Jackie Lomax is definitely a footnote in Beatles history. George Harrison championed the guitarist/singer/songwriter who was around Liverpool in the early days with The Beatles. Lomax was touted as the person who was going to be the superstar of Apple Records, but his work with the Apple label proved to be a flop. His obituary in the September 19, 2013 edition of the New York Times carried the headline “Jackie Lomax Dies at 69; British Rock Singer recorded with Members of The Beatles”.
His band The Lomax Alliance had been signed to CBS Records before Brian Epstein’s death. After Epstein’s death and the formation of Apple Records, Apple took over responsibility for Lomax’s recording career. His first single was supposed to be a smash hit as it was penned by Harrison and featured three of the four Beatles as well as Eric Clapton and Nicky Hopkins. However, “Sour Milk Sea” did terribly on the charts. The rest of the Is This What You Want album was recorded in Los Angeles with Hal Blaine and other distinguished members of The Wrecking Crew. The album and another single released by Apple went unnoticed. With the 1970 breakup of The Beatles, Apple Records was in a tizzy and the some of the artists on the label were in limbo.
In his 2001 biography George Harrison, Alan Clayson wrote of Jackie Lomax:
“None of the records that he cut with George made Jackie rich. Still, they plodded on, with George sparing no expense. An artist of Jackie Lomax’s calibre deserved nothing less than publicity photos by Justin de Villanueve, a full orchestra if needed one and even the oscillations of one of these new-fangled Moog synthesizers. McCartney, Starr and Clapton were among the famous musicians namechecked on the sleeve of Lomax’s only Apple LP, dog-eared copies of which spoke to casual browsers of deletion racks through its title, Is This What You Want? Few did, however, despite Jackie’s most professional vocal projection and George’s competent – although occasionally cluttered – production.”
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.
The song 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”!
Fat shaming is an ugly part of our current culture. People who are deemed overweight – even if that is not the true and accurate case – can be targeted for their weight. Of course, many celebrities have been fat shamed in this era of social media, internet, and 24/7 cable news shows. These attacks can be vicious; some times they are unfounded and the celebrity is not overweight at all.
Recently, in the February 27, 2021 edition of the New York Daily News there was an article about Oscar-nominated actor Jonah Hill titled “Jonah Hill Says He’s Done Feeling Fat-Shamed in a Body Positive Post”. The article dealt with how the actor has had to deal with fat shaming during his career. Hill stated that it was until in his mid-30’s that he took off his shirt at the pool in front of family and friends. The actor stated, “It probably would have happened sooner if my childhood insecurities weren’t exacerbated by years of public mockery about my body by press and interviewers.” Wow! That is a harsh statement. The abuse that Jonah Hill has faced in the media because of his body shape is just one example of countless celebrities viciously mocked.
It is likely that the first example of a modern day celebrity being fat shame and having it affect the celebrity was John Lennon in the early days of Beatlemania. In 1965, a music critic referred to Lennon as “the fat Beatle”, setting Lennon on a life journey of starvation and near-anerexia. In that period in 1965 Lennon did gain weight as he was disillusioned with the fast fame and fortune brought on by Beatlemania. Looking back on the making of the Help! album, Lennon later said, “I was fat and depressed, and I was crying out for help,” though he also masked his misery with the song’s chirpy tempo. Adds McCartney, “He didn’t say, ‘I’m now fat and I’m feeling miserable.’ He said, ‘When I was younger, so much younger than today.’ In other words, he blustered his way through. We all felt the same way. But looking back on it, John was always looking for help.
By 1966, it was obvious that the reporter’s comment had resonated as John had noticeably slimmed down, and would continue to do so. Ironically, the band stopped the use of marijuana, which drives one to eat more, as more sophisticated drugs were available to the band.
Can you believe that George Harrison played electric guitar on the novelty song “Basketball Jones”, the official title of which is “Basketball Jones (featuring Tyrone Shoelaces)”, by Cheech & Chong?
“Basketball Jones” first appeared on the 1973 Cheech & Chong album Los Cochinos. Written by Cheech and Chong themselves, it was recorded as a parody of the 1973 song “Love Jones” by Brighter Side of Darkness, which reached # 16 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Cheech Marin sings the song in falsetto. The song is about a young man’s love for basketball and the basketball he received. The song peaked at number # 15 on the Billboard Hot 100.
The song, and the album, was produced by Lou Adler and the single featured a stellar cast of participants on “Basketball Jones”. George Harrison played electric guitar; Billy Preston on organ; Klaus Voorman on bass; Nicky Hopkins on piano; Jimmy Karstein on drums; Jim Keltner on percussion; Carole King on electric piano; Tom Scott on saxophone.
