Paul McCartney’s Queenie Eye And His Long Road To Simulated Creativity

Posted in Paul McCartney on October 27th, 2013 by Willie

paul queenie eye

Well, I haven’t updated since May and there are many reasons folks. New apartments, new jobs, working on new music and finishing my album all led to a general lack of time to devote to my website. On top of that, I spent last weekend furiously going through as many old posts as possible, replacing all the busted video links I could. I know there are still many more that don’t work and I hope to get to them someday. Just drop me a line on ones you find that don’t work that you’d like to see and I’ll see what I can do. Anyway, it’s good to be back to talk all things rock and roll.

Paul McCartney has released dozens and dozens of records since the Beatles split in 1970. When the Beatles broke up, he was only 28 or 29-years-old, still incredibly young for all he had accomplished and still burning to make music. And make it he did. Throughout the 1970s, with his wife Linda and then with Wings, he produced a plethora of hit records and singles. My favorite record from this era is Ram, his second solo LP. If you ever wanted a sequel to Paul’s work on the White Album, Ram is your record. Critics often point to Band on the Run as representing the peak, but to me that album is Paul’s effort to overhaul his experimental and intimate pop sound into something more slick, energized and urbane. I think Paul is at his best when he is sitting around with his acoustic guitars, overdubbing psychedelic style blues riffs, and crafting intricately layered vocal harmonies over his melodies. I never really dug the slicker ‘big band’ style Paul, which I feel was his attempt to create a larger than life stage show built around bombastic circus anthems and 70s influenced guitar stylings. Don’t get me wrong, there are many tracks that are great in this style, including Jet or the title track from Band on the Run, but I can’t help but feel that even those songs feel a bit forced.

In the 1980s, Paul, like many of the great 60s rockers of his generation, fell off his artistic peak. He produced many shitty electronic albums like Pipes of Peace or the abysmal 1986 effort Press to Play. That record was described by huge Paul McCartney fan and genius rock rock critic George Starostin as “Pure electronic garbage. One of the lowest moments in rock history.” It was hard to blame Paul for starting to suck. He was a workaholic in spite of his constant stream of massive success and he burned out. The 1980s marked the end of his career as a contemporary artist.

As the 1990s dawned, Paul, like his legendary pals who were still alive, entered into what I call the nostalgia museum phase. His new records would be attempts to give audiences what they loved most about him in the first place, namely, Beatles music, and his shows would be more carefully pruned to forever ditch the stuff that nobody every cared about. To achieve that goal, he stripped back any pretense of trying to keep up with musical trends and just come up with the same mix of experimental (now traditional) pop and clever little love ballads. The results were mostly mixed to bad. Flaming Pie from 1997, was awful. Starostin wrote that “The search for simplicity has ended in banality and primitive tunelessness.” Paul, and the rest of the music business, hadn’t figured out how to give people a simulation of the magic that could never really be repeated anyway.

So, with that in mind, let’s jump to the musical world of 2013. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, a lot of embarrassing music was produced by everybody but improvements in technology and a whole new generation of obsessed and passionate music nerds started changing the way music was being made. When I talk about passionate music nerds, I’m not just talking about purists in any specific sense, I’m talking about purists across the board. An army of hardcore music fans, each holding up a banner for a certain genre, be it hip-hop, classic rock and roll, indie rock, disco, bubblegum, techno and everything in between, emerged. These music geeks were not only armed with an encyclopedic history of their favorite types of specific music, but were training themselves to make it, using relatively cheap recording and producing technology. From this bubbling explosion of intelligent and self motivated music enthusiasts, the very best found themselves in studios, working with technology that allowed for practically any style of music to become possible. Retro could somehow be made to sound new and the aesthetics of handmade creations could be designed to come off corporate and slick. This technological revolution has seemingly made it possible for current music stars, motivated to stay relevant, to churn out a never ending stream of stylish pop music that is as hard to ignore once released as it is easily forgotten.

