The holidays are here. There are many cool Beatles-related items that I find to be great gifts for people of all ages and for all occasions. The links to these items are displayed at the bottom of this blog post.
Last year on December 15, 2017 saw the release of the new CD box set Happy Christmas Beatles People!, a compilation of the special Christmas recordings that the Beatles sent each year to dues-paying members of the official Beatles Fan Club. This new box set encompasses the Christmas records from 1963 to 1969. This innovative special Christmas box set was reviewed in major publications throughout the world. Rolling Stone published a comprehensive article on December on the Christmas recordings to coincide with the release of the box set. The article is entitled “Beatles’ Rare Fan-Club Christmas Records: A Complete Guide“. This is the Amazon link to Happy Christmas Beatles People!
A great gift for Hanukkah is A Shabbat in Liverpool by Lenny Solomon and Schlock Rock.
In recent years, I have found that I cannot go wrong in terms of a baby gift with giving a Beatles CD for babies. The parents of the babies tell me it turns out to be a gift that they use over and over again. I have given the CDs for other occasions, too. The ones that I have given have been Beatles for Babies of the “For Babies” series, Rockabye Baby! Lullaby Renditions of The Beatles, and Rockabye Baby! More Lullaby Renditions of The Beatles. In addition, Baby Road: The Beatles Lovely Songs for Babies also seems to be popular.
Not only does ordering these CD’s online from Amazon.com save time in terms of going out to shop for a gift at store, but also you can be assured that no one else will be giving this kind of gift.
In the same regard, I have found success in giving a different kind of Beatles CD as a gift to my family and friends. Some of these people I know have many Beatles CDs in their collections, if not all of them. I surprise them with a unique gift of a different style of Beatles CD. There are numerous tribute CDs with an ethnic flavor. For example, people have loved The Beatles in Bossa Nova by The Brazilian Tropical Orchestra. Also, I get great feedback when I give another CD, Tribute In Bossa Nova To The Beatles.
Beatles music in the Cuban style is also a great novelty gift that people will enjoy. Here Comes … el son – Songs of The Beatles with a Cuban Twist is a CD that I listen to sometimes in the car.
The widest selection of Beatles CDs in different flavors can be found in reggae. There are no shortage of titles. The ones that I have given as gifts have been thoroughly enjoyed by the recipients. They are Here Comes The Sun: A Reggae Tribute to The Beatles, Tribute to The Beatles Reggae Style, and Vol. 1 – Reggae Tribute to Beatles.
Another genre that provides for neat gifts is classical music. The 2009 CD Classical Beatles is one that has worked out well, as has Beatles for Orchestra, and Blackbird: Beatles for Orchestra. Naturally, Arthur Fiedler & The Boston Pops Play The Beatles, a digitally remastered CD released in 2000, is popular.
Two other titles that will intrigue your families and friends are Beatles in Classics: The 12 Cellists of the Berlin Philarmonic, and The Beatles Arranged for a String Quartet by Wihan Quartet and various artists.
If you have friends who love The Beatles, giving gifts of this type will prove to be something that they not only will use, but also will remember for sure. The links to these CDs are below. Also, if you like this blog, please use our Amazon box when ordering from Amazon.com. Muchas gracias!
It is no surprise that last July 21 came and went with no mention that it was the 40th anniversary of the release of the movie Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band, which is considered one of the biggest flops of a high-budget movie in film industry history. It did extremely poorly at the box office and received universally terrible reviews. Many could not believe that the Bee Gees, Peter Frampton, Steve Martin, Aerosmith and others would participate in such a farce. When asked about the film in a 1979 interview, George Harrison expressed his sympathy for Stigwood, Frampton and the Bee Gees, acknowledging that they had all worked hard to achieve success before making Sgt. Pepper. He said of Frampton and the Bee Gees: “I think it’s damaged their images, their careers, and they didn’t need to do that. It’s just like the Beatles trying to do the Rolling Stones. The Rolling Stones can do it better.” Furthermore, the great George Martin, the former producer of the Beatles, shockingly served as musical director, conductor, arranger, and producer of the film’s soundtrack.
However, surprisingly, two songs off of the soundtrack have stood the test of time and still receive widespread airplay some forty years later. The soundtrack rerecorded every song from the original 1967 Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band album except “Lovely Rita” and “Within You, Without You” as well almost every song from the Abbey Road album. Though the 1978 album has been a joke for the last four decades, the songs “Come Together” by Aerosmith and “Got to Get You into My Life” by Earth, Wind and Fire received abundant critical acclaim at the time and so many years later receive regular airplay.
In simple terms, the screenplay, written by New York Times pop critic Henry Edwards, involved the Pepper Band – Frampton and the Bee Gees – becoming corrupted by the record business and the victim of a plot by the Furure Villain Band, played by Aerosmith, to turn music fans into mindless drones consuming product. The day is saved by a weather vane, played by Billy Preston, coming to life to save the day.
“We realized our involvement with this could look cheesy, but we looked at it as another adventure. The real hook was being able to work with George Martin on our cover of “Come Together.” We flew to New York to work at the Record Plant. Our idea was not to stray too far from the original. We had too much respectfor John Lennon’s classic to go changing it just for the sake of change. We ran it down and waited for the arrival of George Martin.
When the tall and elegant Mr. Martin arrrived, we said quick hellos over the intercom and ran dowen the song for him. We sat there nervously, waiting for words of wisdom from the genius producer.
‘It sounds good, boys. Please procced.’
