Time for Christmas!

1964 was horrendous. The Beatles made a major motion picture, starred on numerous television specials, gave countless interviews, recorded two phenomenal LP’s, toured Sweden, Hong Kong, Australia, and New Zealand, returned to Liverpool for a glorious movie fête, completed a 34-day North American Tour, touched each corner of the UK in their Autumn Tour, and appeared on tons of radio shows. And as for John – well, he’d also published and promoted his first book, In His Own Write. Truly, it was a schedule that no one would have believed possible, had The Beatles not actually accomplished it!

 

However, when October rolled around and the question arose of whether or not they should record their second annual Christmas record for the Fan Club, The Beatles were solidly on board. In fact, during the recording sessions for Beatles for Sale, they enthusiastically began work on the rare, collectible holiday flexi-disc that would be shipped to British Fan Club members only. (The American Fan Club would receive a less durable cardboard version.)

 

The boys realized that Brian had never approved of this project. In 1963, he’d fervidly protested to Tony Barrow that The Beatles had far too much to do to add a frivolous Christmas disc to their diaries. He’d felt the record a distraction from “business as usual” and tried to halt to it. But John, Paul, George, and Ringo had been adamant. They wanted to share Christmas with those who loved them.

 

Why?

 

Well, of course, all of the boys had been reared in the church. John, at one point, had been an altar server, and Paul had sung in the choir. However, throughout the 1964 North American Tour, the boys had been boldly professing that they were agnostic. Of course, there was as much “Maybe so…” as there was “Maybe not…” in the agnostic belief system, and perhaps that slim glimmer of faith inspired a certain devotion to the holiday. Or…perhaps the boys simply found this happy, celebration-filled season an apt occasion for wishing “good will toward men (and women).”

 

Whatever their motivation, The Beatles – despite an unbearable work schedule – found time to do something special for others during the holidays. They found a way.

 

To listen to what they had to say on the 1964 disc, tune in here:

 

 

Without shirking, each Beatle speaks. You hear (despite the script – John makes it clear that he’s reading prepared notes) their individual personalities and their unique takes on humor. Without skimping, the boys give the rarest gift of all: their time.

 

About a month ago, I pronounced that with Volume 4 in The John Lennon Series pressing down upon me and with a ton of research left to complete, I just couldn’t send out Christmas cards this year. I told my daughter-in-law that this one time, I simply couldn’t shop and wrap presents; I suggested that we’d hit the stores after Christmas and call it a day! I delayed hosting my husband’s office Christmas party until the book was complete. I pushed everything aside to do my work.

 

Then, my Lennon research led me to 26 October, 1964…the day The Beatles devoted precious EMI studio time to creating their treasured holiday record. And, the scene of those four boys standing together – laughing, singing, and finding joy in “the frivolous distraction” of Christmas cheer – stopped me dead in my tracks. I had become a Scrooge! Maybe you have, too.

 

Are we grumbling about the “responsibilities” of Christmas instead of reveling in making others smile? Are we irritated about the interruption of our work to spread the joy of the season? Are we “Bah Humbugging” our way through December instead of reaching out in love to those around us?

 

My schedule, I now realize, isn’t half as hectic as the 1964 schedule The Beatles endured. And yet, they found a way to sing silly carols, shout “Merry Crimble” and “Happy New Year” and foreshadow their belief in “love, love, love.” Once again, John, Paul, George, and Ringo have taught me how I should behave. We all need time for Christmas. Every one.


Jude Southerland Kessler is the author of the John Lennon Series: www.johnlennonseries.com

 

Jude is represented by 910 Public Relations — @910PubRel on Twitter and 910 Public Relations on Facebook.

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Two…Well okay, 30…of Us

A few days ago, I received a shocking e-mail from writer and “Rock’n’Roll Detective,” Jim Berkenstadt (author of The Beatle Who Vanished). Jim had been told by our dear friend, Bill Harry (founder of MerseyBeat and author of many Beatles books including The Ultimate Beatles Encyclopedia, The John Lennon Encyclopedia, etc.), that a website called NWCBooks.com was offering FREE downloads of the various books written by almost all of The Beatles authors who attend our Fests for Beatles Fans. As little as we make off of these volumes – most of us only write out of our passion for The Beatles, not to increase our income in any measurable way – now, we were going to make even less, thanks to the shameless rip-off of this criminal company.

 

In the 48 hours that have followed Bill Harry and Jim Berkenstadt’s revelation, two remarkable things have happened:

 

ONE…we discovered that NWCBooks.com is not actually giving customers free downloads of our books. It is using the registration information of greedy book hunters to steal their credit card information and financial identities onto their computers. When the “customers” go to that website, they are told that for 48 hours, they can download free books to their hearts’ content, but then after that, they will have to pay a minimal monthly fee, and yes, (you guessed it) they are asked to supply a credit card number. Once that credit card number is logged in, “Gotcha!” It’s a phishing scheme. A con. (As we say in Liverpool, NWC is a “Yeggman”…a thief.)

 

More about that later. As Paul Harvey used to say back in the Sixties, stay tuned for “the rest of the story.”

 

But TWO…something magical happened along the way to solving this problem. Berkenstadt wrote to all of our other Fest authors (Gunderson, Robustelli, Stagg, Womack, Schmidt, Sussman, O’Toole, Spizer, Boron, Berman, Whitney, Sterlace, Edelson, Duchaj, Leonard, Krerowicz, Buskin, Bedford, Rodriguez,) and I wrote to a few others (Hemmingsen, Baird, Lewisohn, and Davis) and together we circled the wagons.

 

Buskin, Leonard, and Robustelli immediately contacted publishers. Bedford located similar sites that were doing the exact same thing and alerted us all. (I’ll list those for you at the end of this blog.) My husband, Rande, e-mailed Book Baby – a large e-book company – and informed them that they were being ripped off; he got them involved. Berkenstadt sent all of the authors “Cease and Desist forms” to fill out and send in. Jim Berkenstadt also found a link to send to Google, to give them a “heads up” about this very serious problem. We all worked together to solve the dilemma.

 

And this is remarkable. We worked together. That isn’t typical of all artists (be they authors, musicians, dancers, painters, whatever). In many cases, artists are competitive. Often, they are isolated and jealous of others in their field. Primarily, they work alone.

 

But in The Beatles World (a world largely held together by Mark, Carol, Jessica, and Michelle Lapidos who throw two “class reunions” or “Thanksgiving weekends” for us each year), we are a family. We reach out to one another, encourage each other, help each other sell books at our booths, edit each other’s works, run ideas and historical mysteries by each other, ask for advice, introduce one another to primary sources that we’ve encountered along the way whom others have not met, encourage each other, and in this case, protect one another. For authors to band together in this way is rare. The love of The Beatles is evident in all we do and in all we are.

 

That is remarkable. And now…for the rest of the story.

 

Once we discovered that our PDF’s (or e-books) were not being downloaded free of charge – that this NWC was a scam, a phishing scheme – we could have sighed relief, shrugged, and walked away. I mean, the foul shenanigans didn’t really affect us at all. But none of us wanted to do that. Every single Beatles author was committed to sending out the paperwork and completing the email forms that stopped these criminals from taking advantage of those who loved The Beatles.

 

Hopefully, no one in our immediate Beatles family would have opted to cheat us by downloading free copies of our books, but there are others out in the world who might have done so. And using our books as bait to hurt someone was repulsive to us. Even though it didn’t affect us personally, our Fest for Beatles Fans authors continued to be proactive. To stop this.

 

That is the legacy of John, Paul, George and Ringo. We reach out to others in love. We act upon good intentions. We stand in the gap for our fellow man whether that means refusing to play for segregated audiences or visiting fans who were injured in the hospital (The Beatles actually did these things) or whether it means stopping criminals from preying upon those interested in The Fab Four.

 

Through this recent incident, I saw very clearly that the standards set by those four Liverpool boys are still being held high…fifty-five years later. We are indeed a special group of people. And whether we are Beatles fans or Beatles tribute musicians or Beatles vendors or Beatles authors, we never forget the unique friendship and love those boys held for one another. It is the legacy that binds us together today.


