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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Still doing it

... after a brief message, of course:

Comments (7)

I've seen Paul in concert 3 times: Once at the Kingdome and twice at the Rose Garden. After you get past the rock legend and the vocal talent and the band, what really starts dawning on you is that he is ultimately a composer.
Okay, it is surreal when you hear him go from instrument to instrument and instantly know the piano style and sound as its own musical institution off so many of the greatest rock records of all time.

And there was the moment when he introduced his acoustic guitar at the Rose Garden as the same one he played on Ed Sullivan.

But after all this history and performing greatness, what slowly takes over is the fact that you are looking at one of the great composers.

Song after song so brilliant and different from the last. Minor little tunes like "For No One" that are just perfect song-writing genius. One after another of these gems for hours on end.

Each tour he pulled out some classic like "She's Leaving Home" and crushed it. Songs you never thought you'd hear attempted live - much less crushed.

The keyboard monster, Paul Wickens, seen here has been with them for years back to the Linda days in the Kingdome and I must admit, it makes me sort of sad to hear him.

See, the Beatles left the stage partly because they couldn't play their later music live and sound close to the record - it was just too complicated.

But if they had just all survived 'til the technology caught up with them, they could have taken this keyboard wizard on the road and done any song from any album with all the sound effects and instruments of Sgt. Peppers, etc...

The string and harp sounds in "She's Leaving Home" sounded great as this musical beast played them.
The first song I heard when this dawned on me was "Fool on the Hill" when the flute sounds showed up just like the record.

I suppose we should just be grateful Paul handled fame so well and is still doing it, but imagine what could have been if John had lived. It's the big "what if" of my life as a musician and a fan.

I hadn't seen Paul McCartney play a live show, even on video, in decades. Can you fathom what it must be like to get up there and cover "Helter Skelter," but it's not a cover because you wrote it? It's like Ludwig von Beethoven stepping up on stage and knocking a sonata out before the commercial break.

And then there's the Ed Sullivan Theater connection. When Paul and the other three Liverpool lads first stood on the very top of the world there, Dave Letterman was just some pimply faced teenager watching with his mom in black-and-white from Hoopster, Indiana. Now look.

I think the comparison with Beethoven is apt. It's clear from Paul's orchestral works that you can't just jump into that form and expect to show genius at it with the orchestration and counterpoint. His orchestral stuff sounds a little clunky but that's to be expected.

We're talking about the discipline of a lifetime. The brain physically changes depending on what you do with it so Ludwig clearly has Paul in this area. The fact that Ludwig could compose his later works even though he was deaf, shows a lot of training and a magnificent mind.

But I'm convinced if Paul had grown up in those times he would be brilliant at it, too. Just as I'm convinced if Ludwig suddenly had to write in the 2-minutes-50 format he would be hard-pressed to top Paul's song, "Blackbird."

There's an example of Paul's genius. He picks up an acoustic during the concert and plays Blackbird? And then Yesterday, the most covered song in musical history? How come other composers can't do this - make song after song that creates a little world?

Each composer had an advantage in his form. I used to have to analyze the chords on classical musical compositions and you might get a l-V-I-V chord pattern that goes on for 4 pages, but sounds tremendous based on counterpoint and the orchestra.

In fact, just looking at the chord changes, I put the Beatles stuff up against Duke Ellington or any composer who ever lived. The Beatles songs are complex as hell, yet they make a simple sense and that takes genius.

Of course, Paul did have his own advantage to match Ludwig's orchestration and counterpoint. He had the ability of writing a very simple song like Get Back that relies on the backbeat and the inherent power of rock and roll.

What we don't know and can never know is what Ludwig could do on the fly. Programs from that day show a section where Beethoven would sit down and jam. It might be in the coda of a written piece, but it was improvised on the spot. Every note we know about Beethoven is from the page. One of the great questions is what he could come up with in real time. By the accounts of what went on we know this was a very impressive part of the concert. Apparently, a young Beethoven could really rock the house. And you know that can't be bad.

Every time he plays those tunes, he has to pay Michael Jackson's estate a royalty.

Thanks, Bojack!
If it weren't for you, I would have missed this.

To correct my last comment, I guess Paul only pays royalties to MJ and his estate's creditors on songs from the Beatles catalog that MJ picked up in the 80s.

Those solo and Wings tunes he played presumably drive royalty money into the pockets of the people who own them. I don't believe Michael bought any of that stuff, but others must have a piece.

P.S. Seeing/Hearing them play "Let Me Roll It to You" was awesome. That's been one of my favorite songs since I was under 10.

CBS is planning to take this video down from the internet on Saturday, July 25.

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