The Who…Tommy & Who’s Next

The first and only single I ever bought by The Who was also their only Top 10 hit…”I Can See For Miles”…#9 in 1967.

The band was not especially successful with singles.  They only had seven other Top 20 hits, and another 8 singles that reached the bottom half of the Top 40.  Where they shined was creating two of the most iconic albums of the Rock era…and those I bought.

It was in 1969 that The Who released what was called the first “Rock Opera”, Tommy.

Mostly written by Pete Townshend, Tommy was a two-record set that details the mostly tragic life of a boy who was shocked into being deaf, dumb, and blind.  There are a lot of characters in the story, but The Who sang all of the parts.  To clarify who was singing what part of the drama, the lyrics and character names were in a booklet included with the album.

The Who consisted of lead singer Roger Daltrey, drummer Keith Moon, lead guitarist Pete Townshend, and bassist John Entwistle.

Tommy is one of the first concept albums.  Townshend’s term of “Rock Opera” may seem a bit fanciful, but it is a groundbreaking work.  The album has several well known songs, including “Pinball Wizard”, “I’m Free”, “See Me, Feel Me”, and “The Overture From Tommy”.  “Overture” is the instrumental that opened the record, and introduced us to the major melodies we were about to hear throughout the album.

When I put together a playlist of The Who’s Best, I chose enough of Tommy to tell the basic story.  The mix even incorporates the lyric-appropriate songs “I Can See For Miles” and “Behind Blue Eyes (alternate version)” into a 39-minute Tommy mix:

Although it was their fourth album, Tommy was their breakthrough achievement, and the album that solidified their position as Rock stars.  Surprisingly, The Who’s next studio album would be considered even greater.

The Who’s Next album cover gave us the sci-fi cool of a monolith, with the crass demeanor often associated with Rock stars at that time.  The music on the album was progressive in 1971.

Synthesizers were still fairly new, but Pete Townshend kicked off the album with a synthesizer part on “Baba O’Riley” that is timeless.  The song’s original title was “Teenage Wasteland”, and it was part of a planned concept album called Lifehouse.  The Who had trouble pulling together that project, but instead released Who’s Next, which contained a large portion of those songs.

The other popular tracks from the album are “Behind Blue Eyes” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again”.  That song was 8:33, but a shorter edit was released as a single to get airplay on AM radio.  Album Oriented Rock FM radio stations also played a lot of the album’s other songs.

Over the years, more songs from the Lifehouse project were released.  Here’s my playlist, which has the best of those songs, and in the order originally planned in 1971.

Pete Townshend is a multi-instrumentalist, and two of these cuts are from his Who Came First solo album…”Pure & Easy” and “Let’s See Action”.

Here’s his version of “Pure & Easy”:

And here’s a clever fan-made cover for the album that utilizes an alternate shot from The Who’s Next photo shoot.

It seems like The Who have had an endless number of “Greatest Hits” collections (and “Farewell Tours”), but two albums represent the height of their career, Tommy and Who’s Next.

Paul McCartney…Still Touring (Sings With John!)

Nobody expected our Rock & Roll heroes from the ‘60’s would still be touring in their 80’s!  Paul McCartney turns 80 on June 18th, and on April 28th, 2022, he opened his “Got Back” tour in Spokane, Washington.

(Photo Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

According to a report in Rolling Stone, McCartney played a long set of Beatles, Wings, and solo songs to an enthusiastic sold out crowd.  The band included some of the musicians he’s toured with for years, plus a horn section.  The Covid pandemic kept Paul from touring for over two years, and he was obviously ready to get back to it.

In a first, Paul McCartney’s solo tour included him singing with John Lennon.  The Director of the Get Back documentary, Peter Jackson, had provided a video of John Lennon singing his part of “I’ve Got A Feeling”, with the vocal isolated.  That way, Paul and the band performed the song live, with John behind them on a large screen singing the “Everybody had a hard year.” section of the song.

Paul also saluted George Harrison by singing “Something” using a ukulele George had given him.  And to complete The Beatles connection, Paul and his wife (“everyone knew her as Nancy”) recently went to dinner with Ringo Starr and his wife, Barbara.

Rolling Stone provided this song list (click to enlarge).

Let’s face it, Paul McCartney doesn’t need to tour to push his music or to make money.  He tours because he loves performing.

Vinyl & CD’s…Make A Comeback

Are we too quick to always move on to the next thing?  The fast elimination of devices to play CD’s…removed from vehicles and computers…seemed like a plot to get everyone to subscribe to streaming services.  It’s working, because 83% of what we pay for music goes to streaming services.  But a surprising thing happened in 2021.  Both vinyl records and CD’s saw increased sales.

Fans still have a desire to physically own albums by their favorite artists.  Box sets also include books, photos, lyrics, and other items & information that add to the music listening experience.  The increase for vinyl records is a 15-year trend.  About two years ago, the amount of money spent on vinyl passed CD’s and is now 63% of physical sales.  Maybe CD’s will also be sticking around, because sales increased 21% in 2021.  That’s the first increase for CD’s since a 2004 peak.

Here’s the breakdown of all music sales as shown in Variety:

Streaming dominates, and it should.  It gives instant access to about 70-million songs for around $10 a month.  Two of the streaming services, Apple Music and Amazon Music, now have high quality audio, sometimes called “lossless”.  That makes them similar to the quality of CD’s.  The purchase of digital downloads used to dominate music buying, but it’s fallen drastically to 4%.  The 2% labeled “Synch” is for other music uses, such as licensing for movies and television.

Architectural Digest even published an article about the popularity of “listening rooms” being added to homes.  Here are a couple of shots they included.

Wow, that brings back the 70’s & 80’s!  At one time I had over 2,000 records and CD’s, but sold most of my collection, after putting the songs in my computer.   That was a few years before our big move to Oregon in 2008.  The second-biggest drawback of a large physical collection is storing it.  The biggest drawback is moving it.

Here’s a photo not found in Architectural Digest.  I’m down to a small cabinet in a corner of my office.  It has a couple rows of CD’s, some DVD’s, and the bottom has quite a few box sets.  Although vinyl & CD’s are still selling, they’re more like keepsakes limited to fan’s favorite artists or music.  Today, few people would try to use physical media to provide their complete listening experience.

Since a CD/DVD player wasn’t included with my Mac, I had to buy an Apple CD/DVD player/burner ($79).   Then I could still dub CD’s into my iTunes playlists of about the 20,000 songs I’ve purchased over many decades.  That’s what I listen to most, and it doesn’t take up any room.  To play artists whose songs I don’t have, I subscribe to Amazon Music.

Another corner of my office is for audio editing, making playlists, etc.

CD’s are still a great way to share music, and of course they allow people to load the songs into their own computers,  Recently, I made a couple of CD’s for one of my sisters after she selected her favorite songs by The Beatles.  She told me her son indicated he thought it was “quaint” to still be using CD’s…but now we know she’s part of a trend!

If only we weren’t running out of ways to play them.

Extra Point:  Using a rough estimate of $25 for each vinyl record, and $10 for each CD, and dividing those into the money spent on each format…more CD’s were bought than records in 2021.

Update:  (April, 2022)  Music industry tracker MRC Data reports that older music is surging on streaming services, while new releases are being streamed less.  They report that in 2021, streaming of older catalog recordings increased by over 29%, and streaming of new releases was down by more than 19%.  Maybe the older music is just better, or it’s harder for new music to break through.

Extra:  A reader sent in a couple photos of his amazing “studio” that I think deserved to be in the Architectural Digest article.

He says the room has a custom surround sound system, about 14,000 LP’s & CD’s, and whenever he walks into the room he smiles.  I would too!

Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame…Problems

It seemed like a good name and idea when the first class was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in 1986.  But, the trend of popular music was already moving away from Rock.  So the Rock & Roll Hall of fame board decided to put in artists who certainly didn’t belong in the “Rock & Roll” music category.  It became obvious that a better name would have been the Rock & Pop Hall Of Fame.  Country music has it’s own Hall Of Fame, so Rock & Pop would cover most of the rest.

(The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Museum in Cleveland.)

It takes 25 years after an artist’s first chart success for them to become eligible to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame.  Once 1980’s artists became eligible, big Pop stars like Michael Jackson,  Madonna, and Rap artists took the place of the rapidly declining number of Rock performers.  There’s been a lot of ongoing controversy over who gets in, and who doesn’t.  A lot of that has to do with the acts not fitting in with the limiting name.

Another big problem is how women have been slighted.

Linda Ronstadt was the first woman to sell out arenas, and to consistently release Platinum albums.  Some of her songs rocked as hard as many of the bands in the ‘70’s.  The minute she became eligible for the Hall Of Fame, she should have been voted in.  Instead, it took 20 years!  Maybe it was because she no longer looked like “The Queen of Rock & Roll” as she was called by Rolling Stone magazine in the 1970’s.  The Queen of Soul, the King of Pop, and the Donna of Disco were all inducted before the Queen of Rock & Roll.

