On this episode we talk about two less-often-discussed Beatles movies: Nowhere Boy (2009) and Backbeat (1994). These are not Beatles movies as in the Beatles were in them, but that are Beatles movies in that they are fictionalized accounts of the Beatles real lives.
First we discuss Nowhere Boy, which shows John Lennon in high school, meeting his reckless but inspiring birth mother Julia, learning to play banjo and guitar, meeting Paul McCartney and coming to terms with his strict but reliable Aunt Mimi.
Then we get into Backbeat, which shows the life of Stu Sutcliffe, John's friend in Liverpool art college, who was the Beatles original bass player and who joins the band when they go to Hamburg.
Plus we talk about the very cool band of 1994 grungy all-stars that got assembled to make this movie's soundtrack!
Although both movies have their flaws, I think big Beatles fans would love them both and in this episode we get into why!
My panel for this episode is Brian Hines (Sea Tea theatre in Hartford, Ct and brother of the host) and Tara Ariano (previously.tv web site and podcasting network).
As I note in the introduction, the recording quality for this ep is a bit less than usual. We were all in different cities and I was using some new software. I didn't configure everything exactly right. Everyone is still easy to understand, but you can hear that we are all on phones, etc. My apologies!
For our third episode recorded in the vaunted facilities of actual Abbey Road recording studios, we perform our own cover versions of Beatles songs.
They start weird, and get weirder. We go in roughly chronological order, but because of a combination of jet lag and how last-minute we got the studio -- our song selections are truly insane.
Thankfully Joel Spence had arrived so we have his great guitar playing. And we have my own and Connor Ratliff's and Joel's spirited singing.
I do recommended listening to the whole thing for our interpretations of When I'm 64 and You Know My Name, Look Up The Number.
Thanks to engineer Stefano Civetta for his patience and sense of humor throughout!
Back to normal next week!
Musician/subway busker Nicola Hogg (@nicolahoggmusic), with her terrific voice and great songs, saved the day in this episode!
To re-cap: podcast host Will Hines along with temporary co-host Connor Ratliff were in London for improv reasons and impulsively decided to try and rent time at famed Beatles recording studio Abbey Road. To their shock, it WORKED and they suddenly had 10 hours of studio time with almost no plan.
The day before the session, they pass Nicola Hogg playing "You Can't Hurry Love" at the Tottenham Court Road subway station, and she sounded terrific. But that's not a Beatles song, you say. Well, so what? She's a young talented musician, and didn't the Beatles foster many such talents via their Apple Records label? And weren't Connor and Will, for the day at least, owners of official Abbey Road studio recording time?
After exchanging a few tweets ("Uh, hi, you don't know us -- want to meet us at Abbey Road and record?") the delightful Nicola Hogg becomes the one and only client of our day-long adventure in running a record label, which is called Songer Records for reasons made clear in this episode.
Nicola plays us her songs, as well as some great Beatles covers. We talk about her music story, her thoughts on the Beatles and songwriting and performing in general. She's great!
Check out Nicola's terrific music at these places:
On Spotify, she's Nicola Hogg.
And she's @nicolahoggmusic on twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Soundcloud!
One more Abbey Road ep next week!
HOLY CRAP THIS EPISODE RECORDED AT ABBEY ROAD STUDIOS.
Is this an act of hubris? Or a fulfillment of a destiny? We may never know, but the fact is: THIS EPISODE, and the two that will follow, ARE RECORDED AT ABBEY ROAD STUDIOS!
We explain it in full detail in the episode, but basically Connor and Joel and I were all going to be in London and so we sent an email to Abbey Road Studios to ask if we could record there... AND THEY SAID YES. I mean, for a normal fee, it wasn't like they had any idea who we were.
We recorded 3 episodes on September 22, 2017 (mark that down, Mark Lewisohn). For this episode, we talk to Abbey Road engineer Stefano Civetta.
Abbey Road Studios has a new small studio in their complex called The Gatehouse and that made is financially possible (though still impractical and foolish) for us to record there!
We saw the Beatles studio! We took our photo in the crosswalk! We ate in the Abbey Road work cafeteria! IT WAS AN INCREDIBLE DAY!
Panelists: Will Hines, Connor Ratliff, Stefano Civetta, and for one brief word Mariana Feijo.
Our panel does a live show at the UCB Theatre on Sunset Blvd in Los Angeles to talk about BEATLES VOCALS.
Panel regulars and brilliant singers Ariana Lenarsky, Jackie Johnson and Heather Woodward perform some of their favorite Beatles songs to sing! Because, Ticket to Ride, And I Love Her, Oh! Darling and MORE!
Making this episode a manageable size was tough. We pick almost ANY Beatles song and have a great example of great vocals. Melody, harmony and performance was maybe their most consistently amazing trait. But we narrowed it down by a process known as "what would be fun."
