UPDATE 12/31/2013: Happy New Years everybody! I just want to let you know that I re-recorded Memory Lane and I updated the music video to reflect all the new sonic goodness! I hope you have a great 2014 filled with tons of dreamy memories.
UPDATE 12/22/2013: Today marks the end of what turned out to be a very productive weekend for me. As you can see below, I updated the song and music video for Chain Letter, and now I am adding a brand new original music video for my song Memory Lane. I wasn’t planning to make a music video for this but my dear friend Sonia and I were wondering around Southern Brooklyn and captured some footage of some swans and ducks and realized we had some interesting footage. Combined with some other stuff we’d filmed over the summer, we found ourselves with a video perfect for Memory Lane. In the clip, you can see me and Sonia bumbling around and excitedly pointing at things by Sheepshead Bay. I hope you enjoy it and I hope it gets you excited for my soon to be released album Funeral Business. Again, big thanks to the ultra-talented Andrew Lee for providing the beautiful electric guitar work to the song. I’d also like to thank Andrew for believing in the song when I was ready to throw it away for some reason. So, without further babbling, here is music video!
Originally Published May 8, 2011: Andrew and I tweaked the song. He redid his solo to make it more tuneful, and I redid the chorus to achieve a similar effect. I’d love for everyone to hear it!
I woke up at 5 am on Saturday Morning and made this, my newest song, Memory Lane. Well, to be honest, I had written most of the song last fall, but it wasn’t till this past weekend when I figured out how to record it. Conceptually, I was very much inspired by the Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields single. But unlike those songs, this one is more universal, and less personal. The version I present to you is mostly finished. I might tweak the drums or add a little more guitar color in a future version, but its basically done. I hope you enjoy it.
Memory Lane featuring Andrew Lee on lead guitar.
(Words and music by Willie Simpson)
Oh, here are the lyrics if you wish to sing along.
There are a lot of “Worst Beatle Songs” lists out there, and they all have the same formula. The writer lists 2-3 songs that are absolute duds, and then sprinkles in a few that are actually classics just to fuck with people’s long held opinions. In preparing for this piece, I read those articles, many written by major magazines, and top online blogs, and saw songs like “Hey Jude,” “All You Need is Love,” “Yesterday,” and “Penny Lane.” It’s simply a travesty, even if you are just trying to get attention, to lump any of those songs onto a “worst ever” list, and you won’t see it here. Also, its mandatory for all of these writers to include “Revolution #9,” a song loathed and skipped the world over. I know its equally pretentious to claim being a fan of “Revolution #9,” but count me as one. I just think it adds richness and color to the “White Album.” It’s interesting to listen to, not a bore at all, and has really nice snippets of sound effects and music woven into it very beautifully. It’s experimental, daring, and fuck you for criticizing the Beatles for trying something off the wall after giving you the soundtrack to your life. Ok, with all that said, I’m going to give you the three worst Beatle songs according to me. Now, I also want to preface, that despite the fact that I think these songs are terrible, I still let them play if they pop on my iPod, and they still get stuck in my head.
#3. “Mr. Moonlight”- This is a song that finds its way on most lists, and for good reason; its probably the worst cover the Beatles ever did. John’s lead vocal is forced and the backing vocals are lame. It’s one of these ancient 50s standards that the Beatles can’t quite seem to bring into the next decade. I just don’t understand why the guys liked this song enough to put it on one of their albums. The lyrics are insanely embarrassing and bad, “we love you, Mr. Moonlight.” Lastly, when they repeat “Mr. Moonlight” to end the song with a dark three part harmony, its just dreadful, and possibly the worst harmonizing they ever laid on tape.
#2. “A Taste of Honey”- Another cover song. This one has lyrics more thoroughly embarrassing then “Mr. Moonlight,” and musically, its just as awful. It’s some kind of dark samba like shuffle with utterly bizarre emotional and lyrical moments with the main dramatic hook being biggest offender, “A taste of HONEY!…tasting, much sweeter, then wine, doo doo do dooo!” The thing about this song is that it’s terrifyingly catchy. You will probably be humming the start and stop melody for a week in the back of your brain after hearing, so be warned. Perhaps the Beatles recorded it to show off their range at playing show tunes, or perhaps they appreciated its catchy refrain, the number one ingredient they were searching for in their own songwriting. Whatever they were really thinking when making “A Taste of Honey,” is hard to fathom, and thus can only be appreciated with irony, delicious as it might be.
#1. “Do You Want to Know a Secret”- Before George was George, he was just the youngest member of the Beatles. He hadn’t cultivated any songwriting ability, and his voice wasn’t as strong as John or Paul’s, but being a Beatle, he had a massive fan base that wanted to hear from him. So, John and Paul took it upon themselves to write songs for George and Ringo, and were quite clever about it. They realized that there would be a huge demand for it, and that they could give the lesser songs, they themselves to embarrassed to sing, to George and Ringo, just to get rid of them. One of these songs was “Do You Want to Know a Secret.” Right away, you can tell why John dumped this thing on George. It starts off with an ambitious declaratory and unmusical refrain, but then kicks off into the schmaltziest take on 60s doo-wop ever heard. The backing vocals say it all, “doo-wah-doo” sung after ever line with shameless pixie like stupidity. The most immortal line, “I’ve known a secret for a week or two, nobody knows, just we twoooo,” is a crime not only against music, but grammar as well. John famously said that he gave it to George because, “it only had three notes and he wasn’t the best singer in the world.” He did qualify the brutally harsh statement by saying “he has improved a lot since then.” John said that in 1980, a full decade after George’s rise to genius songwriter/performer, so he’s either being sarcastic by limiting his praise for George, or just outright mean. Either way he ignores the fact that he wrote the stupid song, and it would sound awful coming from anybody. On the plus side, there is still something magical going on, mainly its unstoppable catchiness. The melody is timeless…existing at the lowest wrung of timeless melodies, but hanging in, somehow. It proves that even at their worst, the Beatles had some enchanted sense of beauty that permeated everything they touched…..doo-wah-dooo.
“Come with me now, to that secret place, where the eyes of man have never set foot…” The “Magical Mystery Tour,” represents an odd moment in Beatle history as both a film and an album. As a record, its unintentionally brilliant. The original British EP just consisted of songs from the hour long movie such as “Fool on the Hill,” “Blue Jay Way,” “I am the Walrus,” and the cool trippy instrumental “Flying.” That now rare EP has long since been replaced by the full length American issued record. The LP, not only includes the songs from the movie but also includes all the humungous Beatle singles from 1967 such as “All You Need is Love,” “Strawberry Fields Forever,” and “Penny Lane.” It makes for a colossal psychedelic album, littered with Beatle masterpieces. The film, while containing much of this fantastic music, is a different story all together. Conceived mainly by Paul McCartney as a solution to give the Beatles exposure without the hell of playing to insane live audiences, the film ended up being the Beatles first real commercial and critical disappointment. So let’s not kid ourselves, the movie sucks. The plot makes no sense, its poorly edited, (save the musical numbers) includes a ridiculously pointless strip tease, and ends suddenly with little to no explanation. That being said, the film is a total joy and wonder. I know, I just massively contradicted myself, but come on, you get to see some of the greatest musical geniuses the world has ever known, running around like mad as a collective unit, at a time when they were at their creative peak. It’s a priceless document of the lads in the era right after the death of their manager Brian Epstein, (the first real death knell of the group according to John Lennon), and just before their incredible spiritual journey to India. The making of the film became a source of tension for John and George, as Paul basically created and directed most of it. John and George were becoming increasingly disgruntled with Paul’s emerging group dominance, and resentment grew mightily. As for the Mystery Tour itself, that too ended up being a disaster as fans found the bus on the road, tailed it, and caused traffic jams. John angrily tore the “Mystery Tour” graphics off the bus’s side so they could proceed filming on schedule and with more anonymity. With all the unhappiness present amongst the Beatles, glimmers of joy and goofiness do pierce the film’s dreck. Ringo is simply a fantastic actor with a lot of heart and humor. John, decked out in psychedelic lederhosen, has some nice moments with a cute little kid, and George is deliciously weird as fuck throughout the entire film. Paul, who is blamed for a majority of the film’s crappiness as director, does get a stunning spotlight for his “Fool on the Hill” sequence as he dances around the cliffs of France. Anyway, I got the full film, remastered in stunning sound and glorious color, so roll on up for the Mystery Tour, just click play!
