Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore music from the 60’s to today. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!

“The Magical Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band Album Art Mystery”

In the “Paul is dead” mythology, if Abbey Road is the funeral procession, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is the burial. The Beatles had decided to stop touring and focus on experimenting with new sounds in the recording studio. It was Paul’s idea that the Beatles immerse themselves in an alternate identity for this 1967 release. The name “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band” was a play on verbose hippie-era band names. As Paul explained in The Beatles Anthology,

It was at the start of the hippy times, and there was a jingly-jangly happy aura all around in America. I started thinking about what would be a really mad name to call a band. At the time there were lots of groups with names like ‘Laughing Joe and His Medicine Band’ or ‘Col Tucker’s Medicinal Brew and Compound’; all that old Western going-round-on-wagons stuff, with long rambling names. And so in the same way that it ‘I Am The Walrus’ John would throw together ‘choking smokers’ and ‘elementary penguin’, I threw those words together: ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’. I took an idea back to the guys in London: ‘As we’re trying to get away from ourselves – to get away from touring and into a more surreal thing – how about if we become an alter-ego band, something like, say, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts”? I’ve got a little bit of a song cooking with that title.’

The cover photo, then, shows the Beatles assuming this new identity and laying to rest their earlier image as the Fab Four. People looking for clues of Paul’s death, however, interpreted the cover of Sgt. Pepper as representing Paul’s burial and the end of the Beatles as we had known them. With its iconic cover featuring so many images from popular culture, Sgt. Pepper is rife with “Paul is dead” clues.

The new psychedelic Beatles stand at the center while wax images of the younger Beatles look mournfully on the gravesite because the Beatles were no longer the same band.

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Looking at the older, psychedelic Beatles, you’ll notice a couple of odd things. While the rest of the Beatles are standing at an angle, Paul is facing the camera as though he were being supported by his bandmates standing at his sides. While the rest of the Beatles are holding brass band instruments, Paul’s cor anglaise is black (death) and wooden (coffin). A hand is over Paul’s head, as though he were being blessed by a priest before being interred. In Strawberry Fields Forever #51, Joel Glazier points out that this hand belongs to Stephen Crane, who wrote a short story called “The Open Boat” based on his experience of surviving a shipwreck. He and three other men made it to a lifeboat, but one of the men drowned when the boat capsized. In his fictionalized version of the story, though Billie (the only character referred to by name) is the strongest of the four men in the boat, he drowns when they try to swim to shore. Glazier also notes that Stephen Crane died in his 20s, and a number of the other figures depicted on the cover died tragic deaths, as well, including Jayne Mansfield who was decapitated in a car crash.

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Across the gravesite is a bass guitar oriented the way Paul, who was left-handed, would play it. The strings of the instrument are made of sticks but there are only three sticks rather than four, just as there would only be three Beatles without Paul. With a little imagination you can see that the yellow hyacinths spell out “PAUL?” or, looked at another way, the flowers form the letter “P”.

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Joel Glazier points to perhaps the most imaginative interpretation of an image on the cover of Sgt. Pepper. If you hold a mirror across the middle of the words “LONELY HEARTS” written across the center of the bass drum, you will see “IONEIX HE<>DIE”. When arranged as “I ONE IX HE <> DIE,” this image suggests the date (11-9, or November 9, 1966) that Paul died, as the diamond between the words “HE” and “DIE” points directly at Paul. One problem with this interpretation is that the British write dates as day-month-year rather than the American month-day-year, which would make this date September 11th rather than November 9th. You could read this, then, as “1 ONE 1 X”, meaning that one of the four is gone, and then the “HE DIE” points to Paul as the missing Beatle.

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The doll at the right side of the picture–the cloth figure of Shirley Temple–wears a sweater that reads “WELCOME THE ROLLING STONES”. Joel Glazier asserts that the Rolling Stones helped to cover up Paul’s death and the reference on the cover was a thank you from the Beatles. This message also suggests that without the Beatles the Rolling Stones would have been the undisputed leading rock and roll band. A model of an Aston-Martin, the type of car that Paul was supposedly driving at the time of his fatal accident, is leaned against the doll’s leg. The interior of the car is red, symbolizing Paul’s bloody accident. Also, the cloth grandmother figure, on whose lap the Shirley Temple doll is resting, is wearing a blood stained driving glove.

