Sgt. Peppers, etc.

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Postby marybeth » Mon Feb 09, 2009 8:13 am

sandina wrote:I guess I never knew they were primarily a covers band in the earliest days.


It's not quite right to say the Beatles were a "cover band." Don't forget that when the Beatles started out it was standard in popular music to separate the singers and the songwriters. The whole concept of the singer-songwriter only evolved in the sixties-seventies. Before that there were basically those who sang, and those who wrote. It was not that common to do both, and if you did do both, you would think nothing unusual in singing loads of songs by others people. The competition was usually to see which singer could make a hit of a good song, so maybe even dozens of singers recorded what was seen as a potential hit.

Without checking a music dictionary, I am thinking that all changed with Dylan and the folk movement, folks like Joni Mitchell and also of course the Beatles. When Carole King brought out Tapestry in 1971, it was a revelation because she had been seen as purely a songwriter who had churned out hits for Aretha Franklin and others in the mid-1960's.
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Postby Russell » Mon Feb 09, 2009 8:57 am

marybeth wrote:
sandina wrote:I guess I never knew they were primarily a covers band in the earliest days.


It's not quite right to say the Beatles were a "cover band." Don't forget that when the Beatles started out it was standard in popular music to separate the singers and the songwriters. The whole concept of the singer-songwriter only evolved in the sixties-seventies. Before that there were basically those who sang, and those who wrote. It was not that common to do both, and if you did do both, you would think nothing unusual in singing loads of songs by others people. The competition was usually to see which singer could make a hit of a good song, so maybe even dozens of singers recorded what was seen as a potential hit.

Without checking a music dictionary, I am thinking that all changed with Dylan and the folk movement, folks like Joni Mitchell and also of course the Beatles. When Carole King brought out Tapestry in 1971, it was a revelation because she had been seen as purely a songwriter who had churned out hits for Aretha Franklin and others in the mid-1960's.

Excellent points, MB, and I'm guessing that you're right on Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell being ground-breakers for singer-songwriters. Neil Diamond probably belongs with them in that category. Most likely there are others, but they were relatively rare. Could it be that it was the Beatles that made the singer-songwriter popular? After all, virtually all groups that were a part of the British invasion that followed on the footsteps of the Beetles wrote much of their own music (at least, I'm thinking that was the case - feel free to correct me if I'm wrong).

Carole King's remarkable list of song-writing credits was certainly a revelation to me after Tapestry, particularly since it wasn't until then that I learned that she and former husband Jerry Goffin had teamed to write "Wasn't Born to Follow", a song that (fortunately or unfortunately, depending on perspective) I adopted as a personal mantra and which made me a Byrds fanatic after hearing the song played through in its entirety twice in the movie "Easy Rider".

If anyone's interested, there's a listing of some of the songs written by the King-Goffin team here.
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Postby keith from ny » Mon Feb 09, 2009 9:33 am

marybeth wrote:
sandina wrote:I guess I never knew they were primarily a covers band in the earliest days.


It's not quite right to say the Beatles were a "cover band." Don't forget that when the Beatles started out it was standard in popular music to separate the singers and the songwriters. The whole concept of the singer-songwriter only evolved in the sixties-seventies. Before that there were basically those who sang, and those who wrote. It was not that common to do both, and if you did do both, you would think nothing unusual in singing loads of songs by others people. The competition was usually to see which singer could make a hit of a good song, so maybe even dozens of singers recorded what was seen as a potential hit.

Without checking a music dictionary, I am thinking that all changed with Dylan and the folk movement, folks like Joni Mitchell and also of course the Beatles. When Carole King brought out Tapestry in 1971, it was a revelation because she had been seen as purely a songwriter who had churned out hits for Aretha Franklin and others in the mid-1960's.

