Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thursday haiku - "We Can Work It Out"

"We can work it out",
hopes Paul, while John sternly warns,
"Life is very short".

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wednesday haiku - "Day Tripper"

It's a play on words:
"day trippers" are fake druggies,
mere "Sunday drivers".

Today in Beatles history

It was on this day in 1967 that possibly the most iconic album cover in pop music history came into being. Read more here.

The concept eventually evolved into The Beatles dressing up as the pretend group and being surrounded by some of their pop culture and historical heroes. The last vestiges of the “park” idea surfaced in the floral display that spelled out The Beatles at the bottom of the cover.

Blake and Haworth began putting together the cover’s collage, titled “People We Like,” by taking suggestions from the band. McCartney, Lennon and Harrison were responsible for the majority of the people chosen (Ringo Starr let the other guys pick), although Blake and Fraser contributed some ideas, too. The end result was a pretty strange menagerie – Karl Marx, Marilyn Monroe, Sigmund Freud, Bob Dylan, Marlon Brando, Laurel and Hardy, and Edgar Allen Poe were among the 70 images. Although it’s not remembered who suggested each person, Lennon requested Jesus Christ, Adolf Hitler and Mohandas Gandhi. Of the three, only Gandhi made it to the photo shoot, although the image was removed before the cover went to press because of political reasons.

. . .

On this day in 1967, the cover shoot took place at photographer Michael Cooper’s studio. With the Fab Four dressed up in day-glo colored military uniforms, the evening shoot lasted for three hours. By night’s end, the Beatles, Fraser, Blake and Haworth had created an iconic image.

The final bill for the album artwork was £2,868 5s 3d (which would be equivalent to about £39,000 or $60,000 today). It’s been reported that this was 100 times the average cost for an album cover in 1967.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

My favorite Beatles song at the moment

It's been a while since one Beatles song really grabbed my attention and pushed the others to the background. This changed once I spent some quality time with "She's a Woman," Paul's blues-fueled rocker that boasts one of his most rousing vocal spots. It's a B-side that surely could have been an A-side.


(If the video is removed, go here.)

Tuesday haiku - "I'm Down"

On this brisk rave-up,
Paul howls like Little Richard,
one of his heroes.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Monday haiku - "Yes It Is"

"Yes" was John's attempt
at reproducing "This Boy";
both are lush ballads.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Weekend reading #2

"'I Don't Believe in Beatles'": John Lennon's Minimalist Journey to Independence" - a breakdown of John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band through the prism of its sonic minimalism and lyrical bluntness.

Plastic Ono Band is now universally regarded as not only Lennon’s most important post-Beatles effort, but one of the greatest records in pop history. So many years removed from the record’s original release, it is difficult to imagine what an audacious artistic move it was for Lennon to make this album. Not only did Lennon run the risk of alienating his fans with the lyrics rejecting his past self, but his artistic principles stood in contrast to those employed during much of the Beatles’ career. In making the austere Plastic Ono Band, one source of Lennon’s inspiration was the “primal scream” therapy he was undergoing at the time. The primitive nature of Lennon’s vocals and the confessional mode of his lyrics clearly reflect his therapeutic experiences. The record’s musical minimalism in arrangement and sonic texture support the “primal” concept effectively. The listener often has the feeling of being alone in a quiet room with only Lennon’s inner reflections. Lennon’s bold turn to the minimal, though, was not just a result of his lyrical introspection and personal circumstances. Rather, the former Beatle was clearly placing himself in diametric aesthetic opposition to not only Paul, George, and Ringo, but the John of the Beatle era.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Weekend reading

Have a look at this detailed (and at times rhapsodic) analysis of Ram, Paul and Linda's album from 1971. Mervyn Dendy's enthusiasm for Ram ("one of the 20 best albums of all time") may even outstrip Paul's. Top twenty?

