I Know What It’s Like…

“I know what it’s like to be dead…I know what it is to be sad…”

 

John Lennon was the master of understatement. In a few, simple words, he could summarize a powerful idea, minimizing the emotion behind it. (To wit, “All we are saying is ‘Give peace a chance.'”) He could present a great concept unobtrusively, giving it a chance to be mulled over and accepted.

 

And that is exactly what John is doing in “She Said, She Said,” the compelling closer song to Side One of Revolver.

 

Possibly no one who ever lived better understood “what it’s like to be dead” and “what it is to be sad.” At age 4½, his parents bitterly wrangled over which of them was to have custody of John. Fred Lennon wanted to take his son away to New Zealand to live with him, and Julia Lennon wanted her son to be reared in Liverpool.

 

Whether Fred and Julia put the boy in between them and made him choose one or the other (the traditional point of view, and the version John always recited) or whether Fred and Julia came to an amicable agreement about John’s care (as Fred’s friend, Billy Hall told Mark Lewisohn…though admittedly, Hall was not actually in the room when this discussion took place), the fact of the matter is, Fred exited John’s life. And Julia – for extremely complicated reasons of her own – did return John to Liverpool but dropped the boy that afternoon at her sister Mimi’s house, where John was to live permanently. And, Julia reluctantly walked away to live a life of her own.

 

Over the next few years, as John struggled to adapt (and was – no wonder! – expelled for misbehavior from Mosspits Infant’s School), he thought quite a bit about his vanished parents. Fred’s frequent letters to his son were destroyed by Mimi, who claimed (and perhaps truly believed) that she was creating stability for the child.

 

Therefore, John – in essence – thought his father was, at first, angry with him. And then later, missing in action. And finally, perhaps dead. Even though John reveled in the love that his wonderful Uncle George provided – clung to that love like a life raft – the boy still longed for his father. And with each silent, passing year, John understood better and better what it was like to be dead. What it was to be sad.

 

Similarly, John’s mother, Julia, – though living only a couple of miles away, in Spring Wood – honored Mimi’s request to minimize intervention into John’s life. Julia was rarely seen, and even when she was, the reunion was brief. But it was enough for John. As Fred’s memory slowly faded, Julia’s did not. He ached for his mother. And John tried everything he could think of (good behavior, bad behavior, wit, talent, and imagination) to reach her…to no avail.

 

The only constants in John’s young life were his decorous Aunt Mimi and his beloved Uncle “Ge’rge.” But the summer before John turned 15 years old – when he most needed a male role model and a best mate – kind, funny, gentle Uncle George was taken from him forever. And, as John roared and flailed in the throes of unstoppable hysteria, he knew once again what it was like to be dead…what it was to be sad.

 

You probably know the rest of the story: how Julia returned at this crucial moment in her son’s life and offered herself as his best friend (not his mum, of course…he already had a mother in Mimi). Julia became his constant companion and John, her shadow. She encouraged the teenager to “sag off school” and bike to her house for ginger beer, sweet cakes, and rock’n’roll. She taught her son to play guitar; she spun her Buddy Holly and Elvis records for him. She gave him the gift of extemporaneous laughter. And in the magic of the moment, Julia whispered to the boy that he had “music in bones.” She said, she said that he was destined to form a band – to see his name in lights, to shine on. And for a time, all was well.

 

But on 15 July 1958, Julia was hit by a drunk off-duty policeman and killed. And in that instant, John changed. He had lost his father, his uncle, and now his mother – twice. And now, in a deep, violet darkness of the soul, John came to understand intimately what it was like to be dead…what it was to be sad.

 

That, of course, explains August of 1960: The Beatles, happily en route to Hamburg, stop at the Arnhem War Memorial for a snack and a smoke. Manager Allan Williams urges all of the boys out of the minibus for a roadside picnic and photograph. But John will not exit. He refuses to “muck about” in a graveyard…to smile and chit-chat in the presence of death. And so, alone, John broods on the bus, shaken by his surroundings. And though Williams berates the boy for his obstinacy, John turns a deaf ear. Because even on his best of days, John remembers what it’s like to be dead, what it is to be sad. And he does not take it lightly.

 

Now…substitute the name “Peter Fonda” for “Allan Williams.”
Substitute “Hollywood gala” for “Arnhem War Memorial.”
Substitute “August 1965” for “August 1960.”
And having made those few changes, the backstory for “She Said, She Said” emerges:

 

At an August 1965 Hollywood gala, John blanches when Peter Fonda “rambles on” about his first-hand knowledge of death. Rattled, John flash-fires at the American film star and silences him forthwith…not because Fonda is downing John’s drug-induced mellow, but because Fonda is trampling on sacred ground. Introducing the topic of death as party prattle – as idle chatter – is not, to John’s way of thinking, simply “irritating.” The American star has been grossly inappropriate. He has opened old wounds, and John is left panting for air.

 

John swiftly quells the subject, and the party moves on. But the damage has already been done, and in the months that follow, John can never shush the lingering, whispering memories that Fonda’s casual party boast (“I know what it’s like to be dead!”) engendered. The phrase haunts Lennon. And so, just as John in the past had transformed many other wounds and torments into music, he begins to weave Fonda’s hellish echo into something unforgettable as well. John begins to write “She Said, She Said.”

 

But this time, however, John isn’t writing just for himself and about himself. He begins to compose the tragic tale of all four Beatles in the year of our Lord, 1966. And the story isn’t easy to convey…

 

You see, in 1966, The Beatles were living under a dome of stress that would have collapsed most organizations and failed most friendships. The beleaguered boys were getting ready for yet another World Tour, despite the fact that they’d grown bitter and cynical about the grueling experience. Brian Epstein’s heavy-handed influence. which had always held them on course was slipping away, and the boys were arguing with one another – heavily involving themselves in drugs as pressures all about them were mounting.

Unfeeling “takers” were attacking them from all sides: screaming fans who didn’t hear them when they sang; journalists and paparazzi who didn’t see how very bored and tortured the boys were, and unfeeling powers-that-be at Capitol, EMI, and Northern Music who didn’t care that The Beatles were utterly exhausted. To all of these users and shakers, the four boys were virtually invisible. It was a harsh reality.

 

Indeed, John, Paul, George, and Ringo began to feel as if they “had never been born,” as if only “The Collective” – the band known as The Beatles – really mattered. The four unique individuals who had once comprised the group had, somewhere along the line, been sacrificed (in true Help! fashion), “jolly with a knife!”