The best discoveries are the ones you make by accident. Just yesterday, my roommate keyed me into letmewatchthis.ch, one of those movie streaming websites of dubious legality. It’s a pretty cool site with a lot of variety of stuff, but new and old. On a lark, I typed in “Beatles” in the search box, and I found something I’ve NEVER seen before. It was a BBC documentary on the making of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band produced in 1992, on the 25th anniversary of its historic 1967 release. This documentary, presented below in 6 parts, excited the hell out of me because it featured insights and interviews, I’ve NEVER seen before, and as an obsessive Beatle fan, I’ve seen nearly EVERYTHING. You’ll see incredible interviews with Paul, George, Ringo, George Martin, and even Brian Wilson, which is interesting because this was the record that caused him to have a mental break down. This is fantastic, and well, worth diving into on your July 4th holiday. Enjoy.
Part 1 – The Beatles had conquered the world, said they were bigger than Jesus, and quit playing live. You get to see the shameful Beatle record burnings, the riot in the Philippines, and the murky underside of Beatlemania. Fun fact I NEVER knew, when George went to India after the Beatles quit touring, Paul actually went to Kenya! Not too many African influences on Sgt. Pepper though…Oh, you also learn how Paul forced the other Beatles to go to work on the new record which gave the other guys a lot of anxiety.
Part 2 – George Martin breaks down the complex insanely awesome production it took to make Strawberry Fields Forever. Plus you get to see the proper Englishman who played the French Horn solo on Penny Lane! Also, Paul gives insight into how he was burned by John when he suggested calling their songwriting team McCartney/Lennon. Hah!
Part 3 – The album concept emerges, the making of the Sgt. Pepper song, and the making of Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds. This documentary is awesome because its punctuated with George Martin and Paul McCartney in the studio playing keyboards and breaking down the music theory behind the songs. Genius stuff. Oh, and John accidentally takes LSD in the studio and nearly jumps off the roof of Abbey Road studios.
Part 4 – We get insight in the fierce yet productive songwriting competition between John and Paul. George Martin incorrectly gives Paul all the credit for “With A Little Help From My Friends,” while Ringo saves himself from getting pelted by tomatoes. Lastly, you get immortally indispensable insight into the creation of “Within You Without You.”
Part 5 – Paul McCartney admits that Pet Sounds is the biggest influence on Sgt. Pepper. Plus we see poor Brian Wilson admit to how Sgt. Pepper blew him away so much that it made him insane. Phil Collins stops by and talks about another room. Also, we get to see the mythic Cork Flakes commercial that inspired John Lennon’s “Good Morning.”
Part 6- We meet Peter Blake, the designer of the cover, we learn how “A Day in the Life” was constructed, and we see George Martin nearly break down observing its gorgeousness. Ringo attributes his great drumming to be surrounded by 3 frustrated drummers who could only play one style really well. Paul gets the last word talking about how critics predicted the demise of the Beatles, secretly knowing that he was sitting on the masterpiece that was Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
In part 46 of my youtube countdown, we travel back to the past again, my past. When I was 17 years old, “Strawberry Fields Forever” was my favorite song in the world. I don’t know why exactly, but this song just seemed like the greatest work of music I’d ever heard. I loved the loping mellotron introduction. I loved the way John’s voice stretched over the distorted string quartet, as if it were being pulled like taffy. I loved Ringo’s manic jungle like drumming. In fact, this is the most psychedelic drumming Ringo achieved with the Beatles, a massive achievement in a string of drumming highlights for Ringo in this period, (A Day in the Life being Ringo’s true drumming masterpiece.) I remember as a teenager writing the words, “Living is easy with eyes closed,” everywhere; in my notebooks, on desks, on my locker, on walls. I remember finding an old newspaper in my attic that my dad had from 1969 with the original “Paul is Dead” article, highlighting all the clues, with one claiming that John is chanting “I buried Paul” in the outro. The reality of course being him saying “Cranberry Sauce;” (an equally delicious phrase in a song full of gorgeous imagery.) Speaking of gorgeous imagery, the video I present here is the most perfect, stunning capture of the Beatles legendary video for “Strawberry Fields.” The video presents the Beatles at their most weird. They are reveling in their artistry and merry prankster like shenanigans. What is the theme of this video? As far as I can tell, the Beatles are gathering in a field, and are constructing some sort of magical piano by tying the strings to a tree. Then of course they paint it with beautiful psychedelic colors. So, here you go, unabashed strawberry love from me to you.