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.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #30: Yesterday 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.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #30: Yesterday by The Beatles.

“Yesterday” by The Beatles was written and released in 1964. It was written during the filming of The Beatles’ first movie, “Help!” and was included on the soundtrack/album of the same name. “Yesterday” was written by Paul McCartney and stands as an important song in the overall evolution of the band. What makes “Yesterday” so important has little to do with the song, itself but more, what the song represented in the “bigger picture” of what it meant to be a Beatle. We all know how the story of The Beatles ended up five years or so after “Help!” hit the theatre screens. But, have you ever wondered when the first step was taken that resulted in the band breaking up and not being on good terms? Well, many people point to “Yesterday” as being that initial fissure. So, let’s jump into the midst of this discussion and find out how true the rumours are. Here is the story of “Yesterday” by The Beatles.

“Yesterday” is a song about a young man who has done or said something wrong and is pining away to reverse course and return things to the way they once were. At the time of pre-production for the film, “Help!”, The Beatles were known as “The Fab Four”. Everything they did, they did together. The rush of stardom affected them all as one group. They dressed the same. They sang as one voice. And, of course, they all sported the same mop-top haircut. Paul McCartney and John Lennon had co-written all of their hit songs up until that point. The decision to branch off into movies, made after watching Elvis do the same in the US, was a decision that they had all agreed would be a good way to introduce the band and their music to a wider audience. Although unrelated, the boys in the band were all friends, almost like brothers, if you will.

At that time, Paul McCartney had a girlfriend named Jane Asher, who was an actress, among many other things. It was while staying at her family home, with her parents, that McCartney woke from a dream with the tune for “Yesterday” complete in his head. He rushed to get up and immediately sat at the piano that Asher’s family had and he began to play the tune. It was so fully formed that, at first, McCartney assumed it must already exist somewhere and he had inadvertently heard it and was simply reproducing it from his subconscious. So, even with the tune fully realized, McCartney sat on the song for several weeks. He played it for a few people and each time asked them if they had heard the tune before. None of them had. Eventually, he decided to play it for the band and begin the process of writing lyrics and making it a “Beatles” song. To a person, all members of the band disliked the song. Their reasoning was that it is a complete departure from anything the band had recorded and released up until that point. But, Paul McCartney pushed forward on his own, anyway. He spent every spare moment during the filming of “Help!” to rehearse and flesh out the lyrics. This infuriated the film’s director who accused McCartney of being self-interested and not caring enough to put his best effort into the film. The other members of the Beatles agreed. When Paul McCartney had finally finished the lyrics and played the song for George Martin, the rest of the band walked away from the song. They declared that it was a Paul McCartney solo song and not a Beatles song. Martin knew it was a different sound for The Beatles but, he relented and agreed with Paul, providing, of course, that Paul would add some orchestral flourishes that Martin had in mind. At first, Paul disagreed, thinking that it was more of a solo piano song but, in the end, in order to get Martin’s seal of approval, Paul McCartney relented. George Martin added the strings and other touches and the song, as we know it, came to be. That still didn’t please John, George or Ringo who made a stand and declared that they would not abide by “Yesterday” being released as a single under The Beatles name. So, in the UK, it was held off. If you look at the track listing for “Help!”, you will see that “Yesterday” is the second last song on Side #2….hardly a prime position for any song that had a chance of being a hit. That track listing was traditionally set aside for songs considered to be “filler”. But, in the US, the American distribution wing of The Beatles empire operated with a bit more latitude that did Abbey Road Studios so, “Yesterday” was released as single in America. It raced to the top of the charts and stayed there for several weeks. It was only when US success could no longer be ignored, that “Yesterday” was released in the UK, where it became a hit as well.

