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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Octopus' Garden Review of Beatles Poetry Book

9:36 AM Posted by Nicole M
Adapted with permission from Octopus' Garden fanzine, Volume 26, Issue #4, May 2017. Review by Tom Aguiar.

Any Rhyme At All by Terri Whitney. The Rockin' Rhymer, U.S.

 Poetry is more than writing. It is an art form that is responsible for projecting the feelings or ideas of the writer and causing an effect on the reader on some level. Whether the poem is about a person or an event, it must have the ability to touch you and make you feel something inside. Good poetry does that.

 The title of this book is a great play on the title of the Beatles song “Any Time At All,” and grabs you as soon as you pick up the book. The subtitle, “A Fan’s Journey,” gives you a hint of what’s inside – a story about the Beatles… and yet not about the Beatles.

 The book is separated into four chapters, each highlighting a part of the history of the Beatles and, by extension, the fan’s history. The Beatles are the backdrop to each poem but each poem projects more than the Beatles. Whether it is the Beatles themselves and those connected to them or the legacy that they have given us, the reader will feel an emotional element within each poem.

 The style of Whitney’s poetry appears to be narrative within free style structure. She uses both 4 line and 6 line form in talking about a subject, event, or person. Her work is well structured and clearly conveys a feeling or attribute about the topic of the poem. Each poem is sprinkled with personal feelings or general feelings about the topic that effectively depict the impact that resulted from the existence of “a world with the Beatles.” They made a difference in people’s lives whether individually or collectively and that message comes through in her writing.

 Each poem is accompanied by classic style charcoal artwork done by Amy Heintzelman. The drawings add character to each story that Whitney is telling. They are rendered in the perfect style for the book as it brings a visual understanding to the feelings conveyed within the poem.
What do you do when two of your loves are writing poetry and the Beatles? You incorporate the two and publish what you have put into words. The trick is to avoid the appearance of “hero worship” and Whitney accomplishes this with ease. The reader will walk away feeling that this book is more about Whitney’s journey in life, one that will mirror most people’s, and reveals how she was affected by the Beatles rather than about the Beatles themselves. This is what the author most likely intended and she has succeeded in her goal. It is warm, and it is from the heart and a good read. You learn more about Whitney and the person that she is within her words and that is what I walked away with after reading Any Rhyme At All. To me the Beatles were secondary in her poetry. I got a glimpse into the person and I recognized the emotions. That was the real pleasure of her poetry.

Any Rhyme At All is available for purchase through Terri Whitney's website: TheRockinRhymer.com

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Beatlefan Interview with Youngerman Art

2:28 PM Posted by Nicole M
Article by John Firehammer and originally published in Beatlefan magazine (P.O. Box 33515, Decatur, GA 30033). Adapted with permission.

Many visual artists draw inspiration from The Beatles’ image and music. But Manchester-based printmakers Ivan and Ed Chapman have ties to the group that date to its earliest days. Their mother, Margaret, attended the Liverpool College of Art with John Lennon and Stuart Sutcliffe. She dated Stu and roomed with both John and Stu in the infamously grungy  “Beatnik Horror” flat on Gambier Terrace. Back then she was Margaret Duxbury and known by the nickname “Duckie.” She went on to have a distinguished career in art, known for her Edwardian street scene paintings, before passing away in 2000. Ivan and Ed gravitated toward the arts, too, and produce a variety of graphic works under the name “Youngerman.” Their pieces include bright, Roy Lichtenstein-style prints of The Beatles, The Who, Jimi Hendrix and more, along with a series of maps where the street names of Liverpool and London are replaced with song titles. Here, the Chapman brothers respond to a series of email questions from Beatefan contributor John Firehammer. 
Can you provide some details on your business? When did it open? The map designs first went on sale in mid-2015 as soon as a license had been granted by mapping companies A-Z and Ordnance Survey, on which the real streets are based. The pop art originals and prints have been on sale for longer. The works have sold all over the world. There are fans on every continent!

What is you background in printmaking and art? Did you study professionally? Do you create the art together or individually?All Youngerman designs are created as a team. Our parents were both qualified artists and passed on their knowledge from an early age. Later study was at college. 
 What type of printmaking is this, in terms of the techniques and materials used?
The Beatles “All You Need is Loverpool” is a GiclĂ©e print utilizing the latest lightfast dyes and printing techniques on distinctly textured Hahnemuhle heavyweight German Etching board, which recreates the desired “vintage” style look of the design perfectly. The premium mould-made paper meets the highest industry standards regarding density, colour gamut, colour graduation and image sharpness while preserving the special touch and feel of genuine art paper.

Your mom had a close connection with the early Beatles. She attended Art College with John Lennon and Stu Sutcliffe and shared a flat with them. What time period was that? 
She studied at Liverpool College of Art for five years from 1957-62. She was especially good at painting, as was Stuart Sutcliffe. She went on to have a successful career as a professional artist creating works of Edwardian street scenes, from the early 1970s, with several sell-out exhibitions. She continued to paint professionally until she died in 2000.

How did she end up sharing the flat? Were there other roommates?She was Stuart's girlfriend at the time when they moved into rooms in a large, austere 19th century house on Gambier Terrace, very close to the art college opposite Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral, along with another couple, also college friends studying art.After some time, Stuart asked her if it was OK if his best mate and their fellow-student John Lennon could move in as he was finding it hard living with his Aunt Mimi, or had possibly been kicked out already. She agreed it was OK and John moved in, along with all his musical equipment.The place itself was the scene of the national newspaper article called ‘The Beatnik Horror’ (1960) which showed pictures from inside the flat and the apparent squalid living conditions, maybe somewhat exaggerated!

