It’s The Song I Hate

Former Ron Paul acolyte and current Republi-tarian Eric Dondero has decided to fully eliminate all Obama supporters, left-leaners and democrats from his life. He’s excommunicating every Obama voter and shutting them down from even the smallest interaction with his personal economy. He’s encouraging others to do the same. Only by an extreme boycott of all democratic voters, he supposes, can one force others to finally see how they’re destroying the country.

Unfortunately for him, and others who hope to follow the same path, this extends to his music tastes:

I don’t listen to music by Democrats any more. I try to do some research on the political leanings of those I listen too. Oingo Boingo called themselves “libertarians” in the early 1980s. I listen to them. Neal Peart of Rush called himself an Ayn Randist couple times. I love Rush. I like pro-British patriot Frank Turner out of the UK. The Guardian did a big interview with him over the summer, and he said he was a “libertarian.” And of course, there’s always Ted Nugent, and KISS, both hardline right-libertarians. Marshall Tucker Band, Kid Rock. Did you know lead guitarist for Stealy [sic] Dan is also a rightist. The Lt. Dan Band. Madison Rising is great. Metallica and Motorhead have expressed right leanings in interviews.

Honestly, doesn’t always work. I miss sometimes. But if Springsteen or some other leftist America-hater comes on my Sirius/XM channel and I can get to the dial fast enough, I will switch it.

Elton John is a toughie. You know he leans left. But he made friends with Rush Limbaugh of all people last year. So, I give him a pass. Oh, and the Beatles had that classic “tax man.” John Lennon’s personal aide in his last few weeks of life, was interviewed last year, and said that he turned into a Reaganite in the last few months before he was killed. Isn’t that ironic?

God save the poor libertarian / Republican who tries to remain pure in his music listening. There aren’t many options available. And when you expand the pool of options beyond Rush or Ted Nugent :(, you end up grasping at any remotely plausible anecdote or sliver of justification just so you can listen to the Beatles.

Yes, all the Beatles hated Britain’s aggressively progressive tax system, so they moved to the U.S. But Lennon was probably not a closet Republican. And I have a feeling Elton John’s detente with Rush Limbaugh was related to the $1 million he was paid for the wedding gig. Still, all is not lost for the principled libertarian music fan. You may not be able to indulge Rage Against The Machine. But you can probably enjoy some Green Day or Dwight Yoakam.

Week 154: John Lennon

To me the Beatles will always be John Lennon. I know they each had their personalities and each personality contributed to the whole that was the Beatles, but to me it was always John’s band. And to me John is also the one who really was a Beatle until the end.

My mom introduced me to the Beatles, at a very early age, the early albums Introducing the Beatles, Meet the Beatles, Something New, Beatles IV. I remember not being able to tell them apart. And then slowly I started to be able and the first one that I could easily recognize was John Lennon. It was the 70s and I was a kid and I loved the Beatles. I wanted all their albums. So my mom started buying one album for every birthday and some Christmases too. Until I had all the main Capitol releases, on nice vinyl, and a few from my mom in well cared for first printings in the thick 60s vinyl. My mom taught me how to use a turntable and how to care for records. And we would sit around talking about Beatles lyrics. The first Beatles song I memorized was I am the Warlus. I learned all the lyrics by heart even though I had no idea what most of it meant. I remember talking lyrics with my mom in the apartment which although small had a great front balcony with breeze from the beach less than a block away always blowing and the waves always in the background. It’s hard not to be relaxed in that environment. I remember discussing pigs in a sty and lucy in the sky and semolina pilchard. And in pre-google days, we could only conjecture.

She had a Mustang Mach II yellow mustard with racing stripes up the hood and a cassette player, which in those days was like having a blue-ray disk player. I don’t know how she afforded that car, it looked so bad ass. So we made mixed tapes, of Beatle songs we liked. And we would drive around and crank the stereo.

At one point she took me to see Beatlemania. I think I was 11 or 12. I had all the records by then, and had started to veer into other music, mostly disco 45s that I could afford to buy for a dollar at the store. I still have that nice collection of disco 45s with some real gems, Unlike large chunks of the albums I’ve collected over the years, the disco 45s are easy to take with you, with LPs I had to lose some every time I’ve moved and I’ve moved a lot.

Beatlemania was awesome. For me it was pretty much a Beatles concert, certainly the only one I could access. They played songs from all the records and I think ended with Hey Jude, by which time my mom and me where on the seats jumping up and down and singing.

In high school she moved to Brussels and I stayed in Puerto Rico, I was stubborn and just starting to get the hand of being a teenager, and you know girls. So I stayed, but would go spend the summers in Europe, where I discovered that in Europe the Beatles records were all different, well somewhat. Different album titles, covers, different songs, more songs actually in each album side, and some different mixes. So I started again. When in Europe I started buying all the Parlaphone versions. I also started discovering New Wave and bands like Madness, the Police, The Clash, the Sex Pistols, all bands which were already popular in Europe, but wouldn’t be heard of in Puerto Rico for another year or two. And right by where my mom lived in Brussels there was a library where one could check out albums and then take them home and record them to cassette. I remember recording Sandinista and London Calling among others. Then with my brand new walkman I went through Europe listening to those cassettes, and the Beatles cassettes.

