Monday, February 28, 2011

Monday haiku - "Not a Second Time"

Jilted once before,
John won't let this girl woo him -
"Not a second time".

Don't fear pop

Listen to five seconds of every pop #1 single from 1956 through 1983, ending with Men at Work's "Down Under." It's fascinating to hear the history of pop music unfold so abruptly and with such dizzying variety. To be sure though, there are spells when certain acts seem to rise above the others. I won't mention any names.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sunday haiku - "Devil in Her Heart"

On this light cover,
George blinds himself to the truth:
his girl is no good.

Sunday Beatles cover

Here's one last tribute to George before the close of his birthday weekend: the Secret Machines' cover of "Blue Jay Way" from the soundtrack to Across the Universe. The space rock trio stays faithful to the original, which is probably the key to their success.

(If the video is removed, go here.)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Saturday haiku - "I Wanna Be Your Man"

A bouncy come-on,
"Man" quickly became a hit...
for the Rolling Stones.

Because it's getting so much attention...

... I feel compelled to make note of it as well: Paul has written a ballet. It's called "Ocean's Kingdom" and will premiere in New York this September. Read more here.

Excerpt from the first article:
Ocean's Kingdom is a phantasmagoric musical saga, two years in the making, which includes original compositions and a libretto by Sir Paul. It's essentially a romance, said McCartney, following a star-crossed love affair between the "daughter of the ocean" and the brother of the Earth King.

. . .

But while Ocean's Kingdom is not McCartney's first experiment with oboe and violin, this is his first time working so intensively with a ballet company. "The sheer athleticism is the most astounding thing," he said. "It's like a meeting of the Olympic games and art, and I find that fascinating and challenging for me, to see what can be done."

Friday, February 25, 2011

Friday haiku - "You Really Got a Hold on Me"

By the Miracles,
"Hold" puts John in his dream role:
a Motown crooner.

George's most underrated Beatles song

"Blue Jay Way" cast a thick spell on me the first time I listened to it. It's the most richly atmospheric and eerie entry in The Beatles' catalogue. I would even say it ranks among my 25 favorite songs by the Fabs.

(If the video is removed, go here.)

My favorite song by George

Not only was George the "quiet Beatle," he was also the salty one (at least in terms of his songwriting). No song better displays this prickly disposition than "Taxman."

(If the video is removed, go here.)

Happy Birthday, George!

The "quiet Beatle" was born on this day in 1943 and would have turned 68 today had he not succumbed to cancer in November of 2001. As you would expect, there have been remembrances and commemorations of George all over the internet in recent days. Below, you'll find a sampling of them and other stories.

- "5 Reasons 'The Quiet One' Might Be the Greatest Beatle".

- Read one of Rolling Stone's cover stories from 1987 - "The Return of George Harrison." The context for it was the release of Cloud Nine.

- "George Harrison: Forgotten Solo Gems".

- The Concert for George will be streaming on his website all of today. It will also be available on Blu-Ray and digital download on March 22.

- Finally, read about a long-lost collaboration between George and Indian musician Aashish Khan.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Thursday haiku - "Hold Me Tight"

Paul sings about sex -
"Making love to only you" -
which was rare for him.

Thursday Beatles cover

Listen as the incomparable Al Green injects soul and flair into "I Want to Hold Your Hand":

(If the video is removed, go here.)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wednesday haiku - "Roll Over Beethoven"

A Chuck Berry hit
and a Beatles favorite,
"Roll" pairs the acts well.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"A Day in the Life" - why is it great?

Oftentimes, it seems that the greatness of The Beatles is simply taken as a given. Too seldom do we seriously explore what composes and sustains this greatness. Too seldom do we unpack a song or an album in order to locate the qualities that make them so vital and compelling.

Here's a worthwhile question then: "'A Day In The Life' Is A Weird-Ass Song. So Why Does It Work?"

