Paul McCartney “Gets Back” To His Roots With “Carpool Karaoke”

This picture should be an official ad for happiness.

Whenever Paul McCartney is in the news, I (and the rest of the world) pay attention. Sometimes he’s announcing a new concert tour or a collaboration he did with another prominent musician. And sometimes, he’s appearing on late night television with another British celebrity, driving around his old stomping grounds and reminiscing about his Beatle days.

When I saw “Paul McCartney Carpool Karaoke” pop up in my YouTube feed last week, I figured that it would be an amusing, nostalgic drive in London filled with many of my favorite Beatles songs. I did not expect that James Corden would be driving Paul around Liverpool and going to many of the actual sites that Paul has written about in his career. Here’s the clip in its glorious 23-minute entirety, for your viewing pleasure.

I watched all 23 minutes of this video with an ear-to-ear grin on my face. I was already a big fan of the Late Late Show’s “Carpool Karaoke” series before this aired, and I must confess that it had never consciously occurred to me that Paul would be a perfect guest. But as perhaps the most famous musician in the world, Paul seemed quite delighted to drive around for what was probably hours and regale James with stories about growing up in Liverpool. I geeked out when Paul signed his name on the Penny Lane sign, which reminded me of when I visited Abbey Road and gleefully signed my name on the wall outside the studio. I’ve now made a mental note to visit Liverpool one day and add my signature on that sign next to his.

I have thought many times over the years about how I’d love to take a pilgrimage to Liverpool and immerse myself in Beatles lore. Paul’s “Carpool Karaoke” certainly intensified that desire, while showing me yet again of why I fell in love with the Beatles in the first place. This segment, like the Beatles’ career, radiated positivity and love from beginning to end. It also reminded me that Paul’s music is a unifying force in this increasingly divided world. This was evidenced by the touching sequence where people of all ages rushed in off the street when they saw Paul unexpectedly playing a set in a local pub, and it looked like every person there was having the time of their lives. I couldn’t even imagine the chaotic thrill they must have felt as they saw their idol performing only several feet away, in a pub they’ve probably been to many times before.

I certainly did not go into this clip expecting to tear up, but I did get a bit teary-eyed at the constant sight of Paul greeting adoring fans and making their day, probably their life, everywhere he went. Of course, I was mentally putting myself in their shoes and imagining how I would feel absolutely elated if I ever met Paul in person. It was also humbling to hear him share how he and the other Beatles had no idea their music would even be remembered beyond the 60s. It is truly astonishing that this band had such a concentrated period of genius musical output in the 60s that still inspires people to love one another. I know that Paul has been famous for 55 years and probably tires of doing interviews and such, but I was inspired by his energy in this segment and how he gracefully handles his megastar status in the real world.

Of course, Paul’s wonderful songwriting has continued long after the Beatles disbanded, and I loved how this segment also promoted his upcoming album, “Egypt Station.” After watching this “Carpool Karaoke,” which featured a singalong to his new single “Come On To Me,” I immediately went to YouTube and listened to it and his other new song, “I Don’t Know,” on loop.

At age 76, Paul clearly has not lost his musical inspiration. These songs both highlight his knack for weaving together unexpected musical turns and catchy melodies. I particularly adore the musical break in “Come On To Me” that features a lively horn section, as well as the gorgeous piano intro to “I Don’t Know.” Though his last album, “New,” relied heavily on modern musical production and more techno-sounding touches, it seems like this album will have more of that classic instrumental feel that he’s done so well before. However, if Paul has taught me anything over the years, it’s that you can never quite predict what he’s going to do next. So I’ll reserve my full judgment until I can listen to the entire album when it comes out in September. Though I tend to blog sparingly during the school year, you can bet that I’ll do a post reviewing Paul’s new album as soon after that as I can.

As people often comment on particularly resonant YouTube videos, “I didn’t know how much I needed this until I watched it.” James Corden and the whole “Carpool Karaoke” team outdid themselves with this one. I don’t know if late night segments are even  eligible for awards, but this segment is the most Emmy-worthy piece of television I’ve watched in a long time. And we all need a little dose of Paul McCartney spreading joy every once in a while. He may be getting older, but I am so grateful that I still share this world with him and can enjoy new Paul McCartney songs as he releases them. What an incredible privilege it is to be able to say that I once saw him in concert. I am so glad that Paul and James teamed up for this latest “Carpool Karaoke” and gave the entire world a reason to smile for 23 minutes. It was truly a beautiful collaboration.

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I Finally Saw The Beatles On The Big Screen!

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One of the biggest news events in Beatle-land this year has been the recent release of the Ron Howard documentary about the Beatles’ touring years, entitled The Beatles: Eight Days A Week. As I have mentioned before, it’s been a dream of mine for years to go see a Beatles movie in the theaters and pretend I’m a fan from the 1960s seeing A Hard Days Night upon its release.

I tried to do that back in 2012, when a documentary called The Beatles: The Lost Concert was scheduled for wide release in theaters. This documentary (supposedly) captured the frenzy of the Beatles’ first concert in North America, which occurred in Washington D.C. on February 11, 1964. Unfortunately, it was never released in theaters due to copyright issues. When I learned of its canceled release, I was heartbroken, but I never stopped believing that perhaps one day another Beatles documentary would find its way to a theater near me.

I first heard about The Beatles: Eight Days A Week over the summer, and even after watching the official trailer on the Beatles’ YouTube channel and visiting the movie’s website, I still sort of thought it was too good to be true. I reserved mild hope that I’d be able to see this movie, but I figured that my efforts to see the Beatles on the big screen and learn new Beatles trivia would be thwarted once again.

However, as events fell into place, the stars aligned, and my prayers were answered, I actually was able to see this movie at a theater near my school just a few weeks ago! I was so excited at the prospect of seeing 90 minutes of remastered Beatles footage and audio, and the movie definitely exceeded my giddily high expectations.

At this point in my Beatles fandom, I’ve read and watched so much about them that it’s difficult for me to be shocked by any aspect of their narrative. And yet I continue indulging in Beatles-related releases like this movie because I am always amazed at their magical story. The Beatles’ rise to success in the 1960s is a remarkable tale, filled with astounding chart domination, incredibly concentrated musical output, and incalculable influence on the culture of their era. I keep coming back to Beatles movies, articles, and programs because I revel in hearing about how they took the world by storm and altered the whole concept of rock music and success for a band. It’s infectious and endlessly fascinating.

Back to the movie at hand, it certainly did not blow my mind with a wholly new perspective on the Beatles’ touring years. However, it was a thoroughly enjoyable movie-watching experience for a Beatles fan. I was pleasantly surprised to see a lot of backstage footage that I had somehow never come across on YouTube or television. These clips emphasized that the Beatles really were a hilarious four-headed monster, at least in their early days. The movie also detailed a few points about the Beatles’ stops in specific areas of which I was not previously aware.

These included a 1964 Beatles concert in Florida that they flatly refused to perform unless they sang to an unsegregated crowd. Though the Beatles were from England, they were very conscious of the racial tensions present in the US at the time and took this opportunity to maintain their belief that any form of segregation was morally wrong and unacceptable to them. This isn’t really a huge spoiler, but I previously had no idea that the venue actually agreed to unsegregate the seating for that particular concert so the Beatles would still perform,  which helped set a precedent for unsegregated concert venues in that and surrounding areas.

This movie also focuses a lot on the difficulties that the Beatles faced during their rise to worldwide acclaim through their tours. I was not wholly aware of the actual danger that they were in just entering a building or driving around. There were many clips of near-riots on streets all over the world that stemmed from the Beatles’ arrival in that particular city. This is a helpful reminder for aspiring musicians that the only sustainable reason to become a musician is because you deeply love music, not because you want to be famous. I am always in awe of the immense scope of Beatlemania in the mid 1960s, but it certainly was not all good days and sunshine.

Despite all of this, I would trade just about anything to spend one day experiencing the height of Beatlemania. However, seeing this movie in the theaters is probably the next best thing. The Beatles: Eight Days A Week may not be groundbreaking, but honestly, barring some huge, covered-up scandal I don’t know about, it is difficult for any new Beatles project to be groundbreaking. What I absolutely love about the release of this movie is how it contributes to keeping the Beatles’ music and story alive in today’s generation. As long as there is the occasional Beatles-related project or musical re-release, I’ll have confidence that they will remain eminent figures in cultural lore.

George Martin, The Real 5th Beatle

george martin

The man who made the Beatles into rock pioneers.

Hello followers and readers of Beatle Me Do! I have returned from a hiatus for which I greatly apologize, but I have a few ideas for fun posts that I will be publishing throughout the summer! In the meantime, I have decided to dedicate a post to the late Beatles producer, George Martin, who died on March 8 of this year at age 90. Before becoming a music producer with the Beatles, Martin primarily produced comedy albums. However, he is most well known for signing the Beatles to a record contract in 1962 and producing every single Beatles album except for Let It Be, which was (some say) infamously produced by Phil Spector.

