Tonight’s Music Byte will dispense with the usual historical narrative of the featured artist. Sir Paul McCartney needs no introduction. Over here at the Blast-Off however, we like him even more this week.
CNN reports, President Obama on Wednesday awarded McCartney the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song – a lifetime achievement award given by the Library of Congress. Upon receiving the award, McCartney deadpanned, “After the last eight years, it’s great to have a president who knows what a library is.” Don’t you just love it? Even an English (albeit of Irish descent) musician recognized George W. Bush’s lack of eloquence and was not afraid to comment about it on American soil.
One person unfortunately was not amused. House Minority Leader John Boehner (pronounced, “Boner”) is demanding an apology from the music legend. Boehner said,
I hope he’ll apologize to the American people for his conduct which demeaned him, the White House and President Obama.
Actually Mr. Boehner, the remark did not demean McCartney, the White House and President Obama. It only demeaned George W. Bush. So, take that!
Please enjoy tonight’s video clip. By the way, the drummer is from Arlington, MA.
As the result of a death in the family, Lynnrockets’ Blast-Off must take some time off.
Wings (sometimes credited as Paul McCartney and Wings) was a rock group formed in 1971 by ex-Beatle Paul McCartney and his wife Linda McCartney. The group was the only “permanent” group that any of the former members of The Beatles were ever involved with after their break-up. Wings had 12 top-10 singles (including one #1) in the United Kingdom and 14 top-10 singles (including six #1’s) in the United States. All 23 singles credited to Wings reached the US Top 40 (and one single, “Junior’s Farm”/”Sally G”, reached it with each side). Of the nine albums credited to Wings during the group’s life, all went top 10 in either the UK or the US, with five consecutive albums topping the US charts.
Wings was noted for its personnel changes as well as its success. The only three permanent members of Wings were McCartney, his wife Linda, and ex-Moody Blues guitarist and singer Denny Laine. In less than a decade, Wings had three different lead guitarists and four different drummers. As the Beatles were breaking up in 1970, McCartney was working on his debut solo album, McCartney. Backing vocals were provided by his wife, Linda, whom he had married the previous year. McCartney had insisted from the beginning of their marriage that his wife should be involved in his musical projects, so that they did not have to be apart when he was on tour. On his second solo album, Ram, McCartney added select outside musicians, including drummer Denny Seiwell, who had to perform in a secret audition for Paul and Linda before being chosen.
In August 1971, Seiwell and guitarist/singer Denny Laine joined Paul and Linda McCartney to record Paul’s third post-Beatles project on Apple Records. The result was Wild Life, released December 7. It was the first project to credit Wings as the artist. In an attempt to capture the spontaneity of live performances, five of the eight songs on Wild Life were first takes by the band.
The band name is said to have come to McCartney as he was praying in the hospital while Linda was giving birth to their second child together, Stella McCartney. Paul McCartney recalled in the film Wingspan that the birth of Stella was “a bit of a drama”; there were complications at the birth and that both Linda and the baby almost died. He was praying fervently and the image of wings came to his mind. He decided to name his new band Wings.
In late 1971, McCartney added ex-Spooky Tooth guitarist Henry McCullough, a native of Northern Ireland, to the line-up of Wings and returned to touring, mounting an impromptu tour of U.K. universities and later a tour of small European venues (with the group driving around in a van), playing no Beatles numbers. In February 1972, Wings released a single called “Give Ireland Back to the Irish”, a response to the events of Bloody Sunday. The song was banned by the BBC for its anti-Unionist political stance and only mentioned in chart rundowns on BBC Radio 1 as “a record by Wings”. Despite its limited airplay, it reached #16 in the United Kingdom, as well as #1 in the Republic of Ireland and #1 in Spain.
Partly in reaction to the ban, Wings released a children’s song, “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, as its next single, which surprisingly reached the Top 10 in the United Kingdom. However, Wings followed that with November 1972’s “Hi, Hi, Hi”, which was again banned by the BBC, this time for its alleged drug and sexual references. The B-side, “C Moon”, was played instead. The single made it into the Top 5 in the United Kingdom and the Top 10 in the United States.
In late 1972, Wings was re-christened Paul McCartney and Wings for the 1973 album Red Rose Speedway, which yielded the first U.S. #1 Wings hit, the romantic ballad “My Love”. One possible reason for the renaming was that two songs on this album had been recorded by Paul, Linda, and Denny Seiwell during the Ram sessions; Denny Laine added backing vocals to one of these songs, but Henry McCullough was not on either. Among the unreleased songs recorded by Wings during the extensive sessions for this album (which stretched over seven months and two continents) was the Linda composition “Seaside Woman”, which was finally released in 1977 (although credited to “Suzy and the Red Stripes”).
Near the end of these sessions, in October 1972, Wings recorded the theme song to the James Bond film Live and Let Die, which reunited McCartney with Beatles producer/arranger George Martin. The uptempo song, released as a non-album single in the summer of 1973 (immediately after “My Love”), became a sizable worldwide hit and has remained a popular part of McCartney’s post-Wings concert performances (often accompanied by pyrotechnics). That same year, McCartney released his first American TV special James Paul McCartney, which featured extensive footage of Wings but was savagely criticised by noted rock journalist Lillian Roxon.
After a successful British tour in May-June 1973, Wings went right into rehearsals for the next album. However, Henry McCullough and Denny Seiwell left the band in August, at the end of rehearsals, leaving the McCartneys and Laine to cut what turned out to be Wings’ most successful album, Band on the Run, at EMI’s primitive 8-track recording studio in Lagos, Nigeria. The album went to #1 in both the United States and United Kingdom and spawned three hit singles: the rockers “Jet” and “Helen Wheels” (originally included on the U.S. album only) and the title track—a suite of movements recalling side 2 of Abbey Road. It also included “Let Me Roll It”, which was seen as an affectionate impersonation of John Lennon’s vocal style, and “No Words”, the first song released by Wings that was co-written by Denny Laine (all Wings releases to this time were either Paul and Linda compositions or cover versions). Band on the Run enjoyed very positive critical reception and did much to restore McCartney’s tarnished post-Beatles image among critics.
In the Autumn of 1975 Wings embarked on the Wings Over the World tour, starting in Bristol, which took them to Australia (November), Europe (March 1976), the United States (May/June), and Europe again (September), before ending in a four-night grand finale at London’s Wembley Empire Pool. For this tour, added to Wings’ stage act was a horn section consisting of Tony Dorsey, Howie Casey, Thaddeus Richard, and Steve Howard on horns, brass, and percussion.
In between, Wings recorded Wings at the Speed of Sound, which was released at the end of March 1976, just prior to the U.S. leg of the world tour. It represented a departure from the prior Wings template in that each of the five primary members of the band (including Linda and Joe English) sang lead on at least one song, and both Laine (“Time to Hide”) and McCulloch (“Wino Junko”, again with Colin Allen) contributed songs. However, the two U.S. #1 singles, “Silly Love Songs” and “Let ’em In”, were both written and sung by Paul. Four of the album tracks were played in the 1976 portion of the tour, which also included five Beatles songs. Laine sang lead vocals on several songs (including his old Moody Blues hit “Go Now” and Paul Simon’s “Richard Cory”), and McCulloch on one (“Medicine Jar”), emphasizing that Wings was more than just Paul McCartney’s backing band. One of the Seattle concerts from the American leg of the 1975–76 world tour was filmed and later released as the concert feature Rockshow (1980). The tour also spawned a triple live album, Wings over America (1976), which became the fifth consecutive Wings album to reach number 1 in the U.S.
Please enjoy the following “threefer” of Wings videos. The first is a video montage of the 1972 contovertial and BBC banned “Give Ireland Back To The Irish“. The second video is Paul McCartney‘s response to the banning in the form of “Mary Had A Little Lamb” which was aired on the long forgotten Flip Wilson Show in 1972. Finally, there is a live clip of Wings performing my all time favorite version of “Band On The Run” in 1976 in Seattle.
Last week Ringo Starr released his 15th solo album since the break-up of the Beatles. The album is titled Y Not and it is receiving wonderful reviews. As usual, Ringo surrounds himself with lots of his musical friends on this disc including his brother-in-law Joe Walsh, Dave Stewart and longtime Roundheads member Steve Dudas on guitar, Benmont Tench of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers on keyboards, Don Was and Mike Bradford on bass. The album also features Starr’s engineer and co-producer Bruce Sugar on keyboards, as well as some special guests like Edgar Winter on horns and alto sax, and Joss Stone, Ben Harper and Richard Marx on vocals, Ann Marie Calhoun on violin and Tina Sugandh – aka Tina The Tabla Girl – on tabla and chanting. Starr’s songwriting collaborators on Y Not also include familiar and new names like Joe Walsh, Dave Stewart. Joss Stone, Glen Ballard, Richard Marx, Van Dyke Parks, Gary Nicholson plus Gary Wright and his former Roundhead band member, Gary Burr.
The most compelling of his pals to contribute to the album however, is Paul McCartney. McCartney contributes bass to the song “Peace Dream” and vocals on “Walk With You”. They sound like a couple of good buddies having fun being together. Please enjoy this video clip of “Walk With You”.
“Wonderful Christmastime” is a 1979 Christmas song by Paul McCartney. It is one of McCartney’s best known solo songs, and it enjoys significant Christmas time popularity in the UK and other English-speaking countries. The notable synthesizer riff was played on a Sequential Circuits Prophet-5. The song was later added as a bonus track on the CD reissue of Wings’ Back to the Egg. Although the song did not chart on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, it reached #6 in the UK Singles Chart. The video was filmed at The Fountain pub in Ashurst, near Horsham in Sussex.
Fellow ex-Beatles John Lennon and George Harrison had already released festive singles, and Ringo Starr made a Christmas album in 1999. Of all of the former Beatle seasonal offerings, Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” and McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime” have become two of a large number of popular Christmas songs played year after year.
Apologies to all for the lack of newsworthy posts this weekend. The Lynnrockets were busy attending a lavish Halloween party at the Belcourt Castle in Newport, Rhode Island. New Englanders take their Halloween rituals very seriously in light of the Salem Witch Trials and the large Irish population (Halloween is actually an Irish Pagan ritual). The castle itself is the third largest mansion in Newport and is a private residence with only one occupant remaining and is presently for sale. Perhaps this is the Rhode Island property that Sarah Palin was rumored to be interested in. The photos above are from this weekend’s party.
Now for the music byte…
The first incarnation of The Moody Blues formed on 4 May 1964, in Erdington, Birmingham, England. Ray Thomas, John Lodge, and Michael Pinder had been members of El Riot & the Rebels, a regionally-popular band. They disbanded when Lodge, the youngest member, went to technical college and Pinder joined the army. Pinder then rejoined Thomas to form the Krew Cats and enjoyed moderate success. The pair recruited guitarist/vocalist Denny Laine, band manager-turned drummer Graeme Edge, and bassist Clint Warwick. The five appeared as the Moody Blues for the first time in Birmingham in 1964. The name developed from a planned sponsorship from the M&B Brewery and was also a subtle reference to the Duke Ellington song, “Mood Indigo”.
Soon, the band obtained a London-based management company, ‘Ridgepride’, formed by ex-Decca A&R man Alex Murray (Alex Wharton), who helped them land a recording contract with Decca Records in the spring of 1964. They released a single, “Steal Your Heart Away” that year which made it onto the charts. But it was their second single, “Go Now” (released later that year), which really launched their career, being promoted on TV with one of the first purpose-made promotional films in the pop era, produced and directed by Wharton. The single became a hit in the United Kingdom (where it remains their only Number 1 single to date) and in the United States where it reached #10.
Denny Laine left The Moody Blues in 1966, well prior to hitting stardom. He then formed and toiled with a number of obscure bands through 1970. In 1971, Denny joined Paul McCartney to found the group known as Wings, and would stay with them for a full ten years until they officially disbanded in 1981; Denny provided lead & rhythm guitars, backing vocals, keyboards, bass, writing and co-writing skills, as well as being a solid solo performer. Together with Paul and his wife, Linda, they formed the nucleus of the band, being called that “strange, 3-winged beast”. It was with Wings that Denny enjoyed the biggest commercial and critical successes of his career, including co-writing the smash hit “Mull of Kintyre”.
Here are the early Moody Blues featuring Denny Laine as lead singer performing, Go Now.
Oh, what the heck, let’s have a triple feature with another performance from the Concert for Kampuchea.. The Concert for Kampuchea (subtitled “Rock for Kampuchea”) is a musical film from the best of the Concerts for the People of Kampuchea. The film was directed by Keith McMillan and was 4 nights of concerts in 1979 at Hammersmith Odeon to raise money for the victims of Pol Pot’s reign of terror in Cambodia. The event was organized by Paul McCartney and Kurt Waldheim (who was then Secretary-General of the U.N.), and it involved well-established artists such as McCartney, The Who and Queen as well as younger punk and new wave acts like The Clash and the Pretenders. The film finishes with the presentation of Wings’ Rockestra (more than 25 musicians playing together).
This is a video clip of Queen performing their song ’39.
This is a follow up to last night’s music byte. The Concert for Kampuchea (subtitled “Rock for Kampuchea”) is a musical film from the best of the Concerts for the People of Kampuchea. The film was directed by Keith McMillan and was 4 nights of concerts in 1979 at Hammersmith Odeon to raise money for the victims of Pol Pot’s reign of terror in Cambodia. The event was organized by Paul McCartney and Kurt Waldheim (who was then Secretary-General of the U.N.), and it involved well-established artists such as McCartney, The Who and Queen as well as younger punk and new wave acts like The Clash and the Pretenders. The film finishes with the presentation of Wings’ Rockestra (more than 25 musicians playing together).
This is a video clip of The Who performing their 1979 song Goodbye Sister Disco. The song appeared on their previous album, Who Are You which is notable for being the last album on which drummer, Keith Moon played prior to his untimely death. In the video clip, the drummer is Moon’s replacement, Kenny Jones.
The Concert for Kampuchea (subtitled “Rock for Kampuchea”) is a musical film from the best of the Concerts for the People of Kampuchea. The film was directed by Keith McMillan and was 4 nights of concerts in 1979 at Hammersmith Odeon to raise money for the victims of Pol Pot’s reign of terror in Cambodia. The event was organized by Paul McCartney and Kurt Waldheim (who was then Secretary-General of the U.N.), and it involved well-established artists such as McCartney, The Who and Queen as well as younger punk and new wave acts like The Clash and the Pretenders. The film finishes with the presentation of Wings’ Rockestra (more than 25 musicians playing together).
Rockestra was a Paul McCartney-led supergroup of at least thirty English rockers. The credited list appears at the bottom of the back cover of the LP. The name was first given to an assemblage of famous rock stars that were brought together by McCartney for the final Wings album, 1979’s Back to the Egg. The supergroup—which consisted of Wings, John Paul JonesJohn Bonham of Led Zeppelin, David Gilmour from Pink Floyd, Ronnie Lane of The Faces, Kenney Jones and Pete Townshend of The Who, and Hank Marvin of The Shadows—recorded two McCartney compositions, the instrumental “Rockestra Theme” and “So Glad to See You Here.”
McCartney and Kurt Waldheim re-assembled Rockestra for the concerts for the people of Cambodia (also known as Kampuchea), suffering from the reign of Pol Pot. This time, Rockestra consisted of, among others, Wings, John Paul Jones, John Bonham, Robert Plant, Rockpile, James Honeyman-Scott and Pete Townshend. Regarding the large assemblage of musicians at the concert and in the Rockestra ensemble, Pete Townsend of The Who said it best: “When Paul McCartney calls and asks you to participate in a charitable concert, no one on earth can say, no.”
This is a video clip of the Rockestra band palying the Rockestra Theme.
Tonight’s video clip is from the Beatles. In 1995 the band released both a video and audio anthology of unreleased material. Additionally however, the three living members, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr worked in the recording studio for the first time since the band a broke up in 1970 and produced a new Beatles song. Even more impressively, they actually utilized an unreleased demo tape of John Lennon’s and mixed it with their own contributions so as to create a truly new Beatles song with all four members playing thereon.
That was not all, however. The Beatles even released a new music video for the song which is truly amazing to behold. It looks just like the videos they released in 1967 for Strawberry Fields ForeverPenny Lane. It is mesmerizing to watch the melding of video footage of the band members meandering through a fantasy world reflecting their lives and song catalog. See how many clues to their earlier songs you can find in this video and have some fun.
There was some big news for Beatles fans this week. The entire Beatles album catalog (originally released on cd in 1987) has been remastered and re-released. The sound is incredible in that you can hear instruments that were previously inaudible on the older cd’s. To date, none of the Beatles’ music is available on Itunes or any other digital format so cd is the only way to get. Buy them. They are great.
Tonight’s music byte is from Ringo Starr shortly after the Beatles’ break-up. The song is titled, “Early 1970” and is quite autobiographical. Listen closely to the first three sections of lyrics and you will realize that Ringo is describing each of his former bandmates in the order of Paul McCartney, John Lennon and George Harrison. He does a good job of revealing his relationship with each of them in just a few short lines. He ends the song by implying that he would like to play with all of them together again. Unfortunately that never happened.