Monday, February 10, 2014

"The Night That Changed America" -- my review

79,000,000 watched the Beatles on THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW fifty years ago. I’m sure CBS would be thrilled if 9,000,000 tuned in to last night’s 2 1/2 hour tribute, “The Night That Changed America.” It was up against stiff competition. “Holiday on Ice” on NBC and INSTANT MOM on Nick @ Nite. Fortunately, I DVR’d the Beatles special so was able to watch the 150 minute program in 90 minutes. 

Recorded a couple of weeks ago in Los Angeles, various rock stars performed cover versions of Beatles classics for Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, both of whom were in attendance. The evening built to a rare reunion of Paul and Ringo that brought back memories of Super Bowl halftime shows.

Shoehorned in were clips from that historic ED SULLIVAN appearance along with very cool interviews with some of the production crew members who worked that show. One guy had to fill in for George Harrison during a rehearsal. There’s a great shot of Paul, John, Ringo, and this yutz on the familiar stage.

In taped segments, Paul and Ringo went back to the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York, now the home of LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN.  Letterman interviewed them about that night and could not be more disinterested if he were interviewing me.   He made it seem like he was sent to Detention. They should have gotten Jay Leno.  He was available. 

But most of the night was the glorious music. And endless crowd shots. All you saw were either the principles (and Yoko, who either aged well or always looked old), celebrities like Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, and hot young women. Go to a real Paul McCartney or Ringo Starr concert. Everyone has grey hair or is bald. 14,000 aged hippies. Not one of them was in view at this concert. In its heyday, I don’t think the guard at the door of Studio 54 was as picky as whoever admitted this charmed crowd. It looked more like an open casting call for a CW show. If you were as old as one of the Beatles but weren’t one of the Beatles, good luck.

The presenters were a complete random group. LL Cool J. (who’s on a CBS show), Sean Penn and Johnny Depp (could they possibly have come off more pompous and self-absorbed?), Anna Kendrick and Kate Beckinsale, who both looked amazing (which is undoubtedly why they were chosen), and Eric Idle for much needed humor, even though it led to the one cringeworthy moment of the night. In his monologue at one point he said, “Oh, John is dead” and they cut to an audience shot of smiling people seemingly delighted with that statement. Now I can understand that “oops” moment if it was live, but this was taped. That reaction shot was intended.

Most of the performances were terrific The guitar playing, in particular, was thrilling all night. . Joe Walsh, Jeff Lynne and Dhani Harrison killed doing “Something.” Keith Urban and John Mayer rocked out on "Don't Let Me Down." And my favorite was David Grohl, Gary Clark Jr. and Joe Walsh doing “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” When Peter Frampton is just a backup guitarist, you know you’re in rarified surroundings.

Brentwood High's own Adam Levine continues to prove he’s more than just a rock band front man and reality show mentor. He’s a terrific singer who really did justice to “Ticket to Ride.” I keep wanting to hate him because he’s so talented and good-looking, but I just love the guy. Best singer of the night was John Legend. His duet with Alicia Keyes on “Let It Be” was for me, the absolute highlights of the evening.

Stevie Wonder sang his funky rendition of “We Can Work It Out.” I always thought his version was better than the Beatles, and he sang it as well last night as he did 40 years ago.

Katy Perry is gorgeous to look at. The Imagine Dragons had lovely harmonies on “Revolution” but it was weird hearing it turned into a Four Freshman tune.

As Ed Sullivan himself would say, “And now, for you youngsters…” Cirque du Soleil was employed during “Here Comes the Sun” but you rarely saw them. They also did an encore at the end of the concert, but by then so many elements were being thrown in it looked like the Radio Shack Super Bowl ad.

Biggest disappointment for me was Annie Lennox. You may disagree, but I thought she massacred “Fool On The Hill.” There were some notes that made my teeth rattle.

At one point they showed Sean Lennon in the audience taking a photo of the stage on his iPhone. If I were in that crowd I’d be doing the same thing – although I’d have fifty shots of Victoria Secrets models and Paul's new wife.

Finally, it was time for the men of the hour. Ringo performed first. He always seems like comic relief. And you get the feeling he’s the only one in the room who doesn’t know that. Still, I love his goofy spirit and as long as he doesn’t sing “You’re 16, you’re beautiful, and you’re mine” I’m happy. I’ve seen him in concert with his All-Star band twice and he puts on a great show.

But he’s no Paul McCartney. Sir Paul followed with three numbers and even though I was worried he’d have a hernia every time he really wailed, he sounded great and there’s something very comforting about knowing an original Beatle can still bring it fifty years later.

