Tony Sheridan is someone famous in Beatles lore, as some might argue that he indirectly gave the struggling band their start and brought them crucial attention. The Beatles met this British singer/songwriter on their first trip to Hamburg in 1960. They backed him up on stage a few times. On a subsequent stint in Hamburg, they backed him during a recording session. For various reasons, the name “Beatles” was not used and the album was released under the name “Tony Sheridan and the Beat Boys”. The album, My Bonnie, had a track of the same title that was a minor hit in Germany and reached England.. What is interesting is that they also recorded “Cry for a Shadow”, an instrumental song penned by George Harrison and John Lennon, which would mark the first and only songwriting collaboration ever between those two Beatles.
In 1962, Brian Epstein was managing the record department of the flagship store of his family’s furniture store chain. Several people came in looking for an import copy of the German release single of “My Bonnie” by which featured the Liverpool band called The Beatles. The requests for the single sparked Epstein’s curiosity so he made it a point to catch one of their performances at the Cavern Club and the rest is history.
Tony Sheridan passed away in 2013 at the age of 72. This is his obituary in the New York Times:
Sid Bernstein, the famous promoter who was responsible for bringing the Beatles to the U.S. for the first time, always credited the New York Times for being instrumental in helping to bring the Fab Four to the U.S. and starting the British Invasion. Bernstein spoke about this subject with this blogmaster in a 2010 interview.
During his service as an intelligence agent in England during World War II, the Bronx native of Yiddish- speaking parents developed a fascination with reading British newspapers. It was from British newspapers he would buy at New York newsstands that he first read about the Beatles and knew that he had to bring them to the U.S.
What lead up to the band’s arrival on the famous day of February 7, 1964 were the fruits of Sid Bernstein’s hobby of reading British newspapers. After reading several fascinating articles on the new group from Liverpool that was tearing up the British pop charts, the music promoter knew he could make them a smash across the pond as well. “It stirred my curiosity. They started something in their own town and it started to spread across England. I got the number of their manager, Brian Epstein, and called him.’ For the rest of his life, Bernstein could not forget Epstein’s phone number. ‘It was his home phone and the number was Liverpool 6518…it was the magic number of my life. I sometimes forgot my own kids’ number, but not that one.”
Brian Epstein was still living at home with his family at the time. Bernstein’s first call to the Epstein family was most memorable and made him an instant hit with Mrs. Queenie Epstein. She answered the phone in what seemed to be a “high-class British accent” and when Bernstein identified himself as calling from America, Mrs. Epstein asked if the New York Times still published a weekly Book Review and said that she hadn’t seen one in a long time. The American caller promised to send Mrs. Epstein the Times Book Review each week and a strong friendship was cemented with the Epstein family prior to Bernstein even speaking to Brian about the Beatles.
The New York Times was the conduit that not only created an instant friendship between Bernstein and Mrs. Epstein, but also made Mrs. Epstein champion Sid Bernstein’s offers to bring the Beatles to the U.S. He never missed an opportunity to give the famed newspaper proper credit in facilitating worldwide Beatlemania.
The Beatles’ colorful manager appreciated Bernstein’s interest but was concerned in that he did not want the band falling flat upon arriving on American shores. Epstein expressed his concerns to Bernstein without mincing words, “We are not getting any airplay in the U.S., why do you want us to come? I don’t want the boys playing to empty seats over there.”
Bernstein assured Epstein that the Beatles would have success in the States saying that the language is the same and the kids in America are the same as the Beatles fans in Britain. On the topic of the Beatles achieving success in the U.S., “I told him that they would. I loved the idea that they were British and from Liverpool. I sold him on the idea.”
Epstein’s response was, “I will make a deal with you. I need time, but I will bring them there.”
Bernstein waited ten months from his initial phone call with Epstein until the Beatles finally received airplay on American radio when a station out on the West Coast started playing the Beatles. Bernstein recalled that he was told that an English stewardess gave a Beatles record to a DJ who was a passenger on a plane, telling him to play it and that people in America would love it.
The summer before the Beatles’ February 1964 arrival in the U.S., Epstein came to New York trying to spark interest in getting Beatles records played in the U.S. He met with Bernstein, who showed Carnegie Hall to the Liverpudlian. Epstein knew of the famous venue. Bernstein convinced his business associate and newfound friend that he would have no problem selling out Carnegie Hall for the Beatles. The rest, as we know, is history. One of the famed promoter’s favorite anecdotes is that on the day after of the show, the manager of Carnegie Hall told him, “Sid, you could have booked them not for this one day, but for a month.”
The exorbitant cost of the tickets for the Carnegie Hall show were $3.50 for the balcony, $4.50 for the golden circle, and $5.50 for the orchestra.
