Old Friends, Bookends… Today I Turn 70

Woke up, Fell out of bed and decided to write this stream of consciousness as I celebrate this wonderful occasion of what it is like to be 70. I don’t know how long this will be, and I may ramble, but so be it. It occurred to me that it turns out that music has been at the center of my life from the beginning. My father, Danny, was a musician (sax player) and band leader. From my earliest days I loved music. My first records were 78 RPM at the birth of rock and roll. Listening to the top 40 stations we got a sprinkling of all the music that was popular at the time. Having the opportunity to see the popular artists of the time live on stage at Kutsher’s Country Club in the Catskills from 1957 where Dad would be the bandleader for the next 41 years. His only music idol was Louis Armstrong. I can remember when he played there in the summer of 1958.  There was Dad leading the band for this icon who later was named the greatest American musician of the 20thCentury. Meeting him backstage after the show was a moment that still hangs on my wall at home. My father and Louis shaking hands. His expression is one of pure joy. I must have felt something at that moment because it would happen to me in another 6 years.

 

We meet many people along the way, some become friends for awhile, some for life. Mike Quittman and I met at Kutsher’s that first summer and became friends, very competitive in all games – Ping Pong, Nok Hockey, then golf, the other love of my life. Mike and I used to go to all the shows together, seeing this wide variety of music and other entertainment. We sat at the side of the stage and I was always very proud to see Dad leading the band. Mike also loves music – 50s and 60s rock and roll and still does (though not to the same level). This 60 + year friendship is my oldest and we still get together and still go to concerts. I love you Mike.

 

January 6,1964 – That moment when I am grabbed by music bigtime and it never let go. I first heard I Want To Hold Your Hand. I just wrote about this 13 days ago, so will skip the details now, but I didn’t know at that moment, how one song and one band could truly alter the lives of an entire generation and beyond.

 

September, 1965 Off to Adelphi University. One of the first guys I met was Bob Stirber. He also played guitar, as I (and millions of others) did because of The Beatles. We weren’t roommates, but we certainly bonded quickly and became roommates and best friends by our second year. As our eyes and souls were being opened to a new world, we talked endlessly about everything. In 1969, we graduated and went to Europe for 2 months. First stop was London and 3 Savile Row, Friday, June 13. Now, Bob loved the Beatles but wasn’t in the same hard core fan category I was in. It was our first stop because I wanted to meet the Beatles and this was their office.  John walked out of the office to look at a Fireplace that was in a truck that had just driven up. I said hello, shook his hand, got his autograph, took some photos and had a nice short little conversation with him. Another bigtime life changing moment. I walked around London that evening looking at my hand and saying “ I shook one of god’s hands”. Clearly Bob thought I was overboard. I also said to Bob, I want to work for The Beatles! In Amsterdam, Bob buys a guitar and we spend most evenings playing Beatles music (and others) in parks in every city we visited. Their music was truly universal, wherever we went, even if they didn’t speak our language, they knew the songs. My only professional gig as a musician was with Bob at a school on Long Island. We were paid $20.00 each. Bob and I remained close but time and distance got in the way. He was an early advocate of eating organic foods and how to stay healthy. Bob didn’t make it to 70. He died of cancer almost 3 years ago. I love you and miss you, Bob.

 

August 15-17, 1969 – Woodstock. After returning from Europe a week earlier, in time to be the best man at my brother Howard’s wedding. I love my brother, Ilene and their entire family, but Howard didn’t get Dad’s genes when it comes to music. I did!! (We both got his love of golf, however.) So, I go up to Kutsher’s for the rest of the summer, only to find out that this little music festival was only 13 miles away! I went all three days and was exposed to so many great groups who I only knew their hits from. This was another one of those life changing moments. I decided that I have to work in the music industry. Yes, in 1969, my record collection was just beginning to change from singles to albums. Of course I had all the Beatles albums and some Stones too, but that suddenly changed.

 

October 1, 1969 – Out of College, Money Spent, See No Future, Pay No Rent. I head over to Sam Goody, the large record store chain in the east, to try to find a job. The Beatles got in the way. Abbey Road was released that very day and of course I had to immediately buy it and go home to listen to it, forgoing the job application idea. I am again overwhelmed with their music. My first thought was How did Paul McCartney know my exact situation in life at that exact moment? I don’t know, but he did. Next day I got a job at Sam Goody and found out I loved retail, especially selling music. It was certainly a lifestyle by then and I felt it.

 

Late, 1969 -Roger Berkley is hired as a part time record salesperson. We very quickly become friends. Roger was one of the first people I told of my idea in 1974 about Beatlefest. He was all in on it from day one. He ended up being the auctioneer at the first Fest and the announcer on the documentary we made, called Welcome to Pepperland. Roger and I have remained best of friends ever since. Roger used to live on the upper west side of NYC and would bump into John on numerous occasions. One such time was in 1979 about a week before a Fest, He asked John if he had a message for the fans. He said, Tell them, The Music was the Thing.  Roger is also a golf nut and his family has been part of the shows forever. Today, I am concerned about Roger. He has had a couple of surgeries this week and is in recovery. We all hope for a full recovery. We want the Roger we know and back. We have to be optimistic. I love you Roger.

 

August 17, 1975 – My first date with Carol. I brought my guitar, went out for Chinese food, came back and saw her record collection – Beatles, Concert for Bangladesh, Joni Mitchell, Aztec Two Step, and many others that adorned my own collection. Again it was a musical connection. Our second date was the second Beatlefest. We married in June, 1976. I walked down the aisle to my favorite song, Hey Jude. I played Here Comes The Sun to her during the wedding while in my White tuxedo. We are married 42 years and Carol is the love of my life.  Michelle is now 33 and is recording an album as I am writing this. Jessica turns 30 in a few months and is wise beyond their years. I love my family so much.

 

It just occurred to me yesterday, the words that John sent to us in 1979 Tell them, The Music was the Thing was not just about the Beatles, but in life itself. My longest friendships, my Father, my Mother, my Wife, had music at the core. A love of music is of monumental importance in my life. I remember Dad telling me how lucky he was to be able to play music for a living. He did what he loved the most (other than golf). Dad and John also shared their birthday – October 9th.  So there it is. My life as seen through these 70 year young eyes – my father’s words and John’s words (and of course, The Beatles) led me to a career which I absolutely love. And it is all centered around music! I am a very lucky man.

It has been a great thrill and honor to have personally met John, Paul, George and Ringo and almost everyone involved in the Beatles story. Presenting their friends and family at the conventions for the past 44 years, have given us all insight into just how their ‘team’ was so important to them. The friends we have made at the Fests over the years are much more than friends. Our staff are very much part of our extended family. I love you all very much. It wouldn’t be the same without you.

 

All you need is love,

Mark Lapidos

A baby boomer and very proud of it

 

Written January 19, 2018 5:30AM            

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It’s Not Always Going to Be This Grey

Paul Simon depicted this season best: “…and the sky is a hazy shade of winter…”

 

Yes, even in generally sunny and mild Louisiana, this afternoon, it was a crushing 22 degrees. Almost as soon as the sky brightened, it fell back into darkness. These are short and bitter days: full-on winter.

 

Yet, in the midst of this unbearable cold, I read in my gardener’s journal that I should be out planting. I’m late putting in kale. My pansies are long overdue. And, if I want daffodils, jonquils, or tulips for spring, they must go into the frozen ground this week. I need to dig out my gloves and spade, bundle up, and get to work. But in the freezing darkness, I must admit, I have little motivation.

 

Then, I think of George Harrison. I think of George in those dim and sunless days after The White Album, when (for the most part) his genius was ignored and his contributions to The Beatles, largely overlooked. It was “the winter of [his] discontent,” but in those seemingly barren days, instead of despairing, George began planting.

 

When John and Paul shrugged him off and pushed their own projects forward, it would have been easy for George to doubt himself. It would have been reasonable for George to buy into the attitude that he was “second best.” (Or third best, as it were.) Instead, continuing to believe in himself and in his ability to be fruitful, George used that fallow time to begin writing “My Sweet Lord,” “Isn’t It a Pity?” and “What is Life.” Fully confident that “it’s not always going to be this grey,” George began quietly preparing for a bright harvest that would shock those who had swept him aside.

 

He began penning, editing, and improving the songs that would – almost two years later – grace his double GRAMMY-nominated (for “Best Album of the Year” and “Best Single of the Year”) album. He began creating All Things Must Pass. In a very dark time, George quietly tilled the fertile soil of his imagination, carefully planting seeds that would flourish into that triple-album bearing the greatest creative work of his career.

 

In a wry twist of fate, had The Beatles embraced George’s plethora of compositions during 1968 and 1969, the accomplished Harrison would not have compiled the elegant and varied catalog that fills All Things Must Pass. As music critic Ritchie Unterberger adeptly observed, the album was filled with “[George Harrison’s] backlog of unused compositions from the late Beatles era.” Indeed, the “shadowy winter” that engulfed George’s last two years as a Beatle was necessary; it furnished a quiet time for him to create a genius solo album.

 

And so, like George, I resolve to plant. I resolve to make the most of an uncomfortable, bleak, and lonely season. Instead of letting darkness defeat me, I resolve to use it as an instrument to come back stronger, more vibrant – full of fragrant blooms.

 

I wish you a time for planting, too. I wish you a New Year full of quiet moments in which to plan and grow. May every season of 2018 be used to good purpose…even the most frozen moments that seem to have no potential. George found them a blessing. May we as well.

 

Listen to George’s title track, “All Things Must Pass” here…


1. Shakespeare, William, from Richard III

2. From “All Things Must Pass” by George Harrison on the All Things Must Pass LP, 1970.

3. Richie Unterberger, Review: All Things Must Pass LP, AllMusic.com, https://www.allmusic.com/album/all-things-must-pass-mw0000194979


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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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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