THE SCHLANSKY FILES: Do Look Back

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These days, history can be rewritten fairly easily. If George Lucas wants to make it so Greedo shoots first in the original Star Wars, that’s no longer an issue. If you want to graft the vocals from “Within You Without You” to the music of “Tomorrow Never Knows,” well, you can do that too.  And if you want to see Bob Dylan acting well behaved and likable in 1965, look no further than the deleted scenes in the DVD reissue of Don’t Look Back.  Let’s take a deeper look at the two most recent Dylan and Beatles projects…we can talk about Star Wars later.These days, history can be rewritten fairly easily. If George Lucas wants to make it so Greedo shoots first in the original Star Wars, that’s no longer an issue. If you want to graft the vocals from “Within You Without You” to the music of “Tomorrow Never Knows,” well, you can do that too.  And if you want to see Bob Dylan acting well behaved and likable in 1965, look no further than the deleted scenes in the DVD reissue of Don’t Look Back.  Let’s take a deeper look at the two most recent Dylan and Beatles projects…we can talk about Star Wars later.

Who wrote more instantly memorable, classic songs than The Beatles?  Nobody, that’s who.  You can name ten amazing Beatles songs, and your gym teacher probably can too, and between the two of you, you will have left out 30 more deserving classics. From “I Want to Hold Your Hand” to “Julia,” they’re virtually all great.  But how do they sound, say, all together?  Does a great song spliced with another great song make an even greater song?  Or does it make a complete mess?  That’s the question posed by the Beatles’ Love. Created by the father/son production team of George and Giles Martin, Love functions like an auditory jigsaw puzzle.  It features 26 new Beatles tracks, made by tying together elements from over 100 different Beatles songs.  Although technically a soundtrack designed to accompany the Beatles-approved Cirque du Soleil extravaganza in Las Vegas, as a standalone album Love provides a fun, if bumpy, trip down memory lane.

This is not the first time The Beatles have been mashed up. Gnarls Barkley’s Danger Mouse made his name with 2004’s imaginative Grey Album, which combined rapper Jay-Z’s Black Album with the Beatles’ White Album (and provoked the wrath of copyright lawyers). Similar underground projects include DJ BC’s The Beastles, which paired the Beastie Boys with the Fab Four in remixed bangers like “Let it Beast” and “Mother Nature’s Rump.”

Critical reaction to Love has been “mixed” as well. Mojo gave it top honors, saying, “You’ll listen to it more than Anthology, certainly,” and Blender praised its presentation of “songs as familiar as the Ten Commandments.”  Others, however, panned it as a novelty record-calling it too sonically confusing.

By failing to review it in its surround sound format, all sort of miss the point.  When it comes to appreciating Love, it helps if you have the 3-D glasses, as it were.  Surround sound is God’s gift to stereophiles, and at $300 for a basic system, it’s really worth it for you to pick it up. It always freaks me out a little when reviewers ignore the fact that an album has been remixed in surround sound and pan it as another excuse to repackage old material.   Listen to the record as it was intended to be heard, people!  You wouldn’t review a record based on the liner notes.  I’m sorry. I’ve got surround sound superiority complex.  (p.s. When you get it, go back and check out the film version of The Beatles Anthology.  You’ll be blown away!)

The Beatles turned Bob Dylan on to the drums.  Dylan turned The Beatles on to pot.  The whole world got to revel in the consequences.  In the recently reissued film Don’t Look Back, we take another look at the time frame when this is all happening, as Dylan is in England giving famously obscure and pissy answers to any reporter unlucky enough to ask them.  When I first watched the original, it was more than a little disheartening, seeing my newfound hero acting like a total dick.

What I failed to appreciate at the time was that Dylan was practically inventing the role of “rock star” for all who followed, by refusing to play it “straight.” The new bonus footage, dubbed “Bob Dylan 65 Revisited,” is cut like an actual film and plays like an entirely different movie on the same subject!  Here we see a Dylan who’s way more relaxed, giving away tickets and being nice to his fans.  Thirty-six minutes in, he actually answers a question with a straight answer. Bizarre! Unlike the original, we get full versions of songs instead of clips, including rare tracks like “If You Gotta Go, Go Now” and “I’ll Keep It With Mine.”

What would have happened had D.A. Pennebaker released this version of the film, instead of the one he did?  We’ll never know, but it’s nice to have both.


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