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?

27 January 2008

Ringo Starr's New CD

So, the other morning I downloaded from iTunes Ringo Starr's latest song, "Liverpool 8" from his CD of the same name. I put it in the folder that I use as the master for my iPod Shuffle, then gave it a listen with my undivided attention. The song is kind of cute...not bad, if you like ex-Beatles doing their looking-back-at-my-life thing.

Went to Hamburg
The red lights were on
With George and Paul
And my friend John

We rocked all night
We all looked tough
We didn't have much
But we had enough

Kind of makes you want to go, "Awwwww," doesn't it? Yeah, kind of schmaltzy. Ringo is good at schmaltzy.

The song is a nice tribute to the city of Liverpool, England as well. I've liked Ringo's albums in the past (especially the wonderful Time Takes Time which I still listen to) and will probably download this one too.

And then a funny thing happened. The iTunes in my computer is set for sequential play, not shuffle. Right after Ringo's song ended, the next one in the cue was "Living In The Material World" from George Harrison's 1973 album of the same name. This song contains the lyric,

I got born into the material world
Getting worn out in the material world
Use my body like a car
Taking me both near and far
Met my friends all in the material world...

Met them all here in the material world
John and Paul here in the material world
Though we started out quite poor
We got Ritchie on a tour
Got caught up in the material world

Nice wordplay there, Georgie!

Another ex-Beatle song with a self-referential lyric. And it's not that my iPod is jammed full of Beatle songs, it's not. This helicopter pilot may visit the past from time to time but he does not live there. (And then he slaps himself for referring to himself in the third-person, something he'd previously sworn he would never do again. And he won't, he...er...I promise.)

What's interesting about "Living In The Material World" is that Ringo is playing drums on it! In fact, right after that double-meaning line about how they got "Ritchie on a tour," George takes a little pause while Ringo plays one of his very recognizable signature drum riffs as if to say, "Yep, I'm still here!" It's one of those inspired moments that, if you're a Beatles' fan (and I am probably the hugest) cause you to go slackjawed with awe. Clever, those Beatles. (And, why had I never noticed it? "LITMW" came out, as I said, in 1973. How come I never caught that lyric and drum riff until 2007?)

Speaking of the breakup of the Beatles...well, I was reading Hal Johnson's recent blog entry about post-apocalyptic books, and in terms of world-ending events, the Beatles' breakup was surely one of them...

Anyway, it was surprising to me to learn that most of the individual Beatles often played on each other's solo albums - although never all at the same time. Ringo was the best at getting them all together. in fact, his Ringo (also from 1973) album is a virtual Beatles reunion. It was at least as much that as some of their last albums which were sometimes just collections of solo songs done by the individual Beatles with session musicians under the Beatles brand. (If you could call guys like Eric Clapton and Billy Preston "session musicians.")

Credit for the breakup is usually heaped on John and Yoko, with the latter getting most of the blame. True, John shouldn't have brought her into the studio...at least not into the creative process that was "the Beatles." But on the Ringo album there is a cut that gives us some insight into the actual reason for the breakup.

The Ringo album contains his first "look back" song called, "Early 1970," which was when the Beatles officially broke up. In it, he sings very clearly about his recently-former bandmates. (But first, we have to painfully acknowledge that Ringo was not the strongest lyricist in the group.)

Referring to John and Yoko:
Laying in bed, watching t.v., cookies!
With his mama by his side, she's Japanese
They screamed and they cried and now they're free
And when he comes to town I know he's gonna play with me

Then, referring to George:
He's a long-haired cross-legged guitar player, mm-hmm
His long-legged lady in the garden picking daisies for his soup
A 40 acre house he doesn't see
'Cuz he's always in town playing for you with me

You can very clearly hear George playing in his very distinctive slide-guitar style on this song.

But the very first stanza of the song is about Paul. It is the most telling. In the later verses, Ringo is confident and happy that John would play with him and comes right out and says that George does (they were obviously good, close friends). What does he say about Paul?

Lives on a farm
Got plenty of charm, beep-beep
He's got no cows but he's sure got a whole lot of sheep
A brand new wife and a family
And when he comes to town, I wonder if he'll play with me?

Wh-wh-whaaaaat? "I wonder if he'll play with me?" Says a lot about their relationship right then, I think. There are stories that Paul became overbearing after the death of Brian Epstein. He himself has rationalized it as, "Someone had to be in charge, and nobody seemed to want to." Which may or may not be true. But it is clear that the others resented his domineering attitude.

In fact, on YouTube there's a little clip of the "Let It Be" movie. George and Ringo are in the studio, working on the song, "Octopus's Garden." John (with Yoko, of course) enters, and the three Beatles start jamming. Then Paul walks in and everybody falls silent. It's pretty amazing. He was obviously a major source of tension at that point.

I hadn't really planned on a long blogpost about the Beatles. Just wanted to note Ringo's new CD and song and it turned into War and Peace, as usual. But the Beatles were a huge influence on society...and me, obviously. As sad as it is to know that John and George are no longer around, it's great to see Ringo and Paul still making music and having fun.


David said...

Hey, War and Peace was good, so I hear anyway. Keep it up!
I read a favorable review of Ringo's latest. He was always my Fave o tha Four. And, he's probably smarter than he gets credit for.
Yoko MIGHT have gotten a bad rap. Think about it, throw (any) four guys in over their heads, heap fame and fortune upon them then add the presure to keep it up... see how long it takes for that pot to perk. Just my humble thoughts.
Ever hear of a guy named Dylan? LOL! Just thought I'd throw the pord in there.

Bob Barbanes said...

Well David, you're absolutely right. When they started, the Beatles were just kids, really. Ten years later, they were adults with adult lives and viewpoints. They'd grown up, and probably found that their relationships had changed in profound ways. I'd bet that the entity known as "The Beatles" was just too constricting by the time they were in their late twenties. Each of them had so much more to say than could be contained in a "pop-group" foursome. It almost had to explode. The surprise would have been if it didn't. It's just too bad that the split-up was so acrimonious. Imagine if they'd been able to, uhh, come together periodically as a group and make albums together? Ah, but the expectations (and pressure, likely) would have simply been too high to bear.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if breaking up the band is what enabled each member of The Beatles to live as long as they did.


Hal Johnson said...

In "Let It Be, Naked," you can hear the guys talking about different ideas for public performances. Maybe their breakup wasn't inevitable. Maybe they just took the wrong fork in the road. Dunno. It sure leads to wondering about what could have been.

Ringo was always the one most willing to wear his heart on his sleeve when in came to the breakup. I remember an interview with him talking about the making of "Abbey Road." He said it was a great last coming together of the Beatles. "We could have gone on," he said.