Pop music these days is a purely transient experience, like an express train flying by a local subway stop. It is not only designed to push your emotional pleasure buttons, but stomp them in a fury of dazzling and breath-taking maneuvers. Producers are getting so good at crafting these things that people who hate Beyonce for instance, are finding themselves surprised to be liking her single in the back of their minds, even though they are consciously rejecting it both viscerally and emotionally. As I eluded to before, the biggest side-effect of this phenomenon is forgetability. Everyone sounds fresh. Everyone sounds retro. Every song is pulsing with those homemade ramshackle garage drums while being spliced with the addictive beat of authoritative drum machines. It’s a sensory overload that sounds phenomenal at a club or at a concert but is quickly disposed of once it’s time to release the next batch of songs. No one can even characterize the decades anymore by what types of music is being produced. It’s all becoming a meaningless white noise designed to flash across our brains like a multi-colored strobe light.

Whew. So, back to our friend, and one of the originators of practically everything going on today some how. Paul’s newest single, off of his stupidly named album “New,” is everything I was just talking about. Why is “New” a stupid name? Well, my biggest gripe with the title of his record is that it reminds me of this new trend of “minimalist corporate futurism.” People try to sell everything with this element of simplicity, trying to capture the iPhone marketing mentality. It’s gotten dumb. Also, besides the slick marketing presentation, God love him, Paul has undergone a series of face lifts and hair transplants and despite this, the 70-year-old ‘cute’ Beatle is finally showing his age. The power of his voice, once capable of scorching out high notes as well as Little Richard, has diminished significantly. When he was playing Beatle classics on the Colbert Show earlier this year, astute fans had noticed that he transposed the songs down a whole step to match his lost ability. No longer can he belt out those gorgeous upper register notes that he used to hit so effortlessly. I am not faulting him for aging, or trying to cover it up, in fact I’m not faulting him for anything. I just find it all interesting to witness. Still, whatever, he can’t really be blamed for any of this. In fact, he should be applauded for continuing to entertain his millions of fans, both young and old, decade after decade.

When I first heard Queenie Eye, I caught it for 30 seconds at the end of a rather unrevelatory Howard Stern interview, where Paul dished on John’s LSD use and the making of “Getting Better” off Sgt. Pepper. One nugget I did take away from the talk was Paul talking about the first song he wrote with John called “Just Fun,” or something like that. I am always surprised to hear new Beatle trivia as I have practically memorized their entire story. Anyway, the flash of that song had everything I explained above. It pushed all my Beatle buttons. The melodies seemed to curve unexpectedly and the harmonies were lush and intricate. The stomp of the music had that classic marching Ringo beat and the energy was way up for someone trying to disguise their increasing weariness. Queenie Eye is some meaningless story about an obscure British game played by children Liverpool. The song would probably be perfect for scoring a scene from a Harry Potter Quidditch match, capturing a childhood sense of magic, Britishness and sports.

Anyway, whoever produced it, had access to the magic “sound like solo Paul doing Beatles” button in the studio, stuffing it with all the touchstones. I don’t for one second believe Paul himself really directed the production of the song. Sure, he wrote it, arranged it and possibly played most of the instruments on the track but there is no way he was fiddling with all the modern compression and equalization knobs found in the latest version of whatever fancy recording software is being used in Abbey Road these days.  I doubt Paul was telling the producer to fill the piano sound all the way up to the front, creating that deafening modern wall of sound effect that practically all songs have now. I’m also certain it wasn’t Paul’s idea to have that mellotron drone so loudly in the mix, giving the song that delicious 60s vibe. Also, I’d bet that the radio effect on Paul’s voice is there to mask his increasingly elderly sounding voice.

