GEORGE HARRISON DISCOGRAPHY (Part Two)

GEORGE HARRISON DISCOGRAPHY (Part Two)
SOLO GEORGE: George only released three tracks that did not appear on a Harrisonalbum (greatest hits compilations aside), all listed below. By this time rock artists had stopped releasing singles other than to promote the album on which it was pulled. I’ve avoided his two Greatest Hits, as there was no new material on either. Let’s get his first two albums over with quickly.
Wonderwall Music(1968): After George’s dalliance with Indian music after “The Inner Light” he decided to do an entire album of it. This was the second solo work by a Beatle (the first being McCartney’s “The Family Way”). Like McCartney’s, this was a soundtrack album. And like McCartney’s, wasn’t very good.
              The only thing keeping this album from total obscurity release was its Beatle connection. For good Indian music, wait a few years when George co-produces some albums with Ravi Shankar!
  This was the first album released on the Beatle’s Apple label,
              Electronic Sounds (1969): The Beatles formed a second label called Zapple that would include more avant-garde recordings. Nowadays this album would be called electronic new age mood music. Back then they called it crap. “Deep space static” was one of the kinder reviews.
               All Things Must Pass(1970): Much better. George is finally out of the Lennon-McCartney shadow and we can all see what he is capable of. He releases a telling three-album set to show the world (and his band mates) the floodgates have opened.
               Guests abound: Badfinger, Clapton, Bob Dylan, Leon Russell, Ringo, Yes’ Alan White, Cream’s Ginger Baker, Billy Preston, Peter Frampton, and members of Derek and the Dominoes and Procol Harum. When George throws a party, everyone attends.
               The music is nearly perfect: the most famous track being “My Sweet Lord”, a Krishna Mantra made into a catchy jingle. George does a wonderful job in the writing and music. You might say he’s so fine.
               “What Is Life?” is the other big single from the album. Like “Something”, George searches for a way to express his love. This time it’s on a cosmic scale, asking “What is life without you?” In this case he means God, but it applies to anyone you truly love.
               The other songs are less known but just as wonderful: “I’d Have You Anytime” is a co-written with Bob Dylan (who at the time rarely shared writing credits). “Wah — Wah” is a guitar jam (considering the talent on board that’s saying something1).  “Isn’t It a Pity” is a gentle Beatle slam, with “Hey Jude” Na-na-na-na chorus echoing throughout in case you missed the point. Actually, the lyrics are quite sad (“Isn’t it a pity, isn’t it a shame, how we break each other’s hearts and cause each other pain”) “The Lord is Awaiting on You All” is a rolling fun tune, much better than his later proselytizing.
            “Bangladesh” single (1971): Nowadays charity concerts to help the needy is nearly expected of musicians, but George was the first. He wrote and recorded this single to help the starving people of Bangladesh. It’s a good rock tune that chugs along nicely and was meant to raise money, not be a rock classic.
The Concert for Bangladeshalbum (1972): Although Dylan’s acoustic side is the highlight of the album, George plays some fine live tunes, including an acoustic version of “Here Comes the Sun”.
             Living in the Material Worldalbum (1973): George is so involved in his religious beliefs that he can’t help but have it reflect in his songs. Unfortunately, this album seems one long attempt to convert us all. An exception is “Sue Me Sue You Blues”, another Beatle-basher; the lyrics are strange accompanied by the jaunty musicianship — somehow it works.
              The single “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)” still gets airplay and is a lovely song. It moves along sweetly and the sentiment is kind and benevolent. Too bad the rest of the songs on the album sound like a sermon. A boring one at that …
              Dark Horse album (1974): the nadir of George’s career. Despite some good songs like the title track — George’s voice is so hoarse from practicing for his up-coming tour that it’s almost hard to recognize him. The gruff flintiness of his voice fits the lyrics and the guitar playing is wonderful. A flute plays between the lines of lyrics like paper in the wind, adding an almost hippie-dippie feel (I mean that in a nice way).
The album also features George’s only Christmas song (“Ding Dong Ding Dong”), although it is a fairly mediocre attempt (on par with McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime” — nice song, pretty sentiment, but almost instantly forgettable).
              The rest of the album is more attempts to raise our Krishna Conscienceness. Not as bad as a Jimmy Swaggart sermon, but the sentiment is the same.
              It took George nearly fifteen years to recover from this album. No other album until “Cloud 9” had the advertising support that his first three had.
Extra Texture(Read All About It)  album (1975). George tries to lighten up. Unfortunately, by this time most people had stopped listening. Too bad, it’s a good album. “You” is a plaintive love cry combined with a rocking good beat. This was originally recorded for Ronnie Spector and George simply recorded his vocals over her arrangement.  “The Answer’s At the End” is a good slow sad song (especially since his death — I wonder if he found the answer?). The purpose of “This Guitar Can’t Keep from Crying” is obvious.
“Tired of Midnight Blue” is an interesting song that flows from a hidden funky beat to a slow 6/8 chorus.
The album concludes with “Ladies & Gentlemen” featuring “Larry” Legs Smith from the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. It is supposed to be a silly romp filled with spoken quips ala Crosby-Mercer. It was lost a bit in the mix and wasn’t all that funny.
George never seemed too interested in the packaging of his albums with this album as the exception – the album was textured like that of an orange and the lettering was cut out showing a hidden photo on the sleeve.  Pulling the sleeve out reveals a grinning George with the caption “Ohnothimagain” – very much in the vein of George’s humor and shows the listener this might not be as heavy-handed as his previous works. It isn’t, but then most of the songs are only slightly more memorable.
33 and 1/3 album (1976). Forget the last three albums. If we had, this would have been classic. Masterful musicianship throughout, wonderful lyrics.
Cole Porter’s “True Love” is a highlight — why has George been so reluctant to record other people’s songs? Was it because he was forced to as a Beatle?
His sense of humor is rife in the album — “CrackerboxPalace” (the hit single) is a fun and sweet song that softly moves along, a very catchy tune. “This Song” pokes fun at his recent plagiarism lawsuit for “My Sweet Lord”, features Michael Palin as comic relief.
            George alternates between sweet love songs (“Beautiful Girl”) and slow rockers (“Woman Don’t You Cry for Me”, “Pure Smokey”, “It’s What You Value”). Don’t blame George for being too mellow, punk was still two years away and we were in the beginnings of disco.
George Harrison album (1979). My favorite Harrison album. The beat here continues to be steady and easy with the exception of the inspiring “If You Believe” (“…everything you thought is possible …”). That’s not to say this album sounds like The Captain and Tennille singing with Up With People, but it is a lovely flowing album. Its mood is relaxed — George is back and sure of himself and his writing ability. “Love Comes to Everyone” features Clapton and Steve Winwood. “Blow Away” teaches us that anything bad can be conquered with love (“…all I’ve got to do is to love you, all I’ve got to be is to be happy, all it’s got to take is some warmth to make it blow away…”).
“Faster” reflects George’s love of racing — a picture of him and Jackie Stewart adorn the inner cover of the album.
Sometimes the easy beat backfires. The cloying “Here Comes the Moon” and “Soft Touch” are positively anemic. I once played “Here Comes the Moon” at 45 rpm instead of 33 and 1/3; the song was still slow and plodding.
Next: On to the 80s…
Copyright 2013 Michael G. Curry

 

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GEORGE HARRISON DISCOGRAPHY (Intro)

GEORGE HARRISON DISCOGRAPHY (Intro)
            George Harrison died on November 29, 2001 at 1:30 am of the cancer that he had been fighting for years. Ironically, the first photograph of George in the commemorative issue of People magazine shows him with cigarette in hand, the drug that ultimately caused his cancer.
Harrison’s last days seemed peppered with bad news. Remember the maniac who attacked him with a knife on New Year’s Eve of 1999? But for his wife beating the attacker senseless with a lamp we would have lost George then. This led to several public court appearances, but before that he was last seen at Linda McCartney’s funeral, herself a victim of cancer.
            Cynically, George got more publicity after he died than before. Even if he released an album, I doubt he’d have made the cover of TV Guide or People. George only appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine three times before his death. To their credit, Rolling Stone magazine put out a special commemorative issue for him — something they have never done for anyone, even Lennon. It is a great issue — pick it up if you can find it. Rolling Stone releasing a high quality issue instead of following the flavor of the week (as they have done for several decades now) should be encouraged.
            Some would know George as much for his movies as his music. When the Monty Python troop lost their funding for “Life of Brian”, George stepped in. After its success, George decided to form a production company (the fact that his musical career was not doing well also helped the decision). He formed British Handmade Films, and changed it to Handmade Films after the British government said he couldn’t use their name. He produced “Time Bandits” and Michael Palin movies “The Missionary” and “Water”. For a time he had cameo appearances in all his films, ala Hitchcock. I have yet to find him in the Madonna folly “Shanghai Surprise”.
            George’s sister Louise, now in her seventies, lived about twenty-five miles from me. She moved to Macedonia in the 1950s and George came to America in 1963 to visit. He had plenty of Beatle singles in tow, but no radio station in St. Louis or in local Benton would play. The broadcast booth in which he sat while visiting the station is still intact and sitting in the Franklin County museum’s George Harrison room. His sister’s house (in which he stayed in 1963) is now a bed and breakfast.
            While in southern Illinois George listened to and (supposedly) sat in with some dance bands at the American Legion Hall in West Frankfort. He promised that when the Beatles came to America they would play there. It was the Beatles first American booking. Naturally by the time they came to America the idea was nixed.
            I’ve never met his sister, although in college I met a man whose older sister was friends with Louise. They went up to Chicago in 1964 to meet with Louise’s younger brother. I was enthralled to be even this close to someone who knew someone who met a Beatle. “What did she tell you about it?” I asked him. “Well, she remembered that John Lennon had tight brown hair and George had really bad teeth.” Well, he was British after all.
                                    GEORGE HARRISON DISCOGRAPHY (Beatle Years)
            John Lennon (life’s little ironies — beginning a George Harrison discography with a quote from Lennon…) would always say it was the music that mattered — that’s what told the story. I agree — all of the Beatles, even as solo artists, told their stories through their music. Listening to the songs reveals where the artists were and what they felt at a particular time,
            George Harrison is no exception. His songs as a Beatle reflect his attitude (and eventual resentment) toward being a supposed second-tiered member, his frustration of supposed success and his eagerness to leave the Fab Four. His solo outings showed his eagerness to spread his religious beliefs, his anger over his Beatle past, his frustration over the “My Sweet Lord” lawsuit,   and finally his pleas for tolerance and understanding.
