The Beatles Catalog Available on iTunes

16 11 2010

FINALLY! What does it take to get one of music’s biggest bands available on the iTunes store? Apparently, all you need is love… and A LOT of lawyers. After years of tension and disputes Apple Corp. has finally allowed Apple Inc. to offer The Beatles’ complete catalog of work online. I get it. I do. But after all that concern over Apple Inc. branching out from computer technology to music distribution and possible conflicts of interest, the whole argument seems futile and moot. After all, we know Paul is down with it, as his music is already on iTunes . He even filmed a commercial for them. How long did it really take for the folks at Apple Corp. to realize that iTunes is clearly one of, if not, the biggest digital music distribution channel? I guess after all those years, today is the day of epiphany. Finally. Check out The Beatles on iTunes HERE.

So, at this point you probably already own every album in various mediums and have even digitized it yourself, but for those that have not… this your chance. You can cherry pick your favorite songs or grab the whole album(s). Or, you can just bite the bullet get the entire box set ($149).  Like any major product roll out, this comes with a lot of fanfare. One of the promotion items they are touting is the complete 1964 Washington D.C. performance in HD (well, as hi-def as I’ve seen). This video exists in snippets all over the internet, some of which has been featured here, but this is the complete unedited release. CHECK IT OUT HERE. There are also some other cool videos that you can browse through while on the band’s artist page in the store.

There are a few ads that the ‘Apples’ collaborated on for this launch. They are pretty straightforward and simple but, if you’re a fan, you will enjoy them nevertheless. You can see all 5 ads below:

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It’s Johnny’s Birthday

9 10 2010

Today is John Lennon’s birthday. He would have been 70 years old today. I wanted to tack this on to yesterday’s post given this song, “It’s Johnny’s Birthday” was a part of George Harrison’s 3 disc LP All Things Must Pass but then decided it was best served as it’s own dish. It’s a very simple tune that clocks in under a minute long. Based on Bill Marten and Phil Coulter’s song “Congratulations”, Harrison’s tune was just a little tribute to his friend on his birthday. Enjoy…

Happy B-Day Johnny!





George Harrison | My Sweet Lord

8 10 2010

Lately, I’ve been listening to the Beatles’ post-Beatles solo work a lot. As one would expect Paul & John have the strongest catalogs but George & Ringo are not short on great work either. Here is one of George’s solo hits. Probably not my all-time favorite but it’s near the top and comes with a cool little story. “My Sweet Lord” was originally written for one of Harrison’s friends, former Beatle session man Billy Preston. Preston released it on his 1970 album Encouraging Words, which George produced. Just 10 months later, George released his version of the song on his first post-Beatles album All Things Must Pass. I love this album, it was huge. Originally a triple album (3 records/6 sides), it was produced by Phil Spector and featured 23 songs. Some of which were long jams with various guest spots from friends like Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Ginger Baker, Gary, Wright, Alan White (of Yes), a young Phil Collins, Preston and it is even said that John Lennon appeared on one track, although uncredited. There is also a song co-written with Bob Dylan and then a cover of Dylan’s “If Not For You”. It’s a really great album. “My Sweet Lord” was only released as a single after All Things Must Pass, at which point it went right to the top 5 and then occupied no. 1 for five weeks. It later topped the charts again after Harrison’s death and then again upon the release of a re-mastered anniversary version. Remarkable as that is, it’s not the juicy part of the story.

In 1971, George was sued by The Chiffons for rights to the song as it was incredibly similar to their hit “He’s So Fine”. Harrison later stated that he was actually inspired to write “My Sweet Lord” after hearing the Edwin Hawkins Singers’ “Oh Happy Day”. A US federal court ruled that Harrison had subconsciously copied The Chiffon tune and he had to hand over the majority of his royalties from the song. This ordeal was parodied by The Chiffons afterward in order capitalize on the publicity. In good humor, George would later record his own song about the case, called “This Song”, which featured many direct references. Soon after, he just bought the rights to “He’s So Fine” anyway. So in the end, he owns his song and theirs… right on, George!

If you’re not familiar with this Chiffons tune, here it is. You’ll hear the similarities instantly. So much so, it’s hard not to side with the courts on this one.

One last thing, there is a great version of this song from The Concert For George, with Billy Preston leading an allstar band that includes Ringo, Paul McCartney, Dhani Harrison, Eric Clapton, Phil Collins and Tom Petty. 

note: If you’re a Billy Preston fan and want hear his original version from Encouraging Words, THIS is a great old live version, true to form.

References:

More info on George Harrison

More info on All Things Must Pass

More info on “My Sweet Lord”

More info on The Chiffons

More info on “He’s So Fine”

More info on Concert For Bangledesh

More info on Concert For George

More info on Billy Preston





Twist & Shout

19 08 2010

It’s a song that almost everybody knows and loves. Made famous by The Beatles, “Twist & Shout” was written by Phil Medley and Bert Russell (aka Bert Berns). It was originally recorded in 1961 by the Top Notes. This original version was considered one of very few Phil Spector flops. It was just a year after he  came to Atlantic Records and had yet to perfect his “wall of sound” style. See if you can even recognize the tune…

In 1962, one of the songwriters, Bert Berns, sought out to revive what he knew was a great song. He thought that Spector and The Top Notes simply didn’t do it justice, missing the feel completely. Berns decided to produce the version he intended with the help of ever popular soul group The Isley Brothers, which went on to reach #17 in the Billboard Hot 100 and was #2 on the R&B charts.

Ultimately, the version that forever lives on as the most popular and recognizable is that of The Beatles. Recorded in 1964 for their debut album Please Please Me, it reached #2 in the charts just a month after the release. Remarkably, that same week each of the top 5 songs were all Beatles tracks. It’s an amazing moment that truly reflected the magnitude and impact of the Beatlemania phenomenon that was sweeping the world. Interestingly, producer George Martin saved this song for the final 15 minutes of the recording session as an attempt to salvage what was left of John’s vocal chords. Lennon’s voice was suffering through the entire 10 hour recording period. Knowing it would take every last bit of energy to get it right, Martin fed it to him with just minutes to spare. John absolutely killed it on the first take. It sounds as though he gives every bit of heart and soul he could muster. Which, was  very fortunate because he later admitted that he couldn’t sing for days afterward so even if they wanted a second take, he never could have done it.

This 1963 live performance (below) from the  Royal Variety Show is a great example of the tune. All the lads sound great but John’s lead is fantastic, as if he was born for  it.

There are plenty of other covers out there. Of them, there are only a few that are worth mentioning. One of which is THIS ONE from The Who. And, probably THIS ONE from Bruce Springsteen. If you look hard enough you can also find versions by The Tremeloes, The Shangri La’s, The Mamas and The Papas, Salt + Peppa, many, many more (including Celine Dion) but compared to The Beatles there is no point in even bothering with them.

References:

More info on “Twist and Shout”

More info on Phil Medley and Bert Russell

More info on The Top Notes

More info on The Isley Brothers

More info on The Beatles

More info on Please Please Me

More info on Phil Spector

More info on Spector’s Wall of Sound





Birthday Wkd

7 06 2010

This weekend was a birthday blowout for both Lady GG and myself. It probably comes as no surprise but my favorite B-Day tune is from the one and only Beatles. “Birthday” is part of a short list of nontraditional birthday songs out there. It’s a great tune and the background story behind it’s composition and the studio session are pretty cool.

In a 2008 interview, McCartney said, “Birthday was 50/50 me and John”. The song was largely written during a recording session at the EMI Abbey Road Studios on September 18th, 1968 with McCartney coming up with the main riff. During the session, The Beatles and the recording crew made a short trip around the corner to McCartney’s house to watch the 1956 rock & roll movie The Girl Can’t Help It which was being shown on British television for the first time. After the movie they returned to the studio to record. George Martin was away so his assistant Chris Thomas produced the “Birthday” session. His memory is that the song was mostly Paul’s: “Paul was the first one in, and he was playing the birthday riff. Eventually the others arrived, by which time Paul had literally written the song, right there in the studio.” Everyone in the studio (including Yoko Ono & Patti Harrison) sang in the chorus and it was 5 am by the time the final mono mix was completed.

John Lennon said in his 1980 Playboy interview: “‘Birthday’ was written in the studio. Just made up on the spot. I think Paul wanted to write a song like ‘Happy Birthday Baby,’ the old fifties hit. But it was sort of made up in the studio. It was a piece of garbage.” As much as I love John, what’s his deal? Why must he always be such a curmudgeon?!?! The song is great, despite the impromptu origin. I may even argue that off-the-cuff composing like this usually yields some of the most accessible material.

Just look at him in the picture below… not exactly the most enthusiastic cheers I’ve ever seen, but then again you must consider the source.

