Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Wonderwall Music (Album) 1968

- Recorded between November 1967 and February 1968 and released in November 1968.
- The second solo album by a Beatle (after Paul McCartney's soundtrack for The Family Way), this album was written by Harrison as a soundtrack for the film Wonderwall.
- Much like the film that McCartney had written a soundtrack for, Wonderwall isn't particularly well-remembered either. This was mainly due to the fact that Wonderwall was barely released due to distribution issues, and so it remains a fairly obscure curiosity of the '60s.
- Harrison collaborated with the orchestral composer John Barham to create 19 tracks, most of which were Indianesque tunes influenced by Harrison's time in Bombay. Harrison used the opportunity afforded to him to extend his creativity by writing songs for lesser-known Indian instruments.
- Some tracks feature various other experiments in genre-hopping, ranging from psychedelic rock to cowboy music and varying modes of Eastern music.
- During these sessions, Harrison also recorded the backing tracks for his Beatles song The Inner Light.
- Aside from a spoken-word piece and some unintelligible Indian singing, there are no real vocals on the album as its mostly incidental music.
- Harrison plays piano, mellotron, acoustic and electric guitars.
- Some 20-odd musicians worked on the soundtrack, playing the following western instruments: piano, flugelhorn, harmonium, steel guitar, tack piano, organ, drums, bass, harmonica, banjo, and flute. The Indian instruments featured are: sarod, tabla, pakavaj, shehnai, sitar, surbahar, santoor, bansuri, and tabla tarang.
- Ringo Starr provided some drumming for the soundtrack, and Eric Clapton also guest-featured as well.
- I listened to this a bit but found it fairly unlistenable. There are some shining moments but they're obviously taken out of context as this is music written to go with a film. Harrison pushed the Indian angle to its natural endpoint with this album, and it's interesting to note that he returned to Indian music genres very little after this point - it's as if he got it out of his system.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Lady Madonna (Single) 1968

Lady Madonna
- Written by McCartney. 
- During 1968 the band decided to head off to India for a big session of meditation before writing their next album. A single was put together and released around February to help fill the gap. It was initially planned to release a new Lennon song, Across the Universe, as the single but Lennon wasn't happy with the recording and McCartney apparently did his best not to encourage the song. A McCartney track, Lady Madonna, was chosen for the A-side instead.
- This is the last Beatles single to be released by Capital and Parlophone Records. From here on the band would release their singles on their own label, Apple Records.
- McCartney was inspired by the piano-style of Fats Domino and worked on trying to get his voice into a lower register to help match the mood of the piece. The song signaled a partial move back towards the band's rock n roll roots, and Domino would later cover Lady Madonna.
- Lennon helped with the lyrics. 'See how they run' was his, a carry-on from his nursery rhyme schtick used in I Am the Walrus.

- McCartney sings the lead vocals, and plays the bass and piano tracks. Lennon did backing vocals and a guitar track, and Harrison did the same. All four members provided handclaps. Four saxophonists were brought in to feature in the song as well.  
- The old school brass-sounding solo bit featured on the final mix of the single is actually the band members humming through combs. The saxophonists were then brought in to match the melody on actual saxophones.

- Ringo recorded two separate drum tracks... his main (first) track was played with brush sticks, and he then recorded a more 'rock'-styled track with regular sticks to sit on top of it. 
- Ronnie Scott, the owner of a British Jazz club, originally played the saxophone solo - though it hardly featured on the final mix. McCartney later fixed this for the track's use on the Anthology series and the recent Love album as an apology to Scott.
- Took five takes to complete, and runs for just over 2 minutes.

