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The Greatest Record Ever? Using Our MCAT CARS Skills!

Session 31

Today, we talk about The Beatles. This Joining me as always is Jack Westin himself from JackWestin.com, the best MCAT CARS tutor out there.

Link to article:

https://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/the-accidental-perfection-of-the-beatles-white-album

“To mark this month’s fiftieth anniversary of the Beatles’ ninth album, “The Beatles”—universally known as the White Album—several new expanded and enhanced editions are being released this week. These new versions were created under the supervision of Giles Martin, the son of the album’s original producer, George Martin. As was done last year with “Sgt. Pepper,” the new editions contain, along with a wealth of archival recordings and other material, a brand-new, digitally remixed presentation—a laborious retrieval and reassembly of the contents of the original multitrack master tapes, with a comprehensive scope far beyond that of all previous remasters and releases. The result reveals what might be called the greatest record ever made, not only in terms of its innovation and its strange, impenetrable, endlessly suggestive beauty but also because of its place at the apex of the Beatles’ career and its role as an aesthetic keystone for nearly all the rock-and-roll recordings that have followed.

Upon returning to England from Rishikesh, India, in April, 1968, John Lennon and George Harrison stripped and sanded the psychedelic paintwork off of their Gibson J-160E and Casino guitars; Donovan, one of the many musicians who had accompanied them to the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s ashram for an advanced transcendental-meditation course, had told them that this would improve the sound. “If you take the paint and varnish off and get the bare wood,” Harrison explained later, “it seems to sort of breathe.” This stripping away of psychedelic symbolism was part of a larger campaign that the band undertook to remove the layers of Beatles mythology, habit, and convention that had accumulated since their beginnings, as Liverpool teen-agers—before Germany and America, before Astrid Kirchherr’s arty portraits had fetishized their mop-top haircuts, before Ed Sullivan and “A Hard Day’s Night,” and Shea Stadium, and the rest of it. Psychedelia, and the Beatles’ influential participation in it, had peaked with the release of their landmark 1967 album, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” the surrealist tracks on which had beguiled the world and, many said, inspired the Summer of Love. The American political theorist Langdon Winner observed, “The closest Western Civilization has come to unity since the Congress of Vienna in 1815 was the week the ‘Sgt. Pepper’ album was released. . . . At the time I happened to be driving across the country on Interstate 80; in each city where I stopped for gas or food—Laramie, Ogallala, Moline, South Bend—the melodies wafted in from some far-off transistor radio or portable hi-fi. It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever heard.”

“Sgt. Pepper” had its detractors: the British critic Nik Cohn complained that “it wasn’t much like pop. . . . It wasn’t fast, flash, sexual, loud, vulgar, monstrous or violent. . . . Without pop, without its image and its flash and its myths, [the Beatles] don’t add up to much. They lose their magic boots, and then they’re human like anyone else; they become updated Cole Porters, smooth and sophisticated, boring as hell.” “ ‘Sgt. Pepper’ is called the first concept album, but it doesn’t go anywhere,” Lennon observed years later; the next record, he believed, would be a chance “to forget about ‘Sgt. Pepper’ and get back to making music.” Brian Epstein, the record-store manager who discovered and managed the Beatles, had died unexpectedly in August of 1967; without Epstein, without the pressures and demands of touring (which they had stopped after 1966), and having reached this apparently historic peak of artistic and worldly success and fame, the Beatles were finally free from all constraints and paternal influences. When they eventually soured on meditation and the ashram culture—as Lennon would relate in his savage renunciation, “Maharishi” (eventually renamed “Sexy Sadie”)—there were, finally, no father figures left at all.

The sojourn in India, led by Harrison, had been an attempt to start over, accelerating the stripping-away process that would culminate in their most ambitious musical project. “I remember talking about the next album, and George was quite strict,” McCartney said. “He’d say, ‘We’re not here to talk music—we’re here to meditate.’ ” But the songwriting—inspired by the locale, the Maharishi’s lectures, and, especially, the impromptu celebrity community there—had accelerated, and Lennon soon sent a postcard to Ringo Starr (who had tired of meditation sooner than the others and returned to London), saying, “We’ve got about two LPs worth of songs now, so get your drums out.”

The Beatles’ transition from performance to studio work, and the atomized process it allowed and encouraged, now reached its apotheosis. George Martin, who was the Beatles’ Maxwell Perkins, producing all but one of their albums, explained, “The ultimate aim of everybody [had been] to try and recreate on records a live performance as accurately as possible. . . . We realized that we could do something other than that.” “Sgt. Pepper” is a simulacrum of a performance, the concert crowds replaced by recorded cheering, but the new record would remove this narrative crutch. Also gone was the picturesque subject matter: the street landscapes and polite courtships, the elderly couples and fumbling suitors and office workers trapped in suburban patterns, intruded upon by surrealism, like figures in Magritte paintings. In their place would be a clear, raw vision of an unsafe, chaotic world.”

