Tag Archives: The Beatles

All you need: A chat with Beatles expert Mark Lewisohn

No matter how much you think you know about the Beatles, Mark Lewisohn probably knows more.

Hundreds of books have been written about the band, but none with such care and authority as those by the 58-year-old British author. His resume includes comprehensive releases on their concert performances (“The Beatles Live!”) and studio work (“The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions”), for which he was given a Beatle obsessive’s dream job, getting paid by EMI Records to enter the inner sanctum of the Abbey Road studio and listen to the band’s recordings.

“I was a researcher and realized that the books (on the Beatles) were not quite as well-researched or written as I had expected them to have been,” he told The Associated Press during a recent interview, explaining how he evolved from fan to author. “One project led to the next and suddenly I found myself with a career as a writer, which I hadn’t actually intended.”

The Beatles themselves welcomed him to their special world. He assisted on the band’s multimedia retrospective “Anthology” that came out in the 1990s and served as the editor and writer of Club Sandwich, a magazine run by Paul and Linda McCartney.

Lewisohn is in the midst of a three-volume biography of the Beatles and most recently contributed text for a coffee-table book about their landmark 1964 film, “A Hard Day’s Night.”

During a recent interview with The Associated Press, he talked about “A Hard Day’s Night,” the Beatles’ lasting appeal and the joys of Beatles scholarship.


As consumers, The Beatles knew those films were rubbish. They hated them. They recognized them for what they were, which was transparently flimsy and knew that should the occasion ever arise when they would be offered a film that they had to be very careful about saying yes.

It’s not exactly known how many there were but four or five offers to appear in films and they had said no to those. Now, very few artists ever said no because usually the management wouldn’t allow them to say no and they themselves think I want to be in a film. The Beatles had the bravery to accept that in saying no to the films they were being offered they might never get to make one but they agreed among themselves. They would rather not be in a film at all than be in one of those rubbish films.


“If you just see them on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ you’re not getting to meet the people. You’re just seeing them perform. So ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ served the function in separating the four of them out from one another. It did it pretty realistically. John Lennon later, after he’d been through therapy, expressed anger at the stereotyped way in which they had been portrayed but (screenplay writer) Alan Owen really did a very good job. There are only slight exaggerations of the four people that he hung around with for a few days. That’s how he wrote the film. He observed them as people.”


“The Beatles is an extraordinary subject to research because the trail of material is so deep and so rich and so strong all the way down. … No matter how deep you dig with this subject you continually find gold. There is something extraordinary. It’s all part of what made them so special is that everything around them was special, everything they touch was interesting, everybody who had an association with them is a fascinating character and it all weaves together in the most extraordinary way.”

ON HIS PLANNED THREE-VOLUME BIOGRAPHY (The first book, “Tune In,” came out in 2013):

“For as long as there are humans on this planet and we haven’t bombed or gassed ourselves out of existence or whatever it might be, we will be listening to The Beatles and appreciating them and wanting to know who they were and how they did it. If this trilogy isn’t done it’ll never be as well-understood or appreciated in its many levels as it actually occurred. I think it’s an important book to write. I think it’s important that it’s done now whilst the paperwork is still around and whilst the witnesses to the history are still alive to tell it.



10 Beatles hits produced by George Martin

The Beatles captured the hearts mynd ears of a generation with music that continues to resonate today.

Here are 10 hits by the Beatles, produced by George Martin, over the years:

  • “Please Please Me” (1962): After “Love Me Do,” this was the song that rocketed the Beatles to fame on both sides of the Atlantic. Lead vocals: John Lennon and Paul McCartney.
  • “A Hard Day’s Night” (1964): Song featured in the Beatles’ first film, with that title _ taken from drummer Ringo’s response to a comment that he looked tired: “Yea, I’ve had a hard day’s night, you know.” Lead vocals: John Lennon with Paul McCartney.
  • “Yesterday” (1965): Wistful love song, featuring Paul McCartney with string quartet, an innovative idea for a rock and roll band that McCartney said was Martin’s idea. It initially made him hesitate but ended as a “thrilling” experience. McCartney says the song became “one of the most recorded songs ever” with Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra and many others offering their versions of it. Lead vocals: Paul McCartney.
  • “Michelle” (1965): Some English speakers got their first taste of the French language with this tender love tune. Lead vocals: Paul McCartney.
  • “Strawberry Fields Forever” (1967): An iconic if more complex Beatles with strings and horns. Lead vocals: John Lennon.
  • “With a Little Help From My Friends” (1967): Casually sung by drummer Ringo Starr on the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Bank album.
  • “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” (1967): Said to have been inspired by a drawing by John Lennon’s then-young son Julian of a classmate. Lennon told Rolling Stone in 1970 the images were inspired by Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland.” Lead vocals: John Lennon.
  • “Hey Jude” (1968): “Take a sad song and make it better,” a universal message that struck a chord. Lead vocals: Paul McCartney.
  • “Here Comes The Sun” (1969): George Harrison’s song of hope. Light vocal creation that he is quoted as saying was written during a long British winter at the home of Eric Clapton. Lead vocals: George Harrison.
  • “Let It Be” (1970): The Beatles’ final single before breaking up, produced by Martin. The song became the title track on the Beatles’ last album, produced by Phil Spector. The lyrics’ references to “times of trouble” and “comfort” had quick universal appeal in turbulent times, including among the Beatles, becoming something of a hymn. Lead vocals: Paul McCartney.

