Thursday, December 31, 2009

Thursday haiku - "Let It Be"

Born of Paul's distress,
"Let It Be" swells with sorrow
but achieves uplift.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Wednesday Beatles potpourri

- Surveying the pop culture scene of 2009, USA Today lists the Beatles as one of the year's five acts "etched in music history."

- Ian Jack of the Guardian writes that the Beatles "brushed away repression" with their music. In response, a reader contends that Jack's reading of pre-1960s music history is far too blinkered.

- Reg Clause, a farmer from Iowa and a long-time Beatles fan, politely takes issue with Paul's Meat Free Monday campaign.

- Finally, here are some thoughts on the Beatles USB Drive from one buyer.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Tuesday Beatles potpourri

- Before his concert in Cologne, Germany, Paul spoke with The Sun's Gordon Smart on a range of topics, and had this to say about his life's profession:

"The truth is I thought I would get bored of this years ago. But every day at soundcheck I get to take this electric guitar, I get to plug it in, wind it up and play loud with a band.

"That's what I always wanted to do and I still have a sense of wonder with that. Just the noise when I turn it on. It's like what we loved when I was 20 - and I still love it. It's a privilege really."

During the same interview, the subject of Paul's Meat Free Monday campaign was brought up. Let me just make this brief editorial comment: It's unfortunate that Paul chose to invoke the Holocaust when making his point about global warming. When the memory of that event becomes part of your rhetoric, it's often the sign of a grasping and alarmist stance on something. To be sure, I wouldn't have Paul stop promoting awareness of global warming. But in the future, I hope he conveys his views with less explosive imagery.

- John's Hollywood Star "mysteriously disappears" and then not-so-mysteriously reappears.

- One of Paul's childhood idols, Little Richard, is planning to tour again following recent hip surgery. At 77, he's a youthful geriatric.

- Publicly supported by Paul, Rage Against the Machine's 1992 single "Killing in the Name" outsold X Factor winner Joe McElderry's debut release "The Climb" to become the No. 1 Christmas single on the UK charts. I look at this story and see a triumph, however modest, of grassroots determination and irony. It's rather satisfying.

Monday, December 28, 2009

More tracks for "The Beatles: Rock Band"

This time the DLC will come from Paul's live album Good Evening, New York City, which documents his trio of summer concerts at Citi Field. The new songs are “Band on the Run,” “Jet,” and “Sing the Changes,” and they'll be available either January 5th or 7th depending on the game console you use. Rolling Stone supplies more details here.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sunday Beatles YouTube

Here's a fine cover of "Revolution" by Stone Temple Pilots:

(If the video is removed, go here.)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

"Walk With You"

That's the title of Ringo's new single - a duet with Sir Paul - and it can be found here. Rolling Stone has more on the song (though the venerable rock mag couldn't get its name right).

Friday, December 25, 2009

More X-mas tunes

Here's Paul's "Wonderful Christmas Time." Let's just say it's a product of its time.

(If the video is removed, go here.)

Merry Christmas

"Happy Xmas (War Is Over)"

So this is Christmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun
Ans so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young

A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear
And so this is Christmas
For weak and for strong
For rich and the poor ones
The world is so wrong
And so happy Christmas
For black and for white
For yellow and red ones
Let's stop all the fight
A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear
And so this is Christmas
And what have we done
Another year over
And a new one just begun
Ans so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young
A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear
War is over over
If you want it
War is over

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Paul in London Town

Attracting a slew of stars and A-listers, Paul played an ecstatically received show the other night at the O2 Arena in London, a city where he'd like to take up a "musical residency" down the road.

Fabs' Yuletide album still AWOL

Steve Marinucci opines that the Beatles' collection of Christmas songs and messages should be officially released.

But the recordings have never been re-released in their original form for everyone. Why not? They may not be Beatle songs, but they were great examples of Beatle wit and charm. They've been treated almost like a dirty secret. But, of course, they're a wonderful part of Beatle history.

Suddenly, this year, though, "The Beatles: Rock Band" became the first place since the fan club records to include any of the Beatles Christmas Records. But as of this moment, they still don't have a legitimate release.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Review of Paul's Dublin gig

I wonder what it would be like to read a truly unfavorable and even scathing review of a Paul McCartney concert. Though his music isn't beyond criticism, it seems that when Paul perches himself onstage and lets loose any number of Beatles, Wings, or solo classics, he can only generate broad enthusiasm. I guess it's not surprising, but it's even rare to hear of an off-night. Paul played a show in Dublin this past Sunday, and Tony Clayton-Lea of the Irish Times didn't seem to notice any signs of the Beatle great losing his edge.

In Magical Mystery Tour , the opening song to this very fine show, Paul McCartney sings the words “satisfaction guaranteed”. If there was one member of the audience who went home in a grumpy mood, then truly they were the Christmas Grinch.

In short, Macca arrived in Dublin, gave a self-deprecating thumbs up and conquered one and all with what was, in effect, a showcase of the brilliance of The Beatles as much as a testament to the humble showmanship of that band’s former bass player.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sales of "The Beatles: Rock Band" not great

"Sales of music video games plummet in 2009"

According to data from market analyst NPD Group, sales of these games haven't met expectations. The Beatles game, while selling a respectable 800,000 units of its various versions so far, missed the 1 million mark analysts expected in just the first month after its September 9 debut. "Guitar Hero 5" sold 500,000 units in its first month, compared with the 1.4 million "Guitar Hero III" moved two years ago in its first month.

. . .

To re-create the blockbuster sales of last year, the category needs a new innovation. One idea: Dahni Harrison -- the son of the Beatles' George Harrison, who worked closely on the development of "Beatles: Rock Band" -- told the Chicago Tribune he is working with Harmonix to create a version of "Rock Band" with new controllers that could actually help teach gamers to play guitar rather than just simulating the experience. Such new motion-capture devices as Microsoft's Project Natal may also play a role in evolving the gameplay.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Jules on "The Early Show," etc.

I meant to do a post on this last week, but failed to for whatever reason. Diminished relevance aside, this article nicely summarizes Julian Lennon's recent interview with CBS News and his appearance on The Early Show. It also features video of him both discussing and performing his new single, "Lucy."

As the excerpt below makes clear, Julian was very forthcoming in the interview about how strained the relationship between him and his father was even long after the ex-Beatle's death in 1980.

He told CBS News working on "Everything Changes" and on "Luch" helped him come to grips with his relationship with his father and finally find forgiveness.

"With Dad running off and divorcing Mum," Julian said, "I had a lot of bitterness and anger I was living with. In the past, I had said I had forgiven Dad, but it was only words. It wasn't until the passing of my friend Lucy and the writing of this song that really helped me forgive my father.

"I realized if I continued to feel that anger and bitterness towards my dad, I would have a constant cloud hanging over my head my whole life.

