mystical, costume clad, success bloated cream puffs. It needed to be saved from them! Rock music was doing fine in spite of the beatles. Just like this song! Continue reading →
A lot has been said about the originality of the ‘greatest band of all time.’ The influence of their inventions has been felt far and wide, exalted and referenced as groundbreaking and unequaled to this day.
Lets take a look at some of this groundbreaking work, and maybe try put it into perspective.
They were heralded as one of the most original bands ever when they released the song Twist and Shout in 1964. I’m not quite sure just what is so original about recording a cover of an Isley Brothers song. The way they performed it, with all of them singing ‘Whooo!’ at the same time?
Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that aside from Brian Epstein inventing a way to shape them into something marketable, the beats pretty much played variations on the same couple of songs and covers until Rubber Soul in ’66, their first original album. Aside from some new instrumentation (George Martin) and their constant use of marijuana, what exactly was so original? It was a bunch of pretty rock songs. The same goes with the groundbreaking Revolver.
This brings us to their piece de resistance, Sgt Pepper. They spent over six months in the studio recording and mixing it, released it in ’67. There was a lot of groundbreaking equipment and technical tricks used in the studio. A lot of elaborate instrumentations and sound effects were used. Some tunes were longer than the average pop song. In the end, they had an interesting collage of songs and sounds based lyrically on drugs, leaky roofs, articles in the newspaper, circus posters, meter maids, corn flake commercials and one about spirituality. Musically they took influences from 30’s music, skiffle, rock and carnivals. Correct me if I’m wrong, but that seems more like using whats at your disposal than inventing anything. They achieved massive commercial and critical success. Whats new?
Lets take a look at something else that was happening at roughly the same time. Don Van Vliet, an up and coming R&B singer, changed his persona to Captain Beefheart and started a group named The Magic Band in ’65. They became quite popular and put out a few early singles covering blues songs to great local success. He began to form his own ideas about what music was and what it should say, and recruiting Ry Cooder on guitar they went in the studio to begin work on their first album, Safe as Milk. This was a bold, delta blues inspired work of poetry and intensity. Shortly afterwards, they were dropped from their label after the song Electricity was considered too negative. Although it didn’t reach commercial success, this album was hailed internationally, finding many fans and supporters.
Although Lennon was hugely impressed with Safe as Milk (note the posters behind him), it appears Beefheart wasn’t quite as taken with him.
Vliet then decided to take the band somewhere new. Holed up in his isolated home drawing on free jazz, sea shanties and blues, he sat down and began to compose on the piano, an instrument he couldn’t play, in order to avoid falling into the traps of convention and theory. He wanted to hear what was in his head, and what was in his head couldn’t conform to anything he’d heard. He ruled his band with an iron fist, demanding 14 hour practice sessions, forcing them to learn impossible chords and timings and live in virtual poverty until the album was complete. At one point he locked guitarist Zoot Horn Rollo in a shed after he was suspected of listening to a beatle song. There was to be no outside influences. He spit fire, bled poetry, lived music and the band honed its teeth for 8 months.
While Howlin’ Wolf was in England trying to wean British blues masters away from their obsession with even bar-counts, Vliet was creating his own musical language and universe. What he came out with polarized the music world, shocking people with its stunning originality and its musical ties to nothing. Its lyrics spoke of the environment, genocide, immigrants, Vietnam Vets, and poverty, among other things. The double album Trout Mask Replica was recorded in Van Vliet’s home over a period of one weekend, as opposed to the five months it took the FF to record their double album, The White Album.
Perhaps an extreme example, but this is originality as an uncompromising force to be reckoned with. You don’t have to like it, you don’t have to listen to it, just turn on your radio and you’ll be safe from the threat of ever hearing it, but you do have to acknowledge it. Wanna tell me what the FF did that was so groundbreaking again?
Don Van Vliet, retained that original spark until he retired from the music biz in 1982 after MTV rejected Ice Cream for Crow as being too weird. Also in 1982, the remaining FF continued recording generic safeness; Ringo released Stop and smell the Roses, McCartney was singing duets with Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder, and George Harrison released Gone Troppo (I had to look it up too).
I’d never just want to do what everybody else did. I’d be contributing to the sameness of everything.
-Don Van Vliet
Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band performing Sure ‘Nuff ‘N Yes I Do from Safe as Milk, live from Cannes in ’68.
On June 5th, 1971, John Lennon and Yoko Ono joined Frank Zappa and the Mothers of invention on stage for their first and last collaboration. The result was 40 odd minutes of either brilliant musicianship and improvisation, or a small eternity in hell.
J & O appeared that night during the encore as special guests, much to the delight of the unsuspecting crowd. It started out innocently enough with a rocking version of Well (baby please don’t go). This found Lennon in front of the tightest band he’d ever played with, at his side Yoko was in fine form… doing her thing.
After a lengthy improv it became apparent that John was understandably out of his element. After a few attempts to nudge him back to reality, Zappa narrowly avoided a trainwreck and steered the band into some original material before a blues based form was introduced. The brilliant Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman, aka Flo and Eddie, took over on vocals and introduced a new lyrical theme for the silver tongued song smith to expand upon, Scumbag. John happily grabbed onto this new word and sang to save his life, while Flo and Eddie draped a potato sack over Yoko.
The good news was Zappa and the Mothers had booked a recording truck for the weekend as they were in the process of making the legendary Fillmore East ’71 album. After the show there was an arrangement made so both parties would have access to the tapes, and they could each release their own mixes of the performance.
