Thursday 21 April 2011

News, Views and Music Issue 96 (Intro)

April 21:

Hello again, faithful readers (including Prince Zucko from the excellent series Avatar according to the name given on a recent posting – we’re honoured). Talking of Royalty, someone actually asked me the other day if I would be doing a special newsletter dedicated to the Royal Wedding – like every other business seems to be (I swear I even saw a repeat of a Fleetwood Mac doc on BBC6 given the sub-heading ‘to coincide with the marriage of William and Kate...I know the weddings a bit of an Albatross for us but?!?) Rest assured we’re not – we only cover proper actual relevant topical news here on this site (which is why this week we’re talking about a record released 26 years ago!) Anyway, ther’ll be another one along soon I’m sure (Harry’s, I mean, I don’t expect William to divorce just yet when he’s not even married, that would be cruel even for me) and most of the AAA songs about royalty aren’t that kind to them either (I will be playing The Monkees’ ‘Zor and Zam’ on the day though for my own amusement, ha!) Why do we care anyway? We don’t need a monarchy, we haven’t for centuries now and they all have more German blood than they do British (Windsor, let’s not forget, is a Germanic name whatever people think of it now). Oh and while I’m moaning, what’s with our Eurovision entry this year? Unlike most music lovers I’m a big fan of eurovision but all the fun’s been taken out of it now that the public don’t actually choose our entry – we get handed it on a plate. And whose big idea was it to reunite Blue, the soppiest boyband of them all. Surely they’ve learnt from the Lloyd Webber and Waterman fiascos by now – if we’re to lose, then we want to lose with a song we chose, not what some panel of ‘experts’ thinks will win. Blue’s song ‘I Can’ really isn’t a winning song – and no surprises that the band have come up with a song that’s ‘all about them’ for what’s meant to be a contest about the best of modern music around Europe. I expect 12 points at best, but even that will be an improvement on the last couple of years. Why don’t we stick to unknown acts for our success – look what it did to Abba, etc – I mean, nobody from Eastern Europe (who make up most of the voting bloc) will know who Blue is anyway. And watching Lulu tell a bunch of 30 year olds who’ve let themselves go ‘you’re gorgeous, so you’re gonna win’ when she looks 10 years younger than they do at 60 may just be one of the surrealist things I’ve seen on television. Ah well, the humiliation will be over again for another year soon. In the meantime, settle yourselves down with a mug of something palatable and peruse our latest news, views and music reviews...


Beatles News: BBC6 are broadcasting Band On The Run: The Story of Wings next week (at 3am on Tuesday and Wednesday, April 26 and 27th). I must admit, Ive never heard about this programme is it a new one? Seems a bit odd if it is, given that Maccas already pretty faithfully covered this era with his own telly doc Wingspan 10 years back. Or is it a selection from another one, such as the Band on the Run 25th anniversary or McCartney on McCartney (another great series recently repeated on BBC6). Hmm, could be interesting...

Also, he only counts as an honorary AAA member, but the Wings progs are followed in the time slot by a rarely heard Johnny Cash two-part doc American. Full marks to BBC6! (Lets just hope they dont change the date at the last minute like they did with the Stones at the beginning of the month!) 

The Who News: The latest Uncut Special magazine has just been released, dedicated to everything youd ever want to know about the Orrible Oo (and havent already read on this site, obviously!) The magazine follows equally excellent magazines dedicated to The Beatles, Rolling Stones and John Lennon and is the same mix of new analysis of old albums (the review of Who By Numbers is especially spot-on and echoes many of the thoughts we wrote in our review four years ago)and vintage reviews from the vaults of the NME, including the infamous pair of Daltrey and Townshend reviews from 1975 attacking each other (much talked about, rarely seen in full these days). Some great and rarely seen pics as well so keep your eyes out, although the one thing I will say against it is that the solo albums section is decidedly skimpy (Pete Townshends excellent and important Empty Glass our AAA classic no 77 is dismissed in a paragraph; sure The Stones solo albums were dismissed the same way but arent quite as vital to their canon as a whole).

