Tag Archives: Beatles

Does This Sound Like the Real Thing or What Is Real?

“Even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be. This unique existence of the work of art determined the history to which it was subject throughout the time of its existence. This includes the changes which it may have suffered in physical condition over the years as well as the various changes in its ownership.” —Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” 1935

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One of the things that is absolutely taken for granted is the ubiquity of the arts in our daily lives. Music comes from everywhere and while much of it doesn’t necessarily rise to the levels that one would imagine would have required the invocation of Euterpe, think only of the situation of someone 200 years ago:

One of the least expensive, most common instruments, the harmonica, wasn’t invented until 1821.

While we associate harmonicas with blues performers and hobos, it is a pretty good bet that back in the first half of the 19th century Christian Friedrich Ludwig Buschmann’s instrument wasn’t an inexpensive item.

Hearing music–which we don’t even think about–was certainly something special for much longer than it hasn’t been.

Continue reading Does This Sound Like the Real Thing or What Is Real?

Some Days in July and The Beatles

According to The Beatles Bible, “Lennon was a notoriously bad driver.” On July 1, 1969, the day that recording was to begin for Abbey Road, Lennon, Yoko Ono, her daughter Kyoko and his son Julian were involved in a car accident, as Lennon drove into a ditch in Scotland. He would have probably been better off had he (1) been a better driver or (2) had a better work ethic, such that he’d show up in the studio, which is located in London, on July 1.

He did make it to the studio on July 9. As Yoko sustained more injuries than John, a double bed was ordered from Harrods and delivered to the studio, so she could be on hand in order to provide her insights into the music. Their first bed-in protest against the Vietnam War had occurred a few months earlier, in March, in Amsterdam. May 26-June 1 they had their second, in Montreal. Perhaps this bed was a protest about something else.

The first day Lennon was in the studio the band did takes 1 to 21 of “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.” The following day they did overdubbing and mixing of the tune.

Lennon, evidently, missed Ringo’s 29th birthday, which was on the 7th.

The song in question is about a serial killer. That Macca is quite the crack-up.

Apparently John was completely dismissive of the song, reportedly not participating. George and Ringo didn’t much like it, either, but they performed on it.

One of the reasons they weren’t chuffed about it was that it took three days to complete. A three-minute, 27-second ditty. Three days.

Paul must have really been invested in it.

Bang! Bang!

Continue reading Some Days in July and The Beatles

On New Year’s Day

On January 1, 1959, Johnny Cash performed at San Quentin State prison; what is interesting is that he’d released “Folsom Prison Blues” in December 1955, and didn’t play at Folsom Prison until 1968, when he recorded a live album there. He followed that up in 1969 with Johnny Cash at San Quentin. When he played the show on New Year’s Day in ’59 Merle Haggard was in the audience; Haggard had been convicted of trying to rob a roadhouse in Bakersfield in ‘57; failed at an escape from Bakersfield Jail, so was transferred to San Quentin. While Cash had never been a convict, Haggard had spent time in several prisons; that New Year’s Day performance by Cash was, Haggard later said, instrumental in his becoming a musician, something that he’d tried to do prior to the Bakersfield job, obviously unsuccessfully at that time.

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On January 1, 1953, Hank Williams—whose given name is Hiram—was being driven to Canton, Ohio, for a concert. Williams—who’d had a long bout of problems with alcohol, amphetamines, etc. (his drunkenness lead to his dismissal from the Grand Ole Opry in 1952; he became part of the show in 1949), although it should be pointed out that he was plagued by severe back problems and later a heart condition, so odds are the substance abuse was meant to relieve the pain—was found dead in the back seat of the Cadillac he was riding in. He was 29. One thing that Williams had pulled off that few others have managed as well as he did was to record as “Luke the Drifter.” Apparently, Luke the Drifter performed religious recitations, which Williams figured would not exactly be helpful vis-a-vis his public career. Somehow songs like “My Son Calls Another Man Daddy” and “Moanin’ the Blues” wouldn’t be Luke the Drifter-approved.