Did she see the Beatles play frequently? Did she get to know the other members of the group, too?The Beatles were not even called The Beatles at the time she first met Stuart. It would be the period when they were changing the group's name regularly. John Lennon asked her one day if she could think of a name and she suggested the jazzy title “John Lennon Quartet,” which apparently John liked although presumably this was quickly vetoed by his band mates! She also referred to art college non-friends as “nowhere people” and teachers as “nowhere men,” which John liked and found amusing. Maybe he remembered this?She remembered Paul and George, who used to call round to rehearse at the flat, coming up the wooden fire escape at the rear of the property and in through a window. Presumably songs like “Love Me Do” would be rehearsed at this time. They all called her “Duckie” (her maiden name was Duxbury) and she recalled George being very good-looking and Paul confident even then, both of them very polite too. They would all play cards and Monopoly, which she said John, Paul and George all cheated outrageously at. She never liked the game much after this! Even though she was five weeks younger than John she never saw them at the Cavern, possibly considering herself too old - at the age of 20!

Did your mom share any stories about those days that you haven't heard elsewhere, that haven't come out in any of the Beatles books?Yes. Albert Goldman got her name incorrect in his biography of John, surprising considering how in-depth he supposedly researched and interviewed for that book. Philip Norman and Ray Connolly both mention her, although in Connolly's book the story about hanging spiders above her bed as she slept is incorrect. She actually helped John and the others make the spiders from, of all things, potatoes with straws for legs. She was always very good at coming up with creative ideas as a mother too.However, none of them mentions how she vividly recalled the first time she was alone with John Lennon. This was at Gambier Terrace, waiting for the other flatmates to come in. She was little short of terrified as John was notorious around college for making sharp, witty put-downs whenever fellow students walked by and she dreaded the encounter one-to-one.It turned out John in private was actually quite shy and polite and he asked her would she like to read some of his writing. She did and she told him it reminded her of an author called J. D. Salinger. John didn't know of Salinger, so she leant him her copy of “The Catcher in the Rye,” which he later said he enjoyed a great deal.She later signed her paintings M. Chapman (her married surname) and was known as “Marg,” an eerie coincidence being as close a female name can be to John's assassin's name, who was, as we know, obsessed with the same book.John never did return her book. Maybe Yoko still has it?

What were her recollections of John and Stu as people and personalities? It seems like they were quite different in temperament, yet such good friends.She said Stuart was a lovely person, same height as she was at 5' 5'' and could be self-effacing and comical despite his talent, and as an art student was generous with advice, which she took on board and employed later in her own work. John was decidedly more all bravado in a group, a leader, but certainly with her seems to have always been fun and courteous, wearing the glasses he normally eschewed in public. John and Stuart got on she said, perhaps because they were the same age (Paul and George were younger) and had creativity in common beyond music.

Describe some of the inspirations behind your work. Obviously, the pop art prints are very 1960s inspired, with their bright colors and Roy Lichtenstein influence. Maps are another big influence.Pop art definitely is an obvious influence, yet surprisingly The Beatles and other famous people have not really been created in the traditional pop art style before, with speech bubbles and the Ben-Day dots integral to the work. The Beatles are so heavily associated with and so massively influenced the 1960s when pop art was at its height so it seemed logical to create them in this style.The map designs are absolutely true to the real roads of the area in question. They have been changed, stylized to a lesser or greater degree. Some real roads and landmarks remain too. Maps and diagrams have long made for interesting art. With the map prints, fans look for their favorite song in the designs.

What's the connection between music and your work? It's not just the Beatles, but you also have prints inspired by Hendrix and Dylan, as well as punk-era groups like The Clash and The Jam.Music plays a massive part in people's lives so creating music legends in art, with luck, is going to be popular. The map designs seem like a logical extension of the musician portraits, something not really seen before yet maintaining a pop art flavour.

You gave one of your Liverpool maps to Paul McCartney and got a very nice response. Can you tell a little bit about that?There was an interview with Paul from about a year or so ago and he was saying how he was so fond of and even nostalgic for Liverpool. The city, as we know, had a special effect on the band. We thought it was a nice idea to see if he would like to own the first print in the limited edition combining songs with the streets of his hometown. It turned out he was interested and was really delighted when he received it at his office in Soho, along with a note to say thanks for the songs!

Where do you see this going next? Do you think you'll do more in your current style of maps and pop prints, or get into other subjects and styles, too?
There will definitely be more map designs coming soon. They are proving very popular with fans. Currently being worked on are designs for David Bowie, Pink Floyd and another for The Sex Pistols, all maps based in London.
Youngerman prints are available online at www.youngerman-art.com and in various galleries in the U.K.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Beatlefan Interview with Jim Berkenstadt, Author of 'The Beatle Who Vanished'

2:56 PM Posted by Nicole M
Article by John Firehammer and originally published in Beatlefan magazine (P.O. Box 33515, Decatur, GA 30033)Adapted with permission.

The news broke recently that author Jim Berkenstadt’s 2013 book, “The Beatle Who Vanished,” about temporary Beatles drummer Jimmie Nicol, is being developed as a film or TV project.

The Beatles hired Nicol, a London club and session musician, to fill in for an ailing Ringo Starr during the early part of their 1964 world tour. Altogether, Nicol was a Beatle for 13 days, yet the experience colored the rest of his life.

Berkenstadt’s book turned up a wealth of information about Nicol, including the fact that – though rumored to be dead – the drummer is still alive, or was when the book was published. All attempts to track down and talk to Nicol in recent years have been unsuccessful.

In this interview, Beatlefan contributor John Firehammer talks to Berkenstadt about his research into Nicol’s story and about the movie/TV plans.

On the development deal, it sounds like this will be a dramatization of Jimmie's story with a script and actors as opposed to a documentary, is that the case? As the author, what do you hope to see in this adaptation, in terms of the tone it takes and its scope?
The plan of producers Alex Orbison (son of singer Roy Orbison) and Ashley Hamilton is to transform “The Beatle Who Vanished,” into a dramatic feature biopic or TV series. In terms of the adaptation, I am hopeful the project will feature Jimmie’s back-story leading up to his selection by The Beatles; and of course, his experience in the eye of the Beatlemania hurricane, with all of the pressures; and especially his post-Beatles life. I want the viewer to feel what it was like for Jimmie as he made choices in his post-Beatles career, in his efforts to re-create the fame he experienced as a Beatle. How does a person live with 15 minutes of fame the rest of their lives? I want people to appreciate why the mysterious Mr. Nicol kept vanishing.

