Paul McCartney and the Love Mojis

Ah, well, what do you do after you’ve conquered the music industry on vinyl, CDs, and digital downloads; mastered the rock-and-roll film; released an oratorio; recorded a James Bond theme; composed the most covered song of all time; and completely dominated the making-mashed-potatoes-video genre?

What does one do after climbing Everest AND landing on the moon AND swimming the channel AND reaching the North Pole?

Why, create 10 Love Mojis for Skype, of course. Take it away, Sir Paul:

Paul McCartney Is Number One (Cue Backlash)

Poor Paul. If you’ve been around the blog for a while, you know my affection for the guy. It’s so easy to like John and George and Ringo. Paul? Everyone wants to take a stance on him, and by that I mean to take a stance against him and his music. Too sappy! Too sweet! Too smooth! Too happy!

That’s the criticism of “Wonderful Christmastime.” And you know what: I don’t care. I can take the heat. It was my favorite as a kid. Songs are like pizza: you prefer the ones you grew up with.

All that was easy when the song flew under the radar. It wasn’t played very much. Some years I wouldn’t hear it until late December, and I’d have to seek it out. It was number 18 on the list. A good spot: high enough to be heard, not so high you’d get tired of it.

But now, thanks to the Shins remix, “Wonderful” is the most listened-to Christmas song of the year, replacing Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” Number one!

And I know what’s going to happen. If it’s played this much, people will rebel. Satires will be made. McCartney will take the blame. And it will be awful. He’s the worst punching bag. First, he never seems to see it coming. Second, the criticism bothers him. He gets a bit defensive in a sad way, he overreacts. Expect him to issue some kind of corrective to answer his critics, an overly serious Christmas song that doesn’t convince anyone.

Why do we do this to him? Why do we hate the things we love?

And how did they miss this superior version? If you’re going to go with a remake, why not the a capella version from Straight No Chaser?

We can’t take too much sugar, can we, America? We like it in so many other ways. We pump it into our drinks and call it “corn syrup” as if that’s healthier. And we clean  up all our ideas .We demand happy endings at the theater. We sanitize the news. We pretend that very bad things in the world are not happening, and if they are, they’re all the fault of foreigners. And then here comes happy Paul, whistling his way down the path of life, sharing a little joy for it…and we mock him and scorn him and roll our eyes and put our finger in our throats. We hate him.

We whisper, Well, John would have never…

So here’s my proposal. Let’s just dial it back. Let’s let the Shins version slowly recede to a nice spot. Maybe number 17. Let it live there with its twin, giving us a little spot of cheer in the middle of those other diva-and-crooner tour de forces. Let’s do that for Paul.

And instead, let’s move up one of the others. One that’s unassailable. One we’ll never grow tired of. I vote for the current number 10. Ella Fitzgerald’s “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Let’s just make this number 1. We need a champion. This is it.

Oooooooh. Soooooo good.

Go ahead, just try to take down Ella. You’ll get nowhere. All your mockery will only expose you for the grinch you are.

I know, I know, you’re not up for that fight. Because you’re a bully, you go for the easy target. And that’s Paul. Paul, with his irrepressible spirit. Paul, with his irrepressible synths. Paul with his irrepressible mullet.

Merry Christmas, Haters! Enjoy your hatefest!

Embrace Your Inner Beatle! “I’m So Tired”

Back to coins for this week’s randomizing method. Seven quick flips to allow the gods of genius and creativity to have their say, and…

Oh gods. Excellent choice. But are you feeling okay? Feeling droopy? Has the work of inspiring creativity gotten you down? Or are you just admiring one of John’s favorite songs? In any case, here we go with…

“I’m So Tired” (Lennon-McCartney, The White Album)

Where to begin? This is one of those songs that critics dislike but listeners don’t forget. That voice! Those words! Like so much else on The White Album, it goes straight to our brain.

I know, I know: why is this millionaire tired? He doesn’t haul bricks or drive a forklift, he doesn’t work two jobs, he’s not on the night shift. He plays music and does drugs and eats whatever he wants. Stop complaining! Continue reading

The Tao of the Beatles: “Lady Madonna”

Hail Muse! O ye gods of genius and creativity! Give us a random Beatles song from our randomly chosen random generator… this time we drop an Artemisia stem onto our random Beatles-song selector…and…

Oh boy! Our first real Paul song. Oh, I know, we had “The End,” but this is the first full-blown, get out of the way, a train-of-talent-is-coming-through-and-his-name-is-Paul song.

“Lady Madonna” (Lennon-McCartney, Past Masters Volume Two)

“Lady Madonna” is one of those earwormy tunes that the Beatles cranked out around the time of the Magical Mystery Tour album, that forgotten little period in between the colossal albums Sgt. Pepper and the White Album. Albums are the thing, right? The pinnacle of artistic achievement from, oh, 1965 to whenever iTunes killed them off? A radio hit is great and all, but fans of the artist measure them in terms of albums.

So we critics bounce from Rubber Soul to Revolver to Sgt. Pepper to Magical Mystery Tour (sort of) to the White Album to Yellow Submarine (sort of sort of) and Let It Be and Abbey Road, analyzing and categorizing and comparing…and we forget that in those days, the Beatles released singles too, and that these were not included on the albums. (The idea the Beatles had was that you didn’t want to make your fans pay twice for the same song.)

So as a collector or even just a fan, you have a whole other album’s worth just of songs—songs like “Day Tripper” and “Penny Lane” and and “I Am the Walrus” and “Hey Jude” and “Paperback Writer” and a dozen others. Songs the whole world knows. Not on an album.

Including this one, which is as good as any of them. So much life and energy! Where does all that spirit come from?

MAYBE FROM THE PIANO…

Those pounding chords! You picture a man playing for a big concert hall with no microphones. Just a man and the strings and the strength of his hands on the keys. And the joy in his heart that hits those bluesy chords, turning the blues into something uplifting. Someone like this:

Hmmm…Paul played the piano, sure…but did he INVENT that opening riff?

Nope. Not exactly. Check this out: Continue reading

The Beatles and You: Finding Inspiration in Abbey Road’s “The End”

Ugh, my big plans for the blog this year have run into some real-life snags. More posts soon, I promise!

On the other hand, I’ve been enjoying this trip through the Beatles catalog and exploring the genius and creativity behind it. So here we go with another spin of our Jacke Wilson Randomizer… the wheel spins… the marble drops into place… and…

Oh no. Really?

The End (Lennon-McCartney, Abbey Road)

(The clip is of three final songs* of Abbey Road, Golden Slumbers, Carry That Weight, and The End. This is the recommended way to listen to The End (it builds, it builds, it builds!). The End starts at 3:07 if you want to skip ahead.)

*Yes, I’m aware of the mistake-snippet Her Majesty that got tacked onto the end of Abbey Road. And no, I’m not counting it. In this post, we shall end with the proper end. The End.

THE SELECTION

Never has it been more difficult to stick to the song chosen by the gods! If I was doing this in any sort of order that made sense, The End would come last. Because, of course, it was The End for the Beatles: the final song on the final album they recorded, the majestic triumph Abbey Road. The story goes that after the bitterness of Let It Be, they agreed to close out the Beatles with a real album, a spectacular one, one with George Martin at the helm and the four of them applying their powers in a final unified way. An album by a band, not just four individual musicians working sort-of-together a la the White Album.

So Abbey Road was the end. And The End was the end of the end.

How do you cap off such a preternatural run of brilliance? For a brief period these guys owned the world. Music and inspiration flowed through them like the spirit of God flowing through four angels.

Yes, I can get carried away. But come on! Here’s a list of the 100 greatest Beatles songs, presented by Rolling Stone. Number 100 is Hello, Goodbye. Number 100! A catchy, compelling song that beat out I Am the Walrus to be the A side!  (For more Walrusing, check out our last choice of the gods.) And perhaps most to the point, a song that was a number-one hit.

What other band has a song that went to number one as their 100th-greatest song? Really, you have a band in mind? Well, tell me: did they write all the songs themselves? In seven years ?

For that kind of whirlwind achievement I think you need to look across centuries. Who else is comparable? Keats? Shakespeare? Picasso? Mozart? Bach? Alexander the Great?

CLIMBING THE FINAL PEAK

So what do you do when you’ve done everything possible? For the Beatles, you top yourself, once again, with something new. That’s The End.

Oh, sure, you say. The End isn’t even the best song on the album! There’s Oh! Darling, for example, and Here Comes the Sun, and of course the Medley from Heaven, and the criminally underrated You Never Give Me Your Money (listen to this podcast episode for a brilliant and amusing defense of the song). Come Together was on this album! And Something!

Where does The End fit among all this genius? Continue reading

Embrace Your Inner Beatle! (“I Am The Walrus”)

Whoa. The dice tumble, the dial spins…and the gods have chosen!

Oh, ye gods. What a sense of humor you have.

A work of genius? Yes. It’s a big one this time. A landmark in weird, mindblowing creativity. In context, maybe the strangest song ever written, and yes, I’m including Revolution 9 in that calculus. I think this song is stranger.

Yes, that’s right, we’ve landed on…

“I Am The Walrus” (Magical Mystery Tour, Lennon-McCartney)

Man. This is the Beatles in full flower. In fact, it used to scare me a little, when I was ten and listening to these songs for the first time. Not just because of the drugs, although I sensed that something was going on, something that grownups had warned me against. But because it felt to me insane.

There’s a great piece in the Anthology where they talk about John going insane at Shea Stadium. (“A little bit mad,” was Ringo’s quote, I think.) Look at him in this video, especially at the end:

That look—wild, exhausted, exhilarated, sweating, grinning, tipped out of our normal world and entering into some strange manic place—I’m not sure John intended to travel to this place, but whenever he found himself there, he knew what to do. Continue reading

Embrace Your Inner Beatle! Nowhere Man by John Lennon

nowhereman

THE SELECTION

Aha! This week we use the perfect randomizer: four spins of a Life board game dial. Szzzzzzzzz-tika-tika-tika…. and the gods of creativity have chosen!

NOWHERE MAN (LENNON-MCCARTNEY, RUBBER SOUL)

Oh, wow. Once again, the gods seem to have looked out for themselves. Here’s another divinely inspired song, or at least divinely delivered. More on that later.

“Nowhere Man,” from the album Rubber Soul, was written in what John later called his “fat Elvis” period, when he was unhappy, bitter, isolated, troubled, uncertain. Oh, you never knew that? You never knew he was suffering? Here’s Paul:

I think at that point, he was a bit…wondering where he was going, and to be truthful so was I. I was starting to worry about him.

(Gee, Paul, you think? I mean, the guy only wrote a song called Help!) Continue reading