All posts by beatlesadmin

Jimmy Nicol: The Forgotten Beatles Drummer of 1964

Few people remember that there was another member of The Beatles in 1964, albeit a brief member who is not even a footnote in history it seems.

Jimmy Nicol was born in 1939, and was both a session drummer and a drummer in cover bands of Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly. His life would be turned upside down when Ringo was hospitalized for complications resulting from tonsillitis on June 3, 1964, on the eve of The Beatles’ tour of Australia and Asia.

The band had to make the tour and needed a drummer. Beatles manager Brian Epstein called Nicol to attend a run through at Abbey Road Studios and then was told to pack his bags as the band was leaving that very same day. Nicols knew most of The Beatles’ catalog from his work on cover albums.

The first show was actually in Copenhagen, Denmark and marked the first time ever of the unique line-up of “John, Paul, George and Jimmy”. The new drummer was forced to wear Ringo’s clothes on stage. Jimmy Nicol would play a total of ten shows with the Fab Four, when Ringo re-joined the band in Melbourne on June 14.

Ironically, during his stint with The Beatles, John and Paul would continually question him on how he was getting along. Nicol’s standard answer was always “It’s getting better all the time”. Of course, that line would later prove the catalyst for the classic song “Getting Better” off the Sgt. Pepper album.

Nearly 25 years ago, Sh-Boom magazine printed an interview with Nicol. The interviewer said to him, “You’re the only one who hasn’t written a book.”

Jimmy Nicol replied,”Oh, after the money ran low, I thought of cashing in some way or the other. But the timing wasn’t right. And I didn’t want to step on the Beatles toes. They had been so damn good to me.”

Jimmy Nicol lived in Mexico and at least one other Latin American country where he was an entrepreneur in the manufacturing trade. Some years ago rumors circulated that the forgotten Beatle drummer had died, but a British newspaper report in 2005 confirmed that he was alive and living in London as a complete recluse.
_____________________________________________________________

Here is a video clip of the boys in concert with Jimmy Nicol in Amsterdam…..

Here is a clip of their press conference in Sydney, Australia with their new drummer…………

John Lennon chose the name of a cool 70’s band!

The British band Hot Chocolate is best known for their 1975 international hit “You Sexy Thing”, which reached # 3 on the charts in the U.S. Few people know that this multi-racial band has a unique Beatles connection.

Lead singer Errol Brown helped form the band and wanted to record “Give Peace a Chance” as their debut single. Wanting to alter the lyrics, they wrote to Apple for permission and included a demo tape. John Lennon met with them and liked them. He suggested they release the single on the Apple label. The band did not have a name yet, so Lennon recommended the name The Hot Chocolate Band. After the release of the single, they shortened it to simply Hot Chocolate. Their version of “Give Peace a Chance” failed to chart in both the UK and the U.S. Afterwards, the band singed with Mickie Most’s RAK Records and began their amazing string of hits. Hot Chocolate is the only group to have a hit in Britain in every year of the 1970’s decade.

“You Sexy Thing” was written by lead singer Errol Brown, and produced by Mickey Most, who is not known to U.S. audiences but who was the most successful producer in the UK in the 1970’s, producing acts such as Sweet, Arrows, Suzi Quatro, The Jeff Beck Group and others. In the 1960’s he produced acts such as Herman’s Hermits, The Animals, The Seekers, Lulu and Nancy Sinatra.

The song has been featured in countless films such as The Full Monty and Reservoir Dogs as well as television commercials for Burger King and Chevrolet.

In the U.S., Hot Chocolate had five songs in the Top 40 between 1975 and 1978. “Emma” reached # 8 and “Every 1’s a Winner” reached # 6. However, their most famous hit definitely is “You Sexy Thing”!

Paul McCartney: Bassist or Multi-Instrumentalist?

This post was inspired by the wealth of information in the 1989 book Beatlesongs by William Dowling.

While Paul played bass guitar on every Beatles recording that included bass, he did do some other notable things, too.

Lead guitar – originally a guitarist in the very early days of the band, he switched to bass, but he did play lead guitar on several songs. Among them were “Ticket to Ride”, “Helter Skelter”, “Polythene Pam”, “Back in the U.S.S.R.” and “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road”.

