Battle of the Bands, Part 1, The Beatles vs. The Rolling Stones, I Wanna Be Your Man

Posted in Battle of the Bands, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones on March 22nd, 2012 by Willie

I was sitting around my new apartment, feeling kind of directionless and antsy, when a genius idea struck my temple.  Get this, you take bands, and you pit them in some sort of competition, almost like a battle.  Then, after all the notes are sung, and the riffs are all licked, you determine a winner, like a contest.  I call this totally original idea, “The Battle of the Bands!”  I feel like the alliteration of “B’s” give it that extra kick of specialness.  So, for round one, I have two special groups from England.  The first group is your mother’s favorite, the clean cut Rolling Stones.  The second group are the rebellious and sexually suggestive group of teenaged rebels known as the Beatles.  The song to be rocked over is “I Wanna Be Your Man,” a Lennon/McStarkey original.  Legend has it that the Rolling Stones were bored of being London nobodies, and asked their extremely famous buddies, the Beatles to give them a hand.  True to form, the Beatles lent them not a hand, but a MAN!  Hahaha, oh boy, I’m cracklin’ today, so I present  “I Wanna Be Your Man” first sung by the Beatles lead singer, Ringo!  Be careful when you press play, it’s like opening up a can of soda set to explode!

Now it’s time for the Rolling Stones to have their say.  I found an interesting clip from some British documentary on the Rolling Stones early rise, which is full of gravitas and veiled technicolor danger, so dig the opening before the Stones launch into their boozy version…

Now, that you’ve dug a double dose of ridiculous rock and roll raga, it’s time to crown the winners.

BEST DRUMMING:  Ringo.  Charlie Watts is a fantastic drummer, but Ringo puts on a clinic in the Beatle version.  His drumming is crisp, not too splashy, and has a cool mod feel, plus he achieves all this and sings lead at the same time.  Sorry Charlie, maybe next time.

BEST BASS PLAYING:  TIE!  Paul McCartney gives an airplane buzz of stylish riffs and fast paced awesomeness, while Bill Wyman lays down a funky jungle beat.  There is no clear winner hear.

BEST RHYTHM GUITAR:  Keith Richards.  John Lennon has his patented mercy-side shuffle, keeping up with and doubling Paul’s bass lines, but Keith Richards invents some kind of chunky railroad rhythm that is like a cross between Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry.  It’s addictive, strange, and I love it.

BEST LEAD GUITAR:  George Harrison.  While I think the slide guitar gimmick that Brian Jones came up with for the song matches the Stone’s arrangement, I find it kind of annoying.  Meanwhile, George Harrison plays lead rhythm, lead guitar, and a wicked little country solo.  It’s sharp and cool, and its one of things that make George incredible.

BEST GROUP SINGING:  The Beatles.  The Beatles sound like a cool onyx cube of perfection, singing as a group, backing up Ringo.  Their voices sound like a jet engine of power, encapsulating the source of Beatlemania.  The Stones sound like a gang of hooligans, shouting, scratching, and stabbing their way through a seedy London pub.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s totally awesome, but the Beatles sound like visitors from the future spreading advanced technology with every note they sing.  The Beatles had 4 lead singers.  Ringo, while not technically good, sings on key, with total humanity and no pretension.  George had a beautiful medieval sounding English voice matching his gaunt knightly appearance.  His role as 3rd harmonist also gave the Beatles vocals a rich and distinctly Liverpudlian edge.  Paul McCartney was the Beatles ultimate weapon, like a golden sword.  His voice soars high like Bono and Little Richard combined, but is more versatile, and capable of fantastic mimicry.  He could sing like a psychedelic maniac, a garage rocker, and a mystical angel.  The best thing about Paul McCartney’s voice is when it merges with John Lennon’s, simulating the sonic experience of listening to the birth of the universe.  John Lennon’s voice was perfect for rock and roll; a full throated roar of passion and soul.  It’s also a sort of horizontal hypnotic harmonic noise that fills out your ears perfectly, especially when combined with Paul’s.

BEST LEAD SINGER:  Mick Jagger.  Ringo is an underrated rock and roll singer in many ways, but he is not Mick Jagger, no one is.  Mick basically owns a few patents on the genre when it comes to rock and roll singing.  It’s the voice of teenage rebellion, nasty self righteous punk power, tender country authenticity, and gorgeous tonal soul.  He gives the Rolling Stones a unique singular voice that holds its own against a group like the Beatles, no small feat.

WINNER:  The Beatles by a score of 3-2!  It was close, but the Beatles come out on top.  I think it was a fair victory.  The Beatles version of “I Wanna Be Your Man,” is the more polished finished product, while the Stones version is almost a novelty number.  Don’t get me wrong, by reading this article, you can tell I adore the Stones version, but after all, the Beatles wrote the tune, and the Stones were playing on their turf.  If you liked what you read here, stayed tuned for tomorrow, when I start comparing the Stones and Beatles greatest hits in a week long journey of rock and roll excellence.

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The Rolling Stones, Play With Fire

Posted in The Rolling Stones, Youtube Favs on August 1st, 2011 by Willie

“Play With Fire,” a 1965 B-Side by the Stones, was credited to Nanker Phelge, a pseudonym the Stones used when they attributed the songwriting to all the members.  Still, its mainly the work of Jagger and Richards, with Phil Spector on bass oddly enough.  In fact, Mick and Keith are the only Stones to appear on the track. It was recorded on a late January night in 1965 Los Angeles; what a scene that must have been.  This song is pure attitude.  Richards came up with the perfect guitar line to match Jagger’s ferociously deadly delivery.  It’s one of my favorite Stones songs ever, and the video below captures the Victorian hellishness of the song’s power.  The Rolling Stones were truly a one of a kind phenomenon coming along at the ground zero for rock and roll phenomenons.  This song is proof of their unique singularity in music history.  Enjoy.

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The Beatles, All You Need is Love

Posted in The Beatles, Youtube Favs on June 26th, 2011 by Willie

At last we’ve arrived at part 100 of my youtube favorites countdown.  This is the final part of the countdown, and boy has it been a magical journey through some of my favorite songs and videos of all time.  I had to end the countdown on the Beatles because it hurts my eyes when they don’t fall on #1 in any list predominantly about rock and roll.  “All You Need is Love,” is a mysterious song.  It was written specifically for the historic first worldwide satellite TV broadcast, “Our World,” and was watched by over 400 million people globally.  The song is a mystery because there aren’t too many quotes from John Lennon about the inspiration and writing of the song, and the other Beatles and George Martin can’t seem to remember exactly where the song came from.  The song wasn’t made for any album, and the recording of the track (save some overdubs) was mostly done in the live recording you see below.  So you don’t have a bunch of takes and jam sessions in the vault that might give further insight into its creation.  I have yet to hear a demo of John on his guitar or piano plunking out the song for the first time, which would simply be a marvelous thing if it exists somewhere.  Anyway, this song is a Masterpiece, (note the capital M.)  It’s one of the greatest slogans ever set to music and fantastic slice of artistic genius.  It’s also just further evidence of the insane alien amount of productivity the Beatles were capable of.  They had just finished Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, their timeless masterwork, and then a few weeks later, they unleash this masterstroke.  They were an unstoppable force of magic, churning out record after record, with smash #1 singles (that weren’t on the LPs) dotting those releases.  What’s further amazing is that nothing in their tumultuous personal lives slowed them down a bit.  In 1967, John was a full blown drug addict; snorting cocaine, dropping acid every weekend, smoking pot everyday, and probably drinking heavily.  His marriage was falling apart, he was having a massive identity crisis, he was jealous of Paul McCartney, and he was suffering a dark depression.  None of that seemed to stop him from writing a song like, “All You Need is Love,” and then following it up with another track like the brilliant “I am the Walrus,” a few weeks after.  No force, personal or global, could really stop the momentum the Beatles had built for themselves, and it all culminated in them being considered the greatest musicians of the 20th century.  So the countdown ends, but the website doesn’t of course.  From here on out, I’ll be focusing on writing more ambitious “proper essays” and articles on everything from music, politics, culture, and philosophy.  So keep checking back, as I intend to make this one of the best websites you’ll ever read.  Thank you so much.

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The Sex Pistols, Anarchy in the UK

Posted in The Sex Pistols, Youtube Favs on May 26th, 2011 by Willie

I’m in a punky mood, so for part 73 of my youtube countdown, I have the Sex Pistols with their 1976 classic, “Anarchy in the UK” from their seminal LP Never Mind the Bollocks. There is not much I can say about this record that the video doesn’t give you.  Oh, its Glen Matlock on bass not Sid Vicious, (he must have been MIA.)  I like how Johnny Rotten is staged behind the drummer, you never see that in a band’s stage presentation.  I like this song for its musicality.  It’s got a sludgy almost phasered electric guitar sound, and Johnny Rotten’s vocal delivery has just the right amount of that classic English bite.  Lyrically, the song is genius, with the idea of the song right up front, no metaphor, no bullshit, and its FUNNY!  Most people like to associate danger and violence with the Sex Pistols, but I always associate humor.  They were funny in interviews, their lyrics were clever and sharp, and they were media pranksters.  Pretty cool.

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The Kinks, Waterloo Sunset

Posted in The Kinks, Youtube Favs on May 23rd, 2011 by Willie

Part 70 of my youtube countdown continues with more Kinks.  The Kinks are the most underrated group of gods from the 60s British Invasion era, and this song, “Waterloo Sunset,” is their overrated masterpiece.  First of all, let me praise it.  From their LP Something Else, “Waterloo Sunset” is a work of genius.  It’s just a simply gorgeous rock ballad with brilliant chords and beautiful background vocals.  So, I just called it genius, how could it be overrated?  Well, its not the Kinks fault.  For whatever reason, rock critics have painted this song as “the most beautiful song of the rock and roll era” according to allmusic journalist Stephen Thomas Erlewine, and Robert Christgau called it “the most beautiful song in the English language.”  Ummm…no.  It’s a fantastic song, but I don’t even think its the best song the Kinks ever made.  I’m not gonna get into which songs are better, because its a matter of subjectivity, but its too easy to knock this song from its pedestal of lofty praise.  Anyway, give this live performance a play, and let me know what you think.  Is it the prettiest song of all time, or is it just an ordinary rock classic, you decide.

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The Rolling Stones, Like a Rolling Stone (Live)

Posted in Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Youtube Favs on May 13th, 2011 by Willie

Part 61 of my youtube countdown rocks on with the Rolling Stones performing Bob Dylan’s classic “Like a Rolling Stone,” from their 1998 Bridges to Babylon tour.  The Rolling Stones have performed this song for decades, I guess a bit ironically, as an unofficial band anthem, though not really.  I mean, did they just want that live moment in their act to announce their band name in a song?  Or, was it Bob in 1966, who had Rolling Stones on the mind when he wrote his most famous chorus ever?  Possibly yes, possibly no to both questions.  It doesn’t really matter because the song is epic, and the performance here is really tight and joyful.  Mick is playing his harmonica really well, the band sounds together, and oh yea, Mick sings the song great.  Of course they are all wearing horrible outfits, and the Stones sound way better in a small club then in a stadium, but still, there is some old magic here worth checking out.  Rolling Stones forever.


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The Beatles, I Should Have Known Better

Posted in The Beatles, Youtube Favs on May 12th, 2011 by Willie

Part 60 now, and for this slice, I have the Fab Four back again with a clip of them performing “I Should Have Known Better,” from their movie and record of the same name, A Hard Day’s Night.  This is simply one of my favorite songs of all time.  And I mean that with total sincerity.  To understand me, Willie Simpson, is to understand that the early Beatles mean everything to me, and that this song in particular is probably at the top of that list.  Why?  Because its guileless sublimity is unmatchable by anyone.  It’s the kind of song that make the Beatles so unbelievably special to so many people around the world.  First of all, the lyrics are brilliant.  John just captures the uncontainable desire of a young man discovering true love for the first time.  The part where he sings, “I should have realized a lot of things before, if this is love you gotta give me more, give me more, hey hey hey, give me morrree,” is just so exuberant and true, that it borders on madness.  In other words, its perfect rock and roll.  Oh, and the middle eight where even though the words are still positive, the music casts a note of anxiety as he almost pleads the, “when I tell you that I love you,” is just genius.  The Beatles just knew how to use their music to capture people’s hearts. And to top it off they somehow managed to knock out practically the entire soundtrack to the movie starring them in less than a week, and its timeless and perfect and real, and that’s all I can say about this masterpiece.


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The Rolling Stones, Angie

Posted in The Rolling Stones, Youtube Favs on May 3rd, 2011 by Willie

Part 52!  Oh, I don’t know, should I keep tracking the parts?  Does it matter anymore?  Who’s counting anyways?  Well, for this chapter, we have the Rolling Stones making another appearance with their 1973 #1 smash, “Angie,” from the Goats Head Soup album.  This song was written by Keith Richards after the birth of his daughter Dandelion Angela, (see, even in the 70s celebrities were giving their children crazy names.)  Mick of course, did write the lyrics, save the Angie part, and his vocal delivery is a crushing example of his voice’s perfection.  What else do we got here?  Oh, the fantastic Nicky Hopkins on piano, and the Stones looking cool as hell on this TV promo as Richards and Taylor have roses on their guitar heads, and flower petals flutter down on them.  No one really makes music like this much these days, but luckily, it WAS made, and so, great, here it is.

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Paul McCartney, For No One

Posted in Paul McCartney, The Beatles, Youtube Favs on April 4th, 2011 by Willie

In part 28 of my youtube countdown, I present a 40 something Paul McCartney playing his Beatle classic, For No One, from the Revolver album.  There are so many things I love about this performance.  First of all, he’s playing one of his most gorgeous piano ballads on acoustic guitar, and its brilliant.  I love how he musically clears his throat in the first 5 seconds when he starts singing.  There is something very real and charming about that.  I love how he starts his French Horn solo, announces it midway through, and jibbers his way through it.  And lastly, I love every other second of this.  He sings the song absolutely beautifully, providing wonderful little melodic twists not found in the original, and he sings the song with total soul.  This is just one his greatest breakup songs.  A universal anthem for guys who find themselves in the moment when they realize their girlfriends don’t love them anymore.  I’m sure the song has other layered meanings for girls, but for me, I take it quite literally. Ladies, feel free to let me know how you interpret this song. Enjoy.



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