 

This is John’s message in “She Said, She Said.” In simple terms, he conveys each of The Beatles’ feelings. He speaks in muted understatement, presenting his friends’ great hopes and even greater fears as they face the end of touring and the beginning of “the yet-to-come.”

 

This anguished song is pure performance art, a vivid medium through which John can offer listeners the graphic opportunity to see, hear, feel, and experience what he and Paul and George and Ringo were enduring. As the song swirls up and up to confusion and clamor, each of us is given the chance to ride out the mania, to understand. We are privy to madness.

 

“She Said, She Said” is a rare sortie into the most intimate emotions of The Beatles in 1966…and into the solitary, broken life of John Lennon, for whom death and sadness were familiar escorts. Of this John sings, as Revolver finds the playout grooves and Side One concludes. Of course, on the flip side, there was more to come.


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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It’s just a Submarine, dammit! (or is it?)

The Beatles were very lenient with the public’s interpretations of their songs.

 

In fact, only one or two times did the lads insist that the public’s comments about their lyrics was “dead wrong.” Toward the end of his life, John Lennon was adamant that “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” was not about LSD! (And Paul McCartney backed him up on this). Similarly, Paul once said, “Personally, I think you can put any interpretation you want on anything! But when someone suggests that “Can’t Buy Me Love” is about a prostitute, I draw the line! That’s going too far.” (1)  But other than these two exceptions, as a rule, The Beatles welcomed the public’s multi-colored explanations of Beatles lyrics. In fact, they came to expect it.

 

I can just imagine Paul “laying in bed in the Asher’s garret,” (2)  working on the lyrics for “Yellow Submarine.” I can almost see the glimmer in his eye as he imagines what the “average Jill or Joe,” the scholarly professor, and the protester are going to make of his “simple children’s song.” It must have amused him.

 

The thing is…every single Beatles LP included a song for Ringo. And this is Ringo’s Revolver song, written in his tight vocal range and fitted for his “down-to-earth,” genuine personality. Ringo possessed a gentleness that appealed to many people, including children. (Hence, his work as Mr. Conductor on Shining Time’s (Series One) Thomas the Tank Engine show and his I Wanna Be Santa Claus CD years later). Paul’s placing of Ringo in the classic role of storyteller for “Yellow Submarine” was ideal. It worked.

 

But almost as soon as the LP was released, critics began to offer up far-flung, complex explanations of the magical song’s “deep and hidden meanings.” Here are just a few:

 

  • 1.) Sir Paul’s Explanation – Paul says he was trying to create “a story, a sort of [tale of] an ancient mariner, telling the young kids where he’d lived.” Tim Riley points out that Paul wanted to create a song “suited to the drummer’s humble charm,” (3) an enchanted story of a lovely life beneath the sea. To accomplish this, Paul’s original tale was populated by many submarines of vivid colors, but as McCartney honed the story, it became the narrative of one yellow submarine and the magical people aboard this legendary vessel. (4)

 

In fact, Paul told author Barry Miles, “I was thinking of it as a song for Ringo, which it eventually turned out to be…I quite like children’s things; I like children’s minds and imagination. So it didn’t seem uncool to me to have a pretty surreal idea that was also a children’s idea. I thought also, with Ringo being so good with children—a knockabout-uncle type—it might not be a bad idea for him to have a children’s song, rather than a very serious song. He wasn’t that keen on singing.” (5)

 

In short, on Side One of Revolver – a highly complex, intense compendium of thought-provoking songs – Paul’s concept was to offer up a simple ditty with “short words…which would be picked up quickly and sung by children.” (6) It was to be a breath of fresh air, as it were.

 

  • 2.) Donovan’s Story – During the writing of Revolver, Donovan and McCartney were close friends, in the habit of dropping in on one another at a moment’s notice to share their latest compositions. Donovan says, “One of the songs Paul played for me was about a yellow submarine, but he was missing a line or two. He asked me if I’d like to make a contribution. I left the room and came back with ‘sky of blue and sea of green.'” (7) And with an insider’s eye on the song’s composition, Donovan goes on to say that he felt Paul was using “Yellow Submarine” to convey the story of The Beatles.

 

Indeed, on the 2 May 2014  Howard Stern Show, Donovan stated: “It’s not really a submarine; it’s really about the life that [The Beatles] had been forced into living inside their own lives in the white tower called ‘Beatle fame’ and not really having any contact with reality out there anymore…you know, we are insulated from the outer world.” Donovan believed that “the friends aboard the submarine” were The Beatles’ entourage and close friends/associates, and that the sea was the protective bubble surrounding the group, encasing them while at the same time, cutting them off from life at large.

 

  • 3.) The Drug Innuendo Theory – In the summer of 1966, a popular drug had been released in New York: Nembutal capsules which were large, elongated, bluntly-rounded, and yellow – thus acquiring the nickname “Yellow Submarines.” But McCartney – who had no problem admitting that he used marijuana and enjoyed it – resisted the implication that his song celebrated the new drug. Paul insisted that the only “yellow submarines” he’d ever tasted were sugary Greek sweets that had to be dropped into water to be consumed. (8)  As the drug culture loudly contended that The Beatles were giving them a “secret nod of approval,” Robert Christgua of Esquire magazine vehemently refuted this claim. He wrote:  “I can’t believe that The Beatles indulge in the simplistic kind of symbolism that turns a yellow submarine into a Nembutal or a banana—it is just a yellow submarine, dammit!” 

 

  • 4.) The Political Statement Philosophy – Because a submarine is, as Robert Rodriguez has aptly pointed out, “a piece of military equipment,” (9) it was only moments after the song’s release that radicals began applauding The Beatles for the strong anti-Vietnam statement espoused in “Yellow Submarine.” In fact, one imaginative reviewer wrote: “The Yellow Submarine may suggest, in the context of The Beatles’ anti-Vietnam War statement in Tokyo this year, that the society over which Old Glory floats is as isolated and morally irresponsible as a nuclear submarine.” (10) Jumping on the bandwagon in droves, various 1966-1967 protest groups embraced “Yellow Submarine” as their anti-war anthem. But none of The Beatles seconded this notion or gave it credence.

 

Naturally, there are other wild-eyed theories out there, some as far-fetched as the notion that the song proves John Lennon’s obsession with phallic-symbols (echoed by John’s submarine bath scene in A Hard Day’s Night). But since John had nothing to do with the writing of “Yellow Submarine,” this argument rather collapses under its own weight, doesn’t it?

 

So…what say you? Which theory do you believe? Paul proclaimed, “I knew ‘Yellow Submarine’ would get connotations, but it really was a children’s song.” (11) Or was it? Send us your thoughts, opinions, and ideas, and we’ll share them with one another. Furthermore, if you have a theory we haven’t discussed, send that along as well! We’d love to hear from you!

 

The measure of a great work of literature is that decades after its creation, the work’s depth of meaning is still being debated and discussed. Paul might have set out to create a unpretentious, light-hearted song, but for The Beatles, a masterpiece was always the final destination. And so it is here as well.   


1. The Beatles, The Anthology, 114.
2. Turner, A Hard Day’s Write, 198, and Riley, Tell Me Why, 187.
3. Riley, Tell Me Why, 188.
4. Turner, 108.
5. Miles, Many Years from Now, 286-287.
6. Turner, 108.
7. Turner, 108.
8. Turner, 109.
9. Rodriguez, Robert, Revolver: How The Beatles Re-Imagined Rock’n’Roll, 140.
10. Doggett, Peter, There’s a Riot Going On: Revolutionaries, Rock Stars, and the Rise and Fall of the ’60s, 107–108.  
11. Turner, 109


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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One Last Chance, Here, There, and Everywhere…

Paul had tried to say it a hundred different ways. On Beatles for Sale, he’d tried laying out his case to Jane Asher logically:

 

Hey, what you’re doing, I’m feeling blue and lonely!
Would it be too much to ask you
What you’re doing to me?

 

You got me running, and there’s no fun in it!
Why should it be so much to ask of you
What you’re doing to me?

 

On Rubber Soul, he’d tried exhorting her:

 

I’m looking through you! Where did you go?
I thought I knew you! What did I know?
You don’t look different, but you have changed!
I’m looking through you; you’re not the same!

 

On his double-sided single (with “Day Tripper”), he’d tried warning her:

 

Try to see it my way,
Do I have to keep on talking ’til I can’t go on?
While you see it your way,
Run the risk of knowing that our love may soon be gone!

 

For years, in song after song after song, only the melody had changed. But the lyrics had been pretty much the same: “I need you here. I need you to give up what you’re doing and be with me. If you can’t find a way to be with me, we’re eventually going to come to an unhappy end.” That was the general thesis statement in “You Won’t See Me.” It was intrinsically implied in “All My Loving.” Paul’s basic theme was always there.

 

But Paul’s words had done no good. Jane had continued to pursue her glamorous career as a successful actress. She had continued to travel the globe and forge her own way in the world, and Paul was at the end of his rope, really.

 

So, on Revolver, he sat down to write to her one last time, to woo her, to create a love song that would haunt her and say in the most enchanting way he knew how: “This is what our life could be, if you would simply be with me. Here’s the nirvana. Here’s the perfect world we could have, if only…”

 

And for Paul, whose wheelhouse was generally his incredible music – not his lyrics – this song is special. It’s poetry. It’s lovely, sincere poetry, written with a master’s hand. I know you’ve heard it a million times. You know it by heart. But you know the song. Take time now to read the poetry aloud. Forget the heartbreaking melody. Just speak (or whisper) the words to yourself. Try it.

 

This is Paul’s plea. And it’s poignant. It’s a vision for “the maiden faire” who has always eluded him. It’s one last chance…

 

To lead a better life
I need my love to be here!

Here, making each day of the year…
Changing my life with a wave of her hand!
Nobody can deny that there’s something there.

There, running my hands through her hair…
Both of us thinking how good it can be
Someone is speaking, but she doesn’t know he’s there.

I want her everywhere
And if she’s beside me I know I need never care…

But to love her is to need her everywhere, knowing that love is to share!
Each one believing that love never dies,
Watching her eyes…and hoping I’m always there…

I want her everywhere
And if she’s beside me I know I need never care!!!

But to love her is to need her everywhere, knowing that love is to share…

Each one believing that love never dies
Watching their eyes and hoping I’m always there

I will be there, and everywhere
Here, there and everywhere.

 

And with that, Paul McCartney’s case is closed. Because really, could it be more plain, simple, honest, or touching?

 

One last time, Paul has laid out his evidence and vision to the girl he can’t quite pin down. (“I need you everywhere, knowing that love it to share.”) He has asked her one final time to relinquish the things that pull her away from him and to make him her world. And he has done it so effectively that he realizes if she declines, this time the offer must expire. This time, he will understand. This time, he will move on.

 

When asked about this song, John Lennon said that if he were on a desert island and could only have a limited number of tunes to cherish for the rest of his life, this would be one of his picks. This song. Because for a lyricist like John, this lonely, despairing plea speaks volumes.

 

“Here, There, and Everywhere” is truly one of Paul McCartney’s best because it comes from the heart. It’s not a white-washed, thumbs-up, “silly love song.” It’s a dramatic final gesture. Sadly, however (or maybe not!), this proposal was not enough. And when Jane Asher turned and moved in another direction, that paved the way for the entry of Linda Eastman.

 

Yes, here, there, and everywhere, Paul’s story has a happy ending. Always. Even if it was not the one anticipated.


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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Love You To…????

This phrase I understand: “Love you, too!” (Meaning: “Love you, also.”)

 

And yes, I grasp the vaguer meaning of this phrase: “Love you two.” (As in: “I love John first, but I love you two”).

 

But now, consider the curious phrase: “Love you to…” — It’s a quandary! It’s an unfinished preposition waiting for a following noun. (As in: “Love you to death!” or “Love you to pieces!” or “Love you to the end of time!”)

 

Or… it could be an unfinished infinitive waiting for a following verb. (As in: “Love you to love me.” Or “Love you to listen.” Or “Love you to comprehend what I’m saying”).

 

But as George Harrison’s title stands – without any other nouns, verbs, or explanations to complete it – the phrase is incomplete, unclear, and ambiguous. And really, that is where George Harrison was when he penned this 1966 song. Recently returned from a trip to India where he had begun sitar studies under Ravi Shankar and the study of the Hindu religion, George was an excited newbie. He was completely enthusiastic, but green – an amazed young man muddling through the murky waters of a complex, new faith and an equally complex mode of musical expression. George was a bit overcome.