It's obvious in reading the book why you took on this project. You covered a fascinating story and uncovered a lot of information not just about Jimmie's life before and after the Beatles, but also about how he was picked to deputize for Ringo. But what made you think there was something there to begin with? You obviously had a sense there was a good story that hadn't been covered.
At first, I was curious why Jimmie Nicol was always a one-sentence footnote in every Beatles history book. So I began to wonder how his career had put him in position to be selected to replace Ringo. No one had ever looked into this.

I knew I could write an entire book about just his two weeks with The Beatles. However, the more I discovered about him, the more I wanted to flesh out his entire career. He was beloved by all of the musicians he played with. Yet he also virtually abandoned his family to pursue his career. As I began to slowly locate and interview the people in his life, it became clear that this story was much more than an untold chapter in Beatles history.

Then, as I began to find out where Jimmie worked and lived around the world after his first disappearance, I became intrigued, searching for his every move. The book moved from music history to a true mystery. For example, it took six years to locate and interview his ex-wife Julia in Mexico. I couldn’t finish the book until I was able to fill in his Mexican life. It was a combination of my research skills as a former trial attorney and a bit of good fortune that led me to discover so many people connected to Jimmie Nicol’s life.

What are some of the things that surprised you most as you researched Jimmie's life?
I was intrigued to find out that Jimmie started out in the first wave of British Rock and Roll and played behind many of the old stars that The Beatles looked up to, including a short stint in Tony Sheridan’s early London band. Then when he moved from rock into big band touring and even briefly recording with a ska band, I realized he really was a serious student of the drums who wanted to learn every style.

His big band era led him into the exclusive and lucrative world of London recording sessions. Then I located some amazing lost BBC video footage of Jimmie playing drums on a Tommy Quickly session with Brian Epstein watching him inside the studio! When I interviewed Sir George Martin, I discovered that it was Epstein who told George Martin to call Jimmie in for The Beatles tryout, not Martin. The myth of Martin working with Jimmie Nicol before The Beatles continues to be perpetrated online today! Fake news from the Sixties…

I was also surprised how many albums Jimmie recorded after The Beatles, but not as a session player. For example, he became a full member of Sweden’s Spotnicks, who were thrilled to have him in the band for his playing, not for his Beatles connection. And they had a number one hit with Jimmie in Japan. Another stunner was Jimmie recording a psychedelic album in 1967 in Mexico (called “Nicolquinn” on RCA Mexicana) at the same time The Beatles were recording “Sgt. Pepper”.

The funniest discovery was finding a lost Mexican underground film in which Jimmie composed and performed the soundtrack. The highlight was clip of him playing butt bongos on a naked woman in the film! Oh the Sixties, and experimental films…

What are your impressions of Jimmie as a drummer? By all accounts, he was very good from a technical standpoint - maybe the most-skilled drummer the Beatles ever had, Ringo included.
Jimmie Nicol was an excellent drummer. He could play rock’n’roll, blues, R&B, ska, big band and jazz; so he was quite versatile. Unlike Ringo, Jimmie also learned to read music, which was important in big bands and in the studio for recording sessions.

Ringo, as your readers know, was not flashy and did not really go in for drum solos. However, Ringo was perfect for - and complimented - the Lennon-McCartney songwriting style. He was part of a four-person team that put the song above the individual players.

Jimmie was used to playing wild solos. There is a perfect example of his wild solos in a video posted on my author site, www.thebeatlewhovanished.com. He liked to take the spotlight in concert. In “The Beatle Who Vanished,” I placed a photo of John, Paul and George bowing at the end of a song in Adelaide. Meanwhile, the photo shows Nicol playing a drum flourish after the song has ended! Ringo would have ended at the same time as the others, and bowed with The Beatles. Jimmie was playing a post-song flourish to milk applause, something that was totally unnecessary with The Beatles! Yet something he had learned along the way.

From a stylistic standpoint, Ringo played live what he had recorded with the group on record. Ringo sat low and used mostly his wrists to play drums. Whereas Jimmie raised Ringo’s stool and used more of his arms and hit the drums much harder and louder than Ringo in concert.

Were you surprised that Jimmie's story wasn't discussed at all in the "Eight Days a Week" documentary film? It seems like a major oversight and a lost opportunity.
I wasn’t surprised at all. It was no oversight. There was an attempt to locate Jimmie, get him on camera and have him tell his story for potential use in the film. But, as you know, Jimmie is still missing in action. He was also shown and discussed by The Beatles in “Anthology.”

By nature, it sounds like Jimmie was a free spirit. He was fairly relaxed and easy to get along with. It seems like the other Beatles liked him and got along well with him? Do you think that's the case?
Yes I do. Jimmie was well-liked by every musician I interviewed. It helped that Jimmie had played with many of the early British rockers The Beatles looked up to as kids; such as Marty Wilde, Vince Eager, Joe Brown and Tony Sheridan. When Tony Sheridan accidentally turned up on The Beatles plane ride from London to Hong Kong, I relate in the book how Sheridan’s stories of Jimmie bridged the gap and helped The Beatles begin to bond with Jimmie socially on tour. And of course, when Paul asked Jimmie on tour each day how he was doing, handling the drumming, press conferences and pressure, Jimmie told Paul, “It’s Getting Better every day”. Everyone I interviewed on that tour said that Jimmie and The Beatles got along very well and enjoyed each other’s company.