The Japanese stone figure at the feet of the wax images of the younger Beatles has line on its head, representing the head wounds that Paul sustained in his fatal accident. The four-armed Indian doll at the front of the picture is Shiva, symbol of both destruction and creation. Two of the doll’s arms are raised, one pointing at the wax image of the younger Paul and the other pointing at Paul himself. The television set on the ground to the right of the Beatles is turned off, suggesting that the news of the tragedy had been suppressed.

The album cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club band was innovative in several ways. It was one of the first to feature a gatefold sleeve, which allowed the Beatles an especially large space for a band photo.

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In the photo Paul is wearing a patch with the letters “O.P.D.”, interpreted as “Officially Pronounced Dead.” In his article in Lifemagazine, John Neary reported that this phrase is the equivalent of “Dead On Arrival” in British police jargon.

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In the same Life magazine article Paul stated, “It is all bloody stupid. I picked up the O.P.D. badge in Canada. It was a police badge. Perhaps it means Ontario Police Department or something.” This explanation didn’t help to clarify anything, however, because there is no such thing is the Ontario Police Department (well, except in California, that is). The badge Paul was wearing actually reads “O.P.P.”, which stands for the Ontario Provincial Police. The angle of the photograph makes the final “P” look like a “D”.

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Another distinguishing feature of Sgt. Pepperwas that it was the first album to have the song lyrics printed in full on the album cover. On the original LP the song lyrics are printed on the back cover over a picture of the Beatles. Unlike the rest of the Beatles, Paul has his back turned to the camera, the three black buttons on the back of his coat representing the mourning of the other Beatles. Though John, Paul and George were all about the same height, Paul appears taller than the other Beatles, suggesting that he is ascending. Next to Paul’s head are the words “WITHOUT YOU” from the song title “Within You Without You”.

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Also, George appears to be pointing at the words “Wednesday morning at five o’clock as the day begins”, which was supposed to have been the time of Paul’s fatal accident.

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George positioned his hand in this way not to point to the printed lyrics, but to make the letter “L”, the first letter in the word “LOVE”, as the Beatles appear to be spelling out the word “LOVE” with their hands. In addition to George pointing his fingers in the shape of an “L”, John’s hands are arranged in a “V” shape, and Ringo’s clasped hands form an “E”. The “O” is missing as Paul’s hands are not visible.

The lyrics themselves seem to be revealing information about Paul’s death and replacement by a lookalike. The title song introduces Billy Shears, who then tells the audience in “With a Little Help from My Friends” “Lend me your ears and I’ll sing you a song/And I’ll try not to sing out of key”. Paul’s replacement, William Campbell, but here referred to as “Billy Shears,” was still working on perfecting his singing voice. Several songs have references to a tragic accident. “Good Morning, Good Morning” opens with the line “Nothing to do to save his life call his wife in.” One story of Paul’s fatal accident was that he had picked up a woman named Rita and she became so excited when she realized she was in a car with Paul McCartney that she threw herself on him. As told in the song “Lovely Rita,” “I took her home/I nearly made it”. In “A Day in the Life” John sings ominously of a car crash. “He blew his mind out in a car/He hadn’t noticed that the lights had changed/A crowd of people stood and stared/They’d seen his face before/Nobody was really sure if he was from the House of Lords”. Paul McCartney Dead: The Great Hoax asserts,

On the album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” one of the songs, “A Day in the Life,” has been interpreted as Paul’s official death announcement. In the lyric of the song is the phrase: He blew his mind out in a car. This is to support the theory that Paul did die in an automobile accident in November, 1966-more precisely, that he was decapitated.

Also, according to Joel Glazier, toward the end of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)” you can a voice shouting “Paul is dead, yeah, really really dead!”. This one is very much open to suggestion, however, as Andru Reeve has the voice shouting, “Paul McCartney is dead, everybody! Really, really dead!”

Psychedelic Lunch

Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore psychedelic tunes from the 60’s to today. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!