The Inner Light
- B-side to Lady Madonna.
- Written by Harrison. This is the first time a Harrison song (or anything other than a Lennon/McCartney song) was featured on a single.
- The lyrics are a direct lift from chapter 47 from the official book of Taoism (a book of Chinese philosophy/religion)
- Harrison had the instrumental track for this album recorded during the making of his Wonderwall Music album in Bombay, India. Wonderwall Music is a (mostly) instrumental album comprising of Indian and more standard Harrison-ish tunes, serving as a soundtrack for the '60s film Wonderwall
- It is the only Beatles song actually recorded in India (though many others were written there). 
- Harrison provides the lead vocals, while McCartney and Lennon do a little bit of backing vocals. None play any instruments on this track, and Ringo doesn't feature at all. Indian musicians provide all of the instrumentation. These instruments were the shenai (a string instrument, played by Sharad Gosh), flute (played by Hariprasad Chaurasia), the sarod (another string instrument, more bass-like, played by Ashish Khan), the tabla (a percussion instrument, played by Mehapurush Misra), pakhavaj (percussion, also by Misra) and harmonium (Rij Ram Desad). 
- Harrison didn't want to sing the lead vocals as he felt the melody was outside of his ability, but Lennon and McCartney convinced him to give it a go. 
- Aside from its release on this single, this song remained very hard to find for many years. It was first released on an album in 1980 as part of the American Rarities compilation album. 
- The mono mix features an extra piece of instrumentation in the intro part of the track. 
- This is a great track, and I think it was one of the last Beatles tracks I heard.
- It runs for two and a half minutes, and took 6 takes to complete.  

Magical Mystery Tour (EP/Album) 1967

- Released in early November, 1967, in the US as an album. 
- Also issued as a 6 track EP (a double EP) in the UK in December 1967 in support of the Beatles-made TV movie of the same name. 
- The movie was very poorly recieved and it's US-screening was even cancelled due to the negative response. However, the music, as always, was popular, and the EP was extended to album-length in the US, and the release is now often considered to be the band's 9th full-length album.
- This album, as you might guess from the cover, features the band at it's most gimmicky. The band's psychadelic tendencies reached their zenith (with the tracks Flying and Blue Jay Way in particular) and Paul McCartney's hokeyness factor reached new heights (or lows, depending on your perspective) with Your Mother Should Know.
- The EP-release featured 6 new tracks. The album version added 5 more, being the previous stand-alone singles featuring Strawberry Fields Forever, Penny Lane, All You Need is Love, Baby You're a Rich Man and Hello Goodbye. Hello Goodbye was released as a single shortly before the US album and UK EP.
- The film, which was the focal point of the whole project, was an unmitigated disaster. The band hoped to film various unscripted 'magical' journeys taken by ordinary, everyday people (such as John Lennon's uncle Charlie). Filmmakers the Beatles aint. No longer under the watchful eye of their now-dead manager Brian Epstein, the band was free to embark on all sorts of stupid ideas... this film being the first. Epstein had previously stopped the band from pursuing various other silly ideas (one of which was a guest appearance on Doctor Who where they would play future versions of themselves as old men).
- The filming of Magical Mystery Tour was dogged by many fans following the bus in their cars, which caused a lot of traffic congestion and rendered the band unable to film as freely as they'd hoped. Also, the broadcast on BBC TV was in black and white, which certainly didn't help the film's colourful palette.
- I have this film on video. I have only watched it once. It is terrible and only worth watching for the music segments featuring the band's songs.

1. Magical Mystery Tour
- Track 1 on the EP.
- Co-written by Lennon and McCartney, though Lennon later said it was mainly McCartney's song.
- Written as the theme tune for the TV-movie, the lyrics pretty much explain the plot and idea behind the whole thing. McCartney's call to 'roll up, roll up' was also a thickly-veiled reference to rolling joints. 
- McCartney started his writing of the song with only a name and three chords (the same progression used for the title track on Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, albeit in a different key).
- The song was recorded in a fairly disogranized and haphazard manner. When it was time to record the trumpets, the brass section started their session without any sheet music - the score was written as they went, allegedly by one of the four trumpet players. McCartney and Lennon hadn't prepared anything for them to play. It's probably pretty fair to say that were very high at this point in time.
- The version featured in the context of the TV-movie is actually slightly different and has never been officially released in a strictly-audio format. It features an extended intro and a monologue section spoken by Lennon. 
- McCartney sings the main vocals, and also provides harmony vocal, bass and piano tracks.
- Lennon provided backing vocals and an acoustic guitar track, Harrison did some rhythm guitar and backing vocals, and Ringo played maracas and tambourine in addition to his drums.
- Lots of the recording was made at different speeds and then slowed down/sped up to get everything in sync for the final version.
- Mal Evans and Neil Aspinall played some additional percussion on the recording (cowbell and finger cymbals).
- Runs for nearly 3 minutes and took 9 takes to complete.