We were shocked. We’d figure he’d have a lot to say – either adding or subtracting from our interpretation. But he had no suggestions whatsover. So we kept playing until we formulated a good basic track.
When we went to the control room to reach him face-to-face, he was the same genial gentleman as ever. ‘Keep doing what you’re doing, boys, and I shall see you shortly.’
And with that he left.
When the movie came out, no one could believe how bad it was.”
“There was a lot of Beatles revival stuff in the air back then. People missed the Beatles. Steve Leber put together a show called Beatlemania: four musicians impersonating the Beatles. Aerosmith were investors in that. Then we got offered parts in the movie version of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band produced by Robert Stigwood , who had paid the Beatles $500,000 for the rights to use their songs. Stigwood had just made all this money with Grease and Saturday Night Fever movies and soundtracks, two of the bestselling albums in history. I don’t remember why, but we did it, probably because it gave us a chance to work with George Martin when we cut our version of “Come Together” for the soundtrack.
Ray Tabano, an original member of Aerosmith who left in 1971 and assumed a managerial role with the band, put forth:
“The funny thing was that George Martin knew two things about Aerosmith: They took forever to record, and they loved Jeff Beck. George had produced Beck’s two biggest records [Blow by Blow, and Wired] and knew Beck was in town. So when they got into the studio, Martin told them that Jeff was playing that night at Trax and that they could all go see him when they finished. Aerosmith cut “Come Together” in two takes, George Martin flees with the tape, Aerosmith gets to the club, and no Jeff Beck. It was a hoax.”
Joey Kramer, the band’s drummer, offered this insight:
“The Sgt. Pepper? Are you kidding? It was a disaster. A real debacle. The Stones refused to do the part that was offered to us. Now we know why. It was just a pretty silly movie. Peter Frampton and the Bee Gees played the band, there was a girl named Strawberry Fields, and we and Alice Cooper were the bad guys, which was great because everyone looked so silly that we looked cool when we wanted to kill them. The only ones to get any airplay out of it were us and Earth, Wind and Fire, who did a great version of “Got to Get Your into My Life.”
In the three years previous to the release of “Come Together” in August 1978, Aerosmith had five songs in the Top 40, two of which – “Walk This Way” and “Dream On” – were top ten hits. “Come Together” reached number 23 on the Top 40 section of the Billboard Hot 100, staying in the Top 40 for seven weeks. Ironically, it would be over nine years until Aerosmith reached the Top 40 again on November 14, 1987 with the number 14 hit “Dude Looks Like a Lady”. Of course, the band was fractured in the 1980s, until all original members returned in 1984, which earned the band a new contract with Geffen Records. In the most dramatic comeback in rock history, Aerosmith collaborated with rappers Run-D.M.C. for their rendition of “Walk This Way”, the video of which on the MTV network exposed the band to a new generation of fans; this high-profile collaboration with Run-D.M.C. in 1986 was followed by their highly successful comeback album Permanent Vacation, which brought Aerosmith to the level of fame they experienced in the 1970s en route to an even higher plateau of fame than they had cultivated in the 1970s.
In fact, in his 2014 autobiography Shining Star: Braving the Elements of Earth, Wind & Fire, Philip Bailey, one of the band’s two lead singers, stated, “We didn’t just cover a Beatles tune, we transformed it, the EWF way. The folks at Columbia Records went crazy, and so did Paul McCartney who wrote the song. Everybody was pleased.” However, he continued later:
“As the movie inevitably tanked – along with the other singles- soon afterwards the Robert Stigwood Organization’s RSO label and movie empire went down with us. The Bee Gees were pissed! They wouldn’t speak to us because they thought we stole their thunder. Although Barry Gibb is cool with us now, back then they gave us no love at the gala premiere. There was a red carpet welcome for Robin, Maurice and Barry Gibb, but by the time EWF got off the plane, they had already rolled up the red carpet! But we were the ones with the number one record.”
Maurice White, the band’s other lead singer, seemed to echo those very sentiments in his own 2016 autobiography My Life with Earth, Wind and Fire. He stated, “Beatles producer George Martin, who also produced the soundtrack for the film ran to me the second we finished shooting and said to me, ‘Damn, we should have done the whole soundtrack like!'”. White continued:
“In essence, the other musical acts in the film tried two hard to be true to the Beatles’ orginal songs, which I beleive was their creative undoing. I revereed the Beatles, too, but I decided to remain true to our rallying cry: any material that EW&F touched, we had to put our own spin on it. In the case of “Got to Get You into My Life,’ we swumng it – hard.I think it’s one of Verdine’s best bass performances on trecord, and, according to Paul McCartney, it’s his favorite Beatles cover……….. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band did turn out to be a complete bust in every way. Critics panned it as one of the worst films ever – but we got another big hit out of it. “Got to Get You Into My Life” had to have been the only successful thing associated in that film.”
Earth, Wind and Fire’s rendition of “Got to Get You into My Life” entered the Top 40 on August 5, 1978 and reached the number nine position, spending a total of nine weeks in the Top 40. The success of “Got to Get You into My Life” sparked a succession of three top ten hits for the band over the next year – “September”, “Boogie Wonderland”, and “After the Love Has Gone”.
If you have not seen the movie Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, you should definitely avoid it at all costs. While this 1978 farce has been rightfully forgotten, the songs “Come Together” and “Got to Get You into My Life” are rightfully still staples of FM airplay.
“A Day in the Life” is well-known as the final track on the ultra-famous 1967 Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band album, and considered by many fans and critics alike to be the best song on the album. Backed by a 40 piece orchestra, it features both John and Paul sharing the duties on lead vocals.
While the song has been picked apart for all its unique attributes, one feature of “A Day in the Life” has gone largely unnoticed by fans, and totally unheard by fans for that matter. The song has a short section of audio that only dogs can hear.
The section in question is one of high frequency 15 kilohertz tone and randomly spliced Beatles studio chatter.
Of course, the “dog rumors” persisted for years, claiming that the Beatles purposely put in those sounds as a joke so that it would aggravate the dogs of people listening to the album who would be clueless as to why their dogs were agitated. Finally, in a 2013 interview with Zane Rowe of the BBC, Paul addressed the dog rumors. He confirmed the longstanding rumor:
“I think vinyl is the best. It just sounds good,” he said. “I asked my engineers why it sounds good and they explained that there are frequencies above and below that you can’t hear. We got into a rap with George Martin a long time ago. We’d talk for hours about these frequencies below the sub that you couldn’t really hear and the high frequencies that only dogs could hear. We put a sound on ‘Sgt Pepper’ that only dogs could hear. If you ever play ‘Sgt Pepper’ watch your dog”
The band Squeeze has an ironic connection to The Beatles, specifically with two members, pianist Jools Holland and famed keyboardist/ vocalist Paul Carrack. Holland was an original member of Squeeze (1974-81) and upon his departure in 1981 to pursue a solo career, he was replaced by Carrack. Both Jools Holland and Paul Carrack have impressive ties to the Beatle world as Holland was the interviewer in the 1995 Beatles Anthology series, and Carrack was a touring member of Ringo’s All-Starr Band in 2003.
The band Squeeze was formed in London with original members Glenn Tilbrook, Chris Difford and Jools Holland. Holland played with the band on their first three albums, Squeeze, Cool for Cats, and Argybargy. Those three albums contained hit songs such as “Up the Junction” and “Cool for Cats”, both of which reached the number two position on the British pop charts. Hits such as “Another Nail in My Heart” and “Pulling Mussels from a Shell” received substantial airplay on FM stations in the U.S. and Canada.
Paul Carrack, who was a previous member of the British pop-soul band Ace and the progressive rock band Roxy Music, replaced Holland. Carrack played on the 1981 Squeeze album East Side Story, which proved to be his one and only album with Squeeze as he left the band after the album’s release. East Side Story featured Squeeze’s international hit “Tempted”, which featured Carrack on lead vocals in a song written by Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford. Though at the time “Tempted” never cracked the Top 40 in any major country, the song evolved into a major song in terms of radio airplay and since its 1981 release it has been featured in countless tv commercials as well as major movies. Carrack was replaced by Don Snow; the band released the album Sweets from a Stranger in early 1982 and then broke up later in the year, ironically just as Squeeze was getting a foothold in the U.S. with their videos being prominently played on the new MTV network.
Apart from a solo career, Jools Holland became a television personality on the BBC with his show Later, with the music of stars and future stars, not to mention chock full of interviews. It is a small wonder that the three surviving Beatles chose Holland to do the interviews in the 1995 three part Beatles Anthology television special.
It seems that Paul Carrack followed Jools Holland in Squeeze, and later followed him in terms of entering the Beatle world. In 2003 Carrack was a member of Ringo’s All-Starr Band, in a configuration that included Colin Hay (Men at Work), John Waite (The Babys and Bad English), and Sheila E. As is customary on the famous tours of Ringo’s All-Starr Band, Ringo sings both Beatles songs and his solo songs while the famous supporting band members sing a few of their own songs. On this 2003 tour Paul Carrack sang “How Long”, his hit with the band Ace, “Tempted”, and “The Living Years”, his hit as the lead singer of Mike + The Mechanics, which topped the charts in many countries in 1989 including the U.S.
Paul Carrack was the subject of the BBC Four documentary Paul Carrack: The Man with the Golden Voice, which chronicled his distinguished career both as a front man for various bands as well as a solo artist. In a review of the BBC documentary the magazine Record Collector editorialized, “If vocal talent equaled financial success, then Paul Carrack would be a bigger name than legends such as Phil Collins or Elton John.”
Carrack, who was born in 1951 in Sheffield, UK, was vocalist/keyboardist in his first band, Warm Dust, which released three albums of original songs from 1970 to 1972. Warm Dust was followed by the short-lived but long-remembered band Ace, for which he performed lead vocals for the 1975 hit “How Long”; Carrack wrote the song after learning that Ace’s bassist, Terry Corner, had been secretly working with a rival band. Understandably, most people think the song is about infidelity in a romantic relationship. From their album Five-A-Side, “How Long” catapulted up to number three on the Billboard Hot 100 and scored in at number 20 on the British pop charts.
After Ace disbanded in 1977 Carrack joined the prog rock stalwart Roxy Music, playing keyboards on that band’s final three albums. Then in 1981 Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford persuaded the vocalist/keyboardist to join Squeeze to replace the just departed Jools Holland. Of course, “Tempted” with Carrack on lead vocals is ironically the most famous Squeeze song despite the fact that Carrack left the band after that only album.
Immediately after leaving Squeeze, Carrack joined a band that was more of a project formed by Nick Lowe. The band was called Noise to Go, and featured Carrack, Nick Lowe, Martin Belmont, James, James Eller and Bobby Irwin. The band was formed to back both Carrack on solo efforts as well as some artists produced by Nick Lowe. During this time, Carrack did the occasional session work with big name acts as his talents were in high demand.
His second solo album, Suburban Voodoo, was released in 1982. The album’s most successful single in the U.S. was “I Need You”, as its video gave the song a substantial amount of exposure as it was in regular rotation with the new MTV network, which had launched on August 1, 1981. The song did not fare well on the charts, however, spending two weeks in the Top 40 and peaking at number 37.
Then, as is well known, Mike Rutherford of Genesis recruited Carrack for a new side project, a band called Mike + The Mechanics. Carrack and singer Paul Young (not the Paul Young of “Everytime You Go Away” fame from 1985) were to share lead vocals. Carrack provided lead vocals on their 1985 hit “Silent Running (On Dangerous Ground)”. Four years later this “project” called Mike + The Mechanics would score an international number one hit in 1989 with “The Living Years”, finally giving Paul Carrack his first number one hit on which he performed lead vocals. It read the number one slot in the U.S. in March 1989 for one week.
Before the reunited Mike + The Mechanics topped the charts in 1989, Carrack had his own solo hit with “Don’t Shed a Tear”, which entered the Top 40 on December 19, 1987 and climbed to number nine, spending a total of 13 weeks in the Top 40.
In 1993 Squeeze recruited Carrack back into the band for their Some Fantastic Place album and a subsequent tour. During this second fling with Squeeze, the band re-recorded “Tempted”, Carrack’s sole hit with the band, for the 1994 movie Reality Bites. Because of the success of the movie and its prominent use of “Tempted”, the band made the rounds on all of the major U.S. late night talk shows. After a little more than a year with Squeeze, the famed keyboardist left the band for a second time.
In early 1993, Carrack teamed with Don Felder and Timothy B. Schmit, both former members of The Eagles, with the intention of forming a band and recording an album. While that project was fell off track, a year later in 1994 both Felder and Schmit would join a reunited Eagles, which reformed with the same band members as the configuration at the time of their October 1980 break-up fourteen years earlier. The band had their first concert in 14 years in Los Angeles in April 1994 for a MTV special, which would lead to the announcement of a tour. A CD of the concert, entitled Hell Freezes Overwhich would top the Billboard album charts for two weeks, consisted of live versions of both nine Eagles standards and four new songs; one of the new songs was “Love Will Keep Us Alive”, featuring Timothy B. Schmit on lead vocals, which was co-written by Paul Carrack, Jim Capaldi and Peter Vale. Thirteen years later, The Eagles would release Long Road Out of Eden in 2007,their first studio album in 28 years since the 1997 The Long Run album. The album, which debuted at number one and won The Eagles a Grammy award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance, featured the Paul Carrack song “I Don’t Want to Hear Anymore” with Timothy B. Schmit on lead vocals.
Pianist Jools Holland and keyboardist Paul Carrack made great music with Squeeze. Needless to say both have done amazing things since leaving Squeeze. It is most ironic that Carrack would replace Holland in Squeeze, and then later both would enter the Beatles world in most unique ways.
Billy Ocean first appeared in the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 in 1976 with the single “Love Really Hurts Without You”. More than eight years later he reappeared in the Top 40 with the international smash hit “Caribbean Queen (No More Love on the Run)”, which topped the charts for the first two weeks of November 1984. His first number one was immediately followed by two other hits, “Loverboy”, which spent two weeks in the number two position in February 1985, and the next single off of Ocean’s 1984 album Suddenly, the title track “Suddenly”, reached number four in June 1985.
When writing the lyrics to his third number one hit, “Get Out of My Dreams, Get Into My Car”, Ocean was inspired by Ringo Starr’s version of “You’re Sixteen”, the Johnny Burnette classic that the ex-Beatle took to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for one week in January 1974. It was Starr’s second number one hit off of the Ringo album, with “Photograph”, the Starr-Harrison composition, being the first when it topped the charts for one week in late November 1973. The famous 1973 Ringo album, which featured extensive collaborations encompassing all four ex-Beatles, also placed the single “Oh My My” at the number five position in the Top 40.
“You’re Sixteen” was written by the songwriting duo of brothers Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman in 1959. The famous 1960 rendition by Johnny Burnette, which became his signature song, reached number eight on the U.S. charts and number three on the UK charts; thirteen years later Burnette’s version was prominently featured in the 1973 box office smash American Graffiti.
The original lyrics by the Sherman brothers, as were used in the famous Johnny Burnette version, contain the line “You walked out of my dreams and into my arms”. In his 1974 chart-topping version of the song, Ringo improvised and replaced the word “dreams” with “car”. The ex-Beatle sang “You walked out of my dreams and into my car”.
Billy Ocean liked Ringo’s inventive change of lyrics in “You’re Sixteen”, and credits the mere line for inspiring him to write his 1988 smash number one hit “Get Out of My Dreams, Get Into My Car”. The song entered the Top 40 on February 20, 1988 and stayed in the Top 40 for 14 weeks. It topped the charts for two weeks, beginning on April 9, 1988, and proved to be the last hit song for the Trinidadian-born singer/songwriter who was raised mostly in Great Britain. Fred Bronson’s Billboard’s Book of Number One Hits cites an interesting fact: All three of Billy Ocean’s number one hits have eight words in the title – “Caribbean Queen (No More Love on the Run)”, “There’ll Be Sad Songs (To Make You Cry)”, and “Get Out of My Dreams, Get into My Car”.
