It followed a similar pattern that has been in place pretty much since his first release: It’s loaded with a ton of songs of various quality.
Some tracks automatically stuck out as brilliant while others not necessarily so.
And then through repeated plays, the familiarity of the songs showed that most of the songs were of great quality and everything was right in the music world.
I mean, it has to be quite difficult to put out music, and no matter how hard you try to keep it separate, it would always be compared to The Beatles canon, which most fans won’t even talk about any song being subpar.
And I’m always amazed when some of my music friends will comment after a new release, “Why does he keep putting music out? He must have enough money. Why does he do it?”
He’s been creative his whole life, why would he stop?
An artist is an artist forever?
I mean, did anyone ever ask Picasso to quit putting out works?
So, on Sir Paul’s birthday, I would like to emphasize a fairly unknown recent track, “Do It Now.”
I have no idea how long it took him to write, but it sounds simple–in a Beatleish way.
In a McCartneyish way!
Beautiful melody and harmonies.
Mostly simple, elegant chords.
It sounds like a lullaby–a slow version of “Golden Slumbers.”
For as long as I’ve been on the radio, and definitely for as long as I’ve been writing a blog, I will occasionally make a reference to a song being “One of the Greatest Songs Ever Recorded!” (GSER)
I would usually follow that by saying that I would eventually start a category for it, but then never get around to it.
Well, now I’m getting around to it!
It will pretty much follow the pattern of The Most Awesomest Song of the Day.
I’ll select a song to celebrate and then give my thoughts about it. Nothing really brand new here that hasn’t been done before. But since I have a website, I can collect them and lay out what my own greatest songs are.
I have always done two “Semi-Annual Theme Attic Hall of Fame Shows” a year on my Monday night show, “Prime Time Theme Attic.” (Monday nights 8PM-10PM ET when it returns.)
As a pre kindergarten kid, although I didn’t exactly know what money was, sometimes i got to accumulate a bit.
I had either found, was given, or just claimed as my own, a small portable record player. And it wasn’t one of those kiddie players either! It had pretty good sound for a small suitcase.
It was legit!
As I’ve mentioned before, I kinda have a scorched earth policy when it comes to finding and listening to music, and the whole house was in play.
I had a lot to choose from.
A mountain of Polish music. At that stage in my life, it was repetitious and not very interesting.
I had a brother that liked country music. I was not a fan at the time. It wasn’t the classic stuff.
I had an older brother that had a stash of Broadway musicals, soundtracks, and symphonies. The music was very moody, and didn’t interest me then.
I had another older brother whose tastes grew old before his time, and had Mantovani, Eddie Barclay Orchestra(?), and a bunch of easy listening orchestral albums that were tough for me to stomach.
However, he also used to buy singles for school dances that he would bring home to test and make sure they played without skipping.
For some brief moments, there was magic in the house, and then it disappeared just as quickly as it arrived.
And I had an older sister who had some of the best music in the house, all neatly labeled and chronicled in her 45’s storage box.
Inside was a lot of Fabian, (ehh,) but it eventually would include gems like “Tell Her No” by The Zombies, and “She Loves You” by The Beatles!
Let’s go back to that loose change that I referred to in the beginning of this post.
I chose wisely for my second purchased single, The Beatles” “Twist and Shout!”
What a masterpiece!
But I’m not going to talk about that one today, because I want to talk about the flip side, “There’s a Place.”
Because I tried to listen to everything I got my hands on, I, of course, would turn the records over.
Not really much of a novel idea, but throughout my growing years, I was always amazed at people who sometimes had some fascinating 45’s collections, but would never turn them over to listen to any songs on the other sides. Ever. I feel bad even now thinking about the songs I missed.
When I turned the yellow label Tollie Record over, it was like stepping into another world!
I first heard John’s mournful harmonica that continued throughout the song!
There were plenty of starts and stops which I have always liked!
There were sad, tight harmonies!
Ringo’s drum fills on the fade out sounded almost reckless to me!
It was like I had discovered a secret song that nobody else knew about!
And then there’s the lyrics:
There is a place/ Where I can go/ When I feel low/ When I feel blue/ And it’s my mind/ And there’s no time when I’m alone.
In my mind there’s no sorrow/ Don’t you know that it’s so/ There’ll be no sad tomorrow/ Don’t you know that it’s so.
Even as a little kid, some of those lines got through!
So, I found out that there was a place that I can go, and I’ve been going there ever since!
Ladies and Gentleman!
From the “Please Please Me album, One of the Greatest Songs Ever Recorded: “There’s a Place” by The Beatles!!!
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I know there will probably be at least a million articles, blogs, or comments made about the Fiftieth Anniversary of the release of The Beatles masterpiece, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” There’s a couple of brand new editions of the album to celebrate the day. PBS has a new documentary ready for June 3. And probably a million entries have already been printed in the past fifty years.
