Beatle Book Review: “You Never Give Me Your Money”

you never give me your money

To anyone who has read my blog in the year since I last posted, hello! I am back this summer with a lot of ideas for blog posts, so get ready for some more posts from me in the upcoming weeks and months. In the meantime, today I thought I’d kick off my summer blogging season by discussing a Beatles book that I recently finished reading. “You Never Give Me Your Money,” by Peter Doggett, was published in 2009 and chronicles many of the non-musical events that dominated the Beatles’ lives in the late ’60s and into their solo careers. I was aware of some of the higher profile figures and events that this book discusses, such as the Allen Klein debacle, before reading this book. However, “You Never Give Me Your Money” goes into incredible detail about this and other contentious business situations. After reading this book, it remains even more of a miracle that the Beatles managed to release any music after 1968, let alone continue to reinvent themselves with every album.

One of the most prominent characters in this book, besides the Beatles themselves, is the incredible amount of legal drama that followed the Beatles from the late 1960s through the early part of the 21st century. Many of these court cases stemmed from the formation of Apple Records in 1968, which was initially designed as a way for the Beatles to provide monetary and artistic support for aspiring musicians. I had learned about Apple through some Beatles interviews I’ve watched, but this book makes it clear that Apple was absolutely a nightmare for the Beatles to keep up with.

From continuous battles between Apple and EMI Records, to battles between Apple Records and Apple computers later on, to the endless amount of “spinoff” companies that Apple generated, it is just mind-boggling how out-of-control this project became. I found it amusing how much of a backseat the Beatles’ musical output took in this book, to the point where it almost seemed like a footnote: “In the midst of court cases, group tensions, and a poorly run business empire that would haunt them for the rest of their lives, the Beatles also released the White Album, Let it Be, and oh yeah, Abbey Road.” Though it is upsetting to learn about all of the in-group fracturing and tension from this time, it also makes their remarkable musical achievements even more impressive given the circumstances.

I also learned a lot more than I ever intended to about how many businessmen the Beatles wrongly trusted during this time, namely Allen Klein. He became their manager after Brian Epstein died in 1967, and Paul apparently mistrusted Klein from the beginning while the other three all believed in him. This led to a barrage of court cases and lawsuits that continued for years, and I previously had no idea how involved Linda McCartney’s family was in these cases (her dad and brother became Paul’s lawyers) or how incredibly difficult it was to extricate Klein from the Beatles’ affairs once he had gotten involved. It just goes to show that the Beatles were clearly musicians first, not businessmen, and that the steady guidance that Brian Epstein provided them during their early years was perhaps more necessary to their success than it was given credit for.

This book also provided a lot of insight into the Beatles’ personal lives, especially John and Yoko’s relationship. I went into this book vaguely knowing their story, and I have to say I am no bigger fan of either of them after reading this book. Though Paul will never say flat-out that “Yoko broke up the Beatles,” it certainly seems like her relationship with John and constant presence in the studio put a huge strain on the band’s relationship and led to John becoming disinterested with continuing his Beatles involvement. Of course, even casual Beatles fans could come to that conclusion, but “You Never Give Me Your Money” goes into incredible depth about the various ups and downs with John and Yoko through the years, even aside from his famous “Lost Weekend” in Los Angeles. I was not previously aware of how tense their relationship was at times during the 1970s even when they were living together in New York.

It is also frustrating to read that John was literally about to go write with Paul again several times throughout the 1970s, when Yoko stopped him and basically forbade him from doing so, or manipulated him into not visiting Paul when he had planned to. There’s no telling that anything musical would have come of it, but this book makes clear that she wanted John to have absolutely no part in a Beatles reunion, which is annoying, but not surprising, for any devoted fan to read. However, this was all news to me, so I do appreciate how much new information I learned from reading this book even if some of it was disappointing.

If there’s one qualm I have about this book, it’s that its structure sometimes feels as haphazard as the episodes in Beatles history that it is describing. Many chapters flip-flop between multiple individual stories about John, Paul, George, and Ringo that have nothing to do with each other. I applaud the author for closely following the chronology of the events he writes about by stacking them all up next to each other, but to make the book an easier read I would have noted a clearer separation between sections that pertain directly to different Beatles.

