Monday, December 31, 2012

Reflections

December 31, 1962

The last day of 1962.  Time to reflect on what has happened in the last 12 months and look forward to what the new year might bring the boys.

The Beatles have already been with Brian Epstein and in suits for more than a year.  Just a year ago their hopes were firmly pinned to an audition recording session with Decca Records in London.  Alas, that came to naught.  So the year 1962 became a year when their public personas developed and their musical presentation became tighter and more natural.  They lost a Pete Best and gained a Ringo.  They also achieved that magic milestone, a record on the English pop charts.  All in all, Mr Epstein is earning his keep, but the Beatles are paying their show biz dues as well.  They know by now that this is no schoolboy lark or flash in the pan.  This is a rewarding and long term career path for them, one that they had dreamed of since they were schoolboys.

1963 will soon become the year of the Beatle in Britain.  They are still a northern band but they are poised at the doorstep and have simply to step through.  It will be a year of unrelenting effort and laser like focus, but they are well used to that by now.  Still, all anyone can do at this point is gaze wistfully across the broad ocean and imagine.  "What would happen if we ever broke a record over there.  But that would be bringing coals to Newcastle.  We'll have to be content making American style rock and roll with an English spin over here.  The kids seem to like it."

A long eventful year lies ahead before worldwide undying fame and fortune.  But Epstein seem to have a good sense of where the wind is and a firm hand on the tiller.  All hands aloft and raise the top gallants, me hearties!

Happy 2013, readers!


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Happy Crimble, Beatle Fans

December 25, 1962

Some of the last of the Beatles performances at the Star Club in Hamburg, were actually recorded on a Grundig reel-to-reel tape recorder, using one mic and no sound mixing.  The poor quality recording was done by one of the club's employees at the request of Ted "Kingsize" Taylor of the Dominoes, who were sharing the bill with the Beatles.  He wanted the recordings for his own library.  In the frenzy of Beatlemania, and after much legal wrangling, the tapes were put to vinyl and made available commercially as "1962 - Live at the Star Club".

This gives you some idea of the Beatles as they sounded live at this time.

Happy holidays, friends.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Graduation Day

December 18-31, 1962

To wrap up 1962, the Beatles fulfill their final contract appearance at the Star Club in Hamburg, Germany.  Of course, they are in the moment and focused on advancing their careers, so we can understand if they are less than enthusiastic about it.  With benefit of 50 years of history since, we can be allowed the luxury of nostalgia.

Long time followers of this blog will think back to the very young, untried, inexperienced band, who had recently settled on a name for themselves: the Beatles.  They made their way to Hamburg at the instigation of Allen Williams (manager of the Jacaranda student hangout in Liverpool) in August of 1960.  They made music and began to hone their performance skills in a tiny seedy former strip club known as the Indra, and dossed down behind the screen at a third run movie theatre nearby, the Bambi Kino.  Together, they learned about love, life and loss in her streets and on her stages.  As John Lennon later said, "I was born in Liverpool, but I grew up in Hamburg."

These two weeks, although they really can't be expected to appreciate it, are the final echoes of that intense educational process.  They are more than ready for the next step.  But just take a moment to look back and say a fond "danke schoen" to a founding mother, boys.


Just got word via FaceBook that Tony Sheridan, the Beatles Hamburg "Teacher" and mentor is seriously ill in Germany, where he lives.  Send some good thoughts and prayers his way.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Another Triumph

December 15, 1962

The Beatles top the bill at the second Mersey Beat best band celebration at the Majestic Ballroom.  They have won the award for the second straight year.



Also at this time, McCartney and Lennon are  working up a song for George to sing at their next recording session, the one that will result in their first LP (aka album) - "Please Please Me".  John hearkens back to a song from Disney's "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" that his mother sang to him as a very little boy.  That song was "I'm Wishing"  and the song that results is "Do You Want to Know a Secret?"  I can't watch that scene from the cartoon without being deeply touched by John's willingness to access that distant memory for his song.  It is such an insight into the sentimental, cynical cypher that is John Lennon.  Paul remembers adding the all important bridge ("I've known a secret for a week or two...").  Sounds right to me.

Time to start packing for one last foray to the "school of hard knocks" in Hamburg, Germany.  It's  "graduation" time. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

TV Premier

December 4, 1962

It's been one of those weeks for the Beatles.  On the 1st of December, they are added as an afterthought to a Tower Ballroom show, when advance ticket sales are disappointing.  Then, they do a show on  the 2nd, supporting Frank Ifield and promptly lay an egg.  (When you are bringing something so new to the ears of the wider listening public, there is always the chance that they won't appreciate it immediately.)  It's not a good day when a yodeling  Frank Ifield upstages you.  Egos are brought down a peg or two.

But today, the Beatles move into the video airwaves, making an appearance on the British kids show "Tuesday Rendezvous".  Pretty forward looking children's TV, if you ask me.  They mime parts of a couple of songs for the kids entertainment.  (BeatleSource - you are a website after my own heart!)

One of the stars of the show is a certain kitty cat puppet called "Pussy Cat Willum".

"Meow - Welcome to my show, Beatles!  Meow." (Hope someone googling "cute pussy cat photos" will be directed to my blog!)

Pussy Cat Willum with friend Murial Young


Monday, November 26, 2012

Please, Lend Your Little Ears

November 26, 1962

The Beatles return to Abbey Road Studios to make a follow-up to their first record, which has yet to peak at number 17 in the British charts.  Paul remembers that they are much better received this time, having the achievement of a real record on their resume'.

They record a couple of originals, "Ask Me Why" and "Please Please Me".  After the latter is "in the can" George Martin tells them, "Congratulations, boys.  You've just made your first number one".  Prescient.

John Lennon later attributes the original idea for "Please Please Me" to, of all people, Bing Crosby.  Der Bingle had recorded a song called "Please" back in 1932, which used the homonyms "please" and "pleas" in the first line of the song.  That is just the sort of clever word play that would capture the imagination of a lover of language like Lennon.  It's just one more example of how Lennon and McCartney are willing and able to incorporate influences from all of the disparate and various sources of music in their experience and meld them into something completely new and captivating.  Genius!

You can certainly make the argument that "Please Please Me" is the first Beatle song that stands out, as so many of their songs would do in coming years, as little miracles of songwriting.  If you are a Beatle fan you will know exactly what I mean.  This song, as much as any, marks the transition from show stopping cover band to fabulously original songwriting and producing partnership.

Tomorrow, they record their first time for BBC radio in London, the belly of the beast, for later broadcast on "The Talent Spot" radio show.  Then on the 30th, George Martin produces the final mix of their next single, "Please Please Me" and "Ask Me Why".  They can do this - even their suspect drummer, Ringo, shines!

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Beatles Street Team Comes Through

November 23, 1962

The interview recorded a week ago is broadcast over Radio Luxembourg's "The Friday Spectacular" show today.

Also, today a very early example of fan engagement.  A Beatle fan from Preston, named David John Smith, has written to the BBC asking them to feature the band on some of their TV "programmes".  He must have written a pretty convincing letter because the BBC assumes he is a member of their management team and writes back to offer him an audition for them.  Smith has passed the offer to Clive Epstein, Brian's brother. Brian was with the boys in Hamburg when the offer came through, but Clive stood in for him and made the arrangements.  Today, they perform the audition at St James Church Hall in London.behind the closed curtain, then drive back the 200 miles to play yet another big rock show at the Tower Ballroom in New Brighton, near Liverpool.

The Beatles did not "pass the audition" on this occasion and Brian gets a "don't call us, we'll call you" letter from BBC TV.  Of course, it won't be too long before they are calling furiously!

