Many of us can link a certain album to pivotal moments in our lives. Whether it’s the first record you bought with your own money, the chord you first learnt to play on guitar, the song that soundtracked your first kiss, the album that got you those awkward and painful pubescent years or the one that set off light bulbs in your brain and inspired you to take a big leap of faith into the unknown – music is often the catalyst for change in our lives and can even help shape who we become.
In this Love Letter To A Record series, Music Feeds asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share with us stories about the effect music has had on their lives.
Rhys North, McDermott & North – the Beatles, ‘Revolver’(1966)
I’m not sure if anyone ever remembers the first time they heard the Beatles, they’re just a pivotal part of a lot of people’s lives from early on as was the case for me. My earliest memories of the Beatles or even music for that matter was my parents blasting ‘Yellow Submarine’ in an old Toyota Landcruiser navigating through the bumpy red roads of Arnhem Land Northern Territory; my two sisters, brother and I would join my parents in singing “we all live in a yellow submarine” at the top of our lungs.
It wasn’t until my early teenage years that I started exploring the Beatles for myself. I started from their first album Please Please Me (1963) and listened track by track right through to the iconic Let It Be album (1970). I would constantly find myself changing my favourite song and album: it seemed the albums would never differ in their consistently brilliant songwriting and innovative sounds and harmonies. Revolver (1966) seemed to stand out to me the most. I remember the first time I heard the third track on the album: a waltzing pop, psychedelic masterpiece written by John Lennon, ‘I’m Only Sleeping’. My dad had plugged his iPod Classic into the car and played the track as he drove me to school that morning and it instantly resonated with me. I’d never heard anything like it and, to put it lightly, it blew my mind and shifted my view on music drastically. I knew I wanted to write songs like that.
As I further delved into this album I really started to hear the Beatles’ influence in modern bands that I listened to in my early teens; Oasis, Coldplay, Greenday, Blink 182: I’d even go so far as to say Oasis built a career on this album.
I have an affinity with every Beatles album, and I even believe their iconic 1967 album Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band is the best album ever made. But Revolver is and always will be my favourite. The swagger and the cutting edge recording techniques of it all is what stands out to me. I believe it’s the first album where the Beatles crossed over from being just “I love you… you love me “ (love/heartbreak type lyrics) and started exploring deeper more compelling topics like the poetic storytelling of ‘Eleanor Rigby’, the introspective and sorrowful lyrics of track 10 ‘For No One’ and the dark and confronting lyrics of track 7: ‘She Said She Said’:
‘I know what it’s like to be dead
I know what it is to be sad’
And she’s making me feel like
I’ve never been born”
Topics like this definitely weren’t being written about at the time. To me, it’s when the Beatles crossed over into the timeless sound rather than the usual ’60s sound. To this day it still sounds like a contemporary record.
‘I’m Only Sleeping’ remains the absolute stand out track for me. Every time I hear it I’m instantly hit with pure admiration for the songwriting which is often followed by the sinking realisation that I will never be able to write this song. It is my favourite song of all time, I don’t believe it’s the best song of all time but it hits everything I’m ever looking for and it’s everything I strive for as a songwriter: to make people feel the way I feel when I hear that song.
I love everything about this album from the genius melodic bass lines of McCartney to the wailing guitar of Harrison, the consistent imperative backbeat of Ringo to the experimental yet somehow simple harmonies, and of course the flawless songwriting.
Thank you for all you have given me I bless the day I found you, you have never left me.
A Tinder match inspired McDermott & North’s newest song, ‘Georgia’, a track that is wrapped up in crooning melodies and swinging indie-pop arrangements. “This song title actually came about because I had just broken up with my girlfriend and was on Tinder. When I matched with someone I’d write a song for them,” explains one half of the band, Paddy McDermott. “I matched with a ‘Georgia’ who funnily enough went on to become a huge Instagram sensation. When I sent her the song she never responded. So if you’re out there, Georgia, I hope you enjoy it!”