Missing John Lennon

8 12 2010

December 8th 2010 marks the 30th anniversary of John Lennon’s death. I often think about what the New York and the world would be like if John were still around. The man would have been a NYC icon and a great one at that. Imagine if he was around to see the booms of the 80’s & 90’s, 9/11 and everything that has transpired since. Crazy.

Here is the famous announcement of his death by Howard Cosell  on ABC’s Monday Night Football. Apparently, there was an ABC reporter who was at Roosevelt Hospital that night for his own injuries and saw Lennon come into the ER. He immediately called his colleagues in the newsroom, who got to the scene right away and broke the story.

I’ve been listening to a lot of John’s solo material lately, and for that matter all The Beatles’ solo work. He has a ton of great songs but not too many from Double Fantasy, the final album he recorded with Yoko after his 5 year hiatus. Nevertheless, this record intrigues me. Not really the music but what it represents for John. It’s a return to recorded music after taking some much needed time to be a good father and husband, something he didn’t do well while with The Beatles. It was essentially the result of this long period of reflection.

Also, there is the fact that his murder, Mark David Chapman, asked Lennon to sign a copy of the LP the night he shot him. Chapman waited outside Lennon’s home, The Dakota, and made the request as he was leaving for the evening. As he’s one to do, John obliged. Later that night, Chapman killed John as he was returning from the studio. I just saw that that exact copy is going up for auction soon. What a weird piece of memorabilia to own. Touched by both Lennon and Chapman on the night of the murder… creepy.

Anyway, here is some cool audio from the recording session for Double Fantasy. This was captured as they were working out one of the album’s biggest hits, “(Just Like) Starting Over”. It displays John’s process, creativity and sense of humor really well.

Here’s a posthumous music video for “(Just Like) Starting Over”…





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:





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





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.





The Beatles | The Word

24 05 2010

“The Word” is one of my favorite Beatles songs, which makes sense given it’s from my favorite album Rubber Soul. This 1965 release is a real turning point for The Beatles. Although there was always growth from one album to the next, I always thought Rubber Soul took the biggest leap. It represents not just a shift in sound but a new take on lyricism, whereby Lennon and McCartney began approaching their songs in a much more abstract fashion. Many of the lyrics from this period are more open to interpretation than prior attempts. “The Word” may seem like a rather straight ahead tune about love but, in actuality, the message is far more subtle than any love song they had written in their early years. Messaging aside, “The Word” is a simple yet powerful song that features an up tempo, syncopated rhythm accentuated by sharp guitar chords on the 2 and the “and” between the 3rd & 4th beat. The effect is a pushing and dragging feel that creates a great groove. That, along with a sweet 3 part harmony and John’s screaming lead on the chorus and it stands out as one of the bands catchiest “in your face” tunes. Rubber Soul is filled with great material that’s similarly listener friendly while pushing the boundaries of form and expression… “Wait” is a fine example of this quality. As a collection of material, they constantly walk the line between experimental and simple pop sensibility and with great success. Despite The Beatles enormous catalog of great music, Rubber Soul and “The Word” will forever stand as some of their best work.

I recently found this funny video of a post-Beatles Paul. It’s from an interview where he plays a seemingly harmless word association game. By the answers he gives to such mundane triggers as “The Beatles” and “Linda”, one would guess the word is not LOVE but actually it’s more physical cousin, SEX. I especially like how unapologetic he is about the whole thing and how can you blame him. I mean, he’s Paul McCartney. I don’t think the guy has ever had trouble in that department, so…





I Want To Be Your Man

7 05 2010

This is one of The Stones earlier hit singles. It’s a Lennon/McCartney tune that was written a bit hastily on request. Mic and the boys had run into John and Paul back in November of ’63. They were short on material and asked if they had any songs for them. John and Paul went back to the studio with them and quickly threw together “I Want To Be Your Man” from a single verse they had worked out previously. It never was released by The Rolling Stones on a full LP, but was available as a 45 in both the UK and US. It even climbed as high as No. 12 on the UK charts. The Beatles released their own version of the song just three weeks later. It’s quite different but still very good, featuring Ringo on lead vocals. John later said of the song, “That shows how much importance we put on it. We weren’t going to give them anything great, right?”. I love that, it’s some very funny commentary. The two bands were actually very friendly, but obviously with an ego like Lennon’s he was always competitive… even with his own band mates. Each group had there own take on the song, both of which illustrated their respective points of view. The Stones’ was rough and raw, with loud amps and screaming vocals. The Beatles’, while still not tame, was much sweeter with nice pop sensibilities. These two old videos are great examples of both.

The Rolling Stones

The Beatles








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