Pouty British

April 18, 2008 at 9:20 am (Uncategorized)

I don’t know about you, but Spring’s inability to just commit itself to a steady, loving relationship with Colorado is driving me crazy! Rain one day, snow the next, a two-day summery stretch of 70’s, then back to the typical Fort Collins gusts that make a good hair day a near impossibility. Gah!

During bummer-down weather spells like this one, I often find myself turning to a category of music I affectionately refer to as “pouty British.” And because of the Beatles’ Liverpool roots, I figured I could tie this in. (My favorite pouty Beatles tune is “Yesterday” of course, or “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”)

So join me in indulging your inner pouty Brit and check out these tunes. (Caution: Don’t play any of them for more than an hour or so. Just trust me, lol.)

First up is Aqualung, AKA Matthew Hales of Southampton. (So pouty here). I have his record “Strange and Beautiful,” released in 2002. The song from it that you would know if you heard it is “Brighter Than Sunshine.” (Coincidentally, it’s the cheeriest tune on the CD). It’s definitely catchy, as are the rest of the songs on the CD. My personal favorite is “You Turn Me Around,” which is this sort of inspirational song about being ‘turned around’ or pulled back from a bad situation by a loved one.

This is The Streets, AKA Mike Skinner. (Why these dudes can’t just go by their names, I’m not sure.) He is a British rapper, which gives the genre a unique dynamic. (And really, who doesn’t love accents? )
The best pouty song by this artist from West Heath in Burmingham is called “Dry Your Eyes.” It depicts a breakup step by step, and how the narrator attempts to keep his significant other in his life. But, as he says, the moral of the story is to “dry your eyes mate, I know it’s hard to take but her mind has been made up. There’s plenty more fish in the sea.”

Keane is a band from Battle, in East Sussex. They are sometimes described as “piano rock.” And yes, they rock! Their music is not the dramatic downer that “Dry Your Eyes” is, it is actually catchy and surprisingly upbeat. The unique thing about them is their sound – guitarless rock with awesome piano melody and distortion. But the undertone is definitely that of melancholy crooning about heartache. Check out “Somewhere Only We Know” on their first album “Hopes and Fears.”

The Old Pros, Coldplay of course! Some factoids: Coldplay was formed in 1998 in London. In their early years, they were known to give 10% of their profits to charity, and are also large supporters of Amnesty International and Fair Trade. Lead singer Chris Martin is married to American actress Gweneth Paltrow. Coldplay’s newest album, to be released June of this year, is to be called Viva La Vida (Long Live Life) and is said to have Hispanic influences.

Being a pretty popular band, everyone has heard of Coldplay and has their own favorite songs. I’m a big fan of a few songs on each of the band’s CD’s, but I think “A Rush of Blood to the Head” makes for good pouty background music when I’m painting. They were featured on the Garden State soundtrack, which, I’m just going to say, is essential listening material to anyone with a soul.

And now, the exception to the pouty British rule, Elliot Smith is just pouty. The artist, based out of Portland, Oregon, struggled with and sang about drug addiction, depression, and alcohol abuse. He was popular during the ’90s, but his life was cut short in 2003 when he died of two stab wounds to the chest (the autopsy didn’t determine whether they were self-inflicted or not).

Elliot Smith’s voice has a soft, genuine quality to it. His sound consists of acoustic strumming mixed with some electric sounds, and intensely poignant lyrics. It creates an overall mellow sense of melancholy. My favorite songs are “A Fond Farewell,” “Baby Britain” (more upbeat), “Needle In The Hay,” and “Bottle Up and Explode!”

Hope you guys enjoy my picks for best pouty Brits, if you have any more rainy day bands, leave me a comment!

Google Images and Wikipedia were used in this post.

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Abbey Road

April 4, 2008 at 3:12 pm (Uncategorized)

Thanks for the comments last time (they cracked me up). Across the Universe is definitely “an LSD trip through the 60’s”…how didn’t I come up with that myself??

My topic today is a shortie, but I want to share with you why Abbey Road is special to me.

Do you ever cycle through cds? I definitely do, Blue October in the fall, Jack Johnson in the summer, etc. Abbey Road is my springtime CD.

The overall feel of the album is sort of sweet and romantic (for people with spring fever, maybe). But it’s not ridiculous about it. Take “Something,” for example, a classic love song, along with “Oh Darling.” Great songs, definitely about love, but they won’t make you puke. My favorite track on Abbey Road by far is “Here Comes the Sun.” The song is so happy without being over-the-top. I would strongly recommend playing it on a nice day, because I guarantee it will put you in a good mood. The album finishes with a series of short songs including “Golden Slumbers” and “The End.” This gives the album the Beatles’ signature sort of tie-ins before finishing with “Her Majesty,” a 30-second little piece about getting up the courage to speak to a pretty girl. The album is a great musical experience, and I’d strongly suggest a listen on a warm spring day. (Hopefully there are some of those in our future!)

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Across The Universe

March 27, 2008 at 3:27 pm (Uncategorized)

So I mentioned this movie in my first post, but haven’t gone back to it until now.

For anyone that hasn’t seen the movie, Across The Universe is, above all else, hard to describe. It’s kind of something you just have to see. However, I’ll attempt to give a brief synopsis.

The movie follows a group of characters, whose names are all taken from Beatles songs. The main character is Jude (who looks suspiciously like Paul McCartney). He immigrates illegally from Liverpool to America to find his biological father. When he gets there, he befriends Max, an Ivy-league dropout, and falls in love with his sister, Lucy (who’s boyfriend just died in the Vietnam War). The three move out to New York City and live as bohemians with Janis Joplin-esque Sadie, Jimi Hendrix-esque Jojo, and Prudence, an ex-cheerleading lesbian. While Lucy becomes a peace activist, Jude works as an artist. The characters experience various ups and downs, and the movie gives a psychadelic take on the unstable political landscape of the mid to late 60’s. All the while singing, I might add, as the movie is a musical.

Some of my favorite covers included were “Because,” “Revolution,” “Hey Jude,” “Across the Universe,” Something,” and “Strawberry Fields Forever.” They were used in unique ways that I had never thought of before. For example, “She’s So Heavy” was used in correlation with Max, who ends up being drafted for the war. Uncle Sam is the one saying “I want you” (literally, he pops out of a poster) and soldiers are shown carrying the statue of liberty, singing “she’s so heavy.”

Like the rest of the movie, this scene is pretty symbolic. I interpreted each character as representing different influential people in the 1960’s, and the overall thing as a (trippy) representation of that time period, which was one of the craziest of all American history (especially in 1968).

Now, for those that haven’t seen it, I say trippy because, well, its just freaking trippy. The best example I can give is the end credits – the characters are underwater, naked, and in a crazy technicolor that keeps changing. The movie is strongly tied to the counterculture, which is strongly tied to hallucinogens. The effects are great.

The movie is a must because it is just good. Don’t let the musical thing freak you out (guys) because it consists of well-done Beatles covers. But especially for Beatles fans, this will rock your world. So go see it if you haven’t already.

(The underwater technicolor hookup)

(The Strawberries represent soldiers in the movie)

(I’ll never look at Uncle Sam the same again)

(Some famous co-stars…How does Bono end up in everything??)

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John Lennon

March 12, 2008 at 3:11 pm (Uncategorized)

For my JT210 class, we were required to write an obituary of someone famous, which led to some research about John Lennon. I found out a lot of interesting things I didn’t know before, and I thought I’d share them.

  • Elvis was the most musically influential artist in Lennon’s life, but after he (Elvis) joined the army, Lennon believed he wasn’t ever the same.
  • Lennon’s parents were divorced early in his childhood, and his mom was killed in a car accident when he was 18.
  • Lennon was married and became a father when he was 22. At this time, Beatlemania was just beginning to take off, so his wife Cynthia and son Julian were kept secret to make Lennon more appealing to teenage girls.
  • Lennon was more than just a singer, guitarist and songwriter. He also published a bestselling book, In His Own Write, starred in multiple films, and was an exhibiting visual artist.
  • Lennon and his second wife, Yoko Ono, celebrated their wedding by having a “bed-in” in Amsterdam to protest the war and promote peace.
  • Lennon and Ono were allowed visas into the U.S. to partake in “primal scream” therapy
  • Lennon and Ono had a son, Sean Ono Lennon.
  • John Lennon was shot and killed by a deranged fan outside of his apartment building in New York City on Dec. 8, 1980. He was 40 years old.
  • Ono revealed a memorial tower on what would have been Lennon’s 67th birthday. A beam of light radiates from a well with the message “Imagine Peace” in 24 languages.

What a talented and interesting man!

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Born in the flood

March 7, 2008 at 12:03 pm (Uncategorized)

So my friend Alan sent me a Born in the flood CD a month or so ago. I had never heard of this band, but he said he had “a metaphysical religious experience” when he saw them play (which is funny because he’s a pretty straight-laced guy…so they had to have been good). As it turns out, I liked their music a lot, and actually saw them play at Hodi’s Half Note last Friday. And yes, they were great.

The reason I am including them in this post is that they have a definite Sgt. Pepper’s feel to some of their songs. The song I am thinking of specifically is “A Day in the Life,” towards the end of the album. Both are haunting and melodic. The lead singer of Born in the flood, Nathaniel Rateliff, has a voice reminiscent of the Beatles at times , which also contributes to a similar sound.

Born in the flood is a Denver-based band. Rateliff and his friend Joseph Pope III are originally from Missouri. They moved out to Denver doing volunteer work for the homeless when they met up with Mike Hall and Matt Fox, and then Born in the flood was, erm, born. The band’s EP, “If This Thing Should Spill,” was released in 2007 under Morning After Records. (And is very good, I might add).

Now. Since I keep mentioning Sgt Pepper’s, I thought I’d throw in a little background on the album.

It was released on June 1, 1967. This was a few years after the Beatles had made it big in the U.K. and the U.S., and they were beginning to evolve away from the 50’s Elvis-y sound to something a bit more…psychedelic. It is speculated that, along with much of the American hippie counterculture, the Beatles were partaking in the use of marijuana, acid, and other drugs. There was even controversy over their album because of some drug references. One of these was in “A Little Help From My Friends,” during which they sing, “I get by with a little help from my friends, I get high with a little help from my friends.” Also, the song “Lucy In the Sky with Diamonds” is believed to be about LSD.

Probably the most interesting part of this multidimensional album is the cover art. It consists of the band and a group of their heroes and role models standing in what appears to be a garden. Some of the featured role models are Karl Jung, Edgar Allen Poe, Marilyn Monroe, Fred Astaire, Karl Marx, George Bernard Shaw, Albert Einstein, and Shirley Temple. The Beatles wished to include some other figures, such as Jesus, Hitler, Elvis and Gandhi, but they were taken out for political or religious reasons.

 For more info on Sgt Pepper’s, this was a helpful site.

The cover is well-recognized, and many have played off of it. Here are some spoofs that I thought were funny.

(the original)

(Frank Zappa’s version)
   (The Simpsons)

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Some Factoids

February 28, 2008 at 6:21 pm (Uncategorized)

So I thought I’d do a slightly shorter post this time, as the last few have been kind of long. So I’ve done some digging, and here are some of my favorite Beatles factoids.

Courtesy of Streaming Oldies:

John Lennon’s middle name (before he later changed it to Ono) was Winston. His family chose this name because Lennon was born during a German air raid and they wanted his middle name to be after Winston Churchill. (How very British of them!)

John Lennon’s harmonica used in “Love Me Do” was one that he shoplifted while in Holland.

After Beatlemania began, fans went a little crazy. Some allegedly devoured the grass that Paul McCartney had walked on in California. So when McCartney had his tonsils removed, there was a public announcement that they would be incinerated.  (Today, I bet someone would try to sell them on ebay.)

The Beatles and the Rolling Stones had an agreement not to release their singles/albums too closely to each other so that both bands had a better shot at being #1 in the charts.

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Arctic Monkeys vs Beatles

February 22, 2008 at 1:07 pm (Uncategorized)

The Arctic MonkeysThe Beatles

For this blog post, I wanted to do a little more of the bridging I talked about in my first post. So today, I’m going to talk about the Arctic Monkeys, a band that has recently received worldwide attention for their similarity to the success of the Beatles. The band is also a good tie-in with online ethics, because the band got its start largely through myspace.com.

The band formed in 2002 in Sheffield, England. They initially performed locally, distributing free, home-made CDs they’d burned of their music at concerts. Their fans ripped the music onto their computers, shared it, and created a myspace.com site for the band. Although the band was originally opposed to signing a record deal, Domino eventually caught their eye in 2005. Since signing, the group has released their first full-length album “Whatever People Say I am, That’s What I’m Not.” The album became the fastest-selling in the history of England. This caused many to followers to compare the band to The Beatles, and some even went so far as to say this new band would outshine them.

The Arctic Monkeys have a similar, British pop/rock sound as the Beatles in the Revolver/Sgt.Peppers Era. The Arctic Monkeys consist of four fresh-faced Brits (at least one of which seems to always sport the Beatles’ signature shaggy hairstyle). Even the lyrics and lead singer Alex Turner’s inflection tend to have a Beatles-esque swagger to them. The Arctic Monkeys, to me at least, sound somewhat like a sped-up, updated Beatles, (with a pinch of Franz Ferdinand sound) and an indie twist.

Take a listen.

When the Sun Goes Down (Scumbag)

Elanor Rigby

I like the Arctic Monkeys’ sound, but in my mind, no band can ever rival my precious Beatles. It’s impossible not to see the similarities, though, showing that the band may indeed be a sort of Beatles 2.0. (Or at least some people would like to think so.)

This sort of revamping of previous cultural icons is very goes along with the copyright issues we discussed in class. Some might say that copying is the sincerest form of flattery, which, in this case, I believe is true. While they are original, their sort of throwback vibe gives them a familiarity that people can relate to.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about them, though, is their myspace-induced popularity. They are generally accepted as the first major band to gain status in that way. Although their music was distributed freely, the band didn’t see it as a loss of profit, like many American artists do. They felt rather that giving away their music for free allowed more people to know their music and go to concerts able to sing along.

In my opinion, this can be a sticky situation, because giving away your art for free doesn’t necessarily sit well with me. However, the band made a name for themselves through the uncontainable spread of their musical talent, rather than record-label promotions. In this way, I feel they let their talent speak for itself, something that more bands should do today.

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A Hard Day’s Night

February 15, 2008 at 5:05 pm (Uncategorized)

So for this blog, I decided to go a little more in-depth exploring “A Hard Day’s Night,” the Beatles-themed hotel that opened February first in Liverpool. Because the hotel is so new, there is not very much information available about it yet. However, some of the amenities include: 110 rooms, Paul McCartney and John Lennon-themed rooms, a bar, a restaurant, and even a wedding chapel. However, I think the most interesting aspect is the gallery and series of Beatles paintings the hotel features, which pay graphic homage to the group.

In a way, this hotel is reminiscent of Elvis’s Graceland, thus placing the Beatles on a similarly high pedestal. I love their music, but one can’t help but wonder if such celebrity-worship is unhealthy.  Right? Here’s the thing though – the difference between tabloid-obsession and expensive themed hotels (although they are both centered on celebrities) is that The Beatles (and Elvis etc) have reached a new level of celebritydom.  They have permanently infiltrated pop culture, they have become icons for generations and their music has influenced the work of many contemporary artists. Beatlemania has had a permanent impact on America and the world, and because of that, I fully support a hotel to honor the musicians.

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Blackbird

February 7, 2008 at 5:39 pm (Uncategorized)

Hi.

My name is Rachel. I’m a freshman at Colorado State University, and this blog is part of my Online Writing class. Some things to know about me: my favorite things in the world are the smell of laundry, writing letters, making people laugh, playing my music too loud, learning something new, being the only car on the highway, painting, dancing, cute socks, fresh fruit, and being still in nature.

My focus in this blog is on the Beatles and how their music affected (and continues to permeate) American pop culture. Even though it has been 44 years since their fateful debut on The Ed Sullivan Show, the group and their music is still incredibly widespread. Don’t believe me? Check this out. For just one day, I kept track of anything I encountered that had something to do with the Beatles. And in that one day, I heard:

  1. That a new hotel is opening in Liverpool, called A Hard Day’s Night (based on the Beatles song).
  2. The soundtrack of Across The Universe, a movie-musical replete with new covers of Beatles songs, released last year.
  3. The opening scene of the children’s movie Happy Feet, which features a cover of “The End” (off of the Beatles’ Abbey Road).
  4. The Gray Album, a compilation of Jay-Z’s The Black Album and The Beatles’ White Album, remixed by Danger Mouse.

Reminder: This is in just one day!

I think the Beatles represent an important blending and connecting of people across ethnic, socio-economic, educational, linguistic, racial, age, and time boundaries. Their music was inspired by the combination of African-American beats, Elvis-style rock and roll, and Brit rock. Thus, their music had a widespread appeal and evolved throughout the 60’s and 70’s as not only a commentary on society, but a reflection of it. And to me, it is incredibly interesting to see my generation embrace Beatles music the same way that our parents did. I believe it is an indication facing similar societal issues, and being able to relate to the songs. Which is definitely something that can allow us to come together…right now…over me. (Sorry – I couldn’t resist).

Now. I chose ‘Blackbird’ as the main motif of this post as well as of the blog in general because the song has a special significance to me. It became something to help me get through the harder times I faced in high school, and became a personal symbol of perseverance. Blackbirds started showing up in my paintings, and my friends and family would give me gifts that in some way featured a blackbird. And now it seems, it has become inexorably tied into my identity as it was the first thing that came to mind when deciding on a name for this blog.

However, I am not the only one who was profoundly affected. I’ll end this post with some youtube videos of people who similarly love this song.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=liOuzXqF1PY (the original, combined with an artist’s sketch)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7MywK24HdQ (Sarah McLachlan’s version)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCT9xnlhldM (Talented kid!)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fGh1aTyoOM (A band)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HkaToqoVj7k (A choir group)

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Hello world!

January 24, 2008 at 10:11 pm (Uncategorized)

Welcome to WordPress.com. This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!

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