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John Lennon and Paul McCartney in Transit


THERE I STOOD, next to Paul McCartney and John Lennon — calm, but without a thing to say. I wasn’t intimidated, but more amazed I had managed to get through an endless skein of Beatlemanic intrigue. But with the aid of my press card there I was, for 15 minutes altogether, with them as they were hustled from one custom’s checkpoint to another last Saturday afternoon. Only while driving back to the city later did I remember that I had forgotten to ask them about all the rumors. Was it true that they were here to denounce the Maharishi? Was it true that they were breaking up and that’s why only two of them had come? Was it true that they were merely in New York to help promote their Apple enterprise into another million dollar Beatle spinoff?

(Tuesday at their press conference it turned out that the only rumor that wasn’t true — as usual — was that they were breaking up. Gently putting down the Maharishi, Lennon said they still meditate now and then but, speaking for all four Beatles, he said they feel they made a mistake about him. “After all we’re only human.”)

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Back at the airport, I did ask Paul if the screaming teenyboppers still turned him on and he said of course. He did a lot of sophisticated waving, and signed autographs for some of the airport personnel. John, more aloof and at times sort of surly, looked pretty tired even in white suit, white shirt, white tie, white shoes, and a plain white button on his lapel. He scrawled autographs without looking at the paper or the beseecher.

There had been reports all week, but the Beatles press people had kept the actual day and time of their arrival a good secret and so only two or three press people were there to greet them. But several thousand frantic crying teenyboppers in last year’s bellbottoms, informed by WMCA Good Guys, were racing all over the International Arrivals building trying to find out where the plane would unload. Watching them float was fantastic. If a girl screamed in one part of the terminal, maybe just out of frustration, a hundred others rushed shrieking in that direction.

After John and Paul left by way of a distant airport exit road in their black Caddy limousine (driven by a chauffeur wearing yellow shades), I headed out through the terminal to my car but a burly airport security supervisor stopped me.

“I can’t convince these kids that the Beatles have left. They just won’t believe someone like me,” he pleaded, while over his shoulder I could see at least a thousand of the tearful faithful trying to get in the doors I had to get out.

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“Someone who looks like you they would believe. You tell them that they left and they’ll all go home.” I said all right.

“Hey kids, this fellow is a reporter and he just had an exclusive interview with the Beatles and …” Two squealing girls grabbed my sleeve and the whole crowd suddenly found me fascinating and they screamed and screeched. I finally got everyone quiet enough to be heard if I yelled. They immediately began planning hurriedly at which hotel they would set up vigils until they could get a glimpse of their idols.

The Beatles are still up there. ❖


Now That We Can’t Be Beatles Fans Anymore

In early 1970, Tom Paxton released a single called “Crazy John.” Paxton is one of those ex­-purist folksingers whose major talent is persistence: when Dylan went electric, he commented, “Where it’s at is a synonym for rich,” but a few years later he was riding the heretic’s tail at Isle of Wight. “Crazy John” was evi­dence of Paxton’s new vocation, offering that wonderful nut, the John Lennon of bed-ins and peace billboards, some sage folk ad­vice: “They never can hear you, John/So how can you reach them?/They never come near you, John/So how can you reach them?” It’s appropriate for a folksinger to offer such a sterling example of that contemporary usage, the paranoid they, because the very idea of the folk connotes an integral audience, us, separat­ed by time and/or values from the shapeless mass, them. Paxton thinks John is crazy because he does not recognize this dichot­omy, and in an ass-backwards way he is right, for if John were capable of such easy formulas he might be almost as boring as Paxton himself. But John is a media artist, and like any media artist he continually confronts a maddening question: Where is my audience? More than any other pop star (except perhaps Dylan) he enjoys a creative rela­tionship with his own celebrity, plying it not merely out of ambi­tion or self-protection but because the process piques him aestheti­cally. John Lennon in public is like a filmmaker at the Movieola or Yoko Ono at a happening in 1963.

