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John and time
31 July 2011
7.57am
GniknuS
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I have a perhaps unanswerable question in regards to John keeping time. The only quotes I can think of are when George is quoted for IWY(SSH) that when pressed, John was supposedly clueless as to actual timing, George said his timing was completely natural. Also on John's Rolling Stone interview with Jan Wener, the two are talking about the Toronto concert and John describes the group going over songs and I think they were talking about Kansas City, which has two versions, and John differentiated the two by describing the opening as 'ja-jing jing' or something like that, which isn't exactly technical. Now maybe he was just being descriptive, so that could be nothing but I haven't seem many more quotes on actual musicianship.
And there's something about 'three blind mice' in one of the interviews, it might be that one. Didn't Albert Goldman argue that he was autistic or something? I'm being slightly tongue in cheek, but is it so crazy that he had a certain type of autism that gave him God-like rhythm naturally?
He's just such a weird guy and he has described his guitar playing as all feeling. I'm certainly not trying to take anything away from John, just curious.

I sat on a rug, biding my time, drinking her wine
31 July 2011
8.04am
McLennonSon
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It was just a way of expression.

 

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31 July 2011
1.34pm
mr. Sun king coming together
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If you didn't bring up Goldman, I'd look it up. However, I think there was a heated discussion on the plane to Toronto for the POB show in 69 involving whether or not to do Carl Perkins' Blue Suede Shoes or Elvis' version, because, I think the Perkins version is 6/4, Presley's version is 4/4 (I think that's right). I think John might have had the most wayward sense of time of any Beatle, nay, any famous musician (rooted in non experimental music).

As if it matters how a man falls down.'

'When the fall's all that's left, it matters a great deal.

31 July 2011
8.33pm
The Walrus
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I have autism (well, AS, but AS is just autism without a speech delay). Whilst John showed some autistic traits (his poor responses to criticism, humour often inappropriately dark or sarcastic, lover of routine), as far as I know he didn't really have any of the major symptoms. He didn't seem to have any problems socialising, he didn't have any documented sensory issues of the right type, he didn't have meltdowns, and whilst he would be fascinated by topics, as far as I know he didn't have any fixations with particular objects beyond normal sentimentality, nor was he locked into a genuinely obsessive routine or have any qualms about changing homes fairly often.

It's possible, even likely, he was some sort of musical genius, but autistic savants aren't the only geniuses in the world.

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1 August 2011
2.32am
GniknuS
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I must admit that I'm fairly ignorant on the signs or symptoms of autism so I was not entirely serious with that question, but it just seems so odd that a musician of John's calibur could possibly have not much of a clue how or why his timing is so perfect. Music is more ear and feeling than anything, imo, but I'm still thinking about their slightly more complicated arrangements and how they were executed. George Martin said that John would describe how he wanted his arrangements more in colors than anything else.
Obviously not all musicians have the exact count in their heads, but still it just seems a bit off that John could have such perfect rhythm without realizing it. He was a large fan of triplets so maybe that and the backbeat were the extent of his knowledge.

I sat on a rug, biding my time, drinking her wine
8 August 2011
11.37pm
robert
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I'm a guitar player and I have been told by learned and trained musicians that I have what is known as a natural sense of time.

Meaning if you told me to play in 6/4 I couldn't do it consciously - however I could play and compose in 6/4 or other less popular time signatures naturally - meaning it was just the way I felt it.

Lots of self-taught players play this way - John was one of them. It's why he could have two or more time signatures in the same song - but if you asked him to identify those signatures he would not be able to for the most part.

Good Morning Good Morning and Happiness Is A Warm Gun are two examples.

"She looks more like him than I do."
15 August 2011
10.25pm
vonbontee
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From what I remember of the Goldman book, it wasn't autism (or AS) that Goldman hinted at, just a general unco-ordination or lack of fine motor skills. His "evidence" being that John was only an average rhythm guitar player (debateable), he was a decidedly unskilled motorist (true enough, although probably the result of poor vision as much as anything), and apparently he had trouble mastering a Steenbeck film-editing machine.

The "3 Blind Mice" thing refers to the number of Lennon songs that had a similar chord structure, the V-IV-I or whatever it was. "Instant Karma", "All You Need Is Love" and "My Mummy's Dead" are the three that I can think of offhand.

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16 August 2011
12.52am
mr. Sun king coming together
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vonbontee said:

From what I remember of the Goldman book, it wasn't autism (or AS) that Goldman hinted at, just a general unco-ordination or lack of fine motor skills. His "evidence" being that John was only an average rhythm guitar player (debateable), he was a decidedly unskilled motorist (true enough, although probably the result of poor vision as much as anything), and apparently he had trouble mastering a Steenbeck film-editing machine.

