The Beatles – Help!

If you’re really into music you’ve got at least one friend who is into it as much as you. You spend hours talking about different bands and albums.

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If you’re really into music you’ve got at least one friend who is into it as much as you. You spend hours talking about different bands and albums. Multiply that by 10 if you’re both musicians as well. I’ve been blessed to have met many musicians and audiophiles over the years and cherish their friendship.

I was hanging out with Dave, one of these friends who lives locally in NC a few weeks ago. He’s been reading my blog, so we had a lot to get caught up on. Like two people who just crossed the desert, we were gulping down the refreshing conversation. In fact, I was a little embarrassed because we were supposed to be at a small group picnic, but hadn’t talked in so long we pretty much ignored everyone else for the first 45 minutes getting caught up.

I mentioned that Help was coming up next and it was one of my favorite Beatles albums. He countered with “Hard Days Night is way better” and off we went. It took a second time hanging out later that week to finish the debate, but suffice it to say we both now have a greater appreciation for the two albums.

Interesting album facts:

The picture on the cover is the Beatles doing semaphore, signals that ships use to communicate without radio. But it doesn’t actually spell out Help!

Wikipedia tells us “On the UK Parlophone release, the letters formed by the Beatles appear to be “NUJV”, whilst the slightly re-arranged US release on Capitol Records appeared to feature the letters “NVUJ”, with McCartney’s left hand pointing to the Capitol logo.”

The Beatles appear much more rested on this album, completing it in February before leaving the UK for the Bahamas to film the movie. It was 8 months after Beatles for Sale and you could tell they were energetic and excited to go film. Like A Hard Day’s Night, the tracks that made the movie were on Side A and the rest of the songs from the session were on Side B.

HELP!

The title track kicks off the album. It has an energy that was sorely lacking from Beatles for Sale. Wonderful melody and musicianship on this song. One of their most recognizable songs. Probably written after their burn out of recording Beatles for Sale, it is a clear cry for help, definitely showing how emotionally drained they all were from the schedule.

 

You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away

This song has special significance to me because it was the first song that I ever performed in front of an audience. My friend Abe Savas was a vet of many rock performances in high school, and when we met at Alma College he took me under his wing and showed me how to play in front of an audience. We played this song as part of our set at Max and Emily’s during an open mic night. And there was an actual crowd! Abe gave me this song as kind of a George Harrison/Ringo Starr one off to give his voice a break. It is something I will always appreciate. It’s a melancholy song, but sometimes that’s the mood you’re in.

Unfortunately, there is no version of the Beatles playing this that’s available, so I’m giving you Oasis’ version. They actually do pretty good and they’re British, so close enough. At least it’s not the Eddie Vedder version.

 

Ticket to Ride

This album is heavy on John Lennon songs, which is possibly why I like it so much. Iconic song, the harmonies on this song are solid, as usual.

 

It’s Only Love

Another John Lennon classic. This video has the added bonus of showing you how to play the song on guitar. It’s actually John singing in the background, which is good because I couldn’t find any suitable replacement on youtube. Sorry.

 

Yesterday

They could’ve just ended the album here and nobody would have been the wiser. My friend Dave pointed this out and I think I agree with him. It’s a sad and beautiful song, but sometimes you’re just in the mood for that. One of my favorite Paul McCartney songs. I love how this video just shows him on stage with a single spotlight on him. Perfect.

 

That’s all for now. Hope you all enjoyed reading. Thank you for your support!

D

 

 

 

The Beatles – Beatles for Sale

In the past, I viewed this album as a let down after 3 great LPs. But, is it really?

In the past, I always viewed this album as a let down after such a great first three albums. When I was in the mood for some Beatles, I never once said “Hey, I’m in the mood for some Beatles for Sale!” But, is this album really a let down? It took me so long to finally write this post, I had the chance to listen to it about a dozen times. Each time my CD changer made a new circuit I heard it again. I think I’m finally ready to write about it and have some theories as well.

Beatles for Sale kick off with the following songs: No Reply, I’m a Loser, and Baby’s in Black. Those are good songs, but they aren’t Hard Day’s Night or Help. So right off the bat, there’s a bit of a let down because the album doesn’t have a fast, up beat tune to start it. That comes all the way down at Track 4, Rock and Roll Music, which is a cover, and brings me to my next point.

