Friday, December 31, 2010

Friday haiku - "I've Just Seen a Face"

A brisk country tune
that almost sounds like bluegrass,
"Face" finds Paul smitten.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Unlike the Abbey Road crossing...

... the house where Ringo was born was denied a preservation order. As of now, it's still set to be demolished at some point in 2011.

A spokesperson for English Heritage said: "The decision not to recommend 9 Madryn Street, Ringo Starr's former home, was taken because the house has no associations with the success of The Beatles as a group, was only lived in by Ringo Starr for four years after his birth and is not architecturally or historically significant enough to match listing criteria."

To no surprise, this decision is not sitting well with many Beatles fans.

Beatles tourism guide Philip Coppell, Chairman for the Save Madryn Street campaign, said: "English Heritage have shown their intellectual ignorance with this decision.

"Years ago we had to fight before they would agree to put a blue plaque on John Lennon's home in Menlove Avenue. Here again they have shown that they do not understand the reality of what is important to the ordinary people of Liverpool and to Beatles fans all over the world.

"We are not at all daunted by this and we will continue our fight to preserve Madryn Street for posterity.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wednesday haiku - "Tell Me What You See"

The highlight of "Tell":
Paul's electric piano,
which adds bright color.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Yoko speaks on a wide range of topics

"'I didn't break up the Beatles. My small hand could not have broken these men up': The world according to Yoko Ono"

John and I separated for a year in 1973 (he began an affair with his PA, May Pang), but Paul brought us back together. He spoke to me, he spoke to John, he got John to come back and understand the door was open. It was a very big thing Paul did for us. Paul has a very sweet side and he and I have made our peace. We are both business partners in Apple, and we speak and things are good between us. We know each other very well, and while we’ve had differences in the past, there was never a rift as people think. It was never so black and white.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Monday haiku - "You Like Me Too Much"

George did his girl wrong,
but he knows she won't leave him:
she likes him "too much".

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Great non-Beatles song...

... with a random Beatles reference. Many critics are hailing Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy as the album of the year. And I would agree: it's beautiful, dark, and twisted (not to mention ambitious) pop music that perhaps only Kanye could fashion. The album's second track, "Gorgeous," is the one that contains the Beatles reference. It arrives in the form of these lyrics:

They rewrite history/ I don't believe in yesterday/
And what's a black beetle anyway/ A fucking roach.

Obvious enough, right?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Though it's loathed by many...

,,, I still feel compelled to post Paul's "Wonderful Christmastime." 'Tis the season, after all.

(If the video is removed, go here.)

Happy Christmas II

The first part of this video shows U2 playing a cover of John's Yuletide classic.

(If the video is removed, go here.)

Happy Christmas

"Happy Christmas (War Is Over)"

(If the video is removed, go here.)

Merry Christmas

"Christmas Time (Is Here Again)"

(If the video is removed, go here.)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Friday haiku - "It's Only Love"

One of John's habits
was to judge his songs harshly,
e.g., he loathed "Love."

Thursday, December 23, 2010

"the icing on the cake" (of a great year)

Such was Paul's reaction to the news that the iconic Abbey Road crosswalk has been named a "protected site" by the UK government.

More here.

The street crossing in the St. John’s Wood neighborhood is the first of its kind ever to be listed as protected, John Penrose, the U.K.’s minister for tourism and heritage, said in a statement today.

Thousands of tourists every year flock to the Abbey Road street crossing and adjacent Abbey Road studios, where the Beatles recorded most of their songs. The studio buildings were listed as protected by the English Heritage office in February, days after reports that owner EMI Group Plc was trying to sell the site to cut debt.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wednesday haiku - "Act Naturally"

A twangy cover,
"Act" lets Ringo have some fun
at his own expense.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tuesday haiku - "Ticket to Ride"

With its thick rhythm
and unique, sped-up outro,
"Ticket" broke new ground.

Paul in London and Liverpool

Closing out his busy touring schedule for 2010, Paul played at London's HMV Hammersmith Apollo on Saturday and at Liverpool's O2 Academy last night. Click on the links for reviews.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Worth a read

"John Lennon vs. Bono: The death of the celebrity activist"

Is there a celebrity activist today who matches Lennon's impact and appeal? The closest counterpart to Lennon now is U2's Bono, another transcendent musical talent championing another cause: the battle against global poverty. But there is a fundamental difference between Lennon's activism and Bono's, and it underscores the sad evolution of celebrity activism in recent years.

Lennon was a rebel. Bono is not.

Lennon's protests against the war in Vietnam so threatened the U.S. government that he was hounded by the FBI, police and immigration authorities. He was a moral crusader who challenged leaders whom he thought were doing wrong. Bono, by contrast, has become a sort of celebrity policy expert, supporting specific technical solutions to global poverty. He does not challenge power but rather embraces it; he is more likely to appear in photo ops with international political leaders - or to travel through Africa with a Treasury secretary - than he is to call them out in a meaningful way.

Monday haiku - "You're Going to Lose That Girl"

Though it feels jaunty,
"Lose" is packed with taunts from John:
he might steal "that girl".

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sunday haiku - "Another Girl"

When Paul makes the claim,
"I don't take what I don't want",
he's channeling John.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Another take on Paul's 100 Club gig

This review, from The Telegraph's Neil McCormick, is more detailed than the one I posted yesterday.

"Do you wanna save the 100 Club?" he asked the small, ecstatic crowd, but seemed vague on how that might be achieved. "Speak to Mr Hundred," he suggested.

Macca has retained an affection for small venues, periodically popping up in clubs and student halls, reminiscing about his days in Hamburg and the Cavern. His fame has made him a stadium superstar but tight spaces serve him just as well. Stripped of all the lights, video screens and pyrotechnics, he revels in his role as the leader of a hot, rocking band of virtuoso musicians with the greatest song catalogue in pop history to draw on.

More on "Run for Your Life"

Returning to the several weeks-old topic of “Run for Your Life:”

It’s interesting to consider “Run,” with its baldly misogynistic posture, in the broader context of Rubber Soul. The presence of songs like "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" and "Girl," both of which give depictions of presumably attractive, intelligent, or otherwise compelling women whom John has fallen for, muddies the impression of him as a thoroughgoing chauvinist. On both songs, John essentially admits he couldn't compete with the powerful charms of these females, and he comes away from the experiences frustrated, chastened, defeated. In these instances anyway, it’s clear he doesn’t see himself as inherently superior to members of the opposite sex; how could he? On "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)," he finds himself in such an exasperated state – read: outmatched – that, according to some interpretations of the song, he burns down his counterpart’s house. On "Girl," he’s smitten with a woman who routinely mistreats him and makes a fool of him. The problem is he just can’t help himself; she’s rendered him impotent.

With all of this in mind, perhaps we can loosely read "Run for Your Life" as an outgrowth of John’s frustration. He’s been bested several times and feels he must reassert control; he does so by unleashing hateful anger on a lover he disparagingly calls “little girl.” Thus, he closes the album with an ugly kind of equilibrium achieved.


Saturday haiku - "I Need You"

For his guitar part,
George used a volume pedal,
which gives "Need" texture.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Weekend reading

Gibson: "The Great Album The Beatles Nearly Made"

For many Beatles fans, 1967’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band represents the pinnacle of the Fab Four’s achievements. Densely textured, sublimely arranged and packed with some of Lennon and McCartney’s best songs, the disc remains a touchstone for every pop band that puts a premium on melody and craftsmanship. Incredibly, however, as writer Philip Norman and even Sir George Martin have pointed out, The Beatles’ psychedelic masterpiece might have been even better, had some grievous missteps not occurred.

