October 20 – Desert Island Album Draft, Round 11 (Soundtracks): Eurythmics – 1984 (For the Love of Big Brother)

I’m participating in an album draft with nine other bloggers, organized by Hanspostcard. There were ten initial rounds, and now we’re into the first of three bonus rounds which will cover soundtracks, compilations, and music related movies, with draft order determined randomly by round.

Fair or not, the 1980’s is an easy target for blanket criticism of an entire decade’s worth of music. And, of course, it’s all subjective. There was a lot of really good music thirty to forty years ago, and though much of the overall obvious “80’s sound” doesn’t hold up to my ears, there are also some standout albums (did I mention this is subjective?). Mike’s choice yesterday, Purple Rain, is one of them. Another one that passes the ear test for me all these years later is a lesser known soundtrack album by Eurythmics, 1984 (For the Love of Big Brother).

1984 with original Eurythmics soundtrack(Winston's Diary scene) - YouTube

I recall being given this on cassette as a random gift maybe a year after its release in 1984, and a year or so before I read the Orwell novel or watched the film adaptation. Therefore, I became very familiar with it as an album – both instrumentally and vocally driven – before I was able to relate it to a storyline. I liked it then, and I still do. Its nine tracks follow the novel’s themes, with two of them issued as singles: the danceable synth-pop Sexcrime (Nineteen Eighty-Four) (though Dave Stewart suggests the music is not synth-pop, but “Kraftwerk meets African tribal meets Booker T and the MGs.”), and the atmospheric Julia, which is a perfect fit in such a dystopian film.

Eurythmics for the Love of Big Brother

There was a bit of a controversy surrounding this soundtrack. Eurythmics were commissioned by Virgin Films to create it, but Virgin failed to notify the film’s director, Michael Radford, who was not pleased to have a pop group “foisted” on him. The later director’s cut of the movie replaced most of the Eurythmics’ music with a more traditional orchestral score. Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart were also not aware that their contributions were not welcomed by the director until it was too late. I felt as a teen at the time that the music fit the film perfectly, and I feel the same today as we teeter on the edge of our real life dystopia. Eurythmics were as hot as anyone else on the early-mid 80’s pop scene, and Lennox and Stewart’s post-Eurythmics careers have proven them to be anything but synth-flashes in the pan.

Tracklist:

  1. I Did It Just the Same
  2. Sexcrime (Nineteen Eighty-Four)
  3. For the Love of Big Brother
  4. Winston’s Diary
  5. Greetings from a Dead Man
  6. Julia
  7. Doubleplusgood
  8. Ministry of Love
  9. Room 101

-Stephen

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1984_(For_the_Love_of_Big_Brother)

October 8 – Desert Island Album Draft, Round 10: Bob Marley & the Wailers – Live at the Roxy

I’m participating in an album draft with nine other bloggers, organized by Hanspostcard. There will be ten rounds (though rumors abound of three bonus rounds), with draft order determined randomly by round. Deciding what albums to choose has become increasingly difficult over the past few rounds, and now it’s down to one. With apologies to solo McCartney and Lennon, Van the Man, Miles, Coltrane, Croz, Elton, U2, Sinatra, David Freaking Bowie, and many others – hell, I even considered the first Van Halen album as a tribute to the late, great Eddie – I’ve decided on a Bob for my second pick in a row. This time it’s the Marley varietal. The deciding factor? I’m going to an island. I’ll want some reggae.

Bob Marley - On May 26th, during the 1976 Rastaman... | Facebook

Bob Marley was long gone before I actually heard him sing. I vaguely remember hearing Clapton’s version of I Shot the Sheriff when it was current, but don’t recall hearing Marley’s name or even the word “reggae” until the early 80’s. I grew up in a small midwestern town, and other than university towns the genre didn’t make inroads there until the mid/late 80’s. I’d read his name in Rolling Stone various times throughout that decade before finally buying Legend around 1986. I loved it instantly and began collecting Marley albums. If I had one shred of hip cred in high school (which is definitely a stretch), it’s a result of introducing reggae to some of my small burg high school mates. I even got Could You Be Loved played at a school dance. Big time, folks. It’s funny looking back at my mulleted self – I only knew about Marley, Jimmy Cliff, and UB40. So hip.