And here is one noteworthy part of the answer:

“The John Lennon section, like a lot of his music: I wouldn’t call it ‘whiny,’ but there is a bit of that ‘moany,’ ‘whiny’ tone to a lot of what he sings, you know, the way he sings through his nose the way he does, and the way he holds on to single notes for multiple syllables.” [Covach sings me “I read the news today, Oh boy…” to illustrate.] “It’s so very... John.”

Then the McCartney part - what Covach calls “the happy-go-lucky Paul thing” - and the contrast it creates, brings out the best of the two Beatles. It’s all packaged in a George Martin/Geoff Emerick production that turns the collaboration into a kind of a weird drug trip or psychedelic dream. “It’s like looking at the Beatles through some sort of weird psychedelic lens,” Covach says. “You recognize each of the guys [John and Paul], but everything about is sort of … the edges are all faded and the colors are not quite right.”

Tuesday Beatles potpourri

- British singer-songwriter Adele has matched The Beatles in one measure of chart success. It's an impressive feat.

- A rare sealed copy of Yesterday and Today, which features the infamous "butch cover," is up for auction in California.

Read about Get Back, a not-yet-filmed comedy that "centers on the discovery of a time machine by two die-hard Beatles fans, who travel back in time to prevent John Lennon from meeting Yoko Ono, who they blame for the break-up of the Fab Four."

- Meet the first graduate of Liverpool Hope University's Master of Arts in The Beatles, Popular Music and Society program.

- Come Together: The Business Wisdom of the Beatles

- British pop-artist Sir Peter Blake was only compensated 200 pounds (and no royalties) for designing the iconic Sgt. Pepper's album cover.

- Find out what celebrities like what Beatles songs.

- Viacom has sold Harmonix, the game developer behind The Beatles: Rock Band.

- Late last year, "Penny Lane" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Finally, a memorable moment between Paul, Ringo, and Larry King (scroll down a touch).

Tuesday haiku - "Please Mister Postman"

On With The Beatles,
there are three Motown covers,
starting with "Postman".

Monday, February 21, 2011

Monday haiku - "Till There Was You"

A schmaltzy ballad
borrowed from The Music Man,
"Till" appealed to Paul.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Watch the performance ...

... that earned Paul a Grammy last week. AOL Music UK provides exclusive footage of "Helter Skelter" live at Citi Field.

Ringo's spring 2011 update

In a video message on his official website, Ringo tells of his plans for the near future, which include a new album and a European tour.

Sunday haiku - "Little Child"

It's a rowdy tune
driven by John's mouth organ
and Paul's piano.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Saturday haiku - "Don't Bother Me"

The first song George wrote,
"Bother" has a peevish tone
that feels out of place.

Friday, February 18, 2011

More on Yoko

"Yoko Ono: Five Reasons She Still Matters," courtesy of "Rocks Off," the Houston Press' music blog.

As I've pointed out before, I'm not a Yoko-hater, but I'm also not convinced she's relevant for all of the reasons in the above piece. For example, just because she continues to make music and art doesn't mean any of it "matters." Yoko is relevant because she was once married to John Lennon. Everything else springs from that.

Happy Birthday, Yoko!

The former Mrs. John Winston Ono Lennon turns 78 today. I will offer no snarky comment about how she is perceived by many to have broken up The Beatles. It's one of the most trite and repetitive topics related to the Fab Four. As students of Beatles history know, an array of factors contributed to the band's divorce. To pin it exclusively or primarily on Yoko is ignorant and only engenders resentment where it doesn't belong. So if you're among her detractors, just reroute the energy behind your ill-feelings into enjoying some of the wonderful tunes she inspired John to write. In fact, if not for Yoko Ono, my favorite Beatles song may have never come into existence.

As imperfect as it was, bask in John and Yoko's love:

(If the video is removed, go here.)

(If the video is removed, go here.)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

John Lennon + David Lee Roth = ...

... mash-up gold. NPR has the details and a link to the song.

The (presumably) French mash-up artist Mighty Mike recently layered John Lennon's instrumental version of "Imagine" with Van Halen's acoustic recording of "Jump," and the result is a glorious fusion of musical polar opposites, fittingly titled "Imagine a Jump."

. . .

Lennon's quiet, thoughtful ivories slide from the speakers, quickly followed by Roth's drawn-out crow call. Roth's party-inspirational vocals shockingly serve as a perfect counterpart to Lennon's famous piano lines.

Thursday haiku - "All My Loving"

A tuneful pop gem,
"Loving" conveys Paul's sweet charm:
"I'll always be true".

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wednesday haiku - "All I've Got to Do"

The muse behind "All":
Motown's Smokey Robinson,
whom John idolized.

"Rattle and Dum"

Have a look at this superb list put together by The Onion, entitled "Rattle and dumb: 13 rock movies that make their subjects look like dicks." Beatles fans should know exactly where this is going.

5. Paul McCartney, Let It Be (1970)
How can you hate a guy who worked overtime to prevent The Beatles from breaking up? It’s a tall task, but Paul McCartney is up to the job in Let It Be, a document of the acrimonious sessions for the aborted Get Back album, which was also later released as Let It Be. McCartney was the only Beatle fully engaged in the band by 1969, and judging from Let It Be, he corralled the other members by being an overbearing bully. The film’s most famous scene features George Harrison finally breaking down under McCartney’s constant nagging, promising to play whatever Paul wants, or to not play at all. Small wonder McCartney played all the instruments himself on his first solo album.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

It's not quite over, leaving me time to do a brief post about The Beatles' best love songs. I imagine I'm with a plurality or maybe even a majority of fans when I say that George's "Something" should rank the highest. Earlier in the day, I tweeted on this subject, initially stating that my choice would be either "Here, There and Everywhere" or "Two of Us." A little reflection, though, led me to "Something." (In the case of "Two of Us," I was mistaking my favorite for their finest.) Also, I've seen lists that include "In My Life," but I think doing so misunderstands the true nature of the song; it's more a reflection on the past than anything else.

The best: "Something"
My favorite: "Two of Us"
Second favorite: "Don't Let Me Down"
Most underrated: "I've Just Seen a Face"

Last night at the Grammys ...

... The Beatles were honored a number of times. The band as a whole (insofar as that's possible) received the Best Historical Album Grammy for the remastered stereo box set that was released in September of '09. A noted member of The Beatles, Paul took home the award for Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance, which was in recognition of his live version of "Helter Skelter" from Good Evening New York City. Finally, Herbie Hancock (among others) won honors in the Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals category for his cover of John's "Imagine."

Are The Beatles only becoming more popular?

Monday haiku - "I'll Be Back"

A downcast closer,
"Back" finds John ditching his pride
and bowing to love.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sunday haiku - "You Can't Do That"

The guitars stand out:
George worked his brand new twelve-string,
and John played the lead.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Saturday haiku - "When I Get Home"

John wrote this coy romp,
showcasing his Motown bent
and his impatience.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Today in Beatles history

Days after their historic appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Beatles travelled to Washington, D.C. where they played their first proper concert in America; it was at the Washington Coliseum. Read more here.

Before the concert, the group gave a light and jubilant press interview in the cavernous Washington Coliseum, located adjacent to the Union Station rail yards. When asked what they thought of then-President Lyndon Johnson, Ringo Starr quipped: "We don't know. We've never met the man... (pause) Does he buy our records?"

Friday haiku - "Things We Said Today"

"Love is here to stay",
pledges Paul to his girlfriend,
actress Jane Asher.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Thursday haiku - "I'll Cry Instead"

A country-kissed tune,
"Cry" airs one of John's chief faults:
his male chauvinism.

More on The Beatles at the Cavern

- "The Beatles: 50 years since they first played the Cavern"

Paul McCartney returned his roots at the Cavern in December 1999 to play a one-off concert, but it wasn't on the same stage that he had played from almost 300 times in the early 1960s.

The original Cavern club closed in 1973 and was demolished to make way for a ventilation shaft for Liverpool's new underground railway loop line. The shaft was never built and the current Cavern club is recreated across three quarters of the original site, using many of the old club's bricks.