So, what can I possibly say about it that someone else hasn’t already said?
At this point, I can tell you what I remember about the album and how radio handled it. At the time it was released in the U.S., June 1, 1967, I was not aware of how albums were even released.
I was a little kid listening to the radio. My album collection consisted of, “Meet The Beatles,” “The Beatles Second Album,” and “Beatles ’65.” I had picked up a few Beatles singles along the way: “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Eight Days a Week,” “Paperback Writer,” and “Strawberry Fields.” I was quite content to listen to those selections repeatedly, but my music obsession would start with “Sgt. Pepper.”
It all started innocently enough. It was late spring and radio stations in Detroit, mainly WKNR and CKLW, AM stations that started right off with playing the opening medley of “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band” and “With a Little Help From My Friends.” But they were forced to play album tracks because a single was never released from the album!
Stations, then, were wide open to play what they wanted. “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” was soon picked. “It’s Getting Better,” “Fixing a Hole,” “Lovely Rita,” “When I’m Sixty-Four,” “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite” and “Good Morning, Good Morning” were all played regularly, at least one cut, often hourly, throughout the next six months—at least. They even tapped the closing medley of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)” and “A Day in the Life”—quite adventurous for radio at that time!
I also seem to remember that every Sunday morning on CKLW, and timed perfectly to end at 6AM, they would play the closing medley. I was a paperboy and it was motivation for me to get up on Sunday morning to hear it.
Today, September 18, is the final day for two Beatles related events at “the Henry Ford” in Dearborn, Michigan: “Magical History Tour” and “A Hard Day’s Night” on the IMAX screen. I wanted to put that up front in case you weren’t aware of it. I went to see the history exhibit last Sunday (September 11), and I’ll write about that in a different post. But I was not aware of “A Hard Day’s Night” on that giant screen! So, I came back yesterday to check it out.
The whole day turned into a giant adventure. I forgot the starting time of the movie and arrived two and a half hours early for it. That was OK because I bought my ticket then. So, I left for a couple of hours, but about 10 minutes later, my car broke down in Allen Park behind Marshall Music. Damn! Now I had to wait for a tow…in the rain…with The Beatles on the hook.
The driver arrived extremely fast and got me hooked up quickly. After a tow to where I wanted to go, I got picked up from there, grabbed another car, and took off for the movie.
I got there just a little bit after it started. To my surprise, the theater was about half full—pretty good for a 50+ year old movie in black and white. I’ve written about my early experiences with “A Hard Day’s Night when it was the 50th anniversary of its release in a prior post. (Look for it on this website.) I had also just watched it within the past month because Turner Classic Movies had just run it recently, so it was still fresh in my mind again.
The first thing that strikes you when you see them on that big screen is how great they look! John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and particularly Ringo Starr never looked better! George Harrison, in my opinion, looked a little “scruffier” in this format. Now that’s not a bad thing. His hair just seemed a little less groomed than the other Beatles.
I wish I could say that it was like seeing it for the first time, but that wasn’t the case. When someone has watched the film as many times as I have, the odds were pretty much stacked against that. But after adjusting to the size of the screen, the one thing that you do see for the first time throughout the movie is the detail in it. I never noticed that John had a band aid on the pinky finger of his left hand during the movie’s final live performance. Or the pocket watch on the studio console as well as the Wrigley’s Spearmint gum wrapper stuffed into the console ashtray.
Now this may not be exciting enough for someone to see this movie again, but that band aid on Lennon’s hand was the equivalent to me of hearing finger popping snaps the first time I listened to “Here, There, and Everywhere” from “Revolver” on headphones!
It’s like looking at the movie while holding a giant magnifying glass!
And the best thing about seeing the movie again, was hearing the songs on that IMAX speaker system. That was the best I have ever heard any Beatles music! The supporting cast also comes off even better because you can’t help but notice them.
There were some negatives to seeing the film in a format that super sized. In particular, the lip synching and strumming pantomime to “And I Love Her” is slightly off. That one was really obvious to me, so I had to mentally look towards something else to take my mind off it.
Some viewers applauded when it was over. I always like that because the movie deserves
it. Seated behind me were two young mothers in their twenties who had taken their daughters to watch the film. They had behaved themselves throughout because I wasn’t even aware they were there. As we were walking out, I heard one of the girls—who was probably four years old, say, “Thank you, mommy! I liked that!” The mother clarified with the girl that that was what she was talking about and the girl again said that she really liked it. And that is how a musical dynasty keeps on rolling!
Well, I really liked it, too!
And I’ll see it again today!
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After 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.
As 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.
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!
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!
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!
Last Sunday night would have marked the anniversary of the last appearance that The Beatles made on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” While I can remember almost every detail of their first visit, I can’t remember very much about the last one.