Does The Beatles’ “lost” material point a way forward for 21st century groups whose each and every fart and chunder ends up polluting the worldwide web? Despite it all, PK finds some gems to plunder asunder.
A NEW EVENING Standard Paul McCartney interview with the misleading headline of ‘Paul McCartney May Have Lost Dozens Of Beatles Songs’, is doing the rounds this week.
I’ve seen dozens of people posting their Beatle-fan friends this enticing but ambiguous morsel of information that seems to suggest missing unheard songs that might surface. I’ve even seen people who actually read the article and still got the impression of lost songs waiting to be discovered. First of all, there’s no ‘may’ about it – the songs are gone, lost to oblivion, forever.
McCartney’s point was simple, that in their early writing days of the late ‘50s, neither he nor John Lennon had access to a reel-to-reel tape recorder in order to preserve their composing efforts. When you consider that getting their tunes down on a tape to play at home might’ve been, to be fair, the extent of their expectations at that point, it seems a shame that no one had yet provided them with the facility to do so, considering their songs were already not too shabby, if their mid-1958 recording of ‘In Spite Of All the Danger’ is anything to go by. Lennon and McCartney’s group, The Quarrymen, recorded the song at Percy Phillips home studio in Liverpool for the price of 17 shillings and sixpence, which was a steal compared to the price of, for example, an American brand Wollensak domestic tape recorder, which then sold for around US$300.
Chances are, more than a few potentially interesting pieces temporarily moved air molecules in Paul’s bedroom before they got a chance to be defined on magnetic tape or indeed in ink. We can only presume that with their already high standards, the boys merely didn’t think enough of these fledgling pieces to write them down. Now there’s a judgment standard that could afford to be utilized more in the 21st century.
So though there’s no new Lennon/McCartney compositions coming to light, there are of course many thousands of songs by lesser mortals thrown over the web waterfall every goddamn day. This week I found a few good ones that fall into our blessed five percent component, available on the below playlist. Not the least of which is the striking ‘Crying Out Of One Eye’, from Born To Play Guitar, the new offering from bluesman Buddy Guy. Another album highlight is the self-explanatory ‘Come Back Muddy’.
After pulling his entire repertoire from Spotify in recent days, Prince has done an about-face releasing his new single ‘Stare’ on the service. The song itself, though similar to many of his others, is highly effective for a song with basically one chord, thanks to the undeniably superlative playing and arrangement which really does hold your attention, helped by the gimmicky inclusion of a sample from ‘Kiss’ and lyrical nods to early Prince days and material, including the obligatory underwear reference that we love so much around here.
More ear-catching and all-‘round satisfying, at least to me, is ‘Green And Gold’ by Prince protégé, London’s Lianne La Havas, from her circular platter, Blood. If you need even more R&B, treat yourself to the new one-dimensional sphere, Water For Your Soul, by fellow Brit, Joss Stone. Included here is the harmonically compelling ‘Wake Up’. The album exudes a reggae influence which had me hankering for a cover of Althea & Donna’s classic ‘Uptown Top Ranking’, which I believe would suit a killer rendition from Stone. I’ve added the song for your reference. It was never a hit down here, but I acquired it in the late ‘70s in a cut-price bag of 45s for 50 cents. I didn’t like it much but I played it anyway, as you do when you’re a kid. Somehow it didn’t seem authentic. Now I realise they’d sung it over a pre-existing Trinity instrumental as a lark, and it was a surprise UK number 1.
To close, and to skew the R&B toward the avant garde, in spite of all the danger, there’s the Seven Davis Jr. oddity, ‘Fighters’. Make up your own mind about that one. PETER KEARNS