History-making music group for UMM - morris mn

History-making music group for UMM - morris mn
The UMM men's chorus opened the Minnesota Day program at the 1962 Seattle World's Fair (Century 21 Exposition).

Thursday, October 23, 2014

"Hey Jude" was more like an anthem than mere song

Is there anything more subjective than the judgment of music? From what spot in the brain does this gift come, of creating melodies that we find appealing?
The actual product seems not very sophisticated. The most basic three-chord format is the foundation for many of our favorite songs.
So, "sophistication" seems not to be a major element.
You don't get good at this through years of school as with becoming a medical practitioner. It is helpful to immerse yourself in music.
I'm thinking of the song "Hey Jude" (1968) and how simple it is. "Jude" was the name of one of the characters in the Beatles homage movie "Across the Universe."
The song "Hey Jude" is really more of an anthem. It may be the prime signature piece from Paul McCartney's career. 
A mere three basic chords are used in the verse: F major, C major and B-flat. The refrain simply presents a modified triangle - simplicity accented all the way. The simplicity is such, there are no real lyrics in the refrain. The song's title pops up but outside of that, it's just the "nah-nah-nah" syllables. It was an invitation for teens to just go crazy singing it.
The Maynard Ferguson big jazz band had an arrangement of "Hey Jude" that was so popular, it was used at the end of concerts as a climax. The irony is that many serious jazz or big band musicians of the time weren't likely to say anything charitable about the Beatles. The Beatles had swept aside so much of the music that the older crowd had lived with and considered the norm. The Beatles even swept aside a lot of the raw-sounding American rock 'n' roll. Beatles music was on a plane above that, refined even with the simple element employed.
"Hey Jude" was a miraculous song that extended to seven minutes-plus. It is a testament to that song's quality, lest there be any doubt, that it was allowed to be released at such length. The tight confines of radio were pretty hard to fight in those days.
From restrained to raucous
"Hey Jude" is significant in part because of the mood change through the course of the song. There is a gentle feel at the start. There's just Paul and his tasteful piano accompaniment. Ultimately the song becomes a resonating, forceful musical statement. Instruments increasingly join in, plus backing vocals. We hear a 36-piece orchestra!
Pop artists of the time were not averse to bringing in classical instruments from that realm of music we called "square." Even Jim Morrison of the Doors, total iconoclast that he was, benefited from strings in perhaps his most captivating tune, "Touch Me." Think of what orchestra instruments did for the Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby."
The youth yawned about pure classical music. But they were mesmerized when such music "sneaked in" to add texture with popular tunes. Paul McCartney called in a piccolo trumpet player for the classic "Penny Lane" from "Magical Mystery Tour." The trumpet passage elevates that song considerably higher in the Beatles' pantheon of classics.
The orchestra musicians on "Hey Jude" were encouraged to "get loose," and they laid down their instruments to clap and sing in the refrain.
"Hey Jude" was released as a single with another top-notch Beatles song, "Revolution," on the other side. I may have sympathized with the message in "Revolution" but I never cared for it that much as music. It seemed too restless and subversive - messages that may have had their place, yes, but music is at its best when it's uplifting, reminding us of our better side and better qualities.
Lennon and McCartney competed for the 'A' side of this single release. Paul was crowned the winner with his distinctive "Hey Jude."
Maynard Ferguson sent the members of his trumpet section into the crowd for the extended refrain. It was totally wild. I would consider it needlessly wild today. But us youth went nuts as these trumpet players all sought to show off their "scream" quality in this refrain. We might conclude Glenn Miller would roll over in his grave.
Maynard Ferguson himself started out "Hey Jude" by playing the melody on soprano sax. But of course, scream trumpet was Maynard's forte. As the refrain jumbled into total chaos with trumpet players beginning to "scream" randomly, Maynard finally called all that off so he could simply play his climactic high notes from the stage all by himself. Many of his young fans watched and listened with unbridled reverence as though in church. Indeed, Maynard would eventually record "Gospel John" which became another classic to his fans.
Bandleader Buddy Rich had a hard-charging arrangement of the Beatles' "Norwegian Wood." Exciting as these arrangements were, they of course didn't give us the lyrics. It's a testament to the Beatles' genius, of course, that their melodies were so strong, they could become classic big band arrangements. The big band leaders of the '70s had no problem riding piggy-back on the Fab 4's talent. It's ironic because the rock music that germinated in the 1950s pushed aside the big band era.
Fluidity is a characteristic of music and its evolution. As Brad Pitt said in the movie "Moneyball," playing Billy Beane, "adapt or die."
Maynard Ferguson adapted. He had been through the 1960s which was a dry desert for big band jazz. He was ready to do anything to jump-start his beloved art form. And this he did magnificently beginning in 1970, happily doing covers of the "new breed's" material.
Sigh of relief: Ringo stays on board!
The Beatles' "Hey Jude" was released with a televised performance. Not well-known at the time was that drummer Ringo Starr was getting back to work after having quit! The Beatles were no longer the cohesive unit they once were. Starr was getting turned off by the conflicts, for one thing. He also felt his own drumming wasn't going that well. I would argue that without a continuous "live" playing slate, it's very difficult for a musician to stay in his desired groove.
The Beatles had to stop performing live, or at least they felt they had to, because audiences were out of control. It seemed the audiences weren't even reacting to the music anymore - it was mayhem for the sake of mayhem. There was an element of this to Maynard Ferguson's concerts in St. Paul MN in the 1970s. He totally appealed to youth of the baby boom - those kids who could be so out of control with their behavior. I remember Maynard at one point "snapping" and feeling as though he had to assert some control. He got serious and perturbed and proclaimed "cool it!" The audience was starting to get crazy for crazy's sake. I remember being at a Rodney Dangerfield concert at the Minnesota State Fair in about 1980 when the same thing happened. Kids of today: you should know that your parents could be silly and out of control with their behavior. The comedic Dangerfield suddenly started acting like he had had enough.
Ringo's alienation happened at a time when another big disruption came about, that being Yoko Ono's emergence with John.
The Beatles climbed to glory with their interpersonal chemistry. With the "White Album," they had reached a chapter where they could no longer tap that pure camaraderie. Paul grated ever more with his bossy traits. Apple company business was a wedge. The Beatles kept churning out music. It ended too soon for most of the generation that showed an almost unhealthy reverential awe toward them.
Such a phenomenon couldn't happen again. Remember, high-quality recorded music was a rare commodity in that earlier time. The recording industry in England was ahead of its counterpart here. This is well documented (and underrated) as a factor.
The Beatles had everything fall in place for them. Their talent was an essential building block. But there was so much more that had to work. And it all did, for a few short years anyway. "Hey Jude" represents their talent as well as anything. It's a pinnacle. A manifestation of perfection? You can sing the refrain when you're "impaired" in some way. Or play scream trumpet. Let's celebrate such simplicity.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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