Interpreters are a rare breed of singers. Interpreters don’t need to write their own songs, although they do on occasion; they make any song they sing their own. Interpreters can choose a song that you think could never be done by anyone except the band that first wrote, performed, and made it popular, and turn it into something totally original. They make it unforgettably their own.
Paul McCartney may have released the most post-Beatles albums following the breakup of the fab four, but he didn’t record the best. George Harrison holds that esteemed honor with “All Things Must Pass”.
Released in 1970, “All Things Must Pass” is an incredible three record set that let Harrison spread his wings as an artist. The last three Beatles albums were a tumultuous time for the band. Through the ’60s, the names John, Paul, George, and Ringo were synonymous with The Beatles, By 1970 it would have been more accurate to refer to them as Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, and Ringo. Three individuals who felt strongly about what should be on the latter Beatles albums and one who just rolled with it. They all contributed songs, but not all made the cut. On the last three Beatles albums, some songs that Harrison felt strongly about were nixed for ones by Lennon and McCartney, getting the ax without much protest (he was after all, “the quiet one”). So when The Beatles dissolved in 1970 Harrison had solo material he was confident about and was ready to record. Writing a few more, he soon had enough for a second album.
Those two records were enough to establish “All Things Must Pass” as the best post-Beatles album, but Harrison added a third record.
Although it is labeled as side 5 and 6, the aptly titled “Apple Jam” stands apart, yet in cohesion with the other two disks. “Apple Jam” is a collection of long improvisational in-studio jams from the “All Things Must Pass” recording sessions. It feels more like a celebratory encore to the rest of the record than a continuation of the rest of the songs. On the first four sides of “All Things Must Pass” George Harrison was finally able to let his voice be heard; he was no longer “the quiet one”. Sides five and six sound like a celebration of that revelation and freedom.
No matter what Paul McCartney record you cue up, you will always get a couple big hits that you hear regularly on the radio combined with some great deep cuts that you never hear except when you listen to that particular album. But sometimes you want to put on an album that just cuts right to the chase. That’s where Greatest Hits albums are…well, the greatest. And it’s hard to find a greater greatest hits album than “Wings Greatest”.
It’s funny how someone’s record collection can have one or two albums that seem to not fit in at all with the rest of them. I acquired “Wings Greatest” with a collection of about 100 albums that had been set out street side with a bunch of other stuff to be either picked by someone or picked up with the trash. I figured there would probably be no good albums in there, but it never hurts to look, so I grabbed the stack. As I flipped past all the Lawrence Welk, Sing Along with Mitch (Miller), and other undesired albums, there was “Wings Greatest”; the only rock album in the lot. I couldn’t help but wonder how it got in there with the others; it seemed so out of place. Then again, sifting through my collection, someone might wonder the same thing when they come across The Singing Nun, Liberace, or Ernst Tubb.
This marks the 200th post to my blog. I feel a need to make it about an exceptional album.
In 1967 color TV was a big deal. So were The Beatles. What better combination could there have been then, than to make a colour movie for the telly featuring their music and, of course starring the fab four themselves?
The hour-long programme had to be originally broadcast in black and white when the BBC first aired it on boxing day (the day after Christmas in the U.K.). However, it aired again in colour a couple of weeks later.
Although the album soundtrack to the film was well received, the movie itself – a story of a bus trip across England and the bizarre events that occur on it – was not. Probably because the film had a psychedelic feel to it that was not appreciated by elder viewer. Opinion of the movie changed as time passed and both are now considered classics.
The album came in a gatefold cover that included a 24 page full color book with scenes from the movie. Because of the original packaging, “Magical Mystery Tour” is an album that could never be presented effectively when released decades later on the smaller CD format.
One of the things I find interesting about the Magical Mystery Tour album packaging is that the album the cover uses the American spelling of color when referring to the book inside, but the book itself uses the British spelling of colour when referencing the movie.
“Hey Jude” was an album that kind of made up for the exclusion of certain songs from the U.S. versions of earlier albums by the fab four. The album was never released in the U.K., and contained singles and other songs that had never been available on any Beatles album released in the United States. Most had only been released in the States as 45 RPM singles. “Hey Jude” also contained a couple of tracks that were only released as 45s in Britain, most notably the album’s title track.
Capitol/Apple records originally planned to title this album “The Beatles Again”. It was a last-minute decision to change the title to the same name as the Beatles’ latest single at the time, which opens up side 2. It was so last-minute in fact, that a few copies were released with the originally planned title printed on the record’s labels. These rare versions are highly sought by collectors. I am fortunate enough to have one of these in my collection.
Unofficially known as the “White Album” because of its plain white cover, The Beatles was the beginning of the end for The Fab Four. The recording sessions were marred with many arguments over creative differences. John Lennon started bringing Yoko Ono to the studio with him, which the band had always had a policy of never bringing wives or girlfriends to the recording sessions. At one point, Ringo Starr walked out the studio and for a short period, it was rumored he may have left the band (of course, he later returned).
It’s strange how so many bands, during some of their most turbulent times in the studio, produce some of their most brilliant albums. The Beatles’ “White Album” was no exception. Even if one doesn’t consider this album one of the Beatles’ best, it can’t be denied that it is their most varied in musical styles.
The first pressings of The Beatles, had a pure white cover, with the band’s name embossed on the cover. Later pressings, like this original master and the one pressed on white vinyl, had the band’s name printed in gray letters. The original master did not include any of the extras that came with both the original release and the white vinyl Edition.