Psychedelic music (sometimes called psychedelia is a wide range of popular music styles and genres influenced by 1960s psychedelia, a subculture of people who used psychedelic drugs to experience visual and auditory hallucinations, synesthesia and altered states of consciousness. Psychedelic music emerged during the 1960s among folk and rock bands in the United States and the United Kingdom, creating the subgenres of psychedelic folk, psychedelic rock, acid rock, and psychedelic pop before declining in the early 1970s.

The Beatles were one of many bands at the time recording psychedelic rock and they did it well.

The Beatles, Album: The Beatles 1967-1970

  • Strawberry Field was a Salvation Army home in Liverpool where John Lennon used to go. He had fond memories of the place that inspired this. In 1984, Lennon’s widow Yoko Ono donated $375,000 to the home.
  • John’s aunt Mimi did not like John going to Strawberry Fields, as it was basically an orphanage and she thought they would lead John astray. John liked going there because having lost his father and later his mother he felt a kinship to the lads. When John and his aunt would argue about his going he would often reply, “What are they going to do, hang me?” Thus the line “Nothing to get hung about.” In America, to be “hung up” is to worry about something, so many US listeners thought the line meant that it was nothing to get “hung up about.”
  • Lennon (from his 1980 interview with Playboymagazine): “Strawberry Fields is a real place. After I stopped living at Penny Lane, I moved in with my auntie who lived in the suburbs in a nice semidetached place with a small garden and doctors and lawyers and that ilk living around… not the poor slummy kind of image that was projected in all the Beatles stories. In the class system, it was about half a class higher than Paul, George and Ringo, who lived in government-subsidized housing. We owned our house and had a garden. They didn’t have anything like that. Near that home was Strawberry Fields, a house near a boys’ reformatory where I used to go to garden parties as a kid with my friends Nigel and Pete we would go there and hang out and sell lemonade bottles for a penny. We always had fun at Strawberry Fields. So that’s where I got the name. But I used it as an image. Strawberry Fields forever.”

    Some of the lyrics reflect being misunderstood. Lennon added: “The second line goes, ‘No one I think is in my tree.’ Well, what I was trying to say in that line is, ‘Nobody seems to be as hip as me, therefore I must be crazy or a genius.'”
  • Lennon wrote this while he was in Spain working on a movie called How I Won The War. He house where he stayed was in Almeria, which is in the southeast corner of the country.
  • A distorted voice at the end sounds like “I buried Paul,” which fueled rumors that Paul McCartney was dead. The voice is actually Lennon saying, “Cranberry sauce.” Over the end credits of the Simpsons episode “D’oh-in In The Wind,” you can hear Homer saying “I buried Flanders” in reference to this.

Psychedelic Lunch

Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series, “The Beatles” Edition” where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore psychedelic tunes from the 60’s and 70’s. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!

The Beatles A Day in The LifeA 41-piece orchestra played on this song. The musicians were told to attend the session dressed formally. When they got there, they were presented with party novelties (false noses, party hats, gorilla-paw glove) to wear, which made it clear this was not going to be a typical session. The orchestra was conducted by Paul McCartney, who told them to start with the lowest note of their instruments and gradually play to the highest.

This was recorded in three sessions: first the basic track, then the orchestra, then the last note was dubbed in.

The beginning of this song was based on two stories John Lennon read in the Daily Mail newspaper: Guinness heir Tara Browne dying when he smashed his lotus into a parked van, and an article in the UK Daily Express in early 1967 which told of how the Blackburn Roads Surveyor had counted 4000 holes in the roads of Blackburn and commented that the volume of material needed to fill them in was enough to fill the Albert Hall. Lennon took some liberties with the Tara Browne story – he changed it so he “Blew his mind out in the car.”

Regarding the article about Tara Browne, John Lennon stated: “I didn’t copy the accident. Tara didn’t blow his mind out. But it was in my mind when I was writing that verse.” At the time, Paul didn’t realize the reference was to Tara. He thought it was about a “stoned politician.” The article regarding the “4000 holes in Blackburn, Lancashire” was taken from the UK Daily Express, January 17, 1967 in a column called “Far And Near.”

John’s friend Terry Doran was the one who completed John’s line, “Now they know how many holes it takes to fill…” Terry told him “fill the Albert Hall, John.”