New York artists used to look at the six o’clock news or, perhaps, some wonderful new rock and roll group from England, and think, “Huh, what a weird thing to reach so many people at once.” They perceived masscult outreach as a basically formal quality, irre­spective of content, and experi­mented with it by devising art events which if they were very clever might make Howard Smith’s column, once Howard Smith had devised a column to deal with such phenomena. In this context, the Lennon/Ono mar­riage was the most successful multi-media move of the decade. Yet the taint of the avant-garde has stayed with Yoko, for after all, the cover of Rolling Stone or Crawdaddy just ain’t the cover of Life, and if Ono/Lennon appear on Cavett you can expect Mc­Cartney/McCartney to show up on Carson any time now. Ex­-groupie or no, Linda Eastman McCartney has class, and bank­er’s daughter or no, Yoko Ono doesn’t. John married genius and Paul married power, and in the world of public media it’s hard to be sure which is more important.

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None of this is to imply that Paul, or John, married for conven­ience. Like all artists, great pop­ular artists believe their own myths, and for popular songwrit­ers of the pre-Beatle era — which is exactly how Lennon and Mc­Cartney began — there was only one of those: romantic love. Repeat: they were popular songwriters. Even though the staple of rock and roll in the ’50s was teen schmaltz of wondrous innocence and vapidity, and even though the popularization of black music meant romanticizing the hard-­assed realism of rhythm and blues, the sheer physicality or rock and roll — its sexual underpinnings, always implied a nega­tion of such escapist rhapsodies. But the Beatles, unlike blues-influence fellow geniuses Jagger and Dylan, never showed much interest in this negation. Instead of projecting sexuality, they evoked it and made fun of it si­multaneously, just one more ex­ample of the insistent popness that always tempted the cynical to suspect they were finks. After turning out enchanting variations on the permissible themes of union and parting for three or four years, their version of the myth gradually became more acerbic (“Girl,” “If I Needed Someone,” etc.) but their formal commitment to pop remained unchanged — those later songs are reminiscent of the down Smokey Robinson, especially on the all­-important pop surface.

It was only during their mature period — including Sgt. Pepper, their best album, and The Beatles, their most inconsistent and probably their worst — that they abandoned the subject al­together. Great popular artists believe their own myths, but like all artists they do so from a dis­tance. As his relationship with Jane Asher became more prob­lematic, Paul’s romantic experi­ments became more outre. He never quite gave up on romance, but it is significant, that “Hey Jude,” one of his truest and most forthright love songs, was omitted from the white album, while “I Will,” a piece of fluff that seems designed to fit unobtrusively into that pastiche of musical exer­cises, was included. When Paul took up with Linda, however, he also took up the love theme with fresh enthusiasm. Typically, John’s withdrawal and return were more extreme. He discov­ered Yoko well before the white album, but not until “I Want You,” on Abbey Road, did he signal his renewed embrace of the myth. For both moderate Paul and manic John, romance was a lot of what getting back was about. After desperate years, each decided love is all you need, because each found his one-and-­only, doo-wah doo-wah.

But the revitalization of the myth of romantic love almost inevitably contributed to the disintegration of another myth, the myth of the Beatles, and it is significant that it was the group’s songwriters and resident movers who swung so precipitously from one myth to the other. In Hunter Davies’s official biography, Cynthia Lennon chides her hus­band for preferring the group to his family. “They seem to need you less than you need them,” the quote goes, and John admits it: “I did try to go my own way after we stopped touring, but it didn’t work. I didn’t meet anyone else I liked.” At that time, according to John, Paul had just about taken over leadership of the group. En­gaged to Jane Asher, Paul regretted that he was still so much a bachelor, but he wasn’t­ — he was married to the Beatles: “We’re all really the same person. We’re just four parts of the one.” At that time, Pattie Harrison was thought of as the independent Beatle wife because she still did some modeling. Now Ringo describes her as “a long­-legged lady in the garden pickin’ daisies for his suit,” and the mar­riage seems ornamental, the sort of show-business union that might just end some time. This impression may not be factual, of course, but there’s no doubting the accuracy of Davies’s description of Ringo as something of an Andy Capp, albeit solider and more devoted — Ringo is a common man in ways that don’t inspire our ready identification as well as ways that do. In any case, we re­alize in the context of more recent history that George and Ringo did not separate themselves from the group by marrying, although each gained a margin of autonomy. That margin proved necessary, because when John and Paul married they married hard, replacing the Four Mates with “Man We Was Lonely” and “Love is you/You and me.” It was as if their ambivalent relationship to the sexuality of rock and roll fi­nally caught up with them. Men in groups gave way to couples.

