I promised you a new occasional series based on music would appear during March, and I’ve just about made it. The idea for this struck me when I was compiling one of my Tuesday Tunes posts. As you will know if you’ve seen any of those, I choose a theme each week and post some tunes which are vaguely related to it, even if just by a word in their title. But there have been many times when I’ve found this a little restrictive: many of the bands and artists I feature have recorded loads more than just the songs I’ve related to my themes, and it seemed a good idea to focus on some of them and share more of their music in dedicated posts. I’ve called this Listen To The Band, but there will also be posts on the music of solo artists too: there are just so many I could choose. Please allow me some artistic licence with this: Listen To The Band And The Singer-Songwriter seemed a bit of a mouthful for a title, even if it was more accurate. There is, of course a risk in starting this series: if you don’t like the featured artist, you may give the post a miss. It’s a risk I’m prepared to take, and I’m putting trust in my excellent musical taste to lure you in…
So, where to begin? I sat down to make a list of possibles, and when it reached forty I thought that maybe I should get started. I have a fairly wide range of musical tastes except, as I’ve said before, for (c)rap, and I hope to bring you some that will be familiar and others that are less so. For me, there could only be one place to start. When I was beginning to appreciate pop music, there burst onto the scene the band which I think revolutionised everything – without them, the whole pop and rock music thing might have been very different. This was their first single, released on 5th October 1962, nineteen days after my ninth birthday:
Instantly, The Beatles were stars! This went to #1 in the US, Australia and New Zealand, though it only got as high as #17 here. That apparent disappointment didn’t seem to matter, though, as it was the start of a run of huge hit singles and albums. As they say, the rest is history. I could have filled this piece with many of their hit singles, but have instead chosen to give you some of my favourite singles plus a few selected album tracks. Somehow, I doubt that any of these will be unfamiliar to you – just sit back and wallow in the nostalgia!
One of those favourite singles is this next one. It was released as a double A-side record, coupled with Day Tripper. I preferred this one then, and it is still right up there amongst my favourite Beatles songs:
That was released on 3 December 1965, and went to #1 in the UK, US and Canada, amongst other countries. I love that promotional video, which shows Paul trying not to laugh as John clowns around. Even at this relatively early stage they had taken to writing songs separately, but this was a collaborative effort, with additional suggestions from George, too. Judging by the video, Ringo’s role seemed to be waving his drumsticks around and looking bored!
Earlier in 1965 The Beatles’ second movie had been released: Help! There is a clip on YouTube of the scene from the movie featuring this song, but it isn’t official and, given the degree of copyright protection that their estate applies to their music, I thought it safer to go with this official audio-only version:
Come to think of it, that copyright warning may well apply to most of the videos in this post, so I apologise if any of them aren’t viewable in your country.
Help! the movie came out here on 29 July 1965, and the soundtrack album followed a week later. I remember being allowed to go to see it when it came to our local cinema, as a kind of early 12th birthday present, on condition that I took my 9yo sister too – not cool, in those days! The album was #1 in the UK, US and other countries, of course. The movie scene in which this song is played features the lovely actor Eleanor Bron, looking very bemused as Paul winks (obviously and badly) in her direction – do seek it out if you don’t already know it!
This next one is a real beauty from the band’s Rubber Soul album:
As that isn’t an official video and may not work for you, here is the official, static one, as a little bonus:
I think it bears another listen anyway! It was side 2, track 4 on the album, which was #1 in both the US and the UK, as well as elsewhere. This was their second album of 1965, released on 3 December, just four months after Help! The song was written by John, and reflects his yearning for the quieter days before mass stardom, when life was simpler in many ways for them. Paul lays claim to writing some of the melody, and the harpsichord effect piano was added by their producer, George Martin – a collective effort!
I wanted to include one of the songs from Magical Mystery Tour in this piece, but most of them seem to be only in official static versions. I did, however, find this short promo film for the extravaganza, which has snippets of them all plus a few extra bits:
The film was first shown on BBC1 on Boxing Day 1967, but was generally poorly reviewed. I can still recall my sister and I being entranced by it, while our parents were muttering things like “at least it only lasts 25 minutes.” The soundtrack was released here on 8 December as a double EP featuring all of the six songs, in the form of a book with loads of pictures of the filming. It cost about the same as two singles, and reached #2 in our singles chart (and #1 in the EPs chart, apparently, though I’d never heard of that!). In the US the release was on 27 November as a full album, with the six tracks from the film on side one and five other recent singles on side two. We didn’t get that version here until 1976! Needless to say, the album went to #1 in the US on first release.
This next one is one of the singles which was on the US version of the Magical Mystery Tour album:
The single was released in November 1967, and was #1 in the US, the UK, and loads of other countries. It was #1 here over the Christmas/New Year period – quite an appropriate title for that time of year. It was the reason that the Magical Mystery Tour EP didn’t get to #1, too. I’ve always loved it, and even George seemed to perk up when the hula dancers appeared!
I said there would be some favourite album tracks, so here’s another:
As that wasn’t a single, the video is the usual static record company job, but it’s still a lovely song. It was written by John Lennon and was actually recorded in February 1968, though it had to wait until the release of Let It Be in May 1970 to see the light of day. The sessions that produced that album were fraught with various difficulties, which eventually led to the band breaking up a month before it came out. It had a mixed critical reaction at the time, but that didn’t stop it from being a #1 album in the US, the UK and several other countries.
I’ve given you seven songs so far, and feel like I could go on forever: The Beatles made so many great records and were a major part of my teenage years. I’m going to close on the song which shows how big they had become in just five years. In 1967 twenty five countries around the world came together for the first ever synchronised live broadcast, Our World, for which the UK’s contribution was a new song being recorded by The Beatles at Abbey Road studios. This shows how some of this came together, and includes the final minute or so of the tv broadcast:
And this is the finished record:
The concept of One World was to share creativity from around the world, and the likes of Maria Callas and Pablo Picasso were also included. The event took place on 25 June 1967, and Wikipedia describes The Beatles’ role thus:
‘The broadcast took place at the height of the Vietnam War. The Beatles were asked to write a song with a positive message. At 8:54 GMT the Beatles topped the event with their debut performance of “All You Need Is Love“. The Beatles invited many of their friends to the event to create a festive atmosphere and to join in on the song’s chorus. Among the friends were members of the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Marianne Faithfull, Keith Moon and Graham Nash.’
The single was released on 7 July and went to #1 in a dozen or so countries, including, of course, the US and the UK. It was also included on the US album release of Magical Mystery Tour later in the year. John, who wrote it, said that he deliberately went for something simple that would get the message across to many countries, and it is still relevant today – perhaps even more so, in some ways. It is a fitting place for me to bring this first episode of Listen To The Band to a close, I think. I hope you’ve enjoyed my first – and very obvious – choice for this feature. There are plenty more to come, some of which will I’m sure be less familiar to you.
One final footnote. Some of you may recognise the title I’ve given this series as being a song by another band. They will be appearing here at some point, too. The series will be back soon.