Hello Stranger: Read the Introduction to our Spring 2019 Print Journal
Within a span of 24 hours this past December, I hung out with Paul McCartney on Wednesday night and John Lennon on Thursday afternoon. Of course, Macca and I were joined by about 11,000 other people at Liverpool’s Echo Arena — his first hometown gig in three years and my first time back to the city after completing my master’s degree in music industry studies at the University of Liverpool.
The Beatles have always been one of my favorite bands. My parents raised me on songs like “Yellow Submarine” and “With a Little Help from My Friends.” I’ve known every “nah, nah, nah-nah-nah nah” in “Hey Jude” since before I knew actual words.
To spend a year abroad studying music in the hometown of The Beatles and then to go back to see Paul McCartney play Beatles songs where it all began was ambitious from the start. To do so alongside my mom, who introduced me to these songs in the first place, was nothing short of miraculous.
Paul performed for more than three hours that frigid night. He blasted through 40 songs from The Beatles, the pre-Beatles band The Quarrymen, Wings, solo projects, and even an instrumental jam of Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady.” He played his signature Hofner violin bass, guitar, a baby grand piano, and a tinkling, psychedelic-painted contraption he calls the “magic piano.” Anytime he told stories about the old days, the audience fell immediately silent (a shocking reaction from a room full of Scousers!). From opening with “A Hard Day’s Night” to a rousing “Let It Be,” Paul played all the classics — all the standards — and 11,000 fans returned choruses of delight.
The next day, however, it felt only right to visit the Museum of Liverpool’s exhibit, “Double Fantasy – John & Yoko,” which runs until Nov. 3. The museum curated the exhibit alongside Yoko Ono, chronologically detailing their individual lives and the life they built together. It’s a beautiful, if heartbreaking journey featuring everything from John’s NHS-issued spectacles to the art installation piece that Yoko had in a gallery the first time she and John met. The exhibit concludes in a room decorated like the “Imagine” memorial in Central Park, with a harrowing message — yet one of activism — affixed to the wall: “Over 1,400,000 people have been killed by guns since John Lennon was shot and killed on Dec. 8, 1980.”
John and Yoko’s beloved sayings, verses, and stanzas, which adorned the exhibit’s walls, helped carry hope forward through the lens of social justice. Like their famous “WAR IS OVER! (If You Want It)” Christmas posters that went viral before “going viral” was a thing, the entire museum seemed to shout positivity through bold, black, sans-serif letters on gleaming white walls.
GIVE PEACE A CHANCE
POWER TO THE PEOPLE
The aesthetic of this issue’s cover reminds me of John and Yoko’s famous 12-city billboard takeover from 1969. (And fittingly, the campaign celebrates its 50th anniversary this December.) Artist Libby Wadsworth’s charcoal letters, printed in a similar black-on-white style, offer a striking declaration of No Depression’s Spring 2019 issue theme: “Standards & Stanzas.”
The theme of this issue revolves around roots music that lasts and the lyrics that have helped it do so. Within such an umbrella genre, we explore the basics of jazz standards, Hill Country and Delta blues standards, and Native standards. One story looks at how non-roots music — including The Beatles — influences country and bluegrass pickers; another shows how traditional songs continues to inspire non-roots music bands. Additionally, some of our favorite roots musicians like The War and Treaty and Sierra Hull wrote about their most beloved standards, which are interspersed throughout the journal.
In terms of stanzas, the issue features all kinds of lyrical explorations, including stories of roots musicians’ poetic and literary endeavors. From scholarly awards given to Gillian Welch and advanced degrees earned by Amanda Shires to the parallels between hip-hop lyrics and folk music lyrics (turns out, Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize and Kendrick Lamar’s Pulitzer Prize share quite a few similarities), the “Standards & Stanzas” issue explores it all.
To me, roots music standards are vital not just because of what they say — the stanzas that are sung — but how they’re said through song. The medium, like Marshall McLuhan wrote, is the message. That’s why No Depression strives to unearth all kinds of stories in roots music. Our message encompasses inclusion, representation, and community; our medium is a combination of music, art, and writing.
Being back in Liverpool reinforced my belief that music and lyrics can unite people, start movements, and change lives. And the ability to share stories like these with you through the pages of No Depression is a readily accepted challenge and constant honor. On behalf of the No Depression team, thank you for your support in keeping our road, indeed, long and winding.