Who Am I?

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A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

18 June 2007

Paul McCartney's New Video

I haven't been blogging lately because I've been doing a lot of reading and watching the tube. Not "tube" as in television, but YouTube as in www.youtube.com. In fact, I've become addicted. There's a lot of crap, of course (tons, actually), but there is also a ton of entertaining, fun, informative stuff.

YouTube's slogan is "broadcast yourself." In other words, anyone can be a t.v. star now; all you need is some sort of video camera and the ability to upload into a computer. You create your very own "channel" and hope that people search you out. The most popular videos are featured on the main page, which boosts their view numbers even more. The site has enjoyed explosive popularity and growth. So much so that Google bought it.

If you ever wanted to find a video of...something...anything...YouTube is the place to go. Type some words into the search box and you will find what you're looking for. It's really amazing. Since I'm into blogs, I have also searched out video blogs (or "vlogs"). Some of them are quite fascinating. It's interesting to see and hear the people behind the words. It is very different than "standard" blogging, which is really just writing.

Okay, shift gears.

Lately, I've been listening to and downloading music by bands who seem to be channelling The Beatles. Yes, it's been done. Jeff Lynne openly said that his Electric Light Orchestra was meant to pick up where The Beatles "Sgt. Pepper" left off, and it certainly was that. But in general the music of The Beatles has been held as almost sacrosanct. Bands wouldn't try to directly emulate them for fear of being labled "poseurs" or trying to cash-in on musical deities. Plus, there would be the inevitable, and inevitably unfavorable, comparisons. Nobody can duplicate or replicate The Beatles! Which is probably true.

But listen to The Rosewood Thieves new album, "From The Decker House." You can't help but thinking to yourself, "Damn, that sounds like The Beatles!" (especially the song, "Los Angeles"). And it's not that these young kids from New York are deliberately ripping The Beatles off, it's just that they've obviously been inspired by the masters. I, for one, love it.

For those of us of a certain age, The Beatles were simply the greatest band of all time, period. Four incredibly talented guys who came together and changed the world. Talk about synergy! The sum was way more than the parts. It is probably no exaggeration to say that no other musical group then or since has had such a profound effect on people worldwide (sorry Bono). The Beatles started off as a pop-band, churning out perfect little 2:30 minute bon-mots of aural pleasure. But gradually, they evolved into more than that. They will go down in history right along with the "classic" composers we hold so dear: Mozart and Chopin and Beethoven and their contemporaries. The Beatles songwriting was that good, yes.

"The Beatles" as a group did not last long. Formed in roughly 1960 they were broken up by 1970. Ten years. Ten crazy years. When you look back, it's surprising that they lasted even that long. John Lennon once joked that they were "more popular than Jesus." It was controversial, but no overstatement, at least not as it applied to young people.

Afterward, the four members (say it with me now: John, Paul, George and Ringo) enjoyed modest solo careers. But none of them ever came close to matching what they had in The Beatles. Sadly, John Lennon was shot and killed by a crazed fan in 1980 just as his career was in a period of resurgence after a long self-imposed layoff. George Harrison died of cancer in 2001. Paul and Ringo soldier on.

Paul McCartney was the "cute Beatle." His songs were always more upbeat and optimistic than the darker writings of John Lennon. It was that counterpoint that made them such a good songwriting team. As a solo artist, McCartney actually recorded and released a song called, "Silly Love Songs," a tongue-in-cheek (or maybe middle-finger-in-air) response to charges that his music was shallow and too lighthearted. Indeed, "Macca" (as the British oddly refer to him) made a career out of writing and performing sappy, silly love songs. He has put out some great music - no doubt about that. But I guess we were all waiting in vain - thirty-seven years so far - for Paul to put out another "Beatle" album. It was never to be. Whatever magic The Beatles had together, it was gone.

Pop music is about young ideas, made by young people. Older musical artists fall out of relevance and favor. What can an old man...you know, a 25 year-old...know about the emotional drama and pressures and hunger pangs of teenage boys and girls (the demographic group that does the majority of record buying)? Only other kids can relate. So McCartney's music stopped appearing on the radio. Kids stopped buying his records.

In 2007, yet another Paul McCartney "album" was announced to great anticipation. The buzz was that this one was going to be special. iTunes was previewing and pre-selling it. It would go on sale first at "Starbucks" of all places, not your local record store. Marketing music to adults and not kids? Clever! thought I.

Imagine my surprise when I saw a banner ad on YouTube for McCartney's new album, called "Memory Almost Full." And specifically, a new video for the new "single" (song released and intended for radio play) called "Dance Tonight." I clicked on the link and watched. You can too! Just click the arrow button on the center of the picture below (hope you have high-speed).

Okay, so maybe the song is no "Eleanor Rigby" or "Yesterday." But it is hopelessly upbeat and catchy. As usual, it doesn't sound like anything else on the radio. I like the mandolin. The video itself is pretty funny, and very well done. Although it must be said that, intentionally or not it eerily resembles an earlier George Harrison video. And yes, that is Natalie Portman.

Paul is getting old. It's sad to see, because it means that we
are getting old. At 65 now (June 18th, today come to think of it), his hair is unnaturally dark (we know how that's done, don't we?). His speaking voice is old too, although his singing voice still sounds youthful and great. World-tour concerts are probably a thing of the past for him though, especially since we'd want him to sing "Lady Madonna" and "Helter Skelter" back to back. That's just not gonna happen.

The Beatles always were on the forefront of technology. It can be argued that they virtually invented the modern "music video" as a format where little short-films were made to go along with specific songs, not just performing the song in front of a camera.

And so it is interesting but not all that surprising that Paul chose YouTube and "Starbucks" and his own website to debut his new CD instead of releasing the video through "normal channels" to MTV, VH-1, Fuse, or CD101, which would not have played it anyway. He evidently understands the reach and power of the internet and how it has changed the way we listen to and buy music.
In the three weeks since the YouTube release of the "Dance Tonight" video, it has been watched over 660,000 times. Incredible! It is a testament to the importance of the internet and the enduring popularity of one of the world's greatest artists.




David said...

Great entry Bob,
I appreciated(tho never fully)the Fab 4. I never "Analyzed" their influence. Thanks for adding some perspective.
'Mother' keeps threatening to pull out a photo from '65 or so... I may just call her bluff and then post it. Seems I wanted to be a Beatle.

Hal Johnson said...

Yep, great piece Bob. You mentioned bands that "channel" the Beatles. I got the DVD "Concert for George" last year as a gift, and it was mentioned that George Harrison himself believed that the spirit of the Beatles had taken nest with Monty Python.