Showing posts with label paul mccartney. Show all posts
Showing posts with label paul mccartney. Show all posts

Saturday, April 6, 2024

Oh, The Controversy

Granted, Beyonce's rendition of Jolene is awful, but people seem to forget that Dolly Parton's original is no gem, either. I hated the track when it was released in 1973; thus, it was played constantly on radio. All the worst ones are. Don't get me wrong; the original lyrics are fine, but that melody! Not only banal, but depressing. (Don't tell me, well, it's a depressing message. A good song isn't just lyrics. That would be a poem.) Dolly is a decent enough songwriter, but melody is not her strong suit (see: Coat of Many Colors; To Daddy)

I've seen a lot of commentary this week about Beyonce's version. She took the only adequate component of the song, the lyrics, and changed them completely! And need I say that those changes reek? A commentator I admire said it best. "Now the song doesn't mean anything." I agree that it presents no message other than, "I'm gonna whup your ass". Okie-dokie. And really, no one can convey that message quite like Toby Keith. It's not even a contest.

I suppose what annoys me about the commentary, though it really shouldn't, is that these people are suddenly country music experts. I don't doubt that they've heard the original version of Jolene. It's probably the only country song they've ever heard, yet each of them is quick to pronounce their "fondness" for country music. "I like Brad Paisley," said one. I'm surprised no one said, "I shore could use me some of that Hank Williams." It's okay, guys; everyone is not required to like it. 

I freely admit that I'm not a fan of current R&B, or whatever it is that Beyonce does. I'm also not a fan of her voice. It seems to me that she used to at least stretch her vocal cords a bit, but on this album she's singing in a dreary alto.

And why is there any debate over whether Cowboy Carter is a country album? The answer is: It is not a country album. Plain and simple. It's not. There can't possibly be any argument over that. And by the way, why is it so important for her fans to try to label it one? Big George Strait fans or something? Honestly.

What's almost worse are the songwriters/original artists who've praised her cover versions. Sincerity seems lost nowadays. Dolly and Paul McCartney certainly have good musical taste. They can't possibly think these lifeless dirges are "awesome". Was she really tired when she recorded them?

I suppose, like Taylor Swift, Beyonce is a pop culture star; mediocre but with a ton of flash. Flash is what matters. Beyonce's new album has zero impact on my life, so people can call it whatever makes them happy.



Thursday, June 21, 2012

Pop Songs Are Getting Sadder

Maybe this is what's wrong with the world today.....

Pop music is getting sadder, slower, and more sophisticated, according to a new study published in a psychology journal. Researchers analyzed Top 40 hits in Billboard from the mid-60's through 2010 and discovered that popular tunes have increasingly been written in "minor modes"—which associate with darker emotions, reports Pacific Standard.

The top songs also have gradually become lengthier and slower in tempo, and their messages aren't as straight-forward.

“As the lyrics of popular music became more self-focused and negative over time, the music itself became sadder-sounding and more emotionally ambiguous,” say the researchers. They also pointed out a compelling similarity with the evolution of classical music, although on a much shorter scale. 

Examples abound of songs that are, as the author puts it, "self-focused".  From Taylor Swift's revenge songs about failed relationships, to Adele.  I like Adele a lot.  She's very talented.  I think this is a great song:

The author of the study contends that, as female singers/songwriters become more dominant in the pop music world, the sadder and more self-focused songs tend to prevail.

I will grant you that women tend to write retributive songs.  That's sort of just how we're made (yes, there are actually differences between men and women, contrary to the political talking points).

I've even written one myself.  It's never seen the light of day, because I am not an idiot.  Although, if I'd written one as good as Rollin' In The Deep, then all bets would be off.

Guys whine, too, though.  Just turn your radio dial to the adult contemporary station, and you will be bathed in tunes of self-pity before the next windshield replacement commercial assaults your ears.

It's generational, perhaps.  As a baby-boomer, who could be more self-absorbed than me?  And yet, the Beatles mostly did not feel sorry for themselves.  Look at Paul McCartney.  He was sunshine incarnate.  He even wrote a song about sunshine:

There's a reason, you know, why songs from the sixties live on.  They make us feel good.

I've said a million times that music is supposed to be fun.   That's why we like it!  

Maybe the difference between my generation and the generation of my kids is, they are all concentrated on getting somewhere, whereas we were just enjoying the ride.

Everything now is super-serious.

I'm not passing judgment.  If I hadn't just gone along for the ride, perhaps I would actually have money for my retirement.  But we thought we'd live forever, right?  And never get old.

Maybe there just needs to be a balance.  

The thing is, whether you're just going along for the ride, or whether you're documenting each of your accomplishments on a white board in your expensively granite-tiled kitchen, don't forget about music and love.

Now, doesn't that make you feel better?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Nashville Co-Writing

The best way to NOT gain friends and influence people is to criticize the fad of Nashville co-writing, but here I go.

To me, it's the bane of music's existence.

Inevitably, like any fad, at some point, co-writing is going to be considered passe, naive, and uncool.

Every woman is wearing those fancy flip-flops, with the jewels and flowers, too. In five years, they'll be cleaning out their closets, unceremoniously dumping those "stupid-a$$" shoes in the trash.

Lennon and McCartney didn't actually co-write songs, you know. Merle didn't need a co-writer.

To me, if you are incapable of writing a whole song by yourself, maybe you should reconsider your hobby or your vocation or whatever you consider it to be.

Here's the deal: I thought songs were supposed to be meaningful. An expression of emotion. How does that work with co-writing?

Writer: Here's how I've been feeling lately, and I think it would make a
good song.

Co-writer: Oh, I know exactly how you feel. And it goes like this: ("strum
strum strum.....crying")

Writer: That's not exactly how I feel.

Sure it is.

Here's how it REALLY works:

Writer: I want to write something commercial.

Co-writer: Oh, I know exactly how you feel, and it goes like this: ("strum strum strum....tractor")

Writer: That's it!

Bob Dylan to his (imaginary) co-writer:
You know what I mean, right?

Imaginary co-writer: No.

Harlan Howard used to hang out at his favorite watering hole and listen to people's stories. He didn't "invent" emotions. I'm not claiming that Harlan never co-wrote a song. I'm saying he didn't need to.

If co-writing is such a wonderful revelation, why are the songs on the radio so crappy? Why do they all say the same thing?

Here's why they all say the same thing: The Nashville writer goes from appointment to appointment, carefully monitoring his day planner, so he doesn't miss his next "session".

Since when do great songs get written on a schedule? I've had songs come to me in the middle of the night. Do I get up, get dressed, and go padding down the street in my bunny slippers, to ring another writer's doorbell, demanding to be admitted into his "writing room", so we can scribble out a hit? And is a writing room really necessary? Does one need a formal "room" in which to write songs? My my, what in the world did writers do in the olden days?

Merle Haggard to his (imaginary) co-writer:
I want to write a song about the working man.

Imaginary co-writer:
I know exactly what you mean, and it goes like this: ("strum strum and wranglers")

Merle Haggard: No.

I've been reading ad nauseam about "the only way to make it in the biz is to co-write" for far too long. Face it, there is no way to make it in the music biz anyway. So, why go to all this trouble?

The thing that kicked this topic into gear for me was reading an article in WSJ this week about singer Ashton Shepherd.

I'd never heard the gal before, so when I read the word, "traditionalist", my interest was piqued.

To clarify, she is not a traditionalist at all....unless you consider traditional country's peak to be approximately the year 2009.

Ashton Shepherd

It's pleasing to picture Ms. Shepherd at home on the porch with a guitar, writing her songs, solo, and many of her slow, personal ballads were born right there. But she's recently found Music Row style co-writing, working with such proven hit-making veterans as Dean Dillon and Bobby Pinson—an energizing alternative, especially for the faster songs on her record.

"I was a little leery of it, but it really ended up being pretty cool, and I've learned some things off of it....I knew this was going to work out. And we sat there and wrote '(blah blah blah)' in about 45 minutes. I like things spontaneous, and first-time kinds of things, and that was the first song we ever wrote together, which makes it a little more sparkly."

Perhaps she should move back to the front porch. Don't get me wrong, I like Dean Dillon. And he's an apparent legendary co-writer, it seems. I'm just saying, I listened to snippets of Ashton's songs online, and I didn't like even one of them. Unfortunately. Not one of them was "sparkly". No offense.

If you can write a good song, just write it. Don't set up an appointment.

If you can't write a good song, a co-write isn't going to help. It will, in fact, make things worse.

How many songwriters does it take to write a hit song?

