McCartney 3, 2, 1

You would think that with all the streaming world has to offer, you would rarely find yourself thinking, “There is literally nothing worthwhile to watch.” While Paul McCartney shares some of the same stories and tidbits he has shared in the two billion other interviews he has done (really, he just can’t resist sharing the creation of “Yesterday” one more time and can you blame him?), the new Hulu series McCartney 3,2,1 does not fall under that category, offering enough meaningful content to keep even the most devout of Beatles fans interested (well, unless you’re one of those whiny types who is just never content with anything, ever, in which case try some therapy or see if buying a villa in Florida makes you happy — spoiler! it probably won’t).

The format of McCartney 3, 2,1 is straightforward: each episode features a dissection of a Beatles song (or two…or three) at a mixing board with producer Rick Rubin. Stories and memories ensue, with a few common threads coming through — here are some of my favorites:

The pure love and joy the music brings to Paul. He’s a fan just like the rest of us.

Listening to a playback of “Back in the U.S.S.R.”, he is dancing, smiling, and shouting, “Whoo!” He loves it. During one episode, he discusses the process of becoming a Beatles fan again. After the pain of the breakup (“I thought I would be in this band forever,” he reflects), it took several years for him to be able to listen — and play live — Beatles songs again. Yet, once he did, he remembered and appreciated what a good little band they were, which becomes more and more evident as McCartney and Rubin take apart select Beatles tracks.

One such track is “And Your Bird Can Sing,” which John Lennon bluntly wrote off as “another horror” and “another one of my throwaways.” Yet, at the mixing board, showcasing the different parts that make up the whole, the artistry and musicianship of the band becomes evident and, as Rubin points out, a listener can hear the energy and excitement the band generated playing together in the studio — an energy and excitement that is delightfully infectious, even if you’re Paul McCartney listening to your band some fifty-odd years later.

Creating music was (and still is) a simple, natural process for the band.

During many of these mixing board moments, Rubin will ask Paul if the different components required hours of laborious rehearsals before recording. The answer is simple: no. As the main songwriters, John and Paul would present the basic song to the rest of the group (and George Martin) and together they would develop the finished product, each contributing. Listening to “And I Love Her,” Paul remembers how they felt the beginning of the song just needed something. George played the opening notes, and the song was complete. “I couldn’t imagine this song without that…It was good, you know,” Paul muses. Similarly, Ringo’s militaristic drumming of “Get Back” took the track in a completely different direction.

Paul also explains how he learned to play the piano — a simple process that begins with finding middle C and creating chords. The band lacked formal training, yet it obviously didn’t matter. Their innate ability to create came, in part, from their unique bond with one another.

Paul has great affection for John, Ringo, and George…

While some may consider Paul’s re-telling of his memories rose-colored and self-serving (how’s that down payment for that villa coming?), I find him to be incredibly endearing and generous.

The first tune featured in the series is “All My Loving.” Paul is quick to point out the driving rhythm guitar — something John was equally proud of. (“‘All My Loving’ is Paul, I regret to say…Because it’s a damn good piece of work…But I play a pretty mean guitar in back.”) The discussion then moves to the differences in their personalities: John was more defensive and cynical, while Paul was optimistic and diplomatic. You see it famously in two Beatles tracks: “Getting Better” (Paul: It’s getting better all the time; John: It couldn’t get much worse) and “We Can Work It Out” (Paul: We can work it out; John: Life is very short, and there’s no time for fussing and fighting, my friend). Paul attributes their success as a songwriting partnership, in part, to these differences and reflects on what made them so different, namely their upbringing. Paul came from a close-knit, loving family, while John was essentially abandoned by both of his parents. While he was raised by a loving aunt and uncle in a comfortable suburban setting (certainly the most prosperous of the four Beatles), he also knew his mother lived close by with his two half-sisters and their father, which had to be difficult for a young adolescent to understand and remain indifferent to.

Ringo was, of course, the last Beatle to join the band, yet his effect on the band is indelible. The band felt complete once Ringo joined; Paul remembers how different it felt from the very first time Ringo played with them. He lifted them up. Cut to Ringo banging away to “I Saw Her Standing There” at the Washington Coliseum during the Beatles’ first visit to the United States, and John is rocking, head bopping, completely enthralled by and feeding off of Ringo’s energy. “He just brought the whole band together,” Paul concludes.

George lived closest to Paul, and they met by chance on the bus ride on the way to school. There was an empty bus seat; George sat down, and they discovered their mutual interest in music. Rubin asks Paul how many other kids on that bus cared about music? “I would guess one…if you were lucky,” Paul answers. Chance – magic – divine intervention – whatever you want to call it – it is incredibly rare to sit on a school bus next to someone with whom you form this lasting connection. Not only do you become close friends but also have a shared extraordinary experience that forever molds you together, and at the end of the day, you have the greatest love and respect for each other. “From the little guy I met on the bus — a little guy with a quiff…He turned to be this very wise man,” Paul says.

The juxtaposition of the guitar and bass on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” is fascinating to listen to in isolation. Reminiscing about the fact that Eric Clapton — not George — played the distinctive solo on the track, Paul observes: “It was very generous of George to give Eric this moment, when he could have had it for himself. But it’s just like, George was very like that. He was very open.”

…Even if he was the Bossy Beatle.

Some of Paul’s memories are, admittedly, carefully framed to downplay this fact. He recalls the use of the piccolo trumpet on “Penny Lane”; the solo includes an impossible high note that the player, David Mason, told Paul was out of the instrument’s range. Paul’s response? Well, you can do it! And he did. What Paul omits from this memory, however, is the fact that he asked Mason to record the solo a second time; George Martin had to convince Paul to be satisfied as the musician had just accomplished an inconceivable feat.

Listening to “Back in the U.S.S.R.,” Rubin seems surprised that Paul played drums on the track. Why? Well, Paul was probably showing Ringo what he wanted him to play on the track, and Ringo just said, “Well, you do it!” He neglects to mention the fact that Ringo actually quit the band at this point, precipitated by Paul’s overbearing direction.

Best butt in the Beatles? Is it not obvious?

At another point, Rubin plays “Another Girl,” an odd choice, as I always found the most memorable part of this song the sequence in the Bahamas from Help!, which clearly points out who had the best butt in the Beatles (ummmmmm, Paul).

“Who played the guitar on that?” Rubin asks.

“I’m not sure,” is Paul’s unconvincing answer. “I’m wanting to say it’s me ’cause it’s bad enough.”

“It’s a bold choice for you to play that,” Rubin compliments.

“Bold mistakes…That’s me. I specialize in bold mistakes.”

Yes, it is you, Paul. You played the guitar solo because you were unhappy with George’s rendition, and George just said, “Well, you do it!”

Yes, Paul was the bossy Beatle, but we still love you anyway.

Paul values John’s opinion — even now.

In some ways, John Lennon’s murder also made him a martyr, certainly at times to Paul (and perhaps George and Ringo, too). He was increasingly seen as the Beatles, the leader of the band (which, of course, he was, but it was also an equal partnership between the four–“How many Beatles does it take to change a light bulb?” George Harrison once quipped. “Four.”). Consequently, it has seemed, at times, that Paul is still competing with the memory and legacy of his dear friend. Yet, he has great love and regard for John, and you see how much Paul values John’s opinion and relishes his praise and respect even now.

Rubin reads Paul a quote about his bass playing: “Paul is one of the most innovative bass players that ever played bass and half of the stuff going on now is directly ripped off from his Beatle period. He has always been a bit coy about his bass playing, but he’s a great, great musician.”

“Did I write that?” Paul asks, laughing.

“That was John Lennon.”

“He never said that to me,” Paul replies — not begrudgingly, just matter-of-factly. And while I find it hard to believe he has never heard that quote or read it, he is genuinely pleased to hear it.

When asked to choose a favorite song he has written, Paul is tempted to say “Yesterday” because he finds its genesis so magical, yet he wants to say, more than ever, “Here, There, and Everywhere,” the beautiful love song found on Revolver that he wrote one day by John Lennon’s pool, waiting for him to be up and ready for a songwriting session. John himself always liked the song, telling Paul, “I like this one.” And that was enough — great praise indeed coming from John Lennon.

Magic.

When asked, “Do you believe in magic?”, Paul responds that he has to, considering the way “Yesterday” came to him.

Magic is a word used often in this series, and it is a word that could be used to describe many aspects of the Beatles’ story. And while in some ways a fitting adjective, the word magic seems too easy. This band worked hard. They had great supporters behind the scenes who encouraged and augmented their strengths and creativity. They believed in and supported each other as friends and bandmates. “The Beatles is over, but John, Paul, George, and Ringo…God knows what relationship they’ll have in the future. I don’t know. I still love those guys! Because they’ll always be those people who were that part of my life,” John Lennon once said.

“That didn’t have to happen,” Paul says at one point. “We could have had five years and gone back to the factory.”

The final scene of the series finds McCartney at the piano, holding the final chord of “A Day in the Life.”

“Yeah. You know, there’s the magic again,” he says with a smile.

Double Fantasy Turns 40

I actually wrote this post in April and never published it. Oops. Happy birthday, John. You can check out Sean Lennon’s interviews with Elton John, Julian Lennon, annnnnnnd Paul McCartney on BBC Radio 2 if you are needing an extra dose of Lennon today! 

I’ve spread my wings a little lately and graduated to Beatles solo careers, spending a lot of time listening to and contemplating John Lennon’s final studio album, Double Fantasy. Both the album and Lennon’s murder turn 40 this year, which is just as much time as Lennon spent on the earth–a harrowing and humbling fact.

The genesis of Double Fantasy is well-known: with the birth of his son Sean in 1975, Lennon retreated from the music world to devote his time and energy to his newborn son. Years later, following a turbulent and transformative sailing trip to Bermuda, Lennon felt creatively re-energized, having written a handful of new songs. The album eventually became a joint effort with wife Yoko Ono, with one of Lennon’s songs being “answered” by an Ono composition, resulting in one critic to wish that Lennon had stayed in retirement and “kept his big happy trap shut until he has something to say that was even vaguely relevant to those of us not married to Yoko Ono.”

The critical response to the album was initially vitriolic before being awarded Album of the Year at the 1981 Grammy Awards, in wake of Lennon’s sudden and senseless murder. This shift in attitude is clearly linked to Lennon’s murder, as memory is in large part tied to emotion, and Lennon’s murder enveloped multiple generations in paralyzing, numbing grief. And for the critics, perhaps it was an apology or a saddening realization of what we once had and would have no more.

