Saturday, May 28, 2011

"I Want You (She's So Heavy)"

"I Want You (She's So Heavy)" is a song by The Beatles, from their album Abbey Road. It was written by John Lennon, with some creative input from Yoko Ono, although it is credited as a Lennon/McCartney collaboration.

The song is an unusual Beatles composition for a variety of reasons, namely its length (nearly eight minutes), its disproportionately small number of lyrics (only fourteen different words are sung), its three-minute descent through the same repeated guitar chords (a similar arpeggiated figure appears in other Lennon contributions to the album, "Because" as well as McCartney's "Oh! Darling"), its hard rock sound, and for its instantaneous and unanticipated end. It is also one of the last songs that the Beatles mixed as a group, on 20 August 1969.

David Gates writes of the song, "The hypnotically repeated guitar figure in 'I Want You (She's So Heavy)' is suddenly, arbitrarily cut off, jolting us into embarrassed awareness that we've let a mere recording carry us away."


The song was rehearsed several times during the Get Back/Let It Be sessions; the basic track and John's guide vocal (which is used in the master) were recorded at Trident Studios on 22 February 1969, shortly after filming for the film project ended. John and George overdubbed multi-tracked heavy guitar overdubs on 18 April 1969, and Billy Preston overdubbed keyboards, and conga drums were also added on 20 April 1969. "I Want You", then received the "she's so heavy" vocals on 11 August 1969 and thus, the title was changed into "I Want You (She's So Heavy)".

Three takes from 22 February were edited into a master (2nd generation), which was overdubbed, mixed down on 18 April (3rd generation), and overdubbed on 18 April, 20 April and 11 August. Different overdubs were made to the 2nd generation tape on 8 August. The mix is the 3rd generation for 4:37 (up to "she's so") and then the 2nd generation tape, which has a white noise and additional drums added on 8 August.

Mark Lewisohn wrote in The Complete Beatles Chronicle that there was a version of the song with Paul McCartney on lead vocals instead of John Lennon. There is a McCartney version circulating around in bootlegs and it is subject to debate whether or not the bootlegged version is authentic. Many writers speculate that Lennon chose to record several takes with McCartney on lead vocals because of the general experimental nature of the song (one of the Beatles' heaviest songs along with "Helter Skelter", abrupt cutoff, limited number of words, etc.)


* John Lennon: lead and harmony vocals; multi tracked rhythm guitar; Hammond organ, Moog synthesizer and white noise generator.
* Paul McCartney: bass and harmony vocal.
* George Harrison: multi tracked lead & rhythm guitar and harmony vocal
* Ringo Starr: drums and congas.
* Billy Preston: Hammond organ.


Numerous bands and solo artists have covered "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" in live performance. The following artists have released recordings of the song:

* Soda Stereo in the 9 de Julio avenue, Argentina, in 1991.
* Motley Crue copy the 6 note riff at the end of their Dr. Feelgood song "Slice Of Your Pie".
* Eddie Hazel on his solo-debut Game, Dames and Guitar Thangs.
* George Benson on his 1969 album The Other Side Of Abbey Road
* Coroner on their 1991 Mental Vortex album.
* Divididos In the Ultra Rare Tracks album (Bootleg)
* Alvin Lee (formerly of Ten Years After) on his album 1994, accompanied by George Harrison on slide guitar.
* Type O Negative on the album World Coming Down as part of a medley with "Day Tripper" and "If I Needed Someone."
* Booker T. and the MGs on their album McLemore Avenue, the cover of which also mimicked the Abbey Road album cover.
* Noir D├ęsir on the live album Dies Irae (Days of Wrath)
* Beatallica merged the song with Metallica's "The Call of Ktulu" to create "Ktulu (He's So Heavy)" on their album Sgt. Hetfield's Motorbreath Pub Band.
* Steel Train on the cover album 1969.
* R&B artist John Legend has included the song in his set on his "Show Me" tour.
* British group Kaiser Chiefs used segments of the song on "Born to Be a Dancer" from their album Employment.
* Progressive rock supergroup Transatlantic covers the song in part in the closing number on the live album Live in America.
* A cover of the song performed by cast members Joe Anderson, Dana Fuchs, and T.V. Carpio is featured in the 2007 Julie Taymor film Across The Universe
* Groove Collective released a cover of the song as a single, which charted in the US in 1996.
* Umphrey's Mcgee have covered the song numerous times, including a performance at the Orpheum Theatre in Madison, Wisconsin, 13 September 2007.
* John Legend released a cover of this song on his "Live in Philadelphia" album (2008)
* During a tribute to 40th Anniversary celebration of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band which also included a medley of hits, Cheap Trick was joined by Al Jourgensen and Sin Quirin of Ministry for a cover of the song on 10-11 August 2007 at the Hollywood Bowl.
* The Last Shadow Puppets covered the song in the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall for the BBC1 Electric Prom session held on 25 October 2008 and again at most of their gigs throughout October.
* The Hellacopters used segments of the song, including the guitar riff, as an outro on their farewell tour in 2008, also known as "the tour before the fall".
* George Lynch, recorded on his 2004 cover album Furious George
* Montreal-based Les Boreades recorded an instrumental version on their 2006 album Beatles Baroque III.
* Panic at the Disco played this song as a medely just after But It's Better if you Do during their Rock Band Live Tour.

Album: Abbey Road
Released: 26 September 1969
Recorded: 22 February – 11 August 1969
Genre: Progressive rock, hard rock, blues-rock
Length: 7:47
Label: Apple Records
Writer: Lennon/McCartney
Producer: George Martin


Friday, May 27, 2011

John & Yoko's Year of Peace

The year: 1969. Headlines blare war and civil unrest while John Lennon and Yoko Ono are in love. The eccentric rock 'n' roll couple has just gotten married, and more than happy to be together, they want to change the world. Lying in a hotel bed surrounded by journalists, they announce their mission for peace and invite the rest of the world to symbolically climb into bed with them and share their dream. People call them silly, naive, even ridiculous, yet one famous couple's bed-in spread new hope that there really could be an end to war, hate and violence. Here is rare footage from that amazing time, including footage from John and Yoko's wedding, the infamous bedside confrontation between John and conservative cartoonist Al Capp, Lennon debating media expert Marshall McLuhan, and meeting Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. Now twenty years after Lennon's murder, Yoko and others involved in the peace mission reflect on the events of that magical, mystical year.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Sundown Playboys

The Sundown Playboys are a Cajun music band still active in Louisiana.

Originally founded in 1945 by accordionist Lionel Cormier, the band has been performing almost continuously throughout the United States. After the death of Lionel Cormier in the early 1970s, Lesa Cormier decided to carry on the tradition of his father's band. With the help of two other band members and his own son, the tradition of the Sundown Playboys continues.

Over the years, several accordion players have filled the big shoes that Lionel Cormier behind, but for 60 years three core members of the group have continued playing. Lesa Cormier has played drums since the beginning with his father. He was seventeen when he started. Wallace "Red" Touchet plays the fiddle and Larry Miller plays the steel guitar. After leading a band of his own, accordionist August Broussard joined the band in 2000. In the 1980s, Lesa's son, Danny, joined the band as a bass player and sometimes steel guitar, but now plays steel guitar with Jackie Caillier and the Cajun Cousins. A few years ago, Danny's son joined the band as bass player. Brian Cormier is a fourth generation member of the Sundown Playboys.


* Former Smiths frontman and solo star, Morrissey, included their song "Saturday Nite Special" (which, notably, was released by The Beatles' Apple Records label) on his Under the Influence album.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

"I Want to Tell You"

"I Want to Tell You" is a Beatles song on the 1966 album Revolver. It was written by George Harrison and recorded on June 2, 1966 (with the bass overdubbed on June 3). Working titles were "Laxton's Superb" and "I Don't Know."

The song marks the first time the band included three Harrison songs on a Beatles album, reflecting his growing stature as a songwriter.

Guitar Riff

Although a melodic pop song similar to the others on the album, the song hints at Indian influences, although less overtly so than "Love You To", another Harrison composition from the same album. It is largely built around a drone, rarely straying from its home key of A major, not even for the bridge. It features a flat Harrison vocal, supported heavily by Lennon and McCartney on backup vocals, in a fashion similar to Harrison's earlier "If I Needed Someone". It is largely driven by the bass and the persistent, almost hypnotic, piano pounding throughout the song. A distinctive guitar part opens and closes the song and recurs between verses, which lends the song some structure where it might otherwise sound formless (given the subtle variation).

Interestingly, it is one of the few Beatles songs to begin with a fade-in ("Eight Days a Week" being another notable example). The ending — where the group repeats the line "I've got time" over the opening guitar riff — makes notable use of melisma by McCartney (recalling, again, the song's understated Indian influences, as well as adding an increasing sense of disarray as the ensemble falls apart).

In I Want to Tell You, Paul's bass is overdubbed separately which allowed for specific treatment as opposed to being lumped on the rhythm track. This would become more common during the years that followed.


The lyrics are, in Harrison's own words, "about the avalanche of thoughts that are so hard to write down or say or transmit." The frustration in the lyrics is reinforced by the song's dissonant atmosphere — a product of numerous elements, including the continuous piano chord in the background and the contrast between Harrison's modest lead vocal and Lennon and McCartney's descant harmonizing — which creates an air of uneasiness.

The bridge reveals some of Harrison's thinking at the time, reducing his internal difficulties to conflicts within his being:

But if I seem to act unkind
It's only me, it's not my mind
That is confusing things

In his 1980 autobiography I Me Mine, Harrison suggested that the second line be reversed. "The mind is the thing that hops about telling us to do this and do that — when what we need is to lose (forget) the mind."


* John Lennon — tambourine, harmony vocal, hand-claps
* Paul McCartney — bass, piano, harmony vocal, hand-claps
* George Harrison — double-tracked lead vocal, lead guitar, hand-claps
* Ringo Starr — drums, maracas

Other versions

An upbeat live version of the song opens Harrison's Live In Japan album, recorded and released in 1992 (see 1992 in music). Harrison and bandmate Eric Clapton extend the song with a few guitar solos. Harrison uses the lyric reversal mentioned in his autobiography, singing the bridge "it isn't me, it's just the mind."

George played this song during his Concert For The Natural Law Party on April 6`th 1992 as the opening song.

Another notable live recording was played by Jeff Lynne at the Concert For George — again opening the main set and again featuring Clapton as a sideman — in 2003 (see 2003 in music) for the then-recently deceased Harrison.

This song was covered by Ted Nugent on State of Shock (1979) and is also on Super Hits (1998).

This song was also covered by The Grateful Dead during their tour in the Summer of 1994 and the Jerry Garcia Band in their 1976 and Winter 1986-7 tours.

This song also was covered by The Smithereens on their 1999 release, "God Save The Smithereens" deluxe edition.


On his recent tours, Neil Innes of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band (and later The Rutles) said the Bonzos' first studio experience was at Abbey Road Studios while the Beatles were recording "I Want to Tell You". Innes said he took a break in one of the studio's hallways and heard The Beatles playing back the song, blasting it at full volume. Innes recounted that he was in a state of immense awe over the song's beauty, and sheepishly returned to the Bonzo session, where they were recording the 1920s Vaudeville song "My Brother Makes the Noises for the Talkies".

Album: Revolver
Released: 5 August 1966
Recorded: Abbey Road Studios, 2 June 1966
Genre: Rock
Length: 2:29
Label: Parlophone
Writer: George Harrison
Producer: George Martin


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Devil and Preston Black

by Jason Jack Miller

You'd think finding a song named after you on an old record would be kind of cool. But that's not how it goes down for Preston Black.

What starts out as a search for his old man turns into a quest for an original version of "The Sad Ballad of Preston Black". Turns out the song is about his deal with the devil, a deal Preston doesn't really remember making.

When the devil decides it's time to cash in things get really interesting. People he loves get hurt, and Preston starts to wonder if a long fall into an icy river is his only way out.

Lucky for Preston, he has help. A music ethnographer with connections in some of Appalachia's darkest hollows convinces him that his salvation can be found in the music. Preston can buy that. It's the hexes, curses and spells he has a hard time with.

And it's the ghost of John Lennon who convinces Preston to do something about it.