Category Archives: The Beatles

Ned Flanders’ Beatles Collection!!!

Ned Flanders, Homer Simpson’s highly religious next door neighbor, has got it going on with his secret Beatles collection!


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It Was Fifty Years Ago Today: The Beatles Last Live Performance at Candlestick Park

Candlestick ParkAfter a tumultuous and crazy summer, The Beatles wrapped up what would be their third and final tour of the U.S. on August 29, 1966. So many events happened in the summer of 1966, some major ones that were unrelated to music, that the final tour stop at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park seemed anticlimactic.

No one knew that this would be the last time that The Beatles would perform in front of a paying audience. The band wasn’t even selling out their venues. I would think this would be a minor point of discussion because tens of thousands were still seeing them every show. It’s just that instead of selling out 50,000 seats, they would sell 44,000. Still very impressive and the only band around capable of doing that at the time. The Rolling Stones stadium days wouldn’t happen until a few years in the future.

But the years of constantly being in the spotlight and the media circus that occurred at every show began to take both a physical and mental toll. And that would be under normal conditions. The Beatle bubble was anything but normal.

So a Beatlemania that was a furious wave of attention and wanderlust, ended up finishing as a sort of disinterested whimper. If you’ve seen any clips from that era, such as at Budukan, you saw a band that seemed preoccupied, bored, and slow. They were anything but ‘tight’ as a band—which is what their reputation had been based on.

Some of it wasn’t their fault. Stadium sound was still terrible even though they had been playing them for a couple of years. They also had evolved individually so that all of them did not have the same goals.

I never had a chance to see The Beatles play live. I was still young and couldn’t swing that deal. But I sure would have been ecstatic to fill up one of those empty seats, no matter what the mood of the band was at that time.

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George Martin: The Fifth Beatle and Beyond

George MartinAs I stayed up and waited for the final results of the Michigan State Primary, I received word from someone on Facebook that George Martin had passed. I have learned over time that one has to verify whether someone has really passed, but I knew in my heart that it was all too true. And even though he hadn’t been able to do anything work related for a number of years because of deteriorating hearing, it still seemed very sad.

When someone artistic passes on, the accomplishments of that person are often exaggerated to such extremes of hyperbole that if that person were alive, they may not have even recognized the impact of their works. The memories recalled are just so vivid and important. A little time has pass to fully assess the artist and put their work into some kind of perspective. With George Martin, his hyperbole may be understated.

George Martin had been moving through life as a successful producer when he intersected paths with The Beatles. They had been brought in to audition for Parlophone Records, pretty much a label that hadn’t made too much of a mark in the world of music, mainly concentrating on comedy albums and classical music. This background may have indirectly led to his best traits as a producer–being patient enough to let the work develop. The music industry at the time was more interested in novelty songs and one hit wonders versus thinking in terms of longevity. The Beatles themselves were still trying to figure out where they fit into the scene—if at all. In the end it turns out that they each needed each other but didn’t know it yet.

Once The Beatles were signed to the label, there was evidence that they hadn’t really sold their talents to Martin. He brought along a song for them to record that he felt would be a hit. And he was correct. It just wouldn’t be for them. I’m referring to “How Do You Do It” which became a monster hit for Gerry and The Pacemakers. They didn’t know what to do because they wanted to record songs they had written, but they also didn’t want to hurt their new producer’s feelings. The Beatles halfheartedly attempted to do a version of the song. The only thing that the song had of value was a soulful solo vocal by John Lennon.

https://youtu.be/lInetLDrl_Y

Another example that showed that George Martin wasn’t sure how to handle the group was when he had studio drummer Andy White sit in for Ringo Starr on drums on “Love Me Do.” Now they had a chance to do one of their own songs, but it still didn’t feel right because the band still wasn’t complete. This must have been very frustrating for The Beatles because they had gone through such personal turmoil to replace longtime drummer Pete Best with Ringo Starr, and now Martin didn’t think he was good enough to play in the studio!

