” it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing. Duke Ellington’s 1931 composition in reverse.Were there Subliminal messages in Beatles songs when played backwards? The famous dead-man messages contained within the marketing and the more subliminal experiments within the recorded music. Paul is not dead, he’s just putting us on.A put-on, whatever its intentions, is merely that higher form of truth that Sigmund Freud recognized long ago as an instrument of revolution- ”humor is not resigned; it is rebellious…”
The Beatles were a revolution in music, hence in movement,rhythm and communication: ” the revolution of the sexy lamb” that Allen Ginsberg foretold in 1959, three years before the advent of the Beatles, is found in Howl, his poem poem dedicated to Carl Solomon.The Beatles in their ”Strawberry Fields Forever” demolished the form and formula of the pop single with their playful foray into multiple time measures. Cavorting together in the midst of this imaginary landscape are the chaste unicorn of poets and Ginsberg’s sexy lamb.
” Expert texpert choking smokers don’t you think the joker laughs at you? Ha ha ha! ”Backward messages in music, or back masking have been known to exist since the late 60s, when cryptic phrases were found backwards on some Beatles’ albums that hinted Paul McCartney had died. An anonymous caller asked a DJ about a rumor that Paul McCartney had died, and claimed that the Beatles song Revolution No.9 ” contained a backward message confirming the rumor.Gibb, the DJ played the song backwards on his turntable and heard ”turn me on , dead man…turn me on, dead man. There was also an alleged meassge in ”I’m So Tired” of ”Paul is a dead man,miss him. the result was the ”Paul is Dead” movement.
The controversy endured into the late 70s and early 80s when some theologians claimed that Satan possessed the minds of singers, causing them to insert messages backwards into albums, which led to incidents of record burning. More inflammatory fundamentalists claimed the Fab Four, among others were duped disciples of the Antichrist. Many of these backward messages were in fact examples of reverse speech in music which can occur naturally in all forms of speech.
One message is clear. No matter how one splices and doctors the tape : The legendary 5 th Beatle may not have been producer George Martin, put poet Gertrude Stein. Gertrude gave the noble title of ”lost generation” to all of her self-indulgent and disillusioned expatriot American friends like Hemingway,F.Scott Fitzgerald, Thornton Wilder, Ezra Pound etc. and the rest who gathered in her Paris salon for free liquor every day. The idea behind the title was that their involvement in WWI had made them unfit, and unsuited for work, and the demands of ” normal” life. ”You see, what all those absinthe drinkers in Gertrude Stein’s salon neglected to come to terms with is that their lifestlyes (and successes) were funded by productive people. Europe’s children of today have no more desire to work and support themselves than any of them did. The problem for today’s Lost Generation is all the rich aunts and uncles have been sucked dry.” ( Patum Peperium )
The Beatle’s song “Help” contains an interesting backward message. This song was recorded at around the time the Beatles began to experiment with drugs. The reversal says, ”now he uses marijuana”. There is no superimposed soundtrack and the chorus also sings marijuana in the background. On While my guitar gently weeps, Harrison sings, ” Pass the gun now. It kills the love, the love is cold. ”
The 1950s saw the development of ”musique concrete”.Although the use of tape and a dextrous razor blade had been originally used for generating propaganda,in Germany, it also could be employed creatively to change the nature of recorded sound.In 1948, French composer and theorist Pierre Schaeffer used tape manipulation of natural and mechanical sounds to make a pioneering radio programme. His new techniques, known in artistic circles as ” musique concrete’, used tape recorders to create new sounds from old. He used ‘spooling noise’, played tapes backwards or at different speeds, or turned the spools by hand. By using a machine with a variable-speed capstan motor, the pitch of a sound could be modified with musical accuracy.It was the beginning of an avant-garde form of electronic music resulting in tape music compositions using techniques including reverse tape effects. Thus,Schaeffer is credited with advancing an aesthetic practice that was centered upon the use of sound rather than music as a central compositional resource.
The newly remastered CDs of the Beatle’s original albums and singles, which EMI and Apple Corps, the Beatles’ company, have released this year, have rekindled Beatlemania and led to a new regard on their work. In most cases this music has dimension and detail that it never had before, and the new packaging reflects each album’s musical and cultural importance. Over all, the new discs sound substantially better than the Beatles’ original CDs, which EMI issued in 1987. The most striking and consistent improvements appear to be a heftier, rounded, three-dimensional bass sound, and drums that now sound like drums, rather than something in the distance being hit. But because each album has its own sonic character, due partly to developments in recording technology during the Beatles’ career, and partly to the growing complexity of their work, some discs are ived more radically than others, most notably, Sergeant Peppers and Magical Mystery Tour.
