Reader’s Choice…Song #13/250: I Saw Her Standing There by The Beatles

The album that started it all for The Beatles.

“I Saw Her Standing There” was the very first song on the very first album The Beatles ever made. It was written mostly by Paul McCartney as a teenager but was helped along by John Lennon tweaking one line. That one line changed everything and caused the music world to sit up and take notice. Lennon’s edit happened on Line #2 of the song. McCartney had the opening line right from the get-go…..She was just seventeen…but his original line that followed had to do with the girl in question not being a beauty queen. Lennon scoffed at that line and offered, instead, the line that ended up making this song something special. He suggested taking out the “beauty queen” line and replacing it with….you know what I mean. So now, the opening of this love story in a song began:

She was just seventeen

You know what I mean…

John Lennon and Paul McCartney in Paul’s living room. On the floor is a notebook with the lyrics to “I Saw Her Standing There”. This photo comes from a book released last year by Paul McCartney that shows scores of handwritten lyrics and tells the story of how each song came to be.

There are several reasons why this small change had such a big impact. For starters, “I Saw Her Standing There” is a song all about courtship rituals and about falling in love with your heart’s desire. But, in real life, there is a difference between the fairy tale version of living happily ever after and the real world raunchy, sexually-charged version of how couples in love consummate their relationship. Lennon’s simple line added an element of ambiguity to the story in such a way that it fuelled the imaginations of all manner of listeners…those who had romantic impressions of the song and those who had a more hot and bothered take. For context, it helps to know that the legal “age of consent” in the UK is/was sixteen years of age. Thus, it is entirely possible that The Beatles were writing a song about an attraction that had a sexual element to it. The boys in the band have never said, one way or the other.

“I Saw Her Standing There” plays as a simple Pop song but, in reality, it is a fully-realized story that plays out in under three minutes of time. It was written by Paul McCartney in various homes including his own, his friend singer Rory Storm’s home, as well as at the home of his seventeen year old girlfriend at the time. But it was at his own home that John Lennon came to call and heard McCartney play the song for him for the first time. It was there that Lennon suggested his edit. Finally, it was in McCartney’s living room that Paul McCartney and John Lennon (as teenagers) developed a writing partnership that would serve them well almost all the way through their career as Beatles. But, just to show you how early in their relationship they were, the song credits for “I Saw Her Standing There” read as “McCartney/Lennon”. It is one of the only times that Paul McCartney’s name came first in the listings.

The Fab Four in Hamburg, Germany.

Like other bands, The Beatles workshopped this new song live many times before ever recording it for their debut album. As you may know, The Beatles played many gigs in Germany prior to exploding in the UK. It was in Germany that “I Saw Her Standing There” had its debut, along with other songs that would come to become hits for this new band. Songs such as “Love Me Do” and “Please, Please Me” all had their start in Germany as well. When producer George Martin was first approached to record The Beatles debut album, he wanted to see them perform live…which he did in Germany and then, at The Cavern Club in England. He found their stage presence added much to the enjoyment level of the songs being played. So, when it came time to record their debut album, Please, Please Me, he asked the members of the band to record as many songs as possible in one day. The thinking was that by having The Beatles record one song after another, it might replicate what the energy of a live performance was like. For this reason, when you listen to the opening moments of the very first song on the very first album, you can hear Paul McCartney counting the band in…..1, 2, 3, 4! And then they start “I Saw Her Standing There” and the rest, as they say, is history.

Chuck Berry’s bass line from his song, “Talking’ About You” was borrowed in its entirety by Paul McCartney when he and John Lennon wrote, “I Saw Her Standing There”.

“I Saw Her Standing There” was never released as a single. It was the B-side to “Love Me Do”. But, when “Love Me Do” roared up the charts and sales of the single reached record numbers, “I Saw Her Standing There” got lots of attention, too, by association. One of the reasons that “I Saw Her Standing There” was so well received was because it was built on a foundation of the Blues. The bassline of any song often acts as the pulse of the song. It helps drive the energy level of the music that surrounds it and complements it. In the case of this song, Paul McCartney freely admits that he “borrowed” the complete bassline of a Chuck Berry song called “Talkin’ About You”. At the time, black performers such as Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Little Richard, Muddy Waters, B.B. King and others had defined what a rock n’ roll riff should sound like. Those performers inspired the likes of Elvis Presley, Keith Richards, Ray Davies and The Beatles to incorporate “black music” into their version of “white” rock n’ roll. In this way, the more passionate, hot and sweaty underbelly of The Blues sound transitioned over into the new music being performed in the UK and the US. It was a revolutionary change made popular by a couple of teenage boys from Liverpool, England.

The very first song from the very first album The Beatles ever made was “I Saw Her Standing There”. If it is to be proposed that The Beatles transformed rock n’ roll music and are to be considered the very best band of all time then, their very first song takes on added cultural and artistic significance. If you believe in fairy tale endings and think that Paul and John were sweet young lads for having written this song then, “I Saw Her Standing There” is for you. If you, like me, think that there is more to the song than that and that, by extension, there was more substance to Lennon and McCartney than people may have first thought then, “I Saw Her Standing There” is for you, as well. It may sound like a simple Pop song but, at its heart is a lusty storyline that is totally in keeping with the Blues from which this song was born. And, as we know from how the career of The Beatles unfolded, it is representative of a view of music held by the boys that was to continue to expand and become more creative and interesting as time went by. It amazes me to think that all that The Beatles became started with four little numbers….1,2, 3, 4! And then everything changed, forever.

This is Renwick Brook in my hometown of Glace Bay, N.S. after Hurricane Fiona came to town. There used to be a tree-lined walking path around this brook. My family and I spent many hours walking its path. Now it is all gone. Look at the trees! Oh my! Imagine all of the trees that once stood in residential neighbourhoods! They are gone, too. Toppled over, taking power lines with them. What a mess! *Photo credit to my pal, Allister Matheson, 2022.

Thanks for the song suggestion, Allister Matheson! You have exemplary taste in tunes, my friend. For those who are unaware, Allister is a pal of mine from back home on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia. Recently, the Maritime provinces of Canada were visited by an unwelcome guest in the form of Hurricane Fiona. Many people were without power for days on end. There was lots of property damage due to fallen trees and storm surges from the sea. My buddy Allister had trees down in his own yard. I am happy that Allister and my many other friends and family back home have made it through this ordeal safely and seemingly intact. The federal government had pledged financial support to aid in the recovery efforts, as has the province of Nova Scotia. I will post a link to a fund that was started by the Red Cross organization. If you feel so inclined, donate if you are able. Allister took many photos of the devastation. For people like myself who live away, having access to images like his helped us to know what was going on. His efforts are greatly appreciated. The photo to the right is one of Allister’s photos taken after Fiona came to call. Take care everyone. Life is precious.

The link to the video for the song, “I Saw Her Standing There” can be found here.

The link to the official website for The Beatles can be found here.

The link to the fundraising page for the Canadian Red Cross relief efforts in Atlantic Canada can be found here.

***As always, all original content contained within this post remains the sole property of the author. No portion of this post should be reblogged, copied or shared in any manner without the express written consent of the author. ©2022 http://www.tommacinneswriter.com

Today’s Top 40: The Stories Behind the Hits of Today.

The songs listed below were all found using the following Top 40 charts: BBC Radio 1, CHUM-FM and Indie88-FM (in Toronto), KEXP-FM (in Seattle), Spotify as well as Billboard Magazine. For this week’s list, I looked at songs that found themselves listed in and around chart position #8. So, without further delay, let’s dive into Today’s Top 40 hits! Enjoy.

Sunroof by Nicky Youre ft. dazy (BillBoard Magazine, Spotify and CHUM-FM)

Nicky Youre.

For the first time since I started compiling lists for Today’s Top 40, we have a song that appears in the same position on three different lists at the same time. “Sunroof” by newcomer Nicky Youre is a light, peppy bit of Pop confection that is certain to have your toes a-tapping. It is a mood lightener, for sure. The origin of the song is from an idea Youre left on a voicemail he sent to producer, dazy. The idea was for the two to join forces to create a song that captured the mood one feels when you have just met someone who makes your heart leap out of your chest. That sense of excitement that you feel when you can’t stop thinking of your new love was the vibe Youre and dazy were going for. The result was “Sunroof” which is as catchy a Pop song as you will find on the radio these days.

***The link for the lyrics video can be found here.

Foxglove Through The Clearcut by Death Cab For Cutie (Indie88-FM)

I once read a New Yorker cartoon that showed a police officer arresting a bather at the beach for reading a book by Russian author Dostoevsky. The caption read something like, “I’m afraid that’s not summer reading. You’ll have to come with me”. I thought of that cartoon as I compared the song ”Sunroof” from above with this new song from the band Death Cab For Cutie. One is definitely light and breezy with that summer vibe. The other is “Foxglove Through The Clearcut”.

Death Cab for Cutie.

What an interesting song this is! “Foxglove Through The Clearcut” comes across like a spoken-word poem about the environment. However, it is combined with haunting guitar riffs, along with a music video that captures and holds your attention. It is a very Indie/Alternative sounding song that might be a little too smart for its own good in this age of short soundbites and repetitive messaging. As you may know from a previous post that you can read here, Death Cab For Cutie originated because of a song that was included on The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour soundtrack. Like the Fab Four, Death Cab For Cutie have become known for creating songs that work well in a multimedia style that allows listeners/viewers to extract deeper meaning from the lyrics. Death Cab For Cutie came into the public spotlight as the house band from the TV show, “The O.C.” a few decades ago. Their most famous hit was “I Will Follow You Into The Dark” which you can read all about here. “Foxglove Through The Clearcut” is an intelligent song that will get you thinking. It is definitely not summer reading, but instead, it is a song with artistic aspirations and a serious message, all dressed up in the guise of an awesome Alternative/Indie banger.

***The link to the lyrics video can be found here.

Fool’s Gold by Built To Spill (KEXP-FM).

When I was writing about the Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History, one of the bands that I really enjoyed getting to know better was Guided By Voices. Based in Dayton, Ohio, GBV was led by a charismatic front man named Bob Pollard. Pollard was the only real, permanent member of the band and was responsible for churning out a seemingly endless number of Indie tunes that made their way onto a seemingly endless number of Indie-type records. Fiercely independent, Guided By Voices have built a loyal following without feeling as though they had to compromise their integrity to do so. You can read more about them here.

Doug Martsch from Built To Spill.

My first impression of Built To Spill is that they are modeled very much on Guided By Voices. The lead singer is a man named Doug Martsch. His original idea was to have a band with only him as a regular member. The remaining musicians would change for each album. Built To Spill produces pure Indie rock. They tour relentlessly. They are beloved by music critics and have a very loyal fan base. LIke GBV, Built To Spill put forth copious amounts of music, much of which possesses a rawer, more frenetic energy. The video for “Fool’s Gold” revolves around trying to separate the fake from the real when it comes to music. The band hail from Boise, Idaho. Much of the video for “Fool’s Gold” was shot in the ladies restroom of a local theatre there.

***There appears to not be a lyrics video available for this song. Sorry. Here is a live version instead.

Late Night Talking by Harry Styles (BBC Radio 1).

Have bed. Will travel. Mr. Harry Styles.

This song is the follow-up to Styles #1 hit, “As It Was” which was profiled in a previous post that you can read here. The video for “Late Night Talking” has been much-discussed and analyzed for meaning. It shows Styles in various beds with various bedmates, everyone wearing different pyjamas, all the while the beds he is in end up traveling to an Italian restaurant, Buckingham Palace and so on. It is a very artsy video but done in a cute and personable manner, as has become Styles’ schtick.

When asked to describe this song and video, Harry Styles stated that it was about being him…a young, single man trying to have a love life but who also happens to be in the spotlight. Styles talked about overcoming his shyness that someone like him would have a sex life that would merit scrutiny and comment in the first place. Then, as he has grown as a person, Styles has made it clear that one of the hardest things about being someone famous is all of the labels and boxes people want to place him in. He says that the song, “Late Night Talking” is about all of us being more open to exploration and being freer with the boundaries that society sets for us. In real life, Harry Styles is presently dating actress Olivia Wilde, for those who are interested in such things. As for the musicality of the song, well, it sounds like a Harry Styles song to me. If you are familiar at all with his song catalogue then you will find “Late Night Talking” to your liking as well.

***The link to the lyrics version of this song can be found here.

***As always, all original content found in this post remains the sole property of the author. No portion of this blog may be reblogged, copied or shared in any manner without the express written consent of the author. ©2022 tommacinneswriter.com

Reader’s Choice: The Stories Behind Your Favourite Songs…Song #7/250: Here Comes the Sun by The Beatles.

“Here Comes the Sun” was a song that was written by George Harrison. It appeared on The Beatles farewell album, Abbey Road, which was released in 1969. “Here Comes the Sun” was one of two tracks on that album that were written by Harrison *(the other being, “Something”, which you can read about here). With the inclusion of both Harrison songs, he attained a level of respect for his songwriting abilities that he had long craved. Many critics regard his contributions as being the best two songs on the album and that they were on a par with anything ever written by John Lennon or Paul McCartney as Beatles themselves.

Eric Clapton and George Harrison.

“Here Comes the Sun” was written by Harrison one sunny afternoon spent strolling the grounds in Eric Clapton’s garden. The genesis of the song is actually a brief history of the band itself. In the mid-1960s The Beatles were at the very apex of their fame and were changing the way music was being written and listened to. One of the reasons that the innovative nature of their creativity was so strong was that they were free to focus solely on the music they were making. They were unencumbered from the financial goings-on of maintaining their brand because they had a manager who put everything he had into looking after his boys. That man was Brian Epstein. History has shown that Epstein may not have been the shrewdest of wheeler dealers, but, at the time, his presence allowed John and Paul, in particular, to focus on their music. And what glorious music they made! However, the most pivotal event in the history of The Beatles as a band took place when Brian Epstein unexpectedly died. His death created a leadership vacuum on the business side of The Beatles musical empire. That vacuum ended up being filled, at least temporarily, by the members of the band, themselves. From that point onward, whenever the four members of The Beatles gathered to work, they were just as likely to be discussing accounting details with money managers as they were to be discussing new songs. Of the four Beatles, no one despised dealing with business matters more than George Harrison. So, on the day that he wound up in his friend Eric Clapton’s garden, Harrison was actually skipping out on a series of business meetings he was expected to attend at Abbey Road studios.

Brian Epstein.

A second aspect of how “Here Comes the Sun” represents a look into the history of the band is that as The Beatles reached the end of their time together with the recording sessions for Let It Be, Abbey Road and the famous rooftop concert at Abbey Road Studios, George Harrison was beginning to chafe under the yoke of the subordinate role assigned to him by the band’s leaders, John Lennon and Paul McCartney. George Harrison quite literally grew up into adulthood on stage as a Beatle. Now that he was older and wiser and more musically experienced, he had ideas percolating in his brain that he wanted to express. During those final recording sessions as a band, John Lennon was frequently absent (even when he was actually present) which left Paul to fill the leadership void by becoming overly controlling and attempting to dominate the sessions with his own ideas for songs. It became so dysfunctional for a while that George Harrison quit and left the band for several weeks. Stepping away from all of the tension and acrimony gave Harrison the mental headspace to focus on his own ideas for music, as well as his place within the hierarchy of The Beatles. Thus, a song like “Here Comes the Sun” was given the room it needed to be brought to fruition.

The Beatles with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

The final element of Beatles history that can be traced to this song is in how “Here Comes the Sun” embodies Eastern philosophies. As you know, George Harrison and the rest of the band had made a pilgrimage to India and were allowing the teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi to wash over them. Harrison, more than the others, took the philosophical lessons he was learning to heart. The message of calmness and peace became integrated into the core of his being. Thus, when he suddenly found himself in times of trouble, it wasn’t Mother Mary who whispered words of wisdom, it was the teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi that he drew upon. So, as he left the business meetings and tension-filled recording sessions behind, he found himself at the home of his best friend, in a garden filled with sunshine, his mind filled with creative energy that expressed itself in the form of an optimistic song that simply states that the world is a beautiful place and that everything is going to be OK in the end. That’s it. That’s the central message of “Here Comes the Sun”. No matter how rough life may be, it will always turn out OK in the end if your heart is full.

As part of the negotiations that ensued between Harrison and the rest of his bandmates after he quit and left the band, George Harrison demanded that they move the recording sessions from a movie studio (where they were filming a movie as well as recording Let It Be) and return to Abbey Road Studios so they could work in a more music-centric environment. He also demanded that his ideas be given more weight and that he be allowed to contribute material that he had written. The end result was “Something” and “Here Comes the Sun”, the two strongest songs on the final album produced by the best band the world has ever seen. The sad thing about it all is that because The Beatles broke up so soon after Let It Be and Abbey Road were recorded, they never toured together to play these songs live. The only time The Beatles ever performed Harrison’s two musical gems was when they were recorded in-studio. The only time the songs were ever played live were when Harrison performed them as a solo artist or when they were covered and performed by other artists.

“Here Comes the Sun” rough sketch by George Harrison.

Of all of the songs in The Beatles musical canon, most people regard “Here Comes the Sun” as being the most positive, uplifting and life affirming of them all. The song is generally always included in any ranking of the best Beatles songs of all time. Not too shabby for a young man who just wanted everyone to keep making music and for his friends to just get along.

The link to the video for the song “Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles can be found here. ***The lyric version can be found here.

The link to the official website for The Beatles can be found here.

***As always, all original content found in this post remains the sole property of the author. No portion of this post may be reblogged, copied or shared in any manner without the express written consent of the author. ©2022 tommacinneswriter.com

Today’s Top 40: The Stories Behind Today’s Biggest Hits…Glastonbury Music Festival Edition: Part II.

In this edition of Today’s Top 40, I am going to wrap up our look at the recent Glastonbury Music Festival by introducing you to two young performers who stole the show there, as well as reacquainting you with two dear old friends who gave, arguably, the most memorable performance of the entire festival. Here we go! This is Glastonbury Part II!

I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend by Girl in Red. *Lyrics video is here.

Marie Ulven Ringheim of Girl in Red.

Girl in Red is a band from Norway that is fronted by a charismatic twenty-three year old woman named Marie Ulven Ringheim. Like many of this generation’s most popular acts, Girl in Red came to the attention of the public via performances on social media. In this case, Ringheim was given a guitar as a teenager and started writing her own songs and uploading them to the file sharing platform known as Soundcloud. It was while on Soundcloud that people first heard her song, “I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend”. This song captured the more inclusive mood of today’s youth by being unabashedly about Ringheim’s desire for a girl named Hannah. The song is a guitar driven bit of jangle pop and is a hoot to listen to. In 2017, Girl in Red was signed to a record contract and released their debut album called Chapter 1. Since then, the video for “I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend” has been streamed a quarter of a billion(!) times. Girl in Red was voted as Best New Act and “I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend” as Song of the Year in Norway in 2018.

Aside from the great initial success of this song, Girl in Red gave an outstanding live performance of “I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend” at Glastonbury that you just have to see. The video is seven minutes long. The first half is the type of standard stage show you would expect to see but then, at the halfway mark, Ringheim challenges the audience to perform a “wall of death”. They agree to try. What follows is an amazing example of the trust that exists between an artist and their fans when rock n’ roll is done properly. The second half of this performance is awesome! When you watch it you will see thousands of people having the time of their lives. It is truly something else! Definitely worth a few minutes of your time. And yes, the “wall of death” scene just goes to prove that COVID is over, right?! It’s really over, isn’t it? This crowd certainly thinks so. But we won’t think about that just yet. Simply enjoy this amazing performance and remember what it feels like to have fun on an epic scale such as this.

Seventeen Going Under by Sam Fender. *Lyrics video is here.

Sam Fender.

“Seventeen Going Under” is the title track from Sam Fender’s second album. Fender is a good example of not rushing to judgment on a person because of how they look. On the surface, Sam Fender is model handsome. Because of that, it is easy to view him as a beautiful boy who has been given the spotlight because of his looks more than because of any talent he might possess. However, to do so would be wrong and would cause you to miss out on a performer who has endured quite a lot already in his young life and whose songwriting has gained comparisons to a young Springsteen.

The song “Seventeen Going Under” is Fender’s autobiography. It tells the story of a life spent battling poverty, bullying, obesity and abuse. It does all of this in the guise of a guitar driven rocker that will have you cheering for Fender by the time he is through with you. The short strokes of his story are that Fender grew up in Northern England in poverty. His parents had an abusive marriage which, at times, involved the abuse finding its way to him. Fender was overweight as a child and was bullied because of it. The combination of abuse at school and at home caused Fender to mask his sadness and sorrow by becoming an extroverted class clown type. Eventually, Fender found music as an outlet for the emotions he was bottling up inside. As well, one of his uncles began teaching him self defense as a teenager. The discipline needed to be successful in that endeavour helped to tone his body. However, just as life was beginning to look up for him as a teenage boy, his mother was stricken with health problems and Fender felt as though the responsibility for caring for his family was falling on his shoulders. So, at age seventeen, he felt he was falling under the weight of his burdens and so he wrote the song, “Seventeen Going Under”.

This song has achieved widespread acclaim. Sam Fender has been declared Best New Artist in the UK and “Seventeen Going Under” was proclaimed the winner of the Ivor Novello Award as Best Song in this very year of 2022. When you watch the live performance, you can see that the audience is definitely on Fender’s side as they sing along from the very first notes. It has to be gratifying to have come from where he has and then to receive the type of reception he got at Glastonbury. When it comes to watching the video, I suggest that you watch the lyrics video first. That video is less visually distracting which will allow you to focus on the words he is singing and the story that he is telling. The comparisons to Springsteen are not a stretch by any means. This young man actually has some writing chops. The more I learn of him the more I wonder if his career will mirror that of another model handsome young man named George Michael. Time will tell, I suppose. But, for now, allow me to introduce you to a great, well written song and a wonderfully-positive live performance as well. Enjoy both.

Imagine! All these years later, Paul McCartney and John Lennon share the same stage again.

I’ve Got a Feeling by Paul McCartney and “John Lennon”. *Lyrics version can be found here.

When it was first announced that 80 year old Paul McCartney would be the closing act at Glastonbury, many thought that this was a mistake. Music festivals such as Glastonbury tend to be energy-fuelled affairs that often showcase the music of up and coming acts. While big name acts appear on the bill, too, those acts tended to still be ones that were actively recording and releasing new material such as Foo Fighters, who headlined Glastonbury just before the pandemic shut everything down. So when Paul McCatrney was announced as the headliner, many thought his show would be slow paced and pedestrian and that it would be a set filled with old music from a bygone era.

So, imagine everyone’s surprise when this 80 year old man absolutely killed it for over two solid hours! McCartney’s set was helped by special appearances by Bruce Springsteen and Dave Grohl (who was making his first public appearance since the death of friend and drummer, Taylor Hawkins a few months ago). However, the biggest surprise was McCartney himself. His voice was strong and his stamina solid. He played like he always had and sounded fresh and vibrant as ever. It seemed as though he was having fun. Consequently, the audience was given a glimpse at the charismatic presence of a man who helped change the way the world listens to music.

One of the best parts about moments such as McCartney’s performance is that the lessons of history need not be dull. The Glastonbury Music Festival is, above all else, a vehicle for showcasing the best of British music. What better venue than this for introducing modern audiences to the generational talent that is Paul McCartney and The Beatles?! Thus, it was with much poignancy that Sir Paul launched into the song “I’ve Got a Feeling” toward the end of his set. You may remember that this song was one of the final songs The Beatles ever recorded together. As their time together was ending and they were all going their separate ways, the members of The Beatles managed to record a few final songs. One of them was “I’ve Got a Feeling”. That song was one of the songs they were able to perform at the famous rooftop concert at Abbey Road studios that marked the end of their live performing days as a band. So, there was a lot of history at play when Paul McCartney started to sing this song on the Glastonbury stage. About two thirds of the way through the song, McCartney was joined by a special guest who served to bring the history lesson home. That special guest was long time songwriting partner and friend, John Lennon….well, sort of! History came to life on that stage and an entirely new generation of British music fans got to bear witness to something extremely special that served as a foundation for all of the new music they had heard at the festival up until that point. It is not an understatement to say that it was a magical moment and one that will be remembered for a long time. I guess that it just goes to prove the point that just because someone or something is old doesn’t mean it still can’t rock one’s world. Please click on the link above and watch a genius work his magic once again.

That closes out my coverage of the 2022 Glastonbury Music Festival. *(You can read Part I here). I hope that you have enjoyed reading about and watching some of the amazingly talented performers who graced the various stages at this festival. It was so nice to see live music again. If you want to get a glimpse of a far larger group of artists and bands who performed at Glastonbury, you can access their performances by clicking on the BBC Music link here. Thank you all for reading and listening. Have a wonderful day.

***As always, all original content in this post remains the sole property of the author. No portion of this blog post may be reblogged, copied or shared in any manner without the express written consent of the author. ©2022 tommacinneswriter.com

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #104: Across the Universe by The Beatles (+) as covered by Aurora.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #104: Across the Universe by The Beatles (covered by Aurora, too).