I was also hoping for slightly more detail about George, of course, particularly about his involvement with Monty Python and how he met his second wife Olivia. The book provides great detail about how John and Yoko met, as well as Paul and Linda’s early relationship, but George and Ringo’s marriages do not get nearly as much book time (probably because they weren’t as directly entangled with the Beatles’ story, but still). With the significant involvement that Olivia now has in the Beatles empire, I think she deserved more attention in this book. However, “You Never Give Me Your Money” never shies away from admitting that its main focus is “Beatles legal and relationship drama through the years,” so if Olivia and Barbara Bach (Ringo’s wife) did not cause that much drama, then just as well that they don’t have a huge focus in this book.

With that all said, I learned more new information about the Beatles from this book than I have in a long time, possibly since I read “The Beatles Anthology” book years ago. It is truly insightful and provides a lot of new information for fans like me who already know the wistful, triumphant version of the Beatles’ story and are looking for some edgier details. If you think you know everything about the Beatles already, this book will prove you wrong.  Yes, it’s a bit depressing to read in parts, and no Beatle comes across as a saint here. But I am so glad I read this book, and I look forward to having it as a reference in my “Beatles library” for years to come.

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I’m Siriusly Excited About The Beatles XM Station

beatles radio

The Beatles, perhaps waiting to hear one of their songs on the radio!

As has become a pattern for me, I tend to blog whenever there is some newsworthy event happening in the Beatleverse, and this happens to be one of those times. These events often revolve around Beatles music entering the public consciousness in a new way, such as through iTunes, Spotify, and now, their own Sirius XM Station, channel 18. I had no idea that this was even happening until a few days before the station went live, and my initial reactions to this announcement ranged from “It’s about time” to “Finally!” Nothing against Pearl Jam, but if they have their own radio station, the Beatles deserve their own station as well. I’m also aware that those in charge of the Beatles brand and catalog (namely Paul, Ringo, Yoko, and Olivia Harrison, among others) are notoriously stringent about licensing the Beatles name. In recent years, I think these restrictions have loosened. Though I hope the Beatles don’t start advertising “sausages and diapers,” as George feared they would, I greatly appreciate that they’re latching on to new technological and musical developments and remaining relevant to modern music listeners.

Upon my first listen, the station reminded me a lot of me putting my iTunes library on shuffle and listening only to Beatles or solo Beatles music, as I did quite frequently early on in my Beatles fandom. Listening to the Beatles station has made me nostalgic for what now seem like simpler times when I was 14 and 15, when I dove headfirst into my obsession with all things Beatles and cared little about embracing the rest of the musical world. I’ve also been on a couple of long car trips in the past few weeks and the Beatles Sirius station has kept me entertained for hours each time. Many times while listening to the station, I’ve been delighted to come across Beatles songs that I’d forgotten about or hadn’t listened to for months. These include the underrated gems “For No One” on Revolver and  “I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party” from Beatles For Sale. I’ve also greatly appreciated the commentary from friends and musicians close to the Beatles such as Peter Asher, as well as the “ear trivia” of playing a second of a Beatles song and revealing the song’s name later.

My one gripe with this development is that, somehow even on a Beatles-centric station that revolves completely around their music, George’s solo catalog is still vastly untapped. The station seems to roughly adhere to a format of “three Beatles songs, followed by one Paul McCartney and Wings song, and maybe a John or Ringo song occasionally,” which is fine. However, having now listened to several cumulative hours of the station over the past couple of weeks, I can count on one hand the number of George solo songs I’ve heard.

This is quite disappointing to someone who is as big a fan of George as I am and who knows the wealth of good material that he produced after the Beatles broke up. Songs like “Faster” from his album George Harrison, “Fish on the Sand” from Cloud Nine, or “Life Itself” from Somewhere in England are all exquisite songs that get zero radio airplay on this station, along with many other fantastic compositions. I hope that perhaps I just haven’t been listening at the right times and that George’s solo career actually has been greatly appreciated on this station in my absence. If not, I sincerely hope that the station begins playing more of his solo songs.

Other than this, I am absolutely thrilled that the Beatles are being celebrated 24/7 (or as the station cheekily notes, 24/8, referring to “Eight Days A Week”) on Sirius XM. They, perhaps more so than any other artist with their own radio station, have a large enough catalog of Beatles, solo Beatles, and Beatles influence songs to support a long stretch of engaging radio programming. What’s more, the whole vibe of the station feels like more than just another radio station. It really celebrates the Beatles’ musical achievements and the massive impact they had on their fans, as evidenced by soundbites from celebrity fans or screaming admirers from their heyday. I hope that it maintains its current charm and continues to celebrate both the sung and the unsung heroes of the Beatles’ success.