After the massive success of bringing the Beatles to the U.S., Sid Bernstein brought over all of the top British acts as well. He brought the Rolling Stones for their first four U.S. tours, in addition to The Dave Clark 5, The Moody Blues, Herman’s Hermits and the Kinks. Having been chiefly responsible for the British Invasion, he earned the title “The Father of the British Invasion”. Throughout his long career he also has managed or promoted such acts as Barbra Streisand, ABBA, Sam Cooke, Jimmy Cliff, Lenny Kravitz, Frank Sinatra, Laura Brannigan, and many others.
Of course, the Bronx native is also famous for single-handedly orchestrating the Beatles’ 1965 concerts at Shea Stadium, which were the first popular music concerts of any kind at a stadium and paved the way for a worldwide trend.
On December 8, 2010, news camera crews came to Bernstein’s Manhattan apartment to interview him on the sad occasion of the thirtieth anniversary of his friend John Lennon. While he had a business relationship with Lennon when he arranged the Beatles’ first trip to the U.S, that relationship transcended into a strong personal friendship in the post-Beatle years. Both Bernstein and Lennon lived very close to Manhattan’s Central Park and their families would intersect in the park. Of course, John and Yoko had their young son Sean, while Bernstein had a couple of kids who still fell into the younger range. Many times they would sit and talk on a park bench while their children played. “John’s sense of humor was 24/7. The first couple of times that I ran into John and Yoko by chance he would ask her, ‘Did I ever introduce you to my friend Sid Bernstein?’. One time Yoko finally answered, ‘Yes, about a hundred times’. Any time we met after that John always made a point of asking Yoko if he had ever introduced her to me just as a joke.”
The two veterans of the Beatles world would talk not only about the music industry, but more so what it was like to be raising young kids in New York at that time. Many times Lennon would call his friend Sid to get tickets to a big concert he was promoting. Sid would relish this opportunity because he would arrange for John and Yoko to sit next to him, and they would have the opportunity to talk, and sometimes go out to eat after the shows. “I lost both a friend and a soul mate on December 8, 1980,” Bernstein said when interviewed at his apartment by this blogmaster.
In his fascinating 2002 memoir “It’s Sid Bernstein Calling…. ”, the famed promoter discusses how the New York Times played a pivotal role in bringing the Beatles to America, though not as animated as when he would discuss the topic in conversation. Bernstein’s memoir is a “Who’s Who” of the entertainment world.
For years Sid Bernstein put the Times‘ Book Review in the mail to Mrs. Epstein, even after the Beatles finally came to the U.S. in 1964. During his life Bernstein was not shy of saying that the New York Times was instrumental in convincing Brian Epstein to bring to America. He once joked to this blogmaster, “I don’t know how things would have turned out had it not been for the New York Times”.
When Sid Bernstein died at age 95 on August 21, 2013, the entertainment world lost a giant to say the least. Until the end he remained great friends with countless stars. He never failed to give the New York Times proper credit for being the catalyst in bringing the Beatles to the U.S.
The whole issue of the 1970’s Canadian rock band Klaatu cannot be fully addressed in a single blog post. People have written lengthy articles on the subject over the years. Information in this post has been taken from the article “Twisted Tales: Seventies Band Klaatu Rumored to Be Reunited Beatles” by James Sullivan in January 2008.
To make a long story short, in 1976 and 1977 there was a major rumor that this mysterious Canadian band was actually the Beatles sneaking out a new album under a pseudonym six years after their break-up.
Klaatu was definitely most successful in trying to achieve the sound of The Beatles. Their self-titled debut album not only sounded like The Fab Four, but also the album did not list any band members, producers or credits. It did not sport any photos, either.
The so-called “clues” to this coup by the four ex-Beatles were compelling. The album was released on Capitol Records, the Beatles’ American label. Sullivan also cites John Lennon’s brief move to suburban Toronto, as another validation by the conspiracy theorists. Also, the name “Klaatu” was taken from the sci-fi classic The Day the Earth Stood Still, which Ringo Starr used as cover art for his 1974 album Goodnight Vienna.
A rock critic for the Providence Journal stated in an article that Klaatu was definitely the Beatles, and the whole rumor took off all throughout North America and the world. Another theory was that it was not an album of new material by the four lads from Liverpool, but rather an album that was rumored to have been shelved in 1966 immediately after Revolver.
A Google search of the words “Klaatu Beatles” will no doubt give you an infinite number of articles and postings about legitimate coincidences as well as the conspiracy theories that have been floating around for almost 40 years now.
Please keep in mind that it is amazing to realize that this rumor circulated everywhere some twenty years before the introduction of the internet into everyday life.
Thanks to Mr. James Sullivan for his concise and informative article on this subject matter.
