Elton John’s tribute to his close friend John Lennon

Elton John’s “Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny)” is the most remembered tribute song to the late John Lennon. Elton John was devastated after the murder of his close friend. It took him a year and half to come out with this tribute song.

Off of the album JUMP UP!, “Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny)”, entered the Top 40 on April 17, 1982 and stayed on the charts for ten weeks. It reached # 10. Elton John performed this song on his first ever appearance on Saturday Night Live on April 17, 1982 that featured Johnny Cash as the host.

Toto drummer Jeff Porcaro, the most accomplished studio drummer of his generation, played drums on this track.

It was the most solid collaboration between Elton John and songwriting partner Bernie Taupin since they ended their exclusive writing partnership in 1977. The duo had written together infrequently since 1977.

The accomplished songwriting record of Elton John/Bernie Taupin needs no explanation. Apart from Elton John, Taupin wrote two number one hits: “We Built This City” by Starship (1985) and “These Dreams” by Heart (1986). Ironically, the most successful song of the John/Taupin partnership was “Candle in the Wind: 1997”, the tribute to Princess Diana which became the most successful pop song in world history, holding the record for topping the charts for the most weeks in both the UK and the U.S., and a multitude of other countries. When Elton John decided to revamp the original 1973 “Candle in the Wind” from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road as a tribute to play at Princess Diana’s funeral, he phoned Taupin to request new lyrics. Forty-five minutes later Taupin faxed his old songwriting partner the new lyrics.

Believe or not, George Martin produced the single “Candle in the Wind: 1997”, which ironically was far bigger than any number one hit he did for the Beatles. It is the most successful single in pop music history in terms of both sales and topping the charts in countless countries. The three other number one hits George Martin did in the post-Beatles years were not exactly stellar. They were “Sister Golden Hair” by America (1975), “Ebony and Ivory” by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder (1982), and the terrible “Say Say Say” by McCartney and Michael Jackson (1983). Too bad that Martin’s best hit after the Beatles break-up, “Live and Let Die” by Wings, stayed and number two for a couple of weeks in 1973 but could not make the jump to the top slot.

70’s band steals Beatles guitar riff but gives them credit in the song’s lyrics

Many pop songs over the years have borrowed snippets of guitar riffs from Beatles songs, but to my knowledge only one has given them credit in the song. “Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You”, a song by Sugarloaf which reached # 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1975, does just that.

Just prior to showcasing the guitar riff from “I Feel Fine”, the lyrics go, “And it sounds like John, Paul and George”.

This song contained a practical joke as well. There are two phone numbers that are touch-toned during the song. One of the numbers was an unlisted number at CBS Records, which had recently turned the band down for a record contract. The other number is a public number at The White House. The band hoped that some people would be able to pick out the two phone numbers from the touch-tone sounds and give them crank calls.

Sugarloaf was a Denver-based band which featured Jerry Corbetta on lead vocals. Their other top ten hit was “Green-Eyed Lady”, which reached # 3 in 1970.

Have a listen to “Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You”……………………..

Allan Williams: The Man Who Gave Away The Beatles

One person who is an important (and colorful) figure in Beatles history is Allan Williams, the nightclub owner who was the band’s first manager/booking agent.

Williams owned a Liverpool nightclub known as the “The Jac”. Members of the Beatles were frequent patrons, and soon they were invited to perform at the club, which lead to a business relationship.

With new drummer Pete Best, in the summer of 1960 Williams took the band to Hamburg, where he booked them into a popular club that only offered English-language rock music. The following year, Williams had a falling out with the band over a 10% commission he was supposed to receive for their subsequent engagement in Hamburg.

In 1962, before signing a contract to represent the Beatles, Brian Epstein called Williams to inquire if there might be any dangling contracts or obligations left over. Williams gave Epstein the warning, “Don’t touch them with a f—– bargepole; they will let you down.”

In the years after the 1970 dissolution of the Beatles, Williams and the former members of the Beatles would speak fondly of each other. Paul McCartney is on record in many instances referring to Williams as a “great guy”. In 1977, Williams published his memoirs, The Man Who Gave the Beatles Away, which received both an endorsement and praise from John Lennon.

For many years Allan Williams has been a featured speaker at Beatles conventions all around the world. He is always a major VIP at Liverpool’s annual Beatles Week Festival.

It is not uncommon for Beatles fans touring Liverpool to spot him having a beer at one of the pubs which have ties to the Beatles scene in Liverpool. He is always most friendly.

Here is John Lennon in 1975 talking about the early days and a possible Beatles reunion:

This Byrd Has Flown?

Today I heard on the radio Don McLean’s 1972 number one smash “American Pie”. In the famous lyrics of the song, he makes reference to The Byrds:

“The birds flew off with a fallout shelter
Eight miles high and falling fast”

There are many anecdotes about the relationship of The Beatles and The Byrds. I will touch upon two of them.

