Sunday, December 7, 2008

play soft

starting over
jealous guy
#9 dream
mind games
oh my love
stand by me
out the blue
look at me
nobody told me
bless you
watching the wheels
real love (imagine sdtrk)
beautiful boy
oh yoko
grow old with me (anthology version)
give peace a chance
happy xmas (war is over)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Macca Live 2010 Side Five

On the original 3 LP version of Wings Over America, side five was devoted to promoting the 1976 album Wings At The Speed Of Sound. For this concert, I'd like Paul to focus on his more recent albums, going back to 1997. Of course this would change with the release of a new album.


Great, melodic song from Memory Almost Full. The title sets the tone for this section.


Paul's recent catchy single, also from Memory Almost Full. His daughter Beatrice used to dance when she heard her father play the mandolin, so I'm sure Paul would love to perform it.


Rocking opener from Chaos and Creation, with Paul on piano. One of Macca's best singles from recent years.


Another album opener, this one from Driving Rain. While Paul may not want to revisit this part of his life, this seems to be another song about moving on after Linda, so hopefully he'd still play this one in concert. If not, Macca could do one of the songs from the new Fireman album.


This might be my favorite of McCartney's love songs hes' written since the 1970s. I love the rhyme scheme of "sky / why/ Versailles", and while the song has a sentimental streak, Paul keeps it in check, and it certainly comes across as heartfelt. This one was originally recorded as a demo for Flowers In The Dirt, but was revived for Flaming Pie, with an additional coda written by one Richard Starkey, M.B.E.


This would be a moving end for this section, and connects with side four. Quite a brave song for Paul to sing in concert, as he muses about his own death. From Memory Almost Full.

Macca Live 2010 Side Four

When I saw Paul at the Boston's Fleet Center in 2002, and he did his little tributes to George (who had died the previous November), and John, it was probably the most moving experience I had ever felt at a rock concert. I was thinking that "Side Four" could expand on this. Since this could be seen as one of McCartney's final statements, I'm sure he'd like to say "Farewell" to those who were closest to him.


One of the few McCartney originals from 1999's oldies collection, Run Devil Run. Since this was Paul's first album since Linda's death, one cannot help but attribute this song to the love of his life. A good introduction to this portion of the show.


A massive 1973 hit with Wings. There are plenty of songs Paul has written about the lovely Linda, but I think this one would work best here.


This song was written in memory of Ringo Starr's first wife, Maureen. She was a regular at the Cavern Club back in the Fabs' early days. Ringo and Maureen were married in 1965, had three children (including The Who's drummer, Zak Starkey), and divorced in 1975. See the liner notes on Flaming Pie for more information (Maureen was only identified as "a dear friend" at the time). She died at the end of 1994. One last time to say, "Thanks, Mo !"


Now is the time to say "Goodbye" to fellow Fabs that are no longer with us. Although both of these tracks seem to be nostalgic odes to John, either of these songs would suffice as introductions to tributes for Spike Wilbury and Dr. Winston O'Boogie. Again, Macca could alternate between these two songs throughout the tour.

23. ALL THINGS MUST PASS (or any of George's other songs)

Technically not a song released by The Fabs, even though they rehearsed it in January 1969 for the Get Back / Let It Be sessions. Macca did perform it in concert after Harrison's death, including 2002's Concert For George. Any other Harrisongs that Paul decided to cover would be an especially touching tribute. Wouldn't it be great to hear Paul sing "Give Me Love" or "Love Comes To Everyone"? He could also cover George's Grammy-winning instrumental, "Marwa Blues", which Macca chose for a magazine compilation CD a few years back.


Paul's tribute to John, which had more or less become a concert staple since 2002. The perfect end for this section.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Macca Live 2010 Side Three

The next "Theme" could be : The Ones Paul Gave Away (or at least played on). These songs would serve as an overview of tunes that Macca gave to others. They have never been performed live by Paul, to the best of my knowledge. In most cases we have never even heard McCartney sing lead on any of these songs (with the obvious exception of track 18). This is also a way to sneak in some 1960's material without performing Beatles songs.

13. On The Wings Of A Nightingale

Continuing with the acoustic section, it would be a real treat to hear the song McCartney wrote specifically for one of his greatest influences: The Everly Brothers. After Phil and Don reunited in the 1980's, Dave Edmunds produced their brilliant studio comeback album, E.B. '84. Much like his 1973 James Bond movie theme, McCartney came up with the tailor-made goods.

14. World Without Love
15. Woman

Time for a little tribute to Peter and Gordon. Peter was the brother of Paul's mid-1960s girlfriend, Jane Asher, and he later worked for Apple. "World Without Love" was Peter and Gordon's first and biggest hit. "Woman" was originally released with "Bernard Webb" listed as the songwriter, to see if the duo could have a hit without the Lennon-McCartney songwriting credit. The duo also recorded "Nobody I Know" and "I Don't Want To See You Again" (both credited to Lennon-McCartney, but obviously Paul is the author of all four covers.). None of these songs have ever been on official recordings by either the Beatles or McCartney.

16. Mine For Me

A forgotten gem. This was written for Rod Stewart's 1974 album Smiler. Another one of those deceptively catchy love songs. "Six O'clock", which Paul wrote for Ringo's 1973 album, would be another inspired choice.

17. My Dark Hour

This was actually written by Steve Miller, but was recorded with "Paul Ramon" at Olympic Sound Studios in London, on May 9, 1969. "Ramon" (a.k.a. McCartney) played drums, bass, and sang prominent background vocals. McCartney's son was a big Miller fan, and Paul worked with Steve again on Flaming Pie. Maybe Paul could even sit behind the drum kit for this one.

18. Come And Get It

Paul wrote this hit single for Apple act Badfinger. It also appeared on the soundtrack for the movie The Magic Christian, co-starring Ringo and fab friend Peter Sellers. His solo demo was recorded quickly on July 24, 1969, in a single one hour session. Macca had just one bit of advice for Badfinger: Do it exactly like my demo. You can hear McCartney's version on The Beatles' Anthology 3.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Macca Live 2010 Side Two

The next portion should be an "acoustic" set. Giving the audience a chance to catch their breath. Everybody, sit down, and get comfortable.


Paul's debut solo single, and beautiful, simple ode to Linda, just admiring her going about her day. Another deceptively brilliant song that would be great to hear live.


A nice little ditty, the title track from Wings' 1978 album. It was a mellow record recorded after Wings became one of the rocks' biggest bands at the conclusion of their record-breaking world tour. It's like an aural warm, fuzzy blanket.


Arguably the best song from 1993's Off The Ground album. A great, if unusual, song that got some attention when the album was originally released. Great example of Paul's unique songwriting style, especially in the lyrics.


1970's McCartney is one of my all-time favorite albums. Here's another touching love song for Linda. Paul has done this one live, but not recently.


If it were up to me, I'd include one of Paul's great acoustic B-sides in this slot. His mid-1970's songs like "Sally G" and "Country Dreamer" continue the warm feeling of the McCartney sessions. "Rainclouds", the B-side of "Ebony and Ivory", also has a similar feel. However, this has a more meditative feel, which would be appropriate as McCartney was working on this track with George Martin on December 9, 1980. "With A Little Luck" might be a more obvious choice, since it was a big hit single. My thought was that Paul could shake up the set list a bit, and alternate these four this slot.


This was a massive hit in the U.K., where it dislodged The Fabs' "She Loves You" as the biggest single ever. In the U.S., it was NOT a hit. Capitol Records even tried to promote the other side - the rocking "Girls' School" - but was only moderately successful.This may have been one of the factors leading to McCartney's subsequent departure from Capitol to Columbia Records. On recent tours, Paul only performed this in North America when he was in Canada.It's time for us Yanks to hear this classic track in concert.

Macca Live 2010 Side One

The opening of the show should be exciting and upbeat. But what song should Paul start with ? Of course, "Venus and Mars / Rock Show" is an obvious choice, but not only has it already been done, it alludes to bigger venues like "Madison Square" and the "Hollywood Bowl", which might give lazy journalists an excuse to give a few digs. "Band on the Run" would also be a good opener, especially since it builds, and would send the crowd into a frenzy. However, I decided to go with a hit song that has rarely been played live, is a favorite of fans, and provides a good rocking start:


Of course, the reference to gas prices will unfortunately still be relevant. The only problem would be the line about the president (originally about Nixon), which might have to be rewritten. What rhymes with "President"? Maybe something like "heaven sent"? Plus, I'd love to Paul exclaim, " Take me down, Rusty ! "


And now for something more recent. Paul loves this one. It's the title track from his great, Grammy-nominated 1997 album. Keeps the momentum going, and a bit of a Beatles reference to boot !

3. JET

Back in the 1990's, Paul gave an interview where he said he didn't really like performing this one, even though it's possibly his most played solo hit on "Classic Rock" radio. I'm not sure if he still feels this way, but let's get it out of the way, just in case he does.


"Silly Love Songs" ? Really? "SILLY LOVE SONGS" ?!?! YES "SILLY LOVE SONGS" !!!!! This was one of his biggest hits, which went up the charts as Wings Over America crossed the country in the year of our bi-centennial. When I saw Rod Stewart in 2004, he closed the main set - not with "Maggie May", but "Do You Think I'm Sexy" - and the crowd went wild ! Even though the song will be forever linked to the disco era, this is a catchy song, makes you feel good when you hear it, and it has a killer bass line. It will get the crowd dancing. It will also separate the "Beatle" fans from the "Macca" fans. This is kind of Paul's manifesto. And what's wrong with that?


Paul's minor hit from the late 1980's, written with Elvis Costello. A return to form, and something worth revisiting. It will also keep the momentum up.


Paul big hit from 1980, from the end of the Wings-era. (It was released as a live Wings track as well as a song on McCartney II, where Paul played all the instruments). This song also holds a special place in Paul's heart, as John Lennon complimented the single in one of his last interviews.

Macca Live 2010 Introduction

Paul McCartney is one of the most successful songwriters and performers of all time. Not just with The Beatles, but with Wings in the 1970s, and a solo career that continues to this day. However, one gets a sense from some interviews that Macca still feels insecure. Not only about his accomplishments within the Fabs, but about his hit-filled solo career. While John and George continued to expand and explore their art from where they were when the Beatles broke up, Paul decided to start again, form a band, and try for a new, younger audience. This led to Paul and Wings becoming one of the biggest acts of the 1970s, both on tour and in the charts. He remained popular with many Beatles fans, but an entire younger generation grew up loving Paul and Wings, just because they put out some catchy tunes.

Despite all of McCartney's success, the press for the most part was not very kind, often comparing Macca to his former partner John Lennon, and other "heavier" "artists". Paul was slighted as being a lightweight, and mocked for being a family man. Yet when John and Yoko finally had a child together, and then Lennon retired to be a house-husband, he somehow managed to make it a political statement. Paul couldn't get a break.

In retrospect, McCartney's solo catalogue is quite impressive. His solo material on Apple has aged particularly well. Macca is the only Fab that continued to record regularly, with many gems being released only as singles. While quality went downhill a bit during the mid-1980s (which even McCartney has since admitted to), things improved with Flowers In The Dirt, and really reached a level of greatness starting with 1997's Flaming Pie, and continues to this day.

One of the most moving concerts I ever saw was then Paul toured in 2002. I had previously seen McCartney a handful of times throughout the years: 1976 (Wings Over New York), 1990 (Worcester), and twice in October 1999 ("Buddy Holly Dance Party", and the Run Devil Run record release party - where I actually got to meet Paul backstage). Although it was always great to see Paul in concert, I had not previously been blown away by his previous performances.

I was completely unprepared for the impact of the "Back In The U.S." concerts. I purposely did not read anything about the tour, so I could experience it fresh. The entire presentation was impressive, from the song selection to the big screen images to the tributes to Linda, John and George. Also, the current band is by far the best solo line-up he's had, especially guitarist Rusty Anderson. This combo is young and energetic, giving Paul's songs an excitement missing from McCartney's sluggish post-Wings ensembles.

There are reports that Paul is planning one more big world tour. For the last decade, Macca & Co. have been putting on great shows-- heavy on the 60s songs, with a mix of material from his solo years. For the upcoming tour, it seems like Paul will continue with this successful formula. He is single-handedly keeping the legacy of The Beatles alive by re-creating their classic catalogue on stage with a show that comes as close to a live Beatles concert as we've seen since the 1960s.

But what about Paul's solo years? In order to play arenas (and stadiums), and to charge the going rate for superstar acts, Macca's concerts feature only about a third of the show dedicated to nearly four decades of post-Fab material. Since his fans are now expecting a Beatle-packed show, I was wondering how Paul could do a tour of solo material, and not disappoint his fans.

Here's what I came up with: After his next world tour, Paul could announce a "Celebration" of his solo career. It should be a tour of theaters (think Radio City Music Hall) instead of arenas. The advertisements should strongly (and proudly) hint that no Beatles will be performed.

Paul seems to love the idea of playing an intimate venue as much as a stadium. In order to make it easy on Macca, he could play, for instance, ten night stands in New York and L.A., with five night stands in cities like Boston, Chicago, Houston, and Seattle. The cost of tickets should be the same as recent arena shows so that only fans who appreciate Macca's solo material attend, and the yahoos who want to scream "Hey Jude" can stay at home and complain about the high price of tickets. And keeping the same band would be essential.

Over the course of six upcoming blogs, I plan to write about what such a tour could be like. It will be modeled after 1976's Wings Over America. The plan is to think of the show as a triple album, where each side has a "theme".

I think it would be a nice way for Paul to make an exit (although I also hope- and expect- him to keep on rocking for the rest of his life). Each side will have six tracks, which would mean the concert would feature 36 songs - which is about what Paul does nowadays anyway. This way the last 40 years could have some of the respect it deserves, on its own terms.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Beatles Halloween BOOtleg

Beatles Halloween BOOtleg (on bobbing for Apple Records. of course)

Yes it's that time of year again, Beedle Peedles !
Election Day is not the only scary day coming up.
Go get ready to light up your Jack-O-Lanterns
since Halloween is just around the corner.

While I was lounging around, getting over an awful cold,
I was trying to think of a way to tie in The Fabs with
All Hallows Eve. The Happy-Go-Lucky Mop Tops are usually
associated with Peace, Love, Joy, Fun, etc. But of course there
has been lots of scary events associated with The Beatles
as well.

With that in mind, I came up with a list of Fab-related songs
for Halloween. There weren't too many really "scary" tracks,
but I listed songs about children, sweets, darkness, costumes,
as well as various Halloween figures, like ghosts, ghouls, and the devil.
Some of the songs were included because of it's title,
even if the contents have nothing to do with Halloween.
(In other words, for comedic value.) I hope you enjoy it!
  1. Ringo: Spooky Weirdness
  2. Paul: No More Lonely Nights
  3. Paul: Magic
  4. George: Beware Of Darkness
  5. George: Here Comes The Moon
  6. Beatles: Mr. Moonlight
  7. Beatles: Little Child
  8. Paul: Dress Me Up As A Robber
  9. Beatles: Act Naturally
  10. Beatles: Baby's In Black
  11. Beatles: With A Little Help From My Friends
  12. Paul: Friends To Go
  13. Paul: Follow Me
  14. Beatles: Why Don't We Do It In The Road?
  15. Beatles: Your Mother Should Know
  16. George: Awaiting On You All
  17. George: Behind That Locked Door
  18. Beatles: There's A Place
  19. Paul: Let 'Em In
  20. Beatles: Don't Pass Me By
  21. Paul: I'm Carrying
  22. George: Try Some Buy Some
  23. Beatles: Savoy Truffle
  24. George: Unknown Delight
  25. Beatles: Not A Second Time
  26. John: Instant Karma !
  27. Traveling Wilburys: The Devil's Been Busy
  28. John: Scared
  29. Yoko : Don't Be Scared
  30. John: Mr. Hyde's Gone (Don't Be Afraid)
  31. Beatles: Chains
  32. George: The Art Of Dying
  33. Beatles: Run For Your Life
  34. Paul: Magneto and Titanium Man
  35. Ringo: Devil Woman
  36. Beatles: Maxwell's Silver Hammer
  37. Elvis Costello: So Like Candy
  38. Beatles: Devil In Her Heart
  39. Yoko: Women Of Salem
  40. George: Blood From A Clone
  41. Beatles: Yer Blues
  42. Paul: Live and Let Die
  43. Beatles: I Am The Walrus (They Are The Eggmen)
  44. George: Devil's Radio
  45. Barenaked Ladies: Be My Yoko Ono
  46. Yoko: Yes, I'm A Witch
  47. George: Between The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
  48. John: My Mummy's Dead
  49. Beatles: I'm Looking Through You
  50. Ringo: Back Off Boogaloo
  51. Paul: Run Devil Run
  52. Beatles: Helter Skelter
  53. Beatles: I'm So Tired
  54. Beatles: When I Get Home
  55. Beatles: The Long And Winding Road
  56. Beatles: Get Back
  57. Paul: Gratitude
  58. Paul: Eat At Home
  59. Ringo: Satisfied
  60. Beatles: It's All Too Much
  61. Heather Mills Feat. Paul McCartney: VO!CE

    (Note: I'm a fan of Yoko's, and the BNL song was
    included as a little joke. The same cannot be said about
    Heather Mills.)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


Sorry for the long delay between posts. My Blogger account was blocked, but now it seems to be OK. Before I was so rudely interrupted, I was working on an elaborate post about Paul, but since it's John birthday tomorrow, I'm going to write a quick piece about him instead. Unfortunately I do not have the time needed to type everything I wish to say in order to get this posted by October 9th. Life is what happens to you when you're typing other blogs.

Everything about John is tinged with sadness, knowing how his life ended. Yoko is doing what she feels is best for Lennon's legacy. One cannot fault her for most of her decisions. John is now thought of mostly as a peacenik - which is how Lennon was quoted as saying he wished to be remembered. What greater legacy can one have ? John was always advertising "peace", and what message could be more relevant, or timeless?

As I'm typing, I'm listening to the new Dylan box set. Would Lennon have as impressive a collection at this stage of his career if he was still alive? It's a question that unfortunately cannot be answered.

In the early 1980s, RCA went about refurbishing Elvis' image. One such result was an album called Rocker. This collected Presley's rocking songs on one LP, with a cool picture of The King on a motorcycle, and an treasure trove of Elvis at his rocking best. They even re-released "Blue Suede Shoes" - with a picture sleeve - on blue vinyl. It helped redefine Presley as a musical rebel.

So for Lennon's birthday, I have a list of 24 solo tracks to listen to in tribute to what would have been John's 68th birthday. It call it PLAY LOUD! , after the inscription on the inner label of the early Plastic Ono Band Apple 45s. It's not really a bunch of "rockers". It's just the more aggressive side of John's music. It's the material that's not "soft rock" - there are no quiet ballads here. It's Rock'n'Roll, politics, autobiographical material, and anything else that I felt would fit. It's a collection for people who only know John's softer side. This music is angry. It's exhilarating. Most of all, it's real.

1 New York City
2 Instant Karma
3 Rip It Up/Ready Teddy
4 Whatever Gets You Through The Night
5 Gimme Some Truth
6 Meat City
7 What You Got
8 I Don't Want To Be A Soldier Mama
9 Power To The People
10 Well Well Well
11 Rock and Roll People
12 Slippin' and Sliddin'
13 Move Over Ms. L
14 Blue Suede Shoes
15 Ain't That A Shame
16 Well (Baby Please Don't Go) (with Zappa)
17 Hound Dog
18 Attica State
19 Working Class Hero
20 John Sinclair
21 Cold Turkey
22 Tight A$
23 I'm Losing you
24 I Saw Her Standing There (with Elton John)

I don't have time to figure out if this fits on a single CD (probably not), but I always thought the song "New York City" could have been a single - you could even use the One-To-One footage for a video.