One of the greatest pleasures that I am deriving from doing this countdown is getting the opportunity to do a deeper dive into some of the music of groups that I have always loved but never really explored in depth before. This includes finding songs like, “Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)” by The Rolling Stones the other day and now, finding “Across the Universe” by The Beatles. I believe that this is truly their loveliest song. It is like a lullaby for adults. It was written by John Lennon and it reads like poetry set to music; all delicate and whispery and unlike almost anything else in their vast catalogue of brilliant music. The funny thing about this….at least for me….is that I came across this song by accident. I wasn’t listening to Beatles music when I discovered it. Instead, I found it by way of a YouTube algorithm which suggested one of those, “If you like Song “A” then, you might like this song, too”-type of suggestions that pop up all of the time. The song they suggested was a cover of “Across the Universe” by Norwegian pixie, Aurora. Her version is really ethereal and, from what I have learned about the song from Lennon, himself, I believe that she has recorded the definitive version of this song. In any case, Aurora’s cover led me to John Lennon and then, to the story of “Across the Universe”, which I shall share with you now.

As you may know from our posts on The Beatles, most of their songs were written by Paul McCartney or John Lennon. In the beginning, the two lads would often sit and write together. But, as time went on, they began to write separately. When it came to this, the process would be that they would write alone at home and then, return the next day and present their song choice to the rest of the band who, at that point, would accept or reject the song. If accepted, the band would workshop the song until they felt it was ready to be recorded. In the process of recording the song, the magic would happen and these songs would be fleshed out into the wondrous final form that most of their songs ended up taking. Unfortunately, when The Beatles assembled to work on songs for the “Let It Be” album (which ended up being the final time their recorded together, as the songs for their final album, “Abbey Road” were cobbled together from the “Let It Be” sessions), the writing process was beginning to break down for the band. John was pulling away from the group. He was showing up later and later in the day to work on the album. In the void that John’s absence formed, Paul McCartney began taking more control of the sessions. This meant that his songs got more practise time given to them and, as a result, they became more polished and album-ready. With the rest of the band becoming fatigued from working so much on Paul’s songs, they had little energy to give any songs by John their due. One of the songs that John felt got short changed was, “Across the Universe”.

As lovely and quaint as “Across the Universe” is, it is really a song that was born out of sadness and loss. John wrote the song as his marriage to his first wife, Cynthia, was ending. The story is that they were arguing one night at bed time and John was tired of the sound of her voice so he tried tuning her words out as she spoke. However, instead of reacting with anger, as many spouses do when a marriage is ending, John turned to the lessons he had learned from his experiences in India with Transcendental Meditation so, he turned his thoughts toward peacefulness and harmony. As a result, his feelings toward his ex-wife’s voice manifested itself in the form of a poem which ended up forming the lyrics to “All Across the Universe”. John is quoted as claiming that “Across the Universe” is the finest song he has ever written (and, when you hear/read the lyrics, you will agree that they are very different from much of what Lennon wrote throughout his tenure with The Beatles).

So, John Lennon brought his new song to the band to be workshopped for “Let It Be”, only to find the band engrossed in Paul’s songs, instead. “Across the Universe” was only ever given cursory treatment by the band and, in the end, the song was given to the World Wildlife Federation (the original WWF of the world) for use in a charity album they were putting together. That version ended up having bird chirps added to it. The version of the song that The Beatles used always dissatisfied Lennon. He claimed it was symbolic of all that was going wrong with the band and he blamed Paul McCartney for sabotaging his song. In the end, after The Beatles broke up, Lennon asked the infamous producer, Phil Spector to work on the song. Spector added a symphony and a backing choir, which pleased Lennon. “Across the Universe” ended up being added on to the “Abbey Road” album but never turned out to be the song John Lennon had hoped it would be for the band.

In the decades that have followed the breaking up of The Beatles, many artists and bands have covered their songs. Thus, there is a whole category of music you can search for on the Internet that will organize these covers all into one place for easy access. For me, as I mentioned earlier, it was YouTube that brought me to this song because of their recommendation to try the cover of “Across the Universe” by Norwegian singer, Aurora. So, I listened to it out of curiosity and I am glad that I did. For my money, her version of the song must have been what John Lennon heard in his head when he first thought of those lyrics. Aurora has a soft, almost child-like voice. She reminds me of Bjork, in a way. She was born in Norway and grew up near a fjord that, she states, caused her to believe she was growing up as a child in Narnia. She has been singing professionally since she was sixteen, when she had a hit called “Runaway“. I thought she was Irish when I first heard her accent but, she is Norwegian (and a lovely, talented, eclectic soul, as you will soon see). Her version of “Across the Universe” is crisply sung; the notes seem to hang in the frosty air like ice crystals. I could almost hear the peaceful vibe Lennon was searching for, coming through in the softness of her song styling. In any case, I believe that her softer touch is more appropriate for the song than is John Lennon’s raspier voice singing those same words. As Dylan felt with Hendrix and “All Along the Watch Tower” and as Pete Seeger felt about The Byrds with “Turn, Turn, Turn”, sometimes, the cover becomes the definitive take on a song that was already good on its own. Is that the case with Aurora’s cover? I will leave that up to you to decide. You know that, for me, it is the best version, according to my tastes.

For now, let’s have ourselves a listen to a song that stands out as being more poetic than most when it comes to The Beatles catalogue. Here is John Lennon and the lyric version of “Across the Universe”, followed by Aurora, with her cover. Enjoy them both.

The link to the video for the song, “All Across the Universe” by The Beatles, can be found here.

The link to the official website for The Beatles, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “All Across the Universe”, as covered by Aurora, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Aurora, can be found here.

Thanks, as always, to KEXP, for supporting musical Titans, such as The Beatles while, at the same time, promoting rising stars such as Aurora. The link to their wonderful website can be found here.

KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #1: Abbey Road Medley by The Beatles.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #1: Abbey Road Medley by The Beatles.

It feels very much like the last day of school. For thirty years, I had the absolute pleasure of being a classroom teacher and of spending a year of my life surrounded by tiny humans, all members of an extended family, affectionately known as “my kids”. Every year was special and every year was different and yet, every year was the same because our time together always ended on the last day of school. This day feels like those days. Our journey has come to an end and it has done so after fourteen months together. Fourteen months of celebrating the very best music, in multiple genres, from multiple eras. I wouldn’t have wanted to have spent these past fourteen months in the company of any other humans than all of you. But, like all things in life, everything comes to an end eventually. And so, our musical countdown list must come to an end, too. It does so with a suite of songs that have come to be called, “The Abbey Road Medley” by The Beatles. I will talk a bit more about these songs and why they were chosen, in a moment. But first, let’s talk about the nature of “Best of-” titles and why that doesn’t really apply to songs.

If we were all being honest, we’d know that there is no such thing as one perfect song. If this countdown has proven anything, it is that there is a vast wealth of incredible music out there and, more importantly, that music means different things to each of us. You have to look no further than to our Honourable Mention songs…which came from all of you and which held meaning for all of you…..to recognize the diversity of important music out there in the world. From that small list of 24 songs, we had Punk music, Pop ballads, a song from WWII, a Blues song, several classic rock songs, a Folk song and on and on it goes. Who am I to select one song from amid such a smorgasbord and proclaim that as being the “real” best song. All throughout this countdown, my goal was inclusionary, not exclusionary. The most important music in the world is that which makes your heart happy. There is no one anywhere that should ever tell you that what makes your heart happy has less value than something else. Who cares?! Enjoy what makes you smile. Life is too short to do otherwise.

So, if there is no definitive “Best of-” song, how did I go about choosing how to end this project? Well, let me tell ya…..it wasn’t easy. However, as soon as I came to understand the story behind the Abbey Road Medley, I immediately knew it was the right choice for me. I knew it in the same way that I knew my wife, Keri, was the right one for me when we first met. Sometimes, everything just all falls into place and you just know……ya know? So, here is why I changed my #1 choice from “Imagine” by John Lennon to the “Abbey Road Medley” with over 200 songs still to go in this countdown.

Several times over the course of this countdown, I have mentioned the TV documentary about The Beatles that aired on the Disney Channel, called, “Get Back”. Watching that documentary was a transformative experience for me. First of all, coming into it, I knew of The Beatles as much as one could, I suppose. I knew their discography. I knew the basic timeline of their career. I knew the biographies of the main players and so on. But, up until “Get Back” aired, The Beatles were always two-dimensional figures in my mind. But, the documentary changed that for me. One of the great pleasures I had watching it was that it unfolded over the course of four or five weeks of real time. Thus, we were all given the luxury of watching things unfold slowly. We live in an age of instant gratification so, to suddenly be able to watch a creative process at play that was not working magically and that was, in fact, strained and floundering, at times, and that had to keep going, regardless….well, that was incredible to watch. As I watched it all unfold, the members of The Beatles all became humanized. They turned into real people who were, by turns, bored, frustrated, relaxed and sipping tea and so on. There were glimpses of the magic that had always been there, as well as, the joy of the camaraderie that they always shared (especially when they played together on the rooftop). All four members also had lives that existed beyond the studio walls; factors that seemingly accelerated the demise of the band and served as distractions while the recording process was going on.

But, as I watched it all, I couldn’t help but reflect on my own experiences as a classroom teacher. Watching The Beatles in studio was exactly like watching the kids in my class: how they interacted with each other, were distracted by events in their own lives and how they enjoyed the magic that happens, every once and awhile, when it all comes together and good work is done by all and everyone feels great. In a classroom, given the luxury of time over the course of an entire school year, you build routines and expose the students to skill-building opportunities every day; day after day, until growth occurs. The same process took place with The Beatles on screen. They went round and round on some of those songs. For awhile, I thought to myself if I heard fragments of “Get Back” one more time, I was going to scream. But, that is how the creative process works. It is work. It doesn’t come out in finished form, all at once, very often. And it didn’t for The Beatles then, either. The grand experiment that was their band was coming to an end in front of our eyes. It was beautiful to see those happy moments, when they occurred but, the magnitude of the loss that was coming was more emotional than I was prepared for. I saw it most in Ringo’s puppy dog eyes that seemed to mirror his heart which beat for a shared past that was slipping away.

When the “Let It Be” album was finished (that was what The Beatles were working on in the documentary, by the way), the band went their separate ways and that appeared to be it. However, from those recording sessions, there were scraps and fragments of several other songs that were laying around and in need of attention. So, despite all of the acrimony, the band reassembled one last time…..to “play like we used to”, as Paul said. That last time together….when was spread over several weeks, was their last time together as a band and out of those sessions came the “Abbey Road” album. “Abbey Road” is known for George Harrison’s break out songs, “Something” and “Here Comes The Sun”. The album, also featured the songs, “Come Together”, “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” and Ringo’s contribution, “Octopus’ Garden”. But, “Abbey Road” is, also, known for how it closes on Side #2. On that side of the album, there exists a seven-song medley that is simply known as the “Abbey Road Medley” or “The Long One”, as it was nicknamed during the recording process. What is noteworthy about this medley is how seven song fragments were able to be lovingly stitched together to form a musical tapestry, of sorts. The songs in the medley are: “You Never Give Me Your Money”…..which was about manager Allan Klein, “Sun King”, “Mean Mr. Mustard”, Polythene Pam”, “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window”, “Golden Slumbers”, “Carry That Weight”, “The End”….which contains one of the most iconic lyric lines in the entire Beatles canon and then, a gap of twenty seconds, followed by “Her Majesty”, which was a song cut out of the middle of the medley and then saved and re-inserted as a “hidden track” at the very end.

This “Abbey Road Medley” has been described as a “Hymn to Love”. Ringo Starr is on record as stating that he felt it was a masterpiece and the best thing they had ever done. What the Medley really is, is a snapshot of those things that the band held dear. It is about compassion and empathy and sharing but, most of all, it is about Love and Brotherhood. If you exclude the “Hidden track”….”Her Majesty” for a moment….the Medley ends with a snippet of music called, appropriately enough, “The End”. That song fragment contains the line that comes from my heart to all of yours…….”In the end, the Love you take is equal to the Love you make“.

Those were the final words of the final song that The Beatles ever recorded and released. When I heard those words and, the story behind them, I knew I had found the closer to this countdown. If the “Abbey Road Medley” is good enough to speak for The Beatles then, it is good enough to speak for me, too.

In the video for this song, you will see the shorter, abridged version of the Medley. It is from a concert put on my George Martin and Paul McCartney a few years ago. One of the things that makes the “Abbey Road Medley” a bit magical is that, despite their differences, John, Paul and George still concluded their career together in a show of solidarity. As the Medley progresses, there are sections where all three members trade off guitar solos. So, in the video, watch for this. George and John are dead and gone by the time this concert was held so, in their places are the Devil incarnate, himself, Eric Clapton, standing in for his friend, George Harrison….along with, Mark Knopfler, from Dire Straits, standing in for John…Phil Collins sits in for Ringo. The entire Medley is glorious and joy-filled and wonderful to watch. It fills me up. I trust it will for you, too.

And when it ends and the applause dies down……our musical countdown journey ends, too. As all things in life do. This is it. Just like on the final day of school, when that bell rings at the end of that day and the kids all head for the door that one last time, a chapter in all of our lives closes. So, as I type these last few words, know that I am grateful for having spent this time with each of you. It has been very satisfying to share this celebration of music together and being able to watch you grow. Now off into the sunshine you go. It is time.

The link to the video for the song, “Abbey Road Medley” by The Beatles, can be found here.

The link to the official website for The Beatles, can be found here.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #113: Hard Day’s Night by The Beatles.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #113: A Hard Day’s Night by The Beatles.

The song, “A Hard Day’s Night” comes from a Beatles movie of the same name that was released the year I was born in 1964. There is much about this, seemingly simple song, that helps illustrate the musical skills and creative mindset that elevated The Beatles from their peers and helped make them the greatest band of all-time.

Julian Lennon’s birthday card. “Hard Day’s Night” lyrics on back cover.

For instance, as we have discussed previously, The Beatles (along with The Rolling Stones) were the first band to take creative control of their music by singing songs that they actually wrote. John Lennon wrote the lyrics to “A Hard Day’s Night” in a taxi cab, on the back of his son, Julian’s birthday card, on the way to the studio. Lennon had been tasked with writing the final song for the soundtrack and was given one night to do it. So, the legend goes, Lennon rolled into the studio, picked up his guitar, laid out the birthday card before him and launched into the song. The rest of the band fleshed out their own, individual roles and then, they all recorded the song in one day; using the ninth of ten takes, I believe.

What made The Beatles so special was not just that they could whip up a hit song in twenty-four hours. It was that they could do so and still incorporate such amazingly detailed touches that most bands wouldn’t think of if they had twenty-four days to come up with them. A case in point is the opening guitar chord. If you know the song, you know it opens with one, crisp guitar chord and then, the rest of the song begins. Well, apparently, that opening chord has gone on to be studied for its meticulous construction and sound techniques. To my untrained ears, it sounds like one person strumming a guitar. The lead guitarist happened to be George Harrison, who used a twelve-string Rickenbacker guitar for “A Hard Day’s Night” *(Which, when heard a year or so later by Roger McGuinn of The Byrds, became the inspiration for him to use a Rickenbacker guitar for “Turn, Turn, Turn.) Anyway, it was not one person (Harrison) strumming a guitar that starts “A Hard Day’s Night”. In fact, it is five people hitting various chords on various instruments simultaneously: Harrison, on the Rickenbacker guitar, John and Paul on acoustic guitars, Ringo on his drums and producer, George Martin, on the piano. Because of the nature of the chords each struck, the sounds wrapped around each other to make a fuller sound that appears to vibrate. In fact, I read that Paul positioned himself in such a way that the vibrations from his acoustic guitar entered the sound box of John Lennon’s acoustic guitar, causing Lennon’s notes to vibrate differently than they would have on their own. If I was talented enough to play guitar, my opening chord would sound like a meat-and-potatoes version compared to the chef’s banquet of sounds created by The Beatles on that one opening chord.

The phrase “A Hard Day’s Night” has been credited to Ringo who, according to the boys in the band, was known for speaking in Lewis Carroll-esque malapropisms, which are mixed up sayings and phrasings. In this case, after a recording session that had started during the day and gone on until well into the night, Ringo had lost track of what time of day it was and announced that it had been “a hard day’s night”. The band thought that sounded like a good title for their first movie which, until that time, was going to be called, “Beatlemania”. It is, also, noteworthy that “A Hard Day’s Night” was The Beatles first foray into movies and that the film ended up winning an Academy Award that year for best original song. It, also, shows their ability to be forward-thinkers because their movie signalled a broader, multi-pronged approach to marketing themselves and their music. The Beatles were never content to “just be singers”; they produced many movies, books, magazines, comics, documentaries and so on, making them one of the first true multi-media organizations in the UK and around the world.

In any case, “A Hard Day’s Night”, has gone on to become one of the classic Beatles songs. It was regularly played in their live shows and always finds its way on to all of the various Greatest Hits albums and playlists that abound these days. So, without further delay, here is “A Hard Day’s Night” by The Beatles; released in 1964, just like me. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Hard Day’s Night” by The Beatles, can be found here.

The link to the video for the movie trailer for the film, “Hard Day’s Night”, can be found here.