Brian Epstein reportedly asked concert promoters to treat Jimmie "like a Beatle," yet Jimmie later blamed Brian for sabotaging his post-Beatles career. Is this more a case of him needing a scapegoat? Do you think his brush with Beatles-level fame unmoored him in regard to his musical career? He had such high expectations of himself for what he could accomplish, as if he were on the same plain as the Beatles because he'd played with them.
That is an excellent observation and question. First, I read the entire archive of the Australian promoter’s letters and plans for the tour Downunder, in a Melbourne museum vault. This took about 10 hours! The letters from Epstein did in fact state Jimmie should be treated as one of The Beatles in every aspect - from first class seats on the plane; using the same car as The Beatles in all parades; room accommodations; and much more.

Perhaps the strangest story I found was that Jimmie truly believed Brian Epstein had blacklisted him from getting lucrative gigs when he formed a solo band after The Beatles.

I do think Jimmie’s brief brush with Beatles-level fame gave him unrealistic expectations about his own career potential. If he had gone back to London and kept his session work, he could have retired by 1970 as a rich young man of 30. Also, if he had stayed in Georgie Fame & the Blue Flames, he would have ridden a wave of popularity that that band was about to experience both in Europe and the U.S.

Instead, Jimmie invested all of his money in paying musicians to tour with him, even as attendance began to wane after his “Fifth Beatle” glow wore off. His choices for 45-rpm singles on Pye were misguided in that his B-sides were usually superior to the A-sides. He got very little airplay and virtually no record sales other than through his “Fifth Beatle” connection. And, most of all, he used a nameless, faceless lead vocalist, while he sat in the back playing drums. Imagine if Dave Grohl had started a new band after Nirvana, sitting back on drums while a “nobody” sang songs written by another nobody. Would we ever have heard about the Foo Fighters?

The biggest revelation of your book is that, contrary to long-standing rumors, Jimmie is still alive, yet he did "vanish." He seems uninterested in talking about the Beatles - or about anything else - with the media. His son, Howard, recently said Jimmie would be "horrified" about plans for a TV series or film based on his life. What is your response to that? Do you hope that Jimmie might emerge to comment or help with this project?
I believe Jimmie is alive. He was definitively alive when I published the book. However, at this point even his own son cannot confirm if he is dead or alive.

Jimmie Nicol’s story is both fascinating and mysterious. I would love to hear from Nicol himself as to what he thinks about “The Beatle Who Vanished.” However, no one has seen him since the mid 2000s. His son Howie has not seen or heard from him in over a decade. So really, we don’t know what Jimmie would think about “The Beatle Who Vanished” being turned into a film or TV series.”

I spent six years researching his career before, during and after The Beatles, across eight countries; reading through archives; listening to his recordings; talking to musicians, friends, and family members; all in order to build an accurate profile of Nicol’s remarkable career. I believe the producers of the film or TV series intend to make a beautiful, respectful movie about his fascinating, mysterious and enigmatic life; hardly ‘mortifying’ or ‘horrifying’ as described by Howie Nicol.

Is there a timeframe, yet, for production of the book's adaptation?
There is no time frame yet for production. There are many details to work out during pre-production, such as: financing, securing a director, leading men and women, a screenwriter, music and budgets.

Will you be involved in the production?
I am an executive producer on the project. However, I hope to assist in two ways: I would of course like to serve as a historical consultant like I did for Martin Scorsese’s George Harrison: Living in the Material World, and I would like to assist the musical director with the selection of music that best represents Jimmie Nicol’s entire career.

What’s next? Do you have any other projects, Beatles or otherwise on the horizon?
As for other projects, I can be seen on the TV show Celebrity Legacies as an expert on the Reelz Channel, and I am working on a new book at this time. There is a Beatles connection to the book, and it does involve another mystery or two. Stay tuned.

Jim Berkenstadt’s book is available at thebeatlewhovanished.com and amazon.com. He can be reached at jim@rockandrolldetective.com.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

In-jokes, you know: Liverpudlian humor in A Hard Day's Night

12:34 PM Posted by Nicole M

Encountering A Hard Day's Night for the first time is a little like George Martin's experience of meeting The Beatles themselves for the first time, in June of 1962: the charisma and comedy of The Beatles gets your attention just as much as (if not more than) the music.

My reaction to seeing this movie for the first time was that The Beatles were every bit as funny as Monty Python's Flying Circus, and I was already a big fan of the Circus. In later years, this comparison proved to have some historical foundation: The Beatles and Python both had the same comedic wet nurse in The Goon Show (produced on record by The Beatles' producer George Martin, and directed for television by Richard Lester, director of A Hard Day's Night).

Of course the comedy was good.

However, A Hard Day's Night was meant to capture The Beatles and their personalities "in the raw," which meant capturing their very British, very Liverpudlian style of banter and joke-cracking. Script writer Alun Owen (himself a Liverpudlian) spent some time observing and interacting with The Beatles during their stay at the George V hotel in Paris, where they were booked for some 18 days of concerts at Olympia Theatre. Owen wasn't inventing character types for the film, he was drawing from real life studies.

Which means, in the end, that a fair bit of the humor in A Hard Day's Night might go over the heads of those of us who aren't as familiar with Scouse culture, slang, and word-play. At the risk of violating the principle, "a joke isn't funny if you have to explain it," here are a few of my own "a-ha!" moments (and maybe a few misheard lines) while watching this great film over the years.

"He'll cost you a fortune ..."

In the opening train scene, as Paul introduces his grandfather to the other Beatles, he admits that he's concerned about having to keep an eye on ol' Granddad, saying, "he'll cost you a fortune in Breach of Promise cases."

Breach of Promise lawsuits mean next-to-nothing to us these days, but in Britain of the early 1960s, it was a different story. A Breach of Promise lawsuit was a means of defense for a woman who had accepted a marriage proposal, only to have her beau change his mind later and possibly leave her hung out to dry, financially speaking. The Breach of Promise lawsuit was a way for her to recover monetary damages.

