HAPPY (slightly belated) BIRTHDAY PAUL McCARTNEY!

One of my favourite pictures of Paul, as taken by the Lovely Linda... (Image credit: iwasdreamingofthepast.blogspot.com

One of my favourite pictures of Paul, as taken by the Lovely Linda…
(Image credit: iwasdreamingofthepast.blogspot.com)

As you probably know, Sir James Paul McCartney turned 73 a couple of days ago, on June 18th! Happy birthday, Paul! I did mean to post on the day, but I’ve been quite busy with end-of-term assessments, so sorry ’bout that. I haven’t really written all that much about Paul, so today is my chance to muse on all things McCartney…

I’m not much of a Paul person. John has always been my favourite Beatle, and George a close second. And everyone likes Ringo. When it comes to songs, I’ve always found the songs that John and George wrote more appealing to my ears than Paul’s. I’ve always found a majority of his songs to be a little too much on the poppy side for me.

But regardless of the fact that I’m more of a John-and-George gal, I think that Paul is an extremely talented guy! There is no doubt that he is one of the best songwriters ever. Not only is he one half of Lennon/McCartney,  a number of his post-Beatles songs are also certified-classics for very good reason.

Most of my favourite McCartney-penned compositions stem from The Beatles era. Especially from Rubber Soul onwards, Paul was an amazing songwriter. Penning everything from screaming proto-metal rockers to the softest of folky ballads, he was something of a songwriting genius! He definitely deserves the many accolades he receives for his work.

(‘Helter Skelter’) ‘Helter Skelter’ is recognised by most music fans to be one of the first heavy metal songs ever. And whilst I’m not really a fan of the genre in its modern state, I absolutely love this song! The song incorporates Ringo’s thrashing drums, completely awesome guitar performances from Paul and George, a rockin’ bass from John and a screaming vocal performance from Paul! There has been more than a few interpretations of the song over the years; John claimed it was about a, well, helter skelter (an essential part of English fairgrounds), Paul said the helter skelter symbolised “the fall”, and we all know what Charles Manson thought… The song has since become a pioneer of all things hard rock, and is also one of my very favourite Beatles songs!

(‘Blackbird’) And now to the complete opposite… In my opinion, ‘Blackbird’ is one of the most beautiful songs ever written. Paul’s solo voice accompanying his fingerpicked guitar and his tapping foot (and later, some blackbird sounds) is perfection, in my opinion. Paul’s lyrics in this song are some of his best, I think; they are supposedly about the Civil Rights Movement in America. My favourite bit about this song, though, is the guitar. It’s gorgeous. And even after months of trying to play it, I still can’t play it properly… 😉

(‘I’m Looking Through You’) Paul’s songs on Rubber Soul are all super-cool, and this is one of my favourites. Ever since I first listened to the album, ‘I’m Looking Through You’ has always stood out. Whether it be Paul’s great vocal performance, John’s rhythm guitar part, George’s lead guitar part or Ringo’s organ (!) or the folk-rock feel, this song is just all-round great. I particularly like the mono version of this song, as the outro is a little longer, and I especially love the outro…

(‘Here, There and Everywhere’) For me, it’s easy to see why this song was one of both John’s and Paul’s favourite Beatles songs – for it’s one of my favourite Beatles songs, too! This song is simply beautiful. Paul’s vocals are sung gorgeously, and the backing vocals are simply hypnotic! I also love Ringo’s bass-y drums, and the rhythm guitar is great. An all-round perfect song…

(The Abbey Road Medley) This is what I like to refer to as Paul’s masterpiece. Taking up most of Side 2 of Abbey Road, the Abbey Road Medley is nothing short of a masterpiece. Beginning with the epic 4-part ‘You Never Give Me Your Money’, and ending with the philosophical musings of ‘The End’ or brief ‘Her Majesty’ (depending on who you ask), you’ll hear about everything from a few rpgue “Apple Scruffs” climbing through Paul’s bathroom window to a grouchy old guy who sleeps in a hole in the road. Each song is carefully merged into each other by Paul and George Martin, and stylistically, it ranges from raw rock’n’roll to delicate orchestral pop. A perfect final note that will be remembered as one of the most innovative things ever released.

