19: Ramagine – A Musical Dialogue

June 3, 2015

Podcast, Podcasting

(Or do you say Imagiram?)

Ramagine

In this episode, Robert and Richard discuss the musical interactions between Paul and John as heard on the Ram and Imagine albums of 1971, a year after The Beatles’ split.

Songs include: “Too Many People,”  “Crippled Inside,” “Dear Boy” and “How Do You Sleep.”

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    19 Responses to “19: Ramagine – A Musical Dialogue”

    1. Mark Lapidos Says:

      Hi Guys,Have listened to about the first hour so far and it is obvious you have big differences of opinion. I think it is a U.S versus U.K. fan thing. Ram is one of Paul’s best albums if not his best, period. This is the opinion of a majority of U.S. Beatles fans and mine too. As far as Imagine album goes, my favorite song on the album is gimme Some Truth, one of John’s best songs ever. Yes his first two albums were for the most part his best two. That is the saddest thing, that we don’t have a couple of dozen more to choose from.
      Peace and Love,

      Reply

      • Paul Tidey Says:

        Thx for the insight Mark – wanted to say HI as I havent apoken to you since the Chicago Convention of 1981 where I was introduced to you by Pat Simmons, having come all the way from the UK for the Conv. We stayed in the Hyatt where the Conv. was. I bet I remember you more than you do me!

        Reply

    2. Paul Tidey Says:

      Now that was a PROPER discussion – forthright views well put and argued for/against. I think Imagine is a better album than Ram but Ram has some tracks that I give 10/10 for. My highlight of the whole show was Robert saying “Have you finished?” on 39 mins…I laughed so much at that. Thx Rob!

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    3. Mark Losben Says:

      Enjoyed this discussion even though I question many of their opinions. I guess I’m going against the grain hare, as I’m a U.S. citizen (64 years old; thank you, PauL0) but I have to say The British guy had the most intelligent viewpoints about 75 to 85% of the time. Of the two, I thought he (Bsskin) was the less pretentious.

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    4. Mike Dice Says:

      The Englishman knows his stuff, the Yank… Not so good

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    5. Billy Shears Says:

      I think you covered everything it needed to be said about this subject.
      Thanks, it has been very informative and entertaining.

      Reply

    6. Brett Says:

      Great stuff guys. When Richard started slagging off Ram and called Back Seat of My Car “soulless,” I just about pulled my hair out! It sounds like that was what set Robert off, and rightfully so.

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    7. bob brown Says:

      The Beatles as a creative force needed their history , their growth together and the in Band rivalries all contributed to the amazizing catalogue of work they produced! So you can Imagine (excuse the pun 🙂 ) how alien it must have been when the Beatles as a unit finished! All of a sudden the energy that motivated you had gone must have been very scary! We all can see how inconsistent their solo work has been and in truth apart from a very few songs it doesn’t stand up to what they wrote as the Beatles! Its interesting that their best solo work comes almost immediately after the split and I think that has a lot to do with the fact that probably a lot of the ideas stem from the Beatle years or songs introduced from 68 onwards! I absolutely love Georges work on Imagine especially that solo on “how do you sleep”

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    8. Dan Eilenberg Says:

      Fantastic show, guys. As expected, especially on such a “hot” topic.

      It seems that “How Do You Sleep” almost merits an entire episode to itself! Short of that, I’ll throw in my two cents here. I’m of the school of thought that the song is an absolute embarrassment, one of the true nadirs of John’s musical career. I think it was horrid when it came out and even more abysmal as time has passed and hatchets have long ago been buried. To me, veiled insults like Paul’s in “Too Many People” are more impressive, especially on an artistic level, than John’s obvious put-downs. John’s naked aggression and vitriolic jabs are more petty than clever. Some are downright nonsensical. “The only thing you done was ‘Yesterday’?” Such a ridiculous statement it’s not even worth analyzing. “You should have learned something in all those years?” Nice, coming from the musician who essentially couldn’t tune a guitar until he met Paul. The single most offensive line, imo: “Jump when your mama tell you anything.” It doesn’t take a degree in psychology to diagnose the textbook case of extreme projection here, coming from the man who—according to Ronnie Hawkins, with whom John and Yoko stayed in Toronto—couldn’t take a dump without consulting Yoko first.

      Re “Backseat of My Car.” As Richard has said before, and rightly so, there’s no point arguing what comes down to taste, personal preference, etc. I happen to love the song and think of it right up there with countless dozens of other Paul’s “bests.” I can respect it not being another’s cup of tea but Richard’s describing it as “vacuous?” Seriously? That is to say, sure, it’s not brilliant or especially insightful, but devoid of meaning?

