Tag Archives: Rubber Soul

Rocks In The Attic #592: George Gershwin – ‘Manhattan (O.S.T.)’ (1979)

RITA#592
I recently got to see Woody Allen’s Manhattan on the big screen – re-released and screened as part of the New Zealand International Film Festival’s Autumn Classics programme.

Of the two most famous films of his ‘70s output – 1977’s Annie Hall and 1979’s Manhattan (the Rubber Soul / Revolver of Allen’s filmography) – I’ve always preferred Manhattan. While Annie Hall is undoubtedly a fantastic film, overshadowing Star Wars at the 1978 Academy Awards by winning Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay (Allen & Marshall Brickman) and Best Actress (Diane Keaton), it’s accolades also bring a lot of weight with it.

Manhattan, on the other hand, didn’t win a sausage at the 1980 Academy Awards – despite nominations for Best Supporting Actress (Mariel Hemingway) and Best Original Screenplay (Allen & Brickman again). Where Annie Hall is the quintessential Woody Allen film, and the progenitor of the modern romantic-comedy, it also suffers from being the most obvious, the one chosen as a life template by dilettante faux-bohemian women due to the kooky allure of Diane Keaton’s character.

Manhattan is the Woody Allen fan’s Woody Allen film. It’s shot in 2.35:1 widescreen black-and-white, which avoids the risk of any low-brow audience seeing it, and it’s also a much more low-key affair. The nature of the relationship between Woody Allen and Diane Keaton’s characters might be the narrative focus of Annie Hall, but in Manhattan this is merely a peripheral matter. Instead, the later film deals more with the threat of being alone in a city full of people. As a result, while the one-liners in Annie Hall may be funnier, the jokes in Manhattan have more weight.

While Annie Hall may serve as the template formula for the rom-coms of today’s cinema, it’s the overbearing melancholia of Manhattan that inspired perhaps the greatest film in the modern-day genre, Rob Reiner’s When Harry Met Sally (1989).

Hit: Rhapsody In Blue

Hidden Gem: Mine

Advertisements

Rocks In The Attic #515: Thin Lizzy – ‘Jailbreak’ (1976)

RITA#515I’ve been blasting Lizzy a lot recently. Their Wild One compilation, the CD that turned me onto them, is a favourite on my iPod. There’s nothing like a quick blast of Jailbreak to decompress on my drive home from work.

I saw the fantastic film Sing Street recently. Directed by John Carney, formerly of Irish band the Frames, it’s set in Dublin like his awesome 2007 film Once. That earlier film had a lovely moment when the film’s protagonists try to enlist the services of a couple of Grafton Street buskers to back him on a recording of his songs. They immediately ask him if they’ll be recording ‘any Lizzy’; the subtext implying that the city’s struggling musicians haven’t moved on from the successes of its black rocker son.

Everybody’s heard The Boys Are Back In Town. Advertisers love it, and it commonly adorns film soundtracks. The title-track Jailbreak is something else though. Its white-hot, guttural guitar riff is too vulgar to be a mainstream hit. It shouldn’t work; it’s too simple. Brian Downey’s drums turn it into something else though. In the hands of a lesser drummer, it would be a dirge, but Downey’s syncopation – man, those opening high-hats! – breathes life into the arrangement.

Jailbreak is the sixth studio album by the band, and proved to be the one that broke them in the U.S.; and with good reason. It’s the perfect mix of melodic heavy rock and Phil Lynnot’s soulful, romantic lyrics. The twin-guitar of American Scott Gorham and Scot Brian Robertson also feels much more natural here than it does on earlier albums. If anything, the guitars feel fat where on the last couple of Lizzy records, they lacked that ballsy sound.

This might be the most successful Lizzy album, their biggest seller, but I prefer its follow-up Johnny The Fox, released just seven months later. They’re both so good though – the Rubber Soul / Revolver of the band.

Hit: The Boys Are Back In Town

Hidden Gem: Running Back

Rocks In The Attic #384: The Beatles – ‘Mono Masters’ (2009)

RITA#384So the plan was to buy the Beatles In Mono vinyl box set, and then sell the stereo box set that I bought a couple of years ago. That was the plan. But then I got it home – from supporting my local independent record store, I like to add – and plonked it down on my shelves next to the stereo set. I couldn’t split these two up, could I? Not when they’re both so…different.

The differences – both minor and major – are a wonderful thing between these two sets. I do agree that mono is king, especially here when the Beatles contributed to the mono mixes, and left the ‘after the fact’ stereo mixes to the studio engineers. It’s just such an oddity how some of the changes can be so noticeable. For a band known for their high quality control, it’s amazing that the stereo mixes were handled so poorly. People applaud George Martin and the Beatles for being so innovative and forward-thinking. Here, they were largely disregarding an audio format that would go on to dominate the music industry by the end of the decade.

It’s nice to see that they expanded this record into a triple, rather than reduce the running time due to some of the later singles not receiving a mono mix. In place of those later singles, we get some tracks mixed in mono intended for a Yellow Submarine EP that never saw the light of day. As welcome as this is, it does change things slightly – in the past I always say the two Past Masters discs as representative of each half of their career. Past Masters Vol. 2 begins with Day Tripper, recorded during the Rubber Soul sessions just as the Beatles were starting to wholeheartedly reflect outside influences, in this case the Motown sound. On Mono Masters, Day Tripper turns up halfway through the third side.

With the Beatles In Mono box set, I now own the core catalogue three times over (I already owned them all prior to the stereo remasters). Do I need three copies of the White Album? Three copies of Revolver and Rubber Soul? Three copies of Sgt. Pepper’s? Damn right I do!

Hit: She Loves You

Hidden Gem: Hey Bulldog

Rocks In The Attic #302: The Rolling Stones – ‘Out Of Our Heads’ (1965)

RITA#302Another early Stones record with very little in the way of Jagger and Richards compositions (they managed three on this one). This is still very much Brian Jones’ band, but this album really only highlights the limitation of doing things Brian’s way – twelve songs appear on the British release of the album, nine of which are covers. Only two months later the Beatles would release Rubber Soul – a collection of songs that really shows how far behind their cotemporaries the Stones were.

Of course, of the three Jagger / Richards songs on Out Of Our Heads, two of them would make the history books. Heart Of Stone went on to become a top-20 single in the US, and the albums closing song I’m Free would earn the band a mini-resurgence when it was covered – re-imagined is probably a better description – by the Soup Dragons in 1991, hitting #5 in the UK charts.

That Soup Dragons song is a little more Soup Dragons than it is the Rolling Stones, but I guess as usual the lyrics carry the legal imprint of a song more than the music does. The Stones taking credit for the Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony is another matter though – that song uses only a snippet of an orchestral version of The Last Time (as recorded by their manager’s side-project, the Andrew Oldham Orchestra in 1966). This has to be one of the most tenuous plagiarism cases ever – somehow the Stones managed to lay a 100% claim to a 1997 hit single featuring an orchestral motif recorded by another artist interpreting their work back in 1966.

“Free, any old time, to get what I want,” Jagger would sing in 1965, and he wasn’t joking.

Hit: Heart Of Stone

Hidden Gem: Mercy, Mercy

Rocks In The Attic #281: The Beatles – ‘1967 – 1970’ (1973)

RITA#281The lines have since been blurred by subsequent compilation albums, but the Red and Blue Albums used to serve as an excellent line in the sand. Did you prefer the moptop Beatlemania of the Red Album, or the maturing experimentation of the Blue Album? The turning point chosen was the Blue Album’s opener, John Lennon’s Strawberry Fields Forever­ – a key moment of evolution in studio production, and a chance for the Fab Four to try out their new moustaches.

The Blue Album is definitely a more balanced offering than its counterpart. Whereas Allen Klein topped up the Red Album’s shorter running time by including many songs from Rubber Soul (presumably his favourite album), here the tracks are more evenly spread out: four album tracks from Sgt. Peppers, three from the Magical Mystery Tour soundtrack, three from the White Album, four from Abbey Road, three from Let It Be, and the rest of the songs coming from singles and b-sides. If anything you could say that the White Album is the least represented – a sprawling double-album with only three songs present – but given that this compilation collects all of their lengthier late-period songs, I guess some allowances had to be made to be able to make it a double-album, symmetrical to the Red Album. These four years could easily have been extended into a triple-album, but maybe Klein figured that a triple-album wouldn’t have had any more pulling power than a double.

I do question the inclusion of George Harrison’s Old Brown Shoe – the b-side to The Ballad Of John And Yoko. There are definitely stronger album tracks from around that period, which I would probably have substituted in its place – but I welcome its obscurity, a song that would later see the light of day on Past Masters Vol. 2, but at the time a definite hidden gem in their back-catalogue.

While I see the point of the 1 compilation – 2000’s attempt at putting all of the band’s number one singles in one collection – the Red and Blue Albums have the luxury of including album tracks. On 1, the years between 1967 and 1970 are represented by just eleven songs, while the Blue Album manages to cover the same period with twenty eight tracks (and doesn’t ever seem overlong or outstay its welcome).

For me, the only real sour note on this compilation is the inclusion of Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da – one of my least favourite Beatles songs. It’s definitely the catchiest track from the White Album, and probably only included here as it was such a hit single for Marmalade in January 1969 – with this single they achieved the notoriety of being the first ever Scottish band to hit number one in the UK singles chart.

Hit: Hey Jude

Hidden Gem: Old Brown Shoe

Rocks In The Attic #188: The Beatles – ‘Rubber Soul’ (1965)

RITA#188I love Rubber Soul. Not as much as Revolver, but as a contemporary album to rival the likes of Dylan, it’s a fine piece of work. There seems to be a lot of love for Rubber Soul in the USA, although I’m usually unsure whether it’s the standard British version or the American version of the album that attracts such attention.

I’ve never heard the American version of the album – I’ve heard all the songs obviously – but when I look at the tracklisting online, it just seems odd. There’s no Drive My Car, no Nowhere Man, no If I Needed Someone, and no What Goes On (although that last omission is probably for the better). In their place, and tacked onto the beginning of each side, are two songs from Help!I’ve Just Seen A Face and It’s Only Love. Apparently this was to make it sound more like a folk-rock album, to appeal to the American tastes like Dylan and The Byrds.

Although the songs on Rubber Soul are light years ahead of Help!, they also sound light years away from the genius of Revolver. The Rubber Soul sessions are notable for the band starting to include straightforward riff-based rock in their songwriting. Day Tripper (recorded during the Rubber Soul sessions but released as a double-A-side single alongside We Can Work It Out) and Drive My Car may sound like pastiches of the Motown sound, but their influence on guitar-based rock music is underrated. This is a full year before Hendrix burst onto the London music scene, but Lennon, McCartney and Harrison seem to effortlessly create this blueprint while paying homage to the type of music they were listening to at the time.

Hit: Drive My Car

Hidden Gem: I’m Looking Through You

Rocks In The Attic #155: The Beatles – ‘1962 – 1966’ (1973)

This collection, better known as The Red Album, was the first compilation to be officially released after the band split.

Essentially it’s a gathering together of all of The Beatles singles between those years, complimented by the occasional album-track; however it strangely includes 6 non-single album tracks from Rubber Soul. This has always caused consternation among Beatles fans – why favour so many songs from Rubber Soul while Revolver is ignored with only two tracks.

The answer seems to be that the albums were compiled by the then-manager Allen Klein. It simply seems to be a case of his personal choice, but at the end of the day I’m glad that Rubber Soul got plundered and the far superior Revolver escapes relatively unscathed.

I once took part in a pub quiz where one of the questions was the reason why this album, and its follow-up 1967 – 1970, were coloured red and blue respectively. The answer – from the guy running the quiz – was that it was a nod to the band’s hometown of Liverpool, and the colours of their two football teams, Liverpool and Everton. I don’t know if I believe that – and considering that I’ve read more books on The Beatles than on any other band, I’m yet to read that claim anywhere else.

Hit: I Want To Hold Your Hand

Hidden Gem: Drive My Car