The Boss, "When I'm Sixty-Four," etc.

I'm a big fan of Bruce Springsteen, but it wasn't until recently that I became well-acquainted with his 1980 double album, The River. In my view, it's among his best. One of my favorite tracks is "Hungry Heart,” which I call attention to because, the first time I heard it, I immediately thought of "When I'm Sixty-Four." It's all in the vocal. When the Boss enters on "Hungry Heart," it doesn't sound quite right. That’s because his voice was sped up for the recording, which resulted in a higher pitch and an overall younger-sounding vocal. The parallels to "When I'm Sixty-Forty" are obvious: Paul had the same modification done to his voice, with the same result.

The song's connection to The Beatles doesn't end there. Wikipedia: "On the day of his murder in December 1980, John Lennon said he thought 'Hungry Heart' was 'a great record' and even compared it to his single '(Just Like) Starting Over.'"

Give it a listen:

(If the video is removed, go here.)

Paul at the 100 Club

NME reports on the "lunchtime gig" that Paul played earlier today in London.

The show was the smallest the former Beatle had played since he performed at the Cavern Club in his native Liverpool in 1999. The London venue has a capacity of 300 – with The Rolling Stones' Ronnie Wood among the audience members for the show.

Billed on tickets as A Packed Lunch At The 100 Club, McCartney played a 28-song set, kicking off just after 1pm (GMT). He greeted the crowd with a casual "Alright?", joking that his slightly late arrival was due to the traffic.

After he said that he thought the 100 Club, which is under threat of closure, needed to be saved, a shout of, "Why don't you buy it?" came from the crowd. "You buy it, I'll rent it!" the Liverpool legend quipped back.

With a plea for "No heckling, now!", he and his band launched into 'Matchbox', a Carl Perkins song that the Fab Four used to cover back in 1961.

News dump #2

More on John:
- "Behind Cosell’s Announcement of Lennon’s Death"

- "Sharing the Dakota With John Lennon"

- "CIA link to John Lennon death possible says new documentary"

- "Sean Lennon on John Lennon: 'My dad was one of a kind'"

- "Liverpool’s vigil following the death of John Lennon 30 years ago (GALLERY)"

- "Yoko Ono reveals feeling of guilt over John Lennons death"

- "Yoko Ono Recreates John Lennon's 'War Is Over' Poster in 100 Languages"

- "John Lennon suit to fetch $120,000 at auction"

- "'God' ft. Jeff Tweedy (John Lennon Cover)"

- "Revealed: How the wife of John Lennon’s killer still stands by him 30 years on...."

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Paul to play "small club gig" this Friday

The "intimate" concert will be at London's famed 100 Club, where Paul has never played. Tickets went on sale this morning and sold out "in mere seconds."

Due to financial losses, the 100 Club is under threat of closure; Paul is aiming to help reverse its fortunes.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Paul at the Apollo

A recap.

"The holy grail, dreamed of playing here for years!" he told the crowd after opening with his five-piece band on Magical Mystery Tour and Jet. (One audience member held up a sign reading, "Welcome to the A-Paul-O.")

In the seats: Keith Richards and Ron Wood of the Rolling Stones (who sat next to each other), Jerry Seinfeld, Ben Stiller, Will Ferrell, Martha Stewart, Brian Williams, Kevin Bacon, John McEnroe, David Byrne, Steven Van Zandt, Jann Wenner, Lorne Michaels, members of Duran Duran, and Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough.

Tuesday haiku - "The Night Before"

Paul keeps vague on "Night":
was he spurned by his girlfriend
or a one-night stand?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Howard Cosell, "MNF," and John's death

Read and watch here.

And yet the information that Dec. 8, 1980, night was almost not aired because broadcasters were divided about whether to tell viewers during a football game (as John Smith, the NFL's only Englishman and a Beatles fan, was attempting a field goal for the New England Patriots late in the game). ESPN's "Outside the Lines" has an audio clip of a brief in-game, off-camera conversation among Cosell, Gifford and ABC producers about just what they should do.

Cosell, who was not someone who suffered the opinions of former jocks gladly, differed with Gifford, who argued that Cosell had to broadcast the news. Gifford prevailed, saying: "If we know it, we've gotta do it. This is gonna shake up the whole world."

Paul on "SNL"

Macca was busy on Saturday Night Live, playing five songs - "Jet," "Band on the Run," "A Day in the Life/"Give Peace a Chance," and "Get Back" - in addition to joining the show's host, Paul Rudd, and a few cast members for a number of skits. Kudos on the Camilla Parker-Bowles impersonation, Paul.

Read more here, and watch various videos here.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sunday haiku - "Help!"

Full of urgency,
"Help!" makes clear the strain John felt
from fame and success.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

My favorite song by John, the Solo Artist

The vocal melody of this song is stunning, and John's vulnerability renders him so sympathetic.

"Jealous Guy"

(If the video is removed, go here.)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Paul on Fallon last night; "SNL" tomorrow

- Go here to watch Paul and Jimmy Fallon do a "scrambled" version of "Yesterday" as well as Macca's tribute to John in the form of "Here Today."

- And just a reminder: Paul will be the musical guest on SNL this weekend; Paul Rudd, who played John Lennon in the biopic parody Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, will host.

John's death and the Left

Many on the Left can't turn down the opportunity to preach gun control in the context of John's murder. The arguments are typically made in good faith, but I find them tiresome. Two examples follow.

1) David Corn of Mother Jones: "John Lennon's Murder 30 Years Later: A Remembrance"

It is now 25 years later. John Lennon is still dead. (And so is George Harrison.) The NRA years ago moved to a bigger and better headquarters in suburban Virginia. The gun lobby has had its ups and downs, but it's been mostly ups of late (such as the expiration of the ban on assault weapons). Lennon's death, it turns out, was no catalyst for action. And we have still—after all this time—not learned how to stem the tide of gun violence. Which is one of several reasons why this anniversary of Lennon's death is a sad day.

2) Tony Norman of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "Lennon's legacy lost among gun passions"

It is hard to exaggerate the amount of visceral disgust at guns that John Lennon's murder generated in those days before the NRA had an unbreakable chokehold on the U.S. Congress. It was a sentiment that would resurface the following spring after the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan.

Looking back on Lennon's murder 30 years later, it is interesting to note how the gun angle has nearly completely receded in mainstream remembrances and news coverage.

A CIA job?

Outlandish conspiracy theories often surface in the wake of prominent assassinations. The case of John's murder is no exception. A new book, John Lennon — Life, Times And Assassination, proposes the notion of a CIA hit on John with Mark David Chapman as the stooge.

In a new book, author Phil Strongman claims that Chapman was a stooge. Lennon’s real assassin was the CIA — at the behest of Right-wing fanatics in the American political establishment.

He gets to this controversial conclusion by contesting many of the so-called ‘facts’ about the case — including the basic assumption that Chapman was a Beatles and Lennon fan.

. . .

Chapman, he suggests, had been recruited by the CIA and trained by them during his travels round the world, when he mysteriously pitched up in unlikely places for a boy from Georgia.

How strange, for example, that Chapman should visit Beirut at a time when the Lebanese capital was a hive of CIA activity — and was said to be home to one of the agency’s top-secret assassination training camps. Another camp
was supposedly in Hawaii, where Chapman lived for a number of years.

And who funded the penniless young man’s round-the-world trip in 1975, which took in Japan, the UK, India, Nepal, Korea, Vietnam and China?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Paul to play two X-mas shows

It was recently announced that Paul has added two performances to his schedule for December. The first will be at the HMV Apollo in London on the 18th, and the second at the 02 Academy in Liverpool on the 20th. Both shows sold out in a hurry, breaking box office records.