Of course, as is well known, Ringo’s two number one hits off of the 1973 Ringo album, “Photograph” and “You’re Sixteen”, were eye-opening in that Ringo scored two number one hits before John Lennon had his first solo number one hit. Many find it hard to believe that the classic “Imagine” did not top the charts in either the U.S. or the UK, but it was actually “Whatever Gets You Thru the Night” that was Lennon’s first number one hit in November 1974. Some claim that it bothered Lennon that he was the last ex-Beatle to have a solo number one hit. Ironically, George Harrison was both the first and last ex-Beatle to have a number one hit, with “My Sweet Lord” in 1971 and “I’ve Got My Mind Set on You” in 1988. Both Ringo’s “You’re Sixteen” and George’s “I’ve Got My Mind Set on You” represent the only two instances in which a solo Beatle had a number hit with a song they did not write or co-write.
Julian Lennon has been in the news in the last year on account of his new children’s book and environmental activism. People may not realize that the Liverpool-born son of John Lennon is actually named John Charles Julian Lennon. A previous post on this blog entitled “Julian Lennon? Both John Lennon and Paul McCartney Names Their Sons after Themselves!” details how John Lennon named both of his sons after himself and Paul McCartney named his only son after himself.
Of course, Julian Lennon has received much media attention upon the release of his book Touch the Earth (A Julian Lennon White Feather Flower Adventure), which was released on April 11, 2017. The second volume in this trilogy, Heal the Earth, will be released in late April 2018. On April 3, 2018, it was announced that Lennon signed a deal with Gaumont to turn the trilogy into an animated tv series.
Julian Lennon came to the attention of the public with his highly successful 1984 debut album Valotte. The album was first certified gold, then platinum early in the New Year. The title track “Valotte” received massive airplay and reached number nine on the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100. The album reached # 17 in the U.S. and # 20 in the UK.
In September 1983 Julian’s demo tape was given to Charisma Records head Tony Stratton-Smith. Mogul Ahmet Ertegun was impressed with Lennon’s songwriting. Then, in October 1983, Julian began a three month stay at the French chateau Valotte. He had the luxury of having four recording studios. He named the title track and the album after the chateau Manor de Valotte, but the term “Valotte” does not appear in the song, which was written at the chateau.
The Liverpudlian said after the song was released, “The place where that was written, which was actually a beautiful little run-down chateau in the middle of France, which is where the label at the time decided was a good place to send their artists to work out their writing skills. I know that Thomas Dolby had been down there and a few other high-end acts at that point in time. It was just a really tranquil, beautiful spot in the middle of nowhere, where one could get a little lonely I guess. The song initially came from that idea of just being in this beautiful landscape and dreaming of the idea that if you found that love of your life, this is something you’d aspire to. It’s as simple as that, really.”
“Valotte”, the title track from the album, was the first single from the album released in the U.S. and the second single released in the UK. Written by Lennon, Justin Clayton, and Carlton Morales, the song was recorded at the famed Muscle Shoals Sound Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Lennon was inspired by the surroundings of the Tennessee River in Muscle Shoals and in the opening line of the chorus incorporated the line, “Sitting on a pebble by the river playing guitar”, as well as other references in the lyrics to the Tennessee Valley.
Ironically, the song was mixed at The Hit Factory recording studio in New York City on the very same console John Lennon used to record the album Double Fantasy.
So many people who heard the song “Valotte” for the first time thought it was actually John Lennon singing and were surprised that it was his son. The similarity in vocals was glaring. However, at the time Julian was adamant in letting people know that he received his records deal as a result of his talent and not his family name. When he sent the demo tape to Charisma Records, it was sent anonymously. With the exception of one song on the album, Julian either wrote or co-wrote every song, in addition to providing lead vocals and keyboard chores on every single. The album peaked at number 17 in the U.S. and number 20 in the UK.
The musical Beautiful: The Carole King Story has been on Broadway for four years, opening in January 2014. The hit musical won six Tony awards in 2014 and is still going strong. The play tells the life of singer/songwriter Carole King, featuring the song catalog of King and her husband and songwriting partner Gerry Goffin, as well as the song catalog of fellow Brill Building husband-and-wife songwriting team Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann. The January 14, 2014 New York Times article “A Songwriter Who Found Her Voice” gives good a insight into the play.
A song that is featured in the play is one that represents the only Goffin-King song ever recorded by The Beatles. The four members of The Beatles were well aware of the many hits written by the Queens-based songwriting duo that worked at the famed Brill Building located at 1619 Broadway in Manhattan. In 1963 when The Beatles were having hits in England and were a year away from their famous landing in the U.S., John Lennon was quoted in the British press as saying that he and Paul McCartney wanted to become “the Goffin-King of England”.
The song “Chains” was not a big hit like other songs penned by Goffin-King, but was a hit nonetheless. Both the version by The Cookies and the later version by The Beatles each have a unique history. The Cookies were the back-up singers for Little Eva, the babysitter for King and Goffin. As legend has it, King saw babysitter Eva Boyd doing a wild dance that inspired the husband and wife to write the song “The Loco-Motion”. They already had faith in Eva’s vocal abilities. Little Eva topped the charts with “The Loco-Motion” for one week on August 25, 1962.
The Cookies version of “Chains” was the band’s first song in the Top 40, reaching number 17 in late December 1962. Three months later, The Cookies would have their biggest hit as “Don’t Say Nothin’ Bad (About My Baby)”, another Goffin-King composition, which reached number seven on the charts.
