Tuesday, May 26, 2009


The Beatles facts for "Yesterday" are especially interesting since this McCartney composition has been one of the most covered songs in rock and roll history. Issued on the Help! LP (the British version), it was also released as a single in the U.S. on September 13, 1965. Ironically, it wasn't released as a single in the UK until 1976 because the group did not anticipate "Yesterday" being such a huge hit. It was a radical departure from previous Beatles hits, but in retrospect, it was a precursor to the vast diversity and creativity the band would display on later albums and singles. It was also the first time that a band member performed solo on an album or single.

"Yesterday" was recorded on June 14, 1965 at Abbey Road Studios. It was recorded just a few hours after McCartney recorded the very raw "I'm Down." George Martin recorded McCartney singing while playing his Epiphone acoustic in one take. Other vocal takes were made, but none seemed an improvement on the original. Martin later scored the strings and overdubbed them onto the main track.

Lennon originally thought that this was one of Paul's greatest songs, although Lennon and Harrison later teased McCartney for always bringing up the song in conversation. (This in itself was a precursor to later arguments within the band that McCartney was starting to emphasize his own efforts and talents too much--and at the expense of the others.) Even later, after the band's break-up, John Lennon criticized McCartney harshly for bragging on the song so much.

McCartney believed at the time that it was the most "complete" song he'd written up to that point. That having been said, he stated in 1980 that although the lyrics work very well, the song evokes a mood or feeling as opposed to telling a coherent story.

The history of the song's composition is legendary. McCartney awoke with the tune in his head, unsure if he were remembering a song he'd heard somewhere else, possibly years before. He therefore played the chords for many people, asking if they were familiar with the melody. He finally became convinced that it was an original composition--his own--one that had come to him almost "too easily." The working title for the song was "Scrambled Eggs."

The song has been covered by more than 2700 artists, and this is a conservative estimate. The song was performed live by McCartney during the Beatles' tours of 1965 and 1966. He also performed the song on the 1976 Wings Over America tour.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Dark Horse: The Album

Several interesting Beatles facts emerge as one considers Dark Horse, the LP released by George Harrison on December 20, 1974. Harrison was not able to finish recording the entire album at his home studio at Henley-on-Thames because he was busy preparing for his Dark Horse Tour at the end of 1974. Complicating matters further, Harrison came down with laryngitis, which did not deter him from recording the single "Dark Horse" or embarking on the tour. His throaty delivery on the single and album is obvious, but oddly enough the hoarse delivery of the lyrics became a trademark of sorts for the song.

It is perhaps not surprising that Harrison came down with an illness given the extraordinary stress (and life changes) he experienced in 1974. He separated from his wife, Patti Boyd, who he'd met on the set of A Hard Day's Night. Boyd left Harrison for mutual friend Eric Clapton. The ex-Beatle also formed Dark Horse Records and took up with his new love, Olivia Arias, who he would later marry. (Their son Dhani is now a singer in his own right.)

The tour was not well received by critics, who were disappointed with George's vocal quality as well as the Indian music portion of the concerts. Harrison took the criticism to heart and rarely toured afterwards, the most notable exception being his tour of Japan in 1991.

The album was recorded in October and December of 1974 and released on the Apple/EMI label. A remastered version for CD was released in 1992.

Session musicians included Eric Clapton (guitar), Ringo Starr (drums), Jim Keltner (drums), Billy Preston (keyboards), Nicky Hopkins (piano), Klaus Voorman (bass), Willie Weeks (bass), Mick Jones (guitar), Ron Wood (guitar), Steve Winwood (synthesizer), Robben Ford (guitar), Gary Wright (piano), and Tom Scott (flute and sax). Other sources also list Roger Kellaway (piano), Alvin Lee (guitar), Max Bennett (bass), Ray Cooper (percussion), Chuck Findley (horn), Neil Larsen (synthesizer), Andy Newmark (drums), Dick Newman (strings), and Gayle Levant (harp).

Tracks included:

Hari's on Tour (Express)
Simply Shady
So Sad
Bye Bye Love
Maya Love
Ding Dong, Ding Dong
Dark Horse
Far East Man
It Is He (Jai Sri Krishna)

The cover of The Everly Brothers "Bye Bye Love" contained slightly altered lyrics alluding to losing Patti Boyd to Clapton. "Ding Dong, Ding Dong" was also released as a New Year's single.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band: The Album

The most important of several Beatles facts for John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band is that it was the debut solo album for Lennon (discounting three experimental albums with wife Yoko Ono) and is considered to be one of Lennon's best efforts in his solo career. Rolling Stone ranked it # 22 on its list of all-time greatest albums. The album was recorded at the same time as Yoko's Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band, which featured her avant garde style. The band backing Lennon was dubbed "plastic" because of various musicians called upon by Lennon and Ono since 1969 for solo work--a "conceptual band," as it was termed--as compared to the four permanent members of the Beatles.

The album is generally regarded as an outgrowth of the primal scream therapy Lennon undertook with Arthur Janov, producing cathartic feelings expressed in the LP's tracks. One example is "God," in which Lennon sings that he only believes in himself as opposed to any deity or authority/celebrity figure (Beatles, Elvis, etc.). The album was produced by Phil Spector (with production credits also assigned to Lennon and Ono) and recorded at Abbey Road Studios and Ascot Sound Studios from September 26, 1970 to October 23, 1970. It was released on December 11, 1970 on the Apple label, and was well received by critics in both the United States and Great Britain.

Musicians working on the album included Klaus Voorman (bass), Ringo Starr (drums), Alan White (percussion), Billy Preston (piano), and Phil Spector (piano). Lennon handled vocals and played guitar, piano, and electric keyboard.

Tracks include:

Hold On
I Found Out
Working Class hero
Well Well Well
Look at Me
My Mummy's Dead

With impetus from Yoko Ono, the album was remixed and re-issued for CD format in 2000 with two bonus tracks: "Power to the People" and "Do the Oz."

The artwork for the album was a shot of Lennon and Ono leaning against a tree. The photo was taken with an ordinary Instamatic camera.

The guitar work by Lennon on "Look at Me" is similar to that on "Julia" and "Dear Prudence" and was taught to Lennon, according to most sources, by Donovan when the two musicians were in Rishikesh, India in 1968.

For more information on Beatles albums (group and solo), go to Beatles Albums: Background and History or see the Sitemap below.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Ballad of John and Yoko

The main Beatles facts for "The Ballad of John and Yoko" are that the song was written by Lennon within a few days after his marriage to Yoko Ono on March 20, 1969 in Gibraltar, and also that Lennon and McCartney recorded the song by themselves, with no help from Starr or Harrison even though the song was released as a Beatles recording. This is surprising inasmuch as the feuding between Lennon and McCartney was at its peak during this time. The song recounts Lennon and Ono's trouble finding a place where they could be married, their subsequent honeymoon, and trips to Paris and Amsterdam, and staying in bed for a week (e.g., the bed-in at the Amsterdam Hilton).

The song was released in the UK on May 30, 1969 and in the U.S. on June 4, 1969. Ironically, it was the first Beatles' single to be released in stereo but was also the last song recorded with the intention of it being issued as a single. The song was banned on many radio stations in both the United States and Great Britain because of the line "Christ, you know it ain't easy." Because McCartney helped with the recording session, Lennon reciprocated by giving McCartney co-authorship credit for "Give Peace a Chance."

The song was recorded at Abbey Road Studios on April 14, 1969. Lennon played acoustic and lead guitars. McCartney played bass, drums, and piano. Lennon sang lead vocal, with McCartney turning in a great performance with harmony vocal. The two band members recorded a basic rhythm tracks (doing eleven takes) with only acoustic guitar, drums, and the lead vocal. They then decided on the best take and overdubbed the rest of the instruments in a single day. It is reported that John addressed Paul as "Ringo," while Paul addressed John as "George."