Tag Archives: The Beatles Anthology

Rocks In The Attic #754: George Harrison – ‘Cloud Nine’ (1987)

RITA#754Imagine if George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Elton John, Ringo Starr and Jeff Lynne had got together and formed a band, maybe recorded an album together. What a project that would have been! Well imagine no more, as it did happen, in the form of this, George’s eleventh and final (in his lifetime) studio album from 1987.

The stars were definitely aligning around George around this time. The players on this album attest to the strength of this; neither of them needed the work. And it wasn’t the only supergroup that George would play with before the decade was out. A year later he and Jeff Lynne would form the Traveling Wilburys with Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and Roy Orbison – itself the result of a need to record a b-side for a Cloud Nine single.

In fact, it’s Jeff Lynne who I see as the unsung hero behind these two projects. His production is the reason Cloud Nine sounds so focused, compared to some of George’s more meandering efforts. It sounds upbeat and now, mainly thanks to that big drum sound – something he would apply again to Ringo’s drums ten years later on the Beatles’ ‘reunion’ singles, Free As A Bird and Real Love. Lynne would apply the same formula to Roy Orbison’s Mystery Girl and Tom Petty’s Full Moon Fever in 1989, before pulling Paul McCartney back on creative track with 1996’s Flaming Pie.

It’s sad that George didn’t release any more studio albums after this, before he died in 2002. Aside from working on the Beatles’ Anthology project, I guess he was happy just to tinker around in his garden, and bring up his son, Dhani.

Speaking of Dhani, I was happy to see his name credited as the composer of HBO’s recent documentary The Case Against Adnan Syed.  Alongside his writing partner, Paul Hicks, he’s been working as a composer for films and TV shows since 2013. Given the soundtrack success of partnerships Nick Cave & Warren Ellis, and Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, it’s more than likely that we’ll hear more from Harrison and Hicks in the near future.

Hit: Got My Mind Set On You

Hidden Gem: Fish On The Sand

RITA#754a

Rocks In The Attic #685: ABBA – ‘ABBA’ (1975)

RITA#685Some things you just never expect to happen. You never expect to find out the identity of the second gunman on the grassy knoll, the whereabouts of Lord Lucan, or whether pavlova was really invented by Australians or Kiwis.

The news out of the blue on Friday morning is that ABBA are back in the studio writing new material. This came as such a shock, I turned around and repeated the news to a total stranger at work.

ABBA have been famously reserved around any idea of a reunion. All four members – Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus, Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad – are alive and well, and so it’s been nice that up to this point, they haven’t reformed and tainted the memory and music of their younger selves. Their musical output in the ten years between 1972 and 1982 stands as a time-capsule of great songwriting, production and performance.

So what will these two new songs deliver? One song, entitled I Still Have Faith In You, will be performed by digital avatars of themselves on a TV special to be broadcast by the BBC and NBC in December 2018. Presumably the other song will also be released with fanfare – either as a standalone single, or to soundtrack some other key event. Sweden might have a cracker of a Eurovision entry in 2019.

I hope that the two resulting songs sound like ABBA. I don’t want them to sound like they could have come from the same producers of today’s awful stripper pop. Hopefully bandleaders Benny and Björn will remain as authentic as possible in the recording and production of the song. There’s a real danger that the output will echo the otherness of Free As A Bird and Real Love, the singles recorded and released by the reunited Beatles for the Anthology project.

ABBA is the band’s third studio record, and the second to be released internationally. The album came exactly a year after the band’s success at the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest with Waterloo. Any thoughts about the band being a one-hit wonder would have been discounted as soon as the singles Mamma Mia and S.O.S. hit the charts. I’ll probably never watch it, but isn’t the title of the soon-to-be-released sequel to the Mamma Mia musical – Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again – just a lovely bit of serendipitous naming?

By the way, pavlova is probably as Kiwi as kiwifruit. Or Chinese Gooseberries, as they were originally known.

Hit: Mamma Mia

Hidden Gem: Hey, Hey Helen

Rocks In The Attic #522: The Beatles – ‘1’ (2000)

rita522Last week, I was lucky enough to see Ron Howard’s Beatles documentary Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years. I look forward to any new release relating to the fab four, but once every couple of years something comes along that gets a little more hype than usual.

Do we need a new documentary charting the Beatles’ experiences touring the UK, the USA, and beyond between 1963 and 1966? Probably not. The subject matter has been covered well enough by the Beatles Anthology TV series and The Beatles: The First U.S. Visit (itself a re-edited version of the Maysles brothers’ 1964 documentary What’s Happening! The Beatles in the USA).

There was more than enough archive footage in Eight Days A Week that I hadn’t seen before to keep it interesting, and my only criticism was that they could have done a little more to bring the still images to life other than bizarrely highlighting the band’s smoking habits by adding animated smoke plumes from their cigarettes.

The thing I was really looking forward to though was the full performance from 1965’s Shea Stadium concert, restored in 4K and presented after the documentary. I’m still holding out that this will see a home media release, but everything I’ve read in relation to Eight Days A Week states that the Shea Stadium film is strictly “in cinemas only”.

The Shea Stadium show is just nuts. The Beatles look awesome, with their military shirts and sheriff badges, obviously having lots of fun. Their stage is a long way from the audience, lit from lights on the edge of the stage where their monitors would usually be in today’s standard concert set-up. The lights add an odd glow to their faces, giving the impression that they’re playing a concert in the pits of hell.

But it’s the audience that just defies belief. Girls screaming themselves faint, being carried away by policemen or propped up by family members and friends. It’s the closest to a true religious experience that music has ever become – without the influence of drugs of course.

rita522a

Having seen the film on its first night here in New Zealand, I rushed home to send my review to BBC’s flagship film show – Kermode And Mayo’s Film Review on BBC Radio 5 Live. I got the email through a couple of hours before the show, thinking I may have missed my chance, but luckily I was just in time. From the sounds of it, I raised the ire of the notoriously cranky Mark Kermode, so I can tick that off my list. As Frank Skinner once said, I’ve marked a few commodes in my time.

(And for the record, they were random American celebrities – the appearance of Whoopi Goldberg and Sigourney Weaver were really jarring in the middle of a Beatles documentary, although I admit both were in there for eventually decent reasons).

1 was released in 2000, as an attempt by Apple Records to release a single-disc CD compilation of all of the Beatles’ number one singles (the vinyl release was fortunately split over two discs). Essentially, it’s a re-tread of 1982’s 20 Greatest Hits – the last official release to have different UK and US variations. That record collected each of the number ones in their respective markets, aside from Something which was left off due to running time. 1 combines the two collections, adding Something back in, to stretch the tracklisting out to twenty seven songs. Magic.

Hit: She Loves You


Hidden Gem: The Ballad Of John And Yoko