Thursday, March 5, 2009


Basketball season is heating up and we are getting towards the playoffs. Some interesting storylines need to be discussed, but that will come at another time. "Crazy Captain Gunboat Willie" from Little Feat's first album is playing now and I feel the energy to write about Red Rose Speedway - Paul McCarney's fourth solo album.

I know I have mentioned this album a lot on this blog if any of you follow it. I know one guy does because he wrote a comment so I thank you Lautreamont, my first blog commentator. Anyway, Red Rose Speedway is pretty shitty by most people's standards I would think, but not for me. My good friend Nick Mencia was always raving about it while I was in the majority, raving about Ram, which most people consider the only bearable (aka not too sticky sweet though very semisweet chocoloate) Paul solo album. So I picked up the album and gave it a listen.

When first song "Big Barn Bed" comes on you are in full 70's mode. The sound is terrific I think and I am no real judge other than I like to listen to a lot of music and I know what I like. So when I hear chiming acoustic guitars, a slinky electric guitar and some good drums and bass with Paul singing in funny voices and running his voice all over his register, I know it's a great song. See, really Big Barn Bed could sum up all of McCartney solo and it was what he was really all about even though he had his missteps like anyone - I mean Lennon's shit sucked a lot of the time, lets be honest and he is my second favorite singer of all time - fun. McCartney had all the tools and he wanted to have fun with his music. Overproduced? Who cares? Too sweet for you? Who cares?

The second song "My Love" is absolutely too sweet. Overproduced as hell with a line that YOU could not make up "When the cupboard's bare, my love's still there." If you were that smart then you would not be reading these words about this song or even writing the words about the song - you would be a billionaire riding across the country in an old Ford Bronco.

"Get On the Right Thing," the third song, is my favorite song. Its a classic Paul rocker with some of the best lines in the history of rock music. "All at once you get love on your mind and your world is as unkind as a penny." That is just one line of genius. But while those kind of lines are going on, someone is playing ungodly Ringoesque drums and we have soul singers backing Paul and Paul is playing some honky tonk/Ray Charles piano. Then the drums really kick, the piano pounds, the soul singers belt it out and Paul starts putting on the Lady Madonna/Abbey Road medley voice that we all know and love. We get more of this and Little Richard shrieking for a blissful 4 minutes or so - I don't have the time in front of me.

Next is the country ditty "One More Kiss," which is so effortlessly melodic and perfect only Paul would've written it.

Fifth, is "Little Lamb Dragonfly." With a title like that and with Paul behind the wheel, you know this is one melancholy son of a bitch. A wistful acoustic guitar brings it in and then the strings swell and take over. Soon melodramatic horns are blowing and Paul is singing in some weird voice you never heard in the Beatles, like a strange opera singer. The song cascades and finishes, and I bet you (insert number) dollars that you will be humming this song when you walk down the street for a week after you hear it. Even if one lyric is "Dragonfly, fly by my window. You and I still have a way to go."

"Single Pigeon" is literally classic McCartney. Nice piano line, Paul singing perfectly. Even putting in obscure and abstract lines like "Sunday Morning, fight about Saturday night," that he hadn't touched on since "You Never Give Me Your Money." Perfect Paul. Put this one in the time capsule along with the next.

"When the Night" is another in Paul's great R&B line. It's in there with "Oh, Darling," "Why Don't We Do It In the Road," "She's A Woman," "Lady Madonna." This may be the best out of them all though. He really nails it. Steady piano, his voice doing that crazy Paul deep voice and then in the end the crazy Paul shriek. He even does the funny Beatle groove and quiet voice jams they would do at the end of the song.

"Loup (First Indian on the Moon)" Instrumental weird McCartney. You have to love it. The man liked tape loops. They aren't here, but it came from that Stockhausen part of his heart.

"Medley: a)Hold Me Tight; b)Lazy Dynamite; c)Hands of Love; d) Power Cut." Abbey Road medley? This is the only medley we should ever speak of.

This is one of the masterpieces of western music. Put it on with friends over on a Sunday night when you are drinking the hair of the dog to get better for work. Have a home cooked hot meal, enjoy the taste of beer and this album will reveal its miracles to you.

Now, From Here to the Last Mound of Dirt.


I’m sitting with Eve in the living room. She’s watching me play the piano. I haven’t played in a long time. I would’ve played at Easter if I’d been home. Something sounds off with it. No one has kept it in tune I’m sure. I used to spend hours here playing and playing in the afternoon. Mom would sit with me. She’d fold laundry or read the Times or whatever book she was reading. The philosophy she dabbled in too. But now it’s Eve and I and I’m playing a Bach etude that I learned to long ago. I forget if it even has a name. I like seeing my fingers move along the white and black keys. My fingers still look young even though I’m not. Thirty-two, dear God! I always dreaded when I would be able to say, “When I was thirty.” The past tense of being thirty, which is everyone’s cut off age for kids and marriage and all of that. I stop playing. Eve looks at me.

“Does it upset you to see Ben this way?” She asks. Her legs are crossed in jeans and she’s bouncing the right one, which is crossed on top.

“Why? Does it bother you?”

“You were the only one who was alive when he last had a drink. James treats that like its folk-lore or some sort of holy myth.”

“He does?” I ask.

She smiles and her eyes widen. “Yes, I think that you all do.”

I laugh. I can’t help it. “You’re right,” I say.

“It’s because of how legendary Ben was, isn’t it? How he was going to be famous?”

I know she knows this, but it’s the first time she has asked me directly about it.

“That’s what they say. He was famous in a way I suppose.”

“As a doctor in the town.”

"Well I guess that makes it more than one way.”

She smiles at me. I always liked her. I’m glad James married her. I hate that they’re married, though. What does it take to do that? What do they both have that I don’t? Or is the key word both?

I play around in the key of A. Linking subdominant chords, minor chords. Eve’s knee and draped thigh are bouncing.

“Did James tell you we’re trying to have a baby?”

No one had told me that. I didn’t know.

“No, was he supposed to?”

Eve shrugs and rests her chin in her palm. She looks French. I don’t think she is, though. What is she? Now she’s shaking her head. The light from outside is falling in. It’s grey and not so light but it gives the room that atmosphere. The atmosphere that something is heavy and that somehow that light is in your stomach and weighing you down like a big brick of dough.

“He wasn’t supposed to,” she says. “I just thought he might’ve shared.”

“Well we were never the closest, you know that.”

“That’s true.”

“He was closest to Liza I think. For some reason.”

Eve laughs. “I always wanted to be from a big family.”

“We’re not big,” I say.

“To me it seems like it. It was only my older sister and I. I just love the way it works between all of you.”

“How do you mean?”

“Well, who is closer to who and how everyone has to vie for attention.”

I’ve never had anyone talk to me in admiration about my family. And I never gave it a thought. You never do, or maybe there is a point growing up when you’re supposed to see your family as a whole unit. A whole and complete entity as its own that you are within and without. I must have missed that stage. I was too busy being without - chasing images, photos in my lens. Stories. Maybe if I called Jake he’d come to the funeral, though if I were him I wouldn’t.

“I’ve never really thought about it in that way.”

Eve stretches out on the couch. “I guess if it was my family I wouldn’t either. But then again, maybe I would.”

This is the longest conversation I’ve ever had with her. She is my sister-in-law now. She has been for two years. That’s another thing you don’t think of - in-laws and who they are going to be. Eve and I are very different. I think a man would get the sense if he just happened to walk in the room and see the two of us, the two of us sitting relaxed in a grey heavy morning.

Eve sighs. “I’m going to miss this house.”

I nod my head and play an old progression that sounds familiar. F, A minor, G. “I don’t think any of us have any idea.”

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