Tag Archives: The Beatles

John Lennon’s Death and the End of My Innocence

This is a journey that I don’t want to take, but I feel I must.

Forty years ago, on a Monday night that appeared to be heading into the unimpressive category, I had returned around 10 PM from studying after class to my off campus apartment.

Monday Night Football was on the TV.

The game seemed unimpressive.

But even if it was a good one, in an hour or so , it wouldn’t matter anymore.

Howard Cosell, one of the colorful commentators who was either hated or despised for his “tell it like it is” attitude, made one of the saddest announcements anyone will ever have to make in their lifetime: That John Lennon, perhaps the most famous member of The Beatles, had been shot twice in the back outside of his Dakota apartment, and arrived at Roosevelt dead on arrival.

Stunned shock. Numbness. Immeasurable grief. All of that in a matter of seconds.

How could this be?

Beatles don’t die!

And they certainly don’t get shot!

And they don’t get shot when they advocate peace and love!

And they don’t get shot when they advocate peace and love and were the strongest and smartest member of the band!

NO! THIS CAN’T BE HAPPENING!

And there wasn’t even any hope that he could survive because he was already pronounced DEAD!

BAM! END OF STORY!

With someone else, there might be some hope that the report was wrong, but Howard didn’t lie.

John Lennon had even appeared with him on a Monday Night Football broadcast several years before, so the news seemed to be foolproof.

The rest of the night is kind of a blur.

I know I reached for “Strawberry Fields Forever,”–what i think of as John’s signature song, and played it several times in a row. It was my favorite song at the time, and still is.

I remember crying for several hours before I packed it in to fall asleep.

Hell, I couldn’t hear “Imagine” without breaking down for many years.

It still takes me back to that night.

And then the tribute songs would rip my heart out!

Paul McCartney’s “Here Today.”

“Johnny’s Garden” by Elton John.

But the one that knifed my heart was “Beautiful Boy,” John’s lullaby for his son Sean, with his spoken word message about seeing him in the morning.

I cried more for John than most family members!

He was my music ambassador.

He was my life ambassador.

Now, I wasn’t naive enough to think that life was like a happy movie. Enough terrible things had already happened to me and in the world by then.

But if The Beatles ushered in an age of “innocence,” then John Lennon being shot to death put an end to it.

I wanted to play music my whole life.

Music makes people happier.

Musicians don’t get killed.

The world could never be the same.

Thanks for taking us along on your journey, John.

So sorry that it ended so soon.

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I host a weekly radio show, “Prime Time Theme Attic,” that is currently on hiatus because of the pandemic.

If you like what you see, don’t forget to spread the word by hitting the “like” button on my Facebook page, Phil Maq!

One of the Greatest Songs Ever Recorded: “There’s a Place” by The Beatles!!!

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.)

Here’s the link for when that day comes: http://rdo.fm/r/4qntu )

Even though I always emphasize new music and artists, it’s always fun to take a short drive through the legendary artists, since they influenced those other artists!

But a song doesn’t have to be old or done by a legendary Theme Attic Hall of Fame member to be thus honored.

I can think of several songs that are only a few years old or less that I could identify as One of the Greatest Songs Ever Recorded.

On days that I spotlight a greatest song, it will take the place of The Most Awesomest Song of the Day.

This will be fun, and hopefully you will join me on my journey…at least sometimes!

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I’m going to wrap up my “Semi-Annual Theme Attic Hall of Fame Week” by going way back in time.

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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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.

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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 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.

The Beatles First Ed Sullivan Appearance: A Personal Rememberance!

It’s finally here! Fifty years ago the United States, and since the U.S. considers itself the center of the universe, the world was visually introduced to The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. Seventy-three million people were exposed to what England had seen for the previous two years, and fell in love.

It wasn’t supposed to happen that way. Many viewers tuned in to witness a musical farce or to see the band fall flat on its face. Who doesn’t slow down at a traffic accident and gawk or at least sneak a peek. The hype had been there for the past month as I Want to Hold Your Hand rose to #1. Who were these guys usurping our record charts?

