The Beatles and I.

There is currently a show on Channel 4 called Howard Goodall’s 20th Century Composers. First up in the series are some men I like to call John and Paul, Ritchie and my dear George. Of course, he’s concentrating on Lennon & McCartney, but Georgie has turned up in the section about Indian music. I’m hoping he’ll also mention Frank Sinatra’s favourite Lennon & McCartney song, ‘Something’ (think about it, my darlings).

Anyway, it’s very much like the stuff we saw in music lessons- your key changes, modulation and that. It’s nice to see at seven o’clock on a major TV channel on a Saturday night- and I completely understand why they’ve opened the series with my boys. Howard Goodall clearly comes down on the McCartney side of the Lennon/McCartney question, but that’s not a bad thing. He’s singing the songs a little too much himself with an organ/piano, but that’s really the only way to demonstrate a lot of the points he’s making for the uninitiated.

So anyway, I’ve got a GCSE in Music. I spent two years learning for it. I’ve had about seven/eight years of lessons in both keyboard and guitar each, as well as a few in violin.

And I still don’t get it. I don’t know if it’s that I never paid proper attention to the mechanics of it (I didn’t) but I don’t. I know that a minim is two crotchets, two quavers are a crotchet and four crotchets make a semibreve. Or at least, I think that’s how I remember it- I can read music but it’s so long since I did theory that explaining it is hard.

But I still don’t get it. I don’t really get modulation or keys and scales and modes and everything that music is. I’d like to tell myself that it’s just a lack of knowledge, or my inability to really understand numbers without needing to think. But I don’t think it is. I just do not get it. I didn’t get it six years ago when I managed to scrape a C grade in GCSE and I don’t get it now.

I know that certain notes work best with certain chords, and I know a lot of chords. But I don’t know which chords really work best together and I don’t understand fifths and thirds and pentatonic scales and all the other things. I don’t know how to put music together. I don’t know how to take it apart and change it around and put it back together again.

Now, none of this would matter if it weren’t for my utmost desire to be a musician. I don’t imagine I’ll ever be John Lennon or Paul McCartney or George Harrison. I won’t be Cole Porter or Irving Berlin, and I don’t even want to be Beethoven or Mozart. But if I don’t understand, how can I even hope to match Jim Morrison or Philip Lynott? Or Mick and Keef? How can I do anything but the most basic, dull, repetitive bollocks we hear in the chart right now?

Oh, I do understand looping. That makes me feel so much better.

I want to be able to affect people. I want to make people laugh and cry and inspire them. How can I do that if I just don’t get it?

Right now, I’m really hoping two things: 1: that my brother is learning and understanding this stuff in his classes at uni. 2: that he’ll help me for the rest of my life.

PS. I don’t imagine my American pals will get this show, but look out just in case- it really is fascinating.
PPS. I love the Beatles, and I will love them forever.

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9 Responses to The Beatles and I.

  1. I think you probably “get it” more than you’re giving yourself credit for…you are honestly one of THE most musically-inclined people I think I’ve ever met, so…that’s gotta count for quite a bit!

    I took piano for 8 years, and I was forced to take theory tests administered on national and state levels (both written and practical exams) every year…and I could memorize all of the scales and arpeggios and keys and all that…but I have NO CLUE how people who write music fit it all together…if that’s sort of how you feel…then I know what you’re talking about :P.

    *hugs* With all the determination you’ve got, I wouldn’t be surprised IN THE LEAST if you affected people with your music some day :)…I have faith that it’ll happen…

    • apollarock says:

      Aren’t I the one supposed to give you advice? 😉

      See, I’m partly really fucked off that I rejected the opportunity to do things like exams. I did the first two theory exams the British music board or whoever they are do… but I refused to do any others when I started guitar lessons, and my keyboard teacher wasn’t into that stuff. Maybe if I’d had something i had to work towards, I might be better at this stuff.

      And thank you- I always appreciate people saying nice things to make me feel better. *hugs*

      Does this mean you’ll buy my records when they’re released? 😉

      • In which I describe things you really don’t need to know about 😛

        Aren’t I the one supposed to give you advice? 😉 Hey, I’m just as surprised as you are about this random role-change ;).

