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Beatles Tag

So it came to pass that this weekend is the 50th Anniversary of The Beatles' arrival in the United States.  It is well established what their coming meant - for music and more importantly, for society - which would impact the following generations.  Certainly, a

R.E.M. were my Beatles. I mean, the Beatles were my Beatles, too, but if I have to name one band active in my generation that had a similar effect on me to the one the Beatles had on their fans in the Sixties—the initial impact, followed by years of songs and albums that challenged me and made me tap my foot and occasionally do little Thom Yorke dances around whatever room I was in—I’m naming R.E.M. U2 came close—they were another band that wrote great songs and filled big places with righteous noise, but I didn’t get into them until pretty much everybody had gotten into them (around the time of Live Aid and “Pride [in the Name of Love]”) and their early stuff I still find spotty. Other similar bands of the era—like Depeche Mode, the Smiths, and the Cure—I grew to love over time, but I did not click with them the way I clicked with R.E.M.

[caption id="attachment_99864" align="aligncenter" width="600"] It would be great if the walrus was Paul, but he's got John's jawline, and the hippo has Paul's hair.[/caption] As if there wasn't enough evidence of the vast gulf between record industry marketing practices of the 1960s and today, consider this:

Yea, as I have traversed the great kingdoms of Aspledon and Orkhomenos, through the valleys of Gyrtone and Pherai, (not to mention Messenia, and its twin valley, Logginese), searching for hydras and gorgons and Taraxippi and shit, for lo, these many years, I have drawn strength from the gods up yonder, high on Pop Olympus, who sent me on my missions back when I was a wee pup, rescuing me from my adolescent slough of despond with yon harmonic voices and chiming instruments and visions of Michelle and Rhonda and Johanna, and other fine-ass sirens and September gurls. Who but the most wretched could decline the entreaties of Wilsonus Maximus, his cousin McCartnese, and their cohorts in god-dom, Lennonus, Violae, Chiltonus, Davieses, and Wallingerite? My missions are sacred; why else would I roam the great kingdoms of Aspledon and Orkhomenos and the valleys of Gyrtone and Pherai, wearing nothing but sandals and a toga (albeit one with a pocket for my iPod)?

Back in the fall of 1990, I served what would be my final semester as a college radio DJ, working a 6:00 AM to 8:00 AM slot at my campus’ carrier-current radio hidey-hole, spinning LPs and playing CDs and sounding pretty damned professional, if I may say so myself, compared to some of my compañeros. The earliness of the hour and the lack of broadcast range, aside from the dorms and student union, meant I was spinning for exactly two listeners—me and anyone riding with me in my car later, as I played tapes of each of my shifts.

It also meant I could play and say whatever I wanted; even though we were forbidden from swearing on the air and playing songs with swear words in them, none of the station management listened to my show, and the student union didn’t even open until I was off the air, not to mention that any passenger in my car would have known of my potty mouth. I could curse a blue streak, if so moved (though I rarely was—it was too early to get that worked up about much). Two of the three songs I played most often that semester were Neil Young’s “Fuckin’ Up” and Boogie Down Productions’ “Love’s Gonna Get’cha (Material Love),” with KRS-One’s refrain, “Now tell me what the fuck am I supposed to do.”

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).

If you had to go away for awhile and you could only take five of your favorite albums with you, which ones would you choose? Yes, we know it isn’t a fair question, but that hasn’t stopped us from asking music fans who happen to be recording artists in their own right. This week’s Desert Island Discs list comes courtesy of singer/songwriter Jaime Michaels, currently promoting his latest release, The Man with the Time Machine. Take it away, Jaime!

The Band – The Band
When I was younger and just starting out I was such a folk purist. I’ll even admit to being one of those young idiots that booed Dylan at Newport. Then a housemate of mine promoted a concert by the Band right around the time this album came out. Everything about the music I heard that night went right through me, and turned upside down my ideas of what folk/acoustic music is.

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – The Beatles
Why this Beatles album? A. Because I was blown away by it as the rest of the planet at the time and B. Because I can’t list Revolver, Rubber Soul, Abbey Road and the white album and have any room left!

Hearts and Bones – Paul Simon
I’ve heard this album referred to as the best Paul Simon album no one heard. Around the same time this album was released, I saw an interview with Paul in which he stated, “…sometimes the way words sound together is even more important than what they mean.” Something about that struck me as a writer and it’s something I’ve been aware of ever since, the flow and rhythm and sound of the lyric (much to the chagrin at times of my occasional co-writers).

The Beatles, just as their creativity went supernova, quit the road in 1966 — frustrated over the inability of that period’s sound systems to amplify the increasingly complex work spinning around on your turntables and in their heads. Even after their breakup, the Beatles’ individual members spent the bulk of the following decades building their own solo careers, not looking back. Next came the untimely twin deaths of John Lennon in 1980, after more than five years out of the spotlight, and then the similarly reclusive George Harrison in late 2001.

That all combines to make a Beatles concert setlist difficult to compile, and necessarily subjective. It doesn’t include as much from Lennon as we’d hoped. He rarely performed live, even more rarely performed Beatles tunes and, of course, met an untimely end before the oldies money-fests of today. (All due respect, Ringo.)

But it’s not impossible.