Jude Southerland Kessler is the author of the John Lennon Series: www.johnlennonseries.com

 

Jude is represented by 910 Public Relations — @910PubRel on Twitter and 910 Public Relations on Facebook.

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Not What I Appear To Be

John Lennon couldn’t get a word right. From childhood, he inadvertently mastered the art of being misunderstood. As early as Mosspits Kindergarten, John was expelled for belligerence, and by the time he made his way to Quarrybank Grammar (his high school), John was – as he flippantly phrased it – “sus-pen-dooed.”

 

Sure, there were plenty of times, I’m certain, when John was impudent, in his own right. He could dish out satirical taunts with the best of them. However, I firmly believe that quite often his reputation preceded him and that the bad press John received wasn’t always really deserved.

 

Take, for example, the famous quote attributed to our Mr. Lennon:

 

“Ringo isn’t the best drummer in Liverpool. He isn’t even the best drummer in The Beatles.”

 

I’ve heard this insult attributed to John on radio shows, in speeches, and during panel discussions filled with scholars. But the truth of the matter is, John never said this! And Beatles Guru Mark Lewisohn agrees. A few years ago, in fact, Lewisohn set out to prove that this awful quote was never uttered by John, and he carefully traced the comment to comedian Jasper Carrot in 1983.[i] As Lewisohn astutely pointed out, this was never the sort of thing John Lennon would have said.

 

What, then, did the real John Lennon have to say about Ringo’s drumming? Well, in The Anthology,[ii] he states quite clearly, “Ringo’s a damn good drummer. He was always a good drummer. He’s not technically good, but I think Ringo’s drumming is underrated the same way Paul’s bass playing is underrated…I think Ringo and Paul stand up anywhere with any of the rock musicians!”

 

Sadly, so few people repeat that quote.

 

I’m sure John wasn’t surprised that he was given, erm, “credit” for petulant phrases. On the 1964 tour, this sort of thing happened rather regularly. Take this interview that occurred in Cincinnati where (according to many biographers!) John sniped at a reporter who suggested that The Beatles should be able to handle the fans without police support. Time and again, you’ll read that John sneered at the man and spat, “Well, maybe you could. You’re fatter than us!” But here is what really occurred, transcribed from the Cincinnati press conference.

 

Reporter 4: You four ought to be able to handle the crowds without all the police presence. Why don’t you just walk right through?

George: (Incensed) Well, y’ can’t go leapin’ into a crowd of 30,000, can you?

Paul: (Smoking and trying to over-talk George, who is clearly agitated) You can’t go up the middle, y’know.

George: They’d pull you apart y’ see! So, for everybody’s sake…

Reporter 4: You ought to be able to handle it…

George: (Browned off) Well, maybe you could because you’re fatter ’n us!

John says not a word and looks away.[iii]

 

Similarly, just a few minutes later – according to the “experts” – John fired another angry retort at the press. But here is the actual exchange…and it’s not John who’s annoyed by a reporter’s inane question.

 

Reporter 5: What excuse do you have for your collar-length hair?

John: (Shrugging) It just grows out of our heads…

Paul: (Still irritated by the last question) We don’t need an excuse. You need an excuse![iv]

 

The room, of course, broke into waves of laughter, but John sighed, knowing that by morning, the interview’s sharp retorts would be credited to him. Any sarcastic comment immediately became his territory. When he rang Mimi back in Liverpool, and she fussed about his “overt rudeness” to the press, John would try to tell her it had been George’s observation this time or Paul’s remark. But no one would believe him, not even his own aunt.

 

So, it’s no surprise that by the summer of 1966, the American press and DJs across the country over-reacted to a very complicated and in-depth observation that John made to Maureen Cleave in a lengthy interview.[v] That comment – condensed by Datebook magazine into an arrogant sound-bite – became “the last straw for Lennon.” A victim of erroneous and out-of-context citing, John was attacked ferociously and forced to apologize over and over and over and over for something he didn’t actually say as it was reported. Pieces of his conversation had been left out of his comment. The full truth had been omitted.

 

The problem is that once a public figure develops a reputation for being “a bad boy” (or girl), the image is difficult to shrug off. And once the press turns on you, they rarely reverse the trend.

 

Let me hasten to say that the journalists who traveled with The Beatles during “the long and winding” 1964 North American Tour, to a man (or woman), loved John. Larry Kane said that John was The Beatle with whom he developed the closest relationship. And, so did Ivor Davis.[vi] And. most assuredly, Art Schreiber. Helen Shapiro will gladly tell you that on her 1963 tour, John did more to help her and bolster her spirits than any of the other Beatles. He was her friend.

 

Which only goes to show that getting to know someone rather than accusing them from a distance is the best policy. An old Native American adage says this: “Never judge a man until you have walked two moons in his moccasins.” Translated, we find: “Never judge anyone until you have lived in his or her world for at least two months.” That’s a sound rule of thumb.

 

If only we could learn something important from the way John was treated by those who had no idea that he “was not what he appeared[ed] to be,” if only we could glean a truth from it…wouldn’t the world be a better place?

 


[i] “Who’s Sleeping in Groucho Marx’s Bed?” The London Times, 8 March 2013: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/whos-been-sleeping-in-groucho-marxs-bed-90qdw77pcjg

[ii] The Anthology, p. 81. Direct quote from John Lennon.

[iii] You can see this question being posed and answered here. http://www.cincinnati.com/videos/entertainment/music/2014/08/27/14706123/ Several sources including Miles, The Beatles Diary, Vol. 1, 162 and Badman, 119 blame John for this irritated line of patter. You can clearly see that John does not deliver the line. He says nothing. George is the one speaking.

[iv] Bracey, David. “What’s Future for Beatles?” Cincinnait Enquirer, 28 August 1964, found at: http://www.meetthebeatlesforreal.com/search?q=Cincinnati+1964 A brief transcript of this interview can be found in Badman’s The Beatles: Off the Record, 119. However, Badman credits John with the retort, “Well, it grows out of my head and John with “We don’t need an excuse. You need an excuse.”

[v] Cleave, Maureen, “How Does a Beatle Live?”

[vi] Davis, Ivor, The Beatles and Me on Tour, p. 83. Davis states, “I got to know and appreciate John the best.”


Jude Southerland Kessler is the author of the John Lennon Series: www.johnlennonseries.com

 

Jude is represented by 910 Public Relations — @910PubRel on Twitter and 910 Public Relations on Facebook.

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The Case for The Beatles

My bestie, author Lanea Stagg, and I came up with a “scathingly brilliant idea” (as Hayley Mills was so fond of saying in the 1963 film, Summer Magic): we’d pair up and conduct a series of debates on the topic of “Beatles vs. Stones.” I, of course, volunteered to take the case of my lads from Liddypool, The Beatles. And Lanea, since she’s just released a hot, new book on The Stones – The Rolling Scones: Let’s Spend the Bite Together – agreed to rep Mick, Keith, et al.

 

The debates begin in two short weeks, so I thought I’d enlist the aid of my Beatles Family in reviewing my “Case for The Beatles.” No group of people is better equipped to say “yea” or “nay” to my assembled evidence. Lanea and I will compare the two bands in several strategic categories. Here are a few of them:

 

  1. Accomplishments

 

Without breaking a sweat (or even batting a mascaraed eye), I was able to list two full pages of Beatles accomplishments. (To see them all, I’ve pinned them to the top of my Facebook page for you from Sept. 25-Oct. 15.) No other group in history reached the unfathomable heights that John, Paul, George, and Ringo did. They created the concept of stadium concerts (via their Shea appearance). They were the first rock’n’roll group allowed to perform at Carnegie Hall. Of their 18 singles, 17 went to #1. They won 10 GRAMMY awards and are listed as “the one group who most influenced other bands of the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and today.” The full list of their stellar achievements will be pinned to the top of my “Jude Southerland Kessler’s John Lennon Series” Facebook page from Sept. 25-Oct. 15. Stop by and marvel. Your boys’ accomplishments are unequaled.

