Monday, June 1, 2009

Records of Great Influence (#3): The Beatles - A Hard Day's Night

You may wonder why I didn't select the more "consummate" Beatles records, the more obvious choices like Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Revolver, The Beatles, or even Rubber Soul.  The simplest explanation for this particular selection is that this was the first Beatles record that I "got," in the weird sense where it all clicked for me.  There are other reasons, but first things first...

As you may have read previously, I was the epitome of "late bloomer" when it came to the genre of "rock music."  It took London Calling to save me from the dark, and it took me Being There to grasp at perhaps what rock had to celebrate.  But I was missing something, more, you could say.  The "roots of rock."  Where did it all begin?  Where was the "peak" that I had heard so much about?  That was the Beatles.  And it took me my freshman year in college to realize that greatness.  And that's where this record comes in to play.  This was that first Beatles record.  And, yeah, for all intents and purposes I got Beatlemania, though 45 years later.  Better late than never, right?

The question arises: "How did it take so long for you to like the Beatles?  Like, really?"  And I have no good answer to that.  My only real snippets of pre-Fab remembrance are my dad singing "Yesterday" as he would do work around the house, and maybe hearing "Hey Jude" playing now and again.  But I don't know why I didn't pursue that line for so long.  Blame it on all my classical music training, my lack of curiosity, whatever, but finally I got it.  And that's the first reason for selecting this record.

But in another sense, this was the Beatles at the top of their "early pop" game: there is nary a not-catchy song on this record, and coincidentally, nary a really un-danceable track (some tracks lend themselves to slow dancing, which is still dancing, for all ye heathens).  Their first all-original album holds strong.  There really isn't a weak track on this record, which is surprising since even the most enthusiastic Beatles fans (myself included) acknowledge that many a Beatles record contained filler (i.e. not one, but two Carl Perkins covers on Beatles for Sale).  That doesn't mean I don't love the filler, but there was often an obvious quality difference, and with very few exceptions you can tell when you hit those lower points.

The most obvious musical point that most think of when this record is brought up is the first note, a mix of God-knows-what (though likely just a couple of pianos and guitars) that rings in a pop masterpiece.  And, it followed a ragtag adventure of a movie.  But I really shouldn't have to defend this record, or the movie, or any song on it (that point is more arguable, but still, don't try me).

So this was the first Beatles record that really got me.  But in some ways, it lay dormant until the end of that freshman year in college, and then I finally, finally, realized the Beatles, if that makes any sense.  And then I couldn't get enough of the Beatles.  Within the span of a couple months I racked up an ungodly amount of Beatles airtime (my proves this), which rocketed them to the top of my artist list, where they have comfortably been since usurping Wilco that long time ago.

More importantly, I realized, that in some strange, kooky way, the Beatles invented almost every genre in popular music today.  Metal?  Hah, the Beatles did that "Helter Skelter"...even though Lennon liked to argue that "Ticket to Ride" was the first metal track thanks to a Ringo drumline.  They birthed the psychadelic genre (though I would argue that the genre is largely meaningless), among virtually every other genre while still perfecting their "home genre," so to speak, that of pop.  Only two genres can conceivably be considered un-Beatled: punk, which was colonized by Elvis Presley, and rap, which Bob Dylan started ("Subterranean Homesick Blues" started it all).

Therefore, for the reason of uncovering the iceberg, I put The Beatles' A Hard Day's Night as a "Record of Great Influence."  I originally intended to sort of do one record per artist, but it's clear the Beatles will violate that rule, among a couple of other artists.

In other news, too, the Beatles Rock Band trailer was unveiled earlier today.  To regrettably use the parlance of our times, I am so sprung for this game.  I am going to preorder it.  Almost now.

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