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My Beatles Favorites, Part IV

September 5, 2009

Yeah, I know. I’m slacking. Here’s another 5 Beatles songs that I love too much to ever really discuss reasonably, but insist on analyzing even though I have a lot of other stuff I should be doing. 20 down, 25 to go!

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“Got to Get You Into My Life”

Album: Revolver

“Got to Get You Into My Life” is a boisterous track, featuring an atypically prominent horn section, remarkably little guitar, and an organ. The trumpets and saxophones are just a bit too energetic to be considered soul. Instead they allow the song to convey the same giddy sentiment as its lyrics.

On the surface, the song is about a guy who starts over and beings to look at his life in a different light by changing the way he lives. Along the way he falls in love at first sight. He decides immediately that the girl must be his.

His devotion is at once naïve and romantic. His declarations of “say we’ll be together everyday” and “you were meant to be near me” would be creepy but for the earnestness and simplicity with which they’re sung. As of yet, it appears that his love is unrequited, but there is no despair in the song. He’s purely hopeful that he’ll get her into his life.

More interesting are the lines “If I am true I’ll never leave and if I do I know they way there.” The conditions he proposes are quite contradictory. If he’s true he won’t ever leave her, but what if he isn’t? And even though he’ll never leave, if he does, he will come back. It seems he doesn’t understand his own feelings but is still desperate to act on them, and he sees himself potentially being unfaithful, but as someone who will always return in the end.

And then there’s the fact that I remember reading something about how this song was just about pot. I guess that works too.

“Happiness Is a Warm Gun”

Album: The Beatles

If there is one track that belongs on the masterfully disjointed White Album, it’s probably “Happiness Is a Warm Gun.” The song consists of five distinctly different pieces with their own musical and lyrical style, strung seamlessly together.

The first part is backed by a slow, calm guitar piece, played one climbing note at a time as Lennon mentions a girl. Almost immediately begin the sounds of short, stabbing guitar chords, followed by a series of powerfully evocative, yet confusing, unrhymed verse.

While lines such as the woman being “well acquainted with the touch of the velvet hand” is almost overtly sexual, the rest of the lines perhaps need a bit more decoding.

From my understanding, the line about “the man in the crowd with the multi-colored mirrors on his hobnail boots” is a reference to an actual man who would wear mirrored boots to soccer games to look up women’s skirts, and the man “lying with his eyes while his hands are busy working overtime” refers to another who would put prosthetic hands on shop counters while he used his real ones to stuff things in his pockets and the shopkeepers wouldn’t notice. And the line about “donat[ing] to the national trust” is apparently about public defecation. In about eight lines of song, Lennon covers a number of taboo subjects completely unsuspected.

Next, a buzzing guitar foreshadows the lyrics “I need a fix ‘cause I’m going down.” There’s no masking this blatant drug reference, but almost before they can even sink in, the listener is bombarded with the cryptic repeated line “mother superior jumped the gun.” Not even my wacky conjecture gives any precise meaning to what this may mean. It’s back with even more distortion, and guitar notes that climb, and then descend, and then climb yet again.

The song ends with a distorted doo-wop call and answer. The title of the song comes from a magazine cover. It struck Lennon as bizarre because it basically meant that happiness meant shooting something. It’s especially eerie considering his murder.

Given that the rest of the song is all over the place, it’s not a stretch to say that the “bang bang, shoot shoot” is not just the sound of a gun, but also possibly a reference to shooting up heroin, or even a sexual one. Lennon’s raspy spoken shout of “when I feel my finger on your trigger, don’t you know nobody can do me no harm” supports the last.

But more important than understanding what the hell Lennon was talking about is just enjoying the song… but I guess if you read this than it’s too late for you now.

“Helter Skelter”

Album: The Beatles

“Helter Skelter” can best be described as a very successful attempt at giving some of the harder 60’s bands a run for their money. Here, Paul gives his most powerful vocal performance over loud, buzzy guitars, repeated bending guitar notes, and almost equestrian-sounding percussion.

Before I wrote this, I had no idea that a helter skelter is a British term for a slide at a fair. More commonly it summons the idea of chaos, which is represented well by the song’s general sound of crashing percussion, distinctive guitar sound, sound effects reminiscent of wild animals, and  John and George’s choiry backing vocals.

On different levels the song might be about a slide, or the fall of the Roman empire, or sex. It’s fraught with false ends, which just adds to the chaos of the song. Apparently the whole band got really keyed up during the recording of the song. George allegedly set an ashtray on fire and ran around holding it above his head. But it’s the sound of Ringo’s drumsticks hitting the ground and his exasperated “I got blisters on my fingers!” at the song’s end that are probably what got this track onto my list of favorites.

“Here Comes the Sun”

Album: Abbey Road

FINALLY I’m getting to the George songs on my list. Considering that he’s my favorite Beatle he’s been sadly underrepresented in my list so far. Rest assured that this is only because I feel that his best songs don’t come until later in the alphabet.

“Here Comes the Sun” was one of many songs that proved that George could write as well as John or Paul. I feel like the Lennon/McCartney repertoire was always bettered by the intense brotherhood and rivalry between John and Paul, who would always push each other to be better and always seek to one-up the other. George was always kind of on his own, but eventually his talents began to rival those of the group’s more celebrated writers.

The song goes straight into the chorus à la “She Loves You” and “Can’t Buy Me Love,” a Beatles technique that had all but been abandoned at this point. Immediately the pretty acoustic guitar riff, later accompanied with synthesizer, sets the straightforwardly cheery tone of the rest of the song, which is simply about realizing that things are changing for the better and embracing it.

And while George would never really infiltrate the Lennon/McCartney songwriting team, he did befriend and become very close to Eric Clapton. This is pertinent to this song in particular because George wrote it in Clapton’s garden on one of Clapton’s acoustic guitars.

“I Need You”

Album: Help!

After George’s first song to make the cut, “Don’t Bother Me,” it was quite a while before his next solo songwriting credit. During that hiatus he must have been doing something right, because his track on Help!, “I Need You,” shows a very apparent improvement, both lyrically and musically, that mirrors the changes that Paul and John were making on their songs.

In this song about unrequited love and wanting a loved one to return after a breakup, the lyrics are simple but relatable. In his desperation he views the situation as something that’s impossible to cope with unless he gets his girl back. In his lonely desperation he pleads with her, expecting her to accept his invitation back into his life.

In typical Beatles fashion, the music does a great job of playing precisely to the sentiment of the lyrics. The sharp pairs of guitar chords at the end of each line are almost discordant and nearly off-time, but not quite, so that they’re striking but not ugly. They seem almost the sonification of the singer’s desperation and heartache.