It deserved its success: Ram, in my opinion, is Paul McCartney’s best album, being even better than Band on the Run that was to follow two and a half years later. Never on any post-Beatles album have Paul’s incredible melodic abilities been more seamlessly combined with his extraordinary talent as a rocker than on Ram. The album today sounds as fresh and appealing as it did forty years ago, every song is crammed with musical hooks, there is not a single wasted track, Paul’s singing has seldom been more engaging, and the playing is terrific. If ever Paul McCartney has given the world a pop masterpiece after the dissolution of the Beatles – and he has given the world several, then Ram is it. I have no hesitation in giving the album the highest rating possible on any grading system, and in recommending it as one of the 20 best albums of all time. I regard only George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass and John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band as being better solo Beatle albums, and then only because of their more profound subject matter. Ram, however, is more fun to listen to than those two albums, and just the record to play if you need cheering up.

Saturday haiku - "She's a Woman"

With its driving beat
and Paul's high-tenor vocal,
"Woman" packs a punch.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday mash-up: The Beatles meet Sublime

(If the video is removed, go here.)

Ringo's birth-home set for demolition

The uncertain fate of Ringo's birthplace has been an ongoing story for some time, but now it appears that the dye is cast.

The property has been facing destruction since 2005 when Liverpool City Council determined that the house has "no historical significance" because the Beatles' former drummer had spent only the first three months of his life there.

Speaking to, Joe Anderson -- the leader of Liverpool City Council -- said, "The community in that area have been waiting for 11 years to have these houses demolished and believe they have waited long enough. I listened to both sides [of the argument for maintenance or destruction], and the majority of people in that area want us to do something about it rather than waiting with a blighted, derelict site."

Friday haiku - "I Feel Fine"

By John's reckoning,
"Fine" was the first pop record
to contain feedback.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thursday haiku - "This Boy"

John, Paul, and George shine:
their lithe three-part harmonies
guide this doo-wop turn.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Today in Beatles history

Much in the way of post-Beatles history occurred on this date over the years.

From Gibson:

- 1972, The film of The Concert for Bangladesh featuring George Harrison, Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton premiered in New York.

- 1973, John Lennon was ordered to leave the U.S. within 60 days by immigration authorities. Lennon appealed and after a long fight to obtain his Green Card, the ex-Beatle was given permanent resident status on July 27, 1976.

- 2008, Neil Aspinall, who oversaw The Beatles’ Apple Corps business empire from 1968-2007, died from lung cancer at age 66 at a hospital in New York. A Liverpool school friend of Paul McCartney and George Harrison, he was regarded by many as “the fifth Beatle,” becoming the group’s road manager in 1961 before becoming their personal assistant. In the ’80s Aspinall became the head of The Beatles’ Apple company. Aspinall had also played background instruments on certain Beatles tracks, including “Magical Mystery Tour,” “Within You, Without You” and “Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite.”

And finally: Happy Birthday to the great Damon Albarn!!

Wednesday haiku - "I Want to Hold Your Hand"

"Hand" made for a smash;
launched the British Invasion;
and still thrills today.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

More "Please Please Me"

Only by sheer coincidence did I post my collection of Please Please Me haiku on the same day - today - of the 48th anniversary of the album's release in the UK.

"All we are saying..."

John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute marked the 42nd anniversary of John and Yoko's first "bed-in for peace" (March 25th, 1969) by detailing the episode and reflecting on its legacy.

The concept of the bed-ins and their “origins lie in Yoko’s days as a performance artist, and the notion that spectacular public action can be an art form in itself,” writes Paul DuNoyer in We All Shine On (1997). “John, too, was shrewdly aware of how the ‘bed-in’ concept might titillate the press and TV crews with its implicit (though ultimately unfulfilled) promise of sexual exhibitionism.” However, when newsmen entered the room, John and Yoko were sitting in bed, wearing pajamas. And they announced that they would stay in bed for a week as “our protest against all the suffering and violence in the world.” The idea was to use the amazing image that Lennon the Beatle possessed in order to promote peace.
. . .

