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12 Signs You’ve Sought Redemption Through the Religion of Pop

Sunday, July 20th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Pop culture has become as much of a religious powerhouse as Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism or any other faith. Don’t believe me? Sit in a college classroom. Better yet, attend a fan convention or simply rent the film Trekkies. Films, shows, bands, comic books and their like have become, for some, sources of spiritual nourishment. Do you feel the power?

12. What was once DVR-able is now weekly appointment television.

“Appointment TV” doesn’t begin to describe your weekly ritual. All pressing engagements are pushed aside, phones are silenced, and ritual food is laid out on the coffee table to be partaken in as the ceremony commences. You still DVR the show for good measure, being sure to re-watch at least once, if not multiple times in deep study so that you may discuss the meanings of both text and subtext with fellow fans.

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9 Essential Paul McCartney Music Videos

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg
Paul McCartney has had an affinity for filmmaking since shooting A Hard Day’s Night in 1964. The Beatles were the first band to play around with the idea of music videos. Filming a performance was easier than touring; getting artsy with their films was better yet. Beginning with the BeatlesMcCartney’s career chronicles some of the best, worst, and more bizarre in music video history. In honor of the release of Appreciate, here are 9 picks highlighting McCartney’s most adventurous takes in the world of music videos.

1. “Your Mother Should Know” (1967)

From Magical Mystery Tour, this is Macca’s foray into the 1920s. If the song seems odd, check out John Lennon’s face in the opening sequence. You can almost hear him thinking: “Paul, are you kidding me with this crap?” But, they all toked up and bit the bullet for Paul’s attempt to keep the band unified in the wake of Brian Epstein’s accidental overdose, memorializing for all time the image of four raggy hippie dudes dancing badly in white tails.

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Paul McCartney’s New Video Aims at #GenerationHashtag

Saturday, May 17th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

You don’t normally think “cultural commentary” when you watch a Paul McCartney video. But, with his latest video release for the song Appreciate, the septuagenarian King of Rock continues to pull new tricks from up his sleeve. This time, a catchy song and dance number transcends the usual McCartney fantasyland, providing some smart commentary on human culture in an increasingly technological environment. In McCartney’s museum, the humans doing everyday things are the displays to be studied by a robot known as “Newman”. An artistic interpretation of left and right brain segments is displayed as McCartney walks this New Man (get it?)  through the exhibit, counselling him on human behavior and how to groove. By the end of the video, even the humans are getting into the act, dropping their technological fancies in favor of dancing to the beat.

The robot itself shouldn’t come as a surprise to hardcore McCartney fans. Back in October, when he graced the cover of Rolling Stone McCartney commented on visions of a robot, possibly influenced by one of his favorite stories shared with his 10 year old daughter, Beatrice, is The Iron Giant. In press for the video’s release, McCartney commented:

“I woke up one morning with an image in my head of me standing with a large robot. I thought it might be something that could be used for the cover of my album ‘NEW,’ but instead the idea turned out to be for my music video for ‘Appreciate’. Together with the people who had done the puppetry for the worldwide hit ‘War Horse,’ we developed the robot who became Newman.”

Having developed a keen interest in filmmaking when he was still one of the Beatles, McCartney has come a long way with his films from his first directorial foray, 1967′s Magical Mystery Tour. Far from the acid-induced country bus tour, Appreciate provides an up-tempo perspective on the 21st century from the guy who, not long ago, was singing about his Ever Present Past.

Yet it isn’t Microsoft that’s keeping Macca relevant among Generation Hashtag; cultural commentary aside, McCartney still knows how to rock a beat. Dubbed a “remarkable album” by POPMatters, NEW was ranked the 4th best album of 2013 by Rolling Stone. Transcending the pop fluff that perpetuated so many of his hits in the 70′s and 80′s, McCartney has entered a new era as much motivated by experimentation as reflection.

McCartney is set to tour with Newman in Japan. Perhaps a Godzilla mashup is already in the works.

