Two Interviews Worth Reading

Here are two interview-based articles – one featuring Paul McCartney, the other the John Lennon Imagine re-issue box set from late last year. If you haven’t seen these already they are both worth a look.

The first is from GQ magazine and dates back to September, 2018 when Paul McCartney was very much in publicity mode for his then new album Egypt Station.

In it he’s quite revealing and, as the opening hype paragraph states, the article takes in some familiar ground, but traverses some very new territory too:

“He’s as famous and accomplished as a man can be. He could just stay home, relax, and count his money. But Paul McCartney is as driven as ever. Which is why he’s still making music and why he has loads of great stories you’ve never heard—about the sex life of the Beatles, how he talked John Lennon out of drilling holes in his head (really), and what actually happened when he worked with Kanye.”

One pertinent section deals with his brand new song ‘Get Enough’, which was only made public earlier this month (on New Years Day actually).

The song is right now polarizing listeners because of the heavy use of Auto-Tune as an effect on the vocal. At the time of the interview the song wasn’t yet in the public domain, but what McCartney says about it in the interview gives some valuable context now, shedding light on where he was coming from, why he recorded it, and why he released it:

“McCartney proceeds to tell me that he recently used Auto-Tune on a song—one that’s not even on his new album—and how he worried for a moment about it. “Because I know people are going to go, ‘Oh no! Paul McCartney’s on bloody Auto-Tune! What have things come to?’… At the back of my mind I’ve got Elvis Costello saying, ‘Fucking hell, Paul!'” But then he considered it some more, and what he thought was: “You know what? If we’d had this in the Beatles, we’d have been—John, particularly—would be so all over it. All his freaking records would be…”

McCartney demonstrates a version of how he’d imagine a modern-day John Lennon singing in an extreme Auto-Tune warble, and then he gets out his iPhone and plays me some of the song in question, another collaboration with Ryan Tedder, called “Get Enough”, which has an emphatically full-on Auto-Tuned McCartney vocal, plenty more than would be required to horrify any passing purists. It also sounds pretty good.”

The GQ article is accompanied by photographs of McCartney modelling some stylish and expensive menswear. It’s also associated with a lengthy YouTube video the magazine uploaded to its channel where the songwriter steps through the background to some of his best-known works, both solo and Beatle:

The second article is an interesting (if a little rough around the edges) insight into the recording of John Lennon’s classic Imagine LP – which was beautifully remixed, remastered and re-issued late last year in a number of formats. It provides fans with cleaned-up sound and a wealth of previously un-heard outtakes, demos and more.

The article comes from Rock Cellar magazine and takes the form of interviews with three of the musicians who made key contributions to the iconic recording: bass player Klaus Voormann; drummer Jim Keltner; and guitarist Joey Molland.

In contrast to the GQ offering, Rock Cellar is an online magazine operated by volunteers so the attention to detail is a bit lacking in places. They could really use a good sub-editor to lift the quality of simple things like spell-checking and grammar. But there are some really valuable recollections, insights and information here on how Imagine came together from three artists directly involved at the time:

What were the things that most impressed you about John as an artist, both professionally and personally?

Jim Keltner: Well, he was John Lennon. He always found it interesting and funny when I told him I never liked rock and roll. When he was a young guy, we were all around the same age, Ringo’s a little bit older than me, Klaus is a little bit older too — John was older than me by just a little bit. As we were coming up he was a rocker. Along with Paul and George and Ringo, he loved American blues and rock more than anything, it affected their lives big time.

They dedicated their whole lives to that, and we know what happened. But for me, over here during that same time I was just listening to Miles (Davis) and (John) Coltrane; I didn’t want to have anything to do with any rock and roll. I hated it. John just thought that was so funny. And then when I started playing with him I could tell that he liked my feel. I could feel it because we shared the same kind of attitude about feel. By the time I had gotten with him I made a commitment to understand this rock and roll thing. So I was doing it from my gut, plus I had listened to Ringo so much.Whether you wanted to or not, if you were a drummer you were influenced by Ringo. Whether you even knew it or not you definitely were influenced by Ringo because any Beatles music you listened to it was all about Ringo’s feel.

