Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Paul at The Hollywood Bowl (3/30)

Below are excerpts from two reviews of the show.

Rolling Stone:
Has Paul McCartney been borrowing Bruce Springsteen’s trainer? At 67, the former Beatle seems determined to suddenly turn his gigs into E Street-style marathons. When McCartney did an American mini-tour last spring and summer, fans (and, at the Coachella Festival, some curious acolytes) were astonished by shows that stretched out to the two-and-a-half hour mark. Returning to U.S. shores with a slightly revamped revue that he’s dubbed the “Up and Coming Tour,” McCartney now has an even longer set list that brings his concerts up to a plentiful two hours and 45 minutes. In other words, Rosalita ain’t got nothing on Eleanor Rigby.

Los Angeles Times:
It’s hard to think of much in the pop music world more impressive than a 67-year-old musician holding forth for nearly three hours, outdoors on a chilly March night, while delivering some three dozen songs, the least of which would be a career highlight for almost any other artist.

Perhaps the only thing more mind-boggling than that description of Paul McCartney’s sold-out show Tuesday in the first of his two nights this week at the Hollywood Bowl was the realization when it was all Paul_McCartney_2_ over that, without much trouble and no serious dip in quality, he could have filled another set of that magnitude with all the choice Beatles, Wings and solo tunes he didn’t get around to: “She Loves You,” “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “Getting Better,” “She’s Leaving Home,” “Maybe I’m Amazed,” “Hi, Hi, Hi,” etc. etc. etc.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tuesday haiku - "Hey Bulldog"

On this raucous tune,
John's dancing piano lick
swiftly sets the tone.

Smokey, one more time

Below are a number of Smokey Robinson songs that I've referred to by name or less directly within the last week. Do give them a listen; it's no secret that Smokey Robinson and The Miracles are basically synonymous with easy aural pleasure.

(Just click on the song title links).

1) "What's So Good About Goodbye" - The Beatles borrowed a guitar part from it for "Ask Me Why."
2) "(You Can) Depend on Me" - Wikipedia: "... Ian MacDonald compared it ("All I've Got to Do") to 'You Can Depend on Me' by the Miracles, both musically and lyrically."
3) "I've Been Good to You" - John seems to have had the opening lines of this song floating through his head when he composed the lyric for "Sexy Sadie." For more, go here.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Paul in Glendale, AZ (3/28)

Ed Masley of The Arizona Republic reviews the opening show of Paul's "Up and Coming" tour.

Wearing a collarless jacket obviously meant to conjure memories
of the early Beatles, he kicked off the show with a well-chosen medley of Wings hits - "Venus and Mars," an abbreviated "Rock Show" and "Jet," the first of several songs that seemed to hold back just enough to really kick in at certain key moments.

The night's first Beatles song came next - an effervescent "All My Loving" that I'd like to think was in that spot because it was also the first song the Beatles performed in their debut appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show." He followed with another Beatles track, reaching back to "Revolver" for "Got to Get You into My Life," with the keyboard player handling all the horn parts while footage from The Beatles: Rock Band played out on the screen behind them.

For a show so firmly rooted in nostalgia, Sunday's concert wasn't shy about reminding fans that this particular legend is still out there making records. Five songs in, he went straight from "Revolver" to the Fireman's "Electric Arguments" for "Highway," a muscular rocker whose funky central riff was not that far removed from "Taxman" territory.

Monday haiku - "All Together Now"

It's a children's song:
numbers, letters, and colors
are part of Paul's rhyme.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Inspired by The Beatles - "Karma Police"

I'm going to immediately qualify the title of this post and note that, in writing "Karma Police," Thom Yorke and the rest of Radiohead weren't necessarily inspired by The Beatles as much as they were drawn to borrow from them. Specifically, it's in the chord progression of the song's piano and acoustic guitar that you can hear The Beatles playing "Sexy Sadie," John's veiled rebuke of the Maharishi from side three of The White Album. The connection is pretty obvious. But whereas "Sexy Sadie" has a lighter feel to it, "Karma Police" is dark and uncertain, with an only somewhat restrained sense of menace at its core. It's an absorbing and perhaps perfect song, one of a half-dozen or so highlights from Radiohead's 1997 classic OK Computer.

