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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The Beatles, Help! The Entire Film, in HD!

Posted in The Beatles on August 2nd, 2012 by Willie

One of the coolest evolutions in YouTube history was the removal of the oppressive 10 minute time limit for video clips.  Such advancements have led to the wonder of allowing the Beatles movie “Help!” to be seen and shared in its entirety, for free!  Now “Help!” is probably the least essential Beatle movie, even more so then “Magical Mystery Tour,” (also available for complete viewing on this site.)  Why?  Probably because it was their least creative, and most commercial effort.  “Help!” came out in 1965 at the tail end of the original Beatlemania ultra craze.  In this era, the Beatles were already evolving from happy go lucky rock stars into more introspective individuals, but “Help!” still captures them as inseparable best friends who all dress the same and do everything together.  During the filming, the Beatles were incredibly uninterested in its production, and were notorious for sneaking marijuana before takes constantly.  The effect is noticeable in their tired and bleary eyes and giggly unfocused performances.  Their stoned indifference really does nothing to film, already a slight and silly story about a magical ring that Ringo can’t seem to get off his finger.  Like all Beatle movies, the music, and the musical interludes are timeless.  The title song is one of John Lennon’s greatest singles, and the rest of the soundtrack hints at the creative explosion of psychedelic folk music the Beatles would explore later that year on “Rubber Soul.”  Some of my favorites include “Another Girl,” and “You’re Gonna Lose That Girl.”  Its also worth noting that George Harrison’s burgeoning obsession with the sitar began on the set of “Help!” when he started fiddling around with one played by the Indian musicians in the restaurant scene.  The video encoded below is fully remastered in beautiful HD, and it really is worth watching, especially for Beatles fans that have never seen it.  If you don’t have a lot of time, I’d recommend just skipping to any random point in the film and watching for ten minutes.  Its impossible for the film to make less sense then it already does, and you’ll likely land on a beautiful and priceless Beatle performance.  Enjoy.

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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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The Rolling Stones, Wild Horses

Posted in The Rolling Stones on July 21st, 2012 by Willie

There is something about “Wild Horses,” something quite emotional.  I remember driving home one snowy night when I was a 19 year old, thinking how perfect the song was against the lightly falling snow.  Every time I hear it, time just seems to slow down, and it feels like the whole world is listening, all strung out on this gorgeous song.  I really don’t have much to say about this song that hasn’t already been said.  This post is just to honor a classic, plain and simple.  The footage is taken from the “Gimmie Shelter” documentary, famous for unfortunately violent concert the Stones threw at Altamont Speedway, California in 1969.  At that concert, a member of the Hell’s Angels stabbed a man to death, a public slaying at what was supposed to be a happy event, horribly caught on film.  Today, everyone is still reeling from the shooting at the Colorado movie theater, another massacre at what should have been an otherwise fun public spectacle.  I don’t really have much commentary about that except for guns are evil, and the Rolling Stones “Wild Horses” casts the appropriate somber atmosphere for these grim times.  Lastly, my heart goes out to the victims and there families.  RIP.

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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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Derek and the Dominos, Presence of the Lord, Covered by Andrew Lee

Posted in Andrew Lee, Derek and the Dominos, Eric Clapton on July 11th, 2012 by Willie

Andrew Lee is an amazing guitar player.  Better then amazing actually, a genius.  How do I know?  Well outside of the fact that he has played lead on a ton of my recordings, including this one, he has just today started making no frills videos showcasing his incredible talent.  The video below shows Andrew, matching Eric Clapton of Derek and the Dominos, note for bloody note.  Andrew’s casual perfection was attained through a hard earned, borderline servile dedication to blues music, a dedication that if you know him in person, is awe inspiring.  Andrew is a real talent who pours genuine emotion into everything he does with a guitar, so please, just take a few minutes to bask in the “Presence of the Lord,” and remember who brought you there, Andrew LEE!

