It’s been 45 years since The Beatles graced the stage of Los Angeles’ famous and spectacular Hollywood Bowl. Last night, their music still filled the nippy night air as the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra conducted by Thomas Wilkins accompanied a handful of guest artists through classic pop song after classic pop song. Special guests included Broadway crooner Brian Stokes Mitchell, singer-songwriter Rob Laufer, the positively soulful Patti Austin, 15 torturous minutes of Bettie Lavette (who lost her ability to carry a tune years ago), and the electrifying Todd Rundgren. From orchestral versions of “Eleanor Rigby” to a jazzy interpretation of “Penny Lane,” the Hollywood Bowl was filled with the sweet music of the most influential rock band that has ever existed.
In honor of last night, I thought I would extend the celebration of the music of The Beatles to this blog today. If there is any band whose songs I can honestly say have become “scratched into my soul,” it’s the music of The Beatles, who stand like giants of pop music almost fifty years later. While there are over 200 original studio compositions to choose from, I had to go with the one song that best encompasses all the different reasons why I love those four boys from Liverpool so much. The final track of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is “A Day In The Life,” a multi-movement suite of pop spectacle that puts up the most definitive counterargument to anybody closed-minded enough to suggest that pop music cannot be high-brow, capital-A Art. From the gentle, hypnotizing guitar playing of George Harrison, the loosest drumming Ringo Starr has ever put to tape, and the contrasting styles of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, this song has it all. It might even be argued as one of the last times the band really collaborated ideas together as a band; John’s famous refrain of “I’d love to turn you on” was actually Paul’s idea. But one of the most remarkable things about “A Day In The Life” is that famous atonal orchestral crescendo, creating an incredible amount of tension that had never been seen in the likes of pop music before, only to be released by that final crashing E-major chord struck on three pianos by eight hands.
How The Beatles managed to make it all flow so magnificently in little less than 6 minutes is beyond me. They brought together the classical orchestra, the rock band, and the technology of the studio, bringing together three disparate worlds: pop entertainment, avant-garde composition, and high-brow artistic sensibility. You can’t tell where the art ends and the entertainment begins. “A Day In The Life” was the apex of The Beatles’ achievements as a band, and stands as a monumental composition for the 20th century. With “A Day In The Life,” they became untouchable, invincible, immortalized in song.
Long live The Beatles.