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Top 10 Beatle Musical Moments: An analysis of their recording accomplishments

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By Ken Womack

Why do the Fab Four endure when so many others fade quietly into popular music’s often unforgiving sunset? Beyond the glossy packaging and the culture (indeed, the counter-culture) of Beatlemania, what are the sonic nuances that made the Beatles a musical phenomenon for all time?

As John Lennon reminded us during one of his last interviews in 1980, the answer is nestled somewhere amongst their rich array of albums: “With the Beatles, the music is the point,” Lennon remarked, and “you have all this great music.”

To explain in more detail, one must address the significant recording accomplishments of the Fab Four. In other words, how did they progress musically, and which recordings represent the first-time achievement of a specific technique in their career?

As a result, here in my opinion, is a listing (in order of their original release date) of the Top 10 Musical Moments achieved by the Beatles in the recording studio:

 

1) “I Saw Her Standing There” (1963)

As the first track on the Beatles’ inaugural album Please Please Me (1963), “I Saw Her Standing There” explodes with a sense of urgency and abandon equaled only by the opening strains of “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” the song that would prefigure the group’s triumphant first visit to North America in February 1964.

Lyrically, “I Saw Her Standing There” bespeaks the same teenage amalgam of hopeful romance and ready acceptance that marks the band’s other works of this era:

“Well, she was just 17
You know what I mean
And the way she looked
Was way beyond compare”

McCartney and Lennon composed the song in the McCartney’s living room (on Forthlin Road) while playing hooky during John’s art school days. Lennon later observed that “we were just writing songs, like the Everly Brothers, like Buddy Holly, pop songs with no more thought to them than that – to create a sound. And the words were almost irrelevant.”

Although the lyrics devolve into a kind of innocuous optimism, the guitar work on “I Saw Her Standing There” fuels the track’s driving spirit. Based on a series of blues riffs, the song’s musical terrain includes a scattering of guitar embellishments that culminate in Harrison’s electrifying solo.

When an audibly excited McCartney counts off the tempo at the beginning of “I Saw Her Standing There,” the Beatles began ushering in a new sound that would erase and subsequently reconfigure the face of popular music.

 

2) The “middle-eight” on “And I Love Her” (1964)

The Beatles’ early work presages their later accomplishments in terms of its sheer variety. With a knack for crafting “middle-eights” – musical lingo for the eight-bar refrains that characterize their songwriting in the early 1960s – the Beatles were already searching for new musical vistas as early as A Hard Day’s Night (1964).

With “And I Love Her,” the band easily assumes a stirring Latin beat. Ornamented with Harrison and McCartney’s flamenco-like guitar arpeggios, “And I Love Her” swells with the rhythmic intensity of Ringo Starr’s bongos and Harrison’s intermittent claves.

For McCartney, “And I Love Her” is nothing short of a watershed moment. “With one stroke,” Tim Riley writes in Tell Me Why: A Beatles Commentary (1988), McCartney “gains the status of standard balladeer composer.”

McCartney’s enormous catalogue of romantic melodies and ballads finds its origins in “And I Love Her” and the discerning fan can draw a line from its composition to the emergence of such classic tunes as “I’ll Follow the Sun,” “Yesterday,” “Michelle,” “Let It Be” and “The Long and Winding Road.”

 

3) The sitar accompaniment on “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)” (1965)

One of the Beatles’ most remarkable sonic features concerns the vast musical sweep of their career itself. The utterly mesmerizing instrumental and lyrical leap from Please Please Me through Rubber Soul (1965) is matched only by the artistic heights that the band would later reach on Revolver (1966), Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), The Beatles [a.k.a. The White Album] (1968), and Abbey Road (1969).

On Rubber Soul, the Beatles effectively signaled the expansion of their musical horizons via Harrison’s well-known experimentation with sitar music – the exotic, microtonal flavor of which would adorn such Beatles tunes as the classic “Norwegian Wood” and “Within You, Without You” from Sgt. Pepper.

In “Norwegian Wood,” Harrison’s sitar lines accent the flourishes of Lennon’s haunting acoustic guitar. But they also provide a curious palette for Lennon’s confessional lyrics about an extramarital affair.

As with “I’ll Be Back” and “I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party” from Beatles for Sale (1964), “Norwegian Wood” represents a significant departure from the silly love songs that accounted for the band’s initial parcel of hits.

The lyrics themselves – far from underscoring love’s everlasting possibilities – hint at something far more fleeting, even unromantic:

She asked me to stay and she told me to sit anywhere
So I looked around and I noticed there wasn’t a chair

Compare the words of “Norwegian Wood” with such earlier phraseology as

I ain’t got nothing but love, babe
Eight days a week

And the Beatles’ intellectual development becomes resoundingly clear.