And just because I've recently been writing about Smokey Robinson's heavy influence on John, I want to direct you to what Wikipedia has to say about some of the lyrics from "Sexy Sadie:" In a 1969 interview, Lennon stated one of his favourite songs was "I've Been Good To You" by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles. The Miracles song begins with the line Look what you've done / You made a fool out of someone, compared to Sexy Sadie's What have you done? / You made a fool of everyone.

We've now established a link, however indirect, between Smokey Robinson and Radiohead. Rad.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Saturday haiku - "Only a Northern Song"

Sloppy on purpose,
"Only" is George's sly rant
against Northern Songs.

Cover of "All I've Got to Do"

Below is an interesting and well-executed cover of the song I recently discussed. I think if Ryan Adams ever offered his take on "All I've Got to Do," it might sound something close to this.

(If the embedding is disabled, go here).

Friday, March 26, 2010

One of several Fifth Beatles

A few nights ago I sat down and watched Brian Epstein: Inside The Fifth Beatle (2004), a documentary about The Beatles' very hard-working and consequential manager. At roughly an hour in length, it doesn't explore the various stages of Brian's life in great detail, and much of what it does cover seems like it would be familiar territory for those fairly well-versed in Beatles history. Inside The Fifth Beatle starts with Brian's birth and efficiently moves from there to his young adulthood, noting his stint in the army,* his thespian training, and then his return to Liverpool where he found himself running NEMS, a record store owned by his father Harry. While working there, the documentary continues, he eventually caught wind of The Beatles, took to them, and then maneuvered his way into being their manager. He fulfilled this duty with huge success and oversaw many other acts (who are given scant mention here) until his tragic death in 1967, which was the result of a sleeping pill overdose.

Mixed in with this straightforward narrative is some insightful, firsthand commentary on Brian and the ways that he affected The Beatles. For instance, though it's widely known that Brian enforced strict measures on "the boys" to clean up their presentation - the matching suits, the polished stage etiquette, etc. - , thereby making them much more marketable, I'd never before heard this described as fundamentally transforming the band from a rock act suffused with John's lusty personality to a professional group more in line with Paul's refined sensibilities. Having now heard this point, it seems obvious. But it is a perceptive observation.

I also appreciated that the people interviewed for the documentary - Alistair Taylor, Alan Williams, Sid Bernstein (who could lull you to sleep with his soothingly avuncular manner), and others (though no Beatles) - were permitted to broach the touchier aspects of Brian's life: his homosexuality and how it factored into his relationship with John, his weakness for drugs and gambling, and his insecurities about living outside of the limelight.

These details, coupled with the more loving description of Brian as a good-hearted and genteel "class act" who didn't care for pop music but was tremendously devoted to The Beatles, show him to have been a complex individual who was, in a way, brought down by what he enjoyed most.

Overall: a worthwhile, though incomplete, watch.

* - Why was he kicked out, again? I've come across explanations both PG and salacious.

Friday haiku - "Yellow Submarine"

A blithe sing-along
written by Paul for Ringo,
"Yellow" teems with quirks.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Thoughts on "All I've Got to Do"

With some pop bands, especially those that are considered among the greatest, it can be strange thinking about them as not only creators of music but also fans of it. That is, other people's music, oftentimes the work of a lesser band than the one in question. When I first came to know the Icelandic quartet Sigur Ros, it was in the context of them being one of Radiohead's favorite acts, and I remember puzzling over the idea of Thom Yorke and company having deep admiration for the music of a contemporary. Radiohead makes untouchable, boldly innovative art, I thought - so how could they deign to praise younger, less accomplished musicians? It almost seemed like an admission of weakness, i.e., they write songs and create sounds that we haven't and perhaps couldn't have. When I was younger, such an idea struck a false note with me. It took me a while to become comfortable with the obvious truth that all bands, regardless of their stature, have influences and are fans of other artists.

