Posts Tagged ‘Paul McCartney’

Masterpiece: McCartney

12 May 2011

[Today: The one-man band...]

There are at least three reasons you might dislike Paul McCartney’s solo debut – it expedited the break-up of The Beatles, it feels tossed off and has an air of ‘I can roll out of bed and knock out this stuff’, and its gatefold contains enough smug, preening photos of Paul to last a lifetime. But two of those reasons have nothing to do with the music, and the third – its sparse, disheveled sound – is the reason this album has had such staying power. It wasn’t until the ascendance of punk rock that imperfection really became a virtue in music, but McCartney wears its flubs and flaws proudly. It was put together on a four-track home recording system that was primitive in the extreme, and features Paul on every instrument (including “bass, drums, acoustic guitar, lead guitar, piano, Mellotron, organ, toy xylophone, and bow and arrow”), with only the occasional back-up vocal help from wife Linda.

Album opener ‘The Lovely Linda’ is representative of what’s here. It starts with a gently strummed guitar, before McCartney comes in with “La-la-la-la-la-la-lovely Linda, with the lovely flowers in her hair.” That’s it for the lyrics, and the whole thing lasts less than a minute, concluding with a giggle from Linda herself. If the Beatles’ ‘Long and Winding Road’ was an overwrought, big-budget production about love, then songs like ‘The Lovely Linda’ and the rest of McCartney are more like hand-written love notes. On its surface, the big budget production might seem more impressive, but the handwritten note will always provide a more honest, revealing glimpse into a relationship.

“That was when Linda and I first got together,” McCartney explained in 2001. “The record is me playing around the house. You hear her walking through the living room doorway out to the garden and the door squeaks at the end of the tape. That’s one of the songs from my personal experience, with ‘the flowers in her hair.’ She often used to wear flowers in her hair, so it’s a direct diary. I was always going to finish it and I had another bit that went into a Spanish song, almost mariachi but it just appeared as a fragment and was quite nice for that reason.” The rest of McCartney works for the same reasons – this is a relaxed, quiet pause between the noisy, discordant final days of The Beatles, and the pop bombast of Wings.

Listen: Valentine Day

Listen: Every Night

Listen: Hot as Sun/Glasses

Weekend Playlist

12 July 2010

“Treating your audience like thieves is absurd. Anyone who chooses to listen to our music becomes a collaborator.” ~ Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, on digital downloads


Mac Gayden | Skyboat


Moby Grape | Moby Grape


Average White Band | Cut The Cake


Various Artists | Lagos Disco Inferno


Jean Michel Jarre | Oxygene


Wilco | Summerteeth


Miles Davis | Volume 1


Jimmy Smith with Stanley Turrentine | Prayer Meetin’


Canned Heat & John Lee Hooker | Hooker ‘N Heat


Mance Lipscomb | Vol. 4
[album cover not pictured]


Can | Ege Bamyasi


Daryl Hall | Sacred Songs


Queen | A Night At The Opera


Joni Mitchell | The Hissing Of Summer Lawns


Olatunji | Drums Of Passion


Hubert Sumlin | Hubert Sumlin’s Blues Party


Masters Of Reality | Sunrise On The Sufferbus


Queens Of The Stone Age | Songs For The Deaf


Ramones | It’s Alive


Paul McCartney & Wings | Wings Greatest

Doubleshot Tuesday: Turning Japanese/Come On Eileen

25 May 2010

[Today: The playground rumor mill...]


Once upon a time in a pre-digital age, school playgrounds and cafeterias were fertile, humid breeding grounds for the craziest rock & roll rumors you could imagine. Before the days of going to the Internet to get more information on a given subject, you were left to your own devices to decide whether that outlandish story of rock abandon was a Paul Bunyan-esque myth or a glimpse into the rarified life of the rock star. After all, you couldn’t really go to your parents and inquire about Rod Stewart having animal semen pumped from his stomach – or at least I wasn’t prepared to have that conversation with my mom.