 

  1. Childhoods/Backgrounds

 

The Beatles achieved “in spite of.” Indeed, their successes are far greater than they first seem when you realize the obstacles they had to overcome.

 

In the late 1950’s/early 1960’s, Liverpool was ridiculed, snubbed, and generally looked down upon. The London music moguls of that day thought nothing good could come from Liverpool…well, except comedians like Jimmy Tarbuck and Max Miller. Certainly, no respectable singer/songwriters ever hailed from the bitterly cold, industrial, and “yobbish” North. And yet, The Beatles did. Proudly decked in Scouse humor and accents, the four Liverpool boys stepped boldly onto the cosmopolitan music scene where middle-class, London-born singers such as The Rolling Stones claimed birthright. And despite their meagre, Northern beginnings, The Beatles found a way to fit in. No, they found a way to triumph. That in itself was jaw-dropping enough to make the critics sit up and take notice: “From Liverpool? Indeed!”

 

Furthermore, three of the four Beatles were Irish…another hindrance to fame. In England of the early Sixties, being Irish was not a calling card. In fact, it bore a stigma that only John, Paul, George, and Ringo could erase.

 

  1. Motivation for Becoming Rock Stars

 

The Stones, as we all know, dug blues. Passionately, they wanted to bring that raw, unpolished, edgy sound into mainstream music. And they achieved that goal. Furthermore, to their credit, they were able (with various personnel changes along the way) to keep their band together for 50 some-odd years. Amazing! But their reasons for reaching for stardom were artistic and altruistic while The Beatles (John, really) HAD to get to the “toppermost of the poppermost” to exist, to carry on. To John, music was life.

 

Ninety-per cent of you are nodding at this point. You know that myriad tragedies in John’s childhood and teen years rocked his world. When his mother, Julia, surrendered John to his Uncle George and Aunt Mimi to raise (for complicated reasons), John’s spirit was lacerated. And hardly had it healed before John discovered that his mother had two other children – precious little girls named Jacqui and Julia – whom she gladly kept with her. In other words, it wasn’t children that his mother didn’t want. It was, he reasoned, just him. After that dark revelation, John’s wounds refused to heal. Other losses followed quickly, crushing John in a way that few humans have ever been crushed. When at age 14, his beloved Uncle George died, John fell into hysteria. And, by the time his mother was brutally killed, sixteen-year-old John felt completely alone; he felt deserted and left behind.

 

Irrationally, John longed for revenge. He ached to become rich, famous, and powerful so that he could prove to everyone who had shunned him and “abandoned him” that he WAS good enough, smart enough, and valuable enough to be loved. He wanted to “show” Mimi how wrong she was for throwing away his childhood drawings instead of treasuring them, as other mothers did. He wanted to “show” Julia that she shoulda been there for him all along, as it were. He wanted to demonstrate to the world that despite the “chip on [his] shoulder that [was] bigger than [his] feet,” he was a genius. John had to prove that he mattered.

 

THAT was the motivation that propelled his group to fame. It was a life’s obsession, a core need that would let nothing stand in its way. No other band was so deeply motivated. No other band would put up with anything, sacrifice anything, work unceasingly, and even surrender self to grasp the brass ring. But The Beatles would…and they did.

 

  1. Music

 

Certainly, it’s difficult to deny the gutsy appeal of The Stones. Nothing gets you out of your seat like “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” And yes, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” is a gas-gas-gas! But, on the other hand, who can resist the irreverent “Revolution” or the poignancy of “Yesterday”? Who can deny the mad power of “Helter Skelter,” the breathtaking harmonies of “This Boy” and “Yes, It Is”? Who could but stand in awe at the diversity found in “I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party” (country) vs. “Within You, Without You” (world music) vs. “When I’m 64” (vaudeville) vs. “She Said She Said” (psychedelia) vs. “In My Life” (romantic ballad) vs “I’m Down” (rock’n’roll). The Beatles can hold their own in any genre! With 20 Number Ones to their name, The Fab Four (who were only together from 1962 when Ringo joined them until 1970) have a repertoire gathers no moss…if you know what I mean. To achieve musical prowess, they left no stone unturned. Ahem!

 

By the time you read this blog, our “grand debate” will be over. But it’s my prediction that The Beatles (not me, The Beatles) will do what they have always done…blow the doors off! Winning an Academy Award for their first film – when they had NO experience in making movies – surprised every cynical critic in Hollywood. John’s well-deserved Foyles Literary Award for his first book, In His Own Write, was another amazing coup, well out of John’s wheelhouse.  But The Beatles always did whatever it took to be the very best!

 

In fact, to summarize, in the words of author Lanea Stagg of Recipe Records: A Culinary Tribute to The Beatles, “The Beatles were the sweetest thing to happen to the 60’s and…they continue to sweeten, soften, and lead music today. No other band has impacted music as much as The Beatles, nor left such an impressive legacy.”

 

And there, Beatles Family, I rest my case.

 

To find out more about Lanea Stagg, go to http://www.laneastagg.com


Jude Southerland Kessler is the author of the John Lennon Series: www.johnlennonseries.com

 

Jude is represented by 910 Public Relations — @910PubRel on Twitter and 910 Public Relations on Facebook.

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P.S. We Love You

By Jude Southerland Kessler

A note to Mark and Carol Lapidos on the advent of the 41st annual Fest for Beatles Fans

 

My brilliant mother (the oh-so-quotable Maxine Southerland) used to warn me, “Jude, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” She believed that “Plans” (with a capital P) were useless unless one actually acted upon them. Worse than useless – a waste of time!

 

American author, Henry David Thoreau, strongly agreed, although – unfortunately for him – he never met Mrs. Maxine. Thoreau wrote, “If you have built your castles in the air…that is where they should be! Now, put the foundations under them!” In other words, dream…but then do.

 

The Beatles were living examples of that maxim. They were boys who dreamed big and then worked their ever-lovin’ guts out to make those far-flung dreams reality. They were tireless in their pursuit of “the toppermost of the poppermost,” working 10-12 hours a day without complaining to achieve their goal.

 

And it is the same with Mark and Carol Lapidos, the creators and directors of The Fest for Beatles Fans. Many of you have been to multiple fests without ever meeting Mark and Carol. You may have seen them handing out bracelets or fighting fires or greeting you warmly without even knowing whom you were addressing. They never make The Fest about them. In fact, they intentionally fade into the background to make sure that those three magical days in New Jersey (in March) and in Chicago (in August) are all about The Beatles.

 

But for 41 years now, this very happily married couple (a feat in itself in our age) and their two creative daughters, Michelle Joni and Jessica, have given their lives to the concept Mark dreamed up four decades ago. They have devoted themselves utterly to The Fest for Beatles Fans.

 

Forty-three years ago, Mark Lapidos had a dream. And without shying away or procrastinating or letting “life happen with its other plans,” Mark found a way to meet with John Lennon in New York City and ask John for his endorsement of this imagined festival celebrating the Fab Four. Mark tells this truly goose-bumpy story at the Fest for all to hear, so I won’t “spoil the party” by divulging the details. But suffice it to say, out of that courageous visit to John Lennon, the Fest for Beatles fans was born.

 

To my way of thinking, getting in to see John Lennon was coup enough. I struggle to get my interviews. It is thrilling to me to even visit with people who were part of The Beatles’ entourage! Give me a chauffeur, a Cavern Club doorman, a traveling journalist on one of The Beatles’ tours, and I’m in seventh heaven! But, Mark Lapidos took matters all the way to the top…straight to the man who conceived The Beatles, hand-picked his group, and kept them together in good times and in bad. Mark went to John Winston Lennon. To me, that is remarkable.

