Across the Universe

Allow me to ignore life’s problems and politics for a minute for something more fun:  My latest anthology (co-edited with Randee Dawn).

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It’s a great anthology of “Alternate Beatles” stories with some of the top writers in the field of science fiction and fantasy! (In order of appearance): Spider Robinson, Charles Barouch, Gordon Linzner, Lawrence Watt-Evans, Allen Steele, Sally Wiener Grotta, Ken Schneyer, David Gerrold, Cat Rambo, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Bev Vincent, Patrick Barb, Carol Gyzander, Pat Cadigan, Gail Z. Martin, Barbara Clough, Eric Avedissian, Alan Goldsher, R. Jean Mathieu, Beth W. Patterson, Christian Smith, Gregory Frost, Matthew Amati, and Gregory Benford.

It’s available in hard cover or paperback!

We’ve already received some great reviews!

“This collection is a Magical Mystery Tour through alternate universes where the familiar narrative of the Beatles is turned on its head. Or ear. Or ass. It’s fun, irreverent, sexy, and twisted–just like the Fab Four themselves.” — Vicki Peterson, The Bangles

“I must have read a thousand Beatles books. But not one of them mentioned that the Beatles were attacked by aliens at the Hollywood Bowl. Or talked about their encounter with the Mersey Monster. Or discussed how they became zombies. I had to learn all of this from the thoroughly entertaining anthology Across the Universe. Each of its 25 stories of speculative fiction re-imagine The Beatles in alternative universes, allowing us to laugh at and with John, Paul, George, and Ringo. Highly recommended!” — Scott Freiman, creator of Deconstructing the Beatles

Across the Universe is way too much fun! It’s the Beatles in the Twilight Zone of infinite possibilities! Highly recommended!” — Jonathan MaberryNew York Times bestselling author of V-Wars and Rage

Across the Universe is a fantastic, freewheeling, and imaginative romp of a collection. The authors transported me not only across the universe, but to what might have been in many and various alternate universes, all populated by the Beatles and their peculiar possible transmutations. Totally engrossing.” — Paul Marshall, Strawberry Alarm Clock

 “The Fab Four are reimagined as wizards, robots, hockey players, zombies, the Marx Brothers, and more in this anthology from Ventrella (Big Stick) and Dawn (Home for the Holidays). An introduction by “Wicked” series coauthor Nancy Holder sets the stage. Standouts include the clever time-travel, short-short “The Perfect Bridge” by Charles Barouch; “Meet the Beatles” by Pat Cadigan, a delightful exercise in nostalgia; and two stories based on the “Paul is dead” hoax: “Paul Is Dead” by Lawrence Watt-Evans, in which an alternate universe Paul replaces the original, and “When I’m #64” by Patrick Barb, in which Paul constantly dies and comes back to life. The absolute standout is “Through a Glass Onion” by Christian H. Smith, a poignant, inspirational tale about a failed musician named John Lennon from another universe who is given a vision of the success he had in ours. VERDICT: This anthology will be mostly of interest to Beatles fans, but even non-fans will find stories here that will move and surprise them.” — Library Journal

“Ranging from trippy fantasy to hard science fiction and zombie apocalypse mash-up, the stories in this anthology send the members of the Beatles on wild adventures through alternate timelines and universes. In Allen M. Steele’s “Come Together,” artificial intelligences named for each of the Fab Four identify so strongly with their namesakes that they jeopardize their space probe’s mission when they begin to fall out with one another, mimicking the breakup of the band. An idealistic George Harrison tries to teach transcendental meditation to Richard Nixon with disastrous geopolitical results in Sally Wiener Grotta’s “The Truth Within.” Gregory Frost’s “A Hard Day’s Night at the Opera” plugs the band members into the plot of a Marx brothers movie to hilarious effect. It’s clear that each of the 25 contributors are true fans, filling their tales with references to Beatles history and, in the case of David M. Gerrold’s “The Fabtastic Four,” so many song lyrics that readers will be tempted to sing along. Beatles aficionados and fantasy fans will enjoy this affectionate, speculative homage.” — Publishers Weekly

Ringo Starr’s Best Songs

With Ringo finally getting inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I thought it might be nice to look at his solo work and share my favorites.

Ringo’s voice is … well, let’s use the word “unique.” It’s certainly distinctive. Whenever there was a group sing-a-long, Ringo’s voice always seemed to come to the forefront (listen to “Bungalow Bill” or “Carry that Weight” — it’s almost like the other three, whose voices blended so well, were his backup singers!).