Four (apparently).

I have no punchline for this; sorry. I'm open to a co-write on the joke, though.

Here's a little secret I have never shared: When I was a kid (or tweenager, as they call them nowadays), way back in the 1800's, my parents owned a motel on the outskirts of the wild and woolly town of Bismarck, North Dakota.

One day, my best friend, Alice, and I came home from school on the bus, excitedly anticipating the Merle Haggard concert that evening.

Turns out, that wasn't the pinnacle of our excitement. You see, my mom was anxiously awaiting our arrival on the let us know that, YIPPEE!! Guess who'd checked into the motel?? Merle and Bonnie!

I won't share the embarrassing details regarding Alice's and my actions that day. Okay, well, let's just say we walked and walked and walked and walked in circles around that motel, surreptitiously (we wished) conducting surveillance on that room, Number Twenty-Seven. We were there, hiding in the bushes (okay, there weren't any actual bushes) when Merle stepped out to walk his dog. I think (okay, I know) we hauled out my little portable battery-operated record player, and played the "Mama Tried" single over and over, approximately 200 yards from good old number 27. What must Merle have thought? Get me away from these lunatics?

Naturally, then, I like to think that Merle wrote this song while whiling away the hours until he had to board the bus for his concert, strumming his acoustic, to drown out the noise of two giggly girls encamped outside his room.

Yes, Bonnie Owens is credited as a co-writer. But I read the words straight from Bonnie's mouth: What she told Merle to do was to lose the third verse. So, don't jump on me, saying that Bonnie co-wrote the song, because she didn't.

Look! Merle wrote a song....all by himself! Isn't that precious? Little Merle. I suppose he thinks he'll get a hit with it, too. Oh, if only he'd had someone help him.

Let's set him up with some appointments.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Make Your Own Luck

I've never been a lucky person. Games of chance? Forget it. Slots? No. Prize drawings at work? I've stopped even entering. "Buy a raffle ticket for just one dollar!" Here, I'll just GIVE you a dollar. Go out and have yourself a good time.

I guess that's why I prefer games of skill. You know, I'd rather play video poker than slot machines. That way, at least, if I lose, I can blame my poor decision-making, as opposed to that arbitrary LUCK, which apparently shuns me and is ashamed to be seen in my company. Yes, I'd rather be known as a poor decider than an unlucky person. Being unlucky somehow makes people glance sideways at you, with a look of pity in their eyes. "Oh, such a shame about Gertie. She's UNLUCKY, you know."

So, what does all this have to do with music?

As an independent artist, striking gold is, in essence, impossible. For one thing, there are approximately (and I'm just making up this number) 45,000,000 independent artists out there hawking their wares.

Music licensing (you know, for TV and movies and commercials and I don't know, bathroom Muzak) once seemed like the savior of independent artists. I'm unfortunately, or fortunately, skeptical. We're hooked up with a multitude of licensing companies, from YouLicense to Music Supervisor to License Me For God's Sake. The companies run the gamut.

I get the emails. Sometimes I open them; sometimes they sit in my in-box, unopened for a week or two. The emails don't really care, mind you. They could just as well be titled, "Here Are Some Opportunities. You Don't Have a Chance in Hell of Qualifying For Them, So Read Them If You Feel Like It. If Not, Eh. We Just Send Them Out Because We're Obligated".

Sometimes, these companies send "Success Stories" emails. I bet they think these are "inspirational". They're not. All they do is make people like me feel like losers. I could just have a bad attitude; I don't know. I suppose it's great that the Shadow Sisters from Albuquerque, New Mexico got their latest quirky song picked up for an episode of "Fringe" (I hope that's an actual show).

And now, let's read an interview with the Shadow Sisters!

Q: How does it feel to have your song included in Fringe?
A: I don't know; all right, I guess.
Q: Have you had success with your music prior to this whole Fringe business?
A: Oh, this is our only song, to be honest. We just did it as sort of a joke.
Q: So, you've not been out there, pounding the pavement?
A: What does that mean?
Q: You know, promoting your music; trying to get heard.
A: Um, my boyfriend just told us, put on these short dresses and stand against that wall over there, and I'll take your picture. Oh, and take off your shoes. He said, try to look bored, and we said, hey, no problem. I guess that's what did it.
Q: Where does your songwriting inspiration come from?
A: I really was just humming.
Q: That's it?
A: Kinda.
Q: What advice would you have for aspiring artists who want to get their music licensed for television?
A: Take off your shoes? I don't know. Ask my boyfriend. I'm bored. Can I go home now?