By this point I had all the albums so one year my mom bought what would be the final Beatles record she would give me and the last one added to my collection, since then the collection has been in reductive path. The album she gave me was a Beatles picture disk with the songs from the original demo for Capitol with Pete Best on drums. Pure awesome. Even though its all covers, some of them cheesey Vegas-like numbers like Besame Mucho, you can totally hear the rock in it. I love that record.

So October 9 was John Lennon’s birthday. At many times in my life people have asked me who’s my favorite Beatle. A stupid idea, but whatever, I usally answer quickly and move on. And often I have not chosen John. But all in all, he’s the one I think had the greatest impact artistically. John Lennon’ s and Kurt Cobain’s are the celebrity deaths which marker my life.

Right before Lennon was shot, my mom had brought me Double Fantasy from New York, and I immediately loved it. What a great record, even with the Yoko Ono songs, some of which are actually quite good. And then he got shot. It was very sad.

My mom posted this video on facebook saying thanks to John.

And I say, gracias Mami.

And here’s the Beatles in top form playing their first non-love song.

105 and 80

So a blog called JamsBio ranked all 185 of the Beatles songs, ambulance and compiled relatively lengthy essays (by Internet standards) for each track. I’m not one to vigorously debate or criticize such lists, because, you know, who cares? That there is an innate subjectivity in this kind of thing goes without saying. I am, however grateful that someone went through the trouble. Talk about losing an afternoon. I will lose several perusing this list and listening again to my own less-than-complete Beatles collection.

I had two immediate reactions when I first clicked.

First, “There are only 185 songs?” Truthfully, I’d had this reaction once before when I read about how Norwegian radio station Nrk.no would be making the all 212 recorded Beatles songs available in a series of podcasts that originally aired in 2001. Their idea was similar to the JamsBio list. In each broadcast they played one of the Beatles songs with accompanying commentary. The discrepancy in the number of songs is perhaps explained because the 185 list includes only those songs composed by members of the Beatles. Other Internet lists include an even greater number (e.g., this one that counts 276, and the one on Wikipedia numbering nearly 300 songs) .

Whatever the actual number, it seems too small a measurement to quantify the band’s contribution to our civilization. It’s like learning that Shakespeare only wrote 36 plays or 154 sonnets. Except, well, with the Beatles, authorship is a much less contentious issue.

My second reaction was to immediately find my two favorite tracks:

105. “From Me To You”

80. “I’m Only Sleeping”

Again, it doesn’t bother me that my favorite songs ranked so low on this particular list. Neither are among the most traditionally cited faves, and even I can’t explain why I place them above other songs I dearly love (e.g., 25. “Ticket To Ride”, 57. “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, or 78. “Oh! Darling”). Except to say that I have intensely personal memories of both songs that are frankly kind of meaningless.

image “From Me to You” is my favorite of the early Beatles tracks, mostly because they played it at the Hard Rock Cafe all the time when I worked there in ‘97 and ‘98. They actually played a crapload of Beatles songs, and it was my first sustained exposure to the band. It was the first time I had lots of free mental time to think about what I was hearing. I think I’ve said so before, but the music they played at the HRC—when I was covered in sweat and food on the second half of a double—those songs are some of my best-remembered. It was a purely physical job, with a constant backing track and nothing else but the music to occupy my thoughts.

But there’s something extra about “From Me to You.” That moment when John sings, “Just call on me,” is pure sex. I always wanted to sound like that. I think wanting to be a rock singer was really me wishing I was capable of pulling that sound out of my ass, even if I was late coming out of the “woooo” part.

“I’m Only Sleeping” is, to me, one of the Beatles’ most brilliant songs. Much higher, for me, than #80. But I’m not sure I can put it any better than the JamsBio list:

That famous backward guitar is the most distinguishing characteristic of the song, a bit of inspired studio wizardry from George Martin. But check out the other subtle touches that add to the track’s tired feeling, like Paul’s tip-toeing bass and the way the song practically stops on several occasions, as if, persuaded by John’s alluring argument, it dozed off itself.

The whole song sounds like it’s shot in soft-focus, supported only by Paul’s loping, drunk-man-on-stilts bass line. Again, back in the HRC days, I’d play my roommate’s copy of Revolver over and over again on the days I didn’t have to work until 5. Right at noon I’d pop open the first of two Lone Star Tall Boys and listen to the whole record. Usually followed by Elliot Smith’s XO. By the time I got to work, I felt like nothing could disturb me or keep me from having a great night.

Around this same time, I also remember borrowing my friend’s VHS copy of the 8-part Anthology. Before watching it, I had always been more of a ‘Stones guy. And I guess I still am a Stones guy, but before those Beatle-intensive days in 97-98, I really didn’t know what I was missing. 200 or 300 great songs, two of which are my favorites.