Why the skimpy bonus material on the ‘Abbey Road’ deluxe box?

Beatlefan reader Mike Edsall discusses his mixed feelings about the “Abbey Road” 50th anniversary deluxe edition.

The “Abbey Road” 50th anniversary set.

First, let me state where I’m coming from. I am a first-generation Beatles fan who owns close everything they’ve ever released, both group and solo, and I’ve read several hundred books about them.  So, I know a lot, but, admittedly, I do not know everything. I’ve been buying bootlegs since 1972, I loved the “Anthology” collections, and, I totally get off on between-takes dialogue, outtakes, alternate mixes, etc.

A long-time prayer of mine (since I read Mark Lewisohn’s “The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions” book) was answered by Apple Corps when they included the “Go a bit faster, Ringo!” and “OK, George!” exchange between John and Paul, respectively, with “The Ballad of John And Yoko” in the new “Abbey Road” Super Deluxe Edition.

Yes, I absolutely love the content found in the box set. It truly is thrilling to listen to, and, I am grateful it has been made available.

Box set producer Giles Martin, son of Sir George Martin. (Photo: Alex Lake)

Yet, I do not believe that Apple, Giles Martin and Sam Okell deserve an automatic pat on the back.

True, it’s incredible to listen to this “Abbey Road” material, and, yes, it sounds fantastic. The sound quality is undeniably superb. But, I feel that the quantity of “sessions” material is lacking.

Overall, regarding content for price, I’d rate the “Abbey Road” Super Deluxe Edition as being good, but not great.   Despite the wonderful material, it’s disappointing.

I believe that the Super Deluxe Edition could have, and should have, been much better. I really think that this was a missed opportunity.

For the White Album Super Deluxe Edition box set, we got two CDs for the album itself, a CD with the Esher demos (which clocked in at a healthy 75:22), and three CDs of sessions material, with those discs clocking in at 52:03, 50:49 and 55:34, respectively. Note that those three sessions CDs could have fit comfortably onto two CDs. So, while I loved what I heard, I just wanted more of it.

For me, this time around, it’s the same story. But, it’s worse.

The “Abbey Road” box has the remixed album on CD1, and CD2 and CD3 give us sessions material. Those two discs clock in at 43:47 and 42:16, respectively, with their combined time being a paltry 86:03; that is just 6 minutes beyond the capacity of a single CD!

Sorry, but that is chintzy and skimpy. Apple at least should have maxed out those two sessions discs.  We could/should have been given an additional 74 minutes (or so) of alternates.

Box sets by other artists are far more generous with content quantity.

Beatles fans are willing to pay for what they want.

Just so you don’t get the wrong idea, The Beatles are one thing that I truly don’t mind throwing my money away on! However, I do mind feeling that I am being short-changed. It shows a lack of respect for Beatle fans.

Here is one way to look at it:

If you buy the “Abbey Road” Deluxe Edition  (the 2-CD set), you get a CD2 (basically an alternate “Abbey Road”) that has sessions content totaling 51:53, which is drawn from the two sessions CDs included with Super Deluxe Edition box set.

The only content exclusive to the Super Deluxe Edition that purchasers of the Deluxe Edition are missing is:

  • Seven tracks that clock in at just over 34 minutes (half of that is “The Long One,”, which is fantastic, of course!)
  • The book (which is beautiful)

The Deluxe Edition currently is selling for about $20, while the Super Deluxe Edition’s price is about $85.

Is the latter actually worth the difference in cost? Are those seven extra tracks plus the book worth the extra $65?

Please don’t get me wrong: I am not saying that fans should not purchase the Super Deluxe Edition. It clearly is a must-buy for any Beatles fan, and, there was absolutely no way that I would not have bought this new release!

The point that I am trying to make is that the Super Deluxe Edition could have been much better. It could have been great.

It makes you wonder: Does Apple have a self-imposed policy/rule where only one alternate version of a particular song can be given to us in a box set?

It sure seems that way. (Yes, I realize there are a few exceptions in this new box.)

In that light, here are some examples of what I am complaining about:

Working on the album that became “Abbey Road.”

“I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” is a hybrid fabrication that combines a Trident Studios take with a later reduction mix. Why not just give us a Trident Studios version plus the reduction mix? (Note: My own rule is this: authentic, nonfabricated takes of songs are always preferable.)

I love having the complete George Harrison demo of “Something” (since the “Anthology 3” version mixed out the piano), but I don’t think that it should have been used as the alternate representation of the song. The Feb. 25, 1969, demo is George’s one-man-band demo of the song. The box set also should have included a full-band take of “Something,” such as Take 37 (without the later-overdubbed orchestration), which evolves into a (OK, not so great) jam, a take that has been bootlegged for decades (albeit in mono and minus the jam).