These concerts will see Paul scale back his massive stadium shows for intimate evenings of rock n’ roll as he performs the best-loved songs in the world.

Fans celebrate John in NYC

From the UK's Guardian:

One such fan is Daniel Garza, 24. The chef had travelled from San Antonio, Texas, just to pay tribute to Lennon.

He said he felt both sad and happy and that Lennon's legacy of music and striving for peace lived on.

"The mourning period is over. Thirty years is plenty of time. Now it is just remembrance. The music will live forever and so will his ideas," said Garza, wearing a Lennon T-shirt.

The mood at Strawberry Fields was a mix of sombreness and happiness.

Many tourists, mingling with mourners and journalists, took photographs. Others stood silently, clasping their hands together or laying flowers and saying brief prayers. One woman knelt on the ground and sang along to Wilson's music. Another man stood quietly holding a sign stating: CIA killed Lennon.

"Rubber Soul" ...

... in haiku form.

1) "Drive My Car"
2) "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)"
3) "You Won't See Me"
4) "Nowhere Man"
5) "Think for Yourself"
6) "The Word"
7) "Michelle"
8) "What Goes On"
9) "Girl"
10) "I'm Looking Through You"
11) "In My Life"
12) "Wait"
13) "If I Needed Someone"
14) "Run for Your Life"

John's final "Rolling Stone" interview ...

... will hit newsstands soon. Previously, only snippets of the interview had gone to print; tomorrow, it will be available in its entirety as part of Rolling Stone's tribute to John.

Here's the quote that has been getting the most play:
In the remarkably candid interview Lennon lashes out at fans and critics who went after him during his five-year break from music. "What they want is dead heroes, like Sid Vicious and James Dean," Lennon says. "I'm not interested in being a dead fucking forget 'em, forget 'em."

Go here for more.

Who was the "real" John Lennon?

It's a perplexing question, as John underwent multiple transformations and had a tendency to renounce past statements and actions. He even turned on most of his musical output with The Beatles. In death, he certainly remains a mystery.

Below are two articles that attempt to undo the work of overawed fans and hagiographers, and arrive at something close to the authentic John Lennon. I particularly recommend the second one.

1) "I remember the real John Lennon, not the one airbrushed by history"

Yet as he lay dying, and his killer hung around waiting for the police to arrest him and thereby anoint him with the celebrity he craved, something new was beginning.

It was the notion of John Lennon the myth, Lennon the martyr, Lennon the super genius, Lennon the real talent behind the Beatles, Lennon the man who saw through everything, Lennon the avant garde artist and Lennon the gentle, peace loving guy who prayed for the world.

Well, I knew John Lennon, and I liked him a lot. He was very kind and generous to me. I was about to fly out to New York and interview him when I got the call in the middle of the night, UK time, to tell me he’d been shot, so I wept many a tear that day.

But for the past three decades the man I’ve been reading about has grown less and less like the John Lennon I knew and, generally, more and more like some character out of Butler’s Lives Of The Saints.

2) "Stop Imagining"

This was not the ’60s revolutionary who hung out with Yippies and Black Panthers. Not only did Lennon dismiss his earlier efforts, he rejected the entire idea of social change through political action. “I have never voted for anybody, anytime, ever,” he said. “Even at my most so-called political. I have never registered and I never will. It’s going to make a lot of people upset, but that’s too bad.”

“I dabbled in so-called politics in the late Sixties and Seventies more out of guilt than anything,” he revealed. “Guilt for being rich, and guilt thinking that perhaps love and peace isn’t enough and you have to go and get shot or something, or get punched in the face, to prove I’m one of the people. I was doing it against my instincts.”

For Lennon, the political gave way to the personal and what he saw as a much more important, difficult battle. “The hardest thing is facing yourself,” he told Rolling Stone. “It’s easier to shout ‘Revolution’ and ‘Power to the people’ than it is to look at yourself and try to find out what’s real inside you and what isn’t, when you’re pulling the wool over your own eyes. That’s the hardest one.”

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

My favorite song ever written by John Lennon

"I'm So Tired"

(If the video is removed, go here.)

In remembrance

All three of these pieces are from today's New York Times.

1) Yoko:
It was nice to be up in the middle of the night, when there was no sound in the house, and sip the tea John would make. One night, however, John said: “I was talking to Aunt Mimi this afternoon and she says you are supposed to put the hot water in first. Then the tea bag. I could swear she taught me to put the tea bag in first, but ...”

“So all this time, we were doing it wrong?”

“Yeah ...”

We both cracked up. That was in 1980. Neither of us knew that it was to be the last year of our life together.

2) Ray Davies of the Kinks:
A few days later, I had to leave for Paris for a tour with my band, the Kinks. When I arrived, I went straight into an early-morning session of interviews. One journalist wanted to play me records and have me review them. After a couple of tracks, he played me the first single from the new John Lennon-Yoko Ono album. I sat and listened, but my attention was drawn to the image of Yoko standing alone in the cold a few days before.

The track finished and the room fell silent. I said that I had heard some of the album on the radio and had not been particularly struck by anything so far, but eventually, as with all of John’s work, something would grab me and stay in my head forever. The journalist took a deep breath and announced that John had died the previous night. Shot while going into his apartment building.

I felt cheated, bitter, foolish — and ambushed by the reporter. It must have happened while I was traveling. I thought back to when I was a 17-year-old student in the recreation room at art college and heard John sing “Twist and Shout” on the record player, and how I was blown away by his directness. How his voice cut through all the nonsense and sent a message to me that said, “If I can do it then so can you, so get up off your backside and play some rock ’n’ roll,” as if to throw down a musical gauntlet.

3) The Editorial Board:
It was a new kind of death — not a political assassination like the ones that claimed the Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King Jr.; not the self-immolation that took down Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Jim Morrison. Lennon survived the ’60s and ’70s, and by 1980 he was living in New York City as normally, as modestly, as he and his wife, Yoko Ono, could. Then a deranged young man, Mark David Chapman, found a secular scripture in J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye” and shot Lennon in hopes of becoming Holden Caulfield.


Nobody reading this blog should need a reminder of what today is. We all know it was on this day in 1980 that John Lennon, then just a 40 year-old New Yorker happily weighed down by the demands of both fatherhood and a newly revived music career, perished at the hands of Mark David Chapman. Right when John was finding his greatest measure of contentment and satisfaction in life, he was robbed of everything. And just like that, The Beatles were irrevocably shattered.

There are many versions of John Lennon for fans to admire and worship; he's something of a Rorschach test. I prefer the one that's de-romanticized, un-deified, and stripped of politics. When I think of John Lennon, I think of a brilliant songwriter - he was the force behind so much incredible music - and a middle-aged husband and father who was determined not to repeat the grave mistakes of his past. The crusader for peace and justice? That Lennon doesn't appeal to me in the same way, as it seems constructed not purely of flesh and blood but rather a lot of fashionable posing and myth-making. (And I'm typically leery of utopianism.) I most respect the Lennon who said to his fans, "I’m not here for you. I’m here for me and her (Yoko) and the baby." To each his own, obviously.

Of course, through his music, John will always be here for us. Through his music, we can always celebrate the complex, contradictory, obscenely gifted, witty, emotionally messy, unfailingly human, and loving individual that John Winston Ono Lennon was.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tuesday haiku - "Run for Your Life"

John came to hate "Run":
it's a vengeful, sexist threat
against a girl's life.