When George Harrison invited The Byrds to his Hyde Park home, he showed Roger McGuinn, the Byrds’ guitarist, the Rickenbacker guitar he had used in A Hard Days Night and the things it did for him. From that day on, McGuinn used a Rickenbacker.

On the Fab Four’s 1965 tour of the U.S., David Crosby introduced George Harrison to both the sitar and the music of sitar legend Ravi Shankar. The rest is history as Harrison became fascinated with both the sitar and Indian music. This introduction culminated in Harrison using the sitar in “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) on Rubber Soul, the first ever time a sitar ever appeared on a pop record.

The Beatles definitely did not like Robert Stigwood

Robert Stigwood is an Australian-born and British-based entertainment mogul who managed rock acts in Britain. The British entertainment establishment was shocked on January 13, 1967 when Brian Epstein merged his entertainment management company, NEMS Enterprises, with Robert Stigwood’s company. People are still uncertain as to why Epstein made this move. He obviously wanted to reduce his involvement in NEMS Enterprises, but this merger was considered a puzzling move.

Stigwood agreed to transfer all of his company’s assets into NEMS. As a result, he received major shareholding in NEMS, in addition to a handsome salary and many other perks as could only be expected.

The four Beatles were absolutely livid. They definitely had no fondness for Stigwood. In 2000, Paul told interviewer Greil Marcus:

“We said, ‘In fact, if you do, if you somehow manage to pull this off, we can promise you one thing. We will record “God Save the Queen” for every single record we make from now on and we’ll sing out of tune. That’s a promise. So if this guy buys us, that’s what he’s buying.”

Brian Epstein read the writing on the wall and stayed on solely as the manager of The Beatles and turned over all of his other acts to Stigwood. Obviously, after Epstein’s death later that year, The Beatles waved goodbye to Stigwood and NEMS, en route to forming their own company, Apple Corps. Though they were under a management contract to Stigwood after Epstein’s death, The Beatles could get out of it if they formed their own management company and managed themselves. Hence, some people credit Stigwood for in effect forming Apple Records.

Stigwood would go on to have absolutely phenomenal success in music, movies and television.

After seeing John Travolta in the 1976 movie Carrie and seeing that he could also sing because of his 1976 Top Ten hit “Let Her In”, Stigwood immediately signed the actor from the hit show “Welcome Back Kotter” to a three film deal. The first two films, Saturday Night Fever and Grease were both international smash successes produced by Stigwood that catapulted Travolta into superstardom. However, the third film, 1978’s Moment by Moment starred Travolta and Lily Tomlin; it was an absolute and laughable bomb and many feel that it did irreparable damage to Travolta’s career.

The biggest musical act that Stigwood managed was The Bee Gees; hence the Bee Gees dominated the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack and Barry Gibb wrote the song “Grease” which was a number one smash hit for Frankie Valli in August 1978.

Stigwood decided to make Saturday Night Fever after reading an article in New York magazine by British rock journalist Nik Cohn entitled “Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night.” Cohn had recently arrived in America and was fascinated by the new disco culture. He wrote a compelling article about an Italian-American kid who worked in a hardware store by day, but on the weekends had a whole new life as a star on the dance floor at discos. Cohn’s article touched upon how this person and his group of blue-collar friends from the same Brooklyn neighborhood were pioneers of disco, a new dance craze and subculture that would soon sweep the nation.

Robert Stigwood was enthralled by the article and paid Cohn the hefty sum of $90,000 for the film rights to the article. Stigwood hired veteran screenwriter Norman Wexler to write the screenplay. Cohn talked about this 1975 magazine article in 1997 for the making of the twentieth anniversary DVD of Saturday Night Fever. About a year later, Cohn went public and said that he totally fabricated everything in the article and that the likable Italian-American young adult disco star and his friends never even existed. Don’t you think Cohn was laughing all the way to the bank when he cashed that $90,000 check?

David Cassidy hanging out with Beatles? Really?

What is David Cassidy’s connection to the Beatles you might ask? This post will touch upon the teen idol’s friendship with some ex-Beatles.

As is well known, Cassidy had a number one hit in 1970 with the song “I Think I Love You”, which was credited to The Partridge Family. The song charted simultaneous to the beginning of the television series The Partridge Family on ABC. Cassidy sang lead, while stepmother Shirley Jones, also a cast member of the show, provided backing vocals. His role on the show catapulted him to international stardom and at one time he was the highest-grossing rock performer in the world before his bubble burst. Between The Partridge Family and his solo career from 1970 to 1973, he had five top ten hits and an additional eight Top 40 hits in the U.S. Many of his solo songs were chart-toppers throughout the world.

In interviews over the years, Cassidy has referred to John Lennon as a friend. Lennon had been introduced to Cassidy at the height of his days on The Partridge Family by mutual friend Elliot Mintz. According to Albert Goldman’s controversial 1988 biography The Lives of John Lennon, once after a lunch with Cassidy, John erupted at his girlfriend May Pang and accused her of flirting with Cassidy. May Pang was John’s companion during his separation from wife Yoko Ono. Goldman wrote on page 470, “As May denied this ridiculous accusation, John started circling her like a menacing animal. While he paced, he wrapped out the carefully compiled evidence of her betrayal: (1) She had met Cassidy outside the house when he arrived; (2) she had ordered the same dish as Cassidy at the restaurant; (3) she had stood at the window with Cassidy, talking to him intimately. “I always knew you would cheat on me, and now I have the proof!” screamed John as he worked himself up for the kill. “Don’t you know who I am?” he demanded. “I’m John Lennon!”

The passage goes on to describe that Lennon started throwing things and destroying everything in sight in the house. But, many feel Goldman’s book in general lacks credibility in some areas.

On the other hand, David Cassidy prevented the famous “Wings Across America” tour from getting started on time. In 1976, while Wings was rehearsing for the tour in Texas, Wings’ lead guitarist Jimmy McCulloch was wrestling with Cassidy backstage and broke his wrist. This caused the tour to be delayed for several weeks.

Also, in Blackbird: The Life and Times of Paul McCartney by Geoffrey Giuliano, Wings guitarist Denny Laine was quoted as saying about a previous Wings tour:

“We were in Paris. Wings had just done a great show so we were all in pretty high spirits. Afterwards we shuffled down to this press conference where we met up with our old pal David Cassidy. I remember Paul was struggling to answer all these typically mundane questions from the media while David did his best to crack us up, making faces and stuff just behind the camera.”

We Welcome You to Crackerbox Palace

It has been 37 years since the George Harrison song “Crackerbox Palace” landed in the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 charts. The song entered the Top 40 and stayed there for five weeks, peaking at number 17. The song was off of the 1976 album 331/3, which also featured the song “This Song”. “Crackerbox Palace” is not one of the Harrison songs we are likley to hear on classic rock and oldies stations.

Since George is a uniquely spiritual person, people misinterpreted his reference to “the Lord” in the song. In his 1990 biography Dark Horse, author Geoffrey Giuliano mentioned a recollection that Harrison made at the time to a journalist:

“In the song, when I say I met someone called Mr. Grief, it isn’t just a clever rhyme with life as most people would think. There is a real person, and I met him in Southern France. He was talking to me, and the way he was talking really struck me. So I told him, “I don’t know if this is an insult or not, but you remind me of Lord Buckley. He’s my favorite comedian.” He is dead now, but was one of the first real hip comics. And the guy nearly fell over. He said, “Hey, I managed him for 18 years!”

So we were talking about Lord Buckley, and Mr. Grief said he lived in a little shack, which he called Crackerbox Palace. I loved the way “Crackerbox Palace” sounded I loved the whole idea of it, so I wrote a song and turned it from that shack into a phrase for the physical world. The world is very serious and at times such a very sad place. But at the same time, it’s such a joke. It’s all Crackerbox Palace.”

Harrison made a cool video of the song which was actually shown on an episode of “Saturday Night Live” around the time of the song’s release. This is the video:

The Revenge of Manchester!

As is well known, there has always been a rivalry between the two Merseyside cities of Liverpool and Manchester, especially in terms of the heated football rivalry between Liverpool FC and Manchester United. In fact a March 6, 2016 article in the Guardian, “Liverpool vs. Manchester United: A Deep-Rooted Tribalistic Rivalry Finally Set For Europe“, gives a compelling explanation of the 150 year-old bitter football rivalry.

After almost two years of hits in England and dominating the music scene in their home country with the frenzy of Beatlemania, the four boys took the U.S. by storm in 1964. They transplanted Beatlemania to a foreign shore and launched what we know as “The British Invasion”. Needless to say, Liverpool was the focus of The British Invasion in the U.S. on account of being the Beatles’ home city.

However, the proud city of Manchester was not to be outdone in terms of The British Invasion of the U.S. For a period of six consecutive weeks in April/May 1965, bands from Manchester held the # 1 position on the U.S. on the Billboard charts. Freddie and the Dreamers scored the top slot for two weeks beginning on April 10 with “I’m Telling You Now”; Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders followed for one week at the top with “Game of Love”. Beginning on May 1, Herman’s Hermits ruled the top slot for three weeks with “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter”.

Also, for the week of April 24, these three Manchester bands held the number 1, 2, and 3 positions on the charts.

Proud Mancunians were certainly ecstatic for those six weeks as they stuck it to The Beatles and Liverpool!

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”!