 

4) “A Day in the Life” (1967)

Fans and critics alike often refer to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band as popular music’s first “concept” album. In truth, though, the Beatles’ notion of a fictitious ensemble peters out after “With a Little Help from My Friends,” the album’s second track.

The concept “doesn’t go anywhere,” Lennon later remarked. “But it works ‘cause we said it works.”

Perhaps even more significantly, Sgt. Pepper saw the Beatles erasing the boundaries that they had been challenging since Rubber Soul and Revolver.

“Until this album, we’d never thought of taking the freedom to do something like Sgt. Pepper,” McCartney observed. “We started to realize there weren’t as many barriers as we’d thought, we could break though with things like album covers, or invent another persona for the band.”

With “A Day in the Life” – the album’s dramatic climax – the Beatles virtually reimagined themselves as recording artists. Filled with variegated sonic hues and other assorted sound effects, the song contrasts Lennon’s impassive stories of disillusion and regret with McCartney’s deceptively buoyant interlude about the numbing effects of the workaday world.

The song’s luminous, open-ended refrain: “I’d love to turn you on” promises a sense of interpersonal salvation on a universal scale.

Yet Lennon and McCartney’s detached lyrics seem to suggest, via their nuances of resignation and unacknowledged guilt, that such a form of emotional release will always remain an unrealized dream.

As the music of the Beatles and a studio orchestra spirals out of control and into oblivion, a massive piano chord punctuates the song’s melancholic ambiance.

“In the end,” the Beatles’ legendary producer George Martin writes in All You Need Is Ears (1994), “the microphones were so live that you could hear the air conditioning. It took 45 seconds to do, and we did it three or four times, building up a massive sound of piano after piano after piano, all doing the same thing.”

As the zenith of the Beatles’ musical vitality, the chord that concludes “A Day in the Life” will surely reverberate for the ages.

 

5) “I Am the Walrus” (1967)

Written at the apex of the Summer of Love, Lennon’s self-consciously psychedelic “I Am the Walrus” functions – at least on a lyrical level – as a brilliant tirade against the ills of enforced institutionalism. Adorned with stunning wordplay and linguistic imagery, “I Am the Walrus” pits Lennon’s bitter vocals against a surrealistic musical tableau comprised of McCartney’s hypnotic bass, Harrison and Starr’s playful percussion, and Martin’s exhilarating string arrangements.

Inspired by Lewis Carroll’s nonsensical poem “The Walrus and the Carpenter,” “I Am the Walrus” opens with Lennon’s Mellotronin-toned phrasing designed to replicate the monotonous cry of a police siren.

As the song’s spectacular lyrics unfold:“I am he as you are he as you are me and we are altogether.” Starr’s wayward snare interrupts the proceedings and sets Lennon’s intentionally absurdist catalogue of images into motion.

While an assortment of cryptic voices and diabolical laughter weave in and out of the mix, Lennon’s pungent lyrics encounter an array of ridiculous characters – from a “crab locker fishwife” and a “pornographic priestess” to the “expert texpert choking smokers” and that madman of literary effrontery himself, Edgar Allan Poe.

When “I Am the Walrus” finally recedes amongst its ubiquitous mantra of “Goo Goo Goo Joob,” the song dissolves into a scene from a BBC radio production of Shakespeare’s King Lear.

Described by Ian MacDonald as “the most idiosyncratic protest song ever written,” “I Am the Walrus” features Lennon’s most inspired verbal textures, as well as the Beatles’ greatest moment of musical diaphora: in one sense, “I Am the Walrus” seems utterly devoid of meaning, yet at the same time its songwriter’s rants about prevailing social structures absolutely beg for interpretation.

 

 

6) Side Two of the White Album (1968)

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Quite obviously, we hardly speak of albums in terms of “sides” in the compact-disc era. But yes, kiddies, there was a time when you could saunter into any record store and purchase long-playing records. We called them LPs, but they are now referred to, rather stylishly, as “vinyl.”

Side two of the White Album witnesses the Beatles in full swagger. With their dizzying array of musical styles, the nine tracks from “Martha My Dear” through “Julia” loom as masterworks of artistic virtuosity. They also illustrate the White Album’s stunning eclecticism – the true measure of the album’s resilience.

McCartney’s baroque-sounding “Martha My Dear,” with its crisp brass accompaniment, introduces the sequence, which meanders, rather lazily, into Lennon’s bluesy “I’m So Tired.” Lennon later recalled the song as “one of my favorite tracks. I just like the sound of it, and I sing it well.”

