For reasons that I don’t understand and can’t explain I receive a daily email from quora.com that answers a question, usually about music trivia, that I didn’t ask. I give it a glance and either delete or follow it down the rabbit hole. Today’s question was “What band was made famous by its drummer? The answer was provided by
Sam Steiger Music Journalist (2016–present), as published on quora.com on
Best remembered today for their prescient take on what might be seen by some as a prophetic vision of a future society and by others as a retrogressive wallow in primordial swamps, Massachusetts’ finest, The Barbarians, trod/treaded/trode a fine line between genius and dumbassery. Like all the greats.
The British invasion started in 1963 and was in full swing by 1965. Opportunists everywhere were on the prowl for the next Liverpool and a bit of momentum was accumulating around Boston where local bands Barry and the Remains, the Rockin’ Ramrods, and The Barbarians were, literally, making noise.
Moulty” is a song by the American band The Barbarians, and was released in 1966 on Laurie Records. It was written by Doug Morris, Barbara Baer, Eliot Greenberg, and Robert Schwartz, and was also produced by Morris. The lyrics refer to drummer Victor “Moulty” Moulton’s loss of his left hand, and the feelings of estrangement that followed. The song was released as a single, and gave The Barbarians their second and final hit on the Billboard Hot 100.
Victor “Moulty” Moulton, the subject of the song, was drummer of The Barbarians, despite the impairment of his left hand. Moulton critically damaged the hand when, at the age of 14, a homemade pipe bomb prematurely detonated while it was in Moulton’s grip. The hand was amputated, and subsequently replaced with a metallic prosthetic device that Moulton could attach a drum stick to. When Moulton formed the group in 1964, his disability added an unusual allure to the band’s rebellious image that was, in part, responsible for their popularity after their appearance on The T.A.M.I. Show alongside The Rolling Stones, Lesley Gore, and The Supremes.
Moulton commenced recording of the song in early 1966 in New York City while the rest of the band was situated in Boston. For the recording session, Moulton was backed by the Hawks, later known as The Band, who were currently working as Bob Dylan‘s support group. The lyrics were rearranged by Moulton to include the spoken intro section of the song. The composition opens with Moulton melodramatically reflecting on the struggle of losing his left hand, while the backing vocalists encouraged “Moulty” to “Don’t turn away”. It continues with “Moulty” achieving his dream, and the song shifts into a ballad-esque structure in the third verse when “Moulty” realizes he is still lacking love. A chorus ensues and fades out, leaving the question of whether or not “Moulty” managed to find his love. With the uncertain conclusion, a mystique remained around Moulton, which played a role in his enigmatic persona.
Originally, the song was only intended to be released under the consent of Moulton, who was opposed to its distribution. However, Laurie Records released “Moulty” along with “I’ll Keep On Seeing You” in February 1966 as a single. Upon discovering the distribution of the song, Moulton was infuriated with president of Laurie Records, Robert Schwartz, reportedly quarreling with him, and destroying some copies of the single. Regardless, “Moulty” managed to peak at number 90 on the Billboard Hot 100, remaining on the charts for four weeks. The song became somewhat of an inspiration to the band’s younger followers, insisting them to “never give up no matter what the odds”. However, The Barbarians were so disgruntled with management for releasing the song, despite Moulton’s insistence against it, that the band soon ceased relations with the company. “Moulty” was later immortalized in the compilation album, Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965-1968, and included as a bonus track in the 2000 Sundazed Records reissue of the group’s debut album.
Here’s one with some good Moulty action footage:
Here’s a more typical post from quora.com:
have been listening to the Beatles since 1975
Originally Answered: What does it mean when people say John wrote the best song, ‘A day in the Life’? Paul wrote the bridge. What exactly is the bridge?
Okay, so the Beatles’ ‘A Day in the Life’ can be divided into 12 parts. And I would gently take issue with describing Paul’s bit as the ‘bridge’, but let’s not be too fussy about it.
The parts are:
- Intro: guitar, piano. Fades in from previous song, ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)’.
- Verse #1: I read the news today, oh boy. John on guitar, Paul on piano and bass (overdubbed), Ringo on drums.
- Verse #2: He blew his mind out in a car. Same, pretty much, apart from the end.
- Verse #3: I saw a film today, oh boy. Same.
- Transitional passage A: I’d love to tuuuurn you onnnn. A wavering note from John is echoed in the strings. Quickly overtaken by:
- Instrumental crescendo: An entire orchestra goes from the lowest notes on their respective instruments in a deliberately unsychronised upwards glissando into the highest note of the E major triad that they can play. In the background, on most versions, Beatles assistant Mal Evans can be heard counting from 1 to 24: he’s counting the bars of music, originally as a structural device so they’d know how long this would last, but they liked the effect so they progressively increased the reverb on his voice. He’s less audible in the mono mix and 2017 remix. Leads via an alarm clock going off into:
- Bridge: Woke up, got out of bed. This was a snippet of song that Paul had written which seemed to fit in here, seeing as this song is kinda sorta about the contrast between everyday life and the consciousness-expanding experiences that the Beatles and some people got from taking lots of acid. It only lasts until our Paul protagonist has got on the bus, then he ‘went into a dream’:
- Transitional passage B: A series of chords (C, G, D, A) descending in plagal cadences to E, with Lennon singing Aaaaaaaaaaahhh, then C, G, D, A again but this time the strings transition us back to:
- Verse #4: I read the news today, oh boy. As the first verses, but the drums now have a double-time feel. Leads straight into:
- Transitional passage A: I’d love to tuuurn you onnnn, which again goes straight into a repeat of:
- Instrumental crescendo, again. When the orchestra hits the E major triad, there’s a momentary pause, then:
- Final chord: a massive E major chord played on multiple pianos and a harmonium by Paul, John, Ringo, Mal and George Martin. This is allowed to ring out while the engineers turn up the faders, making it last as long as possible before it dies away.
While it’s true that John Lennon wrote the verses of ‘A Day in the Life’ and Paul McCartney only wrote the bridge part (section 7 above), it’s not just a “song”.
It’s a production, and they all contributed to it. Well, except George Harrison, whose sole contribution to the track was playing the maracas.
One of the most striking things about it are the instrumental crescendi, truly hair-raising in the right circumstances, and that was a vague notion of John’s that was filtered through Paul and knocked into its final shape by George Martin. Lennon wanted ‘a sound that built up from nothing to the end of the world’, McCartney suggested the sound of an orchestra improvising, and Martin decided that orchestral players wouldn’t be comfortable improvising and instead wrote out a rough guide for the players as to more or less what he wanted them to be at for the course of 24 bars. He also gave them strict instructions to not listen to each other, so that it would sound as chaotic as was possible within the basic framework.
So, while we have Lennon to thank for the basic idea of the song, McCartney did more than write a few lines: he threw himself into the recording of it, played some excellent piano and bass, had a go at conducting one of the orchestral passes, and (iirc) supervised the recording of the epic final chord.
Really, it’s a group production. The Beatles and their team were at the top of their game on this one.