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Intriguing new book on The Fab Four: Beatleness by Cathy Leonard

As I am known to family and friends as a Beatles enthusiast to say the least, several of my gifts this holiday season were Beatles items. By the way, if you like this blog please go through our Amazon box on this site when you order from Amazon.com. Many thanks.

One gift I received was 2014 book Beatleness: How the Beatles and Their Fans Remade the World by Cathy Leonard. It was a fascinating read and I recommend it. The book covers how the Fab Four was a constant presence in the 1960’s. She interviewed hundreds of fans of different ages and genders over six years. Leonard has a master’s degree in Human Development as well as a doctorate in Sociology. In Beatleness, the six year period of 1964-1970 addressed in the book covers so much ground it was incredible.

One memorable aspect of the book is that it gives unique insight into how the band’s appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show and the major impact of this single appearance on culture.

Apart from Dr. Leonard’s book, another memorable anecdote about the first appearance on Sullivan comes to mind. Last year at this time I was very interested to learn once again about the story of Vince Calandra, the employee of Ed Sullivan who had to stand in for George Harrison for the rehearsal the night before their groundbreaking appearance on February 9, 1964.

Vince Calandra started out as a mail boy for The Ed Sullivan Show, working his way up to holding cue cards and later enjoyed a distinguished career in television as both a producer and a writer. That Saturday night George Harrison was back in the Plaza Hotel battling strep throat. Going to the rehearsal was out of the question in light of his delicate condition. Calandra just by chance was wearing the same color suit and tie as John, Paul and George as he had plans later in the evening. He was instructed to stand in for George for the rehearsal. He was given George’s guitar and told to don a mop top. He stood off next to Paul for the three song rehearsal. He commented in a 2014 interview, “I stood there like a statue. I didn’t move. I did not hit the strings. I didn’t open my mouth.”

In a January 31, 2104 New York Post article entitled “Sullivan Staffer Recalls Stint as Honorary Beatle”, Calandra stated that The Beatles were the only act in his 14 years of working for The Ed Sullivan Show that asked to go into the control room and hear the playback for themselves. He also said, “There was something about them when you started meeting them. You really wanted them to succeed. They were unpretentious. They knew they were talented.”

Before the rehearsal, Calandra stated that Paul turned to him and said, “My whole life, we always dreamed about doing this show.”

Please check out below the Amazon page for Beatlesness: How the Beatles and Their Fans Remade the World.

Linda McCartney vs. Yoko Ono: rivalry and comparisons

Of course, everyone knows the about the rivalry between Yoko Ono and Linda McCartney, both in the last phase of the Beatle years and for almost the next thirty years. The two wives of the most famous Beatles tried to stake out their different characteristics, but Yoko and Linda had some very interesting things in common. Let’s look at three of them.

1. Both had wealthy parents who lived in the affluent New York City suburb of Scarsdale in Westchester County. Linda Eastman actually grew up in Scarsdale and graduated from Scarsdale High in 1959. Mr. and Mrs. Ono moved to Scarsdale in 1952 when Yoko’s father was transferred to run the New York office of the Bank of Tokyo; in her early 20’s, Yoko would soon go to the U.S. to live with them.

2. Both Linda Eastman and Yoko Ono attended Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville,NY, a twenty minute ride from Scarsdale, though at different times. Neither would graduate from Sarah Lawrence, both leaving to pursue artistic endeavors.

3. Both of their fathers were very hard-working and successful, while both mothers came from old-money backgrounds. Linda’s father was Lee Eastman, who worked his way through Harvard Law School and became a prominent Manhattan tax attorney who would also handle entertainment law after heavily investing in Broadway shows and song catalogs. Linda’s mother was the former Louise Linder, the daughter of the founder and CEO of the famous Linder Department Stores chain in the Midwest.

Yoko’s mother was a Yasuda, the family that was the backbone of Japan’s business empire, mainly financial, commercial and industrial conglomerates. Her mother, Isoko Yasuda, was the granddaughter of the founder of the Bank of Tokyo. On the other hand, Yoko’s father, Eisuke Ono, was from a much lower social caste. From a Samauri family whose lineage reached back to a 9th century emperor, Mr. Ono became a top executive with the Bank of Japan. While his wife’s family was from a higher class, the Onos became very prominent in politics.