As a media event, the Amsterdam bed-in and subsequent ones held by John and Yoko certainly made headlines, but were they effective in helping the anti-war movement? It was a question that frustrated Lennon to no end. For example, when asked about the success of the bed-ins, an irritated Lennon responded, “Some guy wrote, ‘Now, because of your event in Amsterdam, I’m not joining the RAF, I’m growing my hair.’” And when a skeptical reporter asked whether staying in bed meant anything, Lennon replied, “Imagine if the American army stayed in bed for a week.”

"Please Please Me" ...

... in haiku form.

1) "I Saw Her Standing There"
2) "Misery"
3) "Anna (Go to Him)"
4) "Chains"
5) "Boys"
6) "Ask Me Why"
7) "Please Please Me"
8) "Love Me Do"
9) "P.S. I Love You"
10) "Baby It's You"
11) "Do You Want to Know a Secret"
12) "A Taste of Honey"
13) "There's a Place"
14) "Twist and Shout"

Tuesday haiku - "I'll Get You"

When John and Paul sing,
"But I'll get you in the end",
that's John's style at work.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Monday haiku - "She Loves You"

With those "yeah-yeah-yeahs",
"She" sparked a cultural shift:

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Today in Beatles history

From Gibson:
1969, John Lennon married Yoko Ono at the British Consulate Office in Gibraltar. They spent their honeymoon in Amsterdam, campaigning for peace via a week-long “bed-in”. Lennon detailed this period in The Beatles’ single, “The Ballad of John and Yoko,” which was recorded by just Lennon and Paul McCartney on April 14, 1969.

I've always been drawn to the comic exasperation that John lets out on "The Ballad of John and Yoko," best captured in the memorable line, "Christ you know it ain't easy." Enjoy:

(If the video is removed, go here.)

Sunday haiku - "Thank You Girl"

"Girl" is a thank-you
to The Beatles' female fans:
"You've been good to me".

Friday, March 18, 2011

Weekend reading

Owsley Stanley, the mad scientist and overall polymath who crafted and supplied LSD to many rock acts of the 1960s - including John Lennon - and thereby played a prominent role in shaping that era's drug-addled counter-culture, died last weekend in a car accident.

In 2007, Rolling Stone profiled Stanley as part of its commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the Summer of Love. You can read the lengthy profile here.

Friday haiku - "Twist and Shout"

Hoarse but vigorous,
John's voice powers this cover -
it's pure rock 'n' roll!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

"Give Ireland Back to the Irish" by Paul:

(If the video is removed, go here.)

"The Luck of the Irish" by John:

(If the video is removed, go here.)

Thursday haiku - "There's a Place"

The "place" is John's mind,
where he is free from sadness
and can bask in love.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

"Yellow Submarine" remake deep-sixed

Due to budget issues, Disney will not be financing Robert Zemeckis' planned update of the animated Beatles film.

The movie was to include 16 Beatles songs and the same motion-capture technology Zemeckis has used in Beowulf, A Christmas Carol and Mars Needs Moms, but when the latter picture only gross (sic) $6.9 million in its first week with a budget of $150 million, Disney backed out of its Yellow Submarine commitment due to budget concerns.

At Salon, Drew Grant tepidly bemoans this development.

I know, I just said motion-capture technology is creepy and weird, but you know what else fits that description? "Yellow Submarine." With access to 16 songs and the likeness of Ringo, Paul, George, and John, there was a possibility there (however slight) that Zemeckis could have produced a world as wonderful and weird as the original. It might not have looked like the universe inhabited by the band back in the 60s, but it would have been forced to make some bold – and possibly genius – choices on how to portray hyper-realistic psychedelia.

"Heroes and Villains"

Following Monday's story about the Beach Boys' unreleased album, Smile, I'm going to seize the opportunity to post one of my favorite songs from the '60s, "Heroes and Villains." It was originally part of Smile, but ended up on that album's poorly received replacement, Smiley Smile.

(If the video is removed, go here.)