Considering Lennon’s solo career, the first two albums, Plastic Ono Band and Imagine, are masterful in their own distinct ways, yet he then faltered and never quite regained the same level of artistry on an entire album. (This is not to say that there are not outstanding compositions and performances on the subsequent albums.) I can imagine an avid John Lennon fan in 1980, eagerly awaiting the release of a new album after a five-year absence and being mildly disappointed. Lennon, the edgiest and most outspoken of the four Beatles who best encapsulated rock ‘n’ roll and all its connotations,  had waited five years to release an album full of songs about…middle age (euuuugh!)–marriage, parenthood, relations between the sexes, which he’d plastered on the front cover by giving half of the album to his wife! At any other point in his life, Lennon would have gagged over such a prospect, but his life had never had the domestic stability and contentment he did in the final years of his life. That fact, coupled with his murder, is what lends the album so much emotional weight and poignancy.

The hopeful, tinkling tones that usher in “(Just Like) Starting Over” are a harsh contrast to the heavy, somber tolling bells at the start of Plastic Ono Band’s opening track, “Mother”, recorded ten years earlier. This telling contrast reveals just how much life Lennon had lived in a decade–shattered and hollow from the abandonment of his parents to a stable cocoon of apparent domestic bliss. “I just gotta tell you goodbye,” he sang in 1970. “It’ll be just like starting over,” he announced jubilantly in 1980. Not only is the song an expression of his love for his wife but it is also a homage to Lennon’s rock ‘n’ roll idols: Elvis, Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran, and Buddy Holly. Unlike Yoko’s contributions, which embraced contemporary influences, Lennon primarily stayed true to the rock ‘n’ roll that he embraced as a teenager.

While “(Just Like) Starting Over” offers a rosy image of the Lennons’ marriage, “I’m Losing You” shows the relationship’s strain and frustration, making it an outlier on the album. It is also the only track that carries Lennon’s famous lyrical and vocal bite. “I know I hurt you then/But hell, that was way back when/Well, do you still have to carry that cross? (drop it!)/Don’t want to hear about it…” Yet all that anger and frustration melts away into the sublime “Woman.” For all her flaws and criticism–sometimes undeserved and often unnecessarily cruel–the beauty of this song and its sincere expression of love for Yoko is breathtaking–literally. It can be difficult to sing along because you can just feel how intense and heartfelt Lennon’s words are, with the knowledge that he was unexpectedly and unjustly ripped from his wife and children lodged firmly in your throat. “Hold me close to your heart/However distant, don’t keep us apart.” I mean, can you even imagine someone writing such a song for you? “Dear Yoko”, on the other hand, pales in comparison, as any song would.

My favorite on the album just might be “Watching the Wheels,” which is reportedly the track that convinced Lennon he could tell the world (or, rather, let Yoko tell the world) that he was making music again. The song is a response to those who criticized Lennon for leaving the music industry to “play house husband.” It’s playful, direct, and insidiously catchy.

“Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)” is, of course, the gentle, loving lullaby for Sean, whose picture adorned the studio during record to remind Lennon of why he was there. “Good night, Sean, see you in the morning,” he whispers in the song’s final moments–and knowing that is all he wanted to go upstairs and say on the night of December 8 just rips your heart out.

I first heard all of these songs on the only John Lennon CD I had as a child: The John Lennon Collection (the cover photograph was taken by Annie Leibovitz on the morning of Lennon’s murder). (The only Lennon composition not included, “Cleanup Time,” has not stuck with me.) I don’t remember grouping the songs as Double Fantasy and not Double Fantasy, but I do remember enjoying the Double Fantasy songs just as much as (and–in some cases–more) than the other tracks–the same way I do now.

Listening to Double Fantasy in its entirety, I am inclined to skip over Yoko’s contributions–not to discount or disrespect her as an artist (although, really, she had no inkling of songwriting or knowledge of popular music until she married John Lennon and only then because of Lennon) but because I simply just don’t care for her music. At all. And while Lennon loved her and indulged her musical endeavors, I don’t subscribe to the view that I have to just because he did.

This all leaves the album where it ended–irrevocably tied to Lennon’s murder. He never intended for it to be his last statement on record, but he was undeniably proud of it at the time. Listening to the album is a reminder of how happy, fulfilled, and excited for the future Lennon was.

“When I was singing and writing this and working with her, I was visualizing all the people of my age group, from the sixties, being in their thirties and forties now, just like me. And having wives and children and having gone through everything together… I’m singin’ to them. I hope the young kids like it as well, but I’m really talking to the people who grew up with me. And saying, ‘Here I am now. How are you? How’s your relationship goin’? Did you get through it all? Wasn’t the seventies a drag, you know? Here we are, well let’s try to make the eighties good, you know?’ ‘Cause it’s still up to us to make what we can of it. It’s not out of our control. I still believe in love, peace; I still believe in positive thinking – when I can do it. I’m not always positive, but when I am I try to project it,” Lennon declared in his final interview, hours before his murder. “And we’re goin’ into an unknown future, but we’re still all here. We still… while there’s life there’s hope.”

Tracks had already been recorded for a follow-up album, and Lennon was planning to tour again. But it wasn’t to be. Lennon, who valued and demanded truth throughout his life, stumbled across the most brutal truth in the end: life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.

The Song That Broke Up The Beatles

As the world adjusts to its new normal, with some finding comfort in innumerable rolls of toilet paper (hey, that’s one for you, nineteen for me) or choosing to purchase cleaning supplies for the first time ever (apparently), I still find contentment, joy, and comfort in the same things, and near the top of that list has always been The Beatles.

I have spent the past several weeks immersing myself completely in their words and music (nothing else sounds good anymore), and I find myself still amazed by the craft and beauty found in so many of the songs. (I think I could use my fingers to count the truly abominable Beatles songs on a single hand.) These songs are undoubtedly part of my DNA at this point, but it is startling to hear a song as if it is the first time and be utterly blown away.

Let It Be has never been a favorite album. (Even with the release of Let It Be…Naked, I wasn’t sufficiently swayed, although the omission of the horrid “Maggie Mae” and “Dig It” is an obvious improvement, and it might contain the best version of “Across the Universe,” a beautiful Lennon composition that never got the production it deserved.) When an editor used Let It Be as an example of a classic record that would receive a full five-star rating, I was appalled and lost respect for that individual’s opinion (although in retrospect, I suppose the Beatles at their lowest ebb is better than 99% of any other musician’s output at any time). Despite the band’s disintegrating relationship, they still managed to produce some astounding songs, but I’ve never really wanted to listen it repeatedly — until now, with the impending end-of-the-world. (But I need the world to not end before Peter Jackson’s film is released. And the final two volumes of Mark Lewisohn’s biography. Is that too much to ask?)

The initial idea behind Let It Be was to show The Beatles rehearsing, recording, and ultimately performing an album of new material in front of a live audience. “Someone mentioned The Colosseum in Rome, and I think originally Paul might have even suggested a bloody boat in the middle of an ocean. As for me, I was rapidly warming up to the idea of an asylum!” John Lennon stated, reflecting on the number of “live” performance options that were discussed before The Beatles finally just went up to the rooftop of their Apple building.

The original intended title, Get Back, was an expression of the band’s desire to “get back” to the simplicity of their old recording days with no studio trickery or hours of overdubbing. The original cover even copied that of their first studio album, which had been recorded in just under twelve hours. The final result: approximately 96 hours of film and 30 hours of music that no one could agree on a suitable production sound (ever). The record was subsequently shelved, and the band returned to the studio to record the superior Abbey Road later that year.

John and George, however, approached Phil Spector to re-mix Let It Be for release. Although Spector did the opposite of the album’s original purpose, adding a female choir and orchestra to four of the album’s tracks, three of the Beatles liked the album’s sound, and it was slated for release, more than a year after its initial recording.

Paul McCartney was upset with the extensive overdubbing that was added to two of his hallmark compositions, and he attempted to have the “raw” (later re-christened “naked”) versions from the Glyn Johns mix placed on the album instead. His request was blocked by the ever-magnanimous Allen Klein (because he “waited too long to ask,” according to Lennon). This was the final straw for McCartney and what ultimately cemented the band’s demise–not to discredit Yoko (please, do not play nice and naive and claim she had no role, it’s delusional and irritating), diverging interests, and sheer boredom. Not only had McCartney lost control over his music–unforgivable in itself–but his voice and opinion were no longer respected. He released his debut solo album, titled simply McCartney, on April 17, 1970 (a controversial date, as it clashed with the releases of both Let It Be and Ringo’s Sentimental Journey) and announced to the world that The Beatles were no more.

Yet it is “The Long and Winding Road,” the song that broke up the Beatles, that I find myself listening to constantly during this time. (When Ringo recorded his drum part for “The Long and Winding Road” on April 1, 1970, he was the last Beatle to attend a recording session. This was, unfortunately, not an April Fool’s joke.) It has never been a favorite; I think I found it too saturated in syrup (maybe a by-product of Spector’s over-production), and it reminded me of Peter Frampton contemplating suicide. Now, though, I cannot decide which version I prefer.

The “naked” version is arresting in its simplicity and bare emotion, and it is clear why McCartney wanted to release this version. (Interesting to note, however, that McCartney has used Spector’s arrangement for many of his live performances. Again, it may have been less that Spector added orchestration and female voices to his song than the fact that he did it without McCartney’s consent and approval. The man likes to control things, understandably so.)

By comparison, Spector’s version does seem over-the-top. Yet, in an over-reaching way, it does augment the song’s emotional weight. And I absolutely love the slight break in Paul’s voice around the three-minute mark: “You left me standing here….” That just might give it a slight edge. Thankfully, in this age of copious takes of Beatles songs being available, one does not have to definitively decide which one is superior.

Paul wrote “The Long and Winding Road” with Ray Charles in mind; Charles cried the first time he heard it. “It’s a sad song because it’s all about the unattainable; the door you never quite reach. This is the road that you never get to the end of,” McCartney has said of the song’s melancholy. And that is perhaps what makes it the perfect soundtrack to these uncertain times–even if it is the song that broke up the world’s greatest rock and roll band.

David Crosby: Remember My Name

Before I went to the movie theater to see The Joker, I was supposed to see another movie…but never did. And so, for Christmas this year, the local library gifted me with the news that a copy of David Crosby: Remember My Name was ready for pickup! (Thank you Ben Franklin for your genius idea of public libraries.) 

David Crosby is a fascinating and engaging character, with a life and career to match, thus making him the perfect subject for a documentary that is humorous, heartbreaking, and honest. 