Written during the Beatles’ famous visit to the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s retreat at Rishikesh during the spring of 1968, McCartney’s folksy “Blackbird” imagines a contemplative metaphor for the United States’ civil rights struggles during the 1960s.

The sound of a chirping blackbird eventually segues into Harrison’ edgy political satire, “Piggies.” Interestingly, the songwriter’s mother, Louise Harrison, composed the tune’s signature lyric – a punishment suitable for misanthropic politicians everywhere: “What they need’s a damned good whacking!”

The White Album’s song cycle continues with McCartney’s countrified “Rocky Raccoon,” a track that shifts, rather astonishingly, from the disquieting universe of cowboys, gunplay and saloons into a gentle paean about nostalgia and loss.

Starr’s “Don’t Pass Me By,” with its barrelhouse piano chorus, steers the sequence abruptly into the sudsy world of the beer hall. Originally entitled “Some Kind of Friendly,” the song became a number-one hit, rather fittingly in Scandinavia.

One of McCartney’s finest blues effusions, “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?” explodes from the embers of “Don’t Pass Me By” and brilliantly sets the stage for the side’s final two numbers, “I Will” and “Julia.”

A soothing melody about the tenuous interplay between romance and commitment, “I Will” remains one of McCartney’s most memorable experiments in brash sentimentality.

Arguably his most powerful ballad, Lennon’s “Julia” memorializes the songwriter’s late mother while simultaneously addressing his spiritual deliverance at the hands of his newfound soul mate, the ”ocean child” Yoko Ono.

 

7) The guitar lick at the end of “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey” and the piano melody on “Sexy Sadie” (1968)

Unfortunately, the Beatles’ considerable impact upon popular culture often seems to obscure the minute particulars of their musicianship. Two instances from the White Album especially underscore their dexterity as musical craftsmen, as well as their phenomenal aural leaps from, say, “Can’t Buy Me Love” through their finest artistic accomplishments during the late 1960s.

A moment of pure excitement and adrenaline, the guitar riff at the conclusion of “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey” accentuates an otherwise peculiar song about social politics with the bruising panache of rock and roll. A rhythmic burst of high-octane modulation, the guitar phrasings at the end of “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey” exemplify the breadth of the band’s extraordinary musical prowess.

 

 

As Lennon’s acidic lullaby to the Beatles’ experiences under the Maharishi’s dubious tutelage, “Sexy Sadie” bears mention for its salacious lyrical contents alone:

We gave you everything we owned just to sit at your table
Just a smile would lighten everything

In terms of sheer artistry, though, the song reveals the band in full aesthetic throttle. As McCartney’s tinkling piano phrases spar with Harrison’s bristling guitar, “Sexy Sadie” maneuvers effortlessly through chord changes and one harmonic shift after another.

When the song finally ascends to its closing musical interchange, the Beatles’ instrumentation and Lennon’s spellbinding vocal coalesce in a breathtaking instance of blissful resolution.

 

8) Harrison’s guitar solo on “Something” (1969)

Harrison comes into his own, of course, on Abbey Road, the Beatles’ magnificent swan song. The unbridled optimism of Harrison’s “Here Comes the Sun” is matched – indeed, surpassed – only by “Something,” his crowning achievement and the classic tune that Frank Sinatra would famously dub “the greatest love song of the past 50 years.”

For much of the song, Harrison’s soaring guitar, his musical trademark, dances in delectable counterpoint with McCartney’s jazzy, melodic bass. Instrumentally, the fusion of their guitar work produces an exquisite musical tapestry as “Something” meanders toward Harrison’s most unforgettable of guitar solos, the tune’s greatest lyrical feature – even more lyrical, interestingly enough, than the lyrics themselves.

A masterpiece of utter simplicity, Harrison’s solo reaches toward the sublime, wrestles with it in a bouquet of downward syncopation, and hoists it yet again in a moment of supreme grace.

 

9) The Abbey Road medley (1969)

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There is little question that, even during its production, the Beatles regarded Abbey Road as their final studio album. Their growing interpersonal and financial tensions were exacting a seemingly immutable toll on their artistic relationship.

As the workmanlike Beatles went about the business of recording their musical finale, McCartney and Martin began assembling the medley that would conclude the album.

“I wanted to do something bigger, a kind of operatic moment,” McCartney remembered.

In contrast with the pop operas of that era by The Who and The Small Faces, The Beatles’ medley essentially consists of an assortment of unfinished songs. Yet McCartney and Martin’s inspired post-production efforts ensured that the medley enjoyed a cohesiveness from which we can draw larger musical and lyrical motifs.