The impressive group of backing vocalists (dubbed “The Cheerleaders”) were Darlene Love, Ronnie Spector, Michelle Phillips and Jean King.
Where There’s Smoke There’s Cheech & Chong, the accompanying booklet to the album, gives notes on the recording of the track:
“Cheech sings, and Tommy plays piano – that’s all it was at first. In Cheech’s words, “George Harrison and those guys were in the next studio recording, and so Lou [Adler] just ran over there and played it for him. They made up the track right on the spot.” “That was a wild session,’ Lou Adler recalls, “I probably called Carole [King] and told her to come down, but with Harrison and [Klaus] Voorman- I didn’t call and say come in and play. Everyone happened to be in the A&M studios at that particular time, doing different projects. It was spilling out of the studio into the corridors.”
Also, there was an animated short film called “Basketball Jones” which was based on the song “Basketball Jones (featuring Tyrone Shoelaces)”, which was also released in 1973. The animated movie is about an African-American teenager named Tyrone Shoelaces and his love for basketball.
The ex-Beatle was credited under his own name for “Basketball Jones.” As is well known, George Harrison has appeared on many albums – sometimes not even having a credit given and other times using creative pseudonyms. This is a listing of Harrison’s fake names from Book of Rock Lists, the 1981 work by Dave Marsh. The chapter is titled “George Harrison’s Recording Pseudonyms”
1. L’Angelo Misterioso
“Badge,” CREAM, plays rhythm guitar, wrote song with Eric Clapton
“Never Tell Your Mother She’s Out of Tune”, JACK BRUCE; plays rhythm guitar
2. Son of Harry
“If You’ve Got Love”, DAVE MASON; plays guitar
3. Hari Georgeson
Many songs for SPLINTER, electric guitar, rhythm guitar, mandolin acoustic guitar
“That’s Life”, BILLY PRESTON plays guitar
4. George O’Hara Smith
“I’m Your Spiritual Breadman”, ASHTON, GARDNER, AND DYKE; plays electric swivel guitar
5. Jai Raj Harrison
Plays percussion on five SPLINTER songs
6. George Harrysong
“You’re Breaking My Heart”, HARRY NILSSON; plays slide guitar
7. George H.
“I Wrote a Simple Song”, BILLY PRESTON; plays guitar
“Costafine Town”, SPLINTER; plays harmonium
“Drink All Day”, SPLINTER; plays harmonium and jew’s harp
“Elly-May”, SPLINTER; plays Moog synthesizer
9. The George O’Hara-Smith Singers
All Things Must Pass, GEORGE HARRISON; overdubbed vocals
10. George O’Hara
“Banana Anna,” NICKY HOPKINS; plays guitar
“Edward”, NICKY HOPKINS; plays guitar
“Footprint”, GARY WRIGHT; plays guitar and slide guitar
“Speed On”, NICKY HOPKINS; plays lead guitar
“Waiting for the Band”, NICKY HOPKINS; plays slide guitar
In addition , this 1974 Cheech and Chong song, released one year after “Basketball Jones”, never fails to bring a smile ……….
The holidays are almost 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.
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!
Believe it or night, this past Thursday (November 5) I was driving in my car and “Wonderful Christmastime” came on the air. Since October 1, the app for WCBS-FM (www.radio.com) has a HD channel of “Christmas Classics”, but hearing “Wonderful Christmastime” on a traditional FM radio station in the first week of November was a first for sure. I was actually astonished and thought I would re-post my blog article from 2014.
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 Fountain Inn in Ashurst, West Sussex.
To say that it is a McCartney “solo” song is an understatement. He both wrote and produced the song in addition to providing vocals, keyboards, synthesizers, guitars, bass, and drums.
“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 $20 million dollars. Each holiday season the song rakes him in excess of $450,000.
Beatles fans will remember that McCartney performed “Wonderful Christmastime” on Saturday Night 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, members of the official Beatles Fan Club received a record of Christmas song in 1967 that was not released commercially. “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., only 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.
“Mull of Kintyre” still remains the biggest selling non-charity single in UK history. In 1984 people were urged to buy multiple copies of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” to support African famine relief, so “Mull of Kintyre” retains its unique place in history.