I can't entirely agree with you here, Marybeth. Chuck Berry, Carl Perkins, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and Larry Williams wrote most of their own songs and were all seminal influences for the Beatles. And the stuff the Beatles were playing in the clubs of Liverpool and Hamburg in the early (pre-Ringo) days wasn't written for them, it was written for (or by) American R&B performers. Lennon and McCartney had only written a handful of their own songs at that time, so I think it is essentially accurate to characterize them as a covers band for American R&B artists in the beginning, albeit an incredibly creative one.
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Postby Hugues » Mon Feb 09, 2009 10:14 am

Let's not forget Buddy Holly, either. In a few years, this guy almost invented pop music alone, and was an essential influence on the Beatles.

Listen to his Definitive Collection and you'll be amazed!

There are different notions of singer-songwriters. You have the Bob Dylan kind, where words play a major role. And you have the Buddy Holly kind, where the tune underlines a few words to the best effect. Ron Sexsmith, for example, is more from the Buddy Holly school than the Dylan one.

And you have the teams of the Brill Building. My fave of them being Barry-Greenwich. Ellie Greenwich wrote some of my fave tunes ever, for the Ronettes, the Shangri-Las, etc.

The recording process is also essential. You need a great singer (hello Patty), a great performing band, and a great producer.

George Martin was very important for the Beatles, and is usually called the fifth Beatle. Sgt. Pepper is as much his work as the Fab Four's one.
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Postby Russell » Mon Feb 09, 2009 10:19 am

keith from ny wrote:I can't entirely agree with you here, Marybeth. Chuck Berry, Carl Perkins, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and Larry Williams wrote most of their own songs and were all seminal influences for the Beatles. And the stuff the Beatles were playing in the clubs of Liverpool and Hamburg in the early (pre-Ringo) days wasn't written for them, it was written for (or by) American R&B performers. Lennon and McCartney had only written a handful of their own songs at that time, so I think it is essentially accurate to characterize them as a covers band for American R&B artists in the beginning, albeit an incredibly creative one.

Well, there may be a little apples and oranges here. The hay days of Chuck Berry, Carl Perkins, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and Larry Williams [edit: and Buddy Holly] all occurred during the 50's while rock was still in a developmental stage. By the mid 1960's the popularity of their style of music had faded [edit: hence the reason Don McClean may have been correct when he referred to the death of Buddy Holly as "the day the music died"] and popular music was dominated by background writers. To a large extent, the popularity of that style of music was resurrected as a result of covers by the Beatles and such groups as CCR.

Whatever the cause may have been, whether it was the Beatles or something else or, most likely, a combination of factors, by the later 1960's, original material had become the norm. Indeed, and perhaps ironically in view of MB's mention of Carole King, it is commonly understood that the primary reason David Crosby left (or was fired by) the Byrds is that he "had been displeased with the band's wish to record the Goffin-King composition "Goin' Back" [on The Notorious Byrd Brothers album] . . . to be a step backwards considering the aesthetics of the day demanded original material and that the band contained three active songwriters." See here.

(By the way, if you're interested in the history of rock music, I think The Notorious Byrd Brothers is a must listen - it is a masterpiece. I acknowledge suffering from Byrds bias, but it is this album, together with Sweetheart of the Rodeo, that created the bias. In fact, highly regarded music critic Robert Christgau declared Notorious (as well as its follow-up, Sweetheart of the Rodeo) to be one of the most convincing arguments for artistic freedom ever to come out of American rock.)
Last edited by Russell on Mon Feb 09, 2009 10:40 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Rob » Mon Feb 09, 2009 10:36 am

keith from ny wrote:I can't entirely agree with you here, Marybeth. Chuck Berry, Carl Perkins, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and Larry Williams wrote most of their own songs and were all seminal influences for the Beatles. And the stuff the Beatles were playing in the clubs of Liverpool and Hamburg in the early (pre-Ringo) days wasn't written for them, it was written for (or by) American R&B performers. Lennon and McCartney had only written a handful of their own songs at that time, so I think it is essentially accurate to characterize them as a covers band for American R&B artists in the beginning, albeit an incredibly creative one.

