Wednesday, January 28, 2009

anatomy of a sketch

detail from "anatomy of the neck".

from the sketchbooks of leonardo da vinci.

Very often, the working sketch delivers more of interest than the finished article; certainly, it reveals more on the mechanics of the creative process and the thinking from concept to final delivery. It is the same in music. In many cases, the very polish of post-production may detract from the rudimentary vitality of the demo or live performance. The definitive 'end product' may disappoint precisely because it tries too hard.

The choice of producer is often key; as is the faith an artist places on his own editorial capability. Phil Spector is an obvious candidate in support of this argument. Lennon vetoed the democratic process and ran off with the master tapes for the album which was to be released as "Let it Be". His trust in Spector was implicit and impulsive in equal measure, in sp
ite or because of the artistic integrity allowed George Martin for the better part of a decade. Moreover, it was Lennon's intent to close McCartney down and usurp the authority of partnership.

Similarly, Leonard Cohen made the decision to "collaborate" with Spector on "Death of a Ladies Man" and repented at his leisure as he witnessed the legendary Sam Peckinpah of the recording studio hijack his project entirely.

Of course, the demand fo
r more insight on the part of the 'consumer' presents a rich seam to be mined retrospectively by the Recording Industry; the opportunity to generate still more profit without investing in the standard - and escalating - costs of delivering 'product' from scratch.

Beatles fans deliberated privately for years as to how "Let It Be" might have sounded had Spector been denied the keys to an armoury volatile enough bring about a military coup. They had to wait 33 years - 23 years after Lennon's assassination - until "Let It Be... Naked" was ultimately repackaged with Martin reinstated behind the desk.

The end result, so far as I am concerned, is far from conclusive. Undoubtably, I can do without those saccharine strings Spector imposed on "The Long and Winding Road"; but then again, I always f@cking hated that song anyway. But what about "Get Back" ? Arguably the best song on the 1970 LP, and the album's original working title. Come on. Without Spector's hamfisted touch, what was once a blistering finale soon pales into the dental x-ray of an elderly daschund with no appreciable bite.

And that alone leaves those reheated leftovers hard to swallow.

Ultimately - as is often the case - I tend to side with John's original gut reaction. Phil is definitely a dangerous idiot - with all the subtelty of a .357 magnum loaded on coke and one too many martinis - but man, does he pack some punch.

And then again, I could wax on about this song's origins; but like somebody once said... let sleeping dogs lie.

THE BEATLES: GET BACK from "Let It Be" LP (Apple) 1970 (UK)

THE BEATLES: GET BACK from "Let It Be... Naked" LP/CD (Apple) 1969/2003 (UK)




Mick said...

My honest opinion, and I say this as a Beatles fan, is that it doesn’t matter who sat in the producers chair because the songs were not up to scratch anyway. We’d already had Get Back on a single and a better version of Across The Universe and the only other half decent songs were Two of Us and I’ve Got A Feeling. In my alternative universe the Beatles followed the White Album with the mighty Abbey Road and the Let it Be songs turned up 30 years later as curios on the 3rd Anthology set.

ib said...

You have a point. Lennon said as much, too...

I like "Dig A Pony".