Making More Rock And Roll, Deconstructing Sgt. Pepper

Posted in The Beatles, Willie Simpson's Original Music on December 1st, 2012 by Willie

Well, I haven’t updated the ole’ website in a good while, and the reason is because I’m still making more rock and roll. The intention of this humble little corner of internet space was never to be a daily rock and roll blog, that happened more or less organically. The site was created to feature my music, and to that end, my album, which I’ve previewed extensively on this site, is nearly finished. The album in question, which I’ve named Funeral Business, is something I’m growing increasingly proud of. The album art, which the ever lovely Sonia Rapaport created, is the thing you’re looking at right above. Right now I’m collaborating on one last tune with Andrew Lee, and from there, the future promises to reflect the glimmering wonderfulness to be entailed within it. I’m planning a mini documentary movie in the coming weeks about the creation of the record, and a further reflection on my thoughts on rock and roll and what it means to me. Its a flourish of self centered activity that I find rather distasteful, but necessary to further spread the joy this music has brought to me. I want to thank all my friends and family who have helped me along the way here, and I also want to post this incredibly cool video someone made deconstructing the “Sgt. Pepper” song, because it goes against everything in my nature to provide an update without some music. This little video is really fascinating, breaking the song down into its component parts, giving you a sense of how the Beatles created their masterpieces. You will also be hypnotized by those groovy multicolored lines of sonic goodness. Enjoy.

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Happy 72 John Lennon, Woman

Posted in John Lennon on October 9th, 2012 by Willie

Well, if John Lennon had survived, he’d be 72 years old today. I do think its kind of strange to wish a dead man happy birthday, but this is John Lennon, a guy that still lives in my fantasies and dreams. Along with Martin Luther King Jr., JFK, RFK, and Bob Marley, John Lennon is one of the mythic superstars of reality that I had wished lived to see the future. His work in life was unfinished, and the thought of wondering what music and outrageous activities he had saved in cranium can drive any Beatle lunatic fan mad. Recently I discovered that John was offered the role of Professor Falken in the cult classic “War Games,” and seriously considered it until his untimely murder stopped all that. At first I thought that would have been terrible, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought how brilliant John would have been in that role. John WAS an actor after all, with a lot of experience making movies and being in front of the camera. Most of his roles were Beatle related, and not exactly serious, though he shows flashes of brilliance in every movie he was in. John could have had a distinguished career as a wonderful character actor, a dimension that would have brought to life a whole new artistic light for him and the world. Anyway, its always fun to speculate on what might have been every time John Lennon’s birth, or death date, comes around, whether they be dreams about Beatle Reunions, or battling rogue AI in an effort to save the world from global thermonuclear war. But in the final analysis, to quote another dead hero, John was a musician, so here is some; the song and video for “Woman” from “Double Fantasy.” “Woman” is a beautiful soft rock ode to Yoko, and all women too. It’s a lovely philosophical and mature song on the subject of love, and its also a great feminist anthem, an awesome talent John possessed. Enjoy, and Happy Birthday Mr. Lennon.

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Prince's Timeless Performance of While My Guitar Gently Weeps

Posted in George Harrison, Prince, The Beatles on July 25th, 2012 by Willie

Prince is one of my heroes, so you might be wondering why the Prince page on my website is fairly barren.  Well, the truth is, I’d probably have every Prince music video and performance I could get my hands on if I could, but Prince and his legal team make it damn near impossible to for anyone on the internet to post his music and videos.  Well, there is one performance that thankfully is available for the public to consume, and that is of Prince’s epic guitar heroics at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Prince was inducted in the same year George Harrison was honored as a solo artist, and so Dhani Harrison, George’s son, invited Prince on stage for the performance of the White Album classic, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”  I read somewhere that Prince had never even heard the song before, though that’s hard to believe as Prince peeled off one of the greatest and most showstopping flawless guitar solos of all time.  What is especially spectacular about the performance is that the man who played the original solo on the record, Eric Clapton, was a bit of a guitar legend too, so Prince had a lot to live up to.  The thing is, sometimes people forget that Prince is Prince.  The man is rightfully one of the greatest musical geniuses of the pop era, and one of the more criminally underrated ones too.  Rumor has it that Prince played such an insanely great solo in response to the snub he felt after being left off of Rolling Stone Magazine’s top 100 guitar players ever list.  Prince proves that he belongs somewhere on that list, perhaps in the top ten, so watch this clip if you’ve never seen it, and take in the “purple’s one’s” majesty of rock.  Oh, and lastly, at the end of the song, Prince hurls his guitar into the sky towards the audience, and it never lands…a new mystery for our time.

