Composer, author, lecturer, guitar teacher

Pre-Beatles, post-Amy

Tomorrow I shall start my course for Oxford University’s Oxford Experience summer school on the Beatles, Popular Music, and 1960s Britain. It will be good to experience the uplifting energy of their music, which I haven’t listened to much probably since the last time I did the course in 2010. I have a soft spot for their early original songs (1963-65) in particular. It was a memorably spine-tingling moment a number of years back seeing the Bootleg Beatles do an immaculate version of ‘This Boy’ live. Looking back at early live footage, such as the US tour of early 1964, I’m struck always by two things: first, the overwhelming impression of some collective landslide of feeling which seems far more than what is generated at a typical successful rock gig … something beyond entertainment; second, the touching vision of the emotional bonds between the Fab Four as they sailed the good ship Beatledom through the force 10 gale of the zeitgeist. Despite all that has happened since, and despite the digital revolutions, I feel we have not yet escaped the ‘event horizon’ of the 1960s (I don’t mean that metaphor negatively).

I read recently that The Who plan a 5.1 release of Quadrophenia – that’s great news (see my earlier posts about SACD and 5.1).

Since I last wrote, the music world has lost Amy Winehouse. I was never particularly aware of her, but I will confess that ‘Love Is A Losing Game’ seems a brilliant re-creation of a 1960s torch-ballad, full of dark-blue-lit syncopations and tearful pauses, as though some lost Burt Bacharach song had turned up.

Meanwhile the BBC Proms have provided some great music as ever (including an interesting performance of Sibelius 7) and I am excited about having finally got a foothold on Valentin Silvestrov’s 5th Symphony. When I first tried this single 45-minute piece a year or so ago I couldn’t relate to what it was doing, but a few more undistracted listens on headphones (eyes shut!) have revealed some wonderful melodic sequences aside from the angrier dissonant outbreaks. Maybe they are in post-modern quotation marks … but who cares? One passage is reminiscent of John Barry … and that’s always fine by me.


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