The classic cover to The Beatles' 1967 album "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."

My love for The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”

If you’ve been plugged into any social media the last few days, you probably couldn’t escape the news about the new remix of The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album.

I’ll be straight with you: I haven’t heard it yet.

My only opportunities since its release on Friday (May 26, 2017) would have minimized it to background music. And that just won’t do the album justice.

The classic cover to The Beatles' 1967 album "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."
The classic cover to The Beatles’ 1967 album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”

I want to experience it when I can really focus on it. I want to wear some good headphones, I want to let the sounds wash over me, I want the music to conjure visions and tickle my imagination.

I hope to be transported to the same Neverland (or Pepperland) that a very young me visited when I first delved into the Fab Four’s 1967 masterwork.

Continue reading “My love for The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band””

Justin McGuinn (Justin Ploof) is pictured here.

Review: Justin McGuinn’s “Love Songs & Other Strangers”

It’s fair to say that Justin McGuinn (you may also know him as Justin Ploof) knows a thing or two about music.

If you live in or near Central Minnesota, you may have run into this St. Cloud Tech grad at an area festival, or caught one of his shows. And if you love great music from the 1960s and 1970s, you may have caught some of his tribute shows too.

That’s how I first heard him.

I think it was back in 2005 or so, I was invited by good friend Mick Hatten to catch a George Harrison tribute show. It was a stellar mix of Beatles tunes and solo gems, peppered with incredible guitarists and excellent singers (special props to Billy Scherer, whose vocals on the majestic “Isn’t It a Pity” almost brought tears to my eyes and may have been the defining performance of that song for me). Throughout it, Justin and his dad shared stories and kept the mood festive. This wasn’t a night of mourning George, it was a night of celebrating him.

Since that show, I’ve seen Ploof tackle The Monkees and Creedence Clearwater Revival, too.

The dude obviously has range.

But there is more to Ploof/McGuinn than covering the great songs of obviously incredible artists.

He has his own music to share, his own words to sing.

Continue reading “Review: Justin McGuinn’s “Love Songs & Other Strangers””

The recent March 2017 reissue of Paul McCartney's "Flowers in the Dirt" album.

Catching up on recent releases: “Flowers in the Dirt” reissued by Paul McCartney

There have been so many new releases, archival releases, reissues and box sets released since October, I think I could spend my next six paychecks just on music and still not be caught up.

Too much music? What a delightful problem to have!

One recent release I’ve been able to enjoy is the reissue of Paul McCartney’s “Flowers in the Dirt” album, a record originally released in 1989. Noteworthy for its collaborations with Elvis Costello, it’s also the first McCartney disc released during my lifetime where I remember some of these songs as new releases on the radio.

Musicians Elvis Costello and Paul McCartney perform together. (AP Photo/Sean Dempsey, linked from
Musicians Elvis Costello and Paul McCartney perform together. (AP Photo/Sean Dempsey, linked from

(I was born in 1980, but I was too young to remember or notice tracks from “McCartney II,” “Tug of War,” “Pipes of Peace” or “Press to Play” … but I do recall the song “No More Lonely Nights” from the “Give My Regards to Broad Street” soundtrack. Songs like “Ebony and Ivory” and “Say Say Say” were on the periphery of my music knowledge, but I can’t say I paid much attention to them.)

Continue reading “Catching up on recent releases: “Flowers in the Dirt” reissued by Paul McCartney”

On Feb. 9, 1964, The Beatles played The Ed Sullivan Show for the first time. The Beatles are pictured here, with Sullivan. From left: Ringo Starr, George Harrison, Sullivan, John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Photo courtesy of

On this date in music history, The Beatles rocked Ed Sullivan

On Feb. 9, 1964, The Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show and the music world was never the same.

The first music column I wrote for the St. Cloud Times three years ago addressed the anniversary of The Beatles’ appearance on Sullivan’s program. Over the 2.5 years I wrote for the Times, I gave The Beatles the spotlight on a handful of occasions. The group was my first musical love, and remains one of my absolute favorite bands to this day.

I was born too late to be one of the 73 million people who tuned in to watch The Fab Four perform on Sullivan’s stage, but I’ve certainly watched the footage enough to feel almost like I was there. (Almost.)

Continue reading “On this date in music history, The Beatles rocked Ed Sullivan”

The sleeve cover to John Lennon's "Watching the Wheels" single.

Losing John Lennon, but keeping the music: Reflecting on some Lennon favorites

For a lot of music fans, Dec. 8 can be a dark day.

In 1980, it was the day that John Lennon was shot and killed. His loss is still felt today. What music did we lose out on? Would a reunion of The Beatles been in the cards? What humanitarian acts would he have undertaken? What about painting, drawing, other art?

What would he have done with his sons, Julian and Sean? What would he have thought of the rise of rap / hip-hop music? What would he have thought of music by his contemporaries that came out in the 1980s, ’90s, 2000s, etc.?

Last year, I wrote about Lennon’s death for the St. Cloud Times. I reflected on his loss and legacy. I talked about how John was gone, but that his music remains with us.

This year, I thought I’d look at my favorite Lennon solo works, as well as my favorites of his work with The Beatles. This vein will undoubtedly be more enjoyable in terms of revisiting the music, rather than rehashing the sad, tragic death.

Continue reading “Losing John Lennon, but keeping the music: Reflecting on some Lennon favorites”

The album covers to the two "Live at the BBC" editions issued by The Beatles.

The Beatles, the BBC and falling in love with so many great artists

I remember hearing music by The Beatles when I was a young boy. Songs like “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “Here Comes the Sun” and “Hey Jude” were in regular rotation, thanks to my folks.

I grew up a fan of the Fab Four’s music. And when I started getting my own music collection started, it makes sense that I gravitated toward The Beatles. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr were the cornerstones to my ever-increasing pile of CDs.

In 1995, I celebrated my 15th birthday with a group of friends who spent the night. They brought gifts, we had pizza and we played video games into the wee morning hours. I still smile when I think back to those days and those guys.

My parents, besides hosting the gathering and providing the pizza, also gave me a gift: The Beatles’ “Live at the BBC” CD set. It was released in late 1994, and I’d had it on my radar all those months. Obviously, I was pretty pumped to give it a listen.

Continue reading “The Beatles, the BBC and falling in love with so many great artists”

The sleeve to The Beatles' single "Can't Buy Me Love" b/w "You Can't Do That," released in March 1964. Courtesy of

B-side the point: Looking at the (superior?) flip sides of singles

When I look at my favorite bands and artists across the years, I recognize the many great singles they’ve released.

These singles are the songs released that gave them the radio hits, prompted tours, helped sell albums, etc.

More often than not, artists from at least the mid 1950s through the early 1990s would release singles where the “A” side was the attempt at a hit, the strongest candidate, the song the artists or producers or record companies thought were the strongest efforts. The flip sides, the “B” sides, would sometimes be filler, or live versions, or songs from older albums. In general, this was content that didn’t have a lot of thought put into it.

Obviously, this isn’t 100 percent true for every single or every artist. Plenty of artists put out killer singles that were great on both sides. Heck, The Beatles and The Beach Boys often put out great double-sided hits (like “Penny Lane” / “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” / “God Only Knows,” for example).

This got me to thinking not just about the hit singles, or the singles that had hit B-sides, but also about singles where I actually prefer the B-side over the A-side of the single. That has happened for many of my favorite acts with some regularity.

Continue reading “B-side the point: Looking at the (superior?) flip sides of singles”