Nov 23, 2008

40th Anniversary of the Beatles "White Album"

In November 1968 the Beatles released the album simply titled "The Beatles ", which became known as the White album. It was recorded from May 30th to October 14th, 1968 at Abbey Road Studios,London, with a small amount done at Trident Studios, London.
The Beatles were fresh off their meditation retreats in Rishikesh, India with the Maharishi. Over forty new songs had emerged from Rishikesh, most were made to rough demos at George Harrison’s home studio in Esher. With so many songs available, it became clear they would need more than a single album. For the first time in music history a double album of new material was released. Sure, harsh critics & even producer George Martin always said if the album had been edited down to a single LP, it may have been the best of all the Beatles albums. I think Paul McCartney summed it up best in the Anthology saying "it's the Beatles bloody White Album, it's great, shut up!". Ditto.

The recording of the album came during a new Beatles era, it may have had the most drama & change looming around it, mores so than any other Beatles album.

First off there was alot of turmoil brewing within the Beatles circle. Everyone was growing as individuals and egos were flying high. The music is more like four individual solo efforts, with the others just acting as backing musicians & singers. Most of the time they were recording alone in different studios using different engineers. Some songs that didn't make the final cut would later appear on the solo albums after the breakup.
John- Child of Nature (became Jealous Guy)- Look At Me

Paul- Teddy Boy - Junk

George - Not Guilty, Circles

The music on the White Album was a drastic change from recent Beatles works. The overdubs, sound effects, & studio trickery that had dominated the past two years were halted. It marked an end to their psychedelic era and more of a return to basics. The influence definitely coming from the weeks in the Rishikesh Mountains, limited to only acoustic guitars & nature. It was the first Beatles album to use eight track recording as opposed to the four track of the past. It also was the first Beatles album released on their new Apple label.
There was an enormous amount of tension beginning to brew within the Beatles world. The early signs & pressures leading to the break up had begun. In July Ringo was so fed up he walked out & actually quit the group. He was coaxed back in. This was also the first album after the death of manager Brian Epstein. Then there was Yoko Ono's presence for the first time. George by now had grown & wanted to be recognized more as a songwriter, which led to him to bringing in Eric Clapton to play on While My Guitar Gently Weeps. Another first.

Album Art: The album cover was a simple white background with the word The Beatles embossed. Later printed in gray lettering. The first 2 million copies had the pressing numbers stamped on the front. John Lennon was the proud owner of copy #0000001.

This was in sharp contrast to the Magical Mystery Tour & Sgt. Pepper album covers of 1967. The cover art on those albums, paved the way for all the psychedelic pop art that was booming everywhere. Paul McCartney had first suggested a different style for it's cover, & the White was a perfect fit for Lennon, who had just had his White Balloons & You Are Here exhibits in a London Art gallery with Yoko.

The album came with some clever bonus inserts. A poster collage of different Beatle pictures designed by pop artist Richard Hamilton. Also the four classic 8 x 10 Beatles close ups, which became some of the most popular pictures ever of the band. John sporting his longest hair to date, with glasses dressed in denim. Paul with a rough unshaven face, Ringo with his longest hair to date, head tilted with a puffy shirt, looking like a movie star. (Fitting since he had just filmed a few movies.) And George looking more serious than ever with his hair growing long.

Music: The bottom line to everything Beatles is, the music. As always the White Album did not disappoint, simply put it was great, . Praised by its critics upon release it was another master piece. It spent nine weeks at #1 in December 1968 & January 1969. Today the album has gone platinum over 19 times, it is the 10th best selling album of all time in America, and is always ranked in the top 10 of best albums of all time. It is the 3rd best selling Beatles album behind Sgt. Pepper & Abbey Road.

I think another amazing example of the Beatles talent was that no hit single was ever released from the White Album. The group always wanted to give their fans something different for their money. Prior to the White Album, they released the double A sided single of Hey Jude & Revolution. It became the Beatles best selling single of all time staying at the number one spot in the U.S. for nine weeks. Hey Jude was also the longest #1 hit at that point & up until 1993, clocking in at just under seven minutes.

