Looking a bit closer at the 'Fab Four'

By Derek Gentile, Berkshire Eagle Staff

LENOX — It was late in the day at Abbey Road Studios on February 11, 1963. The Beatles were wrapping up the recording of their LP “Please Please Me” for release a few weeks later. The final song was to be a cover of the Isley Brothers’ “Twist and Shout,” a high-energy number.
“(Abbey Road producer) George Martin always liked to end each side of an album with a rousing rocker,” said Jeremy Yudkin, a lecturer at yesterday’s Beatles Day in Lenox. “But Martin was a little concerned, because the band had been recording all day and John Lennon’s voice was tired.”

But the Beatles, with Lennon belting out the lyrics in a near-howl, “stunned the technicians that day,” said Yudkin. “They went all out, and nailed the song on the first take. It remains a testimony to the group’s ability in the studio.”

That story was one of several nuggets that emerged from the town’s second annual Beatles Day. The afternoon lecture was attended by about 60 people, while many more were at Lenox Memorial High School last night as five local bands played Beatles covers.

The event was a benefit for the Lenox Library.

Yudkin is a professor of music at Boston University, specializing in medieval music, jazz and the Beatles.

Also speaking were Michael Nock, a musicologist and Dean of Students for the Tanglewood Music Center and Jonathan Gould, a professional musician and author. Gould’s latest book is “Can’t Buy Me Love:
The Beatles, Britain and America.”

Yudkin opened the lecture portion of the day by noting that the Beatles have grown into cultural icons. They have sold a total of about 1 billion records and CDs and their songs have entered the popular consciousness.

He noted, for example, that a recent Eagle editorial was titled “Fuel On The Hill,” a play on the Beatles’ song “Fool On The Hill.”

“It’s extraordinary that you could mention those words and almost everyone will know what it means,” he said.

Opening the lecture, Gould, 56, pointed out that he grew up with the Beatles, who recorded as a group from 1962-70.

“They’re a big reason why I became a musician,” he said.

His book deals with the Beatles’ formative years, and Gould explained that three of the four Beatles were actually suburban kids and not really working-class boys. Only drummer Ringo Starr, he said, came from what might be termed a “lower middle-class” background.

Nock’s discussion focused on the necessity of keeping all 30 of the tracks on the Beatles’ 1968 release. The double-LP is called “The White Album” but its real title is “The Beatles.”

“It’s fashionable to debunk ‘The White Album’,” said Nock. “I think some Beatles lovers bear that album some ill will because of all the stress surrounding the group during that time.

“You may resent The White Album, but whittling down a double album to a single album is not easy,” he said. “I know what you’re thinking: Get rid of ‘Revolution No. 9’, which is eight minutes and 13 seconds long. But you still have a long way to go.

Cutting down half the album would inevitably cause the loss of too many good songs, Nock said.

“I don’t think there had been up to that time, an album that contained so many diverse musical styles,” said Nock, who termed the album “virtuosic, incredibly rich and varied.”

Yudkin discussed the placement of songs on Beatles albums, specifically “Please Please Me.” He pointed out that, in addition to ending each side of an LP with a rousing number, Martin also kept the cover material in the middle of each side of the album. In addition, he said, the Beatles always considered themselves a unit, which was a key part of their success.

“Most of the bands in those days were ‘Someone and the Somebodies,’ ” said Yudkin. “Bill Haley and the Comets. Gerry and the Pacemakers. The Beatles wanted to feature all their members, which was very unusual at the time.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: