September 10, 2016

Between the December 1965 release of Rubber Soul and the sessions that resulted in the single “Paperback Writer” b/w “Rain” and the August 1966 release of Revolver, three very important changes occurred in Fab Four land:

1. The group’s recording engineer under producer George Martin for all their previous albums, Norman Smith, left the fold after being given a shot to produce a newly-signed EMI Records artist the label had big hopes for: a group known to the pop culture underground circuit at the time with the strange name of “The Pink Floyd”. Smith would be replaced by Geoff Emerick. The impact on the group’s sound would be immediate, and nothing short of magical.

2. The group had already made the decision to quit touring: the August 29 date at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park would be their last. Therefore, they no longer felt any restrictions on the kind of music they could produce in the studio and how it might need to be played live.

3. Paul McCartney chose to replace his Hofner violin bass with a solid-body Rickenbacker model.

Taken together, these changes helped shape the recording environment that resulted in what most folks have come to recognize as the Beatles’ greatest achievement. While Sgt. Pepper will always be recognized as their most popular (and perhaps most influential) album, there’s little question as to their finest album: Revolver is not only their most eclectic, but in terms of sheer quality and the aural carnival of different sounds and styles contained therein, it can’t be matched. But it’s not just The Great White Shank that puts Revolver at such a lofty place: most, if not all of the great pop culture magazines put Revolver at the top of their lists as well. Simply put, there is, and will never be, anything like it in rock music ever again.

And the reason for this is simple: Revolver is a product of its time. As a group, The Beatles were at the top of their creative powers and cohesiveness as a playing unit. Their manager Brian Epstein was still alive, which helped keep the divisions in the group – divisions which were already, even at this point in the group’s career, starting to emerge – below the surface. Secondly, the group’s introduction to LSD (hence, “Doctor Robert”) had allowed the band (John Lennon in particular) to begin creating, as it were, in bright colors: quite different from the pot-influenced, mellow folk stylings of Help! and Rubber Soul; his contributions to Revolver would play a large part in the album’s eclecticism and crackling tension. Finally, with the band thinking outside the box, yet still restricted by 1960′s technology, it found a willing cohort in engineer Emerick, who could take the group’s general concepts and ideas (say, colors or images) and help turn them into music and the sounds you hear throughout the album.

One final note before I continue: similar to what I wrote about for Rubber Soul (#3 on my top ten list), the American version of Revolver is quite different from the British version, with three of Lennon’s five compositions (“I’m Only Sleeping”, “Doctor Robert”, and “And Your Bird Can Sing” removed from the album – they would subsequently appear on the American release “Yesterday and Today”). This left the U.S. version of Revolver not only diminished in terms of actual content (eleven songs instead of fourteen), but even more importantly, diminished in terms of artistic impact and quality. This is nothing short of a crime, but, being what it is, that’s the last we’ll say about that!

One could tell immediately with the release of the “Paperback Writer” / “Rain” single in June 1966 that the Beatles were already exploring new territory: a vocal intro, guitar and drums, and then – boom! – McCartney’s bass almost making the needle jump off the record. It’s a fine rocker in every sense of the word, but it would be the “B” side, “Rain”, that would turn heads.

Most folks consider “Rain” the first actual “psychedelic” song of the ’60s, and it’s a wonder to behold – in my view, one of the finest recordings the group ever made. A dense, almost murky backing track (accomplished by the band playing the song faster on tape then slowing it down during playback to record the vocals) with jangly guitars, playful drums, and booming bass introduced by five sharp, syncopated raps by Ringo on his snares. Lennon’s lyrics paint life as lived by people who are either “turned on” (you get the picture) or turned off:

When the rain comes they run and hide their heads
They might as well be dead
When the rain comes, when the rain comes

When the sun shines they slip into the shade
and drink their lemonade
When the sun shines, when the sun shines

Rain I don’t mind
Shine, the weather’s fine!

But the best is left to the end: after the song’s final verse there’s an interlude featuring wonderful interplay between McCartney’s bass booming through the speakers and Ringo’s drums, followed by a tag of incomprehensible singing by Lennon, the result of his coming home stoned one night and wanting to hear a playback of the song then mistakenly putting the tape in backwards. Voila! The most interesting “tag” in the band’s recorded history.

“Rain” is not just an incredible recording, it’s a microcosm of what Revolver would be: songs of love and human interaction, the staples of earlier records, go out the door, replaced by various recorded images depicting the realities of life: death, taxes, love, and relationships, all perceived through an altered state of mind.

Harrison’s “Taxman” kicks off Revolver in a disoriented fashion, with the sounds of a band getting ready to play off-mic and a low, sneering count-in that belies McCartney’s actual count-in (“Four!”). Once again showing his continued growth as a songwriter, Harrison paints a bleak picture of life lived solely to pad the pockets of the rich and powerful, and the utter hopelessness of it all:

Let me tell you how it will be
There’s one for you nineteen for me
‘Cos I’m the taxman, yeah I’m the taxman

Should five per cent appear too small
Be thankful I don’t take it all
Cos I’m the taxman, yeah I’m the taxman

If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street
If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat
If you get too cold I’ll tax the heat
If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet

Now my advice for those who die
Declare the pennies on your eyes
Cos I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman

And you’re working for no one but me

The lead solos (played by McCartney) during the break and fadeout are fierce and cutting. McCartney, in fact, unlike his understated presence on Rubber Soul plays a huge role on Revolver: while his instant classic “Eleanor Rigby” continues the bleak portrayal of everyday life immediately following “Taxman”, “Here, There, and Everywhere” (inspired by The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds), “Yellow Submarine”, “Good Day Sunshine”, and, of course, the electric “Got To Get You Into My Life” are all classics in and of themselves, bringing much-needed light and clarity to what otherwise would be a dark and cynical reporting.

George Harrison was given three songs on Revolver, and all of them are critical to the album’s overall mood. In addition to “Taxman”, “Love You To” takes his sitar work that merely accentuated Rubber Soul‘s “Norwegian Wood” and goes “full India”: modeled in structure and melody after an Indian raga, “Love You To” is an exotic combination of Indian music and eastern mysticism that creates a smoky, intimate, near out-of-body experience for the listener both in terms of music, mood, and lyric:

Each day just goes so fast
I turn around, it’s past
You don’t get time to hang a sign on me

Love me while you can
Before I’m a dead old man

A lifetime is so short
A new one can’t be bought
But what you’ve got means such a lot to me

Make love all day long
Make love singing songs

There’s people standing round
Who’ll screw you in the ground
They’ll fill you in with all their sins, you’ll see

His remaining composition, “I Want To Tell You”, is a straight-out rocker, but even here, as with “Love You To”, the song’s introduction seems to fade in from out of nowhere, sounding at first uncertain, if not discordant. And once the song gets going, that uncertainty and discord is reflected in the song’s lyrics, which probe the inadequacy of human communication without enlightenment:

I want to tell you
My head is filled with things to say
When you’re here
All those words, they seem to slip away

But if I seem to act unkind
It’s only me, it’s not my mind
That is confusing things

I want to tell you
I feel hung up but I don’t know why
I don’t mind
I could wait forever, I’ve got time

Sometimes I wish I knew you well,
Then I could speak my mind and tell you
Maybe you’d understand…

While McCartney’s and Harrison contributions to Revolver are both significant and important, it’s the contributions of John Lennon that create the album’s overall mood, tension, and tone. “I’m Only Sleeping” sounds as murky and fatigued as the author feels, and the backwards guitar solos played at the break and fade only contribute to the mood he’s created. “She Said She Said”, based on a Hollywood Hills poolside conversation Lennon had with Peter Fonda while the band was touring, is a frightening mix of wordplay (the writer’s inability to cope with the meanings of life and death) and differing tempos that reflect the altered state of mind present throughout the song. “And Your Bird Can Sing” seems like a trifle, but it’s really Lennon sneering at the attitudes and pretentions of the elites and well-to-do. “Doctor Robert” vaguely continues along in this same vein, in this case referring to a New York physician known to “dose” his well-to-do dinner guests with cubes of LSD.

And then, finally, there is “Tomorrow Never Knows”.

The first song recorded during the Revolver sessions (where it was originally given the odd name “Mark 1″), “Tomorrow Never Knows” fades in from out of nowhere, with a droning C note (played by Harrison on a tamboura) introducing McCartney and Ringo laying down a feverish, pulsing groove. The song is unlike anything ever recorded before: a combination of distorted, eerie vocals (recorded through a Leslie speaker and further distorted by ADT on the final verse), tape loops played backwards to sound like crazed seagulls, and backwards guitar create a dense, otherworldly aural mass of sound that distances itself and its message from anything remotely resembling reality:

Turn off your mind, relax and float down stream
It is not dying, it is not dying

Lay down all thoughts, surrender to the void
It is shining, it is shining

Yet you may see the meaning of within
It is being, it is being

Love is all and love is everyone
It is knowing, it is knowing…

… that ignorance and hates may mourn the dead
It is believing, it is believing

But listen to the color of your dreams
It is not living, it is not living

So play the game “Existence” to the end…
… Of the beginning, of the beginning

As “Tomorrow Never Knows” fades to close, an organ and honky-tonk piano meet a swirl of backwards guitar and Indian instruments, creating an almost carnival-like atmosphere, perhaps mocking the so-called “seriousness” of the subject matter, perhaps reflecting a reality completely discordant and out of control, a world gone mad. At the time there was nothing remotely like it, I’m not sure there has ever been anything like it since.

There’s not much left to say: Revolver is a unique aural experience from beginning to end, a period piece that seems to make time stand still with every listen. Every song seems a new listening experience no matter how many times you’ve heard it. There’s not a weak song in the bunch, and one can argue that Lennon’s and McCartney’s in particular are the strongest material they would ever contribute to a Beatles (or, for that matter, solo) album again. (Harrison, of course, would have to wait until Abbey Road before he’d contribute what are considered his best songs to a Beatles album.) With the technology available today, Revolver would still be a tour de force; considering it was all done with archaic ’60s technology is beyond remarkable.

While the next few albums, Sgt. Pepper, Magical Mystery Tour and the Yellow Submarine soundtrack would feature even more creative engineering techniques, in my view, while entertaining (and, at times, astonishing) for sure, on Revolver everything seems more cohesive and contributing to a more solid framework of music. It’s not outlandish effects for the sake of outlandish effects, it’s adding color to the existing musical template, not the template from which the music evolves. Revolver shows a band at the height of its creativity and cohesiveness as a band. While there would be productions of equal quality in the future (“All You Need Is Love”, the “Strawberry Fields Forever” / “Penny Lane” and “Hey Jude” / “Revolution” singles come to mind) the collected level of creative brilliance found on Revolver would never again be seen, at least in album form again.

Revolver, in short, is a stunning and complete musical statement, the Beatles’ absolute best. And that’s why it’s #1 on my top 10 list.

Hope y’all enjoyed the series. Now we return you back to your local programming.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 02:35 | Comments (0)
September 9, 2016

Two quotes that define the #2 album on my Top Ten list: The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds. Let’s roll the tape, Gordo…

“…Rubber Soul blew my mind. When I heard Rubber Soul, I said, ‘That’s it. That’s all. That’s all folks.’ I said, ‘I’m going to make an album that’s really good, I mean really challenge me.’ I mean, I love that fucking album, I cherish that album.” — Brian Wilson

“…Without Pet Sounds, Sgt. Pepper never would have happened….Pepper was an attempt to equal Pet Sounds.” — Beatles producer George Martin

It’s December 1965 and Brian Wilson’s creative muse was on overdrive. Stoked after hearing the Beatles’ latest release he was inspired to try something that could match, if not exceed, what Rubber Soul had been able to accomplish, at least in his mind. He wanted the next Beach Boys release to make a similarly full statement, and in a way no prior Beach Boys album had previously done. Having collaborated primarily with lead singer Mike Love over the past couple of years, he knew his next project needed a different ear and attitude, one that would help express the thoughts and sentiments he felt inside. His choice was Tony Asher:

In 1965, Wilson met Tony Asher at a recording studio in Los Angeles. Asher was at the time a 26-year-old lyricist and copywriter working in jingles for an advertising agency. The two exchanged ideas for songs, and soon after, Wilson heard of Asher’s writing abilities from mutual friends. In December 1965, he proceeded to contact Asher about a possible lyric collaboration, wanting to do something “completely different” with someone he had never written with before. Asher accepted the offer, and within ten days, they were writing together. Wilson played him some of the music he had been recording and gave him a cassette containing the backing track to a piece called “In My Childhood”. The result of Asher’s tryout was eventually retitled “You Still Believe in Me”.

It wasn’t just depth and creativity he was looking for, he was looking for someone who could serve as an equal and supportive partner in the process. He felt his relationship with Love lacked that depth; besides, Love and The Beach Boys were out touring most of the time. In Tony Asher, therefore, Wilson had the person he felt could speak his language, understand his feelings, and be able to turn the subject matter Wilson was looking for into meaningful, understandable lyric:

Asher explains that he and Wilson had many lengthy, intimate discussions centered around their “experiences and feelings about women and the various stages of relationships and so forth”. He maintains that his contribution to the music itself was minimal, serving mainly as a source of second opinion for Wilson as he worked out possible melodies and chord progressions, although the two did trade ideas as the songs evolved. On his role as co-lyricist, Asher clarified, “The general tenor of the lyrics was always his … and the actual choice of words was usually mine. I was really just his interpreter.”

With Asher as collaborator, Wilson had someone he felt comfortable sharing his own ideas, concerns, fears, and desires with, and between the music he would compose and the lyrics Asher helped create, Pet Sounds became not just an album that exceeded everything Brian thought Rubber Soul had achieved, it became one of the most admired and respected albums in pop music history. For in a most timeless fashion, Pet Sounds speaks to the emotions, concerns, and innermost thoughts of someone moving from adolescence to adulthood, with all the conflicts, uncertainties, responsibilities, and demands that go along with it – a life passage just about anyone can relate to.

Pet Sounds starts by looking forward – with “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” a couple dreams about how perfect their lives and their could be were they to be married:

Wouldn’t it be nice if we were older
Then we wouldn’t have to wait so long
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could wake up
In the kind of world where we belong?

You know its gonna make it that much better
When we can say goodnight and stay together

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could wake up
In the morning when the day is new
And after having spent the day together
Hold each other close the whole night through

By the time the album closes, with “Caroline No”, the writer is left to lament the fact that the object of his desire has changed – and while it’s the hair he notices, there are other changes as well, for they’ve both changed:

Where did your long hair go?
Where is the girl I used to know?
How could you lose that happy glow?
Caroline, no.

Could I ever find in you again
Things that made me love you so much then?
Could we ever bring them back once they have gone?
Caroline, no.

In between, the songs speak of the intimate emotions and concerns shared between two people involving self-worth (“You Still Believe In Me”), reassurance and emotional support (“God Only Knows”, “I’m Waiting For The Day”), and questioning the relative meaning of it all (“I Know There’s An Answer”, “I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times”). While some point to the latter as the most intimate expression of what Pet Sounds is all about, in my view that instead comes from “That’s Not Me”), for here all of one’s dreams, fears, feelings, aspirations, and deepest emotions are encapsulated into a tightly-wound narrative about growing up and the impact on one’s relationships with family, friends, and (most especially) the object of one’s affection:

I had to prove that I could make it alone
But that’s not me
I wanted to show how independent I’d grown now
But that’s not me

I could try to be big in the eyes of the world
What matters to me is what I could be to just one girl

I’m a little bit scared
Cause I haven’t been home in a long time
You needed my love
And I know that I left at the wrong time
My folks when I wrote them
Told ‘em what I was up to said that’s not me

I went through all kinds of changes
Took a look at myself and said that’s not me
I miss my pad and the places I’ve known
And every night as I lay there alone I will dream

I once had a dream
So I packed up and split for the city
I soon found out that my lonely life wasn’t so pretty
I’m glad I went now I’m that much more sure that we’re ready

Enveloping all of these songs are beautiful, rich, and complex arrangements that run the gamut from Burt Bacharach-inspired orchestral settings to classic pop, with a little jazz, and exotica thrown in for good measure. The arrangements themselves, from the accordions that drive “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”, the bass harmonica soloing during the break in “I Know There’s An Answer”, to the electro-theremin that haunts “I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times” are nothing short of incredible in their originality and depth, the Beach Boys’ vocal work is incomparable, and the production throughout is pristine. Pet Sounds was meant to be Brian’s most personal statement, and he left nothing to chance.

Some have complained that one of the hit singles from the album, “Sloop John B”, doesn’t really belong because of the subject matter, but the title Pet Sounds (suggested by Love) reflects the sounds Brian Wilson was hearing in his head as the vehicle to convey the complex subject matter and sentiments he wanted to communicate. The album approaches perfection in so many ways, and that’s why it’s universally held as, if not the greatest rock album of all time, one that’s right near the top. It’s that good, and it never gets tiring to listen to. The reason for that might be the universal message conveyed throughout. As David Cavanagh writes in The Beach Boys Ultimate Music Guide:

Every day in every town, sons and daughters leave home, embark on college courses, pack up and split for the city. Will they miss their home? Will they do what Brian couldn’t and move imperceptibly into adulthood? Or will they find, half a century later, after it was written, reflections of themselves in Pet Sounds?

It took a while for Pet Sounds to get its due. Upon its initial release in 1966, even though it spawned three top ten hits (“Sloop John B”, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”, “God Only Knows”), Capitol Records executives got antsy when the album didn’t zoom up the charts like previous Beach Boys albums. Like Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk, Pet Sounds was a bit “off the reservation” as far as the Beach Boys listening public was accustomed to, and so, concerned over its sluggish chart movement, a “Best of The Beach Boys” collection was rushed out, dampening Pet Sounds‘ momentum. After a healthy marketing push “across the pond”, it became a huge success in England, however, and it was only over time that the album finally achieved the recognition and appreciation it so richly deserved.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:15 | Comments (0)
September 8, 2016

The Beatles closed out 1965 road-weary from what would turn out to be the last full calendar year they would spend on the road. The group was already tired of the incessant touring and not having sufficient time in the studio to explore the new directions and influences they were seeing all around them (musically and otherwise). Given all this, and the pressure being put on them by EMI to get a release out in time for the Christmas shopping season, their ability to put forth as strong a release as Rubber Soul and the single “Day Tripper” b/w “We Can Work It Out” is nothing short of remarkable.

What’s unusual about an album that most critics put near the top of the best work the band ever did was the fact that there were actually two versions of Rubber Soul: the proper British version released on EMI/Parlophone:

1. Drive My Car
2. Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)
3. You Won’t See Me
4. Nowhere Man
5. Think For Yourself
6. The Word
7. Michelle
8. What Goes On
9. Girl
10. I’m Looking Through You
11. In My Life
12. Wait
13. If I Needed Someone
14. Run For Your Life

…and the American version released on Capitol:

1. I’ve Just Seen A Face
2. Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)
3. You Won’t See Me
4. Think For Yourself
5. The Word
6. Michelle
7. It’s Only Love
8. Girl
9. I’m Looking Through You
10. In My Life
11. Wait
12. Run For Your Life

The primary reasons behind these two very different releases (which, BTW, had been occurring from the group’s signing with Capitol Records) is that traditionally British albums had fourteen tracks, American albums typically topping out at twelve. What this ended up doing was giving Capitol a great deal of creative license when it came to pressing Beatles albums; by plucking tracks from one British release or another, you could actually create a whole new release – one that not only had little in relationship with its British counterpart artistically, but also afforded it the opportunity to sell an entirely new Beatles album from the various pieces and rake in the profits.

(It also enabled Capitol to gyp the American music buyer by releasing a version of Help! with only one side of actual Beatle tracks, the other side featuring “exclusive instrumental music” from the movie. This is where the creative messes known as “Beatles VI” and “Yesterday and Today” (infamous for its original “butcher” cover came from. This practice of butchering – pun intended – the British releases for the purpose of capital gain – puns everywhere! – wouldn’t end until the release of Sgt. Pepper.)

But I digress.

More importantly, Capitol Records executives at the time (rightly or wrongly) had awakened to the folk-music craze (ironically, already starting to die out) and the rising popularity of Bob Dylan, so, wanting to capitalize (again, no pun intended) on this wave, chose to replace the more up-tempo tracks on the British version of Rubber Soul with songs having a more mellow, folkish feel to them; hence, the addition of “It’s Only Love” and “I’ve Just Seen A Face” from the British version of “Help!”). As you can see, this created a whole different perception of Rubber Soul to the U.S. record-buying public than what UK record-buyers would snap up. And it would have significant implications, as you will see.

For the purposes of this post, we’ll stick to the British version in terms of musical content, but also recognize the influence of the American version, since both are significant. In both regards, I don’t think you can beat this Rolling Stone feature celebrating the 50th anniversary of Rubber Soul – it really does cover all the bases.

So why does Rubber Soul come in at #3 on my list? First of all, there are gems all over the place: Lennon’s contributions of “In My Life”, “Nowhere Man”, “Girl”, and “Norwegian Wood” are all classics, making this one of, if not the, strongest input he ever delivered for a single Beatles album. Also notable, however, are the first inklings of George Harrison’s increasing influence on the group’s artistic output. Prior to Rubber Soul he’d only been tossed a bone here and there by Lennon and McCartney while he learned the craft of songwriting, but here, in addition to the cutting “Think For Yourself” (made even more so by McCartney’s fuzz bass) and the elegant pop of “If I Needed Someone”, it’s the sitar backing “Norwegian Wood” giving that song its signature touch that would start people thinking of George as a creative force as well.

As it would turn out, Rubber Soul would have a huge impact on none other than The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson. I’m not sure, actually, whether it was the British or the American version he would have initially been exposed to, but my guess it was the softer, mellower (and, BTW, pot-influenced) folk-themed release created by the Capital executives that would have impressed him as the album making a cohesive statement from start to finish, thus inspiring him to try and achieve something along the same lines. This would result in the release of the band’s iconic Pet Sounds the following year.

You can’t really appreciate the fullness of Rubber Soul without also considering its companion single release “Day Tripper” b/w “We Can Work It Out”. The single, one of the best the band ever released, shows both Lennon and McCartney at the top of their game. “Day Tripper” is a straight-forward, out-and-out rocker, but it would be “We Can Work It Out” that would be the more interesting, for it not only featured a true collaboration between the two (actually taking two separate songs they had been working on individually and putting them together) but it illustrated the different aspects of the Lennon and McCartney personas, presaging how their own relationship would fall apart and drive the band apart just a few years’ hence to its ultimate dissolution.

Here you have McCartney playing role of conciliator, his sentiments both rational and hopeful…

Try to see it my way
Do I have to keep on talking till I can’t go on?
While you see it your way
Run the risk of knowing that our love may soon be gone
We can work it out

Think of what you’re saying
You can get it wrong and still you think that it’s alright
Think of what I’m saying
We can work it out and get it straight, or say good night
We can work it out

…while Lennon’s bridge is impatient, cynical, and frustrated:

Life is very short, and there’s no time
For fussing and fighting, my friend
I have always thought that it’s a crime
So I will ask you once again…

It would be hard not to see these how such different personalities and outlooks could come into conflict when the band ceased to operate as a cohesive unit.

Rubber Soul shows the Beatles near the peak of their creative abilities. And as good as this album is, and how it still holds up over time as an artistic statement reflective of what classic pop music sounded like in late 1965, they were still stretching and growing creatively. They would stretch even more and grow even more creative once the touring stopped (and their drugs of choice changed), and their next release, Revolver, would define the very best of what the group as four individual contributors would ever be able to achieve as a collective unit ever again. But it couldn’t have happened without Rubber Soul.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:00 | Comments (0)
September 6, 2016

“…For me, being sort of the culprit behind that particular album, it was done in a way to undermine just sort of following the formula of doing Rumours 2 and Rumours 3, which is kind of the business model Warner Bros. would have liked us to follow. We really were poised to make Rumours 2, and that could’ve been the beginning of kind of painting yourself into a corner in terms of living up to the labels that were being placed on you as a band. You know, there have been several occasions during the course of Fleetwood Mac over the years where we’ve had to undermine whatever the business axioms might be to sort of keep aspiring as an artist in the long term, and the Tusk album was one of those times.” – Lindsay Buckingham, on the motivation behind Tusk

It would have been easy for Fleetwood Mac to succumb to the pressure of following up the astronomic success of 1977′s Rumours and repeat the formula that made both it and its immediate predecessor Fleetwood Mac so successful, but guitarist Lindsay Buckingham was having none of it. You can search YouTube for any number of interviews Buckingham has done over the years – first and foremost, he considers himself as an artist, but an artist intelligent enough to recognize the natural tension between wanting to be accepted as an artist wishing to be highly creative and willing to take chances, and recognizing that in the music industry you also have to be able to produce product marketable enough to support those artistic desires.

Buckingham knew the band had already achieved the latter by making boatloads of cash for Warner Bros.; now he wished to allow his artistic side to be nurtured: the punk movement had come along, and he resisted against the idea of producing another record of formulaic rock that stifled the creativity Buckingham longed for and thought Fleetwood Mac had earned. Rather than allowing himself to be pigeonholed into creating another Rumours, Buckingham pushed the group to allow him creative license and risk less success in return for the band taking a few more chances artistically.

That’s not to say Tusk, released in 1979, wasn’t successful – it was, selling a decent four million copies – but it didn’t come close to selling what Rumours did, although it could hardly have been reasonable to suppose anyfollow-up album they might have released, no matter how good it was, would come close to approaching selling the number of copies Rumours did.

And I guess that’s why I, and so many other fans of the group, regard Tusk so fondly and for what it is. It’s eclectic, that’s for certain, with Buckingham’s contributions sounding little more than home studio demos. But the album also has a certain groove or feeling running through it that is unique within the band’s canon. To me it’s a late-night kind of listening experience, one filled with the longing for love, the remembrance of love lost, and the hopelessly-intense experience of being in a relationship with a lover that’s rarely optimistic and/or positive. From the Christine McVie tracks that bookend the album, “Over and Over” and “Never Forget”, respectively, you pretty much get Tusk‘s intentions: love is a roll of the dice, filled with longing, pain, brooding, fear, anger, paranoia, and uncertainty. Rather than crackling with the kind of tension displayed on Rumours, Tusk displays a more introspective moodiness – one of the reasons I like it so much.

To be truthful, Buckingham’s contributions, while edgy to be certain, are also uneven in terms of quality. “The Ledge” and “Not That Funny” are just OK, almost novelties. But “What Makes You Think You’re The One”, shimmers with its outlandish drums and grunge guitar work, “That’s All For Everyone” is drenched in echo, has a dreamy kind of feel, and backed with marimba and percussion, “That’s Enough For Me” is a runaway train hurtling down the tracks with Mick Fleetwood’s drums just barely able to keep pace, and “I Know I’m Not Wrong” has a pop feel to it that comes the closest to the Fleetwood Mac sound. And, of course, there’s “Tusk” – a truly original and funky track unlike anything else on the album. But it’s the uneven quality of them all that makes them so charming, especially standing next to McVie’s and Stevie Nicks’s contribution, which, while sounding more conventional by comparison, equal some of their best work.

McVie’s “Think About Me” follows closest to the classic Mac formula, and “Honey Hi” has a kind of early ’70s folkish, hippie commune kind of feel. But the intense “Brown Eyes” and “Never Make Me Cry” are very much in the Tusk vein. Nicks, on the other hand, is all over the place here (in a good way), and all of her contributions are top-notch. “Sara” is quiet, reflective, and longing, “Angel” (in my view one of her all-time best) crackles with tension, “Storms” is a commentary on love lost, “Sisters of the Moon” is Stevie doing her witchy thing, and “Beautiful Child” is gentle and tender.

Tusk isn’t one of those albums that jumps out of the speakers at you. I’m guessing most folks who have grown to love it over time found the first few plays of it puzzling, if not more than a little disappointing. But this is a piece of work that requires more than a few listens and more than a little time in order to appreciate its depth. Once you’ve tossed out all the preconceptions of what a Fleetwood Mac album should sound like, only then can one begin to appreciate Tusk. While, admittedly, it’s not the kind of album you blare over your speakers while, say, driving to the beach, it’s a piece of work perfect for certain occasions where you just want to listen to something, and that’s the way Tusk grows on you.

Years later, both drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie would fondly recall Tusk as their favorite Feetwood Mac album of the Buckingham/Nicks era, but at the time the band seemed more than happy to put the Tusk experiment in the rear-view mirror and focus on making their next release more accessible and radio-friendly; 1982′s Mirage, with the likes of Christine McVie’s “Hold Me” and “Love In Store”, and Nicks’ “Gypsy” returned the group to the top of the charts. These are, without a doubt, solid recordings, but it was obvious that the group was playing it safe, taking no chances, and, most sadly, breaking no new ground.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 02:41 | Comments (0)
September 5, 2016

…It was a very difficult period I have to say. All your childhood dreams had been sort of realized and we had the biggest selling records in the world and all the things you got into it for. The girls and the money and the fame and all that stuff it was all … everything had sort of come our way and you had to reassess what you were in it for thereafter, and it was a pretty confusing and sort of empty time for a while … – David Gilmour, recalling “Wish You Were Here.

What is an artist to do when a work they produce not just becomes wildly successful, but a phenomenon that surpasses anything they could have ever imagined in their wildest dreams? The Beatles, after the release of Sgt. Pepper, dutifully headed back into the studio to start working on Magical Mystery Tour, only to discover they were slowly disintegrating as a cohesive, working unit. Michael Jackson, following the success of Thriller, descended into a period of ever-increasing weirdness that he never emerged from. Fleetwood Mac, following Rumours, resisted the urge to tow the company line and instead, at Lindsay Buckingham’s urging, undertake an alternative, experimental approach with Tusk. The Eagles’ Don Henley and Glenn Frey readily admitted that, following the overwhelming success of Hotel California, they were physically, mentally, and artistically spent; it took all the strength and creativity they could muster to carve together the group’s swan song (at that time) The Long Run.

Such was the situation Pink Floyd found themselves in when, in 1974, following nearly two years of astronomic success touring The Dark Side Of The Moon, they found themselves faced with the awful and odd question, “OK, what do we do next?”. They had achieved success beyond their wildest dreams, but for artists at that time there was always the record company itching for new product. In those pre-internet, pre-music download days where artists could assert their own career direction and timeframe for producing and controlling new product, while the industry had gradually moved away from the expectation that artists produce new material once or twice a year, they were still expected to release product in a timely fashion. In addition, there are the demands that overwhelming success brings with it: bigger lifestyles, bigger financial obligations, a bigger circle of folks newly-dependent on your success. In short, the artist is no longer a “progressive rock band”, as the Floyd had come to be known, it had become a machine, and a machine that needed to be fed.

Rather than me blathering on in my own typical way, Wikipedia pretty much nails it as far as the so-called “theme” of the album goes:

Wish You Were Here is the second Pink Floyd album to use a conceptual theme written entirely by Roger Waters. It reflects his feeling that the camaraderie that had served the band was, by then, largely absent. The album begins with a long instrumental preamble and segues into the lyrics for “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”, a tribute to Syd Barrett, whose mental breakdown had forced him to leave the group seven years earlier. Barrett is fondly recalled with lines such as “Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun” and “You reached for the secret too soon, you cried for the moon”.

Wish You Were Here is also a critique of the music business. “Shine On” crosses seamlessly into “Welcome to the Machine”, a song that begins with an opening door (described by Waters as a symbol of musical discovery and progress betrayed by a music industry more interested in greed and success) and ends with a party, the latter epitomizing “the lack of contact and real feelings between people”. Similarly, “Have a Cigar” scorns record industry “fat cats” with the lyrics repeating a stream of cliches heard by rising new-comers in the industry, and including the question “by the way, which one’s Pink?” asked of the band on at least one occasion. The lyrics of the next song, “Wish You Were Here”, relate both to Barrett’s condition, and to the dichotomy of Waters’ character, with greed and ambition battling with compassion and idealism. The album closes with a reprise of “Shine On” and further instrumental excursions.

Here is a fascinating interview with Floyd guitarist David Gilmour that not just reinforces the above, but is illuminative of the circumstances from which the album evolved. (Not to mention how those four notes served to recall the sense of absence (in this case, that of founding member and creative muse Syd Barrett, who had left the band just after the release of their first album following a mental breakdown resulting from massive hallucinogen drug intake), and melancholy – if not outright disdain – at the machine Pink Floyd as four individual members had created, and the industry they were now responsible for feeding.

The album’s opening track, “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”, appears from out of almost nowhere – the strains of Richard Wright’s VCS3 synthesizer slowly emerging out of something akin to a desert shimmering in the midday heat (not unlike the start of Clint Eastwood’s “High Plains Drifter”). Then you have those four somber notes, and the song takes off as a lament to their departed bandmate…

Remember when you were young
You shone like the sun
Shine on you crazy diamond

Now there’s a look in your eyes
Like black holes in the sky
Shine on, you crazy diamond

You were caught in the crossfire
Of childhood and stardom,
Blown on the steel breeze
Come on you target for faraway laughter
Come on you stranger, you legend,
You martyr, and shine

Taken together, all nine parts of “Shine On” could have easily fit on a single side, like earlier tracks such as “Atom Heart Mother” (from the album of the same name), and “Echoes”, from Meddle. But here the band has chosen to show, perhaps in an allegorical statement, a) where the band originated, b) where the band finds itself presently, and c) returning to where they had come from to compare the two. It doesn’t matter, really: “Shine On” is at times dreamy, melancholy, and bluesy in its presentation. More importantly, between the lyrics and the music, each member of the band – most especially Gilmour and Wright (who, between synthesizer, piano, organ, and Fender Rhodes piano, never sounded better) gets to display their individual roles in a cohesiveness they would never achieve again.

But in between, the three other songs, “Welcome To The Machine”, “Have A Cigar” (two scathing, angry indictments of the music industry and the soulless “fat cats” who run it), and “Wish You Were Here”, a melancholy lament about the two-edged sword wild success brings, introduced with yet another memorable guitar piece, and featuring some of Roger Waters’ finest lyrics ever penned…

So, so you think you can tell Heaven from Hell, blue skies from pain.
Can you tell a green field from a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell?

Did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change?
Did you exchange a walk on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?

How I wish, how I wish you were here.
We’re just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year,
Running over the same old ground.
What have we found?
The same old fears.
Wish you were here.

…serve as the ground that the band is really trying to ply here. Success is great, something that you’ve worked incredibly hard to achieve, but once you’ve made it to the top, what then? How much of your soul – and yourself – have you given up to achieve it, and how much of both are you willing to give up to sustain it? And, more importantly, for the benefit of whom?

In my mind, what makes Wish You Were Here so good (and in my view, a better piece of work than Dark Side Of The Moon) is that the band brings to it a most balanced approach, lyrically and musically, to a height it would rarely (“Sheep” from Animals and “Comfortably Numb”, from The Wall come to mind) achieve again. It’s rare that you find a great guitar riff from an artist on a single album (let alone a career), but on Wish You Were Here you get two of the best ever. The musicianship on the album is top-notch, and Waters’ lyrics, at times cutting, venomous, and acerbic, at other times intimate, longing, and melancholy never cross over the line into vitriol and anger almost to the point of parody that they would increasingly in the band’s follow-up releases.

The Dark Side Of The Moon will always be Pink Floyd’s most popular album, but I’m not alone in my assessment that its successor is the band’s overall finest work, for it achieves the perfect blend of individual musicianship with a lyrical content that is, for lack of a better term, most “Floydian”. Band members Wright and Gilmour often cited the album as their favorite Floyd album, and many critics and fans alike think along those same lines.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:28 | Comments (0)
September 4, 2016

“I’ve been mad for fucking years…”

And so begins, to a background of clocks ticking and various other sound effects, one of – if not the – largest-selling albums of all time, Pink Floyd‘s The Dark Side Of The Moon.

One of the great turning points in my musical life took place somewhere around 1971, where on a Sunday night my brother Mark and I were looking at the TV listings in the local paper (this was, after all, long before the days of cable and remotes – heck, we thought UHF was an improvement over the half-dozen or so VHF channels our TV offered us!) and saw that the local PBS channel had a show called “The Pink Floyd, England’s Experimental Rock Band”. Well, being of our ages and the times that sounded intriguing to us, and tuning in we were floored both by the photography (all kinds of barren lands being flown over by some kind of aircraft with a camera suspended from it) and music unlike anything we had heard before.

And from that very moment we became huge fans of Pink Floyd. Mind you, this was in the days before the band became a household name with The Dark Side Of The Moon – to us they were just a cool band that played really unique music. After that special, we headed over to W.T. Grants, or, journeying into Boston by train, to the Jordan Marsh on Washington Street – they had the largest record department we knew of – to see what Pink Floyd record we could buy next (back in those days you couldn’t just drop a credit card on the counter and buy everything you wanted; we had limited funds and you had to make your choices judiciously!).

At any rate, through one way or another, we quickly learned the history of Pink Floyd: led by their eccentric and wildly-artistic leader and guitarist Syd Barrett they had released on of the great albums of the psychedelic era, The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn before Syd suffered a monumental mental breakdown attributed to the ingestion of massive amounts of psychedelic drugs and ended up being replaced by David Gilmour. While we weren’t conscious of the band’s progression since then, we both thought their 1970 album Atom Heart Mother was awesome, as were the following releases Meddle and Obscured By Clouds. In all of these albums we’d zoned into what separated Pink Floyd from other bands: spacey, eclectic music with a definite reserved and distant, if not dark, view of the world.

I believe it was on one of those trips into Boston that, looking in the Pink Floyd bin so familiar to us, we saw a new release with that iconic cover so widely recognized to this day. I remember it had to have been on a Saturday, because by the time we came home it was already dark, and we were astounded not just at the very cool packaging, but with the ultra two-sided poster and graphics that came along with it: I recall that poster was pinned up on Mark’s wall in a jiffy.

As for the music, we obviously thought it was great, a step ahead of anything the band had put out prior. What we didn’t know at the time was that both the music and Roger Waters’ lyrics had a general theme in mind:

Following Meddle in 1971, Pink Floyd assembled for an upcoming tour of Britain, Japan and the United States in December of that year. Rehearsing in Broadhurst Gardens in London, there was the looming prospect of a new album, although their priority at that time was the creation of new material. In a band meeting at drummer Nick Mason’s home in Camden, bassist Roger Waters proposed that a new album could form part of the tour. Waters’ idea was for an album that dealt with things that “make people mad”, focusing on the pressures faced by the band during their arduous lifestyle, and dealing with the apparent mental problems suffered by former band member Syd Barrett. The band had explored a similar idea with 1969′s The Man and The Journey. In an interview for Rolling Stone, guitarist David Gilmour said: “I think we all thought – and Roger definitely thought – that a lot of the lyrics that we had been using were a little too indirect. There was definitely a feeling that the words were going to be very clear and specific.”

The Dark Side of the Moon‘s lyrical themes include conflict, greed, the passage of time, death, and insanity, the latter inspired in part by Barrett’s deteriorating mental state; he had been the band’s principal composer and lyricist. The album is notable for its use of musique concrète and conceptual, philosophical lyrics, as found in much of the band’s later work.

Of course, everyone knows by now that The Dark Side Of The Moon became more than just an album – like, perhaps, The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, and the Eagles’ Hotel California, there comes a point where an album becomes more than just an artistic statement, it becomes a phenomena that transcends anything the artist had originally conceived or intended in their wildest dreams. It’s a crazy thing that even though Dark Side held the #1 spot in the USA for only one week, it remained on the Billboard album chart thereafter for an incredible 741 weeks straight – you do the math.

So what makes this album worthy of the #6 spot on my top ten all-time list? Well, for one thing, the quality of the music and the themes it expresses as mentioned above have always hit home for me. I believe there’s a little madness in us all, and in some of us a little more than we’re comfortable admitting to. I would argue (others may disagree) that there are no truly great individual songs on Dark Side; it’s the way the general theme of the album weaves in and out through the lyrics, the music, and the sound effects: taken together they create the mood that makes Dark Side the transcendent listening experience that it is.

The two songs that stand out to me are the last two on the album: “Brain Damage” and “Eclipse”, and it’s here one has to note the similarities in the sound between The Beatles Abbey Road and Dark Side: not only were they both recorded at Abbey Road Studios, they were both engineered by Alan Parsons, later of the Alan Parsons Project. Both of these tunes have a very Beatles-esque sound to them, most especially on “Eclipse” where the multi-layered guitar notes played over and over by David Gilmour resemble closely those played by John Lennon and George Harrison on Abbey Road‘s “I Want You, She’s So Heavy”.

Lyric-wise, both songs get to the very heart of what Dark Side is really all about: madness, the passage of time, and the seeming futility of it all, In “Brain Damage”:

The lunatic is in the hall.
The lunatics are in my hall.
The paper holds their folded faces to the floor
And every day the paper boy brings more.

And if the dam breaks open many years too soon
And if there is no room upon the hill
And if your head explodes with dark forebodings too
I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.

…and, the breathtaking (no other way to describe it) lyrics of “Eclipse”:

All that you touch
And all that you see
All that you taste
All you feel
And all that you love
And all that you hate
All you distrust
All you save
And all that you give
And all that you deal
And all that you buy
Beg, borrow or steal
And all you create
And all you destroy
And all that you do
And all that you say
And all that you eat
And everyone you meet
And all that you slight
And everyone you fight
And all that is now
And all that is gone
And all that’s to come
And everything under the sun is in tune
But the sun is eclipsed by the moon

At the song’s close, all one is left with is a heartbeat fading into nothing, and the words, “There’s no dark side of the moon, really. Matter of fact it’s all dark.” The effect is similar to that at the close of Sgt. Pepper when, after that final sustained piano chord fades to nothing, all you’re left with is the sense of, “Wow”.

It’s another lyric from “Brain Damage”, the last chorus, that would point Pink Floyd in its next direction, for it hints at the loss of their old mate and creative muse, Barrett:

And if the cloud bursts, thunder in your ear
You shout and no one seems to hear.
And if the band you’re in starts playing different tunes
I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.

…and it would be that theme the band would soon explore to greater depth in their follow-up release, Wish You Were Here – an album you’ll be hearing about very soon, I promise!

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:27 | Comments (0)
September 3, 2016

So it’s 1978 (or maybe 1979?), and I’m deep in planning for my very first trip to California with my friend Paul. You have to remember, I was just a Massachusetts guy at the time. To me, California is all about The Beach Boys, surfing, and San Francisco during the “flower power” days. Paul tries to convince me that to really appreciate California I need to listen to more Frank Zappa – an iconic figure in his own right whose studio, BTW, served as a proving ground for a great many surf bands in their time.

Around the same time we went to some movie theater in Cambridge and saw Neil Young’s “Rust Never Sleeps”, and I was captivated, to say the least. Not that I hadn’t heard of Young or his music before: my cousin Don had introduced me to Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young’s “Deja Vu several years back. I thought it was OK in a kind of hippy-pretentious way, but then again, my own tastes back then were Top 40 AM radio, The Beatles and (early) Pink Floyd. But I had also picked up Young’s Harvest album when it came out and enjoyed that immensely. So seeing Young in movie/concert was really great – while I enjoyed the acoustic stuff that started it all off, it wasn’t until his band Crazy Horse joined him for some truly vintage psychedelic hard rock that I really got stoked.

And that’s where my upcoming trip to California and Live Rust intersect, and why it’s on the list of my top ten all time favorite albums – I just remember it and the time so fondly. Young’s acoustic performances of “After The Gold Rush”, “I Am A Child”, the haunting “Sugar Mountain”, “Comes A Time”, and “The Needle And The Damage Done” are all poignant and lovingly rendered, illustrating the best of the beauty and expressiveness of Young’s kind of “troubled soul” songwriting. As good as those are, once Crazy Horse gets involved, you get Neil at his electric best, sounding every bit the guitar hero with a fuzz box throwing out distorted chords and leads like anyone who had ever picked up an electric guitar ever wanted it to sound like.

I love the noise (meant kindly) poured out by Young and the three members of Crazy Horse. “Like A Hurricane” captivates from the very first growling, distorted chords. And then there’s “Powderfinger”, with its intriguing, sad storyline and equally melancholy chord structure, and “Cortez The Killer” and, of course, “Hey Hey, My My” – all delivered in a wild, crashing mass of distorted, bone-crunching chords that bely the general sadness and loneliness of the subject matter. It’s all great, the kind of music I enjoy revisiting from time to time when I just want to crank the volume up and get lost in the music.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:28 | Comments (0)
September 2, 2016

Before I start this post let me offer up two points I think need to be understood: 1) While I enjoy a good conspiracy theory as much as anyone, I’m not a big believer in them, and 2) I have to admit there’s nothing – and I do mean nothing about the Hillary Clinton campaign I understand thus far. People want to say Donald Trump’s running an unconventional campaign? I’ll tell you his campaign looks positively conventional to what Hillary is doing. Very few campaign events, zero press conferences or events, small venues with small crowds, in out of the way places? I mean, I just don’t get it.

That out of the way, the only word that comes to mind about the FBI dumping boatloads of hard, incriminating evidence against Hillary Clinton on the Friday before Labor Day weekend is nearly unfathomable in terms of its political ramifications. Sure, a lot of folks are going to be away for the weekend, but to drop the kind of thing they did on a major political candidate so that it will be talked about and debated for the next four days seems (at least to these eyes) very strange. Rather than try and make heads or tails out of it, here are just a few thoughts in no particular order:

1. Not only does the FBI dump reveal Hillary to be a liar, refuting just about everything she’s ever said about her e-mails and the way she conducted e-mail business as Secretary of State, it makes her look like a friggin’ idiot. She’s either completely clueless about the hazards of conducting State Department business in such a brazen, unsecured fashion, or, worse, completely reckless and negligent about it.

2. Democratic strategists and Hillary supporters in the media aside, none of this passes the “smell test”. Even the most computer illiterate person understands the concepts of computer security and viruses, and hacking. If the average person does, wouldn’t it serve to reason that someone like Hillary Clinton and those around her would as well?

3. What this shows beyond the shadow of a doubt – again to the average person – is that there are two sets of laws: one for the rich and powerful, the other for everyone else. Most people have a reasonable sense of what the rule of law is, what is appropriate behavior and what is not. What today’s news dump does is reinforce the perception of the Clintons as folks who see themselves as folks who are above the law, folks to whom the rule of law doesn’t apply.

4. Further emphasizing my previous point: you take all this and add to it all the news about the so-called “pay for play” stuff going on while Clinton was Secretary of State between her and donors and the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative, and what it shows is a person, if not completely and utterly without moral character, then at least without any kind of sound judgment when it comes to public perception and conflict of interest. Maybe Hillary’s most ardent supporters can look past this kind of thing, but – most importantly this election year – I can’t imagine average voters willing to walk over broken glass to go to a voting booth and pull the lever for her.

Given all the above, here’s my question: why? And, more importantly, why now? Given that there are no coincidences in Washington politics, it’s a virtual lock that the FBI wouldn’t have allowed this news dump to happen without Clinton campaign knowledge, if not approval. It’s just so damning to her and to her reputation, unflattering to someone who’s supposedly – if you hear the Washington elites talk – the smartest, most experienced person ever to run for President. Simply put, this news dump makes her look like a moron, someone who shouldn’t even be getting security briefings, never mind running for President.

And what about this can’t recall business? Courtesy of Conservative Treehouse, here are the 26 things she told the FBI she couldn’t recall:

* When she received security clearance
* Being briefed on how to handle classified material
* How many times she used her authority to designate items classified
* Any briefing on how to handle very top-secret “Special Access Program” material
* How to select a target for a drone strike
* How the data from her mobile devices was destroyed when she switched devices
* The number of times her staff was given a secure phone
* Why she didn’t get a secure Blackberry
* Receiving any emails she thought should not be on the private system
* Giving staff direction to create private email account
* Getting guidance from state on email policy
* Who had access to her Blackberry account
* The process for deleting her emails
* Ever getting a message that her storage was almost full
* Anyone besides Huma Abedin being offered an account on the private server
* Being sent information on state government private emails being hacked
* Receiving cable on State Dept personnel securing personal email accounts
* Receiving cable on Bryan Pagliano upgrading her server
* Using an iPad mini
* An Oct. 13, 2012 email on Egypt from Clinton pal Sidney Blumenthal
* Jacob Sullivan using personal email
* State Department protocol for confirming classified information in media reports
* Every briefing she received after suffering concussions
* Being notified of a FOIA request on Dec. 11, 2012
* Being read out of her clearance
* Any further access to her private email account from her State Department tenure after switching to her HRC office.com account.

No matter how you look at this news dump, it isn’t good for Hillary. Either she’s grossly negligent, grossly incompetent (both of which would be hard for anyone but the most ardent Hillary supporter to argue), or – and this is the new twist – at least potentially physically unfit for office. Who wants to offer those options to the American people?

All of this leaves me wondering if this could be the start of the end of the Hillary campaign. Think about it: if you’re Hillary you basically have two choices, and you have to decide which is the most risky:

1. Stay in the campaign. If you win, all well and good. But if you don’t it’s a guarantee the Trump administration will appoint a special prosecutor for formal charges to be brought before a grand jury. You’ll also have his DOJ and AG coming after you very strongly. You could go to jail. You could even see the Clinton Foundation shut down on a variety of charges, perhaps even federal RICO statute violations. Or…

2. You step aside for health reasons, allowing Time Kaine or Joe Biden or someone to take your place and have them run against Trump. Given Hillary’s high negative ratings amongst voters it stands to reason that a ticket headed by her VP choice Tim Kaine or VP Joe Biden would be a much more formidable opponent to Trump than Hillary would, and they’d stand a better chance of being elected. If they win, Hillary skates and is home free.

Now for the conspiracy theory, and for this I have to thank Conservative Treehouse poster TrumpIllinois2016 for this, here’s a third, most intriguing option:

If I was Hillary, I would try to cut some kind of a deal with Trump behind the scenes. Basically, I’ll lose on purpose if you promise to not prosecute me or shut down my foundation once you are president. This would entail basically doing what Hillary is already doing…fundraising instead of campaigning. Maybe lessen the attacks on Trump and just tank a couple of the debates on purpose.

What does Hillary have to lose? Does she really want to be president considering the non-stop scandals she will face? The non-stop scrutiny of her health? Constantly having to deal with the press which she obviously can’t handle (i.e. no press conferences this year)? She doesn’t have a vision or any new policies that she wants to implement. She doesn’t want to change anything–she is running on the status quo. What is the upside to being president? Thanks to Trump’s attacks, her foundation will already be watched over like a hawk…she has already ruled out foreign donations…it’s not going to be as easy to enrich herself now that the public has caught on to her schemes.

I would keep my foundation, my privacy, and my freedom and just let Trump take the job. Trump will be much better for the country (she even knows this deep inside). Why risk jail time or having to forfeit a foundation that generates 10s of millions of dollars?

So, let’s say, just for the sake or argument, Donald Trump were to get a call in the next few days:

“Hi Donald? This is Hillary. You wrote “The Art Of The Deal”, right? Well, like Monty Hall used to say – you remember him, right? – let’s make a deal.”

You know, given what we know about the Clintons I wouldn’t put it past her. She doesn’t care about the Democratic Party, neither does Bill. They’re only it if for themselves. And if it means giving the country four years of Donald in order to protect her and Bill and their Foundation, it might be a deal worth making.

You’re Hillary Clinton. Which would you choose?

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 21:02 | Comments (0)

The third Beatles album in my top ten list (you’ll just have to wait to see the other two!) is a masterpiece almost from beginning to end. Released in the fall of 1969, “Abbey Road” would serve as the group’s true swan song; (even though “Let It Be” would follow in 1970, those recordings originated from the tempestuous and aborted “Get Back” sessions from early 1969 and shelved until Phil Spector was recruited as producer to create a release the group could agree to after it had already disbanded).

The relations in the group were beyond strained when Paul McCartney approached their producer George Martin, who had worked with the group since its earliest days up through the so-called ‘White Album’, with a request to have him and the band work together “like old times” for one last go round that would allow everyone involved to “go out in style”. And while the atmosphere during the Abbey Road sessions could at best be described as professional, at worst distant, the group still put its best foot forward to produce an album that just about everyone rates as one of their best.

For me, the biggest impact of Abbey Road was that it kindled in me a desire to learn to play bass, for the bass sound achieved on the album through McCartney’s virtuoso playing and a prominence similar to that found on the group’s 1966 single, “Paperback Writer” b/w “Rain”) is something (at least in my view) yet to be matched on any other recording. And its not just McCartney’s bass that sounds so clear and crisp: the entire production from beginning to end is flawless – a recording so precise and concise that almost every song is allowed its moment to shine all by itself.

I say almost every song because the one song keeping Abbey Road from pure perfection is McCartney’s insipid “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”, yet another of his written in the vein of “When I’m Sixty Four” (from Sgt. Pepper), “Penny Lane”, and “Your Mother Should Know” (from Magical Mystery Tour that John Lennon would caustically referred to as songs “written for old grannies”. It’s the kind of cutsie-tootsie, showtune-y thing McCartney would return to over and over again with his band Wings, leaving some to think he had been castrated, if not physically then musically.

McCartney’s contributions on Abbey Road are fairly subtle: beyond his bass playing (listen to George Harrison’s “Something” and tell me you’ve heard better!) and his rock n’ roll tear-jerker “Oh Darling!”, his greatest contribution was working with Martin to assemble the suite of songs and song fragments that comprise the majority of Side 2, culminating in “The End” with its classic line:

“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”

In another setting such a lyric might sound trite, but following “Carry That Weight” and the blistering guitar solos traded off between Harrison, McCartney, and Lennon, and then in turn followed by a snippet of McCartney’s “Her Majesty”, it serves as a send-off to the “Flower Power” generation and a sentiment transcending the acrimony and bad feelings of the group’s private affairs.

The void created by the absence of any truly memorable McCartney tunes is more than ably filled by the strength of George Harrison’s and John Lennon’s contributions. Harrison’s “Something” and “Here Comes The Sun” became instant classics, and Lennon’s “Come Together” (a song originally written in support of Timothy Leary‘s run for governor of California and more than loosely based off of Chuck Berry’s “You Can’t Catch Me”) and “I Want You (She’s So Heavy) book-end Side 1 to offset the relative lightness of “Maxwell” and Ringo’s “Octupus’s Garden”).

Abbey Road has been called by some a little too slick and a little too “safe” compared to prior Beatles releases, but one has to understand that the group was, by this time, both creatively and physically exhausted. They were all ready to move on to whatever came next, but took the time and care to make one final, exquisite recording. Between the overall quality of the songs, the expert musicianship, the flawless production, and (not to mention) the album’s iconic cover, there are few recordings in the history of rock music that can match it.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:36 | Comments (0)
September 1, 2016

Target Handicap: 18.1
Location: Superstition Springs Golf Club
Score: 50 + 48 = 98
Handicap: 24.1 / Trend: 23.6 (-.5)

Hard to believe it was only six weeks ago that I last teed it in competition on Goodboys Invitational Sunday – it felt like a year ago. But nevertheless, it was time to kick off The Great White Shank’s “Six Strokes Across America” tour. The goal being to reduce my MyScorecard.com handicap (the handicap we Goodboys use as our bible) from 24.1 to 18.1 by March 1.

Seven months, six strokes. Doesn’t sound like much, but while the difference between, say, a 18-handicapper and a 24-handicapper may not be as noticeable in terms of who the person is swinging the clubs, it most certainly is when it comes to scoring with them. Simply put, the only way I’m going to knock six strokes off my handicap is to improve those areas of my game to where they can compare favorably against fellow Goodboys who have handicaps in the mid-to-high teens. And for today’s exercise let’s talk about the game of “The Funny Guy” Andrusaitis (MyScorecard.com handicap: 14.1), and how it compares to mine.

TFG can get it off the tee, for sure, but I’m not certain he can get it that much better than I can. Where the difference lies is what happens after his tee shot. Not only does TFG give himself more opportunities at par by hitting greens in regulation far more than I presently do (his short-to-mid iron play is, in my view, to die for), but he also doesn’t make mental mistakes (a.k.a. “unforced errors”) like I do. And while he might three-putt on occasion, he rarely throws away strokes carelessly as if they don’t mean anything like I do. And just as importantly, he also has an incredibly short memory when it comes to bad swings or bad outcomes – a quality every good golfer needs to have.

It’s, then, what happens after the tee shot where the six strokes I need to knock off my handicap lies. As TFG says, we’re all crappy golfers and are going to make bad shots from time to time; the trick is to not make them worse by amplifying their importance by compounding them and allowing them to influence the rest of your round. As Dr. Jim Suttie, renowned golf teacher says, “Golf is hard”; no need, then to make it harder on yourself through mental mistakes and careless play and decision-making.

There were no press, local or national, present when I stepped up to the first tee at Superstition Springs Golf Club when I pulled driver to formally kick off my “Six Strokes Tour”. Actually, there was no one around at all – the course was virtually empty. A slightly yanked drive to the right left me a really bad lie below my feet just in front of a big mama sand trap, but I was able to pick it clean. A chip on the green and a missed two-footer for par (there would be several of these today) started me off with bogey.

And so the front came and went without much fanfare. Even though I only hit three fairways in total, my only truly bad drive came on nine, resulting in my first lost ball of the tour. My return to my old chipping stroke resulted in a chip-in for par on the par 3 third, but some sloppy play around the green on the par 5 eighth resulted in a bogey when I was only twenty feet away for par. My putting was rusty – three missed putts from four feet or less, but more importantly, I let three golden opportunities to hit the green in regulation get away from me (see above!).

I started hot on the back nine, bogeying ten and eleven, but on the par 3 twelfth I pushed a 5-iron left of the green, then took two swings to get it on the green, then 3-putt from twelve feet for a triple bogey. The kind of play that simply can’t be allowed to happen on the “Six Strokes” tour! (It wouldn’t be the only par 3 on the back I triple bogeyed, BTW: the tee shot on fifteen that I though was pulled right into a bunker must have bounced into the pond even further right since I never found it. A drop, a crappy chip, and another three-putt made it two triples.) Fortunately, I fairly made up for those two holes with a par on the brutal #14 (pulverized drive, smart lay-up, chip to one foot) and a bogey on the #1 handicap hole, the par 5 seventeenth, with water everywhere and a semi-island green. I pushed my drive left but hit two 5-iron punches along the canal that lines the left-hand side, staying away from the water to ~ 130 yards, then dropping an exquisite 7-iron to six feet (applause from the group behind me – it was a beauty) but missed the damned par putt which would have been really something.

I threw away a couple more shots on 18 with some sloppy play all around to come in at 48 for a 98, but …whoa, all of a sudden it just got very dark here, looks like we have a dust storm blowing in… but by that time the humidity had come up, it was around 104, and I was ready for a cold, dark, 19th hole. And I’m satisfied with that 98 for my first time out in a while, on a very tough course, especially given the fact I played from the green tees at 6,700 – count ‘em, 6,700! – yards, the longest course I’ll ever play, and that I had to shake off some rust while breaking in a revamped short game.

All in all I felt like I started my “Six Strokes” tour off in the right direction. My driver was fairly solid all day, as were my iron play. Need to tighten things up around the greens (as usual), but I’m confident it will come around in time. I’ll take a .5 decrease every time out, for sure! I’m glad I chose Superstition Springs for my kick-off event, but frankly, I’m hoping this is the last I see of it for a while. It’s a tough course with a very quirky finish. I’m ready for some new challenges. And just think, you’ll all be coming along with me for the duration!

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 17:42 | Comments (0)

goodboys.jpg


Search The Site



Recent Items

Categories

Archives
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006


Blogroll

Syndication

4 Goodboys Only

Site Info