Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Zaptunes offering Beatles MP3s

I don't understand why some music websites try to get away with this. Where's the sense in provoking the wrath of The Beatles' business empire?

A San Francisco-based music web site has launched offering unlimited DRM-free MP3 downloads for $25 (£16) a month -- amongst them the Beatles back catalogue.

Since the Fab Four's remaining members and other Apple Corps shareholders have yet to reach deals with more established online distributors, say iTunes and Amazon, this throws the legitimacy of Zaptunes into question.

While a spokesman for the firm states it has negotiated with the "top label companies," Digital Music News reports that the site may be hearing from record company lawyers soon. "EMI Group is already drafting the legal paperwork against this shenanigan," a source told the site.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Monday Beatles potpourri

- Here's an excerpt from a "lost" interview that John and Paul did on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.

- Sales from The Beatles' reissued albums last year eased losses for EMI, but the British music company is still very much in debt (and is also going through a "pension dispute").

- An exhibition of photographs taken by Astrid Kirchherr will be on display at the Victoria Gallery and Museum in Liverpool. It will include unseen images of The Beatles.

- On October 26th, Apple Corps and EMI will be issuing a compilation called Come and Get It: The Best Of Apple Records. It will complement the remastered Apple albums that are hitting stores the same day.

- Richard Lester has donated the draft scripts for A Hard Day's Night and Help! to the British Film Institute (more like daft script in the case of Help!; am I right?).

- Read about an interesting tribute ("Beatles hits sung by Russian monks in Antarctica") to the Fabs.

- Lastly: "The man who brought the Beatles to America, legendary music promoter Sid Bernstein, is now the center of a viral social media campaign to rescue his personal story—and a major part of rock ‘n roll and civil rights history—from obscurity."

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sunday haiku - "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds"

John wrote this head-trip,
but his son supplied the spark
with a strange drawing.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The other side speaks out ...

... in the debate over Ringo's childhood home. In this piece, the BBC quotes a number of current or former residents of the Welsh Streets area who feel that more practical issues are being drowned out amid the sentimental pleas to spare Ringo's erstwhile domicile.

However, those who live or have lived in the 16 Welsh Streets have no such empathy for Ringo's birthplace.

They say it is outsiders using the term "historical significance" to prevent much-needed regeneration in the area.

Mary Huxham, 72, lived in Powys Street for 68 years. She was not sorry to see the back of it.

"We lived with rising damp, fungus, ice on the inside of the windows and outside toilets.

"I brought up four children in these horrible damp conditions. We want the streets to be demolished and modernised."

Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday haiku - "With a Little Help from My Friends"

On the charming "Friends",
Ringo stars as Billy Shears,
a gracious singer.

Today in Beatles history

Two significant events in Beatles history took place on this day, one in 1965 and the other in 1967. The second, so unfortunate, was of much greater consequence than the first.

1) 8/27/1965 - The Beatles met Elvis.

2) 8/27/1967 - The death of Brian Epstein (and, some say, the beginning of the end for The Beatles as a band).

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Quote of the day

"So what I associate most with The Beatles is the smell of girls' urine."

- Bob Geldof, recalling the many young gals who wet themselves at Beatles concerts.

The best of the best?

Rolling Stone is currently offering a peak at its list of the 100 greatest Beatles songs. Go here for the teaser, which reveals songs 1-10. The full list is the centerpiece of a recently released Special Collectors Edition issue.

As you'll see, Rolling Stone's top ten doesn't break from orthodoxy or do anything but confirm that the magazine is part of the received wisdom. Predictably, "A Day in the Life" sits atop the list, and both "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "In My Life" are close by. For the record, these are selections which I fully back. But why is it that every entry from the top ten has to be such a familiar, time-honored, greatest-hits kind of song? Is there really no room for even a touch of unconventional thinking, like replacing "Let It Be" with "Two of Us" or "Come Together" with "Girl?" Even just one deviation in the top ten would make a huge difference. But maybe that's asking too much. Maybe songs like "Yesterday" and "Something" consistently outrank "I'm Only Sleeping" and "Happiness Is a Warm Gun" simply because they're better. Maybe songs we so often find at the top have earned the right to be there. Or maybe, just maybe, elite opinion regarding The Beatles' greatest songs has calcified to the point where the matter is essentially settled law and revisionist considerations are rarely countenanced. It's obvious where I stand.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Beatles fans campaign to preserve Ringo's home

Concerned fans have organized the Save Madryn Street (SMS) movement in Liverpool to block the potential demolition of Ringo's childhood home.

SMS founders argue the small home attracts thousands of visitors a year and its removal would impact the city's tourism – even though the street is already boarded up. Beatles guide Phil Coppell said the group would fight "tooth and nail" to reverse the decision.

"The homes of Paul McCartney and John Lennon are already preserved and Ringo is no less important," he added. "We want to see Ringo's birthplace conserved and turned into a proper tourist destination; and we are also taken by the idea that some of the houses could be converted for tourist lets."

"...exactly what he was"

In my "Assorted John news" post from several days ago, I linked to this Rolling Stone article, which quotes Yoko on a number of topics. She mainly talked about the forthcoming documentary LENNONYC, but she also touched on the reissues of John's post-Beatles albums that will be available in October. I found her comments intriguing:

Ono said the upcoming October 4th reissues of Lennon's post-Beatles albums would focus on his best-known solo music, and not include the experimental works Two Virgins and Life With the Lions. "I want it to be known exactly what he was (BL's bold print) — he was a brilliant singer-songwriter and a rocker," she said, "and I don't want something like the avant-garde sneaking in there."

Perhaps she's done this before and I just didn't notice, but with these words Yoko seems to be deliberately distancing John's legacy ("he was a brilliant singer-songwriter and a rocker") from the avant-garde works he put out in the late '60s. It's hard not to be struck by this because both Two Virgins and Life With the Lions are albums that Yoko was heavily involved in making. As John Harris recently observed, it was Yoko more than anyone else who helped to push Lennon in the experimental direction. She did not serve as a check on him like Paul did; she was, in fact, an enabler of some of his indulgences. And now she has taken to dismissing her collaborations with him? Interesting, no?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Assorted Paul news

- In the upcoming season of Glee, one episode will showcase the music of Macca.

- Prior to Paul's pair of shows in the Steel City, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published a knowledgeable piece about the ex-Beatle's "10 pivotal experiences."

- Paul will be part of a tribute to Les Paul, the late guitarist, studio innovator, and inventor.

- Whom did Paul recently serenade with "When I'm Sixty-Four?" Bubba.

- Paul: 1, McDonald's: 0

- Will Macca and MGMT collaborate?

- Several weeks ago, Paul participated in the graduation ceremony at LIPA, the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts.

- Finally, after Paul agreed to work with Fran Healy on Wreckorder, the latter's yet-to-be-released solo debut, Healy demonstrated his immense appreciation by going vegetarian. (That's next-level gratitude.)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Assorted John news

- To commemorate what would have been John's 70th birthday this October, three time capsules will be put together by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Musuem and BoxofVision.

- A letter that John wrote to a young folk singer in 1971 found its intended recipient nearly four decades after the fact.

- The many ways that John's death has been represented in pop culture.

- And here's another one, a play which suggests that the CIA was behind John's tragic murder. How original.

- Yoko talks about the documentary, LENNONYC, which will premiere on PBS in November.

- Info about the touring exhibition, "Give Peace A Chance: John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Bed-In For Peace."

- It has been announced that, in early October, the Plastic Ono Band will play two shows in Los Angeles.

- Finally, Thank You for Your Love, the forthcoming EP from Antony and the Johnsons, will feature a cover of "Imagine."

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Saturday haiku - "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"

The thought came from Paul:
The Beatles should change their name
and revamp their act.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Re: Do yourself a favor...

Let me expand on the brief praise I directed toward this radio program about John Lennon. What captured my interest so strongly was the way that John Harris intertwined a reverence for Lennon with forceful criticism of him. Harris didn't mince words when describing Lennon as a towering creative force, and he gushed about his role in weakening class barriers that pervaded England at the time. However, Harris also derided Lennon's political activism in no uncertain terms, was quite stingy in offering positive remarks about his solo career, and didn't shy away from noting his many personal shortcomings. This kind of carefully weighed, even-handed treatment I find very heartening because it's too often missing among diehard Beatles fans. It's easy to submit to the temptation of hero-worship and gloss over the faults of those we sorely admire. But that evinces a lack of seriousness and maturity on the part of the admirer. When considering John Lennon in full, you can't whitewash the myriad flaws: He habitually treated women with contempt; he was far from a model father to Julian; he gave in to indulgences too readily; he had tendency for spiteful, petty, and condescending behavior; etc. Returning to the radio program ... Harris, to his credit, didn't use these sins to crucify John; rather, he (and Barry Miles) gave them context by describing how John's traumatic childhood - no father, lost his mother twice - produced this defensive, insecure, and hyper self-conscious man. And then Harris' final point of praise for John actually makes all of his flaws the essence of the matter : "I think the great thing about John Lennon is he reminds us how insecure and how imperfect we are. And that's why I love him." Nicely put.

Do yourself a favor...

... and listen to this terrific installment of the "Great Lives" series on BBC Radio 4 about John Lennon. It features British journalist and critic John Harris, who was the one to nominate Lennon, and Barry Miles, who plays the role of the "expert witness." I'll offer more comments about it later today; for the moment, suffice it to say that I very much appreciate the kind of critical admiration Harris has for John. I'd like to think it's the way I approach The Beatles in general.

Here's a review of the program.

But the awareness of flaws or less brilliant output didn't weaken Harris's admiration – in fact, it was at its core. Lennon represents irreverence, mischief and a challenge to hierarchies that had stifled Britain, he said, but his real appeal is that he is "as full of uncertainty and doubt about the ultimate meaning of everything as the rest of us".

Thursday, August 19, 2010

"Up and Coming" to be extended?

That's the rumor. According to this article, which cites a news flash from maccareport.com, Paul will return to the U.S. this fall for a run of six shows in the Midwest. The Twin Cities are calling you, Paul.

Paul in Pittsburgh (8/18)

"McCartney christens Consol with high-energy show"

Along with being the cute Beatle and the ballad Beatle, Paul McCartney was always the jet-set Beatle. He liked to be where the action was and, all these years later, he still craves that big spotlight.

He opened the new Mets stadium last summer, he hits the big charity blowouts, and Wednesday night, he answered the call to christen the Consol Energy Center in a city he hadn't played in 20 years.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Assorted George/Ringo news

Whenever I do these news updates about the individual Beatles, they're almost always concerned with just John or Paul. This is unfortunate. There are two other Beatles, after all. And though George and Ringo don't generate the level of news that their counterparts do, they still merit more mentions than I afford them. Here, I hope, is a step in the right direction.


- "On October 19, Dark Horse Records will release Collaborations, a limited-edition 3 CD/1 DVD set of music by George Harrison and his mentor, Indian master musician Ravi Shankar, recorded over a period of twenty years." (Here's the link.)

- Read all about "Isn't It a Pity."

- Olivia Harrison is upset (and it seems justified).

- This is rather old news: A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed against Gilbert Lederman, the doctor who treated George's cancer. The suit is not about George's death.


- A man in full.

- "How cool is Ringo? Here are some reminders."

- The house which Ringo was born in is under threat of demolition.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Inspired by The Beatles - "Never as Tired as When I'm Waking Up"

Off LCD Soundsystem's eponymous debut, "Never as Tired as When I'm Waking Up" plays very much like the meeting point of "Dear Prudence" and "I'm So Tired," both of which appear on The White Album and belong to John. The song's progression, chorus, and concluding build-up all point to "Prudence," while its phlegmatic atmosphere and salty subject matter seem the heirs of "Tired." At various moments in his career, James Murphy, the man behind LCD Soundsystem, has shown himself to be adept at John Lennon mode. On this song, he nails it.

"Never as Tired as When I'm Waking Up"

(If the video is removed, go here.)

Today in Beatles history

Today marks the 50th anniversary of The Beatles' maiden journey to Hamburg, Germany. It was in this rough-and-tumble port city that, through a grueling schedule of live performances, the band truly came into its own. John even once said that, though he was born in Liverpool, he "grew up in Hamburg." It's a very significant chapter in the history of The Beatles.

Below are excerpts from two articles that touch on the subject. Catherine Jones of the Liverpool Echo describes the experience of several bands in early 1960s' Hamburg, while a writer for The Local (a source for German news in English) goes on a tour of the city, detailing spots that played a part in The Beatles' multiple trips to the area.

Excerpt from the first:
Over the next two-and-a-half years the band would perform 281 gigs – at the Indra, Kaiserkeller, Top Ten and Star-Club.

There’s been debate over the years about just how important Hamburg was in the development of what became the biggest band in the world.

But the Beatles themselves have always acknowledged its impact.

“Hamburg was really like our apprenticeship, learning how to play in front of people,” said George Harrison.

Excerpt from the second:
When the Beatles rolled into the shabby dockland neighbourhood of St Pauli in a small van early in the morning of August 17, 1960, Hamburg’s post-war resurgence was just beginning.

That same night, the then Fab Five of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Pete Best and Stuart Sutcliffe, a raggle-taggle gang of leather-jacketed, pompadoured Scousers played their first gig at the Indra, a self-styled ‘music and vaudeville’ club. This tiny venue, at Gro├če Freiheit 64, is still going strong today.

Fuelled by a heady mix of youthful enthusiasm, raw talent and Preludin pills, the nascent Beatles hurtled through an eclectic assortment of rock, pop, and R & B covers at high volume and breakneck speed. The boys bunked in a windowless cell behind the screen of a local cinema, the now defunct Bambi Kino, at nearby Paul-Roosen Strasse 33.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Cut off

As I've noted several times, I was on vacation for much of the past two weeks. During that span, I found myself more or less cut off from all things Beatles. No news updates, no random bits of history, and no music. Not a single note of The Beatles' art passed through my ears. And I was even road tripping, an enterprise that naturally leads to a surfeit of music intake. My companions and I did consume a hefty amount of tunes, much of it indie rock and none of it The Beatles. It's not that we didn't have a few of their albums at our disposal; we just chose to not partake.

And you know what? It didn't feel off or abnormal or leave me feverishly unsated. I didn't feel as though the regular order of my life had been radically upended. There was never a sense that I had been separated from something critical to my well-being. Not even close, in fact. And this I take comfort in. As should be apparent, I'm an ardent Beatles fan; I'm confident in saying that I will always cherish their music and their legacy. But I don't hesitate to qualify that devotion. It's simply the case that I don't need to be in constant contact with their music. I don't need that presence, if you will, on a daily basis. My fan-hood is rooted in an abiding appreciation of the group, not a fixation.

Is this not a healthy approach? I certainly feel it is. I think it's important for me, as an avowed Beatles diehard, to always stay cognizant of the fact that the world of pop music doesn't revolve around four lads from Liverpool. The Beatles cast such an imposing shadow that this truth can easily become shrouded. But it still should be an obvious truth. There are, indeed, numerous other bands that bring me tremendous pleasure, and this was amply borne out on the road trip.

Following the trip, I had a moment that crystallized many of the preceding thoughts. I was driving on some rural back-roads of the Midwest en route to my late grandfather's gravesite. I was behind the wheel of my dad's car and, thus, was listening to his CDs. Guess which band I spent the most time with? The Rolling Stones, famously the chief rivals of The Beatles in the 1960s. A week and a half had passed without the latter, and there I was rocking out to the former, enjoying the dickens out of them and musing silently about how, yes, The Stones made music that was dark and sinister and violent in ways that The Beatles rarely attempted and perhaps weren't equipped for. Yes, The Stones are among The Greats.

To be honest, I was pleased when these thoughts came to mind. For in those moments, I felt more comfortable than ever as a Beatles fan. These thoughts (and the trip as a whole) reminded me that fan-hood need not be obsession and profound appreciation need not be preoccupation. I can deeply love The Beatles and, at the same time, occasionally prefer a week's worth of Vampire Weekend, Radiohead, and The Strokes to Rubber Soul and Abbey Road. I know those albums will always welcome me back.

