As with every mystery, literal and metaphorical camps battle over the interpretation of the Beatles. The literalists want there to be a literal, comprehensible, even if awful, solution to the mystery of the Beatles. The search for the pseudonymous bootleg, the lost killer outtake, the “Carnival of Light,” the Masked Marauders, the clues to the death of Paul, even, down at the abyssal end of the chain, the Manson family’s Helter-Skelter delirium--these are all at one end or the other of the literalist quest.
But just as scriptures are richest when read metaphorically, so too with the Beatles.
Don’t look outside the work for miraculous validation, says the metaphorical view. Look deeper into it. The miracles are buried layer on layer in the work. Understand the puzzling, suggestive, evocative elements not as mysteries with a literal solution like a detective story, but metaphors designed to produce, as Owen Barfield said about poetry, “a felt change of consciousness.”
With its implied suggestion of a definitive revelation, of long-buried gold coming to the surface, the remastered Beatles catalog released this fall is in one sense a classic literalist project. The CDs come with a lot of fanfare and some inevitably excited expectations. “You’re going to be knocked…out,” my CD-store guy—normally cool as a cucumber in the face of hype—breathlessly assured me.
To get a manageable handle on the remastered catalog, I’ve taken two albums, one from the early ‘60s beginnings—With the Beatles--and one late ‘60s high point—Revolver. I then picked a “good part” from each song—a hook, a chorus, a riff, a bass line, a drum fill, a noise, a shout, the bits of gratuitous inspiration that great performances throw off. At these isolated high water marks, I’ve compared the remastered version with the previous CD version. Here are the results.
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