A very significant, unfortunate date in music history was observed on December 8, as it was the date that former Beatle John Lennon was senselessly gunned down in front of his apartment building. Naturally, many classic-rock radio stations around the world took some time to remember John's contribution to the world of music both with the Beatles and as a solo artist. On Saturday night, while the Big Bossman and I were out enjoying live, local blues music, the band treated us to a version of the Beatles hit "Come Together". It got Mrs. Black-N-Gold to wondering, Are the Beatles bluesy?
Now Mrs. Black-N-Gold has long been a Beatles fan, especially in her younger days. No, she's not old enough to say that she witnessed their legendary appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. She's not even old enough to say she ever saw any appearance by the Beatles, ever. But when I was back there in grade school, I was all about the Beatles. Now I'm all about the blues. Do the two worlds intersect?
You may prefer the mop-top, Fab Four-era Beatles of "She Loves You" and "I Want To Hold Your Hand". Or you may appreciate the trippy, psychedelic-type Beatles of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band". But somewhere along the way, John, Paul, George & Ringo discovered their bluesy side.
Growing up in Liverpool, England, the Beatles were heavily influenced by early American rock and roll by the likes of Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and Little Richard, all with roots in the blues. The Beatles covered blues hits such as "Money" and "Kansas City" in their early days.
As the Beatles began to experiment with different sounds, sensibilities, and instruments(such as the sitar and horns), they stepped away from the music that fueled their original fire. In the process they created new classics on the "Rubber Soul", "Revolver" and "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" albums, the latter shattering their pop images for a more psychedelic sound. Eventually, the Beatles tired of touring and pandering to audiences that insisted on pigeon-holing them as forever mop-tops. They were developing new tastes and eager to experiment outside of their Fab Four enclosure.
Meanwhile, their contemporaries in England where seduced by the sounds of Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, and Lightin' Hopkins. Bands such as the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and Cream where just getting started and where turning listeners on to their blues heroes.
The Beatles pushed on, continuing to release new music even as tensions within the band flared. And somewhere, along the way, the Beatles got their mojo workin' again. It started around the time of
"The Beatles" otherwise known as "The White Album". "Yer Blues" is said to be John trying to imitate the blues masters that came before him.
After that, "Yellow Submarine" was released. Sure the album and it's accompanying movie/cartoon were still deeply rooted in psychedelia but "Hey Bulldog" seemed to continue to point them in the direction of the blues.
The "Abbey Road" album followed and with it came more blues, "Come Together" and "Oh! Darling". "Come Together" even gives Muddy a shoutout.
The Beatles final album "Let It Be" also featured a movie of a rooftop concert by the Beatles. In the documentary they perform the bluesy stylings of "Get Back" and "Don't Let Me Down" among a set list that also featured some of the R&B covers from their early days.
Mrs. Black-N-Gold also appreciates the blues of one of her all-time favorite Beatles songs. It was from the "White Album" and featured blues guitar god Eric Clapton on the solo. Of course, I am speaking of the George Harrison hit "While My Guitar Gently Weeps". Gut wrenching, as the blues should be.
To answer my earlier question, "Are the Beatles bluesy"? I give a resounding "Yeah, yeah, yeah"! Until next time, boys and girls. Keep It Bluesy!