I’m working my way through the new “White Album.” Unlike Dylan’s “More Blood, More Tracks,” you don’t have to pony up for the CDs to get all the tracks, and who has a CD player anymore anyway? Both my computers don’t have one, then again, these packages are for collectors, kinda like vinyl, which many people buy as a souvenir, or to play on cheap turntables that sound worse than MP3s.
And I like Giles, but I still believe these remixes are heinous, they mess with not only the originals, what you know in your mind, but history. It’s as if we went back and changed WWII movies into color, made some people bigger and released it, and then the new version becomes the de facto version and those who were there originally pass away and…
I ultimately had to skip the remixes, they were too offensive, more bass, more drums, not like I remember, it would be one thing if I sat in the studio and Giles was pushing the faders, but to set these cuts in amber is sacrilegious, and can I say that Jeff Jones and the Beatles should give Steven Wilson a crack at future remixes, he hasn’t got Giles’s pedigree, but when he remixes Jethro Tull and Yes and…the finished product sounds just like the original but cleaner, I don’t know how he does it, but the end result is stupendous, and this is from someone who is categorically against remixing, remastering…that’s okay.
But what you do need to listen to is the Esher demos, then you’ll get the idea of what the sixties and the Beatles were really about. You see they’re imperfect. We think of the Beatles as being self-contained and hermetically sealed. Like they were fully-formed and needed no additions, but these demos truly argue for George Martin being the Fifth Beatle, he added so much, but what is here… The guitars oftentimes sound like what you strum at home… But the voices! You’ll be stunned, from an era back when being able to hit the notes was a prerequisite to having a musical career. We could sit at home and strum like this, but we could never sing like this, but we tried. In the early 1900s you sat around a piano and sang. In the sixties you picked up a guitar and sang along. Now you make beats and…
And “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” was impressive for having its own character, George’s vocal penetrating, it stands next to the studio iteration, it’s not a pale imitation.
But the winner is…
Oh, to go back when, when the Beatles broke up, and Paul McCartney released the first solo LP and was excoriated. George got all the kudos with “All Things Must Pass,” but have you listened to that lately? Time has not been kind. As for Lennon’s debut…positive reviews, but few listens. Then the second LP “Imagine” was released and the title track was ubiquitous and became legendary. And on that album was “Jealous Guy,” of which I think Rod Stewart does the best cover, before his image ate him and he became about the trappings as opposed to the music.
But before it was “Jealous Guy,” it was “Child Of Nature,” written in India like “Junk,” but not released on the “White Album,” but the demo here… Whew! It’s a winner, the tune of “Jealous Guy,” but with completely different lyrics, John is happy as opposed to bitter, there’s no angst, only bliss. Pretty fascinating.
But, once again, the winner is “Junk.”
Originally it was called “Jubilee,” and some of the lyrics are unfinished, a lot of them in fact, but the magic remains, arguably more than the finished product.
I first heard “McCartney” in the middle of summer, stoned in a frat house on the Cornell campus, it was then that the album revealed itself to me. And to tell you the truth, I always preferred “Every Night” and “Teddy Boy,” never mind “Maybe I’m Amazed,” but I certainly knew “Junk” and its partner “Singalong Junk.”
Motor cars, handle bars
Bicycles for two
Sans the excess production, with just guitars and vocals, this Esher demo version is more intimate, more dreamy, it’s the essence of the Beatles’ wizardry, the way they made the basics rise above, be more than seemed possible.
Unlike the other demos, the guitars are more polished, and the vocals are nearly perfect, but the track is riddled with some feedback, but that only makes it more real, it’s the imperfections that make something live. Why are we striving to be automatons, perfect and soulless, when what makes us so attractive is that we’re all unique, with assets and deficits, when you sand off the edges you’re just like everybody else and that’s not appealing.
The “White Album” was not for parties, it was for bedrooms, for headphones, it was a personal experience. And “Junk” is as personal as it gets, like walking down a dark street just after the rain stopped, when it’s not quite cold enough to scrunch your shoulders, when you’re even-tempered and happy to be alive.
P.S. Yes, completists will tell me there’s a version of “Junk” on “Anthology 3,” but it’s out of context and doesn’t have the same magic. It’s when you realize that “Junk” was created at the same time as the rest of the “White Album,” when you hear it next to those other tracks, that it stands out, when you hear it as a Beatle number as opposed to a solo number, when you think about it being rejected for the double album, even though it would have fit perfectly and changed the character of that project just a tiny little bit, giving us a different view, which we now have.