After re-immersing myself in The Beatles’ music, I’m feeling really inspired. Continuing from last week’s The Beatles (part 1) post, and here are a few more random reflections…
(6) Everything I know about creating vocal harmonies is from The Beatles. First, they often added subtle, simple, gradually building harmony parts. Listen to Paul’s background singing on “The Ballad of John and Yoko“. He doesn’t even sing until half way through the song (the bridge)…adds only a couple words on verse 5…and then sings the whole verse 6. And it’s exactly what the song needs! Second, the Beatles would often sing odd counter-melodies rather than the traditional harmony part. For example, listen to the chorus of “Yellow Submarine”. What a strange and wonderful harmony. Finally, they often followed the “less is more principle”. Paul sang one single harmony line on “I’m So Tired”, and it was perfect.
(7) If I had to guess Enneagram types, I’d guess that John is a 1 (or 4), Paul is a classic 3, George is a 4 (or 9), and Ringo is a 7.
(8) As fruity as Paul could be, he did give us “Helter Skelter”, which is one of the most brutal Beatles songs ever. It doesn’t make up for the schmaltz of “Martha My Dear” or “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”, but it is really heavy and quite awesome.
(9) Similarly, Lennon spent so much time keeping people arms length with humor and wordplay, but his moments of sincerity were devastatingly beautiful. The tender and heartbreaking “Julia” (about his mom who died when he was young) will make you cry.
(10) Let me end with a controversial one. Ready? The Beatles songwriting is a bit overrated. This pains me to write. To be clear, I believe that Lennon/McCartney are one of the greatest songwriting teams in history, and many of their songs are absolutely, brilliantly, game-changing: “In My Life”, “Strawberry Fields”, “Something”, “Yesterday”, “I Am the Walrus”, etc. The Beatles are why I wanted to be a songwriter! HOWEVER, when you really look at it, even a superfan must admit that they had a ton of stinkers also. “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”, “Good Morning”, “Your Mother Should Know”, “Doctor Robert”. And the White Album is a clear example of one brilliant album spread over two records.
This is actually really encouraging to me. Whenever I think of the mythic Beatles, they become an almost fictional, inaccessible fairytale that has nothing to teach mere mortals like the rest of us. But when I remember that they were actually just four guys (extraordinarily talented, of course) who were capable of writing bad songs AND brilliant songs, then there is hope for the rest of us!
So friends, may we each each create something today. In whatever you do, find a way to breathe new life into it. Take a risk…reimagine the process…use a new tool…approach it from a new angle…or simply toss out the old and begin with a new, clean sheet of infinite possibility. And let’s see what happens.
You may end up creating a stinker like “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”, of course. And it sure will be fruity. But who knows, you may stumble upon a “Hey Jude”…