But Ringo knew how to surround himself with good people, and his best solo work owes much to the musicians he recruited. See for yourself…

In chronological order:

It Don’t Come Easy.  Ringo wrote this simple song but George’s production made it special. It has that Phil Spector-ish production that George learned while working on the “All Things Must Pass” album, and the George’s guitar hook at the beginning makes the song special.

I’m The Greatest. John wrote this for Ringo, in which he happily sings “Yes, my name is Billy Shears, Yes it has been for so many years…”  John’s backup singing is perfect.

Photograph. This was Ringo’s first #1 song … and he reached #1 before John did! I wonder how that went over. This is co-written by George, who played guitar.

Snookeroo.  Elton John was at the height of his career when he wrote this one for Ringo. That’s Elton on piano, too. It sounds exactly like an Elton John song sung by Ringo.

Goodnight Vienna. Another John-penned song and you can hear him counting off and screaming “all right” at the start. That’s him playing piano. Billy Preston is there as well. Although Paul has written songs for Ringo and played on the albums as well (that’s Paul playing kazoo on “You’re Sixteen”) it seems that Paul didn’t give Ringo any really great material.

Vertical Man. Now we zoom all the way from the 70s to the late 90s, when Ringo hooked up with Mark Hudson (of the “Hudson Brothers” – remember them?). Mark Hudson is a huge Beatles fan who loves going to Beatles conventions (where I met him!).  His own songwriting shows the Beatles influence so, not surprisingly, many of my favorite Ringo songs are from the albums he did with Mark doing much of the writing and producing. This particular song is just plain fun. (And that’s Ozzy Osbourne singing backup, believe it or not.)

La De Da. This is a catchy one, although the video here is from the short single version. Typical Ringo lyrics. “I’ve lived my life / It’s only right ’cause I can’t live your life for you.”

Never Without You. This is the song Ringo wrote after George’s death. A sad tribute, with lead guitar from George’s old friend Eric Clapton (but Eric isn’t in the video).

Fading In Fading Out. This is another song co-written with Mark Hudson that is just one of those happy pop songs that you can’t help but like.

Don’t Hang Up. This is a nice piece where Ringo shares vocals with Chrissie Hynde. Always makes me smile!

Liverpool 8. Ringo has a lot of songs about his life with the Beatles. I mean, how can you top that? This is one of the best, with production by Dave Stewart.

Since I only listed my ten favorites, I had to leave out many songs featuring other musicians and singers like Marc Bolan, David Gilmour, Levon Helm, Nicky Hopkins, Dr. John, Jim Keltner, Al Kooper, Jeff Lynne, Bette Midler, Alanis Morrisette, Harry Nilsson, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty, Stephen Stills, Steven Tyler, Luther Vandross, Klaus Voorman, Joe Walsh, Don Was, Edgar Winter, Ronnie Woods, Gary Wright …

Listening to Ringo is sometimes like having a reunion with old friend.

And, if you’re more interested in seeing his Top Ten Greatest Hits (as opposed to my personal ten favorites), here’s a list based on chart success.  (The number in parenthesis shows how high on the charts the song reached.)

  1. Photograph (1)
  2. You’re Sixteen (1)
  3. No No Song (3)
  4. It Don’t Come Easy (4)
  5. Oh My My (5)
  6. Only You (6)
  7. Back Off Bugaloo (9)
  8. A Dose of Rock and Roll (26)
  9. Goodnight Vienna (31)
  10. Wrack My Brain (38)

Top 100 Beatles Solo Songs

In the seven years the Beatles recorded together, they created amazing music.  I’ve previously listed the Top 100 Beatles songs and a few weeks ago listed all the Beatles solo singles.  Today I present my Top 100 Beatles solo songs.

This is not a list of their “greatest hits” – I paid no attention to whether a song was a hit single.  Just because “Ebony and Ivory” may be one of Paul’s biggest hits doesn’t mean it’s one of his best songs. Beatles70

Since Paul has been making music continuously for the past 45 years or so, most of these are his.  John, after all, only had a few years to produce music, George also died too soon, and Ringo is, well, Ringo.  (His best stuff was when he was with producer and writer Mark Hudson.)

The list is organized chronologically by Beatle.

This is my opinion only.  Your mileage may vary.  However, if you are looking to expand your post-Beatles library of songs, might I suggest the following?

