Saturday, January 12, 2008

Beyond The Valley of a Day in the Life — The Residents (1977)

Imagine if John Lennon cannibalized his own band's music and sound bites to create 'White Album' sonic collage Revolution 9. Well, that's kind of what San Francisco experimentalists The Residents did on Beyond The Valley of a Day in the Life, a mind-blowing 1977 single that sampled and reconfigured Beatles music to haunting effect. (A year earlier, The Residents had done something similar, deconstructing pop hits of the '50s and '60s, on their Third Reich and Roll album.)

The track starts with the Beatles' most famous ending and features a disembodied Lennon repeating "I don't believe in Beatles," a line from his 1970 solo track God. It also contains a loop of Paul McCartney saying, "Please everybody, if we haven't done everything we could have done we tried," pulled from a Beatles Christmas record. I will refrain from mentioning much more about what's sampled as that would ruin the surprises for first-time listeners. Suffice to say, the track is decidedly un-Fab-like and, to my ears, sounds like the soundtrack to Beatlemania's death. But the Residents aren't dancing on a grave here; the track's sonic explorations are only possible because of the imagination and innovation inherent in the source material.

Recently Beatles producer George Martin and his son Giles were tasked with mixing and matching Fab songs for the soundtrack of the Cirque du Soleil show Love. The disc, released in November of 2006, drew near-unanimous praise from critics but the work left me cold. To my ears, Love sounded like a Stars on 45 medley minus the Euro-disco throb. If I want to hear reimagined Beatles music, I'll listen to this early sampling masterpiece.

Beyond the Valley of a Day in the Life (link expired)

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