Beatles and Beans coffeehouse, Bay City, Michigan

28 12 2013

Check out this place, chock full of Beatles memorabilia and serving up delicious java. It’s wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling Fab Four-inspired.

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A shot you never see

22 01 2013

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Rubber Soul’s cover is brilliant and the shots from that photo shoot are great. The Fabs look casual but cool, the guys you want to party with on mid-60’s swinging London. The photo makes me think of autumn – the tones used to great emotive result. You can almost smell the weed in the air and Mr. Lennon looks “stoned, immaculate.”





I say old chap, the closing ceremony was absolutely smashing!

13 08 2012

I’m not one for big extravaganzas and over-the-top, choreographed productions.  If the rock and roll is good, there’s no need for dancers, people flying around the arena on wires, lasers, explosions, fireworks and large props.  Still, the closing ceremony to the 2012 Olympics in London was a killer show.

A lot of the artists that performed were not necessarily my cup of tea.  I couldn’t even tell you who Jessie J. is, and I can’t remember the names of the hip-hop fellas that opened the show.  But, until the Brazilians came out toward the end of the show, there wasn’t a performance that wasn’t at least palatable.

Was there too much Jessie J.?  Probably.  She had no business signing “We Will Rock You.”  Why was Russell Brand, instead of a real singer, doing “I Am the Walrus”?  The Who — or the TWho as a friend likes to call them — performing the concluding numbers were alright.  But how did Roger Daltrey manage to mess up the words to “My Generation”?  There’s no way he hasn’t sung that song at least a thousand times.  Take That had no business closing out the show.

Those gripes aside, I loved the show.  Here’s a little run down of the highlights for me:

  • Imagine — It was great to see Mr. Lennon on the giant screen.  Normally, I ignore that song, but seeing it put on like that was incredible.  It was the first time that song has moved me in 20 years.  And how cool was the 3D puzzle picture of John’s face?  Fantastic!

  • “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” — Whoever decided to fit that number in is a genius.  What a fun performance.  Eric Idle really is a master entertainer, even as an older gent.  I smile everytime I think back to that piece.  Wonderful!

  • Freddie Mercury/Queen — The use of the clip of Freddie from an old Wembley Stadium show was super-cool.  As if from the great beyond, he was participating with the audience.  Brilliant.  Brian May and Roger Taylor were great.  Jessie J., as I said, really didn’t belong up there.  [She is easy on the eyes, at least]

  • Oasis…err…Beady Eye — Let’s face it: Liam’s voice isn’t what it was even 8 years ago.  He’s so nasally and seems to have lost his vocal power.  But, “Wonderwall” is still a brilliant song.  It’s almost the unofficial British national anthem.  I thought Liam and the band did a fine job and his voice was better than it’s been the last few times I’ve seen him perform.

  • “Newspaper Taxis” — Ryan Seacrest, or one of the other members of the American broadcast team pointed out that the symbolism behind the newspaper-covered cars and trucks, as well as the newspaper-themed stage ramps, was a tip of the cap to England’s greatest writers.  Sure, the little quotes in the newspapers on the stage were notable sayings of such people.  But everyone missed the most obvious meaning beyond the newspaper theme: tribute to “Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds.”  London’s known for its newspapers — fish wrap! — and its busy traffic.  But where do you think the show’s producers got the idea to wrap motor vehicles in newspaper?  C’mon, it’s obvious.  The feature vehicle was also a taxi, in case you hadn’t noticed.  Fun concept.  The newspaper theme covered a wide spectrum of British cultural notes.

  • The Spice Girls — Look, I was never a fan.  But they’ve always been kind of fun.  Twelve, 15 years past their heyday, they looked better than ever and performed admirably.  I was worried they’d fly off the top of those fast-moving cars.

  • Fat Boy Slim — Cool.  Very cool.  I only wish he’d done “Weapon of Choice.”

  • I Am The Walrus — They nailed the feel of the song.  It was a slick, made-for-the-stage update of this classic song.  Russell Brand was a bit more of a circus ringmaster, a role that would fit better had they played “Magical Mystery Tour,” but the production was good overall.  It had a Cirque du Soleil vibe that worked.

Generally, the show was great, not only because of the highlights, but because it was a near-perfect blend of classic, retro and new British rock and pop.  George Michael, David Bowie, Pet Shop Boys, One Direction, Annie Lennox etc. — some of Britain’s most notable stars, young and old, were mixed together in a fine, cohesive stew.  I don’t care for the younger acts, but they all did fine.

I’m glad we recorded this digitally.  I might watch bits and pieces of it again in the coming weeks.

Way to go Britain!





August 8, 1969 — the Beatles shoot the most iconic album cover ever

8 08 2012

On August 8, 1969, Scottish photographer Iain MacMillan shot the Fab Four crossing that most famous of London cross walks.  Within 10 minutes, he captured what we all know and love as the cover of the Beatles’ swan song, Abbey Road, released in September 1969.