And then they all lived happily ever after.
John and Yoko released Some Time in New York City. For the record sleeve they used the album cover from Fillmore East ’71, scribbled all over it, and scrawled in what they thought the songs were. They took writing and publishing credits, stealing the music for profit (if anybody had bought the album, but that’s beside the point).
For the final insult… here’s the story of the from Frank himself:
Its all part of a long line of undocumented theft and disrespect towards the inimitable Zappa who saw through them from the beginning. He released the worlds first concept albumand double album in ’66 with his major label debut Freak Out!.
McCartney owned a copy, and called Zappa to ask permission to use the idea. Expecting to get a drugged out hippie on the phone drooling over his famous moptop, he was instead met with a fiercely intelligent composer and business man who expected to be compensated for his own ideas. Instead of all that fuss, the beatles just stole the idea and claimed it as their own. – This statement is incorrect, see comments, das
Zappa retaliated with the famous We’re Only In It For The Money, an album vilifying hippie pretensions, sporting on the cover a parody of Sgt Peppers.
There’s been countless other violations of trust and utter lack of respect from the FF towards Zappa. We won’t get into everything, but here’s an ironic example:
Zappa recorded a medley of beatles songs, the lyrics were changed to make fun of disgraced TV evangelist Jimmy Swaggart. The FF had lost control of publishing rights at this time when suddenly, out of nowhere, Michael Jackson jumped out and blocked the songs release! Why? Who knows. Either the idea of adults having sex was too much for him, or the FF mafia had already seized control of his brain.
Here’s a copy of the unreleased, and likely never to be released medley for your listening pleasure. This is Zappa, so be forewarned if you’re the sensitive type:
If you happen to be the curious type, here is unedited concert:
In 1985 Michael Jackson purchased the rights to over two hundred beatle songs, trumping a joint bid by McCartney and Yoko Ono. Almost instantly the intense evil over-powered his gentle mind.
Instead of destroying these vile tracts by throwing them into a live volcano as was his original intention, he hid them away in the darkness of his Neverland dungeon, and just as suddenly as he had surprised the remaining FF with his coup; it was over for this courageous soul.
Succumbing to the call of a deeper and more sinister style of bubblegum pop than he had ever imagined, these songs began to transform him. He secluded himself in the darkness, and as his will grew weaker their power over him became complete. They warped his body and soul, and in the end ultimately slipped out of his grasp and found a way to get back to their dark masters.
This disastrous event didn’t go unnoticed. Fans grew concerned after his mysterious absence from the music scene. When he finally re-emerged due to public pressure, his supporters were horrified. When Jackson was questioned about his surreal deformities he nervously quipped back, ‘it’s a rare skin disease, you’re ignorant.’
Does this story sound familiar? It should.
This age old fable was recently made into a 37 hour movie by Peter Jackson.
Its the story of Smeagol, an unfortunate hobbit who happened upon the ring of the dark lord Sauron. Its malign influence took control, twisted his body and mind and prolonged his life well beyond its natural limits. He descended into the dark caves beneath the Misty Mountains, when he finally emerged he was almost as bad off as Michael Jackson.
The similarities between these two stories are uncanny. Just as every culture has a fable about a flood, every culture also has a tale such as this pervasive evil. Tolkien may have cleaned up his version because the real truth is far too ugly for most people to confront. Mark our words, there will be many more stories like this until the reign of the FF has ended, only then will these dark days come to pass.
As previously mentioned, the beatles claimed they invented the concept album with Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Lets try and look at this from a different angle. What exactly is a concept album and did the bealtes even release one? They stuck a bunch of songs together, and two of them were about a fictitious guy named Billy Shears so I guess that is a concept, but it could also be called a record.
There were cutouts to play with and a bunch of people on the cover to look at, but that’s more of what we call an album cover.
The definition of concept is ‘something conceived in the mind…’ So it’s a thought. This was the first thought album? What the hell does that mean?!?!
Well, as Paul so eleoquently described it:
“a complete thing that you could make what you liked of—just a little magical presentation.”
Isn’t it amazing how the beatles invented everything and everyone else just copied them?
In 1967 they invented the concept ablum with Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts club band.
In fact, it was such a brilliant idea the Kink’s copied it two years earlier with ‘Face to Face.’
So did the Beach Boys with their ’66 concept album ‘Pet Sounds.’
Even Frank Zappa took their idea, got into his UMRC time machine and made Freak Out! 2 years earlier in ’65.
In fact, the beatles invented the word beetles. Until then any insects with a hard exoskeletons and scaly wings were called Insects with hard exoskeletons and scaly wings waiting to be invented by four moptops from Liverpool!
If you listen to any recordings before 1964 there were no harmonies! If two or more people did happen to sing together it was either by accident, or they were both calling the same pig.
Its been said by negative naysayers that there does exist pre-beatle harmonies, and examples such as the beach boys or The Everly Brothers are cited. Or to beat a dead horse; Barbershop quartets, Bach’s Cantatas, before he rolled over and took one up the Jolly Roger from a moptop – Beethoven’s Fidelio, a gazillion choral pieces, a beatillion operas……But!
To me and the Beats that’s not really singing, its just a bunch of people making mouth noises at the same time.
To me and the Beats its nothing but a hoshposh ofaimless vocal wankery.