The Gift of Squeeze

Squeeze“Nirvana” by Squeeze.  Have you heard this?  I’m serious.  There are lessons to be learned from this record.  I find it truly inspiring.

Not a wasted note.

Perfect intro.

Perfect lyrics.

Perfect story.

Perfect chord changes.

Perfect instrumentation.

Perfect arrangement.

Perfect fade (although some idiot cut it off here).

Perfect record.

And it’s got an electric sitar!

Watch on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0fidOiAFXK0

And wait ’til you’ve heard it a dozen times.  Talk about sinking in.  There’s something about Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook singing the same melody, an octave apart, that no one else has touched.

These two create songs in a most unusual way.  Difford writes the lyrics and Tilbrook sets them to music.  Simple and brilliant.

It worked for “Black Coffee In Bed”, “Up The Junction” and “Labelled With Love”.  And it works here, maybe even better.

The album is called “Cradle To The Grave” and it exceeds all expectations, of which I had none.

I didn’t see it coming.

Twelve new songs and not a clunker among them.

Welcome back, old friends.

****

As for The Beatles, it’s re-re-re-marketing time.

“Beatles 1” has been (guess what) remixed.  I thought “this could be interesting”.

It isn’t.

“Paperback Writer”, “Ticket To Ride”, and the whole lot just sound more “modern” to me.  More centred, in keeping with current views on what “stereo” should be.  Hell, those early “isolated” George Martin mixes were an integral part of the charm of these records.  Turning down Ringo’s tambourine on “Day Tripper” should be considered a criminal offence.

Besides, I was never too fond of most of the later McCartney stuff like “Get Back” and “The Long And Winding Road”.  I always wished they’d left the whole “Let It Be” album in the can.  “Don’t Let Me Down” was magnificent but it wasn’t on that album and it isn’t on this one.  Go figure.

It is, however, on one of the two DVD/Blu-Rays that come with the “Deluxe” version of “Beatles 1”, and they’re a whole other story.  (Sorry if this sounds confusing, but there are actually seven variations of this set!  Dollars, Dollars, Dollars.)

The live versions of “Can’t Buy Me Love” and “A Hard Day’s Night” are magic and the fish-and-chips video for “I Feel Fine” is too silly to ignore.

You even get to see John make a chip sandwich.

And eat it.

That’s what I call art.

And the alternate, laughing “We Can Work It Out” is a joy to watch.

They even had the good sense to include “Free As A Bird” and “Real Love”, two worthy footnotes to The Beatles’ legacy where Harrison absolutely shines.  Let’s just call them George’s revenge.

****

And please check out The Come Undone Facebook Page where you’ll find music and art that should tickle your fancy;

****

I was reading where Keith Richards calls Sergeant Pepper’s “rubbish”.

Has he heard the last twenty Stones albums?

****

As for summer delights, I stand by these;

“It’ll Be Alright” by Christina Martin.

Smart & challenging.

Midnight Roll” by Laura Merrimen.

Dark & engaging.

“The Unrequited Love” by Belle Plaine.

Elegant & economical.

And they all blend perfectly with beer & cashews.

Fashion

Rolling Stone is becoming my favourite magazine.
First they publish a list of “The 100 Greatest Songwriters Of All Time”.
Apparently, “All Time” starts in 1949.
Then they rate Stevie Wonder and Paul Simon above Brian Wilson.
Taylor Swift is there.
Robert Johnson isn’t.
Nor is Nick Lowe.
Of course Bob Dylan is number one.
I don’t disagree but he’d be the first to ask “Where’s Wolf?”

Their headlines of late have also displayed innate musicality;

“Miley Cyrus Goes Back to Synth Roots on New Song”

Synth roots.
Think about it.

Or this one;

“Whitney Houston Hologram Maker Promises Absolute Authenticity”

There’s nothing I love better than an authentic hologram.

It’s hard to believe they once put Doug Sahm on the cover.  Twice actually.

Ever heard “Big Dumb Jukebox” by NRBQ?
Why not?
You don’t know what you’re missing.
It’s from a fabulous album called “Message For The Mess Age”.
“Jukebox” salutes Rolling Stone in verse;

“Big ignorant fashion magazine,
you come on rockin’ and rollin’,
even your name is stolen”

No wonder they didn’t get good reviews.

