Live! Tonight! Sold Out!!

Did we not say the 8th Doomtree Blowout was going to be epic?  One concert in and of itself    is not necessarily epic.  But two sold out shows in a row?  That’s pretty epic.  As I enjoy another night of Doomtree bliss I’d like to leave you with a little parting gift.  This song features Doomtree’s own Dessa and Cecil Otter.

Since Doomtree has doubled my listening pleasure with another show, I’d like to double yours with a bonus shot of Dessa.

 

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Live! Tonight! Sold Out!!

It’s that magical time of year again.  It’s so magical, in fact, that today has been proclaimed “Doomtree Day” in the city of Minneapolis.  That’s right.  Time for the annual Doomtree Blowout, starring what is arguably Minneapolis’s favorite hip hop collective.  Tonight’s show will be the epic 8th installment of the Blowout event.

Now, we’ve taken many opportunities to spotlight the individual members of Doomtree (Sims, Dessa, etc.).  But these concerts will feature the full ensemble cast -much like you will see in the following video, “Bangarang.”  So enjoy the ear candy.  A little for you, but a lot for me!

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RIP Ravi Shankar

There are musicians who grace the world with their presence, inspire, and pass.  There are ravi-george-1those who transcend their genre to leave a lasting impression on other forms of music.  There are musicians who use their celebrity to advance spirituality, or humanitarian issues.  There are those who are quite simply the best in their class.

And then there is Ravi Shankar, who was all of those things.

Ravi Shankar passed away on Tuesday at the age of 92.  Beginning in the 1950’s teacher, composer and sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar almost singlehandedly brought Indian music into western popular culture.  By the mid-1960s his influence could be heard in pop music, with countless artists incorporating Indian rhythms and instrumentation into their work.  He gained significant mainstream exposure with his dazzling performance at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 and played at Woodstock two years later.

Truly understanding Shankar’s incredible mastery of this very complex art form can be as intimidating as rocket science. Rhythmic cycles have as many as 108 beats and may be subdivided into fractions. The pitch structure is so exceptionally nuanced that only a highly trained ear can apprehend it. A knowledge of the many traditional ragas is required to grasp how Shankar’s improvisatory art made the ageless new and the new ageless. This became one hint about the essence of existence.

Shankar was, thus, a musician to be approached in a state of reverence and awe. Unless, that is, you happened to be in the audience of, say, the Monterey International Pop Festival in 1967 already lighting up your third joint.

But from a Beatles perspective it is his influence on the music, the spirituality and indeed the life of George Harrison that is most notable.  George met Ravi in 1966 and quickly became his pupil.  Through Ravi George not only learned the sitar, but he was exposed to eastern philosophy and religion which were to have a profound influence on George for the rest of his life.  George and Ravi remained close friends  until George’s death in 2001.

We’d like to take this opportunity to celebrate the life of Ravi Shankar with footage of Ravi teaching George the sitar in 1966 as well as an excerpt from Ravi’s mesmerizing set at the Monterey Pop Festival.  Rest in Peace, Ravi.

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A Tribute to John Lennon

Today on the 32nd anniversary of John Lennon’s passing we’d like to celebrate some of the lesser-known gems from John’s solo career.  They’re definitely not unknown to Beatles fans, but try finding one of these tracks on the radio.

The first song is “Remember” from the phenomenal John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band LP from 1970.  The decision to strip away most of the adornments from the production and to present the album as stark  and real makes it a much more compelling album than the more successful Imagine LP released the next year.  Listen to “Crippled Inside” (taken from Imagine) and hear the difference for yourself.