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Mad Men, The Eleanor Rigby Experiment

Posted in Mad Men, The Beatles on July 5th, 2012 by Willie

One of the most exciting elements of the latest season of Mad Men was how the series creator, Matthew Weiner, somehow scored the rights to broadcast an actual Beatles song on his show.  The Beatles had never allowed their actual recordings to be directly featured in a television show, and have rarely allowed the privilege in movies.  It was interesting to read of how Weiner managed to pull off the feat.  It wasn’t an issue of money, though the price of airing the culturally priceless cut from Revolver, “Tomorrow Never Knows,” wasn’t cheap, but rather, he needed to get approval from Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono, and Olivia Harrison.  Weiner took a big risk because securing the rights for the song meant having the Beatle people approving the script for a television show with a limited window for production time.  If his plan failed, he’d have to drastically alter the episode on short notice.  Luckily, his ploy worked, and us die hard Mad Men fans finally got to hear the musical group that dominated the decade in which the fictional show takes place.  In the original scene, Don Draper, feeling out of touch with the musical trends of 1966, asks his wife to bring him up to date on what the Beatles were up.  She gives him Revolver, and tells him to play “Tomorrow Never Knows,” the last, and most avant-garde far out psychedelic track on the legendary LP.  Don Draper dutifully plays the track, pours a drink, and tries to get into it.  As John Lennon drones on, we are treated to a montage of various characters that gets abruptly shut off when Don angrily stops the song midway through.  This scene annoyed me for a few critical reasons.  First of all, his wife, Megan, should have just told him to play the album from the start.  Don would have appreciated the conservative wit and word games of George Harrison’s “Taxman.”  Then, I have no doubt, that when “Eleanor Rigby’s” gorgeous harmonies and fast paced string quartet struck, that would have hooked him.  It’s the sort of song that speaks to Don’s character, a tale of anonymous lonely people living futile lives.  The pure black and white beauty of the song, combined with the commercial accessibility that only Paul McCartney can manufacture, might have stunned him emotionally and kept him listening.  Playing “Tomorrow Never Knows,” to someone who hasn’t heard too many Beatles songs,out of the blue, even in the year 2012, is just not the best way to indoctrinate a potential Beatle enthusiast.  I think Weiner chose the song because he wanted to contrast the insanely advanced sonic world the Beatles were operating in, with the old fashioned world that Don and many of his contemporaries were still living in, in 1966.  That in itself is cool, but to me, Don needed to hear a few other songs first before diving off the Tibetan Book of the Dead deep end.  So, I have rectified the situation.  The video I present below substitutes “Tomorrow Never Knows,” with “Eleanor Rigby.”  The montage of shots that follow are also of my choosing.  I tried to match the song to what I considered some of the most striking scenes and images from Season 5.  I also tried matching the images to the song in a loose abstract way.  All in all, I think it came out very well, and am very excited to share it.  Mad Men is currently my favorite TV show, and it goes without saying that the Beatles are my favorite band ever, so getting to mess around with two things I love so much was just a lot of fun.  So, enjoy it, and feel free to share it around town.

Mad Men, The Eleanor Rigby Experiment from Willie Simpson on Vimeo.

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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 williesimpson.com.  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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The Beatles, If I Needed Someone

Posted in The Beatles on June 20th, 2012 by Willie

“If I Needed Someone” written by George Harrison in 1965, is one of my all time favorite songs.  George was listening to the Byrds, especially Roger McGuinn’s “The Bells of Rhymeny,” which George based his guitar riff on.  Like all great artists, the Beatles stole from other great artists, but what was special about them was how honest and appreciative they were of the source inspirations.  Before the song was released, George sent Roger a recording of the song and a note extolling the influence McGuinn had on George in that era.  The Beatles made few, if any, enemies of their contemporaries in their era.  The song is a gorgeous effort by George, fully fitting in the Rubber Soul vibe of heavy harmony and folk rock psychedelia.  I also like the bizarre message that the lyrics paint.  George is saying to a potential girlfriend that he would date her in a minute if he wasn’t already in love, but please, leave your phone number in case something happens.  Its kind of a dicey, yet honest admission from an international rock star who happened to be married.  For me though, the song’s greatest attribute is the full throated three part harmony courtesy of John, Paul, and George.  It’s powerful and wistful at the same time, and there is something tragically nostalgic in the sound of it, much like John and Paul’s “In My Life.”  The video below was made by the fantastic youtube uploader named Beatles Mirko, who finds and assembles some of the best Beatles clips on the internet, so thanks to him for cobbling together this nice video featuring performances of the song from their legendary Tokyo concert.

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