Tag: Beethoven

Day 998: Crossing Abbey Road

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This Friday marks the 45th anniversary of what I believe to be the greatest album of all time.

Before you flick lint in my beer or pelt me with wads of Big League Chew for not designating this title to Pink Floyd’s Piper At The Gates of Dawn or Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ Too-Rye-Ay, allow me to point out that there are many albums that are flawless – sometimes in spite of a number of actual flaws. Nary a wayward note blemishes Stevie Wonder’s Songs In The Key of Life, and Paul Simon’s Graceland is among the few utterly perfect slabs of 1980’s vinyl. For me, “the greatest” combines not only artistic and technical brilliance, but the subjective distinction of having served as the soundtrack to many of the most fantastic moments of my life. Your results may (and probably do) vary.

The story of Abbey Road is one of pure, primal mirth, flecked with auburn specks of encroaching melancholy. It is the last glorious and romantic trip to Maui for an otherwise doomed marriage. It marks the greatest rock band in history (an assertion I’ll stand by as wholly factual) producing one final brushstroke upon their legacy before heading their separate ways.

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This is not a happy group.

In January of 1969, the Beatles were moving in four different directions, and had been for over a year. Their plan was to return to the studio, record a back-to-their-roots album, perform their first concert since the summer of 1966 (the Pyramids in Egypt were a proposed locale, as was a barge adrift in the Atlantic), and film it all for posterity. This attempt to reconnect resulted in a cavalcade of arguments, the grandiose concert reduced to a noon-hour gig on the roof, and the temporary quitting of George Harrison. Read more…

Day 242: The Unfinished Article

There are days when writing my daily tithe feels like it’ll be the death of me. But unless something should strike me down in the middle of penning a kilograph, I won’t be leaving behind any grand unfinished work. Sure, I might perish before I turn 40, in which case this project would be my incomplete (master)piece. But I’m going to choose not to dwell on my own potential demise; let’s look at the demise of others.

Some of the unfinished work on this list has nothing to do with a premature game-over. Sometimes its creator just abandons it, lets it go because it can’t be saved. For the greats of art and literature, some joker will always slip that incomplete work into the public after the artist is dead. People are just dicks like that.

Chris Tolkien has kept himself busy completing and releasing his father’s work. The Silmarillion was initially supposed to be a sequel to The Hobbit, but Tolkien never compiled it into a releasable volume. Chris gathered up the chunks and filled in some of the gaps himself to come up with what the New York Review of Books called “an empty and pompous bore.” Read more…

Day 235: For It’s A Jolly Good Origin Story

Sometimes a rich and textured piece of music requires further analysis. Only by delving deeper into the complexities and subtle modal shifts of a great work can we truly hope to understand it, to appreciate its aesthetic and kinesthetic properties, and to gauge its true importance in whatever sub-cultural niche the piece belongs.

To that end, I’m going to spend a thousand words writing about a song with no complexities, a negligible aesthetic, and which probably shows up on approximately zero iPod playlists in any given metropolitan area.

“For He’s A Jolly Good Fellow.”

What a delightful sentiment. And everyone knows the tune; this song has been worked into the grain by unseen hands. It’s part of the unspoken collective cultural understanding of every cognizant human being in the western world, like Auld Lang Syne, the Star Spangled Banner, and “Brickyard Blues” by Little Feat. Okay, that last one should be known by everyone.

Ours is not yet a fully evolved culture.

Every piece of music has its origin story. Somewhere, at some point in history, somebody had to be the first to staple those notes together and call it a tune. “For He’s A Jolly Good Fellow” finds its roots, not in celebration of some schmuck becoming Salesman of the Month, but in someone’s misunderstanding of a gruesome blood-fest.

For the second time in three months I find myself returning to September 11 – but not that September 11. This was September 11, 1709, in the middle of the War of the Spanish Succession. This 13-year shootapalooza featured nearly everyone on the European continent. Its end result split the kingdoms of Spain all over the place, redrew the map, and put an end to France’s inexplicable desire to possess control of Saskatchewan. Read more…