In the end, what we are left with is a simulation of everything we love about Paul McCartney. Twisting melodies, harmonies, interesting and homespun sounding keyboard sounds, chants, choruses, anthmatic refrains and rainbows. All of it curiously sucked dry of anything resembling reality. The only thing it proves is that Paul is a master of his style, a hallow thing considering he has proved it a billion times before. What is the point of him proving this at age 70? His fans know him, inside and out. Maybe Paul realized that many of his failed records in his later career are too filled with the sort of sad energy that comes with aging. This record itself might be full of those songs too actually, I have no idea, but Paul did announce with this album that he will never retire, so he has probably given up the idea of trying to communicate to people that he is tired and old. Again, I’m not blaming him for anything. The man obviously needs to keep the charade going for his mental health, which is fine. After all, life is mostly a charade, basically. Also, when ranking the most authentic Beatles, you have John and George at the top, godly in their lofty punkishness, Ringo next, never pretending to be anything other than a drummer from Liverpool who made it big, and Paul at the bottom, desperate to keep reminding people of his fame decade after decade, despite never realizing that there was nothing he could do to ever really lose it.

The video itself, presented below, is the perfect compliment to the dazzling nothingness that the song represents. You have Paul, blithely playing piano with his frail hands, which indicate how withered his face really should be, while A-list celebrities appear out of nowhere to listen in. As Paul pounds away, the celebrities either gawk at him, bob their heads slowly or dance in a spirit that doesn’t come close to reflecting the nature of the song. Paul, who has always had a problem appearing natural on camera, doesn’t even register their presence and acts like this is all par for the course, which in his insanely amazing universe, probably is. It might have been nice to see Paul actually backed by other musicians. As it is, he looks like he is drowning in the middle of the music instead of being the source of it. It also would have been nice to see Paul get up and dance around with the celebrities or shake their hands. If I were directing this, I’d have told them all to lift him on their shoulders and carry him around or something. Instead, everyone appears to be divorced from reality, again, unintentionally reflecting the truth of the matter despite best efforts made not to. It’s kind of a shame because Paul was once part of a video that captured everything incredible about this kind of environment. In “All You Need Is Love,” the Beatles are seen performing the song with a live orchestra, surrounded by a mix of normal people and celebrities like Eric Clapton and Mick Jagger. Those megastars are seen sitting on the floor and singing along, forced to the honor the majesty of the Beatles in a non-phony way.

Well, I am out of things to say. As you can see, the longer the layoff, the longer the posts. I hope to keep updating on a more regular basis again and continue to clean up the site as I get closer to releasing my record. All the best everybody!

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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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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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Battle of the Bands, Part 4, Beatles & Stones, For No One vs. She Smiled Sweetly

Posted in Battle of the Bands, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones on March 27th, 2012 by Willie

I love these two songs.  It’s practically a crime to have the two fight for glory, but fight they must.  “For No One,” from Revolver, is one of Paul McCartney’s most brilliant break up songs, and “She Smiled Sweetly,” from Between the Buttons is perhaps Mick and Keith’s most beautiful and mature love song.  Let’s pull the curtain up first on Paul McCartney’s “For No One.”  Whoosh.

A lot of great Beatle footage in there, even though the song is practically a solo Paul effort.  Ok, now onto “She Smiled Sweetly.”

And after watching that, I do believe that she did indeed smile sweetly.  Ok, lets check out the battlefield, count the bloody remains, and see who won this competition of the damned.

BEST DRUMMING:  Charlie Watts.  Ringo is probably the second greatest contributor to “For No One,” but his drumming is purposefully mixed low underneath the driving piano and French horn courtesy of Alan Civil.  Charlie, who hasn’t had a good showing thus far in the Battle of the Bands finally scores over Ringo.  His drumming is upfront, beautiful, and intimate, boldly displaying an unadorned emotionality in every beat.

BEST BASS PLAYING:  Bill Wyman.  Paul’s bass is limited, and kinda gimmicky in its attempt to mimic a classical arrangement.  It works, but I really prefer Bill’s work on “She Smiled Sweetly.”  His bass just vibrates and soars with a fat resonance.  It’s actually rather gorgeous and provides about 50% of the songs somber atmosphere.

BEST RHYTHM PLAYING:  Paul.  There isn’t really any guitar work on these songs, so we’ll compare pianos.  Both are expertly performed, but Paul McCartney’s piano riffs and arrangements are very creative and singular.  “She Smiles Sweetly” has a beautiful and lumbering shuffle, but it’s not what makes the song special.

