Tag Archives: John Lennon

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!


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


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.


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!

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.


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!

The Beatles First Ed Sullivan Appearance: A Personal Rememberance!

It’s finally here! Sixty years ago, the United States (and since the U.S. considers itself the center of the universe), and 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 their 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 amongst my sister and her teenage female friends 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!:


My radio show, “Theme Attic,”  is on Wednesdays 12PM-4PM ET.

The show can be heard on WHFR 89.3 FM in the Dearborn-Detroit area of Michigan, or it can be streamed with this link: https://www.whfr.fm/streamer/!

I have other musical areas to explore:

I occasionally will add to 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.

Here’s a link to have a look at “The Greatest Songs Ever Recorded”: https://philmaq.com/the-greatest-songs-ever-recorded/!

Occasionally, an “awesome song” crosses over to become a “Greatest Song!”

My somewhat unusual Hall of Fame can be explored here: https://philmaq.com/hall-of-fame/!

Lastly, but most importantly, is my Philby Awards link! A Philby is my annual award for brilliant musical achievement! https://philmaq.com/philbys/!


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

“I Now Declare Beatle Bits Open!!”

I thought the best way to start my new website would be a variation on a silly line that John Lennon used in “A Hard Days Night.”  I say that because I am looking to have a lot of fun writing about The Beatles, my favorite—anything!   Maybe I should step back a little bit and do some explaining.

If you have ever read anything on my other website, philmaq.com, you would put together the observation that I am crazy about music. All kinds of music! The Beatles are at the top of that obsessive interest. They have meant so much to me for as long as I have been aware of them. I can’t even tell you how many hours I have listened to their music both as a group or individually as solo artists. Whatever the number is, it far exceeds many of the closest artists combined by a large factor. I can honestly say that I still make new discoveries when listening to songs I’ve probably heard tens of thousands of times.

As a musician, Beatle songs are so much fun to play! They’re full of intricate surprises that sound so great when they come alive in your hands!

The extent of my musical obsession hit me hardest a few years ago when I felt saddened because I had a thought about my own mortality. But I wasn’t sad because I was getting older. No, I was sad because I realized that I had less time to listen to The Beatles! I’ve since come to grips with that dilemma, sort of, and I have just decided to appreciate listening in the moment.     

Being able to do anything about or with The Beatles is as close as it gets to a lifelong dream for me. “Beatle Bits” will consist of a mixture of many different things. It might be an item that was overlooked elsewhere. It might be upcoming news. It might be reviews, or gossip. But I also want “Beatle Bits” to have some musical analysis.

So, that’s the plan. Of course, I am open to any suggestions along the way. This will be “our site,” and I will always keep, you, the reader in mind. And I will always keep in mind John, Paul, George, and Ringo, as well as all of the other people who gave them support along the way and were a part of their lives. Thank you guys!

And I couldn’t think of a better day to launch this new site:

Happy 71st Birthday, Paul!  

This video is from last year, but it offers some great images of Paul throughout the years. Enjoy!