Happy Birthday John Lennon!

John by Warhol, 1971

John by Warhol, 1971

Today would have been John Lennon’s 76th birthday, so I thought I’d finally end my algebra-revision-induced hiatus (fun times in high school, haha!) and talk a little bit about him. So happy birthday, John!

I’ve talked an awful lot about John on here before, so I’ll try to stay succinct here. John is easily one of my greatest heroes, for he has influenced so much of what my life consists of today. He was my introduction to what I would have precociously termed “contemporary music” before I discovered him – he taught me of what it was in the first place, of how it worked, of what it sounded like at its very best. His work encouraged me both to persevere with and work as hard as I did my schoolwork at my creative pursuits – music, art, writing – and to, as I grew into the age where you are supposed to begin to seriously consider what you will do when you”grow up”, think about continuing them not just as hobbies but as actual jobs; and in fact, it was him who inspired me to pick up a guitar, to take my voice beyond musical theatre and the like, to try and attempt to write songs, to actually use the criticism my English teachers gave me so that my pieces on here would begin to live up to the ones I read and admired in the music press in the first place; he made me consider the workings of the world, and encouraged me to also consider and create my own views on political issues; he taught me what it meant to be a fan. I admire him so much – for his writing, his guitar skills, his humour, his art, his activism… While he is now one among the myriad of creators that I admire – in the company of those like Bowie, Patti Smith, Lou Reed, Poison Ivy Rorschach, Alex Chilton, Kim Gordon, David Lynch, Joan Didion, and many, many, many more from all manner of music genres, eras and artistic fields – he will always be one of the very few who has affected me enough to change the course of almost my entire life. Perhaps only Bowie and Patti have come close to influencing me in the way that he has. My life would be so unrecognisably different if I hadn’t come across his work – I am so grateful for his affect on who I am today.

So now, I’m going to stop talking and instead leave you with some of his music. Happy birthday, John! Thinking of you…

(Please excuse this in demo form, it is still impossible to find actual Beatles songs on YouTube after the mass exodus of them that occurred around the rerelease of 1 last year…)

(Let us not forget John’s input into Young Americans, one of my very very all-time favourite albums!!)

And so this is Christmas…

Merry Christmas! (via pinterest.com)

Merry Christmas!
(via pinterest.com)

I have an admission to make: I haven’t been in the Christmassy mood this year. Blame this on the fact that I’m Australian. Aussie Christmasses basically consist of hot weather  (this year in Adelaide, it’s set to be just below 40 degrees Celsius) and following traditions started in England and America that are probably more suited to weather around the 40 degree-Fahrenheit mark. Blame this also on the world’s mad rush that begins with the festive season, and the stress of leaving one’s house that ensues. Oh, how I’d love a cold, calm Christmas…

But considering today is Christmas Eve, my Christmassy apathy is something I am going to change. And I’m going to go about this one of the few ways a music blogger knows how: with some Christmas tunes! So here are some of my favourite festive-themed tracks… Enjoy!

‘Christmas Time Is Here Again’: The Beatles

‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’: John Lennon, Yoko Ono, The Plastic Ono Band and the Harlem Community Choir

‘Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy’: David Bowie & Bing Crosby

‘Father Christmas’: The Kinks

‘Christmas’: The Who

‘Merry Xmas Everybody’: Slade

‘Jesus Christ’: Big Star

‘Ghost of Christmas’: The Manic Street Preachers

‘Winter Wonderland’: Cocteau Twins

‘Christmas Wrapping’: The Waitresses

‘Santa Claus’: Throwing Muses

‘Got Something For You’: Best Coast and Wavves

If you’d like to listen to the playlist in its entirety, here it is!

So, what are your favourite Christmas songs? Be sure to tell me in the comments!

Hope you all have a very merry Christmas, and a great final week of 2015! 🙂

For George, John and Jim

The ten-or-so days from November 29th to December 8th is an odd time to be a music fan – or for me, anyway. Between these two dates are anniversaries of the deaths of two icons of rock, and what would have been the birthday of another. Each of these people have played important roles in my musical adventures, so today I will pay tribute to them.

November 29th marked the 14th anniversary of George Harrison’s death.

image

Recently, I acquired a copy of All Things Must Pass on vinyl. I had not listened to to the album in a while, as it had been pulled from YouTube and I had been previously unable to find a physical copy. I soon got around to playing it, and as the opening slide guitar hooks of ‘I’d Have You Anytime’ began, I remembered just how amazing it is. The album is perhaps the greatest showcase of George’s incredible musicality; his songwriting (catchy, yet not poppy ), his lyrics (perhaps the most underrated aspect of his already-undervalued work – often poetic, yet not too wordy), his guitar skills (expressive, ethereal in its adeptness). The album is a body of incredibly well-written and well-played work; passionate & beautiful, and ‘technically’ good, too. This greatness is translated to much of his other work, as well, both solo and with The Beatles: listen to ‘Something’ or ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ (or any of his Beatles tracks from Rubber Soul onwards), or solo hits like ‘Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)’. (Many of these songs also display George’s extremely underrated lead guitar skills – his work was always simple, but sounded incredible. It is a pity he is not given more recognition for this.) Still, his work is still very underrated by the public, limited to knowledge of perhaps ‘Here Comes The Sun’ (and the assumption that his cuts were written by Lennon/McCartney) – but those that know of his songs know of their greatness, too. And what knowledge that is!

It should also be mentioned that Monty Python’s Life Of Brian wouldn’t exist without George. Ever since I first watched it as a kid, Brian has been an endless supply of laughs and bad puns, so thank you, George!

SEE ALSO: ‘All Things Must Pass’; ‘Happy Birthday George Harrison!’

December 8th marked the 35th anniversary of John Lennon’s death.

john

Regular readers of this blog will know that I consider John to be both my favourite Beatle and one of my heroes in general. I have said a lot about him before, but I will say it again: John is someone I admire for his incredible body of work, his humour and intelligence, his outspokenness and fearlessness and for the way he changed the world. His lyrics and music were the first thing that piqued my interest in rock, which has since become my greatest passion. He inspired me to begin playing guitar, and he was the first musician that made me want to be one, as well. His eagerness to speak up about inequality, war and other political problems – the fact that he and Yoko were not pleased to sit idly and watch world issues breed – is also something that I hugely respect to this day, and whilst I was politically aware long before I became a Beatles fan, it was his activism that made me think more deeply about my beliefs, too. He has greatly affected my life.

The tragic way that John died does not warrant mentioning. It is both especially saddening and ironic, considering that his mainstream reputation is that of a peace activist. However, John has left an amazing body of work and an incredible influence and legacy, and I feel that this is what is worth remembering. So thank you, John!

SEE ALSO: ‘Happy Birthday John!’ (2014)‘I Think I’m Gonna Be Sad – I Think It’s Today’‘Happy Birthday John Lennon’ (2015)

December 8th would have also been Jim Morrison’s birthday. He would have been 71.

(via wikipedia.org)

(via wikipedia.org)

I can barely remember a time when I didn’t know about The Doors. I listened to their music as a young kid – especially LA Woman – and when I acquired my first iPod, I can also remember being shocked that the title track of said album’s lyrics involved the word ‘damn’, and was adamant that a “song with swearing” wouldn’t enter my music library! As I grew a little older, though, The Doors’ dark psychedelia fascinated me, and they’ve been one of my favourite bands ever since.

Perhaps the greatest case for why I like The Doors is Morrison’s lyrics and poetry. He wrote beautifully eloquent words of thought-provoking subjects, which often still resonate today. It is his way with words that gives a song like ‘The End’ its broodingly dramatic mood, making it arguably among the greatest of all time. His lyrics are part of why The Doors’ music is so different to their contemporaries, and of what makes them so interesting. He was clearly an incredibly intelligent and creative guy, and though troubled around the time of his death, who knows what things he would have done had he lived? I also feel that he is underrated as a vocalist. His voice was incredible and was so different from those around him – it suited the musical atmospheres created by Manzarek, Krieger and Densmore perfectly. It is amazing that a band who released their classic discography within four years – and whose frontman didn’t make it to 30 – managed to change the world as much as they did…

Also, apologies for my sporadic posting of late – I’ll definitely post more over the coming weeks! 🙂

HAPPY (belated) BIRTHDAY JOHN LENNON!

john david bailey

(Image by David Bailey)

Author’s Note: I began this post a little over three weeks ago, on John’s actual birthday, but due to schoolwork, interstate trips and mild writers’ block, have taken the better part of a month to finish it. Oh well – at least I published it before November!

Quite a number of musicians I admire had their birthday, on October 9th – John Entwistle; PJ Harvey; Sean Ono Lennon. But most importantly, it would have been the 75th birthday of my favourite Beatle, John Lennon. Wishing John a very, very happy birthday, wherever he may be! I’ve written about John a lot on my blog, and I shall add to what I have already said, today.

For as long as I’ve been a Beatles fan, John has been my favourite Beatle. I cannot remember why I chose him, at first. During this time, I could barely tell each band member apart in the few images I had seen of them – let alone know much about John. Perhaps it was something to do with him being referenced in a novel I was reading at the time, and the fact that I liked ‘Imagine’.

However, it was him I chose, and it quickly became clear – as my knowledge of John and The Beatles quickly expanded – that he would have become my favourite Beatle, regardless of who I had picked first. As I sifted through interviews, read numerous biographies and watched just as many documentaries, John was the Beatle who interested me the most. Of course, I liked the other Beatles, too – George, in particular, has always interested me as well – but it was John who stood out.

At that point in time (the first half of 2013), my knowledge of rock music was limited to its successor in the popularity race: the current incarnation of pop. Rockstars were no longer figureheads of pop culture, instead replaced by boybands and other assorted popstars. So as I gradually became more knowledgeable about both John and The Beatles, perhaps one of the reasons he fascinated me so was that he was so different to the celebrities I had become accustomed to. Instead of singing formulaic songs written by a team of songwriters, John (like Paul and George) mainly wrote his own – accompanied by interesting, meaningful lyrics, and some of the most unconventionally inventive and memorable chord progressions and melodies to ever come out of rock. (At this point in time, I was yet to learn that writing your own songs was commonplace in rock music, so I was especially surprised. However, at the time of ‘Love Me Do’ and Please Please Me, a band penning their own hits would have been somewhat rare, as well – only a handful of rock and pop artists before The Beatles wrote their own songs.) Through reading interview transcripts, and watching both documentaries and Beatles films, I saw that he was both funny and intelligent, qualities that seemingly lacked the personalities of the pop stars that my world was saturated with. His political awareness, too, captivated me – I don’t think I’d ever heard of a politically-aware celebrity before John.

The music, unsurprisingly, was what drew me in first. I had been having music lessons – on both violin and flute – for a number of years beforehand, but my technical knowledge was exclusively limited to the classical concepts I had been taught; and despite being raised on my parents’ wonderful music taste – ranging from Mick Taylor-era Stones and The Doors’ LA Woman, to Petula Clark and Dusty Springfield (both of whom I loved as a small child) – I never showed much interest in rock. The Beatles’ and John’s music was the first that caught my attention, and the first music that I was passionate about. To my classically-trained ears, it all sounded incredibly different to what I knew – even now, with considerably more knowledge of rock and jazz theory, it still sounds “different”. They used chord progressions and fingerings that deviate almost completely from the accepted standards. Sometimes, on John’s songs, there would barely be a melody at all – John’s tunes were traditionally more rhythmic than melodic – but they still managed to be incredibly catchy, and among the best-written songs of all time. Inside their catalogue, which I had only just begun to devour, I discovered everything from tender ballads to psychedelic freak-outs, perfect pop tunes to ear-splitting hard rock, beautiful folk songs to searing garage cuts – sometimes incorporating the values of a number of genres into one. Their musical accomplishments on their respective instruments, whilst not of the classical technicality I knew, were undeniably great – John’s guitar inspired me so much that I began to learn guitar a few months later, something which has now become one of my favourite things in the world. They incorporated elements from classical, jazz and, of course, traditional Indian music into their songs, a concept that I thought genius; and I found their love of experimentalism in the studio – i.e. backmasking, tape loops, etc. – endlessly fascinating. It is this that shows their incredible creativity and inventiveness as a band; it is this that makes them so great. And even then, when I barely knew what a chord was – let alone anything concerning the technicalities of rock music – it was this that I first liked about the music of John and The Beatles. It was this inventiveness that has ensured that they have stayed the kings of rock music for over 50 years, and likely will for many to come.

And through John and The Beatles, I began to receive my education in rock music. As I skimmed through Wikipedia pages for each Beatles song, I discovered the differences between ‘solos’ and ‘instrumentals’; why you don’t have to be technically good to play quality rock’n’roll – just passionate; that lyrics shouldn’t have to rhyme to be among the best ever written (see ‘Across The Universe’). I soon learnt what a chord actually was, and the rules for piecing them together – which, with enough knowledge, are prime for being broken. I learnt how melodies lock together with the rhythm guitar, and drums, and bass; in fact, I learnt about what functions basses and drums serve, full stop. I learnt that there is more than one kind of guitar, and what purpose each kind – rhythm & lead, acoustic & electric – carries out. I soon discovered that John played rhythm guitar incredibly well (see here), so I wanted to pick it up as well – I began learning guitar in the January of 2014, among the best things I ever did, again widening my understanding my understanding (and knowledge) of “contemporary” music. I haven’t prepared for a classical violin exam for over a year, and don’t plan on doing so again, instead replacing the traditional methods with blues fiddle. I began to widen my music tastes and listen to artists other than The Beatles and their solo careers: beginning with The Velvet Underground, The Violent Femmes and the early Stones, and ending up today with tastes in everything from punk to noise rock to psychedelia to blues to folk, and just about everything in between. I dropped my somewhat snobbish opinion that no good music was created after 1980, and discovered a number of favourite artists from each decade, from the ’50s to this year. I began writing songs; I became an aspiring musician; I became a rock music fanatic. And whilst John and The Beatles no longer remain my sole influence – rather a part of an influential melting pot, consisting of everyone from Kim Gordon to the Violent Femmes to David Bowie to Tame Impala – they will always be my first. Rock music has influenced and inspired most of my life for nearly three years, and I can’t even imagine how different it would be if I hadn’t (somewhat accidentally) been introduced to The Beatles, one morning in early 2013.

John’s lyrics, too, had a similar impact. I had never listened to a song’s lyrics seriously before – because, I thought, what was to be taken seriously about them? During a time when the famously eloquent tune ‘Blurred Lines’ (sarcasm intended) was topping the charts, and we had all been subjected to the equally-articulate ‘Gangnam Style’ and ‘Call Me Maybe’ for the previous year, quality lyrics weren’t exactly a requirement for pop hits. They never had been, I guess, but I liked lyrics – I wrote poetry as a hobby, and I wanted to hear words that actually made sense, and were written about something other than a bad dance that would go viral on YouTube. Again, as I ploughed my way through The Beatles’ back catalogue, I discovered another of John’s talents – his writing. He wrote about love, but it wasn’t his sole subject; he wrote about everything from his politics to friendship, loneliness to happiness. He wrote about his life and experiences, and this added an emotion and passion that couldn’t be there otherwise. He managed to use as few words as possible, and yet convey the point of his song more beautifully than more could have. The fact that same man wrote ‘Across The Universe’, its beautiful lyrics a strong factor of the song’s dreamy atmosphere; ‘Revolution’, somewhat cynical yet still wonderfully idealistic at its core; the melancholia of ‘You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away’; the joyousness of ‘All You Need Is Love’ – this amazed me.  His writing revealed an eloquence, an intelligence and the right balance between seriousness and humour that represented what I had been looking for, lyrically.

Of course, John’s writing skills also shine through on his books, In His Own Write and A Spaniard In The Works. (Despite having been a hardcore fan for nearly three years, I have not gotten around to reading Skywriting By Word Of Mouth – yet…) I read the two of them a little over a year afterwards, and adored them instantly. They are absolutely hilarious, consisting of clever wordplay and punnery, satirising everything from politics and religion to life in general – and, of course, accompanied by cute illustrations to match each short story or poem! They showcase John’s incredibly unique (and funny) sense of humour, and I don’t think I have read anything like them before – or since.

(By John himself!)

(By John himself!)

Another thing about John that I liked was his political activism. I grew up in a house where we frequently discussed political issues, so I had always been surrounded by a political awareness, and just as I was getting into The Beatles, I had simultaneously begun to develop beliefs of my own. As I listened to more of John’s music, and discovered more about him, I discovered more about his political efforts as well: ‘Imagine’; the catchy and effective ‘Give Peace A Chance’, recorded at his and Yoko’s famous Bed In; the ever-controversial ‘Woman Is The Nigger Of The World’, which – when paired with the definition of the ‘n-word’ that John used whilst defending the song on the Dick Cavett Show – deserves more respect than it gets; the word-ninja criticism of politicians in ‘Gimme Some Truth’; John’s appearance at the John Sinclair Freedom Rally, soon after which Sinclair was released; the fact that the Nixon government felt so threatened by John as to attempt to deport him. His outspokenness and passion for political issues appealed to me – not only the fact that, like a lot of young people during his time, he was not afraid to rebel against the mainstream beliefs of the system, but that he spoke up about what he believed in, too. Instead of seeing John’s politics as naive, as many have done in recent years, I see them as incredibly interesting and thought-provoking, regardless of whether I agree. If anything, they encouraged a number of people to think about their views, which is always a good thing. And it was John’s fearless outspokenness on issues he cared about that aided this – the fact that he and Yoko weren’t afraid to publicly disapprove of everything from war to the patriarchy on prime-time chat shows is inspiring. I sometimes wonder what he would think of the world today: where terrorism threats frighten our governments into fighting back with yet more war, where Australia hasn’t seen a prime minister hold a full term since before the invention of the iPhone, where numerous civil wars rage across the world, where 1 in 5 Australian women don’t have anywhere near enough superannuation due to the gender pay gap. It is sad that we don’t have more celebrities like him today, who are willing to put aside their carefully-cultivated images to be loud about issues that affect our world.

(popmatters.com)

(popmatters.com)

Today, a small but vocal number of people have taken it upon themselves to attempt to destroy John’s legacy by creating serious and inexcusable allegations about him, using various ill-informed online sources. This saddens me, and not only because many of these claims can easily be debunked with a little research. I disagree with referring to John (or anyone, for the record), as a saint – John certainly was not one. (He was an incredibly complex man, by many accounts, and to reduce him to a caricature of a perfect “angel” who served solely to protest for peace is erasing all the other interesting things about him.) Seeing one’s role-model as a divine figure and worshipping them blindly is not particularly healthy. But barely anyone is a saint. No-one is perfect, and this is something humanity knows well – so why should we expect the impossible from our heroes and leaders? Whilst some of John’s behaviour shouldn’t be condoned, people need to remember the myriad of good things he did, as well – these outweigh the (truthful) bad. He made beautiful music; he wrote great lyrics, and hilarious books; he was a wonderfully positive political influence, even if just for getting young people to think about the subject; he’s been described as intelligent, witty and a genuinely nice guy by many people who knew him; he was in the greatest band that ever was, and probably ever will be. Our world would be a lesser place if it wasn’t for his contributions.

And so, a very happy – and very, very belated! – birthday to my favourite Beatle, John Lennon. Thank you for inspiring me, and for your wonderful influence on our world. 🙂

image

image

10 Of The Beatles’ Best Vocal Performances

(via paulontheruntour.blogspot.com)

(via paulontheruntour.blogspot.com)

One of my favourite things about The Beatles is how they never had a lead singer. Each member had opportunities to sing, and with this, they brought their four contrasting perspectives to the band’s music. And of course, they had two of the greatest rock singers of all time: Paul, his voice one of the few with technical merits in rock music, and John, traditionally rougher, yet arguably more passionate and raw. So with all this, it is hardly surprising that there are plenty of stunning moments in The Beatles’ discography when it comes to vocals. So today, I’m naming a few of my favourites! So, in no particular order:

‘This Boy’ (B-side to ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’, 1963)

SUNG BY: John, Paul & George

‘This Boy’ was the public’s introduction to the three-part harmonies that John, Paul and George would practise together, and what an introduction it is! The three sing absolutely beautifully together, their contrasting voices fitting perfectly. John’s lead, too, during the bridge is wonderfully passionate and raw. Although ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’s cultural impact was obviously considerably larger, it is these vocals that make the B-side musically superior, in my opinion.

‘Happiness Is A Warm Gun’ (The White Album, 1968)

SUNG BY: John

‘Happiness Is A Warm Gun’ is perhaps the best example of John’s vocal abilities. Each section of the song – spanning from surreal psychedelia, to hard rock, to (somewhat satirical) doo-wop – demands a different kind of singing, and John handles this task with ease. Changing swiftly from low to high, and switching styles – from heavier, rockier vocals in the middle, to a lighter falsetto tone in the end – to suit each section’s respective genre, his vocals are especially wide-ranging and impressive here.

‘Helter Skelter’ (The White Album, 1968)

SUNG BY: Paul

‘Helter Skelter’ is among The Beatles’ heaviest songs – of which there are many, of course, but few as influential as this. Often regarded as one of the first metal songs, it is easy to see why. Alongside the relentless instrumentation is Paul’s vocal. Much like his Little Richard impersonation from earlier in the band’s career, but with more bite, Paul screams the lyrics like a true metal singer. Dirty, menacing and raw, they are arguably the best part of a song that foreshadowed Zeppelin’s debut album by several months…

‘Because’ (Abbey Road, 1969)

SUNG BY: John, Paul & George

‘Because’ is the last Beatles song to feature John, Paul & George’s famously magnificent three-part harmonies. Each Beatle’s voices were overdubbed twice, creating a chorus of nine voices in total, adding to the overwhelming beauty of arguably the prettiest ballad on Abbey Road. The kind of vocals that send tingles down the listener’s spine, the song shows that even when the band was rife with infighting, they still possessed a musical chemistry that most bands can only dream of.

‘Girl’ (Rubber Soul, 1965)

SUNG BY: John

John’s vocals on ‘Girl’ are almost hypnotic. Like with ‘Oh! Darling’ for Paul (see below), the song contains one of John’s most passionate performances. He doesn’t just sing the lyrics; he conveys them – acts them, almost – with such an emotion, a sadness and yearning for the girl that the narrator will never have. They highlight the complexity and beauty of the song, adding to the magnificence of one of John’s best ballads.

‘Here, There and Everywhere’ (Revolver, 1966)

SUNG BY: Paul

One of my Beatles songs – and probably my favourite Paul-penned one – ‘Here, There and Everywhere’s vocals are delicately beautiful in style, much like the song itself. Paul’s dreamy lead highlights the song’s exquisiteness; however, his vocals are not the only stand-out, in my opinion. John and George’s Beach Boys-inspired backing vocals are stunning, too, and aid in bringing a beautiful song, regardless of its arrangement, to a truly ethereal level.

‘Long, Long, Long’ (The White Album, 1968)

SUNG BY: George

‘Long, Long, Long’, in my opinion, has George’s best Beatles vocals. A soft, “floating” folk song, George’s singing is understated and gentle, suiting the track excellently. However, during the middle eight, the vocals become more intense and stirring, in a way that his singing had never been before. The vocals are perhaps the best part of a song that has long (no pun intended!) been among my Beatley favourites…

‘Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except For Me And My Monkey’ (The White Album, 1968)

SUNG BY: John

‘Everybody’s…’ is another of my favourite Beatles hard rock songs – it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and it’s incredibly fun to listen to. John’s vocals are essential to this quality. Whilst not as rousing as, say, ‘Girl’, they are perfect for the song; quite high, and slightly rough (in a good way), they are just as fun as the music itself. Together with the great guitars, they help make one of my favourite songs on the White Album!

‘Oh! Darling’ (Abbey Road, 1969)

SUNG BY: Paul

Each day for a week before recording ‘Oh! Darling’, Paul would go to Abbey Road each morning and practise the song to roughen his voice, as he felt it was too clear beforehand. And boy, was it worth it! Paul’s vocals on ‘Darling’, to me, are his most passionate and are perhaps his best. Like with ‘Helter Skelter’, he screams the words, but with an emotion that was missing a little from the former. They give the song a feeling that makes it among the best on Abbey Road.

‘I’m Only Sleeping’ (Revolver, 1966)

SUNG BY: John

John’s vocals sound fittingly lazy on ‘I’m Only Sleeping’. Of course, ‘lazy’ in the best possible sense – he sighs the lyrics tiredly, yet passionately, like someone who has recently been woken, and is pleading to be left alone. However, he adds the right amount of effort to his performance, making it particularly good. As with ‘Here, There and Everywhere’, the backing vocals are also a highlight – delightfully whimsical, they, too, suit the lazily psychedelic vibe of the song.

 

What are your favourite Beatles vocal performances? Be sure to tell me in the comments!

My 15 Favourite Albums on the 16th

Reading through the most recent posts of my blog post feed this morning, I found many people had participated in the #top15onthe15th tag, and listed their 15 favourite albums. And I decided I’d add my opinion to the mix, too! Of course, it is well and truly the 16th in Australia, now, but anyway… This list certainly isn’t comprehensive. My full list of all-time favourite albums would probably only fit on ten rolls of toilet paper, and narrowing it down to 15 was certainly hard! But anyway, in no particular order…

Revolver (1966) The Beatles (1968): The Beatles

Revolver the white album

Revolver is easily my favourite album of all-time. Featuring everything from dark, mysterious psychedelic rock, to a garage song with searing hot guitar, to spellbinding, well-crafted ballads, it possesses a special kind of magic. It was the album that made me realise just how special The Beatles – and music, in general – are. ‘Genius’ is oft overused, but it certainly applies here.

Compared with the perfectionism of Sgt Pepper, The White Album isn’t technically good at all. But technicality and perfectionism has never been an essential requirement in good rock music, and the album is perhaps one of the best embodiments of this. Sprawling from proto-metal to soft folk to avant-garde musique concrete to vaudevillian jazz to good-ol’ fashioned rock’n’roll, it transcends genres. Whilst it’s certainly self-indulgent in parts, this contributes to the unconventional vibe of the album. And that – its eccentricity –  is what makes it so great.

Hunky Dory (1971) & The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars (1972): David Bowie

hunky dory ZiggyStardust

Hunky Dory is a work of musical art. Displaying Bowie’s eclectic gift for songwriting – ranging from the pop of ‘Changes’, to the flamenco-infused folk of ‘Andy Warhol’, to the music hall-inspired ‘Oh! You Pretty Things, to the glam-rock of ‘Queen Bitch’ – each song is perfection. Lyrically, the album contains some of Bowie’s best, his unique imagery and way-with-words particularly evident on tracks such as ‘Life on Mars?’ and the aforementioned ‘Queen Bitch’. Utter genius!

There isn’t a single song I don’t love on Ziggy Stardust. Bowie tells the story of a rock star who takes it all too far – subject matter rarely broached by a popular musician – with surrealist imagery, his voice (ranging from the screaming passion of ‘Rock’n’Roll Suicide’ to the almost-lazy tone of ‘Suffragette City’), thought-provoking lyrical matter and guitars, drums and saxes that absolutely rock. It’s easy to see why it affected teenagers so much at its original release, and why it continues to do so – myself included – today…

Tommy (1969) & Quadrophenia (1973): The Who

Tommyalbumcover quadrophenia

Tommy was my first Who album, and continues to be the one I listen to the most. Whilst its narrative is more disjointed and less plausible than that of Quadrophenia, this is definitely accounted for with the music. Containing everything from the falsetto beauty of ‘See Me, Feel Me’, to the hard rock of ‘Go To The Mirror!’, to the (successful!) ambitiousness of the album’s instrumentals, it is certainly one of the band’s best.

Quadrophenia is definitely my favourite Who album. With it, the band reached levels of emotion, passion and musical virtuosity that would be the highest they’d ever reach. The tracks are something of songwriting genius, again arguably the best of The Who’s career. And though the story is incredibly sad, it’s ability to move listeners only serves as a testament to its power and importance.

Their Satanic Majesties Request (1967): The Rolling Stones

their satanic majesties request

An unpopular opinion here: Satanic Majesties – The Stones’ psychedelic experiment – is almost universally hated, by both fans and the band themselves. And yeah – the lows are unarguably very low (‘On With The Show’, anybody?), but its highs are incredibly high, as well. From the driving hard rock of ‘Citadel’, to the baroque pop of ‘She’s A Rainbow’ and – my favourite – the hypnotic, hazy psychedelia of ‘2000 Light Years From Home’, it is moments like these that make it so good.

The Velvet Underground and Nico (1967): The Velvet Underground (featuring Nico)

the velvet underground and nico

The Velvet Underground and Nico was the first non-Beatles album to affect me, and it’s easy to see why. Incredibly edgy, yet with its share of exquisite beauty; the voices of Lou Reed and Nico delightfully nonconformist; the lyrical matter still controversial to our 21st-century ears, it was totally unlike anything I’d heard before. Ranging from out-of-tune protopunk to the prettiest ballads, it is truly a masterpiece.

The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967): Pink Floyd

PinkFloyd-album-piperatthegatesofdawn_300

The Piper at the Gates of Dawn is – unlike the lengthy prog. rock of Pink Floyd’s later work (which, of course, are ‘gems’ as well) – is a psychedelic gem. The album patents a brand of wild, cacophonous psychedelia – heady and deeply rooted in the underground. Syd Barrett’s lyrics, too, are wonderful. Whimsical and naïve, they add a level of childlike innocence to the music. As much as I love the band’s prog era, it is – hands down – my favourite Floyd album.

The Doors (1967): The Doors

TheDoorsTheDoorsalbumcover

The Doors’ self-titled debut is often regarded as their best, and my opinion is no exception. An intriguing mix of psychedelia and jazz, the music is mysterious and dangerous; Ray Manzarek’s organ, in particular, adds a layer of shimmery beauty to the tracks. And of course, Jim Morrison’s lyrics are as well-written and fascinating as usual, his voice a contrast to the trends of the time…

John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band (1970): John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band

JLPOBCover

John’s first post-Beatles solo album is a stark contrast to Abbey Road, the last album the band would record together. Musically, it’s pared back to tough, basic hard rock (with a couple of exceptions); lyrically, it’s a mixture of realism, denouncement of authority and a recurring theme of his painful childhood. But it’s contrast to The Beatles is, again, what makes it such a great album. John had moved on, and he had begun to make great art on his own.

Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit (2015): Courtney Barnett

sometimes i sit

Though only released in the March of this year, Courtney Barnett’s debut studio album quickly has become among my all-time favourites. I don’t know what it is about it – whether it be Barnett’s wonderfully witty and intelligent lyrics, her Australian accent, the music itself (a brand of grungy rock’n’roll rarely heard these days) – but it is impressively good, and will likely be listened to by indie fans alike many years from now…

Horses (1975): Patti Smith

PattiSmithHorses

I picked up Horses at a nearby record shop on a whim, a few months ago, to see if I agreed with all the accolade. I inserted it into the CD player, and turned it up loud. ‘Gloria’ began, with its serene piano chords and Smith’s famous lyric of “Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine”. The music soon turned into unique arty punk, something which intrigued me. I felt a sense of liberation – maybe it was Smith’s lyrics, or her singing (which reminded me a little of my own), or her successful merging of bohemianism and punk. But anyway, I knew it was my kind of music. And I’ve loved it ever since.

Attack and Release (2008): The Black Keys

attack + release

Though The Black Keys have forever been plagued by comparisons to The White Stripes, it is with Attack and Release that they prove these claims blatantly wrong. Helped by their then-new partnership with producer Brian Burton (AKA Danger Mouse), it is the perfect mix between psychedelia, blues rock and punk, perhaps my favourite genres ever. Easily my favourite Keys album!

Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus (recorded 1968, released 1996): various

Rolling_Stones_Circus

This one’s self-explanatory. There is so much to love: a John Lennon-fronted supergroup (featuring Keith Richards on bass and Eric Clapton on lead guitar) playing a searing version of ‘Yer Blues’, an electrifying Who performance of their mini rock-opera, ‘A Quick One While He’s A Way’, a set from The Stones themselves, featuring a spine-chilling slide performance from Brian Jones and a rendition of ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ seven months before its release… Virtually my musical dream!

So, what are your favourite albums of all time? Be sure to tell me in the comments!

6 Of My Favourite Covers By The Beatles

(Via billboard.com)

(via billboard.com)

Over the course of their career, The Beatles recorded a total of 25 covers. Not that many, when put into the context of the band’s 219-song-strong catalogue. And mostly consisting of rock’n’roll songs from the ’50s and Motown tunes from the early ’60s, all of their non-originals (sans ‘Maggie Mae’ from Let It Be) stem from the early period of the group. But although some – such as ‘Twist and Shout’ and ‘Please Mr Postman’ – are deservedly well-known, many remain overshadowed by the sheer quality of John, Paul and George’s original work. However, in my opinion, among The Beatles’ covers are some of the band’s best moments! And so, here are six of my favourites…

6. ‘Baby It’s You’

Although Rubber Soul and Revolver are generally regarded as the band’s “turning point”, ‘Baby It’s You’ (a cover of The Shirlees’ 1961 song, found on Please Please Me) is perhaps The Beatles’ earliest experimental moment. Foreshadowing Soul by nearly three years, the song features a solo from a half-piano-half-xylophone instrument named a celesta played by George Martin. Relatively unknown even now, the instrument’s usage in a pop song would have been practically unheard of in early 1963! Asides from the celesta, the song also plays host to a beautifully raw and passionate vocal performance from John. One of the best cuts from Please Please Me.

5. ‘Kansas City/Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey’

Originally a medley that Little Richard would play live (featuring both his own song, ‘Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey’, and KC Lovin’s 1952 track ‘Kansas City’), The Beatles’ version of ‘Kansas City/Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey’ features one of Paul’s best vocal performances. One of several Beatles tunes which he sings in his high, screaming ‘Little Richard voice’, Paul nails the style perfectly! The guitar, sharp and exciting, also serves the song very well, and there’s something about those backing vocals…

4. ‘Money (That’s What I Want)’

Beginning with a killer piano riff, The Beatles’ cover of Barrett Strong’s 1959 song only goes upwards from there! Sometimes referred to as the second coming of ‘Twist and Shout’, Ringo’s relentless drumming and George’s dark guitar add a gritty drive to the song that The Beatles had never created on record before. Paul’s enthusiastic backing vocals, too, add to the energetic power of the song. But the highlight of the tune is John’s stunning vocals – like ‘Twist and Shout’, he screams the lyrics with such persistent stamina. And that is what makes the song for me.

3. ‘Long Tall Sally’

Also originally by Little Richard, The Beatles’ cover of ‘Long Tall Sally’ is one of the band’s rawest rock’n’roll moments! Like with number 5, Paul’s impressive vocal performance is the high point of the song – amazingly high-pitched and rock’n’roll, they completely contradict the melodic ballads that Paul is stereotypically known for. The two guitar solos (played by John and George, respectively), too, are wonderfully gritty, and John’s rhythm guitar at the end is awesome…

2. ‘You Really Got A Hold On Me’

A Smokey Robinson cover from With The Beatles, the slow soul of ‘You Really Got A Hold On Me’ is in contrast to most of the songs on this list. But it is, yet again, the vocals that make the song. John’s vocal performance is exquisitely soulful and impassioned, conveying the emotion of the song perfectly. Fitting flawlessly alongside George and Paul’s parts, the band’s chemistry is on full show here.

1. ‘Twist And Shout’

‘Twist and Shout’ is unarguably one of The Beatles most powerfully raw songs. John infamously lost his voice after recording the iconic vocals, and you can hear the band’s adrenaline throughout the song! Recorded in merely one take, John’s rough, intense vocals practically epitomise rock’n’roll. And the guitar, bass and drums are such impressively energetic, especially when the fact that it was recorded at the end of a 12-hour session is taken into account. In a way, the song – the final track on Please Please Me – foreshadows the chaos, the cultural changes and (more) great music that The Beatles were still yet to bring to the world…

What are your favourite covers by The Beatles? Be sure to tell me in the comments!

My Ranking Of The Beatles’ Movies

the beatles movies

One of my favourite things about The Beatles is their movies. They’re not cinematic masterpieces, or anything, but they have a certain loveable charm about them. Watching their movies has become something of a ritual for me, and I’ve loved them ever since I’ve been a fan!

So today, I thought I’d rank The Beatles’ movies in order, from least-favourite to favourite. Of course, this is only my opinion. But anyway…

5. Magical Mystery Tour (1967)

MMT_poster

Paul made a lot of good decisions in the late-’60s. Like Sgt Pepper, or his distrust of Allen Klein. Magical Mystery Tour was not one of these. The film has the honour of being the only Beatles film I dislike.

The movie makes no sense, whatsoever. I’m still yet to work out what the wizards are about – did they plan the mystery tour, or are they there for no reason at all? And what about the “view” during the ‘Flying’ sequence? What filmic purpose does the stripper fulfil? Who are the people on the bus supposed to be? I presume much of the comedy consists of The Beatles’ inside jokes, but as the viewer is not privy to these, they are left to wonder what on Earth is going on. The movie’s considerable lack of a storyline, however, is the film’s most serious downfall. This does not help the consistency of the film, and much of, if not all, of the scenes seem to have been filmed for the sake of it. Its incoherent & amateurish atmosphere made it quite cringeworthy to watch in parts, and I found it to mostly be a product of badly-made self-indulgence.

There are, however, some highlights. I’ve always loved the ‘Blue Jay Way’ song sequence, for the wonderfully-psychedelic camera work, and the fact that the choreography in the ‘Your Mother Should Know’ scene actually worked is pretty cool, too. And, of course, the music is simply wonderful – boasting tracks like ‘I Am The Walrus’ and ‘Fool On The Hill’ – and the accompanying album is perhaps one of The Beatles’ best. However, I felt the positives were somewhat outweighed, and that its status as “one of the most expensive home movies ever” is justified.

4. Let It Be (1970)

lib

I really like Let It Be. The Beatles must be the only band to have such a fly-on-the-wall documentary featuring such a seminal part of their history behind them, and for that, I’m very grateful!

There is no denying that the film is incredibly difficult to watch in parts. Over its course, you watch the band fall apart before your eyes. You see Paul become more domineering, and more desperate to keep The Beatles alive. You see George become increasingly disillusioned with the band. You see the affect that John’s heroin addiction at the time was having. And oh, I felt so much pity on poor Ringo, who’s clearly fed up with the other three’s almost-constant fighting.

However, the good moments are really good. Classics like ‘Two Of Us’, ‘Across The Universe’, ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ and ‘Oh! Darling’ – and even tunes like ‘Octopus’s Garden’ – are created within the film, and watching their evolution is fascinating viewing. And of course, the last 20 minutes of the film consists of the famous Rooftop Concert, one of the most iconic moments in music history. The Beatles’ live performance is stunning, especially considering that they’d been confined to the studio for the previous three years. The magic between the four is enthralling to watch, and the reactions of the surrounding residents are incredibly interesting, too. I find it sad that the only way you can watch the film currently is on bad-quality bootleg, though it’s a must-watch for any Beatles fan!

3. A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

ahdn

A Hard Day’s Night is arguably the best Beatles film. Rotten Tomatoes ranks it as the fifth best film of all time, and it has been credited with inventing both the mockumentary and the music clip. It has also been said to have influenced the way that movies and music performances were filmed, too. The Beatles’ humour is at its sharpest and wittiest, their music at its most joyfully poppy and the band at the height of their teenage-orientated success.

The Beatles had never acted before A Hard Day’s Night, but there are so many great moments within the film. My favourite is perhaps this scene featuring George – the humour is so sarcastically cynical and deadpan, and it’s absolutely hilarious! Other favourites of mine include the scene in which John plays with a toy boat in the bath (so ridiculously silly that it actually works) and the scene where The Beatles visit a club, and the concert at the end of the film. The movie’s influence on music clips is also clear to to the modern viewer – the various techniques used in the ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ sequences make for a swift departure from miming the songs, which was commonplace at the time. The faux-documentary presentation of the storyline also invented the “mockumentary”, and the irony and sheer ridiculousness of some of the band’s antics clearly influenced future films, such as This Is Spinal Tap. And of course, the music is great, too. The movie’s accompanying album of the same name was the only Beatles album to consist entirely of Lennon/McCartney songs, and though they are still reasonably poppy and “people-pleasing”, it’s clear that The Beatles were beginning to become the influential pop-culture icons they were to end up.

