Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A jumping flea tribute*

We lost the shy Beatle five years ago today.

On the Concert for George album, McCartney brings out a ukulele to perform a cute, bouncy, music-hall version of "Something." It was so dreadful that I always skipped over it as soon as the track began. At first I'd click the Next button on my player, until I discovered that the shock alone of banging my head on the table was enough to make it skip on its own. I'd had the album several months before I realized that leveler heads, including Clapton and the rest of the musicians, took over the rest of the song after the first bridge.

One imagines George, watching from whatever plane of existence he'd arrived at, saying "Thanks, mate, but I don't need quite that much tribute."

Moral: If you're going to have "ukulele" and "tribute to George Harrison" in the same sentence, let's try and get it right. Like this, for example:

(Hat tip to Aboutitall, where they found this amazing clip long before I did, but lost the post when their archives crashed.)

*"Jumping flea," as any regular combatant with the NYTimes crossword knows, is the English translation of the Hawaiian word "ukulele."


Torrid said...

My parents absolutely SHOCKED me a couple years ago by buying the DVD of the concert for me for Christmas. It's the best thing I've ever gotten from them since I was maybe 12. I didn't even know how much I'd like it when I got it, but I listened to it nonstop for quite a while. The opening set, with Ravi's daughter conducting and playing Arpan (written for George by Ravi), is amazing as well.

On ukuleles--perhaps the album doesn't contain the full patter that explains why Macca played it that way. He said that if you went round to George's house, after dinner "the ukuleles would come out." And one time Paul said, "Hey, I've got a tune for uke you might recognize." Thus the intro you skip over. Frankly, I'd have preferred Clapton didn't take the song over midway through; it's kind of indicative of the whole show, that Clapton took it over. Paul was not very happy about being shunted to the side; even Ringo got a much fuller tribute in. Paul got that uke intro, and then played piano in near obscurity for a couple more songs, and that was it.

All that said, that YouTube performance is HOT.

You n me will have to talk more about the Concert for George sometime. Like, how about that version of "Horse to the Water?" And when will we hear something from Dhani?

Nothstine said...

Hey, TJ--

I have the CD of C for G as well, and actually, I prefer it to the DVD--no interviews overlapping with the performances. "Horse to the Water" isn't on the CD, and wasn't one I knew that much about anyway, so I didn't feel cheated.

Yeah, the first half--with the orchestra and sitars--is beautiful. I listen to it a lot. The whole album's good.

I didn't even know the album was on its way until one afternoon, in line at a stop light, I heard Petty do "Taxman" on the radio. I immediately put my turn signal on, drove to the nearest place that sold CDs, and bought it. If it was an LP it would be shredded to little vinyl ribbons by now from all the playing it's gotten.

Re: Paul. The CD does have the story of the ukuleles coming out after dinner, but still . . . None of the other artists felt they had to totally re-arrange G's music for their performance; only Paul. Even Jeff Lynne--a man who would take even a Sousa march and make it sound like a lost ELO track--managed to rein it in and be faithful to the sound they were there to celebrate. I like Paul's music--at least the older stuff, which may simply say more about me than him--but I always wished he were . . . you know, deeper.