Reflections on Lennon

1) In a penetrating piece, Newsweek analyzes the innovations John brought to the way that celebrities deal with their celebrity.

The hullabaloo is a reminder that Lennon, one of the most innovative musicians of the last century, was also a pioneer of fame—a man who courted, commented on, used, retreated from, and was finally consumed by his own gargantuan renown. In the process, he expanded our notion of what stardom could mean, and of what effect it could have. “Our life is our art,” Lennon and Yoko Ono told Rolling Stone three days before he died—a novel sentiment in the days before reality TV. As the Kardashian industrial complex tightens its grip on our culture, it’s worth reconsidering the lessons of Lennon’s celebrity, both the ones we’ve learned and the ones we’re at risk of forgetting.

. . .

In the midst of the maelstrom, irony became Lennon’s first line of defense. It was also the engine of his allure. From the start, he regarded his own fame with an air of amused detachment, analyzing and mocking the hysterical new mode of stardom he’d come to embody as though he were watching it from one step away.

2) John Whitehead of The Rutherford Institute explores a similar theme.

By 1980, Lennon had dispensed with being Beatle John. He had thrown off the trappings of his celebrity image. As he said in a radio interview that year, "I'm not putting out an image of this person who knows all." And in his last Rolling Stone interview in 1980: "I cannot live up to other people's expectations of me because they are illusionary."

3) The Irish Independent examines how John's death affected the Lennon-McCartney rivalry.

Chapman's bullets had turned an icon into a near-mythical figure, and history began to rewrite itself accordingly. Every story needs a baddie, though. And while Chapman served as the short-term whipping boy, the real villain would turn out to be Lennon's own best friend; the man with whom he shared the most famous songwriting credit-line of the 20th Century.

Paul McCartney did himself no favours when asked for a reaction to Lennon's death the following day. Exiting a recording studio in London, he simply mumbled: "It's a drag."

Paul's role as The Baddie Beatle was set, his reaction interpreted as callous, indifferent and -- most ludicrously of all -- triumphant. It didn't matter that his minimalistic words were borne out of pressure or shock; the split that began during the band's heyday, when teenage girls would argue over which member they'd rather go out with, had come to its widest point at the saddest juncture.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Monday haiku - "If I Needed Someone"

In its guitarwork,
"Someone" calls to mind the Byrds,
whom George admired.

Paul feted in DC

Macca was among this year's Kennedy Center Honorees, all of whom have (ostensibly) distinguished themselves by "their lifetime of contributions to American culture." Included in this revered subset was Oprah (?), who idolized The Beatles as a youngster.

Two days before the ceremony, Oprah had confessed that, as a welfare kid living in a two-room flat in Milwaukee, the only decorations in her room were Beatles posters – and she loved Paul. Asked about the story during cocktail hour at the State Department, McCartney joked that she used that poster to control his mind.

"She told me that she would send me telepathic messages," he said. He paused, cocking his head. "I think she's sending one right now."

More details on the event are here:
The former Beatle was making his second visit to Washington this year for a culture award. In June, he won the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song from the Library of Congress.

"You know, great things just come in bundles," he said.

Gwen Stefani, dressed in a gray "Fab Four-style" pant suit, and her band, No Doubt, opened the musical set with "Hello, Goodbye." Dave Grohl and Norah Jones sang "Maybe I'm Amazed."

In what's perhaps a first, Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler performed an "Abbey Road" medley live. Show producer George Stevens Jr. said The Beatles never performed it live after the recording was made.

"I've done a lot of things and been a lot of places," Tyler said. "But I've never been prouder than I am standing right here at the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Abbey Road."

James Taylor and Mavis Staples closed out the show with "Let It Be" and "Hey Jude." They had McCartney — and the president — on their feet the entire time.

Afterward, Paul was interviewed and had this to say:
I must admit, someone had to tell me what an honor the Kennedy Center Honors were. Obviously, I would know it’s connected with President Kennedy. That’s an era and a president that we were fans of. You knew something was attached to it. But I had to be educated that this is the one, the big American honor.

It's a huge honor, it’s nice to get. I don’t think just 'cause I've had a few now -- I don’t think you get too blase. You still end up showing off to people. 'Oh yeah, I’m getting a Kennedy award. I just got a Gershwin.' I do show off about it. Obviously it means something.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sunday haiku - "Wait"

Recorded for Help!,
"Wait" wound up on Rubber Soul
and feels out of place.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Saturday haiku - "In My Life"

It's John's reflection -
a warm, heartfelt reflection -
on youth, loss, and love.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Friday haiku - "I'm Looking Through You"

"Through" shows Paul bitter:
he's smarting from girlfriend woes
and doling out blame.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

"Out, out, brief candle"

As we approach the 30th anniversary of John's death, we're going to come across many news bits about that fateful day. Here are two:

- "John Lennon's last day.. as told by the people who were with him"

- "I held John Lennon's heart in my hand': Doctor reveals murdered Beatle's final moments"

Thursday haiku - "Girl"

Though playful at times,
"Girl" tells of a cruel lass
whom John can't get past.

GRAMMY nominees announced

Among those directly relevant to the blog are these:
- The Beatles Stereo Box Set in the category of Best Historical Album.

- Paul's rendition of "Helter Skelter" off his live album Good Evening New York City in the category of Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance.

- A cover of "Imagine" by Herbie Hancock, Pink, India.Arie, Seal, Konono No 1, Jeff Beck, and Oumou Sangare in the category of Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals.

All of the nominees for the 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards can be found here.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

"a real living part of me"

The excerpt below comes from a letter that John wrote to Cynthia in 1965. Julian published the correspondence in his recently released book, Beatles Memorabilia: The Julian Lennon Collection.

“I can’t wait to see him (Julian), I miss him more than ever – I think it is been a slow process feeling like a real father! I spend hours in dressing rooms thinking about the times I’ve wasted not being with him – and playing with him. I keep thinking of those stupid b*****d times when I keep reading bloody newspapers and other s**t whilst he’s in the room with me and I’ve decided it’s ALL wrong.”

Go here for more.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Tuesday haiku - "What Goes On"

John wrote "What Goes On",
a country-tinged pop ditty
that went to Ringo.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Re: Today in Beatles history

"George Harrison Remembered: 10 Favorite Cover Versions of His Songs," as compiled by Spinner.

Today in Beatles history

Here's another look-back involving George, but this time the day was one for grief and tears: On November 29, 2001, the "quiet Beatle" passed away at the too-young age of 58 after a bout with lung cancer.

But tragedy crept into his world in 1997 with the discovery that a lump in his neck was malignant. Though he successfully battled the disease with radiotherapy, it was merely the beginning of a series of calamitous events. In 1999, Harrison was attacked in his home by a man later deemed insane by the courts. Harrison was stabbed seven times in the attack, having only been saved by Olivia jumping into the fray with a fireplace poker. Even as he healed from those wounds, Harrison received the devastating news that his cancer had returned, and this time there would be no reprieve. Harrison died of lung cancer in a Hollywood mansion once owned by Paul McCartney. His body was cremated and, according to his wishes, his ashes were spread across the Ganges River in India.

I never fail to be moved by the all-star performance of "My Sweet Lord" at the Concert for George. Billy Preston just nails his vocal.

(If the video is removed, go here.)

And below is what I consider George's most underrated entry in The Beatles' catalogue. It's the enticingly eerie and atmospheric "Blue Jay Way."

(If the video is removed, go here.)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

"Forget the Beatles!"

I'm not sure if this article is insightful or cogent or even coherent, but perhaps it arrives close to some truth.

For an Apple “event,” the digital coming of the Beatles was a rare fail.

Surely Steve Jobs knows that he can’t count on nostalgia to sell, right? Not in 2010. Not anymore.

This was the year we ran out of old things to celebrate. This was the year when Corey Haim died and “The A-Team” bombed and nobody cared that “Star Wars” is going 3-D or that “Revolver” can be sucked right out of the air for $12.99.

After a decade of overdosing on yesterday, after retreads and rehashes, after reunion shows and reunion tours, we’re done. We’re exhausted, tired of our own cultural past and all the celebration necessary to make any piece of it relevant again, even for a moment. The Police took a lap. Michael Jackson inspired a year-long nostalgiathon. We loved the ’80s, we loved the ’90s, but can we just be done now? The Boomer and Gen-X pop catalogs and TV reruns have been warmed over so many times, it’s hard to remember when any of it mattered — or why.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Today in Beatles history

On this day in 1970, George released his most highly regarded solo work, the triple-LP All Things Must Pass.

‘All Things Must Pass’ was his first solo album after the break-up of The Beatles and his first serious attempt at making a commercial album.

The album featured the now classics ‘My Sweet Lord’ and ‘What Is Life’. It was also the first session Phil Collins ever played on. He plays bongos on ‘Art of Dying’. (Collins also had a small part in The Beatles ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ movie when he was a kid).

Maurice Gibb also played keyboards on ‘Isn’t It A Pity’ but, like Collins, was uncredited.

The infamous Phil Spector produced the album. Guests included Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, Billy Preston, Gary Brooker (Procol Harum), Alan White (Yes) and Gary Wright).

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Beatles' "worst moment"

That's journalist Alan Howe's description of "Run for Your Life," a song I've been exploring of late. While I disagree with his assessment, I certainly understand where he's coming from.

Here's his full take:
A murderously sexist, viscous lyric by Lennon – words that he would forever regret – coupled with a rushed recording before taking off on tour once more to America, this is the Beatles worst moment. What’s worse is that John’s vocals are so prominent; you were really meant to hear what he was saying. And what did he say? Listen: “I’d rather see you dead little girl than to be with another man,” and “You’d better run for your life if you can little girl, hide your head in the sand little girl, catch you with another man, that’s the end-a little girl.” That scenario has played in murder trials across the world ever since. This is the Jealous Guy gets dirty, and we don’t like it.

Excerpted from Howe's article, "10 Beatles tracks to skip."

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A thanks to The Beatles

From music critic and author David Wild: "Giving Thanks to Paul, Ringo & the Long and Winding Road."

At the risk of overstating things, Ringo Starr has become a friend over the past two decades. We first met back in 1989 not long after Ringo had cleaned up his act and was rediscovering his own muse as a musician and recording artist in a wonderful, life-affirming way. Because of my dual life as a journalist of sorts and as a writer of television shows, I have had the honor of meeting virtually all of my youthful heroes over the years -- rock stars, movie stars, author and even the occasional president. But I've never met a funnier, sweeter, smarter, more charming icon than the Artist Formerly Known as Richard Starkey. And as far as I'm concerned, to know Ringo is to love him, and the same goes for his wife Barbara, a woman who's always been lovely in every way too.

. . .

The highlight for me was spending a few weeks with Paul and Linda in America and South America as they were touring on their The New World Tour in 1993. They could not have been any nicer to me, especially Linda who it must be said had an extraordinarily generous heart, and a way of trying to mother just about everyone she ever met. One day, I mentioned that a woman I had just started dating was in the same city we were. Linda immediately insisted that I invite her along to soundcheck and a vegetarian lunch that next day. Though Linda didn't even know me all that well, she somehow went out of her way to spend some time with this young lady. As we left the table that day backstage, Linda whispered very seriously to me, "Marry that girl." So I did. Little did I know then that my future wife Fran and I would someday have a beautiful boy together who somehow thought Ringo was a Rutle. Thanks, Linda.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What those iTunes sales mean

From CNBC:
It's great compared to another iTunes hold out — Led Zeppelin. When Zeppelin finally started selling on iTunes in 2007 only sold 300,000 digital tracks and 13,000 digital albums, according to Billboard.

But none of the Beatles' single songs can stand up to today's megastars like Katy Perry and Rhianna. When a big star releases a new album they usually sell between 10,000 and 300,000 digital singles in the first week. Yes, The Beatles sold 2 million singles in its first week, but that's from *all* its albums.

The big question now: will The Beatles release on iTunes drive sales of traditional CD sales? Amazon [AMZN 177.25 9.05 (+5.38%) ] just slashed the prices on its Beatles music to less than the digital downloads cost — CDs are $7.99, and the box set is $129.99. We'll be watching to see if the Beatles scale the best-seller charts on Amazon or iTunes this Cyber Monday.

Wednesday haiku - "Michelle"

A sweet lounge ballad,
Paul's "Michelle" bursts with small charms,
including some French.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

In their first week on iTunes ...

... The Beatles moved 450,000 albums and 2 million singles, generating north of $8 million in sales. For more, go here.

More on "Under My Thumb" and "Run for Your Life"

In this post from last Saturday, I bestowed the honor of "My favorite song at the moment" on "Under My Thumb" by the Rolling Stones. I then briefly compared it to "Run for Your Life," the idea being that both paint crude pictures of female subjugation and both are hard-to-resist ear-pleasers. What a frustrating combination, no? Why did the Stones and The Beatles have to wrap such insulting imagery in sonics so agreeable? They could've made it much easier for some of us by simply not doing one part of their job that well. Instead, we're forced to endure Mick Jagger's sneers of "Under my thumb/The squirmin' dog who's just had her day" with a delectable Motown groove simultaneously at work. And regarding "Run for Your Life," it's a challenge not getting caught up in the song's "addictive energy" even as John spews hateful lines like, "Baby I'm determined/And I'd rather see you dead." Pop music shouldn't be all about easy, uncomplicated rewards, but these two songs present difficulties of an especially vexing variety. Or that's how it might be for some people, anyway. As an avowed fan of both "Under My Thumb" and "Run for Your Life," I've evidently moved beyond this moral dilemma.

Side-note: I wonder which is the more offensive song. Jagger seems to find a very unhealthy sort of pleasure - one deviously playful - in belittling his squeeze, calling her a "Siamese cat of a girl" and "the sweetest, hmmm, pet in the world." On the other hand, John is possessed by something close to (if not actually) murderous intent, which I think puts "Run for Your Life" over the top. In John's defense, at least he owns up to being "a wicked guy" who "was born with a jealous mind." Ultimately though, that doesn't wash away any of the song's sins.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sunday haiku - "The Word"

When The Beatles ask,
"Have you heard the word is love",
they're in hippie mode.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

My favorite song at the moment

Should I be ashamed to confess that it's "Under My Thumb" by the Rolling Stones? What a wicked treat it is, much like John's "Run for Your Life."

"Under My Thumb"

(If the video is removed, go here.)

Friday, November 19, 2010

More on The Beatles and iTunes (pt. 3)

- "Why The Beatles' arrival on iTunes matters"

- "The Beatles and iTunes: Looking Beyond the Hype"

- "Beatles Dominate iTunes Top 200 Lists"

Friday reading

It's worth your time: "Come Together: The Night Lennon and McCartney Reunited"

“Valiant Paul McCartney, I presume?” said John Lennon. “Sir Jasper Lennon, I presume,” responded Paul McCartney.