I was a witness and remember comments from my family about their long hair. (Really? Look at the haircuts. They were just touching the ears!) Someone said that John Lennon resembled a “singing golf ball with hair.”(??!!) And, of course, there were plenty of comments about the crazy screaming girls in the audience. (“What are they screaming about? They can’t even hear the music!”)

I can honestly say that I wasn’t totally won over by The Beatles from that first appearance. Even as a child, I was skeptical. I think it was my unfamiliarity with some of the music. That soon changed. But I returned the following weeks to witness those incredible moments. And man, Ringo Starr could sure rock those cymbals–and drums! But I stayed well clear of the ongoing discussion among the girls on who was cuter: John Lennon or Paul McCartney? That was so annoying! I just wished I didn’t have to hear it!

And when I visited New York City in 1985, before the age of home-owned video tapes, I went to the Museum of Television and Radio (now known as the Paley Center for Media). The first thing I wanted to see was that first Ed Sullivan appearance. I wasn’t the only one.I found out that that show was the number one requested viewing item. It seems everyone wanted to relive those magical moments when The Beatles changed the world!

Nowadays, I can just post it on my blog. What a wonderful world!:
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Congratulations, Paul!

Well, I’m just a bit overcome by the amazing Grammys presentation on Sunday. Such a great mix of performers! But, I have to say, what brought a tear to my eye was watching Ringo play with Paul. OMG! What a moment!!!

Our esteemed Beatles were awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award for their contributions to popular music. Well deserved, I must say. And, as it’s coming up on the 50th anniversary of their coming to America, very timely.

Not all the Grammys are awarded during the prime time broadcast, so you might not be aware that Paul walked away with five Grammys this year! In addition to the Lifetime Achievement Award as part of The Beatles, he also was nominated for and won the following four Grammys:

*  ‘Best Rock Song‘ for ‘Cut Me Some Slack‘ which he co-wrote with Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic and Pat Smear.
*  ‘Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package‘ for last year’s ‘Wings Over America‘ re-issue.
*  ‘Best Surround Sound Album‘ for ‘Live Kisses‘.
*  ‘Best Music Film‘ for ‘Live Kisses‘.

Congratulations, Paul!

Peace and Love,

Bitsy

Paul McCartney nominated for Five Grammys Tonight!

With the 50th anniversary of The Beatles first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show coming at warp speed–about the only thing taking my mind off the “polar vortex,” is tonight’s Grammy Awards. It has plenty of anxious anxiety for Beatle fans: Will Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr perform together again? They are both scheduled to perform, but it hasn’t been officially stated that they will do something together.

Oh. well, at least this year’s Grammys should be better than last year’s with both of them on the bill. But I don’t see how it could beat that killer performance of the Abbey Road Medley when Paul traded guitar licks with Bruce Springsteen, Joe Walsh, and Dave Grohl. But I hope it does.

The show should keep McCartney fans riveted since Paul is nominated for five Grammys for his work on Cut Me Some Slack–the song he did with Nirvana’s remaining members, Live Kisses–the DVD version of his standard covers album, Kisses on the Bottom, and the Deluxe reissue packaging for Wings Over America. I have my fingers crossed…………….

“It Was 50 Years Ago Today……….”

There are so many 50 year anniversaries for The Beatles this year. Today is one of the biggest because the band’s first Capitol Records album release of Meet the Beatles occurred on January 20, 1964. Little did the world know what was to come along in just a few short weeks………………

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“She Loves You” Turns 50!!

I know it’s hard to believe, but The Beatles’ release of “She Loves You” turned 50 years old. There are a lot of things that will turn fifty in the next few years, but it also gives everyone a chance to reminisce.

The song was loaded with many hooks. “She Loves You” — with Ringo’s tom-tom intro exploded on the radio. The signature “yeah, yeah, yeahs” were another incredible hook. The beautiful harmonies, the wistful lyrics, the “woos,” the way the song retarded (slowed) and sped up in spots, and the final odd chord. What an incredible song!

And if you got to watch The Beatles play it live, you were able to see a visual hook: the head shakes to the rhythm of the music.

One of my favorite performances is from a British film called “Pop Gear”–named after the British slang phrase for “cool” that was repeated ad infinitum in the movie. At least it made the film humorous, but very dated. “She Loves You” by The Beatles, however, has never tarnished as a song!