They did momentarily redeem themselves last week when they quoted Merle Haggard talking about modern “country music”;

“I don’t find anything you can whistle, and nobody even attempts to write a melody.  As far as I’m concerned, Simpson’s the only one out there. The rest of them sound like a bunch of shit to me.”

That’s my Merle.  When I was ten, I lived around the corner from The Halifax Forum.  My friend Mike and I used to sell bottles of Coke for fifteen cents, wandering through the audience at shows and hockey games, hollering “Coca-Cola!”  We made two cents for every Coke we sold.  We worked a Buck Owens show in 1965.  I looked forward to it because Ringo had done “Act Naturally” and he’d talked about Buck in interviews.  I’d never heard of the opening act but once Merle started singing, I stopped hollering.  An ear opening experience that I’ll never forget.

Back to the fashion magazine.

Keith Richards is promoting his new album and, as usual, Rolling Stone is publishing his nonsense like he’s Jesus;

“What rap did that was impressive was to show there are so many tone-deaf people out there.  All they need is a drum beat and somebody yelling over it and they’re happy.”

That sounds just like the old school Stones critics sounded in 1964!

Keith;

“The Beatles sounded great when they were the Beatles.  But there’s not a lot of roots in that music.”

This nonsense from a guy who was delighted and grateful when Lennon & McCartney wrote The Stones’ second single, and first big hit, which Brian Jones (who no longer seems to exist) put over the top with his fearless slide guitar.

Richards on The Beatles’ Shea Stadium gig;

“As a band, they weren’t in sync with each other.”

Have you ever watched that footage?
I’ve never seen Harrison and Lennon MORE in sync.
Check out “I’m Down”.
It’s on that tube and it’s everything you could wish for.
I’ll bet it’s also everything Richards wishes for.

Keith!  Get over it!  They were better than you’ve ever been.  In every possible way.

****

In other news, my song of the day is “Small Poppies” by Courtney Barnett.
It’s minimal, honest, tasteful, smart, and that guitar kills me.
Everything about this song is right.
Absolutely riveting.
It cruises.
It smokes.
It delivers.

And besides, Keith likes poppies too.

Elvis Is Back! (And so is Tuck)

Two overnight sessions in March and April of 1960.
Eighteen songs over two nights.
One LP and three 45s.
Elvis’ singing at this point…. there are no words.
And he produced them too.
“It Feels So Right”.
“Fever”.
“Such A Night”.
This album is impeccably recorded in bright, discerning stereo.
RCA’s Nashville studio was second to none.

Between September ’58 and March ’60, Private Elvis was stationed in Germany.
He met Charlie Hodge, a small time mostly-gospel singer from Alabama, also stationed in Germany.
They were both instinctive rhythm guitar players and they were both really good at it.
They sang too.
So Elvis got permission from the army to rent a house in Bad Nauheim (nice name), near the base.
He invited Charlie to live there with him, along with Elvis’ Daddy & Grandma.  She cooked (let’s not go there).
Charlie suggested that Elvis “practice” singing.
That took nerve.
Here was Elvis Presley, looking down from the very peak of the music world being told by this guy from Alabama that he should PRACTICE.
Elvis took to Charlie instantly.
For those two years, after daytime army duty, after Grandma’s meal, Charlie & Elvis sat in the living room where they sang and played.  And practiced.
Over & over for two years.
As soon as Elvis got discharged, he headed to Memphis.
So did Charlie.
They were true friends, bonded by the sheer joy of playing together.
“I Will Be Home Again” is Charlie & Elvis.
I love “Elvis Is Back!”.
And for those precious few months of 1960, he was back.

Elvis really believed in this album.
It made number two and sold half a million.
The Colonel & RCA viewed that as a disaster.
Time to resort to the tried & true;
A movie soundtrack.
“G.I. Blues” was next.
It shot to #1 and sold three million.
Elvis wasn’t happy.
In March of 61, Elvis went back into the studio and recorded “Something For Everybody”, a great album.
It made #1 but sold half a million.
Then came the soundtrack to “Blue Hawaii”.
Number one for months & it sold 5 million copies.
Poor Elvis.
Here he was, at twenty-five, having put his heart into two great albums and the idiots who bought his records clearly preferred SHIT.
He gave it one more shot when he recorded “Pot Luck” in early ’62.
Another great record.
Number one.  Half a million.
The “Girls! Girls! Girls!” soundtrack then sold two million.
The poor guy just gave up.
Then it was plastic hair & movie time.
And evil pills.

