Visualizing The Beatles

I’ve been a fan of The Beatles’ music for over thirty years. I own their original 12 studio albums in some form or another and have some oddities as well. (Take the album “The Beatles in Italy” for example. It has a great pic of the Fab Four raising their champagne glasses in unison. It’s on the back cover if I’m not mistaken.) I’ve read a few books about their lyrics, how different songs were developed, and the whole Beatles phenomenon. At some point, I practically had the documentary film “The Compleat Beatles” memorized. It can be difficult to find a new spin on some of these things, but I found one in a book I got for Christmas last year.

Visualizing The Beatles: A Complete Graphic History of the World’s Favorite Band was written by John Pring and Rob Thomas. According to the liner notes and their website https://www.visualizingthebeatles.com/, they formed a company called Designbysoap Ltd, which “specializes in information design and infographics.” The book’s cover gives you some idea about what’s inside for readers, but it’s not just a study of The Beatles’ fashion trends — although it is interesting to see their different suits and hairstyles.

The authors break down each of the original 12 albums into infographics about who sang lead, who wrote the songs, and who played what instruments. They also list the number of covers and originals on their early albums. My favorite part was the graphic showing how many songs were in major or minor keys for example. There are also quotes and graphics regarding their influences like Bob Dylan and Ravi Shankar. If you’re into trivia, you won’t be disappointed. Prior to reading this book, I found out “Revolver” wasn’t the only title considered for the album. There’s a graphic which shows 7 other possibilities. There are also maps which include The Beatles first tour stops as well as Beatle landmarks in London and elsewhere. Did you know the Fab Four had plans to purchase a private island? Good stuff.

The graphics alone make this book an interesting read, but it really does have plenty to offer the seasoned Beatle fan who’s already well-read. In short, “a splendid time is guaranteed for all.”

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

Taxman

It’s funny — I was watching Season 3 of “The Crown” on Netflix and The Beatles’ influence on me crept into what I was watching. More specifically, the line “Ah ah, Mr. Wilson — Ah, ah Mr. Heath” from The Beatles’ 1966 album Revolver jumped into my head. Those two gentlemen served as England’s Prime Minsters while simultaneously annoying Beatle/songwriter George Harrison. (They were part of the storyline in the show.)

“Taxman” is a unique song in many ways. First of all, IT ROCKS!! Ironically, Beatles lead guitarist George Harrison did NOT play the solo on this one. Paul McCartney apparently contributed the James Jamerson/Motown influenced bassline and also played the scorching lead guitar solo on it. Harrison sang the lead vocal with Lennon and McCartney on backing vocals. (I had to double check, but I believe “Taxman” is the only Harrison composition to kick off an album by The Beatles. )

Lyrically, I think it’s a wry, clever song. Harrison bemoans “There’s one for you, nineteen for me” to start. He goes onto say something like this,

“If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street
If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat
If you get too cold, I’ll tax the heat
If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet”

In addition to the great harmony, I think “Taxman” has a kind of a funky feel to it.

The alternate version on Anthology 2 has some different lyrics and omitted the line about Misters Wilson and Heath. It’s around the 1:30 mark.

I listened to some covers of this song, but none of them really did much for me. There are some bluesy takes on it a la Stevie Ray Vaughan and Pat Travers. The only cover I found very interesting was a soulful rendition by Junior Parker. There’s also one from the 80s by Rockwell.

Hopefully, I’ll find some other good covers one day, but, if not, I’ll keep listening to the original Revolver version – besides it’s one of my all-time favorite albums — possibly #1.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

p.s. “My advice for those who die, declare the pennies on your eyes.”

Most Beautiful Song Ever

It might surprise some people to learn the guy who wrote and rocked out to “Purple Haze” also wrote, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful combinations of lyrics and music ever recorded. “Little Wing” is a fantastic, ethereal song which soars both musically and lyrically. There are some great covers of the song out there, but the original Jimi Hendrix-penned version is my favorite. One of the distinctive sounds on the original track is the use of the glockenspiel — pretty atypical for a power trio like The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Unfortunately, copyright issues seem to make the original version unavailable on YouTube. Booo! I’ll share a recent cover recorded by Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood.

One of the most unique covers of the ballad was released by Irish band The Corrs on their Unplugged album.

I never thought I’d have a conversation about Jimi Hendrix with my father, but someone turned him on to this Celtic version and we did discuss it. Another popular version of the ballad was released by Hendrix aficionado Stevie Ray Vaughan. You could think of this version as one “guitar god” paying tribute to another.

I’m sure the SRV version is a favorite for many, but I miss hearing the lyrics and, of course, the glockenspiel.

There are easily over 100 versions of “Little Wing” out there. From what I’ve read, the original Hendrix version was inspired by the “vibe” of the Monterey Pop Festival. The song is an interesting combo of fairy tale and Native American imagery along with astonishingly good guitar.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!