Friday, July 28, 2017

Vintage Zube ads

We all know that John Lennon used Zube throat lozenges to help make it through recording "Twist and Shout" for the Beatles' first album. Here are some Zube ads from around that time.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Beatles win rights to Shea Stadium film

The Beatles' Apple Corps. has fended off an attempt by a production company to claim rights over the group's 1965 Shea Stadium concert film.
U.S. District Judge George Daniels in Manhattan said Sid Bernstein Presents LLC, named for the concert's promoter, failed to show it deserved sole control over the Aug. 15, 1965, footage and deserved damages reflecting its many subsequent uses.
Daniels said the company, which said it had been assigned Bernstein's rights, could not claim to be the "author" of a copyrightable work even if Bernstein were the driving force behind the sold-out concert because he did not film it.
"The relevant legal question is not the extent to which Bernstein contributed to or financed the 1965 concert; rather, it is the extent to which he 'provided the impetus for' and invested in a copyrightable work - e.g., the concert film," Daniels wrote. "The complaint and relevant contracts clearly refute any such claim by Bernstein."
With Apple Corps firmly in control of the film, perhaps we'll finally see a DVD and/or Blu-ray release soon. 

Ad: Beatles talcum powder

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Paul trolls Westboro Church haters

Paul McCartney used social media to highlight the hypocrisy of the attention-seeking Westboro Baptist Church members who picketed his show this week in Wichita, Kansas.
The WBC members stood outside the Intrust Bank Arena with signs that read, “Man’s Job: Obey God” and “Believe On the Lord Jesus.”
Instead of getting annoyed, McCartney turned to the internet’s favorite mocking weapon to fight back: Memes.
The Beatles co-founder photoshopped a photo of the protestors to show them holding additional signs that read, “All you need is love” and “I wanna be your man” and “We can work it out.”

Early Beatles concert poster sells for $7K

Here's a look at a 1963 poster for a Beatles show at Harrogate, which sold for £5500 ($7175.49) at auction this week - much more than anticipated. The estimated high price was £1500-2000.
Tennants specialist Kegan Harrison said: “It is rare to find any Beatles concert posters, let alone one in this fine condition, as their touring career was very short with less than 1000 concerts in total - many of which pre-dated their debut LP.”

The timing of the concert is significant, and the billing ‘the recording stars of Please Please Me’. The Fab Four were performing in Harrogate just as their career was taking off.

Vintage pic: Ringo by Richard Avedon

Monday, July 24, 2017

Taxman: A few words from the Beatles' accountant

The Daily Telegraph has a great interview with Harry Pinkster, the Beatles accountant throughout the Sixties.

Here are a few tidbits:
“Early on, the press called them millionaires. I had to clarify to them that their millions were earnings, not assets, and they needed to set aside a lot of those earnings for tax.
“They were never happy with that – that’s why George wrote Taxman. They’d been poor boys, who’d worked hard and made money, and now someone was trying to take it away.”

...  In November 1968, Lennon released on Apple his first solo album Two Virgins, whose cover featured a nude photograph of him and Yoko Ono. “Our solicitors said if John didn’t withdraw the album, Apple would be sued for indecency, and as a director I would be liable.
"I phoned John and asked him to withdraw the record. He said no, with some colourful language, so I resigned. I continued to do some work on their other companies but within a few months The Beatles had broken up.”

But the band paid one final affectionate tribute to Harry.
As they rehearsed in Abbey Road studios in 1969 for their final album Let It Be, they started singing “Hare Krishna” – and changed the words to “Harry Pinsker”. “I didn’t know until years later they’d even done it,” says Pinsker, “but it’s now on YouTube. I’m very honoured.”

Vintage pic: The Beatles with Millicent Martin

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Vintage Beatles pic

Debating Sgt. Pepper: Is it the best, worst, whatever?

Depending on who's talking, Sgt. Pepper is either the best or worst album of all time, the most influential or the most overrated.

Much of the time, those offering these judgments don't provide much in support, pro or con. There's little discussion about why they feel a particular way. They either like Pepper or they don't.

