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.