BEST LEAD PLAYING:  Paul.  Well, Alan Civil to be precise.  The French Horn solo is actually the only solo in either song, and it’s pretty great, creating a sort of mundane English matter of factness.  The feeling it is evokes is one that says, ‘you might have just had your heart destroyed, but life is going on all around you, and nobody cares.’  It was a masterstroke of production common of George Martin and Paul McCartney by 1966.

BEST LEAD SINGING:  Mick.  We are passing the group singing for this contest, as there isn’t really any.  What we have though is Mick’s insanely vulnerable and atmospheric vocal performance, a testament to his range, and evidence of him being one of the world’s greatest rock singers, if not the greatest.  Mick just encapsulates coolness, sadness, beauty, and mystique all at once in this gorgeous love ode.  Paul is equally incredible, but his performance is a bit restrained and distant.  He performs a more emotional and rendition of the song on acoustic guitar in this video, which I’ve highlighted before.

BEST SONGWRITING:  TIE!  Both songs represent the best of mid 60s British chamber pop.  Both songs were written by songwriting masters.  Both songs are performed with the utmost emotionality and genuineness.  Both songs are works of genius.  It’s a tie.

WINNER:  The Rolling Stones!  “She Smiled Sweetly” just takes me to that special place no matter what mood I’m in.  “For No One,” is most effective after a breakup, as its particularly devastating, but when that’s not the case its merely just a great song.  “She Smiled Sweetly,” is the stuff dreams are made of.  Stay tuned tomorrow as we wrap up this Battle of the Bands in a thrilling and unexpected conclusion.  Don’t miss it!

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Battle of the Bands, Part 3, Beatles & Stones, Girl vs. Ruby Tuesday

Posted in Battle of the Bands, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones on March 25th, 2012 by Willie

Welcome back to part 3 of my live reporting at 85th annual “Battle of the Bands!  We have the Rolling Stones and the Beatles continuing their quest to impress the judges with their finest music, and after a short break, the bands are ready to hop back on the stage to meet at loggerheads once again…But before we do, we’d just like to point out today’s sponsor; George Martin’s ridiculously pimped out album cover for his rare LP, “George Martin Instrumentally Salutes: The Beatle Girls.”  Just absorb that image of the dapper producer knee deep in London’s finest ladies.  My God, that’s amazing, and so on that note, lets get back to the show.  First up we have the Rolling Stones with “Ruby Tuesday” from Between the Buttons.

Well, that was just charming and dandy.  Let’s see how the Beatles respond…ahh, I can tell by the first few notes that they are launching into “Girl” from Rubber Soul.

Wonderful, I can tell the judges are going to have a hard time determining the victor here, let’s see the results.

BEST DRUMMING:  Ringo, and it’s not really close.  Mr. Starr lays down a gorgeous shuffling beat, filled with elegant cymbal play, accentuating the slurping post “girl” passages.  The song is incredibly atmospheric and intimate, and I think Ringo’s restrained and careful style has a lot to do with it.  Charlie does a fine job, but the percussion on “Ruby Tuesday” doesn’t envelop me the same way Ringo’s does.  Next!

BEST BASS PLAYING:  Paul, but it’s not fair.  “Ruby Tuesday” doesn’t really feature Bill Wyman’s electric bass so much as it does him hand playing a double bass, which is cool, but boring.  Paul is clearly heard on “Girl,” and as expected, he delivers a subtle and melodic performance, playfully bouncing around the outer edges of the song and giving it an enriching atmosphere.

BEST RHYTHM PLAYING:  John, and again it’s not so fair as “Ruby Tuesday’s” rhythm is mostly piano based.  But even comparing the piano rhythm on “Ruby Tuesday” to the guitar rhythm on “Girl,” the Beatles still come out on top.  What can I say, I’m just lifted away on the gentle cloud of John and George’s beautiful Martin guitars, maybe because its a cloudy cool day.

BEST LEAD PLAYING:  Brian Jones.  I love the Beatles Greek style guitar picking on “Girl,” but Brian Jones plays that lead solo line a frigging recorder!  You know, the thing from elementary school they give to all kids?  He sounds masterly on it, gleefully sharing the spotlight with Mick’s vocals.