2. Fool on the Hill
- Written by McCartney.
- The lyrics took inspiration from the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (the Beatles' future spiritual leader), who was often not taken seriously because he often giggled and laughed.
- The song was written while the band recorded the Sgt. Peppers album. Lennon thought highly of the song, especially its lyrics.
- A solo demo of the song featuring just McCartney later turned up on the Anthology albums.
- The bulk of the song was recorded in September 1967. About a month later McCartney decided to add the flutes in. 
- Along with the lead vocals, McCartney also plays the bass, piano, and recorder tracks. 
- Lennon plays acoustic guitar, harmonica, and maracas on the recording.
- Harrison also added in a harmonica track as well as his acoustic guitar.
- Richard Taylor, Christopher Taylor and Jack Ellory were brought in to play the flutes. 

- Ringo added in some maracas and finger cymbals along with his drum track.  
- The harmonica tracks added by Lennon and Harrison for the middle section were also reversed to give the song a more psychedelic feel. 
- The video clip was shot near Nice, in France.

- Runs for three minutes, and took 6 takes to finish. The original edit was a full minute longer but McCartney removed this from the end of the song and no recordings of the 'full' version exist.
3. Flying
- The first song written by all four members of the band, and one of only two songs to be credited in such a fashion.
- This is the first officially released instrumental by the band, and one of only about 3 officially-released Beatles instrumentals. The band had previously worked on the instrumental 12 Bar Original for Rubber Soul, but it was never included on the album.
- Originally titled Aerial Tour Instrumental. The song was inspired by the style of Booker T and the MGs.
- Originally featured a jazz-like outro, but this was later cut and replaced with some tape loops put together by Lennon and Ringo.
- The full version lasted for about 9 and a half minutes. It was cut down to well under 3 minutes for the final released version.
- Lennon plays the mellotron, and Harrison and McCartney provide acoustic guitars tracks (along with McCartney also doing the bass). Ringo provides some maracas in addition to the drums. The chanting parts were done by all four band members. 

- Harrison's distorted acoustic guitar track was achieved by running the instrument through the speaker of a Hammond organ. Harrison doubled his guitar track, and Lennon also doubled the mellotron. McCartney's acoustic contribution was the guitar solo.
- The video clip that accompanies this song features aerial shots of iceland washed over in different colours. These shots are outtakes from the movie Dr Strangelove, provided Denis O'Dell - an associate of Apple Music who had worked on said movie. Dr. Strangelove's director, Stanley Kubrick, noticed the unauthorised use of his outtakes when the Magical Mystery Tour TV movie went to air and rang O'Dell to complain.

- Took 8 takes to finish recording.

4. Blue Jay Way
- The 6th and final track on the original Magical Mystery Tour EP.
- written by Harrison.
- Harrison was waiting for a friend to arrive at a house in LA. This house was on the street Blue Jay Way, which is apparently notoriously hard to get to and sits up on some hills. Harrison wanted to go to bed but his friend (Derek Taylor, a British journalist) was taking a while to get there, so Harrison filled the time by writing this song on his hammond organ.
- Harrison breaks away from his usual forays into Indian music here (and he will only really use that style again for the b-side The Inner Light). The song retains an influence from Indian drone-music, but no Indian instruments are really used.
- At the end of the song there is a strange warping of the loop that closes it. It sounds like a malfunction in the loop but it is in fact an edit to cover up what was meant to happen during this song in the TV-movie. It was planned for George to be hit by the bus, but as this idea was abandoned during the filming of the movie the references/gap in the song had to be taken out accordingly.
- The song is in the same key and tone as the previous track Flying, though this is unintentional and these two tracks probably shouldn't have been placed together on the EP.
- The song utilises a plodding, almost-turgid rhythm in keeping with the 'waiting'-themed lyrics.
- Many effects and ideas are re-used from the Revolver and Sgt. Pepper's albums heres. Tape loops, flange-liked effects on the cymbals, tape played at different speeds, the all permeating-organ that sounds like disorientating fog... etc, etc. One weird thing also embedded in the recording is a backwards recording of the entire song, running concurrently with the forwards version.
- The song also uses a strange scale for it's chords, remniscent of Indian raga-music but probably more in keeping with certain modes of 19th century classical music. 

- The mono mix of the recoding does not retain the majority of the backwards track. 
- Harrison sings the lead vocals, plays the organ and also provides some backing vocals. Lennon and McCartney also provide backing vocals, and Ringo supports Harrison with some lead vocals. Further instrumentation credits: Lennon on tambourine, McCartney on bass, and Ringo on drums. It is unknown who plays the cello on the recording.
- The song runs for almost 4 minutes and took 3 takes to complete.

5. Your Mother Should Know
- The 2nd track from the EP.
- Written by Paul McCartney, specifically for the TV-movie. He envisioned it as a musical production number, and this segment of the film starts with the Beatles descending a big staircase in white suits. 

- The song's title is a reference to the early '60s play and film A Taste of Honey.
- Recording was a bit troubled on this song. It was recorded in one session, and then a second session was booked where it was re-recorded. The second recording was then scrapped altogether and a third session was booked so that overdubs could be added to the original. Surprisingly, the song itself sounds remarkably smooth. 

- For some unknown reason the vocals change from the left channel to the right for the third verse and then move back again.
- McCartney plays a piano track, bass, and provides the lead vocals. Lennon plays organ on the recording and does some backing vocals, as does Harrison, who also plays tambourine on the recording. No guitar features on the song at all.
- Runs for two and a half minutes, and took a staggering 52 takes to finish.

6. I Am the Walrus
- Written entirely by Lennon. Some consider it to be his last great Beatles song, or the last song he put real effort and innovation into.
- The lyrics are reflective of Lewis Carroll's poetry, of which Lennon was a fan. Lennon later remarked that he actually got his interpretation of The Walrus and the Carpenter wrong as he hadn't realised that the Walrus was the bad guy (being the capitalist-figure of the poem).
- Lennon also wrote the first two lines whilst on acid. The rhythm of the part where he sings 'Mister City Police man..." was inspired by the sound of a police siren going past his house. Lennon also heard that an old teacher of his was getting his students to analyse Beatles lyrics, so he put in some deliberately confusing and nonsensical lines as well. Beyond all this there has also been a lot of conjecture from fans about 'who' the Walrus is and what the song is really about. Lennon made direct references to this song in at least two more songs he wrote - the Beatles song Glass Onion and his solo song God.
- It's rumoured that the Eggman is a reference to Eric Burdon, singer from the Animals. He was referred to as 'Eggs' by a lot of his friends because he liked to break eggs over the bodies of naked girls.
- Every major chord is used in this song. Most impressive is the outro, where the bass and guitar descends through the notes whilst the strings move through them upwards. Also, as the outro is 7 bars long, each 4-bar phrase starts on a completely different chord. Listen to it, it rules.
- The dialogue heard throughout the outro is from the Magical Mystery Tour film, and from a BBC radio recording of King Lear

- I Am the Walrus was designated as the B-Side for the Hello Goodbye single, which led to some friction within the band as Lennon (encouraged by Yoko Ono) wanted the Beatles singles to move into a more artsy direction.
- Lennon plays an electric piano, the mellotron and a tambourine, as well as provides the lead vocals.
- McCartney only plays bass, and Harrison guitar, Ringo drums.
- The strings, brass and woodwinds were all session musicians, orchestrated and conducted by George Martin.
- The Mike Sammes singers provided the backing vocals. Mike Sammes was responsible for a lot of backing vocals throughout 60s-UK pop music.

- The mono mix features a few differences - extra beats in certain sections and such.
- The band Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) took this song as their inspirational starting point when they formed.
- Runs for four and a half minutes, and took 17 takes to complete.

7. Hello Goodbye
- Written by McCartney.
- Released as a single in November 1967 with I Am the Walrus as its B-Side. It was also included on the Magical Mystery Tour album in the U.S. three days after the single came out.
- McCartney wrote this song rather quickly after being asked by a Beatles-related employee how he wrote his songs. He promptly sat down at the Harmonium and put this together. The employee shouted out the opposite to whatever McCartney sang and that's how the rather poor lyrics came together.
- Lennon didn't like this song very much, and felt fairly insulted that this was chosen as the A-side of the single over I Am the Walrus. I can see his point. Both McCartney and George Martin felt that Hello, Goodbye was the most commercial song. Lennon would come to resent such decisions.
- The 'surprise' outro was written on the fly in the studio (and dubbed Maori Finale), and was the only part of the song that Lennon liked.

- McCartney sings the lead vocals and plays bass, piano, conga, and bongos on the recording. Lennon provides guitar, harmony vocals, and organ, and Harrison plays the lead guitar track as well as providing harmony vocals and handclaps. Ringo recorded drums, maracas, and tambourine. 
- Ken Essex and Leo Birnbaum played violas for the recording.
- Three separate music videos were filmed for this song, but none were aired by the BBC at the time due to musician union rules about miming on television. McCartney directed the main video clip.

- Runs for three and a half minutes and took 21 takes to complete.

8. Strawberry Fields Forever
Released as a single previously. See full song info here.

9. Penny Lane
Released as a single previously. See full song info here.

10. Baby You're a Rich Man
Released as the B-side of All You Need Is Love. See full song info here.

11. All You Need is Love
Released as a single previously. See full song info here.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Family Way (Album) 1967

- I'm not going to address this one track-by-track, as there isn't much that can said in that fashion.
- Released in January 1967, this is the soundtrack to the film of the same name.
- The film isn't particularly well-remembered. It was based on a telefilm from 1961, and starred Hayley Mills and Hywell Bennett. John Mills also co-starred in a supporting role. Wikipedia describes it as a 'comedy-drama'. I haven't seen it.
- The album was originally credited to the George Martin Orchestra, and the tracks titled as 'movements' (EG. 1st movement, 2nd movement).
- In 1996 the album was remastered and re-issued with extra tracks - roughly 60% of these tracks are credited to Paul McCartney.
- McCartney plays bass and piano on the album, and provides some light vocals (not really that much in the way of singing words though).
- The George Martin orchestra provides the rest - Clarinet, guitar, flute, violins and cello.
- It's very string-heavy and woodwindy. Most of the songs repeat the same motif, and it's very gentle sounding. You can hear the beginnings of McCartney's Fool on the Hill in some of it.
- A single Theme from the Family Way was issued in 1967.
- This album is considered the first solo effort from any Beatle.

Monday, February 17, 2014

All You Need Is Love (Single) 1967

1. All You Need is Love
- Written by Lennon. It's said that the song was written on commission by the BBC, who asked for the Beatles to contribute a song to their live Our World special, an unprecedented global broadcast. They asked for a song that had a simple message many nationalities could understand. McCartney later said that Lennon had already written this song and that it was tailored to this effect after they were asked, but Lennon, Ringo and George Martin all maintained that the song was written entirely from scratch for this special. The vocals for the single were (mostly) recorded live from this special. Some pilot instrumentation was pre-recorded beforehand, and a few other things were later fixed up afterwards.
- Lennon used his previous song The Word as a starting point, in terms of the kind of message he wanted to write about.
- The song was released as a single in the UK the day before the band's performance of it went to air on the Our World special, on the 7th of July, 1967. Its B-side is the track Baby You're a Rich Man.
- This was the last song that the band wrote before their manager, Brian Epstein, commited suicide.
- The live performance featured the band sitting around on stools, surrounded by friends such as Mick Jagger. Lennon was nervous about the performance, and parts of it were later re-recorded for the single. McCartney was caught offguard by some of the instrumentation during the performance, and he also went out of his way to wear a red rose after Lennon specified that McCartney should only wear the colour green. 

- It is unclear and unconfirmed as to whether McCartney also attempted to write a song for the Our World special.
- Due to the 'world' theme of the special, the song was given a few international touches - such as the French national anthem at the beginning, and the various snippets of other European classicial pieces and famous standards during the long fade out (including the earlier Beatles hit She Loves You). One piece of music included was from the American song In The Mood by Glen Miller, which resulted in an out-of-court settlement due to the fact that it was still in copyright.
- Usually McCartney is thought of as the more boundary-pushing Beatle in terms of songwriting structure, but here Lennon employs some very unusual time signatures (for pop songs anyway)... the verses are in 7/4 (and in one case, 8/4), and some of the choruses are in the more usual 4/4 (though it gets mixed back and forth as the song goes on... one chorus is in 6/4, etc, etc). Aside from Pink Floyd's Money, this is the only song written in 7/4 to reach the Top 20 in the US charts.
- The song was later included on the Magical Mystery Tour album/EP.
- An remixed, edited version of the song was also included on the Yellow Submarine soundtrack.
- Lennon played the banjo and the harpsicord for the recording.
- McCartney performed his usual bass duties, and also played the double-bass.
- Harrison did lead guitar, as well as a violin track. His guitar solo had some mistakes in it due to the live nature of some of the recording, but it was one of the few elements of the song left uncorrected in the
- Starr added some additional percussion as well as his drum track. It's not really clear what percussion Starr added.
- George Martin played a piano track and wrote the orchestration, which included session musicians playing a variety of string, wood and brass instruments, and an accordian, all of which was conducted by Mick Vickers.
- Various other people sang backing vocals and clapped their hands - among these were Mick Jagger, Marianne Faithful, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Jane Asher and Patti Harrison.

- The song runs for nearly 4 minutes, and took a staggering 58 takes to complete. 

2. Baby You're a Rich Man
- B-side to All You Need is Love and later included on the Magical Mystery Tour album/EP.
- Like A Day in the Life, this song was created by joining two songs together. The verses were from a Lennon song One of the Beautiful People and the choruses were an unfinished McCartney song called Baby You're a Rich Man

- Some have suggested that the song was written by Lennon about Brian Epstein, and that one of the lines is (or was in earlier versions) "Baby you're a rich fag jew". 
- Recorded for use in the Yellow Submarine movie/soundtrack but was eventually left off (and later reinstated for subsequent re-releases). Eventually used as this B-side and also included on Magical Mystery Tour (though it wasn't intended for that release).
- Lennon does all the main vocals, a piano track and provides the strange Indian-oboe like sound (which is a clavioline, an early kind of synthesizer).
- McCartney plays a piano track. 

- Both McCartney and Harrison provide harmony vocals.
- Harrison and Ringo provided the handclaps, and Ringo also overdubbed some maracas and tambourine. 

- Some extra instrumentation on a vibraphone was also provided by Eddie Kramer.
- It's possible that Mick Jagger sang some of the backing vocals, as his name is sometimes included in the session credits for this song and he was present at the recording. Also, fellow Rolling Stone Brian Jones is sometimes erroneously thought to have played the clavioline part, but this isn't true.

- First track completely recorded at the band's new 'home base' studio at Abbey Road.
- Runs for just over 3 minutes and took 12 takes to complete.