Paul is telling us up-front: his grandfather is a womanizer, liable to make some nuptial promises he doesn't intend to keep. (And indeed, later in the film, he gleefully announces, "congratulate me boys, I'm engaged!")

Granddad's awful French

As the band decides leave a pile of unanswered fan mail at the hotel in favor of going to the club, Paul's grandfather steals Ringo's invitation card and sneaks out to go gambling at The Circle Club, where (as Paul read from the card earlier) the game is "Chemin de Fer Baccarat."

Without going into the nitty and gritty of the game, suffice it to say that it plays a bit like Blackjack, where players are adding up card points to get as close as possible to a total (in Blackjack, it's 21, in Baccarat, it's nine). One player in each round is designated as "Banker," or "Banco" in French, and this comes up later in the scene.

The gag all throughout The Circle Club scenes is that Paul's grandfather has zero command of the French language, and keeps embarrassing himself by trying to pretend he does. Early in the game, a fellow card player tells the dealer to "suivez" (a formal instruction in the game), and on his turn, Granddad announces "souffle!" A moment later, he shouts out "Bingo!", which is nearly -- but not quite -- the proper declaration, "Banco." (The dealer wearily explains this with the line, "Pas 'Bingo,' monsieur. 'Banco.'")

Just before The Beatles arrive to collect Paul's grandfather, a waiter approaches him with a tray of champagne and asks him, "Encore du champagne, monsieur?" (Which of course means, "more champagne, sir?") Clumsy as ever, Granddad responds, "Oh, yeah ... and I'll have some more champagne as well."

Now give me money ...

As Granddad's night of gambling and carousing ends abruptly (he is forcibly dragged off by The Beatles), their manager Norm attempts to settle the bill, and is shocked at how high it is: "A hundred-and-eighty pounds?!" He is quickly corrected by the proprietor, "I beg your pardon, guineas."

First, a bit of research: £180 in 1964 was worth about $600 USD, and adjusting for inflation, that $600 in 1964 would be worth roughly $4,700 today. Norm has good reason to be shocked at the bill Granddad has run up!

To make matters worse, it's not £180, it's 180 guineas. The guinea was an old form of British currency, and worth slightly more than the pound. One guinea is the equivalent to £1.05, and therein lies the joke: £180 is bad enough -- but wait! -- it gets worse! The bill is actually £189 after converting from guineas.

That sets us up for the next joke, where Paul's grandfather is given his winnings for the night, totaling £190 -- he's up on the night, if only by a single pound. But his winnings are quickly whisked away, and his complaint, "what about me change?!", is met with the response, "cloak-room charge."

(Am I the only one who for years heard this line as "Pilgrim charge"?)

The worst kind of demotion

At the end of the movie, as The Beatles rescue Ringo from the jail and barely make it to the television studio in time for the live show, Victor Spinetti's character as the producer says, "If you hadn't come back it would have meant ... The Epilogue ... or The News in Welsh ... for life."

For years, I thought he meant "the epilogue," as in, "the end" or "the afterword," the "last page of my career." It turns out that he's referring to two actual British television shows, The Epilogue and The News in Welsh. The first was a short program that ended the broadcast day, airing late at night. The BBC web site explains that the show "initially comprised themed Bible readings but over time hymns were added."

The second show is exactly what it sounds like: another short program where news headlines and major stories were briefly read out in the Welsh language, for the benefit of Welsh viewers.

Spinetti's line is a not-so-subtle dig at British television and its weird collection of one-off programs.

Odds, ends, and misheard lines

The train arrives at the station, and Norm comes rushing in to announce, "They've gone potty out there!" Yes, potty, not "party," as I always heard it. "Potty" is British slang for "crazy."

When Ringo fails to get any fan mail at the hotel, Paul's grandfather blames it on his big nose, saying "fans are funny that way -- they'll take a dislike to things, they'll pick on a nose." I always heard that line as "they'll take it in slighter things." Blame the accent, I guess.

While out parading, Ringo stops for a sandwich, but the bread is obviously hard and stale. The shop keeper insists, "that was fresh this morning -- two and nine." The "two and nine" is not, as I misunderstood it, a reference to a time or date. (Perhaps it was the time when the bread was baked?) She's stating the price of the sandwich in common British short-hand, "two (shillings) and nine (pence)." In other words, she's not having any of Ringo's whining, and in Americanese we might say: "that was fresh this morning -- that'll be five bucks."

As they prepare to go on-stage to rehearse "I'm Happy Just to Dance with You", John grabs one of the female dancers and says, "I say, did you go to Harrods? I was there in '58, you know." It sounds like he's referring to a university, but as any "Englander" could tell you, Harrods is a department store. Silly John.

And last, but certainly not least, throughout the film various characters blurt out an exclamation that sounds like either "Come, mad!" or "Come, lad!" At the hotel, for instance, after Norm and Shake leave the boys to answer fan mail, John gets up to leave, explaining, "Well he told us to stay, didn't he? Come, mad/lad!" This one's a Scouser-ism all the way: the phrase is "come ahead!" as in "come on!", but in Scouse shorthand it becomes "come 'ead!"

All this talk about the film ... am I the only one who needs to watch it again?

Come 'ead!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Remembering The Beatles' 'First Manager' Allan Williams

11:48 AM Posted by Nicole M

ALLAN WILLIAMS by Jude Southerland Kessler, Author of The John Lennon Series

Originally published in Octopus' Garden fanzine, Volume 26, Issue #3, March 2017.

You couldn’t spend an evening with Allan Williams without getting into serious trouble. Even when he was “on the wagon,” as it were, he was mischievous. Allan always had a hidden agenda behind the glint in his eye. He was the grown-up version of the kid who was constantly in the Headmaster’s office. He was John Lennon with a bit more conviviality.

When I met Allan, he had just turned 64. Ruddy cheeks, dense curly hair, commanding voice (that flowed easily into a lovely tenor), small thick hands, and an exaggerated swagger of self-confidence. He was made of fun.