When I sit down to seriously listen to the “White Album”, I will always put on the original master version. When I’m doing other things and it’s more or less playing in the background, I usually put on the white vinyl edition, just because I think it’s cooler.
The Alan Parsons Project was actually a duo. Obviously one of the members was Alan Parsons, who was known for his engineering work on the Beatles’ “Abbey Road” and Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon”. The other significant member was Eric Wolfson, a Scottish born musician and songwriter. Although Wolfson was more widely known in the music industry, Alan Parsons had a name more recognizable to record buyers because of his work with the Beatles and Pink Floyd, so the latter’s name was chosen as the moniker for the band.
Like its two predecessors, Pyramid was a concept album that was heavy in its use of orchestration in choral arrangements. The Alan Parsons Project’s first album was based on the literary works Edgar Allan Poe. Their second, “I Robot”, focused on the rise of technology and its potential to overtake man. Like its name implies, “Pyramid” focused on the mysteries and fascination that America and much of Europe had with pyramids at the time of its release.
I remember buying this album as an alternate choice to what I actually wanted. I had gone to the record store that day to buy “I Robot”, but it was sold out. “Pyramid” had just come out so I figured I’d pick it up instead.
I also remember at first being somewhat disappointed with the album. Although it still sounded like the same band, it had a distinctly different feel to it than its predecessor. I don’t know why that surprised me, the same could be said of the first and second Alan Parsons Project albums. As time passed however, the music on it grew on me and I now find I like Pyramid” as much as, possibly more than the album I actually wanted to buy that day.
After the breakup of The Beatles, each member of the Fab Four pursued a solo path. Not surprisingly, the often outspoken John Lennon went on to have a very successful post-Beatle musical career. He and his wife, Yoko Ono, also became a much stronger voice in the advocacy for pacifism and anti-war politics.
He took a hiatus from his musical career after his son, Sean was born, deciding to focus more on being a dad rather than a musician. However, after a near tragedy at sea while on a sailing trip, he decided to go back into the studio, only this time it would be together with his wife, Yoko Ono.
The album they made together wasn’t so much a duet, as it was a collection of songs written and performed by each of them. All of the songs focused on relationships, more specifically, the ups and downs between John and Yoko. Resembling conversations between the two, the sequence of the songs alternated between one song by John Lennon followed by a song by Yoko Ono. It’s easy to tell, this was a very personal album for both of them.
Although he lived to see the release of his final album Lennon never lived to see the success it achieved. John Lennon was tragically shot outside his New York apartment by Mark David Chapman, on December 8th 1980 and died shortly after. It was one of the saddest days in music history.
Americans got ripped off with Beatles’ seventh album. And it wasn’t the first time either – but it wold be the last.
With Revolver, the fab four continued to expand their sound and experiment with different, often unorthodox recording techniques in the studio for the time. (They were expanding and experimenting with other things outside the studio too. But let’s not go there right now.) Backwards recording, post recording speed and pitch variations (varispeeding) and artificial double tracking, which adds a slight delay to a voice or instrument and plays it back with the original, so one voice sounds like two, or four sound like eight, were all used here.
Although these techniques are now commonplace in modern recording studios, they were truly groundbreaking at the time. The Beatles would continue expanding on what could be done in the studio on their next album, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
I know, all that is really cool (at least if you’re a music nerd like I am) but what you really want to know is right now is just how did American’s get ripped off by this album?
Well here it is…
Although The Beatles had started their own record label, Apple Records, their records were still released through major record companies. To the whole world outside of the United States, The Beatle’s albums were released through Parlaphone records. In the U.S., The Beatles were released through Capitol Records. Capitol didn’t like releasing albums with too many songs on them – and apparently 14 was too many. For Revolver, they only wanted theirs to go up to 11. So U.S. record buyers didn’t get “I’m Only Sleeping,” “Doctor Robert,” and “And Your Bird Can Sing ” on their albums.
This wasn’t the first time Capitol had made changes to a Beatles’ album. Most early albums by them had song omissions and/or reordering on the U.S. editions. Fortunately, Revolver would be the last time it would happen. Starting with “Sgt. Pepper’s” Capitol stopped messing with what should be better off left alone.
It may not surprise you that the members of the Knack we’re big Beatles fans. What may surprise you though, is just how big of fans they were. There are several nods to the fab four on The Knack’s debut album, “Get The Knack.”
The Knack released “Get The Knack” in the summer of 1979 after being offered deals by numerous record labels. They chose to sign with Capitol Records in part, because Capitol was the Beatles’ label in the United States. As part of the record deal, The Knack made it a requirement for Capitol to use an old rainbow ringed label on the album that the record company hadn’t used since 1968. The band wanted this on their records because it was the label that adorned the original Capitol releases of The Beatles’ early records. The album cover was designed to be a gentle nod to The Beatles’ first album cover and the picture on the back is a replica of a scene taken directly from The Beatles’ film “A Hard Day’s Night,” with the The Knack taking the place of the fab four.
The album was recorded in just two weeks on a miniscule budget. It was an immediate success, going gold (500,000 copies sold) and topping the Billboard record charts in less than two weeks. It achieved platinum status (1,000,000 copies sold) in less than two months.
“My Sharona,” the first single off the album, also hit number one and is The Knack’s biggest hit. It remains to this day, Capitol Records’ fastest selling debut single for any band since The Beatles released “I Want To Hold Your Hand.” How appropriate.