6 September 2018
TELL ME WHY: A BEATLES COMMENTARY – TIM RILEY
In Tell Me Why , Tim Riley exudes expertise in music theory as well as a talent for language as he explores every song recorded and released by the Beatles. One paragraph about George Harrison ’s songwriting debut captures the essence of the writer’s facility for the subject:
“’Don’t Bother Me’ has a variety of texture; good use is made of the stop-time breaks before each verse; and there is a brooding, almost malevolent quality in the singing that suits the lyric (the modal harmonic design sets dorian verses off an aeolian bridge ).” Mind, this is a random pick of hundreds of other paragraphs with marvelous descriptions.
I don’t agree with all his assessments – he all but hates the Magical Mystery Tour and Yellow Submarine albums. He considers Sgt. Pepper a “flawed masterpiece,” yet spends page after page caressing bar after bar the songs.
I’d be willing to take this with a grain of salt, but he throws away his credibility as he peruses the post-Beatles catalogue. In Wedding Album by John Lennon and the missus, he writes that “Side one is another extended dialogue: John says ‘Yoko,’ Yoko answers, ‘John’ for over twenty-two minutes. But the range of emotion they evoke with these two words transcends the self-indulgent framework: when Yoko erupts in piercing screams near the end and John responds in kind, the moment is ripe with pain and desire; at another point, they become deeply erotic.”
“Ripe with pain” is an understatement. Pain is the most probable reaction to anything recorded with Yoko Oh-No’s shrieking voice. In a better world, or at least with a reviewer with better sense, this tripe would be laughed to scorn. I don’t blame her for breaking up the Beatles, but I do blame Lennon for letting her near a live microphone.
My advice to would-be readers is to stick with the group’s output, shrug at his criticisms of most of George Harrison ’s work, and ignore the rest. – Patrick Hubbell/June 30, 2018
Everywhere, it's what you make
For us to take, it's all too much.
5 November 2011