"After recording the song "Lucy," almost by nature, it felt right to fulfill the circle, forgive dad, put the pain, anger and bitterness in the past, and focus and appreciate the good things.

"Writing is therapy for me and, for the first time in my life, I'm actually feeling it and believing it. It also has allowed me to actually embrace Dad and the Beatles."

Saturday, December 19, 2009

"(I Want To) Come Home" video

Here's the official video for Paul's Golden Globe-nominated song, "(I Want To) Come Home." After listening to it more, I think I've changed my take on it. I've really come to appreciate that Paul didn't rely on any big, emotionally swelling parts to drive home the song's heartfelt sentiments. While the music does perk up at times, the strings stay commendably light, and the guitar solo is a model of restraint. In terms of the lyric, Paul is able to do a lot with the small moments at his disposal, like the way he isolates and emphasizes the word "home" to create a sure sense of longing. As noted by some folks on Steve Marinucci's Beatles Examiner page, if you're unconvinced of the song's merits but willing to have a few more listens, "(I Want To) Come Home" might just grow on you. It certainly did in my case.

(Hat-tip to Steve Marinucci for posting the video.)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Friday Beatles YouTube

Donny Hathaway's cover of "Jealous Guy"

(If the video is removed, go here.)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

John's lost interview

The details surrounding this long-dormant interview from 1968 are pretty incredible.

Maev Kennedy of the Guardian writes:

Today's music fans will be stunned by the circumstances of the interview: Lennon spoke for six hours at his home in Surrey, sustained only by macrobiotic bread and jam made by Yoko Ono, to an overawed first-year student from Keele University who had hitchhiked hundreds of miles to meet him after applying by a letter sent to a fan magazine.

A snippet was duly published in the Keele student magazine, but most of the material stayed in the files of Maurice Hindle, now an author completing a book on Lennon and an academic at the Open University – until today, when he finally publishes the full version in the New Statesman.

Here's the rest of that article. And here's the actual interview, as published in the New Statesman.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wednesday haiku - "Dig It"

Once part of a jam,
"It" was trimmed to an aside,
a bridge between songs.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Macca earns Golden Globe nod

Along with U2, Karen O, and others, Paul was nominated today for a Golden Globe in the category of Best Original Song. It's in recognition of "(I Want To) Come Home," his contribution to the soundtrack for Everybody's Fine, a film starring Robert De Niro. Kudos to Paul. I wrote about the song here.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Maureen Cleave on John

The British journalist who covered the Beatles in their prime (and to whom a certain Beatle made his infamous comment about the relative popularity of Jesus Christ) recently wrote an absorbing remembrance of John for the Telegraph. Do read.

People sometimes ask what they were like and the answer is – more fun than anyone else and terrible teases. The interviewer was outnumbered four to one: they might put your coat in the wastepaper basket, offer to marry you, seize your notebook and pencil, pick you up and put you somewhere else, demand you cut their hair. In hotel rooms, John’s favourite game was shuffling his feet on the carpet, then touching you on the cheek to give you a mild electric shock. On the other hand they were kindly disposed, offering you cigarettes or a swig from their bottles of Coke, making sure you never got left behind. “Come on, Thingy,” they’d bawl when it was time to move. They’d get you a taxi. Once I thought the driver was taking an odd way home, hardly surprising as they’d told him, “10 Downing Street”.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Paul on "The X Factor"

Hat tip to Steve Marinucci.

(If the embedding is disabled, just click here).

Sunday Beatles potpourri

"Remembering John Lennon: Classic Photos and RS Interviews," courtesy of Rolling Stone.

Last night, at Spike TV's "Video Game Awards," The Beatles: Rock Band was named Best Music Game of 2009.

Here are some pictures of Paul at recent performances in Berlin and Arnhem.

Finally, Julian Lennon is scheduled to appear on "The Early Show" (CBS) this Tuesday.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

"Rock Band" update

"'Rubber Soul' Joins 'The Beatles: Rock Band' on December 15th"

Rubber Soul will arrive in full on December 15th for Xbox 360 and Wii, and December 17th for PlayStation 3. “Drive My Car,” “I’m Looking Through You” and “If I Needed Someone” were already available on the title’s in-game track list, and they’ll now be joined by classics including “In My Life,” “Michelle” and “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown).”

Friday, December 11, 2009

Paul vs. the UK press

Earlier in the week, the Mirror reported that Paul had characterized his failed marriage with Heather Mills as the "mistake of the decade." But as Paul subsequently pointed out on his website, that was quite a mangling of the truth.

Decades after their breakup...

...the Beatles still dominate the charts. Their greatest hits compilation 1 was the best-selling album of the past decade, and only Eminem moved more total units than the Fabs in that same timespan. Awfully impressive, but not too surprising. More details are here.

Friday Beatles YouTube

If you're like me and aren't at all enjoying the onset of winter's fury, then you might be in need of some warm-weather escapism. The song I chose for today's featured YouTube vid(s) would seem to fit the bill. It has one of the most breezy and tropical vibes of any song I've ever heard, though it's not actually about lounging on the beach or drinking coconut milk. What's more, it's a rather lovely and touching little ditty, co-written by a pair of music mavericks: one John Lennon and his sometime collaborator Harry Nilsson. Included on the latter's 1974 album Pussy Cats, which was produced by John during his "Lost Weekend," the song is "Mucho Mungo/Mt. Elga," and it positively melts me.

Here's the version with Nilsson on vocals:

(If the video is removed, go here.)

And here's John at the helm:

(If the video is removed, go here.)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Thursday haiku - "I Me Mine"

A moody rock-waltz,
George’s “Mine” chides man’s ego,
a la Hindu thought.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Wednesday Beatles potpourri (pt.2)

- Rolling Stone previewed the season two debut of Spectacle: Elvis Costello With..., which will feature Bono and the Edge as guests. In the clip, Bono chats about a visit that Paul once paid U2 while they were in the studio. The U2 frontman also does a serviceable impression of Macca, the best part being when he says, "which was great."

- In more Paul news, on the cover of Q Magazine's Artists-of-the-Century issue, the dashing Liverpudlian is standing front and center.

- How some Beatle faithful would howl if a certain vampiric heart-throb were to play John in a movie.

- The Beatles were recently nominated for a Grammy.

- Macca versus a MEP. In related news, you can download Paul's "Meat Free Monday" song here.

- Lastly, have a look at this misleading headline.

Wednesday Beatles potpourri (pt. 1)

- Here's Pitchfork's excellent review of Good Evening New York City.

- At his recent concert in Hamburg, Paul directed a few sarcastic comments toward Madonna, who not long ago suggested that the ex-Beatle is boring onstage.

- What's Ringo's scandalous confession about The Beatles: Rock Band?

