13 August 2007
I’ve got nothing to say but it’s OK, Good Morning, Good Morning….
As a musician, writer, and Beatles fan I would be remiss if I did not, in this forum, mention the 40th anniversary of the release (1 June 1967) of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Of the album John Lennon once said: “[Sgt. Pepper] is one of the most important steps in our career. It had to be just right. We tried, and I think we succeeded in achieving what we set out to do. If we hadn’t, then it wouldn’t be out now.” (“The Beatles Anthology” [page 252] Copyright Apple Corps Ltd. 2000)
I was not alive when this historical album was released. In fact, it wasn’t until I was 6 or 7 years old when we were living in Charlotte, North Carolina that, thanks to a neighbour who had his hands on copies of ‘The Blue and Red’ albums that I became conscious, or rather, mildly obsessed with The Beatles. Before too long tennis rackets became guitars, and we all jumped around on a waterbed pretending to be the band while listening to the albums. I played Paul, my friend played John and whomever we could find in the neighbourhood played George and Ringo. It was a very cool time, and being so young I had no idea who these guys really were I only knew that l loved what I heard. Only later on as I got older and I discovered the rest of their catalogue did I fully comprehend the magnitude of their influence – not only on my life as a musician but also on the world of music at large.
I am at a loss for words as to how to describe ‘Sgt. Pepper’ suffice it to say that it is probably one of the most amazing and complete albums ever produced. EVER. I don’t just say that as a Beatles fan I say that as a lover of music of many kinds and a lover of words. “Good Morning Good Morning” is probably my favourite tune of the whole collection with “Getting Better” and “She’s Leaving Home” coming in very close seconds. It is a masterpiece, every last breathe of it, every sound effect, every drumbeat.
Sometimes I’ve found that I have had the most fun in my life when I’ve woken up in the morning and had no plans for the rest of the day. Some days something comes up that you never imagined you would want to do but find yourself glad that you were available to do it. Life is funny that way and it’s cool when we can just, as Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote, ‘lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach…’(from “Gift from the Sea” 1955). This is how my Saturday began.
Four sips into my morning ice coffee (cream, no sugar) I got a text message from my neighbour Holly asking if I was awake – I replied ‘barely, y?’. She wrote me that she had two tickets to The Hollywood Bowl show “Sgt. Pepper at 40” that night that she was too busy to attend and would I want to go in her place? Sure! Why not? I’ve got no other plans and it could be a lot of fun.
I have to admit that I’m a bit of a purist in my approach to people covering The Beatles. Basically, they shouldn’t. To me it is sacrilegious to even dare attempt to interpret or recreate their songs. Sure, do it in your living room, or your bedroom when no one is around. I see the point in that as it is how, at age 12, I taught myself how to play guitar, but some random cover song…nah – not for me; hence my reluctance to get tickets to see the show when it was first advertised. Somehow the last minute idea of how to spend a Saturday night in Los Angeles, the free tickets and the experience of hearing Joan Osborne, Aimee Mann, Ian Ball (from Gomez) and Cheap Trick playing these songs along with Edwin Outwater conducting The Hollywood Bowl Orchestra was too much to pass up. I’m glad I didn’t.
Short of having Paul or Ringo on stage this was a very cool night of music! While the first half of the show consisted of the guest artists choice of other Beatles songs (Joan Osborne singing “Lady Madonna” was truly amazing while Aimee Mann and Rob Laufer playing “Blackbird” was nearly heavenly) - the second half was a recreation of the album in order, in it’s entirety, and right down to the last sitar. Not only was the engineer, Geoffrey Emerick, who worked on ‘Sgt. Pepper’ the engineer for the night, but all was performed and mixed as it was on the album - right down to the last sound effect and vocal arrangement and it was done LIVE!!! YES. LIVE!!! Something that had never been done before. As I listen to the CD while I write this I can hear how accurate and true to the original recording that night was.
Perhaps for me the most exciting moments were when I would peak over the heads of the many in front of me in order to catch a glimpse of Geoffrey Emerick working his magic. Oh to have been a fly in that sound booth. Oh to have been a fly on stage. Oh. I’m so lucky I was able to go and be a part of the sold out audience.
Performance - wise there was none more perfect a moment than Joan Osborne – in her own right an incredible musician, songwriter, and performer (I saw her live with Abby and my friend Jodi at The Roxy in July of 2005 – she kicked ass) – who, whilst singing “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” in this incredibly sexy and bluesy voice had her long, curly blonde hair tousled and played with by the breeze that was flowing through the Bowl. There was something ethereal about that moment, something otherworldly and something so perfect about the timing that I got shivers. A beautiful moment that made me grateful that I had woken up that morning ‘empty, open and choiceless’.
As for whether my views on covering The Beatles have changed, I’d say yes – to a point. Cheap Trick playing their music (or any recreation of Saturday night) – I’d see again; Aimee Mann, Joan Osborne, in a heartbeat. Alicia Keys, Regina Spektor, Jamie Cullum or Lily Allen – sure. Justin Timberlake, Rihanna or anyone from “High School Musical” – not on your life! I guess it all depends on who is doing the singing. But no matter what Saturday night was a cooooool night and it was pretty amazing witnessing a small part of history!
A note about last week’s entry: If you are interested in seeing some pictures from the trip I have posted them on my myspace page www.myspace.com/laraschuler. Also, not to point out the obvious but the song I wrote on my latest release, NUMB, entitled “Jackson Hole” is indeed a love song that tells my parents story and can be sampled on itunes.
Thanks for tuning in…Until next Monday….CHEERS!!