Post-Beatles 1970-1980

In Richard Linklater‘s 2014 film, Boyhood, Ethan Hawk‘s character gives his son a CD-R mix he calls The Black Album. Not to be confused with the Jay Z album, or the legendary unreleased Prince album, this is a collection of solo Beatles tracks combined to make a “new” Beatles album. This is something I’ve been toying with since the days of cassette. I remember in the early days of Microsoft Paint, at around age 12, I made an updated version of the Let It Be cover, with the 4 squares with each Beatle – but using pictures from the 1995 Anthology era (and a 1980 picture of Lennon). Nerdy. There wasn’t even music involved. But just seeing all the guys together gave me some form of continuity, or even comfort. And I remember attempting my own CD-R mix in my early 20s. But I had very limited resources, as I didn’t have many of their solo albums. I’ve always been a Lennon guy, so I had those, but didn’t have much for the others. But now with Spotify, it’s become WAY easier to really take on an ambitious Post-Beatles collection.

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Unlike Ethan Hawk’s mix, I put a number of rules on the project, to try and lend some credibility to the endeavor. First of all, John died in 1980, so I think it’d be unfair to include tracks from the other guys after that. This collection presupposes that the band kept going for one more decade. Second rule, no major hits. Again, unlike Ethan Hawk’s mix, you’re not gonna hear My Sweet Lord next to Imagine next to Live and Let Die. As tempting as that would be, it would completely take me out of the idea that this is an album. It would merely feel like a hits collection. And one of the great things about the Beatles was they had singles and then they had albums, and they rarely crossed over. And collectively the guys all had a lot of hits in their solo years, so this restraint actually helps narrow the focus. Another rule was giving each Beatle equal space. This ultimately was a big factor on the Beatles break up, there wasn’t enough space on an album for all of John, Paul and George by 1970. They were all on major writing streaks, and even Ringo brought in his best original with Octopus’s Garden on the Beatles swan song, Abbey Road. George only got two songs on that album and they were two of the best tracks on the album, Here Comes the Sun (the most streamed Beatles song on Spotify) and the majestic Something, the most covered Beatles song other than the ubiquitous Yesterday.  So this collection gives each Beatle more space than any Beatles album. Going in the order of Ringo, George, John and Paul.

A couple things of note – you’ll notice Ringo only has 9 songs, while the others have 11 each – there was only so many great/good Ringo songs, and this felt like a more than fair amount of Ringo compared to a typical Beatles album containing 1 each (or 2 for the White album).  But I bring him back at the end of the mix with “Dream” arranged by George Martin, which felt like a very Beatles thing to do.  And of course, he’s represented as a drummer on a number of John and George’s songs.  I broke the rule on no hits for Ringo too because even his popular songs aren’t as familiar to modern ears as Lennon, McCartney or Harrison’s big hits of the era.  I bent the rule of nothing past 1980 a couple times with George.  Including 1982’s recording of Circles, I validate that because he wrote the song in 1968 in India, so it would have been a song in the running for all of his (or potential Beatles) albums of the 1970’s.  And also I chose George’s 1992 re-recording of This Guitar (Can’t Keep from Crying), which is a much better vocal performance, and a more Beatle-esque recording than the original from 1975’s Extra Texture.  So the hard work has been done for you, I’ve weeded through all the 70s solo albums, and these are the choice (mostly lesser known) nuggs. With 42 songs, this would be the equivalent of them putting out an album every couple years throughout the decade, about 3 or 4 albums. Enjoy!

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Ian McGlynn’s Tomorrow’s Taken is now a teenager

Today I am celebrating the 13th birthday of Ian McGlynn‘s Tomorrow’s Taken.  It was the first album I produced.  At the time, I only had the first two Dolour albums under my belt, both of which I had co-produced, but Tomorrow’s Taken (released in April 2004) was the first album I took full responsibility for the production.  

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Ian’s manager (and partner in crime) Chris Newkirk found my records through our mutual friend Jeanette Parks, and asked me to produce Ian’s first studio album.  They flew me out to New Jersey to meet and spend the next few weeks in the summer, and then again in the fall, of 2003 living with Ian and working on the album every day.  It was a record where we both pushed each other to stretch out.  Ian allowed me to get very hands on with the songs, it was an atmosphere of pure creativity, and I think we really brought out the best in each other.  Ian had previously been mostly a solo piano guy, but Ian’s taste in music was anything but “sensitive singer/songwriters,” so my goal was to put Ian in a position where he could make the most honest representation of his music.  I opened up the floodgates to allow influences from everywhere to creep into the album.  There’s is a lone piano ballad (Southard Park), but there is also – folk pop (How Did I Get Here?), Dr. Dre influenced grooves (The Exception), electronic Kid A-esque songs (Be My Guide, Here For Me), Tom Waits‘ vibes (Carnivalism), lots of Brian Wilson harmonies (You Might Understand), Dark Side of the Moon moods (Morning Prayer), and plenty of Beatles-esque moments (No Time and especially the closer, Turn Away).  The album is mostly comprised of Ian on vocals and piano/keyboards, and me on everything else.  I played guitar, bass, some additional synth, mandolin (on Be My Guide), and even drums on the record!  

Once we finished tracking, and I brought the sessions back to Seattle for some tweaking, it was Jason Holstrom who really helped us reach the finish line with his great mixing skills, and over-all problem-solving expertise.  What I lacked in technical skills, Jason more than made up for.  Tomorrow’s Taken kicked off a long string of collaborations where Jason mixed everything I produced – including three Dolour albums (and tons of unreleased stuff), Sameer Shukla‘s There’s Only One Side Tonight LP, and both of my Traveling Mercies records.  Jason and I were also contributing writers and players on United State of Electronica‘s debut album, which he mixed as well.  Even though Ian was across the country from us, Tomorrow’s Taken felt like a key player in this “summer of love” renaissance era in Seattle.

Sometimes I forget what a huge influence the outside records I’ve produced have had on my own music.  This album, at the time, was some of the most electronic/synth-heavy stuff I’d done.  After finishing Ian’s record, almost as a reaction to all the programming and electronic sounds, I headed in a much more organic direction with Dolour’s swan song, Years in the Wilderness, and then my era with The Traveling Mercies all the way up through my most recent solo releases.  But with my new project, Solar Twin, I know that a lot of the seeds that were planted 13 years ago on Ian McGlynn’s record are blooming again.  So many of the production, programming and arrangement ideas I explored on this record are back in my life in a way that they haven’t been in over a decade.  I’m so proud of this record, and grateful that I made a life-long friend in Ian.  Give the record a spin today!

– Shane Tutmarc

WHAT SHOWTIME’S “BEACH BOYS: MAKING OF PET SOUNDS” DOCUMENTARY GOT WRONG.

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First off: a Pet Sounds documentary that doesn’t even mention You Still Believe in Me, Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder), or Caroline, No?  Come on, at least mention all 13 songs from the album!  And if not that, at least try to take a deeper look, or offer a new perspective, but this documentary is the same old rehash.  If you’ve seen any Beach Boys documentary, you’ve seen everything and more than this doc has to offer.

But the main bone I have to pick with this documentary (and with most Beach Boys documentaries)  is how they tell the story leading up to Pet Sounds.

The Beach Boys myth that everyone from the management, to Capitol Records, and even band members love to propagate is that Brian Wilson, after years of pumping out trite songs about surfing, cars and girls, suddenly decided to be a “real artist” in 1966 with the release of Pet Sounds.  They do themselves, and especially Brian, an injustice when they continue spreading this myth.  From at least 1963, when a 20-year old Brian Wilson took over the production reins on the Boys’ recordings, he was constantly foreshadowing Pet Sounds.  In addition to the near endless supply of smash hits, he would always sprinkle introspective ballads, and progressive production and arrangements across their albums and singles.  They even had hits with introspective ballads like The Warmth of the Sun, In My Room, and Don’t Worry Baby.  It was the other side of the coin from hits like “Fun, Fun, Fun,” “Surfin’ USA,” and “I Get Around.”  It was an established part of their formula.

Showtime’s doc didn’t even mention Side B of The Beach Boys Today! (1965) which features a string of songs that could have fit perfectly on Pet Sounds.  Please Let Me Wonder, She Knows Me Too Well, Kiss Me, Baby, and In The Back of My Mind all include the lush arrangements and introspective lyrics that would become a hallmark of the Pet Sounds album.

But you can go all the way back to 1963’s Surfer Girl album (the first which Brian produced) with songs like Lonely Sea that suggest a much deeper, spiritual side to the music that Showtime (and the Beach Boys themselves) like to suggest came out of nowhere during those magical Pet Sounds sessions.  I think it would make a much more fascinating documentary to really show the journey Brian and the Beach Boys took to arrive at Pet Sounds.  Maybe get Brian talking about how he’d been chasing this sound since the early Beach Boys records, and finally felt the confidence in the studio and as a writer to devote himself fully to these type of songs.  There would be so much more to dig into, to see Pet Sounds as something Brian has been building towards over the course of the 4 years (and 12 albums!?) leading up to it.

This is not to say Pet Sounds is not special, it is perhaps the most special album.  It is where Brian Wilson finally combined all his most idiosyncratic styles into one masterpiece, with the help of the strong lyrics of Tony Asher.  In the past, there was only a handful of songs like these on any given Beach Boys release, and with Pet Sounds he devoted a whole album to these sounds and emotions.  There’s a number of different stories about where the title Pet Sounds came from, but I’ve always liked to think of the word “Pet” in its adjective form: denoting a thing that one devotes special attention to or feels particularly strongly about.”  Brian’s favorite, special sounds, filling an album for the first time.

I’ve created a playlist so you can clearly see the line that Brian carved from Surfer Girl to God Only Knows.

BEACH BOYS: PATH TO PET SOUNDS