Last week marked the 30th anniversary of the classic movie Goodfellas, directed by Martin Scorcese and starring Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci, Robert DeNiro, Lorraine Bracco and Paul Sorvino. It was based on the 1985 non-fiction book Wise Guy: Life in a Mafia Family by Nicholas Pileggi and Henry Hill. The 1990 movie told the story of the rise of Henry Hill as a mobster with the Lucchese crime family in New York City. Joe Pesci won the Oscar for best supporting actor for his portrayal of mob operative Tommy DeVito. As a result of the anniversary, articles appeared in major newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic in the last weeks, such as “How ‘Goodfellas’ and the Gangster Class of 1990 Changed Hollywood” in the New York Times and “Made Men: The Story of Goodfellas” in the Washington Post.
Of course, Beatles fans know that in 2011 Martin Scorcese released a brilliant 208 minute documentary on the life of George Harrison titled George Harrison: Living in the Material World. The documentary covered all aspects of Harrison’s life, from a boy in Liverpool to the end as a solo performer, and everything in between. A review titled “Within Him, Without Him” appeared in the New York Times on September 23, 2011.
Long a fan of Harrison’s work, Scorcese used the Harrison song “What Is Life” from the classic 1970 triple album All Things Must Pass in Goodfellas, some eleven years before making the documentary. The scene, captioned as “May 11, 1980”, is towards the end of the movie when main character Henry Hill, played by Ray Liotta, is having a whirlwind of difficult day in which he is trying to cook a traditional Italian dinner for his family at home, while having to pick up a shipment of drugs and get it ready for his carrier to travel with it on a plane – all while being followed by a police helicopter throughout the day. The scene is posted below, but please note there is some language in the scene which may be viewed as unsuitable.
“What Is Life” was the second single released from the album. However, in the UK it was the B-side of “My Sweet Lord”, which was the best-selling single of 1971. In terms of the Billboard Hot 100, Harrison was both the first ex-Beatle to have a number one hit (“My Sweet Lord” in 1971) and the last ex-Beatle to top the charts (“Got My Mind Set On You” in 1988). “What Is Life” reached the top ten in both the U.S. and Canada, while topping the charts in other countries, such as Australia and Switzerland.
Co-produced by Harrison and Phil Spector, Harrison provided lead guitar while his friend Eric Clapton handled the chores of rhythm guitar. The entire band of Delaney & Bonnie and Friends were the backing band.
Harrison originally wrote this song for friend Billy Preston with a gospel feel, but when it took the turn of being a fast rocker he decided to record the song himself. Countless artists have covered “What Is Life”, including Olivia Newton-John who had a UK hit with the song in 1972.
Yes, this is the first post on BeatlesHistorian.com in a few months, since COVID-19 took over. I hope that all readers have stayed safe and healthy. Today’s post is shorter than most posts, but it is a good start.
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.
The famous self-titled debut album James Taylor was released on December 6, 1968. It received positive reviews but Taylor’s relapse into heroin addiction and hospitalization killed his opportunities to promote the album. It was the first release by Apple Records of a non-UK citizen. As is well known, this album was recorded from July – October at Trident Studio, at the same time The Beatles were recording The White Album there.
The most noteworthy songs on the album are “Something in the Way She Moves”, “Carolina in My Mind”, and “Rainy Day Man”. Of course, the title to the song “Something in the Way She Moves” inspired the opening line for George Harrison’s “Something” on the Abbey Road album. “Carolina in My Mind” featured McCartney on bass and Harrison on backing vocals. In the 1970s, Taylor had problems in obtaining licensing rights from Apple, so in 1976 he resolved the issue by re-recording “Something in the Way She Moves” and “Carolina in My Mind” for his Greatest Hits album.
On every track on this debut album with Apple, Taylor provided lead vocals and acoustic guitar. He wrote every song except “Rainy Day Man”. The album was produced by Apple A&R man Peter Asher, who made an ironic error. Taylor recorded an early version of “Fire and Rain” for the debut album, the song that would appear on his second album and become his famous signature song. However, Asher decided not to use it for the debut album.
The critical praise for the album generated a buzz, but with Taylor in a hospital for heroin issues, his inability to promote the album made it destined for very poor sales. A highly positive review in Rolling Stone by Jon Landau put forth “This album is the coolest breath of fresh air I’ve inhaled in a good long while. It knocks me out.”
James Taylor is an album that may not have sold well, but it certainly has a history.
In the 2011 book Fire and Rain: The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, James Taylor, CSNY and the Lost Story of 1970 by David Bowne, the genesis of Taylor’s signing to Apple is described:
“In early 1968 Peter Asher introduced Taylor to McCartney and the Apple executives. Only a month before, Taylor had called Asher at his apartment and asked he if would listen to his demo tape of songs. Asher agreed, and eventually Taylor ended up crashing at Asher’s apartment for a few weeks. Taylor said of the quick turn around time, “I was signed before I knew what was happening . It was really a remarkable turn of events. I was this huge Beatles fan and I definitely landed on my feet in a great position.”
