Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Notes on the Beatles

If you're a Beatles fan like me, you've probably wondered how they managed to churn out album after album of good music while incorporating new elements, styles, forms, influences and haircuts for nearly a decade. Sure, there was plenty of talent but couldn't there just be some secret formula that Lennon and McCartney plucked from the musical ether? Some elegant underlying secret to Pop Music?

I doubt it. But I do find Alan W. Pollack's "Notes on the Beatles" series to be a good shot at finding out. Pollack studied music for a number of years before embarking on a more lucrative career in computers, I believe, and in 1989 he attempted to analyze a few of the Beatles' songs and give listeners a sense of what made them so great. What began as an interesting little project eventually turned into an interesting big project as Pollack managed to breakdown and analyze every single song in the band's catalog.

As a musicologist, a lot of the notes are somewhat dense if you don't have a background in music theory; but his comments are thoughtful, accessible and warmly engaging as he outlines the distinctive features of each tune. So enjoy!

By the way, is there anyone that doesn't like the Beatles? I've met only one person who came right out and said that he didn't like the Beatles - and he knows who he is. We'll find you.

I mean, there's something for everyone with the Beatles right? I admit to not being so keen on McCartney's hokey songs like Maxwell's Silver Hammer or Honey Pie, but this is a group that gave us early metal (Revolution), hard rock (Paperback Writer), children's songs (Yellow Submarine), acid pop (Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds), pop standards (In My Life, Something, Here, There and Everywhere, Yesterday) and pushing-the-envelope art songs (Strawberry Fields Forever).

In conclusion, who is your favorite Beatle?