Compare Ronstadt’s massive trailblazing success to male artists who got into the hall long ago.  Some had only one really significant hit…Del Shannon with “Runaway” (#1) and Eddie Cochran with “Summertime Blues” (#8)…and they were quickly added to the hall.  They’re great, but their impact was significantly less than artists like Linda Ronstadt, Carly Simon, Carole King, and Pat Benatar.

Maybe since Linda Ronstadt wasn’t a songwriter, it hurt her chances, but if that was a requirement, Elvis Presley wouldn’t have made it.  Major songwriter Carole King was finally voted in last year.  Her extremely influential album Tapestry towers over contributions from some of the other artists who’ve been in the hall for decades.

This year, Carly Simon and Pat Benatar are nominated.  It could be argued that Carly Simon isn’t “Rock & Roll”, but neither is Whitney Houston or a large potion of the other members.  Pat Benatar certainly had a number of Rock hits.  Her songs “Heartbreaker” and “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” were even considered on the hard side of Rock & Roll when they first came out.  It’s a puzzle why she didn’t get in much earlier.

Another woman is also nominated this year…Dolly Parton.  She’s a beloved force of nature, and will very likely be voted in, but she’s pure Country.  Another Country artist, Johnny Cash, was placed in the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame 30 years ago, but of course he’s a guy.  Update:  Dolly Parton “respectfully” declined to be considered for the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame.  She says she doesn’t want to divide any votes, and she knows she isn’t a Rock & Roll artist…which you’d think the nominating committee would know too.  Unfortunately, the ballots had already gone out.

Update 2:  Pop singer Dionne Warwick is also inexplicably nominated this year, and doesn’t think she should be.  She knows her style of music is far removed from Rock & Roll.  She said she might be interested if they changed the name to something like The Music Hall Of Fame.

Since they’re including Rock, Pop, Disco, R&B, Rap, Country, and nearly all forms of music…they need a better name and a bigger museum.

The results:  So who got in?  Pat Benatar, Carly Simon, Dolly Parton, Lionel Richie, Duran Duran, Eurythmics, Eminem, and although they didn’t get in through voting, the band Judas Priest was appointed as an inductee by the board.  Not exactly a Rock & Roll class…but some Pop artists who deserved to be recognized anyway.

The Beatles Rooftop Concert (Review)

The entire Rooftop Concert by The Beatles was made available to music streaming services on Jan 28th, 2022.  There’s a short review included below.  By the way, the IMAX showing of the concert January 30th, 2022 was a hit, with near sellouts reported across the nation.

Many fans were disappointed when the full rooftop performance was not included in the Let It Be remixed box set.  So, Giles Martin and Sam Okell have remixed the entire 40-minute concert and made it available to streaming services.  With the exception of lower quality audio bootlegs, this is the first time we can hear the entire concert without the on-street interviews of the film interrupting the songs.

The DVD/Blu-ray of the Get Back movie was originally scheduled to be released February 8th, but was delayed.  My Amazon DVD of Get Back was delivered February 28th, 2022.  No word on when the Blu-ray would be available.

(Glad the guy on the far left survived!)

The concert was really a recording session, and several of the songs were repeated in order to get the best takes for the album and film.

The audio has a little chatter between songs and a bit of minor strumming on their instruments, plus a 25-second instrumental of “God Save The Queen”.

Giles Martin had previously said the full concert wasn’t included with the box set, because it was more enjoyable with the video.  He says the strong reaction to the Get Back documentary convinced them that fans would enjoy having the audio, even with multiple takes and imperfections.  From a practical standpoint, the entire concert would have easily fit on CD 5 of the box set, which only had four songs.  However, it would have required another whole record in the vinyl box set.

It’s noteworthy that the concert is only on streaming services, and has not been made available for sale…thus avoiding more complaints about it not being included with the box set, but then charging for it separately.

These remixed rooftop recordings are a huge improvement over bootleg versions.  There are only five Beatles songs played on the rooftop, and the best versions of four of them were already included with the recent Let It Be remixed box set.  Three of those have always been on the main album…”I’ve Got A Feeling”, “One After 909”, and “Dig A Pony”.  The first rooftop take of “Don’t Let Me Down” was also included with the box set.  It’s the one where John Lennon forgets the lyrics and sings some smile-inducing gibberish instead.  If you want a corrected version, the Paul McCartney produced Let It Be…Naked album combines the best parts of the two takes done on the rooftop.