The song’s style, form and even subject matter are not exactly unique but as a composition it captures a side of the band that exudes the raw passion of their earlier years. “Birthday” begins with an intro drum fill, then moves directly into a blues progression in A which features a catchy guitar riff doubled by the bass, with McCartney singing at the top of his chest voice (think classic Paul screaming vocals) with Lennon on a lower harmony. After this section, a drum break lasting eight measures brings the song into the middle section, which rests entirely on the dominant chord. A repeat of the blues progression/guitar riff instrumental section, augmented by piano brings the song into a bridge before returning to a repeat of the first vocal section. The song is among McCartney’s most intense vocal performances given the range in which he sings during the blues run. This song is the only track on The Beatles (aka The White Album) in which Lennon and McCartney share lead vocal duties. It’s also one of the few songs on that album that is a throwback to their earlier years of pure rock n roll. It’s a refreshingly straightforward piece amongst a much more complex catalog… and one of my favorites.





Sgt Pepper’s: A Breakdown

28 04 2010

It’s so iconic and yet most people have no idea who or what they are looking at. The Beatles 1967 album Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is known not only for it’s great music but for the incredible album art as well. If you’ve ever wondered who are all those people standing behind the Fab Four, today is your lucky day.

But first, a little background on this Grammy Award winning piece of rock n roll art history. The album’s packaging was art-directed by Robert Fraser, designed by Peter Blake and his wife Jann Haworth, and photographed by Michael Cooper. Fraser was a prominent London art dealer who had become a close friend of Paul McCartney. It was he who urged  that the group abandon their original cover design, a psychedelic painting by The Fool. Fortunately for The Fool, his design for the inner sleeve was still used, at least for the first few pressings and is now something of a collectible. Robert Fraser was one of the leading champions of modern art in the UK in the 1960s. He argued that The Fool’s artwork was not well-executed and that the design would soon be dated. So, he offered to art-direct the now famous cover. Fraser then suggested they use an established fine artist and introduced the band to a client, noted British pop artist Peter Blake. Blake, in collaboration with his wife, created the famous cover collage known as “People We Like”. The final result shows the Beatles, as the Sgt. Pepper band, surrounded by a large group of their heroes who are rendered as life sized cut-out figures. Also included were wax-work figures of the Beatles as they appeared in the early ’60s, borrowed from Madame Tussauds. The collage depicted more than 70 famous people; including writers, musicians, film stars and (at Harrison’s request) a number of Indian “gurus”. There were also a few controversial persona’s that were originally intended to be included but were edited out at the last minute, among them were Adolf Hitler, Mahatma Gandhi and Jesus Christ… perhaps too risky for even the Beatles. The collage was assembled by Blake and his wife during the last two weeks of March 1967 at the London studio of photographer Michael Cooper, who took the cover shots on March 30th in a three-hour late night session. The rear side of the cover had the lyrics printed on it with a small picture of the band near the bottom. It’s significant because it was the first time lyrics were presented in this manner on a British pop LP. The final product was a “gatefold” album cover, that is, the it could be opened like a book to reveal a large picture of the Fab Four in their custom-made military style costumes against a bright yellow background. The reason for the gate fold was that the Beatles originally planned to fill two LPs for the release. The designs had already been approved and sent to print when they realized they would only have enough material for one LP.

Ok. So, using the numeric outline of the original cover (below) you can dissect who is who, finally getting to the bottom of this age old question. Both the original and the outline are from larger sources. Should you need to zoom in, simply click the image to enlarge it.

