Monday, May 31, 2010

Monday haiku - "Birthday"

With a stout vocal,
Paul imparts birthday wishes
and his urge to dance.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Macca quotes

They come from an interview he recently did.

- "You know, being a Beatle was a great thing. I am grateful. There are four Beatles. I was one of them. The rest of it is all the stories and all the things that happened. I was there. John was there. Ringo was there. George was there. No one else was there. End of story."

- "It is unbelievable because I kind of flash back to being a little kid in Liverpool, going down the streets in me short trousers and that. Fast forward to this and it is unbelievable. Think of me as a kid and me now. The stuff that went in between was pretty hot sh*t, it's hard to put into words and the effect it has on you, but it is very lovely and I am very proud of it. It is part of my life."

- Asked where that optimism comes from, he says: "Me dad." His late father Jim was, so the story goes, a cotton salesman during the day, and a jazz musician with Jim Mac's Jazz Band by night. (Paul's mother Mary died of breast cancer when he was 14.)

"So I would say my family. I am really well-rooted and very luckily, very well-rooted. Don't ask me, man. I just got born into it. I didn't plan it. This is nothing they can accuse me of having planned," he laughs in reference to his happy thumbs-aloft Macca stereotype. "Do you know what I'm saying?"

- "That's all we were all aiming for when we wrote a song in the Beatles: for it to be remembered."

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Paul as an "Advanced Genius"

In an article for The Wall Street Journal entitled "When Bad Works Happen to Great Artists," author Jason Hartley proposes a momentarily interesting but ultimately very unconvincing theory about "genius" artists of previous generations who are still active and whom many view (Hartley would say incorrectly) as well past their prime. To advance his argument, he dissects Paul's 9/11 tribute song, "Freedom."

So how does the man who wrote “Eleanor Rigby,” “Helter Skelter,” and “Band on the Run” lose the ability to write good songs? It’s simple: he doesn’t. The truth is that McCartney, like Bob Dylan, Leo Tolstoy and Orson Welles, is an Advanced Genius. The Advanced have a gift so great that it develops with age to the point where they are incomprehensible to others. As a result, their art appears self-indulgent, uninspired, or just plain bad when in fact it is more interesting than that of their youth. You’ve heard of “so bad it’s good”? Advanced Geniuses are so good they’re bad. And this brings us to McCartney’s post-9/11 anthem, “Freedom.”

Friday, May 28, 2010

The greatest songs ever

Rolling Stone has revised its list, from 2004, of the 500 greatest songs of all-time to incorporate music from the last half of the decade. CBS News reported on this and then did a follow-up piece that highlighted all of the featured Beatles songs, which are below, along with their ranking out of 500. As you'll see, Rolling Stone's selections are very conventional, very "record label-approved-greatest-hits." In other words, they're pretty boring (even while the songs remain outstanding).

The list:
8: "Hey Jude"
13: "Yesterday"
16: "I Want to Hold Your Hand"
20: "Let It Be"
23: "In My Life"
28: "A Day in the Life"
29: "Help!"
64: "She Loves You"
76: "Strawberry Fields Forever"
83: "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)"
136: "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"
138: "Eleanor Rigby"
140: "I Saw Her Standing There"
154: "A Hard Day's Night"
186: "Please Please Me"
205: "Come Together"
295: "Can't Buy Me Love"
311: "With a Little Help From My Friends"
370: "All You Need is Love"
394: "Ticket to Ride"
469: "Rain"

"Let It Be" turns 40

To mark the anniversary, BBC Radio is running an audio documentary online about The Beatles' 1969 recording sessions at Twickenham Studios that resulted in the Let It Be album and film. The program details how those tumultuous sessions sounded the death knell for the band, and it includes commentary from many players involved (Michael Lindsay-Hogg, Richard DiLello, Alan Parsons, The Beatles themselves, and more). It will only be available here until June 1st.

(Hat-tip: Steve Marinucci)

Editorial note: I listened to the documentary this morning and enjoyed it. While it presents a familiar narrative of the events surrounding Let It Be, it stays interesting because of the many firsthand observations and comments it gathered from all those sources. Solid journalism.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Macca concert news

Two items:
1) On July 1st, Paul will take part in a fundraiser for the Old Vic, a famed theater in London that is celebrating its 192nd birthday this year. Paul's private performance will also be used to promote awareness of his "Meat Free Monday" campaign.

2) Several weeks after that event, Paul's "Up and Coming" tour will make a stop in Nashville at Bridgestone Arena. The concert is set for July 26th.

Best three songs in a row - Pt. 6

Here are the other installments: one, two, three, four, and five.

Album: Rubber Soul
Three songs: "Girl," "I'm Looking Through You," and "In My Life"
Comments: As I observed in Friday's post about Help!, John was the driving creative force on Rubber Soul. By late 1965, he had achieved an utterly dominant form, possibly the peak of his songwriting abilities. Just consider that he was responsible for Rubber Soul's three best offerings: "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)," "Girl," and "In My Life," (and though I find it indulgent and mediocre, "Nowhere Man" is another Lennon original that many have cited as adding to the album's bountiful sonic riches). Vivid and sophisticated, these three songs also double as some of the strongest output of John's career. If you add in "Run For Your Life," however misogynist it may be, that gives John ownership of four out of the top five or six songs on Rubber Soul. Again, dominance.

Conversely, Paul lagged, failing to capitalize on the creative momentum he had built up earlier in 1965 with "I've Just Seen a Face" and "Yesterday." Doubtless, he contributed a handful of solid tracks - "Drive My Car," "You Won't See Me," "Michelle," and "I'm Looking Through You" - but nothing that approached the dazzling heights John had attained. How strange it is to think that on Rubber Soul, The Beatles' game-changing album, Paul didn't helm any songs worthy of the group's pantheon. At times, in fact, he seems curiously absent from the whole affair (it's a mistaken feeling though; Paul did help John write some of those classics). Perhaps this underscores the notion floated by some that the first half of The Beatles' career (from the band's founding through Rubber Soul) belonged, stylistically, to John, while the rest (from Revolver to the end) was more a reflection of Paul's artistic leanings.

In any event, John unquestionably owned Rubber Soul, and my choice for the album's Best Three Songs in a Row exhibits this truth. Vocally, lyrically, musically, emotionally, and tonally, "Girl" is a wonder. Entrancing, even. It showcases how John, though often so demonstrative in the way he conducted himself, could dial it back in his music, delivering a very restrained treatment of the manifold frustrations brought on by a certain kind of lover. As I suggested here, "Girl" might be a top ten Beatles song. Next, there's "I'm Looking Through You," a reliably satisfying rocker that's most notable for the thick resentment Paul expresses in the lyric. He was singing to his then-girlfriend Jane Asher during what was a difficult patch in their relationship. It was possibly the first time in a Beatles song that Paul had given voice to genuine feelings of bitterness, and he does it convincingly. Finally, we come to "In My Life," the most emotionally powerful song in The Beatles' oeuvre and perhaps their flat-out best. Though there's long been controversy about who came up with the melody (John and Paul both claim to have), I and many others will always regard it as purely one of John's songs, his sonically lean and movingly heartfelt meditation on the past. Everything about it - the intro, John's vocal, the harmonies, George Martin's piano solo, Ringo's drum part, etc. - makes for a stunner. It's pop music at its finest and most enduring.

Did any other trio of songs catch my eye? The combination of "Drive My Car," "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)," and "You Won't See Me" is better than most. But it's surely not on par with my final selection, book-ended as it is by two classics from John.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Did The Stones stumble after The Beatles split?

The topic is explored over at Pop & Hiss.

My two cents: I think Sticky Fingers alone gives the lie to this suggestion.

In short, McCarthy thinks the Stones’ music started on a downhill slide around 1970, when the Beatles broke up — and he suggests that was no coincidence.

“I've never felt ‘Exile’ was anything but a sloppy attempt to match the Beatles’ White Album. Understand, I love the Stones and loved them -- I was born in 1950 and early on (1965) 'knew' this is my group….Anyway their best albums, for me, were ‘Aftermath,’ ‘Between The Buttons’ (truly truly so underrated and, so, not listened to, but ohhh what a masterpiece) and ‘Beggars Banquet.’

“With the passing of the Beatles,” McCarthy wrote, “the Stones truly seemed to lose their footing in 'manning up' to produce truly great tunes.”

I don’t agree, because I think there were plenty of great tunes on the albums that came on the heels of the Fab Four’s breakup in 1970: “Sticky Fingers” (1971) and “Exile,” to say nothing of some top-drawer material on “Some Girls” (1978), “Tattoo You” (1981) and “Steel Wheels” (1989). And “A Bigger Bang” from 2005 ranks among my half-dozen favorite Stones albums ever.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Monday haiku - "Julia"

"Julia" - John's mom;
"ocean child" - Yoko Ono;
women - John's main spark.

Paul to be honored by Obama

The White House has revealed that Macca will receive the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song during a reception at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue on June 2nd. Those honoring Paul will include the First Couple, Jerry Seinfeld, Jack White, and a variety of other entertainers. The Gershwin Prize "is awarded to musicians whose lifetime contributions in the field of popular song exemplify the standard of excellence associated with the Gershwins." The two previous recipients were Paul Simon and Stevie Wonder.

What I just wrote reads like an AP report. Boring.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sunday haiku- "I Will"

Sixty-seven takes
were needed to complete "Will",
a love song by Paul.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Saturday haiku - "Why Don't We Do It in the Road?"

"Road" may have irked John
'cause Paul had stepped on his turf:
rough and raw blues-rock.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Best three songs in a row - Pt. 5

Parts one, two, three, and four. Below is part five.

Album: Help!
Three songs: "I've Just Seen a Face," "Yesterday," and "Dizzy Miss Lizzy"
Comments: On Help!, there are five masterpieces: the title track, "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away," "Ticket to Ride," "I've Just Seen a Face," and "Yesterday." It's an impressive array, and it made my task difficult. This was true especially because four of the five songs are located close to one another in the track order - "Help!" and "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" have one song in between them, while "Yesterday" follows "I've Just Seen a Face" without any interruption. Logically, I started with these for my analysis. But trios are the name of the game, which meant that I also had to consider the merits of "The Night Before", as it is the song that bridges "Help!" and "Love Away." Then to make a threesome that incorporated the latter pair of songs, I had to choose between "Tell Me What You See" and "Dizzy Miss Lizzy." Despite being a cover, "Lizzy" triumphed. Thus it came down to the opening three songs on Help! versus the closing three.

I ultimately went with the closing three based on this line of thinking: though "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" is probably the finest of the lot, both "I've Just Seen a Face" and "Yesterday" are very close behind, with each of them handily outpacing "Help!," the fourth best of the six songs. And then I judged "Dizzy Miss Lizzy," which plays the role of frenetic album send-off that "Twist and Shout" and "Money" had before it, as bringing more to bear than "The Night Before." Altogether, it's a stunningly strong collection of songs, foreshadowing the historic greatness that would come with the next album, Rubber Soul, and basically keep coming until the end of The Beatles' career.

I have to say more about "I've Just Seen a Face" and "Yesterday," both of which are stirring and strikingly personal compositions. Crucially, both were written by Paul, who through this stage of The Beatles' run had been significantly outshone by John and his more formidable songwriting prowess (just look at the previous entries in this series). On their own, both "Face" and "Yesterday" would've represented artistic breakthroughs for Paul. But together, they pointed to a major shift in The Beatles' established order, whereby Paul began writing at a level that approached John's and at a rate that exceeded his (it should be noted that John did not go quietly; in fact, he absolutely dominated Rubber Soul and still was more consistent, arguably, all the way to The End). What a contrasting pair "Face" and "Yesterday" are, the former brimming with affection-drunk enthusiasm and the latter full of introspective despair. Having one follow the other was a bold and interesting move, akin to rearranging the track order of Revolver so that "Here, There and Everywhere" and "For No One" were in succession. Those, I might add, are two more classics courtesy of Paul.

Another welcome change was breaking away from the tyranny of the opening three songs. That is, with the previous three albums that I examined, it was the initial trio of tracks that took the prize for Best Three Songs in a Row. The deviation on Help! suggests that The Beatles' albums were becoming deeper and more consistent. The second half of the '60s, of course, showed this to be true.

Friday haiku - "Don't Pass Me By"

With "Don't Pass Me By",
the Fabs at last recorded
a song Ringo wrote.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Chat with Paul today

Go here for the deets.

P.S. Paul should sign up for Chatroulette.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Wednesday Beatles potpourri

- Paul is holding EMI responsible for The Beatles not being available on iTunes.

- Relatedly, EMI has raised enough money to avoid foreclosure for the time being.

- Instead of using The Beatles' original recordings, Liam Gallagher has decided to do covers of the songs to fill up the soundtrack for his newly revealed Beatles movie project.

- Finally, via Steve Marinucci, here is the transcript for Larry King's recent interview with Mick Jagger, in which the Rolling Stones' frontman comments on how he viewed The Beatles.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Best three songs in a row - Pt. 4

I apologize for the lengthy delay between the third and fourth installments in this series (that is, the one where we determine the best three-song stretch on a Beatles album). It's poor blogger etiquette to broach a topic that will take multiple posts to cover and then draw out the process. My excuse for last week's dearth of activity is that I was finishing up a class. Going forward, no excuse is valid, save a grave illness.

With that said, here are parts one, two, and three, followed by my analysis of Beatles For Sale.

Album: Beatles For Sale
Three songs: "No Reply," "I'm a Loser," and "Baby's in Black"
Comments: For the third time in a row, it's the opening threesome that proved the strongest. In this instance, it's also the most cheerless. As convention has it, Beatles For Sale is the exhausted and cynical moment from the early part of the Fabs' career (a career that had been celebrated up to that point for its joy and verve). In late 1964, The Beatles were burnt out, victims of their taxing routine of writing music, recording it, promoting it, and then touring, all done in rapid succession. It was a punishing status quo and begot one of the band's gloomier efforts, Beatles For Sale.

Gloomy and also spotty. Indeed, the level of inconsistency is such that, in my mind, the "Reply"-"Loser"-"Black" nexus faces no competition for the crown. But all three are good-to-great songs in their own right. I once wrote of "No Reply:" "Fueled by the surges of John's jealous ire, the song plays out on dangerously unstable ground. It's charged, even if simplistic drama." Next, "I'm a Loser" is John's blunt, Dylan-inspired burst of self-loathing, highlighted by such genuinely introspective lines as "Is it for her or myself that I cry." Finally, though it moves and feels like a chirpy country-western waltz, "Baby's in Black" paints an unpleasant picture: John desperately yearning for a girl who's in bereavement. It works, in part, because you're not sure whether to feel sympathy for John or be put off by his overeager emotions.

Composing John's Troubled Trilogy, these three tracks loom large over the rest of Beatles For Sale and make for a front-loaded affair (though I do enjoy the non-successive trio of John's "Rock and Roll Music" cover, "Eight Days a Week," and John and Paul's shared take on Buddy Holly's "Words of Love"). Again, there really wasn't anywhere else to look for the top three-banger.

"Up and Coming" expands

Paul recently announced two new dates for his cleverly named "Up and Coming" tour: July 10 at AT&T Park in San Francisco and July 13 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah (just outside of Salt Lake City).

Tuesday haiku - "Rocky Raccoon"

It's a tale of love;
ill-executed revenge;
and boozy doctors.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Paul's Daily Record interview, cont'd

Here's the link for part 2 (and here's part 1).

"There's a scenario when I could look at The Beatles' career and think, 'Wait a minute, we are talking Eleanor Rigby, Blackbird, Hey Jude and Let It Be. I've probably written my best song so you've got to give up.'

"At that point you say, 'Thank you very much,' and go on a long holiday'.

"But I love music too much. There's always this thought in the back of my mind that... well, you never know.

"I might just come up with something else really good. That keeps you going."

"Living in the Material World"

That's the name of Martin Scorsese's upcoming documentary about George. Scorsese has reportedly finished shooting it and is eying a 2011 release.

Scorsese said the former Beatles' life was a remarkable musical and spiritual voyage. He and Olivia Harrison both said George Harrison was always trying to find the balance between the physical and the spiritual, hence the film's title.

"I grew up a Roman Catholic and wanted to become a priest, so it is a subject matter that has never left me. The more you're in the material world, the more the search for serenity," Scorsese said.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Scotland's Daily Record interviews Paul

It's a long one, the first installment in a two-part series. Topics of discussion: Paul's love of Scotland, how technology has dramatically improved the concert experience, the greatness of The Beatles, and The X Factor.

Paul says he thinks about them every day and revealed he's even "visited" by John when writing new songs.

He said: "John and George were real mates. I have a huge fondness for them.

"They were both part of my life and who I am. There are little reminders of them all the time.

"Today, somebody brought me a new book by 1960s photographer Duffy and I saw a picture of John in it.

"Now, if I write a song, I'm always cross-checking in my mind, 'Would John have let me write that line or is it just too soppy?'

"Sometimes, I just think, 'Too bad, it's my song.' But I'm always cross-checking with him."

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Saturday haiku - "Piggies"

With talk of "Piggies"
can come talk of Charles Manson,
the deranged killer.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Friday haiku - "Blackbird"

A sign of the times,
"Blackbird" was written by Paul
for beleaguered blacks.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

"Let It Be" 40 years later

Rolling Stone assesses the album four decades after its release (hat tip to Steve Marinucci).

Despite the album's status in rock history, Paul McCartney was never a fan of Phil Spector's production flourishes on Let It Be. In Rolling Stone's original review of the album, writer John Mendelsohn also criticized Spector's superfluous additions, saying the famed Wall of Sound producer rendered "The Long and Winding Road" "virtually unlistenable with hideously cloying strings and a ridiculous choir" when compared to the version that appeared on the Get Back bootlegs in May, 1969. (Sign up for All Access to read the original Let It Be review from 1970.) After years of dissatisfaction with the released version, McCartney announced plans to put out Let It Be… Naked in November 2003, which stripped the Let It Be songs of Spector's ornate production. (All Access members can read the 2003 review of Let It Be...Naked now.)

P.S. Isn't it a bit ridiculous that, on its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, RS put Let It Be at number 86? I suppose it's what The Beatles' prestigious brand and legacy can do for an album that's uneven, overproduced, and short on really strong songs ("Two of Us" is flawless, but the other standouts - "Across the Universe," "I've Got a Feeling," and "Get Back" - aren't total successes).

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Steel Butterfly returns

Imelda Marcos, the former first lady of the Philippines who caused some problems for The Beatles during their 1966 visit to the Southeast Asian country, is making headlines these days with her return to public office.

Imelda Marcos became an object of scorn for her extravagant lifestyle when a gigantic collection of shoes was found in the presidential palace after the family fled the country. Her husband died in Hawaii in 1989.
. . .

Imelda Marcos has made it clear she wants to achieve redemption for her late husband, who is accused of stealing billions of dollars from state coffers during his 20-year rule.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Best three songs in a row - Pt. 3

(For an explanation, go here; for the previous entry, go here).

Album: A Hard Day's Night
Three songs: "A Hard Day's Night," "I Should Have Known Better," and "If I Fell"
Comments: As happened the last time around, I've given the prize to the opening trio of songs. Most pop albums, and certainly those by The Beatles, are deliberately organized to make a strong showing at the outset, so my selection shouldn't be much of a surprise. Taking the songs in order... The jaunty, fleet, and iconically introduced pleasures of the title track have rightfully elevated it to the status of a classic; "I Should Have Known Better" flows by with an ease and happy-faced charm that compellingly belies the lack of certainty implicit in its lyric; finally, in addition to being a disarming ballad with graceful harmonies and a unique structure, "If I Fell" also provides a revealing glimpse of John in Vulnerable Mode, something the hardened rock 'n' roller could go into with stunning effect. These three songs are among the best that A Hard Day's Night has to offer; at the very least, they form a higher quality contingent than the other three-song stretch that caught my eye (but only briefly) - "And I Love Her," "Tell Me Why," and "Can't Buy Me Love."

Monday, May 10, 2010

Paul's "I'm So Tired"

Prompted by my haiku-form precis of "I'm So Tired," I've below posted Paul's jokingly garbled and seemingly extemporaneous rendition of the song. He's clearly having a laugh, even going so far as ending the track with a spate of unintelligible lines (like John did on the "White Album" version; as is well-known, some imaginative fans played the gibberish backwards and heard "Paul is dead, man/Miss him/Miss him/Miss him"). It's pretty interesting to listen to one Beatle perform another Beatle's song, even if it's done in jest.

(If the video is removed, go here).

The Beatles + zombies = a new film

It will actually be an adaptation of Alan Goldsher's forthcoming book Paul Is Undead.

The film, to be adapted from Alan Goldsher’s novel Paul Is Undead by Double Features, will tell an alternative history of the band.

In the book, Lennon, a zombie guitarist, kills and reanimates bandmates Sir Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison, before being pursued by zombie hunter, Mick Jagger.

The group also eat the brains of fans and battle with an Eighth Level Ninja Lord Yoko Ono, reports Deadline.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Sunday haiku - "I'm So Tired"

While in India,
lacking drugs, sleep, and Yoko,
John lived "I'm So Tired".

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Best three songs in a row - Pt. 2

To continue my discussion of the best three-song stretch on a Beatles album, I devoted some time to With The Beatles and arrived at the conclusion below. You'll find that I didn't struggle to nail down my choice for the album's contribution to the larger pool of contenders. Unlike Please Please Me, With The Beatles presents one three-song set that I see as clearly superior to the rest.

Album: With The Beatles
Three songs: "It Won't Be Long," "All I've Got to Do," and "All My Loving"
Comments: I don't think there are any other viable options. With The Beatles is a mostly rewarding album, but, with the exception of "It Won't Be Long," its high points aren't as strong as those on Please Please Me. And the same is true of its second-tier songs ("Don't Bother Me," "Please Mister Postman," "Money," etc.). Which is to say, it's a lesser album than its predecessor and has fewer opportunities for consistent excellence. However, coming out of the gate, it delivers mightily. "It Won't Be Long," (which I've swooned about on several occasions) overflows with zealous emotion and sonic thrills; "All I've Got to Do" is a masterpiece of tension and sex-dripped affection; and "All My Loving" showcases how charming and guileless Paul could be when expressing love. The choice strikes me as a no-brainer.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Liam G. pushing new Beatles movie

Former Oasis frontman, unapologetic Beatle devotee, and eternal blowhard Liam Gallagher will reportedly be producing a Beatles movie based on The Longest Cocktail Party, Richard DiLello's "account of the history of The Beatles' company Apple Corps, the breakup of the Beatles, and the beginning of their solo careers (Wiki)." I'm unguardedly pessimistic about it if it goes forward.

A new movie about the Beatles, based on Richard DiLello’s memoirs from the time when he was the “house hippie” at the band’s record company Apple, is gaining steam, with former Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher throwing his weight behind it. (He owns the rights to the book, The Longest Cocktail Party.) According to the Hollywood Reporter, activities surrounding the movie should launch around Cannes next week. A rocker making a movie about the original rockers — I like it!

The most interesting part, however, will be when producers start making casting announcements. Specifically, who should play John, Paul, George, and Ringo? Stepping into any of those shoes won’t be easy, and there are so many ways that the producers could go. I’m assuming that since DiLello’s memoir was based off the waning years of the Beatles — he worked there in the late ’60s — they’ll have to cast on the older side. For some reason, I’m seeing a couple faces: Topher Grace and Peter Sarsgaard.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Best three songs in a row - Pt. 1

A few days back, I was listening to the remastered edition of Revolver, and a question occurred to me after "I'm Only Sleeping" ended and "Love You To" began: On all of The Beatles' canon albums, what is the best three-song stretch? The thought came to mind as I was marveling at how strongly Revolver opens. A trio of classics - George's "Taxman," Paul's "Eleanor Rigby," and John's "I'm Only Sleeping" - starts the album and puts it firmly on course to being one of The Beatles' finest LPs. Now my instinct was to deem this the best three-song stretch. Again, those are three bona fide classics. But, to be systematic, I decided to go through all of The Beatles' albums - from Please Please Me to Let It Be, including the American Magical Mystery Tour release -, find out what each one offered on this front, and then compare. Below is the first entry.

Album: Please Please Me
Three songs: "Ask Me Why," "Please Please Me," and "Love Me Do"
Comments: If any PPM track besides "A Taste of Honey" had preceded "There's a Place" (which itself precedes "Twist and Shout"), then I would've given the honors to the closing three tracks of the album; by my lights, "There's a Place" and "Twist and Shout" represent the two high points of Please Please Me. But the fluff of "Honey" was just too great to ignore, leaving me to look elsewhere. I then isolated what I saw as the two legitimate options remaining: the album's opening trio of songs - "I Saw Her Standing There," "Misery," and "Anna (Go to Him)"- and "Ask Me Why," "Please Please Me," and "Love Me Do." Comparing these song-by-song, I think it's a wash between "I Saw Her Standing There" and "Please Please Me." Both exemplify The Beatles' talent for swaggering, sexually-charged pop, and both are terrific. They are the two best out of the six. Next: "Anna (Go to Him)" vs. "Love Me Do." "Anna" is achingly soulful and features a superb vocal from John, possibly his most memorable on PPM outside of "Twist and Shout." But the inventive and economical "Love Me Do" is more than solid in its own right, and it bears the advantage of being an original composition. Finally, even though I lean toward a more positive take on both, I'm still fairly ambivalent about "Misery" and "Ask Me Why." It's just the case that, when I'm not in the mood for either song, "Misery" - with its glibly overstated emotions - annoys me in a way that "Ask Me Why" doesn't. Thus "Ask Me Why," "Please Please Me," and "Love Me Do" it is. But not by much.

Analysis of With The Beatles will be up tomorrow (Update: make that Saturday).

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

1966 Beatles interview found

"Beatles interview tape takes long and winding road to auction"

The 14-minute recording, described by Bonham's auction house as "the only audio known to survive" from the Q-and-A session held at Toronto's King Edward Hotel, features the bandmates defending American draft-dodgers in Canada, John Lennon addressing his incendiary more-popular-than-Jesus claim and both Lennon and Paul McCartney joking about the band's possible breakup — which happens four years later.

The 43-year-old recording was made by Canadian freelance photojournalist Paul Hourigan, who went on to a lengthy career as a staff photographer with the Hamilton Spectator.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Tuesday haiku - "Martha My Dear"

"Martha" was Paul's pet;
his "dear" Old English sheepdog;
his "inspiration".

Tuesday Beatles potpourri

- From the archives of the Village Voice: "Paul McCartney and John Lennon in NYC: We Were Duped By the Maharishi."

- I'm amazed at how often "unseen" photos of The Beatles are exhumed. Why, I would ask, have they been packed away and idle for so long?

- Those Beatles still among the living and the close kin of those Beatles who have passed away are ... rich (though the Lennons/Onos aren't part of this list).

- Lastly, here's an article about Decca Records' epic blunder in passing on The Beatles.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Monday haiku - "Happiness Is a Warm Gun"

Comprising three songs,
"Gun" is John's heady pastiche
about sex and drugs.

Thoughts on "Little Child"

Plainly put, "Little Child" is not a very good song. Paul has said that he wrote it as album filler for With The Beatles, and the lack of care and interest shows. Despite its thick, sloppy energy - buoyed by John's limber harmonica part, Paul's bustling go on the piano, and Ringo's perky percussion - "Little Child" ends up being something of a nonstarter. In other words, it's a bit boring, a bit routine, and the main culprits are the lyric and the lead vocals. Going in order, the lyric smacks of the kind of safe, predictable, and perhaps hastily completed songwriting that yielded singles for much less inspired acts during those early years of pop. "I'm so sad and lonely/Baby take a chance with me," sings John as he tries to move in on an evidently unconvinced girl. This line typifies the paint-by-numbers vibe of the song. And the vocals can't undo it (neither can the music itself, for that matter). No, The Beatles weren't able to reproduce the trick they accomplished with, say, "Love Me Do:" through memorable song-craft and execution, make a magnetic or even just interesting song around a lyric that leaves something to be desired. Specifically, John's vocal (which appears to be doubled, even though Paul is listed as sharing the lead) is too flat and clipped at times; it feels like a rush-job. And furthermore, there isn't much range to it, undoubtedly due to the fact that the song was originally intended for Ringo. I don't think Mr. Starr would've been a better choice, but it's not as if John made a great song out of it. "Little Child" was likely to be a dud either way.

I'll close with two questions: 1) Am I wrong to find it kind of unsettling that the song's addressee is someone referred to as "little child?" Other parts - "When you're by my side/You're the only one/Don't you run and hide/Just come on come on" - could also rub some the wrong way here in 2010. 2) When John sings "Baby take a chance with me," doesn't it sound just like the melody for the line, "If you want to dance with me," from Chuck Berry's "Rock and Roll Music" (which The Beatles of course covered on Beatles For Sale)?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Paul: No love for Brown, Cameron, or Clegg

Commenting recently on the imminent general election in the UK, Paul said that he doesn't care for any of the three major candidates but would gladly cast his vote for someone like Barack Obama. Of course you would, Paul . A touch cliche, no?

Speaking to Absolute Radio, Macca said of Gordon Brown, Nick Clegg and David Cameron: "I'm not awfully impressed with the people who are in it.

“You know, I want a Barack Obama. If Obama was running here I think I'd be able to say, 'Yeah, change, this is good, this is something different'.”

The Beatles legend also revealed that he has been making secret visits to the Houses Of Parliament to watch debates.

"It was a very boring debate,” he said. “But that's not the point, it's kind of seeing democracy at work."

"It's great to do because you're actually in Parliament and seeing it at work."

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Saturday haiku - "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"

The star of "Gently":
George's friend Eric Clapton
on the lead guitar.