Thursday, June 30, 2011

Reax to John the GOPer

From The Nation:

What exactly were Lennon’s political views at the end of 1980? Late that November, Lennon spoke out on behalf of striking workers in Los Angeles and San Francisco. (The story is told in my book Come Together: John Lennon in His Time.) The strike was against Japan Foods Corporation, a subsidiary of the Japanese multinational Kikkoman, best known for its soy sauce. The US workers, primarily Japanese, were members of the Teamsters. In LA and San Francisco, they went on strike for higher wages. The shop steward of the LA local, Shinya Ono, persuaded John and Yoko to make a public statement addressed to the striking workers:

“We are with you in spirit.… In this beautiful country where democracy is the very foundation of its constitution, it is sad that we have to still fight for equal rights and equal pay for the citizens. Boycott it must be, if it is the only way to bring justice and restore the dignity of the constitution for the sake of all citizens of the US and their children.

“Peace and love, John Lennon and Yoko Ono. New York City, December, 1980.”

That was Lennon’s last written political statement. It doesn’t seem to be the work of a “closet Republican.”

From Time:

Seaman made news back in 2002 when he was sued by Yoko Ono for stealing personal photographs and letters from the Lennon family. He returned 374 pictures and paid $70,000 to recompensate for the letters sold to eager buyers.

"I offer no excuses for my conduct, and ask only that you can find it in your heart to forgive me," Seaman said in a 2002 statement.

Finally, from The Washington Post:

Lennon was a contrarian. He was a barrier-breaker and innovator and very much an ambitious musician. From an early age, in the humblest of Liverpool and Hamburg nightclubs, he envisioned his little band of rockers as the best in the world. And then he and his mates kept reinventing themselves. They kept breaking their own formulas. So of course when he reached 40 Lennon was going to take issue with his younger self. That’s how he (rocked and) rolled.

John a Republican?

Over the course of yesterday, much was made of this story:

John Lennon was a closet Republican, who felt a little embarrassed by his former radicalism, at the time of his death - according to the tragic Beatles star's last personal assistant.

In new documentary Beatles Stories, Seaman tells filmmaker Seth Swirsky Lennon wasn't the peace-loving militant fans thought he was while he was his assistant.

He says, "John, basically, made it very clear that if he were an American he would vote for Reagan because he was really sour on (Democrat) Jimmy Carter.

My two cents

It's no secret that by the late 1970s John had drifted away from radical politics. In those years, he was far more concerned with family life - as a husband to Yoko and a father to Sean - than anything else. Perhaps he felt that he had outgrown the "Imagine"/Sometime in New York City side of himself. Seaman notes how John sometimes even expressed embarrassment over his activist years. But we've heard this before; Seaman wasn't the first to point it out.

The juicier part of the story deals with John's alleged fondness for Ronald Reagan, who remains an icon of the American Right. My guess is that, had John actually cast a ballot for Reagan, he would've done so as a disaffected voter and not as a thoroughgoing conservative or Republican. I don't buy that such a massive conversion had taken place. A more likely scenario is that, as someone who had retreated from political engagement, John was wary of the status quo (i.e., "really sour on (Democrat) Jimmy Carter"), found the Gipper appealing on a personal level, and thought that was reason enough to support him. As Seaman suggests, another possibility is that John was simply being provocative. But a Republican? I'm not at all convinced.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The latest on EMI and its future

From the Guardian: "Who wants to buy EMI?"

After the ructions of the Terra Firma era, which saw Radiohead and the Rolling Stones quit the label, the current period could ironically be seen as one of golden calm. The EMI creed, inculcated by Terra Firma, is that the first loyalty of executives is to the company, not the artists they work with. Being great friends with Thom Yorke is no substitute for the bottom line.

The question for some industry figures is can the label still deliver for the "credible" rock acts, which have traditionally provided long-term success. One figure said: "The label is very excited about the new Kooks album. It's a Miles Leonard priority but it should be – it's about the only band [EMI-owned] Virgin has got left."

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Saturday cover

From Rock 'n' Roll, John's 1975 album of covers, here's "To Know Her Is to Love Her." John's shimmering and expressive vocals + Phil Spector's billowy production style = incredible atmosphere.

(If the video is removed, go here.)

Today in Beatles history

June 25, 1967 saw The Beatles debut "All You Need Is Love" on the BBC program Our World, which was the first ever "global satellite television broadcast." Gibson has more.

The band sat on stools for the historic performance. Behind The Beatles, a menagerie of famous friends gathered to lend support. Beatle buddies included Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, Marianne Faithfull, Keith Moon, Eric Clapton, Pattie Harrison, Jane Asher and Graham Nash.

The wildly ambitious project was a huge success, although the BBC did receive several letters of complaint, proof that in the U.K. in 1967, Lennon was becoming an increasingly polarizing figure as the lovable mop-tops continued their path to hippie weirdness. Comments from unimpressed viewers included: “This country has produced something more meritorious and noteworthy than The Beatles (much as I admire them)”; “We did not do ourselves justice”; “Have we nothing better to offer? Surely this isn't the image of what we are like. What a dreadful impression they must have given the rest of the world”; and “after all the culture etc. shown by the other countries, The Beatles were the absolute dregs (incidentally I am a Beatles fan), no wonder people think thing we are going to the dogs!”

More on "Coming Up"

Vanity Fair has a short piece about Paul's recent reissues that includes a video on the making of "Coming Up."

At the top of this post is an exclusive preview from the bonus DVD included with the McCartney II reissue, a charming “making of” commentary by McCartney for the video of “Coming Up,” the album’s single. As primitive early videos go—if you’ve seen Michael Jackson’s cruddy 1979 video for “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough,” you know what I’m talking about—“Coming Up” is remarkably well conceived and smartly produced, borrowing its multi-Paul orchestra conceit from an old Buster Keaton short. The tune itself, like McCartney’s earlier hit “Silly Love Songs,” has more going on musically, behind a maybe too-insistent melody, than it wants to let on.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Thursday jam

With the re-release of McCartney II, "Coming Up" has been generating a fair amount of discussion and praise in reviews - and rightfully so. It's among Paul's finest solo songs. It just grooves.

(If the video is removed, go here.)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

"On the Run" tour update

Via Pitchfork, here are the shows Paul has scheduled for his upcoming tour:

07-15 New York, NY - Yankee Stadium
07-16 New York, NY - Yankee Stadium
07-24 Detroit, MI - Comerica Park
07-26 Montreal, Quebec - Bell Center
07-27 Montreal, Quebec - Bell Center
07-31 Chicago, IL - Wrigley Field
08-01 Chicago, IL - Wrigley Field
08-04 Cincinnati, OH - The Great American Ball Park

Fight to save Ringo's birthplace continues

The latest development in this prolonged, acrimonious saga is that the Liverpool City Council will soon carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment on the group of homes that includes Ringo's birthplace.

But following an application by campaign group SAVE Britain's Heritage, Mr Pickles has decided that a full assessment will be carried out on the 271 homes in the Welsh Streets.

It means other options, including renovation and refurbishment, will be considered in determining the fate of the Fab Four drummer's childhood home.

In other news, Ringo recently performed at the Empire Theater in Liverpool with his All-Starr Band.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Happy Birthday, Paul!

Macca was born on this day in 1942 and has accomplished more than most en route to age 69.

(If the video is removed, go here.)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday cover/mash-up/Beatles love-note

Listen as the great Harry Nilsson pays tribute to the Fabs by way of "You Can't Do That":

(If the video is removed, go here.)