Anyway, I need to go - but hopefully this inspires you to dig out some of John's music, and hopefully it won't be tinged with too much sadness.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Deep Thoughts

In the year 2000, I decided to take my (mostly) American pressings of Fab vinyl albums, and re-created my own (perfectly legal) CDR version of The Beatles catalogue. I had been inspired by articles in Goldmine magazine about The Beatles original U.S. catalogue, and found myself longing for the albums I grew up with. In theory, I sided with The Fabs and their original "artistic vision" of how their albums should be sequenced. But, even though I wouldn't admit it to myself, many of the bastardized American configurations were more appealing than the ones officially sanctioned by the Fabs. The CDs released in the late 1980s were not only based on the original U.K. albums, but also had lackluster mixes, and shoddy packaging. Considering the Beatles' stature, the resulting releases were a disappointment.

Reading the Goldmine articles, which I assume were written by Bruce Spizer, brought back the excitement of buying Beatles records back in the day. While I was a bit too young to get all the albums when they were new, by the late 1960s I was all caught up. So eight years ago, I decided to take all of my records, and burn the whole lot onto CDRs, each disc chock full of music. Besides being able to enjoy the original Beatles albums, I was able to become reacquainted with the original sequences, and the original chronology of the releases.

The first step was to record all the albums onto cassette (to make sure they wouldn't skip). Then I needed to decide on the sequencing, and try to (ideally) fit two albums - with bonus material - onto each CD. The final product was twelve discs : Ten CDs of the regular albums, plus two extra discs: One featuring the Hollywood Bowl and the U.S. Rarities albums, the other had both the mono and stereo mixes of Magical Mystery Tour.

While listening to these CDs after I originally made them, I developed a new found respect for their early material. Previously, if I felt like putting on an official Beatles album, it was usually something from their "studio years". The original early Capitol albums had been so maligned (and often packaged with cheesy graphics) , that I would just focus from Sgt. Pepper onwards. Since The Fabs were constantly progressing as artists, I considered their later years as being "superior", even though hearing their earlier songs on the radio continued to bring me much joy. I was also more aware of the later releases when they were brand new, so I had more of an emotional connection to those albums. Plus the Capitol albums were so short, you had to get up to change sides every 15 minutes ! Once I made my own CDR collection, with each disc close to 80 minutes in length, I could listen to Beatles CDs uninterrupted, with over 20 (if not 30) songs on many of discs.

My eldest son has been getting into the Beatles after reading a book about them. He seems intrigued by the quirky differences in various Beatles songs (like the hi-hat intro on the German E.P. version of "All My Loving"). He has his own favorite songs - and parts of different songs. Currently, he's into the period from Rubber Soul to Sgt. Pepper.

This inspired me to dig out my own home-made CD collection. I first wanted to revisit Rubber Soul. Once I got started, I couldn't stop. One CD led to another, and I pretty much listened to their entire session works from 1964 through 1967.

Of course I've must have heard these songs hundreds of times or more over the decades, yet they still sounded fresh It was interesting that while listening to all these familiar songs in my car, I still discovered (or re-discovered) many wonderful aspects in these recordings.

Since I was driving, I couldn't really take notes, but there were certain aspects that I remember jumping out at me. It was not a new observation that the lengths of many of their early songs, including classics like "Yesterday" and "Norwegian Wood", were in the two to two-and-a-half minute range. Indeed, some of the early Capitol albums were less than a half-hour in length. However I found it interesting that while listening to songs on albums like A Hard Days Night and Beatles VI, even within the tight 150 second barrier, the writing team of Lennon and McCartney would often repeat a verse or two within that framework. For example: The title song from the Fabs first movie was written to order virtually overnight, and features a very simple lyrical pattern: One verse repeated three times, another verse half repeated later in the song (after the solo) , and a middle eight repeated twice. This technique was quite prevelent in those days.

I was trying to think about what I found so appealing about their records when I was a kid. The fact that many songs were short and upbeat must have made it irresistible to someone so young. The repeated verses must have made them instantly memorable.

The arrangements also kept your ears on their toes. One thing that stood out in the earlier material was the percussion. Ringo kept changing his drumming patterns in innovative yet unobtrusive ways, which would subtly keep the listener tuned in. Energetic tambourine playing also kept the excitement going, and filled in the basic guitar-bass-drum sound. The interplay of George's guitar lines, Paul's bass playing, and the occasional addition of producer George Martin's piano playing all complimented and contrasted each other, with the instruments often "speaking" to each other in an almost call-and-response manner, playing sympathetically and effortlessly. The addition of Harrison's ringing twelve-string guitar added an additional, fuller, exotic element to the mix.

The most appealing aspect of these songs was probably the feeling of the "warmth" that comes through the speakers while listening to these tracks. One factor is the addition of acoustic guitars, as both primary and secondary instruments. But the most seductive aspect had to have been the dual lead harmony vocals of John and Paul.

Hearing Lennon's thinner, tougher, nasal vocals blended with McCartney's warmer, optimistic voice just fills the heart with joy. This is not just limited to their love songs. Even the ones about being hurt still sound optimistic.

A good example would be "I Don't Want To Spoil The Party" (Beatles VI) . The constant chord changes and cascading guitar riffs in the introduction lure the listener in. John and Paul are soon sharing the lead vocals; Lennon seeming to be the one who actually was at the party, with McCartney beautifully echoing John's thoughts and emotions. The lyrics make it sound like John is depressed, yet the harmonies lift the spirits, as does the middle eight. There they sing about how even thought his girlfriend let him down, he was still in love, and was optimistic about finding her. It's interesting to revisit this song as an adult. Lennon and McCartney were in their early-to-mid 20s, having lots of fun on the road (and elsewhere), yet could still write convincing, adolescent, pseudo-naive love songs.

It was also interesting to listen to the configurations of the American albums in this context. Many people have already commented on the differences. I agree, for instance, that the U.S. "acoustic" version of Rubber Soul is a more pleasurable listening experience than the official 14-song U.K. album. But over the past few years I've been getting into the U.S. equivalent of the late 1964 release, Beatles For Sale album. When I was young. I asked for the Beatles '65 and Beatles VI as presents one year, not realizing they both made up the Beatles fourth British album, with eight "bonus" tracks. This period is seen as a side-step, or even a step down, after the effervescent early "Beatlemania" phase, epitomized by the only all Lennon-McCartney album, the U.K. version of A Hard Day's Night. But I come here today to sing the praises of this unfairly maligned phase in Beatles history.

Most people chalk it up to being exhausted after world tours, a film, TV and radio appearances, press conferences, a non-stop flow of recordings, and the introduction of marijuana. Even Sir George Martin has been quoted as feeling lukewarm about this period . On the cover of For Sale, the Fab Four seem tired, no longer like smiling, happy-go-lucky mop-tops.

The sequencing of the U.K. album was uninspired. Although it starts out strong, the only tracks featuring George and Ringo as vocalists, both written by Carl Perkins, were relegated to side two. Also the choice of "Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby" as the closing number seems puzzling. Any of the three songs at the end of side one, as well as side two's "I Don't Want To Spoil The Party", would have been a better choice as a sonic send-off.

After an album of all-original material, the Fabs resorted to the previous formula of mixing covers with original songs. The new Lennon/McCartney originals, however, showed a new maturity, with an obvious Bob Dylan influence, especially in the opening Lennon-centric trilogy. The songs seemed darker, more mysterious. The Beatles were now stepping into some deeper, emotionally richer, territory. The tone and delivery of Lennon's vocal, particularly in "No Reply", made it all ring true, with a dramatic reading enhanced in the jarring realizations of the situation, echoed by the vocal enhancements. The unusual structure of the middle-eight also grabs the listener's attention. This tour de force gives the album a powerful beginning. It also sets the experimental tone for things to come.

Country music was also highlighted later in the album. Besides covering two of Carl Perkins' rockabilly classics (with Ringo replacing John as lead vocalist on "Honey Don't") , Lennon and McCartney come up with the country-tinged "I Don't Want To Spoil The Party." There were also a few minor treasures tucked away on side two of For Sale (and Beatles VI), like "What You're Doing" and "Every Little Thing". Even "Mr. Moonlight", which ended up on Beatles '65, (and often competes with "Revolution 9" as the worst Beatles track ever), has a certain charm.
The great out-take "Leave My Kitten Alone" is also from these sessions. All in all, a great selection of songs, a giant step forward in their evolution, and something that deserves to be revisited and re-evaluated.

Over the years, there has been a battle over which is the better Beatles album - or possibly the best album of all time: Revolver or Sgt. Pepper? I've long ago stopped categorizing music like that. It seems to get in the way of enjoying art for what it is. However, it is still an interesting debate. Pepper was more than an instant classic - it was a global event. Praise went through the roof (in most quarters). It threw out the rock and roll rules book. Yet over time there was a back lash, and Revolver (and Rubber Soul) were thought of as superior albums, and all of these album were challenged by the Beach Boys 1966 album, Pet Sounds.

Of course what is "better" is in the ears of the beholder. For me, Revolver will always be marred by the fact that I originally bought the U.S. version of this 1966 release, which had three of John's songs missing. These tracks had already been pulled for the "Yesterday" . .and Today album, complied and released earlier in the year. This left a lop-sided impression of the album for American fans. John was represented by only two songs, which was one less than George had! . The Lennon tracks included were the most bizarre and radical songs the band had done up to that time, and they made John seem like he had gone completely over the edge. Also, the "warmth" of just about all other Fab albums was sacrificed in order to explore more "serious" musical experimentation.

I often wonder if Capitol had decided to butcher Revolver just like they had done all other Beatles albums, would it have changed my opinion? For instance, if "I'm Down" replaced "Nowhere Man" on Y&T, and a couple of more songs were removed from Revolver, and we had a final lineup something like this:

1. Taxman
2. Eleanor Rigby
3. Rain
4. Here There and Everywhere
5. Yellow Submarine
6. She Said She Said

1. Paperback Writer
2 Nowhere Man
3. For No One
4. I Want To Tell You
5. Got To Get You Into My Life
6. Tomorrow Never Knows

Maybe then I could appreciate it more ? Not that I don't think it's a great album. I love everything the Beatles have done. Of course I like some things more than others. Most artists aren't even worthy of comparison (not that it's a contest). It's just I think that if the Capitol version had it's own "personality", it might give me a different perspective.

The growth of the Fabs' musical talents was getting more impressive with each album, especially in 1965 and 1966. After listening to my CDR that had Y&T and Revolver, it was time to listen to the "1967" disc. It started with the single of "Strawberry Fields"/"Penny Lane", then went into the entire Sgt. Pepper album, then the rest of their songs that eventually ended up on the Magical Mystery Tour album.

The first time I became aware of Sgt. Pepper was when I went to my music class while I was in elementary school. It was held in a special room adjacent to the cafeteria. The music teacher brought the album in, and I guess we listened to it, and learned about it. Soon afterwards I had my own copy. This must have been in the fall of 1967. It was a fantastic listening experience, even though it was a little over my head. The cover art was mesmerizing, and the elaborate costumes, exotic instruments, gate fold sleeve, moustaches, and psychedelic sounds were pretty mind-boggling for a second-grader. The fact that we learned about in school (of all places) made it that much more impressive.

After forty years of listening to this album, I wasn't expecting to be blow away. But on the heels on Revolver, Sgt. Pepper was once again a revelation. To say it was innovative is an understatement. They were more than nice little rock and roll combo. They were innovators. They were inspired. Their talents were overflowing. The texture of the music was breathtaking.

Those that criticize Sgt. Pepper tend to focus on things like inferior songwriting and that the concept doesn't go anywhere. These people miss the point. This is a listening experience. Billy Shears is leading you on a dream-like trip. There's no script for you to follow. The reason it works is that you (the listener) let your imagination take you from the circus to India and then back to the Big Band Era. It means whatever you want it to mean. The songs were less defined than previous efforts, but that's what made them work. The arrangements were miles ahead of what anyone else was doing at the time, including the Beach Boys, Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Hendrix, or even the Revolver-era Beatles. All of those artists were achieving other individual artistic breakthroughs at the time. It was a great time for music. It's easy to be cynical and jaded when thinking about this era. But I invite you to listen to Sgt. Pepper again, with an open mind, and experience the album for what it is. Hopefully you'll be able to appreciate it anew, just as I did.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Derek Claptoe's Other Assorted Love Songs

I've recently been listening to a recording sent to me by a reader of this blog. It's from an outdoor, rain-drenched, two-hour concert by Eric Clapton and his band in Germany from this past summer. It's an amazing performance, with "Slowhand" recalling his glory days with Derek and The Dominos. The set list is filled with blues classics, sprinkled with assorted material from throughout his career. There were also quite a few connections with the Fabs, which I will discuss later.

Clapton's association with the Beatles is well known. If it wasn't for his own stellar career, he might also be considered a "Fifth Beatle." He's one of only a handful of musicians to share the stage with all four solo Beatles (Elton John and drummer Jim Keltner are the only others I can think of.) He maintained a close friendship with George even after Clapton married his ex-wife, Patti.

Before starting this blog, I dug out Marc Roberty's Clapton book, The Complete Recording Sessions, 1963-1995. It was interesting to look at Eric's career from a Beatle-eyed view.

According to a 1977 interview, George said he met Eric once in the mid-1960s while the Yardbirds were on the same bill. Their friendship, however, didn't really start until a few years later. The first recorded collaboration was when Clapton played on a Harrison-produced track for the soundtrack of Wonderwall, near the end of 1967/early 1968, then played with both George and Ringo in June, 1968, for an Apple album by Jackie Lomax. In September, Harrison invited Clapton to play on one his songs, "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", which George felt was being ignored by the other Fabs. (On the White Album poster, Clapton was listed as "Eddie Clayton", which was also the name of Ringo's first skiffle outfit) . George returned the favor by co-writing and recording "Badge", with Clapton and Cream (with a bit of lyrical help from Ringo). Around the time of the White Album sessions, Eric bought George an electric Les Paul guitar, so that Harrison would once again focus on his guitar playing, after a period of getting obsessed with learning how to play the sitar.

The next few years had a flurry of Fab-related Clapton activities. John soon hijacked Eric for The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus. This was followed by live and studio work with John & Yoko, George, and Ringo. The debut Phil Spector-produced Derek & The Dominos single, featuring Harrison, was recorded during the 1970 All Things Must Pass sessions. During this period, Clapton also played with Harrison on the following projects, occasionally joined by Ringo: Apple recording artists Billy Preston and Doris Troy, Delaney and Bonnie (live), Rick Gretch, Ashton Gardner & Dyke, and Bobby Whitlock.

This Fab association continued, at a more leisurely pace, throughout the years.

Clapton played on Ringo's albums Rotogravure and Old Wave, and they appeared together at The Last Waltz finale.

Eric played on George Harrison and Cloud Nine, and toured Japan with George in 1991 (although a one-off gig by Harrison in London featured Eric's band without Mr. Slowhand himself ) They both appeared together again at 1992's "Bob-Fest", where they were two of the five lead vocalists on the Grammy-nominated "My Back Pages". Harrison's "Cheer Down" first appeared on the (mostly) Clapton soundtrack for Lethal Weapon 2.

Eric's Journeyman sessions featured George on two unreleased (at the time) Harrison songs: "Run So Far", as well as the outtake "That Kind Of Woman". The latter track was eventually released on the Nobody's Child benefit album. (A Ringo live track also appeared on the CD version). Eric and George played on a Jim Capaldi session as well.

George and Ringo appeared with Clapton on Carl Perkins' cable TV special A Rockabilly Session. Clapton and McCartney both played at Live Aid (but on different continents), and Knebworth 1990 (separately), but finally appeared together at The Prince's Trust benefit concert in 1986. Clapton joined George and Ringo at The Prince's Trust concert the following year. Clapton appeared with McCartney again at the Concert for Montserrat in 1997, and the finale of the post-9/11 Concert For New York City. Eric then brought things full circle by organizing The Concert For George, with guests Paul and Ringo, along with Harrison's widow and son. (Eric also appeared with Julian Lennon in the Chuck Berry documentary, Hail! Hail! Rock 'N' Roll.)

Of course things have gotten even more "intimate" over the years. According to legend, as George was getting more and more involved with religion and meditation, Patti tried to get him jealous by flirting with Clapton. Eric, in turn, fell head over heals for her, and turned his unrequited love into his 1970 masterpiece, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. (Surprisingly, the album was not a big success either critically nor commercially at the time. A disc jockey started playing the title track a couple of years later, and it finally became a hit. ) Clapton said he tried to ease his pain by taking heroin. Patti is also the subject of Eric's hit song "Wonderful Tonight", as well as George's most covered composition, "Something".

Eventually, Patti left George for Eric. Harrison said he was glad that she was with Eric rather than some jerk. In 1974, George covered The Everly's "Bye Bye Love", with rewritten lyrics about the union of his ex-wife and one of his best friends. (See Humorously Harrison listed Patti and Eric on the inner sleeve as being on the track. Against all odds, George and Eric remained friends throughout the years. George, Paul, and Ringo all attended Eric and Patti's wedding in 1979. Their marraige lasted ten years.

Last year Patti and Eric published their autobiographies. This year both paperback editions were released on the same day (What a coincidence !)

The last time I saw Clapton in concert a few years back, on his "farewell" tour, Billy Preston was on keyboards. On the current tour, Eric enlisted Willie Weeks on bass (from George's 1974 tour) and Abe Laboriel, Jr. on drums (from Paul's current band).

Listening to the August 15 Clapton show, it was interesting to listen to the songs selected in light of both books.

Clapton played five tracks from the Layla album. The opening song was "Tell The Truth", which could be seen as a commentary on his and Patti's dueling autobiographies. Later on, Eric dug out "Why Does Love Have To Be So Sad", and his cover of "Nobody Knows You" .

Clapton also sang Harrison's "Isn't It A Pity", which Eric originally played on in 1970. It features the following lines, "Isn't it a shame, how we break each other's hearts, and cause each other pain", which could be seen as his reflection on his years with Patti. (He was an alcoholic throughout their marriage)

Most of the show, however, featured Clapton blistering through old blues classics, which, of course, define Eric as much as his own songs. Both "Motherless Child" and "Motherless Children" were performed. Clapton has mother issues to rival John Lennon's. Clapton was brought up by his grandmother (which was a common practice in those days), as his mother was young and unmarried. He did not know his "older sister" was actually his mother, and ended up unintentionally developing a bit of a crush on the woman who gave birth to him.

The last four songs of the main set could be seen as a comment on his years with Patti. First up was a cover of Bo Diddley's "Before You Accuse Me" (which was already part of the setlist before Diddley's recent death). This song points out that the person criticizing him has plenty of faults as well. This was followed by his sentimental tribute to Patti, "Wonderful Tonight". The lyrics comment on how she has to drive him home, as he is in no shape to do it himself. This was immediately followed by the anguished cries of "Layla". The regular set ends with "Cocaine", which "Slowhand" now sees as an anti-drug song, but it was doubtful that he was thinking that way when he recorded it.

Even without the Fab references, the concert was great. Clapton sounds incredibly inspired, with plenty of blistering guitar solos, excellent singing, and a superb selection of material. Maybe he was rejuvenated by his recent reunions with Cream and Steve Winwood. It's wonderful that another of the old guard is still giving vital performances, and playing to his strengths. It's been frustrating being a fan of "Slowhand", since he often sacrificed great music for much more commercial efforts. Of course, it's difficult to blame him. He was allegedly disturbed when he heard that Van Morrison was dropped from Warner Brothers, and did not want to suffer the same fate. (Van claims he left). These other types of albums gave Eric a much broader audience, and lots more commercial success. He probably also brought his newer audience members back to the blues. Clapton is still in touch with his roots, and is playing with an obvious love of the music that originally inspired him.

And did I mention that he still plays a mean guitar ?

Here's hoping he releases a CD and/or DVD of this recent tour.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

You Shoulda Been There: 30 August 1972 Part Two

As I mentioned in my previous blog, it's time for a new, improved version of The One-To-One Concerts. Currently, there only seems to be a CD (mostly from the afternoon open rehearsal) in print. The VHS tape, as well as the vinyl LP and the cassette, has been deleted. The CD/LP/CS version featured John's eleven performances. The VHS added two songs by Yoko. It was not released until 1986. Originally it was scheduled to come out in 1972, but was allegedly shelved so that the couple would have a lower profile during their immigration case.

My memory of the original television special only had one flaw - it was too short! I believe it was a one-hour, prime time special on ABC-TV. All four acts were represented. It seemed to capture the feeling of the show, with great camera work, and an excellent audio mix (for the time). It was fantastic to be able to experience a small part of the concert again. And then it was gone.

Occasionally, you would see a clip on Geraldo Rivera's ABC program, Goodnight America, or a telethon Geraldo would be associated with. Footage would appear in Lennon documentaries. Photographs would appear in books. But unlike many other musical events, there was no way to revisit or appreciate it.

After attending the concert, I purchased an Elvis 45 of "Hound Dog". Later, I found a poor quality album called Teddy Boy, featuring almost all of John's songs from the evening performance. When the official Capitol album came out in 1986, I didn't buy it. I'm not sure why. I've bought lots of Fab-related stuff (basically everything else!), but was not compelled to own this release. It may have been that I wanted to keep my own memories of the concert, uncorrupted by an official record. I remember being disappointed when I heard the inferior, afternoon concert version of "Come Together" on the radio. I did eventually buy the album on CD, years later. Of course, it's still a great album. Not exactly what I wanted, but even secondary Lennon is better than most artist's best efforts.

Now is the time for The One-To-One Concert to be remixed, re-edited, and re-released. It needs to be available both visually, and aurally. Yoko may want to follow Neil Young's lead and put it out on Blu-Ray. Or maybe a CD/DVD set ? There could also be a special "deluxe" edition, featuring the complete concert, with all of the opening acts. Sha Na Na, Stevie Wonder and Roberta Flack should be able to fit on one DVD.

The evening John & Yoko set should be included, without ANY edits that compromise the integrity of the performance.

The songs should be drastically remixed so that the power of the guitars, and the electricity of the music are restored. (Phil Spector did the original mixing. Use those mixes as a basis, he's probably too busy right now to remix it himself). Other songs from the early show, and the rehearsals, can be added as bonus material. The original concert announcement on Eyewitness News, as well as the radio spots for the second show (including out-takes) can also be included.

The visuals should feature long, lingering shots, not quick MTV-style edits. It should also include lots of close-ups.

The booklet should feature lots of photographs from 1972, along with reviews, interviews, clippings, and re-appraisals. It should be better researched than what was used used in the inaccurate The Lennon Anthology liner notes.

Here's a complete list of the Lennon's songs from both shows, as best as I can research:

John: New York City / It's So Hard /Woman Is The N*gger/
Well Well Well/ Instant Karma /Mother/Come Together /
Imagine /Cold Turkey/Hound Dog/Give Peace A Chance

Yoko: Sister O Sisters /Move On Fast/Born In A Prison/
We're All Water / Open Your Box /Don't Worry Kyoko

Don't cut corners. John's memory, while still with us, is fading every day. In order to keep his spirit alive, people need to be reminded what a vibrant, exciting, and complex human being he was. He was more than a Beatle. More than a poet. More than a peacenik. More than a house husband. He was all of those, and more. But no one will know it if his legacy is reduced to a cliche.
After all, it's John Lennon. He deserves the best.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

You Shoulda Been There: 30 August 1972 Part One

August 30 marks the 36th anniversary of the only full-length, rehearsed post Beatle concert given by John Lennon. It was a benefit concert, at Madison Square Garden in New York City, for the mentally challenged at Willowbrook. As I blogged before, I was privileged to attend the evening performance .I was 13 at the time. Getting tickets for the show was like a dream.

My father took my younger sister and me. By this time I had only been to two concerts that could possibly be categorized as "Rock". They were at the Westbury Music Fair on Long Island. Both must have been around 1970. The first was soul singer O.C. Smith of "Little Green Apples" fame. In fact, that was the only song I knew by him. My father somehow was offered a pair of tickets, and asked me if I wanted to go. Of course I jumped at a chance to go to a concert. I remember getting dressed up in a white turtleneck and a blazer.

Before we left for the show I was in the living room with my father, who had uncharacteristically bought The Who's 1969 rock opera, "Tommy". My father loved classical music and had amassed an entire wall full of classical vinyl in the period of a few short years. While there were a few nods to more popular music - two Tom Jones albums (for my mother), the original cast recording of "Hair", and Simon & Garfunkel's "Bookends"- everything else was classical music. Before we left for the show, I sat on our big red sofa, and listened to the first two sides of "Tommy". Even though I was constantly listening to either WABC or WGLI- the two local AM rock stations- the Who's "Pinball Wizard" for some reason did not register. It's also very likely that I saw the Who on "This Is Tom Jones", but that, too, has no lasting impact. I figured that The Who must be a big deal if my dad had bought a double album by them. While listening, my father explained what a "libretto" was, that an opera told a story with different people singing different parts, and that the "Overture" presented themes that would return throughout the opera, and he liked the pun of something called the "Underture". (Both "Bookends" and "Tommy" somehow mysteriously ended up in my personal collection). I don't remember much about the O.C. Smith concert other than I enjoyed it. It was a mainstream concert, very professional and entertaining, and it whetted my appetite for future concerts.

The next concert was teen idol Bobby Sherman. My sister, of course, was the fan in this case, although I did buy his first hit single, "Little Woman", backed with a cover of Bob Dylan's "One Too Many Mornings". It was on the Metromedia label, which had a really cool powder blue label and sleeve. For some reason, my grandparents (!) brought us. Not too surprisingly, they thought it was too loud . I remember that the opening acts were called Instant Joy and Fat. One of them (Instant Joy ?)I believe were also Sherman's backing band. They announced that they just changed their name to "Bare Feet" after their shoeless drummer. I remember people throwing presents on stage, including a hand made rug that said "Hey Mr. Sun", a song he did not perform. I vaguely recall Bobby performing two Beatles songs. The only one I remember was "I Saw Her Standing There". Sherman would shake his hips like Tom Jones during an added instrumental bit -- Well my heart went boom (drums : booma chucka booma chucka booma chucka) when I crossed that room (booma chucka booma chucka booma chucka), which I thought was pretty cool at the time. I guess I still do !

This was of course bush league compared to my first real rock concert experience, even if I was going with my father and sister. I must have been pretty wide-eyed as my dad lead us through the maze that was Madison Square Garden. My father did get me a small, yellow John & Yoko t-shirt on our way towards our seats. We had a great view - they were behind the stage, about 4:30 from the rear. There were mirrors above the performing area - a short-lived practice I believe used for spotlights to illuminate the musicians. It also helped us see what was happening at the front. I had heard that the shows were sold out (as you would expect), but there seemed to be plenty of empty seats behind the stage. I heard John & Yoko bought a bunch of tickets to be given away - maybe they never got distributed ?

Some random memories: There was some stoner dude behind us who told his date, "I heard that Clapton is gonna be here" (which I didn't really believe). My sister pointed at someone near us and said, "Daddy, look at the funny pipe". My father also informed us that the unusual smell in the air was marijuana.

I was beside myself with anticipation. Geraldo Rivera, the local Eyewitness News reporter who organized the concert, was the MC. (Here's some Fab stuff from Geraldo's vault: ) The first act he introduced was Sha Na Na, a humorous 1950s nostalgia act. I was familiar with them from the "Woodstock" album and movie. They were the penultimate act before Jimi Hendrix. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this group, it featured a backing band in "greaser" attire, with three lead singers (including "Bowser") in gold lame, performing old time rock and roll complete with choreographed moves. I remember they played five songs. The most memorable was "Tell Laura I Love Her", with the singers on their knees, with arms outstretched . I think they also performed "Yakety Yak" and closed with "Rock and Roll is Here To Stay". It was a great way to start the show. One can't help but think that John hand-picked the support acts, as they all seemed to reflect Lennon's musical tastes.

Next up was Stevie Wonder, who also shared the bill with the Lennons at the "Free John Sinclair" rally, in Ann Arbor, the previous December. Fresh off the Rolling Stones US tour, Stevie basically performed a brilliant greatest hits set, and I believe he ended his set with a preview of his next single "Superstition". He was a dynamic performer, and when he would walk around the stage to perform on different instruments, including the drums, my father and I seriously wondered (no pun intended) if he was actually blind !

Between sets, all the equipment had to be removed and replaced with the instruments and amplifiers for the next act. Things were much more primitive in those days - this process is much more efficient now. I didn't mind the wait. I was soaking up every aspect of the event.

Roberta Flack was next. I knew her from her cover of the folk song "First Time Ever I Saw Your Face". Unfortunately, it was getting late, it was a long day, and Flack's unfamiliar ballads were not helping me stay awake. She may have covered Dylan's "Just Like A Woman", which I later saw was released as a single. (I was only somewhat familiar with the song from the "Bangla Desh" album).

Finally, it was time for the MAIN EVENT!

A few minutes before midnight, the house lights went down, the (mostly yellow) spotlights illuminated the stage, and the first two lines of "Power To The People" repeatedly reverberated throughout the Garden. (I thought it was "The David Peel Singers", but it may have just been a tape loop of the single) Geraldo introduced Plastic Ono Elephants Memory, and John Lennon and Yoko Ono (as you can hear on Lennon's "Anthology" box set). Then John and Yoko entered from the side of the stage.

They looked so f*cking cool. Yoko was all in white, and John had his army jacket on, as I'd seen him wear on a television talk show. While I didn't dare try to predict what songs he would play, he did open with what I thought would be an appropriate number, the Chuck Berry-ish rocker "New York City", from the recently released album "Sometime In New York City". While everyone else sat down, I continued to stand up. It was almost too much to handle. The stoner dude behind me told me to sit down. I don't think it was because he couldn't see, but because it wasn't that big a deal, that it was just another concert. But THIS WAS JOHN LENNON!! Sit down ?? The LEAST you could do was stand up ! I'm not talking about screaming teenyboppers. I couldn't understand how you could be so non-plussed. However, I did sit down not too much later, sitting on the edge of my seat until it was time to stand up again at the very end.

There has been much confusion about what was played at both shows. The Lennon Anthology box set liner notes says that the included live tracks were from the "unreleased" afternoon show, but some if not all of them are from the evening performance. The live LP and video (still not out on DVD) were heavily edited, used mostly the early show, often with introductions of some songs from one performance was followed by a performance taken from the other show.

The afternoon show was scheduled , I would assume, so John, Yoko, and the band could "rehearse" before the evening performance - which would be an ABC-TV television special (a "pilot" for the future late night music series "In Concert"), with a simulcast of FM radio, and, idealistically, a live LP (which did not appear until 1986). (Go hear:

I guess Yoko sang more songs (and different ones) during the afternoon performance, but my recollection of the evening show was that the set matched the 1986 videocassette, with the addition of Yoko's "We're All Water" as her last lead vocal, near the end of the show. It's possible I'm mistaken,but I think I would have at least noticed Yoko performing an unfamiliar song or two. From what I remember, "Give Peace A Chance " started sometime after 1:10 a.m., and the concert was over by 1:30. However there are recordings that challenge my memory, so who knows for sure ? Those recordings seem to have a lot of edits, though.

There are certain impressions that have stayed with me throughout the years. First of all - John's magnetism was palpable. He was so vibrant and alive that you felt that if you touched him, you would get an electric shock. There was also this sense of you seeing a living legend. Every little movement he made was cool. Everything he said seemed brilliant, yet funny. I recall squirming in my seat, next to my father, during John's introduction for "Mother".

You were there in the moment - sharing it with John Lennon. He was right in front of you. We were breathing the same marijuana-filled air. It was not a record, or a magazine, or a TV show, or a movie. This was live, and it was unfolding right in front of you. I was riveted, as you can imagine. You didn't know what he would do next. Everything song, every introduction, was unexpected, yet familiar. Remember, this was only the second major planned concert in the US featuring an ex-Beatle. It was an event.

Speaking of electric, the sound of the guitars were much heavier than on the eventual "Live In New Your City" album and video. (This was also a problem with Dylan and the Band's 1974 live album "Before The Flood"). The aural record does not capture the event the way it happened.

Yoko was wonderful as well, as I had expected. Some people stayed away for this concert, fearing an avant garde feedback screech-fest. However, Yoko sang in the traditional, rock and roll manner for the most part, and kept the avant garde stuff to a minimum. I particularly liked the harmonies on "Born In A Prison". While I appreciate Ono as an artist, this was not the most appropriate venue for Yoko "to do her thing all over you".

John only performed one Fab song, which was one more than I expected - it wasn't even necessary. The show was great - he had already established himself as a successful artist both critically and commercially. "Imagine", "Instant Karma", "Cold Turkey", and "Give Peace A Chance" were more than enough to please the crowd. But John went back into the past "just once", and it happened to be the highlight of the evening show. During the first show, Lennon kept tripping up over the words for "Come Together". This was not a problem for the performance I witnessed. The version I was fortunate enough to experience was incredibly heavy, with a very confident Lennon spitting out the lyrics, with John relishing his final, rewritten lines: Come together, right now . . . STOP THE WAR ! (If you listen closely to the version on "Anthology", you can hear me cheering . . )

Yet all of the performances were great, if you ask me. All powerful, all energetic, all inspiring. You could feel it in the air. You could feel it in your bones. I thought I was witnessing history in the making. Maybe not as big as The Concert For Bangla Desh, but historically significant.

However, it seems to have become a footnote in Lennon's career. Perhaps it was too local, not global enough. Maybe there was no album or movie to promote it. It could also be that the Lennons had become too political and controversial. The album "Sometime In New York City" alienated many fans at the time. Plus John & Yoko's problems with deportation were just beginning.

It's a shame these concerts are not better represented in the marketplace. While there's no media that will make you feel like you were at the concert, there is certainly better material in the vault than a CD and a VHS tape that do not use the best mixes , the best edits, or the best (evening) performances. It's possible that there are legal hang-ups, but by now, in this day and age, it seems possible to work out SOMETHING to bring this concert back to the fans, bring John's spirit back into our consciousness, and bring some great music into our lives.

Footnote: As I write this, Stevie Wonder is performing at the DNC.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Bo Diddley Beat(le)

Writing about Elvis Presley last week reminded me of Bo Diddley's death in June. When I heard the news, my mind did a mental search, trying to make a connection between one of Rock and Roll's founding fathers and The Beatles. Surprisingly, there was not much.

There were a few obvious musical matches. I knew Paul covered "Crackin' Up" on Choba B CCCP, and when he covered "I Wanna Be Your Man", on Paul Is Live, he gave it the legendary Bo Diddley beat (probably in response to a review that accused Macca of treating his catalogue like museum pieces) . The radio series The Lost Lennon Tapes played John's cover of "I'm A Man", where he humorously lapsed into a proper British accent. Lennon also produced Elephant Memory's 1972 Apple album, which featured a song called "Chuck 'n' Bo". Aside from impromptu covers during the Get Back sessions, it's difficult to find any other obvious material with the Bo Diddley stamp on it.

(This is also true of Jerry Lee Lewis. However, Lennon reportedly dropped to his knees in deference to the "The Killer" when they met in the 1970s. He also said, "No group, be it Beatles, Dylan or Stones, has ever improved on 'Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On' for my money.")

The Beatles are at the epicenter of my musical education. My knowledge of 1950s Rock and Roll was learned via The Fabs. When I was young, I'd be home, in my room, reading the information on the Capitol "rainbow" label, trying to figure out where the cover versions originated. Some were obvious, like Chuck Berry and Carl Perkins. Others involved detective work. For instance, I wondered if Richard Penniman - who co-wrote "Long Tall Sally" -was "Little Richard". (Of course, it was).

Conspicuously absent from the Beatles' catalogue was Bo Diddley (a.k.a. Ellas McDaniel). Even a search though their BBC sessions came up with no Diddley. Lewisohn's Complete Chronicle book offered a clue : the Fabs covered both "Crackin' Up" and "Road Runner" in the early 1960s. In a 1977 Crawdaddy magazine interview (, George Harrison cited Diddley as one of the artists the Beatles would cover in the early days. Coincidentally, Crawdaddy was also the name of a Diddley song.

Both the Kinks and the Rolling Stones have much stronger connections with Diddley. The Kinks covered Diddley a few times on their early albums. While the Rolling Stones only covered Diddley a couple of times on record ("Mona" in the 1960s , and "Crackin' Up" in the 1970s), their early sets would feature many Diddley covers. Their third single, a cover of Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away", was steeped in the Bo Diddley beat. Ron Wood even toured with Diddley in 1987, and I was lucky to see them together at The Channel club in Boston.

Plenty of other artists covered McDaniel, including The Who, The Yardbirds, Warren Zevon, Eric Clapton, and Creedence. "Who Do You Love" alone has been covered by Ronnie Hawkins, The Doors, George Thorogood, and Patti Smith, among others. Recent live concerts by Tom Petty and Jefferson Starship featured Bo Diddley tribute covers. Bob Dylan name-checked Diddley in "From A Buick 6". Of course the "Bo Diddley Beat" is ubiquitous in Rock and Roll. You can hear it in Springsteen's "She's The One", The Who's "Magic Bus", The Smiths' "How Soon Is Now", The Strangelove's "I Want Candy", and the Soft Boys' "Wey Wey Hep Uh Hole", among many others.

One of the ironic side effects when someone you are interested in dies, is you get to know more about that person after their death then when they were alive. After researching Diddley, I found yet another Beatles connection. It turns out that the song "Love Is Strange", which Wings covered on their debut album, was actually written by Bo Diddley under his wife's name (for legal reasons). Of course it's probable that Paul knew the song via Buddy Holly's version. Still it is another Fab connection to Mr. Diddley.

When I recently put on Paul Is Live to revisit his version of "I Wanna Be Your Man", I came across his original composition "Peace In The Neighborhood", which has the same feel as "Crackin' Up".

So while his influence on the Beatles may have been less than, say, Elvis, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Little Richard, and others, I guess you could say that The Fabs DID indeed "Know Diddley".

UPDATE: 9/14/79 Paul performed "Bo Diddley" during a Buddy Holly celebration.

Friday, August 15, 2008


Thirty-one years ago tomorrow, I was mowing the back yard on a typical, hot, sunny, Long Island afternoon. For no reason in particular, my mind was reflecting on the previous summer, when I went on a cross-country trip which stopped at Graceland. I also purchased a copy of the humor magazine, The National Lampoon. On the cover was a cartoon portrait of a very out-of-shape, sweaty, overweight Elvis Presley, and I was wondering how he could let that happen to himself.

Taking a break from the heat, I went inside to get a cold drink, and turned on my radio for a few minutes. As usual, my tuner was set to WNEW-FM. It was there I learned of Elvis Presley's death.

At the time, I was not a big Elvis fan. The only Presley record I owned was a seven inch 45, on the RCA Red Labelled Gold Standard series, of "Hound Dog" b/w "Don't Be Cruel", which I bought after I saw John Lennon perform the A-side at Madison Square Garden. I knew Presley was one of the most important, groundbreaking, and influential artist in history, but it was difficult to fathom. The Beatles and just about every other artist said that hearing Elvis changed their lives, so you could not ignore his impact. It's not like today when you want to find about about someone, you just log onto your computer. In 1969, by which time I had a transistor radio, Elvis had a hit with "In The Ghetto", which seemed as un-rock and roll as you can get. It felt like it's something you 'd like when you grew up.