My husband, Rande, and I took Allan to dinner in one of Liverpool’s most respected Spanish restaurants, and within minutes, Allan was ordering bottles of various wine and starters. Mr. Williams took charge of our meeting from the kickoff. Rande and I were there to observe, compliment, ask Beatles questions, and bask in his glory. Allan was there to run the show.

That year, Allan was “off the wagon.” Way off! The more he drank, the more he shared about John and the others. He even pulled a handwritten letter from John to him out of his pocket and shared it with me.   I read it over and over, memorizing it for my books. (I was no dummy, either.) Then Allan tried to sell it to me for £150, which in the early Nineties was quite a sum. I would’ve loved to have purchased it, but being a “starving author,” I declined. I had, after all, gleaned the information from it by that point. And I could see in Allan’s eyes that he realized that and respected it, to a point.

The main “artifact” that Allan was promoting that night was a pair of Paul’s leather pants. He wanted me to buy them and gave us the entire story of how he’d come to have custody of them. Was his tale a true story? We’ll never know. But it was colorful…and over dessert, we laughed nonstop.

I had read Allan’s book cover to cover many times before that evening, and I knew quite a lot about his escapades, except for the parts he wanted no one to know. So I had to ask: “Who really burned down your Top Ten Club?” (I waited until after the third bottle of wine.) And without batting an eye, he said what most of us knew already. “I did! I wasn’t about to pay ransom to those fuggin’ gangs…and the setting was all wrong, anyway. The club was in the wrong place at the wrong time.” There you had it. I couldn’t believe his candor. But Allan probably figured that if I told anyone, they’d never believe me anyway. I had zero proof. I still have zero proof. It could have been an outright lie. Wink, wink.

That night, we met his current girlfriend, Beryl Adams (yes, Bob Wooler’s former wife and Brian’s assistant in the NEMS store in Whitechapel). She joined us after dinner and suggested we go dancing in Liverpool’s premiere American nightclub. It was a large upstairs warehouse (P. J. McGinty’s or something like that); it felt very much like any place we could’ve attended in Kansas City, MO (our hometown at that time). Honestly, I was a little disappointed to be in such a non-Liverpudlian atmosphere, but I realize that both Allan and Beryl were trying their best to make Rande and me feel at home. A lovely gesture.

When the band started at half-eleven, I asked Allan to dance. “No,” he spat curtly, looking another way. “Ah, c’mon, Allan! One dance!” I cajoled. “Fuck off!” he shouted back. I grinned from ear to ear. I had just been told to “fuck off” by The Beatles’ first manager!!!! It doesn’t get any better than that on any given night in Liverpool.

The next day, both Allan and Beryl joined us in our Aigburth B&B – The Grange – for drinks by the fire. We recorded the interview with Allan that graces the Second Edition of Shoulda Been There. We took photos and chatted…and had a lovely, quiet dinner without so much splash and circumstance. And then we said “goodbye.”

The next March, when we returned to Liverpool and to The Grange hotel, we arrived to a lovely bouquet of flowers in our room from Allan and Beryl. I’m sure it was all Beryl’s doing, but the card bore both their names. I still have it.

The next night, we joined them for dinner in Button Street (just around the corner from The White Star) at a lovely French restaurant sequestered away in a cozy upstairs room. I had no idea that Allan had given up drinking, and so we ordered wine. It was a big mistake.

Within three-quarters of an hour, Allan was going from table to table and inciting all sorts of interaction. He led one table of diners in singing the Welsh National Anthem. He got louder and louder…and as soon as we finished our meal, the four of us were politely asked to leave. When I suggested walking around the corner to The Grapes, Beryl informed me that Allan was not permitted there. “He’s the Welsh Bard, y’know,” she explained with a wry smile. “I mean, he’s barred from almost every place in Liverpool.” And it was true.

My very favorite story about Allan occurred in March of 1995 when we were invited to the Liverpool Premiere of the movie “Backbeat,” and to two after parties: a dinner hosted by Allan and Beryl in The John Lennon Bar in Mathew Street and a dance in The Cavern Club just across the way. After the film (attended by Cynthia Lennon and her current love, Robert Bassanini), Rande and I walked from City Center over to Mathew for Allan’s dinner.

It was held in an upstairs room of The John Lennon Bar, and many of the 1960’s glitterati were in attendance. The sister of Liverpool singer Beryl Marsden was there, and she kept putting Beryl’s record, “I Know,” on a turntable in the room. Over and over, she played the hit with great pride. And, Tony Jackson of The Searchers was in attendance as well, telling his stories of days with The Beatles. Best of all, Woody – the inimitable Lord Woodbine – was present in full force! He didn’t bother to spare my feelings as he colorfully ruminated about “that bastard,” John Lennon. (The autograph we have from him that night boasts of the Hamburg experience: “I was the boss!”)

“Hey, I love John Lennon!” I flared, countering his insults. “He’s like a brother to me!” Then laughing his broad West Indies laugh as loudly as he could, Woody yelled above my head, “Well lady, you have one strange brother!!!!!!” Everyone in the room fell out.

The high point of the evening (for me, at least) came when Rande and I excused ourselves for a few moments to pop in on the party in The Cavern Club. We thought it would be rude and remiss not to do so, since we’d been invited so graciously.

When we returned to The John Lennon Bar, the owner of the bar and his wife had taken our seats at the dinner table just beside Allan and Beryl. That was no problem at all. We had already completed dinner, and we were happy to stand over by the record player and chat with Tony Jackson. But Allan was having none of it. He turned to the two usurpers and said, “That’s Jude’s chair…get out!” To which the bar owner replied, “Look, I own this fuggin’ bar!!!! I’ll sit wherever I want.”

