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February 10, 2021


Sorry chaps, but this is the nearest open thread I could find without wading through pages of old comments.

So, since so many of you seem to be very keen on the Beatles, I give you again something from the Ruffian Blog (Ian Leslie seems as obsessed as JDT). And I link below (only about 13 minutes) what he calls a forensic dissection of The Argument).

There’s a clip, legendary among Beatles fans, of George and Paul having an argument over how to play Hey Jude. George wants to add a guitar phrase to the verse, Paul thinks it’s an unnecessary complication (this is the best video version I can find). The clip is from footage of their 1969 sessions, shot for what became the documentary film Let It Be (the footage is being recut and will be released in a different form next year). “The Argument” gets cited to explain the band’s split, but I’m sceptical about that. Conflict doesn’t spell the breakdown of a relationship; in fact, it can be a sign of its vitality. The Beatles almost certainly argued with each other throughout, it’s just that we don’t have tapes for most of it. We do know that each of them save John walked out in a huff following big rows at various points. This forensic and beautifully presented dissection of The Argument suggests that it was fairly mild, albeit tetchy. It also offers a fascinating glimpse into the dynamic of the band at that time. The exchange actually occurred in the course of a much longer argument during a rehearsal of Two Of Us. Most of the debate is about how to play that song, but it’s also about Paul trying to persuade the others to adopt a more systematic approach to the whole project (they were planning to perform the new songs live on TV and he was worried they wouldn’t be ready). Maybe this won’t be interesting to anyone who isn’t a Beatles nerd but even if you’re not, isn’t it incredible have a raw and unfiltered record of one of the all-time great creative collaborations, as it happens - tensions, irritations, disagreements and all? If it is is a little boring, that’s interesting too - it shows how magic can grow out of a long series of banal interactions. Anyway - it’s during this extended argument that Paul coins a favourite quote of mine, applicable to any creative process: “It’s complicated now. If we can get it simpler, and then complicate it where it needs to be complicated.” Whether you’re stuck on a song, an essay or a coding project, this is great advice: strip it back to its simplest form and then let the complications force their way in. (A little later, Paul rephrases it: “Let’s get the confusion unconfused, and then confuse it.”) Worth noting that the final version of Two of Us is very different, much simpler, and miles better than their early drafts. Since we have tapes of early takes throughout the band’s recording years, we know that this was typical of The Beatles: they were superb at improving what they started with. I suspect the arguments helped.


Good find, GftNC: Thanks.

If you listen to the BeatOuts .... formerly, and I guess still underground recordings of take after take of mostly their early songs, they had an uncanny knack of making the exact right choice, a harmony part here, a key change there, a fresh way of starting the song (George Martin was in on this too), maybe even incorporating a fortuitous mistake , etc .... each step of the way to the finished version of a track.

Each take went forward, not backwards.

Also, this seems sideline, but I've had it my head to put together all of the isolated oohs, ahhs, yeahs, screams, oofs, owws, shooby-doo-ahhs, in their songs in one recording. Rarely were any out of place, and nor did any of them sound anything but spontaneous and perfectly timed in the context of the song.

And all in tune.

You can hear Paul do the same thing in his post-Beatles songs.

Yup, the new Let It Be will place all this crosstalk in fairer perspective, though sure, Paul was a bit bossy and the others prickly in return.

Not the Beatles, but the conversation of the way layers built up reminds me of this video I just found of Tony Visconti going through the source audio mix for Bowie's "Heroes:"


I was impressed by Visconti's discussion of the creative process and also the creative ways that they would have to capture layers and sounds when they had only 8 tracks to work with.


love these breakdowns, thanks nous.

cleek, have you seen a series called Classic Albums? They do exactly that, with the original sound engineers and producers (if alive) for lots of great albums. I highly recommend. I've just looked on Youtube, and lots of them seem to be available, but several of them (even ones I've watched here, like The Band, and Workingman's Dead/American Beauty) seem to be blocked in the UK. Maybe if you haven't seen the ones you're interested in you might have better luck.

yeah, i've watched most of those twice by now :)

we just watched the Rumours episode last weekend (wife's birthday TV choice!)

Huh, Rumours. I remember the summer when that was on every turntable, all the time. Sort of like the Buena Vista Social Club, years later. Funny how certain albums become the sound of a particular time...

I think most of the albums I would love to have get the classic albums treatment are just a little too fringe to fit the demographic. The only episode that I absolutely had to watch was for Peter Gabriel's So, which was fantastically produced. Such a lush album.

Would love to see an episode for Depeche Mode's Violator, or Dead Can Dance's Into the Labyrinth, or Swans' White Light from the Mouth of Infinity, or Fields of the Nephilim's Elizium.

have you read any of the 33.3 books? a book is definitely not the same as watching them deconstruct songs, but some of them go pretty deep into the recording process. (and others are just gushing about how great the record is)

I picked up the Fear of Music 33 1/3 that was written by Jonathan Lethem when I was planning out my writing class centered around music. Lethem's take is so interwoven with his own life and experience with the album. I'd love to use it as a model for a class assignment that challenges the students to move back and forth between the public and the personal, but that task is just a bit too far out of reach for most students in a lower division writing class.

I might see what I can do with it for an upper division expository writing class over the summer and pitch it for next year.

the Beatles thing was making me break out in hives.

I haven't played a gig in over a year now, cos COVID, but for a long time I was only free-lancing - no bands. When bands are working well, it's great, but when it's not, it's like being in four- or five-way group therapy. With no therapist.

The whole thing of trying to have a conversation while 2 or 3 other people are noodling around on their instruments in the same room at performance volume is enough to make anybody walk out of the room. And that's even before you get into the egos thing. One big ego can work, more than one always turns into some kind of weird passive-aggressive pissing contest. I'm always amazed the Beatles hung together as long as they did.

I like free-lancing. You get the call, they tell you the tunes, you learn 'em if you don't know them already, you show up and play, you have a beer, get paid, and go home.

Most of the time I was getting calls from people I'd played with in some band or other for years if not decades, so it was usually dead easy to get things to gel without rehearsal. I always just find the person with the best sense of time, lock in with them, and let everybody else tag along. It's usually the bass player or the rhythm guitar player.

Always take the singer's tempo, find a buddy in the band who has good time, don't overplay, and it'll all be cool.

NC GOP censures Senator Burr for voting to convict Trump.

the GOP is a malignancy.

Here's hoping that the Democrats in the Senate will realize that sometimes a Cabinet nominee might not be a good choice:

This lady presided over, and made worse, one of California's biggest screw-ups ever.

Glad we got this cleared up.

“We did not send him there to vote his conscience,” Dave Bell, chairman of the Republican Party in Washington County, Pa., said of Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.). “We did not send him there to ‘do the right thing,’ or whatever he said he was doing. We sent him there to represent us.”
We certainly wouldn't want a Senator to vote to do what's right. By preference, we'd like one who, like us, has no conscience. And they're being quite out front about it.

When this Dave Bell character says "we" and "us", he clearly means "the MAGAts of Washington County, PA" at least. The MAGAts of PA as a whole might share his ...special... view of civics, or they might not.

This pure tribalism may, possibly, be compatible with the sort of (d)emocracy the Framers supposedly tried to avoid, but it's a bit at odds with any (r)epublican form of government, let alone the purported justification for the existence and structure of the Senate.


When this Dave Bell character says "we" and "us", he clearly means "the MAGAts of Washington County, PA" at least. The MAGAts of PA as a whole might share his ...special... view of civics, or they might not.

Never mind the non-MAGAt Republicans there, if there are any left. Never mind the rest of the people of Pennsylvania, who, in some people's minds, Toomey is there to represent whether they voted for him or not. (This of course goes without saying around here, sorry for belaboring the obvious.) But:

"We" is generally a very very bad weasely, oftentimes tacitly abusive word. I am getting ever more obsessive about trying to avoid it unless I know very clearly which "we" I mean, and my readers do too.

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