“It was really very much a nod to The Lovin’ Spoonful’s ‘Daydream,’ the same traditional, almost trad-jazz feel. That was our favourite record of theirs. ‘Good Day Sunshine’ was me trying to write something similar to ‘Daydream.’ John and I wrote it together at Kenwood, but it was basically mine, and he helped me with it.” – Paul McCartney (as told to Barry Miles)
John and Paul (image courtesy People magazine)
Ah, spring, sweet spring. The sun shines, trees and flowers begin to blossom. It feels great to go outside. It also feels like weather for, as John Sebastian urges us in the song Paul refers to above, “blowin’ the day to take a walk in the sun.”
Great Britain is not a sunny place. . The warm waters of the Atlantic coming north from Africa mingle with the cool air of Great Britain’s northerly latitude and produce the fog for which the island is justly famous as well as clouds and rain. Lots of rain. John even wrote a song about it. Sunshine, as you’d guess in such a climate, is prized.
The summer of 1966, when the Fabs were working on the songs for what has been called at times their greatest album, Revolver, was exceptional for being sunny and hot.
Paul found that inspiration. As he did The Lovin’ Spoonful song. Continue reading
“If anyone was doing the hanging on, it was John. He hung on to me, always had done. He always made me feel special, made it clear he was desperate for my company, especially when he was depressed and fed up, which he was for many years. He used to say to me: ’I don’t want to be a Beatle any more, stuck in a bag marked Beatle. I want to open the bag and let the Beatles out. I want to be myself.’” – Pete Shotton (as told to Hunter Davies)
John Lennon and Pete Shotton (image courtesy Beatles-Freak’s Reviews)
As anyone who’s ever tried it will tell you, it’s hard to be a friend. However close or long term a friendship, there are always moments when a friendship is tested by actions or circumstances that make or break the friendship. In many, if not most, cases friendships fail these tests. Those few that survive (one hesitates to use the word pass, as friendships are acts of endurance rather than one-off events like tests) can reach a level of intimacy and trust that provide the persons involved with comfort on the long, hard road of life.
But how does one stay that kind of friend when that friend becomes one of the most famous people in the world? Pete Shotton knew. He was John Lennon’s closest friend (outside the other Beatles) from the time they met at age six until Lennon’s death – 34 years.
As you have likely guessed, John was not an easy friend. Continue reading
“I do not want people to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal.” – Jane Austen
Jane Austen (image courtesy biography.com)
Various news sources, both here in America and elsewhere, are claiming that Jane Austen, doyenne of English respectability, has become a heroine to the despicable group called by the all too euphemistic moniker the alt-right. For any rational person (and my beloved Miss Austen was nothing if not rational) her embrace by such loathsome characters is both horrifying and bizarre. Conservative as she was (Austen found her contemporary Byron’s behavior wild and reprehensible, for example, violating as it did the established social mores of Regency England), Austen undoubtedly would have found the behavior of a number of the more well known figures of the alt-right movement equally reprehensible. One has a difficult time , indeed, imagining Miss Austen feeling able to tolerate being on the same planet, much less in the same room with creatures such as Richard Spencer and Milo Yiannopoulos.
The alt-right loves them some Jane, though – for reasons that mystify anyone capable of reading Austen’s work intelligently. Continue reading
“If you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry’.” – John Lennon
Chuck Berry (image courtesy Rolling Stone)
I had planned to write an essay this week about George Harrison’s brilliant synthesis of rock and Indian music, “Within You, Without You.” That plan changed suddenly with the sad news of Chuck Berry’s death.
What made me change my mind was the Chuck Berry obituary/tribute posted at Rolling Stone. In an essay of several hundred words, the Rolling Stone writer gave a long list of bands who covered Berry songs and who were influenced by him. While the Rolling Stones and Beach Boys got plenty of mention (and rightfully so), the Beatles weren’t mentioned at all. That is an oversight, to paraphrase (possibly) Churchill, up with which I cannot put.
See the above John Lennon quote. We can go from there. Continue reading
“Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” – attributed variously, most likely by Martin Mull
Martin Mull (image courtesy Wikimedia)
As I have explained previously, my 2017 reading list is devoted to reading books about music. I have covered only three books so far, Larry Kane’s latest Beatles’ book When They Were Boys, the Billie Holiday memoir Lady Sings the Blues and Peter Guralnick’s excellent study of roots music, Lost Highway. (I’ve also written a number of essays about Beatles’ songs and a book review or two.)
I’m currently about 100 pages into a very good book on Bob Dylan, Joan and Mimi Baez, and Richard Farina, David Hajdu’s Positively 4th Street. I turned to this book after spending several days trying to read another book, a book I looked forward to reading, as I noted in this description from my reading list essay:
Paul Morley, Words and Music: A History of Pop in the Shape of a City – Morley is one of rock’s most trenchant critics and in this book he speculates about whether pop is at the end of its lifespan. Any book that calls for opinions from both Madonna and Wittgenstein is must reading.
I read about 40 pages of Morley’s book before putting it aside and taking up the Dylan/Baez book. I could offer several excuses for why I quit Words and Music, a book I had high hopes for (Morley is one of the great experts on contemporary pop), but the simple truth is I hated it. Continue reading
Hank: a Storyteller’s Story tells a tale of identity theft of the most literal kind and how, as victims discover their true identities how much our pasts inform our futures.
Hank: a Storyteller’s Story by Rick Burnham (image courtesy Southern Yellow Pine Publishing)
Rick Burnham’s brief novel Hank: a Storyteller’s Story is an exploration of two questions. The first of these questions is one of identity: the novel’s heroine, Jennifer Johnson McCarthy is unhappily married and at loose ends. She feels as if she has lost who she is and the life she is leading as the wife of a controlling husband makes her both desperate and determined to find herself again. By chance, on their way home from a beach vacation, Jennifer and her husband Emerson, a driven corporate attorney, stop at a gas station/convenience store on the outskirts of Oak Springs, Florida. It is there where Jennifer begins a journey of self-discovery that changes not only life, but the lives of her entire family.
The impetus for Jennifer’s journey is hearing an old man named Hank Chatman tell a story. Chatman is a charming story teller who appears once a week at the store and tells stories about local residents, stories which may or may not be true. Hank’s storytelling serves multiple purposes. The stories themselves provide a tall tale folklore of rural Florida culture – and amusement for his listeners (one about a chicken farmer and government experiments that create giant chickens is particularly good). More importantly, Hank’s storytelling allows him to connect with those who come to hear him.
Like Jennifer. Continue reading
“It was my version of Silhouettes: I had that image of walking down the street and seeing her silhouetted in the window and not answering the phone, although I never called a girl on the phone in my life. Because phones weren’t part of the English child’s life.” – John Lennon on “No Reply”
Beatles ’65 (image courtesy Wikimedia)
This was going to be another essay.
I had planned to write about what I am convinced is the greatest single ever released, “Strawberry Fields Forever” b/w “Penny Lane.” But that was going nowhere (though I can see what I want to say, I can’t quite seem to say it yet, which betrays a lot about my love of the Fabs) so I turn to another favorite, the opening song on both the British release Beatles for Sale or, if you were an 8th grade nerd like me, Beatles ’65.
“No Reply” opens both albums. This is one of those rare times that the British album and its American counterpart agree. That makes me very happy. Let’s leave it at that. Continue reading