I thought of my erstwhile confusion several weeks ago as I listened to "All I've Got to Do," the second track on With The Beatles. For not only is it a heavily Motown-influenced song, it is in fact an attempt at a Motown song. It's John posing as Smokey Robinson, the legendary lead singer of The Miracles, and letting us know that he's a fool for the sound of Motown. It's an instance of The Beatles not really caring to be a distinctive group. Rather, they were responding to and aping the songs that they, as music fans, greatly enjoyed.

None of this is surprising, of course. After all, The Beatles' music wasn't created in a vacuum. It didn't simply appear out of thin air. And though we rarely think about them in these terms, The Beatles were at one point a raw, musically undeveloped band. Their abilities weren't fully flowered from the start. It only makes sense then that, on their way to becoming the greatest and most significant band in pop music history, they drew inspiration from many other artists, building on their artistic imprints. The list includes Elvis, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Little Richard, girl groups, Motown acts, and more. The Beatles borrowed from them to vivify their own musical instincts and creativity as they matured into accomplished musicians and songwriters.

That The Beatles were influenced by Motown was evident before they recorded "All I've Got to Do." Like that song," "Ask Me Why," which is off Please Please Me, was a product of John's enthusiasm for Smokey Robinson. According to Wikipedia, it "emulates in style that of Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, by whom Lennon was influenced, and draws its opening guitar phrase from the Miracles’ 'What’s So Good About Goodbye.'" "There's a Place" is another song John wrote for Please Please Me with Motown in mind.

But it was on With The Beatles that The Fabs' high estimation of Berry Gordy and his acts really came into full view. In addition to recording "All I've Got to Do," The Beatles cut three Motown covers for the album: "Please Mister Postman," "You Really Got a Hold on Me" (written and originally performed, of course, by Smokey), and "Money (That's What I Want)." And just for good measure, according to John, "Not a Second Time" represented yet another imitation of, who else, Smokey Robinson. The Beatles (John, more to the point) were making no secret of what music they prized. They were seemingly proud to brandish their tastes. The fact that, on one album, they covered three Motown hits and recorded two other songs inspired by an artist from the same label gives this admiration an eager, youthful quality. In those moments, The Beatles were just as much fans of music as they were professional recording artists.

Also, it makes sense that John handled the lead vocals on all of these songs. His voice was so well-suited to the material. It possessed a sensitivity that was genuine and affecting, but behind that there lay a forceful and fiery passion that could erupt when needed. John was closely acquainted with rejection, abandonment, and heartbreak, meaning that he was rarely at a loss for potent emotions. Often when he sang, those thorny, deeply-buried feelings would flow through his voice and instill earnest conviction in his words. He could do wounded, needy, and tender all very well. It was perfect for Motown songs. Just listen to the cover of "You Really Got a Hold on Me," and notice how natural John sounds within its confines. This is true of "All I've Got to Do" as well. It's an excellent song - sexually nervy, emotionally compelling, and sonically taut - , and John seems right at home in it.

John truly cherished Motown. He drew fertile inspiration from the music, and this underscores the fact that part of The Beatles' genius was how effectively they incorporated many rich influences into their own songwriting. They were historic taste-makers who, perhaps necessarily, had great taste.

For more on "All I've Got to Do," check out its Wikipedia page.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tuesday Beatles potpourri

- EMI "may outsource the management of its North American catalogue of music recordings for five years," which could generate a lot of cash for the British music company and prevent it from being subsumed by its lender Citigroup.

- "Money for old rock"

- This year, Liverpool's Beatles Day will be a global affair.

- A feud has developed between two barbershops in Liverpool over which one should be the destination for tourists seeking out the hair-fashioning locale mentioned in "Penny Lane."

- Over at his Examiner page, Steve Marinucci enthuses about Beatles Deeper Undercover, a recently released book.

