The role of The Beatles in the formation of The Monkees is a subject that will have to be covered over a couple of blog posts. This one will be very simple and to the point in terms of history. Beatles fans largely do not know the Monkee connection to the Fab Four’s famous U.S. live debut on national television on February 9, 1964 on The Ed Sullivan Show.
Producers Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider created the show The Monkees about a Beatles-like band and their follies. Not surprisingly, Rafelson came up with this idea right after seeing the movie A Hard Day’s Night. The pair chose four people, actor/singers Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz as well as musicians Peter Tork and Mike Nesmith, to comprise this fictitious band which was widely referred as “The Pre-Fab Four”. The show The Monkees debuted in the fall of 1966 and lasted for two seasons. The show premiered to rave reviews and a widespread audience.
The band’s debut album, The Monkees, sent shockwaves through the music world as it stayed at # 1 for 13 weeks and stayed on the album charts for a total of 78 weeks. Their debut single, “Last Train to Clarksville” written by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, was a hit on the radio prior to the show’s debut and climbed to number one for a single week on November 5, 1966. Two months later, The Monkees struck gold with the Neil Diamond-penned classic “I’m a Believer”, which topped the charts for a whopping seven weeks. A year later, The Monkees held the top slot on the charts for all four weeks of December 1967 with “Daydream Believer”, penned by former Kingston Trio member John Stewart. The band had many other Top 40 hits, including “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You”, a Neil Diamond song which hit number two; “Pleasant Valley Sunday”, a Gerry Goffin/Carol King song which reached number three; “Valleri”, a Boyce/Hart-penned song that hit number three.
It should be noted that while Carole King and Neil Diamond were established and successful songwriters in the industry, each artist did not achieve success as a performer until after The Monkees had hits with their songs. Likewise, Boyce and Hart had their only hit as performers, “I Wonder What She’s Doing Tonite” after The Monkees scored hits with the songs Boyce and Hart penned for them.
What many Beatles fans do not know is the irony that future Monkees lead singer Davy Jones, at the age of 18 years old, performed a solo on the same famous episode of The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964 in which The Beatles made their monstrously successful U.S. live television debut. Jones was appearing on Broadway in Oliver! in the role as the Artful Dodger, for which he received a Tony nomination. This is the video of Davy Jones’ aforementioned performance on that famous show, which was not remembered because of the performance that night of four of his fellow Brits.
In later years, Jones said of sharing the bill with the Beatles on that famous night on The Ed Sullivan Show, “I watched The Beatles from the side of the stage, I saw the girls go crazy, and I said to myself, this is it, I want a piece of that.”
Following Jones’ 2012 death, in 2016 the three remaining members of The Monkees have put out an album for their 50th anniversary and are touring. The three surviving Monkees appeared on CBS Sunday Morning on May 29, 2016 about their 50th anniversary and album. The album is entitled Good Times!
While it is unique that Davy Jones was part of Beatles history that fateful night two years before the debut of The Monkees, the other three members of The Monkees have some unique factoids in their history:
Peter Tork – The father of the Monkee that made all the girls swoon was prominent in his own right. The future Monkee grew up in Mansfield, Connecticut, right next to the town of Storrs where the University of Connecticut is located. Tork’s father was a longtime and highly distinguished professor of economics at the University of Connecticut. In fact, during the years that The Monkees were on television and afterwards, some UCONN students took courses with his father just for the novelty of taking a course with Peter Tork’s father; some of these students found he was such a great professor that they developed an interest in economics and switched their majors to economics. This is the obituary of Tork’s accomplished father.
Mike Nesmith – Aside from writing the 1967 hit “Different Drum” for Linda Ronstadt and the Stone Poneys, there is something interesting in the family background of Mike Nesmith. In the late 1940’s, Bette Nesmith was a divorced working mother supporting her son by working as a secretary. In the dark ages of manual typewriters, Mrs. Nesmith was constantly frustrated by having to start over a document if a mistake were made. She developed her own self-styled white “correcting fluid” to make her work easier. Over time she fine-tuned and improved this typewriter correction fluid, finally getting it patented and then selling commercially as Liquid Paper. The former secretary’s Liquid Paper empire skyrocketed and at the time she sold it to Gillette in 1979 for $48 million, the company was employing almost three hundred people and producing over 25 million bottles of their famous correction fluid each year. At the time of her 1980 death, Mike Nesmith’s mother’s estate was worth an estimated $100 million; the ex-Monkee inherited $50 million, while the rest was earmarked for charity. Mrs. Nesmith’s amazing story conveys how a hard-working single mother on the economic fringes can create not only a financially successful company, but one that creates jobs for hundreds of other hard-working people.
Micky Dolenz – Both of Micky Dolenz’ parents were noted actors, George Dolenz and Janelle Johnson. Micky himself was a child actor. Dolenz, a friend of John Lennon who participated in many early morning jam sessions with the ex-Beatle, in 2005 worked for six months as a DJ at WCBS-FM in New York, the station that is noted for playing more songs of both The Beatles and ex-Beatles’ solo work than any other station in the U.S. A famous Hollywood anecdote concerns the casting of the show Happy Days, which aired on ABC from 1974-1984. In 1973, a then unknown Henry Winkler was called to read for the role of the famous Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli. Winkler walked into the office and saw the iconic Micky Dolenz waiting to read for the Fonzie role, too. Winkler thought he did not stand a chance against Dolenz and contemplated walking out, but held his ground, auditioned and won the role. Micky Dolenz has said over the years, “Only Henry Winkler could have played Fonzie”.
As has been frequently mentioned in books about The Beatles, George Harrison and John Lennon shared in common a favorite song of all-time: “A Whiter Shade of Pale”, the 1967 mega-hit by Procol Harum. Paul’s favorite song of all-time is the 1964 Moody Blues’ early hit “Go Now”, which featured Denny Laine on lead vocals and guitar. Laine left the band shortly after that hit and before The Moody Blues were to experience international stardom. When Paul was putting together his new band, Wings, in 1972, the first person he hired was Denny Laine. Laine was the sole constant member in Wings during their 1972-1981 existence.
However, John Lennon had another favorite song. This song was not his all-time favorite, but the last favorite song of his life. In the several days before his death in December 1980, the ex-Beatle was extremely “high” on Bruce Springsteen’s new song “Hungry Heart” from the album The River, which was getting a ton of airplay that week and climbing the charts where it would eventually reach the number five position. In his last interview ever, only a few hours prior to his murder on December 8, 1980, he said that “Hungry Heart” was his favorite song on the radio at that time and how much he enjoyed it. In the aftermath of his death, both Time and Newsweek mentioned that Lennon was in awe of “Hungry Heart” in his final week.
Some articles in music magazines mention that John was taken aback by Springsteen’s The Riveralbum in general, particularly “Hungry Heart”, which made him think he should have included some of his heavier songs like “Serve Yourself” on his Double Fantasy album. MTV published the famous Rolling Stone interview on the anniversary of Lennon’s death, entitled “John Lennon’s Final Rolling Stone Interview”. Discussing John’s views on the pressures of superstardom, it quotes the ex-Beatle as saying, “And God help Bruce Springsteen when they decide he’s no longer God ….. they’ll turn on him and I hope he survives it.”
“Hungry Heart” was unique in that backing vocals were provided by Marc Volman and Howard Kaylan, the lead singers and founding members of The Turtles. The two performed as the duo “Flo and Eddie” in the 1970’s. The Turtles had a popular number one hit, “Happy Together“, which topped the charts for three weeks beginning on March 25, 1967; in addition, they had four other top ten hits: “It Ain’t Me Babe” (# 8 in 1965), “She’d Rather Be with Me” (# 3 in 1967), “Elenore” (# 6 in 1968), and “You Showed Me” (# 6 in 1969).
“Hungry Heart”, though today a staple of classic rock and perceived as a major hit, did not hit number one on the charts. In fact, to this day, Bruce Springsteen amazingly has never had a number one hit on the Billboard Hot 100. He came so very close in 1984 when “Dancing in the Dark” reached number two and stayed in the second slot for an astounding four weeks, never making the jump to number one. “Dancing in the Dark” was the first track released off of the international smash album Born in the U.S.A. What boggles the mind is that Born in the U.S.A. set the record for being the album with the most top ten singles yet none of these seven songs reached number one. In addition to “Dancing in the Dark”, the following six songs from the 1984 album scored in the top ten on the charts: “Cover Me” (# 7), “Born in the U.S.A.” (# 9), “I’m Goin’ Down” (# 9), “Glory Days” (# 5), “I’m on Fire” (# 6), and “My Hometown” (# 6).
Springsteen’s signature song, “Born to Run“, the title track from his 1975 breakthrough album, only stayed in the Top 40 for five weeks, unbelievably peaking at number 23.
The album Born in the U.S.A. has a unique place in history. At the time of its release, albums and cassette tapes were still the norm; in fact, the cassette version offered an additional song, “Pink Cadillac”, as a means to prevent people from buying the vinyl album and letting other people tape it on cassette. CD’s were a couple of years away from the mainstream. The CD version of Born in the U.S.A. believe it or not was actually the first CD to be manufactured in the U.S.A. The first CD ever issued occurred in October 1982 with Billy Joel’s 1978 album 52nd Street; this very first CD and every other one were manufactured in Japan until Born in the U.S.A. was the first American-made CD in September 1984 at CBS Records’ newly opened pressing plant in Terre Haute, Indiana.
Springsteen’s highly anticipated autobiography Born to Run will be released worldwide on September 27. One can only speculate that the autobiography will include something about John Lennon’s touching endorsement of “Hungry Heart” only hours before the ex-Beatle’s tragic death.
It was most unusual for John Lennon to praise Bruce Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart” in light of the fact that the song and his own song, “(Just Like) Starting Over”, were released three days apart and competing against each other for airplay and chart positions. While it is hard to believe that Springsteen has never had a number hit, when John Lennon praised “Hungry Heart” the ex-Beatle would only have one number one hit in the U.S. in his lifetime; even his 1971 international hit and signature solo song “Imagine” only reached number three. The only number one hit that the ex-Beatle had in his lifetime was “Whatever Gets You Thru the Night”, which topped the charts for one week on November 16, 1974. Almost three weeks after John’s Lennon’s tragic death, “(Just Like) Starting Over” was a posthumous number one hit, reaching the top slot on December 27, 2016 and holding the top position for five consecutive weeks.
The whole world associates the famed Dakota building with both John Lennon’s life and death. After seven years of residency in the famed landmark building, he was tragically murdered outside this residence on December 8, 1980.
Built between 1880 and 1884 by Henry J. Hardenbergh, the creation of the Dakota was the brainchild of Edward Clark, the owner of the Singer Sewing Machine Company. Located at the northwest corner of 72nd Street and Central Park West, it earned the moniker “The Dakota” because at that time the Upper West Side of Manhattan was as sparsely populated as the Dakota region of the U.S.