I had the pleasure of seeing A Hard Day’s Night in a cinema, last year, in HD and surround sound. It was a truly amazing experience, and I discovered a new love for the film. Perhaps the only reason it isn’t higher in my ranking is that it lacks the nostalgia that 2 & 1 have attached with them, for me.

2. Help! (1965)

beatles-help-poster

Help! – The Beatles’ second foray into the film industry – is not technically as good as A Hard Day’s Night. The humour isn’t quite as intelligent, and there’s a faint junket vibe wafting around it. However, I’ve always loved it.

The film, at various points, almost leaps off the screen in its vibrant technicolour. The Beatles’ apartment (furnished with a modernist aesthetic still considered stylish today), in particular, is displayed in comically bright hues of green, blue and orange. When an Eastern cult – the central villains of the movie – attempt to douse Ringo in their sacrificial paint, a river of red spills over the image. The stunning whites of the Swiss Alps glint in the ‘Ticket To Ride’ sequence, and the blue, sunny skies of the Bahamas provide contrast. Leading heroine’s Ahme’s costumes are shown in shades of rose-pink, turquoise and glimmering silver. The innovative and influential filming of scenes such as the ‘Another Girl’ song sequence feature a hint of proto-psychedelia, highlighting the changing times. The Beatles’ music featured in the film shows the end of their early era, predicting the changes that would come with the soon-to-follow Rubber Soul. The movie includes tracks like the folk-rock genius of ‘You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away’, the keyboard-driven rock of ‘The Night Before’, the beautifully guitar-driven ‘You’re Gonna Lose That Girl’ and, of course, ‘Help!’ itself, and the A-side of the accompanying album is one of my favourites of all time. And whilst the humour isn’t quite as intelligent as that of its predecessor, A Hard Day’s Night, the movie certainly has more than its fair share of witticisms and proto-Python skits. Some wonderfully-funny one-liners stemmed from the script, and of course, the entire film itself is a product of satire. It’s hilarious!

Help!, all in all, is a ridiculously funny and influential movie, showcasing some of The Beatles’ best tunes and foreshadowing their future direction. It was my original favourite Beatles film, and I must have watched it more than twenty times over the past two years!

1. Yellow Submarine (1968)

Beatles_Yellow_Submarine_move_poster

Yellow Submarine, in my opinion, is something that the other Beatles films aren’t; a cinematic masterpiece. And though the band were barely involved with it – only featuring for a few minutes at the end of the film – it has become my favourite Beatles movie.

Perhaps the most endearing point about the movie, for me, is its animation. Even more colourful than the bouncy technicolour of Help!, and psychedelically surrealistic & wildly chaotic, the movie is still considered mindblowing viewing over forty-five years after its release. Featuring highlights like the bold pop-art of the ‘Only A Northern Song’ scene, the darting flapper-throwback of the ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’, the contrasting minimalism of the ‘Nowhere Man’ scene and the futurism of the ‘It’s All Too Much’ sequence, the film is unarguably one of, if not the, most beautiful films of all time. The music, too, is exquisite – though much of the film consists of previously-released masterpieces such as ‘All You Need Is Love’ and the aforementioned ‘Nowhere Man’, the original songs are mostly darkly psychedelic, creative gems, including ‘Hey Bulldog’ and (the also aforementioned) ‘Only A Northern Song’ and ‘It’s All Too Much’. The humour, though overshadowed by the extraordinary visuals and music, is also stunningly funny. Many of the jokes consist of Beatle-themed puns, which any Beatles fan will appreciate, though many of the other jokes are wonderfully witty and sharp. The movie is clearly a product of its era, centring around a message of peace, love and good music. Some may argue that this is a negative, though I disagree. In a way, it is such an essence of its time that it hasn’t dated at all.

Yellow Submarine is a deserved classic. Innovative, mindblowing and a work of art in a way the other Beatles films are not, it is an exquisite piece of film history. The film was my first Beatles movie, and I’ve loved it ever since.

What’s your favourite Beatles film? How would you rank them? Be sure to tell me in the comments!

Making Mixtapes…

The disappearance of mixtapes is sad, in my opinion. Making someone a YouTube playlist of their favourite tunes is a nice gesture, but it doesn’t seem to have as much thought and effort behind it. Plus, nothing beats listening to “physical” music.

So, in keeping with my mixtape-ish mood, I thought I’d make just that! Of course, for the sake of the Internet, a YouTube playlist will have to do, but anyway… And in keeping within the general theme of this blog, my mixtape will consist of all the songs from the ’60s and ’70s that are most important to me. So, here goes…

‘I’m Only Sleeping’, ‘Happiness Is A Warm Gun’, ‘Here There and Everywhere’, ‘You Never Give Me Your Money’, ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps (Anthology 3 Version)’ & ‘Long, Long, Long’: The Beatles

Revolver

‘I’m Only Sleeping’ is perhaps my most important Beatles song. I first heard it in late 2013, and was captivated by its psychedelic, lazy vibe, unlike anything I’d ever heard before. But in August 2014, I was listening to Revolver on vinyl, and the song came on. I felt a love for the music that I’d never felt before, and I realised just how special it was. I’d called The Beatles my favourite band for over a year prior, but it was only then that I knew what it meant…

‘Happiness Is A Warm Gun’ is my current favourite Beatles song. I love how, in under three minutes, it covers the history of rock’n’roll. Stretching from psychedelic imagery to Zeppelin-esque hard rock to a doo-wop parody, plus one of John’s best vocal performances, it’s definitely one of The Beatles’ best!

‘Here, There & Everywhere’ was one of John’s and Paul’s favourite Beatles songs, and it’s my favourite Paul-penned song. It has such a delicate vibe to it. The vocals from all parties are hypnotically beautiful – not to even mention the drums, and bass… A wondrous song!

‘Long, Long, Long’ & the Anthology 3 version of ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ are both folky, George-written tunes from the White Album era. The former has long been a favourite of mine. In contrast to the cacophony of ‘Helter Skelter’ before it, it’s a beautifully peaceful tune, with the wonderful guitar, organ and drums among its highlights. The latter song is my favourite version of the tune. Whilst I love the official version, with its Clapton-played lead guitar, there isn’t much better than the gentle acoustic guitar and the shimmery organ of the Anthology 3 version, for me…

‘My Generation’, ‘The Real Me’, ‘I’m Free’ & ‘See Me, Feel Me’: The Who

Thewho-therealme1

Though I love the musical work from each Who member on ‘My Generation’ (John Entwistle’s bass, in particular!), my favourite part of the song is the lyrics. Where I live, among the mainstream media’s favourite pastimes is criticising anyone under the age of 30. ‘My Generation’, like the generations before who listened to the song, made for a good antidote to their criticism & generalisations.

‘The Real Me’ is my favourite Who song at the moment. Like most of their tunes, the guitars/bass/drums/vocals are amazing – one of my favourite things about the band is how each band member was really good at what they did. The perfect opener to one of my favourite Who albums, Quadrophenia!

‘I’m Free’ & ‘See Me, Feel Me‘ are both from Tommy, my other favourite Who album.The former is a rocker, with a standout rhythm guitar performance from Pete Townshend. It’s only recently that I began to listen to it more “in-depth”, but since I have, it has quickly become a favourite. The latter in contrast, was one of my original favourites. Roger Daltrey’s falsetto vocals and Keith Moon’s drums during the “listening to you” chorus, in particular, make the song a very deserved classic…

‘Stray Cat Blues’, ‘No Expectations’, ‘Under My Thumb’, ‘2000 Light Years From Home’ & ‘Midnight Rambler (Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out version)’: The Rolling Stones

their satanic majesties request

‘Stray Cat Blues’ & ‘No Expectations’ are from The Stones’ 7th album, Beggar’s Banquet. I’ve been listening to ‘Stray Cat Blues’ almost exclusively for the past few days. It’s edgy; it’s hard; it’s great! The instruments and vocals are all awesome, and I love it. ‘No Expectations’ is another favourite. Brian Jones’s slide guitar on the song is one of the last things he did with The Stones. It’s beautiful, and only proves Brian’s musical genius.

