Monday, July 02, 2012

“Underwear Distance Of Love” (Reprise)

I don’t have much for today, but today will be a kind of traditional blog post in that for the most part I’ll just be describing something that happened over the weekend.

RUBBER LIZARD (as a Taylor Swift fan): “So I hear you’re playing stadium venues now.”

LITTLE PLASTIC DOLL (as Taylor Swift): “Yes, yes, I have pyrotechnics and aerialists and everything! I’m like a young and attractive version of David Lee Roth.”

RUBBER LIZARD (as a Taylor Swift fan): “That’s a scary thought.”

I’ve been thinking about high-profile pop music for the last couple of days because of something that happened over the weekend. I’ll get to that in a second, but first I saw in the news a few minutes ago that Van Halen has canceled most of their summer tour. Here’s a picture and the story as reported by Rolling Stone. David Lee Roth is the guy on the left:

After postponing all tour dates after June 26th, Van Halen has now canceled those shows, reports The band has not announced the cancelations on their site, but Pollstar notes many of the tour dates after June 26th are listed in red as canceled on Ticketmaster, including tour stops in Baltimore, Detroit, Memphis, Sacramento and Milwaukee. Refunds are reportedly available at the point of sale.

Back in May, the band announced the postponement of all their tour dates following their June 26th show in New Orleans. Sources told Rolling Stone the band was fighting and the members "hate each other." David Lee Roth later released a video insisting the band was getting along fine, saying, "We bit off way more than we could chew," with Eddie Van Halen offering a similar explanation in an interview last month.

I have no idea what was going on behind the scenes. It’s my understanding, however, that when a big group cancels established dates it means they weren’t selling enough tickets to make it worthwhile to move the show to that venue. Of course with the history between David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen this might have been caused by a fight. But I will say that when I’ve tried to bring up the subject of Van Halen touring in conversations almost everyone just says either “Who?” or “Are they still alive?”

Perhaps David Lee Roth could open for Taylor Swift on her next tour.


Okay, anyway, I was thinking about high-profile pop music all weekend because late Friday I was in some store and the music system played some pleasant sounding song and, as I was absently listening, I realized it was something about birds. When I paid more attention I realized it was the so-called “Beatles” version of John Lennon’s song “Free as a Bird.”

It’s an okay version—I guess—and it has an okay video to go along with it. The story behind it is that when the Beatles “Anthology” project was getting put together the surviving Beatles—or their advisers, whatever—came up with the idea of doing some “new” Beatles music for the release. So one person or another asked Yoko for a tape of one or two John Lennon songs they could use to dub over. Yoko supplied a cassette tape of John doing a couple of demos recorded at his New York apartment.

The cassette tape included Lennon’s demo of “Free as a Bird” with him singing and accompanying himself on piano. It’s from around 1977, recorded very simply, just on a single-track cassette.

George Martin—again, for one reason or another—declined the job of producing the over-dub sessions so Paul and the rest hired Jeff Lynne and Lynne took the cassette tape of Lennon’s demo and used 1995 state-of-the-art recording tools to cut it up and add to it and enhance it. So they added drum parts and guitar parts and bass parts and a new verse and lots of new vocals.

Without George Martin’s participation and without—of course!—John being there in real life it’s hard to call it a Beatles song. But it is a “Beatles” song. It kind of sounds like an homage to the Beatles by some studio band, but, nonetheless, it’s all the real people.

After I heard that playing over the store’s music system, I came home and went to YouTube and listened to the actual, real, John Lennon demo. I’m not a mad fan of Lennon’s so I don’t know the intricate details here, but there are supposed to be two versions of his “Free as a Bird” demo that fans have circulated, both with him playing piano, both sounding similar. There are rumors of a third demo of the song with John playing guitar. I’ve never heard that guitar version. I would like to hear it, if anyone knows where it might be found.

Because I love the John Lennon demo with him playing piano.

To me this is what music is all about. One person playing and singing something they wrote.

And I can’t really imagine anything more beautiful than Lennon’s demo of “Free as a Bird.”

It doesn’t seem to matter at all that he isn’t a great piano player. It doesn’t seem to matter at all that his voice isn’t perfect. It doesn’t seem to matter at all that the recording is very low fidelity.

The music is there. The song is there. I think of it as one of the most beautiful recordings I’ve ever heard in my life.

I wanted to have these two versions here at the blog because this seems to be the modern world in a nutshell. There are incredible artists out there making beautiful music. But the beautiful stuff usually is simply called a “demo” and then it gets slathered over with so-called production values and turned into high-profile pop music.

I like the demo stuff infinitely better than the pop stuff.

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