Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Masked Marauders

When I was in high school, we had a record player in art class. One of the few records we had laying around was The Masked Marauders. It's a 1969 'spoof' on the super-group concept and has Mick Jagger and Bob Dylan impersonators. The band itself is actually pretty good. You can read all of the details on Wikipedia.

I musta heard that album a few dozen times and always loved it. For some reason I never got my own copy. Never ran across it in a record store or even knew anybody who had it. I never even knew who brought it to school. It was just there.

About a month ago I finally got a copy off eBay. It's funny, cuz even though it's been almost 40 years since I've heard it, I remembered every note, every syllable and drum beat. Weird how we retain that stuff. Hell, I can't remember my neighbor's last name or my own license plate.

If you've never heard the Masked Marauders, check it out! It's a fun listen and I know Rhino released it on CD a while back. But get the vinyl if you can. It has that great warm 'record' sound CDs can't seem to duplicate.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

"It was like something in a movie!"

I've said before and I'll say it again.

I HATE it when people say 'It was like something in a movie!'. Usually something like an explosion or car wreck. How come nobody says that when it's something non-violent like a child holding a kitten or a reunited couple embracing at the airport? Those things happen in movies, too.

It's always something violent and disturbing. And now you even hear newscasters say it. I heard it this morning when some gas line exploded.

It's bugs me for a few reasons. One, it's not accurate. An explosion is not like something in a movie. It's the opposite. A MOVIE explosion is like a REAL explosion. But when people see a big KABOOM, the FIRST THING they think is 'it was like a movie'. How sad. How weird we've become.

It also tells me that people tend to automatically associate anything violent with the movies. Is it that movies are super violent these days or is it that POPULAR movies are violent? I think it's a bit of both. Me, I avoid violent/action movies generally. I used to like 'em but now that everything is CGI, it doesn't interest me. I might as well watch a Jonny Quest cartoon if I want to see animated action sequences.

People are so insulated from the real world that their point of reference is all from TV shows and movies. You even see it in books now. I was reading some piece of shit sci-fi novel a friend recommended and literally, EVERY OTHER PAGE had some reference or comparison to 'Star Trek' or some other pop culture thing.

So many people spend the majority of their day looking at a computer, a TV screen or a handheld device, that they identify everything with what they see on a screen. Nobody can ride the bus or take a walk or even sit in the room with other people without checking their iPhones or the TV or computers. People can't even walk the fifty feet from their car to their house without yappin' on their cell phones.

And hey, I love TV and technology as much as the next guy! But we're heading into dangerous territory people.

Take a walk and look around. Pick up a guitar and play it. Read a classic novel (using a REAL book and not some 'device'). Talk to an actual person, even if it's just the check-out guy Safeway. Smell the roses people! Look around. Spend some time in your own head. The world is a fascinating place. Cuz when it's all said and done, and your breathing your last breath, it won't be that funny YouTube video or Tweet you remember. It will be moments with family and friends and a gorgeous spring day or snow covered field. Just like in the movies.

Beatle Questions Part 4

Here are the last few Beatles' questions sent by a faithful reader....

16. What's the name of Dhani's band? Have you heard his CD? I've heard he sounds like George.

Answer: The name of the band is 'Thenewno2' and I think I listened to some of it online once, but it obviously didn't grab me cuz I don't remember anything about it. I don't know if he sounds like George, but George's real strength was as a back-up singer anyway. So 'sounding like George' is not such a great thing really. George was great at harmonies, which is why, I think, he alone survived all of the John & Paul reshuffles during the early days. Also, he 'looked the part' and 'fit in'. His guitar playing was never great and it was his ability to sing that kept him in the band.

17. What's your favorite Paul album?

Answer: I like pretty much everything up to Tug of War, which was his first LP after John's death. I think John's passing affected his song writing because he was never as good after that. The competition between them never ended and I think he always had the thought 'what will John think?' in the back of his mind. Or, 'what will John say to the press about it when they ask him?'. It could also be a coincidence that his talent dropped off after 1980/81, but I think it's too big of a coincidence.

As to what my favorite Paul album is, it probably changes depending on what day you ask me. My top ones are McCartney, Ram, Wild Life, Band on the Run, Venus and Mars, Wings Over America, Back to the Egg, and Tug of War.

