Tag Archives: The Beatles

Songs Of America

Simon and Garfunkel’s 1969 television special, Songs Of America, was not quite what original sponsor Bell telephone hoped it would be. The scene where trains carrying the bodies of assassinated leaders JFK, RFK and MLK were a bit much for them; ditto the look at “real America” that Paul and Artie wanted to discuss. The conglomerate wanted a concert. The artists wanted a message.

Bell pulled out. Alberto Culver stepped in, and after some haggling CBS aired the program once. It was stomped in the ratings by a Peggy Fleming ice skating special and never re-broadcast. Go figure.

The recently re-issued Bridge Over Troubled Water package includes the original special, plus a new documentary about the making of the film, and they are both fascinating. The documentary (The Harmony Game: The Making of Bridge Over Troubled Water) features Paul and Artie looking back at the times along with some of the critical participants in the film. I hadn’t even realized that comic actor Charles Grodin was the behind the project; he is interviewed along with musicians Hal Blaine and Joe Osborn and engineer Roy Halee, among others.

I mentioned that I have learned to appreciate well made documentaries, and this certainly qualifies. Beyond being an entertaining look at the making of one of the most seminal albums of its era, it’s also an opportunity for Paul and Art to re-evaluate their own history. Friends since childhood, their split seemed partially acrimonious, and perhaps it was. I couldn’t understand it at the time; it seemed like a terrible move for both. But one of Simon’s comments put it all into perspective. They were transitioning from the Everly Brothers – inseparable parts of a whole – into The Beatles, where each personality had its space. And like The Beatles, whatever rose no longer converged.

It was heartwarming to see Paul pay genuine tribute to Art’s majestic voice, while Art seems as ethereal and cosmic as ever. Seeing the members of The Wrecking Crew also reminded me that Simon followed that same path in his solo career when he surrounded himself with Steve Gadd, Richard Tee and other skilled New York session players; an East Coast equivalent of the old days.

Bridge Over Troubled Water remains as timeless and majestic as it was forty years ago. The reissue, combined with the films, is a must-own.

A steal at under fifteen bucks.

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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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Bad Things in Threes, Again

The Grim Reaper must be into numerology.

But now he has an assistant. Jack Kevorkian, occasionally called “Doctor Death” because of his years of commitment to physician-assisted suicide, died Friday at the age of 83. Ironically, no one helped him; it was a combination of kidney failure and thrombosis (clot-related ailments). An odd pop tangent is that Kevorkian’s lawyer was Geoffrey Feiger, brother of the late Doug Fieger of The Knack. Their courtroom battles – Kevorkian was never convicted when Fieger was his lawyer – are the basis for the movie You Don’t Know Jack. (Don’t confuse that with this).

James Arness, legendary as Marshall Dillon on Gunsmoke, finally rode off into the sunset on Friday after 88 years on this dusty trail. Gunsmoke aired for twenty years and 635 episodes and made Arness a household name. The series, and the character, still finish high upon any list of the best in television history. Like his friend John Wayne, Arness was an imposing authority figure, although reserved and artistic in his private life. Many also know that his brother was the late Peter Graves.

And if Friday wasn’t already bad enough, Andrew Gold died after a heart attack at the too-young age of 59. Gold had hits in the 80s with “Lonely Boy” and “Thank You For Being A Friend“, as well as the theme from Mad About You, “Final Frontier“. But in my haven of liner notes, he was better known for being embedded in the SoCal scene where Linda Ronstadt, The Eagles and Jackson Browne were all over each other’s albums. Like J.D. Souther – to whom he bore a slight resemblance – he didn’t often get the front-line credit for his effort, but was an integral and dynamic contributor to a generation of music.

Less is usually said about his later career, when projects like Wax UK and The Fraternal Order Of The All gave him vehicles for his love of Beatles and Beach Boys song structure and melodies. Copy Cat was a covers album featuring ten Beatles tracks, Green Day, Elton John and even covers of his own songs. A great talent who will be missed.

Video: “Lonely Boy

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Not Even Almost Famous

I’ve gotten quite a few emails over the past two days about the Todd Snider piece, some from long time fans glad to high-five another, some from people who hadn’t heard anything of his later stuff and were thankful for the kick in the ass (you’re welcome!).

Emails like that always put a smile on my face. Although I’ve been writing for years I’m not delusional enough to think that my words set off beacons across the globe. I’m not even almost famous. But I do know that a lot of people are followers and loyal readers; some comment publicly while others drop a private message. And I do it not for the money or the fame, but because this is just another format in which I get to discuss music and film and comedy that I like, just like I’ve done all my life with my friends.

And it’s a passion I will most likely take to my grave. I still participate in mixtape swaps and share tips about new discoveries. Emailing a link to a great video in 2011 is almost as much fun as showing up at Brian’s house with the first Black Sabbath album, or the day Phil, Larry and I sat around the living room at Bristol Place getting our minds blown by My Aim Is True.

I’ve gotten to talk to a lot of artists over the years, and with the better ones – the ones who have conversations, not just talk to plug product – the subject often turns to collecting music and favorite artists that are underappreciated. I’ve found that in almost every case, that spirit of discovery still looms large in their heart, and the child-like enthusiasm for sharing the passion has never left them.

