Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's BĂȘte Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

On the recommendation of Devin McKinney, I picked up a used copy of a bootleg of the Beatles' 1962 Hamburg Star Club recordings, with, according to these Amazon reviews, a fictionalized story of the tapes' provenance in the booklet, as well as nice pictures of the 4 fabs.

What I hear:

1. The birth of the Rock Band as an Idea. Nobody had done it before -- an egalitarian singing-playing combo where the singing-players write their own songs. And this one has 3 solid singers (plus, though he doesn't sing on this recording, Ringo, who was himself a solid lead singer and whose singing I heart) and 3 solid writers. Rarely has the ideal represented by the Beatles even been remotely approached.

2. They were LOUD. A recording full of the din of squalling amplifiers and boom-y room noise and crowd buzz. In a way I'd never felt before, I HEAR their name, the BEATles. Boom boom boom!

3. BEAT being key -- Ringo rules the roost. It boggles -- and, yes, me being a persnickety sort, even offends me how the early rock critics dissed him as bumbling. He rules. Never mind his later invention of lyrical melodic rock tom-tom playing -- (his drumming on "A Day in the Life" reveals him as probably the most influential instrumentalist of the four of them; hundreds of singer-songwriter drummers found inspiration here) -- he ROCKED. Solid.

4. Those songs so many people have dismissed as corny that show up on 3 of their first 4 albums -- they really dug those songs; they were playing them in 1962. "Mr. Moonlight"! "A Taste of Honey"!

5. Paul's copping of Little Richard's style makes more sense in this context than in their polished-up studio recordings. Here -- the band is as wild as Paul wants to be, and he is too. On the studios, his Little Richard homages always sound stilted to me. (On the covers, that is. When he integrates the Little Richard style into his own stuff -- above all on "Maybe I'm Amazed" -- it's great.)

6. A Fats Waller cover! "Your Feets Too Big." When you're inventing rock and roll, anything you want can be rock and roll. These guys were omniverous.

7. The garage is the home of rock and roll. (Suburb as natural habitat of rock and roll?)

8. Contemporaneous northwest rock has a similar feel -- the Wailers, the Kingsmen -- except -- and it's a HUGE except -- the Beatles were writing great songs already ("I Saw Her Standing There") and -- another HUGE except -- all the Beatles were great singers.

9. I remember the why and wherefore of rockism -- how novel, how exciting, an egalitarian BAND writing its own stuff. Old hat -- cliche, even -- now, but then -- then it was Really Something.

10. I hear how old I am. I used to be in bands. Now I lead them. My individuation is too freaky and particular to accommodate a group identity like that. I'm happy to sublimate my individuation and be in somebody else's band from time to time, and I love having my own band, but negotiating a group identity? Not up for it any more.

11. The Beatles got too old too -- bless 'em. And -- note well -- they still played together after they broke up, just not as a GROUP.

12. Terrible sound quality, exciting music. But, in nostalgia of my own garage-y youth -- I love the terrible sound quality.

Note the record cover: no mention of The Beatles. (Actually, the Beatles are named, in small letters, and not on the CD spine.) Must be a bootleg. Glad to have it.
thanks - will have to check out that bootleg based on this info. Agreed that Ringo rocks and has been grossly underrated. Also supports my thoughts about how great songs and a great performance can often overcome some fairly awful sound quality, yet the inverse is almost never the case. High fidelity sound only makes a weak song or performance more apparent. I also appreciate the energy and sense of place you sometimes get from from bootlegs and live recordings.
Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?