Paul McCartney’s Queenie Eye And His Long Road To Simulated Creativity

Posted in Paul McCartney on October 27th, 2013 by Willie

paul queenie eye

Well, I haven’t updated since May and there are many reasons folks. New apartments, new jobs, working on new music and finishing my album all led to a general lack of time to devote to my website. On top of that, I spent last weekend furiously going through as many old posts as possible, replacing all the busted video links I could. I know there are still many more that don’t work and I hope to get to them someday. Just drop me a line on ones you find that don’t work that you’d like to see and I’ll see what I can do. Anyway, it’s good to be back to talk all things rock and roll.

Paul McCartney has released dozens and dozens of records since the Beatles split in 1970. When the Beatles broke up, he was only 28 or 29-years-old, still incredibly young for all he had accomplished and still burning to make music. And make it he did. Throughout the 1970s, with his wife Linda and then with Wings, he produced a plethora of hit records and singles. My favorite record from this era is Ram, his second solo LP. If you ever wanted a sequel to Paul’s work on the White Album, Ram is your record. Critics often point to Band on the Run as representing the peak, but to me that album is Paul’s effort to overhaul his experimental and intimate pop sound into something more slick, energized and urbane. I think Paul is at his best when he is sitting around with his acoustic guitars, overdubbing psychedelic style blues riffs, and crafting intricately layered vocal harmonies over his melodies. I never really dug the slicker ‘big band’ style Paul, which I feel was his attempt to create a larger than life stage show built around bombastic circus anthems and 70s influenced guitar stylings. Don’t get me wrong, there are many tracks that are great in this style, including Jet or the title track from Band on the Run, but I can’t help but feel that even those songs feel a bit forced.

In the 1980s, Paul, like many of the great 60s rockers of his generation, fell off his artistic peak. He produced many shitty electronic albums like Pipes of Peace or the abysmal 1986 effort Press to Play. That record was described by huge Paul McCartney fan and genius rock rock critic George Starostin as “Pure electronic garbage. One of the lowest moments in rock history.” It was hard to blame Paul for starting to suck. He was a workaholic in spite of his constant stream of massive success and he burned out. The 1980s marked the end of his career as a contemporary artist.

As the 1990s dawned, Paul, like his legendary pals who were still alive, entered into what I call the nostalgia museum phase. His new records would be attempts to give audiences what they loved most about him in the first place, namely, Beatles music, and his shows would be more carefully pruned to forever ditch the stuff that nobody every cared about. To achieve that goal, he stripped back any pretense of trying to keep up with musical trends and just come up with the same mix of experimental (now traditional) pop and clever little love ballads. The results were mostly mixed to bad. Flaming Pie from 1997, was awful. Starostin wrote that “The search for simplicity has ended in banality and primitive tunelessness.” Paul, and the rest of the music business, hadn’t figured out how to give people a simulation of the magic that could never really be repeated anyway.

So, with that in mind, let’s jump to the musical world of 2013. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, a lot of embarrassing music was produced by everybody but improvements in technology and a whole new generation of obsessed and passionate music nerds started changing the way music was being made. When I talk about passionate music nerds, I’m not just talking about purists in any specific sense, I’m talking about purists across the board. An army of hardcore music fans, each holding up a banner for a certain genre, be it hip-hop, classic rock and roll, indie rock, disco, bubblegum, techno and everything in between, emerged. These music geeks were not only armed with an encyclopedic history of their favorite types of specific music, but were training themselves to make it, using relatively cheap recording and producing technology. From this bubbling explosion of intelligent and self motivated music enthusiasts, the very best found themselves in studios, working with technology that allowed for practically any style of music to become possible. Retro could somehow be made to sound new and the aesthetics of handmade creations could be designed to come off corporate and slick. This technological revolution has seemingly made it possible for current music stars, motivated to stay relevant, to churn out a never ending stream of stylish pop music that is as hard to ignore once released as it is easily forgotten.

Pop music these days is a purely transient experience, like an express train flying by a local subway stop. It is not only designed to push your emotional pleasure buttons, but stomp them in a fury of dazzling and breath-taking maneuvers. Producers are getting so good at crafting these things that people who hate Beyonce for instance, are finding themselves surprised to be liking her single in the back of their minds, even though they are consciously rejecting it both viscerally and emotionally. As I eluded to before, the biggest side-effect of this phenomenon is forgetability. Everyone sounds fresh. Everyone sounds retro. Every song is pulsing with those homemade ramshackle garage drums while being spliced with the addictive beat of authoritative drum machines. It’s a sensory overload that sounds phenomenal at a club or at a concert but is quickly disposed of once it’s time to release the next batch of songs. No one can even characterize the decades anymore by what types of music is being produced. It’s all becoming a meaningless white noise designed to flash across our brains like a multi-colored strobe light.