The album consisted of four very diverse musical talents all branching out & exploring new territories.
Johns songs:
DREAR PRUDENCE- a beautiful mellow Lennon song, one of his favourites, recorded in one take. It was about Mia Farrow's sister Prudence. She spent most of the time alone meditating in her room while in Rishikesh. Ringo was not present on the recording.

GLASS ONION- Johns parody to the fans on reading to deeply into the Beatles lyrics. The song references other Beatles tunes- "I Am the Walrus", "Strawberry Fields Forever", "Lady Madonna", "The Fool on the Hill", "There's A Place", "Within You Without You", and "Fixing a Hole".

CONTINUING STORY OF BUNGALO BILL- A great Lennon tale, which made for alot fun in the studio. The song was about a mother & son who came to the Maharishi ashram while the Beatles & their entourage where there. As they went on a Tiger hunt (with elephants) they were attacked & the son (Rik) shot the tiger and posed proudly with the slayed animal. Lennon wrote the sarcastic tale from these accounts. The chorus featured Ringo's then-wife Maureen, and Yoko Ono (providing the only female lead vocal on a Beatles recording, for a single line).

HAPPINESS IS A WARM GUN- One of the best & most complex songs on the White Album, and one of Paul's favourites. The band worked closely on this one more than any other on the album. It was first inspired during an acid trip and a Gun magazine with the same title as its headline & Peanuts cartoon strip. The lyrics go everywhere from being about drug addiction (I Need a fix..) to sexual desire (Warm Gun..) -(a soap confession of his wife which he ate..). The music also goes everywhere from a piano intro, to heavy rock guitar riff to a doo wop finaly. (Bang Bang Shoot Shoot). Lennon also said it was his 3 minute tribute to rock n roll history.

I'M SO TIRED- More classic Lennon. Written while missing Yoko on a sleepless night in Rishikesh. We can hear John aggressions starting to surface.

JULIA- A beautiful acoustic song john wrote about his mother & yoko.

YER BLUES- Recorded in Studio two's annex, (which was really a large closet) it gave the song its closed in sound. Ringo recalls it like the old days live performances. Johns parody on the blues seems to show signs of him crying out & being suicidal. He references Bob Dlyan's Mr. Jones from the song Ballad of the Tin Man.

EVERYBODYS GOT SOMETHING TO HIDE EXCEPT ME & MONKEY- The longest Beatles title of all time. John said it was about all the paranoia surrounding him & yoko.
SEXY SADIE- written about Johns disillusionment with the Maharishi, after he made passes to several of the women in the Beatles entourage in Rishikesh.

REVOLUTION- This was recorded before the fast version. John wanted this as the single but the others felt it was to slow. He said "I'll show you "& recorded the hard raucous fast version. It was Johns first political song, setting the mood for 1968 America.

CRY BABY CRY- John said he was inspired by an ad, it had been laying around since late 1967. mystical song with a great Lennon vocal. The song fades into a Paul track- Can You Take Me Back, which is uncredited.

REVOLUTION 9- Johns 9 minute avant garde, music & sound effects clips montage that Yoko, George & Ringo all had a hand in. Paul & George Martin tried to keep it off the album but Lennon won. The song played big in the Paul is Dead theories & Charles Manson murders.

Paul's Songs
BACK IN THE USSR- Paul's homage to the Beach Boys California sound. He wanted to create a USSR sound. He said even though the government don't like us, the youth in Russia dug the Beatles. Paul plays all major instruments on the song including lead guitar & drums. (This was recorded when Ringo had quit)

OB-LA-DI OB-LA-DA- Paul's tribute to reggae using the tribal words Ob-La Di which means- life goes on. The song went through many phazes and Paul drove the band crazy with all the takes. John had left the studio returned hours later, bragging how stoned he was and annoyed by another take, banged out the piano intro. Just what the song needed. It was a fun party time sing along number, but not one that John liked at all.
WILD HONEY PIE- Paul plays everything with Ringo on drums.

