Sunday, February 28, 2010

Paul to perform in Glasgow

The concert will be on June 20 at Hampden Park, reports Scotland's Daily Record. The article also alleges that this date, and the others that have been announced recently, are part of Paul's "farewell tour." Not sure about that.

Top-secret details won't be unveiled for another 48 hours but Sir Paul will headline Hampden Park on June 20.

Macca, 67, plans to end his 50 -year live career with a huge farewell tour performing in venues where he has not previously appeared - and our national stadium is No.1 on his hit list.

His spectacular show comes two decades - almost to the day - after he last played here. On June 23, 1990, the singer rocked the SECC as part of Glasgow's celebrations as European City of Culture. Originally, the show was to be staged at the adjacent Queen's Dock but was switched to the indoor venue.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

"The Indispensable Ringo"

Echoing sentiments that I've expressed about Ringo, Jeff Merron of Asylum pays tribute to the perpetually undervalued drummer.

If you've had a chance to listen to the remastered Beatles CDs, you understand: it's a revelation, being able to hear, crisply and distinctly, all of the instruments. All of The Beatles sound great but it throws Ringo in sharp relief.

His drumming simply drives "Get Back." He's got blisters on his fingers at the end of "Helter Skelter" because he's blasted the heck out of those skins, take after take after take. Those who know their biz swear that his drumming on "A Day In the Life" is, in a word, masterful, a vital contribution to one of the best Beatles' songs. (Phil Collins: "The drum fills on 'A Day in the Life' are very complex things. You could take a great drummer today and say, 'I want it like that.' They wouldn't know what to do.")

Friday, February 26, 2010

Beatles/Blondie mash-up

"Octopus's Garden" meets "Heart of Glass." The result? Solid throughout and at times inspired. The groove from "Heart of Glass" works surprisingly well with Ringo's melody and, generally speaking, much of what makes each song enjoyable stays intact. Overall, I liked it a lot more than the "Happiness Is a Warm Gun"/"Planet Telex" mash-up that I did a post about several weeks ago.

(If the embedding is disabled, go here).

Assorted George news

- Revisiting George's legal troubles with "My Sweet Lord" and other dubious cases of music plagiarism.

"Genesis Publications Chronicles the Adventures of The Traveling Wilburys."

- Raga, an out-of-print documentary about Ravi Shankar that George appears on, will be re-released this October by Shankar's newly launched record label, East Meets West Music.

- Lastly, here's a rare photo of George at age six that's part of a book called Liddypool: The Birthplace of the Beatles.

Friday haiku - "You Never Give Me Your Money"

"Give" starts the medley,
and shifts from calm to rowdy
to nursery-sweet.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Happy Birthday, George

George Harrison was born on this day in 1943. He was the youngest Beatle, and he died in 2001 at the too-young age of 58 as the result of cancer. He would have been 67.

Thursday haiku - "Because"

Lush and hypnotic,
"Because" has classical roots,
namely Beethoven.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Update on Paul's tour

Three more dates have been added to Paul's "Up and Coming" Tour. Because of the overwhelming demand for tickets to the March 30th concert at the Hollywood Bowl, there will now be another show at the historic venue the following night. Then Paul will travel across country for an April 3rd performance at the Sun Life Stadium in Miami. Two nights later, he'll be at the Coliseo De Puerto Rico, which will mark his first concert in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. More details here.

"Who's that little old man?"

A recent viewing of A Hard Day's Night inspired the profile (so to speak) that follows. As the movie was playing in my room, igniting the screen like it is wont to do, I took down some notes about this and that, often highlighting what I considered the best of a certain category. As you'll see, there wasn't much of a method to the enterprise. Regardless of how whimsical a thought was, if it came to me, it went on paper. And now they're all below.

As found in A Hard Day's Night...

- Best disguise: Paul's fake mustache
- Best line from John that references an animal: "You're a swine."
- Best line from Paul regarding his grandfather: "He's a king mixer."
- Most comely actress with a slight gap in her front teeth: Pattie Boyd
- Most entertaining dancer: Ringo
- Best fake naval war scene: John in the hotel bathtub
- Best collection of scenes: The media Q&A session at the party (it's really quite funny).
- Best turn-of-phrase: "smoke screen of bourgeois cliches" (Ringo)
- Best smile: Ringo's
- Best role: Paul's grandfather (Wilfrid Brambell)
- Most humorously insightful scene: George's back-and-forth with the testy fashion/TV executive
- Most overplayed joke: Those about Ringo's inferiority
- Best monosyllabic line from Paul: "Zap" (it's all in the delivery).
- Line that rings truest: "And where would they be without the steady support of your drum beat?" (Paul's grandfather to Ringo)
- Worst article of clothing: The director's gaudy sweater
- Best line said to a police officer: "You have sadism stamped all over your bloated British kisser." (Paul's grandfather)
- Best camera shot: The one from behind the Beatles as they play "Tell Me Why" onstage
- Best song: "She Loves You"

The latest on Abbey Road Studios

Yesterday, the famed recording venue was designated an "historic site" by the British government.

Culture Minister Margaret Hodge declared the iconic venue a Grade II listed building -- the second-highest category -- on the advice of national preservation body English Heritage.

In a statement she said the listing had been granted "overwhelmingly on the historic merit of the studios" and because of its "huge cultural importance."

The new status means that although changes to its interior can be made, any proposed alterations must respect the character and preservation of the site.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Assorted Macca news

- Two dates are set for Paul's spring tour of the U.S. - March 28 at the Arena in Glendale, AZ and March 30 at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. There's also (rather vague and perhaps dated) talk about Macca potentially playing Wrigley Field later in the year. Lastly, the Daily Star, a British tabloid, contends that the ex-Beatle may perform at two UK festivals this summer: Isle of Wight and Hard Rock Calling.

- I haven't seen the news discussed elsewhere, but this article claims that Paul will be receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Paul is the only Beatle who hasn't been given the honor. Read the piece carefully, though, and take note of how obvious most of the details are (i.e., "McCartney will reportedly be given the star when a date is arranged for him to unveil it."). Clearly. Such statements, along with the lack of broader coverage, lead me to believe that the report is premature, even if not wholly inaccurate.

- Ever the animal-rights activist, Paul has expressed his hope that the hunting ban in England and Wales will not be reversed if Tories take over after the next election.

- Heather Mills: ethical spendthrift?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Monday haiku - "I Want You (She's So Heavy)"

Written for Yoko,
"Want" is long, repetitious,
and lit by John's zeal.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

"...the Day Studio Music Died"

Eric Felten of the Wall Street Journal writes about how certain recording studios "have been crucial in defining the sounds of whole eras."

As most news articles about the potential sale pointed out, studios are going the way of the great auk. The digital-recording revolution has allowed producers armed with laptops and a few padded rooms in a basement to forgo the expensive environs of the traditional recording hall. Yet this comes at a cost: The demise of great recording studios is contributing to the bland, characterless sound of so much popular music today.

I found it to be an insightful read, even if I don't necessarily agree with Felten's harsh take on the current pop scene.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Friday haiku - "Here Comes the Sun"

A classic from George,
"Sun" is full of sweet relief,
like a balmy breeze.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Thursday Beatles potpourri

- English Heritage, the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England, recommended back in 2003 that Abbey Road Studios "become a listed building." Now the call has taken on a greater sense of urgency.

- "Beatles concert list is auctioned in Derbyshire."

- Earlier in the week, "All You Need is Love" was made available as DLC for The Beatles: Rock Band on Wii. The same will happen for the PS3 version on March 4th.

- A very different piece of Beatles merchandise was also released this past Tuesday: The Beatles Experience, a graphic novel.

Thursday haiku - "Octopus's Garden"

It's escapist fun;
an ocean-floor fantasy;
a vision of ease.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The National Trust . . .

. . . which John sang that "the man in the crowd with the multicolored mirrors" donated "a soap impression of his wife which he ate" to, is being talked about as an entity that could potentially "save Abbey Road Studios."

“It's not often that the public spontaneously suggests that we should acquire a famous building”, said a National Trust spokesman, “However, Abbey Road recording studios appear to be very dear to the nation’s heart - to the extent that we will take soundings as to whether a campaign is desirable or even feasible.”

Today in Beatles history

1967 February 17 was the UK release date of possibly the greatest double A-side single in all the annals of pop music: "Strawberry Fields Forever"/"Penny Lane." Read more here.

