Friday, May 10, 2013
(Image source: BBC) From The Daily Mail: His band The Beatles are arguably the most famous musical group of all time. But on Tuesday night, Paul McCartney was more about the grasshoppers as he found his stage invaded by a swarm of the insects during a concert in Goiania, Brazil. The 70-year-old musician was forced to complete his three-hour performance as clouds of the Esperanca Grilo creatures buzzed around him. However, animal-lover Macca appeared unfazed by the stage intrusion as he pushed through and delighted the 47,000 crowd with his songs. Sir Paul even introduced one of the little grasshoppers as Harold during a performance of hit song Hey Jude. As he sang the track, Sir Paul turned to Harold as he sang the words 'the movement you need is on your shoulder', adding 'it certainly is now'.
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
When a Beatles song is played live for the first time, it's no minor event. Last Saturday, at the kickoff to his "Out There" world tour in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Paul debuted not just one but four: "All Together Now," "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!," (a curious choice, no?*) "Lovely Rita," and "Your Mother Should Know." Also included on the setlist were "Eight Days a Week," which The Beatles performed live just once back in 1965, and "Another Day" (Paul's solo-years answer to "Eleanor Rigby"), which had been absent from his concert repertoire since 1993. Kudos for the variety, Sir Macca. *I say this because 1) the lumpy and un-melodic "Kite!" isn't exactly begging for a live treatment; and 2) While Paul occasionally performs material written by other Beatles (in this instance, John), it's usually done explicitly as a tribute, and that doesn't seem to be the case here. "Eight Days a Week"
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
To learn about the rapid rise and fall of Liverpool's Merseybeat scene, "the first truly authentic British contribution to pop history," watch the documentary below. (If the video is removed, go here.)
Monday, April 22, 2013
Last night I watched Beatles Stories (2011), a warm and good-hearted but ultimately rather dull documentary by songwriter and author Seth Swirsky. In the film, Swirsky travels all over to interview people - often famous people - about their encounters with the Fab Four. The guest list is impressively high-profile, ranging from music legends like Brian Wilson and Smokey Robinson to Hollywood celebrities like Jon Voight and Henry Winkler to notable figures from Beatles history like Klaus Voorman and Sir George Martin himself. Beatles Stories is certainly not lacking in star power, not to mention likable lesser-knowns. It's also true that many of the stories are charming and memorable. As a rabid fan of The Beatles, how could I not enjoy hearing about Ray Manzarek's stoned realization that the Fabs themselves were stoners, or the time when Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues kindly reminded George how to play "I'm Only Sleeping." It's all catnip for Beatles devotees. Then why did I come away from Beatles Stories unfulfilled? I see two reasons. First, the organization of the film. The running time is under 90 minutes, but Swirksky still manages to squeeze in roughly 45 stories, which is overkill. One anecdote comes after another in rapid succession, making for a really uneven viewing experience. The start-stop-start-stop dynamic doesn't allow for the individual stories to build on one another or interact in any narrative sense. It's just a bunch of amusing snippets loosely held together, with no apparent rhyme or reason for the particular order they follow. I think Swirsky should've excised a sizable number of the stories and then added narration that pertained to Beatles history. This way, he may have been able to connect some of the strands and develop actual themes. Second, the stories are for the most part enjoyable, but few of them are all that revealing. Few of them help us to arrive at a deeper understanding of The Beatles. There are some moments that pack insight and emotion - like when Art Garfunkel talks about meeting John in the '70s and discussing their respective ex-partnerships with guys named Paul, or when Denny Laine reflects on Paul's reaction to the news of John's death - but they're few and far between. The stories rarely amount to anything more than cute and amusing, like one guy eating beans-on-toast with Ringo or former Yankees outfielder Bernie Williams sharing a sweaty hug with Macca. Overall, the vibe is pleasantly trivial. I feel like a jerk being critical of such a winningly-premised and enthusiastic film. I genuinely wanted to like Beatles Stories, but it just never clicked for me. Nevertheless, I still salute Seth Swirsky for his obvious love of The Beatles. Passion projects like this one often don't come to fruition. That Beatles Stories actually got made is alone a cause for good cheer. Update: I should have mentioned this in the post. It caused something of a stir and left many Beatles fans nonplussed and rankled. Trailer:
Friday, April 19, 2013
I'm going to play catch up with some important days in Beatles history that recently came and went. Last week Wednesday, April 10th, marked the 43rd anniversary of the day that Paul's notorious "break up" Q&A was published in the British press. Made available April 9th, the Q&A, which served as promotional material for Paul's forthcoming debut solo record, contained some testy, hard-to-miss lines. Though Paul said he didn't intend for his responses to signal The Beatles' split, the press had other ideas, and the Q&A immediately took on a life of its own. Excerpts: Q: Did you miss the other Beatles and George Martin? Was there a moment when you thought, 'I wish Ringo were here for this break?' A: No. Q: Assuming this is a very big hit album, will you do another? A: Even if it isn't, I will continue to do what I want, when I want to. Q: Are you planning a new album or single with the Beatles? A: No. Q: Is this album a rest away from the Beatles or the start of a solo career? A: Time will tell. Being a solo album means it's "the start of a solo career..." and not being done with the Beatles means it's just a rest. So it's both. Q: Is your break with the Beatles temporary or permanent, due to personal differences or musical ones? A: Personal differences, business differences, musical differences, but most of all because I have a better time with my family. Temporary or permanent? I don't really know. Q: Do you foresee a time when Lennon-McCartney becomes an active songwriting partnership again? A: No. ________________ That same day, Apple submitted what turned out to be The Beatles' final press release. It was in response to all the noise created by Paul's statements. It read: April 10 1970 Spring is here and Leeds play Chelsea tomorrow and Ringo and John and George and Paul are alive and well and full of hope. The world is still spinning and so are we and so are you. When the spinning stops - that'll be the time to worry. Not before. Until then, The Beatles are alive and well and the Beat goes on, the Beat goes on. ________________ Then a week later, Paul released McCartney, punctuating a drama-filled stretch of The Beatles' career. (My review is here.) The end, mercifully and not at all prematurely, had come. Excerpts from the review: I find McCartney enjoyable but far from memorable. It boasts some inspired moments but not nearly enough. Too much of its charm fades as quickly as it sets in, due in large measure to how many of the songs feel like rushed, incomplete thoughts. Yes, Paul shows considerable range in his songwriting. And yes, there's a certain appeal to the DIY aesthetic. But McCartney was the first proper solo album to be released by any of The Beatles, and it's understandable that most people were expecting something more than a rumpled collection of demo-like jams, loopy instrumentals, and acoustic ditties broken up by a few gems. It disappointed then, and it still disappoints today. . . . Of course, Linda was the inspiration for the best and most enduring cut on McCartney, "Maybe I'm Amazed." Like "Every Night," it shows Paul in a vulnerable state: "Maybe I'm afraid of the way I love you." Unlike "Every Night," "Maybe I'm Amazed" wraps Paul's confession of weakness in dramatic, even triumphant sonics. With a monster backbeat, lively piano fills, and that impassioned vocal, the song soars. When Paul exclaims, "Baby I'm a man/And maybe you're the only woman/Who could ever help me," it's the sound of him moving on with his life. Worthy of The Beatles' better output, "Maybe I'm Amazed" hasn't aged a day because Paul's emotions, delivered with such thrilling conviction, still ring true.
Friday, April 12, 2013
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
I'm not a fan. It's too much of a departure. The reworking takes a bittersweet but ultimately encouraging song and makes it sad. Going from major to minor neuters the sense of hope and uplift that builds throughout the original. In this way it violates the spirit behind Paul's purpose in writing the song: to comfort Julian Lennon. No thanks. A "Hey Jude" that doesn't aim to inspire is no "Hey Jude." (If the video is removed, go here.)