Vol. 1, Issue #24 Dec. 22nd, 2006 - Jan. 4th, 2007

Tiger Beat From Hell
By: Wilhelm Murg

"Fixing" The Beatles

Another holiday season: another repackaged, over-hyped Beatles release. I wouldn’t be such a cynic if I weren’t a bootleg collector; I know there’s still a mountain of cool Beatle stuff out there that has yet to see the light of day. I have crap I bought on burned CDs without labels at record conventions five years ago that still blow my mind. Whole concerts are still in the can, along with the promo films (what we now call “music videos”) plus endless amounts of demos and outtakes. Even the things that have been released, but are out of print, like the films “Help!” “Let It Be” and “Magical Mystery Tour,” or the “Live at Hollywood Bowl” album would be welcomed.

Hell, I’m a hardcore fanatic. If they finally re-released “The Beatles’ Story,” which was a double-LP released to cash in on Beatlemania in 1965, featuring a narrative about their lives read over their early recordings with excerpts from interviews, I would be first in line to buy it.

Instead we have “Love,” a remix album by Sir George Martin’s son for that fruity Cirque du Soleil outfit. I’m sure the show is stunning, but I don’t know that I would want to shell out the $69-$150 ticket price to find out.

“Love” is coming out at an odd time for me. I just bought a copy of “The Rutles: All You Need is Cash” (1978,) former Monty Python member Eric Idle’s mockumentary (years before “This is Spinal Tap”) on a satirical version of The Beatles, The Rutles. Neil Innes, formerly of The Bonzo Dog Band, nailed every period of the Beatles’ career with rye Beatle sound alikes; “Hold My Hand,” “Ouch!” “Piggy in The Middle” (their “I Am The Walrus”) and “Get Up and Go” (their “Get Back”). Their song, “Let’s Be Natural,” has been going through my head all week since watching the DVD.

It was interesting to learn that Idle got to view “The Long and Winding Road,” the unreleased documentary The Beatles commissioned in the 1970s which eventually became “Anthology” (1995). While watching “All You Need is Cash” today it’s painfully obvious that Idle was lampooning “The Long and Winding Road/ Anthology” seventeen years before the documentary was released. Python and Beatle fans alike have placed “Cash” in the pantheon as a masterpiece of satire.

At the same time there are also already two great Beatle mash-ups. The most famous is Danger Mouse’s bastard pop masterwork, “The Grey Album,” where he took the a cappella release of Jay-Z’s “The Black Album” and mixed it with music samples taken from “The Beatles” (aka “The White Album.”) It was never legally released, but was “leaked” onto the web and became one of the most downloaded music files of the year. “The Grey Album” was critically acclaimed by the music press, and the publicity helped pave the way for Danger Mouse’s phenomenally popular collaboration with Cee-Lo, Gnarls Barkley.

By comparison, “Love” is nearly Muzak compared to “The Grey Album.” Nothing in it has the power of Jay-Z’s rapping of “Encore” over samples from “Glass Onion” and “Savoy Truffle,” or “99 Problems” to a reconstructed “Helter Skelter.” The Danger Mouse album is readily available for free on most peer-to-peer download sites.

The most interesting experiment in Beatles cut-up is still from The Residents’ 1977 single “The Beatles Play The Residents, The Residents Play The Beatles,” the sound collage, “Beyond The Valley of A Day in The Life.” “Beyond” is like ten years of The Beatles as seen through the psychedelic haze of the “Sgt. Pepper”-era thrown at you in four minutes. All the tracks, from the early “Meet The Beatles” days through the sitar plucks from “Love You To” seem to be filtered through the orchestral crescendo from “A Day in The Life” and the string introduction of “I Am The Walrus” played backward. If you missed dropping massive doses of acid in Swinging London the day “Magical Mystery Tour” came out, this is probably a good approximation.

The biggest problem Giles Martin had in creating “Love” was not only making an album that stood up to such brilliant pirate assaults on The Beatles catalogue as the Danger Mouse and Residents recordings, but also making a record that didn’t sound like the disco-era studio project Stars on 45’s “Medley,” where Beatle songs were given the disco treatment.

There are mixes on “Love” that seem to come straight out of The Residents’ recording, like resolving the “A Day in The Life” crescendo with the opening chord from “Help!” And there are moments of sheer brilliance, like the calliope solos from “The Being for The Benefit of Mr. Kite” being overlapped with the repetitive chord progression from “I Want You (She’s So Heavy,)” the lyrics and lead sitar line of “Within You Without You” laid over the rhythm track of “Tomorrow Never Knows,” and a beautifully remixed version of “A Day in The Life.” It also has its share of car crashes, like Ringo’s vocals from “Octopuses Garden” played over the strings from “Good Night” and some songs don’t have enough changes to them, aside of their transitions, to make their inclusion worthwhile.

Personally, I like “Love,” if only to have a new mix of some old favorites, but it is the most ephemeral release with The Beatles’ name attached since...well...”The Beatles’ Story.” This is disco for the new generation, and it’s just as exploitive. It’s definitely a gimmick that is going to age about as poorly as Stars on 45. I would recommend ANY Beatle album over “Love.” Perhaps my biggest worry is that people will get hooked on this album and start to think of it as a real Beatles album.

The collaboration is supposed to have come about because of the friendship between the late George Harrison and Cirque founder Gay Laliberté. Ringo and Paul showed up at the premiere, I’m sure eyeballing each other to figure out which one is going to be the last man standing. However, having just gone through the 26th anniversary of John Lennon’s death, I keep wondering what he would have thought of it. Lennon was certainly a capitalist, or at least a socialist who liked to ride around in Bentleys and Rolls, but would this silly circus have made enough of an impression on him? Personally, I think he would have been more impressed with The Rutles, The Residents, and Danger Mouse.

I guess what I’m saying is the CD is interesting, but I was more impressed with “The Powerpuff Girls Meet The Beat-Alls.”

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©2006 NONCO Media, L.L.C.