10 Reasons The Beatles Broke Up

Other than the magnificently transportive music they made that shaped the way pop music itself was conceived, made, and culturally codified thereafter, one of the key things that makes The Beatles such a compelling band is the strength of their myth. Now, I have personally bored many people senseless in conversation, and even in podcasts, on the nature of The Beatles as a story, not just as a musical act.

What kind of story are we talking about exactly? I’ve come to believe that their story is a quest myth, and a coming of age story all rolled into one. To the former, it really is a story full of colourful characters that seem to be so huge that recognizing the fact that they were and are living, breathing human beings is rational, but not quite complete. They were, and are, more than that. This is because they take up space in our imaginations as much as they did and do in real life time and space. But as to the latter, the coming of age part of the equation, that’s the aspect of The Beatles story that adds a splash of mournful blue to the psychedelic spectrum. For something to be so wonderful to those outside looking in, it couldn’t possibly have been made to last.

As with everything in life, the answer to Why Did The Beatles Break Up? is and always has been more complicated than one factor affecting the whole. As much as fans like me venerate the people involved, we are talking about human beings here, however talented. They were subject to conflicting forces and grey areas that we all are. What were those forces according to me at least? Here in (very!) rough chronological order are at least 10 for you to consider, Good People.

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10 Cover Songs By The Beatles That Helped Define Them

The Beatles established the idea for British beat groups that if you wanted to make your mark, you had to write your own songs.

But, before they were writers, they were music fans and record collectors – just like us! They had influences, like any other band. In their earliest days, The Beatles considered themselves primarily as a rock ‘n’ roll band. But, they pulled in a number of influences that allowed them to define their sound even early on; soul music, rockabilly, traditional pop, movie soundtrack music, Latin music, and more.

The Beatles 1964

A lot of the time, their choice in material was made so as to distinguish their sets from those of other bands working the same clubs as they did. And it also served them as a live act when they were a bar band in Hamburg, playing eight-hour shows. To play sets that long, you’ve got to cover a lot of ground, and make sure you’re ready to play anything for the sometimes volatile audiences. More material is better than less in those situations; better to know it and not have to play it, than having to play it, and not knowing it.

What this anything goes approach also helped them to do of course is to create a template for how wide their reach would be as songwriters on their own. So, which songs did they cover that helped them to do this best? Well, in the tradition of the Delete Bin, here are 10 to consider as great Beatle-starters, and as prime cuts of pure pop magic all on their own. Take a look! Read more

John Lennon Sings “#9 Dream”

Listen to this track by Lost Weekend-embroiled ex-Beatle and solo singer-songwriter John Lennon. It’s “#9 Dream”, a single as taken from his 1974 album Walls and Bridges.  This was the album created during a period that Lennon spent away from his wife Yoko Ono, with the exile purportedly on her mandate. Lennon left New York City with his personal assistant and soon-to-be lover May Pang (with Pang’s going along allegedly also Yoko’s idea), bound for Los Angeles by the end of 1973.

This period is widely associated with a time of indulgence on Lennon’s part. Upon his arrival in L.A, partying (too) hard with Harry Nilsson, Ringo Starr, and Keith Moon, being rude to staff at the Troubadour Club while wearing a tampon on his head, and actually and getting kicked out of that same club for heckling the Smothers Brothers were among some of the highlights – or low-lights.

It’s not exactly the picture of the peace-loving, and peace-promoting figure we’ve come to associate with Lennon today. And it would have been easy to forget his calibre as a songwriter around this time, too. His previous album Mind Games didn’t fare so well critically speaking. The one before that Some Time In New York City was (and is!) also noted for being uneven at best. Getting his mojo back must have been a mandate for him.  He had a lot to prove by 1974.

“#9 Dream” was certainly a step in the right direction, being a sort of child-like and sonically gauzy tune that captures Lennon’s fantastical eye where subject matter for pop songs is concerned. But, did it get him to where he wanted to go? And if so, where was that exactly?

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Paul McCartney Plays “Coming Up”

Paul McCartney 1980
Paul McCartney; I’m pretty sure that’s not a kitten he’s just thrown at us. (Source: 26.media.tumblr.com)

Here’s a clip of the Cute Beatle, who’s celebrating a birthday today (he’s 70!), Paul McCartney. It’s his Wings-less #1 hit single from April, 1980, “Coming Up” as featured on his second recorded-entirely-solo album which is appropriately titled McCartney II, released that same year. The song was a hit in at least two forms; one being the synthesized studio version, and the other a December 1979 live version recorded in Glasgow with a full band.

The live version of “Coming Up”, which featured McCartney’s rock growl of a voice and backed by Wings, garnered attention mostly in North America even though it was technically the b-side. The studio version on the A-side, which features his voice that’s been treated by varying tape speed effects along with a more synthesized texture, won him listeners in the UK.

Maybe this reinforces the generalization that European audiences favour pop artifice, and North American ones prefer rock-oriented true grit. Either way, the song also garnered a positive response from a certain distinguished individual listening to the radio by 1980 – John Lennon. Read more

John Lennon Plastic Ono Band Plays ‘Cold Turkey’

Listen to this track from the literate Beatle, the Walrus himself John Lennon, who yesterday would have been 71 years old (Happy Birthday, John!). It’s his 1969 solo single ‘Cold Turkey’ , a true to life account of his own brief romance with heroin. And seeing as this is Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, the ‘turkey’ reference goes out to all of you! The song appeared in LP form on the 1975 compilation album Shaved Fish.  

The song, harrowing to be sure, was banned by the BBC for its drug references, although the drug in question is never named. This of course came as a great surprise to Lennon, who considered this song as something of an anti-drug anthem, with “thirty-six hours rolling in pain”, among other lines in the song hardly standing as endorsements of drug use

Lennon originally intended that it be released as a Beatles single, only to be voted down by McCartney. So, the song was put out under Plastic Ono Band, with this single as the second of his songs released under that name after “Give Peace A Chance”. It would be the first song not to include McCartney’s name in the song credit, which may have been a telling sign as to where Lennon’s head was at at the time. And where was that, exactly?

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The Beatles Play “I’m Down” at Shea Stadium 46 Years Ago Today

Here’s a clip, and one of my favourite clips of all time, of the Fab Four – the Beatles, that is – at Shea Stadium 0n August 15th, 1965 – 46 years ago today. It’s “I’m Down”, the B-side to the single “Help”, and the closing number of the first large-scale concert in the age before your standard stadium show was standard. In fact, it was this very concert that convinced “the money”, for good or ill, that maybe this rock’n’ roll thing had legs where making tons of cash was concerned.*

*[March 2012 – as if to prove my point, EMI have blocked the clip because they own the rights to it. Sorry, kids.]

*[July 2014 – but here’s that clip again, thanks to Dailymotion. Suck it, The Man!]

But that aside, this was a key show for the band, just on the verge of transforming from a quartet of performing “moptops” to a serious studio entity, going well beyond the touring, radio, and TV appearance showbiz treadmill, to become what they’d always been – true artists. This in turn dovetailed with their growing disatisfaction with live performances, when their own chops as musicians were being lost in the screams of Beatlemania.

The specially-designed 100-Watt Vox amplifiers didn’t even make a dent. Read more

Elton John and John Lennon Perform “I Saw Her Standing There”

elton john and john lennon 1974Listen to this track, recorded live by two friends who’d made a friendly bet; Elton John and John Lennon. It’s the lead track off of the Beatles first album, “I Saw Her Standing There”. The two pop stars performed it together at Madison Square Garden in 1974, over ten years after John’s old band, the Beatles, had first laid it down as young men, and subsequently performed it on their historic Ed Sullivan Show performance on February 9, 1964 in front of 73 million TV viewers.

This particular performance is notable for at least two different reasons. First, it was the initial signs that Lennon and his erstwhile partner, and primary writer of this song Paul McCartney, were not so estranged by 1974 as audiences had been led to believe by a song like “How Do You Sleep?” three years earlier. Second, it was performed during a concert which would mark the last time John Lennon performed in front of a live audience. And it almost never happened at all, but for a bet between Elton and his reluctant friend John Lennon. Read more

Happy Birthday, John Lennon: Songs Chosen By the Fans

Bust of John Lennon Matthew StreetJohn Winston (Ono) Lennon was born in Liverpool on this day in 1940, son of Alfred and Julia Lennon.  Later, he formed a band called the Quarrymen who played at the local church fete in Woolton, a suburb of Liverpool. Here he met Paul McCartney, who played ‘Twenty-Flight Rock”, tuned John’s guitar for him, and thus began an enduring songwriting relationship ranked among the greatest in the 20th Century!

Later, he auditioned young George Harrison, who played “Raunchy” on the top  deck of a double decker bus. Later still, he met Richard Starkey, AKA Ringo Starr, in Hamburg when John’s group was shipped over there to play for a pittance on the city’s notorious Reeperbahn district.

They called that band ‘the Beatles’.

Of course from here, the roller coaster ride began: fame in England, a recording contract, Julian, Beatlemania, In His Own Write, A Hard Day’s Night, Shea Stadium, How I Won the War, Yoko, LSD, India, break-up, heroin, drug bust, experimental tape loop albums, Allen Klein, Bed-ins, another break-up, primal screaming, Plastic Ono Band, Imagine, New York, L.A, New York again, Sean, Double Fantasy. It was a lot for a young man to take in.

And by the time he was old enough, and mature enough to come to terms with it, some asshole shot him.

But, what is undiminshed are the songs, both with the Beatles and without.  And here are some of your favourites! Much like my post about Paul McCartney’s most recent birthday, the songs here are presented as chosen by my friends, family, and Delete Bin regulars. This is a compendium of songs by the Witty Beatle most beloved by these same groups of people. But, this time, I’ve also asked a few musicians who I’ve interviewed, or who have otherwise appeared, on the ‘Bin here over the last few months to weigh in.  So, take a look!

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Fantasy Albums: Lennon & McCartney 30th Anniversary Unplugged

It’s Beatles day!  This day in 1964, the Fab Four appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, their  stardom in North America assured.  And this is the 3rd annual celebration of that day here on the ‘Bin of (I can’t believe it).  So, let the very nerdy celebration begin!

As a sort of companion piece to an earlier post of mine, Beatles ’71. That post told the tale of the Beatles taking a break in 1969, re-defining their band for themselves by taking the pressure off with concurrent solo careers, and putting out an album to follow up Abbey Road in 1971.  Here is another in the possible series of fantasy Beatles albums, thought up entirely by me.  Of course, if that earlier post indulged in major revisionist history, then this one multiplies that by ten. In the real timeline of course, Lennon was killed in the street in 1980.  Not so in this timeline, friends.  That’s a pretty big barrier to overcome.  But, that’s the great thing about fantasy, right?

Here’s the story so far.  Besides solo careers, The Beatles released material very sporadically after Beatles ’71. By this time, the Beatles were a hobby band, a refuge rather than a millstone for the four men who created it.  So, they took their time with the Beatles, enough to make sure that the Beatles were, above all things, fun for them.

So, after Beatles ’71 they put out a double-A side single in “Junior’s Farm/#9 Dream” in 1974.  Then, they release a double live album in the year of double live  album releases, 1976. Their last studio album, Free As A Bird is released in 1980.  After that, Harrison ducks out of the music business for most of the 1980s to concentrate on his film company.  And the Beatles never re-emerge on LP before Harrison’s death in 2001, although a new double A-side single is  released in 1987 to celebrate the 20th anniversary release of Sgt. Pepper (‘When We Was Fab“/”Once Upon A Long Ago“).  Another double A-side single is released 1994 in celebration of the Anthology project.