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John started it, of course. His mates mated with suitably mod types — an actress, a model, a hairdresser. Yoko, whatever else you might think of her, was a rather unbirdlike original, from her mature, buxom body to her obsessive creativity. She was strong — too strong. It is possible, I suppose, that the other Beatles bore her some faint racial or (more likely) artistic prejudice, but her deepest offense was to their male chauvinism. She aroused John’s male chauvinism, too, but because he was in love with her he responded dif­ferently: he actually thought she could become the fifth Beatle. And when he found he couldn’t work her into the Beatles, he began to rework the other available myth instead. Like all artists, great popular artists not only believe their own myths but carry them to new extremes: the dream is over, long live the dream. The myth of romantic love is usually a trap for women, but a sufficiently potent woman can transform it (as has been done before, after all) by com­pounding it with that vague notion of the perfect equality of all free spirits that can also be described lurking around our culture. Actu­ally, the combination isn’t so much a compound as a colloid, mixing disparate elements in suspension. Nobody just screams away his entire oedipal heritage, and even as John acts out the fierce symbiosis of his marriage, he remains a jealous guy who interrupts his wife on Howard Smith.

Paul, the born romantic, came more readily to the new roman­ticism, but naturally in a much more sentimental way. John has dedicated an album to Yoko, but it is hard to imagine him doing something so cutesy as con­cealing an Y.I.L.Y on some secret border. Paul and Linda are also much more moderate — in fact, it might be argued that they cop out on the new dream altogether. Linda is a creative partner, but in a traditionally sub­ordinate way, not just in the view of her husband’s fans but in the view of her husband. Her work is the mod art-craft, photography, and she has looked to rock as an energy source for years; in con­trast, Yoko is a conceptual artist who was completely outside the music when John came to her. John now calls himself John Ono Lennon, but it’s Paul and Linda McCartney, or even on their first co-authored song, “Another Day,” Mr. and Mrs. Paul McCart­ney.

In its radical or liberal version, however, romantic marriage has destroyed the group. The Beatles were an aesthetic unit, but what did they transmit in common? Exuberance, yes. Cheek, although George’s head change changed that somewhat. Youth, and then youthfulness; rock and roll, and then rock. But above all, what the unit transmitted was unity, the possibility that four very different individuals could constitute a harmonious and functioning whole. That image was very im­portant to the way we thought in the ’60s, and Yoko and Linda have made it impossible, not only by inspiring a counter-myth but by intensifying their husbands’ divergences. John and Paul com­plemented each other; Paul was conservative, John mercurial; Paul was fascinated with the silly history of pop music, John with its grand future; Paul was more comfortable with money, John with fame. But their women augmented rather than complemented. In class terms, Paul married up to Linda and her show-business wealth, while Yoko married down to John, who seems unlikely to abandon his scrappy lower-middle class heritage no matter how many possessions he accrues. But psychologically, the spirit of the husband, focused by the wife, dominates each marriage.

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These personal changes are reflected in their musical work, except perhaps for McCartney, which despite its melodic in­terludes I find difficult to take seriously as anything more than a million-selling wedding announce­ment. In a way, though, Mc­Cartney can be said to have provided impetus for John’s Plastic Ono Band, from ego­centric title to spare production. It’s as if John is saying, “This is what personal minimum music ought to sound like.” Plastic Ono Band is conceptual in the Yoko Ono rather than the Sgt. Pepper sense. It is one of the few albums I admire that does not permit casu­al enjoyment. You have to listen to it. Those who can do that — and there are many not in the cat­egory — customarily praise its lyrics, whereupon those who can’t conclude that John has not only gone off the deep end but dragged his friends with him. It is dis­tressing that anyone can take a collection of psychotherapeutic truisms as revelation, although “I Found Out” and “Well Well Well” are more than that on even the most obvious level. It is more dis­tressing, however, that others still consider John a simpleton (or perhaps a wonderful nut) who doesn’t know what he’s doing. Anyone who loves Rosie and the Originals the way John does un­derstands the value of dumbness. Of course the lyrics are crude clichés. That’s just the point, because they are also true, and John wants to make very clear that at this one point truth is far more important than subtlety, taste, art, or anything else.

