In the second installment of Connecting The Dots with ThatEricAlper (that’s me and here’s the first one) on CBC Radio 2’s The Strombo Show, I take a stab at linking The Beatles’ Revolver, with Massive Attack’s Protection and Primal Scream’s Screamadelica. I’m at the 44th minute of the broadcast, but you’ll want to listen to the whole program – George is truly heading up the best free-for-all radio show in the country, and – I say this with all honesty – one of the best in the world.
When The Beatles’ Revolver was released in 1966, the album would steer the group being more experimental and serious, giving them the confidence to try new things and new directions. It was as far away from She Loves You as you could get. It’s pop and art, and the black and white cover wasn’t an accident – it was their last notice before bursting into the beautiful colour that characterised the hippie movement. The defining track “Tomorrow Never Knows” is the final song on Revolver but the first to be recorded. John Lennon wrote the lyrics adapted from the book The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead by Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert, and Ralph Metzner. John noticed the lines: “When in doubt, relax, turn off your mind, float downstream.” He bought the book, went home, took LSD, and followed the instructions exactly as it has stated. John then used a funny saying from Ringo for the title Tomorrow Never Knows, and in the studio, double-tracks his vocals to make it sound, as he said, like the Dali Lama and a thousand monks chanting on a mountain top. That wasn’t the only mind-blowing technique used – when you think about the sounds you hear, like the “laughing” voice – that sound was played at double-speed to mimic the sound of seagulls, or the sitar and other guitar parts recorded and then manipulated by speeding them up, slowed down, even backwards, make it possibly the first song to use samples successfully.
Written around this time of the short 11 weeks The Beatles recorded Revolver, but not used, was George Harrison’s The Art Of Dying. He, too, was reading The Psychedelic Experience book, and his song,” The Art of Dying” came out of HIS experience with LSD. But, like most of the songs George brought to the group, it never went very far. So, in November 1970, “The Art of Dying” found a place on George’s triple album All Things Must Pass. The backing musicians include Eric Clapton and the rest of the latter’s short-lived band Derek & The Dominos. George befriended Clapton after the Beatles shared a bill with the Clapton-era Yardbirds at the London Palladium. The close friendship between Clapton and Harrison resulted in Clapton playing on Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” from the Beatles’ White Album. Clapton would go largely uncredited for his many future contributions to Harrison’s albums due to contractual restraints.
As part of his many charitable concerts he helped organize, Clapton at the 2010 Prince’s Trust rock gala, which included Jools Holland, and Mark King from Level 42. Ex-Ultravox singer Midge Ure also played a big part of the bill that evening.
Before hitting it big in Ultravox with such songs as Vienna, and Dancing With Tears In My Eyes, Midge used to lead a band in the mid 1970s called Slik, They didn’t have a ton of success, and when Silk’s time as a band was ending, Midge took a phone call from Malcolm McLaren who was looking form a band and was looking for a lead singer. Midge thought the style of music Malcolm was looking for was out of his comfort zone– punk? Bah! It’s ok, though. Malcolm eventually found John Lydon to sing, who soon after changed his name to Johnny Rotten and fronted The Sex Pistols.
After The Sex Pistols spit in 1978, Johnny Rotten screen-tested for the role of lead character Jimmy Cooper in the film adaptation of The Who’s Quadrophenia. However, the distributors of the film refused to insure him for the part and he was replaced by Phil Daniels.
That’s the same Phil Daniels who can be heard and seen on Blur’s Parklife single and video, exactly 25 years after Quadrophenia was released. Blur loved this movie – and the single was pretty successful, too – “Parklife” reached #10 in the UK singles chart and also won Best British Single and Best Video at the 1995 BRIT Awards.
Blur’s album Parklife defined the emerging Britpop scene. It was produced by Stephen Street, best known for his work with The Smiths, and later on with The Cranberries. He knew a thing or two around the studio, as he had a ska/pop group, BIM, with Cameron McVey, also known as Booga Bear. Not only did Cameron go onto manage one of my favourite groups of all time – Massive Attack, but he also produced a classic with them – the Blue Lines album. For their next album, Massive Attack changed management, and they even changed their name briefly to shield them from any PR damage caused by having a ‘violent’ name during the Gulf War crisis by shortening it to just Massive. One more change happened – they changed female lead vocalists, and wanted to further close ranks on the outside world. They brought in Everything But The Girl’s Tracey Thorn to sing the title cut from the follow up album to Blue Lines. They wanted shelter. They wanted change. Perhaps, they just wanted some ‘Protection.’
Everything But The Girl’s Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt contributed vocals and guitar to the 1984 The Style Council song “Paris Match”. The group, led by former The Jam member had a knack for pulling in special guests in his long career including My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields, who contributed guitar to the Paul Weller song “7 + 3 Is The Striker’s Name” from the album, Wake Up the Nation when Kevin really should have been following up Loveless. Kevin, that relentless perfectionist, famously joined Primal Scream on tour between 1999 and 2006, and had contributed to their albums XTRMNTR and Evil Heat. The Primals created one of the decade-defining albums of the 1990s with the Mercury Music Prize winner Screamadelica. The first single “Loaded”, was a monster hit. The very first words you hear are a sample from the Peter Fonda B-movie The Wild Angels.
“We want to be free! We want to be free to do what we want to do! And we want to get loaded. And we want to have a good time! And that’s what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna have a good time. We’re gonna have a party!
Peter knew something about partying. Because way back in 1966, Peter Fonda found himself being invited by The Beatles to one of their get-togethers, and while all of them were under the influence of LSD, Lennon heard Fonda say, “I know what it’s like to be dead”. This phrase became the tag line for “She Said She Said”, the last track recorded for the Beatles Revolver album.
And that is how you can go from The Beatles Revolver to Massive Attack to Primal Scream to The Beatles.