Oh, and the song has a cowbell. You can never go wrong with cowbell.

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If you enjoyed this, please check out the previous entries…

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

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My Beatles Favorites, Part III

August 7, 2009

It’s been nearly a month since my last Beatles post. Ahhhh I’m really lagging. Anyway, here’s another of my 5 favorite Beatles tracks, and why. 15 tracks down, 30 to go.

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“Drive My Car”
Album: Rubber Soul

Laden with innuendo and bristling with the sound that would later be identified with the whole of 60’s rock, “Drive My Car” begins Rubber Soul with a little taste of the musical change that was only beginning to taking place. The Beatles themselves highly regarded Rubber Soul as “the pot album” (no pun intended), which may account for the slightly augmented lyrical as well as musical creativity. They didn’t smoke in the studio (because it made them way too giggly to get anything done) but the influence is readily apparent throughout the album.

The song starts with a guitar lick distinctive from nearly anything the Beatles had done before. Then the verses kick in, with one of McCartney’s rawer vocals telling the story of an aspiring actress who feigns a search for a chauffeur in order to find… well, a driver of a different kind. The verses are also backed by a lively cowbell (the most beloved livestock-related percussive instrument of all time).

And don’t forget the “beep beep ‘n beep beep, yeah!” that sometimes follows the chorus. It’s extremely hooky, even after we learn that the song isn’t really about a car. It’s also just fun to shout out loud when no one expects it.

“Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me and My Monkey”
Album: The Beatles

Loosely based on a saying frequently used by the maharishi whilst The Beatles were studying Transcendental Meditation in India, “Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me and My Monkey” is the longest Beatles title ever. It’s anyone’s guess to whom or what the “and my monkey” refers, seeing as it wasn’t a part of the original adage, but it does well to suggest the frantic energy of the lead guitar that dominates the song.

It begins with three escalating guitar notes repeated over handclaps. The lyrics are nearly shouted over the backing handbell. John almost sounds like an excited kid who really wants to show you something. He shouts “take it easy” in a voice that suggests that he’s coaxing not just a listener but himself. Lennon said that the song was written about an especially paranoid period of the Beatles’ lives, at which point John felt like the only one of them who had a handle on things. The others argued that he was just as paranoid as the rest of them, if not more so. The song seems to convey this discrepancy between what John thought and what he felt.

The double lead guitars in the verses allow the guitar sound to be at once lazy and frenetic, which is again all too appropriate for the message that the song conveys. The ditty also came packaged with a semi-discreet drug endorsement in “the higher you fly the deeper you go,” which leads some to believe that Lennon’s “monkey” was really heroin (to which he was addicted at the time.) Whatever the song really meant to John, is lost on me, but the little energetic riff that ends each chorus more than makes up for that.

“For No One”
Album: Revolver

“For No One” is the lyrical antithesis of “She Loves You.” In this instance of McCartney as the middleman, he’s past trying to comfort his friend and is on to essentially saying “she doesn’t love you anymore.” Whereas in “She Loves You” the story is a matter of miscommunication and reconciliation, in “For No One” the mediator steps in because, despite the fact that the jilted boyfriend knows how his ex feels about him, he refuses to accept it.

McCartney masterfully conveys this sentiment through the tone of the music, making this melancholy tune one of the highlights of Revolver. The almost jaunty piano and clavichord tune that drives the verses gives them the air of blunt straightforwardness. It sounds almost happy, but underlying that happiness is the detectable sound of distress, as if Paul is really explaining this situation to you and you’re happily in denial until he breaks the barriers down.

The chorus is the most straightforward of all. The piano melody is more complex and sounds sincerely sad, accompanying the feelings of the man in the song whose complicated emotions seem closest to the surface during the choruses. The French horn compliments the sentiment precisely, and is especially impressive because it features a note that is allegedly out of the range of said instrument.

McCartney’s lyricism is especially excellent here as well. His clear and concise, yet poetic, lyricism make this one of the most emotionally evocative tracks of the Beatles catalog. “The tears cried for no one” are futile and aren’t going to make the girl love again, yet the song states that the love “should have lasted years,” as if the singer, too, is beginning to fall prey to denial. In the fourth verse the girl talks about her former lover as if he no longer exists, which told from the perspective of this third, uninvolved party is especially poignant.

The way that the song hits these emotions directly on the head may be a result of turmoil in Paul McCartney’s relationship with Jane Asher at this period. It was written as their relationship was coming to a close, and it seems nearly impossible for Paul to have written this beautiful song without drawing from everything he was feeling during that time. Like many other Beatles songs, it is relatable because he emotion channeled into the song comes from somewhere very real.

“Getting Better”
Album: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

The upbeat positivity that characterizes “Getting Better” is apparent from the second the song begins, and is reinforced immediately with the song’s first “It’s getting better all the time!” Throughout the song, McCartney goes through a laundry list of how his life used to be bad but, now that he’s found someone to be his, his life has gotten better.

The song showcases the Paul and John dynamic of the group, with most of the song being dominated by Paul’s optimistic theme of “getting better,” and only peppered with John’s pessimistic “It can’t get no worse.”

It’s almost charming that having a new girl should have little to no correlation with how his teachers in school are treating him. Instead, this new girl seems to help him with his anger issues, making him more likely to put up with nonsense at school. Also particularly interesting are the lines about being “cruel to [his] woman” and “ke[eping] her apart from the things that she loves,” which seem to suggest that he’s still with this woman, yet he’s gotten better since he’s been with this new one. Every aspect of this guy’s life has improved since he began this affair. But he is “doing the best that [he] can,” right?

“Good Day Sunshine”
Album: Revolver

I know quite a few people who absolutely can’t stand this song. Why? It’s way too happy. But I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with “too happy” in this case. The “good day sunshine!”  repeated throughout the song just makes you feel good, even if the reasons given in the song are kind of silly.

The first verse’s “when the sun is out I’ve got something I can laugh about” seems almost ridiculous out of context. Sunshine isn’t typically enough to make a elicit a chuckle (unless you of course consider that The Beatles were from England, where the weather was typically gloomy, but even here laughter seems unwarranted).

It’s better explained a couple of lines later with “I’m in love and it’s a sunny day.” It’s really a song about new love, and how it changes the way you feel, so that even the most minute things can induce drug-like bliss. Even the fact that the sun’s heat is such that he “burns [his] feet as they touch the ground” makes him happy. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.