Bob Marley & the Wailers - Live at the Roxy - Amazon.com Music

Marley released albums that are more legendary than Live at the Roxy. In fact, this album – simulcast live on L.A.’s KMET on May 26, 1976 and heavily bootlegged as a result – wasn’t officially released until 2003. But I like live reggae the most, and this show is legendary. It was a VIP event, and as Robert Hilburn noted in his LA Times review of the show, it was attended by John Lennon, Ringo Starr, Neil Diamond, Robbie Robertson, Bernie Taupin, John Bonham, Linda Ronstadt, Harry Nilsson, Carole King, Art Garfunkel, Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty, and others. To have been a fly in the club, floating around from table to table on clouds of ganja smoke… (Side note: the famous backstage photos of the brief Marley/George Harrison summit were taken at the Roxy the previous year.)

Official Bob Marley Marijuana Is Coming | Money

If you like Marley then you probably know most if not all of this music. The recording itself sounds like it was done from my living room. You can sense the intimacy of the performance, delivered in its entirety on this release. The highlight for me is the second disc which contains the encore: a 24 minute medley of Get Up, Stand Up/No More Trouble/War. Relevant as ever, though I must admit I look forward to a day when I can return to listening to these songs without thinking too much about the message.

Tracklist

Disc 1:

  1. Intro
  2. Trenchtown Rock
  3. Burnin’ and Lootin’
  4. Them Belly Full (but We Hungry)
  5. Rebel Music (3 o’clock Road Block)
  6. I Shot the Sheriff
  7. Want More
  8. No Woman, No Cry
  9. Lively Up Yourself
  10. Roots, Rock, Reggae
  11. Rat Race

Disc 2

  1. Positive Vibration
  2. Get Up, Stand Up/No More Trouble/War

-Stephen

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Live_at_the_Roxy_(Bob_Marley_and_the_Wailers_album)

*Note about the following link: it is a wordpress post which contains a link to the Robert Hilburn/L.A. Times review of the concert. I was unable to post that link to the review for some reason.

https://marleyarkives.wordpress.com/2012/02/18/bob-marley-and-the-wailers-go-hollywood-roxy-1976/

October 2 – Desert Island Album Draft, Round 9: Bob Dylan – Time Out of Mind

I’m participating in an album draft with nine other bloggers, organized by Hanspostcard. There will be ten rounds, with draft order determined randomly by round. My 9th round pick is one of my favorites from the last 25 years.

Most of Dylan’s usual suspects have been selected at this point, but that really doesn’t matter. Time Out of Mind, released in September of 1997, is in my top six or seven Dylan albums, and with Bob the order depends on my mood anyway. It’s certainly my favorite from the latter portion of his long career, which I subjectively define as beginning with this release. It’s also the most “current” album of my desert island picks. I guess I’m just a middle aged dude on the cutting edge…

This album makes the cut for a couple of reasons. While the Beatles, Stones, etc. have always been in my rotation at home, the 1990’s was a decade of Neil Young and Bob Dylan obsession for me. At the time, my exploration into Bob’s music kind of stopped at Desire with the exception of 1989’s Oh Mercy (this no longer is the case). In other words, Dylan was seemingly, maybe, perhaps, done – but wow, what a catalog he’d created! Then came Time Out of Mind, and along with it a new era of excellence from Zimmy. I had become a fan of his current work, not just a second generation fan chasing ghosts down Highway 61.

Live Dylan – 1966/1998 – LongAndWastedYear

The other reason, and as always the most important one, is that the music itself is so good from start to finish. Bob made the smart decision at just the right time to step out of his comfort zone and have Daniel Lanois produce it as he had done on Oh Mercy. If Phil Spector is known for the Wall of Sound, Lanois’ trademark is his…his…ethereal…hmm…ambient…uhh…big sound. Did I get that right? I tried. Another important factor is the fantastic group of sessions players on this recording, the core of which became the band he has consistently worked with since – significant considering there was a time when he discarded session musicians like yesterday’s socks.

A Bob Dylan Vinyl Experience - Time Out of Mind

The first song that pops into my mind is Not Dark Yet, which became more poignant as a result of his hospitalization with pericarditis prior to the album’s release. It was serious. But the entire album is drenched with this vibe, and it worked wonders. Cold Irons Bound is the heaviest track, and the video below was taken from the bizarro 2003 dystopian film, Masked and Anonymous. Following that is a live cut of the album opener, Love Sick. For those who have forgotten or aren’t aware of what happened, I highly recommend watching this performance at the 1998 Grammy Awards all the way through for the surprise about half way through the song. Time Out of Mind won three Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year, in 1998.

