Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tony Curtis (1925-2010)

The actor Tony Curtis died yesterday from cardiac arrest; he was 85. He gained fame for his roles in Some Like It Hot and Spartacus, and also had the honor of being among the motley collection of celebrities and historical figures who graced the legendary cover of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. He's just to the right of Dion and in front of W.C. Fields. R.I.P.

Is Paul South America-bound?

The rumors of Paul bringing his "Up and Coming" tour to South America gained new life recently as Brazil's Sport Club Internacional announced that a certain ex-Beatle would be occupying their stadium in early November. Beatles/Paul McCartney Examiner Steve has more.

Latest: The above can now be upgraded from "strongly rumored" to "semi-official."

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Packing a punch

It had been a while since I last listened to a Beatles album from front to back. So on my drive to work this morning, I popped in a disc that holds both With The Beatles and A Hard Day's Night. My commute isn't long, and yet, by the time I returned home, I had finished both albums in their entirety, 27 songs all told. That I was able to do so prompted a moment of reflection on one of the chief virtues of The Beatles as songwriters: their seemingly instinctive attraction to the 2:30-3:30 minute pop song.

This is the running time I've come to not only prefer but celebrate. In my mind, the ability of a songwriter to focus in on the essentials of a song and have them play out tightly and efficiently but still in a way that entices the listener is something worthy of much praise. It's not easy, and the temptation to go in the opposite direction can be strong. But the main benefit is obvious: by keeping a song short, you can foreground the best elements and leave less room for anything that might detract from the final product.

What's most incredible about The Beatles in this regard is that they maintained devotion to the short song for all of their career. Across Beatlemania, the Dylan-influenced years, the studio-focused albums, and everything that followed, they crafted one welcoming, easy-to-consume pop song after another (with exceptions, of course). I still marvel at the fact that Revolver, the band's first foray into robust studio experimentation, contains just two tracks - "I'm Only Sleeping" and "Love You To" - over three minutes long, and both of them reach that mark with few seconds to spare. It's also worth pointing out that, while the songs off Revolver are, on average, shorter than those off Sgt. Pepper's, it isn't by much. Thus, even at their most experimental, during a period when they went through the motions of making albums more for themselves than for the fans, The Beatles remained diligent craftsmen of the short, accessible pop song.

I'd like to think this means (at least in part) that The Beatles had a democratic conception of what their music was to accomplish. That is, it was intended to please on a broad scale. Or maybe it just worked out that their tastes always matched (read: shaped) the public's. Whatever the case, The Beatles served themselves well by staying true to the short song. Throw on any of their albums, and you'll quickly be reminded of this.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Always a bridesmaid

Today the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced its 2011 ballot. And as Steve Marinucci points out, Ringo once again did not receive a nomination, keeping him the only member of The Beatles on the outside looking in.

Assorted George/Ringo news

- George's son Dhani has formed a supergroup with Ben Harper and Joseph Arthur called Fistful of Mercy.

- On his new album, Santana covers "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" with India.Arie.

- The club where Ringo made his debut with The Beatles in 1962 was damaged by fire earlier this month.

- Lastly, here's the latest on the efforts to save Ringo's childhood home from demolition.

Monday, September 27, 2010


- Gibson runs through The Beatles' finest acoustic songs.

- Gibson also counts down the top 50 guitar solos in rock history, with two Beatles cuts - "The End" at #42 and "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" at #8 - appearing on the list.

- MusicRadar ranks the 25 greatest bassists of all time and puts Paul at #10.

- The seven best covers of Paul McCartney songs and the ten best (and worst) cover songs period.

- Finally, though the mullets-are-hilarious moment in our popular culture has passed, have a look at these music artists who have memorably worn the outmoded 'do (including poor Macca).

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Paul to re-release "Band on the Run"

It's just what many artists do these days, regardless of how much they may decry the overweening consumerism of Western society.

From Rolling Stone:
Paul McCartney, who plans to reissue the entire discographies from his solo work and Wings, will begin on November 2nd with a deluxe edition of Band on the Run. McCartney himself oversaw the reissue of the 1973 album, which was remastered by the same Abbey Road team responsible for last year's Beatles remasters. Band on the Run, one of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time will be available in a one-disc version and a three-CD, one-DVD deluxe edition with bonus cuts, an audio documentary, music videos and more.

And here's what the John Lennon of this alternate Beatles world had to say about the music industry's addiction to reissues:
“Look,” he says, “every month is the anniversary of something that the record company can repackage and resell to you in re-digified-nanofied-retromastered form for a luxury fee. ‘Here’s the 47th-anniversary edition of the alternate take of “From Me to You” with John playing lead because George was off having a wee. Pre-order now on iTunes!’ It’s a con. But a brilliant one that keeps me in ruby-spangled codpieces and caviar hosiery.”

Saturday, September 25, 2010

"Lennon at 70!"

In anticipation of John's 70th birthday, David Kamp of Vanity Fair wrote an imaginative alternate history of the past 30 years that sees John improbably survive Mark David Chapman's attack, and go on to separate from Yoko again; vote for President Ronald Reagan (which causes a riff with Jann Wenner); reunite with the other Beatles and record a badly conceived comeback album called Everest; perform onstage with Paul following 9/11; reconcile with Yoko; and then commit to playing a John Lennon/ Plastic Ono Band anniversary concert.

Twenty-seven years ago, you’d have been hard-pressed to envision a time when Ono would ever again speak to Lennon, much less share a stage with him. Their acrimonious 1983 divorce came amidst a ferocious midlife crisis that saw Lennon womanizing with abandon (most notoriously with Beverly D’Angelo, then still married to an Italian duke) and renouncing their lovey-dovey triptych of “heart play” albums—Double Fantasy, Milk and Honey, and Grow Old with Me—as “a diabetic coma.” Lennon further torpedoed his public image later that year when, upon taking his oath of U.S. citizenship, he announced that he would cast his vote in the ’84 presidential election for Ronald Reagan.

“I think we’re at a point where there’s too much government in everyone’s business and too many people looking for handouts,” he told NBC’s Lloyd Dobyns on the news program Monitor. “My father was a merchant seaman who walked out on the family. He couldn’t be bothered with me until I was a rich Beatle, and then he was suddenly coming ’round all the time, hat in hand. That’s where we’re at with America, you know—people knocking on Uncle Sam’s door, hands outstretched, [doleful voice] ‘Help me, man. Gimme, gimme.’ Ronnie, he understands that it’s time to bloody slam the door.”

Friday, September 24, 2010

New love for an old classic

Last night I had the pleasure of seeing the Toadies (of "Possum Kingdom" fame) in concert at a terrific Minneapolis club called the Cabooze. The show was stellar: the set-list, the atmosphere, and the energy level from both the band and the crowd added up to an experience well worth the paltry $15 I paid for my ticket. All of this I had expected. The surprise bonus came when the Toadies opened up their encore with a faithful and engaged cover of "Don't Let Me Down." Let me say, though I very much like the studio versions of the song, it now strikes me as one that was made to be heard live. The way it begins with that passionate, from-the-gut-and-the-heart chorus, and returns to it again and again almost out of emotional necessity rather than for reasons of song structure ... it showed that it has the ingredients for an expressive and animated sing-a-long. After repeatedly shouting out "don't let me down," John's desperate plea to Yoko, and being joined in this by others who seemed similarly tapped into the moment, I saw the song in a new light and found my already immense appreciation of it deepened quite a bit.

Have a look and a listen:

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Paul's own private cloud

I'm no tech geek, but this is super rad: "Sir Paul Picks HP to Build, Operate His Private Cloud."

Starting immediately, all of the former Beatle's personal content -- home movies, videos, photographs, documents, unreleased music, paintings and numerous other items -- will be stored in perpetuity on a new private cloud system being designed, built and maintained by Hewlett-Packard.

HP said Sept. 22 that it has started work on the infrastructure part of the project with McCartney's company, McCartney Productions Limited.

"Sgt. Pepper's" ...

... in haiku form.

1) "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"
2) "With a Little Help from My Friends"
3) "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds"
4) "Getting Better"
5) "Fixing a Hole"
6) "She's Leaving Home"
7) "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!"
8) "Within You Without You"
9) "When I'm Sixty-Four"
10) "Lovely Rita"
11) "Good Morning Good Morning"
12) "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)"
13) "A Day in the Life"

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

These didn't make the grade

At the end of this post re Rolling Stone's Beatles list, I noted a few songs that I felt should have been included: "There's a Place," "Blue Jay Way," "Glass Onion," and "Rocky Raccoon." Two of them, I was pleased to see, were part of journalist Ed Masley's own shafted list. Like me, he thinks that both "Glass Onion" (#1 entry) and "Blue Jay Way" (honorable mention) possess the goods. Seriously: "Glass Onion" is a classic. It's inspired non sequitur, not on par with "I Am the Walrus" in terms of occult wordplay, but probably more substantive because of how self-referential it is. It's also musically crisp and buoyant, and John adds a very direct, unlabored vocal. I don't see how it loses out to the likes of "Any Time at All" or "Yes It Is." I also entirely agree that "Love You To" would've been a better call than "Within You Without You" and that both "Magical Mystery Tour" and "Cry Baby Cry" (a song I initially put on my list but then removed) are worthy of the top 100. If I had to revise my choices, I'd add those along with "Lovely Rita," "Martha My Dear," and maybe "Your Mother Should Know."

Wednesday haiku - "A Day in the Life"

Containing two songs,
"Life" is the Fabs' grandest work,
their songwriting peak.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

"Inside the Lennon/McCartney Connection"

Last week, Slate ran a three-part series on the "creative pair" that is Lennon-McCartney. It's outstanding. Joshua Wolf Shenk immerses you in the details of John and Paul's storied relationship, and arrives at some insightful conclusions. And throughout, he maintains just the right tone: he's respectful and scrutinizing of both men. I'll have more to say about it after I read over the articles again. In the meantime, have a look for yourself.

Tuesday haiku - "Sgt. Pepper's (Reprise)"

It's a farewell song:
the band has finished the show,
and "It's time to go".

Monday, September 20, 2010

"... murderers are not somebodies"

So said Mark David Chapman at his most recent parole hearing, the transcripts of which were made available to news outlets. He told the parole board about other celebrities he considered killing and explained his rationale for taking John's life.

"Johnny Carson was one of them. Elizabeth Taylor. I lose memory of perhaps the other two."
. . .

"I felt that by killing John Lennon I would become somebody," he said, "and instead of that I became a murderer and murderers are not somebodies.

"I made a horrible decision to end another human being's life for reasons of selfishness, and that was my decision at that time," he said.

Prior to reading this ABC News story, I wasn't aware of the various twists and turns that delayed, and maybe came close to nixing, Chapman's murderous act. According to his telling of the events, on one trip to the U.S. mainland (he lived in Hawaii at the time), he had a gun but no bullets in his possession and was forced to travel down to Atlanta to secure some. He did so by telling a police officer that he needed them "for protection" as he went back to New York.

Side-note: This led me to think about the small, unwitting, and yet critical roles that many individuals almost forgotten to history have played in tragedies like John's death. The innocent and the careless can easily become ensnared in the tangled webs woven by others.

In any event, Chapman arrived back in New York and, after revealing his plans to his wife by phone and finding himself overcome with grief, he quit the city, returning to Hawaii having committed no murder. That would change soon after.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Saturday, September 18, 2010

"The Beatles 100 Greatest Songs" (Pt. 2)

I originally said this post would be going up at some point on Thursday; it appears I misled you. Below are the remaining observations, quibbles, compliments, and asides that I jotted down while reading Rolling Stone's list. They're mostly taken from my notes on songs #1-50.

- In the blurb for "Don't Let Me Down" (#46), I like the bit about John asking Ringo for a cymbal crash right before the vocal begins. He said it gave him the push he needed to forcefully take on the song's sharp emotions.

- I must protest the placement of "Eight Days a Week" at #34. It's a decent song, but it's not in the same league as "I Am the Walrus" and "Paperback Writer," the two songs that bookend it on the list. Rolling Stone barely even makes a case for its greatness, focusing more on The Beatles' general dislike of the song.

- This might be the most perceptive description of "Penny Lane" (in terms of its sonics) (#32) that I've ever read: "... 'Penny Lane' built a detailed wall of sound that achieved the force of a rock song without sounding anything like one."

- Like so many of The Beatles' songs, "We Can Work It Out" (#30) illustrates the vast gulf in temperament and outlook between John and Paul. John: "Life is very short, and there's no time for fussing and fighting." Paul: "We can work it out." It's interesting, though, that both lines still point to the goal of reconciliation. The difference obviously lies in that John opens his with a bleak reminder of the scarcity of time alloted to us.

- There's a very astute observation about Revolver in the section on "Here, There and Everywhere" (#25). It essentially notes that, while the album was one of the band's most experimental, it still features a fair number of accessible and seemingly simple songs. So true. I think that part of Revolver's appeal stems from how small, involving, and sometimes intimate it feels. It's a work of studio wizardry that doesn't keep the listener at arm's length.

- It's heartening that John didn't shed his affection for every Beatles song (though in some interviews, he seems prepared to do so). His love for "Happiness Is a Warm Gun" (#24) always shines through brightly.

- I didn't realize how much collaboration went into writing the lyric for "Eleanor Rigby" (#22). Even Ringo had a contribution ("darning his socks in the night") that made the final cut.

- Interesting fact: "I Saw Her Standing There" (#16), the first song on The Beatles' first album, was the last song John ever played in concert; he did so at an Elton John show in 1974.

- What an appropriate and perhaps fortuitous sequence of events on July 1, 1963: acting on emotions that helped define Beatlemania, a collection of crazed young girls stormed EMI Studios; once they were expelled, The Beatles proceeded to lay down "She Loves You" (#14), a thrilling and highly charged power-pop anthem that elevated the hysteria of Beatlemania to a new level.

- I want to go on record as fully supporting the "arson theory" behind "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" (#12). In my mind, it adds a titillating detail to an already fascinating song.

- There's immense sadness in this quote from Julian Lennon: "Paul and I used to hang out quite a bit - more than Dad and I did. Maybe Paul was into kids a bit more at the time." Or maybe, Julian, your father was often horribly negligent when it came to his most important responsibility.

- In retrospect, isn't there something a bit ironic about Paul scoffing at George Martin's idea of adding a string quartet to "Yesterday" (#4)? We all know the artist Paul became, and that artist has a weakness for strings.

- Rolling Stone describes "A Day in the Life" (which is, rightly, #1 on the list) as "the ultimate Lennon-McCartney collaboration." I don't disagree. What I'm wondering is this: Would it be off-base to contend that, while "A Day in the Life" does represent the "peak" of the duo's unrivaled songwriting chemistry, it is ultimately much more John's song than Paul's? Or put another way, is it not the case that John's contribution is more consequential and doesn't need Paul's like Paul's needs John's? On its own, John's part could still be a wondrous and captivating song while Paul's would require significant work. It is John, after all, who anchors "A Day in the Life" emotionally. Fair? In truth, I don't say this as a hardened John-partisan; for reasons both similar and different, I admire each of them. I just think, in this instance, it's clear that one dominated the other outright. (Let me also state that I'm aware of Paul's orchestral contributions to the song; this doesn't change my view.)

- Finally, here are the songs I feel were unfairly omitted from the list: "There's a Place," "Blue Jay Way," "Glass Onion," and "Rocky Raccoon."

Friday, September 17, 2010

Shining on

Next month, John's memory will be well-served as EMI reissues the Lennon solo catalogue and as celebrations across the global mark what would have been John's 70th birthday.

USA Today rounds up the main events:

•Eight reissued solo albums plus new collections, including a stripped-down expanded version of 1980's Double Fantasy, arrive Oct. 5 as part of the Gimme Some Truth catalog campaign overseen by Yoko Ono. The bonanza is an 11-CD John Lennon Signature Box.

•Nowhere Boy, a biopic tracing Lennon's teen years and the evolution of The Quarrymen into The Beatles, opens in select cities Oct. 8.

•The reformed Quarrymen pay homage to their bandleader with a 16-date Happy Birthday John! U.S. tour Sept. 23 to Oct. 9, with multiple guests in New York.

•Ozzy Osbourne recorded How, from Imagine, and it arrives Oct. 5 at iTunes as a charity single benefiting Amnesty International.

•Yoko Ono plans "We Are Plastic Ono Band" tribute shows, featuring Lady Gaga, Iggy Pop and others, Oct. 1-2 in Los Angeles. She'll be in Iceland on Lennon's birthday for a concert and the annual Imagine Peace Tower ceremony.

Then on November 12 at New York City's Beacon Theater, there will be a benefit concert in John's honor featuring Jackson Browne, Patti Smith, and other artists.

For more on the event in Iceland and the album reissues, go here.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Thursday haiku - "Lovely Rita"

Paul falls for Rita,
then takes her out to dinner,
but can't quite "make it".

"The Beatles 100 Greatest Songs" (Pt. 1)

Despite my misgivings about the Top 10, I read Rolling Stone's list of the 100 Greatest Beatles songs, and found much to like. There's such a wealth of information in it that most Fab fans are likely to encounter something they didn't know. Plus, the quality of writing put forth by Rolling Stone is exceptionally high; the scribes who worked on this project know these songs. A pleasure to read, overall (though it did elicit some puzzlement at times, but that's not surprising). As I read, I even took notes. You'll see a chunk of them below; the rest I'll probably compile in a post for later today.

- "All I've Got to Do" is criminally high (or low?) at #97. I'd like to see it in the 50s or 60s.

- Though Paul's relationship with her ultimately proved too burdensome, Jane Asher was the muse behind a handful of classic songs. And even her parents' house played an important role in The Beatles' career, serving as a fruitful spot for song-writing.

- In the blurb for "I'm So Tired" (#83), there's mention made of John longing for Yoko while he was in India and wishing that he had invited her with despite his wife Cynthia also being on the trip. I always chuckle over this story. It's a frank reminder that the spell of a woman can lead men to entertain impossibly stupid ideas.

- I like the mental image of Brian Wilson shedding tears as Paul played "She's Leaving Home" (#82) for him. That's such a Brian Wilson thing to do.

- I find it interesting that John took "Child of Nature," a song inspired by the Maharishi's teachings, and turned it into the confessional "Jealous Guy."

- I also like that both Paul and George have referred to "Because" (#77) as their favorite track on Abbey Road. By my lights, there isn't a more hypnotic song in The Beatles' catalogue.

- What a zesty description of "Yellow Submarine" (#74): "the gateway drug that turns little children into Beatles fans." Truth be told, I found the song a bit irritating when I was a youngster, but the point stands.

- One of John's worst tendencies was playing the victim. Observe his remark in the section about "Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey" (#73): "We took 'H' (heroin) because of what the Beatles and their pals were doing to us." Come on, John - don't pass the buck so shamelessly.

- "Part of me suspects I'm a loser, and the other part of me thinks I'm God Almighty." These words capture the fraught and confused person that John was better than most could. You might even say they penetrate to his core.

- In terms of John's psyche and emotional make-up, it's also quite revealing that "Julia" (#69) is about both his mother and Yoko. With fair reason, John was plagued by mommy issues, and it's clear that he used Yoko as a maternal surrogate to some degree.

- I didn't know that Mick Jagger might have provided back-up vocals on "Baby, You're a Rich Man" (#68).

- "Girl" at #62? Puh-leeze.

- Staying on the subject of "Girl," it's another song that allows us to glimpse John's complex nature. Just consider this: the "girl" in the song makes a sport out of mistreating him, and yet he claimed she was the one he had been searching for his whole life.

- Another lovely scene: in a show of brotherly support, John, Paul, and George gathered around a nervous Ringo as he laid down the vocal for "With a Little Help from My Friends" (#61)

- Finally, I like "If I Needed Someone" (#51), but I can't brook the notion that it's superior to "It Won't Be Long" (#53), "Two of Us" (#54), "Taxman" (#55), "I'm Only Sleeping" (#57) "I've Just Seen a Face" (#58), etc.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wednesday haiku - "When I'm Sixty-Four"

Comic and touching,
"Sixty-Four" is Paul's homage
to his dad's music.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A good trivia question?

I may have stumbled upon one late last week as I was writing the haiku for "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!." You'll notice a rather uncommon detail in the song's title: an exclamation point. This got me thinking about other Beatles songs that have one in their title. The makings of a decent trivia question, no? After some research, I found that, in addition to "Kite!," the other Beatles originals that meet this qualification are "Help!" and "Oh! Darling," the latter of which comes with the added curiosity of having the exclamation point split the two words in its name. The non-originals are "Kansas City/Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey!" and "Ooh! My Soul."

Monday, September 13, 2010

Monday haiku - "Within You Without You"

"Death to the ego"
is one theme on George's "You",
a dense, Eastern whirl.

Assorted John news

- Go here to check out the cover art and track listings for the Lennon reissue, Gimme Some Truth.

- As part of the activities commemorating what would have been John's 70th birthday, Yoko recently paid an "emotional visit" to the childhood home of her late husband.

- Time interviews Yoko about "violence, forgiveness and keeping her slain husband's memory alive."

- RZA and Lady Gaga are among the artists who will perform with Yoko at the We Are Plastic Ono shows in October.

- Lastly, remember that toilet of John's that was up for auction? It raked in $14,740.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

"Who Is Harry Nilsson?"

Below is the trailer for the John Scheinfeld-directed documentary about Harry Nilsson, the velvet-voiced American singer-songwriter who is most famous for the song, "Everybody's Talkin'" (off the Midnight Cowboy soundtrack). In terms of relevance to this blog, he was an artist much revered by The Beatles, and he developed lasting friendships with both John and Ringo. It was Nilsson who served as John's primary partner-in-crime during the latter's debaucherous, 18-month "lost weekend." The two also collaborated musically, with superb results.

Read a review of the doc here.

(If the video is removed, go here.)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Paul to be awarded Kennedy Center Honor

The award is an acknowledgement of Paul's vast contributions to American culture. It will be given to him by President Obama at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. this December.

Side-note: First the Gershwin Prize and now this? I wonder if the man-crush that Macca has on Obama will eventually be reciprocated in full as the two see each other more and more. (That is, if it isn't already.) Or is it the case that Obama has too much of an imperial comportment for man-crushes?

Excerpt from this NME article:
Speaking about the annual award, McCartney said: "President Kennedy was such an icon for us in the '60s and his presidency was so inspiring for so many people that it is a great pleasure for this kid from Liverpool to receive this honour."

McCartney follows in the footsteps of the likes of Robert De Niro, Brian Wilson, Steven Spielberg and Bob Dylan in receiving the award.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday Beatles cover

Here's Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins leading a somewhat aggressive cover of "Nowhere Man."

(If the video is removed, go here.)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

"What happens during a parole interview"

For Tuesday's "Explainer" column, Slate used the news of Mark David Chapman's denied parole request to delve into the details of parole interviews. Read the piece here.

There's no script for the interview, but in New York (where Chapman is imprisoned) parole commissioners look for candidates to take responsibility and show remorse. After some initial formalities, interviewers ask the inmate to describe his crime, then they let him talk about why he did it. This is where many prisoners trip up, trying to minimize or excuse their role—a big no-no if you're looking for release. Other prisoners waste their time outlining their exemplary behavior in jail, like educational accomplishments and employment. Parole commissioners are interested in these gold stars, but they can get the same information from prison records. What they want is a prisoner who knows himself well enough to explain why he committed the crime, and then convince them he won't do it again.

. . .

Parole interview transcripts are available to the public. In Chapman's 2000 interview, he seems to have taken responsibility for his crime and expressed remorse. He described having been "full of anger and resentment" and notes that he unfairly judged Lennon. When asked why he would kill an innocent man, Chapman said, "I was feeling like I was worthless, and maybe the root of it is a self-esteem issue. I felt like nothing, and I felt if I shot him, I would become something, which is not true at all." But Chapman was, and remains, a long shot for parole, because his victim was famous. It's especially tough for people who killed cops, judges, or celebrities to win parole, perhaps in part because commissioners are political appointees.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Chapman denied parole

This is the sixth time that John's killer has not been granted parole. He will be up again in 2012.

After the decision on Tuesday, the board wrote to Mr. Chapman, 55, that it remained concerned about “the disregard you displayed for the norms of our society and the sanctity of human life when, after careful planning, you traveled to New York for the sole purpose of killing John Lennon.”