Wednesday haiku - "A Taste of Honey"

A quaint pop standard,
"Honey" shows one side of Paul:
the twee balladeer.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Yoko on Piers Morgan

Watch a clip of Ms. Ono on CNN as she offers words of encouragement to her beleaguered home country of Japan.

Tuesday haiku - "Do You Want to Know a Secret"

A dreamy ditty
that John composed and George sang,
"Do" has Disney roots.

Monday, March 14, 2011

A "lost masterpiece"

In late 1965, The Beatles released Rubber Soul, the greatness of which pushed Beach Boys frontman Brian Wilson to new artistic heights as he crafted Pet Sounds, which had a major influence on The Beatles and George Martin in their devising of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, which was recorded in roughly the same time period as Smile, the Beach Boys' "lost masterpiece" that was never released in its original form due to Brian Wilson's shoddy mental health and other issues.

Now, it will be released.

"All parties are supporting it," said EMI's Bill Gagnon. "In the past, I don't think we had support from all the band, and now we do." Wilson said he was "thrilled" by the plans. "I'm looking forward to this collection of the original recordings and having fans hear the beautiful angelic voices of the boys in a proper studio release."

The Smile Sessions will be issued in three versions: on iTunes; as a two-CD set; and in a box set with four CDs, two vinyl LPs, two vinyl singles and a 60-page book. These recordings will include an approximation of the original Smile album, plus outtakes and studio banter. "We have gaps where we are missing some vocal parts," said co-producer Mark Linett. But the release will offer "the whole piece as close to as it was envisioned, or as is envisioned, as possible," he promised, "obviously with input from Brian and from everybody else." While the musical extras will probably be released in stereo, Smile will be issued in mono, as Wilson originally intended.

The Beach Boys have yet to announce a release date.

Monday haiku - "Baby It's You"

"I cry over you",
moans John on this soulful cut
pinched from the Shirelles.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Weekend reading #2

"McCartney revisited – 2: After the ball" - This is an interesting summary of how the critical reaction to McCartney, Paul's first post-Beatles album, changed over the years. I didn't agree with all of it - especially the contention that Paul didn't feel he had much to prove once The Beatles disbanded - but I found it a worthwhile read overall.

It is difficult, and probably pointless, to resist the conclusion that the public perception of the McCartney album was coloured by resentment towards Paul for having supposedly broken up the Beatles. No doubt it was also influenced by an expectation – in the aftermath of the release of the highly polished and astonishingly good Abbey Road – that both John Lennon and Paul McCartney would individually produce records sounding like Beatle albums on which the other three members of the group happened not to be playing or writing any of the songs. Neither John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band nor McCartney, of course, was anything of the kind – which explains the adverse public reaction of the day to both records, despite what is now widely recognized as the monumental, albeit harrowing, brilliance of Lennon’s debut post-Beatles album.

. . .

It is noteworthy how the critical assessment of Paul’s first post-Beatles album has tended to become more positive over time, as the initial gloom at news of the dissolution of the Beatles has dissipated, and resentment at McCartney for being the supposed agent of that dissolution has disappeared and therefore ceased to sway perceptions of the McCartney album. For all the critical sniping that went on at the time of its release, the album sold in very large quantities, reaching Number 2 on the UK album chart and peaking at Number 1 in America, where it topped the chart for three weeks in late May to early June 1970. (It was displaced from the Number 1 position in the US only by Let It Be, which became the last studio album of new songs ever to be released by the Beatles. Following an argument between Paul and the other three Beatles, the release date of Let It Be was put back in order not to clash with the release date of McCartney, after Paul refused to delay the previously agreed date of issue of his solo album so as to allow Let It Be to come out first.)

Sunday haiku - "P.S. I Love You"

It's a "letter song" -
"Keep all my love forever" -
that Paul wrote and sang.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Weekend reading

"In Search of Lennon’s Lost Letter to Oral Roberts"

In the early 1970s, Oral Roberts’ evangelical TV program was at a peak, with an estimated 37 million viewers. After each show, the ministry commonly received upwards of 500,000 letters. One of those letters in particular has since caught the world’s attention.