The schoolyard grapevine was also where I learned that Gene Simmons had a cow’s tongue surgically added to his own (I’d like to shake the hand of the guy who thought that one up), KISS stood for “Kids In Satan’s Service”, Ozzy Osbourne was actually the prince of darkness himself, and Led Zeppelin had done unmentionable things with a groupie and a fish (the last two actually turned out to be true). I distinctly remember the moment during my senior year of high school when Tami Henry leaned across the aisle in Personal Finance and solemnly told me that the Beastie Boys’ Mike D had died of a drug overdose. I also have it on good authority that Paul McCartney died a long time ago.

The point is that the pre-Internet rumor mill was a lot like the Wild West – lots of guns, blood, booze, bad behavior and wild sex. The fact that most of it was patently false hardly matters. This was what you did to entertain yourself in an era when the best video game consisted of two sticks volleying a small pixel “ball” back and forth across the screen. My only regret is that my friends and I didn’t spend some time putting our heads together to come up with our own rumor to pass around (something like, “Glenn Frye had a testicle removed because he thought it would make him sing better.” On second thought, maybe it’s not too late…).

The reason I mention all this is that for my schoolmates’ fixation on wild innuendo, two pretty explicit songs sailed right over our collective heads. I thought ‘Come On Eileen’ was a catchy little tune about a guy urging his girlfriend to go all the way, but it wasn’t until college that someone suggested to me that the title of this song referred to semen, literally on Eileen. Because it was my college roommate Tim doing the suggesting, I scoffed and laughed it off (you had to do that with most of Timmy’s proclamations) but with each subsequent listen it became more apparent that this song is about staining a dress (the lyric sheet might not look it, but it sure sounds like it to me). Whether or not you buy that, it’s a fact that Dexys Midnight Runners took their name from dexedrine, a synthetic version of speed. Now that would have been a good playground nugget…

Additionally, it wasn’t until well after college that a co-worker pointed out that The Vapors’ new wave hit ‘Turning Japanese’ was about masturbation. I’m not sure what I’d previously thought this song was detailing – tourism maybe – but a brief (incredulous on my co-worker’s part) conversation forever lifted the veils of innocence from my ears. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m jumping into my time machine to head back to 1980 so I can spread the word around my school…

Listen: Turning Japanese

Listen: Come On Eileen

Buried Treasure: Beatles For Sale

2 October 2009

[Today: The dark side of the Fab Four...]

The Beatles | Beatles For Sale

Before they became the Fab Four, The Beatles were just another band of young lads trying to catch a break. To that end, they spent the better part of 1961 in Hamburg, Germany – playing endless sets for drunken tourists and mafioso, popping pills and drinking beer to stay awake, verbally assaulting their audiences, and honing their sound to a razor sharp edge. In The Beatles Anthology, Ringo Starr describes their diet at that time, “This was the point of our lives when we found pills, uppers. That’s the only way we could continue playing for so long… We never thought we were doing anything wrong, but we’d get really wired and go on for days. So with beer and Preludin, that’s how we survived.” Hamburg was musical boot camp for the band, and the experience of playing six-hour sets in grim conditions undoubtedly helped them become the greatest band in the world.

By 1965, Beatlemania was in full bloom, and the group was fresh off the cinematic and musical triumphs of A Hard Day’s Night. So it was surprising – and perhaps reflected their weariness at living in superstardom’s white hot spotlight – when they elected to release an album that was nearly half covers, and featured some of their darkest material yet. Beatles For Sale is an odd mixture of tunes – ‘Eight Days A Week’ ‘Mr. Moonlight’ and ‘Honey Don’t’ are lightweight stuff, but elsewhere The Beatles revealed what kind of group they were becoming. The opening trio of ‘No Reply’ ‘I’m A Loser’ and ‘Baby’s In Black’ is gloomy stuff, and heralded some great, emotionally complex songwriting to come.

