Shout Sister Shout: Rosetta Tharpe and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Sometimes the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame gets it right! Congratulations to them for inducting Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

Who!?

Oh, I have loved her work for many years. She did not win on the fan ballot – in fact she came in nearly dead last.  But she was inducted anyway under the “influences” category.

And rightly so.

From Wikipedia:

Sister Rosetta Tharpe; Birth name: Rosetta Nubin, or Rosether Atkins

Born: March 20, 1915, Cotton Plant, Arkansas, US

Died: October 9, 1973 (aged 58), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US

Sister Rosetta Tharpe (March 20, 1915 – October 9, 1973) was an American singer, songwriter, guitarist, and recording artist. As a pioneer of mid-20th-century music, she attained popularity in the 1930s and 1940s with her gospel recordings, characterized by a unique mixture of spiritual lyrics and rhythmic accompaniment that was a precursor of rock and roll. She was the first great recording star of gospel music and among the first gospel musicians to appeal to rhythm-and-blues and rock-and-roll audiences, later being referred to as “the original soul sister” and “the Godmother of rock and roll”. She influenced early rock-and-roll musicians, including Little Richard, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis.

Tharpe was a pioneer in her guitar technique; she was among the first popular recording artists to use heavy distortion on her electric guitar, presaging the rise of electric blues. Her guitar playing technique had a profound influence on the development of British blues in the 1960s; in particular a European tour with Muddy Waters in 1963 with a stop in Manchester is cited by prominent British guitarists such as Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Keith Richards.

Willing to cross the line between sacred and secular by performing her music of “light” in the “darkness” of nightclubs and concert halls with big bands behind her, Tharpe pushed spiritual music into the mainstream and helped pioneer the rise of pop-gospel, beginning in 1938 with the recording “Rock Me” and with her 1939 hit “This Train”.  Her unique music left a lasting mark on more conventional gospel artists such as Ira Tucker, Sr., of the Dixie Hummingbirds. While she offended some conservative churchgoers with her forays into the pop world, she never left gospel music.

Tharpe’s 1944 release “Down by the Riverside” was selected for the National Recording Registry of the U.S. Library of Congress in 2004, which noted that it “captures her spirited guitar playing and unique vocal style, demonstrating clearly her influence on early rhythm-and-blues performers” and cited her influence on “many gospel, jazz, and rock artists”. (“Down by the Riverside” was recorded by Tharpe on December 2, 1948, in New York City, and issued as Decca single 48106. Her 1945 hit “Strange Things Happening Every Day”, recorded in late 1944, featured Tharpe’s vocals and electric guitar, with Sammy Price (piano), bass and drums. It was the first gospel record to cross over, hitting no. 2 on the Billboard “race records” chart, the term then used for what later became the R&B chart, in April 1945. The recording has been cited as precursor of rock and roll. …

Musically, Tharpe’s unique guitar style blended melody-driven urban blues with traditional folk arrangements and incorporated a pulsating swing sound that is one of the first clear precursors of rock and roll.

Little Richard referred to the stomping, shouting, gospel music performer as his favorite singer when he was a child. In 1947, she heard Richard sing before her concert at the Macon City Auditorium and later invited him on stage to sing with her; it was Richard’s first public performance outside of the church. Following the show, she paid him for his performance, which inspired him to become a performer. When Johnny Cash gave his induction speech at the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, he referred to Tharpe as his favorite singer when he was a child. His daughter Rosanne Cash stated in an interview with Larry King that Tharpe was her father’s favorite singer. Tharpe began recording with electric guitar in the 1940s, with “That’s All”, which has been cited as an influence on Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley. Other musicians, including Aretha Franklin, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Isaac Hayes, have identified her singing, guitar playing, and showmanship as an important influence on them. She was held in particularly high esteem by UK jazz/blues singer George Melly. Tina Turner credits Tharpe, along with Mahalia Jackson, as an early musical influence. Such diverse performers as Meat Loaf, Neil Sedaka and Karen Carpenter have attested to the influence of Tharpe in the rhythmic energy she emanated in her performances (Carpenter’s drum fills are especially reminiscent of Tharpe’s “Chorlton Chug”). Later artists, such as Sean Michel, have credited her influence with the performance of gospel songs in more secular venues.

