The Beatles Anthology: A Love Story

I’ve been digging into the Beatles Anthology as of late thanks to Robin Coyle’s piece here.  Somehow I made a few observations that escaped me during April 2012’s A to Z Blogging Challenge:  Beatles Edition.  I thought I’d share them here.  Here we go:

  1. The Beatles Anthology is much more complete than I ever imagined.  It nicely set the stage for Love years later, both the Cirque de Soleil show and the album.
  2. The Beatles gave it their all and truly loved one another.  I’d realized this before, but it is an inescapable conclusion of the Anthology.
  3. John, Paul, George, and Ringo were first and foremost fans.  In describing their various musical influences, it is clear they remained in awe of the likes of Carl Perkins, Buddy Holly, Elvis, the Ronettes, and more, long after they achieved fame themselves.  Their desire to take that music further is what ultimately led to their success and their continued popularity.
  4. Both “Free As A Bird” and “Real Love” were better songs than I remembered, and even better videos.  They were modest hits at the time of release, but at the time I didn’t really register their significance or how truly good they really are.
  5. The Beatles Anthology is truly a gift to fans.  In the extra segments in the Anthology, Paul, George, and Ringo discuss the technical difficulties in making both “Free As A Bird” and “Real Love” from unfinished and unreleased Lennon tracks.  They state that “Free As A Bird” is truly a Beatles song, while “Real Love” is much more similar to John Lennon’s solo work.  I couldn’t agree more.  It says a lot about the band that the three remaining Beatles (at the time) put aside petty grievances to complete the work they started so long ago, and include their slain band mate in a fundamental way.  All of them had long established solo careers at the time of the Anthology and could have easily walked away from anything relating to the Beatles; they didn’t

I have to say, after reviewing all of the extras in the Anthology, the ukulele scene at the end of “Free As A Bird” gets to me even more now.  I think most Beatles fans recognize it as a tribute to John Lennon.  Legend has it that John’s mom, Julia, taught him to play the ukulele first.  When John and Paul first became friends, Paul had to teach John guitar chords as he still played the ukulele chords his mom taught him.

But it gets even better.  According to the director, George wanted to play the ukulele in the ending scene of “Free As A Bird.”  The director said no.  At the time he wanted someone not recognizably a Beatle to play it.  Of course, after George passed away in 2001, the director felt horrible about his decision.  I can imagine George wanted to play it as a tribute to John.

I suppose that is what I absolutely love about the “Free As A Bird.”  There are so many references to Beatles songs in the video I notice something new every time I watch the video.  It literally covers every aspect of their career.  I have no idea how any band could ever top their career and everything they accomplished.  It may be cliché to say that or even admit to being a Beatles fan.  I simply don’t care.  Sometimes things are cliché simply because they are true.

Happy Sunday ~


Happy Sunday everyone!

I’m just glad that the rain quit here for a while.  Lots of great posts coming up today.  I know I’ve featured this particular Beatles video here several times, but still gives me goosebumps.  It just seems to foreshadow the music and videos I grew up with in the mid-1990s, mainstream “alternative” rock ~ i.e. Oasis, Green Day, the White Stripes, and many more.


The Lost Art Of Keeping Secrets: Setting The Stage

I read The Lost Art Of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice back in November 2010.  It never really let go of my imagination.  As in so many cases, there is so much to say I find it hard to know where to begin.  Set in post-World War II Britain in the early/mid-1950s, it is hard not to see the influence of the unbridled optimism of the period on just about everything, especially music and fashion.

Despite being a piece of fiction, the musical superstars of the era, Johnnie Ray, and later Elvis, are very real.  I have to admit that I had never heard of Johnnie Ray before this book and wasn’t quite sure if he was just a fictional part of the book.  A tiny bit of internet research made it clear that he was indeed real.

