Friday Five: After the Beatles

We’ve been listening to a lot of Beatles this week and my son and I got into a conversation about our favorite “post-Beatles” songs by the Fab Four. We discovered that we’re not as big fans of Paul as the others, and that we still gravitate to George more than most fans. Maybe not surprisingly, most of the standouts are in the immediate post-break-up period–probably the release of the “best” songs from the remaining three. But my boy’s favorite is the grand exception.

So with a little help from my son, here are our five top songs by the Beatles made after the band split up. The order is mine but the influence is ours together.

5. “It Don’t Come Easy” (Ringo Starr)
Our favorite Ringo song, this was an early part of our household because of the live performance of it from the Concert for Bangladesh, was one of my son’s favorite DVDs when he was only 2. I think it’s one of the finest percussion performances by the post-Beatles Ringo, and one of his catchiest tunes overall.

4. “My Sweet Lord” (George Harrison)
My boy used to sing this song, maybe one of the first non-kid songs he took to. His favorite version was from the tribute concert for George Harrison after his death, where Billy Preston leads a band that includes Ringo, Eric Clapton, Jeff Lynne, and Dhani Harrison, George’s son. The Concert for Bangladesh version was a close second. Harrison was sued for the song, a challenge he lost. Turns out he was ripping off the Chiffons’ “He’s So Fine,” at least inadvertently. It’s still a classic.

3. “Instant Karma!” (John Lennon, or Lennon/Ono with the Plastic Ono Band)
It’s my sentimental favorite. I love how this song brings together all of John’s strengths, the rougher rock ‘n roll traditions he loved, and some great work by Phil Spector. My vote for his best solo song…

2. “Imagine” (John Lennon)
It’s hard to not include this song on a list like this. John Lennon wrote a pop music hymn, straight from the church of the Sixties, that has become an anthem for peace and love. I’m sure it spoke to the time in which it was created and released (1971) but it’s also timeless (unfortunately). What impresses me most is that it’s some of the typical simple lyrics of Lennon but, as he is at his best, they are profoundly deep.

1. “End of the Line” (Traveling Wilburys)
This is a mostly George Harrison penned song by the late-80s super group featuring Harrison, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, and Bob Dylan (who doesn’t sing on this one song). It’s my son’s favorite George Harrison song after the Beatles, and I love it a lot, too.

Advertisements

Friday Five: Paul McCartney (sort of…)

I’m going to the Paul McCartney concert this weekend at Dodger Stadium. It’s my first time seeing him in concert, and my first time seeing any Beatle perform live.

Paul McCartney is responsible for more than a few of my favorite songs of all-time. I’m sure the same could be said for just about any fan of rock and roll.

Instead of offering a typical list of some of those songs, I thought I’d celebrate the occasion by offering some amazing covers of songs written by Sir Paul. In many ways it’s a perfect reflection of his talent and legacy.

5. “Maybe I’m Amazed” (1970): performed by The Faces
A love song written to his wife, Linda, this song was released on McCartney’s 1970 album McCartney.

4. “Yesterday” (1965): performed by Frank Sinatra
A contender for the most popular song written by a Beatle, it also competes for the most covered song in popular music.

3. “Let It Be” (1970): performed by Aretha Franklin
I’m not sure any version of this song can beat the original, with the scruffy Paul playing with John, George, Ringo, and Billy Preston. But Aretha!

2. “Golden Slumbers” (1969): performed by K.D. Lang
Part of the medley that closes my favorite Beatles album of all-time.

1. “Hey Jude” (1968): performed by everyone
I suspect this would top most people’s lists of “Best Beatles Songs.” There’s a reason he closes out so many of his own performances with it–it’s a classic that also captures so much of the phenomenon that was the Beatles. The most famous cover of it might be by the great Wilson Picket, but I’ve always thought it’s one of those songs that’s always going to be impossible to cover well. So here’s Paul playing with some of his friends, closing out the “Music for Montserrat” benefit in 1997.

George Harrison meets Elvis

I love Elvis. I love the Beatles. Of course, I must love the Beatles talking about Elvis.

In this video, George Harrison recalls his second and final meeting with the King.

Paul Wasn’t Dead But The Beatles Were Finished

Forty years ago this Saturday, on August 8, 1969, this photograph was taken.

AbbeyRoad

The image served as the cover for the last recorded studio album by The Beatles, Abbey Road, released in the U.S. on October 1, 1969. It is arguably (but closer to indisputably) the most famous album cover photograph in rock history.

The shot was taken by photographer Iain MacMillan, the result of a 10 minute photo shoot session with the band.  They would finish their studio work on the album less than two weeks later.  The four would only be together a few more times in their lives.  Before Abbey Road hit the shelves, Lennon was already touring with the Plastic Ono Band.  When their final album Let It Be was released in spring 1970, McCartney had a solo album released and at least two of the members had suggested the band was done.  They dissolved their business relationship later that year.

I’ll have more to say about the album in October, when the 40th anniversary of the release arrives. Needless to say, it remains one of their most successful, and iconic. As an album, it is my hands-down favorite. In unique and unexpected ways it showcases the talents of each of the four, and that’s not even talking about George Martin, who was behind the controls. The album is something of a disputed artifact within fan and critical circles, seen by some as symbolic of the wave of “overproduction” taking hold of popular music and emblematic of the emerging “progressive rock” movement.

Most famously, of course, the above photograph inspired the “Paul is dead” rumors in late 1969.  The “rumor” began largely after the publication of a joke article written by University of Michigan student Fred LaBour.  LaBour read into every aspect of the photograph, leading others to do the same. The band crossing the street became a funeral procession, with Lennon the clergy, Starr the undertaker, McCartney the deceased, and Harrison the grave digger.  McCartney is carrying a cigarette, and is stepping out of synch with the others.  There’s even more that was said about the license plate of the VW, the cop car, and the back of the album.

When I studied abroad in England in 1992, I bought three posters to hang on my dorm room wall.  One was the picture of Cindy Crawford holding her breasts and looking lovingly into the camera, obligatory for my generation’s adherence to heterosexual norms. One was of Bob Marley’s pained face smoking marijuana, obligatory for being in college.  The other was of the cover of  Abbey Road.

Check out the recently re-released CD of Abbey Road (remastered edition); as for the poster, you can find it here.