Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Tuesday haiku - "What Goes On"

John wrote "What Goes On",
a country-tinged pop ditty
that went to Ringo.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Re: Today in Beatles history

"George Harrison Remembered: 10 Favorite Cover Versions of His Songs," as compiled by Spinner.

Today in Beatles history

Here's another look-back involving George, but this time the day was one for grief and tears: On November 29, 2001, the "quiet Beatle" passed away at the too-young age of 58 after a bout with lung cancer.

But tragedy crept into his world in 1997 with the discovery that a lump in his neck was malignant. Though he successfully battled the disease with radiotherapy, it was merely the beginning of a series of calamitous events. In 1999, Harrison was attacked in his home by a man later deemed insane by the courts. Harrison was stabbed seven times in the attack, having only been saved by Olivia jumping into the fray with a fireplace poker. Even as he healed from those wounds, Harrison received the devastating news that his cancer had returned, and this time there would be no reprieve. Harrison died of lung cancer in a Hollywood mansion once owned by Paul McCartney. His body was cremated and, according to his wishes, his ashes were spread across the Ganges River in India.

I never fail to be moved by the all-star performance of "My Sweet Lord" at the Concert for George. Billy Preston just nails his vocal.

(If the video is removed, go here.)

And below is what I consider George's most underrated entry in The Beatles' catalogue. It's the enticingly eerie and atmospheric "Blue Jay Way."

(If the video is removed, go here.)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

"Forget the Beatles!"

I'm not sure if this article is insightful or cogent or even coherent, but perhaps it arrives close to some truth.

For an Apple “event,” the digital coming of the Beatles was a rare fail.

Surely Steve Jobs knows that he can’t count on nostalgia to sell, right? Not in 2010. Not anymore.

This was the year we ran out of old things to celebrate. This was the year when Corey Haim died and “The A-Team” bombed and nobody cared that “Star Wars” is going 3-D or that “Revolver” can be sucked right out of the air for $12.99.

After a decade of overdosing on yesterday, after retreads and rehashes, after reunion shows and reunion tours, we’re done. We’re exhausted, tired of our own cultural past and all the celebration necessary to make any piece of it relevant again, even for a moment. The Police took a lap. Michael Jackson inspired a year-long nostalgiathon. We loved the ’80s, we loved the ’90s, but can we just be done now? The Boomer and Gen-X pop catalogs and TV reruns have been warmed over so many times, it’s hard to remember when any of it mattered — or why.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Today in Beatles history

On this day in 1970, George released his most highly regarded solo work, the triple-LP All Things Must Pass.

‘All Things Must Pass’ was his first solo album after the break-up of The Beatles and his first serious attempt at making a commercial album.

The album featured the now classics ‘My Sweet Lord’ and ‘What Is Life’. It was also the first session Phil Collins ever played on. He plays bongos on ‘Art of Dying’. (Collins also had a small part in The Beatles ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ movie when he was a kid).

Maurice Gibb also played keyboards on ‘Isn’t It A Pity’ but, like Collins, was uncredited.

The infamous Phil Spector produced the album. Guests included Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, Billy Preston, Gary Brooker (Procol Harum), Alan White (Yes) and Gary Wright).

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Beatles' "worst moment"

That's journalist Alan Howe's description of "Run for Your Life," a song I've been exploring of late. While I disagree with his assessment, I certainly understand where he's coming from.

Here's his full take:
A murderously sexist, viscous lyric by Lennon – words that he would forever regret – coupled with a rushed recording before taking off on tour once more to America, this is the Beatles worst moment. What’s worse is that John’s vocals are so prominent; you were really meant to hear what he was saying. And what did he say? Listen: “I’d rather see you dead little girl than to be with another man,” and “You’d better run for your life if you can little girl, hide your head in the sand little girl, catch you with another man, that’s the end-a little girl.” That scenario has played in murder trials across the world ever since. This is the Jealous Guy gets dirty, and we don’t like it.

Excerpted from Howe's article, "10 Beatles tracks to skip."

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A thanks to The Beatles

From music critic and author David Wild: "Giving Thanks to Paul, Ringo & the Long and Winding Road."

At the risk of overstating things, Ringo Starr has become a friend over the past two decades. We first met back in 1989 not long after Ringo had cleaned up his act and was rediscovering his own muse as a musician and recording artist in a wonderful, life-affirming way. Because of my dual life as a journalist of sorts and as a writer of television shows, I have had the honor of meeting virtually all of my youthful heroes over the years -- rock stars, movie stars, author and even the occasional president. But I've never met a funnier, sweeter, smarter, more charming icon than the Artist Formerly Known as Richard Starkey. And as far as I'm concerned, to know Ringo is to love him, and the same goes for his wife Barbara, a woman who's always been lovely in every way too.

. . .

The highlight for me was spending a few weeks with Paul and Linda in America and South America as they were touring on their The New World Tour in 1993. They could not have been any nicer to me, especially Linda who it must be said had an extraordinarily generous heart, and a way of trying to mother just about everyone she ever met. One day, I mentioned that a woman I had just started dating was in the same city we were. Linda immediately insisted that I invite her along to soundcheck and a vegetarian lunch that next day. Though Linda didn't even know me all that well, she somehow went out of her way to spend some time with this young lady. As we left the table that day backstage, Linda whispered very seriously to me, "Marry that girl." So I did. Little did I know then that my future wife Fran and I would someday have a beautiful boy together who somehow thought Ringo was a Rutle. Thanks, Linda.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What those iTunes sales mean

From CNBC:
It's great compared to another iTunes hold out — Led Zeppelin. When Zeppelin finally started selling on iTunes in 2007 only sold 300,000 digital tracks and 13,000 digital albums, according to Billboard.

But none of the Beatles' single songs can stand up to today's megastars like Katy Perry and Rhianna. When a big star releases a new album they usually sell between 10,000 and 300,000 digital singles in the first week. Yes, The Beatles sold 2 million singles in its first week, but that's from *all* its albums.

The big question now: will The Beatles release on iTunes drive sales of traditional CD sales? Amazon [AMZN 177.25 9.05 (+5.38%) ] just slashed the prices on its Beatles music to less than the digital downloads cost — CDs are $7.99, and the box set is $129.99. We'll be watching to see if the Beatles scale the best-seller charts on Amazon or iTunes this Cyber Monday.

Wednesday haiku - "Michelle"

A sweet lounge ballad,
Paul's "Michelle" bursts with small charms,
including some French.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

In their first week on iTunes ...

... The Beatles moved 450,000 albums and 2 million singles, generating north of $8 million in sales. For more, go here.

More on "Under My Thumb" and "Run for Your Life"

In this post from last Saturday, I bestowed the honor of "My favorite song at the moment" on "Under My Thumb" by the Rolling Stones. I then briefly compared it to "Run for Your Life," the idea being that both paint crude pictures of female subjugation and both are hard-to-resist ear-pleasers. What a frustrating combination, no? Why did the Stones and The Beatles have to wrap such insulting imagery in sonics so agreeable? They could've made it much easier for some of us by simply not doing one part of their job that well. Instead, we're forced to endure Mick Jagger's sneers of "Under my thumb/The squirmin' dog who's just had her day" with a delectable Motown groove simultaneously at work. And regarding "Run for Your Life," it's a challenge not getting caught up in the song's "addictive energy" even as John spews hateful lines like, "Baby I'm determined/And I'd rather see you dead." Pop music shouldn't be all about easy, uncomplicated rewards, but these two songs present difficulties of an especially vexing variety. Or that's how it might be for some people, anyway. As an avowed fan of both "Under My Thumb" and "Run for Your Life," I've evidently moved beyond this moral dilemma.

Side-note: I wonder which is the more offensive song. Jagger seems to find a very unhealthy sort of pleasure - one deviously playful - in belittling his squeeze, calling her a "Siamese cat of a girl" and "the sweetest, hmmm, pet in the world." On the other hand, John is possessed by something close to (if not actually) murderous intent, which I think puts "Run for Your Life" over the top. In John's defense, at least he owns up to being "a wicked guy" who "was born with a jealous mind." Ultimately though, that doesn't wash away any of the song's sins.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sunday haiku - "The Word"

When The Beatles ask,
"Have you heard the word is love",
they're in hippie mode.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

My favorite song at the moment

Should I be ashamed to confess that it's "Under My Thumb" by the Rolling Stones? What a wicked treat it is, much like John's "Run for Your Life."

"Under My Thumb"

(If the video is removed, go here.)

Friday, November 19, 2010

More on The Beatles and iTunes (pt. 3)

- "Why The Beatles' arrival on iTunes matters"

- "The Beatles and iTunes: Looking Beyond the Hype"

- "Beatles Dominate iTunes Top 200 Lists"

Friday reading

It's worth your time: "Come Together: The Night Lennon and McCartney Reunited"

“Valiant Paul McCartney, I presume?” said John Lennon. “Sir Jasper Lennon, I presume,” responded Paul McCartney.

Such was the manner in which the two former Beatles greeted one another when McCartney showed up, unexpectedly, at a recording session Lennon was conducting on March 28, 1974. In the throes of his “Lost Weekend” period, Lennon was in a Los Angeles studio overseeing production of Harry Nilsson’s Pussy Cats album. Present were a number of players – including Stevie Wonder, guitarist Jesse Ed Davis, saxophonist Bobby Keys and Nilsson himself. McCartney was accompanied by his wife, Linda. Lennon’s then-girlfriend, May Pang, was there as well.

. . .

Pang went on to say that McCartney seemed not to want to entertain the thought, perhaps because the idea of such a missed opportunity was too painful. A year later, however, at McCartney’s annual Buddy Holly tribute party in New York, the former Beatle rushed over to Pang as she was talking with Linda McCartney. “Tell her!” McCartney said. “Tell me what?” said Pang. “One of Derek Taylor’s postcards from John fell into our hands,” McCartney said. “John had written, ‘Thinking of visiting the Macs in New Orleans.’”

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Macca update

Of late, there have been several developments on the live performance/concert front for Paul:

- On December 11th, he's scheduled to be the musical guest on SNL.

- Two nights later, he'll be playing an invitation-only show at New York's legendary Apollo Theater, marking his first ever performance there.

Thursday haiku - "Think for Yourself"

With his "word or two",
George admonishes liars
and hard-headed types.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

"Doctor Robert," BSG, etc.

The existence of this blog would seem to illustrate that The Beatles are of deep fascination to me. Indeed they are. And because this is the case, I'm always on the lookout for references or connections to The Beatles in other interests of mine. Earlier this evening, I encountered one. Yes, I finally found a link, however trivial, between the Fab Four and Battlestar Galactica, the epic sci-fi TV series that has been consuming my spare hours for the last few months. In an (expendable) episode from season three called "The Woman King," there's a doctor, Michael Robert, who isn't exactly caring for his patients as he should. Driven by bigoted views, he's actually killing some of them. In other words, this Doctor Robert doesn't belong to the mainstream of his profession. Sound familiar? "Take a drink from his special cup, Doctor Robert."

Also, it was a minor bonus that the title of the subsequent episode was "A Day in the Life."

More on The Beatles and iTunes (pt. 2)

- Further details on how the partnership finally came together.

- Thus far, The Beatles are faring well on the iTunes chart.

- How John reacted to the news.

- Finally, Ann Powers lists the 15 Beatles songs she would download first on iTunes.

More on The Beatles and iTunes

Analysis and reaction:

- The New York Times: "Persistence pays. Apple was repeatedly sued by the Beatles and paid millions of dollars to settle those suits. The computer company never let that discourage it from pursuing its goal of rounding out the iTunes catalog with Beatles songs, however."

- The Guardian: "Couldn't the biggest band in the history of pop have found a way of placing their music online without it becoming just another commodity in Apple's gadget-flogging industrial complex?"

- NPR: "But let's be clear: This is a business story. It isn't a music story."

- The Los Angeles Times: "If the Beatles keep finding ways to repackage the same content, then the extras need to start being content that's never before been widely available."

- Beatweek Magazine: "The arrival of The Beatles in 2010 won’t have nearly the kind of impact on iTunes that it would have had several years ago, so the remaining question is just what kind of impact it will have."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

It's official: Beatles now on iTunes

See for yourself. If you're willing to shell out $150, you can purchase the entirety of The Beatles' official catalogue through iTunes ("All the studio albums, the Past Masters collection, all A and B sides plus plenty of liner notes, photos and documentaries courtesy of the iTunes LP format"). Or, if you prefer a more piecemeal approach, you can acquire their songs and albums one-by-one. Both are options now.

Here's Apple's press release for the announcement, and here's a New York Times report with more details.

Excerpt (from the latter):
While getting access to the Beatles catalog has plenty of symbolic significance, it is unlikely to bolster Apple’s bottom line.

For all the success of Apple in becoming the largest distributor of music on the Internet, the iTunes store is not a major source of profits for the company. Apple executives have said that iTunes is roughly a “break-even” operation.

“The music itself is a vehicle to allow them to sell more iPods and iPhones, which is where they make real money,” Mr. Bajarin said.

And despite the deal’s symbolism, its financial value for the Beatles is uncertain. About three-quarters of all albums sold in the United States are still CDs, and physical albums remain far more profitable for record companies than downloads.

Mr. Jobs has tried to make a deal with EMI and the Beatles many times before, but negotiations have always broken down, usually accompanied by a flurry of online rumors, accusations and conspiracy theories. Further complicating the relationship between the parties, Apple Corps, the Beatles’ company, and Apple, the computer company, had been embroiled for decades over trademark disputes.

In the past, Paul McCartney has said that a deal for Beatles’ downloads would have to be approved by all the band members or their heirs.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Beatles to iTunes?

According to the Wall Street Journal, the major revelation behind Apple's much ballyhooed announcement tomorrow has leaked: After years of fraught negotiations, The Beatles' catalogue will be available on iTunes.

We'll find out tomorrow if the report's true.

Apple Inc. is preparing to disclose that its iTunes Store will soon start carrying music by the Beatles, according to people familiar with the situation, a move that would fill a glaring gap in the collection of the world's largest music retailer.

The deal resulted from talks that were taking place as recently as last week among executives of Apple, representatives of the Beatles and their record label, EMI Group Ltd., according to these people. These people cautioned that Apple could change plans at the last minute.

Assorted Paul news

- Did Paul time the re-release of Band on the Run to draw attention away from the many commemorations of John's life? Brian Boyd reflects on the death-defying rivalry between Lennon and McCartney.

- At the Q Awards, Paul took home the Classic Album award for Band on the Run (and he also went to bat for his beloved Linda).

- More and more on BotR.

- Michaelangelo Matos' review of Fab: An Intimate Life Of Paul McCartney.

- Even at the ripe age of 68, Paul hasn't become curmudgeonly in his musical tastes.

- Taylor Swift has designated Macca one of her "biggest musical inspirations."

- "Mary McCartney on sex, Scotland and shortbread."

- Finally, read about ex-Macca publicist Geoff Baker and his new adventures in unemployment.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sunday haiku - "Nowhere Man"

John was "Nowhere Man",
"sitting in his Nowhere Land",
listless and unsure.

Sunday cover

John allegedly once held up Anne Murray's interpretation of "You Won't See Me" as his favorite Beatles cover. I agree that it was a success. The Canadian songstress adds an inviting pop sheen to the song and delivers a very natural vocal.

Have a listen:

(If the video is removed, go here.)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Saturday haiku - "You Won't See Me"

"You" abounds with grief,
owing to a rocky patch
between Paul and Jane.

More on The Beatles v. Coldplay

This post on the Daily Mirror's webpage doesn't add anything of substance to the Coldplay-is-better-than-The-Beatles argument (an argument where clear thinking and levelheadedness go to die). I was amused, though, by Fiona Phillips' suggestion that the track "Fix You" would actually count in Coldplay's favor. It was the (banal and sophomoric) lyric for that very song that I cited to indict Chris Martin.

If "Fix You" is indeed attended by beauty, it's of a tempered or qualified sort. Because Martin croons vacuous lines like, "Lights will guide you home/And ignite your bones," the song's surrounding sonic grandeur isn't able to achieve full uplift; it needs engaging lyrics to do so. And through four albums and several EPs, Martin hasn't written many that fit this description.

P.S. My above criticisms notwithstanding, "Fix You" was very movingly incorporated into this TV spot for Peter Jackson's remake of King Kong. Let's be thankful that Martin's lyrics were nowhere to be found.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Paul in Argentina

Paul played a pair of shows earlier this week in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and one of them triggered a kind of spiritual ecstasy within Pablo Toledo, a journalist for the Buenos Aires Herald. Go here to read his review, which bears the rapturous headline, "My eyes have seen the glory of the coming of Sir Paul."

It was like watching Michelangelo take a large blank canvas and repaint his masterpieces with the wisdom gathered over the years.
. . .

But the key were the songs: McCartney wrote or co-wrote the soundtrack of many lives, of several decades, perhaps of a whole century. Every pair of ears in the audience had gone through them a few thousand times before, and yet they hit just like the first time, perhaps more so from all the bundled personal history – a first kiss, a breakup, a hard time, a happy day. Like Hey Jude, which he wrote on a car to comfort Julian Lennon when his parents were breaking up and now gets stadiums full of people chanting its endless finale in a state of bliss. Like Helter Skelter, once claimed by Charles Manson and now the hardest rocker of the 1960s.

"The Last Years and the Legacy"

A few nights back, I watched the installment of Behind the Music about John Lennon. As the title of this post indicates, it focuses on the later events of his life, i.e., the making of Double Fantasy, his death, etc. Below are some of the brief notes I took on it.

- It's touching to hear Yoko recount the time when John grew rather worried over a slight fever Sean had and even told Yoko that she wasn't concerned enough. What a transformation John underwent: from drug-addled music megastar to dedicated Mr. Mom.

- Julian on his father: "...I didn't know who he was, really."

- The audio of young Sean singing "With a Little Help from My Friends" is beyond adorable.

- One poignant reaction to the news of John's death: "I just kept wanting to change it." (I can't remember who made this remark.)

- Lastly, I wonder if John's legacy would be different had he perished on that storm-ravaged sailing expedition to Bermuda rather than being gunned down in cold blood by Mark David Chapman. Death has a way of romanticizing those who have passed, and this is especially true when the manner of death is as gruesome as John's was. If he had gone out in a blaze of glory, bravely battling a tempest that would eventually prove too fierce, would his post-death deification have been as swift and thorough-going? Perhaps not. (I apologize if this is an overly macabre counter-factual.)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A brief comment on "Imagine"

I was on the Beatles Bible website earlier this week and noticed that, among its "latest posts," there's one (partly) entitled, "'And the world will be as one.'" Upon seeing this, my immediate reaction was to wonder if a mistake had been made. I obviously knew the line was a reference to "Imagine." Yet when I played the song in my head, I kept hearing, "And the world will live (not "be") as one." I then checked the full lyric on a website and found that (as many but myself already know) both lines are part of the song; the one I suspected of being incorrect comes in the middle, while the other one comes at the very end. The question that arises from this is why would John have cared to make that distinction with such a minor variation. Is there an important difference between the two? I would say no. In this particular case, "be" and "live" seem to convey the same meaning. So perhaps there's nothing to it. I'm guessing that the line which contains "live" has stuck with me because it closes the song, thereby achieving a more lasting effect.

Thursday haiku - "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)"

Famed for its sitar,
"Wood" is John's cryptic ballad
about an affair.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Update on Beatles cinema

- Read about Nowhere Boy's Oscar odds.

- Robert Zemeckis: Yellow Submarine 3-D remake "all ahead full."

- Steve Carell will play the illegitimate son of an aging rock-star in a new comedy called Imagine. Excerpt: In Imagine, a sixty-something Bruce Springsteen-type rocker discovers a long-unopened letter addressed to him from John Lennon; after reading it, he’s shocked to learn that he actually fathered a son, who'd be played by Carell.

- Lastly, The Beatles and LOTR.

Quote of the day

Today's quote comes from the inimitable Kanye West, whose propensity for controversial statements and hyperbole is well-known. This time around, he has made headlines by proclaiming Coldplay to be "on the same level as The Beatles." Audacious, no? He didn't stop there:

"In 30 years, when Coldplay are old men, people will look back and say, 'These guys were more talented than The Beatles.' I have worked with Chris Martin and the man is a genius - as a performer and a songwriter he is on the same level as JOHN LENNON.".

I wonder which is the more feeble claim: that history will one day judge Coldplay to be a better band than The Beatles or that Chris Martin's talents currently match those once possessed by John. Both are comically misguided remarks, and both are instances of Kanye playing perfectly to type. I'm sorry, Ye, but geniuses don't pen lyrics like this: "When you try your best but you don't succeed/When you get what you want but not what you need/When you feel so tired but you can't sleep/Stuck in reverse." Is there a diplomatic way to call something trite, hackneyed, threadbare, stale, and so forth? Go here for the ultimate take-down of Chris Martin and company ("the most insufferable band of the decade").

Coldplay has written some solid, even moving songs, and they're a rather likable group. I especially admire Chris Martin for the comedic collaborations he's done with Ricky Gervais. Nevertheless, Coldplay is not even close to being the best band in the world or even the UK, let alone one that eclipses the talent level of The Beatles.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Well-versed Beatles aficionados will know that today is the 44th anniversary of Paul's "death." The infamous urban legend goes as follows: During the wee hours of November 9th, 1966, Paul McCartney was involved in a car accident; he died, tragically, from the injuries he sustained. The Beatles then conspired to deceive the public on a grand scale by replacing Paul with an unimaginably similar (and talented) impostor. In their music, artwork, and elsewhere, they planted clues about this ongoing act of perfidy. Only through the diligent efforts of very clever and perceptive fans was the plot eventually uncovered. To no surprise, the official response from The Beatles and their handlers was always one of denial.

This is the "Paul is dead" hoax in a nutshell. I've explored the topic a fair amount in the past, so I don't feel the need to go further at the moment. I'll restrict myself to two comments. 1) I wrote this two summers ago (see the third link), and it unfortunately holds true: "...the more I read about the "Paul-is-Dead" hoax, the less intrigued I become." 2) One aspect of it that continues to fascinate me is its murky origin. No one knows precisely how the notion came into being, which adds mystery to an already thickly mysterious (though patently preposterous) farrago of theories.

Tuesday haiku - "Drive My Car"

"Drive" is comedy:
a girl wants her own chauffeur,
but she has no car.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Paul in Brazil

Sir Paul opened the South American leg of his "Up and Coming" tour last night with a show in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Fans were amped. Other details are at MaccaBlog.

Notes on "English Tea"

When I last listened to Paul's album Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, I found myself a bit confused by the sixth track, "English Tea." You'll recall that, at the suggestion of Sir George Martin, Paul brought in Nigel Godrich, who had previously worked with Radiohead and Beck, to produce the album. Evidently, the collaboration was not always a harmonious one, as Godrich refused to roll over for Macca; in fact, he was blunt in his assessment of Paul's output, likely cringing over the same indulgences (the silliness, the schmaltz, etc.) that have drawn the ire of critics for much of Paul's career. What emerged from their occasional differences of opinion, though, was one of Paul's best received solo albums. Chaos earned a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year, and Godrich was up for Producer of the Year. The standard line is that, unlike other producers, Godrich was demanding of the legend in his midst, forcing him to focus and to jettison those tendencies that often attended his "silly love songs."

What, then, to make of "English Tea," a gushingly precious song if there ever was one? Accompanied by piano, strings, and a flute solo, Paul invites an acquaintance (or otherwise) to join him for a morning filled with tea, "fairy cakes," delightful chats (to paraphrase the lyric), and croquet, a request he himself describes as "very twee, very me." He also mentions there are "hollyhocks" to be seen, and he uses the word "peradventure." He's clearly not trying to mask the song's affected daintiness; it's in plain view.

The question becomes this: how did "English Tea" make the final cut? Not knowing many more details about the album's formation than those I listed above, I'll propose several possible explanations. 1) The song is self-parody ("very twee, very me"), which made Godrich comfortable with it; 2) Godrich actually liked the song, with its pleasant melody and tranquil imagery; 3) Paul McCartney is still Paul McCartney - he can easily trump the reservations that others may have about certain songs of his; and 4) Godrich consented to it with the aim of setting up a vivid and damning contrast between those disciplined and mature tracks he guided to completion and the one on which silly, saccharine Paul had free reign. Rather Machiavellian, no?

Most of this is speculation, so I might be grossly uninformed on some counts. It's just a thought experiment that amused me.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

John's last audio recording

It comes from the night of his murder. With Yoko close by, John is having some difficulty trying to sign an autograph (the ink isn't showing), and he thinks aloud through the process. It's all very commonplace and uneventful, a calm before the storm. Go here to listen.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Quote of the day

From the Battle Creek Enquirer:

25 years ago today, 1985: Former Beatle Paul McCartney was quoted in a magazine interview published today as saying his slain song-writing partner John Lennon could be a "maneuvering swine," and took credit for songs he did not write.

Friday, November 5, 2010

"The Beatles' dream"

The Independent on the "strange, short blossoming" of Apple Corps.

To the music business at large, an industry not best known for altruism, this was the hippie ideal gone truly mad. If Dick James, the head of Northern Songs, the company that published the Lennon and McCartney catalogue of music, had needed any encouragement in his plan to sever his links with The Beatles following the death of manager Brian Epstein a year earlier, this had to be it. Within months the songs had been sold to Lew Grade at ATV.

As it turned out the cynics were quickly proved at least partly right. Staffed by many of the group's old friends from Liverpool, few of whom had any real business acumen, Apple quickly became a financial whirlpool as money was sucked away to places unknown. Perhaps the group's first venture outside music, a fashion boutique in nearby Baker Street, should have been a warning, quickly turning into a Beatle-takeaway as, in the absence of much in the way of security, customers simply helped themselves to the designs and walked out without paying.

. . .

But it wasn't all a naive failure. Apple, as a small, short-lived record company, wasn't without its successes. For decades all Apple records have been highly valued as collectibles, and from October 25 The Beatles' early work as producers and unheralded backing musicians for other artists will finally be made available for digital download.

There will be some surprises. Who knew that both Paul McCartney and George Harrison played on the original recording of James Taylor's "Carolina in my Mind", or that Harry Nilsson was originally under the impression that McCartney had written his eventual Grammy Award-winning hit "Without You", and not Beatles protégés Badfinger? Or that Apple released a Modern Jazz Quartet album, and that it was at Ringo Starr's insistence that John Tavener's The Whale was recorded for the label?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

"The 10 Worst Beatles Songs"

The Beatles were only flesh and blood. To paraphrase Kipling, not gods nor devils, but men. As men, they inevitably misfired from time to time, and this list claims to contain their 10 worst songs. I'll have more on it later. For now, may this suffice: If you diss "Your Mother Should Know," you diss yourself.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What's the most Beatlesque Bowie song?

It's a question that randomly popped into my head this evening. Not being an expert on Bowie's sizable and varied discography, I couldn't think of many songs to suggest as possible answers. In fact, only one came to mind: "Oh! You Pretty Things." Off 1971's Hunky Dory, it's a very White Album-y (and terrific) track, perhaps best described as some combination, musically, of "Martha My Dear" and "Cry Baby Cry." Have a listen.

"Oh! You Pretty Things"

(If the video is removed, go here)

I'll pursue this question more in the coming weeks.

Sidebar: Is the use of "Oh" and a mid-title exclamation point ("Oh! You Pretty Things") a nod to The Beatles' "Oh! Darling"?

The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger

Various links about the band that Sean Lennon and his girlfriend Charlotte Kemp Muhl have formed::

- An interview.

- Here are two reviews of Acoustic Sessions, the duo's newly released debut.

- Finally, listen to an hour-long session Sean and Charlotte played at WNYC's studio in Manhattan.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Assorted John news (Pt. 2)

- Watch and listen to a contest-winning cover of "Don't Let Me Down."

- Another contest.

- Gibson is saluting John and his legacy by making limited-edition models of guitars he once played.

- What do y'all think of Lauren Voiers' "Peace and Harmony" sculpture, which was unveiled at Liverpool's celebration of John's life earlier this month? In my humble, uncultured opinion, it's a gaudy eye sore.

- Finally, John as a sailor, a baker, and an incredulous clean-laundry seeker.

Assorted John news (Pt. 1)

- The next commemorative coin issued by the British Royal Mint will bear the likeness of John Lennon. In a public poll to determine whose face would next be used, John won the vote handily.

- All of Imagine is going to be available as downloadable content for Rock Band 3.

- English Heritage has honored John and Yoko by dedicating a plaque to their former residence at 34 Montagu Place in Marylebone, London, thus designating it a place of "cultural importance."

- No surprise: John is among the top-earning dead celebrities.

- John's final interview to be aired.

- Lastly, John Lennon, "in his own words." (I especially admire this: "No matter what artistic gains I get, or gold records, if I can’t make a success out of my relationship with the people I love, then everything else is bulls—.”)