Thursday, July 11, 2013

Beatles For Sale

I have over 8,000 songs on my iPod. While driving down to Boston for the Paul McCartney concert at Fenway, I was pleased to find over 100 Beatles songs on it. We played on shuffle as we sang up a storm barreling down routes 89 and 93. We played the guessed the Beatles album game, in which Beth kicked my ass, just like she does in Trivial Pursuit, The Beatles edition.

She has always been a bigger Beatles fan than I.  They were always a band I liked but not loved..My tastes has always veered into darker territory. This is why I've always liked their later era albums, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Abbey Road and The Beatles (aka The White Album), while she prefers the middle days of Revolver, Rubber Soul and Beatles for Sale. Both of us agree, the last album, Let It Be, is much more like a compilation of solo songs than an actual Beatles album.

I never realized was how dark Beatles for Sale is. It was their fourth studio album and they were becoming disenfranchised by their fame, sick of the crowds, the screaming girls while they were playing, the lack of privacy and other trappings of fame. They were going through what a lot of other rock bands go through after they make it big. The Who's third album was called The Who Sell Out which featured fake commercials, product endorsements and public service announcements. Pink Floyd's first album after their mega-successful Dark Side of the Moon was Wish You Were Here, where they lamented their fame with songs like Welcome to the Machine and Have a Cigar. The latter song has the line "by the way which one's Pink?" which apparently is something a record executive said to them thinking that one of the band members was named Pink. Like these other bands, the Beatles felt they were being handled. This was an era where most acts had very short shelf-life so they worked the band as hard as they could for what they thought would be a short period. After all, the pop music industry was a fairly new industry. The band was so tired and busy from touring the world, they had little new material. They wanted to follow up A Hard Day's Night (their third album) with another album that only had original songs, but they had used up all their backlogged material on that album. So Beatles For Sale had six cover songs and only eight new songs. Of the original songs, the first song No Reply is a song of jealous rage, then I'm a Loser is internalized brutality, then Baby's In Black is their first truly morose song. Our boy band was maturing. This maturing period is when they exploded creatively. I have new respect for my wife's favorite Beatles albums.

We were very excited to finally see a member of the Beatles in person. To see him at Fenway, was just too much fun for this Red Sox fan to handle. We had an hour to waste when we got into town, we took the red line into Park Street in downtown and decided to walk to the park. This was my first trip back to Boston since the marathon bombing.  I had the same problems with the city that I always do, here is a small list:

  • there are porta-johns on Boston Common but they are locked
  • all businesses downtown don't let you use their bathrooms unless you buy something
  • the T (mass transit) only runs until 1am while many of the bars are open later
  • people on the T don't move in to allow more people in, even when people are sardined together
  • and, my favorite, they try to get on the crowded T before allowing people to get off 
All of this crap made me feel good inside ... the bombing didn't change anything. The city had moved on.

The concert was even better than I expected. Just picture 36,064 very happy people (largest Fenway concert crowd ever) in your favorite place performing a sing-a-long. A very expensive sing-a-long is what this was. I was seated in short left field with the Green Monster on my left watching a pop icon. McCartney was late getting there, it started an hour late, but the crowd didn't seem to mind much. He played for three hours. Not bad for a 71 year old man. I knew all but two songs, so I guess I am bigger fan that I thought I was.

The best song was probably Live and Let Die where his band really jammed with fireworks and pyrotechnics (which I thought were illegal in Massachusetts). I found it odd that he never introduced the members of the band. The oddest song of the night was probably Paperback Writer mainly because of the imagery behind him. The visuals were great all night, but this one I could have done without. While he played this song, the images of nurses with surgical masks covered in blood were being broadcast behind him. I found this video on YouTube. I put my Googling talents to work trying to figure out what this was all about. I didn't find a lot. I found that there was a genre of pulp fiction in the late 1950's and early 1960's (same era of the song) called Nurse Romance novels. I found a blog dedicated to the subject. The images on these books are an awful lot like the bloody nurses at the show so I might be onto something, but I am not sure where the blood comes from. I always assumed that the line "based on a novel by a man named Lear" was in reference to Norman Lear but apparently it is reference to nonsense poet Edmund Lear. Since neither of these Lear's wrote novels, this seems irrelevant. The most interesting thing I discovered about this song is that it was their first non-love song. Paul's aunt requested that he write a song that wasn't about love. I think he succeeded sans the bloody nurses.

Here is the playlist that I came up with from the show I attended on July 9th 2013:

Beatles songs:                                          
Eight Days a Week (opened with this)            
Let It Be                                                        
All Together Now                                          
Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da                                   
Back to the U.S.S.R.                                     
We Can Work It Out                                     
Day Tripper                                                   
I Saw Her Standing There                              
For the Benefit of Mister Kite                         
The Long and Winding Road
Carry That Weight
The End
Black Bird
Eleanor Rigby
Lady Madonna
Paperback Writer
Lovely Rita
And I Love Her
I've Just Seen a Face
Your Mother Should Know

Wings songs:
Live and Let Die
Band On the Run
Hi Hi Hi
Junior's Farm
Nineteen Hundred Eighty Five
Listen to What the Man Said
Maybe I'm Amazed
Another Day
Let Me Roll It To You

He played a short tribute to Jimi Hendrix by jamming Foxy Lady on the guitar. He also played a new song, My Valentine that he wrote for his new wife Nancy. It was lovely. We all needed the break in our singing voices at this point, anyway. There was only one Wings song that I could not identify. Over all, it was an amazing night.

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