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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Five Famous Beatles Guitar Solos That Weren't Played By George Harrison


When Beatlemania first exploded in England and, shortly after, in America, they were a four-piece band with clearly defined roles. Ringo Starr played the drums, Paul McCartney played the bass, John Lennon -- as he explained in the film Help! -- was "rhythm guitar and mouth organ," and George Harrison was the lead guitarist. But as early as the Help! album, Paul McCartney was beginning to emerge as a talented musical arranger capable of filling multiple musical roles (as everyone discovered when he recorded the mega-hit "Yesterday" on that album by himself, playing his own acoustic accompaniment).

Here are five instances where someone other than George Harrison played lead guitar on a Beatles recording:

1. Taxman
It's dirty, it's catchy, it's highly innovative, and it's ... Paul. Mostly executed on one string (the "G" string, for those keeping score), this searing solo is a great example of McCartney's highly simplistic, yet highly creative approach to music-making. Was George ok with this? Yes, and in fact he later commented, "I was pleased to have Paul play that bit on 'Taxman'. If you notice, he did like a little Indian bit on it for me."

2. Ticket to Ride
A Lennon/McCartney composition, this song has more of McCartney's fingerprints on it than most fans probably realize. That catchy, stuttering drum pattern throughout the intro and verses? That was Paul's idea, which he conveyed to Ringo. As John said in 1980, "Paul's contribution was the way Ringo played the drums." Of course, it was more than that, as Paul came back to the studios as the song was being completed, and laid down an overdub track of himself playing the lead guitar lines that sit between the bridge and the verses.

3. Good Morning, Good Morning
By the time Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was being recorded, Paul McCartney was more or less the sole driving force behind the band. The album concept was his idea, and he plays the majority of instruments on many of the album tracks, including this one. John C. Winn, in That Magic Feeling, notes that "On March 28, John filled the final track with a second lead vocal, harmonizing nicely with himself in places. A second reduction combined both vocal tracks and freed a track for overdubs of backing vocals and Paul's stinging guitar solo."

4. You Can't Do That
No, not the opening intro lines, which are 100% George enjoying the exotic sounds of his brand new Rickenbacker 12-string, but the actual solo which begins at around 1:30 in the song -- that's all John, blending his skills as a rhythm guitarist with his desire to take the solo spotlight for once. Notice that, as is befitting a rhythm guitarist more accustomed to playing full chords, this solo features several two- and three-note blends and bends. As John explained, "I'd find it a drag to play rhythm all the time, so I always work myself out something interesting to play. The best example I can think of is like I did on 'You Can't Do That.'"

5. Paperback Writer
That classic opening lick, chunked out on the low strings of the guitar? It's Paul McCartney again. This is perhaps the most surprising instance in this list, because most fans are probably familiar with the promo film for this song, which show George playing lead guitar and Paul thumping away on the bass. But as Peter Frampton revealed (quoted in Graeme Thomson's wonderful bio on George, Behind the Locked Door), "I'd put on Paperback Writer and say [to George], 'I love the guitar on that,' and he'd say, 'Oh, that's Paul.'" George's part on this song? Rhythm guitar, while John was content to supply backing vocals and some tambourine.

Friday, August 21, 2015

John Lennon's Protest Songs: Righteous or Rubbish?

10:35 AM Posted by Nicole M , ,

If you've spent Sometime in New York City, you're familiar with the "revolution" of protest songs John Lennon released throughout his career, both with The Beatles and after. Did those songs really make a social impact? Did they make any difference at all, musically or otherwise? And, did Lennon come across as more self-sacrificing or self-righteous?

Noted Beatles experts and authors Dr. Kit O'Toole and Jude Southerland Kessler (aka Kit 'n' Kaboodle) hash out these very questions during the following episode of The John Lennon Hour.


Check Out Music Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with The John Lennon Hour on BlogTalkRadio

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Five Beatles Moments in Mono You've Never Heard Before


By now it's a known fact that the majority of The Beatles' albums were originally mixed and prepared for mono output, not stereo. Stereo was a relative novelty until the late 1960s, and people like recording engineer Geoff Emerick (who worked closely with the Fab Four on such landmark albums as Revolver and Sgt. Pepper) have said that The Beatles themselves were intimately involved in the process of mixing the mono albums, while they were content to leave the stereo mixes to the "white lab coats" at EMI studios.

The end result is that many of the mono versions of well-known Beatles songs -- previously unavailable outside of the original vinyl records, prior to the 2009 remaster project -- contain hidden sonic gems that do not exist in the stereo versions.

Here are five "Easter Eggs" in the mono versions of Beatles songs that you've probably never noticed before:

Yellow Submarine
Sing along with me on the third verse: "Sky of bluuuue, and sea of green ... in our yellooow ... submarine!" Except, wait, rewind that a bit. Yep, Ringo flubbed the last word, and accidentally sang "slub-marine" instead of "submarine." Nice one, Ringo.

Good Morning, Good Morning/Sgt. Pepper Reprise
Producer George Martin has spoken many times about the bit of "good luck" he had in discovering that the final chicken squawk at the end of "Good Morning, Good Morning" blended perfectly with the opening bent guitar note that kicks off the "Sgt. Pepper" reprise. Listen to it in the stereo version and it's a flawless transition between the tracks. Listen to it in the mono version, and whoops, that's a surprisingly sloppy edit that probably shouldn't have made the final cut.

Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)
George Harrison famously popularized the sitar with the modern rock music audience by including it on this song. But listen closely to the mono version (you may need to turn it up just a bit), and after the lyric "she asked me stay and she told me to sit anywhere," you'll hear George cough. Someone in the mixing labs must have caught this during the stereo mixing, because you won't find it there.

Help!
There's not one isolated instance of "Easter Egg" discovery here, it's the whole track that deserves mention. The mono version of the song uses a different vocal take for John's lead than the stereo version does, and the mono version is downright gritty. Listen especially to the second instance of the chorus: when John sings "Help me if you can," he practically barks the word, and he actually sounds like he might be in need of some help.

Helter Skelter
Chalk it up to better mixing decisions, or chalk it up to simply hearing a familiar song in a new way, but the mono version of this song far more powerfully captures Paul McCartney's intention to record one of the heaviest, nastiest, grittiest songs ever. The bass is louder, the background vocals shriek and swoop with a presence that will give you goosebumps, and the lead vocal is so up-front-and-center you'll feel like you're sitting nose-to-nose with Macca himself. Bonus: Ringo's screamed "I've got blisters on my fingers!" is not present on the mono mix, which, depending on your preference, might make the track better or worse.