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Spastic Ono Band: Redd Kross’ Beatles/Yoko freak-out DID NOT AMUSE Beatlefest attendees, 1988
10:10 am


Yoko Ono
Redd Kross

When the recent Redd Kross tour passed through my town, a friend asked me if I was going. I couldn’t go (to my regret—everyone who went RAVED about it), but I joked that I’d make a point of attending if it were a Tater Totz show, and my pal had no goddamn clue what I was talking about.


For a few years around the turn of the ‘90s, Redd Kross’ principals Jeff and Steve McDonald, along with White Flag’s Pat Fear and a large rotating pool of heavy friends, formed the Tater Totz, a half-reverent, half-goofy take on the catalog of The Beatles, Yoko Ono, and a few assorted others. Redd Kross had long been famed for irreverent cover songs, but Tater Totz went completely around the bend, tackling unlikely candidates for tribute like Ono’s “Telephone Piece” from the album Fly, a song that consists of 35 seconds of a phone ringing and Ono saying “Hello, this is Yoko”; mashing up “Give Peace a Chance” with Queen’s “We Will Rock You”; recruiting The Partridge Family‘s former child actor Danny Bonaduce to sing “I’ve Just Seen a Face.” They made THREE ALBUMS of stuff like this, all while concurrently still functioning as Redd Kross, and releasing their major label debut Third Eye.

The first album, Alien Sleestacks From Brazil (Unfinished Music Volume 3), features the Queen mashup and the Bonaduce guest vocal, plus a great version of “Tomorrow Never Knows,” “Let’s Get Together” from The Parent Trap, and a take on Gilberto Gil’s Brazilian classic “Bat Macumba” that more closely resembles’ Os Mutantes’ version than the original. It was released on Giant Records (an indie, not the Warners subsidiary of the same name) in 1988.

As completely awesome and bonkers as Alien Sleestacks is, the 1990 sophomore LP Mono! Stereo: Sgt. Shonen’s Exploding Plastic Eastman Band Request is the one to have if you can only have one. The cover art is a wonderful send-up of the Beatles’ HELP! but with four Yokos in place of John, Paul, George and Ringo, and it features a cover of David Essex’s “Rock On” that destroys the Michael Damian hit version released the year before, another “Tomorrow Never Knows” sung by the Three O’Clock’s Michael Quercio, “Rain” sung by Shonen Knife, and “Instant Karma” sung by the Runaways’ Cherie Curie (which I prefer over the original, there I said it). The album also contains plenty of Ono material, and far from making cheap fun, it seems to take her work’s aesthetic merits as given, but it never becomes so serious that they don’t mash up the “Instant Karma” single’s flip side “Who Has Seen the Wind” with “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
‘Sgt. Pepper Knew My Father’: Sonic Youth, the Wedding Present and the Fall’s tribute to the Beatles

In 1988, NME got in on the ground floor of the burgeoning turn-of-the-‘90s fad for tribute compilations when it released Sgt. Pepper Knew My Father, a song-for-song recreation of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by various artists with popular or cult followings in the UK, including several tracks that have held up quite well by the likes of the Fall, Courtney Pine, and Sonic Youth.

At the time, the original album had recently been the subject of much 20th-anniversary fawning by midlife-ing Baby Boomers, but in hipper circles its rep was in the shitter, as undergroundists vastly preferred a heavier psychedelia stripped of that acutely Barrett/McCartney/Davies’ penchant for Edwardian whimsy. In just a few years, the rise of Brtipop would slow much alt-handwaving of the Beatles’ legacy, but in 1988, the advance guard would have been happy to bury it. Accordingly, much of Sgt. Pepper Knew My Father drips with a viscous irony. The Scottish soul-pop band Hue and Cry attempted a pretty drastic transformation of “Fixing a Hole,” but it falls short of its ambitions. The Three Wize Men’s version of the title song is similarly transformative, and it certainly has moments, but it’s acutely ‘80s UK hip-hop, of which I’m really not a fan. YMMV, of course. Wet Wet Wet’s version of “With A Little Help From My Friends” is icky and fey, and only merits mentioning because that band was a big enough deal at the time that they alone probably accounted for at least half of the copies of the record sold. The Triffids’ version of “Good Morning Good Morning” is not only the worst thing on the album, it might be the worst thing period.

The comp shines more brightly when its artists aren’t afraid to get weird without trying to erase the source material. The Wedding Present’s contribution, an amped-up version of “Getting Better” with Talulah Gosh’s Amelia Fletcher, is exactly as you’d expect that band to perform the Beatles—poppy and bouncy, yet aggressive and clamorous as all hell. Sonic Youth, in the thick of their dense, twisty, and epic Daydream Nation era, are a beautiful match for George Harrison’s raga-rock freakout “Within You/Without You,” and in fact that cover eventually re-emerged on one of Daydream Nation‘s later reissues. The very very eccentric Frank Sidebottom—the spherically-headed masked singer who inspired the 2014 film Frank—does an absolutely wonderful remake of the very very eccentric John Lennon music hall paean “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite.” The Courtney Pine Quartet’s instrumental take on “When I’m Sixty Four” is a tremendously fun piece of lounge jazz. But the original album’s great set-piece—“A Day in the Life”—is also the tribute’s huge closer, and that song is handled with incredible reverence by the Fall. You’d figure of all bands the Fall would have been likely to go in for the piss-take, but no. It’s quite a stunner.
Listen after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Grapefruit: Forgotten Beatles protegés produced by Lennon & McCartney (and their AC/DC connection)
11:59 am


John Lennon

Unless you’re a truly “deep cut” Beatles freak—or a big AC/DC fan (I’ll get to that in a minute)—it’s unlikely that you’ll have heard of the 60s pop-psych group Grapefruit. Recalled by history as the first performers to be thought of to be protegés of the Fab Four, Grapefruit—named by John Lennon—were signed to Apple Publishing, although their music came out on Decca Records. They were only an active band for about two years, from late 1967 to the end of 1969. They recorded two albums and some singles before splitting, although their sound changed dramatically for their more “rock”-oriented second album with a different singer. Less Beatlesesque and more like Traffic perhaps.

Lennon and McCartney were co-producers of a song called “Lullaby” (a number with the working title “Circus Sgt. Pepper”) and Terry Doran, a friend of Lennon’s who’d worked with Brian Epstein, became their manager. When their record came out, Lennon introduced the band at a press conference attended by Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Donovan and Cilla Black. Paul McCartney directed a promotional film for their single “Elevator” and band member John Perry was invited to attend the “Hey Jude” recording session.

Now here’s the AC/DC connection: The group’s songwriter/bassist was a chap named George Alexander, who was born Alexander Young in Scotland, one of eight children who included younger brothers Malcolm and Angus Young who would later go on to form AC/DC. When the Young family emigrated to Australia, he’d remained behind in Great Britain. Another musically talented Young brother is George Young of Aussie chart-toppers The Easybeats.

Their first album Around Grapefruit was reissued in May of 2016 as Yesterday’s Sunshine: The Complete 1967-1968 London Sessions with rare tracks from the original master tapes.

Performing “Dear Delilah” in France on ‘Dim Dam Dom’ in 1968:

More of the sweet sounds of Grapefruit after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘Mark David Chapman is the ultimate Beatlemaniac’: Lester Bangs trashes Beatles nostalgia on TV
12:30 pm


Lester Bangs

Can you spot the back cover of Meet the Beatles in Lester’s so-called living room?
During the brief interval between the 1980 murder of John Lennon and his own death by accidental overdose in 1982, Lester Bangs told a TV crew what he thought about Beatles nostalgia: it sucked. His complaint refers to “Beatlemania,” by which I think he must have meant both the deathless cultural phenomenon and the eponymous movie that opened the year of this interview, based on the (s)hit Broadway musical:

The nostalgia for it and this obsessive living in the past and, y’know, Beatlemania in 1981 is sick. It’s basically that nothing is going on right now, and people are desperate, and there’s a giant nostalgia industry, as we all know. And as far as I’m concerned, Beatlemania is just like Happy Days—it’s a ripoff. And guess who pays? The consumer, and John Lennon.


Bangs with Paul and Linda, 1976
Luckily, unlike poor old Lester back there in benighted 1981, you and I live in the amazing future year 2016, where there’s never any shortage of new ideas keeping our culture fresh and vital. Pinch me!

Lester’s rant below is excerpted from a longer segment about the Beatles. The YouTube user who uploaded this video and who “hearts” the 80s (meaning, I’m sure, such totally 80s moments as the El Mozote massacre, Chernobyl, the Challenger crash and the Loma Prieta earthquake) says the footage comes from a long-lost series about music called FM-TV.

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Imagine that it’s 1968 and you are hearing the Beatles perform ‘Hey Jude’ for the very first time
11:26 am



There’s a sweet new HD Beatles VEVO channel that I wanted to call your attention to, dear readers. Utilizing clips taken from the spiffy-looking new 1+ Blu-ray box set, the channel has been uploading these sharp HD music videos for a while now and they’re adding new ones all the time (there’s a lot to work from, the deluxe 1+ BD set has over 50 lovingly restored Beatles promo films).

Embedded below is the famous performance of “Hey Jude” that was broadcast on Frost, the talk/variety show hosted by David Frost in Great Britain on September 8, 1968, and on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in the US a month later, on October 6. (Apparently there was also a version shot with Cliff Richard introducing them.)

TV’s Ready, Steady,Go! director Michael Lindsay-Hogg, who would go on to direct Let It Be (and had already produced other film promos for the Fabs, such as the ones for “Rain” and “Paperback Writer”) helmed the production. Paul McCartney designed the set for the shoot, with a two-tiered riser for the orchestra, which took place at Twickenham Film Studios on September 4. It’s worth mentioning that Ringo Starr had actually announced that he’d quit the Beatles just two weeks earlier due to a dust-up with Macca, who’d criticized his drumming on “Back in the U.S.S.R.”

They shot twelve takes, but after that McCartney announced “I think that’s enough.”

This is how it looked for most people back in the day. Probably sounded B&W, too! We moderns can now watch The Beatles in HD on bigass flatscreens in 5.1 surround sound.

As you are watching, try to imagine what it was like to hear this for the first time, and also bear in mind that the Beatles had only just released the astonishing Yellow Submarine film a few months prior to this! “Hey Jude” topped the charts in Britain for two weeks and for nine in America, where it became The Beatles’ longest-running #1 single in the US. Without further ado, here it is, “Hey Jude” as it was more or less experienced in its premiere airing. Of course it can now seen in far, far better quality than you’d ever have been able to see it in during those original television broadcasts, back when most people in Britain and America would have been watching it on low resolution B&W TV sets. (The Beatles themselves wouldn’t have even been able to see it in this kind of quality back then either).

More Beatles in HD after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
What do you get the collector who has everything? How about Ringo Starr’s ‘White Album’ No.0000001?
08:11 am


Ringo Starr
White Album

Ringo Starr has been doing some mighty heavy house cleaning lately, and a HUGE collection of personal effects, decorative objects, and of course Beatles memorabilia belonging to him and his wife Barbara Bach is being auctioned on the first weekend in December. The auction takes up 55 pages of Juliens’ web site, and while it features a lot of kinda humdrum rich-people housewares and jewelry, and a stash of religious tchotchkes ranging from Eastern to Catholic, there’s also a rather nice art collection represented here, and some rather marvelously goofy Beatles stuff, certainly fit for the most marvelously goofy Beatle: a “Sgt. Pepper” upholstered leather chair, an extremely cool “Yellow SubmarineRock-Ola jukebox, a script from the movie “Help!,” a certain highly recognizable drum kit, and the single most charming lot in the entire collection (yeah, I went through it all, I’m a professional dork), the “Ringo Starr Press Archive Compiled By His Mother!”

Thanks, Ringo’s Mom.

There’s also this. Click to spawn a readable enlargement in a new browser tab.

But the most jaw-dropping item here is something I’d dare say could be THE ultimate trophy for a record collector: the very first numbered copy of The Beatles. That album is widely known as “The White Album” because of its minimalist packaging—a plain white sleeve, each stamped with a unique number. It’s long been accepted lore that copies 1-4 were in the possession of the Beatles themselves, but it’s been assumed just as long, and obviously incorrectly, that rather than being Ringo’s copy, No. 0000001 was claimed by John Lennon. This misapprehension was shared even by Sir Paul McCartney himself, who “confirmed” the rumor in Barry Miles’ 1998 bio Many Years From Now:

[LP cover designer] Richard [Hamilton] had the idea for the numbers. He said, ‘Can we do it?’ So I had to go and try and sell this to EMI. They said, ‘Can’t do it.’ I said, ‘Look, records must go through something to put the shrink wrap on or to staple them. Couldn’t you just have a little thing at the end of that process that hits the paper and prints a number on it? Then everyone would have a numbered copy.’

I think EMI only did this on a few thousand, then just immediately gave up. They have very very strict instructions that every single album that came out, even to this day, should still be numbered. That’s the whole idea: ‘I’ve got number 1,000,000!’ What a great number to have! We got the first four. I don’t know where mine is, of course. Everything got lost. It’s all coming up in Sotheby’s I imagine. John got 00001 because he shouted loudest. He said, ‘Baggsy number one!’ He knew the game, you’ve gotta baggsy it.



Now, you might be thinking, ‘HEY, wasn’t White Album #1 just sold a couple of years ago?” You are a VERY astute student of popcult ephemera—or a regular Dangerous Minds reader (which is the same damn thing, of course, he said with a wink). DM’s own Paul Gallagher reported on the sale of White Album A0000001 in July of 2013. So here’s the deal: every plant that pressed the record had its own numbering system, and there could be as many as 12 different #1s. The “A” on the serial number indicates that that one was one of several U.S. pressings. This is complicated and highly messy shit, and the online White Album Registry is an excellent resource for sorting it all out. (In case such information interests you, my White Album is A1557636, which, combined with the fact that the poster is long lost, means it’s utterly worthless to collectors. Still sounds great, though!)

Obviously, the fact that this has been in Ringo Starr’s possession (well, in his bank vault, anyway) since day 1 gives it an unassailable provenance—this is clearly THE White Album #1 from the first UK pressing. Starting bid is $20,000, and the final sale estimate is set at $60,000. Good luck. Proceeds from the auction will benefit Ringo and Barbara’s own Lotus Foundation, a charity that, according to its about page, is devoted to “advancing social welfare in diverse areas.” It’s worth mentioning that Starr is also raising money for the Lotus Foundation with proceeds from the new book Photograph, a collection of his personal photos annotated with his reminiscences.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Take a trip to ‘Beatles Hell’ with members of Negativland and the Church of the Subgenius
11:35 am


Church of the Subgenius

Three notable culture jammers joined Negativland’s Don Joyce in 2010 for a Beatles-themed episode of his radio show, Over the Edge. It’s a wonderful thing. For three straight hours, Phineas Narco of the Church of the Subgenius, Mark “TradeMark G.” Gunderson of the Evolution Control Committee, and John “Wobbly” Leidecker, who this year succeeded Joyce as Over the Edge‘s host following Joyce’s untimely death, fold, spindle and mutilate the Fabs’ music. The most gorgeous passages in the Beatles’ catalog become honking, dissonant distress signals, while the stuff that was already a bit spooky takes on a nightmarish cast. Haters of the Moptops will find plenty to confirm their prejudices; fans will discover that the same key that unlocks the gates of Heaven also opens the very mouth of Hell.

Aside from Vangelis’ “12 O’Clock,” the haunting melody that always opens Over the Edge, every note of this monster is Beatles-related, as Joyce confirms in his notes on the episode:

Our trio of guests play together without me for the first 45 minutes, then I join in the mix for the rest of the show. This is all an intense mashmix of The Beatles and everything they did in and out of music from beginning to end. Our sounds are made exclusively from Beatles material of all kinds and a few covers, including the amazing Rutles. A live and lively group mix that does not let up.

During the first few minutes of the broadcast, Joyce and Wobbly refer to an earlier “Beatles Hell” set the same group performed on Over the Edge in 1992; I haven’t been able to find it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there. A look at Discogs turns up an undated cassette that suggests there were several earlier Beatles Hell jams under the auspices of Big City Orchestra.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Toke up for the Mystery Tour: Wu-Tang meet the Beatles
01:51 pm


Wu Tang

When Danger Mouse released The Grey Album, his notorious—and quite illegal—mashup of Beatles tunes and Jay-Z’s a cappella wordplay in 2004, EMI Records immediately issued a cease and desist order. The album became a bit of a cause célèbre, with the “information wants to be free” types providing download links and seeding torrent files all over the Internet. Take that, evil EMI!

Cut to today and the mashups genre has a pretty well-established presence on the Web and, well… yawn. Who cares, right? Most mashups are clunky ear-bleeders, better read about than actually listened to, the main joke being, “Hey, I remixed Patsy Cline with Black Sabbath” or “Hey I mixed Glen Campbell with Sunn O)))!” or whatever zany thing those crazy kids on the Internet will think of next. Amusing? Kinda of, in a very last decade sort of way, but do you actually want to listen to it?

But sometimes—not often—something wonderful happens when two great tastes that shouldn’t necessarily taste great together get mashed up anyway.  In 2010, an Englishman named Tom Caruana decided to take some Wu-Tang raps and painstakingly construct a new song using Beatles samples on his Enter the Magical Mystery Chambers project. And what’s even more surprising than his flagrant flaunting of EMI’s copyrights is that the resultant mashups are really good! If Wu-Tang’s resident geniuses ever decided to delve deep into the Beatles catalog instead of soul obscurities for inspiration, this is the album they might have come up with. While most mashups sound like horrible musical Frankenstein monsters created in Pro Tools, this one sounds less like a mashup and more like an actual Wu-Tang record that uses Beatles samples. You can hear the Beatles, clearly, in the mixes (as well as Beatles songs covered by orchestras and “easy listening” combos) but it’s more covert than overt in this case.

Listen to Enter the Magical Mystery Chambers via the Tea Sea Records website. The enterprising Caruana has also bumped Wu-Tang into Jimi Hendrix for Black Gold.


Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
That time when Ringo Starr evicted Jimi Hendrix for being such a shitty tenant, 1967

Ah, 34 Montagu Square, the infamous ground floor and basement apartment once leased by Beatle Ringo Starr during the mid-1960s. Many celebrities sub-leased the apartment from Starr then, but perhaps the worst of the worst celebrity tenant award goes to a Mr. Jimi Hendrix.

Hendrix—along with his girlfriend, Kathy Etchingham—sub-leased the apartment back in December of 1966. They both lived on the lower-ground floor and paid £30 a month in rent. That’s a pretty rad bargain if you ask me even for back then. I’d consider it living situation that you’d probably not want to fuck up. But… Jimi Hendrix apparently did. One night while on an acid trip, Hendrix decided it would be a good idea to whitewash the entire place. He threw whitewash all over the walls because LSD. That, er, “mistake” led Ringo Starr to issue Hendrix an eviction. Bye-bye, Jimi!

Hendrix and Etchingham only lasted three months in the digs. Hendrix, did however, compose the song “The Wind Cries Mary”  while he lived there. The song was inspired after a fight he had with Etchingham over her lack of cooking skills.

The photographs you see here, by photojournalist Petra Niemeier, are of Hendrix while he lived at 34 Montagu Square. Judging by these photos, I’m surprised Hendrix didn’t burn down the damned place while smoking in bed. Methinks the Beatle probably made the right call.





via Mashable and Wikipedia

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
The Happy Hooker goes to Liverpool: Xaviera Hollander’s warped cover of the Beatles’ ‘Michelle’
10:13 am


Xaviera Hollander

In the years following the success of her memoir The Happy Hooker and the launch of its film franchise, Xaviera Hollander dabbled fairly widely in merchandising the “Happy Hooker” name. She can hardly be blamed, it’s such a catchy phrase that it’s been cheekily co-opted by everyone from crochet hobbyists to fishermen. Hollander has been involved in drama production, written a long-running advice column (and penned plenty of sex-advice books), and she even had a Happy Hooker board game.

Lest you think I was kidding about that, here you go.

Hollander produced a kitsch artifact holy grail with her 1973 LP Xaviera! It’s mostly a spoken-word album, with tracks featuring Hollander detailing her philosophies regarding sex generally and prostitution specifically. There are a few tracks that are basically dramatizations of trysts, but the real money-shot here (sorry) is Hollander’s bonkers cover of the Beatles’ classic “Michelle.” It’s been a mix-CD staple of mine since I found it years ago on April Winchell’s old MP3 page (it’s not on her current page, but don’t let that stop you from heading there anyway to revel in all the marvelously bizarre delights contained therein), and it could not be more out of place, either on that LP, or on planet freakin’ Earth.

I don’t want to mislead, this isn’t anything like full on Mrs. Miller-level self-deuded badness. But it’s still pretty out there, and bad in a way and to a degree that make it truly compelling. At no time is the song ever actually “sung”—it’s moaned in a breathy, overwrought “Happy Birthday Mr. President” way that often out-camps most intentional campifications of sexuality. And when the most famous prostitute on Earth moans “I want you, I want you, I WANT YOU,” should it not maybe feel more believable? Fittingly, the track ended up on the Golden Throats 4: Celebrities Butcher the Beatles compilation, and as far as I know, it would be another ten years before Hollander endeavored to sing on an LP again, for the Dutch-only release Happily Hooked. (See what I mean about that branding? That shit is durable.) And even on that album—or at least the part of it that my DM colleague Amber Frost found—she still basically just talks over music. Not that exceptional singing is the reason you listen to it anyway, it’s all in good fun.

One last trivia nugget for the trainspotters: the Xaviera! LP contains a “special guest” credit to the rockabilly pioneer Ronnie Hawkins, who, apart from his own musical contributions, assembled the musicians who would come to be known as The Band. Whether his guest appearance is as the guitar player on “Michelle,” or as a male voice in one of the performances, or both, I couldn’t say.

Xaviera Hollander, “Michelle”

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
‘Beatles Forever’: Ray Charles, Tony Randall and more in a brain-meltingly bad TV special, 1977
09:31 am


Ray Charles
Tony Randall

I wish ‘70s-style TV variety specials would make a comeback. They represented everything great about awful showbiz crap. Actors who couldn’t sing sang and singers who couldn’t act acted. They almost invariably contained terribly-scripted sketch comedy in which stilted dialogue abounded. And ALL aspects of the productions were pushed past their badness thresholds—the musical orchestrations were exactly too bombastic, the costumery was exactly too glittery, and the stars were exactly too far past their prime. That shit was choice.

On Thanksgiving of 1977, ABC-TV aired the one-hour Beatles Forever, a musical tribute to the Fab Four, starring Diahann Carroll, Ray Charles, Anthony Newley, Paul Williams, Mel Tillis, Bernadette Peters, Anthony Dowell, and Tony Randall. Yep, some crazy bastard thought Tony Randall singing Beatles songs was going to be good TV! About the only respectable performances came, unsurprisingly, from the great Ray Charles, who’d already been performing “Yesterday” as part of his own concert repertoire for years. A different kind of respectable performance came from Anthony Newley, by then deep into the Borscht Belt phase of his career, tackling George Harrison’s dense and trippy Sgt. Pepper’s number “Within You, Without You.” Dangerous Minds’ Marc Campbell wrote about that a few years ago, check it out here, its histrionics could permanently warp you. If only the video would turn up online—Canadian sound collagist and radio host Otis Fodder‘s description of the segment sounds about ten light years beyond bonkers:

This special starred a ton of folks, but this performance by Anthony Newley (with his over-dramatic vocal stylings) take the cake. The video clip of this is a laugh riot in itself with Anthony’s eyebrows doing most of the singing (as they move in a hypnotic motion that send you into a pure Zen state). It’s also very important to note that while Anthony sings this song he is in a Grecian bath room, in a toga, fog covering the ground and there are ladies in waiting!

For the most part, the show was heavy on tacky medleys, wherein every singer got a chance to quickly trainwreck a choice bit of a classic song. Audio of the entire show was made available in MP3 form by WFMU as the kickoff of their 2007 “365 Days” project. Video is maddeningly difficult to find, but the final medley survives on YouTube. It starts off quite nicely, with Ray Charles performing a respectful and tasteful take on Let It Be‘s “The Long and Winding Road.” Then, in under a minute, it all goes straight to hell.

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Booker T. & the MGs cover the Beatles’ ‘Abbey Road’

In spring of 1970, mere months after the Beatles released Abbey Road, the Stax label’s elite house band Booker T. and the MGs released McLemore Avenue, a near-complete tribute to that LP. A lot of you probably guessed as much, but McLemore Avenue was the Memphis street on which Stax’s studios resided, just as Abbey Road was the street on which the EMI studio where the Beatles recorded was located. (The studio wasn’t officially named “Abbey Road Studios” until sometime after that Beatles LP came out. The more you know.) A lot of you probably also guessed that the Booker T. album is freakin’ excellent.

Booker T. talked about the inspiration for paying tribute to a brand-new LP in a 2009 AV Club interview:

AVC: What inspired you and the M.G.’s to record McLemore Avenue, your instrumental cover version of Abbey Road?

BT: I was in California when I heard Abbey Road, and I thought it was incredibly courageous of The Beatles to drop their format and move out musically like they did. To push the limit like that and reinvent themselves when they had no need to that. They were the top band in the world but they still reinvented themselves. The music was just incredible so I felt I needed to pay tribute to it.

Rob Bowman’s informative history of the Stax label Soulsville, U.S.A.: The Story of Stax Records sums the album up thusly:

McLemore Avenue was divided into four tracks. Taking a cue from the extended medley on side two of the Beatles’ Abbey Road album, three of those tracks are medleys clocking in at seven, ten, and fifteen minutes each. Every Abbey Road song except “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” “Octopus’ Garden,” and “Oh Darling” appears in one or another of the medleys, but the order of the songs in each medley does not necessarily follow the order of the Beatles’ album. My favorite is the final track on McLemore Avenue, which adroitly combines “Sun King,” “Mean Mr. Mustard,” “Polythene Pam,” “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window,” and “I Want You (She’s So Heavy).” On the surface, covering a complete album of any group, let alone the Beatles, is quite a risky gambit. The MG’s pull it off with aplomb, in the process creating a parallel masterpiece to the quintessential Beatles album.


“Parallel masterpiece,” sure, why not, but it’s almost a shame it wasn’t a complete cover. I’d give a lot to hear the MGs do the affably goofy Ringo song “Octopus’ Garden.” It’s kind of tantalizing to imagine how Steve Cropper could have transformed that guitar lick. On the subject of Cropper, I was amazed to learn that he wasn’t present for the McLemore Avenue recording sessions, and that he overdubbed his parts later, still having never actually heard Abbey Road yet! Again from Soulsville, U.S.A.:

“Booker told me every note to play,” relates Steve. “I hadn’t even heard the Beatles album. I might have heard a cut on the radio but I had not sat down and listened to the album like they had. He showed me the changes and sat down to teach me the songs. I strictly played to what I heard Booker play. [When I heard] the Beatles versions of those tunes, I went “Holy shit!” I was very surprised. I didn’t know those songs at all.”

Here’s the album, in sequence.

Side One:

1) Medley: “Golden Slumbers,” “Carry That Weight,” “The End,” “Here Comes the Sun,” “Come Together”

2) “Something”


Side Two (and more) after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
‘Beatles Electroniques’: The Beatles warped beyond recognition, 1969
02:31 pm


Jud Yalkut
Nam June Paik

Beatles Electroniques, 1969
The relationship and eventual marriage of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, looked at from a slightly unusual perspective, can be seen as an alliance between the high pop mastery of the Beatles and the playful avant-garde methods of the Fluxus group. Ono was obviously one of the major Fluxus artists of the day, and in taking up with her Lennon exposed himself to avant-garde art in a particularly intimate way—and vice versa.

It would be a stretch to say that the Beatles were authentic pioneers of electronic music, but at the same time it couldn’t be clearer that McCartney and Co.’s relentless experimental incursions into the medium of pop music had an enormous effect on what was regarded as “in bounds” for rock music. The introduction of feedback on “I Feel Fine,” the use of reversed tape loops in “Tomorrow Never Knows,” the maelstrom of nonsense in “Revolution 9,” the symphonic collision of melody in “A Day in the Life,” and so on. In 1967 McCartney contributed a 14-minute tape loop composition called “Carnival of Light” to an awesome-sounding event called the The Million Volt Light and Sound Rave that has never reached the public even to this day (Harrison and George Martin loathed the piece; Harrison vetoed releasing it every chance he got). Meanwhile, Harrison himself made a key contribution to the canon of electronic music with the release of his second album, titled simply Electronic Sound, in 1969; the album consisted solely of two loooooooong Moog compositions, as my colleague Ron Kretsch ably explained on DM a few months back. Of course, Lennon himself was burrowing into weirdo musique concrete with Yoko, in various releases like Unfinished Music No. 2: Life with the Lions, Two Virgins, and Wedding Album.

Once dubbed “The Artist Who Invented Video Art,” Nam June Paik was an incredibly prolific and amusing conceptual artist from Korea in the postwar era; he is most associated with his works incorporating the cathode ray tube (we usually call it a TV set), including “TV-Buddha,” “TV Chair,” and “Family of Robot,” the last of which is essentially a series of robots made out of TV sets. Earlier in his career Paik was associated with John Cage, particularly his notorious 1960 work “Etude for Piano,” which culminated in Paik cutting off Cage’s necktie and washing Cage’s hair with shampoo.

The Beatles, 1969
In 1969 Paik teamed up with Fluxus-associated filmmaker Jud Yalkut to create Beatles Electroniques, a three-minute video in which Beatles footage is messed with electronically. I would argue that Beatles Electroniques is an essential proto-Plunderphonics text. I’m tempted to call it the first important Plunderphonics work in everything but name—the term “Plunderphonics” was coined by composer John Oswald in 1985 to describe works stretching back no earlier than the 1970s. Oswald’s key recordings include the Plunderphonics EP (1988) and the Plunderphonics album (1989). Key inheritors of the Plunderphonics style are Negativland and Christian Marclay. The Residents fucked with Beatles source material in The Beatles play The Residents and The Residents play The Beatles, but that was fully eight years after Beatles Electroniques.

Nam June Paik
As Barbara London’s essay “Looking at Music” described it in the volume Rewind, Play, Fast Forward: The Past, Present and Future of the Music Video,

In October 1965, Paik screened his first videotapes as part of a series of “happening nights” at the Greenwich Village nightclub Cafe au Go Go—a venue that included Lenny Bruce and the Grateful Dead among its roster of performers. … Beatles Electroniques, 1966-69, made with the experimental filmmaker Jud Yalkut, is nothing less than an early black-and-white music video. Paik grabbed bits from the mock documentary A Hard Day’s Night (directed by Richard Lester in 1964), refilming and further distorting the footage through his video synthesizer (developed with engineer Shuya Abe). Snippets of the Beatles’ faces are caught in a loop of warped abstraction. To accompany the endlessly folding imagery, Paik created a sound track with Kenneth Lerner, which featured fragmented Beatles songs recited again and again. Whereas the original film is an upbeat paean to Beatlemania, Paik’s strategies of appropriation and repetition are conceptually closer to Andy Warhol’s silk-screened paintings of celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe, 1962, and Steve Reich’s phasing of spoken words from a publicized racial incident in his sound composition Come Out (1966). Like these works, Beatles Electroniques brought seriality into the realm of sensory overload.