I am not encouraged by John’s admission that he now writes melodies for lyrics rather than the opposite, because I believe music will get you through times of no lyrics better than lyrics will get you through times of no music. I also believe, however, that music overwhelms lyrics on Plastic Ono Band. Carman Moore thinks John has emerged as the most musical Beatle in terms of chords, melodic lines, and other such arcana, which only shows what I’ve said all along — ­that you can perceive that stuff without analyzing it. For me, the musicality of Plastic Ono Band can be summed up in one word: strength. At first, of course, what came through was the crudity. The music sounded stark and even perfunctory compared to the free harmonies and double guitars of the Beatles’ rock and roll. But the music of the album doesn’t inhere in its instrumenta­tion but in the way John’s greatest vocal performance, a com­plete tour of rock timbre from scream to whine, is modulated electronically. Like so much great rock and roll, it depends on studio gimmickry, with the great­est of the gimmickers, Phil Spector, providing the expertise while stripped of his power to grind 16 tracks down to mush. John’s voice unadorned appears only twice: on “Working Glass Hero,” and after the non­believing malediction of “God,” when John says, “I just believe in me/Yoko and me/And that’s re­ality.” Elsewhere it is echoed, filtered, and double-tracked, with two voices sometimes emanating in a synthesis from between the speakers and sometimes dialec­tically separated. In addition, the guitar and even the drumming is distorted.

This trickery slips by because Plastic Ono Band just isn’t a tricky album. It does sound strong, even primal; there really is something quintessentially raw about it. Yet it isn’t. John is such a media artist that even when he is fervidly shedding personae and eschewing metaphor he knows, perhaps instinctively, that he communicates most effectively through technological masks and prisms. Separating himself from the homemade pretensions of, say, McCartney, he does not bullshit himself or his audience about where he is in the world­ — namely, on some private pinnacle of superstardom. As always, he wants to reach us with a message that is also a medium and really equals himself. Like any great ar­tist, the great popular artist feels compelled to embody his myth in a form that offers its own pleasure. Plastic Ono Band had to be a one-shot, and Imagine follows it as inevitably in ret­rospect as New Morning followed Self-Portrait. Its myth is twofold: Yoko plus the move­ment. The word “imagine” is a Yokoism crucial as well to Mar­cusian theory, which regards the ineluctable utopianism of the ar­tistic imagination as essential to social transformation — we cannot change unless we can envision change. If “Working Class Hero” is John’s movement credo and “Power to the People” his move­ment marching song, then the title cut of the new album is his movement hymn.

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Chances are the movement is just another of John’s phases, though he has always shown that mix of genius, indignation, and pugnacity that characterizes the movement media heavy. In any case, it is certainly an in­vigorating development for those of us who have been straining to link rock and politics. Yet the movement’s ability to get across to masses of people has proven so sporadic that a part of me sus­pects John’s new stance is a por­tent. The thing is, Imagine doesn’t quite make it. At its best it is richer and more exciting than Plastic Ono Band because its potential appeal is much broader. “Gimme Some Truth” is the union of Lennon unmasked with the Lennon of Blunderland word play, the kind of venom Dylan never quite managed to spew. “It’s So Hard” is the perfect blend of big blues and metapolitical despair. “I Don’t Wanna Be a Sol­dier Mama I Don’t Wanna Die” is a proper Spectoral extravaganza. “Oh Yoko!” is pure spontaneous joy, and captures more of the spirit of fun than all of Ram. And other songs succeed, too. But the combination of nasty lyric and good-timey ricky-tick on “Crip­pled Inside” has been exploited by every ex-purist folksinger since Phil Ochs, and “How?” is so psychotherapeutically lugubrious that it might not even have worked on Plastic Ono Band. Nor are these mistakes simply bad tries. They are symptomatic of Lennon’s limitations as an indi­vidual artist, limitations which contrary to suggestion are not musical. John’s music suits his vision perfectly. It’s his vision which is lacking.

As indicated, I think Ram is a very bad record, a classic form/content mismatch. If music is just gentle, fey, and oc­casionally funky, then why labor over it so assiduously? If you wanna have fun, then have it, don’t just succumb to conspicuous consumption. I am infuriated by the McCartneys’ modern young marrieds image — just normal folks who happen to have a wee recording set-up on their Scottish estate. Since Paul’s political perspective seems to be limited to Zero Population Growth, the production lavished on this album amounts to an ecological ob­scenity. Yet Ram is far from Muzak, and offers amenities that John could use. Paul’s voice conveys a warmth and sophistication that might make John’s manic-depressive extremism more palatable at those times when we just feel like lying around and listening to the stereo. Also, Paul uses Linda well. John seems unable to understand that although Yoko is a good artist, all that distinguishes her from a number of her fellows is access to media. This is indeed an impor­tant, and legitimate, distinction, but it ought to demonstrate once and for all that the function of avant-garde art is to inspire other artists, not the public. Yoko has entered John’s music successfully only once (on “Do the Oz” by the Elastic Oz Band) and although her own records are interesting they will never reach a large public unless she makes the move. But Linda’s participation on Paul’s records works in a good way, another example of the trend to allow women as well as men to sing in their everyday voices. It is not his commitment to yesterday, or another day, but to everyday, that might eventual­ly render Paul’s music pleasant again. Let’s hope so.

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What John needs most, you see, is just that acceptance of the ev­eryday that in Paul-without-John appears to us as repellent complacency. He needs continual reminder of his pop heritage, to balance his oedipal heritage and his lower-middle class heritage. That balance is what the Beatles always reflected back to us, because we’re all like that and tend to forget it. It is missing from the New York artistic/political avant-garde, which is why that avant-garde never lives up to its genius. John really does need it. But it’s obvious that John will never get it from Paul again. “How Do You Sleep” is the kind of public act committed by a lover who wants to make sure he will never return in momentary weakness to the one who has rejected him so cruelly, the best proof yet of how deep the Beatles’ unity once was. Perhaps he’ll find it in himself, or in George, who is capable of songs of rare beauty, or elsewhere, but although I’ll always love him I wouldn’t be surprised if it were lost to him for­ever. It is strange to foresee the artistic death of an artist who is still so vital, but I often do.

What the break-up of the Beatles represents on the largest symbolic scale is a central social problem of our time — the inability of couples to coexist within coop­erative groups. Perhaps they’ll all survive to lead happy truly productive lives, or perhaps like so many of us they will be trapped by this dilemma. John will be a tragedy, George and Paul some­thing not so affecting. But for Ringo it will be worst of all, and since Ringo is all of us, we’d better figure out what there is for us now that we can’t be Beatle fans any longer. Find our own love, maybe — and form our own group.


Pazz & Jop Comments: My My, Hey Hey, Rock and Roll Is Here to Stay

Auckland’s Beths might be the 4,000th indie rock band from ever-fecund New Zealand — let alone the entire globe. But others don’t have Elizabeth Stokes. Not to slight her bandmates on Future Me Hates Me; they’re bubbly-effervescent and post-punky-barbed excited-sounding, too. But to confront “You Wouldn’t Like Me,” “Not Running,” or the title track is to be like a trained guard dog that rolls over and seeks belly rubs instead of barking. Stokes is ridiculously infectious and disarming, making this least-ephemeral kind of guitar pop ear candy. Future us will still love her.— Jack Rabid

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It seems reports of rock and roll’s death have been greatly exaggerated. On Young & Dangerous, the Struts’ Butch Walker–produced sophomore banger, Luke Spiller (the band’s spectacularly Zandra Rhodes–caped frontman, who could have easily played the lead in Bohemian Rhapsody if Rami Malek hadn’t been available) and his fellow British glam-rockers vamp and amp their way through the disco-rock euphoria of “Who Am I?” (think the Stones’ “Miss You” or Rod the Mod’s “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?”), the Crowes-y cowbell jam “Primadonna Like Me,” the hard-charging football terrace chant “Bulletproof Baby,” and the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show themes “Body Talks” and “In Love With a Camera” with unbridled Jagger swagger. Dave Grohl, authority on all things rawk, declared the Struts the best opening act to ever tour with the Foo Fighters, but expect them to be headlining stadiums on their own in 2019.
— Lyndsey Parker

Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper, “Shallow”: OK, the two best films of the year were First Reformed and Shoplifters, but the most thrilling moment on the screen was unquestionably when Gaga summons her inner rock goddess with “huuuh, uhhh, ahhhh ah wah haaa ahhhhhhhhh.” I mean, the film could have fallen off the cliff from there and I would have been happy.
— Ken Capobianco

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Paul McCartney, Egypt StationHis best since Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, and a nice bit of political commentary on “Despite Repeated Warnings.”
— Gillian Gaar

Mighty Mighty BosstonesFollowing a seven-year recording absence, the veteran Boston ska-rock group came back strong with the socially conscious While We’re At It, where the still-gravelly-voiced Dicky Barrett penned lyrics with vivid imagery.
— George A. Paul

Andrew W.K., “Music Is Worth Living For” 
It is.
Ian Mathers

Apparently Love Is Dead is Chvrches “selling out,” even though they were already a pretty poppy band to begin with. This is music designed to boom in the big venues Chvrches have rightly earned, and it, as they say, slaps.
— Brice Ezell

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Though Will Toledo technically debuted Car Seat Headrest’s “Bodys” sometime in the late 2000s on Bandcamp, it got its chance to shine this year on the reworked Twin Fantasy. Tumbling synths, pristine drum machine loops, and an impending sense of complicated youthful bliss make this song one of my favorites of 2018. Toledo connects the fragility of young love to the delicacy of the human body, the vessels that allow us to experience life fully.
— Ellen Johnson

Amen Dunes, “Miki Dora”: I don’t listen to music to learn stuff — not stuff that can be put into words, anyway. But reading up on this song’s eponymous subject was fascinating: a guy from the Fifties who helped popularize surfing (he’s in every one of those Frankie Avalon–Annette Funicello movies) but who supposedly hated the commercialization of what he’d helped usher in, and who conveyed his disgust by acting out in various ways — swastikas, crucifixion imagery, crime, exile. I’m old enough to remember when there’d be an occasional surfing segment on Wide World of Sports; also, Laura Blears Ching in Playboy…I digress. I came across this one interesting quote from the president of the Hang-Ten Chapter of Malibu Surfers just after Dora’s swastika incident: “You had a surfer on one side that was bad, and you had a group of surfers on the other side that was also very violent. Nobody wants to say it, but I will say it right now.” I like the sound of “Miki Dora” fine — it starts off like a dreamy, singer-songwriter version of “Come as You Are” — but it’s primarily the story that draws me in.
— Phil Dellio

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Making her own mythologies, reassembling our monuments. Neko Case is forever.
Ann Powers

Greta Van Fleet emerged from the wide-scale savaging of social media haters loud and proud.
— Bud Scoppa

Is Parquet Courts’ “Total Football” about Colin Kaepernick? I refuse to look it up and spoil the meaning of this song for myself. Anyone who says football isn’t political is an idiot. It’s very political because it’s very capitalistic, and Parquet Courts actually understand that.… Wide Awaaaaaake! is a very relevant political evolution for PQ, with signature catchy tunes about everything from feeding cats to global warming to why Tom Brady sucks.
— Troy Farah

Parquet Courts, Wide Awaaaaaake! Even Patriots fans dig the “fuck Tom Brady” coda of “Total Football.”
— Michael Fournier

On Wide Awaaaaaake!, Parquet Courts, the last (?) of the great downtown New York art-guitar bands, get woke, attacking everything from violence and global warming deniers to Patriot QB Tom Brady in the most remarkable cultural shift since the Beasties’.
— Roy Trakin


The Beatles Rap in New York

On August 22, 1966, the Beatles flew into New York and gave two press conferences at the Warwick Hotel on West 54th Street. Asked their opinions on the war in Vietnam, they were succinct, John Lennon saying, “We don’t like it,” and George Harrison adding, “War’s wrong and that’s all.”