 

But Mr. L(apidos) did much, much more. He began planning the Fest, partnering with his fiancé and later, wife, to work long hours “eight days a week” to book hotels, schedule conference rooms, supply food and drink, check on parking conditions, secure noted speakers, book Beatles notables, haul merchandise to Fest sites, set up decorations, make certain that electrical and AV equipment was working, and hire an extensive staff of trusted, responsible, impressive Fest employees to work for months insuring that each event was a roaring success. And hey, I’m only touching on the proverbial tip of the iceberg! There is soooooo much more to carrying off a mammoth event such as this. So much more.

 

And listen, the thing is…Mark and Carol and Jessica and Michelle didn’t just do this for a year or five or ten. They made it happen (extremely well) year after year after year through times when babies were born, when parents passed away, when the economy was awful, when hotels fell into disrepair and new venues had to be sought, when equipment failed, when storms rocked the area, when they were happy, and when they were sad. They endured for 41 years, no matter what.

 

The Lapidos family has been giving Beatles fans “a home away from home” and a place to reunite for 41 years. Theirs isn’t a story of “shoulda, woulda, coulda.” Theirs is the story of “been there, DONE THAT!” But they don’t say that in a jaded, bored way. Nope, 41-years-in, they are still uber-excited to present the Fest to you, thrilled to say “a splendid time is guaranteed for all,” and “happy just to dance with you.” Their hearts are still 100% invested in the hands-on running of this wonderful festival. They care.

 

So, I want you to see their photo (below, with Joey Molland, Albert Lee, and Mark Hudson)…and I’m asking each of you to seek them out at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare in Chicago, Aug. 11-13 and thank them. I’m asking you, if you’d be so kind, to simply shake their hands or give them a hug and tell them from the heart how much you appreciate what they’ve given us all for lo these many years. I don’t think a simple “thank you” is out of order, do you?

 

And…ahem!!!!…if I were Paul McCartney or Ringo Starr, I would make it a point to show up one year and thank them as well…thank them for a lifetime of “putting the foundations under” a long-ago dream that has kept Beatles fans united, excited, and informed.

 

Mark and Carol, the Beatles authors of your Fests salute you! We are so proud to be associated with you. To us (although you are our age and younger, in many cases, than we are) you are our parents. You make us into family, and we love you! Thank you from our Beatle-y hearts.


Jude Southerland Kessler is the author of the John Lennon Series: www.johnlennonseries.com

 

Jude is represented by 910 Public Relations — @910PubRel on Twitter and 910 Public Relations on Facebook.

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There is No Try

It’s a film classic: the moment that Yoda advises young Luke Skywalker, “Do or do not. There is no try.”

 

It’s truly the motto that John Lennon lived by. He was completely and utterly committed to “the toppermost of the poppermost,” in a never-say-die way that permitted no room for failure. John was determined.

 

In fact, after The Beatles returned from Hamburg in December of 1960, Paul’s father convinced him to return to school and complete his teacher-training. George took a job as an electrician’s mate, and Pete began playing gigs with various groups around Liverpool with whom he was friendly. For The Beatles, it was almost the end.

 

But Johnny Lennon – his eyes on the prize – went door-to -door, dragging his band members back to their raison d’etre. “What’re y’doin’???” he exhorted them. “Y’can’t get a fuggin’ job! There’s no time for it! We’re goin’ to be bigger’n Elvis! We’re goin’ to the toppermost of the fuggin’ poppermost!” And so, they surrendered: dropped out of school, gave up the job, zeroed in on one band: pledged their allegiance. It was a decision to do, not to try.

 

Soooo…each year for the last 12 years, I’ve written to you, urging you to come to The Fest for Beatles Fans. And each year, you read this familiar blog (in its many forms) and say, “Man, I gotta do that! Next year I totally am gonna be there…for sure.” And then year becomes year, and you only try. You never do.

 

And you know what? You are missing one of the happiest, brightest moments in any Beatles fan’s life. You are relinquishing some of the most priceless, unforgettable events a fan could experience…such as:

 

Chatting face-to-face with Ringo’s producer and friend, Mark Hudson, and then watching him rock the stage on Saturday night, performing “Working Class Hero” in a mad, mad, mad, mad way that would make our John so proud!

 

Hearing noted Beatles author Bruce Spizer talk at noon on Saturday about Sgt. Pepper and its impact not only on the Sixties, but also on the lives of thousands (millions?) today.

 

Dancing with your family (children are oh-so-welcome!!!!) on Friday night to the magnificent sounds of the live band, “Liverpool.”

 

Shopping in the vast marketplace where gorgeous Beatles jewelry, clothing, T-shirts, room furnishings, and rare collectibles are displayed here, there, and everywhere. Talking with distinguished authors such as Dr. Ken Womack, Lanea Stagg, Dr. Kit O’Toole, Vivek Tiwary, Aaron Krerowicz, Robert Rodriguez, Jorie Gracen, and Simon Weitzman.

 

Being present for the showing of author David Bedford’s new film, Looking for Lennon…sitting back and enjoying this magnificent work up close and personal!

 

Meeting Ringo’s musical director, Mark Rivera! Meeting John Lennon’s immigration attorney, Leon Wildes! Good grief! Enough said, right???? That’s huge!

 

Taking part in the fun-filled Beatles Trivia contest led by noted Beatles writers Al Sussman and Tom Frangione. (You’ll also want to get a copy of Al’s book!)

 

Sitting on the floor or in the folding chairs under the stairs and singing along (or playing along on your guitar, tambourine, uke, or whatever) as the “pop-up bands” stay up all night long, performing every Beatles song ever written…and doing it beautifully, I might add.

 

Hearing Laurence Juber, Denny Laine, Denny Seiwell, and Steve Holley bring Wings back to life before your very eyes on the Saturday night and Sunday night stages! A rare reunion indeed!

 

Enjoying a lively (and I do mean lively) interview with comedian Neil Innes of The Ruttles! OMGosh!

 

Taking a virtual tour of Liverpool to rare places “Off the Beatle-n Path” with me (Jude Southerland Kessler, as it were) on Saturday morning at 11 a.m. You’ll see historical spots in The Beatles’ career that few have ever glimpsed!

 

Blinking back a tear or two as you view Wally, Victoria, and Deco’s stunning tribute to Brian Epstein!

 

Attending the lively Women Historians’ Panel with Beatles experts Susan Ryan, Sara Schmidt, Allison Boron, Erika White, Kit O’Toole, Tina Kukula, Karen Duchaj, and Kathryn Cox as they discuss “The Sixth Beatle” (on Saturday) and “The Beatles’ Activism” (on Sunday).

 

Stopping by the Marketplace to try on and place your order for authentic Beatles suits, jackets, and other clothing hand-tailored by Russ Lease!

 

Strolling through the impressive art gallery of Eric Cash…and selecting a lovely and valuable piece to adopt for your very own.

 

Spending Sunday afternoon rockin’ out to the fab-tastic sound of The Weeklings!

 

Living a moment in history with George Harrison’s sister, Louise Harrison.

 

Listening and taking part in Wally Podrazik’s well-organized, insightful panel discussions with some of the most respected Beatles experts in the world: Robert Rodriguez, Chuck Gunderson, Bruce Spizer, Al Sussman, and many others.

 

Talking with Ringo’s official photographer, Rob Shanahan, as you peruse his gallery of rare, magnificent photos.

 

Being “there” for the first appearances of many new faces on The Beatles scene including poet Terri Whitney, author Greg Sterlace, and Chicago Beatles Fan Club organizer Marti Edwards.

 

And that is just a smidgen of the magic that unfolds when The Fest shines on!

 

If you’re going to say, “Okay, sure, I’ll try to be there,” don’t. Stop. DO OR DO NOT. THERE IS NO TRY. In John Lennon fashion, I’m knocking on your door. I am begging you to halt that work-a-day electrician’s mate job (at least for the weekend) and set your sights on something better.

 

I’m pleading with you to drop that mundane class (for three days only!) and opt for pure joy. I am asking you to give yourself the gift of a lifetime…a gift of memories and friendships to take home with you…smiles, sighs, songs, and stories. The Fest for Beatles Fans is sincerely the “toppermost of the poppermost.” Be there…DO!


