Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"Yoko: 'Sean Never Knew Lennon Was A Beatle'"

The San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Excerpt:
Ono has revealed she and her husband were so desperate not to force their son into music, they refused to talk about it at home - and Sean had to find out about his father's superstardom on his own.

Ono explains, "I was prepared that he (Sean) might become an archaeologist or something. John didn't even want to tell him that he was a Beatle.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

11 gems from the remasters

"An original Beatlemaniac gives the new Beatles 'Remasters' a listen"

Excerpt:
"No Reply": A doozy from Lennon's stack of jealous-guy songs. In hypnotic musical shorthand, it's the Hitchcockian tale of a crazed guy who pulls a Peeping Tom when his gal won't answer his calls — and spots her at home with a new love. Lennon's insistent vocal carries a sense of dread and betrayal that belied the band's "cuddly" image of the time. And the background refrains ("I saw the light!" "I nearly died!") are deliciously eerie. ("Beatles for Sale")

Monday, September 28, 2009

"Lucy" inspiration passes away

Lucy (O'Donnell) Vodden, a fanciful drawing of whom young Julian Lennon composed, named "Lucy in the sky with diamonds," and gave to his father, succumbed to lupus last week at the age of 46.

Excerpt:
Mrs Vodden developed lupus in her thirties. It is an auto-immune disease where the body attacks its own cells, causing immense pain and organ breakdown.

She was at nursery with John Lennon’s oldest son in Weybridge, Surrey, in 1966 but had seen him only once – 23 years ago at one of his concerts – since. He did, however, send a greeting when she married Ross Vodden in 1996.

The former classmates had resumed their friendship in recent months after Lennon, who now lives in France, heard that she was chronically ill. He sent a bouquet of flowers to her home in Surbiton, Surrey, with a personally written card.


And here's a juicy example of British frankness:
“I can't stand the song. I don't feel I can relate to it. I just don't like it. I don't see a four-year-old kid running around with kaleidoscopic eyes. It doesn't make sense.” (a quote from Vodden)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Macca: songwriter, essayist

"Beatle's essay found 50 years on"

Excerpt:
Years before the Beatles received their MBEs, he beat hundreds of other school children to win a prize for his 1953 essay marking the Queen's coronation.

In neat handwriting, he refers to "the lovely young Queen Elizabeth".

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Happy 40th to "Abbey Road"

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the release of Abbey Road, the final album that The Beatles made together and, considering the heavy strain they were working under, a surprisingly strong contender for their finest LP. I know it's my favorite of their albums. Rubber Soul will occasionally make a run at that distinction. As will Revolver, but less often. Neither has been able to complete the coup, though. Abbey Road is just so rewarding on multiple levels. It boasts outstanding individual tracks: "Something," "Here Comes the Sun," "Because," "You Never Give Me Your Money," etc. And the Side Two song cycle? Stunningly inventive, richly whimsical, and tastefully indulgent, it's one of pop music's singular creations. Together, all of this music results in an album of impeccable tone and feel, even as it's full of striking contrasts as well. It has a unity and completeness that its free-flowing, capricious sounds would seem to belie; it's an album of technical artistry and thick pop pleasure; it feels both casually and meticulously crafted; and it's a classic, but one that rarely comes off like it's trying to attain that status. It's bloody Abbey Road.

Rolling Stone offers some laudatory words here.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Paul Shirley's stupid ESPN article

Last week on ESPN.com's The Life page , ex-NBA drifter and sometime writer/blogger Paul Shirley presented his case against The Beatles. Entitled "Dare I say The Beatles weren't so fab," the piece puts forth an argument that essentially goes as follows:

The Beatles were a very important and influential band. However, the fawning mythology that permeates their legacy has misled many fans about the quality of their music. They were good but well short of great. And if you weren't alive to witness their reign in the '60s, then you can't genuinely claim that they're your favorite band. To do so requires an intimate knowledge of their significance. And to possess that, you must have been around to absorb Beatlemania firsthand. So stick to Radiohead, young ones.

Now Shirley's argument isn't devoid of valid points or completely thoughtless. Nevertheless, it's bunk: It's sloppy, contradictory, and, worst of all, far from reasonable. Shirley is way too quick to deride the opinions of others as not only off-base but borderline dishonest; he frames certain issues as subjective matters but then recasts them as objective at his convenience (these first two criticisms are related); he relies on vague and contrived bits of argumentation; and his overall tone is arrogantly dismissive. In all honesty, it's something of an unpleasant read. Shirley comes off as an immature and petty dude; a curmudgeon's charm he does not emit. He never truly engages with the views he's lambasting or seriously considers why it is that his opinions belong to such an isolated minority. Rather, he's content to produce a bratty rant that often seems most concerned with highlighting its author's towering self-regard.

Let's dig in:

PS: But if you're my age, slightly older, or any younger, you have to pay attention to the whole article. This is what I want you to pay attention to: We were not around for The Beatles. Therefore, we cannot judge their impact on popular music. This impact is the crux of most arguments for their importance.

Me: Consider the bolded words. What they amount to is an arbitrary rule, and a sternly forbidding one, that Shirley is imposing on the matter at hand. They have the effect of shutting down debate before it can even begin. "... we cannot judge their impact on popular music." End of discussion. So all future historians of culture and pop music will not be able to meaningfully or reliably assess what The Beatles wrought simply because they were born too late. Right. To justify his claim, Shirley uses the asinine comparison of how he couldn't pretend to understand his parents in full because he wasn't around to witness their younger years. His parents have likely changed by a significant measure since their youth. But The Beatles' music has been preserved for posterity. We can listen to "Love Me Do" in much the same form that early Beatles fans heard it and use a wealth of music journalism, cultural history, and the like to make sound judgments about the song's "impact on popular music" (whatever that really means; it's rather ill-defined). Later, he even mentions that his mother was a Beatlemaniac and, at various times, spoke of how consequential the band was ("It was like nothing we'd ever seen"). There you go: a firsthand account that a non-participant of the '60s could incorporate into an educated analysis of the ramifications of The Beatles' art.

PS: If not for the mythology of The Beatles -- their explosive rise, their good looks, their hair, their Britishness, their experimentation with the East, their early breakup, the death of their misunderstood semi-genius -- they would not be held in such high musical esteem.

Me: To a certain extent, I agree that the mythology of The Beatles is excessive. But it exists for a reason. And no other pop group shares a comparable lore for a reason (many reasons, that is). Breaking the above passage into smaller pieces, it suggests that The Beatles "would not be held in such high musical esteem" if, in part, they hadn't experienced such an "explosive rise." Obviously. And how did that "explosive rise" come about? Couldn't their mammoth talent have played a role? Also, is Shirley really proposing that the death of John Lennon (which happened about 10 years after The Beatles broke up) contributed to a general overvaluing of the band's music? Wasn't Beatle adulation just a bit entrenched by then? John's death certainly added a tragic element to his legend. But I'm not sure how The Beatles' music factors in. Lastly, what's a "semi-genius?"

PS: As long as a person is not raised in a bubble, he is taught by society that The Beatles are, in essence, above reproach.

Me: It's problematic for Shirley to state this without ever attempting to comprehend how so many people could be so lacking in the critical facilities that, it would seem, he possesses and continually employs to resist long-prevailing Beatlephilia. Evidently, he's fine with dismissing most people as passive, gullible, or just wrong. What a conspiracy of poor taste he must battle.

PS: I don't mean my flippancy toward The Beatles to imply that I think that no music made before I was born is good. Or that I don't like anything that came out prior to 1990. I routinely listen to The Rolling Stones and to Creedence Clearwater Revival. But any affection I hold for bands that were in their prime before I was around is a wary affection. I feel almost as if I would be stealing if I went around claiming that CCR is my favorite band. Plenty of good musicians have matured in my lifetime; there's no reason to take CCR from my uncle.

....

To me, The Beatles were -- and remain -- a band that created catchy tunes that were heard in ubiquitous fashion throughout my life. But they will always be a band with which I cannot connect.

Me: In essence, he's using his own rigid guidelines about gauging one's true appreciation of a band to deny others the honesty and genuineness of their opinions. Because The Beatles "will always be a band with which I (Paul) cannot connect," then everyone else who wasn't alive for their run of greatness must suffer a similar fate. Later, Shirley even writes, "But unless you were locked in a time capsule like Brendan Fraser in "Blast From the Past," they cannot be your favorite band." How is this to be taken seriously?

PS: And I can understand why The Beatles have a special place in my mother's heart. I cannot, however, understand why anyone my age would donate the same important section of his musical soul. There's almost no way that someone from my generation can listen to the primitive hackings of "Eleanor Rigby" finish, and then listen to "November Rain" and say, "Yeah, 'Eleanor Rigby' is the better piece of music." That person can say, "I respect this 'Eleanor Rigby' song" or "I understand this song's importance in the flow chart of music" or "This is a timeless melody." But to say that "Eleanor Rigby" is "better" seems disingenuous. It reminds me of a fourth-grader who tells his music teacher that his favorite song is something by Beethoven.

Me: Here he's dueling with a straw man. And it's one that is very limited in scope and, therefore, even more empty. Who suggested that every Beatles song is better than every other song in pop music history? And if that's not the claim he's arguing against, why bring up the exceedingly arbitrary talk of how "Eleanor Rigby" pales in comparison to "November Rain?" Proving that the GNR classic is superior to the Beatles classic proves little else. Earlier, Shirley wrote, "Opinion is, of course, a matter of perception." Well it certainly doesn't appear that way when he decries a particular opinion with which he disagrees (i.e. that "Eleanor Rigby" is better than "November Rain") as "disingenuous." It's so far from a good-faith argument. And, by the way, I greatly enjoy both songs. But I don't think it's terribly amiss to find "November Rain" somewhat overcooked and melodramatic. It's grand and affecting, yes, but it can't contend with the exquisite subtlety of Paul's character sketches in "Eleanor Rigby."

PS: I understand that The Beatles are culturally significant and important in the historical progression of rock music.

Me: Is that so? How is it that Shirley can state, "We were not around for The Beatles. Therefore, we cannot judge their impact on popular music" while asserting the above? It seems he's making some sort of judgment about their "impact." If not, what's the distinction?

PS: But unless you were locked in a time capsule like Brendan Fraser in "Blast From the Past," they cannot be your favorite band. If you're younger than 50 and you do make such a claim, you're either (A) trying to impress someone with what you think will be received as good taste, or (B) woefully behind in your consumption of music. If it's A, I'm disappointed in you. If it's B, there's hope -- we only have to help you find the good stuff.

Me: Again, the arrogance is appalling. And such statements are so intellectually dishonest. He's instituting rules of taste by which all must abide. If you don't, you're either "disingenuous" or too sheltered.

PS: I'd much rather listen to Oasis than The Beatles. Oasis, or any band that came after The Beatles, learned from The Beatles, improving on their work by listening to, building on and perfecting the styles pioneered by The Beatles. The result: The arrangements used by Oasis are more complex, the sound is denser, the production is better. Claims that Oasis is nothing more than a Beatles tribute band do little to disprove my theory. There is no question that Oasis was influenced by The Beatles -- most rock bands are. That influence was likely heavier with Oasis, but even Oasis -- brash as the band is -- understands the power of what came before. After all, Oasis named an album "Standing On the Shoulders of Giants."

All of these improvements can be chalked up to chronological order. Just as Dean Koontz came after Bram Stoker, Oasis came after The Beatles. Each had the advantage of superior technology, in addition to the natural advantage of the chance to learn from their forebears. The chance to, well, stand on someone's shoulders.


Me: This is a bizarre series of thoughts. So progress marches ahead unobstructed. The music from every decade is unequivocally, undeniably, and inescapably an improvement on the previous decade's. How dense and blinkered must you be to not recognize the full implications of this line of thinking? It's utopian nonsense. What he's really saying is that contemporary art is superior to what came before simply because it's more accessible to his tastes.

And the kicker from Mr. Shirley: I'd like people to make up their own minds.

Me: He's actually saying the exact opposite when it comes to many people's love of the Beatles. He won't tolerate those younger folk who dare to call the Fabs their favorite band. He won't allow them any integrity or honesty of opinion. Thus, he's not letting them make up their own minds. He's deciding for them.

What a profoundly stupid and insulting heap of bullshit.

Friday YouTube

The Last Shadow Puppets' cover of "I Want You (She's So Heavy)"


(If the embedding is disabled, go here).

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Great non-Beatles song...

... with a random Beatles reference. This is courtesy of that smashing Swede Jens Lekman, whose "silly love songs" have likely made a fan of Paul.

The line: "My heart is beating/Beating like Ringo."
The song: "Friday Night at the Drive-In Bingo"

It's three minutes and twenty-four seconds of jaunty joy to luxuriate in:


(If the video is removed, go here.)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Remasters sales across the globe

As reported by the Guardian.

Excerpt:
Figures from record company EMI show UK sales of the digitally remastered albums have exceeded 354,000 in 11 days of release. The Fab Four's total UK album sales this decade now stand at 6,755,000.

. . . .

The new wave of Beatlemania also hit Japan; all 14 titles and box sets debuted in the top 25 of the international chart there. More than 840,000 Beatles albums were sold in Japan in the first three days of release.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Beatles vs. Jesus Christ

The bitter and destructive conflict between the two camps continues to this day: "Proof the Beatles are bigger than Jesus!"

:)

Excerpt:
It's taken more than four decades for his words to be vindicated. But for a brief moment this month, John Lennon could rest assured that the Beatles were indeed bigger than Jesus. At least that's what's been suggested by the graph above, which compares Google's search traffic for the terms "jesus" and "beatles" over the last 30 days.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Del Shannon's "From Me to You"

The American rock 'n' roller's 1963 cover of The Beatles' classic is below. It's a straightforward take on the song.


(If the embedding is disabled, click on the link above).

Saturday, September 19, 2009

More on "From Me to You"

Here's a very technical breakdown of the song from recmusicbeatles.com.

Excerpt:
Maybe it's just unmistakably Early Beatles, and with that, I'm only being whimsical in part. FMTY was their third single, recorded during the charmed period between the recording and the release of the "Please Please Me" album. Those tight vocal harmonies with their flashes of passionate falsetto, the drum fills, the harmonica hook phrase, the personal pronouns, and so many other details were becoming both Trend setting and a bit formulaic by that point, and who could really blame them, given the roll they were so obviously on?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Friday YouTube

Travis' cover of "Lovely Rita"


(If the video is removed, go here.)

"Rock Band" sales

"Viacom CEO: Beatles Rock Band Sold Out 25 Percent of Inventory in First Week"

Excerpt:
On the business side, looking ahead to the holiday season, Dauman said, "We think it has legs."

"There's a lot of built-in promotion with the Beatles in addition to the marketing we're putting behind it," Dauman continued, referring to the remastered CDs of the band's back catalog. He also claimed that the limited-edition premium bundle of the game—featuring a Beatles-branded drum kit and mini H√∂fner bass—is selling out.

"From Me to You"

There is a looseness about "From Me to You" that neither of The Beatles' first two singles shares. As likable as it is, "Love Me Do" goes through its motions too ploddingly and can't shake that earthbound feel. "Please Please Me" is an energetic thriller, and yet its tight construction doesn't let the song stretch out and breath. "From Me to You," by contrast, is spry and spacious; it's full of bounce and swing; and it witnesses The Beatles operating with a higher level of comfort and confidence. Success will bring that. The breezy joy they were undoubtedly experiencing reveals itself throughout the song. It's in the high notes that John reaches for on the harmony; it's in the playful jangle of the guitars; and it's in the funky, almost Caribbean-kissed rhythm. Apparently, "From Me to You" was a bit bluesy in its original form. George Martin didn't approve and suggested something snappier, starting with the opening "da-da-da" section. It's the pace and punch of this vocal lick, matched with a signature Beatles harmonica part, that kick-starts the song in such glowing fashion. The rest of it, especially John and Paul's giddy interplay on the harmony, converts the warm vibe into strutting, cocksure glee. Little surprise it was the boys' first across-the-board chart-topper in the U.K.



(If the video is removed, go here.)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Remasters sales, cont'd

Pop & Hiss delves into the numbers.

Excerpt:
On Billboard’s Top Comprehensive Albums list, which combines current and catalog releases, the Fab Four placed five albums inside the Top 10, with “Abbey Road's” sales of 89,000 copies the highest, putting the 1969 album at No. 3 behind “The Blueprint 3” and Miley Cyrus’ “The Time of Our Lives,” which sold 120,000 units last week.

The Beatles’ other Top 10 Comprehensive list entries are “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” (74,000, No. 5), “The Beatles” (a.k.a. the White Album, 60,000, No. 7), “Rubber Soul” (58,000, No. 8) and “Revolver” (46,000, No. 10). Meanwhile, because the box sets constitute new titles, "The Beatles in Stereo" appears on the Billboard Top 200 chart at No. 15, while "The Beatles in Mono" lands at No. 40.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Rewriting "All You Need is Love"

Last week, Michael Deacon of the Telegraph put together a blog post entitled "10 awful things about the Beatles." It was obviously intended as a counterpoint to the recent deluge of celebratory Beatles coverage; pieces of its kind were almost inevitable. Deacon writes, "... this week we find ourselves wading through an oil slick of Fabs hagiography, so let's remember the things they did that were less than perfect, and indeed, in some cases, knuckle-chewingly bad." He goes on to cite The Beatles' films, their allegedly spotty late-period work, their absence from iTunes, and more as evidence of their fallibility. To which I would respond: Of course The Beatles' career wasn't without flaws and missteps. No fan I'm acquainted with would assert otherwise. What rankles about the list is that it poses as iconoclastic when, at different points, it's really just petty, obvious, and overstated.

However, Deacon opens by bringing up some of The Beatles' lesser lyrics, and I can't say I disagree with his inclusion of this line: "There's nothing you can do that can't be done." It's, of course, from "All You Need is Love," a terrific song that contains a handful of lines which don't make sense when interpreted literally. Or, at least, their literal definitions don't comport with what John had in mind. Consider the example mentioned above: "There's nothing you can do that can't be done." John's encouraging tone and the overall sunny spirit of the song help the listener to understand these words as meaning: "There's nothing you can't do" (if you're armed with love, everything comes easily!). But what do they mean when received literally? "Everything you can do is doable." There's considerably less uplift in that. On one level, it's tautological gibberish; on another, it almost conveys a note of disparagement: "Nothing you can do is beyond the realm of mere possibility. All your deeds and acts are very ordinary, the stuff of quotidian banality" (that little flourish was probably excessive). Same with "Nothing you can sing that can't be sung," "Nothing you can make that can't be made," and "No one you can save that can't be saved." From this perspective, punctuating such lines with "All you need is love" suddenly seems less fitting.

A slight reworking of the lyric could have cleaned up the song without diminishing its emotive power or disrupting the flow of John's vocal. How about this instead?

There's nothing for you to do that can't be done.
Nothing for you to sing that can't be sung.
Nothing for you to say but you can learn how to play the game.


Just replace "you can" with "for you to." Thoughts?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Pitchfork on The Beatles

Last week, I failed to recommend Pitchfork's coverage of The Beatles' reissues, which includes reviews of each remastered album, the mono box set (scroll down to the bottom of this link for the individual album reviews), and The Beatles: Rock Band. Thorough. Lots to read.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A cynical take on the remasters

Writing at The Huffington Post, Tamara Conniff derides the release of the remastered Beatles albums as a money-grab enterprise. Central to her argument is the issue of sound recording copyrights.

Excerpt:
In 2012, the Beatles first recorded single, "Love Me Do," will enter the public domain. Originally released in 1962, under the UK copyright law a sound recording no longer belongs to the artist who recorded it after 50 years. Some big name artists and record company advocacy groups lobbied to get an extension to mirror the United States 95-year term. In April of this year, the European Union approved an extension from 50 to 70 years, however, the U.K. and member states have balked at it and the proposal has gotten lost in the political shuffle.

So of course the Beatles, and more specifically their label group EMI, want to exploit the recordings as much as they can before it becomes public property and can be used free of charge.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Remasters sales

To no surprise, the early figures are strong.

Excerpt:
On Wednesday and Thursday at least 235,000 Beatles albums were sold in the United States, including individual titles as well as the stereo and mono boxed sets, all released by EMI and Apple Corps. “Abbey Road” was the top title, with sales of 32,000in its first two days; “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” was next with 27,000.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Jobs: Beatles to iTunes...

... next year?

Excerpt:
At CES a couple of years ago, John Lennon's widow Yoko Ono told me that the Beatles would be available online someday. Today I got to ask Apple CEO Steve Jobs about that.

"We'd love to have the Beatles on iTunes," he said. "I think it will happen next year." When I asked if he really believed that, Jobs said, "I'm an optimist."

"The Beatles and EMI have some differences to work out. Once (they do), iTunes is the first place they'd want to be and we'd welcome them with open arms."

Friday YouTube

"Mrs. Vandebilt" - easily my favorite song off of Band on the Run.


(If the video is removed, go here.)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

"Help! I'm a Beatles hater"

In this article for BBC News, Stephen Robb counters the prevailing mood of frenzied Fab Four adulation and ventures into the lonely world of anti-Beatles dissent.

Excerpt:
The Beatles seem to occupy a uniquely unassailable position in popular culture - everybody loves them. Don't they?

Not Robert Elms. The author and broadcaster is one of a tiny minority who seem willing to stick their heads above the parapet and rubbish this most sacred of British institutions.

"They did a few things that lots of people liked," says Elms. "Everybody can like them, from grandma singing along to When I'm Sixty-Four to the little girl singing Yellow Submarine."

But he adds: "I just think they are either childlike and simple or rather leaden and pompous - one or the other all the time."

Thoughts on "My Sweet Lord"

I had George's All Things Must Pass regularly playing in the car a couple weeks back, and it delivered as usual. I realize I'm hardly breaking new ground when I say it's his finest work. That seems obvious enough as the album boasts a very accomplished level of songwriting. And the kind of songs George was composing at the time - loose, warm, and free-spirited folk-rock -, combined with the album's prolific 6-side length, makes for a most inviting feel: George is beckoning us to commune with him and share in this bounteous wealth of music. We, of course, happily comply. Is All Things Must Pass too long? Yes. But that shagginess is part of its rich charm.

Another uncontroversial statement: "My Sweet Lord," George's beaming pop hymn to the Hindu god Krishna, is the album's high point. Like many others, I've felt this way since the first time that I listened to All Things Must Pass. It's the clear standout. Only in the last few weeks, though, have I come to truly understand (or so I think, anyway) the song's appeal beyond its lush and hypnotic sonics. For the longest time, the essence of the lyric eluded me. What didn't register was the exact tone of his words. And that is, George is avowing not mere spiritual devotion to Krishna but a deep tenderness for him: "I really want to see you/Really want to be with you." It almost amounts to a lover's affection (minus the sexual dimension, I should add). George desires to embrace, and be embraced by, his "sweet lord." He wants to feel the sense of completeness or fulfillment that close companionship can bring and that spiritual pursuits often have as their aim. He wants to meet his dear friend, and what seems to be driving him is an earnest, child-like love. This sentiment, delivered so sincerely, gives the song its beating heart.

Maybe a childhood filled with Christian church-going helps to explain why I find this so noteworthy. In my youth, I came across many hymns (which is, in part, what I'm approaching "My Sweet Lord" as), and they usually entailed confessions of faith or expressions of praise to God. Love, of course, is an essential element of this, but it's a love more rooted in reverence and thanks. From my experience, affection of the kind that George gives voice to on "My Sweet Lord" doesn't play much of a role in these hymns. Hence its striking quality for me.

Now maybe I'm mischaracterizing Christian hymns, or maybe I'm not familiar with a sufficiently wide range of them to comment like this. Maybe my comparison of a Krishna-celebrating pop hit from the '70s and Christian songs of worship is just too inexact to yield useful insights. I'm not sure. Either way, I'll stand by my central point: the yearning affection that George imparts on "My Sweet Lord" makes something divinely touching out of a mere pop song. And its power is only enhanced by how simple and plainly stated it is.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Are The Beatles still "cool"?

"Cool" is a vague word. What Neil McCormick of the Telegraph basically explores in this piece is how The Beatles' art has overcome the passage of time to remain compelling and vital.

Excerpt:
The Beatles universal appeal was not just about being the right band in the right time and the right place, it was a direct response to the most extraordinary musical journey in pop history. In just seven years, the Beatles went from a rock and roll dance band to psychedelic visionaries to mature singer-songwriters, from musical adolescents to adult artists. And it is a journey listeners can still take with them. Indeed, it is the very thing that makes The Beatles adaptable to the world of computers: this is not just a musical game, it is a mystical quest.

Kids might start in the playground with ’Yellow Submarine’ but they can suffer adolescent existential crises singing ’Help!’, fall in love to ’Here, There And Everywhere’, rage against society on ’Revolution’ and contemplate the utter strangeness of the universe to the tune of ’I Am The Walrus’. There is a whole education in The Beatles.

Beatles not on iTunes

Rolling Stone details the happenings at Apple's "It's Only Rock n Roll" media event in San Francisco.

Excerpt:
The coolest addition to the music service, however, is iTunes LP, or the long-rumored “Cocktail” project that Rolling Stone previously noted. The plan is to reproduce the forgotten thrill of rummaging around the artwork and liner notes of an LP, except on your computer screen. iTunes LP albums will boast artist photos, lyrics, liner notes, full artwork, videos and much more, essentially reinventing the album art. The Grateful Dead’s American Beauty, the Doors’ self-titled and Dave Matthews Band’s Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King were among those albums whose iTunes LP features were shown during the demo. Other new iTunes features include the ability to manage Apps on your iPhone, share your iTunes contents and Apps with up to five computers in your home and a better ability to Sync your media players.

And:
As for the rumored announcement that the Beatles were coming to iTunes — despite the conspicuous scheduling of the Apple conference on the same 9.9.09 release date of the Beatles’ remasters and Rock Band — there was no mention of the Fab Four’s catalog would be available on iTunes, meaning fans will still have to pick up the new remasters the old fashioned way: At 7/11s and Restoration Hardware stores.

Oh I forgot...

... it's Beatles Day. Not sure if this was adequately publicized....

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Onion on the remasters

Writing for The Onion, the great Chuck Klosterman dissects the remasters in an alternately hilarious and somewhat annoying piece. Either way, it's refreshing to see that sacred cows don't always need to be treated as such.

My favorite line:
A concept album about finding a halfway decent song for Ringo, Sgt. Pepper has a few satisfactory moments (“Lovely Rita” totally nails the experience of almost having sex with a city employee), but this is only B+ work.

Runner-up:
Now hitting on all 16 cylinders, the Beatles bolted back to the woodshed for The Beatles, a blandly designed masterwork that could inspire any reasonable citizen of California to launch a race war.

"Rolling Stone" reviews...

... the remasters and The Beatles: Rock Band.

Excerpt from the former:
An enormous effort was made to stay true to the original mixes, so there aren't going to be any easy revelations for Beatles fans. Instead, these albums sound deeper, richer and fleshed-out. The buoyancy of "Something" becomes more comprehensible when you hear clearly Paul McCartney's nimble bass line. You knew that "Twist and Shout" featured one of John Lennon's most visceral performances, but here you can feel his vocal cords shred. The horns on "Good Morning Good Morning" roar, driving the song in a way you may not have noticed before. Lennon and George Harrison's guitars on "You Can't Do That" sharpen to a gleaming edge.

And the latter:
But thanks to richly detailed and artful graphics — highlighted by the psychedelic images that pop up once the Beatles quit playing concerts — it is the most refined music video game ever. From the Beatles’ facial expressions to the signs at Shea Stadium, there’s enough verisimilitude that it’s forgivable when no animated Eric Clapton turns up for “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” or when cartoon Ringo is shown playing drums on “Back in the U.S.S.R.” (it was really Paul).

Monday, September 7, 2009

Gamer reviews of "Rock Band"...

... over at Metacritic. High marks thus far. The website also has a "Launch Center" page for the game.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Sunday YouTube: "I Me Mine" ...

... as covered by the proud Beatlephile, Elliott Smith:


(If the video is removed, go here.)

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Reviews of the remasters

Alexis Petridis of The Guardian explains how the mono mixes of The Beatles' early albums will vividly remind us that the Greatest Band Ever was making classics well before Rubber Soul.

And over at his Chicago Tribune music blog, Turn It Up, Greg Kot acknowledges the improvements offered by the remasters, but questions the utility of spending a lot of money on a dying music format.

Friday, September 4, 2009

EW's cover

Here's the cover for the current issue of Entertainment Weekly. It's a striking shot: haunting and playful, touching and packed with meaning. There are the two creative giants behind The Beatles, two artists whose divergent styles and tastes could sync up to produce pop magic or go to war and spell disarray. Their bodies are in contact; yet on a separate level, the two seem distant from one another. The pose they adopted conveys some sort of affection, yet the discontent on their faces doesn't appear contrived. It really is a loaded image. But it's also clearly incomplete. How can EW devote the bulk of an issue to The Beatles but only put two of them on the cover? It doesn't add up and isn't very tactful.

Also, what song did EW judge to be The Beatles' finest? "A Hard Day's Night." Great tune; weak selection. Lastly, here are 15 rare photos of The Beatles, also courtesy of EW.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Ann Powers on "Do You Want to Know a Secret"

Earlier today at Pop & Hiss, Ann Powers wrote about her favorite song off of Please Please Me. It's the first entry in an ongoing series that will list and detail the one track she enjoys most from each of The Beatles' 13 canon albums (i.e., the albums that will soon be released in digitally remastered form). For The Beatles' firecracker of a debut, she went with "Do You Want to Know a Secret," a modest song she generously describes as "the perfect entryway into the Beatles."

Now it would be unfair to fault Powers at all for designating "Secret" her favorite. I'm almost certain it's an entirely separate matter what she considers the best track off of Please Please Me. While whimsical and charming, "Secret" probably still occupies the lower part of the album's second tier. Powers, though, finds value where others might not, and writes, "Do You Want to Know a Secret" is about beginnings, and it is a beginning; thus the perfect place to start."

I honestly question how much conviction is in this claim. In other words, how serious is Powers about elevating "Secret" to the status of "the perfect entryway into the Beatles?" If she had to play one song for someone who had never before heard the Fabs but wanted the "perfect" introduction to their body of work, would she hold to these words? Let's further stipulate that the selection would have to come from Please Please Me. This would likely make the hypothetical more in line with the spirit of her post (i.e. that "Secret" is "the perfect entryway into the Beatles" off that album). With those 14 songs at her disposal, would she actually play "Secret" instead of the title track or "I Saw Her Standing There" or "Twist and Shout?" "Secret" is just such a non-starter, and it isn't terribly representative of The Beatles' early style and quality. Where's the youthful vigor and excitement?

I'm not trying to engage flippantly in a game of "gotcha." It's just that Powers' "perfect entryway" remark strikes me as a clear-cut overstatement and not at all consistent with her usually perceptive commentary on pop music. Having said that, I'm very much looking forward to the rest of her selections.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Two "Rock Band" reviews

One is from the New York Times, and the other is courtesy of Salon. Both offer more than favorable takes; but in contrast to Alex Koppelman's measured praise in the Salon piece, Seth Schiesel of the Times positively wets himself with swooning admiration for the game.

He glowingly writes:
The Beatles: Rock Band is nothing less than a cultural watershed, one that may prove only slightly less influential than the band’s famous appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in 1964. By reinterpreting an essential symbol of one generation in the medium and technology of another, The Beatles: Rock Band provides a transformative entertainment experience.

In that sense it may be the most important video game yet made.

And he passionately concludes:
But music is eternal. Each new tool for creating it, and each new technology for experiencing it, only brings the joy of more music to more people. This new game is a fabulous entertainment that will not only introduce the Beatles’ music to a new audience but also will simultaneously bring millions of their less-hidebound parents into gaming. For that its makers are entitled to a deep simultaneous bow, Beatles style.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

"Beatles reissues sold out at Amazon"

Entertainment Weekly reports.

Excerpt:
For true Beatles obsessives, the Sept. 9 release of all the band’s albums as a lovingly remastered box set is a huge deal. Sure, it’s expensive, but this is arguably music’s greatest catalog, finally brought properly into the CD era, sounding better than ever, with awesome-looking packaging to boot. So I happily went to Amazon.com last week to file my pre-order — only to learn that I was already too late. “We have sold out of our initial allocation of Beatles stereo box sets,” the impassive emporium told me, “but we will be receiving more inventory after release date.” After release date? Are you kidding me, Amazon?! You expect me to spend 9/9/09 sitting around listening to something other than this box set?

More Beatles to iTunes chatter

"It's only rock and roll, but we like it."

These words adorn the invitations that Apple recently sent out for its media event next Wednesday (9/9/09). Such a tagline, of course, is only going to fuel rumors about The Beatles coming to iTunes. An AFP article also notes: "The invitation sparked speculation on technology blogs that Apple planned to release a new line of iPod music players." But why would Apple single out "rock and roll?" Was it just to have a music-oriented tagline that's also coy and snappy? At the same time, using a Rolling Stones lyric as part of the buildup to a major Beatles-related announcement would perhaps make for a strategy marked by too much misdirection and subterfuge. Or is it perfectly played? More here.