Beatles Psychedelia 1966-67

Beatles Creativity (4) All You Need is Heutagogy

Being settled in London The Beatles had fed their creativity in 1964 & 65 with a series of collaborations with their musical peers. They were now rooted in London’s social life with Ringo’s legendary flat at 34 Montagu Square their main hangout outside of Abbey Road studio 2. London in the early sixties was exploding with the energy of new post-war ideas that revolted out of art schools into style, fashion and design. This was exemplified by Mary Quant, miniskirts, Bazaar, photography, magazines, beatniks, Viper skiffle, rock n roll, clubs, Coke, uppers, music and working-class cool. For the very first time, in the country that had invented trade unions, the working class were being celebrated for their cool rather than their militancy. Terence Stamp, Michael Caine, Duffy, Donovan and Bailey along with Twiggy and others were democratising the cultural industries. The Beatles took the next step which was to re-invent their own cultural industry, music, through the love they made with their creative use of their studio craft, collaborations (Martin’s arrangements & Geoff’s engineering), Paul’s music hall melodies, John’s performance art decision-making, Ringo’s rhythmic support, George’s ego-less experiments and new songs; psychedelia. Starting with a “song” so iconic even Dan Draper (Mad Men) listens to it. Tomorrow Never Knows  of course! There is a continuous YouTube Playlist of this post here.

Revolver, recorded Spring 1966, differs massively from Rubber Soul, Summer 1965, because the lads have moved on from knowing how to use the studio just to embellish songs, like George’s sitar on Norwegian Wood, to using the studio as an instrument in itself. Revolver is a heady mix of songwriting, musicianship, experimentation, studio craft and collaboration, which was overlooked at the time as England were busy winning the World Cup and Ray Davies’ Kinks were at their Sunny Afternoon Best. Yellow Submarine became a football song making The Beatles sound shallow on the airwaves. Well flip Paperback Writer (the Bee Gees favourite Beatles single) and you get Rain during a summer heat wave. Sounds great now though, and they hadn’t even started the album. Here’s the MTV video they made to support it Rain;

Revolver is so good that 21st Century muso website PitchFork refuses to even list the best albums from the 1960s because “Revolver ‘s ego is out of hand as it is”; not at the time though guys! Mind you in 2010 the Pope not only forgave Jesus Lennon but named Revolver the best album of all time! As a signifier of the real band changes, it starts with a Harrisong and Paul plays lead guitar. Twenty-year old Geoff Emerick used a loudspeaker as a microphone to get real whuump on the bass (great on Remasters) and a cocky, arrogant rock band tells the government to f*** off.  This isn’t the 1-2-3-4 intro of a live show, this is studio artisans letting us know they are at home. Taxman – nineteen for us then;

The Beatles World Tour in the summer of 1966 was so massive and dangerous that they weren’t sure if they would be thrown in prison in Indonesia or shot dead in the United States. In a wierd premonition of the Disco record-burning in 1979 only their records were burnt to death. George quit after their last concert in Candlestick Park in August 1966, the boys returned home, quit touring and Lennon made a film in Spain with Dick Lester. Whilst away, unsure how to live whilst not touring, he wrote Strawberry Fields Forever and bought a Mellotron which he abandoned halfway up his staircase at his Kenwood home. Paul pick out a few flute notes on it and boom! (after much studio craft from Emerick and Martin) a psychedelic masterpiece was created. Let me take you down to their most experimental song;  

It wasn’t just Lennon in experimental mode McCartney contributed Penny Lane to their most perfect single. Strawberry Fields and Penny Lane? And both were released with wonderful videos as the Beatles weren’t touring, or even in existence. What a way to go! This is often seen as being the start of a period of musical nostalgia for The Beatles and whether it is or not, I see it as a period of reflection on their origins, these two songs certainly celebrate the Liverpool of their youth. Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes – yours too

But The Beatles weren’t finished with creativity, even if they were finished with the mad excesses of fame and dictators. Before Rubber Soul in 1964-65 they hung out on the London club scene with fellow musicians, after they stopped touring in 1966 they hung out with the emerging London counter-culture. This period is said to have “started” with the Poetry Happening at the Royal Albert Hall on June 11th 1965. Thereafter The Beatles, especially Paul, mixed with various creatives in the Indica Bookshop, funded the start of the International Times and bought art work like Magritte from Robert Fraser; they sucked up the sixties. As a way out of the fame trap Paul suggested recording using the alter-ego of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Well Good Morning Good Morning;