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Watch this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MnAQATKRBN0

Tharpe.2

She should have been inducted thirty years ago…

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About the blogger:

Michael Curry is the author of “The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles; a story of alternate history” as well as other fiction and non-fiction books.

What if the Beatles played at the White House before John and Jackie Kennedy in 1965? How would it have happened? And why? Written for an historical (fictitious) magazine in 2016, “The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles” examines the political and diplomatic reasons for the concert and postulates why both sides agreed to this historic meeting of two icons from the 1960s. John F Kennedy never met the Beatles, but this story asks … what if they did? This short story tells us what might have been.

You can view the book for purchase here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01HQQ7F8K

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Sir Ringo: Early 2018, I’m (still) the Greatest!

Ringo Starr is now officially Sir Richard Starkey.

March 20, 2018:

Less than three months after the honor was announced, the Beatles drummer received his knighthood from Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, at a ceremony earlier today at Buckingham Palace.

“I’ll be wearing it at breakfast,” Starr told the BBC about the medal he was given. And even with all the money and fame he’s achieved in his career, he said that formal acknowledgment from the royal family “means a lot, actually. It means recognition for the things we’ve done, musically and in life. So I was really pleased to accept this award.” He added that it was “way up there” with all the other awards he’s received over the decades.

Starr said that he and Paul McCartney had dinner in Los Angeles together, where McCartney, who was knighted in 1997, gave his former bandmate a bit of advice on getting through the ceremony: “He said, ‘Keep smiling.'”

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… and smile he did!

Ringo knighted 2

Originally published at http://ultimateclassicrock.com/ringo-starr-knighted/ Thank you for allowing me to republish it on this blog.

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About the blogger:

Michael Curry is the author of “The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles; a story of alternate history” as well as other fiction and non-fiction books.

What if the Beatles played at the White House before John and Jackie Kennedy in 1965? How would it have happened? And why? Written for an historical (fictitious) magazine in 2016, “The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles” examines the political and diplomatic reasons for the concert and postulates why both sides agreed to this historic meeting of two icons from the 1960s. John F Kennedy never met the Beatles, but this story asks … what if they did? This short story tells us what might have been.

You can view the book for purchase here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01HQQ7F8K

Lovely to See You Again My Friends … the Moody Blues in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

This is old news, I know.

It took me nearly as long to write about the Moody Blues being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as it took the Moody Blues to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

I have been a fan of the Moody Blues nearly as long as I have been a fan of the Beatles. The Fab Four were inducted in the Hall’s third year – it was never a snub considering that the inductees of the prior two years were inspirations even to THEM!), but it has taken many years for the Moody Blues – who in 2018 were first-time nominees despite qualifying for membership since the RRHoF’s inception.

From http://www.moodybluestoday.com/moody-blues-inducted-rock-roll-hall-fame-2018/

Dec. 13, 2017—The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame announced this morning that rock legends The Moody Blues will be inducted into The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2018.  Current members Justin Hayward (lead guitar, vocals), John Lodge (bass guitar, vocals) and Graeme Edge (drums); will receive the honor alongside former members Ray Thomas (flute/vocals) and Mike Pinder (keyboard/mellotron/vocals).  …

The 33rd Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, presented by Klipsch Audio, will take place on Saturday, April 14, 2018 at Public Auditorium in Cleveland, Ohio. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 2018 Induction Ceremony will be televised on HBO, and a radio broadcast on SiriusXM.

Says Justin Hayward: “I’m extremely grateful to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, first for creating the supreme temple to all that has brought endless joy into my life since I was a small boy, and now, after all these years, for including us.  It’s a privilege to be celebrated in the same building, on the same street even, as my own heroes – Buddy Holly and the Everly Brothers – and now, at last, with us, my heroine Nina Simone.  But all the thanks must go to The Moody Blues fans for giving us a wonderful, wonderful life in music – our induction has now validated the music they so love, and I’m so, so pleased, for us all. Yippee!”