ANNIVERSARIES: It’s that time of year again for AAA members celebrating between April 23rd and 29th: Klaus Voormann (Beatle friend, illustrator and bass player) who turns 69 on April 29th. Anniversaries of events include: The official dissolution of Wings 18 months after their last recordings (April 25th 1981); the Rolling Stones release their first LP imaginatively titled ‘Rolling Stones’ (April 26th 1964); Ringo Starr and his twin Ognir Rrats starr in a rather odd TV special ‘Prince And The Pauper’ plugging the ‘Bad Boy’ album (April 26th 1978); It’s a good week for Ringo in fact – he marries second wife and former Bond girl Barbara Bach on April 27th 1981; Andrew Loog Oldham sees the ramshackle Rolling Stones perform for the first time at their ‘home’ club the Crawdaddy and signs a contract with them to be their manager the next day (April 28th 1963) and finally, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of the Moon tops the American charts – for a total of one week, despite staying in the top 200 charts for a ridiculous 15 years (April 28th 1973).

News, Views and Music Issue 96 (Top Five): AAA Documentaries

You’ve read the books, you’ve heard the music, you might even have read all our reviews. But where else can you look for the best footage of the bands you love? This week – our top five documentaries on AAA bands and artists:

5) Paul McCartney and Wings “Winsgpan” (1999): This documentary rather caught fans on the hop near the millennium when it was first screened on television (it came out on DVD the following year). ‘Wingspan’ doesn’t have the depth, the drama or the footage of the Beatles’ Anthology project from three years earlier(see below), but in many ways it’s better. Very much a McCartney home-made production (Paul’s daughter Mary presents and there’s not much input from ex-members), this film has a charm and tongue-in-cheekness that’s very refreshing after sitting through 10 hours of Paul George and Ringo pontificating and arguing. Best of all, it works as a great tribute to Paul’s late wife Linda, a key member of all five Wings line-ups who’d died two years before,and there are lots of great snippets of home videos and rare music footage for fans to go alongside the usual stories. What with daughter Mary’s involvement (and production by her then-fiance, now husband Alastair MacDonald) it’s as if the Macca family is trying to make sense of recent events and has invited Wings’ biggest fans into their grieving. Aaah. One question though – the person who made Wings more than just another McCartney solo project was the great Denny Laine whose comments are curiously absent from this project – was he not asked or did he not want to take part? A shame too that the badly missed Jimmy McCulloch (who died of an overdose age 27 months after leaving the band) isn’t given a better send-off. Still, all round, a very good doc, accompanied by still the best McCartney solo CD compilation around (even if a quarter of the tracks are by McCartney solo and not Wings at all!)  

4) The Beatles “Anthology” (1996): Much ballyhooed before it was on (with four television networks competing to show it in the UK), there was overall a bit of disappointment after the whole project died down (the ratings dive after episode one and the embarrassingly small amount of viewers still around by week eight). On the plus side, you get masses of terrific footage you can’t see anywhere else and the production team take the sensible decision to show it more or less complete (unlike the bastardised records that went with it!) Highlights: a breathless Beatles at Shea Stadium going quietly mad, the unaired psychedelic promo to ‘A Day In The Life’ and some classic little seen TV gems plugging Hey Jude, Paperback Writer and many more. On the other side, you get Paul, George and Ringo as they were in the 1990s, aging before your eyes thanks to the years it took to finish this project and they alternate between being forgetful, argumentative, disrespectful and genuinely moved. It’s the moved moments that work best as you see all the remaining Beatles struggle to come to terms with the importance of their past and there are some great quotes, such as George’s comment that ‘the world used us as an excuse to go mad’. But, to be honest, without Lennon around to give his input (and the quotes used to represent him add little to the story) the producers might have been better off re-creating the magic of the 1982 doc ‘The Early Beatles’, stringing footage together with captions and letting the story speak for itself. Most people on the planet know the story so well already anyway– and if Anthology was meant to attract newcomers then there are simply too many long passages where nothing really happens, hence the dive in viewing figures. For all that, though, it’s worth owning the 11 hour set for the hour’s worth of really good 1960s footage alone.