In the 2001 biography James Taylor: Long Ago and Faraway: His Life and Music by Timothy White, Paul McCartney is quoted about eagerly giving the go-ahead on Taylor’s album: “I heard his demos – Peter played them for me – and I just heard his voice and his guitar, and I thought he was great. And then Peter brought him around, and he came and played live, so it was like, ‘Wow, he’s great.’ And he’s been having troubles ; Peter explained to me that he just got clean off drugs and was in a slightly difficult time in his life. But he was playing great and he had enough songs for an album. Peter said, ‘I think it’d be good to sign him.’ So I said to the guys [The Beatles] ‘We should sign him.’”
Taylor became friendly enough with The Beatles to drop in and listen to the first playback of “Hey Jude” with them, as well as be right in the studio to witness them working on “Revolution.” The recording of Taylor’s album began in July 1968 with both Taylor and Asher working feverishly on it. They used Trident Studio whenever the Beatles were not using it. McCartney dropped in and played bass on one song, “Carolina in My Mind”, on which George Harrison also provided some uncredited vocals.
In his own words, Taylor said in Timothy White’s biography, “We recorded at Trident Studios between July and October of ’68 and sort of worked around The Beatles who were in there doing The White Album [aka The Beatles]. I would usually be coming into the studio as they were beginning or finishing a session, and so I’d hang around and get to hear a playback of the material, listening to early versions of ‘Hey Jude’ and ‘Rocky Raccoon’. I also heard them covering ‘Revolution’ in the Abbey Road studio.”
When the sessions got underway, Asher and McCartney brought in arranger Richard Hewson who had done magic with a recording of another Apple artist, Mary Hopkin. Hewson crafted her single “Those Were the Days” – an old Russian folk song given lyrics by lyricists Gene and Francesca Raskin – to retain the original Russian texture while at the same time incorporating the nightclub vibe of the new lyrics by the Raskins. Of course, “Those Were the Days” was an international hit single, scoring number one in many countries. The song was covered on this blog in a post entitled “Back When Everyone in Wales Spoke Welsh: Those Were the Days!“. Taylor thought that Hewson’s touches on the album were too far-reaching and intrusive. There was tension between Taylor and Hewson.
The album James Taylor was released in the U.S. on Capitol Records in February 1969 and didn’t make the charts. In the U.K. even the Apple publicity kick resulted in sales of only 8,000 copies. As was the case with other Apple artists, people thought that the label did not try to promote their artists like James Taylor as much as they did works by The Beatles.
While Taylor began the recording of his first album with much enthusiasm and discipline, his personal life took a downturn during the album’s recording. Taylor, who had been treated for heroin addiction two years prior at the famed McLean Hospital in Massachusetts was in an odd position in London in that he was able to buy heroin with no problems from certified addicts who were registered with London’s maintenance treatment program. His unraveling began halfway through the recording of the album.
In the British magazine Disc and Music Echo, Asher was quoted as saying:
“When I joined Apple the idea was that it would be different from the other companies in the record business. Its policy was to help people and be generous. I didn’t mean I actually had a tremendous amount of freedom; I was always in danger of one Beatle saying, ‘Yes, that’s a great idea, go ahead,’ and then another coming in and saying he didn’t know anything about it. But it did mean it was a nice company to work for. Now all that’s changed. There’s a new concentrative policy from what I can see and it’s lost a great deal in original feeling.”
The changes at Apple Records with the arrival of Allen Klein in addition to the very poor performance of Taylor’s debut album meant that the young American wished to leave the British label. The American was dropped from the label. Peter Asher, sensing the shake-up at the label, left Apple Records shortly after the release of James Taylor and intended on both managing Taylor and producing his album with the new record company.
In White’s book, McCartney described the departure of Taylor and Asher. ‘So James Taylor came, ‘McCartney recalled of their meeting, ‘and he and Peter said, ‘We don’t want to stay on the label. We like you, we like the guys, but we don’t like this Klein guy and we don’t like what’s going to happen.’”
Bob Spitz wrote in his 2005 book The Beatles: The Biography, “Peter Brown was ordered to oust Peter Asher as well. Since the days of Paul’s residency at his parents’ house, Peter had made quite a name for himself, first as half of the hit-making duo Peter and Gordon, then more recently developing talent as Apple chief A&R man. After producing James Taylor’s debut, Asher was in great demand, with a dozen acts vying for his services. But to Allen Klein, this power was intimidating. Asher, who went on to become one of the most successful producers in the music business, refused to give Klein the satisfaction of sacking him, and resigned.”