Says John Lodge: “The fans are the heart of the Moody Blues — their faith, support and love have moved mountains. Their voices have been heard, and I am proud to say, “we have been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.”  Thank you to American Radio for keeping the faith in the Moody Blues, and to the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame for our induction.”

Says Graeme Edge: “I want to thank all of my peers who bestowed the honor of voting us in.  Most of all, I’d like to thank all of our fans who have supported us over the years, and have steadfastly stood by us.  I would also like to thank the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame foundation for putting a cap on my career; one that continues to astonish me with its gifts.

Moodies now

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Sadly, Ray Thomas died on January 4, 2018 and had retired from the band many years before.

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The RRHoF faces is usual, albeit justified, criticism when the Moodies were nominated: why it routinely ignores certain genres of rock music, particularly progressive rock. Here’s a great article:

https://www.loudersound.com/features/yes-nomination-rock-and-roll-hall-of-fame-hates-prog

“You could ask whether it really matters. After all, musicians regularly try to convince us that awards aren’t important to them – usually right up until the moment they’re given one. Well, it matters to us as fans, because it seems to reflect the fact that prog as a genre still seems to be unjustly overlooked in the eyes of the mainstream.

A few more nods of respect towards this neglected wing of the art form from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame might go some way towards rectifying that.”

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And it’s not just the Prog Rock problem: I make my annual joke on Facebook and Twitter when the nominees are announced: “I am once again snubbed by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Why haven’t I been nominated? I’ve made as many rock and roll records as (Madonna, Abba, Public Enemy, Tupac Shakur, you pick…).

But let’s enjoy the honor for our beloved Moodies – and if you are a fan of the Cars and Bon Jovi you should be just as proud and congratulations to your favorite band!

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About the blogger:

Michael Curry is the author of “The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles; a story of alternate history” as well as other fiction and non-fiction books.

What if the Beatles played at the White House before John and Jackie Kennedy in 1965? How would it have happened? And why? Written for an historical (fictitious) magazine in 2016, “The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles” examines the political and diplomatic reasons for the concert and postulates why both sides agreed to this historic meeting of two icons from the 1960s. John F Kennedy never met the Beatles, but this story asks … what if they did? This short story tells us what might have been.

You can view the book for purchase here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01HQQ7F8K

Adoption rocks! Elton John

November is National Adoption Awareness Month! Throughout the month I will be spotlighting celebrities who have adopted!

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From Wikipedia: Sir Elton Hercules John, CBE (born Reginald Kenneth Dwight; 25 March 1947), is an English singer, pianist, and composer. He has worked with lyricist Bernie Taupin as his songwriting partner since 1967; they have collaborated on more than 30 albums to date. In his five-decade career Elton John has sold more than 300 million records, making him one of the best-selling music artists in the world.  He has more than fifty Top 40 hits, including seven consecutive No. 1 US albums, 58 Billboard Top 40 singles, 27 Top 10, four No. 2 and nine No. 1. For 31 consecutive years (1970–2000) he had at least one song in the Billboard Hot 100. His tribute single, re-penned in dedication to the late Princess Diana, “Candle in the Wind 1997” sold over 33 million copies worldwide and is the best-selling single in the history of the UK and US singles charts.  He has also composed music, produced records, and has occasionally acted in films. John owned Watford Football Club from 1976 to 1987, and 1997 to 2002. He is an honorary Life President of the club, and in 2014 had a stand named after him at the club’s home stadium.

DSC_0257

Elton and husband David Furnish have adopted two sons, Zachary and Elijah from the same surrogate mother from California, and have kept a close relationship with the birth mother.

‘We have a very close bond with her and were in constant touch throughout the pregnancy, getting updates, seeing scans and sharing all the little details that make those nine months so exciting.

