Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Heather "Close to suicide"

The headlines are proclaiming that Heather said she was "close to suicide" a while back because of all the tabloid stories.

I watched the interview, and it's a bit overblown. She's asked if she was ever "close to suicide", and she says "Yes" and talks about being very depressed.

So, in her defense, the sensational headlines about "suicide" are misleading.

But she does complain about being labeled a "gold-digger" by the rag mags, and I find that pretty hypocritical.

After only a few years of marriage I don't think she deserves much, and she's obviously going after a big chunk of dough or they would've settled quickly. Yes, Paul is a notorious cheapskate, but I find it hard to believe that he would want the divorce proceedings to linger this long if she was being reasonable.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Cirque Du Soleil, LOVE

To celebrate my 50th, I was treated to the "Love" in Las Vegas. What a super tribute to the boys and their music.

I'm not going to go into a blow-by-blow review of the show and the various sequences. You can find plenty of reviews on the Internet and see images as well. But I will tell you why I think it's great and definitely worth seeing. And I'll wrap up with a few tips about seating and other stuff.

"Love" is a classy presentation that doesn't exploit or do the obvious. And isn't that what made the Beatles' so great in the first place? They never hit you over the head. Whether it was a story-book tune like "She's Leaving Home" or a statement like "Revolution", they made you think. What's really going on in the songs? What does Gideon's Bible represent? What the heck does "one and one and one is three" mean?

Sure, they got preachy in their solo works. Sometime in New York City, "Give Ireland Back to the Irish", and a big chunk of George's songs are blatant statements. But as "The Beatles", they were always coy.

Even "All You Need Is Love" is vague. Compare it to the Youngblood's "Get Together" (y'know, "C'mon people now, smile on your brother, etc.). The Youngblood's told us how to do it, whereas Lennon's tune is more of a personal positive-thinking rant than an anthem to peace and love.

"Love" generally pulls off the same tone. They assume we know "The Beatles" and their history and rather than explain it, they present acts with a Beatlesque ambiance.

The Cirque show also gives us the same kind of variety a Beatles' album provided. It's not just Lennon-McCartney. We get plenty of George and one Ringo ("Octopus's Garden). And the types of acrobatics, visual effects and dancing vary as well. There are all types of performers. Black, white, Asian, gorgeous, grotesque, young and old.

It also has a very "British" feel to it. War torn Liverpool, Mod London and psychedelia.

And as a Beatle-nut, I was impressed by the more obscure references like a Volkswagen with "28IF" license plate and a character mumbling quotes from "Revolution No. 9": "The Watusi...the Twist...".

The use of projected images of real footage mixed with silhouetted actors imitating the Beatles (to a tee, BTW) was fab.

The sound system was out of this world. The re-mixed tunes fill the theater. There are even tiny speakers in the seats facing you. It's the closest thing I've experienced (other than a McCartney live show) that gives you a sense of what a Beatles' reunion might have sounded like.

Some tips:

The best seats are near the front but not the first few rows. Go for seats in rows E thru G.

Get there early. They start on time.

The Beatles' store has a lot of cool stuff. But don't go before or after the show. It's too crowded. If you go in the middle of the day, you can browse with only a few other customers. I especially liked to t-shirts and other "gear". Things, like toys, CDs, key-rings, etc., you can probably get online, but it's nice to actually see and try on a shirt or hat before you buy it.

So if you get to Vegas, check it out. You can buy tickets via the Beatles' official site.

Friday, October 05, 2007

The Cassette Experience

I clearly remember the first time I saw a Beatles' cassette. In was in a shopping center in Southwest Portland at a little record store. They had the White Album, and it was in a brown jacket with gold lettering and a little gold Apple logo. I had to have it.

I thought it was odd that the order of the songs had been tampered with, and didn't give it much thought. I later learned it was because Captiol wanted the tapes to run the same length on each side, making for a better listening experience. But messing with the running order of the White Album is kind of like putting a Picasso in an ill-fitting frame. Still, I thought the little package was fun to have.

8-Tracks had come out a few years before, and compared to that whacky format, cassettes were much better. By the late 70's, 8-Tracks were history. I never had reel-to-reel albums. They seemed like a lot of trouble, but my brother had some and they did sound good, as I recall. And the packaging was nice. But it was an obscure format. I don't even remember ever seeing them in record stores.

Throughout the 70's I would get most of my music on vinyl, but would sometimes get a tape as well. I remember having Ram on cassette only, but generally my tapes were simply a way to listen to albums somewhere besides the stereo at home.

They were really just a novelty back then. But as we all got our driver's licences, car stereos became a big thing. We all knew the best models, the best speakers and how to install them. Some of the players also had FM, which was nice, since most of us only had AM radios in our cars. Nowadays, all cars come with great music systems, but not then.

I remember having all of John Lennon's albums on cassette and driving around Portland playing them and thinking that that was super cool. While other kids were blasting Led Zepplin or Alice Cooper, I was listening to the Lennon angst of Plastic Ono Band.

Then in the early 80's, cassettes overtook vinyl. Eventually, it seemed, that you couldn't buy anything except cassettes.

I remember a young guy at my workplace showing me his cassette copy of Rubber Soul that he'd just bought. It was cool that he was discovering the Beatles some 20 years after the album had come out, but the magic of pouring over the cover (and back-cover) was something he's never experience. That was always part of the fun of a new album. Laying around in your bedroom, reading the liner notes and examining the cover while you listened to it for the first time. A cassette box is just that. A little plastic box. Nothing much to read or look at.

For a whole decade or so, that's all there was. Cassettes. If you needed a new copy of a Beatles' album, you had to get it on tape. And again, Capitol messed up the song order. On Abbey Road for instance, they stuck the only two George Harrison songs ("Something" and "Here Comes the Sun") as the first and second cuts on Side One. What a lousy job of editing that was.

Only a few albums escaped the wrath of Capitol's editors: Meet the Beatles, A Hard Day's Night, Help!, Rubber Soul, and Revolver. And sometimes, the editing (which, as stated above, was supposedly done to make the two sides running time as close as possible) made no sense. Hey Jude simply swapped Side One and Side Two (thus sabotaging the chronological order of the LP). And on Beatles '65, they actually increased the time difference by moving a couple of songs around. And while Captiol seemed obsessed with altering the cassettes of Beatle albums, none of the groups' solo albums were changed for tapes.

The madness all ended with the advent of CDs. The Capitol versions of the cassettes were eventually phased out and the Beatles' catalog reverted to the original British versions, in their original running order, worldwide. And the packaging, although a far cry from the original vinyl versions, was a big improvement over the tiny cassettes.

And because I'm a collector, and an obsessed Beatles' completest, I do have the entire Beatles' Capitol catalog on cassette. They sit on a bottom shelf of my Beatles' CD tower. I look at them now and then, and think back on those days when they first appeared as a cute novelty, then became our "car" music, and those dark days in the 80's when they were the only format we had (except for our well worn vinyl copies if you still had a working turntable).

Now I have it all. Vinyl, cassettes and CDs. And while I may play the CD, I still like to lay around and pour over those original cardboard album covers. Finding some drawing or photo I never noticed (or more likely, forgot about) on Revolver, reading the lyrics on the back of Sgt. Pepper, or opening up the gate fold of Capitol's version of Help!. And remembering...