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I may or may not be Up To Something. - Diary of a Necromancer
Excuse me, I'm making perfect sense, you're just not keeping up
I may or may not be Up To Something.
Quick question to the flist, because I know at least some of you were either born already to know this or at any rate would have more of a background in music than I do off the top of my head: by when, date-wise, had the "sound" of the Beatles changed to a point where the Average Vampire Man In The Street would say of the later stuff "I can still identify that as them but that's a leap"? Because I know there's a break you'd loosely call "WTF Sgt Pepper??!?", looking back, but not having lived through the period in question I have no intuitive sense of what the progression would have seemed like to someone experiencing it over time...

feeling: researchy

17 responses | moved to respond?
trillianastra From: trillianastra Date: January 20th, 2010 10:32 pm (UTC) (permalink this entry)
Well, I can't really help with that, the Beatles are not one of my areas of expertise.

But I am now officially Very Curious as to What You Are Up To.... hee.
robling_t From: robling_t Date: January 20th, 2010 10:44 pm (UTC) (permalink this entry)
Muse has been dragging around this plotbunny with a collar that says "UNIT Dating Controversy" and seems to want it to cuddle up to Mitchell and Herrick. {shudder} Excuse me, I think I have to go get an iPod away from Jamie...
kate_schaefer From: kate_schaefer Date: January 20th, 2010 10:51 pm (UTC) (permalink this entry)
At the time, it was immediately obvious that something had changed when the Sgt. Pepper album came out, when I was twelve. Before then, even though the Beatles were the biggest rock group on the planet, there wasn't anything particularly different about their songs on my AM radio from any other group's songs. They sang love songs, and songs with political undertones and even really obvious political texts that just whizzed past me completely, and you could dance to all their songs. I think I could dance to anything on Sergeant Pepper now, but at the time, it was so alien that it just baffled me. Where were the tunes? Why did the music change so abruptly? Why couldn't I sing along on the radio?

I must confess that in my callow youth (remember, I was twelve), I preferred the Monkees, even though it was obvious that some of them could not play the instruments they held on the TV show. I could sing along with all of their songs. Now that I'm a middle-aged adult, I prefer the Beatles, with their greater musicality and lyrical depth.

Is that what you were looking for?
robling_t From: robling_t Date: January 20th, 2010 11:06 pm (UTC) (permalink this entry)
So, basically, looking forward from the vantage of {looks at wikipedia} say 1965 or 1966, what from "Pepper" onward would ping strongest as "hey, that must be them but WTF?", would you say off the top of your head? (I am currently trying to explain to Muse that "When I'm Sixty-Four" might be a little TOO on-the-nose for what she wants me to try here...)
kate_schaefer From: kate_schaefer Date: January 20th, 2010 11:25 pm (UTC) (permalink this entry)
Yes, but.

The white album was even more like that than Sergeant Pepper. "Abbey Road" and "Let It Be" were less like that than Sergeant Pepper, because there were more singable songs on them, which made it seem like they were settling down again. "WTF?" was not something anyone would have thought at the time, although it was only a few years later that "fuck" would be every other word I would say.

All of my memory is colored by having heard the albums in their entirety later. What I heard on the radio was what could be played on AM, which is to say digestible singles. FM radio was a great big new adventure, not accessible to me or to most of my peers, because we listened only to AM radio. We had heard vaguely that there was this other band that played whole albums, some of them containing suggestive lyrics, but it wasn't on our transistor radios.

I'm fifty-four. You might get a more coherent response from people who are sixty-four, since they'd have been young adults (what we used to mean by young adults) rather than old children (what we now mean by young adults) at the time. You also might get a more coherent response from someone who followed music obsessively then, which I did not. I just turned on the radio and listened.

The big "that must be them" response came when the post-breakup albums and singles came out, with the immediate disappointment of realizing that it was just Wings.
robling_t From: robling_t Date: January 20th, 2010 11:42 pm (UTC) (permalink this entry)
Well, the specific setup for the piece I'm having my arm twisted into writing considering is of a character contemporary to let's-call-it-1966 running into a "...that ain't right" moment involving time travellers -- the parties of the second part not having gone deep enough in their research to have realized that "the Beatles" covers such a broad span of material that Somebody Might Notice if their dates are a shade off... He would be aware that he hadn't heard anything quite like that before, the trick is making it pique his interest with just enough familiarity to get him wondering.
ann_leckie From: ann_leckie Date: January 21st, 2010 12:48 am (UTC) (permalink this entry)
So your setup is, someone in 1966 meets time travelers who...play a recording of the beatles from later, thinking of course it's period cause it's the beatles? And Character A's reaction is going to be "I don't know that song, it can't be right..but..."