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 bold 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.
Stigwood would go on to have absolutely phenomenal success in music, movies and television. He represented such acts as The Bee Gees, Cream, Rod Stewart, David Bowie, Blind Faith, and many more.
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 Stigwood films with Travolta, Saturday Night Fever and Grease, were both international smash successes that catapulted Travolta into superstardom. However, the third film, Moment by Moment in 1978, starred Travolta and Lily Tomlin; it was an absolute and laughable bomb and many feel that it did irreparable damage to Travolta’s career.
Stigwood decided to make Saturday Night Fever after reading an article in the June 7, 1976 issue of NewYork 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. The article touched upon how this person and his group of blue-collar friends from the same Brooklyn neighborhood were the pioneers of 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. Stigwood hired veteran screenwriter Norman Wexler to write the screenplay for Saturday Night Fever. Cohn talked about this 1976 magazine article in 1997 for the making of the twentieth anniversary DVD of the famous 1977 film. 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 had never even existed. Don’t you think Cohn was laughing all the way to the bank in 1976 when he cashed that $90,000 check?
On July 7, 2015 Ringo Starr became the first Beatle to reach the milestone of having a 75th birthday. He will not be the last as Paul McCartney will hit 75 on June 18, 2017. Sadly, John Lennon would have reached 75 this coming October 9, 2015.
If he were alive, George Harrison, who was born at home, would be able to celebrate two 75th birthdays – he was reportedly born in his family home on February 24, 1943 at 11:50 PM, but his birth was registered with the City of Liverpool as February 25, 1943, which is his official birthday. In later years George began to embrace February 24th as his birthday.
Being the first Beatle to hit 75 is just one of the many firsts for Ringo. His song “Photograph”, which reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for the week of November 24, 1973, represents the first time that two ex-Beatles collaborated to release a song. “Photograph” was co-written by Ringo and George Harrison on a luxury yacht in the South of France in 1971. It was an international hit, also reaching number one on the charts in Canada and Australia. With all the countless worldwide number one hits credited to Lennon/McCartney, it was refreshing to Beatles fans at the time that a Starr/Harrison composition topped the charts.
On Ringo’s two previous hit singles, “It Don’t Come Easy” and “Back Off Boogaloo”, it was reported that these were also Starr/Harrison collaborations though Harrison went uncredited; Harrison also produced these two singles. George provided Ringo with help on the melodies of these two songs.
The original recording was done during the recording of George’s Living in the Material World album, but the official recording was done in Los Angeles as part of the wildly successful 1973 album Ringo, which also yielded the number one single “You’re Sixteen” and the top ten hit “Oh My My”.
Recorded in March 1973 at Sunset Sound Recorders in Los Angeles, it was produced by Richard Perry who incorporated a Phil Spectator-type “Wall of Sound” with multiple drums and acoustic guitars. Famed pianist Nicky Hopkins handled piano chores, Klaus Voormann played bass, Bobby Keys played saxophone, Jim Keltner was the main drummer, Lon Van Eaton and brother Derreck Van Eaton on percussion, Vini Poncia on acoustic guitar, and George Harrison on acoustic guitar and providing harmony vocals.
On January 26, 2014 at the 56th annual Grammy Awards at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, the Beatles received the Recording Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and surviving Beatles Ringo and Paul represented the band. Ringo sang “Photograph” at the event.
We are all familiar with younger brothers who seemingly try to cash in on their brothers’ fame. Names like Frank Stallone, Joey Travolta and Simon Townshend come to mind. However, Paul McCartney never had that problem…………….
Mike McCartney – Paul’s younger brother Mike decided to use the professional name of “Mike McGear” to avoid being accused of trying to cash in on Paul’s fame. As lead singer/songwriter of The Scaffold, the band had number one hits in England in addition to other top ten hits, but they never made it across the pond to the U.S. The Scaffold also had a highly rated variety show on the BBC for several years and their work on the show as a musical comedy troupe inspired the members of Monty Python to follow suit. The Scaffold broke up in 1971, and since then Mike McCartney has achieved success as the author of children’s books and books of photography, in addition to being a loyal brother. Mike was the best man at all three of Paul’s weddings.
Here are some other brothers of rock stars throughout history……….
Chris Jagger – Mick’s little brother tried in earnest to be a rock star. He released a self-titled debut album in 1973, followed by his second album, Adventures of Valentine Vox the Ventriloquist, in 1974. After his second album, he became disillusioned and left the music business for over twenty years. The conventional wisdom is that although he had talent, Chris bore too much of an uncanny resemblance to his brother and sounded too much like him. After leaving music, he would jokingly enter Mick Jagger look-a-like contests across Europe under a false name and always win. In the 1980’s, he tried his hand at journalism, being published in Rolling Stone and The Guardian. Also, the 1980’s saw him work as a lyricist with writing partner Frank Langdoff, contributing songs to the Stones’ albums Dirty Work and Steel Wheels. In 1993 he returned to music both as a solo artist and later with his group Atcha, with whom he has released three albums.