Some things I’ve been meaning to blog about

"On my honor, I will try, to blog once a week"

“On my honor, I will try, to blog once a week”

Hello everyone! I know I’ve been gone for a while, so today I’d like to chat about some things I’ve been wanting to discuss. It’s been a pretty busy month, what with senior year and college applications and such, but it’s also been fun and exciting in the Beatle world and the rest of the world!

First, last month, Conan O’Brian had a special “George Harrison Week” on his show in honor of the release of George’s early Apple solo albums in a box set. The performers included Norah Jones (Ravi Shankar’s daughter, in case you wanted to know the George connection), Paul Simon (George performed with him on SNL in 1976), Dhani Harrison (his son), and Beck (no idea what the George connection is here). I watched all of the performances, and of course, seeing people keeping his music alive made my little George heart very happy. My personal favorite was Dhani Harrison, simply because I love him and he, in addition to sounding a lot like George, is VERY musically talented.

There was also a George tribute concert in LA that same week called “George Fest,” which I really wish I could have seen. As I learned at the Fab Faux concert last year, George’s music sounds amazing live. Still, I’ve been pretty lucky with Beatle-related tribute concerts, so I’m not really THAT mad… 🙂

John Lennon’s birthday was two weeks ago, so clearly that passed already, but I’d like to do a belated-John’s birthday shout out. His music is really just as powerful today as I’m sure it was when it first came out 30-something years ago. If there’s one Beatle who has inspired multiple generations of songwriters to express themselves in their music, it’s probably him.
For some reason, John seems to have retained the image of the “cool” Beatle in this day and age. I wonder where that came from. Maybe it’s from his effortlessly cool look during the Rain and Paperback Writer video shoots…

I wish I looked that cool in sunglasses...

I wish I looked that cool in sunglasses…

John is definitely one cool dude. I hope he had a happy birthday wherever he is now. And depending on your beliefs, THAT, my friends, is up to you to decide… Because as John once said, “It’s up to you, yeah you, cause we all shine on, like the moon and the stars and the sun.” 🙂 Bonus points if you know what John solo song those lyrics are from!

Finally, I think my dad and I are officially Fab Faux groupies, because we were fortunate enough to see them for a third time in NYC last week. The theme was “Lennon vs. McCartney: A Heavyweight Battle” or something like that. It was basically just an excuse to play alternating John and Paul songs for a solid 2.5 hours, which is exactly what I was hoping for! As always, the Fab Faux did a fantastic job. As far as musicianship is concerned, they’re definitely the best band out there at playing Beatles songs. They always add the most special elements to Beatles songs, like a sitar on Norwegian Wood or a piccolo trumpet on Penny Lane, to really make the song perfect.

What I enjoyed about this show in particular is that they played a number of solo Lennon and McCartney songs in addition to their Beatles catalog. Having gone to more than a few Beatle tribute shows by now, I’m used to hearing the Beatle stuff played a lot. It never gets old, of course, but hearing their solo songs played live is a special treat. I think my favorite moment of the show, if it’s even possible to choose, was when they played “Jet,” from the Band On The Run album. I hadn’t heard that song in a while, but as soon as they started playing it I got really excited! It’s a fantastic song! The Fab Faux are the best, plain and simple. (sorry Fab Four, I love you guys too!)

Whew, that was certainly a large explosion of Beatleness. I should never stop blogging for a month, because then I’ll have far too much to say at once to cram into one post. And that wasn’t even all I had wanted to say! My friend and I saw a Foster the People concert last night, which was absolutely unbelievable, but I’ll save that for a separate post. They’re definitely worth an entire post.

I’m sure I’ll still be busy in the coming weeks, but I promise to blog again ASAP! Have a fantastic week!

My Top 10 Favorite Solo Beatle Albums

So with an unexpected snow day today, I thought I’d post what I said I would post yesterday! For each album, I’ll also post some songs that I would recommend in particular. Keep in mind that this list is just my opinion, and because I mostly listen to George and Paul’s solo music, 90% of this list is composed of George and Paul albums. Sorry John and Ringo fans if you feel neglected, but I feel that even when John was still alive and making albums, George’s and Paul’s albums were better overall and more interesting. So anyway, here we go!