Jude Southerland Kessler is the author of the John Lennon Series: www.johnlennonseries.com

 

Jude is represented by 910 Public Relations — @910PubRel on Twitter and 910 Public Relations on Facebook.

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An Injured Poem?

“A song is an injured poem

Which leans on music for its strength.”

                Anonymous

 

Or worded in plain-speak: “Songs are mostly appreciated based on the accompanying music.”[1]

 

This is the standard English teachers’ rule to which The Beatles hold myriad exceptions. In fact, literally hundreds of lines from Beatles’ tunes – throughout the span of their career – stand alone as poignant, memorable poetry.

 

Take for example, the haunting warning, “One day, you’ll look to see I’m gone. But tomorrow many rain, so…I’ll follow the sun.” Poetry! Tune, or no tune to back it up.

 

Or consider:

 

“It’s only love and that is all.

Why should I feel the way I do?

It’s only love…and that is all.

But it’s so hard – loving you.”

 

Read that verse aloud, without the music, and what you will find is the complete helplessness of the writer – the frustration and pain of loss – a loss made even more evident in the tuneless void. Spoken without the magical music behind the words, there is nothing to soften the blow. What you discover is a lover desperately trying to shrug off the intensity of his feelings and forebodings – and failing miserably. Utterly. You witness a very private moment and an unforgettable one. And that, my friend, is poetry.

 

The Beatles were, indeed, poets whose music only enhanced the strength of their compositions. Their lyrics are works of art, and “in their own write,” they succeed.

 

My favorite line from the immense Beatles catalog is, surprisingly, not a Lennon line. But I like to think that Paul was addressing his words to John – that he was reminding his old friend of the lifelong connection the two of them shared, despite the difficulties they were encountering in the moment. That image, in itself, injects the words with raw emotion. But the couplet also has a second level of meaning as my husband, Rande, and I prepare to celebrate our 40th Wedding Anniversary on 23 June.

 

You and I have memories

Longer than the road that stretches out ahead.

 

Sad, but true, I think. Although (who knows?) we may be lucky. My parents celebrated 72 years together. Dare we hope for 80? Perhaps. Though reality nudges me to admit that Paul’s affectionate and haunting line is probably closer to the truth.

 

The first time I heard these words, I was sitting in the lobby of the Gibson Guitar Factory in Memphis, Tennessee, waiting to take the tour. The invisible powers-that-be behind the scenes were playing The Beatles – as it should be – and the quiet group listened. I had heard “Two of Us” countless times, I’m sure. But I’d never really absorbed the words until they filtered into that immense room…until the poetry swirled over and around the atrium, washing every patron in deep emotion. Instantly, my eyes filled with tears…for my parents who were in their early 90’s and sitting with us that afternoon, for my husband and me – and yes, for Paul and John. It was a tender moment.

 

Beatlesongs. So many of the lyrics could stand alone without any music to lean on – mature, complete in themselves, needing nothing more. But why should they stand alone? When the poetry inherent in “In My Life” can be accompanied by the perfect melody, why not have the best of both worlds? Why not enjoy the whole package? We can be selfish, Beatles fans! We are blessed.

 

But if you had to pare down their songs to the lyrics alone…pare them down to the poetry – the most memorable words – which lines have touched your heart the most? Which lines from a song by John, Paul, George, or Ringo have stayed with you throughout the years? And why?

 

Please take a moment and share your thoughts with us here at The Fest…and you could win a collector’s tin of Beatles coasters! Just respond in our Comments section and in two weeks, we’ll draw a winner from the responses we receive. We truly love hearing from you, and we hope you enjoy taking a moment from the hectic, work-a-day world to revel in the music and poetry of The Fab Four.

 

Let’s talk Beatles. Let’s talk poetry.


[1] http://www.differencebetween.net/miscellaneous/difference-between-poetry-and-song/


Jude Southerland Kessler is the author of the John Lennon Series: www.johnlennonseries.com

 

Jude is represented by 910 Public Relations — @910PubRel on Twitter and 910 Public Relations on Facebook.

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Act, Naturally!

I have a serious confession to make: I prefer Help! to A Hard Day’s Night.

 

Yes, yes, I know. A Hard Day’s Night won two Academy Awards. It’s the artsier of the two films, capturing in black-and-white the vivid symbolism of Beatlemania’s captive, life-in-a-box existence. In close-quartered scenes (a railroad car, a tiny backstage Green Room, a darkened hallway) the film emphasizes the asphyxia of Beatlemania. I get it.

 

But Help! – that droll, clever, tongue-in-cheek James Bond spoof – has been (almost as much as Beatles music) the backdrop of my life. My husband, Rande, and I speak in Help!-ese.

 

When Rande begins some involved scientific or engineering-related explanation, I peer at him and say, “I believe you. Thousands wouldn’t.” And, when I flub something up – as I am wont to do – my husband drones, “Jeweler, you failed!”  I can’t count the times when one or the other of us has held up a hand and murmured, “Say no more.” Or the happy times when in a brief moment of victory, we’ve shouted, “With this I can (dare I say it?!) rule the world!”

 

Every year since 1965 on my birthday (much harder to accomplish before the advent of Beta, VHS, and then later DVDs) I have managed somehow to watch Help! and wolf down a Mexican TV dinner. It’s a cherished teen tradition I won’t let go. And every single bike ride we’ve undertaken in our married life has begun with in a circular loop or two while we chanted: “A man’s got to do what a man’s got to do” and argued about whether or not we should, in fact, go to the Temple. Help! is our thing.

 

However, all of this being said, I love A Hard Day’s Night, Yellow Submarine, Magical Mystery Tour, and Let it Be. They have had no small airplay around our home. The Beatles’ movies are endlessly watchable and quotable.

 

Brian Epstein was a marketing genius. He knew that his boys were supremely talented composers/lyricists/musicians. But, he also knew that they were equally adroit performers: natural comedians. The Beatles drew, in part, on the satiri-comical nature of Scousers. Liverpudlians are reared in an atmosphere they refer to as “mickey-takin’” (smarting off to anyone and everyone at will). And to ice that pound-you cake, Scousers cut their teeth on the vaudevillian Music Hall tradition so well represented by Arthur Askey and “The Cheeky Chappie,” Max Miller. They grew up with swift, witty retorts.

Brian knew that the boys’ penchant for repartée would woo audiences, and screenwriter Alun Owen was Scouse enough to capture that repartée authentically and wise enough to let the boys (especially John) improvise as often as they wanted to improvise. Therefore, The Beatles’ films blossomed with brilliant banter.

 

Honestly, the question, “Which film is the best Beatles’ film?” has no “right” answer. The answer is individual. Flower Children of the late 1960s adore Magical Mystery Tour. Stark realists lean toward the all-too truthful scenes of Let It Be. And even though they don’t actually star in Yellow Submarine, the entire nature of the film is inspired by John, Paul, George, and Ringo, so it must be included as well. Indeed, many Second Gen fans were reared on the “I’ve got a hole in m’pocket” script. The colourful cartoon was their introduction to the Fab Four. So….

 

Which Beatles “fil-um” (as Liverpudlians pronounce it) and which scene in that film is your all-time fav? Is it John Lennon’s hallway bit in A Hard Day’s Night? (“She looks more like him than I do!”) Is it the press conference clip? (“No, actually we’re just good friends.”) Which scene in which Beatles movie do you most cherish?

 

Just as you did last week, please post at the end of this blog, and let’s share a conversation with one another. Let’s remember the good times, inspiring moments, and memories to which we still cling. Shoot a quick comment our way, and in 2 weeks, we’ll have a random drawing from all of those who posted…and we’ll award a Beatles-related film as the prize.

 

One lucky person will receive a copy of Good Ol’ Freda, the beloved story of Freda Kelly who served as the head of The Beatles Fan Club and worked in the Liverpool NEMS for 12 years with “Mr. Brian.” It’s a great, great movie – a true inspiration for the whole family. You’ll adore it.