The film opens with Crosby’s lively re-telling of seeing John Coltrane perform with the most intensity in a puke-green-tiled bathroom in Chicago. Music is Crosby’s lifeblood: when Crowe poses the choice of having no music in his life for extreme joy in his home and personal life, Crosby does not hesitate to choose a life filled with music. Music, he feels, is the only thing he has to offer. And while his choice may seem selfish, the camera shows how torn Crosby truly is in the next shot: leaving his beautiful home and family, whom he truly loves, for a six-week tour, from which he may not return because of his health issues. “I hate leaving,” Crosby declares.  

Crosby lists his single regret as the time he has wasted “being smashed” and wants more time. Time, he declares, is the final currency, and how does one spend it? The film both explores how Crosby has spent his time and chooses to spend whatever remaining time he has left. 

Crosby’s childhood was marked by what he describes as a dysfunctional family — a loving mother, a “crusty”, unaffectionate father (award-winning cinematographer Floyd Crosby, who won a Golden Globe for his work on High Noon) who never once told his son that he loved him, and an older brother, Ethan, also a musician who introduced Crosby to ‘50s jazz, sending him “right down the rabbit hole.” (Ethan committed suicide in the late 1990s. His death is not discussed.) Crosby was a disciplinary problem and was kicked out of every school he ever attended (a foreshadowing of his membership in musical groups); in his words, he was a chubby, lonely kid who desperately wanted attention.  

With the massive success of The Byrds in the mid-1960s, Crosby finally gained the attention he had always coveted. Yet, Crosby admits, that success coming at such a young age impaired him from realizing how truly lucky he was. Cut to Crosby observing The Beatles answer banal questions in a 1966 press conference. “Who is the young man with the lengthy haircut to your right rear?” a reporter asks, and Crosby immediately hides. “That’s Dave, isn’t it? Dave Crosby, a mate of ours,” John Lennon replies. “Ahoy matey!” Crosby recalls hanging out with and learning from the Beatles—learning how to be a rock star because “they knew how.” The pure joy and admiration in his eyes as he watches them is clear. 

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No Russian hats and mustaches yet: Crosby in his famous wide-brimmed hat as a member of The Byrds. Photo by Henry Diltz. 

Crosby describes his young self as “young, cocky, arrogant…and a total caboose to my dick.” (Quotes like these — uttered so nonchalantly and honestly — are part of what make this film — and Crosby — so entertaining.) Driving along Sunset Boulevard, Crosby and co. pass the Whisky a Go Go, where Crosby recalls the origin of his dislike of The Doors and Jim Morrison. Morrison approached Crosby and pulled down his shades, telling him, “You can’t hide.” Crosby, irritated, was high on LSD and naturally “teleported to the other side of the room” and never forgave Morrison for his brash comment. 

After being fired by The Byrds (the scene is creatively re-told in animation form), Crosby retreated to his other love, sailing. He bought a schooner for $25,000 — loaned to him by Peter Tork — and disappeared into the sea. Sailing, for Crosby, is transformative and restorative. While his senses are bombarded by the filtering of information on land, Crosby claims that every sensation is louder, clearer, and brighter while sailing, not to mention more beautiful and magical. “The ocean is totally real,” Crosby observes. “Opposite of Hollywood.” 

The film crew then travels up to Laurel Canyon. Crosby recalls being the first musician to move there, promptly followed by other musicians and thus transforming it into the place for musicians to gather and exchange ideas. They go into the Canyon Country Store, where Crowe asks Crosby what he wishes people really knew and understood about this place. 

“It’s not like we hung out here,” Crosby replies. “We just got groceries here. Where do you get coffee here?” he then asks — like any other ding dong tourist lost in a grocery store. Uhhh, Croz, I don’t think he was talking specifically about the store. 

“Morrison, what a dork,” he says, pointing at the pictures of The Doors (who, to his knowledge, never lived in the Canyon) decorating the walls of the small store. 

The film is littered with moments like these — Crosby visiting sites important to his story: the house where he was fired from the Byrds, the Canyon Country Store, and the house that inspired “Our House,” in the kitchen of which Crosby, Stills, and Nash was born in a matter of minutes. 

Later, Crosby visits Kent State University, reflecting on the May 4 shootings. Crosby’s anguishing cries in the song’s fading moments — “Why? How many more?” etc — add emotional weight to the powerful protest song (one of the handful songs written by Neil Young that I can admit to really liking). His anger at the Sergeant who swore to have never fired his weapon is palpable. The song—and what it represented—made Crosby proud that he was finally able to stand up for what he believed in. (Crosby’s firing from the Byrds stemmed from, in part, Crosby’s political comments at the Monterey Pop Festival about President Kennedy’s assassination. His bandmates did not feel that it was appropriate for “pop stars” to voice political opinions.) 

Graham Nash has said that David Crosby went to identify the body of his girlfriend Christine Hinton, who died in a car accident, and returned “never the same.” For Crosby, Christine’s death was debilitating. Her death left an emptiness, a huge hole that he wanted to fill, yet he had no tools to deal with his grief except for drugs and alcohol, an addiction that marred Crosby’s life and career for years. 

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Oops — it’s Nash, Stills, and Crosby posing for their eponymous debut album in 1969. Photograph by Henry Diltz. When the band returned a few days later to correct their error, the house had been torn down — a fitting metaphor for the band itself. 

When Crosby, Stills, and Nash were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997, Crosby’s speech was both heartfelt and simple. He thanked his wife and the two men standing next to him for being “his brothers”, continually offering love and support and enabling him to create the music that he had. (I think Stills was ready to cry at that point.)

“I can’t tell you how great it was to be in that band,” Crosby declares, while also stating that CSNY is a completely separate band that should be inducted into the rock and roll hall of fame on their own, even if “just to make Clapton jealous.” And he is right — CSNY is a completely different band. I think Graham Nash put it best in his autobiography when he said that he, David Crosby, and Stephen Stills watched The Beatles in A Hard Day’s Night and decided, “I want to do that.” That being in a cooperative and charismatic band. Neil Young, on the other hand, watched Bob Dylan be a total, selfish jerk in Don’t Look Back and decided that’s what he wanted to do. He waltzed into CSN’s world when it suited him and then called on “artistic freedom” when he wanted out, with no thought or consideration to how that might affect anyone else. It’s like he’s still sulking about being told his voice wasn’t commercial during the recording of the first Buffalo Springfield album and having his songs sung by other band members. Oy, shocker, Einstein. I digress.

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One of these is not like the others… 

 

The film shows some home footage of the trio lounging in a backyard somewhere, discussing rehearsals for a tour or an album, I’m not sure. Crosby is relaxing in a hammock when Stephen Stills (bad teeth and all) gets THIS CLOSE to his face and says, “I’m not gonna cop out an inch to fear and he walked out two days in a row you f—ing hypocrite, YOU PISS ME OFF.” Then he storms off. I don’t know what that was all about (Neil Young?????), and I don’t think it was supposed to be funny, but I was laughing out loud–and so was Crosby, ca. 1969. (Maybe not the best idea seeing as Stills was ready to take out some hippies at the Big Sur festival for making fun of his fur coat or something.)

And while these men were once so close, Crosby states that forty years later it changed from a band of brothers with similar creative visions and goals to “just turn on the smoke machine and play the hits” because they could barely stand one another. Crosby’s statements about Neil Young’s girlfriend (gag me) Daryl Hannah (seriously?????) became public (he thought they were “off-the-record” — no excuse —  if that’s what you really think, just say it) and seared a rift in the band. The band’s final performance was a dismal rendition of “Silent Night” at the National Christmas Tree Lighting at the White House in 2014.

Crosby admits that his biggest mistake is getting angry. The adrenaline hits his system and bam, instant asshole (hey, his words) — just add water and stir. Yet, there is no real discussion — aside from the passing mention of the fall-out over his comments about Daryl Hannah (for which he belatedly apologized) — of what has inspired such volatile comments about Crosby from his once best friend Graham Nash. (I gather it may be for Crosby’s attitude toward Nash, who like Young, left his wife of decades for a younger woman. Crosby meanwhile has remained faithful to his wife of some thirty-odd years now. I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’.) The apparently irreparable break is disheartening.

Crowe reminds Crosby of what he said when they first met in 1974: “My father is 74, he says in the long run the only thing that counts is whether you got any f—ing friends. All the rest is bulls–t. He’s had 74 years to look. I’m inclined to agree with him.”

Crosby admits that he probably made that up–because his father never had any friends.

“What happened to your friends?” Crowe asks.

“That’s really hard,” Crosby answers. “I still have friends. But the main guys I made music with really dislike me.”

Why don’t you make the situation with Neil right and show up on his doorstep? Crowe presses.

“I don’t even know where his doorstep is,” is Crosby’s simple reply.

Yet — back to where the film started — Crosby has chosen to spend his time now making music, even if without these once important men in his life.

The DVD has deleted scenes and extended interviews, some of which I wish had been included in the final film. Chris Hillman tells of what a truly kind friend David Crosby is; Hillman, the scrawny, young kid in The Byrds always felt as if Crosby watched over and looked out for him. McGuinn recalls the joy of meeting Crosby for the first time. Crosby discusses connecting with his first-born son, who was adopted as a baby and now plays with Crosby in his band. Crosby’s wife remembers the agony over Crosby’s liver transplant. Crosby gets on his iMac to tweet in the middle of the night. The man has had such a full and interesting life the film could have gone on for a few hours more and no one would be bored. Remember My Name is an unvarnished and human portrait of one of music’s greatest figures and stories.

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An impromptu, iconic photo by Henry Diltz (who makes a great appearance in the film). 

And that’s it for 2019, folks. More next year…maybe.

Favorite Beach Boys Deep Cuts

The Beach Boys’ discography is so massive, yet so often overlooked. By 1969, the band had released an album entitled 20/20 to commemorate the release of their 20th album (including greatest hits packages; it was only their 15th studio album). In the early 2000s, when I was blossoming ever-so-gently into a raging Beach Boys fanatic, I devoured those twofer CDs like candy on Christmas morning (my family’s traditional meal–you only live once, or so I’ve been promised). It can be a daunting task to undertake the band’s catalog as one migrates from the casual, greatest hits fan into the abyss of gimme all your tracking sessions, Brian. As the 1960s turned into the 1970s, the band fell from the grace and favor of the record-buying (and listening) public at large, leaving so many gems buried.