St James Church Hall, London
Next time you're in London, look up St James Church Hall.  It's in Gloucester Terrace, just north of Hyde Park, Lancaster Gate.  I took this snapshot in about 1998.  (I absolutely love these rather obscure Beatle related venues.)  You can just see the stage curtain in this photo.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Radio Lux and the Midlands

November 16-17, 1962

The Beatles get back to promoting their record on the English side of the Channel.  They journey to EMI House in London and record an interview and live versions of both sides of their record "Love Me Do" and "P.S. I Love You".  It is to be broadcast on November 23.  They are striking while the iron is hot!

On the 17th, the push into the English Midlands, playing a date in Coventry, Warwickshire.  It's their first real show after their return from Germany and Paul McCartney remembers it seven years later as "the worst first night ever", proof that even they are not immune to things going south.

They are still playing the small, crowded, basement Cavern when there's nothing else on offer many times a week.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Following their Star

November 1-14, 1962

The Beatles, now with Ringo Starr on drums, return for a short two week engagement at the Star Club in Hamburg.  These last appearances on the Reeperbahn were arranged with Manfred Weissleder months ago.  It can certainly be surmised that they would have preferred to stay home while their record is working it's way slowly up the UK charts.  Still, a contract is a contract.  And this gig will allow them to rub shoulders again with Little Richard who's headlining on this trip.

They are getting more than £100 per Beatle and stay this time in four single rooms at the Hotel Germania on Detlev-Bremer-Strasse (a far cry from behind the movie screen at the Bambi Kino).  Hey, that's just across the way from Der Dom, where Astrid took those iconic photos of them in 1960.  They were a much different band then, waterfall hairstyles and black leather jackets and slacks.  I wonder if they look across and reflect on how far they've come in just those two years.

All of John's absences are wearing thin for newly wed Cynthia Lennon.  She has moved into a small bedroom in John's childhood home on Menlove Avenue.  Even Aunt Mimi's company is better than no one at all.  Her belly grows ever larger with the promise of new life.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Another Step Up

October 28, 1962

Brian Epstein, armed with a record in the charts connects with Arthur Howes, a big time concert promoter in Britain.  Howes immediately books the Beatles into a tour with another successful recording artist, Helen Shapiro.  In addition, he books them (unpaid) into a show in his own home town of Peterborough, so he can get all look at them and see what all the fuss is about for himself.

On the same day the Beatles headline at Liverpool's premier venue, the Empire Theatre.  Many years ago this theater was instrumental in the formation of the Beatles when Johnny and the Moondogs participated in a battle of the bands competition there back in 1959.  John and Paul didn't win then, but they are on top now.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Back to Here We Go

October 25, 1962

The Beatles journey to Manchester's Playhouse Theatre to tape another apperance on the BBC's teenager's show "Here We Go".  They record live versions of "Love Me Do", "A Taste of Honey" and "P.S. I Love You".  The first and third are the A and B sides of their first commercial release which is fighting its way up the UK charts.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Epstein and the Tower

October 12, 1962

Taking a page from Sam Leach's book, Brian Epstein pulls out all of the promotional stops today by organizing a show himself for 12, count 'em 12, acts to appear at the Tower Ballroom on one bill.  The headliner - Beatle hero, Little Richard.  They have been covering his material for so long.  And with a record entering the charts - they must feel as if this is it! They have finally made it to the toppermost.  No, not quite yet, boys.




At the same time, they make the acquaintance of one of Richard's musical entourage - keyboardist Billy Preston. (Yeah, THAT Billy Preston.  See 1:12 in the video below.  Also note the snatches of Cavern bouncer Mal Evans, the gentle giant with the glasses in this video.)




Also on the bill, Lee Curtis and the All Stars with their new drummer Pete Best.  Awkward!  The Beatles don't speak to or even seem to notice him

Friday, October 5, 2012

Get 'em While They're Hot

October 5, 1962

IT HAS HAPPENED!!!

After all the years of learning new chords, new chord sequences, new vocal techniques, and how  to blend them  into a coherent and pleasing sound...  Parlophone releases the first true Beatle record - Love Me Do / P.S. I Love You - on a 45 RPM vinyl disk.  In the coming days, the Beatles become autograph machines, showing up wherever there were kids around to buy the new single.  On the 6th at Dawson's Music Shop in Widnes in connection with their appearance at Hulme Hall in Port Sunlight.  On the 8th down in London at EMI House where they've gone to tape a appearance for Radio Luxembourg, a short wave radio show originating on the continent and beamed directly at the UK to get around the sometimes hidebound BBC monopoly on British broadcasting.  (Take that, Sir Hugh Greene.)

Pic from The Beatles Rarity, one of my favorite Beatles web sites

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Is Everybody Happy?

October 2, 1962

Three days before the release of their first record, Brian Epstein and the four Beatles sign a five year management contract.  YES!

Friday, September 21, 2012

They Say It's Your Birthday, Rory

Spetember 21, 1962

One gets the impression that Rory Storm is a fun loving guy who keeps all the performing politics in a proper perspective.  There's abundant evidence for that at today's birthday celebration for him at the Tower Ballroom.  The Beatles do a couple of sets, as well as four other bands.  Appearing with the Beatles, of course, is their drummer, Ringo Starr, poached from Rory's band, the Hurricanes only about a month ago.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Beauty Queen?



September 18, 1962

One of the rare days off for the Beatles, so let's assume they spent the day working up a new song.  There's pretty good evidence that "I Saw Her Standing There" is put into performance shape at around this time.  And wonder of wonders, there is a photograph that supports it.

"With John and me on a song, if I come up with some lines which I know aren't really very good and I'm just hoping to fool him, I know I won't. 'I Saw Her Standing There' was the best example of it. I thought of the idea driving home from a concert in Southport. I had 'She was just seventeen,' and then, 'Beauty queen.' I knew this was rubbish, and that I'd put it down just because it rhymed. When I showed it to John, he screamed with laughter, and said 'You're joking about that line, aren't you?' And I realized that, in fact, I was, and we changed it."  Paul McCartney.

The song was finished in the McCartney living room at Forthlin Road in September 1962.  The photo was taken by Paul's photography minded brother, Mike.  The tune very soon became a prominent feature of their live shows.  It is interesting that Paul is playing a standard guitar, not a bass and John is using his new J-160e.  (They are both fingering B7th chords.)

I recall seeing a high-res version of this and the lyrics on the page are for ISHST
Lennon and McCartney are just taking their first giant leaps on the way to songwriting super-stardom.  (Hey, we can do this!)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Get Ready, World

September 11, 1962

The Beatles return to EMIs Abbey Road Studio for the third time.  By now they are feeling less overawed and a little more confident in the recording process.  On the other hand, Ringo, who has only been in the band about a month, is devastated to find that session drummer Andy White is in attendance.  He has to be wondering, "Uh-oh.  Did I make a big mistake here""

They start recording at 5:00 pm London time and finish up at 6:45, something less than two hours.  (For recording artists today, I doubt if they'd have the guitars plugged in by then.)  First, the band makes 10 takes of the McCartney song "P.S. I Love You" with White on the skins.  Then, they lay down 18 more takes of  "Love Me Do".  (Ringo is relegated to maracas.)

Also, they make a version of "Please, Please Me", which is still imagined as a slow ponderous number, ala Roy Orbison.  Today is the day that they first get the idea that it may work as a more upbeat song.  John , who wrote the song as a kid in his bedroom at Menlove Park, said in a 1963 interview:  "Our recording manager (George Martin) thought our arrangement was fussy, so we tried to make it simpler. We were getting tired though, and just couldn't seem to get it right. In the following weeks we went over it again and again. We changed the tempo a little, we altered the words slightly, and we went over the idea of featuring the harmonica just as we'd done on 'Love Me Do.'

