Tag Archives: Paul McCartney

All you need is…Paul McCartney in a car

A short post is in order this week. But it’s a good one.

Like most people, I’ve long since tired of the 24-hour news cycle, the depressing tumble of event-reaction-counter-reaction-analysis-argument that surrounds most major news events. (And this from an ex-journalist, too – I should probably just look at less online news.)

There are times, then, when I simply want to go online and see something that lifts me up, that brightens the world for a moment. For a brief 23 minutes this week, I’ve found it.

You’ve likely heard of “Carpool Karaoke“, a series in which late night host James Corden rides around with celebs, singing, quipping and gurning (he’s something of an acquired taste, and I’m not 100 per cent sold).

I’ve enjoyed some segments I’ve seen, but his piece with Paul McCartney, released yesterday, is one of the most heartwarming clips I’ve seen in a long time. It’s simple – McCartney and Corden driving around the former’s old Liverpool haunts, meeting old dears, shaking hands and kissing babies (McCartney mainly), culminating with a great reveal.

Death, ageing, the past – they’re all covered. But, because this is Paul McCartney, it’s all very “get on with it, always look on the bright side”. I could write more – not least about the bit that had me tearing up – but I figure you best watch it for yourself.

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You can’t always get what you pay $399 for

1035x776-PosterDesert Festival? Why didn’t they just call it Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door and have done with it?

Music fans who like to mix their morbid curiosity with four course paired-wine dinners will be reaching for their wallets on Monday, when tickets to a three-day music event next October go on sale.

Call your dad, and your granddad too. Because Desert Festival’s six acts – Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, The Who, Neil Young and Roger Waters – fall firmly into the catch-’em-before-they-pass-away category.

The festival’s blurb speaks of a “once in a lifetime” event, with the acts “serving up three incomparable nights of rock’n roll”.

It neatly skips past the large, existential elephant in the room – the fact, given the age of the performers, this is indeed very likely to be a “once in a lifetime” chance to see rock’s 1960s survivors in one place. That said, grim mortality never went that well with the 60s’ spirit (though perhaps the Stones could repurpose Miss You at short notice if needed).

Keith Richards and Mick, Jagger, 2013. Pic: SolarScott

Keith Richards and Mick, Jagger, 2013. Pic: SolarScott

Putting cynicism to one side (always necessary when reading about the Rolling Stones), and discreetly ignoring the mind-blowing ticket prices (general admission starts at $399, with an extra $99 to pitch your tent, and that’s before the wine pairing) could it all be worth it?

If you’re a hedge fund manager flying business class to Palm Springs the answer is a comfortable ‘yes’, not least because you can squeeze six legendary acts into three days while enjoying four course meals ($225, plus fees). Stomaching a Neil Young rant on the evils of corporate America is unlikely to present a problem breeze, particularly given the excellent bar facilities.

But for fans who are – to put it bluntly – poorer, there’s a less of a pull. Any rock listener worth his or her salt has seen some or all of these acts previously or, if they’re like me, has turned down the chance to.

More to the point, the groundbreaking recordings many of them have made have become, after half a century in some cases, separate from the acts themselves.

The 20-something Bob Dylan who performed the thin, wild mercury sound of Blonde on Blonde will not be in Indio, CA, nor will the angry Pete Townshend behind Won’t Get Fooled Again or the Roger Waters  who co-wrote Shine On You Crazy Diamond for his pal.

This music is out there, with a life of its own, long distanced from its composers.  Very little can bring us back 50 years in music, history or people’s lives – not even the opening riff of Satisfaction.

Mind you, it would be worth $399 to see the look on the hedge fund manager’s face when Bob Dylan embarks on an hour of Frank Sinatra covers.

Bob Dylan does it his way, London, 2011. Pic: Francisco Antunes

Bob Dylan does it his way, London, 2011. Pic: Francisco Antunes

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McCartney’s in my brain and won’t come out

Jet_Let_Me_Roll_It_CoverIt’s 4.30am on a Saturday morning and I spring awake to the sound of guitars, keyboard and horns, followed by a Paul McCartney cry.

“Jet! Jet!”

My wife lies sleeping beside me. In the distance a dog barks. All else is silent.

It’s all in my head. An early morning earworm. But it wasn’t just that one morning; as I write this, five days later, I still can’t get ‘Jet’ out of my head.

Paul McCartney, as he was singing a song in a London studio 41 years ago, is lodged in my auditory cortex. Every time my brain hits idle mode (more often than I’d like to admit) he re-appears, ‘daaa-daaa-dada, Jet!’

What was a four minute listen on my morning commute one day last week has morphed into a hugely frustrating brain itch.

I’ve written about earworms previously. In most cases they disappear after 24 hours, having been pushed out by something else. But McCartney’s song about his dog (or his pony, or David Bowie – take your pick) is stuck there.

My usual trick to dislodge it, of playing another earworm or anything very catchy, hasn’t worked – though I’m still afraid to push the Big Red Button and listen to ‘Guantanamero‘. I’m not one for anagrams, but research suggests that solving one could work. Or, it emerged this week, chewing gum – not a favourite habit of mine either.

Which brings me to my final hope – the theory that reading a book helps. This is interesting. In recent days – the ones which have coincided with my McCartney itch – I’ve skipped reading. Could this be the cause?

FullSizeRender (3)Music psychologist Dr Ira Hyman has suggested the ‘good book’ solution, stating: “The key is to find something that will give the right level of challenge. If you are cognitively engaged, it limits the ability of intrusive songs to enter your head.”

Hyman suggests that an alternative is to learn to sing the song in its entirety, as earworms have been linked to incomplete fragments of melody that the brain tries to resolve. But there’s no way I’m doing anything as reckless as that with a hook-heavy Paul McCartney song.

So it’s back to a book. Maybe I’ll start with the one on the left. Then again…

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Meeting The Beatles (again)

The Beatles at the start.

The Beatles, 1964.

The Beatles have always been a part of my life.

Like rain. Or the sun. Or the colour yellow.

I devote little attention to the music. It’s just there, in the background, always three skips away, or on some Sky Arts documentary.

Like most people under 50 I’ve no recollection of the first time I heard one of their songs. It was likely my mother humming Love Me Do when I was still in the womb.

The band itself was long defunct by my 1980s childhood, of course. Despite this, the first cassette I ever stuck in my Walkman, as a kid flitting down Athlone’s Ballymahon Road, was a Beatles’ best of.

The years passed and the songs would pop up or creep in here and there.

As a teenager I learned basic guitar chords in order to play Fool On The Hill. I have vague recollections of nights in bars in San Francisco’s Mission district, where a pal and I would load the jukebox with dollars to play Abbey Road end-to-end.

Fifteen years after that I was back to playing Beatles’ tunes, this time back on guitar at my sister’s wedding.

But in recent years the music slipped out of reach. I drifted away, wandering the outer reaches of Eno’s Ambient series, or trying to follow Monk solos.

The Beatles, near the end.

The Beatles, 1969.

Last May I came close to seeing a Paul McCartney show in Japan. Circumstances conspired to prevent that from happening and afterwards I meandered on, with a vague, guilty notion that I really needed to listen to more of his solo albums, or go back to The Beatles.

But I didn’t. Until last week.

Sifting through the racks at a Dublin record store I came across a copy of Let It Be. It occurred to me that – despite knowing the melody of almost every tune on it – I’d never actually owned a copy of it.

That night I put it on, listened to the opening track Two Of Us and, for the first time in a long time, I heard, really heard, the greatness again.

Two Of Us is The Beatles.

Written by McCartney, it lacks some of the Lennon bite. But this is balanced on the album, as it follows a skittish vocal outtake of Lennonesque nonsense.

The song has all the classic Beatles’ element.

Paul and Linda McCartney. Pic: Corvin

Paul and Linda McCartney.
Pic: Corvin

It’s lyrics are a brotherly you-and-me-against-the-world, the you and me McCartney and Lennon (as Ian McDonald surmised*) – despite the former’s claim that the song was written about Linda Eastman.

The pair’s Everly Brothers-style vocal harmony harks back to their early days playing together in Liverpool.

It’s impossible not to tap your foot to the rhythm, or hum the descending C to A of “hard-earned pay”.

It’s not all swiftness and light though. The song’s brightness is subverted in its six-bar middle section, as McCartney shifts to a melancholy B flat.

This is resolved as we move into the verse again, but the closing lyrics point to divergent paths ahead: “Two of us wearing raincoats, standing solo, in the sun”.

Recorded at a fractious time, as their group began to fall apart and amidst tension between Lennon and McCartney, Two Of Us is, in three and a half minutes, all that made The Beatles great.

It’s why some Beatles’ songs are close to pop perfection.

And it’s why I should listen to them more often.

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*Ian McDonald, Revolution In The Head (Pimlico, 1994), p 268

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Japan is…

IMG_3938

Iced coffee above Osaka.

– my wife’s birthplace
– rice
– sake (cold)
– sun (rising early)
– Kinosaki onsen
– turning to my patient sister-, mother- or father-in-law every time my gaijin gesturing failed (ie all the time)
– the Shinkansen
– bento
– Shibuyu crossing at night
izakaya
– family
– compact
– Kamakura
– dancing to Brubeck’s Osaka Blues, in an Osaka hotel room

Family.

Family.

– clean
– efficient
– zen rock gardens in Kyoto
– food, all good, everywhere
– progressive
– regimented
yukate
geta 
– dry Asahi beer
– Yamakazi 12-year-old single malt
– running in the morning on the banks of the Yudo river
– polite
– Murakami and his writings on Manchuria
– Paul McCartney and his drummer Abe Laboriel Jr.

Bento.

Bento.

– cans of Emerald Mountain coffee
– protein
– Aphex Twin’s Ambient Works 1 on my iPod
– Cigarettes in restaurants
– French white wines
– okonomiyaki
– New friends (and old ones)
– the intake of breath when stepping into the 44 C hotspring water
– drinking
sashimi for breakfast
– ‘what’s the wi-fi code?’
– a city from a dozen stories up
– cavernous department stores
– tiny Family Mart konbini stores
– coffee: iced in the morning, hot in the evening
– eye-opening
– gift giving
– different trains, different lines, different tickets
– the last two spectacular weeks

Rock garden at the Tōfuku-ji zen Buddhist Temple, Kyoto. Pic: Clare Kleinedler

Rock garden at the Tōfuku-ji zen Buddhist Temple, Kyoto.
Pic: Clare Kleinedler

 

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