Friday, September 19, 2008

The Tomorrow Show: John, Paul, Tom and Ringo

Shout! Factory

Yet another of Shout! Factory's excellent compilations of Tom Snyder's late-night dalliances with some of rock's most iconic characters - this volume doesn't quite deliver the we-wuz-there Beatlesy goodness the title and “Yellow Submarine” aping graphics promise These interviews all take place long after the band's demise, and there is no conversation with George Harrison, which could have been a treat given his deadpan humor. What we do get is an interview from Ringo Starr from 1981, a satellite interview with Paul and Linda McCartney right before a gig in 1979, and a John Lennon tribute show run a few nights after Lennon's death in 1980 that features a clearly rattled Synder screening an interview with Lennon from 1975.

Three Beatles is better than no Beatles at all, especially when interrogated and egged on by the delightfully goofy and brash Snyder, a cross between anchorman-straightness and AM-radio offhandedness and sarcasm. Now given, he's a little more restrained than on previous Shout! comps but that's likely down to the fact that he's overawed to be in the same room as A BEATLE - but then wouldn't we all? What is still in evidence is Snyder's terrible insurance-salesman suits, immaculate steel combover and how he makes lighting up one of his approximately one million cigarettes during the course of these interviews look so fucking seductive. Christ, the tobacco companies should have just put a picture of him sparking up on billboards and there'd be no need for Joe Camel, Marlboro Man, the lot. Smoking and drinking and making inside jokes to the crew, face it, the man made late night seem like LATE NIGHT.

The John Lennon interview comes as part of a John Lennon tribute special that the Tomorrow Show ran a few nights after his death in 1980. Guests Lisa Robinson and “Double Fantasy” producer Jack Douglas try to contain their grief while giving moderately interesting pieces of news and trivia. The true retrospective value of their contributions is just to show how lost everyone was after Lennon's murder, even Snyder seems knocked down a peg. In stark contrast is the rollicking interview Lennon and Snyder conducted back in 1975 for the Tomorrow show. Lennon, post-Lost Weekend and back with Yoko was relaxed and in a jovial mood - you can tell he's actually happy to be on with NY institution Snyder. A starstruck Snyder peppers him with questions about the good ol' days and his new life in America, which Lennon answers with varying degrees of candor and/or friendly sarcasm. The tan suit clad Lennon's casual comportment was even more surprising given that he was dealing with his imminent deportation. To discuss that actionable subject, Lennon - in a move that had to tickle his surrealist funny bone – brought his lawyer on to sit with him on set as a guest and vet what could be discussed. Tom is clearly delighted with the weirdness too; in all this was one of Snyder's strongest pieces that I've seen. Love the leisure wear, as always, Tom.

On disc tow, Tom hooks up with Paul and Linda via satellite right before a massive London gig around the Christmas holidays. It’s a perfectly decent interview, but the McCartney's seem way too smug and bratty in their responses, whereas usually their wordplay seems somewhat witty, this time it just seems too sarcastic and overcooked. Sure it's nice to hear about what the McCartney's are doing for Christmas, but by the end you’re wondering if anything of note was actually said. The Ringo interview finds Snyder broadcasting from Burbank (he always seems so uncomfortable on the West Coat), where he gets duded up in everyman wear (jeans, izod shirt, unfeasibly large belt buckle) to talk to Ringo at his mansion. Of all three interviews, this one is the weakest. It's 1981, Ringo's peddling some crap new album- maybe, even he seems uncertain at times- he's married to Barbara Bach, and looks like Liberace meets Doc Holiday. He just seems tired, so tired. Except fro the monster-themed music video they screen, it’s tough not to just skip this one.

With the exception of the Lennon interview- which takes up all of disc one- nothing else on this collection feels essential. There are no revelations or bombshells or essential conversations to be found in the McCartney and Starr bits. Starr seems too lost-in-LA and McCartney too self-satisfied to offer anything except for the standard celebutainment runaround. Which is a shame, because the Lennon interview is pretty epochal. And shows everyone else up. Once again.

- Matthew Moyer

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