kottke.org posts about The Beatles

From The Tramp to The Beatles to Flappy BirdFeb 11 2014

100 years ago, Charlie Chaplin put on some floppy shoes, oversized trousers, a bowler, a mustache and became The Tramp. Within a year or two, he was internationally famous and in two years, he was making $670,000/year, an unprecedented figure in those days.

"It was amazingly fast," says David Robinson, a film critic who has written a definitive biography of Chaplin (His Life and Art) and is giving an already sold-out talk titled "100 Years of the Tramp" at the festival. "By mid-1914 he was already popular. By 1915 he was international. The speed with which it happened, without the modern media, is astonishing."

50 years ago, The Beatles were virtually unknown in the US and then, less than a year later, the largest TV audience in history watched them perform on the Ed Sullivan Show.

Consider the following: At the end of 1963, virtually no one in America had heard of the Beatles. Yet on Feb. 9, 1964, they drew the largest TV audience in history -- 73 million viewers -- when they appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show." How could such a conquest have occurred so quickly? I once asked my friend Lenny Kaye that question, and he answered: "Everybody was ready for the '60s to begin." There's some truth to that, but of course there's much more to the story. The explosion of the Beatles in America was the result of combined forces -- artistic, social and technological -- as well as persistence, showbiz rivalries and more than a bit of luck. So how did it happen that the Beatles came out of nowhere to become the biggest cultural sensation ever, in six weeks?

This year, an iOS & Android game called Flappy Bird, that was originally released in 2013, suddenly rocketed to the top of the App Store bestseller list. (Seriously, look at how quickly it got popular.) The developer, Dong Nguyen, revealed in an interview with The Verge that the game was making $50,000 a day on ads. He's since made the game unavailable for download.

On February 1st, reviews exploded to 800 in a single hour. 6,500 iTunes App Store reviews in a single day. February 1st is the day Dong Nguyen woke up, stretched, checked email, checked Twitter, checked iTunes, and witnessed millions of downloads happening.

Millions.

You can only imagine what that must have felt like.

This is the same app no one cared about for more than half a year. Just one month prior, it was a great day if Flappy Bird got 20 total reviews on the App Store. Up until January 9th, there had never been an hour in which Flappy Bird received even 10 reviews (most of the time it was under 5).

Listening to the White Album 100 times, all at the same timeNov 22 2013

I have previously reported on Rutherford Chang and his large collection of first-pressings of The Beatles' White Album.

Q: Are you a vinyl collector?

A: Yes, I collect White Albums.

Q: Do you collect anything other than that?

A: I own some vinyl and occasionally buy other albums, but nothing in multiples like the White Album.

Chang has taken 100 of those records, recorded the audio, and overlaid the resulting 100 tracks into one glorious track. Here's Side 1 x 100 (Side 2 is available on vinyl only):

The albums, as it turns out, have also aged with some variety. Some played cleanly, others had scratches, noise from embedded dirt, or vinyl wear. And though the recordings are identical, variations in the pressings, and natural fluctuations in the speed of Mr. Chang's analogue turntable, meant that the 100 recordings slowly moved out of sync, in the manner of an early Steve Reich piece: the opening of "Back in the U.S.S.R." is entirely unified, but at the start of "Dear Prudence," you hear the first line echoing several times, and by "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" the track is a nearly unrecognizeable roar.

Vocals-only Abbey RoadSep 05 2013

Here's a medley of isolated vocals from the Beatles' Abbey Road:

Many more isolated vocal tracks are available on this subreddit. Here are the instructions for making your own isolated vocal tracks with Audacity, the same open source audio processing app that Tim used to make his slow jams. (thx, tim)

The BeastlesJun 14 2013

DJ BC took the Beastie Boys and mashed them up with The Beatles.

He did more than 40 songs...get them all here. (via ★glass)

We Buy White AlbumsFeb 25 2013

Artist Rutherford Chang only collects first pressings of The Beatles' The White Album on vinyl. Dust & Grooves recently interviewed Chang about his collection.

Rutherford Chang

Q: Are you a vinyl collector?

A: Yes, I collect White Albums.

Q: Do you collect anything other than that?

A: I own some vinyl and occasionally buy other albums, but nothing in multiples like the White Album.

Q: Why just White Album? why not Abbey road? or Rubber Soul?

A: The White Album has the best cover. I have a few copies of Abbey Road and Rubber Soul, but I keep those in my "junk bin".

Q: Why do you find it so great? It's a white, blank cover. Are you a minimalist?

A: I'm most interested in the albums as objects and observing how they have aged. So for me, a Beatles album with an all white cover is perfect.

Q: Do you care about the album's condition?

A: I collect numbered copies of the White Album in any condition. In fact I often find the "poorer" condition albums more interesting.

Chang's collection is currently on view at Recess in Soho, NYC until March 7th. Gotta get down there and see this. (via mr)

The Rolling Stones cover the Beatles in 1965Oct 19 2012

Here are the Rolling Stones touring Ireland in 1965, messing around in what looks like a hotel room, playing a couple of Beatles tunes, I've Just Seen a Face and Eight Days a Week.

Jagger at least seems to be taking the piss more than honestly enjoying the music of his fellow British invasion personnel. (via dangerous minds)

Update: From Andy Baio, a reminder that The Stones' first top 20 single was a cover of The Beatles' I Wanna Be Your Man.

John Lennon's posterOct 09 2012

Peter Dean is a big Beatles fan. And so he set out to reproduce exactly -- from photographic evidence only -- an old circus poster owned by John Lennon. In true Sgt. Pepper's fashion, he had a little help from his friends.

This is a reproduction of the poster that inspired John Lennon to write the song Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!, which appeared on The Beatles' 1967 album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. It is printed in a limited edition of 1,967.

Lennon bought the poster in an antiques shop and hung it in his music room. While writing for Sgt. Pepper one day, he drew inspiration from the quirky, old-fashioned language and set the words to music.

A limited edition letterpress reproduction of the poster is available for sale.

Peter Sellers covers The BeatlesFeb 13 2012

Peter Sellers did four different spoken word versions of The Beatles' She Loves You: as Dr. Strangelove, with a Cockney accent, with an Irish accent, and with an upper crust English accent (my fave):

Yeah, Sellers is pretty good with accents. (via ★bump)

All Beatles songs played at the same timeNov 30 2011

Every song by The Beatles played simultaneously. The start times are staggered so that every song ends at the same time.

As a commenter notes, "Gets very complicated in the end. So did the Beatles." (via waxy)

George Harrison: Living in the Material WorldOct 03 2011

Premiering on HBO this week, a Martin Scorsese documentary on George Harrison, everyone's favorite Beatle who wasn't John or Paul.

Academy Award-winning director Martin Scorsese traces Harrison's live from his musical beginnings in Liverpool though his life as a musician, a seeker, a philanthropist and a filmmaker, weaving together interviews with Harrison and his closest friends, performances, home movies and photographs. Much of the material in the film has never been seen or heard before. The result is a rare glimpse into the mind and soul of one of the most talented artists of his generation and a profoundly intimate and affecting work of cinema.

Beatles mockumentary from the year 3126Feb 16 2011

A short documentary report from a thousand years into the future about The Beatles.

First-hand records are certainly scarce. There's a lot we don't know about The Beatles, but we do know that these four young men -- John Lennon, Paul MacKenzie, Greg Hutchinson, and Scottie Pippen -- were some of the finest musicians that ever existed. The Beatles rose to prominence when they travelled from their native Linverton to America to perform at Ed Sullivan's annual Woodstock festival.

Abbey sidewalkDec 09 2010

Just before the famous Abbey Road photo was taken, The Beatles were photographed on the sidewalk waiting to cross the street.

Abbey Sidewalk

(via matt)

Kubrick directs The Beatles in Lord of the Rings?Nov 05 2010

Possibly the worst idea in the world: a movie version of Lord of the Rings starring The Beatles (with Lennon as Gollum) and directed by Stanley Kubrick. According to Peter Jackson, this was a possibility but JRR said hells no.

According to Peter Jackson, who knows a little something about making Lord of the Rings movies, John Lennon was the Beatle most keen on LOTR back in the '60s -- and he wanted to play Gollum, while Paul McCartney would play Frodo, Ringo Starr would take on Sam and George Harrison would beard it up for Gandalf. And he approached a pre-2001 Stanley Kubrick to direct.

Lennon/McCartney, reconsideredSep 20 2010

In his new series for Slate about creative partnerships, Joshua Shenk explores one of the most fruitful creative collaborations in history: that of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Part three, about the break-up the Beatles, comes to a conclusion that's different than some of the theories you may have heard previously.

Yet, looking for concrete divisions in their labor, though not irrelevant, can certainly seem myopic. It feels, from Davies' account, as though the two men were bound by a thousand invisible strings.

Davies looked on at the partners before Yoko, before The White Album -- "the tension album" Paul said. But tension had always been key to their work. The strings connecting them hardly dissolved, even in the times when the collaboration was adversarial, the kind of exchange that Andre Agassi described when he said that, if he hadn't faced Pete Sampras, he'd have a better record, "but I'd be less." Picking up on that incisive line, Michael Kimmelman wrote in his review of Agassi's book Open that "rivalry ... [is] the heart of sports, and, for athletes, no matter how bitter or fierce, something strangely akin to love: two vulnerable protagonists for a time lifted up not despite their differences but because of them."

And:

This is nasty stuff. But the opposite of intimacy isn't conflict. It's indifference. The relationship between Paul and John had always been a tug of war -- and that hardly stopped when they ceased to collaborate directly. Asked what he thought Paul would make of his first solo album, Lennon said, "I think it'll probably scare him into doing something decent, and then he'll scare me into doing something decent, like that."

I've said it before: love and hate are the same emotion. (via @tcarmody)

The worst movies never madeJun 25 2010

A list of ten movies that weren't made...and a good thing they weren't. Including a Lord of the Rings adaptation with The Beatles.

According to Roy Carr's The Beatles at the Movies, talks were once in the works for a Beatle-zation -- with John Lennon wanting to play Gollum, Paul McCartney Frodo, George Harrison Gandalf, and Ringo Starr Sam. Collaborating with director John Boorman, screenwriter Rospo Pallenberg thought the Beatles should play the four hobbits (and agreed with McCartney that he would be the ideal Frodo).

Beatles infographicsJan 19 2010

The most interesting of several infographics related to The Beatles is the first one depicting the declining rate of collaboration within the band gleaned from songwriting credit data.

Beatles Collab Infoviz

(thx, bryan)

Color photo of The Beatles in 1957Jan 19 2010

The Beatles in 1957

Well, not so much The Beatles as The Quarrymen, a band formed by John Lennon and some schoolmates that was the precursor to The Beatles. (via @brainpicker)

Kanye is deadOct 27 2009

Is Beatle Paul McCartney Dead? Is Rapper Kanye West Dead?

Remastered Beatles albumsSep 09 2009

Today's the day: those meticulously remastered Beatles albums are available today. The Beatles version of Rock Band is out as well.

Abbey Road cliche on repeatFeb 18 2009

Fun timelapse video of a day in the life of the Abbey Road crosswalk depicted on The Beatles album of the same name. (via buzzfeed)

The Beatles' last concertFeb 04 2009

Video of The Beatles' last public performance in three parts: one, two, three. They performed on top of the group's own building with an audience situated on rooftops and down on the street. (via the year in pictures)

Beatles songs rankedJan 23 2009

A list like this could spark endless debate: a ranking of all the songs by The Beatles, from #185 (Revolution 9) to #1 (A Day In The Life).

To novice Beatles fans, I warn you not to believe the hype about "Revolution 9." I've listened to it many times over the years, waiting for the light in my head to switch on so I could unlock its mysteries. All I've ever gotten out of it is the vague feeling that immediately after listening to it, something is going to rise out from under my bed and butcher me in my sleep.

Each choice is extensively annotated and defended; start here if you want to work your way through them all.

The Beatles pretty much invented the CAT scanJul 17 2008

The money brought in due to Beatlemania funded the research that led to the CAT scanning machine. (via gawker lite)

Video of Peter Sellers reciting The BeatlesDec 21 2007

Video of Peter Sellers reciting The Beatles A Hard Day's Night in the style of Laurence Olivier doing Shakespeare's Richard III. Got all that? (via cyn-c)

This Bird Has Flown is a tributeOct 17 2005

This Bird Has Flown is a tribute album of The Beatles' Rubber Soul on the 40th anniversary of its release. Includes covers by Ted Leo, The Fiery Furnaces, and Sufjan Stevens.

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