Greg Buckingham – The youngest of three boys who were all encouraged to swim competitively, Fleetwood Mac guitarist and vocalist Lindsey Buckingham shocked his family when he quit the college swim team to concentrate on music. However, his older brother Greg Buckingham persevered with swimming, earning a silver medal at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City in the 200 meter individual medley; he was also ranked as the world’s top swimmer for a couple of years and was regularly featured on ABC’s “Wide World of Sports”.
Stanley Love – Mike Love, one of the lead singers of The Beach Boys, lived in the shadow of the three Wilson brothers, his first cousins who formed the band. But, Love had a famous brother of his own. His younger brother, Stanley Love, was a first-round pick of the Baltimore Bullets in the 1971 NBA draft and would play for the Los Angeles Lakers for a couple of seasons before fading away. His once promising career in the National Basketball Association did not consist of many good vibrations.
Geoffrey Fieger – Doug Fieger is the late singer/guitarist of The Knack who wrote a song about a 16 year-old girl he knew named Sharona. “My Sharona” topped the U.S. charts for six weeks in August/September 1979, while the band’s follow-up hit “Good Girls Don’t” cracked the top ten. Sharona Alperin is now one of the top real estate agents in Los Angeles. Doug’s brother, Geoffrey Fieger, is a famous attorney in the U.S. who has had a list of high-profile and controversial clients such as Dr. Jack Kevorkian. He is regularly interviewed on news programs concerning controversial legal cases, and for many years was a legal commentator for both NBC News and MSNBC. He was the unsuccessful 1998 Democratic nominee for governor in his home state of Michigan.
John Pankow – Actor John Pankow is best known for his role as Ira Buchman for seven years on the NBC sitcom Mad About You. However, he has had roles in major films, including a chilling performance as Secret Service agent John Vukovich in the 1984 movie To Live and Die in L.A. John Pankow is eleven years younger than his brother James Pankow. James Pankow is a founding member and trombonist for Chicago, and is still with the band. He wrote many of Chicago’s biggest hits, including “Colour My World”, “(I’ve Been) Searchin’ So Long”, “Make Me Smile”, “Just You N’ Me”, “Old Days”, “Alive Again”, in addition to co-writing “Feelin’ Stronger Every Day” with Peter Cetera.
Here is “Thank U Very Much”, by The Scaffold, which hit # 3 on the British charts in 1967. This great song was written by Mike McGear (a.k.a. Mike McCartney) who also provided lead vocals on the track.
In the business section of yesterday’s New York Times, there was an article entitled “The Fifth Man: Brian Epstein and the Beatles” which covered the business contributions manager Brian Epstein made to the success of the Beatles. As can only be expected, Beschloss made reference to the fact that Epstein was labeled by some as “The Fifth Beatle”.
We have all heard the litany of people who have been dubbed “The Fifth Beatle”. The obvious names that come to mind are Brian Epstein, Billy Preston, George Martin, Pete Best, Neil Aspinall, Tony Sheridan and Derek Taylor. Even Manchester United soccer star George Best carried the moniker “The Fifth Beatle”. There are more on the list.
However, today’s post will contrast the term “The Fifth Beatle” to the term “The Sixth Stone”. While many people have been dubbed as the fifth member of the Fab Four, only one person has ever carried the distinction of being labeled the sixth member of The Rolling Stones.
Ian Stewart (1938-1985) was the piano player and founding member of The Rolling Stones. Keith Richards has said that “Stu” was more responsible than anyone for forming the band in the beginning. Richards once said, “He basically hand-picked all of us.”
Upon Stewart’s death from a heart attack at age 47 in December 1985, Mick Jagger stated correctly, “Stu was the guy that we strived to please.”
Not only was Stewart the founding member and piano player, but he also was personally responsible for getting the band their first booking. Many consider Stewart’s hard work in the early days for being responsible for their getting the Stones on the radar screen.
Unfortunately, the Stones’ first manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, was responsible for demoting Ian Stewart out of the band. Oldham felt that Stewart was too ugly and that he spoiled the look of the band. The manager agreed to allow Stewart to appear on records and radio, but not on television or in photos. Oldham also felt that having six members would put the Stones at a disadvantage because no other band had six members. The Beatles only had four.
