Making More Rock And Roll, Deconstructing Sgt. Pepper

Posted in The Beatles, Willie Simpson's Original Music on December 1st, 2012 by Willie

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.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Mad Men, The Eleanor Rigby Experiment

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

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

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

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Paul McCartney, Coming Up

Posted in Paul McCartney on June 27th, 2012 by Willie

This is my all time favorite solo Paul McCartney music video.  It would have been on the site years ago, but I could never find a version of it on youtube that I was able to embed on my website.  Those days are over, so, at long last, I can proudly paste “Coming Up,” on  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!”

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Paul McCartney, Take it Away

Posted in Paul McCartney on June 21st, 2012 by Willie

“Tug of War” is one of the best solo Paul McCartney albums, and probably the best one from the 80s.  The record was produced by famed Beatle producer George Martin, sometimes referred to as the fifth Beatle, and this music video, which I’ve never seen before all of ten minutes ago, Martin lives out that fantasy by rocking the piano with Paul, Ringo, Linda, and actor John Hurt.  I never took it upon myself to exhaustively plow through all the ex-Beatle catalogs in the way I carved the original Beatle records on stone tablets, which is great because it allows me to discover songs and video clips that I never knew existed.  “Take it Away,” is one such example, and the song and video is just a delightful treat for all Beatle fans, and all fans of charming good fun…oh, and happy belated 70th birthday Paul!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ween Breaks Up

Posted in Ween on May 31st, 2012 by Willie

One of the world’s most creative and innovate bands, Ween, has apparently ended.  The band’s lead singer Aaron Freeman, otherwise known as Gene Ween, has announced the end of Ween in Rolling Stone.  The breakup came as suprise to Mickey Melchiondo, Dean Ween, as he sent out this sad message on facebook.

Obviously it seems that the breakup is sudden and unplanned.  Aaron noted that there is no bad blood, but rather its just a time to just close that chapter in his life.  Is this really the end?  Maybe officially, but probably not forever.  I’m sure some reunion concert/reunion record will come down the road at some point.  Whether that’s gonna be in 2 years, or 20, nobody knows right now, but its truly a sad day in the history of rock and roll.  For Ween fans I have two videos.  The first is a short documentary on the guys from 2000, and the second is Aaron Freeman playing “It’s Gonna be Alright,” an appropriately crushing ballad for the occasion.  RIP Ween…


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Yellow Submarine Week, Eleanor Rigby

Posted in The Beatles on April 14th, 2012 by Willie

When the Yellow Submarine movie came out in 1968, the Beatles were already edging away from the psychedelic movement they helped flower across the world.  In 68, the Beatles were recording the “White Album,” a record more psychedelic in the abstract than the literal.  All and all they were inching back towards their rock and roll roots, so a movie which was basically a celebration of the Beatles psychedelic mastery was already a bit passe in the fast moving world of Beatle progress.  Still, their psychedelic work, which had no real visual outlet as the Beatles had no way of seriously replicating that sort of music live, to say nothing of the fact they had quit touring anyway, was not harmed by being enshrined in a glorious piece of pop art that was Yellow Submarine.  Just because the Beatles had left behind the days of Revolver, didn’t mean the world had.  Songs like “Eleanor Rigby” were still being played countless times by people the world over, transmogrified by its perfection.  As the Beatles, and the world would discover, the shelf life on Beatle music wouldn’t be a mere flash in the pan, but rather the songs would enjoy decades of endless relevance, seemingly increasing in power and myth as the years rolled by.  So, while its easy to imagine that the Beatles were nonplussed when informed that the majority of songs used for the movie would be culled from the Sgt. Pepper era, for the rest of us, its a privilege beyond words to enjoy these wizard like songs embossed forever in a film like Yellow Submarine.  The clip of “Eleanor Rigby” below, couldn’t be better.  It’s a stunning piece of post modern animated pathos, featuring the sad tired, black and white world of Liverpool, colorized by a Paul McCartney song of unlimited creativity.  There are no platitudes capable of summarizing its genius, so just watch it below as we continue to sail through Yellow Submarine week.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Magical Mystery Tour, Full Film, Remastered!

Posted in The Beatles, Youtube Favs on December 30th, 2011 by Willie

“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!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,