Happy 72 John Lennon, Woman

Posted in John Lennon on October 9th, 2012 by Willie

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.

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Paul McCartney's John Lennon Tribute, Here Today, Most Emotional Performance Ever

Posted in Paul McCartney on July 18th, 2012 by Willie

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.

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Paul McCartney, Dear Boy

Posted in Paul McCartney on May 22nd, 2012 by Willie

“Dear Boy,” is one of my favorite cuts off Ram.  Its a delicious piece of angry piano pop that has the added benefit of messing with John Lennon’s head.  When Paul wrote this song, he wrote it as an autobiographical message to himself, commenting on how lucky he was to meet and fall in love with Linda.  John Lennon heard something different.  John interpreted the lyrics as being a direct attack on John’s decision to kill the Beatles, claiming that his love for Yoko, while wonderful and special, was not the be all and all, and that he’ll end up regretting giving up Beatle magic for a love affair.  Personally, that’s the way I always heard it too.  The song makes less sense when Paul McCartney himself is the subject of his razor sharp lyricism, but makes perfect sense if he is singing to John.  Paul, ever affable and diplomatic, of course would never admit that this song is about John, and it probably wasn’t, but his relationship with John was such that he was almost certainly writing about him subconsciously, a fact Paul would probably cop to.   The point is, whether intentional or not, this is essential post-Beatle breakup listening, and one of Paul’s most clever pop songs.  RAM!…WEEK!….continues!

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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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John Lennon, New York City, Live in Madison Square Garden

Posted in John Lennon, Youtube Favs on March 9th, 2012 by Willie

Well, I’m back in America, the land I love, and the city that made me, New York.  After 48 hours of near continuous travel by boat, car, and plane, I’ve made it home to Brooklyn.  Over the last five months I’ve been to Seoul, Kuala Lumpur, Sydney, Bangkok, and Railay Beach in southern Thailand.  For someone who has never left the USA before, and never really planned to, it was an eye opening experience.  I found people in the Australasia region to be both extremely warm and friendly, and positive to Americans especially because they love Barrack Obama.  Thanks Mr. President for making Americans cool again overseas.  I’ve also arrived just in time for the American Spring, which will lead right into summer, giving me 3 summers in a row, suck it winter.  I’ve only been in New York for 24 hours, but I’m already looking for a new apartment, been invited to a musical, and eaten the most delicious NYC bagel I’ve ever had.  To celebrate even further, I’m posting John Lennon’s performance of “New York City,” from his fabled Madison Square Concert live performance.  I’ve already linked to performances of “Come Together,”  “Mother,” and “Cold Turkey,” from the same concert, so it doesn’t hurt to keep globbing on more of the same Lennony goodness.  Anyway, it’s good to be back, and it’s good to be home, and I look forward to resuming my daily activities of providing you with the best rock and roll music in the world.

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George Harrison, All Those Years Ago

Posted in George Harrison, The Beatles on December 12th, 2011 by Willie

If you’ve read this site enough, you know that I like making declarations, so here is a strong one.  “All Those Years Ago,” is required listening for Beatles fans and one of the best George Harrison songs ever.  It was written by George Harrison as a song for Ringo Starr to sing, but Ringo thought the vocal melody was too high for him.  So, it went to the scrap heap.  Then John Lennon was murdered on the streets of New York City, stunning the world.  I’m sure right away, Beatles fans the world over expected a musical tribute of some sort from Paul, George, and Ringo.  Rumors of a reunion must have been strong, despite the concept being horribly illogical with John’s passing.  On a certain level, the pressure must have been high on these guys to do something, which was of course, cruelly unfair.  If your best friend died, would anyone expect you to make a commercial pop song?  A song that would be judged by music critics?  Well, the guys did respond, they are artists after all.  Paul made “Here, Today,” a touching ballad.  George took his stalled Ringo project, changed the lyrics, and made it a John Lennon tribute.  In many ways, it would be the closet thing people got to a Beatles reunion until the “Anthology” in the mid 9os.  Ringo was on drums, George was singing lead, Paul was on bass and sang backup with his wife Linda.  Famed Beatle producer George Martin contributed to the track’s production along with Geoff Emerick, the famous Beatle studio engineer.  The song is a nostalgic wonder, mixing elements of Chuck Berry guitar riffage, Bob Dylan lyricism, and sweet Beatle vocal backing magic, all classic marks of George’s songwriting.  The lyrics tell the story of George’s love for John, and his agreement with John’s life philosophies.  It also includes attacks on John’s critics, my personal favorite part.  It accomplishes a lot of ideas both musically and lyrically, but leaves you wanting more.  That’s probably the point because the biggest crime in John’s death, outside the destruction of his family, was how this was a man taken too soon.  John was nowhere near finished as an artist and as a leader of peace loving people around the world.  George knew that more then anyone, and created a song that I, and many others, can’t help but replay over and over.  Enjoy.

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John Lennon, Imagine (Live)

Posted in John Lennon, Youtube Favs on October 13th, 2011 by Willie

“Imagine” is the sort of song played by rock stars young and old to honor the memory of dearly departed John Lennon.  It’s kind of sad in a way that its turned into a memorial dirge of sorts, obscuring it’s utopian message of peace and harmony due its tragic association with the author’s horrible death.  It’s because of that negative energy that I prefer to hear to “Imagine” sung by John in live settings.  It’s in moments like the one presented in the video below, that we get to see a vital and hopeful Johnny croon out his most popular solo song without grim specters of his his murder or world apocalypse hanging over everybody.  It’s a thoroughly enjoyable and low-key performance that highlights John’s love for baseball jerseys and his wife’s bongo playing.  Give it a spin.

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John Lennon, #9 Dream

Posted in John Lennon, The Beatles, Youtube Favs on October 9th, 2011 by Willie

I was sneaking under a bus parked over a snowy muddy pit.  I jostled a hinge holding the front of the truck to the freight, and it began to collapse on me.  As it caved in on me, I genuinely thought I was going to die.  This was the phrase that went through my mind, “This is the end of Willie Simpson…”  (lame I know.)  The truck hadn’t completely caved, so I dashed away from the pit and jumped just as the freight tipped over and crushed the bottom of my legs.  I couldn’t feel a thing and I assumed I was in extreme shock.  I was wrong, I had just woken up from an intense dream.  Naturally shaken by such a thing, I went right to my website, which I forgot to update yesterday, and found “#9 Dream,” the John Lennon single from Walls and Bridges that peaked on the Billboard Charts at #9.  Nine was John’s lucky number as he was born on the 9th day of October, and accorded it special status in his life, already borrowing it for “Revolution #9.”  He wrote the song when he was broken up with Yoko Ono, and living with May Pang in Los Angeles, in fact she’s in the backing vocals.  Other famous “Beatle friend” luminaries include the presence of bassist Klaus Voorman, (the German who discovered the Beatles in Hamburg), Nicky Hopkins, (famous British piano player who jammed frequently with the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and Kinks), and Jim Keltner on drums, (a famous session man who appeared on all the solo Beatle records and a zillion other super famous mega acts albums.)  Lastly, that mysterious phrase Lennon chants throughout the song, “Ah! böwakawa poussé, poussé” has no meaning whatsoever and is exclusively from the dream that inspired the song.  Enjoy the tune, as its one of John’s best solo efforts, and be careful in your dreams, or you might wake up thinking your dead.

EDIT:  When I posted this at 7 am this morning, I had no idea, that today, would have been John Lennon’s 71’st Birthday.  How’s that for Instant Karma!?

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John Lennon, George Harrison, Oh My Love

Posted in George Harrison, John Lennon, Youtube Favs on September 18th, 2011 by Willie

When the Beatles split in 1970, it was mainly a split between John and Paul.  It’s odd because George, Paul, and Ringo would have kept the group going, but because John wanted to end it, George and Ringo became as enthusiastic as John about kiboshing the whole affair.  I suppose John had more good will with the “sidemen” then Paul did, and as a result, John collaborated much more frequently with his former mates than Paul did.  In this video, I have an intimate portrait of John and George rehearsing one of Lennon’s more tender ballads, “Oh, My Love,” from the Imagine album.  It’s a cool scene where you George fiddle around with a steel guitar, and John ruminate with Yoko on their philosophies about love and sex.  You also get to see George lay down those awesome electric licks that instill in the ballad its beautiful perfection.  This video also serves as a great preview for the upcoming Martin Scorsese HBO documentary on George Harrison’s life, “Living in the Material World,” which premieres in early October.  Enjoy.

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John Lennon, Mother, Live

Posted in John Lennon, Youtube Favs on September 9th, 2011 by Willie

I’m not ready to leave John’s 1972 concert just yet.  Yesterday I posted about “Come Together,” and in the past I posted the live performance of “Cold Turkey.”   Despite the fact that Yoko only released the inferior afternoon version of the show, as opposed to the superior evening version, there are still incredible worthwhile performances to be had, and John’s performance of “Mother” is one of them.  “Mother” is the unofficial sequel to John’s Beatle song “Julia” from the White Album.  Julia Lennon was struck down by an  drunk driving off duty police officer when he was 17.  Her death was already the 3rd or 4th tragic moment in a young life that was quickly piling up memorable scenes of wretched heartbreak.  By that point, young John already had to deal with the sorted split up between his parents which included an aborted kidnapping, the death of his uncle George, the strict surrogate parenting of his aunt Mimi, the discovery that his mother had another family whom all lived down the road without his knowledge, and the complete abandonment of his father who provided no support and lived in New Zealand.  The death of his mother, who he had just begun a reconciliation with, pushed John over the edge personality wise and hardened his soul.  The song “Mother” is the result of a bunch of soul searching and therapy, and is subsequently a triumph of someone who refused to be swallowed up by sadness, bitterness, and rage.  It’s one of John’s best songs, and one of my favorites too.  BTW, today is the last day to vote me in as CBS’s Best Local NYC Blogger, so, cast me one last vote for all time’s sake!  Thanks.

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