Mod. 1960s- mid 60s. Pop, beat,soul, r&b, and a bit of psychedelia - only not the "far out" Grateful Dead stuff. Just the far out Syd Barrett stuff! This, is roughly where my interests lie and these areas are the ones I talk about here. Of course I make "records" myself, some like them very much I am glad to say. I produce them, write them, and play all the instruments on the recordings. Which gives me an insight into my specialist area which, frankly, would not be possible for someone who doesn't play. So here it is, Hi if its the first time you've been here. You can get this on an feed,
or come back every week. It is a Friday thing, although this one is a little late, as I found myself reviewing all 27 tracks on the "alternate" Revolver. And read on for my thoughts on the now 40 year old Liver Birds, an excellent comic weekly which ran for some years, and featured some splendid talent, and some remarkable acting too.
Village Green Machine is exciting as, we are now planning a 7 inch vinyl single, and have a new ad for the blog going out soon. My manager David Taylor has done a superb job on the website I think, revamping it recently. Thanks to all who express an appreciation of what we do, and buy the album or downloads. It makes it worthwhile. The creative side is going very well, the whole thing is a "fab blast", absolutely smashing and, I hope you can dig it lol. Now, I'm sober and I'm not on anything, its getting worrying isn't it, so without further ado, lets bring the time of the most happening sounds and style forward for you, to right now. Its life changing, but only in a good, nice way.
The Alternate Revolver
Right, plunging straight in to territory which may be of interest only to Beatles diehards, however, I think it a good point at which to review the "sister" album to their great Revolver LP, reviewed in the harsh light of sobriety in my last Letter From England blog. The LP to which I am referring is one to which I have given scant regard over the years, yet listened to perhaps with a more than half intrigued ear- it is, The Alternate Revolver. I was given it. I am merely its custodian; I might not even want it, after this intensive listen which will produce a review. Whatever, here is my thinking on this curiosity, which is of course a collection of outtakes and alternate versions, with alternate versions of period 45 single Paperback Writer and its very splendid "b" side, Rain. The great Rain.
So here goes. Lets hit the play button...
Paperback Writer, versions 1,2, and 3.
Its the middle of the night so I'm having to listen to this on a small thing. Immediate impressions are of a slower version, with a louder, more raw sounding guitar. The vocals sound louder on this first version, there seem to be no production or effects. It is quite revealing. Version 2 is faster, these all sound like serious attempts at the recording, which never made it for whatever intuitive reason. Version 3 has a pronounced vibrato on the guitar, and to me sounds faster still, and close to the final version but not there yet. According to the recording sessions book by Mark Lewisohn the song was recorded in 2 takes which were subject to numerous overdubs. So presumably the songs I have here are snapshots of various points of the construction of the song, and as such are interesting. Apparently PM wanted to evoke childhood memories so asked Lennon and George to sing the melody to "Frere Jacques" behind his lead vocal line. I must say it has never occurred to me, in all the 5 million times I have heard this song, that the backing vocals are that nursery rhyme, but that is precisely what it is. Here was me thinking it was some cool psychedelic thing:)
It is claimed the track is full of Revolver technological advancements, including limiters, compressors, the unconventional use of Leslie speakers and artificial double tracking. This certainly was the period when The Beatles music began to sound less organic and more studio driven. On Paperback Writer, the bass guitar of Britain's best? bassist suddenly became more prominent.This is a point where the bands sound really changed for all sorts of reasons, one main one being that Paul here began using a Rickenbacker bass, which was allegedly more powerful than his violin style semi acoustic used until then. Paul grumbled about the Beatles bass sound - they went to clubs where they heard American r&b records with much more bass than they had on their records, and so, they began addressing the problem. For one thing, records with a lot of bass tended to make the needle jump out of the groove, so there was a reluctance to get a million copies of a bass heavy record made. However new technology soon prevailed- and on "Paperback" they used a speaker to record from the bass amp- lo and behold a massive bass sound emerged which very much characterises Paperback Writer. I read somewhere that at the time it was not considered by some to be as good as their previous singles. What? The bass is, perhaps as a compensation for previous lacking, very loud. And very, very good.
Now, second track on the alternate Revolver is the sublime "b" side of PW, Rain. The record which inspired my own bass playing, and which also seems to have a very much more powerful bass sound than their earlier one. I think they must have used the same ideas for bass they did on the "a" side. To tell the truth here, I always wanted that guitar sound on this record, and bought an Epiphone Casino and AC30 partly to get near that sound. But, in keeping with their new found experimentalism, and general scrapping of the rule book, the drums? and other instruments were altered in speed, on some kind of vari-speed, so the whole texture of the sound altered, giving this incredible sound. Very deep. I think most or all of it was recorded faster, then slowed down. Is this version the released "b" side or an alternate take? Or an unfinished version? I don't know, but it sounds very close to the final version. My Village Green Machine song Wayward One is heavily influenced by the jangling guitar style on this great record. Anyone interested in mid 60s psychedelic music who doesn't have the Paperback Writer/Rain single, should/must/absolutely must get hold of it, and a thing called a record player, (try ebay) it is a brilliant double sider, from the days when the "b" sides were sometimes on par with incredible "a" sides- the Rolling Stones Jumpin' Jack Flash/child Of The Moon being another obvious example. The very best modern bands like Kasabian know these records are a difficult thing to match.
Next up, Taxman. Cowbell comes in sloppily on second verse. 3rd verse in, wild acid guitar blinds the listener. It all sounds quite fast. It is SO GOOD. Heavy fuzz on the guitar. A second fizzing, loud guitar solo. End. It sounds just like the released version to me. I am not pretending to be an expert Beatleologist. Dylan used to get these creepy people- fuck that. But their stuff does fascinate me.
Eleanor Rigby. Astounding cello accompaniment. I think this is the released version.
I'm Only Sleeping. Again, I think this is the finished version. Although, backwards guitars slip in early, it seems, then when they come in properly seem to sound different.
Love you To. Paul sang a harmony which was left out on the record proper, is it here? PS no. Take 7 was 'best'. There were mono remixes, which were all edited together for the final record. Here, the Indian instruments at the end do sound different to the released version.
Here, There and Everywhere- 3 versions here. Version 1 sounds a lot different to the released song. The guitar sounds unproduced, the sound quite primitive and unpolished. Version 2, the timing is different on the early rhythm guitar parts.The drums sound, very tenuous in part. The song is being run through, partially realised but still a way off the end version. It makes me realise how much difference production makes to the end result. Version 3, slightly unearthly, as there are no drums, just the vocal parts and quiet rhythm guitar. Of course it is a truly remarkable song. Echoes of Brian Wilson in the harmonies, although, they were there first.
Yellow Submarine.Waves splash, daft joy abounds.When Ringo sings that many friends "live next door", where does he mean, in another submarine? I said it was a weird song. She Said, She Said, 3 versions, Can't wait. A big favourite of mine. Version 1- fascinating country tempo very early electric and vocal only version with key change- with the vocal melody hardly sorted to begin with, then taking shape a little more- this is like a very rough early personal record of the song. Incredible document. Version 2, more strident tempo, the countryish rhythm has now gone. Sounds like an acoustic guitar on this, he sings, "its making me feel like my trousers have gone". This is incomplete, but the melody is more realised. Then in blasts version 3 which from the outset sounds like the proper finished version. It was a remarkable journey from the initial sketch here to the end result. Almost as though perfection was already there, beckoning. Representing the highest watermark of 60s British psychedelic music. Apart from the other ones they made. I rank See Emily Play by The Pink Floyd as equal, though.