On Friday, January 26, 1973, Roberts stood behind the podium at the Mabee Center and held up a sheet of paper to an audience comprised of his university students and faculty. Nobody could have expected the claim Roberts was about to make.

“I hold in my hand probably one of the most unique letters or documents that I’ve ever shared with anybody in the world,” Roberts said. “It happens to be from one of the Beatles, John Lennon, who was probably the most gifted song writer of the group. And he wrote it by hand.”

. . .

Without the original letter, it’s impossible to verify whether it was actually Lennon who wrote it. When Roberts read the letter at the chapel, he was reading a typed version of the letter, and when he read it out loud, he frequently interrupted the letter and altered the words. The most accurate record of the letter is Roberts’ audiotaped sermon, but representatives from ORU are oddly skittish about allowing access to the audiotape; their public relations director ignored repeated requests for permission to hear the tape.

While we may never know for certain if Lennon actually penned the letter, there’s an interesting allusion Lennon left for us to consider–and we have audio of John Lennon singing it.

On November 14, 1980, less than a month from his murder, Lennon recorded a song he had written to Yoko called, “You Saved My Soul.” It exists only as a rough demo of the very last recording he ever sang on, passed around as a bootleg recording. The lyrics read:

When I was lonely and scared, I nearly fell for a TV preacher in a hotel room in Tokyo. Remember the time I went to jump right out the apartment window on the west side of town of old New York. You saved me from that suicide and…I wanna thank you, thank you, thank you for saving my soul with your true love.

Today in Beatles history

Courtesy of Gibson:
1969, Paul McCartney married Linda Eastman at Marylebone Register Office, London. They then held a reception lunch at The Ritz Hotel. Paul went to the recording studio in the evening to work. George Harrison and his wife Patti were arrested on the same day and charged with possession of marijuana.

Of the many songs that Paul wrote in celebration of his love for Linda, there isn't a better one than "Two of Us." (I know: it also addresses Paul's relationship with John - it's a wonderfully layered lyric.)

(If the video is removed, go here.)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Abbey Road on the River

The dates for the "longest-running North American Beatles tribute festival" have been announced.

Excerpt from this article:
Abbey Road on the River will take place for five days in Louisville, Ky. over Memorial Day Weekend (May 26-30) and in Washington D.C. over Labor Day Weekend (Sept. 2-5).

This year’s festival marks the 10th anniversary of Abbey Road on the River and will feature more than 75 bands covering classic Beatles’ tunes. Both of the 2011 festivals will showcase a complete reenactment concert of the Grammy Award-winning soundtrack Love.

James Durbin does Macca

From Wednesday's episode of American Idol, an electrifying and emotionally charged rendition of "Maybe I'm Amazed":

(If the video is removed, go here.)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Assorted Paul news (part 2)

- With an assist from Paul, the 100 Club has been saved.

- Paul in animal rights activist mode.

- Last month, The Washington Times interviewed Paul's guitarist Brian Ray.

- Old news.

- Older news.

- Piers Morgan has banned Heather Mills from his show on CNN. Not surprisingly, Ms. Mills took umbrage.

- And speaking of gold diggers....

Thursday haiku - "Love Me Do"

The Fabs' first single,
"Love" gave the band something prized:
a taste of success.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Assorted Paul news (part 1)

- A piano that Paul once used to play "Yesterday" is up for sale.

- Read up on Wings' banned debut single, "Give Ireland Back to the Irish," as well as their 1974 hit, "Junior's Farm."

- Macca hearts The King's Speech, Gaga, The Grey Album, the Script, and - most of all - his daughter Stella.

- Paul is testing his comedic chops.

- Finally, that avid skier Heather Mills is "leaving home," and reportedly being sued as well. (The two are unrelated.)

Wednesday haiku - "Please Please Me"

"Please" shot up the charts,
becoming the band's first song
to hit number one.

