Tag Archives: John Lennon

I Buried John

Thanks a lot, Paul.

You would think that the backlash from your efforts to change the songwriting credits to “McCartney/Lennon” would have been a clue. But no, you still can’t deal with the fact that although you are likely the most financially successful songwriter of all time, you will never have the social or intellectual credibility of John Lennon. And this won’t help: 

Paul McCartney has spoken once again about the end of the Beatles, this time revealing that it was John Lennon who brought an end to the group.”

Leave it to lame Access Hollywood to ask such cutting edge questions forty years after the fact. But Sir Paul, you should have just shrugged your shoulders, say “asked and answered a million times, uh-huh uh-huh yeah“. And is there even a reason to even sit down with them in the first place?

Let it be, Paul.

Flip Your Wig here.

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Nowhere Boy

Beatle Weekend, Part Two…

Finally got the chance to see Nowhere Boy this weekend, and despite my trepidations I was pretty impressed overall. I wasn’t sure what to expect, thinking perhaps a Backbeat story arc, but I liked it. On one hand it was the story of John Lennon leading up to Hamburg, but it was also one of the oddest love triangles in film history. Kudos to both Kristin Scott Thomas as Mimi and Anne-Marie Duff as Julia, Lennon’s aunt and mother respectively…and inversely, of course.

At first glance Thomas’ Mimi is impossibly prim and tight, while Duff’s Julia is wild and flirtatious, almost carnal; both characters are caricatures rather than people. But as the film develops, both move towards the center, eventually connecting before fate steps in to deal a bad hand. Likewise, Lennon is shown as a polarized youth, pulled between a wild streak and a crippling need for affection, but he too learns to balance both sides into a confident approach…the Lennon we would soon come to know. The film was nominated for four BAFTAs and won one (Duff as Julia).

Trailer: Nowhere Boy

Aaron Johnson gets credit for inhabiting the persona rather than aping it; his inner conflicts are as visible as his facade. There are several pivotal moments in the story, of course, and director Sam Taylor-Wood makes sure they’re driven home, but the film’s best moment is understated.

John first meets a young Paul McCartney in a bathroom doubling as a dressing room for a small park concert. Like gunslingers, they stand face to face, and as John draws his wit and leverage, Paul fires back by riffing a flawless intro to “Twenty Flight Rock“. Johnson, as Lennon, doesn’t say a word, but we see him realize that he brought a knife to the gunfight.

The humility, and the language of music, would open a door that would change their lives forever, and ours as well. And here’s the song that brings it all home

Video: “In Spite of all The Danger

Official film site

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Blast From The Past: I Am Sam

Beatle Weekend, Part One.

Also known as How To Sell A Beatles Tribute Album With A Movie Tie-In. The premise of the relationship between this collection of Beatles covers (more specifically, Lennon-McCartney covers) and the Sean Penn film is Penn’s character’s affinity for Beatles music.

Fine by me. I imagine the reason that not too many of the artists strayed from the formula had more to do with “keeping it real” for the imagination of the Sam character (mentally challenged) than the participant’s unwillingness to experiment with established classics. Regardless, great songs are great songs, and several of the almost spot-on performances (Aimee Mann and Michael Penn on “Two Of Us” and Sheryl Crow’s “Mother Nature’s Son“) are enjoyable versions that could have been bonus tracks on those respective artists’ albums.

Video: “Two of Us“, “Blackbird“, “I’m Looking Through You

Some veer slightly off the path, like The Vines with “I’m Only Sleeping” (great finish), Stereophonics‘ soulful “Don’t Let Me Down” and Howie Day’s desperate reading of “Help“. I would have preferred that The Black Crowes tackle something raucous like “Birthday“, as their restrained performance of “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” is missing a spark. The original “Across The Universe” succeeded largely because of the vocal; Rufus Wainwright’s interpretation grows tired very quickly. Paul Westerberg disappoints with a dull “Nowhere Man” but Ben Harper surprised me with his solid take on “Strawberry Fields Forever“.

Oddest moments: Not hearing “The Weight” immediately after “Golden Slumbers” (Ben Folds, natty) and Eddie Vedder making “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away” sound like a suicide note. Then again, most things Vedder sings could fit that description.

(This 2002 review originally ran in Yeah Yeah Yeah, Issue #21.)

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Let’s Kickstart Kontiki!

The Holy Grail just came into view again.

Back in 1997, Robert Harrison, Whit Williams, George Reiff and Dana Myzer crafted Kontiki, possibly this generation’s Big Star album. You know…the one that didn’t sell well upon release but is revered by everyone who was lucky enough to grab it; a generation later everyone will claim to have owned a copy, only to lose it to an ex-wife or a klepto roomie.

Liars!

But now they don’t have to be. Harrison, on behalf of his band Cotton Mather, has just popped for a moderate goal on Kickstarter. He’s looking to raise $12,500 to create and market a deluxe two-disc edition, featuring a remastered original and a full disc of outtakes sure to thrill fans of the band. A diverse and rich blend of powerpop, rock and psych, Kontiki has often been compared to Beatle albums, usually Revolver, thanks to the uncanny vocal resemblance to John Lennon. But this is a deep, rich, original work that has only grown stronger in time. (You know…like Revolver?)