Good Day Sunshine, then. Originally called A Good Day's Sunshine', it was the first take of this which made it to Revolver, with numerous overdubs. George Martin played honky tonk piano. He was really good! This version sounds like the finished one. And Your bird Can Sing, the drums sound compressed and loud on this version - Ringo always was such a direct, powerful drummer.This song sounds great with loud drums. Next, 3 versions of For No One. At least, the first is a sketch, with florid piano runs and an immense musicality already apparent. Take 2, there's a sweeping run down on the piano, a few clattering drums, another stuttering piano and some dialogue, then a bit of piano and drums together. It adds up to nowt. The last version, has snippets of the instruments coming together in rehearsal, a bit of vocal laid bare. But it is pleasurable to hear these snippets because they are from such amazing music, interesting to hear some of the evolution of this incredible album. This acoustic/piano texture with serious songs was fairly new in pop- Ray Davies was doing similar things in The Kinks. Serious, scholarly songwriting with piano and acoustic, ... Hey what's this, its Dr Robert. I did not realise with the deadline approaching for the submission of this blog that there were 27 blasted tracks on this album. Dr Rob sounds cool, and as the released version. You'll pay money just to see yourself, indeed. That's clever actually, isn't it? :) There's quite a lot of distortion on those jangly guitar parts. I Want To Tell You, again the drums sound louder. This song seems to portend, something around the corner. Got to Get You Into My Life, an early version had Paul's "superb" alternate vocal, with different backing vocals. but not here. This sounds like an incomplete mix, near completion. The song at one point was heading in a very acoustic direction, but after a few takes alternative ideas were discussed, and Paul decided he wanted heavy brass. Eddie Thornton was asked, who played with Georgie Fame. So the pedigree there was great, and the results, well, what can I say. Georgie's tenor sax player also got the gig. There were several more brass players, it was said The Beatles wanted a definite "jazz feel". Paul directed the brass, Lennon gave the thumbs up, rushing from the control room to shout approval. "Got It". The version here sounds complete or near.
Tomorrow Never Knows. I am looking forward to this, because in '66, it was simply the most avant garde pop record ever made, as George Martin said recently it still sounds it. So lets hear it under construction...and try to find out what all those weird, incredible sounds actually are. First though, a little background on this groundbreaking record. It was the first song to be recorded for Revolver. Apparently, the first take was "sensational, apocalyptic, and very close to defying adequate description". This was before all the tape loops and sound effects, as well. There are guitars, fuzzed up and played backwards through a Leslie revolving speaker, which Lennon's vocal also went through from a minute or so in, and Artificial Double Tracking which meant moving a second image of a vocal, or whatever, very slightly to create a double track. Anyhow this is getting technical I know, so if you are still with me, I'll blast the track. The seagull sound is in fact a distorted guitar, according to engineer Geoff Emerick. The sounds here are not of this world, and evoke an other worldly experience or state. Feedback intrudes. The sounds of another planet seem very loud on his first version, Lennon's vocal, more subdued in the mix. The second version here has the weird squiggles of sound turned up, the terrifying rush of backwards sound, the scariest most exciting thing I have ever heard. This version is incredible as it has all the best bits up loud, it is incredible. George's sitar drones. 9 versions were mixed. Then more, but at the last minute prior to pressing GM selected version 8. I must play these earlier mixes on the hi fi, at volume. It is another world, terrifying and brilliant.
So anyway there you have it, some info on Revolver, it deserves it, you never tire of this album, an essential part of any decent music collection. The "alternate" version can be viewed as a fascinating insight into the construction of one of music's greatest LPs.
Paul McCartney, was perhaps the real wolf in The Beatles, the really strong character, it strikes me. This turns conventional wisdom upon its head, Lennon having been thought of as the harder of the 2. But Paul seems less vulnerable, it was he who told the press to shut up to their faces, who shooed his audience away after a recent show, and, allegedly responded to his mother's death by worrying about how the bills would then be paid. When Ocean Colour Scene went to record a version of Come Together with him, he said, "right you've got 3 minutes", a close friend of theirs told me. Lennon sounded a more open character with a less abrasive attitude, to me. But then he was full of attitude on that last Playboy interview, and, I am throwing ideas around here. McCartney was an intellectually adept, working class lad like John, who dug the rock & roll bigtime. All the heroes of the day were black and American - obvious examples were the blues musicians, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Ray Charles. Then of course, the extraordinary Elvis Presley. In the book I read, Paul describes a wanking circle, in which he and Lennon participated. Various members of it would shout out, like, Maralyn Monroe, or Jayne Mansfield, then just at the crucial point John Lennon would shout out "Winston Churchill". Nothing wrong with Winston churchill, a very good looking chap, but I believe it killed their ardour. Or something like that.
