Abbey Road by The Beatles (1969) ****1/2 and Keyhole (2011) ***

Abbey Road by The Beatles (1969) **** 1/2 Own

This was the first Beatle‘s record I ever bought. I was maybe, 10 or 11, and had this old orange suitcase style record player. At the time, my favorite songs were the Ringo songs, Maxwell’s Silver Hammer and Octopuses Garden. They had plot and were funny. Was Steve Martin in some kind of video for Maxwell’s Silver Hammer? Bang bang. Songs for an unproduced musical?

Now, I’ve heard all The Beatle‘s records probably as much as you—offer not valid for Chris Topher and other Beatlemaniacs—so, the songs are more subconscious at this point, they’ve always just been there. Anything I could say about them has already been said more eloquently by others by now.

But I listened to the hell out of Abbey Road. Hundreds of times. This was my Beatle‘s record. I don’t think I even bought any of the others (Beatle‘s Love excepted and that doesn’t count), all inherited or dubbed.

I remember spending hours looking at the album cover. The Beatles themselves weren’t that important. It’s the Volkswagen in the back. What kind of lives did those people inside the album cover live? Not knowing John, Paul, George and Ringo were just outside. That’s what we used to do—stare at a record sleeve the first twenty times we listened to the music. CD’s and MP3’s have all but eliminated that goofy past time.

America’s greatest achievement, packaging, is all but an afterthought in the itunes age. I mean, what’s the point of Pink Floyd‘s Animals if not staring at that flying pig?

Abbey Road, their 11th, is more stripped down than the last few. The White Album should be my favorite with it’s darker John Lennon production tricks. But no. It’s an adult record with too much revolution on its mind. And Sgt. Pepper’s is the ultimate Paul McCartney pop record, the Snoopy of Beatle records, everyone loves it. But I owned Abbey Road. So, that’s the one I’ve heard more than any other.

All the Beatle‘s are given their equal due. I’m not sure of songwriting credits, but’s easy to pick out what I think are the quintessential Ringo songs, John songs, Paul songs and George songs. More than the other records, George and Ringo are really given a showcase. And while the Ringo songs are now my least favorite, they’re kinda gimmicky, the George songs, Sun King and Because, gave me a greater appreciation for the denim Beatle. Doo-Wop turns into a nice rock drudge. I think they front-loaded the Ringo songs, got them out of the way, to prime you for the epicness of the end medley where everyone’s style melded into a whole. Even John’s Come Together is a joke front-end ‘hit’ song, the record’s palette cleanser from the other Beatle records.

In a lot of ways, Abbey Road doesn’t really get started until She’s So Heavy, all the other songs clearing out The Beatle‘s back catalog. It takes the meditation of George’s songs and the sweeter ballads of John’s songs to set the right mood for Abbey Road‘s existence, the medley that is most of the second side.

Favorite moment: The ten seconds after the first “She’s so….”

Least Favorite: The next ten seconds. Jazz influences ruin rock.

Redemption: The last “She’s so….” through the rocking sudden end of the side. My crappy suit case record player didn’t have auto arm return, so I’d let it go ka-chhhh, ka-chhhh, ka-chhhh on the last groove for about a minute. Good times. On the CD, Here Comes the Sun sounds so wrong after She’s So Heavy.

Remember that old Sonic Youth record, Evol? The last track of the second side had a resetting groove at the end of the song, basically replaying the last four notes ad infinitum. Drone all night. Awesome. I Want You and Loving, Touching, Squeezing were my favorite songs to slip cue as a DJ. Tight.

Final Dumb Comments or No Learning:
— I always thought the lyric was, “He had feet way down below his knees.” I like my lyric better.
— You know who needs a mojo filter? Effin’ Jim Morrison, that’s who.
— Apparently, the lack of shoeshine will help make you a great toejam football player.
— Walrus Gumboots. Now at Target.
—Maxwell was not a nice man, but he was a real hit with the ladies. Ba-Da-Bing.
— A square world is a real buzz kill.
— I may be good looking, certainly I feel as if I am hard to see.
— Funny papers are no substitute for real money.
— Ten Bob notes must certainly be small or mean Mister Mustard has a huge nose.
— 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7: that sounds like only 7 good children went to heaven. The Beatles, your Sesame Street substitute.
The Beatles may also earn you Latin Class credits. Or is it fake Latin? Italian? Anyway, all foreign language lessons should end with a drum bridge.
— Polyethene Pam. Now at Target.
— Need to wonder? Suck your thumb next to your lagoon.
— Monday’s always on the phone to me, AMIRIGHT working peeples?
— Robbing is a different skill than stealing.
— A man once died trying NOT to air drum to Ringo’s solo. True Fact.
— Love. It’s physical, makable, takeable.
The Beagles sure do love their queen. Oh, adorable Beagles. Did you see the Diamond Jubilee concert? Paul was the only one who didn’t completely suck. Madness excluded.
— Paul did marry the Queen. True fact. Her vocals were turned way down on Band on the Run. After a belly full of wine, he beat her. So, she took him for billions. It’s how the monarchy runs.
—And so concludes, Jokes You Only Get While Listening to Abbey Road. If you have any complaints about Beatle facts, you can take a long and winding road, pal. Slip out through the bathroom window.

