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.
As one can only expect, The Beatles have the record of the most number one songs in the Billboard Hot 100. They rank first with 20 chart toppers while Elvis Presley ranks second with 17 number ones. However, surprisingly Presley holds the record for the most weeks at number one with 79 while The Beatles rank second on this list with 59 weeks in the top slot. The Beatles first number one in the U.S. was “I Want to Hold Your Hand” on February 1, 1964 which stayed in the top position for an astounding seven weeks. The band’s last number one hit was the double single “The Long and Winding Road/For You Blue” which topped the charts for two weeks beginning on June 13, 1970. From February 1, 1964 to January 26, 1970 The Beatles scored an amazing 20 number one hits in the U.S.
Two Beatles songs hold the record for the biggest jumps to number one. First, in 1964 “Can’t Buy Me Love” jumped from number 27 to number one; the second on this list is “Paperback Writer” in 1966 as it catapulted from number 15 to number 1. Ironically, the third song in this distinction is the 1971 song “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” by Paul and Linda McCartney which jumped from number 12 to number one; “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” is actually tied for third place with “Tequila” by The Champs, which in 1959 also jumped from number 12 to number one.
The Beatles number one hit that spent the most weeks in the top slot was “Hey Jude” in 1969. The Beatles number one songs are:
1. “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (February 1, 1964 – six weeks)
2. “She Loves You” (March 21, 1964 – two weeks)
3. “Can’t Buy Me Love” (April 4, 1964 – five weeks)
4. “Love Me Do” (May 30, 1964 – one week)
5. “Hard Days Night” (August 1, 1964 – two weeks)
6. “I Feel Fine” (December 26, 1964 – three weeks)
7. “Eight Days a Week” (March 13, 1965 – two weeks)
8. “Ticket to Ride” (May 22, 1965 – one week)
9. “Help!” (September 4, 1965 – three weeks)
10. “Yesterday” (October 9, 1965 – three weeks)
11. “We Can Work It Out” (January 8, 1964 – three weeks)
12. “Paperback Writer” (June 25, 1966 – two weeks)
13. “Penny Lane” (March 18, 1967 – one week)
14. “All You Need Is Love” (August 19, 1967 – one week)
15. “Hello Goodbye” (December 30, 1967 – three weeks)
16. “Hey Jude” (September 28, 1968 – nine weeks)
17. “Get Back” (May 24, 1969 – five weeks)
18. “Come Together/Something” (November 29, 1964 – one week)
19. “Let It Be” (April 11, 1970 – two weeks)
20. “The Long and Winding Road/For You Blue” (June 13, 1970 – two weeks)
Prior to its UK release on 29 November 1963, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” had advance orders of more than 1,000,000 copies. The single definitely would have debuted in the top position on the UK charts, which would have been unprecedented. However, their hit “She Loves You” was at number one at the time and seemed to be losing its grip and prone for a dip, but a BBC special report on The Beatles caused “She Loves You” to have a second life and surge to prevent a drop from the number one position.
Beatles observers cite “I Want to Hold Your Hand” as a prime example of a song in which Lennon and McCartney closely collaborated. Of course, they were both lead vocalists on the track. On the Billboard Hot 100, up until that time it spent the longest stretch at number one apart from when the double-sided 45 release of “Don’t Be Cruel/Hound Dog” by Elvis Presley stayed in the top slot for 11 weeks.
“The Long and Winding Road” was the twentieth and final number one hit for The Beatles, an achievement which has yet to be surpassed. The span of months between their first number one hit, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” in February 1964, and “The Long and Winding Road” in May 1970 was 74; this represents an incredible average of a number one hit every 3.7 months in their dominance of the U.S. charts. The McCartney-penned song was issued as a single in May 1970, a full month after the band’s break-up.
Ironically, McCartney first offered the song to Tom Jones with the provision that he record the song as his next single. But, Jones opted to release his “Without Love” as his next single, shooting the song into the Beatles’ pool of songs for their next album. “The Long and Winding Road” famously was one of the five Beatles songs that McCartney played on his 1976 Wings Over America tour, which marked the first time since the quartet’s break-up that he played Beatles songs.
Well, Earth, Wind and Fire’s cover version of “Got to Get You into My Life” has been covered by a Moscow-based band of musicians who are getting a high-profile in the United States. The band is called Leonid and Friends , and they began doing precise covers of the studio recordings of hits by Chicago. Apart from covering Chicago tunes, they have covered a couple of Earth, Wind and Fire songs in addition to “Spinning Wheel” by Blood, Sweat and Tears.
They came to do concerts in the U.S. in 2018 and 2019. The band’s leader, multi-instrumentalist Leonid Vorobyvev, said, “Chicago has never been in Russia and none of us have attended their concerts. We only have audio records and videos to help us learn Chicago songs.”
Ironically, one of the few non-Chicago songs they have recorded is the famous 1978 cover of “Got to Get You into My Life”. It is rare when a band records a cover version of a famous song and not the original. Have a listen to Leonid and Friends amazingly recreating the Chicago sound and more …………
Let’s face it, neither Beatles songs nor subsequent songs by former Beatles are noted for sax solos. Therefore, the Wings 1975 number one hit “Listen to What the Man Said” stands out for sure. Acclaimed saxophonist Tom Scott provided the soprano sax on this hit.
“Listen to What the Man Said” entered to the Top 40 on June 7, 1975, spending a total of eleven weeks in the Top 40. It hit number one for one week on July 19, 1975. The song from the forthcoming Venus and Mars album became McCartney’s fourth post-Beatles number one hit in the U.S. It was actually the band’s first single to appear on the Capitol label, as the previous single “Junior’s Farm” had been the last Wings 45 record on the Apple label.
“Listen to What the Man Said” was released under the moniker of “Wings”, as the previous five Top 40 chart entries were credited to “Paul McCartney & Wings”: “Sally g”, “Junior’s Farm”, “Band on the Run”, “Jet”, and “Helen Wheels”. Prior to these five songs released under “Paul McCartney & Wings”, the band’s first six Top 40 chart entries had been credited simply to “Wings”: “Give Ireland Back to the Irish”, “Mary Had a Littler Lamb’, “Hi, Hi, Hi”, “My Love” and “Live and Let Die”.
In addition to being a saxophonist, Tom Scott is both an arranger and composer. His father was film and television composer Nathan Scott, famous for composing the themes to the showsDragnet and Lassie. Tom Scott definitely followed in his father’s footsteps as he composed the theme songs to the hit shows Starsky and Hutch and The Streets of San Francisco. In 1982 he collaborated with Johnny Mathis to write “Without Us” the theme song for the wildly popular 1980s sitcom Family Ties, which ran from 1982 to 1982. For the show’s first season (1982-1983), the theme song was sung by Dennis Tufano and Mindy Sterling. However, for the rest of the show’s run the theme song by Johnny Mathis and Deniece Williams, who ironically collaborated for the number one hit “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late” which topped the Billboard Hot 100 for one week in June 1978. Deniece Williams would go on to have have her own number one hit for two weeks in May/June 1984 with “Let’s Hear It for the Boy” off of the Footloose soundtrack.
In his various collaborations with Michael Jackson, Scott played the lyricon on the international 1983 number one hit “Billie Jean”. In addition to working on scores of tv and some major movies, his work as a session musician encompasses many hits and countless artists.
He was a founding member of The Blues Brothers but did not appear in the movies Blues Brothers and Blues Brothers 2000. He left over a pay dispute, but was able to re-join the band at a later juncture.
Tom Scott graduated in 1966 from Ulysses S. Grant High School in the Valley Glenn neighborhood of Los Angeles. Since the school’s opening in 1962, countless famous people have been among their graduates. Some of many famous grads are Tom Selleck, Mickey Dolenz, actor Barry Livingston, lead singer and founding member of Quiet Riot Kevin Dubrow, controversial journalist Megan Marshack, session drummer Jim Gordon, former California Lieutenant Governor Mike Curb, and many more. The school is the alma mater to members of the rock band Toto – Jeff Porcaro, Mike Porcaro, Steve Lukather , Steve Porcaro, and Joseph Williams; founding member and pianist Dave Paich attended nearby Chaminade Prep but played with his future bandmates in the Porcaro garage during his high school years. Of course, Toto had their February 1983 number one hit “Africa” in addition to many other hits.
February 1964 saw The Beatles take the U.S. by storm to say the least, and usher in what became known as “The British Invasion”. While the high-profile band from Liverpool dominated the Billboard Hot 100 for many months, few realize that the second hit by a band from Liverpool was “Needles and Pins” by The Searchers.