“The Loco-Motion” and the Goffin-King songwriting duo has a unique and most ironic place in U.S. chart history. The Goffin-King song “Go Away Little Girl”, a number one hit for Steve Lawrence in January 1963, became the first song in Billboard Hot 100 history to reach number one by two different artists when Donny Osmond topped the charts with “Go Away Little Girl” for three weeks in September 1971. Surprisingly, the second instance in which a song reached number one by two different artists was also a Goffin-King composition; Grand Funk reached the top slot with their version of “The Loco-Motion” for two weeks in May 1974, some twelve years after Little Eva’s chart-topper with the song.
The musical Beautiful also features two quick appearances by Neil Sedaka, who took Carole King on one date when she 16 and used it as the basis for the song “Oh! Carol”, which reached number nine on the charts in 1959. Of course, Neil Sedaka was a great friend of John Lennon and wrote and performed the 1975 hit “The Immigrant” about Lennon’s immigration problems. A previous blog post, “Neil Sedaka Wrote a Hit Song About John Lennon’s Immigration Problems”, covers in detail how Sedaka was moved by his friend John Lennon’s immigration troubles and wrote “The Immigrant”.
The Beatles’ version of “Chains” was recorded on February 11, 1963 and released in the UK on March 22, 1963. It appeared on thePlease Please Me album in the UK, and The Early Beatlesalbum in the U.S. John did the harmonica intro and George provided lead vocals. It would represent the first time that Beatles fans would hear George’s voice on a commercially released single. Some critics in England had criticisms of the song, which was recorded in four takes, the first of which was chosen for the single release.
We are currently at the 35th anniversary of “The Girl Is Mine”, the Michael Jackson/Paul McCartney hit song, being in the number two position on the Billboard Hot 100. The duet of these two superstars stayed in the number two slot for three weeks but could not make the jump to the top position on the charts. It did, however, top the Adult Contemporary charts for four weeks and the R&B charts for three weeks.
The song was recorded at Westlake Studios in Los Angeles, the site of the recording for the entire Thriller album, from April 14th to April 16th in 1982. It was released on October 18, 1982 and was the first single released on what would become the top-selling album in history.
“The Girl Is Mine” cracked the Top 40 on November 13, 1982 and stayed in the Top 40 for 14 weeks. By 1985 it had sold 1.3 million copies. The song was largely forgotten in the wake of the amazing success of the other songs released from the Thriller album. The next song released from the album,“Billie Jean”, would top the charts for seven weeks, followed by “Beat It” which stayed at number one for three weeks. Then, “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” peaked at the number five position. “Human Nature” reached number seven. “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing) scored number ten on the charts, and finally “Thriller” stalled at number four on the charts. Of course, Thriller ranks as the bestselling album of all-time. After its November 30, 1982 release, it sold an astounding 66 million copies in a little over a year. Representatives for both Sony and Jackson’s estate say that Thriller has sold close to 110 million copies globally. Prior to the album’s release, Jackson negotiated an unprecedented deal with Sony in which he himself received an astounding two dollars for every album sold.
Ironically, Jackson’s 1979 album Off the Wall was the first album by a solo artist to chart four Top Ten singles (“Rock with You”, “Off the Wall”, “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough”, and “She’s Out of My Life”). On the strength of Thriller’s whopping seven Top Ten singles and highly popular videos to three of them, Thriller quickly set records on a quick ride to becoming the top-selling album of all-time, dethroning Carole King’s long-reigning 1971 magnus opus Tapestry.
Jackson’s follow-up to Thriller, Bad, set a record as the album with the most number one hits at five (“I Just Can’t Stop Loving You”, “Bad”, “The Way You Make Me Feel”, “Man in the Mirror”, and “Dirty Diana”).
It is small wonder that people were not expecting much of a punch from Thriller in light of the fact that “The Girl Is Mine” was the first single released. The strength of the rest of the album proved them wrong.
In the 2010 book Thriller: The Musical Life of Michael Jackson, author Nelson George wrote, “’The Girl’ was the first song off Thriller and released in October 1982, was a pop hit, but it was met with a lot off grumbling by African Americans unimpressed by the song’s perceived advocacy of interracial dating and its apparent retreat from Off the Wall’s great dance music.”
Nelson posits that the most significant aspect of this collaboration between Jackson and the ex-Beatle was not “The Girl Is Mine”, but rather a conversation in which McCartney told Jackson about the financial benefits of music publishing and song catalogs. This piece of casual advice ironically was the catalyst that inspired Jackson to purchase controlling interest in the Beatles song catalog four years later.
J. Randy Taraborrelli’s #1 bestselling 1991 biography Michael Jackson: The Magic and the Madness had an interesting take on the song:
“It’s ironic, considering the eventual impact Thriller would have on the record industry, that when CBS released the album’s first single (in October 1982, a little over a month before issuing the album to the marketplace), most observers thought the Thriller album would be a huge disappointment. The auspicious pairing of Michael Jackson with Paul McCartney for the mid-tempo “The Girl Is Mine” (which the singers co-wrote while watching cartoons together) appeared to be of greater interest than the song itself, which is more cute than good, and lacking in substance. Many in both the black and white communities felt that Michael and producer Quincy Jones had gone too far in consciously tailoring a record for a white, pop audience, and if this first single was any indication of what Thriller was to be like, then Michael Jackson seemed to be in big trouble.”
