Thursday, February 25, 2010

In the Listening Room: Meet the Beatles

Side 1

#1 - Yeah, I wanna hold your hand! Like a revelation! Demur, proper; then, an ecstasy in discovery! I want to hold your hand! Masks are dropped: I can’t hide! The bass is a throbbing swamp. I do!

#2 - For the first time, I hear this song as cocky, instead of love-struck. The sound is so lo-fi; basement drums, railcar guitars.

#3 - If this was the only song they were known for, they’d have fallen in place with the Fleetwoods and Del Vikings.

#4 - Out of the daydream: crack amateurs blast daylight black. Thunder in a funnel; cascading vocals. Made it home by 3!

#5 - Soul song. Purveyor of zombie sound? Humming, “Rockin’ Robin” style.

#6 - One for the fan club! Brown shoulders, brown shadows, but no taming the joy in the treble! The coda takes off down the river.

Side 2

#1 - The best song on the album, but if this was the hit, they’d have been a different band.

#2 - Light stuff, but fun. A little boogie-woogie thrown into the beat to vex monsignors.

#3 - A necessary aspect of the Beatles success – this sound, this imagery only McCartney can deliver. Why so important? I think it was a tether securing the Beatles in a certain subset of music. The donkey walked us up here. He had a hat.

#4 - Is this even the Beatles? Sounds like a really old session; it sounds like they’re in a tunnel. McCartney sounds like he’s singing for his life; not great desperation in his voice, but a fear.

#5 - A Side 2, Track 5 song if I ever heard one. They tussle during the solo. Ringo is falling across his drums.

#6 - The piano solo is amazingly deliberate, but beautiful. Both the engineering and performance lend that phrase passion. And it ends. Just like that. The song, the album. Sorry, have we met?

In the Listening Room: Leon Russell's Carney

1972: When you were smaller, you painted numbers on the curbs; difficult formulas with homemade stencils. On foggy mornings, the wolves left the safety of the forests to solve your curious equations. The garbage men and the paperboy never saw them (never knew they’d been there). And they never saw you: they never read the curbs. The sun burned off the haze and found them creeping out of the morning, the driver with a needle in his vein, the paperboy drunk on masquerade gin. This panorama is a hint of the carnival that stalks the American countryside. You grow up, have trouble with numbers, forget how to hold a paintbrush. In kindergarten, you are re-educated, but your teachers do not have a fucking clue. God love them, it just doesn’t seem right. Then outside the classroom window, you see the wolves. One has a fiddle in his teeth.

2009: 3 in the morning, you awake with a start. No sound. You rustle in your sheets, reaching for your glasses, sitting up, leaning forward towards the bedroom window. No sound. But you heard something outside of your dream. You delicately slip out of bed; you do not want to wake her up. You separate the blinds, seeking a source of no sound. It fades and you hear a circus, certainly, but it’s only a low whine. The moon’s full, the lawn glows silver. The Man is in the Moon. His face is singing. Ice crystal notes spin around his equator. He keens like a calliope; he wails like a Wurlitzer. Christ, he’s a ghost! The biggest ghost in the night sky, and he’s singing, and he sounds like a circus – a glowering, cheerful, mad, comforting circus! The sound lifts you off your feet, moves you, pulls back the covers, and tucks you in bed. You won’t sleep for the rest of the night. You’re a groove in his record. You forget what a circus is: are there witches? Where would I see a circus? a swamp? yes, a swamp! no, the driveway! In the center ring, the Manhattan Swamp Witch eats a tightrope like it was licorice. The Moon is so impressed, he descends. The noise is incredible. The river evaporates and the fish fly into outer space, swallowing the stars until you are in a total darkness only broken by the fading glow of the moon. It dims softly, the music shuts softly. At 6 in the morning, the rooster crows – he sounds like an iceberg on hot asphalt.