Author Archive: altrockchick

Desert Island Disks

Whenever I’m in town, I usually hook up with maman on Saturday afternoons for some mother-daughter jamming. We both play flute and piano, trading off so we both get practice on each instrument. We usually work on classical and jazz pieces, and sometimes we enlist my partner Alicia to provide cello support. When we delve into rock or folk music we’ll occasionally let my father join the party to accompany us on acoustic guitar. Over the past few months we’ve been working on piano-flute arrangements for Radiohead songs, as both maman and I find their music fascinating. My old fart father loathes Radiohead, so whenever we go there, he heads for one of the Irish pubs in Nice (yes, we have them) while maman and I get down to business.

A couple of weeks ago, maman and I were trying to work out an arrangement for “Daydreaming” from A Moon Shaped Pool. The piano part is pretty straightforward, so most of the work focused on the flute. Since maman is the more capable flutist, she experimented with various possibilities while I handled the ivories and gave feedback. We decided early on that once the melody was established, she would shift to a combination of double tonguing and whisper tones for her improvisations to reflect the gentle flow of the song and the orchestral feel of the album. While whisper tones are an absolute bitch for me, maman has the discipline and patience to pull them off. After a couple of hours we recorded a credible rendition on Garage Band with some beautifully quirky partials produced by the whisper tones.

Please note that the recording is for personal use only and cannot be distributed because we don’t want Radiohead to sue us.

Maman wanted to hear the original again before we quit for the day, and the album continued to spin while we discussed other possibilities for the piece. About thirty seconds into “Desert Island Disk,” Dad popped in.

“Great guitar—who is that?”

“It’s Radiohead, dude! Gotcha!”

Dad frowned. “I never said they didn’t have talent. I just don’t like the results.” He then paused to listen. “Okay, this song’s pretty good. Nice latin feel. What’s it called?”

“‘Desert Island Disk’.”

“So, what’s on Radiohead’s desert island disk?”

“They don’t say. The song’s about love, loss and change,” I explained, economically.

“Then why the title?”

“I don’t know. There’s a BBC programme where famous people pick eight songs, a book and a luxury they would take with them to a desert island. Maybe that got stuck in Thom Yorke’s head.”

“What does that have to do with love, loss and change?”

“I don’t know, dad—maybe it’s a riff on the getting a new start in life theme.”

“Hey! We ought to do that!”

“What? Get a new life? We just changed continents a few years ago!”

“No—come up with our desert island disks.”

I immediately liked the idea but had to change the rules. “There’s no fucking way I can live on a desert island with only eight songs. I’d go batty the first day and feed myself to the sharks.” It wasn’t difficult to get a family of music lovers to agree to an extended format, so after a lot of back-and-forth we agreed that we’d choose twenty albums. Then I pointed out a problem with the plan.

“There are some songs that are really important to me but I don’t want the whole album.”

“Okay—how many? Eight?”

“No, let’s go with classic British album format—fourteen.”

“No luxuries, no books?” asked maman.

“Okay—one book, one luxury. I’ll go with Ulysses and a vibrator.” As soon as I said that, I realized there was a fundamental flaw in the logic. “We can’t listen to music without electricity, and the batteries in my vibrator won’t last forever. Do we have to go to a desert island?”

Maman pointed out that since this was an exercise in fantasy, we could imagine an island with plenty of solar panels to keep the juice flowing. Sometimes the Spock side of me is really stupid.

Alicia came over later and agreed to participate. Maman put hers together in less than an hour. The rest of us struggled for days; I only finished mine this morning. Even with the expanded format, the process was agonizing. I don’t consider my list a “best of” list, but took into consideration the existential reality of being alone on a desert island, choosing music with long-lasting replay potential. Had I been allowed to bring my partner, the list would have been more fuck-friendly.

So here are my family’s desert island disks, supplemented with explanatory comments.

Moi

Albums:

  1. London Calling, The Clash
  2. Monk’s Dream, Thelonious Monk
  3. Kid A, Radiohead
  4. In Rainbows, Radiohead
  5. And Out Come the Wolves, Rancid
  6. The Complete Recordings, Robert Johnson
  7. Odessey and Oracle, The Zombies
  8. The Best of Louis Armstrong: The Hot Five and Hot Seven Recordings
  9. Love Deluxe, Sade
  10. Ultimate!, The Yardbirds
  11. A Hard Day’s Night, The Beatles
  12. Between the Buttons, The Rolling Stones
  13. Lola vs. The Powerman and the Money-Go-Round, The Kinks
  14. A Passion Play, Jethro Tull
  15. Hunky Dory, David Bowie
  16. The Best of Muddy Waters
  17. Clues, Robert Palmer
  18. Always, June Tabor
  19. Lady Day: The Best of Billie Holiday
  20. The Definitive Collection, Patsy Cline

Tracks:

  1. “Strawberry Fields Forever,” The Beatles
  2. “Don’t Mess with Me,” Brody Dalle
  3. “I Can’t Get Next to You,” The Temptations
  4. “Celluloid Heroes,” The Kinks
  5. “Only the Lonely,” Roy Orbison
  6. “Arms Aloft,” Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros
  7. “Let Down,” Radiohead
  8. “Codex,” Radiohead
  9. “Debaser,” Pixies
  10. “Beeswing,” Richard Thompson
  11. “The Party,” Phil Ochs
  12. “Hello, Susie,” The Move
  13. “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” The Rolling Stones
  14. “Severed Crossed Fingers,” St. Vincent

Comments: My list shouldn’t be much of a surprise to my readers. I really struggled choosing between Revolver and A Hard Day’s Night, but I thought I’d need upbeat energy without anyone around to fuck. The most difficult decision was leaving off “I Was Kaiser Bill’s Batman” by Whistling Jack Smith, but I figured I could whistle all by my lonesome. A year ago the St. Vincent album would have made the list but her latest release, Masseduction, was a crushing disappointment.

Dad

Albums:

  1. Revolver, The Beatles
  2. Sgt. Pepper, The Beatles
  3. Blonde on Blonde, Bob Dylan
  4. At Fillmore East, The Allman Brothers Band
  5. For Everyman, Jackson Browne
  6. Triangle, The Beau Brummels
  7. In My Life, Judy Collins
  8. Blue, Joni Mitchell
  9. Kind of Blue, Miles Davis
  10. Beggars Banquet, The Rolling Stones
  11. Muswell Hillbillies, The Kinks
  12. Trout Mask Replica, Captain Beefheart
  13. Aqualung, Jethro Tull
  14. Liege and Lief, Fairport Convention
  15. After the Gold Rush, Neil Young
  16. The 12 Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus, Spirit
  17. Are You Experienced?, Jimi Hendrix
  18. The Great Twenty-Eight, Chuck Berry
  19. Pleasures of the Harbor, Phil Ochs
  20. Surrealistic Pillow, Jefferson Airplane

Tracks

  1. “Hey Jude,” The Beatles
  2. “Ticket to Ride,” The Beatles
  3. “All Day and All of the Night,” The Kinks
  4. “Come See About Me,” The Supremes
  5. “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” The Tokens
  6. “She’s Not There,” The Zombies
  7. “Like a Rolling Stone,” Bob Dylan
  8. “As Tears Go By,” Marianne Faithfull
  9. “I Still Love You,” The Vejtables
  10. “19th Nervous Breakdown,” The Rolling Stones
  11. “Reach Out, I’ll Be There,” The Four Tops
  12. “End of the Line,” The Traveling Wilburys
  13. “O My Soul,” Big Star
  14. “Maybe I’m Amazed,” Paul McCartney

Comments: I could have identified 98% of the entries without breaking a sweat: Dad really doesn’t care all that much for music released after 1975. The only surprise was the lack of a Donovan track or album. “You’ve ruined him for me,” he explained, referring to my not-very-positive reviews. “And that is something for which you should be eternally grateful,” I replied.

Dad’s choice of book was Dostoyevsky’s The Devils, and his luxury a case of 2007 Heitz Cellars’ Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.

Maman

  1. Schubert, Symphony No. 9 (The Great), Wolfgang Sawallisch
  2. Masterpieces, The Duke Ellington Orchestra
  3. In the Court of the Crimson King, King Crimson
  4. Days of Future Passed, The Moody Blues
  5. Kid A, Radiohead
  6. A Love Supreme, John Coltrane
  7. Flute Concertos, Jean-Pierre Rampal
  8. Hejira, Joni Mitchell
  9. Rosa Mundi, June Tabor
  10. La Question, Françoise Hardy
  11. Dvorak, 8 Slavonic Dances, Rafael Kubelik
  12. Mahler, Symphony No. 9, Herbert von Karajan
  13. Boîte à Bonbons, Jacques Brel
  14. The Indispensable Django Reinhardt
  15. Platinum Collection, Edith Piaf
  16. Out to Lunch, Eric Dolphy
  17. The Golden Flute, Yusef Lateef
  18. Thick as a Brick, Jethro Tull
  19. Stand Up!, Jethro Tull
  20. The Art of Segovia, Andrés Segovia

Tracks

  1. “Question,” The Moody Blues
  2. “Comme un Garçon,” Sylvie Vartan
  3. “Que C’est Triste Venise,” Charles Azvanour
  4. “Billie Jean,” Michael Jackson
  5. “Lucky Man,” Emerson, Lake & Palmer
  6. “Pigs (Three Different Ones),” Pink Floyd
  7. “Eleanor Rigby,” The Beatles
  8. “Never Comes the Day,” The Moody Blues
  9. “Blue in Green,” Miles Davis
  10. “Japanese Folk Song,” Thelonious Monk
  11. “Si C’est Ça,” Françoise Hardy”
  12. “White Rabbit,” Jefferson Airplane
  13. “Inner City Blues,” Marvin Gaye
  14. “Me Ama Mô,” Simone

Comments: Maman’s collection will last the longest, as she included a few box sets. Clever girl! The one that really blew me away was “Billie Jean,” as I had no idea maman took Michael Jackson seriously or even liked him a little. “Thriller has some very inventive arrangements,” she said, trying to bullshit me. “Come on, maman, truth!” She gave me a stern look, then a smile started to crack the mask. “The music seizes my body and forces it to dance!” I promised her a review in the near future.

Her book is a collection of Maupassant short stories and she decided to take her pet Papillon along as her luxury.

Alicia

Albums

  1. Something Else, The Kinks
  2. Urban Hymns, The Verve
  3. To Bring You My Love, PJ Harvey
  4. Senderos de Traición, Héroes de Silencio
  5. OK Computer, Radiohead
  6. Rodrigo, Concierto Como un Divertimento, Julian Lloyd Webber
  7. Some Girls, The Rolling Stones
  8. Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, Arctic Monkeys
  9. A Night at the Opera, Queen
  10. Sam’s Town, The Killers
  11. You Could Have Said It So Much Better, Franz Ferdinand
  12. Love Deluxe, Sade
  13. Bach, Six Unaccompanied Cello Suites, Yo-Yo Ma
  14. Sea Change, Beck
  15. Rage Against the Machine, Rage Against the Machine
  16. Superunknown, Soundgarden
  17. The Argument, Fugazi
  18. And Justice for All, Metallica
  19. Get Your Wings, Aerosmith
  20. A Boy Named Goo, Goo Goo Dolls

Tracks

  1. “I’ll Never Find Another You,” The Seekers
  2. “Come As You Are,” Nirvana
  3. “Everlong,” Foo Fighters
  4. “Dream On,” Aerosmith
  5. “Hush,” Deep Purple
  6. “Angeline,” PJ Harvey
  7. “You Really Got Me,” The Kinks
  8. “Brand New Cadillac,” The Clash
  9. “White Wedding Pt. 1,” Billy Idol
  10. “Heroes,” David Bowie
  11. “Girl U Want,” Devo
  12. “The Best of Jill Hives,” Guided by Voices
  13. “Hide and Seek,” Imogen Heap
  14. “Bodysnatchers,” Radiohead

Comments: Although she plays classical cello beautifully and reveals to the world a consistently sunny disposition sweetened even further by excellent manners, her musical tastes triangulate around hard rock, progressive, metal and just fucking angry. I really didn’t take her seriously as a potential partner until she told me she likes her music rough and raucous. Alicia is much more into the early sounds of the 21st century than I am, but she has persuaded me to include a few of her favorite tracks on our fuck playlists. The attachment to early Kinks dates back to childhood; the Seekers’ tune and “Everlong” are “our songs.”

Alicia chose Story of O for her book and her favorite dildo (actually, it’s mine, since I’m the one who straps it on) as her luxury. She’s hoping to figure out a way to attach it to a palm tree and back in for some doggy-style memories.

Join the fun! Let’s hear about your Desert Island Disks!

Paul & Linda McCartney – Ram (Classic Music Review)

This will be my twenty-first and last review covering The Beatles and their solo careers.

I am so done with The Beatles.

More accurately, I am done with a hardy group of Baby Boomer males who have hounded me for years because I had the chutzpah to express my heartfelt opinion that both The White Album and Abbey Road suck.

Blasphemy! Burn the heretic! She wasn’t even there—what does she know? You can’t possibly understand what The Beatles meant unless you were there!

That perspective is so fucking stupid you’d think Trump invented it. Members of the generation who experienced the history are the least qualified people to evaluate that history. Every generation thinks their generation was the greatest gift to humanity, and the Baby Boomers are exceptionally prone to mythologizing. While there is no doubt that the rock music of the 60’s and early 70’s contained some of the finest and most lasting contributions to music history, that music was made by human beings, not gods, and all human beings are subject to hot and cold streaks. The Beatles were a great band for five or six years, then went into a noticeable decline during which their godlike status, not their music, sustained their popularity. They still bathed in the glow of mythology and its revenue-generating power during their solo careers, none of which produced much of lasting value.

Which brings us to Ram, a good-news/bad-news album if there ever was one.

Let’s start with the good news: Paul McCartney has rarely sounded more exuberant than he does on Ram. With Linda’s emotional support, he found his way through the darkness occasioned by the collapse of The Beatles and shed all traces of depression and disorientation that marked his first solo effort. On Ram, he sounds positively thrilled to embark on a new, independent musical adventure, as is evident in the unbridled energy he displays throughout the record and the blessed return of his sense of humor. His melodic gifts remain intact, he sings as well as he ever did and he’s still one hell of a bass player.

The bad news: exuberance often occasions a lack of discipline and judgment. We have all experienced this phenomenon in our personal lives when we get too drunk or too horny and wind up doing dumb things we regret. The thing about Ram is that Paul did a lot of dumb things that he should have regretted but instead wound up using the dumb things to create the template for his solo career. That’s the really bad news: Ram turned out to be the incubator for later crap like “Silly Love Songs” and “My Love.” Add to that the generally weak and sometimes nonsensical lyrics and there’s a lot about Ram not to like.

Note that I did not include the presence of Linda McCartney in either the good news or bad news. She’s not much of a vocalist, but at least she hits the notes. Having said that, there is always a temptation to compare the relative contributions of Beatle wives, but the last thing I want to get into here is the whole John-Paul public brouhaha that in many ways was more classless than the tiresome spats involving the Gallagher brothers.

Unfortunately, the song that John uses as evidence for his “I didn’t start it–he started it!” argument opens the album. Sigh.

If you leave the nonsense out of the discussion, “Too Many People” is a pretty strong opening cut. McCartney’s vocal is outstanding, spanning the range from full-throated, growling oomph to sweet soprano. His bass part is thumpingly energetic, adding significantly to the strong forward movement. Hugh McCracken’s lead guitar solo is very impressive, and Linda’s supporting vocals are her strongest on the album. What’s not to like?

All the nanny-nanny poo-poo shit, of course.

The confirmed attacks on John and Yoko (the ones McCartney owned up to) involved the lines, “Too many people preaching practices,” and “You took your lucky break and broke it in two.” Other somewhat credible suspects include:

  • The “cake lines.” These include the opening, “Piss off, cake” and “Too many reaching for a piece of cake.” Both are references to the well-publicized act described in “The Balllad of John and Yoko” where the two honeymooning lovebirds found themselves in Vienna, “eating chocolate cake in a bag.”
  • “Too many people going underground,” is allegedly based on John and Yoko’s shared perception of themselves as leaders of an amorphous worldwide underground movement that was going to achieve world peace through billboards and bed-ins.

John also thought “Dear Boy” and “Back Seat of My Car” were about him (ridiculous), and some sources say that John and Yoko saw the whole album as an attack on them, which has about as much credibility as John’s assertion that Yoko was one of the greatest artists to ever grace the planet. The silliness didn’t end with John, unfortunately. George and Ringo thought “3 Legs” (coming up next) was an attack on them and Mr. Lennon, a splash of lingering spite left over from the argument concerning the selection of  The Beatles’ business manager.

Putting all the pettiness aside, the most important lines in the song are the closing lines to the third verse:

Too many people holding back
This is crazy, and baby, it’s not like me

That is Paul McCartney’s statement of liberation from the chains of depression. He’s telling us he’s not going to hold back anymore; he’s going to be himself and doesn’t give a rat’s ass if anyone thinks he’s a bourgeois bore. I think he’s right in one respect—holding back is crazy from a personal perspective. You have to be yourself regardless of consequences; otherwise, what’s the fucking point of living? However, the creation of art involves creating some kind of aesthetic distance from the subject matter, for without that shift in perspective, the personal remains personal instead of universal. What happens too often on Ram is McCartney follows his undisciplined impulses, and without a Lennon or George Martin around to whack him upside the head, what we get sometimes is pure self-indulgence.

“3 Legs” is a good example. The answer to the question, “What the fuck was he thinking on ‘3 Legs’?” is pretty obvious: he wasn’t. The lyrics are terrible, the music is an insult to every credible blues performer who ever lived and the attempt to spice up the dullness with vocal patches and tempo changes fails to achieve the desired effect. It’s followed by the equally awful sort-of-title-track, “Ram On,” another piece of total nonsense with only one redeeming quality—it allowed Paul to get acquainted with the ukulele, a skill he would apply some thirty-odd years later with grace and class when performing “Something” in a touching tribute to George Harrison.

“Dear Boy” is a definite upgrade, with McCartney displaying his still impressive talent for melody and harmony. I have to say that I strongly prefer the mono mix of this song, as the stereo version leaves Paul’s lead vocal and the Linda-Paul background vocals competing for attention. A YouTube comment by a gentleman by the name of Gene Stewart described the song as a “Wonderful, elegant Fuck You song,” and I have to agree. The lyrics express his appreciation for Linda’s presence in his life through a message to her ex, a pretty odd way to express appreciation, but not uncommon with competitive males. While the lyrics don’t exactly knock me out, they do form a coherent story, which is more than we can say about the two preceding tracks and the one to follow.

That next track demanded a conversation with my father:

ME: Dad! “Uncle Albert!” What the fuck?

DAD: I assume you mean “How did ‘Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey’ make it to the top of the charts?”

ME: Yeah! The Grammy I get—Grammy voters have always been stupid. But why on earth did people flock to the record shops and pay money for this . . . this . . .

DAD: Wow. My daughter at a loss for words. Never thought I’d see the day . . .

ME: I’m baffled, befuddled and bewildered. What happened?

DAD: It’s pretty simple. “Uncle Albert” was the one that sounded most like The Beatles at their peak—it had the harmonies, it had the joy, it had the humor. I know you don’t care for the suite on Abbey Road, but for a lot of people, that was their favorite part of the album.

ME: But . . . just think about that one line—“Hand across the water/Heads across the sky.” What?

DAD: I know you hate to hear “you weren’t there,” but there is some validity to that statement in one sense. For those of us who grew up with The Beatles, losing them was like a death in the family, and you know the first stage in processing grief is denial. I think we were all in denial about it, but for several years after they broke up, just hearing one of their voices was very, very comforting—the dream was still alive. “Uncle Albert” was the closest thing we’d heard to that magical sound, and I don’t think anyone bothered to pay attention to the lyrics, even when they were singing along.

Similar to the suite on Abbey Road, “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” is pieced together from unfinished fragments of songs. The “Admiral Halsey” piece is clearly a throwaway, but McCartney had something there with the story of the boring old uncle who inspired everyone in the family to avoid his presence at any cost. The chords to the “Uncle Albert” segment are quite clever, with a nifty half-step resolution to the D major root. Sadly, he never finished it, tacking on an absurd bit about an American admiral, an exhortation to the listening audience to discover their inner gypsies and the faux thrill of “Hand across the water/Heads across the sky.” An author by the name of Andrew Grant Jackson interpreted the song to be a quite coherent tale related to The Beatles’ breakup, but on closer examination his explanation makes about as much sense as the “Paul is dead” conspiracy theory.

Side one ends with a song that I will defend to my death, the seriously exuberant “Smile Away.” Why does this one make the cut while other exuberant songs on the album miss the mark? First, it’s Paul McCartney rocking as hard as he had in years, and when McCartney has the fire on high, he’s fucking awesome. Second, and probably even more important, it’s Paul McCartney poking fun at himself, placing himself in the unlikely role of total loser, the guy who desperately needs a shower, a SonicCare and a fresh bottle of Listerine. In the context of a guy recovering from depression, the ability to laugh at oneself is a huge sign that recovery is moving full steam ahead. I love McCartney’s Elvis/Lady Madonna voice, and when he adds roughness to it during the fade it knocks me out every fucking time. Great guitar, great bass, solid Americanized fifties background vocals from Linda—love it!

Side two brings us to “Heart of the Country.” Jon Landau of Rolling Stone thought it was the low point of the album; Stephen Erlewine of AllMusic gushed over its arrangement and claimed that it ranked among McCartney’s very best songs. I find it dull, duller and dullest, but if there’s one song on Ram that tells you where McCartney will be headed in the future, it’s “Heart of the Country”—inoffensive, not unpleasant, but hardly engaging.

On a spectrum all by itself we have “Monkberry Moon Delight.” There are three major interpretive theories about this piece:

  • The song is an attempt by the authors (Paul and Linda) at surrealistic poetry.
  • The song is the evil twin of “Glass Onion,” poking fun at Beatle freaks who dive deep for meaning and come up gasping for air.
  • Paul and Linda were stoned out of their fucking minds.

I don’t buy the surrealistic argument—this was written years after the brief period surrounding Revolver when McCartney spent his free time hobnobbing with the avant-garde. I also don’t buy the “Glass Onion” connection, an argument that weirdly validates the content of “Glass Onion.” No, I’m going with “stoned out of their fucking minds,” because when I listen to it straight—and by that I mean “not under the influence of cannabis or hashish”—I feel like I’m hearing people laughing at one of those funny things that are only funny when you’re high. As I was unable to score any weed before writing this review, I’m going to give “Monkberry Moon Delight” a pass until I can confirm my theory.

Shit. If I’d monetized the blog, I could have deducted the weed as a business expense. Oh, well.

 

Ringo and George liked the next tune, “Eat at Home,” a Buddy Holly-esque rocker that allows McCartney to reconnect with his teenage self. I think the song would have been a good fit in the back-to-basics operating mode of Let it Be/Get Back, but nothing could have saved that turkey, and given all the bad juju in the studio back then, I don’t think Paul would have given it half the energy he does here. Overall it’s a plus, but nothing that knocks my socks off.

McCartney got one thing right on “Long-Haired Lady”—the first word. Man, this sucker is long. It seems to go on forever. The best part of the song comes early, when Linda gets a little snarky on the line “Or is this the only thing you want me for?” After that, you can lift the needle at any time. You may want to skip the next track, too, a pointless reprise of “Ram On.” I have no idea why McCartney bothered to reprise this piece of nothingness unless he was trying to duplicate the reprise trick made famous on Sgt. Pepper. That reprise was the perfect way to introduce one of the great songs in rock history; this reprise does come before one of the best songs on the album but it does nothing to heighten your sense of anticipation like the Sgt. Pepper piece. In that sense, the reappearance of “Ram On” only provides evidence about how far we have fallen.

Lucky for us, McCartney makes a last-minute save with “The Back Seat of My Car,” a song that owes a deep debt to Brian Wilson. The rising falsetto passages are pure Beach Boys, and there’s nothing wrong with imitation if it is delivered with deep admiration, as McCartney does here. For teenagers of that era (especially American teenagers, who had much easier access to family wheels), the back seat of the car was the place where you could snuggle up with your honey, share the feelings and thoughts you’d never share with mom and dad, and, if magic was in the air, find yourself a candidate for a statutory rape charge. McCartney isn’t so much concerned with the snogging aspect of the back seat as he is with its status as a safe haven from the buffeting winds of the generational divide:

Speed along the highway,
Honey, I want it my way
But listen to her daddy’s song—
“Don’t stay out too long.”
We’re just busy hidin’, sitting the back seat of my car.
The laser lights are pretty
We may end up in Mexico City
But listen to her daddy’s song—
“Making love is wrong.”

I’ve always been amazed at the thickness of parents of the era as depicted in movies, music and television—they seemed to believe that parenting had everything to do with “Thou shalt nots” instead of encouraging kids to talk about their feelings and help them think through the upsides and downsides of a desired course of action. Because the parents were engaged in many of the activities they told their kids not to do (smoking, drinking, fucking), the “Thou shalt nots” inevitably led to valid accusations of hypocrisy. “Because I said so” didn’t cut it with a better-educated, skeptical generation of teens. The complete deafness on one side led to both sides taking the posture, “We believe that we can’t be wrong,” hence the Generational Divide.

The arrangement is easily the best on the album, a well-balanced mix of orchestral and rock conventions, diverse tempos and strong vocals (especially the low-octave pairing on “But listen to her daddy’s song”). “Back Seat of My Car” was apparently a late-stage possibility for Let It Be/Get Back, but it would have been wasted on that not-much-of-an effort. Here it allows McCartney to finish strong and give fans some encouragement for the future.

As history shows, though, ever-hopeful McCartney fans were in for some serious disappointment if they bought the first Wings album. My passionate-defender-of-all-things-Beatles father listened to Wild Life once, slipped it back in its sleeve and traded it in for the new Badfinger album, a definite (if ironic) upgrade.

Ram was not received well by critics of its day, but lately it has gone through a reappraisal, resulting in more favorable reviews. The Monkees recently experienced a similar reappraisal, demonstrating only that Baby Boomers can’t let go of the 60’s, and even if they have to scrape the bottom of the barrel, they cling to the belief that any music that came out during their salad days has to be better than Radiohead, even the fucking Monkees. My take is that Ram has a few good songs on it but if this album had been released by a nobody, not too many people would have bothered to listen.

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