In an effort 2 keep up at work lately, when the coffee & the stress Rn't enuf, I've been playing a lotta early upbeat Beatles music 2 keep me moving. It really works.
I've been bored with my musical intake 4 awhile, & currently my overnite bag full of CDs is almost completely stocked with '60s/'70s hits, best-of's, & a few things from later. But mostly it's upbeat stuff, motivational stuff, stuff 2 keep me going. Arty, introspective, melancholy stuff doesn't work 4 me at work, no matter how much I might love it at home.
Most recently, when feeling the need 4 more motivational music at work, I bagged The Beatles' "1" & the Go-Go's GREATEST -- CDs I already knew all of & had sorta road-tested, stuff that I knew would keep me moving. At least the upbeat stuff would....
I don't think "1" is the best way 2 hear the Fab 4, but it does give you 27 #1 hits, & summa those early hits R undeniable. The string of #1's that runs from "She Loves You" to "Help!" is really pretty unbeatable in a moderate-2-fast-paced work environment -- you can't help but move. & you'll be happy about it.
But after that, things start 2 drag a little.
Don't get me wrong. The Fabs were still brilliant & creative & all that, but that youthful enthusiasm we prize so much from their early recordings -- where they sing as if the emotion in the songs is going 2 Xplode out of them -- is starting 2 fade a bit by late '65, & by '66 it's all but gone. The last place I hear it on "1" is on "Paperback Writer," & it's there mostly in the driving guitar work. The lyrics & singing R a bit 2 clever-clever, tho the song's still brilliant.
But at this point we start hearing something other than youthful enthusiasm, passion, simple joy in being alive. At this point their music clearly becomes something more complex, something more like art.
Not that it wasn't already. Can't beat Ringo's drumming & the chiming guitars in "Ticket to Ride," not 2 mention John's singing. & on "Help!" you never start wondering if John Means It. It's obvious. I've even sorta become a fan of "Day Tripper," a song I've hated 4 YEARS. & "Eight Days a Week" -- oh man, it's sunny romantic bliss. & on "She Loves You" & "I Want to Hold Your Hand" they sound so HAPPY. & we get happy just hearing it. You can't beat this stuff.
But why did they lose this? Sure they got clever, more sophisticated, better judges of the effects they were trying 2 create. & maybe it was inevitable that they'd lose that early freshness, that bright young innocence that charmed the world. Maybe it's a normal part of growing up, getting older. It happens to everyone.
It happened to most of the rest of us, too. When's the last time you heard someone sing something that they were clearly enthusiastic about, excited about? When was the last time you saw somebody get really genuinely excited -- about anything?
I think a little enthusiasm would do this old world a lot of good.
But it's like it's become uncool to get excited. We've all been around, we've all seen everything, we're all a little bit jaded and cynical -- we're all a bit too old, too experienced to be convinced that something genuinely good is going to happen, no matter what it is. We've all been disappointed just a few too many times. These days we set our sights lower.
The last time I saw a young person (especially) get enthusiastic about something, her friends seemed faintly embarrassed about it -- as if to show such emotion was ... so naive, the sure mark of a beginner. & to be caught showing such passion, such interest was ... just really not cool.
How did we all get so cool, so knowing, anyway? And when did it start happening?
I know I'm drawn 2 the enthusiasm in '60s & '70s music because I miss that innocent, passionate feeling -- it's a lack I feel within myself, & that music puts me back in touch with it.
Of course, enthusiasm is where you find it. I know what works 4 me. Usually I'm grabbed by singers who sing as if they're going to explode before they get the words out. The early, upbeat Beatles hits definitely hit the mark. A lot of the Ronettes works real well for me -- as does a lot of Phil Spector's stuff. Lotta Stevie Wonder's early stuff, especially "I Was Made to Love Her."
I think the Go-Gos' more upbeat songs have that enthusiastic quality I'm sucked in by -- but only a couple of the Bangles' songs, especially "Let it Go."
I think the early Yes was very enthusiastic on their 1st 2 albums -- they sounded excited, bright & cheery & really happy to be around. Check out "Every Little Thing" & "Sweet Dreams" & "No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed." By the time of THE YES ALBUM they were chasing technical perfection -- "Your Move" is gorgeous, but otherwise their early brightness is gone. But drummer Bill Bruford was always enthusiastic, & bassist Chris Squire often seemed 2 be thrilled just to be on-stage.
A couple more obvious Xamples of what I mean can be found in the Raspberries' upbeat early '70s singles ("Go All the Way," "I Wanna Be With You," "Tonight," etc.), some of The Who's early stuff ("I'm the Face," "Disguises," "I Can See for Miles," & drummer Keith Moon was the poster-boy 4 enthusiasm), Badfinger's "No Matter What." I sometimes think Bare Naked Ladies have a handle on this, when they're not too busy trying to be clever & funny -- they often sound like their hearts are in their throats. I'm sure there are MANY more examples I can't think of right now.
But I don't have that many examples that are RECENT. I can admire & scream along with the rush of emotions in Florence + the Machine's "Shake it Out," but while I'm not worried about whether Florence Means It, I'm not sure how enthusiastic she is.
I can enjoy -- even laff at -- the pastiche-'60s-soul of Adele's "Rumor Has It," but while I think she's passionate at times I still think that song was mainly done 4 laffs.
When's the last time you heard some1 -- a singer or musician -- who was clearly passionate & enthusiastic about what they were doing, & how do you define that? In what way can you hear it? & how do you know when it's there & when it isn't?
And would you agree a little more enthusiasm would do us all a lotta good? That at the very least it might light up this old world a little more?
Coming Soon: "Bits&Pieces," a review of producer/engineer Ken Scott's FROM ABBEY ROAD TO ZIGGY STARDUST....