Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Beatles


This post has loomed large and taken much time to think about let along begin to write. I mean, what do you say about the most important band in the world and my favourite band in the world. Everything has been written and I love them so much they could have a whole blog of their own - no doubt there are plenty already devoted to them. I would really like to write about them in detail - and I may well at some point - but for this, I will not bore you too much. I will simply list what I know to be true to me and how I feel about them, the things that have remained with me my entire life, the facts that never seem to change.

My dad loved The Beatles and it is his love of The Beatles and indeed music generally that has shaped my love of music - a fact I will be eternally grateful for. I grew up listening to The Beatles, they were and are more important to me than the usual songs you hear as a child - nursery rhymes, silly songs etc. I did go through a stage in my mid teens where I hated them, I think it was a rebellious thing and probably overkill - if Dad really likes something he goes a bit bananas (another trait I have inherited!). But by my late teens my fate was sealed, and they were it - pure and simple.

My favourite album (mostly) is Abbey Road - this does change from time to time, but it has come back to the No. 1 spot more times than the others - The White Album and Revolver, so it shall remain there at this point in time.

I prefer their later songs - more from The Blue Album period, but as you will see from what I have chosen there is much to love from the earlier period also.

My favourite song is Hey Jude - it has been for about ten years now and I seriously doubt that will ever change. I love the nakedness and sincerity of this, McCartney can go a little too sentimental at times, but he reigns this one in pretty well. When I am listening and more often than not singing this song I tend to chop off the end bits - I think they go on a little too much. In a group the na na na nana nana's are cool and fun, either way this is just a song I can (and do) listen to forever. Funnily enough, this is not on my best of best of best - it is just TOO good to include :)

My second favourite song - probably close to 5 years, and again I doubt this will change is Across the Universe - so sweet and spiritual, and perfectly encapsulating Lennon. I always feel calm and comforted listening to this, in fact most of their songs do that to me.

After those 2 all bets are off and songs come and go - I mean there are so many to choose from, which made this exercise so incredibly hard - more on that with the songs I ended up choosing.

My favourite Beatle is and always has been Paul McCartney - I think he is perfection and the closest to a musical genius I think anyone will find. I think he was edgier than Lennon - he just did not get shot... harsh but true. I did go through a Lennon stage in my teens, I think most fans do, but it was always Paul. I know he can be overly sentimental - and mostly it works. If you listen to some of his vocals and read about some of his experimentation you will understand where I am coming from. I like a lot of his work from Wings and his solo work and his new work with Firemen is fantastic. And, I knew that fucking Heather Mills was trouble from day 1 - I tell you - how dare she!!!!!

Having said that I have always said if I could go back in time only once I would go back to NYC and take the bullet - and I really mean that, well I would take it my leg or arm or belly - somewhere that would not kill me too, I mean that would be insane. There are 2 things that will really undo me in life. The first is the Holocaust and the second is Lennon's murder, so wrong and so unbelievably painful there are no words to describe it.

I always wanted to marry Julian Lennon - he just seems so sad, to have gone through what he has, I mean John was no saint, I think that is why Hey Jude resonates with me so much. Julian's story breaks my heart - the man deserves to be happy...

My favourite Beatles book is Geoff Emerick's Here, there and everywhere. He was one of their engineers, starting as an assistant in his mid teens. He transports you back to the studio and you feel you are there creating with them, magic - that is a writer and a gifted human being. He explains the processes behind the recording and a lot of the experimental ideas they used to create certain sounds, some of which he helped significantly with. He also helps you understand each Beatle and whilst it is obvious he is a McCartney fan, I feel the observations he makes generally are fair. If you only read one book about The Beatles, this is the one!

