The other day I was listening to two CDs that I haven’t heard in ages: Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles and Things Fall Apart by The Roots.
I saw The Roots play a superb set at Electric Picnic at the end of August, complete with Sousaphone player. The thing that has always separated the band from the rest is their totally live performances; they grew up busking on the streets of Philadelphia and none of the sounds they produce on stage are pre-recorded or samples. I love that they’ve found this incredible Sousaphone player who can beef up the bass line with a brass instrument that was named after John Philip Sousa, the composer of such famous marches as The Liberty Bell (the Monty Python theme tune) and The Stars and Stripes Forever.
The very end of The Beatles’ wonderfully fresh album (just listen to the reprise of the title track or Lovely Rita for a reminder) has a number of famous elements: the orchestral climax and crashing piano chord at the end of A Day in the Life; the high-pitched frequency, designed to annoy dogs but perhaps a useful benchmark of youthfulness (“well, I can’t be that old if I can still hear the squeal at the end of Sergeant Pepper…!”)? The vinyl record finished with a concentric groove containing a loop of spliced-together studio sounds. What I hear emerging is the phrase I’ve used for the title of this post. The effect is somewhat diminished by hearing the album on CD, which plays only a few seconds of the loop. On vinyl you would have had to physically lift the needle out of the groove to stop it. The CD runs only slightly shy of forty minutes – why didn’t they just fill the rest of the disc with the loop?!
The last named track on Things Fall Apart is the Ursula Rucker piece ‘The return to innocence lost’, an intense, heart-breaking poem describing someone who couldn’t see any other way. The haunting accompaniment underpins the text beautifully.