The Beatles were tired. The constant grind of touring, movie making, show appearances, and studio work for the past two years has completely wiped them out. Who can be creative when all you really want is some peace, quiet, and a good night’s sleep? To wit, half of the songs are covers, which is a bummer after Hard Day’s Night was their first album to be 100% original. This also shows in the fact that Beatles for Sale didn’t produce an A-side single, not one. They were running out of steam trying to make incredible albums as well as put out incredible singles to keep them on top of both the song and album charts.

If you look at the album release dates, they had put out FOUR albums in the past two years. That is a ridiculous amount and it reminds me of stories I’ve heard about child actors back in the 50’s and 60’s, who got hooked on drugs that they used to give them “pep” so they could perform well during their grueling film schedule. Judy Garland is a prime example. I’m sure this is no different, except (as far as I know) they didn’t use these drugs to keep them going. George Martin also had commented that they were weary during recording and it led to the melancholy tone of the sessions.

But is this really a bad album? I don’t think so. After hearing these songs several times, it just has a different feel than previous albums. John and Paul were trying to write more autobiographical songs (see wiki link above), so naturally it wouldn’t be only the sugary pop of previous releases. And musically, these are good songs. There is a great deal of unique Beatles sound in them and often the chord progressions and songs themselves don’t go where you would expect, which is nice.

Since they had to include some covers, in order to make the December 1964 deadline for the album, I’m really glad they chose the American rock and roll numbers they did. So many Americans were looking across the pond at that time to what was happening in the UK with the Beatles and other bands, but they were looking right back at us seeing the unique sound of the American south. Rock and Roll was a very unique thing and I love that they pay tribute to some of their contemporaries that maybe weren’t getting quite as much recognition or credit. Chuck Berry had a large part in inventing Rock and Roll, yet when the Beatles covered his song, it was a huge boost to his popularity as well. And rightly deserved.

As you’ll see in later posts, I have an extensive Blues collection from several different American artists. I feel like this is the true roots to all of the great rock music you heard back then and to hear the Beatles paying it tribute is right on the money in my mind.

 

I’ll Follow the Sun

You have to get deep into the album before you hit this song, but I think it’s incredible. It’s sad and beautiful, with a very positive message. I know this might be a little morbid, but someday we all will pass on. There isn’t a song I’d like played at my funeral more than this one. It points to the impact people have on your life and the fact that time and circumstances separate us all eventually, with the promise of a reunion someday. It’s wonderful and I like this more than the sugary pop songs. It has much more depth and feeling.

Eight Days a Week

Finally! Here’s what we’ve been missing, an honestly to goodness upbeat Beatles song! You have to wait until Track 8 to hear it, but it’s worth the wait. This was released in the US as a single, but not the UK. Weird. Anyways, it’s a great tune.

I LOVE the animation on this video. The 60’s just looked like a fun time to be alive. Reminds me of the Frosty the Snowman Christmas special.

 

Everybody’s Trying to Be My Baby

This is one of the notorious cover songs. A fun tune by Carl Perkins, it’s totally George all the way. I’m sure the Beatles could sing this and know from experience how it goes. I like the tongue in cheek way they present it. Great way to close out the album.

 

Hope you enjoyed the post and have a great weekend full of music!

D

 

The Beatles – A Hard Day’s Night

The Beatles’ first movie soundtrack. They’re really hitting their stride now.

I was talking with my friend Silvia the other day and she mentioned this album as it was up next on the blog. She said that she must have watched this movie at least 100 times and could quote it all start to finish. I asked her how that was possible and her response was that it was one of the only movies that her local library had when she was growing up in South America. In fact, it was how she learned to speak English, just listening to it over and over.

This made me think about how big an impact The Beatles have had all over the world. It wasn’t just a UK or US thing, it was a GLOBAL thing. All continents, all peoples. Truly amazing.

I admit, I haven’t actually watched any of The Beatles’ movies except for Yellow Submarine. I’ve read the stories about making them, but not seen the actual films. I’m going to try and do this soon. But, since this blog is about the music, I’m going to plow ahead.

A Hard Day’s Night

That opening chord. Need I say more? It’s a fantastic, ear catching way to kick off an album. Amazing song, written in such an off the cuff style that is all Beatles.

According to my Beatles songbook, the chord is a Gsus4. Tab is below:

–3–

–1–

–0–

–0–

–x–

–x–

By itself this is really nothing special. But, the studio magic of this is that at the same time John is playing this chord, George is simultaneously playing the barre chord version on a 12-string guitar, which gives it that ringing harmony. Paul also plays the root note to give added depth. Looking at the music, this is a very simple song, anybody could play it. But, that’s the trick, isn’t it? It’s very hard to sound like The Beatles doing it.

