The White Album & Charles Manson

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JQW
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Postby JQW » 20 Oct 2004, 18:18

I've always felt that there was something fundamentally differentiate about this album, which differentiate it not only from the rest of the Beatles' own catalogue, but also from everything else happening at the time.

Probably the fact that many of the tracks are virtually solo efforts probably has something to do with it. They were no longer a group at this stage, just four blokes to happened to record together for some part of the year. It sounds less of a group effort than even 'Let It Be' to me.

Revolution No. 9 is the most intriguing thing on the album. There's just so much going on there that it requires repeat listening just to work out what's going on. Was it unique, though? Zappa did something similar with 'Lumpy Gravy' at around the same time, released as a whole album, but with everything stretched across 2 sides, but as this was released as a distinct album it probably doesn't count.

I once caught all of Revolution No. 9 on a BBC Local Radio programme. They were doing a Beatles A-Z, playing two tracks a night, and it got an airing. I wonder how many caught it for the first time?
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Postby Quaco » 20 Oct 2004, 18:28

JQW wrote:Revolution No. 9 is the most intriguing thing on the album. There's just so much going on there that it requires repeat listening just to work out what's going on. Was it unique, though? Zappa did something similar with 'Lumpy Gravy' at around the same time, released as a whole album, but with everything stretched across 2 sides, but as this was released as a distinct album it probably doesn't count.

It certainly wasn't unique, as avant garde composers, and as you say even Frank Zappa, had done such things already. Even within The Beatles, Paul had explored such ideas already. I think the two most striking things about it are

1) how well-constructed it actually feels. The different elements come in quite beautifully in the beginning, and the piece goes in definite waves of chaos/peace/chaos/peace, and around 5:00 it actually starts to pick up speed and lead to a finale. It's definitely not random noise.

and

2) how much chutzpah it took to actually put it out on the much-awaited follow-up to Sergeant Pepper. "Hey Jude" had blown minds and was obviously some sort of watershed. Then they announce they have a double album coming out. The White Album had astonishingly high advance sales.
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Postby Diamond Dog » 20 Oct 2004, 18:31

Jym wrote:2) how much chutzpah it took to actually put it out on the much-awaited follow-up to Sergeant Pepper. "Hey Jude" had blown minds and was obviously some sort of watershed. Then they announce they have a double album coming out. The White Album had astonishingly high advance sales.


The Beatles could have released a quadruple album of silence and it would have gone gold on pre-sales.
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Postby JQW » 20 Oct 2004, 18:34

Diamonddog wrote:The Beatles could have released a quadruple album of silence and it would have gone gold on pre-sales.


So can many other artists, even now. There's a lot of sad individuals who will buy anything by their favourite act, no matter how terrible it may be.

Having said that, "Metal Machine Music" hardly sold a copy.
The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt. - Bertrand Russell

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Postby Diamond Dog » 20 Oct 2004, 18:36

JQW wrote:
Diamonddog wrote:The Beatles could have released a quadruple album of silence and it would have gone gold on pre-sales.


So can many other artists, even now. There's a lot of sad individuals who will buy anything by their favourite act, no matter how terrible it may be.

Having said that, "Metal Machine Music" hardly sold a copy.


There are limits.........
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Postby Snarfyguy » 20 Oct 2004, 18:37

pig_bodine wrote: I also find Two Virgins, Life With The Lions, and The Wedding Album to be tedious.


Frankly, I'm surprised you felt the need to make this point; it practically goes without saying.


Atomic Loonybin wrote:There's something creepily childlike about the entire album. Sleepy, half remembered, feelings of loss. Incredibly atmospheric.

What a pretentious twonk I am.


Not at all. Well put.

Parker 3.14159 wrote:And yes, I often skip over Revolution 9, but I think it fulfills its function simply by existing.


