Category Archives: The Ghosty Orb

DC’s New 52 – One Year Later: The Report Cards

Last Summer DC Comics rebooted their entire universe. Starting every one of their books over with number 1 issues. The longest running comic book of all time, Action Comics which had just hit issue number 904, started over again with number 1. It was a bold move, some might say crazy, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Let’s take a look at the report cards of those 52 comics from last year and compare them to this years grades.

Justice League – Last Year

Geoff Johns and Jim Lee kick start the new DC Universe with a the flagship title of the company. The art is classic Jim Lee and if you like comic books you like Jim Lee Art, but the story by Johns was juvenile and portrayed these iconic superheroes has ill-tempered, cry-babies fixated on “what are your powers?” (see how I  felt about the series here.)

Last Years Grade: C-

Justice League – Now

Cover for Justice League # 12

Jim Lee bailed after issue 6, which is no surprise, but the fill-in artists were top-notch and did a nice job. Lee is back on art at issue 10, but it remains to be seen if he can make it another 6 issues (this just in, Lee is off the book for good after issue 12). Story wise, Geoff Johns has brought the team into present day but unfortunately they still all act like brats and can’t seem to get along.

This Years Grade: C+ (UP 2 points for bring the story into the present day and for good fill-in artists) Continue reading DC’s New 52 – One Year Later: The Report Cards

Ghostmann’s Most Anticipated Films of 2012! (what’s left of it anyway)

2012 started off a little lame in the movie department but after The Avengers officially kicked off the 2012 Summer Movie Season with a BANG (and “Smash!”) things are looking up for the rest of the year. Here are some films that I am really looking forward to watching.

MAY 2012

Moonrise Kingdom
Opens: May 25th 2012
Cast: Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton
Director: Wes Anderson

I’ve been a Wes Anderson fan since I rented his first movie Bottle Rocket back in 1996. His masterpiece Rushmore only made me a bigger fan (a film he has yet to top in my opinion). The plot, which is set in the 1960’s about a pair of young lovers (one a boy scout) who flee their New England island town, prompting a local search party led by the Sheriff and the girl’s parents to find them, sounds a bit tame but with Anderson writing the script and the actors he has assembled I’m sure this one will be worth checking out.

JUNE 2012

Prometheus
Opens: June 8th 2012
Cast: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Guy Pearce
Director: Ridley Scott

I love how Ridley Scott is trying to tell everyone this is not an Alien prequel, when in the trailer it is clear that this story is about the ship that Ripley and the crew of the Nostromo go to investigate and end up finding Space-Jockey’s and Face-Huggers (both of which can be seen in the Prometheus trailer). But I guess Scott just wants this film to stand on its own without the Alien baggage (I am of course speaking of the shit that was Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection). This one looks pretty fucking awesome and could be the reboot of the whole franchise.

JULY 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man
Opens: July 3rd 2012
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary
Director: Marc Webb

I never liked the Sam Raimi Spider-Man’s – okay, Part 2 was pretty good – so I’m looking forward to a new take on our Friendly Neighborhood Wall-Crawller. I loved Andrew Garfield in The Social Network and I think he brings a much-needed youthfulness and accidental “coolness” and to the character (Toby always seems TOO nerdy). I think this one is gonna be a hit. Too bad Marvel doesn’t own the film rights to Spider-Man, how cool would it be to see Spidey join The Avengers for part 2?

The Dark Knight Rises
Opens: July 20th 2012
Cast: Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine
Director: Christopher Nolan

I have faith that Christopher Nolan can take the second-rate Batman villain of Bane, the cheesiness of Hathaway’s Catwoman costume, and Christian Bale’s bat-growl and make this closing chapter of his Batman Trilogy a homerun. I’ll be honest though, I’m not sure it can beat The Dark Knight but it’s sure gonna be fun watching this film try to. I’ll be there opening night at the local IMAX theater for this one, along with a bazillion other fanboys.

AUGUST 2012

Red Hook Summer
Opens: August 2012
Cast: Spike Lee, Turron Kofi Alleyne, Samantha Ivers, Limary Agosto, Heather Simms
Director: Spike Lee

What’s this? A sequel to Do the Right Thing? Well okay maybe not, but it does have the return of Mookie, played by Spike Lee himself. This is also Lee’s first non-documentary film since Miracle At St. Anna. The story follows a young kid named Flik who finds himself dumped at a Brooklyn housing project for the Summer with a firebrand preacher of a grandfather whom he’s never met. His only distraction from the boredom is a girl from church. But hey, this is a Spike Lee Joint, so you know things are going to get heated in the projects soon enough and Flik will soon be anything but bored.

Total Recall
Opens: August 3rd 2012
Cast: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Bryan Cranston, Jessica Biel, Bill Nighy
Director: Len Wiseman

Too bad Philip K. Dick didn’t live long enough to see all his books be turned into awesome movies – Blade Runner, Minority Report, A Scanner Darkly, and the first Total Recall,  speaking of which is one of Arnold’s best films and a blast to watch. Hopefully this remake will capture the fun that original had, even though the story takes place all on Earth and not on Mars. Oh, and hopefully there is a three-breastessed prostitute in this new film as well.

SEPTEMBER 2012

Argo
Opens: September 14th 2012
Cast: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Clea DuVall, John Goodman, Alan Arkin
Director: Ben Affleck

This is the true story of the plan by the CIA to rescue six U.S. diplomats held hostage at their embassy in Iran in 1979 by convincing officials they were members of a camera crew scouting the area for a Hollywood movie. Sometimes truth is stranger then fiction right? I’ve been diggin’ what Ben Affleck has been doing behind the camera lately – The Town was great and Gone Baby Gone is one of the best directorial debuts in a long time. On the other hand, I’m not much of a fan of Affleck’s acting abilities – but I do like the “Serpico” look he is rocking in this movie.

Dredd
Opens: September 21st 2012
Cast: Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Lena Headey, Jason Cope, Domhnall Gleeson
Director: Pete Travis

The first Judge Dredd movie back in 1995 sucked much ass. I’ve never been much a Dredd comic reader – but I’ve read enough to know that Stallone’s version was a train-wreck (Stallone bearly wore the helmet in the whole movie and dudes, that helmet IS Judge Dredd!). I have high hopes for this new movie though – Karl Urban, aka Eomer from Lord of the Rings and Bones from Star Trek, is a cool dude. Here’s hoping he keeps that motherfucking helmet on the whole movie.

Urban as Dredd yelling about the fact that there is no Trailer on YouTube!

Savages
Opens: September 28th 2012
Cast: Taylor Kitsch, Aaron Johnson, Blake Lively, Salma Hayek, Benicio Del Toro
Director: Oliver Stone

Too bad Oliver Stone went the way of Francis Ford Coppola – once great film directors that for some reason lost all their mojo and started making shit. What was Stone’s last great film? I’m gonna have to go with JFK – a film he made over 20 years ago. Since then he’s given us Any Given Sunday (sucked), Alexander (sucked), World Trade Center (sucked), and Wall Street Part 2 (sucked). Fuck man, stop smoking the ganja Stone and start making good movies again. He’s on the right path with The Savages, a story about kidnapping, ransoms, and pot growing (hey wait! no pot for Mr. Stone!). Plus he’s got a great cast – I’ll watch anything Benicio is in.

OCTOBER 2012

The Master
Opens: October 2012
Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Laura Dern, Rami Malek
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Some people may say Paul Thomas Anderson is too pretentious and full of himself. I say he is one of the finest filmmakers that there’s ever been. The dude made Boogie Nights, one of the top 1o movies of the 1990’s, when he was like 13 years old or some shit. Then he follows that up with Magnolia and manages to get me to cry over a brilliant Tom Cruise performance. TOM FUCKING CRUISE! (Kinda ironic that The Master is about L. Ron Hubard and the church of Scientology and how it might be all bullshit) P.T Anderson works with film the way a artist works with paint. He mixes and matches till the picture comes in to a life all its own. There is no way in hell I’m missing out on seeing The Master when it comes to theaters.

click HERE to watch a 5 minute clip of some dudes talking about the movie and controversy that will no doubt follow in its wake

Not Fade Away

Chase and Gandolfini together again
Opens: October 19th 2012
Cast: James Gandolfini, Brad Garrett, Jack Huston, Christopher McDonald, Molly Price
Director: David Chase

I’ve been watching hella episodes of The Sopranos lately and I gotta say, James Gandolfini will ALWAYS be Tony Soprano. Period. No matter what he does that roll will stay with him for the rest of his life. And really, he should be proud of that. His performance in that series is one of the greatest acting jobs in the history of motherfucking acting. This movie reunites Gandolfini, The Sopranos creator David Chase, and New Jersey on a story not about the Mob but rock and roll in the 60’s. I’m in.