With so many tunes to choose from, I developed a very basic criteria for what could be included on this list: you shouldn’t be able to find the song on  The Beach Boys’ Greatest Hits, Vol. 1: 20 Good Vibrations or The Beach Boys’ Greatest Hits, Vol. 2: 20 More Good Vibrations  or Pet Sounds. (There is one exception on this list…but this is my blog, I can break my own rules.) No “In My Room.” No “Warmth of the Sun.” No “I’m Waiting for the Day” (take six). While those songs may not be instantly recognizable to many, I consider that Beach Boys for babies, and I am the Nanny in the white-and-green striped tights with killer purple sneakers kicking you outta the nursery. Let’s go.

1. “The Lonely Sea,” Surfin’ USA, 1963

Watch Brian sing this track in a film you would only watch if you are an obsessive Beach Boys fan–Girls on the Beach. Not that I obsessively waited for this film to be on TV so I could record it or anything… 

Pet Sounds doesn’t exactly have the corner on soul-wrenching tunes in the Beach Boys’ catalog. Take this track from the Beach Boys’ second album as a case in point. Stunning. Haunting. Beautiful. Written and sung by a 20-year-old Brian Wilson. Yeah, he earned the right to stay in bed for three years.

2. “Cherry, Cherry Coupe,” Little Deuce Coupe, 1963 

Talk about a jam. Dennis is trying so hard on this song, and I love it. Most of my car knowledge comes from Beach Boys lyrics, but I have no idea what 80% of the lyrics of this song even mean. “The wildest short around is my cherry, cherry coupe.” What??? “Door handles are off, but you know I’ll never miss ’em/They open when I want with the cellunoid system.” (Yeah, Mike Love’s nasal tones call it a “cellunoid” system. I know.) Sounds awesome, but I really have no idea.

(Side note: Little Deuce Coupe, a collection of “hot rod” songs, is considered an early example of a concept album. But what is more amazing is that it was released a mere month after Surfer Girl. The band released three–!!!!!–albums in 1963 alone. Is it any wonder why Brian suffered a nervous breakdown?)

3. “Girls on the Beach,” All Summer Long, 1964 

I include this song as an example of how even early Beach Boys’ songs that dealt with “summer and fun and summer and summer and fun and cars” that weren’t particularly thought-provoking or inspiring were still harmonically breath-taking. Also, Dennis gets a little vocal solo, so there’s that.

4. “The Lord’s Prayer,” The Beach Boys’ Christmas Album, 1964 

I first heard The Beach Boys’ Christmas Album by repeatedly checking out the cassette tape from the local library year-round. This track was tacked on the end of side two (I think), and I was so disappointed when I purchased the original album on vinyl and it wasn’t included. I was even more disappointed when it also was not to be found on Ultimate Christmas. It was originally found on the flip side of “Little Saint Nick.” What other band could so seamlessly pair a tune about Santa’s hot rod with such a heartfelt, gorgeous rendering of “The Lord’s Prayer”?

 5. “Good to My Baby,” Today!, 1965 

In a word: TUNE. On the surface, it’s just a good little rock ‘n’ roll song. Take away the vocals (as the above video does), and you can begin to appreciate the complexity of Brian’s music. So much of The Beach Boys’ music is like that: effortless on the surface, its sonic complexity easily overlooked. It’s how we separate the Mike Loves from the Brian Wilsons.

6. “Please Let Me Wonder,” Today!, 1965

Today! is such a great album. While the first side is full of upbeat, infectious rock ‘n’ roll numbers, “Please Let Me Wonder” opens the introspective second side. It’s one of my favorite Beach Boys songs, and it features one of Brian’s most beautiful, sweetest vocals.

7. “Kiss Me Baby,” Today!, 1965 

Kiss a little bit, fight a light, kiss a little bit, woah baby…

Oh my gosh, words can’t even do justice to the beauty of this song. Even Mike doesn’t mess it up. Enjoy the acapella version in the video posted above.

8. “Girl, Don’t Tell Me,” Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!), 1965 

Dripping with the Beatles’ influence (most obviously “Ticket to Ride”), this is a great little tune, far superior to its A-Side (Ba-ba-ba-BARF-Barabra Ann…no, it’s a good song for what it is, really) and featuring a rare (at that time) lead vocal from Carl Wilson.

9. “Surf’s Up,” The SMiLE Sessions, 1967 

None of the versions of this song found on the five-disc SMiLE Sessions come close to the simple beauty of Brian’s television performance. The narrator of the program observed: “Here is a new song—too complex to get all of the first time around. It could come only out of the frontman that characterizes today’s pop music scene. Brian Wilson, leader of the Beach Boys and one of today’s most important pop musicians, sings his own ‘Surf’s Up.'” He goes on to describe the song as “poetic, beautiful even in its obscurity…a symbol of change” in the world of pop music. Eyes closed, Brian’s heartfelt delivery is unparalleled. How different the world of pop music might have been had this song and the rest of SMiLE had seen the light of day.

10. “Let the Wind Blow,” Wild Honey, 1967 

“Let the Wind Blow” is a somber ballad comparing love to nature, with the singer urgently pleading that, as elements of nature, his love might be a part of his life forever.

11. “Busy Doin’ Nothin’,” Friends, 1968 

A chill song in which Brian sings directions to his house and describes what keeps him busy while he waits for you to finally show up (and wow, is he busy). Once you do finally arrive, you’ll find him “in my house somewhere, keepin’ busy.” Has to be in my top ten Beach Boys songs, ever. I’ve been singin’ it at least three times in a row every night before going to bed for the past few days.

12. “All I Wanna Do,” Sunflower, 1970

This is another chill song, and I have to award credit to Mike Love for not pulling deep bass or nasal tones and inducing vomit like he usually does. He actually sings, and his vocal tone suits the ambiance of the song. I always see Mike practicing meditation when I hear this song, though. I think there may be a clip of that in Endless Harmony or some other Beach Boys documentary. Oh well, I just have to close my eyes harder, I guess. (“Tony and I think that if you close your eyes you can see a place or something that’s happening. It’s like being blind but because you’re blind you can see more. Don’t you think it’s a spiritual kind of thing?” “I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. I closed my eyes. Didn’t see a thing.” Can’t stop, won’t stop.) Still, a good song.

13. “Forever,” Sunflower, 1970

So I’m going away, mmmm, but not forever…

Quite simply one of the most beautiful and romantic songs ever written. Some might even call it a “rock ‘n’ roll prayer.” I hope you’ve never had to listen to John Stamos sing this song; it’s a gross offense to sugar and spice and all things nice–especially a genuinely soulful singer, Dennis Wilson. It’s equal parts heartwarming and heartbreaking to see how Brian watches the video montage of his younger brother with pride and sadness. Give that man a hug–or a kiss on the head like his little brother once did. 

14. “Feel Flows,” Surf’s Up, 1971

When Brian retreated into a cocoon of drugs and isolation, Carl stepped in and became the de facto leader. He was the beating heart of that band and, sadly, with his death, the Beach Boys became the fractured band we have today. “Feel Flows” (along with so many others of this period, including “Long Promised Road” also from Surf’s Up) is a fine example of Carl’s blossoming songwriting and production skills. It’s a jam.

15. “Lookin’ at Tomorrow (A Welfare Song),” Surf’s Up, 1971

Sounding more like The Beatles than The Beach Boys, Al (yep, little Al Jardine) woefully sings about job-hunting. But in a haunting, trippy way. But I’ll be coming home tonight/And everything will be alright/And we’ll be looking at tomorrow…You go, Al.

16. “‘Til I Die,” Surf’s Up, 1971

“I’m a cork on the ocean,” are the opening lines to “‘Til I Die,” which Mike Love once annoyingly described as “the last great Brian Wilson track.” (He probably also screamed that this song was NOT BEACH BOYS FUN! It’s a special brand of fun, you know.) That opening image perfectly encompasses Brian’s despair. It’s such a beautifully depressing song. “I’m a leaf on a windy day. Pretty soon I’ll be blown away,” Brian concedes. Yet, amazingly, he ultimately triumphed. What a guy.

Sometimes I just lay in bed and sing this song. That’s not a red flag or anything.

17. “I’ll Bet He’s Nice,” The Beach Boys’ Love You, 1977

Oh, this song. (Oh, this album.) All three brothers share the vocal responsibilities, with Brian and Dennis splitting each verse and Carl singing the bridge (oh-oh-oh man). The Moog synthesizer abounds amidst this aural paradise, lending it a quirky edge. Brian loves this song and so do I.

Well, that’s a good start. What’d I miss?

See you tomorrow, Hal!

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P.S. In the spirit of Christmas, let me implore you to be a Brian Wilson in a world full of Mike Loves.

P.S.S. The appropriate response when Mike Love asks if you like his beret or just opens his mouth in general:

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Seeing Brian Wilson Live

A few weeks ago, my husband and I went to a Brian Wilson concert. Not entirely by choice, mind you, as anyone who really knows me (and Brian Wilson) would know that this would never be my number one choice of how to spend an evening. Of course, I love Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys, second probably only to The Beatles, but I am long over concert-going, and Brian Wilson has never been–and never will be–a performer.

Following our trend of going to events where we are the youngest people in attendance, we go to see Brian Wilson, seated amidst of white, gray, balding, and in denial. The orchestral versions of Beach Boys hits you could probably hear in an elevator provided the perfect backdrop for this scene. A white piano sat center-stage, ready for its maestro–and right on time, Brian stepped onto the stage, with considerable assistance from an aide.

Although our tickets read that the show was for Pet Sounds Live, the show opened with a mini-greatest hits set (“California Girls”, “Little Deuce Coupe,” etc.) with a handful of deep-enough cuts to keep die-hard fans appeased and generic fans befuddled. Then Brian abruptly announced that the band would be playing Pet Sounds in its entirety.

Pet Sounds is, of course, an incredible work of art. As the band said at the close of the show, they were incredibly honored to play such transcendently beautiful music and as an audience member, it was wonderful to hear, even if Brian’s own involvement was limited. He has a talented band that does justice to his musical genius, but he appears to sit at the piano just to have somewhere to sit, and when he does sing, it isn’t exactly singing. “Don’t talk,” he told us, talking more than singing. “Put that head on my shoulder.” Considering the emotional, physical, mental, and drug abuse this man has suffered for most of his adult life combined with his age, however, it is understandable that he would no longer resemble the beloved voice found on record.

At the conclusion of “God Only Knows,” the audience gave Brian a standing ovation. “Thank you. Thank you,” he repeated. “Ladies and gentlemen, please be seated.” So polite and eager to keep the setlist moving.

The final track is, of course, “Caroline, No.” “It’s so sad to watch a sweet thing die,” Brian sang. (Or did he? Maybe it was his vocal counterpart–his son-in-law. I can’t remember.) And before we even hear the barks of Banana and Louie, Brian is again taken away.