15 gift-worthy coffee table books for the holidays

The holidays bring out the inner-coffee table book obsessive in gift buyers. They’re easy, weighty and satisfying to give. You’ve done your job with your pricey treat.

A few to consider for music lovers, history buffs, foodies, fashionistas and more:


“The Beatles: The BBC Archives: 1962-1970,” by Kevin Howlett, Harper Design, $60. The Fab Four’s years on air at home, as told in transcripts of interviews, photos and internal documents. Coincides with the November release of a new album, “On Air – at the BBC, Volume 2.”

“Soul Train: The Music, Dance and Style of a Generation,” by Questlove, Harper Design, $45. Aretha, Smokey, Ike and Tina, Marvin, Michael, Diana – and plenty of photos and text covering the work of Don Cornelius, host of the longest running syndicated program in TV history. The frontman for the Roots takes us on the journey through the show’s debut in 1971 to 1993, the final episode Cornelius, the creator, hosted.

“Legends, Icons & Rebels: Music that Changed the World,” by Robbie Robertson, Jim Guerinot, Sebastian Robertson and Jared Levine, Tundra Books, $29. For young readers, the music industry vets offer an introduction to 27 legends, including James Brown, Curtis Mayfield, Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye and Otis Redding. Includes two CDs totaling 27 tracks.


“Smithsonian Civil War: Inside the National Collection,” edited by Neil Kagan and Stephen G. Hyslop, Smithsonian Books, $40. From the story of Winchester, the swift-footed horse of Union commander Philip Sheridan, to Winslow Homer sketches.

“Vanity Fair 100 Years: From the Jazz Age to Our Age,” edited by Graydon Carter, Abrams, $65. Anything you ever wanted to know about the magazine in archival black-and-white, color covers and illustrations, all spanning the arts, war and politics.

“Vietnam: The Real War,” by The Associated Press, $40. Mostly black-and-white, up-close photography of the fog and debris of war, including an injured John McCain and the cut of a knife into the belly of a Viet Cong prisoner under interrogation by a South Vietnamese soldier.


“Guillermo del Toro, Cabinet of Curiosities: My Notebooks, Collections and Other Obsessions,” by del Toro and Marc Scott Zicree, Harper Design, $60. Notebooks, sketches and interviews from the mind of the “Hellboy” and “Pan’s Labrynth” creator. Thoughts from Neil Gaiman, Ron Perlman and others.

“Humans of New York,” by Brandon Stanton, St. Martin’s Press, $29.99. Includes 400 color portraits from the meandering chronicler of the New York condition.

“The Wizard of Oz: The Official 75th Anniversary Companion,” by Jay Scarfone and William Stillman, Harper Design, $40. Production stills, munchkin and Dorothy hair and wardrobe tests. Mock certificates for a brain, courage, heart and home are included in a back envelope of memorabilia, along with a death certificate for the Wicked Witch of the East.

“Caught in the Act: Actors Acting,” by Howard Schatz, Beverly J. Ornstein and Owen Edwards, Glitterati Inc., $65. Portraiture by Schatz with oral histories and improvisation at his direction. See Sam Waterston respond to the prompt: “You’re a dairy farmer who hates cows, hates milk and hates getting up at 4 a.m. seven days a week, just after signing a mineral rights deal with a natural gas drilling company.” One hundred percent of royalties from sale of the book to be donated in equal shares to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and the SAG Foundation.


“Dior Glamour,” by Mark Shaw, Rizzoli New York, $115. Shaw was behind the lens at the House of Dior shooting haute couture from 1952 to 1962. Color and black-and-white candids, portraits, commercial spreads and shots of intimate fashion shows for small crowds, conducted in utter silence and without music.

“The Dirty Side of Glamour,” by Tyler Shields, HarperCollins, $25. Celebrities bloodied, naked, on fire and otherwise staged for the unrelenting, Los Angeles-based provocateur. He includes the infamous chainsaw hacking of a $100,000 Birkin bag, Gary Busey in a straitjacket and never-before-seen work.

“Hollywood Costume,” edited by Deborah Nadoolman Landis, Abrams, $55. Spans the silent era to present day with brief histories, accounts by costume greats like Edith Head and the people they dress. Learn what Johnny Depp thinks about the impact of his costumes on his work, along with Robert De Niro, a collector of the clothes he wears on set.


“The Photography of Modernist Cuisine,” by Nathan Myhrvold, The Cooking Lab, $120. Composed dishes levitated to reveal every delectable part. Food bisected in ovens and pots and beautifully scrutinized microscopically. The photo-scientists at The Cooking Lab offer lush, oversized spreads and all their secrets on how the work was done. Not a cookbook.

“Fruit: Edible, Inedible, Incredible,” by Wolfgang Stuppy and Rob Kesseler, Earth Aware Editions, $35. Similar microscopic cross-sections focused on fruit, seeds and nature’s seed dispersers from the toucan to the fruit bat. Exhaustive scientific text. Stuppy is the seed morphologist for the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership, the international conservation project.

Holiday Gift Guide: Box sets from the Beatles, the Dead, the Velvet Underground, Fleetwood Mac, more

The Beatles, “On Air – Live At the BBC, Vol. 2” (Universal)

“The Beatles: The BBC Archives 1962-70,” by Kevin Howlett (HarperCollins)

Beatles fans, rejoice: More live rarities from the Fab Four are on the way to stores.

Nearly 20 years after the first volume of long-lost BBC recordings sold millions of copies, a second volume is here, and with it, a coffee table book with rare photos and heretofore unseen historical documents chronicling the band’s interaction with the BBC.

Like the first volume, “On Air – Live at the BBC, Vol. 2” is chock full of live covers of other acts’ hit recordings, including Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and Carl Perkins. The sound quality ranges from crystal clear to exceedingly rough. Not all of the 275 performances the Beatles did were preserved by the broadcaster. Some had to be tracked down from fans’ home recordings, but the raw exuberance of Paul McCartney screaming a hyper rocked-out version of the ballad “Beautiful Dreamer” is a historical nugget in its own right.

There’s tons of on-air banter between all four mop tops and their radio hosts, showing John Lennon’s wry wit and irreverence at an early stage in the band’s career. Outtakes of the band playing “I Feel Fine” are included, showing how the deliberate feedback introduction wreaked havoc with the BBC’s finely-calibrated equipment, causing a technician to ask for multiple takes.

The “BBC Archives Book” by Kevin Howlett, one of the leading experts on the Beatles, traces their meteoric early rise with rare photos and even rarer documents from the BBC, including the group’s original audition form, and an evaluator’s report afterward: “John Lennon: Yes. Paul McCartney. No.”

And on the off-chance you have any money at all remaining after these two, the first volume of BBC recordings has been re-mastered and re-released as well.

— Wayne Parry, Associated Press writer

The Velvet Underground, “White Light/White Heat” 45th Anniversary edition (Polydor/Universal)

Who knew that the release on Dec. 10 of the 45th anniversary super deluxe edition of The Velvet Underground’s “White Light/White Heat” would come after the death of the band’s figurehead Lou Reed.

This concoction of live tracks, studio cuts and rare outtakes is probably the best eulogy that could be written for the rock genius, and as record sales spike for Reed’s solo material, fans and the curious should do themselves a favor and check out this box set.

Fans of The Velvet Underground will savor previously unreleased versions of their classic tracks such as “Beginning to See the Light” and live versions of “I’m Waiting for The Man” where you can almost feel the sweat dripping down your neck while at New York’s The Gymnasium in 1967.

What is striking but not surprising about the collection is the vast variety of the tracks, which epitomizes The Velvet Underground. The title track is chugging rock ‘n’ roll with distorted guitars and Reed’s nonchalant tones jumping between low and drawling and playfully high. “The Gift” surges in with spoken word, and “Stephanie Says” is so gentle and melodic it could be a lullaby, delicate drum beats laced with harmonizing vocals.

— Sian Watson, Associated Press writer

Grateful Dead, “Sunshine Daydream” (Rhino)

How many reviews of archival Grateful Dead releases begin with some variation of this sentence: If you only own one Grateful Dead concert, make sure it’s this one?

OK, so let’s get it out of the way early: If you only own one Grateful Dead concert, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for it to be Aug. 27, 1972, a benefit show released as the box set “Sunshine Daydream.”

Amid the roughly 100 archival Grateful Dead releases so far, what makes “Sunshine Daydream” stand out?