From the set of Not Fade Away

NOVEMBER 2012

To the Wonder
Opens: winter 2012
Cast: Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Olga Kurylenko, Rachel Weisz, Javier Bardem
Director: Terrence Malick
There was a time when Terrence Malick only made one  movie every ten years. But dude has been on a roll lately and is spitting out another film right after last years spiritually haunting Tree Of Life. Malick probably has the greatest “eye” out of any directors. His films are visual masterpieces, if light on story. I’ve heard he likes to just let the camera roll and hope he catches some wonderful moment that will be preserved forever on film. His film Days of Heaven does indeed capture a beauty that is rarely seen in cinema and something that tons of directors afterwards tried to emulate. Too bad Affleck’s in this one.
Check out this scene from Malick’s film Badlands, in which ol’ Terrence, a dude that never does ANY interviews or appearances EVER, gave himself a walk-on roll.
DECEMBER 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Opens: December 14th 2012
Cast: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Andy Serkis, Richard Armitage, Luke Evans
Director: Peter Jackson

Along with Dark Knight Rises, this is the movie I am looking forward to the most this year. Peter Jackson silenced all the naysayers that said that the J.R.R Tolkein book The Lord of the Rings was unfilmable. It took ten years of his life to film all three movies back to back. The result was one of the greatest movie trilogies of all time. So I’m stoked that Jackson is back to give us the prequel. For awhile he was out and director Guillermo Del Toro was attached to the film. Now I love Del Toro’s films but his style is different then Jackson’s and The Hobbit would have seemed like it was part of another series – and not part of Jackson’s world. But Peter took the film back like Golem taking back that ring and it looks like it’s gonna rock!

World War Z
Opens: December 21st 2012
Cast: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, James Badge Dale, Lucy Aharish, Julia Levy-Boeken
Director: Marc Forster

I’m fucking sick of zombies. But that wasn’t the case back in the 80’s when I was a youngster and into gore and special effects (ask my sister about the one time I constructed a fake thumb, stuck a knife through it, dosed it in fake blood, and surprised her with it). Back in the 80’s zombies were few and far between. The only ones were Romero’s films and some even more low-budget Italian ones, oh, and the comedy Return of the Living Dead. So to get your fix of zombies you had to dig deep in the local video store horror section and uncover them and watch them over and over and over. But nowadays the undead can be found at your local Burger King and Wal-Mart’s. Shit, there are zombies on Saturday morning cartoons. Fucking Nickelodeon and Sesame Street. Regardless, I’ll still be checking this Brad Pitt zombie film, as it could very well spell the end of the genre.

Django Unchained
Opens: December 25th 2012
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell
Director: Quentin Tarantino

I respect Tarantino for sticking to his guns and making films HE wants to see. He is a fanboy at heart. But I wish he would make slightly better films. Well, maybe “better” isn’t the right word – more serious films I think. It just seems like he making these “comic booky” “exploitation” films ie: Kill Bill, Inglourious Basterds. And this one looks to be a mixture of the two. But hey, the dude can direct the fuck of actors and I think he is one of the best ones around in terms of taking a washed up actor and finding the gold nugget in them. He LOVES actors, and actors are what drive 90% of movies. And he also can write dialog like nobody’s business.

Lincoln
Opens: December 2012
Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tommy Lee Jones
Director: Steven Spielberg

Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln. Nuff Said.

Ghostmann’s History of Comic Book Movies: Part 1

With The Avengers movie breaking all sorts of records and being cheered as the greatest comic book movie ever made (a sentiment with which I just might agree) I thought I would take some time and go through the history of films based on comics books – both the highs and lows.
Although comic book films have been around for over 70 years I really think they are just now entering their Golden Age. With the advancement of computer effects, the stories of flying men are getting easier to tell and more believable. The Avengers is primed to become the biggest grossing film of all time. This is going to lead to two things: One –  more comic book movies than ever before are going to be made in Hollywood. And Two – a lot of those movies are going to suck balls. But such is the case with any thing that does well – the copy-cats that want to cash in on the phenomenon are never as good, and ultimately doom the whole deal. This happened in the early 90’s after Tim Burton’s Batman blew everyone away – a shit load of shit followed and brought the comic book movie genre to its knees. But I’m getting ahead of myself  – let’s start at the beginning…..
The 1940’s
Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941)
Directed byWilliam Witney, John English
StarringTom Tyler
This was the very first superhero movie, based on the character appearing in Whiz Comics (heh, whiz). At this point in time Superheroes had only been around for less then 10 years, starting with the debut of Superman back in 1932. The character of Captain Marvel is of course a copy-cat of Superman but the twist was, Captain Marvel was just a 12-year-old kid that could speak the magic word “SHAZAM!” and would turn into a fully grown man with super powers. Fucking brilliant twist, as pretty much every 12-year-old boy would kill for that power.
The flying effects for this 1941 serial weren’t too bad either. Get yourself some fishing line and a paper mache dummy and there you go, instant Captain Marvel. These shorts played in the theaters before the main feature and would start the ball rolling for Superheroes and the silver screen.
Batman (1943)
Directed by – Lambert Hillyer
Starring – Lewis Wilson, Douglas Croft
Another superhero serial that holds the distinction of being the first time the Batman character appears in film. It also holds the distinction of having the most butt-ugly Batman costume to ever be worn by a human being. Holy floppy ears Batman! I will say that some of the stunts they pulled off in this serial were pretty cool – like jumping from car to car and smashing through windows – no computer effects here, just dude in stupid looking costume doing all that shit for reals.
This serial also featured the first Bat-Cave (never seen before in the comics at the time) and also changed Alfred from a short, fat dude (like he was in the comics) to a tall, skinny dude with a thin mustache (and has been that way ever since).
Captain America (1944)
Directed by – Elmer Clifton, John English
Starring – Dick Purcell
The last of the Republic Serials and calling this a Captain America movie is stretching it. I mean, the dudes name isn’t Lt. Steve Rogers, it’s Grant Gardner a fucking lawyer. He doesn’t use a shield but guns. There is no super-solider serum. And no Bucky. What the hell kinda Captain America is this? Wait I know, a shitty one.
Superman (1948)
Directed by – Spencer Gordon Bennet, Thomas Carr
Starring – Kirk Alyn, Noel Neill
Before the TV series would propel Superman into super stardom, this 12 part serial played in the theaters and was the first time the character of Supes was played for real – not animated (although, the flying bits in this serial were done with animation and look pretty bad. Dudes should’ve taken a page from the Captain Marvel series and used the paper matche dummy).
Next in part 2: The 1950’s brings more bullshit. The 1960’s serves up the camp. The 1970’s things start to go right.

Ghostmann’s Horror Movie Guide: The 1950’s

The Blob (1958)

Directed By – Irvin Yeaworth

Starring – Steve McQueen, Aneta Corsaut, Olin Howland

****** 6 out of 10 ghosty orbs!

Plot: Next time you see a falling star be careful, it could contain a gelatinous alien that eats everything in its path as it grows! Poor old farmer Ted didn’t know, and when he spots a meteorite falling into a nearby field he heads over to check it out. The old farmer is attacked by the alien and it tries to eat off his hand. Two teenagers, Steve Andrews and his girlfriend Jane Martin, run across the farmer and take him to Dr. T. Hallen. After the doctor treats the blister, he thinks it would be a good idea to send two kids to go back to the scene of the attack and investigate this “blob” (uh hey dumb ass, what about calling the police!). Well when Steve and Jane return to the doctors office after checking things out at the field, they find the Blob chowing down on the good doctor. Steve and Jane try to warn the police and the townsfolk but everyone thinks they are crazy. Meanwhile the fucking Blob engulfs half the city and it’s population.

Fun Fact: The actual Blob, a mixture of red dye and silicone, is still kept in the original five-gallon pail in which it was shipped to the production company in 1958 from Union Carbide. It was put on display over the years as a part of the annual Blobfest, held over a three-day period each summer in Phoenixville, PA, which provided a number of the shooting locales for the film. In addition to displaying the Blob and miniatures used in the shooting, the event features a reenactment of the famous scene in which panicked theatergoers rush to exit the town’s still-functioning Colonial Theater, as well as several showings of the film.

Classic Quote: “Doctor, nothing will stop it!” – Kate, the nurse [after throwing acid on the Blob]

Filming Locations: Colonial Theater, Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, USA / Downingtown, Pennsylvania, USA (Diner)

Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)

Directed By – Jack Arnold

Starring – Richard Carlson, Julia Adams, Richard Denning

***** 5 out 10 ghosty orbs!

Plot: After doing research for this Horror Guide Series, I’ve come to the conclusion – scientific expedition teams searching for fossils or artifacts is probably one of the most hazardous jobs ever! I mean it never fails – there they are just hanging out in a tomb, or in the case of this movie, a Black Lagoon, digging up some old relics when SUDDENLY a crazy-ass monster attacks them and kidnaps the one hot girl that’s in the team! The hot girl is usually the girlfriend or fiancee of the team leader and it’s up him and the rest of the team to rescue the hot researcher and kill the monster. Sounds like a great job.

