Friday, 8 May 2009
♫ Welcome, dear readers, to another fun filled fanfest of fantastic music. If you’ve been looking through the past darkly and windows of darkness are all you can see through, then you’ve come to the right place. And what a week its been my friends – we’ve had the Kinks howling the blues on BBC4, Johnny Cash howling country on BBC2, 10cc howling on the radio and the ex-Cat Stevens busy plugging his record just about everywhere. Now a word or sixteen about how things are here at the AAA – this might be the last you hear from us in a while, owing to the fact that the local library is being refurbished and Mike’s computer has been having problems accepting pen drives. I hope it isn’t because otherwise you might not hear from us again till the end of June, but fear not – I shall be writing, reviewing and accruing new music all the time so get ready for a large collection of issues when the time comes (unless of course the computer magically fixes itself like it did last week – ah the wondrous properties of music and its ability to fix all ills!) And now, on with the news…
♫ CSN News: More on that CSN DVD we tried to tell you about last week (only for the computer to go haywire instead). It will be part of the ‘classic artists’ series that’s just begun (well done for making CSN top of the list, guys!) and will include lots of documentary footage along with some unseen extras of CSN at work, rest and play. It will be out at the end of June – more news nearer the time (but you can pre-order it on Amazon if you wish).
♫ Kinks News: The band were back on television – albeit in their early years 1964 incarnation, with a storming live version of ‘Got Love If You Want It’ getting its second airing on BBC4 as part of their ‘Blues at the BBC’ evening. The extract was from the BBC’s ‘Beatroom’ programme and originally broadcast on October 5th 1964.
♫ Cat Stevens News: Yusuf’s new album ‘Roadsinger’ came out this Monday in both CD and CD/DVD formats – expect a special ‘bonus’ review sometime this week!
♫ Anniversaries this extended week (May 4th-15th): Lots of Birthday cake wishes this time around to Derek Taylor (Beatles press officer throughout the 1960s) who would have been 67 on May 7th; Pete Wingfield (‘6th Hollie’ throughout the 1970s) who turns 61 also on May 7th; Graham Gouldmann (bassist with 10cc 1972-83 plus re-unions) who turns 63 on May 10th and Ian McLagan (keyboardist with the Small Faces 1966-68) who turns 64 on May 12th. Anniversaries of events this week: happy birthday recorded music! Yes it was this week in 1886 (May 4th to be exact!) that a patent was awarded to Chichester Bell and Charles Sumner Tainter for their invention of the gramophone; and Happy 45th Birthday Moody Blues, who were formed a mere 78 years after the gramophone on May 4th 1964; the Buffalo Springfield disband on May 5th 1968 after four glorious but frustrated years with a final show at Long Beach, California (please release the soundtrack of this show, Atlantic!); Mick Jagger and Keith Richards buy a new fuzz-box for their guitar and, duly inspired, end up writing their key song ‘Satisfaction’ the same day (May 6th 1965); Paul Simon sets out on his first solo tour three years after the break-up of Simon and Garfunkel (May 6th 1973); An unbeaten record on May 8th 1965 – no less than nine record in the American top 10 are British (the Beatles’ ‘Ticket To Ride’ and the Stones’ ‘The Last Time’ among them); the Beatles officially sign their contract with EMI and become recording artists, although they won’t actually release anything until October (May 9th 1962); a year later on the same day, Paul McCartney meets long-term girlfriend Jane Asher for the first time following a prestigious gig for the band at the Albert Hall; The Rolling Stones record debut single ‘C’mon’ (May 10th 1963); the Beatles officially dissolve Apple Records after eight years (May 10th 1975); the famous London ‘Games For May’ concert at which Pink Floyd played, among others, debuting their top five single ‘See Emily Play’ (May 12th 1967); the first ‘new’ Beatles release in seven years – ‘Live at the Hollywood Bowl’ – is released (May 13th 1977); the Byrds release their first ever single (under that name, anyway!) ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ (May 15th 1965) and finally, Pink Floyd perform their legendary outdoor concert at London’s Crystal Palace, complete with a 50foot blow-up octopus for reasons best known to the band. The sound system used by the band is so loud that they accidentally kill most of the fish in the nearby lake and are subsequently banned from playing there again! (May 15th 1970).
