Category Archives: It Was 50 Years Ago Today

It Was Fifty Years Ago Today: My Earliest Memories of Sgt. Pepper!!!

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.


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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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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!!!


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

It Was Fifty Years Ago Today: Help!–The Beatles New Single!!!

I don’t remember the exact dates, because my memory may be for a weekend that took place earlier in the month.

One of my older brothers had a habit of taking me out of town when I was able to go. I had been able to read maps since I was four or five, so I wasn’t a bad traveling companion. He had a tendency to scan the AM radio dial for country stations. I, of course, when given the chance, would look for rock music.

Well, this July weekend fifty years ago, was a short trip into northern Indiana, and that meant that I could easily find the AM powerhouse station WOWO out of Fort Wayne. It was one of the better radio stations that I could pick up at night! They were playing the world premiere of The Beatles new Capitol Records single, “Help!,” from their upcoming film and album, and were pretty gracious with it, too! WOWO played it at least once an hour, along with the whispered phrase “world premiere.”

I don’t remember anything else about that weekend. It was great being able to hear that new song pretty much constantly—at least in my own mind!

I do know for a fact that today marks the Fiftieth Anniversary of the release date of the song, Help! So here it is:

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…:The Beatles Second Album!!

Fifty years ago on Sunday was my first Communion party. It was a beautiful sunny day and all of my relatives were invited to my parents’ house to “celebrate.”

But it was a whole two months since I got my “Meet the Beatles” album and it was getting a little old and familiar. I needed some new music…like “The Beatles Second Album” that was currently being played non stop on WKNR–Keener 13.

So, when I found out that I would be receiving some money as gifts, and because I wasn’t sure how much of the “gate” I would be getting, I staged a mild hold out before the party ala The Who at Woodstock, who wanted their money upfront before they would play.

I think it took everybody by surprise because the tactic actually worked! I was given $5 to go buy it and my older brother Leonard took me to get it. I’m not even sure he knew who The Beatles were at that time. But I got that thing home and dropped the needle down on “Roll Over Beethoven” and rocked out all the way through to “She Loves You!” Then I met the relatives. It was pretty damn cool having The Beatles at my first Communion party!