Video: “Password

Here’s Robert, from the project’s banner page:

 In 1997 my  band Cotton Mather recorded our second record, Kontiki,  on 4 track cassette and ADAT in an old house about 30 minutes outside of Austin. It was released in the US without much fanfare on a little label called Copper.  But when the record made its way to the UK a year later on the Rainbow Quartz label Kontiki was quite the hit with the press and music fans. 

Now Kontiki, the “lost classic” has been out of print for years.  I (Robert Harrison) have been busy readying a re-release of Kontiki which will include an entire second disc of bonus tracks. Not just a few out-takes but an entire discs worth of extras because when I dug back into the archives I found some real treasure… I do think there is something undeniably magical about Kontiki. It was a special moment in time we landed on back there. All of us from Cotton Mather would love more people to hear it. So let’s get Kontiki in the hands of the people and help Cotton Mather at long last shed the mantle of rock cult obscurity. 

The money we raise will pay for mixing an 11 track bonus CD (the first one will remain as it was), mastering, new artwork with extensive liner notes about the making of Kontiki and the history of Cotton Mather, manufacturing, publicity and if we go past the target a good ways- a vinyl pressing. Then of course if somebody goes for the grand prize….. look out!

Video: “She’s Only Cool

I know that anyone who has heard “My Before And After“, “She’s Only Cool“, “Vegetable Row“, “Password” and “Spin My Wheels” likely had their mind blown much like I did. Hell, even Oasis knew enough to pluck these guys out of Austin, Texas and get them onto stages in England. Musically, vocally, sonically…Kontiki is a first-rate classic.

I was resigned to the fact that I had their small but vital output to savor, but the thought of more Cotton Mather to enjoy has me jumping for joy. (Not literally…the needle will jump. But damned close!) So while you continue to enjoy the work of this group in their next bands (Future Clouds and Radar, Stockton, Farrah) let’s do the right thing for Cotton Mather, shall we?

Sign up for this project on Kickstarter. (The video is hilarious!)

Listen to clips on Amazon.

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I Have A Dream, Too

January 15th has always been a holiday in my house, but that’s because it’s my Dad’s birthday. I know he respects Martin Luther King Jr. and his incredible efforts, and there’s an honor in being birthday buddies with a famous person. But it probably gets frustrating when everyone is focused on the birthday of one of the most admired figures in history as if you and your birthday are an afterthought. (Trust me, I know how that feels).

I’ve read many commentaries about President Obama’s recent speech, and pundits on both sides of the spectrum gave him high marks for the tone and content of the message. In the aftermath of this tragic shooting, with thousands of people in attendance and millions watching across the world, Obama celebrated the lives and spirits of those who lost their lives and asked us all to use the event as a catalyst for sanity. Without having to state the obvious phrase life is short, he called upon us to look within ourselves as people and put things into perspective. Be a society that would live up to the ideals of a young girl. Be selfless, giving, aware and courteous to our friends and neighbors and workmates in a world that has become insular, argumentative and polarized.

Tone down the rhetoric and…talk. And listen.

King’s famous speech, although focused on equality and civil rights, called for much the same thing. For here, too, was an angry segment of the population yearning for change and so frustrated that they were moving beyond reason and towards violence. But as King called for things to be set right, he did so with a critical caveat. “Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence…

That speech was forty-eight years ago. We haven’t learned much.

I will admit that I was nauseated by some of the coverage of the events in Tucson. Really, networks? Must we have a slogan and a title card for everything? Was there an emergency meeting where PR hacks argued choices until Tragedy In Tucson was chosen for its alliteration and brevity? Are anchors really looking at this as one more network competition to be won?

But the most upsetting thing of all was realizing that if one of the victims wasn’t a Congresswoman, none of this might have been a ripple on the news that day. Sadly, people get shot all the time. Frequently, a disgruntled employee or customer will fire off rounds in a store or a workplace, and we are so numbed by the violence that we take a moment to shudder but then move on.

What if it wasn’t Gabrielle Giffords who was shot? What if on that day, a disturbed man opened fire in that supermarket and killed and wounded everyone else, just everyday people going in and out of a store? People would still be dead and critically wounded in a senseless act of violence, but would the President be there? Would all the networks drop everything else and cover the event 24/7? Would every anchor and talking head be jostling for face time on TV to discuss the event. No, no, and no.

But it was her, and here we are…again. From King to Robert F. Kennedy to John Lennon to Barack Obama, we constantly are reminded how fragile and unstable society can be and we make concerted efforts to change our ways to be better people. But as Obama stated, “scripture tells us there is evil in the world“, and we succumb to it and are affected by it. I don’t need scripture to tell me there is evil in the world, I can see it all around me. But I also see another opportunity for us to be shell-shocked into discussing our behavior as a society, and I hope that maybe this time we can make some real progress. Maybe we can finally find our way and become the America all those victims – from the famous leaders to the nine-year old girl – thought we were capable of.

Stop hating. Start solving.

That is my dream.

