Hell no, I didn’t bid on anything in the auction of Ringo Starr’s personal memorabilia collection. I drive a car that was built well before the era of center console entertainment displays.
Also, even if I had 1.2 million dollars for his original Beatles touring drumkit, I had a big enough issue trying to figure out where to put the new kitchen food sealer machine I bought a couple of weeks ago. I’d probably have to turn the bass drum upside down and have it do double duty as a laundry hamper.
I don’t bid on auctions, but whenever there’s an interesting one I always head to the auction site and download the PDF auction catalogue. It’s filled with huge, gorgeous photographs and well-sourced history.
The Ringo catalogue is well worth the half a gigabyte it takes up on your iPad. As with any auction of entertainment stuff, it’s terrific to get to see all of the up-close details of things that you’ve seen dozens (if not hundreds) of times on TV screens.
And there are plenty of lovely little stories. Like Lot #649:
It’s a reminder that no matter who you are or what you make of yourself, your mom will always be your mom. This trunk packed with Ringo Starr newspaper and magazine clippings — which she continued to save at least through 1980, as the Lennon clipping shows — is no different from the fragile and yellow “Area Teen Places Fourth In Statewide Swim Championships” item that’s taped to the lid of a sewing box somewhere the home of a middle-aged bank manager’s mother.
It’s a clickbait-ey headline, but a nice excerpt of the new Paul McCartney biography. It ought to be pretty interesting: it’s based on firsthand interviews that McCartney granted specifically for the book.
I’ve already pre-ordered it. This seems like a particularly interesting time for McCartney to be working so closely with a biographer. He’s now officially in his Seventies. Is this a time of life when someone in the public eye starts to think more seriously about the legacy that they’re going to leave behind? I suppose if people are going to talk about your thoughts, actions, and motives long after you’re gone, you might as well get your side of the story down on paper while you’ve still got all of your faculties.
This excerpt covers a particularly interesting period: McCartney figuring out how to build a new life as a former Beatle. Remember that he had been one of those since he was 15 years old. In the 70s, he was starting over again…with the added handicaps of the world’s attention. Fans and press were going to use his solo efforts to prove their own favorite theories about why the Beatles succeeded.
Great biographies, like great documentaries, try to answer the question “why did this person do what they did?” instead of just telling us what they did. If you’re the person who wrote “Hey, Jude” you’ve earned the right to hit the “snooze” button every morning for the rest of your life. McCartney also had millions, plus a family. So why form a new band and go out on tour?
Bill Watterson retired “Calvin And Hobbes.” He was content to lead a private life. But he didn’t quit doing art! He kept right on drawing and painting. He turned his creative passion into a private hobby. He felt no need at all to show his work to anybody. He’s published only twice, and both times, his motive seemed to be to raise money for Parkinson’s research.
Forget birthplace and upbringing and girlfriends and kids…the most valuable part of a biography would explain why each of those men made each of those choices.
I said “Merry Crimble” to everybody all through the holiday weekend, despite a unbroken streak of Not Saying That which began, I suppose, with my first exposure to air and daylight.
(Before that, there were no witnesses to anything I might or might not have said, and I refuse to ask you to accept unreliable single-sourced testimony.)
Yet all weekend long, I’d meet a friend or family member and return the good, time-proven Christian greeting with (yes) a “Merry Crimble.” It was all due to timing. My holiday meetup celebrations started almost immediately after I’d spent an hour on the UK-based Bagel Tech Mac podcast. The others were passing around Merry Crimbles. I tried it just to be sociable at first. I didn’t think I’d have a problem quitting, you know?
“Merry Crimble” comes from a Christmas record the Beatles made for their fan club. It beats out the two more famous holiday records recorded by the post-breakup Beatles. “Merry Christmas (War Is Over)” is a bringdown. You might as well add “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” to the party mix, or even just rip the audio from one of those late night “Save The Children” commercials.
“Harsh words, Ihnatko!” you cluck. Well! Then watch the song’s official video, straight from YouTube’s John Lennon channel. I swear that I had not seen this video before I wrote the preceding paragraph. Warning: you might not want to watch this as it gets very disturbing early on and doesn’t let up. I bailed at around the 47 second mark, with the appearance of the third clip of someone cradling a dead child.
This is a holiday song with a message, and that message is “Fa-la-la-la-laaa la-la f*** you (if you spent any amount of time between Thanksgiving and Christmas feeling any kind of joy).”
Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmas Time” is appealingly simple in both melody and content. Yes, I mean that as a compliment. You must admit that holiday songs which can easily be sung by kids’ choruses have a Darwinian edge over the ones that want you to feeeellllll something.
Alas, McCartney overworks the thing. One marshmallow is a delightful confection. Fifty pounds of marshmallows packed inside a pillowcase and then dropped on your head gets a bit wearying.
Whereas! “Christmas Time Is Here Again” is what it is: the Beatles getting together to knock out a Christmas song that would be fun to play and hear, without giving much thought to its commercial appeal or how it would contribute to their cultural legacy.
Only I’ve just listened to it all the way through and they don’t say “Merry Crimble” at the end, as I remembered. Perhaps the official representative of Apple Corps who posted this completely legal video cut it off before a talky bit at the end?
That’s all academic, anyway, because there is Crimbling on a previous Beatles fan club record:
But (dammit) it’s a “Happy” Crimble, not a “Merry” one. Honestly, I don’t know how etymologists handle their jobs. They need to get unravel these sort of word-origin forensics day in and day out. Plus, slightly clueless friends are always sending them samples of bugs that they’ve caught in their kitchens and asking for advice on pesticides.
(There ought to be some sort of professional courtesy-matching service. It’d pair up two people with similar-sounding professional certifications. Every time the bug guy gets a question on proper English usage, he or she can forward it to the entomologist. Someone asks the entomologist about when to use “that” instead of “which,” he or she sends it to the word guy. Physiologists/Physiatrists, Cosmologists/Cosmetologists…even Plumbers/Pilots, if they have particularly stupid friends and family members, would benefit from this service.)
Well, the point is that the Beatles made “Merry Crimble” famous and it’s a Lovely Holiday Tune besides. Alas, it’s not available on either Amazon or iTunes.
(Oh, and the usual disclaimer applies: my Amazon Associates code is embedded in the link and anything you buy after clicking it results in my getting a small kickback. And the capital of Delaware is Dover.)
Yes. Upon reflection, I do believe that we can categorize this album of Beatles-inspired Christmas standards as a “novelty record.”
But I hesitate to call it a mere “novelty song.” Anyone who owns a notebook with a built-in microphone can record a “novelty” version of the theme from “The Odd Couple” in which the melody is primarily articulated via hand farts. It’s not exactly hard work is it?
I want to show this song some proper respect. We should at least translate “novelty song” into…I dunno. French or something?
Oh, fab. Yes, let’s go with that. This is no mere novelty song: it’s a true chanson de fantaisie.
This group clearly worked very hard on this. It’s easy to get a little drunk with your friends and then joke around about a Christmas version of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club band.” It’s automatic. Soon, everyone’s calling out titles like “A Christmas Day In The Life!” “What Child Is Leaving Home!”
Lesser men and women would have let the joke drop right there. Not these people. Oh, no. They’re professionals; they gave their souls to the Muse, willingly and gratefully. Once they hit upon a creative idea, they’re forced to prosecute it to the very end. And so they found themselves spending (Days? Weeks? Years?) working out how to make the accompaniment from “Within You Without You” fit with “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.”
I have to imagine that when they finally figured out (on their very last day in the studio) that the thumpy-thumpy-thumpy beat of “Frosty The Snowman” would work quite well with “Getting Better All The Time” everybody leaped up and threw papers in the air and hugged each other and lit cigars, and overall they behaved like the Mission Control people did when the crew of Apollo 13 splashed down safely.
Not all of the songs on this album are gold. Most of them will have exactly the desired effect on the people at your party, shopping at your store, or riding in your car. They’ll instantly recognize the holiday classic. Their brains will want to click the song into the background, but then they’ll sort of recognize something else that’s going on. And then watch and behold, as their expressions mirror those of a Final Jeopardy contestant who was about to write “What is the Po?” but who now can’t remember if that’s an Asian river.
(Expect a phone call later that day. Have the name of the Beatles song ready.)
A tip of the hat to my BFF John. His annual mix tape (now CD) is as integral to the Ihnatko Christmas as the airing of that Hershey’s Kisses commercial where the candies are rung like tiny bells. Which is to say: completely. “St. Nick’s Lonely Christmas Band” was one of the 12 groups represented on this year’s 24-track selection of holiday wonderment.
As always, my Amazon Associates ID is embedded in that link. Any purchases you make after clicking it will result in a small but valued kickback in the form of Amazon gift credits. I shall spend them lavishly, selfishly, and foolishly.
Yes, It’s The Beatles. Which surprised me a little when I became convinced of it last night because in recent weeks I’d been working under the theory that bringing the Beatles catalogue to iTunes was a high priority only for Apple…not for the Beatles or EMI. Record companies would like for us to buy the whole CD if they can. CDs still account for something like 80% of all music sales and The Beatles might be the only group whose albums are so valuable as entire units that the public would be just as happy to rip the discs themselves.
I think it’s more about exposure than unit sales. The Beatles broke up just about when I was born (I had nothing to do with it, I should add). So when I entered that phase where I started to develop my personal musical tastes, much of this music was already nearly two decades old.
Today, this stuff was released forty years ago. Was I terribly interested in The Andrews Sisters or Eddie Cochran Domino when I was 18? I was not. It doesn’t matter how good “Twenty Flight Rock” might have been…it was ancient and remote and it was nowhere on my radar.
So I think it’s more a case of EMI and the Beatles trying to give the music an extra push to make sure it’s available — and that it seems fresh and relevant — to new generations of listeners. Why did the Beatles license their music for Cirque du Soleil? Why did they allow a special version of Rock Band? Why does Yoko allow footage of John Lennon to be used in commercials?
It’s all down to the same reason. The Beatles don’t need the money. What they really want is to make sure that “Hey, Jude” remains part of the world soundtrack. They want to ensure that future generations, like every generation since the Sixties, will have that one Beatles song that resonates so deeply with a specific moment in their lives that the first few bars will always stop them cold no matter where they are or what they’re doing. A move towards the iTunes Store is yet another move towards that goal.
What does this mean for Apple? I dunno. I still can’t say whether or not there’s been a tidal wave of pent-up demand for digital downloads of The Beatles and if it’ll translate into another comma being added to Apple’s quarterly profits statement. It’s definitely an important acquisition, for the same reason why signing Letterman was an important deal for CBS. In an increasingly-crowded market, it underscores the message that Apple, and iTunes, is where it’s all happening and that there is indeed a difference between the iTunes Store and Amazon MP3.
As for me…I’ll tentatively say that I called this one correctly. I didn’t embrace the Beatles rumor, but I didn’t reject it, either. I was consistently saying that it would be a content announcement as opposed to a “new feature” one, though I wasn’t certain what kind of content it would be.
I didn’t start to have real confidence in the Beatles story until late last night, when a bunch of additional assets came through. Before then, all we had were a bunch of theories about what the wording of the announcement was and what the clock faces represented. Apple does like its puzzles. But I resolutely insist that someone who insists that it was all clearly spelled out in vague title fragments and by the fact that “there could only be one reason why Apple included four of those” is probably also someone who fell for the “Paul Is Dead” rumors back in the Sixties.
I reckon they did a little too much LDS back then as well.
I won’t be buying these tracks. Like most people, I already own the CDs. I even bought second copies of two or three of my favorites when they were remastered and re-released. As usual, if I really like the group or the album I don’t bother with MP3’s. I’d rather buy the disc. I get the whole album in an uncompressed format, and over the coming years I can easily remaster them into new digital formats.
One final comment, though:
I’ll predict that it won’t be long before “Press Conference In America” gives up its longstanding top spots on iTunes’ list of best-selling Beatles tracks. I know, it’s shocking…it’s like when “The DaVinci Code” was knocked off of the #1 spot on the New York Times list.
What can you say? Musical tastes are fickle and the producers of those interviews should just be proud that their work had such a long and well-received run.