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The Beatles and Hot Cross Buns

Beatles for Sale in 1964 and they still sound great!

During last week’s great hot cross bun bake-off, I found companionship, joy, and energy in The Beatles. I am not kidding!

Do this right now: find the original recording of John Lennon singing Twist and Shout (on the Please Please Me album)! I defy anyone not to stay still, let alone dance, while listening to this ball of energy. See if you can stop the goosebumps and thrill racing up the spine. Just try staying unmoved by John’s singing!

Was John mouthing the words, giving a blasé performance? No! He was giving everything he had left in his tired voice!

Giving it everything!

It is one of the great vocal performances in rock and roll. Recorded at the very end of the Beatles’ first recording session with producer George Martin at the control board. It was Monday, February 11, 1963.

One take, John!

John was suffering from a cold. He’d been drinking milk and sucking lozenges to soothe his sore throat. Martin knew Twist and Shout would demand a lot of the singer’s voice. He purposely left the song for the of the session. They had 15 minutes left in the studio before they had to clear out.

John pulled off his shirt, stepped up to the microphone and let loose! When he finished, his voice was shattered. They tried a second take, but it wasn’t to be. Didn’t matter, though. They had everything they needed and more in that one take! The Beatles had recorded the entire album in 10 hours. (If you listen carefully, you can hear the head cold in his voice).

I was a bleary-eyed baker in the wee hours of Friday, April 3, 2020, rolling dozens of dough balls in the dark of night. The Beatles’ energy and exuberance, led by John’s performance, fueled my passion, shaping and baking those hot cross buns!

“Shake it up, baby, now! Twist and shout!”

Thank you, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, and you too, John!

And if you have a Beatles playlist, keep the record player turning, or the streaming service streaming.

Listen to the songs that follow, each one a gem! All My Loving, Help!, Eight Days a Week, Norwegian Wood, A Day in the Life, Lovely Rita, Lucy in the Sky, All You Need is Love, Across the Universe, Strawberry Fields, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Mean Mr. Mustard, Helter Skelter, Happiness is a Warm Gun, Something in the Way, Why Don’t We Do It in the Road! Her Majesty. The list is almost endless!

Rolling hot cross dough ball number 253, flour all over the floor, I sang and danced along with every word of She Came In Through the Bathroom Window, I’m Looking Through You, I’m So Tired, and Yesterday. And every other song that came up!

Loaded with innovation

Somehow the lyrics of all the Beatle songs have stayed in my sagging memory vaults. I could climb into each one that came over the headphones.

They’re loaded with innovation! Almost every song has a new sound, a new instrument, a unique arrangement. You can marvel at the musicianship, too. Did you know that Ringo was sidelined in several of the band’s early tracks because he wasn’t considered sophisticated enough? Today, drummers idolize him!

The Beatles, as most know them, were a world phenomenon for a mere seven years (1963 to 1970), yet their impact is still felt 57 years later! The songs are as alive and vital as they ever were.

No recording artist recognized by Billboard magazine has sold more albums than The Beatles, even today. Nor has any group or solo artist posted more No. 1 hits. Going just by the music made in those years, The Beatles posted 20 Billboard No. 1 singles, a lot more than Elvis!

Four lads from Liverpool

Their impact on our culture is staggering, yet they were just a band of “four lads from Liverpool.” I don’t believe they manipulated the culture like puppet-masters. They made ground-breaking music that appealed to a culture ready for change. The public ate the Beatles up!

I remember reading a 1971 Rolling Stone interview with John Lennon:

“We were four guys… I met Paul, and said, “Do you wanna join me band?”, you know, then George joined, and then Ringo joined. We were just a band who made it very, very big, that’s all. And sometimes—our best work was never recorded, you know.”

Sort of brings it down to earth, as John was so good at doing.

Yet the exuberance and energy they brought is undeniable, and it’s what we hear still in 2020. Even through the pain and disillusionment in songs like Help! You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away or A Day in the Life.

The lasting impression is the sense of optimism and innocence, in much the same way the 1960s are viewed today.

Like hearing the songs for the first time, again

Jennifer and I were captivated by the movie, Yesterday, that appeared late last year. It was a cheesy romantic comedy that happened to have a significant impact on us. It was about a parallel universe in which the Beatles had never existed. The main character, a failing musician, was one of the only people who had a memory of the band. He recreates the songs as his own, performs them, and becomes a world phenomenon.

Cheesy, as I say, but hearing the songs in this context was like hearing them for the first time, or at least recapturing their spirit.

If you’re a Beatle fan, go see it. There is another development in the movie that I will not give away. No spoiler alert here, but let me say the tears were rolling down my cheeks.

So if you’re still eating Hot Cross Buns from last week, maybe you’ll taste a little She Loves You, or Yellow Submarine or The Long and Winding Road. And maybe you’ll start dancing around the kitchen, too!

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