Monday, February 09, 2004

More Beatles: Another thing that goes unmentioned, regarding the Beatles, is that the growing influence of Music Hall tradition on their style is no more unusual than the growing influence of folk music on their American counterparts. Music Hall is the "folk" music of Britain, arguably. Is it odd that the Beatles might draw upon the popular and typically maudlin folk ballad ("She's Leaving Home"), carnival-tent atmospherics ("For the Benefit of Mr. Kite"), or barrelhouse piano ("Martha My Dear")? No more odd than Dylan drawing on Guthrie, Seeger, or Leadbelly. (The obvious difference here being that American folk is emphatically more rural and, in some cases, ethnic.) Or the Byrds singing Ecclesiastes. Or the Beach Boys doing the creole folk song "Sloop John B."

For some reason, though, a very obvious put-on piece like "When I'm 64" or "A Little Help from My Friends" is pushed aside as filler, while folk-influenced music in the U.S. is given an immediate "street cred" boost, even if played by musicians who were predominatly white, middle class, and urban or suburban. (At least the Beatles were working-class blokes, after all, and not pretend proletariat like Mick Jagger or Bob Dylan.)

Razor, as for your Guadalcanal Diary question, I think that song suffers without the ringing Rickenbacker sound of the original -- but it is one of the few excellent Beatles covers, in the company of Joe Cocker's "Bathroom Window" and, believe it or not, Dionne Warwick's "We Can Work It Out" (which could make one disbelieve that the song wasn't written intentionally as a major soul workout).

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