During my freshman year of college I had roommate named Dean who was a musician. He used to practice guitar in the walk-in closet late at night, playing intricat scales at breakneck speed like a second coming of Yngwie Malmsteen. Dean also brought his turntable and stacks of records, about which he was very passionate. He and I could be talking about John Coltrane, Sonic Youth, the Gregorian Chant or the Butthole Surfers, and in his Long Island accent he'd ask, "Ever listen to this record? Best - record - evuh!" A few seconds later a different album would come up: '"Ever listen to this one? Da best - evuh!"
I thought of Dean recently because I've developed a similar passion for one song.
I've been a Beatles fan all my life. My mom had a collection of about ten or twelve of their albums, including all the essentials such as Sgt Pepper's, The White Album, Let It Be, Abbey Road, Revolver, Help!, A Hard Day's Night, Magical Mystery Tour and Rubber Soul. She also had several older albums like Beatles '65 and Meet the Beatles. Their music was played in our house at dinner, evenings by the fireplace, and in the car on trips.
However, one album I never had access to growing up was Yellow Submarine. We had the song, of course, as it appeared originally on Revolver. But not the soundtrack album that accompanied the annimated "Yellow Submarine" movie. That's probably because there were only about four new songs on it. The rest consisted of previously released tracks such as "All You Need Is Love" and a couple of instrumental pieces from the score.
Recently, though, I've been checking out from the library Beatles albums neither my mom nor I had ever aquired. One song from Yellow Submarine has been a particular revelation: "It's All Too Much", a sprawling six-minute epic written and sung by George Harrison.
Right now, this song is "Da best evuh" in my book.
The song feels modern because its beat resembles a hip-hop loop. As usual with the Beatles, there is a dense instrumental layer-cake of sound in the background. For the first several minutes, the song is anchored by Harrison's lyrics, which are very spiritual lovey-dovey, but also at least for me very compelling, particularly in the context of the piece:
Set me on a silver sun, for I know that I'm free
Show me that I'm everywhere, and get me home for tea
What I love most about the song, though, is how it becomes this endless jam at the end, with Paul McCartney joining Harrison to repeat a continual mantra, 'Too much....Too much....Too much.' I'm not usually inspired to clap along with songs. When people do it at a concert or some other gathering, I always feel goofy joining in. But this song makes me want to clap along, or join in on some sort of periperal percussion instrument--a triangle, cowbell, maybe even the cliched tambourine--to keep time along with the band.
After only about 10 days, "It's All Too Much" is already about to crack my iTunes Top 25 songs list. Watch out J.S. Bach and Joe Strummer, here comes George! After all, I've got 35 years of listening time to make up. Then again, though, maybe George would warn me not to binge too voraciously:
It's all too much for me to take
The love that's shining all around here
All the world's a birthday cake,
So take a piece but not too much
I just wish I'd taken that advice last night, when I made a box cake and proceed to sample about four pieces after dinner. Maybe from now on when I start to overeat there should be an alarm going off in my head - only instead of a recurring beep, it could just be Harrison's sitar.