Thursday, October 30, 2008

Most obscure Fab Four trivia fact ever - Death Cab for Cutie

I did not realize that the world needed another Beatles biography until I picked up Can't Buy Me Love by Jonathan Gould on the library "new books" shelf.
It is absolutely delightful, putting the ascent of the Fab Four into the context of the cultural and historical events and dissecting every song from a musical standpoint.
Gould is a drummer, musicologist, and fabulous writer, so he can explain that the opening chord of Hard Day's Night is a D-minor 11th and what that means (". . . as if a C-major triad were being played over a D-minor triad.")
We learn lots of the usual trivia (e.g., Linda McCartney’s motto in her high school yearbook was “Yen for Men"; and the band Decca signed instead of the Beatles was Brian Poole and the Tremeloes).
But one fact stands out as the most obscure bit of trivia ever -- namely, that the Bellingham, Washington, indie group Death Cab for Cutie gets its name from the title of a song performed by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band in the Beatles' not-so-great 1967 film Magical Mystery Tour.
This adds to the many details to be found in The Beatles: The Biography by Bob Spitz, a wonderful book with 860 pages of text and another hundred pages of footnotes notes sourcing virtually every quote.

Generally, Spitz did as promised and wiped away the sins of Albert Goldman's mean-spirited John Lennon biography, and I was sorry when I reached page 860. I wanted more.

Among hundreds of bit of trivia, I learned that I was wrong in thinking that George had tried out for John Lennon's skiffle band by playing Eddie Cochran's "Twenty Flight Rock." That was Paul. George played "Raunchy" for his audition.
I learned that Paul, in writing his song to comfort Julian Lennon (originally "Hey, Jules") got "Jude" from the sinister Rod Steiger character in Oklahoma!
And I'm embarrassed to say I never knew it was Ringo who says, "I got blisters on my fingers!" at the end of "Helter Skelter." (The group had implored the lovable Ringo to play as hard as he could to get the wild feeling of that song about a carnival ride, not knowing it would cause the Manson gang to go on a murder spree.)

Another thing about the Gould book -- I found only one error in the whole thing: at one point he incorrectly refers to the lyric "10,000 holes in Blackburn Lancashire." But then just a few sentences later Gould correctly refers to "4,000 holes in Blackburn Lancashire."
This contrasts to a handful of errors to be found in the Spitz tome. One was that Jackie DeShannon didn't write "Needles and Pins" for the Searchers, as Spitz offhandedly says she did. The late U.S. Congressman Sonny Bono and Jack Nitzsche wrote that song.

Then there's the section about George's rising to a new level as a songsmith with "Something" and "Here Comes the Sun," in which Spitz implies that George wrote "Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby." That was Carl Perkins, whose songs the Beatles recorded or performed more of (7) than anyone other than Chuck Berry (9).

I guess a sin of omission falls in a different category. But, on page 499, Spitz quotes Peter Brown saying that George wrote "Something" about his wife, Pattie Boyd, and Eric Clapton wrote "Darling, You Look Beautiful [sic] Tonight" about her. But Spitz fails to mention that Clapton also wrote "Layla" about her.
Since Spitz mentions in a note at the bottom of that page that Donovan wrote "Jennifer Juniper" about Pattie's sister Jenny, I say this information is pertinent in placing these sisters in a special Pantheon of Super Muses.

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