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John Kruth on The Vintage Rock & Pop Shop!

John Kruth, author of This Bird Has Flown, was on WFDU Radio! He spoke with Ghosty, host of The Vintage Rock & Pop Shop. They spent some time talking about This Bird Has Flown, and how Rubber Soul was a game changer for popular music.  The podcast is available below, click play to hear what they had to say!

>>Listen<<

00121941The Beatles’ sixth studio album, Rubber Soul, was a game changer, and in This Bird Has Flown: The Enduring Beauty of Rubber Soul, Fifty Years On, (November 2015, Backbeat Books, $19.99) John Kruth not only analyzes the songs and making of Rubber Soul, putting the album in context of the turbulent times in which it was created, but captures the spirit of musical innovation and poetry that makes the record a standout in the Beatle’s canon.

By December 1965, when the album was released, the Beatles had played the first arena rock show at Shea Stadium for 55,000 delirious fans, been awarded MBE (Member of British Empire) medals, and were indisputably the greatest musical phenomenon since Elvis Presley. With their first film, A Hard Day’s Night, John, Paul, George, and Ringo laid down the blueprint for everyone who ever wanted to form a group. The movie, entertaining as it was, became an instruction manual for aspiring pop stars of the day on how to play, dress, and act. Richard Lester’s 1964 comedy turned out to be the touchstone for every music video that followed.

Then, with the release of Rubber Soul, the Beatles created an artistic benchmark to which their peers measured their craft and creativity. Touring the world over two years, the band had grown up fast. Both musically and lyrically their new album represented a major leap. Upon hearing Rubber Soul, Bob Dylan allegedly remarked, “I get it, you’re not cute anymore.” Newsweek hailed the Beatles as “the Bards of Pop,” while critic Greil Marcus claimed Rubber Soul was “the best album they would ever make.” For Traffic’s Steve Winwood, the album “broke everything open. It crossed music into a whole new dimension and was responsible for kicking off the sixties rock era.”

A must-have for Fab Four devotees, This Bird Has Flown reaffirms Rubber Soul’s place as one of the most important rock ’n’ roll albums ever made.

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The Beatle Years host, Bob Malik, speaks with Michael Seth Starr

Michael Seth Starr, author of Ringo: With A Little Help, visited Bob Malik’s show, The Beatle Years, to speak about his book and what made Ringo Starr so popular. From Ringo’s life as a young kid to his life with The Beatles, Michael Seth Starr covers a little bit of everything to give listeners a preview of what the book is like. Click below to hear what he had to say!

>>LISTEN HERE<<

Ringo: With a Little Help is the first in-depth biography of Beatles drummer Ringo00333865 Starr, who kept the beat for an entire generation and who remains a rock icon over fifty years since the Beatles took the world by storm. With a Little Help traces the entire arc of Ringo’s remarkable life and career, from his sickly childhood to his life as The World’s Most Famous drummer to his triumphs, addictions, and emotional battles following the breakup of the Beatles as he comes to terms with his legacy.

Born in 1940 as Richard Starkey in the Dingle, one of Liverpool’s most gritty, rough-and-tumble neighborhoods, he rose from a hardscrabble childhood – marked by serious illnesses, long hospital stays, and little schooling – to emerge, against all odds, as a locally renowned drummer. Taking the stage name Ringo Starr, his big break with the Beatles rocketed him to the pinnacle of worldwide acclaim in a remarkably short time. He was the last member of the Beatles to join the group but also the most vulnerable, and his post-Beatles career was marked by chart-topping successes, a jet-setting life of excess and alcohol abuse, and, ultimately, his rebirth as one of rock’s revered elder statesman.

The Beatles’ 50th Anniversary

On February 9th, 1964, The Beatles performed on The Ed Sullivan Show and changed the landscape of the music world in America forever. In keeping with the spirit of things, here are some funny moments from  A Hard Day’s Night, the immensely influential 1964 black-and-white comedy film starring (who else) The Beatles. The script of A Hard Day’s Night is included in Film Scripts Fourpart of the Applause Books Film Scripts Series.

 

Film Scripts Four

The Film Scripts Series is a new printing of some of the greatest screenplays ever written. Each of the four volumes in the series – edited by George P. Garrett, O. B. Hardison, Jr., and Jane R. Gelfman – contains three classic shooting scripts written by some of the finest writers to ever work in Hollywood. Every volume also features a highly informative introduction, a glossary of technical terms, an extensive bibliography, and the credits for each film. These enduring screenplays will be of great interest to the general film buff, the aspiring screenwriter, and the professional filmmaker. Of particular value to the screenwriter and filmmaker is the fact that all scripts are printed in standard screenplay format.