That “Yesterday” was the first instance of discord among the Fab Four, does not make it a bad song and it does also not make Paul McCartney the villain in starting the band down a road that would eventually lead them to an acrimonious breakup. But, what “Yesterday” did do was to introduce the idea of individuality in a group setting. It was the first case of one of the guys pursuing their own interest on “company time”, as it were. When Paul McCartney used breaks during the filming of “Help!” to work incessantly on “Yesterday”, he sent a signal that told the rest of the band that all-for-one-and-one-for-all was not necessarily the motto anymore. As time went on in the later half of the 60s, it is far easier to find instances where The Beatles members were pursuing their own objectives, as opposed to working toward cohesive, group-oriented goals. George Harrison going to India and John Lennon doing his bed-ins for peace with Yoko Ono are but, two, obvious examples. One of the things that struck me most when I watched the “Get Back” documentary on Disney + awhile back was the degree to which being a Beatle had changed and had become a job that each member checked in and out of each day, like punching a time clock, as opposed to the adventure that it had been for all of them in the beginning. Sometimes, people who have been together simply grow apart in time. That appears to be what happened with The Beatles. And, if there was a moment when their gaze transitioned from inward to outward, it was when Paul McCartney woke from a dream one night and decided he had to write this song and bring it to fruition, regardless of all else that was going on with the band that he was an important part of.

“Yesterday” has gone on to be one of the most loved songs in the entire Beatles catalogue. In fact, it holds a place in the Guinness Book of Records for being the most covered song of all-time; wth over two thousand cover versions out there in the world for us to enjoy, should we care to look. “Yesterday” also holds the distinction of being the first Beatles song written and performed by only one member, without any contribution from the other members of the band. It was also the first Beatles song to incorporate an element of Classical music in it when George Martin added on all of the violins. It was a song like “Yesterday”, with its mixture of Pop and Classical, that would be held up as inspiration a few years later when songs like “Nights in White Satin” by The Moody Blues, became a big hit. All in all, “Yesterday” is a lovely song and can happily stand on its own as being an excellent, well-crafted song. But, it will be forever regarded, by those who loved The Beatles and bemoaned what became of them, as being the first signs of a schism in a relationship that, until that time, seemed more like family.

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

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

Thanks, as always, to KEXP, for supporting all manner of bands and artists. The link to their wonderful website can be found here.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #176: Revolution 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 #176: Revolution by The Beatles.

Not everyone is well-suited for standing on the speaker’s box in a town square and publicly stating their opinions on the pressing matters of the day. Of course, there are some who love the spotlight and the sound of their own words but, for some, there is a discomfort in making one’s political views known. Despite how big The Beatles had become by the time 1968 had rolled around, they had managed to have a career in which they hadn’t really managed to offend anyone. Naturally, some folks may have preferred their “Mop-top” phase over their “Sgt. Pepper” garishness but, aside from that, the vibe given off by The Beatles was basically, “Let’s all just get along, shall we?” *That one of their greatest closing hits was, “All You Need is Love” speaks to this somewhat.

In any case, 1968 was a year in which much unrest was evident throughout the world. Russia invaded Czechoslovakia, putting an end to the “Prague Spring” there. In the US, anti-Vietnam War demonstrations were erupting on University campuses across the country; including a deadly protest at Kent State University that ended in the deaths of four protestors. In the UK, student-led protests were an on-going thing there, too. In China, “The Great Leap Forward” under Chairman Mao was transpiring. Everywhere, it seemed, social change was being sought or being repressed and, in the middle of it all, were four lads from Liverpool who were being constantly pressed to take a stand on the events of the world, to use their platform for leadership. To add to the pressure being placed on The Beatles, The Rolling Stones responded to the UK riots by recording the song, “Street Fighting Man”. With Mick and Keef having taken a firm stance, it fell to The Beatles. Paul McCartney wanted nothing to do with politics but John Lennon, who was just starting to become involved with an avant-garde artist known as Yoko Ono, felt obligated to issue a response of his own. That response was, “Revolution”, from the double album that has become known as simply, “The White Album”.

“Revolution” is known, musically, for the use of “fuzzy” guitars all throughout the song. As Beatles songs go, “Revolution” rocks harder than most. But, when it came to the lyrics, the lack of firm resolve to take a direct stand, which seemed to emanate directly from each of their hearts, came through, loud and clear, in lyrics that people viewed as indifferent, lacking a clear vision and, in some cases, as being cowardly. John Lennon was stung by the criticism he and the band received. For him, “Revolution” was the most political The Beatles had ever been. The lyrics point to the necessity for change but, the need to accompany that change with a pre-made plan for how best to move forward. To Lennon, mere destruction of a society was not a positive goal, in and of itself, if it wasn’t part of a bigger plan to rebuild a better world. Consequently, “Revolution” pleased no one when it was released. It angered those already in positions of power because they said it advocated for an overthrow of the government. Radicals within the student movement felt Lennon’s reluctance to agree to a violent takedown of the ruling elites, was a cop-out and a bitter disappointment. In the end, Lennon flip-flopped on this issue several times before his death. I think it is safe to say that his true feelings may have been best revealed with his song, “Imagine”. Like I said off of the top, not everyone is comfortable being the one to lead the political charge in times of trouble….even folks like The Beatles.

So, for what it is worth, here are The Beatles with “Revolution” which, despite how it was received, in a political sense, is still a pretty good rock song so, in that light, well done, John and The Beatles. In the spirit of how The Beatles seem to have truly felt, let’s all enjoy this song and then task ourselves with the goal of doing something to make the world a better place today. After all, shouldn’t we all just get along?

The link to the video for the song, “Revolution” 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.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #51: Something 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.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #51: Something by The Beatles.

The evolution of The Beatles has been well documented; with their progression from writing/singing simple Pop gems, to the far more creative, inventive and involved music that marked their production toward the end of their career as a band. One of the key reasons for The Beatles transformation rests with the similar musical maturation of George Harrison. In the early days of the band, Harrison seemed content to be the silent accompanist, with Paul McCartney and John Lennon taking the lead in all aspects of how the band performed. But, over time, his skills grew and his self-confidence grew along with it. Eventually, he sought out a more prominent role for himself. At first, his efforts to raise his profile within the band were met by derision from Paul, especially. This caused George to temporarily leave the band during the production period for the albums “Let It Be” and “Abbey Road” *(Which was captured well in the recent Beatles documentary, “Get back”). In any case, George Harrison was ready for a larger role within the band and, with songs like “My Guitar Gently Weeps”, “Here Comes the Sun” and “Something”, it became obvious that he had reached a songwriting level on a par with Lennon and McCartney.

That The Beatles broke up soon after Harrison stepped up is disappointing because their future as a band seemed to hold the potential for even greater things. But, what it showed more was that each of the band members were growing upward and onward and away from each other. That George Harrison wrote such wonderful music right at the end positioned him well for his post-Beatles life. In the meantime, “Something” proved to be their last great song. John Lennon, himself, states that “Something” was the best song on their final album, “Abbey Road”.

The song, itself, is a love song. But, more than that, it is a song about the idea of Love and the totality of one’s emotional commitment that is required and the enormity of the Joy your heart feels in reply. It is a song that was originally written for Harrison’s then-wife, Patti Boyd. But, again, it was more than simply the words of a man in full swoon. At the time that “Something” was written, George Harrison was, also, fully investing himself in the spiritual journey he was undertaking in India. He viewed the teaching of Buddhism as meshing perfectly with his evolving worldview and, as such, his was very much at peace with his inner self. From his perspective, Harrison saw beauty all round him. Patti Boyd was very much a part of that peaceful, calming, contented vision. So, he wrote “Something” about her and how it was possible to feel a form of love that was so complete as to be perfect.

The opening lines of the song were inspired by the song, “Something In The Way She Moves” by James Taylor, who recorded that song as one of the first artists signed to Apple Music, when The Beatles set up their own company after touring the U.S. This song was the first Beatles single to be released as an A-side song that was written by someone other than Lennon and McCartney. It was, also, the first single released by The Beatles that was released after the album had come out. Because fans could buy “Abbey Road” before they could buy the “Something” single, sales numbers for the song were not as solid as, perhaps, the song’s quality warranted. Therefore, it did not chart as well as might have been expected. That does nothing to diminish the affection for the song that by fans. Many, including famous fans such as Elton John, say that “Something” is the greatest love song ever written. Many critics state that it turned out to be George Harrison’s greatest work.

Whatever the case, “Something” is a beautiful song about a beautiful subject…..Love. As I always say, if you are fortunate enough to have found someone to love, who loves you back with equal vigour then, you have won LIfe’s lottery. So, without further delay, let’s see what all the fuss was about. Here are The Beatles, with “Something”. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Something” 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 exist for George Harrison, can be found here.