First, it’s not just the concert, which plays out over three discs and features the Dead in their prime. There’s also the movie, filmed on a shoestring budget to capture the hastily organized benefit show to help support the Springfield Creamery, owned by Ken Kesey’s brother, in Eugene, Ore. Long available in previous edits as a grainy bootleg, the film is beautifully restored here on DVD.

The deluxe edition, available only through the Grateful Dead’s website, comes with a well put-together 30-minute documentary featuring interviews with many of those who were a part of putting the show together, including Merry Prankster and concert emcee Ken Babbs and counter culture icon Wavy Gravy.

— Scott Bauer, Associated Press writer

The Beach Boys, “Made in California” (Capitol)

With its bright yellow cover and yearbook-style format, the outside of The Beach Boys’ six-CD set “Made in California” already evokes a sunny California vibe. The music takes you all the way there, with a 50-year, career-spanning collection that includes home demos (complete with the band-member brothers arguing) and new arrangements of beloved hits. Accompanied by more than 30 pages of glossy vintage photos and interviews with the original sextet (Brian Wilson, Carl Wilson, Dennis Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine and David Marks), “Made in California” is the ultimate collectible for any Beach Boys fan.

Lounge into the lush harmonies on a cappella versions of “Can’t Wait Too Long,” “Slip on Through” and “This Whole World.” Dig the old radio spots from the 1960s and rare live studio recordings of “Wendy” and “When I Grow Up (To Be a Man).” Boogie in your bikini to more than a dozen live tracks, many from ‘60s and ‘70s performances.

All the classics are here — “California Girls,” “Surfin’ U.S.A.,” “Barbara Ann,” “I Get Around” — plus newer hits like “Kokomo,” and some 130 songs in between, comprehensively illustrating the California band’s longtime and lasting impact on pop music.

— Sandy M. Cohen, Associated Press Entertainment Writer

The Ramones, “The Sire Years 1976-1981” (Rhino)

Break out your leather biker jacket and put on your best punk-rock snarl for this six-disc set from the genre’s American pioneers. All the songs that made you want to grow your hair long and play power chords are here: “Blitzkrieg Bop,” “Sheena is a Punk Rocker,” “Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment” and “I Wanna Be Sedated.”

“The Sire Years” comprises the Ramones’ first six albums: 1976’s “The Ramones,” 1977’s “Leave Home” and “Rocket to Russia,”  1978’s “Road to Ruin,” 1980’s “End of the Century” and 1981’s “Pleasant Dreams.”

Each album has its standout tracks — the ones you loved back in high school or whenever you discovered these shaggy-haired New Yorkers.

The albums are presented with the original song order, cover art and arrangements, making the collection familiar, if beloved, territory. It’s nostalgic and comprehensive, but probably redundant for most Ramones fans.

— Sandy M. Cohen, AP Entertainment Writer

Various artists, “Released!: The Human Rights Concerts 1986-1998” (Shout Factory)

The Amnesty International box poses an interesting question: is it best to see or just hear the music?

The “Released!” compilation of highlights from benefit concerts, tours and videos between 1979 and 2012 decides on the former. The 6-DVD set celebrates how music boosted the human rights organization, mixes in the message, and is well designed to help people navigate between performances.

That does, however, make the two-CD musical set seem slight in comparison, because people interested in portability of music can see many things that they are missing. It relies too heavily on a 1986 Giants Stadium show that hasn’t aged very well. Memo to Bryan Adams: It may seem like a good idea to have the audience sing the first verse of your latest hit in concert, but think of how that will sound on disc 25 years later. Annoying, that’s how.

Fortunately, there are genuine treats. Peter Gabriel’s’ reimagined “In Your Eyes” with Youssou N’Dour from Paris in 1998 is transcendent, as is Tracy Chapman’s stately “Fast Car” and Bruce Springsteen’s solo “No Surrender.” The real star is Bob Marley, with three of the 30 songs covers of his compositions.

— David Bauder, Associated Press writer

Duane Allman “Skydog: The Duane Allman Retrospective” (Rounder)

Dig in and dig it, Duane Allman completists (you know who you are). The seven-CD set “Skydog: The Duane Allman Retrospective” doesn’t include every note Allman ever played, but it probably comes close enough.

““Skydog” sums up the prolific guitar wizard’s tragically brief, sprawling career in comprehensive fashion, making it a testament to the depth and breadth of his incomparable talent.

