Friday, October 24, 2014

I Told You Beatles Purists Would Rip It to Shreds, So I'm Ripping it to Shreds.

I'm almost sorry I missed the "Glee" renditions of Beatles songs on television.

Somehow, my psyche blocked the travesty that was the Bee Gees' remake of "Sgt. Pepper" in the late 1970's, with Peter Frampton, which resulted in a bomb of a record and an even worse film.


They were probably (in some cosmic, out-of-body way) truer to the Beatles than "With a Little Help from my Fwends," the tribute set to be released by The Flaming Lips, covering the Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."

While you can, the album is streaming for free on NPR at

The Lips' cover of  Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" was respectful but fresh. I really liked that album.

Have you met Sir George Martin, the Beatles' producer?

I have, he's a freaking legend who made my knees buckle, and I have sat in on a two-hour lecture about the making of this monumental album, oh gosh, some 15 years ago or more. (My most memorable moment from the lecture being body-slammed by Cheap Trick's Rick Nielsen in a hallway.)

Martin lovingly took the crowd track-by-track as to how the songs were written, produced and performed. He gave us an insider look at the laborious process through which the boys went to bring the album to the magnitude that it is and always will be. Tape-looping and cutting, overdubbing, re-recording things backwards, using strange instruments lying dusty in the Abbey Road studios...all of that was resurrected by the Beatles' ideas and Martin's natural genius as a producer.

On June 1st, 1967, a masterpiece was released.

Specifically, what interested me the most were the stories behind "With a Little Help From My Friends" and "A Day in the Life."

Ringo Starr, not being the best singer but charming nonetheless, tried take after take to nail down the closing note. Martin's story was that the other 3 Beatles and he, himself, sat in the control room while Ringo listened to the recording track, and once Ringo "got it," they all cheered. Martin nearly teared up. It is rather remarkable and touching.

Regarding "A Day in the Life," Martin thought the Beatles were out of their minds. Converge an entire symphony in the recording studio to produce what Martin called an "orgasm of sound" at certain junctures of the song? The group (mostly McCartney) wanted the symphony to play their instruments at louder and louder notes until, finally, a piano coda lasting 45 seconds would conclude the song and the album. Counting the beats between notes for the symphony and the band was reliable roadie Mal Evans, which you can hear in the final track.

I have little doubt that The Beatles would imagine a performer as mediocre and foul as Miley Cyrus would conclude a remake of the song. I think what irritated me most about the Flaming Lips' cover is that they could've done SO much more with it than produce annoying noise, especially with "A Day in the Life." If that's their interpretation of it, so be it. It just seemed awfully benign and anti-climactic.

I'd be interested to hear what McCartney and Starr have to say about the Lips' remake. They're hip, they're cool, but would they be in favor of a messy, quickly-thrown-together onslaught of stomach flu that is "Fwends?" I'll concede on one point alone: the proceeds from the album are going to a charity. To be fair, you should buy it for that alone, if you're a life-long Flaming Lips fanatic or a Beatles fan, both of which I am.

But I'm one of those Beatles purists. My ex-husband likes to taunt me relentlessly, and has for the 22 years I've known him, with mostly extremely horrible covers of Beatles songs, knowing how much they annoy me. It's an inside joke these days, which doesn't bother me as much as it used to, but it further cements my impression that you can't top the best. The Beatles were the best.

That said, the Flaming Lips have put out an enormous amount of product in the last few years, from "Fwends," to "The Terror," to "Embryonic" to "Heady Fwends." But I think they're getting tired and lazy. George Harrison said during the making of "Cloud Nine," that he recorded in analog because he preferred "real people making real music." Of course, that was in 1987. The Flaming Lips utilizing technology and computers (which aren't my issue) to create much of their music as of late, the "Sgt Pepper" cover being no exception.

The Lips' remake is a hot mess. It was decent enough live at Riot Fest, when they did "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" without Miley Cyrus, and Steven Drozd's vocals on "Fixing a Hole" are beautiful. Otherwise, holy crap, stay far, far away if you really love the Beatles. I have a feeling you will.

This remake isn't fresh,. It isn't an intense, trippy psychedelic adventure. The overall criticism I've read and explored has been that the record is "messy." Indeed it is, and I agree with that. I read Rolling Stone online reviews that were far more scathing than that which I'm offering..."I lasted 11 seconds...." "I lasted 48 seconds...." "This is a piece of shit." Same with NPR's reviews, but a little less vulgar. I have yet to read a glowing review.

I attempted to be more constructive with my criticism with the band itself. Never mind that Wayne Coyne is going through a huge midlife crisis, divorced his wife and took up with a tramp....he and Miley got matching "With a Little Help From My Fwends" tattoos, (So did the girlfriend, inexplicably.) I told Wayne all along, "Bad idea, bro...." to a guy who said 10 years ago he vowed never to get a tattoo for any reason (GO TEAM MICHELLE MARTIN).

But I digress.

On Instagram, I offered an extremely brief review of the record, which was negative. Not only was I blocked from being a follower of Wayne, but I can't even look him up. My son can, and has. This boils down to enough Coyne/Cyrus fans complaining about me to get me booted and blocked. To that, I say fuck you all. I don't need that negativity in my life. Remember this, Wayne?

I heard his ex-wife bought a boat and a bunch of books on sailing, and is keeping away as far as she can from someone who is, as she iterated to me, "killing himself." I wish Michelle nothing but all the joy she can muster in this life. She's a beautiful person.

The Flaming Lips as a band stopped following me on Twitter. Fine, because all I post is stuff about psychology and shit about Luke and how crazy my mother is. 

If my only connection to the band remains Steven Drozd, I'm fine with that. He is my friend. He is not superficial and does not draw rock star attention to himself. If he reads this review and it pisses him off, we can talk about it civilly, not ban one another on social media. Our bond is solid, social media be damned. I'll still see them when they play Chicago, but just because I want to spend time with Steven and hear what they're up to musically. I certainly hope it's better than "Fwends." Because as this Beatles purist would say, it sucks.

1 comment:

BMF said...

This review seemed more about what you liked about the original than what you didn't like about the Lips' version. I'd be interested to hear a more in-depth analysis of what you thought of "Fwends" other than it was "messy" or crappy. I'm open to constructive criticism even if others in the Lips aren't. It wasn't Wayne who got you kicked off his Instagram, it was his legion of followers who reported your review as being abusive. Though I can't say I don't disagree with you re: his personal life. I'm not really in a position to say either way. But it's obvious you're a fan of the original material and nothing is going to change your mind, so be it. I'm not mad at you for not liking it. I'm sad you don't, but I thought you made your points succinctly.