3) The Beach Boys “Endless Summer” (1998): If ‘Anthology’ was too long long long then this later Beach Boys doc was too short, cramming 37 years worth of continuous music into two hours. By and large it’s better, though, thanks to a cornucopia of really good early footage (especially the mid to late 60s) and a sensitive handling of Brian Wilson’s very public breakdown (and Mike Love’s less public one). People come and go, collaborators disappear without a backward glance and there are too many great Beach Boys songs to squeeze into the programme’s two episodes to fit them all in, but despite the breathless rush this does feel like a full and rounded story being told, with everyone’s point of view being represented well. There’s an excellent ‘soundtrack’ CD out as well featuring a treasure trove of outtakes, rarities and curios that puts the six volumes of Anthology to shame too, although only a handful are heard properly on the soundtrack doc itself. Movingly, too, we hear the last thoughts of a clearly ill Carl Wilson, who died from throat cancer just before this programme’s first broadcast. The only downside is – the extras on the DVD are disappointing, with the chance to see the rare footage in full restricted to just a few of the more obvious bits of footage fans will own 20 times over already. Surprisingly, perhaps, this pretty much definitive doc caused a wave of Beach Boys docs (‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice?’ ‘Classic Albums: Pet Sounds’ and ‘Smile: Beautiful Dreamer’, all of which are worthy additions to the canon but not quite as far-ranging and exhaustive as this one).   

2) The Grateful Dead “Classic Albums: From ‘Anthem’ To ‘Beauty’” (1993): There have been a few AAA albums covered in the much-missed ‘classic album’ series and they’re nearly all good and recommended (‘Pet Sounds’ ‘Who’s Next’ ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’, ‘Graceland’, ‘Lennon/Plastic Ono Band’, even Lennon’s weakest solo album ‘Imagine’ suddenly sounds like a lost epic). But it’s this doc, also available on video, that’s a nose above the rest. The reasons are numerous: firstly, we hardly ever get any Dead docs in the UK and when we do they’re usually squeezed in with someone else vaguely appropriate, like the Airplane (good choice) or The Band (you’re having a laugh!) Secondly, the band are pretty much all involved in this one, with one of Jerry Garcia’s last interviews finding him on fine form, pontificating on the hippy scene with his usual mix of earnestness and self-deprecating chuckles. Even lyricist Robert Hunter comes out of hiding and his interviews are some of the best of all – confounding, confusing, memorable and moving in equal measure. Thirdly, there’s lots of great footage not just of the chosen 1968-70 period but before and after too, rare early clips of the band looking like wayward teenagers and later in concert footage of the band looking like wayward OAPs. Lastly, dedicating the programme to not one but two albums – completely different and desperately under-rated (and both covered on our ‘review’ pages) – gives the documentary a much wider scope than normal, with a cyclical story. I learnt masses from this documentary, with anecdotes I’ve never found anywhere else, while enjoying every second and that surely is the sign of a classic programme. When is this great series coming back?!

1) The Paul Simon Story (1991): Perhaps the best AAA-related documentary series of all didn’t come out on television but radio, with eight whole episodes dedicated to a scholary and respectful analysis of one of the best back catalogues of all. Paul Simon has never been the most prolific of artists and altogether this series covers just eight solo albums and five Simon and Garfunkel albums – and yet, despite an eight hour running time, it barely seems long enough to cover the history of all those great songs. Paul Simon is the perfect host, offering up nuggets of little-heard information without pretending to know all the answers or have perfect insight. He also has several enthusiastic interviewees including drummers Hal Blaine and Steve Gadd, S and G engineer Roy Halee and, oddly enough, Art Garfunkel himself, who reveals not only why the pair butted heads so many times over so many little details but why he kept coming back for more. Honest and articulate, with songs played in full for the most part, this is an excellent series that badly needs to be re-issued or given a repeat broadcast (how about it, BBC6?!) which only lags in the episode for the over-rated ‘Graceland’.  

Well, that about wraps it up for another seven days. In the meantime remember all things must pass and even coalitions and furore over royal weddings cannot last forever. See you next time!

A NOW COMPLETE List Of Top Five/Top Ten/TOP TWENTY  Entries 2008-2019
1) Chronic Fatigue songs

2) Songs For The Face Of Bo

3) Credit Crunch Songs

4) Songs For The Autumn

5) National Wombat Week

6) AAA Box Sets

7) Virus Songs

8) Worst AAA-Related DVDs

9) Self-Punctuating Superstar Classics

10) Ways To Know You Have Turned Into A Collector

11) Political Songs

12) Totally Bonkers Concept Albums

13) Celebrating 40 Years Of The Beatles' White Album

14) Still Celebrating 40 Years Of The Beatles' White Album

15) AAA Existential Questions

16) Releases Of The Year 2008

17) Top AAA Xmas Songs

18) Notable AAA Gigs

19) All things '20' related for our 20th issue

20) Romantic odes for Valentine's Day

21) Hollies B sides

22) 'Other' BBC Session Albums

23) Beach Boys Rarities Still Not Available On CD

24) Songs John, Paul and George wrote for Ringo's solo albums

25) 5 of the Best Rock 'n' Roll Tracks From The Pre-Beatles Era

26) AAA Autobiographies

27) Rolling Stones B-sides

28) Beatles B-Sides

29) The lllloooonnngggeesssttt AAA songs of all time

30) Kinks B-Sides

31) Abandoned CSNY projects 'wasted on the way'