I wouldn't call it debatable - its more of a stretch then any grand lie, but not true none the less.

As if it matters how a man falls down.'

'When the fall's all that's left, it matters a great deal.

16 August 2011
4.40am
GniknuS
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Thanks von, although there are many, many guitar players out there who wouldn't call John average, I suppose Goldman must know best though. That really irritates me, this Goldman guy can just write that John was an average guitar player without actually knowing how much work John put in on the guitar, this critic can just cast him away like that. It's crazy how musicians are taken for granted by non-musicians who think they know better.

I sat on a rug, biding my time, drinking her wine
16 August 2011
4.49am
mr. Sun king coming together
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And that's why these topics about technical details, particularly the guitar based ones, aren't ones I usually post in. I'm no guitarist, so all these details are lost on me. Although are you sure Goldman wasn't a guitarist?

As if it matters how a man falls down.'

'When the fall's all that's left, it matters a great deal.

16 August 2011
4.52am
mithveaen
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Ok wait a second... Am I reading that John was an average guitar player?

 

I might be a total ignorant about guitar playing, but I wouldn't call *this* average.

 

Here comes the sun….. Scoobie-doobie…… Something in the way she moves…..attracts me like a cauliflower… Bop. Bop, cat bop. Go, Johnny, Go. Beware of Darkness…  I believe in SH...
16 August 2011
8.58am
GniknuS
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I Found Out is a perfect example of John's style, it may not be technically perfect, but it just sounds so cool, and isn't that what really matters, how cool something sounds?

I'm also not trying to cast judgement from the high horse of musicians versus non-musicians, you certainly don't have to be a guitar player to know when something sounds cool and what players are better than others. It just irritates me when negative comments are made about certain players ability because, chances are, if they are playing guitar on a record they probably have put a lot of work into their instrument and I just find it disrespectful to say someone isn't good. A few days ago, my dad was sort of making fun of Ringo, saying that he didn't do much, and this is coming from someone who's never touched a kit in his life. It just upset me because Ringo is a completely awesome drummer who is taken for granted, how many drummers have said how easy Ringo's stuff sounds until they sit down and figure out some of his patterns?

So, I don't know, I just don't like it when musicians are put down publicly by people like Albert Goldman who may have played guitar, I honestly have no idea, but it seems more likely that he was more of an "armchair guitar player" than someone who put in the time like John. Not everyone can play like Hendrix unfortunately, everyone has their own style and does the best they can, and that's what I love about John's playing, it's so true to himself.

I sat on a rug, biding my time, drinking her wine
16 August 2011
10.39am
robert
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Anyone who says John Lennon is an average guitar player is ignorant of guitar playing. Watch a live performance of I Feel Fine and see John play those licks while singing - average guitar players can't do that.

I know of no credible musician who has ever called John an average guitar player. He isn't Eric Clapton, but remember John never joined Clapton's band - Clapton joined John's band. That tells you something right there.

"She looks more like him than I do."
16 August 2011
11.45am
Joe
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IIRC Clapton said he was a brilliant rhythm guitarist. I think he said that around the time of Rock And Roll Circus or the Toronto Rock & Roll Revival. It may have been someone else though - certainly it was a well-respected player (sorry, brain is mushy these days).

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4 September 2011
5.47am
Von Bontee
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Goldman himself had no musical skills as far as I know, although I suspect he'd possibly have some piano skills, if anything. (And I'm basing this on nothing at all - other than the fact that he was "educated" and seemed to know something about music in general.) Me, I'm inclined to describe John as a "competent" (if inspired) guitarist, and not much more - but if Eric Clapton describes him as a "brilliant" rhythm guitarist, who am I to argue? (Aside from someone who has always considered Clapton himself to be pretty overrated, for what that's worth!)

One day, a tape-op got a tape on backwards, he went to play it, and it was all "Neeeradno-undowarrroom" and it was "Wow! Sounds Indian!" -- Paul McCartney
4 September 2011
6.08am
GniknuS
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I'd have to agree with you on that, it's always puzzled me that Hendrix and Clapton are always talked about as sort of 1A and 1B when I don't think Eric is quite on that level. Or that he's seen as the guitarist from the Yardbirds when Beck and Page are both cooler players. That's how I like to judge guys, I'm not sure what criteria someone like Goldman would use, but I like styles and I think John had a cool style.

I sat on a rug, biding my time, drinking her wine
5 September 2011
2.43am
Von Bontee
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Exactly. I think that the ideal guitarist has to be special at both lead AND rhythm to be one of the true greats, and Clapton has never seemed to put a lot of importance on rhythm.