Film Scripts Four features:

A Hard Day’s Night (1964, United Artists): Script by Alun Owen; Directed by Richard Lester; Starring the Beatles; Academy Award nominations for best screenplay and best score (George Martin).

The Best Man (1964, United Artists): Script by Gore Vidal; Directed by Franklin Schaffner; Starring Henry Fonda, Cliff Robertson, Lee Tracy, Edie Adams, Shelley Berman, Ann Sothern, Gene Raymond, and Mahalia Jackson; Academy Award nomination for Lee Tracy.

Darling (1965, Embassy): Script by Frederic Raphael; Directed by John Schlesinger; Starring Julie Christie, Dirk Bogarde, and Laurence Harvey; Academy Awards for Julie Christie and best screenplay; Academy Award nominations for best picture and best director.

Happy Birthday, George Martin!

 

Legendary record producer George Martin is 88 years old today! Enjoy this excerpt from If You Like the Beatles… to celebrate.

When the Beatles first met George Martin, no one could have been a more unlikely candidate to produce their records. At 36, he was nearly twice their ages. From his patrician upbringing to his choice of neckties, the Parlophone Records producer and talent scout had a style and stature that was diametrically opposed to the young Liverpudlian upstarts. But Martin and the erstwhile super group (especially John Lennon) clicked, partly because of a shared passion for the lunacy of the BBC’s The Goon Show.

Martin’s involvement with the Goons wasn’t just as a fan and a devotee; he’d actually produced records for the Goons, including their classic album The Bridge on the River Wye, which spoofed the Academy Award-winning movie The Bridge on the River Kwai. Martin was a friend of Spike Milligan, the show’s creative voice, who he met through Peter Sellers (whose early Parlophone albums Martin also produced). The breakout single from Sellers’ second album was a parody of Lonnie Donegan’s recording of “Puttin’ on the Style,” a nineteenth-century pop song that was in the early repertoire of the skiffle-mad Quarrymen. Later on, Sellers did one of the first covers of “A Hard Day’s Night,” performed in the style of Sir Laurence Olivier as Richard III.

The half-hour wacky weekly Goon Show had been a staple in sophisticated British households since its immaculate conception in 1951 and was a forerunner to an entire new wave of British comedy, inspiring Peter Cook and Dudley Moore to go Beyond the Fringe. (Martin produced their album as well in 1961.)

The affliction with the Goons immediately endeared Martin to John Lennon, who was just entering adolescence at the time the Goons took to the airwaves, and whose view of reality was inalterably shaped by their mind-expanding programs. The myriad sounds rattling around inside Spike Milligan’s mind were accomplished through the insidious use of ingenious sound effects, engineered through a mastery of echo, reverb, multiple edits, and playing with recording tape speeds, all of which would become hallmarks of the Beatles’ studio repertoire, and especially, John Lennon’s mad, unspooling, and acid-soaked creative vision. To be a Goon Show freak turned out to be an absolute requirement for producing the Beatles, as the group grew and changed, and as their studio techniques (and minds) expanded.

Ever since he came to Parlophone, George Martin had been cutting his teeth on comedy records. His earliest credits include Peter Ustinov’s 1955 LP Mock Mozart, which involved fooling around with tape effects and overdubs. In addition to Beyond the Fringe, Martin recorded David Frost’s satirical TV show That Was the Week That Was. He also directed shows at Peter Cook’s trailblazing nightclub, the Establishment, where Australian jet-setter Dame Edna Everage (Barry Humphries) was known to perform alongside visiting U.S. personages like Lenny Bruce. Martin worked with satirists Michael Flanders and Donald Swann, who took on any and all subjects for their comedy songs (much as the droll, Harvard-educated Tom Lehrer did in the U.S.), producing their albums At the Drop of a Hat and its follow up, At the Drop of Another Hat. A rabid fan of the cinema, Martin worked with actress-singer Joan Sims, a regular in twenty-four Carry On films, and produced her two best-known singles: “Hurry Up Gran / Oh Not Again Ken” and “Spring Song/Men.”

Martin’s appreciation for comedy and studio wizardry may have found a kindred spirit in John Lennon, but his classical training (on piano and oboe) and fondness for film scores made an impression on the more tradition-minded Paul McCartney. As a fan of Johnny Dankworth’s 1960 score for Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (another “kitchen sink” drama à la A Taste of Honey), Martin produced Dankworth’s “Experiments with Mice,” jazzy variations on “Three Blind Mice” that hit the Top 10 in the UK in 1956. In 1961 Dankworth wrote the theme for the popular British TV spy series The Avengers. That same year Martin produced Danworth’s first Number One record, a version of the jazz standard “You’re Driving Me Crazy,” performed by a nine-piece trad band called the Temperance Seven, which featured vocalist Paul Macdowell. The Dankworth-Martin association continued in 1976, when Martin produced the album Born on a Friday for Dankworth’s wife, jazz singer Cleo Laine.

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.

This is the first book for music lovers that begins with the simple premise, “If you like the Beatles . . . ,” and takes off from there, digging into their influences and everything that came after them, opening up new doors for listeners looking for no-risk discs to expand their collection.

Beginning with the Beatles’ lesser-known roots in rockabilly and Tin Pan Alley, and working through American R&B, the British Invasion, California folk, and the Summer of Love, and to the great pop and rock bands of the ’80s, ’90s, and the 21st century, this is a must-have for anyone who likes the Beatles, which is…everyone.

Paul McCartney & Wings

Enjoy another excerpt on Paul McCartney, this one from Fab Four FAQ 2.0 by Robert Rodriguez. He is also the author of  Fab Four FAQ (w/ Stuart Shea) and Revolver. The Wings Over America album was recently reissued in remastered form on May 28th.

Wings Over America – Released December 10, 1976

The Wings extravaganza that hit the States in the summer of 1976 was well documented on both film and tape. A TV special and possibly a feature film were always part of the plan, as was a double live album of the show’s highlights. But enterprising bootleggers forced Macca’s hand, resulting in the triple record set that eventually saw issue by year’s end. (Wings from the Wings was an underground issue of the entire June 23, 1976 set at the L.A. Forum, recorded the last day of the U.S. tour. It being the bicentennial year, the three discs were issued on red, white, and blue vinyl.) That the album made it to the shops in time for Christmas only months after the tour ended was a bit of a minor miracle in that Paul had to listen to nine hundred hours of tape to choose the best takes – this after spending much of September and October on the road in Europe and Britain.

Given Paul’s perfectionist tendencies, a certain amount of “sweetening” in the studio was deemed necessary before the results could be made public, but it would be nitpicking to suggest that the album in any way misrepresented the stage act. Given how de rigueur live albums were for big-name acts by mid-decade, it was critical for Paul to make sure that his would be exceptional and not simply a bloated, self-indulgent mess. But given the sheer professionalism that typified his stage presentation, it was a safe bet that the music itself would be the last thing to suffer.

Actually, presentation is one of the factors that made Wings Over America such an appealing listening experience. Reflecting the tour’s set list, the six album sides broke down nicely into thematically arranged mini-sets. Side one was an arresting succession of songs, none more dramatic than the segue from “Venus and Mars / Rock Show” straight into “Jet.” Few live albums captured the energy from the venue where they were recorded and projected it through the speakers the way this one did. Even minus the visual, the mental image of Wings at the height of their powers was vivid. Following that powerful opening, Paul shrewdly brought the tempo down somewhat with Band on the Run’s Plastic Ono Band pastiche, “Let Me Roll It.” (Jimmy McCulloch was unable to restrain himself from embellishing the son’s simple, repetitious riffing on the instrumental break.)

The side concluded with the one-two punch of Denny’s vocal on the moody “Spirits of Ancient Egypt,” followed with little pause by Jimmy’s “Medicine Jar” – just as they’d been sequenced on Venus and Mars, giving audiences exactly what they were already hearing in their heads anyway. The latter track featured a blistering solo that marked – alongside “Junior’s Farm” – the young guitarist’s finest moment in Wings. (Though performed on the November 1975 swing through Australia, “Junior’s Farm” never quite seemed to jell onstage and was dropped for the 1976 shows.)

Side two kicked off the “piano set,” which began with “Maybe I’m Amazed,” a crowd-pleaser if there ever was one.  On this take, slowed in tempo compared to the one-man-band version cut for his debut, Paul’s vocals were as strong as ever and shown to great effect in the added coda. This side also featured the first two of five Beatles classics: “Lady Madonna” and “The Long and Winding Road.” (It was here that Macca first reversed the Lennon-McCartney” credits – an action that conspicuously drew no criticism at the time, as compared to much later.) Though not yet ready to pull “Hey Jude” out of his trick bag – that might have been too strongly identified with his last band – he did select songs that were calculated to put audiences on their feet. “Live and Let Die” ended the side with its usual explosive drama.