 

If I Fell

This is an amazing song. So sweet and heartfelt. Probably one of my top ten Beatles songs. The harmonies between John and Paul are so tight and well done. Perfect for an acoustic guitar and two singers. I had a very hard time finding the Beatles version, but here is one they did live on BBC.

 

I would like to also play the Across the Universe version of this song. It’s a unique take on the song, so is worth hearing. This scene is were Lucy begins to fall for Jude. Such an amazing voice.

Can’t Buy Me Love

The live recordings are getting much better by this point in their career. They’re great performers, so this version is almost identical to the album version. Can we just assume we’re past the whole Money (That’s What I Want) controversy already? Great upbeat song. More pop sounding, like most of the ones on this album.

 

Final thoughts. Wikipedia tells us that this was the first album that the four lads wrote every single song. This explains the stylistic change from Rock to a more Pop sound. They had found their own voice and were taking off.

And, of course there’s the story about the title of the album, which is based on a “Ringo-ism”. Ringo had a unique way of speaking where he’d sometimes just make up words or phrases to say exactly what he was trying to express. If the normal lexicon just wasn’t enough. Very unique individuals.

Hope you enjoyed the post!

D

 

 

 

Aware Michigan – The Compilation CD

One of my dreams as a teenager was to get in a band good enough to play gigs around Michigan. To be part of “The Scene”

 

I LOVE local music. These bands that are often times just as talented as major label performers, but that you can actually see live in small venues and even talk with after their show is over.

One of my dreams as a teenager was to get in a band that was good enough to play some gigs around Michigan. The clubs we’d walk past in East Lansing when spending the day out there seemed so mysterious. I’d been to concerts before, but these were different. You were up close with the musicians and really part of the music.

Well, my dream came true back at Michigan State when a friend I’d met, Isaac VanderSchuur, had invited me to play rhythm guitar in his band, The End. This kicked off a whirlwind of rock shows across the state, late night drives home, crashing on people’s couches, and most importantly meeting other bands when playing shows together.

I was actually part of the Michigan¬† music scene. Once I got past the “fan boy” awe of these guys and sat down to talk with them they were actually pretty down to earth people. They liked music like me and spent a lot of their time listening to it and playing it. They worked at a music store or guitar shop usually, regular blue collar dudes. Another reason to like local bands, they’re just like you and me. Regular people.

Aware Records (from Chicago) came out with a complication CD of the most popular bands around the state from this time (1997-1998). We didn’t make the cut obviously, but it was great to see our local heroes making it big. If you are interested, they still sell this CD on their website. Really big fan of Aware and the work they do with local bands. You’d be surprised how many big acts they found when they were unknowns.

http://awarerecords.com/discography.php

Nineteen Wheels – Colorado

Track 1 on the CD: Nineteen Wheels. These guys have the most polished sound of the group and the singer has a “rock star” voice. On a side note, most of the guys in this band worked at Music Manor in south Lansing and I bought several effects pedals from them. Colorado, good song.

 

Papa Vegas – Bombshell

These guys, along with The Verve Pipe and Fat Amy were our local heroes. They were the ones that really made it big from “the scene” and were great guys to boot. Papa Vegas was from the west side of the state (Grand Rapids area), so we didn’t get to know them, but their music is incredible.

Dorothy – Morning After

Another band we didn’t get to meet, but liked their music greatly. Dorothy just rocked out. They put out an incredible CD and then just kind of faded away. Some bands do that, unfortunately.

 

Fat Amy – Bourbon

This finally brings us to Fat Amy. These were OUR GUYS. I had hung out with the guitarist Mark on several occasions, once even showing up at some friends dorm late on a sunday to surprised them with a party. So many good times with this band. The singer, Bob Guiney, ended up being the most famous of all of them. You probably know him as Bachelor Bob, from the TV show The Bachelor. Fame comes in really weird ways sometimes.

Bachelor-Bob-Guiney

The good side of this is that it rekindled an interest in his old band and they were able to make a few come backs, which was great. Really miss these guys. To me they (along with The Verve Pipe) really stood for what local music was all about. Super talented local guys who were good people just trying to make a living doing what they love.

 

There are plenty of other great songs and bands on this album. I highly recommend checking it out. And really, I encourage you to go see some local music no matter where you are. These people need your support and encouragement. You may meet some really cool people and discover some unique music you really enjoy.