One day, a tape-op got a tape on backwards, he went to play it, and it was all "Neeeradno-undowarrroom" and it was "Wow! Sounds Indian!" -- Paul McCartney
5 September 2011
4.13am
mr. Sun king coming together
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Well, if I weren't bone tired yet unable to sleep, I might be more rationale. But believe me, I disagree immensely. First off, Clapton was the first truly great "60's rock protege", not Hendrix. Clapton remains the only man inducted thrice into the Hall Of Fame, he has had a long and great career, with no serious deterioration of his guitar work or his voice (*cough*BobDylan*cough*). It's easy to be considered a god on something when you only did it for four years - try 40. Hendrix was great, but, as much as I hate buts, he had a 4 year career, which isn't that long. He might have been the greatest guitarist ever (I'm not getting into that), but there isn't a body of work like Clapton. Did the Yardbirds have other great guitarists? Yes. Would I love to win Jeff Beck tickets? Yes. Do I love Jimmy Paige's guitar, or even George's? Of course. But, better then Clapton? Hell No. Did George ask Jimmy or Jeff to the Concert for Bangledesh? No. Did John ever ask them to play Toronto? No. Need I go on? Possibly. But I'm tired. Anyone care to disagree?

As if it matters how a man falls down.'

'When the fall's all that's left, it matters a great deal.

5 September 2011
8.08am
GniknuS
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I mean, it's not like Hendrix just stopped playing. Maybe he's playing in heaven, but I don't really think it's fair to say Clapton is better just because he didn't die. I get what you're saying though, Clapton has had to keep coming up with ways of being creative, but something tells me Jimi would have been up to the challenge. a-hard-days-night-george-10
I don't think anyone's disputing that Clapton is a great guitar player, but he's just not on the level that others are, there's a Rolling Stone article where Eric and Jeff Beck are both interviewed and Eric is the first to admit that Beck is the better player, he is in awe of him. As for Jimmy Page, I just don't see anything that Clapton did that matches up some of the unbelievably cool riffs that Page came up with in Led Zeppelin. Not saying he's not great but I don't think his style is quite as cool as those other guys.

I sat on a rug, biding my time, drinking her wine
24 November 2011
8.42am
Happiness is a warm gun
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The Walrus said:

I have autism (well, AS, but AS is just autism without a speech delay). Whilst John showed some autistic traits (his poor responses to criticism, humour often inappropriately dark or sarcastic, lover of routine), as far as I know he didn't really have any of the major symptoms. He didn't seem to have any problems socialising, he didn't have any documented sensory issues of the right type, he didn't have meltdowns, and whilst he would be fascinated by topics, as far as I know he didn't have any fixations with particular objects beyond normal sentimentality, nor was he locked into a genuinely obsessive routine or have any qualms about changing homes fairly often.

It's possible, even likely, he was some sort of musical genius, but autistic savants aren't the only geniuses in the world.

As I've stated elsewhere on this site, I strongly believe John had bipolar disorder. I have Asperger's. I've known many musicians with either bipolar disorder or Asperger's, and I can't make John out to be autistic in any way. There are traits of autism that overlap with other conditions, including bipolar disorder. But the most telling thing is that John was a natural leader and formed the Beatles around him, in particular around his very successful working relationship with Paul. We with Asperger's would find that very challenging. I can be leader, but only if I'm pressed. But it's role I'll happily differ to someone else, because it's just so taxing for me and my lacking social skills to maintain such a role. By contrast, people with bipolar disorder often are very talented with interpersonal skills and can maintain very successful relationships with far more ease than us with Asperger's--that is, when their disorder is not severely disabling. And I haven't known a musician with bipolar disorder who wasn't a natural leader, including one my closet friends, who's been a choir director for almost 20 years straight, despite being bipolar.

 

As for John's sense of time: John could play in stricter time with more skill than he's usually given credit. It's one of the thing I love about watching him perform during the Beatles' early years--he was actually very good ensemble player, a skill he developed as a teen, and could deliver some really great rhythm guitar parts. But when he started writing more on his own, and writing songs to would not have to be performed live by the Beatles as an ensemble, his timing became looser and more free-flowing, not unlike old solo folk and blues singers. As a musician, I don't find any of this unusual, nor is it necessarily the product of John being self-taught or anything "romantic" like that--simply put, playing in loose, free-flowing time can be more musically expressive in ways that more rigid ensemble playing doesn't allow. It's just another option for a songwriter, and while not all songwriters are comfortable with it, John was and made use it in some really excellent ways.

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