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Archive for the ‘Cute’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: DAKHABRAKHA-“Kolyskova” NPR’S SOUTH X LULLABY (March 21, 2017).

I loved DakhaBrakha’s Tiny Desk Concert.  It was mesmerizing and beautiful.  And so the performers came to SXSW and did a lullaby.  And as the blurb says, they brought their “cello, keyboard, accordion – and tall, wool hats! — to the balcony of the Hilton Austin hotel.”

This lullaby of “Kolyskova” quiets things down a bit.  The song opens with simple keyboard notes.  One of the women sings, and when they reach the end of the verse, the male accordionist sings a falsetto that matches the women’s tone.  The woman on drums makes a strange sound–like a baby crying or animal yelping.

Then he winds up singing lead on the second verse in that falsetto with the women singing backing vocals.  Then the cello and drums kick in to build the sound.   The third verse is sung by the cellist as the keys play a pretty melody.

The song is upbeat with lots of bouncy vocals, even though the lyrics seem rather dark.  ‘The band only ever calls it “Lullaby.” It’s a quiet, contemplative song that the band says is a “connecting of several lullabies” with “philosophical lyrics that [say] we have time for everything — time to laugh and cry, time to live and die.’

I love at the very end as the song slows down to just the keyboardist singing because the drummer adds a very cool breathing as a kind of percussion accompaniment.  And then as the camera pulls back the two attack the keyboard making a cacophony of fun notes.  I bet they’re a lot of fun live.

[READ: June 2 2016] Explorer: The Hidden Doors

This is the third (and I assume final) in a series of graphic novel short stories edited by Kazu Kibuishi, the creator of Amulet.

I really enjoyed the first one a lot and was pretty excited to read the rest. As with the other two I was delighted by the authors involved and the quality of these stories.

The three books are not related to each other (aside from thematic) so it doesn’t matter what order you read them in.

This book revolves around the theme of “hidden doors.”  I like the way each author takes a concept that seems like it would be pretty standard and turns their stories into things that are very different indeed. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK:  NINA DIAZ & Y LA BAMBA’s LUZ ELENA MENDOZA-“January 9th” & “Living Room” NPR’S SOUTH X LULLABY (March 20, 2017).

I was intrigued by this pairing because Luz Elena Mendoza has a shirt buttoned up to her neck and, from the angle of the first song, it appears that she has her long sleeves down, while Nina Diaz (originally from Girlfriend in a Coma) is wearing a sleeveless T-shirt with tattoos showing up and down her arms.  They seem somewhat mismatched.  Until they sing.  (And also during the second song when it becomes obvious that Luz Elena’s arms are covered in tattoos as well).

The two have never played together, but after NPR Music paired them in the courtyard of St. David’s Episcopal Church for a late evening performance, we’re beginning to wonder why not. They’ve both played the Tiny Desk (Diaz twice, once with Girl In A Coma) and both navigate complex emotions and notions of identity in their music. Also, they just sing beautifully together, Mendoza’s yodel swirling in Diaz’s gritty croon.

Luz Elena’s song “Living Room” is first.  She plays guitar and sings. It’s a short song with Nina’s nice high harmonies over Luz Elena’s deeper voice.  The blurb also notes: Mendoza shares a brand-new song here, “Living Room.” When the two harmonize its confession — “I feel like I’ve been undressing all my thoughts in front of you” — it is, in tandem, starkly intimate and separate.

Nina Diaz’ song “January 9th” is a bit more fun (partially because I know it from her Tiny Desk Concert, but also because it’s a bit more upbeat).  I like Diaz’ singing quite a bit.  Mendoza’s backing vocals add nicely to the “bad one/sad one” part of the chorus.  The blurb adds: “It’s a bluesy ballad with a through line of ’60s pop, a tribute to her late grandmother, cooed and howled into a warm Austin evening.”

Future collaborations should be called for.

[READ: June 27, 2016] Explorer: The Lost Islands

This is the second in series of graphic novel short stories edited by Kazu Kibuishi, the creator of Amulet.

The three books are not related to each other (aside from thematic) so it doesn’t matter what order you read them in.

