24 September 2004

The Beatles Revolution No 9


Remember them?

This is the sound of The Beatles splitting up: Yoko cackling, John lying on the floor counting his toes and snapping them off with wire clippers. He's got one left by the time the song begins and by then it's hardly a song at all.

You can hear Paul in the background, full of HEAD cold; butting his head against the organ while Yoko cranks up her gulps and gasps (the primal screams are yet to come but the air is ready and waiting, the oxygen frying). Before anyone can yell NO, someone has crept up behind George Martin and contact-miked the sound of him tearing his hair out.

George wants to get going but he's swirling like a dervish and his fingers have run out of bells. Ringo is trapped behind thick black soundproof glass by Martin Hamnett. He wants to play, to sing, to drum but none of his old friends will let him.

The Beatles fans do their thing outside, their shrieks and orgasmagroans flooding into the bought-for lilts of the Mormon Tabernicals, conducted by Boulez and mixed down and out by bug-eyed old Stockhausen who EVERYONE is keeping at arms length.

Ringo just wants to play.

I first heard this in a bizarre Electro-acoustic music lesson at Yeovil College. At the time, Wednesday afternoons was for sport and forced academic enthusiasm. I'd finished with football and badminton (won one, lost one), been chucked out of Photography for allegedly 'lewd' (cf badly focused) pics of some of the sluttier Park School girls and found myself in Appreciating Modern Music (or thereabouts) taught by a demented old guy called (for memories sake) Mr Crane.

He'd play various unlistenable modern classical composers and teach us to appreciate the noise and the fury of modernism, serialism etc. We got Stockhausen, Berio, Ligeti, Boulez... and he'd enthuse by saying things like: (i'm paraphrasing) "Abandon All Rational Thought" while we listened to Hymnen (Hymen?) or whatever. The idea was that we'd listen to modern masters and then put together our own compositions with a view to shattering accepted knowledge about the nature of melody and tempo.

For a month or so the words Sing Circle chilled me to the bone.

We'd all try hard with our portable 4 tracks to make atonal music but somehow, in Mr Crane's eyes (did we call him Cran-ium?) we always failed. We'd put together compositions using electric can openers and typewriters and then play the tapes to the class while everyone shuffled nervously and hoped for the best.

Crane would listen intently, with furious concentration and then give us his verdict:

"Can anyone hear it? CAN they? It's, my God, it's...a tune!'

This was the worst insult. Mr Crane hated tunes.

"I give you Cage, Crumb, Ligeti and you...you give me this...this bagatelle"

None of us knew what a bagatelle was but it was always bad.

"This is abandoned thought? This gives us a glimpse into the abyss at the heart of the industrial world? This tune? This is eighteenth century pap my boy! This is Mozart! This is...it's...Handel."

A gasp. A Handel was the worst mark of all.

Mr Crane didn't like rock music but he did like Revolution No. 9. Mr Crane, wherever you are, alive or dead (surely dead); this is for you.

The Beatles - Revolution No.9

And if you're the kind of person who likes an explanation go here for a breakdown of what it all means.


Anonymous said...

wowza. love the story. i think about my old teachers quite often... but i'm glad i wasn't in your Mr. Crane's class... i'd tell him that to me Cage sounded quite a bit like Mozart... Ligeti sounds quite like Handel to me... HANDEL!!!
su | www.aumsupreme.com

Psychbloke said...

How many Mr R**** stories d'ya reckon there are out there?

Psychbloke said...

PS. I saw that post on Mr Gutter - you wouldn't let it lie would you ? Ya wouldn't let it lie......

Spoilt Victorian Child said...

Thats one of the best posts i've ever read in the blogging world....
Excellent stuff.


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