Sunday, June 23, 2024

The weak lyrics of the Lennon-McCartney songs on “Please Please Me” and “With the Beatles” in 1963

The songs by John Lennon and Paul McCartney on The Beatles' first two albums ("Please Please Me" and "With the Beatles", 1963) explode with musical energy (as with "I Saw Her Standing There"), but their texts are cliché-ridden and devoid of imagery, story, characters, or even humor. Some of the cover songs have better texts: "Till There Was You", by Meredith Wilson (from the 1957 musical "The Music Man"), is full of well-developed images, and the epistolary conceits of both Chuck Berry's 1956 "Roll Over Beethoven" and the multi-authored 1961 hit "Please Mr. Postman", by The Marvelettes, are rigorously and wittily extended. Only later did Lennon and McCartney become good lyricists. (Andrew Shields, #111Words, 23 June 2024)

Saturday, June 22, 2024

Why does a teen idol like Taylor Swift interest even oldies like me?

I'm still getting interview requests about my Taylor Swift seminar. This week, I was asked how a teen idol like Swift could interest even oldies like me. I gave three answers. First, with eleven albums in eighteen years, and four since her thirtieth birthday, she has long been writing music for adults. Secondly, I don't listen to music according to its "target audience". I listen, and when I like something, I keep listening. Thirdly, as a teacher and parent, I have enough experience with young people to take them seriously, rather than "assuming they know nothing", as Swift says, or in this case, that they are mere suckers for marketing campaigns. (Andrew Shields, #111Words, 22 June 2024)

Friday, June 21, 2024

The Basel-based vocal group OWK and their wide-ranging arrangements from Coltrane and Sinatra to Mitchell and The Bee Gees

Yesterday in the foyer of the Theater Basel, I heard the Basel-based vocal group OWK for the second time: the four singers Maria von Rütte, Alice Auclair, Martina Henriques Dias, and Sneha Lama, accompanied by guitarist Eren Şimşek and bassist Paddy Fitzgerald. Once again, they impressed me with their wonderful arrangements, which ranged from John Coltrane's 1960 "Naima" (from "Giant Steps") and David Mann and Bob Hilliard's 1955 "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning" (which Frank Sinatra was the first to record) to Joni Mitchell's 1971 "A Case of You" (from "Blue") and The Bee Gees' 1977 "How Deep Is Your Love?" (from the soundtrack to "Saturday Night Fever"). (Andrew Shields, #111Words, 21 June 2024)

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Excellent commentary on BBC1 for the UEFA European Men's Football Championship

I have several options for watching the UEFA European Men's Football Championship in languages I know: stations from Germany, France, Austria, and Britain, or Swiss broadcasts in German and French. For last Sunday's match between England and Serbia, I enjoyed the BBC1 commentary so much that I just watched Germany play Hungary on that channel. Wasting little time with background, the commentators focus on details like German midfielder İlkay Gündoğan's superb movement or moments of poor positioning by defenders, as when Hungary's center-back Willi Orbán moved his feet poorly and was unable to clear a ball without surrendering a corner. In one hour, I'll stay on BBC1 for Switzerland against Scotland. (Andrew Shields, #111Words, 19 June 2024)

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Jamming from The Velvet Underground’s 1967 song “I’m Waiting for the Man” into Traffic’s 1967 song “Dear Mr. Fantasy"

At the end of "I'm Waiting for the Man", which Lou Reed wrote and recorded with The Velvet Underground for their 1967 debut "The Velvet Underground & Nico", I like to go into a jam that feels like drifting along high on something (heroin in the song; jamming for me), "until tomorrow but that's just some other time." Today, I suddenly found myself going into "Dear Mr. Fantasy", which Traffic recorded on their 1967 debut "Mr. Fantasy" (with words by Jim Capaldi and music by Steve Winwood and Chris Wood. Afterwards, it seemed fitting: in Capaldi's words, Reed may "break out in tears", but he still "can make us all laugh". (Andrew Shields, #111Words, 18 June 2024)

Monday, June 17, 2024

A giant red rose painted on my face and a Stevie Ray Vaughan concert, forty years ago today, 17 June 1984

Forty years ago today, there was some sort of summer fair on the Stanford University campus, and I came across a woman who was doing face-painting. I asked her if she could do a giant red rose around my right eye. She said she'd give it a try, we agreed on a price (I don't remember how much, but more than for her standard things), and she spent quite a long time patiently painting that rose. That evening, I went to the Kabuki Theater in San Francisco to see Stevie Ray Vaughan (for the second time), and all through the concert, I wondered why people kept staring so intently at me. (Andrew Shields, #111Words, 17 June 2024) 

Sunday, June 16, 2024

UC Berkeley law professor John C. Yoo should be persona non grata, but if you quote him, you should always identify him as the author of the torture memos

In a Substack post today on "The Right's Politics of Revenge", historian Thomas Zimmer summarized what Donald Trump supporters said after his felony conviction on 30 May. I liked how he identified one supporter: "John C. Yoo, a law professor at Berkeley and also the guy who authored the torture memos under George W. Bush [...]." Although I'd seen Yoo's remarks on Trump before, I was sure he'd only been referred to as a professor, but at least The New York Times on 5 June called him "the author of once-secret Bush administration legal memos declaring that the president can lawfully violate legal limits on torturing detainees and wiretapping without warrants". (Andrew Shields, #111Words, 16 June 2024)