Whew. So, back to our friend, and one of the originators of practically everything going on today some how. Paul’s newest single, off of his stupidly named album “New,” is everything I was just talking about. Why is “New” a stupid name? Well, my biggest gripe with the title of his record is that it reminds me of this new trend of “minimalist corporate futurism.” People try to sell everything with this element of simplicity, trying to capture the iPhone marketing mentality. It’s gotten dumb. Also, besides the slick marketing presentation, God love him, Paul has undergone a series of face lifts and hair transplants and despite this, the 70-year-old ‘cute’ Beatle is finally showing his age. The power of his voice, once capable of scorching out high notes as well as Little Richard, has diminished significantly. When he was playing Beatle classics on the Colbert Show earlier this year, astute fans had noticed that he transposed the songs down a whole step to match his lost ability. No longer can he belt out those gorgeous upper register notes that he used to hit so effortlessly. I am not faulting him for aging, or trying to cover it up, in fact I’m not faulting him for anything. I just find it all interesting to witness. Still, whatever, he can’t really be blamed for any of this. In fact, he should be applauded for continuing to entertain his millions of fans, both young and old, decade after decade.

When I first heard Queenie Eye, I caught it for 30 seconds at the end of a rather unrevelatory Howard Stern interview, where Paul dished on John’s LSD use and the making of “Getting Better” off Sgt. Pepper. One nugget I did take away from the talk was Paul talking about the first song he wrote with John called “Just Fun,” or something like that. I am always surprised to hear new Beatle trivia as I have practically memorized their entire story. Anyway, the flash of that song had everything I explained above. It pushed all my Beatle buttons. The melodies seemed to curve unexpectedly and the harmonies were lush and intricate. The stomp of the music had that classic marching Ringo beat and the energy was way up for someone trying to disguise their increasing weariness. Queenie Eye is some meaningless story about an obscure British game played by children Liverpool. The song would probably be perfect for scoring a scene from a Harry Potter Quidditch match, capturing a childhood sense of magic, Britishness and sports.

Anyway, whoever produced it, had access to the magic “sound like solo Paul doing Beatles” button in the studio, stuffing it with all the touchstones. I don’t for one second believe Paul himself really directed the production of the song. Sure, he wrote it, arranged it and possibly played most of the instruments on the track but there is no way he was fiddling with all the modern compression and equalization knobs found in the latest version of whatever fancy recording software is being used in Abbey Road these days.  I doubt Paul was telling the producer to fill the piano sound all the way up to the front, creating that deafening modern wall of sound effect that practically all songs have now. I’m also certain it wasn’t Paul’s idea to have that mellotron drone so loudly in the mix, giving the song that delicious 60s vibe. Also, I’d bet that the radio effect on Paul’s voice is there to mask his increasingly elderly sounding voice.

In the end, what we are left with is a simulation of everything we love about Paul McCartney. Twisting melodies, harmonies, interesting and homespun sounding keyboard sounds, chants, choruses, anthmatic refrains and rainbows. All of it curiously sucked dry of anything resembling reality. The only thing it proves is that Paul is a master of his style, a hallow thing considering he has proved it a billion times before. What is the point of him proving this at age 70? His fans know him, inside and out. Maybe Paul realized that many of his failed records in his later career are too filled with the sort of sad energy that comes with aging. This record itself might be full of those songs too actually, I have no idea, but Paul did announce with this album that he will never retire, so he has probably given up the idea of trying to communicate to people that he is tired and old. Again, I’m not blaming him for anything. The man obviously needs to keep the charade going for his mental health, which is fine. After all, life is mostly a charade, basically. Also, when ranking the most authentic Beatles, you have John and George at the top, godly in their lofty punkishness, Ringo next, never pretending to be anything other than a drummer from Liverpool who made it big, and Paul at the bottom, desperate to keep reminding people of his fame decade after decade, despite never realizing that there was nothing he could do to ever really lose it.