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Another Great Beatles Cover By Request: Grant Green, ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Music at Midnight

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Here’s a really cool instrumental jazz take on “I Want To Hold Your Hand” by guitarist Grant Green, courtesy of my friend, PJ Lifestyle’s own Susan L.M. Goldberg

If you want to submit a song for PJ Lifestyle Music at Midnight, hit me up at pjlmusicatmidnight@gmail.com. Your requests don’t have to fit into any theme – we just love great music, so keep those requests coming!

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The Best Beatles Covers: The Mamas & The Papas, ‘I Call Your Name’

Saturday, February 15th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Music at Midnight

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Over the past few days we’ve been looking at some of the best Beatles cover tunes. That’s because 50 years ago this week, the Beatles first appeared in New York City, ushering Beatlemania in the USA.

Some covers of Beatles songs actually came out while the Beatles were at the height of their career. The Mamas & The Papas recorded their version of “I Call Your Name” on their seminal debut, If You Can Believe Your Eyes And Ears. While the Beatles’ version was a ska-influenced rocker, Mama Cass and company gave the song a Vaudeville treatment. Here’s a recording from the Monterrey Pop Festival.

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The Best Beatles Covers: Susan Ashton & Gary Chapman, ‘In My Life’

Friday, February 14th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Music at Midnight

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Fifty years ago this week, the Beatles first appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. This week, we’re saluting that anniversary by checking out some of the best covers of Beatles classics.

In 1995, Liberty Records released a compilation entitled Come Together: America Salutes The Beatles. They may as well have called it Nashville Salutes The Beatles, as the album’s artists came from the world of country and Contemporary Christian music. Christian singers Susan Ashton and Gary Chapman teamed up to give “In My Life” a pleasant country sheen.

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The Best Beatles Covers: Mae, ‘A Day In The Life’

Thursday, February 13th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Music at Midnight

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This week, we’re looking at some of the best Beatles covers out there, as we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ first appearance in the States.

Virginia-based rock band Mae released their version of “A Day In The Life” in 2007, and they stayed faithful to the original.

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The Best Beatles Covers: Peter Mayer, ‘Blackbird’

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Music at Midnight

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To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, we’re looking at some great cover versions of Beatles songs.

On his 2009 album Goodbye Hello, singer-songwriter Peter Mayer put his own spin on a collection of Beatles classics. His version of “Blackbird” shows off his virtuoso guitar skills and his amazing voice.

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Fifth Beatle Brian Epstein’s Unsung Revolution

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Gay at a time when homosexuality was a felony and Jewish in an era of “polite” antisemitism, one Liverpool lad broke into entertainment management at a time when the Anglo Lords in London ruled the biz. 50 years later the music world is only beginning to acknowledge that there’d be no Beatles without their manager, Brian Epstein.

This past weekend, Vivek Tiwary, the Gen-X producer that brought Green Day’s American Idiot to Broadway, spoke to an enthusiastic crowd at The Fest for Beatles Fans about his mission to bring Epstein’s little known story to life via a critically acclaimed graphic novel, The Fifth Beatlereleased by Dark Horse Comics.

What I unearthed after much difficult research (there is a paltry amount of information readily available on Brian, which is part of why I want to bring his story to the world) was not just an inspirational business story and a blueprint for what I wanted to accomplish with my career, but also a very human story, as summarized above. It’s a story I could relate to—and wanted to relate to—on so many levels. Brian became my “historical mentor”, if you will. A person from whose history I’ve tried to learn from—both what to do and what NOT to do. Brian was certainly a flawed and imperfect hero, but a hero all the same.

Tiwary has drawn inspiration from Epstein’s trailblazing ingenuity, citing that without Epstein’s persistence, Ed Sullivan never would have brought The Beatles to America. “People scoffed when I brought Sean Combs to Broadway in A Raisin in the Sun because they didn’t believe that Broadway attracted a black audience. I told them that was ridiculous; if we gave them a product they wanted, they would come.” Like Epstein decades before, Tiwary’s was a winning gamble.

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What Are Your Top 5 Favorite Beatles Albums?

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Daily Question

PJ Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle offers his five picks to get the debate going. This is presented in order counting down to favorite, with favorite tracks offered. Agree? Disagree?

5. Rubber Soul

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The Best Beatles Covers: Gomez, ‘Getting Better’

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Music at Midnight

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As the world looks back on the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, we’re taking some of the best Beatles covers out for a spin.

On their 2000 release Abandoned Shopping Trolley Hotline, British band Gomez included a cover of “Getting Better,” which features the smoky vocals of Ben Ottewell. The Philips corporation used a snippet of this one in a series of commercials several years ago.

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A Day in the Life of the Fest for Beatles Fans 2014

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Beatles-themed sensory overload: That is how to describe The Fest for Beatles Fans in New York City, held from February 7-9 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Fab Four’s appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. What’s it like roaming a Fest that fills four floors of a New York hotel with musicians, historians, artists, authors, yogis, meditators, the famous and well over 8,000 fans from 40-odd states and five continents? Take a look at a day in the life of The Fest.

Awesome Beatles historian Bruce Spizer and the moron at Capitol who kept turning down The Fab Four's early hits. "Harmonica-Americans don't listen to harmonica." #NYCFEST14

Beatles author and historian Bruce Spizer opened Saturday with a presentation on how the Beatles conquered America, no thanks to Dave Dexter, Jr., the Capitol Records guy who rejected hits like ”Love Me Do” and “Please Please Me” because they had “too much harmonica.”

Dear Prudence Farrow talks India, the Maharishi and TM #NYCFEST14

Dear Prudence Farrow spoke about her spiritual journey in India with the Maharishi and the Beatles before leading an introductory transcendental meditation session. The room, dubbed the Ashram for the occasion, was so packed that more chairs had to be brought in for the standing room only crowd.

The line to see Good Ol'Freda #nycfest14

Good Ol’Freda Kelly, secretary to Brian Epstein, manager of the Beatles, and president of the original Beatles fan club, is signing autographs! Quick, get in line!

Good Ol'Freda! #NYCFEST14

Still down to earth after all these years, Freda hates being the center of attention but enjoys being with the fans. Her grandson, a toddler, was happily drawing next to her. “Would you like Nile’s autograph?” she casually asked, to which I happily agreed. Good Ol’Freda is the Queen of Beatles Fans: regal, royal, lovely. Her documentary Good Ol’ Freda is a must-watch.

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The Best Beatles Covers: Rufus Wainwright, ‘Across The Universe’

Monday, February 10th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Music at Midnight

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In honor of five decades of the Beatles’ influence on America’s music, we’re looking at some of the best covers of the Beatles’ songs.

On his 2001 album Poses, singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright covered “Across The Universe.” I have to admit: I wasn’t crazy about this song until I heard this version, with its layered harmonies and acoustic pop drive.

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The Best Beatles Covers: Peter Mayer & Nadirah Shakoor, ‘We Can Work It Out’

Sunday, February 9th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Music at Midnight

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This week, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ debut on American shores, we’re taking a look at some of the best Beatles cover tunes.

Peter Mayer has played guitar and sang in Jimmy Buffett’s Coral Reefer Band for 25 years, but his solo music blends folk, pop, and jazz in some truly unique ways. In 2009, Mayer recorded an album of Beatles covers entitled Goodbye Hello. On this album, he took “We Can Work It Out” and turned it into a duet with Nadirah Shakoor, also of the Coral Reefers and formerly with Arrested Development.

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How Were You Impacted by the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show?

Sunday, February 9th, 2014 - by Myra Adams

Fifty years ago tonight, as a nine-year-old girl living in a Boston suburb, I — along with 73 million Americans — watched the Beatles perform on the popular Ed Sullivan Show.

After watching I knew (as much as a nine year old was capable of knowing) that I had witnessed a MAJOR cultural and historic event.

How did I know this?

How could I NOT have known?

President John F. Kennedy famously said in his 1961 inaugural speech that “the torch has been passed to a new generation,” and on that night the Beatles became the musical torch.

Upon the show’s conclusion, I distinctly recall my father saying with complete confidence that “the Beatles are just a passing fad.”

His prediction was totally expected from someone born in 1922, but I knew otherwise. For the Beatles had a sound that was so unique, engaging, modern, young, hip and vibrant, I knew right then that my world was going to be radically different from that of my parents.

