Wednesday, July 2, 2008

the music of the great collapse

What are the best and/or most significant pop albums or songs of the Great Collapse? I’ve been thinking about this for a long time with the help of a very dear friend of mine, but it’s still not an easy question to answer. I’ll try and do one or two Great Collapse albums per post over the coming days or possibly weeks, depending on my energy level. They'll be done in no particular order of importance. Feel free to chime in with your own opinions along the way...

Abbey Road. Compare the awakening and discovery ringing out from the tracks on Rubber Soul and Revolver with the sense on Abbey Road, released only three or four years later, that something magical has come to an end. There’s still a good bit of 60s righteousness (‘Come Together’) and sentimentality (‘Here Comes the Sun’), along with a few cringe making tracks (Maxwell’s Silver Hammer, Octopus’s Garden). But Abbey Road also features some of the best, most poignant and most fascinating moments in Beatledom. …The strung-out desperation of ‘I Want You’, with John and Paul singing “she’s so heavy” against a backdrop of furious guitar, organ and bass, was not merely John’s passionate lust letter to Yoko, but also a clear indication that smack had replaced LSD as the most appropriate form of chemical escape, a protective shield grizzled hippies could use to numb themselves against the pain of disillusionment and unrealized aspirations. …Then there’s the medley on Side 2, which John hated for reasons I can't fathom (other than that it was Paul's brainchild) becaue it's such a remarkable string of melodic fragments, all held together by what is arguably the most passionate playing those guys ever committed to record. They clearly knew the end was near and they wanted to go out in memorable fashion. …When Paul sings openly about the collapse of the Beatles (“and in the middle of negotiations, you break down”), isn't he also singing more generally about the collapse of the 60s? In a lot of ways, after all, The Beatles are the 60s. I think this is why I still get chills when I hear Paul sing, “soon we’ll be away from here, step on the gas and wipe that tear away.”

…What’s incredible to me is that I’ve probably listened to Side 2 of Abbey Road a thousand times since I was seven years old, but I still love it every time I hear it. Sure, there’s no longer the same mixture of fantasy and wonder that’s sadly limited to the way a child hears music (I’d give almost anything to get that back), but I still manage to catch something exciting every time I put Abbey Road on the 'ol turntable, even though I can sing every word, hit every one of Ringo’s excellent fills, and play air guitar to every Leslie toned note.

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