Here, George Martin’s piano perfectly compliments the sentiment. It is the epitome of the feel-good song, and if you don’t like it you’re probably just jealous that you don’t feel this good.

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And if you missed them, check out Part I and Part II !!!

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My Beatles Favorites, Part II

July 13, 2009

Another 5 of my favorite Beatles songs… Don’t be phased by how much I revere them. Just read and try to accept my weird summer fandom.

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“A Day In the Life”
Album: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Best Beatles song ever? “A Day In the Life” is probably the only song I’ve ever gotten goosebumps just thinking about, and for good reason. From John’s haunting opening lines of “I read the news today, oh boy” to Paul’s jaunty middle “woke up, got out of bed” section and back, with George Martin’s brilliant instrumentation piecing the two together, every second of this song seems without flaw.

John’s inspiration for the song came from two unrelated articles from a newspaper. One affected him particularly because it concerned the fatal car accident of an acquaintance of the Beatles, which for the song was altered, perhaps more poignantly, to be a suicide.

The second story was of much less consequence; the potholes in Blackburn, Lancashire had been counted up and there were precisely four thousand of them. Still, the incident stuck in John’s head, and his abstract phraseology of the occurrence within the context of the song gives it nearly the same intellectually provocative weight as the death.

Paul’s upbeat, “woke up” middle section was written separately. It was part of a song that was going nowhere, and quite luckily eventually found its true calling in “A Day In the Life.” Not only does the song’s lively melody compliment John’s slower, sadder verses, but its mundane description of getting ready in the morning thematically adds to a song that’s really just about a day in someone’s life.

George Martin’s strengths as a composer and producer really shine here, especially considering what The Beatles always expected from him and likely took for granted. John and Paul, rather casually, asked him to orchestrate a sound like the end of the world for this track, and he delivered. Each of John’s dreamy “I’d love to turn you on”s is followed by a gorgeously jarring climax of sound that really brings the song together and makes it so cohesive.

Ridiculously enough, “A Day In the Life” was banned from radio stations when it was released because of what was thought to be a blatant marijuana reference. Paul’s remarks that he “had a smoke” and then “went into a dream” were enough to prevent the song from getting airtime, while the repeated “I’d love to turn you on,” was overlooked completely.

To precisely what John would like to turn you on isn’t explicit either, and all for the better. The ambiguity and duality of the lyrics are a big part of what make the song the masterpiece that it is.

“Day Tripper”
Album: Double A-side with “We Can Work It Out”

“Day Tripper” features one of the catchiest and most easily recognizable guitar riffs of the Beatles catalog (a riff which also serves the distinction of being the first piece of Beatles music I ever learned to play on guitar).

The real genius of the song, however, lies in the classic Beatles wordplay. I’m under the impression that, in 1965 when the song was released as a single, the title was innocuous enough that people didn’t think about it twice. Had the radio stations interpreted the title as anything more than the qualification of a girl who goes on day trips, it probably would have been banned like numerous other Beatles songs. Funny how, by the time I heard the song sometime in the 90’s, the more innocent meaning never crossed my mind and even as a little kid I immediately assumed the song was about drugs.

And then there’s the fact that the “she’s a big teaser” line was originally “she’s a prick teaser.” So is the song about a girl who’s just a druggy on the weekends, or about sexual frustration? Knowing John Lennon’s sense of humor, it’s probably just about a day tripper.

“Dear Prudence”
Album: The Beatles

With the  relatively straightforward premise of asking a girl to come out of seclusion and enjoy the day, “Dear Prudence” is a song that I’ve always loved primarily because it’s pretty. The  twangy guitar melody that begins the song and continues throughout, combined with John’s gentle vocals, seem like just the thing to buoy the girl’s spirits, and it’s as if the bouncy bass riff that comes in toward the middle of the first verse is intended to finally get her to “come out and play.” The harmonizing in the “look around” bit carries the same heartening effect.

Lennon actually wrote the song while he and the rest of The Beatles were in India learning Transcendental Meditation. Among the others who were studying under the maharishi were Mia Farrow and her sister Prudence, who after learning meditation would lock herself in her room all day and do nothing but meditate.

And even though it’s not necessarily Beatles canon, I’m a big fan of the adaptation of “Dear Prudence” in the 2007 film Across the Universe. I like to think that it’s because it was done well, and not because the scene, in which they coax a girl who happens to be a lesbian out of a closet, was really funny.

“Dig a Pony”
Album: Let It Be

“Dig a Pony” features almost completely indecipherable lyrics, and being the type of person who tends to analyze songs until they can be analyzed no more, I’ve had some help reading way farther into it these lines than anyone really should. In fact, the only clear-cut message is in the chorus declaring “all I want is you,” in which the song acts as the simplest of love songs, most likely announcing John’s love for Yoko Ono. In terms of sound, the big, fuzzy bass sounds and the country-tinged guitar compliment the sentiment and the later confusion rather nicely.

Here’s where I’m stretching it. Toward the end of The Beatles, both John and Yoko were addicted to heroin. Another name for heroin? Horse. And what do you call a young horse? Hence the song title. And I always thought that the lyric was “I dig a pony,” but listening to it now I hear “High, high high, high high, dig a pony.” The double entendre is amazing, even if the more innocent meaning doesn’t really make any sense.

The song might also make references to groupies not being particular about where he stuck it, if you catch my drift, and to the Rolling Stones merely copying everyone around them to get to where as far as they did. Or it might not.

“Don’t Pass Me By”
Album: The Beatles

There’s something about this clunky Ringo tune that I find endearing, despite the almost awkwardly labored rhythm. It was the first of only two original Ringo compositions that he did for the Beatles (the other being the better known “Octopus’s Garden”), and reportedly was mentioned in interviews as early as 1964. With the White Album not being released until 1968, it seems as if he was working on it all that time.

Given those four years to write the song, it is perhaps overproduced. The piano and drum beat by themselves sound heavy even before the sleigh bells kick in. Not only do the bells produce a sound too reminiscent of Christmastime to belong in this type of song, but they seem to  come in a little off. Ringo’s country influence is apparent in the odd fiddle that shows up partway into the song. If not bringing cohesion, it at least makes it pretty interesting.

The song’s subject matter is relatively straightforward. Ringo’s lady keeps him waiting, but he learns that she’s been in a car crash and forgives her tardiness. I always thought that “and you lost your hair” was an odd addition to the lyrics, but Wikipedia insists that it’s an old English turn of phrase for getting upset.

So what is it about “Don’t Pass Me By” that I love? Besides Ringo’s counting to eight near the middle of the song, which makes me laugh every time I hear it, I don’t exactly know.

