Tag Archives: John Lennon

Song of the Day – Working Class Hero

20 Feb


OK. I’m here. I’m typing. This is a good sign. I have been immersed in a lot of work lately, and thus have not had the opportunity to post to my beloved Music Court in a few weeks. I do very much hate falling into long posting droughts, and for more than four years I have prided myself on posting at least once a week (every week). Unfortunately, as they say with going to the gym, when you fall beyond 3-4 days of not posting (going), it is hard to pick back up again. You see, one of my main tenets on the Music Court is not dreck content. Meaning, I will not post for the sake of posting. I’m afraid today’s post falls into that blasphemous category. But, I had to prove to you all that I am alive and well!

Although this post is rather impromptu (and I promise I will be back posting regular content soon), I figured I might feature some John Lennon. This song came up on shuffle the other day as I was driving home from Connecticut, and I just spent the few minutes of mindless driving listening to the lyrics of the piece. Yes, I have heard it several times before, but often times you hear a song and do not truly listen intently to the lyrics. I am continually struck by two elements of this piece. One, this is one of Lennon’s angriest songs – perhaps his angriest. His use of imprecation is at an all-time high and once you get past the fact that he once sang “Love Me Do,” you realize just how incredibly diverse he was as an artist. While the song may seem a bit strange coming from the deep pockets of John Lennon, he accurately represents the utter droll of middle class monotony and subtle, tortuous mayhem. Look, Lennon was a tremendous song writer. Tremendous is an understatement. But this song is perhaps the apex of his melancholy look at the machinery of the “working class hero.”

Old School Pop

31 Oct

The pop music played on the radio years ago wasn’t as bad as today.  Turn on your average, everyday pop station and you’ll hear Lady Gaga, Lil Wayne and Bruno Mars multiple times per hour.  Like K$sha?  Me neither.  But she’s still played 42 times a day like she has some sort of deal with the devil and I’m not talking about the good kind, like a Robert Johnson or Led Zeppelin type deal, but one that someone talentless would make, say Vanilla Ice, to stay relevant.  Well, maybe I just have an over romanticized vision of the whole thing but at one point real musicians ruled the airwaves.  Sure, not all pop acts were great (cough Barry Manilow, cough), but enough to make me reminisce of days long before I was alive  where driving in a car didn’t require satellites or an iPod cable to get cool tunes.

The Beatles were the ultimate pop band and while their later albums added to this sound, they never really lost their pop sensibilities upon breaking up.  Paul McCartney went on to form Paul McCartney and Wings famous for such songs as “Maybe I’m Amazed” and my personal favorite, “Band on the Run”.  George Harrison development as a songwriter continued with the sound he developed in the later Beatles albums (compare “Here Comes the Sun” and “My Sweet Lord”).  You can’t forget John Lennon who came out with almost a prayer for peace with his seminal work, “Imagine”.  I really feel bad about being like everyone else and leaving out Ringo but then again, I can’t really pick any of his music out by name.

I didn’t realize how long this article would become so stay tuned for some non-Bealtes pop music from back in the day in a future post.

The Greatest Post Ever for the Greatest Band Ever

25 Oct

For the most part, I’m out of bands so I’m going to give my ode to the greatest band of all time: The Beatles.  The thing about The Beatles is that they are in an almost exclusive club of bands that weren’t reactionaries to the times in which they lived in. They defined the times.  I used to think (incorrectly) that The Beatles were overrated.  I mean, songs like “Love Me Do” and “Help” and “Please Mr.  Postman” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand” are just simple pop songs, yet they formed the mold for future rock groups to follow.  In addition to setting the paradigm of 2 guitars, bass and drums, The Beatles also added elements of  music of black musicians like Little Richard and Chuck Berry with white musicians like Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley that would influence rock n roll music for decades.