 

Recently married to Pattie Boyd, George wanted to make this song a love ballad for his wife. He really did! But the tenets of his new faith kept pulling at him, sternly reminding him that:

 

A lifetime is so short,
A new one can’t be bought…

The brevity of existence kept bothering George, niggling at him – and those beliefs transformed his love song into a serious warning refrain: a song about living not only for today, but also living a life worthy of the hereafter.

 

George tried to shrug off his feelings of impending doom: of death at his back, of time running out, of life slipping away, but in “Love You To,” he failed to escape that weighty influence. Even when employing his famous, droll Harrison humor to minimize the song’s grim overtones, the boy’s wit was still dark:

 

Love me while you can,
Before I’m a dead old man!

 
he said. Despite his best efforts, George’s love song kept slipping into a sermon. No matter what George tried to say (or sing), his bride’s ballad kept circling back around to one all-important message: Life is short; time is limited; live prudently! Or in George’s adaptation:

 

Each day just goes so fast
I turn around, it’s past…

 
It was a bit depressing. As the song neared its close, George struggled to find something to smile about, to celebrate.

 

Well, a bit before The Beatles’ time – when the poets of the Middle Ages felt death pressing down upon them, they decided that the wisest thing to do was to carpe diem…to “seize the moment!” They decided to make hay while the sun shines! To quote Medieval poet Robert Herrick’s words, “Gather ye rosebuds while you may!”

 

And in 1966, George reached the same conclusion. He decided the very same thing. At the end of his song, he advised Pattie (and all of us) to go for the gusto! To grab happiness while you can! To smile while you still have teeth!

 

Make love all day long!
Make love singing songs!

 

he advised us. It was the only viable solution to mortality that George could offer.

 

By The Summer of Love (1967) when George released “Within You, Without You” as the opener for Side 2 of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, both his faith and his acumen on the sitar had reached a higher plane. By then, he was able to speak with more depth and wisdom. But here on Revolver, George is clearly grappling with a vast belief system and an intricate musical genre, so he falls back on immediate gratification as a ready, easy solution.

 

Or maybe…maybe George’s answer was, in fact, the very best solution anyone could offer.

 

In 1967, John Lennon would so famously tell the world that, “Love is all you need.” And here, George is voicing the exact same sentiment. In light of death, aging, and fleeting existence, the youngest Beatle turns to Pattie and to us, advising everyone to cling tightly to love. Sage advice, I think. Perhaps our kid wasn’t such a newbie after all.

 


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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Only Sleeping?

Anyone who considered John Lennon lazy didn’t know John well. John “worked smart, not hard,” but he worked without ceasing. Even while piled up in bed with his many pillows and guitar, John was never indolent. He was composing songs, listening to the telly for ideas, reading and scribbling notes on a sheet of paper — discovering concepts that he would later put to use.

 

His Aunt Mimi had taught the boy to create: to “Do something productive, John!” (whether that “something” was writing, composing, meditating, reading, listening, or absorbing). And the place where John was most creative was in his room. In his early Hamburg days, John wrote about this topic in There’s A Place. He sang:

 

“There’s a place, where I can go,

when I feel low, when I feel blue…

and it’s my mind…”

 

So where did he retreat to live inside the mind, to be inspired? Well, for John, that place where dreams could translate into beauty was always found in bed. Even as a little boy, John sat on his bedspread above the Mendips’ glassed-in porch and cut out dancing paper skeletons, illustrated his “Sport and Speed” serial stories, and sadly, sang himself to sleep. Bed was his retreat, the place where he could imagine.

 

So, in 1966, when he penned “I’m Only Sleeping” for Revolver, John created not a bored and listless throw-away number but a powerful and ironic song. The irony falls upon the word, “ONLY.” John cheekily saying to us, “I’m only writing a great poem.” “I’m only building something magical.” “I’m only composing.”

 

What Lennon is doing in his room – in his bed – is bigger than “running everywhere at such a speed.” He’s chosen the higher road; he’s chosen to stop, breathe, think, and create. And wonderfully, John’s letting you and me into his half-awake, half-asleep realm: The Land of Incredible Ideas.

 

For the first time in a long time, John turned to “our kid,” to his little brother (as it were) George, to help him bring this dream realm to life. In EMI Studio 2, John and George began the song’s recording, softly playing acoustic guitars in the key of E minor. They performed a bit faster than John wanted the song to be recorded, making it possible for George Martin to slow and mellow the sound, post-recording. (1)

 

But that wasn’t all…George Harrison had something special up his sleeve. He announced that he had composed a lead melody line intended intentionally to be played backward. More specifically, Harrison composed this line so that the tape could be run backwards and then and then only, the tune that George wanted to hear would emerge. (2)

 

But there’s more: Not only did Harrison play this line once on his guitar, but George played it again using his Gibson SG run through a fuzz box – varying the lines very slightly so that when they were played together they produced a blurry, ethereal sound. Dreamlike, unreal.

 

So if we’re being totally honest here, “I’m Only Sleeping” isn’t just a John Lennon creation, it’s a Lennon/Harrison composition…a superb collaboration that well exceeds their early endeavor, “Cry for a Shadow.”

 

For those out there who still see this complex song as a nod to the escape world of sleep, you’re also right! In 1966, John was suffering from what today we would diagnose as “clinical depression.” He had all the symptoms. He had gained weight; he was lashing out at Cynthia, the other Beatles, and the EMI staff. He was bored with everything and recklessly displeased with everything. John seemed to have lost interest in the world around him. Therefore, he retreated more and more often into the altered world of drugs and the magical, shadow world of sleep.  On a literal level, that explanation of his mood does exist in this song.

 

But “I’m Only Sleeping” is about so very much more. The key to its depth and meaning can be found in the lyrics.  In “Tomorrow Never Knows,” when John is singing about merely escaping reality, he “turns off his mind, relaxes, and floats downstream.” But in “I’m Only Sleeping,” he intentionally says,

 

“When I’m in the middle of a dream
Stay in bed, float up stream…”

 

Float up stream? Notice here that John’s fully-engaged and actually moving against the current. He’s willing himself to progress, to achieve, to be inspired…and to turn inspiration into music. Surely, that’s not escape, is it? No, this is something else.