The night concluded with the mini-reunion. Paul sang “Sgt. Pepper” and Ringo followed with “A Little Help From My Friends.” They concluded with “Hey Jude” and as they scanned the beautiful people of this hand-picked audience I wondered how many of these girls were hearing these songs for the very first time.
Depending on how you look at it, by cramming the show with contemporary artists, celebrities, and an audience that looked like a USC 10 year reunion, CBS was either trying to introduce this brilliant music to younger generations, or it was doing everything it could to program to a young demographic, and the people old enough to remember and really appreciate the Beatles were no longer a priority… except when they aired the Flomax spots. I hope it was the former.

I know a lot of young people don’t love the Beatles, and I get that. We can say they changed America, we can point to the innovative music they created and how they influenced everything culturally in the ‘60s. But to some extent, you had to be there. Or read my book about growing up in the ‘60s – available on Amazon now. (Was that subtle enough?)

77 comments:

Scooter Schechtman said...

Just about everything Eric Idle does has been cringeworthy since the end of Monty Python. Ex-Beatles and ex-Pythons in the 21st century, yeesh.

Anonymous said...

The author has obviously never been to a Paul McCartney concert. There are people of all ages in attendance!

Anonymous said...

Nadia

Get in the house, Carl said...

The show's stiffest competition, both literally and figuratively, was from the return of "The Walking Dead."

Brrrr. Just looking at those shambling, dilapidated creatures with their rotting flesh creeped me out... I had to switch off the Beatles special and watch some zombies.

John Leader Alfenito said...

I agree on Annie Lennox's "American Idol" rendition of "Fool On The Hill." It's not a vocal exercise, it's a beautiful song.
And, her "HIV POSITIVE" t-shirt during the final number was a tasty touch. Wrong place for "a statement," IMO.

Bobby Rich said...

Right on. As usual you nailed it Ken. Especially the guitar work and Maroon 5 being so true to the classic songs. I did not hate Annie Lennox however--but she was a bit pitchy dawg. What i did hate was what I call disrespectful performances by artists who decided to "make it their own" rather than keep it original. Yes I'm talking to you Katy Perry and Imagine Dragons.

Anonymous said...

It's "Late Show with David Letterman." How much more interest could he have shown?

Mike Barer said...

Ringo did amazing for his age. I was struck by Sean Lennon taking a picture, you see that more and more.
I swear that the person who called the Bobbies on the rooftop concert in 1969, is one of your commenters.
You know I saw Ringo in concert and thought it was really cool, but then I saw McCartney about 8 years later in Safeco and it blew that away.

Jon88 said...

"Katy Perry is gorgeous to look at. [crickets]" You are a master of discretion.

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

I didn't watch it yet, but I want to know why the French Robots from Daft Punk didn't sing "Michelle"? Were their battery cells drained after sweeping the Grammys?


richard J. Marcej said...

My question during last night's telecast was, OK, there's Paul & his wife, George's wife, George's son, Ringo, Yoko, Sean, um….. where's Julian? Did his invitation get lost in the mail? I mean, he's John's son, was a recording artist in his own right, and hell, the finale song was written about him. And he can't get a seat?

Mike Barer said...

I think that Julian, like his father, is a very complicated individual with many complicated emotions.

Anonymous said...

Peoples comments about the age of Paul and Ringo and some of the other "Rockers" are Ridiculous.
Let's see what they are doing in their early 70's.

Ben Koch said...

Did anyone notice that Imagine Dragons hired Tyrion Lannister to play percussion?

Richard J. Marcej said...

Ken , gotta disagree with you on the crowd demographics for these aging Beatles. I've gone to the last few McCartney tours and the crowds are usually 60%-40% oft hose over 50 to those in their 20's and 30's. Maybe when you go to see Paul or Ringo in concert you're sitting in the more expensive seats. The seats the older crowd can afford. Those sitting in the cheaper, up in the rafter seats, are the young ones.

Anonymous said...

Clearly for a younger demo.

Not played or even mentioned:
I Want To Hold Your Hand (in a 50th tribute?)
She Loves You
Anything from A Hard Day's Night or Help!

Not mentioned:
George Martin
Brian Epstein
Pete Best
Stu Sutcliffe

VincentS said...

Richard Marcej - Ditto to your comments re Julian!

DwWashburn said...

The thing that struck me about the Letterman interview segments was how distant Paul looked. I've heard he doesn't care for Letterman (I always knew Paul was smart) but something about the process he was going through did not please him.

My 41 year old step daughter asked me during the program, "Do you think Paul and Ringo really want to be there or is this an obligation for them?" I think if he were not allowed to perform, Paul would have probably skipped it just like he skipped the Grammys the night before (Hmm, "The Night Before". Where have I heard that before?). Ringo looked like he was having a blast.

SharoneRosen said...

Silly me, when I watch a show about the "night that changed America," I'd actually like to see and hear more of the actual performances from the artists being remembered... more of their Sullivan performances, clips from their films, clips of their American and BBC TV interviews from the early days, you know, the actual Beatles!

Perhaps it's heresy, but I hated Maroon 5's versions. I thought Adam Levine was weak, not nearly as pitiful as Katy Perry, but close. I'm with you on Annie Lennox, very disappointing. Stevie Wonder was great. I liked Imagine Dragons, but then, I like that close harmony stuff. John Legend, great.

Ringo and Paul were a joy to see. Thank goodness for a great finish.

Anonymous said...

Eric Idle said that Ed Sullivan was dead.

Anonymous said...

Maroon Five sang Ticket to Ride, not Day Tripper.

Gary West said...

Totally agree - Annie Lennox at times, was off-key and hard on the ears.

Eric Idle - not sure how many got all the Rutles stuff. Always good to see him, though.

Maroon 5 and other rock guitarists were sensational. Love it!

I loved the original CBS (Beatles-Ed Sullivan) promo at the beginning. I distinctly remember it right after "Dennis the Menace" that night - in 1964 (how we forget).

Brian Phillips said...

For those who would grouse about this tribute, there is this one from 1977. This is excerpted from the "Rolling Stone 10th Anniversary" special.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0J4absdOAE

Norm said...

http://tvbythenumbers.zap2it.com/2014/02/10/tv-ratings-sunday-winter-olympics-day-four-coverage-about-even-with-2010-60-minutes-falls-to-season-low-preceding-beatles-special/235737/

13 MILLION for the BEATLES!

Tim Regan said...

Great review! The musicians were great every level! I'm not a big Ringo fan and last night helped remember why. Joe Walsh, David Grohl, Peter Frampton always GREAT! I was not a Adam Levine fan until last night. As far as CBS where else would you see a Flomax, viagra, and chrome-cast spots in the same commercial break? Well may be on METV.Thanks Ken always to read you blog!

RCP said...

Judging by some of the commenters on today's and yesterday's posts, Hollywood and Madison Avenue have done a great job convincing some people that - in real life - once you've moved past that ideal marketing demographic, it's time to board that slow train to Geezerland and gradually disappear. Reverse mortgages, adult diapers, and Dentu Grip await.

But wait! The Beatles must have been relevant to the world somehow: there are celebrities and goodlooking young people in the audience.

bruce miller said...

Ken...as usual a great review. The only real exception I take is the Annie Lennox critique. She just killed me, in the good way, as she did to the other musicians I've spoken with. But, you like pudding and I prefer Junket! All's fair...

Mike F said...

I was a little disappointed in the Beatles special, though I realized it is hard to please everybody. I read some of the critical reviews of the CBS production, and think that Ken Levine's blog was clearly the best.

morphosonus said...

I'm a Beatles fan, and heard them on The Ed Sullivan show in '64. I enjoyed the entire show...even Annie Lennox...can't say the same for Katie. It was a great tribute and memory of the group. It's rare to have an entire show's repertoire be filled with songs which everyone knows the words...AND sings along. This, in itself, is a statement of impact. Imagine a similar critique of a similar musical tribute, but in the 60's. This would be equivalent to honoring Jelly Roll Morton. Who listened to that music in the 60's enough to honor it and/or the musician. Yes, The Beatles have had quite an impact and remain, thankfully, relatively relevant. That's why we remember them and their music, and will for quite some time, even after they are all eventually gone.

barryb said...

Annie Lennox should stop promoting the deadly HIV lie. HIV is a fraud and does not cause AIDS (which is not communicable and easily treated). I have the details explained on Barry's Conspiracy World.

Noelle Jordan said...

Like another reviewer said, something, from, "A Hard Day's Night," and more from the original "night" on Sullivan would have been appropriate.


The lame performance of, "In My Life," (by Ed S?) was salvaged by the next number, an actual film of the Beatles' great rooftop performance of "Don't Let Me Down," which cut in the middle to
John Mayer and Keith Urban on stage splendidly rocking out the rest of the song. This to me was one of the best performances of the evening.