"Love Me Do" and "P.S. I Love You" are mixed and mastered immediately after the session and sent to the pressing plant for manufacturing.  In the early versions of this record, the version of LMD with Ringo on drums is used, so I recon Andy White wasn't THAT big an improvement over the little amateur drummer from Liddypool.

On the 14th, Operation Big Beat V at the Tower Ballroom organized by Sam Leach, gives the punters five and a half hours of rock and roll for one price, headlined by the Beatles.  Brian Epstein is making sure they have something to do almost everyday.  More than half of  those are appearances at the Cavern Club.

A major event occurring sometime around this day, John Lennon and George Harrison obtain Gibson J-160e guitars from Rushworth's Music Store, which is a few doors down from Epstein's North End Music Store.. (Mersey Beat Magazine has this presentation taking place on September 10th.  This is the same store where I got my guitar strap in 1998!)  These guitars will soon become essential to the developing sound of the band.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Sticking a Toe into the Water

September 4, 1962

I'm thinking today has about the longest entry of all in my Complete Beatles Chromicle by Mark Lewisohn.  I guess that gives you some sense of today's importance to Beatle history.

Abbey Road in 1998
The Beatles, with new member Ringo Starr in tow, fly down to London for another crack at making a commercially viable record.  They arrive at Abbey Road Studios after lunch and are soon rehearsing six possible numbers with Ron Richards. At 7:00 pm, London Time, they begin to record in earnest.

Before the session begins, supervised by George Martin, Mr Martin goes over some of the details of what he expects of them, introducing them to the "ins and outs" of the recording process.  He ends with "...and if there is anything you don't like, please feel free to let me know."  George Harrison, with a show of supreme confidence and cheek replies "Well, for a start I don't like your tie."  That breaks the ice, and Martin knows he has a tiger by the tail.

Martin had earlier sent a demo disk of the song he had chosen for them to record, which he had obtained through the old boy songwriters market.  A song called "How Do You Do It" by Mitch Murray.  That song is recorded rather languidly by the boys, who are far more keen to do their own material.  Lennon says later he would have been ashamed to show his face in Liverpool if THAT had been the first Beatles vinyl to hit the charts. Not a bad song, really, but not what Lennon and McCartney had in mind for a shakeup of the popular music world.

"Love Me Do" is also recorded, but with a new twist.  John has recently added the harmonica, which is such a central feature of the song we know.  Well, that meant he couldn't sing the title line of the song, because his harmonica overlaps it.  So Paul McCartney is pressed into service to perform it.  On the original unreleased version, available on the Beatles Anthology, it's easy to hear his hesitation after having performed the song so many times on stage with Lennon doing the honors.  This episode vividly demonstrates that there is no thought of using overdubs or other studio tricks, and the recordings are essentially live performances recorded straight through in one take.

Martin doesn't say anything, but he must be listening carefully to the new drummer.  Is this a significant improvement over that other kid, Pete?  Hmmm, well, maybe not so much.

The Beatles return to Liverpool tomorrow and play two, lunch at the Cavern and evening at the Rialto Ballroom, a Sam Leach production and the debut performance at this venue.  They continue to play almost everyday on various Liverpool stages.  The next trip to Abbey Road is quickly arranged for the 11th.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Jackhammers for Wedding Bells

August 23, 1962

Brian Epstein, who is taking charge of all of the mundane details of the Beatles lives, has applied for and received a license for John Lennon and Cynthia Powell to be married.  They decide to do it with a minimum of fuss at the Mount Pleasant registry office, kind of a mini-city hall which each neighborhood has in English towns.  There is sort of a family tradition being upheld.  It's the same building in which John's parents, Fred and Julia, were married in similar circumstances more than 24 years earlier.

John is worried about how being married will affect his public persona, now that the band is really beginning to get somewhere,  But he suppresses them and decides to go ahead  and marry Cyn anyway.  I think one can sense, even at this remove, how much John relied on Cynthia's love and approval, much as he would do with Yoko Ono later in his life.  Cynthia remembers that, like young lovers, they joke and teases each other about settling into married life together.

Pic of MP RO from my collection
George Harrison and Paul McCartney are there, as is Brian and the official registrar.  Cyn's brother Tony and his wife Marjorie complete the wedding party.  The bride's mother, who had been visiting a few days earlier, had decided not to change her plans and had left for her home in Canada a few days ago.  That is painful for Cyn, but she knows she had to soldier on.  John's Aunt Mimi, over-principled as always, declines the invitation.  Ringo, not yet a full member of the Beatles brotherhood, isn't present either.  Outside on the street, a jackhammer breaks up the pavement in preparation for a public improvement.  John and Cyn have to shout the responses to be heard above the din from outside.  There are no photographs taken, but Cynthia (a promising art student, remember) later sketched the scene for us.

Cynthia Lennon's wedding sketch - How charming!

The wedding luncheon is a rather casual affair at a local cafe, where the party toasts the bride and groom with glasses of  good old H2O.  For a wedding present, always generous Brian allows the couple the use of a pied a terre flat he has that he seldom uses for as long as they like.  No questions are raised about what the flat may have been used for, before it was their first home together.

In the afternoon, John and Cyn (lucky couple!) move a few belongings into the flat in Falkner Street.  That night, John and the boys play the Riverpark Ballroom in Chester twenty miles away and across the River Mersey.  The show must go on!


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Beatles and Some Other Guy

August 22, 1962

Beatle fans have seen it a million times.  A short poor-quality clip of the Beatles playing "Some Other Guy", a Leiber-Stoller song, on stage at the Cavern.  The video is recorded by the UK's Granada TV a privately owned network, based in the North of England.  Granada was an alterrnative to the government run BBC.  It is kind of wonderful how the Beatles story has gone for years with mostly snapshots and conflicting reminiscences to document it and then,as they impinge more and more on the public consciousness, we get better glimpses into that past.

Today is one of those days.  The very first sound+pictures film of the band that has come down to us is made today.  Our closest approach to what the audience sees and feels at a pre-fame Beatles performance.  The quality leaves something to be desired.  Still, it is one of the most precious 2 minutes of film to every Beatle fan.  And it was 50 years ago, TODAY!

Paul looks a bit nervous, John supremely confident. George's duojet carries the musical backing. Ringo Starr joined the band only a few days ago and hasn't even had time to adjust his hairstyle. If you listen carefully, at the end of the film, you can hear a fan shout at the stage "We want Pete!".


The original unedited footage is available here.

And John Lennon is scheduled to become a married man tomorrow.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fab Four!

August 18, 1962

The big days are coming thick and fast.  Today is the day that the Fab Four are officially born.  They appear at Hulme Hall in the appropriately named Port Sunlight.  It's Ringo Starr's first public appearance with them.  They rehearse for a couple of hours and then take the stage at 10pm, the musical attraction of the Horticultural Society Dance.  (You couldn't make this stuff up, if you had to.)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Last of Pete

August 15-16, 1962

On the 15th, Pete Best plays, unbeknownst to him, for the last time with the Beatles. After the evening Cavern gig, manager Brian Epstein asks him to come to his office tomorrow for a chat.  It is there on the 16th that he delivers the devastating news. Pete is going to be replaced behind the skins by Ringo Starr.  At first in a state of shock, Pete agrees to play for an important gig in the Riverpark Ballroom in Chester that night, but then he decides, no, he can't face it. And who can blame him?

Pete's friend, Neil Aspinall, offers to quit as road manager for the band, but Pete talks him out of it. A less generous man would, no doubt, have encouraged him.

There is some evidence that the change is instigated by Paul and especially George, and may have been opposed by Epstein.  After all, Pete is the one with the most enthusiastic following, especially of girl fans. Brian would naturally think that the way to handle his unsophisticated technique is to bring in a studio drummer for recording, as George Martin insists.  If they let Pete go now, there's going to be hell to pay in the fan base.

It is a black day in the Beatles history. But taking the long view, it had to be done. There are two reasons why. Probably the most important has to do with the style and spirit of the Beatles. They (with Epstein's encouragement) are working hard to get across to audiences their sense of fun, as well as their new up-to-the-minute "look". Pete seems more like a throw back to the emotionally "cool" vibe of James Dean and the leather and greased hair style of Gene Vincent.

Secondly, Pete's drumming is very high-energy and LOUD, compared to Ringo's more laid back, measured, and polished technique behind the kit. Pete is the last link to be severed with the Beatles rough-and-ready balls-to-the-wall origins.  I'll bet it was especially hard on John Lennon, who never spoke to his friend Pete again, very likely ashamed of the conspiracy he had been part of.

It is my belief that both aspects play a role in the replacement. Still, after all they have been through together as virtual brothers, it has to be hard for Pete to accept. And difficult for the Beatles to go ahead with. But, the big time beacons, and she is a demanding mistress. The Beatles get Johnny Hutchinson from rival band the Big Three to sit in until Ringo can be available on Saturday, next. There is a very great video of a contemporary interview with Pete and his mother Mona here. The course of true love (and true fame) never did run smooth.

For true Beatle fans, it is a very bittersweet moment.  Look back on all of the undeserved criticism, fighting and personal assaults, poor travel arrangements and worse accommodations they endured.  Held together only by an unbreakable bond of musical  brotherhood, in common pursuit of a one-in-a-million rock and roll dream.  But,as George Harrison later was to philosophically observe, "All things must pass."

Peter Randolph Best, the music world thanks you (and your mother) with all of our hearts for all that you have given to make the Beatles possible, and fervently hopes that there is some measure of reward and satisfaction for you!



P.S. Pete's "new" album is called "Hayman's Green".

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Difficult Time

Early August 1962

For John Lennon, it is a very difficult  time.  He has just learned that his girlfriend is "up the spout" and his band mates, Paul and George are leaning on him heavily to agree to the replacement of their drummer, his friend Pete.  They think it would be an improvement to bring in an outsider, Ringo Starr from the rival band Rory Storm and the Hurricanes.  Ringo's a good sort, but why can't they just go along.  Haven't they been getting success just as they are.  What does that old ponce, George Martin know about a good solid rock and roll beat?

Still, there's only one thing to be done about Cyn.  She'll have to be married.  John truly loves her and he won't just cast her aside like an old napkin.  Brian Epstein and his Aunt Mimi try to explain the alternatives to him, but he simply won't listen, as he never has, to those in positions of authority.

Ah, what the hell!  Let George and Paul have their way on the drummer change.  He can reluctantly bend on that point, like he already has on the stage suits and ties.  There is so much on his mind just now.  But he'll stand firm on Cyn.  He asks Brian to make the arrangements for a civil wedding ceremony - as soon as it can be arranged.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Cyn Gets the News

August, 1962

Well, Cynthia Powell is aware about now that her life is about to undergo a dramatic change. First she has failed one of her student teacher qualifying exams and now she has missed a monthly and visits the doctor who confirms it. She's pregnant! Times were so different then. The female MD that sees Cyn gives her a stern lecture about proper behavior for a young woman. Thank goodness for her friend Phyllis McKenzie, who stands by her old friend through thick and thin. But what will John do?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Life is a Cabaret

July 25, 1962

Another minor setback for the Beatles.  Epstein, always on the look-out for new approaches for getting the band "out there" books them into a cabaret venue, the Cabaret Club in Liverpool.  Cabaret fare is more likely to be smokey renditions of laid back classics like "My Funny Valentine" than rhythm and blues.  No doubt Brian advises them to feature their more easy listening numbers.  Didn't work though.  They "go a cropper" and are never invited back.

Tomorrow and the 27th go better.  They play Cambridge Hall in Southport in a North End Music Stores promoted show with the infectious Joe Brown and the Bruvvers.  George is still obsessed with guitars.  Here he poses after the show on the 27th with Joe Brown's beautiful Gibson ES-335 with Bixby vibrato.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Eyes on the Prize, Boys

mid-July, 1962

This summer, the story of the Beatles is all about getting hired into better and better ballrooms.  This has to be attributed  to the unrelenting hard work of Brian Epstein.  All this groundwork is, undoubtedly a big factor in their future success.  On the 17th the Beatles make another foray south to McIlroy's Ballroom in Swindon, not far from the neolithic stone circle, Stonehenge.  And on the 19th an extension of their appearances at the Majestic Ballroom in Birkenhead is begun.  The Majestic booking is with Top Rank, Britain's premier live entertainment company, which owns and operates 28 ballrooms all around the country.  These are first rate venues, but the Beatles are still appearing when there is nothing else going at the cramped and clammy Cavern Club.

Their dreams are finally coming true.  Great live venues, and a recording contract!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Princes of Wales

July 14, 1962

The Beatles make their first appearance in Wales, which is just across the River Dee from Liverpool City.  Of course, all of the Beatles have spent time in Wales, especially at Butlins Holiday Camp (Pwllheli location), where they'd vacation as kids, but this is their first trip there as professionals.  They appear at a dance in Rhyl, Flintshire, about an hour away from home.  I'm sure they are wondering and worrying, "How do we ease Pete out and Ringo in?".

Pwllheli is to the south on Cardigan Bay (zoom out to see it).

Friday, July 6, 2012

Typical Summer Gigs

July 6-7, 1962

On the 6th, a Friday, the Beatles make their second appearance on the "Fish and Chip Boat", the Royal Iris.  This was an excursion ship that would put to sea for a couple of hours, allowing city dwellers to get away from the heat of the city for a while and enjoy some variety entertainment for a couple of bob.  Like last time, the share the spotlight with sax player Acker Bilk, who, to help the new kids along, presents them with his  idea of an essential piece of stage equipment, bowler hats.  I wonder if they thought back to Acker Bilk a couple of years later at this photo shoot...

Thanks for the splendid hats, Acker!
 On the 7th, Brian Epstein books the band into Hulme Hall in euphoniously named Port Sunlight for the first of four appearances.  The occasion was a golf club dance. 


Then it's back to the usual Liverpool dance halls interspersed among the many Cavern Club dates.  With so many opportunities, its a wonder that every citizen of the city didn't get a chance to see the Beatles sometime.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Tonight's the Night

July 2, 1962

Given the length of a normal human pregnancy, Julian Lennon is conceived on or about this date in Beatle history.  I know there are conflicting stories, but his birth date (April 8th) is known and the typical gestation period (40 weeks) is also well documented, so there it is.  Take it or leave it.

It was rather ungenerous of John to say later that Julian was "born out of a whiskey bottle on a Saturday night."  That comment may have had more to do with John's complicated self-image than the reality of the situation.  John is always a welcome visitor to Miss Powell's "bedsit" room (rented sleeping room with shared bath).  One picture is worth a thousand words...