More on the Macca reissues

From Pitchfork:

McCartney is a different type of album. First, let's talk about that title. This is a name that had been paired with Lennon, separated by a slash, for years-- we weren't used to seeing it all by itself. When the media ran stories on McCartney, he was often just "Paul." He could have called his album Paul McCartney, but he pointedly did not. I think he wanted people to see his name out there as a songwriting credit, without the old prefix. And the album he made has some parallels to Lennon's, too. They share a rawness, a seeming desire to move away from the opulence of 1969's Abbey Road, the last album the Beatles recorded together. But where the rawness of Plastic Ono Band plays into anger, aggression, and disillusionment, the rawness of McCartney is only in the sound. The record has a homespun charm, and a feel that suggests McCartney wasn't putting too much pressure on himself to carry on the Beatles flame or make a statement.

From The Onion's A.V. Club:

The sense that McCartney might’ve had two classics on par with his Beatles best had he worked just a little harder on McCartney and McCartney II sometimes makes listening to the reissues feel like retracing lost opportunities. But for the most part, what comes through is McCartney’s remarkable ability to create catchy hooks seemingly off the top of his head, as well as his playful sense of experimentation and lack of rock-star pretensions.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Scorsese's doc about George...

...will premiere at some point this year, according to George's widow, Olivia Harrison.

“I just came from New York and Monday I’m going to see it again,” she said of the film about her husband, who died in 2001 of cancer at 58. “We’re real excited about it. Marty is such a great storyteller, and of course he always finds the story that you don’t expect.”

“George Harrison: Living in the Material World,” after the ex-Beatle's 1973 song and solo album of the same title, will be the latest in a string of music documentaries the “Taxi Driver” director has handled. In 1976 he captured “The Last Waltz,” the star-studded farewell performance by the Band, turned his attention on Bob Dylan for 2005’s “No Direction Home” and honed in on the Rolling Stones in 2008 with “Shine a Light.” He also directed the music video for Michael Jackson’s 1987 hit “Bad.”

Re: Happy Birthday, Harry Nilsson

"Five Life Lessons From John Lennon's 'Lost Weekend'"

Hindsight Is 20/20. The lost weekend is perhaps as close as Lennon ever came to reuniting the Beatles, perhaps with Nilsson on board as well. He was already hanging out with Ringo, and Pang insists John was considering meeting Paul McCartney in New Orleans when he decided to head back to Yoko and New York City instead. "We talked about reuniting the Beatles. At one point he wanted to do it," she told in 2008. "For the hell of it. Because there wasn't any pressure, any contracts. He'd say, 'That'd be fun.'"

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Happy Birthday, Harry Nilsson

The late, great singer-songwriter, Beatles favorite, and partner-in-crime of John was born on this day in 1941.

Here's Nilsson's ace cover of "She's Leaving Home":

(If the video is removed, go here.)

Assorted Ringo news

- Ringo was only joshing ya, Liverpool, but he is sorry for the misunderstanding.

- Liverpool responds.

- Ringo on The Beatles: "They were lucky to get me."

- Ringo on Paul: "Too busy" to join the All-Starr Band.

- Ringo came in tenth on Gibson's list of the top ten drummers in rock 'n' roll history.

- Rolling Stone favorably reviewed Ben Harper's most recent release, Give Till It's Gone, which features Ringo on several songs.

- Finally, watch clips from a press conference that Ringo did earlier this month to kick off his European tour.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Details on Paul's "On the Run" tour

A handful of American shows have been announced/discussed for Macca's latest tour.

Paul McCartney 2011 Tour Dates:
07/15 – Bronx, NY @ Yankee Stadium
07/16 – Bronx, NY @ Yankee Stadium
07/24 – Detroit, MI @ Comerica Park
07/26 – Montreal, QC @ Bell Centre
07/31 – Chicago, IL @ Wrigley Field
08/01 – Chicago, IL @ Wrigley Field *
08/04 – Cincinnati, OH @ The Great American Ball Park
09/01 – Minneapolis, MN @ Target Field *

* = Date not yet official

Paul in Las Vegas (6/10)

The Las Vegas Sun was there.