Agreed. We don't need to listen to it on a regular basis to appreciate it. Plus, this way we don't have to hear it. :D
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Postby Quaco » 20 Oct 2004, 18:49

Diamonddog wrote:
Jym wrote:2) how much chutzpah it took to actually put it out on the much-awaited follow-up to Sergeant Pepper. "Hey Jude" had blown minds and was obviously some sort of watershed. Then they announce they have a double album coming out. The White Album had astonishingly high advance sales.


The Beatles could have released a quadruple album of silence and it would have gone gold on pre-sales.

My point is not that high pre-sales is an indication of a record's worth, but that there was a particularly high anticipation for this album. Whether one likes it or not, putting #9 in there took some balls. They were not standing still and playing it safe.
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Postby Guy E » 20 Oct 2004, 22:31

Phenomenyl Cat wrote:I'm curious as to what most people here think about "Revolution #9". I can imagine opinion would be sharply divided. Without that track, I just wouldn't view the album in the same manner. I bet most people skip it.


Yeah, I skip it, but I've paid my dues. As a kid I sat down and listened to it intently on multiple occasions trying to decipher some meaning from it all before I finally decided that maybe it was like a soundtrack that was supposed to convey the chaos of revolution in an artful manner :roll:

The White Album is like a Calder mobile - it would be out of balance without Revolution 9.

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Postby John Mc » 21 Oct 2004, 00:19

Diamonddog wrote:The Beatles could have released a quadruple album of silence and it would have gone gold on pre-sales.


Mind you, they wouldn't buy a mere 2 minutes of silence on Lennon's 'Wedding Album', only a year or so later. :lol:

But re the Beatles' mystique: is it true that Richard Williams of Melody Maker also seriously reviewed the test tones on the two 'blank' sides of the double vinyl test copy of the POB album (as I recall, 'The Wedding Album' again) that he was sent for review?

By the way, that's not a cheap laugh against Richard; I thought he was one of the most intelligent and informed critics of his day (though not about that review copy, obviously!)

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Postby Charlie O. » 21 Oct 2004, 07:09

John Mc wrote:But re the Beatles' mystique: is it true that Richard Williams of Melody Maker also seriously reviewed the test tones on the two 'blank' sides of the double vinyl test copy of the POB album (as I recall, 'The Wedding Album' again) that he was sent for review?

By the way, that's not a cheap laugh against Richard; I thought he was one of the most intelligent and informed critics of his day (though not about that review copy, obviously!)


I don't remember if that was Williams, but there was such a review. Lennon was delighted (I wonder if Ono was?), and wrote to Williams (or whoever it was) to thank him, and say that they were considering those two sides for their next release...
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Postby Quaco » 21 Oct 2004, 13:41

I want to share with you a PM from tweetybird, who is travelling around India and visited Rishikesh (where the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi had an ashram, and the birthplace of most of the songs on the White Album). I think it's a very beautiful description of what it looks like now. She did take pictures, but until such time as she returns, here are some pictures I haven't seen before of The Beatles in Rishikesh: http://www.thebeatlesinrishikesh.com/gallery/main_gallery.html.

***

Hi Jimmy,

I finally got to see the ashram two days ago, and i may go again today. It's a fascinating place. Let me give you a description (in lieu of the pics, that will come later).

The ashram is indeed abandoned. It lies on the southern end of the Swargashram district in northern Rishikes, in the hills. It is cut off from both the city centre (which is on the other side of the Ganges), and the Swargashram and Lakshman Jhulla 'neighbourhoods', where all the ashrams (and the tourists) are.

The Maharishi's compound is by far the biggest ashram in the area. The other ashrams I saw are relatively small compounds of 3-4 interconnected buildings, surrounding a courtyard. The Maharishi's place is huge, and takes up a whole side of a mountain. It takes a good 15 minutes to walk from the front gate to the back gate. The whole compound is surrounded by a stone wall, with a big front gate. The front gate is now locked (and a huge spider is guarding it, too), but you can climb across the outside wall at some point and go it - which is what we have done. From the front gate, there is a paved pathway that goes up the hill, through another big gate, into the main compound.

