Bombadil, Caspar Babypants, Frankie Siragusa, Jake Mann and the Upper Hand, Mike Carpenter and the Album Show, Olin and the Moon, Richard Snow Hattersley, Robyn Gibson, The Beat-less, The Beatles, Timmy Sean
In all the fuss about our present pandemic it’s easy to forget the still lingering effects of past afflictions. For instance, there’s a untreatable malady that ravaged the world for a number of years in the early to mid-1960s that continues to gain new victims to this day. I’m talking about Beatlemania, of course. And while there is no cure, the condition can be managed with strong, regular doses of melodic rock and roll, preferably layered with dollops of jangly guitar and effervescent harmony vocals. Now my Ph.D. doesn’t normally allow me to prescribe in this area but – what the hell – I’m going to recommend the following artists and their music to help manage your condition.
It was finding Frankie Siragusa recent concept album, Goodbye My Love – a reworking of songs Lennon-McCartney gave away but as if the Beatles had intended to include them on Rubber Soul or Revolver – that got me on this Beatlemania jag. What Siragusa accomplishes on the record is pretty impressive, with a little help from indie all-star friends (like members of The Posies, Jellyfish, and others). In the end, the results are not unlike what Apple Jam has done over the years. Stand out tracks for me include the exquisitely McCartney-esque “Goodbye” and the lovely spare “I’ll Be On My Way” but for some reason the more early period-sounding “I’m In Love” is what I gotta feature here. The band here nails the early 1965 feel. The record is the product of creative music company Reimagine Music who just happen to have two other Beatles-themed records, one recreating Rubber Soul (Looking Through You) and the other Revolver (Tomorrow Never Knows). From the former I love Bombadil’s folky deconstruction of “Drive My Car” and Olin and the Moon’s “Run For Your Life.” From the latter Jake Mann and the Upper Hand add a slow grind hypnotic element to “Taxman.”
I used to think ‘why bother’ trying to cover the Beatles. It’s not like you’re going to improve on what the world’s greatest band could do. But I think that was shaped by growing up in the 1970s. Frankly, I just didn’t prefer what those cover artist were doing (MOR Beatles? Yuck!). But into the 1980s people starting taking Beatles covers in directions I could dig. Sometimes it’s just the subtle changes in harmonies that you can hear on Mike Carpenter and The Album Show’s take on “Baby’s in Black” or The Beat-less strongly Spanish-accented “From Me to You.” By contrast, Richard Snow Hattersley just pushes all the constituent elements of “Another Girl” just a little bit further, a bit more twang, a bit more rootsy feel. And then there’s the occasionally brilliant repositioning of a Beatles classic in a new register, like Caspar Babypants’ more upbeat “Mother Nature’s Son.” No more summer field acoustic guitar noodling for this happy go lucky boy. Similarly Timmy Sean adds a bit Beach Boys piano and vocal oomph to “You’re Going to Lose That Girl.” Or there’s Robyn Gibson’s Byrdsian folk rock version of “There’s a Place.” Once you hear it, it’s like ‘ya, that works!’
The best dose for a spot of Beatlemania is, of course, something from the Fab Four themselves. Let’s assail your symptoms with the Beatles covering themselves, sort of, with this great Live at the BBC recording of “I’ll Be On My Way.” I was a sucker for this version when I first heard it on Beatles bootleg I picked up somewhere in the 1980s.
In these troubled times it’s great to rely on some tried and true melodic remedies. Now initial reactions to this treatment might be fevered excitement but you can relax as that usually gives way to a measured contentment in short order.