In his 2011 biography Jagger: Rebel, Rock Star, Rambler, Rogue, author Marc Spitz writes of Stewart’s expulsion from the band, “Oldham successfully lobbied to have Stewart removed from the Stones-proper lineup. Stu’s Jay Leno jaw and lack of androgyny was deemed a marketing liability, so he was relegated to erstwhile pianist and roadie. ‘Look, from the first time I saw you, I felt I can only see …… five Rolling Stones,’ Oldham informed them. ‘People worked nine-to-five and they couldn’t be expected to remember more than four faces. This is entertainment, not a memory test.”
Christopher Anderson’s 2012 biography Mick: The Wild Life and Mad Genius of Jagger contains a passage on the sacking of beloved “Stu” that reads, “The Stones’ pianist Ian Stewart was another matter. The brawny, lantern-jawed, crew-cut Stu ‘didn’t have the right look; he just didn’t fit,’ Oldham said. Stewart was out – but not entirely. He agreed to become road manager, and he would still be allowed to take part in recording sessions.”
Stewart easily could have walked away bitter from the Stones, but instead he stayed on as their road manager, while continuing to play piano for the group on both record albums and in concert. In fact, he was working with the band on their album Dirty Work when he died of a heart attack in 1985. Stewart contributed to every Rolling Stones album between 1964 and 1986, with the exception of Their Satanic Majesties Request and Beggars Banquet. He played in every Stones concert until his death.
In spite of helping the band on albums and in concerts as a pianist and organist, he was legally not a full member of The Rolling Stones, but rather a salaried employee.
Apart from the group that he founded, Stewart played on two Led Zeppelin albums, as well as albums by artists such as B.B. King and Eric Clapton.
The Scottish born-and-raised Stewart was a golf fanatic so as the band’s road manager he always tried to arrange for the band to stay at hotel that had a golf course.
On February 23, 1986, the Rolling Stones took the stage together for the first time in four years on the occasion of a tribute concert to Ian Stewart at the famous 100 Club in London. The band had declined the invitation to play at Live Aid the previous summer, giving the reason that “they were no longer a band.” Even in his death, Stu kept the band together once again by their appearance at this tribute, which included the Stones being joined by rock greats such as Eric Clapton and Pete Townshend.
However, when The Rolling Stones were inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989, Ian Stewart was finally recognized for his contributions and his legacy as he was inducted as a full member of the Stones just like his former band mates were. Jagger gave glowing praise to Stewart’s contributions to the band in his acceptance speech.
To Stones insiders, “The Sixth Stone” was the heart and soul of the group and kept the band together during difficult times. After all, he was responsible for starting the band and picking the members. Furthermore, he was a great pianist.
Have a listen to Ian Stewart’s piano work on “Brown Sugar”, one of the many Stones’ hits on which he played piano or organ:
Recently while driving I heard the 1975 Ringo hit “No No Song” on WCBS-FM in New York. It made me think. This song proved to be Ringo’s last Top Ten hit in the U.S. when it peaked at number three in March 1975. Afterwards, Ringo had four other songs in the Top 40 between 1975 and 1981, but the highest position attained by any of the four was number 26.
Few people realize that this song was written by Hoyt Axton. A performer himself, Axton mostly wrote songs for other artists during his career. He wrote “Never Been to Spain” for Three Dog Night and “The Pusher” for Steppenwolf. However, Axton’s most successful song was “Joy to the World“, which topped the charts for six weeks in 1971 for Three Dog Night. Axton also wrote songs over the years for Joan Baez, Waylon Jennings, John Denver and Linda Ronstadt. However, it is safe to say that “Joy to the World” bankrolled his entire life afterwards.
Hoyt Axton must have had songwriting in his genetic pool. His mother, Mae Boren Axton, co-wrote a song that made a young performer famous. Her most famous song was “Heartbreak Hotel” and it became the first major hit for a young man from Tupelo, Mississippi named Elvis Aaron Presley. Ironically, Hoyt Axton, who also wrote and recorded his own country albums and died at age 61 in 1991, was part of an ironic cycle of hit songs for Three Dog Night that were written by someone with a famous relative in music or the arts. Let’s have a look….
1. “Mama Told Me (Not to Come)”, Three Dog Night’s first number one song was written by Randy Newman. It stayed on top for two weeks in July 1970. Randy Newman is the nephew of the famed composers Alfred, Emil and Lionel Newman; all three worked on film scores in Hollywood. Alfred Newman won nine Academy Awards, more than any other composer in Oscar history. Emil Newman worked on over 200 films and tv shows, earning an Oscar nomination in 1941 for Sun Valley Serenade. Lionel Newman’s career with Twentieth-Century Fox spanned 46 years and 200 movies; he also wrote several classic TV themes, such as Dobie Gillis and Daniel Boone. Since the 1980’s, Randy Newman has concentrated primarily on writing film scores (maybe … it’s in the genes!). “Mama Told Me (Not to Come)” was the number one song on the very first edition of Casey Kasem’s American Top 40on the weekend of July 4, 1970. It has been used in many movie soundtracks such as Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Boogie Nights.
2. “Joy to the World” was Three Dog Night’s second number one hit, topping the charts for six weeks in April and May 1971. It was written by Hoyt Axton, the son of famed songwriter Mae Boren Axton, who was known as “The Queen Mother of Nashville”. Mae Boren Axton’s most famous credit is co-writing the hit “Heartbreak Hotel” for Elvis Presley. Her list of songs is staggering and another one of her claims to fame is having introduced a very young Elvis Presley to Colonel Tom Parker. “Joy to the World” has been used in many movie soundtracks, most notably in The Big Chill and Forrest Gump.
3. “Black and White” was the third and final number one hit for Three Dog Night, reaching the top slot for one week in September 1972. The song was co-written by David Arkin and Earl Robinson in 1955 as a civil rights song. It was recorded by several artists over the years but none were successful until Three Dog Night’s rendition. David Arkin was the father of actor Alan Arkin and the grandfather of actor Adam Arkin. Alan Arkin twice received Oscar nominations for Best Actor, the first for The Russians Are Coming,The Russians Are Coming and the second for The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. He was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for the 2012 film Argo; Alan Arkin won his first and only Oscar for the 2006 movie Little Miss Sunshine for Best Supporting Actor. Adam Arkin has appeared on many television series and has received numerous nominations in his career, such a Tony nomination and three primetime Emmys.
4. “The Family of Man” reached # 12 in 1972. It was written by famed songwriter Paul Williams and his writing partner Roger Nichols, the team that also wrote the songs “An Old Fashioned Love Song” and “Out in the Country” for Three Dog Night. Paul Williams and Roger Nichols wrote many hits in the 1970’s, including the classic Carpenters’ hits “We’ve Only Just Begun” and “Rainy Days and Mondays“. On his own, Williams wrote “Evergreen“, the number one hit by Barbara Streisand from the 1976 movie A Star is Born; “Evergreen” won the Grammy Award for Song of the Year in addition to the Academy Award for Best Original Song. Paul Williams is the brother of the late John Williams, a well-known rocket scientist for NASA, as well as Mentor Williams. Mentor Williams is a songwriter who although not as prolific as his brother, has written hit songs. Mentor Williams’ most famous song is “Drift Away”, the legendary 1973 hit for Dobie Gray which resurfaced as a major hit for Uncle Kracker in 2004. Mentor is married to Lynn Anderson, whose biggest hit was “Rose Garden”, a song which successfully used 23 cliches to top the country charts in 1970 and stall at # 3 on the Top 40 in 1970.
May it be noted that Three Dog Night recorded a song that did not crack the Top 40 that had been written by someone with a famous family member. The song was written by Reggie Dwight, whose cousin Roy Dwight was a British soccer star that could have been considered almost a David Beckham figure of his generation. Reggie Dwight, who changed his name to Elton John in 1968 at age 21, wrote “Your Song” with writing partner Bernie Taupin, which was covered by Three Dog Night on their fourth album It Ain’t Easy in 1970. Roy Dwight was a soccer star when Reggie Dwight was a youngster who loved soccer. People would give him a hard time and say things like “Your last name is Dwight and you’re Roy Dwight’s cousin and you’re terrible at football!”, etc. Young Reggie was unable to pursue his love of soccer in anonymity because of his cousin, a national hero who starred for teams like Fulham and Nottingham Forest. It is safe to say that the former Reggie Dwight resolved this conflict by purchasing his lifelong favorite team, Watford F.C., in 1976.
The Paul McCartney song “Pipes of Peace” was released as a single on December 5, 1983 on its way to topping the charts in the UK for two weeks. While “Pipes of Pipes”, a song from the album of the same title, was a # 1 song in the UK, the song’s performance in the U.S. shows how some songs can be hits on one side of the Atlantic and then be totally invisible on the other side. The song was released in the U.S. as the B-side of “So Bad”, a song that was the B-side to “Pipes of Peace” in England. The single of “So Bad”/”Pipes of Peace” spent eight weeks in the Top 40 and only reached # 23. MTV, which was only two years old at the time, did not give the level of play to the video of “Pipes of Peace” as one would expect them to give to a rock legend. The video received minimal rotation on MTV, likely because the song was not released as an A-side single and received scant notice as the B-side to “So Bad”.
Despite the song’s invisibility in the U.S., this UK # 1 hit also topped the charts across the Irish Sea in the Republic of Ireland. “Pipes of Peace” is also significant in the UK because it represented the very first solo number # 1 hit that Paul McCartney ever scored in the UK after 17 chart-toppers with the Beatles, one with Wings (“Mull of Kintyre”) and one with Stevie Wonder(“Ebony and Ivory”). The song marked the 25th # 1 hit in the UK that was penned by McCartney, five of which were performed by other artists.
As is well known, the ex-Beatle has appeared on five charity singles that have hit number one on the UK charts over the years, beginning with Band Aid in 1984. The others are Ferry Aid (1987), Ferry Cross the Mersey (1989), Band Aid 20 (2004), and The Justice Collective (2012).
The video for “Pipes of Peace” told a story of the famed 1914 Christmas Day truce between British and German soldiers when the troops had cordial conversations, exchanged photos of loved ones, gave each other chocolates and played soccer. McCartney played both a British soldier and a German soldier. The good will of the soldiers in the No Man’s Land ‘s that day ended with a blast that sent them back to their respective sides, while each of the two soldiers played by McCartney realize afterwards that they have the other one’s family photo.
At the time, the video was said to have been inspired by the movie Oh! What a Lovely War, directed by Richard Attenborough. However, the 1969 movie did not depict an exchange of photos between German and British troops. Of course, in 2005 the French movie Joyeux Noel told the story of the 1914 Christmas truce.
Before Christmas 2014, McCartney fans felt that a Christmas advertisement for Sainsbury’s was intensely similar to the 1983 video for “Pipes of Peace”. The ad was controversial for other reasons as well as is evident in this article from the Daily Mail.
The 1983 Paul McCartney album Pipes of Peace was the quick follow-up to his 1982 album Tug of War. As was the case with Tug of War, it featured Ringo on drums and George Martin as both producer and pianist on some tracks. This album marked that last time that McCartney worked with Denny Laine, the guitarist who was the only member of Wings to be with the group from its 1971 inception until its 1981 demise.
Billboard magazine cited the album on its list of unexpectedly disappointing albums of 1983. Pipes of Peace ranked as the only McCartney studio album to fail to make the top ten in America.
Five of the songs on Pipes of Peace were actually recorded during the sessions for Tug of War. In addition to the album’s title track, the other four were “The Other Me”, “So Bad”, “Tug of Peace”, “Through Our Love”.
The big hit on Pipes of Peace was the Paul McCartney/Michael Jackson duet “Say Say Say” which topped the charts for six weeks in the U.S. in December 1983/January 1984. While the song is not considered part of McCartney’s great body of work since the break-up of the Beatles, it did amazingly well throughout the world. In addition to the U.S. “Say Say Say” was a # 1 hit in Canada, Norway, Sweden and a host of other countries. This song marked the last number one song for the ex-Beatle on the Billboard Hot 100. It would be the last # 1 Billboard song produced by George Martin until the wildly successful “Candle in the Wind: 1997” by Elton John.
The 1983 collaboration of Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson on “Say Say Say” ironically preceded by two years Jackson’s surprise purchase of ATV Music, the song catalog of Northern Songs Limited. When the Lennon/McCartney song catalog was available for sale, McCartney was unable to purchase it on his own at the time due to legal boundaries that were still intact at the time from the binding Apple Records settlement. If McCartney had wanted to buy the song catalog in 1985, he could have only done so with Yoko Ono. Those restrictions ended long ago.
“Pipes of Peace” is one of many examples of how a hit song in the UK may not get on the radar screen in the U.S. With such a telling video by a major rock heavyweight, one wonders why the song was virtually unnoticed in the U.S. As a result, the statement on war and peace that McCartney wanted so desperately to make with the song and video never was able to impact the U.S. as he had hoped.
It is well known that in the early days of Beatlemania, there were several songs about the Beatles that hit the charts. One of the most remembered of these songs is the novelty song “Ringo, I Love You” by 17 year-old Bonnie Jo Mason which was released in March 1964. Bonnie Jo Mason was actually named Cherilyn Sarkisian but producer Phil Spector wanted all of his artists to have American sounding names, so Sarkisian issued her first single under the name Bonnie Jo Mason; soon she would drop Bonnie Jo Mason and simply go by the name “Cher”. However, there is only one song about an ex-Beatle that was intended to help his legal battles. The 1975 song “The Immigrant” by Neil Sedaka was written about John Lennon’s immigration difficulties.
On his Facebook page, Sedaka made a post on May 9, 2013 in which he wrote, “I wrote this song for my friend John Lennon during his immigration battles in the 1970’s. I’ll never forget when I called to tell him about it. Overwhelmed by the gesture, he said, ‘Normally people only call me when they want something. It’s very seldom that people call you to give you something. It’s beautiful.” He left a video of a live performance of “The Immigrant” on the Facebook post.