Brian quit touring with the Beach Boys at the end of 1964 due to the strain and pressure it put on him and to devote his focus to writing, producing, and recording. Brian was never very comfortable on stage. “Something’s off. It’s being up there,” Brian confides to his brothers in Love and Mercy after speculating that maybe he’s just “Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs!”

(Need I remind you again that I am 1000% cuckoo for Love & Mercy? It is such a great movie, the best biopic, and all the awards to Paul Dano and John Cusack for such mesmerizing performances. So many good things in this film, including Paul Dano in white pants and Vans. Go ahead, drop another bobby pin. Oh yeah.)

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(If my husband is reading this, I have to defend myself. This is NOT the screen cap I said I needed to make a point in my post. This is what is referred to as aesthetically pleasing.)

“You don’t need me up there, looking like a jerk. I’ll be better back here at home, making music,” Brian pleads with Carl and Dennis. “I just wanna be home.” I get you, Brian. I get you.

And when we see Brian in the studio a few minutes later, starting work on Pet Sounds, we know he is right. Brian is an incredibly sensitive and vulnerable person, crushed by his father’s disapproval of the beginnings of “God Only Knows” in an earlier scene, yet he is so dynamic, articulate, and forceful (in a gentle way) about how he wants his music to sound.

“Brian, I think you might have screwed up here,” groovy Carol Kaye tells him at one point.

“Really? Let me see.”

“You’ve got Lyle playing in D and the rest of us are in A major.”

“Yeah, that’s right.”

“How does that work? Two bass lines in two different keys?”

“Well, it works in my head…I think it’s gonna work. Let’s try it.”

And when it does indeed work, Carol Kaye can’t help but smile. And Brian smiles, and it’s such a beautiful moment in the film. It really struck me the first time (out of 800) that I saw the film in theaters because it’s just a perfect encapsulation of who Brian is. He is the music, and he belongs at home or in the studio, creating music.

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We came home from the concert and watched Love and Mercy the next day. And I was struck again by how much heart and soul Brian put into Pet Sounds, at how in his element he was in the studio, and I wondered again, what was it that broke Brian so? Was it the lukewarm reception to Pet Sounds (stateside, at least), the band’s reluctance to indulge SMiLE, the drugs, his father, mental illness, Satan in the form of Eugene Landy, or a combination of all of the above? I don’t know. But it is so sad to watch this once dynamic, creative individual be reduced to a position he always hated–being on stage, spending more time watching the crowd hopelessly and wiping his hand across his forehead than actually singing. Again, all of the abuse this man has endured has taken its toll; I’m not criticizing the quality of the performance, despite Brian’s limited involvement, I’m just wondering if this is the best place for Brian.

One of the things that comes out of Love and Mercy is the triumph of Brian’s spirit and his redemption in both his music and the escape from Dr. Landy. He falls in love again and returns to creating music. And while he has created some great music in the past twenty-odd years, I have to wonder if the time for Brian Wilson to be performing live has passed, not only for his discomfort but also his health. Can’t he just be home, creating music and spending time with his family?

When Brian re-appeared for the encore (my husband was skeptical that he would be physically able to), the final song the band performed was “Love and Mercy,” which is the signature Brian Wilson track. Created under the duress of Dr. Landy, Brian’s caring, sensitive spirit still shines through the music. “A lot of people out there hurtin’ and it really scares me,” he sings, and you know he means it. He is such a genuinely humble, supremely sensitive human being, and you can feel that in his music. I had to express gratitude for the kind, gentle soul of Brian Wilson that evening.

P.S.

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“Who cares what Mike says?”

So many great lines in this movie.

P.S.S.

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Yeah, I get you, Brian. 1000%.

P.S.S.S. Coming up next: Favorite Beach Boys deep cuts. Be thinking of your favorites! A happy side effect of seeing Brian Wilson live is the inability to listen to anything but Beach Boys music 24/7.

Thoughts on Imagine

If you’ve been worried about me and my fragile mental state since my last post from more than a month ago (whoops), you were right to worry. Since that time, I’ve developed a new obsession because, you know, I was starting to run low on those…

(If you weren’t worried about me at all, that’s okay, it doesn’t hurt my feelings. I’ve been accused of being overly sensitive, but it’s really not true. Unless it’s the wrong time of month, of course.)

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New life motto right there.

My newest obsession is a BBC/PBS Masterpiece show called Poldark, and I may have accidentally marathoned the first three seasons on Amazon Prime in about two weeks. Oops. We’re going to have to talk about it soon, so if you haven’t watched it yet, get ready!

I’ll give you a moment to wipe the drool from your mouth….

Meanwhile, John Lennon’s Imagine was re-released last month. This version is reportedly the ultimate release, and you won’t need to buy another copy of Imagine ever again. Fans had their choice of a single CD, a double CD or vinyl with the second disc featuring “elements mixes”, outtakes, demos, and alternate takes, or the ultimate edition with four audio discs (same content of the double CD edition plus more outtakes etc.), two blu-rays, and a hardcover book. Being quite fond of my old, battered vinyl copy of Imagine, a surprise gift from my husband when we were still dating, I simply opted for the double CD, decreeing it sufficient for my needs. Trying to cut back, y’know.

In the liner notes, engineer Paul Hicks states that Yoko Ono wanted this release to achieve three goals: first, be totally faithful and respectful to the originals, second, be sonically clearer overall, and finally, increase the clarity of John’s voice because, in her words, “It’s about John.” Which, of course, is absolutely true. For a man who (amazingly, inexplicably) hated his voice, his voice–in its genuine, bare-soul beauty–bears the greatest impact on Imagine (and every other Lennon work, I’d argue).

With this remastering of Imagine, that voice is clearer than ever before, making the album that much more powerful and enjoyable. Lennon once described Imagine as “Plastic Ono with chocolate coating”, referring to his first official solo venture, Plastic Ono Band, where, fully indulged in Primal Scream Therapy, he unleashed pent-up emotions about his upbringing, class, religion, and those darn Beatles.

But you know what? I like chocolate coating. It’s the food group at the bottom of the food pyramid in my world. I’ve been thinking about which Lennon album is my favorite (when I’m not, you know, thinking about Captain Poldark) or which is the best, and I just think Imagine might be it, chocolate coating and all. And I think it not only has to do with his voice and the lyrics but also that Imagine encapsulates John as a flawed, beautiful human being so well.

The title track is iconic, rightfully so, and has to be THE John Lennon track. Painting a portrait of a beautiful Utopian world, the lyrics are fraught with irony. “Imagine no possessions,” sings the man currently residing in what can only be described as a mansion sitting on 70-some acres. But there’s also the irony inherent in Lennon’s personality, which could alternately be loving and combative. We see this duality in “Jealous Guy,” where he plaintively seeks forgiveness (“I didn’t mean to hurt you/I’m sorry that I made you cry”) and tries to explain the cruel side of his personality (“I’m just a jealous guy…watch out”). John’s gentle, vulnerable voice makes this beautiful song transcendent.

Yet, Lennon bites on this album, too. He pokes fun at religious hypocrisy in “Crippled Inside,” and he leaves no survivors in “Gimme Some Truth.” The cutting lyrics, of which it is impossible to pick a single favorite line, attack politicians and their games. “Just gimme some truth,” Lennon snarls. His voice is front and center on this track, lending less volume to the backing track and emphasizing the power and emotion of his voice. It’s such a great and relevant track. And George Harrison’s slide guitar solo is pretty sweet, too.

John also poked fun at Paul’s cover art on Imagine as well…

Perhaps the harshest and most controversial track on the album is “How Do You Sleep?”, where Lennon directs his diatribe toward his former bandmate, Paul McCartney. “The only thing you done/Was Yesterday/And since you’ve gone/You’re just another day,” he sings, knowing where to hurt McCartney the most. McCartney, who sought, coveted, and needed Lennon’s approval, would be supremely hurt by such a severe dismissal of his musical accomplishments and talents. Lennon was responding to attacks he heard on Ram. McCartney later admitted that a few lines were digs at John and Yoko (“Too many people preaching practices”, “You took your lucky break and broke it in two”). The difference between the two is telling of their individual personalities: McCartney’s lyrics are allusive; Lennon’s lyrics are direct, leaving the listener to imagine absolutely nothing. Yet, the final product we hear on the album is less offensive than some of what was rehearsed. Visiting the studio, Ringo Starr witnessed some of the more bitter lyrics and told Lennon, “That’s enough, John.” For his part, George Harrison, again playing a mean slide guitar, had no visible reaction to the song, as seen in the Imagine film:

(Klaus Voorman looks pretty miserable as well.)

Paul was right to not respond–lyrically, at least–to the track, as there was never really any competing with John’s lyrical prowess and wit. It is important to note how the two men did eventually reconcile; by the time of Lennon’s death, the two had resumed their loving, brotherly relationship.

On Imagine, we hear Lennon’s plea for a better, more peaceful world, his unabashed, borderline obnoxious love for his wife (“In the middle of a bath, I call your name…Ohhhhh Yoooooooko!”–it should be annoying, but it’s kind of endearing and lovely), his admittance of his shortcomings (“I’m just a jealous guy”), and his venom for hypocrisy in all its forms, even if that means attacking a dearly loved friend. He is loving. He is angry. He is hopeful. He is kind. He is viciously cruel. He was all of those things, and while he sings of a longing for a better world on Imagine, he ultimately worked diligently to become a better man until his life was senselessly cut short. “He was no angel,” a journalist commented to George Harrison in 1988. “He wasn’t. But he was, as well,” George replied. “Was he?” the journalist challenged. “Yeah,” was Harrison’s simple reply.

Imagine–now in its full remastered glory–is a wonderful reminder of that.

It’s a dog eat dog world, Sammy, and I’m wearing milk-bone underwear: An Anti-depressant Mixtape/Playlist

Blame it on the fact that I haven’t watched any Dark Shadows in months (yes, months) or the fact that I’m only up to my ideal weight if I were 11 feet tall or a complete lack of restful sleep or water retention, but all roads lead to acute depression and apathy. And while I (and you) may really just want to listen to Blue or “Waiting ‘Round to Die” on repeat, that’s not healthy behavior. (Not that I know anything about healthy behavior.) But you (and I) know that music can be a great mood alleviator, miracle aligner, what you will. So, gather ’round and have a listen to this group of songs all-but-guaranteed to pull you out of your funk. Save the marshmallows and chocolate for another day, my friend. (I know they’re the food group on the bottom of the food pyramid, but you need some balance in your life.)

1. ELO – “Mr. Blue Sky”  

Beatles influence (huh-huh-huh-huh): you’re doing it right.

Oh, to be a little Baby Groot and dance around the world without a care.

2. Crosby, Stills, & Nash – “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” 

Opening track on your debut album: you’re doing it right.

Like, if the album ended after this song was over…I wouldn’t even be mad. I’d still snatch up every copy.

And as far as pet peeves go, number one behind all other drivers on the road would be individuals who choose to talk at any point during this song but especially the last ninety seconds or so. This is especially irksome when I have my headphones on. Like, why can’t you read my anti-social behavioral cues? Don’t interrupt my religious experience here. Oh va, oh va! Doo doo doo doo doo, doo doo doo doo doo doo/Doo doo doo doo doo, doo doo doo doo!!!!!!!!!

3. Harry Nilsson – “The Puppy Song” 

I don’t know, I just want to go outside and roll around with a dog.

And I’m not, even, like a dog person.

The power of music, man.

4. Ricky Nelson – “Raincoat in the River” 

Don’t act like you’re too cool to listen to Ricky Nelson ‘cos you MOST. DEFINITELY. ARE. NOT!! I SAID NO NO NO NO!!!!!!!!!!!!

This is a little-known gem (in my wobbly universe where I don’t have a very firm grasp on reality, anyway) hidden on the slightly forgettable Love and Kisses album. But boy oh boy, if this song does not give you the will to live, I don’t know what will. SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP ASAP.

Oh, and remember how in my last post I talked about how you have to accept people for who they are and love them anyway? That’s what I have to remind my husband of when he finds me dancing to this song wearing my sleep mask before bedtime. Don’t forget I gave up the chance to marry Marlon Brando or Ricky Nelson in the next life to marry you! You have to love me just as I am!!

Now the rain’s been drippin’
Drip drop a drippin’
Every day you’ve been away
Now the rain is stoppin’
No more drip drip droppin’
You’re back to stay
That’s why I say… 
I’M GONNA THROW 
My raincoat in the river
GONNA TOSS 
My umbrella in the sea 
The sun’s gonna shine like never before
It ain’t gonna rain, gonna rain no more
Now my baby’s come back to me

I may or may not have a complete dance routine for this song. Ricky’s voice just moves me.

Also, I hope you deeply (DEEEEPLY) appreciate how the last photo in the above video shows Ricky’s best side. Er, I mean back side. All of Ricky’s sides are the best sides.

5. Bee Gees – “You Win Again”

“They’re back to win your hearts and your minds with their new single, ‘You Win Again.’ Ladies and gentlemen, welcome…The Bee Gees!” 

ALWAYS THE SAME.

(If you don’t understand that reference, you clearly haven’t watched In Our Own Time enough times/as many times as me. Get on task!)

Not only is this song totally awesome and life-affirming, but this whole era of Bee Gees just might feature all of my style goals in the form of Robin Gibb (who else?). Confidence personified.

Ok, I can’t watch any more Bee Gees videos tonight. It will lead me down the rabbit hole of total Bee Gees obsession, and it gets worse every time. It’s really something only a cancer survivor would understand.

OH GIRRRRRL 

Thank you for existing, Gibbs.

6. Pulp – “Disco 2000” 

I don’t know, I just think I could sing along to this song all day, every day and never, ever be sad.

Oh, what are you doin’ Sunday, baby? 
Would you like to come and meet me, maybe? 
You can even bring your baby! 
Ooh ooh oh oh ooh ooh ooh
Ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh

Remember that scene in that one episode of Life on Mars (the original, superior UK version starring John Simm) where Sam, trapped in 1973, hears a snippet of this song on the radio in the Indian restaurant? No? I guess you haven’t watched that show as much as me either. Keep up, will ya?

7. The Style Council – “My Ever Changing Moods” 

The lyrics of this song are actually quite political and powerful, but what really makes this song an automatic anti-depressant for me is the flawless, tongue-in-cheek video featuring Paul Weller and Mick Talbot in a bike race. I can’t believe there are people on this planet who find it appalling and degrading to the song. How can you not adore this video? Paul Weller’s face with his mouth full of banana at 2:35? Please God, let me live again. It’s the best thing ever.

8. Wham! – “Last Christmas” 

This is another song where the video helps make it so inspiring. But there are also people who don’t like this song or video, and I am here to tell you that those people are wrong.

(Careless Whisper) Maybe next year… 

Gets me every time.

9. Hall & Oates – “Say It Isn’t So” 

Pretty sure this is the song I listened to repeatedly on the morning of my wedding. Does that mean anything, Dr. Crane?

The only downside to listening to this song is the moment when you realize you can’t dance as well as Daryl does with his own silhouette in this video. Life goals right there. You might get really discouraged and sad. Be careful.

Also, how scary is John when he creeps up behind Daryl and points as he sings “SAY”? Really scary and really, really creepy.

10. Peter Frampton – “Show Me the Way” 

Oh my gosh, if you are one of those people who thinks they’re too cool to listen to Peter Frampton, PLEASE GO AWAY. (Uhhhh, why does the above video have 2K THUMBS DOWN? Are you just jealous of PFramp’s awesome chest? Your internet privileges are hereby REVOKED so you can get some professional HELP!!!) But if you donated your copy of Frampton Comes Alive! to a used record store, THANK YOU because I probably bought it. (Nope, I still ain’t sayin’ how many copies I own.)

I just love it when this song comes on the radio. I just have to…wonder if I’m dreaming. I feel so unashamed. I can’t believe this is happening to me!

Ahhh, heaven. This must be what it is like.

11. The Monkees – “Pleasant Valley Sunday” 

What a great pop song.

I could recommend watching The Monkeys as an anti-depressant, but I have learned to accept that it is an acquired taste for some not-so-blessed individuals.

And I may be in the minority opinion here (don’t know, don’t care), but I really think Season 1 is a better, more entertaining television show than Season 2, where Micky plugged his hair into a socket and walks around wearing a psychedelic tablecloth for most of the season. But the music? Definitely superior, and this is a great example.

12. The Beatles – “She Loves You” 

This whole playlist could be Beatles songs. The sound of my beating heart. My will to live.

But I had to pick an early, frenzied Beatlemania song because there is so much energy and joy in those early songs. People who stick their nose up at pre-Rubber Soul Beatles just might actually be worse than the demonic souls who don’t even like the Beatles. Get HELP!!!!!

13. The Beach Boys – “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” 

Any version will do, but I am personally endorsing the stereo mix found on the 30th anniversary box set. Why? Because we like you, and Brian sings the bridge, therefore resulting in minimal Mike Love.

Pure bliss.

HIDDEN TRACK: BJ Thomas – “As Long As We Got Each Other” 

Remember when CDs would have hidden tracks? That was super annoying. I’m glad it’s not a thing anymore. Not that I really know because I don’t buy that many CDs. Anyway…

I love having this song stuck in my head. Quality of life improved tenfold.

I know there are many more songs that could qualify for this playlist, but my sleep mask is calling to me…

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10 Albums

As a quick footnote to my last post, I have recently been pondering at what point I should become concerned and/or seek medical attention (NOT from Dr. Julia Hoffman, of course) when I find myself resonating with sentiments expressed by David Collins? (He only tried to kill his father…twice? Has been possessed a handful of times, made friends with ghosts, been accused of being an insane liar…totally respectable!)

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(That point has passed. You went past go, Brittany, but you did not collect $200. )

Moving on…

I was recently “tagged” on social media to post about ten albums that have had an impact on me. This task was particular difficult for me because it’s easier for me to think of individual bands and musicians who had an impact on me, as I have this obsessive personality that requires me to listen to everything they ever recorded and consequently makes it hard to narrow down which album has had the most impact. But hey, let’s give it a whirl…

10. Graham Nash, Songs for Beginners (1971) 

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I am a simple man
And I play a simple tune
Wish that I could see you once again
Across the room
Like the first time

I’ve said it before, and I guess I’ll say it again: Graham Nash is undoubtedly my favorite member of CSN. Compare Nash’s first solo effort to those of the other members (which aren’t too shabby, don’t get me wrong–I love CSN), and you’ll hear why. The album is full of raw, emotional songs about Nash’s breakup with Joni Mitchell and fervent cries for political activism, but each song is so carefully crafted to pop/singer-songwriter perfection. I listened to this album a lot as a teenager–no regrets.

9. Pink Floyd, Wish You Were Here (1975)

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Remember when you were young? 
You shone like the sun
Shine on you crazy diamond 
Now there’s a look in your eyes
Like black holes in the sky 
Shine on you crazy diamond 

As a teenager, I had a vague notion of Pink Floyd but didn’t really become interested (translation: obsessed! I can’t have interests like normal people, remember?) in the band until I discovered Syd Barrett and his music. “I’ve got a bike/You can ride it if you like/It’s got a basket, a bell that rings and/Things to make it look good/I’d give it to you if I could, but I borrowed it.” Ughh, love that stuff. Everything about that era of the band is so unique–the sounds, the lyrics, even the delivery of the lyrics…nothing like it in the world, methinks. Ice creeeeeam, tastes good in the afternoon! Ice creeeeeam, tastes good if you eat it soon!

But the fact of the matter is that the band endured and made more music without Syd Barrett than they did with him. The band could not have happened without Syd Barrett, but it also could not have lasted with him at the helm. Still, the band found ways to acknowledge his importance and pay tribute to him in some of their most famous works, Wish You Were Here included. (Even though Roger Waters has stated, in his usual stubborn way, that only one song off the album is really about Syd, but I find his influence permeates so much of the album, albeit if not always so forthrightly as “Shine on You Crazy Diamond.”) During the recording of the album, a shaven, overweight Syd Barrett visited the studio, shocking his former bandmates and reducing them to tears. The emotional weight this album carries is palpable in its lyrics and music.

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How I wish, how I wish you were here
We’re just two lost souls
Swimming in a fish bowl
Year after year
Running over the same old ground
And how we found
The same old fears
Wish you were here

When I bought the album on CD (that used to be a thing, you know), I specifically ordered a version that also included the early Pink Floyd singles–“Arnold Layne,” “See Emily Play,” “Candy and a Currant Bun,” “Apples and Oranges”–as bonus tracks, making it the perfect CD for me, as it melded my favorite non-Syd Barrett Floyd album with some of my most favorite Syd Barrett songs.

8. Pulp, Different Class (1995) 

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You will never understand
How it feels to live your life
With no meaning or control
And with nowhere left to go.

(Now I’m wondering why I didn’t re-create this album cover at my wedding? Uhh, because those are some ugly flowers, that’s why, the second voice in my head says.)

Oh, Jarvis.