If Michael McDonald is the patron saint of Popdose, I think it’s safe to call The Damnwells our house band. With the release of their new album No One Listens To The Band Anymore, it was inevitable that one of us would end up doing an interview and as it happens, we decided to tag team it with both Matt Wardlaw and Michael Parr teaming up (ganging up on?) on frontman Alex Dezen.  Here are some words from both to lead into the interview:

As I see the 40th anniversary remasters and legacy editions come around from the heritage acts that we grew up with, it often makes me ponder at that moment and think about who the current bands are that have the potential to amass similar catalogs of quality music. Bands come and go, release albums and then break up or produce output that is inconsistent from album to album. So who then among us will be the bands and artists that we can truly call legendary?  You’ve got your answers for that question and surely, I’ve got mine – one person who clearly seems to be on the right path is singer/songwriter Alex Dezen of The Damnwells.

Dezen has now released four solid albums under The Damnwells banner, the latest of which is their newly released album No One Listens To The Band Anymore.  After I heard One Last Century, an album that they gave away for FREE, for God’s sake, I didn’t know how they could possibly raise the bar any higher. (And I do need to give big credit to my friend Matthew Burgess, because it was his endless blog posts about the band that made me finally take a listen when the free download came around.) But what you have to understand about Alex Dezen is that he is one of those guys that songwriters both envy and hate – a guy with the seemingly effortless ability to toss out expertly crafted pop songs with lyrics that resonate right to the core surrounded by a selection of hooks that come out of nowhere and smack you in the face, again and again.  To quote from the Batman movie, “where does he get those wonderful toys?”
Matt Wardlaw

I’ll admit, I came unfashionably late to the Damnwells’ party, joining in for the band’s 2009 record, One Last Century, on the recommendation of Popdose Grand Poobah, Jeff Giles. It was love at first note; within weeks I knew every word to every tune, spending hours listening to the record on repeat.

When the opportunity to pitch in to fund the follow-up—via the infinitely cool PledgeMusic—I was among the first to sign up. The payoff was hearing and seeing the creation of the brilliant No One Listens to the Band Anymore. Sure, it’s only March, but I can safely say this record is going to grace my top 5 of 2011. – Michael Parr


Matt Wardlaw:  Before we get into this, I think we have to note that for a lot of us here at Popdose, the early release of No One Listens To The Band Anymore to PledgeMusic supporters was our version of “Radiohead Day,” with a similar level of excitement like the Radiohead fans had a few weeks back when that band released their new album.

Alex Dezen: [Laughs] You guys are very nice! I think the only people who may feel that way are you guys, but that’s very nice of you.

Matt Wardlaw:  The Damnwells got a lot of press for giving away the last record for free via Paste Magazine. Now that you’re on the other side of it, how much did that move the ball forward for the band and what did you take away from the experience?

Well, I think that it definitely moved it forward in a big way, because I think more people heard that record [One Last Century] than any other Damnwells record. It’s really hard to say because who knows how many times Joe in Minneapolis downloaded the record because he had it on one computer and then wanted to put it on another. But I think that more people downloaded that record than had bought any record previously, so in a number of senses, it definitely did better than any other Damnwells record. But I think in retrospect, you can call it like a spiritual move. At the time, it was very pragmatic; I was unable to tour because I was in graduate school.

The band was kind of in flux – the drummer [Steven Terry] and original guitar player [David Chernis] left and it was just me and the bass player [Ted Hudson]. And we couldn’t really tour around the record, so our manager Wes Kidd said “well, why don’t I get in contact with some people to see if maybe we can give it away for free somewhere.” And I was like “well, that sounds like a stupid idea – how are we going to make money?” And then it just kind of worked out that Paste wanted to get involved and host the download and so they’re like “oh, this is great.” But then as it went on, the response from fans was so positive and just so heartwarming that it felt really good just to be able to say “here’s this thing that we worked on and here’s this thing that we bled for and we’re just going to give it away for free.”

And there were no conditions – the only condition was that you had to give us a fake email address or a real one. So it really was an unconditional kind of thing. And it felt really good – it was so liberating. I didn’t have to worry about anything – I just put it out there. In fact, it was so liberating and wonderful that I wanted to do it again but I realized that my wife would probably leave me because we’d have no money! [Laughs]

If you had to go away for awhile and you could only take five of your favorite albums with you, which ones would you choose? Yes, we know it isn’t a fair question, but that hasn’t stopped us from asking music fans who happen to be recording artists in their own right. This edition of Desert Island Discs comes courtesy of Patrick Joseph, whose debut album, Antiques, is available as a free download this month. Check it out — after reading his Desert Island picks, of course!

The correct response to this concept of the “desert island disc” in 2011 would be that I’d cram my entire music collection into five MP3-DVDs. But in the spirit of playing fair, it’s a fun and extremely difficult process of painful indecision that I’m more than happy to partake in.

Radiohead, OK Computer
At the crossroads of organic sounds, abstract songwriting and the cold comfort of dizzying electro-nonsense, this album stands at the pinnacle of modern rock. My friends would argue me about the matter, but this is Radiohead’s best album, a transformation caught in real-time between a somewhat conventional guitar band and a band that had no regard or respect for patterns or popular judgment. This album wasn’t thinking outside the box, it was moving outside it — and building a new one. And it worked. Sure, there were more obscure bands at the time doing similar things that inspired them, but Radiohead was the first to put it all together like this. It’s a trip into outer space, yet organic enough to be the soundtrack to the darker side of your day. I was twelve years old when it was released and didn’t quite understand why it was so good at the time, but it changed my life.