Category Archives: Beatles

Paul McCartney was/is overrated.

In the immediate wake of the 9/11 unpleasantness, the most successful songwriter in the history of the world by almost any metric put pen to paper and spake thus to a waiting world:

This is my right, a right given by God 
To live a free life, to live in freedom 

Talking about freedom 
I’m talking about freedom 
I will fight, for the right 
To live in freedom 

Anyone, tries to take it away 
Will have to answer ’cause this is my right 

Has there ever been a more shallow, depressing response from such a canonized figure about such a galvanizing event? What pandering! God? Really? And the little allusion to potential bloodshed. Oh, you don’t think so? What does “will have to answer” mean to you in this context? A stern finger-wagging? Perhaps a fourth-hand reference on a b-side of one of his boutique singles? No, this was a shrewd re-immersion into the crass banalities which have defined his solo career. A man who talked about love while impregnating half of Australia. A man who could have told his partner in the biggest business music has ever known to shut the fuck up, lose the studio pet, and understand that the drugs and shit are ruining everything they had built up to that point, and that perhaps there’s a bigger picture. A currency to all the hard work. Instead, he hummed and hawed and approached that conflict much like Nick Mason would approach a 16th note. Silent, simmering sadness partnered with a withering fear of/aversion to conflict. The English Way. I hate him because he, in his way, deprived us of so much.

Paul McCartney is overrated. He, like his partner John Lennon, suffered mightily outside the hothouse of musical excellence that was “The Beatles 1962-1969”. But they all did, of course. His craft was melody. His music-hall tendencies and gift for a tune were free to flourish at first, then rot. He had nothing to say, because having something to say would require a stance. If Lennon chickened out over and over (two examples off-hand “You can count me out…in” and his complaints about Dylan making openly religious recordings while at the same time chiding his audience for believing a single word he was saying were things the contemporary Lennon kicked himself for not doing when he was more than equipped to privately, and yet his tantrums were moot exercises in house-husbandly petulance, as he never found the nerve to express his real beliefs), McCartney had nothing substantive to say. Ever. Had he died in 1980, the subsequent generations of lost youth might feel compelled to sift through his rock and roll detritus to find some deeper meaning in his silly love songs, but there will be none. No deeper meaning.

While Lennon’s needle moved from politics of peace to war to utopia to fascism to atheism to karma, McCartney was always careful to stand for nothing. I don’t know which solo career infuriates me more. At least George Harrison’s pontificating was somewhat consistent in its boorish self-righteousness.

Look at his attempts at engaging the political/social realm beyond the studio clock. “Give Ireland To The Irish” could have been a provocative indictment of Bloody Sunday. But after having initiated this potentially devastating, even career-defining leadership role, he proceeded to come off as some entitled school teacher.

Great Britain you are tremendous 
And nobody knows like me 
But really what are you doin’ 
In the land across the sea 

But really, Great Britain. What are you doing? Really? You are tremendous. But really…pish posh and all that. As ham-handed as Lennon’s ode to a political cause in which he himself was conveniently remote was, this little soiree into politics is embarrassing.  And it would happen a few more times. See, my theory is that the concept of meaningful, thoughtful lyrics are a total afterthought to this man. And he, like Lennon, was the beneficiary of nose-to-nose, men in white shirts and ties quality control like that of no other group, before or since. His gift for melody was unsurpassed. No one, not Arlen, Richard Rodgers, Hoagy Carmichael, Beethoven, no one created more enduring, more pleasing melodies than Paul McCartney. But he would and could create a pretty melody from the sound of  turkey being sliced. It’s anything deeper than that that makes me think that he’s overrated. He wrote a song called “Bip Bop”. “Morse Moose and the Grey Goose”.  He crafted immaculate arrangements and deeply moving lines and covered them with shit. Listen to “Motor of Love” off Flowers in the Dirt.  The production is a little dated with the electronic drums and airy synths and whatnot, but a fine melody. It’s when he sings “Turn on your motor of love..heavenly father look down from above…” that I realize that in his oeuvre, there’s no such thing as writing yourself into a lyrical corner.  He’s gonna blast his way out, come hell or high water, regardless of how that might compromise the effectiveness of the song itself.

What does “Jet” really mean? I think he just came up with a good melody, and thought up a one-word chorus. It could have been “puke” or “cup” or “plum”. Did it really matter? Even “Hey Jude” is the sort of song where you have to accept that he’s speaking in some sort of code, and your interpretation of that code depends on acceptance of the nonsensical. You and I have been TOLD what it’s about, but for poetic license to be given, one must understand what he’s saying. Lennon, in the deepest throes of his heroin addiction and incessant egotistical ramblings, somehow thought the song was about HIM.

Of course, it wasn’t always that way. When the machine was running on all cylinders, there was a built-in cull of the worst of his tendencies. This faded as time went on. But he sang these meaningless couplets with such conviction and such authority that you could not help being pulled in.

And while he’s no Anvil, he’s not that far off.

——————————————————————————–

You and me together
Nothing feels so good
Even if I get a medal from my local neighbourhood

———————————————————————————-

When you’re wide awake
Say it for goodness sake
It’s gonna be a great day
While you’re standing there
Get up and grab a chair
It’s gonna be a great day

———————————————————-———————

From “Jet” to “Rough Ride” to “Press” to “Beautiful Night”, even his pre-solo work. songs like “Get Back” start out as little political screeds. Pakistanis taking British jobs, etc.  Fine. You agree or don’t. But like Lennon, he backs off for the sake of some kind of impulsive need to be universal by being vague. Like a politician. No point in alienating half the population by standing for something when the people who don’t stand for that thing will never buy your records again. As if that were true. It’s ridiculous. I’m an atheist, but I still buy Stevie Wonder’s music and am moved by HIS conviction. Earth Wind and Fire. When McCartney mentions god, it’s a cheap means of writing himself out of a corner. I used to cringe when i’d listen to “Living in the Material World” because Harrison was preaching to me. At least he was PREACHING something. At least there was no question where he stood. In his lyrics, at least. In life he was just as filthy as anyone else in showbiz. But better that then the endlessly nebulous quicksand that is and always has been Paul McCartney’s lyrics.

If Paul McCartney ever decided to write music for Scott Walker, I wonder what would happen. Or Leonard Cohen. That would be something.

I leave you with:

That would be something 
Really would be something 
That would be something 
To meet you in the fallin’ rain momma 
To meet you in the fallin’ rain

No, all music doesn’t have to “mean something” but after all this time, wouldn’t it be nice to know that under all that sugar coating beat the heart of a real revolutionary?  A hardened criminal? A pervert? He did sing about animal rights once. Here’s that:

I saw a cat with a machine in his brain
The man who fed him said he didn’t feel any pain
I’d like to see that man take out that machine
And stick it in his own brain, you know what I mean

I saw a rabbit with its eyes full of tears
The lab that owned her had been doing it for years
Why don’t we make them pay for every last eye?
That couldn’t cry its own tears, do you know what I mean?

When I tell you that we’ll all be looking for changes
Changes in the way we treat our fellow creatures
And we will learn how to grow
(Learn how to grow)

Well, I tell you that we’ll all be looking for changes
Changes in the way we treat our fellow creatures
And we will learn how to grow, yeah
When we’re looking for changes

I saw a monkey that was learning to choke
A guy beside him gave him cigarettes to smoke
And every time that monkey started to cough
The bastard laughed his head off, do you know what I mean?

Really makes you think.

 

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Weird Al

I got this off Weird Al’s Wikipedia page:

On numerous occasions, Prince has refused Yankovic permission to record parodies of his songs. Yankovic has stated in interviews that he has “approached him every few years [to] see if he’s lightened up.” Yankovic related one story where, before the American Music Awards where he and Prince were assigned to sit in the same row, he got a telegram from Prince’s lawyers, demanding he not make eye contact with the artist.
….

Paul McCartney, also a Yankovic fan, refused Yankovic permission to record a parody of Wings’ “Live and Let Die”, titled “Chicken Pot Pie”, because McCartney is a vegetarian and found the parody to be improper.

I have new respect for Al. Technically, as long as he pays for the privilege, he can cover/parody anyone he wants to. He asks to maintain good karma in the community. Most artists go along, some even playing on the sessions or appearing in the videos.

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To no one.

I saw this on Current TV, specifically This American Life. The episode was called “Reality Check”.  A group called Improv Everywhere decides that an unknown band, Ghosts of Pasha, playing their first ever tour in New York, ought to think they’re a smash hit. So they study the band’s music and then crowd the performance, pretending to be hard-core fans. Improv Everywhere just wants to make the band happy—to give them the best day of their lives. But it turns out differently because the band realizes in short order that the reception was entirely fake, and they have to go on, knowing somehow that there’s not likely going to be any kind of repeat. It’s sort of a cheat. I watched it and clenched my fist involuntarily, thinking how strange the whole thing was…the unintended consequences of doing something that on the face of it seems purely altruistic. Was it a gift or a prank?

I have ideas. I have music and I have a script for a thing I’ve been working on. I have my whole CD written, concept, arrangements, everything. I’ve run my idea for a stage musical by some close friends and they all either think it’s funny or are being polite, and I’m not someone who makes friends with people who are polite.

Every Monday I say that this is the week that I try to get things done. There are people upon whom I rely to take the next step. And I am having severe existentialist ennui today.

Tell people I never meant to be creepy. I just was. I really didn’t mean to make anyone uncomfortable. I just did.

Tell people that I settled grudgingly into being a mediocre songwriter with a mediocre voice. It never occurred to me that I would not be successful or that people would not love everything I did. It never occurred to me that people in the future or in the near future wouldn’t delve into my discography and try to decipher my lyrics with like-minded fans. I wasn’t conceited. I was willfully blind.

I always wanted to tour. I never got to tour. It might not be as fun as I imagined it might be but it would have been nice to have done it. In my prime. When I had the energy and nothing to lose.

I always wanted to play, just once, to a really enthusiastic room chock full of strangers who came to hear good original music and thought that mine was unmistakeably that. Did you ever see the “This

I always wanted people to come after me if I walked away, either in love or in friendship, but it seems to me to be pretty much always me doing the hunting, me doing the apologizing, and that might have something to do with the fact that I am broken beyond repair.

You’re the only one reading this.

The Pointer Sisters and Fanny will never be in the RRHOF.

First black vocal group to perform at the Grand Ole Opry? They wrote and performed this:

I love the coda with the bell ride. Always a sucker for the bell ride.

They had another hit with this:

This version kicks the ass of the original, which was recorded by…Lee Dorsey! Still pretty good.

Lee Dorset, as you all know, had had a big hit with “Ya Ya” 9 years previously. I case you never heard what pop music sounded like between Elvis in the Army and The Beatles, here’s about the best of it:

This song was covered by John Lennon on his “Walls and Bridges” album in 1974. Julian (his 11 year old son) on drums.

Here’s the story of why this brief recording exists.

The guy that produced all those slick Pointer Sisters hits in the 80’s (Neutron Dance, Automatic, Jump For My Love, all that shit) was Richard Perry, who also produced Ringo Starr’s biggest solo successes. He also produced the first all-female band signed to a major label, Fanny. You never heard of Fanny?

“Badge” was Eric Clapton misreading the word “bridge” on the lead sheet provided by George Harrison.  More Fanny doing The Beatles.

Not bad. Not great. But important.

David Bowie said (Rolling Stone, 29 December 1999):
“One of the most important female bands in American rock has been buried without a trace. And that is Fanny. They were one of the finest… rock bands of their time, in about 1973. They were extraordinary… they’re as important as anybody else who’s ever been, ever; it just wasn’t their time.”

When you email someone, the least they can do is respond with a cursory acknowledgement, right? I mean there IS a protocol. How is it that people have not grasped this yet? What the fuck is wrong with people? I bet Bonnie Pointer would have returned my emails. I know I’m no one. I know I am creepy to strangers. I know women are put off by me. But I’m not fucking threat. I’m just trying to be nice. What the fuck is wrong with people? You don’t care. This is all a cry for help. Man I need something to do.