Almost as interesting as the album cover itself are some of the candid shots; the ones that weren’t used; the outtakes, if you will.  I had some fun with some of these outtakes, giving them a just a bit of an artsy flair.  [NOTE:  Obviously the source photos are not mine.  I don’t know who holds copyright.]

You couldn’t tell from these pictures that, in a little over a month, John would ask for his “divorce” from the Beatles, effectively finishing the group for good.  They seem at least cordial, if not friendly with each other.





Ringo Starr rules out The Beatles’ sons forming a band | News | NME.COM

31 07 2012

http://www.nme.com/news/the-beatles/64586 I’m not convinced there ever was much chance of this happening, but I wouldn’t be completely surprised if some minds were changed by a large enough pile of cash.





Julian Lennon: a right and fitting keeper of Beatles treasures

14 11 2011

At the risk of making this yet another “Yoko Ono is the manipulating dragon lady that broke up the Beatles” kind of statement, I will say that she should be ashamed of herself for the way in which she dealt with Julian and his rights to a portion of his own father’s Estate.  Sadly, John probably loved his second wife miles more than his own flesh and blood, and it shows in what little provisions were made for him growing up.  To Julian’s credit, he’s used his own money (earned and with the “settlement” he got from Mrs. Ono-Lennon) to buy back a bunch of his dad’s stuff.  Some of the great pieces he’s gathered over the years are now on loan from Julian for display.  Good on him.

 





SMiLE (Random Thoughts Part 1)

10 11 2011

I’ve been wanting to talk about SMiLE, or more accurately, The SMiLE Sessions, released last week.  Honestly, though, I’ve not known where to start with it.  I wanted to tackle the whole thing in a big long tome-like post, but people wouldn’t read it, and I’m too lazy to spend hours and hours at a time digesting and regurgitating it all at once.   So I’m going to handle it in small bites.  It’s hard to tell if anyone besides hardcore Beach Boys fans even care at this point.  I can’t ignore it because it’s a pretty significant release.

  • With little exception, The SMiLE Sessions (at least the double disc set) reveals little that is new.  The majority of the songs that were intended for SMiLE originally, ended up on its shoddy replacement, Smiley Smile, or later albums like 20/20, Surf’s Up, and Sunflower.  Granted, some of these songs were released in different form.  Brian’s masterpiece, Surf’s Up, was sung by Carl Wilson for release on the album of the same name.  What didn’t end up on later studio albums came out in later official Beach Boys releases like Good Vibrations: Thirty Years of the Beach Boys, the band’s anthology (for all intents and purposes.)
  • One of my first experiences with online music was when I stumbled upon a website dedicated solely to the SMiLE album (that never was.)  It was the late 90’s and MP3’s were starting to come into heavy use — it made sense for internet-based music sharing.  This site — sadly it has been gone for years — had essentially the full SMiLE album, with links to the songs in their entirety.  The site ordered the songs in pretty close to the same order as The SMiLE Sessions; eerily close! All that said, I was not surprised by much.
  • What I have found striking is that SMiLE was…. ahem would have been… ahead of its time, though maybe not in some of the ways fans have imagined over the years.  The “what could have been” scenario that people have probably fantasized over these 40 years typically goes something like this: “If Brian had been able to get the album out, it would have been the soundtrack for the (so-called) Summer of Love, and would have been what Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band has been all these years.  It would have been the it record of the 60’s.”  I don’t think there is enough to demonstrate it would have been universally loved in that way.  I would guess it probably would not have been understood and would have even been flaky or “far out” to stoners, acid heads, hippies and, of course, old school Beach Boys fans.   More than Sgt. Pepper’s, SMiLE  would have prefigured Abbey Road.
  • Why Abbey Road?  Right off the bat, understand that I’m not claiming it had anything like the grit of Abbey Road.  But, it has the feel, flow and almost free association style of Abbey Road’s famous medley.  Half the songs on Abbey Road were fragments or sort of half songs, strung together to make a strong, somewhat unified side.  “You Never Give Me Your Money” recurs on the big medley, ties bits and pieces of it together.  Likewise, “Heroes and Villains” is the unifying musical piece that ties SMiLE together.  The album’s fragmentation is hardly an accident.  Brian Wilson recently said in an interview that Van Dyke Parks suggest the album be built around song fragments just as “Good Vibrations” had been assembled as a mini-rock orchestra-like piece from bits and pieces patched together over months in 1966.
  • More than the earlier albums, SMiLE is driven by vocals.  The most important instruments are the voices.  That doesn’t say much when you’re talking about the Beach Boys.  Vocal harmonies were their bread and butter.  But, the vocal work is so complex and strong, that most of the album could have been a cappella.  John Lennon’s beautiful “Because” on Abbey Road hints, in one song, at what SMiLE would have felt like had it been finished.