Thursday, May 24, 2012

5 thoughts about the Beatles

In honor of the upcoming Dallas does the Beatles show at Opening Bell Coffee this Saturday night, which I am very pleased to be a part of, I present 5 random thoughts about the Beatles:

1. The first Beatles song I learned to play was "Ticket to Ride." I learned to play it on the bass guitar when I was 13 or 14, and spent many a Saturday afternoon playing it with my dad, along with the song "Kicks," by Paul Revere and the Raiders.

2. The first Beatles song I learned on the guitar was "We Can Work it Out." It's still a staple of our coffeehouse shows.

3. My favorite Beatles song is "Here Comes the Sun." This is a great song on multiple levels. It's simple, yet deceptively complex, uplifting without being cheesy, and it speaks to me of the hope of redemption every time I hear it. Adam and I had the Beatles' Love version of it (the one that was remixed for the Cirque du Soleil show) played for our wedding recessional almost 5 years ago.

4. Everyone knows the Beatles are important, but scholars are divided as to the nature of the band's significance. Among the random bits of information I picked up while studying for my doctoral qualifying exams are the ways that some scholars believe that the Beatles basically ruined some aspect of American music. For example, Elijah Wald believes that the Beatles effectively killed rock n' roll through no fault of their own by so dominating the charts that rock n' roll, a form of music that had become increasingly racially integrated, was turned it into a white man's game, forever splitting the musical world along racial lines and between the genres of rock (think Led Zeppelin) and r&b/soul (think Motown). In the process, Wald argues, rock n' roll was lost forever. (Read all about it here). Similarly, Richie Unterberger believes that the Beatles killed folk music, by being so good at pleasing so many people with their fusion of styles that their folk roots (in Skiffle bands in Liverpool) became obscured; moreover, Unterberger points out that the Beatles arrived on the scene when folk music was at its hottest and pretty much blew that movement out of the water with Beatle-mania. What both scholars agree on is that the Beatles were too good. They turned bubblegum pop into something intelligent -- but, according to these guys, that transformation came at a price to other music. Since there's no way to imagine the history of popular music without the Beatles, it seems to me like these discussions are a little too speculative to carry much weight, but it's still interesting to see what a stir those four lads from liverpool created.

5.  According to wikipedia, not only is "Yesterday" one of the world's most covered songs at 2200 versions, but it's also Vladimir Putin's favorite song. My favorite cover version is Ray Charles's:

Frankly, Ray Charles can sing just about anything and I will love it.

As amazing as that version is, the one that has the most sentimental value for me is Boyz II Men's 1994 accapella version. Any song from that album immediately puts me back on a middle school dance floor. This should be a traumatic memory, but I must have been lucky (or lost in my own world, more likely), because I always had fun at middle school dances. Also, according to wikipedia, Boyz II Men is fourth "behind Elvis Presley, The Beatles, and Mariah Carey" in the list of "artists that have held at the number one spot for at least 50 weeks." Given their mutual fame on the charts, it's not too out-there for me to treasure this Boyz II Men cover version of a Beatles hit.

So there it is: five random Beatles' thoughts. I hope you will join us this Saturday night, May 26, for way more than five fantastic Beatles covers from some of Dallas's best singer-songwriters. It's going to be a blast!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Friday: French food and French Music

A while back, I wrote about how I was learning some lovely, but challenging songs by Leonard Bernstein for a forthcoming concert. Well, the concert is happening tomorrow night (May 4) at 8:00 at the University of Texas at Dallas. It is free, it's filled with delicious French music (and Bernstein's American music about delicious French food) and it's going to be fantastic. See all the details, below. I'd love to see you there!