Segarini: The Beatles Tribute

The Bobcast Bob May 6th 2013 CroppedIf you really want to enjoy this column, I suggest you take the time to read these two first. Written originally in 2010 for FYIMusic, and reprinted here in DBAWIS in April of 2012, these two columns are part of a series called “When Radio and Records Ruled the World”.

Chapters 7 and 8 will help you understand what was going on at the time of the Beatles rise and a bit beyond…and why I was less than thrilled with what the Grammy Organization and CBS did with their legacy last night.

Segarini: When Radio and Records Ruled the World Part 7 – The Invasion Begins…

Segarini: When Radio and Records Ruled the World Part 8 – “Don’t you ever sleep?…and get a haircut!”

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Beatles RegularUnlike 80% of the people who graced the stage last night on CBS’s 50th Anniversary of CBS Discovering the Beatles a Full Year After the Rest of The World Special, I was actually alive and already playing music in a band when the Fab Four/Mop Tops/ Liverpudlian Lads surfaced. First impacting in Northern England and Hamburg Germany, they spread over the rest of the planet from there, a pandemic of music, societal change, and mania, unrivaled before or since.

The Beatles ascension into near-Godhood was aided and abetted by a perfect storm of political upheaval, a stagnant music scene, and a desire on the part of everyone under 30 to feel something other than a mild interest in what had become toned down, cookie-cutter formula driven entertainment, and to be more than a collective voice going unheard by those in power. We were about to go from teenagers to Youth Culture, and to this day, it is the Youth Culture that leads the way…for better…AND…for worse.

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Elvis and FrankThere are not a lot of artists whose music and legacy remains vital beyond their immediate careers. If you think about it, the handful of Classical composers most of us can name check, and whose music is familiar to us, is a miniscule fraction of the composers who were working at the same time. Just as there are only a few Al Jolsons and Fanny Brices, Eddie Cantors and Bing Crosbys, Glenn Millers and Benny Goodmans who always stood out as performers, and writers like Sammy Cahn, Johnny Mercer, and the undeniable Gershwin Brothers, Harold Arlen, and others, whose music is timeless and as engaging and endearing as it always was. A tune by one of these greats sung by Frank Sinatra and played by Nelson Riddle, still sounds as good today as it did when it was fresh…it remains fresh, because it is without a ‘Best Before’ date.

Which brings us to The Beatles.

brianWhere Elvis was the vehicle, The Beatles were both car and driver, as well as engine and wheels, heart and soul. They simply, without trying, changed everything about our culture and our perception of music and the people who make it. They were the tip of an iceberg’s worth of like-minded people who recognized, then elevated their talent to a finely honed, razor sharp organism whose heart still beats today. Even with so many of these people gone, Epstein, Taylor, John, George, The Beatles are as fresh and as unique as they have always been.

That’s what happens when something is built on a solid foundation, years of dues paying, and a team of hard-working, dedicated people.

But even that is not enough.

There is and was a magic to The Beatles music and to the Beatles themselves. A magic so powerful that not only were they the right thing at the right time, they were completely prepared to make the dream a reality. SO powerful was that dream and their total ownership of it, that dam near every boy who saw them on stage or on television or heard them on record or on the radio, began to have the same dream. “If they can do it”, thought the world, “Maybe I can too”…and to this very day, there are still people chasing that dream, even though music has fallen on hard times, and does not mean to this generation, what it has meant before. Wait…let me rephrase that. Music still means a lot to those who care about it enough to seek it out and spread the word when and if, they can find it.

I see signs of a new age of great music infecting the mainstream public again. I can feel it, and I can hear it, and I am not alone in this belief.

My good friend =Ae= pointed out that the Beatles themselves were all born from 1940 through 1943, making them older than Baby Boomers and not Boomers themselves.  And that explained something to me that has always been of interest. The Beatles had depth. And scope. And a sense of what had gone before. That is why their songs were much more than 3 chord exercises’ in mediocrity and teen angst…they had grown up on the previous generations greats, from Johnny Mercer to Little Richard…and it is all there in their music. All there in their songs. Some wag on the Book of Face went on at length today explaining why Led Zeppelin is a MUCH better band than the Beatles ever were.

Bitch, PLEASE!

I haven’t laughed that hard since Drake introduced Nikki Minaj on some Awards show last year as one of the ‘Greatest artists of her generation”. Not to besmirch the hallowed Zeppelins, but really, that is like comparing a lawn chair to a Bentley.

A body of work that contains sooo many fantastic songs and performances deserves not only a tribute, but the respect and investment and research and knowledge to do it justice…which is why the Beatle Tribute the Grammys and CBS constructed to celebrate their 50th year of American acceptance was such a huge, avoidable, disappointment to me.

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The 50th Anniversary of CBS Discovering the Beatles a Full Year After the Rest of The World Special

What I liked and what made me want to throw Oasis out a 30 story window….

One more thing before we go through the show. Why weren’t these the presenters: Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, Eric Burdon, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Gerry Marsden, Graham Nash, Cilla Black, Pete Best, Peter Asher, Chad and Jeremy, David Bowie, Stevie Winwood, Paul Simon, Eric Clapton, Brian Wilson, John Sebastion, Mickey Dolenz, a filmed George Martin, and Barry Gibb, who also could have performed “In My Life as a ballad and brought down the house.

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Maroon 5 “All My Loving”; “Ticket To Ride” I guess it was too much to hope for that CBS would have aired full performances from that February Sullivan Show 50 years ago that caused them to organize this tribute in the first place. Maybe they couldn’t afford the rights. Maybe they weren’t allowed to air them in their entirety. Maybe the 30 or 40 year old Nirvana fan in charge of putting the clips together didn’t give a shit. We’ll probably never know. What most of us DO know are the 100s of other artists available who would have been a better choice than Maroon 5 to mimic the original.

Personally, I would have opted for the Vinyl Kings opening the show with this…but I will bet EVERYTHING I own, the Powers That Be have never heard of them OR this. Listen to the words…

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John Mayer & Keith Urban: “Don’t Let Me Down” It would have been nice if they had rehearsed the guitar parts a little more, they were sloppy. And really? Another pairing decided by a dart board and a bottle of tequila? If you’re going to do this song, give it some weight…say, a duet with Stevie Winwood and Eric Burdon or Steven Tyler on 5 instead of 11. If you have to go with the kids, I would have picked Bruno Mars and Jake Bugg. Check out Charlie’s version….

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Ed Sheeran: “In My Life” Too fast, too uncomfortable, too bad, he has a nice voice. Here’s what I would have loved to have heard. Hear that? That’s passion and a genuine love for the song….

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Imagine Dragons: “Revolution” Let me know when John stops spinning. Did anyone not hear the anger, passion and frustration Lennon imbued this song with? Jeebus, Mother and Mary, this is not a tune for little leaugers. Hello? They coulda called these guys….

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Stevie Wonder: “We Can Work It Out” Nice to see Stevie is eating well these days, and still being dressed by a prankster, but dammit, when did he forget the melody to this, one of the Beatles bestest ever songs? Soooo disappointed, I was expecting him to show us how it’s done, instead, he showed us how it isn’t.  There are guys in a fucking pizza parlour in Utah doing it better. Don’t believe me?

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Alicia Keys & John Legend: “Let It Be” Too bad Ray Charles is no longer available…or Marvin Gaye…or someone who could do this song justice. Oh…wait…there has to be someone who can give this more than a Jim Nabors reading featuring Tenille…there just MUST be.

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Katy Perry: “Yesterday” Uhhh…no. Is she dating one of the producers? I mean, I LIKE Ms. Perry. She’s perky and fun and a decent pop singer, but this is Yesterday and deserves some gravitas. She sings ‘yesterday’ and I see her playing with her My Little Pony or Hello Kitty knapsack….and not my little pony, the toy My Little Pony.  Don’t even know if I would have included this song in the show anyway, it’s been done to death, would have much rather heard another of The Beatles’ devastating ballads.  Carrie’s version is much better, but she did it at last years Emmy awards…still her phrasing and connection to the lyric is wonderful.

Of course, this would have been nice…if you’re going to change the melody, make it your own and put the passion in.