A song from the rooftop recordings that was not actually on Let It Be is “Get Back”.  The version used on the album was a studio recording with some added rooftop chatter to make it seem like it was part of the concert.  You get three takes of “Get Back” with the new streaming concert.  Take 2 is probably the best.  The final take is the one where Paul McCartney ad-libs about getting arrested for playing on the roof.

It’s quite a feat of musicianship and audio engineering that recordings from a rooftop could sound this good.  It’s great to finally have all of the versions of the songs that were played during the last live performance of The Beatles.

Just For Fun Extra:  Inspired by Paul McCartney using the two live versions of “Don’t Let Me Down” to form one good version, I decided to edit together the best possible version of “Get Back” from the three rooftop performances (using GarageBand).  I started with Lennon’s silly pre-song comment  “…but she was a frying pan”, then used the first half of “Get Back” Take 1 (just through “Get back Jo”).  Next came the second half of Take 2, followed by the “arrested” ending segment from Take 3, which also has the “…passed the audition” joke.  It sounds good, and is probably close to what they would have done if they had wanted to only use live performances for the concert material on Let It Be.  The album could have started with the hit studio version of “Get Back”, and ended with this live version:

Reimagining the Let It Be song order to put the rooftop songs together on side two:

The Top Beatles Albums…According To The Public

There’s always debate about which is the best Beatles album.  Well, the public has been voting since the first Beatles album was released, and for over 50 years since the last original Beatles album was released.  They cast their ballots with their money.  Critics and fans can have their favorites, but it’s always interesting to see what albums the most people were willing to pay for.  If you’ve seen any similar lists, you might find a couple of surprises here.  You’ll see the ranking of all 12 of The Beatles original studio albums, and be reminded of what songs are on them.  Let’s start right at the top,

#1  Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

With over 32-million copies sold, Sgt. Pepper is the most popular of The Beatles regular albums.  Only their collection of #1 songs, Beatles 1, has sold approximately the same amount, and is poised to sell more.  Sgt. Pepper was a risk for The Beatles.  There had never been a mainstream album as innovative and imaginative as this one.  Producer George Martin said he was afraid they’d gone too far with it, but it opened the door for other artists to be more daring too.  Although the singles from these sessions, “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields Forever” were not on the album, the familiarity of many of the album tracks makes them seem like singles.

#2  Revolver (1966)

The Beatles’ first album to make full use of the recording studio comes in at #2.  Revolver featured backwards guitars, altered voices, the use of tape loops, psychedelic lyrics, and much more.

It may be the peak of songwriting by Paul McCartney.  His songs from the album sessions are “Eleanor Rigby”, “Here There And Everywhere”, “For No One”, “Good Day Sunshine”, “Got To Get You Into My Life”, and the single “Paperback Writer”.  John Lennon’s songs are “I’m Only Sleeping”, “Doctor Robert”, “And Your Bird Can Sing”, ”She Said She Said”, the group’s very experimental “Tomorrow Never Knows”, and the single “Rain”.  George Harrison had three songs, “Taxman”, “I Want To Tell You”, and “Love You To”.  The album has sold over 27 million copies.

#3  Rubber Soul (1965)

This was an album of growth for The Beatles.  Their songwriting was maturing, and venturing beyond love songs…including Lennon’s “Nowhere Man” and “In My Life”, but it also has one of McCartney’s great love songs, “Michelle”.  The album has proven to be very popular with fans, as it sits between the early Beatlemania and the non-touring studio years.  It’s sold over 16.5 million copies.

#4  The Beatles (The White Album)  (1968)

The Beatles were bursting with songs when they came back from their time with the Maharishi in India.  The result was a double album with 30 tracks.  Sales are over 16-million.  There’s a huge variety of musical styles from the beautiful acoustic “Blackbird” to the hard rock of “Helter Skelter”.  Other highlights include “Back In The U.S,S.R.” and one of George Harrison’s best songs, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”.

#5  Abbey Road (1969)

This album tends to be a favorite of Beatles fans who were born after all these albums came out.  Abbey Road starts off with “Come Together”, and includes George Harrison’s strongest showing with “Here Comes The Sun” and “Something”.  The unique feature of the album is the side two medley.  Sales are over 10-million.