Also feel free to check out Part I and Part II

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My Beatles Favorites, Part I

July 10, 2009

My summer has pretty much been dominated by The Beatles, and to put my blog to good use I thought it would be cool to pick my top 10 Beatles tracks and do a little write up about why I thought each song was great.

One problem- picking 10 Beatles songs out of their vast catalogue proved impossible for me. So I decided I should do a top 20. That was a no-go as well. By the time I managed to compile the list of my very favorite Beatles songs, there were 45. And I figured that explaining why I loved these 45 songs would be ridiculously time-consuming.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not doing it. Instead, I settled on doing them in groups of 5, starting alphabetically at the beginning as a kind of summer project. Here goes.

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“All Together Now”
Album: Yellow Submarine

Charming, catchy, and most probably catered toward younger listeners as one of the tracks in the Yellow Submarine film, “All Together Now” is a delightful listen. It’s upbeat and simple, and in classic Beatles fashion blurs the lines of what type of song it’s meant to be.

Few groups can boast having a song that simultaneously acts as a kind of pseudo-Sesame Street instructional song by reviewing the alphabet and numbers and colors, and asks “can I take my friend to bed?” with the magical earnestness that makes the lyric go right over the head of most listeners. The chorus, which consists just of the repeated line “all together now,” even feels as if it’s inciting the listener to join in.

Plus, it’s in Yellow Submarine twice, both in an animated sequence and in a segment where it is introduced by the Beatles themselves (this is their only actual appearance in the film because their the cartoon Beatles were voiced by professional voice actors), so it has to be good. And there’s a Kermit the Frog version. ‘nough said.


“And Your Bird Can Sing”
Album: Revolver

The rolling guitar riff that crops up throughout “And Your Bird Can Sing” is one of the many, many musical instances that make Revolver my favorite Beatles album. It’s one of those songs that manages to sound psychadelic without resorting to the wavery far-off vocals or guitar that tend to signify when a song was conceived in a druggy haze.

The harmonizing, too, is especially engaging, and it’s was quite clever that the harmony changes on the line “tell me that you’ve heard every sound there is…” as if the singer is pointedly remarking “oh, but you haven’t heard this sound yet.”

Admittedly, it takes some decoding to sort out what the song is really about, but the lyrics have that kind of punchy hook that makes you forget to question them. The song seems to be about the dangers of materialism in relationships, but Wikipedia suggests that the song is about Mick Jagger, electronic caged birds, druggy discoveries of the meaning of life, and Frank Sinatra. All in all, what’s important is that it’s a fun song, and I can almost imagine Lennon snickering as he wrote these lyrics and anticipated people being stumped in their analysis.

And this is a demo version on Anthology 2. The different guitar riff is interesting. I mostly dig the crazy giggles.

“Another Girl”
Album: Help!

Let me start by saying that, if Paul McCartney had written and performed this song with me in mind, I would be thoroughly upset. That said, I’m not the subject matter of this song, and find this song engaging and, horribly enough, kind of funny.

The premise is pretty simple; this guy has a new lady friend, and decides to tell his old girlfriend about it in his own gracefully tactless way. Apparently not very good at break-ups, he decides to tell her only after he begins this new relationship.

The message from here on is equally wishy-washy. He tells her rather brashly “I ain’t no fool and I don’t take what I don’t want,” and then pulls back a little by insisting “I don’t want to say that I’ve been unhappy with you” in an instance of Paul’s typical non-aggression.

What really makes the song interesting is the happy-go-luckiness of it all. It’s not the everyday, mopey, break-up song. Instead it almost celebrates the end of the relationship and the beginning of the process of moving on.

But then again, it’s kind of the norm on the Help! album for the music to be an inappropriately upbeat match for the lyrical content. And the accompanying scene in the Bahamas, with Paul playing a girl like she was his Hofner bass, has no resonance whatsoever of what the song is about (which is probably why it’s so effective).

“Baby You’re a Rich Man”
B-Side to “All You Need Is Love”

Like “A Day In the Life,” “Baby You’re a Rich Man” is composed of parts that John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote separately before somehow realizing that the two songs would mesh perfectly into one of the most stick-in-your-head Beatles tracks ever. John’s soft verses, backed by piano and rhythmic hand-claps, lead seamlessly into Paul’s chanting chorus of “baby you’re a rich man.”

The juxtaposition of the two bits, with John’s highlighting the vanity of money and Paul’s over-the-top, nearly mocking, celebration of wealth come together to make the point pretty clear that money doesn’t make the man.

Legend has it, too, that the song was a light-hearted mockery of the Beatles manager, Brian Epstein, who happened to be gay and Jewish. Though Lennon and Epstein were very close, Lennon would tend to poke fun at him and often act resentful of his capitalization of the success of the Beatles. Allegedly, the last “baby you’re a rich man too” sung by Lennon is actually “baby you’re a rich fag Jew.” That’s not very nice… and I don’t really hear it at all.

“Birthday”
Album: The Beatles

Birthday songs! Lyrically, “Birthday” could have been written by anyone, but what the Beatles do with such a simple song is masterful. For the white album, the track is refreshingly uncomplicated rock and roll that sounds like a more sophisticated version of what their earlier records could have been.

Most of all, it doesn’t sound like a birthday song. Paul’s vocals here are some of his loudest and most aggressive– not your typical gather-round-the-cake-and-blow-out-the-candles fare.

And since “Happy Birthday to You” is copyrighted too, you might as well sing the Beatles’ song instead if you’re gonna pay royalties anyway.

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Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this and keep updated. Here’s Part II and Part III!

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bacon of the world

May 26, 2009

self explanatory:

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  • Albanian- proshutë
  • Arabic- لحم الخنزير المقدد
  • Bulgarian, Ukrainian- becon
  • Catalan- cansalada
  • Chinese (simplified) – 熏猪肉;咸猪肉
  • Chinese (traditional)- 燻豬肉;鹹豬肉
  • Croatian, Serbian- slanine
  • Czech, Slovak- slanina
  • English, Filipino, French- bacon
  • Estonian- peekon
  • Finish- pekoni
  • German- schinkenspeck
  • Greek- μπέικον
  • Hebrew- בייקון
  • Hindi- बेकन
  • Hungarian- szalonna
  • Italian- pancetta affumicata
  • Japanese- ベーコン
  • Korean- 경찰
  • Latvian- bekons
  • Lithuanian- šoninė
  • Polish- boczek
  • Romanian- kaizer
  • Russian- копченая свиная грудинка
  • Spanish- tocino
  • Thai- เบคอน
  • Turkish- domuz pastırması

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Happy Birthday, Jerry Seinfeld

April 29, 2009

I wrote this essay for my Symbols and Conceptual Systems: Artifacts of Self-Regard class. Seeing as it’s Seinfeld’s birthday, thought I might as well share. Still kinda working on it, even though I’ve turned it in… Enjoy.

