Free Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020 No. 5
Goodbye, 1960s - Hello to the Ages
YEAH! YEAH! U.S.A.!
Generations scream to 'meet' the Beatles
MEADE TO FAB UP CALAPOOIA
BY CORY FRYE
‘Some people have blues or jazz for their roots’, musician Robert Meade says. ‘Beatles music is roots music to me’.
His education began in the late 1990s, as a boy in Santa Cruz, California. Like most anyone born after 1964, he was familiar with the name but not of the band’s reputation. The Beatles cast a long shadow. He asked his parents for a record. Neither owned one, so they bought him a collection for his 16th birthday: ‘The Beatles / 1962-1966’ (TCPCSP 717), the essential teeth-cutting primer — otherwise known as the Red Album — that tracks the Fabs from their initial brush with fame through the ‘Revolver’ LP (ST 2576). Perfect for neophytes desperate for thar first taste.
Luckily, Meade had an insatiable appetite. ‘It gave me hope and an idea of what the world was like at a young age’, he says. ‘It let me see that the possibilities were endless’
The Beatles informed his taste in melodies and inspired him to become a musician. In fact, we speak the day his latest track drops: ‘Chicoma Mt. Blues’, a soothing stroll across a delightfully warm delivery through a crisp, sun-dappled autumn. He describes his music as ‘Northwest Americana’, and that’s a rather accurate summation. Aside from The Beatles, his inspirations include Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Tom Petty, The Shins, and Radiohead’s Thom Yorke. But we’re getting ahead of our story.
As a youth, Meade picked up the guitar and began writing his own material, recording originals at home. At 21, he moved to New York City, then hopped back to the West Coast for stints in Seattle and a 15-year residence in Eugene before finding his way to the Oregon City area this past summer. He brought with him his affection for The Beatles, inaugurating a popular ‘Beatles Unplugged’ series in different cities. He rattles them off: Eugene, Roseburg, Salem, Tigard, Dallas — ‘anywhere I can play,’ he quips.
Around a year-and-a-half ago (minus the pandemic, which largely quashed his 2020 calendar), he brought it to the Calapooia Brewing Co. in Albany, where it became an immediate favorite. The show is refreshingly simple: Meade alone with an acoustic guitar and vocal effects pedals to replicate the distinctive Liverpudlian harmonies. Audience members submit requests and away he goes, his brain jam-packed with the band’s considerable discography.
It’s not always an easy task, considering The Beatles’ propensity for studio wizardry, and their absence from live performance after 21 August 1966, with some 3 years and 6 LPs remaining on their clock. But their poppy acumen is evident even in spare instrumentation. ‘That’s one way of knowing if a song’s good’, Meade says, ‘if you can strip it down and do it solo. It also gives people a chance to remember the recordings. Because you listen to something and know what the guitar sounds like or when the trumpet comes in. Stripping it down also allows people to become more involved with it. Before COVID, it was a sing-along, and right now I can’t do that’.
But he’ll be back at the ’Pooia (Liverpoolia?) this weekend, for two glorious hours beginning at 7 p.m. Saturday, 14 November. The series relaunched last month with the usual pandemic safeguards in place. Meade performs under a face shield with his tip jar a respectable 10 feet away. The audience maintains a similar distance.
‘I missed it,’ Meade says. ‘Originally, Calapooia was my best place to play. The people of Albany — we all get along and have fun for a couple of hours. It all goes by so quick. They’re excited. They send me their requests beforehand so I have a chance to learn something new if I have to. It’s a great time and I always look forward to playing there’.
So has anyone thrown him something strange, like ‘You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)’, the freakazoid, lounge-y, acid-trip dirge from the penultimate ‘Let It Be’ single? Oh, yeah. ‘I tried that one out, but I haven’t mastered it yet’, he says with a laugh. ‘It’s repetitive, with a lot of stuff going on, like (the Rolling Stones’) Brian Jones on trumpet in the background. If I can get everyone involved, we can pull it off together.’
And very few musical acts unite disparate souls like The Beatles, even more than a half-century after they ravaged the Cavern Club in Liverpool, opened minds, somehow conquered the world, and manage to reverberate even a generation or two after Meade’s initial discovery.
‘They’re still relevant. Their message is still relevant’, he says. ‘Timeless music, timeless melodies. And their fan base is still growing. You can be 6 years old and want to hear "Yellow Submarine". This is why I do it, my main reason and drive: It brings back memories. It brings something positive to a negative world’.
BY CORY FRYE
'It was, and remains, a great song, a joyous, reassuring sentiment riding gently atop an exuberantly beautiful melody. And it will always be Our Song, the song that, more than any other, introduced us Americans to the Beatles.'
