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John Lennon may have never started his first band, The Quarrymen, without best friend Pete Shotton

John Lennon Quarrymen

Sad news in the Beatles community to hear that Pete Shotton, John Lennon’s best friend growing up, died on March 24, 2017. He was 75 years old, born in 1941 – surprising that he was one year younger than John Lennon, since they were best friends in school.

Pete and John met in Sunday school when they were respectively, 6 and 7 years old. They also lived close to each other in Liverpool. They formed a small rowdy group of boys from the neighborhood which also included Nigel Whalley and Ivan Vaughn, who would play a pivotal role in Beatles history when he introduced Paul McCartney to John Lennon in 1957.

John and Pete’s childhood and teenage friendship, which lasted through high school and adulthood, was depicted in the film, Nowhere Boy, which showed how John was the instigator of the two:

John Lennon insisted on Shotton’s participation as a member of his first band, The Quarrymen skiffle group. Pete was assigned the washboard. It wasn’t so much Shotton’s musical ability (which was lacking) but more having the support of his friend in the band. In fact, without Pete, John may have never pursued starting the group.

According to Pete: “Had I categorically said no, John would almost certainly have shelved the whole idea of forming a group… I don’t mean to imply that there was anything special about me… It’s just that John and I were so inseparable at the time, it would have been inconceivable for either of us to get involved in something the other wasn’t keen on doing.”

John Lennon and Pete Shotton

Although Pete’s time with Quarrymen only lasted a year, he became an invaluable eyewitness to history. He observed John’s relationship with his birth mother, Julia, for several years before she died when John was 17. Pete was also the one who officially asked a 15-year-old Paul McCartney to join the Quarrymen.

In his insightful book about his friendship with John Lennon, Shotton recounts all the early rock and roll influences that John Lennon experienced. His book is regarded as one of the 10 best Beatles books of all time according to Rolling Stone.

Pete Shotton bookThe original title of Shotton’s book was John Lennon In My Life. It first came out in 1983 and was then re-issued a year later as The Beatles, Lennon and Me. It was co-written with Nicholas Schaffner, who was also the author of the great book, The Beatles Forever.

In his book, for example, Shotton offers behind-the-scenes truths of how The Quarrymen members evolved into The Beatles. Since Pete was one of the few people that was extremely close to John, he was able to offer insights into Lennon’s psyche.

“Neither Paul nor George would have lasted very long in John’s band… had John not come to like them so much as people,” Shotton explained. “Most of the other original members were gradually frozen out of the picture, not so much for lack of musical promise, but simply because John found them a bore.”

After Lennon became a superstar, he still maintained his friendship with Shotton, who was also there when John began his relationship with Yoko. Pete describes when the couple spent their first night together in this interview he did in the 1980s:

The last time Pete saw John was in the summer of 1976 when he visited with John and Yoko in New York City.

Reacting to John’s shocking murder in 1980, Shotton wrote in his book, “What a life.” Then on the next page which is the end of the book, he wrote: “What a fucking ending.”

Sean Lennon posted a photo on Instagram about Shotton’s passing:
https://www.instagram.com/p/BSCD_fkja2e/
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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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Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, director Ron Howard attend 10th anniversary of The Beatles LOVE show in Las Vegas

On July 14, 2016, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono and many more celebrities gathered in Las Vegas to celebrate the 10th anniversary of The Beatles LOVE show by Cirque du Soleil. The audio and visual experience of the show has been revamped and enhanced to give the production a fresh look.

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Ringo Starr, Barbara Bach, Joe Walsh, Marjorie Bach; July 14, 2016; Photo by Trina Yannicos

Giles Martin, who serves as audio producer of the show, said that 10 years ago, “we used a lot of cutting-edge technologies to put The Beatles music into a 2,000-seat space, 7,000 speakers in the room. But the technology now has moved on so much and the actual sound bit of the show we can improve.”
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The updated version of LOVE, which features a cast of 70 performers, includes advanced projection technology, new acrobatic acts, a remixed soundtrack with a new song (“Twist and Shout”), colorful costumes, brand new speakers and state-of-the-art video panels featuring The Beatles’ images.

Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr

Paul and Ringo with the cast of The Beatles LOVE; July 14, 2016; Photo by MJ Kim

This is the fourth time in 10 years that Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr have publicly attended the show together. The first time was when the show opened in 2006, the second time was for the 1st anniversary in 2007, the third time was for the 5th anniversary in 2011, and now in 2016 for the 10th anniversary. Sadly, two members of the Beatles’ family who attended past celebrations have since passed away: George Martin and Cynthia Lennon. (see photos from the LOVE premiere in 2006)

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Paul McCartney and wife, Nancy; July 14, 2016; Photo by Trina Yannicos

Also in attendance was Ron Howard, director of the upcoming documentary, The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years, and he shared some insights on the making of his film which opens in September. He said he has interviewed Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr twice for the movie which documents The Beatles’ years on the road.

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Yoko Ono; July 14, 2016; Photo by Trina Yannicos

“It’s kind of an adventure/survival story in a way,” Ron Howard explained in an exclusive interview on the red carpet. “I really wanted to take the audience inside the experience a little bit. It’s not something that’s just ‘here’s where they went’, it’s how and why things worked the way they did. I hope the added value of letting audiences understand really how intense the pressures were from the outside while they were going through all of this AND continuing to grow as artists in this remarkable way.”
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Giles Martin (left) and director Ron Howard at The Beatles LOVE 10th anniversary celebration; July 14, 2016; Photo by Trina Yannicos

 

When asked if he has always been a Beatles fan, Howard remarked:
“Always a fan, not encyclopedic, not a fanatic. So in a way I’m sort of speaking for that group of people who kind of thinks they know the story, and now I can turn to that crowd, maybe the millennials in particular, and say you know the music, you know the name The Beatles, and you know they were big, but you just have no idea really what the story was and the intensity of that journey – what it meant to culture and what it meant for these guys to live through it.”

Paul and Ringo posted their own photo together on Instagram celebrating the LOVE show’s 10th anniversary:
https://www.instagram.com/p/BH30Qc7AWEX/?taken-by=paulmccartney
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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.

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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.

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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.”

2009-Olivia-Dhani-Petty-McCartney-Lynne-Walsh

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.

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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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