This first one is all about “lost islands.”  What was neat about this book was that since the premise of an island is so broad, the stories were all very different. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: L.A. SALAMI-“Day To Day (For 6 Days A Week)” NPR’S SOUTH X LULLABY (March 17, 2017).

L.A. Salami’s full name is Lookman Adekunle Salami.  I really enjoyed Salami’s song “Going Mad As The Street Bins.”  His delivery is great and there were some rather unexpected chords.

For this performance of “Day to Day,” he is standing on the balcony of the Hilton Austin hotel overlooking the downtown skyline.

I usually try to pair kid-friendly songs with books, but there’s some curses in this song).

The music is basically the same for 7 minutes (although it does build by the end), which means you must focus on the lyrics. And they are pretty dark.  It talks about boredom on public transportation as well as gruesome deaths on the news.  There’s talk of mental health, like this section:

Went to work for the NHS –
Mental health, people depressed.
Met Joanne – Scared of living,
Afraid of dying, terrified of being.
Then met Paul, a schizophrenic,
Shaking limbs, paranoid fanatic –
Unwashed 10 days in a row –
So afraid almost paralytic.
I tell them that I do the same –
In certain moods, on certain days…
But despite the sane ways I can think
I could not do much to convince them…

But mostly I enjoy his delivery which has his slightly accented voice and charming mannerisms.  The first time I heard this I wasn’t as drawn to it as I was his other song, but each listen unveils something more to like about it.

[READ: June 1, 2016] Explorer: The Mystery Boxes

This is the first in a series of short graphic novel short stories edited by Kazu Kibuishi the creator of Amulet.

Sarah brought these home for the kids to read and they were sitting around our house for a while so I picked one up.  When I flipped through it and saw all the great authors in it I knew I had to read them.

The three books are not related to each other (aside from thematic) so it doesn’t matter what order you read them in.

This first one is all about “mystery boxes.” (more…)

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luchSOUNDTRACK: CRISTINA PATO-Tiny Desk Concert #305 (September 21, 2013).

patoI didn’t know who Cristina Pato was or what instrument she played.  So when the show started (without visuals), I assumed she was the accordionist (because the show starts with some wild accordion music).  But in fact, Pato is playing the bagpipe.  Pato’s instrument is the gaita, a Galician bagpipe, and her roots lie in traditional Galician music — though she also boasts graduate degrees in classical piano, music theory and electronic composition.

I love the sound she band gets together with the funky staccato accordion notes and the wild racing pipes.  They are very jazzy and very idiosyncratic.  Her percussionist uses several different types of drums—the ubiquitous box drum and a hand held drum as well as various shakers and other sound makers.

They play three songs.  It’s interesting how much of the first song is taken up without the bagpipes—there’s lenghy sections where the accordion has the floor and she is just happily dancing around.  And the accordionist is amazing.  he plays all kinds of different styles and gets an amazing range of sounds out of that one instrument. He wails!  Of course I see now that the song is actually written by the accordionist: “Victor Prieto: ‘Mundos Celtas.'”  So it’s no wonder that she is happy to sit back and let him shine.  (Prieto , like Pato, is a native of the town of Orense in Galicia).  While he is playing, she whoops and hollers to get everyone pumped.  But once she gets her instruments going she is a nonstop blur of fingers and wild notes.  I particularly like that she has a section where the note is slightly flat and she continues to slowly raise it until it gets in pitch.  I also love–due to the nature of the bag pipes–that she can scream and whoops while still pressing air out of the bags.  And at the end of the song, she is just wild with fast notes.  It’s a very intense piece.

The second piece “Traditional/Cristina Pato: “Alalá Re-rooted” starts with her singing.  She is unmiked so you can’t really hear her, but I don’t really enjoy her singing as much as her playing so it’s okay.  I do love the interesting sounds the percussionist Shane Shanahan (Shanahan is American, but is also a longtime member (with Pato) of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble) is making.  Overall, this is a fairly dissonant piece—with her sounding almost like a free jazz players (but on pipes rather than sax).  I do love near the end where she almost seems to get a harmonic overtone on the pipe.  It’s a great moment—but fairly weird how the song just sort of fades away before seguing into the final song.