- Lastly, another book link: The Independent reviews London Calling: A Countercultural History of London Since 1945 by Barry Miles.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Post-Beatles greatness

Ed Masley of The Arizona Republic took a stab at compiling the ten best Beatles solo albums. Here are the results.

Inevitably, such a list is going to be greeted with contrary opinions (just look at the comments), and I myself would make some major changes to what Masley arrived at. Band on the Run should be much closer to the top; Ringo probably deserves to be included; and several of those Wings' albums just don't belong. And, respectfully, I must also disagree with this comment from Masley's summary of Imagine: "... 'How Do You Sleep?' takes the shine off his (John's) halo with a vicious swipe at Paul McCartney." Yes, that song was cheap and hateful, but John never had a halo to sully in the first place. Not even close, in fact.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Assorted Paul news

- Improbably, Paul and Heather Mills seem to have patched up some of their differences and are getting along well with one another.

- In Beatles-related animal rights news, Paul has lent his support to a proposed ban on fur trading in Israel. If the measure passes, Israel would become the "first country to ban the export, import and sale of any kind of fur."

- Macca made the cover of the March issue of Stir It Up, a UK catering magazine.

- Now a touring musician, James McCartney reflects on living in the shadow of his legendary father.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Yoko, her youth, and Japan

"Yoko Ono: Back to where she once belonged."

Yoko is back in Japan for a three-week trip and, for the first time, has agreed to a journalist accompanying her to write about this side of her multi-faceted life. This is also the first time she has agreed to open up in depth about her childhood, her awkward, distant upbringing in a quasi-aristocratic family in Tokyo, and Lennon’s relationship with her parents. Only now is she truly comfortable returning to Japan.

Friday, March 19, 2010

For a modest $11 million . . .

... you could buy "a printer's proof of the famous Beatles banned 'butcher cover' from John Lennon's personal collection." It's the most expensive piece of Beatles memorabilia on record. More details here.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Wednesday haiku - "Her Majesty"

The Fabs' shortest track,
"Her" playfully mocks the Queen
while toasting her too.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Re: "Best Songs About Sleep"

As I would have done, Rolling Stone's readers voted "I'm Only Sleeping" the best song about sleep; "I'm So Tired" came in sixth. The rest of the results are here.

"She Loves You, Man"

The other day, a friend reminded me of the great SNL skit from the early '80s in which Eddie Murphy plays Clarence Walker, a man who claims to have been the fifth Beatle.

Tuesday haiku - "The End"

A jamming send-off,
"The End" closes as it should:
with warm thoughts of love.

Monday, March 15, 2010

"Yellow Submarine" in trouble?

Walt Disney Studios has shut down ImageMovers Digital, the production company run by Robert Zemeckis that is behind the motion-capture remake of Yellow Submarine. At the moment, it's uncertain what ramifications this will have for the project.

The big screen adaptation of The Beatles’ popular YELLOW SUBMARINE has found itself in choppy waters following what is being described as “cost cutting measures” by Walt Disney Studios. The studio, which recently spent $4 billion in an ongoing merger with Marvel Comics, is pulling the plug on ImageMovers Digital – the production company behind the long awaited project.
. . .
While Disney have said that they’re hoping to draft a deal with Zemeckis and his IMD partners, Jack Rapke and Steve Starkey in order to bring Submarine to the big screen, no such deal has yet materialised. Should Disney go ahead with production, it is likely we will be seeing a 3D version of the film rather than the mo-cap technology originally intended for use.

Monday haiku - "Carry That Weight"

With the phrase "that weight",
Paul meant The Beatles' problems,
which, then, were many.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Beatles fiction and spoof

I recently did a Google search for articles about The Beatles' trip to India in 1968, and this was one of the results I got. It's the "Beatles In India" page on Uncyclopedia, which is a "content-free" parody of Wikipedia. If you read it, what you'll find is a very un-clever and un-entertaining story about how The Beatles' journey to the Orient was actually a fantastical weed run that almost witnessed the mortal demise of the group. If not for the Maharishi, Beatles history would be significantly different ....

In other fictional news, did you know that, in addition to sabotaging The Beatles as a functioning unit, Yoko is also to blame for the Macca-Mills divorce?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

"Best Songs About Sleep"

That's the theme of Rollingstone's current Weekend Rock List, marking the dreaded occasion of Daylight Saving Time. Here's what the RS staff came up with:

• The Beatles – “I’m So Tired”
• The Wu-Tang Clan – “I Can’t Go to Sleep”
• The Romantics – “Talking in Your Sleep”
• John Lennon – “How Do You Sleep”
• The Postal Service – “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight”

Not bad: one Beatles song and one solo outing from John. I wouldn't be surprised if there was a debate about whether to choose "I'm So Tired" or "I'm Only Sleeping" as The Beatles' entry on this list. Both belong to John, and both are classics. I likely would've opted for "I'm Only Sleeping" because it holds the distinction of truly sounding like it's drowsy and ready to hit the hay. The sonics on that song sort of limp around in a lethargic state. It's a remarkably apt marriage of sound and lyric. But I could hardly fault someone for choosing "I'm So Tired." It's one of my favorite Beatles songs. The frustration that John gives voice to on it is both comic and touching, and his vocal so zesty and convincing.

Other Beatles songs that would have fit the criteria for this list? I thought of "Good Night" and "Golden Slumbers." Any others?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday haiku - "Golden Slumbers"

With its lustrous strings
and Paul's expressive vocal,
"Golden" stirs the heart.

The U.S. Department of Peace

Yoko supports its creation and wants you to as well.

As well-intentioned as this effort may be, "Department of Peace" just sounds too much like "Ministry of Peace," and that's a regrettable association.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Assorted Paul news

- Paul ranked 31st on Billboard's list of the music industry's Top 40 "Money Makers" of 2009. His earnings - a modest $12,203,170 - do not include his Beatles-related income.

- Erykah Badu tweeted her way to getting a Macca sample cleared (there's actually more to the story than just that).

- Anton Newcombe, the often volatile lead singer of The Brian Jonestown Massacre, let loose some unkind words for Paul and The Beatles. The name of his band's most recent album is Who Killed Sgt. Pepper?.

Update: In the comments below, Anton writes that Clash misrepresented what he said about Paul. Here's the original interview.

Family matters:

- Here's a review of James McCartney's recent concert in Liverpool, and here's a report of the surprise appearance that Paul made at his son's show in Brighton, England.

- Paul also traveled to Paris to support his daughter Stella as she showcased her latest collection of fashion designs for Paris Fashion Week.

- Finally, "Mary McCartney on her family recipes." Mary is so lovely.

John Lennon and the radical Left

Early last month, the topic of John's tenuous relationship with the radical Left in the 1970s was briefly treated by Maurice Hindle, a British author and academic, and Mohammed Abbasi, a leftist blogger (and maybe much more; I'm not sure). Hindle wrote a piece for the Guardian arguing that, despite his flirtation with radical politics in the early '70s, John ultimately lacked the disposition and the necessary beliefs to be a committed participant in these groups. Though elements of the New Left tried to claim him, he simply didn't belong. He wasn't one of them. In the article, Hindle included this excerpt from John's Skywriting by Word of Mouth :

The biggest mistake Yoko and I made in that period was allowing ourselves to become influenced by the male-macho 'serious revolutionaries', and their insane ideas about killing people to save them from capitalism and/or ­communism (depending on your point of view). We should have stuck to our own way of working for peace: bed-ins, billboards, etc.

Hindle continues:
Lennon's primary gift was for writing and recording songs that communicate with millions in ways that no ideologically driven political creed – whether of the left or right – ever could.

In response, Abbasi wrote a blog post that doesn't really dispute the substance of what Hindle was asserting but merely affirms that John remained a man of the Left (even if not the radical Left) up until his death in 1980. Abbasi points out that John was a stalwart opponent of British imperialism in Ireland; he never retracted any of the utopian sentiments he expressed in "Imagine;" and he was no proponent of Thatcherism. This doesn't add up to a portrait of a radical leftist, but I don't know that Abbasi was necessarily trying to make that case. If he was, he came up well short.

He wanted to leave Britain because he and Yoko were repulsed by its provincialism and by the tenor of tabloid racism that was directed against her. I last spoke with him in 1979 when we discussed the likely impact of Thatcher’s victory. He didn’t sound too unradical in that conversation. If there is a record of it in some British intelligence archive, I would be grateful to see a transcript. Clearly, his views changed somewhat but I can’t see him as a neocon supporting the wars and occupations in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan.

No, John would certainly not be a neocon if he was alive today. But to argue that he wouldn't be is to argue with a straw man. Hindle was only submitting that John wasn't a practicing radical, and this strikes me as a very reasonable conclusion.

For more on John's politics, read my analysis of "Revolution." I love this topic as a whole.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Tuesday haiku - "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window"

"She" was a Fabs fan,
a mischievous "Apple Scruff"
who dabbled in theft.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Paul to play Connecticut?

Some have raised the possibility, while others have sources saying a performance at Rentschler Field in East Hartford is currently "off the table."

Monday haiku: "Polythene Pam"

She's "killer diller",
and she's "attractively built" -
she's "Polythene Pam".

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Great non-Beatles song...

... with a Beatles reference. This entry, the fourth in the series, is by far the best known; it needs little introduction. It's the title track from a 1979 album that's widely considered one of the greatest in pop music history. It was recorded, with burning and forceful vitality, by a rock 'n' roll quartet once dubbed "The Only Band That Matters." Yes, it's "London Calling" by The Clash, and it's epically bad-ass.

The line: "Phony Beatlemania has bitten the dust."
The song: "London Calling"

The lyrics also reflect desperation of the band's situation in 1979 struggling with high debt, without management and arguing with their record label over whether the London Calling album should be a single or double album. The lines referring to "now don't look to us / All that (sic) phoney Beatlemania has bitten the dust" reflects the concerns of the band over its situation after the punk rock boom in England in 1977 had ended. While many took the line as a slam against the Beatles, another interpretation, offered at the time the song was released, suggested that this line referred not to the Beatles, but to the Broadway production, Beatlemania, which advertised itself as "Not the Beatles, But an Incredible Simulation." Hence, the line castigated late 1970s culture for its lack of substance, such as consuming "phoney Beatlemania," essentially a simulated, rather than actual, experience.

The previous entries in this ongoing series are:
1) "Friday Night at the Drive-In Bingo" by Jens Lekman
2) "Sunshowers" by M.I.A.
3) "Spit Shine Your Black Clouds" by The Blood Brothers

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Alice and The Beatles

Anticipating the release this weekend of Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, Spinner compiled a list of their staff's "favorite songs inspired by the girl who fell into a rabbit hole." To no surprise, The Beatles made two appearances on the list, one for "I Am the Walrus" and the other for "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds." John, a Lewis Carroll enthusiast, was the mind behind these songs, and they each feature the kind of colorfully surrealistic lyrics - "elementary penguin singing Hare Krishna," "tangerine trees and marmalade skies," etc. - that you'd expect from someone with a taste for both Carroll and acid. Ah yes, literature and psychedelics: a potent combination.

Also check out this article, which discusses "The 10 Weirdest 'Alice in Wonderland' Adaptations," be they movies, comics, novels, or even video games. It's relevant to The Beatles because, in 1985, Ringo played the Mock Turtle in a TV miniseries of Wonderland and its sequel, Through the Looking Glass. Curious, indeed.

Saturday haiku - "Mean Mr. Mustard"

Spawned in India,
"Mean" is about a miser
with cash "up his nose".

Friday, March 5, 2010

Friday Beatles potpourri

- The Beatles were named the international artist(s) of the year at last month's Gold Disc Awards in Japan.

- "How Wales helped The Beatles make it big."

- Random: On The Beatles, CT scanners, and the continuously rising costs of health care in the U.S. (via Pop & Hiss).

- Some Springfield, OH locals list off their ten favorite Beatles songs.

-Finally, pictures from the Beatles' last official photo-shoot (in 1968) were recently made public. They were taken by a photographer named Tom Murray, and one of them hauntingly shows John playing dead while the other Beatles are gathered around him. The collection as a whole is called the Mad Day Out.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

On this day in 1966 . . .

. . . the London Evening Standard published Maureen Cleave's article, "How Does A Beatle Live? John Lennon Lives Like This," which quoted the opinionated Lennon as saying (now notoriously) that the Beatles were "more popular than Jesus." The rest, of course, is history.

For us living in the year 2010, it seems that the most relevant of John's remarks to Maureen about religion is the one that immediately preceded the comparison with Jesus: 'Christianity will go,' he said. 'It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue about that; I'm right and I will be proved right.' Now because John didn't provide specifics on when he thought this fate would befall Christianity, you can't say conclusively that he was wrong. But to this day, Christianity emphatically remains the world's dominant religion in terms of sheer numbers. And when measured by the "absolute number of new adherents" that it gains per year, it's also the world's fastest-growing religion. At this point in history, then, John's prediction is off. Badly off. He was probably much closer to the truth with his comment about Jesus.

Re: Assorted John news

The Liverpool Echo reports on Sean Lennon's defense of the Citroën commercial. Let me add that, while I find Sean's rationale to be flimsy in several ways, I'm still very sympathetic to the general stance he's taken on the matter.

He used his Twitter page to respond to the attacks, insisting Yoko gave the project the go-ahead in an attempt to keep the late star in the public eye.

He wrote: “She did not do it for money. Has to do w hoping to keep dad in public consciousness. No new LPs, so TV ad is exposure to young (sic).

“Look, TV ad was not for money. It’s just hard to find new ways to keep dad in the new world. Not many things as effective as TV.”

He later added a third tweet, again stressing the Citroën DS3 advert was not for financial gain.

He wrote: “Having just seen ad I realize why people are mad. But intention was not financial, was simply wanting to keep him out there in the world.”

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The latest on Paul's summer tour

Via The Beatles Bible, here's what Paul's summer tour of the UK and Ireland looks like:

- 12 June: RDS Arena, Dublin, Ireland
- 13 June: Isle of Wight Festival
- 20 June: Hampden Park, Glasgow, Scotland
- 26 June: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Wales
- 27 June: Hard Rock Calling, London, England

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Two covers of "It Won't Be Long"

Following up on my post about "It Won't Be Long," below I've embedded two covers of the song, one by Franz Ferdinand and the other by Evan Rachel Wood from the movie Across the Universe. I've linked to the Franz rendition once before, and as I alluded to at the time, it doesn't quite come together. This could be a product of the song being live: it's lacking, critically, in crispness. Perhaps a studio version would have better served Franz. I also don't care much for the cover from Across the Universe. Though Evan Rachel Wood is a capable singer, her vocal has the effect of making me yearn for John's. Maybe the material just better suits a male vocalist.

You can listen to both below and form your own judgments.

Franz Ferdinand:

Evan Rachel Wood:

(If either of the embeddings is disabled, go here and here, respectively).

Assorted John news

- As you'd expect, there's been much outrage expressed of late over John being used in a commercial for Citroën, a French automobile company. In the ad, not only do you find John's image, but there's also an imitation of his voice which is used to deliver an "inspirational" message about creativity, living in the moment, etc. Yoko obviously gave this her approval, and Sean Lennon has defended the commercial as a way to keep the memory of his father in the broader public consciousness. But these facts have not stemmed the flow of indignation from zealous fans of Lennon (see Sean's Twitter page for some acrimonious back-and-forths). At his Beatles Examiner digs, Steve Marinucci denounced any ad that puts words in a dead celebrity's mouth as "unbearable" (though earlier in the article, he stated that he was not too bothered by last year's One Laptop Per Child commercial, which showed John's likeness speaking dubbed lines). As I've stated before, I just can't get too worked up about this issue. It strikes me as far too inconsequential for the kind of passion that it elicits. Annoyance? Sure, because some of the ads can be exceedingly artless. But outrage? Fury? Righteous anger? No. Grow up. When Bill Harry, the founder of the Liverpool newspaper Mersey Beat, laments that this Citroën commercial is "totally out of order and will be depressing millions of Lennon fans," perhaps it's an indication, more than anything else, that those throngs of the soon-to-be or currently depressed need a radical adjustment of priorities.

