Recently Paul McCartney came to Atlanta to perform a charity concert for our flagship park, Piedmont Park. While he is a Beatle I just could not pay all the money for the ticket, but still I headed down to the park and volunteered parking bicycles right behind the stage. I could hear pretty well.
But last week I got the chance to hear it really well, maybe better than it’s sounded before. I came into the new remastered version (stereo) of the complete Beatles catalog that was released in tandem with the new Rock Band video game. (I really want to play it so please call me if you can make this happen)
During the last two weeks of the most recent Beatles blitz, I have found that I really like talking to people about the band and the music. It’s refreshing to talk about a band that everyone knows, everyone has heard, and that composed clearly popular songs. Too often, conversations of music turn to the band you don’t know. Plus I had a whole career staring me in the face. Not to mention, one of the most fabled and influential careers in music. I reset my iPod and loaded it full (1/6 full) of Beatles.
I began by revisiting some favorite tracks in their new remastered form. However, for the first time, I was beginning to associate the tracks with the albums names that I could recite but not fully comprehend. Aside from Sgt. Peppers, I have not given single Beatles albums thorough listenings and relistenings. I thought that to get a better idea of the band’s much-talked-about evolution, I should go through the entirety of their work in chronological order. Sometime in the middle of Tuesday I made an on-the-go playlist of the 13 albums in order of release (only in reading later did I find that Abbey Road was recorded after Let It Be but released before it).
I finished tonight but continue to listen to tracks and read about them. I am constantly humming one tune or another and driving Lauren mad. Having finished their complete catalog, I have a better of idea of what Rubber Soul means as a departure for them (hint: they stopped singing exclusively about girls) and how their Indian experiences fit into the music (for example with Sexy Sadie). I’m only beginning to fully comprehend their studio processes and the innovations they contributed to. Now I’m reading through the maze of Wikipedia entries related to the band and their albums. I also need to revisit my older recordings and see the difference between these new releases and the old ones. I have been listening to them with nice headphones so I am not sure if that is why they sound so good, but the bass is really coming in clear.
This little experiment has made me want to pay more attention to the album as a collective work, and, to a larger degree, the chronology of artists’ complete collections. I would like to go through some of the careers of other artists and try to match up the music with the world around them at the time; catch up on what I originally missed in the music. With the iPod and massive collections of music at our command, it’s easy to neglect the album in totality and even easier to get lost in a single band for a day or a week at a time. Maybe it’s time we rethink the iPod into a monoculture where intense scrutiny of the music becomes possible once again.
I’m accepting suggestions for the next band to run through.