The Beatles banned by the BBC …… so was Paul Simon

The Beatles and Paul Simon have some things in common, most notably that each group had a successful song banned by the BBC. In 1969, the song “Come Together”, released as a Double A-side single with “Something”, only reached # 4 on the UK charts in part due to the ban on playing “Come Together”; it reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S. The song was banned by the BBC for their longstanding policy of not permitting the play of songs which make blatant reference to a commercial brand in that the BBC views it as free advertising. “Come Together” prominently mentions Coca-Cola. Ironically, one year later the BCC would ban The Kinks’ classic song “Lola” because it also made a reference to Coca-Cola, causing the band to replace it with the overdub of “cherry cola” so it would be played on the air.

1973, Paul Simon’s hit “Kodachrome” was viewed by the BBC as an overt “plug” for Eastman Kodak’s famous Kodachrome, its registered trademark color film that it first introduced in 1935. The song reached # 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, being blocked from the top spot by George Harrison’s “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)”.

There are also more connections between The Beatles and Paul Simon. Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein in 1965 signed the American band The Cyrkle, who had their biggest hit with “Red Rubber Ball”, a song penned a few years earlier by Simon and credited to Simon and Bruce Woodley of The Seekers. Simon has stated he only wrote the song because as a struggling musician in England he wanted to get a 100 pound advance from The Seekers. Bruce Woodley added a few minor changes to the song. A frat band of students from Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, Epstein was urged to sign them by his New York business partner Nathan Weiss. Epstein demanded they change their name from “The Rhondells”. They chose “The Circle” in reference to a circular traffic roundabout in the center of Easton, PA. John Lennon amended their name to the unique spelling of The Cyrkle.

While opening for Simon & Garfunkel, Paul Simon decided to give the upstart band his old song “Red Rubber Ball” to record. The song reached # 2 in 1966 and sold well over one million copies.

The Cyrkle opened for The Beatles on fourteen dates of their 1966 tour of the U.S. As luck would have it, The Cyrkle was on the bill for the final Beatles concert ever on August 29, 1966 in Candlestick Park in San Francisco. The Cyrkle broke up in 1967, with their two leaders, guitarists Tom Dawes and Don Danneman, going onto brilliant careers writing jingles, such as the 7UP Uncola song and the famous Alka-Seltzer “plop plop fizz fizz” jingle. In addition, Dawes produced a few albums for Foghat.

On November 20, 1976, Paul Simon hosted Saturday Night Live and invited his friend George Harrison as the musical guest. The two did duets of the Beatles’ “Here Comes The Sun” and the Simon & Garfunkel classic “Homeward Bound”.

Back when everyone in Wales spoke Welsh: those were the days!

This post was inspired by a recent article in the New York Times about the survival of the Welsh language entitled “The Welsh Strive to Keep Their Language“.

How does the Welsh language relate to the history of the Beatles?

Mary Hopkin is the only native speaker of the Welsh language to have had a number one hit on the UK pop charts. She was born into a Welsh-speaking family in Pontardawe, Wales. Her song “Those Were The Days” topped the UK charts in 1969 in addition to reaching number two on The Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S. Not only is she the only native Welsh speaker to top the UK charts, but also she is the only native speaker of any of the Celtic languages to have done so.

“Those Were the Days” was a Russian folk song that was given English lyrics by American songwriter Gene Raskin. It was the first single recorded by Hopkin, who was among the very first artists to be signed by the Apple Records label. Paul McCartney produced the song and played acoustic guitar in the recording session. He would soon produce a full album for Hopkin entitled Post Card, on which he would also play both guitar and bass on various tracks. Prior to signing with the Apple label, she had recorded an album of Welsh-language songs.

Mary Hopkin was brought to the attention of Paul McCartney by his friend Twiggy, the famous model, who had seen Hopkin win the television talent show Opportunity Knocks. She knew he was looking for fresh talent for the new label and telephoned him to urge that Apple sign Hopkin. Hopkin was immediately singed.

Having heard Raskin and his wife perform their song at a London nightclub in 1964, McCartney tucked the song away in his mind with the intention of being part of its recording someday.

Hopkin’s next single release was “Goodbye”, one of Paul’s songs credited to the Lennon/McCartney partnership. Ironically, “Goodbye” only reached number two on the British charts as it was blocked from the number one slot by “Get Back”, which meant that Apple Records held the top two songs on the charts.

Mary Hopkin continued to record and chart songs, but never had the same level of success as she did in the beginning. She married famed producer Tony Visconti, who produced a slew of artists in the 1970’s such as David Bowie and Thin Lizzy. He has produced numerous David Bowie albums beginning with Space Oddity in 1969 and more recently Next Day in 2013; in between he produced six Bowie albums among them Diamond Dogs (1974), Young Americans (1975) and Scary Monsters (1980). For the recording of the Wings album Band on the Run, McCartney recruited Visconti to handle the orchestral arrangements.