Long story short, Allan shoved the man, and the man shoved back. And before I knew it, they were out and out fighting…it was an out and out donnybrook! I started to be horrified and upset, when my very wise husband (who always found the best in everything) said to me, “If I had told you when you were nine years old and just falling for The Beatles that someday The Beatles’ first manager and the owner of The John Lennon Bar would be fighting over where you were sitting, would you have believed it?” That put things into perspective. I beamed!! It was truly (aside from my wedding night and the birth of my son) the unequivocal best night of my entire life! Never to be forgotten!

I miss Allan Williams. I miss him very much. Last night, I took a long, quiet walk and thought of the good times we shared…the afternoon that Allan, Bob Wooler, Rande, and I spent in Lark Lane drinking and talking about The Cavern Club days and Hamburg. Bob was a true gentleman and a lovely spirit. And Allan? Well, Allan balanced him out quite nicely. He was the fuggin’ flip side of the coin.

People don’t give Allan Williams the credit he deserves. He gave The Beatles the chance that no one else gave them. He allowed then to audition for Larry Parnes and sent them off on their first real tour…the Johnny Gentle tour of Scotland. He gave them the opportunity to go to Hamburg, despite the written threats from Derry and the Seniors that they didn’t want The Beatles there, ruining their reputations. Allan taught John, Paul, George, and Pete to mach shau. He taught them to be hard knock rockers, not just kids with guitars. He taught them to command attention, just like he did.

Allan showed them that the road to fame was paved with starvation, cold, hardship, and ignominy. And if they could endure all of that, well then, they could be famous. He taught them to be gut-tough.
I respect Brian Epstein. I know that without Brian, The Beatles could not have stepped onto the world stage. But under Allan’s tutelage, The Beatles were the band they wanted to be. They were crude, macho, angry, conceited, arrogant, self-assured, sexy, and totally magnetic. They were the band I wish I had seen. They were effin’ great.

Allan was a large part of all of that. And tonight, as I remember the man who was my dear friend, I thank him for being the wild, uncensored character he was. Allan was Allan. There will never be another. Some might say, “Thank God!” I say, “Isn’t it a pity.”

And quite honestly… I still wish he had danced with me.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Ranking Paul McCartney's Albums of the 80's

7:34 PM Posted by Nicole M

With Paul McCartney's Flowers in the Dirt slated to be the next release in "The Archive Collection" in just a couple of months (March 24, 2017), it seemed like a good time to rank Sir Paul's solo albums from the 1980's and see just where Flowers fits into the picture.

Hint: it's at the top.

The 1980's were not particularly kind to Paul, and Flowers came as a welcome breath of fresh air. You'll see why as you work through this list: Paul McCartney's albums of the 80's, ranked from worst to first.

#7 - Press to Play (1986)

Most of the songs were co-written by Paul and 10cc guitarist Eric Stewart by literally pulling lyrics on-the-spot from conversations they were having -- and it shows. Producer Hugh Padgham dared to suggest to Paul that the songs weren't quite ready for the studio, to which Paul responded, "when did you write your last number one?" (quoted in Howard Sounes's book, Fab: An Intimate Life of Paul McCartney)

The album reeks of that particular 80's vibe every bit as much as McCartney II does, but it takes itself far more seriously than McCartney II, which makes it worse. At least McCartney II was homemade and almost purposefully kitschy. Press is trying to be an actual studio album. 

Everyone hated it, hardly anyone bought it, and frankly, it's more like "Press to Skip," am I right?

#6 - McCartney II (1980)

This is a bad album. Seriously bad. Like, so bad, it comes all the way back around and starts to become good again. Paul was fresh off a marijuana bust in Japan that had scared him silly, so he ditched Wings and holed up in his home studio with some synthesizers and sequencers and just went nuts. And that's what this album is: it's like hanging out in your stoned roommate's bedroom and watching him dink around with a keyboard for hours while you mindlessly pick at the wallpaper and wonder if Kevin will forget to pick up the orange juice again.

The saving graces that put this album ahead of Press? It's got "Coming Up," for starters. "Temporary Secretary" is kinda catchy after a while, "Summer's Day Song" is wonderfully melodic and had the potential to be a beautiful choral piece, and "One of These Days" finds McCartney in his solo acoustic element. It could have been a really good track, with slightly different production.

The album is a novelty. Not everyday listening, but fun once in a while. Just don't forget: it's awful.

#5 - CHOBA B CCCP (1988)

What do you do when your last album (Press to Play) crashed and burned like a Samsung Galaxy Note 7? You retreat for the cover of ... well, covers. This album is all cover songs, old rock standards like "Twenty Flight Rock" and "That's All Right Mama." But it's fairly uninspiring, and in his Beatles days, Paul once brought a lot more life, energy, and fire to these types of classic tunes.

It's an ok album, but when you're Paul McCartney, composer of "Yesterday," "Eleanor Rigby," "Let it Be," etc., you can do better. Write your own songs, man.

#4 - Pipes of Peace (1983)

Ok, we're getting to the slightly better material here. The title song is decent enough, even if 1983 is a bit late in the game to be singing peace, love, and all-the-children-round-the-world type of songs. Of course, the "Say, Say, Say" duet with Michael Jackson was a number one hit, and that gives the album extra points all by itself.

But after that, it's fairly forgettable material. "So Bad" is sentimental and sweet, but it also sounds exactly like it was written and recorded in 1983. Oh well, at least this album isn't Press to Play.

#3 - Give My Regards to Broad Street (1984)

Ohmygosh you guys, this movie was sooooooo bad, but you've got to see it at least once just to say you've seen it. This album is the accompanying soundtrack, and it's 98 percent made up of songs Paul had previously recorded, now re-recorded and produced with the Power of 80's Studio Magic.

Want to hear "Good Day Sunshine" re-recorded and mixed with a more electric-sounding piano, vocals washed in reverb and flange-y effects, and over-processed drums? How about "Yesterday," except recorded with horns instead of the iconic strings? Yeah, you'll love this album, then.