While the medley features the Beatles’ penchant for balladry in such literary characters as Mean Mr. Mustard, Polythene Pam, and the eccentric female protagonist who meanders in and out of the narrative of “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window,” the sequence reaches its most profound instances during such classic numbers as “You Never Give Me Your Money,” “Golden Slumbers,” and “Carry that Weight.”

In “You Never Give Me Your Money,” McCartney’s plaintive piano strains give way to Lennon and Harrison’s dueling rhythm guitars. As Harrison later observed, the song “does two verses of one tune, and then the bridge is almost like a different song altogether, so it’s quite melodic.”

The lyrics bespeak the tragedies of misspent youth and runaway fame:

Out of college, money spent
See no future, pay no rent
All the money’s gone, nowhere to go

As “You Never Give Me Your Money” comes to a close, the song’s bluesy guitar riffs segue into the chorus of a children’s nursery rhyme:

One, two , three, four, five, six, seven
All good children go to heaven

Later in “Golden Slumbers,” McCartney resumes the medley’s earlier themes with a deft reworking of Thomas Dekker’s 400-year-old poem of the same name. As the medley progresses toward its symphonic conclusion, the song’s bitter nostalgia – “Once there was a way to get back homeward / Once there was a way to get back home” – yields itself to a larger realization, in “Carry That Weight,” that we inevitably shoulder the past’s frequently irredeemable burden for the balance of our lives.

In “Carry That Weight,” McCartney acknowledges his own culpability in the Beatles’ dissolution, yet his rather humbling, self-conscious lyrics extend an olive branch to his increasingly distant chums:

I never give you my pillow
I only send you my invitations
And in the middle of the celebrations
I break down

In its highly polished final form, the Abbey Road medley encounters the Beatles at the height of their decidedly literary faculties. In many ways, the medley functions as McCartney’s clever reconfiguration of Shakespeare’s “seven ages of man” in As You Like It.

From “You Never Give Me Your Money” through “The End,” his lyrics impinge upon the inherent difficulties that come with growing up and growing older. Only the power of memory, it seems, can placate our inevitable feelings of nostalgia and regret – not only for our youthful days, but for how we lived them.

Appropriately, McCartney concludes the medley with a quasi-Shakespearean couplet – “A cosmic, philosophical line,” in Lennon’s words: “And in the end the love you take / Is equal to the love you make.”

In The Beatles as Musicians: Revolver through the Anthology (1999), Walter Everett astutely reads the medley as “a very personal final gift from Paul McCartney to his mates, as well as from the Beatles to the world.”

As the moving coda to a brilliant career, the Abbey Road medley – perhaps more than any other moment in the Beatles’ unprecedented musical catalogue – witnesses the band’s creative powers in full bloom.

 

10) “You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)” (1970)

Granted, “You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)” hardly begins to rank among the Beatles’ finest songs. Originally released as the B-side of “Let It Be” – the group’s penultimate number-one hit – this whimsical tune never fails to arouse even the most jaded listener’s nostalgia for the Fab Four’s inherent sense of fun.

Recorded by the band in 1967 and completed by Lennon, McCartney and the Beatles’ faithful roadie Mal Evans in 1969, “You Know My Name” is a uniquely comic moment in the group’s discography.

“We had these endless , crazy fun sessions,” McCartney fondly observes in his introduction to Mark Lewisohn’s quintessential The Beatles Recording Sessions (1988).

A pastiche of lounge-style vocal stylings and Monty Python-esque humor, the song features the late Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones on saxophone, Lennon playing the maracas, and Harrison on the xylophone.

From its soul-pounding blues introduction to the song’s swanky samba refrain, “You Know My Name” is propelled – in unforgettably comic fashion – by Lennon’s hilarious falsetto vocals and the dappled chorus of grunts and mumbles that mark the tune’s sizzling conclusion. Although it could never hope to challenge the likes of such classics as “Hey Jude,” “Come Together” or Revolution,” You Know My Name” clearly occupies a distinctive niche in the storied history of Beatlemania.

 

Any list of great Beatles songs is inherently flawed, of course, and can never really begin to account for the totality of their artistic achievement. If nothing else, though, this roster of distinguished Beatles moments illustrates the essence of their timelessness. It is worth nothing that a significant portion of their greatness can be attributed to the simple fact that they never wore out their welcome. And, in the well-trodden words of Lennon and McCartney, you know that can’t be bad.

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georgemartin-bkKen Womack is the author of many books including The Beatles Encyclopedia: Everything Fab Four and his most recent, Maximum Volume: The Life of Beatles Producer, George Martin, The Early Years, 1926-1966. The second volume, Sound Pictures: The Life of Beatles Producer George Martin (The Later Years: 1966-2016), is forthcoming in 2018. Ken serves as Dean of the Wayne D. McMurray School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Monmouth University.

 

[This article was originally printed in the Fall 2002 issue of Daytrippin’ Magazine (No. 20) and is also featured in the Daytrippin’ Anthology.]

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Special tree dedicated to former Beatle George Harrison in Los Angeles

Way up in the hills of Griffith Park in Los Angeles sits the George Harrison Tree, originally planted in 2003 in tribute to the ex-Beatle who prided himself as a gardener.

George Harrison tree

 

The George Harrison tree was planted near the Griffith Park Observatory at the Mount Hollywood Hiking Trail. The tree was planted in February 2003 and the following year, on February 22, 2004, a dedication ceremony to unveil a special bronze plaque was held, as the city declared “George Harrison Day” that year in Los Angeles.

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The original tree planted was a Cayman Island Pine (pictured here)

At the 2004 dedication ceremony, friends and associates gathered to pay tribute to Harrison including singer Billy Preston, singer Jackie Lomax, Council member Tom LaBonge, Chris Carter, host of LA’s “Breakfast with the Beatles” and Linda Arias, Olivia Harrison’s sister, who read a message sent by Olivia thanking everyone for remembering her husband George.

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However, the original tree that was planted – a Cayman Island Pine – made headlines in 2014 when it was reported that the tree had died. In June 2014, the tree had to be cut down due to infestation by none other than beetles.

In February 2015, an oak tree was planted in place of the pine tree. This special tree is located at the opposite end of the parking lot from the Griffith Park Observatory.

The bronze plaque placed in front of the George Harrison Tree features a lotus flower and reads: “In memory of a great humanitarian who touched the world as an artist, a musician and a gardener,” followed by a quote from George Harrison: ‘For the forest to be green, each tree must be green.’ George Harrison (1943-2001)

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The Beatles ‘Eight Days A Week’ documentary coming to DVD in November

On November 18, the new documentary The Beatles: Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years directed by Ron Howard will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray, plus a 2-Disc special edition.

UMe Polygram Entertainment The Beatles Eight Days A Week

Photo: Polygram Entertainment and Capitol/UMe.

The film was released last week in theaters for a one-day to one-week run which varied across different cities. After the film, the 30-minute Shea Stadium concert film from 1965 was also shown. This footage from the concert is not listed as being included on the DVD.

As a Beatles fan and journalist who saw the film in theaters, the title ‘The Touring Years’ seemed a bit misleading to me. Instead of focusing mostly on the shows that The Beatles performed, the film provided an overall look at their career during the years they were touring and spent lots of time on The Beatles’ efforts in the recording studio.

While there is not much new information offered in the documentary, the high points of the film are the rare photographs and video clips that were included to illustrate the story of The Beatles’ touring years. For example, in February 1964 during an interview in Washington DC, John tells a reporter his name is “Eric.” The uninformed reporter believes him and introduces Lennon convincingly on camera as “Eric” so that John has to enlighten him and tell him it was just a joke.

Another rare clip is an interview with The Beatles in Sweden circa 1963/64 where George is standing behind John who is seated. George keeps flicking ashes from his cigarette on the top of John’s head and John doesn’t necessarily notice.

There are also insightful interview clips from Paul and Ringo in the present day, as well as other celebrities including Whoopi Goldberg and Elvis Costello.

Another highlight is an interview with Dr. Kitty Oliver, an African-American journalist and author who went to The Beatles’ concert in Jacksonville, Florida as a teenager. The Beatles refused to play to a segregated audience at the Gator Bowl. They had it written into their contract, so the venue agreed to integrate the crowd.

“Here was a band I loved and music I was such a fan of, that seeing The Beatles overrode the idea of walking in to this all-white environment that I had never been in,” Oliver recalls.

Historians believe that this strong stand that The Beatles took in Jacksonville in September 1964 led to an end of segregation in most of the big stadiums in the South. – Trina Yannicos

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Below is a description of content included on the DVD release as stated in the official press release:

Featuring a wealth of specially created supplementary material totaling 100 minutes of extras, the deluxe home entertainment editions contain exclusively-created featurettes for fans to delve even deeper into the band’s world.  Accompanying these are stunning, fully restored full length performances of some of the band’s most iconic tracks including “Twist and Shout” and “She Loves You” recorded at the ABC Theatre, Manchester in 1963 and “Can’t Buy Me Love” at the NME Awards, 1964, in London, bringing the experience of seeing The Beatles in concert fully to life for all fans. A full breakdown follows:

2-disc Special Collector’s Edition (DVD and Blu-Ray) includes:
1 x DVD/Blu-Ray feature disc
+ 1 Bonus Disc (containing approx. 100 minutes of extras, highlighted below)
64 page booklet with an introduction from director Ron Howard, essay by music journalist and author Jon Savage and rare photos from The Beatles’ private archive

Words & Music (24 mins)
John, Paul, George & Ringo reflect on songwriting and the influence of music from their parents’ generation, Lennon/McCartney writing for other artists, The Beatles as individual musicians, and the band as innovators.  Also featuring Howard Goodall, Peter Asher, Simon Schama and Elvis Costello.  The interviews with Paul and Ringo are unseen.

Early Clues To A New Direction (18 mins)
A special feature touching on The Beatles as a collective, the importance of humor, the impact of women on their early lives and songwriting, and the band as a musical movement. Featuring John, Paul, George & Ringo, along with Paul Greengrass, Stephen Stark, Peter Asher, Malcolm Gladwell, Sigourney Weaver, Whoopi Goldberg, Richard Curtis, Elvis Costello and Simon Schama.  Again the interviews with Paul and Ringo are unseen.

Liverpool (11 mins)
The early days in Liverpool of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s are brought vividly to life by those who worked closely with them at that time including fan club secretary Freda Kelly, Allan Williams an early manager, and Leslie Woodhead multi-award winning documentary film director.

The Beatles in Concert (12 mins)
Five great but rarely seen full length performances of The Beatles live in concert – Twist and Shout, She Loves You, Can’t Buy Me Love, You Can’t Do That and Help!

Additional features are:

  • Three Beatles’ Fans
  • Ronnie Spector and The Beatles
  • Shooting A Hard Day’s Night
  • The Beatles in Australia
  • Recollections of Shea Stadium
  • The Beatles in Japan
  • An alternative opening for the film

 

Pre-order: Deluxe Collector’s Edition (2-DVD)

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Historical Beatle gems hidden among vast display at GRAMMY Museum’s new fab exhibit

by Trina Yannicos
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Originally launched in 2014 in New York City to celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Beatles first visit to the U.S., the “Ladies and Gentlemen… The Beatles!” exhibit has finally made its way to the West Coast. The GRAMMY Museum, which curated the exhibit along with the avid memorabilia collectors of Fab Four Exhibits, opened the exhibit in Los Angeles on July 1, and it will be on display through September 5, 2016.

The exhibit focuses on the years 1964 to 1966 and The Beatles’ influence on America. Along with countless big and small memorabilia items are interactive displays, audio interviews, concert video clips and a short film shown in the Clive Davis Theater featuring musicians, including Ringo Starr, Graham Nash, Petula Clark and Ozzy Osbourne, talking about the impact of The Beatles.

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The big ticket items in this exhibit include Ringo’s Abbey Road jacket, Paul McCartney’s Shea Stadium jacket, Ringo’s black suit from A Hard Day’s Night, and the Beatles’ drumhead which was given to Madame Tussauds Wax Museum in London in April 1964 when wax figures of The Beatles were made.
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While we’ve come to expect most rock and roll exhibits to display original instruments and clothing used by the musicians, it’s the little things that make this exhibit shine and showcase its sincerity and authenticity. For example, an original program from the Beatles’ Carnegie Hall concerts on February 12, 1964 lists Paul McCartney’s name incorrectly as “John McCartney.”

Another unique item is the official proclamation when The City of New Orleans declared “Beatles Day in New Orleans” on September 16, 1964, which coincided with The Beatles’ concert there that same day. All four Beatles signed the proclamation.
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The exhibit also includes memorabilia from The Beatles’ early days in Liverpool and Hamburg. A personal letter written by George Harrison in 1962 when The Beatles were in Hamburg showcases the wit and humor of the “quiet” Beatle:
“Thank you for the. We are all still very in Hamburg as the. I started a letter to you on Thursday but it seemed to get a bit ‘you know’, so I have decided to write another.”

Other items of note include the first pair of “granny” glasses that John Lennon ever wore and a lock of John Lennon’s hair given to a fan at a concert in August 1963. John Lennon signed his autograph: “Love from ‘Bald’ John Lennon.”

The exhibit also features a large display of Beatles merchandising products including Beatles coloring books, coin purses and more from 1964 in their original packaging.
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There is much to see at this exhibit. Reserve at least two hours to take it all in. And, on your way out, make sure to get your photo while crossing Abbey Road in London with the help of a virtual scenic backdrop – luckily this photo op doesn’t require dodging the traffic!
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A Look Back at George Harrison’s Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony

On April 14, 2009, George Harrison was posthumously given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. This was the 2,382nd star dedicated by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. The star is located right in front of the Capitol Records building at 1750 Vine Street just a few steps away from the star of Harrison’s former bandmates, John Lennon, and later Ringo Starr (2010) and Paul McCartney (2012).

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Hundreds of Beatles fans gathered to hear tributes to George Harrison given by his friends and family. Eric Idle of Monty Python and Spamalot fame called George “a most remarkable person with a great sense of humor.” Eric Idle wrote and starred in the 1978 Beatles-parody film, All You Need Is Cash featuring The Rutles, which George Harrison not only loved but also made a brief cameo appearance in.

 

Eric Idle joked that he asked Ringo Starr what he should say at the dedication ceremony and Ringo said, “What about me?” referring to the fact that Ringo did not have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at that time. Neither did Paul McCartney, who was in attendance at the ceremony, with then-girlfriend Nancy Shevell. The Beatles as a group were given a star in the 1990s which is located on a special sidewalk corner at the intersection of Hollywood Blvd and La Brea next to Elvis Presley’s star.

 

Tom Hanks, who spoke at the ceremony, described the The Beatles’ impact on America in the 1960s: “That’s when we escaped the doldrums and moved into the future.” He explained that the first guitar George Harrison ever bought when he was a teenager only cost the equivalent of 75 cents. “75 cents made this” he said, pointing to the Capitol Records building, the home of the Beatles’ record label in the U.S.

Other guests in attendance included Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne who were in the Traveling Wilburys with Harrison in the 1980s. Jeff Lynne put an ad in The Hollywood Reporter (April 14, 2009) celebrating George Harrison’s star which said, “George Harrison’s Star, It Just Sounds Right. Love from Jeff Lynne.”

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The Counsel General from Bangladesh was also in attendance bringing attention to the famous “Concert for Bangladesh” that Harrison organized in 1971 to raise money for the relief of refugees in Bangladesh. It was the first major rock concert for charity and raised almost $250,000 at the time. Today, sales of the album and DVD benefit the George Harrison Fund for UNICEF.

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Harrison’s widow, Olivia, and son, Dhani, were both in attendance to accept the award. Olivia described George as “a beautiful, mystical man living in a material world.” She concluded by saying, “George, this day is for you.” And she was right — it was announced at the ceremony that April 14 was proclaimed “George Harrison Day” in Los Angeles.

 

While George Harrison was honored for his musical achievements with The Beatles and as a solo artist, his contributions to the film industry through his company HandMade Films were highlighted by his widow, Olivia Harrison. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Olivia listed George’s film achievements including the 1974 film of the socio-political stage play Little Malcolm starring John Hurt, the cult favorite Withnail & I (1987) and the legendary Life of Brian.

Throughout his post-Beatles career George Harrison shied away from the limelight and preferred to spend time in his garden at his home in England. Olivia remarked, “Although George would probably place his star in a garden, I think the Capitol Tower near one of his closest friends is a pretty good spot.”

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George Martin rare 1998 interview provides valuable Beatles insights

Legendary producer for the Beatles, Sir George Martin, passed away on March 8, 2016 at the age of 90. He played such an integral role in the music of The Beatles that many regard him as the “fifth” Beatle.

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In 1999, Sir George released an album called In My Life which was a collection of Beatles songs covered by different artists. Produced by Martin, the album features songs by many A-list celebrities including Robin Williams, Jim Carrey, Celine Dion, Goldie Hawn, Sean Connery and Phil Collins.

georgemartin-inmylifeCDTo promote the album, George Martin did an extensive interview with Beatles historian, Martin Lewis in 1998. The audio interview and transcript was released to the media to help publicize the In My Life album in 1999. This interview with Sir George provides great insight into his work with The Beatles.

Here is a brief excerpt:

Q: So there you are in 1962, something happened then that changed everything for you – you met Brian Epstein, who managed The Beatles. Tell me about that.

George Martin: Brian Epstein brought along a tape of a group that he called the most unlikely name of The Beatles, a very corny name I thought, and [the tape] was not very good, in fact it was awful. But it did have something, it had a sound that was very rough and raw. The songs weren’t anything to write home about. My reaction to him – he was very persuasive, he was convinced “this is going to be the best group ever. They’d been in Germany, they’re turning people away when they’re doing gigs.”

He didn’t tell me that he’d been to every other record company in the country, and been turned down by every record company. If I had known that, I would have chucked him out the door, but I listened very politely to him, he was a very nice man, very persuasive. And I said, “If you want me to judge it on this I would have to say never, but if you like I will give these characters some time. If you bring them down from Liverpool, I will take them into the studio and I will see what we can do with them, and then I’ll tell you if they’re any good or not.”

But when The Beatles came down, we spent an afternoon in the studio together and that was quite different.

Q: In what way was it different when they actually came into the studio in June 1962?

George Martin: They had tremendous charisma, these four boys. At least three of them did. The guy who played drums [Pete Best] was very good-looking but he didn’t say much and just kept very quiet in the background. But the other three were full of life and joking around with each other…

The songs they played me weren’t terrific, they were OK, but there wasn’t a hit I could hear. “Love Me Do” was about the best. But they had that quality which made you feel good. And I thought to myself, well if they make me feel good, and I’m a pretty hard, cynical bloke, they’re going to make other people feel good too. And therefore they have that charisma which is necessary for success…

This was the time also, it’s been much repeated, when I brought them into the control room to listen to what we’d been doing to their sound to see whether they thought the balance was right with what they’re used to hearing. And I said, “Have a listen to this and if there’s anything you don’t like, let me know.” Of course, George, the smart-ass that he was, said, “Well for a start, I don’t like your tie.” The others thought I would be offended by this, but it broke the atmosphere. It was very funny.
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Q: Do you think you had the midas touch?

George Martin: I didn’t analyze my technique. To begin with, my main role was shaping and helping with instrumentals, helping with introductions, helping with the way it rounded off at the end. In a song like “Can’t Buy Me Love” for example, I took a phrase out of the chorus and turned it into an introduction.

When Paul first brought me the song, he started it off [imitates music] ba-da-da-da-da at the beginning of the song, and I said we need something more hooky than that, something to grab your attention. Which is why I took out “Can’t Buy Me Love” and constructed a beginning by repeating the hook into an introduction which seized upon your mind. You had to sell things quickly in those days.

Q: Did The Beatles take very happily to you making these suggestions in the first place or were they initially a little surprised that this slightly older person had ideas that melded so well with their own?

George Martin: The Beatles were very collaborative. I suppose they had to be. But no, there was no problem with them because they knew the formulas were working. They could see that anything we were doing together was the right way to do it. You can’t argue with number one.
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Q: There was always the misnomer that John always described himself as a rocker, and yet it was he who wrote songs such as “Julia” and “In My Life” and people say “oh Paul, he wrote all those romantic ballads,” but he also wrote “Helter Skelter.”

George Martin: Paul and John were extraordinarily similar, and yet they were extraordinarily different. They were a perfect match because their collaboration was competitive and they both did the same things very well… But they were both geniuses. In my book, they were equal geniuses. One was not above the other in any way, they were both superb.
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Note: This was just a tiny excerpt from the lengthy, in-depth interview with George Martin. The extended transcript (filling six 8.5 X 11 pages) of this insightful interview was printed in Daytrippin’ Magazine, Issue No. 7 from 1999, which is now available in electronic format at this link: https://daytrippin.com/magazine/back-issues/
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New Beatles statue in Liverpool

It’s hard to believe that there has never been a traditional permanent statue of The Beatles erected – until now! The new statue of The Fab Four was unveiled on Friday, December 4, 2015 at Liverpool’s Pier Head.

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The bronze statue depicting all four Beatles in suits, topcoats and Beatle boots, circa 1963 reminiscent of their Live at the BBC album cover photo, was unveiled by John Lennon’s sister, Julia Baird, and Liverpool Deputy Mayor Ann O’Byrne. According to The Liverpool Echo, the statue weighs approximately 1.3 tons and was sculpted by artist Andrew Edwards.

The faces look extremely lifelike and the statues are a few feet taller than the real thing, causing most people to reach only the shoulder height of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr for photo purposes. John and Paul are placed slightly ahead of George and Ringo as they appear to be walking down the street together. The statue was presented to the city by the Merseybeat venue the Beatles helped to make famous, The Cavern Club.

The statue unveiling marks 50 years since The Beatles final show in Liverpool at the Empire Theatre on December 5, 1965. Sculptor Andy Edwards told the BBC that he hopes his statue will become “a place of ritual” for people to come together.

“The statue stands in loving memory of the best band in the world – the band that leapt from The Cavern stage to worldwide recognition,” Julia Baird said.

See a slideshow of the new Beatles statue from every angle

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