Ringo’s “Octopus’s Garden” was shortchanged on this release. What we get is a partial take that, while it clocks in at 1:43, actually has only 1:10 of music before it breaks down after Ringo messes up the lyrics. I do like this version, but, why not also give us a later complete take, such as the one that’s been bootlegged for decades (again, only in mono), which has a single-tracked lead vocal and no backing vocals or sound effects yet in place?

Over the past 10 years, as a consequence of the release of Rock Band, many creative Beatles fans have made available, via the Internet, their own alternate mixes of “Abbey Road” songs. Some sound very close to the original mixes, while some do not. The latter mixes could have been used as a guideline to provide us with other ways to hear — and, better appreciate — the music of “Abbey Road.” And, since Apple created the Rock Band Beatles mixes itself by providing discrete channels (i.e., they have the raw material that the mixes are derived from), they easily could have mimicked or even outdone those creative folks on the Internet.

For example, the box could have an instrumental mix of “Here Comes the Sun” that allows Harrison’s Moog playing to be heard clearly, and, its subtlety more appreciated. (I would have loved an instrumental “Abbey Road” CD in the new box set!)

It also could have included a mix of “Here Comes the Sun” with only acoustic guitars and vocals; a stripped-down mix of “Something,” with, say, just the vocals and Paul McCartney’s great bass guitar; an instrumental version of the complete Side 2 medley; a vocals-only version of the medley; a vocals and piano version of “You Never Give Me Your Money”; a mix of “Oh! Darling” with vocals, bass, and drums only; perhaps even some session highlights blocks for a few songs, as in the “Pet Sounds” and “Smile” box sets.

There are many other possibilities but, then again, I’m not looking for that much more. I’m not looking for something akin to a Bob Dylan “Bootleg Series” volume where every possible take for every song is represented. That would be overkill, and not commercially viable.

My expectation was simply this: The sessions CDs would be maxed out at close to 80 minutes. What we were given is not even close to that!

What gives, Apple? Do you think that was generous? It isn’t!

I am sure that some people reading this will dismiss it by playing the old some-people-are-never-satisfied card. But, I really don’t think what I’ve suggested above is that unreasonable.

My expectations were simple: If you’re going to give us two sessions CDs, you should fill them up.

Yes, I am grateful to be given the opportunity to hear these “Abbey Road” alternates and outtakes.

But, seriously, we get two sessions CDs that are each just a notch over being half full?

Other artists routinely seem to be able to max out their box set CDs’ contents. Why not The Beatles?

Mike Edsall is hoping for better decisions with the “Let It Be” anniversary reissue.

Surely, there must’ve been additional — and very worthy — material available for the sessions CDs in the Super Deluxe Edition box.

I am hoping that Apple will do a better — and a more complete — job with the (likely) upcoming “Let It Be” box set.

At a minimum, that set should include the Glyn Johns “Get Back” album, which was scheduled for release in July/August 1969, and actually was announced to the media. Not a single note should be changed on it! “Get Back” also doesn’t need to be remixed; just give it to us as it is!

(Many of us have had the “Get Back” album on bootleg for three-plus decades. That iteration of the album was detailed by Mal Evans in the July, 1969, issue of Beatles Monthly, and then reviewed by Frederick James (aka Tony Barrow) in the August, 1969, issue of the same magazine. That version of the album is the only legitimate version, and should be included in a box set.)

Another item that’s a must for the box set is Ethan Russell’s “Get Back” photograph book, which was included in the original U.K. boxed edition of the “Let It Be” album in 1970.

I think we all realize that the “Abbey Road” Super Deluxe Edition box is intended to be the definitive representation of the album.  While I love the sessions material that’s included, I just don’t think we were given enough of it.

I am keeping my fingers crossed for a great “Let It Be” Super Deluxe Edition.

Mike Edsall

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Seeing McCartney Up Close at the Garden Remains a Thrilling Memory

Beatlefan Publisher Bill King looks back at Paul’s 1989 return to touring. …

Robbie McIntosh was lead guitarist in Paul McCartney’s 1989-90 tour band. (MPL)

As I write this, I’ve spent the evening trading memories with my brother Tim and my buddy Al Sussman about where we were 30 years ago Wednesday night.

Unlike most dates three decades in the past, Dec. 11, 1989, is easy to recall, because we were attending the first New York City show of Paul McCartney’s first world tour in 13 years.

Paul had opened his first post-Wings tour in late September in Norway, and a mini-leg in North America, stretching from Nov. 23 to Dec. 15, saw him doing 14 shows in Los Angeles, Chicago, Toronto, Montreal and NYC.

Macca opened a four-show stand at the Garden on Dec. 11, 1989.

Macca, who was 47 at the time, was backed by a band that included lead guitarist Robbie McIntosh (formerly of The Pretenders), guitarist-bassist Hamish Stuart (of Average White Band), drummer Chris Whitten (who later toured with Dire Straits), keyboard wiz Paul “Wix” Wickens (still a mainstay of Paul’s shows 30 years later) and wife Linda, also on keyboards (usually introduced by her husband as “Gertrude Higgins!”).

Ostensibly, the tour was to promote McCartney’s “Flowers in the Dirt” album, though it didn’t get underway until several months after the LP had been issued. And, most of the buzz about the tour concerned him leaving behind his Wings era reluctance to do Beatles songs. Eighteen of the 32 songs Paul did at the Garden were from his Fab Four days.

After a relatively quiet 1980s, the Paul McCartney World Tour was quite the “comeback” for Macca. It also set a new standard for major-act tours. As Beatlefan Senior Editor Brad Hundt, who saw Paul in Chicago in early December, recalled, “He sure pulled out all the stops with that tour — the free programs, the opening film, the press conferences in almost every market. And, while we take it for granted now that he plays lots of Beatles songs, it’s easy to forget what a thrill it was that half the show consisted of Beatles songs. Plus, he brought back the Hofner bass!”

In fact, the Hofner, which Paul had not played in concert since The Beatles, took on positively iconic status in the 1989-90 show.

Concertgoers were given a free tour program on the Paul McCartney World Tour.

Looking back from today, when touring acts seem determined to pry every last dime from concertgoers’ pockets, those attending the 1989-90 McCartney tour were greeted by a lavish, free 100-page program waiting in their seats. And Paul used the tour as a way to spread a pro-ecology message, as the group Friends of the Earth was on hand at all the stops.

Oh, and tickets to the New York shows were just $28.50, no matter where you sat. The Garden’s 18,000 seats per concert (with no seats sold behind the stage) were all snapped up in hours. We managed to get upper level seats (what Al called “blue heaven”) for the Dec. 14 show through the public sale, but those also were the days when McCartney took special care of his fans, and so it was through the Fun Club that we obtained seats on the floor for the Dec. 11 concert.

I recall there was some problem (with the show setup) that prevented us from sitting in our original Fun Club seats that first night, so they moved us forward to even better seats! We ended up on about the fifth or sixth row, center.

Considering that, up to that time, I’d only seen Paul in concert twice (with Wings) in Atlanta, and we’d had seats so far from the stage that we had to use binoculars, the up-close Fun Club seats made that first 1989 show I saw something special.

While I think the show and the band improved markedly over the ensuing eight months of the world tour, the thrill of that first night would still rank it among my top two or three shows.

I knew Macca had a winner midway through the first show when I glanced to my left and saw my brother up on his feet, waving his fists above his head and shouting himself hoarse. He’d come with me really just for a holiday in New York, with the McCartney concerts a nice bonus for him. (We’d come up from Atlanta a couple of days earlier and soaked in Christmas season in the Big Apple.)

After the concert, though, Tim, who was just a casual Beatles-McCartney fan, offered this unsolicited opinion: “That was a terrific show!”

The preshow film put together by Dick Lester of “A Hard Day’s Night” fame wasn’t all that great — it was mainly a quick retrospective of Paul’s Beatles and solo years,  winding up with 1989 with footage of the spring rebellion in China (footage of a lone student facing off with a tank drew cheers) and the aftermath of the Valdez oil spill. Then, as a synthesizer started droning, the word “NOW” appeared, and the screens filled with footage of the band wearing their dark military-style tour jackets (embroidered with the tour’s end-of-the-Cold-War flower-and-sickle emblem) as the actual band members appeared from stage right.

The set list for the 1989 Garden shows went like this: “Figure of Eight,” “Jet,” “Rough Ride,” “Got to Get You Into My Life,” “Band on the Run,” “Ebony and Ivory” (with Stuart doing the Stevie Wonder parts), “We Got Married,” “Maybe I’m Amazed,” “The Long and Winding Road,” “The Fool on the Hill,” “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (with Reprise),” “Good Day Sunshine,” “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Put It There,” “Hello, Goodbye,” “Things We Said Today,” “Eleanor Rigby,” “This One,” “My Brave Face,” “Back in the USSR,” “I Saw Her Standing There,” “Twenty Flight Rock,” “Coming Up,” “Let It Be,” “Ain’t That a Shame,” “Live and Let Die,” “Hey Jude,” and, for the encore: “Yesterday,” “Get Back” and the “Abbey Road” medley of “Golden Slumbers,” “Carry That Weight” and “The End” (possibly the most perfect concert-ending song ever).

Although critics were puzzled by McCartney’s decision to open the show with a song from the “Flowers” album that most of those in attendance didn’t know, instead of opting for one of his classics, I thought it was an incredibly ballsy move. Hardcore fans could appreciate what a fine number “Figure of Eight” was, and even my brother, who’d never heard it before seeing it in concert, commented on how much he liked the song.

Of the “Flowers” numbers performed on the tour, the one most improved from the album version was “We Got Married.” The playing and staging were first-rate, and the song benefitted from the harder edge it got in concert. McIntosh did a superb job on the lead guitar solos, as he did throughout every show I saw. It’s noteworthy that, while Stuart and McIntosh both wore the now-standard wireless guitar hookups, then coming into vogue, Macca was still plugged into his amp with an old-fashioned cord!

The 1989 band: Paul “Wix” Wickens, Chris Whitten, Linda and Paul McCartney, Robbie McIntosh and Hamish Stuart.

A humorous new wrinkle added the first night at the Garden (and repeated the next night) had Macca and Hamish huddling at one end of the stage while Robbie was playing his guitar solo in “We Got Married” at the other end. Suddenly, they ran together across the stage, sliding to a halt on their knees at McIntosh’s feet, and McCartney gingerly reached up in mock awe and touched the guitarist on the sleeve.

In general, the 1989-90 band could run rings around any of the Wings lineups, and the addition of keyboard wizard Wix made the group much more versatile.

I think the fact that McCartney obviously enjoyed playing with this band enhanced the audience’s enjoyment. The horseplay of the guitarists and the silly grins and jokes exchanged by Macca and Stuart as they shared a mic contributed a feeling of unity, and an intimacy, to the presentation.

Despite McCartney’s often corny introductions, it was a well-staged show. Some might have thought the rising piano in “Fool on the Hill” to be a bit of cheap stagecraft, but, truth be told, it’s the same as a line of dancers kicking in unison, or an ice-skater doing a spin  — an unnecessary frill that nevertheless is a sure-fire crowd-pleaser.

I was amused that one of the NYC critics reviewing that first Garden show complained about the bringing up of the house lights during “Can’t Buy Me Love.” He obviously didn’t understand what was going on between McCartney and his audience — the singalong of that tune provided an unabashedly joyous moment of nostalgia. And, if much of the evening was about sharing warm memories, that moment when we could all see each other dancing and singing along had to be the pinnacle.

At the show’s end, someone up front gave McCartney a dozen roses, and he reached into his pocket and pulled out a guitar pick, which he gave to them in return. Whitten came out and threw four drumsticks to the crowd. McCartney headed offstage, then stopped, and, as an afterthought, looked around for something else to give away, grabbed one of his towels, and threw it into the audience.

We later learned that Dick Lester was backstage before the Dec. 11 show, which was preceded by a charity dinner. The charity crowd also attended the show, and those folks were obvious on the floor, resplendent in their furs and suits. Among the big names said to be in attendance: Robin Williams, Patty Hearst, Ralph Lauren, Glen Close, Jane Pauley, James Taylor and Paul Stanley. Also, Paul and Linda’s kids Mary, Stella and James were there.

The next day, I attended Macca’s New York press conference, where he said that, because of the charity crowd, he felt he had to work harder that first night.

Paul McCartney did four shows at New York’s Madison Square Garden in December, 1989.

We were back at the Garden three nights after the first performance, and it was still a good show, though the severe angle of our view of the stage, and the fact that we were sitting in the rafters, did diminish the thrill just a bit.

I think it was after that second show that Tim and I decided to walk back from the Garden to our hotel (at 50th and Lexington). At first, there were lots of people walking with us, but gradually the crowd grew thinner and thinner, until we were about the only ones on the street. It was after midnight, starting to snow, and we were regretting our decision to walk. Luckily, a taxi came down a side street just then, and we hailed it and took it back!

The Paul McCartney World Tour would continue until mid-1990, encompassing 104 concerts in 13 countries. I saw 11 shows on that tour, starting with the two at Madison Square Garden and winding up at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh in July. In between, I also saw Paul perform in London, Atlanta, Miami and Philly.

I think one of the most impressive things about the 1989-90 tour was that Macca and his band put on a show that you could see time after time and not get tired of, despite a song list that changed little, and McCartney’s rather canned stage patter, which varied hardly a word from one night to another.

Of course, hardcore fans can be expected to see show after show without losing their enthusiasm, but even Tim seemed to enjoy his fourth concert on that tour as much as he did his first.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

‘What’s My Name’: Previewing Ringo’s Latest Homespun Album

Bill King takes an advance look at Ringo Starr’s new album release …

Ringo’s new album.

Ringo’s “What’s My Name,” due out Oct. 25 (but made available digitally in advance for review), is aptly described in the liner notes provided by the record label as “the latest in a series of heartfelt and homespun records that Starr has produced in his home studio” featuring “a distinguished, ever-changing yet often repeating cast of musical characters and friends.”

“What’s My Name” certainly has its worthwhile moments, and at least three high points that stand out, but, overall, it isn’t as good an album as his previous two releases, 2015’s “Postcards From Paradise” and 2017’s “Give More Love.”

That’s mainly because there’s not as much variety in its musical stylings. I had been encouraged by Ringo’s foray into a bluesier sound last time, along with the inclusion of a straight-out country number on “Give More Love,” but the new album is all pretty much standard post-Mark Hudson Ringo, very reminiscent of the previous self-produced work he’s done with engineer Bruce Sugar since 2010.

Paul and Ringo with Nancy and Barbara.

Most of the advance publicity about the album has centered on him teaming up with Paul McCartney to record the 1980 John Lennon demo “Grow Old With Me,” and this new version of the love song, inspired by the poetry of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, certainly is the album’s best track. It features a string arrangement by former Lennon producer Jack Douglas and Daniel Cole that differs from the orchestration George Martin did at Yoko Ono’s request for the 1998 “John Lennon Anthology.” Ringo’s brother-in-law, Joe Walsh, also provides stylish guitar. And, McCartney contributes some tasty bass (you couldn’t mistake those fills for any other bassist). But, if you were expecting Paul to share the vocal with Ringo, you will be disappointed. His backing vocals on the middle break, and the final “God bless our love,” are so understated  that you probably wouldn’t notice them if you didn’t know he was on the track.

Lifted from the album as the second digital single, “Grow Old With Me” has a charming video that utilizes Lennon’s handwritten lyrics.

The two other strongest tracks on the album are the upbeat numbers “Magic” (written with longtime All Starr Band member Steve Lukather) and “Thank God for Music” (written with freelance producer-writer Sam Hollander, a newcomer to Ringo’s musical posse). The very nicely arranged “Magic” has distinctive piano chords, a fine guitar solo by Lukather, and a very catchy chorus. “Thank God for Music” is a high-energy track that makes great use of the female backing vocalists that Ringo likes so much these days, and harks back to the “Ringo” era in its sound. It’s also the closest Ringo comes to his usual autobiographical number on this album, with its “from Liverpool to L.A.” lyric.

Ringo in concert in Los Angeles. (Photo by Bob Gannon)

Not quite as memorable, but in the album’s second tier of pretty good songs, are the simple, midtempo restatement of Ringo’s positive philosophy, “Life Is Good” (inspired by a T-shirt company Ringo has teamed up with for a fundraiser), and the album’s other overt message song, “Send Love Spread Peace,” which has another catchy chorus, and benefits from the organ playing by Benmont Tench of Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers.

Pleasant, but not very memorable, are “It’s Not Love That You Want,” a typical latterday Ringo number cowritten with Dave Stewart, and “Better Days,” an upbeat, horn-backed rocker contributed by Hollander.

However, the remake of the Motown classic “Money (That’s What I Want),” which Lennon sang when The Beatles covered it, is a misfire, due to the rather heavy-handed autotuning of Ringo’s vocal throughout. I realize they were trying to come up with a different approach for a very familiar and oft-done number, but it doesn’t really work.

Ringo in a recent New York concert appearance. (Photo by Bob Gannon)

And, the weakest tracks, unfortunately, are the album opener (“Got to Get Up to Get Down,” done with Joe Walsh and Edgar Winter, and featuring Joe handling a couple of the verses, along with more vocal processing) and the closing title song, lifted as the first digital single. The latter is a sort of rock ’n’ roll travelogue  written by frequent All Starr Colin Hay and featuring the timeworn concert audience bit (“What’s my name? RINGO!”). Both tracks rock convincingly, but there’s not much else to them. Just lyrics shouted out to pounding drums and squalling guitars.

Overall, I agree with Beatlefan Senior Editor Brad Hundt, who said recently he thinks it’s time for Ringo to shake up the format of his albums, bring in an outside producer (or several producers, like on “Time Takes Time”), or do that country album he’s long been talking about.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed most of Ringo’s self-produced work, but much of it is starting to sound the same. It’s time to turn the page.

Bill King

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Exclusive: Track Listing and Credits for Ringo’s Upcoming ‘What’s My Name’ Album

Beatlefan has learned advance details on Ringo Starr’s forthcoming album.

Paul McCartney joins Ringo on “Grow Old With Me” on the new album. (Photo: Variety)

Ringo Starr’s new album will be released Oct. 25, as Beatlefan previously reported, and is titled “What’s My Name,” according to two informed sources.

The sources also confirmed that the track listing we published Aug. 26 on SOMETHING NEW: The Beatlefan Blog was correct, with one minor difference in one title.

Ringo at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo: Bob Gannon)

The album was recorded at Ringo’s Roccabella West Studio (in the guest house behind Starr’s Beverly Hills home) and at United Recording Studios in Hollywood. It was produced by Ringo and recorded, mixed and edited in Pro Tools by Bruce Sugar. The sources also confirmed the album participants previously reported by Beatlefan: Paul McCartney, current All Starr Band members Steve Lukather and Colin Hay, Joe Walsh and Dave Stewart.

Here’s a rundown on the album’s tracks:

“Gotta Get Up” (previously reported by the working title “Got to Get Up to Get Down”), written by Ringo and his brother-in-law, Walsh. The track features Ringo on drums and vocals; Walsh on guitar and vocals; Edgar Winter on clavinet, synthesizer and vocals; Nathan East on bass, Sugar on synthesizer and backing vocals by Richard Page, Warren Ham (of the current All Starr Band), Windy Wagner and Kari Kimmel.

“It’s Not Love That You Want,” written by Ringo and frequent collaborator Dave Stewart. Ringo provides drums, percussion and vocals; Stewart plays guitar; East is on bass; Jim Cox plays piano; Benmont Tench (of the Heartbreakers) plays clavinet; Sugar provides synth horns; and background vocalists on the track are Wagner and Amy Keys. Ned Douglas provided additional engineering.

Ringo’s new album is a mixture of original tunes and cover versions. (Photo: Bob Gannon)

“Grow Old With Me.” This is indeed a cover of the John Lennon song, and it is slated to be the first single lifted from the album. Ringo is on drums and vocals, McCartney is on bass and background vocals, Walsh plays guitar, Cox is on piano and Allison Lovejoy plays accordion. There’s also a string quartet on the track: Rhea Fowler and Bianca McClure on violin, Lauren Baba on viola and Isiaiah Gage on cello. The string arrangement is by former Lennon producer Jack Douglas and Daniel Cole. The assistant engineer on the string session was Wesley Seidman.

“Magic,” written by Ringo and Lukather. Ringo provides drums, percussion and vocals; Lukather is on guitar and piano; John Pierce plays bass; Sugar plays synthesizer; and the backing vocalists are Page, Ham, Wagner and Kimmel.

“Money,” by Berry Gordy and Janie Bradford. This is a cover of the very first Motown hit, which The Beatles also covered. Ringo is on drums, percussion and vocals; Lukather plays guitar; East provides bass; Sugar plays piano, organ and synth; and the backing vocalists are Maxine Waters and Julia Waters.

“Better Days,” written by Sam Hollander, an American songwriter who has written and/or produced hits for the likes of Fitz and the Tantrums, Panic! at the Disco, Train, Weezer and One Direction. Ringo is on drums, percussion and vocals; Grant Michaels plays piano; Peter Levin is on organ; Kaveh Rastegar plays bass; Pete Min is on guitar; James King plays horns; and backing vocalists are Zelma Davis and Garen Gueyikian. Ringo and Hollander produced the track.

Ringo’s “What’s My Name” is titled after his frequent question from the stage during concerts. (Photo: Bob Gannon)

“Life Is Good,” written by Ringo and Gary Burr, who was a member of Ringo’s side band, the Roundheads. Ringo is on drums, percussion and vocals; Lukather plays guitar; East is on bass; Tench plays organ; Sugar plays synthesizer; and the backing vocals are provided by Page, Ham, Wagner and Kimmel.

“Thank God for Music,” written by Ringo and Hollander. Ringo is on drums, percussion and vocals; Lukather is on guitar; Cox on synth bass, piano and organ; Sugar on synth voice pad; and Maxine Waters and Julia Waters provide backing vocals.

“Send Love, Spread Peace,” written by Ringo and Gary Nicholson, another frequent collaborator, going back to “Never Without You” and on through “Shake It Up” on Ringo’s last album, “Give More Love.” Ringo is on drums, percussion and vocals; Steve Dudas (also of Ringo’s Roundheads) on guitar, East on bass; Tench on organ and piano; and Wagner and Keys on backing vocals.

“What’s My Name,” written by Colin Hay of Men at Work fame and a current All Starr Band member, takes its title from Ringo’s frequent question from the stage to concert audiences. Ringo is on drums, percussion and vocals; Hay provides guitar and backing vocals; Lukather is on guitar; East plays bass. Ham is on harmonica; and the backing vocalists are Maxine Waters and Julia Waters.

As for how the album sounds, he’s not exactly an objective source, but Lukather recently tweeted: “Ringo’s new record is a killer.”

— Bill King

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Ringo Rumor: New Album features Macca, Walsh, More

Unconfirmed reports indicate that a new Ringo Starr studio album, possibly titled “What’s My Name,” is due for release Oct. 25. 

Ringo winds up his 30th anniversary All Starr Band tour Sept. 1 at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles.

Guest performers on the new album are said to include Paul McCartney, current All Starr Band members Steve Lukather and Colin Hay, Ringo’s brother-in-law Joe Walsh and frequent collaborator Dave Stewart.

Here’s an unconfirmed track listing that is circulating: “Got to Get Up to Get Down,” “It’s Not Love That You Want,” “Grow Old With Me,” “Magic,” “Money,” “Better Days,” “Life Is Good,” “Thank God for Music,” “Send Love, Spread Peace” and “What’s My Name.”

Meanwhile, Beatlefan London Editor Simon Rogers and reader Bart van der Loojj report that Jack Douglas said during International Beatleweek in Liverpool on Sunday that he produced the lead single off Ringo’s new album, featuring Paul and Ringo sharing vocals. Douglas added it was sensational. Van der Looij added that Douglas said Walsh is on the new single. Paul also is said to play bass on the track, according to another source. It hasn’t been confirmed, but speculation is centering on the track being John Lennon’s “Grow Old With Me.” (See clarification from Douglas below on his role in the track.)

Ringo joined Paul onstage at Dodger Stadium in July, prompting speculation Paul will return the favor for the All Starrs’ tour closer. (Photo: Variety)

Also, as was reported in Beatlefan #239, a reunion of the living former members of the All Starr Band is planned for the finale of Ringo’s show Sept. 1 at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, which will mark the 30th anniversary of the All Starr Band. Ringo already confirmed to our Peter Palmiere at his birthday celebration that Nils Lofgren is on the list of those expected to attend, and he said he’s trying to get as many All Starrs as possible, though he declined to confirm any other names.

ASB musical director Mark Rivera reportedly is flying in from New York City for a closed rehearsal planned for the day before the show. The last time they did a closed rehearsal like that was before Ringo’s 70th birthday, when the surprise onstage guest was McCartney. Ever since Ringo joined Paul onstage for his tour closer at Dodger Stadium July 14, there’s been widespread speculation that Macca will return the favor. (See update below.)

They both also are expected to attend a press launch for the “Abbey Road” 50th anniversary edition in London, sometime in September.

UPDATE: Tom Frangione reports the “With a Little Help From My Friends” finale at the Greek Theatre show featured just a few former All Starrs: Lofgren, Walsh, Richard Page, Wally Palmar, Edgar Winter, Eric Carmen and Jim Keltner. No McCartney.

UPDATE 2: In case you haven’t checked the comments below, one has been posted by Jack Douglas that says: “I did not say I produced Ringo’s track. I did say I was a part of the track. How I was involved will be clear when the track is released. Ringo produces his own stuff and does an excellent job of it.”

— Bill King

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What we’re hearing about ‘Abbey Road’

Unconfirmed details of the upcoming 50th anniversary “Abbey Road” set are showing up on social media. Here, from a knowledgeable source in direct contact with Apple Corps, is what Beatlefan has heard: 

At this time, the “Abbey Road” 50th anniversary set is 3 cds and a Blu-ray. The first disc is the remix, the second CD is alternate versions in order (with “Her Majesty” in its original spot) and a third disc of tidbits and associated songs from the time period.

Our source heard the first run-thru of “I Want You” from Feb. 15, 1969, at Trident Studios and said it was “haunting.” The 5.1 surround mix has the “Because” vocals-only, as well as the separated vocals from “Come Together” (which finally settle that is is indeed Paul on backing vocals).

For the book, Paul has contributed 80 “never before seen” photos by Linda from the studio sessions, and Kevin Howlett has done the majority of the writing.

At this point, both Paul and Ringo are due to attend the Aug. 28 unveiling of the album at Abbey Road’s Studio 2 in London.

UPDATE: The set is due for release Sept. 27. Full details on the Beatlefan Facebook page and in Beatlefan #239.  The gathering in London appears to be set for Sept. 26. At Ringo’s birthday gathering, he said of the 50th anniveray reissue: “We’re going to promote it, of course. I have heard it, the remaster, and it’s great. And we’re having like a get-together, or I’m going to a get-together at EMI in England, in Abbey Road. I think it’s the 26th of September, so if you’re not busy get over there.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Not much can top hearing ‘Mr. Blue Sky’ in concert

There might not have been a Beatle onstage at State Farm Arena, but Bill King reports there was a definite Fab aura surrounding the Atlanta performance by Jeff Lynne’s ELO. …

Jeff Lynne and Dhani Harrison onstage in Atlanta. (Photo: Bob Kern)

When it comes to fellow travelers of The Beatles, not many have racked up as much mileage as Jeff Lynne.

His work with Electric Light Orchestra obviously was inspired by the latter-day Beatles, to the point where John Lennon once referred to ELO as “sons of The Beatles.”

And, Lynne’s work with ELO led to a set of impeccable Fab Four bona fides: He went on to produce George Harrison’s “Cloud Nine” album and associated tracks, and Lynne joined George in the superstar band known as the Traveling Wilburys. He also ended up producing recordings for Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, and was producer of The Beatles’ reunion tracks, “Free As a Bird” and “Real Love” in the mid-1990s.

Lynne hasn’t changed his shaggy-hair-and-shades look in decades. (Photo: Bob Kern)

After Harrison’s death, Lynne joined George’s son Dhani (pronounced “Danny”) in finishing off the posthumous “Brainwashed” album. So, it wasn’t a surprise earlier this year when it was announced that Dhani would be the opening act on the 2019 tour by what’s now known as Jeff Lynne’s ELO.

The tour hit Atlanta’s State Farm Arena July 5, and, even before any of the musicians took the stage, Lynne’s impressive résumé as a producer was highlighted by the PA playing some of the songs he’s overseen, including tracks by Tom Petty (“I Won’t Back Down” and “Learning to Fly,” both of which Jeff co-wrote), Roy Orbison, Harrison (“When We Was Fab”) and even The Beatles’ “Free As a Bird.”

The concert was Lynne’s first in the city since a show by the original Electric Light Orchestra in 1981 that I reviewed for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The 2019 version lived up to the original and was, as my friend Melissa Ruggieri said in her AJC review, a sonic feast.

Dhani Harrison at Atlanta’s State Farm Arena. (Photo: Bob Kern)

First up was a 40-minute opening set of psychedelic rock from Dhani, George’s look-alike/sound-alike son. It was intense guitar-and-synthesizer-driven rock. While most of the music (aside from Dhani’s vocals) didn’t bring his father’s work to mind, the best tune, “All About Waiting,” from his 2017 album “In Parallel,” definitely showed some George influence.

Then came an hour and 45 minutes of ELO. (As Leslie noted, a regular-length concert like this makes you appreciate all the more how unusual McCartney’s nearly 3-hour performances are!)

An ELO selfie taken at the end of the regular set. (Photo: Jeff Lynne’s ELO)

The current incarnation of ELO boasts a baker’s dozen of musicians, including two cellists, a violinist and two backing singers. The 71-year-old Lynne, who hasn’t changed his look in decades, handled most of the lead vocals, though he swapped off the lead with singer-guitarist Iain Hornal on a couple of numbers, and Melanie Lewis-McDonald handled the female solos.

They did a great job reproducing the dense ELO orchestral-rock sound onstage — from the ever-present strings to the keyboards, guitars (Lynne even took the occasional turn playing lead) and those trademark backing harmonies. It all was supplemented by elaborate video effects behind them, screens on either side highlighting the action onstage, and enough light-and-laser effects to make you think you’d flashed back to the 1970s.

Lynne’s show brings home the point that he’s had a phenomenal number of hit records. (Photo: Bob Kern)

The 20-song set, which opened with “Standin’ in the Rain,” mixed smash-hit singles with album tracks. The numbers ranged from “10538 Overture,” from Electric Light Orchestra’s 1972 debut, to “When I Was a Boy” from 2015’s “Alone in the Universe,” and even included “Xanadu,” the movie song Lynne produced for Olivia Newton-John in 1980.

It really brings home the phenomenal number of hits Lynne has had over his career when you hear them performed one after another. High points included “Evil Woman,” “All Over the World,” “Do Ya” and “Livin’ Thing,” which featured violinist Jessie Murphy down front for the distinctive opening solo.

A particular treat was when Lynne (who doesn’t talk much) introduced a song from “my other band” (the Wilburys) and Dhani came out to sing his father’s part on “Handle With Care” (with Hornal handling the Orbison parts).


The entire evening was richly entertaining, but the closing portion of the show rivaled McCartney’s concerts for sheer musical star power: “Sweet Talkin’ Woman” (Leslie’s favorite), “Telephone Line,” “Don’t Bring Me Down,” “Turn to Stone” and (my favorite) “Mr. Blue Sky,” followed by an extended encore of “Roll Over Beethoven.”

I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of a better non-Beatle treat than seeing “Mr. Blue Sky” done live in concert!

All in all, a Fab evening of music.


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments