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.