A December 7, 2010 article in the New York Times, “Sharing the Dakota with John Lennon” by Christine Haughney, gives a brilliant look at the ex-Beatle’s years in the Dakota and his interactions with the building’s other residents. The article also cites how John and Yoko purchased an additional five apartments in the building; two were used for storage, one as a studio, and two as guest apartments.
Over the years, many famous people have resided in the Dakota. A partial listing includes Jason Robards, Robert Ryan, Lauren Bacall, Bob Crewe, Leonard Bernstein, Connie Chung, Rex Reed, Rosemary Clooney, Roberta Flack, Judy Garland, Jack Palance, Lillian Gish, Boris Karloff, John Madden and Joe Namath.
Also, some high-profile celebrities have wanted to buy apartments in the Dakota only to have their applications shot down by the board. This list includes Billy Joel, Gene Simmons, Carly Simon, Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas.
In 1979, the year before John’s tragic death, author Stephen Birmingham published the book Life at the Dakota: New York’s Most Unusual Address, which of course addresses the seven years that the ex-Beatle lived there with his wife, and later their newborn son. However, the residence of John and Yoko in the famed building is by no means the focal point of the book about the building which at the time of publication was one year shy of the 100th anniversary of the building’s construction.
This is a passage from Birmingham’s book on the Dakota:
A persistent rumor in the Dakota has it that one of the first tenants buried $30,000 in cash in the floor of his seventh-floor apartment. If true, the money reposes beneath the parquet of what is now John Lennon’s and Yoko Ono’s bedroom. It would cost at least $30,000 to dig up the bedroom floor, and besides, the Lennons don’t really need the money.
Another chapter features the following passage:
And yet if the building today is a “melting pot” it is one in which the contents have not quite melted. The Dakota pot seethes and boils with ingredients that have not quite come together, and feuds and rivalries and jealousies and factions abound. Some people, for example, feel that, among other things, the Dakota itself has been divided along an East Side-West Side axis. “The people who live on the sunny side [east] are entirely different from those who live on the shady side [the west, which is now permanently in the shadow of the Mayfair Tower Apartments],” says Sheila Herbert, a young advertising woman who grew up in the Dakota and, like a number of “Dakota Babies”, ended up with her own apartment there. Sunny-siders, Miss Herbert feels, are more sunny-dispositioned, more outgoing and gregarious, give more and better parties, have done splashier things in terms of decorating their apartments. The John Lennons, Roberta Flack and the flamboyant restraunteur-entrepreneur, Warren LeRoy, are all examples of sunny-siders. Shady-siders are more quiet and reserved, and more conservative and staid, less given to party-going and party-tossing, and socializing with their neighbors. Mrs. West is a shady-sider.
Miss Herbert may have a point. But there is more to it than that.
One of the most bizarre supernatural experiences at the Dakota involves the John Lennons. The Lennons have become the Dakota’s Mystery couple, though when they first expressed an interest in the building, there was no small amount of resistance to them. They were assumed to have an unconventional lifestyle. It was feared that they would have large, noisy parties with music and amplifiers. As a result of some drug-related charges in England, there had been a period when the United States State Department had wanted John Lennon out of the country, and there were those at the Dakota who felt the same way about him. But after moving into the Dakota the Lennons kept to themselves, gave few if any entertainments and expressed a wish for absolute privacy. At the same time, when they emerge from the building in their usual costumes (Lennon in blue jeans, a long black cape, a Mexican sombrero, often sucking a baby’s pacifier; his stocky little wife, also in blue jeans, in one of a variety of fright-wig hairdos) and step into His and Her chauffeur-driven limousines, they are a bit conspicuous. In their disguises, however, the Lennons are seldom recognized on the street and are usually dismissed as run-of-the-mill New York eccentrics.
Still, the Lennons continue to amaze. In the elevators, in front of other tenants, John and Yoko Lennon openly discuss their finances, reportedly saying such things as, “Well, we fooled them, didn’t we? It wasn’t thirteen million dollars they were offering – it was only three.”
The Lennons immediate neighbors on the seventh floor were not too pleased when John Lennon crisscrossed the staircase balustrade in the elevator entrance with twine, ostensibly to keep the Lennons’ young son Sean from falling through the railing. Lennon also keeps a studio on the ground floor, where he plays his guitar, and neighbors were put off to see that he had scrawled HELTER-SKELTER in large letters across one wall (forgetting that “Helter Skelter” had been the title of a Beatles record long before it became associated with the Charles Manson family). Later, HELTER-SKELTER was removed, and the walls were painted to simulated blue sky and clouds. John Lennon, when he encounters his neighbors, is usually pleasant and friendly; his wife seems less so. As a result of the Lennon’s presence in the building, the Dakota switchboard has had to handle as many as thirty calls a day from fans trying to be put through to one or the other of the Lennons. At times, small groups of fans gather outside the building, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Lennons as they come or go. The fans may not always recognize the Lennons, but they know their cars, and each time a silver limousine appears, there is a small, collective gasp. Occasionally, photographers lurk as well, in which case –altered by Jose, the doorman – the Lennons trick them by using the basement service door. Unsolicited gift packages are always arriving for the Lennons, either through the mail or delivered by hand, and when one of these was found to contain a chalky substance that did not quite look like talcum powder, John ordered that all such gifts immediately be place in the garbage can.
At times, too, Lennon fans have succeeded in slipping past security guards and gates, and getting into the building. There they become nuisances, ringing doorbells trying to find the Lennons. A number of people in the Dakota were rather amused when, at the inaugural reception for President Carter, John Lennon stepped forward and introduced himself to the President. The president looked blank. “I used to be a Beatle,” Lennon explained, a trifle lamely. The president continued to look blank.
