1978, USA. Warner Bros. Records / HS 3151
I became a Beatles fan at the age of 34 which is weird. Due to the year
of my birth, and also to punk identity, alongside a contrarian inclination
of some severity, and finally the fact that my parents played the blue and
the red double album constantly alongside their respective ultra-whack
favorite artists, (Helen Reddy and Neil Diamond) I never connected to the
Fabs. Then, well advancing towards middle age it hit me pretty hard.
I got obsessed with the craft of the Beatles, and following that, obsessed
with the raging id and super-ego of the band. I read every Beatles book
I could find, and listened to dozens upon dozens of Beatles bootlegs. It
was fun. As far as ludicrous cultural rabbit-holes go, I can think of worse
ones that the relentless amounts of gatherings of outtakes, rough mixes,
incomplete takes, false starts, alternate versions etc. ad nauseum that
inhabit the Beatle-bootleg universe. With some regularity you’ll find works
of art so splendidly fucked up that they could only have been executed
by shackle-less musicians with limitless budgets, drugs and studio time.
Backwards glockenspiel? Check. Tibetan monks flown in especially to
breathe on the keys of a mellotron? Check. More industrial strength
laboratorium quality LSD? Double Check.
Sometimes the results are as sublime as it gets: the 12” 45 rpm bootleg
of two alternate extended versions of “What A Shame Mary Jane Had A
Pain At The Party” is a masterpiece of unrestrained self-indulgence. A
Fonthill Abbey of musical architecture featuring four William Beckfords.
And the Beckford comparison holds water I think: there are plenty of
examples of non-awesome people with the ability to create beyond the
boundaries of taste and reason (hi Kanye) where the result is boring.
With the Beatles, their most self-indulgent relentless and absurd material
is completely fantastic and endlessly fascinating. I mean, even the
parodies can become some of the best art I know: The Residents’ frst
LP is a monument of incidental collage music and hyper-intelligent pop
culture parody. It could not really have been wrapped inside of anything
except a Beatles parody sleeve. Neil Innes’ from the Bonzo Dog Band’s
Beatles pastiches and parodies as seen and heard in the 1978 Beatles
mockumentary The Rutles – Let It Rut are the most phenomenal little
inside-out deconstructions of Beatles tunes, an example of appropriation
art that does not suck at all, for once.