The Beatles Live (50 Years Ago)

BeatlesFifty years ago, on October 24, 1963 (h/t to The Atlantic), the Beatles played an electric seven-song live set for Swedish radio in Stockholm. They were already huge in Britain, but were still unknown over here. But not for long (“I Want to Hold Your Hand” and With the Beatles were about to be released), and the following recordings show why. Here are those seven songs, in order of performance. Listen to the greatest rock-and-roll band of all-time live and in great form. Read this terrific commentary from Colin Fleming too. Wow.


Joe Walsh and the Narrative Fallacy

walsh_joe_mad_g_mp_576In 1975, Joe Walsh replaced Bernie Leadon as a guitarist for the Eagles.  His guitar “duels” with Don Felder were a highlight of every subsequent Eagles concert.  In Part I of Showtime’s terrific Alison Ellwood documentary of the band (discussed in this wonderful piece by Bill Simmons), Don Henley describes Walsh as follows. “In those days, you didn’t know what [Walsh] was gonna do next. That was fun most of the time, although not all the time. It was fun depending on how much you’d had to drink to see a television go sailing off a 14th-floor balcony and into the pool, as long as nobody got hurt.”

Now, check out what Walsh says below, as a kind of retrospective.

“As you live your life, it appears to be anarchy and chaos, and random events, nonrelated events, smashing into each other and causing this situation or that situation, and then, this happens, and it’s overwhelming, and it just looks like what in the world is going on. And later, when you look back at it, it looks like a finely crafted novel. But at the time, it don’t.”

That may be the quintessential example of the narrative fallacy in real life. We constantly create and are sucked in by stories — which have no necessary correlation with reality even if/when we are sure they’re true.

As an added Eagles bonus, the documentary includes the following Don Henley quote from 1977.

“The success of the first album scared the hell out of us. Why me instead of some guy down the street? Why me and some friends of mine who were just as good of musicians as I am, and yet it happened to me and it didn’t happen to them? I don’t know.”

In all probabilistic endeavors, success is determined by some combination of luck and skill. Most of the time, we fall for self-serving bias such that we disproportionately attribute our successes to skill and our failures to (bad) luck.  But especially when the success itself seems disproportionate (perhaps such that it’s a positive black swan), we can be overwhelmed by it. 

I’m an Eagles fan.  Excessive and sanctimonious? Sure. What great rock & roll band isn’t. But they receive more criticism than they deserve.  Their harmonies, especially, are magical. That they can show us something about ourselves is an added bonus.

Not every big talent becomes a big star

Big StarPutting all your eggs in one basket has enormous upside if you pick the right basket.  But a bad solo choice is devastating.  That’s why diversification makes so much sense. 

Enron has often been used as a primary example of why such diversification is important. Many Enron employees had 100 percent allocations to company stock in their defined contribution plans (at the end of 2000, 62 percent of the value of employee 401(k) plans were held in Enron stock) and were financially crushed when the company’s fraudulent practices and dreadful leadership were brought to light as the company went belly up in 2001.

But the potential for fraud and bad management are not the only reasons to diversify.  Sometimes good ideas – even great ideas – end up not working out desite the best of intentions and diligent effort. An investment that seems to have all the necessary elements of success can fail and fail miserably. I’ll try to make my case in this regard by using some terrific rock and roll from my high school days.      

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Playlist: 74 for ‘74

History-Of-Rock--RollRock and roll is inherently rebellious, spontaneous, and even a bit dangerous.  That’s part of its attraction.  It resists easy categorization. But those of us who grew up with and on it (with apologies to Justice Potter Stewart and his comment about porn) know it when we hear it. And the (for me, Fredonia High School) Class of 1974 — my class — indeed grew up with rock and roll. 

catcher in the ryeRock and roll fit with the culture of its times — the youth culture anyway.  J. D. Salinger published The Catcher in the Rye in 1951. We weren’t born then but I read it in 11th grade English during the Spring of 1973. The novel’s main character, Holden Caulfield, was a popular icon for disillusioned teens everywhere. And which teenagers weren’t disillusioned or at least claimed to be? We thought we were the (only) authentic ones rebelling against society’s “phonies.” Especially in the early days, there wasn’t much that was phony about rock and roll music (its promotion and sale is quite another matter altogether). Continue reading