A cover of a cover

And a curious one at that. Below, you'll find a synth-pop interpretation of The Beatles' take on Meredith Willson's "Till There Was You." (Why not, right?) I read about it here.

(If the video is removed, go here.)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Tuesday haiku - "Ask Me Why"

Pleasant and perky,
and much in debt to Motown,
"Ask" tells of glad tears.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Ringo to tour in Poland

In addition to playing in the UK, Ringo will also be traveling to mainland Europe for some gigs, including one in Warsaw.

Ringo Starr will be playing in Warsaw on June 15. The venue will be the Congress Hall of the Palace of Culture and Science, site of the famed Rolling Stones concert of 1967.

Monday haiku - "Boys"

A Ringo-led romp,
this cover raised some eyebrows:
why "Boys" and not "Girls"?

"How I Won the War" ...

... is finally coming to DVD. The 1967 anti-war black comedy that starred John as Musketeer Gripweed and was directed by Richard Lester will be available starting March 20.

Lennon began filming the black comedy, about a doomed regiment in World War II, just days after wrapping up The Beatles’ final tour at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park. As if to punctuate this severing from the past, Lennon cut off his Beatle Haircut and began wearing his now-trademark “granny glasses.” The film played to middling reviews, but has remained a favorite among Beatles fans, just for the chance to see Lennon in a dramatic (well, comedic), non-Beatle role. His image from the film, incidentally, provided the cover for the first issue of Rolling Stone in November 1967.

Watch a collection of John's scenes from the film:

(If the video is removed, go here.)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sunday haiku - "Chains"

A girl-group cover
that finds George as the frontman,
"Chains" is cheeky fun.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Saturday haiku - "Anna (Go to Him)"

John's vocal is key,
as it bathes this soul classic
in pain and passion.

"Silly Love Songs"...

... by way of Glee. It's fetching enough, I'd say.

(If the video is removed, go here.)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Friday haiku - "Misery"

Thick with self-pity,
"Misery" accents John's touch
more than it does Paul's.

Today in Beatles history

Per usual, it's courtesy of Gibson:
1966, An interview with John Lennon by Maureen Cleave was published in the London Evening Standard. Among Lennon’s frank answers was the statement: “Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. We’re more popular then Jesus now… I don’t know which will go first, rock ’n’ roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right, but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It’s them twisting it that ruins it for me.” After a storm of controversy later ensued, Lennon was forced to apologize.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Wednesday haiku - "I Saw Her Standing There"

With its brisk count-in,
"There" opens the Fabs' debut
in dynamic form.

Ringo is returning to Liverpool ...

... and other spots across the UK for a summer tour. The June 18th gig at the Liverpool Empire will mark Ringo's first visit to his hometown since 2008, when he took some heat for saying he didn't miss anything about the city.

Excerpt from the first article:
JUNE 2011

Today in Beatles history

Via Gibson:
With Beatlemania running rampant in both Britain and America and spreading rapidly to other countries, The Beatles were riding high in early 1964. Having scored a couple of #1 albums and an armload of #1 singles, the Fab Four had properly conquered the music world and were set to make their mark in another medium. On this day in 1964, The Beatles began filming A Hard Day’s Night.

. . .

With the screenplay complete, The Beatles reported to Twickenham Studios and Paddington Station on March 2 to begin the filming process. Although the movie wasn’t shot exactly in order of how the scenes occur, the shooting schedule followed the general events of the film – something than Lennon later noted. “Normally in pictures, you do things back to front, like the end, you make a film of that on one day and then the next day you do the beginning,” John said. “But in this one, we almost did it in sequence.”

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Tuesday haiku - "Money (That's What I Want)"

As with "Twist and Shout",
this Motown cover draws life
from John's robust voice.

The other Elvis

I've been on an Elvis Costello kick over the past week - primarily by way of Armed Forces - making the video below as appropriate to post as it might ever be.

From Live Aid, Costello's solo cover of "All You Need Is Love":

(If the video is removed, go here.)