April 6: "From the Shadow of JFK: The Rise of Beatlemania in America" at the Wernersville Public Library
Yesterday, while driving from my home in Carmel, IN to the Steubenville, OH public library, I started listening to Carole King's autobiography A Natural Woman. In it, King describes puzzlement over the odd sounding instrument heard in Paul Anka's "Diana" (1957).
When King met Don Costa (who produced the song), she asked him: "He confided, almost conspiratorially, that it was a guitar and a saxophone playing in unison. I was thrilled to learn this, first, because I never would have figured it out on my own, and second, because he considered me worthy of sharing an arranger's trade secret."
One of my former composition teachers compared this sonic technique to a painter combining two different colors to produce a new third color.
That "arranger's trade secret" of having two instruments play simultaneously (as opposed to the more traditional literal solo) was one the Beatles' producer, George Martin, also employed. At Martin's suggestion, the solo of Beatles' 1963 cover of The Shirelles' 1961 "Baby' It's You" (heard from 1:41-1:57 below) is actually a duet between George Harrison's guitar and George Martin's celeste.
Unlike "Diana", this duet isn't in unison. Harrison plays his guitar in its lowest register, while the celeste is a high-pitched instrument. So while they both play the same notes, the celeste sounds a few octaves higher than the guitar, making it relatively easy to differentiate the two sounds.
It's a trick Martin would implement again in the not-too-distant future, on a song that would reach #1 on both the US and UK charts. But we'll save that for tomorrow's blog.
In the meantime, I drive to Wernersville, PA for a program this evening at the Wernersville Public Library. And be listening to A Natural Woman on the way.
Wednesday, 6 April 2016, 6:30-7:30 p.m.
Wernersville Public Library, 100 N Reber St, Wernersville, PA
From the Shadow of JFK: The Rise of Beatlemania in America
Many Beatles authors and scholars have cited John F. Kennedy's assassination on 22 November 1963 as a cause of the Beatles' sudden popularity in the United States in early 1964. Their logic: Kennedy's assassination made America sad, then the Beatles made America happy again. But this commonly accepted answer is overly simplistic. America has suffered numerous tragedies and rebounded each time, but the popularity and staying power of the Beatles remains unmatched in American history. The real answer is that Kennedy's life and death inadvertently primed the nation for the Beatles' arrival and success. This 60-minute multimedia program will explain how and why.
This blog is a workshop for developing my analyses of The Beatles' music.