The set was co-produced by Allman’s daughter, Galadrielle, born shortly before her father died in a 1971 motorcycle crash. Along with his best-loved music as a member of the Allman Brothers Band and Derek & the Dominos, there are samples of his session work with Hall of Famers Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett, and with obscure artists such as Johnny Jenkins, Eric Quincy Tate and many, many more. On some cuts Allman solos for only a bar or two, but on longer breaks he sounds like no one else, channeling the blues, soul, jazz, country and rock.

Of the 129 tracks, 33 are either previously unreleased or unissued on CD, starting with three nifty 1965 recordings by the Escorts, Allman’s group when he was 18. What he accomplished in the next 61/2 years remains remarkable, as this set shows.

— Steven Wine, Associated Press writer

Woody Guthrie, “Woody Guthrie: Radical American Patriot” (Rounder)

Given Woody Guthrie’s restless nature, it’s amazing he sat still long enough to record five hours of songs and conversation with folklorist Alan Lomax.

Those 1940 sessions by the Library of Congress are included on the six-CD set “Woody Guthrie: Radical American Patriot.” In some of his earliest recordings, Guthrie discusses his youth, the Dust Bowl, bankers, outlaws and life as a frontier troubadour. His snicker is a delight, while his retelling of family misfortunes during the Depression is wrenching. And when he lists famous Hollywood stars from Oklahoma with provincial pride, he sounds like someone’s slightly daft uncle.

Guthrie’s commentary provides fresh context to the music that made him America’s greatest folk singer, and many of his best songs are here, performed informally. Also included are his tunes commissioned to support the U.S. government, including 10 for an anti-venereal disease campaign.

This set isn’t the best introduction to Guthrie, and much of it won’t merit repeated listening. But it broadens our understanding of Guthrie, showing how _ as the title suggests _ the hard-traveling populist militant loved his country.

— Steven Wine, Associated Press writer

Nirvana, “In Utero 20th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition” (Geffen)

Nirvana was probably rock ‘n’ roll’s last truly unifying band, and it’s completely polarizing third album, “In Utero,” stands as a puzzling final word from Kurt Cobain. Designed to send mainstream fans to the exits after “Nevermind” rewrote the rules, “In Utero” did just that as Cobain bared his conflicted soul.

The recently released 20th-anniversary super deluxe edition will do little to clear up the debate over where “In Utero” stands in the band’s very short history before Cobain’s suicide. Hovering somewhere between the spit-polish of “Nevermind” and the blue blowtorch flame of debut, “Bleach,” Cobain remains inscrutable here, making people hum along to songs about alienation and withdrawal almost against their will.

The best moments in the three-CD, one-DVD set are the live ones. The box includes a CD and DVD of the band’s December 1993 “Live ‘n’ Loud” performance in Seattle, and the show serves as a reminder of just how powerful the band was. Cobain rarely smiles until the end, when he spits on the camera lens with an impish grin and then begins to trash the stage.

It looked like he was having fun, and it makes you wish he still was.

— Chris Talbott, AP Music Writer

Sly and the Family Stone, “Higher” (Epic/Legacy)

After a thorough listen to the “Sly and the Family Stone: Higher” box set, you’ll quickly realize they’ve made a lot of funky music, but not all of it is worth a second listen.

For every heart-warming “Everyday People,” there is “Luv ‘n Haight,” replete with corny horn work and a lackluster approach to funk. For each “I Want to Take You Higher,” and its soul-lifting spirit, there is “I Just Learned How To Swim,” which is Sly Stewart’s funk-tinged surf song that is fun. Maybe once.

That’s what you have in this reasonably comprehensive, four-CD collection that includes 17 previously (perhaps thankfully) unreleased tracks: a band bristling with talent and experimentation, which occasionally struck gold, and sometimes not.

Songs like “What’s That Got To Do With Me,” about a love gone wrong, is epic in scope, with sweeping horn-driven crescendo interspersed with bits of dramatic pause and odd vocal insertions. If you like odd, this collection with be full of gems for you. Most Family Stone fans, however, will likely be content with a single disc of greatest hits by the funk super group, forgoing the filler.

— Rob Harris, Associated Press writer

Fleetwood Mac, “Fleetwood Mac: 1969 to 1972” (Reprise)

The first thing that comes to mind when mentioning Fleetwood Mac is their seminal album “Rumours.” But the band’s pre-“Rumours” days are rich with bluesy offerings that are well worth revisiting on the new box set “Fleetwood Mac: 1969 to 1972.”

The highlight of the four-album, vinyl collection is the first re-mastered edition of “Then Play On,” Fleetwood Mac’s 1969 debut album on Reprise Records. This is a raw, young blues-fueled Fleetwood Mac and the sense of urgency to their music is on full display. The opening, bongo-backed track “Coming Your Way” bristles with pace and the all-out house rocker “Fighting For Madge” showcases guitarist Peter Green as a force to rival Eric Clapton of that era.