What can I say? I spent a good portion of my life obsessed with and worshipping that guy. And for good reason.

Pulp spent a long time (what, fifteen years or something) in the music business without much to show for it. (And that would be because some of the early Pulp music is really, really not very good. Just trust me on this one.) With Different Class, Pulp’s recognition and success reached a whole new level. They had top ten hits, nationwide fame, and Jarvis Cocker–the guy who once fell out of a window trying to impress a girl with his Spider-man impression and spent months in a wheelchair as a consequence–was suddenly a sex symbol at 32.

Different Class is full of some of his best songwriting, dealing with themes of sex (Jarv’s fave), the class system, drugs…yet all set to a flagrantly POP beat. There’s the scathing, vengeful “I Spy” (in which Jarvis advises that you should take him “seriously, very seriously indeed ‘cos I’ve been sleeping with your wife for the past sixteen weeks”), anthemic call to arms for all the mis-shapes, mistakes, misfits, the depressing come-down at “Bar Italia” “where other broken people go”, the infectious sing-a-long “Disco 2000” about the one that got away, and the ultimate ATTACK on the clash of the social classes “Common People” (really a shame how the video/single omits the final, most biting verse). And then there’s “F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E.”, “Live Bed Show,” “Underwear,” “Monday Morning,” “Pencil Skirt”….

It’s impossible to choose a best or even favorite track. This is the album that catapulted a mild interest in Jarvis Cocker to a full-blown obsession, kicking the door open for all the rest of “Britpop.” It would be years before any other musical genres would be allowed to enter the fortress.

7. Frank Sinatra, A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra (1957) 

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I love those J-I-N-G-L-E bells, oh 
Those holiday J-I-N-G-L-E bells, oh 
Those happy J-I-N-G-L-E B-E-DOUBLE L-S 
I love those J-I-N-G-L-E bells, oh 

If you’re surprised that there’s a Christmas album on this list, then you CLEARLY haven’t listened to this Christmas album. I listen to this album year-round. A song from this album made its way to my wedding reception playlist. It’s Sinatra. It’s perfect.

I first got into Sinatra after being assigned to read Gay Talese’s magnificent profile of Sinatra, “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” during my next-to-final quarter of college (the first time around), and I thought, “Wow, he has to be the coolest guy, ever.” And guess what? He is. I just don’t wanna live in a world where there is no Frank Sinatra. In the words of Dean Martin, “This is Frank’s world, and we’re just living it.” Amen, brother.

6. The Smiths, Hatful of Hollow (1984) 

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I am the son, and the heir, of a shyness that is criminally vulgar
I am the son and heir, of nothing in particular

It was difficult to choose one Smiths album; truthfully, any of their albums could be inserted here. But I may or may not still be wearing an oversized, pit-stained Smiths t-shirt, an heirloom passed down from an older sister, with this album cover on it, so I’d say its impact is pretty obvious.

Morrissey has a lyric for every situation in my life:

Struggling with the state of yourself and your life? “Every day you must say, how do I feel about my shoes?”

Feel like your work is not meaningful or productive? “But sometimes I feel more fulfilled making Christmas cards with the mentally ill.” 

When someone finally asks your honest opinion of them? “Frankly, Mr. Shankly, since you ask: you are a flatulent pain in the arse!”

Have to deal with the consequences of telling someone your honest opinion of them? “Sweetness, sweetness, I was only joking when I said I’d like to smash every tooth in your head.”

Feeling under the weather and someone asks you how you’re feeling? “Oh mother, I can feel the soil falling over my head.”

Just something I may or may not say every day: “Oh, I’m too tired/I’m so sick and tired/And I’m feeling very sick and ill today.” (I am a “delicate flower”!!!!)

Someone says “I love you”? “So…scratch my name on your arm with a fountain pen. This means you really love me.”

Moving onto a new obsession and your previous obsession starts to feel left out? “I still love you, oh, I still love you/Only slightly, only slightly less than I used to, my love.”

PMSing and carrying around some extra “water” weight? “You’re the one for me, fatty/ You’re the one I really, really love/And I will stay/Promise you’ll say/If I’m ever in your way/A-hey!”

And ad infinitum.

I mean, these lyrics just roll off the tongue. So good.

(I recently saw a headline about a study that concluded that “Smiths fans were neurotic.” Was such a study necessary? I mean, really????????)

If you want to have a fun game of charades sometime, try using Morrissey lyrics. “Punctured bicycle, on a hillside, desolate.” Ahhh, fun times.

5. Oasis, Definitely Maybe (1994) 

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You’re the outcast, you’re the underclass
But you don’t care, because you’re living fast
You’re the uninvited guest who stays ’till the end
I know you’ve got a problem that the devil sends
You think they’re talking ’bout you but you don’t know who
I’ll be scraping your life from the sole of my shoe tonight

As a young child, my brother and I would go upstairs to my older sister’s lair and deface the posters of her musical heroes with sticky-tack: Morrissey’s nipple magically grew one very long hair and the Gallagher brothers’ noses always had dangling boogers. I had a strong aversion to the Gallaghers in particular because I knew one of them (who also thought he was John Lennon) had called George Harrison a “nipple” (“NIP-PLE”) and I got tricked into watching one of their concerts instead of getting to watch A Hard Day’s Night for the nth time because I was told John Lennon was in it. (He was–in photographic form at the conclusion of “Live Forever.”) So it was a long time before I sold my soul to this rock ‘n’ roll band.

But oh boy, when I did, there weren’t no turnin’ back. Noel Gallagher’s latest solo effort asks, “Who built the moon?” Uhhhh, you? Would follow that dude to the moon and back, no questions asked.

What a debut album–it kicks in with “Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” and never, ever lets up. Soul sold.

4. Bob Dylan, Bringing It All Back Home (1965) 

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Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky
With one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea
Circled by the circus sands
With all memory and fate
Driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow

I cycled through many musical obsessions as a teenager, but I think perhaps my obsession with Bob Dylan lasted the longest and had the greatest impact, which is odd considering I probably listen him to the least out of any artist that appears on this list. I devoured all his albums, watched Dont Look Back more than was healthy, and wore sunglasses a lot. Yeah, not healthy behavior, but having a thorough knowledge of Dylan’s catalogue is something I consider worthy of being mentioned on my resume. Once, I had to explain to a dense individual how important Bob Dylan was to music. Like, they legitimately didn’t get it. It was sad. Don’t be that person.

Bringing It All Back Home is my favorite Dylan album, as it blends both acoustic and electric Dylan and contains some of my favorite Dylan tracks (which I did NOT play at my wedding reception!)–and Rick Nelson’s, too. I know, I have great taste.

3. The Jam, The Gift (1982) 

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Why are you frightened can’t you see that it’s you
That ain’t no ghost it’s a reflection of you
Why do you turn away an’ keep it out of sight
Oh don’t live up to your given roles
There’s more inside you that you won’t show

Paul Weller is the man who knocked down the walls built by Jarvis Cocker.

My first exposure to The Jam was the video for “Going Underground.” I thought, “Good song, lead singer is a bit odd-looking.”

Ha. Ha. Ha.

I feel like with each of my obsessions, it just got worse. Like, I spent A LOT of time obsessing about Paul Weller. Way more time than I spent obsessing about Jarvis Cocker, even. The only reason I don’t spend so much time doing it anymore is because…well, I found more fulfillment in my work and life, I guess. And I also sought medical attention. Only kidding, ha. Maybe I should have.

Anyway.

The Gift may not be my favorite Jam album (but it includes my favorite Jam song, bar none), yet it is their most musically diverse and adventurous. And it has so, so, so many good songs.

And it’s their last. Weller, at age 24, announced the dissolution of the band at the height of their fame. Guts, man.

Bring on The Style Council!

(Never forget the time I threatened to turn this blog into an analysis/discussion of Style Council videos.)

2. The Beach Boys, Pet Sounds (1966) 

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Sometimes I feel very sad
Sometimes I feel very sad
(Can’t find nothin’ I can put my heart and soul into)

I don’t even know what to say about this album. I love it so much. It is absolute perfection from start to finish. It’s a spiritual kind of thing, don’t you think? Yes, yes, it is. Yet there are still people who don’t “get” this album. Don’t be that person. Make the world a better place. Listen to Pet Sounds, preferably at least once a day. You just have to listen…listen.

1. The Beatles, Rubber Soul (1965) 

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Was she told when she was young
That pain would lead to pleasure?
Did she understand it when they said
That a man must break his back
To earn his day of leisure?
Will she still believe it when he’s dead?

Any Beatles album could hold the top spot on this list. As many musical obsessions have come and gone, The Beatles were the first and remain the most intense and innate part of my existence. The Beatles are the sound of my beating heart.

It’s odd (to me, anyway) to think of how this is the album that so influenced Brian Wilson to write Pet Sounds, yet he and I listened primarily to different versions. Brian was listening to the Capitol version, with a different track listing (including the false-start version of “I’m Looking Through You”), and I have always listened to the original UK version. (Capitol may have been onto something, actually: omitting “What Goes On” is downright inspired and inserting the folksy “I’ve Just Seen A Face” and “It’s Only Love” blend in well with the musical landscape of the album.) Yet we both have the same intense love affair with the album. Revolver may have opened the doors for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and Sgt. Pepper is certainly more advanced technology-wise, but neither has the heart of Rubber Soul. In fact, as much as I love each of their albums, I might go as far to argue that no other Beatles album has the heart that Rubber Soul does. The empathetic drumming Ringo lends to John in “In My Life”? Just…my heart.

I’ll stop now. I find it hard to express my feelings about this band of brothers for, like Cordelia, my love’s more richer than my tongue…

I know everyone stays up REALLY late at Collinwood, but it’s way past my bedtime…

P.S.

Because no one has found out that he’s a vampire from another century.

Can’t stop, won’t stop. HELP!

Songs I Did Not Play at My Wedding Reception

If I were to blame my lack of updating this blog on one thing, it would not be the death of my beloved Macbook Pro (RIP) or lack of time or some silly nonsense, it would just have to be the fact that I am now a married Countess–Mistress of Collinwood, if you will–and I have responsibilities, people! (Nothing like poor Judith helping her dear Gregory– Reverend Trask’s great-grandson–rebuild his sadistic school or keeping herself out of the insane asylum, but responsibilities nonetheless!) But, beloved readers, I have not forgotten you.