Such was the manner in which the two former Beatles greeted one another when McCartney showed up, unexpectedly, at a recording session Lennon was conducting on March 28, 1974. In the throes of his “Lost Weekend” period, Lennon was in a Los Angeles studio overseeing production of Harry Nilsson’s Pussy Cats album. Present were a number of players – including Stevie Wonder, guitarist Jesse Ed Davis, saxophonist Bobby Keys and Nilsson himself. McCartney was accompanied by his wife, Linda. Lennon’s then-girlfriend, May Pang, was there as well.

. . .

Pang went on to say that McCartney seemed not to want to entertain the thought, perhaps because the idea of such a missed opportunity was too painful. A year later, however, at McCartney’s annual Buddy Holly tribute party in New York, the former Beatle rushed over to Pang as she was talking with Linda McCartney. “Tell her!” McCartney said. “Tell me what?” said Pang. “One of Derek Taylor’s postcards from John fell into our hands,” McCartney said. “John had written, ‘Thinking of visiting the Macs in New Orleans.’”

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Macca update

Of late, there have been several developments on the live performance/concert front for Paul:

- On December 11th, he's scheduled to be the musical guest on SNL.

- Two nights later, he'll be playing an invitation-only show at New York's legendary Apollo Theater, marking his first ever performance there.

Thursday haiku - "Think for Yourself"

With his "word or two",
George admonishes liars
and hard-headed types.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

"Doctor Robert," BSG, etc.

The existence of this blog would seem to illustrate that The Beatles are of deep fascination to me. Indeed they are. And because this is the case, I'm always on the lookout for references or connections to The Beatles in other interests of mine. Earlier this evening, I encountered one. Yes, I finally found a link, however trivial, between the Fab Four and Battlestar Galactica, the epic sci-fi TV series that has been consuming my spare hours for the last few months. In an (expendable) episode from season three called "The Woman King," there's a doctor, Michael Robert, who isn't exactly caring for his patients as he should. Driven by bigoted views, he's actually killing some of them. In other words, this Doctor Robert doesn't belong to the mainstream of his profession. Sound familiar? "Take a drink from his special cup, Doctor Robert."

Also, it was a minor bonus that the title of the subsequent episode was "A Day in the Life."

More on The Beatles and iTunes (pt. 2)

- Further details on how the partnership finally came together.

- Thus far, The Beatles are faring well on the iTunes chart.

- How John reacted to the news.

- Finally, Ann Powers lists the 15 Beatles songs she would download first on iTunes.

More on The Beatles and iTunes

Analysis and reaction:

- The New York Times: "Persistence pays. Apple was repeatedly sued by the Beatles and paid millions of dollars to settle those suits. The computer company never let that discourage it from pursuing its goal of rounding out the iTunes catalog with Beatles songs, however."

- The Guardian: "Couldn't the biggest band in the history of pop have found a way of placing their music online without it becoming just another commodity in Apple's gadget-flogging industrial complex?"

- NPR: "But let's be clear: This is a business story. It isn't a music story."

- The Los Angeles Times: "If the Beatles keep finding ways to repackage the same content, then the extras need to start being content that's never before been widely available."

- Beatweek Magazine: "The arrival of The Beatles in 2010 won’t have nearly the kind of impact on iTunes that it would have had several years ago, so the remaining question is just what kind of impact it will have."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

It's official: Beatles now on iTunes

See for yourself. If you're willing to shell out $150, you can purchase the entirety of The Beatles' official catalogue through iTunes ("All the studio albums, the Past Masters collection, all A and B sides plus plenty of liner notes, photos and documentaries courtesy of the iTunes LP format"). Or, if you prefer a more piecemeal approach, you can acquire their songs and albums one-by-one. Both are options now.

Here's Apple's press release for the announcement, and here's a New York Times report with more details.

Excerpt (from the latter):
While getting access to the Beatles catalog has plenty of symbolic significance, it is unlikely to bolster Apple’s bottom line.

For all the success of Apple in becoming the largest distributor of music on the Internet, the iTunes store is not a major source of profits for the company. Apple executives have said that iTunes is roughly a “break-even” operation.

“The music itself is a vehicle to allow them to sell more iPods and iPhones, which is where they make real money,” Mr. Bajarin said.

And despite the deal’s symbolism, its financial value for the Beatles is uncertain. About three-quarters of all albums sold in the United States are still CDs, and physical albums remain far more profitable for record companies than downloads.

Mr. Jobs has tried to make a deal with EMI and the Beatles many times before, but negotiations have always broken down, usually accompanied by a flurry of online rumors, accusations and conspiracy theories. Further complicating the relationship between the parties, Apple Corps, the Beatles’ company, and Apple, the computer company, had been embroiled for decades over trademark disputes.

In the past, Paul McCartney has said that a deal for Beatles’ downloads would have to be approved by all the band members or their heirs.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Beatles to iTunes?

According to the Wall Street Journal, the major revelation behind Apple's much ballyhooed announcement tomorrow has leaked: After years of fraught negotiations, The Beatles' catalogue will be available on iTunes.

We'll find out tomorrow if the report's true.

Apple Inc. is preparing to disclose that its iTunes Store will soon start carrying music by the Beatles, according to people familiar with the situation, a move that would fill a glaring gap in the collection of the world's largest music retailer.

The deal resulted from talks that were taking place as recently as last week among executives of Apple, representatives of the Beatles and their record label, EMI Group Ltd., according to these people. These people cautioned that Apple could change plans at the last minute.

Assorted Paul news

- Did Paul time the re-release of Band on the Run to draw attention away from the many commemorations of John's life? Brian Boyd reflects on the death-defying rivalry between Lennon and McCartney.

- At the Q Awards, Paul took home the Classic Album award for Band on the Run (and he also went to bat for his beloved Linda).

- More and more on BotR.

- Michaelangelo Matos' review of Fab: An Intimate Life Of Paul McCartney.

- Even at the ripe age of 68, Paul hasn't become curmudgeonly in his musical tastes.

- Taylor Swift has designated Macca one of her "biggest musical inspirations."

- "Mary McCartney on sex, Scotland and shortbread."

- Finally, read about ex-Macca publicist Geoff Baker and his new adventures in unemployment.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sunday haiku - "Nowhere Man"

John was "Nowhere Man",
"sitting in his Nowhere Land",
listless and unsure.

Sunday cover

John allegedly once held up Anne Murray's interpretation of "You Won't See Me" as his favorite Beatles cover. I agree that it was a success. The Canadian songstress adds an inviting pop sheen to the song and delivers a very natural vocal.

Have a listen:

(If the video is removed, go here.)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Saturday haiku - "You Won't See Me"

"You" abounds with grief,
owing to a rocky patch
between Paul and Jane.

More on The Beatles v. Coldplay

This post on the Daily Mirror's webpage doesn't add anything of substance to the Coldplay-is-better-than-The-Beatles argument (an argument where clear thinking and levelheadedness go to die). I was amused, though, by Fiona Phillips' suggestion that the track "Fix You" would actually count in Coldplay's favor. It was the (banal and sophomoric) lyric for that very song that I cited to indict Chris Martin.

If "Fix You" is indeed attended by beauty, it's of a tempered or qualified sort. Because Martin croons vacuous lines like, "Lights will guide you home/And ignite your bones," the song's surrounding sonic grandeur isn't able to achieve full uplift; it needs engaging lyrics to do so. And through four albums and several EPs, Martin hasn't written many that fit this description.

P.S. My above criticisms notwithstanding, "Fix You" was very movingly incorporated into this TV spot for Peter Jackson's remake of King Kong. Let's be thankful that Martin's lyrics were nowhere to be found.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Paul in Argentina

Paul played a pair of shows earlier this week in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and one of them triggered a kind of spiritual ecstasy within Pablo Toledo, a journalist for the Buenos Aires Herald. Go here to read his review, which bears the rapturous headline, "My eyes have seen the glory of the coming of Sir Paul."