What I love most about the book is Eva Rice’s well-developed description of true love of music, not just the passing fads of impressionable teenage girls.  Yes, Penelope Wallace, the teenage protagonist of The Lost Art Of Keeping Secrets, is a devoted fan of Johnnie Ray’s, but right from the beginning of the novel you can tell it is so much more.  She is deeply in love with the music.  She is so deeply in love with the music of Johnnie Ray as a matter of fact that it becomes a part of her whirlwind teenage life in London with her friends Charlotte, Harry, and later her brother Inigo, who idolizes Elvis.

Ok.  This is where I’m going to stop for a minute.  Does any of this bring anything to mind?  As I read the book back then, it hit me.  I was reading about the very Britain in which the Beatles grew up.  They, like Inigo, loved Elvis and treasured any and every album they could get imported from the United States.  The music they grew up with inspired them so much that they later went on to not only create a huge catalog of their own, but also became the biggest band rock and roll has ever seen.

What made the connection so obvious to me were the descriptions of the crowd outside of the London Palladium before a Johnny Ray concert – a taste of the Beatlemania that would later sweep the country – and descriptions of Teddy Boys encountered by Penelope and her new friend Charlotte.  Teddy Boys in 1950s England dressed in leather, defied authority, and greased back their hair.  As an American, I would compare the 1950s British Teds to 1950s American Greasers.  The TED look was very much a part of the early Beatles look, that is until Brian Epstein agreed to help the band and helped them to clean up their act.  My favorite part of the entire “look” has to be the DA haircut.

Until I read John by Cynthia Lennon, I had no real clue what the haircut was called.  As she met John and all the Beatles during the TED phase, she talks a little bit about the haircut, which she terms the DA, shorthand for Duck Arse.  I couldn’t help but laugh.  It does indeed look exactly like a duck’s butt.  She states she felt the mop top was a huge improvement, and I have to agree.

I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Lost Art Of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice.  It gave me a glimpse into a world long since gone, full of optimism and glamour that may never return.  I love how music is used in the novel and hope I can only do it half as well someday.

Book review: ‘The Lost Art Of Keeping Secrets’ by Eva Rice | write meg!

John Lennon, pre-fame, with the DA haircut.

Beatles, early 60s, dressed as Teds – probably in Hamburg.

Falling In Love All Over Again

It’s been a while since I’ve really written here.  So here it goes.  I want to personally thank all of my wonderful readers out there who stuck with me throughout the April 2012 A to Z Blogging Challenge.  I can’t imagine having any interest in my blog at all throughout April if not a Beatles fan.  It did take over a bit, but the entire experience was well worth it.  It reignited my love for the Beatles.  As reluctant as I am to admit this, their catalog deeply inspires me and probably always will.  By the way, I am not the only one who blogged the Beatles all month long, check out the link below.

A to Z Summary and Reflection « Sundry Sumthins

This spring hasn’t exactly gone as planned.  I was supposed to take a week’s vacation back in April, but that didn’t work out.  Instead I have this week off.  While my week off hasn’t exactly started off on the right foot, I am hoping to finally get back on track blogging.  There is a lot coming up.  The problem is this:  I started organizing and planning much of the new features of Ramblings of a Misguided Blonde, which are still to come and in the planning stages, a few weeks before the blogging challenge started.  Add in work drama in my off-line life and you have a recipe for nothing getting done.  Fortunately I’ve already hit the books again (more on that in a minute – and more posts to come) and hope to get things organized before heading back to work next Monday.

Now on to one of my other favorite topics, books!  Ah….  I was frustrated for a little bit.  My original intent, way back in February or March, was to reread Pride And Prejudice by Jane Austen before reading Death Comes To Pemberley by P.D. James, which was a Christmas gift.  By April, I was still very much within the first 100 pages or so of Pride And Prejudice.  There was too much going on and the beginning was just too slow for me at that particular time.  Well, I finally decided to turn my original plan on its head and read Death Comes To Pemberley first.

What a great book!  It had the right pacing to get me back into Pride And Prejudice, which I will soon finish.  Finally.  I’m at the point where I am once again in love with Mr. Darcy.  I now remember why he is my favorite male literary character and why I think Miss Elizabeth Bennet is the luckiest of female literary protagonists despite her crazy Mom and silly sisters.  One of my favorite parts of the novel is when Lizzy finally comes to her senses and realizes she does love Mr. Darcy, but fears it is too late thanks to her thoughtless sister Lydia.  Please keep in mind that in my mind, Colin Firth is and always will be the character of Mr. Darcy, whether in Pride And Prejudice or Bridget Jones’s Diary.  I can’t help it.  If you watch the videos below, you’ll understand why.

Bridget Jones’ Diary/Sunday Morning

It’s been interesting rereading Pride And Prejudice as a proper adult who has actually been in love.  At 17, while I absolutely loved the book, I really didn’t appreciate just how perfect a romance the entire novel is.  I’ve always appreciated the fact that Mr. Darcy told Elizabeth Bennet his true thoughts and feelings, good and bad, in the eye-opening letter he gave her right before leaving Roslings.  That letter took some serious guts.  I love how completely honest they are with each other.  Then I started to think about my relationship with Brian.  That is precisely why our relationship works.  We are completely honest with each other, warts and all, and implicitly trust each other to continue to be so.

Oh, and I couldn’t help myself.  I had to add these Beatle videos.  They date from 1995 and make me want to dig out all three parts of the Anthology.  I can’t imagine what it took for them to put together that entire project without John.  Enjoy.

April 2012 A to Z Blogging Challenge: Beatles Edition ~ Wrap Up

I’ve tried unsuccessfully over the last few evenings to fully summarize my experience with April 2012 Blogging A to Z.  There is that much to say.  For a full understanding of why I chose to write about the Beatles, you really have to go way back.  I have hundreds of memories of Beatles music from my childhood, just a lot of very fun memories.  I even remember when I first became aware of who the Beatles were.  I happened to be riding with my parents in my Mom’s car at age 6 or 7 when a Beatles song came on.  My parents started talking about the Beatles, almost arguing really – my Dad isn’t exactly a fan, and I was lost.  I wanted to take sides, but I had never heard of the Beatles before.  I just did what all kids do.  I asked.

Back then, in the mid-1980s, I don’t think people fully appreciated the Beatles impact on pop culture yet.  I still have no idea how they managed to be so far ahead of everyone else.  Decades ahead of their time, I think at least some of their music sounds as though it firmly belongs in the 1980s, or in some cases, the 1990s.  By the time the Beatles became popular again in the mid-1990s thanks to the Anthology project, I, as a cynical young teenager, relegated them to my early childhood.  I really didn’t think much of them at the time or fully realize just how much of their music impacted everything else that came after it.

By the time I was a freshman at Michigan State 1999-2000, everything changed.  At the time there was a lot going on in the “alternative” music scene and in pop music generally.  For every White Stripes, there seemed to be two Backstreet Boys or a Britney Spears or two.  My freshman year roommate, much to my despair, loved the Backstreet Boys.  Fortunately for me I became friends with a girl who lived across the hall who loved good music as much as I did.  Her little sister joined us in Snyder-Phillips Hall the very next year.  The three of us, occasionally joined by a random friend or two, would spend entirely too much time just wandering around a used music store nearby.  Normally each of us would end up with a new used CD or two.  We’d then go back and share, acting like total goofballs.  Somewhere along the line I realized that my love for the Beatles will never really die.

After my freshman year I made a decision that would eventually shape the rest of my time at Michigan State and my life.  I decided to spend a good chunk of the summer studying in London through MSU’s study abroad program.  It was the first of five study abroad programs I’d complete by the time I graduated in 2004.  London was everything I expected it to be – and more.  Oddly enough I didn’t take the time to visit any of the Beatles related sites in London – not even Abbey Road – or visit Liverpool.  That will have to wait for another day.

As part of the study abroad program I had to create a final research project relating either to art or literature.  The project had to have approval of our Professor before we could even begin.  My original idea was to detail the influence of the Beatles on today’s pop music, particularly modern pop music in the UK.  It pains me to even write the truth because it just shows you how ignorant I was at age 19.  My professor kindly suggested that the subject was way too broad.  Of course it was, I just didn’t know it at the time.  Keep in mind at this time I wasn’t very familiar with the Beatles best works, nor did I know just how innovative they were as most of their innovations are common practice in the early 21st century (think music videos, concept albums, writing original material, etc.).