Another passage in Birmingham’s book on the famed building is colorful to say the least………
When Lennon moved to the Dakota, they took the apartment that formerly belonged to the actor Robert Ryan. Robert Ryan’s wife Jessie, to whom he was devoted, died of cancer at the Dakota, and because of the unhappy memories and associations the apartment held for him, Ryan moved out soon afterward – to 88 Central Park South, which has become sort of a haven for ex-Dakotans who, by reason of divorce, widowhood or other change of circumstance, have felt it necessary to depart from their beloved building. There, Ryan himself later died.
Before settling in the Ryans’ old apartment, the Lennons decided it would be wise to hold a séance to see what spirits might be inhabiting their new home. A medium was summoned, and she very quickly made contact with Jessie Ryan. Mrs. Ryan informed the Lennons that she considered their apartment her home too, and that she intended to stay there. She would not, however, disturb them in any way. They could lead their lives as they wished. Jessie Ryan was apparently as gracious and charming from the Beyond as she had been in life.
Yoko Ono then telephoned the Ryans’ daughter Lisa to tell her that her late mother was still happily at home in the Dakota. Lisa Ryan was not particularly pleased or amused at the news. “If my mother’s ghost belongs anywhere, it’s here with me and – and not with them,” she said.
The John Lennons are not chic. It is chic to go around town on a motorcycle, the way Paul Segal does, and it is not chic to travel, old money-style in chauffeur-driven limousines, the way the Lennons do. The Lennons may think it is chic, or funny, to enter and alight from their limousines in blue jeans, but they can’t have it both ways. They merely seem odd. Besides, the Lennons have not done much of anything in recent years, and the man who helped revolutionize twentieth century music now seems to have settled into the ways of the haute bourgeoisie.
The famous 2008 biography John Lennon: The Life by Philip Norman provides some interesting reading on Lennon’s 1973-1980 residence in the famed building:
With so much else currently absorbing both their energies, the matter rested there for the present. Early in 1973, they came uptown to have lunch with Peter Brown, the former Beatles fixer-in-chief who was now running Robert Stigwood’s New York operation and living in an elegant apartment building named the Langham, on Central Park West. John took an instant fancy to Brown’s spacious pad with its sweeping views over the park and decided on the spot that he wanted to give up the gypsy life in the West Village and move in here. When the Langham proved to have no space available, he simply tried the building next door.
It was called the Dakota, but the place it suggested, even more powerfully than those cobbled SoHo alleys, was Liverpool. Some similar quasi-Gothic sandstone pile might have housed a bank or insurance company in North John, Tithebarn, or Water Street: the wealth and confidence of Mersey shipbuilders might equally have conceived its seven-story façade, embellished with balconies and terra-cotta moldings, its Germanic gables and steep copper roof, weathered to pale green, its street frontage of black iron lamps, flower urns, and decorative sea serpents. The very name suggested a touch of Liverpudlian sarcasm. When it was built, in the 1800s, this part of the Upper West Side was still so sparsely populated that fashionable people thought it as remote as North or South Dakota.
Though once the acme of luxury, the Dakota was no longer in Manhattan’s premier real-estate league and had become the haunt of middle-aged actors, film directors, and similar bohemian types. It had a slightly spooky ambiance, the more so being used as a location for Roman Polanski’s satanic horror film Rosemary’s Baby. Apartments were held on long, relatively inexpensive leases, and fell vacant only rarely. But it chanced that when John and Yoko’s assistant, John Hendricks, made inquiries, the actor Robert Ryan was about to vacate number 72 on the seventh floor, owing to the recent death of his wife.
A single look at the Ryan apartment was enough to sell John on it. Running half the length of a block, it had four bedrooms, stunning views of Central Park’s treetops and – the clincher for him – a distant view of the Lake. He loved the feel of the whole building, so like Victorian Liverpool with its heavy brass light switches, sitdown elevators, and mahogany, oak, and cherrywood paneling. In that crime-and violence-ridden metropolis, it seemed exceptionally well guarded: the entrance arch from West Seventy-second Street had an immense black iron gate and was watched around the clock by a security man in a copper sentry box.
For all the Dakota’s bohemian ambiance, taking up residence there was not easy. The board of residents who ran the building maintained a blanket ban against diplomats (for their fly-by-night tendency) and rock stars. In parallel with the “Save John and Yoko” petitions he was compiling for their immigration case, Hendricks had to organize a campaign to persuade the Dakota’s co-op board that they would not disrupt the place with wild parties or deafening music. Letters were submitted from character witnesses, including the head of the American Episcopal Church, Bishop Paul Moore, and they appeared before the board as neatly dressed and circumspect as in the immigration court. Eventually, they were accepted. The real-estate agent later admitted to Hendricks that he thought they hadn’t stood a chance.
This weekend in 1986, the biggest movie at the box office was the classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, a John Hughes teen comedy that appealed to a cross-section of all moviegoers. For young people, it was definitely “the movie to see” in the summer of 1986. The movie has a historical role in Beatles lore as its use of “Twist and Shout” in the most memorable scene of the movie spawned the single’s re-release and entry into the Top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100, which naturally cultivated new found Beatles fans among the younger generation.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was written, produced and directed by John Hughes and takes place in his childhood stomping grounds of both suburban Winetka, Illinois and downtown Chicago. It starred Matthew Broderick as Ferris Bueller, a high school senior who decides to skip school one day and have with with his two friends, Sloane Peterson and Cameron Frye, played respectively by Mia Sara and Alan Ruck.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was made on $5.8 million budget and grossed $70.1 million, ranking as one of the top-grossing movies of 1986.
