Koululaukut maalitolppina

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Millions of words have been written about “Sgt. Pepper”, The Beatles’ seventh LP. You know the myth… The Beatles’ meisterwerk that miracuosly brought together the entire Western civilization for those brief glorious months affectionately remembered as “the Summer of Love”… Haight-Ashbury… Monterey Pop… Flower Power… Jimi, Janis, Jim… Joppe… Andrew Gladwin… flowers in rifles… koululaukut maalitolppina… BLAH! Like said, millions of words have been written and I’m more than relieved that it’s not the purpose of this blog to break any myths or offer any fresh critical insights into “Pepper”… No sir, we’re here to discuss the songs for others…and – tee hee! – there weren’t many!

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Paul was as eager as ever to make his songs hits and he reportedly produced a version of “With A Little Help From My Friends” for old friend Marianne Faithfull a few weeks before the LP was released. Unfortunately her version never came out, clearing the path for several “unauthorised” covers. (A group called the Young Idea -wild!- had a minor hit with it, Joe Brown had a major flop, while Joe Cocker released a little later what many – not I! – consider to be definitive version. But these are all outside the scope of this blog!)

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George Martin also produced a couple of cover versions, which judging by their release dates, were recorded before the LP came out and thus warrant an inclusion here. Old friends David & Jonathan (see “Michelle”) did a virtual note for note copy of “She’s Leaving Home” but ended up spunding totally uninteresting – which was probably an achievement in itself. The record did not sell and soon David & Jonathan decided to concentrate writing hits for others. (They wrote, amongst others, “You’ve Got Your Troubles” for the Fortunes and – gulp!- “I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing” for the New Seekers. But thankfully these are outside the scope of this blog!) You can find “She’s Leaving Home” on any number of the duo’s “hits” CDs in your nearest bargain bin – or you can get the George Martin boxed set I’ve recommended before…

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“When I’m Sixty-Four”, Pauls vaudevillian charmer/yawner had been around in rough form since the Cavern days. Bernard Cribbins, the well loved British comedian and actor had been around even longer. Actually he’d been making succesful novelty records (“The Hole In The Ground”, “Right Said Fred”) with George Martin since 1956. In 1967 he was a stunning 40 years old, so somebody thought this number would be perfect for him. Yep yep. Once more Martin carefully recreated The Beatles’ backing track, and hearing Cribbins’ “old man” vocals in place of Paul’s sped-up-to-sound-youthful voice is a little stunning, almost like listening to “Pepper” with a guest vocalist. OK, I’m exaggerating, maybe better- than- average- karaoke 😀 Cribbins’ record was not a hit but it can be found on the George Martin box I’ve recommended enough times. Or if you’re really obsessive, there’s even a “Very Best of Bernard Cribbins” CD on EMI. Heck, I’m more than happy to sell you my copy!

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Whatever your opinion on the “Pepper” era recordings are, they are at least the most sophisticated productions of The Beatles’ career. And the premiere and (partial) recording of the follow up single “All You Need Is Love” in front of some 200 million television watchers seem to indicate that this was a peak. Certainly things started going down hill soon, with the death of Brian Epstein, their catastrophic TV film “Magical Mystery Tour” and – yes, Virginia – the introduction of Yoko Ono into Beatledom. If anything good came out of all this, it’s probably that all four started to work on outside projects again, giving me something to write about!

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Chris Barber was Britain’s leading trombonist and the leader of his own trad jazz (ie dixieland) band since the 1950’s. He’d also appeared on several BBC radio shows alongside The Beatles through the years – and played at the Cavern club when The Beatles were still banned there for playing rock and roll! The “jazz” and “beat” camps had been highly suspicious of each other, but by 1967 the artificial boundaries between different types of music had been knocked down (oops, sorry, I left the cliche mode on!) and Barber felt confident enough to ask Paul for a hit. Paul remembered “Cats Walk”, one of several unrecorded instrumental numbers from The Beatles’ early repertoire (rehearsal tapes from 1962 circulate) , and produced a version for Barber. Retitled “Catcall”, the record featured a number of stock 1967 Beatles production tricks: a false ending, a half time coda, a series of – you guessed it! – cat calls, ending with a pub singalong of “For He’s A Jolly Good Fellow” (shades of the “All You Need Is Love” finale, prehaps?) Well, the record went nowhere and is very hard to come by these days. No official CD issue seems to exist either, so the easiest way to find this little nugget is to seek a copy of EMI’s late 1970’s compilation “Songs Lennon & McCartney Gave Away”.

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Finally, there was Cilla Black, one step away from being a national institution: all she needed was her own TV show. She got that in early 1968, with Paul providing the catchy theme “Step Inside Love.” A horrible quality home recording of Paul has been circulating since the 1970’s and a much better quality and longer studio tape surfaced recently.

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One of the tracks from the tape has been officially released on the 3 CD set “The Abbey Road Decade 1963 – 1973” and features Paul on an acoustic guitar and Cilla singing and discussing the arrangement with George Martin. The CD also includes a previously unreleased bossa nova-type arrangement of the song, along with the poppier remake which made it to #7 in the UK charts. If that’s not enough for you, well, there’s an Italian version of the song on the CD for you! Oh, and of course there’s an impromptu studio version onThe Beatles Anthology 3 CD as well, from the White Album sessions! This was the last song Paul gave to Cilla, who went on making hits well into the 1970’s. These days you’re likely to see her in a BBC talk show or a TV quiz 😀

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Published in: on September 5, 2007 at 1:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

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