JOHN

  1. Instant Karma (We All Shine On)
  2. God
  3. Hold On
  4. Imagine
  5. Jealous Guy
  6. Gimme Some Truth
  7. Woman is the Nigger of the World
  8. Mind Games
  9. Out the Blue
  10. I Know (I Know)
  11. Intuition
  12. #9 Dream
  13. Whatever Gets You Through The Night
  14. Nobody Loves You When You’re Down and Out
  15. (Just Like) Starting Over
  16. Nobody Told Me

PAUL

  1. Maybe I’m Amazed
  2. Junk
  3. Every Night
  4. Teddy Boy
  5. Another Day
  6. Too Many People
  7. Dear Boy
  8. Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey
  9. Heart of the Country
  10. Monkberry Moon Delight
  11. The Back Seat of My Car
  12. Give Ireland Back to the Irish
  13. Tomorrow
  14. Hi Hi Hi
  15. Big Barn Bed
  16. Single Pigeon
  17. I Lie Around
  18. Live and Let Die
  19. Helen Wheels
  20. Band on the Run
  21. Jet
  22. Mrs. Vandebilt
  23. Junior’s Farm
  24. Venus and Mars/Rock Show
  25. Magneto and Titanium Man
  26. Girl’s School
  27. Getting Closer
  28. Spin It On
  29. Temporary Secretary
  30. Take it Away
  31. Press
  32. Back on My Feet
  33. My Brave Face
  34. You Want Her Too
  35. This One
  36. Mistress and Maid
  37. Calico Skies
  38. Young Boy
  39. Beautiful Night
  40. Jenny Wren
  41. Fine Line
  42. English Tea
  43. Ever Present Past
  44. The End of the End
  45. Nod Your Head
  46. Save Us
  47. Queeny Eye

GEORGE

  1. My Sweet Lord
  2. What is Life
  3. All Things Must Pass
  4. Apple Scruffs
  5. Beware of Darkness
  6. Isn’t it a Pity
  7. Living in the Material World
  8. Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)
  9. Don’t Let Me Wait Too Long
  10. Dark Horse
  11. Crackerbox Palace
  12. It’s What You Value
  13. Woman Don’t You Cry For Me
  14. This Song
  15. Deep Blue
  16. Dream Away
  17. All Those Years Ago
  18. Got My Mind Set on You
  19. Devil’s Radio
  20. When We Was Fab
  21. P2 Vatican Blues (Last Saturday Night)
  22. Any Road

RINGO

  1. It Don’t Come Easy
  2. Back Off Boogaloo
  3. I’m The Greatest
  4. Photograph
  5. Goodnight Vienna
  6. Weight of the World
  7. One
  8. Vertical Man
  9. La De Da
  10. Elizabeth Reigns
  11. Never Without You
  12. Missouri Loves Company
  13. Fading In Fading Out
  14. Some People
  15. Don’t Hang Up

Beatles Solo Charting Singles

Once the Beatles split up, we had four times the music being produced, often at 25% of the original quality.

This is a list of all of the Beatles solo singles that made the Billboard charts in order of their release date, because I didn’t see a similar list anywhere else (although it’s probably out there somewhere.)Beatles70

This is not a list of their best songs.  Just because something was released as a single doesn’t mean it was any good, and there are plenty of album tracks that are far superior to some of these.

I did not include the Traveling Wilburys in this chart, because while George was a major participant it wasn’t really a George solo project.

This was fun for me to compile, because I first got into the Beatles after they split (I’m not that old!) and I remember going to my local record store and being excited whenever a new album or single came out … especially late 1973 – early 1974, when I was 15, and all four produced some of their best albums and singles.

Song (John, Paul, George or Ringo) Release date (Highest chart position)

Give Peace a Chance (J) 7/7/69 (14)

Cold Turkey (J) 10/20/69 (30)

Instant Karma (J) 2/20/70 (3)

My Sweet Lord (G) 11/1/70 (1)

Mother (J) 12/28/70 (43)

What is Life (G) 2/2/71 (10)

Another Day (P) 2/19/71 (5)

Power to the People (J) 3/12/71 (11)

It Don’t Come Easy (R) 4/4/71 (4) george

Bangla Desh (G) 7/1/71 (23)

Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey (P) 8/2/71 (1)

Imagine (J) 9/11/71 (3)

Give Ireland Back to the Irish (P) 2/25/72 (21)

Back Off Boogaloo (R) 3/12/72 (9)

Woman is the Nigger of the World (J) 4/24/72 (57)

Mary Had a Little Lamb (P) 5/12/72 (28)

Hi Hi Hi (P) 12/1/72 (10)

My Love (P) 3/23/73 (1)

Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth) (G) 5/5/73 (1)

Live and Let Die (P) 6/1/73 (2)johnny

Photograph (R) 9/24/73 (1)

Helen Wheels (P) 10/26/73 (10)

Mind Games (J) 10/29/73 (18)

You’re Sixteen (R) 12/3/73 (1)

Jet (P) 2/15/74 (7)

Oh My My (R) 2/18/74 (5)