Give peace a chance, as someone wise once said. That was the rarefied atmosphere that 13,500 fans stuffed into MGM Grand Garden Arena experienced as McCartney played for three hours to cap a week when the stage show “Love” celebrated its fifth anniversary up the Strip at the Mirage.

That’s why McCartney, Ono, Harrison and the Martins were all in Las Vegas, to celebrate that landmark event. Only Ringo Starr was absent, touring Eastern Europe with his All-Starr Band. It is not known just how many McCartney performances Ono has attended, if any, but she seemed to have as much fun as anyone in the audience, often standing and waving her arms and flashing the peace sign. “Let It Be” and “Back in the USSR” were two evident favorites.

Rolling Stone reviews Macca's reissues

That is, McCartney and McCartney II.

Cut a decade apart, mostly without any collaborators, these two albums feel like outtake sets, in the best possible way: music that chases any crazy idea down a dark alley. Released three weeks before Let It Be in 1970, McCartney announced Paul's love for his wife and the breakup of the Beatles. What makes it so touching is how much it tries to re-create the Fabs. McCartney played every instrument: Ringo-101 drums ("Every Night"), Harrison-ish slide ("Man We Was Lonely"), Lennon blues-rock guitar ("Oo-You"). The masterwork is "Maybe I'm Amazed"; other songs make you wonder what they might've become with his mates around.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Paul to play Yankee Stadium

The Bronx will host Macca in mid-July. Tickets are sure to be mad cheap.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

A review of "Love"

The fifth anniversary performance of Cirque du Soleil's Love went down this past Wednesday. Rolling Stone gives a recap.

A lot of what Love has going for it, though, is unique to the Beatles. George and Giles Martin's ingenious remixes and mash-ups of the band's catalogue – 130 songs turn up, one way or another, in the show's hour-and-a-half duration – take for granted that the audience knows the entire Beatles repertoire inside and out, and take it as their task to make that repertoire fresh. (There are three speakers in each of the theater's 2,000-odd seats; it sounds fantastic.) And the entire visual presentation of the show riffs on Beatles-related imagery, from the constant presentation of elements in groups of four to the black-topped white balloons that recall Beatle haircuts.

. . .

Before the show itself began, the notable members of the audience were introduced: McCartney (looking like he was born six or seven years after the Beatles broke up), Yoko Ono with Sean Ono Lennon, Olivia and Dhani Harrison, and Sir George and Giles Martin, as well as various Cirque du Soleil upper-echelon types. Ringo Starr, who's currently on tour in Europe, sent a video greeting (which included his now-signature "peace and love" twice). After the show, the special guests briefly came up on stage. Yoko Ono spoke at some length in praise of Olivia Harrison's advocacy for the project; McCartney, who appeared to have gotten another five years younger over the course of the show, declared that it was "still the hottest thing in town."

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Wednesday reading

"Adman vs. The Beatles: Who Drove ’60s Culture?"

1967: The year everyone admitted they’d tried LSD and every advertisement got a rainbow makeover. Clairol cosmetics launched a line of “3 psychedelicious beiges,” Top Job kitchen cleaner had a woman roll around on a kitchen floor to show how clean it was, and Gordon’s gin aligned itself with the Liverpool Sound. Creativity in ads was becoming conformity. Put a miniskirt on it, call it young, and then call it a day. Everyone was copying everyone else’s nods at nonconformity and managing to conform to the same template. As consumer culture caught up with the images of counterculture that advertising had been feeding it throughout the decade, ad culture seemed to reach the outer limits of which shocking ideas their clients were willing to explore.