10. Imagine- John Lennon

Imagine

Imagine

I felt obliged to put one of John’s albums on here just to make it a bit more complete, and between this and Plastic Ono Band, I prefer this. For some reason, I prefer listening to John’s songs on shuffle rather than as full albums, but I do genuinely love this album. It has a number of my favorite John songs on it and it’s generally regarded as his best album, and I completely agree.
Recommended songs: Imagine, Jealous Guy, How Do You Sleep, Oh Yoko

9. Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1- Traveling Wilburys

Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1

Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1

This supergroup formed by George Harrison only made two albums, but I prefer this over the other one and listen to it quite frequently, which is why I’ve included it here. The songs are a good mix of compositions from George, Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, and Tom Petty, and I love that it doesn’t sound like any individual member, but like a completely unique band. This is a great album to throw on when it’s a sunny afternoon and you just feel like listening to some cheerful music, and it always puts me in a good mood!
Recommended Songs: Handle With Care, End of the Line, Dirty World, Tweeter and the Monkey Man, Heading for the Light

8. Band On The Run- Paul McCartney and Wings

Band On The Run

Band On The Run

This album is consistently ranked as Paul’s best, and while I personally prefer a number of his other albums, I do concede that this is a stellar album. All of the songs are well-crafted and interesting, but the reason that it’s #8 on this list is that, for whatever reason, I just don’t listen to it all that much. Therefore, I can’t really consider it a favorite of mine. But I am listening to it now, and loving it!
Recommended songs: Band on the Run, Jet, Let Me Roll It, Mrs. Vandebilt, 1985

7. Flaming Pie- Paul McCartney

Flaming Pie

Flaming Pie

I often listen to this album while I’m doing homework, but it’s definitely not a background music-type of album. What I love most about it is the incredible diversity of songs on it that I don’t think Paul had done since Tug of War, another great album. This album sounds very timeless to me, and many regard it as Paul’s modern-day “comeback,” but honestly, I don’t think he ever left!
Recommended Songs: The Song We Were Singing, Flaming Pie, Somedays, Young Boy, Beautiful Night (which also features Ringo!)

6. Cloud Nine- George Harrison

Cloud Nine

Cloud Nine

Here it is, the first George solo album on this list, and I guarantee it won’t be the last! This is regarded as George’s major comeback album because it was a huge hit and featured his last #1 single “Got My Mind Set On You,” which was originally recorded in 1962 by Rudy Clark. I think this is probably George’s most fun and upbeat album, and I love that it was produced by ELO legend Jeff Lynne and also features Elton John on electric piano. What a great combo!
Recommended Songs: Cloud Nine, Got My Mind Set On You, Fish On The Sand, This Is Love, When We Was Fab, Devil’s Radio

5. Brainwashed- George Harrison

Brainwashed

Brainwashed

This was produced by Jeff Lynne and Dhani Harrison and released posthumously in 2002. I believe it won a Grammy for something, but even if it didn’t, this is an absolutely beautiful album. George’s lyrics here are better than ever and the songs are his most honest since All Things Must Pass. Knowing that this was his last album, I sometimes get a little teary while listening to it, but I’m glad that he left us with one last beautiful creation before he passed.
Recommended Songs: Brainwashed, Any Road, Looking For My Life, Stuck Inside a Cloud, Pisces Fish

4. Venus and Mars- Paul McCartney and Wings

Venus and Mars

Venus and Mars

Here’s why I like this Wings album better than Band On The Run: The songs all tell an individual story, something that I don’t quite get with Band On The Run. I love that fellow band members Denny Laine and Jimmy McCullough each get to sing a song, which makes it feel more like a Beatles album. This album also contains my #1 favorite Paul solo song, Venus and Mars/Rockshow. Basically, if you like good old fashioned rock and roll, get this album!
Recommended Songs: Venus and Mars/Rockshow, Listen To What The Man Said, Magneto and Titanium Man, You Gave Me The Answer, Call Me Back Again

3. Chaos and Creation in the Backyard- Paul McCartney

Chaos and Creation in the Backyard

Chaos and Creation in the Backyard

Out of all of Paul’s solo albums, this is perhaps his most honest and intimate. I love how piano-heavy it is, and the songs each have a certain magical quality that harkens back to the Beatle days. This is definitely Paul’s darkest album, and somehow after 40 years it also manages to be quite inventive and new-sounding. Paul is always reinventing himself, and that is definitely evident on this album.
Recommended Songs: Fine Line, English Tea, Too Much Rain, Riding to Vanity Fair, Friends to Go, How Kind of You

2. NEW- Paul McCartney

New

New

You may be thinking, “Didn’t this just come out? How can it be one of your favorites?” Well folks, it’s just that good. While many may not agree, I think this might be Paul’s best album ever; from start to finish, it’s perfection. It also sounds completely unlike anything he’s ever done, and for that I applaud him. Also, out of all of his albums, I think that I honestly enjoy listening to this the most. While the lyrics may not be his most inspired, this album is a true listening pleasure, and that’s why I love it!
Recommended Songs: Just get the whole album. Really. You won’t regret it!