Paul’s “Wonderful Christmastime” and other Fab Four holiday songs

As is the case each year during the holiday season, Paul’s Christmas song “Wonderful Christmastime” is in heavy rotation on the airwaves. This McCartney solo song was recorded in 1979 during the recording of McCartney II, with Paul laying down all the tracks himself at the home studio on his farm. Though not a Wings single, all of the members of the final configuration of Wings appeared in the video which was filmed at The Founatin Inn in Ashurst, West Sussex.

“Wonderful Christmastime” reached # 6 on the UK Singles Chart, but did not chart on The Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S. Since its debut during the 1979 holiday season, it was estimated by Forbes magazine that the song has earned Paul $15 million dollars. Each holiday season the song rakes him in excess of $400,000.

Beatles fans will remember that McCartney performed “Wonderful Christmastime” on Saturday Night Live on December 15, 2012.

In addition, Beatles fans will remember that there was never an official Christmas song released by the Fab Four. However, members of the official Beatles Fan Club received a record of Christmas song in 1967 that was not released commercially. “Christmas Time Is Here Again” lived on in bootleg records and became more accessible with the advent of YouTube.com.

Ironically, Paul can be heard on Side B of the monstrously successful 1984 charity single “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Band Aid. This song knocked out Wings’ “Mull of Kintyre” from having the distinction of being the biggest selling single in the history of the UK. It was on top of the UK Singles Charts in Christmas 1977. For whatever reason, “Mull of Kintyre” was a flop in the U.S., reaching # 33 on the Billboard Hot 100 and cracking the Top 40 for only that one week. “Mull of Kintyre” was a massive international hit that topped the charts in countless countries. Paul has never performed the song in a concert in the U.S. due to its bad performance there; however, there have been instances over the years in which he does a concert one night in the U.S. without performing “Mull of Kintyre” and then two nights later adds it to the playlist for a concert in Canada.

“Mull of Kintyre” still remains the biggest selling non-charity single in UK history.

Check out the songs below…….

It Was 50 Years Ago Today: Sam Cooke, Ringo, and Bonanza

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the tragic murder of Sam Cooke on December 10, 1964 in Los Angeles. The legendary soul singer scored a number one hit in 1957 with “You Send Me”, his first single in the Top 40. He had many Top Ten hits such “Chain Gang”, “Twistin’ the Night Away” and “Another Saturday Night”, in addition to other hits. In all, he scored 29 songs in the Top 40.

Paul McCartney and John Lennon were both Sam Cooke fans, though the Beatles never covered a Sam Cooke song.

On December 10, 1964, the day Cooke died, there was an interesting song sitting atop the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The Beatles ruled the Billboard Hot 100 in 1964 with six number one hits for a total of 18 weeks in the top slot, in additional to many other Top Ten hits. Believe it or not, in December 1964 there was a number one hit entitled “Ringo”. It was sung by a most unlikely person, actor Lorne Greene. The song was unrelated to Ringo Starr or The Beatles. What were the odds that a song about Johnny Ringo, a legendary cowboy in the American old West, would reach the top of the charts in the same year that an invading British band with a drummer named Ringo would rule the music charts?

Of course, in 1964 Lorne Greene was starring as Ben Cartwright in Bonanza, the famed television series that ran from 1959-1973. Greene was also an unlikely candidate to star as the patriarch of a Nevada ranching dynasty as he was born in 1914 into an Orthodox Jewish family in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. His real name was Lyon Chaim Green and he was the son of two Russian immigrants who migrated to Canada. Greene was the second Canadian to have a number one hit on the Billboard Hot 100, the first of which was his fellow Ottawa native Paul Anka with “Diana” in 1957 and later with “Lonely Boy” in 1959.

“Ringo” entered the Top 40 on 7 November 1964 and stayed there for ten weeks, reaching the top slot on December 5. It knocked The Shangri-La’s “Leader of the Pack” out of the # 1 position.

A trained actor, Greene worked in broadcasting early in his career with the Canadian Broadcasting Company; in 1940, Greene replaced Charles Jennings, the father of ABC News anchor Peter Jennings, as the chief newscaster for the CBC. He returned to acting in 1954 and five years later received the role that would define his career. Greene never stopped working after the cancellation of “Bonanza”, starring in shows like “Battlestar Galactica” and countless television movies.

Many people scratched their heads in 1964 with Greene’s # 1 hit that had the title of the famous drummer Ringo Starr whose band The Beatles had invaded and conquered America ten months before. Have a listen to “Ringo”:

The Magic Christian: 1969 movie starring Ringo

After the Beatles films, Ringo Starr made his movie debut in 1968’s Candy, which was based on a Terry Southern novel of the same name. The following year, Ringo would star in another movie based on a novel by satirist Terry Southern, The Magic Christian. It was his first high-profile role.