But “Elvis Is Back!” was before all that.  It’s a statement from an artist on fire.
From a voice that’s never been eclipsed.
And I haven’t even mentioned his acoustic on “Reconsider Baby”.

****

Al Tuck – Fair Country

A box of matches.  Al Tuck.  A download code.  What else do you need?

Here’s what you get for ten bucks;

“Always On My Mind”.  Definitive.
“Stompin’TomConnors.com”.  Jubilant.
“(Gotta Love) These Lies”.  Perfect.
“Stop Hittin’ On Louise”.  Really.

Those four titles won me over before I even played this album.

I won’t waste your time with further rambling.
“Fair Country” lives up to all expectations.
It speaks for itself.
And that’s saying something.

What’s next?  A sixteen slice pizza?
Fix your oven, Al.

Belle Plaine – Notes From A Waitress

I have a friend who introduces me thus;
“This is Billy.  He’s the fussiest fucker you’ll ever meet.”
I take that as a compliment.
Why listen to “pretty good” music when you can hear the best?
Beats me.

I first heard Belle Plaine a few weeks back and I was hooked.
She was playing live, with Jeremy Sauer on piano and Elizabeth Curry on standup bass, two of the most tasteful players I’ve ever heard.
I had no idea who she was, but I instantly loved what I was hearing.
Real, unassuming singing, straight from the heart.
No theatrics, no bullshit.
And her songs were amazing.
They stood up beside the other crazy choices in her set.
And those choices were clever, funny and fearless.
Anyone who can do justice to Peggy Lee & Jerry Lee (that’s right) is okay by me.

She’s got an album called “Notes From A Waitress” and it gets better every time I hear it.
Here’s what you should do;
Listen to “Port Angeles”, “Vegas” and “Legendary”.
If you don’t melt, you’ve got problems.
This album is a gift.
Smart and warm.
Don’t miss it.

Dig His Sobriety

“When I Close My Eyes” is a perfect song.
I encounter few of those.
“For Your Consideration” is also a perfect song.
…. Now I’m interested.
Either would fit seamlessly onto a Nick Lowe album.
“Yours will be the currency….”
Brilliant.

You all know about Joel Plaskett.
But maybe you don’t know this;
“The Park Avenue Sobriety Test” is his best album.
By a mile.
His strongest songs.
Great writing.
Perfect delivery.
A sequence that was carefully considered.  Or outrageously lucky.
Either way.

Plaskett knows how to balance depth with fun.
That’s not easy.
I’ve lived with this record for a while and I’ve played it easily thirty times.
I recommend it to you all.
It sticks like glue.

It’s got surefire hits too.
And what’s wrong with hits?  I wish I had one.

This album is a welcomed destination, every time.
Not one of those that’s-good-file-it-away-and-forget-about-it albums.
This one’s permanent.
Enduring, like “The Impossible Bird” or “Braver Newer World”.
Okay, and “It’ll Be Alright”.
It doesn’t sound like any of them, but it’s as strong. 

Five Highlights;

1 Erin Costelo on “When I Close My Eyes”.

2  The backwards piano intro on “When I Close My Eyes”.

3 “Credits Roll”, which follows “When I Close My Eyes”.

4 “Captains Of Industry”, a resigned beauty that’s anything but resigned, unlike “When I Close My Eyes”.

5 “When I Close My Eyes”.

Six More;

1 “For Your Consideration”, because it strikes and sticks, like “When I Close My Eyes”.

2 The guitar solo on “Captains”, the best solo that Neil Young never played, whether on “When I Close My Eyes” or not.

3 The ever-reliable musical madness of Dale Murray, who plays for all the world like he has so many things to be angry about, but not on “When I Close My Eyes”.

4 Anchorman Tim Brennan, who also doesn’t play on “When I Close My Eyes”, yet savours a good Elvis movie.

5 Clive McNutt, because he’s brilliant, even when he closes his eyes.

6 The one that Joel left off the album, because it sounded too much like “When I Close My Eyes”.

Get the picture?

But “Hard Times” is the clincher.

To take an ancient Stephen Foster song and bring it to life like this is no small achievement.
I’ve always loved “Hard Times”.
It’s one of those great songs, like “Tonight You Belong To Me”, that were made into shitty records.
“Hard Times” is no longer a shitty record.
It’s a great record.
It’s right where it should be.
Soulful and thoughtful, from those marching drums to that sumptuous final chord.
A splendid performance.

What a great album.
And Plaskett’s a really good drummer…. I wonder how much he charges?

I’m sleepy now.

Must close my eyes.

No Joke

This started as a joke.  I suggested to Christina Martin & Dale Murray that I review her new album. After we had a laugh, she said “Why not?  There are no rules”.  Then I thought “If I’m writing for Come Undone Records, why can’t I come undone?”  So I have.  It’s my blog, folks, so deal with it.

Christina Martin is a brilliant artist.

We’re friends.  So what?  If she wrote a piece of shit, I’d be second in line to tell her so, right behind Dale.

She inhabits songs.  (I inhibit them.)

Her singing is soulful, strong and warm.

She’s made me cry a few times.  Trust me, that ain’t easy.

As for her writing…. Not a wasted word.

Everything fits perfectly.

Inspiration.  Then editing.  Then more of both.  Until she knows it’s right.

I often find myself lost in her music.

Then I’ll suddenly realize “Holy fuck, I know these people!”

Lucky me.

 

“It’ll Be Alright” is her best album.  No contest.

Thirty-nine minutes, start to finish, concise and clear.

Ten songs, and every one counts.

Murray’s production is bigger, in the very best way.  Not overboard bigger, just bigger.

I could say a lot more about him, but this isn’t his album.

When a song gets stuck in my head, I know it’s a good one, and every one of these sticks.

 

I love Martin’s dark, slightly twisted side and “Puppet Museum” is delightfully twisted;

 

“I dream of you nightly, I ration your coffee

When will I see you again?

I’m painting men by your canals, selling dirty postcards

How I miss you, you’re the city of my heart”

 

Amazing stuff.

When I asked her how she came up with the first two of those lines, she replied;

“Haven’t you ever missed someone or a place so badly that you would do such a thing, and ask that question?”

Well, yes, I have, but turning that feeling into those lyrics is something else entirely.

And if you’re looking for intuitive singing, check out her “yeah yeah” after “five thousand puppets dance nightly on rooftops”.  Confident and spot-on.

Murray’s deranged guitar playing on this song is the best I’ve heard in years, by anyone.  It’s the kind of solo where you freeze and wonder “What in the hell was that?”  And it’s absolutely right, making the song that much better.  And darker.

 

“I’ve Got A Gun”.  The title alone is better than most other writers’ entire songs.  And what a song this is.  An absolute original;

 

“Leave your last wishes with your family

Please don’t think that I won’t shoot

I will protect my solitude”

 

Where did that come from?  The way she sings that one word, “family”, says it all.

And again, Murray’s over-the-top guitar is a concise lesson in good taste.  He knows the song comes first.

 

But maybe the real centrepiece here is “Reaching Out”.

Turning the loss of a loved one into a great song is no easy task.

My friend Ryan Allen commented;

“It has that central feeling.  That’s what makes a song stand out.  When it’s about something real.”

So true.  When Martin sings “come on, wake up”, you know it’s her truth.

And that ending!  What a chord.  And what an ascension.

 

I could go on and on about this album….

About Brian Murray’s percussion on “Lines”.  And on everything else, for that matter.

About Jason Vautour’s never-too-busy, rock solid bass playing.

And John Boudreau’s subtle, but important, piano.

You can’t teach taste and they’ve all got it in spades.

I could mention how Dave Edmunds would surely love “Things You Can’t Tell By Looking Her Way”.

Or the rat-a-tat machine gun guitar and descending whoosh on the title track.

And what about that C-G-F Bang-Bang-Bang at around 2:30 on “Somewhere With You”?

Or that wonderful “Dancing Queen” piano on “You Ran From Me”?

And the way Martin sings “around holidays like Christmas, when she hangs my empty stocking” in “Take Me Back”.  Crying time.  What a blues singer.

 

Everything here sounds new, yet somehow familiar.  Like Dale said to me, “That’s the trick”.  Well, if that’s so, it’s a trick mastered by very few.

Musically, Martin and Murray are absolutely in synch.  It’s one thing when two people like each other but, when they love each other, it gives their music that indefinable thing.

You don’t hear it, you feel it.  It’s just there.

As for being “local” (a term I find ridiculous), this is no “local” album.  It’s world class music making.  After all, Tom Petty is “local” in Gainesville, Florida.

Some listeners expect Christina Martin to be who she started out to be in their minds, carving a career out of cloning “Two Hearts”.

But she’s moved on.  To far more challenging destinations.

 

Like I said, this album is brilliant.  Every time I play it, I hear something new.

It even sounds good on my iMac.

And no, she doesn’t pay me.

 

****

A Piece Of Crap, And I Ain’t Cryin’ Wolf

I love Neil Young.  Always have, ever since I watched Buffalo Springfield on Hollywood Palace in 1967.  They did “For What It’s Worth” and I noticed this cool looking fringed guy in the back.

I had no idea who he was but, when he stepped up front and tore into “Mr. Soul”, I wanted to know who he was.

And I found out.

A brave artist who always followed his own path, he could have made a fortune cloning “Harvest”, but playing it safe in the middle of the road was never in the cards for Neil.  He always headed for the ditch.

I love “Everybody’s Rockin’”.  It’s the real deal and it makes me wanna dance.

I smile every time I hear “Trans”.

So what if his last great album was “Sleeps With Angels”?

Some artists come back with big surprises.

Neil certainly has.

It’s called “Storytone” and it goes something like this….

 

“Oh!  Look at me!  I’m Neil Young and I can do whatever I like.  I’ve made so many shitty records over the last twenty years, I may as well make another one that’s even worse.

And I’m gonna pretend I’m a painter and paint the shitty cover too!

Let’s see…. what can I write about?

I know!  Trees and flowers and cars!  And my new girlfriend!

I’ll sing ‘I Want to Drive My Car’ over & over & over and….

Let’s see, what else?

I know!

I’ll pretend I’m Frank Sinatra, hire a big band, because I’ve got mountains of money, and I’ll write one called ‘Say Hello to Chicago’!  What an original thought!

It’ll be totally wrong and inappropriate, and it simply won’t work.  It won’t really begin or end or go anywhere at all.  It’ll be downright embarrassing but…. I’m Neil Young!

So what if I stopped smoking dope and it’s left me uninspired?

I can charge my gullible sheep, who still smoke dope, seventy bucks for the double LP!

They’ll buy anything!”

 

If I auditioned for a record label with this junk, I’d be laughed out of the room.

These lyrics are so shitty and lazy, they don’t even start.

“Everybody’s Rockin’” & “Trans” work.

This is just stupid.

And very sad.

There’s a great song on “Sleeps With Angels” called “Piece Of Crap”.

Well said, Neil.

 

****

 

Music On Vinyl has issued an essential album by Howlin’ Wolf called “Memphis Days, Volume 1”.  This is extraordinary music.  Deep and scary and real.

A thunderstorm on vinyl.

Sam Phillips wasn’t kidding when he exclaimed “This is where the soul of man never dies”.

Wolf made some incredible records when he headed north to Chicago and hooked up with the Chess brothers, but he never surpassed these fervent, intense, powerful performances that Phillips captured in his tiny Sun Studio in the early fifties, with Willie Johnson’s sublimely distorted guitar and Willie Steele’s unrelenting drums.

Wolf got inside a song like no one else.

Sure, he may sound a little raw to the uninitiated, but the rewards are well worth the journey.

Anyone who claims to like blues and doesn’t like Wolf is missing the point entirely.

I must say I find it amusing, maybe even a little silly, to see Howlin’ Wolf marketed on a “180 gram audiophile vinyl pressing” but his 78s are a little scarce these days.

 

****

 

Someone asked me the other day if I like Dawes.

I replied “I love The Dawes.  Light My Fire’s a great song.”