Finally, my most prized and treasured item is a ticket stub from when my dad saw The Beatles when they toured Australia. Saturday, June 20th to be exact at the Sydney Stadium, Section 7, Seat H25. It is a glorious musty pink and burgundy coloured ticket on the kind of cardboard that has kept it in pretty good condition all these years. Dad gave it to me many years ago, when he must have realised I shared his passion for this wonderful band. It is my favourite and most cherished 'thing', and I feel honoured and proud to have been given such a fabulous item from history. Yes, there was a lot of screaming, but it was great - I might try and get him to write a guest post one of these days!

So, as you can see I could write more, but on to the task at hand. Choosing the songs to include in this compilation - it took almost as long as it did for me to gather my thoughts above...a looooong time! A few years back I made a compilation of my favourite Beatles tracks at the time and these six tracks were included. I just went through the compilation and pulled out six tracks that covered what I love about their music, but found as I went to write why words have not come easily to me. It is hard to write about something so personal without sounding cliched or stupid. I hope I have not done that and I suspect if I were to choose six tracks today, some of those may not be included. I would really love to hear about everyone's favourite tracks, so don't be shy

TRACK SIXTEEN: She's a woman
I overdid the early stuff early on in my life so there are some tracks I prefer in moderation, it is the less known tracks I prefer these days. She's a woman is a perfect example - bright, quick, catchy, great back beat and good, quirky lyrics. The vocals are not perfect, but a little dirty and edgy, this is a preference.

This is a great early Lennon vocal track, again coupled with She's a woman, this showcases early Beatles wonderfully. Raw, edgy, comical and ground breaking. Imagine (if you can) never hearing music of this type and hearing that scratchy arghhh halfway through the track - you wouldn't know what to think, I love this, makes you want to get up and dance!

TRACK EIGHTEEN: I should have known better
I seriously love this and I think it is my favourite early track. The harmonies are perfect, although they struggle a little with the top range, which I think adds to the originalness of the track. The tune is simple, the harmonica and guitar solo simple - yet simple as they are, make it unique. I totally love singing this song and love the sentiment behind it.

TRACK NINETEEN: Got to get you into my life
On the precipice of change, this is a truly imagined song. From the brassy beginning you know this is a going to be a great song, a great lyrical song with interesting rhythm. I love the syncopation and phrasing of "every single day of my life". They were not afraid to mix it up and begin to experiment at this stage. And the rawness of the chorus and the coda rock it out just a little.

Speaking of rawness, this is one of the edgiest and rockiest songs if you just listen to McCartney's interpretation of it. Listen to his phrasing and vocal range, especially when he gets to "When you told me, you didn't need me anymore...", oh my god, you believe every, single word. It starts off raw with a little bit of sweet, but as the song moves through he gets rawer, and rawer and edgier and gutsier, to the point where you almost - but not quite - hear his vocal cords ripping...that my friends is a singer, and Ringo beats the shit out of those drums!!

TRACK TWENTY-ONE: Across the Universe
This is just a stunningly beautiful piece of love; perfect and pure John Lennon at his best. I do love Imagine, but give me Across the Universe any day. Humbly spiritual and sweet and innocent, the lyrics make me feel calm and content and eager to ensure I am true to myself and try not to let others change me for the worse! "inciting and inviting me...." glorious lyrics too...

The Beach Boys


I grew up with The Beach Boys - like most kids of baby boomers - and went through stages of loving, hating and liking them. These days I think I like some songs and only love a few others, but I do appreciate them. There is no question Brian is a genius, but like all geniuses, a little odd. I think he should have just stuck to staying in the studio and mucking around, I get really embarrassed when they wheel him out (I mean that figuratively, but I have a feeling I have seen him literally wheeled out!). He has no idea what is going on, or if he does, it certainly does not show. It is just sad...much like recent performances or so I have heard. They were always a studio band - I mean how can you replicate the Wall of Sound live??? Speaking of which, Spector obviously was plugged into the same drugs Brian was, although for all of Brian's foibles, at least he has not attempted to murder anyone!

This is pure and beautiful, I can never get enough of the orchestration and harmonies on this. Recently resurrected for the series, Big Love, week in and out I could listen and listen to this haunting tune. I would really love to have this arranged for choir!

Saturday, October 10, 2009


LOCATION: State Theatre, Sydney

DATE: Tuesday 22 September, 2009

WITH: Nole, Vince, Phil

After what one can only describe as the most perfect day - shopping at Bondi Junction and the most delectable meal at a French restaurant/cafe near the Kent Street carpark - we had the most perfect evening!

I have been a fan of Chris Isaak from the get go and have all his CDs, I love his voice, his style, his humour and his old fashioned presentation - yet I had never seen him live. A long running joke with friends is I believe he is gay and his partner is his drummer, Kenny!! Have you watched them look at each other when they play, hmmmm. Some people get very cranky at me when I say this, others agree with me, either way, I always say, a night at Club Cathy would surely make him see the error of his ways if he is (not that there is anything wrong with that!) ....

So I enter the State Theatre (I love that building, it is gorgeous), with high expectations and they were met and then some...this is what I want when I see a concert. We had good seats upstairs and after an auction of a signed guitar for over 10 thousand dollars (who goes to a concert with that kind of money to throw away, far out!!!) the night began. His first song was Dancin' - fabulous and hypnotic and well, very sexy. He did about 4 or so songs back to back before addressing the audience, as Vince said a true performer, sure of his stuff and that he was. He was chatty, but not too much, amusing, entertaining, funny, the whole package, he played everything you wanted and sung them as they were meant to be sung and sung them well, his band were great and tight. Early on he entered the audience downstairs to mingle as he sung and then he came upstairs whilst singing Elvis, Love me tender (does not get more perfect than that). He was not that near us, but close enough, I was entranced. He played from just after 9 to well after 11, with only one small break to change into the most spectacular Mirrorball suit - oh yeah!!!!

It was indeed a great concert, on our way out of the city, we drove past the stage door (unintentionally) and I spotted Kenny, and then Chris, there were some people waiting for autographs and they took their time, including signing drumsticks (that were thrown into the audience) for a young boy, he looked thrilled. I just liked that the person you see seems to be the person he is - consummate performer and all round good guy.


LOCATION: Civic Theatre, Newcastle

DATE: Friday 17 July, 2009

WITH: Keryl

This wonderful performance from Sydney Symphony was perfect. They performed Bach (Symphony in G minor), Mozart (Piano Concerto No 11 in F and Eine kleine Nachtmusik) and Haydn (Symphony No. 44 in E minor). Again, this was a while ago and I find it hard to describe the evening, we had excellent seats upstairs, with a great view of the orchestra - I love watching classical musicians, the small woodwind section were cheeky and smooth, the string section austere and perfect. There was a harpsichord - always gorgeous to hear - I think at the beginning, therefore the Bach piece. I find it hard to describe or write about classical music, but suffice to say it always calms me and makes me feel just right if that makes sense. Everyone should go to a classical recital at least once in their life. It was also lovely to hear a popular and well known tune like Eine kleine Nachtmusik done beautifully, you hear little nuances when known pieces are done live.


LOCATION: Sydney Opera House

DATE: Saturday 25 July, 2009

WITH: Narelle and Wendy

This was great yet disappointing at the same time. The singing and music was fabulous and so it should be, the staging left a lot to be desired. Occasionally, you see the odd mistake in such productions, which I think is totally unacceptable in a performance by a company as supposedly reputable as Opera Australia. This performance had many mistakes, and they were very noticeable. I suppose they did not take away from the show, but they were enough for us all to comment on, people walking or dancing out of line, or not lined up properly and so forth. And whilst some of the costumes and set had the opulence you would expect of the Egyptian Aida, other parts looked like they were put together with cardboard and textas. It has been well documented that Opera Australia is having difficulties at present, it is a shame they make their way through the performance. I do not think the leads physically were right for the characters, however their acting and voices were superb, so if you closed your eyes it really gave you goosebumps, but when you pay as much as you do to see a Saturday matinee, you really should not have to close your eyes!!! But, it was great to see a favourite staged, ahh to have seen it on the Nile as it was intended and I still cried at the end, plus we had a fabulous day, great lunch, gorgeous weather, the harbour in full flight and great company, so really no need to complain.


LOCATION: Playhouse and Civic, Newcastle

DATE: Saturday 9 May, 2009 and Saturday 3 October, 2009

WITH: Mary, Keryl and Keryl, Kitty and Peter

OK, I adore Shakespeare, the language, the drama, the murder, the intrigue. My favourite play is Macbeth (I mean walking trees, Lady Macbeth, witches, murder and OCD - what's not to like?) and I prefer it done traditionally. And I also have a very special spot for A midsummer night's dream and Much Ado about nothing. Having said that, I do not mind a good, modern interpretation, but it takes guts, simplicity and fabulous acting to pull it off. I recall seeing a very good Hamlet, set in the 1930s, with great costumes, sleek suits etc, and nazi undertones, very clever, polished and well executed. So, it you are going to play around with it - it needs to be done right, so few do that!

So, I do try and see Bell Shakespeare each year when they visit, however, in recent years the company has been nowhere up to scratch, and after a particularly awful Macbeth (I mean, how could they - they used plastic bags from the supermarket to add items to the witches brew at the beginning and the weakest Lady Macbeth you could ever see...don't get me started!!!!) I decided they had one more chance and that would be it. Luckily the past 2 years have been excellent, but this year I think they have blown it for me...more later

On to Henry IV...Oh boy, I have little recollection of this, I know I enjoyed it, but it was not fabulous. I felt the younger actors did not handle the characters as well as they should have, there was some humor and it was mostly traditionally done which pleased me. For an amateur production it was good. Brief, but my recollection is pretty bad, which means it was not outstanding.

I saw The Taming of the Shrew last Saturday so my recollection is indeed better. It was not great, they decided to modernise it which was completely unnecessary. I do understand the more difficult plays being changed a bit and modernised as it make them more accessible, but something a simple as this really should not be touched at all. If you cannot follow this storyline, don't bother, it is as simple as that! Harsh, but true, I loathe it when people dumb things down and this was really dumbed down.

Despite some strong older actresses in smaller parts, the players were mostly young and quite obviously inexperienced actresses. Every part was played by a female, and that worked quite well. The set was a complete pigsty and the styles of presentation clashed. The Shrew's father and his mates were mobster 1930s style; the shrew, her sister, suiters and followers were white trash (ugg boots and PJs) and disco styled. And in later acts Petruchio's 'aides' were 1950s costumed fillies - stunning costumes, beautiful dresses, shoes and magnificent hats - but yet again a complete mismash of styles, that was more offputting than interesting. It was like they had all these ideas, and felt they had to use them all - they did not. The first half had 5 huge mirrorballs hanging and they were completely annoying. I love mirrorballs, and hate to say it but the lighting shone into them and basically bounced back into my eyes and was so annoying I had to close my eyes at times, which was not good in the dull bits as I almost feel asleep on more than one occasion. Maybe it was where I was sitting and my eyes can be ultra sensitive, but it just annoyed the shit out of me!

And then there was the Karaoke, again, I love Karaoke like the next person, but again completely unnecessary. Now the singing was pretty bad, but I suppose it was Karaoke, but it basically served to help place where the action was, eg Love is a battlefield, Heart of Glass etc and while most of the songs were fun to hear, they were cliched and annoying when placed in the context of the play. As far as I am concerned, if people need something like disco to help them understand a simple play like this, they should not be there in the first place!!!

I have been pretty harsh here and one would think I hated it, I did not, it was ok, but given it was Bell, I was unimpressed and I highly doubt I will be revisiting them next year.... unless John was directing Anna, but I think those days are long gone unfortunately. As Keryl said, Richard and Elizabeth would be turning in their graves, well not Liz, but you know what we mean!!!


LOCATION: Playhouse, Newcastle

DATE: Saturday 4 April, 2009

WITH: Mary and Keryl

This was a complete hoot and at times I laughed so much I thought I would explode! I cannot remember the ladies name, but it was a one woman show about bad vinyl. And bad it was, some of it so bad it was good, but bad all the same. She was incredibly dry and had great delivery and her record collection (well the ones we saw) was something to be seen...I was impressed, and you know I do not impress easily. She divided the vinyl into sections, and I am struggling to remember the actual phrases she gave them, as they added to the humour, but they were things like Australiana, Christian, perverts and so on. She had a slide show and played tracks on her ipod- it was a really clever and sparse production, but totally showed you what you needed.

I really cannot recall all of the songs, albums now, but there were a lot of tv shows singing songs - very 80s, some of it good, most of it not, lots of John Laws in tight cream pants and large chested women clinging off him on covers with very sexual, and supposedly macho tracks. Lots of songs with very dodgy lyrics, including a lot of what could only be described as child porn imagery. Yes, Garry Glitter was included, also the Bay City Rollars.

The night rolled on and you really did not want her to stop, her delivery, the songs, the album covers were just funny and sad at the same time! Some songs were a blast from the past, some were not, some you were happy to hear despite the dagginess, others were an unpleasant reminder of things long gone :)

But the highlight of the night, was her highlight, I suspected it was coming, I hoped it was coming and came it did, we got to be incredibly impressed (ok I got to be incredibly impressed and VERY envious) at fact she had her very own vinyl copy of The Shaggs. Now I knew The Shaggs well, they are referenced in a lot of music reading I have done and there is a whole section in one of my favourite books, Vinyl Junkies, dedicated to them - the worst band in the history of the world. I have seen photos, read the stories online and in print but had never heard them. Well, we got to hear a few tracks off their seminal album, Philosophy of The World, and as the comedienne said, once you hear them, you just cannot unhear them, and she was right. Oh my, I have never heard anything so unrhythmic and unmusical in my life, not only could not play their instruments and I really mean not play their instruments, they truly had the most horrendous voices - it was absolutely fabulous, I was grinning ear to ear.

So, for the uninitiated The Shaggs are a female girl group of sisters formed in the late 60s, emulating the girl groups of the days, dressing similarly with fabulous Shagg haircuts, with a svengali father who truly believed they were destined to be the next big thing! No one could be more wrong, ahhh the love of a father. Their songs were truly unique and they have attracted high praise from people like Lester Bangs and both Kurt Cobain and Frank Zappa who named them in their top 5 albums of all time! You can see Frank's attraction, as they played in crazy time signatures, although one could not really say they played in time. Not only was their playing and singing completely nuts, but their song subjects and lyrics were something else all together! Songs about made up whimsical characters took on a life of their own. Anyway, if you want to know more...and you know you do...hook up with their official is totally for real and unashamedly heartfelt. Plus you get to see photos of the Shaggs in their heyday (or as their father said while they were hot - not sure if her was referring to their looks or playing, or both.....)
I am tempted to join their fanclub or purchase a CD copy, but I will hold out in the hope that one day I come across a vinyl copy of Philosophy of the world. What an ambitious album title!


LOCATION: Newcastle Theatre Company

DATE: Saturday 1 August, 2009

WITH: Mary and Keryl

This was a hilarious little play that lured us from the beginning. Starring mostly young adult performers and a few adults, the young performers played characters aged roughly 8-12 who were selected for the Spelling Bee. They were very funny and spot on with their performances of characters like the geeky kid, the shy girl, the overachiever and the cheerleader to name a few. The never moved on former Spelling Bee champion (with a few 'issues') was the hostess of the event - prim, proper, pressed and tightly wound, a perfect caricature. The adjudicator, a former principal (if I remember correctly) who may or may not have been sacked for a murky offence. Additional characters were semi plants from the audience, which was quite funny. Add in a lot of great tunes, that prefectly fitted in to the pathos of the competition, and it was just the kind of show you never wanted to end.