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When a reporter asked, “Would you care to elaborate?” Paul McCartney said, “We would elaborate, but not here. …  In England people will listen a bit more to what you say. Here everything you say is picked up and turned against you. There’s more bigotry in America.” The Voice‘s reporter, James Kempton (son of the well-known commentator Murray), noted, “Every pencil in the room came down.” And that’s when the quick-thinking 24-year-old McCartney decided that it might, in fact, be a very good moment to elaborate: “There are more people so there are more bigots.”

Still smarting from the controversy he had caused a few months earlier when he said that the Fab Four was “more popular than Jesus,” Lennon quipped to his bandmate, “Say any more and you’ll be explaining all about it on the next tour.”

At a second meet-and-greet session, this time with fans who had won a radio station contest to lob softball questions at the Liverpudlians, one young woman held up a leaf and asked McCartney, “Do you recognize this? It’s supposed to come from your front lawn.”

“Sure,” he replied, “I’ve missed it for months!”

In this same issue we get Richard Goldstein in his Pop Eye column reviewing the Beatles’ Revolver album, calling it “a revolutionary record, as important to the expansion of pop territory as was Rubber Soul.” A little further on, Goldstein zeroes in on Revolver‘s last track, “Tomorrow Never Knows,” rhapsodizing that “No one can say what actually inspired this song, but its place in the pantheon of psychedelic music is assured. … While not unprecedented, the combination of acid-Buddhist imagery and a rock beat has never before been attempted with such complexity. At first, the orchestration sounds like Custer’s last stand. Foghorn-like organ chords and the sound of birdlike screeching overshadows the vocal. But the overall effect of this hodgepodge is a very effective suspension of musical reality.”

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White Denim

This lightning-hot Austin quartet combines crunch, virtuosity, and X-factor in equal parts. One of the more exciting live bands to come down the pike in recent years, Denim seems to have embraced Wilco’s successful post-jamband strategy of dishing out copious classic rock with an avant-garde tinge. Their most recent album tips its fedora to Steely Dan, Dukes of Stratosphear, and Paul McCartney. With two guitar pyrotechnicians on hand, they spark, smolder, and explode onstage.

Fri., Feb. 28, 7 p.m., 2014


Mac DeMarco

A few days before eclectic rock firecracker Mac DeMarco lights up the Captured Tracks label’s CT5 Festival this weekend, he’s playing a special free set tonight at East River Park, and seeing him live is always a treat. Although the two critically acclaimed records he released last year ooze shambolic moodiness, his live shows are just shambolic, full of funny in-jokes that he actually lets the audience in on, impromptu jams and covers (at Bonnaroo he had the gall to break into the Beatles’ “Blackbird” a day after Paul McCartney played the song) and carefree, spur-of-the-moment dance numbers. The only cliché thing about DeMarco is that his audience should expected the unexpected.

Wed., Aug. 28, 7 p.m., 2013


Dave Grohl and Other Rockers Toast L.A.’s Sound City

Here’s something you don’t get to say too often: It’s a shame when Paul McCartney turns up. Before McCartney arrives, rasping, puppy-eyed, and eager to have a go at the hot new grunge sound of 1993, Dave Grohl’s Sound City is an exciting, sometime illuminating documentary about how a squad of technicians and engineers in a hole-in-the-Valley music studio helped great rock ’n’ rollers make great rock ’n’ roll. Grohl treats us to just more than an hour celebrating the history of Sound City, the Van Nuys dump where a clutch of rock’s great records were bashed out—but the movie’s 107 minutes long.

First, in the ’70s, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks were lured there by a new $75,000 recording console custom designed by Rupert Neve; later, visiting the studio, Mick Fleetwood heard the resulting Buckingham Nicks LP, and soon the guitarists and singers were all balled up together like mating snakes, recording Fleetwood Mac on that Neve console—and establishing Sound City as the source of one of rock’s most glorious drum sounds.

Banging beautifully on a kit, Grohl demonstrates the quality of that Sound City bottom end: that stellar console wired to a drafty room where drums—for whatever reason – boom out loud and alive. The Mac might have made Sound City a name, but much of the music later unleashed there comes from noisier artists: Fear, Dio, Pat Benatar, many ’80s hair bands, Nirvana. “It was like Fleetwood Mac all over again,” Sound City owner Tom Skeeter exclaims of the boomlet he enjoyed after Nevermind dropped, probably the only time anybody linked those two acts. The highlight, both of the studio’s history and the movie, is Tom Petty, whose Heartbreakers rehearsed for the first time and later recorded the urgent Damn the Torpedoes at Sound City.

