Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Beatles Black Album Meme — Part 5: 1974-1975

Previous posts: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4.

This final collection spans two years simply because Lennon put out a studio album of original material in 1974, McCartney in 1975, but not vice versa.

The Beatles Solo: 1974-1975
Venus and Mars/Rockshow – Paul (3:46) (A favorite pastime of the press is to build someone up to ridiculous heights, tear him down because he gets a nose bleed way up there on that pedestal, then write a lovely redemption story after he bounces off the bottom — or a "whatever happened to" story if he doesn't. It's a lazy narrative arc and we could surely do with something better, but in the mid-1970s, McCartney was riding his redemption story to the toppermost of the poppermost, with five straight number one albums. Critics eventually went back to ripping him with the release of Back to the Egg in 1979, but he wrote hit singles into the 1980s, hit albums to the present day, and has won every award known to mankind. This is the single edit, which made it to #12 in the U.S. charts.)

Whatever Gets You Thru the Night – John (3:28) (Lennon's only solo #1 hit during his lifetime, part of me thinks even that was only because Elton John sang vocals with him. The song came to him one night when he stumbled across a sermon by Reverend Ike while channel surfing. Elton predicted this track would hit the top of the charts and got the skeptical Lennon to agree that if it did, they would play live together during Elton's upcoming concert at Madison Square Garden. The rest is rock n roll history.)

Stand By Me – John (3:28) (From John's oldies album, Rock 'n' Roll, this cover of the Ben E. King classic was a top twenty hit. For such a simple recording, there's a long, tortuous history behind it, including accusations of plagiarism, lawsuits and countersuits, stolen tapes and gunfire in the studio. You can read about it here. All you really need to know is that this was the last record Lennon released before his five-year self-exile from the music scene.)

Magneto and Titanium Man – Paul (3:16) (Actually, even though Venus and Mars hit number one on the charts, it did so for only a week, and compared to the success of Band on the Run, was considered something of a disappointment. This song, based on the Marvel comic book characters, was the flip side of "Venus and Mars/Rockshow," the third single from the album.)

(It's All Down To) Goodnight Vienna – Ringo (3:01) (The title tune to Ringo's fourth album, Lennon wrote it — that's him on the count-in. Appearing twice on the album, this version combines elements of both and was released as a single in the U.S. It only reached #31 in the charts. Apparently nobody was in the mood to buy this paean to the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.)

#9 Dream – John (4:47) (Appropriately enough, the lyrics came from a dream. Lennon later dismissed this as a "throwaway," but it's the best thing on Walls and Bridges and it cracked the top ten as a follow-up to "Whatever Gets You Thru the Night.")

Dark Horse – George (3:55) (The title tune from George's worst solo album. He was suffering from laryngitis but recorded a record anyway, an effort the critics dubbed "Dark Hoarse." A failed marriage, a return to drugs and alcohol, and the pressure of having to fulfill a recording contract were all getting to him. Still, I love the single, which hit #15 in the U.S. If you like anything else from the album, I'm happy for you.)

Listen to What the Man Said – Paul (3:57) (A #1 hit in the U.S. Recorded in New Orleans with what I think was the fifth iteration of the Wings lineup, with Joe English joining the group on drums and Tom Scott sitting in on saxophone. Looking back at the contemporaneous reviews, the critics wanted to hate this but grudgingly conceded it was really good pop music — damn those catchy melodies! This is the version from Wingspan without the unintelligible muttering between tracks.)

Bless You – John (4:38) (A love letter to Yoko during their long separation. Lennon also offers words of encouragement here to David Spinozza, a session musician from the Mind Games era who may or may not have been sleeping with Yoko in his absence. Certainly John was sleeping with May Pang with Yoko's encouragement. John and Yoko had a very strange relationship, but then they were very strange people.)

Scared – John (4:37) (This is also about Lennon's separation from Yoko, but the other side of the coin. "Hatred and jealousy, gonna be the death of me / I guess I knew it right from the start / Sing out about love and peace / Don't want to see the red raw meat / The green eyed goddamn straight from your heart.")

Junior's Farm – Paul (4:24) (Written at songwriter Curly Putman, Jr's farm, recorded in Nashville. Released as a standalone single in 1974, it hit #3 on the U.S. charts, just #16 in the U.K.)

Surprise, Surprise (Sweet Bird of Paradox) – John (2:55) (A love song for May Pang, that's Elton John on backing vocals. According to the Beatles Bible, it took three hours of takes for Elton to match Lennon's phrasing. "People were leaving the room," Elton said later. "Razor blades were being passed out!")

No No Song – Ringo (2:34) (Ringo's last unalloyed commercial success, a #3 hit in the U.S. He never cracked the top twenty again. Not being a songwriter himself, Ringo had to rely on the kindness of strangers for his material, and unfortunately, with each passing year strangers and friends alike grew more and more careless, palming off indifferently-written dreck that left Ringo's limited vocal talents very much exposed. I suspect it didn't help that he started chasing musical trends — Ringo does disco! — or, if you'll pardon me for saying so, that he was drinking like a fish. His next album, Rotogravure, limped in at #28 in the charts, the three after at #162, #129 and #98, respectively. In the 1980s, he was the narrator of the Thomas the Tank Engine series.)

Old Dirt Road – John (4:12) (Co-written with Harry Nilsson. Along with the Who's Keith Moon and ex-Beatle Ringo, Nilsson was one of John's drinking mates during the Lost Weekend. Compared to those legendary boozers, Lennon was a relative lightweight. And yet he could fall down with the best of them.)

Letting Go – Paul (4:32) (This is the album version of a song that was later remixed and edited for release as a single. It hit only #39 in the charts, McCartney's first single to miss the top twenty in the U.S. since "Mary Had a Little Lamb," which hardly counts. He wouldn't suffer another flop until "Mull of Kintyre," the biggest selling single in U.K. history at that time but which failed to chart altogether in the U.S.)

You – George (3:43) (George followed up 1974's critically-panned Dark Horse with Extra Texture, the second worst album of his career. Released as a single, "You" made it to #20 in the U.S. The follow-up single, "This Guitar (Can't Keep From Crying)" — no, really, that's what it was called — failed to chart at all. Harrison would eventually regain his form, if not all of his commercial appeal, and would make some great records as part of the Traveling Wilburys.)

Sally G – Paul (3:41) (The flip side of "Junior's Farm," this was in itself a top twenty hit. A country-and-western love letter to Nashville where McCartney recorded the single, this got a lot of radio play in my hometown back in the day. That's Johnny Gimble on the fiddle, Lloyd Green on the pedal steel guitar.)

Steel and Glass – John (4:38) (Most people assume this is about Allen Klein, John's choice to manage the Beatles after the death of Brian Epstein, and whom Lennon would later sue, but John said it wasn't that simple. "[L]ike a novel writer, if I'm writing about something other than myself, I use other people I know or have known as examples. If I want to write a 'down' song, I would have to remember being down, and when I wrote Steel And Glass I used various people and objects. If I had listed who they were, it would be a few people, and you would be surprised. But it really isn't about anybody ... For sure, it isn't about Paul and it isn't about Eartha Kitt.")

Nobody Loves You (When You're Down and Out) – John (5:10) (Lennon wrote this one with Frank Sinatra in mind who, unfortunately, never recorded it. Would have made a great companion piece to "One For My Baby.")

Call Me Back Again – Paul (4:59) (McCartney doing a soul number in New Orleans with Jimmy McCulloch on guitar. A live version appeared on Wings Over America.)

Total Running Time: 79:42.

What have we got here — 9 Lennon's, 7 McCartney's, 2 Harrison's, 2 Starr's. The final totals: John 37, Paul 37, George 20, Ringo 9. 103 total.

That's it. As usual for the Monkey, this has been an exhausting exercise in overkill. I hope the nineteen people who read it get a small modicum of pleasure from the effort.


Andrew D. said...

I loved this! Great idea and I plugged it on my blog this past weekend, so hopefully I sent a few readers your way.

Mythical Monkey said...

That might explain the uptick in traffic! Thanks, Andrew.

mister muleboy said...

MM and MM -- the last two standing and trumpeting "Dark Horse."

Much scoffing recently when I announced "Dark Horse" is my favorite George Harrison [solo] song.

Why people would scoff at what I declare to be MY fave [I think I'm at least in the top three of people who know] I can't tell ya.

Good stuff.

We should lunch. . . .

Mythical Monkey said...

"Dark Horse" is my favorite Harrison solo song as well. Not my favorite album mind you, but my favorite song. Even with the laryngitis. Gives the song some urgency.

Uncle Tom said...

I just realized - did you catch the radio stations on the car on which McCartney is sitting? Was that on purpose or just happenstance?

Mythical Monkey said...

