Tag Archives: Paul McCartney

James Taylor Showers the People of Pittsburgh With Love

James Taylor - Pittsburgh 11-29-2014 - 2

James Taylor in concert, Consol Energy Center, Pittsburgh, PA 11/29/2014 ~ melissafirman.com

Peace and love, baby. Peace and love.

That was the vibe on Saturday evening as singer-songwriter James Taylor brought his All-Star Band to Pittsburgh’s Consol Energy Center. There, a mostly Baby Boomer and generally mellow crowd (except for the woman a few rows down who repeatedly hollered “I love you, James!”) sang along to the folksy hits of the ’70s while fumbling with the selfie and videocam settings on their smartphones.

“I’m in my sixties,” a concertgoer announced to nobody in particular as The Husband and I found our seats. “He’s a throwback from my generation.”

Maybe so. But part of James Taylor’s appeal is that his music can be enjoyed by all ages, whether or not those ages realize it. (Case in point: every night, either The Husband or I must sing “You Can Close Your Eyes” to our son. He’s a newly-minted teenager who still calls this “The Goodnight Song.”)

Last night marked the third time that The Husband and I – both 45 – had the good fortune to see the 66-year old James Taylor in concert.  We don’t get out much: this was our first concert since seeing JT’s ex-wife Carly Simon on November 25, 2005 at the Borgata in Atlantic City, NJ.

Whether once in a decade or once in a lifetime, a James Taylor concert is a treat. I had wondered how his intimate style would hold up in a stadium environment like Consol, which would be the first time we would see James Taylor indoors.

No worries. Opening with a reverential bow to the audience that almost seemed to be a reflective pause of gratitude, James Taylor greeted the crowd by wishing us a heartfelt “Happy Thanksgiving.”  He might as well have hand-delivered a personalized greeting card to every single one of us. Light the fire, friends, and pour another glass of merlot; the mood was set as if we were in the Taylors’ living room listening to a good friend playing guitar and us singing along and smiling at the backstories that introduced the songs we’d been listening to for our entire lives.

As he opened his first set with “Something in the Way She Moves,” James Taylor took us back to 1968 with his audition song for Apple Records – a performance that he did all those years ago for Paul McCartney and George Harrison. It was an especially fitting inclusion for the evening and would mark the first of several occasions when he would mention The Beatles during the concert.

Although the anniversary went unmentioned by James Taylor, I’m sure there were a few of us in the audience who, like The Husband and I, couldn’t help remembering that November 29, 2014 marked exactly 13 years since the death of George Harrison and who saw the bittersweet ironic connection of George Harrison’s “Something” and the selection of “Something in the Way She Moves” as the opening number on this date.

(Another Beatles connection onstage last night was in the form of All-Star Band drummer Steve Gadd, who performed on Paul McCartney’s “Pipes of Peace” album.)

Especially noteworthy to play in Pittsburgh was “Millworker,” a song about a woman working in a Lowell, Massachusetts shoe mill and written for a musical based on Studs Terkel‘s Working. The lyrics could very well have been about life once upon a time in the Steel City.

“I can ride home in the evening, staring at my hands,
swearing by my sorrow that a young girl ought to stand a better chance.
So may I work the mills just as long as I am able
and never meet the man whose name is on the label.
It be me and my machine for the rest of the morning
and the rest of the afternoon, gone for the rest of my life.”

Mixed in with crowd-pleasing classics like “Sweet Baby James,” “Fire and Rain,” and “Country Road” were three new songs. The ballad “You and I Again” about midlife love is probably my favorite of the trio. “Today, Today, Today” hearkens back to 1968, James Taylor explained.  And what little I could hear of “Stretch of the Highway” I liked, no thanks to the cacophony of folks returning to their seats and continuing their banal chatter after the 20-minute intermission. I’m hoping that these new tunes in the James Taylor songbook will make an appearance on what I’ve read is a new JT album in the works. (The sooner the better, please?)

Speaking of making an appearance, I had secretly been hoping that offspring Ben or Sally would stop by to say hi to Dad onstage. I mean, it’s Thanksgiving weekend and the holiday season – anything is possible, right?  As it turned out, James was joined by Henry, one of his 13-year-old twin sons, who sang backup on “Shower the People.” Looking as dapper as his father, I wouldn’t be surprised if we hear more from Henry in the future.

(While we’re on my secret hopes? I would have liked to have heard “You Can Close Your Eyes,” although we did hear him do that in concert in 2005, so I can’t complain.  And, speaking on behalf of all of us middle-aged concertgoers who have postponed our eye exams and need to upgrade our bi- and trifocal prescriptions, I personally could have used a larger Jumbotron.  I mean, you can’t possibly tell me I’m the only one in Consol whose vision is clearly not what it was in her salad days. I’m just sayin’. But these are minor, minor quibbles.)

The second set (previewed to the audience by James holding up a list written on what he compared to roofing material and joking with the audience about the inclusion of the ever-popular “Steamroller”) was lighter on the storytelling and a bit more on the upbeat hits like the “big city song ‘Up on the Roof,'” “Only One,” and “Your Smiling Face.”

James Taylor - Pittsburgh 11-29-2014 - Up on the Roof

James Taylor performing “Up On the Roof” at Consol Energy Center, Pittsburgh, PA, 11/29/2014 ~ melissafirman.com

As we left the concert, it almost felt as if Pittsburgh’s late-November chill had actually turned somewhat … well, balmy.

Perhaps it was an aftershock of the backdrop images that accompanied “Carolina in My Mind” and the smiling faces of beachgoers hoisting margaritas to “Mexico” that made us feel toasty. We weren’t imagining it; turns out, according to our car thermometer, it really was about 15 degrees warmer.

It wouldn’t have mattered if it was twenty below zero. These have been some intensely stress-filled months for The Husband and me. For three hours, we were able to forget our worries and cares while enjoying an evening in the company of a longtime friend.

Perhaps that needs to happen a little more often. In the meantime, during these cold winter nights, I’ll be listening to a little more JT than usual.

James Taylor - Pittsburgh 11-29-2014


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Wrong Kind of Rain

photo taken by me
June 12, 2012

There are times when it feels like I am typing the same things on my friends’ Facebook statuses. 

Will be keeping you in my thoughts and prayers.

My deepest condolences to you and your family.


Thinking of you.

I’ve been writing a lot of these kinds of sentiments. To a childhood friend, who just jetted from one coast to another to say a final goodbye to her father. To another, remembering a sad anniversary and to another, wishing to turn back the clock as she said goodbye to her mother. To a blogging friend, who goes in for a 6 month cancer scan tomorrow. To another, asking if his father was all right in reply to a vague posting.

And that’s not to mention others, the ones with the job losses and precarious family situations and issues concerning children and loved ones.  I can’t keep up; I fear forgetting someone.

In this summer of record drought, it seems at times to be too much of the wrong kind of rain for too many.

“Laugh, when your eyes are burning
Smile, when your heart is filled with pain
Sigh, as you brush away your sorrow
Make a vow, that’s it’s not going to happen again
It’s not right, in one life
Too much rain
You, know the wheels keep turning
Why, do the tears run down your face
We, use to hide away our feelings
But for now, tell yourself it won’t happen again
It’s not right, in one life
Too much rain
It’s too much for anyone, Too hard for anyone
Who wants a happy and peaceful life
You’ve gotta learn to laugh
Smile, when your spinning round and round
Sigh, as you think about tomorrow
Make a vow, that your gonna be happy again
It’s all right, in your life
No more rain ….”
“Too Much Rain” ~ Paul McCartney

copyright 2012, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

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As seen in the garden this morning.

(OK, if we’re getting technical, the cardinal was hanging out in my neighbor’s tree which kind of extends over the property line … which, in my mind, for the purposes of a blog post, counts as being in my garden. Plus, it was looking at me.)

Wings, as in new opportunities on the horizon job-wise. (Several interviews lined up this week.)

Wings, as in celebrating the birth of Sir Paul McCartney, who turns 70 today. (We’re playing all Paul, all day long.)

Wings, as in seeing a cardinal is always a sign of those who gave us ours.

copyright 2012, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

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Book Review: Talking to Girls About Duran Duran: One Young Man’s Quest for True Love and a Cooler Haircut, by Rob Sheffield

Talking to Girls About Duran Duran: One Young Man’s Quest for True Love and a Cooler Haircut
by Rob Sheffield
274 pages

By the time I had finished reading the very first paragraph of Rob Sheffield’s memoir, Talking to Girls About Duran Duran, I was already laughing hysterically.

“If you ever step into the Wayback Machine and zip to the 1980s, you will have some interesting conversations, even though nobody will believe a word you say.  You can tell people the twentieth century will end without a nuclear war.  The Soviet Union will dissolve, the Berlin Wall will come down, and people will start using these things called ‘ringtones’ that make their pants randomly sing ‘Eye of the Tiger.’ America will elect a black president who spent his college days listening to the B-52s.

But there’s one claim nobody will believe: Duran Duran are still famous.”  (pg. 1)

Talking to Girls About Duran Duran gets its title from Sheffield doing exactly that.  “It’s how I’ve spent my life,” he continues.  “I count on the Fab Five to help me understand all the females in my life – all the crushes and true loves, the sisters and housemates, the friends and confidantes and allies and heroes. Girls like to talk, and if you are a boy and you want to learn how to listen to girl talk, start a conversation and keep it going, that means you have to deal with Duran Duran. You learn to talk about what the girls want to talk about.  And it is a truth universally acknowledged that the girls want to talk about Duran Duran.” (pg. 2)

This is not, however, a book solely devoted to the virtues and appeal of Duran Duran (although there’s a fun mix of that in the introduction and last chapter.  The other chapters – all titled with various ’80s songs and artists (ones that are each, in some way, meaningful and influential to Sheffield) – are vignette-like stories of Sheffield’s suburban Boston escapades in the ’80s.  Spending a summer driving an ice cream truck, rushing home from a school dance at 10 p.m. to catch the premiere of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” on MTV and then heading back to the dance to show off the moves, trying in vain to master the hand-clap sequences of various songs (“Private Eyes”, by Hall and Oates, who get an entire chapter in this book).  If you grew up in the ’80s, you will definitely see yourself in these hilarious tales and understand exactly what Sheffield means when he says, “When Michael Jackson, John Hughes, and Patrick Swayze died, these were national days of mourning.” (pg. 3) and “Any wedding I attend degenerates into a roomful of Tommy and Ginas living on a prayer.” (pg. 3)  

I promise you, I’m not going to quote the book verbatim in this review … but I could, simply because there’s so much good stuff here. For many of us who grew up in the Big Hair Generation, music was what we knew and what our lives revolved around.  It was also our very foundation of life itself.  (“Top 40 radio was a constant education in the ways of the world.” (pg. 25)

Sheffield manages to weave all kinds of  ’80s references – from music to songs to fashion – into his narrative, much of which is peppered with lyrics or ’80s “in-jokes” (just like that …the use of “air quotes” for certain words and how you won’t find people under a certain age doing that or even knowing what that is.)  There’s more coverage of new-wave music here, but there’s certainly enough to make anyone nostalgic and appreciative for this glorious decade.

I will admit, I was a little surprised and taken aback (and disappointed, truth be told) by Sheffield’s treatment of Paul McCartney, who at one point he calls “dumb,” his manner “cartoonish,” and his public actions “moronic.”  Now, as regular readers know, I am a huge Sir Paul fan.  I’ve never paid $250 to see anyone in concert until Paul played Philadelphia in September 2005 (maybe that makes me dumb) and I doubt I will ever pay that amount for a concert ticket again. I also don’t doubt that Paul has his faults (he’s a knight, not a saint) but in my world, he’d have to do something more horrendous than make his wife part of his band or release an album the likes of “No More Lonely Nights” (which I actually really like) in order to fall from my graces.

Which is why I was perplexed (and cringing, actually) at passages like these:

“Paul was the bitchiest Beatle. Everybody knows the other Beatles thought he was bossy. Even in the interviews for the 1990s Anthology documentaries, George Harrison physically bristles in his company. But he was the Beatle who worked hardest, who forced the others to finish their songs and show up in the studio.”  (pg. 154)

Even lovely Linda, God rest her soul, isn’t immune.