I was still interested in The King, however. I remember the press conference announcing his first ever New York concerts in 1972 - thinking he looked incredibly cool, and wondering what took so long for him to finally play Madison Square Garden. I also watched his "Aloha From Hawaii" special, and remember being disappointed that he rushed through older hits like "Hound Dog". Yet I was still in awe of his power, talent, and charisma.

I learned from someone who was in music retail at the time, that RCA stopped pressing all other albums right after Elvis' death, and went to a 24-hour-a-day schedule for re-pressing the Presley vinyl catalog. (I also learned that one of the casualties was Iggy Pop's RCA LP "Lust For Life" ). The label also canceled all promotional discount deals previously offered to retailers used to promote Elvis' recent hit album "Moody Blue". One of the benefits for me was that once all of the hoopla died down, much of his catalog was available at record stores at deeply discounted prices. So I invested $9.99 on a 4-LP box set -- "50 Worldwide Hits"-- which I probably listened to all the way through once, which was a bit overwhelming. A few years later, I was in London, and frequently heard Elvis songs on the radio there. I'd hear a great song like "Devil In Disguise", and wonder if I had it on the box set. It turned out I did. So when I returned home, I got into the box set, then also purchased the legendary "Sun Sessions". It finally sunk in. I knew why the Fabs, and others, called him "The King".

Of course, most Fab fans know that The King and The Mop Tops met in 1965 (with contradictory accounts), that a totally zonked-out Elvis tried to turn the Fabs in as a bad influence on youth, and that John said that Elvis died when he went into the army. Lennon also had to decide which version of "Blue Suede Shoes" should open up his 1969 Toronto gig (he chose the original, slower, Carl Perkins version).

Yet John's respect for Presley always remained. Besides his impromptu Elvis cover at The One-To-One concerts, I remember reading that Lennon didn't want to cover any of the King's tunes on his mid-1970s "Rock'N'Roll" oldies collection because he felt intimidated by Presley's original versions. While being interviewed by Tom Snyder on the "Tomorrow" show in 1975, John credited seeing an Elvis movie in a theater as the catalyst to deciding on music as a career. Lennon saw the girls screaming at the Memphis Flash, and thought to himself, "That looks like a good job!".

While being interviewed by Howard Stern, Paul said he loved Elvis' version of "Yesterday", and was amused that The King got the lines wrong so that they no longer made any sense.

The Beatles covered Presley songs well into their solo careers. To celebrate the career of the King, here's a partial list of some Elvis-associated music that the Fabs performed throughout the years. Maybe you'll feel like digging a few of these tracks out on the 16th.

Lennon: Hound Dog (Live in NYC)/Since My Baby Left Me (Menlove Ave.)
McCartney: That's All Right Mama (Sun tribute-with Scotty & DJ); Just Because (Choba B CCCP); It's Now Or Never (Last Temptation Of Elvis); Blue Moon Of Kentucky/Good Rockin' Tonight (Unplugged); All Shook Up/I Got Stung/Party (Run Devil Run).
Starr: Don't Be Cruel (CD5)
Beatles: Sit Right Down And Cry Over You/I Forgot To Remember/I Got A Woman (BBC); Blue Suede Shoes/Shake, Rattle and Roll (Anthology)
Hidden Bonus Track: It's Now Or Never (David Frost Show)

Of course, you can also play some of Elvis' Beatles' covers, like "Something", "Get Back" (part of a medley with "Little Sister"), and the afore-mentioned "Yesterday" . . . or you could play The Beatles' "Run For Your Life" back-to-back with Elvis' "Baby Let's Play House" . . .

Thankyewverrymuchladiesangennlemen . . .

Yer Blogger has left the building . . . .

Monday, August 11, 2008

Cranberry Sauce

There have been rumors that Yer Blogger is dead. People have noted that if you read my blogs backwards, there are clues that I died in a freak blogging incident. I'm here to deny this rumor. Believe me, if I were dead, I'd be the first to blog about it.

The truth is that there was a death in the family - my printer passed away about a month ago (in a freak blogging incident). However, I have gone through the grieving process (after a period of denial), I have moved on and replaced my printer with a brand new (well, old, and refurbished) printer. And now, dear readers, Yer Blogger is back!

Instead of my usual long-winded, insanely detailed musings of all things Fab, I will cover a few subjects briefly in this special edition of Yer Blog. But don't worry, Beaddle Peedles, expect my usual mad ramblings to return in future blogs.

First of all, as I started to write this blog, I had the Howard Stern Sirius satellite radio show on in the background. In case you are not a fan of Howard, one thing is obvious while listening to the show : Howard is a huge fan of the Fabs. Sometime last year there was even a special called "Howard Meets The Beatles" which featured vintage Cynthia, Julian, and Sean Lennon appearances; guests playing Beatles covers; and interviews with Ringo and Paul (The 2001 Macca interview is legendary- Among other things, Howard says Paul is crazy not to sign a pre-nup with Heather Mills). His movie, "Private Parts", even had three Fab references in it. There seems to be a passing Beatles reference in almost every show, and today was no exception. Howard, back from vacation, started commenting on the cretin who shot John Lennon, and how he gets to spent 44 uninterrupted hours with his wife every year in a private setting. Stern expressed his outrage that the jerk who took John away from us gets to have this privilege. Robin Quivers chirped in saying that Sean Lennon would like to spend 44 uninterrupted hours with his father. Nice to hear someone honoring John regularly.

Speaking of Sirius, while Howard was on vacation, I got to spend time listening to my other favorite channel - Little Steven's Underground Garage. It's like listening to the world's coolest iPod-a mix of the hippest music from the last 50-plus years. The music ranges from Howling Wolf and The Coasters to The Yardbirds and The Ramones to newer bands like The Ravonettes and The Oholics. Not to mention long-forgotten singles by Barbara Feldon and Twiggy (!)

You can tell that the shows are programmed by music fanatics. You are just as likely to hear deeper Kinks tracks like Milk Cow Blues and Come On Now as You Really Got Me. Obscure Who tracks like The Good's Gone and Dr. Jeckle and Mr. Hyde get airtime, while I've yet to hear any "CSI" themes. It's interesting to note that a station started by E Streeter Steven Van Zant features tracks focusing on contributions by economy-classed band members like Dave Davies and John Entwistle.

What has this got to do with a Beatles blog ? Well, for starters, here's a partial list of Fab songs I've heard on The Underground Garage lately: Devil In Her Heart, All I've Got To Do, Help!, Matchbox, Baby You're A Rich Man, Misery, You Won't See Me, Act Naturally, I Need You, Helter Skelter, Oh Darling, and She Said She Said, as well as the video mix of Revolution, the film version of It's All Too Much, and the recent "Love" medley of Drive My Car/The Word/What You're Doing.

Not only that, but Ringo's Liverpool 8 was in heavy rotation when it was released (and a live Ringo interview and mini-concert was broadcast on another cool station, Sirius Disorder), plus I've heard solo tracks like Paul's cover of All Shook Up, and George's Wah Wah.

Plus, where else are you going to hear Fats Domino's cover of Me and My Monkey, or Nancy Sinatra's Run For You Life ? Not to mention that The Rutles are played often, including lesser known tracks like Goosestep Mama and It's Looking Good. If you are like me , and love to learn about the music's history, they've recently played Chan Romero's original version of Hippy Hippy Shake, as well as Billy Fury's Nothin' Shakin', obscure tunes The Fabs covered early in their career.

My favorite DJ, by far, is former Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham. When he talks, it's fascinating because he was THERE. It's great when he talks about the "old days' and intimately referring to members of The Stones and The Beatles by their first names . Loog also takes great pains to give credit producers and record labels. He plays the Fabs almost as often as The Stones (one particularly great segue way was The Wilbury's She's My Baby into The Fabs version of Some Other Guy), and has recently been commenting on George Martin's recent L.A. celebration, both praising and (lovingly) criticizing George's speech. As Loog said, "I'm not being bitchy, I'm being Andrew".

The last thing I want to comment on today is about something I received in the mail. A friend sent me a recording of a recent Ringo show from July 26. I have been fortunate to see Ringo live on three different All-Starr tours. Besides being the fun type of show you'd expect from Ringo, I had two observations. First of all, I love the story that Gary Wright told about how he first met Ringo while recording All Things Must Pass, and how a book that George gave Gary inspired his hit single Dream Weaver. One of the things lacking on some of Ringo's tours is fellow musicians with any connection to either The Fabs or Ringo's solo career, so that was a nice touch. The other thing I noticed is that, unlike some touring acts that have been around since the 1960s or 70s, Ringo's set list has been sprinkled with recent material that actually adds to the show! While we no longer get Honey Don't, I'm The Greatest, The No-No Song, or You're Sixteen, we DO get some excellent vintage material like What Goes On and Oh My My, as well as his catchier newer material like Liverpool 8, Memphis In Your Mind, Choose Love, and Never Without You. Now if we can just convince him to rehearse Octopus's Garden, or a closing medley of Good Night into Goodnight Vienna . . .

Thursday, July 10, 2008


A while ago, I read that a compilation of material from George Harrison's solo years was in the works. This is, of course, long overdue. There have so far been two "Best Of" collections: an embarrassing collection from his years at Apple/Capitol (side one devoted to his songs recorded with the Beatles), and a much better one, now out-of-print, covering his recordings from 1976 to 1989, while his Dark Horse label was distributed by WEA. As a bonus, this one included material not available elsewhere . Luckily, all of George's material is now under the EMI/Dark Horse umbrella, allowing for an easy-to-do career-spanning retrospective. His would be the last of the Fabs to have his label-jumping catalogue represented on one shiny, silver disk.

Since the beginning of this decade, George's catalogue has been slowly upgraded. The affair has been a classy one, and much needed, with improved sound, enhanced artwork, and additional music. This did much to improve the "quiet Beatle's" reputation. However, it has also been a rather stingy exercise, with many opportunities to satisfy a fan's hunger for unreleased material unsatisfied. Perhaps this material will be released in a rarities box set that was once referred to as "Portrait Of A Boot-Leg", a companion to "Portrait of Leg-End", which presumably became "Brainwashed". I hope to address Harrison's re-issue program in more detail in a future blog.

