(C) 2015 by Metta Anderson – All Rights Reserved
It’s cold, overcast and starting to drizzle. I’m listening to the Beatles and singing along with most of the lyrics. It’s Saturday afternoon in Bogotá.
In. . . hm…m… m… 1967? Maybe.
Actually, 7 March 2015. Yes, I can remember the lyrics because I bought the records and played them endlessly–as did the rest of my generation–and learned the lyrics because they were included somewhere on the album. Sometimes on the back of the album, but more often on the inside sleeve holding the record. In the case of Sargent Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club,” it came out in July 1967. I was in the US because my brother REO was getting married that month and I was going to be a bridesmaid. I bought the LP at the Disc Shop, next to Kewpie’s on Grand River Ave., in East Lansing, and across the street from the MSU campus. Took the record home to my parents’ house and played it, as much as possible. In this case, a lot, really a lot, because my mother and stepfather liked the Beatles, too. My stepfather, in fact, had studied clarinet and was in his high school’s marching band. My mother had studied violin. (And I studied piano and sang in choirs.) REO liked the Beatles, later more drawn to the Rolling Stones and these days, streams The Grateful Dead on his Jeep’s sound system. Whatever blows your hair back, as one of my art teachers used to say.
What fascinated me today, listening to the Beatles on headphones connected to my celular, was how exceptional was their playing. It sounds relatively simple, considering how it was recorded in the Sixties, but up close, with digital reproduction. . . WOW! Damn good pickin’ there, George! (For those who aren’t familiar with basic rock set-ups in the Sixties, and the Beatles–John was lead guitar, Paul was bass, George was melody guitar and Ringo was drums. Classically stated–John was first violin, George was second; Paul was either viola or cello (depending on the composition) and Ringo was percussion. Some things do not change.) I know I’ve listened to the Beatles and other British groups from the period hundreds of times in a lot of moods and using a lot of different equipment. With the Beatles–bought the LP in the US, played it on a German-made stereo in my apartment in Bogotá; said stereo was purchased at Sears (the store) in 1966, and was state-of-the-art at the time. I’d sit on the floor and sing along. The music was on when friends dropped by (kept the volume down, of course). It was on when I wasn’t home in order to keep my dog Mariposa company. (The radio, not the stereo.) These days, I tend to listen to classical music and opera, but the music is on just the same. But the question becomes–why do we keep listening to this? Why does it still sound so G-O-O-D!?!?!?
Personally, I think it’s because, until very recently, musicians and other artists really cared about their craft. No offense, but what is Beyoncé’s craft, exactly–shakin’ her booty in front of a bunch of drunk horny guys? Lying to younger women that her bump-and-grind is a liberation for women? (Really? Is that why Salomé danced?) Craft is caring about what you do and how you do it. It’s why people outside the arts consider all artists (regardless of medium) whiny prima donnas. The Beatles cared a great deal about what they did and then had the truly great good fortune to work with a man whose musical experience included producing classical music albums, especially Baroque. His name was George Martin. Other rockers from the Sixties (Zeppelin comes to mind, and then Queen in the late Seventies) cared just as much and–like the Beatles–it still shows. I’ve seen the Beatles and Queen live in concert and their perfectionism carries over onto the stage. The tickets were worth the price. And you know what? Their lyrics were good–not offensive nor insulting nor threatening. These days, groups like these find themselves categorized as “Christian” or are considered so bland they don’t even get contracts or air time. The American group Iron Butterfly would still be playing in dives and bars today, their classic 17-minute piece Inna-gadda-da-vida virtually unknown. (Look it up on Google! The composer was the son of an organist at a Lutheran church in the Midwest. You can hear Bach in it.)
So there we were on the Eje Ambiental this afternoon, Friday and Fabiana and me, in the light drizzle forming little rings on the surface of the Río San Francisco, TransMilenio buses rumbling by, and I was singing along to the Beatles. I know I wasn’t singing very loudly because no one paid attention to us (fortunately; my voice isn’t all that good any more). But that music sounded as good this afternoon as it did in the Sixties when I first heard it and first bought the LPs. Javeriana Stereo is right on this point–this music has become classic, not because of its age, but because of the craft behind it. It’s worth listening to, over and over and over again.
I have a friend who was only 7 when Sargent Pepper came out. He became a musician. I have to wonder what would have happened if he’d been able to listen to this music before he started classes (at age 8) at the Conservatorio del Tolima. That’s just a thought. . .
(C) 2015 by Metta Anderson – All Rights Reserved