Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Sue Me, Hate You Blues

Three interesting stories in the Beatles News today (check the link over there somewhere >>>).

First, George's film company, Handmade, has had trading of its shares suspended for failing to publish their accounts. Hell, I didn't even know you could buy shares in Handmade! Maybe I'll buy a few...or maybe not.

Next, a court ruled that some footage of John filmed in 1970 belongs to Yoko. The film shows an unflattering portrait of John smoking pot, threatening to put LSD in Nixon's tea and other such things. The details of who's who in the lawsuit is complicated, but let's just say that Yoko has it now, which means it will ever see the light of day. Darn! I'd like to see it!

Finally, there's a little recap of the strained McCartney/Jackson relationship. Specifically, the bidding war for the Beatles songs (which Paul lost) and Paul's resentment that his 'friend' took control of the Lennon-McCartney canon. Of course, now Paul is all 'He was a wonderful guy' and it sounds like all is forgiven.

I often wonder about why folks like the Beatles, Beach Boys...even Kiss and the Dead Kennedys are always suing someone or each other and end up in some courtroom having a judge settle their business and 'intellectual property' issues. It seems to happen a lot!

And it's funny when you see the plaintiff and defendant all smiles, together at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, or a photo of them hanging out together, and you wonder...how does that work? Do they consider the legal problems 'just business'? And that it's more about the lawyers and not them as friends/colleagues? I don't know. But when I see Paul and Ringo together these days, I wonder, does Ringo ever say 'Hey, Paul. Remember when I came to your house to discuss the Apple mess and you threw me out and said I'll ruin you!?

Weird scenes in the goldmine, baby.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Goodbye, Michael

Michael Jackson was a super performer. 'Billie Jean' is one of my favorite songs and I've been playing Thriller off and on since I heard the news.

The television has been 'All Michael', and since there isn't much to report, the pundits are analyzing his career and personal life. They are saying he was in the same league as Elvis and The Beatles, and as far as record sales and overall popularity foes, I'd have to agree.

Back in January 2008, I made a list of 'My Top Ten' rock and roll performers. If you want to see my criteria for the list, check it out in the archives. But here is the list itself:

1. Elvis Presley 2. The Beatles 3. The Beach Boys 4. The Supremes 5. Bob Dylan 6. The Ramones 7. Elton John 8. Pink Floyd 9. Stevie Wonder 10. Black Sabbath

Today I was wondering, 'How come Michael didn't make my list?'. I suppose it's because I was trying to find the best of a category, e.g., Elvis being the best of the 50's rockers, The Beatles the best of the British invasion, Ramones best punk band, etc.

Stevie Wonder (as best R&B solo artist) beat him out and the Supremes beat out The Jackson 5 (as best R&B group).

I'd place Michael as fourth best R&B solo artist behind Stevie, James Brown and Aretha Franklin. And The Jackson 5 would go third behind the Supremes and The Temptations.

But that's just my silly list, for what it's worth. I did love the guy and the Jackson 5 as well. Hell, I grew up with him (he was 10 months younger than me) and always felt a connection being the same age.

I heard a rumor that his Will has him leaving the Beatles catalogue to Paul McCartney. If that's true, I think I'll be moving him to that #1 spot.

Monday, June 22, 2009

I Read a Blog Today, Oh Boy

I just read a blog where the writer complained that The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl has never been released on CD. I say good riddance. It's a lousy record.

I remember being pretty excited about it when it came out in the Summer of '77, and rushing out to buy a copy. I was not impressed. I think I've probably only played a few times since. About once every ten years.

Without the visuals, The Beatles live during the height of the mania, are not very interesting. There's a lot of great footage of them performing at various concerts and TV shows on the 'Anthology' DVD, and the 'Ed Sullivan Shows Featuring the Beatles' as well. So if I want the Beatles live, circa '64-66, I'd much rather pop in one of those.

Another reason I'm not a fan is that it doesn't actually contain the complete performances. When George Martin compiled the tapes, he cherry-picked from the 1964 and 1965 shows to come up with the best 13 tracks. A bunch of songs were left off because they were performed at both shows, too. God forbid we have both versions of 'A Hard Day's Night'! And to make it even worse, Martin mixes up the sequence; a '64 song here, a '65 song there...it makes for an artificial experience attempting to recreate a vintage Beatles' concert.

It would have been much better to make it a double album with the entire concerts, warts and all. But I guess it's better to look good than to feel good, dahrling.

Friday, June 12, 2009

VH1 Classic Albums Series

Just caught the Plastic Ono Band episode of this great show.

It's a BBC production, shown on 'VH1 Classic' but I couldn't tell you what day and times they air it (I tried checking their website, but it sucks and I quickly gave up).

This was a pretty good episode. Interviews with Ringo, Klaus Voorman, Arthur Janov (The 'Primal Scream' guy), as well as engineers who worked on it and Yoko, of course. Not as robust as I'd hoped, but with Lennon being dead and all, it's mostly other people talking about it. However, just hearing Ringo describe his experiences making this great record made the whole show invaluable. There's also some footage I've never seen of Lennon at some kind of psychedelic event, and from the look of him (moustache, hair length), I'd say it was around the time of Sgt. Pepper.

An interesting tidbit. Ringo, and others, say that Phil Spector (credited as Producer) didn't really produce it at all and was hardly ever there.

If you get a chance to watch it, or any of the others in this series, check it out. They have episodes on The Sex Pistols, Cream, The Doors, Elton John, Elvis and many more.

A bunch of them (including Plastic Ono Band) are available on DVD with 30-minutes of extra footage. So if you can't find it on VH1 Classic, buy the thing. It's a must-see.

Friday, June 05, 2009

The Beatles: Rock Band

I'm not sure what this thing even is. Some kind of game, I guess. The animation looks awful, and I don't get why someone would want to play this or Guitar Hero when they can learn an instrument and actually play music.

And after all, aren't musical instruments already toys in a way? Doesn't one take up guitar, bass or drums because it's fun? These 'games' are making a toy out of a toy. I can understand video games of football or baseball because the logistics of playing a real game are complicated. But isn't sitting on your couch with a guitar pretty much as easy (if not easier) than playing a video game with a fake guitar? I have the same issues with wireless reading devices like the Kindle. Isn't a paperback book a better medium? You can shove it in your pocket, read it anywhere, and throw it out when you're done. It doesn't malfunction, you can't break it and if you lose it, big deal. For another five bucks you get another one.

Regarding guitars and such, you do actually have to go through the process of learning how to play one, which is rough going at first. I assume a gamer can 'play' Rock Band or Guitar Hero right away. But anyone truly interested in a real guitar (or bass or drums) can pick up the basics in a week or so. They might not be very good, but they could fumble through a few songs.

And what about just listening to the damn records? Is everyone so addicted to visuals and gimmicks that we can't just put on the CD and take in the sounds anymore? The same way that audiences nowadays feel that they have to participate in a live show (hands in air, whooping it up no matter how mundane the performance is, singing along, etc.), they can't simply listen to a record. They have to part or it. Be in the band in a cyber environment.

I don't begrudge the Beatles themselves for licensing it. It can't be any worse than that awful ABC Television cartoon show they did the 60s. And the more money they make, the more popular they are, the better. They (and their heirs) should be the richest people on earth, in my opinion.

And if Guitar Hero and this thing make real musicians more scarce, all the better for people who can really play.

Oh, I did enjoyed the unveiling of it by Paul and Ringo. Especially when Ringo said 'We're great' and Paul (jokingly?) indicated that he was great and Ringo was so-so.