It all proves, that the myth, and mystique of the Beatles endures.The Beatles came to the point where the message had outgrown the medium. The name of the group suggests a Kafka bag of men turning to metamorphosis. Particularly with the Sergeant Pepper’s which contrived to be a sort of play within a play, a la Brecht, with the Beatles already at one remove from their former cherubic selves, to the neobaroque ”Magical Mystery Tour” with the added fullsome miscellanea of nonsensical basura bought in a Tangiers cafe:An eclectic circus of trumpets,saxaphones, random noises of the Zen-Cage school and footnotes from the ”Yeah ,Yeah, Yeah, ” days. There is a lawlessness that is reminiscent of the indeterminancy, or ”open form and chance pieces” from John Cage, the father of random music making.
Marketing, hubris aside, the Beatles revolution is not complete, its a perpetual revolution. The Beatles, like Beethoven before them have permanently expanded the limits of the world we live in, the world of vibrations. The Beatles succeeded in bringing the two mainstreams of music, serious and pop, Bach and barrelhouse, flowing back in the same broad channel. On ”Your Mother Should Know” you can hear the Beatles clear reaffirmation of their ties to the great western traditions of J.Brahms and the close knit family. ”Your Mother Should Know” is the motto, repeated and repeated, or as Gertrude Stein said, ”repeating then is in everyone, everyone is in repeating. In everyone their being and their feeling and their way of realizing everything and everyone comes out of them in repeating. More and more then every one comes to be clear to someone… Gertrude Stein’s psychodynamics. The polyphonic ”Blue Jay Way” offers variations on this same theme of iteration an reiteration: ”Please don’t be long please don’t you be very long/Please don’t be long,” with the predictable result that this is one of the longest songs they ever recorded to that point.
The sheer irrelevence of much of this music suggests the possibility of another put-on….. Penny Lane recalls Kurt Weill’s glorious moments in his Berlin theater songs of the 1920’s. It opens up neobaroque vistas, with Bach trumpets blowing hallelujah’s for the fireman who ”likes to keep his fire engine clean, its a clean machine”. ” Love is a groove…Love is the only natural thing…God is in everything…It just happens that I,ve realized all of this through acid, but it could have been through anything. It really doesn,t matter how I made it…The final result is all that counts.” ( Paul McCartney )
Was Paul the Walrus? The ”Walrus” takes a much bigger and more significant step toward the abolition of determinancy. It finds grist for its mill in retreaded mid-40’s Hollywood movie chords, choruses inspired by early laughing gas dentistry, and ”elementary penguin singing Hare Krishna”. Amid the inchoate prenatal or postprandial noises of this ”Walrus”, the universe resounds with the mighty cry of ”I am the eggman” and intimations of the great ooohm, muttered through mink teeth. The song also marks their first tentative exploration of forbidden territory: ”boy you been a naughty girl, you let your knickers down”. But back to that fifth Beatle…
”I asked a number of painters who they preferred. Almost all instantly replied, “Picasso.” One added, “Matisse is Paul. Picasso is John,” meaning, I think, that these days Matisse is seen as the sweet, effete, bourgeois Beatle, the painter of joy, while Picasso is regarded as the rigorous, revolutionary macho bull, the one who painted close to the knives.”
The story begins when the two were introduced by Leo and Gertrude Stein in 1906.A rivalry grew and sides were taken. In 1908, Gertrude Stein, who loved stirring things up, wrote, “the feeling between the Picassoites and the Matisse-ites became bitter.”It’s true. Picasso awes. “What Picasso does he does in blood,” Matisse said. He’s the great, volcanic graphic master, the painter par excellence of the erotic and the sexual (“When you feel like fucking, fuck!” he scrawled on one drawing), the self-mythologizing obliterator and re-creator of form, an artist who put his ultimate fantasy on canvas and made it make sense: We see labia, clitoris, anus, buttocks, breasts, eyes and mouth at the same time. His spaces are contorted orgies of dark and light, angular ice-fields of organized energy….Matisse is the consummate, deliberative maestro of color and sensuousness, an artist of colossal, nearly fearful simplicity — in his own words, as different from Picasso as “North Pole is from South.” He painted real space in a totally abstract manner, made the decorative mighty, created veracity through mere hints of color or the voluptuous flick of his brush, and simplified form to resequence our vision and alter our idea of reality. All this not only makes Matisse as revolutionary and raging as Picasso, it makes him as radical as any artist who ever lived. Picasso blows you away; Matisse sweeps you off your feet.( Jerry Saltz, Village Voice )
Thus,the cliché that Matisse was the sweet, sappy one should wither. As with Lennon and McCartney, Matisse and Picasso didn’t make each other possible, they made each other better.It’s Matisse, the patron saint of ravishment and rapture, versus Picasso, the ravenous demon of rupture — the beneficent Frenchman who stands almost outside of art history against the Spanish monster who wrenched it off course.( Jerry Saltz)
The analogy is telling, and must not have been lost on Mccartney when he wrote ”Picasso’s Last Words ( Drink to Me ). The Beatles were born on the cusp, as astrologers say , where two spheres of influence came together; in this case the signs of Memphis rock (Lennon) and London music hall ( McCartney ). The French word ”beatilles” is defined as all kind of ingredients, that may be fancied, for to put together into a pie, or otherwise… . It was inevitable that the Beatles should emerge as the great syncretists and mixmasters of their day and perhaps ours.