“He [Paul] didn’t just sing about the way love messes up your mind – he lived it out. He even let his wife, Linda, join the band. Everybody made fun of him for that; everybody knew the joke, “What do you call a dog with wings?” There’s no way Paul didn’t know the whole world was laughing at him for giving his wife so much of his attention – he just didn’t care.  Or maybe he did it to annoy people.” (pg. 156)

That may be true (that Paul just didn’t care), but the fact is that Linda is an intrical part of Wings.  He wanted to be with her, he wanted to be in a band and on the road. How is that any different than John and Yoko? Or any other husband-wife duo? 

Want more?

“It’s his virtues that seem profoundly fucked up. He was a man deranged by love, driven to madness by a happy love affair, a deeper madness than other rock stars got from their unhappy ones …. “Maybe I’m Amazed” is an infinitely freakier song than “Revolution Number 9.”  [my note: absolutely, completely disagree 100% here.  I cannot abide “Resolution Number 9” – fingernails on a chalkboard is preferable to listening to that – and I make The Husband turn it off if it is played in my presence.]  Linda seemed like nobody’s idea of an obsession-worthy muse, just some random hippie chick Paul liked. …

Um. “Maybe I’m Amazed” is an amazing song, a tribute to Linda for essentially saving Paul’s life post-Beatles breakup, while he was in the throes of a breakdown and a depression so deep that he couldn’t even get out of bed.  

“I’m not claiming to like all the music – far from it. “Let ‘Em In” is some kind of high-bongwater mark for how zonked and sedated a grown man can sound when things are going too smoothly. Songs like this terrify me. I mean, Keith Richards has some impressive vices, and I always love hearing gossip about them. But they only disturb me in theory. In real life, I’m not in any danger of turning into Keith Richards and neither are my friends.  But turning into Paul McCartney? It could happen to anyone.  Some of your friends are probably already this fucked.”  (pg. 158)

I’ll be honest here.  I really, really enjoyed this book – up to this chapter. I can’t say that these 9 pages ruined the book for me, but they managed to leave a sour taste in my mouth. (I had recommended this to The Husband before getting to this point, but there’s no way in hell he’ll pick this up now after hearing me read to him the aforementioned quotes.)  It’s just that it’s hard to quantify devotion to Hayzsi Fantayzee (an ’80s band I’ve never heard of) with this. 

Enough of that.  I’ll let it be, and I’ll leave you with the thought that Talking with Girls About Duran Duran is indeed well worth listening to what the man (Rob Sheffield) says.

What Other Bloggers Thought:

Books, Movies, and Chinese Food
Eleventh Stack (blog of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, which is very high atop my list of places to visit when we move to the ‘Burgh)
The Girl from the Ghetto
She is Too Fond of Books

copyright 2011, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

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The Sunday Salon

We’re celebrating The Husband’s birthday this weekend, albeit in a very non-exciting way.  Among other things, yesterday (his actual birthday) he did several loads of laundry (as he does every weekend) and helped me clean out our closet.  The result is quite a number of suits, dress pants and shirts that will be donated to Goodwill tomorrow, along with two trash bags of Betty and Boo’s outgrown clothes and some of my suits that don’t fit me anymore.  Hopefully someone will be able to get good use out of these.

We did celebrate with one of The Husband’s favorite dinners (baked ziti) and chocolate cake for dessert.  Can’t go wrong with that!

Birthdays are always good for bringing out the nostalgia, and if you’re a child of the ’80s (as The Husband and I are), you will probably enjoy Rob Sheffield’s Talking to Girls About Duran Duran: One Young Man’s Quest for True Love and a Cooler Haircut. I finished this one earlier this week, and for the most part, really enjoyed it.  Rob Sheffield definitely knows his ’80s music (and music in general, as he is a columnist for Rolling Stone) and is incredibly talented and funny. 

I will say that the only part of the book that took me aback was Sheffield’s treatment of Paul McCartney.  Now, I’m a Paul fan (very much so), but even if I wasn’t, Sheffield’s skewering of Paul was a little over the top and a bit disproportionate to some of the other musicians criticized in the book. I’ll have more to say on this (and the parts I loved in Talking to Girls About Duran Duran) in my review. 

Thanks to a bit more local travel than usual, I spent a little more time in the car this week.  As a result, I was able to start and finish the audiobook of I Curse the River of Time by Per Petterson. As audiobooks go, this one is relatively short at 6 hours, but I found the story to be rambling and disjointed.  Truthfully, it was almost a DNF for me.  Even though I felt a little sympathy for Arvid, the main character(we can all relate to experiencing regret and wishing back time gone by), I didn’t much like Arvid and I kind of wanted him out of my car sooner rather than later.