“Release remains inappropriate at this time and incompatible with the welfare of the community,” the panel said.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Melanie Coe: the one who left home

As I was doing some research yesterday on "She's Leaving Home," I found this quasi-profile of Melanie Coe, the British woman whose brief stint as a teenage runaway in 1967 inspired "Home," the touching, string-driven ballad on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Read the piece; Coe's life has been anything but boring.

Amazingly, McCartney's reading of her escape in the newspapers was not the first time he had come across her.

"I first met Paul when I was 13 on the pop show Ready Steady Go!

"He presented me with first prize for miming to Brenda Lee's Let's Jump The Broomstick, which meant I danced on the show for a year," says Melanie.

"We had spent a long day in the studio filming. John Lennon was aloof and unapproachable, Paul shook our hands but Ringo and George were sweethearts, chatting to us all day.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sunday haiku - "She's Leaving Home"

Based on true events,
"Leaving" tells of a young girl
who flees her parents.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Saturday haiku - "Fixing a Hole"

On this ode to weed -
his second in two albums -
Paul celebrates life.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Was The Beatles' breakup all bad?

With much interest, I read this piece about the breakup of The Beatles and how history might have played out had they remained together or given it a second go. It quotes several academics on the subject, and two of them (quite reasonably, I would add) outline some of the more positive consequences related to the band's demise.

At McGill University, Will Straw is another teacher of popular music and culture, arenas of study that might not exist were it not for The Beatles’ storming of the barriers between the popular and the intellectual. Looking back, he thinks the timing of the breakup was perfect.

“It allows them to stand as the perfect example of this historical moment,” Straw observes, “which is when rock becomes both amazingly popular and changes everything around the world, but also becomes sort of arty and introspective and creative. They embodied that more than anybody else. So it’s sort of perfect that they broke up when they did.”

For Keir Keightley, an associate professor in the department of information and media studies at the University of Western Ontario, the question itself reveals the enormous nature of the band and its influence. He believes The Beatles might not be The Beatles—at least not as omnipresently so — if they hadn’t split 40 years ago.

“Had they not broken up,” Keightley says, “it’s possible the respect that’s given them might have been more eroded. Perhaps they would have been a target of punk music and things might have been slightly different because they would not have been deified as quickly or as massively in the ’70s and ’80s.”

It’s like this. To become The Beatles — the formidable cultural entity — they needed to stop being The Beatles — the flawed human aggregate of four guys succumbing to the pressures of fame, fatigue and paralyzing expectations. They are what they are because they quit when they did.

I more or less agree with these sentiments. I belong to the camp that doesn't tend to lament The Beatles' breakup or long for what might have been had they reunited. Perhaps this is attributable to my young age: I wasn't around to enjoy The Beatles in their heyday or even shortly after it. That visceral connection to them as a living, breathing, life-changing entity was never formed. When I look back on The Beatles in their twilight, I see a band which had made an incomparably productive and creative run in a very short span, a band which had nothing more to prove or accomplish, and a band which was collapsing, and often in a most ugly, scarring fashion. They had to break up, and did.

And they did before their music could take a dramatic turn for the worse. That's the paramount concern in my eyes. The fact that The Beatles didn't tarnish their legacy with inferior late-period work is all I need to feel okay about when their dissolution occurred. (Yes, Let It Be isn't top-notch, but what a tonic they produced with Abbey Road.) They didn't tempt the vengeance of the gods with hubris or folly. No, they called it quits, leaving us with a body of albums that is untouchably classic and also somewhat charming on account of its easily consumable size (you don't get lost in The Beatles' discography as you do in Elvis' or Bob Dylan's). I suppose what I'm saying is, when it comes to the breakup of the greatest band ever, focus on the positives. There's more to be content with than your emotions might let you think.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Thursday haiku - "Getting Better"

"It's getting better"
versus "It can't get no worse" -
that's Paul versus John.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Wednesday Beatles cover

It's been a very ELO week for me in so far as their greatest hits has been playing a lot in my car. With this in mind, here's Jeff Lynne and company doing a rather busy, noisy, and jammy cover of "Day Tripper."

(If the video is removed, go here.)