Thursday, June 08, 2006

Get Back, Billy, You're Mama's Waiting For You...

It's turning into a sad running joke...

Whenever I log off of my hotmail account and see one of my favorite musicians/actors on the "most popular searches" list on, I know they're dead.

This morning I saw that Billy Preston had joined the list.

Billy Preston, the much-hailed "fifth Beatle", is another one of those late 60's-early 70's musicians that most people have never heard of. The only people that remember Billy Preston are the folks that read the liner notes on their CD's.

In fact, Billy played at the same Bangla Desh benefit concert that Leon Russell did. He did a stomping version of his hit "That's the Way God Planned It", bouncing around between the front of the stage and his Hammond B3 organ. Good stuff.

He was better known for playing on the last couple of Beatle albums as a special guest, brought in not only for musical competence, but because his presence mellowed the Liverpool boys out enough to keep them from killing each other during recording sessions. He played on "Get Back" and "Don't Let Me Down", as well as some other good songs. He covered some of their stuff later on on his own albums, too. I can't help but think he at least partially inspired Eddie Murphy's early SNL skit back in the 80's; the one where Eddie claims he was the fifth--and founding--member of the Beatles. (His primary argument? That early Beatle hits had him stripped from the tracks--"She Loves You" was originally, "She Loves You, Man"; "Help" was "Help Me, Man"; and "Ticket to Ride" was "She Got a Ticket to Ride and the B---- don't Care, Man".) Also good stuff.

Never did get to see Billy in concert, though I hear he did tour around with one of Ringo's All-Starr Bands one year. I caught the one with Jack Bruce and Gary Brooker--no Preston. Too bad.