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“So you’re saying I go in to NBC and tell them I got this idea for a show about nothing…” (“The Pitch”)
-Jerry Seinfeld

The hit 90’s television show Seinfeld has simultaneously been called the greatest television show of all time (“TV Guide”) and “a show about nothing.” This show about a fictionalized version of stand-up comedian Jerry Seinfeld details his entertainingly mundane life, and the lives of his best friend George Costanza, ex-girlfriend Elaine Benes, and kooky neighbor Cosmo Kramer. It is about the minutiae the everyday, and often its finest are the observations made by the main characters about the world around them. In other words, the show was about nothing– so much so that the fourth season is practically about the show itself. In it, Jerry and George write a television show about themselves, humorously undermining the whole impression of these characters being real by reminding viewers about the inner workings of television. Paradoxically, it also reaffirms that they are not merely characters, as they creating something of their own.

The fourth season begins with Kramer in Los Angeles, pursuing an acting career despite his inability to act. Jerry and George, his friends back home in New York, and aware of Kramer’s incapability, are stunned to hear that Kramer has had any success in Hollywood. When he hears the news, George asks Jerry “Kramer was on Murphy Brown?” in disbelief. When Jerry responds that he was, George shouts, “Are you sure?” needing a second confirmation. Even after Jerry answers him yet again, George repeats, “Murphy Brown, the TV show?” requiring a third clarification (“The Trip: Part 1”). George’s lasting disbelief is exaggerated by his repetition. Additionally, in mentioning another situational comedy, his incredulous remarks serve as a reminder that both he and Jerry are merely characters on a popular sit-com themselves. This realization makes the unlikely story of Kramer’s success in Hollywood seem more plausible as well. Kramer can be an actor on the television show Murphy Brown, just as the real Jerry Seinfeld and Jason Alexander, playing Jerry and George onscreen, are actors on the television show Seinfeld. This irony also serves in a comedic sense. It is doubly funny that George cannot believe that Kramer is on a television show because not only is the character Kramer on Murphy Brown, but his character, portrayed by the actor Michael Richards, is on television on Seinfeld itself.

A following scene shows Kramer backstage of a Hollywood set, smoking a pipe, with other aspirant actors listening almost dreamily to Kramer’s made up “methods.” The set-up of the scene itself poses several questions to viewers of the scene. The set may in fact be the actual backstage area of the show Seinfeld, comically undermining the concept that Seinfeld is a realistic show about the lives of four friends, and reminding the viewers that these are not real people, but actors. Kramer’s mannerisms as he acts out the part of the actor also are self-reflexive and humorously self-deprecating. He sits in a director’s chair with his legs crossed, saying through his teeth, which are clenched down on the pipe he is smoking: “my personal acting technique is working with color, imagining color, then finding the emotional vibrational mood connected to the color… you’ll see that all my lines have a special color, so I don’t memorize language, I memorize color” (“The Trip: Part 1”). Kramer appears to be making this up, particularly because he mediocre actor, but everyone who is backstage with him clings to every word and thinks he is a genius, merely because of his confidence and body language. His actions characterize the Hollywood crowd as gullible and drawn to falseness. In this sense, Michael Richards as Kramer is an actor who is merely acting the part of an actor.

Later, Kramer returns to his apartment in Hollywood to find his neighbor Helena, an older Hollywood actress who is attracted to him, come out of her apartment to speak to him. She tries to convince Kramer that the acting business will kill him, and when he tries to ignore her she overdramatically shouts at him “Kramer, they’ll hurt you, they’ll destroy you! You’ll never make it in this town, you’re too sensitive like me!” (“The Trip: Part 1”) Helena’s obvious overacting paints her as an actress of a past era, when dramatics in acting were the norm. It too reminds the viewers that, even within the show, she is merely acting. Again, attention is drawn to the concept of the falseness of playing a role. She wants Kramer to listen to and stay with her, but he recognizes that she is intensifying her emotions to get what she wants. The fact that she is an actress, however, reminds the viewer that Helena is not just putting on a façade within the show, but that an actress also portrays Helena.

Around this time, Kramer’s friends Jerry and George happen to be visiting L.A. because Jerry is appearing on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. When they arrive at the NBC studio George exclaims “This is very exciting! You’re on the Tonight Show, NBC, who else is on the show?” His excitement is particularly humorous because his animation stems from the fact that his friend is going to be on television when, to the audience, it is clear that all of these characters, including George Costanza, are on television. The show is even on the same network: NBC. Jerry replies to George that he doesn’t know who else is going to be on the show with him, to which George replies quite eagerly that he “Might meet a celebrity!” (“The Trip: Part 1”) There is humor in George’s excitement, considering that Jason Alexander and the real Jerry Seinfeld, playing George and Jerry, are celebrities themselves. George’s enthusiasm reminds the viewers of this distinction and makes the situation all the more comical.

Later in the season, an NBC executive approaches Jerry with the notion that he should create a television show of his own. The life of the character Seinfeld closely imitates that of the real Seinfeld, in that both are stand-up comedians who are offered television shows on NBC. Clearly, the real Seinfeld has already done so, and the season’s primarily plotline becomes the development of this television show that Jerry writes. George is with him when he gets the news, and Jerry expresses that he isn’t entirely sure of his abilities when he states “they want me to come up with an idea… I don’t have any ideas” to which George immediately responds with “Come on, how hard is that? Look at all the junk that’s on TV!”  (“The Pitch”) He humorously denounces the quality of contemporary television shows, including the one in which he is a character. Later, when George insists that he should be a co-writer of Jerry’s show, he deflects Jerry’s reluctance to let him, because he isn’t a comedy writer, by scoffing and saying “Writer? We’re talking about a sit-com!” (“The Pitch”). When George later tries to use the fact that he is a writer for a sit-com to impress a woman in a bar, she shoos him away and tells her friend, quite derisively, “A sit-com. Can you imagine? And he actually tried to use it to hit on me!”(“The Virgin”). The attitude of the characters toward situational comedies, despite the fact that they are in one, has a humorous effect. The self-reflexive nature of his statements is somewhat humbling of the writers of the show, and also asserts that they are self-aware.