Art?

I’m listening to Dion singing “Drive My Car”.
Good job, old man.  He actually adds to it.
It’s on “The Art Of McCartney”.
What a piece of shit.
Sammy Hagar doing “Birthday”.
Roger Daltrey destroying “Helter Skelter”, so badly that I thought it was Sammy Hagar.
It’s a two disc set and BOTH discs start with Billy Joel.
The only thing I ever liked about that guy was his first name.
The cover of the album says “sung by the world’s greatest artists”.
No kidding.  Here they are, folks;
Heart, Kiss, Def Leppard, Steve Miller and Paul Rodgers.
Cat Stevens too.
And let’s not forget Perry Farrell & Owl City.
And, above all, The Airborne Toxic Event.
Oh my, oh my.
There are a few good ones here.
Bob Dylan nails “Things We Said Today”.  It’s ragged but Bob always means it and that counts.
Dr. John turns “Let ‘Em In” into a damn fine Mardi Gras, topping McCartney’s original.
And, oddly enough, Alice Cooper does a very respectful “Eleanor Rigby”.
But what’s the bloody point?
We know you’re good, Paul, but the originals are nearly always best.

Enough of those bloody Beatles.
Let’s move on to (no laughing) Sloan.
I’ve heard “Commonwealth” a dozen times.
I think that’s enough to form an opinion.  So I have.
This is my favourite Sloan album.

“No Fools, No Fun” by Puss N Boots.  Sasha Dobson, Norah Jones and Catherine Popper.
This really works.  Guitar, bass & drums.  Simple & live.
“Six Degrees Of Separation” and “Don’t Know What It Means” should be a 45.
Hide the rocker on the B side.  I’ve never heard Norah sing like she does on this one.

Rich Aucoin.  It’s called “Ephemeral”.
This record is loud, in the best way.  It doesn’t have to be played loudly to be loud.
Play it at ten or play it at one.
Either way, it’s still loud.
That’s the trick.
It’s melodic & inventive too.
Nice work, Rich.

Amelia Curran.  “They Promised You Mercy”.
Great writing and great delivery.
I love her voice & I love her style.
No pretension here.
An honest & engaging album.
I like it.

Tribal

“Tribal” by Imelda May is something else.
She’s an original.
That’s not easy in 2014.
I’m rather enthralled with this Irish hurricane.
She’s a strong woman with a commanding presence, one of those rare singers who I couldn’t compare to anyone else.
And that’s a compliment.

Some background;
I work in a record store, a real record store, five days a week.
It seems I’ve been asked every inane question, over forty entertaining years.
Except for the most expected one.
For some reason, I’ve never been asked the silliest question of all, and it’s one to which I actually have an answer;
“Billy, who’s your favourite guitar player?”
My answer;
“Jeff Beck.”
Why?
First off, he’s funny, in his playing and in his stage persona.
He also does impossible things with alarming regularity.
He’s always a step beyond my musical comprehension, throwing in some silly, yet technically astonishing stuff.
And, interestingly enough, he never ages.
Why not?
Because he doesn’t sing.
And because his musicianship doesn’t age.
It grows older & wiser & more knowledgable.  And even funnier.
But it doesn’t age.
Paul McCartney understands bass playing like no one else.
But McCartney’s known as a singer.  And his voice has seen better days.
Dylan?  Technically, his voice is a pile of gravel.
But, to those who get the point, he’s taught himself how to use that to his advantage.
Like Sinatra and Peggy Lee.
Jeff Beck doesn’t have to be concerned with that.
But I digress…

Imelda May was the subject.
In 1964, The Shangri-Las recorded “Remember (Walkin’ In The Sand)”.
It’s a mature song.
Those teenaged girls did a noble job of it, but it’s a mature song, extraordinary, unlike anything else, a forgotten treasure, and I’d always thought it could be re-interpreted in a much stronger way.
Then, a couple of years back, I switched on my TV to PBS, and there was Jeff Beck, tearing into “Remember (Walkin’ In The Sand)”!
I was transfixed.
Then, during the fourth verse, he played this woman onto the stage.  No kidding.
She strolled to the mic, started singing, and “Remember (Walkin’ In The Sand)” became what it was meant to be.
I was hooked…

Back to “Tribal”, a brave & accurate title.
It’s metallic, in the very best way, like the first Elvis album.  Like the Peter Gunn soundtrack.
Everything feels right.
It rocks and it rolls.  Great songs.  Great band.  Great arrangements.
And Darrel Higham is a monster guitar player.
Let’s have a party.