Band on the Run (P) 6/28/74 (1)

Whatever Gets You Through the Night (J) 9/23/74 (1)

Junior’s Farm (P) 10/25/74 (3)

Only You (R) 11/11/74 (6)

Dark Horse (G) 11/18/74 (15)

#9 Dream (J) 12/16/74 (9)

Ding Dong Ding Dong (G) 12/23/74 (36)

No No Song (R) 1/27/75 (3)

Stand By Me (J) 3/10/75 (20)

Listen to What the Man Said (P) 5/16/75 (1)

(It’s all Down to) Goodnight Vienna (R) 6/2/75  (31)

Letting Go (P) 9/5/75 (39) ringo1

You (G) 10/3/75 (20)

Venus and Mars/Rock Show (P) 11/28/75 (12)

Silly Love Songs (P) 4/1/76 (1)

Let ‘Em In (P) 6/28/76 (3)

A Dose of Rock and Roll (R) 9/20/76 (26)

This Song (G) 11/15/76 (25)

Hey Baby (R) 11/22/76 (74)

Crackerbox Palace (G) 1/24/77 (19)

Maybe I’m Amazed (live version) (P) 2/4/77 (10)

Girl’s School (P) 11/11/77 (33)

With a Little Luck (P) 3/23/78 (1)

I’ve Had Enough (P) 6/16/78 (25)

London Town (P) 8/26/78 (39)

Blow Away (G) 2/23/79 (16)

Goodnight Tonight (P) 3/23/79 (5)

Getting Closer (P) 6/20/79 (20)

Arrow Through Me (P) 8/3/79 (29) paul

Coming Up (P) 4/11/80 (1)

(Just Like) Starting Over (J) 10/27/80 (1)

Woman (J) 1/12/81 (2)

Watching the Wheels (J) 3/13/81 (10)

All Those Years Ago (G) 6/5/81 (2)

Wrack My Brain (R) 10/27/81 (38)

Ebony and Ivory (P) 3/29/82 (1)

Take It Away (P) 6/21/82 (10)

Tug of War (P) 9/20/82 (53)

Say Say Say (P) 10/3/83 (1)

So Bad (P) 12/5/83 (23)

Wake Up My Love (G) 11/5/82 (53)

Nobody Told Me (J) 1/5/84 (5)

No More Lonely Nights (P) 9/24/84 (6)

I’m Stepping Out (J) 3/15/84 (55)

Spies Like Us (P) 11/18/85 (7)

Press (P) 7/14/86 (21)

Stranglehold (P) 11/12/86 (81)

Got My Mind Set on You (G) 11/3/87 (1)

When We Was Fab (G) 1/22/88 (23)

My Brave Face (P) 5/8/89 (25)

This One (P) 7/17/89 (94)

Figure of Eight (P) 11/13/89 (92)

Hope of Deliverance (P) 12/28/92 (83)

The World Tonight (P) 7/7/97 (64)

Freedom (P) 11/5/01 (97)

Dance Tonight (P) 6/18/07 (69)

Number Ones:

Paul (9)
George (3)
John (2)
Ringo (2)

Remembering John Lennon

On December 8, 1980, my fellow disc jockeys and I were gathered up in the WVCW studio. Exams started soon, so we college kids were having our radio station Christmas party early. I was the Program Director and proud of our station — we were the only station in Richmond playing that “new wave” music (Elvis Costello, Talking Heads, Ramones, Clash) but even then, you would still find plenty of Beatles in rotation. lennon “You can’t go wrong with the Beatles” was a phrase I’d say to my DJs.

Suddenly, one of the DJs came rushing in. “Lennon’s been killed!” There was a shocked pause. I ran into the control room and turned to the news feed.  It was true.  We switched over to the news feed so our listeners would know.

I was in a daze that night.  The party had crashed.  Why would someone want John Lennon dead?

As Heidi and I silently walked back to our apartment, we saw our friend Craig Evans heading the other way, hands in his pockets, looking dejected. Craig is a musician who now leads the band The Taters. He and I had jammed together a bunch of times and I knew how much of a Beatles fan he was.

“Craig!”  Heidi yelled. “Lennon’s dead!”

All my frustration exploded at that point and I screamed at Heidi. “That’s not how you break bad news!” I was irate, and wrongly took my anger at Lennon’s death out on my girlfriend (now my wife).

I slept on the couch that night and dreamed that my father had died.

The next day, I prepared a list of Beatles songs that John had written so the DJs wouldn’t say “Here’s another song to tribute John Lennon” and then stick on “Yesterday.” I also told them which songs not to play because they referenced death (“Yer Blues”; “She Said She Said”; “Happiness is a Warm Gun”;  etc.) I had no classes that day so some of the DJs let me take over their shows. I played Lennon and Beatles all day.