Definitely on purpose. I was looking for a photo with a Nashville connection since Paul recorded there in 1974. The WKDA photo must have been some promotional thing.

I'm going out on a limb and saying that WKDA in 1974 would have been playing a lot of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama," The Doobie Brothers' "Old Black Water" and Paul McCartney's "Sally G." At least that's how I remember it.

Mythical Monkey said...

This, by the way, was the nation's top 40 for the week ending June 8, 1974, my birthday. Some I remember well (the good, the bad and "Billy Don't Be A Hero"), some not so much:

TW LW TITLE Artist (Label)-Weeks on Chart

1 2 BAND ON THE RUN –•– Paul McCartney and Wings (Apple)-8 (1 week at #1)
2 1 THE STREAK –•– Ray Stevens (Barnaby)-9
3 4 YOU MAKE ME FEEL BRAND NEW –•– The Sylistics (Avco)-12
4 3 DANCING MACHINE –•– Jackson 5 (Motown)-13
5 7 SUNDOWN –•– Gordon Lightfoot (Reprise)-9
6 9 BILLY, DON’T BE A HERO –•– Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods (ABC)-8
7 8 HELP ME –•– Joni Mitchell (Asylum)-13
8 5 THE ENTERTAINER –•– Marvin Hamlisch (MCA)-12
9 6 MIDNIGHT AT THE OASIS –•– Maria Muldaur (Reprise)-16
10 11 FOR THE LOVE OF MONEY –•– The O’Jays (Philadelphia International)-9

11 15 BE THANKFUL FOR WHAT YOU GOT –•– William DeVaughn (Roxbury)-6
12 12 MY GIRL BILL –•– Jim Stafford (MGM)-8
13 10 OH VERY YOUNG –•– Cat Stevens (A&M)-13
14 13 THE LOCO-MOTION –•– Grand Funk (Capitol)-14
15 20 IF YOU LOVE ME (Let Me Know) –•– Olivia Newton-John (MCA)-9
16 14 THE SHOW MUST GO ON –•– Three Dog Night (Dunhill)-13
17 22 HOLLYWOOD SWINGING –•– Kool and the Gang (De-Lite)-8
18 17 I WON’T LAST A DAY WITHOUT YOU –•– The Carpenters (A&M)-9
19 19 I’M IN LOVE –•– Aretha Franklin (Atlantic)-10
20 26 YOU WON’T SEE ME / HE THINKS I STILL CARE –•– Anne Murray (Capitol)-8

21 27 HAVEN’T GOT TIME FOR THE PAIN –•– Carly Simon (Elektra)-5
22 16 DON’T YOU WORRY ‘BOUT A THING –•– Stevie Wonder (Tamla)-10
23 18 (I’ve Been) SEARCHIN’ SO LONG –•– Chicago (Columbia)-13
24 30 SAVE THE LAST DANCE FOR ME –•– The DeFranco Family Featuring Tony DeFranco (20th Century)-6
25 24 JUST DON’T WANT TO BE LONELY –•– The Main Ingredient (RCA)-19
26 21 BENNIE AND THE JETS –•– Elton John (MCA)-17
27 23 TSOP (The Sound Of Philadelphia) –•– MFSB Featuring the Three Degrees (Philadelphia International)-15
28 31 ONE HELL OF A WOMAN –•– Mac Davis (Columbia)-11
29 40 ON AND ON –•– Gladys Knight and the Pips (Buddah)-3
30 42 I’M COMING HOME –•– The Spinners (Atlantic)-4

31 32 SON OF SAGITTARIUS –•– Eddie Kendricks (Tamla)-5
32 36 ANOTHER PARK, ANOTHER SUNDAY –•– The Doobie Brothers (Warner Brothers)-8
33 33 MIGHTY MIGHTY –•– Earth, Wind and Fire (Columbia)-14
34 29 COME AND GET YOUR LOVE –•– Redbone (Epic)-22
35 43 THE AIR THAT I BREATHE –•– The Hollies (Epic)-8
36 35 THE PAYBACK (Part 1) –•– James Brown (Polydor)-12
37 45 IF YOU WANNA GET TO HEAVEN –•– The Ozark Mountain Daredevils (A&M)-8
38 55 RIKKI DON’T LOSE MY NUMBER –•– Steely Dan (ABC)-5
39 41 NO CHARGE –•– Melba Montgomery (Elektra)-9
40 49 SIDESHOW –•– Blue Magic (Atco)-4