A question for those old enough to remember when "Eleanor Rigby" came out

Discussion in 'Recordings [BG]' started by pklima, Jan 29, 2023.

  1. pklima

    pklima Commercial User

    May 2, 2003
    Kraków, Polska
    Karoryfer Samples
    Did the strings cause it to be perceived as a throwback to pre-rock instrumentation?

    What I mean is, rock replaced/rebelled against/rejected earlier music traditions, and basically stopped using string and horn sections (though the occasional sax would still be used I suppose). Did "whoa, strings" make it seem like the Beatles are suddenly doing the music your parents or grandparents used to listen to, or was it not like that at all?
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  2. The song was compelling enough with the George Martin string arrangement no one cared. The thing with the Fab Four is as they grew out of the Hard Day's Night matching suits days, their songs grew in many different directions. After Rubber Soul and then Revolver leading into Seargeant Pepper's, that's a long way from 'Love Me Do' and 'She Loves You'. They owned the world, and had the whole thing been kazoos and penny whistles instead of a string quartet, it would have been cool too, they just had that much weight.

    And the times were different, music was far more diversified in the artists and the market and fans were very accepting of all the experimentation going on. That's why later it's hard to simply peg Zeppelin as metal or hard rock, when they would swing from 'When the Levee Breaks' to remakes of English folk music like 'Hangman' or 'The Battle of Evermore'. The Stones worked 'Ruby Tuesday' alongside 'Midnight Rambler', or Exile on Main Street with its' spread of 'All Down the Line', 'Rip This Joint' then 'Sweet Virginia' and 'Let It Loose'. These are just obvious examples.

    We valued the artists that dabbled in so many areas instead of plowing the same row over and over. I don't care who the artist(s) is, 12 or 13 tracks of the same thing gets old fast.
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  3. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    I think there was a bit of a response feeling something like that - I was just a kid, but I remember the strings as being striking, in a way, because The Beatles were putting us on notice that they were about to expand our minds way beyond what "standard rock and roll" was at the time. It definitely made an impact on me, at least, but I think I was far from the only one who noticed it some way or another. It was definitely the start of the "mind expanding" part of the ride...
  4. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    Nope, not really. It's just a nice short depressing story and quite the departure from "I Wanna Hold Your Hand". Beatles did a lot of those. My favorite is "She's Leaving Home". The addt'l instrumentation was certainly an embellishment...thank you Sir George Martin!

  5. I remember "whoa, strings... that's really cool" but that's as far as I analyzed it.

    I was still a kid and only knew two genres... 'that's cool' and 'that sucks'.
  6. Guiseppe


    Oct 26, 2003
    Vancouver, WA
    That was a mentally stimulating take. Nice!
  7. AGCurry

    AGCurry Supporting Member

    Jun 29, 2005
    St. Louis
    No, I had no thought at all of its being a "throwback." It was such a powerful record - THAT'S what I remember. I remember being in a car in Bartlesville, Oklahoma the first time I heard it. I almost cried.
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2023
  8. ElectroVibe


    Mar 2, 2013
    I wasn't quite born yet, but I would imagine that some rock fans would reconsider their attitude on strings now that a band as cool as The Beatles were using them.
  9. TomB

    TomB Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2007
    Right at that time there were quite a few classical motifs being thrown into popular tunes - it was a thing, and the Beatles were right there sharing the lead. I think most of us thought it was pretty cool!
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  10. Strings and horns were in no way gone from pop music at that time, in 1966. If anything, just the opposite was occuring, especially in california wirh Spector’s productions employing everything but the kitchen sink. Blues bands like Butterfield and John Mayal’s were full of horn sections and Nashville had strings on practically every record. A few years later with Zep’s influence and ghe hard rock movement, horns and strings started fading away, but the Beatles along with the pop music factories in california and nashville continued to buck that trend.
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  11. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol

    This is a dichotomy that really didn't occur back then. Classical and rock musicians used the same new technologies. It was new to all and all instruments could be usqed.

    At the time the Beatles released Eleanor Rigby, contemporary musicians released this :

    New York Philarmonic :
  12. Those close miked strings sounded potent!
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  13. etoncrow

    etoncrow (aka Greg Harman, the Mad Hatter Gold Supporting Member

    I was 17 when this song was released; playing drums/singing in a top 40 cover band and playing drums in a band with guys in their 60's doing big band material on Hammond B3, vibes, sax, trumpet, etc. The Beatles were becoming studio junkies and trying all sorts of innovative techniques, Indian sitar sounds, playing tracks backwards, etc but I don't remember anyone ever claiming Eleanor Rigbey was a "statement" piece. Lots of people were experimenting then. Remember LSD wasn't made illegal until two years later.
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2023
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  14. basshawk21

    basshawk21 Supporting Member

    Jan 18, 2018
    Columbus, Ohio
    For me it just felt like it fit. What I like most about the song is the engineering and production, especially the stereo separation. I listened to it through headphones and that's where you hear the voices best. During the chorus Paul tracks his voice, but instead of bouncing them into 1 track they split them into 2 channels and panned them to each side. Lots of experimenting and pioneering going on in the middle 60's.
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  15. Guiseppe


    Oct 26, 2003
    Vancouver, WA
    Yes! I think the style that most music is recorded in today is unimaginative and boring...some of those producers/engineers in the day were amazing with how they did things.
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  16. pklima

    pklima Commercial User

    May 2, 2003
    Kraków, Polska
    Karoryfer Samples
    Ha, OK, so I was totally wrong. Still, fun to ask and get some answers.
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  17. John Stephen

    John Stephen Supporting Member

    Aug 16, 2018
    SF Bay Area
    Motown already had achieved great success using strings (My Girl, for just one example, which was released a year or two before Eleanor Rigby) so strings were not considered a throwback. At the time Eleanor Rigby was released, anything the Beatles did was considered cool in the pop music world. It heightened their reputation a bit among the classical music folks.
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  18. ac100X


    Apr 6, 2003
    I remember my high school music teacher finally taking note of the Beatles when the Sargent Peppers album came out. With horns and strings they were becoming acceptible.
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  19. dbsfgyd1


    Jun 11, 2012
    Mascoutah, IL
    It was the “Freaking Beatles”!!! At that point they could have been beating on hollow logs ( the go to instrument of days of yore) and it would have been a hit.

    Seriously, it was definitely a departure from what was typically heard on AM radio as I recall, but I found it captivating. The opening vocal salvo with no musical introduction drew me into the story before realizing there were strings parts. That command “Ah, Look at all the Lonely People!!!” Sent me directly to who, what, where? Then it was over before you knew it, unrealized there was no electric bass part, drums, or guitars… what a great piece of work. Pure brilliance.
  20. Hurricane Jimmie

    Hurricane Jimmie Supporting Member

    So Anyway, I was more aware of the topic of that song and the direction that the Beatles were taking. They were growing up...so was I.

    But I felt different when Quicksilver Messenger Service started adding horns and congas.