Ravings

The Beatles Go To 11: Dave Brogan's Picks

Comments Off on The Beatles Go To 11: Dave Brogan’s Picks

The Impound is asking our favorite musicians to pick their eleven favorite Beatles songs in an effort to offer Fab-u-lous insights in our shared love of the greatest rock band of all-time. This second installment comes from Dave Brogan, drum pro and pop-rock maestro of SF’s ALO. Here’s what Dave – a man who knows the wheres and what-fors of a good rock ditty – had to say about his choices.

Beatles_Brogan_CantBuy

1) “Can’t Buy Me Love” (A Hard Day’s Night)

I love the way John and Paul sing this- in unison and LOUDLY! This song is the confectionary equivalent of a sugary wad of bubble gum wrapped around a street-scored Dexedrine pill – an edgy remnant from their teen days slogging it out in Hamburg rock clubs high on speed and banging strippers. (LISTEN)

2) “Drive My Car” (Rubber Soul)

Foundationally, the song is just guitar doubling an incredibly funky, melodic bass line. As a drummer I very much appreciate Ringo’s stamp on pop-rock drumming, but instrumentally it’s always Paul’s bass parts that consistently blow my mind. If you “soloed” that track on a mixing board- taken alone – it’s a masterpiece. “Beep-Beep, Beep-Beep, YEAH!” (LISTEN)

Beatles_Brogan_WeCan

3) “We Can Work It Out” (Rubber Soul)

This is one of those songs that often creep around my thoughts. Anyone experiencing conflict has felt this sentiment before: “Life is very short, and there’s no time for fussing and fighting, my friend.” Perhaps only a fraction of listeners catch that the perspective of the verses is very one-sided: “Try to see it my way.” Paul is certainly not trying to see it “their way” in this one. It’s an ultimatum. A foreshadowing of things to come? (LISTEN)

4) “Girl” (Rubber Soul)

For me, deep enjoyment of The Beatles starts with Rubber Soul. It’s the launch off for everything to come and the beginning of their revolutionary pop careers – all-night studio hacking sessions that saw the transformation of John from edgy punk rocker into a hallucinatory lord of darkness. These lyrics are REAL. And then the heavy inhalation in the chorus – visionary! (LISTEN)

5) “Paperback Writer” (Single Release, 1966)

Beatles_Brogan_Paperback

Anything I could ever write would only detract from the total overwhelming masterpiece that is this recording. It just has to be listened to and enjoyed. This track exists in the mystical realm of pure beauty, heroic journeys and the musings of gods and can only truly be reflected upon in poetry or, possibly, dance.

Interesting fact: the history of modern recording has been marked by moments of wonderful intersections between art and technology, and “Paperback Writer” is one example. EMI had recently developed a high-level disc cutter that allowed the bass level to be jacked up in the mix (before that high-volume low end would make the cutting needle skip) and this was the first track ever cut on that machine. What better way to demo the new cutter than with a genius Paul McCartney track!

Some of my other favorite details: What is up with the mondo delay on the vocals right before the chorus? I also love the super-slammed compression on the drums, also made possible by gear specifically designed for Abbey Road. This is The Beatles starting to explore the edges of sonic extremes. “Paperback Writer” is a milestone in modern recording and still an amazing song! (LISTEN)

6) “Tomorrow Never Knows” (Revolver)

Beatles_Brogan_Tomorrow

I never realized what an impact LSD had in the 60s on the London music scene until I read Andy Summers’ (guitarist for The Police) autobiography. Everyone was doing it and getting into Eastern mysticism, freaking out and whatnot. The Beatles released Rubber Soul in December 1965 and four months later – FOUR! – John started working on “Tomorrow Never Knows,” a huge departure from the band’s previous work. WTF?

This is the beginning of psychedelia in recorded music. The Grateful Dead had yet to make an album and the Velvet Underground were just beginning to play at Andy Warhol’s factory. Frank Zappa’s Freak Out! wouldn’t come out until mid-year, and he wasn’t even on acid! One connection between Freak Out! and this song is the influence of Musique Concrete, the technique devised in the 50s and 60s by art music composers of cutting and splicing tape to create otherworldly sounds and tape loops, which could play a set of sounds over and over endlessly.

