Thursday, March 28, 2013

Beatles' Use of Bach, And a Challenge!

There are people in this world who will gladly rank the Beatles with Bach in terms of the "greatest composers", and will gladly denigrate a group like the Monkees for the sheer joy of hierarchy.  If you can isolate "The Best", then it is easier to label others as being derivative and mere imitators.

This blog is an attempt to enjoy everything for what it IS, rather than echo popular sentiment.  And maybe to question the wisdom of things like the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, or anyone else who looks down their nose at a "Made for TV" band.  I believe we can look back at history and finally recognize the influences of all the great songwriters, musicians and talents involved as an incredibly rich asset.

April 25, 1967, "Inside Pop, The Rock Revolution", the NY Philharmonic Conductor and Composer, Leonard Bernstein appears on CBS (video and description held by the Paley Center), the description reads :
"Bernstein had an appreciation for all kinds of music, including rock. IIn this special, he examines creativity in pop music of the sixties, including works by the Beatles, Bob Dylan, the Monkees, and Janis Ian."

This week they are honoring Johann Sebastian Bach (March 31, 1685-July 28, 1750) on the classical music station in NYC, called WQXR.   Here is an analysis of the Beatles' use of Bach in some of their songs.  They discuss a "Bach-like feeling", "that sound", "based on", "something about the melody" "inspired" and "reimagined".  The clip pulls out sections from Bach and the only the following Beatle Songs:

"In My Life"
"Penny Lane"

The classical music influence regarding the Beatles is often paraded out as direct evidence of their superiority.  But here, they could only find 3.  (Really? And even then, it's a vague "influence").  I do not want to even attempt a thesis to take away any respect from the Beatles.

The Monkees' songs are just as rich in variety of influence and creativity.  They just need to be documented.

THE CHALLENGE:  I would love for a musical scholar to do a similar (and deeper) analysis, in terms of Classical, Country, Blues (etc) influences and others as yet unidentified. All the songwriters and musicians themselves came from such a rich diversity of backgrounds, as well as thorough musical training, that a fuller analysis could be done.  I am attempting to chip away at the various references within Hollywood and Rock, focusing on everything except the music; but I would LOVE to crowdsource or encourage any expert out there to call out any influences/references/allusions in the Monkees' musical oeuvre.

Personally, I have always seen the show as a learning tool.  A single mention of something or someone sends me eagerly rushing to research said reference.  Granted, the stereotypical fanbase may have been traditionally thought of as screaming pre-teenagers. Today, however, the fans that I have met are exceptionally well versed in music of all genres.  I would argue that the Monkees have not gained "respect" due to a lack of focused study, rather than a dearth of material.

Andrew Hickey has a book called Monkee Music, which is an excellent start.  
No disrespect at all intended, especially if there is anyone already working on this.  There are LOTS of great fan sites out there, but not a lot of scholarship, criticism and commentary that takes the music seriously, beyond discographies and other lists of production facts.  Please comment below if you know of or you ARE anyone doing anything like this. Especially if you are publishing it somewhere.  Or if you’ve just noticed that a part of one song sounds the same as a Monkees song.  We’d all love you to share your knowledge.

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