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…

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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





Pope to Beatles: Let It Be

14 04 2010

After  almost 50 years, the Vatican has reversed it’s opinion on the greatest rock band that’s ever lived. It all stemmed from a comment John Lennon made back in 1966. Lennon was quoted as saying, “The Beatles are more popular than Jesus”… which was and perhaps still is completely true. I’m sorry but, it’s hard to argue otherwise. Honestly, how many college students have posters of Jesus on their walls? That aside, the Vatican recently released an official statement forgiving the Fab Four for all their sins. This excerpt basically calls the whole ordeal trivial and even shows great reverence for lads from Liverpool.

As stated in the Vatican newspaper,  L’Osservatore:

“It’s true, they took drugs; swept up by their success, they lived dissolute and uninhibited lives… They even said they were more famous than Jesus. But, listening to their songs, all of this seems distant and meaningless… Their beautiful melodies, which changed forever pop music and still give us emotions, live on like precious jewels.”

Apparently, Ringo was not too impressed with the news. He replied by saying, “Didn’t the Vatican say we were satanic or possibly satanic — and they’ve still forgiven us?!?! I think the Vatican (has) got more to talk about than the Beatles.” Interesting subtext there and, really a very good point. With all scandals that have been going down with the Catholic Church why the sudden urge to patch things up The Beatles? Weird.

Here is John’s discussing his 1966 out-of-context comparison to Jesus…

I leave you with one final piece from this story. The Vatican also said The Beatles are “the longest-lasting, most consistent and representative phenomenon in the history of pop music.” Now, if the Catholic Church can agree on this why is it so hard to convince so many other mislead music fans?

The AP story about Vatican’s gesture of forgiveness

Here is the CNN article with Ringo





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





The Beatles | I’ve Just Seen A Face

6 04 2010

I just love this Beatles tune “I’ve Just Seen A Face”. It’s originally from the 1965 album Help! but was also added to the Capitol Records version of Rubber Soul for it’s American release.  Although credited as Lennon/McCartney it is actually a McCartney song. Paul is especially fond of it as evidenced by the fact that not only does he still play it live today, it was also just one of 5 Beatles songs he played during his Wings Over America Tour in 1975. Notable because at this point he was really shying away from all things Beatles. It’s one of the few songs in the entire Beatles catalog that is a country tune. Given the tempo, it could almost even be categorized as Bluegrass except that there is no banjo or fiddle. The instrumentation is a bit unique. There is no bass, just guitars with a snare drum and tambourine. If you are not too familiar, you have to check it out. It’s one of Lady GG’s favorite songs from the Fab Four and I can’t blame her… just have a listen.

Apparently a lot of musicians like this song as there are numerous covers. I found just a few that I thought I would share. I really like David Lee Roth’s and Eddie Vedder’s versions. Lady GG is obsessed with the Jim Sturgess version:

David Lee Roth’s tasteful cover… not the usual Diamond Dave, it’s actually VERY good

Eddie Vedder doing it a cappella at a Pearl Jam concert

Paul & Wings on the Wings Over America Tour circa 1975

Jim Sturgess’s version from the film Across The Universe





Luck Of The Irish

17 03 2010

For St. Patty’s Day it seemed appropriate to feature John Lennon’s “Luck of the Irish”. It’s from his 1972 post-Beatles release Some Time In New York City. John and Yoko got little known Elephant Memory to back them on this highly political album. This song and “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” (Not U2’s) were 2 songs from the same album that were about the tension in Ireland at the time. The latter, referencing the Bloody Sunday Massacre. On the same album is another song I really like, called “Cold Turkey”. The incredible trumpet player, Freddie Hubbard, does an amazing cover on his Hard-Bop meets Soul Jazz album Red Clay on the CTI label. That’s for another day. Today, we keep it focused on John. Erin go Bragh!

Alright… I couldn’t help it. Here’s of Lennon & Ono doing “Cold Turkey”. There was a really great live version with John in full Jesus beard but it’s been pulled off the web due to Copyright issues (Hrumpf!).

Rare footage from 1972 of Paul & Wings rehearsing their his own song about the conflict with Ireland, “Give Ireland Back to the Irish”.

Rare, slightly damaged footage of John & Yoko hanging out, smoking pot and rehearsing “Luck of the Irish” in their home in NYC.

Freddie Hubbard’s version of “Cold Turkey” from perhaps one of the best albums of all time, Red Clay.

More on Lennon’s Some Time in New York City album.





Mac & Jack

23 02 2010

I wanted to put this in my recent Guilty Pleasures post from last week but it’s so… well, um… amazing (?), that it requires it’s own spot. This song, “Say Say Say”, is a Michael Jackson/Paul McCartney duet from McCartney’s 1983 album Pipes of Peace. Not surprisingly, the song is a good one but it’s extremely lame in all aspects… catchy but lame. I was going to just slide it in with the rest of the guilty pleasures but then I started to look in to it more and a little research made me realize this is deserving of it’s own post. First there is the song itself. The lyrics are ridiculous, they are a sappy blend of the two artists as they grow into their later years. Keep in mind, Paul had just done “Ebony & Ivory” with Stevie Wonder and Michael would go on to do “We Are The World” just a year later. Which all makes sense because that’s kind of the vibe here. Well, maybe that’s an overstatement but it’s certainly no “Beat It” or “Helter Skelter“. The song is not that bad, it did go Platinum and in comparison to their other attempt at a duet (“The Girl Is Mine” from Thriller), it’s fantastic. It’s the video that’s just awful. The year it came out one critic said it’s both  “horrifying and compelling”. You will likely agree upon viewing. It’s very typical MJ in that it has dialogue and a story and seems more cinema than music video. In it, they play two benevolent vaudevillian conmen, “Mac & Jack” (how clever). When I watch this I just imagine what it would have been like if they had actually made a full length feature of it. It’s hilarious to see two of the biggest figures in pop culture running around the Wild West selling “wonder potion” only to give the profits to an orphanage, Robin Hood style. If that weren’t enough, Linda McCartney and La Toya Jackson make cameos. Linda is Mac’s girl which is no surprise but La Toya oddly plays Jack’s  love interest, which only makes this whole tale that much weirder. It was directed by Bob Giraldi, who also did the “Beat It” video and the infamous MJ Pepsi Commercial in which Michael’s hair caught on fire. Between the fire incident and this, I’m not sure which is the bigger disaster.

These 2 guys both did a bunch of collaborations throughout their careers. Here are a few:

Michael & Freddie Mercury

Paul & Stevie Wonder

Michael & Macaulay Culkin

Paul & Michael – The Man

Michael & Freddie… again

Michael & Diana Ross

Michael & Friends – We Are The World








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