John, George and Ringo first dropped acid with Peter Fonda and The Byrds in L.A. in August of ’65 (according to Peter Fonda). Reportedly, Paul refused, George freaked out and Ringo played pool with the wrong side of a cue stick. But John wrote “Tomorrow Never Knows.” John was the strongest Beatle.

His instruction to producer George Martin on this track: “I want to sound as if I’m the Dalai Lama singing from the highest mountain top.” This is at a time when most bands still clocked into the studio at 8 am, clocked out at 4 pm, and never once walked into the control room.

Most likely it was the first instance of running vocals through a Leslie speaker, first use of tape loops on a “pop” recording, and definitely the first time a pop singer ever told a producer he wanted to sound like the Dalai Lama and wasn’t committed for it. (LISTEN)

7) “Taxman” (Revolver)

Beatles_Brogan_Taxman

The emergence of George as a songwriter in the band. George is my favorite Beatle. I admire his struggle for acceptance. The guitar playing on this song is as f-ing sick as it gets. The solos are like being attacked with a Dremmel tool. Ringo and Paul are locked-the-hell in so hard. That’s what I like about great rock rhythm sections: they lock-in somewhere outside of, and beyond perfection. They’re all trying to sound R&B, but it’s the synthesis of their failing that that makes it perfect. (LISTEN)

8) “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)” (Sgt. Pepper)

I don’t often listen to Sgt. Pepper, but when I do, I listen to the reprise. Stay funky my drummer friends. (LISTEN)

9) “Two of Us” / “Don’t Let Me Down” (Let It Be)

Beatles_Brogan_DontLetMe

Eleven songs to choose as my favorites are not enough, so now I’m cheating by combining songs. But it’s okay because I like both of these tunes from Let It Be for the same reason – stylistically they strongly hint at what’s to come from Paul’s (“Two of Us”) and John’s (“Don’t Let Me Down”) solo careers. For Paul, it’s the humble, homemade vibe, and for John, the emotional primal scream. I love both of those guy’s solo careers, a lot.

I’ve always thought that the title of this album was so sad given that the band was on their way to dissolution, especially when you consider that the project was originally called Get Back and Paul wanted to make a film and play live again and try to regain what once was. Instead, it ended up as an exercise in acceptance – Let It Be. Or as many people say today: it is what it is. (LISTEN)/(LISTEN)

10) “Come Together” (Abbey Road)

Beatles_Brogan_ComeTogether

Thank God it didn’t end with old, depressing Let It Be. No, it ended with the band reuniting with George Martin for one last artistic triumph! The guys were getting along like never before. Paul’s not trying to force the situation. Let It Be is over. The old Beatles chemistry is back – they finally Got Back! – but the product wasn’t a “throwback.” Abbey Road is, at turns, tight, artsy, stylistic, whimsical and moody.

By the way, it wasn’t Let It Be that poisoned The Beatles. It was that damned, nihilistic and totally misnamed White Album – notice, I didn’t pick any songs from it. Also note, Let It Be was recorded mostly before, but released after, Abbey Road.

“Come Together” is just super stylie, dark, sexy art rock. This is the total Yoko-fication of John, and I love it. Is there a more vibey, badass song in existence? No. All the little textural episodes are so genius. Bass riff and tom fill intro – 4 bars. Then a heavy floor tom beat with the verse – punch lines are just vocal and bass drum. Bare power chords on the chorus – out of nowhere? Uh, ok. This song is deconstructionist when academic dudes were still dreaming up post-modernism. (LISTEN)

11) “Something” (Abbey Road)

Beatles_Brogan_Something

The total arrival of George. I love a late bloomer. Not that he didn’t write many great songs over the course of their years but songs like “Something?” Not quite. This is one of the best Beatles songs ever and has had as much staying power over the decades as anything the other guys wrote. Reportedly, it’s Frank Sinatra’s favorite song of all time.

What I dig about the lyrics is sometimes the best way to express true love is to not mention it at all, but mention something about it that you could never experience without its presence.

I just wish it wasn’t followed by “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.” Ugh. Vibe killer. From one of the deepest love songs right into Saturday morning cartoons. Someone must have resisted and someone insisted. That’s the kind of stuff that breaks up bands. (LISTEN)

Up next, Dirty Impound’s Head Water Buffalo offers up his Beatles picks, which include three cuts from the White Album. Take that, drummer boy!