♫ And now for the latest in our series of top fives – the best Beatles B-sides (not counting tracks also released on album!):
5) Thankyou Girl (B-side of ‘From Me To You’ 1963; available on ‘Past Masters Volume One’). Oh oh oh you’ve been good to me little B-side, made me glad when I was blue. And eternally I’m always going to be in love with you. So there. We’ve mentioned it a few times on this website already, but one of the reasons for the Beatles’ key success was their close relationship with their fans (along with talent, hard work and good timing of course). Every Christmas until their demise members of the Beatles’ fan club would get an exclusive bright shiny disc in the post to play over their Christmas Day lunch and the sheer amount of ‘exclusives’ in the very-little-profit Beatles Book show just what a lot of helpful and pleasant guys the fab four were despite all the fame going to their heads at times. This B-side, recorded at a time when the Beatles had become about the biggest thing in
though not yet the planet, is a knowing nod to all their early fans for getting them this far, couched in the terms of a love song. We never actually do find out in the song what the girl is being thanked for (other than for ‘loving me the way that you do’) – but for Beatles fans the message was clear – this was the nicest and friendliest group on the planet at their nicest and friendliest best. And the melody’s good too. Britain
4) Don’t Let Me Down (B-side of ‘Get Back’ 1969; available on ‘Past Masters Volume Two) Beatles fans seem to forget nowadays just how long the gap was between the enthusiastic reception of the single of ‘Get Back’ and the rather muted reception delivered to final Beatles album ‘Let It be’. Sometime in-between the whole polished ‘Abbey Road’ project had come and gone and yet fans were still clamouring for the delightful ‘back to basics’ sound they’d heard on both sides of one of the band’s more popular late-period releases. What a disappointment the album must have been, with both of the album’s best tracks already released on this single – and how annoyed Lennon must have been to have one of his better compositions booted off the album to maintain the Beatles’ ‘no B-sides on an album’ policy. ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ is, you see, one of the few genuine love songs Lennon wrote for Yoko in his Beatles period and is one of the most impressively constructed too (songs like ‘Happiness Is A warm Gun’ and ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’ are equally impressive but more about addiction than love). You really feel for Lennon when he howls the chorus over and over again, even if you also feel for first wife Cynthia after Lennon’s dismissive line ‘I’m in love for the first time – don’t you know it’s going to last’).
3) Yes It Is (B-side of ‘Ticket To Ride’ 1965; available on ‘Past Masters Volume One). This introverted harmony-based ballad is an obvious nod back to the 1964 B-side ‘This Boy’ but it’s oh so superior in every single way. Lennon’s really showing his true colours in this period, inspired by drugs and Dylan in equal measure, and a lot more of his heart comes pouring out on this song than on the rather formulaic predecessor. The girl of the narrator’s dreams comes painfully close to reminding him of a former girlfriend, one who either died or broke up painfully with him in the past. The painful reminders (which some commentators say refers to former Beatle and close Lennon friend Stuart Sutcliffe who died aged 21 just as the Beatles were on the verge of reaching stardom and who was certainly on Lennon’s mind a lot in the ‘Help!”’ and ‘Rubber Soul’ period given the amount of songs of death and betrayal) are developed very carefully here, being triggered off by nothing more than the colour of the dress the new girlfriend wears (this song is a little bit like 1964’s ‘Baby’s In Black’ too, but superior to that track too). George Harrison continues his short-lived 1965 love of the pedal steel guitar, gently enhancing the mode by having his instrument sound like the tears the wasted-lennon vocal is too tired to cry (it’s all over ‘Help!’ but will be replaced by the sitar come ‘Rubber Soul’ time). An interesting experiment that cuts far deeper than virtually everything else in the pop market in 1965 (except, perhaps, the A side).
2) The Inner Light (B-side of ‘Lady Madonna’ 1968; available on ‘Past masters Volume Two’). George Harrison at his poetic best – and amazingly this is his first songwriting appearance on either side of as Beatles single! The basic track was recorded in
during George’s solo sessions for the soundtrack of the ‘Wonderwall’ film – an underrated, mainly instrumental project that’s almost all up to this kind of standard. The lyrics come from a book that George was given during his early days of friendship with the ‘hare Krishna’ movement and, despite being added later, fit the backing track like a glove. ‘The further one travels the less one knows’ is something of a Harrison mantra in this period, pre-cursing many of the lyrics for solo LPs ‘ India ’ and especially ‘Living In the Material World’. No other Beatles appear on the track, barring the final line which is sung by George in harmony with John and Paul and was most likely taped during sessions for the A-side. Much as I enjoy the catchy groove of the A-side, this B-side (which is catchy and deep) is vastly superior in every way. All Things Must Pass
1) Rain (B-side of ‘Paperback Writer’ 1966; available on ‘Past Masters Volume Two). The prototype sound for much that’s aboput to arrive on ‘Revolver’ and ‘Sgt Pepers’, this song about how different people perciev their surriundings differently to one another would have been a fine song in its own right – but it’s as a recording that it becomes the 100% classic that fans know and love. The whole backing track was recorded at a very very fast tempo and then slowed down to give it that shuddering thunder-in-the-air heavy feeling. The Beatles weren’t playing all-at-the-same-time that often by the 1966 period, but they turn in one of their greatest group performances for this track – Ringo, especially, gives the performance of his live, with some amazing drum rolls that are even more staggering when you consider how slowed down the tape must have been (why oh why didn’t Anthology issue this track at the proper speed? What a waste of six CDs!) The vocal effects are magic too – Lennon finally finds the proper medium for the ‘tired old man’ voice he’s been trying to get on tape since ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ (the answer, play the tape back through a revolving speaker housed in a leslie organ, giving it that muffled and resonance free sound that will dominate the Beatles’ sound for the next two years) and the reverse-tape ending ‘nnnaaaiirrrrrrrrrr’ is still extraordinary now, never mind back in the Summer of 1966. It’s much more than just a gimmick here too – hearing Lennon singing something that sounds familiar but is just out of our comprehension beautifully fits this song about how for some people the rain of life can be so much better for us than the sun because of what it tells us about ourselves. A masterpiece then now and always.
Well, that’s it for another week my fellow musical mates. Join us next week (if the computer works!) for more Alan’s Album Archiving! Bye till then!