      It’s also funny, I think, that Richard seems to loath Ram even more than John did, even down to “Uncle Albert.” Cripes! At least John conceded that the “hands across the water” refrain was brilliant. He unabashedly loved that part. 😉

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      • Angel Says:

        Dan you are so right! I hope readers who are listening to this podcast take Richard’s opinion with a grain of salt. He clearly has put Beatle Paul on a pedestal and rags on Solo Paul far too much. Especially since in the case of an album like Ram, significant portions of those songs were rolling around in Paul’s head while he was still a Beatle! In fact, Back Seat of My Car was a composition Paul worked on during the Get Back sessions. So yeah… in an alternate reality Richard would probably be praising The Back Seat of My Car lyric “we believe that we can’t be wrong!” as one of the great anthems composed by the Beatles. LOL

        Overall I agree with Richard that the Paul of the late Beatles era was “on fire.” But Richard likes to pretend that Paul suddenly lost it the moment the band broke up. Unlikely. Paul was peaking as a composer throughout the entirety of that 1966-1971 time frame, independently of the “Beatle” title, and Ram was yet another feather in his creative genius cap. He went on to create other great work, but I do think it’s possible the panning of Ram affected his subsequent output, although in what way exactly I’m not sure.

        It’s a shame the band broke up. George was really coming into his own too. Wah Wah and Dig Love could’ve been Beatles tracks, not to mention All Things Must Pass! If only John could have ditched the heroin and Yoko obsessions and Klein hadn’t happened. Then again, the post-breakup solo albums are great as they are, so who knows.

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    9. Mark Astaire Says:

      Interesting and heated debate of the merits of the tworecords and the two men. Personally, I think Plastic Ono Band is one of the finest Rick records ever made and Imagine was a pretty fine follow-up. That said Lennon never got near to that quality again. Ram is a fine inventive record with songs to die for and 4o plus years on has stood the test of time very well. That said he would go on and make other great records and become one of the biggest solo pop stars in the world, while Lennon had peaked. Would John have made a record in his late 60’s as good as Chaos and Creation? Sadly we can only speculate.

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    10. Joe Mersch Says:

      RAM is a credibility test for me. If a book claims to discuss the music of Paul McCartney, I check first to see what the take on RAM will be. If it’s dismissed, I know this is not an author concerned with the music, but just another hater who drank the Kool-Aid.

      This John versus Paul thing is passé. Any Beatle fan with ears has got to appreciate them both, and more or less equally. And that means accepting that they both made good and less good records after the split.

      My take: Imagine is an album with some important Lennon tracks and some filler; competently produced, but no masterwork. RAM is an album in which a musical universe opens. There’s really no contest as far as the art of record making goes.

      The musical richness of RAM is unassailable, yet what John does is also very powerful in a different way; and there are major tunes there, no question. I even thought “How Do You Sleep” sounded surprisingly good after not hearing it for a long time – even though the accusations in the lyrics are ridiculous.

      I appreciated both sides of the discussion here, but it’s hard for me to grok a musical sensibility that says “I love McCartney the Beatle, but loathe McCartney the Solo-Artist.” It’s not that I think Paul can do no wrong (I pretty much bailed when “Speed of Sound” arrived); but a good record is a good record, and Mr. Buskin seems to want to diminish Paul at every opportunity, even to the point of having him humiliated as “the Loser.” I don’t understand this attitude, but then I was only 12 when the Beatle feuds were going on – did McCartney burn down an orphanage or something?

      A last thought on RAM – Lately I’ve been listening with two of Paul’s influences in mind: Brian Wilson’s modular-construction masterpieces of the Pet Sounds/Good Vibrations/Smile era, and surrealism. Try listening to the multi-section Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey with floating apples and bowler hats in mind: is it a surrealist pocket-symphony, an audio Magritte?

      Thanks for a stimulating discussion – I will be checking out all the other episodes!

      Reply

    11. Chris Says:

      A few points I want to make here. On the subject of whom was being childish, if that’s the word you want to use. The line, “You took your lucky break and broke it in two”. Come on! Really? Need I say more? With regards to John’s hypocrisy, he did, in fact, acknowledge it, if you’ve ever heard the audio from his “Rolling Stone” interview (the one conducted two days before his death). He said, “I have never claimed divinity, I have never claimed purity of soul, I have never claimed to have the answer to the life. I’ve never made any claims”. The line from “I Found Out”, “I seen religion from Jesus to Paul” neither refers to Paul McCartney nor Pope Paul VI, but to St. Paul the Apostle.

      Reply

    12. Trevor Beaumont Says:

      Nice conclusion to a long debate! Sorry Robert, but I lean towards Richards’ opinions on Ram vs Imagine. As gifted as Paul McCartney is in writing beautiful melodies, he rarely matched John Lennon for lyrical content. Though John’s own melodies were much simpler than Paul’s, often there is beauty when less is more.

      For years I’d get frustrated listening to an hour long interview with Paul.He’s usually very charming, highly entertaining, yet he waffles on and on about nothing much at all. His lyrics have been mostly like that since 1970. Rather shallow. John’s observations were often very deep and honest. His comments could be very tongue-in-cheek though, as were his media events such as the bed-ins and ‘Bagism’…..John’s lyrics were sometimes written behind a smile and I’m not convinced that ‘How Do You Sleep’ is a vitriolic as it seems. Sure, he’s replying to ‘Too Many People’….but remember it IS art.

      What is certain however, is that all four Beatles missed the collaboration. It’s a crying shame that they never worked together after peace was eventually restored. 1974 could’ve been even better than it was!

      Reply

    13. Dax Says:

      I realize that this response is coming over a year after the show was broadcast, and so I don’t really expect a reply. But here are some thoughts:

      Overall, especially given the contentious nature of the topic, I think the show was well done. But the Richard praising of “Imagine” vs. the Robert praise for “Ram” went on too long. I realize that the conversation occurred naturally, and that both hold strong opinions on the albums, but I would have liked to hear more on the actual John/Paul song dialogue. Because so much time was spent discussing what songs the hosts personally liked/didn’t like on the albums, key pieces of information were not discussed.

      For example: Eyewitness accounts of the recording of “How Do You Sleep” recount Yoko and Klein helping write the song, but that wasn’t mentioned. Given the discussion on your “Yoko” show, and the general conclusion that Yoko viewed Paul as the most significant threat to her personal and artistic relationship with John, Yoko’s efforts in both this specific instance and overall to foster new tensions and widen pre-existing conflicts between the two of them is something worth discussing. (Actually, a show on the Paul-Yoko relationship over the decades might be worth thinking about).

      Second, I think both hosts were too quick to dismiss John’s claim that the song was really about him. Yes, John was attempting damage control a few years later, after his relationship with Paul had improved, but there are some lines in “How Do You Sleep” that are blatant projection: “Jump when your Momma tells you anything?” Assuming that is projection, what does that tell us about how John really perceived his relationship with Yoko?

      Third, its slightly disingenuous of Richard to praise John’s honesty in being ‘direct’ in regards to who his target is in “How Do You Sleep,” — to come out and say it — but not acknowledge that while John’s anger is honest, his words weren’t. “Too Many People” was provocative, and some people might consider it childish, but the criticisms Paul lobs at John in the song are valid: John *did* take the best thing that ever happened to him, Paul and the rest of the Beatles, and threw it away. John was proselytizing in that time period, setting himself up as a peace guru.

      But John’s lyrics weren’t valid: Paul wasn’t just a pretty face, he wasn’t dead, his relationship with Linda was, by all accounts, much healthier than John’s with Yoko, and the line about “Yesterday” is too ridiculous to even start on. John may have been honest about how angry he was and who his target was, but his depiction of Paul in that song is *dishonest*; if you are going to praise John for being honest in one respect, its only fair to also note when he wasn’t.

      Reply

    14. BW Says:

      I like Ram quite a bit. As for Back Seat of My Car, Best bit in it is that tag at the end when that drum break comes in and Paul vamps out with the vocal at the end. LOVE that bit. It’s a similar thing in “Beautiful Night”. I’m not a big fan of that tune. But man, at the end, when it does that cool upbeat tag on the end, WOW. That’s worth the price of admission.

      Reply

    15. Angel Says:

      Sorry Richard, but you might need to listen to Ram again. Not only is it an incredible album and listening experience, but it also sounds very very Beatle-y. As much as All Things Must Pass, if not more so. Nothing Paul does on that album is cringe-worthy so much as awe-inspiring! To me it is a very candid, spirited, heartfelt album… both vocally and content wise. I also find it to be very coherent listen… more coherent than most Beatles albums, actually.

      Too many people beats How do you sleep hands down as a composition. Too many people is much more tasteful and imaginative, and also, as Robert points out, clever. I can see the steam coming out of Lennon’s ears as he listens to it. Not only did Paul create a song about their relationship circa 1970-1 but he did it in such a bloody brilliant way. It’s something that can be enjoyed by others because it doesn’t reference the source material too obviously. And it is a knockout, musically. Don’t get me wrong, I like How do you sleep very much as well, but overall it’s just a vicious cheap shot that fails to transcend the context in which it was conceived…not something you can listen to over and over again.

      Anyway, Ram is a great album. It just wasn’t what people wanted from Paul at the time. Too bad for them in 1971, but great for me in 2017.

      Reply

    16. J Neo Marvin Says:

      Back Seat Of My Car is almost a great song. If only John Lennon had been there to throw in some lyrics for that part where Paul is babbling nonsense on the chorus. As it is, it feels like the songwriting is miles behind the production.

      Reply

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