The place itself is a ghost town. There are dozens and dozens of building inside, all in various states of ruin: the windows are smashed in, walls are crumbling. Some buildings don't have a ceiling anymore and seem to be burnt. Mildew(?) and fern are everywhere. Spiders and other crawlies have made them their home.

Nature has reclaimed the compound, since it has been abandoned (I'm not sure when and why): trees, bushes and flowers grow everywhere, unattended and undisturbed. A nice Indian family took residence in the building closest to the main gate, but other than them and two monks, there are no humans in the entire ashram. There are, however, two cows, a peacock, a gossamer(?), and hundreds and hundreds of monkeys, who seem to not be afraid of humans and let us 'know' they own the place.

The ashram must have been built at the time when the Maharishi and his organization were very wealthy, because there are enough 'guest-houses' there to host thousands of devotees/guests. Some buildings are several stories high; I assume that that's where the ordinary devotees resided. There are also numerous small villas, which may have either been utility buildings or guest houses for wealthier guests.

Here and there you can still see the remains of the wealth this place once held: a substantial electricity network (in a town that is often plagued by power cuts; Yesterday, for example, there was no power from 7am till 9pm) and water system; a paved road that runs through the compound, obviously designed for cars; some buildings have stairs and paving made of stones which are not local. I can't tell exactly what it is, but it's certainly more lavish than the common stone stairs and paving you see elsewhere here. There are also walking paths and many benches, large fountains and other ornaments.

One building I saw, in the middle of the compound, must have been the 'meditation hall' of the ashram. It's about the same size a school gym hall, (or just a bit smaller). On one side of the hall there is a raised stage, and at its centre there is a huge throne, painted light-blue (I'm not sure what it's made of). One can imagine the Maharishi receiving his devotees here, and leading them in chants. The floor is now littered with broken glass, and the walls have black graffiti on them.

Throughout the compound there are about 100 weird stone 'huts' whose purpose I'm not sure of. They're too small to be residential rooms - only about 2 meters in diameter - and the entrance is fairly lower than the height of an average person. Maybe even lower than me - and I'm 5' tall. Maybe they were meditation-rooms, or shrines?

Some of the 'guest-houses' face the Ganges. From the balconies and roofs you get an amazing view of the river-bend and the city beyond it. No wonder they chose this spot for the ashram.

The Maharishi's own residence is a one-storey building. I was expecting something more sumptuous than that. I did not go inside, but was told it was empty, like all the other buildings. I'm not even sure I took a picture of it. It is right near the end of the compound, actually the last building before the back gate. The paved road that runs through the compound ends there, and there must have been a car-park at the front.

Beside it is the biggest 'guest-house', about 5 stories high and the only Indian-style building in the compound. Or at least the ornaments are Indian. While I was walking around the compound, I did not find it to be spooky, despite it being a virtual ghost town, but this particular building managed to spook me out. I thought at first that it has been burned, because it looks so dark and looming, but was later told it was only mildew(?). Still, it looked sinister, ot at least very very sad. More than any other thing in the ashram, this building was for me the reflection of the destruction of the sixties ideals. At least the monkeys know their place.

***
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Postby Snarfyguy » 21 Oct 2004, 15:05

Very interesting Jim; thanks for posting.
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Postby abracadabra » 21 Oct 2004, 19:03

Considering the John & Yoko collaborations are dismissed I wonder if people are missing out on 'Two Virgins' as a kind of 'run through' for 'Revolution 9'? A lot of Two Virgins is just random messing about but some of it shares a dark/creepy quality with R9... almost as if Lennon was playing out a weird kind of domestic experiment with Yoko... pretending to be married... saying something like 'I'm home for tea dear' etc Very weird/interesting...
the only other point I would make about Revolution 9 is that is absurd to criticise it on musical grounds... its not music! Is it? Also Ian MacDonald made one great point about it, by it being included on the White Album it became the worlds most widely distrubuted piece of avant garde art... (if you'll let me use that word)
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Postby Quaco » 21 Oct 2004, 19:09

abracadabra wrote:the only other point I would make about Revolution 9 is that is absurd to criticise it on musical grounds... its not music! Is it?