Paul and John dug the Parisienne art students hair. The pointy boots, who knows where they nicked that from, Gene Vincent? Certainly Gene was adored along with Chuck and Bo, and obviously Buddy Holly. This is worth special mention as, Buddy's records were fairly obviously precursors to the Beatles sound, which did not emerge from thin air. The Everly Brothers were another influence. The Beatles hung with an arty set right from the start, Lennon having a close friendship with early member Stuart Sutcliffe, a very handsome experimental artist who died tragically young from a brain tumour. It is very hard to pinpoint the Beatles genius, and a revelation for me to discover just how much they have meant, and continue to mean to me, as a person and musician. Certainly, Paul's talent was emergent as a songwriter on the early albums, as a shift from rock & roll covers to self penned material became apparent. Very quickly, the greatness became evident, as on attempted 45 Every Little Thing. It was not considered good enough for a 45. Crazy. The point is, a soon as the McCartney/Lennon songwriting began to replace the r&b covers, it was apparent that their songs were better, in some if not many or all cases, than the material they idolised and were recording from America. Paul moved in the artiest circles as the 60s unfolded, with the ideas of experimental art directly influencing the Beatles.I have already explored this in my observations and ideas on Revolver, but it spread across their work. Magical Mystery Tour and Sgt Peppers are too much for my tired brain to now comprehend, but I look forward to examining these phases in future.
Paul sang Helter Skelter, perhaps The Beatles hardest rock song. Julia, the most delicate of Beatles songs, was Lennon's. So, the stereotypes of Lennon and McCartney are crushed by such evidence. And to his great credit, Paul, Sir Paul is still rocking hard with his band, and at his best writing songs with almost as much going for them as those written at his acknowledged peaks. Fine Line, and English Tea for instance. Great songs, and underrated.
Linda was so obviously his perfect match, his later marriage something of a personal tragedy. Although not vegetarian I admire the McCartney's stance on animal rights issues and vegetarianism, but I get ill if I don't eat it so I carry on. Plainly Sir Paul is a national institution, a kind of national monument. A living Beatle.The most recent shows I have seen him do on television have been very, very good. Its nice to have him, I love him I do. He must be nearly 70 now. And he hates the seal torturers and so do I.
Comedy - 70s comedy. "What's got 4 legs, walks peculiar, answer is 2 Liver Birds".Main writer Carla Lane was a mate of Paul and Linda's, incidentally.
The first series is missing, a few bits remain but most is presumed wiped. So, I am pleased to own series 2. This comedy ran right through the 70s, the classic pairing being that of Nerys Hughes and Polly James, playing the "refined" Sandra and Beryl respectively. Beryl being dead common. Of course, Sandra's mum is played by super snob Mollie Sugden, who was always marvellous in these roles as a middle aged woman with ideas well above her social station.
In the first episode of series 2, untitled, Sandra and Beryl try to move to a better flat than the one they share, but need a third lodger to pay the rent. This is where the fun and entertainment come in, as various cranks audition for the job. The script drew heavily from the lives of its writers, as young women starting out. Mostly, this comedy would be better described as a highly entertaining light hearted farce. It is really entertaining. Nerys and Polly James had an off stage chemistry which so obviously spills over into their work.They worked on the scripts on Pernod milkshakes, the screen characters antics a lot of fun. It had a certain energy and charisma, helped retrospectively by all the period charms of its era. The second series was 1970- and was a catwalk of popular fashion of the time. Indeed, some might think Nerys Hughes, busty, good looking and ultra fem, quite worth getting excited over, as she sashays around the set in a PVC mini skirt, a sort of scouse young Elizabeth Taylor. Looks wise. She is Welsh and did a good job of the accent. There is a certain innocence in the Beryl character, the freshness of 2 girls starting out in life, quarrelsome young women with a multitude of niggling problems. Paisley mini dresses clash with flowery mini skirts in this endearing period piece. Let me see if I can ask David to find you an absolutely smashing clip. And see you next week
The Beatles On Ed Sullivan, Paperback Writer and Rain