The Breakdown:
  1. Sri Yukteswar Gigi (guru)
  2. Aleister Crowley (dabbler in sex, drugs and magic)
  3. Mae West (actress)
  4. Lenny Bruce (comic)
  5. Karlheinz Stockhausen (composer)
  6. W.C. Fields (comic)
  7. Carl Gustav Jung (psychologist)
  8. Edgar Allen Poe (writer)
  9. Fred Astaire (actor)
  10. Richard Merkin (artist)
  11. The Varga Girl (by artist Alberto Vargas)
  12. *Leo Gorcey (Painted out because he requested a fee)
  13. Huntz Hall (actor one of the Bowery Boys)
  14. Simon Rodia (creator of Watts Towers)
  15. Bob Dylan (musician)
  16. Aubrey Beardsley (illustrator)
  17. Sir Robert Peel (politician)
  18. Aldous Huxley (writer)
  19. Dylan Thomas (poet)
  20. Terry Southern (writer)
  21. Dion (di Mucci)(singer)
  22. Tony Curtiss (actor)
  23. Wallace Berman (artist)
  24. Tommy Handley (comic)
  25. Marilyn Monroe (actress)
  26. William Burroughs (writer)
  27. Sri Mahavatara Babaji(guru)
  28. Stan Laurel (comic)
  29. Richard Lindner (artist)
  30. Oliver Hardy (comic)
  31. Karl Marx (philosopher/socialist)
  32. H.G. Wells (writer)
  33. Sri Paramahansa Yogananda (guru)
  34. Anonymous (wax hairdresser’s dummy)
  35. Stuart Sutcliffe (artist/former Beatle)
  36. Anonymous (wax hairdresser’s dummy)
  37. Max Miller (comic)
  38. The Pretty Girl (by artist George Petty)
  39. Marlon Brando (actor)
  40. Tom Mix (actor)
  41. Oscar Wilde (writer)
  42. Tyrone Power (actor)
  43. Larry Bell (artist)
  44. Dr. David Livingston (missionary/explorer)
  45. Johnny Weissmuller (swimmer/actor)
  46. Stephen Crane (writer)
  47. Issy Bonn (comic)
  48. George Bernard Shaw (writer)
  49. H.C. Westermann (sculptor)
  50. Albert Stubbins (soccer player)
  51. Sri lahiri Mahasaya (guru)
  52. Lewis Carrol (writer)
  53. T.E. Lawrence (soldier, aka Lawrence of Arabia)
  54. Sonny Liston (boxer)
  55. The Pretty Girl (by artist George Petty)
  56. Wax model of George Harrison
  57. Wax model of John Lennon
  58. Shirley Temple (child actress)
  59. Wax model of Ringo Starr
  60. Wax model of Paul McCartney
  61. Albert Einstein (physicist)
  62. John Lennnon, holding a french horn
  63. Ringo Starr, holding a trumpet
  64. Paul McCartney, holding a cor anglais
  65. George Harrison, holding a flute
  66. Bobby Breen (singer)
  67. Marlene Dietrich (actress)
  68. Mohandas Ghandi (painted out at the request of EMI)
  69. Legionaire from the order of the Buffalos
  70. Diana Dors (actress)
  71. Shirley Temple (child actress)
  72. Cloth grandmother-figure by Jann Haworth
  73. Cloth figure of Shirley Temple by Haworth
  74. Mexican candlestick
  75. Television set
  76. Stone figure of girl
  77. Stone figure
  78. Statue from John Lennon’s house
  79. Trophy
  80. Four-armed Indian Doll
  81. Drum skin, designed by Joe Ephgrave
  82. Hookah (water tobacco-pipe)
  83. Velvet snake
  84. Japanese stone figure
  85. Stone figure of Snow White
  86. Garden gnome
  87. Tuba

This is the historic back cover with the lyrics printed for each song.

Here is the inside photo that appeared on the gatefold.

The Fool’s original psychedelic design for the inner sleeve, available only on limited pressings.

Originally, the group had wanted the album to include a package with badges, pencils and other small Sgt. Pepper goodies but this proved far too costly. Instead, the album came with a page of cardboard cut-outs carrying the description:

SGT. PEPPER CUT-OUTS

  1. Moustache
  2. Picture Card
  3. Stripes
  4. Badges
  5. Stand Up

*Buy this LP online





Paul McCartney | Another Day

14 04 2010

This is Paul’s first single released post-Beatles. “Another Day” was actually originally recorded as a demo during the Get Back sessions which would eventually become the Let It Be album. As I noted in an earlier post about The 5th Beatle, that era was essentially the beginning of the end for The Beatles. Which really makes the timing of this release much more interesting. The song comes from a very prolific period for Paul as a Beatle but had been culled out, probably due to band politics.  This official ‘single‘ version was recorded during the sessions for McCartney’s second solo album Ram. Oddly enough, this song and it’s B Side “Oh Woman, Oh Why” did not make it on to that album, instead they were released as a 45 just a few months prior. They have subsequently been included on some recent CD/MP3 reissues of Ram as “Another Day” has become one of Paul’s more popular songs as a solo artists.

Here is that rough demo version from the Get Back sessions. It surfaced from a group of bootleg-type recordings now known as The Rhine River Tapes. It is difficult to hear and the song is not yet as developed as the future polished version but for those complete-ists out there, I felt should include it.

More on “Another Day”

More on The Rhine River Tapes








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