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Entertainment behind the scenes

Alan Parsons’ third act: instructional filmmaker


Alan Parsons is perhaps best known for his work with the easy-listening progressive rock group that bears his name. Between 1976 and 1990, the Alan Parsons Project enjoyed eight top-40 singles in the United States, including the No. 3 smash “Eye in the Sky.” But before he became a rock star, Parsons was a knob-twiddler at EMI’s Abbey Road Studios in London. He was an assistant engineer on the Beatles’ final albums “Let it Be” and “Abbey Road,” and one of the brains behind the 1973 Pink Floyd opus “The Dark Side of the Moon,” one of the biggest-selling albums of all time.
alan2Now resident in Santa Barbara, 95 miles northwest of Los Angeles, Parsons is trying his hand at instructional filmmaking. He has just released a three-disc DVD package that aims to lift “this mysterious veil of secrecy” that surrounds the recording experience, he said Wednesday.

Art & Science of Sound Recording,” which was two years in the making and is narrated by Billy Bob Thornton, is aimed at both music industry professionals and casual observers. It covers such topics as studio acoustics, the use of microphones and consoles, and recording techniques for vocals and various instruments. There’s also a useful section called “Dealing with Disasters.” 

Parsons, now 61, chatted about the DVD and his career during a Q&A at the Grammy Museum in downtown Los Angeles, and performed a couple of songs, including “Sirius”/”Eye in the Sky,” ”Games People Play” and “Time.” He wryly noted that he had never won a Grammy despite receiving 10 nominations, one of the worst losing streaks in Grammy history. He received his first nod for “The Dark Side of the Moon,” losing that race to the engineers of Stevie Wonder’s “Innervisions.” 

Parsons, who learned his craft on the job at Abbey Road under the tutelage of “Get Back” sessions engineer Glyn Johns, lamented that the album-listening experience is becoming obsolete. “Albums are, I think, a thing of the past. We’re in now a three-minute download world and listening on nasty, little white things,” he said, referring to the reductive earbuds that accompany most MP3 players. His revelation that 80 percent of music is listened to on such devices sent a shiver through a boomer audience weaned on what Parsons had jokingly described as “big black CDs.”

The kids are all right as Beatles’ White Album gets a fresh coat


The good thing about cuts to music education in schools is that wannabe rock stars flock to savvy entrepreneurs like Paul Green — the Philadelphia musician who inspired the Jack Black movie “School of Rock.” 

stan2Green — himself the subject of the 2005 documentary “Rock School” — has set up a nationwide School of Rock chain that helps kids unleash their inner Ozzys, Jimis and Janises. It’s certainly more fun than learning “Home on the Range” and “Kumbaya” in a public-school setting. 

Jeff Beck says Beatles “as good as George Martin allowed them to be”


The Beatles probably would have gone down in history as a pretty good bar band had it not been for their producer George Martin, according to Jeff Beck. The guitar virtuoso, who worked with the studio wizard on a pair of acclaimed albums in the 1970s, said on Thursday the Beatles were “as good as George Martin allowed them to be.”

jeff1 ” To my ears I wasn’t hearing much,” Beck said during a Q&A at the Grammy Museum. “George put (in) all these chords and these fantastic sounds, and all the experimentation was afforded by George. He enabled it. Up to that point they were singing the Star Club (in) Hamburg and doing Gene Vincent songs.

Ringo Starr gets his Hollywood star at low-wattage ceremony


If the stars come out at night, they failed to illuminate Ringo Starr’s Hollywood Walk of Fame induction ceremony on Monday, the first time a star has been unveiled at night.

starrA surprisingly low-wattage assortment of celebrities showed up to see the former Beatles drummer get his star outside the Capitol Records building, most of them holdovers from Roy Orbison’s ceremony 10 days ago such as Joe Walsh, Jeff Lynne, David Lynch, Eric Idle and Barbara Orbison. 

Ringo Starr: “I’m the greatest”


After more than 50 years in the music business — eight of them in the most scrutinized band on the planet — Ringo Starr would rather do anything than submit to even more questions. But the former Beatles drummer has a new solo album to promote, and that means more interviews — most recently at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles on Tuesday, when he took part in a Q&A and mini concert for about 230 fans.

ringo1Dressed in black, including an Elvis Presley t-shirt and Nike tennis shoes, the 69-year-old Starr lived up to his reputation as the “funny Beatle.” The fans were eager to project a Beatles connection onto his every word, and Starr knew it.

George Benson recounts “criminal” encounter with Beatles


As The Beatles take center stage in the music world this week with the much-anticipated reissue of their albums, it’s easy to forget that the Fab Four were not exactly adored by large swathes of the musical community back in the day. Jazz artists, especially, looked down on the noisy pop stars (or were more likely envious of their fame and fortune). 

george3“It used to be a crime for a jazz musician to even mention the word ‘Beatles,’” jazz guitarist George Benson recalled on Thursday, during a promotion for his new album at the Grammy Museum in downtown Los Angeles. 

And the last Beatles song will be…



mccartney1We admit we may be playing into the hands of a marketing campaign designed to eke out as much publicity as possible for the new Beatles interactive “Rock Band” video game on Sept 9. (Read the latest story here). But we couldn’t resist what is a rather intriguing question.

What will be the last Beatles song available for fans to “virtually” play from a list of 45 tunes for the new game? Today, the makers announced 19 more titles that will come with the game including “Ticket to Ride,” “Come Together,” “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” and “A Hard Day’s Night” – bringing the list to 44.

Paul McCartney does not have his songs back from Jackson, but he feels fine


Paul McCartney has put to rest any lingering questions about whether Michael Jackson bequeathed to Macca his rights to songs by The Beatles. The reports began surfacing paul-mccartneybefore Jackson died two weeks ago, but when the King of Pop’s will was released last week it contained no reference to any such transfer.

In a post on his website, McCartney wrote that it was all a case of the media getting it wrong.

George Harrison returns to charts with solo hits record


My Sweet Lord, indeed. George Harrison is back on the pop charts with the first hits package covering his entire solo career. 

george“Let It Roll: Songs By George Harrison,” released last week, boasts tracks from 1970′s “All Things Must Pass” to his posthumous 2002 set “Brainwashed.” It also includes three Beatle-era tunes from 1971′s “Concert for Bangladesh” all-star live charity album. 

No Grammy, but Sir Paul goes backstage anyway



Even Sir Paul McCartney is a good sport when it comes to losing, pretending to weep but making light of the fact that he lost an early bid to get his first Grammy in 29 years on Sunday at the 51st annual Grammys.
“I am really annoyed. That is why I didn’t come. I don’t come to win it, I come to be in it,” said McCartney backstage, sporting a t-shirt of the four Beatles with clown noses  designed by his daughter to benefit the charity Comic Relief.
“It is a great thing and I am honored to be asked. I was watching the Golden Globes and I saw Mickey (Rourke) win for best actor. And in the audience there’s Clint (Eastwood), there’s Brad (Pitt) — they come to be a part of it, not necessarily win it.”
McCartney is the most-honored former Beatle, with 13 Grammys, but his chance at topping that eluded him early on at the Grammys on Sunday. He was competing for two awards and was also scheduled to perform with Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl.
McCartney lost out to John Mayer on Sunday in the best solo rock vocal performance category. The former Beatle had been nominated for his cover of the early Beatles tune “I Saw Her Standing There,” a track from the 12-inch vinyl release “Amoeba’s Secret.”
McCartney, 66, is also nominated for best male pop vocal performance statuette for “That Was Me,” another track from “Amoeba’s Secret.”

(Reuters photo by Mario Anzuoni)