- Last week, Paul campaigned for "Meat-Free Mondays" in Brussels at the European Parliament. Afterward, he spoke of how his late wife Linda continues to play a big role in his activism: "'She was - and remains - a great inspiration in the work I am trying to do now in promoting my campaign to encourage people to eat less meat.'"

- The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Annex in New York is scheduled to close down in January of next year.

- Some musicians from The Land of 10,000 Lakes just released a covers album entitled, "The Minnesota Beatle Project Volume 1," and will be donating the proceeds to art and music programs at public schools.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

One more: "The Death and Life of John Lennon"

From New York Magazine, December 20, 1980.

"Drag, isn't it?"

An obviously shaken and out-of-sorts Paul reacts to the news of John's death:

(If the video is removed, go here.)

The Dakota

CNN contributor Bob Greene reflects on the "place haunted by Lennon's murder."

To anyone in this city, in this country, in this world, who is younger than 32 or 33 years old, the memory of Lennon is of a man who has always been dead. The murder was past tense by the time people who are now that age first became aware of his name.

The Dakota, in its own way, may be, to them, like Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C., or the triple underpass in Dallas. A place where something terrible happened, yes, but something terrible that happened in history, not in the recollected narrative of their daily lives.

December 8, 1980

(If the video is removed, go here.)

Monday, December 7, 2009

Monday haiku - "Across the Universe"

It's a lush poem;
a stream of astral beauty;
and a song John prized.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

More "Girl" talk

One aspect of "Girl" that I didn't bring up in my last post is its vagueness. And by that I mean the vagueness of John's standing with his vexing lover. It's interesting to consider. As the song plays out and the details of this girl's ways are revealed, I don't think it becomes perfectly clear what the nature of their relationship is: Are they still together or have they split up?

Once again, let's explore the song. Now John sings with a tone that might suggest they're finished. Much of "Girl" has the feel of someone looking back and painfully reflecting on the consequences of past mistakes. He even opens the song by asking if anyone will listen to his "story," the implication being that it's not an ongoing matter. At the same time, John also sings of how he's tried to end their relationship before, but wasn't successful. Through tearful displays, this girl would coax him into changing his mind, meaning he couldn't clinch their demise, and there's no mention of her doing so or even wanting to (though she does seem like the type who would shuffle through guys). Furthermore, when John says, "After all this time I don't know why," it sounds like someone who, at that very moment, is right in the middle of a losing situation, but won't free himself from it. In other words, he's still with her.

The rest of the song doesn't offer many concrete clues. Generally speaking, it continues to give the impression that the two have parted ways, but the evidence isn't conclusive. Perhaps this was intentional; I'm not sure. It does, however, add another intriguing layer to a song already thick with allure.

Friday, December 4, 2009

"Girl" power

Is there a better vocal in the Beatles' catalogue than John's bewitching turn on "Girl?" The thought occurred to me several days ago as I listened to Rubber Soul, and it prompted a more thorough survey of the song. After a few close listens, I came away thinking that, at the very least, perhaps no other Beatles' vocal shares the tangled web of emotions and tones that John conveys on "Girl." There's a lot happening in its two-and-a-half minute span.

If the song has a fundamental level, it's about the crippling frustration of dealing with a certain kind of lover. As John tells it, this kind of lover is proud, elusive, and icy. She's in control, and her lovers know that nothing could really change this. She deliberately mistreats you and toys with you. She makes a cruel sport out of it, in fact, and offers up few apologies. And by doing all of this, she somehow makes you want her only more.

Carrying on with a dicey sort like this would take its toll on most, and so we find John at the outset of "Girl" sounding forlorn and exhausted: "Is there anybody going to listen to my story/All about the girl who came to stay?" Down and out, he's seeking reprieve in the sympathy of others, and his fragile vocal emphasizes just how dire the straits are. Yet immediately afterward, he makes it known that the situation isn't so straightforward - he cannot simply leave or forget about this particular lover. Observe: "She's the kind of girl you want so much it makes you sorry/Still you don't regret a single day." Put another way, she has a hold on John that brings him both profound pleasure and pain. Pleasure wins out. In this conflicted, desperate state, he can't summon the resolve to resent her like he should. Such is the power of her appeal.

Then confusing matters even more is the wonderfully light and dreamy chorus that follows: "O-o-o-oh gir-ir-ir-l." What a break from the tension. It's almost as if John is releasing an amused sigh. This girl has left him so thoroughly undone that he can't help but shrug his shoulders, smile, and be impressed. He admires her, however manipulative she may be, because he has firsthand knowledge of the force of her will. He reflects on her machinations both ruefully and with a sentiment that's not terribly far from respect. You might even say that, positioned as he is, John is both in on the joke, so to speak, and also a hapless victim of it.

And this makes up just the first part of the song. From there, John admits that he has tried to part ways with this girl, but hasn't been able to follow through. Singing as one stung by shame, he reveals he couldn't resist her entreaties to stay, even if they were obviously hollow. It seems that he swallows lies a bit too often, as he further attests to on the next line of the song, which happens to be my favorite: "And she promises the earth to me and I believe her/After all this time I don't know why." The way he sings this part really captures the thorny, complex nature of his feelings. He hates himself for loving her, and he hates that he'd quickly allow himself to fall victim to her again. His vocal calmly communicates this sense of knowing but bitter frustration. Later, on the bridge, he touches on her penchant for belittling him in front of others and highlights one of the qualities that she likely prizes most about herself: "She's cool/ooo/ooo/ooo." (I wonder if we're not meant to almost hear "cruel.") And finally, the last verse witnesses John, with a very direct and engaged tone, aiming some barbs at the Church: "Was she told when she was young that pain would lead to pleasure/Did she understand it when they said/That a man must break his back to earn/His day of leisure/Will she still believe it when he's dead?" Notice what's happening here - John's been chronicling this girl's practiced mistreatment of him, but he refrains from lashing out at her. Instead, he reserves his most biting and forthright anger for Catholic teachings.

As I've noted before, the key to some of John's finest vocals is the control that he maintains. He doesn't always succumb to the heat of deeply-felt emotions, and his singing benefits tremendously. Staying on an even keel allows him to smoothly incorporate a wide spectrum of feelings into his performances. On "Girl," he ranges from weary and confused to melancholic and resigned to amused and tortured. He can run this gamut of emotions convincingly because he never gives in to any of them too earnestly. He doesn't overstate his case, and this seems to preserve the honesty of what he's trying to impart. And honesty is probably the most potent and lasting quality that we associate with John as an artist.

This post didn't go quite where I thought it would, truth be told. I failed to compare the vocal on "Girl" with one from any other Beatles' song, and I didn't answer the question I posed at the beginning. That'll have to wait, I suppose. Suffice it to say that this vocal seems to stand firmly on its own as compelling and complex stuff.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Back to Hamburg

Kicking off his first European tour in five years, Paul performed in Hamburg last night at the Color Line Arena. Catherine Hickley of Bloomberg News was there to report on the show. Most of the details will be familiar to those who have followed Paul's recent tours.

The enthusiastic -- if sedate and middle-aged -- audience at Hamburg’s Color Line Arena comprised some Beatles’ friends from the very early days, when the band was living in squalor in the back room of a cinema and playing grueling six-hour sets at the Indra and Kaiserkeller clubs. McCartney said hello from the stage to “Astrid and Klaus.”

Astrid Kirchherr, the photographer who was engaged to the original Beatles’ bassist, Stuart Sutcliffe, and Klaus Voormann, the musician and graphic artist who designed the cover of the “Revolver” album, sat in the box next to me. Kirchherr, a little severe-looking with glasses and a gray crop, smoked silently and smiled sporadically through the show.

In 1960, the Beatles didn’t know enough songs to fill a whole evening. McCartney, now 67, has learned a few more since then. And those days of playing for hours on end in shabby bars were good stamina training. Dapper and chirpy in a dark suit, he sustained an energetic and flawless performance for 2 1/2 hours.

Most of the songs were Beatles’ compositions, including audience-pleasers like “Hey Jude,” “Let It Be” and “Eleanor Rigby.” A smattering of colloquial German, a relic of those days, was delivered with charm and received with enthusiasm.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The pros and cons ....

... of remaking Yellow Submarine. Guest-blogging at Brit Fancy, Jill Vallecorsa of Anglophile Files has some smart comments on the matter.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tuesday haiku- "Dig a Pony"

"All I want is you",
cries John to Yoko on "Dig",
a bluesy affair.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Great non-Beatles song...

... with a random Beatles reference. Just like the other entry in this series, this one contains a line about something "beating," and then to ensure that the point is wittily driven home, there's an accompanying mention of "Ringo." It's actually not clever at all, but perhaps the utter obviousness of the reference is why it works.

Please enjoy this slice of vibrant, charismatic, and exotic pop from M.I.A.

The line: "Quit bending all my fingo/ Quit beating me like you're Ringo."
The song: "Sunshowers"

(If the video is removed, go here.)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

"Lennon Naked"

"Christopher Eccleston to play John Lennon in BBC4 drama"

The former Doctor Who star Christopher Eccleston is to play John Lennon in a new BBC4 drama.

Called Lennon Naked, the one-off 90-minute film covers Lennon's life from 1967 to 1971.

It features the effect on Lennon of the death of the Beatles' manager, Brian Epstein, and the impact of re-establishing contact with his long lost father Freddie.

Lennon Naked also covers the break-up of his marriage to Cynthia Lennon and meeting Yoko Ono.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Macca news

"Paul McCartney says he 'revisits' Beatles through songs"

Sir Paul said that on his concert DVD, Good Evening New York City, he can be seen getting emotional in the song for Lennon.

"It catches me out in this film version where I realise I'm telling this man that I love him, and it's like, 'Oh my God!'. It's like I'm publicly declaring this in front of all these people I know well. What am I doing?

"I couldn't have done it when I was 18 because I would not have allowed myself to cry or go anywhere near that as an 18-year-old guy - now it's okay. I'm used to it."

Friday, November 27, 2009

Friday Beatles YouTube

The Beatles covering "That'll Be the Day"

(If the video is removed, go here.)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Coming tonight

"Paul McCartney Reflects on Beatlemania"

Forty-four years ago, four kids from Liverpool performed what was then the largest, highest-grossing rock concert ever -- the Beatles Live at Shea Stadium.

"It was the biggest show we'd ever done. Nobody had done stadiums before -- 56,000 people. And I think we were a little bit nervous in the dressing room beforehand," Paul McCartney said, in an ABC special to air Thanksgiving night.

"But by then it was too late, you had to go out and do it, so the girls were screaming, I mean that's what we encountered those days, so it was just like a wall of a billion seagulls, 'Ahhhhhhh.'"

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tuesday Beatles YouTube

Hanson's cover of "Oh! Darling"

(If the video is removed, go here.)

Monday, November 23, 2009

More on "Y Not"

Here's a fairly detailed summary of Ringo's forthcoming album.

For the first time in one of popular music's most enduring and illustrious careers, Ringo Starr has decided to take charge and produce himself. The result is perhaps the most personal and impressive album of this rock legend's entire solo career. How on earth did Starr finally locate the absolutely perfect producer to work with him? "Well, I looked in the mirror," Ringo says with a smile. "And I was looking real groovy that day."

Starr's decision to take a stronger role in the recording of his latest and greatest solo album was a significant and fortuitous one. "I didn't do it at the start," Starr says. "I was the least involved in the production of the Beatle records. And then with my solo records, I worked with some other great producers like Richard Perry, Arif Mardin, and Don Was. So it just seemed like that's the way that it goes. Then suddenly, it's another point in your life, and you say, `I'm going do this now.' So I'll be producing anything I make from now on. That's the good news. It's a confidence thing, I suppose. And Y Not is really another way of me saying, "Yes, I can."

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sunday haiku- "Two of Us"

Rustic and dreamy,
"Two" is a love note from Paul
to his wife Linda.

Macca joins Ringo on "Y Not"

Rolling Stone reports on it.

Ringo Starr grabbed a little help from his friends for his new album Y Not, due January 12th, 2010. The Beatles drummer will be joined by his Fab Four bandmate Paul McCartney on a couple of tracks, including first single “Walk With Me,” which finds Macca and Starr sharing vocals. Other guests and songwriters on Y Not, Ringo’s first album since 2008’s Liverpool 8, include Joe Walsh, Joss Stone, Van Dyke Parks, Ben Harper and Richard Marx.

Talking about working with his old Beatles mate, Starr said in a press release, “Paul was doing the Grammys, so he came over to the house and was playing bass on ‘Peace Dream.’ So I played him this other track and Paul said, ‘Give me the headphones. Give me a pair of cans.’ And he went to the mike and he just invented that part where he follows on my vocal. That was all Paul McCartney, and there could be nothing better.”

Saturday, November 21, 2009

About those BlackBerry commercials

Since I don't watch much TV, it's taken me longer than most to see one of the BlackBerry commercials that have rankled some Beatles fans. (If you're unfamiliar, go here.) Recently, my luck at escaping these televised annoyances ran out. The reason for all of the frustration, of course, is the presence of "All You Need is Love," as covered by Grayson Matthews, in the commercials. The argument against this kind of advertising is straightfoward: A song like "All You Need is Love," with its emotive and idealistic message, has nothing to do with the product in question and shouldn't be used to promote consumerism. As an example, here are Steve Marinucci's thoughts on the subject. In principle, I would agree with much of what Marinucci and others have said. It's not an apt or artful use of the song, and the Beatles probably would not have approved. Even so, I read some of the responses to Marinucci's post, and noticed that people were using words like "disgusting" and talking about possible boycotts and, in general, conveying a sense of outrage that I found highly disproportionate to the issue at hand. Is the song's inclusion cheap and irritating? Yes. But even confined to the world of pop music, it's a rather trivial matter. It's not illegal, it's not intended to disrespect the Beatles, and it shouldn't change how we view the original version of "All You Need is Love." Maybe we could save our indignation for the truly grave injustices in this world.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Beatles YouTube

Peter Sellers, as Dr. Strangelove, doing "She Loves You." Crackpot.