When George was eulogized, his friends were frequently asked how he would like to be remembered. Almost all of them said, “Musician.” Not Beatle, not ex-Beatle, not Wilbury, just musician.
            I’d like to take some time to remember George the musician throughout his musical career:
***
BEATLE GEORGE: The Beatles would release singles and EP (singles with four songs) that would not normally appear on subsequent albums. This was normal for the time. I have listed the Beatles albums in order and only mention singles on which George sang (or wrote) that did not appear on a Beatle album.
            “Cry for a Shadow” performed by the Beatles on Tony Sheridan’s album, now famous for its role in Beatle lore, as opposed to the musicianship. The only tune cited to “Lennon-Harrison” ever, it is a rollicking instrumental typical at the time — jangly guitars with lots of energy and a memorable tune. The sheer joy of recording it comes through.
            Please Please Me album (1963): George and Ringo were typically “allowed” to sing a few songs on each album. George’s contributions on the first Beatle album were “Chains”, originally performed by the Cookies and written by Goffin & King (Lennon’s writing style compares very favorably to Carol King — consciously or subconsciously, she was a great influence on him). The song basically enforces the band’s one-time belief that they are a girl group with guitars.
            “Do You Want to Know a Secret” was written by Lennon and inspired by the wishing well scene from Disney’s “Snow White” movie. The song gets a lot of airplay and fits George’s voice well — and it’s not a simple song to sing. The main verse/chorus is based on an upward scale and the middle twelve is a growling rock counterpoint to the light poppiness of the song.
            With the Beatles album (1963): “Don’t Bother Me” is George’s first composition to appear on a Beatle (or any) album. It was written while he was in the hospital and the nurses wouldn’t leave him alone! It’s an excellent first effort: the music flows and connects to the words effortlessly. Here the vocal range is fairly simple. I have always enjoyed this song and say it is why I admire George Harrison so.  Only he would have a debut song with the lyric “Just go away, leave me alone, don’t bother me…”
            “Roll Over Beethoven”, a song George would sing for the next thirty years, is a Chuck Berry staple. Originally John sang the song in their live shows. Why did they have George sing on the album? Why not? He did an excellent job.
            “Devil in Her Heart” is another pseudo-girl-group song, and a bit of a throwaway. As is typical of even the Beatles’ second-string songs, it has a masterful hook and wonderful musical arrangements. If a girl group or teen idol crooner took it, the song would have been a big hit in the early 60’s. Probably given to George to sing because Lennon and McCartney didn’t want to.
            Hard Day’s Night album (1964): “I’m Happy Just to Dance With You” is another often-played song on the radio. Good thing too: it’s a great, catchy song. The lyrics -fit the music snugly and you can dance to it (the latter being much more important in those days). George sings the song prettily, giving Lennon and McCartney the harder job of singing the high-noted back up.
            Beatles for Sale album (1964): “Everybody’s Trying to Be My Baby”. One of three Carl Perkins song the Beatles sang in their career. A good solid, canny version.
            Helpalbum (1965): “I Need You”, George’s second song he wrote to be on a Beatle album is a lovely song. The musicianship and the background chorus make it a pleasant sounding song – despite its very sad lyrics.  “Please remember how I feel about you, I could never really live without you.”
            “You Like Me Too Much”, also written by George, is awkward and rushed to fill in some songs on side two. Despite experimenting with the electric organ, the song never takes off (Paul does much better with his electric organ attempt in “The Night Before”, but it’s unfair to compare anyone’s writing talents to McCartney in late 1965.). Although the verses are interesting lyrically, the middle eight (“I really do…”) sounds tacked on. George should have tinkered with it some more.
            Rubber Soul album (1965): “Norwegian Wood”, although written and sung by John, deserves a mention as it features George’s first attempts to play the sitar on record. Indeed, it is the first sitar played on any serious commercial record (the soundtrack to “Road to Morocco” aside…)
            “If I Needed Someone” is flawless. The lyrics, background vocals and musicianship raise this song to the equal of any on the album (which is saying much), The Hollies took this song and raised the harmonies to the stratosphere. George’s gimmick on this song would serve him well for years to come — lyrics and main guitar licks on the upbeat rather than the downbeat (“Here Comes the Sun” and “Love Comes to Everyone” immediately spring to mind). If this represents George’s writing talent, he deserves more than one song per album!
            Revolveralbum (1966): the other Beatles and George Martin must have agreed with that: George has three songs on the album, all self-penned. One of his songs leads off the album, a great compliment and honor to Beatle #3 (in those days artists were concerned about the order and propriety of songs — there were as yet no CDs to scramble the order randomly).
            “Taxman” starts off the album; reflecting George’s supposed skinflint attitude.
So if he’s one of the most popular rockers of all time, where is his money? A fun rocking tune, with a good guitar solo. George would play this live in Japan in 1992,
            “Love You To” is George’s first foray into Indian music. He is the only Beatle to play an instrument on the track, the rest of the instruments played by professional easterners. The lyrics have a strong pop structure (unlike his later attempts), and the song moves along forcefully. Likeable and listenable.
            “I Want to Tell You” is another of George’s best songs. It almost reflects what must have been his attitude toward his song writing ability (“… my head is filled with things to say…”) and perhaps his discontent as a Beatle is showing through as well (-…I don’t mind, all those words they seem to slip away…). Great guitar riff, perfect background vocals.
            Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band  album (1967): “Within You Without You”. Some people despise this song (it is frequently voted among the Beatle’s worst). It’s not as bad as all that — the instrumental middle is actually quite good, in fact. The song ebbs and flows like the mantra it aspires to be. The lyrics are Hindu-tinged hippie, and it is one of the few Beatles tracks on which none of the four play instruments (oddly, Paul’s “She’s Leaving Home”, also from Sgt. Pepper, is another).
            Magical Mystery Tour album/EP (1967); “Blue Jay Way”. This is almost a rewrite of “Within You…” — odd lyrics backed by some fine Hindu music, but after the first minute we get the point. The Beatles were known for not going into formula — when they have mastered one type of song (girl group, folkie, etc.) they move forward into something else. George proved with      “Love To You” he can mix pop structure with eastern influence. But can we move on now?
            “Lady Madonna” single (1968): Nope. George’s first appearance on a Beatle single was the “B” side to Paul’s “Lady Madonna”, “The Inner Light” is George’s last attempt as a Beatle to eastern music. It has no pop structure (verse, chorus) and supposedly the lyrics are taken straight from the Gita. Paul calls it one of the most lovely songs he had ever heard. One then supposes that the acid wore off.
            The song finally appeared on an album — “Beatles Rarities” — in 1979.
            Was George’s first single evidence of the other’s confidence in his ability? Likely, not, Lennon hated “Lady Madonna” so much he wanted nothing to do with the single. By this point he was accusing McCartney of stifling his creativity.
            The Beatles (the White Album) album (1968): “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, with Eric Clapton on guitar, sides with “Something” as George’s masterwork. After putting down the sitar and picking up the guitar, George writes a powerful rock song about the condition of the world, The lyrics boil down to basically, “J’Accuse”, but the musicianship throughout is masterful.
            “Piggies” — what pissed George off during this album? In a theme later adopted by Pink Floyd in “Animals”, George this time points at the elite upper crust of the world (… in their mind is something lacking, what they need’s a damn good whacking …). This from the vanguard of the love generation? Good song though, George Martin’s arrangements throughout the album is impeccable. Unfortunately the song will be forever linked with Charles Manson and his killing spree.
            “Long Long Long” a very quiet and pretty acoustic tune. It’s been a long long long time since we’ve heard this kind of song from George.
            “Savoy Truffle” is a great fun tune, with a rollicking beat of guitar and horns – (George Martin’s maestro hand shows again). Written when George and Eric Clapton ate an entire box of chocolates, (enough to make Clapton sick) the lyrics were a word-for-word description of the candy found in the box.
            Yellow Submarine (album) 1968: “Only a Northern Song” is good album filler. George is once again angry — this time at the Beatles own song distributing company. The lyrics and notes are not quite right, but it’s intentional. Interesting listening.
            “It’s All Too Much” is better, a good mid-tempo rocking song. The horns at the end add a nice touch. A decade later, Journey would do an excellent cover of the song.
            “The Ballad of John & Yoko” (single) 1969: George’s second Original “B”-side was “Old Brown Shoe”, a good fast-moving rock song. Ringo is featured strongly on the backing vocals and John’s thundering backup on the middle eight is just stunning in its force and effect. Unfortunately, the mix is very thick and sometimes it is hard to make out the lyrics.  The song is found on the American “Hey Jude” album and the Beatles (“Blue”) 1967-1970 album.
            Abbey Road album 1969: Well, here we are. George would never top the two pop classics on these albums.
            Frank Sinatra called “Something” the most beautiful song ever written. Quite a compliment from someone who hated rock music so much he retired (for a short time). And it is a beautiful song — the organ makes for a “smoky” sound — very wispy and not easy to access, (much like the qualities George is trying to describe in song). Excellent combination of words and music — there is definitely a tone and a feel to the song.
            George’s guitar (which excels throughout the album) now has the slide work that would be his signature for the rest of his career.
            “Something” also became George’s first (and only) “A”-side single as a Beatle.
            “Here Comes the Sun” is my personal favorite. Once again the lyrics and music fold perfectly into one another. During the musical break, you can feel the sun rising and warming your face, The catchy-ness of the tune is supernatural. This song was written while sitting in Eric Clapton’s garden. Considering how much inspiration Clapton has had on George’s music lately, I’m surprised George didn’t have Clapton surgically joined to his hip!
N’ do N’ do-do.
            Let It Be album 1970: “I Me Mine” harkens back to “Northern Song”, “Taxman”, etc. in reflecting George’s materialistic side. Played in ‘A time, it’s an interesting sounding song about love fading away. The fact that is was written about his band mates makes the lyrics add to the pain he feels. George is tired of Beatling and wants to move on.
            “For You Blue” is a great song. Catchy and with fine lyrics and great musicianship. Why didn’t the Beatles do more blues? Oddly, despite George’s master musicianship, it is John who plays the slide guitar on the song. Can you blame George for handing the solo to John? Lennon plays perfectly! Although the blues were not part of their background (being more the bailiwick of the Stones and the Who), based on their performances here and on the White Album one shudders at the thought of a strong blues album from the Fabs.
Next: Solo Work
Copyright 2013 Michael G. Curry

 

ONE LITTLE TRUMPET RIFF

ONE LITTLE TRUMPET RIFF
            I subscribe to an APA – Wikipedia calls it “a group of people who produce individual pages or magazines that are sent to a Central mailer for collation and distribution to all members of the group.  APAs were a way for widely distributed groups of people to discuss a common interest together in a single forum before the advent of electronic bulletin boards or the internet.
            In 2001 the subject of the APA I belong to, called WAPA (standing for “Western” and later “Wacky” and then, simply, “W”) was Beatlemania. I kept my contribution (or “zine”) for that WAPA and thought I would share it here.
           Ye Gods, I could fill volumes with musings over the Beatles. Fortunately, volumes have already been written about them – from their music to their movies to their life stories to their children and brothers and sisters’ life stories to their affect on popular culture. This is my take on things…
            The Beatles had an absolute impact on my life and my taste in music. When John Lennon was killed one classmate was surprised I went to school that next day instead of staying home mourning (much like Harrison’s recent death, I didn’t hear about it until the next morning in the car).
            The first song I remember hearing and enjoying distinctly was Paul McCartney’s “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey”. I was hypnotized by the trumpet riff in the middle of the song.
            Some years later my brother went into the Air Force. He decided to give me his old albums – including the soundtrack to “Jesus Christ Superstar” and some Richard Pryor albums. Included in the stack were four Beatle albums – the greatest hits packages from 1973 (“Beatles 1962-1966” and “Beatles 1967-1970” known as the Beatles Red & Blue), “The Beatles” (known as the White Album – Red, White & Blue, get it?), and “Alpha & Omega”.
            Alpha & Omega was a bootleg greatest hits package covering their career and included some solo work. The mixing was horrible (although I didn’t notice at the time), but it was a big enough seller that the Beatles decided they were missing the gravy train and released their own “best of’ – the aforementioned Red & Blue.
            At that age I mostly enjoyed their work before 1967 – I have since grown to love their later experiments. Those four albums (ten disks in all) was quite a primer.
Alpha & Omega had a lot of album cuts you didn’t hear much on the radio. The solo works included “Imagine”, “Bangladesh” and “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” – “There’s that song!” I exclaimed. Oh how wonderful, I played it and played it, loving every second of it.
            The tune probably influenced my decision to learn to play the trumpet beginning at age 11. The first thing I did when I got it home was practice the notes. I managed to finger the right notes for the trumpet interlude to “Admiral Halsey” and had it written out and played it well by the time of my first lesson.
            The tune therefore led a life devoted to music – collecting albums, learning to play piano and guitar, and ten years as a DJ. All because of one little trumpet riff on a song by an ex-Beatle.
            Album collecting in the 1980s was a passion for me. It was a rush to find some rare out­of-print piece of vinyl — McCartney’s “Thrillington”, the various 1960’s soundtracks by Harrison & McCartney, etc. Plus bootleg LPs of concerts and outtakes.
            One triumphant purchase I especially remember: I saved and saved and spent $40.00 for Paul McCartney’s “Back in the USSR”, released only in the Soviet Union. I got my copy from someone who smuggled it into the free world. I had a friend in law school, whose parents were Russian, read the album to me. I played tracks from it on the radio proudly boasting about its rarity. It was later released in the USon CD, complete with English translation of the liner notes. I still mope.
            I had most of the tracks from the “Beatles Anthology” series on record almost a decade before their official release. It was one of the few times I wished I were still a DJ — I would have loved to have played “Some Other Guy” or “Mailman Bring me No More Blues” officially instead of tucking them between two other Beatle tunes (“We have this on a reel to reel, I have no idea where this came from.”).
           As a teenager, I asked for the Beatles albums for Christmas and birthday gifts. My love of the Beatles naturally (okay, obsessively) led to my enjoying other rock groups — the Moody Blues, Rolling Stones and the Who, solo Beatle projects, etc. The radio would play Yes and the Eagles in between the sacred Beatles hymns. My life was listening to (and playing) rock and roll anthems.
            In high school I started reading my first books about the Beatles — their lives and music. I realized we Americans had been shafted! In England, they would release an album with fourteen songs or so. In the US, they would take about six or seven of those songs, pad it with released singles and “B”-sides and make a new own album. In England, they released “Rubber Soul” and “Revolver” while the USreleased “Rubber Soul”, “Yesterday and Today”, and “Revolver”.
            The Beatles didn’t like that arrangement — they spent long hours arguing over the position of the songs — to give the album an ebb and flow (a lost art nowadays). I wanted to hear the songs the way nature intended as well, and my quest for only the British releases ensued for the next several months. Everyone else in the country must have realized the same thing — suddenly British editions of the albums were (thankfully) easy to find. A record store next to a Panterra’s Pizza restaurant in Belleville, Illinoissold the British releases. Note this was decades before ebay. After several months and lots of pizza I completed by collection.
            When the Beatle albums were released on compact disks, it was the British versions. The only exception was “Magical Mystery Tour”, this was the American version, with some added singles from the same time period.
            Some years later “Yellow Submarine” was released. Side Two contained other previously-released Beatle songs from the movie instead of the original instrumental soundtrack music.  The album is better for it. It was the last cassette tape I bought – excellent music to listen to in the car!
            With the CD’s “Past Masters Vol. I & II” all of the Beatles officially released output are available on CD. With “Live at the BBC” and “Anthology I — III”, most of the unreleased work is available as well. Now the rarities are the old American albums we tossed aside in the mid-1980s — like “Something New” and “Hey Jude”.
            To me Beatlemania describes the maelstrom of publicity surrounding the group. As much as the members griped about it later in life, they certainly enjoyed it at the time. Their arguments that the mania was horrific are hard to fathom — their interviews take place in a limo heading to a private jet to take them to their mansion in the Bahamas. Old joke: Fame is a curse, “I should be so cursed”.
            In truth, one thing bad about the mania was it detracted from the music. It is obvious nowadays that talent has little to do with fame — as long as you smile for the camera and be seen with the right people at the right places you don’t have to worry about the music: let the producers and the A&R Men worry about selling records.
            One forgets the most important part of the Beatles — they weren’t lovable mop tops, they were musicians and composers, damn good musicians and composers. The Beatles were not the first superstars to cash in on their success through marketing — Elvis, Johnny Ray, Sinatra and Valentino all graced covers of “teeny-bopper” mags — but the Beatles’ publicity machine certainly went to extremes. In Americathe machine was headed by, of all people, Pat Boone. He obtained the license to sell official Beatle items. “Black market” items were rife just as it is today (as all those parking lot T-shirt and shoe salesmen will deny).
            Yes there were public appearances on variety shows and special magazine supplements, plush pillows, salt-and-pepper shakers, cake toppers, TV dinner trays, jigsaw puzzles; the list goes on and on. Books have been dedicated solely to Beatle collectibles.
            Currently, it is almost expected for stars to grace shirts and throw rugs, have dolls made of them, and even al Saturday morning cartoon, but the Beatles were the first. Folkie-rock star Jewel wrote a book of poetry — John Lennon’s second book of poetry was released before she was born. Child actresses Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen had a syndicated cartoon. Ringo’s grandson watched reruns of the Beatles’ animated TV show long before. Singer Marian Carey’s movie flopped. “Magical Mystery Tour” flopped, but do you think “Glitter” will be called an “amazing portrayal of the times” thirty years from now (actually it is a portrayal of the times — plotless, soulless and very boring)?
            And the comic books (you don’t think I could go this long without mentioning comics books do you?). The Beatles had an “official” comic in 1964 published by Dell illustrating their rise to fame. Later Dell published the comic version of “Yellow Submarine”. In the 1990s Revolutionary Comics did an eight-part series on the lives of the Beatles as a group and as individuals. It’s very hard to find, but worth it. Marvel Comics in the 1970s released a Beatle comic — no, they didn’t fight Galactus; it was another history of the group.
            Otherwise the Beatles appeared as themselves only as an incidental part of the plot: they appeared in Laugh (Archie), Jimmy Olsen, Jerry Lewis and teen romance comics. Mostly comic book writers (fearing having to pay a royalty), just had four or five long hairs calling themselves all kinds of insectoid names — the Mosquitoes, the Roaches, the Bugs, etc.
            The mania surrounding the Beatles was overboard even by today’s standards. But now it is, like the music and movies, also part of Beatle lore. We can either shake our heads or join in on the frenzy. See you at the flea markets!
Copyright 2013 Michael G. Curry
 

A Late Review of the Latest Superman Movie

            This is the last review you will read of “The Man of Steel”, I would guess. It has been out for several weeks, but I saw it during the July 4th week. And yes this contains spoilers. If you haven’t seen this movie yet and are still concerned about reviewers ruining the movie for you … then go see the damn thing before reading any more reviews.
            I was off work; the wife was not. So I spent the day shopping and thought an afternoon in a theater would be nice.
            But what to watch? “Giant Whoredog Corporate Blockbuster CGI Slagheap 3” (to quote artist Stephen Bissette on the latest batch of pornographically violent films)? There was not much else to select at the nearby multi-temple.
            I decided on the new Superman movie, called “The Man of Steel”. I’ve read many reviews raving for it and ranting against it. Most of the people whose opinions I trust did not like it.
            I expected to hate the movie. I even brought a pen and paper to write down my thoughts while watching; not having my lovely wife next to me to act as Crow to my Tom Servo.
            I liked it very much. I didn’t love it.  I wasn’t gaga and oohed and aahed at the prospect of this igniting a multi-movie franchise. But it wasn’t as bad as I expected.
            Comparisons to previous Supermovies is not fair, but it IS expected nowadays. I liked MoS (as it shall be hereinafter called in this little treatise) as much as I hoped to have liked “Superman Returns” from 2006 – the last big-screen treatment of the character. I was so hoping that movie would do well and be a wonderful experience. “Returns” had its moments – some wonderful moments – but it ended up being a forgettable movie. What was considered a “sequel” to the first two Christopher Reeve-Superman movies ended up being a rehash of the first Reeves movie.
            Before seeing MoS, I considered it a rehash of the second Reeves movie. Zod and his gang of Kryptonian thugs are bent on conquering the earth. MoS was a little more than that, but that is the plot in a nutshell.
            In the meantime we get a retelling of Krypton’s last days, Zod’s relationship with Jor-El, Kal-El’s life as a youngster on earth and his first few experiences as Superman.
            Reviews of MoS said the flick was dark and brooding, Batman-ifying the Big Red “S”. I bristled at the thought. I still bristle at the thought of Batman being turned into Brooding Sociopath Man. I didn’t want to see Superman turn into a dick.
            One of the first lines in the film has Jor-El speaking to Zod, who was leading a Kryptonian coup d’etat. “I will honor the man you were, not the monster you have become.” I wrote that down. What a perfect line to describe the dark Superdick I will spend the next two hours with…
            But I was happily surprised. Is the film dark? Yes. Is Superman himself dark? No. Here is Superman the way he should be, and the way he has always been portrayed on film so far – our honest and noble protector.
            When Zod threatened the earth with destruction if Superman (at that time a mysterious super-powered benefactor) did not reveal himself, Superman did so.
            When he protected the soldiers who were firing at not only him but Zod’s militant thugs, Colonel Hardy (played by Christopher Maloni with the same unlikeableness with which he infused Detective (un)Stabler in Law & Order: SUV (sic) said “this man is not our enemy”. Superman was grateful.
            (Incidentally, Maloni’s best moment was the look on his face when he realized he was getting in a knife-fight with a Kryptonian but still did not back down. His sacrifice to destroy the terraforming machine was canny. Well done, but expected. I was saddened that the sacrifice also had to include the woefully underutilized Richard Schiff. I would have loved to see him as a regular in the franchise.)
            In between all the explosions and CGI destruction were Superman’s relationships with both sets of parents. His birth-mother Lara was given more lines and emotions than in any previous movie or even the comics. She came this close to refusing to allow Kal-El to go to earth. It was very moving, especially to this new parent. I can barely imagine what she must have gone through.
            Superman got to speak to a simulacrum of his birth father Jor-El, rather than a pre-recorded Marlon Brando made up to look like Charlie Rich. Superman got to actually speak with his birth father.
            For the past two decades Jor-El was portrayed as cold, emotionless and on the cusp of evil – all of Krypton was. This Jor-El, played by Russell Crowe, was noble – a hero that a son could emulate.
            And although this Krypton was portrayed as a dystopia, it was still sad to see its inevitable end. It’s message of conservation seemed forced; although the skyline view of Krypton’s moon in pieces was, well, kinda cool.
            In the Bronze Age of comics (and before) – Superman’s adoptive parents, the Kents, were dead by the time he became Superman. It was a sober moment and reflected in Superman’s persona. “Despite all my powers, I couldn’t save them.” Superman will do his best to protect us, but there are times when he cannot. It is a basic tenant of his personality.
            Since 1985, when the Modern Age began, comic lore has ordained that his mother has survived. In MoS, Martha Kent has also survived to see his son become Superman. I have mentioned in previous blogs this is not necessarily a bad thing, but his moral compass is now external, not internal. Why would you need a Fortress of Solitude when you can go to Mom’s house for a slice of sympathy and apple pie after defeating Throgg the Omnipotent?
            His relationship with Jonathan Kent was more complex here – Kentwas played quite well by Kevin Costner. Rather than encourage Kal-El (or ClarkKent) to use his powers nobly for the benefit of mankind, Kenttells his son to be wary – people will be afraid of him. This is more a reflection of today’s society, I think. During the Reeve’s movies and before, Jonathan Kent and Jor-El would be in agreement: you have tremendous powers, you must prepare yourself to use those powers to benefit mankind. This Jonathan Kent would have preferred Clark wear a mask and hide his tracks. I was pleased to see him proven wrong. “This man is not our enemy.”
            Jonathan Kent’s death was the second most controversial part of MoS. My impression from other reviews fed into the “dark” Superman – callously allowing his father to die to prove a point. It wasn’t that way – Jonathan Kent prevented his son from saving him. Kent knew his son was not ready to reveal himself. It was a powerful scene and well done – it showed Superman doing what a superhero is supposed to do. He obeyed his father.
            This led to a period of wandering – I was led to believe this; I don’t know if that is the case or not. Wouldn’t that make a wonderful TV series? Sort of like the 1970s “Incredible Hulk” – a lone stranger wanders into town, resolves a crisis and wanders off again. A “Smallville” on the road…
            I expect he came home frequently. His mother’s reaction to seeing him is hardly that of a mother who has not seen her son in 15 years. She was almost casual about him walking down their driveway. “Why didn’t you tell me, you could have picked up a gallon of milk on your way…”
            There were a few undeniable religious symbolisms and comparisons. Superman-Moses parallels are something of a joke nowadays, but MoS” went a bit further.
            Superman was 33 years old during the film. Like Jesus, he spent 30+ years in the world as one of us before revealing himself. When Zod makes his threat to destroy the world unless the son of Jor-El surrenders, Clark takes solace and advice from a minister in a church. Presumably this was the church he went to in Smallville. As he talks to the minister, his headshot is framed with Jesus to his right facing away from him slightly above and praying with his face and arms pointing upwards. It makes a stair-step: right to left going up – Superman, Jesus, God. If you’re going to do a shot like that – that is the way to do it. Any other way would be awkward or raise eyebrows and create a controversy Warner Brothers did not need. What if Jesus was “below” Superman? What if he was above but praying in the direction over Superman’s head – making a strange triangle (Superman directly below God and Jesus off to the side?).
            My friend Clyde, whose blog about recent superhero movies can be read here, http://playmst3kforme.blogspot.com/, told me WB sent MoS study guides to churches. It would be interesting to see them. I googled the subject and found a few …
            The most controversial part of the movie came at the end in the final confrontation with Zod. Superman had to break the general’s neck to stop his killing civilians with his heat vision. Superman begged Zod to stop (I don’t recall if he used the magic words “please”) and screamed in frustration when the deed was done. It was overlong – to show us how much Superman agonized over the decision. I didn’t mind that – if the scene was done quickly one could argue Supes’ callousness in killing. The argument came anyway, but at least the callousness wasn’t obvious. Batdick, Punisher or Lobo would have snapped his neck an hour ago…
            “Superman doesn’t kill,” critics of the scene wrote. True. Very true. As with the death of Jonathan Kent, I was expecting Superman to be indifferent or even gleeful as shown by the brooding sociopathic “heroes” mentioned above and other so-called “heroes” DC, Marvel and independent comics have been vomiting up since the 1990s.
            Superman could have thrown Zod into the Phantom Zone or tricked Zod into entering the Zone or destroying himself or his powers (remember how that was resolved in Reeve’s Superman II?), but that is not the way for the fans of “Giant Slagbag Bucket of CGI Ticks 6” (another Bisette-ism) who the producers of MOS need to attract to make money.
            A few minutes showing Superman’s regret would have resolved this. The trouble is, the filmmakers couldn’t linger on such regret. They would need to balance Superman’s facing his decision with his wallowing in pathos. “Oh woe is me.” Rend, rend…
            Perhaps a short scene with General Swanwick … “Have you ever had to kill?”
            “Yes, many times…”
            “How do you think about that?”
            “I don’t think about the people I had to kill, I think about the people I protected.”
            Or something like that.
            Or a brief flashback with his father. Jonathan Kent would have been old enough to serve during Viet Nam (Costner was born in 1955, just a bit too young, but his character could have been five years older…). Perhaps his war experience is what infused his fear of humanity.
            So that is my view of the film. I liked MOS as much as I was hoping to like “Superman Returns”. I was as disappointed in “Superman Returns” as I was expecting to be disappointed in MoS. Will it be as iconic as the Reeve’s movies? No, but that is hardly fair to compare it to those films. Well, the first two at any rate.
            Now, what about a sequel?
            I hope to god they stop with Reeve’s “Superman II”. If “…Returns” was a remake of Reeve’s I and MoS was a rehash of II … well, let’s stop there. Let’s get some new ideas, shall we?
            “Luthor in the sequel! Luthor in the sequel!” So scream the corporate-boot-licking-uberwonks from their parents’ basements.
            No. Luthor is as overused as the Joker.
            The trouble is, who else is there? Braniac? All during the CGI destruction shown in MoS I imagined how these effects could have also been used to show Braniac trying to shrink and “steal” Metropolis. The Lovecraftian-mechanical tentacles would have fit Braniac’s machinations too. A pity. The last thing a franchise needs is such repetition for its second film.
            Clyde came up with a wonderful idea. Bizarro. And in between slugfests we could see ClarkKent interact with his coworkers. We’ll get to know and understand the cast. Perhaps empathize with them.
            What am I saying …
            Some final thoughts:
            1) I like the idea of Lois Lane knowing Clark is Superman from the beginning. She could even help protect his identity. I got tired of the constant toying around with this even as a kid reading the comics. She’s an investigative reporter. She should know. I always felt that way about Commissioner Gordan and Batman.
            “How did you find out I was Bruce Wayne?”
“I’m a detective, too. A good one.”
            “Obviously…” 
            “Are you going to use your Bat-Amnesia Spray on me?”
            “I’m not that Batman; I’m the Batman that will break every finger until you swear not to tell anyone.”
            “I’ve known for years and haven’t told anyone yet … OW! You dick! OW! Stop it! Ow! Shouldn’t you be killing off another Robin? Ow!”
            2) Perry White is now a black man?  “What’s his middle name – ‘Ain’t’?”
            Well, why not? Lawrence Fishburne did a wonderful job and fits the role well. As with most comics, especially those created in the Golden and Silver Age, the lack of non-caucasian characters is embarrassing… Comparisons with Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury are unavoidable. Tokenism?  Maybe, but as with Fury, it didn’t seem to be a case of “Quick, Africanize someone! Anyone!” Perry White is black. Okay, let’s move on…
            3) Near the end we saw a flashback of a young Clark Kentplaying along the laundry-line posing in a cape.  Um, who was he supposed to be emulating?
            In this Superman-less world without superheroes, who was there to pretend to be? I imagine a “Watchmen”-like world where comic books were horror, war, teen and funny animal books only.
            Where else would he turn for imaginary heroes?
            Comic strips? The Phantom? He didn’t wear a cape.
            Pulps? Doc Savage? Ditto. Crime-fighters who wore capes were of the Shadow and the Spider mold – and they were hardly Good Guys. I doubt young Clarkstood there, puffed out his chest and said “The seed of crime bears bitter fruit…”
            I avoided getting into arguments about this issue on Facebook with children born after the Modern Age in 1985. DC declared that Superman had only been around ten years while the other heroes of WWII (and before) existed before. The Golden Age Wonder Woman and Black Canary were the mothers of the “current” heroines.
            “He could have been pretending to be members of the Justice Society of Americaor All-Star Squadron.” They forget their history – if not for Superman, there would have been no JSA or, um, ASS.
            Besides, if there WERE superheroes in this MoS continuity; then why was Superman’s existence such a surprise?  “Who saved the children in the school bus?” “It was probably Hourman passing by.”  “Who was the mysterious stranger at the oil rig?” “Neptune Perkins, I guess.” “Oh, okay, case closed.”
            Now that Superman “exists” in this MoS world, it will be interesting to see how his presence affects this world. Which of Superman’s fathers will be proved right? It will make the upcoming sequels interesting.  In between scenes of CGI Pop Slough (thank you again Mr. Bissette …)
Original material copyright 2013 Michael G Curry