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Many songs mentioned “The Beatles” in their lyrics, while some even mentioned individual Beatles by name. The first song on the Billboard Hot 100 to mention ex-Beatles after the band’s break-up was “Garden Party” by Rick Nelson, which reached number six on the charts in the fall of 1972.
As the famous story goes, “Garden Party” was written and recorded by Rick Nelson, the former child television star known then as “Ricky Nelson”, in reaction to an upsetting event he had while performing at Madison Square Garden. Nelson participated in Richard Nader’s Rock n’ Roll Revival concert at Madison Square Garden on October 15, 1971. Nelson shared billing with Bo Diddly, Chuck Berry, Bobby Rydell, and other artists from the 1950’s and early 1960’s.
Nelson, with hair down to his shoulders and sporting bell-bottoms with a velvet shirt, went on with his Stone Canyon Band and did several of his famous older songs, then shocked the audience when he started to play a country version of the Rolling Stones’ “Honky Tonk Woman”, there was booing, which forced him to leave the concert and miss the finale. It has never been determined whether the booing was directed at Nelson or if it was attributed to a police altercation with some concert goers. This situation is fully covered in the lyrics:
Played them all the old songs, thought’s that’s why they came
No one heard the music, we didn’t look the same
I said hello to Mary Lou, she belongs to me
When I sang a song about a honky tonk, it was time to leave.
Nelson made reference in the lyrics to two ex-Beatles who attended this concert. First, he sings, “Yoko brought her Walrus, there was magic in the air”. It obvious that the Walrus was John Lennon.
Also, the former teen idol mentioned George Harrison in the lyrics. He wrote:
Over in the corner, much to my surprise
Mr. Hughes hid in Dylan’s shoes, wearing his disguise
Rick Nelson and Harrison were not only good friends, but they were next door neighbors. Nelson knew that Harrison frequently used the alias “Mr. Hughes” while traveling. The lyric “hid in Dylan’s shoes” was a reference collection of Dylan cover songs Harrison was recording at the time with the intention of an album release, but never really got off the ground.
“Garden Party” was Rick Nelson’s last entry into the Top 40 section of the Billboard Hot 100. Ironically, it was the only one of his chart entries that he wrote himself. Between 1957 and 1972 he had 36 Top 40 songs, including the number one songs “Poor Little Fool’ (1958) and “Travelin’ Man” (1961). He had 17 Top Ten songs, including famous hits such as “I’m Walking”, “It’s Late”, “Teenage Idol”, and “It’s Up to You”.
Ricky Nelson starred in the classic tv show “The Adventures of Ozzy and Harriet” from 1952 to 1966 along with his father, Ozzie Nelson, his mother Harriet Nelson, and brother David Nelson. On occasion, Ricky would debut one of his songs on the show, which would give it an automatic boost. In 1963, Rick married Kristin Harmon, the daughter of football player Tom Harmon, who won the Heisman Trophy and played for the Los Angeles Rams, and the movie actress “>Elyse Knox, a 1935 graduate of Hartford Public High School in Hartford Connecticut. Their son, actor “>Mark Harmon, who was the starting quarterback for the UCLA football team, has starred in hit shows like NCIS and St. Elsewhere, and is married to actress Pam Dawber. The Nelsons and the Harmons were long friendly. Rick and Kristin Nelson had four children – actress Tracy Nelson, twin musicians Gunnar Nelson and Matthew Nelson, and son Sam. Rick and Kristin divorced in December 1982.
Rick Nelson died tragically at age 45 on December 31, 1985, while flying from Guntersville, AL to Dallas, Texas. The aircraft was Nelson’s own Douglas DC-3, which had a history of mechanical problems. All seven passengers were killed while both pilots survived.
Many songs over the years have mentioned the band or individual Beatles, but “Garden Party” ranks as the first Top 40 song to mention ex-Beatles.
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