So, you see? Luck. And a bad attitude, apparently.

Oh, don't get me wrong. The Shadow Sisters notwithstanding, there are (again, making this up) 43,000,000 great musicians and/or songwriters floating around out there in Cyberland (that leaves two million bad musicians and/or songwriters, if you're keeping score).

Those are bad odds. And don't even get me started on demographics.

So, what does an independent artist do?

Play a game of skill; not a game of luck.

Look for hidden opportunities. Be more clever than the other guy. Think local, for one. What's available out there in your stratosphere; something that will lower those 43,000,000 to 1 odds considerably? A television station? A local website looking for a theme song? A business needing a jingle? How about a local or regional contest that wants you to submit your best song about _______? How about trying to win a free vacation? (Okay, rather obscure, but more about that in a future post.)

Google is your friend. Use it. Explore the local and regional options that are available.

Think of the occasions that your song would fit. Did you write a song that would be appropriate for a wedding? Did you write something topical; something that's happenin' now? Take one of your songs; examine it; turn it upside down. Think about what its uses could be. If you don't find a matching opportunity, approach an entity and make an offer!

Honestly, you have to do it yourself. Uploading music to a licensing site is such a loooong longshot. Unless you're the Shadow Sisters.

Make your own luck.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Are You Old Enough To Remember This?

I remember it well. 1964. I was across the street from Valley Elementary, talking to Debbie Lealos about this new group that we were hearing on the radio. I probably was walking to Wednesday catechism, no doubt. My absolute FAVORITE thing to do in the WHOLE WORLD!

We were talking as only nine-year-old music critics could, about the merits of the latest single from this British group called the Beatles. Having a sophisticated conversation about "I Want To Hold Your Hand".

In the course of our discussion, we also reached a consensus that Paul was the "cutest" Beatle.

Painful admission: I thought that the best singer in the group was Paul, but I actually had the guys confused at the time - not having videos to watch - so the one who I thought was Paul singing was actually John. So, I guess John was my favorite singer, in hindsight.

A while later, it was announced that the Beatles would be performing on the Ed Sullivan Show! (Maybe now I would be able to discern who was singing what.)

Well, this was the absolute highlight of any nine-year-old girl's life, or of any girl's life who was old enough to know what music was. (My two-year-old sister probably didn't meet the criteria).

But, you know, why the heck was the Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday nights? What worse night of the week could one choose? You know how Sundays were. All you did was mope around, thinking about how you had to go to school the next day. (Sort of like now, when I mope around, thinking about how I have to go to work the next day).

But on this particular Sunday, I was filled with anticipation. I think I talked to a few friends on the phone....."Hi, what are you wearing for the big Beatles debut?" I probably never actually said that, but you know, we did have to make our preparations for the big TV event.

Around six-ish, I parked myself in front of the Zenith, tuned to CBS, of course. I think there was something on like "Lassie". (Man, how lame were the shows back then? That Timmy didn't even have any friends. His only friend was his dog. PLUS Timmy was always falling into a well or something. The clumsiest kid ever. I say, if I was his mother, I'd have just left him there. That'd teach him to be more careful.)

But the bottom line was, I was parked there, and I was in charge of the TV. No way was I going to let my mom turn the channel on me. Not that she would. I think everybody watched Ed Sullivan back then. I shudder to think what the competition was, if everyone was content watching Topo Gigio or the guy who talked out of his glove. Remember that dude? And he made money! He sewed some buttons on a glove for eyes, and he drew a mouth on it, and this is how he made his living!

Finally, Ed came on. He probably said something like, "Tonight, we'll have a re-enactment of a scene from the latest Broadway show, starring Ernest Borgnine, the guy who does the glove-puppet thing, The June Taylor Dancers, Topo Giogio, and...........THE BEATLES!" (scream)

And finally, after weeks of anticipation, there they were!

You just wanted to die; it was that good. They kicked it off with "All My Loving", with Paul playing that backwards guitar. (I saw Paul in concert a couple of years back, and surprisingly, he still does that famous head bob. Pretty spry for a guy in his sixties.)