Victor Prieto & Emilio Solla: “Muñeira For Cristina” this song seems to be all about percussion with lots of drumming and a very noisy tambourine that Pato plays.  She gets the crowd clapping along and then  when she and Prieto play the same awesome riff together,it sounds great.  I love watching her shake the finger part while she’s playing it, to get a cool almost whammy bar sound out of it.  The song totally rocks and the whole set with the unlikely combo of accordion and bagpipe is startlingly wonderful.

[READ: April 20, 2016] Comics Squad: Lunch!

I really enjoyed the first Comics Squad book and I was delighted that a second one came out.  I just recently saw that a third one is coming out the summer–I love that it is called Detention and is coming out on Independence Day.

Like the first collection, this one is edited by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm (Babymouse/Squish) and Jarrett J.  Krosoczka (Lunch Lady).

But the rest of the line up is quite different this time around, which is cool–allowing other artists to shine.  This time there are stories from Cece Bell (El Deafo) ; Jason Shiga (a great indie artist who does some kid-friendly and some decidedly not kid friendly books) ; Cecil Castelucci & Sara Varon ; Jeffrey Brown and Nathan Hale (his own series of historical stories).

Like the previous book, the Holms and Krosoczka sprinkle the book with comments and interstitials from Babymouse and Lunch Lady. (more…)

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recessSOUNDTRACK: BUIKA-Tiny Desk Concert #298 (August 26, 2013).

buikaI had never heard of Buika before, so I had to rely on the blurb:

Concha Buika’s voice doesn’t come from inside her petite body: It comes from Africa, and from the past. There are obvious traces of flamenco, itself a historical mash-up of the Moors and various transitory cultures in southern Spain and north Africa.

During her flights of improvisation, we also hear the influence of Cuban vocalist Celia Cruz, a product of Afro-Cuban culture, mixed in with Ella Fitzgerald, who was the pinnacle of African-American jazz vocal expression.

In these two performances, we hear Buika interpret her own lyrics after a handful of albums in which she’s interpreted others’ words. With her eyes closed tightly, she inhabits these poems of love and heartache as if she were reliving them again before our eyes.

Buika’s singular voice has attracted a cadre of fans who’ve become enchanted by her voice and her leave-it-all-on-the-stage performances in clubs and theaters around the world. Watch this video and join the club.

So as the notes say, these two pieces are improvisations.  Not knowing Spanish all that well, I don’t know how much is made up or even how much is just sounds rather than actual words.  But it certainly sounds more off the cuff than written out.

The music is just a piano and a box drum and her voice.  Her voice is raw and pained, but quite pretty.  The two songs are called “La Noche Mas Larga” and “La Nave Del Olvido.”

[READ: April 15, 2016] Comics Squad: Recess

I found out about this collection in the back of a Babymouse book.

Comics Squad is a collection of eight comics from some of my favorite artists.  It basically works as a bunch of short, shall we say graphic novellas, from Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm (Babymouse/Squish) ; Jarrett J.  Krosoczka (Lunch Lady) ; Dav Pilkey (Captain Underpants) ; Dan Santat ; Raina Telgemeier and Dave Roman  (Smile and Astronaut Academy); Ursula Vernon (Dragonbreath) ; Eric Wright (Frankie Pickle) and Gene Luen Yang.

Since it’s edited by the Holms and Krosoczka they sprinkle the book with marginal comments and interstitials from Babymouse and Lunch Lady.  But each artist/author gets a story, and I enjoyed them all.

GENE LUEN YANG-“The Super-Secret Ninja Club”  This was a really fun story about a group of boys who meet at recess.  Once they know that noone is watching, they put on their masks and become the super-secret ninja club.  But Daryl, a decidedly un-ninja like boy wants in…desperately.  He’s never had a passion for any club before but this one is totally him.  The one boy says that since winter break is about to start, when the get back to school, they can talk about him joining.  So Daryl spends all inter break practicing.  Will it be enough?  The answer is very funny.

DAV PILKEY-“Book ‘Em, Dog Man!”  This story begins with a letter to the parents of George (the main character in Captain Underpants) from his teacher saying that she asked for a written assignment and once again he drew a cartoon.  She has attached the offending (and offensive) cartoon for them to see.  Petey the cat is in jail .  He wants to beat the superhero Dog Man.  But Dog Man is too smart  So Petey realizes that if he removes all the words from books no one will be smart anymore.  He invents a ray which does just that.  What will the world do when they can’t read anymore?

JARRETT J, KROSOCZKA-“Betty and the Perilous Pizza Day”  “Lunch Lady” is a cartoon I didn’t really know before reading this collection. Lunch Lady appears in the margins of the pages of the book, but not in this actual cartoon.  Rather, the star of this cartoon is Betty, Lunch Lady’s helper. And since Lunch Lady can’t be there, Betty will have to deal with lunch.  But it is pizza day!  The only hope is the Pizzatron 2000.  Unless, of course, it develops a mind of its own and goes on a rampage.

URSULA VERNON-“The Magic Acorn”  I don’t know Dragonbreath all that well, although Clark has read all of them.  This story is pretty simple.  Although since I don’t know the characters I don’t know if it is representative of anything prior.  Scratch, a squirrel who is rather realistically drawn (Vernon’s drawings are great) is interrupted by Squeak, a far more a cartoony squirrel.  Squeak is excited because he found a magic acorn.  Scratch states that this is the 318th “magic acorn” that he’s found.  And besides they have recess in ten minutes.  Well, this acorn may not exactly be an acorn, but it is certainly magical.

JENNIFER L. HOLM & MATTHEW HOLM-“Babymouse: The Quest for Recess”  In this brief story Babymouse has a few fantasies that prevent her from actually getting outside for recess.  First she is late for school (dreaming about Camelot) then her locker brings her to Zeus, making her late for class.  A western dream makes her disrupt lunch and then the barbarian fractions invade during math class.  Can she keep it together and actually get outside?

ERIC WIGHT-“Jiminy Sprinkles in ‘Freeze Tag'”  So I don’t know this comic at all either. Jiminy Sprinkles is a new student to the school (he is a cupcake). He immediately befriends a peanut who tells him to watch out for The Mean Green Gang, a group of vegetables.  (Their leader is Russell from Brussels (ha)).  The Mean Green Gang is pretty tough but Jiminy has a secret weapon of his own–a very funny one that the Mean Green Gang actually gets a kick out of too.

DAN SANTAT-“300 Words” This is an interesting look at the story The Giving Tree.  The kids were assigned a book report on the story three weeks ago and it is due today.  John is one of the boys who didn’t do the assignment and he’s about to write his 300 words now.  It’s a tree. It gives things.  But another boy has a better idea–he’s going to ask Sophia for her paper.  Even though the last time he talked to her he threw up on her.   Sophia has an interesting answer for him.

DAVE ROMAN & RAINA TELGEMEIER-“The Rainy Day Monitor” is a wonderful take on kickball.  Since the kids can’t go outside to play because of the rain, their recess is indoors.  And they are closely watched by Boring Becca the totally boring fifth grader.  When they ask if they can play kickball inside she asks the kids if they have ever played Dungeons and Dragons.  They groan until she says they should play kickball using dice and imaginary characters.  Pretty great idea Becca!

The end of the book is set up with fun fake ads and useful tips.

One “ad” is an offer for Babymouse Binoculars.  I also really liked Lunch Lady’s tips on how to draw Betty (which skip from 3 to 12 while Squish sweats).

This was not only a great introduction to all of these fabulous comic writers, it was a really funny collection in its own right.

The end of the book says “Do you think there will be another one? As sure as there is syrup on pancakes there’ll be a Comics Squad #2.”  And indeed, there was a second one.

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 quirkSOUNDTRACK: PACHA: Affaires Étrangères [CST090] (2012).

pachaPacha has the second of three discs released as part of Constellation’s Musique Fragile 02 set.  Pacha is the solo work of percussionist Pierre-Guy Blanchard and this disc is made of rhythm-heavy instrumentals, propelled by Middle-Eastern synth lines and sprinkled with guitar, bass and oud along with the odd looped field recording. It’s like electronic music with an Arabic pop fixation.  And the instrumentation is really interesting:

“L’Aeroport De Charlo” is mostly thumping drums and a buzzy synth.  There are some synth solos with distinctively Middle Eastern tones.  I like the way the basic rhythm alters throughout the nearly 5 minute track.  About half way through it turns to nearly all percussion a great rumbling drumming with one middle eastern instrument playing over the top (it sounds like a buzzy clarinet).   “Macedonian Mind” has some great, complex drumming behind a simple synth riff.  The music feels slightly menacing as the synths are quite buzzy, but the drums are just a lot of fun.   The middle of the song uses that Middle Eastern sound with a melody line (I can’t tell if its voice or instrument or what) that works perfectly with the main Rockies riff.

“Modern Malaise” opens with a vocal choir, singing while there’s a simultaneous, seemingly unrelated bass line.  And then a very cool funky section with more great drums and a kind of sneaky sounding riff.  As the song progresses some spacey synths enter the song amid a clatter of echoing drums before it all resolves to that initial cool riff.  In “La Gare De Podgorica” slow synths play over some complex drumming with a bunch of what sounds like hand drums.  “Tunel” has some great hand drumming and low droning synths.   And then comes the most middle eastern sounding riff of the disc.  This track is my favorite–catchy and funky with some great hand drumming.  The keys sound very later 60s.

“Ankara” is a fast song with complex hand drumming and an almost drone with vocals samplings, and a lot of the instrument listed below (Omar Dewachi plays saz and oud) and a warbly synth line.   It is one of the longest songs on the disc and has the most going on it.  “Starcevo” opens with some deep hand drums and what sounds like violins or maybe sampled voices or both.  It’s kind of a disconcerting track with the drums the only thing keeping things steady.  “Le Soviet” is played on a bunch of synths with a kind of carnivalesque feel to the sound.  There’s a Middle Eastern riff and some interesting solos that sound almost classical.

From the Constellation site:

Blanchard received a BA in music in 2003, majoring in percussion performance, and then escaped the ‘new music’ trajectory by traveling extensively and immersing himself in Middle Eastern and Balkan traditions, studying under various masters and playing with a wide range of regional groups. During his periods back in Canada he performed as guest percussionist for Black Ox Orkestar … has also performed regularly with Sam Shalabi’s jazz/psych/arabic orchestra Land Of Kush.  … Constellation re-sequenced and remastered the Affaires Étrangères CD-R for vinyl and is proud to be giving this album a more substantial life. It marks Blanchard’ first attempt at a definitive musical statement of his own and we think it succeeds wildly.

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fragileMusique Fragile Volume 02 is the second in our series of limited-edition, artwork-intensive box sets featuring three full-length albums by three different artists, available on heavyweight vinyl and as a digital bundle. The vinyl set will be limited to 500 hand-numbered copies, lovingly designed and hand-assembled:

[READ: October 31, 2016] Quirk’s Quest 1

This story threw out so much disconnect for me that I never really determined if I liked it.

The artwork is adorable–the characters look like Fraggle Rock creatures–soft and furry with big round ping pong ball eyes.  Even the bad guys (much taller with four eyes) don’t look all that fierce.

And yet.

In the first 30 pages, these monsters kill and eat some of the cute Fraggle Rock creatures. What?!

This book looks ostensibly like a children’s book.  It is really cute.  But the diary entries of the Captain are written in a cursive that even I had a hard time reading (particularly because the captain’s named is Quenterindy Quirk and he is sailing on the H.M.S. Gwaniimander (hard enough to read that, imagine trying to figure it out in cursive!).

So just what’s it about? (more…)

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bibSOUNDTRACK: THE BEATLES-Live at the Hollywood Bowl (2016).

beatlesThis disc was released this year.  It is technically the soundtrack to the film Eight Days a Week: The Touring Years.  But regardless of the film, these are newly mastered recordings from two Beatles concerts at the Hollywood Bowl in 1964 and 1965 (which were released in 1977).  This disc has 7 songs from 1965 and 6 from 1964 (not including the four bonus songs).

The concerts were legendary for the shrill screams that the audience made during these shows–so loud that the recordings were practically inaudible and, apparently, even the band members had a hard time hearing each other.  Sounds like a nightmare, frankly.

Well, George Martin’s son has used some technology to make these recordings listenable.  They have reduced the shrill screams to a kind of low-level, high-pitched sound and, even better, they have fleshed out the band so they don’t sound like they are playing in a tin can.

Here’s some fascinating things about that Hollywood Bowl Concerts. Tickets cost $5.50 in 1964 and $3 in 1965.  WHAT?  In 1965, the band played for 33 minutes.  That’s it–not sure how long they played in 1964.

The band had no monitors on stage–those things that musician are always pointing at and asking the mixer to turn up.  So on many shows they couldn’t even hear themselves.  The fact that their harmonies are so good is really impressive.  The notes suggest that the open roof of this show meant that the shrill crowd noise was somewhat dissipated allowing them to hear each other a little better for these shows.

Evidently the track listing for this disc consists of the best original recordings from the two shows.  I’m not sure why they’re not played in sequential order, but whatever.  Perhaps the energy of the opening “Twist and Shout” (all 90 seconds of it) is a pretty great way to start.  While the band is spot on in their playing (sometimes it’s easy to forget that they are laying instruments as well as singing, since the voices are the big thing) you can hear Paul’s voice straining on “Can’t Buy Me Love” (which is cool).  Or John saying he thinks the next song “Things She Said Today” is on the new album over here.  This song–quieter and less dancey sounds pretty great and you can kind of hear the audience paying attention to it, so that when the band gets to the loud part the crowd really erupts.

I’m surprised at how many covers the band plays.  I realize these songs are picked from two set lists, but there are dozens of serious hits that they could have played instead of say “Roll Over Beethoven” or, and this is the most surprising thing to me, ending their 1964 set with “Long Tall Sally” rather than one of their huge hits.

It’s funny how crazy the crowd goes for Ringo when he sings lead on “Boys.”

I enjoy hearing them talk about their films–one we made in black and white, the other in color.  “Hard Days Night” sounds great but even more impressive is “Help!”.  John intros the song by saying, “we’d like to do another film song from a different film–coz we’ve made two.”  “Help!” is really impressive the way the band launches right into their harmonies on that first note–it sounds incredible all the way through the song.  Even when John strains hard at the end.

There’s not a lot of stage banter, but I did enjoy this one from 1964: “This next song is an oldie, some of you older people might remember it.  It’s from last year.  It’s called “She Loves you.”  I like hearing the rocking guitar line more prominently and the fact that they don’t go “ooooh” during the first time it’s supposed to appear, but when they do the next time, the crowd goes nuts.

As the disc ends, Paul asks, “We all hope you enjoyed the show.  Have you enjoyed the show?”  Apparently they have.

I’m not sure why the final four songs are listed as “bonus tracks.”  The inclusion of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” can’t be a bonus!  But the four songs (two from 1964 and two from 1965) also sound great.  The harmonies on “Baby’s in Black” are fantastic.

John Lennon said the fans didn’t come to listen, they came to love.  Regardless, the band played wonderfully and gave a great performance.  It’s nice to be able to hear it.

[READ: March 10, 2016] Baby’s in Black

This story is about The Beatles before they became THE BEATLES.

I didn’t know all that much about the early Beatles.  I knew that they were in Germany (although I don’t really know why, and I still don’t). But I didn’t know about all of the trials and excitements that happened to them there.

What I loved about this story is that while it is about The Beatles, it’s actually about Stuart Sutcliffe and his girlfriend Astrid Kirchherr and their impact on the nascent Beatles.

The story begins with Astrid’s ex boyfriend Klaus Voormann running to Astrid to tell her about this band that he just heard down at the Reeperbahn.  He said they all dressed the same and they really rocked (or whatever they would have called it back then).

The Reeperbahn was sketchy place at the best of times, so it was unlikely that anyone other than sailors and thugs would have seen this band iinitially.  But Klaus was so insistent that Astrid agreed to go.  And she was mesmerized by them.  She was especially taken with bassist Stuart Sutcliffe (although none of the fans knows their names at this point).  The band consisted of John, Paul, George, Pete Best on guitar and Stuart on bass. (more…)

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