More on EMI and Abbey Road

- Paul "hopes Abbey Road can be saved."

- The Mirror lists "Ten things you need to know about the iconic recording studio."

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

EMI to sell Abbey Road studios

It feels like a sign of the times, though EMI's financial difficulties (which prompted the sale of the legendary recording studio) preceded the global economic meltdown.

However, the studios have faced cheaper competition from recording facilities in other countries, and technological advances allowing artists to record using only a laptop computer have made it harder for labels to justify owning expensive recording infrastructure.

“What you have is a very, very expensive piece of heritage. If an artist goes to a label and asks to record at Abbey Road they will be met with maniacal laughter,” the media lawyer said.

"Revolver" caps Vatican's Top 10

Foraying into the ungodly and bound-for-hell world of pop culture, the Vatican's newspaper L'Osservatore Romano compiled a list of the ten greatest pop and rock albums of all time. The Beatles' LSD-influenced 1966 masterpiece Revolver topped the ticket. Other noteworthy selections (i.e., albums I really like) include The Dark Side of the Moon, Thriller, Achtung Baby, and (What's the Story) Morning Glory. Kudos to L'Osservatore Romano for even thinking to create such a list. I hope I can be forgiven, though, for not taking it too seriously.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Thoughts on "I Want to Hold Your Hand"

I struggle with "I Want to Hold Your Hand." I struggle with it because a song so revered and historic seems deserving of much more than the heavily qualified appreciation that I give it. Having, in 1964, launched the British Invasion of America, "I Want to Hold Your Hand" obviously occupies an important place in both the Beatles' catalogue and pop music's entire body of songs. It solidified the Beatles as a world phenomenon, and not by accident. From the iconic opening riffs and irresistible handclaps to the punchy cries of "I can't hide" and overall warmth, it's a preposterously effective pop song. I certainly couldn't argue, in good faith, that it's unqualified for its status as a classic. All of this is true, and yet, when I listen to the song, I am largely unmoved by it. I dare say I find it a bit boring. I don't feel the Beatles' conviction in it like I do in some of their other early-period classics (i.e., "Please Please Me," "Twist and Shout," "From Me to You," "She Loves You," etc.). I don't believe them as much. Maybe this is partially a function of the innocuous nature of the chorus: expressing one's desire to hold another person's hand clearly lacks sexual bite and doesn't make for much narrative excitement (to my modern ears, anyway). It gives the impression that the Beatles are holding back, and not in a compelling fashion. That's my most substantive complaint, anyway. The others strike tamer blows: I don't care for sections of the harmony, I wish that the pace of the song was somewhat quicker, and lastly, how are John and Paul not singing, "I get high," on the part when they're allegedly wailing, "I can't hide?" The latter shouldn't frustrate me, but it does. So it goes with "I Want to Hold Your Hand," a classic that leaves me bewildered and uncertain more than it does satisfied.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Johnny Cash's "In My Life"

It's this Sunday's Beatles cover. I know of some who swear by it, and then there are others, like myself, who can't muster nearly the same level of enthusiasm for it. In my view, Cash's rendition is just too Johnny Cash: dirtied and disheveled. These qualities usually work in his favor, but the original version of "In My Life," possibly the greatest pop song ever recorded, thrives off of being clean and precise. Much is lost when that's changed. In fact, it seems that much is lost when any detail of the original is changed. Cash gave "In My Life" an honest, true-to-himself try, but he came up short, and perhaps inevitably so.

(If the embedding is disabled, go here).

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Saturday Ringo potpourri

- At his Walk of Fame ceremony, Ringo warmly reminisced about the past.

- The Los Angeles Times interviews Mr. Starr.

- Finally, praise for Zak Starkey's performance with The Who at halftime of this year's Super Bowl. Zak is Ringo's son; like his father, he plays the drums professionally (P.S. The writing for this small piece is atrocious).

Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday haiku - "Oh! Darling"

On this blues throwback,
Paul lets loose a raw vocal
that recalls his youth.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Thursday haiku - "Maxwell's Silver Hammer"

Paul's eccentric tale
of a murderous student,
"Hammer" drew much scorn.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Beatles/Radiohead mash-up

Someone combined "Happiness Is a Warm Gun" with "Planet Telex," the lead track from Radiohead's 1995 classic The Bends. The result? Cooler in theory than in practice. The novelty effect wears off after 30 seconds or so, and then you're left with the sound of two great songs interrupting one another. Having said that, it is far from a complete dud and at least deserves one listen.

"Planet Happiness"

(If the embedding is disabled, go here).

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Today in Beatles history - Ed Sullivan

Today marks the 46th anniversary of the Beatles' historic and game-changing appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, which was watched by over 73 million Americans. It is said that even crime came to a halt while the Beatles worked their magic in CBS-TV Studio 50. Go here for "The Story Behind The Beatles on Ed Sullivan" by Bruce Spizer. Also, have a look at part 1 of The Beatles - The First U.S. Visit, a documentary by Albert and David Maysles (you can watch the entirety of the doc on YouTube).

Monday, February 8, 2010

Monday haiku -"Something"

George's first A-side,
"Something" garnered lavish praise;
'Ol Blue Eyes loved it.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Paul at Super Bowl XXXIX, etc.

The performance was five long years ago. Additionally, here's Paul playing "Freedom" during the pre-game festivities for Super Bowl XXXVI.

"Something About the Beatles"

It's by a longtime British pop outfit called the Korgis. Verdict: insubstantial but charming.

(If the embedding is disabled, go here).

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Saturday haiku - "Come Together"

Puzzlingly worded,
"Come" started as John's song for
Timothy Leary.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Friday Beatles potpourri: lengthy edition

- Here are some details on the Beatles-Wu Tang Clan mash-up called Enter the Magical Mystery Chambers.

- Both Paul and Yoko offered advice and insight to Sam Taylor-Wood as she re-created John's youth in Nowhere Boy.

- Ringo is to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

- Ex-Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic approvingly reviewed Ringo's Y Not.

- Study the Beatles at Oxford University this summer.

- Some of John's writings from the late '70s were recently found.

- Soul singer Roberta Flack is currently recording an album of Beatles covers and will release it in April.

- Lastly, Paul's son James is going to be touring in the near future.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

More on Glenn Beck and "Revolution"

Though it's old news by this point, I still want to briefly revisit Glenn Beck's analysis of "Revolution" and show what I find most faulty about it. Specifically, it's that Beck fails to grasp the true purpose and tone of John's lyric. He notes a number of times throughout the segment that, to reach his conclusions, he closely examined what John was saying. For instance, the use of the word "evolution" signaled something quite sly and sinister to him: John was deliberately eschewing the violent rhetoric used by Maoists, the New Left, and other extremist groups in favor of a program more politically palatable - "evolution" replaces "revolution" - but no less destructive in the long run. In Beck's view, it was just a different means to the same undesirable end. Admittedly, there are some slivers of truth in this reading, and yet Beck still ends up significantly in error. The whole point of "Revolution" was so that John could firmly disassociate himself from the various radical groups that wanted his allegiance. He didn't share their approval of violence. He espoused a peaceful approach to social change and asserted as much in the song: "But when you talk about destruction/ Don't you know that you can count me out." And to the Maoists, he said, "But if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao/You ain't going to make it with anyone anyhow." The rest of the lyric is consistent with these lines: It witnesses John disputing some of the positions taken by extremist factions on the Left.

What Beck can't seem to understand is that, with "Revolution," John was not proposing an explicit plan of action for achieving the goals that he, as a man of the Left, desired. As I alluded to above, the song is almost entirely couched in negative terms (i.e., this is a method and that is a method that I (John) don't condone). Even the word that Beck emphasizes the most - evolution - comes from a line that John attributes to someone else: "You tell me that it's evolution." Thus Beck can't claim that John was trying to use the idea of evolution as a trojan horse for revolution. After all, John had positioned himself in opposition to the person/group that is the "You" in "You tell me that it's evolution." One of the few positive exhortations he actually delivers is, "You better free your mind instead." He's putting the onus on the individual to improve him- or herself. Couldn't conservatives such as Beck find something to like about that? It's also noteworthy that, in lines like "We all want to change the world" or "We all want to change your head" where John seems to be expressing agreement, there is an undercurrent of dismissive sarcasm in his voice. Notice how the preface to each is a qualifying "Well, you know...," i.e., "Yeah, we also want to effect change, but we're not on board with you."