John and George both told me, John especially, that Ringo was his very favorite drummer. I loved hearing him say that, because he was my favorite drummer too. John was the easiest person to play with. It’s interesting for me because John and Bob Dylan and were on my radar right at the same time. I played with Bob right around that same time with Leon (Russell) and Carl Radle and Jesse Ed (Davis) in New York. I got the same feeling from both of them. They were so strong in the way they played and sang and of course when you’re talking about rising to the level of a good song, if you’re talking about John Lennon or Bob Dylan it’s a no-brainer. You knew the songs were gonna make you wanna play at your best.

You can check out the full interviews here.

John Lennon photo by Peter Fordham © Yoko Ono

New Klaus Voormann Book – Revolver 50

Klaus Voormann has a new book due for release in the first week of August called Birth of an Icon – Revolver 50.

It celebrates the background story to his now classic front cover design for the Beatles Revolver LP, released on the 5th of August, 1966.

His book, done in a graphic novel style, tells the story from his perspective as a musician and artist who was called by upon by the Beatles, then nearing the height of their fame, to come up with something special, something new, different and lasting.To say he was put under pressure is something of an understatement.Rev 50 Cover Resize

It looks like it’d be a really interesting read.

Pre-orders for The Birth of an Icon – Revolver 50, which will be hand-signed by Klaus Voormann, 
have a pre-sale price 46 Euro (+ shipping & handling costs).

“…it is good for me to see the other side of a story I know so well and to realize aspects like the sheer panic that Klaus must have felt at being asked to do our album cover. In the end, the Revolver cover was a classic and this book is another.”  Sir Paul McCartney

“…your Revolver book – it brought back such great memories – even farther back than Revolver…I hope it sells a million copies!…the Revolver cover was incredible and perfect for that album.” – Ringo StarrRev 50 Page 2 ResizeRev 50 Page 5 ResizeRevolver

A Visit to Some San Francisco Record Stores – Part 2

OK. In Part One I detailed the four main record stores I was able to visit while in San Fran.

Now some detail on what I found and brought home to join the collection. Firstly, the vinyl.

At Rasputin Music on Powell (near Union Square) I found a very clean copy of George Harrison’s Living in the Material World. It was a US pressing I didn’t have – a budget re-issue on the green Capitol label:LITMW1LITMW2LITMW3As you can see, it’s a nice clean copy and the vinyl is mint.

Also at Rasputin there were two Ringo Starr LP’s I liked the look of and they were both very reasonably priced. I have Australian pressings of both of these, but good US copies like these were a welcome addition to the collection. They are both on the Apple label and original throughout. This gatefold copy of Ringo (1973) was complete with its book of lyrics and wonderful line drawings by Klaus Voormann (who also played bass on the album):  Ringo 1Ringo 2Ringo 3

The Fab 4 Free 4 All Beatle podcast recently reviewed the Ringo album and raved about it (see episode 60, “Ringo” – Analysis and Review). Also at Rasputin was a copy of Ringo’s Blast From Your Past which came with the original inner sleeve of photos on one side and lyrics on the other:Blast 1Blast 2Blast 3

Later in the week I got over to the Haight-Ashbury district were there were three stores in close proximity (Recycled, Rasputin and Amoeba – all on Haight Street).

The first I visited was Recycled Records. They had some vintage Beatles LP’s, but to be honest they were fairly expensive….and so I concentrated on the Beatles as solo artists. I’ve always been keen on collecting variations of Paul McCartney’s “Russian” album called Choba B CCCP. Well, Recycled was a bit of a treasure trove as they have numerous copies in their bins and tucked away underneath on shelves. There were thirty to forty copies in all, and so I set about identifying some versions I didn’t have. There are so many variations of this particular record because it came out firstly as an 11-track album, followed later by a 13-track version. And they were pressed in about six different Russian pressing plants, each with its own label styles and variations (sometimes subtle) within those labels. I turned up four distinct copies I wanted, and they were all very reasonably priced (between US$6.00-$10.00 each). There was one 11-track version (from the Aprelevka pressing plant), two 13-track versions (Tbilisi plant and Riga plant), and one “hybrid” that had an 11-track cover but a 13-track LP inside (which I didn’t realise until I got home). Both the cover and LP are from the same factory (the Riga plant) so I’m not sure if this is legit or just a mistake….

CHOBA B CCCP 1

The rear cover of the 11-track version is identified by its yellow colour:

CHOBA B CCCP 2

However, this one has a 13-track LP inside – on a plain white Melodyia Records label, made at the Riga pressing plant where the cover was made too:CHOBA B CCCP 3

So. A mystery there. If anyone knows if any other copies like this exist let me know. These are the labels from the other copies of Choba B CCCP purchased at Recycled:

CHOBA B CCCP 5

CHOBA B CCCP 7CHOBA B CCCP 9Of course for the full detail on all Russian Beatle and Beatle-related vinyl releases you need to visit this one, fantastic central repository.

Further down Haight Street is another Rasputin Music store and so I ducked in for a look. No vintage Beatles here, but lots of copies of the latest remastered vinyl at good prices. I did find an interesting re-issue copy of the John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band’s Live Peace in Toronto LP however, complete with a reproduction of the 1970 calendar which was included with original copies. It is brand new, still sealed, looked like a good buy and so I got it:

Plastic Ono 1Plastic Ono 2I think this re-issue was released in 2012 through a company called Hi Horse Records (which is a subsidiary of City Hall Records). It’s on the original Apple label and has the same SW 3362 catalogue number. If anyone has any other info on this one it would be very welcome. Please drop us a line.

Then it was on to Amoeba Music’s Haight Street store – which is an enormous warehouse of a building with thousands of LP’s, CD’s and books…however, not a lot of vintage Beatles on display here either, but two very good vinyl buys none-the-less. The first was Paul McCartney’s first solo LP simply called McCartney. It is a US copy, a re-issue in very good condition and on the black Capitol label:McCartney 1McCartney 2

And last but not least a really nice copy – practically mint throughout – of George Harrison’s The Concert for Bangladesh. I already have an Australian and an unusual South African pressing of this, but have been on the lookout for a good UK copy, and of course a US example as well, which is what we have here. Amoeba had this priced at just US$14.99, which for a triple album set in such excellent condition was an absolute bargain. It came with a mint copy of the original 64-page book, and all the LPs were housed in their original brown paper inner sleeves:Bangladesh 1Bangladesh 2Bangladesh 3Bangladesh 4

So, that was a quick summary of the vinyl found in four San Francisco record stores during a short visit there last week. Next time a look at the CD’s and DVD’s I found and added to the collection.

Beatles With Records – Part Sixteen

We’ve had some great feedback from the Beatles With Records – Part Fifteen.

Firstly, David wrote to correctly identify the record that you can see Paul holding in these two photographs below when the band arrived back in the UK in 1964, fresh from their first US tour. It’s the Okeh record “Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um: The Best of Major Lance”:

BEatles Airport2 1964Beatles Airport1major lance

Thanks David!

We’re still looking for someone to identify the record that Ringo has under his arm in the top photo. It’s a lot more generic because it seems to be some sort of “Best Of” LP. You can only just see part of the title (on its side) – the numbers “1963”, followed by what looks like a track listing in the style of juke box listings:

Ringo 1963 LP-tiff

Meanwhile, the photo of Klaus Voormann signing a Revolver CD in Part Fifteen reminded French Beatles collector Claude Defer of a photograph that he has of Klaus signing his very own Revolver LP (a German issue):

Klaus Voorman 1Klaus Voorman 2 You now have a real collectors item there Claude!

Collector Andrey sent in a Beatle-related image. It is of John Lennon’s estranged father Alfred Lennon who tried to cash in on his son’s fame by releasing a record of his own in 1965 called “That’s My Life (My Love and My Home)”:

Mojo1-1FredLennonWithTheSingle2

You can hear some of “That’s My Life (My Love and My Home)” here:

And read an interesting article by the man who penned the words to the song here.

Andrey also sent in this advertising photograph of Paul McCartney holding a CD copy of his ninth solo album Off the Ground, released in 1993:

TheNewWorlsTourAd1-1

Off the Ground 2

The same image was used as the cover of a highly collectable extended 2CD  version of Off the Ground called Off the Ground – The Complete Works:

Complete Works

The photo was again used (with a different background Photoshopped in) to promote the first round of re-mastered and re-released McCartney back-catalogue back in 1993, called “The Paul McCartney Collection” series:

TheNewWorlsTourAd1-2

BOTR Remaster

Don’t forget you can submit photos or further information that you have by posting a comment below or you can email me here.

And you can view the other parts in “The Beatles with Records” series here:  Parts 12346789101112131415, and 17.

McCartney “Kisses” Interview – Fresh Air on NPR

One of my favourite podcasts is Fresh Air from National Public Radio (NPR) in the US.

They have just uploaded a really interesting and insightful interview with Paul McCartney about his recent release “Kisses On The Bottom“. NPR host Terry Gross interviews Paul from his East Sussex studios (Hog Hill Mill) in England. She finds him in a relaxed, expansive, and conversational mood. Paul is candid and open – and is sitting at his piano. He doesn’t perform but illustrates his points with it as he speaks about songwriting and music. It’s really worth a listen for any Beatles fan, or anyone interested in understanding why McCartney has released an album of pre-rock’n’roll songs. You can listen by going to the NPR site, or just click below:

At the end of the interview Paul describes his studio. To get a visual idea of what it looks like inside check out this video of him working in 2009 with Klaus Voormann at Hog Hill Mill:

George Harrison – The Ole Black Gretsch

The Gretsch guitar site has been running an interesting teaser video for a couple of weeks now….The advertising spiel goes something like this:

“Gretsch is pleased to announce the GEORGE HARRISON product “teaser” that will grace their homepage website beginning at midnight, December 9, 2010. By clicking on the “watch video” icon, George will narrate a brief story about his “ole black Gretsch”. There’s no doubt it will cause a major stir in the global marketplace. Want to know more about this project? Please keep checking back on the website as it will be updated over time…”

Seems like there’s to be a new line of reproduction George Harrison “Duo Jet” model guitars – which was his very first decent axe, purchased second-hand back in 1961.

You can read more about this guitar here. According to this site the “friend” to whom George gave the Gretsch (and who subsequently gave it back to him years later) was none other than Klaus Voormann.

Another great source I have is a really interesting book by Andy Babiuk called “Beatles Gear – All The Fab Four’s Instruments, From Stage to Studio“, which came out in 2001.

This book goes into a lot more detail about Harrison and his guitars. After 1961 he went on to purchase other Gretsch models notably the “Chet Atkins Country Gentleman” – George owned two, and the “Chet Atkins Tessessean“.  His profile helped greatly in continuing the brand’s fame in the 1960’s.

Here are some shots of George with that first, now legendary “Duo Jet” guitar:

And probably most notably it makes an appearance on the cover of his 1987 solo album “Cloud Nine”:

The Ole Black Gretsch is featured with Harrison in all the  photos used in the “Cloud Nine”  CD booklet too. I guess we know now that we have Klaus Voormann to thank for re-uniting the pair.

How famous is the Gretsch “Duo Jet”? It even turned up as one of the instrument choices for buyers of The Beatles “Rockband” console game:

How many kids playing “Rockband” today would know they’re “strumming” away on a stylised version of a 1957 model guitar that a young George Harrison purchased in 1961 second-hand from a Liverpool sailor?

Klaus Voormann – A Sidesman’s Journey

One of the great artists and session men and part of the inner-circle of the Beatles for many years is Klaus Voormann.

He’s been a long-time friend and sometime collaborator and he has an album out looking back and celebrating that association with the group. I stumbled across this video which pretty much tells the back story to the making of the record, which is called “A Sidesman’s Journey”:

As you can see “A Sideman’s Journey” features guest appearances by Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, as well as Beatle-related songs like George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass” – here sung by Yusef Islam (Cat Stevens).

Voormann has known the Beatles since the Hamburg days and is an artist and bass player. For example, he drew the legendary cover for “Revolver”:

The Beatles - Revolver (1966)

Later Voormann also played bass on numerous Beatles solo projects including, amongst many others,  Lennon’s “Walls and Bridges” and “Imagine”, Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass” and “Concert for Bangladesh”, and on the Ringo solo outings “Ringo” and “Goodnight Vienna”.  He was a founding member of the Plastic Ono Band.  See his biog entry in Wikipedia here.

Voormann’s new CD is made up of newly-recorded covers of some of the songs he helped make famous with the former Beatles plus many other artists over the years.

Well worth a listen.