Plastic Ono Band

Imagine

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Quote of the Day

“In my party, compromise cannot be seen as analogous to treason, which it has been recently.” -Jon Huntsman

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Minnesota Music Monday: The Chalice

Back last summer, on a sultry evening, 89.3 The Current hosted a free show featuring up-and-coming local artists, which I was all to happy to attend. I was most excited to see singer-songwriter Chastity Brown (soon to be featured) but the first act that night stole her thunder and the whole show. That act was The Chalice. Since that performance, the ladies of The Chalice have gone on to wow most of Minneapolis, at least enough to win alternative weekly The City Pages’ Picked to Click vote for most promising new local artist/act. Having seen them a second time for their EP release show, I have to agree – they are for real. Check out their first single to hit the Minneapolis airwaves:

And if that’s not enough for you, the ladies have released a new video:

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Beatles News – Copy of 1962 Decca Audition Up For Auction

“Guitar groups are on their way out”

Decca Genius, 1962

The famous New Years Day, 1962 audition tape that The Beatles made for Decca Records is nothing new for Beatles fans.  It has been available as a bootleg for decades, and The Beatles even included songs from the audition in the Anthology series.  But the famous session which led to the most famous rejection in rock and roll history has made its way back into the headlines recently as the original, first generation copy has reportedly been found and is up for auction.

The Beatles’ first audition tape, made for Decca Records on Jan. 1, 1962, has long had a special place in the lore of pop music. Not because it led to a contract for the Fab Four, but because a label executive turned the band down flat, supposedly telling the group’s manager, Brian Epstein, that “guitar groups are on their way out” and that the Beatles themselves “have no future in show business.”

Next week an auction house in London that specializes in pop memorabilia plans to sell what it says is a first-generation copy of that tape, containing 10 of the 15 songs that the Beatles are known to have played that day. The whereabouts of the recording for the last 50 years are not clear and even a cursory examination of what’s being auctioned raises questions about its authenticity, but the owner of the tape is said by the auction house, called the Fame Bureau, to have set the minimum bid at about $30,000.

Whether or not this is authentic is up for debate.  The markings on the box point raise questions about whether or not this is a true copy of the 1962 master tape.  But since we are entering a phase in which nearly every day will bring a Beatles golden anniversary for something or other, I thought we might start at the beginning.  Or what was supposed to be the beginning, anyway.

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Can’t Get Enough

I believe this song speaks for itself – brilliantly composed and utterly profound…

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Can’t Get Enough

Surprise! We’re not quite dead yet! And even better, we’re alive and listening to music. My new favorite is this little gem from Brit alt-rockers Django Django called “Default.” Enjoy!

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Minnesota Music On A Stick Forever!

Yesterday was MPR Day at the Minnesota State Fair, and due to a cruise trip with Garrison Keillor, the Current was able to host a concert at the grandstand, a concert which your two humble bloggers attended. With OB&B favorites like Jeremy Messersmith and Dessa, how could we not? (And our friend Roopost will be jealous we got to see the Jayhawks.)

As much as Jeremy and Dessa’s sets ruled, the highlight of the night was the reunited Semisonic, who kept the crowd moving and grooving. Just check this out:

However, the real highlight of the set was Dan Wilson’s solo acoustic performance of the hit song he wrote with Adele, “Someone Like You.” One of us could not stop weeping. We’ll be keeping our eyes out for a video of the performance, and hopefully we’ll be able to post it soon.

Minnesota Music on a Stick was a great time – bringing multiple generations of music fans together and celebrating the rich musical diversity and talent of Minnesota. To wrap up the whole night, Semisonic was joined by Lucy Michelle, Dessa and Jeremy Messersmith and covered Prince’s “Little Red Corvette.” How apropos to end the night with a Minnesota legend! Hope we can do it again next year!

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Beatles Song of the Week

This week we have a question for the children of the 80’s out there.  Did Ferris Bueller’s Day Off first expose you to The Beatles?

We ask that because in recent weeks we have been discussing the origin of the various peaks and valleys (if you could even call them that) in The Beatles popularity in popular culture.  Make no mistake, their records will always sell, but there seem to be times in which something sparks a renewed interest.

In the mid-70’s there was constant solo material to satiate Beatles fans as well as a number of authorized and unauthorized compilation albums.  The 50’s nostalgia boom in the early to middle part of the decade also helped to keep The Beatles from being viewed as a relic of the past.  After all, it had only been a handful of years since they were together.

When John Lennon was murdered in December of 1980, things changed.  There was a noticeable spike in Beatles nostalgia; most likely because fans had to come to the realization that there was no chance of a reunion and that the era was truly over.  But then things went quiet.  Ringo and George’s solo output was almost nonexistent.  And Paul McCartney’s 1984 film Give My Regards to Broad Street was a critical and commercial flop.  MTV had become the driver of the popular music industry, and they certainly weren’t playing The Beatles music very often.

1986 was the first time that the two of us could remember in which The Beatles were reintroduced to the younger generation.  And that was because of the use of “Twist and Shout” in an iconic scene in the film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.  MTV began playing a video that was created from the movie scene.  The song itself actually reentered the Billboard Top 100.  And last, but not least, 1986 and 1987 MTV aired the original Beatles animated cartoons from 1964-1966.

Even though the 1987 CD release of The Beatles catalog, subsequent greatest hits packages, The Beatles Anthology series, and the Rock Band video game have done far more to keep The Beatles immensely popular to this day, we think back to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off as one of the moments where people rediscovered The Beatles and it was proven that it could resonate with a new generation of fans.  And while both of us had our own paths to discovering the group, that one scene may have played an integral part in that.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tgd46QiHz4I

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Beatlessence – The Knickerbockers

It’s time for one of the all-time great Beatles soundalikes, The Knickerbockers.  Between 1964 and 1966 the race was on for bands to try to match The Beatles sound.  Some did it out of respect, while others were under pressure from their producer or record label to cash in on what was popular.  We’re not entirely sure where The Knickerbockers fall in that admittedly limited spectrum, but they did manage to record a song that stands up well in its own right.  Even if it does sound like The Beatles.

Here is 1965’s “Lies.” a song you may have heard on the radio and thought it was The Beatles.  For full disclosure Drae heard this song on The Current the other day and actually thought it was a long, lost Beatles track that even she had never heard.  But alas, it is a band out of New Jersey that did as good a job as anyone ever did at capturing The Beatles sound.  Even if only just briefly.  Enjoy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1n03a7cLf0M

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Happy Birthday Ringo Starr

Today is Richard Starkey’s 72nd birthday, and we’d like to honor him with a clip of one of our favorite Ringo songs from his time with The Beatles.  Well, two, to be exact.  “I Wanna Be Your Man” may have been written for The Rolling Stones, but Ringo’s version blew Mick Jagger’s out of the water.  Here he is, performing it with The Beatles from Japan in 1966 not once but twice (in glorious color, no less).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QqKP6w0uYWs

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QqKP6w0uYWs

 

 

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Can’t Get Enough

Being the Beatles fan that I am, sometimes I just go nuts for their early rock-n-roll, and why not? I love that old-school rock sound, back when rock-n-roll drove parents insane despite the lack of profanity. It’s good stuff. So I couldn’t be more pleased the new trend in music these days is to embrace the old-school, and I haven’t heard a better example in recent months than J.D. McPherson and his song, “North Side Gal.”

Now give a listen and tell me that doesn’t sound like it came straight out of the early 60s. Awesome.

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Rest In Peace, Victor Spinetti

Very sad news today, as actor Victor Spinetti has passed away. Beatle fans around the world know Spinetti from his multiple co-starring roles in the Beatles’ movies – the frazzled producer in A Hard Day’s Night, a jabbering military man in Magical Mystery Tour, and my personal favorite, the crazed scientist in Help!. In fact, I enjoyed this role so much that when I had a chance to meet Mr. Spinetti at a Beatlefest I had him use a quote from Help! as part of the autograph I requested. He was very kind.

Here is a long clip from Help! that is quite interesting for a number of reasons. First, the clip starts with the Beatles in an Indian restaurant. It was this scene that introduced George Harrison to the sitar. The next scene is funny in that when your humble OB&B bloggers became friends, we quoted the jeweler scene to each other. At about the 3:30 mark is Victor Spinetti’s entrance into the Help! plot, and the real point in posting this clip:

Rest in Peace, Victor. We’ll always remember that M.I.T. was after you, wanting you to rule the world for them.

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Can’t Get Enough

Be forewarned. This song is beyond catchy, likely to get stuck in your head after one listen, and I suspect it will be heard everywhere by the end of the summer. And to think, they’re all teenagers.

Hat tip: The Current

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Happy Birthday Paul! Part 4, Wings

The following post has been modified from its original form, having first been posted on April 5, 2012.

This week we’d like to talk to you about…Wings.  Now before you run screaming expecting some of the more mellow fare that, for whatever reason, Wings has come to symbolize, we put it to you that Wings probably put out the hardest rock of any of the solo Beatles.  So you don’t believe us?  Let’s start over.

Wings began in late 1971, early 1972 after Paul completed work on his second solo album, Ram.  Paul was well aware at this point in his career that by name recognition alone he could guarantee a hit single and a Top 5 album.  But after two years away from The Beatles Paul had begun to miss the group dynamic.  He had considered forming a supergroup with established musicians a la Blind Faith but decided against it, electing instead to recruit two musicians that had played on Ram, guitarist Denny Laine (formerly of The Moody Blues) and drummer Denny Seiwell.  And in a move that Paul knew would generate both scorn and ridicule he asked his wife Linda to play keyboards.

A quick word about this.  Linda McCartney was never under the misapprehension that she was a rock star and did not join the band to get a piece of her husband’s fame.  In fact, she was well aware that she could barely play and was not a strong singer.  And despite Paul’s up front warning that if she chose to be in the band she would be opening herself up to massive amounts of ridicule, she said yes.  Why?  Well quite simply Paul did not want to be separated from either her or his children.  She was going to be traveling with him anyway, so why not just make it into a family project?  So with Linda on board the initial Wings lineup was set.  Paul decided that if his band was going to succeed it was going to work its way up from nothing.  And in many ways that’s exactly what it did.

Wings first LP, Wild Life, released in 1972 is very much a chronicle of a band struggling to get to know one another.  Some of the tracks sound like rehearsals, and they never really achieve a cohesive sound.  After the album’s release Paul added Joe Cocker’s Grease Band guitarist Henry McCullough and they embarked on an unannounced tour of UK universities.  Paul would literally show up at a college and ask if they could play in the local auditorium that night.  Incidentally this same touring strategy was one that Paul had suggested to The Beatles for the Get Back project in 1969.

The tour was not a rousing success, Wild Life barely made the Top 10 in America (#11 in the UK) and Wings first two singles, “Give Ireland Back To The Irish” and “Mary Had a Little Lamb” were not chart toppers, to say the least.  The band continued to improve by playing an extended tour through Europe and by the end of 1972 they finally scored a top 5 hit in the UK with catch reggae styled “C Moon” (backed with the equally impressive rocker “Hi Hi Hi.”).

1973’s Red Rose Speedway  showed some improvement over Wild Life.  Although it is an imperfect album it still spawned the #1 hit “My Love.”  After the album’s release Wings (now called Paul McCartney and Wings) scored another #1 hit with “Live and Let Die.”  But the first of many personnel changes occurred soon after as Denny Seiwell and Henry McCullough left the band.  Wings (now called Paul McCartney and Wings) recorded the phenomenal Band on the Run as a three-piece (with Paul playing drums, guitar, bass, and keyboards).  The album was a smash hit and remains one of the better albums of the 1970’s.

In 1975 Paul added drummer Joe English and former Thunderclap Newman guitar prodigy Jimmy McCulloch.  They released Venus and Mars and Wings at the Speed of Sound in 1975 and 1976 respectively.  But as this new incarnation of the band (Laine-English-McCulloch-McCartney-McCartney) jelled, they started to become a legitimately good live band.  No longer the out-of-tune outfit playing for a couple of hundred college kids, they became stadium fillers and the tour was incredibly profitable.  And in spite of the fact that history would remember them for soft rock hits, like “My Love,” “Silly love Songs,” “Listen to What The Man Said” and “Let ’em In,” their 1976 tour showed that they were a proper stadium rock act.  It was the culmination of four years hard work for Paul’s little band of unknowns and undoubtedly their pinnacle.

After the 1976-1977 world tour drummer Joe English and guitarist Jimmy McCulloch left the group, leaving Wings with just three members once again (Paul Linda and guitarist Denny Laine).  Despite the personnel shortage Wings recorded their biggest hit, “Mull of Kintyre” (one of the biggest hits in UK chart history).  1978’s London Town was recorded shortly thereafter and Wings scored yet another number one (“With a Little Luck”).

In late 1978 Paul decided to fill out the ever-changing Wings lineup once more, adding drummer Steve Holly and guitarist Lawrence Juber to the fold.  The first recording featuring the new lineup was the dance hit “Goodnight Tonight” released in early 1979.  This was followed up later in the year by the disappointing (and synth heavy) Back To The Egg album.

Despite the critical indifference to the new album Wings went on tour in 1979.  At the tour’s conclusion Paul spent time recording McCartney II without the group (playing all instruments himself a la 1970’s McCartney).  Wings scored their last hit that year when Paul released a live version of Wings performing “Coming Up” from their previous tour (he released a studio version of the song recorded without the band on McCartney II).

Plans for a 1980 world tour were cut short when Paul was arrested in Tokyo for marijuana possession in January of 1980.  Paul faced seven years in prison on smuggling charges but was released and deported after nine days in jail.  Wings were recording together in December 1980 when John Lennon’s murder placed the group on hiatus once again.  When longtime member Denny Laine announced he was leaving the group in 1981 Wings was formally dissolved.

Say what you will about Wings, but the fact remains that they produced 23 Top 40 hits, 14 Top 10 hits and 6 Number Ones.  They provided Paul McCartney with an outlet to continue writing hit music and the occasional great album.  And Linda McCartney, for all of her musical shortcomings was extremely brave to absorb more than her fair share of criticism for her decision to keep her family together by joining Paul in the group.  She was not looking to be accepted as a serious musician.  She and Paul just wanted to be together with their kids.  Wings was most certainly not The Beatles.  But for what it was and what it became, especially considering its origins, it was an impressive achievement for any musician.

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Happy Birthday Paul! Part 3, Paul The Guitarist

Earlier we recognized Paul the bassist.  But what many people might not know is that some of The Beatles best known guitar solos were played by none other than Paul McCartney.   Paul’s guitar of choice from 1965 on was a hollow bodied Epiphone Casino.  George and John followed suit and can be seen playing the Casino in various promotional clips and in photographs from recording sessions.

Paul’s solos are actually quite distinctive (except for “Back In the U.S.S.R., which sounds like something george would play).  His quieter solos (“Drive My Car,” “Ticket To Ride,” “Another Girl”) are usually very bendy.  His heavier solos, on the other hand, tend to be very aggressive (“Taxman,” “Good Morning Good Morning,” “Helter Skelter”).  After listening to the following songs you might even argue that Paul had better chops as a soloist than George.  But that’s an argument for another day.

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Happy Birthday Paul! Part 2 – Paul The Bassist

There were great bass guitar players before Paul McCartney switched from guitar to bass in 1962 (James Jamerson and Carol Kaye to name just two).  And there have been better technical players after Paul (John Entwistle, Chris Squire, Les Claypool, etc.).  But Paul McCartney may have had a greater impact on the future of the bass guitar than any of them.  For it was Paul who proved that the bass player could be the frontman and command the same level of attention as the singer or the guitarist.  And though his dedication to his instrument Paul pushed the boundaries of melodic bass playing past where any of his contemporaries were at the time.  Let’s go back to the beginning.

Between 1960 and 1961 The Beatles featured a three lead/rhythm guitar attack consisting of John Lennon, George Harrison and Paul McCartney.  Stuart Sutcliffe played bass -reportedly very poorly.  When Stuart decided to remain in Hamburg, Germany instead of accompanying The Beatles back to Liverpool, The Beatles faced a dilemma.  They would either have to look for a new bass player, or one of them would have to switch instruments.

None of them wanted to do it.

The rest of the group naturally assumed that Paul, being the most gifted musician in the group, would be the best choice to fill the vacancy.  For the good of the group, Paul accepted the responsibility.  The stage was set.  He just needed to buy a bass.

The Hofner

After making the decision to become The Beatles bass player in 1961, Paul was forced out
of necessity to purchase a bass guitar.  With little money and even less knowledge about basses Paul headed to music shops in Hamburg.  The bass that caught his eye, however was the 1961 Hofner 500/1 .  Hofners were not a high-end bass.  In fact, Paul selected the bass more for its affordability than its sound or looks (it cost around $45).  But that simple decision made in a Hamburg music shop in 1961 helped to create one of the most iconic visual images of The Beatles; Paul McCartney with his left-handed Hofner violin bass.

The Hofner also changed the way in which Paul learned to play bass.  As it was lighter than a standard bass and had a shorter fretboard it was less demanding on an inexperienced player.  Paul was able to move with it and its lightness allowed him to remain energetic during the numbers that he sang.  Quite the opposite of the motionless robot weighted down by his instrument that he surely feared he would become.  And since the frets were closer together it meant that the switch from guitar to bass required less of an adjustment. Paul’s playing reflected this combination of elements.  The early records reveal a light, bouncy bass sound instead of a bass that simply holds down the bottom.

The limitations of this bass began to show themselves after The Beatles achieved stardom.  Hofners of that era were notorious for their inability to stay in tune as you went up the fretboard.  A great example of this can be heard in the video for “I’ve Got a Feeling” from The Beatles 1969 “Rooftop Concert” at the end of this piece.

In addition to being hard to tune, The Hofner just didn’t have a great tone.  It was fine for what was required of it in The Beatles early catalog.  But as their music became more ambitious, and as Paul’s ability on the instrument increased, Paul was ready for a change.  In 1964 Paul was presented with a Rickenbacker 4001S model bass from the president of Rickenbacker guitars -and Paul’s bass playing would never be same.

The Rickenbacker 4001S

It is not known exactly when Paul began using his Rickenbacker 4001S in Beatles recording sessions.  Photographic evidence shows that he was using it during the Rubber Soul sessions in the fall of 1965.  But due to the way in which George Martin recorded the bass in that era it is difficult to tell which songs on the album are played with the Rickenbacker and which were played with the Hofner.  One thing is clear, however.  The bass playing on Rubber Soul is more advanced than on any previous Beatles record.  Paul may have continued to tour with his Hofner, but for recording he would select the Rickenbacker from that point onwards.

The Rickenbacker bass has become one of the most celebrated bass guitars in rock history.    The guitar had a clear tone and was well suited to studio recording.  When played high up on the neck the tone was as clear as a bell.  Played down low it created a formidable bottom.  And with a little gain, it growled.  The list of famous Rickenbacker bass players reads like a who’s who of hall of fame bassists (Geddy Lee, Chris Squire, Lemmy Kilmeister, Cliff Burton, John Entwistle).  And much like George Harrison and the Rickenbacker 12-string, most, if not all of those players would not have played the guitar had it not been for Paul McCartney.

1966/1967

Paul’s high water mark as a bassist was almost certainly during 1966 and 1967, thanks to the Rickenbacker bass.  At Paul’s insistence the bass was brought up in the mix, and the result was a single that might be the greatest bass single of all time, “Paperback Writer/Rain.”  I am including the following video of a bassist performing “Rain” on a Rickenbacker bass to illustrate the beauty of Paul’s bassline for two reasons.  1) Because he plays it perfectly.  And 2) because he plays it at the pitch and speed in which it was actually recorded (the finished song was slowed down to achieve a slightly hazy, psychedelic effect).

Revolver, recorded in the spring of 1966 was recorded almost exclusively with the Rickenbacker.  As with “Paperback Writer” and “Rain” (recorded during the same sessions) the bass was featured more prominently on Revolver than on any previous Beatles album.  This was due in no small part to the promotion of Geoff Emerick to the role of chief engineer.  Paul’s bass sounded better, and it was left higher in the mix than had ever been done before.

Paul’s playing became more melodic as Paul was beginning to use the bass to produce countermelodies instead of merely providing bottom.  Songs like “For No One” and “And Your Bird Can Sing” are good examples of this.  Paul has written distinct melodies that complement the main melodies of each piece.

1967 began with another bass-heavy single.  People may not associate “Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever” with the bass guitar.  But take a moment to listen to Paul’s playing on the two songs.  “Penny Lane” is driven by the bass guitar’s melody in a way that Beatles single had been to that point.  The bass in “Strawberry Fields Forever” is much harder to hear due to the big production, but what you can hear is a much clearer Rickenbacker sound that points the way towards Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Sergeant Pepper is many things to many people.  Concept album, ground breaking cover, ground breaking use of different musical styles, ground breaking use of different instruments on a pop record.  And on and on.  But one thing that it definitely is is a great bass album -probably Paul’s best work.  Paul’s approach on this album was to record some of his bass lines over the top of the finished rhythm tracks (sometimes after the majority of the track was complete), giving him time to write and rewrite the bass parts.  It also allowed him to punch the bass parts into the mix, making them stand out a bit.

His bass lines were becoming even more complex, as evidenced by songs like “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” and “With A Little Help From My Friends.”  Paul’s playing ranges from bottom to playing melodic lines up on the neck.  For fans of the bass guitar these songs are distinguished by their bass lines.  I know that I personally haven’t heard the songs the same way since discovering these bass parts.  Here is an example of an isolated bass line from Sergeant Pepper.

In early 1969 Paul returned to the Hofner briefly to record the Let it Be album.  The decision to do this could have been the desire to capture The Beatles earlier sound, or it could have been because the sessions were being filmed and Paul wanted to be seen playing the guitar with which he was so closely associated.  But for better or (more likely) for worse the Hofner was back on a Beatles record.  And if I’m honest it actually sounds right for the material.  The album was meant to sound live; to sound flawed.  And if the following clip is any indication, flawed it was.  Here is the isolated bass track from “I’ve Got A Feeling.”  Listen as the old troubles with the Hofner’s tuning come back with a vengeance.

Paul finished up his Beatles career playing the guitar that made him truly great, the Rickenbacker.  Abbey Road was recorded with the Rickenbacker and, strangely enough, a Fender jazz bass.  Paul’s stayed with the Rickenbacker throughout his solo career as well, until nostalgia prompted him to bring the Hofner out of retirement in 1990.  He now plays the Hofner almost exclusively.

It seems the enduring image of Paul McCartney with his violin bass is burned too deeply into the subconscious of music fans to accept another -even though Paul’s greatest work and his greatest influence on other players was achieved on a different instrument.  It is understandable, though.  One of the main reasons why the Rickenbacker never really got associated with Paul’s image as a Beatle was that The Beatles had stopped touring when he began using it.  Sure, people saw him playing the Rickenbacker in a few promotional clips and later with Wings.  But it just couldn’t supplant the image of “that funny little guitar” people were so curious about when The Beatles hit it big in 1963-1964.  It deserves its place in the hearts and minds of Beatles fans everywhere.  Even if it was thin sounding and out of tune…

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Happy Birthday Paul McCartney!

Today we’d like to celebrate the life of the great Sir Paul McCartney on his 70th birthday with four posts dedicated to one of the true musical geniuses of modern music.  According to the Guinness Book of World Records he is the most successful composer and recording artist of all time.  And in addition to being on the Mount Rushmore of 20th century pop culture icons (along with Elvis, James Dean, Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe and Michael Jackson) he is one of the most talented and versatile musicians in rock history.

While the majority of the stories we could tell about his time with The Beatles are well known (yes, he did originally call “Yesterday” “Scrambled Eggs”) we thought we would focus more on his unique musical talents.  And instead of simply recalling the long list of hit singles that he wrote and recorded with The Beatles and as a solo artist we thought we would discuss Wings in greater detail.  We hope you enjoy these posts and we hope that you take a moment and celebrate the life of Paul McCartney.

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Can’t Get Enough

Jack White is driving me wild with his new album Blunderbuss and the song “I’m Shakin'” but the other day while looking for a video for this post, I came across this video. Now I not only can’t get enough of this song, but I can’t get enough of this dancer – nor can my cousins. Check out his insanely awesome moves, especially at about the 50 second mark, that my cousins and I are currently stealing. Enjoy!

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Can’t Get Enough

Every time I hear this song I can’t help but be sucked into it’s magnificent 80s glam rock feel. It’s so over the top, you gotta love it. What’s even better is the cheesy, over-the-top 80s style music video. Hope you get as big a kick out of it as I do.