The scene with “Twist and Shout” occurs when the trio stumbles upon the Von Stueben Day Parade in Chicago. It took much choreographic preparation and several days of shooting to pull of these famous scenes. First, Ferris gets up onto a German float and lip synchs the 1963 hit “Danke Schoen” by Wayne Newtown; the 21 year-old singer Wayne Newton had placed the Bert Kaempfert classic at number 13 on the charts.
Then, the famous scene with “Twist and Shout” made the movie. John Hughes was a major Beatles fan and stated that every day during the 56 days of shooting the movie he listened to the White Album in its entirety. Because the song was featured prominently in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, “Twist and Shout” was re-released as a single, reaching number 23 and staying in the Top 40 for seven weeks. In 1964, “Twist and Shout” stalled for an amazing four weeks at the number two position but never made the jump up to the top slot. It spent 16 weeks in the Top 40 in 1964. The combined 1964 and 1986 total of 23 weeks in the Top 40 give the single the distinction of being the Beatles single with the most weeks in the Top 40 at 23.
The song received an additional boost when the Rodney Dangerfield movie Back to School, which was released a week after Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, featured the comedian singing the Beatles version of “Twist and Shout”.
A native of Derry in Northern Ireland, McCartney was the only Irish person to perform at Woodstock, playing in Joe Cocker’s band. He was chosen as the first lead guitarist for McCartney’s new band Wings in 1972.
McCullough therefore played lead guitarist on Wings’ first released single, “Give Ireland Back to the Irish”, which was written in response to the infamous 1972 “Bloody Sunday” incident in Derry in Northern Ireland in which British troops opened fire on unarmed civilian Catholic protesters, killing 14 and wounding an additional 14. The song topped the pop charts in the Republic of Ireland and reached number 21 in the U.S. However, “Give Ireland Back to the Irish” was immediately banned by the BBC and thus did not receive airplay on UK stations. This banning was a major coup for McCartney as Lennon had always been considered the more political of the two; ironically, Lennon’s song on the infamous 1972 incident in Northern Ireland, “The Luck of the Irish”, went largely unnoticed. The controversy over “Give Ireland Back to the Irish” resulted in Henry McCullough’s brother being jumped by a group of thugs after leaving a bar in Derry. In addition, Wings concerts were picketed in the UK.
“Got My Mind Set on You” is etched in the soundtrack of the memory banks of most people who were listening to music in the late 1980’s. This number one hit for George Harrison is significant in many ways. First, it represents the last number one hit in the U.S. by a member of The Beatles, hitting the top slot for one week in February 1988. Of course, Harrison was the first ex-Beatle to score a number one hit when “My Sweet Lord” topped the charts for four weeks beginning in the last week of December 1970, giving him the distinction of being the first and the last ex-Beatle to top the charts in the U.S.
Furthermore, for a period of several months in 1988, George Harrison held the remarkable distinction having the number hits the longest length apart, as 15 years elapsed between “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth) in 1973 and 1988’s “Got My Mind Set on You”. Surprisingly, The Beach Boys scored the number one hit “Kokomo” in November 1888, 22 years after their last number one hit, “Good Vibrations” in December 1966.
In terms of hits by ex-Beatles in the U.S., the song broke the longstanding tie as George, Ringo and John each had two number one hits. This 1988 chart-topper gave Harrison three number ones, catapulting him over Ringo and John. Furthermore, “Got My Mind Set on You”, written by Rudy Clark in 1962, represented only the second time an ex-Beatle had topped with charts in the U.S. with a song that he did not write. The first such instance was when Ringo scored a number one in 1973 with “You’re Sixteen”, which was written by Richard Sherman and Roger Sherman, and previously was a hit for Johnny Burnette in 1960. Songwriter Rudy Clark also wrote “The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s in His Kiss)” which was a # 6 song for Betty Everett in 1964 and later a Top 40 hit for Cher in 1991 as it was featured in her movie Mermaids.
The James Ray version of “Got My Mind Set On You” was recorded in 1962 but did not chart on the Billboard Hot 100 despite adequate airplay. When The Beatles each had two weeks of vacation in the summer of 1963, Harrison went to Chicago to visit his older sister Louise and her family. He always liked the song and bought a copy of the 45 at a Chicago record store and brought it back to Liverpool. Incidentally, George visited many Chicago record stores in those two weeks. He was accompanied to Chicago by his older brother Peter; the two brothers had a project. The Beatles were already famous in Great Britain with number one hits and other hits; they canvassed every record store in Chicago to see if any of the stores were selling Beatles records. They found that not only did any of the stores not have Beatles records, but none of the owners or employees of the stores had ever heard of The Fab Four. In a matter of months the climate would change drastically for The Beatles in the U.S.
Harrison bought the record as he loved the song, in addition to being familiar with James Ray because in earlier years The Beatles many times included the Ray song “If You Gotta Make a Fool of Somebody” in their set. He always kept “Got My Mind Set On You” in the back of his mind. In the sessions that preceded recording of the Cloud Nine album in 1987, there were jams sessions among Harrison and the musicians who would appear on the album. In The Billboard Book of Number Hits by Fred Bronson, there is a passage in which Harrison describes the twist of fate that inspired the recording of the 25 year-old song; “I did that song because Jim Keltner got this drum pattern going one day that was a cross between swing and rock. Gary Wright turned around and said, “Hey, doesn’t that remind you of that song ‘Got My Mind Set on You?’ I was so surprised that anybody else had ever heard that tune!”
The Cloud Nine album marked the first of several collaborations between Harrison and ELO frontman Jeff Lynne. When Harrison voiced that he was looking for an innovating producer for his upcoming album, Dave Edmunds recommended Lynne and set up a meeting between the two. A major Beatles fan, Lynne was thrilled to work with the ex-Beatle; the ELO influence can be heard throughout Cloud Nine, especially with Lynne doing backing vocals on “Got My Mind Set on You”. The following year Harrison and Lynne would form the group The Traveling Wilburys with Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison and Tom Petty. Both Harrison and Lynne received credit as co-producers of “Got My Mind Set on You”. Of course, 18 years later Jeff Lynne would produce the two new Beatles songs that used old vocal tracks of John Lennon, “Free as a Bird” and “Free Love”, for the Beatles Anthology CD; George Martin opted out of producing the two songs primary because he felt it was not a good idea to record a song using old vocal tracks of the deceased Beatle but also because he had experienced some hearing loss and such a project requiring perfection would be a difficult task because of the hearing loss.
“Got My Mind Set on You” was released in 1987 when MTV still showed music videos on a regular basis and it received ample airplay. According to The Quiet One: A Life of George Harrison by Alan Clayson, Paul McCartney backed out of an agreement to appear in a couple of videos for singles off of Cloud Nine. George was disappointed that the first video with McCartney was supposed to be the one for his non-original “Got My Mind Set on You”. The video for the single consisted of an adolescent couple flirting in an amusement arcade while a video of George and his band played in a nickelodeon. With music videos still being played constantly on MTV in 1987, Warners made the case that a better video was needed to promote the single and the album. The second video, which is by the far the better known of the two videos, featured Harrison playing the guitar and singing in his study, which evolves into the furniture moving and taxidermies on the wall partaking in the singing. A memorable part of the video is when a stuntman stepped in for Harrison and does backflips. The second video was credited with helping to propel the song to becoming an international hit. In addition to the U.S., it topped the charts in Australia, Belgium and Ireland, while scoring in the top ten in almost every country in the free world with pop music charts.
The second single from the album, “When We Was Fab”, reached # 23 in the U.S.
To this day, it ranks as an extreme rarity in that the day in which The Beatles were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on January 20, 1988, “Got My Mind Set On You” was the number one song in the U.S.!
“Please Mr. Postman” was recorded by The Beatles for their With the Beatles album. The band had started playing it in 1962 in their act at The Cavern Club, but had not played it in a long while at the time of the recording. It took a bit of practice to bring it up to par. It was recorded on 30 July 1963, and released as a single in the UK on 22 November 1963. It was released in the U.S. on 10 April 1964, appearing in the U.S. on The Beatles Second Album.
They did covers of three Motown hits for With the Beatles: “Money (That’s What I Want)”, “You Really Got a Hold on Me”, and “Please Mr. Postman”. Berry Gordy, Jr., the founder of the Motown label who also co-wrote “Money (That’s What I Want)” was thrilled that the most popular band in the UK, then unknown in the U.S., was covering three of Motown’s biggest hits thus far.
The song, recorded by The Marvelettes, was actually the first ever number one hit for the Motown (Tamla) label, reaching the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in December 1961. It took the longest time in chart history for a single on the Billboard Hot 100 to reach number one. The famed Funk Brothers were the musicians on the recording. However, on drums was a 22 year-old session drummer who was both eager and determined to break into the music industry; the drummer’s name was Marvin Gaye. “Please Mr. Postman” was co-written and co-produced by Brian Holland, who along with his brother Eddie and Lamont Holland, would later go on to both write and produce countless hit songs for Motown acts such as The Supremes, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, Martha and the Vandellas, The Isley Brothers and more.
The debut single by The Marvelettes also reached number one on the R&B charts.
“Please Mr. Postman” became the third song of the rock era to reach number one by two different artists when in 1975 The Carpenters made it into a chart-topper again. The brother and sister pop duo originally from New Haven, Connecticut took the advice of some music critics who said that Karen’s voice would be well-suited to covering pop hits. They decided to cover “Please Mr. Postman” on their Horizon album and release it as the album’s first single. “Please Mr. Postman” would be the duo’s third and final number one hit.
The following are all the songs that have reached number one by different artists on The Billboard Hot 100 charts:
1. “Go Away Little Girl” — Steve Lawrence (1963) and Donny Osmond (1971)
2. “The Loco-Motion” — Little Eva (1962) and Grand Funk (1974)
3. “Please Mr. Postman” — The Marvelettes (1961) and The Carpenters (1975)
4. “Venus” — Shocking Blue (1970) and Bananarama (1986)
5. “Lean on Me” — Bill Withers (1972) and Club Nouveau (1987)
6. “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” — The Supremes (1966) and Kim Wilde (1987)
7. “When a Man Loves a Woman” — Percy Sledge (1966) and Michael Bolton (1991)
8. “I’ll Be There” — The Jackson 5 (1970) and Mariah Carey (1992)
9. “Lady Marmalade” — LaBelle (1975) and Christina Aguilera/Lil Kim/Mya/P!nk (2001)
While “Please Mr. Postman” was the third single to reach number one by two different artists, it should be noted that there is an irony in the first two songs to achieve this distinction. The first one, “Go Away Little Girl”, and the second one, “The Loco-Motion” were both penned by the husband-and-wife songwriting team of Gerry Goffin and Carole King during the halcyon day of the famed writers of The Brill Building, the famed building at 1650 Broadway in Manhattan that turned into a factory of hit songwriting. “The Loco-Motion” is featured in the current Broadway smash Beautiful: The Carole King Musical as are many other Goffin/King compositions, solo King compositions, as well as songs by the other prominent Brill Building of songwriters, many of whom appear in the musical as characters.