Band on the Run is regarded by pretty much everybody as his best, but I think I would have to choose Ram. It was his first 'proper' album after the break-up and doesn't have a lousy song in the bunch. I would put Venus and Mars as #2. The others are all pretty close on my likeness meter.

18. How was his stuff on Chaos and Creation?

I thought it was bad. Like any new Paul album, I put it in my car CD player and listen to it over and over until I decide whether I like it or not. Sometimes it takes a few listens for them to grow on you. After listening to Chaos about ten times or so, I realized it was horrible and I'll probably never play it again as long as I live.

19. What year was Thrillington?

For those who don't know, Thrillington was Paul's instrumental version of Ram. I said I wouldn't look stuff up for these questions, but I cheated on this one. I knew it was a number of years after Ram and i was was 1977 (Ram was 1971). I actually really like it. Of course, as I said above, Ram is probably my favorite Paul album, so it makes sense. One of the few McCartney off-shoot projects that's actually a hit with me. His other stuff, Liverpool Oratorio, Fireman and his other experiments don't do it for me. But Thrillington is damn cool.

That's it on Beatles questions....send more faithful readers. I enjoyed it!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Beatles Questions Part 3

More questions from a reader...

11. I read years ago that morgue workers video taped Lennon's body being placed in the oven during his cremation in a Rolling Stone story called 'Ghoulish Beatlemania'. Any truth to it?

Answer: Not sure why anyone would be interested in seeing something like that or even knowing about it. I never heard that story, and I haven't heard of the Rolling Stone article. I know that there was a photo of Lennon's body leaked to the Enquirer and I think Yoko even used the photo in a video. But it wasn't all that ghoulish. He just looked like he was sleeping.

12. Have you ever heard of a McCartney band called Suzy and the Red Stripes? They had a single called 'Walking in the Park with Eloise', a Jim McCartney song (Paul's dad). The flip side was a Linda song called 'Cook of the House'. What do you think of the songs?

Answer: You are mixing up your fake McCartney bands. Suzy and the Red Stripes was the 'band' on a single with a Linda song called 'Seaside Woman'. The other one, 'Walking in the Park' was by Wings under the name The Country Hams. 'Cook of the House' was on Wings at the Speed of Sound album and I think it was a flip side of one of the singles from the album.

I think I've heard 'Seaside Woman', but have no memory of it. 'Cook of the House' is a cute little number. But not outstanding. The Country Ham stuff is dull. Barely worth a listen. I think they are on one of the Wings' CDs as 'extras'.

13. If Yoko and Linda were given the Krell intelligence test from Forbidden Planet, who would score the highest IQ?

Answer: I don't remember the Krell test, although I've seen Forbidden Planet a few times. But regarding their I.Q., I would say that Linda was more intelligent. Comparing the many interviews I've heard and read over the years, Linda just strikes me as being smarter.

Also, her photography, which requires technical skills as well as talent, I think outshines anything Yoko ever did in regards to showing brains. But Yoko seems to be smart regarding money management. She's done a good job with John's fortune and investments. She comes from a family of bankers, so she might have a good head for money.

14. Which Lennon son has more musical talent, Sean or Julian?

Answer: I like Julian's Volatte album and think it shows talent as a singer and writer. I've never been impressed with any of Sean's stuff. And Julian seems to have more of the 'it' factor. That is, I'd rather watch Julian perform than Sean.

15. Same question concerning Paul's son James and George's son Dhani.

Answer: James hasn't really done much. He plays guitar a little on some Paul albums, but I don't think he's all that good. I think I listened to some of Dhani's stuff but cant' recall. I did seem him play at the 'Concert for George' a few years back, but the most impressive thing was how much he looks like a young George.

And regarding the Beatle kids in general, the most talented and successful of the bunch is obviously fashion designer Stella McCartney. Which I think shows that while the Beatles' kids do have 'creative genetics', trying to do something musical is probably not the way to go. Although, Zak Starkey is a pretty good drummer. But so are a million other guys.

...more Q & A next time!!!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Beatle Questions Part 2

More of my friend of a friends questions and my 'off the cuff' responses. Some morbid territory here, so be warned. But hey, I don't shy away from 'em!:

6. What do you think of McGear, Mike McCartneys' Wings album? Have you ever heard his records with Scaffold, like 'Lily the Pink'? Does one have to be British to find any humor in Scaffold?

Answer: If I have heard McGear, I don't remember it. Never been very interested in brother Mike. But it's interesting you call it a 'Wings' album, because I think it features, besides Paul, Denny and Linda, performances by what is considered the best Wings sidemen (Joe English, Jimmy McCollough). I don't know 'Lily the Pink' but do remember a nonsense number called something like 'Thank You Very Much' that was a minor hit. I kinda liked it.

Regarding 'do you have to be British' to get it, I don't think that is really valid. Something's either funny or it isn't. I remember telling a British friend how much I hated that sitcom 'Are You Being Served'. PBS was showing it constantly. I thought it was dumb and not funny and he said 'Well, you have to be British to get it'. But the fact that PBS kept showing it proved that SOME Americans liked it. And besides, I like Python and Peter Sellers and lots of other British comedy, and some of the references I don't get but it doesn't matter. It's still funny. I don't think you have to be a redneck to like that 'Get 'er Done' jerk. I hate it but I'm sure plenty of 'city folk' find it funny.

Oh, and I much mention that I actually met Mike McGear ages ago when he was in San Francisco promoting his book of photos (I think it was called 'The Macs'). I didn't buy the book or have anything for him to sign, but it was literally a block away from where I was living so I went there and got his autograph and shook his hand. I've lost the autograph, but it was just an excuse to see him. He was friendly.

7. Which Beatle wife had more musical talent, Yoko or Linda?

Answer: Great question! I actually think Linda had more natural musical talent but Yoko had more ambition. Yes, Linda was not a great player but she has a nice voice (I love her vocals on Ram and Wild Life) and helped write stuff (like the middle 'What does it matter to ya?' bit on 'Live and Let Die'). For someone who was reluctant to 'join a band' she did a fine job. I've tried to teach friends to play simple things on the guitar or drums and they couldn't do the most basic stuff.

Yoko never really 'played' anything except whacking on an old drum nobody could hear anyway. She supposedly could play piano but I don't recall ever seeing her do it. Her singing is really 'performance art' and not singing. But I do like some of her stuff, like 'We're All Water' from Sometime in New York City. Great tune and great lyrics. But it's also very childlike, which pretty much describes all of her music. Kids can make up songs, too, and if you had John Lennon helping, it might come out okay.

Linda actually sang real harmony and played the keyboards and co-wrote pop songs. You might not like her stuff, but she pulled it off, which ain't easy. Hell, some people think John Denver's stuff is super. I can't stand him.

8. Linda was out horse riding at their Arizona ranch a day before she dies. Was her death euthanasia?

Answer: I don't really dwell on that sort of thing and don't know. The McCartney camp is pretty quiet about her last days and there was some mystery around where she died. But it doesn't really interest me.

9. What happened to John Lennon's cremated remains? Is it in Yoko's closet?

Answer: Again, I don't care much about that kind of thing. John Lennon's dead body doesn't interest me. But I think the whereabouts of his ashes are unknown.

10. Lennon/Ono aide Fred Seaman supposedly sold Lennon property, unpublished songs, recordings, etc. Has any of it surfaced?

Answer: I didn't follow the Fred Seaman story that closely but I know that Yoko did sue him and he got into some trouble for 'stealing' photos and notebooks/diaries, etc. The guy sounds like a creep. Another Lennon hanger-on who took advantage.

Beatle Questions Part 1

A friend of a friend fired me off a list of 15 Beatles questions. So to kill to birds with one stone, I'll answer them here. I'll do it in bits and hopefully get to all of them soon. There are some good ones...

1. Who wrote 'In My Life', John or Paul? If it was Paul, is there any other examples of a song writing dispute between them? Is there any other examples of John doing lead vocal on Paul song? Has Paul ever performed a John song in concert? If Paul wrote 'In My Life', why hasn't ever done it in concert?

Answer: First off, for all of these questions, I'm not going to research this stuff because that would be cheating.

I know that the only song besides 'In My Life' in 'dispute' is 'Elenor Rigby'. John claims to have written most of the lyrics whereas Paul says he wrote most of them.

Regarding 'In My Life', Paul says John had most of the words and that he (Paul) wrote the music. John says Paul helped with the 'middle eight' (or break). Problem with that statement is that 'In My Life' doesn't have a 'middle' bit except for the piano solo which is by George Martin. But, as the question insinuates, it was odd for Lennon-McCartney to write a song in the classic sense of one writing the lyrics and the other writing the music. It never really worked like that with them. So that would make one think John wrote most of it and Paul is wrong. However, it does SOUND like a Paul song (kinda like 'We Can Work It Out'). John's melodies were not fluid like 'In My Life' is. His songs center around one, two or three notes (usually). My conclusion is that I think Paul's story is probably correct. He wrote the melody and John probably forgot or got it mixed up with another song (hence the 'middle eight' error in his statement). BUT, the fact that he never does it live, makes you question if Paul did indeed write it.

And no, I can't think of any other instance of either of them writing a song that the other one sang lead on. But since it was John's lyric, I suppose it is his song, too.

Paul has done 'Give Peace a Chance' live. And I recently read that he did 'One After 909' in concert at the Apollo in NYC. He does do a George song ('Something') live. On the flip-side, John did 'I Saw Her Standing There' with Elton John in 1974.

Interestingly, George performed 'In My Life' in his 1974 concerts. Maybe he wrote it!?

2. Have you ever read John's poem 'Toy Boy' and what do you think about it?

Answer: No. Never even heard of it.

3. On Let it Be (Naked) 'Fly on the Wall', George and Paul refer to Brian as Mr. Epstein. Did they usually refer to him so formally?

Answer: I don't recall the 'Fly on the Wall' reference, but it seems like I've heard them call him 'Mister' in other conversations/interviews. I think it may be a combination Liverpudlian jokey way of talking as well as making sure the listener isn't confusing him with another 'Brian'.

4. What's the story behind Paul and Jane Asher's break-up? They were together for years then suddenly split. Do they speak? Why was Paul, a multi-millionaire, living at Jane's home with her family?

Answer: Jane caught Paul in bed with another woman when she walked in on him at his St. John's Wood house. I think it was Francie Schwartz, who he 'dated' around the 'White Album'. Jane broke it off immediately. But I think it was going to happen anyway. Paul didn't dig the fact that she was a working actress and not looking to settle down and be the typical Liverpool-style wife.

I don't think they speak, however, it's hard to believe that there hasn't been some occasional communication like a congratulations note or something. Plus, her brother Peter worked for Apple and still has some contact with Paul (I assume). Paul has mentioned he appreciates how she has never written a 'tell all' or cashed in on the 'Beatles/McCartney' connection. Jane is probably my favorite 'Beatle Girlfriend/Wife'. I like Linda a lot, too.

I think he lived with the Ashers simply because he needed a place and was hardly ever home anyway and it was offered to him. He was too busy and lazy to buy a house at the time. It was easy and fits his 'everyman' side. That is, he's as likely to ride in a city bus as he is to fly in a private jet. So 'crashing' with the Asher for a year or so was no big deal.

5. I seem to remember Paul writing a book of poems and stories perhaps to compete with John's books. This was 10-15 years ago. What did critics say about it?

Answer: Yes, it was about 10 years ago. It was around the time he was griping about the 'Lennon-McCartney' credits and wanted them reversed on songs he wrote (or mostly wrote). Yoko nixed the idea, and Ringo also came out against it. Paul backed off. The book was not well received. I never read it. Like his 'paintings', no one really cares.

More answers next time, folks!!

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Spider-Man Movie

I hear that instead of making a Spider-Man 4 movie, they are going to reboot the franchise and start all over again with a younger Spidey and origin story.

C'mon! How many times I have to see the 'radioactive spider/Uncle Ben' tale!? I saw it on the old ABC cartoon, the lousy TV version from the 70's, other newer cartoon versions and not to mention reading the story retold in the comics a bunch of times. Let's just get on with fighting Kraven, the Lizard and the othe villians they haven't gotten around to. And dealing with his girlfriend, money and secret identity problems, which is really what Spider-Man is about anyway.

If they couldn't get Tobey MacGuire, or whatever their issues were with doing a fourth film, just recast it. The Bond franchise got it right by just changing the actor every ten years or so (thank God they also had the good luck that 007 doesn't have an 'origin' story).