The second was Katy Perry (sorry, dang, can't remember what she sang), but she looked stunning, and gave it her all. Very impressed by her.

Not so much Alicia Keys/John Legend with, "Mother Mary." Although they sounded fine, Alicia's broad smiling throughout the whole thing made her seem totally disconnected to the lyrics, which Paul wrote as a touching tribute to his deceased mother. These two got a standing ovation for making the song all about Alicia, rather than a tribute to the song's writer.

Jeff Bridges spoke with a heartfelt, classy, and very sincere appreciation of the band, but Johnny Depp had to focus attention away from the tribute and on to himself by seeming spaced out on stage.

Ringo and Paul were both great. I was struck by the way Ringo seemed so completely relaxed during his performance in front of so many people, but then had to remind myself, "hey, he's a Beatle!"

Ringo talked about the Beatles ability to vary their music as contributing to their success. So true, but that being said, it was disappointing that there was not more variety in this program. Some of their greatest love songs (i.e., "Long and Winding Road,"; "Maybe I'm Amazed") were not included.

All in all, however, a great show.

Alessandro Volta said...

Levine did justice to Ticket to Ride? You could not have heard him sing. He was way off key. He sounded as if he was tone deaf. He was the worst performer of the night. He was way over his head. Katy Perry was only slightly better, and I expected better from her. The great musicians like Joe Walsh, and David Grohl pulled the night off with masterful performances. The guy from ELO still has an awesome voice and even Stevie Wonder's re-arrangement was cool. Paul's as fantastic as ever and Ringo is the coolest 70 year old ever. A great night of tv overall, that started out mediocre, and ended up awesome.

benson said...

As Norm's link points out and a CBS release I got, too, CBS got almost 14 million viewers. In this day, that's pretty good.

Graham said...

Spot-on review as always, Ken. It felt like half the special was about crowd shots. Did I see to see Yoko trying to dance with Oliva Harrison? Probably not. What was unforgivable to me: McCartney tells a great anecdote about having to perform "Yesterday" for the first time on Ed Sullivan, and how nervous he was doing it without his bandmates, and it feels like a precursor to seeing that clip. But nook - instead, we get Katy Perry doing her best overwrought version of the song. More archival footage, less tribute performances would've helped.

Mike Barer said...

I have to disagree with the comment that George Martin (the 5th Beatle) wasn't mentioned. His piano solo on "In My Life" was clearly mentioned.

kenju said...

I watched the show and lots of those pretty young women were singing along and they seemed to know the words - unless they had a teleprompter I couldn't see. I loved every minute of that show.

benson said...

Was referring to Pharrell Williams as the 5th Beatle pandering to the younger audience?

Tomcat said...

Having been an avid Beatles fan since the original Ed Sullivan broadcasts, I was most enthusiastic to watch last night's tribute. However, being 68 years old, my stamina is not what it used to be and I fell asleep before the finale.

What I did see, I enjoyed very much. There were moments that brought tears to my eyes when I remembered what wonderful songs were written by such wonderful artists. I especially liked the production of "Something", even though Walsh seemed a little lost doing the lead (it was, at that time, a very inventive guitar solo).

One of the most surprising numbers was the rendition of "Hey Bulldog". Not one of their most famous compositions, but a definite rocker!

All in all, what I saw was very good. Thank God for the internet, because I now have access to every interview and performance, including all 3 Ed Sullivan appearances. I also have The Beatles Anthology, which won't surprise anyone who has it.

Sometimes I feel like I'm trying to catch lightning in a bottle. But I think a lot of us are trying to do that. Last night helped me catch another bolt.

Doug Thompson said...

Obviously taped on Grammy night (wasn't Katy Perry wearing that same mumu at the Grammies? And Pharell Williams was definitely wearing that same 'Smokey the funky bear' hat)

I think RIngo or Paul most certainly should have thanked Brian Epstein and.or George Martin as both were crucial to their success.

Finally Ken, I don't want to be picking nits, but the CBS television audience for the Ed Sullivan Show on February
9th, 1964 was 73,000,000 viewers, not 79,000,000.

gottacook said...

If John were alive he'd have spurned the whole thing.

I highly recommend the novella "Snodgrass" by British SF writer Ian R. MacLeod. It's narrated by a present-day (early-1990s) Lennon who'd quit the band at the start of their recording career because he didn't want the Beatles to record "How Do You Do It?" as suggested by George Martin. The Beatles - Paul, George, Ringo, and Stu Sutcliffe who still can't play bass - are now touring England with a greatest-hits concert, whereas John's '60s group The Nowhere Men released six singles and were done, along with John's music career.