“Future Games” is another winning platter, though it presents a softer Fleetwood Mac. By 1971 we find them putting together the less edgy sound that would prove to be the backbone to their radio mainstay hits to come. “Fleetwood Mac: 1969 to 1972” aptly presents the formative years of one of the most successful bands in history.

— Ron Harris, Associated Press writer

Eric Clapton “Give Me Strength: The 1974/1975 Recordings” (Polydor/Universal)

When Eric Clapton returned to the studio in 1974 after a long break from recording and performing because of heroin addiction, he embarked on a rebirth as an artist with three major albums that showcased his vocal skills alongside his well-known talents as a guitar god.

“Give Me Strength: The 1974/1975 Recordings,” repackages and remasters those two studio albums, “461 Ocean Boulevard” and “There’s One in Every Crowd,” and the live album, “E.C. Was Here!” in a 5-CD, 1 Blu-ray set along with studio outtakes and unreleased versions of songs he recorded in that critical year.

The songs he recorded in this period are heavy into blues, gospel and reggae, but the live album revisits some of his killer rock guitar skills from his days with Cream and Blind Faith. Some gems in the set are actually when he’s the most muted, such as his dobro performance on “Give Me Strength” or the simple acoustic version of “Please Be With Me.”

For fans of Clapton’s solo work, the set provides a detailed look at the turning point in his career and the music that brought him back to the stage.

— Kristin Hall, Associated Press writer

Van Morrison, “Moondance Deluxe Edition” (Rhino)

Full disclosure: “Moondance” was my wedding song.

Van Morrison’s seminal 1970 album of the same name, now re-mastered as a one-, two- or four-CD and Blu-ray audio package from Warner Bros., sounds as crisp and swing-danceable as it did when it hit the airwaves 43 years ago. If you fancy yourself a music fan and don’t own the album yet, you have no excuse. If you’re a fan of Van the Man, the deluxe edition will probably blow your mind.

Only true audiophiles with a way to listen to music that doesn’t involve ear buds will appreciate the re-mastering, but there are 50 unreleased session recordings here, including a piano-heavy version of the title track and six takes of “Brand New Day.” It’s a trip to hear Van Morrison try out different tempos and vocal styles for “Into the Mystic.” Also included, a previously unreleased song that didn’t make the final album called “I Shall Sing.”

Overall it’s a rare look inside the making of an album that Rolling Stone ranked as No. 65 on its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

— Rob Merrill, Associated Press writer

Tears for Fears, “The Hurting 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition” (Mercury/Universal)

In the three decades since Tears for Fears’ artfully styled and earnestly composed “Mad World” was released to radio, the single holds as much relevance today as it did in March 1983.

So, too, does the entire album “The Hurting,” the pop-friendly but synth-inspired record that band co-founders Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith spent many months perfecting as they dabbled in the studio and experimented with different musical styles. Indeed, coming back to this album after the passage of time underscores the layers of wordplay and sense of accomplishment the pair had in their youth and affirms their place among that generation’s songwriters.

Listening to the CD, now — through a lens of growing from a teenager to adult — songs like “Memories Fade,” with its focus on growing older and knowing when to let go, have a particular resonance. So, too, does the single “Pale Shelter,” with the original 7-inch version included, that flows with an inspired intensity and longing.

The band has assembled an impressive collection of remixes, live sessions and of course B-sides, which packs the four-disc (three CDS and a DVD) set to the brim with bonus material, details about the songs and a the band’s 1984 show at the Hammersmith Odeon.

— Matt Moore, Associated Press writer

Chick Webb and Ella Fitzgerald, “The Complete Chick Webb & Ella Fitzgerald Decca Sessions (1934-1941)” (Mosaic)

The eight-CD collection “The Complete Chick Webb & Ella Fitzgerald Decca Sessions (1934-1941)” could be subtitled “A Star Is Born,” offering the most complete documentation of the historic collaboration between legends Ella Fitzgerald and Chick Webb.

An inexperienced, naive Fitzgerald made her recording debut with drummer Webb’s big band in 1935 just months after the homeless 17-year-old had won Amateur Night at Harlem’s Apollo Theater. Within two years, her star overshadowed her mentor’s as she became prominently featured on most of the band’s recordings. After Webb’s death in 1939, she led the band under her own name for two years until launching the solo career that would make her “The First Lady of Song.”

