Sunday, May 31, 2009

Today in Beatles history

Actually yesterday....

On 5/30/66, The Beatles released "Paperback Writer" with the B-side "Rain" as a U.S single.



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Notice Paul's chipped tooth; it must be an impostor.

Sunday potpourri

A short blog post from a UK Telegraph writer on The Beatles' culturally diffuse impact.

An article about the boys' formative years in Hamburg and how the German city is using this storied relationship to promote tourism.

"Get Back:" a brief history.

"10 best early Beatles songs that weren't No. 1"

Saturday, May 30, 2009

"I Met the Walrus"

Here's the short film that McGillis references in his article. What an experience for a 14 year-old kid. I'm sure many others wouldn't have been able to maintain their composure like Levitan did.



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P.S. John was such rambler sometimes.

One last Canada post

The 40th anniversary of John and Yoko's arrival in Montreal for their second Bed-In for Peace recently passed. As a result, there were a number of articles in the Canadian press over the past week that not only detailed the historical episode but also reviewed new books on the subject and discussed the art exhibition that Yoko opened in Montreal to commemorate the event. They're interesting reads.

I especially liked the double book review by Ian McGillis because he goes beyond mere glorification of what John and Yoko were doing; he doesn't succumb to hero worship.

Here are two excerpts that show how even-handedly he treats the topic:

It’s so tempting to dismiss it all with a superior retrospective shrug. A wealthy rock star and his conceptual artist wife install themselves in a Montreal hotel room bed for a week, espousing peace as though they have just invented the idea while a media circus dutifully swirls around them. A hopelessly naive by-product of a hopelessly naive time, right?

Well, yes. In some ways. Certainly, looking through a new elegantly designed volume marking the 40th anniversary of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s pacifist agit-prop project, responses may vary with knowledge of context. The effect of touchingly tender portraits of the couple with Yoko’s young daughter, Kyoko, is tempered somewhat by the thought that at this time, Lennon’s first wife, Cynthia, and son, Julian, were being left to fend for themselves, their only apparent fault being their failure to fit into the new utopian narrative.


...

Ultimately, while the sheer audacity of what John and Yoko did may have been arrogant in its way, it burns through all hindsight-aided misgivings anyway. One is certainly hard-pressed to imagine any current celebrity of remotely equivalent stature so willingly risking ridicule for a cause. These two had a deep understanding of the inclusive power of simplicity, in image, words and music. It’s fitting, then, that so many of Deiter’s photographs document the writing and recording, in that hotel room, of the classic affirmative protest song that gives the book its name: Give Peace a Chance. Sure, those verses may be dated doggerel, but that chorus is simply undeniable....

Friday, May 29, 2009

Macca and Dylan

The two will be recording together this summer!!

Maybe.

"The Girl Is Mine"

Speaking of Paul's goofy sensibilities, at one point during the drive back from Canada, my buddy and I were listening to Michael Jackson's Thriller and came upon "The Girl Is Mine," which Paul co-wrote with MJ. Truth be told, it's not among the album's top entries. Especially for a lead single (off what would become the best-selling LP of all time, no less), it's something of a non-starter, pleasant and serviceable but lacking in substance. If nothing else, it's very silly, which shouldn't be unexpected coming from a Macca-MJ collaboration. The pair are supposed to be dueling over a girl but they can't muster much beyond chummy gamesmanship (MJ: "Paul, I think I told you, I'm a lover not a fighter"). Anyway, one of the standout details from the lyric is on the chorus: "The girl is mine/The doggone girl is mine." Yeah, doggone. Now I'm not sure what lines Paul contributed, but the inclusion of "doggone" strongly comes off as the product of his mind. It evokes an innocence and zaniness that, again, he usually projected. To a certain extent, the same is true of MJ, especially as regards his youthful Motown days. And it's likely that he wrote the "doggone" part; Wikipedia describes him as the track's primary writer. Either way, the main point is that Paul's quirky character meshes perfectly with a smirking tune like "The Girl Is Mine." And it also captures the same lovable-but-kinda-lame dynamic that applies to a fair number of his songs.

"The Girl Is Mine:"



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Inspired by the Beatles

"Lily (My One and Only)" off the Smashing Pumpkins' 1995 double-disc Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. It's easy to imagine Paul comfortably filling in for Billy Corgan here. The song combines lush, tunefully retro sonics with a lyric about helpless affection and its hazards ("But an officer is knocking at my door"). From the piano flourishes and theatrical drum line to the overly tender sentiments, it's all romance with an ironic core, a whimsical ballad that uses its narrator's lovelorn ways to elicit smiles, not tears. Paul himself was both a romantic and a jester, and he excelled at bringing these qualities together. He also had a passion for baroque pop (see, among others, "When I'm Sixty-Four," "Martha My Dear," and "Maxwell's Silver Hammer"), a genre that would certainly include the colorful and saccharine likes of "Lily (My One and Only)."



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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

North of the border

I took a road trip to sunny Canada over the weekend and didn't have the chance to post anything. But in honor of our welcoming neighbors to the north, here are a couple of Canada-related bits from Beatles history:

- Footage of an amusing interview the boys did in Vancouver as part of their 1964 North American tour followed by clips of the pandemonium that they always incited.

- A list of their releases through Canada's branch of Capitol Records, which, it's interesting to learn, was marketing their music already in 1963.

- More on Capitol in Canada: Capitol Records in Los Angeles continuously turned down the opportunity to distribute Beatles' records in the U.S. But in Canada Paul White, an executive at Capitol in Canada said, "I used to listen to about fifty new records a week. Then one day I put on 'Love Me Do' by a group called the Beatles...I decided to release the Beatles' records in Canada. (Courtesy of beatlemoney.com)

- A youtube of John performing with others as the Plastic Ono Band at the "Sweet Toronto Peace Festival" in 1969. It features the rollicking one-two punch of "Money" and "Dizzy Miss Lizzy." A DVD of this concert is actually coming out in June.

-And finally, a minor artifact from 1964.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Un-salty quote for the day

After meeting The Beatles, Little Richard enthused, "Man, those Beatles are fabulous. If I hadn't seen them, I'd have never known they were white. They have a real authentic Negro sound."

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Salty quote for the day

From the loquacious and boundlessly self-assured William F. Buckley Jr:

The Beatles are not merely awful. They are so unbelievably horrible, so appallingly unmusical, so dogmatically insensitive to the magic of the art, that they qualify as crowned heads of antimusic.

He seems to have made his point.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Ringo as the Australian Open?

Here's a quirky article from ESPN that matches each of The Beatles with one of the four majors of professional tennis and explores the commonalities. It's for real.

One passage:

Yes, Roland Garros is the George Harrison of tennis's Fab Four. As Harrison was to John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Roland Garros is a touch less significant than Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. But in some ways, Roland Garros, like Harrison, is exotic, spiritual and underrated, a place of a many different languages than all the others, where the music blends new instruments, all things must pass and players struggle for hours on end, sliding on the clay....

The analysis is forced at times (especially John as the U.S. Open) and several of the lyric excerpts are, at best, mildly amusing and, at worst, completely needless. But Joel Drucker does locate similarities where they (surprisingly) exist and, in the process, puts together a pretty imaginative take on this intersection of different aspects of culture.

And because I'll likely never have another opening to comment on professional tennis (a sport I love), here's this: Federer's defeat of Nadal in Madrid yesterday was huge. It was for a Masters Series title, on clay, a week before Roland Garros begins, and against the player who has so greatly vexed him. Props, Roger.

Highlights? Why not:


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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Paul at Coachella (once again)

Youtube has a lot of footage from his set there.

Here's an excellent montage:



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P.S. I love the sing-a-longs and, like few other artists in the history of pop music, Paul positively oozes with likability.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Saturday YouTube

Incredible footage from the Cavern Club, 1962.



(If the video is removed, go here.)

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Onion on The Beatles

Over the years, the indispensable satirical newspaper has had a fair amount of fun at The Beatles' expense:

"Beatles Edition Of Rock Band Coming Out."

An infographic on the Beatles Anthology .

"Bands Don't Ever All Get The Same Haircut Anymore."

"Lennon, 25 Years Gone."

"Area Man Plays 'Imagine' Every Time He Sees A Piano."

"Paul McCartney's Mix-CD For New Girlfriend A Little Self-Indulgent."


"Mills: McCartney Abusive."

A horoscope involving Ringo fantasies.

"Starr Asks Fans Not To Write."

Scroll down a ways on this one. Money quote: "How could I have forgotten about the death of George Harrison, the Quiet Wilbury?"

"70 Percent Of World's Population Could Use All-Star Benefit Concert."


Lastly, George is only briefly mentioned in this news short, but it's pretty rich.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

"White Album" podcast

Earlier today, a friend of mine (who happens to be an all-star blogger) sent me this link to a NPR podcast on the "White Album" at 40.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Catching up (cont'd)

- At the Grammy's, Paul pumped out a spiritedly faithful version of "I Saw Her Standing There." For obvious reasons, the harmonies were a bit lacking. But to no surprise, Dave Grohl was a fire-starter on drums.

- Alan Livingston, the Capitol Records executive who signed The Beatles, passed away at the ripe age of 91.

- More news about Nowhere Boy, the John Lennon biopic that details his tumultuous upbringing.

- Paul and Ringo performed side-by-side in NYC at a benefit for the David Lynch Foundation. What a joyous sight to see those two in action together.

- Here are some of the goods on Let It Roll: Songs by George Harrison, a career-spanning greatest hits that comes out on June 16th.

- And finally, Paul ignited Coachella with a two-and-a-half hour set. Kudos to Macca for still being so boyishly devoted to rock 'n roll.

End of catching up.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Catching up

Here are a few of the more significant Fab Four developments that occurred over the past three months:

- An extended and experimental cut of "Revolution 1" (labeled as "Take 20") leaked on the internet despite the fact that only two copies of the take are known to exist. It's the missing link between the (White) album versions of "Revolution 1" and "Revolution 9."

- The Beatles: Rock Band will arrive on September 9th, 2009. I'm way down with the vintage instruments. But I still find myself skeptical on the whole.

- Also due on September 9th are the long-awaited remastered versions of The Beatles' studio albums. It's obviously huge news.

More to come.