An acoustic set came next, beginning with an abbreviated version of “Picasso’s Last Words” segueing into the rather unexpected selection of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Richard Cory,” sung by Denny. (The song was an adaptation of an 1897 poem by Edwin Arlington Robinson, concerning a much-admired rich man who nonetheless ends his own life.) The earnest tone of the tune was belied by Laine’s ad-lib substitution of “John Denver” – a high-riding star of the day – for the title character. Two of Paul’s avian-themed songs followed: “Bluebird” and “Blackbird,” sandwiching the unexpected Beatles selection “I’ve Just Seen a Face” – first heard in America as the leadoff track to Rubber Soul eleven years earlier. But it was the side-ending performance of “Yesterday” that had audiences swooning as it closed the Fab portion of the set. With Paul alone in the spotlight with his acoustic guitar, it would have been difficult for even the most jaded of fans not to be moved by the evocation of a more innocent time from their collective youth.

The “piano set” resumed with a batch of newer Wings tunes, encompassing material from Red Rose Speedway (thankfully limited to “My Love”) through Venus and Mars and Wings at the Speed of Sound, including the hits “Listen to What the Man Said” and their newest single, “Let ‘Em In.” (Though the tour ended before July 4, listeners can hear Denny acknowledge the bicentennial year on that side by calling out “Happy birthday, America!”) Also performed – during the Los Angeles shows only – was Laine’s “Yesterday”: “Go Now,” the Moody Blues’ first hit, on which he sang with another cut from the same release, “Beware My Love.” In the studio, both songs suffered from indifferent production and/or the seeming haste with which they’d been laid down. Onstage, however, the hidden potential in both tracks was unleashed, resulting in sharper and more focused performances that fully demonstrated the band’s ensemble capabilities.

Predictably, the set ended with the much-anticipated performance of “Band on the Run,” the group’s megahit of two years before. In concert, a film of the album cover photo shoot played on a screen above the stage. Macca and crew then left the stage, leaving his audience holding their lighters aloft as they clamored for an encore. Wings did not disappoint: within minutes, the musicians assembled onstage as their leader sidled over to the microphone and asked, “Fancy a bit of rock and roll?” The band then launched into a rollicking performance of “Hi Hi Hi” that (again) bested the studio recording, before ending the set – and the album – with the unreleased “Soily.” Despite their rather lengthy show, the band (including the horn section) delivered the goods, pulling out all the stops and coming off as fresh as if they’d only just arrived. It made for a stunning, powerful finish to an album that must have instilled much regret among those who’d passed on a chance to catch the tour when it came to town. Wings Over America went to #1, making Paul the second ex-Beatle to top the charts with a three-record set. (Like George’s, it too came packaged with a power, but no lyrics.) Though he’s gone on to release several live sets since, this one is required listening for both Macca and Beatles fans, capturing the glory that was the ’70’s concertgoing experience.

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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.

They’re Gonna Put Me in the Movies!

In honor of Sir Paul McCartney’s 71st birthday, here is an excerpt from A Hard Day’s Night: Music on Film by Ray Morton describing how the Beatles classic movie debut came to be:

As the Beatles’ popularity grew, they began receiving offers to do films. This was not unusual: pop stars had been appearing in movies since the beginning of the sound era. From Al Jolson, Rudy Vallée and Bing Crosby in the 1920s and 1930s to Frank Sinatra in the 1940s and Pat Boone and Doris Day in the 1950s, film producers were eager to cast musical celebrities in pictures in the hope that their fans would buy as many movie tickets as they did records. Would the Fab Four be able to repeat their recording success on the silver screen? They, and the world, were about to find out.

One of the first film offers the Beatles received was to do a cameo in a movie called The Yellow Teddy Bears, a lurid drama about teen sex and pregnancy set in an all-girls school in the English suburbs. The boys were asked to play a band that backs up one of the film’s male characters, who dreams of being a pop star. Because director Robert Hartford-Davis wanted to write all of the music they were meant to play in the film himself, they declined (another Beat group called The Embers took their place). British filmmaker Michael Winner, who had recently helmed a musical called Play It Cool starring Billy Fury, also wanted to make a movie with the lads. However, by the time he approached Brian Epstein, the Beatles’ manager was already deep in negotiations with a major Hollywood film company.

In the wake of the group’s incredible success, every music company in the business wanted to make a record with them. However, the exclusive contract that the band had with Parlophone and its parent company EMI precluded that. Or so it seemed. Sometime in the late summer or early autumn of 1963, Noel Rodgers, a music publishing executive in the London office of United Artists Records, discovered what appeared to be a loophole in the Beatles’ seemingly ironclad agreement with Parlophone. While the contract stated explicitly that the group was bound to the EMI label for original singles and LPs, it made no mention at all of motion picture soundtrack albums. Assuming that, if the contract didn’t mention something, then it didn’t cover it, Rodgers reasoned that if the Beatles were to produce a soundtrack album, they were free to make a deal with a company other than Parlophone to release it.

Of course, to make a movie soundtrack album, the Beatles would first have to make a movie. Luckily, United Artists Records was in a unique position to exploit this loophole, because it was a subsidiary of United Artists, the legendary film company started in 1919 by Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, D.W. Griffith, and Charlie Chaplin. If United Artists put out a Beatles movie, then UAR could release the soundtrack. Hoping to make this happen, Rodgers approached George “Bud” Ornstein, the executive that ran United Artists’ European division, to see if he was interested in making a film with the group. Since Beatlemania was at that point primarily a British phenomenon, it wasn’t clear if a movie starring the Fab Four would have much of an audience outside of the U.K. However, Ornstein figured that if the picture could be made for a low enough price, then it could still be profitable, and even if it wasn’t, the proceeds from the soundtrack album would almost certainly be significant enough to make the project worth doing. So, yes, he was interested.

The proposal was presented to David V. Picker, United Artists’ New York-based head of production. Although Picker had never heard of the Beatles, he approved Rodgers and Ornstein’s idea.  Ornstein met with Brian Epstein and presented United Artists’ offer. Epstein took the proposal to Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, and Starr. The boys were receptive, so Epstein got back to Ornstein and accepted.

The film was also going to need a producer. Since Picker and Ornstein wanted Richard Lester to direct the film, they decided to approach someone that Lester had already proven he could work effectively with: The Mouse on the Moon’s producer, Walter Shenson. Shenson met with Brian Epstein to introduce himself, after which a get-together was arranged between Shenson, Epstein, and the Beatles, to take place in Shenson’s office. On the appointed day and time, Epstein arrived without the band. An apologetic Epstein explained that the boys had forgotten about the appointment and had instead made plans to go to Abbey Road Studios to watch Gerry and the Pacemakers record some songs that John and Paul had written for them. Shenson still wanted to meet with them, so he and Epstein hailed a taxi and headed for Abbey Road. Along the way, they decided to stop at the Mayfair flat where the band members stayed when they were in London (the lads would soon move permanently to the capitol city from Liverpool) to see if they could catch the boys before they left. The cab pulled up just as the Beatles were coming out of the flat. Not wanting to let the group get away Shenson offered to give them a ride to the studio.

The Beatles jumped into the cab and during the trip to Abbey Road, the producer “…found myself in the middle of a Marx Brothers movie.” To begin with, there were six people jammed into a taxi designed for four and so a lot of comical rearranging was necessary to get everyone settled. During the trip, the Fab Four kept up a constant stream of their characteristically humorous patter and every time the cab stopped at a light, one of them would jump out and buy newspapers with Beatles headline on them. In the midst of all this chaos, Shenson was charmed by the boys’ personalities—he found them to be sweet and likable and to have the” same natural humor and wholesomeness as the great movie comedians.” Shenson felt that the Beatles were “something very special, on the level of a Keaton or a Fields.”

As soon as they arrived at the studio, the band members jumped out of the cab and disappeared inside. An apologetic Epstein told Shenson that if he wanted to meet with the Beatles, he was going to have to round them up himself.  “So I found an empty office,” Shenson recalled, “And said ‘All right, I’m a very important Hollywood producer, you guys. If you want to make a movie, follow me.’ They all said ‘Yes sir! Yes sir! Yes sir!’” Once Shenson had the group ensconced, John began the meeting by asking the producer what sort of movie he wanted to make with them. “I don’t know,” Shenson replied, but following that crazy cab ride, he knew “it should be a comedy.” The lads were receptive to this idea and asked who was going to direct. The name Richard Lester was unfamiliar to the Beatles, but when Shenson explained that Lester had worked with the Goons (of whom the Beatles were enormous fans) and had directed The Running Jumping & Standing Still Film (which they had loved), that was good enough for them. “Okay,” John told Shenson after conferring with his band mates. “You can be the producer.”

Lester and Shenson thought that the subject of the movie should be the Beatles themselves. Why ask John, Paul, George, and Ringo to play fictitious characters when their own personalities were so much more vibrant and interesting than any that could be concocted?  (Besides, given the group members’ collective lack of acting experience, it seemed unlikely that they could successfully play anyone other than themselves anyway.) Likewise, it seemed a waste to involve the band in a fictitious narrative when their real-life escapades were as exciting as any made-up adventure could ever be. A straight documentary would have been too dry, so Lester and Shenson decided instead to make what the director called a “fictionalized documentary” that compressed all of the group member’s extraordinary Beatlemania-fueled experiences into a single “typical” day in their lives, exaggerated them for dramatic and comedic effect, and provided plenty of opportunities for the boys to play their music and sing their songs.

The Beatles returned to the U.K. from America on February 22, 1964 and on February 25 (George Harrison’s twenty-first birthday) joined with producer George Martin to begin recording the songs they had written for the movie: “I Should Have Known Better,” “If I Fell,” “And I Love Her,” “I’m Happy Just to Dance with You,” and “Tell Me Why.”

All five songs, which were penned mostly during the bands’ trips to Paris and the United States, were jointly credited to John Lennon and Paul McCartney, as were all of the duo’s Beatle-era compositions. In truth, while the two did collaborate on some tunes, they wrote the majority of their songs separately (although often with some assistance from the other). “I’m Happy Just to Dance with You” was written by Lennon and McCartney together; “I Should Have Known Better” and “Tell Me Why” were written by Lennon alone; “If I Fell” was written primarily by John, with some help from Paul; “And I Love Her” was penned by McCartney, with some lyrical contributions from Lennon. Following band tradition, the lead vocal for each song was sung by its principal author. The exception was “I’m Happy Just to Dance with You,” which was given to George Harrison to perform.

Two songs not written for the movie—“I Call Your Name,” which Lennon and McCartney composed prior to the formation of the Beatles and had previously been recorded by Billy J. Kramer with the Dakotas and a cover of Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally,” which, as sung in blistering fashion by Paul, had long been a staple of their stage act were also taped for use in the film. All of the songs were recorded at Abbey Road Studios on four-track EMI British Tape Recorders (which allowed for the overdubbing of multiple musical layers onto a single track to create a richer sound).

On February 25 the group did three takes of “And I Love Her” and three takes of “I Should Have Known Better.” Unhappy with the results, the band members returned to the studio on Wednesday, February 26, and did sixteen additional takes of “And I Love Her” and eighteen additional takes of “I Should Have Known Better.” At this point, they were satisfied with “I Should Have Known Better,” but came back on Thursday, February 27, and did two more takes of “And I Love Her” before finally declaring it finished. Later that same day, they recorded “Tell Me Why” in eight takes and “If I Fell” in fifteen.

On Saturday, February 29, the Beatles met with Richard Lester and [screenwriter] Alun Owen to do a read-through of the completed screenplay. The boys were happy with the script, which they (and those that knew them) felt did a good job of capturing their personalities, speech, and sensibilities. Owen and Lester were happy with the deft way the lads handled their dialogue: “They just nailed it!” Owen exclaimed.

The band returned to Abbey Road on Sunday, March 1 to record “I’m Happy Just to Dance with You” in four takes. They then recorded “I Call Your Name” in seven takes and “Long Tall Sally” in one.

Once all the songs were finished and mixed, Richard Lester reviewed them to decide where he would put them in the film: although the script did indicate where musical numbers were to occur in the story, it did not specify which pieces were to be used in those spots. The director selected “I Should Have Known Better” for the scene in which the boys serenade a group of girls they meet on the train. “If I Fell,” “And I Love Her” and “I’m Happy Just to Dance with You” were chosen for scenes of the band rehearsing. “Tell Me Why would be featured (along with reprises of some of the other songs) in the big concert scene that climaxes the movie. It is thought that “Long Tall Sally” was originally intended to be the concert’s closing number, since the Beatles had finished all of their U.S. shows with it. Ultimately, however, the decision was made to use the band’s signature tune, “She Loves You,” to close the concert and “Long Tall Sally” was dropped. “I Call Your Name” was also dropped and both rejects ended up on the band’s next EP, Long Tall Sally.

When the March 1 recording session wrapped at 10 p.m., John, Paul, George, and Ringo all went home to get some sleep. They were going to need it, because [A Hard Day’s Night] was scheduled to start shooting at eight o’clock the next morning.

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A Hard Day’s Night: Music on Film Series is the story of the making of the greatest rock-and-roll movie of all time. Beginning with introductions to the film’s stars – chronicling their rise from a raggedy teenage skiffle band to the biggest pop act in the world – the book goes on to tell how the American film company United Artists wanted to make a quick, low-budget movie starring the Fab Four so its record division could put out a motion picture soundtrack album full of new Beatles songs, in order to allow the studio to cash in on the incredible wave of Beatlemania then sweeping the planet. Director Richard Lester, producer Walter Shenson, and screenwriter Alun Owen were hired to churn out just another cheap exploitation film, but instead used the opportunity to create a startlingly fresh and original movie that broke new ground both in subject matter (instead of simply following genre tradition and sticking the band in some corny made-up plot, they had the Beatles play themselves in a narrative based on their own incredible real-life experiences) and in form (Lester’s inspired, surrealist approach to the film’s musical numbers kicked off the entire music video revolution). Covered is the film’s frantic six-week shoot, the lively recording sessions that resulted in seven great new Beatles songs, and how both the film and the album met with great critical and popular success.

Four or Five Lads Who Shook the World

George CaseGuest Blogger: George Case is the author of Led Zeppelin FAQ , Jimmy Page , and Out of Our Heads. Below is an excerpt from his blog.

Four or Five Lads Who Shook the World

I have close relatives who listen attentively to One Direction, the popular boy band from the UK, and after observing the phenomenon I can confirm: One Direction are the new Beatles.

Before the protests pour in, I hasten to say I don’t believe 1D (I know the lingo) will have anything like the long-term success and influence of the Fab Four. Yet it’s precisely such a dismissal that links the two groups. Where One Direction and the Beatles resemble each other is in the contemporary mainstream responses to their music, which was, and is, pretty skeptical. One Direction will probably not end up like the Beatles, but they’ve started from the same position.

Today John, Paul, George and Ringo are routinely cited as only a little less significant to Western civilization than Mahatma Gandhi, Julius Caesar, and Moses, but throughout the 1960s, and certainly during the Beatlemania years, many outsiders found their songs forgettable and their mass appeal dismaying. “All I want to know is, why?” asked veteran British saxophonist Tubby Hayes of the Beatles’ popularity, after three of them had blithely dropped in at jazzer Ronnie Scott’s nightclub. The New York Herald-Tribune wrote them off as “75 percent publicity, 20 percent haircut, and 5 percent lilting lament.” “These bums are what all the fuss is about?” wondered boxer Sonny Liston after the foursome posed with his upcoming opponent, a young prospect named Cassisus Clay. Though film critic Andrew Sarris liked A Hard Day’s Night, he qualified, “[t]hey may not be worth a paragraph in six months.” In 1964’s Goldfinger, no less suave a figure than Sean Connery’s James Bond told his latest conquest, “My dear girl, there are some things that just aren’t done, such as drinking Dom Pérignon ’53 above a temperature of 38 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s as bad as listening to the Beatles without earmuffs!” That same year, Paul Johnson described the Beatles as a “mass-produced mental opiate” in his infamous article “The Menace of Beatlism,” published in the New Statesman:

Nowadays, if you confess that you don’t know the difference between Dizzy Gillespie and Fats Waller (and what is more don’t care) you are liable to be accused of being a fascist…Both TV channels [!] now run weekly programmes in which popular records are played to teenagers and judged.  While the music is performed, the cameras linger savagely over the faces of the audience…How pathetic and listless they seemed:  young girls, hardly more than sixteen, dressed as adults and already lined up as fodder for exploitation…At sixteen, I and my friends heard our first performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.  I can remember the excitement even today.  We would not have wasted thirty seconds of our precious time on The Beatles and their ilk…

Keep reading this article on George’s blog!

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Led Zeppelin FAQ

In this exhaustive and insightful reference text, rock writer and cultural critic George Case details the key names, dates, figures, and features of one of the biggest and most mythologized rock-and-roll groups of all time: Led Zeppelin. Here, finally, are the answers to the puzzles that have haunted fans for over four decades – puzzles such as the meaning of Led Zep’s enigmatic album covers; the truth about leader Jimmy Page’s involvement with the occult; a breakdown of the sometimes murky roots of their greatest songs; firm data on their musical instruments, live performances, and studio productions; and sordid specifics of the band’s infamously debauched private lives.

But here, too, is a deeply reflective analysis of why Led Zeppelin’s music has endured as long as it has, and of how Led Zeppelin’s mystique has only grown in the years since their official disbanding. Placing the group in the context of their time and place, Case scrupulously compares and contrasts their achievements with those of their influences, rivals, and followers. Led Zeppelin FAQ is not only an indispensable listener’s companion to a classic rock act, but a considered history of rock and roll as a business, an art form, and a worldwide social phenomenon.

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.

Mapping Out the Pop Universe – a Revolver excerpt

The following is an excerpt from Revolver: How the Beatles Reimagined Rock’n’Roll by Robert Rodriguez, as posted by Chicago Tonight. You can also watch a TV interview with the author at that link.

Once the hoopla died down and the Summer of Love passed into history, the substance of Sgt. Pepper became clearer to objective observers. What they found was a collection of songs that, at their best, summed up the spirit of ’67 better than any equally accessible work this side of Donovan: the generation gap (“She’s Leaving Home”); self-improvement (“Getting Better”); life in suburbia (“Good Morning Good Morning”); aging (“When I’m Sixty Four”); psychedelia (“Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”); fighting ennui (“Fixing a Hole”); the sexual revolution (“Lovely Rita”); spectacle (“Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!”); and spirituality (“Within You Without You”). Implicit without being too overt was the unifying undercurrent of the drug culture, some- thing that would’ve resonated with many listeners in 1967. (That legions of fans enhanced their Pepper experience through illicit means is the very definition of “a safe bet.”)

The flip side of such a concerted effort to capture the moment was an inextricable linkage to its time. The very sounds that the Beatles pursued with such vigor in order to stay ahead of their contemporaries have, perversely, boomeranged against them, aging the album in a way that Rubber Soul and Revolver have withstood. The latter album was created with a spirit of exploration that betrayed no hint of self-consciousness. Not so Sgt. Pepper: it was, as critic Greil Marcus noted, “. . . that point at which the Beatles began to be formed more by the times than the other way around.”

Closing the album, “A Day in the Life” was the one track that, by common agreement, lived up to the hype. While Sgt. Pepper’s other cuts made dazzling first impressions, the album’s finale was a stunner, striking the ideal balance between songcraft and studio craft. (John frequently took the lead role for the final track on the group’s albums. Sgt. Peppermarked the last time he did so, but at least he abdicated the position on a high note.) Less beholden to then-state-of-the-art studio effects or any contextual reference points other than material on the same album, it still packs a wallop today.

Keep reading this excerpt on Chicago Tonight

 

Revolver 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.

Ringo Starr’s Birthday

Robert Rodriguez is the author of Revolver. Since it is Ringo’s birthday we would like to celebrate with this recent interview that was conducted by Rock Cellar Magazine.

ROCK CELLAR MAGAZINE: There are lots of books about the Beatles, and even a couple of recent ones about this album, Revolver.  What makes yours different?

Robert Rodriguez:  With this book, I tried to bring people into the world in which this music was produced.  I made the effort to place readers into 1965-66-67, showing what was going on in the Beatles’ world, as well as in pop/rock generally. I think it’s pretty crucial to understanding this album’s greatness to know who was listening to whom. What sort of developments were affecting what.

RCM:  So you’re talking about artists of the time that had an influence on the Beatles, and vice-versa.  Like Dylan, or…?

RR:  For one.  The Beatles were fans of Dylan’s going back at least as far as Freewheelin.’ In 1964, the Beatles and Dylan occupied entirely separate worlds, yet they each saw in each other elements that they could sort of…repurpose to their own ends.  Dylan saw past the bubble-gum elements of the Beatles’ music – and the screaming fans – and recognized that something sophisticated was going on.  To his credit.

Meanwhile the Beatles saw that something deeper and more satisfying could be heard in Dylan’s lyrics than they were accustomed to putting into their own.  So, say, by the end of 1964 you can see his influence beginning to manifest itself in their music.  I think John and George began to see Beatle music as more of a means of self-expression…less as a purely commercial vehicle.

ROCK CELLAR MAGAZINE: There are lots of books about the Beatles, and even a couple of recent ones about this album, Revolver.  What makes yours different ?

Robert Rodriguez:  With this book, I tried to bring people into the world in which this music was produced.  I made the effort to place readers into 1965-66-67, showing what was going on in the Beatles’ world, as well as in pop/rock generally. I think it’s pretty crucial to understanding this album’s greatness to know who was listening to whom. What sort of developments were affecting what.

RCM:  So you’re talking about artists of the time that had an influence on the Beatles, and vice-versaLike Dylan, or…?

RR:  For one.  The Beatles were fans of Dylan’s going back at least as far as Freewheelin.’ In 1964, the Beatles and Dylan occupied entirely separate worlds, yet they each saw in each other elements that they could sort of…repurpose to their own ends.  Dylan saw past the bubble-gum elements of the Beatles’ music – and the screaming fans – and recognized that something sophisticated was going on.  To his credit.

Meanwhile the Beatles saw that something deeper and more satisfying could be heard in Dylan’s lyrics than they were accustomed to putting into their own.  So, say, by the end of 1964 you can see his influence beginning to manifest itself in their music.  I think John and George began to see Beatle music as more of a means of self-expression…less as a purely commercial vehicle.

RCM:  Who else at the time do you think was important.  Or influential?

RR:  Well of course, Brian Wilson.  He’d had his breakdown, retired from the road in 1964, and in his quest to chase Phil Spector…he began crafting these ornate backings to Beach Boys music – this was due his being allowed to take his time, and not compromise his vision.

And the Beatles were paying close attention to this – what could be achieved by using the studio fully, augmenting their sound – beyond what you were expected to pull off live.  Both sides were following each other’s artistic development.

For more please visit Rock Cellar Magazine.

Revolver

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 even Sgt. Pepper and Pet Sounds, Revolver 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, Revolver was the game-changer, and this is, finally, the detailed telling of its storied recording and enormous impact.