Baby You’re a Rich Man: how does it feel…?

“How does it feel to be one of the beautiful people?” – John Lennon

Ringo, John, Paul, and George (image courtesy of NPR and the artist)

This song, coming as it does in the wake of the triumphant Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, is one of those that often slips beneath the radar of even Beatles aficionados (well, it slips beneath this Beatles aficionado’s radar regularly). It was a song written for what was at the time the anticlimactic Magical Mystery Tour, a soundtrack for the much maligned (but more recently reassessed positively) film of the same name. “Baby You’re a Rich Man” served as the “B” side of one of Lennon’s most important Beatles compositions, “All You Need is Love.” John in his usual dismissive manner, described the song’s composition as:

That’s a combination of two separate pieces, Paul’s and mine, put together and forced into one song. One half was all mine. [Sings] ‘How does it feel to be one of the beautiful people, now that you know who you are, da da da da.’ Then Paul comes in with [sings] ‘Baby, you’re a rich man,’ which was a lick he had around.

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Some people hate higher ed…but they love their teams….

“While 58 percent of Republicans believe colleges and universities have a negative impact on the direction of the United States, I sincerely doubt they feel the same way about their alma maters, their public flagship institutions, the university hospital where their children were born and especially their chosen intercollegiate basketball and football teams.” – Christopher Marsicano, Inside Higher Ed

Graph of recent Pew poll findings (image courtesy of Forbes)

The academic in me thinks this would make an exercise for students learning about critical thinking.

MSM made much of a recent Pew poll that shows Republicans and Democrats vary widely in their views of various institutions including higher education. The graph on the right shows that nearly two-thirds of self-identified Republicans had negative views of colleges and universities. Left leaning news sources spun this poll data to show that Republican voters are knuckle dragging Troglodytes who revel in their ignorance and want to force that ignorance on everyone else. Right leaning news sources spun this same data to show that these same Republican voters are perspicacious judges of higher education who recognize that universities are hotbeds of political correctness run amok who block free speech, infantilize young people with “safe spaces,” and hire pinko faculty who indoctrinate the youth of America with wrong-headed values.  Continue reading

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Back in the USSR: because everything old becomes new again, right…?

“It’s tongue in cheek…. I remember trying to sing it in my Jerry Lee Lewis voice, to get my mind set on a particular feeling. We added Beach Boys style harmonies.” – Paul McCartney

Paul McCartney White Album period (image courtesy The Beatles Bible)

The song that opens The Beatles, “Back in the USSR,” is a Paul McCartney tour de force. Written, as were many of the songs on what commonly known as “The White Album,” in Rishikesh, India, while the Beatles were learning transcendental meditation with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, “Back in the USSR” resonated when released in 1968 and is enjoying a deliciously ironic renaissance in 2017 .

Recorded while Ringo was on his famous “holiday” (he’d quit the band briefly in frustration and gone on holiday to Sardinia where he got the song idea that became “Octopus’s Garden”), McCartney played drums, both anticipating his “played all the instruments” solo debut, McCartney,  and reflecting his guilt in having caused the fight that made Ringo quit by criticizing his drumming.

McCartney wanted the song to be a takeoff on Chuck Berry’s “Back in the USA” and enjoyed the irony of a Russian, likely a KGB operative, on his way back to Mother Russia. Besides the Beach Boys section, McCartney also slips a reference to Hoagy Carmichael’s classic “Georgia on my Mind”into the song. Continue reading

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I’m So Tired: of a lot of stuff…

“…and curse Sir Walter Raleigh/He was such a stupid git….” – John Lennon

“…and the time will come when you see we’re all one/And life flows on within you and without you….” – George Harrison

John and George in their last picture together, circa 1974 (image courtesy FeelNumb.com)

I wrote a couple of days ago about John Lennon’s great White Album song, “I’m So Tired.” It didn’t seem appropriate in that essay to get into my personal appropriation of John’s tune.

I’ve been listening to the Fabs more lately than usual. (That is saying something, since I listen to them a lot by any reasonable standard.) Two songs that I’ve found myself repeating again and again have been “I’m So Tired” and George’s beautiful meditation from Sgt. Pepper, “Within You Without You.” Slightly mad? Why, yes, thanks for asking.

There’s method to my madness.We listen to music for lots of reasons. Solace. Inspiration. Motivation. Sentimentality. These days, I, like a lot of people, have been looking for solace.