However, it does contain the mega-hit "No More Lonely Nights," and unlike with CHOBA B CCCP, Paul makes the correct choice with this album: if you're going to record a bunch of covers and you're Paul McCartney, you might as well record covers of your own songs.

#2 - Tug of War (1982)

Remember how I said that Press to Play suffered partly because the producer couldn't get away with telling Paul that the music wasn't up to snuff? With Tug of War, Paul joined up with legendary Beatles producer George Martin for the first time since the end of the Beatle Empire, and George, unlike Hugh Padgham, had the clout to offer some real guidance and criticism. The results were undeniable: it went to number one and was nominated for the "Album of the Year" Grammy award. (For the trivia buffs, it lost to Toto's Toto IV and the mega-hit "Africa.")

It's not a front-to-back jaw-dropper like, for instance, Band on the Run, but it has a solid run of really good songs: "Tug of War," "Take it Away," "Wanderlust," "Here Today" (Paul's emotional tribute to his recently-murdered mate, John Lennon), "Ebony and Ivory" (you can't go wrong asking Stevie Wonder to be your duet partner), and even "Ballroom Dancing" is a bit of crazy fun.

Definitely one of Paul's best offerings from the 80's.

#1 - Flowers in the Dirt (1989)

I would almost rank this second and give Tug of War top billing, except for the historical context. Tug of War landed at the beginning of the 80's and was followed by a lot of very mediocre McCartney albums. Flowers in the Dirt was every bit as good as Tug of War, and it brought a dramatic end to a decade of not-so-great records because of how Paul went about accomplishing the task: he embraced his Beatle past.

To begin with, he collaborated with Elvis Costello on the songwriting (Costello, of course, being a fellow Liverpudlian who biographer Peter Carlin called in Paul McCartney: A Life, "the songwriter critics compared most readily to [John Lennon]"). Then there was the music video for the song's opening track, "My Brave Face," which featured shots of Paul playing his iconic Hofner "violin bass" for the first time in nearly two decades -- and these shots were interspersed with private film footage of The Beatles being all young and silly. As Carlin wrote, the message was clear: "This Paul is that Paul. And now he's back to being the most Beatle-y of the Beatles, the act you've known for all these years!"

The opening track is extremely strong, and tunes like "Put it There," "Figure of Eight," "This One," "Rough Ride," and "Distractions" keep the listener engaged -- even if the rest of the album can be a bit meandering. Paul paired the new album with his first world tour since Wings Over the World (yes, it had been over a decade since his last world tour), and just like that, Paul McCartney was back in business. That's why this album stands out among Paul's 1980's offerings, even above Tug of War.

So, who's ready for the release of the remaster?

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Beatlefan Review of '16 in '64: The Beatles & The Baby Boomers'

3:49 PM Posted by Nicole M
Review by John Firehammer and originally published in Beatlefan magazine. Adapted with permission.

16 in 64: The Beatles & the Baby Boomers by Marti Edwards and Joe Carroccio

Meet the Beatles - that was likely the top aspiration of many a teenage girl in 1964 - and Marti Edwards is one who actually pulled it off.

Her book, co-authored with Joe Carroccio, zeroes in on the moment she met John, Paul, George and Ringo in the flesh. The occasion was a press conference held ahead of the band's Sept. 5 performance at the Chicago International Amphitheater, and Marti was there at the invitation of Beatles press manager Derek Taylor, himself.

Edwards' recounting of the brief meeting, and photographs of the event, are the highlight of this slender book, which also documents all the drama leading up to it.

Edward was a co-founder and the president of the 1,000-member Chicagoland Beatles People Fan Club, which hatched the idea of presenting the Beatles with a commemorative plaque once they hit town.

There's drama as Edwards and friends are invited to the conference by a promoter, but are then told they can't attend. Marti and a friend decide to bring the plaque to the conference anyway, to see if they can get in, and it's only through a chance meeting between her dad and Taylor, in a bar near the concert venue, that they are able to get in.

All of this is fleshed out with details of the times and Edwards' recollections of growing up in the 1960s.

It's a fun, quick read. Edwards spent only a few moments in the Beates' presence, but her account provides a good sense of what it was like to be a fervent fan during the height of Beatlemania.

Beatlefan Review of 'Days in the Life'

3:35 PM Posted by Nicole M
Review by John Firehammer and originally published in Beatlefan magazine. Adapted with permission.

Days In The Life by Aaron Krerowicz & John Krerowicz. AK Books, Carmel, IN.

Professional Beatles scholar Aaron Krerowicz has published a book as unique as his job title.

"Days in the Life" focuses on the unusual topic of a son (Aaron) and father (John) criss-crossing the country on a Beatles lecture tour. Aaron, an academic and music expert who has published three previous books about the Beatles, does the talking. John, a retired newspaper reporter, does the driving.

There's much discussion of the Beatles, of course, but also, oddly, baseball and birding. More so than a book about the Beatles' history and music, this is a story about a father and son, and how the band's music binds them.

John is a first-generation fan, who witnessed the Beatles on the "Ed Sullivan Show" as a young boy. Aaron, meanwhile, is a child of the 1990s, born years after John Lennon's death. Both men write different sections of the book, recounting their views on the Beatles and the events of the lecture tour. 

There are fun passages in which older fans, who where 'there," challenge Aaron's authority to lecture them about the band, but soon find out they know less than he. Meanwhile, John presents nice memories of what it was like experiencing the Beatles in real time during the 1960s. He recounts buying The Beatles' Second Album while on a trip to the store with his mother, and eagerly peeling the cellophane off the LP's cover while still in the car, impatient to get home and put it on the record player.

The pair's writing is fun and engaging, but this is a very specialized book - likely not of much interest to someone with only a casual interest in the Beatles. Yet it serves as a nice memento for those attending Aaron's lecture events and should be enjoyable to anyone who, like this father and son, has experienced the magical multi-generational appeal of the Beatles.