Monday, 13 December 2010

News, Views and Music Issue 83 (Intro)




December 13:

Welcome dear readers to the – gosh – 83rd issue of this newsletter. What a fortnight of mixed fortune’s it’s been since we last saw you! On the plus side, we’ve had a mammoth rise in the number of hits to the site

(30 a day now and almost 3000 in total) and would like to welcome all our new readers who’ve joined us from our ‘Google Adverts’ (that’s adverts on the search engine google, not google-eyed adverts I hasten to add!) Readers might also be interested to know that people searching for the keywords The Monkees, The Who and Otis Redding have clicked through to our site more than anyone else! Thanks also to those of you who’ve been writing on our forum with lists of your favourite songs – there’s some very interesting answers there so keep them coming! I’ve also struggled to stay awake through three courses about tax returns now so I also vaguely know what to do if I ever get money coming into this site...

Which, as you’ve probably seen if your reading this, will be a bit tricky as Google have closed our account for placing adverts on our site for reasons known only to themselves (and just as I was putting a ‘google-orientated top five’ together too!) So, gee, thanks for that guys, we weren’t earning much money but it was something – sigh, this site seems to have been one step forward and eight hundred steps back ever since we started it...Let’s hope that our appeal goes OK and that our new trading partners at yahoo are rather more co-operative.

On a happier note, though, The Face Of Bo and I have recently revived our long lost Sims game which has been gathering dust on my shelf for a few years now (ever since our computer went wrong and lost all our hard work in 2007). This year, we’ve added specially built houses for The Beatles and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and – as before – the results are scarily accurate! The Beatles house looks like the one in ‘Help!’, but the frosty relationships between all four Beatles is more like ‘Let It Be!’ it has to be said! John Lennon has had arguments with all the other Beatles, likes painting and playing the piano and is the first to make a fuss if he isn’t happy with the way the game is shaping up. Paul McCartney is always in front of the mirror and the Sim most likely to be tidying up and greeting people (even if Lennon gets on with strangers better by making them laugh – and then ruining it by insulting them!) George Harrison keeps pretty much to himself and comes alive (in as much as a computer-generated character can ever come ‘alive’) when painting, playing the piano or, erm, playing chess (I missed that trait in the real Beatle!) Ringo, meanwhile, sulked from day one, spent most of his time in bed and left on day three after one row with Lennon too often! Peace and love, Ringo! All four sims are scarily into music which I swear is nothing I’ve added and usually dream about guitars and musical notes while they’re asleep – spooky! (Paul also dreams a lot about money I’ve noticed!) While stardom is still slow to happen (I wonder what will happen when I add a sim of Brian Epstein?!) George is working as a medic and Paul as a clerk – and having just bought the sims unleashed extra CD-rom I’m going to make Jon Lennon a star!!! (It’s happened before it can happen again!)

As for CSNY it’s early days yet but I can already see a lot of patterns! Crosby is out talking to everyone on the street, whether they want him to or not, Stills is spending all his time either at work (as a telephone psychic would you believe!) or preparing for work, Nash spends all his time tidying up the house (a never ending task!) and Young keeps to himself and seems to eat a massive amount and take lots of baths (erm, I don’t think I’ve quite got his sim right yet!) Anyway, I’ll keep you posted what happens next – and let me know who you think I should build a house for next (I need some more girls at the moment so what do you think about Lulu, Janis Joplin and Grace Slick sharing a house together?! Or, hey, how about re-creating The Monkees pad?!) Meantime, on with the news in the real (and far less interesting) world...

                                                              

Beatles News: This week sees the 30th anniversary of John Lennons untimely death, marked this year by three varied programmes. The first, by BBC News 24, is entitled The Lennon Legacy and is being shown twice a day most days from last Friday up to this Friday. Its presented by the BBCs American correspondent of 1980 and features lots of unusual footage along with the more common John and Yoko film clips (including a brief but moving clip of Yoko and Sean speaking to the cameras for the first time post-Lennon in 1982). As is usual for the BBC these days there are also two celebrity talking heads speaking Bono is as egocentric and useless as ever, talking about what Lennon meant to him personally and in his stage life (quite what the inspiration is we never hear, as the clip of U2 poncing about singing about nothing is as wide a gulf as you can get between performers when juxtaposed with Lennon live) and James Taylor, who for the first time to my knowledge talks about living in the apartment above the Lennons in the Dakota and having his own altercation with Lennons killer the day before the Beatles death. 

Second up is an ITV special entitled The Day John Lennon Died, to be broadcast on ITV1 this Monday, December 6th at 10.35pm. There hasnt been much publicity for this programme so we cant tell you much more, but it seems to be a semi-official one as Yoko is giving a new interview about the events leading up to December 8th 1980.

Thirdly, Radio Two are taking a rather happier approach with their radio documentary John Lennon: The New York Years at 10pm this Tuesday, December 7th. This programme focuses on John and Yokos early years in the US, how they moved to the country to track down Yokos daughter, how they ended up falling in with some radical groups that didnt go down at all well with Nixons paranoid Government and how a drugs bust in 1969 meant the couple risked deportation every day for two years. More on these next issue.

Finally, last week saw the repeat of the 10 part radio series In My Life John Lennon Remembered on BBC6, a show first broadcast in 1990 on what would have been the singers 50th birthday (with the last part broadcast near to the 10th anniversary of his death). The story continues this week Monday-Wednesday in the 3am documentary slot, with Lennons solo years from Give Peace A Chance onwards under the spotlight (and last weeks mainly Beatles-filled programmes are still just about available via BBC I-player as I write).  

Finally, a reminder of Lennon at his performance peak is re-released this month, when the Beatles four Ed Sullivan Show appearances comes out on DVD again. I believe this is the third time the Beatles clips have been out complete, this time like the first as complete one-hour shows so you can gawp in amazement at just how different the fab four were to every other act on the bill, from poor jugglers to poor comedians to really toe-curlingly poor singers, not to mention compere Ed Sullivan looking like hes only just that second woken up (which he had, allegedly, for most of his shows). The new DVD release includes an interview apparently, though who its with exactly were not quite sure (the set isnt out in shops yet and Amazon for once isnt very helpful!) Look out too for Monkee Davy Jones, aged 18, playing the Artful Dodger in a production of Oliver! on the first programme, two full years before he found his musical success of his own.

CSN News: Were still waiting for the two mammoth CSN projects of the year a long awaited CD release of the bands superb 1974 record-breaking four hour show at Wembley Stadium and a new album of covers being recorded with Johnny Cash producer Rick Rubin which now seem to be set for 2011 - but in the meantime David Crosby and Graham Nash crop up on a documentary DVD of their friend Jackson Browne. The DVD Going Home first came out on video in 1994 but has been unavailable for a decade or so and features Crosbys memorable plug for his old society-fighting buddy: whenever theres buffalo starving, who you gonna call? Jackson Browne!

Pink Floyd News: Yet another Syd Barrett book hits the shelves this week, to go alongside the new Barrett compilation weve had from EMI this year. Dark Globe is written by Julian Palacios and first came out in 1998 but has now been updated to include the last few years of the former Floyd frontmans life up to his untimely death a few years back. The rest of the book has extended greatly too, so Im told.

Rolling Stones News: Uncut have cobbled together issue four of their specials, this time looking back at the Rolling Stones. Like the John Lennon special in October, the magazine has new double-page reviews of each and every Stone studio album along with some fascinating old interviews from the band as originally published in long-forgotten issues of Melody Maker and the New Musical Express. The early interviews are particularly fascinating, especially the divide between Mick Jagger (Id hate to be performing Satisfaction when Im 30!) and Keith Richards (Well still be playing in our wheelchairs!) which becomes apparent as early as 1963. The photographs too are lovely and the staff have really dug through the archives for them, discovering some unusual and rarely seen pics along with all the usual ones, though for me this magazine isnt as insightful or as well crafted as the Lennon one and ultimately you get a bit bored of hearing Keith saying the same old things interview after interview (why arent there are more interviews with Brian Jones who gets just two hilarious half-page interviews; Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts who get one apiece from 1964 and Mick Taylor who gets about a paragraph stuffed inside yet another interview with Mick Jagger). Still worth looking out for for the photographs alone, however.

Neil Young: Weve had Greendale the album, Greendale the tour, Greendale the film and now Greendale the book. This new version of Neil and Crazy Horses ecological concept album from 2003 still sadly has nothing to do with the Postman Pat town of the same name but does make the plotline of the album a lot clearer, apparently. This graphic novel by Joshua Dysart and Cliff Chiang has the fiery but naive teenager Sun Green trying to make sense of the insular Californian town she grew up in, wondering why the oil companies who live in the district have no compassion for their workers or the environment and wondering if that really was the devil she just saw walking past her house... Now that someone else has taken on his baby of the last decade perhaps Neil can finally put this convoluted and confusing project to bed?! (Unlike most fans I actively loath this CD!)


ANNIVERSARIES: We’ve got two week’s worth of anniversaries to catch up with this issue, so first up its many happy returns of the AAA to those celebrating between December 1st-7th: Gilbert O’Sullivan who turned 64 on December 1st and Chris Hillman (bassist with The Byrds 1965-68) who turned 68 on December 4th. Anniversaries of events include: John Lennon and Yoko Ono release ‘Happy Xmas’ (War Is Over) on December 1st 1971, a date so close to Christmas that the single flops badly on first release before becoming a mainstay of the charts in the festive season of 1972; The Monkees score a record that has still to be broken when fourth album ‘Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones’ becomes their fourth non-compilation #1 record of 1967 (December 2nd); The Moody Blues release the last of their ‘original’ pre-split albums ‘Seventh Sojourn’ (December 2nd 1972); Members of The Who and associates are jailed overnight for causing $6000 of damage to a hotel in Montreal. John Entwistle is not amused – he slept through all the destruction and has no idea why there are policemen knocking on his door! (December 2nd 1973); Pink Floyd’s inflatable pig flying over Battersea Power Station (as seen on the front cover of the band’s 1977 LP ‘Animals’) breaks free from its moorings and disrupts airspace for a good few hours, confusing several pilots and getting the band a great deal of free publicity (December 3rd 1976); Eleven audience members are killed and dozens are hurt during a rush for seats to see The Who in Cincinatti on December 3rd 1979, an event that contributes to the band’s eventual split in 1982; The Rolling Stones publicise their new album with a fondly remembered ‘Beggar’s Banquet’ with the world’s music press which degenerates into a food fight! (December 5th 1968); The first of seven specially made Beatles Christmas Flexi-discs is sent to members of the fab four’s fanclub (December 6th 1963); A busy day for The Rolling Stones who record their classics ‘19th Nervous Breakdown’ and ‘Mother’s Little Helper’ in the space of a few hours (December 6th 1965); Four people die at a free festival – one of them murdered by the Hells Angel security - held in Altamont Speedway 40 years ago this week, headlined by The Rolling Stones and also featuring AAA groups CSNY, Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane (whose lead singer Marty Balin is concussed after breaking up a fight between Hells Angels and audience; December 6th 1969 – the film of the tour, ‘Gimme Shelter’, premieres on the same day in 1970); The Beatles’ Apple Boutique opens its doors at 94 Baker Street (December 7th 1967) and finally, the NME are first to reveal that Graham Nash is leaving The Hollies to work with David Crosby and Stephen Stills in an as yet un-named band (December 7th 1967).

And for the second week (December 8th-14th) it’s bring on the birthday cakes for AAA members Bobby Elliott (drummer with The Hollies 1963-present) who turns 68 on December 8th, Ray ‘Jacka’ Jackson (lead singer with Lindisfarne 1970-72 and 1978-89) who turns 62 on December 12th and Frank Allen (bassist with The Searchers 1965-present) who turns 67 on December 14th. Anniversaries of events include: The Beach Boys release their first single ‘Surfin’ on the independent Candix label a staggering 49 years ago (December 8th 1961); Pink Floyd release their seminal album ‘The Wall’ – it will go on to be the last #1 by anybody of the 1970s (December 8th 1979); John Lennon dies outside his Dakota Building home in New York weeks after his 40th birthday (December 8th 1980); The Moody Blues with Wingsman Denny Laine score big with their first hit ‘Go Now’ (December 10th 1964); Otis Redding dies at the age of 27 in an aeroplane crash (December 10th 1967); John Lennon releases his first solo LP ‘Lennon/Plastic Ono Band’ (December 11th 1970); Pink Floyd perform their first gig under that name at an Oxfam charity show (December 12th 1966); The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus, also featuring The Who, is filmed but left unscreened for another 30-odd years (December 12th 1968); John Lennon also plays his first post-Beatles gig with the Plastic Ono Band at Toronto Peace Festival (December 12th 1969); The Who perform ‘Tommy’ at the Coliseum Opera House in London (December 13th 1969); Paul Simon scores his first hit in seven years with ‘The Boy In The Bubble’ (December 13th 1969); Ringo takes a close-up look at the younger trendy pop sensations when he dons a camera for ‘Born To Boogie’, the Apple label’s documentary film about T Rex (December 14th 1972) and finally, Mick Taylor quits the Rolling Stones after just four albums with the band (December 14th 1974).  

News, Views and Music Issue 83 (Top Five) Weird AAA Cover Versions




In the annals of the Alans Archive member groups there are some truly weird and wonderful sounds. Weve already covered most of these elsewhere on the site in our psychedelia and experimental sections (take a bow John Lennon sound collages, Brian Wilson chopping up wood for a Beach Boys backing track and Pink Floyd songs about roadies cooking breakfast!), but this week were looking at the more mainstream oddities, pieces of music so clearly identified with another artist or another era so completely you wonder how on earth they ever got suggested in the first place:

5) Paul McCartney and Wings Crossroads (from Venus and Mars, 1976): For instance, what on earth possessed the ex-Beatle to re-record a minute long theme from a soap opera by the prolific Tony Hatch on an album that was intended to be Maccas big return to the spotlight following the success of Band On The Run? Well, officially its meant to be a bit of a pun, hidden away at the end of the album a la Her Majesty on the Beatles Abbey Road and following a track called Lonely Old People (because, thought Macca, lonely old people liked to watch Crossroads and sat in front of the telly to take away the pain of being old if you listen to the lyrics of the song I wonder how Macca feels about it now that hes 68?!) Yep, I can just imagine how that band meeting went: So, guys, I love the heavy adult feel of this album but it would be great if we could end it with a snatch of a soap opera tune that only people of a certain age will recognise in years to come...