‘She has given us two amazing gifts and we in turn have a duty of care to her and are fiercely protective of her anonymity.’

Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2269318/Sir-Elton-John-David-Furnish-proudly-new-baby-son-Elijah.html

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“Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and how Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped” leads a couple through their days of infertility treatments and adoption. It is told with gentle (and sometimes not-so-gentle) humor from the perspective of a nerdy father and his loving and understanding wife.

Join Mike and Esther as they go through IUIs and IFVs, as they search for an adoption agency, are selected by a birth mother, prepare their house, prepare their family, prepare themselves and wait for their daughter to be born a thousand miles from home.

frontcover

WINNER: 2015 Reader’s Favorite Book Award Finalist, Non-Fiction Humor

WINNER: Honorable Mention, 2015 New York Book Festival!

WINNER: Honorable Mention, 2014 Great Midwest Book Festival!

Abby’s Road is available at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and at Smashwords.

 

Copyright 2017 Michael Curry

 

Got to get WHO into my Life! Doctor Who and the Beatles

(Yes the title is stupid, but in over 300 songs performed, the Beatles had NO song title with the word Who in it!)

abbey-road

Were the Beatles fans of “Doctor Who”?

meet-the-doctors

The internet says yes. And remember what Abraham Lincoln said, “If it is on the internet, then must be true.”

yellow-tardis

I found no leanings yea or nay in the various bios I read in over 40+ years. They were fans of comic books, yes, but nothing on Doctor Who.

cybermen

Nor do the websites saying the Fabs were fans of the show have sources backing them up.  Various Beatle bios (as a group or individuals) are silent.

The interweb says there were plans on the Fabs appearing live in the episode called “The Chase”, but their manager Brian Epstein vetoed it. The git…

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“Doctor Who” first aired on November 23, 1963. The Beatles second album, With the Beatles, was released the day before. By this time the Fabs performed in the Royal Variety Performance (November 4th) and will, on the 29th, release their single “I Want to Hold Your Hand”. They had finished a tour of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. They actually had a day off from performing. Whether they tuned into the debut of a children’s science fiction show is unknown … but unlikely.

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That’s not to say they didn’t watch the show in the years afterward. “Doctor Who” was immensely popular and, as is the case today with popular shows, the Fabs may have HEARD of it. They may have even watched it to see what all the hubbub was about …

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On the other hand, “Doctor Who” definitely knew about the Beatles:

As mentioned, the unverified story is that the band was to appear in the 1965 episode “The Chase” as old men. But instead the show’s characters watched a recording of the Beatles performing Ticket to Ride – itself a clip from the program “Top of the Pops”. Ironically, in this early era most BBC television shows were taped over after broadcast. Episodes – even entire series – were forever lost. This is why some early Doctor Who episodes are missing – a few recovered only when a rare copy pops up in a TV executive’s attic in Australian or Canada. “The Chase” is one that survived, and thus so did the only known clip of the Beatles on “Top of the Pops”.

In the 1967 episode “Evil of the Daleks”, Paperback Writer was playing in the background of a café.

These two examples tend to point toward the Fabs being fans of the show. They (or at least Brian Epstein) would not have allowed their songs to be played otherwise, yes?

In the 1987 episode “Remembrance of the Daleks” (but set in 1963) Ace walked into a bar where Elvis Presley music was playing, and promptly switched it to the Beatles’ “Do You Want to Know a Secret?” Later in the episode, “A Taste of Honey” played.

lennon-dalek

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Other Beatle references:

The Second Doctor, the Third Doctor, and Jo Grant all quoted the song I am the Walrus in the 1973 anniversary episode “The Three Doctors”.

In the 1985 episode “Revelation of the Daleks”, the DJ had posters of the Beatles in his studio.

In the 1989 episode “Ghost Light”, the Seventh Doctor told Ace “It’s been a hard day’s night.”

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That was the TV show, as for the Doctors themselves …

Christopher Eccleston, born in Lancashire, played the Ninth Doctor. He told the producers that he could not do a standard BBC accent, so his thick northern accent was given a one-off line that I still love: (I paraphrase): “If you are from outer space, why do you speak with a northern accent?” “Well, every planet has a north, doesn’t it?”

He has performed as John Lennon twice.

“Lennon Naked”, a 2010 made-for-television biopic covers the years 1967 (after a brief intro in 1964) to 1971 (with some flashbacks). Among the highlights, the film recreates the photographing of the cover of “Two Virgins”.  This means we get full-frontal. Oh joy, we get to see Doctor Who’s shlong. Frankly? He has nothing to be ashamed of.

Milton Berle would be jealous.

He next performs as Lennon in the audio CD of 2013’s The John Lennon Letters. He reads John’s letters in character and it is a wonderful listening experience. Look for it if your library system has audio CDs.

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Another “Doctor Who” connection is the made-for-TV biopic “John & Yoko, a Love Story” from 1985. It covered the couple’s entire relationship from 1966 to 1980. I was one of the twenty-three people who saw the movie on TV instead of Monday Night Football, where the Miami Dolphins handed the Chicago Bears their only defeat that season (the Bears eventually won the Superbowl against the Patriots).

mcgann-capaldi

 

Mark McGann played John. Mark is the brother of Paul McGann, the Eighth Doctor.

 

Peter Capaldi (the Twelfth Doctor) played George Harrison.

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I am Who as you are Who as Who are you and we are all together …

Nah, I like the other title better …

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Original Material Copyright 2016 Michael Curry

Michael Curry is a life-long Beatles fan and has written the short story “The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles”, available here on Amazon Kindle.

Paul McCartney the Life, a review, part two

Paul McCartney, the Life

By Phillip Norman

A review, part two

Read part one here

 

Some time is spent on Paul (and the other Beatles’) reaction to John Lennon’s murder. Paul’s reaction (“it’s a drag”) has haunted Paul to this day, but Norman goes into detail explaining why Paul said it. He was obviously shell-shocked and it was the only way NOT to lower the careful shield with which Paul surrounds himself.

At this point the book spends less time reviewing his albums and their tracks – focusing on only a few select tracks that have more meaning to Paul’s life at the time (“Get It” was called a weak track for what would be a starring vehicle for Carl Perkins; “Little Willow” written for Ringo’s children after the death of their mother.

Finally, a complaint about the book: pages were spent on the album Off the Ground while the superior prior album Flowers in the Dirt was only given a brief mention and then only connected to his return to touring. There was no analysis of Paul’s writing with Elvis Costello (only his third credited writing partner after Linda and you-know-who). The album contained the song “Put It There” with the lyric “Put it there if it weighs a ton…” one of his father’s favorite phrases repeated throughout the first half of the book. I find that omission strange.

The last quarter of the book focuses on Paul’s interest in the Liverpool Institute for the Performing Arts and his entry into the classical music oeuvre (a word used, if not frequently, then more than usual in a biography).

The Beatles Anthology, his later albums, his on-and-off relations with George Harrison and Yoko Ono, and Linda’s cookbook and line of commercial vegetarian dishes were also given their due.

Paul’s (and Linda’s) vegetarianism were detailed many times through the book.

 

The last quarter also focuses on death; on the end of things.

The chapters on Linda’s fight with cancer were moving. Her concern over her children was similar to that of Paul’s mother for him and his brother. The author made a point of showing that echo. Paul’s statement on her last moments brings tears.

Paul’s childhood friend, Ivan Vaughn (who shared a birthday with Paul) was almost more so. The author reprints a poem Paul wrote that also brings a tear.

And then George Harrison died.

Odd that Paul’s father’s death in the mid-1970s did not bring on such emotion from Paul or the author. So much of Jim McCartney’s life filled the book – his remarriage, his adopted step-daughter (who provided a lot of commentary through the book), the racehorse Paul bought for him, his various homes, etc. This may be intentional and not an implication of coldness on Paul’s part.

His marriage and divorce from Heather Mills is treated fairly – the author quotes directly from the court documents. Being a book on Paul – and by now the reader can tell where the author’s sympathies lie – Heather comes out of these Chapters as the villain of the story. Here we see a more “tell-all” style than anywhere else in the book by the author including Mills’ quotes about Paul and his children and their retorts.

Paul’s flings and affairs are spoken of frequently during the Beatle years. But after marrying Linda, though, there is no infidelity! None. Not even Heather Mills accuses him of fooling around with other women. For Paul to so strongly adhere to his marriage vows is very much in his character.

Here we read about Macca – the nickname the author uses to describe Paul in his darker moments: his few bouts with public intoxication, his row with a photographer and a fan, his firing employees that were with him for over a decade.

The book ends with Paul’s happier third marriage to Nancy Shevell, a friend of his and Linda’s for many years.

 

In the last chapters Norman gushes over Paul’s children. The reader is unsure if the concern for Heather and James is Paul’s or the author’s. Regardless, we are relieved to learn of their success.

By the way, James’ album Me is good stuff!

Likewise, the readers are also left unsure if the proud boasting of Mary’s and, especially, Stella’s successful careers outside of their famous parents’ shadows are Paul’s or the author’s. (Heather and James also have successful careers, but the author intimates their success came with more struggles).

That’s what good writing does.

Beatrice is not ignored, but is barely mentioned, but that is because she (and the grandchildren) is not yet an adult and is none of our business.

 

The book shows us Paul’s generosity as a lovable public figure and his coldness as a businessman.  He becomes the most irate when something opens a crack in his carefully and sternly-controlled public image or when his equally-protected family privacy is revealed even slightly (the very public divorce with Heather Mills certainly revealed cracks he would rather we not see).

 

An excellent book. After the introduction, I feared the book would be a simple recitation of Paul’s deeds and accomplishments.

Although not a reference book, it DOES list in detail the events in Paul’s life with an eye to the man who lost his mother at 14 while striving to find and maintain his lost family while living in the glass bubble of Beatlemania and its subsequent fame, from the the Ashers to the Eastmans.

 

I listened to the audio CD performed by Johnathan Keeble. It was an excellent series of CDs. The narrator performed the voices instead of doing a strict read-through, but it enhanced the story rather than distracted (as such performances can do). His imitation of Paul was quite good (the other Beatles not so much). Keeble does a wonderful northern/scouse accent. As is usual with narrators that perform a book rather than just READ it, his female impersonations can be distracting with two exceptions. His near-whisper of speaking as Linda captured her shyness and likeability. His Heather Mills was crass and pointed.

 

Paul McCartney the Life is a long read but worth it. Put it on your shelf with the best of the Beatle-related books. It’s a keeper. One hopes that when … the end … finally comes Norman will be around to give a final update.

Many years from now.

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Paul McCartney the Life by Philip Norman, 978016327961, 818 pages by Little, Brown & Company, published May 3, 2016.

 

Original material copyright 2016 Michael Curry

 

Michael Curry is a life-long Beatles fan and has written the short story “The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles”, available here on Amazon Kindle.

 

 

Paul McCartney the life, a review (part one)

Paul McCartney, the Life

By Phillip Norman

A review, part one

The author’s name should be familiar to hardcore Beatle fans or Beatle historians.

He is the author of Shout, still a definitive biography of the group. It went to press shortly before John Lennon’s murder in 1980 and was published soon thereafter. The book was a smash hit – it would have sold well despite the timing of its release; it was a good book – and was timely bolstered by the author’s seeming assertion that the group was John Lennon plus three session men. McCartney bristled.

The Lennon lovefest continued with the author’s John Lennon, the Life; again relegating McCartney to that of a lucky hanger-on.

When the author was hired to write Paul McCartney, the Life, the author expected no cooperation from the Macca machine. But to his surprise, he received, if not Paul’s blessing, at least an affirmative nod. The author was given permission to speak to family, current and former employees and fellow musicians.

(Note I left out the word “friends”. Although the author neither says not intimates the fact, after reading the book it seems Paul has no friends other than his very tight-knit family spanning four generations. There’s nothing wrong with keeping yourself to yourself, but it is telling to his personality that there is no Eric Clapton to his George Harrison or no Harry Nilsson to his John Lennon. He had Linda, his kids, his brother, and his dad, aunts, uncles and Ringo – who counts as a brother. That’s all he needs.)

Anyone who called Paul (or his office) to verify Norman’s claim was told, “It’s up to you, but Paul doesn’t mind if you speak to him.”

There are only archival (by that I mean previously published) interviews with Paul, his children, his wives and Ringo. Otherwise the author interviewed nearly everyone else!

Norman explains this in the long introduction; along with his first meeting with Paul when he (Norman) was a reporter in the 1960s. He got to hold Paul’s Hoffner violin bass (Paul tossed it to him – the author describes his mortal fear of dropping it). The author admitted his bias toward Lennon and promised to write a fair book on Paul.

He succeeds.

Paul does not have many demons (unlike Lennon), but he does have his warts. These are shown in the book, but not in a tabloid way. They are explained and in the end the reader is left feeling sympathetic.

 

Paul comes off as a workaholic musician who autocratically keeps a tight rein on his music and image. The only other part of his life that matters is family – where he is a doting husband, father, grandfather, son, brother and nephew.

Paul McCartney the Life is as thick as a cinder block and could stop a bullet. Very little of Paul’s life is left out. Being able to surprise hard-core Beatles fans is a good trick in these later years – but you’ll find SOMETHING you did not know within its covers.

Norman explains how Paul’s love of family was rooted from the beginning with his kind father and mother. His mother’s death was a touching early moment and referred to throughout the rest of the book/the rest of Paul’s life. It weighed on his soul as much as the death of Julia Lennon did to John’s, but not as publicly.

The author also details whence Paul’s love of music came. Not just rock and roll, but varying genres thanks to his father, Jim, who played in his own jazz band.

 

The Beatle years were given their respectful due and comprised the second quarter of the book. The only tabloid-y part of the book came from Paul’s love affairs during the years before Linda.

Much is made of Paul’s non-Beatle interests during the 1960s and emphasizes that he was the first to experiment with things usually attributed to John: Paul was the first to tinker with avant-garde music and film, collect art (he drew and painted, too). He was interested in the latest fashion trends and was the first of the Fabs to grow a moustache (but, always being image-conscious, until the Beatles were finished he NEVER had his hair in anything but variations of the Beatle-cut).

The author describes Paul’s lawsuit to break up the corporate stranglehold of the Business Beatles in grisly detail as well as his public feud with Lennon. The author postulates that if Paul’s kind song “Dear Friend” had appeared on the album “Ram” rather than “Wild Life” it would have saved both sides a lot of hard feelings. I agree.

He began the 1970s with songs and albums that gave the people what they wanted – Beatle-like pop. After a few mis-starts, he formed Wings, a group that were what he wanted the Beatles to become – a performing band.

Here the author begins going into material that most Beatle biographies only gloss over – the story of Wings. He details their gigs. Band members get brief biographies. The making and charting of albums and singles are detailed and reviewed.

He also details the rapprochement with his “estranged fiancé” John.

Paul’s time in a Japanese jail for possession of marijuana is detailed (Norman should be complimented for writing of Paul’s copious history with the weed. His – and Linda and other – drug use is detailed but told in complete neutrality and with no judgment).

The Japan arrest marked the end of Wings (the other band members were forced to leave the country and Paul, at the time, saw that as a betrayal), the end of touring for many years, the end of arena-rocker Paul of the 1970s. Later that year came another ending.

 

My review continues next time.

 

Paul McCartney the Life by Philip Norman, 978016327961, 818 pages by Little, Brown & Company, published May 3, 2016.

 

Original material copyright 2016 Michael Curry

Michael Curry is the author of the short story “The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles” available here on Amazon Kindle.