John Lennon and Neil Sedaka had a common friend in Elton John, the most popular recording artist of the 1970’s who gave both veteran artists a boost. Elton John performed backing vocals and lent his keyboard talents on John’s “Whatever Gets You Thru the Night”, which topped the charts for one week beginning on November 16, 1974. It was the ex-Beatle’s first number one hit in the U.S., making him the last of the four ex-Beatles to top the charts; ironically, this song was Lennon’s only number one song during his lifetime as “(Just Like) Starting Over” hit number one three weeks after his murder on December 8, 1980 and stayed on top for five weeks. Believe it or not, Ringo had two number one hits before John had his first one; “Photograph” hit number one for one week on November 24, 1973 and “You’re Sixteen” topped the charts for one week on January 26, 1974.
Around the same time, Elton John helped Neil Sedaka top the charts for two weeks in October 1975 with the song “Bad Blood”. Sedaka had recently signed with Elton’s new label, Rocket Records, in hopes of overcoming a career slump of almost twelve years. Written by Sedaka and Phil Cody, “Bad Blood” was practically a duet of Sedaka and Elton, but Elton insisted on giving Sedaka the sole billing and staying in the background. Signing with Rocket Records catapulted Sedaka back into both prominence and up into the top of the charts. Ironically, “Bad Blood” was knocked out of the top position on the charts by Elton’s “Island Girl“, which stayed in the number one position for the first three weeks of November 1975.
Sedaka and songwriting partner Howard Greenfield were among the famed “Brill Building” songwriting teams which included Carole King/Gerry Goffin, Burt Bacharach/Hal David, Barry Mann/Cynthia Weill, Doc Pomus/Mort Shuman and a few others. Sedaka and Greenfield wrote “Where the Boys Are”, which became Connie Francis’ signature song. As a solo performer, Sedaka scored thirteen songs in the Top 40 between 1958 and 1963, which included six top ten hits and the 1962 number one hit “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do”. His 1959 song “Oh! Carol”, written for singer/songwriter Carol King, hit # 2 while the 1960 # 4 hit “Calendar Girl” has been frequently used in commercials over the years.
A rough period of eleven years was ended after he signed to Elton John’s Rocket Records in the hopes of breaking the streak of bad luck. His first single to chart, “Laughter in the Rain”, landed on top of the charts for one week in February 1975, which was followed a couple of months later by his John Lennon tribute “The Immigrant”, peaking at number 22 and staying in the Top 40 for five weeks. Another song, “That’s When the Music Takes Me”, charted and reached number 27 prior to the success of the “Bad Blood”, which topped the charts for two weeks in October 1975. This incredible comeback on the part of Neil Sedaka received more steam when an old Sedaka/Greenfield song, “Love Will Keep Us Together”, was recorded by The Captain and Tennille and topped the charts for four weeks in June/July 1975, in between the two Sedaka number one hits that year. The title of the Sedaka comeback album was Sedaka Is Back, and as the song “Love Will Keep Us Together” is fading out, Toni Tennille sings “Sedaka is back”. This upswing in Sedaka’s career featured three more Top 40 hits in 1976, the most notable of which was a slower version of his 1962 number one hit “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do” which reached number 8.
After such success with “Love Will Keep Us Together”, Captain and Tennille lost no time in recording another Sedaka tune. Sedaka wrote and recorded “Lonely Nights (Angel Face)” for his The Hungry Years album. The Captain and Tennille version was released in January 1976, and reached number three on the Billboard Hot 100. When Sedaka was the musical guest on Saturday Night Live on January 24, 1975 in the show’s inaugural season, he performed “Lonely Nights (Angel Face)”.
Sedaka’s own immigrant background was that of having a Sephardic Jewish father of Turkish origins and an Ashkenazic Jewish mother from Poland. Sedaka was a first cousin to late Grammy-winning singer Eydie Gorme, who was born Edith Garmezano in New York City to Sephardic Jewish immigrant parents from Sicily and Turkey.
John Lennon’s problems with the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service are well known. The Nixon Administration denied him status as an important artist, a legal battle ensued, which was finally resolved on October 9, 1975, a day that marked both John’s 35th birthday as well as the birth of his son Sean. In the 1983 book The Book of Rock Lists by Dave Marsh, there is a list of ten celebrities who signed a petition that was sent to the I.N.S. on Lennon’s behalf. They were: 1) Fred Astaire 2) Saul Bellow 3) Leonard Bernstein 4) Bob Dylan 5) Lawrence Ferlinghetti 6) Allen Ginsberg 7) Jack Lemmon 8) Henry Miller 9) Virgil Thomson 10) Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
However, there was only one song written about Lennon’s immigration problems that charted on The Billboard Hot 100 !