It was more than 40 years ago today, 16 years old and cruising in Mom’s ‘62 Biscayne. That 5 button radio would get quite a work-out. “I want to hold your hand”, “Please Please Me”, and the other 1963-65 Beatle’s songs were left on only after a search for the Stones, the Who or the Kinks.
A few years later, played in the dorm on a GE Wildcat, Sgt. Peppers, and Magical Mystery Tour were fun with herbs but didn’t have the same power as Beggars Banquet or Electric Ladyland. By the time The White Album came along we couldn’t think of the Beatle’s as legitimate hard rockers.
Anyway, that’s why, until recently, there were no Beatle’s in my music collection. Almost 40 years (YIKES!) later, at a recent record show, I came across an import Magical Mystery Tour at a great price and decided to get the Troika: Sgt. Peppers, MMT and The White Album.
After I got them home and cleaned them, it occurred to me that I had never, not once, listened to this music on an “audiophile” system. What a different experience! Of the three, Sgt. Peppers offers the most remarkable “sound”. All the scoring for brass band comes across clear and live-sounding. The effects, still in their infancy, are not so over-blown as on MMT. They have a real connection to the music. There is presence, the instruments and sounds seem to exist in space and the whole, together with the Beatle’s voices and instruments, create a musically satisfying experience that sounds as “live” as any “audiophile” tracks.
I’ve read that George Martin pioneered the use of the recording studio as another musician beginning with Sgt. Peppers. All the over-dubs, effects and multi-tracking were done in the face of stiff opposition from EMI. And these were the first Beatle’s albums to be produced in Stereo.
Of the three, Magical Mystery Tour is almost forgotten. The self-indulgent extraneous noises were off-putting even to we consciousness-raised students. And that’s too bad because I hear some of the best written Beatle’s songs. “The Fool On the Hill” and “I Am the Walrus” on side 1 and the entire second side: “Hello Goodbye”, “Strawberry Fields”, “Penny Lane”, “Baby You’re A Rich Man”, and “All You Need Is Love” are self-contained classics that need none of the embellishments that surround them.
The White Album makes less of a statement in terms of production; it’s just a lot of really great songs. The only one of the three that I and my friends took seriously back in the day. The one that usually found it’s way to the record player at 4 A.M after a long night of study. “I’m So Tired” was a kind of theme song for those of us that somehow kept our eyes on the educational ball while concurrently indulging in various psychedelics.
Perhaps at the next C.E.S. or R.M.A.F. they’ll play John, Paul, George and Ringo to death. That would be a nice change from Barber and Krall and the 1812, wouldn’t it?
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