Wednesday, April 22, 2020

The Inner Groove

Many of you know that I am on the radio, including IHeart Radio, Friday mornings, 8:30 EST (well, sometimes 7:30). Most segments are devoted to the music of 50 years ago.
The era was so vibrant that never a week goes by that we don't have far too much to cover. 50 years ago, for instance, Paul left the Beatles, Mike Nesmith left the Monkees, Black Sabbath released their debut and Elton John, an unknown in the U.S., made his “tele” debut on the BBC with "Your Song."
It's odd that we are nearly to the point where we can no longer talk about the Beatles 50 years ago. Once the anniversary for the release of Let It Be comes around in May, that’s it. But worry not, we’ll still zero on the tidbits of influence the Beatles continue to have on music today.
Here's a fun one. On this day in 1967, the Beatles recorded the famous "Inner Grove," that follows their magnum opus, "A Day in the Life." According to Barry Miles, the recording of the Sgt. Pepper inner groove was the result of 9 hours of the Beatles screwing around in the studio in an LSD haze: "On 21 April everyone in the studio recorded the run-on spiral for the album, about two seconds’ worth of sound. It was a triple session – three three-hour sessions – which ended around 4am. The Beatles stood around two microphones muttering, singing snatches of songs and yelling for what seemed like hours, with the rest of us standing around them, joining in. Mal carried in cases of Coke and bottles of Scotch. Ringo was out of it. 'I'm so stoned,' he said, 'I think I’m going to fall over!' As he slowly toppled, Mal caught him and popped him neatly in a chair without a murmur. In the control room, no one seemed to notice. A loop was made from the tape of the muttering and was mixed, but not without some altercation between John and the tape operator."
Until recently, I used a fully automatic vintage Magnavox phonograph from 1961. The automated ejector sequence squelched my listening to the inner groove. But now, with my brand-new U-Turn not automatic at all turntable, I get to hear the endless loop of the inner groove in all its glory, forever if I want.
More important than the inner grove, though (and, btw, there is no "inner" grove – there is just one grove on an LP) is the incredible orchestration that sums up “A Day in the Life.” Lennon wanted to conclude with "a sound building up from nothing to the end of the world," and Martin simulated the apocalypse by instructing each instrument in the orchestra to start on the lowest note then ascend for 24 bars (at which point Lennon, McCartney, Starr and road manager Mal Evans each played an E chord on four pianos). "You’ve got to make your own way up there, as slidey as possible so that the clarinets slurp, trombones gliss, violins slide without fingering any notes," Martin told Mark Lewisohn of his instructions. "And whatever you do, don’t listen to the fellow next to you, because I don’t want you to be doing the same thing. Of course, they all looked at me as though I was mad." All in all, it is one of the most famous song sections in music, and for me, particularly as a teacher of English, that "end of the world" reminds me of James Joyce's miraculous Thunderword from Finnegan's Wake; indeed it is that monumental:
"Bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk," which represents the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Eden. How fun is that.
See you on the radio! Here's the link: - Hour 3, Segment 2

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