[02:20] Paragraph 1, Sentence 1

“To mark this month’s fiftieth anniversary of the Beatles’ ninth album, “The Beatles”—universally known as the White Album—several new expanded and enhanced editions are being released this week.

Jack says:

We’re given a story of the 50th anniversary of The Beatles ninth album, which is self-titled. But then they also call it the White Album. So you have to know that the White Album is associated with the ninth album.

[03:13] Paragraph 1, Sentence 2

These new versions were created under the supervision of Giles Martin, the son of the album’s original producer, George Martin.

Jack says:

We’re given a name here who is supervising the new versions being created. He’s the son of the original producer.

[03:40] Paragraph 1, Sentence 3

As was done last year with “Sgt. Pepper,” the new editions contain, along with a wealth of archival recordings and other material, a brand-new, digitally remixed presentation—a laborious retrieval and reassembly of the contents of the original multitrack master tapes, with a comprehensive scope far beyond that of all previous remasters and releases.

Jack says:

The takeaway here is that a lot of work was done here to make these.

[04:25] Paragraph 1, Sentence 4

The result reveals what might be called the greatest record ever made, not only in terms of its innovation and its strange, impenetrable, endlessly suggestive beauty but also because of its place at the apex of the Beatles’ career and its role as an aesthetic keystone for nearly all the rock-and-roll recordings that have followed.

Jack says:

Just know that we’re talking about the White Album. They also say it’s the greatest album ever recorded. These are the key things here.

[06:04] Paragraph 2, Sentence 1

Upon returning to England from Rishikesh, India, in April, 1968, John Lennon and George Harrison stripped and sanded the psychedelic paintwork off of their Gibson J-160E and Casino guitars; Donovan, one of the many musicians who had accompanied them to the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s ashram for an advanced transcendental-meditation course, had told them that this would improve the sound.

Jack says:

We’re given some names here talking about a meditation course in India. It sounds like a hippie generation at that time.

[07:08] Paragraph 2, Sentences 2-3

“If you take the paint and varnish off and get the bare wood,” Harrison explained later, “it seems to sort of breathe.” This stripping away of psychedelic symbolism was part of a larger campaign that the band undertook to remove the layers of Beatles mythology, habit, and convention that had accumulated since their beginnings, as Liverpool teen-agers—before Germany and America, before Astrid Kirchherr’s arty portraits had fetishized their mop-top haircuts, before Ed Sullivan and “A Hard Day’s Night,” and Shea Stadium, and the rest of it.

Jack says:

They’re trying to say that stripping away the paint got them back to their beginnings before all these other stuff happened.

At this point, it can be hard to follow and many students could be confused. But just know here that they took a trip and they did some meditation. You don’t need to understand exactly what’s going on.

[08:55] Paragraph 2, Sentence 4

Psychedelia, and the Beatles’ influential participation in it, had peaked with the release of their landmark 1967 album, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” the surrealist tracks on which had beguiled the world and, many said, inspired the Summer of Love.

Jack says:

They defined the phase here and how The Beatles participated in it with this album.

[09:35] Paragraph 2, Sentence 5

The American political theorist Langdon Winner observed, “The closest Western Civilization has come to unity since the Congress of Vienna in 1815 was the week the ‘Sgt. Pepper’ album was released. . . . At the time I happened to be driving across the country on Interstate 80; in each city where I stopped for gas or food—Laramie, Ogallala, Moline, South Bend—the melodies wafted in from some far-off transistor radio or portable hi-fi.

Jack says:

We’re getting positive vibes about the album as it brought people together. But there’s a lot going on here. Technically, they talk about the psychedelic image. You really don’t need to know about all this stuff.

They also built this around a mythology. The Sgt. Pepper album was a cultural phenomenon and that’s what they’re trying to get at. As long as you have an idea that meditation and those other things are associated with their album and they’re popular – that’s all you need to know.

[11:04] Paragraph 2, Sentence

It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever heard.”

Jack says:

The author is saying it was awesome.

[11:12] Paragraph 3, Sentence 1

“Sgt. Pepper” had its detractors: the British critic Nik Cohn complained that “it wasn’t much like pop. . . . It wasn’t fast, flash, sexual, loud, vulgar, monstrous or violent. . . . Without pop, without its image and its flash and its myths, [the Beatles] don’t add up to much.

