WHAT IMPRESSED ME THIS WEEK (The Beatles at High Tide and Linda Ronstadt in Germany)

You know me, I like starting new categories. I don’t know if something will impress me every week, but I hate to keep letting things go by when they do just because they don’t fit anywhere else!

So, this week:

The Beatles: Rubber Soul (1965) and Revolver (1966)…yes, them again!

I thought reading Pattie Boyd’s autobiography last month would put me in a Beatles’ mood and it sort of did, but I didn’t really dig below the surface until this week.

Granted, when it comes the Beatles, I’ve never found much beneath the surface to begin with. I just have to keep granting that it’s an awfully compelling surface.

And, listening to the crystal clear, remastered, original-English-running-order versions that are now pretty much what’s available (with Revolver somewhat the better for it and Rubber Soul significantly for the worse–Ringo’s vocal on “What Goes On” is so doltish it makes his work on “Yellow Submarine” sound like Otis Redding)–I was knocked out by a lot of the guitar work on these two albums. So much so that I was all prepared to give Boyd’s gloomy-visaged hubby (that’s George Harrison for those of you have may have inexplicably found more interesting things to do with your time than keep up with my monthly book reports or Beatle marriages!) a big shout-out, until I started checking the usual references and found out that most of the stuff I was really impressed with (particularly the lead guitar parts on “Drive My Car” and “Taxman,” the two tone-setting album openers) was played by Paul McCartney.

So now I’m thinking maybe all those Conservatives-Who-Do-Not-Conserve who keep saying McCartney was the really talented one–not because they know or care anything about talent in general or the Beatles in particular, but because he wasn’t a pinko-commie like John Lennon–have accidentally stumbled onto something!

Oh, the humanity!

Harrison did, among other things, contribute the effective sitar on “Norwegian Wood” and the attack-mode lead on “She Said, She Said.” So it might be that what we should really be giving George credit for in this period is pulling John Lennon’s increasingly bitter (and, it must be said, increasingly sing-songy) chestnuts out of the fire on more than one occasion.

Anyway, we all know what happened next. The Beatles soon gravitated from art to artiness and thenceforth to solo careers which, excepting Lennon’s first solo LP and a handful of monumental singles here and there (“It Don’t Come Easy,” “What Is Life,” “Jet,” “Band On the Run,” “Watching the Wheels,”–I think that about covers it), have meant less and less as the years go by.

I guess the miracle wasn’t so much that it came apart as that it held together as long as it did.

The Beatles “Drive My Car” (Studio Recording)

Linda Ronstadt: Concert in Offenbach, Germany, 1976

There were/are those–then and now–who liked to say she couldn’t rock or something. I’d say she was one of the few who understood what “rocking” actually was in its post-“Heartbreak Hotel” sense, which was a place for the various mighty rivers of American music–not to speak of the American zeitgeist and just plain old American life–to run together and either fight it out or learn to live together accordingly.

So, in 1976, in Germany, clearly worn-but-not-beaten by the road, she stood in a spotlight in a place called Stadthalle Offenbach and, without moving more than a few feet the whole night–or more than a few inches on the majority of the songs–she did what I’ve always thought a real rocker should do: melded folk, rock, country, soul, shlock, all those good American things, into a unified whole.

That particular night it meant measuring herself against Buddy Holly and Lowell George and Neil Young and Patsy Cline and Smokey Robinson and the Everly Brothers and Ry Cooder and Warren Zevon and Paul Anka and the Eagles and she hung all the way in there with every single one of them (and got past not a few).

If she didn’t quite come up to Tracy Nelson on “Down So Low,” well, all I can say is no one ever has and no one ever will.

And if she didn’t quite come up to “Heat Wave,” I’ll just say not having the Funk Brothers (or the Vandellas!) behind her probably had a whole lot more to do with it than many folks (including the famously nice Ms. Ronstadt herself) have generally been willing to admit.

These days, thanks to the miracle of YouTube, you can, with a little patience and some basic software, download a pretty decent copy of the whole thing and piece it together. That’s assuming you don’t want to pay the $199.99 it’s going for on Amazon at this moment.

Linda Ronstadt “Love Is A Rose” (Live Performance)

 

 

4 thoughts on “WHAT IMPRESSED ME THIS WEEK (The Beatles at High Tide and Linda Ronstadt in Germany)

  1. I wonder if, in Linda Ronstadt’s case, we should separate her concerts from her records. If she pulls off the “real rocker” melding of styles, it still leaves the question, how did this happen in concert? I’ve never seen her live, but the “Love Is a Rose” video (and your comment about her barely moving) suggest someone who, on stage at least, might be happier as a back-up singer. Of course, with that titanic voice, she needs to be up front, but I prefer “Love Is a Rose” on record when I can’t see her, to the version in that video, which is almost identical in sound but which includes her nervous stage presence. Same goes for what is probably my favorite Ronstadt song, “How Do I Make You” … the video makes it seem like she’s just pretending to be a new-waver. (Of course, Debbie Harry made an entire career out of this.)

    To show my taste preferences, check out any YouTube video of Stevie Nicks with Fleetwood Mac singing “Rhiannon” in the mid-70s.

  2. I definitely think Ronstadt’s often stiff stage “presence” has worked against her overall reputation. Anybody who looked like that and sounded like that should have been mesmerizing as opposed to “pretty appealing most of the time” or something like that…To be honest, I like the concert video better when I close my eyes and just listen. But, to me, you could just argue.that makes it all about the music. So I guess it’s different strokes for different folks. I was mainly impressed by the sheer range (and quality) of material she took on and how she made it all sound of a piece, which is my idea of what rock and roll should always be doing more of (though it shouldn’t be the only approach of course).

    And no, she was not definitely Stevie Nicks on stage (few are)…Funny enough I’m planning for Stevie to be my vocalist of the month and I’m working on a long post about her…not sure if I’ll meet my July deadline or not! But her singing Rhiannon on The Midnight Special is one of my favorite videos of all time!

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