Monday, November 27, 2017

They Got High With a Little Help from Their Friends

by Holden McNeely, Culture Sonar:

One of the most important traits of The Beatles was their ability to embody the zeitgeist. The swinging ‘60s, the hippie movement, the Summer of Love, and recreational drugs all came into play in their music at the pinnacle of their career – the primary mind-altering substances being marijuana and LSD. 

Who turned them on to pot? None other than Bob Dylan! According to Peter Brown’s The Love You Make, Dylan had misinterpreted the lyrics for “I Want To Hold Your Hand” — by mistaking “I can’t hide” for “I get high.” And so he brought a big bag of weed to the band during one of their NYC visits.

In George Case’s Out of Our Heads, Ringo recalls, “That was the first time that I’d really smoked marijuana and I laughed and I laughed and I laughed.” Per The Quotable Stoner, Paul McCartney also reminisced about that encounter: “Bob came round to our hotel, and he said to us, ‘Here, try a bit of this.’ It is very indiscreet to say this, because I don’t know whether Bob is telling people he turned the Beatles on to marijuana. But it was funny.”

For the next stretch of their careers, The Beatles were, well, periodically stoned. Don’t believe us? Here’s a quote from Jacqueline Edmondson’s biography John Lennon about their performances in the hit movie Help!: “The movie was out of our control. With A Hard Day’s Night, we had a lot of input, and it was semi-realistic. But with Help!, [director] Dick Lester didn’t tell us what it was about… partly because we were smoking marijuana for breakfast… Nobody could communicate with us; it was all glazed eyes and giggling all the time.”

The influence of marijuana on their music became pronounced in 1966, via their album Revolver. Which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. In Brian Roylance’s The Beatles, their personal assistant/road manager Neil Aspinall said of pot during the recording sessions, “I guess it made recording a bit slower, but it didn’t affect the quality of the work.” At points, the influence was stronger than others: Lennon attributed the backwards guitar effect in the song “Rain” directly to being high.

“I got home from the studio stoned out of my mind on marijuana and, as I usually do, I listened to what I’d recorded that day. Somehow I got it on backwards and I sat there, transfixed, with the earphones on with a big hash joint. I ran in the next day and said, ‘I know what to do with it, I know…Listen to this!’ That one was a gift of God – of Jah, actually, the god of marijuana. Jah gave me that one” (from David Sheff’s All We Are Saying).

Around this time, the “Wicked Dentist” (revealed in Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll to be John Riley) famously introduced George Harrison and Lennon to LSD. It’s a sprawling story, but the long and short of it is that Riley invited the two Beatles and their wives over for dinner one night and dosed their coffee. He had intended to try and spark some kind of orgy but instead the foursome ended up in an elevator at a London nightclub shrieking madly as they hallucinated that their transport was engulfed in flames. Lennon remarked on this moment that, “The lift stops and the door opens and we’re all going ‘Aaahhhh’, and we just see that it’s the club.” As bad trips go, it could’ve been worse.

Yet the after-effects were profound. Quoted in Rock ‘n’ Roll Myths, George Harrison had this to say: “The first time I had acid, a light-bulb went on in my head and I began to have realisations which were not simply, ‘I think I’ll do this, or ‘I think that must be because of that.’ The question and answer disappeared into each other. An illumination goes on inside: in ten minutes I lived a thousand years.” The band mates’ subsequent experiences on acid led to several songs such as “She Said, She Said” — inspired by a trip at an LA house party where a young Peter Fonda whispered in Lennon’s ear, “I know what it’s like to be dead.”

Other trippy examples abound: tracks like “Tomorrow Never Knows” and “Strawberry Fields” have hallucinatory qualities; albums like Yellow Submarine and Magical Mystery Tour are entire odes to the psychedelic experience. Ironically, The Beatles were largely turned off to further experimentation after a visit to Haight-Ashbury, arguably the countercultural capital of the time. In fact, The Beatles cleaned up for a time after that in a big way. They traveled to India where they gained sober enlightenment with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Drugs aren’t the only way to get high, you know.

