Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Beatles' Second Album

Like everyone else my age, I own a copy of The Beatles’ Second Album, but it was never one of my favorites. Cobbled together by the Beatles’ record company to capitalize on their blockbuster success, the album features several “covers” of rock standards, which I didn’t like as much as the Beatles’ own original music. So I rarely listened to it. Tim, however, loves the album for all the reasons I didn’t: hard-rockin’ versions of Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally,” Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven,” Smokey Robinson’s “You Really Got a Hold on Me,” and Barrett Strong’s “Money”—all songs that I, of course, now love. In fact, fans and critics alike agree that the Second Album is the Beatles’ best pure rock ‘n roll record ever released.

The Grammy Museum celebrated the album’s 50th anniversary, last night, with a good old-fashioned record listening party. The host was Marvin Etzioni, who provided a bit of historical context—including playing the truly dreadful “Sie Liebt Dich,” the Beatles’ “She Loves You” in German—before dropping the needle on a vinyl copy of The Beatles’ Second Album, in glorious monaural. It was almost as good as being 10 years old again, listening at home alone in my bedroom.

Surprisingly, the 200-seat theater was nearly full. The audience obviously dug the music, applauding after every song. But I noticed it was mostly people of a certain age (e.g., us) who really rocked out. Air drums seemed to be the instrument of choice. (Guilty!) Afterwards, Etzioni led an animated Q&A session with Jack Oliver, former president of Apple Records, and Brian Kehew, co-author of the book Recording the Beatles. They explained why the record was released exclusively in the U.S., briefly debated the differences between the British and American versions of the Beatles' albums, and described the advantages of mono vs. stereo, among lots of other things. What a perfect way to spend a Tuesday evening.

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