Monday, October 21, 2013

Post-Beatle Blues

December 8th, 1980.  The graduate school dorm at the University of New Hampshire.

MY FUTURE WIFE:  John Lennon has been shot and killed outside of his apartment in New York.
HER EARNEST FRIEND FROM INDIANA:  Oh, no!  Now the Beatles will never get back together.

I've been wrong all these years.  I've been trying to respect a memory.  This realization came to me last week, when I saw that Sir Paul McCartney had released a new CD.  I haven't heard the CD, haven't seen reviews, don't even know who might be in Paul's band these days.  No, my mind took me to a different connection--in about two months, Paul will have lived 33 more years than John.  Thirty-three years.  Twelve years more than George.

So here's what I'm blue about: the four ex-Beatles have had over one hundred years of solo time between them since the band ended, and not that much to show for it musically.  Think about it.  Think hard.  There just isn't that much there.  John's time was relatively short, but at his untimely death, his songwriting arc was not on the rise.  It is far more interesting, for me at least, to speculate about where Jimi Hendrix would have gone  than John Lennon.  George, freed from the Beatles,  became a wonderful human being, but his great solo music is mostly all contain on All Things Must Pass, his initial explosion of creativity after the Beatles.

 Paul I admire for maintaining a career and for keeping the Beatle flame alive, but even though I am more generous toward his work than I once was, there still isn't much of it that I'd want to listen to.  And Ringo, God love him, well he figured it out pretty well; he is the one who would be the most fun to see in concert with his ever-changing band of All-Stars.  But that would be purely nostalgic on all counts.

In that output there just aren't that many songs that, although pleasant to hear in a supermarket, maintain the timeless quality of their work as a group.

And the best song of all, "Maybe, I'm Amazed," was the first one released after the break-up.

That is always a surprise because, as I alluded to at the top, I am a John defender.  Long before Team Edward and Team Jacob, there was Team Paul and Team John.  But I heard "Maybe, I'm Amazed" again today and, 43 years later, it sounded as fresh and relevant as ever.

That led me to consider what are my favorite of the post-Beatle songs.  It isn't a "mixtape" I've encountered anywhere else, and I decided to limit myself to ten songs so that I'd be forced to stick to the essential (though maybe I cheated and snuck in an eleventh--hey, whatever gets you through the night, right?)

So, here's my list.  I've even tried to put it in a kind of order.  Maybe I'm not wedded to it, absolutely, but, sure, I'll defend it.  There are two glaring omissions, so let's dispense with those first.  "Imagine," while an IMPORTANT song, is not here because it is so weighty and because it's not a favorite listening experience.  Once I "got" the song, there was no need to listen to it over and over.  "Band On The Run" could be on this list for its music (especially those strummed acoustics near the start),  but it's a dumb lyrical concept and even sillier as an album concept, and for that reason, I always hear it with half pleasure, half irritation.

1.  Paul--"Maybe I'm Amazed"
2.  John--"Instant Karma"
3.  George--"What Is Life" or "Awaiting On You All" (tie)
4.  John--"God"
5.  George--"All Things Must Pass"
6.  John--"Oh Yoko"
7. Paul--"Coming Up"
8. George (with Wilburys)--"Handle With Care"
9. Ringo--"It Don't Come Easy"
10. Paul--"Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey"

Come at me.


Anonymous said...

Still working on it, but photograph comes to mind. It's gotta be good since Camper Van covered it.

Earl said...

As supplemental material - saw this in Slate yesterday:


troutking said...

Put It There on Paul's Flowers in the Dirt album is a great father-son song. It's no Adam Raised A Cain, but most of us don't have that relationship with our fathers either.

Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Four on Band on the Run has some epic music on it and a melody that sticks in your head.

Also, Paul's 50's covers album is actually really good---Crackin' Up, I'm Going To Be A Wheel, Don't Get Around Much Anymore, Midnight Special

Watching the Wheels and Jealous Guy are great examples of John's songs like Help that are pop songs that are also very personally revealing.

Any Road on George's last album contains the line "If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there" which is so fraught with possibilities that the music is a catchy bonus.

Got nothin' for Ringo, other than at least he has played with Clarence and Nils.

G. B. Miller said...

Not sure what I can come up with for a post-Beatle list, but as a kid (and being 48 I'm dating myself) "Coming Up" was the firs Paul McCartney single that I bought. Interesting concept it was, as it had the studio version on side A and the live version coupled with a instrumental called (I think) Lunch Box/Odd Sox".

Wait, I do have a song for Ringo. I have a early 2000 c.d. from him that has a cool song called "I Think, Therefore I Rock & Roll".

Bob said...

@anon I debated between It Don't Come Easy and Photograph and went with the former because I wanted to make a point that George had written more of my favorites than the other guys.

@Earl and Troutking thanks for the info. I know there is a lot of McCartney I haven't heard. It's helps to know some songs that other people really like.

@GB It was that live version of Coming Up that really hooked me. I verified on YouTube the other day that it's a great live song.

Anonymous said...

George gets credit for photograph as well.

Robert Berman said...

Too true. Youth has a virtual monopoly on pop music influence. The top 1% of pop acts on the radio (i.e. the top 0.0001% of aspiring musicians) can still have hit singles with their newer work. But not influence. Who ever decided to pick up a guitar/sax/microphone because of 60s Sinatra, or 70s Elvis, or 80s Robert Plant, or 90s Stevie Wonder, or 00s U2?

Stewart Copeland, for all his obnoxiousness, gets it. Discussing why The Police didn't play any new songs on their reunion tour, said something like, "Old songs are better. People have invested their own lives into them, giving the songs impact far beyond the notes." Old songs trigger the echoes of our own youth, somewhere in the limbic system.