32) Best AAA Rarities and Outtakes Sets

33) News We've Missed While We've Been Away

34) Birthday Songs for our 1st Anniversary

35) Brightest Album Covers

36) Biggest Recorded Arguments

37) Songs About Superheroes

38) AAA TV Networks That Should Exist

39) AAA Woodtsock Moments

40) Top Moments Of The Past Year As Voted For By Readers

41) Music Segues

42) AAA Foreign Language Songs

43) 'Other' Groups In Need Of Re-Mastering

44) The Kinks Preservation Rock Opera - Was It Really About The Forthcoming UK General Election?

45) Mono and Stereo Mixes - Biggest Differences

46) Weirdest Things To Do When A Band Member Leaves

47) Video Clips Exclusive To Youtube (#1)

48) Top AAA Releases Of 2009

49) Songs About Trains

50) Songs about Winter

51) Songs about astrology plus horoscopes for selected AAA members

52) The Worst Five Groups Ever!

53) The Most Over-Rated AAA Albums

54) Top AAA Rarities Exclusive To EPs

55) Random Recent Purchases (#1)

56) AAA Party Political Slogans

57) Songs To Celebrate 'Rock Sunday'

58) Strange But True (?) AAA Ghost Stories

59) AAA Artists In Song

60) Songs About Dogs

61) Sunshiney Songs

62) The AAA Staff Play Their Own Version Of Monoploy/Mornington Crescent!

63) What 'Other' British Invasion DVDs We'd Like To See

64) What We Want To Place In Our AAA Time Capsule

65) AAA Conspiracy Theroies

66) Weirdest Things To Do Before - And After - Becoming A Star

67) Songs To Tweet To

68) Greatest Ever AAA Solos

69) John Lennon Musical Tributes

70) Songs For Halloween

71) Earliest Examples Of Psychedelia

72) Purely Instrumental Albums

73) AAA Utopias

74) AAA Imaginary Bands

75) Unexpected AAA Cover Versions

76) Top Releases of 2010

77) Songs About Snow

78) Predictions For 2011

79) AAA Fugitives

80) AAA Home Towns

81) The Biggest Non-Musical Influences On The 1960s

82) AAA Groups Covering Other AAA Groups

83) Strange Censorship Decisions

84) AAA Albums Still Unreleased on CD

85) Random Recent Purchases (#2)

86) Top AAA Music Videos

87) 30 Day Facebook Music Challenge

88) AAA Documentaries

89) Unfinished and 'Lost' AAA Albums

90) Strangest AAA Album Covers

91) AAA Performers Live From Mars (!)

92) Songs Including The Number '100' for our 100th Issue

93) Most Songs Recorded In A Single Day

94) Most Revealing AAA Interviews

95) Top 10 Pre-Fame Recordings

96) The Shortest And Longest AAA Albums

97) The AAA Allstars Ultimate Band Line-Up

98) Top Songs About Sports

99) AAA Conversations With God

100) AAA Managers: The Good, The Bad and the Financially Ugly

101) Unexpected AAA Cameos

102) AAA Words You can Type Into A Caluclator

103) AAA Court Cases

104) Postmodern Songs About Songwriting

105) Biggest Stylistic Leaps Between Albums

106) 20 Reasons Why Cameron Should Go!

107) The AAA Pun-Filled Cookbook

108) Classic Debut Releases

109) Five Uses Of Bird Sound Effects

110) AAA Classic Youtube Clips Part #1

111) Part #2

112) Part #3

113) AAA Facts You Might Not Know

114) The 20 Rarest AAA Records

115) AAA Instrumental Songs

116) Musical Tarot

117) Christmas Carols

118) Top AAA Releases Of 2011

119) AAA Bands In The Beano/The Dandy

120) Top 20 Guitarists #1

121) #2

122) 'Shorty' Nomination Award Questionairre

123) Top Best-Selling AAA Albums

124) AAA Songs Featuring Bagpipes

125) A (Hopefully) Complete List Of AAA Musicians On Twitter

126) Beatles Albums That Might Have Been 1970-74 and 1980

127) DVD/Computer Games We've Just Invented

128) The AAA Albums With The Most Weeks At #1 in the UK

129) The AAA Singles With The Most Weeks At #1 in the UK

130) Lyric Competition (Questions)

131) Top Crooning Classics

132) Funeral Songs

133) AAA Songs For When Your Phone Is On Hold

134) Random Recent Purchases (#3)

135) Lyric Competition (Answers)

136) Bee Gees Songs/AAA Goes Disco!

