Thursday, December 26, 2013

First Shot Across the Bow

December 26, 1963

Capitol Records in the USA can not resist the rising tide any longer.  In response to a groundswell of
popularity, they move up the planned release of "I Want to Hold Your Hand" backed by "I Saw Her Standing There" officially into the US market.  It must have been about this week that I first caught the buzz.  I was just about to turn twelve and I recall being on a winter camping trip with the Boy Scouts (troop 269) in an old converted farm house at the D-bar-A camp in Metamora, Michigan.  Everyone had tinny little transistor radios including me and I'm pretty sure that is where I first heard the strains that would echo down these fifty years and beyond.

It's the first shot fired in the historic British Invasion!

Oxford University Press Blog Post

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas with the Beatles

December 24-31, 1963

The Beatles, always true to their English heritage, are always involved up to their necks at Christmastime.  For the people of northern climes, it can be a great equalizer, during the worst of the cold, dark winter months to gather together for song and fun.

This year, it's a stage production "The Beatles Christmas Show" that starts today and runs for 16 nights at the Astoria Theatre in London.  The band looks back on the long musical hall tradition that is an essential ingredient in their formation. The show includes comedy, pantomime and music.  Just what's needed to revive flagging spirits.  In addition to their music, the boys are cast in a number of skits, which prove very popular with audiences.  John, Paul George and Ritchie do fly home to Liverpool this evening after the festivities to spend Christmas Day with their families.

Rolf Harris, of "Tie Me Kangeroo Down, Sport" fame is part of the show.  The whole show is a brainstrorm of (who else) Mr Brian Epstein.

Typical Beatle zaniness from '63, by way of wishing you Merry Christmas. (I love the Freda Kelly shout out, from George.)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Thank You, Marsha and Carroll

December 17, 1963

After seeing the human interest piece about the band on CBS News December 10th, Marsha Albert makes a listener request of Carroll James, a DJ on Washington DC radio station WWDC. Play the new record by this unusual group from England called the Beatles.  James asks a stewardess friend, who's on the transatlantic run, if she can get hold of a copy for him.  Today, the record makes a first appearance in the USA on his show. This is before, mind you, the record is released by the Beatles' American label, Capitol Records.

A full year after their British cousins, kids in the US are just beginning to "get it".   (A stewardess! Times really have changed.)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

CBS Gets the News

December 10, 1963

The Beatles appear in a CBS news feature, presented by Walter Cronkite.

According to the CBS News website, it was December 10.  And who remembers Alexander Kendrick and his stiff ultra-cool delivery and his "wethead is dead" hairstyle?

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig

December 7, 1963

The Beatles return to Liverpool for a few days and how those boys did work at it!

Today's agenda includes:
Empire Theatre Juke Box Jury - Beatles as judges
Empire Theatre fan club concert - taped for broadcast that evening to the UK as It's the Beatles
Empire Theatre  Top of the Pops - Christmas interview for broadcast December 25th
Odeon Cinema - two evening performances as part of a package tour

Meantime, across the Atlantic, inexplicably, WORC in Worchester Massachusetts has come into possession of a copy of She Loves You/I'll Get You and has started playing it incessantly, based on listener interest. The grapevine is gently humming with this odd bit of music news, preparing the powers that be for the tidal wave of demand that is yet to come. Capitol Records has its ear to the ground and is beginning to pick up the signals.

If you think about it, this is all becoming a masterpiece of timing, but there is no grand designer, unless you count the gods and goddesses of music and serendipity.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Hellllooo, Bongo!

December 2, 1963

The Beatles make an appearance on a national BBC TV show, The Morecambe and Wise Show.  A bit of musical hall silliness is the result.

Friday, November 22, 2013

A Black Day

November 22, 1963

The assassination of a president.

It may seem unconnected to the story of the Beatles, but I was there and I think they are profoundly connected.  After a period of deep cultural depression and national mourning, American kids will be ready for something upbeat and optimistic.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Let's go to the concert

November 20, 1963

Wanna go see the the Beatles at ABC Cinema in Manchester tonight?  I've got a couple of tickets.  Let's go!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Jack Parr Scoops 'Em All

November 16, 1963

The Tonight Show with Jack Parr.

Monday, November 4, 2013

A Royal Command to Perform

November 4, 1963

The Beatles, really making inroads now, are invited to play at this year's Royal Command Variety Show at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London.  The tradition of an annual command performance goes back to 1912 (hey, just about 50 years before the Beatles!)  It's a chance for the best entertainment from the British Isles and the world to show their stuff to members of the royal family and it goes on to this day.  [This year (2013), the "Attraction Black Light and Shadow Theatre" appeared.]

John is quick with a joke that gets them on the front page of every newspaper in the land.

Royal Command Performance Article

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Goodbye for Now, Sweden

October 30, 1963

The Beatles record an appearance on the Swedish teenager's show "Drop In". Tomorrow they head back to Blighty and another UK tour.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Finishing "With" and Hello Sweden

October 23, 1963

The Beatles and George Martin put some finishing touches on their second album, "Meet the Beatles" and then they head for the airport and their first tour of Sweden.  Skål!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

See You at the Palladium, Son

October 13, 1963

The Beatles make it to the London Palladium today (coincidentally, right next to where Apple Corps headquarters would be in a few years and where a famous roof top concert would occur in the future.)

Audio of the entire concert

And this is the last time the Beatles wore their famous collarless jacket suits.  If you were there (in the US, at least), you no doubt remember the cover photo of the "I Want to Hold Your Hand" 45. Those jackets were a huge part of their early image.  By the time we saw them, the band had already discarded them.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Haworth Goes Out Over BBC

October 9, 1963

Today is the first broadcast of the Don Haworth piece wherein he seems to take the whole Mersey Beat phenomenon as worthy of serious consideration.  Groundbreaking!

