UNM 125: Beatles 'Album' distinctive
Printed December 5, 1968
The latest two record album “The Beatles” by John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr is their first album on their own Apple Label. It includes thirty songs, twenty-five by Lennon/McCartney, four by Harrison and one by Starkey (who). All of them serve to summarize what has happened in the fifteen-year-history of rock (‘n roll). It not only reaches back to the early international Beatles (’63-’64) but further back to their Liverpool and Hamburg days. Not only that, but this year marks the tenth anniversary of the union of John, Paul and George as the Quarryman Skiffle Group.
Although it’s only two records, there is enough material for three separate and distinctive albums. The Beatles are entertainers above all and this album is programmed to keep you interested by carefully mixing these three elements—hard rock, easy listening and a menagerie of tunes to make Sgt. Pepper stand on his head. No “Dear Prudence” they have not forgotten the old rock ‘n roll that made John Lennon so much money he doesn’t have to wear clothes (be sure to see the upcoming Lobo review on (“Two Virgens”).
The album starts off with an old standard rock tune with new words all about Paul’s trip to the USSR (“you don’t know how lucky you are”). It’s enough to bring a tear to the eye of a Beach Boy. There’s a beautiful blues tune (“Yer Blues”) that takes Elvis, John Mayall, and Eric Clapton and puts them where they belong — together with the Beatles. There’s a song about Desmond and Molly (she’s a singer with the band”) and Ringo wonders if you still love him.
About twelve songs fall into this area with the epitome being the crudest sounds recorded on vinyl, dear Paul sounds like last year’s dirty old man when he asks “Why don’t we do it on the road (no one will be watching us)?” It’s alright Bill you’re back in style all ‘round the clock.
For those who came over to our side when they discovered the boys could also sing sweet lullabies, they’re still at it. Its love, flowers, weeping guitars, Mother Nature’s boy and four girls from up the street (Prudence, Julia, Martha, and Honey Pie). Almost without exception, these tunes follow the car-pounders to soothe your drums for the next attack.
In this sub-album Harrison pairs two of the finest, “While My guitar Gently Weeps” takes us with George through the world of sorrow and mediocrity and all the time his soul (guitar) weeps. “Long, Long, Long” is simply a beautiful thing softened with nice electronic messages. Lennon/McCartney, meanwhile, have taken you to the countryside with “Mother Nature’s Son” and the final cut of the entire album is Bing Crosby and the Lush Dripping Strings all rolled into one sincere “Good Night.”
What is left is not scraps but the hope of the Beatles latest developments. Never has Dylan’s influence come through so strong as the social comment of “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill” and “Cry Baby, Cry” and others. Anyway, it’s all happening between the words and between the lines. Speaking of between, the Beatles have joined other rock groups by leaving in all the noise that occurs before and after takes of a song.
The most hopeful entry is the sound collage (technically musique concrete) named “Revolution No. 9.” This thing has been done before (remember the one on the Stone’s “Their Satanic Majesties Request.”) but it will probably have more influence coming from the boys simply because they have been successful in popularizing existing forms (look what George’s sitar in “Norwegian Wood” did). Judged on the standard of serious musique concrete (oh my) it is only fair, but what it will do for those not aware of what Frank Zappa has said all along is something else. Taking a dangerous position that a critic eventually does, I predict that much will come as a result of “Revolution No. 9” but “No. 9” itself will pass away because its just not that good.
If you have ever bought a Beatles album, you have waited long enough. This is the history of the Beatles (and rock) and it reveals them at their most intimate and involving best (McLuhan disciples, heed). It does not offer anything really new and maybe in a way the Beatles are saying “that’s it, we have made our contribution.”
Already they have more influence in their life-styles than in their music. If you doubt this, note the religious impact of their brief association with the Maharishi and, better yet, just wait’ll John Lennon’s naked body gets plastered across this morally insecure world.
Listen to Mother and “good night everybody, everybody everywhere, good night.”