Fun Fact: Ricou Browning, a professional diver and swimmer, was required to hold his breath for up to 4 minutes at a time for his underwater role as the “Gill Man.” The director’s logic was that the air would have to travel through the monster’s gills and thus not reveal air bubbles from his mouth or nose. Thus, the costume was designed without an air tank. In the subsequent films, this detail was ignored and air can be seen emanating from the top of the creature’s head.

Classic Quote: “We didn’t come here to fight monsters, we’re not equipped for it.”  – David Reed

Filming Locations:  Paradise Cove – 28128 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, California, USA (arrival at coast scene) / Park Lake, Backlot, Universal Studios – 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, California, USA (Amazonian lagoon)

The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)

Directed By – Terence Fisher

Starring – Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee

****** 6 out of 10 ghosty orbs!

Plot: Okay dudes, if you ever run across a Doctor, teacher, boss, construction worker, Starbucks barista, with the last name of FRANKENSTEIN! just keep walking man. Because at some point that person is gonna want to resurrect the dead and dig up bodies – and you know where that leads to? Yeah, not good. Once you start down that road you’ll no doubt find yourself speaking lines like this, “I must find the perfect brain!” It’s a one way trip to loonyville. You’ll start bringing dead puppies back to life – or maybe some goldfish and squirrels. Nothing will be safe from your maniacal ways.

Fun Fact: The original concept for this film was a black-and-white feature with Boris Karloff as the Frankenstein monster. Universal threatened a lawsuit if Hammer copied any elements from the classic Universal version. Hammer had Jimmy Sangster completely redo the script and had Jack Asher shoot it in Eastmancolour.

Classic Quote:  “I’ve harmed nobody, just robbed a few graves!” – Baron Frankenstein

Filming Locations: Black Park, Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire, England, UK / Oakley Court, Windsor Road, Oakley Green, Windsor, Berkshire, England, UK

The Horror of Dracula (1958)

Directed by – Terence Fisher

Starring – Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Michael Gough

********* 9 out of 10 ghosty orbs!

Plot: Jonathan Harker travels to Castle Dracula to help the Count catalog his vast library – you know, books on how to suck blood and shit like that. But what Count Dracula doesn’t know is that Harker is secretly on a mission to kill him. But dumb ass Harker takes his sweet time getting out the wooden stakes and by then it’s too late because Dracula has already sucked the dudes blood – goodbye Librarian, hello life of the un-dead. And if getting turned into a vampire wasn’t bad enough, Dracula sees a picture of Harker’s fiancee, Lucy Holmwood, and decides he needs to tap that ass. Dracula heads into town in his best cape and starts to visit Lucy at night in her bedroom. Soon Lucy is all used up and Dracula sets his sights on one of Lucy’s friends, Mina. What a pimp! But Dracula’s cock is soon blocked by one Dr. Van Helsing.

Fun Fact: The cape worn by Christopher Lee was discovered in 2007 in a London costume shop during its annual inventory-taking. It had been missing for 30 years, and is believed to be worth around $50,000 (US$). Lee was contacted to verify its authenticity.

Classic Quote:  “Sleep well, Mr. Harker.” – Count Dracula

Filming Locations: Bray Studios, Down Place, Oakley Green, Berkshire, England, UK / Oakley Court, Windsor Road, Oakley Green, Windsor, Berkshire, England, UK

The Fly (1958)

Directed By – Kurt Neumann

Starring – David HedisonPatricia OwensVincent Price

****** 6 out of 10 ghosty orbs!

Plot: You ever wish you could just teleport places instead of having to drive there? Or take the train or jet plane? I mean how cool would it be to step into a transporter box and one second you are in California and the nest you are chillin’ in Japan? Fucking awesome! Whats not awesome is that you would have to bring a can of RAID with you every time you step in the transporter and spray the hell out of it – otherwise when you get to Japan you might be barfing up on your sushi roll to slurp it up through a straw.

Fun Fact: Michael Rennie was offered the title role but declined it because his head would be covered thru most of the picture.

Classic Quote: “Help me! Help meeee!” – Andre Delambre

Filming Locations: Stage 9, 20th Century Fox Studios – 10201 Pico Blvd., Century City, Los Angeles, California, USA

House of Wax (1953)

Directed – André de Toth

Starring – Vincent Price, Frank Lovejoy, Charles Bronson

****** 6 out of 10 ghosty orbs

Plot: Professor Henry Jarrod has the talent to make extremely life-like wax sculptures (now there’s a lost art form). His favorite subjects are historical figures such as Marie Antoinette or Joan of Arc, but his business partner Matthew Burke, wants him to start making some more horrific wax sculptures – like a chamber of horrors and shit. When Jarrod refuses to do such sculptures, Burke sets his wax museum on FIRE and collects the insurance. What a fucking dick! Well, everyone believes that Henry Jarrod died in the fire but he unexpectedly reappears some 18 months later when he opens a new exhibit – and guess what motherfuckers, this one DOES have a chamber of horrors. Guess who Henry is inviting for opening day? That’s right – Burke the Jerk.

Fun Fact: Warner Bros.’ first 3-D movie, filmed by director André De Toth – who was blind in one eye and hence could not see the effect.

Classic Quote: “It’s sort of a shock to see your head detached that way. ” – Sue Allen

Filming Locations: Stage 12, Warner Brothers Burbank Studios – 4000 Warner Boulevard, Burbank, California, USA

House on Haunted Hill (1959)

Director – William Castle

Starring – Vincent Price, Carolyn Craig, Elisha Cook

***** 5 out 10 ghosty orbs!

Plot: This was like the 1950’s version of the T.V show “Big Brother” – Let’s put five people in a  haunted house with ghosts that kill the shit out of you, and see which one survives!  The winner gets $10,ooo bucks! Sweet. Your hosts for this ghoulish spectacle are Frederick and Annabelle Loren – who really have no intention of paying any of these idiots, but hey, they don’t know that. One of the contestants, Mr. Pritchard, is a ghost expert know-it-all and tells everyone that there are seven ghosts. Not 6. Fucking 7. How does he know this? Just count the ghosty orbs fool…. ghosty orb 1, ghosty orb 2, ghosty orb Tims!  As the guests continue to be frightened and threatened, two have their own very specific reason for being there and not everyone will live through the night. No shit.

Fun Fact: The Ennis Brown House in Los Angeles, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and built in 1924, and now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was used for the exterior shots of the haunted house during the film’s opening sequence.

Classic Quote: “It’s almost time to lock up the house and then your party will really begin. I wonder how it will end… ” – Frederick Loren

Filming Locations: Ennis-Brown House – 2655 Glendower Avenue, Los Feliz, Los Angeles, California, USA

Them! (1954)

Directed By – Gordon Douglas

Starring – James Whitmore, Edmund Gwenn, Joan Weldon, James Arness

******* 7 out of 10 ghosty orbs!

Plot: After several people in the New Mexico desert wind up missing or dead, including an F.B.I. agent and most of his family, police Sgt. Ben Peterson teams up with F.B.I. agent Bob Graham to find out what’s causing the strange occurrences. And do you know who they find out that did it? Mexican Drug Cartels? Serial Killers? Satanic Cults? Nope, giant motherfucking ANTS!  Turns out the ants over at the Atomic Testing site in Los Alamos got exposed to all the radiation from the bomb tests and got all huge. Thanks a lot Einstein, Oppenheimer, and Heisenberg. Well they manage to destroy the nest of ants and save the day, but then they see two ants with wings fly off to go fuck and make more baby giant ants, hell bent on destroying the world!

Fun Fact: The sound that the giant ants from “THEM!” make as they approach their prey is a recorded chorus of bird-voiced treefrogs (Hyla avivoca) of the southeastern United States. Occasionally a grey treefrog (Hyla chrysoscelis) can be heard on the soundtrack as well, as these species can often be heard together at the same wetland.

Classic Quote: “We may be witnesses to a Biblical prophecy come true – ‘And there shall be destruction and darkness come upon creation, and the beasts shall reign over the earth.'” – Dr. Harold Medford

Filming Locations: Blaney Ranch – 160th & Q Streets, Palmdale, California, USA (giant ants desert nest)

The Thing from Another World (1951)

Directed By – Howard Hawks

Starring – Margaret Sheridan, Kenneth Tobey, Douglas SpencerJames Arness

******** 8 out 10 ghosty orbs!

Plot: Members of an American scientific research outpost in Antarctica find themselves battling a parasitic alien organism capable of perfectly imitating its victims. They soon discover that this task will be harder than they thought, as they don’t know which members of the team have already been assimilated and their paranoia threatens to tear them apart. Then then some dudes chest opens up into a mouth and chomps off the doctors arms then they blast the alien with flamethrowers and the aliens head detaches itself and scrambles across the floor….. uhhh.   oh wait, shit wrong movie.

