Friday, January 22, 2010

Ticket to Ride

So I bought myself this little beauty – the complete remastered stereo Beatles box set – which, you may recall, I coveted here. A not inconsiderable financial outlay but what the hell, life is short, and so far it has been more than justified as the quality is a vast improvement on the old CDs in terms of depth and immediacy of sound.

I’m working my way through the albums in chronological order and having now completed Revolver which, closing as it does with the milestone freakery of Tomorrow Never Knows, I will designate as the halfway point, I thought I’d better report on my findings. It’s been interesting. The pop of the first four albums sounds less tinny and more bluesy and raw in the remastered format. There have been a few revelations (No Reply and I’m a Loser particularly. I’m Looking Through You was unexpectedly moving.). Some of the over-familiars are made strange again (I Want to Tell You with that weird atonal piano line. Eleanor Rigby is given a kick - I remembered again the profoundly disconcerting effect that the line about “Wearing a face that she keeps in a jar by the door” had on my imagination as a child).

But for me the first big moment comes with Ticket to Ride (halfway through Help!). I don’t know quite why it is – there are plenty of great songs preceding it – but there’s some indefinable quality in the way that Lennon’s underdone vocal, the slightly slurred guitar and the tom-toms mesh together that makes the sound first and foremost 'Beatleness', as opposed to a pop song which happens to be by the Beatles and in their style. You might say that Ticket to Ride is the Platonic Beatle number. A very English sound, timeless; for some reason it reminds me not of Liverpool but of trains rattling through Baker Street tube station and grey-brown autumn dusks. Also the hot chestnut sellers who used to peddle their goods around Trafalgar Square, and may still. I can’t really articulate it; it just is what it is and the world is a tangibly better place for its existence. My friends, we must treasure these glimpses, snatched between the eternities of darkness and so forth. How's that for a music review, heh.

15 comments:

martpol said...

"A very English sound, timeless...I can’t really articulate it; it just is what it is and the world is a tangibly better place for its existence."

That's a very good description of Beatleness, which of course reaches its peak (and end) on the second side of Abbey Road, a sewn-together hotch-potch of songs that just somehow makes sense.

Incidentally, I've never thought great things of Help! as an album, but it does contain another great slice of Beatleness even before Ticket to Ride, in the shape of You've Got to Hide Your Love Away.

Gaw said...

Very good re Ticket to Ride and the strangely melancholic Baker Street. Waterloo Sunset does a similarly uncanny job (but deliberately, of course) for Waterloo Bridge. The best song ever about London?

malty said...

Gaw, Ralph Mctell, Streets of London or Any Old Iron or A Nightingale Sang in Berkley Square.

Still have the Beatles collection on forty fives and LP, you can't beat yer original authentic, crackly, popping, fading, screeching sound, man.

Brit said...

Definitely, Gaw. Waterloo Sunset should be Grade I listed to protect it for the nation.

Though the Jam's "Strange Town" probably better represents the normal London experience...

Brit said...

Also Baker Street by Gerry Rafferty speaketh the truth.

worm said...

brings a tear to my eye every time

Brit said...

Just noticed that in that Times article I linked to the journo also picked up on the mad piano in "I Want to Tell You". And he mentions "Any Time At All" which also struck me as much better in its remastered form - interesting as there's a lot of songs to choose from.

jonathan law said...

'Ticket to Ride' was never a huge favourite of mine but you're right about it being one of those songs that seems to have inbuilt visuals. I too see London past, but more in a sort of black-and-white Wednesday Play Up-The-Junction To-Sir With-Love kind of way, Suzy Kendall looking winsome and waif-like and very bad news. Something to do with the drumming, possibly. (If it didn't sound just too contrarian I might admit that Ringo is sometimes close to being almost my favourite Beatle.)

As for the Platonic perfection of Beatledom, that's still 'She Loves You' isn't it? Indeed, it's got to be the Line Without Breadth or Point Without Dimensions of pop generally

ghostofelberry said...

My stepfather saw The Beatles live, in Huddersfield i think, many years ago. i asked him what it was like.

"Well, it were alright, Elberry lad," he said vaguely. "Couldn't hear much, mind. Lot of screaming going on. But it were alright."

i think part of The Beatles' appeal - aside from the music itself - is that they occupy a middle or central position in the English psyche (or whatever). They weren't feral like the Stones or scum like the Sex Pistols, but neither were they upper class Ruperts or hothouse intellectuals - they sort of lie between everything, so everyone thinks of them as being "like us".

Hey Skipper said...

Best music review I have ever read: you have found your calling.

Unless your calling is poetry.

I just can't decide.

David said...

What is the relevance of the chestnut vendors' sexual attractiveness?

Gadjo Dilo said...

Evocative. Though I'm not sure I can easily listen to Beatles songs pre Strawberry Fields these days - spent too much time trying to play them on an acoustic guitar as a teenager! Greatest London song? To your suggestions I'd add The Jam's In The City or how about The Small Faces' Itchycoo Park.

Hey Skipper said...

Greatest London song?

I nominate Ray Davies "Return to Waterloo."

malty said...

Elberry you make me feel very old, circa 1963 I was the proud owner of a powder blue Beatle jacket, the epitome of sartorial superiority. Returning to Newcastle for Xmas I was greeted with hoots of derision. for a while I hated the Beatles.

Tschuss

Carrying on with the song for London, there is a little known black and white movie called Sparrows Can't Sing starring Barbara Windsor and James Booth. Both the movie and the song conveyed the atmosphere of the East End better than anything else I have heard or seen.

monix said...

I was a student in Southampton when Ticket to Ride came out. You can imagine the scene every weekend when a group of us stood on the deck of the ferry to Ryde. Great fun for us, hell for the other passengers.