‘Under My Thumb’ & ‘2000 Light Years From Home’ are from my favourite Stones period, the mid-’60s. Despite the horribly misogynistic lyrics, I love ‘Under My Thumb’. The fuzzed bass and stabbing guitar are great, but the highlight of the song is definitely Brian’s marimba riff. And ‘2000’ is my favourite song on The Stones’ album that everyone loves to hate, and I love to love: Their Satanic Majesties Request. The mellotron, the keyboards, the guitar & the vocals bring a song by a primarily R&B band to sound more like Pink Floyd… Probably my favourite Stones song!

My dad introduced me to Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out, and ‘Midnight Rambler’ is perhaps my favourite song on the album. I love its rawness. But the most special bit about it, for me, is the cry of “Paint it black, you devil!” at the end. Dad and I joked about it for months, and continue to do so…

‘Venus In Furs’, ‘I’ll Be Your Mirror’, ‘White Light/White Heat’, ‘I’m Waiting For The Man’ & ‘Sunday Morning’: The Velvet Underground

All_Tomorrow's_Parties--I'll_Be_Your_Mirror

‘Venus In Furs’ was my original favourite Velvets song. I remember being captivated by the cacophony of violas, guitars and drums the first time I listened to it. To this day, it’s one of my very favourites. I tried to cover it whilst busking earlier this year, with less-than-successful results…

It was only recently that I realised the beauty of ‘I’ll Be Your Mirror’. I never really liked Nico’s songs on The Velvets’ debut, The Velvet Underground and Nico, and ‘Mirror’ is one that she sings. It was only after listening to Beck’s cover of the song for his Record Club project that I realised how beautiful the song is. I particularly like the guitar part!

‘I’m Waiting For The Man’ is one of the rockier songs on Nico, yet is just as great. After the beauty of ‘Sunday Morning’, it’s refreshingly hard and punk-esque. I’ve always loved the song, and continue to do so today!

‘Sunday Morning’ was the song that introduced me to The Velvets, and perhaps the first non-Beatles song to have an impact on me. After hearing a cover of it on one of our favourite shows, my mum played me the song. And so began my love of a wonderful band…

‘White Light/White Heat’ is the title track of The Velvets’ second album. The songs are less “beautiful” than The Velvet Underground and Nico, but are no less experimental. It’s a tough, distorted avant-garde rock tune, and its influence on punk rock is easy to hear…

‘The End’, ‘L.A. Woman’, ‘Alabama Song (Whisky Bar)’ & ‘People Are Strange’: The Doors

TheDoorsTheDoorsalbumcover

‘The End’ & ‘Alabama Song’ are from The Doors’ self-titled debut. ‘The End’ is often regarded as one of The Doors’ masterpieces, and for good reason! Jim Morrison’s lyrics are some of his best, and the mysterious, psychedelic vibe that floats throughout the song is magical. The ending, with Jim’s infamous Oedipal spoken word section and rhythmic usage of the f-bomb, is also intriguing and helps create a magnificently climactic ending to the album. ‘Alabama Song’, in contrast, is a cover, but I love it all the same. Jim’s vocal performance on the song is one of my favourites, and I love Ray Manzarek’s pulsating, off-beat organ!

‘L.A. Woman‘ is the first song I can remember. One of my first memories is of my parents playing the song, and of being appalled once being informed that the song included the word ‘damn’! The album of the same name was in high rotation during my childhood, too. And now that I’m older, it has since become one of my favourite songs…

‘People Are Strange’ has always fascinated me, ever since I first heard it last year. The song was such a departure from any Doors stuff I’d heard before, at that point. Perhaps my favourite part of the song is the guitar, though the piano and, of course, the vocals give it quite a different vibe. It’s quite an understated song, and I like it a lot!

‘Welcome To The Machine’, ‘Interstellar Overdrive’, ‘The Gnome’ & ‘Wish You Were Here’: Pink Floyd

PinkFloyd-album-piperatthegatesofdawn_300

‘Welcome To The Machine’‘Wish You Were Here’ are both from, well, Wish You Were Here. The former is the song that introduced me to Floyd, and what made me a fan. I remember listening to the song last year – its hypnotising synths, the swirling vocals. It completely blew my mind, and I remain in utter awe of it. And ‘Wish You Were Here’ speaks for itself, really… The acoustic guitar that runs throughout the song is beautiful, and I love David Gilmour’s vocals, too. It’s easy to see why it’s perhaps Floyd’s best-known song!

‘Interstellar Overdrive’‘The Gnome’ are both from Pink Floyd’s debut, and the only album with input from Syd Barrett, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. ‘Interstellar Overdrive’ is an edgy, almost-overwhelming psychedelic cacophony. A favourite of mine since watching a video of Pink Floyd performing it live in 1967 with their notoriously-incredible stage show, I find the combination of experimental guitars, organs and drums captivating! ‘The Gnome’ is perhaps not a Floyd masterpiece. However, I’ve always loved the song, and it never fails to make me smile. My favourite part of the song is Barrett’s lyrics – they’re quite simple, and they almost read like some kind of whimsical fairytale, which I love!

‘Get It While You Can’: Janis Joplin + ‘Piece Of My Heart’ & ‘Turtle Blues’: Big Brother and the Holding Company

Janis_Joplin_cover

Whilst Pearl is not my favourite Janis Joplin album, it was the one that introduced me to her work. And ‘Get It While You Can’ is my favourite song on Pearl. Much like the rest of the album, it features a prominent organ part, which adds an almost psychedelic element to the song. And of course, Janis’s vocals are amazing!

‘Piece Of My Heart’ & ‘Turtle Blues’ are both from my favourite Joplin-fronted album, Cheap Thrills, by Big Brother and the Holding Company. ‘Piece Of My Heart’ not only features yet another amazing Janis vocal performance – but the guitar is great, too! The guitarists in the band – Sam Andrew and James Gurley – were ridiculously good, and I have a huge appreciation of them, as a guitarist myself. ‘Turtle Blues’, too, is one of my favourites. Janis’s vocals again go without saying, and the piano is awesome! One can only imagine what Janis would have gone on to do…

‘Dazed and Confused’, ‘Misty Mountain Hop’ & ‘Tangerine’: Led Zeppelin

Led_Zeppelin_-_Led_Zeppelin_III

For a while, I thought of Led Zeppelin as a bit overrated. Then I heard ‘Dazed and Confused’. I listened attentively to Jimmy Page’s “weeping” guitar; John Paul Jones’s almost-mysterious bass; John Bonham’s thrashing drums; Robert Plant’s vocals, which I consider to be some of his best. And I’ve loved Zeppelin ever since.

I don’t know what it is about ‘Misty Mountain Hop’, but I really like it. I love the keyboard riff that runs throughout the song, and the drums, and the lead guitar, and the vocals, but even then… Maybe it’s the memories – it’s on Led Zeppelin IV, my first Zeppelin album, and it’s also featured in Almost Famous, a film I love. Either way, though, it’s a great song!

And I took my ‘tangerinetrees99’ from ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’, but you can imagine my pleasure when I discovered that Zeppelin had a song named ‘Tangerine’, a few months ago! I was even more pleased after listening to the song itself (one of the band’s folkier tunes), which I enjoyed. It’s now one of my favourites…

‘All Day And All Of The Night’ & ‘Sunny Afternoon’: The Kinks

Kinks_AllDay

‘All Day And All Of The Night’ was among my top-5 songs of all time for ages, and still remains one of my favourites. The fuzzed guitar riff, Ray Davies’ snarly vocals and Dave Davies’ flashy solo all make for a great rock’n’roll classic! It was perhaps this song that turned me onto the harder rock which I now also enjoy.

‘Sunny Afternoon’ is my current favourite Kinks song. I read someone comparing it to ‘I’m Only Sleeping’, the other day, and I can certainly see the similarities. The lazy vibe, paired with the bassline and another great Ray Davies vocal performances, make for a great song!

‘Suffragette City’: David Bowie

ZiggyStardust

‘Suffragette City’ is my favourite Bowie song right now, and the first one I consciously enjoyed. Throughout last year, the song would often appear on iTunes Radio, and I immediately liked it. The guitar, in particular, is great, and I can’t help but smile whenever I hear it!

‘Gloria’: Patti Smith

PattiSmithHorses

‘Gloria’ begins with understated piano chords, but soon turns into an exciting, protopunk epic – the perfect opening to Smith’s highly acclaimed debut, Horses. Although I only listened to the song for the first time about a month ago, its impact on me is huge. ‘Gloria’ is what hooked me on Horses, and what inspired me to check out the rest of Patti Smith’s work. She has quickly turned into one of my favourite artists – for her unique brand of alternative rock, for her fascinating punk poetry. And as a female musician myself, she is one of my biggest influences, alongside Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth and Courtney Barnett.

‘God’: John Lennon

JLPOBCover

‘God’ is my current favourite John Lennon song. I absolutely adore John’s vocals, and his piano – whilst not overly complicated and intricate – is perfect for the song. Ringo’s drums are great, too. And though I certainly believe in The Beatles, the lyrics are such typical John, and I love them all the same…

‘What Is Life’: George Harrison

What_Is_Life_(George_Harrison_single_-_cover_art)

‘What Is Life’ was the first George solo song I ever heard. Way back when I got George and Ringo confused in pictures (!), I absolutely adored the song and would turn the radio up really loud whenever it came on. A couple of years on, I still find that guitar riff utterly irresistible!

‘Our House’ & ‘Helpless’: Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

Crosby,_Stills,_Nash_&_Young_-_Deja_Vu

‘Our House’ was my favourite song for the year before I discovered The Beatles. It was always played on the radio, and the melody, in combination with the piano, must have appealed to me. It was only recently that I began to realise how great the song is, and it has since become one of my favourites, again…

‘Helpless’, however, is my current favourite Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young song. Written and sung by Neil Young (who has one of my favourite voices, ever), it’s a wondrously beautiful, yet somewhat sad, ballad. I particularly love the lead guitar and, of course, Neil Young’s vocals.

‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’: Bob Dylan

dylan knockin on heavens door

‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’ is far from my favourite Dylan song. But it has an important place in my musical history, for it was the first song I learnt to play on guitar. Guitar has since become a huge part of my identity. There is little more I enjoy than playing my instruments, and playing has given me a greater understanding and love of the music I’d begun to like beforehand. So thanks, Bob!

And there. Here’s the entire playlist mixtape:

If you were making a mixtape of the songs most important to you, what would you put on it? Be sure to tell me in the comments!

Some more awesomely random little-known Beatles factoids…

The Beatles in Japan, 1966 (Image credit: albumorientated.wordpress.com)

(Image credit: albumorientated.wordpress.com)

You might remember a post I did a little while ago called ‘Some Awesomely Random Little-Known Beatles Factoids‘, which I had a lot of fun writing. Of course, new little-known Beatles factoids are being uncovered almost every week. And not to even mention the sheer amount of them, too. So today, I thought I’d write about some more Beatles facts! Here are some more of my favourites…

  • The Beatles’ famous show at Shea Stadium in 1965 was attended by more than 55,000 people. Among that crowd, though, were two future Beatle wives: Linda Eastman and Babara Bach.
  • Many of The Beatles’ songs had rather bizarre original titles. Perhaps the most famous of these is ‘Scrambled Eggs’, the first title of ‘Yesterday’. ‘Love You To’ was originally ‘Granny Smith’, and ‘I Want To Tell You’ was ‘Laxton’s Superb’ – both named after types of apples, ironically. ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ was called ‘Mark I’ at first. My favourite, though, is probably the working title of ‘It’s Only Love’ – ‘That’s A Nice Hat’!
  • The street signs for the real Penny Lane and Abbey Road were regularly stolen. To stop this from happening, the signs was painted onto nearby buildings instead!
  • In the late ’60s, an guy nicknamed ‘Magic Alex’ hung out with The Beatles. He claimed that he was going to create a number of inventions for the band, none of which were ever made. Among these proposed products were wallpaper speakers, an X-ray camera, paint to make things invisible and a flying saucer. Yes. A flying saucer.
  • ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’ is one of The Beatles’ longest songs. But only 14 different words are sung during the entire song!
  • Apparently, in the mid ’60s, Keith Moon approached The Beatles in a London club. He asked them, “Do you mind I join you?” Ringo replied, “Pull up a chair.” Keith then said, “No – can I join you?” Ringo laughed, “No, we’ve already got a drummer!” Keith would play with John and George in 1969 as a part of the Plastic Ono Supergroup.
  • George, who was friends with Led Zeppelin, attended a birthday celebration for John Bonham. Bonham wanted a photo with George. But George, knowing Zeppelin’s penchant for playing practical jokes, smashed part of a cake in Bonham’s face to prevent being joked on first! Bonham then chased George and threw him into the pool…
  • The only ever cancelled Beatles concert was in November, 1963, at Portsmouth in England, because Paul fell ill. A few concerts were played sans John in early 1963, and Ringo was infamously replaced for a few dates by Jimmy Nichol after he got sick with tonsillitis.
  • Ringo trademarked his name in 2011.
  • The first cover of Rolling Stone featured a picture of John from the film How I Won The War!
  • George wrote ‘Here Comes The Sun’ in Eric Clapton’s garden one sunny morning, instead of going to a bunch of meetings at Apple.
  • At 6AM on the 21st of April, 1967, The Beatles played a demo copy of Sgt Pepper on full volume out of Mama Cass Elliot’s apartment window. The surrounding residents opened their windows and happily listened, totally unaware that they were hearing new Beatles music.
  • Some of the ideas tossed around for the title of Revolver included ‘Pendulums’, ‘After Geography’ (punning on The Stones’ recent album Aftermath), ‘Four Sides of the Circle’, ‘Abracadabra’, ‘Beatles on Safari’, ‘Fat Man and Bobby’ and ‘Magic Circle’.
  • Paul’s first instrument was a trumpet! Receiving it from his dad on his 14th birthday, Paul soon gave it up after realising he’d get calluses on his lips…
  • John wrote the most Beatles songs, with 72 tunes in The Beatles’ discography being mainly written by him. Paul mainly wrote 70, George wrote 22 and Ringo wrote 2. 18 songs were written by John and Paul together.
  • People who were considered for the cover of Sgt Pepper but weren’t included in the final product include Jesus, Hitler and Gandhi.
  • For years, The Beatles were banned in the USSR. To get around this, though, fans would transfer the songs from smuggled bootlegs onto old X-ray film, and then would sell them on the black market to the many eager teenagers who wanted to listen to rock’n’roll.
  • It was Stu Sutcliffe, not John, who came up with the ‘Beatles’ name first. He got the idea from “Beetles” gang in the 1953 film The Wild Ones. However, it was probably John who replaced the ‘ee’ with an ‘ea’, as a pun on the word ‘beat’.
  • Alternative band Death Cab For Cutie are named after the song of the same name, performed by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band in Magical Mystery Tour.
  • In 1963, George met again with Decca Records A&R man Dick Rowe, who had rejected The Beatles the previous year. After realising his giant mistake, Rowe asked George if he knew of any good bands. George raved to him about this unsigned London band which he’d been going to see called The Rollin’ Stones. Rowe promptly signed this band, and the rest is history…
  • On the night of The Beatles’ American debut on the Ed Sullivan Show, there were no reported crimes.
  • In 1967, The Beatles bought five Greek islands for 95,000 pounds. The islands were going to become a commune for the band and their entourage. A few months later, however, the islands were sold again, after The Beatles tired of the idea…
  • Ringo originally wanted to be a hairdresser!
  • John’s favourite album was supposedly Safe as Milk by Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band. Paul was also a fan.
  • And a Beatles song is played somewhere in the world every 15 seconds!

Have you got an interesting Beatles fact? Be sure to tell me in the comments!