The 187 tracks (three previously unreleased) include early hits that remained part of her repertoire for decades such as “You Have to Swing It, Mr. Paganini,” which offered her earliest attempts at scat singing, and “A Tisket A-Tasket,” the swinging nursery rhyme that became her first No. 1 single. Webb’s repertoire included many forgettable novelty songs such as “Coochi-Coochi-Coo” and “The Dipsy Doodle,” but Fitzgerald overcame the material with her joyful interpretations, innate sense of rhythm and perfect pitch.

— Charlie Gans, Associated Press writer

Marked forever by the 1960s

The 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination brings back many memories. It reminds me how growing up in the 1960s was as traumatic as it was exhilarating.

I was 5 years old in 1960, when JFK was elected. I still remember the ditty that we kids from proud Democratic and Catholic families sang at the time: “Kennedy, Kennedy, he’s our man! Nixon belongs in the garbage can!”

I was 15 when the dramatic decade ended in 1970. Richard Nixon was president. His invasion of Cambodia in April of that year expanded the Vietnam War and led to the shooting of student protesters by National Guardsmen at Kent State in Ohio.

Those years were a kaleidoscope of wild events. From the Cuban missile crisis to Beatlemania to civil rights protests, it was all brought up close and personal through TV and AM radio. 

I remember being scared out of my mind at age 7 in 1962 when I walked down the hall in my house to use the bathroom. I was sure that once I was in there alone that bad guy Castro, who my parents were talking about in alarmed whispers, was going to get me.

On Nov. 22, 1963, I was in my third-grade class at St. Mary’s when the principal came on the PA system to announce that President Kennedy had been killed. It was disturbing to see the teachers so distraught. We were marched to church to pray for the president. Then the buses came to take us home.

What followed were three days in front of the TV watching the national tragedy. I remember how sad everyone was. It seemed like everyone in my family and everything on TV moved in slow motion. The only thing that’s come close since were the days after 9/11, when we were all in a state of shock. 

It was about the time of Kennedy’s assassination that the Beatles invaded the United States, bringing us all a blessed distraction. I screamed along with everyone else, and all the kids on my block started garage bands. I recently listened to my Beatles records again and found, to my delight, that I haven’t forgotten a word.

By age 12, I had to think hard about the civil rights and anti-war protests. My working-class dad used racial slurs. My mom wasn’t a lot better, but she sometimes said, “Elmer!” in a chiding tone to curb his tongue. I knew it was wrong and I remember thinking how dumb it was to hate people you didn’t know and to call them names. I was a fat girl and I knew how hurtful name-calling was. It may seem like a shallow analogy, but it was the beginning of empathy.

Civil rights marches and our napalm attacks in Vietnam spurred my critical thinking. The parish priest grew impatient with my questions and demanded  that I “believe and obey!” Then Martin Luther King Jr. was killed in Memphis and Bobby Kennedy was murdered on his way to the presidency. WBBM had just started 24/7 news radio, and I listened on my transistor for days.

What doesn’t crush you makes you stronger. What I gleaned from the 1960s was a profound cynicism tempered by the necessity for questioning authority. I always question authority and urge others to do the same. This one’s for President Kennedy and all the children of the ’60s who grew up too fast.

Golden oldie

The Vatican still has a long way to go to make peace with LGBT civil rights advocates and LGBT Catholics, but last week the Church made peace with the Beatles. The Vatican newspaper paid tribute to the Fab Four and stated that Church has gotten past John Lennon’s boast that the band had become more popular than Jesus. Still, WiG has to point out – the tribute came on the anniversary of the band’s dissolution.

Ho, ho, ho for a British holiday

It is practically all any pop music lover can talk about these days, especially with the holidays approaching: The Beatles stereo box set (Capitol), also available in mono, contains the 13 original UK albums, remastered and repackaged with essential artwork, historical and recording notes, and mini-documentaries.

The collection has undeniably revived Beatlemania, and would make a sensational gift.

Forty years after the release of “Abbey Road,” the last album they recorded as a band, The Beatles continue to be unsurpassed in their musical impact. Beginning with 1963’s “Please Please Me” and ending with 1970’s “Let It Be,” The Beatles box set takes listeners on a familiar journey, but one that is awe-inspiring, no matter how many times you take it.

With the improved sound, listeners now have a chance to rediscover the entire Beatles catalog and pick up on nuances they might have missed before. Both of the 1988 double LP “Past Masters” sets, which compiled non-LP singles and tracks, are also included here, represented by a double-disc package.

Additionally, the mini-docs on the albums have been assembled on a separate DVD. The importance of having all this timeless, influential and revolutionary material in one place can’t be overstated. Let the celebration begin.


Arriving on the heels of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones have managed to remain in existence with most of the original members, 45 years later.