But all the blanket statements made about the album this summer, which marks the 50th anniversary of its release, got me thinking: What are people really saying when they say this stuff?

I thought I'd examine some of the statements I've seen the most.

Sgt. Pepper is the best album ever.

I don't get how people can say this. Best on what basis? The quality of songs? The fidelity of the sound? The experimentation on display? Is it better than Revolver or Rubber Soul or Aftermath or Exile on Main Street or Pet Sounds or Blonde on Blonde or London Calling? Is it better than Kind of Blue or Giant Steps? Is it better than Glenn Gould or Pablo Cassal's Bach recordings? Better than Inner Visions or What's Going On? Or Hank Williams' greatest hits?

There are lots of great albums in all genres. There are lots of I haven't even managed to hear, yet, and I'm sure I'm not alone in this. So, how can you simply say Pepper is the best?

It's overrated.

Is Pepper praised or discussed more than warranted? Your opinion depends on how much you like or dislike the album.

The truth is, no matter how much we love or hate it, Pepper gets talked about for a reason: It's influential. What other album on its 50th anniversary (or 20th, 30th or 40th anniversary) gets the amount of media coverage we've seen this summer?

Maybe other albums are more deserving, or maybe we've talked about Pepper enough. But those arguments won't prevent people from writing and talking about it.

The album is viewed rightly/wrongly as the Beatles' artistic high water mark. The recording techniques used in its creation and the songs it contained influenced many other artists. It's sold lots of copies. It came out during a pivotal point of the 1960s.

There are lots of reasons people talk about Pepper and they aren't likely to stop talking about it any time soon. In 50 years perhaps there will be articles saying "remember when everyone used to talk about Sgt. Pepper? Here are the reasons why."

It's the most dated Beatles album.

Could be. But, again, on what basis? One reason why people say this, I think, is due to the LP's association with the "Summer of Love."

But if you think about the songs on the album, none of them are overtly hippie. There's no use of period slang, apart from "I'd love to turn you on." Nobody's wearing fringe or beads on the front cover. The Beatles' hair isn't even that long. "All You Need is Love" came out afterward. Apart from "Within You, Without You," none of the songs delve into messages about how to be or what to think.

The Indian instruments, phasing and some of the other sounds featured on the album do scream "Sixties." There's a point to be made there.

But Revolver, which many fans say holds up better, also includes Indian instruments and lots of studio tricks. Pepper, like Revolver, is heavily inspired by the Beatles' LSD intake. The acid-inspired whimsy of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite" may "date" the album for that reason.

All of these associations can drag Pepper down and make it hard to hear in an objective, fresh way. But if you can put aside LSD and hippies for a moment and pretend you're simply listening to a great pop album, which you are, you can hopefully hear it in a fresh way.

It's not the Beatles best album.

Again, how do you judge? It's not the Beatles album I enjoy most. I'd choose A Hard Day's Night, Rubber Soul, Revolver or the "White Album" over it as something I want to put on and hear. But what makes Pepper inferior to these?

In my opinion, some of those other LPs are more consistent in the quality of songs they contain. But Pepper includes "A Day in the Life," which is viewed by many listeners, including me, as one of the Beatles' best songs. "Mr. Kite," "Lucy," "She's Leaving Home" and "Within You, Without You" are other pieces I think stand apart as well-crafted, enjoyable songs - among the best in the Beatles' catalog.

In fact, I'd say there are more great songs on Pepper than on Abbey Road. In my opinion, the strongest tunes on Abbey Road are George's "Something" and "Here Comes the Sun." John's "Come Together" also stands quite well on its own. The rest of the LP, in terms of individual songs, though, isn't nearly as strong as Pepper, despite great production and performances. But, for some fans, Abbey Road is the best thing the Beatles ever did.

Back to Pepper, the problem, again, I think, is one of "association." Sgt. Pepper is the hardest Beatles album to really "hear" due to its release date and all the things people have been written and said about it.

It's Paul's album.

It's well-documented that Paul wrote the LP's title tune and came up with the idea of the Beatles pretending they were a different group - Sgt. Pepper's band - to help them take a fresh approach to writing and performing the album.

