I did something yesterday for the first time on this trip: I listened to Beatles music in the car.
When driving (and I drive a lot - at least 55 hours on this tour alone), I am far more likely to play other bands' music, or an audiobook or podcast, or turn on the local country or hip-hop radio stations, than I am to play the Beatles. A woman once asked me after a talk in Illinois, "Do you ever listen to the Beatles just for pleasure?" Not really. It's not that I don't like the music (I wouldn't spend all this time and effort on music I disliked), but (1) I've already listened soooooo much that I have the music largely committed to memory, which is perfectly adequate when I want to "listen" for pleasure; and (2) as a scholar, my listening is analytic in nature. Every time I hear music (Beatles or otherwise), even when listening for pleasure, I'm engaging with the music by analyzing it - drawing connections between what I'm hearing how and what I've heard in the past. Some people think that's a shame - that I can no longer "just listen for enjoyment" - but I find the opposite true: I get exponentially more enjoyment, understanding, and appreciation from music by making these analytic connections.
But yesterday on my drive to Ruskin I stopped by a store called Sound Exchange, a used music and movies retailer, where I purchased The Capitol Albums, Volume 1. It contains the Beatles' first four Capitol albums (the American releases as opposed to the English Parlophone releases), in both stereo and mono: Meet the Beatles!, The Beatles' Second Album, Something New, and Beatles '65 (all originally released in 1964).
I've heard much debate over the value of the American vs. British releases, and also of the stereo vs. mono releases. Since I consider the 2009 stereo remastered set the definitive recordings, I have never given much thought to the alternatives. Nevertheless, while in Charleston, WV a week or so ago I encountered the U.S. Albums Box Set and briefly flirted with buying it, but the $200 price tag quickly muted any serious consideration. Still, I decided to keep an eye out. So when I found The Capitol Albums, Volume 1 at a price of just $25, I bought it.
Granted, I only listened to a few of the tracks - and even then not that closely (I was driving, after all) - but they seemed remarkably similar to the British products I've studied so extensively. And while I certainly don't regret the purchase, I was slightly disappointed (and glad that I only spent $25 instead of $200). The way some fans discuss the differences, I was expecting much more pronounced distinctions between the two versions. From a musically analytic perspective, however, these differences are negligible and thus offer no insight. On the other hand, as I listen more perhaps I will find musically significant discrepancies. I have many hours of driving ahead of me to find out.
Today and tomorrow, though, I'll spend less than an hour in the car as I drive to the Jan Kaminis Platt Regional Library this evening, and to the New Tampa Regional Library tomorrow:
Wednesday, 24 February 2016, 6:30-7:30 p.m.
New Tampa Regional Library, 10001 Cross Creek Blvd, Tampa, FL
The Beatles: Band of the Sixties
Explore the music of The Beatles in this 60-minute multimedia presentation (part history and part musical analysis) spanning the full 1960's: beginning with the band's seminal visits to Hamburg, continuing through Beatlemania, and concluding with Abbey Road. The program will be supplemented with audio clips of music and excerpts from interviews with the band members.
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This blog is a workshop for developing my analyses of The Beatles' music.