In the 1988 Yesterday: The Unauthorized Biography of Paul McCartney, Chet Flippo wrote on the McCartney/Jackson collaboration, “That same year Paul recorded “The Girl Is Mine” with Michael Jackson and in a way came to regret it. Because of that session, Paul forever lost the chance to own his own songs: the 159 Lennon-McCartney jewels in the Northern Songs catalog. Out of the blue Michael Jackson bought Northern in 1985 for $47.5 million.”
Surprisingly, “The Girl is Mine” was the third collaboration of McCartney and Jackson. A year earlier, the pair had recorded the songs “Say, Say, Say” and “The Man” which would be released months after “The Girl Is Mine” on McCartney’s 1983 album Pipes of Peace. “Say, Say, Say” topped the Billboard Hot 100 for seven weeks in late 1983/ early 1984 and would be McCartney’s final number one hit. Four years earlier McCartney wrote the song “Girlfriend” in the hopes that Jackson would record it; McCartney recorded “Girlfriend” on the 1978 Wings album “London Town” while Jackson would record the song on his 1979 album Off the Wall.
Members of the band Toto were the backing musicians for “The Girl Is Mine” with Dave Paich (acoustic piano), Jeff Porcaro (drums), Steve Lukather (drums), and Steve Porcaro (synthesizer programming). These members of Toto were used as backing musicians on several songs on Thriller. For instance, on the # 1 hit “Beat It”, the brilliant work of Jeff Porcaro on drums and Steve Lukather on both bass and lead guitar, as well as Steve Porcaro on synthesizers, gave the song the needed edge to transcend from pop stations onto mainstream rock stations around the country. Eddie Van Halen’s guitar solo on the track definitely created a buzz. As a result of working on “The Girl Is Mine”, two years later Jeff Porcaro and Steve Lukather would work with McCartney again on the Give My Regards to Broad Street soundtrack album. Steve Porcaro also wrote the song “Human Nature”.
On February 23, 1983, Toto swept the 25th Annual Grammy Awards with Album of the Year, Record of the Year, and Producer of the Year for their Toto IV album. What is ironic is that one year later in 1984 Michael Jackson and Thriller dominated the Grammys in light of the fact that members of Toto were so prominent in the making of Thriller. Thriller’s main competition at the 1984 Grammys was Lionel Ritchie’s album Can’t Slow Down, which featured Jeff Porcaro and Steve Lukather on the # 7 hit “Running with the Night”.
As all Beatles fans know, ten days ago on December 15, 2017 saw the release of the new CD box set Happy Christmas Beatles People!, a compilation of the special Christmas recordings that the Beatles sent each year to dues-paying members of the official Beatles Fan Club. This new box set encompasses the Christmas records from 1963 to 1969. This innovative special Christmas box set was reviewed in major publications throughout the world. Rolling Stone published a comprehensive article on December on the Christmas recordings to coincide with the release of the box set. The article is entitled “Beatles’ Rare Fan-Club Christmas Records: A Complete Guide“. This is the Amazon link to Happy Christmas Beatles People!
The release of this long overdue box set will compete with a popular Christmas song by an ex- Beatle. As is the case each year during the holiday season, Paul’s Christmas song “Wonderful Christmastime” is in heavy rotation on the airwaves. This McCartney solo song was recorded in 1979 during the recording of McCartney II, with Paul laying down all the tracks himself at the home studio on his farm. Though not a Wings single, all of the members of the final configuration of Wings appeared in the video which was filmed at The Founatin Inn in Ashurst, West Sussex.
“Wonderful Christmastime” reached # 6 on the UK Singles Chart, but did not chart on The Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S. Since its debut during the 1979 holiday season, it was estimated by Forbes magazine that the song has earned Paul $15 million dollars. Each holiday season the song rakes him in excess of $400,000.
Beatles fans will remember that McCartney performed “Wonderful Christmastime” on SaturdayNight Live on December 15, 2012.
In addition, Beatles fans will remember that there was never an official Christmas song released by the Fab Four. However, as the public knows now in 2017, from 1963 to 1963 members of the official Beatles Fan Club received Christmas records that were never released to the public. One such Christmas song, “Christmas Time Is Here Again”, lived on in bootleg records and became more accessible with the advent of YouTube.com.
Ironically, Paul can be heard on Side B of the monstrously successful 1984 charity single “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Band Aid. This song knocked out Wings’ “Mull of Kintyre” from having the distinction of being the biggest selling single in the history of the UK. It was on top of the UK Singles Charts in Christmas 1977. For whatever reason, “Mull of Kintyre” was a flop in the U.S., reaching # 33 on the Billboard Hot 100 and cracking the Top 40 for only that one week. “Mull of Kintyre” was a massive international hit that topped the charts in countless countries. Paul has never performed the song in a concert in the U.S. due to its bad performance there; however, there have been instances over the years in which he does a concert one night in the U.S. without performing “Mull of Kintyre” and then two nights later adds it to the playlist for a concert in Canada.
The 1977 Wings single “Mull of Kintyre” still remains the biggest selling non-charity single in UK history.
Needless to say, there was ample coverage around the globe last summer concerning the 50th anniversary of the release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. There was a highly praised special on PBS entitled Sgt. Peppers Musical Revolution , in addition to countless articles in major newspapers such as the New York Times and the Daily Mail. However, what was not addressed in the media coverage of the 50th anniversary was the fact that some songs on this groundbreaking album were “ripped from the headlines”. The songs “She’s Leaving Home”, “A Day in the Life” and “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” were inspired by news articles or announcements.
The term “ripped from the headlines” was thrown at some high-profile American television shows which based their scripts around actual news events. The first such show, Lou Grant, which ran weekly from 1977-1982 on, saw actor Ed Asner reprise the character Lou Grant from the seven year run of The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-1977) though not in a comedic role. In the show Lou Grant, the character Lou Grant had shifted from television news in Minnesota back to print news and was the city editor of the fictitious daily newspaper the Los Angeles Tribune. Some of the show’s episodes were based on actual situations that had faced newspapers in the U.S. However, the term ‘ripped from the headlines” is most heavily identified with the show Law & Order, which ran on NBC from 1990-2010 and spawned a franchise of other similar Law & Order type shows. Episodes of Law & Order many times were based on high-profile news stories that appeared on the front page of the New York City tabloid newspapers the New York Post and the New York Daily News.
Similarly, the song “She’s Leaving Home” was taken directly from a newspaper article that Paul McCartney read. Paul said the following of the song:
“John and I wrote ‘She’s Leaving Home’ together. It was my inspiration. We’d seen a story in the newspaper about a young girl who’d left home and not been found, there were a lot of those at the time, and that was enough to give us a story line. So I started to get the lyrics: she slips out and leaves a note and then the parents wake up … It was rather poignant. I like it as a song, and when I showed it to John, he added the long sustained notes, and one of the nice things about the structure of the song is that it stays on those chords endlessly. Before that period in our song-writing we would have changed chords but it stays on the C chord. It really holds you. It’s a really nice little trick and I think it worked very well.
While I was showing that to John, he was doing the Greek chorus, the parents’ view: ‘We gave her most of our lives, we gave her everything money could buy.’ I think that may have been in the runaway story, it might have been a quote from the parents. Then there’s the famous little line about a man from the motor trade; people have since said that was Terry Doran, who was a friend who worked in a car showroom, but it was just fiction, like the sea captain in “Yellow Submarine”, they weren’t real people.”
The front page newspaper article in question was in the Daily Mail about a teenaged girl named Melanie Coe who had run away from her parents. Coe subsequently said that the song was fairly accurate though she did not meet “a man from the motor trade.”
What was ironic was that McCartney had actually met a young Melanie Coe three years earlier in 1963 when he served as a judge on ITV’s Ready Steady Go! and proclaimed her the winner of a dance contest.
The final track on the classic 1967 album, “A Day in the Life”, written primarily by John with Paul adding the midsection, was similarly based on newspaper articles, mainly reports on the death of Tara Browne, the 21 year-old heir to the Guinness fortune. A friend of both Paul and John, Browne died when he crashed his Lotus Elon. Of course, the song starts off with the opening lyric, “I read the news today, oh boy”.
The main article on Browne’s death which inspired the song was a 17 January 1967 article in the Daily Mail which centered on a ruling on custody of Browne’s two small children.
“I didn’t copy the accident,” Lennon said in a BBC interview. “Tara didn’t blow his mind out, but it was in my mind when I was writing that verse. The details of the accident in the song—not noticing traffic lights and a crowd forming at the scene—were similarly part of the fiction.” McCartney expounded on the subject: “The verse about the politician blowing his mind out in a car we wrote together. It has been attributed to Tara Browne, the Guinness heir, which I don’t believe is the case, certainly as we were writing it, I was not attributing it to Tara in my head. In John’s head it might have been. In my head I was imagining a politician bombed out on drugs who’d stopped at some traffic lights and didn’t notice that the lights had changed. The ‘blew his mind’ was purely a drugs reference, nothing to do with a car crash.”
“He got the germ of it when he picked up the Daily Mail on December 19. John knew one story he would find. The previous day a good friend of the Beatles named Tara Browne had been killed when his Lotus Elan hit a truck at high speed in South Kensington. He was twenty-one years old, an heir to the Guinness fortune, and now he was dead in a car wreck. The subject stayed with John. On January 17, 1967, he settled down on his settee with the Daily Mail and read the following short item: ‘There are 4,000 holes in the road in Blackburn, Lancashire, or one twenty-sixth of a hole per person, according to a council survey.’
“John started writing, combining the two items and adding a reference to his recent war movie. It was still not a complete song, so John took what he had to Paul. In what was undoubtedly the last time they would sit down and work on a song together, Paul produced his own unfinished song that he thought would fit with John’s unfinished piece of the puzzle. Paul’s portion was, he said, about his memories of ‘what it was like to run up the road and catch the bus to school, having a smoke and going to class. We decided, ‘Bugger this. We’re going to write a turn-on song.’ This would become ‘A Day in the Life.’”
While “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” was not ripped from a news story, the lyrics were lifted almost word-for-word from a circus poster. There were a collection of unusual things at John’s Kenwood estate in the London suburb of Weybridge that he had collected. One was a 19th century circus poster for Pablo Fanque’s Circus Royal appearance in Rochdale.
While Paul has claimed over the years that he aided a small bit in the writing of the song, John always maintained that it was entirely his. The poster’s second headline was “Being for the benefit of Mr. Kite”; William Kite worked for Fanque. Mr. J. Henderson was a wire-walker, equestrian, trampoline artist, and clown; he performed with his wife, Agnes Henderson, thus the invocation of “The Hendersons”. A brilliant article on the subject appeared a 24 May 2017 Rolling Stone article entitled “Beatles’ ‘Sgt. Pepper’ at 50: How an Old Circus Poster Led to ‘…Mr. Kite”