“Needles and Pins” entered the Top 40 on March 21, 1964, staying in the Top 40 for eight weeks. It peaked at number 13, and miraculously stayed at number 13 for three weeks. In January 1965, their song “Love Potion Number Nine” would climb to number three. The band had five other hits in the Top 40 between March 1964 and April 1965. They were: “Don’t Throw Your Love Away” (# 16), “Some Day We’re Gonna Love Again” (# 34), “When You Walk in the Room” (# 35), “What Have They Done to the Rain” (# 29), and “Bumble Bee” (# 21). The Searchers had other hits that charted in the UK.
Prior to “Needles and Pins” entering the Top 40 on March 21, 1964, that other band from Liverpool had five songs chart in the Top 40. The first was “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, which held the number one position for seven weeks. “I Saw Her Standing There” hit number 14. “She Loves You” was number one for two weeks, followed by “Please Please Me” which peaked at number three. “My Bonnie”, their recording from their Hamburg days with Tony Sheridan, hit number six. Then, “Twist and Shout” stayed at number two for four weeks.
The Searchers were originally formed as a skiffle group in Liverpool in 1959 by John McNally and Mike Pender. Their classic line-up that had the hits in the U.S. consisted of Mike Pender and John McNally, both on guitars and vocals; Tony Jackson on bass and vocals, as well as Chris Curtis on drums. The band’s name was taken from the 1956 western The Searchers starring John Ford.
The band heard “Needles and Pins” for the first time at the Star Club in Hamburg, the famed establishment in Beatles lore where they were the house band during two different stays in Germany. It was being sung at the Star Club by British singer Cliff Bennett.
Before being recorded by The Searchers, Jackie DeShannon released an unsuccessful version that had no traction on the charts. Of course, Beatle fans know that the Kentucky native received her big break when chosen to open for The Beatles on their first U.S. concert tour in 1964. She had an international hit in 1965 with the Burt Bacharach/Hal David song “What the World Needs Now Is Love“, which reached number seven on the Billboard Hot 100. Years later DeShannon would co-write the song “Bette Davis Eyes“, which was a monstrous hit for Kim Carnes, holding the top position on the Billboard Hot 100 for an astounding nine weeks.
“Needles and Pins” was written by Sonny Bono and Jack Nitzche, two underlings of Phil Spector. Bono would produce minor hits such as Larry Williams’ “Bony Maronie” and “Dizzy Miss Lizzy” prior to a successful recording career with his wife Cher. After massive success on American television with The Sonny and Cher Show and a divorce from Cher, Bono would eventually drift into politics, becoming the mayor of Palm Springs and then serving in the U.S. Congress from 1995 until his death from a skiing accident in January 1998. During his years he teamed up with his wife Cher as the famed duo Sonny and Cher, he was famous for sporting a “caveman vest”. The piece of legislation for which he is best known during his career as a congressman was extending the term of copyright by 20 years. The United States Copyright Extension Act of 1998 was passed by Congress nine months after his death and became commonly known as the Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act. Of course, this legislation helps songwriters.
Jack Nitzche (1937 – 2000), the other co-writer of “Needles and Pins” had an amazing career, and was Phil Spector’s righthand man for many years. He later did work for The Rolling Stones on occasion, playing electric piano on the hits “Paint It Black” and “Let’s Spend the Night Together”, as well as writing the choral arrangement for “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” Nitzche worked on the film scores for many blockbuster movies such as The Exorcist, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and The Razor’s Edge. In 1983, Jack Nitzche won an Academy Award for Best Original Song for co-writing “Up Where We Belong”, the theme song from the movie An Officer and A Gentleman starring Richard Gere and Debra Winger, which he co-wrote with Will Jennings and Buffy Sainte-Marie. “Up Where We Belong“, a duet with Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes, topped the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks in November 1982.
The Beatles started the British Invasion and are the best known band from this era, but when they put Liverpool on the entertainment map, it should be remembered that the second band from Liverpool to score a hit during the British Invasion was The Searchers with “Needles and Pins”.
