Paul McCartney Goes Too Far Part 2

This article is continued from the previous Paul McCartney Goes Too Far Part 1

The impact on McCartney of this kind of music-making, which lacks any obvious sign of the melody or structural perfection which are trademark qualities of his, can nonetheless be seen clearly in a song as apparently childish and simplistic as “Yellow Submarine”. This seemingly humble strum-along tune, much ridiculed by critics48 is richly embroidered with musique concrete49. Compare the description of a session for Yellow Submarine with the AMM event described above:

We needed all kinds of sound effects, and sandbags were bumped about while John blew bubbles and George made swirling sounds with the water... There was also a brass band... right there in the studio, not to mention a massed chorus made up of anybody and everybody who happened to be around at the time. (George Martin,“Off the Record", p207)

The communal, participatory nature of this event echoes an AMM performance, and the Beatles continued to hold similar “parties” with guests in the studio up until the recording of the “The Beatles” (the “White Album”) in 1968. Their happenings, however, were ultimately more disciplined, having as their end the production of a releasable pop “product”. As well as the minimalist musique concrète of Cardew's AMM, McCartney (and Miles) also pursued their interests in an emerging high art alternative to classical music, namely electronic music. They attended a lecture given by Luciano Berio, the renowned Italian electronic composer, in February 1966. One
journalist described the event:

Everything that Luciano Berio does is interesting even when it isn't entirely convincing. Last night at the Italian institute he talked for almost an hour about his new work, Homage to Dante - mostly about what it was not, and what is the only possible way of creating a work of art, and suchlike topics. (The Times, 24/02/66, p.16)

At the lecture, Berio played a tape of his new piece Laborintus 2 (Un Omaggio a Dante), which develops certain themes in Dante's texts, combining them with biblical texts as well as the work of T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound and Edoardo Sanguineti. During the intermission, Paul was able to have a few words with Berio but the Italian embassy staff cluste around so closely that serious conversation was difficult. (Miles, Many Years From Now, p.234-5)

In Britain, Berio was notable for being the first electronic composer to have his work performed at the Proms, when his Perspectives - a series of oscillations and radio noises - was played, from tape, in August 1960.

It was also during this time that McCartney developed an interest in the music of John Cage, of whom Cornelius Cardew was, at that time, a disciple50. He was particularly impressed by 4'33", which was four minutes of complete silence. Another composer who impressed McCartney was, in turn, Cage's teacher, the German Karlheinz Stockhausen, who was later to appear on the cover of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band. McCartney was not only intrigued by his experiments
with tape manipulation, but also particularly seems to have enjoyed dropping his name as evidence of his erudition. There was a lot of experimental stuff that went on. George's Indian stuff and all of that. It was really just pushing frontiers, that's all we were doing. Everyone else was pushing frontiers too but perhaps we didn't necessarily like what, say, Berio was doing. There was only one Stockhausen song I liked actually! We used to get it in all the interviews “Love Stockhausen!”. (McCartney, in Lewisohn, p. 15)

He missed seeing Stockhausen in person introducing a concert of his works at the Commonwealth Institute in London in December 1965 - The Beatles were playing a concert in Liverpool - but might have read the article published in the wake of that event in The Times on December 6th, or seen the television programme Music on Two on BBC2 on December 21st, when a
Stockhausen special was broadcast. Stockhausen was everywhere in 1965 and early 1966, at least if you were the kind of person who read the broadsheets and watched the high-brow second
channel.

Quite apart from the avant-garde European and American electronic music which McCartney came across, there was also the then cutting-edge BBC Radiophonic Workshop.

The Workshop is staffed by four creative assistants, three technicians, one engineer, and part-time maintenance personnel, who work in three specially equipped studios... it was set up in 1958 with a staff of only two... At the moment, it provides incidental accompaniments in the main and aims to underline atmosphere and extend dramatic impact. Many programmes are educations, children tend to listen with open ears and without preconceived notions.51

The Workshop was well-known amongst musicians as the best equipped electronic studio in the UK, rivalling that at the Westdeutcher Rundfunk studio in Cologne, Germany, and the Colombia Princeton Electronic Music Center in the USA. Whereas those institutions were used by a range of composers for the creation of “pure art”, the BBC Workshop had something of a “closed door policy”52 to outside musicians, and a more practical purpose – namely, the low-cost production of music and sound effects for BBC television and radio programmes. It was music for the popular science fiction programme Dr Who which made it something of a household name, and which, almost inadvertently, exposed the public at large to the sounds of tape loops, musique concrète and manipulated electronic sounds generated by oscillators. McCartney would have heard Radiophonic Workshop music frequently, and also claims to have spoken to someone at the Workshop, probably Delia Derbyshire, about the possibility of an electronic backing for “Yesterday” in 1965.

George Martin also gets some credit for fostering McCartney's interest in unusual electronic sounds:
In 1962 Parlophone issued a single called: “Time Beat/Waltz in Orbit", a compilation of electronic sounds, composed by a certain Ray Cathode - me! (Summer of Love, p.83)

George Martin played them [McCartney and Miles] the famous 1962 Bell Telephone Labs recording of an IBM 7090 computer54 and digital-to-sound transducer singing “Bicycle Built for Two” in a thick German-American accent, which they loved. (This was also favourite late-night listening at Miles's flat.) (Many Years From Now, p.207)

This interest in electronics manifested itself practically in an ongoing series of experiments with tape recorders from 1965. Both Lennon and McCartney acquired Brenell Mark 5 tape recorders through their music publisher, Dick James, who was presumably keen to get their songs demoed on tape and then in print as soon as possible. Being a small company, Brenell were able to meet individual demands far better than Ferrograph, who were heavy into Government orders and supplying the BBC. The Brenell was a very basic, but very well built three motor, three speed design... the Mark 5 introduced to the amateur/semi-pro an extremely versatile and very well made deck at a reasonable price. (Interview with Barry M Jones, author of Brenell - True to Life Performance)

The simplicity and versatility of the machine enabled both of the “senior Beatles” to experiment, but Lennon tended to use his machine more as a kind of notebook for sketching ideas and recording somewhat tuneless, rambling demos, whilst McCartney leapt straight into manipulating the sound – into using the tape recorder as an instrument in its own right.

I would do them [tape loops] over a few days. I had a little bottle of EMI glue that I would stick them with and wait till they dried. It was a pretty decent join. I'd be trying to avoid the click as it went through, but I never actually avoided it. If you made them very well you could just about do it but I made 'em a bit ham fisted and I ended up using the clicks as part of the rhythm. (McCartney, Many Years From Now, p.219)

McCartney was quick to share what he was learning, just as Harrison and Lennon had been quick to share their experiences with Indian music and LSD with him. Paul constructed all these 'loops' of tape with these funny, distorted, dense little noises on them. He told the others, and they too, took the wipe heads off their recorders and started constructing loops of taped gibberish. (George Martin, Summer of Love, p.80)

Though McCartney talked of releasing an entire album of avant-garde tape experiments under the name Paul McCartney Goes Too Far55, he ultimately baulked at the idea. In fact, he went so far as to head in quite the opposite direction, concealing his own experimentation by giving away his work to Lennon for use on his otherwise simple song “Tomorrow Never Knows”. This compounded the public perception of Lennon as the “Clever Beatle", and of McCartney as a brilliant but conventional songwriter.

In reality, “Tomorrow Never Knows", like so many of the songs on the album, is a genuine group effort. Lennon's contribution, musically, was the simple vocal melody and the one chord around which the music moves. It is McCartney who deserves the credit for the distinctive other-worldly sound of the backing track, and Ringo Starr whose drumming has been so much imitated in recent years.

As well as the high-brow artistic interests that his central location and avant-garde contacts facilitated, McCartney's celebrity also gave him opportunity to monitor the work of other movers and shakers in the pop world. His mixing socially with British pop stars and producers at various nightclubs paid off in 1966 when, through Andrew Loog Oldham, then managing and producing the Rolling Stones, he was given the opportunity to hear an early tape of the Beach Boys “Pet Sounds”.

Paul McCartney and I had enjoyed tea and smoke at my Hurlingham Road abode and awaited Lou's [Lou Adler] arrival... He was bringing his good self and an acetate of “Pet Sounds”, which neither Paul or I could keep, since this was a time when personal tape recordings were not on or done... we settled into more tea, lots of smiles, more smoke... and a long, long listen and lot of wonder from Paul and I. (2Stoned, p. 443)

In the wake of hearing “Pet Sounds”, McCartney would arrange a distinctly Beach Boys influenced introduction for his “Here, There and Everywhere”, although, as Ian McDonald rightly notes, the song itself is not much after the manner of Brian Wilson56. These small additions to Revolver give it yet another level of complexity and richness.

In March 1966, shortly before the Revolver sessions commenced, McCartney moved into a new house even nearer Abbey Road studios, at 7 Cavendish Avenue. This property McCartney at once set about making into a more expansive version of his room at Wimpole Street, even using the same architects who had refurbished the upper floor to handle the renovation work. His instruments were stacked around the place, along with his tape recorder and various pieces of art – by Magritte and others – which he had picked up during his virtual student days with the Ashers. This marked the end of an era, and also the beginning of the end of his relationship with Jane Asher herself, now that he had somewhere to bring women as and when the opportunity arose. He graduated, as it were, from his student lifestyle with the Ashers a mature, sophisticated man.




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18 comment:

Marianus said...

Waduh... gak sepiro ngerti inggris...

Peluang Usaha said...

Beetles memang legenda hidup..lagunya gak ada matinya..

Indra said...

saya nggak bisa bhs inggris,jd bisanya cuma comment begini doank.....

anto said...

nice article...
I already added your link on my blogroll as "The Beatles".. please added my link too.. thanks.. :)

cempaka said...

slam kenal nice blog

RUBIYANTO - UNITED SENOPATI said...

malem mas....

sijagur said...

jejak sijagur

KTI-Skripsi said...

Wah bagus banget materinya, tapi lebih bagus lagi kalo ada translate-nya bro...! Salam kenal...!

pemy_hasyim said...

nice post broth,,,,,
keep share,,,

regards,

ari1993 said...

bagus juga postingnya... jgn lupa masuk website ku yah,,

Ary said...

beatles emang TOP... legendaris cuman sayang exist nya ga lama banget keburu John Lennon nya meninggal...

dennishare said...

lam kenal neh

Ardhiansyam said...

Keep ROCK 'N' ROLL

Salam kenal

joegrimjow said...

start with us

tony robbins said...

jadi pengen les bahasa inggris lagi

Rcyan M. said...

Well, The Beatles have their positive and negative characteristics. Anyway, I love their track Across the Universe a lot. It's very transcendental. (^-^)

Natalia Sofia said...

gosh...so many to read,it's good to know anyway..

Nopi Mujiyanto said...

nice article dude,..:)

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