A Day in the Strawberry Mashup Walrus

As a general rule, I don’t like covers. This makes me Pete’s mortal enemy. Part of the nature of modern music is that much of it is performed and recorded by the people who wrote the music, and these recordings form what I perceive to be the correct way to perform the piece. There are exceptions to this small psychological tic, but not that many.

I particularly dislike covers of the Beatles. There is a famous family incident wherein Karen’s grandfather asked her in hushed tones if I disliked music because a MUSAK arrangement of Eleanor Rigby came on over the radio, causing me to slump my head into my hands and sob like a little child. The Beatles should sound like The Beatles. It’s just wrong if they don’t. With this in mind, I find it amazing that I have enjoyed this new record, Love, which mixes and matches and layers and deconstructs the classic songs in unexpected ways.

To give you an idea of what’s going on here, the second track on the record starts with the opening chord from A Hard Day’s Night. It then jumps into that drum solo from The End on Abbey Road. Under this you hear the string buildup from A Day in the Life layered over the opening chords from Get Back. Then there is bit of guitar solo from The End and finally it all drops away and we are into the main body of Get Back.

I should hate this shit, but on this record it works.

The producer of the album, Giles Martin (son of George Martin), worked from the original session tapes which were digitally recorded for ease of manipulation. The arrangements are done with a careful thought and attention to detail. There are unexpected juxtapositions, different versions of familiar songs, and there is the fun of trying to guess where everything you are hearing comes from originally. Ultimately, I think the album works because through all of the digital trickery, it sounds like The Beatles. The style, energy and creativity of the originals all come through in these mashups, no matter how thick the mash gets and you can’t help but get addicted to it. Finally, as others have said, the record sounds fantastic. The remixed tracks pop out of the speakers, even after they’ve been encoded into an iPod.

The fact that a project like this can succeed illustrates an interesting difference between modern musical performances and those further in the past. As I said before, the recording is at the center of much of modern music. While much of The Beatles original genius is in their sheet music, almost as much is in the recording and the production of those classic albums. What this record made me realize (years late I’m sure) is that in the digital age we are also now free to interpret recorded music in ways that are similar to how performers in the past used to interpret sheet music. The original session tracks can serve as raw material for any number of different musical statements. Inevitably, some will be more worthwhile than others. For me Love is a testament to the talent and taste of both its original creators and their new interpreter.