If that's the case, you've got more going for you than just style. You've also got the fact that Character A would likely recognize familiar voices. And I still think which song it is makes a difference. If they've heard Yellow Submarine, When I'm Sixty Four won't strike them as impossible. If they've heard "Eleanor Rigby" then "She's Leaving Home" won't sound implausible. Etc. IMO, anyway.
ann_leckie From: ann_leckie Date: January 21st, 2010 12:50 am (UTC) (permalink this entry)
And now I'm trying to dig up impossible ones. If they only know Rubber Soul and earlier, Revolution 9 is unbelievable.
robling_t From: robling_t Date: January 21st, 2010 06:21 am (UTC) (permalink this entry)
I'm toying with a number of ways to pull off the scene, since I do have two time-travellers handy to play off of each other (and dig themselves in deeper, since one of them would be prone to the "old folksong" gaffes about her mom singing it to her when she was a kid...), but the most likely scenario does still involve hearing the actual music. Something like "Revolution" would probably be a good bet for the "WTF IS THAT NOISE hey is that voice who I...?" factor I'm looking for, I'm starting to think...
(Deleted comment)
robling_t From: robling_t Date: January 21st, 2010 06:13 am (UTC) (permalink this entry)
I'm kind of leaning towards setting it in August 1966 at this point, because the release of "Revolver" would be a useful event to chuck plot-point details off of -- IE, the "okay, but waitaminute" part of this where the time travel comes into it. If "Revolver" is a very current event, then character A would be far more likely to catch on that what he's hearing wasn't on it...
ann_leckie From: ann_leckie Date: January 20th, 2010 11:39 pm (UTC) (permalink this entry)
I would say that the dividing line is between Rubber Soul and Revolver. Which came out in 1966. I was born in 1966, but my mother always put the dividing line between "the early beatles" and the rest of their career right there. Most of Rubber Soul sounds more like the early stuff--then you hit Revolver and get "Tomorrow Never Knows" or the druggy lyrics to "She Said She Said."

That was my mom's take on it, anyway, and my dad agreed with her.
robling_t From: robling_t Date: January 20th, 2010 11:48 pm (UTC) (permalink this entry)
So if, say, Character A had already heard material from Revolver, that might help clue him in to later stuff being related...?
ann_leckie From: ann_leckie Date: January 21st, 2010 12:05 am (UTC) (permalink this entry)
Hmm. That's a trickier proposition. If they'd heard all of Revolver and then all of Sgt Peppers or the White Album or whatever, maybe. If they'd only heard, say, "Eleanor Rigby" and "Yellow Submarine" and then were confronted with "Within You And Without You" and, oh, "I Am The Walrus," well, maybe not.

And what background does Character A have to begin with? That'll make a difference. If Character A is a time traveller from the far future, where one quite reasonably supposes popular music is very different and music from our present and recent past sounds kind of funny (give some early medieval stuff a listen--Ockeghem or even earlier, that kind of difference) then it all may just sound odd, and Character A won't have the basis to compare or contrast without more experience.* If Character A is from our present but has somehow never heard any Beatles...well, I guess it's possible for something like that to happen--it'll depend on how much attention they pay to music in general, and what their ear is like. If they're attentive and practiced listeners, they very well might.

The short answer is, I think it's complicated.