Fanny could play:

Maybe 999 dances.

Written by the same guy who wrote one of my favorite R&B tunes.

The Beatles, as you know, performed some ferocious covers of obscure R&B tunes when they were earning their stripes in some of the shittiest bars/clubs in the world. One of their contemporaries didn’t fare too badly with the same strategy:

Damn. Mike Smith was a singer.

I love love love this blog, “Rockaeology“. The guy goes deep, and it’s always fascinating. Check it out.

As women everywhere are having their reproductive rights threatened by a powerful, well-financed minority, it reminds me of what John Lennon said all those years ago. “Woman IS the nigger of the world.”  The same erosion of rights affected freed slaves, and immigrants throughout history in this, the land of the free. It took guts to put a song like that on an ex-Beatle record, but no one ever said he didn’t have guts. Wait, did I?

This SAME backing band, Elephant’s Memory, included a female vocalist on their first record, and had a song featured in one of my favorite films, Midnight Cowboy.

So check out that blog. There’s a quote on it from one of the guys who wrote “867-5309 (Jenny)” that has recently become rather prescient in my own life:

“There was always a dagger in someone’s hand, and it was usually a friend’s hand…Sometimes, it’s your best buddy”…

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Land of the Lost

Woke up, made the kids breakfast, and then lunch. Drove them the Weaver Street Market to buy some half and half for the guest who was arriving at my home (who cancelled as I was heading home due to a headache) at 7:45. Dropped the kids off at 7:30. Got the cancellation, went home. Made coffee and drank it while watching The Sopranos on A & E. When that was over, watched DVR’d The Daily Show. I don’t like John Oliver. Went back to sleep until 10:45. Panicked, wondering where the day had gone or was going. Went to make a ham sandwich. Noticed some large black ants were being swatted around by the cats. Used deli mustard and swiss cheese. Drank a Coke Zero. Watched Relapse and It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. Made another cup of coffee. I could use a therapist for a week solid. It struck me that people need to pay other people to listen unconditionally.

Thought about recording some music. Didn’t. Won’t. Why bother? I have about five different unresolved conflicts with family and friends that just don’t seem to be moving. Played Soccer Bashi on the Wii. When I think about Soccer Bashi I feel a weird sort of anxiety.

I wish I had a job.

That ham sammy is just sitting there. I feel a scratch in my throat.

Olivia thinks the song “In My Life” might be about a soldier.

Sometimes I think I show signs of an addict. I feel like I burned so many bridges that now people won’t come near me, like an addict.

Get out. Take a walk!

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You’ll be free.

This week’s car CD is Rubber Soul, the remastered version.

This is my favorite Beatles song. And I’m a Beatles fanatic, as you know. So let me tell you why, in terms that attempt to convey accurately why this song is in my DNA.

1. The lyrics are wonderful. “Give the word a chance to say that the word is just a way.” I think that’s a fascinating, elegant summation of the more genuine aspirations of the entire love generation before it became co-opted. And make no mistake, aside from the Beatles’ legacy, the love generation suffered a lopsided defeat at the hands of the “man”.

2. The arrangement. Wikipedia mentions that the song is in Dm, but it’s not really clear if the song is in minor or major keys, since the rhythm guitar (I refer to the guitar stabs on beat 2 and 3+) plays D7#9, which includes both major and minor! The main vocal line implies minor but the arrangement is traditional 12 bar blues, and as you know, you can sing a blues melody in major and minor within the same measure if you please. Another contributing factor is the fact that McCartney’s piano part is a major triad, and not minor at all. So minor melody, major piano, both in the guitar stabs. The song is in both.

