The Secret Awesomeness Beneath The Beatles, Queen, and Other Classic Rock Hits
This video posted to BoingBoing on Tuesday reminded me how easy it is to miss out on the awesomeness all around us when our brains become distracted by the glitter and crud competing for attention from our eye and earholes all day, erryday. It's a performance of The Who's classic "Won't Get Fooled Again" with every part muted except for John Entwistle's bassline. Behind Roger Daltrey's dirty animal wails and Pete Townshend's wild windmill stunts, you'd never expect a bass to rock as hard or heavy (see: Black Sabbath on Jupiter heavy) as it does here. But there it is, a monster groove, totally under the radar. Fooled again!
In honor of Awesomeness Beneath the Surface Awareness, here's three more isolated clips of classic rock parts that might change the way you think about what makes them "classic" to begin with. Check'em out, then we'll regroup in the comments.
Exhibit A: Eric Clapton's guitar part from the Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"
Ringo wasn't just describing the monumental task of polishing his nostrils when he sang "I get by with a little help from my friends." George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," one of the buggin' Brits' most lasting latter-album ballads, actually outsourced its iconic lead guitar part (the gently weeping one) to fellow crumpet muncher Eric Clapton.
This revealing studio cut of Clapton's isolated guitar is weird, and a little disenchanting. You can hear how E-Rock switches up his pedal/amp pre-sets at least four times throughout the single playthrough, which sometimes sounds messy and kind of jarring when unmasked by George's rhythm and weepy-creepy vocals. Some of the higher screedily-dee solos even sound improvised, but in the end I think it's this kind of unfiltered oddness that gives the song its character.
Compare this clip to the famous cover from the 2004 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, where it takes Tom Petty, Prince, and three other yanks with guitars simultaneously noodling to even approximate Clapton's flights of fancy. We'd let the dude ride our Yellow Submarine, fuh sho.
((Exhibit A.5: If you and two friends can cop some guitars, here's how you can play the famous first chord of "A Hard Day's Night" together. There's more to it than you think!))
Exhibit B: Members of Queen pretending to be saucy wenches in "Bohemian Rhapsody"
Right up until "I see a little silhouette-o of a man," which you, me, and Wayne Campbell have all barked gloriously from the passenger seats of our buddy's cars, the vocal harmonies in Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" are composed exclusively of Freddie Mercury layering slabs of his own voice like a great mustachio'd hydra. But once we plunge into the real sing-along meat of the song, Fred's joined by guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor for the weirdest male choir ever.
"There you have [lololol] the three of us pretending to be girls" May says of one particularly humbling, helium-pitched vocal track in this mini documentary on Queen's campy classic. The whole 27-minute special is fascinating if you're into how a timeless piece of music was made, but if you're just looking to nail that next bus ride medley then dig May's rundown of the Rocky Horror-fabulous choir tracks from 13:05-19:37 (queued up above, cuz we lurbz u♥♥♥). Surprise! It's actually Roger Taylor, not papa Freddie, who hits the highest notes in this section.
Exhibit C: David Lee Roth's isolated vocals from Van Halen's "Runnin' with The Devil"
Okay, so there's no real musical revelations here. But this lonely vocal track suddenly becomes THE BEST JOB INTERVIEW EVER if you imagine that you're just hearing one side of an over-the-phone convo between David Lee Roth and a future employer. Seriously, play the video and try it…
"Thank you for your interest in joining our team as a barista, Mr. Roth. Do you mind if we call you David?"
"Wow. Excellent. We certainly appreciate the enthusiasm. You're a fan of Dunkin' Donuts then, I take it?"
"Uh, okay then! Why don't you start by telling us a bit about your retail experience?"
"I live my life like there's NO TOMORROOOOOOW. And all I've got / I had to STEEEEAAAL!"
"That's…kind of upsetting—"
"—Least I don't need / to BEG or BORROOOOOW!"
"Yes I'm living at a, PACE THAT KEE-ILLS!"
"Uh, okay, sir?"
" ooo000OOOO00oohh, yeah!"
And so forth. Jokes like these may not've been an intended part of the song, but the potential is there below the polished product, and that's what counts.
So, how do you feel about these songs now, Sparklers? Did listening to these isolated tracks add or detract from your overall appreciation of the music? Got any other examples? Would you let David Lee Roth work at your coffee shop? Discuss.