Friday, October 4, 2013

She's Not Leaving Home...Yet

October 4, 1963

Melanie Coe (who's picture as a 17 year old runaway in a newspaper in 1967 inspired "She's Leaving Home") meets Paul McCartney as a contestant (she wins!) on the BBC's "Ready Steady Go" today.  I just absolutely love these strange coincidences!

It is the very first appearance of the Beatles on this iconic TV show, which premiered in August.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Public Ear

Lots of insights here.  Looking back from a distance of a few years, a radio show called The Public Ear, records for a show to be broadcast later. Topic: the Mersey Beat.  (Especially love the clip of Millie Sutcliffe!)

The Public Ear 10/3/1963

Near as I can tell this show was recorded today and broadcast on November 11.

Monday, September 16, 2013

George and "She" Sneak into America

September 16-30, 1963

Swan Records was an independent label based in Philadelphia, home of Dick Clark's American Bandstand and the Philadelphia sound.  (American Bandstand in the early 60s is a great source if you want to better understand the main competition the Beatles would run into on American shores.)  Swan had scored hits with "Palisades Park" and "Way Down Yonder in New Orleans", both by their number one talent Freddy Cannon.  Because Capitol Records in LA, the American subsidiary EMI in Britain, has passed on it, "She Loves You" is released on Swan in the USA.  The lack of interest in the record in the USA is stupendous.

At the same time, all of the Beatles get a couple of  weeks off from their grueling schedule.  John and Cyn meet Brian Epstein and Astrid Kircherr in Paris and Paul and Ringo take a trip to Greece.  George Harrison makes a trip the the USA to visit Benton Illinois, one of the most interesting episodes in early Beatle history.

George and his brother Peter make the journey to the new world in waiting to visit their sister, Louise.  Her husband was trained as a mining engineer and coal mining is big industry in southern Illinois.  George hooks up with a local band (The Four Vests) and sits in at a couple of gigs at a local venues.  He also buys some records to take back home and brings a copy of his new record, "She Loves You", to the local radio station.  (It does get on the air.)

But most importantly, he obtains a new guitar - a black solid body Rickenbacker 425.  He convinces the music store owner to refinish the guitar from its original fireglo red and purchases it with cash.  You can visit the guitar today in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum in Cleveland Ohio, if you've a mind to.  In the long run, the guitar didn't get much use,  Still there is some sweet vestige of the hero worship that John Lennon inspired in his younger protege that is exemplified by George's desire to have a guitar from the same maker as that of his hero.

And meanwhile, back in London, George Martin and company are putting some finishing touches on  the second Beatle album. In the UK it's entitled "With The Beatles".  The skinnied down version in the US will be called "Meet the Beatles".

UPDATE - 50 Years later. Some things haven't changed.  Took these pics myself this week.

George slept here - George's sister's house in Benton Il
George played here - VFW Hall in Eldorado Il
And here too - Boneyard Bocci Ball Club in Benton
Most amazing of all is the bocci ball club, which is still in business.  I wonder if they still do rock and roll shows now and then.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Haworth Takes Them Seriously

 August 27-30, 1963

Don Haworth is a distinguished radio writer and producer in the second half of the 20th century.  During this week, he produces a BBC television documentary on the Mersey Sound, which has been sweeping the UK.  It is the first time that  the band is treated as a subject for serious consideration as part of a social phenomenon.  They do the shooting in and around Liverpool in the midst of a six day run, two houses a night, in Southport, Manchester.  Their play list:
  Roll Over Beethoven
  Thank You, Girl
  A Taste of Honey
  She Loves You
  Baby, It's You
  From Me to You
  I Saw Her Standing There and
  Twist and Shout (the perennial barn-burner)

Haworth footage

This scene, which you may have seen before, was filmed for the documentary to illustrate the rabid dedication of the fans. George to the rescue! (Obviously, the soundtrack was added later.)

The show will be broadcast in the UK on October 9.  This documentary will also become very important to the Beatles' story as later, some of the footage will be sold to the Jack Paar Show and used on American TV (November 16) just days before another seminal event, the assassination of an American President.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

A Famous Photo

August 22, 1983

The Beatles show Robert Freeman the pictures that Astrid Kirchherr had taken of John and George in her home studio in Hamburg and asked if he could do something like that for their next album cover.  Freeman is a professional and he recognizes a great visual idea when he sees one.  The photo session takes place today.

Astrid's John

Freeman's Beatles

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Six Welsh Nights

August 12-17, 1963

The Beatles do six nights, two shows a night in Llandudno, North Wales, from whence they are easily able to travel home to Liverpool.  Such luxury!  On the 14th they run over to Manchester during the day to record some more TV footage to be shown on Granada TVs northern show Scene.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Farewell, Cavern

August 3, 1963

The Beatles play the Cavern Club for the last time today.  It's kind of surprising that they are still playing there, since they have a nationwide fan base and the Cavern is rather small, dark and dank.  And it's only about 5 months until they break in  America and become the first wave of the massive "British Invasion".  They must have a soft spot for the Cavern.  They are paid £300, thus increasing their fee by 6000% since their first gig at the Cavern a bit more than two years ago.  For local fans, the worst case scenario is about  to become a reality.

There are some great reminiscences of the Cavern in its salad days here at the bottom of the page.  (Thanks, Happy Nat, for sharing your extensive collection of Beatle related information.)

At the same time, the extended group makes two decisions.  To hire former Cavern bouncer Mal Evans to help Neil look after the boys travel and to play only proper theater shows from now on.  The Beatles are no longer a dance hall band!

Cavern pic from Sam Leach's website

Modern reconstruction of Cavern Club stage

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Please Roll Over Mr Postman

July 30, 1963

It is very fulfilling for the blogger of this page to finally get to this point.  All of the songs that so deeply influenced my appreciation for music are being made so close together in time.  And after all of the trouble and fun that the Beatles as individuals and as a band have lived through to get here.