* Probably unrelated anecdote, but it springs to mind. When I was in high school I found a discount album at the record store, a recording of a couple of Johannes Ockeghem's songs and masses. They sounded really weird to my fifteen-year-old ear, but oddly appealing, and I listened to them quite frequently. Years later in college, in music history, we hit that period and the professor told us that Ockeghem had himself been a bass and his music was notable for its interesting and unusually low basslines. During the final, she played a sample of music from the period and asked if it was by Ockeghem or another composer we'd covered. Even though the piece was unfamiliar I knew right off it wasn't Ockeghem, couldn't tell you why, it just didn't sound right. But after class, everyone else, all music majors, was discussing that question and they had all said it was Ockeghem because they thought the bassline sounded very low. I was right, and they were wrong. That's the sort of thing I mean when I say it matters what Character A's background is.
robling_t From: robling_t Date: January 21st, 2010 06:25 am (UTC) (permalink this entry)
Character A is the contemporary-to-1966 character who I'm making play "spot the anachronism" -- he needs to catch on that it's the same group he's much more used to hearing sound very differently...
grahamwest From: grahamwest Date: January 21st, 2010 12:13 am (UTC) (permalink this entry)
1966 seems to be the watershed to me but what really happened is their range of musical style broadened. Rubber Soul is very classic Beatles, simple structure and straightforward themes. Revolver has some of that but also things like Good Morning (which is a pretty damn odd song), Yellow Submarine and And Your Bird Can Sing.

Sgt Pepper (the following album, mid 1967) is even less 'ordinary' and to be honest has always felt a bit self-indulgent to me. Magical Mystery Tour still has plenty of that experimentalism but not quite as much, and from there the music tends to get leaner, sometimes harder (eg. Helter Skelter) and more tightly focused. It may be because there was less and less collaboration between Lennon and McCartney in those last couple of years.
donia From: donia Date: January 21st, 2010 01:31 am (UTC) (permalink this entry)
I'm speaking on a purely personal level here. I had that "it ain't right" reaction listening to Rubber Soul. It sounded like the Beatles in that they were still singing mostly love songs, but I found the lyrics more mature (not just infantile "Please Please Me" pablum) and the music became more intricate and added sounds that were previously unconventional for them (the sitar in "Norwegian Wood" and the fuzz bass in "Think For Yourself" come immediately to mind).

After that, it seemed like they decided to throw all the rules of making music out the window, but Rubber Soul was the album where one might think the artists were a Beatles-influenced band rather than the Beatles themselves.
lisa_marli From: lisa_marli Date: January 21st, 2010 03:16 am (UTC) (permalink this entry)
OK, let the Old Foggy get in here. This is one of the Few Times I will let my Real Age show, so use it wisely. I was 12 in 1964, and I own EVERY Beatles thing as it came out since then. Even saw them live. So for me this is MY history. And I can look back in 20/20 hindsight as well as any Beatles Historian.

Revolver was the album that bridges between the old stuff and Sgt Peppers.
Song list -
1. Taxman
2. Eleanor Rigby
3. I'm Only Sleeping
4. Love You To
5. Here, There and Everywhere
6. Yellow Submarine
7. She Said, She Said
8. Good Day Sunshine
9. And Your Bird Can Sing
10. For No One
11. Doctor Robert
12. I Want to Tell You
13. Got to Get You into My Life
14. Tomorrow Never Knows

They were finally doing songs they Could Not Do on stage. They were showing more of their talent. Yet, they were still the Beatles. If you want something that someone would go, WTF?, go with Tomorrow Never Knows. It's so John, but very trippy.
If you want it to be more recognizably Beatles - Eleanor Rigby. That is such a Paul song, but with Violins? It made ears turn.
Sgt Pepper's was next and was very much a continuation of what they did in Revolver.

If you want something that is "Beatles but not what we know" from Sgt Peppers - Day in the Life. It has some of John and some of Paul, both recognizable, but the orchestra and sound effects would freak out a Pre-Revolver Beatles fan.

Revolver and Sgt Peppers are frequently lumped together in Beatle discussions.

Next came Magical Mystery Tour.

Then totally off the wall and No One knew what to do with it was the "White Album", which actually doesn't even have a Real Title, White Album is just its nickname. The Beatles deliberately didn't name it. And yes, I have a copy with the embossed The Beatles on it. ;)
If you really want to mess with a Beatles Fan's head - the doo wop version of Revolution. A lot of people who only heard the Beatles on the radio have still not heard that one, even now. It is pure John, but really wacky. :D

PS One day I want to do a Beatles "Historically Accurate" Outfit from the 23rd Century. Imagine if you will a Sgt Pepper's Cut of Jacket and pants, BUT done in grey silk with red pipping (like their first outfits). XD Did I mention that I'm a Beatles Fan?
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