George Martin also had to rearrange the vocals on “Love Me Do.” It was John’s song, but he couldn’t sing and play harmonica at the same time, so Martin gave the “Love me do” line to Paul McCartney to sing. Paul has said in interviews that he wasn’t sure how John would take it giving up his line. McCartney says that when he hears the song that he can still hear the nervousness in his voice.

But that’s what a producer does—especially with a novice recording band. From those humble beginnings, they eventually developed into a world wide recording team at warp speed. The next break that Martin was “instrumental” in creating a masterpiece was when “Please Please Me” was brought to him. Lennon wrote it as a Roy Orbison type of ballad. It was Martin who suggested recording it at a faster tempo. When the band scored their first Number One hit with the recommendation, they truly never looked back as Beatlemania broke in England over the brand new sound!

The Beatles drew on Martin’s vast knowledge of music and had him play on several songs—most notably the Bachian piano solo that Martin sped up to sound like a harpsichord on “In My Life.” If there ever was an argument as to who was “the fifth Beatle” that alone has to settle the argument. Brian Epstein and Murray the K never provided a musical track for any Beatles song.

 

As the band achieved more success, George Martin did, too working with other artists. Gerry and The Pacemakers, Cilla Black, Jeff Beck, Elton John, and Billy J. Kramer and The Dakotas.

To me, one of the greatest musical achievements he ever did was melding two different takes of “Strawberry Fields Forever” in different keys and tempos. A flippant John Lennon threw it to Martin when he couldn’t figure it out for himself. It was and still may be my favorite Beatles song. George Martin said that he could always detect where the two tracks were spliced at approximately the 1:00 mark. He felt that it sticks out like a “sore thumb.” I have listened to the song for decades and even knowing that it’s there, I never feel that it’s ever different than what it’s supposed to sound like.

 

Over time, the individual Beatles grew less fond of George Martin’s influence and techniques. Lennon felt that he wasn’t getting his voice quite right. George Harrison was pretty much ignored as a writing talent. Paul McCartney felt so motivated that he conducted the orchestra for the string track on “She’s Leaving Home” one day when Martin couldn’t do it, but McCartney wanted it done. Ringo Starr felt so unappreciated by “The White Album” that he quit the band for a while. It was not so easy being a producer for a band that had outgrown their own heads.

The magnificence of George Martin’s genius took place on The Beatles final and possibly best record, “Abbey Road.” They wanted to do one more album like they had done in the old days. They had to convince him that they were willing to hand control over to him so that he could become a producer again instead of “detention teacher for spoiled kids.”

After the band and Martin had parted ways, George continued to do excellent work with other bands and artists. Some of the best music America had ever recorded took place under the watchful eye of George Martin as he produced several of their albums. Little River Band also revived their career under Martin’s talents. One thing that I found out after he passed was that Dire Straits had George Martin do the lush string arrangement for a song called “Ticket to Heaven” for their last album “On Every Street” in 1991. I always have thought that was one of Dire Straits’ best songs!

George Martin was not without flaws. He has apologized for snubbing Ringo on “Love Me Do” or ignoring George Harrison’s talents. But in the same breath he also has stated that he was working with two of the greatest writers in musical history, so you can’t blame him too much for arriving late to catch up to Harrison.

So, as I look back to that birthday when I first received my copy of “Meet the Beatles,” and noticing the very plain unassuming name for producer, George Martin, and then seeing it appear over and over again on subsequent releases over the years, you had to respect the talent. Even with the incredible songs on each record, they always had an incredible sound quality. Ringo’s drums always sounded sizzling. Harrison’s guitar distorted or clear for just the right effect. The vocal harmonies were so crisp!

I don’t think that under the circumstances of the musical industry at the time that The Beatles would have made it without George Martin. He was willing to let the band evolve and explore with him at the helm. Another producer may have just crushed them and we might still be listening to novelty songs and one hit wonders. But The Beatles wanted a career. They were wed to their music. A common question during Beatlemania was what would everybody do once the bubble burst. Through the work of George Martin, that bubble has never burst and probably never will with young people discovering the band every day. Thank you, George Martin! You helped make some of the best music ever made!

It Was 50 Years Ago Today: “Rubber Soul!!!”

When I was a wee lad, my family liked to go on “vacations.” It was an annual thing, like what a lot of people did by automobile. Since we didn’t have video games and I wasn’t into drawing, I was curious about the papers with the squiggly lines. Probably, to shut me up, someone took the time to explain what everything meant. Well, I learned pretty quickly how to read a map before I learned how to read.

My older brother, who would go out of town for no reason in particular, would take me along because I was so good at map reading. At the end of December 1965 and the beginning of 1966, while I was still on Christmas break, my brother tapped me to go out east to Massachusetts with him. It wasn’t a bad deal. I got to eat at all the restaurants and see the mountains with snow on them. (I would do this so often, that I knew where all of the McDonald’s were between Detroit and Boston! Mmmmm!)

And once again to occupy myself, I usually got to spin the dial on the radio. That is, unless it was top of the hour. Then my brother wanted to hear news and weather. It was a pretty good deal. Of course, when he got tired of my mixture of British Invasion, Motown soul, and anything else I could find, he sometimes would lock in on some country station. Ugh!

During that Christmas break, we both heard a lot of “Monday, Monday” by The Mamas and The Papas, but also an unbelievable amount of “Michelle” by The Beatles. I remember hearing that song driving around mountains and through small Canadian towns in the early hours before dawn, because the fastest way to Massachusetts was shooting across Ontario on the 401.

Right now, it was fifty years ago today that “Rubber Soul,” the album that “Michelle” was released as a single from, ruled the top of the charts for six weeks. I had no knowledge of the album. That was beyond my scope at the time. But I knew I loved The Beatles, and it was great having them be the occasional soundtrack for one Christmas vacation so long ago!

It Was Fifty Years Ago Today: “Help!” Premiere at The Warren Theater, Detroit, MI

I’m almost positive that this event didn’t happen fifty years ago today, but I know it was sometime in September. I was hanging around with a friend of mine who was several years older and lived in the Herman Gardens, a low income housing project on the west side of Detroit. I don’t remember his name, but he had a little shoe shine kit, and we spent a good part of the day wandering into most of the dark, smoky bars up and down Warren Avenue between Southfield and Greenfield roads. It was daytime and no one chased us out. He was a fast shiner and tried to teach it to me. I took a turn every couple of customers. I am happy to say that I was NOT good at it. My future skills lay elsewhere.

As we approached the Warren Theater, we could see that there was a long line waiting outside. My buddy saw that it was the new Beatles movie, “Help!” that was causing the attention. Back then, the Warren Theater, a neighborhood movie house, would have shown the film a few weeks after the downtown theaters had a shot at showing it. Anyway, he was determined to get into the show and see the film if possible—for free. So we fought through the line and got inside and asked to see the manager. Surprisingly, with all of the commotion, we weren’t just kicked out, but hung around with the manager who did want a shoe shine. We had to stick close, he told us, while he got things ready for the start of the movie.

When we weren’t in his office, we were walking around in the area behind the seats where the vending machines were. I was able to catch the intro credits where Leo McKern was throwing darts at The Beatles. Awesome! Seeing that black and white start with the gigantic ring that Ringo Starr wore was breathtaking! I had not even planned on being able to see the film for awhile, so this was GREAT! At that point, I was dragged back to reality because a shine still had to be given. I was chosen to do it so my friend could try to pay attention to what he could hear in the movie.

I, apparently, couldn’t handle the pressure of shining the manager’s shoes and got a little bit of black polish on his sock. He was not happy. My friend had to take over and bail me out. He also didn’t let us stay. I guess my slip up cost us both a chance to see the movie at night. It’s a goofy memory of a band that meant—and still means everything to me!

 

It Was Fifty Years Ago Today: The Shea Stadium Concert, August 15, 1965!!!

https://youtu.be/Bt2d8JKtwiE

 

Historically, The Beatles put together an unprecedented number of “firsts.” Many of which may never be duplicated again: The first appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” the activity on the record charts in April 1964, the audience for the first performance of “All You Need Is Love,” and so on.

In August 1965, Beatlemania still hadn’t run out of steam, particularly in New York City. In an unprecedented arrangement, promoter Sid Bernstein along with Beatles manager Brian Epstein put together a deal to play the large arena, Shea Stadium, that was primarily used for sporting events. Both the baseball Mets and the football Jets callrf the stadium their home. Although state of the art for sports, it was lacking in sound quality for a musical mega event. That would turn out to be the major problem in producing a post concert product worth watching.

Everyone knew the Shea appearance would be an epoch event for the band and ir was treated as such. A film crew followed The Beatles for several days before and after the show to document the whole experience. The film used for recording was 35mm which from a sound engineering perspective let alone the visual quality was preferred by audiophiles particularly among classical artists. The film was wider than audio tape and therefore would produce a sharper sound since more of it would be magnetized.

Although there was plenty of apprehension in The Beatles camp, especially whether they would be able to fill the stadium with paying customers, both Bernstein and Epstein had taken risks the previous year when they put group at Carnegie Hall, a primarily classical venue. When that became a non issue once tickets moved rapidly, all that remained was how big of an impact the concert would have.

The were several bands to warm up the crowd including The Young Rascals and King Curtis. The Beatles ran out to their midfield stage wearing identical brown suits with star badges, (Yeah, whatever.) and played a 12 song set that lasted 37 minutes. But once the concert was over, the effect for post marketing lasted for a couple of years.

Even with all of the preparation for the event, the sound quality produced on the tapes was atrocious. George Harrison’s vocals were missing. Paul McCartney’s bass parts disappeared. John Lennon went “crazy” on the organ for “I’m Down.” So The Beatles tried to salvage the historical record by going clandestinely into CTS Studios in London in January of 1966 to rerecord parts of songs and sometimes redoing whole songs. This, by the way, is something that happens on most “live” recordings up to the present.

Live sound is a compromise. It is more important to have the sound better for the listening audience at the event versus making a recording to be used later. The Beatles also had in reserve, pretty good sound quality tapes of their Hollywood Bowl performances. Some of these were substituted for the bad quality versions of the Shea stadium performance. So basically, the finished product for the show had only a small percentage of actual source material.

So what!

The show was turned down by CBS even though Ed Sullivan, one of their stars, introduced them at Shea. Rumor is, they wanted to show it raw minu the overdubs. NBC also passed. ABC, the lowest rated of the three networks at the time landed the special, but didn’t show it until January 1967.

The question that always comes up is whether The Shea Stadium concert will be released for public consumption. Since some of the material is from The Hollywood Bowl performances, the idea is that it’s not a true depiction of the show.

Don’t care! Don’t care! Don’t care!

Last I checked, there aren’t any Hollywood Bowl DVDs so let’s get off this point. There’s supposed to be mono and stereo mixes of the show, just like much of The Beatles’ catalogue, that sound completely different. That’s fine. Put it all together including the raw version and release it all as a set!

Somebody has to be first and just like much of their history, The Beatles were their to raise the bar. Yes, other bands have had concerts that have had more attendees than the 55, 600 at Shea Stadium. But at the time, it was unsure that enough people would go to a show that huge. Just watch the mayhem and screaming at the show, let alone the music. This show needs to be released and it’s just as important now as it was “Fifty Years Ago
Today!”

Paul Is Dead…Again??!!

There is an article on the internet that references Beatle drummer and soon to be Rock and Roll Hall of Fame solo artist Ringo Starr as having stated that the band actually did replace Paul McCartney with Billy Shears—a McCartney look-alike, after Paul died in a car crash. Since I have had some of my music friends ask me what I thought about the comments, and since I actually have a web site that ocasionally puts outs some Beatle observations, I felt that perhaps some analysis might be in order.

Now, I may not have been able to take part in many Beatle events because I was just a kid during that stretch, (I did see them live on their Ed Sullivan performances. I wrote about that in a prior blog.) I did hear the live broadcast where the “Paul Is Dead” hoax originated.

I looked up the day and it was October 12, 1969. It was a Sunday afternoon and I was lying on my bed listening to local radio station WKNR, 100.3 FM in Detroit. WABX, 99.5 FM was my favorite, but I usually switched between the two because they were the best stations out there. If I remember correctly, there wasn’t a WRIF yet, and it had a sporadic music feed from WABC in New York City. The music was usually pretty good when they played some, and I remember hearing King Crimson’s “21st Century Schizoid Man” for the first time from there.

Radio broadcasting legend, Russ Gibb, was on the air and it was about 2:30 or 3:00 PM. Nothing was happening for me that day and I figured I would listen to some music, and with some luck, take a nap. Radio back then was free form and the DJs could pretty much go wherever they wanted to. During a break from playing some music (maybe “Led Zepelin II?” “Tommy?”,), Russ took a phone call. I think he started out just talking to the guy and not broadcasting it, but probably thought it would be funny to put him on the air.

Gibb started out by humoring him about Paul being dead but then the caller started talking about clues as proof. So Russ began to pull out album covers to verify what the guy was stating. I don’t really want to recap all of the clues here—the album covers for “Abbey Road,” “Yesterday and Today,” “Revolver,” “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” “Magical Mystery Tour,” etc. But it was freaky and creepy. And it was put together so well, that you had to get sucked into the conspiracy.

The conversation went on for an hour or so. I think Russ took more calls after he finished the conversation to ask others whether they agreed with the caller about Paul McCartney being dead. Honestly, there were a lot of clues and it was a compelling argument. Locally, it created a mini firestorm for both WKNR and Russ Gibb. A local TV show was put together about it with Gibb and the clues—including a tape recorder “witness” of the radio show. It created so much buzz that Paul was finally reached on his farm in Scotland to squelch the rumors. That’s pretty much where it’s stayed for the past 45 years.

So, let’s move ahead to the present time.

All of a sudden a tabloid style article rehashes the same stuff just as it started all those years ago. Ringo is quoted that the band felt guilty about the Paul “switch” so they left all of the clues where people could find them. He also is claimed to have said that he wanted to “come clean” before he died so the secret wouldn’t die with him since Paul would be the only surviving member on his death and most likely would never reveal it himself.

Considering this was supposedly on the internet for a couple of days and I hadn’t heard about it, that’s a good sign that there isn’t any credibility to the story. It’s a rehash of the so-called urban legend. I checked youtube and couldn’t find a clip of Ringo Starr saying these things. I would think that that would at least be out there, but it’s not. I presume if there is an audio clip of the statements, it would just be some masterful editing from Ringo’s prior responses to the rumor.

I do have to admit that just like I was fascinated listening to Russ Gibb’s show, I did read the whole article. I understand the fascination with this subject. I, myself, am fascinated just because it’s about The Beatles. But think about this. If Paul did die and was replaced, how many people would be in on this secret? Have you ever tried to keep a secret? Between two people? Three people? Twenty people? A hundred people? There would have to be members of the band, their inner circle, medical emergency staff, witnesses, coroner, policemen, government agencies, and on and on. Do you think all of them could have kept quiet over all of this time? I’ve never heard anyone else come out and state anything to confirm even one aspect of the rumor.

Let’s look at money. If all of these people were being kept quiet with hush money, well, when money’s involved, there’s always someone who needs more. If Ringo decided to “spill the beans” he could make a ton of money giving his version of the events not just some offhand comments.