They arrived in New York from London’s Heathrow on 7 February 1964. Though first-time visitors, these Liverpudlians were hardly foreigners to a screaming landing party of 3,000. Thanks to a (mostly) adoring press, their finest details were intimately known.
Capitol Records had anticipated/orchestrated this mass invasion, gamely dubbed Beatlemania, releasing the fledgling phenomenon’s proper U.S. debut, ‘Meet the Beatles!’ (ST-2047), the previous month — 10 days following the Vee-Jay label’s own release, ‘Introducing … the Beatles’ (LP 1062). In either case, both discs were bonanzas, occupying Billboard’s upper reaches for months. Not an awful reception for four men reluctantly promoted stateside as the Next Big Thing.
Atom Heart Mother Named
The platter is the result of a collaboration between the group and avant-garde composer Ron Geesin; it incorporates orchestral bleats under such peculiar suite titles as 'Breast Milky' and Funky Dung', in addition to straightforward pop numbers illustrating the quartet's growth following the dismissal of Syd Barrett some years ago. The firm Hipgnosis has again been commissioned for the sleeve. Representatives from the firm were recently spotted photographing bovine as potential subjects.
''I thought it pertinent to appoint titles for our remaining output through the 1970s', bassist Roger Waters told the MIRROR while preparing scrambled eggs for 'Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast', one of the proposed disc's tastiest offerings. 'We can't wait for you to hear what we have in store for 1977, much less 1973, which is certain to blow your minds'.
'Atom Heart Mother' (SHVL 781) is slated for shops in early October. Head shop copies may arrive earlier.
The Beatles’ fleshly incarnations may have landed in America, but their amply growing fame preceded them. ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’, backed by ‘I Saw Her Standing There’, broadsided shelves the day after Christmas 1963 and rushed to #1 and #14, respectively, on the Billboard Hot 100 within a month. By the time they performed the former on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ on 9 February, in a generous passel of ‘All My Loving’, ‘’Till There Was You’, ‘She Loves You’, and ‘I Saw Her Standing There’, most of the
squalling throng were intimately familiar with the words. They were in such demand that fans saw them three consecutive Sundays from the Sullivan Theatre. Their storied ‘Twist and Shout’ footage was actually broadcast 23 February and filmed before 9 February shrieks; by then they had flown home to England. Despite having asked, ‘Who the hell are the Beatles?’ some months earlier, Ed milked the early British Invasion to the final drop.
It should be well-known that many people were not enamored of the group, jokingly dismissing their seemingly overnight rise as pan-flashes for caterwauling teenage dolts. Paul Johnson commented in a 1964 ‘New Statesman’ ('The Menace of Beatlism'): ‘Those who flock round The Beatles, who scream themselves into hysteria, whose vacant faces flicker over the TV screen, are the least fortunate of their generation, the dull, the idle, the failures; their existence in such large numbers, far from being a cause for ministerial congratulation is a fearful indictment of our education system, which in 10 years of schooling can scarcely raise them to literacy.’
Of course, from the hindsight of 56 years, long after Paul Johnson and his ilk sharpened their last blades for shameful posterity, such vituperative tongue-lashings stand today as ill-informed sodtwaddle. The lamented death of culture gave rise to a New Culture. The Beatles and others transformed rock ’n’ roll, turning albums, formerly singles strung into sequence, into themed documents, masterpieces of sound. Their generation invented scholarly rock criticism, taking the form seriously. The band’s music has been dissected and discussed to their most infinitesimal beats for a half-century. Each anniversary is acknowledged and met with fresh (or bowdlerized) study. Authors have devoted volumes, with assiduously researched dates chronicled to the most anonymous studio sneeze, to their recordings; not even history-shaping wars warrant such scholastic consideration. From the Empire arose an empire: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr.
Oregon State University’s Album Club, takes a deep dive into the cultural milestones that yielded ‘Meet the Beatles!’ at 7 p.m. Monday, 16 November, in a virtual event. Hosted by Bob Santelli, the college’s director of popular music and performing arts, the session explores the circumstances that produced and met the disc’s arrival, with a tour of its exemplary track list, from the explosion of ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ and ‘This Boy’s’ doo-wop-laden yearnings (Lennon on vocals and pen) to McCartney’s ginger-soft tour of Meredith Wilson’s ‘Till There Was You;, the combustible, romping ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’; the early Harrison effort, ‘Don’t Bother Me’; and closer ‘Not a Second Time’, described by Lennon as an attempt to ape Smokey Robinson. Register at https://beav.es/oKv.
What's all this, then?
Princess Margaret, right, regards a derelict with not-unfounded suspicion as she prepares for the Queen's Jubilee.