Damn the Torpedoes exemplifies the crisp, live-band rock sound that room and console excelled at capturing. We see Petty and the band in grubby old video, talking each other through take after take. (“Refugee” alone, we’re told, took 150.) We also see Petty today, top-hatted and Muppet-bearded, warmly and weirdly talking up the place and the sessions Rick Rubin held there with the Heartbreakers backing Johnny Cash, years after other studios had gone digital.

Where we don’t see Petty is in those jam sessions that take up the film’s final half hour. Stevie Nicks, Trent Reznor, Jim Keltner, and Rick Springfield all turn up to play new songs into that vaunted Neve console, now in the possession of Grohl, who purchased it from the now-defunct Sound City. Save McCartney’s song, the new stuff isn’t necessarily bad—Lee Vigner’s is strong, and Reznor’s, a collaboration with Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age, is inspired. But it all follows too much chestbeating about how “real musicians” and “real men” eschew today’s digital recording techniques. Grohl and the band laugh with McCartney about how musicians shouldn’t overthink the craft and performance of rock ’n’ roll—why, then, did Petty do 150 takes? Why does the best surviving Beatle jamming with the survivors of Nirvana not sound as good as Oasis? Great drums, though.

Directed by Dave Grohl. Written by Mark Monroe. Starring Dave Grohl, Tom Skeeter, Stevie Nicks, Butch Vig, Tom Petty, Lee Ving, Rick Rubin, and PaulMcCartney.


David Paterson Nominated For MTA Gig; Paul McCartney To Blame

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced today that he’s nominating disastrous former Governor David Paterson to serve on the board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority — and we have the “cute” Beatle to blame for Patterson’s return to public life.

Paterson will replace former Board member Nancy Shevell, who resigned from her post in January after marrying Paul McCartney in October. Shevell served on the board since 2001.

Despite Paterson’s brief — but horrific — reign over the Empire State, Cuomo’s got nothin’ but love for his fellow Dem.


“Governor Paterson has dedicated his life to working for the people
of this state and I am excited that he will continue his public service
at the MTA,” Cuomo says in a statement. “Governor Paterson’s energy,
expertise, and experience will benefit the millions of New Yorkers who
rely on the MTA every day. I look forward to working together as we
continue to reform the MTA and improve service for New Yorkers.”

Since leaving the Governor’s Mansion — at the request of President
Barack Obama — Paterson’s filled his days as a talk radio host on WOR.

Paterson, as you may recall, took over for shamed former Governor
Elliot Spitzer, who, it turned out, had a bit of a thing for hookers.

In 2009, when faced with a $15 billion budget deficit, Paterson
decided to tax the crap out of New Yorkers — he proposed an 18-percent
“obesity tax” on all non-diet soft drinks, and a four-percent “service
tax” on haircuts, for example.

Cuomo’s nomination of Paterson still needs approval from the state Senate. 



Sure, Paul McCartney knows how to write an enduring rock song, but can he make a classic ballet? That will be answered tonight when Ocean’s Kingdom, with music and an original libretto by McCartney, debuts at New York City Ballet. Designing the costumes for his underwater kingdom is his daughter Stella McCartney, her first time making pieces for the theater. Ballet master-in-chief Peter Martins choreographs the struggle between McCartney’s noble sea creatures and the bad guys on land.

Sept. 22-29, 2011


Paul McCartney

Despite the rumors, Generalissimo Paul McCartney is still not dead. He’s alive and well and playing in a succession of increasingly private NYC gigs, beginning last year with the Letterman stage marquee, then Citi Field, then Ringo Starr’s Radio City birthday bash. This time, Macca is performing at the Apollo Theater in an invite-only affair to celebrate satellite radio company Sirius XM reaching 20 million subscribers and their new Paul-centric program. Considering the 1,700-seat capacity of the Apollo, the odds of getting in are so tiny, most calculators won’t display the number. Even the guy who dances bad singers offstage on Amateur Night can’t get in. . . so good luck!

Mon., Dec. 13, 8 p.m., 2010