John and Cyn (from the amazing Beatles Chronology fb page)
The Beatles play a gig at the Plaza Ballroom tonight, in amongst all the Cavern appearances.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Tower Ballroom and Barnston Women's

June 29-30, 1962

On the 29th, the Beatles do lunch at the Cavern (as usual) and appear in the evening at the third of Sam Leach's "Operation Big Beat", a five and a half hour extravaganza showcasing 10 local bands.  Sam always gave good value for your entertainment shilling.  The Beatles top the bill.
 
 And on the 30th, they do a return appearance at the Heswell Jazz Club, held in Barnston Women's Institute. View promotional posters and admission ticket here.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Casbah Begins to Fade

June 24, 1962


My pic of Number 8 Hayman's Green 
(Can't you just imagine them schlepping
guitars and amps up this walk?)
It is difficult to believe, but the Beatles, who have come so far, are still playing the neighborhood club run by Pete Best's mother out of their basement, the Casbah.  Three years ago, the teenage Beatles helped paint and decorate the club as a place for Pete's friends to hang out, drink coffee/cokes and listen to records played on a "hi-fi" turntable.  It has also been a place where, even when other venues weren't working out, the Beatles could play a few numbers for whatever members happened to be about.  Today, the polished Beatles play the Liverpool Casbah for the last time.

Did you notice that, more and more, events are beginning to be about leaving the past behind and moving on?  At the end of the month, the Casbah will officially close, its essential place in music history fully secure.

Of course, a special relationship between one of Pete's friends, their lodger and Beatle road manager Neil Aspinall, and his mother has blossomed and Mona is now 8 months pregnant with Neil's child.  (Scandal!)  I recon that may have had something to do with the closing.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Another Channel

June 21, 1962

Brian Epstein is developing a new strategy that starts today for bringing his band, The Beatles, to the top of mind of British music consumers.  He's going to book some A-list acts (especially American), so the Beatles can be seen to be sharing the stage with them.  Today, a Thursday evening, is their first foray into this arena.

The headliner is Bruce Channel and his harmonica player, texan Delbert McLinton.  The friendly McLinton shares the finer points of rock and roll harmonica with John Lennon.  Lennon, who is working on Beatles songwriting arrangements, borrows the musical  hook to Channel's "Hey, Baby" and inserts the result into their "Love Me Do".  The harmonica (along with hand claps) is soon to become a prominent (and catchy) feature of early Beatle arrangements.

The show is hosted by Liverpool jive hall impresario, Bob Woller at the Tower Ballroom.  And it's just one more example of how Brian Epstein, with his upper class manners, can open doors that are closed to most Liverpudlians.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Radio II

June 11, 1962

The Beatles return to Manchester's Playhouse Theatre to record for a second crack at the BBC radio listenership.  The do a couple of songs before a studio audience for broadcast on the Teenager's Turn programme on the 15th. The Beatles Fan Club is in full swing and is organizing bus tours following the band to out of town gigs, one of which is the Playhouse.  Guess they'll have an appreciative audience this night.  (And I trust you appreciate the British spelling.)

They are playing very heavily at the Cavern Club - they're practically the house band now.  The Merseybeat sound has come a long way in the last couple of years.  Not long ago they'd have to call Jailhouse Rock a blues number to put it on at the Cavern and the response from management would be "Quit playin' the bloody rock."

Liverpool's been conquered.  Now it's time to focus on the rest of England.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Perhaps the Biggest Day of 'Em All

June 6, 1962

--->>> Big Big Big Big Day <<<---

The four Beatles and their roadie, Neil Aspinall, ascend the steps and walk down the corridor to Abbey Road's Studio Two for the first time today.  They set up and play under the watchful of eye of George Martin's assistant, Ron Richards.  It is one of EMI's recording engineers, Norman Smith, who's ears are pricked up and who summons George Martin to come and have a listen.  It is the first day of a collaboration between Martin and the Beatles which would last for their entire career.

First, they audition a long list of songs, of which four are chosen for test recordings.  The old chestnut, "Besame Mucho" :-) and three originals, "Love Me Do", "P.S. I Love You" and "Ask Me Why".  None of the originals can be ranked among Lennon and McCartney's best work, but I think you get a sense of what was important to the record company.  Even though Martin is signally unimpressed with their songwriting, three of the four songs chosen for the test are originals.  There are certainly many covers that the Beatles would have done exciting versions of.  No doubt they get the message loud and clear.  WRITE SOME MORE AND BETTER SONGS!!!

For George Martin, this is a golden opportunity.  The rumors have been flying that HMV may be considering selling off perennial underperformer Parlephone.  Martin has a well paid, responsible position and it's up to him to make some things happen for his division.  That's why they give him the big bucks (or should I say colossal quid).  And he happens to like his job.  The obvious answer is a rock and roll band or two.  The teenage market is buying that stuff like it's going out of style!  The Beatles seem to have the makings of  a triple threat.  Great musical style, attractive personalities and novelty appeal (those odd hairstyles and suits).

Right now, Mr. Martin is thinking, which one will be the leader?  At that time, the standard rock band format was almost always "So-and-so and the Such-and-suches" (e.g. Cliff Richard and the Shadows).  In the course of the session, he notices their offbeat humor and the "us against the world" attitude that they bring.  He begins to see that maybe they shouldn't have a designated leader.  That their strength comes from four equally important but different parts.  (What an world shaking insight!)  Now, Mr Martin thinks, I just need to find the right original song for them and - Presto! - a hit record. 

The odd man out seems to be Pete Best.  Handsome guy but he is also very quiet and sullen, in a James Dean kind of way.  Martin doesn't remember him saying a word during the entire test.  He also thinks Best's drumming style is a bit too rough and ready for the recording studio.  At the end of the session, he informs Epstein that, if he does agree to cut a record with them, he will insist on a session drummer.  He assumes that Best will continue to play live dates with the Beatles, but a real professional will be used in the studio.  For Lennon and McCartney, this is the final nail in Pete's coffin.  Ringo Starr fits in so much better with their new more polished direction.  How can they get Pete out and Ringo in?  Pete will continue sitting at the skins for most of the summer's gigs, but Lennon and McCartney must be trying to image how the dirty deed will be done.  I think this episode marks a major turning point for the band.  Loyalty and camaraderie have been essential for the long hours and incessant demands of a traveling jive hall band.  But now it's time to turn the page and go up the next rung of the ladder.  The Beatles history is demonstrably all about change and evolution.  It is sometimes quite difficult and people will be disappointed, but the rules of the game are changing and the band has to be ready to adapt. 

Tomorrow, they make their way home to await the results of the test and to play their welcome home show at the Cavern Club before an amazing 900 young fans.  The kids must have been hanging on the walls like bats and sitting on each others shoulders.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Flying

June 2, 1962

The Beatles, their contract with the Star Club fulfilled, leave Germany for England this afternoon.  They fly (yes, fly, this is the big time!) Lufthansa to London Airport (now known as Heathrow) and then make a connection to Manchester.  Tomorrow and the next day they rehearse in private at the Cavern in anticipation of their upcoming recording session.



Beatle coincidences are everywhere, if you just keep an eye out for them.  I was in Chicago this week and stopped to rest at a nice little public space called Lincoln Square.  Noticed a rather ornate lamp installed there.  Wandered over to take a closer look and here's what I saw.



Did the Beatles cross the bridge and wander past this lamp just before leaving Hamburg exactly 50 years ago?  I think this is what Carl Jung would call "synchronicity".   Oh, and my Beatles tribute trio is playing a gig at the Scarab Club in Detroit, tomorrow.  (For the full effect, you must check the link above.)  WTF?!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Reflections

June 1962

Every once in a while, I like to reflect on the history of the Beatles, look back on where they've been and what they are looking forward to.  Try to get inside their heads.  As they are finished with their third and last trip to the seminal St Pauli district in Hamburg, now is a really appropriate time for that.

If you follow this blog, you know that by now, the Beatles are really a professional band.  They've come a very long way in a pretty short time.  Only two short years ago in 1960, they were not really even a band.  They were in a constant search for a drummer.  They had three guitarists playing more-or-less crappy bottom of the barrel guitars and judging by the amateur recordings that exist, their arrangements were very much catch-as-catch-can, with each musician playing the part he felt most appropriate, but with no "unifying principle", which has since become the signature "Beatle sound".

They had not yet been to Germany and had only just started hanging out at the Jacaranda, run by Alan Williams, who will get them their first trial by fire stint in Hamburg, Germany (in the wake of a Caribbean steel drum band) and with whom they have since had a falling out.  They really get started on a short trip to Scotland, backing Johnny Gentle for a couple of weeks and then make their first trip to Germany where  the hours are long, the living conditions worse than spartan, and the pay barely adequate.  But the experience and practice time will begin to knit them into an (almost) unbreakable unit both personally and musically.  At the same time, the long hours start them on an endless quest for material to perform, much of which is American rock and roll, but some of which comes from very unlikely and diverse sources.  Arrest and deportation is their lot at the close of that year and they straggle home to lick their wounds before jumping  in again.

1961 would see them lose founding member Stuart Sutcliffe to cupid's arrow and hitch their wagon to Sam Leach et al.and the burgeoning local movement toward jive hall dances.   Those dances provide the demand for the Beatles to continue to improve their stage presentation and lead to a second trip to the continent, followed by an almost triumphant return to Liverpool a very much improved band. For the first time, kids come to their shows not just to dance and hang out together, but to watch and listen to them.  And they begin to play regularly at the Cavern.  Something special is happening  here, for those who have the ears to hear it.

In 1962, their equipment is all professional grade and their prospects for a longed for recording contract are looking better and better when they hook up with a local record retailer, Brian Epstein, who agrees to become their manager and to pull all the strings he knows to get them into a proper studio.  Of course, there is a price to be paid.  They can no longer be just that scruffy crowd who dress like dock workers or worse and who smoke and eat and make private jokes on stage.  The hours of playing are less taxing, but also less wild and crazy.  The money is better now, but the sheer young rebel "in your face" fun is coming to an end.  Perhaps, it is time.  All things must pass.  Let's see whether this recording session in London leads to something interesting, eh lads?  

Friday, May 25, 2012

Mailcall for Mr Epstein

May 25, 1962

Brian Epstein receives a copy of the "Application For Artiste' Contract" from George Martin, representative of Parlephone Record Company of London, England.  Just a few signatures and the Beatles are well and truly on their way.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Mr Martin Prepares the Ground

May 18,1962

Mr Martin back in the day
Today, somewhat straitlaced George Martin starts the legal paperwork for signing the Beatles to a recording contract.  He wants to have the necessary documents in hand for everyone to sign, if they "pass the audition" when they do finally get into Abbey Road Studios.   Organizational efficiency is not usually the strong suit of creative types.  George Martin is already proving to be a happy combination.

Mr Martin has a strong background in music, having studied piano and oboe at the prestigious Guildhall School of Music and Drama after a stint in the Royal Navy at the end of the war.  He started his professional career at the BBC and then moved over to EMI (Electric and Musical Industries).  EMI is a pioneer in the "vertical  integration" business model, having fingers in all the recording pies, professional recording and consumer playback equipment as well as production and marketing of recorded performances.

He is assigned to EMI's Parlephone label and is now mostly producing comedy and novelty records for the likes of Peter Sellers and the Goons.  (Monty Python's Flying Circus owes a lot to the humor invented by the Goons.)  Abbey Road is his factory floor where the production takes place.  At the same time, classical recording is also taking place across the hall for such as the London Symphony Orchestra to be marketed on EMI's prestigious Columbia label.

Parlephone was originally a high status German imprint that was acquired by EMI and has since fallen on harder times.  Mr Martin is now casting around for something to revive the label.  Could this rock and roll band from the Northern provinces be the answer to his quest?

The Beatles are nearing the end of their short residency in Hamburg and are now excited to know that a recording session with Parlephone is "in the works".

Friday, May 11, 2012

Cyn and Dot Get Their Own Place

May 1962

While John is in Hamburg, Cynthia Powell, his long time girlfriend has been living a rather gypsy existence.  Her mother has left for Canada and Cyn first moved in with John's Aunt Mimi.  After having had her fill of Mimi's cold demeanor, she moves in with some local cousins.  (Do I detect echoes of a "scene"?)  Now, she decides it's time to rent her own flat or room, really.  One that will be closer to her student teaching job.  Finally, she comes across a place that needs work but fills the bill.  And to make matters even better, a short time later Paul's girlfriend Dot Rhone moves into the same building.  John's beautiful letters continue to come across to the new love nest that Cyn is preparing for his return.  The letters are full of protestations of love and longing and she sees in them palpable evidence of his deep seated fear of being left alone again.

Paul is working on a sweet new song, "When I'm Sixty-four" written in an old fashioned music hall style familiar to his dad's generation.  Also, there is some evidence that "P.S. I Love You" is written now as a song-letter to his girlfriend back home.  Gonna need some new material for that recording session.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Telegram Goes to Germany

May 9th, 1962

Brian Epstein travels down to London to meet with George Martin, this time at Abbey Road Studios, in St John's Wood, a well-to-do London borough.  They are to firm up plans for recording the Beatles.  The meeting occurs at 11:30 am.  (After all this time of dealing with conjecture and fallible memory, it is wonderful having some historical documentary evidence to settle such obscure questions.) Imagine how he must have felt climbing the steps up to the front door to this "Cathedral of the Beatles Music".

Wife Karen and I on the steps leading to the holy of holies in 1996. 
BTW.  If memory serves, this picture was taken by the Beatle Brain of Britian, Richard Porter. 
(That was before 9/11 and "enhanced security measures".)






After the meeting, Brian sends the good news to the boys in Hamburg.  He informs them that he has secured them a recording session and instructs them to "rehearse new material".  He also dispatches this to Mersey Beat Magazine.  Gotta pump up that buzz!

(If blogspot is punctual, this post should be posted "exactly" 50 years before the meeting begins.  Woo Hoo!)


Saturday, May 5, 2012

Leachy Side Bar

If you are anywhere near Liverpool, next Friday is your lucky day!  Sam Leach is back and he's at Knotty Ash!


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Let's Talk Set List

May 1962

Time to listen to some music.  While the Beatles are sharpening their act, they are also picking up some new songs, much of it material that Beatle fans will become familiar with in coming years.

In 1962 their sets begin to feature a song written by a lesser known American soul singer called Arther Alexander, called "Anna (Go With Him)".  And a couple of new "girl group" covers enter the repertoire, "Baby It's You" from the Shirrells and "Devil in Her Heart" a call and response song from the Donays .  For comparison, listen to the Beatles "Devil".  They take so much from the American girl groups, an unlikely source to say the least.  And I just love how George "revises" the lyric to "No, no, nay will she deceive".  A very sweet north of England touch.  And there's something endearing in the miscues on this live BBC version, too.

Also, a new Carl Perkins tune is added "Honey Don't", originally sung by John, later to feature Ringo.  Still love Perkins' original version.  He is the coolest of all the cats!  No wonder the Beatles latched onto it.  And that sixth chord at the finish!  So, that's where the they got that from!

The practice of song writing has tentatively begun to creep into the set list in the form of a Lennon tune "Ask Me Why" (you-woo-woo-woo-woo :-) and a McCartney one "I Fancy Me Chances".  The great songwriting competition/partnership is really getting into gear now as the boys begin to explore their conjoined musical talent that has been developing subconsciously over the last five years of intense performing at each others elbows.  The Beatles strength is in their willingness to evolve their craft, to move on the the next challenge and embrace it willingly.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Last of Bert

April 23-27, 1962

Bert Kaempfert has a contract with the Beatles that was signed before they worked with him on cutting "My Bonnie" as the backing group for local rock hero Tony Sheridan.  The term of that contract was for one year, so it doesn't expire until June 30, 1962, but at Brian Epstein's insistence, Kaempfert is willing to let them out of it early, if they will cooperate with him on two more recordings.  Epstein wants out of the contract so he can get his group into EMI studios with George Martin ASAP.

The exact date of their last session with him is not known, but the likely songs are Swanee River (yeah, "Way down upon the Swanee River, far far away", that Swanee River), and Sweet Georgia Brown.  John and Paul have to be thinking, "We can write better material than this.  But a contract is a contract and if they pay us to play This Ol' Man, we'll do it."  Of course, Sheridan puts his own spin on the songs.

Whatever the exact date, the Beatles had to work around it, they were obligated to play everyday at the Star Club.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Settling In

April 20, 1962

"Time heals all wounds" and the Beatles are settling into their residency at the new Star Club in Hamburg.  They play shorter sets and with much less sporting around on stage.  They play in suits and from pre-arranged set lists.  It's all part of the new direction.  The venue was later destroyed by fire, but the entrance way is still recognizable on Google Earth.  It is right across the Grosse Freiheit from arch rival club, the Kaiserkeller where so much of the Beatles earlier development took place and where a previous visit came to a bad end.



The Star is a new club that is just opening now.  There are some terrific reminiscences from an actual club patron (who happened to be a pretty Hamburg girl at just the right time) here.  Scroll down about halfway for Maja.

Today is the Christian holy day called Good Friday.  It is the only day the Beatles have off on this trip to Hamburg.  In a related development, on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, however, at Harvard Divinity School, under the supervision of Professor Timothy Leary, the Marsh Chapel Experiment is being conducted.  In this experiment, volunteers are given doses of hallucinogenic psilocybin mushrooms so their effect on religious experience can be examined.  Believe it or not, it is only about three years from today when George Harrison and John Lennon are unknowingly slipped doses of LSD, courtesy of a dentist/sycophant in London's Bayswater district as they are in the midst of making their second film, Help.

Things are about to start happening fast!



Friday, April 13, 2012

Stars for the Star

April 13, 1962

The Beatles start their next Hamburg "residency" today.  The conditions of their stay this time are considerably improved.  They are "only" required to play  three or four hours a night on a short seven week stint.  And also on the bill for two of those weeks, one of their rock and roll heroes, Gene Vincent.

I am sure they are in a bit of a haze as one is when in deep shock and mourning, especially at an unexpected death. They are learning how to go on in all weathers.  It is a lesson that will serve them well in coming years.

Video

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

How Can It Be?

April 11, 1962

The Beatles make the short hop over to Hamburg to start their third stay in the cradle of the Mersey Beat sound.  This time, thanks to their new management, they fly via commercial airline.  In another improvement in their professional lives, Neil Aspinall has quit his day job as an accountant trainee to become their full time road manager.  He's been getting more money that way than sitting at a desk and making entries into a ledger anyway.  He has had the Commer van ferried across to Germany in advance of their arrival.  They are contractually obligated to seven weeks with only one day off, Good Friday.

The Beatles and old friends Astrid Kirchherr and Klaus Voormann coincidentally find each other at the Hamburg airport.  At first the Beatles are overjoyed to see their old friends until they find out why they are there.  Astrid and Klaus are there to meet Stuart Sutcliffe's mother who is arriving on a different flight.  She is coming to Hamburg to claim the body of  her beloved son.  Stuart Sutcliffe, founding member of the band, and probably John Lennon's most intimate friend in the world, has suddenly collapsed and died.   He's been suffering from debilitating headaches for months now, but the doctors, using the techniques available at that time, could find nothing specific wrong.  Stuart died yesterday, in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.  John has a breakdown at the airport. Astrid says she remembers him sitting on a bench and rocking back and forth and alternately laughing and crying hysterically.  Pete Best weeps openly.  Paul, characteristically demonstrating concern for his friend, tries his best to comfort and console her.  It is an awful day to be a Beatle.  The death of a friend when the world seems so bright and the future so full of promise is unbearable.  Everything is coming apart at the seams.

Look at Astrid's wonderful photographs of Stuart here.



Without you, Stuart, there would have been no Beatles.  Rest in peace, friend.



Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Unbeknownst

April 10, 1962

Unbeknownst to the members of the Beatles, Stuart Sutcliffe dies today aged 21 years.


Monday, April 2, 2012

A Pair of One-Offs and a Farewell

April 2-6, 1962

The Beatles continue to rock the Cavern almost everyday, of course, but they mix in a few "experiments" too.  On the 2nd of April, they do a show at the Pavilion Theatre, Liverpool's premier venue for ecdysiastic performers.  The Beatles haven't made music here since their days playing skiffle contests as the Quarrymen.  Boy, that had to be a weird feeling!

On the 5th, they do a special show at the Cavern for the Beatles Fan Club, which has been growing by leaps and bounds.  They do the first set in their old school leather outfits and then change for the second set into their Epstein dress code "bespoke tailors" Beno Dorn suits.  Oh, what a show that must have been!  I wonder if any audience members saw the future and liked it.

The boys are so proud of their new suits - or are they?
Wanna buy an autographed copy of this photo?  Got $12,000 to spare?

On the 6th, they do a "Beatles Farewell Ball" at the Tower Ballroom, in anticipation of their upcoming Hamburg trip.  The show is organized by Sam Leach and includes Emile Ford.  The poster mentions that the "Beetles" are on the bill.  They still can't get no respect from those poster designers.  :-)

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Southward, Ho

March 31, 1962

The Beatles make their second foray to the south of England today, their first trip under the auspices of Brian Epstein.  This gig demonstrates Epstein's increasing understanding of the live music business.  He books the band through a booking agency, instead of catch-as-catch-can, like so many of their appearances up to now.  The agency also organizes dances under the appellation "JayBee Clubs".  Contacts! The mother's milk of itinerant musicians!  The show is in Gloucestershire, much closer to Wales than to London, but  you can see the gears turning in Brian's mind as he begins to imagine a southern strategy for his band.

The announcement indicates - No Teddy Boys and - No stiletto heels, ladies.

The venue is still there in Stroud, Glos.  (Click "maximize" in the upper left and use your arrow keys to take a stroll around Stroud, courtesy of Google Earth.)


View Larger Map

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Barnston Women's Institute Says "Such Nice Boys!"

March 24, 1962

The Beatles play the Heswall Jazz Club, which is associated with the Barnston Women's Institute.  This is the first time the Beatles played on stage in their new suits.  Want to take the tour?




I gotta wonder, did they only agree to the suits because they would be playing in a venue unlikely to be patronized by their (by now) army of fans? Testing the waters, as it were, before jumping into the deep end?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Another Leach Promotion

March 17, 1962

Sam Leach is a Liverpool Rock legend right down to the soles of his boots.  He's gotten in on the ground floor of the music revolution that started in Liverpool with the formation of hundreds of groups and has grown into perhaps the leading promoter of shows in the Liverpool area.  John Lennon has been later quoted as saying that Sam was the pulse of the Mersey Beat movement.  Even at this remove, one gets glimmerings that, of all the "business side" people that the Beatles deal with at this time, Sam is special  to them.  He is, after all, one of them.  If you have only one book on your bookshelf that concerns itself with early Beatles history, it must be The Birth of the Beatles written by Sam in his inimitable style.

Today, Sam promotes another gig showcasing the Beatles and Rory Storm and the Hurricanes (featuring drummer Ringo Starr).  He calls it a "St. Patrick's Night Rock Gala".  After all, isn't the "Rock" of Cashel" in Ireland also known as St Patrick's "Rock".  (Sorry about that, kids.)  And after the gig a legendary party to celebrate Sam's engagement is held.  Pics here.

The Beatles are hanging fire right now.  They are playing out the string at the Cavern and other local clubs, waiting for the next trip to Germany and to see if the recording deals come to fruition.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Please, Mr Postman

March 8, 1962

Today begins the Beatles big push for their conquest of the world!  Their tape, made yesterday at BBC facilities in  Manchester, is broadcast nationally by the BBC .  It's a little after five o'clock on a chilly Thursday evening.  You turn on the big catherdral radio in the little parlor of your council house, fiddle with the tuner, and through a storm of static you hear...



Are you impressed?  Probably, not yet.  Still, there is something interesting going on there.  The Beatles learned a lot they would put to good use later from the late-50s and early-60s "girl groups".

On a life friendly planet circling a star some 50 light years from our own Sun, they are just hearing the Beatles for the first time and thinking WTF?!

I absolutely love the sound of John's Rickenbacker on this clip.  It also demonstrates nicely the difference between the drumming styles of Pete Best (in the clip) and Ringo Star (on the later record).

And ain't it cool how the days of the week are aligned, now? (2012 is a leap year, 1962 was not.)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Venerable BBC

March 7, 1962

In the first week of March, the Beatles are doing the Cavern almost every day, the Casbah once, Storyville Jazz Club (later to become the famous Iron Door) and another date at the big Tower Ballroom.  But today, they travel the short distance to the Manchester regional BBC facility to record a few songs for later broadcast.  At Brian Epstein's insistence, who no doubt wanted to impress the show's producers, the Beatles are dressed for the very first time in suits.  They dressed in suits to record for broadcast over the radio, where no one in the broadcast audience would be able to see them!  I wonder if it improves their sound any. I'm sure Epstein thinks so.  I doubt Lennon does.  :-)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Not a Bowl of Cherries, Just the Pits

February 24th, 1962

Sprinkled in with their pre-Epstein Tower Ballroom dates and the usual Cavern gigs, Brian gets them more and more upscale venues including a spot last Tuesday at a real theatre in Southport, the Floral Hall.  Today, however, they play an evening at the YMCA in Hoylake, upper crust home of Cynthia Powell.  That job is more the result of the persistence on the part of the club organizer who has been trying to get them for six months.  He finally manages it for £30, delivered in person to the home of Pete Best and his mother and quasi-manager Mona.  The gig goes wrong when their shtick between numbers is unappreciated by the crowd, who want to hear some MUSIC.  The Beatles are booed off the stage.

Where are we goin', lads?...

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Weary Old Friend

February 16, 1962

Stuart Sucliffe and Astrid Kirscherr make a visit to Liverpool, so he can visit his ailing mother and she can see his hometown.  They stop in at the Cavern for the Beatles show.  The Beatles are shocked by how pale and drawn their friend looks.  Did he know his days were numbered?  Has he come to say goodbye?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Southern Interest

February, 13, 1962

Brian Epstein travels down to London for a meeting with Parlephone A and R man George Martin which was scheduled last week.  Martins office is at Manchester Square in London.  His listens to the still warm audition disks and likes what he hears.  He starts thinking about who they should bestowed the title "leader" of the band upon.  All these rock outfits have a leader, don't they?  OK, Mr Epstein, lets bring them down for a recording test sometime soon.

What with the busy life of a record man and a trip to Hamburg for the band in the offing, nothing would happen on the recording front for three months.  But the gears have undeniably begun turning, slowly at first like the hour hand on Big Ben.  Epstein returns to Liverpool with some very optimistic news.

Whew!  A lot of Beatle activity this month, just two years before they conquer the USA and the rest of the world.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Visit to Broadcasting House

February, 12, 1962

The BBC, a state sponsored entertainment giant in the UK, has a regional headquarters in Manchester, just a hop, skip and a jump from Liverpool.  Brian Epstein has made application to audition there for the Beatles to see whether his band could be of any use to them.  Today, the Beatles attend that audition at the BBC Broadcasting House do their stuff for Peter Pilbeam, a producer of teen radio programs.  They do four numbers from their set, cannily including two originals, and pass the audition.

Pilbeam's impressions are telling.  "An unusual group, not as "rocky' as most, more C&W with a tendency to play music."  (The C&W refers to American country and western music.)  The boys music will soon find its way onto the British airwaves!  They are scheduled for an appearance March 9th (recorded on the 7th) on a radio show called "Teenagers Turn (Here We Go)".  The partnership between the Beatles and the BBC will be a fruitful one for both participants.

Friday, February 10, 2012

First Footage


February 10, 1962

Video Cap from the First Footage
 Today is likely the date of the first moving images of the Beatles.  It is a poor quality 8mm home movie with no sound.  It took place certainly around Valentines Day, based on the heart shaped stage decorations.  Pete Best, probably the most reliable authority we have on the subject, puts it at St Paul's Presbyterian Church Hall in Birkenhead, across the Mersey from Liverpool.  (There is some controversy about  it, but this is my story and I'm sticking to it.)

It's the Zapruder film of Beatle history and here is a wonderful web page dedicated to that one short clip.  I love how Paul handles his Hofner bass as if he's chopping wood.


Meantime, having gotten all that he feels he can from them, Brian Epstein finally severs contact via letter with the people at Decca.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Days Don't Get Bigger Than This

February 8, 1962

Brian Epstein has given up on Decca.  They had been toying with the idea of producing a single with the Beatles, if Epstein would pay for it out of his own pocket.  By now, Brian has convinced himself that route is a dead end.  But while in London, he doesn't see why he can't show the audition tapes around to see if he can scare up any other interest.

Epstein reconnects with a colleague, Bob Boast, who now manages the large and important HMV record store (His Masters Voice, called RCA in the US) in Oxford Street, the heart of London's shopping district.  Another example of a very important door that Brian could politely open that the Beatles themselves and their other Liverpool friends would have had to break down with a fireman's axe.  Epstein had previously met Mr Boast at a record retailing seminar and now he means to use the acquaintance on behalf of his boys.  He meets with Boast, who is in no position to help with a recording contract, but who advises him to have the tapes copied to disk.  That would make it much easier for him to hawk them around town to other record companies.  And that is a job that HMV is very well equipped to do.

The HMV recording engineer, Jim Foy, likes what he hears on the tapes and they talk about music publishing, a topic that Epstein knows very little about.  Foy introduces Epstein to another very important character in the story, music publisher Sid Coleman, who happens to have an office in the same building.  Since there are three original songs on the tapes, Coleman is interested in exploring the music publishing for these two guys.  What are their names?  Lennon and McCartney?

Oh, and he decides, just on a hunch, to give a friend of his a call.  An A and R man for Parlephone records named GEORGE MARTIN.  (HMV and Parlephone are both subsidiaries of record company conglomerate EMI, which also owns Columbia and Abbey Road Studios.)  Parlephone's stock in trade is comedy and novelty records.  Might they be interested in this rather eccentric band named after an insect?  A meeting with Martin is set up for the next week to see.

Here's what the site of these historic events looked like in 2000.  (It was undergoing renovation.)