The video itself, presented below, is the perfect compliment to the dazzling nothingness that the song represents. You have Paul, blithely playing piano with his frail hands, which indicate how withered his face really should be, while A-list celebrities appear out of nowhere to listen in. As Paul pounds away, the celebrities either gawk at him, bob their heads slowly or dance in a spirit that doesn’t come close to reflecting the nature of the song. Paul, who has always had a problem appearing natural on camera, doesn’t even register their presence and acts like this is all par for the course, which in his insanely amazing universe, probably is. It might have been nice to see Paul actually backed by other musicians. As it is, he looks like he is drowning in the middle of the music instead of being the source of it. It also would have been nice to see Paul get up and dance around with the celebrities or shake their hands. If I were directing this, I’d have told them all to lift him on their shoulders and carry him around or something. Instead, everyone appears to be divorced from reality, again, unintentionally reflecting the truth of the matter despite best efforts made not to. It’s kind of a shame because Paul was once part of a video that captured everything incredible about this kind of environment. In “All You Need Is Love,” the Beatles are seen performing the song with a live orchestra, surrounded by a mix of normal people and celebrities like Eric Clapton and Mick Jagger. Those megastars are seen sitting on the floor and singing along, forced to the honor the majesty of the Beatles in a non-phony way.

Well, I am out of things to say. As you can see, the longer the layoff, the longer the posts. I hope to keep updating on a more regular basis again and continue to clean up the site as I get closer to releasing my record. All the best everybody!

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Paul McCartney And Carl Perkins, My Old Friend (Documentary)

Posted in Carl Perkins, Paul McCartney on March 22nd, 2013 by Willie

paul and carl

Every once in a while I stumble across something really beautiful and rare. This is one of those finds. Zod bless YouTube users for cataloging practically everything in filmed existence that would otherwise be lost or inaccessible to mass audiences. This 45 minute documentary features guitar legend Carl Perkins and Beatle legend Paul McCartney just hanging out, strumming, picking and singing the time away. The video also has some interesting Carl Perkins history tucked away between the performances. I particularly loved the history of “Blue Suede Shoes” and how Carl always thought ‘suede’ was spelled ‘swade.’ The closing song, “My Old Friend,” was also touching, especially the revelation of Carl playing it for Paul right after John had died. It is a beautiful song and its remarkable how Paul has the ability to just create wonderful vocal harmonies and backing melodies on the spot. This is a nice companion piece to the Carl Perkins and Friends Rockabilly School (where George Harrison got to sit in as Carl’s best friend), and it is well worth your time.

PS- If you are wondering where I have been, take comfort in the fact that I pretty much do blog style reporting for a living. Check out my work at Sheepshead Bites and Bensonhurst Bean, covering all the ins and outs of Southern Brooklyn.

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Paul McCartney's John Lennon Tribute, Here Today, Most Emotional Performance Ever

Posted in Paul McCartney on July 18th, 2012 by Willie

I’m nearly done with Peter Doggett’s excellent biography, You Never Give Me Your Money, a book that chronicles in precise detail the breakup of the Beatles.  The book is one of the best Beatle books I’ve ever read, mainly because it delves into the Beatles’s complex interpersonal relationships and not so much their broader history of artistic and cultural achievements.  The book details a moment in 2007 when ever self-conscious Paul McCartney is playing for 200 people at a California record shop, and nearly breaks down in tears singing his John Lennon tribute song, “Here Today.”  The book describes the moment as one of, “naked reality almost unmatched in his career, a gesture of love and pain, and a wound that could never be healed.”  Immediately after I read that line, I put the book down and raced to the internet.  I was lucky enough to find the performance generously persevered on youtube by a fan filming Paul with their camera phone.  The film is letter-boxed and a bit grainy, but the sound is good, and the moment is captured wonderfully.  Paul plays his guitar beautifully, and visibly has trouble holding back his tears.  Paul himself commented that he saw a young girl weeping in the audience, and once his eyes locked with hers, his emotion just poured out.  “Here Today,” from 1982’s Tug of War, is one of the most haunting and bittersweet Paul McCartney songs ever.  I’ve always felt a deep desire to hear more from Paul in this song and this subject, but its the nature of the song, and the nature of John’s death, that makes it impossible.  Its a masterpiece coming from an artist of unparallelled decency.  Check it out.

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Paul McCartney, Coming Up

Posted in Paul McCartney on June 27th, 2012 by Willie

This is my all time favorite solo Paul McCartney music video.  It would have been on the site years ago, but I could never find a version of it on youtube that I was able to embed on my website.  Those days are over, so, at long last, I can proudly paste “Coming Up,” on  The song, which kicked off the otherwise disappointing McCartney II, is one of solo Paul’s best ever.  Its a bubbling psychedelic techno folk anthem of positivity.  The song, and its genius accompanying video which debuted on Saturday Night Live, was so good, that it kicked a then retired John Lennon in the balls to start making pop music again.  John famously claimed that he couldn’t get the song out of his head, and also thought that he could do exactly what Paul was doing, saturating the pop music scene with delicious little throwaway pop numbers.  Personally, I believe it was the first ember that would spark the eventual reunion that never happened in the late 80s/early 90s.  I’ve posted about it before, but what people don’t really understand about the Beatles Anthology, was that it was decades in the making, with John having a firm hand in its creation, all with the idea that some sort of reunion would happen one day on an important anniversary.  Despite John’s needing to distance himself from the whole Beatle circus, he knew deep down that it was a special achievement in his life, and that one day, he’d have to take the effort to put the Beatle thing its place and history, from his, and the other Beatles’ perspectives.  Anyway, that is stuff that has little to do with “Coming Up,” and its hilarious music video that you should watch right now.  “Feel it in my bones!”

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Paul McCartney, Take it Away

Posted in Paul McCartney on June 21st, 2012 by Willie

“Tug of War” is one of the best solo Paul McCartney albums, and probably the best one from the 80s.  The record was produced by famed Beatle producer George Martin, sometimes referred to as the fifth Beatle, and this music video, which I’ve never seen before all of ten minutes ago, Martin lives out that fantasy by rocking the piano with Paul, Ringo, Linda, and actor John Hurt.  I never took it upon myself to exhaustively plow through all the ex-Beatle catalogs in the way I carved the original Beatle records on stone tablets, which is great because it allows me to discover songs and video clips that I never knew existed.  “Take it Away,” is one such example, and the song and video is just a delightful treat for all Beatle fans, and all fans of charming good fun…oh, and happy belated 70th birthday Paul!

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Paul McCartney, Heart of the Country

Posted in Paul McCartney on May 28th, 2012 by Willie

Its the conclusion of Ram week, a jolly excursion if there ever was one, and I’m drawing the final curtain with “Heart of the Country.”  This song is one of those perfect folk/blues/country acoustic ballads that Paul McCartney had no trouble pulling out of his pants.  It sounds like an outtake from the “White Album,” which is to say that its so good that it could have easily fit on that classic Beatles record.  The song is about the search for happiness by way of pastoral living coming from one of the most well traveled superstars in the world.  This sort of song is the reason that Paul McCartney is really beloved.  He gets a lot of crap for being the commercial Beatle, but in reality, he was just as down to earth as any of the Beatles, which of course is true because the Beatles would have been nowhere near as successful if they hadn’t possessed that quality in spades.  They are authentic people, and this is an authentic song.  Much like John Lennon proclaimed that George Harrison’s “Within You, Without You,” was George at his “most clear and direct,” I feel that this song falls in the same category.  Paul was finding genuine joy getting out of London, buying a farmhouse, getting some animals, and having to just tell everybody about this simple pleasure.  Its a great tune from a great album, and I hope you enjoy it as much as me.  Ram on….

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Paul McCartney, Dear Boy

Posted in Paul McCartney on May 22nd, 2012 by Willie

“Dear Boy,” is one of my favorite cuts off Ram.  Its a delicious piece of angry piano pop that has the added benefit of messing with John Lennon’s head.  When Paul wrote this song, he wrote it as an autobiographical message to himself, commenting on how lucky he was to meet and fall in love with Linda.  John Lennon heard something different.  John interpreted the lyrics as being a direct attack on John’s decision to kill the Beatles, claiming that his love for Yoko, while wonderful and special, was not the be all and all, and that he’ll end up regretting giving up Beatle magic for a love affair.  Personally, that’s the way I always heard it too.  The song makes less sense when Paul McCartney himself is the subject of his razor sharp lyricism, but makes perfect sense if he is singing to John.  Paul, ever affable and diplomatic, of course would never admit that this song is about John, and it probably wasn’t, but his relationship with John was such that he was almost certainly writing about him subconsciously, a fact Paul would probably cop to.   The point is, whether intentional or not, this is essential post-Beatle breakup listening, and one of Paul’s most clever pop songs.  RAM!…WEEK!….continues!

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Paul McCartney, Monkberry Moon Delight

Posted in Paul McCartney on May 19th, 2012 by Willie

If you glance over the music trade papers (or internets) as I do on occasion, you might have noticed on the periphery that Paul McCartney is planning a re-release of his incredibly great solo album Ram.  Now Ram is quite simply one of my favorite albums of all time.  It’s easily my favorite solo McCartney album by a mile, and rotates in and out of the #1 spot for my own personal best solo Beatle album list.  At the time of its release,  Ram was unjustly criticized by rock critics for a bunch of complicated reasons.  One of them was that many of the tunes are credited to both Paul and Linda McCartney, a fact many cynical rock people had trouble swallowing.  John Lennon himself took offense to the album as two songs on there, “Too Many People,” and “Dear Boy,” had biting little obscure inside jokes, or digs at John and Yoko.  I’ll cover those songs and their natures later this week though.  Anyway, the point is, everybody was caught up in the bullshit of Ram, and not the music.  Now, objectively, the music on Ram is basically as good as anything you’d find on the “White Album.”  If you loved what McCartney was doing in 1968, you’ll love what he was doing in 1971.  It’s the only way I can describe it, Ram is Paul McCartney’s “White Album” songwriting stylizations part II.  Its Paul at his psychedelic best.  Just take a listen to “Monkberry Moon Delight,” in many ways Paul’s response to “I am the Walrus.”  It’s a frenzied piano stomping masterpiece of jibberish.  You can almost see Paul frothing at the mouth, mashing the keys the so hard that it detunes the piano.  It’s a cult classic, and if you never heard it, you’re in for quite the treat, so check out the song below, and watch the fantastic assortment of Paul and Linda home movies that go along with it.  Ram on….

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Paul McCartney Performs Blackbird in Abbey Road

Posted in Paul McCartney, The Beatles, Youtube Favs on January 18th, 2012 by Willie

Paul McCartney had so many wonderful moments in his time with the Beatles, some big, some small, but all beautiful.  I have an ultra rare clip of the man playing “Blackbird,” his gorgeous ballad from the White Album.  This is footage of Paul playing the song for Beatles producer George Martin in the Abbey Road studios in 1968.  Paul wrote the song in Scotland thinking on the subject of civil rights, and the song is meant as a tribute to black women everywhere (bird being British slang for girl.)  The intricate acoustic backing was inspired by J.S. Bach’s “Bourree in E minor,” a piece meant for lute and classical guitar.  Paul took the songs main element, the simultaneous plucking of the bass and top strings, then shifted and rearranged the piece in the key of G.  “Blackbird” is one of Paul’s most heartfelt and genuine songs, so much so that he took it upon himself to play it for the Apple Scruffs, (die hard Beatle fans,) on his front lawn the first night Linda McCartney slept over his house, obviously overcome with joy.  The video below is a little grainy, but a remarkable document of Paul in one of his most fertile songwriting phases.  Also, gotta love those red and yellow psychedelic shoes he used to tap out the rhythm.

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James Paul McCartney, The Wings TV Special

Posted in Paul McCartney, Youtube Favs on August 30th, 2011 by Willie

Paul McCartney fans, do I have a present for you.  Did you know that Paul’s real first name was James?  Did you know that Paul did a music special for ABC and the BBC in 1973 called “James Paul McCartney?”  Did you know the critics hated it?  Did you know critics are mostly idiots?  Well, now that you know, it is my absolute pleasure to introduce this 7 part Paul McCartney extravaganza.  What’s extra special about this post, is that this TV special WAS NEVER released on VHS or DVD, so this is the only place you’re gonna find it for now.  You get Paul and his newly formed group Wings, featuring wife Linda and guitarist Denny Laine, performing some solo Paul songs, some Beatles songs, and some Wings songs, all with aplomb.  It’s basically a glorified series of music videos stitched together that you’ll find heard to turn off.  My only problem with the videos are Paul’s unfortunate mullet, his worst hair style ever.  Oh well, it shouldn’t stop you for enjoying the music, and it shouldn’t stop you for voting me in as CBS’s Best Local NYC blogger, which you can do by clicking here!  Paul McCartney told me to tell everyone everyday, so if you gotta problem with voting for me, take it up with the old knight himself.  Cheers!

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