One, Two, Three, FOUR!

JFK.  I’d just turned twelve.  That awful moment changed the feel of everything around me.  I’d lived in a world that felt completely safe.  All I knew of barbaric behaviour was that it was something that happened a hundred years ago, in wilder times, to Abraham Lincoln.  It was unspoken and understood that I lived in a time that was peaceful and prosperous.  Then BANG!

So much for that bubble.

Christmas didn’t exist that year.  Respectfully so.

January was dreary.  It felt like a shadow had been cast over our lives.  Everyone, young and old, needed something to fill the void left by this cool, smart guy we all loved.

Then suddenly, the world righted itself, very much in debt to fortuitous timing.

I remember it well.  Mum & Dad said “Let’s watch Ed Sullivan.”  It seems, in retrospect, that everyone in the world said it.  I tumbled to the floor, grabbed a cushion, good old reliable Ed walked out, said something like “these four youngsters from Liverpool”.  I don’t remember the rest.  I only remember Ed hollering “The Beatles!” and hearing “Close your eyes and I’ll kiss you…”.  And my world was back.  Changed, yes, but it was back.  As far as timing goes, those Beatles were lucky guys.

They were precisely what we needed at precisely the right moment.  They were funny, charming, cool in a whole new way, saucy, sarcastic, charismatic, joyfully twisted, and they obviously really loved hanging out together.  Four best friends, from another land that was just like our land used to be.

They bounced off of one another, as only friends do;  John, the irreverent leader (he was billed as such), funny as holy hell, beyond cool, and a little scary.  Paul, the ‘other guy’, who was gracious, fun and just as good as John.

This was unheard of in rock & roll.  Two Elvises in one band.  And George.  When the other two momentarily ran out of steam at a press conference, George would step in and land a scandalous one liner that stole the show.

And then, there he was;  Ringo Starr!

In 1964, that pivotal year, Ringo received more fan mail than the other three combined.  Once we thought we’d seen and heard it all, he’d step up and make some dry crack that’d have the other three rolling around laughing, let alone the rest of us.

Ringo was the glue, the oldest, the guy the other three idolized from a distance in their teens, ‘the best bloody drummer in Liverpool’, who’d agreed join their band, at George’s prompting, just in time.  And he made them whole.  They’d likely all have been brilliant without him, but with Ringo, they gelled.  Those three single-minded guys managed, for seven magical years, to work as one, because of Ringo Starr.  His ability to pull them together, ego be damned, was formidable, musically intuitive, and beyond doubt.

Ringo was once asked about his proudest moment as a drummer.  Without hesitation, he answered “Rain”.  He and McCartney are locked together, playing as one.

Recorded on the 14th of April, 1966, in seven takes, start to finish.

Overdubbed, mixed, and mastered on the 16th.

Released on June 10th.

As the B side of “Paperback Writer”.  The B side.  Amazing.

Poor Ringo.  I can’t count how many times I’ve heard “he wasn’t very good”, when, in truth, he defined good taste.  He made them all sound better.  ‘Busy’ wasn’t in his vocabulary.

He frosted the cake with his brilliant percussive touches.

Before Rubber Soul, there was nothing that remotely resembled Rubber Soul.  Same for Revolver, Pepper, and you name it.  When The Beatles hit, they were new, best and first. They remained so until the final curtain of Abbey Road.

They influenced everyone.  They changed the rules and they always surprised us.

And they accomplished all this in a shade over six years.

They were revolutionary.  An ultimately flawed foursome who were never flawed as Beatles.  When I first heard Abbey Road, I didn’t know it was the end but I felt it.  They’d gone from Rubber Soul to Revolver to Pepper to Magical Mystery Tour to India to Revolution and Hey Jude, on to the white album in three years, reinventing everything each time.  And they ended at the perfect moment.

As for JFK, here’s another theory;  maybe it was Brian Epstein.