Nobody seems to know what these “fragmented Beatles songs” actually are, so transformed are they in Paik and Yalkut’s work. Without further ado, here’s Beatles Electroniques:


Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
The Beatles get wild on untamed (and unreleased) outtake of ‘She’s a Woman,’ 1964
02:14 pm



Beatles picture sleeve
By October 1964, the Beatles were already veterans of the recording studio. When they entered Abbey Road to cut “She’s a Woman” they had released three albums and numerous singles. They had been working at a furious pace and dealing with incredible fame. Surely the Beatles were looking to cut loose.

Written primarily by Paul McCartney (years later, John Lennon remembered writing some of the words—maybe), “She’s a Woman” was recorded on October 8th, 1964. Take six of the song would be deemed best and came out in late November 1964 as the b-side to “I Feel Fine” in the UK, but in the US the sides were flipped, with “She’s a Woman” reaching #4 on the charts in the states.

Take seven was their last stab at the song. Possibly sensing this attempt wasn’t up to snuff, they might have looked at each other and figured: “Why not get crazy?” Maybe they were finally comfortable enough in the studio to goof around and blow off some much needed steam. Or were the Beatles just giddy over writing their first drug reference? Here’s John Lennon referring to the line “Turn me on when I get lonely” in a 1980 interview:

We were so excited to say ‘turn me on.’—you know, about marijuana and all that, using it as an expression.

Ten days later the band recorded “I Feel Fine,” with a happy accident leading to the use of guitar feedback as the song’s intro—widely regarded as the beginning of the Beatles experimenting in the studio. Perhaps the hair-raising joy heard at the conclusion of the final “She’s a Woman” is the moment when they gained the confidence to take a shared step into the abyss.

Posted by Bart Bealmear | Leave a comment
‘Mission: Impossible’ vs ‘Norwegian Wood:’ the world’s first mashup, 1968

There was a time I would have gone to the mat in defense of the idea that the first ever mashup release was 1996’s “Whipped Cream Mixes” single by Columbus, OH’s Evolution Control Committee, a marvelous collision of Public Enemy a cappella tracks with music beds by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. If you don’t know them, my God, take a few minutes out of your life to properly dig some awesomeness:


Though that single is an acknowledged influence on the UK bootleg scene, I was mistaken in my Ohio-proud belief that the ECC invented the now-standard “Band vs Band” form. But I was educated. By the graces of Regretsy creator April Winchell’s amazing MP3 share page, I was alerted to the existence of composer/arranger Alan Copeland’s 1968 work “Mission: Impossible Theme/Norwegian Wood,” whereon Copeland’s chorus sang the lyrics to the Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood” over an orchestral performance of Lalo Schifrin’s indelible theme music from the secret agent TV series.

Copeland was already known for his work in The Modernaires, and on television with Your Hit Parade and The Red Skelton Show when ABC records released his weird hybrid as a single. That single won a Grammy award in the Best Contemporary Pop Performance, Chorus category. According to several sources I’ve found, The Alan Copeland Singers actually performed “Norwegian Wood” on the Skelton show, but frustratingly, I can find no indication of whether it was performed with the “Mission: Impossible” music, nor can I find any video of the appearance online. Frankly, for a Grammy-winning major label single, the tune is an elusive motherfucker. The 7” photo above is of my copy—can you make out the 98¢ price sticker? The idea of finding it that cheaply nowadays is, um, wishful. (To be clear, I paid way, WAY less than the eBay seller at that link is asking—no 7” is worth a shopping cart full of groceries.)

The song resurfaced in 1997 on a compilation from Rhino Records (naturally!) called Golden Throats 4: Celebrities Butcher the Beatles, a comp that is itself out of print and rare now. I managed to find it on Grooveshark, but that site’s embeds evidently don’t work on mobile devices, so for readers who browse DM on a phone or tablet, I’ve also included a YouTube link to a faithful cover version, by an Australian vocal group called the Unisounds. Somehow, you will hear this song, dammit.

Per IMDB, Alan Copeland is still living, and teaching choir in Berkeley, CA.

Mission Impossible Theme Norwegian Wood by Alan Copeland Singers on Grooveshark


Previously on Dangerous Minds
Led Zeppelin vs Beatles: ‘Whole Lotta Helter Skelter’
Mashup: Donna Summer and Booker T & the MGs: ‘I Feel Love’ / ‘Green Onions’
Beck on the butcher block: Illegal Art’s ‘Deconstructing Beck’
Bunnymen vs White Stripes, Bee Gees vs Killing Joke and more: new mashups from Go Home Productions

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
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