I thought this exchange from a 2002 interview with Peter Wolf captures it about as well as it can be. Despite worldwide game, Pete still loves to have friends over and spin records in an effort to turn someone on to a new song or artist. He lives for it. Me too.

Peter: The thing is, I don’t consider myself a historian or a record collector. I just consider myself a fan. There are people who will expound on this or that, but I just consider myself a fan. I still go see bands do this or that, grab the new Beck record, keeping up and seeing what’s coming down the pike, be it The White Stripes or The Hives, or going to see James Cotton. I’m interested in all of it.

Me: Well, that’s like why I started writing. I had this need…it wasn’t so much that “I know more about music than you do and I’m going to write about it to prove it.” More that I dig music so much and I love to write about it in hopes that someone reads it and gets the charge that I’m getting. Maybe they’ve never heard of who I’m writing about but the way I describe it gets them interested, and they play a record that they wouldn’t have played, and they get that same…bolt that I did when I first heard it. And then they turn somebody else onto it, and it goes on from there. That’s the big thing. I don’t get that immediate feedback that an artist gets through applause, or the validation that might be measured in sales, sometimes it’s just out there in the void. Did anyone read that? Did anyone give a shit? Or did somebody’s life change because they picked up a John Hiatt record or a Del Lords record after I wrote about it and say “Oh my God…

Peter: Did you like the movie Almost Famous?

Me: I thought that was about my life.

Peter: Yeah, yeah…I was surprised that it wasn’t more popular than it was. I thought it really kind of focused in, for somebody who would be fifteen now, on a mythic era. Or for someone who’d be thirty-five now, or fifty-five! I thought it really captured…it was a sort of valentine to the whole love of music and the records and the sacredness of it, and the innocence of it. And the exploitation of it! I thought it was a really well put-together movie.

There’s a lot of people who bitch about the current state of music and how there aren’t any good bands anymore. I don’t think that’s true, but I do agree that the shifts in popular culture mean that many bands don’t have the outlet that they once did. There are probably some great bands trying to get a foothold, and the radio doesn’t care about them nor does the record industry. But somewhere, a bunch of people are groovin’ to them every Friday night.

So you have two choices. Bitch about the past and do nothing about it…and sound like your parents when The Beatles and The Rolling Stones came out. Or follow Peter Wolf’s example, and share your knowledge and your passion and your information as much as you can. Have an old school record party. Write a blog. Make some mixtapes.

Pay it forward.

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Beatlesque Again

What can I say? He’s done it again.

As a followup to the prior Meet The Beatlesque, my pal Angelo at Power Pop Criminals has unleashed a new two-CD mixtape of Beatley tunes called Beatlesque Again. These are not Beatle covers, but rather a collection of songs that capture the essence and spirit of the Fab Four.

The list of artists should entice any fan of the genre, from more recognizable names like Robyn Hitchcock and Julian Lennon to successful indie pop stars like Ben Kweller, The Nines and Splitsville. Those yet to discover the wonders of Magic Christian, Kenny Howes, The Singles, The Greenberry Woods and The Redwalls will be bowled over.

There’s great music being made all the time, you just have to go find it. Angelo is one of your chief warriors in this effort, so click here and be thrilled by this fifty-five track collection.

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T.G.I.F. – Count To Ten

Why not?

(01) – ONE (Aimee Mann)

(02) – TWO Of Us (The Beatles)

(03) – THREE Time Loser (Rod Stewart)

(04) – Twenty FOUR Hours From Tulsa (Gene Pitney)

(05) – FIVE O’Clock World (The Vogues) – Drew Carey Show opening!

(06) – Ninety Eight Point SIX (Keith)

(07) – SEVEN Bridges Road (Iain Matthews)

(08) – EIGHT Days A Week (The Beatles)

(09) – Ninety NINE and a Half Won’t Do (Wilson Pickett)

(10) – TEN Cent Pistol (The Black Keys)

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Games People Play

Beatlemania hit fast and it hit hard.

Of course, you know that, and if like me you were there for the seismic shift, you remember the Ed Sullivan Show, and the screaming girls and the absolute dominance of the pop charts. You remember the cheeky interviews and the Christmas Fan Club singles and even debating whether some Canadian musician was standing in Paul McCartney’s Beatle boots.

There were lunch boxes and posters and trading cards. There were even cartoons. And then there was Flip Your Wig.

I remember buying this for my neighbors Fran and Janet and probably even playing it once. But if you thought it was demoralizing to watch girls moon over Beatles picture sleeves while not giving you the time of day, imagine playing a board game with them where every roll of the dice involved kissing a cardboard cut-out of a Beatle. And you wonder why most guys were Stones fans.

But Doc, that’s old school shit my grandpa babbled about. I’m a ’77 punker and I hate The Beatles. I grew up on cool bands like The Clash.

No problem, young whippersnapper

My buddy Angelo over at Power Pop Criminals went to great pains to scan and reassemble the free game that the rock weekly Sounds gave away. Angelo describes it as a Snakes and Ladders type game covering events in the band’s early career, complete with playing cards and cut-outs of the handsome quartet.

So click here to visit PPC, get your scissors, tape, glue (no sniffing!) and cardboard and have at it. It’s a White Riot!

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