Oompah, Oompah, Stick It in Your Jumper

For the last couple of years, I’ve actively avoided listening to The Beatles. I have to do that every so often, because the sounds are so familiar, so thoroughly blended into my brain chemistry, that they can turn into sonic wallpaper unless I deliberately put some distance between myself and the music.

Every time I go back to the *oeuvre*, as I have recently, it surprises me which songs exert the strongest attraction. This round, it’s the older, scruffier work — the sheer exuberance of “She Loves You” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, Ringo’s cow bell and Lennon’s menacing lead vocal on “You Can’t Do That”, the cheesy but endearing sentimentalism of “P.S. I Love You”, and the group’s astonishing leap in sophistication — lyrically, musically, thematically, technically, even vocally – between those early recordings and, say, “Ticket to Ride”, only a year or so later.

The Fabs were inspirational to me as more than just music. The way they approached their art — as a living, growing, ever-evolving, ever-changing endeavor — has been the way I’ve chosen to approach my work as a writer. (Not that I’ve ever created anything nearly as memorable as “Ticket to Ride”, let alone the walruses, racoons, and warm, happy guns that were soon to follow.)

No big point here, or anything. I just wanted to jot down a few words on the subject because listening again made me smile.

13 Responses to “Oompah, Oompah, Stick It in Your Jumper”

  1. Fred Chamberlain Says:

    I’m at the tender young age of 38 and I actually have noticed over the last few years that the Beatles songs speak to me *not ain a Manson type of way* in a very different manner as I mature. I was a Twist and Shout guy in high school, but I too have come to strongly appreciate or identify with different songs each time that I pull out the old stuff. I went through a mad All My Lovin’ phase and that song still resonates with me, but I truly enjoy some of their music that I never got when I was a young un.

  2. PeteTheRetailer Says:

    Most people tend to split the catalog into ‘early’ or ‘late’ Beatles, but if you divide it into three (the magic number), as the Anthologies did, my favorite stuff always ends up being the ‘middle’ Beatles, the movie-era stuff covered by Anthology 2.

    (I think it’s about time I broke out of my own self-imposed Beatles hiatus. Thanks, Steve!)

  3. Tom Walker Says:

    From either end of the career, there have been some interewting modern releases. Live at the BBC is great to flesh out the early 60’s stuff. And the Anthology stuff had some great nuggets for the bootleg lovers.

    Not sure what the acoustic version of Let It Be is like though..

    Rubber Soul and Revolver always make me want to return to them – but live at BBC album eclipses the early stuff for me as they are such tight live sets.

    IMO Songs about love never go out of style, and remain quite timeless.

  4. Tom Walker Says:

    Never thought of the middle period as the “movie” period before.. hmm..

  5. Jeff Clem Says:

    I was a Beatle fan in the early 70s, mostly because my older brother was. He was a guitarist in a local band and I wanted to play guitar like him, and that meant learning how to play Beatles songs. In 1986, I gave up the guitar and didn’t listen to the Beatles for many years. I’ve taken up the guitar again recently and I’ve rediscovered the Beatles, specifically the older stuff, which I looked down upon for years because of the so-called lack of musical and lyrical sophistication. Foolish me – sure, they may be “simple,” hook-ish pop songs about adolescent love, but man is there energy there! “Don’t Bother Me”, “You Can’t Do That” and “I Call Your Name”, “All I Gotta Do” are brilliant, “simple” pop songs that really are captured lightning bolts in a bottle! And if these formulaic pop songs are so simple, then why can’t anyone write them? Simplicity, or what appears to be simplicity

  6. Steve Gerber Says:

    Almost everything after “Love Me Do” is only deceptively simple. There’s a lot going on musically under the surface of those silly love songs.

    For me, the line of demarcation between the early and middle periods has always been “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away”. It’s probably not true historically, in terms of what was recorded when, but you can feel the sea changing under that song. Everything on Rubber Soul and beyond seems to spring directly out of it.

    FWIW, my vote for most underrated song in the entire Beatles catalogue: the almost unnoticed “Things We Said Today”.

  7. Joe Brusky Says:

    Steve, Leaving things you enjoy for a while and jumping back in now-and-then is great for your soul.

    Now, I can buy that “A day in the life,” “Stawberry hill” or “The Fool on the hill” can get an emotional reaction, I can’t see how “I want to hold your hand” does… 😉

  8. Joe Brusky Says:

    “Strawberry Fields…”

  9. iamthatiam Says:

    Like you, I go back on forth on my fave Beatle periods. I actually divide them thusly:
    Early – thru Hard Day’s Night
    Middle – thru Revolver
    Late Middle – thru Magical Mystery Tour
    Late – thru Let it Be (and this one could be broken down even further probably)

  10. Micah Says:

    I think the last song the Beatles recorded for Rubber Soul was “I’m Looking Through You” or something like that. I know for sure the first song they recorded for Revolver was “Tomorrow Never Knows”.

    To me that has to be the biggest musical leap forward any band has ever made, and for me that divides their early work from the later stuff.

    For me, their stuff before that was really cool Motown influenced music and by Revolver they were artists with sound. Mind you, throughout their career they have this great contrast between Lennon and McCartney.

  11. Micah Says:

    I completely agree with Steve’s “deceptively simple” comment about the Beatles.

    As a musician I learned to play guitar from their songs and am to this day amazed at how odd these perfectly simple sounding songs really are. “She Said, She Said” changes time signatures in the middle eight, so does “Here Comes the Sun” but Ringo makes them both sound like nothing out of the ordinary is happening.

    And chord structures. From the beginning they were daring, and by the end they put together chord structures almost as if they had forgotten what the last chord was that they played, all the while never compromising the song for the sake of being clever.

  12. Steve Gerber Says:

    Joe: “Now, I can buy that ‘A day in the life,’ ‘Stawberry [Fields]’ or ‘The Fool on the hill’ can get an emotional reaction, I can’t see how ‘I want to hold your hand’ does…”

    Maybe you just had to be there in 1964. Or maybe you just had to be *me* — a fate I would wish on no one.

    Hearing “I Want to Hold Your Hand” reminds me a lot of what it felt like to read *Fantastic Four* #1 a few years earlier. When the experience ended, you knew *something* earth-shattering had just taken place, even if you weren’t quite sure what it was.

  13. Steve Gerber Says:

    …and then there’s “Old Brown Shoe”, a pleasant-enough-sounding George Harrison number I’ve never paid much attention to before. Tonight, for some reason, I bothered to look up the lyric. These are the first two lines:

    “I want a love that’s right, but right is only half of what’s wrong.
    I want a short-haired girl who sometimes wears it twice as long.”

    Sometimes, all you can do is sit there and go “wow.”