It was like watching Michelangelo take a large blank canvas and repaint his masterpieces with the wisdom gathered over the years.
. . .

But the key were the songs: McCartney wrote or co-wrote the soundtrack of many lives, of several decades, perhaps of a whole century. Every pair of ears in the audience had gone through them a few thousand times before, and yet they hit just like the first time, perhaps more so from all the bundled personal history – a first kiss, a breakup, a hard time, a happy day. Like Hey Jude, which he wrote on a car to comfort Julian Lennon when his parents were breaking up and now gets stadiums full of people chanting its endless finale in a state of bliss. Like Helter Skelter, once claimed by Charles Manson and now the hardest rocker of the 1960s.

"The Last Years and the Legacy"

A few nights back, I watched the installment of Behind the Music about John Lennon. As the title of this post indicates, it focuses on the later events of his life, i.e., the making of Double Fantasy, his death, etc. Below are some of the brief notes I took on it.

- It's touching to hear Yoko recount the time when John grew rather worried over a slight fever Sean had and even told Yoko that she wasn't concerned enough. What a transformation John underwent: from drug-addled music megastar to dedicated Mr. Mom.

- Julian on his father: "...I didn't know who he was, really."

- The audio of young Sean singing "With a Little Help from My Friends" is beyond adorable.

- One poignant reaction to the news of John's death: "I just kept wanting to change it." (I can't remember who made this remark.)

- Lastly, I wonder if John's legacy would be different had he perished on that storm-ravaged sailing expedition to Bermuda rather than being gunned down in cold blood by Mark David Chapman. Death has a way of romanticizing those who have passed, and this is especially true when the manner of death is as gruesome as John's was. If he had gone out in a blaze of glory, bravely battling a tempest that would eventually prove too fierce, would his post-death deification have been as swift and thorough-going? Perhaps not. (I apologize if this is an overly macabre counter-factual.)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A brief comment on "Imagine"

I was on the Beatles Bible website earlier this week and noticed that, among its "latest posts," there's one (partly) entitled, "'And the world will be as one.'" Upon seeing this, my immediate reaction was to wonder if a mistake had been made. I obviously knew the line was a reference to "Imagine." Yet when I played the song in my head, I kept hearing, "And the world will live (not "be") as one." I then checked the full lyric on a website and found that (as many but myself already know) both lines are part of the song; the one I suspected of being incorrect comes in the middle, while the other one comes at the very end. The question that arises from this is why would John have cared to make that distinction with such a minor variation. Is there an important difference between the two? I would say no. In this particular case, "be" and "live" seem to convey the same meaning. So perhaps there's nothing to it. I'm guessing that the line which contains "live" has stuck with me because it closes the song, thereby achieving a more lasting effect.

Thursday haiku - "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)"

Famed for its sitar,
"Wood" is John's cryptic ballad
about an affair.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Update on Beatles cinema

- Read about Nowhere Boy's Oscar odds.

- Robert Zemeckis: Yellow Submarine 3-D remake "all ahead full."

- Steve Carell will play the illegitimate son of an aging rock-star in a new comedy called Imagine. Excerpt: In Imagine, a sixty-something Bruce Springsteen-type rocker discovers a long-unopened letter addressed to him from John Lennon; after reading it, he’s shocked to learn that he actually fathered a son, who'd be played by Carell.

- Lastly, The Beatles and LOTR.

Quote of the day

Today's quote comes from the inimitable Kanye West, whose propensity for controversial statements and hyperbole is well-known. This time around, he has made headlines by proclaiming Coldplay to be "on the same level as The Beatles." Audacious, no? He didn't stop there:

"In 30 years, when Coldplay are old men, people will look back and say, 'These guys were more talented than The Beatles.' I have worked with Chris Martin and the man is a genius - as a performer and a songwriter he is on the same level as JOHN LENNON.".

I wonder which is the more feeble claim: that history will one day judge Coldplay to be a better band than The Beatles or that Chris Martin's talents currently match those once possessed by John. Both are comically misguided remarks, and both are instances of Kanye playing perfectly to type. I'm sorry, Ye, but geniuses don't pen lyrics like this: "When you try your best but you don't succeed/When you get what you want but not what you need/When you feel so tired but you can't sleep/Stuck in reverse." Is there a diplomatic way to call something trite, hackneyed, threadbare, stale, and so forth? Go here for the ultimate take-down of Chris Martin and company ("the most insufferable band of the decade").

Coldplay has written some solid, even moving songs, and they're a rather likable group. I especially admire Chris Martin for the comedic collaborations he's done with Ricky Gervais. Nevertheless, Coldplay is not even close to being the best band in the world or even the UK, let alone one that eclipses the talent level of The Beatles.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Well-versed Beatles aficionados will know that today is the 44th anniversary of Paul's "death." The infamous urban legend goes as follows: During the wee hours of November 9th, 1966, Paul McCartney was involved in a car accident; he died, tragically, from the injuries he sustained. The Beatles then conspired to deceive the public on a grand scale by replacing Paul with an unimaginably similar (and talented) impostor. In their music, artwork, and elsewhere, they planted clues about this ongoing act of perfidy. Only through the diligent efforts of very clever and perceptive fans was the plot eventually uncovered. To no surprise, the official response from The Beatles and their handlers was always one of denial.

This is the "Paul is dead" hoax in a nutshell. I've explored the topic a fair amount in the past, so I don't feel the need to go further at the moment. I'll restrict myself to two comments. 1) I wrote this two summers ago (see the third link), and it unfortunately holds true: "...the more I read about the "Paul-is-Dead" hoax, the less intrigued I become." 2) One aspect of it that continues to fascinate me is its murky origin. No one knows precisely how the notion came into being, which adds mystery to an already thickly mysterious (though patently preposterous) farrago of theories.

Tuesday haiku - "Drive My Car"

"Drive" is comedy:
a girl wants her own chauffeur,
but she has no car.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Paul in Brazil

Sir Paul opened the South American leg of his "Up and Coming" tour last night with a show in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Fans were amped. Other details are at MaccaBlog.

Notes on "English Tea"

When I last listened to Paul's album Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, I found myself a bit confused by the sixth track, "English Tea." You'll recall that, at the suggestion of Sir George Martin, Paul brought in Nigel Godrich, who had previously worked with Radiohead and Beck, to produce the album. Evidently, the collaboration was not always a harmonious one, as Godrich refused to roll over for Macca; in fact, he was blunt in his assessment of Paul's output, likely cringing over the same indulgences (the silliness, the schmaltz, etc.) that have drawn the ire of critics for much of Paul's career. What emerged from their occasional differences of opinion, though, was one of Paul's best received solo albums. Chaos earned a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year, and Godrich was up for Producer of the Year. The standard line is that, unlike other producers, Godrich was demanding of the legend in his midst, forcing him to focus and to jettison those tendencies that often attended his "silly love songs."

What, then, to make of "English Tea," a gushingly precious song if there ever was one? Accompanied by piano, strings, and a flute solo, Paul invites an acquaintance (or otherwise) to join him for a morning filled with tea, "fairy cakes," delightful chats (to paraphrase the lyric), and croquet, a request he himself describes as "very twee, very me." He also mentions there are "hollyhocks" to be seen, and he uses the word "peradventure." He's clearly not trying to mask the song's affected daintiness; it's in plain view.