Holden McNeely

PS: We dig into some other concept albums worth another listen. Plus, a look at some more recent projects keeping that ’60s vibe going.

Photo: Jim Gray/Keystone/Hulton Archive, courtesy of Getty Images

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

VIDEO: 23-Year-Old Eric Clapton Demonstrates the Elements of His Guitar Sound (1968)

by Mike Springer, Open Culture:

In the fall of 1968, Eric Clapton was 23 years old and at the height of his creative powers. His band, Cream, was on its farewell tour of America when a film crew from the BBC caught up with the group and asked the young guitar virtuoso to show how he created his distinctive sound.

The result is a fascinating four-minute tour of Clapton’s technique. He begins by demonstrating the wide range of tones he could achieve by varying the settings on his psychedelically painted 1964 Gibson SG Standard guitar. His wah-wah pedal (an early Vox model) was critical to the sound of so many Cream classics, like “Tales of Brave Ulysses.” In the film, Clapton really has to stomp on it to get it working.

One of the most difficult skills to master, Clapton says, is the vibrato. In a 1970 interview with Guitar Player magazine he goes into more detail: “When I stretch strings,” he says, “I hook my thumb around the neck of the guitar. A lot of guitarists stretch strings with just their hand free. The only way I can do it is if I have my whole hand around the neck—actually gripping onto it with my thumb. That somehow gives me more of a rocking action with my hand and wrist.” If you watch the BBC clip closely you will see this in action.

The interview was conducted with Clapton seated in front of his famous stack of Marshall amplifiers. In the Guitar Player
interview, however, he admits he rarely used both at the same time. “I always had two Marshalls set up to play through,” he says, “but I think it was just so I could have one as a spare. I usually used only one 100-watt amp.”

Clapton’s demonstration (along with interviews of bassist Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker) was incorporated into Tony Palmer’s film of Cream's Farewell Concert, which took place on November 21, 1968 at the Royal Albert Hall in London. The original six-song version of Cream's Farewell Concert is available on YouTube. An extended 14-song version is available for purchase here.

Monday, November 6, 2017

The 10 Best John Lennon Songs You May Have Never Heard

Because his life was cut so short, and also in part due to his long “house-husband” phase in the late ‘70s, John Lennon released only seven post-Beatle studio albums — some in conjunction with wife Yoko Ono. It’s impressive that during that short span and with a relatively small output, so much of Lennon’s solo material made a significant impact. Yet there are still album tracks whose airplay and exposure pale in comparison to the mammoth hits still ingrained in the culture. In that spirit, here are ten John Lennon songs which deserve a little more recognition than they currently enjoy.
1. “Isolation” (1970)
John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band was the album on which Lennon finally got to say everything he wanted without having to worry about operating under the Beatle banner. He used the opportunity to lay bare his demons in harrowing, haunting songs that were often screamed more than sung. But on this restrained (for the most part) track, he sings almost meekly over somber piano chords about his all-encompassing fear (“We’re afraid of everyone / Afraid of the sun”) and loneliness, his cries for help made clearer without any Beatlesque exuberance to hide them.
2. “Crippled Inside” (1971)
On his second proper solo release, Lennon was canny enough to realize he needed more than just critical appreciation, which is why Imagine is filled with accessible melodies and lush production. In many ways, “Crippled Inside” deals with similar subject matter as the songs on John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. But it’s delivered with saloon piano (played by studio ace Nicky Hopkins), a frisky dobro solo (from George Harrison) and cheeky enthusiasm from Lennon. The end result is as catchy a song about inner torment as you’re likely to encounter.
3. “New York City” (1972)
Well-intentioned as it might have been, Some Time in New York City was a misstep, as Lennon proved a surprisingly heavy-handed protest singer. But this playful rocker survives the wreckage with its humor intact. The music is a bit shambolic, but achieves some excellent forward momentum; Lennon’s recounting of his time in the Big Apple, complete with bizarre characters and welcoming landmarks, proves that he could do a Chuck Berry homage as well as anybody.
4. “Tight A$” (1973)
Mick Jagger gets all the credit for songs with salacious intent, but Lennon was no slouch in that department. This funky rocker from Mind Games shows him indulging in some naughty wordplay and barely-couched innuendo. That’s not enough to make a song, which is why the excellent chemistry from the studio band (with the invaluable Jim Keltner providing the backbeat) is so important. The Carl Perkins influence is palpable — even if Carl might have blushed at the lyrics.
5. “Aisumasen (I’m Sorry)” (1973)
Lennon’s separation from Yoko Ono (around the time that Mind Games was recorded) seems to be the inspiration for this ballad. It strolls along at a measured pace, giving ample room for Lennon to emote with his lead vocal. There’s nothing too fancy going on here, yet Lennon’s uncanny ability to evoke pain and vulnerability is enough to push this song a long way. This one is largely forgotten, coming as it did on an uneven album, but it has soul to spare.
6. “Steel and Glass” (1974)
Beatle fans might not have been too happy to hear Lennon savaging Allen Klein, since the lawyer took hisside over Paul McCartney during the Fab Four’s breakup wars. But there’s no denying how effectively he takes Klein apart in this song from Walls and Bridges. The fact that he reuses many of the same riffs that he used in “How Do You Sleep?” (his takedown of McCartney from a few years earlier) seems like Lennon’s tacit admission that he may have backed the wrong horse.
7. “Nobody Loves You (When You’re Down and Out)” (1974)
Lennon allegedly wrote this song with Frank Sinatra in mind, but he actually provides a telling snapshot of his own emotional health (or lack thereof) in this after-hours ballad from Walls and Bridges. It reflects both the emptiness of fame (“It’s all showbiz,” he drily laments) and his loneliness without Ono. Jesse Ed Davis adds a weeping guitar solo that plays beautifully on the drunken horns. Mid-‘70s Lennon often gets overlooked, but this stunner is evidence that that era should get another glance.
8. “Just Because” (1975)
This 1975 album (Rock ‘n’ Roll), with production by Lennon and Phil Spector, casts a hazy cloud on many early rock chestnuts. However, they get it right on the album’s closing track, largely by getting out of the way of this Lloyd Price classic and letting Lennon (or “Dr. Winston O’Boogie” as he calls himself here), wringing every last bit emotion out of the descending melody. It’s far and away his finest interpretation on the record.
9. “I’m Losing You” (1980)
Many people forget that Double Fantasy was actually an album split right down the middle, between performances by Lennon and Yoko Ono. As a result, most of Lennon’s songs on the project either became huge hits in the aftermath of his death or have become well-known since. “I’m Losing You” sort of slips through the cracks,  perhaps because it bucks the perceived notion of the album as one filled with marital bliss. Instead, it’s a bluesy rocker that includes some of Lennon’s grittiest vocals since the Plastic Ono Band days.
10. “I Don’t Want to Face It” (1984)
Right before his death, Lennon was clearly energized to re-enter the recording world, so much so that he had recorded nearly enough material for a follow-up to Double Fantasy. Those songs were collected on a posthumous release in 1984, entitled Milk and Honey. “Nobody Told Me” became a hit, and “Grow Old With Me” became one for the ages. But this rip-roaring track, complete with Lennon’s faux-German count-in and his falsetto vocals, features him dissecting hypocrisy with all of the old humor and insight intact.
PS.  Read about some great, underrated solo tracks by Lennon’s Beatle bandmates George Harrison and Paul McCartney.
Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Film Review: ‘My Generation’

by ,
David Batty
Michael Caine
85 minutes

Official Site: 
There’s a tremendous amount of pleasure to be had in David Batty’s “My Generation,” a sloppy wet kiss to Michael Caine and British youth culture of the 1960s. Loaded with great footage from the era and accompanied by superbly cleaned-up music tracks from the Kinks, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and many others, this love letter-as-documentary offers 85 minutes of good old fun. What it doesn’t do is posit any genuine analysis or even make a head-nod to diversity. But this is Caine’s narrative about the unapologetic working class taking over popular culture, and the writers as well as music mogul Simon Fuller, acting as top producer, have no interest in countering their star’s gleefully empowering chronicle of his youth. Voiceover interviews with such key players of the era as Paul McCartney, Marianne Faithfull, Twiggy and Mary Quant add to the overall feast, making the film an attractive offering for all platforms.

Britain in the 1950s was dull, announces Caine, though doesn’t every generation say that about the era before their own gloriously self-satisfied arrival? What’s undeniable is the momentous shift toward youth culture beginning in the 1960s, as well as the opening up of opportunities for white working-class creative types who no longer submitted to makeovers designed to smooth out their roughness. In one of the more telling anecdotes, Caine talks about auditioning for “Zulu,” his breakthrough role, and accurately suggests that had the director, Cy Endfield, been British instead of American, Caine’s working class London accent would have eliminated any hope of being cast in the role of an upper-class officer. That’s an undeniable fact.

Far more shaky is the suggestion that the working class in the 1960s was the first generation in Britain to thumb its collective nose at convention. On-the-street interviews from the era with stuffed shirts bemoaning the appearance of long-haired men in flowery blouses expose middle-class attitudes, but the filmmakers choose to ignore the fact that the upper class has always played with transgression in ways designed to shock the bourgeoisie. What made the 1960s different was that the working class was playing the same game, and emulating “our betters” was no longer an acceptable form of behavior. Nor was emulating our elders: Freedom from convention was the hallmark of a social revolution that impacted everything from art, music and clothing to changing concepts of morality. Of course, every Englishman knows the class system remains the key determinant of opportunity, but in the art and entertainment world, coming from the wrong side of the tracks is actually now more desirable than a boarding school certificate, and that’s definitely due to the upheavals of the 1960s.

Batty divides the film into three parts, roughly corresponding to the awakening, the flourishing and the decline of 1960s pop culture. Alongside nods to expected historic markers like the Beatles performing at Liverpool’s Cavern Club are more unanticipated moments, such as Roger Daltry talking about the profound impact of seeing Elvis perform: “For the first time in my life, I saw someone who was free.” That’s about the only time in the film there’s a mention of transatlantic influences on the British scene.

From there, the documentary plunges headlong into the intoxicating psychedelic playpen of Pop Art, Vidal Sassoon haircuts, and Mary Quant micro-miniskirts, reminding audiences (or teaching them for the first time) that in the 1960s, color and pattern were transgressive and hip, unlike today’s tediously conformist black monochromaticity. Suddenly, thanks to the British Invasion, being young and British meant you were cool, stylish and glam, tuned into the best music, clothes and art movements. Models such as Jean Shrimpton and Twiggy set new standards for beauty, and groups like the Animals, the Kinks, the Stones and of course the Beatles set the tone, guiding a generation from the innocent charm of “Love Me Do” to the raucous hunger of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” By the end of the decade, hedonism took a darker turn. The Vietnam War acted as a political coming of age, and the destructive nature of so much heavy drug use began to take its toll, symbolized by the death of Brian Jones and Faithfull’s near-fatal drug overdose, both in 1969.

For Caine, “My Generation” is a chance to look back in nostalgic delight at his salad days, allowing him to gamely reminisce about his time as one of the “it” boys of London. He even gets to swan around in the original Aston Martin DB4 he drove in “The Italian Job.” None of the others interviewed are seen on screen — whether that’s because the producers wanted to maintain the aura of 1960s youth, or it was the only way to get these people to talk, remains open for speculation. It’s also likely that writers Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais allowed themselves to be guided by Caine’s insistence on working-class culture, ignoring the fact that some of those included, most especially Faithfull, are from posh backgrounds.

If you set aside analytical skills however, it’s easy to sit back and enjoy the wealth of archival clips accompanied by fantastic music tracks that seem to have been remastered for the occasion (lord knows how much all the music rights must have cost). Ben Hilton’s editing successfully crams in a great deal without a sense of whiplash.

Film Review: 'My Generation'
Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (Out of Competition), Sept. 4, 2017. (Also in London Film Festival – Journey.)
PRODUCTION: (Documentary — U.K.) An XIX Entertainment presentation, in association with IM Global, of a Raymi Films production, in association with Ingenious Media. (International sales: IM Global, Los Angeles.)  Producers: Simon Fuller, Michael Caine, Dick Clement, Ian La Frenais, Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly. Executive producer: James Clayton. Co-producer: Ben Hilton. CREW: Director: David Batty. Writers: Dick Clement, Ian La Frenais. Camera (color): Ben Hodgson. Editor: Ben Hilton. Music supervisor: Tarquin Gotch.
WITH: Michael CaineVoices of David Bailey, Twiggy, Terry O’Neill, Roger Daltrey, Marianne Faithfull, Paul McCartney, Lulu, Joan Collins, Sandie Shaw, Penelope Tree, Dudley Edwards, Mary Quant, Mim Scala, David Putnam, Barbara Hulanicki.

Monday, October 23, 2017

VIDEOS: When Pink Floyd Tried to Make an Album with Household Objects: Hear Two Surviving Tracks Made with Wine Glasses and Rubber Bands

by , Open Culture:

There are bands one casually encounters through greatest hits or breakthrough albums, on which they sound exactly like themselves and no one else. It’s impossible to imagine anyone but Fleetwood Mac making Rumors or Tusk. Or anyone but Pink Floyd recording Wish You Were Here or Dark Side of the Moon. But just like Fleetwood Mac, when we look back before Floyd’s best-known work, we find, as Mark Blake writes at Team Rock, that “they were a very different proposition.”
And yet it wasn't that Pink Floyd radically shuffled the lineup—though they had, since their first album, lost founding singer and guitarist Syd Barrett to mental illness and taken on David Gilmour to replace him. It’s that the same four musicians who re-invented psych-rock in the early 70s with “Money,” “Time,” and “Great Gig in the Sky,” sounded nothing like that blues/funk/disco/prog hybrid in the late 60s. Some of the same elements were there—the sardonic sense of humor, love for sound effects and extended jam sessions—but they cohered in much more alien and experimental shapes.

The title track of 1968’s Saucerful of Secrets, for example, opens with four minutes of dissonant horror-movie organ drones, which give way to primal drumming around which piano chords and sci-fi noises fall haphazardly, then resolve in a closing wordless choral passage. Not a single, cynical lyric about the pains of modern life to be found. The following year’s Ummagumma continued to build the band’s experimental foundations, and in-between these projects, they recorded film soundtracks that, again, do not make one think of laser-lit arena rock shows.
But there is plenty of connective tissue between the various phases of Floyd, much of it, like the bulk of their 1970 soundtrack for Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point, officially unreleased. We can add to that list an attempted album called Household Objects, which they began in 1970 and abandoned in ’74. The project, drummer Nick Mason admitted, represents the then-largely-instrumental band “still looking for a coherent direction,” and in so doing, abandoning instruments altogether. On Household Objects, they made serendipitous discoveries using—as the title clearly stated—found sounds, in the vein of John Cage or the avant-garde composers of musique concrete.
In 1971, Abbey Road studios tape operator John Leckie, who went on to produce the heavily Floyd-influenced Muse, remembers the band “making chords up from the tapping of beer bottles, tearing newspapers for rhythm, and letting off aerosol cans to get a hi-hat sound.” Keyboardist Richard Wright recalls spending “days getting a pencil and a rubber band till it sounded like a bass.” The idea began two years earlier when the band performed a composition called Work that “involved,” writes Blake, “sawing wood and boiling kettles on stage.”
Household Objects recording sessions, writes Rolling Stone, “consisted of Pink Floyd playing songs on hand mixers, light bulbs, wood saws, hammers, brooms and other home appliances. Recording in this manner was excruciating.” Wright and Gilmour grew exasperated and the band moved on to other things, namely Wish You Were Here. All that seemingly remains of Household Objects are the two tracks here, “The Hard Way” (an instance where rubber bands sound like a bass) and “Wine Glasses,” the latter employing, you guessed it, wine glasses. But like so much of Floyd’s lesser-known or forgotten experimental work, these sessions created the backdrop for their more accessible hits. “Wine Glasses” survived in “Shine on You Crazy Diamond.” In the video just above, you can see David Gilmour work out the glass arrangements for his performance of the song in the 2006 Royal Albert Hall concert film Remember That Night.

