David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 160: The Beatles (Old Brown Shoe)

July 1, 2022

"Ladies and Gentleman, The Beatles!"  Once Ed Sullivan said those immortal words on Feb 9, 1964, he pretty much set in motion 58 years that would leave me absolutely nothing original to say about The Beatles. Do I even bother? How does one do a 365-bands-in-365 songs series without referencing The Beatles? It's my great quandary.

In this series I have often taken a personal association approach to songs, thereby giving me something of an original angle. While not a die-hard Beatles' fan, I do have some tacks I could have taken. I could talk about "I Saw Her Standing There" blaring from a college party at WVU, dozens of Morgantowners crammed into my friend Frank's spare bedroom dancing like a scene from Animal House. I could mention how fascinated I was by the covers of my sisters' "red" (1962-1966) and "blue" (1967-1970) greatest hits albums, fascinated how such clean-cut kids could become such hippies in less than a decade (and produce so much more interesting music in those latter years). Perhaps it is the argument with someone (who can remain nameless) who truly believed that Styx was more influential than The Beatles.

Another tactic would be to do a deep dive (as much as I can do them) on the song and/or performance. Perhaps my entry would be a rhapsody about the one version of "Revolution" that was the B-side, superior to the two versions on The Beatles (so boringly nicknamed The White Album). Do I join the line of slobbering sycophants praising "A Day In The Life"? Surely, I could wax fanatically about "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," simply one of the finest songs ever. No matter what, all of these options made me feel inadequate.

Ultimately, I thought I might go with a lesser known song, a B-side. "Old Brown Shoe," found primarily on the "blue" (1967-1970) greatest hits album, seemed to fit the bill. After all, if I had the foresight, I would have told that not-remembered friend from my past that because, after 20 years, The Beatles felt like an old brown shoe, it allowed Styx to feel like the Reebok Pump. Besides it's a George Harrison song, and I always leaned toward Harrison in terms of favorite Beatle. "Old Brown Shoe" might have been his proclamation for stepping out of the band: "I'm stepping out of this old brown shoe," later "got me escaping from this zoo." As with most Beatles' songs of this period, the "group" was a loose concept in recording the song, good old Ringo missing the recording while he made a movie. It was a dynamic that somehow bothered me (still does, I suppose), as if each band member was now an independent contractor, unified only by a brand.

So I had my Beatles' track: the relatively obscure B-side by the mystical one, significantly a better song than its A side, "The Ballad of John and Yoko." The superior introspective song to the ego-driven hit song. However, I might have to 'fess up that its obscurity must be viewed through the craziness of on-going Beatlemania. In looking up the song on Wikipedia, I note that the entry has 126 references. Yes, you read that right. 126! 

The good news: "The Ballad of John and Yoko" only has 56 references. The rest of the story: "Something," the Harrison hit that followed comes with 213 references; "Come Together" (the double A side) requires 110 references. "Let It Be" (the next release) "only" has 111 references. "Obscure?" my ass.

To make matters worse, compare it to the other significant events of the end of the 1960's: the assassination of Bobby Kennedy gets 121 references; the 1968 Democratic Convention, 78; while the 1968 Black Power Salute by Tommie Smith and John Carlos only comes with 51 references. Planet Of The Apes, just to veer into a different realm of popular culture, has 41 references.

It's a reminder that nothing I could write about The Beatles would be original. Harrison may have compared them to an old brown shoe, but that was never really the case. They would always be the glass slipper, and every person and their step-daughter wants to slide into it.

The Beatles. "Old Brown Shoe." Apple, 1969. Link here.

Day 159: The Knack. "Let Me Out."

Day 161: Morphine. "Cure For Pain."

See complete list here.