(If the video is removed, go here.)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

"She Loves You"

"She Loves You" is so familiar, and its appeal so firm and intuitive, that to summarize it in writing seems a step too far. The music itself is all that matters; it does the important work. When "She Loves You" is playing, and you hear the rumbling intro, or the comforting harmonies, or the ecstatic and thoroughly Americanized cries of "yeah, yeah, yeah," you can feel the song exercising its power. It's in the moment. To comment on elements of the backstory, like what George Martin's contributions were or why the major sixth chord at the end is important, might help to refine someone's perspective on the song, but it's unlikely to enhance the music's fundamental appeal. I can say from a personal standpoint that, while it's very pleasurable and rewarding to write about the Beatles' music, there are moments when a sense of futility sinks in and it registers that, yeah, timeless art is just fine on its own.

Not to launch into a tangent, but there is also a problem with how tired and overcooked Beatles commentary can be. Despite the staggering amount of ink that has been spilled in their honor, it's still hard to find truly original and penetrating insights about their music, history, and influence. A fair amount of consensus dwells within the broader discourse about the group, and even if it's there justifiably, it can still be irritating. Even contrarian critics pay deference to a lot of the received wisdom.

I think a similar criticism also applies to the lexicon that writers use in discussing different aspects of the Fabs, especially their music. Regrettably, it seems there isn't much variety in the way we describe, say, "Hey Jude" ("warm," "comforting"), "I Am the Walrus" (something about "psychedelic" and something about "acid-induced"), "Strawberry Fields Forever" ("nostalgic," "impressionistic"), and so on. To be sure, common terms like these exist because they're usually accurate and because there's a limit on language's ability to capture how music sounds and feels. The issue is that when you encounter them (or close approximations of them) so often, it gives rise to a sense of diminishing, nay, diminished, returns.

For whatever reason, these are some of the thoughts that came to me as I listened to "She Loves You," and they convinced me not to write about the song in detail. Again, I couldn't shake the feeling of "what's the point." So, in line with these scaled-back ambitions, I'll just say that "She Loves You," released as a single in 1963, is rightly one of the Beatles' most well-loved songs. Emphatic and efficient, it demonstrates how magnetic pop can be when invested with urgency and conviction. All of the exclamatory "yeah yeah yeahs" sound so momentous; they have the feel of history-in-the-making. It's also significant that, with this lyric, the Beatles step outside of their traditional role as the masculine half of a male-seeking-female twosome and take on the part of relationship mediator or go-between. In this position, they fulfill a more adult purpose: They calm tensions, they offer advice, and they seek the reconciliation of others (unlike some, I've never detected any sinister intentions). It's a function that requires a certain level of maturity, and yet the Beatles still find themselves able to act like the normal Beatles, giddily belting out a propulsive, love-affirming chorus.

But enough with my words. How about the object of their affection?

(If the video is removed, go here.)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wednesday Beatles YouTube

John - "Be My Baby"

(If the video is removed, go here.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Mea culpa, vis a vis "Real Love"

Earlier today, a reader by the name of GiDelGi was kind enough to comment on this post. It's one from back in August that discussed Adam Sandler's cover of "Real Love." He writes: "The bridge was actually a part of John's earliest versions of the song, which can be heard in the many bootlegged demos and on the soundtrack of the "Imagine" documentary. Mr. Sandler simply took the liberty of re-adding the bridge that was deleted in the later version." The comment was in response to this sentence I wrote about the differences between the original version and Sandler's: "He trades in the guitar solo for a whistling section and adds a bridge with new lines." Wrong on both counts. I guess I couldn't remember how the version from the Imagine soundtrack went. I regret the errors. Much thanks to GiDelGi for the correction.

(If the video is removed, go here.)

Tuesday Beatles potpourri

"Tops in pop: Gershwin Prize goes to McCartney"

"Osbourne 'delighted by McCartney snub'"

"Robert Pattinson thinks 'Twilight' mania is 'perhaps close' to what the Beatles went through"

Rolling Stone's review of Good Evening New York City

Monday, November 16, 2009

"Sgt. Pepper's" trailer

The shot of Paul singing "She's Leaving Home" with dark clouds rolling by overhead is stunning, and the visual freakout at the end works very well.

(If the video is removed, go here.)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

PopMatters on the Fabs

The pop culture website ran a barrage of pieces on the Beatles this past week. Check it out. Plenty of solid reading. And, evidently, there's more to come the week of Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 13, 2009

New Ringo album in January

Hat tip to Steve Marinucci who, as usual, has the scoop.

A new album by former Beatles drummer Ringo Starr, titled "Y Not," is coming in January. Ringo's press office confirmed the January release and told us a further announcement would be coming soon.

"Sgt. Pepper's" available for "Rock Band" next week

Blast provides the details.

Harmonix today announced that the Beatle’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club album, in its entirety, will be available in the Beatles: Rock Band Music Store beginning Nov. 17.

Pepper’s will join the already-available Abbey Road in the Music Store next week priced at $13.49/1080 MS Points, but if you only desire a song or two, that’s quite alright, as each tune is also available individually, at $2 a pop.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Paul to rock Thxgiving

The greatest of all holidays won't be any worse off with ABC running a primetime special on Paul, which will feature some footage of his summer performance at Citi Field.

Beyonce Knowles and Sir Paul McCartney will appear in back-to-back one-hour specials that include candid conversations and exclusive concert footage from both of these iconic stars.


The McCartney special will also feature footage from the original 1965 Beatles concert at Shea, and an interview with Sir Paul, who talks candidly about his emotional journey -- from the early days in the Beatles to what it means to return and perform 45 years ago where the group made its mark at the height of Beatlemania.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Inspired by the Beatles - "Sonnet"

Though overshadowed by the hugely successful "Bittersweet Symphony," "Sonnet" might be the Verve's finest song, and a good deal of its appeal probably owes to the influence of the Beatles. Like a handful of Fab songs, "Sonnet" is an aching ballad, more simple than not, that still manages to be tuneful and, in several ways, quite measured. Its restraint is the key. It glides along with purpose and command, yet the pace is almost understated. In similar fashion and reminiscent of a Lennon vocal, Richard Ashcroft keeps his grief in check and doesn't let it unravel into weepy self-pity. He's battered, yes, and he doesn't try to hide it, but the way he expresses his pain is far more reserved than might be expected. It's a sense of sober world-weariness that comes through most vividly, and this again recalls that same Beatle. Because John is so present in Ashcroft's direct and honest vocal, it seems he was able to teach his Britpop descendant about the power of guarded emotions. And that melody? Gorgeous.

