The Beatles at the Chicago International Ampitheater

50 years ago today, the Beatles took to the Chicago stage. This was no ordinary concert; in fact it was one of the most bizarre shows that Beatles reporter Larry Kane had ever seen! How many time have YOU seen cuts of beef thrown at a concert? Larry recounts his experience in his book, Ticket to Ride:

Chicago: What a city! Clean, organized, another great American melting pot, glistening on the shores of Lake Michigan and, with its great Midwestern flair, absolutely ready for the Beatles.

The flight from Milwaukee was the shortest on both tours, but we didn’t land where we expected. Scheduled to land at O’Hare Airport, the American Flyer’s turboprop touched down instead at Midway Airport. But the airport switch didn’t fool several thousand fans who had 00128670been alerted by a local radio station. The Beatles, all nursing sore throats and looking wan and exhausted, moved quickly down the steps to the waiting limousines. Our motorcade moved swiftly to the Stockyard Inn, a restaurant famous for its steaks. The inn was an old building with a variety of rooms. Four of us from the press corps enjoyed a meal down the hall from the Beatles’ private dining room. For once, we got to avoid the hot dogs and French fries of the concert halls.

It was looking like a pretty good day in Beatle-land until we arrived at the stage entrance to the Chicago International Amphitheater, which was adjacent to the restaurant. By September 5, it was obvious that jelly- beans, stuffed animals, flowers and stick pins were the most likely objects to fly in the direction of the Beatles. But how often do you get struck in the chest by a slice of raw filet mignon thrown by a young hurler in the tenth row? At least Paul McCartney saw the beef missile coming at him and avoided the surprise, if not the impact.

Correspondent Art Schreiber remembers the beef incident: “McCartney was just standing there, doing his thing, when the meat hit the left side of his jacket, splattering a bit of beef juice but falling to the floor, where George sort of kicked it out of the way. The most dumbfounded of all was Ringo, who stretched his neck out over the microphones on the drums to see what the hell it was. It was funny, and it was weird.”

The kids in the crowd were too occupied shrieking and crying and pulling their hair out to see the UFO (unusual flying object). In the crowd, people like Barbara Singer were swooning with delight:

“I had just turned fourteen. Miraculously, my father managed to snare a pair of tenth-row tickets to that concert for my sixteen-year-old sister and me. My sister and I were ecstatic when we took our seats on the night of the show. We were so close to the stage that we could almost touch the microphones that had been set out in front for John, Paul and George. The air was thick with anticipation as we waited impatiently for the music to begin. Finally, the Beatles took the stage to a chorus of screams thirteen thousand strong. My sister joined the frenetic crowd and began to shriek loudly into my right ear. I realized with dismay that the pandemonium around me was drowning out the sounds coming from the stage. Frantically, I begged my sister to stop screaming so that I could hear the Beatles. My pleas fell on deaf ears. My sister continued to squeal with the crowd throughout the set. Fortunately, somewhere between ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ and ‘Twist and Shout,’ my sister overcame her frenzy just long enough to take a photo of the Fab Four with her Instamatic camera. We still have treasured copies of that singular snapshot, reminding us of the great- est concert that we never heard!”

Barbara’s sister and the thousands around her provided us with the loudest reaction yet to the Beatles. The amphitheater was small, and the screaming seemed to resonate as if it were projected into a canyon. I heard not a word of lyrics. I did get an eyeful of Beatles— though I had to venture into the crowd to get it. But soon I found myself pinned between the crowd and the stage. The situation was so very tight that I had no choice but to stand in place and watch. It actually turned out to be a wonderful opportunity to take in the scene. Here are my notes, which I scribbled on the plane later that night:

“Ringo. Beating the drums so hard. Wonder how he can hear what’s going on with the crowd noise. He keeps on putting the stick to the drums. Looks around. Smiling. George kicks the slab of meat off the stage. McCartney and Lennon face-to-face, cheek-to-cheek, almost in perfect harmony on “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.” Girl behind me puts arms over my shoulders, reaching out to try and grab Paul’s shoes. Her face is pressed against the strap of the tape recorder. Cop has arms spread out to prevent movement toward stage. Paul looks down at me with an expression that reads, “What are YOU doing down there?” He smiles. Wonder if I’ll make the motorcade or get squeezed to death here. Breathing difficult. Sweating loads. Girl in rear crying. Is it pain or pleasure? “Hard Days Night” playing. This was a hard night. Being in the middle, between Beatles and fans, makes me feel closer to it—what- ever “it” is. Clarence Frogman Henry is standing near the stage, taking it in. When “Hard Days Night” is over, I start pushing and shoving to get out, but some private guard holds me back. I move to the other side and reach rear entrance. No chances here. I get to the cars before the Beatles. Neil brings boys to limo. Ringo jokes about flying meat. Derek looks pissed. Hope I never see this place again. It’s too hot and sticky.”

