Writing (by Scott Freiman)
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Magical Mystery Tour was a rare misstep by The Beatles. But the music saved the project from becoming a total bust. Here’s how it went down.
Just in time for the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ White Album, Apple Corps has partnered with Hamilton lead producer Jeffrey Seller and the Second Stage Theater to bring a new musical to Broadway this Fall: Revolution 9, The Beatles Musical. Films and plays based on Beatles’ songs are nothing new — from Across the Universe to Cirque du Soleil’s Love. However, Revolution 9! The Beatles Musical takes a different approach. Rather than feature multiple Beatles songs, Revolution 9’s plot is based on a single song, “Revolution 9” from The Beatles’ 1968 self-titled album (commonly referred to as the White Album).
This November marks the 50th anniversary of the release of The Beatles’ “I Am The Walrus.” Written primarily by John Lennon for the TV movie Magical Mystery Tour, “I Am The Walrus” features a cryptic Lennon lyric with a bizarre chorus, an innovative arrangement from producer George Martin that includes sprechgesang (don’t worry, I’ll define it in a moment), studio trickery from engineers Geoff Emerick and Ken Scott, and an excerpt from Shakespeare’s King Lear. All of this adds up to create The Beatles’ psychedelic masterpiece. Here are ten things you may not know about “I Am The Walrus.”
It may have a childlike spirit, but “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” reveals a fully mature songrwriter at the peak of his powers. Here’s an appreciation of that groundbreaking track.
Rubber Soul was a race against the clock, as The Beatles had only 30 days to write, record and mix an album — from scratch! That the result was a masterpiece makes the story even more remarkable. The latest film in the “Deconstructing The Beatles” series tells the tale.
The Beatles had “big ears” that were open to influences from all sorts of music — and it showed on their very first single. They were the first in Rock n’ Roll (we think) to use chord changes that later appeared everywhere.
Beatles enthusiasts rejoice! Early versions of “Sgt. Pepper” songs and new Fab Four tracks have been discovered…
When you think of The Beatles' Revolver, 12th-century religious music is probably not the first thing that leaps to mind. Here's one reason why it should.
The Zombies' 1968 masterpiece Odessey and Oracle - recorded at Abbey Road Studios - is more than just the big hit "Time of the Season." It shows just how deep Zombies really were. If you only know the hits, you need to check this out.
When we suggested a Hendrix connection to "A Day in the Life," you had A LOT to say about it. Here are some responses to the most frequent questions and comments.
The chord changes in "Hey Joe" may have helped Paul McCartney write the clever transition in "A Day in the Life." Plagal cadence, anyone?
The Next Beatles. It’s a phrase that has gotten tossed around a lot since the breakup of the world’s most famous band. For those bestowed with this accolade, it was a considerable compliment. Sometimes, it was also a curse. After all, who could possibly match the songwriting and musicianship of The Beatles, let alone their humor, camaraderie, and cultural influence? There never will be another Beatles, but there are bands that are “Beatlesque.” What makes a band “Beatlesque?” Almost every rock group (not to mention modern jazz and classical musicians) has been influenced by The Beatles, so we need to narrow the criteria. First of all, let’s eliminate other British Invasion bands that were coming up around the same time as The Beatles. That leaves out The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Yardbirds, The Zombies, and numerous others. Second of all, they’ve got to be a band — not just a singer/songwriter with a backing band. We’re looking for multiple songwriters and multiple vocalists. Three guitars and drums are ideal, although we’ll accept the occasional keyboard
There’s been a huge response to our post on 31 Concept Albums You May Have Missed. Many of you wrote in to suggest concept albums that we may have missed. So, if you haven’t had your fill of concept albums yet, here are the top readers’ choices based on the comments we received.
In February of 1967, The Beatles released a groundbreaking double A-side single. On one side was a Lennon song, “Strawberry Fields Forever,” that had been transformed in the studio thanks to the contributions of the other Beatles along with producer George Martin and engineer Geoff Emerick. On the other side, was McCartney’s imaginary stroll down one of Liverpool’s main thoroughfares, “Penny Lane.”
