Archive for The Beatles

Back to Black: The Magic of Mono

Posted in Rock Rant with tags , , , , , , on April 12, 2012 by 30daysout

As I sit down to write this on a bleary-eyed early morning, I can hear the coffee maker click on automatically. My phone dings insistently to remind me of meetings, appointments and upcoming annoyances, then it offers up a morning tweet for dessert. In my pocket I there’s a little flash drive smaller than my thumb, carrying about 35 albums’ worth of music with a little room for more.

Technology has surely wiped some of the romance out of modern life; what did you expect? Old guys like me quickly get tiresome in referencing the past to recall the many ways that life was better – yeah, guilty as charged.

Thankfully, at my house there’s an easy way to shut up the old guy: slap some vinyl on the turntable, and crank it. With the resurgence of vinyl records we’ve all rediscovered our roots, and we are “remembering” our past, meaning: if we knew this at all, surely we forgot. Frankly, I forgot about mono.

Back in the day, record companies put out music in monophonic – as opposed to stereo – because they wanted their hit singles to sound good on AM radio and on the crappy sound systems that lived in most homes. Stereo was kind of an afterthought, and often you could hear stuff on the mono (meaning: “original version”) that didn’t show up on the stereo versions. Or so we’re told today.

When LPs nearly died and CDs came along, old music got remixed, remastered and repackaged. The resurgence of vinyl provided another opportunity to hear (and buy) the same old stuff once more and then we have the mono versions. I don’t know how many versions of Revolver or Highway 61 Revisited I want, but I certainly have more than I need. Mono is the aural version of watching a black-and-white movie: experiencing the past while not quite reliving it. Know what I mean? (I think I don’t.)

Hell, I didn’t know the Beatles did their albums in mono. I was just a kid when the Beatles were a real thing, and besides, I didn’t buy albums – just 45 singles. I knew about Brian Wilson’s famous deafness in one ear, and that’s why he did many of his masterpieces in mono; but I learned that only after I had gotten older.

So here we are, a decade deep into the 21st century, and we’re still spinning mono records on turntables. You gotta admit, that stuff sounds GOOD.

MP3: “Mr. Soul” (45 single) by Buffalo Springfield

MP3: “Run Through The Jungle” (45 single) by Creedence Clearwater Revival

MP3: “A Hazy Shade of Winter” (mono remaster) by Simon & Garfunkel

MP3: “All Tomorrow’s Parties” (45 single) by the Velvet Underground

MP3: “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” (mono remaster) by the Beatles

MP3: “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” (45 single) by the Rolling Stones

MP3: “Help Me Rhonda” (mono album version) by the Beach Boys

Record Store Day official website

Video Du Jour (Part Deux): The Beatles

Posted in Rock Moment with tags , on March 7, 2012 by 30daysout

In the previous post I mentioned the music stuff they used to show on TV back in the day. That’s kind of misleading – in the mid- to late 1960s, for example, rock music was still pretty scary to many mainstream Americans so when it came time to put rock music on television they doled it out in measured, cleaned-up doses.

But when they did, it was pretty good, and looking back today the stuff that actually made it to broadcast was simply incredible. So much so, that the thought of people like Nicki Minaj and Chris Brown (on the recent Grammy Awards telecast) on TV makes one sort of depressed.

Try this – from “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” in 1968:

Video Du Jour: George Harrison

Posted in News with tags , on February 25, 2012 by 30daysout

Happy birthday, George Harrison. He would have been 69 today.

Rock Moment: The Day The Music Died

Posted in Rock Moment with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 3, 2012 by 30daysout

Repost: Published in 2009, still of interest today.

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To this day, people still mourn the musical talent who died in a plane crash in the early morning hours of Feb. 3, 1959.  A small airplane, carrying rock stars Buddy Holly, J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson and Ritchie Valens, crashed only minutes after taking off from Mason City, Iowa, in a snowstorm.

The three had just played the “Winter Dance Party” and were heading to the next stop in Fargo, North Dakota.  Richardson was 28, Valens was 17, and Holly was only 22 years old.   Richardson, from Beaumont, Texas, was already a proven commodity with not only his own hits, but songs buddyhollyhe wrote – “Running Bear” for Johnny Preston and “White Lightning” for George Jones – becoming hits as well.  Valens influenced such later acts as Los Lobos and Los Lonely Boys and was the subject of a 1987 hit movie.

