Memory Full (2007)
OK, I give up. Believing that the next Julian Lennon album would be released in “early 2011,” and running out of any of his material to choose from, I had grand visions of trotting out the last “Fixing a Hole” concurrent with the release of such album, generating free publicity, and just feeling all Beatleish all over. Alas, “early 2011” is nearly over, and still no word. As far as I can tell, the album, entitled Everything Changes, has been imminent for more than three years now, so who knows when it will come out. And my life is about to get much busier (with a little Beatle fan on the way), so I decided it’s time to conclude this series.
Of course this means Everything Changes will probably be officially announced tomorrow, so when that happens, pick your favorite two songs from it, as I will, and substitute them for “Parachute” and “Highway” below (or whichever two songs you feel are the most replaceable).
So anyway, I really like this album, I really do. Thanks to the folks who suggested I throw some Sean Lennon into the mix, I no longer had to dig deep into the more mediocre bits of Photograph Smile, and Paul’s 2007 album Memory Almost Full (which inspired this title) has some of his best songs in years. The way the last several entries worked out was that the Beatles had been alternating radio-friendly accessible albums (Tug of Peace, Fab, Flaming Pie) with more experimental work (In Space, Help Yourself, Private Salt). I think Memory Full brings things to a close with a middle ground that pulls from all stages of the Beatles’ storied now-45-year history, and does quite a bit of looking back (you’ll see).
“Dead Meat” – A creepy ¾ ballad from Sean’s Friendly Fire CD that would make his dad proud. A risky way to lead off a CD, too, but the Beatles were all about risks.
“Ever Present Past” – Paul’s greatest single of the past 20 years, in my humble opinion, and in this reality the Beatles’ penultimate big hit (appropriately about aging). I still remember hearing it for the first time and literally stopping in my tracks. “He’s back!” I cried. I was also greatly amused at a review I read by a newspaper critic that praised it for sounding like Wings. How many critics praised Wings back in the ‘70s? Check out the video, too — it kind of has that low-budget, early MTV feel.
“Two Magpies” – In general I just can’t get into Electric Arguments. Not that it isn’t a cool idea to improvise an entire album, but most of it just doesn’t fill me with the high that Paul’s music generally does, and most of it doesn’t seem like it would fit in a Beatles context. This does, though, subtly recalling “Blackbird.”
“Any Road” – Right up there with “Drive My Car” and “Don’t Go Where the Road Don’t Go” in the Beatles’ sub-genre of traveling songs.
“Fading In Fading Out” – A fun Ringo singalong along the same lines of “Love First…” that goes well with the looking-back theme.
“Parachute” – I’ll probably replace this with something from Everything Changes eventually, but in the meantime, it’s a nice (if slightly depressing) Sean acoustic number.
“See Your Sunshine” – my favorite track from the real Memory Almost Full, a fascinating pastiche of Beatles psychedelic and Wings AM-radio-love-song territory. I think I’ve said this about several other songs of recent vintage, but I’ll say it again: It’s a shame Paul didn’t write this back in the ‘70s, when it would’ve been noticed.
“Looking For My Life” – my favorite track from Brainwashed, in spite of it having a little of the Jeff Lynne sound. Imagine a little tambourine or something to break up the monotony.
“Dance Tonight” – Deceptively simple musically, extremely simple lyrically, and somehow with that little edge Paul can give any song if he tries. A perfect side two leadoff. And the video is proof that after all he’s been through lately, Sir Paul hasn’t lost his sense of humor.
“On Again, Off Again” – Love the harmonies and the guitar-piano interplay of this tune from Sean. Am I nuts, or does anyone else think the first bit of melody very vaguely is reminiscent of “Even the Nights Are Better”?
“Highway” – It has the beginnings of a classic road trip rocker, but just sounds a little… well… unfinished, as one might expect from a first take. I’d like to see Paul write and record “Highway 2014.” But since he hasn’t yet, this is going to be another track to replace. Not bad, though, don’t get me wrong.
“Only Mama Knows” – Now this, on the other hand, is a classic McCartney rocker. I do wish the synthesized string section part were a tad shorter, but that’s a minor quip, too minor to prevent it from making the cut.
The album really starts to pick up steam here, and I thought it would be appropriate to end it (and the Beatles’ career) with one “farewell” track from each Beatle (or each Beatles family, in one case), each of which hearkens back to something in the Beatles’ rich, vast (and ever-present) past:
“Lucy” – I know, I know, there’s a non-Beatle voice in here, and unlike “Ebony and Ivory” there’s no alternate single-vocal version, so we’ll just have to use our imagination and imagine Julian is singing the whole thing. It’s just too good a song to leave off, especially with the lack of recent Julian material, and of course the subject matter is as Beatleish as it gets. Personally I think it’s Julian’s greatest tune other than perhaps “Valotte.” There’s no better way for the Lennon clan to say goodbye.
“Some People” – Blatantly and unashamedly, Ringo throws every bit of circa-1966-inspired production into a hopeful and positive message. I detect little hints of “Ticket to Ride,” “You Won’t See Me,” “She Said She Said” and “Only a Northern Song” in here, and there’s probably more I’m missing.
“The End of the End” – Just as “The End” brought the Beatles’ first era to a close, we get a deep and powerful statement from Paul. No reason to cry, no need to be sad, he tells us, and makes it clear that this it. Well, almost. I was originally going to put this at the end, of course, but reasoning that the Beatles never quite did things conventionally, I thought it would be appropriate for there to be 10-15 seconds of silence (just as there was before “Her Majesty”) and then…
“Brainwashed” – Why not end the Beatles’ catalog with a song that questions the existence, of well, everything, just to make us wonder what it is we were really seeking as we made the Beatles everything from teen idols, to cultural icons to symbols of revolution, to reflections of ourselves, to aging rockers haunted by their (ever present) past?
“Ever Present Past” reaches #1, knocking “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” out of the top slot in the fall of 2007, much to the delight of Beatle fans across America.
“Lucy” also hits #1, in early 2008, and stays there for 10 weeks. In an artistic statement, the Beatles decide to go out on a high note with two #1s, one McCartney and one Lennon, and release no more singles.
ONE LAST SET LIST
Of course, there would have been a humongous farewell tour. We’ll call it the “rattle your bloody jewelry tour.” Here’s a set list; it’s quite a long one but I think that could very well have happened, since it truly would be their last. And I think they would have dug out some unexpected curveballs to go with the obvious crowd-pleasers:
Love Comes To Everyone
Ever Present Past
Can’t Buy Me Love
Eye To Eye
Big Boys Bickering (so timely today, don’tcha think?)
I Am The Walrus
Band On The Run
(acoustic mini-set, still part of first set)
All Things Must Pass
(now back to electric)
Figure Of Eight
Strawberry Fields Forever
Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds (clever, eh?)
Help Yourself (clever, eh?)
While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Ebony and Ivory
Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight / The End
A Day in the Life
All You Need Is Love / She Loves You
Tomorrow Never Knows
(Why not? Just as the final album ends not with a stately ballad but unconventionally with something that makes you scratch your head a little, I think this would’ve been a great way to end the final show, just to remind us all how much the Beatles pushed the envelope. They would totally go nuts with the improvisation and then just cut it off suddenly and turn on the lights.)
The end! Hope you all enjoyed the series – I certainly enjoyed writing it and reading all the comments (many of which helped make the albums even better).
- Paul McCartney Blames John Lennon For Beatles Split (beatcrave.com)
- Fan of The Beatles? Prove It with This Quiz (musicouch.com)
- Beatles’ Paul McCartney Turns 69 (pamil-visions.net)