Of course, the band is still playing to houses all up and down the island of Great Britain.  But they make occasional stops in London at Abbey Road to lay down some tracks in anticipation of their second album, Which is actually the album (minus a couple of songs - thanks Capitol)  that will introduce most of us in the US to the Beatles special genius, called "Meet the Beatles" here.

In the morning, the band stops in at the studio and records a couple of great ones, a cover of the Marvelettes "Please Mr Postman" and starts work on their original "It Won't Be Long".

In the afternoon, the band records some for BBC radio, including an interview with bandleader Phil Tate for Non-Stop Pop.

In the evening, back to Abbey Road to record some more recording.  They finish up "It Won't Be Long", lay down "Roll Over Beethoven" (love that heartbeat-of-rock-and-roll bass drum!) and capture Paul's "All My Loving".  Producer George Martin pitches in and sets down a piano track for "Money (That's What I Want).

All this in one 24 hour day?!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Thank you, Detroit

July 18th, 1963

The Beatles spend the day at Abbey Road Studios, laying down some more material for their anticipated and unnamed second album.  They select some covers, including three Motown favorites.
  You Really Got a Hold on Me (Smokey Robinson and the Miracles)
  Money - That's What I Want (Barret Strong)
  Devil in Her Heart (The Donays)
  Til There Was You (from Broadway's The Music Man)

For a Detroit boy, this is a great day!  Do yourself a favor.  Click on those links and listen to that infectious Motown beat.

How odd that exactly 50 years to the day later, Detroit declares bankruptcy.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Gluttony and Some Set Lists

Early July, 1963

Pop Go the Beatles on BBC radio is a big success and a further run of 11 weeks is agreed to.  On July 2nd, the Beatles tape the first show of the second set, to be broadcast on July 16th.  Here's what they played:
  That's All Right, Mama (Elvis cover)
  There's a Place (L&M original)
  Carol (Chuck Berry cover - influence of the Stones and thinking "We can do that, too"?)
  Soldier of Love (Arthur Alexander cover)
  Lend Me Your Comb (Carl Perkins cover)
  Clarabella (Jodimars cover)
  Three Cool Cats (Coasters cover - not broadcast)
  Sweet Little Sixteen (Chuck Berry cover - not broadcast)
  Ask Me Why (L&M original - not broadcast)

The Beat Show, another BBC offering, record a Beatles performance at the Playhouse Theatre in Manchester on July 3rd.
  From Me to You (L&M original)
  A Taste of Honey (Broadway show cover)

They haven't forgotten their roots as a great cover band.

Meanwhile back in London, Brian Epstein, trying to avoid looming overexposure, is beginning  to cancel some previously agreed to appearances on various BBC programs.  On the 4th, George Martin mixes the mono verion of "She Loves You" and the Beatles show up to check out the new competition, The Rolling Stones, in performance at The Scene, a club in Soho.

Then, on the 10th, in the morning, the Beatles record for another edition of Pop Go the Beatles.
  Sweet Little Sixteen
  A Taste of Honey
  Nothin' Shakin' But the Leaves on the Trees (Eddie Fontaine cover)
  Love Me Do (L&M original)
  Lonesome Tears in My Eyes (from Johnny Brunette and his Rock 'n Roll Trio)
  So How Come No One Loves Me (Everly Brothers cover)

Thank goodness the recordings have survived. You can hear lots of these on the Beatles Live at the BBC Recordings.

In the afternoon, they open a stint of six nights in one place, two shows each night.  The shows take place at the Aeolian  Hall in London.  (After the incessant travel, that must have been a huge relief.)
  Roll Over Beethoven (Chuck Berry cover)
  Thank You Girl (L&M original)
  Chains (Goffin and Carol King cover)
  Please Please Me (L&M original)
  A Taste of Honey (Broadway)
  I Saw Her Standing There (L&M original)
  Baby, It's You (Motown cover)
  From Me to You (L&M original)
  Twist and Shout (the old Isley Brothers standby)

I love how they are keeping things interesting by resurrecting so many of their old mainstays.

On the 16th, they show up at BBC Paris Studio in London and record for three (count 'em) more episodes of Pop Go the Beatles to be broadcast in August.  Do you think these guys liked making music? They are gluttons for punishment!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Who Loves Who?

June 26-July 1, 1963
Turk's Head Hotel Building Now

A momentous day.  Lennon and McCartney sit in a hotel room in the Turk's Head Hotel, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and write a new song entitled  "She Loves You".  (Oh, if only walls could talk!)  After writing it, the band embarks on a 10 week long tour of seaside resorts.  Ten weeks of gigs, all lined up like ducks in a row!

"She Loves You" introduces the UK to a new meme - Yeah, Yeah, Yeah.   Paul's father later asks his son if it wouldn't improve the song to make it "She Loves You - Yes, Yes, Yes".  Paul and John recall later that this song is a departure from their formula because instead of being in the first person (I), it is consciously written in the third (she).

IMHO, the beating heart of the song is the short pregnant pause after the last "and with a love like that you know you should..."  (at 2:04).  That, folks, is pure undraped genius.  It's almost 50 years later and I still get a lump in my throat.  And that floor tom that kicks it all off!  Thanks, Richie.

On July 1, the song is committed to tape at Abbey Road and is planned for the B side of "I'll Get You".  WTF!  It really goes to show, how hard it is to recognize a musical masterpiece until you've have had a chance to listen to it, mull it over, talk it over, get reactions from other people.

British Listed Buildings entry on the Turk's Head Hotel - Newcastle 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Presley Missing

June 22-24, 1963

On June 22, Paul, George and Ringo travel to the Town Hall of Abegavveny in Wales, but John Lennon has a prior engagement with "Juke Box Jury", a tv show in which panel members award current records either a "Hit" or a "Miss" based on their perceived quality,  John gave every record a "Miss" including the one by his former role model, Elvis Presley.  The song is "Devil in Disguise" and John pans it with the remark that Elvis has transformed himself into Bing Crosby.  How the mighty have fallen!  Meanwhile, John is flown via helicopter from  London to the Wales gig.

On the 23rd, the Beatles tape a television appearance on "Lucky Stars", this entire edition of which is dedicated to a new phenomenon in rock music history, the Mersey Beat.  (The show will be broadcast on the 29th ibid.)  The UK record charts are now dominated by bands from Liverpool.  It is unprecedented and is led by the Beatles above all.  They are piling up the brownie points that will one day be redeemed for their own MBEs.  The reason?  The tax rate in the UK on the highest earners is 99% and the queen needs a new set of crown jewels!

Then, on the 24th they tape an appearance on the radio program "Saturday Club."  Part of that program, when broadcast also on the 29th, will go out over the BBCs overseas service.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

McCartney Turns 21 and Lennon Takes Offence

June 18, 1963

Paul McCartney's 21st Birthday Party was held in the garden behind his Aunt Jin's house in Liverpool.  After recording for the BBC's "Pop Go the Beatles" radio show in London, the Beatles hop in the van and drive the 209 miles to Liverpool. Celebrating with Paul is his new girlfriend, Jane Asher.

At Paul's request, local Liverpool band The Fourmost makes some music for the guests.

John Lennon, drunk, is incensed by an attempt at humor as his expense and gives Bob Wooler a sound thrashing at the party.  (Woller had speculated about what had occurred on the holiday in Spain with Brian Epstein.)  Since the beginning, Wooler has always been a strong Beatle supporter.  It's another indication of Lennon's always present, if barely contained, dark side.  John must have been horrified to learn what he had done, later.

Tomorrow, back down to London to record an appearance on "Easy Beat", another BBC radio show.

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Last Tower

June 14, 1963

Another in a string of "lasts".  Today, the Beatles play the Tower Ballroom in New Brighton for the last time.  The Tower was a key to the Beatles early success when local promoter Sam Leach booked them into some of his "Operation Big Beat" shows there, starting back on November 10th 1961, when they were still a gang of leather clad toughs.  :)

Thursday, June 6, 2013

That Was the Week That Was

June 3-9,1963

A typical week in the life of the Beatles now, everyday a different venue, sometimes hundreds of miles apart.  Life on the road, writ large.  Pity that little Comer van, and Niel Aspinall, too.

Monday - Granada Cinema, London
Tuesday - Town Hall, Birmingham, Warwickshire (118 Miles)
Wednesday - Odeon Cinema, Leeds, Yorkshire (120 Miles)
Thursday - DAY OFF!!!
Friday - Odeon Cinema, Glasgow, Scotland (219 Miles)
Saturday - City Hall, Newcastle-upon-Tyne (151 Miles)
Sunday - King George's Hall, Blackburn, Lancashire (125 Miles)

And, that's the last of the Roy Orbison tour.  Next week, same as last week.  "A train and a room, and a car and a room, and a room and a room."

Bye, Roy.  See you somewhere down the road someday.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Live At The BBC Again

June 1, 1963

The Beatles decide, and the BBC agrees, to record some of the material for radio broadcast that they haven't performed since Brian Epstein began insisting their act be shortened to 20 minutes or a half hour. It is very lucky for us that they did.  It provides a treasure trove of recordings that  won't see the light of day (except for BBC listeners) until 1994, when Apple Records releases the "Live at the BBC" album.  Most are covers of songs they performed during their formative years when they were playing eight hours a night and were always on the lookout for material.

Recorded today and that can be heard to on that album:
  Young Blood (by Leibler and Stoller)
  Sure To Fall  (by Carl Perkins)
  Baby, It's You  (by Bacharach and David)
  I Got To Find My Baby (by Chuck Berry)

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Horse That Birthed the Beatles

Not a date related post, but this is too good not to share.  It just demonstrates so beautifully how the entire Beatles story is an incredible series of unlikely events that led to one place - the finest music our ears will ever hear.

The Horse That Birthed the Beatles

Friday, May 24, 2013

Pop Go the Beatles

May 24, 1963

The Beatles are hot and the entertainment powers that were are finding it impossible not to notice.

Today, the Beatles record material for their own youth oriented BBC radio program, called "Pop Go the Beatles".  The first order of business is to gin up a Beatlized version of that old favorite "Pop Goes the Weasel".  I love how the new theme song sounds like it was done with a minimum of fuss.

Between 2:00 and 6:00 pm, the Beatles and their guest stars (Lorne Gibson Trio) record for broadcast on June 4th.  The Beatles perform numbers from their live set including "From Me to You", "Do You Want to Know a Secret" and motown hit "You've Really Got a Hold On Me".

You've really got to hand it to the BBC for recognizing the pot of gold that was right on their doorstep.  The band was not immediately and universally loved, though.  It takes time for a sound so new and different to really sink in.  The BBC commits to at least four half hour shows in the coming weeks.

After recording the show, the Beatles turn in two more evening performances with the Orbison Tour.  And on the 26th, the tour swings by the Empire Theatre in Liverpool.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Roy Orbison

May 18, 1963

The Beatles start another national package tour, this one headlined by Roy Orbison.  It doesn't take long before they are upstaging even him.  Orbison, always a gentleman, takes it in stride.  I wonder if he thought back to these days when he hooked up with George and the rest of the Traveling Wilburys 25 years hence.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A New Logo

May 12, 1963

Late in April, date unknown, Ivor Arbiter of Drum City in London sketches up a design for Ringo Starr's bass drum, the famous Drop-T logo.  The design highlights the root  word "Beat" in the name of the band.  Today, the new drum kit is delivered to Ringo Starr at a Birmingham TV studio just in time for taping an appearance on "Thank  Your Lucky Stars".   That's the last piece of the puzzle.  Now, at long last, they look "just like the Beatles".

Video recordings made for the BBC back on April 1 will go out over the BBC tomorrow and that gives me a chance to highlight one of my favorite Beatle resources.  Happy Nat's The Beatles Rarity.  He has a simply astounding collection of rare recordings which he parcels out to us Beatle fans in a weekly blog which I never miss.

Recently he posted a recording with some Beatle banter in front of it of "Thank You, Girl", a recently minted Lennon and McCartney tune that was originally broadcast 50 years ago tomorrow.

And here they are...THE BEATLES!!!

Note the absent harmonica and the lyric "That's the kind of love that seems to good to be true", instead of the more familiar "...that is to good to be true."  To a huge Beatle fan, the world turns on such minutiae.

Thanks, Nat.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

We're Number ONE!

May 11, 1963

The "Please Please Me" album reaches number one in England's Record Retailer magazine chart,  where it will stay for almost the rest of 1963.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


May 1963

One of the most notorious episodes in Beatle history is taking place this week.  Paul, George, and Ringo have taken a flight to the Canary Islands for a well earned bit of R & R.  But John Lennon and Brian Epstein have decided to take their vacation together in Barcelona, Spain.

It can be pretty certainly stated that John Lennon agreed to the co-vacation because of the opportunity it provided him to get closer to the "boss", to further solidify his own credentials as the leader of the group.  Likewise, it simply can't be denied that Epstein is hoping for fulfillment of a long time fantasy of a physical relationship with the magnetic Lennon.

It can also be pretty confidently claimed that homosexuality was front and center during the holiday.  John himself told of sitting with Brian outside a cafe and discussing with him the attractiveness of this or that boy passing by.  John, admitting to a pretty intense relationship, describes how he felt, "I was rather enjoying the experience, thinking like a writer all the time."  At times later, John admitted to episodes of sexual touching or kissing, that he later retracted, probably being designed to shock or impress the listener with his worldliness and sophistication.

Paul McCartney put it down to John's need to control his environment, and that does ring true to me.

For my money, it's all of  a piece - the sexual, political and personal aspects of the vacation merging in the  mind of the most psychologically complex Beatle.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

A Breather At Last

April 28, 1963

A couple of weeks off is built in to the Beatles hectic schedule by the management.  Paul, George, and Ringo head off to Tenerife to enjoy some conventional tropical sun in the Canary Islands.  John and Brian (the management) go off together for a holiday in Spain.

This is one of the most interesting episodes in the history of the Beatles.  To this day, there is a lot of mystery and speculation concerning it.  Don't forget, John became a father just three weeks ago.  Shouldn't he be spending his all too rare vacation time with his new family?  I think what is unmistakable is Brian Epstein's infatuation with the complex first Beatle and John Lennon's all consuming need to explore relationships.  Don't you detect a complicated father-son, mentor-protege, desire-object of desire thing?  Given John's chaotic childhood, could we expect anything less?   Also, no doubt John's need to be the first among equals plays a role in his consenting to it.

We are reminded, these characters are very much real human beings, wanting, confused, driven, and searching for their places in this crazy world.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

I Read the News Today, Oh Boy

April 18, 1963

A new informal partnership is well along in development.  Virtually all radio in the UK is provided by the official British Broadcasting Company.  Users are required to pay an annual license fee that is used to produce content, whether for TV or radio.  The Beatles are showing up more and more often on the Light Program, which is where the more popular and less "serious" content is broadcast.

Today, the Beatles appear in the show that is broadcast live from the Albert Hall. It's the first time they play there.  They spend the entire day cooped up in a dressing room, waiting for their chance to go on at 8pm and later at 10.

Now they know how many holes it takes to fill it
An exceptionally pretty young actress is recruited by the Radio Times to produce an interview for their paper, an obligation she fulfills at the Albert Hall gig today.  She has strawberry blond hair, georgeous blue eyes and a lovely peaches and cream complexion.  She is just 17 at the time.  Her name is Jane Asher   (Be still my beating heart!)

Jane Asher


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Checking Out the Competition

April 14, 1963

The Beatles tape an appearance on the"Thank Your Lucky Stars" TV show.  Appearing with them is a new upstart band called The Dave Clark Five and American Del Shannon of "Runaway" fame.  After the show they drive to Richmond-Upon-Thames to see another up-and-coming English band, fellow Chuck Berry fans, The Rolling Stones.  (Obviously, that video was made before Tina Turner gave Mick lessons in how to move onstage.)

A new scene is beginning to get organized, centered in London.  The Beatles want to be a part of this thing, whatever it is.

Monday, April 8, 2013

A Blessed Event

April 8, 1963

Happy 50th, Julian!

Julian Lennon is born and named in honor of his paternal Grandmother, Julia.  Full name: John Charles Julian Lennon.

Cynthia's letter to her mother in Canada, published in her book, "John", is worth quoting:

"Well, Mum it's (or should I say he) has arrived at long last.  April 8, 1963, 6:50 a.m. and thank heaven it's all over.

He's beautiful, Mum, only 6 lbs. 11 oz. but just gorgeous.  Well, I suppose you can imagine how I feel now can't you!  I only wish that you could be here to see him  now-he's fast asleep in the cot beside me.  I'm in a room on my own by the way, 24shillings a day but it's well worth it.  John came to see him for the first time yesterday (Thursday) poor fellow he was a nervous wreck.But I've never seen him look so proud or happy.  The baby looks very much like John but he also has the look of me so he should be very handsome."

Thursday, the 11th, is a rare day off for the Beatles.  John makes the journey from Hampshire in the south of England to Liverpool and is back next day for some BBC work and a live appearance a stones throw from Abbey Road in London.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

I Talk About Boys, Now

April 4, 1963

The Beatles record for third time this week for the BBC today.  Of special interest is the only studio version by them of "I'll Be On My Way", which they later gave to Billy J Kramer.  And here's a bit of film shot by Dezo Hoffman of the boys larking about on the street in front of the studio.  There's Neil Aspinall, TCB, and the well used van!

Later, the Beatles do a rather unusual show to an audience full of young men at Stowe School, an upper crust British boarding school.  Seems one of the students was a Liverpudlian with an interest in rock music and made the event happen.  It must have been a bit of a relief to actually be able to hear each other play.

The Beatles signing for the future of Britain
And also today Paul McCartney has begun using his state-of-the-art Vox T-60 Bass amplifier  Now all of the Beatles are playing through their iconic Vox amps.  There are some great pictures of their back line at this time here.  Also, note the unfamiliar and somewhat corny "Beatles" logo on the face of Ringo's bass drum, a logo that will soon be changing into perhaps "the" biggest rock icon of all time.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Last of Roe/Montez

March 31, 1963

The Tommy Roe / Chris Montez UK tour is history after a date in Leicester, but there is no rest for the Beatles.

In the first week of April, they will record three appearances on various BBC radio programs.  On one appearance, John and Paul sit on the record jury ("Good beat - I could dance to it") and are paid the  princely sum of one guinea (a little more than a pound) for their trouble.

The band records live versions of just about all of the songs on the album, and one music hall kind of intro with the house band, the Karl Denver Trio.  Sounds a lot like a short return to their skiffle roots to me.

Meanwhile, back in Liverpool, John's wife Cynthia is suffering through the last stages of a cold winter pregnancy as a guest in John's Aunt Mimi's house.  She worries, as I imagine all first time mothers must, what the experience of childbirth will be like.  Her reminiscences of that time are of a lonely ordeal  to be endured, but to her credit, Mimi did turn over the nicest parts of the house for the use of Cynthia and John (on the rare occasions he was there.)

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Hittin' the Streets

March 22, 1963

The first Beatles album, "Please Please Me" goes on sale in the UK today.  It will take a couple of months for it to get to number one, but the handwriting is now on the wall.

Side One
1. "I Saw Her Standing There" (Lennon-McCartney)
2. "Misery" (Lennon-McCartney)
3. "Anna (Go to Him)" (Arthur Alexander)
4. "Chains" (Gerry Goffin-Carole King)
5. "Boys" (Luther Dixon-Wes Farrell)
6. "Ask Me Why" (Lennon-McCartney)
7. "Please Please Me" (Lennon-McCartney)

Side Two
1. "Love Me Do" (Lennon-McCartney)
2. "P.S. I Love You" (Lennon-McCartney)
3. "Baby It's You" (Burt Bacharach-Mack David-Barney Williams)
4. "Do You Want to Know a Secret" (Lennon-McCartney)
5. "A Taste of Honey" (Ric Marlow-Bobby Scott)
6. "There's a Place" (Lennon-McCartney)
7. "Twist and Shout" (Phil Medley-Bert Russell)

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Show Must Go On (and On and On)

March 12/16, 1963

Some prime examples of the very hard work the Beatles are doing to keep the snowball rolling downhill.  On the 12th, John is felled by a bad cold.  The other three Beatles rearrange the songs so that Paul and George take over his guitar and vocal parts and the tour continues with a three Beatle band. 

On the 13th, John does show up in London, even though he can't sing, to overdub the harmonica parts for "Thank You Girl" at Abbey Road Studios.  From there, the Three-tles go north to York for a performance, then on the 15th, John rejoins the tour in Bristol.  On the 16th, they fulfill a prior Radio Luxembourg commitment, again in London, and then drive 160 miles north to perform in Sheffield with Roe/Montez.

It makes me tired just writing it! 

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Touring with the Americans

March 9, 1963

The Beatles set off on another UK tour only five day after their previous tour ends.  This time the headliners are Tommy Roe (singing "Sheila" - always liked that name) and Chris Montez, a latin inspired singer from California.  The tour will last through the month of March and various promotional appearances will be made on some days where shows are performed at night, sometime separated by many miles.  The Beatles show the Americans that these new upstart locals can bring it as well as they.

Another great Beatle resource... Beatles Chronology FB page.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Another Single in the Works

March 5, 1963

Now that the Shapiro Tour is history, recording can begin on the the next single with "From Me to You" (written five days ago) and "Thank You, Girl".  Both songs are deliberately addressed directly to the somewhat young female fan base.  With two sides for the next single in the can, the Beatles use the remainder of their studio time today laying down a couple of future possibilities, "One After 909" and "What Goes On".  Both of those will be revisited later.

Some outstanding photographs of this visit to London here.  I love how they are photographed suiting up for another day at the office.  Also, love the velvet collar on Brian Epstein's coat.  So stylish.  The "ad man" looking guy with the horn rim glasses in the pictures is Dick James, the Beatles music publisher.  And the pics from the Abbey Road canteen - Priceless!  And don't neglect to follow that little "On to the recording session-->" link at the bottom of the page.  Some of the very best pictures of Beatles at work anywhere.

"The Source" is definitely one of my favorite web sites.

On March 7th, Brian tries out a new idea.  He loads all of his best acts (The Beatles, Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Big Three, Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas onto two chartered buses along with 80 local fans and drives them down to Nottingham for an Epsteinfest show. This is the first of six "Mersey Beat Showcases" he organizes.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Thank You From Them toYou

February 28, 1963

Lennon and McCartney are getting comfortable with writing songs almost on demand.  They definitely produce "From Me to You" today while on the bus between York and Shrewsbury with the Helen Shapiro tour.  No doubt "Thank You Girl", being very similar in sentiment, is written around the same time.  The Beatles know what side their toast is buttered on and are writing directly at their fan base, made up mostly of mid-teen girls, who probably seem quite young to members of the band now in their early twenties.  Still, they buy the records and the Beatles like making them, so where's the harm?

And buying them they are!  The single of "Please Please Me" has just reached number one on the British pop music charts.  They smile with satisfaction before they jump back on the tour bus.

The Helen Shapiro Tour et al

It is very early in the career of the creative partnership of Lennon and McCartney.  There are lots of new things yet to discover about the songwriting craft.  But what an auspicious start!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Shapiro Redux

February 23, 1963

The second half of the UK tour with Helen Shapiro kicks off.  Spoiler Alert:  A very significant event will take place on the last day of February on the bus between York and Shrewsbury.

The closest they get to London on this tour is Bedford. some 60 miles North of the capitol.  In the finest tradition of English conquest, first, they are marshaling their forces.

Also today, near as anyone can tell, is the first appearance of The Beatles on US radio.  Dick Biondi is a popular jock on WLS in Chicago.  (Chicago is home for VeeJay records who pressed the US version of "Please Please Me".)  This bit of audio from his show is recorded live off the air in the state of Delaware, 750 miles away from the source.  That is clear channel broadcasting at its finest.  (For a real feel, listen to the whole tape, but if you want to cut to the chase, it's at 5:56.)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Nice Knowing You, Pete

February 19, 1963

During their break in the middle of the Shapiro tour, the Beatles play the Cavern with Lee Curtis and the All Stars.  The All Stars drummer is Pete Best.  It's the last time John, Paul and George are in the same room with Pete.  All their brotherly adventures with him must seem a million miles away to them now.  No pleasantries are exchanged.  A melancholy note.

They have other things on their mind.  Just before they go on, they get the news.  "Please, Please Me" is number one on the English charts!  (The announcement by compere Bob Woller is greeted by a melancholy silence from the local fans.  The writing is on wall now.  They belong, not to Liverpool anymore, but to the world.)

It's impossible to imagine a more difficult situation that the one the Mr. Peter Best finds himself in today.  Imagine what he is thinking.  But, the moving finger has writ and moved on.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

RIP Tony Sheridan

An immense influence on the early Beatles from their formative years in Hamburg passed away yesterday, February 16, 2013.  From the musical Pantheon, Tony Sheridan smiles down on us.

The Musical Pantheon

More on Tony.  And if you've got 45 minutes to kill, click here.  You won't regret it.

Friday, February 15, 2013

First Favorites

February 15, 1963

As the Beatles fame spreads, articles begin to appear in the national musical press.  People want to know!  First among these in England is the New Musical Express or NME, something like Variety is for Hollywood.  NME is very well known for sponsoring English pop music television specials that introduced many pop acts to a wider public.

But today they publish one of the first of many "lists of favorites" of the individual Beatles.  There is lots of food for speculation in these things, but the most interesting feature of this particular list is under the category "Favorite Actress".  Paul, George and Ringo all chime in with (who else) sex kitten Bridget Bardot.  John's choice is more interesting, afrench actress and chanson singer called Juliette Greco.  It is one more sign of his absolutely irrepressible gravitas.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Beatle Bull Market

February 12, 1963

A nice story from "The Man Who Made the Beatles", a biography of Brian Epstein by Ray Coleman.

A promoter in the town of Sheffield in Yorkshire named Peter Stringfellow, decides that, based on popular demand, he must have the Beatles at his local club.  He gets in touch with Brian Epstein who tells him the price, on the strength of a sucessful record in the charts, is £50.  Stringfellow can't believe Epstein expects that kind of money, so he passes.  He reconsiders and phones Epstein back up a couple of days later to accept the offer, but the price has by then gone up to £65.  Outrageous!  Does this ponce think he's managing Elvis or something?!

A couple more days pass.  Stringfellow thinks it out again and calls, but the going rate is now up to £100.  He can't possibly do that! So he and Brian compromise and agree over the phone on £85, still a king's ransom, but he has got the Beatles and changes the venue to a local ballroom, the Azena, to accommodate a larger number of punters. It's all done via phone and no contract is signed until just before the Beatles hit the stage.  Of course, a good time is had by all and afterwards they move on to the next venue back in Lancashire.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Recording, Recording, Recording Some More!!!

February 11, 1963

George Martin and the Beatles
A very long and very big day.  The Beatles leave the Shapiro tour to record for their first album.  It takes place in Abbey Road's Studio Two.  (Virtual tour. Use your arrow keys.)

Astonishingly, they knock out 10 new tracks for "Please Please Me" in three sessions,10am to 1pm, 2:30pm to 6:00 and 7:30pm to 10:45.  (I guess there is no expert there to tell them it is impossible.)  John Lennon is in the throes of a bad cold and is fed a constant stream of  hot tea and throat lozenges. It is on this day that they save the best for last, poor ailing John giving everything he has left to their rendition of the Isley Brothers' "Twist and Shout".  Everyone in the studio that day is smart enough to understand they will get only one take for that one!

Some favorite tracks:
  I Saw Her Standing There
  Please Please Me
  Baby It's You
  Do You Want to Know a Secret
  There's a Place
  Twist and Shout

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Still Loving Leather?

February 7, 1963

Today, the Beatles single "Please Please Me" is released in the USA on the VeeJay label.  Columbia, the parent company of EMI, doesn't see what all the fuss is about and passes on it so George Martin finds an alternate.  With the limited support that can be given by a small label, the record will do nothing there.  But they are knocking on the door.  And since VeeJay is a Chicago label, the record does get played on WLS, almost as an experiment.  Nothing.

And tomorrow in England, the Beatles, Helen Shapiro and Kenny Lynch are all ejected from the Carlisle Golf Club dance after the Beatles have the temerity to enter the ballroom at the Crown and Mitre Hotel wearing leather jackets!

Really looking forward to this Monday, the 11th, when they return to London to record for their first album.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Shapiro Tour

February 2, 1963

The national tour with Helen Shapiro begins.  Shapiro is the headliner, but by then end of the tour the Beatles are winning over audiences everywhere.  She is only 15 years old.  Here's a clip from a movie called "Play It Cool" that she appears in that was made last year (1962).  The Beatles, who have seen it all by now, must think her a little girl.

The Beatles played:
    Chains (by Gerry Goffin and Carol King)
    Keep Your Hands Off My Baby (L/M)  Girl group influence much?
    A Taste of Honey (L/M)
    Please, Please Me (L/M)
They are also ready with "Love Me Do" and "Beautiful Dreamer"? an old Stephen Foster chestnut, for some variety.

After the first date in Bradford, on the 2nd, they leave the tour and play the Cavern on the 3rd and 4th.  The 4th is their last Cavern lunchtime session, a key element in their campaign to build a loyal fan base in Liverpool.  They've been playing those sessions regularly since Mona Best cajoled Ray McFall into allowing rock and roll onto his stage at lunchtime on the 9th of February 1961, nearly two years ago. That's a long time before Brian Epstein entered the picture.  After this, the boys return to the tour on the 5th through the 9th.  It's "life on the road" for them now.

A week in the life of the Beatles

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

One Great Source

January, 1963

A great page of pics from 50 years ago on a great Beatles history site:

The Beatles Source

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Misery Loves Company

January 23, 1962

Lennon and McCartney are branching out.  They sit down together and knock out a song specifically for another artist to perform.  Her name: Helen Shapiro.  (They're thinking of her because they are scheduled to tour the UK with her starting in a couple of weeks.)  The song: Misery.  Shapiro didn't seize the opportunity to be the first artist to record a Lennon and McCartney original (other than the Beatles), but  someone else did.  His name is Kenny Lynch, a black British soul singer.  He shared management with Shapiro and it was decided it was better suited to his style.  He will record it later this year and has a modest hit on the British charts.

Much later, Kenny Lynch will appear on the album cover for Paul McCartney's "Band on the Run" album.

Roll on, L and M, roll on!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

ITV, Radio Lux, BBC

January 19, 1963

Thanks to Dick James, the Beatles make their first appearance on "Thank Your Lucky Stars", a British ITV equivalent to American Bandstand in the USA.  The show was recorded on the 13th and has the Beatles miming "Please, Please Me".

On the 21st, they record for later broadcast material for "The Friday Spectacular", a Radio Luxembourg radio show.  On the 22nd they produce material for three separate broadcast appearances.  First, they chat with the host of "Pop Inn" a live lunchtime BBC chat show, at a studio on Regent Street in London.  Then the band rushes across town to record for the BBC show "Saturday Club" for later broadcast globally across the entire British Empire via short wave.  Finally, back to Regent Street to record for "The Talent Spot", yet another BBC offering.

The big push is on!  And Dick James is the right guy at the right time to be putting his shoulder to the wheel.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Brian Rolls a Stoney

January 13, 1963

The Beatles travel to Birmingham to record a short appearance on the TV show "Thank Your Lucky Stars", a show broadcast on the ITV network.  ITV is an ABC affiliate and an alternative to the government sponsored BBC network, and is therefore somewhat more open to innovation.

During this trip, Brian Epstein first comes in contact with another manager of musical acts, a show-biz hustler named Andrew Loog Oldham.  (Oldham has not yet come into contact with the band from the south of England just now forming known as the Rolling Stones.)  Ever the "Bad boy" of the English music scene, Oldham advises Epstein that he should emphasize the Beatles anti-establishment image.

Friday, January 11, 2013


January 11, 1963

The Beatles second single, "Please, Please Me", their breakthrough record in the UK, is released on the Parlephone label today.  The B side on this version is "Ask Me Why", a perfectly serviceable song, but it is more prototype than finished product.  Had to get something on the flip side.  Both songs were recorded back in November at Abbey Road under the watchful eye of George Martin.

The label sends down a lightening bolt,  The boys cross their fingers, and begin to wait on the thunder.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Connecting Two Bands of Merry Men

January, 1963
Dick James back in the day

It's time for another important behind the scenes character to enter the story.  In those far off days, songs after being written were given to a "publisher" whose role was to find a suitable artist to record it and then to promote (plug) the record.  The Beatles first song, "Love Me Do", was published by an arm of  the EMI recording empire and Brian Epstein had not been overwhelmed by their efforts in its behalf.  When he made his dissatisfaction known to George Martin, Mr Martin made some suggestions for alternatives.  One of those alternatives was Dick James.

George Martin had met Dick James in 1958 when Dick was a performer and had made a recording with him to be the theme music for a British TV serial, The Adventures of Robin Hood.  (In the US, we saw the show in syndication, so you may remember the song.  It's very corny, but hey, this was the '50s.)

By now, tired of the endless peregrinations required of a professional singer, Dick has turned his hand to music publishing.  And that is how he comes to meet with Brian and how he comes to hear a demo of "Please, Please Me".  He immediately understands the enormous potential of this song by a relatively unknown group and enthusiastically offers to publish it.  Brian is impressed with his attitude and agrees that if Mr James can make this song number one on the UK charts, he will become the Beatles music publisher.  Dick calls a friend who books talent for a teenager focused TV show called "Thank Your Lucky Stars", and convinces him to book an appearance of the group.  On such friendly foundations, fortunes are built.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Beatle New Year

January 1, 1963

The Beatles return from their last sojourn to Hamburg, ready to take on the world.  But it will be a long, hard climb to the toppermost and 1963 will be the year.  It will be a year when package tours and life on the road will become much more important and one night stands in Liverpool ballrooms and lunches at the Cavern, much less so.  They and their manager Brian Epstein will take nothing for granted and agree to just about any opportunity to spread the bands fame.

They fly to London and spend the night there in preparation for a flight tomorrow to Edinburgh to start a tour of Scotland, a tour that gets off on the wrong foot when snow and wind cause cancellation of the first date in Keith (where they played in support of Johnny Gentle, on their shoestring tour just a year and a half ago).  John flies home to be with Cyn for a few hours at least and returns to Scotland on the 3rd to resume the tour at Elgin.  The next week is spent traveling from place to place, playing in ballrooms and sleeping in hotels.  On the 8th, there is an appearance on a local Glaswegian kids TV show.  (The kids show appearances really demonstrate that the entertainment powers had no clear idea what to do with this new band.)  Finally, they get a day off at home on the 9th.