After a week full of commemorations for the 30th anniversary of John Lennon’s death, John’s former bandmate stopped by Late Night With Jimmy Fallon with one of his own. Performing “Here Today”, a song he wrote for John a few months after his death, Paul may have wet a few eyes during his Late Night stop off. He didn’t stop with the tearjerker however, as he took the stage once again, parodying one of his most famous tunes alongside Jimmy Fallon. Check out both videos below:
Newly solo folk/alt country rocker Jill Andrews recently took a spin on the Lennon Bus for his 70th Birthday Anniversary and released a cover of “Instant Karma” to boot. You can hear a little bit about Jill’s experience on the bus and watch her record a very well done version of a great song below.
Today marks the 40th anniversary of the final release from the greatest band of all time. On May 8th, 1970 The Beatles released Let it Be, the last album the band would ever put out. While it was the last Beatles release, Let it Be actually isn’t really then end of anything. Even though the album was released eight months after Abbey Road, the songs were all recorded several months earlier. The Let it Be sessions were marred with turmoil, bickering and conflict for the band, causing them to give up and shelf the recordings. After a few months the band put their problems with one another aside and reconvened in good spirits to record Abbey Road, providing a harmonious end to the Beatles recording career.
Months later John gave the stacks of reel to reel tapes from the Let it Be sessions to producer Phil Spector to see what he could make of it. Even though Paul and Ringo had their issues with Spector’s production, it would ultimately become the final version of the album(Paul and Ringo would release their own version of the album, Let it Be Naked 30+ years later). While Spector’s version is not without its flaws (the completely unnecessary string suite on “The Long and Winding Road”, the exclusion of one of my personal favorite tunes “Don’t Let Me Down” from the final cut , and the abundance of nonsensical banter mixed in between the tracks), he did pull together a fine album from a bunch of fragmented recordings, most of which never got a final take.
While Let it Be has come to be defined by its blockbuster hits (“Get Back”, “Let it Be”, & “The Long and Winding Road”), its greatest charm lies in the less celebrated moments. “I’ve Got a Feeling”, “Two of Us”, and “For You Blue”, are severely under appreciated classics that really make this album. John’s slowed down version of “Across the Universe” is nothing short of beautiful, and is actually a perfect fit for Spector’s Wall of Sound production. While “Dig a Pony” and “I Me Mine” may be seen as throwaways to some, they are good in my book any day of the week. Even the aforementioned banter between tracks has a certain charm to it all these years later.
Is Let it Be the best Beatles album? Not even close. It is however, a very satisfying record that stands up as a great listen 40 years after its release, and most likely will for another 40 after that. Let it Be isn’t a perfect record, but in the end it makes it pretty clear that a less than perfect Beatles album is better than most other band’s best work.
With Valentine’s Day weekend upon us the gang at Merchants or Rock were feeling a little torn about just posting the usual lovey dovey schmoopie moopie playlist for all the lovers out there. That’s why we decided to post two; one for the lovers and one for the people out there wanting to give a big middle finger to Cupid and his stupid little heart shaped arrows (not that there’s anything wrong with that). So on this Valentine’s Day we’ve drawn a line in the sand and asked you to pick a side.
TOP 10 ALBUM COVERS
You aren’t a reputable music review website unless you have a top 10 list. It’s what all the kids are doing. So here is our first Top 10 list dedicated to the lost art of album covers. After a lengthy search through the archives and many, many hours of heavy debate, we agreed upon these 10 glorious pieces of rock art. Some of these you have seen before but they were too good to pass up. Others are long lost gems or recent additions. So take a seat and enjoy the tour through the visual side of rock n roll.
Led Zeppelin – I
Oh the humanity!
Crashing and burning their way into rock and roll history is the self-titled debut of Rock’s Loudest Band Ever! The gritty black-and-white photograph of the Hidenberg igniting in flames gives us a true sense of “shock and awe’. Much like every kid’s reaction the first time they listened to a Zeppelin album.
John Lennon – Plastic Ono Band
Late 1970; The Beatles have just broken up, the public is wondering what to do without them, Paul is trying to perfect the art of cheese rock, George is chanting Hare Krishna, and John Lennon is chilling under a tree. Shot with a consumer grade polaroid camera, this lo-fi shot was the perfect lead in to this lo-fi album that became everything the Beatles weren’t.
The Who – The Who Sell Out
Legend has it that Roger Daltrey caught pneumonia from his baked bean bath during this cover shoot (Apparently the beans were ice cold?). Well Roger, it finally paid off as you made the MOR top ten list, just what you were hoping for I am sure. Pete Townsend took things beyond this flippant cover shot to create his first concept album, complete with fake jingles and commercials linking the tracks.
Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon
“Dark Side” is one of the more recognizable album covers on the list but also one of the most basic. The scientific nature of the triangle prism reminds us that every step of this whacked-out. psychedelic album has been meticulously thought out. While the music itself bends and weaves all over the place, the destination is always in sight. Nothing is random. Much like the infinite particles of space, there is a “method to the madness” bringing together an infinite palette of sights and sounds. Plus it looks cool under a black-light.
U2 – Rattle and Hum
The cover to U2′s “Ode to American Rock” album perfectly illustrates the contrast of the musical landscape. There aren’t many shades of gray in this musical journey through blues, soul and rock. U2 puts the spotlight on many of their American influences from Bob Dylan to Jimi Hendrix. From Elvis Presley to BB King. And by focusing on social issues such as the civil rights movement, apartheid and war, the album isn’t afraid to make bold statements in pure black and white. The “spotlight” is also on the band themselves as this is the first release after the landmark “Joshua Tree” album and documents their subsequent tour through the American heartland.
The Beatles – Abbey Road
The boys had grand ambitions for the cover shot of their final album including a shot of themselves on the Himalayas or on the bow of a cruise liner. Instead, they opted to step out back, have a smoke and be done with it. Who knew the shot would become one of the most famous and often imitated covers of all time; serving as the definition of an iconic image. But what about Sgt. Pepper, or Revolver you might ask? Well, there is something about this cover and the album itself that serves as an amicable and harmonious end to the great run that was The Beatles.
Wilco – Sky Blue Sky
You can either be one of the pack, or put your head down and fly right into it. This shot of a falcon going head first into a flock of starlings has a simplistic, organic feel to it; a lot like the album itself. The photo won the Wildlife Photograph of the Year in 2005 and appeared in National Geographic; so why not put in on a rock album. I have this record on vinyl and it catches my eye every time in a sea of other great album covers.
Jeff Beck – Guitar Shop
As a member of the Yardbirds Jeff Beck was hand picked by Jimmy Page to replace Eric Clapton. If Jimmy Page is the “wizard” of rock guitarists then Jeff Beck is most certainly “the mechanic”. It is no surprise that this Grammy-Award winning album features the master instrumentalist rolling up his sleeves to get his hands dirty. The cover depicts the often over-looked guitar great in his natural environment. As a true blue-collar musician. So while Jeff Beck never achieved the commercial success of Clapton or Page, the man still knows his way around a guitar.
Hellacopters – High Visibility
As the only Swedish rock outfit in our Top 10, the Hellacopters’ fourth album “High Visibility” manages to successfully combine two of my favorite things: Dueling guitars with angel wings. Two things you don’t normally see together, but should. Like a bizarro-painting from the Renaissance the long-lost masterpiece brings new meaning to the phrase “a choir of angels”. No harps in this outfit, just a slew of power chords, heavy distortion and few face-melting solos.
The Clash – London Calling
Truth be told, this album cover just barely beat out WISH YOU WERE HERE by fellow Brit rockers Pink Floyd. While I’m a sucker for anyone on fire, this cover really set the tone for a much larger movement. Yes this album cover is iconic. Yes it’s a middle-fingered response to Elvis Presley’s debut record. And YES it captures bassist Paul Simonon right before smashing a guitar to bits. But what really sets this cover apart from all the others is that it’s one of the first album covers in history where a British musician finally looked tough.