Directed by Joseph McGrath, the 1969 movie differed greatly from Southern’s novel. In fact, Ringo Starr’s character of Youngman Grand did not exist in the novel. The role was written specifically for Ringo to give the film a Beatles aura. It starred Peter Sellers as Sir Guy Grand, an eccentric billionaire who together with his adopted son (Ringo) spend their time playing elaborate practical jokes on people.

Countless famous actors and actress had bit roles in this bizarre comedy. There is even a brief shot of John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

The film had more Beatles connections than just Ringo Starr in a co-starring role. The song’s theme song was “Come and Get It”, which was written and produced by Paul McCartney, and performed by the band Badfinger. Of course, Badfinger was signed to the Apple label at the time. The lyrics of “Come and Get It” were written to showcase the plot of a billionaire bribing people to do bizarre things.

Ironically, the song “Something in the Air” by Thunderclap Newman was prominently used in the film. Lead guitarist on the song was 16 year-old boy wonder Jimmy McCulloch, who four years later would join Wings as their lead guitarist.

Author Alan Clayson perfectly sums up Ringo’s involvement in The Magic Christian in his 1992 book Ringo Starr: Straight Man or Joker: “Another lesson logged for future use by Ringo was how a product’s lack of substance could be disguised with a large budget and employment of the famous.”

The Shiek of Araby: Great Beatles Song!

Years ago when I used to listen to a cassette tape of a “bootleg” of the Decca sessions, “The Sheik of Araby” was one of my favorite song on those audition tapes. Naturally, I was glad that the song was included on Anthology 1 in 1995.

Before 1995, though, I went back to read my favorite novel, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, after not reading it for many years. I was shocked to read that Fitzgerald included lyrics from the song in his famed novel. This sparked my curiosity in the song.

The novel was published in 1925, but set in the summer of 1922 in New York City and Long Island. On page 78 of the novel, Fizgerald wrote, “The sun had gone down behind the tall apartments of the movie stars in the West Fifties, and the clear voices of the little girls, already gathered like critics on the grass, rose through the hot twilight:

I’m the Sheik of Araby
Your love belongs to me.
At night when you’re asleep
Into your tent I’ll creep

The song was composed in 1921 by Harry Smith, Francis Wheeler and Ted Snyder. The song was written to capitalize on the furor created by Rudolph Valentino’s role in the hit movie The Sheik.

The song became a jazz favorite as well as a staple of pop culture in that time. While the song became a New Orleans jazz standard, “Araby” did not refer to the small town of Arabi, Louisiana, but rather the Arabian Peninsula.

The song has been recorded by countless artists. It was part of The Beatles’ stage act prior to their ill-fated audition for Decca records on New Year’s Day in 1962. It is probable that the band was influenced to cover “The Sheik of Araby” by Fats Domino’s 1961 rendition of the tune.

Kudos to George Harrison for brilliant lead vocals. Pete Best provides interesting drumming.

Here is a clip from YouTube:

The Beatles banned by the BBC …… so was Paul Simon

The Beatles and Paul Simon have some things in common, most notably that each group had a successful song banned by the BBC. In 1969, the song “Come Together”, released as a Double A-side single with “Something”, only reached # 4 on the UK charts in part due to the ban on playing “Come Together”; it reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S. The song was banned by the BBC for their longstanding policy of not permitting the play of songs which make blatant reference to a commercial brand in that the BBC views it as free advertising. “Come Together” prominently mentions Coca-Cola. Ironically, one year later the BCC would ban The Kinks’ classic song “Lola” because it also made a reference to Coca-Cola, causing the band to replace it with the overdub of “cherry cola” so it would be played on the air.

1973, Paul Simon’s hit “Kodachrome” was viewed by the BBC as an overt “plug” for Eastman Kodak’s famous Kodachrome, its registered trademark color film that it first introduced in 1935. The song reached # 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, being blocked from the top spot by George Harrison’s “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)”.

There are also more connections between The Beatles and Paul Simon. Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein in 1965 signed the American band The Cyrkle, who had their biggest hit with “Red Rubber Ball”, a song penned a few years early by Simon and credited to Simon and Bruce Woodley of The Seekers. Simon has stated he only wrote the song because as a struggling musician in England he wanted to get a 100 pound advance from The Seekers. Bruce Woodley added a few minor changes to the song. A frat band of students from Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, Epstein was urged to sign them by his NY business partner Nathan Weiss. Epstein demanded they change their name from “The Rhondells”. They chose “The Circle” in reference to a circular traffic roundabout in the center of Easton, PA. John Lennon amended their name to the unique spelling of The Cyrkle.