But perhaps the greatest loss was Buddy Holly – he was certainly one of the most original musicians ever, and a monumental talent in rock and roll.  In only two short years he had grown powerful enough to control everything he wrote and recorded and at the time of his death he was planning to produce music for other artists as well as his own.  Holly was the iconic rocker, the first to perform as the leader of his own band and the first to employ the now-standard singer/guitarist/bassist/drummer lineup.

If he had lived, perhaps Holly would have faded away or would have deteriorated like Elvis into a paunchy embarrassment playing Vegas casinos.  But I don’t think so.  You see what Buddy Holly could have been when you look at great artists who have survived and thrived over decades – artists with great integrity like Bob Dylan, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen.

Even though he had a relatively short musical career, and even though he was only 22 years old at the time of his death, and more than 50 years after his plane nosedived into a snowy Iowa cornfield, Buddy Holly remains one of the most important artists ever in rock and roll.

YouTube: Buddy Holly & the Crickets performing “Peggy Sue” in 1957

MP3: “Rave On” by Buddy Holly

MP3: “Not Fade Away” by Buddy Holly & the Crickets

YouTube: “American Pie” by Don McLean

MP3: “Buddy Holly” by Weezer

YouTube: “Rock Around With Ollie Vee” from The Buddy Holly Story biopic

Video Du Jour: George Harrison/The Beatles

Posted in Rock Moment with tags , , , on January 27, 2012 by 30daysout

Here are Beatles producer George Martin, his son Giles and Dhani Harrison (son of George) listening to a mix of “Here Comes The Sun.” At one point Dhani turns up a channel with a forgotten electric guitar solo for the song that gives it a totally different feel. Fascinating.

30 Days Out (From Christmas): The Beatles

Posted in 30 Days Out (From Christmas), Uncategorized with tags , , , on November 30, 2011 by 30daysout

beatles_christmas

REPOST: Another popular Christmas post from the past, now with updated links and extra tracks!

From 1963 to 1969 the Beatles gave members of their official fan club a special gift at Christmas: a record unavailable elsewhere.  As the years went by, the messages got more avant-garde, druggy and downright strange.  The 1967 disc was titled the_beatles_christmas_album_cover“Christmas Time (Is Here Again)” and extracts from a song of that name were scattered among short sketches.  In 1995, Capitol Records issued an uninterrupted edit of the song as the B-side of “Free As A Bird.”  Superimposed near the end are some spoken-word seasonal greetings, taped in 1966, followed by a John Lennon pastiche.  We have also enclosed the Beatles’ Christmas messages from 1968 and 1969 – they were all compiled on an album and given as a final gift to fan club members in 1970.  Today, the album is a rare collector’s item.

MP3: “Christmas Message 1963”

MP3: “Christmas Message 1965”

MP3: “1967 Christmas Time (Is Here Again)”

MP3: “Christmas Message 1968”

MP3: “Christmas Message 1969”

MP3: “Christmas Time (Is Here Again)” (1995 edit)

1967 Christmas record sleeve

Video (Sort of) Du Jour: The Beatles

Posted in News with tags , on August 29, 2011 by 30daysout

Forty five years ago today, the Beatles played what was to be their final formal concert in San Francisco’s Candlestick Park. While 24,000 fans screamed pretty much nonstop, the band couldn’t hear over the noise to sing on key.

The Beatles took the stage at 9:27 p.m. local time and performed 11 songs. Only the four musicians knew that this was going to be their final U.S. concert. Of course, their true “final” live gig didn’t happen until January 1969 when the Fab Four surprised a central London office lunch crowd with an impromptu concert on the roof of their Savile Row Apple headquarters.

The Beatles official website

Back from NYC: A Rock and Roll Tour

Posted in Rock Rant with tags , , , , , , , , on July 24, 2011 by 30daysout

An iconic wall of stickers and fliers, preserved under glass at what used to be CBGB's.

Remind me never to go back to New York City in the dead of summer: walking along the city’s sidewalks as the sun sizzled temperatures to near 97 was just as hellish as any August day in our hometown of Houston. But it wasn’t just the heat that reminded us of Texas – it seemed everywhere you turned, there was music in the big city.

The summertime is perfect for live music in New York, and there are plenty of “canned” live music events to satisfy any tourist, including but not limited to the Friday-morning TV-ready “concerts” staged for the network morning news shows. We didn’t do those anyway – we had our hands full with all the other things going on.