In the end I decided to compare five different theatrical performances – and nailed the project.  I enjoyed spending time in London’s West End and loved every minute of my study abroad experience.  Still, I never truly forgot my original idea for the project.  I think it might have been in the back of my mind when I decided on a Beatles theme for April 2012 Blogging A to Z.

So, what did I learn from the experience?  Well, I learned a ton about the Beatles.  I’ve always been a fan, particularly of Paul.  Throughout the entire series what struck me most was just how talented they all were – and in the case of Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, still are.  It is so easy to hinge their success on John Lennon/Paul McCartney, but it became so clear to me that you needed the talents of George and Ringo too to truly account for their success.  And speaking of their success, it continues to blow me away.  In my opinion, it is all rightly deserved.

I also learned a lot about Paul and Linda McCartney’s relationship, Wings, their family, and Linda’s photography.  Now I want to learn more and plan a series discussing those topics at a later date.  When it came to John Lennon and his relationship with Yoko Ono, I actually wanted to avoid the subject for the most part.  I’m not a big fan of Yoko Ono even though I don’t think she deserves the popular blame for breaking up the Beatles.  Well, curiosity got the best of me and I happened to check out her entry in Wikipedia.  After watching several interviews, reading the Wiki entry for Yoko, and learning a little about John Lennon’s childhood, I actually feel for her – and for John.  It seems as though they tried to make the best out of some very bad family situations.  Sometimes it is all too easy to place the blame at Yoko Ono’s feet.

Now that April 2012 Blogging A to Z is over, I still find myself wanting to write about the Beatles or at least add a Beatles song to posts.  I love the music, I find the topic endlessly fascinating, and there is always something new to learn.  I will always be a fan.  It’s just sad to think that it’s unlikely another such talent will come along in my lifetime.  I hope everyone enjoyed my posts as much as I enjoyed writing and “researching” them.

Taken from vintage everyday: The Beatles (1964) by Robert Whitaker

Z is for Dizzy Miss Lizzy/The End

Z is for Dizzy Miss Lizzy/The End.  For some reason The Beatles had a way with cover songs early in their career.  Originally composed and performed by Larry Williams in 1958, the Beatles released their version on Help! (1965).  Sadly, we now come to the end of April 2012 Blogging A to Z:  Beatles Edition.

I just couldn’t end this series without including “The End.”  It is the very end of the album Abbey Road – and the last recording of the Beatles together as a band.  I seriously doubt the world will see another such talented and successful band in my lifetime.  The Beatles is and always will be a subject of endless fascination for me.  I hope all of you enjoyed my project as much as I enjoyed putting it all together.  And yes, as always with the Beatles, there is more to come.  Stay tuned.

Y is for Yesterday

Y is for Yesterday.  Written almost exclusively by Paul McCartney in 1964/1965, “Yesterday” has a story and a life all its own.  Originally recorded for the 1965 album Help!, “Yesterday” wasn’t released as a single in the UK until 1976.  The Beatles agreed that it didn’t really fit the rest of their catalog at the time or their image.  It was released as a single in the US in 1965 paired with “Act Naturally,” topping the charts for four weeks and selling over a million copies within five weeks.

Today “Yesterday” is widely acknowledged to be the most recorded popular song of the 20th century with over 2,000 cover versions produced.   In recent decades it topped several lists of best popular songs of the 20th century and all time put out by the likes of MTV, Rolling Stone, and the BBC.  “Yesterday” will be with us for a very long time.

Among Beatles’ fans the story of the song’s inception is legendary.  Paul McCartney supposedly dreamed the entire melody – and couldn’t get it out of his mind.  He went around asking people in the music industry about the song, thinking it was an older song stuck in his subconscious.  After realizing it was an original, he claimed he wrote it in his sleep.  It was only then that he began to work on the lyrics.  And yes, it is true that the original working lyrics were:

“Scrambled Eggs/Oh, my baby how I love your legs.”