MARTHA MY DEAR- Inspired by Paul's English sheepdog Martha & possibly Jane Asher.

BLACK BIRD-Inspired by the classical piece Bouree, Paul claims it was about a black girl & the racial tensions in 1960's America. Another beautiful McCartney acoustic ballad. Some say it also was him singing to himself about falling in love with Linda and flying away from Jane Asher & the Beatles.

ROCKY RACOON-Paul's cowboy tune about a man who tries to shoot the man who stole his lover, instead he gets wounded. Written in Rishikesh with John & Donovan.

WHY DONT WE DO IT IN THE ROAD- All instruments played by Paul except for Ringos drums. Inspired by two monkeys Paul saw having sex openly while in India.

I WILL- A classic Paul love song, & one of the first written for Linda. Paul plays all the instruments except for percussion played by Ringo & John. It took 67 takes & turned into a long jam.

BIRTHDAY- A great rocker, the only song on the White Album where Paul & John share the lead vocal. Paul came up with the great riff.

MOTHER NATURES SON- A great mellow tune inspired by a Maharishi lecture in Rishikesh.

HELTER SKELTER- After reading Pete Townshed say I Can See For Miles was the loudest, rawest, dirtiest song the Who ever done, Paul set out to do the same. Helter Skelter was an amusement park ride & meant confused in British terminology. Its possibly the hardest rock song the band ever did. They had alot of fun recording it, George ran around the studio with an ash tray on fire above his head doing an impersonation of Arthur Brown.

HONEY PIE- A tribute to British music hall music. About an actress who make it big in America & is being pursued by an old lover.

Georges songs:
WHILE MY GUITAR GENTLY WEEPS- Maybe Georges best work. Inspired by Hi Ching where everything relatively leads to something. It is considered one of the top guitar songs of all time. The song was done a few times & didn't really take off until Eric Clapton was brought in. The acoustic version on Anthology 3 is also very beautiful.
PIGGIES-Georges parody on social upper classes & authority.

LONG LONG LONG- An underrated mellow love song written to either Patti or God. The rattling heard at the end of the song was the result of Paul hitting an note on the Hammond organ causing a bottle of Blue Nun wine sitting on the Leslie speaker to rattle. Ringo then added a fast snare drum roll to it.

SAVOY TRUFFLE- Written about Eric Clapton's love of chocolates, the lyrics use the names of items inside a box of Mackintosh Good News chocolates. Six sax players were used & when George distorted their sound they were upset.

Ringos Songs:
DONT PASS ME BY- Ringo's 1st solo contribution, only he & Paul play on the track.

GOOD NIGHT- A Lullaby written by John for his son Julian a few years earlier. Ringo was the only Beatle on the recording backed by a classical orchestra.

Charles Manson: The search for hidden song meanings took a horrible turn when Charles Manson interpreted songs from the White Album as his evil prophecies. Revolution 9 was taken by Manson as a biblical prophecy to Revelation 9. The voices, chants & sounds in the song were telling him to kill. The songs Blackbird, Piggies & Helter Skelter referenced a long term race war and inspired Manson to murder the wealthy, so as in the end he would become ruler. In Cry Baby Cry the verse "At twelve o'clock a meeting 'round the table for a seance in the dark With voices out of nowhere put on specially by the children for a lark " Manson himself claimed his series of events Helter Skelter.
Paul is Dead Clues: When the 1969 Paul is Dead controversy started, it was said many clues could be found inside the White Album. Paul was suppose to have died in a car crash in 1966 & was replaced by look alike Billy Cambell.

On Revolution 9, if you played the Number Nine words back ward, it was suppose to say "Turn me on Deadman". At one point you hear car horns, then a car crash, followed by a fire burning. You can hear the following lines: "he hit a pole. We better get him to see a surgeon."

