Stevie and The Beatles Work it Out

Editor’s Note: This is yet another post inspired by “The Beatles and Their Times,” aka the greatest class in the history of college.

The focus this week was on Rubber Soul and Revolver. Our professor showed a graph charting the relative innovative-ness of each Beatles album, and it showed these two as the point at which they veered away from the traditional love songs with traditional instrumentation and moved into experimental territory. (I have no idea who determined this, as it sounds wildly subjective, but you get the idea.)

Today, we spent a lot of time on the psychedelic “Tomorrow Never Knows,” at the time their most innovative song, but also discussed some of Revolver‘s more conventional tunes. To my delight, this involved talk of how Motown music found its way to the Beatles.

I knew “the sound of young America” had some influence on the Beatles when, sinking into a late-night YouTube black hole, I found this video of George acknowledging Marvin Gaye as one of his favorite musicians (at 1:32).

Hey, George – Marvin Gaye is one of my favorite musicians, too! Let’s be friends.

Anyway, I had no idea “Got to Get You into My Life” (from Revolver) was heavily Motown-influenced. I suppose I could have gathered that from the horn section (Paul McCartney called them “soul trumpets”), but never really thought about it until today. The lyrics are Paul’s, but John Lennon directly acknowledged the music’s Tamla/Motown roots.

The influence ran both ways. We didn’t end up listening to it, but I saw our professor had Stevie Wonder’s version of “We Can Work it Out” in the queue for today; he’ll often play original versions of songs the Beatles covered, or cover versions of their songs (like a relatively unbearable rendition of “Eleanor Rigby” from The Four Tops). Stevie takes a more lighthearted approach to the song, and it’s one of my favorite Motown jams.

It’s probably obvious this post was just an excuse for me to write about Stevie Wonder and the Beatles in the same post, but here’s a question: If you could have any band/artist cover any Beatles song, who and what song would you choose?

Who’s Pumped for the NBA’s Return? Marvin Gaye.

Forget anything from the Super Bowl. Forget that sentimental Chevy ad with Ray Charles’ rendition of “America the Beautiful.” Yes, even forget all the real good times we had with Pitbull’s Dr. Pepper spot.

I’ve found my favorite advertisement of the year: MSG Network‘s season-opener promo for New York Knicks games.

I do not claim to be a huge Knicks fan, but I’ve liked Amar’e Stoudemire ever since Will Leitch featured him in a New York magazine article shortly before his first season with the team. (Let’s be real: It’s the goggles.)

I do claim to be a huge Marvin Gaye fan. I’m fascinated by everything surrounding his music, his life, his death and his amazingly brilliant 1971 concept album. Marvin Gaye sang the classics. Who hasn’t belted “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” at the top of their lungs? (Or is it just me?) He was a cornerstone of Motown records and, in my eyes, a complete musical genius.

But this ad isn’t just terrific because it combines two pretty cool people. It’s brilliant because it gets right at the emotions of hardcore NBA fans in a post-lockout world.

You’ve been trying to hold back this feeling for so long, as the song says. You’ve wanted so badly to head to the Garden, cheer for the Knicks, watch Amar’e and ‘Melo.

But you couldn’t.

Until now.

The lockout is over! The Knicks are back! Let’s get it on!

If this was just another ad promoting the start of another season, it might not have the same effect. But NBA fans have never been so ready to get the games started, and the ad appeals to those heightened emotions.

What did you think of the ad? Did it get you excited about the NBA’s return? Did you just enjoy hearing some smooth Marvin Gaye tunes? Have you seen any other effective examples of teams getting their fanbases excited for the start of the season? Let me know what you’ve seen!

(Credit to this tweet from Arthur Triche, VP of Public Relations for the Atlanta Hawks, for tipping me off to the video.)

Boomer and Steve

Have you ever come across anything totally strange and absurd?  Something that made you double-take?  I’m sure the answer is yes (and if you have any humorous ones, please share).  A prime example would be this photo:


One of the most influential musicians of the last fifty years paired with a bubblegum-pop boy band?  What?

That is how I felt when I saw Boomer Esiason as a judge on the Food Network’s “Iron Chef” last night.  What?  Is he selling out?  Just having fun?

This is obviously not earth-shattering news, but just something I found confusing/amusing.  As if seeing one of my musical heroes paired with a barely tolerable band isn’t enough, I have to see Boomer on the Food Network.  It’s weird seeing a football player/analyst discussing the texture and taste of pig brains (seriously).

“Iron Chef” judges always seem so holier-than-thou, discussing the blending of different flavors and rattling off the names of strange ingredients, so it surprised me to see Boomer talking the gourmet language.

At present, there is no image to accompany Boomer’s Food Network appearance, but I’m on the lookout.

On a more relevant note, iTunes 9 has been downloaded on this here MacBook.  And it’s pretty dang awesome.  Steve Jobs has done it again.

The “Genius” feature in iTunes 8 was pretty cool, but I never became a regular user.  However, iTunes 9 gives us “Genius Mixes.”  With Mixes, iTunes generates groups of mixes that are basically personal Pandora channels.  It presents you with twelve channels of music that are grouped together based on genre, artist, etc.

As I write, I’m listening to the “Rock” channel (actually, 6 of the channels were dubbed “Rock”: Rock, Rock 2, etc., but they’re all unique).  If you like Pandora, you’ll like Genius Mixes.  Right now, I’d even say I like it better, because I’m more familiar with all of the songs and I can skip as many as I like.

Plus, it just looks cool:

iTunes Mixes

At the time of this screen cap, I was enjoying the R&B/Soul Mix; feeding my Motown obsession.

Have you downloaded iTunes 9?  What do you think of the changes?  (There are also some new features regarding shared libraries and iTunes store layout.)  Also, if you’ve tried the Genius Mixes feature, I’d be interested in hearing about what mixes it generated for you and whether or not you enjoyed those mixes.

Thanks, Steve Jobs.

Also, as you already know, it’s September 11.  One of those days that’s permanently burned on your brain, one of those days that becomes one of the defining moments in a nation’s history.  I’d like to take this space to honor those who lost their lives on that day, and to thank those who work to preserve our freedom today.  I’ll know I’ll never understand the depth of your sacrifice, so thank you.