The link to the official website for The Beatles, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #123: Bittersweet Symphony by The Verve…Part #2.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #123: Bittersweet Symphony by The Verve.

Part #2.

The story of what happened to The Verve in 1997 actually begins waaaay back in 1955 with a movie called, “Marty” which won four Academy Awards that year, including the Oscar for Best Picture. “Marty” starred actor Ernest Borgnine and was a great movie that deserved its’ Oscar win. However, the mere fact that this movie even survived the nomination process is the real story here. “Marty” was a very unique movie at the time because it was an independently-produced movie. Throughout the first half of the 20th century, movie making in Hollywood was strictly controlled by the motion picture studios in a way that has been called, “The Studio System”. At that time, actors held few rights. Their personal and professional lives were, essentially, the property of the studios that employed them. This form of indentured servitude gave rise to the creation of The Screen Actors Guild in the mid-1930s. Needless to say, the studio heads did not cotton to the actors forming a union; demanding health and safety regulations be followed and them getting a greater share of the profits from their films. It took awhile for the union to make inroads but, when “Marty” won the Best Picture Oscar, it was a moment that broke the Studio System wide open for good. Because of “Marty”, which was produced by Burt Lancaster, independent film-making became a more lucrative and viable way for actors to take control of their creative affairs.

So, what does this have to do with “Bittersweet Symphony”? Let me start to connect the dots for you.

On the legal team of the production company that Burt Lancaster headed during the filming of “Marty” was a young, bulldog of a lawyer called Allan Klein. In legal circles, Klein was known as a “predatory litigator”, meaning he was very aggressive and combative when it came to contract law, which was his specialty. Klein gained a reputation as being a fighter who wielded the threat of lawsuits as a weapon to get his foes to knuckle under to his demands. That Klein was involved in a movie that helped break open The Studio System and helped gain greater rights and profits for actors, would make it seem like he was a hero to those in the Labour Movement. But, as it turned out, that couldn’t have been further from the truth. The actual truth was that Allan Klein was possessed by dreams of great power and wealth. His campaign to break through the iron-fisted control being exercised by the movie studios had little to do with securing better working conditions for actors. Instead, his motivation was that he felt he would have an easier time getting his share of the profits from films if he negotiated contracts directly with the actors, instead of the legal teams employed by the studios. He felt that actors, being creative-types, probably had little knowledge of how contracts worked, what language to include in them and so on and, as such, they would be easy marks for his plans of being a rich and powerful broker in the entertainment business. So, Klein’s involvement in “Marty” was merely step #1 in a plan that had, as its foundation, unbridled personal greed.

As mentioned, “Marty” took place in 1955. That time period also coincided with the launch of Rock n’ Roll. Klein figured that if he could help break open the Studio System in Hollywood then, why not get in on the ground floor of this new music craze? So, because he had big dreams, Klein went after the biggest prize of the all at the time, “The Beatles”. *(Elvis already had his version of Klein, in the form of Col. Tom Parker so, Klein left Elvis alone). Just as Beatlemania was erupting in the UK, Klein approached Brian Epstein the manager of The Beatles and offered to buy him out and re-write the contract that the band had with EMI. Epstein was an honourable man and felt that a deal was something one kept and so, he turned Klein down. *(As it turned out, the deal Epstein had signed with EMI was one that served the interest of EMI far more than it did The Beatles for the early part of their career. This would become evident to the band as the sixties rolled on and would become one of the main factors behind their eventual breakup).

However, Epstein’s rejection of Klein did not deter him. Klein immediately went after the next biggest band on the market, “The Rolling Stones” and found a much more receptive audience there. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, along with The Beatles, were the first UK acts to write and record their own songs; thus breaking open the studio system that existed in the music business at the time. So, Jagger and Richards were already of the mindset that they should be as in control of their own affairs as possible. Klein sensed that this was his opening. He approached the boys and told them that their current contract was laughable but, if they followed his advice, he would get them the best contract in History….even bigger than The Beatles. Jagger and Richards decided that they liked Klein’s chutzpah and signed him as their new manager. As promised, he demanded Decca Records re-work the Stones contract and, as a result, the band members had access to more money and promotional support than they could have ever dreamed. Little did they realize that the contracts they were signing with Klein included clauses signing away their publishing rights to their entire song catalogue to a new company that Klein created for his own purposes. In essence, Klein created a money-laundering scheme that was funded by hit songs such as “Satisfaction”. While Jagger and Richards had access to more money than they ever had had before, they had no idea how much more money they should have had that, instead, was flowing into Klein’s coffers.

Even though The Rolling Stones and The Beatles were competitors, members of both bands were also friends. In particular, John Lennon and Keith Richards got on very well and often vacationed together. It was because of time spent with Richards than Lennon began to get a sense of how badly served The Beatles had been under Epstein’s leadership. So, when Brian Epstein died unexpectedly at age 32, Lennon and the rest of The Beatles decided to take control of their own affairs. They formed a company that ended up becoming Apple Corp., which included Abbey Road Studios. They began signing a roster of talent to produce songs for them, such as James Taylor. These new business pressures were one of the many reasons why The Beatles stopped touring and became a more studio-centric band in the second half of their career. The unfortunate thing was that they soon came to learn that their business skills were not as good as their musical skills were and, as such, they found themselves in over the heads.

At the time, Paul McCartney had begun dating Linda Eastman. Her father ran the Eastman-Kodak Company and was well-versed in running multi-million dollar entities. So, Paul approached the band and suggested Eastman become their financial officer and help manage their affairs. Unfortunately, that was seen as a power grab by the other members of the band. John Lennon, who was already thinking about leaving the band, began promoting Allan Klein in reply. *(In the Disney + documentary now airing, there are several scenes in which John can be seen arranging meetings with Klein, all the while the “Let It Be” album was being created). In the end, to make a long, complex story short, Lennon, Harrison and Ringo Starr all sided against Paul McCartney and entered into an agreement with Klein. This move caused Paul to officially leave the band, making him the villain for awhile because he was the one who “broke up” The Beatles. McCartney retained his future father-in-law to broker a dissolution agreement with the other members of the band. It was a messy affair, to say the least. On the other end of things, Klein now found himself managing the two biggest bands in the world at the very same time. His deal with The Beatles mirrored those he had with The Rolling Stones and just as quickly as the ink dried on those new contracts, Beatles revenue began flowing into numbered companies created by Klein.

Fast forward to the mid-1990s. As we have seen over the course of these posts, as the 1990s progressed, a new form of music creation took place called sampling. Sampling is when an artist uses a short snippet of another artist’s previously recorded vocal or instrumental track, in their own work. In the early days of sampling, it was a bit of the old Wild West out there, as musicians plundered the works of others with abandon. Eventually, sanity returned to the music business in the form of copyright lawsuits. Soon rules were enacted that allowed for sampling, provided that the musician requesting a sample paid for it in the form of money, a share of royalties or even, in some cases, simply crediting the original source of the sample. As long as the copyrght protection afforded the original artist was being honoured in some agreed-upon way, all was good and the music business moved forward.

So, when Richard Ashcroft and his producer decided to use a sample of violin music on “Bittersweet Symphony” they went through, what they thought, were the proper channels. As it turned out, the sampled piece was from an instrumental version of a Rolling Stones song, “The Last Time”. This song was from the time period that the band was signed with Decca Records so, Ashcroft reached out to Decca and obtained permission to use the sample in exchange for giving Jagger and Richards a songwriting share on “Bittersweet Symphony”. With that little bit of legal paperwork complete, Ashcroft recorded the song, released it to much acclaim and then, the trouble began. The trouble began in the form of a letter from Allan Klein claiming copyright infringement and threatening The Verve with a massive lawsuit that included pulling their album, “Urban Hymns” off of the sales racks completely. What had actually happened was that, as part of Klein’s original re-working of the Decca deal for The Rolling Stones, his numbered company also got a share of all publishing rights to the back catalogue of The Rolling Stones so, unbeknownst to Ashcroft, he had neglected to ask Klein for permission to use the sample. Klein had Ashcroft over a legal barrel and both sides knew it. An out-of-court settlement was reached that forced Ashcroft to relinquish all publishing rights to “Bittersweet Symphony” to Klein and, through Klein, to Jagger and Richards, as songwriters of “The Last Time”, from which the offending sample was taken. So, as “Bittersweet Symphony” climbed the charts and made millions of dollars in sales and was nominated for numerous awards, Ashcroft was excluded from all of it. And yet, it was expected that he and his band would happily perform their hit song everywhere. It must have been a horrible situation for a young band to find themselves in.

Well, in 2019, at the Ivor Novello Awards (for songwriting in the UK), Richard Ashcroft was given, what amounted to, a Lifetime Achievement Award. Just prior to the award show, representatives of his legal team approached Jagger and Richards directly and asked them to personally right the wrong that had befallen Ashcroft. Both men agreed to that request. The song was long since out of circulation so, they had already made as much money from it as they probably were going to anyway so, they ceded all publishing rights back to Ashcroft. At the Ivor Novello Awards, Ashcroft was able to announce that the rights to “Bittersweet Symphony” were his once more. There are still lawsuits in play that are aimed at helping Ashcroft recoup the income he lost from losing his song rights for all those years to Jagger and Richards, through Allan Klein. If there is ever an update to this situation, I will let you know.

For now, let this story be a cautionary tale about the dangers of copyright infringement but, more than that, let it serve as a reminder that the songs we love are Art, to a degree but, more than that, they are part of a big business machine that cares not one whit about creativity or the well-being of the artists who create the content that we call music. Whether it is iron-fisted studio heads, greedy money managers or today, streaming services that pay only pennies per download to artists, the fight for fairness for all content creators continues unabated. As Pete Townsend so aptly wrote, “Meet the new Boss, same as the old Boss“.

I will share two videos with you. The first is an interview with John Lennon, held after the band had realized how shady Allan Klein was. In this interview he acknowledges that Paul McCartney may have been right to have promoted Mr. Eastman and to have been wary of Klein. As well, the second video is an overview of what happened to The Verve. It is a good re-cap of all that I have written. As always….enjoy.

The link to the video of the interview with John Lennon about Allan Klein, can be found here.

The link to the video for the “Bittersweet Symphony” Overview saga, can be found here.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #6: Let It Be by The Beatles.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #6: Let It Be by The Beatles.

During the second half of their career, The Beatles went through some very distinct phases. They toured the US and decided that they had had enough of live performing, opting to focus, instead, on purely studio work. The four members, also, began dabbling in the mysticism of Eastern religions. Then, they began producing studio-only albums; the last of which was known as “The White Album”. At this point, with “Revolver”, “Sgt. Pepper” and “The White Album” under their belts, they decided that performing live was something that they wanted to experience again. So, they announced ambitious plans to record a new album called, “Get Back”, which referred to the process of “getting back” to the roots of their music and to performing live. As part of this “Get Back” process, The Beatles were going to allow a film to be shot and then, released as a movie. They were, also, going to perform a live concert of new material. Well, at least, that was the plan. But, as the old saying goes, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. Whether The Beatles realized it or not, they were already well on the way to breaking up, even before work on “Get Back” ever began. In the end, the optimism of “Get Back” morphed into the resignation of “Let It Be”, which is what that final group album ended up being called. For, as beautiful a song as “Let It Be” is, it is, also, a song that signifies the end of a musical union unlike any the world has ever seen. Here is the story of “Let It Be”.

After the death of their first manager, Brian Epstein, a leadership vacuum, of sorts, took hold of the band. Paul McCartney and John Lennon ended up drifting to opposing sides, with George Harrison and Ringo Starr stuck the middle; eventually siding with John, against Paul. There were a whole host of reasons for the 3-1 split but, all that really matters is that when the end officially came, it was Paul who was the one who announced that he was leaving and that The Beatles were no more. So, throughout the whole of the “Get Back” recording sessions, there was an underlying tension that existed. Paul felt it and, according to the legend, went home one night and fell into a fitful sleep. Anxious and upset, he dreamt that he met his mother (who had died when he was a teen). In this dream, she came to him and “whispered words of wisdom…..let it be”. Paul took the dream literally and awoke with much of the lyrical content for the song, “Let It Be” already in his head. When he went to the recording studio the next day, he played the song for the rest of the band. That they agreed to work on it showed that they felt the song possessed musical merit but, at the same time, it was a song that was written and arranged almost entirely by Paul and, as such, they recognized it was more of a “Paul song” than a “Beatles song”. In the TV documentary about this exact time in the life of the band, it is very clear than Paul is pre-occupied with the song and is working on it with every spare moment he has, much to the growing frustration of the other three members as time goes on. In fact, it was during this process, when George Harrison tried to offer a suggestion for his guitar part and is rebuffed completely by Paul, that George walked out on the band and announced that he had quit.

Eventually, George was talked into rejoining the band but does so under the strictest of terms….that there will be no live concert and that all recording time be spent back at Abbey Road Studios, away from the movie location they were filming at. As well, he asks to be taken more seriously by the band and, especially, by Paul McCartney. Meanwhile, while this drama is all unfolding, John Lennon has reached out to two notorious musical figures, Manager Allan Klein and producer, Phil Spector, for help wrapping up this final album. In doing so, John takes The Beatles down a path that alienates them from long-time producer, George Martin, as well as, recording engineer, Glyn Johns, who had worked so hard for so long on many Beatles albums. But, John Lennon had already turned over the master tapes to Spector who, in turn, employed his “Wall of Sound” techniques to place emphasis, not on the delicate, introspective portions of songs such as “Let It Be” but, instead, on the guitar solos and by adding lush string arrangements.

For me, I have always loved the way “Let It Be” sounds. I like the gentle piano notes that open the song and the lone voice of Paul McCartney, singing of being lost and finding comfort in the idea of forgiveness. To my way of thinking, “Let It Be” is not a song that requires elaborate orchestration although, having said that, I do like the way it soars at the end, starting with Harrison’s guitar solo. As it turned out, “Let It Be” was the final #1 hit that The Beatles ever had. It was not a religious song, as many had assumed but, it has brought comfort to thousands of listeners over the years who listened to it and found a sense of peacefulness and calm that was helpful to them in their lives. As much as “Let It Be” signified the end of The Beatles, Paul McCartney still is proud of this song and is happy that so many people liked it, too.

There is a wealth of trivia associated with this song.

  • For example, The Beatles were the first band to perform a live concert at Shea Stadium in New York City. A few years ago, when Shea Stadium was being replaced, Paul McCartney performed the last concert in stadium history…..the closing song was “Let It Be”.
  • When Paul McCartney appeared on the very popular show, “Carpool Karaoke” with comedian James Corden, he took Corden on a tour of famous Beatles landmarks such as Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields. At one point, McCartney told Corden about how the inspiration for “Let It Be” came to him in a dream. Corden replied that, as a child, his Grandfather took him aside one day and told him to get ready for the most beautiful song of all-time and then, proceeded to play “Let It Be” for him. Corden went on to say that his Grandfather would find it remarkable that, all these years later, his Grandson would be driving around Liverpool with the man who wrote his favourite song. Corden ended his remarks by starting to cry, as he said, he wished his grandfather was still here. McCartney smiled and simply said, “He is”.
  • John Lennon disliked “Let It Be” so much, for so many reasons, that he insisted the song, “Maggie Mae”, which was about a prostitute, be the song that came immediately after “Let It Be” on the album track listing. In a 1980 interview, Lennon dismissed the song as something Paul could have just as easily put out with his new band, “Wings”. Lennon thought the song was maudlin and emotionally cloying.
  • McCartney, in turn, never liked the production work done to his song by Phil Spector. So, several decades later, he re-produced the entire “Let It Be” album, removing much of Spector’s over-the-top production flourishes. McCartney called the new album, “Let It Be: Naked”.
  • During the recording process that was filmed for the “Get Back” documentary, one of the factors that really helped George Harrison feel comfortable enough to return to band after his two-week walk out was the arrival of keyboardist Billy Preston. Preston was endlessly enthusiastic and added a whole new wrinkle to the chemistry of the band because of his funky keyboarding skills. There was talk that if The Beatles had survived and gone on to record new albums that Preston was gong to be invited to officially become a member of the band.
  • During the recording process, The Beatles worked on snippets of dozens of songs. Most went on the album that ended up being released as “Let It Be”. That album was the final one that The Beatles actively recorded together. But, it was not their final album. There were enough takes of other tracks to enable Glyn Johns and George Martin to put together a final, “final” album which ended up being called, “Abbey Road”. Ignoring some of the Greatest Hits albums released during the 1980s, “Abbey Road” is considered to be the final Beatles album.
  • Finally, and here is the big shocker…….The Beatles were NOT the first to release the song, “Let It Be”. Believe it or not, Aretha Franklin, of all people, was the first to release “Let It Be”. In those days, it was still common for other artists to record covers of songs that were hits for the original artist. Well, Paul McCartney had come to know Aretha and her band and had sent them a copy of the “Let It Be” master tape for her to use for her cover version. As was customary at the time, Aretha agreed to record the song and release it at a date a few months in the future so as to allow the original artist their full share of the spotlight when they released their own song. However, the in-fighting that went on over who was to mix and release the final copy of the album……Phil Spector or George Martin/Glyn Johns…..caused a long delay in the final release of the album, “Let It Be”. So, by the time those issues had been resolved, Aretha Franklin’s version had already come out on its pre-scheduled date. So, technically, she was the first to chart with “Let It Be”. Do with that piece of trivia, what you will.

As mentioned above, I have always really liked “Let It Be”. It is a song that makes me feel at peace with the world when I hear it. That this song is, also, a eulogy for the greatest band in the world is something that is, also, undeniable. There are some who believe that there is “beauty in pain” and who use this song as their proof. It is a proof that is difficult to repudiate. In a career that began with the youthful optimism of songs like, “Love Me Do” and “Please, Please Me”, “Let It Be” bookends the career of The Beatles with a sense of resignation but, as well, with closure and acceptance. “Let It Be” may be a song about loss but, there is no reason that sentiment couldn’t be addressed with beauty and wisdom, as it was.

So, without further delay, here are The Beatles, with their final #1 song of their illustrious career, “Let It Be”. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Let It Be” by The Beatles, can be found here.

The link to the trailer for the documentary, “Get Back”, can be found here.

The link to the official website for The Beatles, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #14: Hey Jude by The Beatles.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #14: Hey Jude by The Beatles.

Change is one of the most inevitable aspects of Life. It can be the catalyst to new opportunities but, it can, also, break your heart when things that have brought so much happiness and pleasure run their course. Despite the massive success enjoyed by the members of The Beatles, change became a factor in their personal and professional lives, just as it has for so many of us ordinary folk, too. Up until 1966, The Beatles could do very little wrong. The four MopTops were on top of the world, musically, and were very happy, personally. After their final US Tour (the one where John Lennon stated that The Beatles were “bigger than Jesus”), change came to the band, whether they were ready for it or not.

For starters, they decided to stop touring and devote their creative energy to being a studio band and to exploring some of the new advances in technology that were becoming available. Secondly, they began to explore the world of Eastern Mysticism; travelling to India to study Transcendental Meditation and other aspects of that philosophy. Finally, as humans, their family relationships began to change as well.

For John Lennon, his marriage to his first wife, Cynthia, was coming to an end because of his involvement with a new woman named Yoko Ono. John had one child with Cynthia; a boy named Julian. Up until 1966 and the end of the US tour, Cynthia and Julian were members of The Beatles family and, as such, they were always dropping in and out of recording studios during the early days of the band’s great successes. Paul McCartney had dated a girl named Jane Astor throughout all of those early days, as well. But, like his songwriting partner, Lennon, Paul McCartney now had eyes for someone else; a woman named Linda Eastman, heiress to the Eastman-Kodak fortune. So, something that had helped to ground the young boys in The Beatles……a stable family life…..had now evolved into something new and different. The impact on this change cannot be understated; not because either woman was negative or devious but, simply, because a change in direction had come into the lives of those men responsible for creating most of the music that changed how we listen to and appreciate music.

Initially, the changes that The Beatles were going through invigorated them. “Revolver”, “The White Album” and “Sgt. Pepper” were all still to come, along with “Let It Be” and Abbey Road” toward the end. As well, The Beatles, now that they were London-bound and no longer touring, turned more of their attention to the business of being The Beatles. This was the time that they formed Apple Music. But, as much as things were humming creatively and business-wise, there is often a wistfulness and a reflectfulness that comes with change. So, as the band took their first new steps with Ono and Eastman as part of the scene, the absence of those left behind was felt. In particular, Paul McCartney felt badly for Cynthia Lennon and her son, Julian. While he wasn’t angry at John Lennon for entering into his relationship with Yoko Ono, he had actually liked Cynthia and had taken a shine to Julian. In fact, Julian often says that, growing up, he played more with “Uncle Paul” than he ever did with his own Dad. So, with these emotions running through his mind, Paul decided to take advantage of a break in their rehearsal schedules and travel to touch base with Cynthia and Julian to let them know that he still cared and would be there for them if they needed him to be. As Paul drove along, he thought about what he wanted to say to a young Julian, who was still just a child at the time. The words that came to mind, as they often did for McCartney, did so in the form of a song.

Originally, the opening line read, “Hey, Jules!” but, after concluding his visit, McCartney returned home and began earnestly writing out the lyrics in his head and decided that “Jude” flowed better than “Jules”. The opening verse is all about Paul’s attempt to give counsel to a young child about how he should react whenever his father brought Yoko Ono around, as he surely would. In many divorce situations where there are children involved, the kids often become collateral damage as the adults fight among themselves and often use the child as a weapon to hurt each other or else, they forget about the child in all of their anger and their pain. McCartney tried his best to soften the blow for Julian Lennon and to take away some of the awkwardness that would naturally be there for him from that point onward.

But, a funny thing happened on the way to McCartney’s “letter to Jules” becoming a song. First of all, because Julian was just a boy and because McCartney changed the name “Jules” to “Jude”, Julian Lennon grew up not knowing that the song was written for him. He didn’t realize this until he was in his twenties and was having a chance conversation with “Uncle Paul” one day and it came up. At the time that Paul first brought the song to the band to see what they thought, John Lennon honestly thought the song was about him. The middle verses that encouraged Julian to “go and get her” were taken by John Lennon as meaning he was receiving Paul’s blessing for his new relationship and, as such, he was delighted with the new song. However, because Paul McCartney was so enthralled with his song, he became oblivious to the feelings and opinions of others; especially, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. In fact, McCartney’s criticisms of Ringo’s drumming caused Ringo to actually leave the band for over two weeks in protest. McCartney’s unwillingness to accept any suggestions for the guitar parts of the song from Harrison, saw George spend a majority of the recording session isolated in the recording booth, of his own volition.

***When I watched the “Get back” Beatles documentary on Disney + a while back, McCartney’s disregard for Harrison was plainly evident. It didn’t seem so much that McCartney doubted Harrison’s ability to play the guitar well. It was more a case of Paul not allowing George Harrison to have any creative input into any of his songs and simply expecting him to blindly follow instructions. John Lennon, on the other hand, was happy to allow Harrison some input. Whether Paul McCartney realized it or not, a schism was forming within the band between him and the other three members. It was the start of a split that would end up having massive ramifications for them all because it was how Allen Klein ended up weaselling his way into their business dealings, as well as, how the craft of writing their music changed as well.

“Hey Jude” ended up being the very first song released under the Apple Music label. It was famous for the lengthy fade-out that says “Na-na-na-nana-na-na…..nana-na-na….Hey Jude!” for several minutes. The song topped out at 7:01 because McCartney wanted to beat the record for longest single which, at the time, went to “MacArthur Park” by Richard Harris, a song that was exactly seven minutes long. “Hey Jude” was filmed for inclusion on the David Frost TV show on the BBC which was the first time that The Beatles had played before, and with, a live audience since their US Tour had ended. The publicity gained from appearing on the David Frost show vaulted “Hey Jude” into the top spot on the charts, where it stayed for several weeks.

Just as much change was ongoing behind the scenes with the band, there was much change ongoing throughout the world when “Hey Jude” was released, too. The Vietnam War was raging, as were counter protests against it. John Lennon’s song, “Revolution” had been released just prior to “Hey Jude” and was not well-received. *(You can read a post about that song, here). So, when “Hey Jude” followed “Revolution”, it was viewed as holding the view that Love and Acceptance were an answer to the upheaval that so plagued the world and as such, “Hey Jude” was more well-received which, in turn, fuelled McCartney’s opinion that his way of producing songs was the proper way to go which, in turn, further alienated the other members of the band, who were growing tired of McCartney’s bossy ways.

However, the most important element of the story behind “Hey Jude” was that it was a song crafted out of love and concern for two people Paul McCartney cared for and worried were being left behind as The Beatles moved forward. Both Cynthia Lennon and Julian Lennon maintain that the song meant a lot to them and that each time they heard it played, they felt it in their hearts. So, as much as change seems to be an inevitable part of all of our lives, it doesn’t have to happen at the expense of human decency and compassion for those being affected the most by that change. So, as much as this song was a tough one for the band to get through, it remains a song built on a foundation of concern and empathy, which is one of the reasons for its enduring popularity.

So, without further delay, here is one of the greatest songs of all-time…..a non-album single at the time of its release……”Hey Jude” by The Beatles. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Hey Jude” by The Beatles, can be found here.

The link to the official website for The Beatles, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here.