BEST GROUP SINGING:  TIE!  It was too close, I was instinctively going to give it to the Beatles for their gorgeous and intricate “tit-tit-tit” backing vocals (yes they are saying tit,) but I can’t deny the charming and often underrated harmonies that Keith and Mick produce. While Keith’s voice doesn’t stick out as much as Mick’s in the mix in the way that John and Paul’s do, he just sounds like the coolest friend ever, and his presence just always makes the affair much happier.

BEST LEAD SINGING:  John.  Mick is amazing as ever singing Ruby Tuesday, but there is something very singular and unique about John’s performance on “Girl.”  I can’t really think of another Beatle or solo John song that comes close to matching the style or the energy of “Girl.”

BEST SONGWRITING:  TIE!  My reasoning for this is that I truly think “Girl” is the better song, but I can’t ignore that “Ruby Tuesday” was a smash hit.  Also, the Stones tie the Beatles in the area because there is legitimate confusion as to who was responsible for “Girl.”  John insists he wrote the whole thing, probably because he was proud of how it turned out, but Paul humbly differs.  In fact, it might not just be the music, but a bunch of the Lennon-esque lyrics might have belonged to Paul as well.  Such details don’t detract from the song, but sort of muddy up the history of a really interesting and important breakthrough Beatle song.

WINNER:  Well, the Beatles win this round 3-1, not counting the ties, and why not?  “Ruby Tuesday” might be catchier and more known by the public at large, but “Girl” has a cool philosophical mystique that is really stunning.  Even though the Beatles seemed to win this contest easily, it was really much closer than that, illustrating yet again the knock down, dragged out fight for glory this contest has become.  Reporting live from Wimbledon, I’m Willie Simpson saying, see you tomorrow for the second to last installment of our battle royale between the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.


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Battle of the Bands, Part 2, Beats & Stones, Day Tripper vs. Satisfaction

Posted in Battle of the Bands, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones on March 23rd, 2012 by Willie

Welcome to part 2 of the epic slug-fest between Britain’s greatest musical exports, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.  Part 1 was a close contest, in which we found the Beatles barely squeaking by in a battle as to who could rock “I Wanna Be Your Man,” more proficiently.  That was just kid stuff however, as today we break out the real dynamite.  Today we have the Beatles “Day Tripper,” vs. the Rolling Stones “Satisfaction.”  I’ll just spoil it right now, the Rolling Stones win.  Ok?  Bored yet?  Don’t be!  Well, if you want ok, but lets go through it anyway.  First lets watch the immaculate hit of genius proportions that is “Day Tripper.”

Holy shit, go go girls dancing to Beatles music with the Beatles standing right there!  I’ve never seen the Beatles in that kind of situation before…pretty awesome!  Well, that was highly satisfying…onto the Rolling Stones…

My favorite anecdote from Keith Richard’s autobiography, Life, was recalling how before the 1970s, Mick Jagger just danced, and it was fucking great.  Later on in the 70s and 80s Mick got a coach, which Keith thought was rightfully bullshit.   In this video you see Mick pulling off some righteous footwork, also his pants seem to be glowing.  Amazing.  Onto the RESULTS!

BEST DRUMMING:  TIE!  Actually, its not that exciting, the drums are the last thing I pay attention to when enjoying these two songs.  Both Charlie and Ringo take a back seat to the more interesting stuff going on in these songs, which brings us to….

BEST BASS PLAYING:  TIE!  Dammit…again?  The only thing really going on in bass in these songs mirroring the dynamic riffs that altered the course of rock and roll forever.

BEST RHYTHM PLAYING:  TIE!  WHAT THE FUCK!  The more I keep playing these songs back to back, the more I realize how identical they are in many ways.  In both bands, you have Lennon and Jones just sort of filling out shuffly little chords underneath the riffs with nary a notice.

BEST LEAD GUITAR:  Stones, no question.  At last, somebody scores.  What else can you say, Keith Richards is incredible.  He wrote the riff in his sleep, had it on tape along with his snoring the next day, and rock and roll collectively rocked and rolled another ten thousand light years down the cosmic super highway.  Now, the Day Tripper riff is nothing to sneeze at, in fact I’ve always been curious just how the international jet setting, stadium touring, movie making, TV appearing, center of Beatlemania most famous people in the world being, Beatles, just pulled this riff of diamonds out of their butts, but they had access to magics few can understand.  Still, in many ways “Day Tripper” was written as a response to groundbreaking work in riffage that the Rolling Stones were exploring, and it is a mighty response, but the Stones got there first.

BEST GROUP SINGING:  The Beatles.  What’s cool about “Day Tripper” is that Paul McCartney is singing lead on a John Lennon song for the most part, and that they cram in the best part of “Twist and Shout” into the bridge, somehow making it original again.  It’s fantastic.  “Satisfaction,” on the other hand is mainly just Mick, which brings us to…

BEST LEAD SINGING:  The Rolling Stones.  This is Mick Jagger’s ultimate song.  It stuffs all his dangerous, swarthy, bluesy, teenagey, rebellious, sexually frustrated, radicalness into one glorious package.  “Day Tripper,” as discussed, doesn’t even have a lead singer really.

BEST SONGWRITING:  Ahh…a new category, it would have been pointless to include this in the last post, but the winner here is the Rolling Stones.  Keith came up with the riff and the “I Can’t Get No, Satisfaction” melody, while Mick put his stamp on the lyrics and the rest of the song.  It was a team effort of historic proportions that really illustrated the magic of the Jagger/Richards songwriting duo.  “Day Tripper” has proto-“in your face”-psychedelic lyrics, “a drug song” in John Lennon’s words, and it is a basket of rock and roll fun, but “Satisfaction” is a milestone, while “Day Tripper” is…ummm…also a milestone, but one of many the Beatles churned out.

WINNER:  The Rolling Stones by a score of 3-1.  I didn’t lie when I told you the Stones would win.  I hadn’t worked out the math before I delved into it, but I knew that scientifically there was no way they would lose this contest.  You’ll never guess what battle awaits tomorrow, but if you happen to be a mellotron, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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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, Some Girls

Posted in The Rolling Stones, Youtube Favs on November 29th, 2011 by Willie

Some Girls is one of the best Rolling Stones records.  It’s sleazy, dirty, punky, and country.  It came out in 1978, and has just been reissued it a nice little collectors package.  You should get it; I know I will.  To celebrate its corporate repackaging, I present to you a thoroughly scandalous fan made music video of the title song from the record.  The video features classic films such as “Easy Rider,” “Backbeat,” “Quadrophenia,” “Death Proof,” “Goodfellas,” and “Dr. No.”  It also has great clips of the Sex Pistols, Blondie, and the Rolling Stones, all vamping it up for one of the Stones most booziest songs.

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The Rolling Stones, Gimmie Shelter, First Performance Ever!

Posted in The Rolling Stones, Youtube Favs on September 28th, 2011 by Willie

Like the title says, this video represents the first time the Rolling Stones played, “Gimmie Shelter” in public.  They played the song on “Pop Go the Sixties,” a variety show no doubt, (the 60s were rife with them,) and they pull it off as good as they ever would.  Made for the brilliant Let it Bleed record, “Gimmie Shelter” was Richard and Jagger’s genius abstract mashup of all the apocalyptic violent atmosphere dominating the hearts and minds of people across the world in the late 60s.  It’s one of the best songs of the Vietnam era, and it just drips cool and burns with bluesy hellfire.  The song also reflected the tumultuous time the Stones were going through themselves what with increased heavy drug use from Richards, the death of Brian Jones, and killing at their massive free Altamont Concert.  Oh, and I can’t end my little entry without mentioning how legendary guest vocalist Merry Clayton, the female vocalist who burns her voice into music history with her lines, “Rape, murder, it’s just a shot away, its just a shot away.”  Of course Mick performs that part in the live performance, but still, timeless.

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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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