Piano – Countless songs featured Paul on piano. Some of them were “Octopus’ Garden”, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, “Glass Onion”, “I, Me, Mine”, “You Won’t See Me”, “Hey Jude”, “Your Mother Should Know” and “Hello Goodbye”

Organ – “Revolution”, “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” and “Mr. Moonlight”

Acoustic guitar – “Yesterday”, “I’ve Just Seen a Face”, “Here, There and Everywhere”, “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away”, “I’ll Be Back”, “And I Love Her”

Fugelhorn – “Dear Prudence”

Harpischord – “Fixing a Hole”

Flute – “Glass Onion”, “Fool on the Hill”, “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane”

Maracas – “Ballad of John & Yoko”

Bongos – “Mother Nature’s Son”, “Hello Goodbye” and “Strawberry Fields Forever”

Tympani – “Mother Nature’s Son”

Recorder – “Fool on the Hill”

Congas – “Hello Goodbye”

Drums – played drums on “Back in the USSR”, “The Ballad of John & Yoko” and “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road” when Ringo briefly quit the band during the recording of The White Album. Actually, Paul had to fill in on drums on occasion during their early days in Liverpool and even in Hamburg. Years later when Wings was without a drummer prior to recording the Band on the Run album, Paul handled drumming chores himself. When Who drummer Keith Moon first heard the album, he immediately called his friend Paul and asked him who the great drummer was on the album.

Editor’s Note: After the Beatles broke up, Paul moonlighted by playing the kazoo on Ringo’s 1973 # 1 hit “You’re Sixteen”.

Have a listen to Paul on drums …………

1981: George Harrison’s “All Those Years Ago”

“All Those Years Ago” is a memorable George Harrison song that was the first single released from the 1981 Somehere in England album. It is a heartfelt tribute to John Lennon, whose death several months before greatly affected Harrison.

Harrison originally wrote the song before Lennon’s death for Ringo Starr to sing, but Ringo felt the vocal range needed on the song did not coincide with his own. Then, after Lennon was killed, Harrison decided to slightly alter the lyrics to make the song a tribute to the slain Beatle. Also, the lyrics make reference to the Beatles song “All You Need Is Love” and the John Lennon solo hit “Imagine”.

The song was the first to feature collaboration by all three remaining Beatles. Ringo played drums on the single while Paul and Linda McCartney provided backing vocals along with Wings guitarist Denny Laine. It represented the first time that Harrison, McCartney and Starr had worked on a song together since they were Beatles and recorded Harrison’s song “I Me Mine”. The next time the three would collaborate on a song would be 13 years later for the Beatles Anthology when the three recorded “Free As a Bird” and “Real Love” with old recordings of John Lennon’s vocals.

Beatles producer George Martin co-produced the single with Harrison, making it as complete a Beatles reunion as possible without John Lennon.

Ironically, at the time of John Lennon’s tragic death, McCartney had been recording the song “Take It Away” and the events of the day caused him to stop recording it and it would be more than a year before he returned to the song, which appeared on the 1982 album Tug of War. George Martin produced Tug of War for McCartney and even played electric piano on “Take It Away”. Many people at the time said that McCartney’s collaboration with Harrison on “All Those Years” ago was therapeutic in that it got him back on the right track in terms of recording.

“All Those Years Ago” was released on 11 May 1981 in the U.S. and reached # 2 on the charts and stayed there for three weeks, never making the jump to the top slot. Surprisingly, after being released on 15 May 1981 in Great Britain, it only reached # 13 there.

The video was meant to highlight the song’s obvious tribute to Lennon. It is no coincidence that many of the photos and footage used were of Harrison with Lennon.

.

The Eye of The Hurricane of Beatlemania: An Overlooked Genius

Today’s post was inspired by an event today. I heard the 1973 hit “Oh Babe, What Would You Say” by Hurricane Smith while listening to an oldies station and it made me think of Norman “Hurricane” Smith and his great contribution to the Beatles’ early success. Unfortunately, when critics talk about the people around the Beatles who aided their success, especially after last month’s 50th anniversary of the Beatles coming to the U.S. and generating Beatlemania, Smith’s name is not on the list. It most certainly should be.

A failed jazz musician who entered the recording industry at the late age of 36, Norman Smith was the sound engineer on duty at EMI records when the Beatles came in for their first sound test. He would be the recording engineer on every Beatles recording through 1965. Later, as a producer, he helped usher in an era of psychedelic rock when he discovered the band Pink Floyd; he would produce the group’s first, second and fourth studio albums.

The Beatles took an instant liking to Smith. While every EMI employee had to wear a jacket and tie, the Beatles liked his button-downed style and gave him the nickname “Normal”. Under the producer George Martin, it was Mr. Smith’s role to choose the equipment and techniques used to capture individual sounds in the studio and then to weave them into a finished recording. In the Beatles’ case, he favored sounds that were more stark than those typically heard in the ornamented and reverberation-drenched songs on popular radio.

In the last full album he worked on with the Beatles, Rubber Soul, in 1965, Smith helped the band members lay the groundwork for the increasingly radical studio performances they would feature on later albums like Revolver (1966) and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967).

Norman Smith almost convinced John and Paul to record one of his own songs during the beginning of Beatlemania. In 2007 he published his memoirs, which was entitled John Lennon Called Me Normal. In later years, Smith enjoyed the limelight as an honored and revered guest at many Beatles conventions around the world.

While the Fab Four never actually did record one of their beloved sound engineer’s songs, the sound engineer was encouraged to record and release some of his own songs. One of them, released under the name Hurricane Smith, was a transatlantic hit, reaching # 5 on the Billboard charts in the U.S. We all remember “Oh Babe, What Would You Say”. While critics who have anointed people who helped the Beatles have left Norman Smith off their list of noteworthy people, Norman Smith, who passed away in 2008, will live on forever on the airwaves, not only in his own recordings but also the countless Beatles hits to which he is credited for giving a sharper edge.  May he rest in peace.

Linda Eastman & Alligators in the Sewers

Last week in Florida, a nine foot alligator emerged from a sewer, which only fueled the longstanding urban legend that there are alligators in the New York City sewers. An equally false urban legend of the same magnitude is that Linda Eastman McCartney was from the Eastman family of Eastman Kodak. This myth can still be heard in all corners of the globe. Linda McCartney, who was married to Paul from 1969 until her tragic death from breast cancer in 1998 at age 56, was not from the famous Eastman clan. In fact, her father, a Bronx native named Lee Epstein, changed his name from Epstein to Eastman after graduating from law school.

The public does not realize that Lee Eastman, the late father-in-law of Paul McCartney had a pivotal role in the final years of The Beatles, as well as advising his son-in-law so that he would earn more during his years with Wings than he did with in his Beatle years.

Lee Eastman came into this world as Leopold Vail Epstein on January 12, 1910. He was the son of Russian immigrants Louis Eastman and Stella Freyer. He graduated from Harvard Law School at a time in which that famed institution did not have many Jewish-Americans. Shortly after earning his Harvard law degree, Leopold Epstein changed his named to Lee Eastman. He married Louise Linder, the heiress to the Linder Department store chain. They had four children, including the future Mrs. Linda McCartney and John Eastman, an entertainment lawyer who would also figure prominently in Paul’s Beatles and post-Beatles business dealings.

In the magazine Women’s Own, Linda Eastman McCartney said of her family background, “My father’s parents – they’re dead now – were Russian immigrants, very warm, down-to-earth, working-class people. My dad just happened to be born intelligent and worked his way through Harvard Law School.”

Attorney Lee Eastman had numerous clients of prominence in his distinguished career. Some of them were Willem de Koonig and Robert Motherwell. He began to invest heavily in music publishing copyrights, owning such songs as “Never on Sunday” and “Young at Heart”.

After Linda Eastman had established a relationship with boyfriend Paul McCartney, it just so happened that in late 1968, the Beatles bass player felt the band needed advice to straighten out the mess at their new company Apple Corps. He turned to Linda’s father, Lee Eastman, who recommended to Paul that his son John would be the best person to straighten out the “Apple mess”. John Eastman, an entertainment lawyer, graduated from Stanford and then went on to NYU Law School. Prior to entering private practice, he was a legislative aide to U.S. Senator Ralph Yarborough, the colorful Texas Democrat who served in the Senate from 1957-1971.

A full examination of the difficult business and legal issues engulfing The Beatles at that time is too detailed to cover in a blog post. As is well-known, Paul McCartney wanted Lee Eastman to straighten out the mess, while the other three Beatles chose Allen Klein. In 1984, Paul expounded on how his father-in-law and brother-in-law so successfully managed his solo career after leaving The Beatles. He mentioned one piece of advice that Lee Eastman gave him:

“The music publishing business I own is fabulous. Beautiful. I owe it all to Linda’s dad Lee Eastman and her brother John. Linda’s dad is a great business brain. He said originally, ‘If you are going to invest, do it in something you know. If you invest in building computers or something, you can lose a fortune. Wouldn’t you rather be in music? Stay in music. I said, “Yeah, I’d much rather do that. So he asked me what kind of music I liked. And the first name I said was Buddy Holly. Lee got on to the man who owned Buddy Holly’s stuff and bought that for me. So I was into publishing now.”

Paul also added that at that point in his career, half of his income came from recording, while the other half from his music publishing business.

Paul’s controversial 1984 film project Give My Regards to Broad Street has an interesting history. When funding was sought, Lee Eastman took ten minutes of sample footage which was filmed on a simple 35mm camera to 20th Century Fox; he successfully persuaded them to bankroll the film project.

Lee Eastman died on July 31, 1991, leaving behind a legacy as both a top tax attorney and a philanthropist in addition to having spawned an accomplished family.

The opposite end of the spectrum of Beatles fame

With last weekend being the 50th anniversary of the launch of American Beatlemania, the U.S. public should remember that Beatlemania had taken a foothold in the UK over a year previously and was in full swing even prior to the band’s first UK chart-topper, “Please Please Me”, which hit number one on January 11, 1963.

Beginning with Beatlemania in Great Britain in late 1962 that spiraled out of control by the time of the worldwide Beatlemania craze that started with their arrival in the U.S., The Beatles became celebrities overnight.

A lifelong friend of mine who I know from the beach graduated from Tufts University in the 1970’s. While a student at the Boston-area university, he had a part-time job as a security guard at the Boston Garden, giving him the opportunity to witness great rock concerts as well as games of the Boston Bruins and Boston Celtics. My friend John is now a marketing research executive and has a story about Beatle fame he will never forget in his lifetime.

In November 1974, John was working an Elton John concert at Boston Garden. Before the concert started a couple came up to him and said they were friends of Elton John wanted to go backstage. My friend John asked the couple, a Caucasian man and an Asian woman, if they had backstage passes and they said no. John told them that they could not go backstage if they did not have the proper backstage passes. Once again, they said they were friends of Elton John and once again my friend told them in no uncertain terms that they could not go backstage. The couple turned around and walked away.

A Boston police officer came over to my friend John and in a voice of shocked disbelief said, “Do you know what you just did?”

John answered, “No….. what?”

The Boston cop said, “That was John Lennon! You just kicked John Lennon out of the backstage area. You’re going to get in big trouble for this ……. All of us are probably going to get in trouble.”

My friend John could not believe what he had done and expected to get fired that night.

After the concert, my friend John was standing outside the door of the backstage area, thinking that his days at the Boston Garden would soon be over. When the after-concert party ended the people started filing out of the backstage area. As they gradually filed out of the door, they all were silent and made eye contact with John. It was obvious that John Lennon had told everyone about the security guard who had refused to let him backstage. The people glared at my friend John, including Elton John himself. When John Lennon and his companion May Pang walked out and made eye contact with him, a smile appeared on Lennon’s face as he walked past them. Finally, Elton John’s manager was the last out and confronted my friend. He asked him, “Are you the person who kicked John Lennon out from backstage?

My friend John began to apologize, but Elton John’s manager said, “Do you know what you did? You kicked him out from backstage……… he was thrilled! He said that it was the only time since becoming famous as a Beatle that anyone ever treated him like a regular person ….. he wouldn’t shut up about it……. he was raving about it …… we had to hear the whole thing a hundred times.”

They Don’t Know How Paul Ended Up in Video

Tracey Ullman was introduced to the U.S. audience in the early summer of 1984 when the video to her song “They Don’t Know” received a fair amount of airplay on MTV. The consensus at the time was that people wondered how an unknown like Ullman was able to get Paul McCartney to appear in the video. I, for one, was definitely intrigued. Of course, back then I was unable to Google her name!

“They Don’t Know” was Ullman’s only song in the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100. It peaked at # 8 in May.

A few months later, people in the U.S. would realize that Ullman was able to get Paul to appear in the video because she had a role in the McCartney movie Give My Regards to Broad Street,  which was released in the U.S. in late October 1984. The video to “They Don’t Know” was shot while the movie was being filmed.

Tracey Ullman, who was born in 1959, became popular in England doing sketch comedies on the BBC. She then embarked on a recording career, having a couple of hit records and a total of six songs in the British Top 100 in less than a two year period.

American fans remember her network television show “The Tracey Ullman Show”, which aired from 1987 to 1990. However, few remember that this show spawned a spin-off called “The Simpsons” in 1989.

In 2006, Ullman topped the list for “Wealthiest British Comedians” at an estimated 75 million pounds.

Take a look at Paul’s conspicuous cameo at the end of the video for “They Don’t Know”.