4) Neil Young Oh! Lonesome Me! (from After The Goldrush, 1970): I actually really like this cover, which is usually held up by critics and fans to be the one mistake on Neils breakthrough LP. But it is truly truly weird this happy poppy country song, overplayed from millions of cover versions by Johnny Cash and Nancy Sinatra among others, is slowed down to a crawl with Neils mouthorgan overpowering us with emotion after practically every line. But the sentiments of the song how the narrators girl is out having fun after they split but all he can do is think about her and mope is far more in keeping with Neils revisitation than the faux optimism of the original and most covers. The restrictive and bare-bones accompaniment put the emphasis on Neils vocal rather than his guitar or piano playing for perhaps the only time in his prolific career and its one of his best, full of pathos and barely concealed hurt. Despite being at the peak of his career in sales terms, Neil was deeply unhappy in this period, splitting from his first wife shortly before the Goldrush sessions and no song sums up his lost dazed state more than this quietly impressive cover.

3) Ray Davies That Old Black Magic (from The Storyteller, 1998): When the elder Kinks brother started touring a part-monologue, part-musical show based around his unofficial autobiography X-Ray (alright, Ill use that joke just one last time!) fans were expecting lots of unusual developments. They got them too songs about Rays childhood worries of becoming disabled following a football accident, songs about Rays first hopeless attempts at chatting up the girls at his art school and most movingly a song about an early fan who kept cropping up at early gigs. But the biggest surprise was this revival of a hoary old mainstream classic, remembered from Rays childhood as a song his sisters would play regularly on the radio and delivered pretty much straight (well, until the innuendo at the end of the song anyway). The shock of hearing one of rocks biggest rebels and outsiders treating song from the era before his birth with such awe makes for the most bizarre experiences in Kinks record collecting, give or take a phenomenal cat or two.

2) Hollies Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah (an outtake from The Hollies sessions 1965, first issues on a music for pleasure compilation also titled The Hollies from 1984 and currently available on The Hollies At Abbey Road Volume One): An outtake from the album reviewed above, this is also one of the strangest experiences a collector can have. A classic Disney song from the now sadly forgotten part-animation part-live action film Song Of The South, the Hollies dispense with the laidback arrangement of the original in favour of a raucous and rocky reading of a bright and bubbly song perfectly in keeping with The Hollies of 1963 and 1964 (although it just sounds wrong when heard amongst their more troubled 1965 recordings). In their early days The Hollies were energy and enthusiasm set against The Beatles professionalism, The Searchers primitivism and The Stones air of uncaring naughtiness and so whilst Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah would be a mistake in anybody elses hands it suits The Hollies just fine and you can almost see those bluebirds on your shoulder when you play it (quit chirping so loud, guys, Im trying to listen!)

1) Byrds Well Meet Again (from Mr Tambourine Man, 1965): The weirdest AAA cover of all, though, has to be the famous Vera Lynn war anthem heard re-done in a folk rock format in a surprisingly reverential version by the early Byrds. All of the first few Byrds albums end with some weird musical statement (follow-up Turn!Turn!Turn! ends with a banjo-led Oh! Susannah!(!)) but this one takes the biscuit Vera Lynn is replaced by an earnest sounding Roger McGuinn and a barely-keeping-off-the-hysterics David Crosby who treat the song to some typical Byrds-ish Rickenbacker guitar and some, erm, interesting American pronounciations of the words (till we meet again some sunny day-e-ay, yay yay yay). Its been said, though, that this version of the song is less about seeing sweethearts after the patriotic World War Two than seeing sweethearts after draft-dodging the rather less patriotic and more confused moral ground of Vietnam, a war just beginning to make the headlines when the band recorded this. If the 1960s were a renunciation of everything the previous war-focussed generation had been through (as some of this website has been arguing), then this faithful adaptation is a true oddity, a song originally bought by the parents of the teenyboppers who bought the early Byrds albums and meaning something quite different to both generations, an astonishing time capsule of changing eras and beliefs. Although, having said that, McGuinn for one has said he just considered Well Meet Again to be a good tune.

Well, thats it for another issue. Im not sure whats happening next week but if we are free we shall be bringing you what will be our third Christmas special, looking at the best releases of the year. See you then!