So let’s put The Beatles impact on music on the backburner for now and just look at the music itself.  The Beatles first phase was the “Love Me” phase characterized by simple song structures, simple I love you, love me lyrics (like the song above).  It’s what first captivated America on the Ed Sullivan show performance and really sparked Beatlemania.  Fast forward to the time they played Shea Stadium and decided to stop touring. So born the social commentary Beatles, who started growing beards and doing drugs.  Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is their seminal work from this period, almost a rock opera that is considered one of the greatest (according to Rolling Stone the greatest album of all time) that introduced innovative techniques for recording that included adding musicians in addition to just the fab four and experimenting with innovative recording techniques.  Just check out the sound below that builds upon the original Beatles sound.

Last but not least of the Beatles phases results in their last album while together and my absolute favorite: Abbey Road.  It shows a mature group who’s ability to combine their music together in the face of falling apart absolutely amazes me.  Listen to the White Album and you will hear a band at war with itself.  Each individual song sounds like it was done by an individual member and in fact that’s the case.  In fact, all members except for Ringo refused to record when another member was in the studio.  There were George songs, John songs and Paul songs.  Abbey Road sees the Beatles come together for one last hurrah and tolerate each other.  Their individual tastes and song writing abilities combine to create a concept album like Sgt Peppers of epic proportions.  Just listen to the whole album.  It’s a piece of absolute genius.

Peel the Lower East Side and Enjoy Pre-Punk Punk

4 Oct

So let me introduce to you, the one and only David Peel. Wondering why I just quoted “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band?” You will find out in due time (even though the reference doesn’t link up perfectly because McCartney wrote these lyrics even though the lyric is credited to the Lennon/McCartney songwriting duo). I’m being pedantic. Let’s move on to the first post in the new category Obscure Classic Rock.

I want to first share with you all how I heard about David Peel. Don’t worry, this is not a long, fireplace story. Actually, my father told me about David Peel last night. This is one thing I love about 60s/70s music. At times, the list of acts seems endless. It’s not, obviously. There is a fixed number. But I have done a good amount of research on 60s/70s music over the past 4-5 years (starting when I was a senior in High School), and, I’m still learning about influential acts that I had never come across previously. And that is awesome.

My dad recalled how he used to go down to Greenwich village in New York City with his buddies back in his teens (early 70s) and he would often see David Peel (born David Rosario) performing with the Lower East Side Band (apt name). Peel would sit down and talk with my dad and his friends occasionally. My dad remembers him as a nice, intelligent guy, who sang songs about marijuana and revolution. Revolution, specifically the recent Wall Street Occupation, is why Peel was brought up in conversation.

David Peel and the Lower East Side Band. Ever hear of them? No? Well did you know that they are often cited as early progenitors of punk rock? Also, did you know that Peel became incredible friends with John Lennon and Yoko Ono (there is your answer for the opening segment)? Lennon had good taste. Well, so did Peel!

David Peel (left) performing with Yoko Ono and John Lennon. Don't Lennon and Peel sort of look alike? More on this later

John Lennon once compared Peel to Pablo Picasso. A bold proclamation, indeed. Well, similar to Picasso co-founding the Cubist movement, Peel definitely had a hand in providing some inspiration to the emerging genre of punk.

Peel and the Lower East Side band first recorded music in the late 1960s. They created a blend of “street rock” that targeted topics like marijuana and the police. It was fresh and attractive to the counterculture movement. Songs like “I Like Marijuana” and “Oink Oink” were obviously scorned by authority, but enjoyed by the youthful population that gathered in Greenwich Village. Peel and the Lower East Side band was actually among the first bands to regularly perform on cable TV in Manhattan. He appeared on the public-access cable TV channel of Manhattan Cable Television. He also performed at the first Smoke-in concerts at Central Park.

It was in front of a crowd at Washington Square Park in 1971 when Lennon first saw Peel. He was quoted saying, “He was shouting: why do you have to pay to see stars? I was embarrassed. I thought surely he must know we are here. Yoko and I love his hair, snazzy tight trousers and Hai Karate aftershave.” They quickly became friends and Lennon signed Peel to Apple Records where he promptly released The Pope Smokes Dope in 1972. The record was banned in nearly every country in the world, except for the US, Japan and Canada. I don’t believe this record was playing in cafes outside the Vatican. The fervor that Peel engendered is funny. It’s very…punk! And the music backs that statement up.

I mean listen to this. “Oink, Oink” was recorded in 1968. It is like Beach Boys meets the Ramones. And this was recorded when Dee Dee Ramone was 17 years old. Punk music is rooted in US garage rock and the New York underground (bands like the Velvet Underground). Peel, like Lou Reed, sang about drugs and unsavory NYC practices. In 1969 Protopunk was founded by MC5 and the Stooges (Michigan-based bands), but I do believe that Peel was a true predecessor of the burgeoning movement and, unfortunately, he does not get the credit he does deserve.

Peel and Lennon stayed close friends, Peel adopting Lennon’s thick-glasses style, and Lennon sampling Peel’s leather coat look (similar to retro Cavern Club Beatles). The two looked so much alike that Bob Dylan actually called a picture of Peel, John Lennon, and, because everyone takes what Bob Dylan says as the truth it seems, the FBI was also fooled. A picture of Peel was in Lennon’s FBI file. Lennon did help Peel become well known and he has performed with musicians like B.B. King, ELP and Alice Cooper. Peel still records music today and his full discography can be acquired. I suggest checking him out more. He is a punk visionary. And he recorded an album entitled The Pope Smokes Dope. I mean, come on.

Lady Madonna – From Fats to McCartney to Fats

22 Sep

In 1968, The Beatles released “Lady Madonna,” a short, fast-paced groove about an overworked mother. It was written primarily by Paul McCartney, but credited to Lennon/McCartney. John Lennon did help with some of the lyric. In typical Beatles’ fashion, the song reached #1 in the UK and #4 in the U.S., and interestingly, was the Beatles’ last release on Parlophone. The Beatles would release “Hey Jude” on Apple Records a few months after “Lady Madonna.” Has anyone ever suggested that perhaps the Beatles were just too good. Perhaps they were all truly musical aliens, intergalactic hit machines. Well, some band had to be the greatest band to ever play, right?

Anyway, I mention Lady Madonna in this version of “Great Moments in Music Cover History,” not because it’s a cover (which it is not), and not even primarily because it spawned several covers, but because it was inspired by a musical legend, Fats Domino.  Yes, so I should perhaps title the category as “Great Moments in Music Inspiration History,” but you’ll all see how the covers fit into this in a few words.

  “‘Lady Madonna’ was me sitting down at the piano trying to write a bluesy boogie-woogie thing,” said McCartney in a 1994 interview.  “It reminded me of Fats Domino for some reason, so I started singing a Fats Domino impression. It took my voice to a very odd place.”

You can hear the blues piano inspiration in this song and Fats Domino was such a champion of the burgeoning rock/piano genre. McCartney was also inspired by Humphrey Lyttelton‘s “Bad Penny Blues.” The beginning piano riff is somewhat similar to the piece. Take a listen:

The reason this fits into the cover category is because Fats Domino actually covered “Lady Madonna.” It’s sort-of like an ironic twist. McCartney thinks about how it would sound if Fats Domino was playing the piano, and then Fats gives McCartney the ultimate compliment and re-records the song. Here is the Fats version:

Not bad. The Fats flavor is cool. Plus, listening to Fats’ accent during the piece feels right. McCartney and Fats should perform this song together. That would be awesome.

Now, just for giggles, here is another cover of the song by…Elvis Presley! It is from a 1970 rare recording session (where he also performs “Got My Mojo Working”). He is obviously having a lot of fun with it. He doesn’t even know all the words.

%d bloggers like this: