The Beatles, Here Comes the Sun, Lost Guitar Solo

Posted in George Harrison, The Beatles, Youtube Favs on February 4th, 2012 by Willie

Well, this is miraculous.  Here we have a simple video of famed Beatle producer George Martin, his son Giles, and George Harrison’s son Dhani, all playing around with the master track for “Here Comes the Sun.”  Off Abbey Road, “Here Comes the Sun” is probably George’s second greatest song behind “Something,” also from the same record.  That is a matter of opinion, but the undisputed fact is that from 1968-1971, George was operating at an incredible peak of creative intensity, with his work on Abbey Road serving as a precursor for his immense solo masterpiece album All Things Must Pass.  Anyway, in the video, Dhani is fiddling with the dials when he comes across a lost electric guitar solo George recorded years ago.  It is a gorgeous piece of hard electric rock that gives edge to one of George’s sweetest songs.  While the part sounds great, especially to Beatle fans who have memorized every note of their music, it’s not hard to see why it didn’t make the final cut, as the electric flourish takes away from the gentle majesty of the final mix. It’s a shame the Beatles couldn’t tour in their later era because they probably would have added extra solos and changes to their songs that would have spun off countless beautiful variations.  Still, the undisturbed perfection of what remains what makes discovering anything lost so poignant and moving.  Enjoy this clip and pass it to your friends, especially George fans, its magical.

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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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Pink Floyd vs. The Beatles, Time

Posted in Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Youtube Favs on November 23rd, 2011 by Willie

In yesterdays post I alluded to how Dark Side of the Moon reminded me strongly of Abbey Road.  I must not be the only one, because the image above is all over the internet.  This leads to an interesting debate amongst music fans, mostly ardent Pink Floyd people, that claim that Pink Floyd is the spiritual successor to the Fab Four.  Some go even further claiming that Pink Floyd’s dazzling studio mastery and reflections on more mature philosophical themes elevate them as a technically greater band then the Beatles.  I’ll address the claims in reverse order.  While its true that Pink Floyd was a massive commercial success in the 70s, among the top 3 bands in the decade, they are not the Beatles of the 70s.  What Pink Floyd did was continue the Beatles psychedelic studio experimentation in the pop rock format, pushing its boundaries and increasing its sonic power.  Like the Beatles, their best songs had strong melodies, beautiful harmonies, and precise arrangements.  The difference is, Pink Floyd was a psychedelic folk band, while the Beatles were an ever expanding rock and roll outfit, encompassing a wide variety of styles and sensibilities.  At their height, Pink Floyd reached a massive arena audience and influenced youth culture strongly with their detached nihilistic messages railing against a corrupt and oppressive system.  At the Beatles height, they did all things Pink Floyd accomplished, times a factor of  100, plus creating the universe of youth culture that Pink Floyd successfully tapped into.  Tracing back to the first argument, in which people claim that Pink Floyd are spiritual successors of the Beatles, it is true, but so was practically every other band that came after the Beatles.  Pink Floyd were the best group that continued the Beatles perfect psychedelic folk experimentation heard on the White Album and copped the professionalism and thematic track linking the Beatles employed in creating Sgt. Pepper and Abbey Road.  It was just a few aspects of the Beatles that Pink Floyd carried on, not the whole bundle, but honestly, who could do everything the Beatles did?  This is no knock on Pink Floyd, merely a comment on the truly extraordinary accomplishments the Beatles achieved.  I’m sure most Pink Floyders would probably agree this because I’d be hard pressed to find a PF fan that didn’t like the Beatles.  Those that disagree are just not being fair to history and are letting their Pink Floyd love cloud their objective judgement.  Anyway, those are my opinions on the subject, and I have no problem with others thinking otherwise, its a fun debate.  I have one more song today from Dark Side of the Moon, “Time.”  “Time” is one of the best songs on the album, a sweeping collage of sound effects, guitar power, and haunting lyrics.  It’s a philosophical song about wasting ones life presented as an angry rant.  It’s almost a call to arms, and its fascinating.  Enjoy.