Do it: Falling Off the Sky by The Db’s. The last time The Db’s released an album Ronald Reagan was still in office. And like last years, Here Now by The Feelies, their comeback effort, Falling off the Sky is a solid addition to an already great canon of country-tinged power pop records. Falling Off the Sky could have come out comfortably after Big Star‘s #1 Record without sounding dated in any era. A pleasant summer shandy for your ears.

Avoid It: This is PIL by Public Image LTD.
Also shooting for a comeback, Johnny Rotten’s back—years after cashing in his generic anger for the lucrative cashola—and This is PIL suuuuuuucckkks. I’m listening to it while I’m writing and was planning on making some kind of Malcolm McLaren is rolling over in his grave joke, but the awfulness of the record is sapping my strength, my ability to focus. It suuuuuuuuuccckkkks. If he’s trying to make a dirt stupid parody of himself, Rotten’s still falling short.

The Tweeter: Tweeter, the best place to rail against abstract concepts and the minutiae of life while making pop culture references.

The Facing Book: Hey (old) ladies in the (every eating) place, I’m calling out to ya (I’m also easedroppin’ on ya), let that one old lady talk. It happens every time I’m out, one woman is jabbering away, monopolizing 95% of the conversation. I’ve never heard anything Mrs. Never-Shut-up say that was even remotely interesting or not self involved. C’mon, other lady, speak up! #seewhatididthere? #beastieboys

True Fact: Famous grammarians Strunck and White used to team together to rape babies and cheat at cards. True Fact. OK, not a true fact, but I hate developing my own informal Style Book and needed someone to take the fall.

Bonus Review:

Keyhole (2011) *** First Viewing

Let me tell you about this crazy dream I had a few weeks ago. No, don’t go away, it’ll have a point. I promise.

You see, I had been watching strange old Asian horror movies, Japan’s Hell (1960) and Korea’s Cure (1997), and they wormed into my subconscious. Usually, we’re being chased in dreams or looking for something. We’re the passive hero subjected to whims of large outside forces, the stuff of horror movies. In this dream, I actually was one of the bad guys. I started out as a good guy. You see, I was part of a large group of teenagers visiting a enormous, cylinderal, haunted house. I got bit by a demon almost immediately and turned into a demon. I knew that I was not only in a dream, but also in a film. My dreams often come in different film styles. (Never a RomCom or porn, sadly) So, I started working with the other demons killing teens. With my claws, I shredded and skinned. We released giant bees forcing the teens down a series of hallways, only to block the other side, so they had to run through miles of angry, oversized bees. Funny thing, I didn’t feel any remorse for my actions. Also, I knew that was OK because I was in a film playing a part. I’m rarely the lead in my own dreams, but that’s another story for a lower self esteem day.

Keystone is a fully realized filmed dream of a 1930’s gangster movie. If you’ve never seen a Guy Maddin film, this is probably his most accessible. It’s like he’s got an AV plug on a dream helmet. While David Lynch flirts with dream-like imagery and logic, Maddin fully commits. Every strange emotion, blurred logic and editing, characters as self aware functionaries and as knowing symbols, casual nudity (lots of old man scrotum), the dream hero’s blasé stance on his own predicament, acceptance and embracing of the supernatural, the set as artifice, time fuckery, and ghosts, ghosts, ghosts. Every dream element.

This is how your dreams operate, right? Mine certainly do.

Usually when a movie eases from beginning weirdness to semi-coherent plot, the movie usually benefits. In Keystone, the black and white gangster premise was enough to support the machinations of the dream and of the hero’s searching in the dream. I did lose some interest in the last thirty minutes, both because of sheer image overload and because the sense the film started to make didn’t fulfill the earlier promises.

Jason Patric, Isabella Rossalini, and Udo Keir are in it. Keyhole looks lush like the best old time movies. Kids in the Hall‘s Kevin McDonald is in playing basically a KITH character that’s wildly out of place which makes it, oddly, appropriate. Oh, that 70 year-old dude is fully naked 100 percent of the time. Who needs clothes in dreamworlds?

I like that Canadian Maddin. Although aggressively strange with a silent movie vibe, his movies don’t strike me as pretentious. They really should, but they don’t. I guess it’s because Maddin is so good at showing a kind of movie reality as dream. He’s trying to understand, not impress.

Not for everyone and not in the daytime.

Oh, in my demon dream Roger from Mad Men kept harassing me to hurry up and do a better job. He tapped his watch a lot, cigarette dangling from his mouth. Kinda cool Roger, thanks for drooping by.

Next Up: 200 Motels (1971), A Tale of Two Sisters (2003), The 400 Blows (1959), or Abraxas by Santana (1970).

One thought on “Abbey Road by The Beatles (1969) ****1/2 and Keyhole (2011) ***

  1. shells June 16, 2012 / 1:15 pm

    Steve Martin doing Maxwell’s Silver Hammer was in the Bee Gee’s weird Sgt Pepper’s movie. The movie never made it to my small town, much to my dismay, but the album was the first “Beatles” album that I purchased. We had the original Sgt Pepper’s album, that our Auntie left at our house, my brother and I never gave it back (but we will if he ever finds it again). I actually loved the weird ’78 movie album, until I did finally see the movie, and how horribly they concocted ‘plot points’ to make the songs all into a story.


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