I guess it depends on your definition of music. How would you define it?
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Postby Matt Wilson » 21 Oct 2004, 19:12

Jym wrote:
abracadabra wrote:the only other point I would make about Revolution 9 is that is absurd to criticise it on musical grounds... its not music! Is it?

I guess it depends on your definition of music. How would you define it?


How about as having melody, rhythm or timbre?

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Postby Quaco » 21 Oct 2004, 19:19

Matt Wilson wrote:
Jym wrote:
abracadabra wrote:the only other point I would make about Revolution 9 is that is absurd to criticise it on musical grounds... its not music! Is it?

I guess it depends on your definition of music. How would you define it?


How about as having melody, rhythm or timbre?

It certainly has all of those in abundance. It is not sheer noise like Metal Machine Music, but is made up of numerous classical snippets (all of which have melody and rhythm), it has singing, it has a recognizable structure. It's timbres are exciting and extreme, much the same as other Beatle recordings of the time. At what point does a melody get so weird that it stops being a melody? Does #9 have less melody than "The Chant of the Ever-Circling Skeletal Family"? Is "Fire on High" music?

Besides the orchestral snippets, it features all four Beatles, something that cannot be said about a number of Beatles recordings.
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Postby John Mc » 21 Oct 2004, 19:20

Image

Presque Rien (Almost Nothing), composed by Luc Ferrari in 1970, documents a day on a beach. Ferrari's sound diary includes the sounds of insects and other animals, traffic, and human voices. He referred to this genre of his work, characterized by the use of sounds to tell a story, as 'anecdotal music'. In his words, "The problem is to try to express ideas, feelings, passing intuitions by different means to observe everyday life in all its realities, whether they are social, psychological or sentimental."

My definition of music is quite broad; it would encompass this work, for instance...

I guess a definition would include intention and composition...
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Postby king feeb » 21 Oct 2004, 19:22

Jym wrote:
abracadabra wrote:the only other point I would make about Revolution 9 is that is absurd to criticise it on musical grounds... its not music! Is it?

I guess it depends on your definition of music. How would you define it?


Music is a series of planned, improvised or even accidental sonic events, arranged using time itself as a canvas. Considerations such as tone, texture, timbre, melodies, repeated structures, concept and lyrics can be a part of music, but don't necessarily define it.

So I'd say it's music. Whether or not you think it's good music is another matter...
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Postby John Mc » 21 Oct 2004, 19:24

king feeb wrote:
Jym wrote:
abracadabra wrote:the only other point I would make about Revolution 9 is that is absurd to criticise it on musical grounds... its not music! Is it?

I guess it depends on your definition of music. How would you define it?


Music is a series of planned, improvised or even accidental sonic events, arranged using time itself as a canvas. Considerations such as tone, texture, timbre, melodies, repeated structures, concept and lyrics can be a part of music, but don't necessarily define it.

So I'd say it's music. Whether or not you think it's good music is another matter...


As so often, we are in accord, King Feeb...
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Postby king feeb » 21 Oct 2004, 19:30

John Mc wrote:
king feeb wrote:
Jym wrote:
abracadabra wrote:the only other point I would make about Revolution 9 is that is absurd to criticise it on musical grounds... its not music! Is it?

I guess it depends on your definition of music. How would you define it?


Music is a series of planned, improvised or even accidental sonic events, arranged using time itself as a canvas. Considerations such as tone, texture, timbre, melodies, repeated structures, concept and lyrics can be a part of music, but don't necessarily define it.

So I'd say it's music. Whether or not you think it's good music is another matter...


As so often, we are in accord, King Feeb...


Beautiful harmony, yas! The part about time being a canvas for music was based on something Keith Jarrett said. I always liked the idea. Painters have their canvasess, writers have pages, dancers produce their work in physical space. But music is the most abstract of all art forms because it uses time as a medium, and even the wisest philosophers and scientists are not in strict agreement about what time really is.

This is also a good excuse for poor drumming! :P
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