We live these days in a country that feels more at odds with itself than it did even during the sixties. The constant turmoil that many, perhaps most of us, experience when we look at the news or at social media seems (because it is) unrelenting. I can speak for no one else, but this turmoil has been exhausting.

Not to put too fine a point on it, I’m so tired. Continue reading

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I’m So Tired: so say we all, John…

“I think it’s 100 per cent John. Being tired was one of his themes; he wrote ‘I’m Only Sleeping.’ I think we were all pretty tired but he chose to write about it.” – Paul McCartney

John Lennon, White Album period (image courtesy Best Classic Bands)

Being a Beatle was, to be sure, exhausting. John Lennon in particular found the constant stream of attention to his every waking moment (and sometimes to his sleeping moments) tortuous. From “There’s a Place” to “Help” to “I’m Only Sleeping” to “Strawberry Fields Forever,” Lennon consistently looked for escapes from the pressures of being a Beatle, of being John Lennon. One might note that Lennon sought solace from having failed to beware of the old adage “Be careful what you wish for.” Being at “the toppermost of the poppermost” was, he found, a mixed blessing.

The song itself is one of that large number of tunes that he, Paul, and George composed during their retreat in Rishikesh, India, studying transcendental meditation with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. While some of the songs such as “Dear Prudence” and “Julia” were playful or serious expressions of Lennon’s kindness and love,  “I’m So Tired” and “Yer Blues” were examples of Lennon crying in the wilderness – literally.

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Random thoughts about the record album – part 6: one last hurrah…and into the mystic

“There hasn’t been anything real since grunge. That was the last movement led by music or an art form.” – Daphne Guinness

(Read part 1, part, 2, part 3, part 4, part 5)

Grunge rock’s great, tragic star, Kurt Cobain (image courtesy Twitter)

The last great movement in rock music – and the last great flowering of the album, an art form inextricably tied to rock music’s rise – was Grunge. Its flowering in late 80’s Seattle and its explosion into a national and international phenomenon in the early 90’s produced a wave of albums that most Xers and early Millennials know as well as their Boomer predecessors know Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Let It Bleed, or Tommy.

 

Pearl Jam’s Ten, Alice in Chains’ Dirt, Soundgarden’s Superunknown, and Stone Temple Pilots’ Core are all albums that both epitomize the Grunge sound and convey Grunge’s vision: powerful music played loudly with lyrics filled with tales of misery and dark thoughts. In some ways this is brilliant music, capturing as it does both the misery of Xers who felt keenly traumas such as their desertion by parents (through divorce and the perceived economic necessity of two income households that created “latchkey” childhoods) and anticipating as it does (which perhaps explains its powerful appeal to older Millennials) a world dominated by technopolistic forces.

No force from the Grunge movement captured the angst of Grunge more than Nirvana’s album Nevermind and its chief architect, Grunge’s icon, Kurt Cobain. Continue reading

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Dear Prudence: John’s beautiful dreamer…

“Dear Prudence is me. Written in India. A song about Mia Farrow’s sister, who seemed to go slightly barmy, meditating too long, and couldn’t come out of the little hut that we were livin’ in….  That was the competition in Maharishi’s camp: who was going to get cosmic first. What I didn’t know was I was already cosmic.” – John Lennon

Prudence Farrow (far left, dark hair) with the Beatles and Maharishi in India (image courtesy Rolling Stone)

The Beatles famously went to India in February of 1968 to study transcendental meditation. While they didn’t necessarily reach nirvanic enlightenment (hence John’s bit of waggery in the above comment), they wrote many of the songs that appeared in November 1968 on the epic double album The Beatles known as “the White Album”). Among these is “Dear Prudence,” John’s tune about his, George’s, and Paul’s attempts to coax Prudence Farrow, Mia’s sister, from her hut where she had become “addicted to meditation.”

The song is notable for a couple of reasons. One is that John learned a finger picking style from Donovan who was also on the retreat and “Dear Prudence” is the first song where one hears John’s newly developed skill. The second reason is that the song represents an aspect of Beatle songwriting that emerged on the White Album: the album is filled with songs that offer carefully observed portraits of characters real and imagined along with relevant social commentary such as “Back in the USSR,” “Bungalow Bill,” “Martha, My Dear,” “Julia,” Piggies,” “Sexy Sadie,” “Honey Pie,” and “Cry, Baby, Cry,”

“Dear Prudence” is perhaps the loveliest and kindest of these portraits. Continue reading

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