Fab Four 2.0 Giveaway

Back to our regularly scheduled trivia quiz! First person to answer all four questions correctly will win a free copy of Fab Four FAQ 2.0 by Robert Rodriguez. Include your email address so we can contact you if you win. 

Q: What song did John Lennon pen on Ringo’s 1976 album Rotogravure?

Q: Where did John and Yoko honeymoon in March 1969?

Q: What song was McCartney originally accredited to, despite having nothing to do with the composition?

Q: What did Paul apparently say to a reporter when first asked about the death of John Lennon?

In the years following the 1960s, Beatle fans around the world were twice-stunned: in 1970, when their beloved group disbanded, and ten years later when the murder of John Lennon ended a decade of hope that somehow the Fab Four would reunite. Fab Four FAQ 2.0 picks up the story where the acclaimed Fab Four FAQ left off. Loaded with images of rare period ephemera, including periodicals, single sleeves, and movie stills, this is the first comprehensive biography of all four ex-Beatles. This book covers everything from their recording careers in the decade after the band’s dissolution to the musicians they played with, the bands they influenced, the manifestations of latter-day Beatlemania, and the constant clamor for reunion expressed by fans and – sometimes – by the four themselves.

Q & A with Robert Rodriguez

Robert Rodriguez

Robert Rodriguez is the author of Revolver: How the Beatles Reimagined Rock’n’Roll. He is also the series editor of the FAQ series, as well as the author of the two Fab Four FAQ books. The following is an excerpt of an interview with Music Tomes. Please visit their website for the full interview.

You’ve written extensively on the Beatles. What about the group first captivated you?

I had older brothers who were record buyers back when the Beatles were still recording; I was a little young for all of that. But I remember vividly the Capitol swirl and Apple labels – they stood out among the 45s, in my mind at least.

What grabbed me about the Beatles was their sound, and that didn’t click with me until I first heard the Red and the Blue albums – the 1962-1966and 1967-1970 compilations. That was mind blowing – having the scope of their career laid out on four discs; everything from “She Loves You” to “Strawberry Fields Forever” and beyond. To me, it was like every sound imaginable had been done – and by the same four guys! So those packages were the real gateway for me. Thereafter, catching A Hard Day’s Night and Help! on TV sealed the deal – these guys weren’t just great musicians, but compelling, funny personalities, too.

You’ve also written two books in the FAQ series on the Beatles. With so much written about the band, what is the ultimate goal of these books?

I imagined that, like myself, there were a lot of fans that were hungry for a single volume work that was neither a deeply scholarly analysis, nor an colorful series of superficial anecdotes. Or worse yet, trivia. Something that, furthermore, contextualized the Beatles’ achievements by placing them into the times in which they created.

At the same time, I thought it be great if somebody could deconstruct their story, so that you could zero in on exactly what aspect or another that you wanted to learn about. So the first FAQ was created as a way to present a ton of information broken down by facet, that invited readers to pick up the book at any point and begin reading where there interests lie, and let the history take them where they wanted to go.

No one else did it, so I stepped up!

The Beatles are a well-covered subject, but creating a narrative that got to the good stuff with immediacy was the goal. It didn’t feel like anyone had really covered their solo years as an integrated entity, hence 2.0. In a way, covering such a massive amount of ground with the two FAQs was easier to accomplish, with all the quantifiable milestones along the way, than Revolver, which was a narrowly focused topic.

But I wanted to challenge myself as a writer and researcher, and hopefully, bring something new to the table. So while the FAQs were straightforward reporting with some opinion thrown in, Revolverwas intended as a conversation starter, something to get people to re-examine their long-held opinions and see the Beatles’ work with fresh eyes.

Can you give us a sneak peek at some of the upcoming titles in the series?

We have a pretty well-developed “wish list” of titles that we are tracking down just the right writers for. But ones that are signed and sealed include The Twilight ZoneStar Wars, Film Noir and Doctor Who, on the TV/film side of things. With music, we have upcoming titles on The Who, Miles Davis, Jimmy Buffett and Hendrix.

Keep reading this interview on Music Tomes.

Revolver: How the Beatles Reimagined Rock’n’Roll

The making of Revolver – hunkered down in Abbey Road with George Martin – is in itself a great Beatles story, but would be nothing if the results weren’t so impactful. More than evenSgt. Pepper and Pet SoundsRevolver fed directly into the rock ‘n’ roll zeitgeist, and its influence could be heard everywhere: from the psychedelic San Francisco sound (Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead); to the first wave of post-blues hard rock (Sabbath, Zeppelin); through movie soundtracks and pretty much everything that followed it – including every generation of guitar-based pop music and even heavy metal. More than any record before or after, Revolverwas the game-changer, and this is, finally, the detailed telling of its storied recording and enormous impact.

Keith Elliot Greenberg, an interview

 Onstage and Backstage podcast from Hal Leonard is available on iTunes and Libsyn. Each episode authors and their guests have a chat about the topics of their books. Today, Keith Elliot Greenberg talks about his book December 8, 1980: The Day John Lennon Died on Off the Meter with Jimmy Failla. This episode has been re-posted on Onstage and Backstage podcast with permission of Off the Meter.

>>>LISTEN HERE<<<

December 8, 1980: The Day John Lennon Died follows the events leading to the horrible moment when Mark David Chapman – the paunchy, mentally ill Beatles fan – calmly fired his Charter Arms .38 Special into the rock icon, realizing his perverse fantasy of attaining perennial notoriety. New York Times-best-selling author Keith Elliot Greenberg takes us back to New York City and the world John Lennon woke up to, and we follow the other Beatles, Lennon’s family, the shooter, fans, and New York City officials through the day. Once the fatal shots are fired, the pace only becomes more breathless.

Robert Rodriguez, an interview

 Onstage and Backstage podcast from Hal Leonard is available on iTunes and Libsyn. Each episode authors and their guests have a chat about the topics of their books. Today, Robert Rodriguez, author of Revolver: How the Beatles Reimagined Rock’n’Roll, chats with Patrick Phillips on The Patrick Phillips Show about how the Beatles’ album Revolver is the artistic high water mark for the band, often over shadowed by Sgt. Pepper. This episode has been re-posted on Onstage and Backstage podcast with permission of Patrick Phillips.

>>>LISTEN HERE<<<

Revolver: How the Beatles Reimagined Rock’n’Roll by Robert Rodriguez (Backbeat Books)

The making of Revolver – hunkered down in Abbey Road with George Martin – is in itself a great Beatles story, but would be nothing if the results weren’t so impactful. More than evenSgt. Pepper and Pet SoundsRevolver fed directly into the rock ‘n’ roll zeitgeist, and its influence could be heard everywhere: from the psychedelic San Francisco sound (Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead); to the first wave of post-blues hard rock (Sabbath, Zeppelin); through movie soundtracks and pretty much everything that followed it – including every generation of guitar-based pop music and even heavy metal. More than any record before or after, Revolverwas the game-changer, and this is, finally, the detailed telling of its storied recording and enormous impact.

When The Beatles Met Elvis

Guest Blogger: Bruce Pollock is the author of, If You Like The Beatles. Below is an excerpt from his blog.

By the fast and loose standards of rockabilly, Elvis Presley’s ride from fame to fortune has to beconsidered nearly exemplary, if not virtually domesticated. Long since revealed in his many biographies as a simple good old boy trapped in a Graceland not entirely of his own making, Elvis was nonetheless extremely sensitive, insecure, and competitive about his place in the rock and roll scheme of things.

While Carl Perkins lay in a near coma in a New York City hospital, Scotty Moore, Bill Black, and DJ Fontana, in town for a gig with Elvis, came to call, bearing Elvis’s good wishes. But no Elvis. Weeks later he sent a telegram wishing Perkins a speedy recovery. Did he harbor a grudge that Carl’s version of “Blue Suede Shoes” outpaced his own on the charts? Or that Carl released it at all? Who knows? But is it a coincidence that Elvis never recorded another Carl Perkins song (while the Beatles recorded more than half a dozen)?

When the Beatles finally met The King in the summer of 1965, when they were both ensconsed in separate huge mansions in Los Angeles, it was like two pop cultural ships in the night, circling each other, the one bound for glory, the other heading for a reef in the middle of the North Atlantic. It had to be a tense, stilted afternoon. Whereas a year earlier, Bob Dylan had famously turned them on to pot, Elvis apparently didn’t offer them so much as a peanut butter and banana sandwich. On the other hand, the lads were probably already stoned when they arrived. And Elvis may have been loaded on a cocktail of barbiturates. The Memphis Mafia was there, all of Elvis’ childhood pals. The color TV was on with the sound off. Muddy Waters was on the stereo. The Beatles played pool with El’s bodyguards. Elvis played some bass and the fellows eventually jammed and talked gear. Priscilla stopped by to curtsey like a proper housefrau. Elvis had met her when he was 25 and she was 14. They didn’t marry until she turned 21, in 1967. On their way out, Elvis gave the Beatles souvenir holsters.

For more please visit Bruce Pollock’s blog.

If You Like The Beatles

The Beatles came up in the rock and-and-roll era, when Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Elvis Presley defined cool. Their early shows were big beat bacchanals, the Brit interpretation of that crazy American sound. But it wasn’t long before they were absorbing and creating more and more music – from folk to experimental, to psychedelia and hard rock, quite literally changing music forever and influencing hundreds of great bands in the process.

Q&A with Keith Elliot Greenberg

Keith Elliot Greenberg is the author of December 8, 1980: The Day John Lennon Died, now out in paperback from Backbeat Books.

Why did you feel compelled to write this book?
For 30 years, I’ve been carrying this story. I was five years old when the Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan, and the first movie I ever asked my parents to see was A Hard Day’s Night. John Lennon never knew me, but I felt that I knew him, and he understood me. Mark David Chapman felt the same way. But because something misfired in his mind, he decided to take John Lennon away from all of us.

Some of the most moving parts of the book are the scenes of ordinary New Yorkers coming to the Dakota after the tragedy to express their sorrow and grieve with one another. Do you remember what you did that night?
The night of the murder and the aftermath is so vivid to me. I can see the John Lennon button I hung from the rearview mirror of my car. I remember the feeling of serenity, standing in silence at the vigil in Central Park. It’s strange because about a week later, I was in a diner in Queens, and ran into some people I’d seen at the vigil. We looked at each other and nodded, didn’t have to say anything, because we all were feeling the same thing.

I’m a lifetime New Yorker and, in some ways, the story of John Lennon’s death is a story of this city. When I interviewed people for this book—Mayor Ed Koch, a woman who lives in the Dakota, a guy who was in the emergency room when Lennon came in, a cop called to the scene—we all shared a very New York perspective of what occurred. This was a tragedy for the world, but it happened in our city—the city I love as much as any family member—and, for that reason, the memories seem that more intense.

What can we learn by looking closely at this one day in such detail? It’s clear from your book that there’s so much more to this story than just the shooting of a rock icon by a mentally ill man—shocking as it was. Why is it so significant?
December 8, 1980 was more than a day. It was a convergence. I tried to tell the story of John Lennon’s life—his emotional highs and lows—and how it all led to this day. Mark David Chapman’s was unraveling, going back and forth over whether he should commit this act, and then, in one moment, it all exploded. Everybody felt it. And the feeling lingers even now, 30 years later.

Some have said that Lennon’s death changed the relationship between celebrities and their fans. Do you agree with that?
Lennon’s death changed our perspective. John was nice to his fans, the people who hung out in front of the Dakota every day. No one realized that stalkers could actually be dangerous. Because of this incident, celebrities have had to build walls around themselves, cut themselves off. They’re scared. It makes you wonder about the effect this isolation has had on music. How can you write songs about regular people when you’re terrified that one of them, in Lennon’s words, is going to pop you off?

Why is it important to look at these events from the perspective of 30 years on?
Thirty years seems like such a short time. In many ways, I feel like the same person I was then. So do the people I interviewed for the book. But it’s important to take a moment like this—I don’t want to trivialize it and call it an anniversary—and take stock of what occurred 30 years ago. Think about the music we missed, think about the doors John could have opened, think about Yoko’s words to continue his dream of peace and pass it on to the next generation.

December 8, 1980: The Day John Lennon Died follows the events leading to the horrible moment when Mark David Chapman – the paunchy, mentally ill Beatles fan – calmly fired his Charter Arms .38 Special into the rock icon, realizing his perverse fantasy of attaining perennial notoriety. New York Times-best-selling author Keith Elliot Greenberg takes us back to New York City and the world John Lennon woke up to, and we follow the other Beatles, Lennon’s family, the shooter, fans, and New York City officials through the day. Once the fatal shots are fired, the pace only becomes more breathless.