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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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George Harrison, James Ray, Got My Mind Set On You

Posted in George Harrison on June 14th, 2012 by Willie

Most people know about George Harrison’s beautiful cover of the song “Got My Mind Set On You.”  The original version, written by Rudy Clark and performed by James Ray way back in 1962, is basically never played anymore.  I’m here to rectify that crime against music by bringing you the original version to sit along side George’s hilarious music video classic.  The original version includes some parts that George skipped over, mainly the odd Gospel Greek chorus in the James Ray version.  George actually released TWO music videos, and the second one is far less known then the classic one of George break dancing in his private study.  The other lesser known features none other than Alexis Denisof, the famed Joss Whedon actor of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Avengers fame courting a young girl at an amusement park!  How about that for bizarre cross sections of pop culture?!  You also get to see famed Electric Light Orchestra conductor Jeff Lynne back up George in this rare video as well.  Jeff actually produced George’s Cloud Nine album on which this song appeared.  So, sit back, relax and enjoy an old soul singer, an ex-Beatle, a fluffy haired rock producer extraordinaire, and a star of your favorite cult television classics all mingling and dancing together to one of the world’s catchiest songs.

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Battle of the Bands, Part 5, Stones Surrender to the Beatles in Cleveland, perform "I Saw Her Standing There," as Pennance

Posted in Battle of the Bands, Bruce Springsteen, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones on March 29th, 2012 by Willie

As the battle raged for decades, with both bands suffering unspeakable tragedy (Brian Jones, John Lennon), the bloodshed just HAD to end.  And end it did with Mick Jagger’s historic concession in Cleveland, at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Mick, clearly disgusted at being forced to admit bitter defeat, inducted the Beatles, minus Paul McCartney (who apparently was too busy to witness  Mick’s humiliation), in a ceremony of drunken revelry, and cheeky good humor.  Watch this hilarious clip below…

My favorite part is seeing Mick’s unabashed, yet good-natured jealousy as he recounts the Beatles story.  That’s actually not something to be underrated, as that jealousy fueled Mick Jagger to heights he probably never dreamed of attaining.  It’s brilliant that Mick agreed to induct the Beatles into the Rock Hall, as he hung out with the Beatles a lot in the 60s.  He was there in the early London club days, the early drug taking days, the Maharishi lectures, the “Day in the Life” recording party, and the “All You Need is Love” performance.  He was an intimate eye-witness to a lot of the behind the scene Beatle madness, and you can tell by this great speech.  He inducts the Beatles, but the only ones to show are George and Ringo.  John, being dead at the time, had Yoko, Sean, and Julian represent his presence, while Paul is mysteriously absent.  George, Ringo, and Yoko, all make subtle bitter jokes about Paul’s lack of being there, and its all actually quite hilarious, especially George.  Sean also has a brilliant line as well…watch!

That was great, and yes, Paul’s presence was missed sorely, but so was John’s…After all, the Beatles would never really ever exist anymore without the four of them, so who cares.  Imagine if he lived though?  I guarantee they would have all come to this ceremony, and rocked the shit out of this joint.  Instead we get Billy Joel, Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, and Bruce Springsteen taking a shot at “I Saw Her Standing There.”  Even with all that star power, it doesn’t come close to the power the original Beatles could have generated with just the four of them.  Ah well, its still a fun and rollicking performance, with George again being the main cut up, giving the patented Beatle head shaking “wooo!” a move he probably hadn’t pulled in 25 years.  It’s amazing, a perfect end to a glorious war, with the Beatles and the Stones coming together to agree that yes, we are all super gods enshrined in a museum of rock.

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The Police, Walking on the Moon, Live

Posted in The Police, Youtube Favs on March 18th, 2012 by Willie

Sting wrote this song while he was drunk in Germany, seems fitting considering the free floating riffs and subject matter.  “Walking on the Moon,” is an unparallelled Police classic, and an example of genuine 80s psychedelia, a sort of rare excursion for 80s pop groups.  Actually the song was originally titled “Walking Round the Room,” which Sting thought was rightfully stupid.  The live performance below is tight and hard edged featuring Sting in one of the worst jackets in human history.  The rest of the band is decked out in normal person clothes, and its easy to imagine what Copeland and Summers must have been thinking concerning the ego level of Sting when their gazes met his visage.  Despite Sting’s violent affront to common fashion sense, the Police are legends, and you’ll have no problem digging this awesome document of their musical power.

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Bob Dylan, Series of Dreams

Posted in Bob Dylan, Youtube Favs on March 13th, 2012 by Willie

The thing about being a prolific artist with a 40+ year career is that its likely you might release some random epic masterpieces when people are done paying attention to you.  Bob Dylan is such an artist.  His song, “Series of Dreams,” a bootleg from the Oh Mercy sessions, is a fantastic piece of abstract pop.  Given a thunderous production by Daniel Lanois that recalls the late 80s/early 90s peculiar air of serious grandiosity, “Series of Dreams,” is one of Bob Dylan’s best later period songs.  Unlike other songs about his dreamscapes, this one is rather straightforward; a meditation on the elusive nature of dreams that may be meaningless, or may not.  It’s also a sly comment on how people, and even himself, perhaps look too much into his dreams and the lyrics and music they inspire.  It’s also serves as a manly sort of reflection of an everyman looking back at his life and all the dreams he’s dreamt…reminds me as the sort of the song that Clint Eastwood might appreciate.  The video is a beautiful hodgepodge of classic Dylan clips given that universal circle of life 90s editing style, you know, the sort of style that tries to capture and summarize a lifetime worth of moments with a new age touch.  It’s at once both dated and beautiful, and one of my favorite Dylan clips available on YouTube.  Check it out.

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