Tuesday, November 6, 2012

John, Paul, George, Ringo, and Truth

Whether or not you admire the Fab Four from Liverpool, the following quote from The Beatles: The Ultimate Album-by-Album Guide, Special Rolling Stone Edition, edited by Jann Wenner, illustrates an important truth. 

At 10 in the morning on February 11th, 1963, the Beatles...gathered at Abbey Road studios in London to make a debut album. Twelve hours later, they'd done it. Of all the astonishing things about the album Please Please Me - and there are many - the most impressive may simply be the quick-and-dirty haste with which it was recorded.

In 2011, it can take a band a dozen hours to mic the kick drum. But in a single long day...the Beatles laid down 10 songs for their album, including some of their most indelible early performances: "I Saw Her Standing There," "Do You Want to Know a Secret," "Baby, It's You." The day's work wrapped up, sometime around 10:45, with a shirtless John Lennon roaring himself hoarse through two takes of "Twist and Shout." "It was amazingly cheap, no messing, just a massive effort from us," Paul McCartney later recalled. "At the end of the day, you had your album."

The session was a testament to the Beatles' warhorse durability - grinding out song after song, take after take, with unflagging adrenaline. ...

Finally, just around 10 p.m., the Beatles had completed nine songs. No one was sure what to do for the final number. Someone suggested the Isley Brothers' "Twist and Shout," a barn-burning fixture of the Beatles' live act, with Lennon on lead vocals. Lennon was suffering from a cold; after 12 straight hours of singing, his voice was nearly shot. But he decided to give it a try. He sucked on a couple of throat lozenges, gargled a glass of milk, and headed onto the studio floor. Two takes later, the album was a wrap.

"The last song nearly killed me," Lennon said years later. "Every time I swallowed it was like sandpaper. I was always bitterly ashamed of it, because I could sing it better than that; but now it doesn't bother me. You can hear that I'm just a frantic guy doing his best."

Even when frantic, the Beatles' best was awfully good. Please Please Me is now considered a landmark. It captures the group at its scruffiest and most "bar band" - it is a document, as Lennon once said, of the Beatles before they were "the 'clever' Beatles." As their career took off, the Beatles got artier, more sophisticated, more visionary. But they were never purer than on Please Please Me.

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Truth is...being real is always better. Forget the bells and whistles. Forget the Photoshopped perfection. Be the best you you can be.

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