Friday, August 12, 2016

Real Love

Richard Furnstein: The second "new" Beatles song released along with the Anthology multimedia blitz in 1995, "Real Love" always seemed like the undercard to "Free As A Bird." "Real Love" had already been released as a skeletal guitar demo as part of the Imagine movie in 1988. I argue that the previously released demo was superior to the overcooked Threetles version (particularly with the film's aerial footage, as if John's ghost was gliding over his sprawling Tittenhurst Park estate). It retains some of the lyrical themes of the earlier version of the song as "Real Life" and includes a middle eight pilfered from "Isolation" from the Plastic Ono Band version. Was John even aware that he was ripping himself off when he recorded this demo? Or did he just toss off this gentle fragment of a song during a lull in the Mets game or as he was waiting for his poppy French bread to rise? I imagine he was aware of the connection to one of his great solo works, but didn't want to slow down his creative process by trying to work out new chords, melodies, and words. Lazy sod.

Robert Bunter: John was indeed a lazy man, but it's unfair to pass any judgement on posthumously-unearthed song fragments exploited by the surviving Beatles in order to have a fake "single" to release as a promo hype for their half-baked television mini-series. I'm sorry Richard but the whole thing reeks. Jeff Lynne's atrocious sub-Wilburys production is the audio equivalent of a puffy acid-washed denim jacket with a Beatles logo on it. Conceived in poor taste and out-of-date the moment it was released. Basically I just deny the existence of the Anthology videos and circa-'90s "Beatles songs." I can't think of any lower moment in the group's history, and yes I'm including Gone Troppo. I love John and I'll be damned if I'm going to sit here and complain about the texture of his mind-meat after the other three picked over the carcass for saleable scraps and pressed them into a half-baked platter. Ringo should be ashamed of himself. I'd expect this from the other two but not Ringo.

Richard Furnstein: Let's get real. The remaining Beatles had plenty of blood on their hands by the time of Anthology. Paul's war crimes in Give My Regards To Broad Street are well documented, including some brutal renditions of his most tender Beatles offerings. Ringo had been sucking out the sweet marrow from the Beatbones for 25 years. He scored early and often after the breakup, delivering sentimental favorites like the 1973 Ringo LP and the "Early 1970" b-side. At the time of Anthology, Ringo was leading his All Starr Band to tertiary markets to play Beatles favorites along with hits from his hired bandmates of soggy yokels. And dignified Ol' George? The man who couldn't wait to break free from the oppression of playing lead guitar in the greatest band of all time? He was the most shameless in mining the past to push singles for the second half of his solo career, including the notalgic "This Guitar (Can't Keep From Crying)," "When We Was Fab," and "All Those Years Ago." And, golly, Jeff Lynne built his entire career on Beatles grave robbing. Spring is a nice time to start at zero. To bring back moss, then flame. 
Where will we be in another twenty years, old friend? 

So, it was hardly a surprise that they would try to pull a stunt like the "Free As A Bird" and "Real Love" recordings. The surviving Beatles reasoned that John had "gone on holiday," leaving behind only a crumbling demo cassette tape with omnipresent humming and serious tempo issues. "Enjoy your vacation, John. We'll be here in Jeff Lynne's guest house trying to make this poorly recorded Double Fantasy outtake sound like a lost masterpiece from this hypothetical fantasy album that the world has been desperate to hear for 25 years. No pressure. I hope you have a cracker of a holiday. Yeah, right."

Robert Bunter: It's a nice tune though, if you put all that aside. Classic Lennon chord moves - unorthodox yet effortless and natural. Same with the lyrics. A little half-baked but he probably would have made some refinements if he'd lived to do so. Your vision of John tossing off the lo-fi demo between innings of a ballgame is a charming one. Considered in that context, "Real Love" sounds sweet. And who are we to put the other three down for what they did? Their friend died and they wanted to do something before the reaper took any more of them away. The Anthology debacle and "Threetles" single were the end result of a complicated process of personal and legal reconciliation, a tying up of ends that had been loosened and frayed since 1970. The presence of Jeff Lynne was a counter-balancing power move to buttress George against Paul's inevitable dominance. Ringo was just happy to be there. This song is a bruised artifact of a bunch of unglamorous realities, not an extension the sweet dream that was the Beatles original career. I'm sorry but these are the facts.

Richard Furnstein: I just watched the "Real Love" music video. At the time, the emotional pull was clearly the mash of Lennon archival footage in the clip. While the rest of the boys were goofing off in the studio (watch grumpy George ham it up!), Lennon was stuck in a loop of haunted memories from the sixties and seventies. A ghost silently walking through a meeting of old friends. However, the clip now highlights the sadness of the Threetles reunion. Look at those lovely 1995 portraits of Paul, George, and Ringo. They look so damned young. Paul is particularly youthful and charged; the Lovely Linda was still by his side. There was still endless honey in his throat and his hair was tousled and rich with life vitamins. The footage of a 1995 Ringo (in his uptight Los Angeles old rich guy look) playing the drums matches well with the classic studio footage clips in the video. He's still got it! Long-haired George is all smiles and trendy flannel. It's a delight to watch him squeeze out the playful guitar leads. The Beatles were still largely on this plane of existence; they just had to fly in John's ghostly vocal to complete the illusion. They were so close to being whole, to making us whole again. It's devastating to watch this. We've lost too much already. Where will we be in another twenty years, old friend?

Robert Bunter: Well of course we'll be sad because Paul and Ringo have died too, if we're even still alive by then. :‑(