Sunday, June 19, 2011

When I'm 69

Our Paul turned 69 on June 18th.

When I was a kid, I liked Paul the best. Maybe he was more 'kid friendly' than John. But I think it was because he was left-handed, like me. I even took up the bass because of him. But who knows why or how we pick a 'favorite' anything?

As I got older, I liked John better because he was more interesting. But I still loved Paul. And for all of his faults; the occasional clunker of a song, the weird 'competition' he still has with John, his notorious reputation as a miser...I still have to admire the hell out of the guy. He's one of the best natural musicians of the last 50+ years and he never seems to tire of writing songs and performing.

The Beatles, John and Paul in particular, really did change the world. Even if you take away the whole 'spirit of the Beatles' thing, their music and their influence on other musicians was a tidal wave that continues to saturate all of us. God bless you, Macca. And I hope you live to be 100. At least.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The First 'Real' Solo Album: 'McCartney' 1970

Contrary to belief, the Beatles didn't 'officially' break-up until eight months after Paul released his first album, titled simple, McCartney.

As a hardcore Beatles' fan in early 1970, I knew the end of the Beatles was near. I could feel it coming. However, I'll address that year-long saga in a later blog.

Right now I want to talk about this album, since it's been re-released with goodies and extras and remastered, etc. etc.

It was April 1970. My first experience with the album was when 'The Ed Sullivan Show' presented a 'video' of 'Maybe I'm Amazed'. It consisted of photos mostly taken from the album's gatefold. I don't recall what I thought of the song. I may have already heard it on the radio. I was more interested in looking at the pictures.

The album had been released a few days prior to the Sullivan show, and before I knew it, my older brother (also a Beatles nut) had an 8-Track copy. Since the only 8-Track player we had was in his car, I only heard it a few times before I actually got a copy of the LP myself. But I do remember him not liking it much, and I was feeling a bit unsure about it, too. I wanted to like it, but compared to the Beatles last album, Abbey Road, it seemed lacking.

To make matters worse, the Let it be album came out a few weeks later, and that made McCartney seem even more half-assed. My brother so disliked McCartney that he somehow was able to exchange it for an 8-Track of Let it be at the local Fred Meyer store. That pretty much sums up the general feelings the public had about McCartney at the time. That is, it sure a'int as a good as a Beatles' album.

After I got my own copy, I carefully studied the gatefold montage of photos (taken mostly by Linda). I thought Paul looked pretty good in some of them...the one where he's drinking from a straw, the guitar shot, holding Heather and him lurking behind some kind of flowers. But I didn't like the one of him picking his nose or the shot where he looks like he's wearing a dress and holding a purse. The Beatles were my heroes. And like some of the 'White Album' poster pics, I was turned off by images that weren't in keeping with my idea of them. They were supposed to be cool and handsome. And while 'goofy' was acceptable since humor was one of their greatest assets, I didn't like seeing them semi-naked, picking their noses or in 'drag'. Now keep in mind, that I was 13-years old. Now I see the pictures in a different light. But I still hate that nose picking one.

After a number of 'listens' (it always takes a few before you know if you like something or not), the McCartney album began to grown on me. I especially dug 'That Would Be Something', 'Every Night', 'Junk' (both versions), 'Oo You', 'Teddy Boy' and of course, 'Maybe I'm Amazed'.

And the 'in-betweeners', instrumental stuff, seemed to fit. It didn't strike me any different than some other Beatles' filler like 'Wild Honey Pie', 'Her Majesty', 'Flying', or the weird interlude on the 'White Album' where he sings "Can you take me back where I came from...". They were nice short bits that gave the album an overall mood and tone that I enjoyed. But I didn't like the heavy breathing on "Kreene-Akore'. At the time, I was probably embarrassed that my Mom might hear it coming from my room and think, "What the heck is that!?". But in retrospect, I still think the song would've been better off without it.

The only song I truly dislike is 'Man We Was Lonely'. But even Beatles albums had at least one number I wasn't crazy about.

As time passed, I became very fond of the McCartney album and also remember that it was a big hit. Throughout the early 70's, I would often hear someone (not a Beatlefanatic) say 'I really like that Cherries album' (which is what we called it because of the cover). Or the Bowl of Cherries album.