Tracklist:

  1. Love Sick
  2. Dirt Road Blues
  3. Standing in the Doorway
  4. Million Miles
  5. Tryin’ to Get to Heaven
  6. Til I Fell in Love with You
  7. Not Dark Yet
  8. Cold Irons Bound
  9. Make You Feel My Love
  10. Can’t Wait
  11. Highlands

-Stephen

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_Out_of_Mind_(Bob_Dylan_album)

September 8 – Desert Island Album Draft, Round 7: Tom Petty – Wildflowers

I’m participating in an album draft with nine other bloggers, organized by Hanspostcard. There will be ten rounds, with draft order determined randomly by round. I’m leading off Round 7 with my favorite Tom Petty album.

Well here it is, my one and only “contemporary” selection in the draft. I just finished peeling off that last annoying bit of tape from the top edge of the CD case (had to wait until my fingernails grew out a little). I wonder how much staying power this album will have… Kidding aside, Wildflowers sounds to me as though it could’ve been released in the last decade and not 26 years ago. Much of that is most likely due to producer Rick Rubin, whose work tends to sound fresh yet timeless. But for the most part, that’s just the nature of Petty’s music. This particular album is officially a solo release, though all members of the Heartbreakers except Stan Lynch played on it.

BangShift.com BangShift Tune-Up: "You Don't Know How It Feels" by Tom Petty  and the Heartbreakers (1994) - BangShift.com

I confess that I didn’t fully appreciate this album as a singular work until years after its release. Petty’s songs were all over contemporary rock radio in the 90’s, and for a while I kind of lost track of which albums the various singles were on from Into the Great Wide Open onward. I eventually bought it, and when I dropped it into the player I was stunned at the quality from start to finish. Late to the party once again. Of course I knew the tracks that received radio play, my favorites being You Don’t Know How it Feels, It’s Good to be King, and You Wreck Me. However, there’s not a weak song among the 15 on this rather sprawling release, with some just as strong as the singles including Time to Move On, Honey Bee, Don’t Fade on Me, House in the Woods, Crawling Back to You, Wake Up Time, and the title track.

Wildflowers is a great collection of songs – hard rockers and wistful acoustic numbers – which compliment one another perfectly. In that light, of the 30 or so songs he had written for it before recording sessions even began, some equallly strong material that didn’t blend with the rest to Petty’s ears was left off the record after he was talked out of releasing it as a double album. Many of those left behind songs will see the light of day on the upcoming Wildflowers & All the Rest. Listening objectively as a detached music fan, it’s a beautiful masterpiece of a rock album.

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers - Full Concert - 10/02/94 - Shoreline  Amphitheatre (OFFICIAL) - YouTube

But there’s also a bit of sadness attached to Wildflowers. First, it marked the end of Petty’s working relationship with drummer Stan Lynch after years of increasing personal and professional differences (enter Steve Ferrone as the new drummer). Second, he had spent close to two years in the studio working on it, a time which Warren Zanes, author of the authorized biography Petty: The Biography, describes as a period when Tom was also avoiding the inevitable at home. Wildflowers was Tom’s self-described divorce album.

As Petty’s daughter Adria describes in the book, the family gathered at their Florida home to listen to the finished album as was tradition, and she knew when she heard it that her parents’ long strained marriage was finished, starting with the lyrics in the title track: Sail away, kill off the hours, You belong somewhere you feel free… Down the line, Tom’s therapist suggested he’d written that song to himself, and Petty agreed. As Zanes puts it, there’s an “almost unnerving openness” to the songs on Wildflowers. There was so much discord in Petty’s personal and professional life, but as is often the case in the art world, some wonderful creations came from it. 

Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers Announce Tour « American Songwriter

Tom Petty went on to release eight more studio albums including those with the Heartbreakers and the reunited Mudcrutch before his passing. We’re coming up on three years, and it’s still hard to believe he’s gone. You can add that as a third reason why there’s melancholy attached to Wildflowers. Sometimes it’s just not possible to listen as an indifferent fan to the great music pouring from my speakers. It’s time to move on, it’s time to get goin’…

Tracklist:

  1. Wildflowers
  2. You Don’t Know How it Feels
  3. Time to Move On
  4. You Wreck Me
  5. It’s Good to be King
  6. Only a Broken Heart
  7. Honey Bee
  8. Don’t Fade on Me
  9. Hard on Me
  10. Cabin Down Below
  11. To Find a Friend
  12. A Higher Place
  13. House in the Woods
  14. Crawling Back to You
  15. Wake Up Time

-Stephen

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wildflowers_(Tom_Petty_album)

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23848010-petty

Desert Island Album Draft, Round 5: Sticky Fingers

I’m participating in an album draft with nine other bloggers, organized by Hanspostcard. There will be ten rounds, with draft order determined randomly by round. My fifth round selection is the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers.

March 26, 1971: Rolling Stones Tongue Logo Debuts | Best Classic Bands

It’s just that demon life has got me in its sway…

When it comes to filthy, gritty, living in the moment, above the law, unforgiving, unapologetic rock bands, the Rolling Stones are the original standard bearers. Within their unlikely and absurdly long life as a group – fast approaching 60 years – the stretch of albums loosely termed by many fans as the “Mick Taylor years” stand out for their return to basics, while at the same time cranking it up about 100 notches (I also include the pre-Taylor Beggars Banquet with these releases). For me, at the top of the heap, even if only by a few degrees, is Sticky Fingers. This is the one. This album represents everything I love about the Stones, Brian Jones’s unique contributions notwithstanding.

Sticky Fingers: The Lost Session – Snap Galleries Limited

There were a couple of periods of recording beginning in early 1969, with the bulk of studio work taking place the following year, concluding in December 1970. It was released on April 23, 1971. The album, with its distinctive Andy Warhol Factory designed cover which included, on initial pressings, an actual functioning zipper, topped the charts worldwide soon after. Sticky Fingers was the band’s first album of the 1970’s, and the first on their Rolling Stones label featuring the iconic tongue and lips logo. But, as always, it’s about the MUSIC, maaaan. 

How the Rolling Stones Launched a New Era With 'Sticky Fingers'

And the vibe. To my ears, the vibe or tone of the album is actually set with the count in to the second track, Sway, and it never lets up. Chances are you know this album well, or are at least familiar with it, and you know what I mean. And let’s give major credit where it’s due right now: The session players on Sticky Fingers were an all-star band in themselves, and are just as important to this record as the principals. Bobby Keys and Jim Price brought crucial sax and trumpet contributions. They rocked on tracks like Bitch, and displayed soul on the Stax ballad inspired I Got the Blues along with Billy Preston on the organ. Price also added the beautiful piano part to Moonlight Mile, with only he and the two Micks on the main track.

billy preston | seventies music

Other major contributions include Ry Cooder’s slide guitar and Jack Nitzsche’s piano on Sister Morphine (co-credited to Marianne Faithfull), and Paul Buckmaster’s string arrangements on Sway and Moonlight Mile. Other session players included stalwarts Nicky Hopkins, Rocky Dijon, Jim Dickinson, and Ian Stewart, and though he didn’t play on the album, Sticky Fingers wouldn’t have been what it is without the influence of Gram Parsons. The evidence is on Wild Horses and Dead Flowers. If we’re to include alternate versions, Eric Clapton and Al Kooper can be heard on the looser 2015 bonus disc cut of Brown Sugar. But the core, as always, was Mick and Keith and the boys, now including Mick Taylor, and it’s Taylor’s lead guitar interacting with Richards’s and Jagger’s rhythm playing that took the band’s sound to a place it hadn’t been before his arrival and hasn’t returned to in the 46 years since his departure, with all due respect to Brian Jones and Ronnie Wood.

Mick Taylor - Wikiwand

I don’t know why, but I’m fascinated by bands from that era that stretched and often broke the rules and not only kept it together but seemed to thrive on the chaos. Perhaps guys like Elvis, Hank, and others raised eyebrows earlier, but the Stones flaunted damn near every taboo in society’s face in these songs and said what of it, mate? These years found them defying not only the law, but the Grim Reaper as well, bless Keith’s heart (and veins), and they survived. Sticky Fingers is truly a fly on the wall album for anyone who wants to know what they were about without the visual horrors of watching the cinéma vérité documentary of their 1972 U.S. tour, Cocksucker Blues, that make one want to take a shower after viewing (just remember, I didn’t tell you to watch it). It’s not the first “sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll” album, but along with Let it Bleed, Exile on Main St. and the others, it’s about as extreme as it gets, especially considering when it came out. It’s an album that makes Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, and certainly latter day examples like the Gallagher and Robinson brothers of Oasis and the Black Crows, respectively – great rock artists that they all are – look like silly wannabes (and I like all of those bands, too). It’s a perfect rock album, and it’s on my island if you want to kayak over and listen some time.

Tracklist

Side One:

  1. Brown Sugar
  2. Sway
  3. Wild Horses
  4. Can’t You Hear Me Knocking
  5. You Gotta Move

Side Two:

  1. Bitch
  2. I Got the Blues
  3. Sister Morphine
  4. Dead Flowers
  5. Moonlight Mile

-Stephen

 

 

Desert Island Album Draft, Round 3: Darkness on the Edge of Town

I’m participating in an album draft with nine other bloggers, organized by Hanspostcard. There will be ten rounds, with draft order determined randomly by round. With the third pick in round three, I’ve selected one of my favorite Springsteen albums.

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band Release Passaic 1978 Concert Live  Album

What is it about Bruce Springsteen’s music that has earned him one of the largest and most loyal fan bases on the planet? I don’t know the first thing about cars, auto mechanics, or racing. I never worked in a factory or a car wash or on a highway. I never had and lost a job at a lumber yard or slept in an abandoned beach house or in a car because I had nowhere else to go. I never stood in a filthy phone booth for hours on a freezing night talking to my girlfriend until I thought it was safe to go home and face my father. I never ran from a state trooper. I know nothing of life growing up in a coastal town adjacent to once great but now failing boardwalk communities. However, I do possess deeply rooted feelings about friendships and family, past and present. I’m for respecting basic human rights and dignity, and for people having a fair shot in life. I’m for the underdog. I do enjoy the open road, and oh yeah, I love good music. Bruce Springsteen, with and without the E Street Band, checks all those boxes, and I’m happy to be able to add one of his finest albums to my desert island collection.

BBC Four - Bruce Springsteen: Darkness Live 1978

Darkness on the Edge of Town, released in June of 1978 after taking nearly a year to record, was the follow up to Born to Run. Due to Bruce’s ongoing legal dispute with his former manager there was a three year gap between the two. However, this was an extremely productive time for him, as he wrote approximately 70 (!) songs. Some – Because the Night, Fire, Rendezvous, and others – were recorded by other artists. Others ended up on later releases of his such as The River, Tracks, and The Promise. Forty-plus years on, the songs from Darkness remain part of the core of his marathon live sets. Whether on the studio cuts or live versions, the songs from this album are filled with honesty, sincerity, and emotion.

Bruce Springsteen - Darkness on the Edge of Town Lyrics and Tracklist |  Genius

I was not exposed to much of Bruce’s music as a kid. The first Springsteen song I remember hearing was Hungry Heart. In 1984, with the heavy presence of Born in the U.S.A. in the Top 40 and on MTV, suddenly he was everywhere and I was becoming a fan. I had that album, but still had yet to explore his back catalog. Two years later when I was 15, he released the Live 1975-85 box set. A local radio station announced they would play all three albums from the box in their entirety over three consecutive nights, and I was ready with a pack of cheap TDK D-90’s and an even cheaper stereo on which to record it. That was my “ah-ha” experience with Springsteen’s music. I was mesmerized by all that music I’d not heard before, as well as his audiences’ reactions to it. Badlands, Adam Raised a Cain, Candy’s Room, Racing in the Street, Darkness on the Edge of Town…where had this music been all my life?

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band 1978 by danwind on DeviantArt

These songs, and all the other pre-Born in the U.S.A. tracks I heard through headphones with my radio reception fading in and out in the basement those three late November nights in 1986, caused my head to spin. This was at a time when, mixed in with my Beatles, Elton, U2, and R.E.M. albums, I also listened to the standard mid-80’s Top 40 fare that average teen sheep like myself played. But after my Springsteen mini-immersion, Madonna, Wang Chung, and Cameo suddenly sounded even sillier than I already knew their music to be (yes, there was some good stuff on the airwaves back then, but you get the picture). Soon after, I made a bee-line to the nearest record store 30 miles away and purchased Born to Run and Darkness on the Edge of Town on LP. A couple years later The River and Nebraska were among the first CD’s I owned. Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. and The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle weren’t far behind. My conversion to Springsteen lifer status was complete.

-Stephen

 

Desert Island Album Draft, Round 2: Rubber Soul

I’m participating in an album draft with nine other bloggers, organized by Hanspostcard. There will be ten rounds, with draft order determined randomly by round. I was the ninth to select in this round, and I scored one of my favorite Beatles albums.

Bob Whitaker: Three Beatles – Snap Galleries Limited

There was no doubt that my second pick would be a Beatles album. It was only a matter of what was still available to choose from. Twenty years ago, Rubber Soul would’ve been at the top of my Beatles list. Today it’s second by a hair, but I’ll still gladly add it to All Things Must Pass in my fledgling desert isle collection. Rubber Soul is another of their albums which saw two releases on separate labels with different track lists and song totals. I grew up with the U.S. (Capitol) version, which does have its positives despite being two tracks shorter. However, in my adult life I’ve only listened to the Parlophone version which was standard across most of the planet outside the U.S., and for the purposes of the draft that’s the one I’m going with.

Rubber Soul Sessions 1965 — The Beatles in 3D

By 1965 the Beatles were progressing at lightning speed as writers and as individuals, more so than what their heavily promoted mop top image – or what was left of it at that point – might’ve suggested. It’s astounding to me when looking at it in terms of a timeline just how rapidly they evolved. During their month long U.S. tour that summer they met Dylan in New York, dropped acid with The Byrds in L.A. (with Paul famously abstaining for the time being), listened to a lot of Motown and Stax music on the radio, and smoked pot for breakfast (John would even describe Rubber Soul as “the pot album”). They returned to the U.K. inspired to write a new batch of songs reflective of these experiences, which they began recording a short time later in October. Rubber Soul was released – along with its accompanying smash double A-sided single, Day Tripper/We Can Work it Out – on December 3. It was their second album of all original material, still somewhat unheard of in rock and pop music at the time. Whew!

day tripper.jpg

The title pokes fun at themselves for not having “authentic” soul like the American R&B artists they admired, but when the needle hits the grooves, it’s anything but phony. The themes are more serious and much less bubblegum than on previous albums, and for many younger fans whose lives hadn’t changed so drastically and in such a short period of time, this was a shock. There are beautifully written songs of lament (You Won’t See Me, Wait, I’m Looking Through You, Girl), and sentimental retrospection (In My Life). We also start to hear their “later” personalities and influences come to the fore, especially with Harrison. There’s stern advice from “grumpy George” (Think for Yourself) as well as the sweet, jangly sound of his 12-string Rickenbacker on the Byrds-influenced If I Needed Someone (he’s no longer saying “I need you,” but only “If…”). Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown), written by John about an extramarital affair and played in the style of Dylan, was not only the first Beatles song on which George played sitar, it was the first rock record to do so, period. This song alone spawned “raga rock” and brought Hindustani classical music – particularly that of Ravi Shankar and his associates – to Western ears like never before. John had laid bare his feelings of despair earlier in the year on his song Help!, but few heard it as he meant it. With Nowhere Man listeners now understood there was complexity behind Lennon’s goofy, sometimes acerbic façade.

69 Years Ago Today … – The Kitty Packard Pictorial

I realize it’s silly to second guess what the Beatles did on their albums, but there are a couple of nicks in Rubber Soul’s vinyl in my view. It’s been written, and boasted about somewhat by McCartney, that they were a very democratic band, and to a great extent they were. Yet at times it was a bit to their detriment. While I wouldn’t have wanted anyone but Ringo as the drummer for the Beatles, looking at it today it seems rather misguided for them to designate a slot on their albums for a Ringo song. What Goes On, if only briefly, disrupts the vibe and flow of the album. Other than perhaps his White Album tracks, Ringo’s songs should’ve been B-sides only. And beginning with their next album it made even less sense as George was writing a lot more yet was still allotted only one or two tracks per record. Additionally, Run for Your Life has a regrettable set of lyrics despite being an otherwise fun track instrumentally speaking. Even John disavowed it later.

BEATLES - Ringo Starr in 1965 Stock Photo - Alamy

1965 was a transitional time all the way around for the Beatles and on Rubber Soul in particular, but not in a way to suggest anything was lacking. Almost everything they did, whether with their music or their group image and as individuals, had a major impact on popular culture. And if one is inclined to hear this album and Revolver as companion pieces as George Harrison did, it could be argued that it was their peak.

 

Desert Island Album Draft, Round 1: All Things Must Pass

I’m participating in an album draft with nine other bloggers, organized by Hanspostcard. There will be ten rounds, with draft order determined randomly by round. I was the last to select in the first round, but my #1 choice was still available: George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass. I’ll probably end up doing an extended series on this album when its 50th anniversary comes up later this year.

George-Harrison-All-Things-Must-Pass.jpg

Where to start with George’s 1970 triple album opus, and how to explain concisely why this album means so much to me in a manner that doesn’t make me sound full of myself? I’m counting on the fact that we’re all music nuts here and can, at least to some extent, relate. Despite the fact that I have no clue what it’s like to be musically gifted, internationally famous (never mind an ex-Beatle), wealthy, etc., if there’s one artist who I think I can relate to as a person, it’s George. I wear my heart on my sleeve like he did, and if I were ever to experience any degree of fame I’d probably react to it similarly to him. That is to say, “’Hari Krishna,’ now please get off my lawn while I enjoy this piece of cake.” Maybe it’s because I’m a fellow Pisces, I don’t know. And if there’s one album of his which displays his full range of emotions relating to personal relationships and spiritual longing, and is presented in beautifully crafted songs with fantastic musicianship from start to finish, it’s All Things Must Pass.

Due to the limits he faced with regard to his songs making it onto Beatles albums, Harrison had been stockpiling them since roughly 1966. After starting 1968 by staying in India longer than the other Beatles, in the fall of that year George spent time with Dylan and The Band at Woodstock, which was perhaps the final nail in the Beatles’ coffin as far as George was concerned. Their influence is all over this solo debut album, which was an artistic and emotional purging for Harrison.

There are songs of human love for friends, including the Dylan co-written I’d Have You Anytime, and George’s attempt at coaxing Bob out of his self-imposed exile on Behind That Locked Door. Apple Scruffs is his humorous love song to his loyal fans who waited daily outside the recording studio, and What is Life is one of a number of George’s uniquely ambiguous love songs over the course of his solo years which leaves it up to the listener to decide if it’s about human or Godly love.

There are songs of lament over friendships on the wane. Wah-Wah was written when George walked out of the Get Back sessions. It’s a double entendre which refers to the guitar effect as well as the headache John and Paul had caused him. Run of the Mill, too, was written out of his sadness over the Beatles’ slow dissolution. Isn’t it a Pity, to me, is the most powerful track on this emotional roller coaster of an album. I can’t watch Eric Clapton and Billy Preston sing it on The Concert for George without tears. Just thinking about it…

And, there are the songs which focus on George’s spiritual journey. The smash hit, of course, was My Sweet Lord, which includes a Vedic chant for which Harrison took heat from Christian fundamentalists for supposedly trying to subliminally indoctrinate America’s youth into heathen Eastern religion. As with his organizing the Concert for Bangladesh a year later, it took nerve (and Phil Spector’s insistence) for him to put this song out as a single, but it paid off. The Art of Dying had its genesis around 1966 when Lennon’s Tomorrow Never Knows was the Tibetan Book of the Dead-influenced song to make the cut on Revolver. To the uninitiated, it can be a dark or frightening song. It’s not. As with The Art of Dying, Awaiting on You All is Harrison encouraging us to wake up to what’s real and eschew that which isn’t. And lastly, after all the madness, fame, and fortune of his Beatles experience left him emotionally and spiritually frayed, there’s George’s bare bones plea in Hear Me Lord. For such a private man, it doesn’t get any more open and sincere than this.

I know I need to wrap this up despite the fact that I could go on (other tracks, the plagiarism lawsuit, Apple Jam, the session players, the cover, etc.). I would, however, like to comment briefly on Phil Spector’s production. As with Let it Be, this is the version we grew up with, and I love it just like it is. Perhaps when the deluxe 50th anniversary edition comes out this fall, it will include alternate versions and demos with toned down production. Some of it is already available on bootlegs and YouTube.

Thanks for reading.

-Stephen