Thursday, August 27, 2009


One of the great things about the vinyl experience is that albums come in 'sides'. It totally changes how we listen to music and how albums were created.

When 'The White Album' was edited, the Beatles made sure George got a song on each of the four sides. Also, it's obvious they were throwing George a bone by giving him the opening songs on Side Two of both Sgt. Pepper and Abbey Road. When you listen to the CDs, 'Within Without You' doesn't have the dramatic flair it does when you have that little break between Side One and Two. Same with 'Here Comes the Sun'. What a great way to start Side Two!

And sometimes, you just want to listen to, say, Side Three of 'The White Album' (a great group of songs, BTW).

Okay, so it only really matters when you're listening to records that were created with the 'sides' in mind. True. But we've lost that 'first half/second half' element to albums which is a wonderful format and concept.

But in defense of CDs, the great thing they do that albums don't is the shuffle. I'm listening right now to five CDs and it's a treat: Bette Midler, Roger Miller, Steve Miller, Alanis Morissette and Aretha Franklin (give yourself a cookie if you noticed I'm plowing the 'M' section of my CDs and threw in Aretha for a little soul).

Yes, the 'shuffle' is great. But I still miss 'sides'.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Worst Beatles Song?

I remember a few years ago, a BBC poll said 'Ob-la-Di Ob-la-Da' was not only the worst Beatles' song, but the worst song ever. Considering the state of British pop music these days (isn't it mostly techno stuff? That's what I hear on Sirius BBC anyway), I guess it does seem pretty square. But worse than 'Billy Don't Be a Hero', 'We Built This City' or 'The Night Chicago Died'? I don't think so.

I wouldn't even rate it as one of the worst Beatles' songs. It's got a cool bass riff and I like the lyrics.

I've seen my share of 'worst' Beatles song lists and they include stuff that I don't think really counts like 'Wild Honey Pie' (really an improv throwaway), 'Revolution No. 9' (a sound collage) and 'Yellow Submarine' (a children's song). To be rated 'worst', the song can't just be 'not your cup of tea', it has to be a dismal failure.

I think it's a no-brainer. There are two worst songs: 'Baby's in Black' and 'Mr. Moonlight' (both from the same album, BTW). But since 'Mr. Moonlight' is a cover song, 'Baby's in Black' is the winner (or loser). End of story.

Monday, August 24, 2009

VH1 September 1st through 9th

I was recently singing the praises of VH1 Classic channel. We'll they deserve another mention.

As a lead up to the release of the 'Re-Mastered' boxes (and that dumb video game), VH1 and VH1 Classic are showing Beatles stuff the first nine days in September. For fanatics like me, most of it's a yawn as we've seen it all before or already have it on DVD. But if you're not a fanatic, you might want to tune in.

Included among the programming: The 'Anthology' documentary, 'Help!', 'A Hard Day's Night', 'John Lennon Live in New York City' and 'Concert for Bangladesh'.

The only 'new' item seems to be something called 'The Beatles Retrospective' hosted by Mark Goodman (he was one of those original MTV VJs) airing on September 1st at 8PM. It's only an hour, but might be worth watching.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Re-Mastered Mono Box

I see Amazon has already 'sold out' of the Re-Mastered Mono box. Damn. I really want to hear that mono version of the 'White Album'.

I am torn about this whole 'Re-Mastered' offer. I obviously want it and the packaging looks super and it's getting great reviews from those who've seen it. But if I had to make a choice, I'd rather have the vinyl copies of all the Capitol/EMI/Apple albums, both mono and stereo versions.

The irony is, while I'm still not sold on the death of vinyl and the rise of the CD, this Beatles 'Re-Mastered' collection is being hailed as the last gasp of the CD. Everything will be 'downloaded' eventually, and no one will be buying an actual 'object' like a CD, tape or LP. And when our entertainment experience is in our own hands with no three-demensional aspects left to it, more choice means less choice.

I guess it's just part of the whole de-evolution of media. I remember first noticing this phenomenon about ten years ago. I was working with a hip young dude who was into some interesting music, and I tried getting him to listen to some cool punk bands (I remember 'The Dickies' being one of my suggestions). He not only had no interest in giving it a listen, he had no problem basically telling me not to bother.

I was taken aback, and thinking, 'Geez, if some older guy who's been in bands and obviously knows a lot about music suggests some music and brings me some CDs to sample, I'd at least pretend to be interested and give him the courtesy of listing to it'.

So I said, 'Dude, you're only interested in the stuff you're already interested in.' His response was sort of 'Obviously. You're crazy, etc.'.

For all the great things the Internet, hundreds of TV channels, Netflix and the other benefits of the 'high tech' revolution, it also causes people to only seek out like-minded people and entertainment.

