Saturday, March 12, 2011

Deconstructing the Beatles: Part IV, The Goofy Songs

You know, you know, you know my name. 
You know, you know, you KNOW you know my name.
You know my name. Look up the number.

Good Golly Miss Molly the Beatles were irrepressible goofballs, and upon occasion that spilled out into their songs in a most memorable way. Maybe they were under such pressure to churn stuff out that songs like these were inevitable, maybe it was just impossible to suppress their natural zaniness.

I didn't like all of them by a long shot. Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey?  No thank you. Yellow Submarine?  Zero interest. And there were many others that seemed to me like a waste of perfectly good vinyl.

But the ones I did like I loved. It's tempting to think that these songs were spontaneous eruptions of the Lads' exuberance and/or creativity, but we know that isn't so. From the Beatles Anthology Vol.3, for example, we learned that Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, one of my favorites, once sounded this way, and that wasn't even the first take (it took 42 hours to get to the recorded version, and tempers boiled over during a lot of that time as the group was by then deep in the throes of coming undone, driving everyone around them barking mad.  

And some of what I'm labeling goofy songs were serious - Dig A Pony and Hey Bulldog were two notable examples that I love, and I Am The Walrus was probably the epitome of that. Lots of streams of consciousness, bizarro sound effects and kooky song titles earn these that distinction.

The truth of the matter is the Beatles were just sponges of the highest order - whatever they stumbled across in their sonic world eventually was incorporated into their lyrics, instrumentation and vocal embellishments. Where other artists might not have been able to get away with it, by the time that the Beatles were dominating the music world they could pretty much do what they wanted, with producer George Martin and engineer Geoff Emerick only having to keep up with them.   

Estivator's Picks for Best Goofy Songs

Dig A Pony
Hey Bulldog
Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
Rocky Raccoon
You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)

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