Friday, 13 August 2010

Don, Paul ... and Bingo?

Several related things. Have just seen that James Paul McCartney, Macca's 1973 TV special for Lew Grade's ATV, is on youtube. This programme was done, I think, as a favour to Sir Lew, or a way of keeping him sweet, after he had bought Northern Songs from Dick James.

Macca even covered Tony Hatch's theme to the ATV soap Crossroads on his Venus and Mars album - and whether it was intended ironically or not the soap took it up, using Macca's version at the end of particularly emotional episodes, not to everyone's delight: "Wish Paul McCartney would flap his wings and take off," wrote one disgruntled viewer in the (Scottish) Sunday Mail.

Presumably most of the credit for revamping Tony Hatch's tune should go to Wings' then guitarist Jimmy McCulloch. I believe previous axeman Henry McCullough took umbrage when  Paul told him, just before he laid down the solo for My Love, "Make it proud" - ie not fully trusting him, in McCullough's view, to know what the track needed. The best response, of course, would have been to put on that passive-aggressive nasal Harrison voice and say "Ooh, I'll play whatever you want me to play," etc from the Let It Be film.

Have to admit I like Macca's own lead on Oriental Nightfish from the Linda solo album. It's a recitation rather than a song, and seems to promise some kind of magic experience without really delivering it except with those guitar embellishments. Maybe he really wanted to do My Love himself.

Sound in the above clip is adequate although another version on youtube, here, is superior but cannot be embedded.

Incidentally, is it my imagination or does the end of The Ballad of John and Yoko have a little musical quote from The Honeymoon Song (or the Honeyboog Sog as a particularly nasal Harrison - actually suffering from a cold, which is a bit like a vengeful God giving Harvey Feinstein laryngitis - introduced it on a BBC broadcast)?

No, it's not my imagination, according to this allmusic entry here. Below are the Beatles' version from their BBC sessions and what I think is the recording which directly inspired it. There's a brief article on the song's origins here but go to youtube to find lots more versions. It's a beautiful song, I think, although the English lyrics do seem, presumably accidentally, hint at cold feet: "Fancy is free but are we who are bound to each other by love?" Sounds like he's getting ready to bail out, Missus.

But what I really wanted to draw people's attention to in this entry is the Beatles medley section of the McCartney TV special, to be found in the first three minutes of the segment below. If the intention was to publicise as many Northern Songs as possible, it does that most efficiently, by the device of presumably stopping random people in the street and asking them to sing a snatch of their fave Fabs number; this many people do, with varying degrees of tunefulness and adherence to the original lyrics (although by and large people seem to remember the words, or the gist of them, more than the tunes - or maybe it's just that the melody in their head gets distorted during transmission).

But the masterstroke is that lavish orchestral arrangements, faithful to the melodic wrong turnings of the impromptu singers, have been dubbed on to the soundtrack, so what might have been simply an excuse to laugh at the singers is still half that, but you could also argue that they are given dignity (of a sort). It's judged really well: there are one or two remarks by some of the vox pops about whether we can take much more of this, but essentially it seems goodhearted. As Lennon's new fashion guru would have put it, see what you think:

I also recently found a conversation between Donovan and Paul on youtube in two parts, below, taken from the recording sessions for a Mary Hopkin LP featuring several Donosongs (and, indeed, the Honeyboot Sod):

There is a transcript on the net here including some commentary, which gets it about right:
From the beginning, Paul doesn't seem to be too interested in what Donovan has to say. He repeatedly plays, sings, or talks over Donovan's speech. He is never blatantly rude, but one gets a sense of him just tolerating those around him. He appears to be more than willing to participate in a jam session, as he and Donovan continually riff on each other's songs. But as soon as Donovan starts extemporizing on the magical process of "painting" a song, Paul seems to turn off. Whether Paul feels Donovan is being pretentious or whether it is that he approaches songwriting from a different angle is unclear.
On a related note, one of the pleasures of the Million Dollar Quartet tapes is hearing a young Jerry Lee, not long on the Sun label, trying to establish himself as Presley's equal during the snippets of conversation. The above isn't quite the same, but you are aware that Macca is royalty and Don a courtier, however much indulged - a court favourite, even.

Finally, and tying this post up with a neat ribbon, why the title for this blog entry? Well, it all goes back to a memory sparked by those orchestrated vox pops on James Paul McCartney. I was about to play a cassette in the lounge of our now-disappeared home many years ago when I saw that another was already in the player. It turned out to be by my Town Hall Humiliation brother singing, for some reason, the Bannana Splits song. In a rare and uncharacteristic act of decency, I turned it off and made no reference to it.

Now, however, I wish I had kept it for like, forty years, yeah, then added backing, right, and put it out on the net, yeah - or threatened to do so, right, unless certain not wholly unreasonable demands were met. But who can be wise, amazed, temperate and furious, loyal and neutral, in a moment, eh?

If you have a tape of a sibling singing the Banana Splits theme and are in possession of a spotify account click here.

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