Eventually, Kramer also gets involved in the idea-generating process. He suggests that the show should be about Jerry as the manager of a circus, with the show centering around the circus’s freaks. Jerry voices his reservations immediately, but Kramer attempts to change his mind by telling him that “the show isn’t about the circus, it’s about watching freaks.” Kramer’s idea focuses around the concept that it is not always necessarily what a show is about that draws in viewers, but the characters. While Seinfeld’s four protagonists are certainly not circus freaks, Kramer’s mention of the predisposition of viewers to want to watch freaks does draw attention to their quirky idiosyncrasies. When Jerry again insists that he’s “not pitching a show about freaks,” Kramer buts in with “People… want to watch freaks. This is a ‘can’t miss’ (“The Pitch”). Kramer’s statements draw attention particularly to himself. Out of his group of friends, he is arguably the most “freaky,” due to his spastic personality and gawky appearance. Seinfeld is a show about friends and their interactions, rather than an overarching plot. Perhaps it is this focus on stories about people that make Seinfeld so popular. Later in the season, for example, when an executive from NBC tells George how important it is that people care about a show’s characters, he responds promptly with “Care? Forget about care. Love. They have to love the characters. Otherwise, why would they keep tuning in?” (“The Ticket”). In this way, it is funny that Jerry refuses to consider Kramer’s idea because it is the concept of the “show about freaks” that is really the basis of the success of Seinfeld.

After a silly, but for some reason hilarious, discussion that Jerry and George have over lunch about the similarity between the words “seltzer” and “salsa,” George comes to a realization. “See, this should be a show. This is the show… This, just talking,” he says smiling, but Jerry dismisses the idea. Ironically, as viewers watch this conversation unfold, this chat between friends has already been televised nationwide. What Jerry sees as an impossible premise for a television scene already is one, and he is a part of it. When Jerry asks George what the show will be about, George replies, quite smugly “It’s about nothing.” Similarly to when Kramer said that Jerry’s show about the circus wouldn’t be about the circus per se, it seems that the premise of the show itself is not what makes the show. In fact, in George’s mind, a show does not need a premise at all. Jerry, still in disbelief, goes over their plans again: “I go in to NBC, and tell them I got this idea for a show about nothing” (“The Pitch”).  In fact, when the show’s creators, Larry David and the real-life Jerry Seinfeld pitched the show Seinfeld, they did precisely that (Popik). The show that George Costanza suggests that he and Jerry create, therefore, is basically Seinfeld.

Their conversation continues with Jerry’s insistence that their show needs a plot. George replies by asking “Who says you gotta have a story? Remember when we were waiting for–
for that table in that Chinese restaurant that time? That could be a TV show” (“The Pitch”). Though George Costanza does not know it, he is blatantly referencing an episode from the second season of Seinfeld, aptly titled “The Chinese Restaurant,” whose plot goes precisely as George describes it here (IMDb). Like many episodes of the show, the story of “The Chinese Restaurant” is plainly understandable without knowing what happens in the surrounding episodes, and is not integral to the rest of the season. In the broader scheme of things, it accomplishes “nothing” besides being a very funny episode of a television show.

The parallels between the life of the real and the fictional Jerry Seinfelds are furthered by the inclusion of the eccentric next-door neighbor Kramer as a character. When Jerry tells Kramer about his new concept for what the show will be and that he intends to base a character on Kramer, Kramer says he will let Jerry do it one on condition: he gets to play Kramer (“The Pitch”). Interestingly enough, the character of Cosmo Kramer is based upon the real-life neighbor of co-creator Larry David named Kenny Kramer.  Like Cosmo, Kenny Kramer insisted upon being cast as his namesake on Seinfeld, but was turned down in favor of Michael Richards, just as Kramer’s role is given to an actor on the show (“Kramer vs. Kramer”). Just like the characters within Seinfeld, who plan to interject the daily occurrences of their lives into their television show, the creators of Seinfeld take real life events and place them within the frame of the television show. The inclusion of this detail may also serve almost as an apology to Kenny Kramer. Within the show, the viewers’ sympathies are with Kramer to get the part, which he does not. The self-reflexive nature of the incident reveals that both Kramers are denied the roles as themselves, not for personal reasons, but for the sake of the show itself.

After a first unsuccessful meeting with NBC concerning the show, Jerry gets a phone call from the executives saying that they would like another meeting with him. George is ecstatic, shouting “We’re gonna be rich! What are we gonna get for this? Fifty, sixty thousand dollars!” (“The Ticket”) The mention of salary raises the question within the viewers of how much the actors playing the characters within Seinfeld made, especially considering that Jerry Seinfeld is known to have been paid extremely well. In fact, in 2004, six years after the show had finished its nine-year run, Jerry Seinfeld still made $264 million, making him the highest paid celebrity of that year, though the show was only in syndication. George also repeatedly brings up Ted Danson from Cheers, which was on right before Seinfeld on the same network and therefore a comparable show, to which Jerry responds, quite ironically viewers, “How are you comparing us to Ted Danson?” (“The Ticket”) In fact, Seinfeld outrated Cheers before its third season (“Suddenly Something”). George’s comparison is apt. George even says later that “Ted Danson makes eight hundred thousand dollars an episode,” (“The Ticket”), which next to the comparatively meager thirteen thousand that George and Jerry are jointly offered per episode seems quite hefty, but compared to the actual salary of Jerry Seinfeld pales in comparison.

The second meeting with the executives of NBC goes over more smoothly, with George having abandoned the notion that the show should lack any kind of premise or plot. In fact, he changes his stance completely about the idea, stating “The story is the foundation of all entertainment. You must have a good story otherwise it’s just masturbation” (“The Ticket”). George’s statement hints that, like the real show Seinfeld, the show that George and Jerry are writing will not function unless it has some kind of underlying premise. Though Seinfeld has been heralded as “the show about nothing,” it does have a basic plotline, centering around stand-up comedian Jerry and his three friends who frequently find themselves in unfortunate and comedic situations. The fourth season, specifically, focuses on Jerry’s developing show. The line reminds viewers that coherence and cohesiveness are necessary to for this type of comedy to be enjoyable. The show’s “nothing” is the everyday and mundane, rather than actual nothingness. George’s statement that a show without a show is “just masturbation” is provocative but not necessarily insightful. He just means that plotless television can be enjoyable, but it is not substantial, and even looked down upon. Just as Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David had to eventually pitch their show not as the show about nothing but “all about how Jerry came up with his material for his standup” (Interview), the fictional Jerry and George must change their pitch in order to get their show deal.

At points, it is almost as if Seinfeld is imitating the show that Jerry and George are attempting to write, rather than vice-versa. In one instance, for example, Elaine tries to convince the two of them to include a character based on her in the script: “suppose the Elaine character comes in wearing… a low-cut dress. And the butler is very distracted, and can’t work” (“The Shoes”). Jerry and George write it off, but later in the same episode, they have her actually act out the plan with Russell Dalrymple, an NBC executive, wearing a low-cut dress so that Dalrymple will be distracted by her breasts and accept her desire for Jerry and George’s show to be put on television. Rather than Seinfeld being influenced by the real lives of the actors and writers, or the show within the show Seinfeld being influenced by the characters who write it, it appears that the show twice removed from the real world is influencing the reality that exists within Seinfeld. A viewer must remember, however, that both shows, the fiction and the fiction within the fiction, are just fiction, and that neither is really influencing the other because neither is real life.

When the characters finally get around to filming the pilot of their show, which they call Jerry, mirroring the actual show being called Seinfeld, casting decisions have to be made. When Kramer is refused the role of himself on the show Jerry, he insists on coaching Tom Pepper, the actor who will play hum, how to be just like him. Kramer insists on filling him in on his techniques for eating spaghetti and having sex when Tom replies “This stuff doesn’t matter to me. See, I’m gonna do the character like me, not like you” (“The Pilot”). This plot point mirrors the real life interaction between Kenny Kramer, the man upon whom the character of Kramer is based, and Michael Richards, who plays Cosmo Kramer on Seinfeld. Kenny Kramer has said that “People will ask me if Michael met to study and the answer is no. He did not want to have anything to do with knowing about me… Larry wrote the words, you know, and he just interpreted it himself” (Kramer Vs. Kramer). This mimicking of real life serves as a humorous homage, or a kind of inside joke, to those who know the history of the development of the character of Kramer.

By being doubly self-reflexive, with Seinfeld being an imitation of the life of Jerry Seinfeld and with Jerry being an imitation of Seinfeld, the show humorously represents everyone involved with the show as not really knowing what they are doing. Actors are depicted, for the most part, as extremely self-involved and fake, while writers are portrayed as people who haphazardly throw scripts together, get looked down upon, and are not original enough to base what they write on anything that is not basically a true story. The fact that the writers of Seinfeld are aware of these ideas, and are willing to but them up on display by parodying them, suggest that they are different. Viewer recognition of this, and the show’s other suggestions at reality, just make the show funnier.

Works Cited

  • Cerone, Daniel. “Seinfeld’ Is Suddenly Something.” ProQuest Archiver. 4 Mar. 1993. 27 Apr. 2009. <http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/latimes/access/60203201.html >.
  • Charles, Larry. “The Trip: Part 1.” Seinfeld. Dir. Tom Cherones. NBC. New York, New York. 12 Aug. 1992.
  • Cosgrove-Mather, Bootie. “TV Guide Names Top 50 Shows.” CBSNews.com. 26 Apr. 2002. CBS News. 26 Apr. 2009. <http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2002/04/26/entertainment /main507388.shtml>
  • David, Larry. “The Pilot.” Seinfeld. Dir. Tom Cherones. NBC. New York, New York. 20 May. 1993.
  • David, Larry. “The Pitch.” Seinfeld. Dir. Tom Cherones. NBC. New York, New York. 9 Sept. 1992.
  • David, Larry. “The Ticket.” Seinfeld. Dir. Tom Cherones. NBC. New York, New York. 16 Sept. 1992.
  • David, Larry, and Jerry Seinfeld. “The Shoes.” Seinfeld. Dir. Tom Cherones. NBC. New York, New York. 4 Feb. 1993.
  • Farrelly, Bobby, Peter Farrelly, and Peter Mehlman. “The Virgin.” Seinfeld. Dir. Tom Cherones. NBC. New York, New York. 11 Nov. 1992.
  • “Forbes Celebrity 100- 2004.” Forbes.com. 20 Apr. 2009 <http://www.forbes.com/lists/home. jhtml?passListId=53&passYear=1999&passListType=Person>.
  • “Kramer vs Kramer: Kenny to Cosmo.” Seinfeld- Season 3. DVD. NBC, 2004.
  • “Model for character talks about ‘Kramer.’” USATODAY.com. 24 Nov. 2006. USA Today. 20 Apr. 2009 <http://www.usatoday.com/life/people/2006-11-24-kramer_x.htm&gt;.
  • Seinfeld, Jerry. “Jerry Seinfeld Interview.” Interview with Jon Stewart. The Daily Show. Comedy Central. New York, New York. 5 Apr. 2004.
  • Popik, Barry. “Seinfeld Session.” The Big Apple. 30 May 2008. 20 Apr. 2009 <http://www. barrypopik.com/index.php/new_york_city/entry/seinfeld_session/>.
  • “Seinfeld (1990) – Episode list.” The Internet Movie Database (IMDb). 20 Apr. 2009 <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0098904/episodes#season-2&gt;.
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The Life and Legacy of Django Reinhardt

April 24, 2009

You know who kind of kicked a lot of ass? Django Reinhardt. Let me explain.

Django Reinhardt was a Gypsy born Jean-Baptiste Reinhardt on the 23rd of January in 1910 in Belgium (Vernon, 1). Though he was born in Germany, he spent much of his life in France, where he married at about the age of 17, and within the next couple of years formed played banjo on numerous recordings, usually accompanied by accordion player Jean Visage. He also played the violin and guitar (Britannica). In Paris in 1928, it is alleged that an English bandleader named Jack Hylton saw him play in a club called “La Java” and, impressed with Reinhardt’s virtuosity, offered the young Gypsy a contract to play in his orchestra (Vernon, 5).

Soon afterward, an accident that would redefine Reinhardt’s style and change his life forever occurred. Coming home to the caravan that Django and his wife shared, he accidentally set fire to a bunch of cellophane flowers that his wife had made. She made her living by selling these paper flowers, but the material was highly flammable, and their home was full of them. The caravan was ablaze in a matter of seconds. Though the couple escaped, Django was not left completely unharmed. Most noticeably, his invaluable left hand, which he used to finger the strings on the various instruments he played so masterfully, was badly burned. Realizing that he could still potentially retain movement in some of his fingers, he refused to have them amputated, despite the suggestion of doctors. He had almost completely lost movement in his pinkie and ring fingers. They were now nearly useless. Still, he would not give up music. Rather than playing as he had before, he had to reteach himself how to play instruments with his remaining mobile fingers. The result was a completely new method of playing that required only these the middle and index fingers. His new style was ready for audiences within a few months, and they were astounded with it. While eventually he would manage to use the damaged fingers to hold down strings, he was never again able to use them in solos (Coats).

Just as he coped with the loss of the use of his fingers, Django Reinhardt managed to find success despite the hardships inherent in being both a Gypsy and a jazz musician during his time. During the Holocaust, the Gypsies, like the Jews, were chosen to be completely wiped out based upon nothing more than the fact that they were racially different and were supposedly “inferior” to the Germans. While the Nazis would look back into a person’s familial history four generations for Jewish blood to determine whether or not someone should be sent to the concentration camps, they were even harsher on those who may have had Gypsy blood, going back eight generations for any trace of Gypsy heritage. Hitler saw the Gypsies as a “degenerate” race that needed to be eliminated. Alongside the Jewish people who were rounded up and sent to concentration camps, the Gypsies were also taken to camps, where they were kept in separate facilities from the Jews and political dissidents. About half of a million Gypsies were killed during the Holocaust. Nearly the entire Eastern European population was killed (Schwartz).

Not only was Reinhardt prejudiced against due to his race, but the Nazis also discriminated against his music. After the Second World War’s Battle of France of 1840 in which France had lost, the country became occupied by Germany. Jazz music was quite popular in France at the time and was becoming part of the country’s culture, but under Nazi control it became illegal. Jazz musicians were forced to flee. Hitler saw jazz as “degenerate music” because it had originated with African-Americans, whom Hitler saw as members of an inferior race. For Hitler, music that was not of the “master race” was impure. He also saw it as a way of taking over each and every aspect of French culture during his invasion, because jazz had become such a big part of the cultural identity of France. By stomping out jazz, Hitler also managed to exert his power (Whisenant).

Given the circumstances of his birth and the music that he played, Django Reinhardt was only kept safe because of the amazing respect he garnered for his great musical prowess. One story, in particular, is of a Luftwaffe Overleutnant named Dietrich Schulz-Koehn. Though he was a Nazi officer, he was a lover of jazz, even earning him the nickname of Doktor Jazz. Schulz-Koehn was such a fan of Reinhardt that he allegedly protected the Gypsy musician on multiple occasions. Though they had numerous grounds to detain Reinhardt, the Nazis never managed to capture him because Schulz-Koehn would protect him. One photograph even shows the Nazi soldier outside a jazz club in Paris called La Cigale alongside the Gypsy Django Reinhardt, four other musicians of African descent, and a Jewish man standing next to another Nazi officer, smiling. All of these men would have been captured and sent to concentration camps under other circumstances, whether it was because of their race or because of the music that they played despite the fact that it was illegal. Because of Schulz-Koehn, however, they remained out of harm’s way (Morton). Some Gypsies, hearing about the special treatment that Django Reinhardt was receiving, would claim to be him when they were placed in concentration camps, hoping that it would get them released. The Nazi soldiers would sometimes give these claimants a guitar and tell them to play, but no one could play like Django and lying did not help them. Arguably, had it not been for his virtuosity with the guitar, he would not have attracted the attention and protection of Schulz-Koehn, and probably would have been killed during the Holocaust.

On the contrary, his musical career continued to flourish despite everything that was happening in France. Years before the invasion of France in 1940, his first public appearance was on February 4th, 1934 at the Salle Lafayette, where his style garnered much appreciation. Jacques Bureau, a journalist for Jazz-Tango-Dancing who was at the event, described Reinhardt as “the revelation of the evening. He is a very strange musician, whose style is like no other that I know. This hasn’t prevented the public from understanding him very well and applauding his solos,” (Vernon,18-19). A year later, at a show in February of 1935, Reinhardt was lauded again in the publication as a “truly exceptional guitarist, as much for his technique as for his style.” The writer notes that, while usually the guitar is reserved for rhythm in a jazz ensemble, Reinhardt managed to turn it into an intense and melodic instrument incredibly suited for his improvised solos (Vernon, 32). Guitar solos usually consisted of chords, and Reinhardt had managed to invent a whole new style for the instrument. His success in Paris continued right into the invasion of France in May of 1940.

By chance, Django Reinhardt left Paris for the south of France just two days before the “Battle of France” began. Before he returned in mid-August, the city had fallen to the German army (Vernon, 168-169). Even though Paris had been taken over, Reinhardt managed to perform at various Paris clubs despite the ban on jazz music. His status as a jazz musician was also widely known. In 1942, for example, Down Beat magazine in Chicago erroneously published  a story that Django Reinhardt had died. The story was reprinted in England, and soon both countries’ offices were swarmed with letters saying that it could not be true because people had heard him broadcasting recently (Vernon, 185-186). The rumors of the death caused an uproar with fans who refused to believe that Reinhardt was dead. Soon, these rumors were cleared. In November of 1946, Django Reinhardt began to do numerous shows in both the United States and Canada, appearing with such American jazz legends as Duke Ellington. His popularity was becoming more and more apparent in November of that year with an article published about him in Time magazine as well as an article of Down Beat magazine, whose cover he also graced (Vernon, 203-204). In February of 1947 he returned to Paris. He continued to play in Paris and to tour in such countries as Belgium and Switzerland until he passed away on May 16, 1953 at the age of 43.

Though his music was popular more than sixty years ago, Django Reinhardt’s legacy as a musician lives on. Reinhardt’s unique and innovative style, stemming not only from skill but also coming out of a fire that was completely an accident, proved to not only revolutionize jazz guitar but also to inspire those who heard his music and of the consequences of his playing. His musical stylings have “inspire[d] musicians as varied as Yehudi Menuhin, Julian Bream, Les Paul, Barney Kessel, Chet Atkins, Joe Pass, and Carlos Santana” (Ferran). His style has reached classical, jazz, country, and rock guitarists all the same. Reinhardt is even mentioned in the 1993 film “Swing Kids,” which takes place during Hitler’s power in Germany in a time in which swing and jazz music are banned, but the rebellious youth listen to it anyway. When Arvid, a virtuosic young swing guitarist, loses the function of two of his fingers after being beaten up by two members of the Hitler Youth, he finds himself in a very similar position to Reinhardt after the fire. Using Django Reinhardt as a source of inspiration, Arvid manages to teach himself how to play with his remaining good fingers (Swing Kids). Though Django Reinhardt might not be a household name, his style and influence still permeate popular culture. Whether people know it or not, they have likely heard music that was at one point inspired by Django Reinhardt’s brilliant improvisational jazz solos of the 1930’s and 40’s. In this way, Reinhardt’s influence will continue to be a part of music as long as guitarists look to the past at other styles for inspiration.

Works Cited