1. All Things Must Pass- George Harrison

All Things Must Pass

All Things Must Pass

This is definitely the easiest #1 choice on any list I’ve done so far, because there’s just no competition. All Things Must Pass is BY FAR the best solo Beatles album! This was a huge hit back in 1970, reaching #1 on the charts and featuring a #1 hit in My Sweet Lord. George made a lot of fantastic albums in his career, but none quite reach the mastery of this one. Song after song after song, it’s brilliant. If you own one album by a Beatle that’s not a Beatles album, it should absolutely be this one.
Recommended Songs: No even remotely subpar songs here. Get it all!

Whew, that was long! Sorry about that. But I hope you enjoyed this list, and if you’ve never listened to any solo Beatles music, it’s time to start! Enjoy the week!

Oh the weather outside is frightful… But Paul is so delightful!!!

A lovely pic of Paul and Linda singing together!

A lovely pic of Paul and Linda singing together!

So it’s snowing here in NY! School was dismissed early today (hooray!) and I had a few extra hours on my hands, and what do you suppose I decided to do??? Well, after doing some homework, I decided to sit down and watch Rockshow, the 3 hour concert documentary made of Paul McCartney and Wings’ 1976 tour of North America. I honestly can’t imagine a better way to spend a snowy afternoon than sitting in my basement for hours on end watching Paul sing to me via the television, albeit in a movie from 35 years ago.

This was a movie that as a major Beatles and Paul fan, I’d been wanting to watch for a long time, and I was certainly not disappointed! For those expecting a movie with lots of behind-the-scenes footage of the band, this has none of that. It’s just the concert, from beginning to end, but really, shouldn’t that be enough? It’s Paul, for crying out loud. He’s (arguably) the single most entertaining person who has ever lived!

Watching this reminded me of the absolute joy I felt watching Paul onstage live last June, and I loved watching him perform many of the same songs in this movie, like “Lady Madonna” and “Blackbird”, as well as a bunch of Wings songs, that he did when I saw him. It’s definitely not hard to believe it’s the same person; he does the same little Paul things now, like making what I call his “bass-face”, that he did 40 years ago. Paul truly is a natural showman, definitely the best out of the four Beatles, and his love for music shines through in his performing.

I’d also like to add that Paul just looks amazing in this movie. From the mullet which only he can pull off, to the sparkly jacket and pink tie, to the odd but charming shiny pants, to his amazingly perfect, angelic, sexy, raspy voice, he is a bonafide rock star in every sense of the word. Paul is just so perfect at music and life. I felt the need to clap after every song while watching this movie, even though he obviously can’t hear me. I seriously need to meet this man, give him a big hug, and tell him just how much I love him.

So, if you’re wondering what all of this fuss is about, here are a couple of awesome clips from the movie! The first one is of a song not actually written by Paul, but by other Wings member Denny Laine! What I did not realize before watching this movie is that Denny actually has a great voice, though he is a little kooky. And I am obsessed with this version of the song. It’s by far the best version I’ve heard.

This song, “Bluebird,” is I think one of Paul’s most underrated solo songs. It’s really quite lovely, and this version is wonderful. Even after all of the screaming and high-octane rock numbers, Paul always knows how to scale it back vocally for a song like this. That’s why he’s so great!

The reason that I’m including this next song, “Let ‘Em In,” is purely because at 1:03 in the video, Paul clearly says, “Do me a FLAVOR” instead of the actual lyric, “Do me a FAVOR”! I laughed when I heard that. Silly Paulie. 🙂
This song seems pretty easy to learn on the piano, so I may attempt it in the future. I’ll let you all know how that turns out…

Okay, one more video. This one is of “Jet,” one of my absolute favorite Paul songs, and this is what I mean when I’m describing his voice during this concert. Especially during this song, he just sounds so irresistibly sexy! I was practically drooling while watching this at home. And when he does the little “Ooh, she said!” hand gestures… I lost it. Maybe it’s a good thing I didn’t grow up in the 70s, for everyone else’s sake…

That’s all for now! I do have an idea for another post, but that may have to wait until tomorrow. Stay fab everyone!