But it wasn’t just the class transgressions of countercultural London that The Beatles were absorbing. They were popular around the world and Harrison wanted to experience more than endless hotel rooms. George was a fan of sitar maestro Ravi Shankar and toured India with him taking lessons.  On Norwegian Wood he had added colour with his sitar, on Revolver he had recorded an entire track, Love You To, but on Sgt Pepper George brought his music together with what he had learnt spiritually, encouraging us to take the Magic Bus on the long hippy trail to India. Within You Without You

Sgt Pepper, released June 1st 1967, was a creative breakthrough for the alter-ego Beatles, being a cultural industries mashup of fashion, design, studio experimentation, musical instrumentation, and a lot of hard-working craft. They spent months exploring a range of new soundscapes but it needed a big finish. The elegiac Day In The Life is also the best example of this confluence of mid-sixties creative collaborations, arguably inspiring the Moody Blues career and Days of Future Passed. In the UK this has consistently been voted The Beatles best track. Lennon’s cut-up lyrical technique also mentions a scenester friend who “blew his brains out” in a car crash, as well as the Royal Albert Hall, also site of the classical music Proms. Thanks to the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for bowing away climactically in party hats. Then Paul went upstairs on a bus, where you could smoke in the sixties, and turned us on;  

Sgt Pepper captured the hippy vibe of the mid-sixties, yet was heard everywhere in America that summer and stayed in the UK album charts for the next four years. The scale of its ambition was magnificent, even if it sounds a thinner album musically now, and it inspired a generation of musicians and record company executives who wanted their own Sgt Pepper. Langdon Winner in Rolling Stone even claimed “the irreparable fragmented consciousness of the West was unified” for the first time since 1815. No rest for the successful though as on July 7th the worlds first global TV simulcast Our World was due. The Beatles had been asked to write a simple song that could be understood by all nationalities. One of only two songs written in 7/4 time to top the US charts you can still sing along to the chorus as there is nothing you can say that can’t be sung. All You Need is Love;

John was working on I Am The Walrus, sometimes my favourite Beatles track, when Brian Epstein died on August 27th 1967 and it was the first track they recorded after his death, which might account for some of its fierce energy. I think it is his most creative use of song-fragments and most interesting cut-up lyrics, with a great rock performance. The entire career of the Electric Light Orchestra was inspired by this B-side and Oasis used a live version to show their chops in 1994. McCartney says that it alone justifies Magical Mystery Tour which they completed in a cathartic hurry four weeks after Epstein’s death. Walrus was the last of the great Psychedelic Beatles songs and enables Magical Mystery Tour to be the Beatles most experimental album. They dropped Psychedelia and changed styles completely after Epstein’s death, ultimately dropping the use of alter-egos by becoming a musical collective; this is one big fat last alter-ego for the boys they were The Walrus;  

This is part four of six posts on The Beatles Creativity. It is preceded by 1) Beatles Live 1957-63 2) Beatles Singles 1962-64 3) Beatles Albums 1964-65 It is followed by 5) Beatles Apple 1968 6) Beatles Let It Be 1969 Page checked & Updated Jan 15 2014

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10 Responses to “Beatles Psychedelia 1966-67”

  1. […] Beatles YouTube Album Beatles YouTube Archive « A Beatles Live! Show; London 1962 Beatles Psychedelia 1966-67 […]

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  3. […] To be completed; This is part five of six posts on The Beatles Creativity 1) Beatles Live 1957-63 2) Beatles Singles 1962-64 3) Beatles Albums 1964-65 4) Beatles Psychedelia 1966/67 […]

  4. […] Creativity. It is followed by parts 2) Beatles Singles 1962-64 3) Beatles Albums 1964-65 4) Beatles Psychedelia 1966/67 5) Beatles Apple […]

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  6. […] is preceded by 1) Beatles Live 1957-63 2) Beatles Singles 1962-64 3) Beatles Albums 1964-65 4) Beatles Psychedelia 1966/67 5) Beatles Apple […]

  7. […] a fuller analysis of Beatles Psychedelia you might like Beatles Psychedelia 1966-67, part 4 of the Beatles Creativity […]

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