Friday, 13 July 2012
Dear all, we’re back to normal here at the AAA after a few days away ensconced in the rain in Carlisle and a fortnight running around trying to get our special edition on AAA books finished (see last issue!) After writing 167 mini reviews and 52,000 odd words I’m a bit burnt out this week so there’s not going to be much of an introduction this week. I couldn’t help but add, though, how awful it is that a prime minister whose family made their money as a dodgy business advisor actually came out and criticised tax exiles like comedian Jimmy Carr for being ‘immoral’. Everything the Coalition Government has done thus far has been ‘immoral’ – and its up to the Government to make things that are ‘immoral’ ‘illegal’ otherwise there’s no chance of stopping anyone doing anything (personally I think having a party we didn’t vote for in office voting to extend their term to five years is immoral, as is kicking so many people off welfare, as is making so many people homeless, as is leaving your daughter behind in a pub!) In other news, yippee! Our ‘moonfruit’ site has reached the impressive milestone of 20,000 views! Thankyou to everyone whose viewed it (presumably all of you reading this because it would be impossible to otherwise – unless you visited our ‘blogspot’ site where we’ve reached a still impressive 700 hits!)
♫ Beatles News: A quick word about the latest McCartney deluxe re-issue of ‘Ram’, released in May but only just added to my collection! We’ve already covered the album in full on our website (see review no 47) and ‘Ram’ is close to being my favourite McCartney album (slugging it out on points with ‘London Town’ and ‘Press To Play’). I’m pleased to say that this fourth re-issue in the deluxe series has done the album proud, even more than the superb ‘McCartney II’, with some delightful handmade touches such as a ‘book of sheep’ (featuring Paul proudly holding all the Rams reared on their Mull of Kintrye farm, not just the ‘star’ that made the cover!) and some fascinating documents, all gathered together in recycled cardboard wallets tied up with string. You see, for those who haven’t read my album review yet this is a very homespun album, written during Paul and his family’s ‘escape’ to their Scottish farm and away from all the madness of the end of the Beatles days and is lyrically the tale of two city birds getting back to the country (and ‘back to where they once belonged’, with Paul making good on the promise shown in the ‘Get Back’ project).
The glossy photographs taken by Linda are excellent and the sumptuous books are informative and full of lovely unseen pictures (like the other deluxe re-issues there’s a book with every possible angle on the album covered, though in paperback not hardback this time and an extra ‘scrapbook’ with the same handmade feel as the album cover. Best of all are the eight remaining sheets of Macca’s handwritten lyrics - some on glossy ‘McCartney’ headed notepaper, some torn out of notebooks – complete with scribbles and crossed out first drafts. The lyrics scribbled at the end of outtake ‘Rode All Night’ are particularly fascinating, with lines about how ‘guilt is a dirty rotter, it eats you away at the seams’ (I’m surprised McCartney let that one out, given how he usual paints himself as doing the necessary evil deeds to end the Beatles to save them from themselves). Interesting too that ‘Monkberry Moon Delight’ started out life as ‘Blueberry Moon Delight’, with pyjamas left to musical singer Gordon McCrae instead of ‘Billy Budapest’ and the ‘horrible sound’ coming from the much more logical ‘jawbone’ ( a percussion instrument) not a ‘tomato’. All the songs are accompanied by terrific doodles that show that had he wanted Paul could easily have written ‘In His Own Write’ had the publishers not got to John first. Fascinating too is the envelope the lyrics are wrapped in, printed with Macca’s sketched lists of what might have made the album: future releases such as ‘Little Lamb Dragonfly’ ‘Get On The Right Thing’ B-side ‘I Lie Around’ (before Denny Laine was there to sing it) and the outtakes ‘Rode All Night’ ‘Sunshine Sometime’ ‘A Love For You’ ‘Hey Diddle’ and ‘When The Wind Blows’ plus the soon-to-be-released ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ all in the running. ‘Ram’ could easily have been very very different.
Alas it’s the music that lets this one down, with only scraps from the McCartney archives available, with just one rather raucous jamming session (similar to ‘Oh Woman Oh Why’ but less organised) and three instrumental off-cuts from the days when ‘Rupert The Bear’ was planned as a full movie and not just a cartoon. The one song that’s a joy to own is ‘A Love For You’, the best song from Macca’s much discussed ‘Cold Cuts’ outtakes set of the 1980s that’s about the only song not to have had an official release to date and its classic Macca, with a driving riff and some glorious harmonies from Linda. Most collectors own about 10 versions of the song already (and this isn’t the best – the rawer, edgier, first take is the ‘keeper’ for me) but if you don’t go in for bootlegs then this a welcome addition to the McCartney catalogue and you wonder why it didn’t come out at the time (its way better than ‘Uncle Albert-Admiral Halsey: I still hate that song!) There’s also a mono copy of the album sent directly to American FM radio stations that isn’t as different as I’d hoped (one vocal line on ‘Long Haired Lady’ is the only obvious change, although some parts do feel slightly different without you being able to put your finger on why) and the instrumental big band version of ‘Ram’, released as ‘Thrillington’ is a bonus for collectors being rather rare these days, albeit rather eccentric and unnecessary all round.
The DVD is slightly more exciting, with some excellent new interviews with Paul (re-used in the book) and some fascinating footage of the making of the album on a documentary that still runs far too short (eleven minutes). The promos, one of which has been seen before on ‘The McCartney Years’ are two rather boring slabs of Paul and Linda riding horses and kissing on the beach set rather clumsily to the music, although there are two fascinating extras in the ‘long’ unedited version of Paul and Linda in the back garden of their Scottish farmhouse singing the still officially unreleased ‘Hey Diddle’ (as partly seen in the ‘Wingspan’ documentary) and a terrific live version of ‘Eat At Home’ from the first Wings tour edited together with drummer Denny Seiwell’s home movies of the band on tour. It knocks spots off the album version! So definitely a case of the packaging rescuing the product, then, and musically this release isn’t as significant as the chance to hear the original unexpurgated superior double album version of ‘McCartney II’, but neither is it as pointless and bland as the rather boring re-issues of ‘McCartney’ and ‘Band On The Run’. Last I heard the fifth Macca deluxe re-issue was set to be the much-derided ‘Wings At The Speed Of Sound’, for which we know some choice outtakes and promotional material was made – let’s hope that set’s more like ‘Macca II’ and ‘Ram’ than the others!
♫ CSN News: A plethora of CSN related news for this week. First up, the long awaited Stephen Stills box set should be on our shelves sometime soon after news that Stills and long time CSN partner Joel Bernstein and will be 4 CDs, not 3 like the Crosby and Nash sets. Stills says that this box set will feature ‘everything left that’s usable’ in his archives (which is still quite a lot!) Alas there’s still no date set yet but the box sounds near to completion.
In other news, CSN’s new in-concert DVD/CD is due definitely for July 17th and features a show from April last year. The set features 20 songs including some unusual choices among the usual suspects such as Stills’ cover of the traditional song ‘Girl From The North Country’ , the Buffalo Springfield song ‘Bluebird’, Manassas’ glorious song ‘So Begins The Task’, the Crosby-Nash song ‘To Lay Me Down’ and a new Crosby song titled ‘Radio’ (how unusual to have a CSN set with Crosby featuring new material, not Stills or Nash!) Extras include a documentary and interviews with CS and N.
Thirdly, David Crosby may have disbanded CPR but he’s still planning a solo album with son James Raymond of that band and has started recording with producer Marcus Eaton. Release looks a long way off, though.
Finally, we’ve been mentioning it for years on these pages but CSNY haven’t forgotten their planned release of the 1974 reunion show at Wembley. Available on bootleg for years, its a terrific show that lasts an astonishing four hours – to fit it onto disc and on CD CSN are at the moment planning a full box set. More news if and when – in the meantime the excellent CSNY web page ‘4 Way Site’ should keep you up to date with all CSN events!
♫ Dire Straits News: BBC4 are repeating last year’s Mark Knopfler night in full on Friday, July 20th. There’s a repeat of the ‘Life In Words’ extended interview with Mark about his life can career and a so-so concert recorded for Jools Holland’s later show, with guests Donal Lunny (the best folk-rock act around now Pentangle and Lindisfarne are no more).
♫ Paul Simon News: I was quite entranced by the recent ‘Imagine’ documentary on the making of the Graceland album (formerly available without the Imagine pieces on the 25th anniversary set of the album) despite never liking the album much. What’s lovely is that despite all the trouble caused (Paul breaking a boycott against working with South African musicians almost by mistake) a quarter of a century on all the people who risked their careers and maybe even their lives to work with him are still so pleased to see him. There’s a real sense on this album of things coming full circle, with an album that started so well (Paul having fun hamming with musicians who didn’t always know who he was) but ended so badly (furious re-actions in the press, with protests outside every gig) finally achieving some kind of peace. Paul Simon never meant to stir up the hornet’s nest he created and might never have carried on with the project had he known what was in store for him when he heard the ‘Accordian Jive Hits Volume III’ cassette and starting scribbling words to one song. But it all turned out well in the end, with African music spreading out to pastures new and Simon’s argument that music overcomes all political decisions a moving one. It’s a shame Miriam Makeba isn’t there, but amazingly all the other key players on Graceland are and their first meeting with Paul in something like 20 years is a joy to behold. The shots of the musicians working together, in 1985 and 2010, are amazing too. It’s just a shame the music lets this documentary down...
♫ The Who News: Another excellent documerntary on this week was the Quadrophenia Story ‘Can You See The Real Me?’, which confused me by running to the strange time of an hour and 10 minutes but still contained many interesting comments from Townshend about how blooming hard this album was to make. You could spend hours studying this album and still find something new and so it was with this documentary – I’d never ‘got’ the faded end-of-the-summer Brighton Beach thing before (I feel thick now!) or heard the story about the photographer having to wake up the model playing Jimmy (who’d overslept – and was later arrested for burglary; did they pick the right teenager or what?!) There wasn’t as much unheard music as I’d have liked and the ever popular scenes with the engineer playing with the mixing desk were sadly restricted here (so you couldn’t, for instance, hear more than a fraction of Roger Daltrey’s goose-pimple inducing vocals a capella for ‘Love Reign O’er Me’). In fact talking of Roger, her wasn’t in the story much at all and in fact came out of the story rather badly – sure his attempts to communicate the story of the album in between every song annoyed the heck out of Townshend but he was trying to be helpful; after all, this was an American tour for kids who didn’t know the meaning of mods vs rockers riots or knew where Brighton was. Still, an absorbing hour that makes a good complement to the best documentary made on the album – the extended two hour pop-up interview with Pete on the ‘Live Tommy/Quadrophenia/Hits’ DVD.
♫ Neil Young News: A new concert film, titled ‘Journeys’ , is out in selected cinemas in America as we write and is taken from Neil’s return to Toronto’s Massey Hall last year (the scene of his ‘archive’ release from 1972). The film is directed by Johnathan Demme – the third the pair have worked on together - although sadly there’s no news yet of when the film might be released in the UK (or on DVD).
In other news, Crazy Horse have a second album, as yet untitled, already in the can according to a recent interview which may well follow ‘Americana’ into the shops later this year. As if that wasn’t prolific enough Neil has said that it will probably be a double disc set and should feature a 23 minute song
ANNIVERSARIES: Birthday greetings to this week’s AAA birthday boys and girls born between July 4th and 10th: two AAA birthdays on July 7th: Ringo Starr who turns 72 and Jim Rodford (bassist with The Kinks 1979-93) who turns 67. Anniversaries of events include: The Beach Boys play their first free ‘Independence Day’ concerts (July 4th 1980); Dire Straits begin a record 10-day run at Wembley Stadium (July 4th 1985); The Rolling Stones score their last big hit 30 years ago with ‘Emotional Rescue’ (July 5th 1980); Paul McCartney meets John Lennon for the first time, after attending the Woolton Village Fete where the first line-up of The Quarrymen are performing (July 6th 1957); The first edition of ‘Mersey Beat’ is printed, featuring an article by John Lennon on how the soon-to-be-famous Beatles got their name (July 6th 1961);The world premiere of A Hard Day’s Night at London’s Pavilion Theatre (July 6th 1964); Those naughty Rolling Stones are at it again, destroying civilisation as we know it by, erm, dragging an American flag across the stage after their set in Syracause (July 6th 1966); fellow Ormskirkian Marianne Faithful, then Mick Jagger’s girlfriend, attempts suicide while her boyfriend is on the set of his acting job playing ‘Ned Kelly’ (July 8th 1969); Moody Blue Justin Hayward scores his biggest solo hit with the ‘War Of The Worlds’ song ‘Forever Autumn’ (July 8th 1978); John Lennon releases his first solo single ‘Give Peace A Chance’, sparking rumours of a Beatles split even though the publishing credit still reads ‘Lennon/McCartney’ (July 9th 1969) and finally Paul McCartney’s band Wings start their biggest tour to date, hiring a bus to drive to 26 dates across France (July 9th 1972).
Secondly, for the following week (July 11th-17th): Roger McGuinn (guitarist with The Byrds 1965-73) who turns 70 on July 13th . Anniversaries of events include: Neil Young’s first concert film ‘Rust Never Sleeps’, premieres in Los Angeles, offering a ‘history of rock and roll’ and his backing crew dressed up as Ewok Ninjas (or something like that!; July 11th 1979); the first ever performance of the Rolling Stones at London’s Marquee Club, with Brian Jones using the stage name ‘Elmo Lewis’, no bassist and Kink Mick Avory playing drums in the months before Charlie Watts joins the band (July 12th 1969); The unthinkable happens when half of all radio stations ban a Beatles single – no, not The BBC’s ban on ‘A Day In The Life’ but a UK-wide ban on ‘The Ballad of John And Yoko’ for using the word ‘Christ’ (July 12th 1969); Janis Joplin’s first gig with her third and final group ‘The Full Tilt Boogie Band’ just months before her death (July 12th 1970); Pink Floyd release their first post-Syd Barrett LP ‘A Saucerful Of Secrets’ (July 13th 1968); The Who begin their first full American tour, as support to – Gerry and The Pacemakers (!) who were still big in the US in the psychedelic years (July 14th 1967); Much loved guitarist Clarence White, guitarist with The Byrds for the second half of their turbulent career, dies whilst unloading his guitar from a truck outside a gig in America (July 14th 1973); Neil Young scores his biggest album hit in years with the uneven ‘Rust Never Sleeps’ (July 14th 1979); Ray Davies announces for the umpteempth time that he is quitting The Kinks during an on-stage announcement (July 15th 1977); the film of the Graham Nash-organized charity film ‘No Nukes’ premieres, featuring the first CSN reunion for three years (July 16th 1980); Beatles film ‘Yellow Submarine’ premieres at the London Pavilion (July 17th 1968); The Who release classic single ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’, even if it is cut down from the album version by four whole minutes! (July 17th 1971); An anonymous music critic comes close to ruining a Stones gig after leaving a bomb in a crate containing the band’s speakers, causing untold damage (July 17th 1972) and finally, The Moody Blues open the world’s first quadraphonic studio – some two years after splitting up! (July 17th 1974).