What does the title mean? If it isn’t already obvious, my idea for this album name came from the impression that I think Flaming Pie would have left – that the Beatles were playing it safe, and although they were still a great band, they had lost their ‘edge.’ Sean Lennon notwithstanding, they would have been seen as an ‘old person’s band’ by this point, and they just didn’t have another Sergeant Pepper in them. One critic may have even said “What the Beatles are doing now is the complete opposite of Sergeant Pepper.” Get it?
So the Beatles’ penultimate album was a wild stab at connecting with a younger audience. Not that they don’t still sound like the Beatles, of course, but with certain tracks, they are breaking away from the conventional structures they are known for and in a way virtually invented. I like to compare this album to Rockestra from 1980 – it has a kitchen sink feel to it, and is different from Flaming Pie in the same way that Rockestra differed from Grow Up.
“Day After Day” – originally this was on Flaming Pie but I bumped it over here due to the last-minute inclusion of Sean Lennon material. Fairly conventional for this album, but it’s hard to find otherwise in Photograph Smile. The strings are somewhat reminiscent of ‘60s Beatles, but I hope Julian can find some more original ways to call out his past on his forthcoming CD.
“Fine Line” – Paul’s Driving Rain and Chaos and Creation in the Backyard albums are both excellent, and I don’t know why it took me so long to buy them. This is the leadoff track from Chaos and was a top 20 hit in the UK, but not here because Paul has gray hairs. Sheesh. Next thing you know you’ll tell me today’s teenagers haven’t heard of Level 42 either.
“Eye To Eye” – The rockin’ leadoff track from yet another solid Ringo release, Ringo Rama. It seems that on most of Ringo’s recent albums the first song is my favorite one – it’s great to hear him crank out some serious fist-pumpers at age 60-something, even if he can’t resist making yet another reference to “It Don’t Come Easy.”
“Pisces Fish” – Only George Harrison could get anyway with naming a song “Pisces Fish.”
“Queue” – Sean channels the Beach Boys a little here, but the “hoo hoo hoo”s are more Beatleish, as is the intermittent measure-skipping (a la “We Can Work It Out”). A super-addictive melody, this is a close second to “Two Fine Lovers” for my favorite track on Into the Sun.
“English Tea” – The bizarre feedback-drenched ending of “Queue” segues nicely into the classical strings which lead into this track from Paul’s Chaos. It’s kind of a blatant rewrite of about seven different ‘60s Beatles songs, and exactly the sort of song parodied by Spinal Tap’s “Cups and Cakes,” but I love it anyway.
“Kiss_Beyond_The_Catcher” – Another segue I love. Most of Photograph Smile is fairly conventional adult contemporary pop, so it’s not my favorite Julian CD, but this lo-fi, trippy jam is the exception and sounds wildly out of place on it; very much in place here.
“Rinse The Raindrops” – Ten minutes, much of it sounding rather improvisational, could definitely use some editing, but I couldn’t leave it out in the context of this album. This could be the 2001 Beatles’ attempt at another “I Want You” or “Helter Skelter.”
“Mystery Juice” – My third favorite track on Into the Sun, and without a doubt the most Beatle-ish. Until the section near the end, that is. I can see the four (or five) Beatles sitting down in the studio and saying “OK, for side two, after they’ve sat through “Rinse the Raindrops” let’s go to something that starts out more tuneful and makes people think that they’re back with the Beatles they know, but then it’ll suddenly morph into a grunge guitar solo at the end!”
“Driving Rain” – And THEN, we get something that sounds more like the Beatles everyone knows. The “All Together Now” of the 2000s.
“Love First, Ask Questions Later” – Can’t you just hear this live as a singalong? And Ringo throws in yet another early Beatles reference! (Well, not early in the real world, but it would be early in the Fixing a Hole world because of everything that came after 1970) See if you can spot it.
“Stuck Inside A Cloud” – This is my favorite track from Brainwashed and sounds like a lost session from 33 1/3 to me. Such a pity that George didn’t live long enough to release his own vision of the songs he was writing in the late ‘90s / early ‘00s.
“Magic” – This is my favorite track from Driving Rain and sounds like a lost session from Back to the Egg to me. Great that retro is cool again, isn’t it?
“Believe” – At first listen this track from Photograph Smile sounded like one of those overblown, schmaltzy anthems that made me change the station throughout the late ‘80s, but it’s grown on me, and I think we just have to use our imaginations here and make it a little more lo-fi in our heads, and it makes a great semi-coda to this CD.
“Anyway” – This is the fifth consecutive album I’ve ended with a pretty McCartney ballad, but he’s kind of the de facto leader after 1980, so it’s hard to avoid. But I can guarantee you, the final album will break that pattern (ooh, the suspense!) Like “C’Mon People,” I go back on forth on whether the completely different closing section (not part of this video link) would’ve been included on the record or not.
I almost decided that the Beatles would’ve insisted on not having any singles released from this album, to echo Sergeant Pepper. But I think it’s more likely they would’ve eventually backed down and released some to get more radio play. Are there still “B sides in the 21st century?” Let’s pretend there are.
Fine Line b/w Part One of the Cowboy Trilogy – #2, 2001 (kept out of the #1 spot by Nelly’s “EI,” much to the disgust of Beatle fans across America).
Love First, Ask Questions Later b/w Jenny Wren – #16, 2001
Believe b/w Friends To Go – #30, 2002
Next time (and sadly, the last time): Memory Full, the final album, released in the alternate 2007 (on September 1st, my wedding day, naturally – and just in case my wife is reading this, that’s the same even in the alternate 2007).
The plan however is to wait until Julian’s Everything Changes CD is released It’s supposed to be “in early 2011” according to Wikipedia, so hopefully that means soon. We’ll have a set list too from the “Memory Full” tour, which of course I caught at Giants Stadium in the alternate 2008! (And just in case you’re wondering, in the alternate world, George lived about eight or nine years longer – his health started failing just after that tour ended).
Oh, and if I get impatient, I may give up and just do part 14 before the long-awaited Julian CD comes out (I’ll probably give it ‘till late March or so – or may ‘till right after tax season). I’m fairly confident there will be at least one or two tracks on it that are good enough for this album, but if not, it’s pretty good as it stands right now. I have two ‘placeholder songs’ that will be the top candidates to be replaced by whatever the two best songs on Everything Changes are, assuming they exist.
- Fixing a Hole: The Beatles’ Imaginary Post-1970 Albums, Part 9 (popdose.com)
- Fixing a Hole: The Beatles’ Imaginary Post-1970 albums, Part 7 (popdose.com)
- Fixing a Hole: The Beatles’ Imaginary Post-1970 Albums Part 10 (popdose.com)
- Fixing a Hole: The Beatles’ Imaginary Post-1970 Albums, Part 12 (popdose.com)
- Fixing a Hole: The Beatles’ Imaginary Post-1970 Albums, Part 8 (popdose.com)