 

“I’m Only Sleeping” mattered to John. He was very particular about the way he wanted it to be recorded. When he heard the initial playback of the song, John asked that Paul be taken off the vibraphone. Instead, John wanted Paul returned to his Hofner bass, to render that mellow, soft, wistful quality that you hear between the lines. John wanted to “make it dreamier and more mystical sounding.” (3) Paul was even instructed to yawn around Minute Two.

 

What John was trying to recreate was “the place” where he could go when he was low, when he was blue. He was, uncharacteristically, inviting us in. John Lennon was admitting us into his inner sanctum. That was and still is quite a privilege.

 

But instead of being honored, many music critics and fans criticized the song and the singer. They pointed fingers at him and called him slothful.

 

“No good deed goes unpunished,” John often smirked. Then, he retreated to bed, to the kingdom of imagination. And glaring, he closed the door.


1. Guesdon, Jean-Michel and Margotin, Phlippe, All The Songs, 328 Rodriguez, Robert. Revolver: How The Beatles Re-Imagined Rock’n’Roll, 101. The voice was over-dubbed and sped up while the rhythm track was slowed down.

2. Emerick, Geoff. Here, There, and Everywhere, 124 and conversation with Geoff Emerick, May 2016. Emerick is very clear about the fact that George really struggled to record this bit for the song making the recording session “one hard day’s night.”

3. Guesdon, Jean-Michel and Margotin, Phlippe, All The Songs, 328 and Rodriguez, Robert. Revolver: How The Beatles Re-Imagined Rock’n’Roll, 130. Rodriguez’s work is a “not to be missed” book on Revolver.


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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‘Cause They Were Taxed, Man…

This is the first of 14 blogs discussing the songs on the Revolver LP. We invite you to add to this introductory information by posting your own facts about the song. We’d also love to hear from you concerning your opinions about the lyrics, music, and background of “Taxman.” Comment away!

 

1,2,3,4…and there it was: the familiar count-in. The comforting sound that had begun the Please Please Me LP. Except that it wasn’t…familiar, that is. Something was amiss.

 

This count-in was slightly disconnected, an appendage to the song, not an organic part of it. The timing was somewhat different; the transition, rough. And knowing that The Beatles did nothing unintentionally, (even when they sang lyrics erroneously, they often left the odd overlaps in the song on purpose, creating a human, “we’re infallible, too” atmosphere), we knew immediately that this disjointed intro held significance. It housed meaning.

 

The old, accustomed “count in” to the jangling rock’n’roll songs that had set “the teacups to rattling” (1) was gone. This count-in device heralded something new, something technically different, something seemingly same but dramatically innovative. All the customary pieces were there, but they’d been stitched together differently. Rearranged. And from the initial count-in, we knew that.

 

And that voice! It was…George! George who had always been permitted one (or lavishly, two) songs per LP. George, who had never opened a Beatles album before. George, and not Leader John, whose gravelly (and gorgeous) rock voice had welcomed us to With The Beatles, Beatles for Sale, and A Hard Day’s Night. And if not John, then it had always been Paul ushering in the 14 elegant servings laid upon the table by The Fab Four. Never, ever, ever had an LP been kicked off by George. Even Harrison’s most devoted fans were puzzled.

 

Nothing about “Taxman” was business as usual. Even the subject matter.

 

We were to discover, over the course of the next hour, that Revolver was revolutionary, a serious LP about serious topics: loneliness, loss, death, tragedy, and yes, even taxes. No silly love songs, these. Revolver sprang from the fertile landscape of upheaval: John’s failing marriage and the backlash of his “Jesus” comments, Paul’s ongoing struggles with Jane Asher, George’s religious awakening, the lads’ disenchantment with fame, and the life-altering inclusion of drugs into their experience. Oh, the times they were a-changin,’ and no album revealed those vast changes more graphically than Revolver. Indeed, the records’ first seven words swept the listener into the grim, beleaguered world of The Beatles.

 

“Let me tell you how it will be…” This was the phrase that John, Paul, George, and Ringo had grown accustomed to hearing…from Brian Epstein, Brian Sommerville, George Martin, Walter Shenson, Dick Lester, Dick James, and at times, even their own Neil Aspinall. John had heard the acrimonious phrase when he’d married Cynthia and was ordered to keep her cloistered and quiet. George heard it when he’d refused to go on the 1964 World Tour without Ringo. And lately, they’d all heard it as they’d vehemently protested the need to go out “on the road” while Brian had just as adamantly demanded they go right on touring. They were told “how it would be.” And, no one –- it seemed –- listened to The Beatles, most especially Britain’s tax man, who greedily gobbled up 95 percent of their hard-won earnings.

 

As strongly as George protested the unfair loss of his back-breakingly accrued income in the bitter lyrics of “Taxman,” on a grander scale, he was also protesting the group’s loss of autonomy. The Beatles felt that they had no voice, no say in anything. And though “Taxman” is, without a doubt, a strong Harrison offering, all of The Beatles played a part in making this song work. They all firmly believed in the sentiment this song was expressing. Thus “Taxman” became a rare collaboration, a one-for-all and all-for-one group effort.

 

John assisted George with the lyrics, suggesting that the background chorus sing, “Ahhhh, Mr. Wilson! Ahhh, Mr. Heath!” instead of the original words: “Anybody got a bit of money?” (2) Twanging that chorus to the “Batman” theme sound (3), John and George drove their meaning straight home: “We’ve been reduced to cartoon characters, y’know!” or more poetically, “We all live in a dark comedy.” “Taxman”’s simple words held myriad double entendres.

 

McCartney, Robert Rodriguez points out in his remarkable book, Revolver: How The Beatles Re-Imagined Rock’n’Roll, supported George as well, offering to pick up his Rickenbacker (not his Hofner) and expertly perform the song’s lead break…even adding a bit of Indian flair, as a cutting edge homage to his friend. And Ringo manned the drums and cowbell with a vehemence this topic engendered in them all. The Beatles were sick to death of being taken advantage of by anyone and everyone. They were taxed, man.

 

At the LP’s very outset -– in “Taxman” –- The Beatles were boldly calling out their offenders: The Labour Party and its leaders, the Conservative Party and its top brass, the press and film makers, their booking agents and publishing company, their merchandisers and record label, their producer and engineers, their wives and girlfriends, their manager, their roadies and publicity agents…even us, their fans. The boys were sick to death of “one for [them] and nineteen for [everyone else].” Day in and day out, they gave 95 percent as they wrote, sang, performed, acted, overdubbed, answered, bowed, mimed, clowned, smiled on cue, apologized, backtracked, packed up and moved on again, set up and tore down, hurried up and waited…they did everything they were told to do by arrogant others who only did a meager five percent. And they were tired of it.

 

“Taxman” set the tone for the rest of the LP. It said, “We’ve had enough. More than enough. We are no longer your performing fleas. This time we have something to say. And it’s not just ‘yeah, yeah, yeah.’ Sit up and take notice! You have been served.”

 


1. This is Johnathan Gould’s description of “She Loves You” in his book, Can’t Buy Me Love.
2. Robert Rodriguez, Revolver: How The Beatles Re-Imagined Rock’n’Roll, 127.
3. Read Robert Rodriguez’s discussion of “Taxman” to find out why this “unmistakable evocation of television’s then-current Batman series” might be impossible! Very interesting!


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 Fest for Beatles Fans Dialogue on Revolver, Part 1

It was the blistering and bewildering summer of ’66. The Westinghouse air conditioner humming in my bedroom window provided more noise than relief as Emily Moss, Emily Wofford, and Patty Dalme waited impatiently as I carefully removed Revolver from its strange black and white cardboard sleeve.

 

I placed it on the turntable. Moss ate sliced lemons, dipped liberally into a saucer of fine sugar -– a dentist’s daydream of potential cavities. Patty and Emily smacked their Double Bubble and lazily thumbed through the latest Datebook. And, gauging my audience, I adjusted the volume on my new Magnavox record player as the count-in to “Taxman” began. That was the blistering part.

 

The half-hour or so that followed was the bewildering part…as if the summer of 1966 weren’t upsetting enough to four conservative girls from North Louisiana: boys in paisley shirts! Moms in vinyl raincoats and Mary Quant caps! The endless Vietnam War protests…the violent race riots! Our idyllic, happy days, we thought, were all but gone. Life had become bizarre and complex.

 

As we listened to “For No One” and “She Said, She Said” and finally, “Tomorrow Never Knows,” Revolver seemed the strangest part of that odd, pogo stick summer. For a few uncomfortable moments, as the needle found the scratchy play-out grooves, we were afraid to say anything. It took all the courage I could muster to even look at my friends.

 

“Well…” I had recently taken up swearing as an emblem of adult independence, “what the hell has happened to The Beatles?
“Yeah, what was that?” Emily Wofford shook herself the way a cat does when you’ve been holding it closely and set it free.
“That reeeeeeked!” Patty always knew her mind and spoke it.

 

Woffie and I nodded and shook our heads, agreeing but completely disgusted. But there was one in every crowd, or so they said.

 

“Ah, I don’t know,” Emily Moss sprawled out full-length on the bedspread, the way my Mother had told us never to do, “I thought it was pretty damn cool!” That was Moss. Her brother, Donald, was in a real band. He wore fringed, knee-length, moccasin boots, had long hair and colored beads that draped the doorway to his bedroom. If we had a “cutting edge” in our junior high foursome, Moss was definitely the one.

 

“Pffft! Define cool if that’s cool!” Woffie demanded.
“Yeah, well, I hated it,” I cut across the cool issue. “John didn’t even sound like John! And he was hardly on the record anyway! What’s the use of the record if John’s not there?” It was, after all, the Capitol version.

 

And so the discussion went in many bedrooms and family rooms and cars and soda shops and A&W Root Beer Stands and striped-awning Water Ice shops and narrow-laned hamburger joints across America. Was Revolver the most innovative, ground-breaking, breath of fresh air LP that The Beatles had ever created? Or was it junk? Was it art or was it a piece of “The Emperor’s New Clothes?” Was it brilliance or pure nonsense?

 

Over the next few months, I hope you’ll join me as we discuss these things together and share insights into each song on the Revolver LP. Every two weeks, I’ll post established research about Revolver from Beatles music scholars such as Robert Rodriguez, Walter Everett, Bruce Spizer, Anthony Robustelli, Aaron Krerowicz, Tim Riley, and many others. I’ll also propose a few of my own new and original ideas about the tracks.

 

I hope you’ll join in and share your facts and opinions and help us create The Fest for Beatles Fans Blog Dialogue on Revolver. We need YOU (Yeah, you! You in the paisley shirt!) to supplement what I’ll be sharing with additional and interesting information in our Comments Section.

 

There are so many controversial theories about the meanings of these songs and about the ways in which they were created and performed. So at times, we may disagree. That’s wonderful as long as we all disagree politely. All respectful opinions will be posted for everyone to enjoy. We want you all to be a part of this collaborative project and to jump in with your thoughts and information. Let’s work together to examine Revolver 50 years later and to find out what we’ve learned since the Summer of 1966!

 

To kick it all off, tell us your story!!! Where were you when you heard Revolver for the first time? And what, pray tell, did you think about it?

 

Hey, wait a sec…let me grab a cold Fresca and unwrap my Moonpie. Okay, there we go! Now I’m ready. Do tell!

 


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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Say the Word

You’re probably not surprised to find out that my husband played in a band (mainly rhythm guitar, but he also plays bass and piano). And, he’s recorded his own CD of original songs called Preferred Risk. Over the last few days, I’ve heard one of his songs –- called “Words” –- playing in a loop in my head. The “hook” or catch phrase is this:

 

Words that are written down –
Meanings realized –
Words placed together
Change our lives.

 

What could be more true? Think of all the wonderful words that have altered the course of your life: “I do.” “It’s a boy!” or “It’s a girl!” or “It’s twins!” or “You won!” or “I have your back.” Or “You’ll be attending (your favorite school’s name here) this fall!” or “I love you.” These words lift us up for years to come.

 

John Lennon placed his heart’s longing and his life’s purpose in the hands of words. He said quite honestly, “Half of what I say in meaningless. But I say it just to reach you, Julia.” In that simple, honest line he offered up, unabashedly, his life’s mission statement. And throughout his years here, John did just that. He used words to try to reach the “girl in a million, my friend,” the lovely Julia Lennon.

 

Paul McCartney, likewise, tried endlessly to explain to Jane Asher through his lyrics that he needed her to relinquish her career and “be with him” if they were to be happy. In one song after another (increasingly argumentative), he pled his case via “What You’re Doing,” “I’m Looking Through You,” “We Can Work it Out,” “You Won’t See Me,” and even “Here, There, and Everywhere.” Paul kept saying in plaintive words: “I need you to give up what you’re doing and be there for me.” He phrased it in every version possible.