I turned off Annie Lennox after "...is keeping perfectly still" - what a wrongheaded approach to the song! - but luckily turned it back on in time to see the last half-hour; on average I actually think Ringo sounded better than Paul.

Jim said...

I beg to differ, but the first set with Maroon 5 was lackluster. "All My Loving" and "Ticket To Ride" are two great Beatle tune because of the HARMONIES that were sung by the Fab 4. There were mo harmonies last night. It was just Adam Levine singing, and it wasn't good.

Ringo still can't sing. I felt bad for him up there.

The highlight of the evening was definetly Alicia Keys and John Legend on "Let It Be."

What CBS should have done was to run the original Ed Sullivan show from Feb. 9, 1964 at the precise moment. Then, a live special from the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York hosted by David Letterman. It would be a concert/jam session helmed soley by Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Dhani Harrison, Julian Lennon, Sean Lennon, Dave Grohl, and Jeff Lynne

Jim Russell said...

FYI to the people who thought Julian was not invited -- he posted a couple of lovely good wishes on Facebook saying that he couldn't make it, but was with them "in spirit".

Steve Lemon said...

I think since the BEATLES #1 album was the top selling album of the 2000s and they were the second best selling act of that decade, their appeal is more than just nostalgia.

fred said...

Joe Walsh made his guitar gently weep !!! #1 Performance of the night .. hands down!

Ken Fisher said...

I was entertained, but like another commenter here, I would have liked to see more old clips and interviews. Seeing Paul singing along with the words that he created so many years ago was very cool. I have always found it interesting that The Beatles are the only people in the world that didn't experience Beatlemania the way the rest of us Earthlings did.

Tomcat said...

To add to my previous comments:

They most certainly should've shown their performance of "This Boy" from the 2nd Ed Sullivan show! John, Paul and George sharing the same mike and John's powerful middle. Great harmonies!

Maybe they did show it. I might've been sleeping.

Ed from South Bend said...

Worldwide Pants did everything humanly possible to get Paul and Ringo to appear on Late Night together last week. I am very pleased it was rebuffed.

Paul seemed "over it," but I did not take it as animus for Dave. How many different ways could he be made to recall those events? He had to be entirely sick of it all. The ES Theater also bore almost no resemblance to that cataclysmic night in '64.

I can not stand overwrought singing - most especially at tributes. While I don't believe Lennox, Perry, Keys, nor ID were trying to make it about themselves, they murdered those songs.

My favorite moment of the night was the cut to Ringo during "Weeps" as he was air drumming with great satisfaction along with Grohls. He clearly loved what was being done on stage - and I'd bet anything he rarely gets to experience such live anymore being in the audience.

Mister Charlie said...

I agree with Mike F and Graham, Ken's review was spot on the best I have seen, agreed 100%. Annie Lennox and Katy Perry were not too good, everyone else was fine. I had it on the 42 inch monitor in front of me and on the surroud sound stereo, and while I wasn't even going to watch it since I do not care about any of the artists there, but found it much better than expected.

Doug said...

Footage from "The Ed Sullivan Show" is ungodly expensive to use. There may have been a limit to how much vintage material they could afford to license

Greg Ehrbar said...

CBS would never run the original Sullivan show, not just because of the expense, but because of the other acts, which they fear might make some change channels.

There are DVDs of all three Beatles/Sullivan shows and they really drive the true feeling home of what this means and meant. Nice show, but the DVDs are better.

There's also a very nice boxed set with all their studio albums recently released.

Does Sir Paul mind when Craig Ferguson says "Do we have a picture of Paul McCartney?" followed by a shot of Angela Lansbury?

John said...

As far as Annie's singing goes, remember -- It could have been Yoko up on the stage. Count your blessings.

Don said...

A few things-

-This was taped at the L.A. Convention Center the night after the Grammys.

- Hey Bulldog was a highlight, Let It Be by Keys and Legend a lowpoint, along with the really bad re-arranged version of revolution. Some songs are meant to be what they originally were. Revolution in its best form was/is a sneering hard rock song.

- Paul and Ringo were great, but I agree- more She Loves You or I Want To Hold Your Hand from those two and less Hey Jude. Paul's excellent band would have been up to the task.

- Dhani Harrison is so much like his Dad it's eerie.

- Joe Walsh is not to meant to sing some songs. Something is one of those songs.

- George Martin's baroque piano most definitely was mentioned before In My Life was performed, which had the performer humming the part, sort of. A lowpoint.

- I don't see what was so wrong with Katy Perry's rendition of Yesterday. So she changed the singer's gender. Big deal.

- I rather like Fool On The Hill.

- John Mayer might have been good musically, but he dresses like an idiot.

- Most out of place performer- Brad Paisley.

- Dave Grohl is in the running for father of the year.

- Ringo married well. So did Paul.

Pat Reeder said...

Personally, I think there should have been more crowd shots. My wife, Laura Ainsworth, and I were there, and I only saw us clearly in one cutaway during "Yellow Submarine." If they wanted to show hot women, they could've done a lot better than they did by showing Laura.

She's a singer herself, and we were in L.A. for the Grammys the night before anyway, so I got tickets for the Beatles show, too (VIP tickets for that were about 1/4th as much as for the Grammys). We had great seats about 40 feet from Paul, Ringo and Yoko. And we got to go to a pre-show reception at the Grammy Museum, where I spotted a guy with a cool guitar pin and almost asked if he played guitar. I'm glad I didn't, since I later saw him on stage. It was Joe Walsh.

The show live was different from the TV special. The sequencing was completely different, except for Ringo and Paul closing the show. Stevie Wonder did "We Can Work It Out" twice because he didn't like the first take. Guess he worked it out. Other things I noticed live: Kate Beckinsale is scary thin. Johnny Depp and Sean Penn seemed to be on Ambien. They can't cold-read a cue card to save their lives. I can't believe they're paid millions to say other people's words. If they worked for me in radio, I'd demote them to washing the coffee pot. And Annie Lennox actually sounded much better live than on the TV show. Maybe the TV EQ boosted the high end and emphasized the gravel in her voice or something.

The one I thought was weakest was Katy Perry. The changing of pronouns complaint is ridiculous; that's done all the time ("Yesterday" has been covered about 5,000 times, and I'll bet 2500 of them did that). Laura actually thought Katy was pretty good, and she's very picky about singers. I didn't care for her, but at least for once, she didn't shout (much), and it wasn't overdubbed a thousand times and autotuned and processed to death. She actually sounded like a human singing, if not a particularly talented one. I didn't care for the overwrought parts (modern singers think you're not expressing passion if you don't screech and caterwaul at the top of your lungs). Laura noticed that, but thought that all things considered, she held the histrionics in check fairly well. We finally reached agreement that it could've been worse.

All in all, it was a hell of a lot better than the Grammys, but then, they had a hell of a lot better material to work with.

If you'd like to read Laura's amusing write-up of the weekend and see my crappy cell phone photos from the taping, it's on her Facebook page here:

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10152189894777534&set=a.10150224273132534.360303.156615122533&type=1&theater





Todd Everett said...

I've seen this in a couple places on Facebook; here cut-and-pasted from the Beatles Fans wall:

CBS Grammy's Beatles 50th Anniversary Presentation

"To me, the last thing I wanted to do was stand in the audience with everybody else, clapping my hands, and being filmed in front of millions while watching a Beatles karaoke session.

"Give me the originals any day. I'll listen or watch the originals any day, and that's my cup of tea. That's why I decided that I much more preferred to be in a state of reflection and appreciation and doing something much more subtle and much more heartfelt, in my mind, than the glitz and the glam of those kind of shows."
—Julian Lennon

Pat Reeder said...

One other thing we saw live that you didn't see on TV is that they filled the great expanses of time between concert set-ups with lots and lots of video clips of the actual Beatles. Live, it seemed much heavier on the original tunes than it did on TV. So much so that we came out wanting to watch "Hard Day's Night" again because we'd just seen so many clips from it. That would have made for a better TV show and maybe shown younger viewers why those old guys from Liverpool were actually better than One Direction.

DJ said...

gottacook: I highly recommend the novella "Snodgrass" by British SF writer Ian R. MacLeod.

Your recommendation accomplishes the exact opposite of your intent:

1) John Lennon endures years of hard work and deprivation with his friends to make it in the entertainment business, only to bail on them the first time they record? Very, very hard to believe. Especially because none of his bandmates really wanted to record the song either.

2) The Beatles were asked to record "How Do You Do It" in September 1962. By that time, Stu Sutcliff had been dead for five months. No wonder a science fiction writer wrote this; was his Sutcliffe character a zombie?

3) Speaking of Sutcliffe, we're to believe he dropped his life in Hamburg, with a promising painting career that he loved, along with the love of his young life, Astrid Kirchnerr...just to resume being in a rock band that he was at best indifferent to? That's really absurd.

Mr First Nighter said...

I also feel wistful for Pete Best, the original Beatles drummer, who was cut from the band even before Ringo joined. A session drummer named Andy Whyte (I believe) played on one or two early songs. But Pete Best was the guy who just missed out on fame, and millions of dollars.

McAlvie said...

The Beatles are responsible for some great tunes that are still around today. They are also responsible for a few that are only famous *because* they are Beatles tunes. But when they were great, they were really, really great. And I suspect that a lot of youngster who think they don't like The Beatles have actually enjoyed some of their music without ever realizing where those songs originated. Their music is quite varied, and there really is something in it for everyone. For every goofy "Yellow Submarine" there's a heart breaking "Yesterday." And that takes real talent.

Nat Gerter (sitcom room veteran) said...

* "Hey Bulldog" seriously rocked
*Overall, one of the best "tribute" shows I've seen... but that's a weak field to play against
* My reaction to Annie Lennox was that it sounded as if she's losing her instrument, which would be a sadness beyond this rather meh interpretation
*Seeing Sir Paul in the audience mouthing along the words to the songs as they went made me feel like less of a dork for having done so at just about every rock concert I'v ebeen to

Neil R from balto said...

Love the show....Some of the dueling guitars were really annoying - made the song about something other than who wrote it and how great they were.

Annie Lennox was brutal - I was embarrassed for her. And Paul made such a big fuss that he must have felt bad for her too - so disproportionate was the reaction to the performance.

I think Ringo is just comfortable in his own skin (maybe someone else's hair...but). He was having fun, and didn't seem to be playing to the crowd as much as Paul, who can't seem to help himself.

The show was a jewel with a couple of flaws, but priceless as a whole.

Milton the Momzer said...

Eric Idle did not say "John is dead" . You need to edit your review. And it's really in poor taste to call the man who filled in for ailing George a "yutz." You've never used someone to fill in for a star for blocking and lighting purposes? They gave this man's name during the show. Go back and watch it and issue an apology.

James Barahal said...

Not sure which show you watched. Tribute was really to Paul, the"great little drummer," and the 2 dead guys.

The covers ranged from bad to excrutiating, Annie Lennox being the worst with Katie Perry a close second.

gottacook said...

DJ: Who's to say it doesn't take place in a universe where Stu survives (or isn't injured in the first place)? As to Astrid, how John might have quit in '62, etc., see the several paragraphs beginning "Days in me life. Number one in a series of one. Collect the fucking set." (the whole novella's at http://dcc.vu/Media/E-Books/Ian%20R.%20Macleod/Ian%20R.%20Macleod%20-%20Snodgrass.pdf)

Floridan said...

A rather cynical review. I rather enjoyed other artists covering the Beatles -- off notes and all.

As for Paul's demeanor with David Letterman, it seems to me that Paul often seems bored in interviews, no matter who's conducting them. Same sentiments about Johnny Depp -- you're not likely to see him act animated even if he was announcing Elvis' return.

Finally, my granddaughter's elementary school recently had a "Beatles Day." They took turns singing their songs, talking with British accents and other silly stuff. She loved it and sang a couple of the songs to me later.

Floridan said...

Oh, and the biggest surprise of the night to me was that Joe Walsh is still alive -- so much for the virtues of clean living.

I saw him stagger through a concert about 20 years ago and if Don Henley had not held him up, he would have tumbled off stage a couple times (not that he would have noticed it).

Anonymous said...

survivalguy asks
who was that playing in the background(studio muscicans)who looked striking like Bosephus aka Hank Williams jr or was i just spaced out by the long moment of beatlemania

as to the the other artists like Kate Perry or Annie Lennox so what?

the best guitar rifts of the night were from Joe Walsh and man di he nail it

Anonymous said...

Anyone saying this show wasn't anything but amazing IS NOT A BEATLES FAN!

Also, I agree with the post, the author hasn't been to many Paul McCartney shows because there are people of ALL ages there. Actually, each time I see him, they get younger!

Annie Lennox did AMAZING…..you cannot expect these artists to sound like the Beatles. No one ever will! It's truly an honor (showed by Paul's emotions in the first 15 minutes) for these artists to perform for the living Beatles and families.

Personally, my favorite: Dave Grohl singing Hey Bulldog and playing drums to While My Guitar Gently Weeps! True Genius!

Obway said...

Pretty good show, but bios were way over-simplified. Nothing wrong
with Annie or Katy, but Joe Walsh's voice roo little harsh for "Weeps." Paul looked tired, esp. compared to 73-year-old Ringo doing jumping jacks!

For those who think the Beatles are no longer "happening," I asked 6th graders if their parents/grandparents like the Beatles, and several said they like the Beatles themselves!

Obway said...

Pretty good show, but bios were way over-simplified.

Nothing wrong with Annie or Katy, but Joe Walsh's voice was too harsh for "Weeps."

Paul looked tired, esp. compared to 73-year-old Ringo doing jumping jacks!

For those who think the Beatles are no longer "happening," I asked 6th graders if their parents/grandparents like the Beatles, and several said they like the Beatles themselves!

DJ said...

I reiterate -- Stu Sutcliffe was a painter, not a rocker. Any piece of fiction that suggests he would foresake his true passion -- where his genius was beginning to be recognized -- to clump around in a rock band without John Lennon (the guy who got him into the band in the first place)...well, it doesn't stretch belief, it tears it apart.

Speculative historical fiction has to have a believable basis in historical fact to work. Based on your description, "Snodgrass" misses the mark.

gottacook said...

DJ: Fair point. In that case, you might enjoy "Doing Lennon" by Gregory Benford, the UC Irvine physics professor best known for his 1980 novel Timescape. "Doing Lennon" is (until just before the end) the tale of a guy from our era who undergoes suspended animation and presents himself to far-future society as Lennon, having done away with the real Lennon and studied for the role. (The story appeared in 1975.)

Anonymous said...

I don't think we all watched the same show.

The Fool on the Hill that I saw and heard from Annie Lennox was just plain superb. And While My Guitar Gently Weeps, good glory gracious, three minutes was not enough. Plus Stevie Wonder had the place rollin.

There's hope for us yet.

Anonymous said...

I was born the year the Beatles formed. They came to America when I was three, so I never listened to them until AFTER they broke up. Consequently, I had not dog in the fight of Paul vs. John. When I first heard Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, I wondered who was covering Elton John (duh).

Nonetheless, I came to love the Beatles music and appreciate their importance and staying power. I remember where I was when I heard John Lennon had been murdered and my guitar gently wept when George Harrison died.

The show had highs and lows and I am finding myself liking different parts than the author and many of the comments. Imagine Dragons gained a fan by the way they took a great Beatles song to a much softer version. And perhaps Annie Lennox missed a couple of notes but the Eurythmics together playing a song live to an audience that the Beatles had never done was worth any small gaps

I am guessing (and hoping) I can buy some of these versions of these special songs to add to my collection

Connor Regan said...

Cannot believe people are ragging on Lennox. Most heartfelt, professional, and fitting performance of the night. And I even saw one person point out that the HIV positive shirt was not appropriate? Wake it up! How about a perfect representation of a generation that actually stood for what they believed in. Unlike the popular acts of today that rarely step outside of the boundaries. The Beatles changed America not just American music. It is unfortunate that the message behind the music has faded.

YakiFinleys said...

John Legend is an amazing performer - knew nothing about him until I heard his amazing voice and rendition of Let It Be. Wow. I know he wasn't born when Paul wrote the song, but he absolutely killed it. Keys is very talented too - I hope Paul and Ringo appreciated their performance. And Paul and Ringo were the utmost in class in how they handled the entire evening. Just wish Paul would have played Magical Mystery Tour...

YakiFinleys said...

And I agree that Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart did the Beatles proud. Great voice, and their now at the conclusion proves their respect for Paul and Ringo. Good on you, Eurymics!

Jude in NH said...

Glad for DVR - just watched the special yesterday sans commercials. On the whole I thought it was pretty good and I appreciate all the comments others have made here - like rationale for lack of original footage and the missing Julian. What bothered me most was that there was no mention of Brian Epstein and barely a nod to George Martin who did so many (all?) of the strings and horns arrangements on their recorded music. He was a genius. Those two had just as much claim to the early Beatles success as the Fab Four. I would have liked to see Dhani perform "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" with Clapton or Mark Knopfler. (Where were they?) Dhani looks and sounds so much like his father it would have been an amazing moment. After tuning in to Annie Lennox's pitch I thought she was great, if a little theatrical. Thanks for saying why Julian wasn't present - I like him so much - a wonderful musician in his own right. The stage band was really tight - where was the recognition? Ringo is always fun and I'd like to hear other than the anthems ("Let it Be" & "Hey Jude") which to me have become musically boring. With such a huge catalog to pick from I was surprised at some of the song choices. "Bulldog" was a standout.