I always had the feeling that the Beatles were otherworldly. That they were initially just trying to fit in to some idea they had of earthlings, especially screaming girl earthlings, when they made those girls crazy back in the early 60s. Just trying to fit in, when they sang I want to hold your hand eight days a week. When they sang help me on a hard day’s night. They were putting us on when they sang can’t buy me love so I’ll cry instead.
They were putting us humans on.
As time went by, the Beatles grew tired of their masks, their human masks, and little by little, they decided to go full out alien. It probably started with Revolver, picked up steam with Sgt Peppers, veered into new territory with The White Album, and culminated with Abbey Road. By that time they had become the first of their kind:
Philosopher King Rockers.
It’s hard to believe Abbey Road came out 40 years ago. It’s quite nearly perfect. All of the songs work beautifully together, though I could probably do without Ringo’s Octopus’s Garden, and Maxwell’s Silver Hammer never really knocked me out. I especially think the second side is masterful. Though other Rockers had done suites by 1969, including the Beatles, there is something genuinely, quietly revolutionary about its mix of surrealist and dadaist lyrics and wonderful harmonies.
Abbey Road needs to be listened to from beginning to end, but Golden Slumbers offers a wonderful focal point, a bridge between before and after. Though it’s a brilliant little ditty, it needs the music that follows, primarily because of its abrupt ending. It strikes me as obvious that it could have been reshaped to stand on its own without too much work. McCartney sings soft, mellow and then harsh, echoing his great vocal from Side One, Oh! Darling . . .
The Beatles have been covered by thousands of recording artists. A recent movie, Across the Universe (2007), starring Evan Rachel Wood and Jim Sturgess, did justice to many of their songs. The actors actually sang, which heightened the difficulty of their performances, and they mostly sang well. Here’s a very good cover of Because:
The music of The Beatles never gets old for me. Not even the early phase of their evolution, when they wanted to make the girls dance and scream and were trying to hide their alien origins. Not their middle period of Rubber Soul and Revolver, when they were beginning to see what they could really do in this earthy medium. And when they left the glaring lights of the stage, stopped touring, and concentrated solely on making music in the studio, they turned another corner. They became, quite possibly, the first Rock Band to achieve the status of seers, philosopher kings, prophets. Not bad for four lads from Liverpool, Alpha Centauri.