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.
EDIT: Ravi Shankar died yesterday, Tuesday, December 12, 2012, at the age of 92 in Southern California. RIP you beautiful man; legend of music, Beatle guru, sitar master.
Orignally Published May 5, 2011- Part 56 is a double dose adventure of Indian/English fun. First we have an awesome rare clip of George Harrison in India taking a sitar lesson with legendary sitar master Ravi Shankar in 1966. After the Beatles quit touring the mad, mad, world in early 1966, they all took long vacations. George decided to take his wife, Patti Boyd, to India, where he met Ravi, and insisted on becoming his apprentice. The first video shows Ravi instructing George on some scales near a beautiful lake and mountain, while Ravi narrates the experience, expressing total shock and bewilderment at why a pop musician of George’s stature would be interested in classical Indian music. Of course, George’s interest in sitar music caused an international explosion in the instrument and genre, and made Ravi Shankar an international star. Video two shows the results of all of these efforts, “Within You Without You,” the second best song off Sgt. Pepper, (“A Day in the Life” being the best.) This song is so incredible. It’s a total masterpiece of artistic expression. John Lennon said it best about the song, saying that George was “so clear” on this track, and that it was one of his favorite songs. The lyrics are some of the most brilliant in the entire Beatles catalog, and sonically, its just perfect, a psychedelic joyride through George’s Indian soaked mind. I also think its a stunningly original song coming from a man who adopted gurus to learn from his whole life, (Perkins, Lennon, McCartney, Dylan.) This song has nothing to do with any of those guys, its just pure George, and its brave of him to stick his head out, in the Beatles of all groups, with a song like this. And its undeniably fantastic!
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.
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.
So yesterday, the internet was all abuzz with the debut of the “42,” trailer, the new Jackie Robinson biopic featuring the music of Jay-Z. First of all, what trailer doesn’t feature the music of Jay-Z these days. Second, the introduction of this movie’s presence into my little world, sent my movie loving heart into overdrive. Historical biopics are my absolute favorite genre of movie, even though they are almost all terrible. Quentin Tarantino said it best, and I’m paraphrasing, ‘You can’t just shove a famous person’s life into a 2 hour movie and expect it to be a good exercise of film-making.’ He’s right, practically every historical biopic is fatally flawed for this reason. In these movies, the main actor is usually too old looking for the teenager scenes, and too young looking for the elderly scenes. Think “J. Edgar.” Another problem is the level of historical accuracy. Most times, historical fact is stretched for storytelling purposes in order to sensationalize the person or their story. One scene that comes to mind is from “Nowhere Boy” where fictional teenage John Lennon punches fictional teenage Paul McCartney at John’s mother’s funeral.
Needless to say, this never happened. The director of the flick, Sam Taylor-Wood, remarked that they needed a way to show John and Paul physically bonding…you know outside of their incredible musical partnership.
Another problem with historical accuracy is that sometimes its too accurate. This is the main criticism levied at Steven Spielberg’s soon to be released historical extravaganza, “Lincoln.” The film is an early bet to win a slew of Oscars because of the combination of the commercial master Spielberg, and Daniel Day-Lewis, the actor with the world’s greatest method. Lewis is known for throwing himself into roles with extremely methodical techniques and extensive research. Naturally, the excitement level for this flick was off the charts, and when the trailer hit, the general popcorn munching crowd were stunned when they heard the great Lincoln speak at last. Day-Lewis employed a high pitched, slightly whiny, Kentucky accent. By all recorded accounts, this is how Lincoln spoke. The public, used to seeing Lincoln sit majestically in the Lincoln Memorial, or gaze stoically off their pennies and 5 dollar bills, expected this man to speak with the voice of God. There was a palpable disappointment from the trailer debut because of this one minor point. For me, I loved that Daniel decided to give his Lincoln a historically accurate voicing. My problem with the trailer was the presence of too many familiar superstars dotting the canvas. I found it distracting to see Sally Fields, Tommy Lee Jones, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt inserting their famous mugs in the middle of 19th Century America. To me, this should be a movie where Day-Lewis is the most famous face, and all the rest should be brilliant but lesser known character actors like Jared Harris, who plays General US Grant, and Jackie Earle Haley, who plays Confederate Vice President Alexander Stevens. I’m not too upset though. Sometimes a trailer can’t do a great movie justice. Hopefully the film matches its hype and star power. Judge for yourself.
The next movie that I am absolutely seeing is “Hyde Park on Hudson.” The film is directed by Roger Mitchell, and stars Bill Murray as President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Its set during a crucial visit of British Royalty to FDR’s palatial family estate in Hyde Park, New York right before the onset of World War II. For those wondering, yes, its the same King and Queen we all loved from “The King’s Speech,” though obviously played by different actors. A lot of “Lincoln’s” early hype came from the fact that Daniel Day-Lewis was able to physically embody the person of Abraham Lincoln so perfectly. The man transformed magically into that Honest Abe, even if his voice shocked people. When I see Bill Murray as FDR, I just see older Bill Murray with a cigarette holder and a fancy hat. He looks nothing like FDR, and frankly, doesn’t even really sound like him. Now, its actually not really important for an actor to look exactly like the historical figure he is portraying. If the movie and performance are great enough, you end up buying the whole thing no matter what people on the screen look and sound like. Bill gives Roosevelt a halting and mischievous voice, hinting at Bill’s expert comedy skills. There are hints of seriousness from Bill, and I hope there are more in the actual movie, because FDR was one of the country’s greatest and most brilliant Presidents, and it would be interesting to see Bill play a character of such historical gravitas. On the surface, this trailer looks sleight, as one of the biggest plot points seems to be the scandal at serving the King and Queen of England hot dogs and cocktails. Take that you poncy snobs! It also seems to be an awkward love story where we are supposed to be rooting for Franklin as he merrily cheats on his wife with Laura Linney, who plays FDR’s real life mistress. Could be great, could be a train wreck, either way, they have my money.
Now we’re going to end from where we began, with “42,” the story of Jackie Robinson. Ironically, of the three trailers, this was my favorite, even though I think this will be the worst film of the bunch. On top of being a huge fan of history, I’m even a bigger fan of baseball history. It was stunning to see the long destroyed monument to Brooklyn baseball, Ebbets Field, existing in full HD reality. Also, the vintage uniforms and realistic baseball choreography was like catnip to me. Jay-Z’s ode to Brooklyn, “Brooklyn (We Go Hard),” which bleats menacingly over the gorgeous imagery of late 40s era baseball is a great contrast. Harrison Ford plays Branch Rickey, the real life hero who had the good sense and courage to integrate baseball with the signing of Jackie Robinson in 1947. Having seen Ken Burns’s “Baseball” documentary a hundred times, I can tell you that Ford looks and sounds just like Rickey, and based on the trailer, I’m betting on a masterwork performance. The actor that plays Jackie Robinson, Chadwick Boseman, is a dead ringer for the man, however there is one crucial difference. Boseman gives Jackie a thunderously low and powerful voice, like a cross between Shaft and Howling Wolf, when in reality, Jackie had a high pitched, almost nerdy voice. Think Tony Gywnn. The voice Boseman uses sounds great, and it makes you wonder how much more excited people would have been for “Lincoln” if Daniel Day-Lewis employed a similarly powerful voice. Now, with all that said, why do I think this film will be the worst of the three highlighted? Well, first of all, I hope it isn’t. I have high hopes that the filmmakers will be focused and clever enough to give Jackie the story he is due. The problem is that this is being marketed as a sensationalistic movie. Jackie is being presented as the toughest, most hard loving, passionate, and heroic human beings ever, all in the span of 1:47. Now, obviously, Jackie was all those things, but being a hero in a movie is radically different then being a hero in real life. In movies, heroes tend to swerve from one adrenaline spiked moment to the next, carried on the wings of ceaseless action and drama. What’s left out is the sense of tedium, loneliness, awkwardness, and randomness that makes up the majority of anyone’s life, be they an average Joe or Niel Armstrong. Like I said, hopefully this movie lives up to its great trailer.
Well, lastly, I hope you are looking forward to these movies as much as I am. I plan to be providing extensive reviews of each one once they come out to let you know how well I think they held up to their hype, so stay tuned historical biopic junkies! First up is “Lincoln,” premiering right after election day in early November. “Hyde Park on the Hudson” is coming out December 7th, and we’ll have to wait to April 2013 for “42.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!”