But what makes Beatles For Sale a real keeper is the moments where that earlier, hopped-up band of drunken kids slips briefly through. On ‘Rock And Roll Music’ they sound like they’re playing for their lives, while turning out the greatest Chuck Berry cover of all-time. Paul McCartney’s vocals on ‘Kansas City’ mark his most fierce performance on record, and the group sounds ground down on ‘Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby’. When George Harrison sings “Fifty women knocking on my door…” it’s with a weariness that isn’t make believe. At that moment, The Beatles sound like they’re at the end of a long shift on the Reeperbahn, and the beginning of an exhausting bout of fame.

Listen: Rock And Roll Music

Listen: I’m A Loser

Listen: Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby

Meet The Butchers

23 September 2009

Beatles | Yesterday And Today | "Butcher" Cover

The P and I were in Portland, OR last weekend, making our usual rounds, when I stumbled across something that I never thought I’d see in person, let alone have a chance to own – the infamous “Butcher” cover of The Beatles’ Yesterday And Today album. This has been described as “the Holy Grail of Beatles albums” but I’d go that one further and say that this is the holy grail of collectible albums, period.

This cover was released to record stores on June 15th, 1966, but withdrawn after just one day when many retailers protested about the graphic art and simply refused to stock it on their shelves. A majority of the original covers were destroyed, but others were pasted over with new artwork. Collectors later steamed the glue on these new covers and peeled off the replacement artwork to reveal the butcher artwork. The version that I purchased in Portland is a “peeled” cover. If you look closely, you can see the grooves where the glue settled on the artwork – a dead giveaway that the cover was peeled:

"Butcher" Cover | Detail
[click to enlarge]

Paul McCartney claimed that the visual was a protest of the Vietnam war, but it runs so contrary to their squeaky clean image at the time that it’s almost surreal. I’ve always gotten a kick out of the expression on George Harrison’s face here – he looks like a complete madman who’s having the time of his life. Needless to say, because this record was in stores for just one day, it has become extremely valuable. One mint copy was recently appraised at a value of $12,000 on Antiques Roadshow and in 2005 a sealed copy was auctioned for $39,000. Obviously, the peeled covers are worth quite a bit less than that, but for me this goes beyond dollars and cents (or dollars and sense) and into the realm of owning a piece of history.

Doubleshot Tuesday: Greatest Hits 1974-78/Wings Greatest

4 August 2009

[Today: The spirit of '78...]

Steve Miller Band | Greatest Hits 1974-78
Wings | Wings Greatest

A hundred years from now, when some young whippersnapper asks me what it was like to be a kid in the 1970’s, I’ll hand over these two albums. Both were released in 1978 and, for better or worse, could be the soundtrack to a certain section of my youth. ‘Twas a time of Spirograph, Atari 2600, Farrah Fawcett posters, bellbottom trousers, shag carpets, and Casey Kasem. The songs on these albums were staples of FM radio in the late-70’s and early-80’s, and the familiar strains of ‘Live And Let Die’ and ‘Take The Money And Run’ surely accompanied every family picnic in Jasper Park and weekend afternoon spent splashing around with my cousins in their above-ground swimming pool.

Even if I hear it a million more times, ‘Jungle Love’ will always remind me of Skate World in Springfield. The opening strains of this song, with its Star Wars-ish sythesizer sound effects, always raised the level of excitement for the skaters in that particular venue, and a squadron of amped-up 10 year olds on roller skates is more dangerous and thrilling than the mosh pit at Lollapalooza. I’m skating in my mind whenever I hear this tune.

Wings Greatest was nearly as omnipresent as Steve Miller Band’s Greatest Hits during that era, but it was an album I tolerated more than enjoyed. Certain tracks – ‘Live And Let Die’ and ‘Mull Of Kintyre’ – grabbed me, but the rest seemed like an elaborate joke. I remember listening to ‘Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey’ with my brother and waiting for the laugh track to kick in. ‘Silly Love Songs’ was an oddity – a song making fun of shitty songs that were exactly like it, this was the musical equivalent of an M.C. Esher painting of a toilet. But then I grew up and these songs suddenly reminded me of being a kid, and all (or most) was forgiven. My 80’s equivalent of this phenomenon is Journey, which still baffles me.

Neither of these are epoch-changing records. Both have some nice, radio-ready songs that stick in the memory, and both sold like gangbusters in their time. One could say that they’re both products of the big-rock mentality of the 70’s, but what they lack in avant-individualism is recouped by the collective conscious that’s behind this music. You can’t put memories in the bank or spread them on your waffles, but they’re real enough, and sometimes they draw you to the darndest music…

Listen: Jungle Love [Steve Miller Band]

Listen: Live and Let Die [Wings]

Listen: The Stake [Steve Miller Band]

Listen: Mull of Kintyre [Wings]

Weekend Playlist

20 July 2009

I’m more in love with Rock-n-Roll today than other things. It grows, you know?” – Bon Scott

*****

AC/DC | Live From The Atlantic Studios
AC/DC | Live From The Atlantic Studios

Bob Marley & The Wailers | Buffalo Soldier [12" single]
Bob Marley & The Wailers | Buffalo Soldier [12" single]

Jorge Ben | Ben
Jorge Ben | Ben

The Jimi Hendrix Experience | Live At Winterland
The Jimi Hendrix Experience | Live At Winterland

Paul McCartney | McCartney
Paul McCartney | McCartney

Freddie Hubbard | Breaking Point
Freddie Hubbard | Breaking Point

The Kinks | The Great Lost Kinks Album
The Kinks | The Great Lost Kinks Album

The Police | Outlandos d'Amour
The Police | Outlandos d’Amour

Iron & Wine | The Shepherd's Dog
Iron And Wine | The Shepherd’s Dog

The Rolling Stones | Emotional Rescue
The Rolling Stones | Emotional Rescue

Led Zeppelin | Led Zeppelin II
Led Zeppelin | Led Zeppelin II

Paul Simon | Negotiations And Love Songs 1971-1986
Paul Simon | Negotiations And Love Songs 1971-1986

The Meters | Fire On The Bayou
The Meters | Fire On The Bayou

My Morning Jacket | It Still Moves
My Morning Jacket | It Still Moves

Gary Higgins | Red Hash
Gary Higgins | Red Hash

Traffic | Welcome To The Canteen
Traffic | Welcome To The Canteen

Eric B. & Rakim | Don't Sweat The Technique
Eric B. & Rakim | Don’t Sweat The Technique

Bruce Springsteen | We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions
Bruce Springsteen | We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions

Os Mutantes | A Divina Comedia Ou
Os Mutantes | A Divina Comedia Ou

John Prine | The Missing Years
John Prine | The Missing Years

Thin Lizzy | Johnny The Fox
Thin Lizzy | Johnny The Fox

James Luther Dickinson | Free Beer Tomorrow
James Luther Dickinson | Free Beer Tomorrow

Radio Birdman | The Essential Radio Birdman
Radio Birdman | The Essential Radio Birdman

Temple Of The Dog | Temple Of The Dog
Temple Of The Dog | Temple Of The Dog

Liz Phair | Exile In Guyville
Liz Phair | Exile In Guyville

The Juan MacLean | Less Than Human
The Juan MacLean | Less Than Human

G. Love & Special Sauce | The Best Of...
G. Love And Special Sauce | The Best Of…

Various Artists | The Sun Records Collection [Disc 3]
Various Artists | The Sun Records Collection

Steel Pulse | True Democracy
Steel Pulse | True Democracy

Otis Rush | Right Place, Wrong Time
Otis Rush | Right Place, Wrong Time

Easy Star All-Stars | Dub Side Of The Moon

Easy Star All-Stars | Dub Side Of The Moon

Weekend Playlist

4 May 2009

Like sands through the hourglass, these were the records of our weekend…

Moby Grape | The Place And The Time
Moby Grape | The Place And The Time

Radiohead | In Rainbows
Radiohead | In Rainbows

Paul McCartney | McCartney
Paul McCartney | McCartney

J.J. Cale | Rewind: Unreleased Recordings
J.J. Cale | Rewind: Unreleased Recordings

Traffic | Dear Mr. Fantasy
Traffic | Dear Mr. Fantasy

David Grisman Quartet | Dawgwood
David Grisman Quartet | Dawgwood

Beck | Modern Guilt
Beck | Modern Guilt

Lee Morgan | Tom Cat
Lee Morgan | Tom Cat

Fleet Foxes | Fleet Foxes
Fleet Foxes | Fleet Foxes

Sly & The Family Stone | Small Talk
Sly & The Family Stone | Small Talk

The Beatles | Rarities
The Beatles | Rarities

Van Morrison | Veedon Fleece
Van Morrison | Veedon Fleece

War | The World Is A Ghetto
War | The World Is A Ghetto

Mac Wiseman | 'Tis Sweet To Be Remembered
Mac Wiseman | ‘Tis Sweet To Be Remembered

Bob Dylan | Highway 61 Revisited
Bob Dylan | Highway 61 Revisited

Kinks | Face To Face
Kinks | Face To Face

Pete Townshend | White City
Pete Townshend | White City

Mighty Imperials | Thunder Chicken
The Mighty Imperials | Thunder Chicken

Dr. John | In The Right Place
Dr. John | In The Right Place

Pete Seeger
Pete Seeger | The World Of Pete Seeger
[Album cover not pictured]

Freddie King | The Best Of Freddie King
Freddie King | The Best Of Freddie King

Neil Young | Massey Hall 1971
Neil Young | Massey Hall 1971

Lyrics Born | Everywhere At Once
Lyrics Born | Everywhere At Once

Jerry Lee Lewis | Live At The Star Club Hamburg
Jerry Lee Lewis | Live At The Star Club Hamburg

The Stooges
The Stooges | Declaration Of War: The Best Of The Funhouse Sessions [Album cover not pictured]

Radio Birdman | Radios Appear
Radio Birdman | Radios Appear

Ween | Chocolate And Cheese
Ween | Chocolate And Cheese

Whiskeytown | Strangers Almanac
Whiskeytown | Strangers Almanac

Stevie Wonder | Innervisions
Stevie Wonder | Innervisions

Masterpiece: The White Album

6 February 2009

[Today: Birthday wishes to my mom, the ultimate Beatles fan...]

The Beatles | The White Album

Coming on the heels of Sgt Pepper’s’ Lonely Hearts Club Band, the so-called White Album faced the unenviable task of following perhaps the most influential sound recording of the 20th century. But rather than trying to recreate their past work, The Beatles made a completely different kind of album – one that acted as a deconstruction of their entire sound and revealed the deepening creative fissures within the group. Every angle of their brilliance is covered here, and for the first time it was obvious which were “John” songs, which were “Paul” songs and which were “George” songs (meanwhile, album closer ‘Good Night’ was Ringo Starr’s first songwriting contribution to a Beatles’ record).

As John Lennon explained in The Beatles Anthology, “[The White Album] was just saying: ‘This is my song, we’ll do it my way. That’s your song, you do it that way.’ It’s pretty hard trying to fit three guys’ music onto one album – that’s why we did a double.” Every one of the album’s 30 songs were written while the group was in India for meditation with the Maharishi, and from the first sound on the record – the wooshing jet roar that leads off ‘Back In The USSR’ – this is a visit to farflung musical outposts.

Harrison’s ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ is a lovely ballad of his frustratingly limited role within the band. It sits next to Lennon’s ‘Happiness Is A Warm Gun’ – a seductive start/stop tale of heroin addiction. The proto-punk of ‘Helter Skelter’ inspired a demented Charles Manson to murder, and the song’s coda, the shouted “I’VE GOT BLISTERS ON ME FINGERS!” might be the most thrilling moment on any Beatles album. Lennon’s noise freak-out ‘Revolution #9′ both confused and inspired its audience.

And so it goes with this entire record – a mad hodge-podge of brilliance that in lesser hands would be ‘sprawling’ or ‘excessive’. But The White Album is an artistic treasure trove, a wealth of disparate song stylings, and a musical gift that keeps on giving.

Listen: Dear Prudence

Listen: Helter Skelter

Listen: While My Guitar Gently Weeps

and, with feeling: Birthday


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