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.