Any music magazine connoisseur (or Borders/Barnes and Noble/Insert cool bookstore here frequenter) knows that when it comes to thorough musical coverage, the British have us beat.
Rolling Stone's been on a downward slide for years, and the dismal "recreating" of its website
as something of a news/blog hybrid with too many ads and crappy "mix tape" lists everyday (I get really pissed off when I realize people are getting paid to write that tripe) is not helping its cause at all.
I got into Spin
for a little while, but its always had this air of being the snobby friend who would rag on you for liking Clap Your Hands Say Yeah because "You don't even understand the Pixies," and then when you'd retort that you like a few Pixies songs actually, it'd get all "Pfff, probably just the big ones. I mean you don't understand them like I understand them," and then you want to throw a few punches. While I realize I can be like that, the point is that I'm not to the point where it's worth getting huffy over Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.
But the limeys' weekly and monthly outputs are another story entirely. Q
is great (well it was at the start of the decade, it's getting a been getting a little fashionista over the past couple of years), Mojo
's top rate, and the first website I check every morning is the NME
The geniuses over at Maxim must've realized how cool those British mags were and realized the need in the American market for such coverage - if only to save readers the extra $5 or $6 that the importing fee tacks onto to the British cover price. Blender
's one of the few mainstream American music mags I like perusing, although the fact that it's under Maxim's umbrella means we're far more likely to get Pussycat Dolls cover stories than Neil Young ones. Although the Mariah Carey cover story
was eye opening. Well the photography was. Was there a story? Hmm...
But unlike Rolling Stone, Blender actually puts together some cool lists worth reading every month, and here's their latest: The Most Awesomely Demented Fans in Music
I like the writeups, and glad they agreed on the monsters in both Michael Jackson's and Clay Aiken's camps, but I kept paging through the list looking for the one group that never came up.
Now I'm a Beatles fan, and a rather obsessive one. Did you know, for instance, that it took all of 585 minutes to record the entire Please Please Me
album? I have Beatles shirts, Beatles posters, import singles and rarities out the wazoo, and back at the parents' house in Lombard, yes, I even have these
But there are fans far, far, far, FAR more obsessive than me. And I know, because from 1997 through 2000, I was a regular attendee of Beatlefest
Beatlefest was cool, and they offer it in New York and Los Angeles as well... I believe there's one in Canada and one in Florida now too... and if you haven't been to one, I reccommend checking it out. Through it I got to meet the likes of Robbie McIntosh, Hamish Stuart, Neil Innes, Ricky Fataar, John Halsey, Klaus Voorman, Astrid Kirscher, Laurence Juber, Gordon Waller and even Sid Bernstein. And there are fans there ranging from the most casual to... the group I started this whole rant about.
I'm kind of an MOR obsessive. I spend a lot of time in the "marketplace," perusing endless CD bins for those rare Paul McCartney European singles... looking for some good pieces of vinyl (ironically enough, I found a mint condition, sealed original copy of one of my all time favorite albums, The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society
at Beatlefest), and so on and so forth.
Then they're are the nuts. Beatlefest is nice because it gives you the option of seeing "A Hard Day's Night," "Help!," "Magical Mystery Tour," "Yellow Submarine" and "Let it Be" on the big screen, but you got your fans there who shreik through the whole movie or when their favorite Beatle delivers a particularly good line. I'll never forget the scream that George Harrison elicited during "A Hard Day's Night" when he called that trendsetter "a drag - a well known drag." I thought someone was being murdered at the other end of the ballroom.
Then there are the endless parades of tribute bands, which is all well and good for a weekend, but you realize that half of them spend the whole year doing it. I kind of understand the gimmick of it, but really, I'd rather sit at home and listen to Revolver
than go hear four accountants-by-day in Beatle wigs and with Rickenbackers and bad Lennon impersonations try to get through "When I Get Home." Maybe it's just me.
I think what I'm driving at can be summed up best by one story from the final year I attended the Fest.
Beatlefest in Chicago is (or was, I don't know if it still is) held at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare, which is right in the middle of a whole cluster of hotels and convention centers. It's held in August, which I guess must be a good month for conventions in Chicago, because all sorts of different ones are going on in every open space around those hotels.
Anyway, I parked in this parking garage that year that had a skywalk attached which led Beatlefest attendees to the Hyatt, but in the walk, you could look down on other things going on below, and one of the ballrooms the skywalk passed through was hosting a Star Trek convention. As a teenager, I always walked with my head down, so I looked down and laughed a little to myself at how ridiculous the guy with a pocket protector in Klingon makeup looked, but then I heard someone ahead of me actually verbalize it to the person he was walking with. I didn't see him previously, because of my head being down.
"Look at those losers!" he exclaimed to his compatriot.
I looked up to laugh in agreement, but then my face went white in horror as a fluorescent pink military outfit caught the sun's glare and nearly blinded me. The guy was decked out in Ringo's suit from Sgt. Pepper -
and had the wig and fake moustache to boot. His friend was in neon green - Lennon's suit, and nodded and scoffed at the Trekkies below in agreement.
Now I'm not saying that's what stopped me going, but I'd never seen such a tangible display of a pot calling a kettle black.
Now I always attended in a Beatle t-shirt and khakis, so it wasn't ridiculous, but I will tell you one thing. If you're decked out in Sgt. Pepper regalia and willing to show yourself in front of THOUSANDS of people, I think a special spot should be saved for you in The Most Awesomely Demented Fans in Music.
Understandable and well... er...
Here's a fantastic paean to some of the Beatles' original demented fans - the lot that would hold vigil outside the Beatles' Apple offices in London in the late 1960s. I read somewhere once that Harrison actually had extramarital relations with one of the Scruffs, but I can't recall which book that was in. Maybe Bob Spitz's? Sounds more like a Geoffrey Guiliano type story though, so maybe it was him. Note to readers - don't read Guiliano's books, he's only interested in tabloid type stuff anyway, but more importantly, he's just a flat out bad writer. I would hope you know this song and hope even moreso that you own George Harrison's fantastic All Things Must Pass
album, particularly the 30th anniversary addition that features some great outtakes and sounds glorious in spite of Phil Spector's overproduction. This was always one of my favorites from the album, and is also the name of a martini at John Hawk's Pub in Milwaukee. I mention that because I always get it, in spite of not really liking it, pretend I'm drunk and start singing "How I love you!" to the drink as if it's the funniest thing in the world. Most people don't get it. But some do.
George Harrison wrote this note to 3 of the Scruffs after he'd completed the track:
"Dear Carol, Cathy and Lucy. Now it's finished - and off to the factory. I thought I'd tell you that I haven't a clue whether it's good or bad as I've heard it too much now! During the making of this epic album (the most expensive album EMI ever had to pay for) I have felt positive and negative - please and displeased, and all the other opposites expected to be found in this material world. However, the one thing that didn't waver, seems to me, to be 'you three' and Mal., always there as my sole supporters, and even during my worst moments I always felt the encouragement from you was sufficient to make me finish the thing. Thanks a lot, I am really overwhelmed by your apparent undying love, and I don't understand it at all! Love from George (P.S. Don't hold this evidence against me.) P.P.S. Phil Spector loves you too!"
Anyway, it seemed like an appropriate song for rabid Beatle fandom, if only because I wasn't going to scour the net for those early 60s novelty tracks like "We Love You Beatles" and "Ringo For President." That's the kind of thing for people who wear Sgt. Pepper outfits...
Labels: Beatles fans, George Harrison