The debate over who is “the fifth Beatle” has gone on for decades and is practically a cliche by now. Some Beatles fans support awarding this illustrious title to members of the Beatles camp such as their manager, Brian Epstein, or their first drummer, Pete Best. However, if there really is such a thing as “the fifth Beatle,” I strongly believe that George Martin deserves that title.

His work in the studio with the Beatles helped transform their songs from acoustic demos into sonic masterpieces. He was a major player in the Beatles’ studio experimentation starting in around 1965 and strongly supported their use of the studio itself as an instrument. When the Beatles were on top of the charts and the musical world, George Martin was the man behind the curtain, the wizard of Oz who literally orchestrated their success. His death marks the passing of a figure essential to the Beatles’ musical innovation.

I’d like to touch on a few Beatles songs on which Martin had a particularly noticeable influence. First up is the acoustic version of While My Guitar Gently Weeps from the Beatles Cirque de Soleil show, Love. This show features some remixes of Beatles songs, but these remixes are composed only by compiling bits and pieces from different Beatles songs. This particular version of While My Guitar Gently Weeps originates from a demo version from the Beatles Anthology 3. It features a George Martin-composed orchestration that was the only original music composed for the Love album. I absolutely love this version of While My Guitar Gently Weeps; it’s a beautiful song made even more poignant and striking by the orchestra. Seeing the Love show is definitely on my Beatles-related bucket list!

Next, I’m going back to one of Martin’s first orchestral contributions to Beatles music, the famed song Yesterday, which features only Paul McCartney, an acoustic guitar, and a beautiful Martin-composed string quartet. Supposedly Paul was a bit skeptical about the idea of putting a string quartet on a song released by a rock band, but was convinced otherwise after Martin explained exactly how he planned to arrange it based on the chords of the song. This song is now legendary among the many iconic tracks in the Beatles’ catalog, thanks not only to the beauty of its melody and lyrics but also to the perfect melancholy accompaniment that the strings provide.

Another song which has an unmistakable George Martin touch is In My Life, on which he plays the sped-up piano break at the end of the song. I believe this is one of, if not the only, Beatles songs to feature a piano solo, or if not it was definitely the first to do so. It’s songs like this that truly embody the spirit of Rubber Soul, an album which challenged the definition of rock and roll and began pushing the boundaries of musical experimentation in rock music.

Eleanor Rigby is one of those Beatles songs that features an orchestra arrangement so strikingly iconic that I could listen to just the instrumentals and enjoy the song just as much. This is all thanks to George Martin, who insisted on creating a relentlessly staccato string arrangement that I regard as an absolute masterpiece. You can listen to the instrumental version of Eleanor Rigby, a track on the Beatles Anthology 2 album, here. Every time I listen to this track and try not to let my inner sing-along drown out what I’m actually hearing, I notice new little intricacies of the arrangement. It’s songs like this that absolutely astound me as to their fearless musicality and give me a true appreciation for the power of orchestral music. This song is just perfect.

Finally, what better way to close out this George Martin tribute post than with the behemoth of all classical arrangements in rock songs, the string section in A Day In The Life. This song is often ranked as the #1 best Beatles song, and while it’s not my #1 personal favorite, it is without a doubt an absolute, indisputable masterpiece. This is largely due to the enormous, chaotic, vaguely conducted orchestra part that builds and builds and always makes me feel like a car is about to hit me. Martin’s touch on this song is evident in its sonic power to completely overwhelm your senses and leave you breathless at its conclusion. What a song to close out Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. What. A. Song. Period.

Rest in peace, George Martin. I know this tribute is a few months late, but I tried to make a post that pays the proper respect to a man who was literally  and figuratively instrumental in crafting many of my favorite songs of all time. He was among the giants of the musical world, and he will certainly be missed.

 

Beatles, “Blackbird,” and Break-Up Rumors

Today I’d mostly like to discuss Dave Grohl’s recent performance of the Beatles’ famed “Blackbird” at the Oscars. I knew about a few of the scheduled Oscar performances before the date of the program, but for some reason I hadn’t heard about this one and it took me completely by surprise. When I heard those iconic opening chords and saw Dave Grohl alone on the stage with a guitar, I knew it would be a good tribute, and I was not disappointed. From spearheading production of the Sound City documentary from a few years ago, to recording “Cut Me Some Slack” with Paul McCartney, to performing on the Beatles 50th Anniversary Special, Dave Grohl has certainly earned my respect and admiration for his Beatles and classic rock-related ventures. He is one cool dude. In case you missed his feature on the Oscars, here it is for you!

One brief un-Beatles related tangent… This performance, along with some ambiguous comments by members of Foo Fighters, recently led to a rumor that Foo Fighters were breaking up, once and for all. Apparently these rumors have surfaced before, but supposedly this time Dave was striking out on his own to “do his own thing musically” and get away from the band.

So how did Foo Fighters respond to this rumor? Not with a concisely-stated tweet or Facebook post, but with this masterful 7 minute-long video. You really have to watch it yourself to get its full effect.

In conclusion, anything Beatles-related that Dave Grohl does is bound to be wonderful, and the members of Foo Fighters are complete bosses. Also in case you’re just not patient enough to watch the entire video and have not heard the news, Foo Fighters is NOT breaking up. Spoiler alert.

Anyway, going back to the original topic, I just love how Beatles music is now used to pay tribute to people that have nothing to do with the 60s or rock music in general. Their songs have become universal anthems for just about any subject or person because they were written with a timeless, relatable appeal. Not just Blackbird, but songs like Hey Jude, Yesterday, Let It Be, In My Life, and many others have been covered so often by other artists that I bet there are some people today who don’t know that those songs are originally by the Beatles. In those cases, I’d rather that they know the song’s origins, but as long as Beatles songs are still relevant in some form in this generation, their music is living on and speaking to people. That’s about all I can ask.

You didn't seriously think I'd forget his birthday, now did you?

You didn’t seriously think I’d forget his birthday, now did you?

Finally, happy belated birthday to George Harrison, who after all this time is still definitely my favorite Beatle and one of my musical and personal inspirations. I’ve devoted many a post to him on this blog, but for now I’ll just say that his music is thoughtful, creative, and truly beautiful, just like him. I wish his solo songs were more well known by the general population, but with recent releases like the “George Fest” DVD and the masterful Scorcese documentary from a few years ago, he seems to be gaining more acclaim, slowly but surely. Let’s continue that upwards trend, to 2020 and beyond!

As is the nature of the Beatles in the 21st century, something new Beatles-related is bound to come up soon, but for now I’m signing off. Enjoy your days, and may they all be Good Days (of) Sunshine. 🙂

A Magical Mystery Post

Well it’s late at night and I’ve decided to do a post where I just talk about a few Beatles and music-related things that come to mind. In the past with blogging, I’ve found that my favorite posts are borne out of an utter lack of initial ideas that then becomes an uninterrupted stream of consciousness. So let’s just see where this goes!

It’s been 23 days since the news broke that David Bowie had died, and though some of the initial shock and disbelief has passed for me, I still find myself listening to his songs a lot more than I ever have before. I stand by my favorites that I posted last month, but as I’ve continued to dig deeper into his catalogue, I’ve discovered more songs of his that I absolutely love, including Hang On To Yourself. I had never heard of this song until about a month ago, but one day it came up on shuffle and I could not stop listening. I think it’s one of his catchiest and most fun songs, and certainly an underrated cut from the Ziggy Stardust album. It also sounds kind of punk-ish, yet another example of Bowie being musically ahead of his time. Definitely take a listen if you don’t know it already! (or even if you do, because it is a fantastic song)

This week also marks 52 years since the Beatles first landed in America to perform on the Ed Sullivan show, thus spurring the Beatlemania we all know and that I’ve posted about many, many times before on this blog. Once again, I continue to admire how strong of a presence the Beatles have in society today. They’ve even made it into children’s books!

Awwww this is just so cute!

Awwww this is just so cute!

My mom sent me this picture of a cute book she saw recently, which made me realize that the Beatles are truly at “textbook-status” now. They’re basically historical figures, synonymous with an era in history defined by revolutions in music, politics, fashion, and countless other things. The fact that books like this are being published to make the Beatles accessible to young children is truly heartwarming. It gives me continued confidence that the greatness and brilliance of the Beatles will never fade from the world.

Random Beatles Song I’ve Been Listening To A Lot Recently: You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away

For some reason I couldn’t find the original version of this on YouTube, nor could I find the clip with it from the Help movie. 😦

Anyway, one thing I’ve realized about this song as I’ve listened to it more and more is that it is, in my opinion, one of the Beatles songs that has aged the best. It really sounds like it could be released today, that’s how timeless it is, and I absolutely adore the melody. As much as I love the Beatles’ more experimental songs like I Am The Walrus, I also admire their simpler, more folksy songs that can be performed with just a guitar and a voice. This is one of my favorite Beatles songs to walk around singing to myself. I never get sick of it! If I one day learn how to play guitar, I will learn this song for sure.

That’s all for now folks. I’ll be back soon!