Art, movies, and music moved to the forefront of counterculture and embraced the concept of the antihero in a big way. From Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate and Lucas Jackson in Cool Hand Luke to the emergence of Jim Morrison and The Doors to the art-rock of Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground, we were swimming in unconventional idols. That’s when The Beatles dropped Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band on the world, causing Brian Wilson to have a breakdown and The Rolling Stones to attempt to recreate the weird chemistry on Their Satanic Majesties Request. The latter went back to what they did best — being a great bar-blues band — but The Beatles had broken through as studio wizards able to pull disparate elements together into a concept album. If anyone was breaking all the rules in 1967, while still delighting the masses, it was The Beatles.

Advantage: Beatles

Tonight in Las Vegas

Later today, Sin City will host a Beatles reunion of sorts.

A sizable chunk of the Beatles family will assemble in Las Vegas on June 8 to celebrate the five-year anniversary of Cirque du Soleil’s Beatles-themed show, Love. According to USA Today, surviving band member Paul McCartney will attend the celebration, along with John Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, George Harrison’s widow, Olivia Harrison, Harrison’s son, Dhani Harrison, producer George Martin and his son, Giles Martin (who co-produced the Grammy-winning Love soundtrack with his father).

Ringo Starr is unable to attend due to tour commitments, but will send a videotaped message to be played during a special show. Roughly half of the audience for the special performance will be personal invitees of the Beatles and Cirque du Soleil camps. McCartney will host a private party afterward featuring his favorite DJ, Chris Holmes.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Today in Beatles history

"George Martin's Best Option Was Not Ringo Starr"

The Beatles regrouped from that tragedy and on this day in 1962 went into London’s Abbey Road Studios to record for the first time under Martin’s direction. They recorded four songs, including “Love Me Do,” which would eventually – though not from this particular recording – become The Beatles’ first hit, climbing to #17 in the U.K. and #1 in the States (it was re-released in the U.K. 1982, peaking at #4.) McCartney wrote most of “Love Me Do,” with Lennon contributing a bit in the middle.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Weekend reading

"How the Beatles Helped Originate the Rock Dis"

Ringo attempts a dis but is too affable to pull it off: The ever-jovial Beatle cut a solo song, “Early 1970,” that seemed like he was attempting to tweak his now-former bandmates. On Paul: “Lives on a farm, got plenty of charm, beep, beep/He's got no cows but he's sure got a whole lotta sheep.” On John: “Laying in bed, watching TV … with his mama by his side, she's Japanese.” George: “ … With his long-legged lady in the garden picking daisies for his soup.” Zing?

Sunday cover

Below is the Beach Boys' take on "Tell Me Why" from their 1965 collection of covers, Beach Boys' Party!.

(If the video is removed, go here.)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Paul in Rio (5/22 and 5/23)

Details on both shows, via The Beatles Bible.

John Lennon vs. Craig McGregor

Read about (and read the contents of) a salty letter that John wrote to the New York Times in response to an article which chastised The Beatles for allegedly stealing from black artists.

"Anthology" albums heading to iTunes

The Beatles' Anthology collections - remastered, natch - will be available through iTunes starting on June 14th. Read more here.

The Anthology Box Set comes with all 155 tracks from the three volumes ($79.99) and an exclusive 23-track Anthology Highlights collection of standout tracks from each ($12.99). A special Anthology video introduction and a 50-minute Meet The Beatles radio show are available for free streaming now.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

On this day in 1967...

... The Beatles unveiled to the British public perhaps their most accomplished feat of sonic artistry in the form of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Read more here.

An original vision for their new sessions, led by McCartney, spurred on by the recent grapples with touring, was to create a concept album underpinned by a fictional band, with fictional members and, in relieving the four bandmates of their own duties, taking the record out on tour instead. As it turned out, the idea was never fully realised, but fragments did remain and become important aspects of the record, from the introduction and farewells of ‘Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ and its reprise, to the lavish costumes which served as the focal point of the iconic sleeve design. Ringo Starr, by now filling his time by getting in some crucial chess practise, did see his alter-ego living on, as Billy Shears following the opener seamlessly on ‘With a Little Help From My Friends’.