But, while The Beatles are on hiatus, Lennon and McCartney record a very special TV show on MTV and a parallel album in 1993, the 30th year anniversary of the release of their first number one song and album.   The concert would be at the Ed Sullivan Theatre. The duo gathered a band, mostly on McCartney’s recommendation, but with Lennon’s approval.  And it is decided that since this is a celebration of the two young composers they once were, the material on the album is centered on the fruits of their earliest work, plus some of their favourite R&B covers that helped to inspire them.

The setting of the album is subdued and casual, and of course acoustic and live in front of an intimate crowd.  The proceedings are punctuated with humour and of the reminiscing of that earliest period of their careers.

Here is that record!

Lennon & McCartney: 30th Anniversary Unplugged

John Lennon – Vocals, guitar, harmonica

Paul McCartney – Vocals, guitar

Robbie Mckintosh – guitar

Pino Pallidino – Bass

Paul ‘Wix’ Wickens – piano, accordion

Alan White – drums

  1. Love Me Do
  2. Please Please Me
  3. I Call Your Name
  4. Some Other Guy
  5. There’s A Place
  6. Things We Said Today
  7. If I Fell
  8. All My Loving
  9. Baby’s in Black
  10. Money Honey
  11. Hippy Hippy Shake
  12. Not A Second Time
  13. I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party
  14. Soldier of Love
  15. Ask Me Why
  16. Yes It is

Of course, the Beatles Anthology project would be broadcast the next year, with Lennon of course giving new interviews and fresh insights to the proceedings.  A new double A-side single from the Beatles is released in celebration.  A tour is considered, briefly.  But, Harrison holds out, and the others decide concentrate on their personal lives, as a phase of the Beatles as an entity enters what they call its “twilight years”.  All of this despite huge offers for world tours and record deals.

Solo careers continue, and among other projects, McCartney and Lennon record another live album together.

Lennon records an album with Wilco as his backing band …

Anyway, before I get carried away, what’s your take, good people?  Any songs that should be in the running order that I missed? Indulge yourself!

Enjoy!

John Lennon Sings ‘Real Love’

john_lennon_-_imagine_john_lennonListen to this track, a lullaby from the Walrus who became John, recorded as a home demo while a househusband taking care of toddler Sean.  Both Lennon’s were born on the same day – October 9th, 1940 and 1975 respectively. Happy birthday!

The song would of course provide the basis for a new Beatles song by the mid-90s, when the surviving Beatles gathered together in the studio with the help of producer Jeff Lynne, with John’s ghostly vocal underpinning the pop sheen that Lynne, McCartney, Harrison, and Starr built up around it.  Unlike the wonderful “Free As A Bird”, the results are less of a success to my ears.  I prefer John’s demo, which I originally heard on the Imagine : John Lennon Original Soundtrack album.

There’s very little known about John Lennon’s househusband period when compared to his former glory days.  But, the sound of his voice here reveals a few things to me.  One, that he was still interested in putting across songs, even if he was no longer interested in being in the limelight.  I think he did it for his own amusement, and for sheer self-expression which is really evident to me here.  His voice is hushed, as if he’s trying not to wake someone, which may have been the case since he was a full-time dad by this time.

And there is something else too; a certain brittle quality, which may be down to the demo quality of the track. But, I wonder if through song he was also working things out.  In many ways, this is how Lennon had approached songwriting almost since he began, from “There’s a Place” to “I’ll Cry Instead” to “Help” to “God” to “Mother” and many other musical moments besides.

There would be the high gloss of Double Fantasy a few years after this recording od course, when he wore his love for Yoko on his sleeve once again (“Woman”), and his love for Sean, too (“Beautiful Boy”).  But, this is late night John, after everyone’s gone to bed.  It’s the sound of a guy singing for himself, pulling ideas out from his guitar, and out of his heart just for the joy of the activity itself.

It’s pure, it’s real, it’s love.

Enjoy!