Of course, The Beatles recorded the Goffin/King song “Chains”, which was a hit for The Cookies in 1962. Recorded as a single for their first LP, Please Please Me, the Beatles’ cover of the song was recorded in four takes on February 11, 1963; George Martin used the first take. “Chains” represents the first time that early Beatles fans heard George Harrison doing lead vocals on a song released as a single.
The Beatles rendition of “Please Mr. Postman” did not hit number one like the versions by The Marvelettes and The Carpenters did. In fact, it did not even crack the Top 40. But, it has always been one of my favorite Beatles songs and personally I think it is better than the versions that topped the charts in the U.S. You be the judge!
Last night the original members of Cheap Trick were inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as were the original members of Chicago. Check out previous posts on this blog touched upon Chicago founding members trombonist James Pankow and bassist/vocalist Peter Cetera.
The original lineup of Cheap Trick played together last night for the first time since drummer Bun E. Carlos stopped performing with the band in 2010 despite still being a legal member of the band. Inductions into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame have healed rifts and brought bands back together – if only for a couple of hours. The Cheap Trick lineup that was inducted consists of Robin Zander (vocals), Rick Nielsen (guitar), Tom Petersson (bass), and Brad “Bun E. Carlos” Carlson (drums).
The breakthrough twelve month period for Cheap Trick was from October 1978 to October 1979, when their Cheap Trick at Budokan double album was wildly popular on its way to triple platinum certification. The following album Dream Police, proved to be the bands most commercially successful, reaching number six on The Billboard 200 album chart and being certified platinum in only a couple of short months. From these two albums, the hit songs “Surrender”, “I Want You To Want Me”, and “Dream Police” saturated both the AM and FM airwaves in the U.S.
In the late summer of 1979, after Cheap Trick had burst onto the scene the previous year in a great way, John Lennon was recording the Double Fantasy album. The album’s producer, Jack Douglas, suggested to John that he use Cheap Trick as the backing band for the song “I’m Losing You”. On 12 August 1980, Rick Nielsen and Bun E. Carlos went to the Hit Factory studios to record “I’m Losing You”; while there they also recorded the track for Yoko’s “I’m Moving On.”
John told the Cheap Trick duo that he was very impressed with their work. He told Nielsen that he wished Nielsen had been the second guitarist on his solo song “Cold Turkey”.
However, the Cheap Trick version of “I’m Losing You” was entirely set aside and not included on the album. The reasons for the decision were not definitely known. There has always been speculation that the two members of Cheap Trick wanted too much money, or that the sound had more of a “rock” edge than Lennon or the producer had wanted. Also, the Cheap Trick-backed track of Yoko’s “I’m Moving On” was also discarded in favor of a re-recording by studio musicians.
The studio musicians for Double Fantasy recorded the second version of “I’m Losing You” on August 18, but that version was scrapped, too. They recorded a third version on August 26 that was used on the album. Lennon finally got around to recording the vocals he wanted used on September 22.
What is puzzling is that when the studio musicians recorded the second and third versions of the song, Lennon insisted that they wear earphones that played the Cheap Trick version of the recording so that the musicians would be inspired.
“I’m Losing You” was intended by both Lennon and the record company to be released as a single, but with the assassination of John Lennon shortly after the album’s release, it was decided that a song with such a title would not be appropriate in light of the events. Finally, the Cheap Trick-backed version of “I’m Losing You” was released in 1998 on the John Lennon Anthology CD. At the time of its release on the four CD boxed set, many prominent rock critics expressed that Lennon and producer Jack Douglas should have gone with the better version by Cheap Trick for Double Fantasy.
In the 2009 biography John Lennon: The Life, Philip Norman wrote, “Douglas wanted to give the album a contemporary edge and, to that end, enlisted Bun E. Carlos and Rick Nielsen, drummer and guitarist of Cheap Trick (who by an odd coincidence were currently working at George Martin’s AIR Studios in Montserrat) to play on “I’m Losing You”. But, funky as their contribution was, it simply did not fit. The spirit of Double Fantasy was Matisse rather than Picasso.”
Cheap Trick’s surge started in 1978 with wide airplay of “Surrender” on both FM and AM stations; despite the song’s popularity and conspicuous success, it never cracked the Top 40, stalling at number 62 on the Billboard Hot 100 . “I Want You To Want Me” reached # 7 in the summer of 1979, followed by “The Dream Police”, which only reached # 26 despite widespread radio play. Some nine years later the band would have their only number one hit, “The Flame”, which topped the charts for two weeks in July 1988. Two months later their cover of Elvis Presley’s “Don’t Be Cruel” reached the number four position.
Cheap Trick may not have made into onto Double Fantasy, but they made into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Check out the Cheap Trick versions of “I’m Losing You” and “I’m Moving On” that were strangely rebuffed from appearing on John Lennon’s last album……
This evening veteran rocker Steve Miller will be inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at a ceremony at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Miller has had a high-profile career as the singer/songwriter/guitarist of The Steve Miller Band. Few people are aware of the fact that a young Miller collaborated in the studio with Paul McCartney a year before the break-up of The Beatles.
Miller was in London in May 1969 to record Brave New World, the third album of The Steve Miller Band and the first one since the departure of band member Boz Scaggs. The day of 9 May 1969 marked a bitter fight among the four members of The Beatles. The previous day, Lennon, Harrison and Starr had signed financial management contracts with Allen Klein but Paul did not toe the line. The three stormed out of Olympic Studios leaving McCartney alone there to stew. Steve Miller happened to come in ahead of time, and had a conversation with McCartney, who needed a sympathetic ear. Miller asked if he could use the studio, and Paul agreed if he could play drums. Miller’s producer Glyn Johns arrived shortly thereafter and together Miller and the Beatle recorded the song “My Dark Hour” on which Paul provided bass, drums, guitar and backing vocals. Miller handled all the other instruments. McCartney was not credited under his own name, but rather under Paul Ramon, his occasional pseudonym from 1960 in the struggling days of the band that would soon be known as The Beatles.
McCartney also provided backing vocals on the track “Celebration”. In addition, the song “Space Cowboy” features the exact primary riff as “Lady Madonna”, which naturally has always fueled speculation that McCartney gave Miller permission to do so because they were working in the studio together.
“Steve Miller happened to be there recording, late at night, and he just breezed in. ‘Hey, what’s happening, man? Can I use the studio?’ ‘Yeah!’ I said. ‘Can I drum for you? I just had a terribly unholy argument with the guys there.’ I explained it to him, took ten minutes to get it off my chest. So I did a track, he and I stayed that night and did a track of his called My Dark Hour. I thrashed everything out on the drums. There’s a surfeit of aggressive drum fills, that’s all I can say about that. We stayed up until late. I played bass, guitar and drums and sang backing vocals. It’s actually a pretty good track.”
It would take The Steve Miller Band almost another five years to crack the Top 40 in the U.S. after numerous entries on The Billboard Hot 100. “The Joker” reached # 1 on January 12, 1974 and stayed in the top slot for a week. His second number one hit was “Rock ‘n Me” which topped the charts for the week of November 6, 1976. His third and final number one hit, “Abracadabra”, spent two weeks on the top of the charts during the first two weeks of September 1982. Also, Toto keyboardist Steve Porcaro wrote the music and words to the hit song “Human Nature” on the famous album, while handling synthesizer chores on four tracks.
Miller’s highly popular song “Fly Like An Eagle”, which has been used in several television ad campaigns over the last forty years, just missed the mark as it stayed in the number two position for two weeks in 1977 but could not make the jump to the top slot; it was kept out of the top position by “Love Theme From ‘A Star Is Born’ (Evergreen)”, the Barbara Streisand hit she co-wrote with famed songwriter Paul Williams. The main guitar hook in “Fly Like An Eagle” was actually first used in “My Dark Hour”.
Not wanting to release a double album, Miller released two albums within a year of each other; songs for both albums were recorded during the same studio sessions. The album Fly Like an Eagle was released in May 1976 while Book of Dreams was released in May 1977.
The Steve Miller Band was officially formed in 1966 and has had countless members in a revolving line-up since then. Longtime Miller friend Boz Scaggs was an original member of The Steve Miller Band, appearing on the first two albums and playing with the band at the famous Monterey Pop Festival, the three day festival held in June 1967. Scaggs left The Steve Miller Band in 1968 en route to a successful solo career. Scaggs’ highly successful albumSilk Degrees is considered one of the top albums of the 1970’s, and spawned Top 40 hits like “Lido Shuffle” and “Lowdown”. For the Silk Degrees album and tour, Scaggs was backed up by a group of young musicians who started playing during their early high school years in the Los Angeles area. Following the tour, they went out on their own as a band under the name Toto. Five years later, their 1982 album Toto IV would win seven Grammy Awards, including “Album of the Year”, “Record of the Year”, and “Producer of the Year”. The album that would win the Grammy for “Album of the Year” the following year was Michael Jackson’s legendary Thriller. Ironically, members of Toto served as studio musicians for several of the tracks on Thriller, such as “The Girl is Mine”, the duet by Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney, which was the first single released from Thriller and peaked at number two on The Billboard Hot 100.
The bond between Steve Miller and Boz Scaggs goes back to high school in Dallas when Scaggs was a freshman and Miller was a sophomore at the elite St. Mark’s School of Texas. St. Mark’s was founded by Dallas businessmen who had attended elite prep schools in New England and wanted to create a school in the mold of a New England private school so that their own sons could have that type of educational experience without having to leave Dallas. While at St. Mark’s, Miller and Scaggs formed their first band which was appropriately called The Marksmen. Steve Miller went to college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the following year Scaggs enrolled at Madison after his graduation from St. Mark’s. A few years in back of Miller and Scaggs at St. Mark’s was future Oscar-winning actor Tommy Lee Jones, who enrolled at Harvard after graduating from St. Mark’s. Many years later actors Owen and Luke Wilson went to St. Mark’s, too. In 1969, Tommy Lee Jones was Al Gore’s real-life roommate at Harvard; the following year, after graduating, he played Ryan O’Neal’s Harvard roommate in the classic movie Love Story. However, Jones was already famous in his own right at Harvard because he was an offensive lineman on the famous 1968 Harvard football team that was 16 points down against Yale in the final minute and tied it. The headline in the Harvard Crimson was “Harvard Beats Yale, 29-29”, a headline recycled as the title of the 2008 documentary Harvard Beats Yale 29-29 about the famous 1968 game, which was directed by Kevin Rafferty.
Steve Miller deserves this induction tonight. Be assured that no media coverage of this event will mention his unique collaboration with Paul McCartney during the Beatle years.