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