        See, my piano teacher was TOTALLY into exams and competitions and all that…I HATED every second of it. For my lessons, I got 45 minutes of actual playing (about 15 or 20 spent on practical theory to prepare me for “Student Day” in March) and then 30 minutes of “lab” theory where I spent time with pitch machines (sang along with a tape that measured my pitch), “Tap” machines (for rhythm–tapped a button while listening to tapes to see if I stayed close enough to whatever pattern I was trying to follow), and then computer programs of all sorts that dealt with everything else I’d need to know. I took written and aural exams (these were AWFUL) in theory every November (my siblings are still doing this–they were administered last weekend), played two pieces for “Festival” in February (hated this…judges scare me), and then played 3 pieces and took practical theory exams with just me and a judge in the room for Student Day in March. All of these are the state/national exams administered by the Florida Association of Music (or something close to that).

        I kinda rambled there, but that’s what I did for about 5 years of the 8 that I took lessons for. By the end, I was so incredibly sick of it that the theory and competitions were the reasons I quit after my freshmen year of high school. And it wasn’t ever because I wasn’t good at it–pretty much the opposite, actually..but my teacher counted on me too much, especially when I got into the high levels I was in the years before I quit. Ah well. And really, like I said in the previous comment, I know I could NEVER write music with all those things I learned…I could play almost any song put in front of me and do almost any theory work asked of me, but I couldn’t fit it together for the life of me and I know it. Guess I wasn’t meant for it, is all.

        YOU on the other hand, are a different story :). I wasn’t just saying nice things to make you feel better…I really do think you have the ability to do anything you’d like with music.

        And OF COURSE I’d buy your records when they came out; honestly, I would :).

        *hugs*

      • apollarock says:

        Re: In which I describe things you really don’t need to know about 😛

        That does NOT sound like fun. Making music TOO technical, too mathematical is missing the point.

        And before you promise to buy my records, you’d better know what you’re letting yourself in for. Might as well self-pimp: http://www.clareworley.com/songs.html

  2. What kind of misinformed drivel was Frank Sinatra spouting? I know he didn’t like the Beatles…but still!

    • apollarock says:

      That’s not the point! He LIKED the song I think, but heard ‘Beatles’ and automatically thought ‘Lennon and McCartney’. My point was that my favourite Beatle was MORE than capable of matching his bandmates’ achievements.

      And frankly, All Things Must Pass is still the best of ALL the solo Beatle efforts, topping even Band on the Run and Imagine or Working Class Hero. And I thought so before the dewy-eyed, rose-tinted days since George died.

      OK, wasn’t actually having a go at you there. Anyway, I’ll try to defend Francis… Here goes:

      Frankie was a very temperamental man. Like most very arrogant people, he was also incredibly insecure. He ruled the world until 1964, and he never got it back. Before 1964 he was the king of the world. Jack Kennedy snubbing him and then dying was a set back, but Sinatra and his style never recovered from the Beatle Revolution. He survived Elvis, but not the Beatles. He felt he deserved to be king of the world, and four upstarts from Liverpool proving him wrong had to hurt.

      As Miss Ava Gardner said (paraphrased): When Frank was at the bottom, he was a good guy. When he was at the top he was unbearable.

      OK. I’m not sure exactly how well I defended him, but fuck it, Dean’s my guy.

  3. annearchy says:

    I agree with a lot of what Elise said. I took piano for 4 years in elementary school but I hated it because I was being forced to take it and I had a lousy teacher who didn’t even teach us what KEY we were playing in! (Long story, don’t ask; these were private lessons.) I did take some basic music theory as well as History of Jazz (mmmm!) at uni but neither of those make up for the fact that I’m NOT a natural musician. I can sing reasonably well; in fact I have excellent relative pitch. But I haven’t the faintest idea how to compose a song. Sometimes I think that knack is something you’re born with, and you can either nurture it or not. Monte, for instance, is 38 and has been writing songs since he was 15 (he’s been a professional musician since he was 16). I’ve heard almost every song he’s ever composed (prior to the new CD “Architect” which I haven’t heard yet) and I swear he’s never written the same melody twice. I have no idea how he does it, or how Lennon and McCartney or any of the great rock song writers have done it.

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