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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Wings Play “Silly Love Songs”

Listen to this track by post-Beatles Paul McCartney songwriting vehicle and bona fide top forty behemoth Wings. It’s “Silly Love Songs” a smash single that appeared on the band’s 1976 LP Wings At The Speed of Sound. The song proved its own thesis by spending five non-consecutive weeks on the number one spot of the Billboard 100. It would be McCartney’s twenty-seventh number one song, helping to place him in the Guinness World Book of Records as the world’s most successful songwriter by 1979.

By this time, McCartney and Wings were on an upswing with a number of hits behind them and with many in front as well before the band ended in 1981. However even during this peak period where chart action was concerned, the songwriter was not without his critics. Even his former songwriting partner John Lennon had levelled an opinion that McCartney had gone soft, writing lightweight, crowd-pleasing love songs rather than turning his talents to more substantial subjects. This song was a self-aware reaction to that. Crowd-pleasing? What’s wrong with that, I’d like to know?

Having said that, there’s something else going on in this song that I think a lot of rock fans had complained about where McCartney was concerned by 1976; that it just doesn’t rock in the way that, say, “Helter Skelter” or Back In The USSR” does. I think there’s plenty to unpack there that reveals something about McCartney the writer, and maybe something about his audience, too. Read more

Elvis Costello Sings “Veronica”

Veronica_Elvis_Costello (1)Listen to this track by bespectacled beloved entertainer Declan Patrick MacManus, AKA Elvis Costello. It’s “Veronica”, a hit single from 1989’s Spike. This is one of a number of songs Costello wrote with Paul McCartney by the end of the 1980s, in the beginning of his post-Attractions phase. Several of these songs would appear on the records of both men from the late eighties into the early-to-mid nineties. In this case, McCartney plays his trademark and iconic Hofner bass on the track. Also, this tune was arguably the most personal track they wrote together, and among the most personal songs in Costello’s catalogue on the whole.

The song was inspired by Costello’s grandmother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease, with a vibrant life, a carefree mind of her own (and a devilish look in her eye) behind her that could only be recalled by her in brief moments of lucidity. In some ways, McCartney was the perfect collaborator on a song like this, having a solid track record even when he was in The Beatles in writing songs about women and the pressures and stresses they must endure.

As far as Costello’s part, and beyond the disease aspect of what inspired this tune, there is a series of wider themes that are served by it; human dignity, vulnerability, memory, the nature of old age, and of identity itself. Read more

Paul McCartney Plays “Jenny Wren”

Paul McCartney Jenny WrenListen to this track by Liverpudlian songwriting titan and one of four Beatles Paul McCartney. It’s “Jenny Wren” a top forty UK  single as taken from his 2005 album Chaos And Creation In The Backyard. The album was co-produced with Beck and Radiohead collaborator Nigel Godrich, and scored a top 10 showing on the Billboard 200.

The record was looked upon as something of a return to a certain sound and approach for McCartney, only touched on as recently as 1998’s Flaming Pie. For one, he played most of the parts himself, just as he’d done with his first solo album all the way back in 1970. He also returned to a signature sound for which he became known while still officially in The Beatles, that being a spare and acoustic sound that he’d developed while at Transcendental Meditation summer camp with the Maharishi in 1968.

This song in particular hooks into a signature McCartney play that certainly goes back to the sixties; the 1860s! Read more

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

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

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

Happy Birthday, Paul McCartney: 10 Favourite Covers of Paul McCartney Songs

It ‘s Paul McCartney’s birthday this coming Saturday. And for the ocasion this year, I thought I’d take a look at some of the cover versions of his songs, both with the Beatles and without, that stand out as shining gems in tribute to Sir Paul on the occasion of his 69th (!) birthday, born as he was on June 18th, 1942.

One of his greatest strengths as a songwriter was his ability to ‘write in the style of’, which allowed him access to all kinds of musical genres, and helped to expand the reach of pop music as a whole. This of course means that he was celebrated by a wide range of artists in turn, on the rock, pop, soul, punk, and other points on the musical spectrum besides. Here are 1o favourites, some being classics on their own, while others are simply just notable for how far Macca’s reach is as far as what sort of act can take up his material.

So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the list!

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Happy Birthday Paul McCartney: Songs Chosen By The Fans

Right, good people!

Once again, it’s Paul McCartney’s birthday, born this day in 1942 in Liverpool.  He would go on to achieve success with a band called the Beatles, named by way of a man on a flaming pie if you believe the legend.  And after that band ended, he would record solo, with a new band Wings, and with his wife Linda, too.  All the while he kept writing songs.  He has a knack for it, you see.

And instead of listing off a bunch of songs of his that I love – and boy, there are a lot of them – I thought I’d try something different this year.  I thought I’d ask some of my friends to submit their favourites in exchange for some link love to their sites as well in celebration of the birth, and the work, of one of my heroes.

And so here they are, in no order and with some commentary from my erudite friends and family, Delete Bin regulars, and Twitter buds. When it’s all over, please feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments section!

♥ No More Lonely Nights –  “It appeared long after his well appeared to have run dry, and has all the trademark good Macca-aspects without any of the cringeworthy ones. Even Linda sounds OK on it. And (Pink Floyd’s David) Gilmour’s solo is mighty.” – John Roussety

♥ Maybe I’m Amazed (live version, 1976) – . “Maybe I’m amazed would be a necessary one. No one mentioned it yet? How dare they! The blasphemy! It’s my favourite McCartney song.  I’m glad it was me that contributed it.” –  Ashley MacDonald

♥ Lady Madonna –  I have just been humming “Lady Madonna”. I guess I must like that one. –  Gwyn Teatro

C-Moon“It reminds me of dancing in my basement to the jukebox with my sister and neighbours”. Karen Gurney

♥ Live and Let Die –  “Live and Let Die” is the best!” – Todd Lansing

♥ The Backseat of My Car –   “It’s ambitious to the point of almost being symphonic in scope, but it really brings the goods. The arrangement veers through all sorts of different territory and arrives at an incredibly bombastic yet fully satisfying crescendo, only then to zig-zag somewhere else for the fade-out. A stunning track.” ‘Snarfyguy

♥ The Long and Winding Road –  “I’ve always loved it because it has a beautiful melody that just grabs you and pulls you into the song and never lets you go. The lyrics are quite beautiful too.  And, sorry Paul, Phil Spector was absolutely right about the orchestra, you’re just jealous because he thought of it first.”  – Graeme Burk

♥ Pipes of Peace, Fool On The Hill –  “Pipes of Peace” is one that holds a special place in my heart. It still brings a tear to my eyes, all these 27 years later. And “Fool on the Hill”is the perfect Paul McCartney song”. – Guacira Naves

♥ Let ‘Em In – “It’s my first memory of singing along to a song on the radio.” – Stacie Biehler

♥ We Can Work It Out –  I pick “We Can Work It Out”, after the Sing It Loudly Three Times In A Row test. It makes me happy.  – Leslie Robinson

♥ Junior’s Farm –  “Huh!” This non-album single cooks with gas. Great escapism from the mundane and absurd; we’re racing to one of those mythical rock ‘n’ roll refuges where the whole tribe is welcome. – Geoff Moore

♥ Back in the USSR, Let It Be – Totally different songs but both rock and roll to the core. – Phil Reynolds

♥ Blackbird, Eleanor Rigby – I always sing to “Blackbird” (a little off key) and “eleonor rigby” evokes some strange emotions. – Donna Wilson

♥ Silly Love Songs – You really would think that the world had had enough of them, but it’s not the case [ed: “Oh, no.”].  I remember in the long hot summer of ’76 endlessly playing a tape of songs that me and my brother had taped from the wireless. This song always takes me back to then.  Splendid bass and horns make this my fave Macca track at the moment. – “Dances With Difficulty”, and seconded by Harriet Fancott

♥ Venus and Mars/Rockshow – I’m kinda partial to Venus & Mars, but there are many, many others.  – Bruce M. Campbell

♥ Helter Skelter – I’ll take Helter Skelter.  I can’t swear it’s my favorite McCartney track, but to me it’s the most surprising one. – Tom Treestman

♥ My Love – It’s a simple love song with such a mournful melody. His love is secure, but he sings of bare cupboards, going away… life.  Chris Blake

♥ Every Night – “Definitely one of my all time favs of his.  It may just be another silly love song, but it’s a good one.” Sarah Loewen

Thanks to everyone for their contributions, and happy birthday Macca!


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!