..but here’s the thing. They trotted him out to present something on the Grammys, so I know they have his phone number, but how could they not be aware of this? Watch this, I’m going to go punch Noel Gallagher.

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Eurythmics: “The Fool On The Hill” Why? I mean, it was good to see them together on stage, but really, it would be cool to hear “Here Comes the Rain” again, but no…Annie’s phrasing was just not right for this song, and Stewart might as well have been  promotional life-size carboard cutout like the ones they used in record stores (remember those?). Also, Annie looked like a Mercury 7 capsule in that dress…or was it a full body tin-foil hat? I am confused.

Here’s a version of this song performed by a group who appreciated the musicality of this piece and embellished it as only learned musicians can. Brian Wilson was of this mind, and the Beach Boys took the harmonies of the Four Freshmen into the future. We have forgotten so much.

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Dave Grohl & Jeff Lynne: “Hey Bulldog” I thought Grohl’s ntroduction to this was sweet and heartfelt, but he is becoming the center square in today’s Hollywood Squares celebrity landscape. Take your adorable family to Disneyland, Dude…we won’t forget you. That said, in my opinion one of the lamest Beatles rock and roll songs, but like Grohl said, he learned to play it when he was a kid. Exactly my point. I would have rather heard “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide (Except for Me and My Monkey)”, or “Daytripper”, or “Drive My Car”, or “Paperback Writer”.  Or Paul, Ringo, Micky, Mike, and Peter doing this….

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Brad Paisley & Pharrell Williams w/The Beatles LOVE by Cirque du Soleil: “Here Comes The Sun” Such a lovely song, A passable performance, but then, again, NO connective tissue. They had NO feeling for or understanding of what they were performing. That disconnect was felt all night. Except with the next two gentlemen. Before we get to that, try this on….

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Jeff Lynne & Joe Walsh: “Something”

They came on early in the show for this and I was just on my way to the kitchen to get a beer out of the fridge and they stopped me in my tracks. I got goosebumps on my arms and a tear in my eye, not just because of the song (which would have been nice with James Taylor added singing lead with Jeff), but the look of joy on Joe’s face, and the playful reverence with which they played the song. I wouldn’t get another moment like that until they came back later in the show to perform “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”  again with Dani Harrison. Still…where was Eric?

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Gary Clark Jr., Dave Grohl & Joe Walsh: “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” The same love the Grammy people have for John Legend, they seem to have for Gary Clark Jr. I do not share the love, and every time I see him he just proves he is not ready for the bigs yet. There are 100 better guitar/singers within 20 miles of where I’m sitting…and that said, how cool would it have been for Clapton to walk on stage unannounced to play the solos in “Something” and this?

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The moment we were all waiting for. The surviving Beatles taking the stage separately and together. Would it be wonderful? Would it be emotionally as well as musically felt throughout the land? Would seats and tears be wet? Would it be about the depth of music…or nostalgia?

It was…nostalgia..

After being denied Beatle songs performed by dedicated contemporaries like Rival Sons, Vintage Trouble, Jake Bugg, and Bruno Mars, we get the Casino-ready stylings of the same old chestnuts they always roll out at these things. Like Classic Rock radio, the Tributes forget why we really loved these artists, and stick with the hits…Just. The. Hits. Meh….

Ringo Starr: “Matchbox,” “Boys,” “Yellow Submarine” Okay, I am IN for Matchbox and Boys, but I would LOVE to hear “Act Naturally” “Don’t Pass Me By”, What Goes On”, and “I Wanna Be Your Man”, sometime before Richie joins John and George, that last one especially if the Stones would have walked on and done it with him. That said…it is always a pleasure to see Ringo. He IS the Beatles, and never faltered from them in the years since they ceased to be. A fantastic drummer, and still, to this day, the heart and soul of what made The Beatles great.

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Paul McCartney: “I Saw Her Standing There,” “Get Back,” “Birthday” Dear Paul, you wrote a lot of songs, why don’t you learn some of them? Maybe the people who pay him to play tell him to stick with what the people want. Maybe he believes it too. I don’t know…but I DO know that I would love to hear Martha My Dear, Blackbird, Penny Lane, Michelle, I’m Looking Through You, It’s Only Love, Nowhere Man, Here There and Everywhere, I’ll Be Back…shit…I could go on for hours, but you get my drift.