Never stop listening.

D

 

 

Audio Adrenaline

So what exactly is a Christian Artist? A musician that is a Christian? Not exactly…

So what exactly is a Christian Artist? A musician that is a Christian? Not exactly… According to Christian Music radio stations, a Christian Artist is an artist that is signed to a Christian Music record label. If you’re a “secular” musician, meaning signed to one of the more popular record labels, it doesn’t matter whether you’re Christian or not. You will NOT be getting air play on the “Christian” radio stations like K-LOVE or Air1.

Sound hypocritical? Well, if you don’t believe me, here is the history of the Gospel Music Industry on Wikipedia. This quote in particular, backs up my assertion:

“Christian music is sometimes cited as a “ghetto,” meaning that the majority of artists in the industry are pigeonholed to operate solely in it. These artists are isolated from the mainstream public, to Christian media, including radio, magazines, and book stores. For many this is a conscious choice, however others, not content to stay in an isolated industry segment, attempt to “cross over” and gain acceptance in the general market.”

This speaks to a larger issue that many have talked about in the church, which is treating your church like a spiritual bomb shelter. You are huddled together, only doing business with people in your church, hanging out only with people in your church, and attending only events hosted at your church. It’s very common, especially in today’s megachurches. I’ve heard several sermons addressing this problem, reminding what Jesus asked us to do, which is to leave our comfortable spaces and go out to meet other people who most likely don’t share our beliefs and to share the gospel with them.

Getting back to music, I was part of the praise and worship band when I attended Shoreline church in Austin, TX. We would play to crowds of between 2000 and 3000 people every weekend. It was an amazing experience to perform to crowds that size that were truly into the music.

One of the bands that came through on tour of the megachurches in our area was Audio Adrenaline, the band featured here. Up until that point, much of the Christian music I’d heard didn’t really speak to me. It was slow and boring to be honest. And then in comes these guys, guitars cranked and rocking out. Finally!! I didn’t have to “settle” in my listening anymore. After that I was able to find more bands that I enjoyed, like Casting Crowns, Hillsong United, and Toby Mac, but these guys were the first to really break the K-LOVE mold.

Is it hurting bands that only stay within the Christian Music “ghetto”? I would say no, because they get a ton of promotion and captive audiences that they normally wouldn’t get. Just don’t get mad when I call U2 “The Most Successful Christian Band of All Time”, because in my mind it matters whether you believe in God, not what label you’re signed to.

Here’s my tribute to Audio Adrenaline, a band that I think is great, no matter what their label.

Worldwide

audioA_worldwide

In my opinion, the best album these guys ever put out. It just rocks from the start and continues on with great songs from there. It was recorded in several locations, so it naturally has a variety of sound throughout the recording. That makes for a more pleasurable experience to my ears.

Worldwide (title track)

 

Another great song from this album. Leaving 99. It’s about sheep, but really about us.

Lift

A solid album with a great message, but a bit of a let down after Worldwide. It does have one of my favorite songs on it, Ocean Floor. Nice message about taking your sins as far as the East is from the West. It sounds so much like Oasis, but I don’t care. Great song.

 

I only have the two albums I bought at the concert, so there could be more good music out there. It might be worth a trip to youtube to see what’s new. A musician friend of mind told me a bit about the band, that basically they’ve been swapping out band members like you’d change out parts to a car lately. Just swap out somebody and keep on truckin’. Guess that’s cool, keeping the legacy alive.

Thanks for listening. Up next is a compilation that the end of the A’s. It shows my love for a local music scene that I was a part of for 3 wonderful years.

D

 

 

The Ataris

California surfer rock never sounded so good! Or you could use the official name: Pop Punk.

California surfer rock never sounded so good! Or you could use the official name: Pop Punk. You either like these guys or you don’t, there’s really no middle ground. I heard their cover of “Boys of Summer” on the radio several years back and was hooked. I love the singer’s voice and I like the straight ahead guitars and upbeat rhythm. Kind of a poor man’s Blink 182. And ironically, I don’t actually have any Blink 182 albums.

I prefer the lyrics in the The Ataris songs over Blink 182. More substance, it’s actually worth listening to IMO. The songs are about coming of age, heartbreak, and moving on, but they seem more genuine. I’m a sucker for “coming of age” movies like Juno, Perks of Being a Wallflower, and Paper Towns, as my brother David pointed out to me a while back. Makes sense I’d identify with these songs. One bit of trivia, the lead singer who created this sound is actually originally from Anderson, Indiana. About as far from an ocean as you can be, but he moved there as soon as he could.

