Wednesday, July 30, 2014

"I don't want to cheat those people"

In a new wide-ranging interview with Rolling Stone, Macca explained at length why he takes such a crowd-pleasing approach to his live shows. Turns out, Paul is the anti-Dylan because (in part, anyway*) he himself has been on the losing end of a concert that didn't deliver the goods as expected. To this I say: Paul, never change. There may not be a more exasperating breach of faith between musician and fan than a set list that's designed to satisfy the whims of the artist over the general desires of the crowd. Especially at big ticket shows, it's a reasonable expectation that the performing act will honor the outlay of money and commitment of time by his or her fans with a performance that, at the very least, isn't unprofessional or willfully challenging, and, even better, is geared toward broad appeal. That's not asking much. Now, within the "give the people what they want" prescription/policy, there's plenty of room for maneuvering and balance. It doesn't need to be pursued in draconian fashion (i.e., singles and hits always trumping lesser-known entries), but it should serve as a starting point, a guide. And for most performers, it does. But that doesn't undo how refreshing it is to hear Paul loudly proclaim the gospel of populism. Everybody, listen to the what the man said.
*There's also the obvious $$$ factor.
Here's part of the excerpt:
Well, I'm always reminded of when I was a kid and I used to go to shows. This was pre-pre-pre-Beatles. I was just a little kid in Liverpool with no money, and I'd be saving up forever. It'd be really good if the show satisfied me – and it really pissed me off if it didn't. So I have this thing, which is that these people have paid money. They're not necessarily all going be that flush, so let's give them a good night out. Let's have a party. Let's make it a fiesta kind of thing, so everyone goes home and thinks, "Yeah, I didn't mind spending that money." That's the philosophy behind a lot of what I do.
One of the first concerts I ever went to was a Bill Haley concert. I was so young, I was still in short trousers. I was about 13 or something. It was rock & roll coming to Liverpool, and I was so excited. I saved up, got this ticket, went to the Liverpool Odeon – and the whole first half wasn't Bill Haley! It was this other guy who, years later, I learned was a promoter who had his own band. Mind you, the second half, when Bill opened from behind the curtains with, "One, two, three o' clock, four o'clock rock," and did "Rock Around the Clock," which is almost the birth of rock & roll – okay, that was exciting. The curtains opened and they're all there in these crazy tartan jackets. That was worth it. But I was always pissed off about the opening act, thinking I got cheated. And I once bought a Little Richard record where he was only one track on the album. It was this other thing, the Buck Ram Orchestra.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

"Chillin with my homies"

To be a fly on the wall... This charmed young fella was something like that fly. I love the unadulterated glee on his face. Read more here.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

"Early Days" (video)

I'm not a fan of Paul's latest single, the acoustic track "Early Days". I think it's one of the lesser cuts on New. The brittle vocal provides ample evidence of Paul's advancing years, and the lyric - whereby Macca reclaims ownership of The Beatles' origins from those outside parties who can only speculate and conjecture about what happened - is really vanilla and stiffly phrased. Paul may very well have strong feelings on the matter, but they don't translate with much effect. As large swaths of Paul's solo career demonstrate. you can't win 'em all.
Below is the video, in which those "early days" are transposed onto the American Deep South, with young aspiring blues musicians standing in for the Fabs. Johnny Depp makes the most minor of guest spots at the beginning.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Weekend reading

- Here's Joshua Wolf Shenk on John, Paul, and "The Power of Two". Always important to keep in mind with this subject: John and Paul's creative partnership was very fluid. It played out in a variety of forms over a relatively short period. Hence the difficulty of categorizing their MO in general terms.
- Very cool: "The Beatles' mono albums remastered at Abbey Road set for vinyl release"
- Ugh, more sanitized, one dimensional, plaster-saint John Lennon: Peace Activist tripe is in the offing, thanks to Yoko's agreement with a global branding company to promote John's legacy.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Weekend reading

- Stereogum ranked John's 10 best solo joints. I applaud the exclusion of "Imagine" but rue the absence of "Love". Solid list overall. Also, kudos to the writers for issuing a furious corrective to the deep-seated fiction about John Lennon: Secular Saint. Like the myth of JFK's Camelot, it's a childish, absurdly unsupportable lie that has survived in the popular consciousness for far too long.
- "13 Days as a Beatle: The Sad History of Jimmie Nicol"
- The reissue blitz continues: "The Beatles to Re-Release Japanese Albums"
- Via Rolling Stone: "6 Best Out-of-Print Beatles Releases" - In my book, it's the Let It Be documentary and then everything else.
- Finally: "Imagine all the artwork: Lennon trove auctioned" - Words always fail when it comes to the dollar amounts involved. See here as well.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Wilburys' most underrated jam?

As I was scrolling through my iTunes library earlier, I noticed one track preference that made me smile: my most listened to song by the Traveling Wilburys is "New Blue Moon". If you're unfamiliar, you can forgive yourself. "New Blue Moon" is a deep, deep cut off Vol. 3. Basically, an unheralded ditty from a so-so record that's always been trapped in the shadow of its predecessor. But I for one absolutely adore the song. It's a busy little mover that shakes and shimmies just right. And the airy, drawn-out vocal phrasing on the verses makes for a perfect touch, conveying notes of sweetness and woe in the same breath. Enjoy below.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

"Good Ol' Freda" review

I recently took the time to watch Good Ol' Freda, the charming indie documentary released last year about The Beatles' faithful and beloved secretary, Freda Kelly. Several things stood out.
First, this is Beatles history that we really haven't encountered before, or not in meaningful detail anyway. Yes, a chapter of the Fabs' story that hasn't already been painstakingly probed in books, dramatized in movies and plays, and otherwise combed through and commodified. It's strange. A small miracle even. As you learn in the film, the explanation is that Freda is someone who has long valued privacy and loyalty over the limelight and the almighty dollar. She probably would've felt she had betrayed The Beatles' trust by cashing in early and often on her unique vantage point. And all these years later, Freda only agreed to do this project at the urging of her young grandson. Who could find fault there?
At the same time, there is an unmistakable streak of melancholy to Good Ol' Freda, underscoring that integrity can come with material costs. Freda hasn't penned a smash memoir. She hasn't spent her life busily on the hunt for the next media op. Right after The Beatles split, she simply gave away most of the merchandise and memorabilia she had accumulated over the years. As a result, this would-be minor celebrity has had to provide for herself in that most familiar, blase manner: as a 9-5er. A 9-5 secretary no less. True, this was to a certain degree by design. It doesn't seem (seem) much out of step with the path that Freda claims she wanted for herself. But, watching Good Ol' Freda, it's hard to elude the "what could've been" angle. Might she have been able to reap some measure of financial security through her former life while still maintaing her sense of integrity? Perhaps, perhaps not. Regardless, the broader point is that the film almost forces you to consider the question.
Last, and most rewarding, it's a treat to watch and listen to Freda as she - fondly but with a notably casual tone - revisits her past. Memories like seeing The Beatles nearly 200 times at the Cavern Club (she was a fan first) or developing a deep bond with Ringo's mother or forcing John down onto one knee as part of an apology he owed her. It's wild. From basically the start of the Fabs' run to the end, she was right there in the thick of things - not just an up-close witness to history but an active participant. She was a "family member" to the boys, a confidante, an object of respect and adoration. Yet, to Freda - this impossibly down-to-earth woman - it was just part of her life. She has to be the luckiest Beatles fan who ever lived.