137) The Best AAA Sleevenotes (And Worst)

138) A Short Precise Of The Years 1962-70

139) More Wacky AAA-Related Films And Their Soundtracks

140) AAA Appearances On Desert Island Discs

141) Songs Exclusive To Live Albums

142) More AAA Songs About Armageddon

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Some artists just have no idea what their best work really is. One thing that amazes me as a collector is how consistently excellent many of the...

159) A (Not That) Short Guide To The 15 Best Non-AAA Bands

160) The Greatest AAA Drum Solos (Or Near Solos!)

161) AAA Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame Acceptance Speeches

162) AAA Re-Recordings Of Past Songs

163) A Coalition Christmas (A Fairy Tale)

164) AAA Songs About Islands

165) The AAA Review Of The Year 2012

166) The Best AAA Concerts I Attended

167) Tributes To The 10 AAA Stars Who Died The Youngest

168) The First 10 AAA Songs Listed Alphabetically

171) The 10 Best Songs From The Psychedelia Box-Sets ‘Nuggets’ and ‘Nuggets Two’

172) The 20 Most Common Girl’s Names In AAA Song Titles (With Definitions) 

180) First Recordings By Future AAA Stars

185) A Tribute To Storm Thorgerson Via The Five AAA Bands He Worked With

188) Surprise! Celebrating 300 Album Reviews With The Biggest 'Surprises' Of The Past Five Years Of Alan's Album Archives!

190) Comparatively Obscure First Compositions By AAA Stars

193) Evolution Of A Band: Comparing First Lyric With Last Lyric:

200) The Monkees In Relation To Postmodernism (University Dissertation)

202) Carly Simon's 'You're So Vain': Was It About One Of The AAA Crew?

217) AAA 'Christmas Presents' we'd most like to have next year

221) Dr Who and the AAA (Five Musical Links)

222) Five Random Recent Purchases

223) AAA Grammy Nominees

224) Ten AAA songs that are better heard unedited and in full

225) The shortest gaps between AAA albums

226) The longest gaps between AAA albums

227) Top ten AAA drummers

228) Top Ten AAA Singles (In Terms of 'A' and 'B' Sides)

229) The Stories Behind Six AAA Logos

230) AAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!! The Best Ten AAA Screams

231) An AAA Pack Of Horses

232) AAA Granamas - Sorry, Anagrams!

233) AAA Surnames and Their Meanings

234) 20 Erroneous AAA Album Titles

235) The Best AAA Orchestral Arrangements

236) Top 30 Hilariously Misheard Album Titles/Lyrics

237) Ten controversial AAA sackings - and whether they were right

238) A Critique On Critiquing - In Response To Brian Wilson

239) The Ten MusicianS Who've Played On The Most AAA Albums

240) Thoughts on #CameronMustGo

241) Random Recent Purchases (Kinks/Grateful Dead/Nils Lofgren/Rolling Stones/Hollies) 

242) AAA Christmas Number Ones 

243) AAA Review Of The Year 2014 (Top Releases/Re-issues/Documentaries/DVDs/Books/Songs/ Articles  plus worst releases of the year)

244) Me/CFS Awareness Week 2015

245) Why The Tory 2015 Victory Seems A Little...Suspicious

246) A Plea For Peace and Tolerance After The Attacks on Paris - and Syria

247) AAA Review Of The Year 2015

248) The Fifty Most Read AAA Articles (as of December 31st 2015)

249) The Revised AAA Crossword!

251) Half-A-Dozen Berries Plus One (An AAA Tribute To Chuck Berry)

252) Guest Post: ‘The Skids – Joy’ (1981) by Kenny Brown

254) Guest Post: ‘Supertramp – Some Things Never Change’ by Kenny Brown

255) AAA Review Of The Year 2018

256) AAA Review Of The Year 2019 plus Review Of The Decade 2010-2019

257) Tiermaker

258) #Coronastock

259) #Coronadocstock