And speaking of the cover, it has become my favorite album cover of all time. Not just Beatles-related cover, but the best album cover ever. The black/white/red colors are wonderful. The way the cherries are placed and their shadows...magnificent! I never tire of it. I have a framed copy of it hanging in my house and it always makes me feel good whenever I look at it.

McCartney has a nice, mellow groove. But it's not corny. It rocks when it has to and isn't 'weak' or monotonous (save for the aforementioned 'Man We Was Lonely'). It's unique in an unassuming way.

It's still one of my favorite solo Beatles records and I continue to play it on a regular basis. It might not be up to par with Abbey Road, but I would say it is as good or better that any number of comparable albums from that same era from people like James Taylor, Neil Young or Simon and Garfunkle.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Leo McKern and Jane Asher

I Netflixed 'Rumpole of the Bailey' the other day. The show stars the late great Leo McKern who played the evil (and bumbling) villain Clang in the Beatles' second (and my favorite) movie, Help!.

So I'm watching the second episode, 'Rumpole and the Alternative Society', and the I'm thinking, 'Boy that guest star sure looks like Jane Asher'. And sure enough, it was!

The show was filmed in 1977, nearly ten years after her break-up with Paul, and 12 years since McKern worked with the boys on Help!. I assume they probably had met during the whole Help! experience. Probably at the premiere or some kind of run-in at the studio...can't say for sure, but I'm guessing so.

I wonder if they discussed their Beatles past? I would be surprised if they did, since both were extremely professional actors, and being the two leads in a talky script probably didn't give them a lot of time to chit-chat. But it is fun to speculate.

And in another bit of kismet, the episode revolves around Jane's character arrested for a pot bust! A problem that Sir Paul faced so many times that we've lost count.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

What Paul McCartney Should Do

Stop playing all the 'hits' at concerts. How about some obscure Wings or Ram tunes? After backing off from Beatles songs back in the early solo days, now there's too many of them. And I'd rather hear the original recordings of 'Get Back' or 'Hey Jude' anyway.

But it would be cool to hear 'Long Haired Lady' or 'Big Barn Bed'.

Stop making albums until the material is more interesting. The new songs are dull and uninspired. Write some stuff with Elvis Costello again. That was the last time the tunes really had something. And get Ringo or Joe English on drums. Or Denny Seiwell, even. Those guys really understand Macca music.

And finally, do something different. I don't know what exactly. Something besides a concert or a new CD. A TV Special maybe. Or a small comedy bit in the next Hangover movie.

Or even better, a drama. One of those grimy English 'estate' movies like Harry Brown or Fish Tank. Playing the 'dad' or the 'shop keeper' in an independent/quality flick would be a cool move.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Keir Dullea and 'The Starlost'

I Netlfixed the first four episodes of this 1973 Canadian sci-fi show recently.

The show is actually better than I remember when I watched it as a teenager. Yeah, the special effects are bad and the fact that it is on video tape makes the costumes and props look cheap. It looks like one of those old live action Saturday morning shows, or the original 'Dark Shadows'. And like 'Dark Shadows', I even saw a boom mic in one shot.

HOWEVER, I have to say, that for a show with a budget that didn't allow for much more than the characters standing around talking, it ain't bad. The writing is actually pretty darn good. It's a bit like the original 'Star Trek' without a budget.

After all, if 'Star Trek' was filmed on video, had no money for a decent soundtrack or props and sets or for going on location, it would pretty much the same thing as 'Starlost'. That is, Kirk and company confined to the ship and dealing with villains is sparkly costumes.

And the acting in 'Starlost', while sketchy at times, is generally good. They hired decent guest stars who seem to be giving it their all, and Keir Dullea, while awkward doing those rare 'action' sequences, does have that 'star power' certain people have that makes you want to watch him no matter what they're doing.

'Starlost' may be remembered as a great failure. So bad that creator Harlan Ellison walked away and used the pseudonym 'Cordwainer Bird' for his onscreen credit. But like 'Space:1999', it's interesting, if not great, and much better than garbage like the original 'Battlestar' or 'Buck Rogers'.