Thanks, as always, to KEXP, for playing the most beautiful songs of all-time. The link to their wonderful website can be found here.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #204: Eleanor Rigby 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 #204: Eleanor Rigby by The Beatles.

What an exquisitely written song this is! Paul McCartney has painted portraits of two people who are lonely and living lives of quiet desperation and, in doing so, has penned a song that reads more like a short story or a play, rather than a Pop song. Not only does McCartney capture the world of those who exist on the margins of our thoughts, he, also, captures the mood of an entire nation, as it was coming to grips with the aftermath of the Second World War and all of the broken families left in its’ wake. As it stands, “Eleanor Rigby” has turned out to be one of the most beloved and appreciated songs in the entire Beatles catalogue. Here is the story of how it came to be.

I have to imagine that Paul McCartney must have been a decent sort of chap growing up. In his words, he says that what inspired him to write “Eleanor Rigby”, in a general sense, was the time he spent with elderly ladies who lived in the same community housing projects that he did growing up. According to Paul, he would help run errands for the ladies who never seemed to be able to get out of their homes and, in return, they would tell him stories from days gone by; especially, stories of life during war time. From this experience with these ladies, who seemed resigned to their lonely lives, came the inspiration for one of Music’s great characters, “Eleanor Rigby”.

“Eleanor Rigby

Picks up the rice in the church where a wedding had been

Lives in a dream

Waits at the window

Wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door.

Who is it for?”

These words are a devastating description of someone whose life has become invisible and, as far as the world is concerned, really doesn’t matter. According to McCartney, he says that he had the line about picking up the rice first and, from that, the rest of the song fell into place.

As much as “Eleanor Rigby” gets the attention in this song, the character of “Father McKenzie” is equally bereft of love and warmth in his life.

“Father McKenzie.

Writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear.

No one comes near.

Look at him working

Darning his socks in the night when there’s nobody there

What does he care?”

A simple example of the razor-sharp precision of McCartney’s lyrics can be seen in the seemingly innocuous line about Father McKenzie darning his socks. Storywriting lesson #1 for all wannabe writers is “to show, don’t tell”. In other words, don’t say that Father McKenzie is lonely, show it. That is what McCartney does so well in such a few, concise words. In those days in England, the darning of socks would have usually fallen to the woman of the house. Obviously, Father McKenzie has no one to mend his socks for him so he has to do it himself. Mending socks that no one will ever know had holes in them to begin with because no one is ever close enough to him to see him in sock feet.

The song, “Eleanor Rigby” is not based upon a real person, according to McCartney. He says that he wanted a name that sounded natural and that “Eleanor Rigby” seemed common enough and rolled off the tongue easily enough. He says that the “Eleanor” part was based upon an actress who was performing in a nearby play and that the “Rigby” was the name of a store. However, despite his denials to the contrary, in the cemetery in his hometown, there rests a formerly married lady named “Eleanor Rigby”, as well as, a “Father McKenzie”. Despite McCartney’s insistence that the people in his song are fictitious, fans of the band flock to this cemetery and routinely wear away the grass by the tombstones, as they pay homage to those they believe the song is really about.

In a musical sense, “Eleanor Rigby” was one of the first gems mined after The Beatles had finished their US Tour (the one that saw the “The Beatles are bigger than Jesus” controversy) and had decided to become a studio-only band. “Eleanor Rigby” is accompanied by an orchestra of sorts and stands as one of the only songs ever released by The Beatles on which none of them play any of the instruments. Consequently, “Eleanor Rigby” was difficult to replicate live and, as such, was rarely ever played on stage. Later, after Paul McCartney started out on his solo career, he played this song live by substituting all of the strings for keyboards. “Eleanor Rigby” was one of the featured songs on the revolutionary Beatles album, “Revolver”. When it was released as a single, it was done as a “Double A-side”, sharing the single with “Yellow Submarine”. As mentioned earlier, it has gone on to be recognized for the genius of the lyrics and for the empathy extended toward those suffering from loneliness and depression.

So, without further delay, I am proud to present one of the greatest Beatles songs of the all….”Eleanor Rigby”. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Eleanor Rigby” by The Beatles, can be seen here.

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

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