The question becomes this: how did "English Tea" make the final cut? Not knowing many more details about the album's formation than those I listed above, I'll propose several possible explanations. 1) The song is self-parody ("very twee, very me"), which made Godrich comfortable with it; 2) Godrich actually liked the song, with its pleasant melody and tranquil imagery; 3) Paul McCartney is still Paul McCartney - he can easily trump the reservations that others may have about certain songs of his; and 4) Godrich consented to it with the aim of setting up a vivid and damning contrast between those disciplined and mature tracks he guided to completion and the one on which silly, saccharine Paul had free reign. Rather Machiavellian, no?

Most of this is speculation, so I might be grossly uninformed on some counts. It's just a thought experiment that amused me.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

John's last audio recording

It comes from the night of his murder. With Yoko close by, John is having some difficulty trying to sign an autograph (the ink isn't showing), and he thinks aloud through the process. It's all very commonplace and uneventful, a calm before the storm. Go here to listen.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Quote of the day

From the Battle Creek Enquirer:

25 years ago today, 1985: Former Beatle Paul McCartney was quoted in a magazine interview published today as saying his slain song-writing partner John Lennon could be a "maneuvering swine," and took credit for songs he did not write.

Friday, November 5, 2010

"The Beatles' dream"

The Independent on the "strange, short blossoming" of Apple Corps.

To the music business at large, an industry not best known for altruism, this was the hippie ideal gone truly mad. If Dick James, the head of Northern Songs, the company that published the Lennon and McCartney catalogue of music, had needed any encouragement in his plan to sever his links with The Beatles following the death of manager Brian Epstein a year earlier, this had to be it. Within months the songs had been sold to Lew Grade at ATV.

As it turned out the cynics were quickly proved at least partly right. Staffed by many of the group's old friends from Liverpool, few of whom had any real business acumen, Apple quickly became a financial whirlpool as money was sucked away to places unknown. Perhaps the group's first venture outside music, a fashion boutique in nearby Baker Street, should have been a warning, quickly turning into a Beatle-takeaway as, in the absence of much in the way of security, customers simply helped themselves to the designs and walked out without paying.

. . .

But it wasn't all a naive failure. Apple, as a small, short-lived record company, wasn't without its successes. For decades all Apple records have been highly valued as collectibles, and from October 25 The Beatles' early work as producers and unheralded backing musicians for other artists will finally be made available for digital download.

There will be some surprises. Who knew that both Paul McCartney and George Harrison played on the original recording of James Taylor's "Carolina in my Mind", or that Harry Nilsson was originally under the impression that McCartney had written his eventual Grammy Award-winning hit "Without You", and not Beatles protégés Badfinger? Or that Apple released a Modern Jazz Quartet album, and that it was at Ringo Starr's insistence that John Tavener's The Whale was recorded for the label?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

"The 10 Worst Beatles Songs"

The Beatles were only flesh and blood. To paraphrase Kipling, not gods nor devils, but men. As men, they inevitably misfired from time to time, and this list claims to contain their 10 worst songs. I'll have more on it later. For now, may this suffice: If you diss "Your Mother Should Know," you diss yourself.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What's the most Beatlesque Bowie song?

It's a question that randomly popped into my head this evening. Not being an expert on Bowie's sizable and varied discography, I couldn't think of many songs to suggest as possible answers. In fact, only one came to mind: "Oh! You Pretty Things." Off 1971's Hunky Dory, it's a very White Album-y (and terrific) track, perhaps best described as some combination, musically, of "Martha My Dear" and "Cry Baby Cry." Have a listen.

"Oh! You Pretty Things"

(If the video is removed, go here)

I'll pursue this question more in the coming weeks.

Sidebar: Is the use of "Oh" and a mid-title exclamation point ("Oh! You Pretty Things") a nod to The Beatles' "Oh! Darling"?

The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger

Various links about the band that Sean Lennon and his girlfriend Charlotte Kemp Muhl have formed::

- An interview.

- Here are two reviews of Acoustic Sessions, the duo's newly released debut.

- Finally, listen to an hour-long session Sean and Charlotte played at WNYC's studio in Manhattan.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Assorted John news (Pt. 2)

- Watch and listen to a contest-winning cover of "Don't Let Me Down."

- Another contest.

- Gibson is saluting John and his legacy by making limited-edition models of guitars he once played.

- What do y'all think of Lauren Voiers' "Peace and Harmony" sculpture, which was unveiled at Liverpool's celebration of John's life earlier this month? In my humble, uncultured opinion, it's a gaudy eye sore.

- Finally, John as a sailor, a baker, and an incredulous clean-laundry seeker.

Assorted John news (Pt. 1)

- The next commemorative coin issued by the British Royal Mint will bear the likeness of John Lennon. In a public poll to determine whose face would next be used, John won the vote handily.

- All of Imagine is going to be available as downloadable content for Rock Band 3.

- English Heritage has honored John and Yoko by dedicating a plaque to their former residence at 34 Montagu Place in Marylebone, London, thus designating it a place of "cultural importance."

- No surprise: John is among the top-earning dead celebrities.

- John's final interview to be aired.

- Lastly, John Lennon, "in his own words." (I especially admire this: "No matter what artistic gains I get, or gold records, if I can’t make a success out of my relationship with the people I love, then everything else is bulls—.”)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sunday haiku - "Got to Get You into My Life"

Packed with Motown zest,
"Life" is Paul's cheeky tribute
to marijuana.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Saturday haiku - "I Want to Tell You"

George is frustrated:
though he has plenty to say,
the words escape him.

"Band on the Run" doc

NPR has posted on its website a short documentary about the making of Band on the Run. Give it a watch. The remastered version of Paul's (and Wings') 1973 classic will be out this Tuesday.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Assorted George/Ringo news

- Seattle Weekly recently interviewed Dhani Harrison. Money quote: "I was a vegetarian for years and then suddenly one day I just realized that bacon was the most awesome thing in the world. It's always the one to convert people from vegetarianism or veganism."

- Read Rolling Stone's three-star review of Fistful of Mercy's As I Call You Down.

- Appropriate for the Halloween season: One Beatle playing a Ouija board prank on another.

- Ringo's birthplace, a home on Madryn Street in Liverpool, has been visited of late by vandalizing "souvenir hunters." The domicile is set to be demolished at some point next year, though there are many campaigns actively resisting the measure.

Friday haiku - "Doctor Robert"

Based on someone real,
this "Doctor" got people high
with his "special cup".

Thursday, October 28, 2010

More on the Stones (that is, Keith Richards)

While we're on the subject of The Beatles' greatest rivals:

- In an interview with News of the World, Keith Richards touched on a three-day, drug-heavy road trip that he and John once took across the UK. Money quote: “We must have been on something exceptional."

- Here are some excerpts from Richards' new autobiography, Life.

A few of them:
On John Lennon:

For all his vaunted bravado – he couldn't keep up. … I don't think he ever left my house except horizontally. Or definitely propped up.

On the Beatles-Stones rivalry:

It was a very friendly relationship. It was also very cannily worked out, because in those days singles were coming out every six, eight weeks. And we'd try and time it so that we didn't clash. I remember John Lennon calling me up and saying, “Well, we've not finished mixing yet.” “We've got one ready to go.” “OK, you go first.”

- About an impromptu collaboration between Richards and Paul when they ran into each other on vacation.

- Finally, listen to Richards' wide-ranging interview on NPR's Fresh Air. I must say, Richards accomplishes the difficult task of scoring a lot of charm points with that classic smoker's laugh of his. Despite appearances, he actually has quite an engaging manner about himself.