So today I pay tribute to two great men. One led a very public life of peace and passion and was an inspiration to his people, and his actions changed the course of history. And one unselfishly sacrificed himself countless times to provide a better life for his son, showing him by example that confidence and a moral compass would enable him to truly become a man.

Happy Birthday, Dad. I love you.

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30 Years Later, Still Imagining

When I was a child, JFK was assassinated and it seemed like the whole world stopped for a weekend. For years afterwards, time could be marked by how many years after the incident it was. Five years later seemed surreal, as did ten. And every anniversary after that seemed to center upon the realization that “I can’t believe it’s been so many years“.

I can still see myself at that school desk, two rows in, five rows down. I remember the teacher, Mr. Rotella, was wearing a grey suit. I even remember the student who burst into the classroom blurting out “President Kennedy’s dead!”. Poor Peter Sturm’s facial expression and tone of voice was unfortunately misinterpreted as an expression of excitement sans gravitas, and Mr. Rotella lit into him for treating the moment as anything but devastating emotional trauma. I would bet money that Peter’s shirt was blue.

I tell that story because there are moments in life where your soul takes a snapshot and it gets filed into that area of your brain that is the last to go. People of that generation can all likely remember where they were that day. And I will never forget where I was thirty years ago when John Lennon was killed.

I’ve never seen the life get sucked out of a room that fast; the sound of a bar full of friends enjoying a great band was brought to a screeching halt when the word filtered in. My roommate Dave (long the most credible DJ in the city) had the thankless task of making the announcement to a stunned crowd, some of whom had heard the rumor and others who were blindsided by the words. In a blur of cries and hugs and blank expressions it seemed that everyone knew that the best thing to do was to go home. Go seek out friends and talk it out and somehow try to get our heads around what had just happened. There was no Internet nor cell phones, we were reliant upon whatever radio and TV would tell us and whatever we could gather from others. Every broadcaster, every person we passed on the street, everyone was dumbstruck.

The house Dave and I shared was well-known for burning the midnight oil, and it wasn’t long before the phone started to ring; people who called said they dialed us because they knew we would be awake and receptive. Then more calls…then visitors as the door opened again, and again. I can’t remember a word I said that night, nor anything anyone else said either. I just remember the odd juxtaposition of feeling scraped out and hollow by the incident yet safe and comfortable because I wasn’t alone. I was sharing the experience with others…somehow we diffused each other’s pain. I know that’s what the people at the vigil that night and the days afterwards felt, too. Community of spirit, the essence of human communication, a bonding with all senses engaged.

I am so glad there was no such thing as Twitter in 1980.

I know John Lennon was not a hero in the strict sense of the word, and there certainly have been many people from all walks of life whose acts and deeds advanced human civilization more profoundly than any Beatle ever could. I didn’t know John personally and have no idea what he was like as a father or a husband or a friend. 

But Lennon was a man of peace, and in the intolerant times people my age grew up in, his words and music spoke to us and for us. To suffer a violent death is the worst kind of irony, but that shocking deed punctuated and drew perpetual attention to a mission that lives on through his legacy.

Peace.

I can’t believe it’s been thirty years.

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Under The Radar: Wes Hollywood

Cities like Athens, Austin and Seattle might have gotten all the notoriety as musical hotbeds but the Illinois/Indiana area was always a great source of powerpop bands. The Wes Hollywood Show was no exception, wrangling guitar oriented pop with a sense of humor and mining that infectious, kinetic beat like Elvis Costello, The Kinks, The Beat and their neighbors from Rockford, Cheap Trick. They wound up issuing four albums under that name; Girls was the one that first caught my attention.

These days if you want to track pop savant Wes, you can find him making great music with his current effort, The Tenniscourts. Of course, that band is a subject for another day.

Here’s a review I wrote about their album The Girls Are Never Ending for Cosmik Debris back in September 2001.

Set the wayback machine back to 1977, Sherman, for The Wes Hollywood Show is waiting there for you. Remember when rock and roll was fun? Before shogazing? Before angst? Skinny tie pop rules again with these guys on their second CD, The Girls Are Never Ending. It’s wall to wall bouncy, power pop harmony, jangly guitar glory.

The opening track, “She’s Gonna Let You Go,” calls to mind the Romantics and early Elvis Costello, while the following track sounds more like The Knack and…uh…early Elvis Costello. That’s no insult – Wes isn’t trying to ape the man, but he does sound a little like him, although crossed with a good dose of John Lennon. In other words, the boy can sing!

The rest of the band are no slouches either. Mark Talent (lead guitar), Patrick Thornbury (bass) and Jason Styx (drums…wait…a drummer named Styx?) are energetic, especially on killer tracks like the Ramones-ish (well, okay, and Costello-ish) “H Bomb.” No doubt you’ll be playing this record over and over again, dancing to “Goodtime Girl,” “Little Miracle” and “Weston-Super-Mare.” And even though you’ll go grab This Year’s Model afterwards, you’d be just as likely to pull “Turning Japanese” and “What I Like About You” out of the rack.

And there’s something wrong with that?

Give it a listen at Amazon right now.

That Year's Model

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