3. The groove. It’s a kind of funk. It’s danceable. It can be soul, funk, pop, peace and love, anything you like.I love the drum sounds on Rubber Soul, and the bass guitar cuts anything recorded in the rock idiom before it, and for years to come.  And when you look back on their contemporaries (even some of the black ones), what other act could so effortlessly create something like this?  Of course, Lennon and McCartney confessed to being high when they wrote this, so there’s that. But John Denver also smoked an awful lot of grass, and…

4. The vocals. Two of the greatest singers in popular music history. At 1:47 there’s a slight lilt in McCartney’s upper harmony (one of the two tracks) that makes it even more reminiscent of the divergence to come from pop to soul-pop made popular by certain Motown acts.  By the final chorus, the harmonies commit to minor, but that clashes with the piano part. Ok, not to delve too deeply, but listen to the way the high harmony on the phrase “chance to say” descends to the 6th instead of the flat 7th (or flat 6th). That implies a major scale when coming from the tonic to the 5th. Listen to all that dissonance! I love it. The first time I heard it, even then it reached down and touched my inner rhythm like nothing I had ever heard. It still moves me. It really does. Lennon sings with such conviction and soul that it’s hard not to want to come along.

I didn’t mention the amazing guitar sound, the way they cut off the end of every phrase in the chorus to add to the…I don’t even know the word (so to speak) to use aside from just “funky”.

This is my favorite Beatles’ song. What’s your’n?

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This happened.

I never heard of this movie, but as you see, it had lots of stars in it. Probably a vehicle for Alyssa Milano and another time-killer for Robert Downey Jr. directed by his father, who also directed “Putney Swope” and then a whole lot of nuthin. Only 5 years after “Chaplin“. Look at how emaciated and fucked up he was.

Lots of people point to “Putney Swope” as some sort of revolutionary master stroke, but I like it less every time I see it. Seems awful clunky to me.

Hey, whatever it is, it’s been done before:

Personally, I don’t get the adoration. I saw the doc, and listened to a bunch of stuff on the Youtube. As fine as much of it is crafted, I can never forgive Harry Nilsson for this:

or this:

or this:

Being unemployed sucks mainly because it gives you ample time to sit around and think of people who don’t think of you.

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I am terminal. Ergo, I am invincible. Unless I ingest ergot.

I have one week left as a contractor. It’s gonna be sweet walking around in my underpants, wiping boogers on the sound-damping cubicle walls, and basically telling people what I really think of them. I am terminal, ergo I am invincible! That quote is from LA Law, by the way.

My son (Harrison) and daughter have been reading Calvin and Hobbes lately, and it got me to revisiting Bill Watterson‘s work. I would love to meet him. At his art’s zenith of popularity he walked away. He never authorized any licensing agreements to cheapen his legacy, and I admire that, the same way I used to admire the way The Beatles‘ work was never used in commercials or any of those “Great Hits of the 60’s” collections. His work has a definite arc, lasting 10 years, no more, no less, much like The Beatles’ and their 9-year recording career. It behooved them in the long run not to reunite. Just like it is to Watterson’s credit that he never cashed in on, say, a movie or an animated TV series. It would have been easy, and netted him millions.

Anyhow, I’m not going to bother you with my favorite CnH strips. Suffice it to say that I have never laughed at a comic so heartily as when I laugh with the genuine article. Just the right combination of whimsy, cynicism, slapstick and surrealism.

This guy used to do “Dial A Date” infomercials, but here’s a variation on a theme:

Remember these? Every freaking night. Especially for us lonesome losers watching TV late at night on weekends. I never called, but I came close a few times. Boy howdy!

Ok. Just the one:

Or this:

More to come.

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Yeah, I dunno….let me be more specific…

I still haven’t decided if I think this is good or bad. But it certainly “is”.  And since Pandora (the ‘real’ one, not the one that somehow equates The Bee Gees with Rupert Holmes)  has opened the box nice and wide, there’s no going back. What do you think? If you explore this fellow’s YouTube channel, you’ll find all sorts of ‘goodies’. Do you think having the ability to take these songs ‘apart’ as it were and hear every single imperfection and nuance and pops and crackles and shit good for the music fan or not? Does it lessen the mystique? You can pretty much mix your own “Taxman” now. Will you?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0PxVrOuMxy0&list=TLsg82IL_36q0

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