Act Naturally & Celluloid Beatles

Posted in Beatles in 12 Songs, Beatles50, Hard Day's Night with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 13, 2014 by fred6368

The Beatles in Twelve Songs (3)

Act Naturally? In the main they didn’t. The black leather boys from Hamburg were stuck in suits by Epstein, discovered in Transylvania for their cartoon identity, and peppered up in military Edwardiana for their day-glo re-invention as submarine alter-ego’s. And don’t even mention the milk-float Bondage of HELP! even though it did give us Act Naturally, the legendary B-side of the all our Yesterday single. They’re going to put The Beatles in the Movies

In the beginning, however, there was Hard Days Night. The kind of quick exploitation movie that sneaks out under the creative radar then transcends the sordid commercial origins in which it was brewed up, in this case by United Artists. As Stephen Denny put it “a low-budget exploitation movie to milk the latest brief musical craze for all it was worth.” UA wanted a quick exploitation picture starring The Beatles in order to get their hands on a Beatles soundtrack which they estimated would make them £1m. They offered a budget of £100k, later upgraded to £200k,and duly gave UA their soundtrack album and, fatally, the rights to 2 more Beatles movies. Although UA originally thought “our record division wants to get the soundtrack album to distribute in the States, and what we lose on the film we’ll get back on this disc” the film ending up taking $11m worldwide becoming tagged “the Citizen Kane of Jukebox movies” In 2013 Mojo rated it 8th out the top 100 music films of all time, with a song written specifically as an overture for the film – Hard Day’s Night

Ringo joined The Beatles  on August 14th 1962 on August 22nd they were filmed for the first time performing Some Other Guy in the Cavern in Liverpool by Leslie Whitehead, later to write the incredible How The Beatles Rocked The Kremlin. It’s an oft-bootlegged bit of film as it iconic, filmed the moment before the first Parlophone single but in the heart of their fanland; one of whom shouts “bring back Pete” at the end. Significantly Continue reading

I Want To Hold Your Hand & Going Global

Posted in Beatles in 12 Songs, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 10, 2013 by fred6368

The Beatles in Twelve Songs (2)

It was 50 years go today that the Beatles taught America to play, with the biggest prime-time TV show audience ever (73 million viewers) on the Ed Sullivan show, February 9th 1964. In the UK I Want To Hold Your Hand had been the cherry on the cake of their annus mirabilis 1963 where it went to Number One in the charts by knocking off their own She Loves You, which had been in the Top 3 ever since it was released, and had just returned to the top after Beatlemania had gone national. In the USA I Want To Hold Your Hand popped a nations cherry and they laid down begging for the first British Invasion since 1812. This is how The Beatles woke them up and how America succumbed

Surprising huh? Quite a flat performance of a song tooled by McCartney to be a hit single written specifically to break the American market whilst he was living in the house of his girlfriend Jane Asher. Asher’s father was a Harley Street doctor, and her musical mum, Margaret Elliott, was a Professor at the Guildhall School of Music where she had taught producer George Martin the oboe. Frustrated by Capitol Records not promoting, or even releasing, early Beatles singles, manager Brian Epstein had asked Lennon and McCartney to write a song specifically to be a hit in the USA, and it was Paul who did. Jane’s brother Peter Asher was the first to hear the song, played on piano, as his room was opposite Paul’s  at 57 Wimpole Street London. This is what a made to order US hit record sounds like

Peter Asher’s bedroom proved to be amazingly strategically placed. He became good friends with McCartney, showing him round London and later became head of Apple Records, signing James Taylor with whom he Continue reading

Please Please Me & MerseyBeat

Posted in Beatles in 12 Songs, Beatles50 with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 11, 2013 by fred6368

The Beatles in Twelve Songs (1)

It was fifty years ago today that The Beatles released their first smash hit, the second official release on George Martin’s Parlophone label, Please Please Me. beatlesnumber1

In this series of blog posts, in honor of many Beatles 50th anniversaries throughout 2013, I will be writing a history of The Beatles in 12 songs. Through this I hope to capture and reflect all that they gave us musically and culturally.

Merry Crimble; In The Beatles first Christmas record for their fan club in 1963 John Lennon is asked what most pleased him about the year 1963 and he replies (50 secs in),  “it was a gear year for us, and it all happened really when Please Please Me became a number one hit”: .

In the UK the breakthrough single for the Beatles was Please Please Me, which, to my ears, was the first recording that captured a British Merseybeat sound. (More on Mersey Beat here) Originally an attempt by John to write a Roy Orbison song (the biggest selling artist in the UK in 1962)  it was considered by George Martin to be too slow. The Beatles speeded it up and finally offered George Martin a version in the exuberant tempo that we now expect to hear. Martin re-arranged it and so created both the version we love, along with the template for recording other Merseybeat artists, it certainly pleased George. “Gentlemen you have your first number one record” 

So how did The Beatles become so good at writing smash hit singles Continue reading

Magical Mystery Tour

Posted in Magical Mystery Tour with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 8, 2012 by fred6368

It’s Easy! All You Need is Love :-)

Magical Mystery Tour, like Let It Be, exists as a cultural artefact that was under-prepared, it was rushed. In the Beatles canon their best work was nearly always properly prepped; Revolver, Pepper, White Album, Abbey Road. Mystery was a TV film made by four musicians, with a little help from their friends, who were inspired by the chaos and creativity that was going on around them in 1967, not least in the emerging psychedelic underground. What it does do really well, much better than Let It Be, is to capture the spirit of its time and, yet again, provide another cultural breakthrough. So roll up, roll up to this surreal slice of English holiday nostalgia inspired by The Goons, come with me on a fantastic cheery summer of love trip; Magical Mystery Tour;

The Beatles had stopped touring after their world tour in summer 1966 when governments (Philippines), the media (Chicago) and individuals (the Bible Belt) made it dangerous to be a Beatle; “thank God I’m not a Beatle any more” commented George after their last concert in San Franciso. They spent most of the following year in the studio perfecting the sound of Sgt. Peppers, alter-egos they assumed in order to cope with their ridiculous fame so that they could continue to be creative as musicians; the essence of being John, Paul, George and Ringo. The absence of live shows to publicise their music was the first consequence of their unprecedented decision to continue recording whilst not playing live. They needed to make promotional films instead. The first song they recorded as studio musicians was Strawberry Fields, and the ‘experimental’ promo film made for it in Knole Park in Sevenoaks, Kent could have slotted right into Magical Mystery Tour. Here is The Beatles first slice of psychedelic nostalgia Strawberry Fields Forever;

It wasnt just Lennon experimenting with Mellotrons and complex musical recording technniques. McCartney lived in central London with the musical Asher family and had a little music room, where he played the first version of I Wanna Hold Your Hand to Peter Asher, and Continue reading

Beatles – Love Me Dr

Posted in history with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 5, 2012 by fred6368

No! Do; The Beatles 50th

It was 50 years ago today, October 5th 1962, when the two biggest British popular culture phenomena of the last century first made their public appearances; initially to quite different levels of acclaim. James Bond in Dr No came out as a full-colour cinematic experience, letting us know that in the post-Imperial Cold War Britain would need alpha-males engaging in dubious shenanigans, whilst the girl-group inspired The Beatles were still resolutely in black and white. Neither of them had quite worked out the formulae by which they would go mega. The Beatles and James Bond would both reach their mature forms in 1964 but, compared to what else was on offer, they represented massive potential. Here’s the confused and wonky Bond opening sequence then, welcoming us to Dr No with an interesting musical melange, starting with a nod to the Sputnik-inspired space-age classic Telstar (Number 1 on October 5th) and ending up with a Jamaican calypso, with some nascent Bond orchestration in between;

Love Me Do with Pete Best; was also a confused and wonky production when they first tried it out for a Decca recording audition. Mike Smith at Decca (not Dick Rowe) was ultimately to reject The Beatles in favour of Brian Poole & The Tremeloes, as Dick Rowe would only let him sign one of them because, in 1962, “guitar groups are on the way out”. Mike Smith picked the Tremeloes who, ironically would only score their first hit record for Decca with a cover of The Beatles version of Twist & Shout. Meanwhile The Beatles at least had a recording to tout around of Love Me Do;  

Songwriters for Ardmore and Beechwood; The failed audition tapes were taken by The Beatles manager Brian Epstein to HMV on Oxford Street (yep the same one) where you could cut masters back in the day. The chap cutting the master heard that The Beatles had promise and suggested that they sign as songwriters with Ardmore & Beechwood with whom he had a contact.  They did so registering Love Me Do, written in 1958 at Paul’s house in Forthlin Road, which gained them a referral to Parlophone Records, where George Martin hung out mostly with a bunch of comedians, releasing 10″ novelty records like The Best of Sellers and hitting the pop charts with tracks like Right Said Fred

This wasnt the great meeting of minds Continue reading

Real Best of the Beatles 2

Posted in remasters with tags , , , , , , , , on April 28, 2012 by fred6368

Q Magazine Real Best Series May 2012 

Last post we listed 10 Beatles tracks, 5 selected by Q magazine with a reply to each from me, which represent the “real best” of The Beatles – excluding the obvious tracks; so more Past Masters than All Time Greats. Rob Fitzpatrick, the Q journalist involved, also commented that “no one has ever made better tracks” even 42 years later and that “the Beatles have been instilling the idea of progressive cultural creativity since 1962.” As this blog also believes that we felt we should reply with our own ten tracks. This is part two; 5xQ 5xFred.

Our next remastered track is from 1964, in which “youngblood” Paul  transmit’s his happiness at being RSA actress Jane Asher’s partner by imagining what he might be saying to her in ten years. Q think that this is “a minor chord lament that explodes into major-chord life” 1 minute in. McCartney, who wrote the song on the yacht Happy Days in the Caribbean, said it was “future nostalgic” about Things We Said Today ;   Continue reading

The Real Best of the Beatles

Posted in remasters with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 22, 2012 by fred6368

Q Magazine May 2012

Q Magazine’s current issue looks at many artists and picks their “real” best tracks, which vary slightly with each artist.  In the case of the Beatles, whom they describe as “the only group in the history of pop music who are actually better than everyone says they are” they’ve decided to pick under-rated works; so nothing from hits CD 1.  Selected by journalist Rob Fitzpatrick, who says that there is “no such thing as a Beatles obscurity” (Richie Unterberger might disagree & Dehra Dun anyone?) there are 10 Beatles tracks in all. So I’m going to alternate his 10 with my 10 (although he has nicked a couple I would have  chosen) half this week, half next.

The World looks fine when the Rain drops on the Fab Four, Q’s choice of best track and the B-side of Paperback Writer. I remember first seeing the record in a shop in Arnhem whilst, yep, standing in the rain. Rob says “Rain marks the moment when popular music threw itself over the drug pop precipice” but he is an English music journalist; Rain is the first thing the Beatles did after Tomorrow Never Knows and is their finest B-side. 

Some kind of happiness is measured out in Hey Bulldog, the last track that all four Beatles jammed on together live in the studio (Feb 68). I remember seeing it in Yellow Submarine back then and being baffled when it wasn’t in the US release. Made up between them in just four hours whilst they were bored with the slow process of filming the Lady Madonna video (they are actually playing Hey Bulldog) this just rocks; joyfully   Continue reading

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