Forty years ago, Stevie Wonder released a sonic masterpiece, Songs In The Key Of Life. Songs was one of the most ambitious albums ever with a gestation period of two years. The double album and bonus EP are a collection of thought-provoking lyrics, perfect performances, intricate arrangements, unforgettable melodies, and hooky choruses. Its existence is even more amazing when you consider that most of the instruments and vocals on the album were performed by the 26-year-old Wonder himself, working days without food or sleep
As long as there have been records, there have been concept albums. As early as Frank Sinatra’s In the Wee Small Hours, with its songs about lost love, Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass’ themed albums (Going Places, Whipped Cream and Other Delights), and Ella Fitzgerald’s Songbook albums, each dedicated to a specific songwriter or songwriting team, music lovers have always been drawn to an album with a unifying concept.
During the recording of Beatles for Sale, Paul McCartney was making polite conversation with his driver. “How’s it going?” asked Paul. “I’ve been working eight days a week,” responded the driver.
Love him or hate him, no one can deny that Frank Zappa was one of the most interesting and complex musicians to grace our planet. Rock and Roll Hall-of-Famer, enemy of the Parents Music Resource Center, monster guitarist, respected composer, stern bandleader, avant-garde filmmaker — Frank Zappa was all of this and more. In the recently released documentary Eat That Question: Frank Zappa In His Own Words, director Thorsten Schütte attempts to give some insight into this multi-faceted man.
On the cover of Paul Simon’s new album, Stranger to Stranger, the Grammy-winning singer/songwriter stares mysteriously through a veil of colored glass painted by photorealist Chuck Close. The painting seems to filter Simon’s image through a prism, a perfect metaphor for the unique timbres on his latest album. On Stranger to Stranger, Simon’s 11th solo album since the breakup of Simon & Garfunkel, it’s Simon’s music that is filtered — through electronics, rare instruments, and multiple layers of percussion.
Break out your miniskirts and bell-bottoms. The Monkees are back! Their new release, Good Times!, is filled with their special brand of pop. It may feel a bit like the Sixties; but this isn’t simply an exercise in nostalgia.
In the annals of forgotten albums, no album deserves to be forgotten more than the debut album from the Zambronis, Greet the Zambronis. Sounding like a cross between the semi-classical musings of Gentle Giant, the free jazz of Ornette Coleman, and Tuvan throat singing, the Zambronis were a staple of AM radio for one day: April 1, 1974. For some reason, Rhino Records decided the album warranted another look. So they just released Greet the Zambronis: Extra Gassy Edition, remastering the original album and adding a second CD of bonus tracks. I’ll get to the extras in a moment. But first, let’s examine this epic recording.
An album by William Shatner? You mean Captain Kirk? T.J. Hooker? The Priceline guy?
Yes. That William Shatner.
It’s one of the most famous album covers ever produced — The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. On the cover of this 1967 masterpiece, the Beatles stand in front of a Sgt. Pepper bass drum dressed in colorful costumes. They are holding brass and woodwind instruments and are surrounded by images of other celebrities, flower formations, and other assorted objects, including wax figures of their earlier selves. New information has recently surfaced that may reveal the inspiration for this memorable album cover.
With the recent passing of Maurice White, it’s a good time to take a closer look at the first hit single from White and his band Earth, Wind & Fire, “Shining Star.”
Calling Snarky Puppy a jazz band is like calling Leonardo da Vinci a painter. Snarky’s music is equal parts jazz, soul, rock, fusion, and even classical sprinkled with a healthy dose of ethnic instrumentation. The band is a collective made up of nearly 40 musicians led by Grammy Award-winning bassist, composer and producer Michael League. Their albums and concerts consistently receive rave reviews and awards, including a Grammy Award in 2014 for Best R&B Performance and another this year for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album.
Steely Dan is known for jazz-influenced arrangements, quirky lyrics, and pristine production. Even non-fans recognize the brilliance of their 1977 album, Aja. For many music lovers, it’s their first choice for a late night listen accompanied by iced Manhattans. Audiophiles use it to audition high end stereo speakers. Jazz purists discuss its intricacies with classic rock veterans.
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band have always been known for giving some of history’s greatest rock and roll concerts. No fancy video extravaganzas. No choreographed dancers or special effects. No orchestras, choirs, or banks of synthesizers. Just seven guys performing pure, unadulterated rock and roll.