McCartney contributed the line “I’d love to turn you on.” This was a drug reference, but the BBC banned it because of another section, which they assumed was about marijuana:

Found my way upstairs and had a smoke
Somebody spoke and I went into a dream


The ban was finally lifted when author David Storey picked it as one of his Desert Island Discs.

Speaking with GQ in 2018, Paul McCartney explained this song’s origin story: “‘A Day In The Life’ was a song that John had started. He had the first verse, and this often happened: one of us would have a little bit of an idea and instead of sitting down and sweating it, we’d just bring it to the other one and kind of finish it together, because you could ping-pong – you’d get an idea. So he had the first verse: ‘I read the news today oh boy,’ and we sat in my music room in London and just started playing around with it, got a second verse, and then we got to what was going to lead into the middle. We kind of looked at each other and knew we were being a little bit edgy where we ‘I’d love to turn you on.’ We knew that would have an effect.

It worked. And then we put on another section I had: ‘Woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb across my head.’ Then we finished the song up and did a big sort of epic recording of it with a big full orchestra and everything. And then did that crescendo thing in the middle of it with the orchestra, which was an idea I’d had because I’d been talking to people and reading about avant-garde music, tonal stuff and crazy ideas. I came up with this idea. I said to the orchestra, ‘You should start, all of you.’ And they sat all looking at me puzzled. We’ve got a real symphony orchestra in London who are used to playing Beethoven, and here’s me, this crazy guy out of a group and I’m saying, ‘Everyone start on the lowest note your instrument can play and work your way up to the highest at your own pace.’ That was too puzzling for them, and orchestras don’t like that kind of thing. They like it written down and they like to know exactly what they’re supposed to do. So George Martin, the producer, said to the people, ‘You should leave this note and this point in the song, and then you should go to this note and this note,’ and he left the random thing, so that’s why it sounds like a chaotic sort of swirl. That was an idea based on the avant-garde stuff I was into at the time.”The final chord was produced by all four Beatles and George Martin banging on three pianos simultaneously. As the sound diminished, the engineer boosted to faders. The resulting note lasts 42 seconds; the studio air conditioners can be heard toward the end as the faders were pushed to the limit to record it.

The rising orchestra-glissando and the thundering sound are reminiscent of “Entry of the Gods into Valhalla” from Richard Wagner’s opera “Das Rheingold,” where after the rising glissando, Thor beats with his hammer. George Martin said in his 1979 book All You Need is Earsthat the glissando was Lennon’s idea. After Lennon’s death, Martin seems to have changed his mind. In his 1995 book Summer of Love: The Making of Sgt. Pepper, he states that the rising orchestra-glissando was McCartney’s idea.

This being the last song on the album, The Beatles found an interesting way to close it out. After the final note, Lennon had producer George Martin dub in a high pitched tone, which most humans can’t hear, but drives dogs crazy. This was followed by a loop of incomprehensible studio noise, along with Paul McCartney saying, “Never could see any other way,” all spliced together. It was put there so vinyl copies would play this continuously in the run-out groove, sounding like something went horribly wrong with the record. Another good reason to own vinyl.

In 2004, McCartney did an interview with the Daily Mirror newspaper where he said he was doing cocaine around this time along with marijuana. “I’d been introduced to it, and at first it seemed OK, like anything that’s new and stimulating,” he said. “When you start working your way through it, you start thinking, ‘This is not so cool and idea,’ especially when you start getting those terrible comedowns.”

The movie reference in the lyrics (“I saw a film today, oh boy. The English Army had just won the war”) is to a film John Lennon acted in called How I Won The War.

Psychedelic Lunch

Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series, “The Beatles” Edition” where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore psychedelic tunes from the 60’s and 70’s. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!

The Beatles Lucy In The Sky With DiamondsThe “Lucy” who inspired this song was Lucy O’Donnell (later Lucy Vodden), who was a classmate of John’s son Julian Lennon when he was enrolled at the private Heath House School, in Weybridge, Surrey. It was in a 1975 interview that Lennon said, “Julian came in one day with a picture about a school friend of his named Lucy. He had sketched in some stars in the sky and called it Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.”