Monday, October 9, 2017

The Smithsonian Presents a Gallery of 6,000+ Rare Rock ‘n Roll Photos on a Crowdsourced Web Site, and Now a New Book

Rock photography is an art form in itself, as demonstrated by books and exhibitions of some of its masters like Mick Rock, Jenny Lens, Pennie Smith, and so many others. But two years ago, the Smithsonian turned to the crowd, to the fan, to the amateur photographer, with a call to submit photos from over six decades of rock and roll that weren’t hanging on gallery walls, but sitting in a shoebox somewhere. From fans with instamatic cameras to amateurs covering concerts for their school paper, the Smithsonian wanted another angle on our cultural obsession.
Many of the contributions now live on a crowdsourced website. And a resulting book Smithsonian Rock and Roll: Live and Unseen collects the best of these in a chronological history of the genre, from post-war blues to the late 20th century. It will be officially released on October 24, though you can pre-order now.
Websites Mashable and Dangerous Minds present a selection of photos from the book, such as a shot of Sly Stone at the height of his powers (and belt buckle size), a pic of the Talking Heads on stage in Berkeley, 1977; a dark and mysterious glimpse of Bonnie Raitt, circa 1974; and a shot of Cream playing the Chicago Coliseum taken from the side of the stage, with Ginger Baker’s head a complete blur. Also find Joni Mitchell at Kleinhans Music Hall. And The Ramones in Tempe, Arizona, circa 1978.
Bonnie Raitt at the Harvard Square Theatre, by Barry Schneier/Smithsonian Books
It’s a reminder of how unpretentious these live shows could be, happening in a world with the simplest of lighting rigs and decades from the big screen projections even up-and-coming bands now indulge in. For the most part, this was an intimate contract between the artist and the audience, all crammed into small clubs with smoke, sweat, heat, and, most importantly, electricity in the air.
The new book also features tales from the people who took the photos, along with some more professional photos to “flesh out this overview of rock and roll,” according to the introduction by organizer Bill Bentley. He adds: "The results, spanning six decades, aim for neither encyclopedic authority nor comprehensive finality, but rather an index of supreme influence."
The Ramones in Tempe, Arizona, by Dorian Boese/Smithsonian Books
That supreme influence continues to be felt, for sure. Although the submission window is now closed, the Smithsonian's website allows you to look through the hundreds of submissions to the project.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

VIDEO: Inside the 1969 Bob Dylan-Johnny Cash Sessions

by Mike Springer, Open Culture:

Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash had formed a mutual admiration society even before they met in the early 1960s.
"Of course, I knew of him before he ever heard of me," Dylan wrote shortly after Cash's death in 2003. "In '55 or '56, 'I Walk the Line' played all summer on the radio, and it was different than anything else you had ever heard. The record sounded like a voice from the middle of the Earth. It was so powerful and moving."
When the young Dylan arrived on the scene in 1962, Cash was impressed.
"I was deeply into folk music in the early 1960s," he wrote in Cash: The Autobiography, "both the authentic songs from various periods and areas of American life and the new 'folk revival' songs of the time, so I took note of Bob Dylan as soon as the Bob Dylan album came out in early '62 and listened almost constantly to The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan in '63. I had a portable record player I'd take along on the road, and I'd put on Freewheelin' backstage, then go out and do my show, then listen again as soon as I came off."
Cash wrote the young Dylan a fan letter, and they began corresponding. When they met at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival, Cash gave Dylan his guitar as a gesture of respect and admiration. Five years later, when Dylan was in Nashville recording his ninth studio album, Cash was recording in the studio next door. He decided to drop in. On February 17 and 18, 1969, Cash and Dylan recorded more than a dozen duets. Only one of them, a version of Dylan's "Girl From the North Country," made it onto the album, Nashville Skyline. The others were never officially released, but have long been circulating as bootlegs. In the video above, Dylan and Cash work on one of two versions they made of "One Too Many Mornings," a song originally recorded by Dylan in 1964 for The Times They Are a-Changin'.  The outtakes Dylan and Cash recorded together are all scattered around Youtube. One Youtuber posted a compilation back in 2013.
A few weeks after the release of Nashville Skyline, Dylan and Cash performed "Girl From the North Country" on The Johnny Cash Show. It was taped on May 1, 1969 at the Ryman Auditorium in downtown Nashville. A rough video clip (around the 30 minute mark) captures the moment. Despite Dylan's reported nervousness, the performance was well-received. "I didn't feel anything about it," Cash said later. "But everybody said it was the most magnetic, powerful thing they ever heard in their life. They were just raving about electricity and magnetism. And all I did was just sit there hitting G chords."

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Ready for Their Closeups: The Top 5 Beatles Music Videos

Let’s put aside their individual mega-hits post-breakup like “Imagine,”
“Band on the Run,” and “Got My Mind Set on You.” Let’s also take out of 
consideration such memorable covers as Marvin Gaye’s exquisite
rendition of “Yesterday” and The Fifth Dimension’s rockin’ “I’ve Got a 
Feeling.” Instead, let’s focus specifically on the official videos on YouTube
— in particular, on The Beatles Vevo channel. What are people watching 
when it comes to Fab Four songs? Well first and foremost, it is not “Let It 
Be.” Below is a list of the five music videos with the most views to date on 
Vevo. At least so far …
1. “Don’t Let Me Down”: 88 million plays and counting
It might not feature their most beloved song or their most popular one but
this video does commemorate the Fab Four’s final public performance via
their immortal rooftop concert at Apple Studios in London circa 1969 —
with both Lennon and Harrison decked out in furs, McCartney sporting a
thick beard, and Ringo upstaging them all with his red plastic jacket. Pay 
close attention and you’ll spot Billy Preston accompanying the guys on 
the keyboards, too.
2. “Hey Jude”: 74 million plays and counting
First seen on the fairly short-lived Frost on Sunday on LWT (a.k.a. London
Weekend Television) in 1968, this video encored in America on The 
Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour later that same year. Stick around past
the 47-second intro and you’re brought up close to McCartney’s face
singing straight into the camera, with some cut-aways to the other band
members — most memorably a gum-chewing Lennon who looks to be
making faces at McCartney at one point in an attempt to make him laugh.
The emergence of a studio audience onstage at the end doubles as a
time capsule of period fashions.
3. “Hello, Goodbye”: 56 million plays and counting
The eye-popping, candy-colored, silken military uniforms of Sgt. Pepper‘s
fame may partially distract you from some lip syncing that doesn’t always
sync up and those preposterous hulu dancers who suddenly pop up at
the end. This is actually one of a trio of videos that McCartney himself
directed for the song and it debuted on The Ed Sullivan Show in
November 1967. (It was banned on Britain’s Top of the Pops because of
its illegal use of miming!)
4. “A Day in the Life”: 48 million plays and counting
Given the song pays homage to avant-garde titans John Cage and
Karlheinz Stockhausen among others, the video’s experimental feel —
part light show, part cinema verite, part family home movies — feels
perfectly appropriate. Quick glimpses of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards
amid a montage of increasingly hallucinatory power adds a layer of
glamor. Why are the tuxedoed orchestra members wearing
strange noses and silly hats? Because they were asked to!
5. “Penny Lane”: 44 millions plays and counting
Deemed by none other than the Museum of Modern Art to be among the
most influential music promos of its time, this 1967 short was helmed by
Peter Emmanuel Goldman, a now largely-forgotten director who
Susan Sontag referred to as “the most exciting filmmaker in recent years.”
So decades before MTV came into existence, The Beatles were ahead
of their time in yet another art form: the music video.
– The CS Team
Photo: Keystone/Stringer (courtesy Getty Images)