Sunday, February 9, 1964, was when a “cultural earth mover” began digging the divide that would later be called “the generation gap.”

Monday on the school bus my friends and I yelled Beatles’ songs out the window. When we arrived in our third-grade classroom there was talk of nothing else. How could there be when clearly something monumental had happened the night before?

All of us were emotionally affected but not capable of articulating exactly what happened. All I remember talking about with my friends was which of the four Beatles was the “cutest,” but instinctively we knew it went much deeper.

Now, viewing the Beatles’ performance through a 50-year historical, musical, cultural and celebratory lens, I ask myself, “Was I exaggerating the importance of the evening?”

That question demanded answers. Fortunately, “valid” scientific research was just an email away and about to be provided by a good friend.

My friend was also born in 1955, just a month before me. (He is well-known in media circles and asked that his name be withheld.)

Furthermore, he grew up clear across the country from where I was in Boston. So, for all those reasons, I was keenly interested in comparing our impressions, which I’ll do on the next page.

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Paul, George, Ringo & the Prophet John

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

The Beatles Generation in the #USSR #socialism #music #beatles

As the world mourned the loss of Soviet evangelist Pete Seeger last week, I encountered stories of real Soviets who found God, not in the hammer and sickle of the USSR, but in the smuggled bootleg lyrics of the Beatles.

How the Beatles Rocked the Kremlin is a fascinating narrative detailing Soviet Baby Boomers’ covert love affair with the Fab Four. Interviewing a variety of Russian Beatlemaniacs, including many post-Communist music scene movers and shakers, over the course of nearly two decades, British filmmaker Leslie Woodhead discovered that The Beatles were much more than a band in the U.S.S.R. For many Soviet teens, The Beatles were a glimpse at independence, freedom, and even God.

The idea that a rock and roll band could provoke the understanding of the intertwining of God and freedom, let alone inspire a search for the divine, is one that is largely lost on an American audience. After all, as Soviet teens risked Kremlin hellfire to listen to Beatles tracks, their American counterparts in the Bible Belt were throwing their records on bonfires, forced by a religious hierarchy that saw John Lennon and his band as a threat to Christ. Rock music then became the stuff of hippies, the class that scoffed at religious institutions and, like The Beatles, sought divine encounters and self-empowerment through eastern religions.

Arguably, the advocates of Beatles burnings did more to harm Christ’s reputation and following than John Lennon ever could. After all, as he explained, his ironic quip about Jesus was more of a warning than a declaration:

“I’m not anti-God, anti-Christ or anti-religion. I was not saying we are greater or better. I believe in God, but not as one thing, not as an old man in the sky. I’m sorry I said it, really. I never meant it to be a lousy anti-religious thing. From what I’ve read, or observed, Christianity just seems to be shrinking, to be losing contact.”

Ironically, it’s a warning that post-Soviet leaders like Vladimir Putin have heeded with their own political purposes in mind.

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4 Quick Observations from the Grammy Awards

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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I almost didn’t watch the Grammy Awards. The last few years, I’ve debated watching — largely because my music tastes have become less mainstream over the years but for other reasons as well. But, since I’m a sucker for the awards themselves, I wound up watching Sunday night’s ceremony. I walked away from the telecast with these four quick observations:

1. Beatlemania Is Alive and Well.

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The 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ arrival on U.S. shores takes place next week, and it’s clear that Beatlemania is still a force to reckon with. Ringo Starr performed “Photograph,” and he sounded pretty good. Paul McCartney performed “Queenie Pie,” a quirky, Beatlesque song off his new album, with Ringo on drums. Additionally, Sir Paul picked up a pair of awards at the ceremony. CBS will air a special on February 9 to commemorate the 50th anniversary. As a longtime fan, all this Beatles love makes me happy.

2. Daft Punk’s Costume Shtick Doesn’t Translate Well to an Awards Show.

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French Electronic duo Daft Punk picked up four trophies, including the the two biggest prizes: Record of the Year and Album of the Year. They took the stage three times to accept awards and once to perform. The group is famous for their costumed performances, part of their attempts to maintain their anonymity (which I understand), but their futuristic robot getup didn’t work so well on the awards show stage.

Each time they entered the stage after a win, one of the featured performers had to give a speech for them. Each one began with, “I guess the robots wanted me to say…” The speeches were some of the most surreal moments of the night (even in light of Katy Perry’s performance.)

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The Religion of Beatlemania Still Going Strong

Sunday, January 26th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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America is celebrating The Beatles’ Jubilee. 50 years ago this year The Fab Four landed on this side of the Atlantic and the ’60s officially began. (At least, that is, according to PBS.) With the announcement that Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, the two surviving Beatles, will reunite at the Grammys on January 26 and perform a concert to air on February 9, 50 years to the day of their Ed Sullivan premiere, it would seem that Beatlemania (unlike much of organized religion) is making a resurgence in pop culture. Think the Fab Four are so yesterday? Think again:

A 2009 Pew Research Center survey placed the Beatles in the top four favorite music acts of Americans ages 16 to 64 — suggesting the band that helped create the 1960s Generation Gap ultimately helped us come together. Perhaps that’s the Beatles’ greatest gift: music that can be shared not only across the universe, but across generational lines.

Imagine a mathematician trying to quantify each Beatles’ album with Martha Stewart-like graphics. Wait, you don’t have to, just check out one Millennial’s  4 Simple Charts Visualizing The Beatles’ Major Albums and you’ll find out that The Beatles aren’t just for rock n’rollers, they’re for nerds, too. ”A new project on Kickstarter aims to tap into the passion of teenyboppers young and old withVisualising the Beatles, a book of infographics about each of the Fab Four’s major records.” Seriously: If that doesn’t make you want to start a Revolution, nothing will.

Huff Po details A Comprehensive Guide to The Beatles’ Invasion of Comic Culture for Millennial comic fans:

“Thanks to a book by Enzo Gentile and Fabio Schiavo, appropriately titled “The Beatles in Comic Strips,” we’ve been enlightened on the Fab Four’s history of comic book appearances. From subtle cameos to entire issues, the group managed to squeeze their iconic faces and psychedelic style into more than a few works of comic art.”

In March, Vans will release four pairs of Beatles-themed shoes for their Millennial audience:

“The most expensive of the bunch, the Sk8-Hi Reissue, features stylized portraits of all four Beatles running up the ankles apropos to cartoon portraits of each as they were animated for the film. The other shoes each feature psychedelic tableaus from the film. The Classic Slip-Ons play off the movie’s Sea of Monsters, showing trippy marine life swimming in an ocean of pink. The Era shoes depict all four band members, some wearing rainbow pants, hanging out in a yellow garden. And the final pair, a model called Authentic, is adorned with a pattern that reads “Allyouneedislove” running over and over again and into itself in purple, yellow and green.”

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6 Degrees of Separation: Phil Everly to Llewyn Davis

Saturday, January 4th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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1. There once was a black country blues guitarist named Arnold Schultz. Originally from Kentucky, Schultz was a travelling laborer who had a huge impact on American blues music during his short life.

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2. Schultz taught this guy, Ike Everly, a unique thumb-picking guitar style native to Western Kentucky.

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3. Ike Everly taught this style to his neighbor and fellow coal miner Merle Travis.

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4. Ike Everly would bring his sons, Don and Phil, into the family band. They’d grow up to form the famous American music group, the Everly Brothers. The Everly Brothers would go on to influence many musicians, including the Beatles. It is said that the harmonies in one of the Beatles’ first hits, Please Please Me, were inspired by the fraternal duo.

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5. Merle Travis would go on to become a famous country and western musician, popularizing that fingerpicking style his neighbor Ike Everly taught him so much that it became known as Travis Picking.

 

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6. Travis Picking is the style of guitar playing featured in the latest Coen Brothers release, Inside Llewyn Davis.

So, as we remember the life and legacy of Phil Everly and the Everly Brothers

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We should celebrate the gift of American music

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Without which the Beatles would not have existed

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And we’d be forced to jam to techno-pop

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Instead of those awesome Hillbilly tunes.

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What Role Did Walt Disney World Play in the Breakup of the Beatles?

Thursday, December 19th, 2013 - by Chris Queen

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Thousands of people spend their Christmas vacation at Walt Disney World each year. Nearly 40 years ago, one of those vacationers was John Lennon – and that trip included a historic event.

In 1974, John was in the midst of his 14 month separation from Yoko Ono – a period he called his “Lost Weekend” – and he decided on a whim to take son Julian and assistant/girlfriend May Pang to the Magic Kingdom. He booked a room at the Polynesian Village Hotel, now called Disney’s Polynesian Resort.

Meanwhile, in London and New York, attorneys had finally put the finishing touches on the contractual paperwork that would solidify the Beatles’ breakup. The contract was four years in the making, and the other three Beatles were ready to sign.

After years of red tape and millions of dollars spent, the official dissolution papers were drawn up and ready to be signed off on at the Plaza Hotel in New York in 1974. George and Paul had arranged to fly in and be present, while Ringo signed the necessary documents at an earlier time, while still in England.

So as George, Paul, Apple lawyers and business managers grouped around a large table to dissolve the partnership, Ringo was on the phone to confirm that he was alive. Meanwhile, everyone in the room was curious about John’s whereabouts. This seemed especially ironic, given Lennon lived within walking distance of the Plaza Hotel.

The attorneys furiously worked to determine John’s whereabouts. May Pang picks up the story:

On December 29, 1974, the voluminous documents were brought down to John in Florida by one of Apple’s lawyers.

“Take out your camera,” he joked to me. Then he called Harold to go over some final points.

When John hung up the phone, he looked wistfully out the window. I could almost see him replaying the entire Beatles experience in his mind.

He finally picked up his pen and, in the unlikely backdrop of the Polynesian Village Hotel at Disney World, ended the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band in history by simply scrawling John Lennon at the bottom of the page.

And that’s how Walt Disney World bore witness to rock history.

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Technology & the Vertical Caveat in Generational Theory

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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When I turned 16 I had a choice: A Sweet Sixteen Party or a trip to London. Unlike the rest of my peers I chose the latter. Not for the Spice Girls, but for the Beatles. I had spent the past year and a half papering my walls with photocopies my Dad would make on his lunch hour from books I’d checked out of the library. While most of my fellow classmates were crying along with Jewel, I was blasting the likes of The Supremes, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, and the Mamas and the Papas. Backstreet Boys versus NSYNC lunchroom arguments baffled me as I tried to explain to my friends how Yoko Ono busted up my favorite boy band of all time.

Thanks to Brad Pitt I was beginning to think I had some kind of mental Benjamin Button syndrome until the other week when I came across the Pew Center’s “How Millennial Are You?” quiz (h/t Becky Graebner). Technically I fall into David Swindle’s Millennial-X’er Blend generation, but according to the  Pew Center, I’m a Baby Boomer verging on Generation X.

No wonder I tend to gravitate towards my elders, especially when it comes to entertainment. Of course, being Jewish, I blame it all on my Mother. At 7 our first video rental was the Amy Irving film Crossing Delancey. Years later I married a good Jewish boy with curly hair and New York roots, and I still have a thing for Peter Riegert. Unlike fellow high schoolers obsessed with Ross and Rachel, my teen years were defined by Rupert Holmes‘s much under noticed classic Remember WENN, a dramedy set at a Pittsburgh radio station in the days before World War II. I scoffed at fellow film students in college who balked at the idea of watching anything in black and white.  The other day, when I found out that Jason Alexander would be performing live in my neck of the woods, I scrambled online to get tickets. I am a middle-aged woman stuck in a Gen X/Millennial body.  How did this happen?

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‘Good ol’ Freda’ Breaks Her Silence About the Beatles

Saturday, September 7th, 2013 - by Chris Queen

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Over the years we’ve heard so many stories about the Beatles and just when it seems we’d heard it all, one woman who was involved with the band throughout their entire career is speaking out for the first time.

Beatles manager Brian Epstein hired an unassuming teenage girl from Liverpool to serve as the secretary to his musical charges, and Freda Kelly filled that role for the band’s entire career and even for a year after their 1970 breakup. She’s going public in a new documentary.

A film, titled “Good ol’ Freda,” was financed through crowd funding site Kickstarter, which raised almost $60,000 from 660 backers. McCartney even gave his blessing to the project, approving the licensing of four original Beatles songs – something that seldom happens in film – and audiences are able to visually feast on never-before-seen photographs.

Kelly basically gave away all her memorabilia (likely worth millions now) to desperate and devastated fans in 1974. She went above and beyond during her time to ensure that fans were given the real deal. That involved sneaking threads from McCartney’s shirts, arranging for hair snippets and making sure Starr really did sleep on a pillowcase before returning it to an overjoyed fan – but apparently she drew the line at fulfilling requests to send along fingernail clippings. So intent on being honest, the secretary once let go of a whole crew of assistants who were exposed for trying to pass off a girl’s hair for that of a Beatle.

Kelly opens up on plenty of topics in the documentary, holding back about very little. She additionally helped take care of Ringo Starr’s parents, a part of her job she remembers with great fondness in the film.

And as candid as Kelly became throughout the filming process, there was still one topic in particular that was off-limits.

“I asked if she dated any of the Beatles,” [director Ryan] White said. “And she stared me down in her charming way.”

Kelly does, however, confess to zipping her lips about such things as Lennon’s wandering eyes while married to college sweetheart, Cynthia Powell. Yet she had no qualms about putting the boys’ in their place when the occasion called for it.

The public will hear many of the tales in Good ol’ Freda for the first time when it opens – Kelly’s own daughter admits to not knowing “95 percent” of her mother’s stories.

Good ol’ Freda opens in select theaters today, and will release simultaneously via video on demand and iTunes. Here’s the trailer:

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What Are YOUR Top 10 Favorite Beatles Songs?

Thursday, January 17th, 2013 - by Myra Adams

Recently a former college roommate of my husband’s requested that once again I write about classic rock music; so Bob Z. from Pittsburgh, PA this column is for you!

Like many of my past classic rock pieces this one is meant to foster group discussion at social gatherings or stimulate some “deep” personal thinking after imbibing an adult beverage or two.

And nothing stimulates deep personal thinking more than the question: What are your top 10 favorite Beatles songs?

Before I reveal my list, I can almost hear my Father saying, “The Beatles are just a passing fad.” That was his response in 1964 after watching them perform on the Ed Sullivan Showreflecting an opinion commonly held by many parents at the time.

Except that “passing fad” dramatically affected culture, helped impact world events and changed music forever, along with the hearts, minds and souls of every baby boomer born in the first wave from 1946 to 1955.

So with all that in mind, here are my top 10 favorite Beatles songs.

1. While My Guitar Gently WeepsGeorge Harrison, 1968 The Beatles  “White Album”

This song is so hauntingly beautiful that 45 years later, it sounds as fresh and vibrant as it did when it first appeared on the “White Album.”

Below is George Harrison singing a post-Beatles acoustic version.

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2. In My LifeLennon/McCartney, 1965 - Rubber Soul

A perfect song for remembering or honoring someone you love, and often heard at funerals or “life celebrations.”

In my opinion, In My Life does not receive the accolades it deserves as one of the Beatles most melodic and meaningful songs.

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3. Come Together  - John Lennon, 1969 - Abbey Road

Today, Come Together sounds as bizarre and beautiful as it did when I first heard it at age 14.

4. Back in the U.S.S.R. - Paul McCartney, 1968 – The Beatles “White Album”

How can anyone sit still while listening to this song?

But most important the song reminds us of the Beatles’ role in hastening the demise of Soviet communism.

5. I Want You (She’s So Heavy) - John Lennon, 1969 - Abbey Road

This was another Beatles breakthrough song that sounded like no other in 1969 and I chronicled the experience of hearing it for the first time in this Classic Rock series.

6. Here Comes the Sun - George Harrison, 1969 – Abbey Road   

Such a happy song of hope! It is nearly impossible not to be uplifted after hearing it.

7. Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) - Lennon/McCartney, 1965 – Rubber Soul

Another groundbreaking song known for the first time a sitar was used by a rock band.

8. Day Tripper - Lennon/McCartney, 1966 - Yesterday and Today 

I always loved the main guitar riff along with the catchy tune.   

9. Paperback Writer - Lennon/McCartney, 1966 - (Released only as a single but later appeared on several Beatles compilation albums.)

Such an engaging song with an unforgettable guitar riff that hooked the 11-year-old me onto music that eventually evolved into “heavy metal,” explaining my love for Led Zeppelin.

10. You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away - John Lennon, 1965 - Help!

An overlooked Beatles masterpiece that never got the attention it deserved because many of their greatest songs were released around this same time.

So what’s on your list?

Every aging baby boomer has many favorite Beatles songs, but now it’s time to commit to naming your top 10.

Making this task easier, I have provided a list of all the Beatles songs ever recorded.  Then, if you were in the “3rd reading group” and need even further assistance, here is Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 greatest Beatles songs.

Go get started now so we can have some fun reading each others’ lists, while at the same time stimulate your brain with some “deep personal thinking.”

It is amazing how 48 years later this “passing fad” still continues to entertain and has stood the test of time.

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Interview: The History of Epiphone Guitars

Sunday, January 13th, 2013 - by Ed Driscoll

For years, Walter Carter was the in-house historian at Gibson Guitars, before serving a similar function for well-known vintage guitar dealer George Gruhn. He has a new book out this month published by Backbeat Books, called The Epiphone Guitar Book: A Complete History of Epiphone Guitars. Its slick, glossy, 160-pages are heavily illustrated, with many photos in color.

With a legacy dating back to the 1870s and Greek luthier Anastasios Stathopoulos, the Epiphone brand name takes its name from two components — the nickname of Anastasios’ son, Epaminondas, and the word “phone,” which, in the 1920s when the brand Epiphone was launched, competed with the word “radio” to symbolize high-tech and modernity. (See also: Gramophone, the Radio Flyer, etc.)

Epiphone has had several twists and turns in its history. Until the mid-1950s, it competed neck and neck (pardon the pun) with Gibson for sales of arch-top jazz guitars. Ted McCarty, who built up Gibson as a music instrument powerhouse in the mid-2oth century, said that “when I came to Gibson, the biggest competition we had was Epiphone.” But the death of Epi in 1943, followed by squabbles among the surviving Stathopoulos family during the following decade, caused the value of their business to plummet. McCarty acquired Epiphone for Gibson’s parent company at a bargain rate, and production of Epiphone guitars switched in-house to Gibson’s Kalamazoo, MI plant, during the 1960s. The new brand name gave Gibson certain advantages: they could protect the exclusive arrangements their dealers had with Gibson, but sell Epiphone to nearby music dealers, positioning it as a slightly lower brand — the Buick or Oldsmobile to Gibson’s Cadillac.

In the mid-1960s, Epiphone models were played by a little-known cult act called the Beatles — “Everybody but Ringo,” as Carter told me. McCartney played an Epiphone Texan acoustic on “Yesterday,” George Harrison played his Epiphone Casino on Sgt. Pepper, and John Lennon played his own Casino on the rooftop of Apple Records during their legendary last concert at the conclusion of Let It Be.

In the early 1970s, Gibson sent production of Epiphone guitars overseas. Today, it exists, in part, as an entry-level brand for new guitarists (and as such, there are likely more Epiphones in circulation than Gibsons) and there’s some controversy between those who own traditional made-in-America Gibson guitars such as the Les Paul, and those who own Les Pauls and other models also sold under the Epiphone name.

Carter discusses all that and much more in our 21-minute interview. Click here to listen:

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(21:23 minutes long; 19.5 MB file size. Want to download instead of streaming? Right click here to download this show to your hard drive. Or right click here to download the 6MB lo-fi edition.)

If the above Flash audio player is not compatible with your browser, click below on the YouTube player below, or click here to be taken directly to YouTube, for an audio-only YouTube clip. Between one of those versions, you should find a format that plays on your system.

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