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All-Star Finale: “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” “With A Little Help From My Friends,” “Hey Jude.”

Enough, already. I didn’t mind hearing these songs, they were contextually fitting and very well done., but Hey Jude should be taken out back and either put to pasture or to sleep. The absolute PERFECT ending to this tribute would have been the one song in my top 100 songs I will never get tired of hearing, the ONLY Beatle song in there. I loved the Beatles, the were a HUGE influence on me to write better, play better, sing better, and BE better. They launched my entire desire to improve and evolve with everything I did. I have much to thank them for. We all do. I am saddened by their legacy being more nostalgic than musically stimulating, I am sorry that the lessons learned from their evolution from a rock and roll, 3 chord fueled bar band to the epitome of what 4 boys, a dream, and a few musical instruments can accomplish, to a touchstone to our youth and the past, listened to, to remind us that we mattered at one time, analyzed by the youth of today without any sense of history, and generally looked upon as a relic from ancient times whose biggest worth is the soundtrack of our childhoods, when the air was cleaner, the colours were brighter, the food more delicious and we were immortal. The Beatles ended, but their music did not, and it is as great today as it was when they first shared it with us, and this song is that moment for me. When we turned out the lights and closed the door behind us. It made me cry when I first heard it, and it makes me cry now. It personifies what we have lost and at the same time, gives us hope we will feel that way again. The video is backwards because the people who OWN this music (What a fucking joke) covet that which they BOUGHT, not CREATED. They are everything wrong with the world.

The Beatles were everything right about it.

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Segarini’s regular column appears here every Friday

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS ButtonBob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, and The Segarini Band and nominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late Great Movies” on CITY TV, was a producer of Much Music, and an on-air personality on CHUM FM, Q107, SIRIUS Sat/Rad’s Iceberg 95, (now 85), and now publishes, edits, and writes for DBAWIS, osts The Bobcast every Monday night at Cherry Cola’s, and continues to write music, make music, and record.

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5 Responses to “Segarini: The Beatles Tribute”

  1. Doug Thompson Says:

    Love the column Bob. As always, spot on. Having seen Paul McCartney in concert several times do many of those Beatle songs you wanted him to do, this seemed forced (much like the Letterman interview segments from the Ed Sullivan theatre).

    Love Katy Perry (she’s exquisite to look at). But she took the original gentle “Yesterday”, way over the top. It’s not a power ballad Katy – I don’t want to ‘hear you roar’.

    Same with “Fool On The Hill”, although usually Annie Lennox could sing the Hong Kong phonebook and I’d love it (something about her Scottish lilt). And what was with the ‘HIV Positive’ T-shirt?

    I’m glad the Eurythmics got back together for that one night.

    Hope they don’t do it again!

  2. Gator James Says:

    Great article and I absolutely agree with every point made.
    I grew up with the Beatles and they were also a huge influence on my becoming a musician. Truly the greatest band ever in my opinion.

    Gator James

  3. Glenn Gallup Says:

    Still and all it was probably the first time “Matchbox” was performed on US television since “Shindig”. And it took that old fart Ringo to wake up all the boomers in the audience. And I’m the elderly curmudgeon here. Don’t you forget it.

  4. Glenn Gallup Says:

    For all you folks that think the Beatles were the greatest band etc. I’ll raise you Ike Turners band tuning up before Tina tore the house down. Pre Beatles. And I know Ike was an a*****le.

  5. Eddie Ippolito Says:

    Thanks Maestro Roberto…..many good points and always something to learn from your comments.

    Music has always been like air to me…I need it to survive but sometimes it is a little smelly other times it is pure but I still need it to survive and could not imagine an existence without it.

    Thanks to everyone who have contributed to providing us with the air we breath, some are gone and others are yet to be discovered but we must never loose that passion to be the best we can be and learn from the masters that were here before us.

    Music gives us life in good times and in bad times and everything in between….it is the air we all breath………eddie

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