The subject of the firing of Pete Best as the Beatles drummer on August 16, 1962 is one of the most talked about and debated incidents in Beatles history. Best had been with the band for two years when they were in the trenches in both Liverpool and Hamburg, ranking as the most popular of the four Beatles. He was replaced by Ringo Starr, almost immediately after the band had the great fortune of being signed to a recording contract with EMI’s Parlophone label.
The reasons for the firing of Pete Best is a historical debate that cannot be done in a single blog post, nor a hundred blog posts for that matter. The topic of this blog article will be the pleasant surprise that in 1995, some 33 years after being replaced as The Beatles’ drummer, Pete Best was finally financially rewarded in a big way for his two years with the band.
1995 saw the famous Beatles Anthology, which consisted of the release of a set of three double albums, a television documentary a three part documentary. The first CD Anthology was released in late 1995, and the following two in 1996. As most Beatles fans know, The Beatles sold more albums in 1996 than in any other single year in the 1960’s.
The first Anthology CD contains ten songs from the band’s famous audition for Decca records, which of course did not earn them a recording contract. Since Pete Best was the drummer on all of these ten songs, he was able to finally reap some financial rewards for his storied two years with the struggling band. While he definitely received in the millions, both the Beatles management and Pete Best have thought it best to keep the exact amount private over the course of the last 24 years.
The ten songs on the first Anthology album which feature Pete Best saw their first official release with this album, but had been circulating in the bootleg world for almost thirty years. The ten songs included on the album are “My Bonnie”, “Ain’t She Sweet”, “Cry for a Shadow”, “Searchin’”, “Three Cool Cats”, “The Sheik of Araby”, “Like Dreamers Do”, “Hello, Little Girl”, “Besame Mucho”, “Love Me Do”.
Estimates of the payments to Best have ranged from four million pounds to 25 million pounds, but nothing concrete ever came out. While the three remaining Beatles opted to pay Best for his work on the infamous “Decca tapes”, Best was not invited to participated in the television documentary nor the book.
In a June 5, 2003 piece “The Booted Beatle” in the Washington Post, David Segal wrote quoted Pete Best stressing the need for the amount of his royalty payments from The Beatles to do be disclosed. He said, “I think the number needs to remain private. It’s security for my family and my grandchildren. I didn’t move to a 35 story mansion with a swimming pool and three Ferraris. I’m very happy with the life I’ve got so there’s no need to change it.”
Pete Best left the entertainment industry in 1968 and took a job in an unemployment office, rising to supervisor and retiring after 20 years with a good pension.
It may have taken 33 years, but ex-Beatle Pete Best finally earned many millions for his two year stint as the band’s drummer.
Today came the suprise news that the ultra-famous Gloria Vanderbilt died at age 95 at her home in Manhattan. The great-great-grandaughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794-1887), the railroad tycoon and shipping magnate, she hailed from one of the most wealthy and socially prominent families in the United States. She was a model, an actress, fashion designer, artist and heiress. She was married four times, divorced three times, and bore four sons, one of whom is CNN commentator Anderson Cooper.
Those who were around in the 1970’s and 1980’s know that Vanderbilt re-invented herself with a $200 million fashion empire, primarily of designer jeans, but also including blouses, shoes, jewelry and perfume. A insightful obituary, “Gloria Vanderbilt Dies at 95; Built a Fashion Empire”, can be found in the New York Times. The obituary states that the Wings’ song “Mrs. Vanderbilt, from the 1973 Band on the Run album, was both inspired by Gloria Vanderbilt and loosely based on her life.
While “Mrs. Vanderbilt” was well-known to Beatles fans at thew time who bought the Wings album, it was not released as a single in both the U.S. and the UK. However, it was released as single in Australia, New Zealand, and Continental Europe.
Of course, this album was recorded in Lagos, Nigeria, with the overdubs done later in London. “Mrs. Vanderbilt”, like all the songs on Band on the Run, featured Paul McCartney on drums due to the fact that Wings drummer Denny Seiwell quit the band only a couple of hours before the departure to record in Nigeria. As is famously known, when the album was released, Paul’s good friend Keith Moon, the drummer extraordinaire of The Who, called him to ask who did the drumming on the album because it was great. Paul was thrilled at Moon’s comments.
Despite being a well-liked song by McCartney fans, Paul never played the song live until his famous free concert in Kiev, Ukraine in 2008, only because it received the most votes in an online poll from people who were planning on attending the concert.