Lennon’s death affected me like no other celebrity death (until Jim Henson’s), not just because I am such a fan of his but also because of its suddenness and senselessness. When George Harrison died many years later, it did not affect me the same, because it was expected; he had been fighting cancer for years.

Even today, I get a bit choked up about it.

My favorite interviews with musicians

I have another blog where I interview writers.  I concentrate mostly on fantasy and science fiction writers, since that’s what I mostly read (and write), but every once in a while I get the opportunity to interview musicians who have written books (or writers who have written books about music).

My favorite so far has been with Howard Kaylan.  Howard was the founder of The Turtles and then later went on to sing for Frank Zappa (as well as Flo and Eddie). kaylan2 He wanted to be interviewed by phone and we had a great conversation.  He is just as funny to talk to in person as his music and book was.  He appreciated the fact that I knew his work and we probably could have talked for another hour but I had to leave.

Another phone interview was with Tommy James.  You remember him!  Crimson and Clover, I Think We’re Alone Now, Draggin’ the Line, Hanky Panky, Mony Mony — his songs topped the charts over and over in the 60s.  He was very friendly and his book is good, too!

May Pang only wanted to be interviewed by email, and ignored some of the questions I had asked her about her relationship with John Lennon, but if you’re a Beatles fan, you’ll want to read this one.

I also interviewed Alan Goldsher by phone.  He’s a session musician whose latest book is the autobiography of George Benson.   He wrote a hilarious book called “Paul is Undead” about the Beatles as zombies and we had a great talk about writing, Beatles, and music in general.

Music has been very important to me in life, and so I’ve been honored to interview these people.  Have a look!

The Beatles remixed and remastered

I was thrilled when Apple released the remastered Beatles albums a few years ago.  The songs sounded so clean and crisp.  It was immediately noticeable on songs like “Dear Prudence” and the early work (wow, you can actually hear the bass now!).  They even fixed the mistake on “Day Tripper”!beatles_12a

However, it was not all that I had hoped for.

While the songs were remastered, they were not remixed.   The Beatles worked in mono up until “Abbey Road”, and the stereo mixes were an afterthought.  The earlier albums have all the instruments on one side and all the vocals on the other, which is very jarring and not pleasing.  Later albums are almost as bad.

When Apple released the “Yellow Submarine Songtrack” they remixed and remastered the songs, and the results are wonderful.  Compare “Nowhere Man” to the original version on “Rubber Soul” and you can hear the difference.  The multi-tracked vocals surround you.  I can imagine that if the Beatles had the technology back in 1966, this is how they would have wanted it to sound.  And then on the “Love” album, we finally got “I Am The Walrus” in true stereo, something I had waited 40 years to hear.

So my dream is that Apple is doing this for all of the albums.  I mean, why wouldn’t they?  People like me will rush out to buy the whole set, and they’ll make another vault full of money.

I also would love for them to get rid of the “Past Masters” albums and add those extra songs onto the CDs, where there is plenty of room.  I’d also include songs that were completed but never released (until the Anthology albums.)  Here’s where the extra songs would go:

PLEASE PLEASE ME

  • Love Me Do (single version)
  • From Me To You
  • Thank You Girl
  • How Do You Do It

WITH THE BEATLES

  • She Loves You
  • I’ll Get You
  • I Want To Hold Your Hand
  • This Boy
  • Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand
  • Sie Liebt Dich

A HARD DAY’S NIGHT

  • Long Tall Sally
  • I Call Your Name
  • Slow Down
  • Matchbox

BEATLES FOR SALE

  • I Feel Fine
  • Leave My Kitten Alone
  • She’s a Woman
  • Bad Boy

HELP!

  • I’m Down
  • Yes It Is
  • If You’ve Got Troubles

RUBBER SOUL

  • Day Tripper
  • We Can Work It Out

REVOLVER

  • Paperback Writer
  • Rain

SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND

  • Only a Northern Song

MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR

  • Hey Bulldog
  • All Together Now
  • It’s All Too Much

THE BEATLES (WHITE ALBUM)

  • Not Guilty
  • Across the Universe (original version)
  • Lady Madonna
  • The Inner Light
  • Revolution
  • While My Guitar Gently Weeps (“Love” version)
  • Hey Jude

LET IT BE

  • Don’t Let Me Down
  • The Ballad of John and Yoko
  • Old Brown Shoe
  • You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)
  • Get Back (single version)
  • Let it Be (single version)

ABBEY ROAD

  • Real Love
  • Free as a Bird