The Beatles, Words Of Love

Posted in The Beatles on November 17th, 2013 by Willie

I had a dream the other night (no, please keep reading) where the Beatles were reunited in the 1980s and John Lennon was still alive. It was an incredibly visceral dream with the four guys aged perfectly for the time. They were recording a track in the studio. John was decked out in a red and black leather jacket with his hair pulled back in a pony tail, rocking his classic black circular sunglasses. Paul was dressed in a large Christmas sweater, holding his Hofner bass and looking very nervous. John was also a bundle of nerves, pacing near the microphone with a grey colored Fender. I don’t remember what George and Ringo looked like but they were there as well. Then, the magic happened. They started playing Buddy Holly’s “That’ll Be The Day,” harmonizing beautifully, restarting a few times in the process. The dream felt real and the music sounded live. I was thrilled to experience it.

Anyway, as fate would have it, the Beatle company Apple, released a new music video, “Words of Love,” another Buddy Holly cover, just the a few days ago. The song originally appeared on Beatles For Sale, a criminally underrated Beatle record (if there is such a thing) that got a lot of slack for featuring too many covers and carrying a bit of a depressed vibe. The record was released late in 1964 and reflects the exhausted around the world impact that Beatlemania had on the guys. The songs like “I’m a Loser” and “I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party” had a sense of world-weariness to them but like any Beatle record, the performances and production are immaculate, creating a warm and intimate listening experience.

The “Words of Love” music video is just gorgeous. Mixing in psychedelic animation, a bit of CGI and sparkly magic to priceless clips of the Beatles running around during the height of Beatlemania. I would be incredible if Apple released a video like this for every song in the catalog. A massive task for sure, but, who cares, the music still holds up so breathing new life into the old songs with gorgeous imagery is a wonderful idea. I always wised that Apple should make a sequel to Yellow Submarine, featuring music of the White Album. The Beatles themselves didn’t voice Yellow Submarine when they were all alive in the first place so a new animated movie wouldn’t be so sacrilegious and would be really awesome. That will probably never happen unless I somehow become president of Apple records one day so in the meantime, enjoy the limitless splendor and charm of this wonderful “Words of Love” music video.

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George Harrison, Ravi Shankar, Sitar Lesson and Within You Without You

Posted in George Harrison, Ravi Shankar, The Beatles, Youtube Favs on December 12th, 2012 by Willie

EDIT: Ravi Shankar died yesterday, Tuesday, December 12, 2012, at the age of 92 in Southern California. RIP you beautiful man; legend of music, Beatle guru, sitar master.

Orignally Published May 5, 2011- Part 56 is a double dose adventure of Indian/English fun.  First we have an awesome rare clip of George Harrison in India taking a sitar lesson with legendary sitar master Ravi Shankar in 1966.  After the Beatles quit touring the mad, mad, world in early 1966, they all took long vacations.  George decided to take his wife, Patti Boyd, to India, where he met Ravi, and insisted on becoming his apprentice.  The first video shows Ravi instructing George on some scales near a beautiful lake and mountain, while Ravi narrates the experience, expressing total shock and bewilderment at why a pop musician of George’s stature would be interested in classical Indian music.  Of course, George’s interest in sitar music caused an international explosion in the instrument and genre, and made Ravi Shankar an international star.  Video two shows the results of all of these efforts, “Within You Without You,” the second best song off Sgt. Pepper, (“A Day in the Life” being the best.)  This song is so incredible.  It’s a total masterpiece of artistic expression.  John Lennon said it best about the song, saying that George was “so clear” on this track, and that it was one of his favorite songs.  The lyrics are some of the most brilliant in the entire Beatles catalog, and sonically, its just perfect, a psychedelic joyride through George’s Indian soaked mind.  I also think its a stunningly original song coming from a man who adopted gurus to learn from his whole life, (Perkins, Lennon, McCartney, Dylan.)  This song has nothing to do with any of those guys, its just pure George, and its brave of him to stick his head out, in the Beatles of all groups, with a song like this.  And its undeniably fantastic!

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Making More Rock And Roll, Deconstructing Sgt. Pepper

Posted in The Beatles, Willie Simpson's Original Music on December 1st, 2012 by Willie

Well, I haven’t updated the ole’ website in a good while, and the reason is because I’m still making more rock and roll. The intention of this humble little corner of internet space was never to be a daily rock and roll blog, that happened more or less organically. The site was created to feature my music, and to that end, my album, which I’ve previewed extensively on this site, is nearly finished. The album in question, which I’ve named Funeral Business, is something I’m growing increasingly proud of. The album art, which the ever lovely Sonia Rapaport created, is the thing you’re looking at right above. Right now I’m collaborating on one last tune with Andrew Lee, and from there, the future promises to reflect the glimmering wonderfulness to be entailed within it. I’m planning a mini documentary movie in the coming weeks about the creation of the record, and a further reflection on my thoughts on rock and roll and what it means to me. Its a flourish of self centered activity that I find rather distasteful, but necessary to further spread the joy this music has brought to me. I want to thank all my friends and family who have helped me along the way here, and I also want to post this incredibly cool video someone made deconstructing the “Sgt. Pepper” song, because it goes against everything in my nature to provide an update without some music. This little video is really fascinating, breaking the song down into its component parts, giving you a sense of how the Beatles created their masterpieces. You will also be hypnotized by those groovy multicolored lines of sonic goodness. Enjoy.

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The Beatles, Help! The Entire Film, in HD!

Posted in The Beatles on August 2nd, 2012 by Willie

One of the coolest evolutions in YouTube history was the removal of the oppressive 10 minute time limit for video clips.  Such advancements have led to the wonder of allowing the Beatles movie “Help!” to be seen and shared in its entirety, for free!  Now “Help!” is probably the least essential Beatle movie, even more so then “Magical Mystery Tour,” (also available for complete viewing on this site.)  Why?  Probably because it was their least creative, and most commercial effort.  “Help!” came out in 1965 at the tail end of the original Beatlemania ultra craze.  In this era, the Beatles were already evolving from happy go lucky rock stars into more introspective individuals, but “Help!” still captures them as inseparable best friends who all dress the same and do everything together.  During the filming, the Beatles were incredibly uninterested in its production, and were notorious for sneaking marijuana before takes constantly.  The effect is noticeable in their tired and bleary eyes and giggly unfocused performances.  Their stoned indifference really does nothing to film, already a slight and silly story about a magical ring that Ringo can’t seem to get off his finger.  Like all Beatle movies, the music, and the musical interludes are timeless.  The title song is one of John Lennon’s greatest singles, and the rest of the soundtrack hints at the creative explosion of psychedelic folk music the Beatles would explore later that year on “Rubber Soul.”  Some of my favorites include “Another Girl,” and “You’re Gonna Lose That Girl.”  Its also worth noting that George Harrison’s burgeoning obsession with the sitar began on the set of “Help!” when he started fiddling around with one played by the Indian musicians in the restaurant scene.  The video encoded below is fully remastered in beautiful HD, and it really is worth watching, especially for Beatles fans that have never seen it.  If you don’t have a lot of time, I’d recommend just skipping to any random point in the film and watching for ten minutes.  Its impossible for the film to make less sense then it already does, and you’ll likely land on a beautiful and priceless Beatle performance.  Enjoy.

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Prince's Timeless Performance of While My Guitar Gently Weeps

Posted in George Harrison, Prince, The Beatles on July 25th, 2012 by Willie

Prince is one of my heroes, so you might be wondering why the Prince page on my website is fairly barren.  Well, the truth is, I’d probably have every Prince music video and performance I could get my hands on if I could, but Prince and his legal team make it damn near impossible to for anyone on the internet to post his music and videos.  Well, there is one performance that thankfully is available for the public to consume, and that is of Prince’s epic guitar heroics at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Prince was inducted in the same year George Harrison was honored as a solo artist, and so Dhani Harrison, George’s son, invited Prince on stage for the performance of the White Album classic, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”  I read somewhere that Prince had never even heard the song before, though that’s hard to believe as Prince peeled off one of the greatest and most showstopping flawless guitar solos of all time.  What is especially spectacular about the performance is that the man who played the original solo on the record, Eric Clapton, was a bit of a guitar legend too, so Prince had a lot to live up to.  The thing is, sometimes people forget that Prince is Prince.  The man is rightfully one of the greatest musical geniuses of the pop era, and one of the more criminally underrated ones too.  Rumor has it that Prince played such an insanely great solo in response to the snub he felt after being left off of Rolling Stone Magazine’s top 100 guitar players ever list.  Prince proves that he belongs somewhere on that list, perhaps in the top ten, so watch this clip if you’ve never seen it, and take in the “purple’s one’s” majesty of rock.  Oh, and lastly, at the end of the song, Prince hurls his guitar into the sky towards the audience, and it never lands…a new mystery for our time.

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Mad Men, The Eleanor Rigby Experiment

Posted in Mad Men, The Beatles on July 5th, 2012 by Willie

One of the most exciting elements of the latest season of Mad Men was how the series creator, Matthew Weiner, somehow scored the rights to broadcast an actual Beatles song on his show.  The Beatles had never allowed their actual recordings to be directly featured in a television show, and have rarely allowed the privilege in movies.  It was interesting to read of how Weiner managed to pull off the feat.  It wasn’t an issue of money, though the price of airing the culturally priceless cut from Revolver, “Tomorrow Never Knows,” wasn’t cheap, but rather, he needed to get approval from Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono, and Olivia Harrison.  Weiner took a big risk because securing the rights for the song meant having the Beatle people approving the script for a television show with a limited window for production time.  If his plan failed, he’d have to drastically alter the episode on short notice.  Luckily, his ploy worked, and us die hard Mad Men fans finally got to hear the musical group that dominated the decade in which the fictional show takes place.  In the original scene, Don Draper, feeling out of touch with the musical trends of 1966, asks his wife to bring him up to date on what the Beatles were up.  She gives him Revolver, and tells him to play “Tomorrow Never Knows,” the last, and most avant-garde far out psychedelic track on the legendary LP.  Don Draper dutifully plays the track, pours a drink, and tries to get into it.  As John Lennon drones on, we are treated to a montage of various characters that gets abruptly shut off when Don angrily stops the song midway through.  This scene annoyed me for a few critical reasons.  First of all, his wife, Megan, should have just told him to play the album from the start.  Don would have appreciated the conservative wit and word games of George Harrison’s “Taxman.”  Then, I have no doubt, that when “Eleanor Rigby’s” gorgeous harmonies and fast paced string quartet struck, that would have hooked him.  It’s the sort of song that speaks to Don’s character, a tale of anonymous lonely people living futile lives.  The pure black and white beauty of the song, combined with the commercial accessibility that only Paul McCartney can manufacture, might have stunned him emotionally and kept him listening.  Playing “Tomorrow Never Knows,” to someone who hasn’t heard too many Beatles songs,out of the blue, even in the year 2012, is just not the best way to indoctrinate a potential Beatle enthusiast.  I think Weiner chose the song because he wanted to contrast the insanely advanced sonic world the Beatles were operating in, with the old fashioned world that Don and many of his contemporaries were still living in, in 1966.  That in itself is cool, but to me, Don needed to hear a few other songs first before diving off the Tibetan Book of the Dead deep end.  So, I have rectified the situation.  The video I present below substitutes “Tomorrow Never Knows,” with “Eleanor Rigby.”  The montage of shots that follow are also of my choosing.  I tried to match the song to what I considered some of the most striking scenes and images from Season 5.  I also tried matching the images to the song in a loose abstract way.  All in all, I think it came out very well, and am very excited to share it.  Mad Men is currently my favorite TV show, and it goes without saying that the Beatles are my favorite band ever, so getting to mess around with two things I love so much was just a lot of fun.  So, enjoy it, and feel free to share it around town.

Mad Men, The Eleanor Rigby Experiment from Willie Simpson on Vimeo.

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The Beatles, If I Needed Someone

Posted in The Beatles on June 20th, 2012 by Willie

“If I Needed Someone” written by George Harrison in 1965, is one of my all time favorite songs.  George was listening to the Byrds, especially Roger McGuinn’s “The Bells of Rhymeny,” which George based his guitar riff on.  Like all great artists, the Beatles stole from other great artists, but what was special about them was how honest and appreciative they were of the source inspirations.  Before the song was released, George sent Roger a recording of the song and a note extolling the influence McGuinn had on George in that era.  The Beatles made few, if any, enemies of their contemporaries in their era.  The song is a gorgeous effort by George, fully fitting in the Rubber Soul vibe of heavy harmony and folk rock psychedelia.  I also like the bizarre message that the lyrics paint.  George is saying to a potential girlfriend that he would date her in a minute if he wasn’t already in love, but please, leave your phone number in case something happens.  Its kind of a dicey, yet honest admission from an international rock star who happened to be married.  For me though, the song’s greatest attribute is the full throated three part harmony courtesy of John, Paul, and George.  It’s powerful and wistful at the same time, and there is something tragically nostalgic in the sound of it, much like John and Paul’s “In My Life.”  The video below was made by the fantastic youtube uploader named Beatles Mirko, who finds and assembles some of the best Beatles clips on the internet, so thanks to him for cobbling together this nice video featuring performances of the song from their legendary Tokyo concert.

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The Beatles, I'm in Love, Ultra Rare Song

Posted in The Beatles, Youtube Favs on May 14th, 2012 by Willie

Well, its been a few weeks since I’ve updated the website.  Mainly I’ve been busy working on my next creative endeavor, covering the song I’m posting today.  Its the dream of many a Beatle fan/musician to do their own version of a famed Beatle or solo Beatle song.  I’ve toyed with this dream for years, wondering which of the endless stream of hits to put my own humble little stamp on.  No matter what song you pick though, always has the caveat of never living up to the Beatle recording.  Even the greatest Beatle covers by the world’s biggest acts simply do not live up to the perfection the Beatles achieved in the studio.  When I discovered, “I’m in Love,” a lost ballad written by John Lennon in 1963, I knew I struck gold.  Not only is the song mostly incomplete, leaving open some room for interpretation, it is hardly known save for a subset of hardcore Beatle audiophiles who have combed over every inch of cruddy bootleg tape.  The version below is a minute and thirty seconds of John and a piano, singing the song in 1963.  What’s remarkable about this demo is that it sounds like it could easily be John in 1971 working on a new track for a solo record.  The lyrics, the emotion, the spirit of genuineness, and universalism, are all present in this wonderful and fragile piece of pop songwriting.  My cover is coming along nicely, and I hope to have it done in a few weeks.  Until then, here is the preview, a priceless artifact of sonic soul.

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The Beatles, A Look Inside the Recording of Think For Yourself

Posted in The Beatles on April 26th, 2012 by Willie

You’d think by reading this website, that I’ve probably heard everything the Beatles have ever done.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The Beatles left a treasure trove of outtakes, missing songs, and precious studio banter; all serving as glorious honey for Beatle fans starving for fresh material.  Last night, I stumbled upon the studio session for Rubber Soul’s “Think For Yourself.”  The person responsible for this bootleg, cleverly edited out the tedious audio takes, and left in all the truly hilarious Beatle conversations.  The record here is fascinating.  This being a George song, you can see him trying to carefully coral a stoned John and Paul into recording the proper backing vocals.  Its also funny to hear a snippy George Martin trying to manage the madness from the safety of his glass booth.  There isn’t really much I can add, other than if you want an insight into the Beatle creative process, and love to laugh, its worth the 15 minutes of your time to have this thing playing in the background as you work or relax.  Its gold.

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Yellow Submarine Week, It's All Too Much, All Together Now

Posted in The Beatles on April 19th, 2012 by Willie

A wise Beatle once said, all things must pass, and so must Yellow Submarine week.  The end of the movie, one of my favorite sequences, features the stunning George Harrison masterpiece, “It’s All Too Much.”  Following that brain scrambling skillet of wonderment are the Beatles themselves, appearing in an overly good mood (especially for 1968), introducing a slice of Paul McCartney camp fire brilliance, “All Together Now.”  Sometimes I just can’t help but repeat the live Beatle sequence over and over.  Each Beatle puts on a remarkably memorable performance.  Ringo comes across just like his cartoon character, sort of childish and naive.  Paul is at his corny best, making some self referential Beatle jokes, this one a plug for “Fixing a Hole.”  I love George’s halted speech, wondering eyes, and sly smiles.  John saves his Beatle charm for the end, stealing the scene with his warning of “newer and bluer meanies,” and expert pronunciation of the words “singing,” and “FOUR!”  Ever the leader, John is the captain with his pocket telescope, remaining still and calm while the other Beatles are bobbing away with crazy energy.  It’s just one of the greatest scenes in Beatle history, and my dream would be if someone came out with extended footage from that video session, or outtakes.  Haven’t seen anything like that though, so its probably on the scrapheap of history.  Ah well, beggars can’t be choosers, so we’ll make due with this priceless moment.  Enjoy.

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