Notice how the girls in the audience are all having conniptions, while the one lone guy is like, "Yea, whatever. I'm WAY cooler than that." (He wasn't).

I also like how John, Paul, George, and Ringo do their very proper bow at the end of the song. Very respectful.

Then they launch into a lame cover song, called, "Til There Was You", again with Paul singing lead.

I'm thinking that John lost the coin toss backstage, because he didn't get to sing lead on any of the songs that night. "What the hell, mate? You mean I don't get to do ANY songs? What am I supposed to do? Just stand there, strumming my guitar and smiling like an idiot?"

They actually showed more shots of RINGO than they did of John!

And notice how this video has their first names superimposed over their images? "GEORGE". Okay, thanks. I know who George is. I was just having a problem figuring out who was PAUL and who was JOHN.

And, of course, all the time, John's thinking, there you go, Paul. You and your self-indulgent Broadway tunes.

Finally, they break into "She Loves You", which is memorable because of the dual head-shake of both Paul and George.

And poor George. He has to keep moving from Paul's mic to John's. No wonder he was so skinny. But at least he got air time. Unlike John.

Then Ed breaks in to announce that he just got a telegram from Colonel Tom Parker and Elvis, wishing the Beatles all the best on their American debut.

Yea, for sure.

You know that Elvis was sitting at home (in the jungle room) watching this telecast and thinking, "Well, it was a good run while it lasted. I guess the "Teddy Bear" songs aren't going to cut it anymore."

Ed also announces that the Beatles will be on NEXT WEEK'S SHOW, along with Mitzi Gaynor. Oh man. I can't miss Mitzi! (Who's Mitzi Gaynor again?)

For their final number, the boys do "I Want To Hold Your Hand" (again with Paul singing lead).

So, there you go. This is when rock 'n roll began. Elvis Presley was all fine and dandy, but he was small potatoes compared to the Beatles.

And I was there. And I watched it.

So, I guess I was privy to the rebirth of rock 'n roll music. Oh, you can quibble, and say that Chuck Berry invented rock 'n roll. I don't disagree, in theory.

All I know is this: Nobody got excited about rock 'n roll until 1964, when the Beatles showed up.

And nothing's ever been the same since.

Friday, March 14, 2008


Okay, yes, American Idol featured the Beatles songbook this week (and next week, I hear), so I'm reminded of the Beatles once again.

But does one ever actually forget the Beatles? Of course not. I submit that, for 99.9% of the population, if one could see the results of their brain scan, there would be at least ONE Beatles song roaming around back there in the recesses of their brain.

So, did you ever ask yourself, what's your favorite Beatles song? Well, that's a trick question, isn't it? Because the answer is ever-evolving.

P.S. Those who say that "Yesterday" is their favorite Beatles song are lying or hopelessly lame. I'm not saying it's not a good song, but c'mon. You've got the entire Beatles catalog to choose from, and you pick, "Yesterday"? No way.

So, I thought I'd do a little test.

Pick a few (cuz you can't narrow it down to one) Beatles songs that are your favorites, and also give your reasons why.

I'm going to severely limit myself, since I'm stuck with whatever I can find on YouTube, but I'm hoping I can find a few favorites there.

So, here's one:


This was from the movie, "Help!" and the soundtrack of the same name. I'm really hesitant to commit, but I do have to say that this is one of my very favorite Beatles songs. Nobody ever mentions "Help!" as one of the Beatles' best albums, but I happen to like it........a lot.


Early Beatles. Very early. One thing I do admire is George's lead part on this song. Simple, yet memorable. I remember this song from way back in the olden days, when all we had were "record players". 1963, I'm guessing. Also, I don't want to only single out John. I liked Paul, too, although John was the better singer.


Yes, everybody lists this one. But I can't really let that deter me. This is a glorious song, from John. It's not "Yesterday", by any means. Sorry, Paul, but this one is sublime.


This one is from the album, "Revolver". One of the top two Beatles albums, in my opinion. And, of course, my opinion is CORRECT.

So, there's four. It's difficult to do this post, because all I want to do is listen to more Beatles songs, and I get sidetracked from the task at hand.

But I'd be interested in YOUR favorite Beatles songs, and why they're your favorites. Sentimental reasons? Reminders of a special time in your life? Just good songs? (duh - that kind of goes without saying.)

And, P.S., looking at these videos, I really miss John.