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On January 1, 1962, one of the great fails of all time took place: The Beatles auditioned for Decca Records. And Decca decided that Brian Poole and the Tremeloes would be a better pick. In July 1963 that band made its way to the charts for the first time in the UK with a cover of an Isley Brothers hit, “Twist and Shout.” The Beatles had beaten the band to that song, having released their version in March of the same year. The Tremeloes evidently knew a good thing when they heard it: in a post-Poole lineup, they covered “Good Day Sunshine” in 1966. It didn’t make the charts. Back to the Beatles for a moment: although January 1, 1962 was a Monday, did people really work that day in the UK?

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On January 1, 2007, BBC Radio 2 (According to the company: “The remit of Radio 2 is to be a distinctive mixed music and speech service, targeted at a broad audience, appealing to all age groups over 35”) announced the results of a poll that had been taken of approximately 20,000 of its listeners. It indicated that the greatest British band of all time was not the Beatles. It was Queen. This makes one question the vaunted “wisdom of crowds.”

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On January 1, 1890, the first Rose Parade was conducted by the Pasadena Valley Hunt Club. The association with a football game didn’t occur until January 1, 1902. There is a notable university in Pasadena, California Institute of Technology, better known as “CalTech.” It was established in 1891. It had a football team. The Beavers never played in the Rose Bowl. CalTech did have an “appearance” at the Rose Bowl in 1961. Some clever Sheldons managed to switch flip cards used by the cheerleaders for the Washington Huskies so that people in the stands would be directed to unknowingly spell “CALTECH” during halftime, which was picked up by the national NBC broadcast. (The CalTech football team ceased to exist in 1993.) On January 1, 1972, the first rock band rode on a float during the Tournament of Roses: Three Dog Night. Which makes one question the wisdom of the organizers in Pasadena back then. On January 1, 2021 there was no Rose Parade, having been canceled due to the pandemic. It was the first time the parade had been canceled since 1945, due to a world war.

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On January 1, 1975, Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham officially joined Fleetwood Mac. In April 2018 Buckingham was “fired” from the band, ostensibly because of Stevie Nicks. He sued the band in October for dismissal. He had a heart attack in February 2019 and underwent open heart surgery. Due to the intubation, his vocal cords were affected. He recovered and was to have made his first return to a stage at the Beale Street Music Festival, which was to have taken place May 2020, was pushed back to October 2020, and was cancelled. In December 2020 Stevie Nicks sold 80% ownership of her song catalog—including “Dreams,” which had a massive boost in 2020 due to a TikTok video—for a reported $100-million.

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On January 1, 2021, I thought I’d wish you all a good one for the year. The pandemic isn’t over yet. It is not likely to be for several more months. It will. But still: be careful. Because while we are all ready to get out there, know that on February 27, 2020, someone who shall go unnamed said, “It’s going to disappear. One day — it’s like a miracle — it will disappear.” We’re still waiting.

How to Write an Earworm

In the days of AM radio, when songs were under three minutes long, there were a variety of sequences of songs played—repeatedly—which were generally described by the disc jockey as being the “top 10.” It was never entirely clear what the number described (i.e., top 10 of what?).

But it should be noted that while there was undoubtedly the whiff of something shady (to mix a couple of metaphors), radio station managers knew that they had to be exceedingly careful because of Congressional investigations into so-called “payola” in 1960, which even caused comment by then-president Dwight Eisenhower, who considered this to be an issue of public morality.

Which seems a bit too far.

But be that as it may, the FCC established a law that says, in part, “When a broadcast station transmits any matter for which money, service, or other valuable consideration is paid or promised to, or charged or accepted by such station, the station, at the time of the broadcast, must announce: (1) that such matter is sponsored, paid for, or furnished, either in whole or in part; and (2) by whom or on whose behalf such consideration was supplied.