The identity of the real Lucy was confirmed by Julian in 2009 when she died of complications from Lupus. Lennon re-connected with her after she appeared on a BBC broadcast where she stated: “I remember Julian and I both doing pictures on a double-sided easel, throwing paint at each other, much to the horror of the classroom attendant… Julian had painted a picture and on that particular day his father turned up with the chauffeur to pick him up from school.”

Confusion over who was the real Lucy was fueled by a June 15, 2005 Daily Mail article that claimed the “Lucy” was Lucy Richardson, who grew up to become a successful movie art director on films such as 2000’s Chocolat and 2004’s The Life And Death Of Peter Sellers. Richardson died in June 2005 at the age of 47 of breast cancer.

Many people thought this was about drugs, since the letters “LSD” are prominent in the title, and John Lennon, who wrote it, was known to drop acid. In 1971 Lennon told Rolling Stone that he swore that he had no idea that the song’s initials spelt L.S.D. He added: “I didn’t even see it on the label. I didn’t look at the initials. I don’t look – I mean I never play things backwards. I listened to it as I made it. It’s like there will be things on this one, if you fiddle about with it. I don’t know what they are. Every time after that though I would look at the titles to see what it said, and usually they never said anything.”

Lennon affirmed this on the Dick Cavett Show, telling the host, “My son came home with a drawing of a strange-looking woman flying around. He said, ‘It’s Lucy in the sky with diamonds.’ I thought, ‘That’s beautiful.’ I immediately wrote the song about it.”

It’s not just fans that didn’t believe him: Paul McCartney said it was “pretty obvious” that this song was inspired by LSD.

In our interview with Donovan, who was good friends with John Lennon and joined The Beatles on their 1968 retreat to India, he made the point that Lennon often thought in terms of artwork, and like Donovan did on this song “Wear Your Love Like Heaven,” Lennon painted images in his head that became the lyrics for this song. “When we put the painter’s brush down and we picked up the guitar, a lot of the songwriters started ‘painting’ songs,” he said. “You’d just have to think of John’s ‘Picture yourself on a boat on a river’ – you’re actually in a movie or you’re in a painting. ‘Tangerine trees and marmalade skies’ – he’s painting.

The images Lennon used in the song were inspired by the imagery in the book Alice In Wonderland.

George Harrison played a tambura on this track. It’s an Indian instrument similar to a sitar that makes a droning noise. He had been studying with Indian musician Ravi Shankar, who is the father of Norah Jones.

Psychedelic Lunch

Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series, “The Beatles Edition” where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore psychedelic tunes from the 60’s and 70’s. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!

The Beatles Within You Without You

Although this song is billed as being recorded by the Beatles, George Harrison was the only Beatle to play on the track. There is no guitar or bass, but there are some hand-drums.

Harrison spent weeks looking for musicians to play the Indian instruments used on this. It was especially difficult because Indian musicians could not read Western music.

The laughter at the end was Harrison’s idea to lighten the mood and follow the theme of the album. Some people thought it indicated that the song was included on Sgt. Pepper as a joke.

This is based on a piece by Indian musician Ravi Shankar, who helped teach Harrison the sitar. Harrison wrote his own lyrics and shortened it considerably.

Harrison wrote this as a 30-minute piece. He trimmed it down into a mini-version for the album.This was one of Harrison’s first songs to explore Eastern religion, which would become a lifelong quest. He believed in reincarnation, which helped him accept death in 2001, when he lost his life to cancer.

Oasis covered this for the BBC to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

This is the second Indian classical-influenced song that George Harrison wrote for the Beatles, the first being “Love You To.”

“Now “Within You/Without You” was not a commercial song by any means. But it was very interesting. [George Harrison] had a way of communicating music by the Indian system of kind of a separate language… the rhythms decided by the tabla player.” –Sir George Martin, from the documentary The Material World.

Psychedelic Lunch

Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series, “The Beatles Edition” where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore psychedelic tunes from the 60’s and 70’s. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!

The Beatles I Am The Walrus

John Lennon wrote this song. As stated in the DVD Composing the Beatles Songbook, John was throwing together nonsense lyrics to mess with the heads of scholars trying to dissect The Beatles songs. They also mention that it’s John’s answer to Bob Dylan’s “getting away with murder” style of songwriting. Lennon told Playboy years later that “I can write that crap too,” which is rarely mentioned in relation to this song.

Lennon explained the origins of this song in his 1980 Playboy interview: “The first line was written on one acid trip one weekend. The second line was written on the next acid trip the next weekend, and it was filled in after I met Yoko. Part of it was putting down Hare Krishna. All these people were going on about Hare Krishna, Allen Ginsberg in particular. The reference to ‘Element’ry penguin’ is the elementary, naive attitude of going around chanting, ‘Hare Krishna,’ or putting all your faith in any one idol. I was writing obscurely, a la Dylan, in those days.”

Lennon got the idea for the oblique lyrics when he received a letter from a student who explained that his English teacher was having the class analyze Beatles songs. Lennon answered the letter; his reply was sold as memorabilia at a 1992 auction. >>

The voices at the end of the song came from a BBC broadcast of the Shakespeare play King Lear, which John Lennon heard when he turned on the radio while they were working on the song. He decided to mix bits of the broadcast into the song, resulting in some radio static and disjointed bits of dialogue.

The section of King Lear used came from Act Four, Scene 6, with Oswald saying: “Slave, thou hast slain me. Villain, take my purse,” which comes in at the 3:52 mark. After Oswald dies, we hear this dialogue:

Edgar: “I know thee well: a serviceable villain, As duteous to the vices of thy mistress As badness would desire.”

Gloucester: “What, is he dead?”

Edgar: “Sit you down, father. Rest you.”

The idea for the Walrus came from the poem The Walrus and The Carpenter, which is from the sequel to Alice in Wonderland called Through the Looking-Glass. In his 1980 Playboy interview, Lennon said: “It never dawned on me that Lewis Carroll was commenting on the capitalist and social system. I never went into that bit about what he really meant, like people are doing with the Beatles’ work. Later, I went back and looked at it and realized that the walrus was the bad guy in the story and the carpenter was the good guy. I thought, Oh, s–t, I picked the wrong guy. I should have said, ‘I am the carpenter.’ But that wouldn’t have been the same, would it?”When Lennon decided to write confusing lyrics, he asked his friend Pete Shotton for a nursery rhyme they used to sing. Shotton gave them this rhyme, which Lennon incorporated into the song:

Yellow matter custard, green slop pie
All mixed together with a dead dog’s eye
Slap it on a butty, ten foot thick
Then wash it all down with a cup of cold sick

The song’s opening line, “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together” is based on the song “Marching To Pretoria,” which contains the lyric, “I’m with you and you’re with me and we are all together.”

The choir at the end sings, “Oompah, oompah, stick it in your jumper” and “Everybody’s got one, everybody’s got one.”

This song helped fuel the rumor that Paul McCartney was dead. It’s quite a stretch, but theorists found these clues in the lyrics, none of which are substantiated:

“Waiting for the van to come” means the three remaining Beatles are waiting for a police van to come. “Pretty little policemen in a row” means policemen did show up.

“Goo goo ga joob” were the final words that Humpty Dumpty said before he fell off the wall and died.

During the fade, while the choir sings, a voice says “Bury Me” which is what Paul might have said after he died.

During the fade, we hear someone reciting the death scene from Shakespeare’s play “King Lear.”

In addition, a rumor circulated that Walrus was Greek for “corpse” (it isn’t) in Greek, so that is what people thought of Paul being the Walrus. Also, in the video, the walrus was the only dark costume.

Psychedelic Lunch

Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series, “The Beatles” Edition” where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore psychedelic tunes from the 60’s and 70’s. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!

Beatles Blue Jay Way

George Harrison wrote this in a house he rented in Los Angeles on a street named Blue Jay Way. He was waiting for his friend Derek Taylor when he came up with the song.

Brian Kehew, who wrote the book Recording The Beatles: The Studio Equipment and Techniques Used to Create Their Classic Albums, tells us that “Blue Jay Way” is the most impressive Beatles song in terms of engineering. Says Brian: “It has phasing, flanging, it has varied speed recording, it has tape echo. They put things through Leslies, they compressed and EQed things. It’s really fascinating, and it has more stuff going on with it that’s more detached from traditional classical recording or a Miles Davis record. It’s more Beatles-y in that way. All the tricks that The Beatles had developed with compressing instruments and with EQing things in very strange ways are present on “Blue Jay Way.”

My favorite part of it, which is really a fascinating concept, they took the track, specifically with the vocals, and then mixed it. That mix was played backwards and recorded back into the record on the multi-track, but they played it through a Leslie speaker that’s spinning in the room. So occasionally during the song you hear some backwards Leslied tracks, especially vocals, swirling in and out. It’s the actual song playing backwards against itself through a Leslie and then fading up and down, which is a really creative and very strange idea. I’ve never heard of anyone else doing something like that.”

The line “Don’t Be Long” is repeated 29 times.

This was used in the Beatles movie Magical Mystery Tour.

The vocals, organ, and drums were played on two tape machines slightly out of sync to get the phasing effect.

When the ending is reversed, it sounds suspiciously like “Paul is bloody.” This added to the “Paul is Dead” hoax.

Psychedelic Lunch

Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore psychedelic tunes from the 60’s and 70’s. Enjoy the trip!

The Beatles Tomorrow Never Knows

Like “A Hard Day’s Night,” the title came from an expression Ringo Starr used. The proper idiom is “tomorrow never comes,” meaning that when tomorrow arrived, it would become today. Ringo’s variation of the phrase took the edge off the heavy philosophical lyrics. Working titles for the song before Ringo gave them inspiration were “Mark I” and “The Void.”
John Lennon wrote this, and described it as “my first psychedelic song.” It was inspired by Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert’s book The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based On The Tibetan Book Of The Dead, which Lennon discovered at Indica Books and Gallery (inspiration for “Paperback Writer”).

The book is a reinterpretation of the Tibetan Book of the Dead and a guide to understanding it through psychedelic drugs. Lennon would read it while tripping on LSD, and according to his biographer Albert Goldman, he recorded himself reading from the book, played it back while tripping on LSD, and wrote the song.

The most overt reference to the book is the line:

Turn off your mind
Relax and float downstream
It is not dying

The book states: “Whenever in doubt, turn off your mind, relax, float downstream.”
To accompany the psychedelic imagery in Lennon’s lyric, each Beatle created strange sounds which were mixed in throughout the recording, often backward and in different speeds. Their producer, George Martin, was older and more experienced, but he allowed the group to experiment in the studio as much as they pleased.


https://youtu.be/pHNbHn3i9S4

“Psychedelic Lunch”

Written By Braddon S. Williams

The Beatles: Abbey Road

“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make” – Paul McCartney

As I near the end of this most satisfying journey into my musical inspirations and taste, I think it is appropriate to discuss Abbey Road (1969), the final time The Beatles were all in a recording studio together.

Abbey Road featured all the things that made The Beatles so wonderful: the melodies, the harmonies, the creativity, the usage of the studio as a component of their compositions…and the one-of-a-kind chemistry the Fab Four generated.

Lennon & McCartney were now challenged by George Harrison as a writer equal to their immense talents. Harrison contributed Here Comes The Sun, and the incomparable Something, proving he had established his own voice as a composer.

John and Paul had their own triumphs, adding to their own legacy, with Come Together, Golden Slumbers, I Want You (She’s So Heavy), and Carry That Weight.

Ringo Starr even got a fun entry with the whimsical Octopus’s Garden.

The suite of song fragments on Side Two of the original vinyl release was a brilliant display of The Beatles acting as their own editors; making something timeless and thrilling out of songs that might never have been completed otherwise. On The End, the boys had some fun flexing their musical muscles, with the roundabout of lead guitar trade offs from Paul, George, and John, and even a quick drum solo from Ringo.

The album cover generated a lot of speculation, conspiracy theories, and controversy on its own…and though it didn’t include the name of the record or even the band’s name…it wasn’t necessary, because everyone in the world knew The Beatles. They were a phenomenon, and Abbey Road is a phenomenal album.

https://youtu.be/hL0tnrl2L_U

Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

Vinyl Analysis: I Need “Help!”

Help_0

“Help! I need somebody”!

A song that starts by shouting “Help!” is hard to ignore. It’s my favorite Beatles song, hands down.