Fun Fact: The scene in which The Thing is doused with kerosene and set ablaze is believed to be the first full body burn accomplished by a stunt man. Veteran stunt man Tom Steele replaced James Arness in the fire scene. Steele wore an asbestos suit with a special fiberglass helmet with an oxygen supply underneath. He used a 100% oxygen supply which was highly combustible. It was pure luck he didn’t burn his lungs whilst breathing in the mixture.

Classic Quote: “Watch the skies, everywhere! Keep looking. Keep watching the skies!” – Ned “Scotty” Scott

Filming Locations: Glacier National Park, Montana, USA

Beatle Battle! The Final Fight!

Over the last few months doing the Beatle Battles I’ve lived and breathed John, Paul, George, and Ringo. Can I possibly find any more to say about this band for this last Beatles Post*? Yeah, I think I can…. 

The Beatles are the greatest band that ever was or ever will be. Sure that’s just my opinion, but it also happens to be the truth. I could on for days about how their music influenced generation after generation, and how most likely your favorite band at the moment owes a debt to the Beatles, regardless of the genre. But you’ve heard it all before. I think instead I’ll talk about a word The Beatles sang about over and over. Love.

“All you need is love.” Absolutely goddamn right. If I’ve learned one thing in my 40 years on this planet is that love is the guiding force of human beings. It is what we are here for. Carl Jung said…

 “As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.”

I believe that light he is talking about is love. Carl Sagan said…

“For small creatures such as we the vastness (of space) is bearable only through love.”

That’s my favorite quote of all time and one I want on my tombstone, because I believe 100% that it is the truth.  The Beatles sang this message to us countless times.

Don’t get the wrong idea, I’m not praising the individual men of The Beatles and placing them in some sort of high pedestal next to Jesus, Gandhi, Buddha, or Mohammad. Shit, I think John Lennon was kind of a prick for abandoning his son Julian. Ringo and George did more cocaine in the 70’s than Tony Montana in Scarface. And McCartney? I downright loathe the man. But together, these flawed guys made something important. Something lasting and significant. Human beings are not perfect – but we can create perfection in our art. That is the magic of our existence. The Miracle of us.

Thermodynamic Miracles…

Events with odds against so astronomical they’re effectively impossible, like oxygen spontaneously becoming gold. I long to observe such a thing. And yet, in each human coupling, a thousand million sperm vie for a single egg. Multiply those odds by countless generations, against the odds of your ancestors being alive, meeting, siring this precise son, that exact daughter…

Until your mother loves a man, and of that union, of the thousand million children competing for fertilization, it was you, only you, that emerged.

To distill so specific a form from that chaos of improbability, like turning air to gold, that is the crowning unlikelihood.

The thermodynamic miracle.

-Alan Moore

The miracle of The Beatles will last forever. It started with my father’s generation. My Dad bought the White Album when it came out in 1968. Almost 20 years later his son would discover that record in his collection and place it on the turntable and listen as the music changed his life. Another 20 years pass and my 13 year old daughter is singing “Penny Lane” with me in the car as we drive down the highway and I can see her smile as the same music that moved me and her grandfather is now moving her. And in another 20 years, perhaps her own child will dig out some old mp3’s of their Mom’s and hit play and hear what those four boys from Liverpool created all those years ago.

The message will always be the same – all you need is love. Without love we are lost. The Beatles preached this to us all time and time again. For this reason alone, The Beatles are my favorite band of all time.

*yes Mike, this is the last Beatles post ever.

Beatle Battle! The Division WINNERS!

64 Beatles songs went in, only 4 came out. Here they are, the winners for each Division:

Winner of Division 1: The Clean Cut Years (songs written between 1961 and 1964)

“Hard Days Night”

My thoughts on the song:

I’m just gonna get this out-of-the-way here first – I’m not the biggest fan of The Beatles work during this period of their career. “Love, love me do…” come on, pretty trite lyrics and simple melodies, but such was all the rage in popular music in these years – and popular music was just learning to crawl at this time in history. Before Elvis, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, Gene Vincent, and others burst onto the scene in the 1950’s, music was dominated by the “doo bee doo bee doo” crooner’s and the death rattle of classical music. Rock and Roll showed up with three cords and a southern back beat – it showed everyone that music could be much more than they ever thought it could. This was music people grew to love. This kind of music was a hit. It was popular. This was birth of “POP” music.

Over in Liverpool the kids were eating this popular music up. John Lennon and Paul McCartney spent their days and nights playing covers of these tunes. Honing their skills as musicians playing covers of “Be Bop A Lula” and “Long Tall Sally” – like I said, simple songs but ones that people loved to hear. This shit was new and fresh and made you tap your foot. This music spoke to generation that had previously only been given what their parents listened to. Finally, there was a movement for the youth to latch onto – and latch onto it they did. Beatlemania was a result of this. A result of the birth of Popular Music and rebellion that followed. Beatlemania was not about the “songs” – it was about the message being delivered across the airwaves. The song “A Hard Days Night” is a by the numbers pop song with some hints at things to come from these four guys. That opening cord to the song is one of those hints. Check it out…..

That one single cord blows the doors off anything Elvis or Richard or Holly had ever done. It opened the flood gates and made us all turn our heads and take notice. But the best was yet to come.

Winner of Division 2: The Shaggy Years (songs written between 1965 and 1966)

 “In My Life”

My thoughts on the song:

Drugs are bad mmmmkay. But there was a time when drugs helped the musicians in the mid 60’s look beyond those 3 cords they were playing over and over again and try something “different”. When The Beatles met Bob Dylan and smoked weed with him, brand new doors were opening in the heads of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Doors that would have stayed shut if not for the drugs influence on them. McCartney in interviews today is reluctant to talk about the things they did back then because of what drugs have become in our society today. It was a  more innocent time back then and Paul doesn’t want to send out the wrong message – that doing drugs will make you write songs like The Beatles. It won’t. Believe me I tried. McCartney is completely right – things were different then and weed did indeed cause these dudes to write songs that they never would have even attempted before. Songs that were about more than just holding hands. Dylan should be given full credit for putting The Beatles on the path to better songwriting – well that, and the ganja.

“In My Life” is one of my all time favorite Beatles songs. I sang it for my sister’s wedding. I’ve played it in my car countless times and cried a couple of those times. Not many songs can make me do that. It is absolutely and completely beautiful and true.  Lennon is writing his first true song here, and he knows it. You can feel Lennon’s spirit in the melody (even though Paul tried to take credit for writing the song). It is Lennon’s presence we are in when those opening notes played by Harrison ring out. It is Lennon’s touch we feel when the George Martin harpsichord solo shows up in the middle of the tune. And it is Lennon alone we hear when he sings the very last line of this song, by himself, with no music – in that stunning falsetto , “… in myyyyy life…I love you more.”  This is John Lennon’s gift to us all and he means every word. It is one of the greatest songs to ever be written. Ever. Thanks John.

take a listen one more time

Winner of Division 3: The Mustache Years (songs written between 1967 and 1968)

 “Strawberry Fields Forever”

My thoughts on the song:

George Martin has proclaimed the biggest mistake he ever made with The Beatles was leaving “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane” off of the Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album. Both of these songs were to be the foundation of this new album by a brand new “non-touring” Beatles. But the record company executives wanted a single out so Martin and the crew gave them these first two songs and left them off the album. Total fucking mistake.

As it is, Pepper is a great album – artistically it was ground-breaking and revolutionary. No other band had done anything like this before: a record as a piece of art. musically though I think it is a tad over-rated and not my favorite Beatles record. BUT, if “Strawberry Fields” and “Penny Lane” had been on the album, two of the greatest songs to ever been written by a human being, well shit dude, Pepper would be my favorite album of all time.

So for fun let’s see what Sgt Pepper would have looked like if George Martin hadn’t of fucked up:

SGT PEPPERS LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND

Side One

Track 1. “Sgt Peppers Lonely Heart’s Club Band”

Track 2. “With a Little Help From My Friends”

Track 3. “Penny Lane”

Track 4. “Being For the Benefit of Mr Kite”

Track 5. “She’s Leaving Home”

Track 6.  “Strawberry Fields Forever”

Side Two

Track 1. “Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds”

Track 2. “Getting Better”

Track 3. “Fixing a Hole”

Track 4. “Within You Without You”

Track 5. “Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band (reprise)”

Track 6. “A Day in the Life”

Open up your iTunes, pop in a blank CD and try it out for yourself. Pretty great album yeah?

It was during this time of change that Paul McCartney began to grab the reins of the band away from John Lennon, who had started The Beatles back in 1961. Lennon was becoming less and less interested in what a Pop Band was supposed to do and more interested in what they could get away with. McCartney on the other hand loved the attention and loved the spotlight. He pretty much kept The Beatles together after the “Bigger than Jesus” fall out, and Pepper was just the cure the band needed at the time. Pepper was a big “fuck you” wrapped in a colorful package.

As I talked about before, drugs played a big part in John Lennon’s development as a songwriter. Strawberry Fields has a very hallucinatory effect on the listener. The song is not about drugs, but its influence is felt in the construction of the tune. I ran across this awesome YouTube clip where it shows the complete evolution of the song. It shows that John had been thinking about the melody all the way back in 1964, but just didn’t know what to do with it. Years later and a couple of acid trips under his belt, Lennon began assembling his masterpiece. Check this shit out…

Pretty fucking awesome yeah? I love this song. I can remember the first time I heard it, around 1986. I was just getting into The Beatles thanks to my Dad’s record collection and was playing the shit out of the White Album. I took a quick trip to the local record store and picked up a cassette of Magical Mystery Tour. I played the tape in my parents Toyota Van driving around town and when Strawberry Fields came on I had to stop and listen. There are 3 moments in my life where music changed everything. The first was when my Mom was driving me to the dentist around 1981, after John Lennon had been murdered and his song “Watching The Wheels” was playing on the radio. And when Lennon gets to the part of the song where it goes, “No longer riding on the merry-go-round!” that was the first time I knew music could speak to me like nothing else. Another time was when I first heard Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit“. After years of hair bands dominating the radio and MTV, I couldn’t believe what my ears just heard coming out of the speakers. I immediately went to The Underground and bought a copy of Nevermind. But in between those two events, there was “Strawberry Fields Forever”. A single song that made me want to write music as beautiful as that. It made me feel alive in a way that I can never fully explain. It showed me the ultimate power of music and what it can do to your soul – fill it with wonder and restore your faith. In all intents and purposes, it was my first religious experience.

(side note: all these musical events took place in a car, which explains that to this day, there is nothing I like better than popping in a cd and driving.)

Winner of Division 4: The Beard Years (songs written between 1968 and 1970)

“Come Together”

My thoughts on the song:

Well, whatta know – it’s a John Lennon Sweep. All the songs that won their division were written exclusively by Lennon (with a little help from his friends to be sure). One of his last contributions to the band before its break up was “Come Together” – a mind fuck of a tune, and more than any other Lennon song, has stood the test of time and feels like it could be released today and still hit number one. It is a timeless composition and one that kicks off Side One of possibly the greatest Beatles album of them all, Abbey Road.

But I didn’t always feel this way about this song. In fact there was a time when I fast forwarded it to get to the next song on the album “Something”. I blame this on Michael Jackson. Behold….

Jackson covered this song back in 1995 for his “HIStory” album, and for some reason every time I heard the REAL “Come Together”, I couldn’t get Jacko grabbing himself out of my head. So for years I avoided the song like the plague, for fear of visions of crotches dancing in my head. Then one day in 2006 I ran across the soundtrack to the Cirque du Soleil show of Love, which was set to the songs of The Beatles. It was like listening to a brand new Beatles album. George Martin and his son Giles poured over the orignal master Abbey Road recordings and “reassembled” brand new versions of the songs we loved, using only stuff recorded by The Beatles – no outside recordings were used. The result is pretty goddamn awesome.

Here is what George Martin had to say about the song while working on this album…

“Listening again to all these great tracks in such detail you can’t help but be knocked out by the band’s writing and performances. “Come Together” is such a simple song but it stands out because of the sheer brilliance of the performers. Paul’s bass riff makes a fantastic foundation for Ringo’s imaginative drumming, and John’s vocal with heavy tape echo has a marvelous effect when he claps his hands and hisses into the microphone. George’s guitar is equally distinctive, and altogether I believe this is one of the Beatles greatest tracks.” – from the liner notes of Love, the soundtrack

And as usual, he is absolutely right. Take a listen to the song here….

That is motherfucking bad ass. I love it when after years of hearing a song you rediscover it in some new way, the album Love did that for me with “Come Together”.  To quote Macaulay Culkin, “I’m glad I got the Micheal Jackson stain off me.”

Beatle Battle! The Division Championship Bouts!

Well after weeks of battling here are the 8 songs that have made it to the Division Championships. The winners of this battle will go on to the Final Fight to determine which Beatles song is the greatest of all time!

Let’s get to it!

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DIVISION 1: THE CLEAN CUT YEARS –  CHAMPIONSHIP FIGHT!

Hard Days Night vs Things We Said Today

The Tale of the Tape:  Hard Days Night

Written By:

John Lennon wrote this song in 1964. The lyrics were written in ball-point pin on the back of an old birthday card.

Instrumentation:

John Lennon – double-tracked lead vocal (verses), electric and acoustic rhythm guitars

Paul McCartney – double-tracked vocal (middle-eight), harmony vocal, bass

George Harrison – lead guitar

Ringo Starr – drums, bongos, cowbell

George Martin – piano

Song Structure:

The song is composed in the key of G major and in a 4/4 time signature.

The Opening cord to this song is the “The Cord heard around the world!” Played by George Harrison there are many different opinions on the cord itself. Is it a  G7add9sus4 cord? Or a G7sus4 one? Or maybe G11sus4? Regardless it is a cord that defines the early years of the Beatles and one that you can “name that tune in one note“.

Chart Position and Awards:

Spent 13 weeks on the billboard charts, 2 of them at number 1.

In 1965 it won The Beatles the Grammy Award for Best Performance by a Vocal Group. In 2004, this song was ranked number 153 on Rolling Stone‘s list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”.

The Tale of the Tape: Things We Said Today

Written By:

Paul McCartney wrote the song in May 1964 while cruising the Caribbean aboard a yacht called Happy Days with his then-girlfriend Jane Asher.

Instrumentation:

Paul McCartney – double-tracked vocal, bass

John Lennon – acoustic rhythm guitar, piano

George Harrison – lead guitar

Ringo Starr – drums, tambourine

Song Structure:

McCartney was particularly satisfied with his chord change, F major to B flat major—instead of the more obvious F minor—which first occurs beneath “…wishing you weren’t so far away” in the song.John Lennon accentuates McCartney’s strident acoustic guitar strumming by triple hitting a low A note on a piano. The tempo of the song moves from ballad to rock and back with a minor to major key change during its middle eight section.

Chart Position and Awards:

Things We Said Today was first released on 10 July 1964. On that day Parlophone issued the A Hard Day’s Night album and single in the UK. The song was on the second side of both releases, which were both chart toppers.

It was also included on the EP Extracts From The Album A Hard Day’s Night, which was released on 6 November 1964.

In the US it first appeared on the album Something New, which was released on 20 July 1964.

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DIVISION 2: THE SHAGGY YEARS –  CHAMPIONSHIP FIGHT!

We Can Work It Out vs In My Life

The Tale of the Tape: We Can Work It Out

Written By:

Paul McCartney (with some help from John Lennon) wrote the words and music to the verses and the chorus, with lyrics that “might have been personal, probably a reference to his relationship with Jane Asher.

Instrumentation:

Paul McCartney – double-tracked vocal, bass

John Lennon – harmony vocal, acoustic rhythm guitar, harmonium

George Harrison – tambourine

Ringo Starr – drums

Song Structure:

Paul says, “I took it to John to finish it off, and we wrote the middle together. Which is nice: ‘Life is very short. There’s no time for fussing and fighting, my friend.’ Then it was George Harrison’s idea to put the middle into waltz time, like a German waltz. That came on the session, it was one of the cases of the arrangement being done on the session.”

With its intimations of mortality, Lennon’s contribution to the twelve-bar bridge contrasts typically with what Lennon saw as McCartney’s cajoling optimism, a contrast also seen in other collaborations by the pair, such as “Getting Better” and “I’ve Got a Feeling”. As Lennon told Playboy in 1980:

“In We Can Work It Out, Paul did the first half, I did the middle eight. But you’ve got Paul writing, ‘We can work it out / We can work it out’—real optimistic, y’know, and me, impatient: ‘Life is very short, and there’s no time / For fussing and fighting, my friend.'”

Based on those comments, some critics overemphasised McCartney’s optimism, neglecting the toughness in passages written by McCartney,such as “Do I have to keep on talking until I can’t go on?”. Lennon’s middle shifts focus from McCartney’s concrete reality to a philosophical perspective in B minor, illustrating this with the waltz-time section suggested by George Harrison that leads back to the verse,possibly meant to suggest tiresome struggle.

Chart Position and Awards:

Day Tripper was originally intended to be The Beatles’ final single of 1965. However, We Can Work It Out was felt by the group and Brian Epstein to be the more commercial song.

Lennon disagreed, and fought to retain Day Tripper as the lead song. The result was the single being marketed as the world’s first double a-side, which was released on 3 December in the UK – the same day as Rubber Soul; and three days later in the US.

Of the two songs, We Can Work It Out was more commonly requested by record buyers, and was likewise favoured by radio stations. In the UK it entered the chart at number one five days after its release, where it remained for five weeks and sold over a million copies.

We Can Work It Out/Day Tripper also topped the charts in the US. It was The Beatles’ fastest-selling single since Can’t Buy Me Love. It was with this release that Lennon’s dominance of The Beatles began to cede to McCartney, who was steadily becoming more influential as a musical leader of the group.

The Tale of the Tape: In My Life

Written By:

John Lennon is credited with writing this tune but Paul McCartney has said in later interviews after The Beatles broke up, that he contributed to the final version and in some cases taking full credit for the entire melody (see, whatta dick!). The extent of Paul’s contribution may never be known but this song will forever be a “Lennon” one to me and to most people.

According to Lennon, the song’s origins can be found when the English journalist Kenneth Allsop made a remark that Lennon should write songs about his childhood. Afterwards, Lennon wrote a song in the form of a long poem reminiscing on his childhood years. The original version of the lyrics was based on a bus route he used to take in Liverpool, naming various sites seen along the way, including Penny Lane and Strawberry Field. Those original lyrics are on display at The British Museum.

However, Lennon found it to be “ridiculous”, calling it “the most boring sort of ‘What I Did On My Holidays Bus Trip’ song”; he reworked the words, replacing the specific memories with a generalised meditation on his past. “Very few lines” of the original version remained in the finished song. According to Lennon’s friend and biographer Peter Shotton, the lines “Some [friends] are dead and some are living/In my life I’ve loved them all” referred to Stuart Sutcliffe (who died in 1962) and to Shotton.

Instrumentation:

John Lennon – double-tracked vocal, rhythm guitar

Paul McCartney – harmony vocal, bass

George Harrison – harmony vocal, lead guitar

Ringo Starr – drums, tambourine, bells

George Martin – electric piano

Song Structure:

The song was recorded on 18 October 1965, and was complete except for the instrumental bridge.At that time, Lennon had not decided what instrument to use, but he subsequently asked George Martin to play a piano solo, suggesting “something Baroque-sounding”.Martin wrote a Bach-influenced piece that he found he could not play at the song’s tempo. On 22 October, the solo was recorded at half-tempo (one octave lower) and tape speed was doubled for the final recording, solving the performance challenge and giving the piano solo a unique timbre, reminiscent of a harpsichord.

Chart Position and Awards:

Released on the 1965 album Rubber Soul, it is ranked 23rd on Rolling Stone’s “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time” as well as fifth on their list of The Beatles 100 Greatest Songs. The song placed second on CBC’s 50 Tracks. Mojo magazine named it the best song of all time in 2000.

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DIVISION 3: THE MUSTACHE YEARS –  CHAMPIONSHIP FIGHT!

Strawberry Fields Forever vs A Day in the Life

The Tale of the Tape: Strawberry Fields Forever

Written By:

The song was written by John Lennon. It was inspired by Lennon’s memories of playing in the garden of a Salvation Army house named “Strawberry Field” near his childhood home.

Lennon began writing the song in Almería, Spain, during the filming of Richard Lester’s How I Won the War in September–October 1966. The earliest demo of the song, recorded in Almería, had no refrain and only one verse: “There’s no one on my wavelength / I mean, it’s either too high or too low / That is you can’t you know tune in but it’s all right / I mean it’s not too bad”. He revised the words to this verse to make them more obscure, then wrote the melody and part of the lyrics to the refrain (which then functioned as a bridge and did not yet include a reference to Strawberry Fields). He then added another verse and the mention of Strawberry Fields.The first verse on the released version was the last to be written, close to the time of the song’s recording. For the refrain, Lennon was again inspired by his childhood memories: the words “nothing to get hung about” were inspired by Aunt Mimi’s strict order not to play in the grounds of Strawberry Field, to which Lennon replied, “They can’t hang you for it.”The first verse Lennon wrote became the second in the released version, and the second verse Lennon wrote became the last in the release.

Instrumentation:

Part one

John Lennon – double-tracked lead vocal, lead guitar, piano, maracas

Paul McCartney – Mellotron, bass

George Harrison – electric slide guitar

Ringo Starr – drums, backward cymbals

Part two

John Lennon – double-tracked lead vocal

Paul McCartney – timpani

George Harrison – swarmandal, bongos

Ringo Starr – drums, percussion, backward cymbals

George Martin – cello and trumpet arrangement

Mal Evans – tambourine

Neil Aspinall – guiro

Terry Doran – maracas

Tony Fisher – trumpet

Greg Bowen – trumpet

Derek Watkins – trumpet

Stanley Roderick – trumpet

John Hall – cello

Derek Simpson – cello

Norman Jones – cello

Song Structure:

The song was originally written on acoustic guitar in the key of C major. The recorded version is approximately in B-flat major; owing to manipulation of the recording speed, the finished version is not in standard pitch (some, for instance consider that the tonic is A). The introduction was played by McCartney on a Mellotron, and involves a I- ii- I- ♭VII- IV progressiontowards not the verse but the refrain: “Let me take you down” (which involves a chromatic 8- 7- ♭7 melody note descent).  In fact we are not “taken down” to the tonic key, but to “non-diatonic chords and secondary dominants” combining with “chromatic melodic tension intensified through outrageous harmonisation and root movement”  The phrase “to Strawberry” for example begins with a highly dissonant G melody note against a prevailing Em chord (in the key of A), then uses extremely dissonant A and A# notes (against the Em chord) till the resonant E note is reached on “Fields”. The same series of mostly dissonant melody notes cover the phrase “nothing is real” against the prevailing F#7 chord (in A key). A half-measure complicates the meter of the verses, as well as the fact that the vocals begin in the middle of the first measure. The first verse comes after the refrain, and is eight measures long. The verse (for example “Always, no sometimes…”) starts with an F major chord in key of B♭ (or E chord in key of A) (V), which progresses to G minor in B♭ key (or F#M in A key) (vi) in a deceptive cadence. According to Alan Pollack, the “approach-avoidance tactic” is encountered in the verse, as the V chord (for example E in A key) appearing on the words “Always know”, “I know when” “I think a No” and “I think I disagree”) never resolves into a I chord (A in A key)) directly as expected. Instead, at the end of the verse, the V chord turns (on the word “I think I disagree”) into a I chord (A in A key)) at verse end after passing through the E-flat major in B♭ key (or D chord in A key) (IV) chord “on “dis-agree“. In the middle of the second chorus, the “funereal brass” is introduced, stressing the ominous lyrics. After three verses and four choruses, the line “Strawberry Fields Forever” is repeated three times, and the song fades out with a guitar, cello, and swarmandal. The song fades back in after a few seconds in to the “nightmarish” ending, with Mellotron playing dissonant notes (achieved by recording the Mellotron “Swinging Flutes” setting backwards ), scattered drumming, and Lennon saying, “cranberry sauce”, after which the song fades back out.

Chart Position and Awards:

When manager Brian Epstein pressed Martin for a new Beatles’ single, Martin told Epstein that the group had recorded “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane”, which in Martin’s opinion were their two finest songs to date. Epstein said they would issue the songs as a double A-side single, as they had done with their previous single, “Yellow Submarine”/”Eleanor Rigby”. The single was released in the US on 13 February 1967, and in the United Kingdom on 17 February 1967. Following The Beatles’ philosophy that songs released on a single should not appear on new albums, both songs were ultimately left off Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but Martin later admitted that this was a “dreadful mistake”.

For the first time since “Love Me Do” in 1962, a single by The Beatles failed to reach number one in the UK charts. It was held at number two by Engelbert Humperdinck’s “Release Me”, because the BBC counted the two songs as two individual singles; discounting the fact that The Beatles’ single outsold Humperdinck’s by almost two to one. In a radio interview at the time, McCartney said he was not upset because Humperdinck’s song was a “completely different type of thing”. Starr said later that it was “a relief” because “it took the pressure off”. “Penny Lane” reached number one in the US, while “Strawberry Fields Forever” peaked at number eight. In the US, both songs were included on the Magical Mystery Tour LP, which was released as a six-track double-EP in the UK.

“Strawberry Fields Forever” was well-received by critics, and is still considered a classic. Three weeks after its release, Time magazine hailed the song as “the latest sample of The Beatles’ astonishing inventiveness”. Richie Unterberger of Allmusic hailed the song as “one of The Beatles’ peak achievements and one of the finest Lennon-McCartney songs”. Ian MacDonald wrote in Revolution in the Head that it “shows expression of a high order… few if any [contemporary composers] are capable of displaying feeling and fantasy so direct, spontaneous, and original.” In 2004, this song was ranked number 76 on Rolling Stone‘s list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”. In 2010, Rolling Stone placed it at number three on the 100 Greatest Beatles Songs. The song was ranked as the second-best Beatles’ song by Mojo, after “A Day in the Life”.

Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys said that “Strawberry Fields Forever” was partially responsible for the shelving of his group’s legendary unfinished album, Smile. Wilson first heard the song on his car radio whilst driving, and was so affected that he had to stop and listen to it all the way through. He then remarked to his passenger that The Beatles had already reached the sound the Beach Boys had wanted to achieve. Paul Revere & The Raiders were among the most successful US groups during 1966 and 1967, having their own Dick Clark-produced television show, Where the Action Is. Mark Lindsay (singer/saxophonist) heard the song on the radio, bought it, and then listened to it at home with his producer at the time, Terry Melcher. When the song ended Lindsay said, “Now what the fuck are we gonna do?” later saying, “With that single, The Beatles raised the ante as to what a pop record should be”.

Tale of the Tape: A Day in the Life

Written By:

A Day in the Life comprises distinct segments written independently by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, with orchestral additions. While Lennon’s lyrics were inspired by contemporary newspaper articles, McCartney’s were reminiscent of his youth. The decisions to link sections of the song with orchestral glissandos and to end the song with a sustained piano chord were made only after the rest of the song had been recorded.

According to Lennon, the inspiration for the first two verses was the death of Tara Browne, the 21-year-old heir to the Guinness fortune and close friend of Lennon and McCartney, who had crashed his Lotus Elan on 18 December 1966 in Redcliffe Gardens, Earls Court.Lennon’s verses were adapted from a story in the 17 January 1967 edition of The Daily Mail, which reported the coroner’s verdict into Browne’s death.

“I didn’t copy the accident,” Lennon said. “Tara didn’t blow his mind out, but it was in my mind when I was writing that verse. The details of the accident in the song—not noticing traffic lights and a crowd forming at the scene—were similarly part of the fiction.”

The second verse contains the line “The English Army had just won the war”; Lennon was making reference to his role in the movie How I Won the War, released on 18 October 1967. In Many Years from Now, McCartney said about the line “I’d love to turn you on”, which concludes both verse sections: “This was the time of Tim Leary’s ‘Turn on, tune in, drop out’ and we wrote, ‘I’d love to turn you on.’ John and I gave each other a knowing look: ‘Uh-huh, it’s a drug song. You know that, don’t you?’.”

McCartney provided the middle section of the song, a short piano piece he had been working on independently, with lyrics about a commuter whose uneventful morning routine leads him to drift off into a dream. John said: “I had the bulk of the song and the words, but he contributed this little lick floating around in his head that he couldn’t use for anything.”McCartney had written the piece as a wistful recollection of his younger years, which included riding the bus to school, smoking, and going to class. The orchestral crescendos that link the verses and this section were conducted by McCartney and producer George Martin.

The final verse was inspired by an article in the Daily Mail in January 1967 regarding a substantial number of potholes in Blackburn, a town in Lancashire. However, Lennon had a problem with the words of the final verse, not being able to think of how to connect “Now they know how many holes it takes to” and “the Albert Hall”. His friend Terry Doran suggested that they would “fill” the Albert Hall.

Instrumentation:

John Lennon – lead vocals (verses), acoustic guitar, maracas, piano (final chord)

Paul McCartney – piano, lead vocals (middle-eight), bass guitar

George Harrison – maracas

Ringo Starr – drums, congas, piano (final chord)

George Martin – harmonium (final chord) and producer

Mal Evans – alarm clock, counting, piano (final chord)

Geoff Emerick – engineering and mixing

Orchestrated by George Martin, John Lennon and Paul McCartney

Conducted by George Martin and Paul McCartney

John Marston – harp

Erich Gruenberg, Granville Jones, Bill Monro, Jurgen Hess, Hans Geiger, D. Bradley, Lionel Bentley, David McCallum, Donald Weekes, Henry Datyner, Sidney Sax, Ernest Scott – violin

John Underwood, Gwynne Edwards, Bernard Davis, John Meek – viola

Francisco Gabarro, Dennis Vigay, Alan Delziel, Alex Nifosi – cello

Cyril Mac Arther, Gordon Pearce – double bass

Roger Lord – oboe

Basil Tschaikov, Jack Brymer – clarinet

N. Fawcett, Alfred Waters – bassoon

Clifford Seville, David Sandeman – flute

Alan Civil, Neil Sanders – french horn

David Mason, Monty Montgomery, Harold Jackson – trumpet

Raymond Brown, Raymond Premru, T. Moore – trombone

Michael Barnes – tuba

Tristan Fry – timpani

Song Structure:

The Beatles began recording the song, with a working title “In the Life of…”, on 19 January 1967, in the innovative and creative studio atmosphere ushered in by the recording of “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane” over the preceding weeks. The two sections of the song are separated by a 23-bar bridge. At first, the Beatles were not sure how to fill this transition. Thus, at the conclusion of the recording session for the basic tracks, this section solely consisted of a simple repeated piano chord and the voice of assistant Mal Evans counting the bars. Evans’ guide vocal was treated with gradually increasing amounts of echo. The 23-bar bridge section ended with the sound of an alarm clock triggered by Evans. The original intent was to edit out the ringing alarm clock when the missing section was filled in; however it complemented McCartney’s piece well; the first line of McCartney’s song began “Woke up, fell out of bed”, so the decision was made to keep the sound. Martin later said that editing it out would have been unfeasible in any case. The basic track for the song was refined with remixing and additional parts added at recording sessions on 20 January and 3 February. Still, there was no solution for the missing 24-bar middle section of the song, when McCartney had the idea of bringing in a full orchestra to fill the gap.To allay concerns that classically-trained musicians would not be able to improvise the section, producer George Martin wrote a loose score for the section. It was an extended, atonal crescendo that encouraged the musicians to improvise within the defined framework.

Final chord

Following the final orchestral crescendo, the song ends with one of the most famous final chords in music history. Lennon, McCartney, Starr, and Evans shared three different pianos, with Martin on the harmonium, and all played an E-major chord simultaneously. The final chord was made to ring out for over forty seconds by increasing the recording sound level as the vibration faded out. Towards the end of the chord the recording level was so high that listeners can hear the sounds of the studio, including rustling papers and a squeaking chair.

The piano chord was a replacement for a failed vocal experiment: on the evening following the orchestra recording session, the four Beatles had recorded an ending of their voices humming the chord, but after multiple overdubs they wanted something with more impact. This final E chord represents a VI to the song’s tonic G major, although it has been argued that the preceding chord shifts from F (“them all”) to Em (“Now they know”) Em7 (“takes to fill”) C (“love to turn you”) and B (“on”) followed by the chromatic ascent, shifts our sense of the tonic from G to E; creating a feeling of tragic inevitability instead of the usual hopeful uplift associated with a VI modulation.

Chart Position and Awards:

“A Day in the Life” became one of the Beatles’ most influential songs. Paul Grushkin in his book Rockin’ Down the Highway: The Cars and People That Made Rock Roll, called the song “one of the most ambitious, influential, and groundbreaking works in pop music history”. In “From Craft to Art: Formal Structure in the Music of The Beatles”, the song is described thus: “”A Day in the Life” is perhaps one of the most important single tracks in the history of rock music; clocking in at only four minutes and forty-five seconds, it must surely be among the shortest epic pieces in rock”.

The song appears on many top songs lists. It placed twelfth on CBC’s 50 Tracks, the second highest Beatles song on the list after “In My Life”. It placed first in Q Magazine’s list of the 50 greatest British songs of all time, and was at the top of Mojo Magazine’s 101 Greatest Beatles’ Songs, as decided by a panel of musicians and journalists. “A Day in the Life” was also nominated for a Grammy in 1967 for Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist Or Instrumentalist. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked “A Day in the Life” at number 26 on the magazine’s list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”, and in 2010, the magazine deemed it to be The Beatles’ greatest song. It is listed at number 5 in Pitchfork Media’s The 200 Greatest Songs of the 1960s.

In April 1967, McCartney played a tape of the song to Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys, in Los Angeles. The song deeply affected Wilson, who was suffering growing emotional problems. Soon after, Wilson abandoned his work on the Beach Boys’ album Smile, and would not return to complete it until 2003. Van Dyke Parks later said, “Brian had a nervous collapse. What broke his heart was Sgt. Pepper.”

Following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the song was placed on the list of post-9/11 inappropriate titles distributed by Clear Channel.

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DIVISION 4: THE BEARD YEARS –  CHAMPIONSHIP FIGHT!

Come Together  vs Let It Be

Tale of the Tape: Come Together

Written By:

The song was written by John Lennon. The song’s history began when Lennon was inspired by Timothy Leary’s campaign for governor of California titled “Come together, join the party” against Ronald Reagan, which promptly ended when Leary was sent to prison for possession of marijuana. It has been speculated that each verse refers cryptically to each of The Beatles (e.g. “he’s one holy roller” allegedly refers to the spiritually inclined George Harrison; “he got monkey finger, he shoot Coca-Cola” to Ringo, the funny Beatle; “he got Ono sideboard, he one spinal cracker” to Lennon himself; and “got to be good-looking ’cause he’s so hard to see” to Paul); however, it has also been suggested that the song has only a single “pariah-like protagonist” and Lennon was “painting another sardonic self-portrait”.

Instrumentation:

John Lennon – lead vocal, harmony vocal, rhythm guitar, handclaps, electric piano

Paul McCartney – bass guitar

George Harrison – lead guitar

Ringo Starr – drums, maracas

Song Structure:

This classic 1960s rock anthem with deep bluesy style was unlike any other song of its time in that it was constructed entirely of verse/refrains. There is no chorus and only one short guitar solo, acting as a bridge to interrupt the radical song structure. For the first eight bars, the tonic note D is repeated, eventually moving to the V chord and then to the IV chord. It then moves to the VI minor chord, which is a progression rarely used; the song “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” being a rare example. The refrain in actuality is three bars long, because the melody keeps going after the last A5 chord and comes to rest on the D5 chord after that. It is also important to mention the introduction of F# in the melody with a B minor triad. The tonic is held for four bars between each verse and is the same as the contents of the introduction.

Within the verse there are four one-bar structures; each one a non-sequitur. The lyrics end each time on the abrupt beat four of each measure, giving the verse an AAAA phrasing structure. The phrasing structure in the second half of the verse is two bars of BB. The C phrasing structure of the refrain has three measures becoming one long phrase and ending on the word “me” which ties everything together. There is an eleven-bar verse/refrain from a ten bar form. The one bar phrase into the two bar phrase and the three bar overlap creates plenty of deceleration and pushes the title line of the song to the spotlight. The melody of the verse stays within the range of a perfect fourth. Using mostly three notes (D, F, C) the tonic, flat three and flat seven, it moves away later only for contrast when it hits the II (E) and stays on that note for two bars. The refrain stands out as the highest notes in the piece (A). John Lennon decided to use modal interchange.

Chart Position and Awards:

“Come Together” was released as a double A-side with “Something” and as the opening track of Abbey Road. The single was released on 6 October 1969 in the US and 31 October 1969 in the UK.

Rolling Stone ranked “Come Together” at #202 on their list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time” and #9 on their list of The Beatles’ 100 Greatest Songs.

On the compilation album Love, “Come Together” is the 19th track. Instrumentals and some backing vocals from “Dear Prudence” fade in followed by the “Can you take me back” section of “Cry Baby Cry” as a transition.

Tale of the Tape: Let It Be

Written By:

The song was written by Paul McCartney. McCartney said he had the idea of “Let It Be” after a dream he had about his mother during the tense period surrounding the sessions for The Beatles (the “White Album”). McCartney explained that his mother—who died of cancer when McCartney was fourteen—was the inspiration for the “Mother Mary” lyric. He later said, “It was great to visit with her again. I felt very blessed to have that dream. So that got me writing ‘Let It Be’.” He also said in a later interview about the dream that his mother had told him, “It will be all right, just let it be.”

Instrumentation:

George Harrison – lead guitar, backing vocals

John Lennon – Fender Bass VI, backing vocals

Paul McCartney – lead and backing vocals, piano, maracas

Ringo Starr – drums

Linda McCartney – backing vocals (on single release only)

Billy Preston – keyboards

Uncredited performers – two trumpets, two trombones, tenor saxophone, cello

Song Structure:

The first rehearsal of “Let It Be” took place at Twickenham Film Studios on 3 January 1969, where the group had, the previous day, begun what would become the Let It Be film. During this stage of the film they were only recording on the mono decks used for syncing to the film cameras, and were not making multi-track recordings for release. A single take was recorded, with just McCartney on piano and vocals. The first attempt with the other Beatles was made on 8 January. Work continued on the song throughout the month. Multi-track recordings commenced on 23 January at Apple Studios.

The master take was recorded on 31 January 1969, as part of the ‘Apple studio performance’ for the project. McCartney played Blüthner piano, Lennon played six-string electric bass, Billy Preston played organ, and George Harrison and Ringo Starr assumed their conventional roles on guitar and drums. This was one of two performances of the song that day. The first version, designated take 27-A, would serve as the basis for all officially released versions of the song. The other version, take 27-B, was performed as part of the ‘live studio performance’, along with “Two of Us” and “The Long and Winding Road”. This performance, in which Lennon and Harrison harmonised with McCartney’s lead vocal and Harrison contributed a subdued guitar solo, can be seen in the film Let It Be. The film performance of “Let It Be” has never been officially released as an audio recording. The lyrics in the two versions differ a little in the last verse. The studio version has Shine until tomorrow…there will be an answer whereas the film version has shine until tomorrow…there will be no sorrow.

On 30 April 1969, Harrison overdubbed a new guitar solo on the best take from 31 January that year. He overdubbed another solo on 4 January 1970. The first overdub solo was used for the original single release, and the second overdub solo was used for the original album release. Some fans mistakenly believe that there were two versions of the basic track—based mostly on the different guitar solos, but also on some other differences in overdubs and mixes.

Chart Position and Awards:

Critical reception for “Let It Be” has been positive. In 2004, it was ranked number 20 on Rolling Stone‘s list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”. In 2010, the magazine placed the song at #8 on The Beatles’ 100 Greatest Songs. Allmusic said it was one of “The Beatles’ most popular and finest ballads”. Ian MacDonald had a dissenting opinion, writing that the song “achieved a popularity well out of proportion to its artistic weight” and that it was “‘Hey Jude’, without the musical and emotional release.”

“Let It Be” won Academy Awards in 1971 in “Original Song Score” category as a part of documentary film “Let It Be”. It also won Grammy Awards for “Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or a Television Special”.

Beatle Battle! Third Round Winners!

Some pretty close calls this round. Once again you voted for your faves and here are the songs that will make it to the Division Championship Bouts!

Winners for Division 1: The Clean Cut Years

Hard Days Night

Things We Said Today

Winners for Division 2: The Shaggy Years

We Can Work It Out

In My Life

Winners for Division 3: The Mustache Years

Strawberry Fields Forever

A Day in the Life

Winners for Division 4: The Beard Years

Come Together

Let It Be

Beatle Battle! Third Round Bouts – Division 4: The Beard Years

I’m glad The Beatles broke up. Without that happening we would have never gotten the following stellar solo albums:

John Lennon’s Imagine – If there is one song that encapsulates Lennon it is the title track from his best post-Beatles work

Paul McCartney’s Wings, Band on the Run – I know I come off a little hard on Macca, but honestly the dude is one of the best songwriters that ever lived, and this record proves it.

Ringo Star’s…….. uh ……. umm….

George Harrison’s All Things Must Past – for my money the BEST Beatles solo album there is. This 3 record opus is the result of years of only getting 2 tracks on Beatles records. Harrison’s back catalog was growing as well as his songwriting  expertize. This album can truly be called a masterpiece and my favorite from a Beatle solo.

There are 4 divisions for the songs:

DIVISION 1: The Clean Cut Years

These are songs from the first 3 Beatles albums –Please Please Me, With The Beatles, and Hard Days Night.

DIVISION 2: The Shaggy Years

These are songs from the next 3 Beatles albums –Beatles For SaleHelp, and Rubber Soul

DIVISION 3: The Mustache Years

These are songs from the middle 3 Beatles albums – RevolverSgt Peppers, and Magical Mystery Tour

DIVISION 4: The Beard Years

These are songs from the last 3 Beatles albums – The Beatles (The White Album), Abbey Road, and Let It Be

After each Division crowns one song as the winner, those songs will battle each other in the final fight to determine which Beatles song is the BEST! Enough talk, let’s get to the battles

Continue reading Beatle Battle! Third Round Bouts – Division 4: The Beard Years

Beatle Battle! Third Round Bouts – Division 3: The Mustache Years

There have been a number of “5th Beatles” during the bands years together: Jimmie Nicol (who replaced a sick Ringo on their 1964 tour), Billy Preston, Tony Sheridan, and even Eric Clapton. But for my money there was only one true 5th Beatle – George Martin. Martin was the guiding force during the Pepper years and should get much of the credit for bringing John and Paul’s visions of the songs to life. Paul would hum how he wanted the horns to sound like in Penny Lane, and Martin would then go off and write the musical notation for what he just heard. Lennon recorded two versions of Strawberry Fields but couldn’t choose which one he liked better, so he asked Martin to “make it work”. Martin went and spliced the two songs together and the rest is history. Incredible talent and worthy of being called one of The Beatles!

The Beatles in the studio with George Martin, 1967

There are 4 divisions for the songs:

DIVISION 1: The Clean Cut Years

These are songs from the first 3 Beatles albums –Please Please Me, With The Beatles, and Hard Days Night.

DIVISION 2: The Shaggy Years

These are songs from the next 3 Beatles albums –Beatles For SaleHelp, and Rubber Soul

DIVISION 3: The Mustache Years

These are songs from the middle 3 Beatles albums – RevolverSgt Peppers, and Magical Mystery Tour

DIVISION 4: The Beard Years

These are songs from the last 3 Beatles albums – The Beatles (The White Album), Abbey Road, and Let It Be

After each Division crowns one song as the winner, those songs will battle each other in the final fight to determine which Beatles song is the BEST! Enough talk, let’s get to the battles

Continue reading Beatle Battle! Third Round Bouts – Division 3: The Mustache Years