- Here's some late coverage of "We Are Plastic Ono Band," and here's a review of Yoko's performance at the Noise Pop festival in Oakland.

- Nowhere Boy came up short at last month's BAFTAs. In related but much juicier news, the film's director, Sam Taylor Wood (age: 42), is carrying the child of Aaron Johnson, the 19 year-old actor who portrayed John Lennon. The two are engaged.

- "Don't Let Me Down: rise of the rock biopics."

Tuesday haiku - "Sun King"

A wispy pleasure,
"Sun King" is easygoing
and multilingual.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Thoughts on "It Won't Be Long"

"It Won't Be Long" is one of the reasons I started this blog.

On a random night two summers ago, I was watching and enjoying The Beatles Anthology ("Mythology," according to some) with a friend of mine. Good times. But when we came upon the part that played "It Won't Be Long," I quickly asked myself, "How do I not know this song?" From the first listen, it was a marvel to hear. It was such magnetic and spirited rock 'n' roll. After eagerly taking it in, I felt both exhilarated and somewhat ashamed. At the time, I wasn't terribly well-versed in the Beatles' early-period albums (for the unacquainted, "It Won't Be Long" is the lead track on With The Beatles, the band's sophomore release). But that didn't seem like a valid excuse for never having experienced the succulent excitement of this song. How had I so egregiously missed the boat? What's more, I had watched The Beatles Anthology once before, albeit more casually than I did the second time, and yet somehow "It Won't Be Long" had escaped my attention. I resolved to not allow this to happen again with any other Beatles song, and as I had been contemplating various ideas for a blog but was still undecided at the moment, I realized after we were done watching the DVD that the nature of my next writing venture had finally revealed itself: I would blog about the Beatles.

While "It Won't Be Long" was playing, though, I couldn't dwell on my feelings of regret or give much thought to this blog concept that had only just entered my head. I was too swept up in the immediate thrill of what I was hearing. More than most Beatles songs, "It Won't Be Long" hits you with force, and it does so instantly. Its impact is swift. Those propulsive, addictive, and echoing "yeahs" - the song's trademark - are there right at the outset and stir up so much energy and momentum and a sense that something real is on the line. They're the song's life force; you can hear the frenzy of Beatlemania in them. Reviewing the remastered edition of With The Beatles for Pitchfork, Tom Ewing characterized the "'yeah yeah' chants" as "missiles." This dovetails nicely with my description of the whole song as a "controlled explosion" (from this post). Yes, explosively full of life, those "yeahs" elevate "It Won't Be Long," and they would serve the Beatles well throughout their career.

"It Won't Be Long" is actually packed with signature Beatle touches like the "yeah yeah" chants. There's the clever wordplay in juxtaposing "be long" and "belong;" there's George's "scaling" guitar part;" reminiscent of "She Loves You," there's the abrupt shift at the end of the song; and there's John's lyric which channels some of his long-standing insecurities about rejection and isolation ("Here I am sitting all on my own").

All together, it makes for a classic. The Beatles had reservations about the song and chose not to release it as a single, but they shouldn't have doubted themselves. It's striking pop. Almost 50 years after With The Beatles was recorded, "It Won't Be Long" still delivers the goods in glowing fashion. May it inspire more Beatles fans to fully explore a catalogue of music that should be familiar from start to finish.

(If the embedding is disabled, go here).