Sunday, January 25, 2009

iPod, therefore iAm

As 2008 drew to a close, the New York Times ran an article about music sales for the year ( ). It discussed the decline in CD purchases, and the increase of digital music sales. There was one very interesting fact: The fourth and fifth best selling albums of the year ( cannot be downloaded from iTunes. According to the article, AC/DC and Kid Rock are opponents of downloading, yet still managed to sell approximately two million copies each of their new releases. (The number one album of 2008 sold less than three million copies). In the case of AC/DC, it is all the more impressive as their album "Black Ice" is a Wal-Mart exclusive.

The Beatles, of course, are one of the last holdouts -- not only in the world of digital downloading, but of CD re-issues in general. All Fab solo albums are now available on iTunes, but the actual Beatles catalogue is still in limbo, as the Beatles' Apple cannot agree to terms with Apple iTunes. I assume the re-issues are being stalled by the problems with iTunes, as albums such as 1968's "White Album", are known to be ready for re-release. Paul recently said that there was a stickling point with the iTunes deal, but noted that the Beatles were a special act, and should be treated as such. I'm sure anyone reading this would heartily agree. For a while, the Beatles were shy about releasing any albums since Billboard did not deem the 1980 U.S. album "Rarities" as a major new release, but a curiosity aimed at obsessive Beatles fans. Everything the Beatles do now (in most cases) must be bigger and better than anything else -- failure is not an option. It needs to be a global event. Additionally, it takes an army of promotion soldiers to make this happen. This must be well thought out before it is executed.

If the Beatles do agree to a deal, there are some interesting concerns. Will individual tracks be available? Will "Maggie Mae" cost the same as "Hey Jude"? Will "Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End" count as one song, or three ? I'd suggest that the albums be sold only as whole entities, and that the singles, like "Love Me Do"/"P.S. I Love You", or "Lady Madonna"/"The Inner Light", be available for the plucking for those not wanting to invest in a whole album. Also, all different album AND single configurations could be offered: mono, stereo, U.S., U.K., etc, so that fans could pick and choose what version(s) they want.

What the success of the AC/DC and Kid Rock albums shows us, however, is that The Beatles do not even need iTunes. A truly spectacular Beatles re-issue product, with improved sound, bonus tracks, mono and stereo mixes, detailed liner notes, and an additional DVD or Blu-Ray disc of archival footage, would get people into whatever record stores are left, to purchase the ultimate Beatles musical experience. Can you imagine going to pick up a copy of "Magical Mystery Tour" on CD, complete with the original booklet, the mono and stereo mixes, as well as the original television special AND "videos" of "All You Need Is Love", "Penny Lane", "Strawberry Fields Forever", and all three versions of "Hello Goodbye"? And then they could hide the "1967 Christmas Record" somewhere on the disc in an "Easter Egg"! Or how about the U.K. "Help!" album, with additional songs like "I'm Down", "Bad Boy", and "Yes It Is", and then have the original "Beatles at Shea" documentary included, as well as the appropriate promotional films ? And just think of the possibilities of the "Let It Be" album!

I've read many stories, mostly on-line, about fans' frustrations regarding the upgrade of the Beatles catalogue. A couple of years ago, the Fabs even brought someone on board specially to oversee this venture. Paul also mentioned that they wanted to make sure it was done properly. This is an important point. A couple of years after CDs had initially caught on, the Fab's catalogue was rush-released in 1987 and 1988 in order to capitalize on the twentieth anniversary of the "Sgt. Pepper" album. The sound was mediocre, the packaging unimaginative, the bonus tracks non-existent. At the time, the Beatles were still squabbling, and not in control of their own legacy. These CDs are the versions we are currently stuck with.

Good things come to those who wait. How lucky are we that we have the "Anthology" series of the mid-1990's instead of the original proposed single album version of out-takes from the 1980's ? Do we really want to repeatedly buy a re-issue of a re-issue, as fans of David Bowie, Elvis Costello and others have been "forced" to do (even if they were done expertly) ? The Beatles are still one of the biggest acts in the world, nearly four decades after splitting up, and deserve to be presented in the marketplace in a series of impressive, definitive, content-filled packages. However, The Beatles' Apple needs the have all four parties in agreement for something to be released, while all four are also busy simultaneously merchandising and promoting individual solo careers and catalogues. Then they have to partner up with EMI, retail outlets, etc., all of whom want as big a piece of the Apple Pie as they can get. So there must be negotiations that are as tedious as they are time consuming. Of course, if the deals don't work out, then Apple has to start all over again. Besides, there has been a steady supply of "new" Fab products released since "The Beatles at the Beeb" appeared in 1994. Aren't we better off with the "Anthology" series than remastered compact discs of albums that are readily available ? These things take time. Life is what happens when you upgrade your catalog.

Anyway. as the core Beatles fans get a little bit older and a little bit slower, we eagerly, if a bit impatiently, await the next installment of a proper Beatles re-issue campaign. Of course, the Fabs appeal is cross-generational, and there's no sign of their popularity diminishing any time soon. Let's just hope they finally get it together while we are still around to enjoy it. Maybe they can release the entire catalogue as a big box set, and call it "Eight Arms To Hold You". Or "I Want You (She's So Heavy) ? "It's All Too Much"? "The Gray Album"?

And if you think you've been waiting a long time, think of the poor Neil Young fans who are enduring, again, yet another potential delay in the never-ending saga of his ambitious, two-decade old "Archives" project! (Thrasher's Wheat site: )

Friday, January 16, 2009

Macca Live 2010 Side Six

With all of this excitement of Paul on Howard Stern and The View, as well as his great new Fireman album, I know you've been wondering, "When is Yer Blogger going to finish his wonderful imaginary McCartney live album? We've been waiting over a month to find out how the concert ends! What are the last songs going to be? What would Paul do for an encore ? I've barely made it through the holidays! How busy can Yer Blogger be ? I've been hanging on the edge of my seat ! When is my hot cocoa going to be ready ?"

Well, Beedle Peedles, the time has finally arrived! Below you will find my "ideal" side six for Macca Live 2010. What I tried to accomplish is an overview of Macca's career outside of the Beatles. This collection covers everything from non-Fab 1960's recordings, through his years with Wings, to a solo career that continues to this day. With such a large body of work, it was difficult to cover every aspect of the career of James Paul McCartney. Some of his hits, like "Listen To What The Man Said" and "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey" have unfortunately been excluded, due to time constraints. I would have like to have included rockers like "Helen Wheels" and "Hi Hi Hi", plus personal favorites, like "Mumbo" (which seems like a blue print for the Electric Arguments album), but felt these songs would have to be sacrificed in order to have a more varied, two-hour-plus show. Luckily, at least some of these songs have been performed live in the past. My goal was to shine a light on some Macca songs that may not have gotten to attention they deserved, and hopefully it would send some people back to their music collections, and dig up some wonderful, half-forgotten music.

One of the things Paul is most proud of is the songs he's written specifically for movies. I could have gone for the Oscar-nominated "Vanilla Sky", or the title song from the comedy Spies Like Us, but decided to go for the strongest and most popular songs.


This hit single is from Macca's own movie, Give My Regards To Broad Street, and featured a soaring solo by Pink Floyd's David Gilmour. I'd like to hear Rusty's take on that! This beautiful ballad will lull the audience with a warm musical embrace before we get to the exciting final song of the main set.


The name is Ramon. Paul Ramon. (Or is it Percy Thrillington? )

James Bond has never been hipper. Not only is Paul obviously and justifiably proud of this James Bond classic, but with all the pyrotechnics used on stage, it's the perfect climax. This has recently been McCartney's explosive closer, and there's no reason to change that now. Plus, it will show Jack White and Alicia Keys a thing or two about How To Write A Classic James Bond Movie Theme. Not to mention Chris Cornell, Garbage, and Madonna.

Paul and the band now go back stage, and take a well deserved break.



The title track from one of his most popular and acclaimed post-Beatles albums, the one that really took his solo career into the stratosphere. This song was a chart-topping single in it's own right, about six months after the album came out, sandwiched between Ray Stevens' "The Streak" and the anti-war song "Billy Don't Be A Hero" by Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods. (Extremely tenuous Beatles connection: "Billy Don't Be A Hero" was co-written by Mitch Murray, of "How Do You Do It" fame.) A nice way to build excitement, since the song starts off quietly, until it "explodes" when the band "escapes" (as the band on stage is about do).


This hit song probably gets more play today on satellite radio than it did in 1979, and it gives a chance for Paul's fans to dance along as he bids them a reluctant farewell. Can't you just image a theater full of McCartney fans singing and dancing along with this one ? "Don't say it - Don't say goodnight tonight!" I bet Macca would eat it all up ! Another great bass line as well.



One of the all-time great love songs. Paul's ode to Linda could also, in this context, be a big thank you to his fans. While I'd love a solo version on piano, I assume the band would come on stage for one more song.



Paul returns alone , one more time, for an unexpected, yet totally appropriate, final song choice. McCartney wrote this for Apple artist Mary Hopkin in 1969, and it was a massive hit, kept off the U.K. number one spot by the Beatles' single, "Get Back". I've always loved this one. A solo acoustic demo version by McCartney has been in the hands of collectors for years. Paul with just an acoustic guitar, saying "Goodbye", would be the perfect ending .

Well , there you have it: "Macca Live 2010". Finally. I hope you have enjoyed the show. Now go have your cocoa.