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Pink Floyd, Money, Live 8

Posted in Pink Floyd, Youtube Favs on November 22nd, 2011 by Willie

As we have been progressing with chronological normality through Pink Floyd’s career during “Pink Floyd Week,” the video clips have matched the time in which the songs were produced.  Now that we have reached the seminal Pink Floyd record, Dark Side of the Moon, an album about madness and time, I figured we’d jump ahead several decades to see the guys rock “Money” at Live 8.  Because of Richard Wright’s death in 2008, this would represent the only full band reunion (sans Syd Barrett) that the world would ever see since Richard Wright left in 1979.  So, this is a rather historic performance, and a surprisingly relevant one given that Live 8 and Occupy Wall Street have similar philosophical roots.  It also goes without saying that the song “Money” is the ultimate ironic anthem on the subject of the crushing evil of greed.  It’s an awesome Roger Waters tune set to his greatest bass line.  I always thought Dark Side of the Moon was a continuation of the sonic ground broken by the Beatles on Abbey Road.  Lyrically and thematically, the two records have nothing in common, but there is such a high level of musical accomplishment and precision on both records.  The gapless linked tracks on Abbey Road were also a huge influence on Dark Side as well.  It actually should come as no surprise that both records share many musical similarities because they were both recorded at Abbey Road Studios with many of the same technicians and engineers that worked with the Beatles.  That’s enough Beatle/Pink Floyd comparisons, as I’ll have a more thorough analysis on the subject tomorrow.  Anyway, enjoy this thrilling rendition of “Money,” and make sure to click the ads on my site so I can put my hands on Google’s stack…Jack.

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Pink Floyd, Cymbaline

Posted in Pink Floyd, Youtube Favs on November 20th, 2011 by Willie

So, despite their love for the man, Syd was barred from entering Abbey Road studios when Pink Floyd was recording.  Syd went on to do a few slapped together solo records, with Roger and Dave actually helping with the production, and then Syd entered oblivion, thus propelling his cult like status to mythic proportions.  In 1969, Pink Floyd was Britain’s top rising psychedelic band, but they were no where near the megastars they became by 1973.  Still, they carried enough swagger to be offered the chance to provide a soundtrack for “More,” an avantgarde film about heroin.  The song below, “Cymbaline,” is a gorgeous psychedelic folk ballad that feels more like Simon and Garfunkel than it does “Interstellar Overdrive.”  I think at their heart, Pink Floyd were more folk rockers than anything else.  Their best songs, no matter how steeped they are in special effects, crushing guitar solos, and wailing experimentation, are folk ballads.  “Cymbaline,” a twisted song about a nightmare, was a progressive step forward the band, and would point to the future dramatic heights they would aim for.  By the way, this video performance, is a fantastic moody and cinematic slice of footage of the band in its most natural setting, a church.  Enjoy.

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John Lennon, Come Together, Live!

Posted in John Lennon, The Beatles, Youtube Favs on September 8th, 2011 by Willie

They say elephants never forget, and they also say fuck Yoko Ono.  When John Lennon played Madison Square Garden Live in 1972, he played an afternoon show and an evening show.  “Elephant’s Memory,” the backup band for John, claimed that the evening show was far superior, but upon releasing this concert  in 1986, long after John’s death, Yoko decided to use the inferior afternoon show  as the basis for the album and the concert video.  Why?  Nobody knows what Yoko is thinking.  She probably thinks that her performances in the afternoon show were better than her performances in the evening show, which is insane, because nobody could possibly care.  The tapes and video of the evening show are locked away forever, or maybe even destroyed, and we might never get to see them thanks to the brilliant Yoko.  Yoko did the same thing for the Mind Games video where she took a raw 19 hours of footage, shot by college kids who followed John Lennon around for a day, and condensed it to a precious 4 minutes!  In that 19 hours you can supposedly see John Lennon making an appearance at Radio City Music Hall, where the “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band On The Road” was playing.  He apparently got a 20 minute standing ovation that he described as one of the greatest moments of his life, and proceeded to sit down on organ and play with the house band.  Why this footage is not released is beyond me.  I actually rather wish I knew it never existed, then to think Yoko’s got it hidden away somewhere for no one to see.  Blah, that’s the end of my rant.  Enjoy John’s performance of “Come Together,” a song originally written as a way to get people to vote LSD guru Timothy Leary as governor of California.  It’s a little historical tidbit that’s a perfect segue for me to champion my status as finalist in the CBS Best Local NYC Blogger award one last time!  Tomorrow is the last day of voting, and you can STILL vote for me, even if you’ve already voted!  Once a day counts, so click that link and put me over the top! 

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The Beatles, Watching Rainbows

Posted in The Beatles, Youtube Favs on August 31st, 2011 by Willie

On January 14th, 1969, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr were sitting around Twickenham Studios.  George Harrison had temporarily quit the band, so John was on piano, Paul was on electric guitar, and Ringo was behind the drums.  John led the shortened group through a new improvised jam he had been fooling around with called “Watching Rainbows.”  The song would never see the light of day as a Beatle tune or as a John solo song, but did find its way on Beatles bootlegs by 1978.  I think its a shame that John never finished it, because it has a real seductive folk rock hook, and a beautiful lyric.  Perhaps they junked it because they didn’t feel like working on stuff that they created when George was absent, or perhaps they just forgot about it.  Either way, the version I have below has all the lyrics, including the studio banter, giving you the full picture of what was going on that day during one of the lesser known unreleased Beatle song sessions.  I personally love it, and have played it seven times in a row.  Oh, and don’t forget to keep voting for me everyday as CBS’s best local NYC blogger, just click these words, thanks!

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John Lennon Singing Lead on Get Back

Posted in George Harrison, John Lennon, The Beatles, Youtube Favs on August 25th, 2011 by Willie

The Beatles are one of those bands so famous, that to the untrained ear of the average person, its hard to tell which Beatle is singing what.  Of course, such distinctions are “Beatles 101” to hardcore fans, but part of the confusion lies in the seamless harmonic blend Lennon and McCartney produced in many of their classic hits.  When they weren’t sharing a lead vocal or a song dominated by harmonies, the Beatles had simple rules about who was going to sing lead for any given song.  Normally, the principle songwriter was the logical choice for the lead.  It was very rare when these roles were reversed.  For instance, there isn’t one song that George or Ringo wrote that John or Paul sang lead on, and there isn’t one instance in the Beatle catalog of Paul or John writing a song specifically for their partner to tackle.  There were anomalies of course.  Sometimes John would write a song with melodic sections too high for him to reach, so he’d have Paul take over.  This is evident in the bridge 0f “A Hard Day’s Night,” and the choruses of “Anytime At All.”  “Day Tripper,” another John song, was almost entirely out of John’s vocal range, and so Paul becomes the dominant voice throughout the verses with John beefing up the lower harmonies and the bridge.  Despite this, John and Paul never poached each others tunes, or more exactly, they were so competitive, they wouldn’t allow it.  This came to a head during the Abbey Road sessions when John really wanted Paul’s “Oh! Darling,” but Paul wouldn’t give it up.  All this history leads to the rarity of the video I’m about to present which is a near complete performance of John Lennon singing Paul’s 1969 hit “Get Back.”  What makes this so rare and interesting is that for starters, Paul sings the lead on the record and in the live rooftop performance.  Secondly, to have John sing a Paul song with fun and relish right when they were breaking up is extremely bizarre given how their respective massive egos could barely keep them in the same room by that point.  What’s also interesting about John’s performance here is that he includes bits of lyrics that Paul originally wrote about Pakistanis taking British jobs, but later cut out due to political incorrectness.  So, with all that said, I’ve laid out this super treat of rock and roll goodness for all you to enjoy, but before you do, make sure to cast your vote for CBS’s Best Local NYC blogger, in which I’m a finalist.  Remember, if you’ve voted already, you can vote again, once every day until the contest ends on September 9th.  Just click these words to help me out, I really appreciate it!

Wait, don’t go just yet.  As a bonus I’ve included another ultra rare performance, this time its none other than George Harrison taking his shot at singing lead at “Get Back.”  He was doing as a guiding track for Doris Troy’s cover version that she was cutting for Apple in 1970.  George isn’t as intense as John or Paul, but he’s having a good time leading this funkier version of “Get Back,” plus he even tries to make up his own new melodic section at the end before he gives up.  AWESOME!

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The Making of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

Posted in The Beatles, Youtube Favs on July 4th, 2011 by Willie

The best discoveries are the ones you make by accident.  Just yesterday, my roommate keyed me into, one of those movie streaming websites of dubious legality.  It’s a pretty cool site with a lot of variety of stuff, but new and old.  On a lark, I typed in “Beatles” in the search box, and I found something I’ve NEVER seen before.  It was a BBC documentary on the making of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band produced in 1992, on the 25th anniversary of its historic 1967 release.  This documentary, presented below in 6 parts, excited the hell out of me because it featured insights and interviews, I’ve NEVER seen before, and as an obsessive Beatle fan, I’ve seen nearly EVERYTHING.  You’ll see incredible interviews with Paul, George, Ringo, George Martin, and even Brian Wilson, which is interesting because this was the record that caused him to have a mental break down. This is fantastic, and well, worth diving into on your July 4th holiday.  Enjoy.

Part 1 – The Beatles had conquered the world, said they were bigger than Jesus, and quit playing live. You get to see the shameful Beatle record burnings, the riot in the Philippines, and the murky underside of Beatlemania. Fun fact I NEVER knew, when George went to India after the Beatles quit touring, Paul actually went to Kenya! Not too many African influences on Sgt. Pepper though…Oh, you also learn how Paul forced the other Beatles to go to work on the new record which gave the other guys a lot of anxiety.

Part 2 – George Martin breaks down the complex insanely awesome production it took to make Strawberry Fields Forever. Plus you get to see the proper Englishman who played the French Horn solo on Penny Lane! Also, Paul gives insight into how he was burned by John when he suggested calling their songwriting team McCartney/Lennon. Hah!

Part 3 – The album concept emerges, the making of the Sgt. Pepper song, and the making of Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds. This documentary is awesome because its punctuated with George Martin and Paul McCartney in the studio playing keyboards and breaking down the music theory behind the songs. Genius stuff. Oh, and John accidentally takes LSD in the studio and nearly jumps off the roof of Abbey Road studios.

Part 4 – We get insight in the fierce yet productive songwriting competition between John and Paul. George Martin incorrectly gives Paul all the credit for “With A Little Help From My Friends,” while Ringo saves himself from getting pelted by tomatoes. Lastly, you get immortally indispensable insight into the creation of “Within You Without You.”

Part 5 – Paul McCartney admits that Pet Sounds is the biggest influence on Sgt. Pepper. Plus we see poor Brian Wilson admit to how Sgt. Pepper blew him away so much that it made him insane. Phil Collins stops by and talks about another room. Also, we get to see the mythic Cork Flakes commercial that inspired John Lennon’s “Good Morning.”

Part 6- We meet Peter Blake, the designer of the cover, we learn how “A Day in the Life” was constructed, and we see George Martin nearly break down observing its gorgeousness. Ringo attributes his great drumming to be surrounded by 3 frustrated drummers who could only play one style really well. Paul gets the last word talking about how critics predicted the demise of the Beatles, secretly knowing that he was sitting on the masterpiece that was Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.


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The Top Ten Most Played Songs on my iPod

Posted in Willie Simpson's Original Music on May 18th, 2011 by Willie

Did you know that when you plug your iPod into your computer, iTunes can arrange your iPod’s mp3s by plays, from most played to least? It’s pretty fascinating to see what you’ve been listening to exclusively, and how many thousands (yes thousands of times) you’ve clicked play on certain songs. Well, I’d thought it’d be interesting to share the top ten most played songs on my iPod in a new awesome mega post. So, without further ado, here is the list, starting with #10!

#10- The Police- Can’t Stand Losing You, 255 plays. My countdown kicks off with the Police’s catchy little reggae punk tune known as “Can’t Stand Losing You.”  From Outlandos d’Amour, this song isn’t skipped much for a bunch of reasons.  First, its supremely catchy, with its syncopated guitars, tight harmonies, and perfect drumming.  Second, Sting’s lyrics are so raw and real, that its one of the greatest breakup songs ever.  I’m just addicted to the way that chorus fades into oblivion.

#9-  The Beatles- Eleanor Rigby, 509 plays. Ahh, the Beatles, of course, you’ll be seeing a few songs by the fab four pepper my top ten I’m not ashamed to say. “Eleanor Rigby,” from Revolver, is just a brilliant song to play on a crowded depressed subway during rush hour.  The song swoops in with George Martin’s brilliant string arrangement, and you look around the train and see “all the lonely people,” wondering “where do they all belong.”  Then you wonder if you yourself is one of those lonely people who is gonna die alone while you are arranging your socks in your dingy apartment. Read more »

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