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

Welcome!

Welcome to Heavy Reverie!  This will be a place that will be filled with all the super important things that distract me from working on what I’m supposed to be working on.  Rock N Roll history, Old Hollywood, 20th Century Pop Culture, and beyond.