Good one, Keith. I was just about to bring up Chuck Berry and Carl Perkins as prime examples of successful singer/songwriters. And let's not forget Buddy Holly.

As for The Killer, he did write a lot, but his two biggest hits, Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin On and Great Balls of Fire were not his. The latter was written by a songwriter named Otis Blackwell who's most definitely worth the read. And even Otis had a co-writer on GBoF.

Another example in the singer/songwriter genre is an artist we don't generally think of in those terms: Paul Anka. He wrote his early hits and then some. Carson's Tonight Show theme was written by Anka. And it was Anka who wrote Sinatra's My Way (after acquiring the rights to a french song and changing the lyrics).

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Postby marybeth » Mon Feb 09, 2009 3:27 pm

Ok, Keith, I defer to my elder. :wink:
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Postby keith from ny » Mon Feb 09, 2009 5:39 pm

Russell wrote:
keith from ny wrote:I can't entirely agree with you here, Marybeth. Chuck Berry, Carl Perkins, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and Larry Williams wrote most of their own songs and were all seminal influences for the Beatles. And the stuff the Beatles were playing in the clubs of Liverpool and Hamburg in the early (pre-Ringo) days wasn't written for them, it was written for (or by) American R&B performers. Lennon and McCartney had only written a handful of their own songs at that time, so I think it is essentially accurate to characterize them as a covers band for American R&B artists in the beginning, albeit an incredibly creative one.

Well, there may be a little apples and oranges here. The hay days of Chuck Berry, Carl Perkins, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and Larry Williams [edit: and Buddy Holly] all occurred during the 50's while rock was still in a developmental stage. By the mid 1960's the popularity of their style of music had faded [edit: hence the reason Don McClean may have been correct when he referred to the death of Buddy Holly as "the day the music died"] and popular music was dominated by background writers.

You mean like Brian Wilson? ;) (Paul LeMat's line in American Graffiti leaps to mind here: "I don't like that surfin' shit! Rock and roll's been going down hill ever since Buddy Holly died.")

Sorry, I don't really see it that way. Professional songwriters and musicians who wrote their own songs have always coexisted -- before, during and after the 50s rock 'n roll era. The singer/songwriter in the realm of folk music goes back at least as far as Leadbelly and Woody Guthrie (probably Bob Dylan's biggest single influence), and of course Robert Johnson and the other early delta blues artists were seminal influences on 50s R&B. There was just a period of relative stagnation creatively after Buddy Holly, before Dylan and the Beatles threw out the guidelines and raised the bar.

I suppose I really should go back and listen to those transitional Byrds albums. I was a huge fan of Younger Than Yesterday but anything that smacked the least bit of country music was the kiss of death as far I was concerned in those days. It took discovering Lucinda Williams in 2001 to finally change that. Ah but I was so much older then...

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Postby Russell » Mon Feb 09, 2009 6:54 pm

keith from ny wrote:Sorry, I don't really see it that way. Professional songwriters and musicians who wrote their own songs have always coexisted -- before, during and after the 50s rock 'n roll era. The singer/songwriter in the realm of folk music goes back at least as far as Leadbelly and Woody Guthrie (probably Bob Dylan's biggest single influence), and of course Robert Johnson and the other early delta blues artists were seminal influences on 50s R&B. There was just a period of relative stagnation creatively after Buddy Holly, before Dylan and the Beatles threw out the guidelines and raised the bar.

I suppose I really should go back and listen to those transitional Byrds albums. I was a huge fan of Younger Than Yesterday but anything that smacked the least bit of country music was the kiss of death as far I was concerned in those days. It took discovering Lucinda Williams in 2001 to finally change that. Ah but I was so much older then...

I absolutely love discussions like this! Even bringing up delta blues. What more could a music lover want?

Well, Keith, you cued it up and I'm going to play it. A Beatle, a Byrd, the man and much, much more -- and music revived. What a joy this is - were any of you there?

<object width="425" height="344"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/IKBSIyK_GSE&hl=en&fs=1"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/IKBSIyK_GSE&hl=en&fs=1" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="425" height="344"></embed></object>
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Postby ScottG » Mon Feb 09, 2009 7:51 pm

Crap, I've been too busy chainsawing fallen tree limbs! I'll try to join in later.
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Postby marybeth » Tue Feb 10, 2009 8:36 am

keith from ny wrote:
Russell wrote:
keith from ny wrote:I can't entirely agree with you here, Marybeth. Chuck Berry, Carl Perkins, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and Larry Williams wrote most of their own songs and were all seminal influences for the Beatles. And the stuff the Beatles were playing in the clubs of Liverpool and Hamburg in the early (pre-Ringo) days wasn't written for them, it was written for (or by) American R&B performers. Lennon and McCartney had only written a handful of their own songs at that time, so I think it is essentially accurate to characterize them as a covers band for American R&B artists in the beginning, albeit an incredibly creative one.

Well, there may be a little apples and oranges here. The hay days of Chuck Berry, Carl Perkins, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and Larry Williams [edit: and Buddy Holly] all occurred during the 50's while rock was still in a developmental stage. By the mid 1960's the popularity of their style of music had faded [edit: hence the reason Don McClean may have been correct when he referred to the death of Buddy Holly as "the day the music died"] and popular music was dominated by background writers.

You mean like Brian Wilson? ;) (Paul LeMat's line in American Graffiti leaps to mind here: "I don't like that surfin' shit! Rock and roll's been going down hill ever since Buddy Holly died.")

Sorry, I don't really see it that way. Professional songwriters and musicians who wrote their own songs have always coexisted -- before, during and after the 50s rock 'n roll era. The singer/songwriter in the realm of folk music goes back at least as far as Leadbelly and Woody Guthrie (probably Bob Dylan's biggest single influence), and of course Robert Johnson and the other early delta blues artists were seminal influences on 50s R&B. There was just a period of relative stagnation creatively after Buddy Holly, before Dylan and the Beatles threw out the guidelines and raised the bar.

I suppose I really should go back and listen to those transitional Byrds albums. I was a huge fan of Younger Than Yesterday but anything that smacked the least bit of country music was the kiss of death as far I was concerned in those days. It took discovering Lucinda Williams in 2001 to finally change that. Ah but I was so much older then...

[and don't make me spank you, Marybeth!]


Oh please, spank me! Why do you think I picked this fight?
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Postby keith from ny » Tue Feb 10, 2009 11:43 am

Ha! Easy to say with this ocean between us, Marybeth! Image

Nice video, thanks Russell! I gather this was a Dylan tribute concert? (I generally ignore anything staged in an arena, however worthy the musical occasion -- just not my thing).
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Postby ScottG » Tue Feb 10, 2009 7:59 pm

Just a side note since Carole King was mentioned earlier...
The Beatles covered "Chains", a song co-written by Carole King on Please Please Me, their first album.

Also, John and Paul wrote about half the songs on that album. So they weren't strictly a cover band, even at that early stage.
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Postby ScottG » Tue Feb 10, 2009 8:13 pm

Hugues wrote:As early as the White Album, you can feel something missing in the Beatles identity as a band, it already sounded like the start of their future "solo" careers in some way.


Great thought! But, for me this is what I hear when I listen to Pepper. In hindsight it sounds like the beginning of the end. The whole "let's do a record as if we're not the Beatles" thing seems part of that. Only "Lovely Rita" sounds like a real collaborative effort. For me, it is the only song on the album that has that old spark.

Also, of no real consequence, but maybe worth mentioning... the Sgt. Pepper "look" of the Beatles was just the worst!
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Postby ScottG » Tue Feb 10, 2009 8:18 pm

Fool On Fire wrote:(listen to their terrible covers of ..."Twist and Shout" for examples).

You are SO getting a titty twister for that one girlfriend.
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