Replacing Paul McCartney is probably the weakest link of the argument. Just think of all of the music that Paul made just with The Beatles alone after being replaced. “Helter Skelter,” “Back in the U.S.S.R.,” “Sgt. Pepper,” “Magical Mystery Tour,” “Oh, Darlin,” and that doesn’t include his post Beatle work. Paul McCartney is a unique individual of incredible talent. His vocal range and style is amazing. He still sings his songs in the same key they were written in. You just can’t find someone with his skills even if the replacement has some talent.

Having said all that, I do feel that The Beatles themselves were connecting all of these clues as either a subliminal ad campaign or at least for their own amusement. I don’t remember any one from The Beatles camp ever admitting that, but there’s just too many coincidences to happen randomly.

And one response to a clue never makes any sense to me. It’s the scene in “Magical Mystery Tour” where John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr are all wearing red carnations. Paul McCartney is wearing a black one. Now when this movie was shown in England, it was first broadcast in black and white so maybe it wasn’t noticed at first. But all you would have to do as a follower of the band is to look through the booklet that came with the album. It’s obvious from a glance.

The official Beatle response has always been that the florist ran out of red carnations, so Paul was given a black one instead. Really??!! Did this person just not know how many Beatles there were? Really??!! How many black carnations does a florist keep on hand? That comment has never made sense to me! But draw your own conclusions. There’s certainly plenty of “clues.”

And where does that leave this rumor? As dead as the “real” Paul McCartney is supposed to be!

It Was Fifty Years Ago Today: Beatles ’65

Beatles 65

As 1964 was coming to a close, I was well aware that The Beatles had a new album coming out on December 15th. AM radio was already crowded with airplay of “I Feel Fine” that was going to be included on “Beatles ’65.” I couldn’t wait!

This was a time when things were changing for serious listeners: stereo sound was now the new experience. So the album was going to be offered in two formats—just as the previous other two. My “Meet The Beatles” was in mono, while “The Beatles Second Album” was in stereo.

Back in those days it actually cost more money to buy an album in stereo versus mono, so it wasn’t that out of the question for a little kid with no money to go the mono route. But it was recommended to me by both my older brother and sister to get “Beatles ‘65” in stereo because they had heard that the album wasn’t so good in mono and that there were differences. They couldn’t say exactly what the differences were, but I took their advice and bought the stereo version.

I was extremely pleased with the stereo album and didn’t know what mono surprises were on the album until years later. The advice wasn’t necessarily bad. But in retrospect  the correct advice should have been to buy both. Oh, well.

I continued to purchase 45’s, but The Beatles first three albums remained my only albums until, I think, “Waiting for the Sun” by The Doors, a few years later. They were the cornerstone of my love for music! Baseball filled most of my free time during that span until I started taking up drums. I didn’t catch up on my Beatles albums until “The White Album” came out. But those whisk broom and spring photos sure seemed weird at the time.

It Was Fifty Years Ago Today: “A Hard Day’s Night!!!”

It may not have been exactly fifty years ago today, but it’s close enough. The weekend that The Beatles first movie, “A Hard Day’s Night” showed up in my local theater, The Warren Show, it was shown as a matinee starting at 10AM–which was very unusual back then.

It didn’t matter to me, though. I can’t remember whether a children’s ticket price for it was 25, 35, or 50 cents, but I stood in that line of anxious screaming girls and got in to the first showing each day. Back then, they wouldn’t empty the theater after each movie. It pretty much ran continuously. And each day I stayed until I had to go home. (7PM or 7:30PM) The movie lasted less than 90 minutes, so I saw that movie 12 times  that weekend–a pretty good return for my entertainment dollar! And  I still hadn’t seen it enough……………………………..

Over the years, I’ve probably gone out to see this movie more than any other. Seeing it live in a packed movie house where John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr are bigger than life size (what I consider their correct size in life)  is really something  special !!!