Jack says:

The author is now presenting the opposite view. Someone is going against this.

[11:55] Paragraph 3, Sentence 2

They lose their magic boots, and then they’re human like anyone else; they become updated Cole Porters, smooth and sophisticated, boring as hell.”

Jack says:

Nik Cohn is just finishing his thoughts here. He’s calling The Beatles boring because they lost their magic boots.

[12:15] Paragraph 3, Sentence 5

“ ‘Sgt. Pepper’ is called the first concept album, but it doesn’t go anywhere,” Lennon observed years later; the next record, he believed, would be a chance “to forget about ‘Sgt. Pepper’ and get back to making music.”

Jack says:

The author says that it seems that Lennon is agreeing that maybe Sgt. Pepper wasn’t all that everybody said it was.

[12:53] Paragraph 3, Sentence 6

Brian Epstein, the record-store manager who discovered and managed the Beatles, had died unexpectedly in August of 1967; without Epstein, without the pressures and demands of touring (which they had stopped after 1966), and having reached this apparently historic peak of artistic and worldly success and fame, the Beatles were finally free from all constraints and paternal influences.

Jack says:

The author is painting a picture of The Beatles being pressured to do a lot of things. But now, that pressure is gone. They probably had managers and people pressuring them do things they may not have wanted to do.

[14:36] Paragraph 3, Sentence 7

When they eventually soured on meditation and the ashram culture—as Lennon would relate in his savage renunciation, “Maharishi” (eventually renamed “Sexy Sadie”)—there were, finally, no father figures left at all.

Jack says:

It talks about them being free.

[15:09] Paragraph 4, Sentence 1

The sojourn in India, led by Harrison, had been an attempt to start over, accelerating the stripping-away process that would culminate in their most ambitious musical project.

Jack says:

The author goes back to why they went to India.

[15:27] Paragraph 4, Sentence 2

“I remember talking about the next album, and George was quite strict,” McCartney said.

Jack says:

They talk about the process of discussing the album.

[15:42] Paragraph 4, Sentence 3

“He’d say, ‘We’re not here to talk music—we’re here to meditate.’

Jack says:

It seems some people wanted to make music while others just wanted to meditate.

[15:53] Paragraph 4, Sentence 4

” But the songwriting—inspired by the locale, the Maharishi’s lectures, and, especially, the impromptu celebrity community there—had accelerated, and Lennon soon sent a postcard to Ringo Starr (who had tired of meditation sooner than the others and returned to London), saying, “We’ve got about two LPs worth of songs now, so get your drums out.”

Jack says:

They are meditating and it’s helping them get away or strip away that previous baggage. This inspired them to focus on simplicity.

Focus on the style. Music passages are written differently than other passages. So if you have a hard time with music passages, it’s not necessarily the topic, but the way they write it.

In fact, this passage is not really about music but more on history-related. And students seem to have a hard time with history.

[18:03] Paragraph 5, Sentence 1

The Beatles’ transition from performance to studio work, and the atomized process it allowed and encouraged, now reached its apotheosis.

Jack says:

We don’t probably know what  “apotheosis” means here but maybe it means reach the top or its peak.

[18:44] Paragraph 5, Sentence 2

George Martin, who was the Beatles’ Maxwell Perkins, producing all but one of their albums, explained, “The ultimate aim of everybody [had been] to try and recreate on records a live performance as accurately as possible. . . . We realized that we could do something other than that.”

Jack says:

They’re saying here that they want to simulate a live performance.

[19:31] Paragraph 5, Sentence 3

“Sgt. Pepper” is a simulacrum of a performance, the concert crowds replaced by recorded cheering, but the new record would remove this narrative crutch.

Jack says:

The previous sentence says they used to recreate a live performance. Then they realized they don’t have to do that. So they’re trying to get rid of this older style.

[20:05] Paragraph 5, Sentence 4

Also gone was the picturesque subject matter: the street landscapes and polite courtships, the elderly couples and fumbling suitors and office workers trapped in suburban patterns, intruded upon by surrealism, like figures in Magritte paintings.

Jack says:

They’re giving examples of what’s in their music previously that they don’t do anymore.

[20:40] Paragraph 5, Sentence 5

In their place would be a clear, raw vision of an unsafe, chaotic world.

Jack says:

They were doing recordings that mimic live performances. But now they got rid of that and went into this clear and raw vision of unsafe world. So they’re changing their style.

[21:40] The Big Picture

The main idea is about how The Beatles got rid of their baggage and went on a retreat. They came back inspired. They changed their style. And that’s it!

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Link to article:

https://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/the-accidental-perfection-of-the-beatles-white-album

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