End is Forever

the-ataris-end is forever

I had more of their albums, but eventually sold off some after listening more than a few times. They were so cheap online, I just ordered them all at $1 each. These two made the final cut. End is Forever is their 3rd studio album and I feel they really hit their stride in this and the next one, So Long, Astoria.

This is the song that started it all for me: Boys of Summer. Is has their signature sound. Like I said above, either you like it or you don’t. I love it.

 

So Long, Astoria

theATARIS-So-Long-Astoria

A much more “complete” album than any they made before. The best songs are not covers, but ones they wrote themselves. I’ll highlight a few of my faves here.

The title track, So Long, Astoria. The guitars build a wonderful moving harmony through the chord changes.

I absolutely love this song. It’s beautiful. Plus it’s a break from their usual style. It’s a song about growing up without your dad. So sad, but beautiful.

 

Aerosmith – Part 2

After making us think they were the best band on Earth, Aerosmith drops a huge stinking turd on our ears, and then redeems themselves in true rock hero fashion on the very next album.

After making us think they were the greatest band on Earth, Aerosmith drops a huge stinking turd on our ears, then redeems themselves in true rock hero fashion on the very next album.

Get a Grip

get a grip

I have tried SO HARD to like this album, forcing myself to listen to it at least a dozen times and “appreciating it”. But it just comes off flat to me every time. What made Permanent Vacation and Pump so appealing to me, is completely missing from this album. What is that, you say? Feeling, raw emotion, and desperation even.

In my opinion, Aerosmith became a parody of themselves for this recording. The mega rock star, commercial vibe is all over this baby. Steven Tyler especially is flaunting his sassy, rock star ego on top of the tracks and killing what was an otherwise excellent performance by Joe Perry. Joey Kramer, who was so great on the last two records was neutered by the producer and recording engineer. His drumming was missing that punch from previous albums.

There are a couple good songs, like Eat the Rich and Amazin, but overall this album just sounds like a record company’s best attempt at making popular radio singles. They did it, but sold their souls in the process.

I have one funny story about this album though. If you’re really into music you gravitate towards friends with that same passion. Abe Savas, who is now owner of the best record store in Kalamazoo, MI: Green Light Music, was one of my “music buddies” in college.

Every time we would hear Living on the Edge on the radio we would laugh at the break near the end, when the drums would come in with this ridiculous amount of echo. BOOM BOOM BOOM. Well, we heard someone down the hall playing this song and when it hit that part we both jumped up and down along with the beat, stomping as hard on the floor as we could. We ended up skipping the guy’s CD player and getting in trouble a bit, but we’ll always have that memory of rebelling against this ridiculous album.

Nine Lives

Aerosmith's Nine Lives

So, what do you do when you go 7 x Platinum, but had to compromise your integrity to do it? Well, if you’re Aerosmith, you break everything down, go to a new record company, and rediscover what made you great in the first place.

When my good friend Joe Bogan told me about Aerosmith’s new album and how good it was, I was skeptical to say the least. I had pretty much written them off as a band. Joe and I hosted a radio show Saturday nights on WQAC, Alma College’s radio station. At first, I didn’t want to listen to it, but he basically forced me to listen to it one night after our show over a couple beers.

Wow is all I can say.  The passion and raw emotion are back, the songs are more complete, and they totally rock. As you can see reflected in the album artwork, they experimented with some sounds from India with great success IMO.

I had a really rough time in 1996/1997. My grandfather passed away, I got rejected from all the grad schools I applied to, and went through two gut wrenching break ups back to back. You know the kind, where you totally lose all self respect and become the most pathetic human being on Earth? Well, I had a core group of friends that I leaned heavily on during this time, people who had my back no matter what. I owe it all to them for picking me up and pulling my sorry ass through it.

When I hear the song “Hole in My Soul” it always reminds me of those great friends. Joe had dedicated this song to me one night when we were on the air. Despite the tough times back then there were so many great times too and I wouldn’t have missed them for anything.

Speaking of great times, this song is quite possibly the best non-Irish drinking song of all time. Get together with old friends and just put this on repeat.

Thanks everyone for going on this trip down memory lane with me. If I’ve learned anything it’s that life has its ups and downs. Music and great friends/family are there with you through all of it. Make sure to appreciate those that are close to you.

D

Bonus Song! This is a GREAT song, but one of the most fk’ed up videos I’ve ever seen in my life.