Plus hear Brett Morris be a guitar virtuoso, Adam McCabe do very well on drums, and Joel and I banter away as the singers prepare for their next songs!
Thanks to Alex Scordelis for lending us a drum kit extremely last minute, Beth Appel and the UCB Theatre, Darius Hamilton Smith for teching and Rob Pera for recording it.
PLUG: Live show coming up Monday Sep 4th 10:30pm at UCB Sunset in Los Angeles! Singing Beatles songs! Come out!
Good idea gone terribly wrong? Brilliant art project? Or perhaps the most faithful fulfillment of the title of this podcast?
Our panel (Will Hines, Ariana Lenarsky, Wayland McQueen) welcomes guest Arthur Meyer (writer for The Tonight Show, also a human being) as we go through EACH AND EVERY BEATLES SONG to see what our personal / emotional associations are.
I somehow did not realize this would take two and a half hours. I honestly thought "eh, hour, hour and 10 minutes." You can hear me at the 90 minute mark apologize to the group and predict we were about half an hour away from being done. Nope. Another full hour awaited us.
Did I think about chopping this episode down to a more humane length? Yes. I could have skipped all the early albums, for which we didn't have as many memories. Or cut every song for which we had zero personal memories (often true for amazing songs like Lucy in the Sky). But that seemed like a cop-out, hard, and also would still have only gotten this down to an hour and forty five minutes.
So, I'm just leaving it here.
Even if you never listen to this, I do recommend DOING this with your Beatle loving friends. We four learned about each other, and it WAS very fun to DO. You'll be surprised what memories come up. The Beatles are ubiquitous and have bled into our consciousnesses and memories throughout our lives.
Ariana remembers hearing "Yesterday" when she was six years old!
Arthur seems to know the favorite Beatles songs of all of his friends and lovers!
Wayland was married before! News to us!
Will and his brother Brian used to wake up to a different Beatles song every day until they made the mistake of picking "Good Day Sunshine!"
Anyway. Here it is. 2 and half hours of it. "Enjoy!"
Beatles guitars! We have four guitarists on to talk about Beatles songs in terms of the guitar parts in this plus-sized episode!
The ninth chords that ends a lot of the early songs;
the iconic beginnings of A Hard Day's Night / Day Tripper / I Feel Fine and more;
George solo in All My Loving;
cool chords on Michelle;
sick Paul solo on Taxman;
dual guitars on She Said She Said;
easy songs to play around a campfire;
the clawhammer picking on the White Album;
George's stellar contributions to Octopus' garden;
She's So Heavy
Were we up to the technical challenge of recording four guitars in the host's living room with whatever cords people brought to the session? Not always! But the love for the music stays strong throughout!
Plus we do our own version of the Abbey Road trading guitars jam --- at the one hour and twenty minute mark! Necessary? No! Fun? Yes! And as with all our jams it has that first take authenticity! (Order of soloists: Joel, then Brett, then Mike with James playing rhythm).
Panelists: James Bachman, Mike Carlson, Will Hines, Brett Morris, Joel Spence.
There are so many great covers of Beatles songs and we talk about some of them!
With A Little Help From My Friends - Joe Cocker
Taxman - Black Oak Arkansas
Norwegian Wood - Swingle Singers
Come Together - Soundgarden
We Can Work It Out - Stevie Wonder
Across the Universe - Fiona Apple
Yesterday - Ray Charles
Blackbird - CSNY
When I Get Home - Harry Nillson
Blackbird - Bobby McFerrin
I Want to Hold Your Hand - Al Green
Eleanor Rigby - Aretha Franklin
Something - Frank Sinatra
I Am The Walrus - Jim Carrey
In My Life - Sean Connery
We will likely do another episode as there are so many interesting covers out there. But, hey, this is a pretty good start!
Panelists: Will Hines, Ariana Lenarsky, Brett Morris, Katie Plattner, Joel Spence
Our silliest idea yet? We got 4 drummers, each with his own drum kit, into a recording studio to talk about Ringo Starr and his drumming. Surprise: we love him and it.
Was it necessary to have 4 drummers at once? No, not at all. Was there some gain to be had for having more than one drummer play Ringo's licks at the same time? I mean, not that I can explain. But let me tell you this: once you get in your head that you're going get 4 drummers and 4 drum kits into a studio, all playing Ringo Starr drum parts at once -- it's a very tough idea to let go of. And we had a blast.
Our drummers / Beatlemaniacs are: Manny Hagopian, Chris Kula, Adam McCabe, Alex Scordelis
Do we do Ringo's big drum solo? Of course. Do we play and sing along to Octopus' Garden? Big yes. Is there a metal band in the adjacent studio playing speed thrash for much of the session? Yes again.
Thanks so much to the drummers for coming and doing this! I wasn't able to give us much (any) time to rehearse together, and our sound check was minimal, but they crushed it! Don't Pass This (Episode) By!*
*I just realized we do not reference that song for the entire episode.
Host: Will Hines
We talk about the Beatles longtime producer George Martin. He's one of the most common nominees for the informal title of "Fifth Beatle" for his contributions to their sound.
Whether it was through knowing when to take the role of teacher vs. letting them make the decisions, or being able to turn John Lennon's abstract wishes into concrete instrumentation, or even in the early days broadly helping to direct their songwriting -- George Martin was crucial in helping the Beatles become THE BEATLES.
Along the way we have some fun distractions including checking out isolated tracks from Sgt. Pepper and also Peter Serafinowicz' track "A Full Day In The Life." And somehow Heather keeps imitating Eddie Vedder.
Panelists: Suzi Barrett, Will Hines, Connor Ratliff, Joel Spence, Heather Woodward.
Friend of the Podcast Wayland McQueen is back with more hypothetical Beatles questions:
Panelists: Scott Aukerman, Will Hines, Wayland McQueen, Katie Plattner, Charlie Sanders
We discuss "Dreaming the Beatles," a new collection of essays by Rolling Stone writer Rob Sheffield, for no other reason than podcast host Will Hines recently read the book and liked it.
BUT we quickly realize that the two men on the panel liked the book, whereas the two women very much did not. Coincidence? Or is there something in this book that annoys female Beatles fans?
We get into a topic we're all interested in: is there a difference in how male fans relate to the Beatles vs women? Isn't it annoying when you just want to say "I like the Beatles" and you're greeted with what amounts to a trivia competition? Why is it that the Beatles were launched to fame by an almost completely female fan base, yet every book about them seems to be written by a man?
It's not ALL gender issues. We also talk about Rob's unique approach to writing about the band. Instead of doing anything like a complete history, he presents a deliberately opinionated discussion of Beatles events. Will likes how emotional this feels, and thinks it captures a feeling of loving the Beatles better than a dry history. But Jen and Katie are annoyed that the author doesn't do a better job defending his assumptions.
A different subtitle might have gone long way. Instead of "The Love Story of One Band and The Whole World" it's more "The Love Story of One Band and This Author."
Alex loves the revelations this book has of some little talked about parts of Beatles history: George slept with Ringo's WIFE? The month before he died, John was talking about a reunion? WHAT?
And there are very interesting takes: that the Beatles were more influenced by girl groups than we have realized; that the 90s did as much for The Beatles as the 60s.
This is an extra long episode because 1) we like it and 2) we're not releasing a new episode for two more weeks as the host temporarily has a life/vacation/travels.
Panelists: Will Hines, Jen Krueger, Katie Plattner, Alex Scordelis
This episode is possibly a bad idea: we got four bass players gathered around our recording setup, and then our panelists spent an hour raving about Paul's bass playing. Slides, counter melodies, variety, liveliness, off-tempo, playing in the pocket -- and half the time he was singing the lead vocal, too. Spoiler: We think Paul McCartney is good.
Panelists: Thomas Halloran, Will Hines, Adam McCabe, Brett Morris, Joel Spence.
And yes there is a jam of our first takes of Beatles songs -- as always in the easy-to-skip post-closing theme position! Though you risk missing Brett's pretty damn great first take of Hey Bulldog and my backwards talking on Rain. No hard feelings.
Friend, comedian and Beatlemaniac Wayland McQueen asks the panel fun "which song" questions:
Panelists: Will Hines, Ariana Lenarsky, Adam McCabe, Wayland McQueen
Part 2 of the JOHN VS PAUL discussion!
What songs are examples of true collaborations of the JOHN and PAUL sensibility? We each pick an OBVIOUS one and an NON-OBVIOUS one! Will forbids choosing A Day In The Life, but then immediately caves and just plays it anyway! Post-closing one-take jams include bits of: I've Got A Feeling and I Shoulda Known Better.
Panelists: Will Hines, Ariana Lenarsky, Brett Morris, Joel Spence.
EMERGENCY EPISODE (er, kind of): We review the new remix of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band! We get deep into audiophile things, talking about where the instruments are panned in terms of "left" vs "right" and the what the previous versions of this album were like (mono vs stereo), and what the difference is between "remastered" and "remixed."
We check out the extra tracks a bit, including the first take of "Lucy in the Sky."
It is nerdy and specific and fawning and fun. Stick around after the theme to hear Brett Morris noodling on his guitar and talking a bit about John's songwriting.
Panelists: Will Hines, Ariana Lenarsky, Brett Morris, Joel Spence
The start of season 2 of the podcast! We discuss JOHN songs vs PAUL songs. The panel each plays examples of:
--an OBVIOUS John song
--an OBVIOUS Paul song
--a NOT OBVIOUS John song, and
--a NOT OBVIOUS Paul song.
Panelists: Will Hines, Ariana Lenarsky, Brett Morris, Joel Spence.
Another special bonus episode in which the guest is my Aunt Sue, who saw the Beatles live on their first American tour when she was in the sixth grade. We talk about this momentous event, whether or not it was fair that she didn't bring her sister Carol, how she feels about various other events in Beatles history and how she was briefly engaged to Paul McCartney.
Bonus emergency episode! Ariana Lenarsky and Will Hines are here to alert the Beatles community about this question: which TLC song lifted from Paul McCartney?
Abbey Road. How did we ever think there was an album better than this? Our panelists enter into a state of transcendental bliss as they listen to the entirety of this, the last album the Beatles recorded. We realize that we have loved this album our whole lives. Every track we find ourselves saying "oh, no, THIS one is our favorite." It doesn't seem to get old. The Beatles (+ producer George Martin, engineer Geoff Emerick) use everything they've learned along the way -- and they've learned a lot. In just 7 years, the band has evolved from a merely brilliant blues-rock cover band into the greatest team of songwriters, performers and studio producers that has ever been known in pop music.
"Come Together" "Something" "Here Comes the Sun" "You Never Give Me Your Money" "Oh! Darling" "Because" "Golden Slumbers" "The End" - These songs are perfect ideas, made better by performance, better again by production and better yet again by being in proximity to each other. This is a perfect album. We will hear no dissent.
After this, they broke up.
This is the end of Season 1 of our podcast. There will be a Season 2. Stay subscribed to hear details once we've figured that out. Thank you so much to everyone who has listened to any of these episodes!
Panelists: Curtis Gwinn, Will Hines, Ariana Lenarsky, Joel Spence.
Our panel dissects the strange album that is Let it Be. Part live album, part throwback, part new songs, part movie soundtrack - what IS it? Something like 10 producers worked on it (2 mostly) and it didn't even come out until after the Beatles broke up. (We're covering it now because we're doing the album in the order they were recorded, not released).
We still like it a lot.
Our panel also gets into what the sexiest Beatle song is, that Paul McCartney is Jackie's real dad, that Heather has weird taste in what counts as a sexy song, and that the song Let It Be is one of the most perfect songs ever.
Panelists: Lynsey Bonell, Jackie Johnson, Jen Krueger, Katie Plattner, Heather Woodward.
We get into the half-album Yellow Submarine. Not so much the movie -- more the album that came out with the movie which had a bunch of re-releases (title track, All You Need Is Love), some fun deeper cuts (All Together Now, It's All Too Much, Only A Northern Song) and then one of the coolest songs the Beatles ever did: Hey Bulldog.
Just like the album, this episode is a bit of mish-mash since we also go back and cover a bunch of singles we skipped on previous episodes: some early B-sides as well as Long Tall Sally and Lady Madonna.
We pose and then do not answer several questions like: which Beatles songs are fun for kids? Why does George complain about money so much? Did Yoko being in the studio make John want to show off for her?
Panelists: James Bachman, Will Hines, Jen Krueger, Joel Spence.
We continue on to the second disc of the White Album (or sides 3 and 4 to those preferring vinyl). We go over: is "Birthday" a great song (we say yes)? How great is "Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except for Me and My Monkey?" We also discuss the original lyrics to "Sexy Sadie," and which of the two "Revolutions" is better? Exactly how bad an idea was "Revolution 9?" Why did the mono version of "Helter Skelter" leave off Ringo's "I've got blisters on my fingers?"
And we ALSO go over the massive single "Hey Jude / Revolution" recorded during this session. I almost did a whole episode on this single. Another time.
Panelists: Will Hines, Ariana Lenarsky, Adam McCabe, Joel Spence, Heather Woodward
The Beatles double album, officially titled "The Beatles" but better known as "The White Album" because of its iconic white cover, is to many people the most special Beatles album of all. This is the one that feels personal, that you feel like only you understand and no one else. There's masterpieces, curious trifles, unfinished gems and a few damned silly tracks. Because it's a double album, we're doing two episodes to cover it. Today we go over Sides 1 and 2, which includes the jaw-droppingly great "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," "Blackbird," "Happiness is A Warm Gun," "Dear Prudence" and MORE AND MORE. Holy crap. Panelists: Manny Hagopian, Will Hines, Ariana Lenarksy, Adam McCabe, Joel Spence.
(audio re-mixed, yep yep)
MMT is one of the orphan albums -- not quite a full album, but certainly way more than an extended single. The presence of "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane" alone make this a must-have for any Beatles fans, but once you dig into the other tracks you find, as you almost always do with Beatles stuff, that everything is great. Except "Flying." No one really needed "Flying." Panelists: Will Hines, Jackie Johnson, Wayland McQueen, Joe Petric, Connor Ratliff.