At the end of Im So Tired, the backward voice when played correctly seems to say "Paul is a Dead man, miss him miss him"."Glass Onion" clearly tells us "Well here's another clue for you all/The walrus was Paul."

At the end of "Cry Baby Cry", Paul sings "Can you take me where I came from?/Can you take me back?"

Even Ringos Dont Pass Me By had clues in the lyrics "You Were in a car crash & you lost your hair".
On the poster there is a photo of Paul in glasees in disguise. The picture is said to be his replacement Billy Cambell.
Another phot has Paul in a tub with just his face submerged in the sudsy water. Supposedly a recreation of the accident.
Finally Paul is scene dancing in a photo with what looks like two skeleton hands attempting to grab him from behind.

All in all more fun & mystery surrrounding the Beatles............Happy Anniversary White Album.

Nov 20, 2008

AC/DC "Black Ice Tour" ....Concert Review 11-19-08

It's amazing how rock n roll can be sometimes be timeless. Last night AC/DC proved that again, as we were all Back In Black! The arena glistened with blinking red lights from the Light up Devil Horns that were being sold, mostly worn by the chicks & kids. Angus Young wore his during the encore. They shook the Meadowlands "all night long" as if it were twenty five years ago but still showing us that these too are our hey days. The highlights of the night could have been when the whole place was jumping to You Shook Me All Night Long, or maybe for Dirty Deeds or Back In Black. The sing along to the old classic The Jack with Angus's strip tease may have been another.

They were loud & had great clear sound system. The backdrop of the stage was a huge locomotive car spewing smoke with an AC/DC logo on it's front. Two huge video screens hung on each side of the locomotive car, displaying the band, mostly focusing on everyones hero of the night Angus Young.

Angus Young was fantastic playing outrageous guitar leads & leading the crowd all night. He is like a machine that never stops. Donning his English schoolboy outfit as usual, then stripping down to his shorts, in a comic burlesque act during "The Jack". The crowd went crazy. Angus wailed away a great guitar solo during the last song before the encores "Let There Be Rock". He took over the arena, wailing on his guitar. Running up & down the long runway in the middle of the arena, spinning & twirling on the floor in a circle, then being lifted up on a platform high above the crowd, right to the left of where our seats were on the floor in Section 9. Again, the crowd went crazy. Angus is truly an incredible musician that can only really be appreciated on a concert stage.

Brian Johnson, never looking like the rock star, just a great guy you'd want to hang out with in a pub, did his usual job of shrieking through all his classics & covering the AC/DC classics of the Bon Scott era. Nevertheless a great front man leading the Australian rockers through a great show,wearing his usual cap ( a symbol of his native Tyneside, England). He too seems ageless. Especially when he jumps on the rope and swings during the ringing of "Hells Bells".

Angus's brother Malcolm Young carried the band as usual on the rhythm guitar riffs, while singing back ups along with bassist Cliff Williams & the crowd. Drummer Phil Rudd sported short hair & glasses making him look more like an accountant than a rock drummer, but he pounded away and along with Williams created the classic thunderous AC/DC beat.

The crowd was more upbeat than usual at a Jersey show, and featured many older folks with their kids! Yes even some younger teens rocked to the AC/DC classics as well as us rock concert veterans. The age gap has become limitless, after all they have been rocking since 1974, although they didn't get big in America until 1979. The boys mixed up some great new tracks off their "Black Ice"CD with the old classics from both the Bon Scott years & Brian Johnson's post Back In Black era. A great show, worth every bit the price of admission. Besides the great light show, huge locomotive car, huge Bells for Hells Bells, and the runway platform down the center aisle, another prop of note was the massive blow up doll of an over weight woman during Whole Lotta Rosie!

Set List:
Rock 'N' Roll Train
Hell Ain't a Bad Place To Be
Back in Black
Big Jack
Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
Black Ice
The Jack
Hells Bells
Shoot to Thrill
War Machine
Anything Goes
You Shook Me All Night Long
Whole Lotta Rosie
Let There Be Rock

Encores: Highway To Hell
For Those About to Rock

Nov 18, 2008

Passing of Brooklyn Dodgers - Preacher Roe (1916-2008)

Elwin Charles "Preacher" Roe was born in 1916 & grew up in the Ozark Mountains in a small town of 200 people, near the Missouri border. As a boy he was taken on horse & buggy rides by a local minister & when an uncle asked what his name was he responded "Preacher", the moniker stuck.

Roe was a smart man who taught math but liked to be labeled a dumb country boy & played up to the image. He was a wild fast ball pitcher who would walk more batters than he would strikeout. He was signed out of high school by Branch Rickey for the Cardinals, where he'd pitch one game then toil in the minors for six years.

Roe learned to control his wildness by become one of the craftiest pitchers in the league, mixing up his pitches and throwing a spitball. He was one of the slowest working pitchers, stepping off the mound to ruin the batters timing.

He was called up to the Pirates in 1944 going 13-11. The next year he made the All Star team & led the NL in strikeouts. In the off season he was a basketball coach & teacher. In a an off season fight he suffered a concussion which almost ended his career. He was luckily traded to the Brooklyn Dodgers and was revived, especially after he mastered the spitball. After retirement he confessed using a spitball and tried to have it legalised again. He had remarkable control & disproved the theory the spitball was hard to control.

From 1948 through 1953 he would post a winning % of over .600 every year & make the All Star team each year as well. In 1950 he won 19 games, with a 3.30 ERA, he topped that in 1951 going 21-5 with a 3.03 ERA coming in 5th in the MVP voting & winning the Sporting News Pitcher of the Year Award. The next two years he would get less starts but go 11-2 & 11-3 respectively.

Post Season: Roe pitched in three Brooklyn World Series going 2-1 with 14 Ks & a 2.54 ERA:

In 1949, he pitched a six-hit shutout victory in Game 2 against the Yankees
In 1952, he won Game 3 with a complete game, then pitched scoreless relief in Game 6.
In 1953 he lost Game 2 in a 4-2 complete game loss to Ed Lopat.

Retirement: He finished his career in 1954, at the age of 39. Overall in his career, he went 127-84 with 956 strikeouts, & a 3.43 ERA in 333 games pitched.
After baseball he operated a successful grocery store for years in Missouri. When he confessed using the Spitball in a Dick Young book he was sort of condemned by his peers. As a result he stayed away from the game.

Highway 160 in West Plains Missouri is named Preacher Roe Blvd. & a ball field is also named after him in Salem, Arkansas. Roe had many great stories in Carl Erskine's book, Tales From The Dodger Dugout & Roger Kahn's The Boys of Summer. He passed away last week at the age of 92.

Nov 14, 2008

Liverpool Museum Buys Shea Stadium Seats

The Beatles Story, a museum in Liverpool, England has recently bought two seats from Shea Stadium. They plan to use the seats as part of a permanent display early next year. The exhibit will be part of the Beatles first visit to America section.

Located within Liverpool's historic Albert Dock, the Beatles Story is a unique visitor attraction focusing on the life, times, culture and music of the Beatles. It chronologically goes through the Beatles careers from the fifties in Woolton where John meets Paul. Then traveling to the Casbah Club, Hamburg, the Cavern, Abbey Road Studios, America, the Psychedelic years and a section soon to be opened focusing on the Solo Years. There is also a special Imagine room, which is a tribute to the life of John Lennon.

About the Shea seats, the Museum's Press Officer says "It's an opportunity to show an iconic moment from The Beatles' career in America," said Jamie Bowman, the museum's press officer. "Shea Stadium really was such an important moment for The Beatles and it was for the music business as well. At the time, it was the biggest concert ever staged."

The museum plans to have visitors use the seats to sit in, to try to recreate the feel of being in the stands at Shea on that historic night. I wonder if they paid the same price I did or if they got a break??