And now for Paul post-Beatles… I’m not a huge fan of Paul’s solo career. However, I’ve since found that there are a whole heap of great songs that Paul wrote after the breakup of The Fab Four, too! Last post, I mentioned my penchant for both ‘Call Me Back Again’ and ‘Dear Friend’. And I think I’ve mentioned my like of ‘Another Day’ and ‘Mrs Vandebilt’ before, too. So here are a couple of songs from Paul’s solo career that I particularly enjoy…

(‘Too Many People’) Despite the fact that the whole song basically denounces John and Yoko, this is one of my favourite Paul songs. Musically. I particularly dig that killer lead guitar, and Paul’s vocals are also great! The acoustic guitar is also awesome. In fact, this is an all-round awesome song, apart from the lyrics.

(‘Band On The Run’) And I’ve always loved this song! I love how it has three parts, and each of them are contrast each other so much. My favourite is the middle part — the rockiest part. I also really love the guitar riff that runs through parts 1 + 2, and it’s one of my favourite things to play. I was pleasantly surprised to hear this pop up in the middle of 2014 film Boyhood, which is my favourite movie at the moment.

(‘Maybe I’m Amazed’) This song is amazing. Pun intended. Paul’s vocals are raw and emotional and just wonderful! And I’ve always been a fan of his piano work in this song. It’s one of Paul’s best known songs, and for very good reason.

And of course, Paul is an amazing musician. It’s a well-known fact that he is one of the best bassists ever. Many Beatles songs featured extremely inventive bass lines due to his genius. My favourites include ‘Dear Prudence‘, ‘The Word‘, ‘Hey Bulldog‘, and ‘Drive My Car‘. Paul is my favourite bassist, along with John Entwistle of The Who.

Other examples of Paul’s musical prowess can be found within some of his lead guitar lines. The solo in ‘Taxman‘ is one of the best examples, and as a guitarist, I find it truly amazing! Paul also played some great breaks on ‘Another Girl‘, ‘The Night Before‘ and (along with John and George) ‘The End’. Paul was also the first Beatle to play an Epiphone Casino guitar, and as the proud player of such a model, I’m very thankful for that. I also very much like Paul’s piano skills, which can be heard on songs such as ‘Let It Be‘, ‘Hey Jude’ and parts of ‘A Day In The Life‘.

And so, happy birthday Paul! As a musician, I find your musical skills absolutely amazing. Thanks for all the wonderful songs! tangerinetrees99 🙂

And now for one more tune…

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Six Ways The Beatles Changed The World

Do not ask me what they are doing with that plastic sheet, but they look cute, and that is all! :-)

Do not ask me what they are doing with that plastic sheet, but they look cute, and that is all! 🙂

Everyone knows that without John, Paul, George and Ringo, the world would be a very different place – but how many people really know how they changed the course of pop-culture? Today, I thought I’d do a post on how those four lads made the world into what it is today, following on from a speech I wrote for a Public Speaking unit in English earlier this year. So, take a plunge into the Beatles ‘revolution’ (cue crunchy overdriven guitars), and enjoy!

6. Guitar Feedback Usage

Take a listen to the above song (the music clip was filmed in late 1965, by the way) – in particular, that noise at the start, just before that infamous riff begins. That ‘noise’ at the start is called ‘feedback’, and is created by plucking a guitar too close to its amp. Feedback was used a lot in the late-1960s/1970s by artists such as The Who, Jimi Hendrix, The Velvet Underground and The Grateful Dead. But guess who the first artist(s) to use such a thing was (were)? The Beatles, of course! Here’s what Wikipedia had to say about the innovation:

“I Feel Fine” starts with a single, percussive (yet pure-sounding) feedback note produced by plucking the A string on Lennon’s guitar. This was the very first use of feedback preceding a song on a rock record. According to McCartney, “John had a semi-acoustic Gibson guitar. It had a pickup on it so it could be amplified . . . We were just about to walk away to listen to a take when John leaned his guitar against the amp. I can still see him doing it . . . it went, ‘Nnnnnnwahhhhh!” And we went, ‘What’s that? Voodoo!’ ‘No, it’s feedback.’ Wow, it’s a great sound!’ George Martin was there so we said, ‘Can we have that on the record?’ ‘Well, I suppose we could, we could edit it on the front.’ It was a found object, an accident caused by leaning the guitar against the amp.”[3] Although it sounded very much like an electric guitar, Lennon actually played the riff on an acoustic-electric guitar (a Gibson model J-160E),[8] employing the guitar’s onboard pickup.

Later, Lennon was very proud of this sonic experimentation. In one of his last interviews, he said, “I defy anybody to find a record… unless it is some old blues record from 1922… that uses feedback that way. So I claim it for the Beatles. Before Hendrix, before The Who, before anybody. The first feedback on record.” [11]

The other Beatles song to extensively use feedback was the six-minute (or eight, depending on the version) psychedelic work-of-art ‘It’s All Too Much’, which was penned by George. As most people will recall, it was the last song (excepting the reprise of ‘All Together Now’) used in the 1968 animated masterpiece Yellow Submarine, and appears over an equally-psychedelic animation sequence almost bursts off your screen! Feedback was also used in the Toronto Rock & Roll Revival Festival performance of Yoko’s ‘John, John (Let’s Hope For Peace)’. Hmm… I was watching the footage of TR&RF the other day (thank you to my godparents for recording it!), and I absolutely loved it – especially John’s bit – until Yoko started screaming her head off. Now, I like/respect Yoko as an artist (as physical art that you can see) and as someone who made John very, very happy, but her “music” (if you can call it that) is too avant-garde for me – and that’s coming from someone who’s a bit quirky, herself! I’ll put ‘It’s All Too Much’ below, but I’ll spare you Yoko…

 

5. Stadium Concerts

The Beatles playing the first-ever stadium gig in the history of the world - AKA Shea Stadium!

The Beatles playing the first-ever stadium gig in the history of the world – AKA Shea Stadium!

I’m sure that most people reading this have seen a music gig at a large stadium – here in Adelaide, the Stones were coming to open our new Adelaide Oval (our stadium), but Mick Jagger’s girlfriend tragically committed suicide, so they’re playing in October. But the first stadium concert is not credited to the Stones, but to their ‘rivals’ (not really…), The Fab Four! The Beatles – having performed in numerous halls/theatres/clubs for about seven years – played to a full house of 55,600 fans at Shea Stadium (a sporting stadium in the city that would later become John’s home, New York) on the 15th of August, 1965! Brian Epstein almost stopped this milestone from happening, as he was worried that the tickets wouldn’t sell out – but they did! The Shea Stadium crowd – apart from beginning a trend that would go on for decades to come – was the largest crowd The Beatles ever played to. But we all know it’s not the largest crowd they ever received – that’s reserved for my town, Adelaide! Oh, and how could I forget those gorgeous suits – they all look so darn handsome! Here’s a clip from that historic concert – hope you don’t mind screaming girls!

 

4. Heavy Metal

Yes, The Beatles were the first major band to write songs that would now be classed as ‘proto metal’ – all those crashing drums and bass and guitars! No doubt about that. There is, however, an argument between Beatles fans as to which Beatles song was the first heavy metal tune. Most people know about ‘Helter Skelter’ – the heaviest song around at the time of its recording – and its influence on bands like Black Sabbath and Motley Crue, but two other Beatles songs have also been credited with the invention of a genre. The first is ‘Ticket To Ride’ – the first song ever to involve stormy drums and heavy guitar/bass lines, important components in heavy metal. People such as Richie Unterberger, Ian MacDonald and John himself (plus me!) say the record was influential in the evolution of heavy metal, and because it was recorded three years before ‘Helter Skelter’ and four years before ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’ (the other song up there), it is sometimes named the first heavy metal record. Now for ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’ – this is arguably the heaviest song recorded by The Fab Four, and appears on Abbey Road. The music magazine Guitar World says that it may “have inadvertently started doom metal” – listen to the song, and you’ll see why. It’s heavier than ‘Helter Skelter’ and ‘Ticket To Ride’ put together, and that ending is very metal-ish. So, as you can see, that although people who favour Paul say argue that ‘Helter Skelter’ began metal, and Lennon Lovers argue back with ‘Ticket To Ride’, The Beatles invented a genre. And the rest is history.

One thing that really irritates me is when people call The Beatles a pop group, when – in actual fact – they rocked dead hard. Even their pop-iest song – ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ – has a rocky rhythm guitar/bass part, and early songs such as ‘It Won’t Be Long’ and pretty much the whole of Please Please Me rock real hard, too. And when people call them poppy, they seemingly forget about every song they recorded after 1964, and those songs I just mentioned. In my (and many others’) opinion, they were just as much a rock band as The Rolling Stones and other 1960s cited as ‘rock’. In fact, those songs above are three of the hardest-rocking songs recorded in that period, if not of all time…

 

3. The Three-Minute Pop-Song (Breach Of)

Ah, ‘Ticket To Ride’ strikes again! In 1965, it was the unspoken rules of music that a pop song must not go over three minutes long. But The Beatles being The Beatles, this didn’t matter (I salute you for not conforming, John, Paul, George and Ringo!). They recorded ‘Ticket To Ride’ in early 1965, which – apart from arguably being the first heavy metal song (see above) – went for a rebellious 3:10 minutes (gasp!)! This was the first pop song to go for an amount of time longer than three minutes, and thus was the basis for all sorts of late-1960s psychedelia!

 

2. “Long” Hair and “High-Heeled” shoes (for men, that is)

The Beatles sporting moptops - or long hair (if only the world could see them in 1969!)

The Beatles sporting moptops – or long hair (if only the world could see them in 1969!)

And an advertisement for Beatle boots from the '60s!

And an advertisement for Beatle boots from the ’60s!

Sure, in the early 1960s, the world’s definition of long hair (for men, anyway) was quite different, but The Beatles were really the first rock band to wear long hair! Their moptops were outrageously long for the 1960s, at first – but of course, they changed that! As everyone knows, their hair got longer and longer as time went by, and because of this, society’s perception of the appropriate length of men’s hair dissipated. This eventually amounted to John and George’s Jesus looks in 1969, and because those two’s earlier pioneering, nobody cared. And as for the Cuban heels… here’s what Wikipedia has to say:

Beatle boots are tight-fitting, Cuban-heeled, ankle-length boots with a pointed toe which originated in 1963 when Brian Epstein discovered Chelsea boots while browsing in the London footwear company Anello & Davide, and consequently commissioned four pairs (with the addition of Cuban heels) for The Beatles to complement their new suit image upon their return from Hamburg, who wore them under drainpipe trousers.[11]

 

1. The Music Clip

Those two video clips above were made in 1967, but The Beatles first started making music clips (or ‘promos’, as they were then called) in late 1965, to substitute for live performances. This eventually amounted from black-and-white footage of the band miming to colour clips of them parading around the grounds of an English mansion (and still miming), the latter of which used for accompanying clips for their new single, ‘Paperback Writer’/’Rain’ in early 1966. These clips hit their peak in 1967 when the mad masterpieces used for promotion of ‘Penny Lane’, ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ and ‘Hello Goodbye’ were produced. Because of these (and the song-sequences in each Beatles film), the world now has the modern music clip. The rest, as we all know, is history.

 

So there we go – a list of just six of the hundreds of ways the four lads from Liverpool revolutionised the world. I’ll leave you with one final picture of The Fab Four, but good day sunshine for now! 🙂

:-) !

🙂 !