New York City is of course a cradle of rock and roll history. You can go to about 100 places that have some significance in music history, from the Brill Building to the Iridium Club (where Les Paul used to play live on a weekly basis) to the Strawberry Fields-John Lennon memorial in Central Park (along with the adjacent Dakota apartment building).

Hard Rock Cafe exhibit is a reminder of our great recent loss.

We got the tourist stuff out of the way first, heading to the big Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square which is an attraction not for its food but for its rich store of rock memorabilia. No shortage of Beatles stuff here – from the actual doors from the Abbey Road studios, to early Beatles matching stage costumes, to beautiful album art covers autographed by all four Beatles, it’s a Fab Four mother lode.

We were lucky enough to sit right under a Bruce Springsteen exhibit with a Boss guitar, a Little Steven guitar and a Clarence Clemons saxophone. We paid tribute once more to the Big Man – a great, great artist. Did you know that the Hard Rock is located in what used to be NYC’s Paramount Theatre, where rock and roll pioneer Alan Freed staged some of his seminal shows back in the day? It’s also the place where Elvis’ first movie Love Me Tender had its world premiere in 1956.

We also walked into Greenwich Village, and in Washington Square park there were at least seven bands playing for tips along the sidewalks. Soon we were on Bleeker headed for the former location of CBGBs on Bowery St. The seminal punk club closed in 2006, and virtually overnight the owners uprooted just about anything that wasn’t nailed down for a possible rebirth of the club someplace else.

I’d never been in the neighborhood before,  it didn’t seem the kind of place that hordes of mohawked and safety-pin-pierced punks would frequent, but I understand many things have changed since 1977. Right now the old CBGBs is an upscale fashion boutique ($800 for a leather jacket, and not a cool one at that!) and pretty much the only concession to history are some patches of wall that still sport hundreds of stickers and fliers from the punk daze, protected under a clear glass window.

Pretty much everywhere you turn in Greenwich Village, you see written on the subway walls and tenement halls two words of graffiti: “Lou Reed.” In one three-block stroll on the way to the former CBGBs, I think I must have seen that name scrawled at least 100 times. I surmised that the graffiti had been created by Lou himself, after some sort of guerilla-marketing brainstorm (or a six pack). No matter – Lou Reed is perhaps the No. 1 rocker that comes to mind when I think of New York City.

Like I said: it's written everywhere in Greenwich Village.

Lou is also the unofficial King of Coney Island (King Neptune), and the next day we found ourselves on the D train headed for Brooklyn and Coney Island. There was a free concert on Coney Island the night before, with San Antonio’s Girl In A Coma and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts headlining, but nobody wanted to ride the subway back late at night. So we arrived on the Boardwalk right about high noon, and there were smells of suntan lotion, hot dogs and cologne everywhere. I looked around for Lou, but no luck; I did, however, catch a few bars of “Coney Island Baby” emanating from Cha-Cha’s Bar & Cafe.

Later that night, back in Manhattan, we cleaned up and attended “Spider Man: Turn Off The Dark” on Broadway. Although Bono and the Edge were rumored to be in town for an appearance on David Letterman, they were no-shows at the play. We particularly enjoyed one scene, where Peter Parker and Mary Jane dance in a club to U2’s “Vertigo.” It is the best song in the show.

Then, finally, the next night we headed for the Bronx to see some guy sing Beatles songs in Yankee Stadium. You can read all about that below; even the part about the guest walk-on by Billy Joel, who Paul McCartney called “a friend of New York.” I would have to agree with that – mostly. Nobody asked me, but if you want Mr. Rock and Roll New York, go down to Greenwich Village and read the graffiti.

MP3: “Coney Island Baby” (live) by Lou Reed

Happy Birthday, Ringo!

Posted in Rock Moment with tags , on July 8, 2011 by 30daysout

Ringo Starr celebrated his 71st birthday on Thursday, and a former bandmate paid tribute to him. Ha, this is just great.

Video Du Jour: Jerry and Gary Lewis

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on April 4, 2011 by 30daysout

Let’s kick off the week with somethin’ swingin’: Jerry Lewis and his son Gary singing a Beatles tune on the old TV show “Hullabaloo,” from 1965. Before the opening number, however, you gotta get through the opening credits and the guests for that week’s show. Joanie Sommers – hubba hubba!