In other words, the issue was (and conceivably still is) that the station (or more likely the DJ who was getting swag and whatnot from the A&R man repping the label and musician) would play a given cut over and over and over again. The effect would,  presumably, be one of an excessive number of listeners buying into the ad populum fallacy: if it is being played that much it must be good.

Or there is another thing that could have come into play: the Ohrwurm phenomenon. The earworm. The hearing a song “in your head.” A song “stuck” in your head.

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Googling “how to write a hit song” results in 386,000,000 results.

According to Robin Frederick, who operates mysoundcoach.com,

“Here’s the simple skeleton structure on which most hits are built

  • VERSE / CHORUS
  • VERSE / CHORUS
  • BRIDGE / CHORUS”

Ms. Frederick goes on to explain, “Those monster radio hits often add a section between the verse and chorus called the pre-chorus. It’s used to build anticipation and excitement leading up to those huge hooky choruses. Pop/Dance hits will sometimes have a section after the chorus called a post-chorus. This is where the music producer gets to show off his or her chops.”

Got it?

The chorus counts.

Continue reading How to Write an Earworm

The Crying of Lot 205

Friday, April 10, was the 50th anniversary of the breakup of The Beatles, so what better day than that to buy stuff?

Specifically, Beatles’ stuff.

Let’s face it, there hasn’t been a whole lot of interest in the actual music being put out by the two remaining people who had been part of the band, so that’s not driving a whole lot of revenue for anyone.

So a wide array of things that were associated with the once Fab Four were put up for auction at Julien’s Auctions.

In case you are wondering, that business is not operated by John Lennon’s son: he’s Julian. According to the folks at Julien’s, it is “the world record-breaking auction house to the stars.”

(And as we have a bit of time on our collective hands as we shelter at home, let’s think about that “auction house to the stars” claim for a moment. Also according to the firm, it “received its second placement in the Guinness Book of World Records for the sale of the world’s most expensive dress ever sold at auction, the Marilyn Monroe ‘Happy Birthday Mr. President’ dress which sold for $4.81 million.” That happened in 2016. Ms. Monroe sang that song to John F. Kennedy in 1962. Ms. Monroe died that same year. So one of the claims to fame of the “auction house to the stars” has no benefit to the star in question, as both the star and the person to whom her slinky vocal stylings were directed have both been dead for more than 50 years. In addition to which, in terms of the auction that we will be looking at in a moment—honest, I will get out of this parenthetical remark soon—again, two of the stars are no longer with us, as John Lennon died in 1980 and George Harrison in 2001, so again, how are they going to benefit from the auction? In case you’re wondering about the first placement in the Guinness Book of World Records, that occurred in 2009, when it auctioned off a white glove that had been worn by Michael Jackson, “making it the most expensive glove ever sold at auction.” Jackson died in 2009. It isn’t clear whether the glove sold before or after his passing. And the whole notion of a glove being owned by him is not worth thinking about too hard, or at all, for that matter.)

Back to the auction of the Beatles’ related materials.

Continue reading The Crying of Lot 205

Introducing the Midnight Caller Sound Magazine

I like sound collages. I always have. Well, at least since I got my own copy of the White Album and listened through “Revolution 9” with more than a little bit of excited fear. Not to be too artsy-fartsy about it but there is something fascinating with the deconstruction/reconstruction of sound when you change the context in which it was originally created. Suddenly, the innocuous turns ominous.

I originally started the Midnight Caller sound magazine as a creative way to promote my band Daystar. Maybe it’s because we’ve been running GLONO for almost two decades and I am just numb to press releases, but the idea of typing up our influences and recording process just felt so torturous. So instead, I created a sound collage at the prompting of our bassist Kelly Simmons. And I love it. I love the process of creating these broadcasts and the weird twists that come out of it. So now it’s more. This is what the inside of my head sounds like, and you’re welcome to it.

The first three episodes are live now and available via Soundcloud and iTunes with more to come.

Continue reading Introducing the Midnight Caller Sound Magazine

50 Years Ago in Rolling Stone: Issue 24

Rolling Stone issue #24 had a cover date of December 21, 1968. 32 pages. 35 cents. Cover photo of the Beatles.

This is the final issue of 1968. By this time the magazine had firmly established its identity. It was now a professional publication with a copy editor (Charles Perry) and at last a managing editor in John Burks who would run the magazine while Wenner “focused on expanding the business and procuring the big interviews,” according to Joe Hagan’s Sticky Fingers. Burks was a real journalist, a former Newsweek correspondent whom Wenner hired to placate Ralph Gleason, who was “furious at [Wenner] for letting Rolling Stone come out late and riddled with errors…and leaving behind a trail of angry and unpaid writers” (pg. 119).

Over the next two years John Burks, with support from Greil Marcus and Gleason, would turn Rolling Stone into a serious journalistic enterprise, exemplified in 1970 by the in-depth coverage of Altamont in January and Kent State in May. (Of course, Wenner being Wenner, by the end of 1970 he fired almost everybody, including Burks and Marcus, and took back control.)

The opinions and priorities that he presented in these first 24 issues would continue to shape the rock and roll canon for the next forty years, although over the past ten years or so this canon has started to be questioned and re-evaluated. There was a lot more going on during the sixties than what was featured in the pages of Rolling Stone. But Wenner’s provincial attitude about the superiority of the San Francisco rock scene and his blind deification of John Lennon remains intact for a lot of people to this day. And not just Boomers!

One surprising thing about this first full year of Rolling Stone is how much coverage black music received. Throughout the 70s it got way, way whiter but at first there was a lot of coverage of soul, jazz, and R&B.

It also surprised me that there were woman on the masthead this whole time. Sue C. Clark was the New York Desk the whole year. The editorial assistants were mostly women from the get go including sisters Janie and Linda Schindelheim. (Jane was Wenner’s girlfriend whose dad gave her the money to help found the company.) Susan Lydon, Henri Napier, Elizabeth Campbell, and Catherine Manfredi all had early bylines. Not to suggest it wasn’t a total sausage fest, but Rolling Stone got a ton of support (and column inches) from women.

Features: “Beatles” by Jann Wenner (White Album review); “A Short Essay On Macrobiotics” by John Lennon; “Dion: Today I Think I Got a Chance” by Ritchie Yorke; “Three Short Short Stories” by Richard Brautigan; “Lou Adler” by Jerry Hopkins.

News: Beatles’ Record-Busting LP May be All-Time Biggest; Stones Plan World Tour, Xmas TV Show in Works; Doors New Riot-Concert Tour A Smash in Phoenix, Arizona; Graham Nash to leave the Hollies; New Motown Suit; Detroit Scene; Burdon Quits to make Flicks, Animals Hassled in Japan; Zeppelin Signs; King Elvis Figures the time is Right, Does Big TV Special; More Hassles for Family Dog.

Columns: Perspectives by Ralph J. Gleason (“So Revolution is Commercial”); Soul Roll by Jon Landau; Visuals by Thomas Albright (“The Portable War Memorial Commemorating VD Day”); Cinema by Roger Ebert (“Two Virgins and Number Five”); “Yoko Talks About It” by Yoko Ono; Random Notes on Aretha Franklin, Grace Slick, Cream, Jefferson Airplane, Otis Rush, and Johnny Winter.

Continue reading 50 Years Ago in Rolling Stone: Issue 24

50 Years Ago in Rolling Stone: Issue 20

Rolling Stone issue #20 had a cover date of October 26, 1968. 32 pages. 35 cents. Cover photo of the Beatles.

Features: “Books: The Beatles Authorized Biography” by Jann Wenner; “The Rolling Stone Interview with Cass Elliot” by Jerry Hopkins; “Doors, Airplane in Middle Earth” by Jonathan Cott; “San Francisco Going Strong In Spite of Bad-Mouthing” by Ben Fong-Torres; “Ray Charles in London” by Max Jones.

News: Los Angeles Near Clubless: Kaleidoscope Kollapses; Bill Graham Forms Talent-Booking Firm: ‘Millard Agency’; Bob Dylan Beats Elvis In British Pop Poll; New Beatles Double Album Due on November 16; Ex-Beatle Best Wins Playboy Libel Suit; Brian Jones Fined in Dope Case – But No Jail; Sly Stone’s Bum Trip to London.

Columns: Jon Landau on Albert King. Random Notes (bits on Rick Danko’s car accident; Nicky Hopkins; Al Kooper and Mike Bloomfield; a mention of a new group “featuring Stephen Stills perhaps accompanied by David Crosby, Graham Nash of the Hollies and maybe Eric Clapton”; the Turtles “I hope that today’s so-called hip audience will see that these cats are truly hip”; the Who; Aretha Franklin; Joan Baez; Johnny Cash). No Thomas Albright “Visuals” column this time, but he’ll be back in issue 22 and will continue to contribute to the magazine until 1972. Ralph J. Gleason will also be back in issue 22 with a new “Perspectives” column.

Continue reading 50 Years Ago in Rolling Stone: Issue 20

The Resolectrics – Open Seas

Any bluesman will tell you it’s a game of sleight of hand. They all employ little tricks that confound and surprise you, which is essential for keeping music that is based on simple structures and patterns exciting.

The second album from Portland, Oregon’s The Resolectrics is a study in sleight of hand. One of my favorite live bands in a city filthy with great live bands, this three-piece has an uncanny ability to get sometimes stodgy Pacific Northwest audiences shaking their moneymakers. They do it with an infectious blend of blue-eyed soul and swampy blues they’ve developed over a few years of bouncing up and down the coast, which is what you’d expect to find in their sophomore release. And you do…but also so much more.

Photo © Tim LaBarge 2018

An equilateral triangle has three equal sides, which can be leveraged in architecture distribute weight and provide strength and stability. The foundation of The Resolectrics is certainly centered in rhythm & blues, but a foundation is something you build upon and what this band has built goes well beyond what you’d expect from the recent crop of bands hoping to be the next White Stripes, Black Keys or any other variation of black and white. The Resolectrics’ power is in the gray areas; the musical corners that aren’t as easily defined. It’s in these shadows where The Resolectrics confound and surprise you. They just as easily weave in Pet Sounds and Revolver as they do Electric Mud.

It’ll be interesting to see what other tricks they bring to bear and if this album is any indication, the skies will be wonderfully gray as they continue to sail their open seas.

The Resolectrics: Web, Facebook, Instagram, Amazon, Spotify

New Welles video: Hold Me Like I’m Leaving

Video: Welles – “Hold Me Like I’m Leaving”

Welles - Hold Me Like I'm Leaving [Official Video]

Directed by Mafalda Millies. From Red Trees and White Trashes, out now on 300 Entertainment.

Jesse Allen Wells calls his band Welles. He used to call himself Jeh Sea. So spelling is a loose concept for him. As is originality.

Wells told Billboard that, “I had this Beatles ditty in my head from The White Album, ‘Cry Baby Cry,’ that’s been stuck in my head all these years. So I just wrote (‘Hold Me Like I’m Leaving’) from that, added a melody, chorus and pre-chorus and wrote the song.”

The song that was stuck in his head was clearly Paul McCartney’s hidden track “Can You Take Me Back,” tagged on to the end of John Lennon’s “Cry Baby Cry.” And Wells totally re-purposes its melody for his verses. Nevertheless, he retains 100% of the songwriting credit. Talent borrows, genius steals, right?

Despite the outright theft, or maybe because of it, this is a jam.

“I’m not trying to bring rock and roll back or anything like that. This is just how I talk. This is my musical language, and if you want to have a conversation with me you’re gonna have to listen to some rock and roll, I reckon.”

Can you dig it?

Welles: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Welles video: Hold Me Like I’m Leaving