- "Beatles were paid only £5 for their first gig at Cavern Club"

Ray McFall, Cavern Club owner, later recalled: "The Beatles were different and they were very well rehearsed because they had come back from three months of torture in Hamburg. However, I didn't like them wearing jeans which were taboo in the Cavern. Our doormen would stop anyone wearing jeans. I felt that if people were wearing good, clean clothes they would be more likely to behave themselves as they wouldn't want them getting dirty and damaged."

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Did anything else happen on this day in Beatles history?

Nothing too important. I mean, it's not as if the Washington Post was impressed by what transpired: "In return, we get the Beatles. As usual, we got gypped. Nothing we have exported in recent years quite justifies imported hillbillies who look like sheep dogs and sound like alley cats in agony." That sounds to me like a straight-society adult suffering through the first pangs of cultural irrelevance.

Just go here and here.

50 years ago today ...

... The Beatles (sans Ringo) played their maiden gig at the Cavern Club in Liverpool. It was at this venue that they first gained an ardent following. The Beatles would perform there a total of 292 times.

- Experience that first show through the memories of Alex McKechnie.

"It wasn't just the music and the singing, it was their lack of respect for the audience. At the Cavern for those first few gigs, they were quite irreverent to the audience and other people. They were sort of the first punk band. The Beatles were a law unto themselves on the stage.

"They were still doing that when they went to America - if someone asked them a question they didn't give a serious answer, and that's how they behaved on stage in the Cavern, and that's why I think they liked it in the Cavern."

- Also, read about how some fans plan to mark the occasion.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tuesday haiku - "Any Time at All"

According to John,
"Time" hatched from "It Won't Be Long";
both are punchy songs.

On sale today

In addition to the release of Love, iTunes has also made available a recording of the last interview John ever did. It was conducted mere hours before his death on December 8, 1980. Go here for more.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Monday haiku - "Can't Buy Me Love"

Paul's message is clear:
money can get you a lot,
but it can't buy love.

The British Invasion ...

... reached an early flash point on this day in 1964 as The Beatles touched down at JFK Airport en route to their historic appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Read more at The Beatles Bible.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Paul at Super Bowl XXXIX, etc.

The performance was six long years ago. Additionally, here's Paul playing "Freedom" during the pre-game festivities for Super Bowl XXXVI.

Today in Beatles history

Via Gibson:
1958, George Harrison joined Liverpool group The Quarrymen. The group who were named after Lennon's school featured John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Len Garry, Eric Griffiths and John Lowe.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Saturday haiku - "Tell Me Why"

John's girl lied to him,
leaving him nearly in tears
and without answers.

Weekend reading

- "Were The Beatles bad for us?"

I admit that it took a sizable hit of the herb for this idea to pop into my own head, as I have willingly participated in celebrating the Fabsters almost from the time I was able to walk. But what if The Beatles ruined it for us? What if their very existence has stunted our societal and cultural growth? What if their re-writing of the pop music template has prevented other forms of pop music from ever taking shape, much less connecting with a mass audience? What if their personalities, their style, their sense of humor, hadn’t been given the mass attention by which to become a part of our culture, known the world over?

What if the current musical climate – the preponderance of musical acts all devoid of subtlety, melody and originality – is their fault? It’s like they came, took all the fucking good ideas, and we’ve been left with five decades of rotting table scraps?

- "Instant Expert: how the world caught Beatles fever"

The US television host Ed Sullivan saw a crush of Beatles fans at Heathrow Airport when the group returned from Stockholm in October 1963. He offered The Beatles' manager, Brian Epstein, top dollar for a single appearance by the band on his Sunday night variety show, but Epstein wanted three shows at bottom dollar but with top billing. The first show, on February 9, 1964, is a milestone in pop culture and launched the British Invasion.

Unreleased Beatles tracks ...

... to be made available. Alternate versions of "Girl" and "The Fool on the Hill" will be part of the iTunes release of Love, which goes on sale February 8. Both tracks are from the Love theatrical production.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Today in Beatles history

Via Gibson: "Beatles Fans Asked to Sing on ‘Across the Universe’ Sessions"

Presented by

On the evening of February 4, 1968 The Beatles were working on a track at their second home, Abbey Road studios in St. John’s Wood, London. The band were recording John Lennon’s “Across the Universe” but realized something was missing. Lennon and McCartney decided the song needed some high falsetto harmonies but it was a Sunday night and impossible to book any session vocalists at that time and with such late notice.

Paul McCartney, well aware that the Apple Scruffs (a hardcore group of mostly young girl fans) would be waiting outside the Abbey Road building, stepped outside the studio and asked a question that would change the lives of two young girls forever. Macca wanted to know if any of the Scruffs “could hold a high note.”

Lizzie Bravo was 16-years old, a massive Beatles fan, and she immediately answered McCartney in the affirmative. She and her girlfriend Gayleen Pease were invited into the inner sanctum and engine room of the greatest rock and roll band of all time. Talking to Steve Marinucci at, Lizzie said, “They started showing us the song and the lyrics. We were there for over two hours. We laughed and drank tea and sang ‘Nothing's Gonna Change My World’ many times.”

Assorted George news

- "George Harrison's beloved guitar is reborn as a replica"

- "George Harrison’s Sister Recalls Early Beatles Tours"

- Finally, "Meditation Lessons from George Harrison to You"

Thursday, February 3, 2011

"The fall of music giant EMI"

Read a tidy summary of the record label's decline and fall.

When did things start to go wrong?
Almost all commentators agree that EMI's problems started with its sale, for $6.5 billion, to private equity firm Terra Firma in 2007. The new owner's focus on cost-cutting and restructuring prompted the Rolling Stones, Radiohead, and Paul McCartney to leave the label in protest. But that was just the first of Terra Firma's miscalculations. "EMI stands for Electrical and Musical Industries," says Neil McCormick at The Telegraph. But recently, its employees have come to know it as "Every Mistake Imaginable."

Today in Beatles history

A pivotal moment in The Beatles' creeping dissolution occurred on this day in 1969: the thuggish Allen Klein was hired as the band's business manager. Paul of course objected to the decision, viewing his father-in-law Lee Eastman as the better choice. This only stoked the already strong fires of dissension within the group.

Have a listen to "Steel and Glass," John's Four Minutes Hate against Klein. The whole band eventually turned on him, and John was naturally the one to express his antipathy most forcefully. "Steel and Glass" is off Walls and Bridges.

(If the video is removed, go here.)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Ringo trademarks his name ...

... and likely has his sights set on a Ringo-themed video game or app.

Richard Starkey filed an application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office on Jan. 23 to register the name "Ringo." While it's unclear exactly what Starr has planned for his moniker, the application calls for use in "toys, plush toys, stuffed toys and board games" in addition to video games.

Wednesday haiku - "And I Love Her"

A romantic ode
from Paul to a dear lover,
"Her" glows with passion.

Citigroup acquires EMI ...

... and, thus, some of The Beatles' catalogue. Or, as Pitchfork put it, "Your student loan interest is now being used to pay for Katy Perry albums."

More here.

EMI said Citigroup swapped debt for 100 percent of EMI’s share capital, reducing its debt to $1.9 billion from $5.4 billion.

The move is the latest twist in a turbulent saga for EMI, the smallest of the four major record companies. EMI was taken over by Terra Firma, the investment vehicle of British financier Guy Hands, for $6.8 billion in 2007. That price turned out to be vastly inflated, as EMI lost ground to rivals and the overall music market slumped.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Tuesday haiku - "I'm Happy Just to Dance with You"

By dint of one dance,
George expects to fall in love;
happily, he does.

Today in Beatles history

As usual, it's courtesy of Gibson:

1967, at Abbey Road studios in London, The Beatles started work on a new song “Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.” It wasn't until The Beatles had recorded the song that Paul McCartney had the idea to make the song the thematic pivot for their forthcoming album.