Of course, Peter Asher is famous in Beatles’ lore outside of his subsequent job at Apple Records. He was the Peter in the famed duo Peter and Gordon, who made history as the first artists other than The Beatles to score a number one hit in the U.S. with a Lennon/McCartney song. Paul gave Peter “A World Without Love”, which sat atop the Billboard Hot 100 for one week beginning on June 27, 1964. The duo had ten Top 40 songs in the U.S. between 1964 and 1967, including the top ten songs “I Go to Pieces” (# 9) and “Godiva” (#6). As is well known, Paul McCartney dated Peter’s sister, famed model Jane Asher, for a few years and actually lived in a third floor apartment in the London home of the Asher family. Paul regularly gave Peter Lennon/McCartney songs that The Beatles decided not to record. The joke in the entertainment industry in 1964 was that Paul finally paid some rent to the Asher family by giving Peter & Gordon their first worldwide hit record. In 2019 Peter Asher published his own personal remembrances pf The Beatles in a book called The Beatles from A to Zed: An Alphabetic Mystery Tour.
To say that James Taylor found immense success and fortune after leaving the Apple label is an understatement. His hit songs and top-selling albums speak for themselves. Between September 1970 and March 1981, he scored 14 singles in the Top 40 portion of the Billboard Hot 100, which included one number one hit and four Top Five hits. His first single to chart was an updated version of “Fire and Rain”, which was first recorded for the debut album with Apple but set aside by Peter Asher. The second version, also produced by Asher, shot about to number three on the charts and became Taylor’s signature song. His next single to chart, from the 1971 album Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon, was “You’ve Got a Friend”, which hit number one on July 31, 1971 and stayed on top for a week. The song was given to Taylor by his good friend Carole King, who ironically was recording her famous debut album Tapestry with producer Lou Adler in a studio practically next to where Taylor and Asher were recording their album. “You’ve Got a Friend” was included on Tapestry while the Taylor version was released as a single. While King gave the song to Taylor for his album, she reaped the benefit of having another song she wrote top the charts in less than two months as the first single released from Tapestry, a double-sided hit of “It’s Too Late” and “I Feel the Earth Move”, had sole possession of the top slot on the charts for five weeks beginning on June 19, 1971. Tapestry was the best-selling album of all-time until it was passed out by Michael Jackson’s Thriller in December 1983 as the latter sold an amazing 32 million albums in 13 months after its November 30, 1982 release. The intersection of Carole King and The Beatles was covered on this blog in the post “‘Chains’: A BEAUTIFUL song by The Beatles”
In 1974 Taylor and wife Carly Simon recorded a duet version of the American folk song “Mockingbird” which climbed to number five on the charts. In 1975 Taylor recorded his own rendition “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)”, the 1964 Marvin Gaye hit written by the famed Motown songwriting team of Holland-Dozier-Holland, which reached number five. Taylor also scored a number four hit in 1977 with a cover of the 1959 Jimmy Jones classic “Handy Man”. Also in 1977 his own song “Your Smiling Face” hit number 20.
A special event took place when in 1977 when Taylor joined forces with Art Garfunkel and Paul Simon to share lead vocals on “(What A) Wonderful World”, the 1960 hit written and recorded by Sam Cooke that was also an international hit for Herman’s Hermits in 1965. This rendition by the one-time all-star trio reached number 17 on the Billboard Hot 100, but also topped the Billboard Adult Contemporary Chart for five weeks. Taylor, Garfunkel and Simon performed the song on Saturday Night Live and it took off from there.
In the summer of 1979, Taylor once again covered a song penned by Carole King when he had a minor hit on the charts with “Up on the Roof”, the song written by King and then husband Gerry Goffin and recorded by The Drifters who had a number four hit with it in 1962. Taylor’s last Top 40 hit was “Her Town Too” from in March 1981 which was co-written by Taylor and J.D. Souther, who shared vocals on the track. It was released under “James Taylor and J.D. Souther”. Souther has an uncanny knack for success while collaborating with big name artists. For instance, he co-wrote three of the five number one hits by The Eagles; with Don Henley and Glenn Frey, Souther co-wrote the Eagles’ number one hits “Best of My Love”, “New Kid in Town”, and “Heartache Tonight”.
Some 52 years after the release of his self-titled debut album on the Apple Records label, James Taylor is still selling out major arenas on his summer concert tours. The 2020 tour kicks off on May 16 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas.