Sunday, December 31, 2017

Arthur Answers 2017, Part 8: Music and song

Here we are, finally at the end of this year’s “Ask Arthur” series. It’s also the last day of the year, which seems appropriate. Today’s questions are from Roger Green and about one of my favourite topics, pop music. First, Roger asked:

What are your favorite songs originally done by the Beatles?

This was a much harder question than I could’ve made it because I decided to look at cover versions, rather than just the songs themselves. Mainly, I often tuned out others people’s versions because I heard the Beatles first and, as is my way, I liked them first, and so, the most. The larger problem was remembering songs I’d liked over the years. In recent years I’ve found out that there are a LOT of songs I’d completely forgotten about until something reminded me, like a TV commercial, movie soundtrack, that sort of thing.

So, the first thing I did was trigger my memory by checking out Wikipedia’s "List of cover versions of Beatles songs”. Then, I rearranged the list in chronological order. That actually helped quite a bit.

The first cover versions I can remember were on The Chipmunks Sing the Beatles Hits, a 1964 album by Alvin and the Chipmunks. I don't know why, precisely, I heard it, because I don’t think anyone in the family had a copy—maybe someone borrowed it. There was one single released from the album ("All My Loving" b/w "Do You Want to Know a Secret?"), but I I have no idea if I heard it on the radio, either. The year was 1964. I was five. Cut me some slack on this one. I do remember that I liked The Chipmunks at the time, so I probably liked their covers. Like I said: I was five; cut me some slack.

The first real cover I remember hearing and kinda liking was Joe Cocker’s “With a Little Help from My Friends” from his 1969 album of the same name. I also remember seeing him perform it on television and thinking, “WTF?!” except, good Christian boy that I was, it would have been cleaner language. But John Belushi’s later imitation of Cocker was a dead ringer.

The first cover I owned was “Ticket to Ride” by The Carpenters. It was their first charted (barely) single in 1969, but I never heard it until the release of their 1973 album, The Singles: 1969-1973. I later bought the album it came from, which was originally called Offering but had been re-released as Ticket to Ride in 1970. I’ll be honest: As big a fan of The Carpenters as I was, I never particularly cared for their version, mostly because I preferred the sound they developed in the mid-1970s, not their early stuff.

Another song from the year after The Singles was released that I did like was Elton John’s 1974 cover of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”.

Skip ahead a few years to 1978, and I liked Aerosmith’s cover of “Come Together”. Unfortunately, the song was from the soundtrack album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band which I frankly thought was mostly pretty awful. To this day, I’ve never seen the 1978 movie.

In 1981, I was in university, newly out, and going to the gay bar in town. One of the things they played was the melody by Stars on 45, and I liked it—enough to actually buy it, which is ironic because I bought the album that the Carpenter’s cover was on, and I didn’t even like that one. To be honest, though, the main reason I liked it was that when I listened to it, the medley reminded me of the bar and the safe place it was for a newly-out gay boy.

I don’t know quite where to put this one chronologically, but I suppose it ends up in the same place: I like Rufus Wainwright’s cover of “Across the Universe”, which was a 2002 release from the soundtrack to the 2001 film I Am Sam. I never saw the movie, and I never heard Wainwright’s version until this year when it was used on TV ads for Samsung mobile phones [WATCH the music video].

That’s pretty much it for me, though.

Roger also asked:

Who would you say are your current favorite musicians, and how has that changed over time? And specifically, how has being in New Zealand affected that?

At the moment, I don’t have any favourite musicians as such, precisely because it changes over time. However, current artists that I really like—at the moment and in no particular order—are Ed Sheeran [Also see about Ed Sheeran], Sam Smith [Also see about Sam Smith], P!nk [Also see about P!nk], Katy Perry [see also about Katy Perry], Troye Sivan [See also about Troye Sivan], Lorde [See also about Lorde], and many others (I picked ones whose music I’ve actually bought). I often share music I like, new and old, on this blog under the tag/label Music. Nearly all of them have videos (or had when I posted them…).

I’ve frequently mentioned older artists I liked (and often still do), and but what’s changed since I arrived in New Zealand is that I became familiar with New Zealand, Australian, and British acts I’d never heard of until I moved here, plus ones that emerged after I arrived. Very often artists from those countries don’t get airplay in the USA, so there was a lot of music from the 1980s, for example, that I would have loved back in the day if only I’d known it existed.

Nowadays, I tend toward favouring electronic pop (or synthpop), even EDM (electronic dance music), which is something I didn’t hear much when I lived in the USA, so living in New Zealand has in some ways focused my music preferences—while adding singer-songwriters. Having said that, in the USA I liked British acts Erasure, Pet Shop Boys, OMD (Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark), and others that were electronic pop.

However, not everything has stuck. When I arrived in New Zealand, I discovered that reggae and reggae-influenced music was quite popular, especially among Polynesians in particular. I didn’t like reggae then, and I still don’t. On the other hand, there was something liberating and energising about being exposed to so much music I’d never heard before, and from so many countries, that it began to broaden my appreciation of pop music—including even music from my homeland, especially genres and older artists I’d always ignored.

So, my music tastes have changed over time, though evolved is a probably a better word, and living in New Zealand is the main reason for that. Music hath charms, and all that.

Thanks to Roger for these questions!

And that’s it for this year’s series of Ask Arthur posts. Huge thanks to Sherry, Linda, my sister, Roger, and Andy for all the questions! I plan on doing this again next year, but whether that’s something to look forward to or to dread is completely up to you.


All posts in this series are tagged “AAA-17”. All previous posts from every “Ask Arthur” series are tagged, appropriately enough, ”Ask Arthur”.

Let the 2017 asking begin The first post in this series
Arthur Answers 2017, Part One: NZ Example
Arthur Answers 2017, Part Two: Addiction and song
Arthur Answers 2017, Part 3: Easy answers
Arthur Answers 2017, Part 4: About the regime in DC
Arthur Answers 2017, Part 5: About the nasty folks in DC
Arthur Answers 2017, Part 6: Penultimate answers
Arthur Answers 2017, Part 7: Bonus questions

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