Lennon-McCartney 'lost songs' get fitting tribute
June 1, 2003
BY DAVE HOEKSTRA Staff Reporter
John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote with such optimistic economy, anybody figures they can do a Beatles tribute project. If you don't believe this, you didn't hear Little Texas cover "Help!'' on the lame country tribute "Come Together (America Salutes the Beatles).''
But Kate Pierson of the B-52's, Graham Parker and Bill Janovitz, leader of Buffalo Tom, recently came together in a truly unique project to sing the "lost songs'' of Lennon and McCartney. The charming 17-song CD consists of tunes Lennon and McCartney gave to other artists. Backed by a well-schooled band, Pierson, Parker and Janovitz sneaked into town for a fun 75-minute set Thursday night at Martyr's.
Looking like a modern-day the Mamas and the Papas (actually Parker is looking more like newspaper legend Mike Royko), Pierson, Parker and Janovitz went around the horn, trading off Lennon and McCartney tunes that were popularized by Badfinger, Peter & Gordon and others.
Pierson's powerful vocals carry an assertive Lennonesque attitude. She sang the 1964 Peter & Gordon hit "Nobody I Know'' with measured conviction, but got down and gritty for "Love of the Loved,'' first recorded by Liverpuldian chanteuse Cilla Black. Pierson's love of the Beatles clearly came through.
It was the younger Janovitz who played the foil, telling the modest crowd he actually was a Stones fan. Janovitz enjoyed tweaking the hard-core Beatles fans. He introduced the Fourmost's hit "Hello Little Girl'' as "the stupidest song they [Lennon and McCartney] wrote . . . except all the ones they gave to Ringo, like 'Octopus' Garden.' " But then Janovitz led the band into a rapid-fire Ramones- inspired version of the song that made for one of the evening's highlights.
As for Graham Parker, it was worth the cover charge to see the typically cranky English pub rocker smiling and clapping his hands to the Merseybeat "One and One is Two'' (recorded by the Strangers) and even dealing out a dead-on Sammy Davis Jr. impression. Lennon would have appreciated Parker's wry wit.
Parker also took the most chances with the sacred Lennon and McCartney material. He had the original cheesy version of Tommy Quickly's "Tip of My Tongue'' played over the house sound system. Parker detected a ska/skiffle backbeat and reworked the Lennon and McCartney composition as an engaging reggae number. A tip of the hat goes to the trio's fine backing band, most notably bassist Winston Roye (Bernie Worrell, Jack McDuff) who was in the pocket the entire night.
It's a shame this gig had such little fanfare--it was moved from the Park West because of slow ticket sales. I presume most first-generation Beatles fans are too old to go out at night. But the "Lost Songs of Lennon & McCartney'' (available on RPH Records) took rock 'n' roll back to a fun-loving sense of discovery on a promising spring night.