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Minnesota Music Weekend Begins

Saturday, May 19 marks 98.3 The Current’s annual Minnesota Music Day.  While you should definitely check out The Current’s website for details, we plan to profile some of our favorite Minnesota music right along with our favorite radio station.

I’m a New Englander.  From New Hampshire, if you’re taking notes.  The idea that a music scene existed in Minneapolis, of all places, was completely alien to me even as recently as five years ago.  But after finding The Current and spending some time in the Twin Cities I can attest to the fact that Minneapolis is home to the most diverse, talented and, well, interesting collection of new artists this side of Austin or Portland.  And that’s saying nothing about the two musical geniuses that just happened to grow up in Minnesota (Dylan and Prince).

The artist I would like to feature as we head into the weekend is Jeremy Messersmith.  We have already reviewed his outstanding album The Reluctant Graveyard in these pages.  But since he has not yet released another LP, and since I have not even begun to tire of it, I am happy to feature a few songs (plus the very cool video for his single “Tatooine”).

The first song is my favorite Messersmith track, “John The Determinist.”  It may not be the most catchy, but to me it is the most beautiful.  Existing somewhere between “Like Spinning Plates” by Radiohead and a DeBeers commercial, it’s a truly spine tingling song.

Next we have “Lazy Bones,” TRG‘s leadoff hitter.  The only thing I can think of when listening to the song is “1966.”  For some reason it just fits the sound of 1966.  Maybe it’s the Kinks-ian “Party Line” style guitar intro.  Or maybe it’s the lethargic “you’re workin’ so hard” background vocals that just seem to fit that post-moptop, pre-psychedelic era.

And lastly we have the video for “Tatooine.”  The Star Wars saga retold in two and a half minutes using paper cutouts.  What’s not to like?

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RIP Donna Summer + Beatles Song of the Week

Drae has been caught up at work today and couldn’t post a tribute to one of her childhood heroes, Donna Summer.  But I am more than happy to step in and honor Donna Summer, one of the greatest voices in pop music history.  Here she is with Barbra Streisand in 1979 performing one of Drae’s all-time favorite songs.  “No More Tears (Enough is Enough).”

And for this week’s Beatles Song of the Week we have Donna singing a short, but gorgeous rendition of “Let It Be” with Jools Holland.

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Beatles Song of the Week

This week we would like to spotlight Julian Lennon.  His story is well-known.  He was born during the heyday of Beatlemania in 1963, mostly staying with his mother, Cynthia while John was traveling the world.  When John was at home he did the best he could, though The Beatles recording schedule and John’s drug abuse likely kept him from having a normal relationship with his son.  At age 4 Julian famously showed his father a picture he had drawn of one of his female classmates.  The picture inspired John to write “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.”

In 1968 when Julian was five years old John left Cynthia to begin his relationship with Yoko Ono.  Julian saw little of his father until the mid 1970’s when John’s then-girlfriend May Pang insisted that John reestablish a relationship with his 10-year-old son.  This reunion would be short-lived as John was in the middle of his self-destructive “Lost Weekend” phase in Los Angeles.  Julian was able to participate in the recording of John’s 1974 album Walls and Bridges, playing drums on the song “Ya-Ya.”

In 1975 John and Yoko reunited and Sean Lennon was born.  John dedicated the better part of five years towards raising Sean, further alienating Julian (after all, John chose to be a father to Sean, but not to Julian).  Towards the end of John’s life he made more attempts to spend more time with Julian, but Julian’s statements about his father in the early 1980’s showed that there were a number of unresolved issues between the two.

Which brings us to Julian’s recording career.  It goes without saying that Julian had enormous shoes to fill.  Add to that the fact that Julian looked, and occasionally sounded exactly like a young John Lennon and the public had every reason to dismiss him.  But Julian had a four legitimate US chart hits between 1984 and 1989 (and he had additional hits abroad.  That is not insignificant.  Bearing in mind the incredible emotional baggage that he carried with him from his infancy, it is noteworthy that he achieved that level of success.

We have included two of Julian’s earlier singles.  The very Beatlesque “Say You’re Wrong,” and the video for the smash hit “Too Late For Goodbyes,” which he decided to film in Hannibal Lecter’s prison cell for some reason.  Enjoy!

 

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