The Kids Are Alright – Part 1: Here Come The Sons
I must have written about this before, but it’s fascinating to me to see the offspring of rock people I admire, carrying on the family business. Sometimes it’s literally that, as I wrote about Frank’s son Dweezil Zappa, a couple of years ago, and his Zappa Plays Zappa band that does wildly accurate and respectfully Frank-like covers of dad’s back catalogue.
In this special two part look at rock genes, I’ll start by looking at the fab musical offspring of The Beatles. Since fashion designer Stella McCartney never went into music, it’s strictly here come the sons.
Julian Lennon was the first of John‘s boys to go into music and peaked early, commercially anyway, with a slick Phil Ramone produced record, Valotte in 1984. Perhaps you recall the wistful and vaguely reggae-tinged single, “Too Late For Goodbyes”. While several people whom I talk to speak very highly of his subsequent albums, The Secret Value of Daydreaming, Mr. Jordan, Help Yourself, I missed them entirely, sad to say. Some of my friends particularly enjoyed Photograph Smile from 1998, where Julian did not seem shy about the John Lennon blood running through his veins, particularly on this single from that album, “Day After Day” (not the Badfinger song).
I’ll admit that I haven’t kept up with him, but I hear he has a new album called Everything Changes, and is very present on the web these days. Maybe we’ll hear something soon.
Sean Lennon has enjoyed both high-profile and indie cred as a solo artist, one time boyfriend of Cibo Matto’s Yuka Honda and as a side man for his mama Yoko Ono. Coincidentally, right around the time that Julian was withdrawing, in 1998, Sean Lennon’s debut, Into The Sun was rising. He’d signed to the Grand Royal label, run by the Beastie Boys Adam Yauch, because, as he told the press at the time, “they were the only label on the planet who didn’t care who my parents are…”
Here’s the song “Home” and a clip directed by Spike Jonze.
His has been a much more divergent path than his half-brother, probably owing to growing up around Yoko and hanging with arty friends like Cibo Matto. He’s been quoted as being more into Brian Wilson than John Lennon, but what is he gonna say?
After 1998’s Half Horse Half Musician, Sean also withdrew for a time but re-emerged in 2006 with a critically hailed album, Friendly Fire, said to be a breakup album (apparently he’d been linked to both Bijou Phillips and Lindsay Lohan). Here’s the expensive looking and cinematic video for “Dead Meat”:
Zak Starkey is not only a drummer like his dad, Ringo Starr, but he’s also a successful one having been a key player in many a “BritPop” act like Oasis, Johnny Marr and the Healers as well as The Semantics. Additionally, Zak has been the long time drummer for The Who as well as stints with The Icicle Works, The Waterboys, ASAP, The Lightning Seeds, Face, and even in dad’s All-Starr Band. Apparently, The Who gig is not a stretch as he was mentored by his “Uncle Keith” as a lad. As you can see in this short excerpt, Uncle Pete reminds the crowd that Zak learned well.
Dhani Harrison continues to soldier away in his L.A. based indie duo, Thenewno.2, and if you can get past him looking and sounding like his dad, and you really should, he’s quite interesting on his own. After his father’s death in 2001, Dhani worked with Jeff Lynne to get George Harrison’s Brainwashed album finished posthumously. He also played a prominent role in the Concert For George at Royal Albert Hall, on November 29th, 2002. He even played an uncredited role on two unreleased track for dad’s Traveling Wilburys project.
I guess the first time I heard his collaboration with Ollie Hecks, known as thenewno2, which I assume gets it’s name from a running gag on TV’s The Prisoner, was when they released their indie video for “Choose What You’re Watching.” I rather liked the full album, You Are Here, which had been available as an online download for half a year before getting a physical release in August of 2008. A quick search for some video content turns up quite a few audio only clips, but there is this one for “Another John Doe”:
and this one for “Yomp.”
James McCartney , son of Paul only made his live debut last November, at a relatively late age of 32, but seems to have finally summoned the courage to walk in his father’s non-leather shoes. According to various reports, James spent most of his early life “living in a roadcase” (not literally) with Wings until that band folded in 1980. Another interesting side note is that he was almost swept out to sea on a family vacation in 1993. He played drums and is credited with co-writing some songs on Paul McCartney’s Flaming Pie (1997) and Driving Rain (2001) albums and added a guitar solo to a song on his mother Linda McCartney’s posthumously released Wide Prairie (1998). Perhaps due to baldness or an attempt to physically differentiate from his dad, James now goes completely chrome domed, as evidenced in the still shot accompanying this audio only YouTube clip of his song “Angel” from an as yet unreleased debut album.
According to his own press materials, James has spent much of the last two years writing and recording for his forthcoming debut album with producer David Kahne, who worked with his dad as well as Sugar Ray, The Bangles and Fishbone. His own music, James says, “was inspired by The Beatles, Nirvana, The Cure, PJ Harvey, Radiohead – and all good music. It is basically rock n’ roll, clean sounding and vocal. We are mixing our album in Sussex and New York. The words on the album refer to spirituality, love, family, trying to sort out one’s life, and many other things. I have written the songs over a 10-year period.”
For more information on James McCartney you can click on this link to James McCartney’s official website.
That’s it for this episode. In part two, we’ll look at a bunch of non-Fab children, including Neil’s boy, Liam Finn and Andy’s girl, Holly Partridge.