A band whose reputation relied as much on their studio efforts as their concerts, The Rolling Stones were consummate live performers. Their 1969 live album “Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out” (ABKCO) has been reissued in a deluxe 40th-anniversary box set, consisting of three CDs and one DVD, as well as a 56-page collector’s edition book with tour photos by Ethan Russell and a replica of the tour poster.

With their legendary rendition of “Midnight Rambler” as the centerpiece of disc one (the original release), the material focuses on their late 1960s output. The second disc includes five unreleased live tracks, including “Under My Thumb” and “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” while the third disc has a dozen selections by tour openers Ike and Tina Turner and B.B. King. The final component is a DVD of performance footage and more shot by Albert and David Maysles (“Grey Gardens”).

Now part of the Universal empire, The Rolling Stones’ back catalog is in the midst of being reissued in remastered editions. Nothing fancy, mind you. No bonus tracks or such. That said, now is as good a time as any to revisit albums such as 1981’s “Tattoo You” (Rolling Stones Records/UMe), the high point of their 1980s output with tracks such as “Start Me Up,” “Waiting On A Friend,” “Worried About You” and “Neighbours,” to mention a few. Even though the 1990s weren’t the best time for the Stones, the Don Was co-produced “Voodoo Lounge” and “Bridges To Babylon” (Rolling Stones Records/UMe), from ’94 and ’97, respectively, are also worth re-exploring.


The Who’s “The Who Sell Out” (Polydor), a 1967 concept album about pirate radio (humorous adverts and all), has been reissued in a double-disc deluxe edition. In addition to the huge hit single “I Can See For Miles,” “The Who Sell Out” has the psychedelic opener “Armenia City in the Sky” and the radiantly acoustic “Sunrise,” among others. Disc one consists of the 13 tracks from the original stereo album, augmented by 17 bonus tracks, while disc two contains the original mono album with the addition of 10 bonus tracks.


A good portion of the history of British rock in the 1970s and 1980s is dominated by punk and new wave, with such bands as the Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Jam, Buzzcocks, Joy Division, Human League, New Order and The Smiths. Duran Duran rode the new wave from the early 1980s as part of the New Romantic movement (“Planet Earth” and “Girls On Film,” anyone?) to become one of MTV’s first full-fledged video stars. Newly reissued in a limited edition double CD package, “Rio” (EMI), the second full-length by the androgynous quintet (complete with the Nagel cover), was Duran Duran’s breakthrough. Hits such as the title track and “Hungry Like The Wolf” succeeded in making Duran Duran superstars, while songs such as “My Own Way” and “Lonely In Your Nightmare,” displayed influences such as David Bowie and Roxy Music, respectively.

The first disc of the set includes the original UK version of the album, augmented by the original US album mixes of the first five tracks. The second disc features demos, b-side and non-album singles and more.


The Stone Roses, who arrived in 1989, were part of a Brit rock movement that took its 1960s influences seriously, while generously updating them with a Manchester flair. The expanded double set includes a “Lost Demos” disc and DVD (music videos and live footage). This 20th-anniversary Legacy Edition of The Stone Roses’ self-titled debut disc (Silvertone/Legacy), one of only two full-length albums released by the band, is not just an opportunity to renew one’s appreciation for their artistry, it also served to pave the way for what was to follow in the form of Oasis, Blur and others. From album opener “I Wanna Be Adored” (and indeed they were!) to the nearly 10-minute, groundbreaking bonus track “Fools Gold,” which made ravey dance beats and a funky bass-line safe for shoegazers, there is little doubt this is a historical recording.

In the liner notes to “Midlife: A Beginner’s Guide to Blur” (Virgin), the band’s second double-disc hits compilation in nine years, you can follow the world events that occurred when each of their seven albums was released, between 1991 and 2003. You can also hear The Stone Roses’ shoegaze-to-boogie shoes influence on “Blur.” But “Blur” blurs the lines and emerges very much its own entity, thanks to the genius of Damon Albarn (who later went on to found Gorillaz). Just listen to the way they brazenly do a disco twirl on the deliciously queer “Girls and Boys.”


Rounding out the expanded double-disc Radiohead studio album reissues, which began with 1993’s “Pablo Honey,” are “Kid A,” Amnesiac” and “Hail To The Thief” (all on Capitol). “Kid A” picks up with the electronic direction of “OK Computer,” practically reinventing Radiohead in the process. Hauntingly beautiful and warmer than a glacier, songs such as “Everything In Its Right Place,” “The Natural Anthem,” “Optimistic” and “Idioteque” made you rethink everything you thought you knew about this band and rock music.


“Brotherhood” (Virgin), the second double-disc Chemical Brothers compilation in five years, reminds us of the duo’s massive contributions to the world of electro and club music.