 

Remember, there are no “correct answers” to these two questions. We’d just love to chat together and enjoy the discussion. In the words of British author, E. M. Forrester, “ONLY CONNECT.”

 

We’re waiting to hear from you.


Jude Southerland Kessler is the author of the John Lennon Series: www.johnlennonseries.com

 

Jude is represented by 910 Public Relations — @910PubRel on Twitter and 910 Public Relations on Facebook.

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Tell Me What You See

Jude talks about her #1 favorite moment in Beatles history…what was yours? Tell us YOUR fav Fab moment! We want to hear from you! We’ll draw a name from all responses to win a Beatles gift package. Read on…

 

I’ve always longed for a magic time machine. I have no desire at all to whisk away to the future (where I’ll have even more wrinkles than I presently have! Geez!). No, my dream of dreams is to go to the past…to land squarely inside The Cavern Club on Thursday, 5 April 1962 just as the evening set is about to get started:

 

What a night! Freda’s here. She’s standing in her usual lunchtime spot just under the first arch. It’s rare for her to be here of an evening, but this is a special night. One-of-a-kind.

 

You see, Brian has – without making a big deal of it – decided to make this night a sort of debutante’s
“coming out” party. With his usual command of the dramatic, he’s planned a never-to-be-forgotten set.

 

The posters call it “The Beatles: For Their Fans,” and all week long, compère Bob Wooler has proclaimed it as “a singular soiree for the beauteous Beatlettes ’n all ’n sundry Beatles devotees.” The show’s to be one-of-a-kind: during the first set, John, Paul, George, and Pete Best are to bound out from the Green Room in their traditional, tight leathers and to offer up random, uncensored raucous favorites that’ll shake “the Cavern dandruff” from the ceiling and set the room on fire.

 

Then, after a short break, the lads are to emerge again, this time wearing (for the first time ever in The Cavern) their new, exquisite Beno Dorn suits. This set is to be guided by a strict playlist, good manners, and deep bows from the waist. Brian, you see, is introducing loyal fans to the newly re-engineered Fab Four – the group that will soon leave Liverpool behind and step onto the world stage.

 

I would give almost anything to experience that night…to feel the passion and energy in the room when the boys opened the first set with “Some Other Guy” and closed with “Twist and Shout.” I’d love to see John snarl at the girls calling Paul’s name and see Paul’s puckered brow when John made the front three rows swoon. I’d love to hear the inside jokes and perspire in the heat (some of it, at least, from the temperature in the underground room). And as an historian, I feel the need to experience the dead hush that raced across the floor when the suited Beatles emerged, full-blown in their finery – and to understand the sobs, when the Liverpool girls who had known the boys all too well realized that they were losing them.

 

5 April 1962 touched every end of the emotional spectrum. It was the happiest night ever in the Cavern. And it was the most tragic. Of all of the moments in Beatles history that preceded this night or followed after, to me, this was the most important. On that one evening, the wacks from Liverpool (through their own tacit agreement with Brian Epstein) became men of the world. They made the conscious choice to say a fond and loving “good-bye” to their dearest ones Merseyside and then, to walk away.

 

That’s my “go-to moment.” That’s the Beatles memory I’d most love to relive. What’s yours?

 

If you could wander back in time and experience one Beatles event, what would it be? Share your story; email us. Tell us where you’d like to go and why. And from the entries we receive, we’ll send one winner (drawn at random) a gift pack including a signed and dated copy of Shoulda Been There (Vol. 1 in The John Lennon Series), a signed and dated “Doors of Liverpool” art poster, and a copy of Recipe Records: A Culinary Tribute to The Beatles.

 

To add some more fun to this blog, here’s a chapter from my new book, Shivering Inside

5 April 1962

The Cavern Club

Liverpool

 

Music drifted in from the vaulted room – Bob Wooler was indeed testing the platters he’d spin: finding the right crescendo of music, the perfect blend of tension and anticipation. Wooler played one hit after another, listening.  

 

For the moment, The Cavern was hollow – echoing sound. It was a cool sepulcher waiting to be filled, a gaping hole in the ground, yawning for bodies to make it viable.

 

 “Evenin’ Beatles.” Neil scuffed in, his arms loaded with four large zip bags, each neatly monogrammed with the Beno Dorn insignia. “Suits here!” he said. He hung the elegant covers on the tiny metal rolling rack they called a “wardrobe.” “Though I must say,” he smirked, “you three look quite smashin’ in that fab gear! I almost recognize you, y’know.”

 

“’Ullo, everyone.” Pete strolled in, his Bobby Darin coif curled to perfection. “Have y’seen the queue out there? Subzero climes, but the line’s well out into Stanley anyway.”

 

“And why not?” Neil unzipped the garment bags and fluffed each suit individually. “It’s yer goin’ away bash, yer swan song – the last hurrah before Hamburg, isn’t it?”

 

 George pointed to the large poster Bob had hung on the band room wall. It was a photograph of the four of them staring haughtily, almost disdainfully into the camera. Leather collars upturned, guitars slung across their shoulders or resting on their knees, they looked dark and dangerous. It was the same shot Bill Harry had chosen for the December issue of Mersey Beat. It was The Beatles as they had once been, before Brian Epstein.

 

 “The Beatles for Their Fans,” George read the poster caption aloud, “or An Evening with John, Paul, George (always third) and Pete. Sponsored by The Beatles Fan Club. The Cavern Club, Mathew Street, 5 April 1962, 7:30 p.m. Free photograph to all ticket holders.”

 

 “Oh,” John slipped his boots on. “I was wonderin’ what we were doin’ here.”

 

“Say…any lookers out there, in the queue?” Paul asked Pete.

 

“Said the free man,” John intoned. Paul had just broken it off with his long-time ‘gerl’ and Cynthia’s chum, Dot Rhone. Now the game was afoot.

 

“There’s a coupla o’ not-so-bads,” Pete grinned. “What’re y’after exactly?”

 

“Dunno,” Paul winked and clicked his cheek twice. “I’m footloose and fancy free. The wind’s at me back, mate!”

 

“Just where Eppy’d like to be,” John sneered.

 

“Gerroff, John!” Pete scowled. “Brian’s the perfect gentleman! I mean, all right, yeah, he propositioned me the once, but when I politely declined, he never brought it up, ever again.”

 

John smirked with delight. “There’s so many innuendos in that statement, I wouldn’t know where to begin!”

 

“I’m lockin’ ya in, lads!” Bob Wooler popped his head inside the tiny room. “Paddy’s openin’ the doors in five. They’ll be creepin’ and crawlin’ down, all those creatures of the cloister. They’ll be clawin’ at ya, if I don’t bar the way.” He stopped and smiled. “By the by…you look smashin’, one and all! I’d forgotten how workin’ class you four can be, when you really put yer minds to it.”

 

“Don’t go soft on us, Da,” John spat.

 

“You know, Johnny boy,” Bob tossed back, “me heart’ll be broken these next seven weeks with you so far away. I don’t know how I’ll manage, actually.”

 

“Cold winds may blow o’er the icy sea,” Paul crooned, “but we’ll take with we the warmth of thee…”

 

They laughed, while Wooler grinned and saluted before closing the battered, metal door.

 

“Seven weeks in Hamburg!” George’s eyes sparkled.

 

“Yeah, Hamburg…the place for us!” Paul was just as elated. He tossed his hair, then brushed his shoulder with a flannel guitar cloth.

 

“Astrid ’n Stu’ll be there to meet us…waitin’ for The Beatles in that little, grey Beetle of hers.” John’s tone changed at the very mention of his friends. “I had a post from her today.”

 

 “Right,” George swallowed, sensing bad news. “And uh…how is Stu this week, eh?”

 

“Not great.” But before John could wander down the path of anxiety, Paul steered the conversation back to anything that could spark pre-show confidence.

 

“Mersey Beat, y’know, just published this article about the fact that we’ve written ‘at least seventy original tunes’! Seventy!” He rallied them. “Can you believe it?”

 

 “Even George Martin ’n Parlophone should be impressed with information of that ilk!” George agreed.

 

“Eppy’s already posted him the article,” Paul nodded. “Sent it out first thing this mornin’.”

 

“Ah, post haste,” John punned weakly, his humour now forced.

 

“Did y’see in that same issue,” Pete interjected, “Virginia’s story that Ringo’s turned ’round and is leavin’ The Hurricanes…after all these years?”

 

“Really?” Paul and George snapped their heads around.

 

 “Right,” Pete shrugged, “accordin’ to her, Ring’s defectin’ to Derry and the Seniors.”

 

“Thasso?” George’s eyes were bright.

 

Suddenly, from the other side of the door the sound of feet pounding down stairs, voices chatting and laughing, and wooden chairs grating across concrete inundated them. Yells, coughs, whoops, insults – the sound of people being people grew and increased and swelled to noise. Just on the other side of the thin metal barrier that divided the boys from The Cavern were the punters – the fans, the Beatlettes, the believers, the horde of young men and women who had over and over again traipsed down thirteen potholed stairs to the murky, underground club.

 

 Tonight they had gathered to say goodbye. They’d come to wish The Beatles well and to send them off reluctantly to Hamburg’s Star- Club. They’d come to celebrate their lads’ success and to mourn over the forty-nine barren days to come.

 

The door opened a tad, and Brian inched in. “Showtime, boys,” he said quietly. “And it’s a packed house, mind you. Not an inch to spare. In fact, I’m not sure how you’ll navigate to the stage! Your fans, every one of them, have come out for you, as it were – sending back messages of good luck, Godspeed, ‘good on yer lads,’ or ‘play one for Vi’…that sort of thing.” He was talking in circles; John suspected pep pills. It had been Brian’s trend of late. “One girl in particular – Bernadette Farrell, I believe – said her brother has a camera, and he’ll be in the second row. She said to smile at him, if you don’t mind.”

 

“Well, I do mind,” John sniffed. “I make it a rule never to smile towards the second row.” Then he jammed his tongue behind his lower lip and crossed his eyes. “How’s that fer a second row grin, Eppy?” he employed his old man’s voice.

 

But the William Tell Overture drowned out any response, and the boys stood up to stretch.

 

“Welcome to The Cavern! The Best of Cellars!” Bob Wooler’s melodic tones filled the low-slung room and bounced off the rough stone walls. “And what an evenin’ you have in store for you, Cavern Dwellers! What a night to remember!” The crowd rumbled and moved. “Right on the brink of another conquerin’ tour of Hamburg…” There were boos from the girls who would miss them most. “On the eve of their departure for seven long weeks…” More boos and derogatory whistles. “I give you the latest and greatest recordin’ stars in all of Mother England! The stars of radio as well! Your hometown lads!” He paused and let the music play. “The Beeeeeeatles!”

 

When the band room door smashed open and crashed into the wall behind it, the screams began. And when the Liverpool boys – decked from head to toe in skintight leathers – forced their way into the jampacked room, the swell shook the street above. Reverberating screams rent the Liverpool night. The North shuddered, goose-fleshed.

 

Brian Farrell raised his new Kodak above his head, above the arms reaching and clawing for the boys, and he snapped the first frame. Seventeen shots left…all he had. But Farrell was determined to capture this night forever.  

 

When the bulb didn’t flash, he lowered the camera and removed the fat, squatty bulb. Farrell licked the metal connector and then jammed the bulb back into its socket again. With a second try, he attempted to capture the lads taking their places on the stage, hoisting their famous guitars and waving to the crowd. He tried to save the smiles and the shine in their eyes as The Beatles laughed and danced about…but the flash still failed.

 

“Good evenin’, everyone!” Paul shouted into the primitive microphone. A screech of feedback answered him.

 

“’Ullo, boys ’n girls!” John rasped, geriatrically.

 

Pete took his seat on the rostrum and picked up his drum sticks. George gave a rippled finger wave and shy grin. More screams.

 

And without further ado, The Fabulous Beatles ripped into “Some Other Guy.” They tore through the song like the Liverpool gales that kept alleyways pristine but nooks and crannies packed with leaves and debris.

 

From the corner of the room, Epstein watched and nodded. Even he could see a difference tonight – could see that the boys before him had reclaimed the magic of their early years. In the transformation to sedate, refined performers, The Beatles had supplanted professionalism for primal appeal, and something exciting had been relinquished.  

 

But Brian stood firm. He felt the trade, a necessary barter.

 

“Next up,” Paul almost kissed the microphone, “is a little number…”

 

“Nah, I left her at home,” John deadpanned. The girls bit their fingers and squealed madly.

 

“Next up,” Paul tried again, “is a little number by Carl Perkins.  It’s called ‘Sure to Fall.’ This one’s a favourite of ours, and it goes somethin’ like this…”

 

The affectionate, folk-songy, bit of close harmony was a crowd pleaser. The Cavern Dwellers sang along – holding hands, swaying to the music – some closing their eyes and drinking in the moment.

 

Brian Farrell leaned over and shouted to his sister, Bernadette. He pointed to his camera face, miming that he needed a new flashbulb. But when she finally got the message, Bernadette scowled and mouthed, “Wait, yew!” – forcing Brian to grab his sister’s purse and go fishing for himself.

 

“So hold me tight, let tonight be the night,” Paul crooned. “Darlin’, don’t ever let me go.”  

 

John winked at long-time fan, Val Davies, and she winked right back, her hands clasped under her chin in singular adoration. John pulled a face, and Val giggled. “Lovin’ you is the natural thing to do,” John harmonized with Paul.  

 

And Val sang with them from her chair, “I want you for the rest of my life!”

 

On it went. George delivered “Do You Want to Know a Secret?” from the back of his throat, his tongue thick with Scouse.  John gave them “Bad Boy,” “Youngblood,” and the edgy, “Baby, It’s You.” But when Pete did “Matchbox,” the punters began to dance. There were arms and legs everywhere. The room gyrated and wiggled. It was a room kinetic.

 

Plops of moisture began dripping from the ceiling. Brian Farrell covered his camera with a cupped hand and cradled the Kodak close to his chest. The room was raining perspiration.

 

“Exactly why we’re headed for the better clubs!” Brian Epstein puckered his brow and shouted to Alistair Taylor beside him. Alistair nodded agreement, shielding himself with the latest copy of Mersey Beat. But as Taylor watched George Harrison do his little “three-steps-up, three-steps-back dance-walk boogie,” Alistair wondered if Brian’s grand plan for the group would succeed in the long run.

 

 The Beatles were clearly Liverpudlian. They were rowdy, unruly, “mickey-talkin’ miscreants,” as Bob Wooler always referred to them. Moreover, they were umbilically joined to the Scousers surrounding them tonight. Would Germany embrace them as warmly? Would the far-away-and-someday America love the lads as fervently as this lot clearly did?

 

“Play ‘Soldier of Love,’ pleeeeeese, Johnny!” a girl whined, seductively.

 

“Play, ‘Searchin’,’ Paul!” called another.

 

These fans knew The Beatles as well as the boys knew themselves. They had grown together, rooted in one close vessel.

 

“Next set…all right, luv?” Paul took a seat on one corner of the stage. He was flexing Brian’s rules tonight, and he knew it. They all were.  

 

But it was only the once. A night that would never come again.

 

Brian Farrell snapped the shot, and this time the flash worked. It pop-sizzled, catching Paul in the moment. A mad scramble with slippery hands to switch bulbs, and Farrell caught John in a soft-shoe, his arms wind-milling everywhere.  

 

Success! Farrell cheered. Fourteen shots to go.

 

When the last of the set concluded and the boys tumbled to the band room under a barrage of cheers, Bernadette plowed through her purse for her brother’s other bulbs. “Here! Keep ’em yer bleedin’self!” she shoved them in his direction. “I’m not yer nursie, am I?”

 

“Aw, c’mon!” the boy tried to protest. But Bernadette held up a hand and prissed away to the unforgivably gritty ladies’ loo.

 

“Hmmpf! She’s gorra a cob on!” Brian grumbled. But as brothers will, he shrugged it off.

 

*********

 

Break time at The Cavern was almost unbearable. Without the lads to distract them, the punters noticedthe body odor a la antiseptic. They noticed the suffocating heat, weeping walls, and low ceilings. The claustrophobic ones fought their way upstairs, only to subject their sodden shirts to Mathew’s biting chill. But most – afraid to lose their vantage points, stayed below – their lips sucking in putrid air.

 

Backstage, John ripped off the sweat-soaked polo and tossed it to the floor. His leather jacket was already crumpled at his feet.

 

“It felt fuggin’ great to be us for a change, didn’t it?” he crowed, his funk over Stu forgotten momentarily.

 

“Yeah, it wasn’t half bad, y’know,” George said euphorically. “It almost made me forget how tired and rundown I’ve been lately.”  

 

Both John and Paul snapped their heads around in the boy’s direction.  

 

“We’ve a trip in one week, son!” John threatened. “One week!”

 

“Right,” Paul mandated, wiping his arms before slipping into his new dress shirt and suit. “No comin’ down with anythin’ this late in the game!”

 

“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine, I’m fine,” George reassured them. “I’m fine!” he shouted.  

 

“Make it so,” John commanded, and the leather kecks were torn away, discarded.

 

Paul took his new, thin-lapelled jacket from the hanger and wriggled into it while John held his arms out like a scarecrow, struggling to line-dry in the watered air.  

 

“Ready, then?” Brian’s head popped in at the door. But he could see they weren’t. Only Paul was partially dressed.

 

“In three…or four,” George wrangled with the inner button on the mohair slacks. “They’re awfully itchy – these kecks.” He made a face.  

 

“They’re excellent quality,” Brian insisted.

 

“And itchy,” George said again.

 

“I’m ready.” Pete buttoned his suit coat and took a deep breath.

 

“Hey Pete, remember the tempo on ‘’Til There was You,’ right?” Paul slipped into his dress boots. “It’s not just the ticky, ticky, ticky, yeah?”

 

“Y’hearin’ a fluctuation that’s not there, McCartney.” Pete handed John his shirt. “Y’er over- meticulous, aren’t you?”

 

“Just keep in mind how I showed you to do it, all right?” Paul ignored the rebuttal.

 

“Get knotted.” Pete looked away.

 

“Let’s go, boys!” Brian tapped the doorframe twice. “It’s been remarkable thus far! Keep it up.” He vanished, and the theme music began again.

 

*********

“Single entrance,” John reminded them, his trousers unbuttoned, his tie untied.

 

Paul gave him “thumbs up” while George scurried over to knot a traditional Small Knot for him.

 

“Yeah, we remember,” George said, concentrating on the tie. “One of us at a time…’n we’re supposed to wait for our intro. It’s all drama – that.”  

 

“Cavern Dwellers, one and all!” Bob Wooler’s joyous voice boomed as John slipped into his jacket, “Please welcome back on bass guitar, the talented and terrific…Mr. Paul McCartney!” Screams poured into the band room. Paul squeezed through the door and bounded to the stage.  

 

“And next,” Wooler oozed while John located his boots, “that adorable and amazin’ lad on his American Gretsch lead guitar…Mr. George Harrison!” George waved briefly, saying “hello” to this one and that as he edged through myriad bodies to the platform.  

 

“Now…chanka-chankin’ his way into yer hearts, your favourite Ric-thm guitarist, Mr. JohnLennon!” Bob, like almost everyone Merseyside, said John’s name as one word, and John hailed the audience as one – his leer on them all, his spell cast with one, sweeping glance.  

 

“And finally, on drums,” Bob paused eloquently, “our very own Jeff Chandler – mean…moody…and magnificent…Mr. Pete Best!”

 

The swell of screams almost knocked them over. Pete, watching his footing carefully and looking up only now and again, reached the boards and took the microphone that Paul handed him. Standing centre stage, he cleared his throat and waited to sing his Second Set solo number.

 

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Wooler concluded his spiel, “here they are…the stuff that screams are made ofvi…The Beeeeeatles!”

 

While the punters went mad, Paul scrambled to the rostrum and hoisted the drumsticks. George turned up his new Gibson amp, and John strummed his refitted Rickenbacker. After a dramatic moment or two, John gave the sign, and the four handsomely suited lads opened the second set of the night with an American club tune, Chubby Checker’s “Peppermint Twist.”

 

“Now, that’s more like it!” Brian mouthed to Alistair, above the din.

 

Alistair nodded obsequiously, but he was, nevertheless, unconvinced. The suits, he thought, were well and good, but the group on stage now was far more restrained than the rockers that had been standing there ten minutes ago. For Alistair, the metamorphosis had more cons than pros.

 

It was hard to shush the fans after Pete’s song. Shouts! Squeals! Screams went on forever. Paul chuckled a little and held up his hand.

 

“Now…” he began. Screams.

 

“Now…”  Cheers and applause.

 

Paul looked to Epstein, who motioned for him to go on with the programme, regardless.

 

“Now here’s a little ditty,” Paul tried, futilely. “Here’s a little ditty,” he repeated. Scattered shouts. “Here’s a little ditty that was a big hit for the late, great Buddy Holly,” he finally eked out, “and it’s called…well, you tell us!”

 

As the Cavern Dwellers shouted, “Cryin’, Waitin’, Hopin’!” with all their might, George leaned over to John. “See that kid Eppy was talkin’ about earlier?” George nodded in Brian Farrell’s direction. “The one in the second row that Eppy said was snappin’ our photos?”

 

“Yeah,” John smacked his gum, “so what?”    

 

“Well,” George smiled wryly, “he looks a bit like Alfred E. Newman, doesn’t he?”

 

John cut his eyes at the kid and burst into cackles. He was still laughing, when Paul and Pete slipped into song – and when George managed to catch up after the second eight. Finally, John lifted his guitar as well, high on his chest; he loosened his tie a little more and then joined them in the bridge.  

 

At that moment, Brian Farrell took the photo. He snapped it just as John looked straight at him, grinning widely for his camera alone.  

 

“Ah, great shot!” the boy whispered. “Priceless one!”

 

And rather pleased with himself, Farrell folded his arms and leaned back to watch his sister, the other Beatlettes, and all the Cavern Dwellers offer up a teary farewell to their lads:

 

“Cryin’…waitin’…hopin’… someday soon you’ll come back to me…I think about you all the time.”

 

Sources:

Lewisohn, The Complete Beatles Chronicle, 69.

 

Harry, The Ultimate Beatles Encyclopedia, 552.

 

Best and Doncaster, 134, 149.

 

Pawlowski, How They Became The Beatles, 64.

 

Norman, Shout, 148.

 

Miles, The Beatles’ Diary, Vol. 1, 61.

 

Spitz, 299.

 

Leigh, Drummed Out: The Sacking of Pete Best, 23, 26.

 

Salewicz, McCartney, 130.

 

Lennon, Cynthia,  John, 81-82.

 

All details in this chapter, including the story of Brian and Bernadette Farrell and Val Davies, are factual. If you are fortunate enough to acquire a copy of Bill Harry’s MerseyBeat: The Beginnings of The Beatles, you can read the story about Ringo planning to leave Rory Storm and the Hurricanes on p. 30, in Virginia Harry’s column “Mersey Roundabout.” The actual poster mentioned in this chapter is found on page 31. The information about Paul’s drumming requirements of Pete Best come from Spencer Leigh’s book, Drummed Out: The Sacking of Pete Best (p. 56-57).  

If you’d like to see a photograph of Bernadette Farrell, taken by Brian Farrell, see p. 81 of Pawlowski’s How They Became The Beatles.


Jude Southerland Kessler is the author of the John Lennon Series: www.johnlennonseries.com

 

Jude is represented by 910 Public Relations — @910PubRel on Twitter and 910 Public Relations on Facebook.

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