Friday, August 21, 2009

This Boggles My Mind

Robert Zemeckis is planning to re-make Yellow Submarine. This cannot be a good idea.
Incidentally, I think the new songs the Beatles released for Yellow Submarine are some of their most underrated work. One of the long-time Beatles parlor games to try to imagine what a single-disc White Album (as George Martin would have preferred it) would have consisted of. Google "single-disc white album Beatles" and you'll get a whole bunch of attempts; most simply approach the task as whittling away half of the album's tracks into something catchier and less noodly than the actual classic album the Beatles released.

Several years ago, though, I found online a much more detailed approach to the problem that I unfortunately cannot seem to find now. On this particular site, instead of just imagining that the Beatles would throw away half of the songs on the double album, they tried to figure out how those songs would have been released in a single-disc White Album world. They started with the Yellow Submarine soundtrack being instead released as a sort of "Songs from Yellow Submarine and other songs," with the first side identical to the original release's, and the second side using songs from the White Album that would fit better with the tone of the Yellow Submarine tunes. Unfortunately, I don't remember which songs they chose, but their picks seemed to make sense. Then they figured that "Revolution 9" would have ended up on a Plastic Ono Band release (sounds reasonable) and that a couple of other tracks would have made for a good single (remember that the Beatles frequently released songs on singles that weren't featured on the original British albums). Or maybe they split up the double-A-sided "Hey Jude"/"Revolution" single and chose a couple of other songs as B-sides to those monster hits.

Anyway, I don't remember which songs they picked for what, but I do remember that their reasoning was sound and that the end result would have been pretty good --- Yellow Submarine would have become a much better album, and the remaining White Album (maybe keeping the title A Doll's House) would have still been pretty good. A fun parlor game, but in the end, I think the Beatles were right to release the White Album as a double disc. The material's weird and unconventional and is a great example of the whole being more than the sum of its parts, as the odder songs seem better when seen in context as the result of a fruitful bunch of experimental studio sessions.

On a related note, I've long thought that one of the most successful and revered double albums of all time, Pink Floyd's The Wall, would have better had Roger Waters not made the "Wall" metaphor so danged literal and cut it down to about 50 to 55 minutes. That's a bit long for a single LP, but somehow Genesis pulled off releasing Duke as a 55-minute LP in 1980. Anyway, my idea is basically just to keep the good songs. There's no real reason for anybody to listen to Waters' wallowing whining in "Don't Leave Me Now," for example. And "The Trial" sounded cool to me in high school but is just too obvious now. Songs like "Vera Lynn" and "Bring the Boys Back Home" make some sense in the context of the movie but just make the album drag.

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