So I was wondering to myself: What would be a better way to pay tribute to George's legacy than by choosing and sequencing material from his solo years into an appealing listening experience for fans and neophytes alike ? This isn't rocket science, or at least it shouldn't be. The most interesting greatest hits albums are the collections compiled by the artists themselves. John Lennon's 1975 LP "Shaved Fish" is a good example. John said some of the master tapes were starting to disappear, and wanted to gather his singles on one album before it was too late. It included a handful of singles that did not appear on any of his albums at that time, making the record that much more appealing. But in many other cases, these sets are puzzling for fans -- with poor song choices, irrational sequencing, lame artwork -- no real thought about what it says about the artist--although it speaks volumes about a lack of respect for the artist's fan base. Yet since they are cheap to produce, and easy to generate revenue, record companies -- being short-sighted--continue pumping them out.

So, I made a preliminary list, trying to choose between one and three songs per album, with two singles per disk being the ideal. There were also "rare" tracks to consider, songs that still have not appeared on any of the recent re-issues. The first ones that came to mind were "I Don't Want To Do It" (a rare Dylan cover from, of all things, the soundtrack to "Porky's Revenge"), "Horse To The Water" (recorded just before his death in 2001), and the three rarities from "The Dark Horse Years" :"Poor Little Girl", "Cockamamie Business", and his collaboration with fellow Wilburian Tom Petty, "Cheer Down". I assume "I Don't Care Anymore" will appear on the re-issue of "Dark Horse". After making this list, I decided that I might include a couple of these, if there would be enough room. And, of course, NO BEATLES SONGS !

Finally, I wondered, what would be the order of the songs? Should it be chronological ? Random? Should it start with the most popular songs ? I decided that someone as spiritual as George should have something special, so my fantasy compilation would start with his first solo hit "My Sweet Lord" (skipping over his early solo efforts, "Wonderwall Music" and "Electronic Sounds"), following his career with his most accessible songs until we reach his last album, then journey backwards to 1970, ending with one of his most moving songs.

It seemed so . . . George.

So here's what I came up with:

1 My Sweet Lord 4:44
2 What Is Life? 4:28
3 Give Me Love 3:32
4 Dark Horse 3:50
5 You 3:30
6 Crackerbox Palace 3:57
7 Love Comes To Everyone 4:56
8 All Those Years Ago 3:45
9 Wake Up My Love 3:36
10 Got My Mind Set On You 3:42
11 Cheer Down 4:07
12 Any Road 3:52
13 Horse To The Water 5:00
14 When We Was Fab (12" Extended Mix) 3:57+ :15 ?
15 Teardrops 4:07
16 Blow Away 4:00
17 This Song 4:14
18 Ding Dong 3:39
19 Bangla Desh 3:59
20 All Things Must Pass 3:47

Unfortunately, by my calculations, it seems to be about one minute too long. What to do ? I like the way it is sequenced. If you are uploading this onto an iPod, of course, it would make no difference - it would all fit. Heck, ALL of George's albums would fit ! But I've given myself a challenge, and I need to figure out a solution. I like how the two "rare" songs flow, but I guess you could take out "Horse", and replace it with a much shorter song. "Teardrops", a relatively obscure gem, was a UK A-Side, but it was an edited version. Maybe if you used that instead, and use the regular version of "Fab", you could fit it all. Or you could take out "Teardrops" altogether, but that makes the disk kind of lopsided. Another option is: you could take out "All Things Must Pass", and make "Bangla Desh" the closing track, or make "What Is Life?" the closer, and end on a much more upbeat note. Or find a shorter, alternate version of "All Things Must Pass", like the impromptu one he did at VH1 studios in 1997 while appearing with Ravi Shankar.

Luckily, I don't have to decide. You could do it all yourself, and do it multiple ways. All I'm hoping for is that if Olivia and Dhani do release a compilation like this, it will do justice to his legacy, as well as to his fans.

Monday, July 7, 2008



Last night, Ringo was interviewed on Larry King's CNN show. It was a perfunctory interview until a "surprise" guest called in. It was Yoko calling in from New York. Yoko did her best to say the right things, especially promoting Ringo's new computer art book "Painting Is My Madness" (which had unfortunately just been covered before the commercial break). The highlight was Yoko singing "Happy Birthday" to Ringo after Larry requested it. It started off conventionally but was "Yoko-ized" when Ono sang "Happy Birthday Dear Ringooooooaaaoaooaooaoooo" as only Yoko can. There definitely seemed to be good vibes between the two of them. Mr. Starkey was also impressed by Christine Aguilera's birthday greeting, and didn't get annoyed with Larry until he asked what Ringo would do when he turned 69. For the full transcript, go here (second half of the show):
(NOTE: It will probably be corrected, but it currently says : YOKO ONO, WIFE OF JOHN LENIN)



From Liverpool, with luv

The former Beatles drummer is touring North America this summer to promote a new album that's close to his heart.,0,1420213.story

Sunday, July 6, 2008


On July 7, the last person to join the Beatles, Richard Starkey, M.B.E., will turn 68. He was the oldest Beatle.

Ringo is the Rodney Dangerfield of music. To non-musicians, he gets no respect. Much like his former drinking partner, Keith Moon, Ringo was known more for his personality than his musical ability. As George humorously noted, both he and Ringo were "economy-class Beatles".

Early live footage of the Fabs shows a smiling, mop-topped Ringo happily bashing away at his drum kit. All subtle nuances were thrown out the window as he tried to keep the beat while watching the other three rock out at the front of the stage. I said "watching" because in those primitive days, the Beatles could hardly hear themselves. There were no monitors, and they only had 100 Watt amps to battle the screams of tens of thousands of teen aged girls.

This does a disservice to his legacy.

The Beatles didn't become "The Beatles" until Ringo joined for good in 1962. Starr's steady beat gave the Fab's music added energy and excitement. According to Mark Lewisohn, Beatles recording sessions rarely broke down because of the drumming. As the Beatles became more of a studio band, Ringo's drumming became varied and experimental. If anyone mocks Ringo's talents as a drummer, put on "Abbey Road" and ask when his drumming is NOT innovative.

Ringo's solo career got off to an inauspicious start in 1970 with two off-beat albums: an orchestrated album of standards, "Sentimental Journey", and a country album, "Beaucoups Of Blues". At the time these seemed like jokes - after all, he was a Beatle, and we expected better things. However, these albums both have a certain charm, and, in retrospect, seem pretty daring. No rockers were doing "standards" in those days. It was years before it became commonplace. Friend Harry Nilsson soon followed suit. Recently Rod Stewart revitalized his career by recording four albums of songs from the Great American Songbook. Also, in 1970, an all-country album from a rocker was still a new idea.

Soon Ringo started having commercial success with the singles "It Don't Come Easy" and "Back Off Boogaloo", and the hit-filled albums "Ringo" and "Goodnight Vienna". While being interviewed by Tom Snyder in the mid-1970s, John Lennon said the fabs were most worried about Ringo's career, as their drummer hadn't written many songs, but laughed when he said that now Ringo was doing better than he was!

We are lucky to still have Ringo with us at all. As most of you know, he was a sickly child, missing much of his early school years recovering from a burst appendix and other ailments. As the Beatles were falling apart, Ringo developed a drinking problem, which developed into a drug problem. Luckily, he and his Bond girl wife, Barbara Bach, went into a detox recovery program, and both have been living a happy, drug-free existence for a quarter of a century.

Since 1989, Ringo has been a productive musician, with a steady stream of fairly successfiul albums and tours, which is amazing considering where his life and career was headed in the mid-1970s.

Some random memories:
-- Going to my friend Keith's house, circa 1971, and listening to "Beaucoups Of Blues", as he was the only person I knew who had it. It was a present from his uncle.
--Reading an interview (in Look Magazine?) after the release of "Beaucoups Of Blues", saying he called himself "Ringo", not because of his rings, but because it was a cowboy name.
--Surprised to see Ringo at the very end (after the credits!) of an episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus.
--Seeing Ringo on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In circa 1970, and saying to my sister as we were about to watch a Beatle on TV : "THIS IS AN HISTORIC OCCASION! "
--Reading an interview with Ringo where he said he screwed up the words to "It Don't Come Easy" during the evening performance at "The Concert For Bangla Desh" because it was "darker"and couldn't read the words - even though both shows were indoors.
--Watching Ringo present an award with Harry Nilsson on the Grammys sometime in the 1970s . Instead of taking turns reading the cue-cards, it went something like this:
RINGO: Hello, Harry. How are you ?
HARRY: Fine, Ringo, And you?
with both Harry and Ringo reading all the above lines in unison, including their own names. both obviously drunk and/or stoned.
--Finally seeing my fourth Beatle in concert in 1989, with the first All-Starr Band.
--Getting a call from someone informing me that Ringo was in a fancy clothing store in Boston's Back Bay a few years back, if I wanted to try and meet him. (I decided against it.)
--Taking my oldest son to see Ringo's All-Starr's in 2003, just as my father had taken me to see John and George three decades earlier.

To celebrate, maybe you can watch a movie Ringo was in. Aside from the obvious Fab flicks (most of them featuring Ringo in a prominent role), you could check out "The Magic Christian" with Peter Sellers (and a couple of the Pythons doing cameos). He also directed the T. Rex documentary "Born To Boogie", which featured Ringo jamming with Marc Bolan and Elton John. While you're at it, you could dig out his early solo albums, and check out "Have You Seen My Baby (Hold On)" featuring Bolan, and "Snookeroo" with Elton. Also worth revisiting are "Sunshine Life For Me" featuring most members of The Band, and Ringo's first tribute to his Fab friends, "Early 1970". Or listen to one of his more recent Beatles-related songs, like "Never Without You" or the extremely catchy "Liverpool 8".

If you have the time, you could check out Ringo on Larry King Monday night. Or put on any Beatles album, and check out the drumming. And give the man some respect.