 

Why? Because Paul knew that words have great appeal, great power. American poet Carl Sandburg realized that when he wrote this simple but unforgettable poem, “Primer Lesson.”


Look out how you use proud words.
When you let proud words go, it is not easy to call them back.
They wear long boots, hard boots; they walk off proud; they can’t hear you calling–
Look out how you use proud words.

 

No one understood this simple or “primer” lesson better than John Lennon. When his long and complicated discussion with journalist Maureen Cleave ended up being dissected, lifted out of context, and placed on the cover of Datebook magazine, John discovered how quickly the things we say and write can get away from us…can stalk off to live sordid lives of their own without our being able to “call them back.” Over and over and over on the 1966 North American Tour, in press conference after press conference, John apologized for his words about The Beatles being “more popular than Jesus.” But it was to no avail. His words had taken on a life of their own.

 

I’m a news junkie, and last night as I was listening to a rehashing of the day’s events, I decided that about 80 percent of our news items center on things that people have said: words or phrases about someone else, to someone else, about another country, agency, political candidate, or alleged crime for which they are being investigated. We even have a term for this sort of thing; we call it “a sound byte.” Words dominate our politics as well as our private lives.

 

Because society is inexorably “tied at the hip” (or “tied at the hype,” as you choose) to Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and every other social media “flava of the month,” words have become dangerous weapons hurled at others on the spur of the moment.

 

We Tweet without censure. We blast someone on Facebook. We “Like” or “Dislike” and leave nasty comments for one another at will. We use words to wound, accuse, blame, and tear down. Without any concrete evidence, we sling vile accusations that have zero basis in fact. And we think that is acceptable. It’s not.

 

John and Paul would have been the first to warn us all that words, once spoken (or written) cannot be retrieved. Indeed, Paul eloquently sang, “Her words (and kindness) linger on when she no longer needs you.”

 

Images fade. Over time, facts blur. But the words that someone speaks to us and about us linger on. We remember.

 

What does Paul McCartney remember about his Mother Mary? He remembers her words: “Let it be.”

 

What does John Lennon say will set you free? “The Word.”

 

What immediately ties you to George Harrison? A single word. “Something.”

 

And without Ringo’s words (for example, “Tomorrow Never Knows”) Beatles history would have been quite different.

 

In Liverpool, one of my favorite spots is the “bombed out church” now turned into a garden of reflection in the heart of the city. Here, the violence of war has been turned into a retreat of peace. The wreckage of a bomb’s tragic destruction is daily being transformed into beauty.

 

But the wreckage of words will not reverse itself as easily. Children are “crippled inside” for a lifetime by the words we say. Families are torn apart. Friendships are ended with no hope of reparation. Marriages are injured. Look out how you use words. They have a dark magic all their own. And, my friends, it is large and in charge.


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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When We’re Together

Until I met him at the 2014 Los Angeles Fest for Beatles Fans, Steve Marinucci was just a pleasant, suntanned face under a broad-rimmed beach hat. Until I met Ken Michaels at the 2016 New York Metro Fest, he was just a wide smile and beautiful eyes. I’d just seen a face…

 

And before the many Fests I’ve attended over the last few years, Pete Best was just a legend, not the humble man who scratches his neck when embarrassed, who downplays his importance and talent, and who never utters a mean word about anyone, ever. Chas Newby was just the lad who walked away from The Beatles, the gifted bass player with other dreams. He wasn’t the thoughtful, kind, dear friend he is now. And he never would have been, without the Fest.

 

And Freda Kelly? Well, Freda was just The Beatles Fan Club Secretary, not the strong, funny, gentle, honest, loving, and yet no-nonsense friend she’s become. All of these people have blossomed into Living Color and 3-D since I saw them standing there.

 

Through the Fest, I’ve met almost every one of the dear friends in my life. Come to think of it, I can count on one hand the friends I have who weren’t introduced to me via The Fest.  Wow. Maybe I’m amazed…

 

Tonight in church, I was thinking how much what we experience at the Fest is like a church service. No, no, hear me out…it really is! (Lennonesque disclaimer here: This is not to say the Fest is bigger or more popular than the church!!! Ahem!) But truly… we gather; we sing; we pass the peace; we tell the story; we share one another’s woes and joys; we pray for one another; we study and learn together; we know each other’s families; we help one another through good times and bad…and yes, (you knew it was coming) we get by with a little help from our friends. And although you can be a Beatles fan without going to a Fest (just as you can certainly practice your religion without entering a church or synagogue or mosque or whatever), you’re sincerely missing out on something wonderful and meaningful if you don’t attend.

 

For the last month (ever since I left New York), I’ve been mulling over the meaning of the Fest and trying to come up with the most apt and picturesque words to describe it to those of you who’ve never attended. But like Paul (McCartney, not “of Tarsus”) I stumble and fall short, so “I’ll say the only words I know, so you’ll understand.”

 

The closest I can come to giving you a glimpse into the way you feel after attending a Fest for Beatles Fans is this: “You and I have memories longer than the road that stretches out ahead.” From the moment you open your car door in the hotel parking lot, you’re surrounded by people just like you. For three happy days you’re with people (of all ages) who share your collective memory, who understand. You are with those who know why you think and act as you do.

 

They may be teens or thirty-somethings or Baby Boomers, but they all – every one! – get it. They know why you say “Number Nine, Number Nine,why you snarl, “You’ve failed, haven’t y’jeweler?” or wink, “I am not what I seem.” They know what “God is a concept by which we measure our pain” means. And they know why you respectfully won’t wear red tonight. They’ve read the books you’ve read. They’ve memorized the songs you’ve memorized. They’d rather stay up all night and sing under the stairs than anything they can Imagine. They’re happy just to dance with you.  And at a moment’s notice, they’ll do the Cavern Stomp.

 

These are the friends you always wanted in junior high and high school…the perfect friends you couldn’t find. Some have blue hair, heavily glittered eye shadow, and 12-inch heels. Some wear sensible shoes and carry a cane. Some dress all-out Sgt. Pepper. Some tug on T-shirts and jeans. Some come for the speakers and miss everything to hear Pattie Boyd or Louise Harrison or Ken Townsend.

 

Others come for the bands and are breathless over Mark Hudson, Mark Rivera, Peter Noone, Gary Van Scyoc, and Billy J. Kramer. And still others come to introduce their children to the “act they’ve known for all these years,” so they beeline to Bob Abdou’s puppet show and his children’s parade…to Lanea Stagg’s popular class on making Savoy (chocolate) Truffles, and to the Friday night family dance featuring “Liverpool.” Our “clique” is completely and uniquely diverse…but we, in all the important ways, are exactly the same.

 

My husband works at a university, and several months ago, the President requested that his Administrative Cabinet submit their holiday schedules for the year. When he saw Rande’s list of events (six days for the New York Fest and six days for the Chicago Fest), he scribbled a quick note in the margin saying, “What? No vacation? ☹!” But Rande and I only smiled, knowing that by “Festing,” we are headed for the greatest holiday of them all. Roll up for the magical mystery tour!

 

For the last few minutes, I have been desperately trying to tell you about the Fest, but (as John Sebastian once observed) it’s “like tryin’ to tell a stranger about rock’n’roll.” It’s like trying to explain “hope” or “tangerine trees and marmalade skies” or the feeling of being “home, warm and dry.” It’s inexpressible.

 

But since I’ve been on a bit of a Paul spree in this blog (which is “very strange” in and of itself), let me close with Sir Macca (…and let that be an end to it, end to it!). Give this song a listen, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KZc_qGLP0qY  and then perhaps you’ll understand. Perhaps you’ll quit saying “Someday.” Perhaps you’ll come to the Chicago Fest and meet the friends who’ve “been waiting a lonely lifetime” to meet you. Perhaps at last you’ll find us. Will I see you there?  “I Will.”


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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Magic Man: Geoff Emerick

“What kind of life am I living?”

 

That’s the question I’ve asked myself many times over the past 31 years as I’ve been extremely privileged to meet and interview many of John Lennon’s childhood friends, early band members, family members and Beatles associates in the process of writing The John Lennon Series. I’ve been so fortunate to get to know many people whom I never dreamed I’d even have the opportunity to meet!! And, let me hasten to say that that great good luck has never been taken for granted! Each day, I’m immensely grateful.

 

This past weekend, I was invited by the good folks at the GRAMMY Museum® Mississippi to meet Geoff Emerick and then hear him speak and answer questions about his stellar career. And having long been a student of his book, Here, There, and Everywhere and an admirer of his remarkable work with The Beatles as Engineer on Revolver, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and Abbey Road, I was elated. I knew I’d enjoy the time spent with Geoff, but truly…it was even better than I’d anticipated.

 

 

Dressed in a plaid shirt, beige chinos, and high-top olive Converse, Geoff was casual – kind and unassuming. When I introduced my husband and myself to him, he shook my hand and said, “Geoff Emerick.” (As if we wouldn’t know!) He was honest (saying “I don’t remember” or “I can’t recall” when he didn’t). He was funny and articulate. And, he was very generous with his time, giving the intimate audience of less than 50 people two full hours of his time and memories…and then spending a great deal of time off stage signing autographs, answering questions one-on-one, and taking photos.

 

It was an incredible evening, and I thought you might enjoy hearing a few of the wonderful quips and quotes that he imparted to those who gathered to share “An Evening with Geoff Emerick.”

 

On John Lennon:

 

“He was the most aggressive of the four Beatles, but when he sang his voice held the most emotion. Tender. I always guessed he was thinking about his childhood.”

 

On Ringo Starr:

 

“He drummed his heart out in the studio! When the evening ended, there were broken pieces of drum sticks all over the floor.”

 

On recording the final guitar solos for “The End”:

 

“Yoko went literally everywhere with John. I mean, she sat on the floor outside the bathroom when he went in. But when he entered the studio to play his solo on ‘The End,’ he put up both hands and stopped her. ‘Not this time, luv,’ he said. And when they played those solos, they were sixteen again.”

 

On Mal Evans:

 

“The boys used to get rather aggravated with Mal if he didn’t have the things they needed. So he kept a roadie bag of just about everything: bandages, biscuits, elastic, tea, sugar, guitar strings, fuses…”

 

On George Harrison’s Indian music:

 

“Paul and John shared a nod ’n’a wink when George was recording his ‘new sound.’ I could tell they were thinking, ‘It’s all very nice, but it isn’t The Beatles, is it?’ But they went along.”

 

On The Beatles after Rishikesh:

 

“After India, they came back different…people we hardly knew. Dressed differently, they acted differently. Niggling at me. They weren’t the same people, and it wasn’t a change for the better.”

 

On Click Tracks:

 

“The only time we used a click track was in making ‘Eleanor Rigby.’ There was one playing in George Martin’s headset as he conducted the octet. Otherwise, we didn’t use them. They made the music too… artificial.”

 

On his knack with music:

 

“When I was a little boy, I had a toy gramophone on which I played 78’s. After I heard a song, I could sit down at the piano and play back what exactly I had heard. I didn’t have to plunk around for the correct notes. I knew where the next one would be.”

 

On recording:

 

“I see it as painting a picture with tonalities.”

 

 

 

 

On mono vs. stereo recordings:

 

“The mono mixes were made with The Beatles there, giving their input. They were never around for the stereo mixes. That was George Martin’s interpretation of what they’d want…and my interpretation. So, the mono recordings are the definitive mix.”

 

On Revolver:

 

“The role of the engineer changed with ‘Tomorrow Never Knows.’ No longer was I there just to capture sound. I was now creating sound.”

 

As you can see, it was a fantastic evening. Geoff would talk about a track, and then we’d play it and listen together. How exciting was that?!

 

Many of the aspects of being an author are less than glamorous: standing for eight to ten hours in a booth and stopping strangers with “Have you heard about the book?” just to get your work into the hands of readers is next-to-awful. But having the rare opportunity to chat with Geoff Emerick (or Bill Harry or Bob Wooler or Rod Murray) makes it all worth it.

 

When Geoff Emerick was invited by George Martin to become the Engineer on Revolver, he was fondly known to The Beatles as “Golden Ears.” And one can see why. However, after this past Saturday night, I’ll always think of him as “Magic Man.” His expertise, ground-breaking recording techniques and invention of new equipment (such as the Automatic Double Tracking device) astound me. But even more impressive is Geoff’s in-depth understanding of what The Beatles’ vision was for their music and his innate ability to give that vision life.

 

Geoff helped deliver the magic that became Revolver, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and Abbey Road. Winning Grammys for these three LPs was, of course, incredibly well-deserved. But he won much more, didn’t he? Our 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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