While opening for Simon & Garfunkel, Paul Simon decided to give the upstart band his old song “Red Rubber Ball” to record. The song reached # 2 in 1966 and sold well over one million copies.

The Cyrkle opened for The Beatles on fourteen dates of their 1966 tour of the U.S. As luck would have it, The Cyrkle was on the bill for the final Beatles concert ever on August 29, 1966 in Candlestick Park in San Francisco. The Cyrkle broke up in 1967, with their two leaders, guitarists Tom Dawes and Don Danneman, going onto brilliant careers writing jingles, such as the 7UP Uncola song and the famous Alka-Seltzer “plop plop fizz fizz” jingle. In addition, Dawes produced a few albums for Foghat.

On November 20, 1976, Paul Simon hosted Saturday Night Live and invited his friend George Harrison as the musical guest. The two did duets of the Beatles’ “Here Comes The Sun” and the Simon & Garfunkel classic “Homeward Bound”.

Back when everyone in Wales spoke Welsh: those were the days!

This post was inspired by a recent article in the New York Times about the survival of the Welsh language entitled “The Welsh Strive to Keep Their Language“.

How does the Welsh language relate to the history of the Beatles?

Mary Hopkin is the only native speaker of the Welsh language to have had a number one hit on the UK pop charts. She was born into a Welsh-speaking family in Pontardawe, Wales. Her song “Those Were The Days” topped the UK charts in 1969 in addition to reaching number two on The Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S. Not only is she the only native Welsh speaker to top the UK charts, but also she is the only native speaker of any of the Celtic languages to have done so.

“Those Were the Days” was a Russian folk song that was given English lyrics by American songwriter Gene Raskin. It was the first single recorded by Hopkin, who was among the very first artists to be signed by the Apple Records label. Paul McCartney produced the song and played acoustic guitar in the recording session. He would soon produce a full album for Hopkin entitled Post Card, on which he would also play both guitar and bass on various tracks. Prior to signing with the Apple label, she had recorded an album of Welsh-language songs.

Mary Hopkin was brought to the attention of Paul McCartney by his friend Twiggy, the famous model, who had seen Hopkin win the television talent show Opportunity Knocks. She knew he was looking for fresh talent for the new label and telephoned him to urge that Apple sign Hopkin. Hopkin was immediately singed.

Having heard Raskin and his wife perform their song at a London nightclub in 1964, McCartney tucked the song away in his mind with the intention of being part of its recording someday.

Hopkin’s next single release was “Goodbye”, one of Paul’s songs credited to the Lennon/McCartney partnership. Ironically, “Goodbye” only reached number two on the British charts as it was blocked from the number one slot by “Get Back”, which meant that Apple Records held the top two songs on the charts.

Mary Hopkin continued to record and chart songs, but never had the same level of success as she did in the beginning. She married famed producer Tony Visconti, who produced a slew of artists in the 1970’s such as David Bowie and Thin Lizzy. He has produced numerous David Bowie albums beginning with Space Oddity in 1969 and more recently Next Day in 2013; in between he produced six Bowie albums among them Diamond Dogs (1974), Young Americans (1975) and Scary Monsters (1980). For the recording of the Wings album Band on the Run, McCartney recruited Visconti to handle the orchestral arrangements.

How Nazi air raids on Liverpool affected The Beatles

Anyone who has watched The History Channel has seen reports of the air campaigns against England by The Third Reich during World War II. Aside from London, Liverpool was a prime target. It is ironic that the Nazi air raids over Liverpool both figured prominently in the births of both John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

John Lennon was born on 9 October 1940, during a week of devastating air-raids and destruction in Liverpool. John’s mother, Julia Stanley Lennon, was in labor for 30 hours and the doctors were about to perform a c-section when baby John Winston Lennon finally appeared. The birth occurred during an air raid, though one not as harsh as the ones in previous days or the days that would follow in the week.

Julia’s sister Mimi went to see her new nephew but was unable to do so because the nurse had plucked the infant away from his mother and put him in a basket under the bed for protection as the raid was continuing.

Mimi was not deterred by the raids on her way to the hospital nor on the way home to tell her family the good news. For the rest of her life she would tell people about the night that John had been born in the middle of an air raid.