(If the video is removed, go here.)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Quick comment

I don't think this is unreasonable: The movie Help wouldn't feel like such indulgent nonsense had it been even marginally about The Beatles.

"Rock Band" news

"The Beatles Rock Band Dragging Down Viacom"

Tom Dooley, who is the chief financial officer for Viacom, has stated “Rock Band was a negative contributor to margins in the third quarter. We expect it to break even or be slightly profitable in the fourth quarter from a margin point of view. It really depends on how many units we sell in the holiday season.”

The big release which The Beatles has had in September and the fact that it sold better than Guitar Hero 5 from Activision do not mean that profitability is just around the corner. In fact, the operating margins for the division handling Rock Band have fallen from 40 to 36%.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

"Good Evening New York City"

The order page for Paul's new CD/DVD combo is here. I imagine that the clip of "Highway" (which you'll find via the link) is representative of the entire concert. If this is the case, be prepared for several hours of relentless edits and camera switches. The footage just refuses to sit still.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Beatles food for thought

A thought occurred to me a few days ago as I listened to "Mother," the harrowing lead track on John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band: Did John intend for the song's first line to almost mirror the opening lyrics of "Norwegian Wood?" Observe: "Mother, you had me but I never had you" vs. "I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me." The operative word is clearly "had." In the first case, John was singing of how his mother Julia "had" (i.e., gave birth to) him, but he was never able to fully experience her as an active, loving parent. The song was a venting of all that buried pain. In the case of "Norwegian Wood," John claimed he was addressing his then-wife Cynthia and confessing to an affair. This resides well below the song's surface, though. Indeed, the latter is as cryptic as the former is chillingly plainspoken. It's quite a contrast of tone and meaning, and yet it's still hard to not be struck by the similarity of the lines. So I return to my original question: Was it deliberate?


(If the video is removed, go here.)

"Norwegian Wood"

(If the video is removed, go here.)

Interview with BlueBeat's Hank Risan

Pop & Hiss, the LA Times' music blog, conducted a Q&A with the renegade digital music CEO. It's a worthwhile read.

You say you have licenses to sell music because of the federal copyright law, but you don’t have any agreements with any record label?

No. We don’t transmit their recordings. We’ve created independent recordings that don’t require it. Even so, we do pay royalties to SoundExchange for the EMI content that we transmit, as well as to the publishers of the EMI content, which we perform.

To the untrained ear, the recordings on your site sound pretty similar to the original recordings.

They do sound similar, to some extent. If you actually listen to our 320 [Kbps MP3] recordings versus the actual CDs, you’ll hear a remarkable difference. They’re created with the intention of recreating a live musical performance. When you listen to them, they’re done in a virtual soundstage of using psychoacoustic simulation, and the intention is to create a live performance -- as if you are there listening to the actual performers doing the work as opposed to a copy or a phonorecord or CD of the work.

Friday, November 6, 2009

"The Beatles weren't that good"

This is hardly the first time that a sensationalist UK daily headline has masked a non-story (from The Sun).

Realising they sounded average at best, Macca wasn't surprised in 1962 when record label Decca refused to sign the band - who went on to become the biggest of all time.

In an interview with Xfm's IAN CAMFIELD, he said: "We obviously weren't that good. We were formulating it all.

"You wouldn't have thought we were that great. You'd have turned us down if you were a record company. And they did - Decca turned us down!"

. . .

And this quote from Paul truly speaks to his engaging humanity: Those are some of my happiest memories, being there among a group of people and having someone buy you a beer.

BlueBeat in trouble

"Judge Halts Online Sale of Beatles Songs"

A federal judge on Thursday ordered a Santa Cruz company to immediately quit selling Beatles and other music on its online site, setting aside a preposterous argument that it had copyrights on songs via a process called “psycho-acoustic simulation.”

A Los Angeles federal judge set aside arguments from Hank Risan, owner of BlueBeat and other companies named as defendants in the lawsuit EMI filed on Tuesday. His novel defense to allegations he was unlawfully selling the entire stereo Beatles catalog without permission was that he — and not EMI or the Beatles’ Apple Corp — owns these sound recordings, because he re-recorded new versions of the songs using what he termed “psycho-acoustic simulation.”

Me: The question remains - what was this Hank Risan guy thinking? Did he not realize that his ploy carried a much bigger downside than upside? It's like, of course legal ramifications were in the offing. “Psycho-acoustic simulation?" Could Risan's defense have been any more comically spurious?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Celebrating Sesame Street's 40th

In honor of the anniversary, here's the Beetles performing "Letter B."

(If the video is removed, go here.)

Latest digital Beatles news

First, the news emerged that was streaming and selling the Beatles' catalogue, then EMI moved to sue the online music site, and now it's come out that the Beatles in Stereo remastered collection will be available for purchase (legally, through EMI) on a USB drive in early December.

Here's an interesting detail that the Rolling Stone article mentions:
According to the news section at the BlueBeat site, the Website has been streaming the Beatles catalog since September 16th, just one week after the remasters were released.

Parting thought: Engaging in activities that invite the wrath of the Beatles juggernaut (i.e., the business interests behind the juggernaut) is usually foolhardy and self-defeating.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Random: "Hey Jude" flow chart

It needed to be made, and now I can't imagine my life without the ingenious visual aid. Mad kudos to Mr. Danny Garcia.

Monday, November 2, 2009

"(I Want To) Come Home"

That's the name of Paul's contribution to the soundtrack for Everybody's Fine, a Robert De Niro film coming out in December. Have a listen below. It's an elegantly simple, piano-and-strings type emoter. The melody is lush, the pace is nicely measured, and the message resonates. What comes together is a pleasantly likable song. However, the more demanding side of me found it a very safe outing for Paul, one that might cause you to think, "Of course Macca is capable of writing this song and numerous others of a similar style and quality." Like much of his solo output, it's sincere but a bit milky, lovingly made but still warmed-over. I don't know. Head versus heart, I guess.

(If the video is removed, go here.)

Beatles catalogue available digitally

I can't imagine this will last too long (via NME).

US-based download site is selling the tracks – which include The Beatles' recently released remastered albums – and also streaming them online for users to listen to as many times as they like for free.

However, it is unclear whether EMI and Apple Corps – who must give permission for The Beatles' music to be sold online – have agreed to let the website distribute the tracks.

Here's the link to BlueBeat.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

More reviews of "Nowhere Boy"

The Telegraph has kind words for the flick.

Yet Nowhere Boy stands or falls on its lead performance, and Aaron Johnson captures Lennon’s essence to perfection. It’s all there: the cheeky wit; the mouthy, heavy-lidded insolence; the thoughtless, frustrated lashing out at friends and relatives.

Screen also offers praise, though it's a bit more qualified.

Sam Taylor-Wood’s handsome feature debut offers a new insight into the early life of John Lennon; in her eyes, the unexpectedly sparkling suburbs of post-war Liverpool come to rich life. Nowhere Boy is occasionally moving, always interesting – there is plenty in here which isn’t widely appreciated – but it straddles the arthouse and biopic uneasily at times, feeling a beat off.

Lastly, ComingSoon doesn't find much to recommend.

The film concentrates on a period in Lennon's mid-teens from around 1955-1958, during which the adolescent Lennon went through a series of events that clearly shaped his later life. Unfortunately, while these events should make for compelling viewing, "Nowhere Boy" manages to turn them into a mundane film that simply plods from one Beatles reference to the next.

In general, the script is passable, but every so often a line crops up that is so clunky it threatens to derail the whole film. This is typified by a line near the end of the film, where Lennon's aunt asks him to remind her of the name of his new band, a moment that caused the entire audience in the screening to cringe in unison.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Highlights from last year's Ukulele festival

Looks like a blast, especially the performance of "Your Mother Should Know."

(For whatever reason, I can't embed the video.)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday Beatles YouTube

"No No Song"

(If the video is removed, go here.)

"Nowhere Boy" reviewed

"Lennon's youth gets dull telling in 'Nowhere Boy'"

A noted British artist, Taylor-Wood offers a surprisingly cozy look at Lennon's early life. Matt Greenhalgh's screenplay covers the ground but opts too easily for harmony where in real life clearly there must have been serious conflict.

Aaron Johnson ("Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging") makes a decent stab at the young Lennon, though he lacks the original's insolent sneer and remarkable bite, and Thomas Brodie Sangster ("Nanny McPhee") offers a very callow 15-year-old Paul McCartney. There's very little sense that they soon will emerge as the Beatles.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Ann Powers' fave Beatles songs (as well as mine)

Back in early September, right around the much anticipated date of 9/9/09, the LA Times' head pop critic Ann Powers wrote a series of posts for the paper's music blog about what songs she considered the best on each of the Beatles' canon albums. As is usual with Powers, her commentary was informed, perceptive, and sharply written. To my mind, she is the foremost American music critic. In light of this admiration, it's puzzling why I only drew attention to one of those posts. For reasons unknown, I guess. My task now is to rectify that negligence in one fell swoop. I've already touched on her choice for the highlight of Please Please Me; here are the rest....

Album: With the Beatles
Selection: The album's iconic cover photograph taken by Robert Freeman.
My thoughts: An early evasion on Ann's part, but it would be ill-considered to deny the rich artistry of that image. At the end of the post, Ann does relent on her rule-breaking and goes with "It Won't Be Long," which is undoubtedly my favorite off the album. The song is a controlled explosion, exhilarating but precisely targeted.

Album: A Hard Day's Night
Selection: "When I Get Home"
My thoughts: It's fun to encounter John being so mischievously vague about his feelings for a lover, as he is on "When I Get Home." For me, "If I Fell" is too disarmingly gorgeous to not stand as the highlight of the album.

Album: Beatles for Sale
Selection: "I'll Follow the Sun"
My thoughts: Once again, I'll politely disagree with Ann. No question, "No Reply." Fueled by the surges of John's jealous ire, the song plays out on dangerously unstable ground. It's charged, even if simplistic drama.

Album: Help
Selection: "Yesterday"
My thoughts: Right away Ann goes on the defensive about this pick: "I know that sophisticates scorn 'Yesterday' for its greeting card rhyme scheme and after-dinner mint melody." Too true. But in the process, she also fashions some very expressive and knowing words of praise for the song: "It outlines the vast gray area where wrecked or unrealized dreams go, and never quite die." She almost made a convert out of me. But as I've written before on the blog, I'm an utter fool for "I've Just Seen a Face," and achingly close to that Macca stunner is John's downbeat folk masterpiece, "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away." (P.S. Isn't it mesmerizing how the latter seems to sway as it unfolds?)

Album: Rubber Soul
Selection: "Norwegian Wood"
My thoughts: As Ann notes, this exercise can produce some really nagging frustration because, plainly, the Beatles' albums are often an embarrassment of riches. As the band's game-changer, Rubber Soul might be the prime example. Ann elevates "Norwegian Wood" to the top, and I couldn't possibly hazard a discouraging word about the choice. But that would also apply to "In My Life" and "Girl" had she been tempted in either of those directions. If pressed, I'd have to side with "In My Life." It's the Beatles' most powerfully emotive song, and George Martin's Baroque-style piano solo lays me low far more easily than it should.
Money quote: In my insistent opinion, "Rubber Soul" and its immediate successor, "Revolver," show the Beatles at their absolute peak. The songs on these midperiod works are experimental but never too somber or overworked. They take on major themes but don't buckle under the weight of heavy messages; they dip into dirty rock, sugar pop and schoolboy joking, but they add whole new levels of structure and meaning to those Beatle building blocks.

Album: Revolver
Selection: "Tomorrow Never Knows"
My thoughts: "This song is mind expansion in its leanest, cleanest and most powerful form." Well put. It's not easy to craft a genuinely weird song without sacrificing a lot of pop appeal. The Beatles accomplished this feat with indelible results on "Tomorrow Never Knows." It's a trip. Even so, I've never been able to shake the woozy, narcotic spell of John's "I'm Only Sleeping." Few songs have ever matched story and sound so fittingly and brilliantly.

Album: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Selection: "A Day in the Life"
My thoughts: Finally, an agreement. It's the Beatles at their most accomplished and enduring.
Money quote: At each turn in the band's career, its two main songwriters challenged and taught and snuck around each other, each taking pop into new corners in the process of arguing for his own approach. One-upsmanship has rarely paid off so astoundingly. Occasionally, John and Paul seem to address each other in a song -- "I've Got a Feeling," from "Let It Be," is one such case, in which John's mind games and Paul's heart palpitations form a powerful dialogue.

Album: Magical Mystery Tour
Selection: "I Am the Walrus"
My thoughts: Another agreement. I'll let Ann provide the explanation (below).
Money quote: What a sound this silliness created. Layer upon layer of Beatles, orchestra, background singers and sound effects, all adding up to something actually catchy. So much art rock tends toward bloat; this song pushes at its own seams, but stays catchy.

Album: The Beatles
Selection: "Helter Skelter"
My thoughts: As you can see, Ann arrived at this decision after much gnashing-of-teeth. And for good reason: she's considering the double-headed monster that is the White Album. To be honest, though, I was a bit disappointed by the conventional nature of her choice. Over the years, "Helter Skelter" has become perhaps the signature track of the four-sided LP (though that's a very debatable claim). It's a primal, fire-starting rush, and it has a lurid history to boot. But I expected Ann to pass on the orthodox pick and go with one of the many quaint sideshows and curios that the album boasts, something seemingly tucked away, something like John's comically desperate plea for sanity, "I'm So Tired." That would be my selection. John's vocal, which ranges from casual to contemplative to caustic, is one of his most memorable.

Album: Yellow Submarine
Selection: "It's All Too Much" and "All Together Now"
My thoughts: I don't have strong opinions about Yellow Submarine because, as Ann writes, it's "hardly a Beatles album at all." Because both the title track and "All You Need Is Love" were originally used on other albums, I consider them disqualified from the competition. "Hey Bulldog" makes for a rollicking time, and "It's All Too Much" is worth some revisits now and again. So... "All Together Now" it is.

Album: Abbey Road
Selection: "Something"
My thoughts: I'll bend the rules somewhat and submit the Side Two song cycle as the highlight of Abbey Road. I find that hard to dispute. Other thoughts of mine concerning this perhaps greatest of all albums can be found here.
Money quote: "It's possibly the vaguest love song ever written," wrote the English journalist Paul Du Noyer about the song, and that's exactly what's good about it. In this most insistent declaration of non-committal adoration, Harrison used the same qualities that sometimes prevented his songs from hitting hard -- his reticent artistic personality, his guitarist's non-way with words, the appreciation of ambiguity he'd developed through meditation -- to really capture the lived experience of love, its ebb and flow, the lover's desire to be unconditional despite a constant undercurrent of uncertainty: "I don't know, I don't know."

Album: Let It Be
Selection: "Get Back"
My thoughts: Without hesitation, "Two of Us." It's a dreamy and wistful slice of folk-pop perfection, full of simple beauty. Hearing John and Paul join their rarefied voices, even amidst such bitter feuding, to sing phrases like "Two of us" and "You and me" makes for an incredibly poignant experience. The song has both nothing and everything to do with their broken partnership, and for that reason it's unmissable. Lastly, the line, "Two of us wearing raincoats/Standing so low/In the sun," fills me with a warm, even welcome kind of heartache.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"Nowhere Boy" trailer

(If the video is removed, go here.)

(Hat Tip: Rolling Stone )

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Paul does Broadway celebration

"Paul McCartney at the Frank Loesser Celebration in New-York"

Numerous Broadway actors ran through Loesser's more famous numbers. Such known songs as "Some Like it Hot", "Once in Love with Amy", "The Inch Worm " performed by Phyllis Newman-John McMartin, Abby Cadabby, Elmo, and Cookie Monster who claimed he had been hanging around the green room eating "C-O-O-K-I-E-S!! with Paul McCartney. He then screamed back stage for Paul to save him some C-O-O-K-I-E-S!!. Other notable songs "sit down you're rocking the boat", "What are you doing New Year's Eve?", "Baby, it's cold outside", "Luck be a lady", Adelaid's Lament" and finally "On a slow boat to China" performed by Sir Paul McCartney.

Paul told a story at being a child and having family get together at their house and his dad at the piano playing many of the songs that he later found out were Frank Loesser's songs. He thanked Frank Loesser for all of the great family memories of the family singing the songs in the front parlour. Song started with Paul walking up to the band conductor and asking him if he knew "On a slow boat to China" to which he shook his head. Paul shrugged his shoulders and walked away and then the band started. As soon as he started singing it, I instantly recognized the song. It was a really nice, sweet rendition of the song which was done impeccably.

Monday, October 26, 2009

"Priceless Beatles Record Found..."

"... In Widow's Collection."

The widow of a former Capitol Records executive called record dealer John Tefteller to appraise her late husband's collection. After thumbing through some jazz and easy listening albums, Tefteller found a sealed copy of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, which would bring a little interest on the secondary market. Upon further inspection, however, he noticed that the Beatles' faces were not on the cover. The album was one of three or four known to exist with the faces of Capitol Records executives superimposed over those of the band. As the pressing was so limited and only given to executives, Tefteller said that it would be impossible to put a price on the album.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday Beatles YouTube

Here's Weezer applying their peppy pop formula to "If I Fell":

(If the video is removed, go here.)

On a related note, does Rivers Cuomo place himself in the Beatles or the Stones camp? A hint: "John Lennon is my favorite singer of all time."

Remastered "Help"

I recently gave the remastered edition of Help some listens and then recorded a few observations about the overall improvement in sound quality and also about how specific moments have benefited from the digital upgrade. As you'll notice, a number of the thoughts just ended up being fanboy praise for the wonderful LP that Help is and has always been.

- Especially on the title track, the Beatles' backup vocals now come through much more cleanly and identifiably. No longer do they seem to bleed into their surroundings. Instead, they have a distinct presence. Additionally, all of the vocal parts sound more fully formed. And by that I mean, it's like you can now hear the Beatles enunciate words from the first syllable to the last. The use of headphones really helps to bear out this improvement.

- On "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away," John's vocal is perfectly centered. It goes to work right in the middle of your cranium, which helps to bring out its pained beauty even more vividly. Side-note: John's bracing delivery of "hey" just before the heart of the chorus has to be among the most memorable individual moments in the Beatles' entire catalogue. It's Dylanesque for sure, but it's also a classic Lennon display of eloquently fraught emotion.

- "Ticket to Ride" is a masterpiece. Both the conception and execution are inspired. Side-note: The song's rhythm is weirdly beguiling. Driven by Ringo's cascading drum part, it's so tangled and fractured, and it creates a peculiar effect: The song always seems to be stumbling forward while still being in control of its motions.

- "I've Just Seen a Face" is deserving of similar superlatives. The digital remastering accentuates one of its best features: the feel of a crisp autumn breeze blowing right through its core. And the thick tug-and-twang of the guitar solo easily makes for the most unexpectedly affecting moment on the album.

- And finally, "Yesterday" is still "Yesterday." What also hasn't changed, though, is my conviction that it's not the highlight of the album. It's probably the most significant entry, but I still connect more readily and deeply with "I've Just Seen a Face."

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Beatles Complete on Ukelele Festival

Too cool or a potential snooze-fest?

Ukulele aficionados Roger Greenawalt and David Barratt couldn't be more serious about their ambitious marathon-like Beatles festival: two days, performing the entire Beatles catalog - 185 songs - with over 60 singers, 40 musicians and 16 Yoko Ono impersonators. Greenawalt - who is a music producer by day - will sit in with each artist providing the required ukulele accompaniment.