Saturday, April 22, 2017

152. Love is old } love is new.

There’s a note on the Wiki entry “Because (Beatles song)” that claims, “In 2016, the Beatles’ Anthology 3 version [of “Because”] was featured in the trailer for Luc Besson’s film Valerian and the City of A Thousand Planets. That trailer (published on YouTube Nov. 16, 2016) does feature “Because,” with the Beatles’ vocal track high in the mix, but it’s not clear to me it’s the Anthology 3 “version,”—which is, simply, “the exquisite vocal harmonies recorded by John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison for John’s song Because…” with the instrumentation “stripped away to reveal the… voices.” CinemaBlend (“one of the web’s most popular entertainment sites” according to themselves, but really a platform for ads decorated with light entertainment journalism) reports that, “…the preview's use of ‘Because’ by The Beatles is the first time that a master recording from the band has been featured in a film advertisement.” Valerian also strips the song of its original instrumentation, but adds a new instrumental performance.

Whatever. Who cares? I once was anxious about how Beatles songs were used—“Good Day Sun Chips,” the Nike ad with “Revolution” (another with Lennon’s “Instant Karma”), etc. It’s a kind of protectiveness I’ve let go of—Beatles is not who I am, Beatles is not sacred. What’s more, the Beatles I love can’t be destroyed by commodification. What’s more, I like Luc Besson's giddy science fiction films and I like how he uses “Because” in the Valerian trailers. 

“Because” is lyrically simple—and very like Lennon in that period. “Because the wind is high / it blows my mind”—word play quite like “Got to be good looking / ‘cause he's so hard to see” (“Come Together”); and plays with opposites the way Beatles lyrics often do “Love is old, love is new”—“I want a short haired girl / who sometimes wears it twice as long” (“Old Brown Shoe”); and with simple causality “There's nothing you can do that can't be done / nothing you can sing that can't be sung” (“All You Need Is Love”). “Because” is, too, musically simple—simple in the complex way “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” is simple—it repeats with variations, rather than repeating the way most songs do: verse, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, verse, chorus….

For Abbey Road, “Because” is gateway from the “song side”—which extends to side B with “Here Comes the Sun”—and the medley that dominates side B. Or: “Because” is like an incomplete sentence, lyrically and musically, completed by what follows.

The second “official trailer” for Valerian (published on YouTube Mar. 29, 2017) uses “Because” differently than the Nov. trailer. After a 32-second action sequence on a sun-bright desert planet, we arrive in space, at the “City of a Thousand Planets” and then we hear the “ah-a” of the Beatles’ “Because.” A gate from one world to another and an expression of awe.

Pre-Anthology, a recording of “Because” stripped of its instrumentation was a prized bootleg. Aside from the beauty of the three-part harmony, the empty spaces between the vocals were what made it such an extraordinary alternate version. The emptiness reverberates—can I hear Abbey Road studio 3?

But “Because” is not an example of a perfectly good song that’s been over-produced. George Martin’s performance on the spinet electric harpsichord and George Harrison’s Moog synthesizer performance perfectly marry old and new.

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