My wedding day was perfect. Or at least I think it was. There was a lot of planning and stress, of course, but it was a fairly simple affair. (I think?!) One of the final things I worked out was the music playlist. I wasn’t too worried about the music because: 1) I have the best taste B) If all else failed, I would have just played Pet Sounds from start to finish ad infinitum and, D) I don’t think 99.9% of attendees paid any attention, anyway. And when I finally did create a dump playlist (you know, like a first draft–just get it down, man), it ran 3-4 hours for a 90-minute event. Oops. And so that is when the really hard work began: cutting songs. Should “Layla” be unplugged or not? How much Beatles is too much? (No such thing, I decided. Approximately 28.9% of the eventual playlist was by The Beatles, collectively or solo. Not that anyone was counting, except the one guest who dared to jest, “Too much Beatles!” To which I replied, “Off with your head, Alice!”)

I may be biased, but I would say the eventual playlist was perfect. There were, however, more than a handful of perfect songs that did not make the cut, and for no better reason than I have nothing better to blog about and have been stuck with the same playlists on my iPhone since my Macbook died, here’s me musing about why a few of them ended up on the cutting room floor…

“Cornerstone” – Arctic Monkeys

Tell me, where’s your hiding place
I’m worried I’ll forget your face
And I’ve asked everyone

I’m beginning to think I imagined you all along

This was actually in the playlist until, quite literally, the very last minute when I cut it – for time and because I had inserted another song that ended up to be that song. The lyrics really showcase how Alex Turner is heir to Jarvis Cocker’s throne of breathy, creepy, I’m-in-love-with-you-but I’m-not-stalking-you kind of thing. I mean, come on: I smelt your scent on the seat belt/And kept my shortcuts to myself. That’s killer. Oh, Jarvis, I used to think you were the real deal. I love this song. And the video. Arctic Monkeys are back this year, aren’t they? Hallelujah! 

“There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” – The Smiths

…except I wanted to play the instrumental soundcheck version, false starts and all. Even though Morrissey’s voice can be the most comforting sound in the world (I believe I once famously compared it to your mom cutting the crusts off your peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, even though I’m an avid devourer of crusts – hey man, this figure doesn’t happen all on its own), I love this instrumental version — such beautiful music, the perfect juxtaposition to Morrissey whinging (I use this word in a loving way, mind) And in the darkened underpass I thought oh God, my chance has come at last…But then, I think this ultimately reminded me too much of relying so solely on the music of The Smiths and Morrissey and staring out of bus windows on long, cold, wintry days. Too solitary to be played on my wedding day.

“You Do Something to Me” – Paul Weller

Dancing through the fire, yeah
Just to catch a flame
Just to get close to
Just close enough 
To tell you that
You do something to me
Something deep inside

Or, actually, anything by Paul Weller. No Jam, no Style Council, no Paul Weller Movement, no nuthin’. Probably because I wanted to marry Paul Weller for the longest time before I met my husband, and part of me still believes that in a parallel time storyline, he and I would end up together. Not something you exactly want to evoke on your wedding day, right?

“Slide Away” – Oasis

Ugh, I love this song. So much. Back when the Gallaghers were still saying nice things about each other, I believe Noel once stated that this was Liam’s greatest vocal performance, and Liam called it the greatest rock ‘n’ roll love song. So many great lines in this song: “I dream of you and we talk of growing old, but you say please don’t”, “Let me be the one who shines with you/In the morning we don’t know what to do/We’re two of a kind”, “I don’t know, I don’t care, all I know is you can take me there…”

I spent a lot of time debating this one–and which version. The album version is, of course, amazing, but it  have you heard it live? Oh my heart. Ultimately, comparing the youthful arrogance, energy, and unity of the Gallagher brothers’ chant of “WHAT FOR?” at Knebworth in ’96 and the tired resignation of the band’s performance of the song at the iTunes Festival in ’09 broke my heart. This band, man. Put your life in the hands of this rock ‘n’ roll band and they just might throw it all away. (Even though they told you they wouldn’t.)

“Baby, I Love Your Way” – Peter Frampton

I am not yet prepared to declare to world exactly how many copies I own of Frampton Comes Alive! (but hey, like most people, I only own one copy of I’m In You), but hey, I love that album and this song. But no matter how many times I listen to it, I still have difficulty listening to it without being reminded of a greasy Ethan Hawke (is there any other kind of Ethan Hawke? Just sayin’…) mocking it.

“Simple Man” – Graham Nash

Wish that I could see you once again
Across the room
Like the first time

What a song, man. (What an album! One of my favorite albums. Of. All. Time.) Graham Nash is the real deal for me, dude. He’s my favorite member of CSN(Y–what a loser, don’t get me started), with Stills a nose hair or two or heck, a mutton chop behind. This song, written about his breakup with Joni Mitchell, just tears the hearts to pieces, don’t it? I just want to hold you, I don’t want to hold you down. Duuuuuude. On a happier, note, I also wanted to play The Hollies’ version of “Just One Look.” I mean, Doris Troy is Doris Troy and all, but there’s just something about some scrawny white guys from Manchester singing Just one look and I felt so I-I-I’M IN LOVE! (If I could figure out a way to make the font get gradually bigger, I would.) Makes me happy just thinkin’ about it.

“That’s The Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be” – Carly Simon 

Ah, my girl Carly. The day my husband proposed, we went record shopping, and I found a good lump of Carly Simon records. The clerk commented, “A Carly Simon kind of day, huh?” As every day should be. Carly once introduced this song as “a kind of weird song about marriage.” (Pssst, what do you think Art and George were talking about? Doesn’t George look perturbed when he discovers the camera watching him? Heh, heh.)

You say we can keep our love alive
Babe all I know is what I see
The couples cling and claw
And drown in love’s debris
You say we’ll soar like two birds through the clouds
But soon you’ll cage me on your shelf
I’ll never learn to be just me first
By myself

A great song. But maybe not one to play at a wedding reception.

“Your Smiling Face” – James Taylor

The real JT, people. What a jam. Unashamed to admit I know the words to this song by heart. No one can tell me that I’m doing wrong today whenever I see your smiling face my way…

And have you seen JT perform it on Sesame Street with Oscar the Grouch? No? Well, prepare yourself for a lil’ slice of divinity:

You know James, you’re so aggravating!

“Girl” – Davy Jones 

You know, it was a real turning point in our relationship when my husband admitted he had not seen every episode (or maybe even one episode) of The Brady Bunch. I think that stuff might just be in my DNA, and there’s a strong possibility that Mike Brady might just actually be my real father. So we watched my favorite episode of the series: “Getting Davy Jones.” And you know what? My husband-to-be didn’t exactly care for it. (His expression resembles the engineer’s in the studio.) YIKES! I had some real soul-searching to do that night. I mean, there are just some days when you feel like Marcia calling to tell her teacher that she couldn’t get Davy Jones and then–WHAM!–in walks Davy Jones…in the form of singing this song. See ya on the flip side, Davy.

“I Need You” – The Beatles

Please come on back to me.
I’m lonely as can be.
I need you.

Yep, there were a few Beatles songs that did not make the cut, and this one probably hurts the most. George never commented on this song, but it is one of his best early songs–so full of love and longing. The track features an effect called violining. George plugged a foot-controlled tone pedal into his trusty twelve-string Rickenbacker, allowing him to to quickly increase or lower the sound of the instrument. But you already knew that, didn’t you?

“You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice” – The Lovin’ Spoonful

Oh, I love this song. It is divinity. I have a vinyl record of The Very Best of The Lovin’ Spoonful, and it must have belonged to a radio station at one time–it’s marked WIDR all over, someone meticulously wrote the times of each song, and someone also lovingly inscribed the back cover: “All cuts are GREAT!” How true. But I wanted to play this song just because it reminds me of my husband — not because he is a Lovin’ Spoonful fan (“Who’s that?”, he would probably ask, bless him) or anything like that but just because he is the nicest guy. And he didn’t have to be so nice… I would have liked him anyway.

And just as a reminder of what a weird and wonderful world the 1960s were, here is–contain your excitement, ladies–Peter Noone introducing the Lovin’ Spoonful on an episode of Hullabaloo!:


“Without You” – Harry Nilsson 

I’m not really sure why I even put this in the running in the first place. The Badfinger version is probably superior (I debate this a lot in my head, but I’m 100% sane, I swear), but dang, if that band doesn’t break your heart. I think I like the Harry Nilsson version because 1) I instantly think of the cover of Nilsson Schmilsson (A+++ album & cover) and well, that’s like my life goal right there and 2) I’m 1000% convinced that if the note at 1:24 won’t grow hairs on your chest (just like any good ol’ jalapeno pepper), nothing will. I CAN’T LIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIVE, I CAN’T GIVE ANYMORE! How could anyone even remember that Mariah Carey sang this song after hearing Nilsson and Badfinger do it? I was more than a little shocked. And disturbed. And instantly signed up for another session with my therapist, Judd Hirsch. (Are you guys watching me for the changes and keeping up OK?)

“Wish You Were Here” – Pink Floyd 

Reflecting on this playlist now, this is one of the songs that initially makes me scratch my head and wonder, Why did I want to play this song? But, you see, the answer is quite simple. The theme of the wedding reception was It’s A Wonderful Life (yes, the Christmas movie AKA the most perfect movie of all-time). Each table and its decorations centered on a quote from the film. My personal favorite? “Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?” I decorated the table with old family photos — of my grandparents, their parents, etc. People I wished were there but of course couldn’t be. It was my favorite table. But nobody really ever sat there all night — maybe because there were already others sitting there.

And well, I love this song, and it is a love song–like the entire album–for Syd. And oh, how I love Syd.

“All or Nothing At All” – Frank Sinatra

All or nothin’ at all
Half a love never appealed to me
If your heart, it never could yield to me
Then I’d rather, rather have nothin’ at all

After the Beatles, Sinatra was star of the night. Or the playlist–whatever. The best version of this song (Sinatra recorded several, y’know) is, without contest, found on Sinatra and Strings. There, Sinatra’s vocal really captures all the incredible turmoil and pain of the lyrics. He’s not messin’ around, boy. The first Mrs. Frank Sinatra once commented that she never married again because well, how do you re-marry after being married to Frank Sinatra? That’s how I feel about Frank Sinatra’s voice. How can you listen to anyone else sing something he’s sung? There’s no getting over that voice, man. And he could sing it all.

“Annie’s Song” – John Denver

Come let me love you
Let me give my life to you
Let me drown in your laughter
Let me die in your arms
Let me lay down beside you
Let me always be with you
Come let me love you
Come love me again

If  you think you’re too cool to listen to John Denver, you’re not cool. At all. This is a beautiful, beautiful song. Not playing this song probably hurts the most. I should have cut something else in its favor.

Well, that’s all folks.

Much love & best regards (BLECH) FROM The Countess