Occasionally you’ll hear the fab-blind discuss how soulful various songs and albums were.
Usually we just laugh to ourselves when we hear the word beatle and the word soulful in the same sentence, unless the sentence is, ‘The beatle were soulful of crap it was coming out of their mouths!’ We decided to find out exactly what sounds people are mistaking for soul. We came up empty handed.
Our first stop was Fab4Fan’s infamous Rankopedia to see what the consensus is for the most soulful beatles songs. Incredibly, there is no such category. The closest we found was ‘which beatle fan has the brownest nose and emptiest wallet.’ So a few weeks ago we created our own poll, Most Soulful Beatle Songs. Ten thousand opinionated members, and we only got two votes, not a good sign. Searches elsewhere turned up little more than slanted reviews with the word soulful getting battered like a piece of tempura. We’re left to our own devices to get to the bottom of this one.
The problem now becomes, how do you judge soul? Just to clarify, we’re talking about soulful music as opposed to soul music. There doesn’t seem to be any working soul-o-meters these days, they all disappeared with STAX. Lets define it first, and work from there. We can all agree that a fair definition of soulful music is music that is passionately sung and performed, full of both feeling and expression.
Now we need to identify a fair starting point, a point of reference to level the playing field. You can’t just listen to an FF song and decide, ‘yup – thats pretty soulful, way more than Yellow Submarine.’ The only way to do this fairly is to compare two performances of the same song, then we can begin to gauge who’s got the soul going on.
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.