#6  Magical Mystery Tour (1967)

This started out as a six song EP in England, but Capitol Records in America added five singles to make it a full album.  It’s sold over 6-million copies.  New songs at the time included “Magical Mystery Tour”, “Fool On The Hill” and “I Am The Walrus”.  The recent singles they added included “Penny Lane”, “Strawberry Fields Forever”, and “All You Need Is Love”.  It’s a really good album that people sometimes overlook, because it wasn’t one The Beatles had originally planned.  The song titles are all on the front cover.

#7  Meet The Beatles  (1964)

You won’t find this album on many lists of the best selling Beatles albums, because the official version of this is now With The Beatles, which only sold about 600,000 copies in the U.K.  In America, Meet The Beatles sold over 5-million copies, including 4-million in its first year.  The album kicks off with “I Want To Hold Your Hand”, “This Boy”, and “I Saw Her Standing There”…plus it has “All My Loving”.

#8 Let It Be  (1970) [Recorded in 1969 before Abbey Road]

The public loves this album more than many critics, and it certainly has some strong songs, including three #1 singles…“Get Back”, “Let It Be” & “The Long And Winding Road”.  It’s sold over 5-million copies, and has added sales with the October 2021 remix, which put it at #1 for physical sales (vinyl & CD’s) the week it was released.

#9  A Hard Day’s Night  (1964)

The third album by The Beatles is their first to have all original songs by Lennon & McCartney.  The album contained the big hits “Can’t Buy Me Love” and “A Hard Day’s Night”, as well as one of the most covered songs of all time, “And I Love Her”.  Other standout tracks include John Lennon’s rocker “”You Can’t Do That”, his ballad “If I Fell”, and McCartney’s “Things We Said Today”.  The album has sold over 4.1 million copies.

(First 7 songs were on the soundtrack in the U.S.)

#10  The Beatles For Sale / Beatles ‘65  (1964)

Here’s another album that usually misses the list of best sellers. It’s because of differences between the British and American versions.  Together they’ve sold over 4-million copies.  You can see there are a lot of good songs on the album, but in America, Capitol removed some of them and added the songs from the single at that time, “I Feel Fine” & “She’s A Woman”.  Still, they’re mostly the same album.

#11  Help  (1965)

The Beatles second movie album, Help, is solid, with hits “Ticket To Ride” (#1), “Help” (#1), and the most covered song of all time “Yesterday” (#1).  Other standouts include “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away” and “I’ve Just Seen A Face”.  The album sold over 3.6 million copies.

#12  Please Please Me  (1963)

This first album by The Beatles sold 3.2 million copies, which includes the sales of the American versions, Introducing The Beatles The Early Beatles.  Please Please Me featured the first two singles by The Beatles, “Love Me Do” and “Please Please Me”.  The Beatles were surprised when VJ Records released “Twist And Shout” as a single, but it hit #2 and became the song The Beatles most often used to open their concerts.  A self-written rocker, “I Saw Her Standing There”,  was a strong opener for the album.  Eight of the songs were originals, and six were cover songs that The Beatles had been playing live.

Those are the twelve original studio albums by The Beatles, but they’re just the tip of the sales iceberg.  With all the compilations and special releases, The Beatles have sold over 600-million albums.  That’s more than any other artist.

Extra:  Using the public’s purchasing totals to rank the albums gives us a solid top five whose totals stand out from the other albums.  Sgt. Pepper, Revolver, and Rubber Soul certainly make a reasonable top three.  If you think #5 Abbey Road should have been ranked higher than #4 The White Album, you may be right.  Abbey Road sold more units (10-million) than The White Album  (8-million units)…but since it’s a double album, each unit officially counts as two, making it 16-million.

The Beatles Get Back on DVD/Blu-ray (Updated/Rescheduled)

The complete Get Back movie was supposed to be released on DVD & Blu-ray on February 8th, 2022, but was postponed.  The DVD I ordered from Amazon has arrived.  An official announcement of a new release date for new orders has not been made, except the U.K./European Beatles store is showing an “estimated” date for the Blu-ray of May 27th, 2022 (the date is shown just below the green pre-order button):

Update:  My Amazon DVD order of Get Back (above) was delivered February 28th, 2022.  The official North American Beatles site does not have a new availability date posted.  The delay was apparently due to a technical issue.  My three DVD’s played just fine in a quick test.  Neither the DVD nor Blu-ray are currently available for new orders on Amazon. 

Crazy Update:  Some of the recalled discs have made their way to eBay.  Here are a couple of recently completed sales:

The prices varied wildly.  These two March 3rd sales are high priced ones, and the lowest I spotted was $50 from an earlier sale.  It seems nuts to spend a thousand dollars for discs that should be available fairly soon for less than $45.

Meanwhile, there’s more info on the releases, and an audio bonus below.

Before the DVD release, the rooftop concert had a special showing at IMAX theaters on January 30th, which is the anniversary of the original event.  It’s an hour long film, and the presentation included comments from Director Peter Jackson, as well as a Q&A by satellite after the showing.  The event was reported as nearly sold out across the country.  There was also a regular IMAX theatrical showing (no Peter Jackson Q&A) of this one-hour film for one weekend, February 11th-13th (extended a bit in the U.K.). 

The entire 40-minute audio of the rooftop concert was released to music streaming services on Friday, January 28th, 2022.  It’s been remixed by Giles Martin and Sam Okell.  The sound quality is excellent, and we can hear all the songs without the breaks for street interviews used in the film.

The complete nearly 8-hour 3-part documentary is included with the new DVD release, but apparently no extras are provided.  There’s no word on when (or if) the original Let It Be movie will be upgraded and released.  It would have been great if the DVD set had included Jackson’s original movie-length version that was to be shown in theaters in August of 2020.

The DVD is listed on Amazon as a 3-disc set for $34.99 (lowered to $27.99).  The release was postponed, and my Amazon DVD order arrived twenty days after the original release date of February 8th, 2022.

The Blu-ray listing was on Apple’s official site, and the price is $44.99.  Here’s the information they included for the Blu-ray:

Based on the run time, it looks like the only “extras” are the four collectors cards shown with the Blu-ray set.

Extra:  While we wait for more information, check out this custom edit of the three rooftop versions of “Get Back” made into one “best version”:

Here’s the link to my review of the Get Back movie:

Here’s a review of the Let It Be remix box set:

The Beatles Get Back Movie (Review)

It started streaming right at midnight (PT) Thanksgiving day, 2021 on Disney+. The line on our TV below summed up what The Beatles were facing by trying to write and learn 14 songs in two weeks, and then perform them in a concert in January of 1969.

The Get Back documentary is fascinating and frustrating.  It’s amazing to see The Beatles’ songs being born, but you want to tell them the lyrics and arrangements they’re struggling to find.  There is no whitewashing of the problems originally shown during the Let It Be movie (in fact, more problems are shown), we just get a more complete look at what happened.

The Beatles were so young.  George was about to turn 26, Paul was 27, and John & Ringo were 28.

We learn during the documentary that even though The Beatles weren’t breaking up, it was often mentioned as a concern.  It would be fair to say Get Back shows the pending breakup of The Beatles.

The film also shows that the presence of Yoko Ono at the sessions did not cause the breakup.  Of course John Lennon wanting to spend his time with Yoko probably did contribute to his announcing that he was leaving The Beatles eight months later.

At the beginning of the sessions The Beatles are having trouble coming up with songs and completing them.  Then on January 9th, Paul arrives early, sits down at the piano and plays portions of “The Long And Winding Road”, “Another Day”, “Golden Slumbers” and “Carry That Weight”.  George soon arrives and plays “For You Blue”, and you’re reminded they’ll eventually develop enough material.

It’s hard to believe, but not only did they write enough songs for Let It Be, they also started 11 songs that ended up on Abbey Road, and other songs that later appeared on their solo albums…all in January!

Part 1 of the documentary ends shortly after George has casually left the band on January 10th, 1969.  His leaving the band wasn’t included in the original movie, because The Beatles asked to have it left out.  George had been frustrated by the conditions at the cavernous film studio where they were working, by a concert he didn’t want to do, and by the domination of Paul and John over the songs and arrangements.

George’s leaving had the other three Beatles concerned, and they shared a private group embrace that the cameras caught.

Part 2 shows that all four Beatles met twice privately in order to work things out.  George was right about nearly everything.  The project moves to Apple headquarters, where a comfortable new studio is being set up.  Plans for the TV concert at an exotic location are scrapped. Instead, they want to plan a more reasonable concert to provide a climax to a movie that will be made from the film footage.

As The Beatles are rehearsing, they realize that without overdubbing, they can’t play the keyboard parts some of the songs require.  Billy Preston, a keyboardist for Little Richard & Ray Charles and a friend since their days in Hamburg, stops in to visit.  He’s asked to join the recording sessions.  What a difference he makes!

As you can see from this screen shot and the caption (reaction to a joke by George), things were getting better (all the time).  The keyboard parts Billy Preston adds to “Get Back”, “I’ve Got A Feeling” and “Don’t Let Me Down” greatly improve the songs, and The Beatles’ own playing is elevated.

It’s noteworthy that at times The Beatles get upset with one another, but never really angry.  There’s no shouting or name calling.  Most of the time they’re working with affection for the music and each other, and with lots of humor.

Producer George Martin says… “You’re working so well together.  You’re looking at each other, you’re seeing each other.  It’s happening isn’t it?  The other George nods in agreement.  At the end of Part 2, the roof of the Apple building is considered as a concert site.

Part 3 is mostly the final recording and rehearsing before the rooftop concert.  Actually, The Beatles are still debating whether they even want to do it.  Ringo is the one who likes the idea the most, George the least, and John & Paul aren’t sure.  No one knows if they can even pull it off.

The film gives us portions of songs in take after take, and there’s a feeling that none of the songs were completed.  We only know they must have gotten some good takes, because words on the screen say… “This version was used for the Let It Be album.”

At one point, George tells John that he has enough songs for ten years worth of albums based on his quota of two songs per album.  George says he wants to make a solo album to hear what all his songs sound like together (spoiler: really good).  He says.. “I’m Just gonna do me for a bit.” He also says it would be nice if any of them could do separate projects as well, and still preserve The Beatles.  So, even though he quit for a few days over some problems, he wanted The Beatles to keep going.

Finally (Jan. 30th), The Beatles start playing on the roof.

The filming of the concert is comprehensive, with ten cameras to capture the band and the reactions of people on the streets and rooftops.  To dispel a minor myth…John and George did not borrow their wives coats.  They wore those coats (their own) many times throughout the film, and their wives had different coats.

The use of split screens effectively shows it all.  The complete concert is included.

After the performance, The Beatles listen to the rooftop recordings, along with their significant others (Linda, Yoko, & Maureen Starkey) and the studio staff.  The Beatles are energized, and want to keep recording, but the rest of the day is needed to get the equipment down from the roof.

The next day, Jan. 31st, is the last day of filming.  The Beatles do the final studio recordings of “Two Of Us”, “The Long And Winding Road”, and “Let It Be”.  We’d been listening to bits of those songs throughout the entire film.  It was going to be great to hear and see them finally complete.  Unfortunately, those final takes were not shown…just incomplete portions of them.  With nearly eight hours of film, Director Peter Jackson couldn’t include the finished performances of three of the best songs, including two #1 hits?!

Jackson probably didn’t want to end the film with three non-rocking songs after that rooftop concert, but they deserved to be included.  In fact, during the entire film, we only see five songs played through completely, all on the roof.  It’s like a documentary of a house being built, but they never show the completed house!

Using complete versions of “The Long And Winding Road”, the more up-tempo “Two Of Us”, and then showing “Let It Be” (the last song they recorded that January) as the credits rolled would have been very effective.  Using just bits of the songs, like we’d heard the whole film, was a horrible decision.  It made it seem like The Beatles could never get through a song, but the truth is they nailed three of their best recordings the day after the rooftop concert.

Overall, it’s great to have a film record of The Beatles writing, arranging, and recording songs.  Seeing the interactions of the four Beatles is enlightening, but the 3-part film is definitely too long (nearly 8-hours) to make for regular repeat viewings.

Peter Jackson said he didn’t want to leave out anything he thought was important, because whatever he didn’t use could go back in the vault for another fifty years.  The film is a treasure chest of details that reveal The Beatles’ relationships at that time, so Jackson was probably right to get it all out there.  It would be interesting to see what he would have included in a single movie-length version.  We know the planned version of the Get Back movie for theaters was 2-hours-20-minutes.  It would be great to have that available.  

Update:  Get Back has been released (all 8-hours) on DVD & Blu-ray, but the release was postponed from it’s original date of February 8th.  My Amazon DVD of Get Back arrived February 28th, 2022.  There’s a link to more info at the end of this article.

The original Let It Be movie, with the technical improvements to the film & sound, should also be made available.  My memory from seeing the movie 51-years-ago, and watching the video disc nearly 40-years-ago, is that it included full versions of “For You Blue” & “I Me Mine”, plus the three songs completed on the final day of filming, and the five songs from the rooftop performance.

It was an extremely long and winding road for the nearly 60 hours of Let It Be footage to come together as Get Back.  Even though there was a lack of completed songs, Peter Jackson’s hard work is very appreciated.  The new version is definitely worth seeing, but don’t try to watch all those hours in one sitting.

Extra statistic:  While this documentary takes nearly 8 hours to tell what happened during one month, you could listen to all 213 songs The Beatles released from 1962 to 1970…in about 10 hours.

Update: (March 2022)  Get Back won the Producers Guild Award for non-fiction television.

Here’s the link to information about the DVD/Blu-ray release:

Tom Petty…Somewhere You Feel Free (Film)

It’s a gift to fans.  While Tom Petty was recording the Wildflowers album, some of the process was being filmed.  The raw footage was discovered by his daughter, Adria, in 2020, and now it’s a film we can watch free on YouTube.

The documentary combines the original footage with other film from that time, plus there are recent interviews with producer Rick Ruben, and Heartbreakers Mike Campbell & Benmont Tench.

Tom Petty fans will find it all fascinating.  We’re given insights into what was happening in Tom’s life in 1993 & 1994 during the writing and recording of what he considered his best album.

Producer Rick Ruben was especially insightful.  He said we think of the song “Wildflowers” as just Tom Petty and an acoustic guitar.  He explained the reality is there are “fifty elements”, including orchestration, that are light touches adding to our pleasure as we enjoy repeated listenings.

Ruben also explained that the album sounds more intimate, because they didn’t layer the guitars as on previous Heartbreaker albums, allowing for a more singer-songwriter feel.

Tom Petty quipped…”I never really hired Rick as the producer, he just kept showing up.”  Actually, Tom admitted he would write some songs, and then call Rick to come over.

(Mike Campbell & Tom Petty during the Wildflowers sessions.)  

Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench added many details about the whole project.  They agreed that making Wildflowers was the most fun they had making an album.  They said the reason there were so many songs is that the process was so enjoyable they didn’t want to stop.

(A recent shot of Benmont Tench)

The documentary is about 90-minutes long.  Besides all the revelations about the songs, I love hearing pieces of the recordings.  Those included isolated voices in harmony, individual guitars and keyboards, and hearing the orchestrations all by themselves

There’s also a separate interview piece on YouTube with those responsible for the project.  They include (top row) Adria Petty, director Mary Wharton, interviewer David Fricke, (bottom row) co-producer Sarah Haber, editor Mari Keiko Gonzalez, and producer Peter Afterman.

You can hear the passion they all had for the project, and they obviously did a great job.

Anyone who misses Tom Petty will be thankful to spend a little more time with him.  Tom Petty, Somewhere You Feel Free…streaming now on YouTube.

Update: (March 2022) Tom Petty’s “Somewhere” won the Producers Guild Award for Best Television or Streaming Movie.

Paul McCartney…The Lyrics

The two volume set of Paul McCartney’s songwriting memories The Lyrics was released this week.  The books are not just filled with lyrics, they’re packed with personal photos, and stories about the songs.

The set comes in a heavy cardboard sleeve, and the books have jacket covers with photos and the lyrics to “Hey Jude” & “Yesterday”.  On the other side are “Back In The U.S.S.R.” & “Maybe I’m Amazed”.

There are even lyrics printed right on the book covers, including “Band On The Run” and “Penny Lane”.

Here are the pages that show the lists of songs in the two volumes.  You can see the songs are in alphabetical order.  (Click to enlarge)

The alphabetical order makes it easy to find songs, but since this is also meant to serve as an autobiography, it might have been more effective if the songs had been placed in chronological order.  There are a total of 154 songs and 874 pages.

Here’s an example of how the book is autobiographical.  When Paul tells the story of “Eleanor Rigby”, he mentions how as a boy he did odd jobs for a woman who lived alone.  He felt that situation was the seed for the song.  While thinking back to that time, he also relays how he met John Lennon and joined The Quarrymen.  That’s how stories of the songs are expanded to reveal much more about Paul’s life.

Here are just a couple of random samples of photos.

John and Paul goofing around backstage, manager Brian Epstein, The Beatles in Hamburg, Germany in 1961, and John Lennon in Paris that same year.

These photos are from a trip Paul and his wife Linda took to Nashville that included meeting guitar great Chet Atkins.

The book has photos from throughout Paul’s personal & professional life.  Paul took some of the early shots, his photographer wife Linda McCartney provided more, and there are some really good recent photos by their daughter, Mary.

All major Paul McCartney and Beatles fans will enjoy getting so much new information about the songs, and seeing hundreds of previously unpublished photos.  The list price for the set is a hefty $100, but I ordered it from Amazon for $79, and then their price guarantee reduced it to $60.

The final words on songwriting come from Paul McCartney on the back of the book holder.