Catching up

Below are some of the bigger news items I missed while on vacation last week:

- The Beatles' "Red" and "Blue" greatest hits collections have been remastered and will be available in October.

- Reportedly, Paul is vying with The Rolling Stones to headline the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics in London.

- Mark David Chapman's parole hearing has been delayed until the week of September 6th.

- A blogger for PC World writes that Yoko's recent remarks about the ongoing Beatles-iTunes impasse underscore the utter hopelessness of the situation.

- Finally, Paul has been on the road in Toronto, Montreal, and Philly.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Saturday haiku - "All You Need Is Love"

Performed on Our World,
"Love" is a simple anthem
with a lofty aim.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday haiku - "Baby, You're a Rich Man"

The subject of "Man"?
Some have said Brian Epstein,
the Fabs' manager.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

"What Goes On," re-imagined

Have a listen to Sufjan Stevens' cover of "What Goes On." The enigmatic singer-songwriter crafted a truly out-of-left-field interpretation of the song, which was included on 2005's This Bird Has Flown – A 40th Anniversary Tribute to the Beatles' Rubber Soul.

(If the video is removed, go here.)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Wednesday haiku - "Penny Lane"

Filled with odd details,
"Penny" is Paul's playful ode
to dear Liverpool.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tuesday haiku - "Strawberry Fields Forever"

Dreamy and wistful,
and brimming with cryptic thoughts,
"Fields" channels John's mind.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Monday mash-up: The Beatles meet Kanye

Two of my favorite pop acts of all time, The Beatles and, yes, the obnoxious, vainglorious, but indispensable Kanye West, join forces on this outstanding mash-up of "Lovely Rita" and "Gold Digger." Simply put, it works.

(If the video is removed, go here.)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sunday haiku - "Hello, Goodbye"

It's a feel-good tune
that saves its best for the end:
the outro dazzles.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Saturday haiku - "I Am the Walrus"

It's a feast of sounds;
a burst of daft imagery;
and one of John's best.

Friday, August 6, 2010

"Don't hold your breath"

That was Yoko's remark about the progress of The Beatles joining iTunes.

"(Apple CEO) Steve Jobs has his own idea and he's a brilliant guy," Ono, the 77-year-old widow of John Lennon, told Reuters. "There's just an element that we're not very happy about, as people. We are holding out."

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Quote of the day

"I declare that the Beatles are mutants. Prototypes of evolutionary agents sent by God, endowed with a mysterious power to create a new human species, a young race of laughing freemen."

- Timothy Leary

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Wednesday Beatles potpourri

- Paul wants The Beatles' music to be featured on Glee.

- Paramount/Dreamworks reportedly shelled out $1.5 million to use "The Fool on the Hill" in the movie Dinner for Schmucks.

- "5 Easy Beatles Songs to Play on Guitar."

- "My bizarre life with the Beatles, by sculptor who immortalised good, great and even gorillas."

- Some Beatles memorabilia that will soon be hitting the auction block: a piano used by The Beatles in Studio III at Abbey Road; a chunk of the Cavern Club's stage from the time The Beatles played there; and photos from a 1963 gig in the Welsh town of Abergavenny.

- David Fricke of Rolling Stone lists "Apple Records' Top Five Albums."

- A documentary about Harry Nilsson will be released early this fall. The eccentric Nilsson was loved by The Beatles; he even collaborated with John in the '70s.

- Finally, read about Abbey Road on the River, a Beatles tribute festival that will take place over Labor Day weekend near D.C.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

"Rock 'n' roll best sung in American accents"

A Twitter friend tweeted about this earlier in the day. It's an interesting notion.

According to researcher Andy Gibson, the American voice is easier to sing with and is so commonplace that it should be called the "pop music accent" instead.

Mr Gibson, of the Auckland University of Technology, made the claim after tests on New Zealand singers.

He found that despite speaking with distinct Kiwi accents, they would automatically sing the same words just like true Americans.

This is because singing in a local accent would sound funny and because American rounding off of words makes it easier to sing them.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sunday Beatles infographic

Here are 32 of The Beatles' hairstyles, conveniently arranged by band member and year.