The upshot of this is that Beck incorrectly sees "Revolution" as containing John's vision for how he would bring about social progress. It's actually a vision of how he wouldn't. The bulk of Beck's argument lies with his discourse on the word "evolution," and that analysis crumbles under scrutiny. "Revolution," in fact, communicates oppositional sentiments toward radical left-wing groups and, with the chorus line, "You know it's gonna be alright," it almost seems to suggest that rapid change may not be necessary (or maybe even desirable). These wrongs will be righted in due time, John could be interpreted as saying. Perhaps there's some irony in the song's title.

I realize that John's indecision over whether to say "count me in" or "count me out" on the line about violence makes it difficult to interpret "Revolution" with full confidence. He did end up using "out," though, and he never really strayed again from this belief in non-violence. It should also be pointed out that, on his show, Beck didn't indicate any awareness of this historical detail, so his analysis doesn't have the benefit of the complications it presents to my argument. On a number of levels, Beck simply didn't do his homework.

Re: "The day the music died"

Rolling Stone has solid coverage of Buddy Holly's death.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

"The day the music died"

It was 51 years ago today that Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, J.P. Richardson, and their pilot all died as the result of a plane crash in Iowa. It's remarkable that Holly was only 22 when he perished, and yet the cultural imprint he left is so significant. His music certainly influenced the Beatles in great measure. It's said that even the name "the Beatles" was in part a tribute to Holly's backing band, the Crickets.

Below are the Beatles' covers of "That'll Be the Day" and "Words of Love."

"That'll Be the Day"

"Words of Love"

(If the embedding is disabled, go here and here).

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Tuesday potpourri: uber-trivial edition

- Read about the "Yellow Submarine tea infuser."

- John, Paul, George, and Ringo as the "Four Basic Elements of Dining." Here's the sole relevant passage: The four elements are the Beatles: John was the food, the steak and potatoes. Paul was the ambience, the sound. George was the service, the soul of the place. And Ringo, the price point. Would the Beatles have been the Beatles without all four?

- Susan Boyle's brother fears that his wildly famous sister will suffer a fate similar to John Lennon's.

- Paul Shirley, the sometime writer and professional basketball player who penned this asinine evaluation of the Beatles (which I responded to here), recently got canned by ESPN for some, let's say, ill-considered remarks about Haiti.

- Lastly, Michael Lindsay-Hogg, director of the Let It Be documentary and other Beatle videos, is going to take a DNA test to answer the persistent suspicions about Orson Welles being his father

Monday, February 1, 2010

Ringo and The Electric Fetus

From my perspective, the most notable news to come out of the 2010 Grammys was that Ringo chose to sport an Electric Fetus t-shirt at the awards ceremony. This might be meaningless to some, but for residents of Minnesota who are in-the-know, it's kind of a treat. The Electric Fetus is a well-respected, much-patronized, and awesomely-named record store that has a number of locations throughout Minnesota. It's basically the only place I buy albums at here in Minneapolis. According to the Star Tribune, Ringo acquired the t-shirt from his nephew, Christian-Philippe Quilici, who lives in the Cities. And then he wore it to the Grammys - outstanding! Ringo Starr: a man of the people.

On the front page of the Electric Fetus website, this message was posted:

As many of you have heard by now, Ringo Starr presented the Album of the Year award at the Grammys Sunday night wearing an Electric Fetus t-shirt. A Beatle wearing a t-shirt makes it cool, so not surprisingly our website and Minneapolis store have temporarily run out of the black style worn by Mr. Starkey. We'll have more back in stock in Wednesday afternoon. Incidentally, they're part of our Minneapolis store's pick for February's featured local artist. Thanks Ringo!

The Beatles win at the 2010 Grammys

There were two Beatle-related wins last night: 1) Guitar god Jeff Beck won in the category of Best Rock Instrumental Performance for his version of "A Day in the Life" from Performing This Week...Live At Ronnie Scott's (I posted a YouTube vid of Beck playing that song last week). 2) The Beatles Love: All Together Now won for Best Long Form Music Video.


Truth: The Grammys are so lame.