When I hear “Help!,” I sometimes think I need to get some help. It drives me entirely crazy. If I were to openly weep and jump up and down screaming like I want to between 00:50-1:00 in, I might end up getting some help whether I want it or not. I understand why Beatlemania happened when I hear those ten seconds. In an effort to get my feet back on the ground, I’ll try to examine and understand, You Know, That Part When…

A few years ago, when I was younger than today, I noticed a detail in the song that made me feel totally stupid. I have known this song all my life. I think the discovery of the phenomenon here under study comes from what was my favorite part of the song until now, which is the sound of the vocals when they sing “my independence seems to vanish in the haze.” That part of the song has always stood out for me. I always thought it was the timbre in their voices on “vanish in the haze,” but now, I find I’ve changed my mind. It’s opened up the doors to a new understanding.

Perhaps I should start at the beginning. The phenomenon begins at 00:10-00:20 with the lines “When I was younger, so much younger than today / I never needed anybody’s help in any way.” They shorten “younger” to “young” and “needed” to “need” in the backing vocals. I’m not sure the idea of lead and backing vocals even applies, given that it’s an internal dialogue. That’s the brilliance of it. Sequentially, it seems to be a systematic exchange, but in terms of narrative structure, it’s fluid, and any voice can repeat or sustain the story, and the rheme or closing of the predicate comprises all the voices. Take the lines above for instance. The single voice and the backing vocals are not the typical pop music echo. It goes like this (backing vocals in parentheses):

When I was younger
(when I was young)
so much younger than today
(I never need)
I never needed anybody’s
RHEME [all voices]: help in any way

 There’s a sustain/introduce pattern. See it? Interestingly, they use those shortened forms. We linguists refer to these deleted suffixes {-er, -ed} as inflectional morphemes, which means that they only enhance a word’s grammatical function. The words don’t mean anything new, with or without the suffix. It’s only a grammatical detail. And it fits the meter better to shorten them. And maybe even more importantly, it foreshadows another morphological reduction that I daresay makes the entire song work, both narratively and musically.

In the next verse, at 00:50-1:00, we find that they have tried to replicate the narrative structure I noted above. I’ve copied the lyrics below from A-Z Lyrics.

(Now) And now my life has changed in oh so many ways
(My independence) My independence seems to vanish in the haze
(But) But every now (Every now and then) and then I feel so insecure
(I know that I) I know that I just need you like I’ve never done before

But this is not how The Beatles have done this. Here’s how it really goes and why it makes me so crazy.

(Now)
And now my life has changed
(My life has changed)
In oh so many ways
(My indepen…)
My independence seems to
RHEME (all voices): vanish in the haze

There’s the same sustain/introduce narrative pattern, but this time, they shorten “independence” to “indepen.” which is an entirely different morphological operation. They clipped a derivational morpheme {-ence}, which does affect meaning, and in this instance, the entire word loses its meaning because the stem “independ,” although it feels verby with a nouny modifier, does not inhabit any part of speech category. You can’t “independ” no matter how hard you try (no wonder he feels so insecure). “Independence” actually vanishes at this moment.  Not only have they clipped the noun suffix, they also leave off the /d/ phoneme. It’s so subtle. If they had tried to sing “independence” there, it never would have fit. They made it fit the meter by just cutting it off. There’s something innovative, even brave, about that.

And then, AND THEN-when they actually do sing “independence,” they defiantly enunciate each of the syllables, only to find that the rheme, the final word-“seems to vanish in the haze” with all the internal voices confirming the loss.

Think about it. Everything lines up. He needs help, his independence is incomplete, then when he tries to assert it, it vanishes. That’s the story line and the psychological state it articulates. It all fits musically because the shortened form preserves the meter, thus sustaining the narrative AND musical elements.

I don’t know if I can say this changes my life in oh, so many, ways. However, I’m not feeling down about having missed this element for so long. Those days are gone. I’m feeling more self-assured about having at least noted that something special exists, even if it took this long to figure out, you know, that part when…

Written by Martin Jacobsen (aka Dr. Metal)

Vinyl Analysis #2

Beatles_press_conference_1965

 

The Beatles – Help