Paul, at this time, also assumed a role as creative and musical director of the band, although the group remained very collaborative during this period.

Paul's production and arrangement ideas and his playing are on display throughout the album and he made significant contributions to John's tracks, such as the middle section and piano part to "A Day in the Life."

But the rest of the Beatles are still very much present. As mentioned above, three of the songs that I'd rate among the album's best are primarily written by John: "Mr. Kite," "Lucy" and "A Day in the Life." George's "Within You, Without You," which I didn't care for as a youngster, I very much enjoy today, both for its thoughtful lyrics and innovative blending of Eastern and Western classical styles. Paul's strongest tune, I believe, is "She's Leaving Home," which has great lyrics, a lovely melody and an amazing lead vocal performance. And then there's Ringo, singing "With a Little Help from My Friends," written by John and Paul collaboratively.

So, I'd say, yes, Paul set the tone for Pepper, but it's a brilliant, classic album due to the contributions of all the Beatles.

It's not a concept album.

The Beatles never said it was. The only "concept" per se is that the LP is a performance by Sgt. Pepper's band, with the band's theme opening and closing the LP.

The album doesn't set out to tell a story. The songs don't comment on one another or feature repeated themes, ala the Who's Tommy and other albums of the time.

But because Pepper is such an album, such a unified package with no bands of silence between the tracks, it can be seen as a singular statement and maybe that's why people credit it with inspiring the true concept albums that followed.

It's not the first concept album.

Nope, it's not. People always talk about Frank Sinatra's themed string of albums for Capitol and how those expressed a concept. They did, although, like Pepper, they didn't tell a unified story through the songs.

Albums by easy listening arrangers such as Martin Denny in the 1950s also could be viewed as "concept" albums because they created a unique sound world and offered a listening experience via their dreamy, exotic tones.

The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds could also be considered a concept album, I think, because the arrangements to the songs are unified in style and unique to that LP. The album's lyrics tend to focus on similar themes, too: of alienation and growing up.

But does Pepper not being the first concept album, or not even a concept album at all, mean it's artificial or phony or not good? What's the point of just saying, "It wasn't the first?" So what?

It's pretentious.

Here's what the Guardian said 10 years ago, on Pepper's 40th annivesary:
The Beatles' name doesn't appear on the sleeve - a sign that the boys thought they'd reached that stage where a pop group feels overburdened/embarrassed by their public image, a visual metaphor for: "We think all our fans are idiots." 
Flip the bugger over and you get all the lyrics printed out - Pepper was one of the first albums to do this. This screams: "Take me seriously!" As if all that guff about "newspaper taxis" and "marmalade skies" was poetry. 
And the music? An excruciating lesson in orientalism, why music hall died out, why making records on drugs isn't always a good idea, and why you shouldn't let Ringo sing a number. Oh, and there's a "concept". But one that the Beatles got - understandably - bored with after the very first track. Never mind, they could always get George Martin to try and mask its mediocrity with an orchestra and a cacophony of sound effects. Oh hang on, they did... 
Hearing someone say Sgt Pepper is the greatest album ever made is like hearing someone say the Mona Lisa is the world's greatest painting.
No doubt, the Beatles were proud of Pepper and viewed it as an major accomplishment. Check out the pictures of the group at the album's launch party at Brian Eptein's home. This is a happy band, and not just because the members likely celebrated the occasion with a puff of relaxing herbs. The Beatles look thrilled to be releasing this album. There's a real sense of celebration and accomplishment in their faces and body language.

It's true, the Sgt. Pepper cover was lavish. It didn't include the Beatles' name on the front and it did include song lyrics on the back. It also include a sheet of cut-outs inside.

Viewed one way, this can seem smug and self-important, and no doubt the Beatles knew this album was something different and special. They'd upped their game and out-maneuvered the competition.

But I also believe that the Beatles genuinely wanted to surprise and treat their fans.This was the first Beatles album in some time. There were rumors that the group was breaking up. They'd spent a ton of time and money in the studio and, in their view, they'd come up with something different and special. Before being overruled by EMI, the group even wanted to include candy with the LP package, but it proved cost-prohibitive.

If you don't like the Beatles, or don't like Pepper, you can certainly make a case that the album is self-important and pretentious. But fans view(ed) it as a treat. If the Beatles were being boastful of their accomplishment, they were mild-mannered about it by today's standards. Can you imagine if Kanye West had made Sgt. Pepper? He acts as if he had with every album he puts out.

It gave rise to prog.

The Daily Review in Australia says:
Sgt. Pepper paved the way for the immense popularity of legendary bands such as Yes, King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Genesis, Jethro Tull, Curved Air, The Moody Blues, ELP and Gentle Giant.
Depending on your opinion of prog, that's a lot to answer for. Yet, Pepper contains no side-long "suites" or extended, pyrotechnic jams. No songs about elves or dwarves or references to J.R.R. Tolkien. As mentioned above, it doesn't even have a concept. But it does have a gatefold sleeve.

What Pepper did do is secure the album as a format of expression for pop and rock music, rather than singles. The groups mentioned above took advantage of the longer playing time provided to stretch out and jam, tell stories, or both. But Pepper is basically a collection of pop songs and, if it has excesses, they are different from those associated with prog.

It's NOT the soundtrack of summer 1967.

Here's critic Jim Rogatis on Pepper back in 2004
For nigh on 39 years now, I have been hearing about that crazy-quilt mosaic of social, political and cultural upheaval called the '60s, which, as we all know from history class, our parents and VH1, was the time of Beatlemania, Bob Dylan, long hair, LSD, Tim Leary, Ken Kesey, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Andy Warhol, Ho Chi Minh, free love, riots in the streets, hell, no (we won't go), tune in, turn on, freak out and by the time we got to Woodstock, we were half a million strong. 
Sounds like a hell of a party, but I wasn't there, and what's more, I refuse to feel sorry about missing it, because I have here the album generally considered the Numero Uno soundtrack of the time -- yep, "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" -- and you know what? It sucks dogs royally.

... The Beatles have just given us 39 minutes and 52 seconds of rather unremarkable, uninspired music with a central theme that's conservative, reactionary and retrogressive. To wit: Embrace the past (it wasn't so bad) and celebrate the values of your parents and grandparents. Contrast this with some of the truly great albums of the same period, works that offer a glimpse of a brave new world, and which still sound fresh and inviting today. 
"The Psychedelic Sounds of the Thirteenth Floor Elevators," "The Velvet Underground and Nico," "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn" by Pink Floyd, "Are You Experienced?" by Jimi Hendrix, "Pet Sounds," "Fifth Dimension" by the Byrds and "Forever Changes" by Love are all stronger, less contrived, more inventive and more moving albums than "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." They all rock harder, too. To say that they don't bring back the period the same way as the Beatles' alleged masterpiece is irrelevant.
Rogatis' very premise - that Sgt. Pepper is the soundtrack to the Summer of Love - prevents him from hearing the album in an objective way. It's the "association" issue I mentioned above.

I was 18 months old in June 1967, so I didn't live through the grooviness, either, and I likewise roll my eyes at mentions of Haight-Asbury, Woodstock and all the rest. But Pepper manages to touch on the themes of the Sixties without becoming trapped by them. This is because the Beatles, avoided topical references and obvious lyrics.

Consider "She's Leaving Home," the lyrics of which could be about any young hippie finding her interests and values in conflict with those of their parents, and running away as a result, leaving her clueless parents behind. Consider "Getting Better," about embracing a positive attitude and moving into a new era, leaving everything that's dull, negative and violent behind. Or "Good Morning, Good Morning" and "A Day in the Life," which examine the emptiness of daily, run-through-motions, consumer-culture life. "Within You, Without You," meanwhile, invites listeners to to question everything they know about consensus reality - the material world - and embrace what's really real, and what truly matters: "With our love, we could save the world."All these themes remain relevant today.

Unlike some of their peers, the Beatles were too sophisticated and too independent-minded to fall into adolescent cliches of reaction and rebellion, where volume and dissonance, attacks on the "older generation" and obvious lyrics about being angry and young are "cool" and somehow groundbreaking.

Yes, "When I'm Sixty-Four" is a throwback to pre-rock pop. But so what? All of the Beatles had affection for such music. John wrote songs inspired by Bing Crosby. George loved George Formy and Hoagy Carmichael. Ringo and Paul recorded standards collections. But when, by looking back, did the Beatles ever stop looking forward? Sgt. Pepper was a progression in terms of the sounds it contained. To simple-mindedly say it's not "cool" because it doesn't "rock" is childish.

I love all of the albums Rogatis mentions in his final paragraph, above. But all of them, to me, sound at least as dated as Sgt. Pepper, if not more so. They are cliche "albums of the Sixties," as obvious as the talking heads talking on PBS's TV specials about that decade . I like listening to them now, despite all their Sixties trappings.

It took my years to enjoy Jimi Hendrix because I so closely associated him with hippies and Woodstock. It's only after I was able to view him in a different light - as a John Coltrane of the electric guitar - and zero in on his blues, jazz and soul influences, that his music broke free of time for me. My failure to hear and appreciate the quality of his music was due to the associations I carried in my own head. I don't know that I'll ever be able to appreciate Janis Joplin

Which shows how much of this is down to personal association and taste. The Beatles bug some people as much as Janis bugs me, for all sorts of reasons that have little to do with the value of the music they performed.

Whether Rogatis' choices are more moving, stronger or less contrived that Sgt. Pepper is purely down to personal taste. Forever Changes and The Velvet Underground and Nico are favorites of mine, too. And I LOVE Hendrix. But are they really any better than Pepper? How do you say?

And when it comes to soundtracking the Sixties, why limit ourselves to the Beatles or any of these other choices? What about Motown, Coltrane, Dusty Springfield, the Monkees or the Tijuana Brass? I like my soundtracks varied and diverse, not just "rocking."

If the cheerful eclecticism of Sgt. Pepper has any message, it's to open our ears.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

John's psychedelic Rolls

Top Gear today provides a lustrous look at John Lennon's psychedelic Rolls Royce.
John Lennon was once attacked by a passer-by in the street with an umbrella because he had the audacity to customise his Rolls-Royce Phantom V.
Dutch art collective, who also painted the exterior of the Beatles' Apple boutique and a rejected over for Sgt. Pepper, painted the car.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Not enthused by the Beatles, Benton nixes George Harrison mural

City leaders in Benton, Ill., where George Harrison took a brief pre-"Ed Sullivan Show" vacation in 1963, have voted not to fund a Beatles-themed mural in the community.

California rtist John Cerney planned to paint the 16-foot mural in a piece of city-owned property near Interstate 57 and asked the city to pay him $2,000 for travel and motel costs while he was in Benton.

Most City Council members weren't crazy about the idea:
"What is that going to benefit the city?" questioned Commissioner Donnie Wyant after city attorney Tom Malkovich reported he and Gartner contacted the artist to confirm Cerney's intentions.
"We're kind of hoping they (visitors) would want to stop and get a picture of the mural and spend some time and dollars in our communities, whether it be our restaurants or antique shops," Commissioner Dennis Miller said.
"The Beatles don't enthuse me at all, so I'm going to vote no," Wyant said.
"I'd rather put that money toward a police officer," said Police and Fire Commissioner Donald Storey.
Harrison's sister, Louise, lived in Benton with her family when George and his brother Pete visited the community in September 1963.

While in town, George bought a new Rickenbacker guitar; accompanied the family on a camping trip; sat in with a local group, the Four Vests, at the VFW hall; did a radio interview, and bought some records including James Ray's "Got My Mind Set on You," which he covered years later.

Monday, July 10, 2017

New "Yellow Submarine" comics adaptation on the way

Titan Comics will publish a comic book adaptation of the Beatle's "Yellow Submarine" tied to the animated film's 50th anniversary next year.
Bill Morrison, the longtime Bongo Comics creator and newly announced incoming editor of MAD Magazine, will write and illustrate the special edition, fulfilling a decades-held dream in the process.
 Looks nice. See the preview art below. It should be noted that this won't be the first "Yellow Submarine" comic. Western Publishing released one back in 1968.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Upcoming Ringo album: "Give More Love"

Ringo's new LP, Give More Love, is set for Sept. 15. Details were announced today, which is Ringo's 77th birthday.

The album features numerous guests, including Paul McCartney on two tracks.

Interestingly, Paul doesn't feature on a track titled "Speed of Sound," while Peter Frampton, also featured on the album, doesn't appear on a song called "Show Me the Way," which Paul does appear on.

You can hear the title track here.

Here's a description and track listings.

Ringo reveals details of his 19th solo album, Give More Love, which will be released 15th September 15, 2017. 
Recorded at his home studio in Los Angeles, Give More Love has 10 new tracks featuring collaborations with friends including: 
  • We’re On The Road Again - featuring Paul McCartney, Joe Walsh, Edgar Winter, Steve Lukather; 
  • Laughable - co-written and performed with Peter Frampton as well as Benmont Tench, Timothy B Schmidt, Richard Page and Amy Keys; 
  • Show Me The Way co-written and performed with Steve Lukather and with Paul McCartney; 
  • Speed of Sound co-written with Richard Marx and featuring Steve Lukather, Peter Frampton and Nathan East; 
  • Standing Still - co- written with Gary Burr; King of the Kingdom - including performances by Dave Stewart and Edgar Winter; 
  • Electricity - co-written with Glen Ballard and featuring Joe Walsh and Don Was; 
  • So Wrong For So Long - co written and performed with Dave Stewart; 
  • Shake It Up - co written and performed with Gary Nicholson and including Don Was and Edgar Winter. 
The CD edition will feature four bonus tracks, including presumably live and/or new versions of "You Can't Fight Lightning," "Photograph" and "Don't Pass Me By,"along with an original demo of "Back Off Boogaloo."
1. We're On The Road Again
2. Laughable
3. Show Me The Way
4. Speed Of Sound
5. Standing Still
6. King Of The Kingdom
7. Electricity
8. So Wrong For So Long
9. Shake It Up
10. Give More Love
11. Back Off Boogaloo *
12. Don't Pass Me By *
13. You Can't Fight Lightening *
14. Photograph *

Thursday, July 6, 2017

60 years ago today - Hear Paul discuss how he met John

We know now that Paul met John a time or two previous to the famed Woolton Garden Fete on July 6, 1957, but that event is still considered the first time the two had a musical meeting of minds.

The BBC features Paul talking about the event here.

And here's Paul talking to Esquire in 2015 about his first Lennon encounters:
I mean, I know how I saw John. He was just a ted, on the bus – greasy hair, long sideburns, shuffling around like he was Mr Hard. And I saw him on the top deck of the bus often, before I met him. Saw him in the queue at a chip shop once. And I thought, "He looks cool."

Abbey Road Studios celebrates Ringo's birthday with live event, Facebook broadcast

Abbey Road Studios in London will help spread Ringo Starr's annual peace and love message with a live event on site and online. Details from the studios' Facebook page:
Come together for a moment of Peace & Love at Abbey Road Studios on Friday 7 July, as part of Ringo Starr’s annual Peace & Love Birthday Celebration. We are inviting a limited number of fans into Studio One to participate in a live Facebook broadcast of the ‘Peace & Love’ message.

To access this event, you will need one of Ringo’s ‘Peace & Love’ bracelets, available for free exclusively from the Abbey Road Shop in person from 9.30am on Friday 7 July. One bracelet will be allocated per customer visiting the shop and unfortunately cannot be reserved in advance. Bracelets will be available while stocks last.

Ringo also invites everyone everywhere to think, say, or post #PeaceandLove at noon their local time, thus generating a wave of Peace & Love that moves over the planet on July 7 starting at noon in New Zealand and ending at noon in Hawaii.

Vintage ad: Vox amps