Hit & Run: Lost in music
Tuesday 18 November 2008
It's tempting to hope that The Beatles' fabled 14-minute track "Carnival of Light", which Paul McCartney wants to release 41 years after its recording, will be a magnificent avant-garde assemblage of noise. But the truth is that just because it was John, Paul, George and Ringo wandering around the studio banging things and shouting "Barcelona!" doesn't mean the result will be a masterpiece, no matter how often McCartney mentions Karlheinz Stockhausen. It was never released because the other Beatles thought it "too adventurous". This is the same band that would release such fare as "Revolution 9" on The White Album, so chances are that "too adventurous" was their way of gently letting Paul know that "Carnival of Light" was a bit rubbish.
The track, laid down in 1967 between sessions for "Penny Lane", is far from the only "lost" recording that has achieved mythical status. Guns N' Roses' new album, Chinese Democracy, is one case; after 14 years and $10m, Axl Rose's opus is bound to disappoint when it's finally released next week, whatever its quality. Perhaps Rose – and McCartney – would be better off leaving their legendary lost tracks in the drawer.
They'd be in good company. With Dark Side of the Moon blowing the world apart in 1973, Pink Floyd supposedly returned to the studio to record an album using only home-made instruments – rubber bands, kitchen utensils and the like. The project was soon abandoned and the tapes remain blessedly undiscovered. Bruce Springsteen's 1982 acoustic album Nebraska is made up of home demos for an electric LP he recorded with the full E Street Band. The Boss decided – rightly, we must assume – that the demo was the better version, and released that instead. "Electric Nebraska" has never been heard.
After the success of The Who's rock opera Tommy in 1969, Pete Townshend set to work on his own never-released conceptual masterwork, Lifehouse. Drawing on his obsessions with sci-fi and spirituality, Townshend constructed a dizzying plot set in a dystopian 21st-century Britain. To play Lifehouse live, the songwriter decided he would invent an interactive musical computer that could digest biographical data from audience members and play each of them a personalised gig. Before he could complete the ambitious project, however, he had a nervous breakdown. He abandoned Lifehouse and dumped most of the extant tracks on to subsequent Who albums. The six-disc Lifehouse Chronicles, released in 2000, is a curio for hardened fans only.
The most notorious album-dodger is Neil Young, whose famed "Missing Six" albums (including On the Beach) weren't released on CD when the format became standard – two are still "missing". His 1975 album Homegrown was finished and the cover art designed before he decided to shelve it in favour of Tonight's the Night. Though some tracks from Homegrown made it on to later albums, the completed record remains under lock and key.
But perhaps the greatest lost LP of all also became the most successful when it was finally released. Brian Wilson had a breakdown while writing and recording Smile, the follow-up to The Beach Boys' masterpiece, Pet Sounds, in 1967. Smile, his "teenage symphony to God" (which included "Good Vibrations"), was eventually completed with the help of Wilson's new backing band, The Wondermints, in 2004, and rapturously received. McCartney must have been listening; in 1967, Wilson's sceptical bandmates told him it was risky to tinker with their hit-making formula. Smile, they told him, sounded "too adventurous". And what did they know? Tim Walker
Flight of fancy on 'Roadshow'
When is an antique not an antique? When it's a work of contemporary art. Last week, the producers of the Antiques Roadshow said the programme would feature the first £1m object. But the object was a model of the Angel of the North that Antony Gormley presented to planners in Gateshead to get the thumbs (and wings) up. How lovely – but since when has contemporary art been "antique"? And it doesn't take Lovejoy to know that a Gormley is worth big money. Another case of dupery by the BBC? Rob Sharp
Yoof-speak for beginners
"Meh" is the latest word to enter the Collins English Dictionary. If you don't need to be told what it means, you are almost certainly a member of the young (and bored) generation. As inuits have lots of synonyms for "white", so Britain's yoof has developed a fine vocabulary based solely around the expression of – well, not much at all. So, for meh, read whatever (abbr. "whatevs"), bovvered, bleh, mih or dah (those last three are from urbandictionary.com – Collins hasn't reached out that far yet). It is perhaps best described as the verbal equivalent of the shrug. Whatever than means. Lola Manzi
Undercover navel intelligence
Congratulations to Karolina Kurkova, a lingerie model with Victoria's Secret, who's thrown the fashion world into a frenzy of navel-gazing. She was one of three dozen underwear models posing in swimwear on the sands of the Fontainebleau Miami Beach hotel when a fashion magazine noticed something unusual: she has, or appears to have, no tummy button at all. Instead of an "inny" or an "outy," she has merely a graceful abdominal dip.
Navels have seldom been regarded as items of great beauty. Despite the best attempts of belly dancers and body-piercing shops, they remain inscrutable chambers or knots of flesh, gatherers of fluff and curious grains of sand, un-erotic, unloved, uncelebrated.
Ms Kurkova, however, has changed everything. Now everyone (darling) wants to know how she seems to have had her navel airbrushed from her body. Fashionistas shyly revealed that magazine and calendar art directors have had to Photoshop a navel in for the Czech blonde after photo-shoots.
To possess a navel is, of course, proof that you're a human who once emerged from a womb attached to an umbilical cord. Possessing no navel is a disturbing visual shorthand, telling the world that you're not really human, that you're a clone, or that you may have fallen straight from Heaven. After Botox, boob job, anal bleach and Brazilian wax, will the smoothed-over belly button become the latest hot cosmetic surgery option? John Walsh
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