The Third Reich air attacks on Liverpool affected the McCartney family in a different way. Jim McCartney, a 38 year-old cotton salesman, stopped by the old McCartney homestead on 11 Scargreen Street in West Derby, Liverpool. His newlywed sister Jin and her husband Harry Harris were living there. Also living at the house was Jin’s friend Mary Patricia Mohin, a 32 year-old nurse. During dinner, the air raid began with Liverpool harbor getting the worst of it but other areas being hit, too. All four were forced to spend the night in the basement as the raid continued, which gave Jim McCartney and Mary Patricia Mohin ample opportunity to get to know each other. In a 1984 interview in Liverpool with rock biographer Geoffrey Giuliano, Mike McCartney described his parents’ first meeting during the air raid that night by saying, “It was love under duress.”

One year later Jim and Mary Patricia were married on 15 April 1941 in a full church wedding at St. Swithin’s Roman Catholic Chapel in Gill Moss, Liverpool. Their first child, James Paul McCartney, was born in Walton Hospital on June 18, 1942. Their second child, Peter Michael McCartney, was born in Walton Hospital on January 7, 1944.

In attendance at the McCartney’s wedding in 1941 was Jim’s sister, Jin Harris, who introduced the two newlyweds amidst an air raid. Of course, Paul’s aunt Jin Harris was immortalized in the 1976 Wings’ hit “Let ‘Em In” as “Auntie Jin”. “Let ‘Em In”, from the album Wings at the Speed of Sound, reached number three on the Billboard Hot 100 and number two on the British pop charts.

Ringo had TWO number one hits before John had his first number one hit!

Some may find it hard to believe that Ringo Starr had two number one hits in the U.S. before John Lennon had his first chart-topper. John Lennon privately found it hard to believe as well.

Many assume that John’s 1971 smash international hit “Imagine” reached the top of The Billboard Hot 100, but it did not in the U.S. The song peaked at number three.

Ringo’s song “Photograph” topped the charts for the week of November 24, 1973. Debuting at # 74 on The Billboard Hot 100, it took seven weeks to make the climb to the top. His second number one, “You’re Sixteen”, also topped the charts for one week. It debuted at # 75 on December 15, 1973 and six weeks later on January 26, 1974 it topped the charts.

Both “Photograph” and “You’re Sixteen” were singles released from the 1973 Ringo album. Another song from the Ringo’s best solo album, “Oh My My”, reached number five. “Photograph” was written by Ringo Starr and George Harrison, and marked the one and only time that two ex-Beatles collaborated to write a song that made the charts. It was written in 1971 while both were on vacation in the South of France.

John Lennon’s first number one song on the U.S. charts was “Whatever Gets You Thru the Night”, which featured his close friend Elton John on piano and backing vocals. The song was the lead single from his Walls and Bridges album. John was the first Beatle to release a solo single when he and Yoko released “Give Peace a Chance” in 1969, and was the last of the ex-Beatles to score a number one hit. “Whatever Gets You Thru the Night” was the number one hit for the week of November 16, 1974. The song would be Lennon’s only number one hit during his lifetime, as “(Just Like) Starting Over” reached number one on the charts three weeks after his death on December 8, 1980. The song stayed atop the charts for five weeks.

George Harrison has the distinction of being both the first and the last ex-Beatle to top the charts in the U.S. Beginning on December 26, 1970, his song “My Sweet Lord” spent four consecutive weeks at number one, making it the first number one song by an ex-Beatle and only eight months after the announcement of the band’s break-up. Harrison’s scored a number one hit in 1988 with “I’ve Got My Mind Set on You”, a remake of a 1962 song written and performed by Rudy Clark. Reaching the top slot for one week on January 16, 1988, it was a real coup for Harrison to break in and top the charts which at that point in time were dominated by Michael Jackson, George Michael and Whitney Houston. To date, “I’ve Got My Mind Set on You” ranks as the last number one single by an ex-Beatle.

When “I’ve Got My Mind Set On You” reached the top of the charts, it gave Harrison a unique place in the history of The Billboard Hot 100 as the artist or group with the longest span between numbers one hits (1964 – 1988) beginning with “I Want To Hold Your Hand” in February 1964 which gave him a span of 23 years and eleven months. However, this distinction was short-lived as ten months later in November 1988, The Beach Boys reached the top with “Kokomo”, giving them a span of more than 24 years between “I Get Around” (July 1964) and “Kokomo”.