Finally, my current book is a short story collection that is due back to the library on Tuesday without any more renewals left. (I found this, which was published in 2006, while browsing the shelves.) I’m really enjoying Everybody Loves Somebody by Joanna Scott, an author I haven’t read before.  The first three stories (“Heaven and Hell,” “Stumble,” and “Worry”) are all well-written and superbly crafted, and I’m looking forward to the other seven stories in this collection.

As much as I would like to spend this rainy Sunday curled up on the sofa and doing exactly that, there is more decluttering and packing on the agenda today.  This moving nonsense really has a way of cutting into one’s reading and blogging time. 

How is your Sunday going?

copyright 2011, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

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Original Lyrics to Country Dreamer, With Apologies to Sir Paul

McCartney fans, listen up. The original lyrics to Country Dreamer have just been found, deep in a protected vault.*  
I like to stand in a tree
with you.  Shake my head and
sit with you.  I like to walk
in a tree with you, would you
like to do it to “yeah would you
like to do it to.” You and i coutry dreamer.  walking on
thin ice. with you.
(by Boo, 7 years old)

*also known as two huge piles of papers that have been accumulating in our den for ages.

copyright 2011, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

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Book Review (Audio): Linda McCartney: A Portrait, by Danny Fields

Linda McCartney: A Portrait, by Danny Fields

A few weeks ago, Boo and I had my satellite radio in the car tuned to his favorite station, 40s on 4. It’s all music from the 40s, and Boo cannot get enough of jazz and swing. It relaxes him, he says.

He is 8.

So it was that we were listening to the sounds of the 40s when the 1946 song “Linda” by Buddy Clark came on. I wonder if Linda McCartney was named for this song, I thought.

I hadn’t yet started listening to Danny Fields’ biography of his longtime friend, Linda Eastman McCartney, so imagine my surprise when I learned from his book that Linda was indeed the inspiration for the songwriter Jack Lawrence’s tune, which he wrote for her in 1944.

When she was all of 7.

That’s just one of the fun stories that Danny Fields shares. As a friend of Linda’s for more than 30 years, he also debunks several myths, including the one that Linda was part of the Eastman – as in Kodak-Eastman – clan, and that she pursued Paul McCartney when it was, according to Fields’ account from Sir Paul himself, the other way around.

For those who are die-hard Beatles fanatics or those enamored with the rock-and-roll scene of the ’60s, this could be an entertaining book. (At times, Fields does gets a little carried away with waxing nostalgic for the bygone era, peppering his prose with phrases such as “Let’s come off of that cloud for a minute …” and “through the purple haze.”) But mostly, it’s a satisfying glimpse into all things Linda Eastman McCartney – how she got her start as a photographer, her career pre-Paul in the world of rock stars, the courtship of Paul and Linda, their marriage, the breakup of the Beatles, the formation of Wings, her passion for animal rights, the launch of her vegetarian line of foods and cookbooks.

I am no expert on the Beatles’ history nor of the individuals members, so there was much I didn’t know about Linda and Paul. At times, Fields’ narrative delves into a few sordid tidbits that I felt like I didn’t need to know. There’s some raunchiness involved in this book (particularly in regards to John) and it kind of left me a little unsettled. I don’t doubt that the incidents happened – I believe they did – but I’m wondering how necessary they were to the book.

Fields’ was obviously a very close friend of Linda’s for 30 years (he spoke at her memorial service in June 1998), and as such, thinks very highly of her. On more than one occasion, the prose practically oozes saccharine; the effusive praise and “she can do no wrong” aura that Fields’ presents can be a little much to take. (He compares Linda and Paul to the Royal Family, which I guess they were.)

If you’re a hard-core Beatles fan (especially of Paul’s) or are interested in learning more about Linda’s life, or perhaps have a passion for 60s era rock-n-roll, then this would likely be an enjoyable read (or listen, as it is not a bad audiobook at all). But if you’re more like me – an appreciative Beatles fan, yes, but not a connoisseur of all things Fab Four – this could leave you lukewarm, as it did me.

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