Friday, October 26, 2012

Apple gets Beatles' Apple label, but does it really belong to Rene Magritte?


According to reports this week, the Beatles' Apple Records has transferred ownership of its Granny Smith label design, which first appeared on LPs back in 1968, to the Apple computer company.

Steve Jobs was a big Beatles fan and that influenced the company's name and its logo. The Beatles' Apple and the other Apple have engaged in numerous legal scraps over the name over the years, but things seem to have settled down once the Beatles' arranged a profitable deal to distribute their music on iTunes. Now it looks like they've relaxed on the logo, too.

The Granny Smith apple, of course, has been around a heckuva lot longer than the Beatles or Steve Jobs and was created by God or the universe, depending on your theological and philosophical views. But, according to Paul McCartney, the image that first found its way onto the Apple Records label was inspired by the art of Belgian surrealist painter Rene Magritte:
"I had this friend called Robert Fraser, who was a gallery owner in London. We used to hang out a lot. And I told him I really loved Magritte. We were discovering Magritte in the sixties, just through magazines and things.
And we just loved his sense of humour. And when we heard that he was a very ordinary bloke who used to paint from nine to one o'clock, and with his bowler hat, it became even more intriguing.
Robert used to look around for pictures for me, because he knew I liked him. It was so cheap then, it's terrible to think how cheap they were. But anyway, we just loved him
One day he brought this painting to my house. We were out in the garden, it was a summer's day. And he didn't want to disturb us, I think we were filming or something. So he left this picture of Magritte. It was an apple - and he just left it on the dining room table and he went. It just had written across it "Au revoir", on this beautiful green apple. And I tought that was like a great thing to do. He knew I'd love it and he knew I'd want it and I'd pay him later. So it was like wow! What a great conceptual thing to do, you know.
And this big green apple, which I still have now, became the inspiration for the logo. And then we decided to cut it in half for the B-side!"
Along with the painting that directly inspired the Beatles' logo, "Le jeu de mourre," the Granny Smith appears in other Magritte paintings as well, including the famous "The Son of Man," pictured here:


Comics multi-pack memories

Remember these?

For me, the preferred way to buy comics when I was a kid growing up in the 1970s was off a spinner rack, where you could browse through titles and pick out the individual comics you wanted.

But sometimes, I'd need a comics fix, and the only thing available at a convenience or grocery story were these things: Three comics bundled in a sealed plastic bag. And you could only easily make out what the top comic was.

Sometimes, you could managed to manipulate the comics without damaging the bag and peek at the bottom two comics, but it was always a bit of a gamble.

And that was part of the fun.

Sometimes you'd end up with stuff you just didn't like (or, worse yet, already had). But sometimes you'd get exposed to new titles, writers and artists that you did like.

Though I'm not sure, and didn't have a clue or theory about it when I was a kid, I figure this was a way for the publishers to unload overstock.

Possibly, they chose the "top-featured" comic as a sort of loss leader for lesser-selling titles hidden below.

In any event, I sort of miss them, as I do the entire era when comics were everywhere and nearly every kid read them.

Share your memories, if you got 'em, in the comments below!



Pop culture roundup: Paul McCartney's missing head; live Madness; Wrightson House of Mystery art

Back in 1969, the head of Paul McCartney vanished from a giant billboard on the Sunset Strip advertisingly the newly released Abbey Road LP. Where did it go? LA Observed explores, and shares this great video:


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From Dangerous Minds, here's a great live performance by Madness in 1980:




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Golden Age Comic Book Stories presents some wonderful, and seasonably appropriate, Berni Wrightson artwork from a pair of "House of Mystery" paperbacks published in the 1970s. Never knew these existed!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Preview Paul McCartney's version of "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasing on an Open Fire)

Still in standards mode off his last album, Paul McCartney covers Mel Torme's holiday classic on a new various artists CD: Holidays Rule.

Here his version of "The Christmas Song" here.


BBC radio doc focuses on Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour

You can stream this here starting Friday, Oct. 26.
The television film Magical Mystery Tour was devised, written and directed by The Beatles. It has a significant place in the history of The Beatles - not least, because it was viewed by many as the group's first failure. In the UK, it was transmitted by BBC 1 in black and white on 26 December, 1967 and then shown ten days later in colour on BBC 2. Certainly, the impact of the film's special effects was diminished by watching in monochrome and this may have contributed to the bafflement experienced by many viewers. But as Paul McCartney acknowledges, the film's generally unfavourable reception was more affected by its scheduling on Boxing Day, usually reserved for fairly light entertainment rather than an experimental fantasy film.

The documentary also examines the group's activities during 1967 before they spent most of the final four months working on their film. It was a momentous year. It began with Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever; their LP Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was released in June; they performed All You Need Is Love on Our World - the first global TV show linking five continents by satellite. While learning about Transcendental Meditation with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in Bangor, North Wales, The Beatles received the shocking news of the sudden death of their manager Brian Epstein. Two weeks later they began filming Magical Mystery Tour.

Video clip: Shazam complete series

Here's a video clip from the Shazam! The Complete Live-Action Series DVD collection released this week.



 


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Pop stuff: What I'm watching, hearing, reading, etc.

"Once Upon a Time." My family has been watching this series from its start last season.  We keep waiting for it to go from pleasant diversion to can't-miss status, but I don't think it's going to get there.

The show is fun in that it's different from most everything else on television right now. It's not a police procedural or a a reality show, not sci-fi or based on superheroes.

It's about fairy tale characters who seep into reality, and real people who find themselves in fantasy lands. There are characters from Snow White and various Grimm fairy tales and other chldren's stories, as well, such as Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland. Since the show is on the Disney-owned ABC, I sometimes get the sense that whole thing is about marketing various Disney properties.

The fantasy/reality premise obviously offers up lots of possibilities, but, unfortunately, the plots seem somewhat rambling. I'm getting the sense the creators are playing around, not really knowing where they want to go. And, hence, the show is getting a little confused and aimless, too.

"Once" shares some production staff who worked on "Lost," and there's some of the same feel to this show, particularly in the shifts between reality and the fantasy and between past and present.

Even though the last season of "Lost" clearly showed that the creators didn't know where they were going or how to satisfyingly end the series, it always seemed like they did. You got sucked in, awaiting big payoffs that, frustratingly, never came. But it was fun following along.

With "Once," you never really get sucked in. At least I don't. There are fun ideas and some fun characters -- especially the great Robert Carlyle as Mr. Gold/Rumpelstiltskin, who seriously needs to play the Joker or the Riddler in a Batman movie someday -- but they just don't grab me like those on "Lost" did. I feel much the same way about "Once" as I do "Revolution," another "Lost"-associated show, which I reviewed here last week.

My family is invested in "Once." My son likes it, so I'll likely hang in there. But I really hope it finds a compelling direction soon.

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"The BFG" by Roald Dahl. Here's  a much more satisfying take on fantasy-meets-reality. My wife and I just finished reading this brilliant, funny story with our 9-year-old daughter, who loved it.

It's pretty straight-forward: Giants are real and are regularly eating small children all over the world. It's been going on for years, but humans don't know about it because they never see the giants. The kids just go missing. Until one child, a British girl named Sophie, spots a nice, non-kid-eating giant she dubs the BFG: Big Friendly Giant.

Through the BFG, Sophie learns what's been going on and vows to put a stop to it, enlisting the help of the Queen of England and the Royal Armed Forces to do so.

It's great, surreal fun. Dahl, in his usual fashion, didn't write down to kids, making the prospect of child-eating giants as gross and fearsome as it would be in reality, but also somehow darkly funny.

The BFG and the other giants speak in a jumbly wordplay that is fun to read aloud and hilarious to kids. The illustrations by Quentin Blake are funny and charming, too. I love that he draws the Queen to actually look like, you know, the real Queen!

Even if you don't have a kid to read it to, it's a fun book.

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Pearl Django. My wife and I had a chance to see this Seattle quartet the other day and walked away dazzled and delighted.

The name is a joke, a reference to a much-better-known group from the band's home base. But the Django part -- in tribute to the great gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt -- is for real.

With accordion, violin and two guitars -- one pumping out the generally rapid rhythms, the other skittering melodically over the top -- the group captures the romantic sounds of Reinhardt's 1920s-30s Paris. The repertoire includes tunes Django made famous, along with other jazz standards and some originals.

I'm a longtime Django fan, but hadn't heard this group's take on his music. It was fabulous to see and hear them in action.

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The English Beat - Complete Beat. I've been enjoying this collection of, which includes all three of the Beat's studio albums, plus a double CD of rarities and live cuts.

I played the heck out of the Beat's LPs back in my high school and college years and it's great to hear their music sounding nice and clear again. They were a spectacular group, mixing post-punk pop with ska and rock steady. Their music is insistent and sometimes political, but always melodic.

There are great songs scattered throughout this set: "Mirror in the Bathroom," the anti-Thatcher "Stand Down Margaret," "Doors of Your Heart," their takes on "Tears of a Clown" and "Can't Get Used to Losing You," "I Confess" and the closest they ever came to a U.S. hit, "Save it for Later."

Most of the tracks hold up just fine and are unbranded by oppressive 1980s production. A thick booklet does a nice job of detailing the band's too-short history. The band split up 1983, with former members forming new groups General Public and Fine Young Cannibals, both of which were more successful on these shores.

Beat fans should note that the group's albums have each been released separately in expanded form over in the U.K. Those versions are spendier and include some additional extras, including videos. I went with the U.S. box because it's cheaper and includes all the tunes I really want, anyway.