How does a 22-year old discover Bing Crosby or Citizen Kane? I don't know and sadly, I don't think they ever will. No more browsing in record stores. You just search for stuff that matches your existing tastes. And no more watching an old black-and-white movie on TV cuz it's the only decent thing on. You just download something similar to other movies that you've enjoyed. And don't even get me started about books and the Kindle...ugh.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Stuttering John and Ringo

Howard Stern and the gang were reminiscing about some of Stuttering John's old interviews the other day. They mentioned the ambush question to Ringo, one of my favorites:

'What did you do with the m-m-money?'

'What money?'

'The m-m-money for singing lessons'

Funny stuff.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Rockestra Theme Lyric

I was listening to the Wingspan CD in the car today and on came 'Rockestra Theme'. Cool tune. But I couldn't understand (or remember) what they are shouting during the break.

So I googled it and a whole bunch of sites say it's 'With a bird in the hand he says no dinner', which I thought was wrong because 1) it doesn't really sound like that to me, and 2) it's too off the wall, even for a Beatle.

Then I found a site with the text of an interview Paul did for VH1 way back when where he quotes the lyric as being 'Why haven't I had any dinner', which I believe is correct.

And while I was doing my 'research', I was reminded that the song won a Grammy for Best Instrumental Recording of 1979. Funny. I'm discussing the 'lyric' to a Grammy winning instrumental. Oh well...great song and BTW...why haven't I had any dinner!?

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Beatles VI

I love this album. Critics dismiss the 'American' versions of the Beatles' albums, but growing up with them, I actually prefer the Capitol LPs.

I was lucky enough to live in a household that bought every new Beatles record within days of their release. There was always alot of buzz and excitement when we brought home a new piece of Beatles plastic. Some of those albums and singles really stand out in my memory. Beatles VI is one of them.

I remember how the back cover didn't list the songs in sequence and it said 'see label for correct playing order'. Which is ridiculous, since the time when you want to see the 'playing order' is when you are playing the record. Hard to read a label when it's turning at 33 1/3 revolutions per minute.

It was always kind of frustrating. Later versions did list the usual Side 1/Side 2 sequence, but if you had an original pressing like we did, it was 'like a box of chocolates'. Eventually we had the album memorized so it didn't matter.

The title of the LP was probably my first exposure to Roman numerals. A kid could learn a lot listening to the Beatles. Even so, I always thought that it rates as the worst title of any album because when you lined up your Beatle records, it certainly wasn't the 'sixth'. More like the eighth or ninth. Capitol was dismissing the UA release A Hard Day's Night and VeeJay's Introducing The Beatles, not to mention their own documentary album The Beatles' Story.

The cover always fascinated me. What are the Beatles holding? I later found out that it's a carving knife and the full picture shows them cutting a birthday cake (I think it was John's birthday). But the angle makes the blade look like a piece of string or a microphone cord. And I would wonder, why are they laughing and so happy holding whatever the thing is?

I also really dig the back cover. John (again, holding some unknown object. Looks like a small fire extinguisher) looking super cool in his shades and holding a ciggie. Paul smiling at the piano. George with his guitar ready to do a solo, and Ringo at the kettle drums (which you can hear on 'What You're Doing') appearing a bit apprehensive about being away from his kit. The pics really capture how we thought of them back then. John the cool 'in charge' leader, Paul the bubbly showman, George the serious loner and Ringo the slightly confused but happy sidekick.

Regarding the music, it was the end of an era. This was the last time they would have 'cover' songs on an American album. Four of the eleven songs are covers and it's the only time they did a Buddy Holly tune ('Words of Love'). Considering Holly was one of their biggest influences, it's nice to have at least that one. And it's a great version. The other covers are rockers ('Kansas City', 'Bad Boy', and 'Dizzie Miss Lizzie') while the originals all have a sweet quality to them. A mellow group of tunes. The end of the Beatles' innocence in a way.

Also notable, no Ringo song. The British albums always had a Ringo number (with two exceptions), but for the Capitol versions, this was a dry spell for Richie. Three albums in 18 months without a Ringo tune (I'm not counting 'Boys' from the Early Beatles. We didn't buy it cuz we already had all of the songs on other records. It's basically Introducing the Beatles all over again).

However, Ringo did have the B-Side of one of their biggest selling singles during this time: 'Yesterday'/'Act Naturally'. Also, he was the 'star' (pun intended) of Help! and the central character in most of the episodes of their ABC Saturday morning cartoon shows as well.

So while Ringo was missing from the albums for all of 1965 and half of 1966, he was still a big presence at the time.

I also associate Beatles VI with the summertime. It came out in June 1965, and although I can't recall any specific moments, my brother and must have spent many hours listening to it in our hot little southwest Portland apartment .

Little did we know that after the Help! album, released a few months later, Rubber Soul was just around the corner. And 'the boys' would never quite be the same again. The fun loving innocent mop tops would start singing about more grown-up and sophisticated subjects. Which is a good thing, but so was that last gasp of innocence I remember when I hear Beatles VI.