riley rock report

McCartney 80×80

The Humble Genius Duets on “Glory Days”
Guest column in Wayne Robins’s Critical Conditions
June 27, 2022

On the edge of turning 80, in front of 75,000 fans recently at the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, Paul McCartney invited Bruce Springsteen up onstage to sing “Glory Days.” Youtubers the world over have since joined in the swoon. Somehow, even though the song came out in 1984, it lassoed all the Beatles memories studding the McCartney set as well as its legacy. The sight of two senior citizens playing youth music to an adoring crowd gave rock history another shudder of wonder at how far the style has gone, and how unlikely it was to turn out like this.

To pay tribute to McCartney’s longevity, the online magazine Stereogum solicited favorite songs from 80 artists for a roundup of what makes his music so disarming, and the results proved bemusing, delicious, and downright silly. A quick scan of the material shows a skew into his lackluster solo career (with obvious choices like “Let Me Roll It” but no “Mull of Kintyre”), 60s staples like “Eleanor Rigby” and “Let It Be” and “Long and Winding Road” but not “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “Eight Days A Week,” “Good Day Sunshine,” “Got to Get You Into My Life,” “With a Little Help From my Friends,” or “Two of Us,” for SHAME. McCartney has become famous for many reasons and very few we all agree upon; that famous Beatles consensus has splintered into a thousand new opinions.

To understand the McCartney’s musical charms, begin with his songwriting partnership with John Lennon. The collaboration both focused and confounded his own preternatural gifts. On the one hand, we think of a number like “All My Loving” as primarily a McCartney track: he sings leads all the way through, no harmonies (except minor backup “oohs”) until the final verse, when the duet turns into a full-fledged brotherly moment. Then there’s “If I Fell,” which normally gets pegged as a Lennon song, but McCartney’s upper harmony catches just the right light.

Same goes for “Don’t Let Me Down,” its late-phase cousin; the partnership spills over at least as much into vocals as it does writing. Then you have the “We Can Work It Out” McCartney, which sports a Lennon bridge, where you can hear the divide between the two even as they stitch two song ideas into one (see also “A Day in the Life” and “I’ve Got a Feeling,” both inexplicably missing). For different reasons, nobody picks “Hello Goodbye” as any kind of standout (and no votes here either), and nobody confuses “I Am the Walrus” as a “Paul” song…

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Made For TV:

Watergate at 50 and Arkansas Elvis

Gaslit, Starz
Impeachment: American Crime Story, FX
June 24, 2022
listen to audio narration here (10 mins)  

During another summer of congressional hearings, fights over national memory and history itself, Watergate can feel further than five decades in the past. In retrospect, Richard Nixon’s story feels both sealed off from our modern squabbles and a little pathetic; the petty cover-up President may actually gain stature next to the riverboat gambler insurrectionist cult tyrant. The Republican Congress that impeached President Bill Clinton for lying about his tryst with Monica Lewinsky feels closer, and not just for the way Special Prosecutor Ken Starr blanched as Clinton parsed the legal definition of sex…

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Shame About the Lyrics

#HBD Prince and His Silly Funk Index

Graffiti Bridge surfs on flaky greatness and drops a new censorship anthem

EVEN THOUGH HE’S NOT exactly ego-free, Prince has never been one of those loner pop stars who sing about how isolating fame can be. Throughout his decade-long orgy of insistent black pop music-making, while stealing shamelessly from the heroes he grew up listening to in the ’70s (George Clinton, Sly Stone, and, of course, James Brown), Prince has alternated between playing the self-sufficient studio monomaniac and beckoning like the barker to his own three-ring circus on tour…

Bob Dylan Turns 81:

Baffling Persists

When Dylan released Love and Theft back in 2001, it forced a reassessment

Twenty years ago it seemed like a lot of Dylan followers kept defending him beyond reason. I gave up after one too many zombie shows where he literally turned his back on the audience and acted so preoccupied it felt chilling, patronizing. So the shock of Love and Theft went beyond the bizarre moment of its release date (September 11, 2001). His vocal commitment, combined with his renewed humor, spelled out a weirdly acontextual return. And perhaps more.