Cynthia Lennon: Shine On

At the New York Metro Fest for Beatles Fans two weeks ago, I delivered a talk called  “Cynthia Lennon: the Real Fifth Beatle.” And with all my heart, I believe she was just that.

 

She was there in the basement of The Jacaranda, holding John’s microphone for him (well, a mic duct taped to a broom) in 1959…long before Stu or Brian or Pete or George Martin ever appeared on the scene. She lovingly told John that he was “too big for Liverpool” as she watched him rehearse with Paul and George in Room 21 at Liverpool College of Art during those lunchtime sessions of 1959 and 1960. And unswervingly, she believed in his destiny to achieve “the toppermost of the poppermost” long before the Beatlettes (or even the Wooden Tops) existed. Cynthia was the first to understand and cherish John’s dream.

 

When Cynthia found out the she was pregnant, John immediately (immediately!) offered to marry her. And had she pressed him to leave the band and become a “proper husband and father,” I believe he would have been just as dutiful in doing “the right thing.” But Cynthia never asked that of John.

 

Instead, Cyn spent her honeymoon night alone – moving in to Brian’s Falkner Street flat and making a home for John, even though he had offered to take her along with him that evening to his gig. Cynthia refused. She chose to remain in the background and to shun the limelight and to give John a home to which he could always come when he was tired, frustrated, and in need of love.

 

During the year (August 1962-August 1963) that Brian forbade her to appear with John in public, Cynthia acted accordingly and vanished from sight to help her husband’s career. She ran from reporters. She shielded her husband and her son. She pushed her needs aside and endured aching loneliness so that The Beatles could grow and emerge as the stars she knew they were to be.

 

When girlfriends joined the troupe of Beatles – as did Maureen Cox – Cynthia befriended them and made them feel welcome. She worked side-by-side with Freda Kelly to answer John’s fan mail, and she endured the torrent of fans in Emperor’s Gate for much longer than was humanly possible. Cynthia did whatever John needed her to do to help him achieve the life for which he longed.

 

Did John love Cynthia? Devotedly.

 

In January of 1964, The Beatles were appearing for three weeks in Paris. During that time, they got one day (one day!) off. The other three Beatles spent that day sight-seeing and sleeping and having a grand ole time. John flew back to London for that 24 hours to spend the time with Cyn. It was worth it to him. She recharged him and inspired him and made him whole.

 

And on that one day in which they were together, John invited Cyn to come along with him on his first American visit in February of 1964, even though Brian had forbidden him to ask his wife along. John wanted Cynthia to share in the excitement and the joy of his success – a success that her devotion had made possible. And she accepted. At Ed Sullivan, Carnegie Hall, Miami, and Washington, D.C. Cynthia was there.

 

In America, reporters tried to get her to talk. She would not. She stayed in the shadows and let her husband take the bows. She made her life about John and about John’s son, her beloved Julian. And even when she wrote her first book, A Twist of Lennon, she minimized John’s faults and played up his strengths. She was his best friend.

 

In Lennon Revealed, Larry Kane writes, “The romance between Cynthia Powell and John Lennon, somewhat forgotten in the modern era of Lennon remembrances – and often ignored when it was in full bloom – is a significant one for the young artist. Although the marriage was prematurely instigated by the pregnancy that brought Julian to life, there is no question that Cynthia was John’s first real and intense romantic love and that her role in his early days of creativity with The Beatles cannot be discounted.”

 

And Tony Bramwell, Kane notes, adds, “Cynthia was beautiful, physically and on the inside. Although she knew he was apt to find love on the road, she was totally dedicated to his success, and I might add, influential. He was insecure and Cynthia was always there to pump him up, to buttress…his weak side. She was a wonderful mother who loved John deeply.”

 

John’s indiscretions were ignored by Cynthia. His anger was forgiven. His focus on his career rather than his marriage was never even considered a problem to his adoring wife. Cynthia wanted the best for John, always. And that kind of unconditional love sparked “When I Get Home,” and “Do You Want to Know a Secret” and “I Call Your Name” and “It Won’t Be Long” and so many more. Even when Beatlemania began to take its toll on their marriage, John penned the haunting “It’s Only Love” for his Cyn.

 

Today the world has lost the Fifth Beatle. But more importantly, it has lost a true lady who made “night time bright, very bright.” Cynthia Lennon will always shine on.

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The Fest For Beatles Fans is Home

Oddly enough, every time I step through the door into a Fest for Beatles Fans – whether it’s held in New Jersey, New York, Chicago, Las Vegas, or Los Angeles, I hear Simon and Garfunkel singing. Yeah, you heard me: Simon and Garfunkel.

 

Oh sure, over the hotel speakers, The Beatles are joyfully “yeah, yeah, yeah-ing their brilliant way across the universe,” as it should be. But in my head, I hear:

 

“Home where my thoughts escapin’,
Home, where my music’s playin,
Home where my love lies waitin’
Silently for me…silently for me.”

 

Home. Going to a “Beatlefest” (as we used to call it) means coming home again.

 

Mark and Carol Lapidos always say that the fest is a Thanksgiving Dinner without the family arguments. And that pretty well sums it up.

 
All the usual characters are there…the same family members we’ve seen over and over for the past five, ten, twenty (or more!) years. You know, Michelle and Jessica in their flowing, glorious attire and 10-12 inch heels. The man who has every elegant Beatle suit ever tailored. That group who sets up a full band in the lobby and sings away, all night long…and the tanned, smiling man who dances to every, single, solitary song. Mark Hudson with his “love-is-a-many-splendored-beard” and his crazy-mad command of “Working Class Hero.” The fresh, hopeful teens out to win the “Battle of the Beatles Bands.” Jim Demes who works his buns off with a sincere smile ever on his face. Bruce Spizer who barely chuckles when I call him a “Beatleseffin’pedia.” Gregarious Judith, supremely talented Eric, and our sweet friend, Dara.

 

My family. Our family. Home again.

 

We do the traditional things. We dance to the sounds of Liverpool’s nightly concerts. We take part in the trivia contest. We go to Jude’s Sunday morning Early Bird speech in the Main Ballroom (Hint! Hint!) on “The 180 Hardest Days of The Beatles Career.” We watch “A Hard Day’s Night” on Friday evening just before the Author’s Symposium. We get autographs from our lifelong heroes…and at least once during the weekend’s span, we just stop and sing along with The Beatles.

 

It’s at that moment that we remember why we came here: for the friends, of course. For the family. For the fun and the programs and the laughter and the carefree moments out of time. But most of all, we have traveled here to celebrate our champions, The Beatles…to lift a glass or two and say, “Those were the days my friend.” To remember.

 

We stand beneath the posters of their bright, 1960′s smiles, and we recall a time less harried, less riddled with care, less uncertain, and less angry. We remember the hope that was ours and the days that stretched ahead golden and full of promise. And it reminds us that this can happen again, if only we try…if only we stay true to those things in which we once so ardently believed.

 

At the Fest for Beatles Fans, we come home to ourselves…to whom we were and to whom we can be again.

 

Join me March 20-22 and be reborn. In Rye Brook, New York, YOU are waiting for you. I wouldn’t miss that appointment.

 

Grab your #TicketToRye RIGHT HERE

 

Jude Southerland Kessler
http://www.johnlennonseries.com

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Give Peace a Chance

Have you ever really thought about what that means? Ever let it sink it? Why did John Lennon think he needed to urge us to give peace a try, a sample, a chance? Could it be that he was convincing us to consider peace because he knew that we are non-peaceful at heart?
 
During the Age of Enlightenment (the 18th Century), great thinkers called philosophes spent a great deal of serious time and thought trying to determine whether man was inherently evil or inherently good. In France, René Rousseau wrote an essay asserting that man is born good, but is almost immediately corrupted by the world around him. In England, John Locke wrote an opposing essay asserting that man is born evil (the church calls it “original sin”) but is rescued by laws and by society’s uplifting ethics.
 
There was no “winner” in this contest of ideas. Some people favored Rousseau. Some favored Locke.
 
I hold with Locke. I believe that a young child will lie, if given the chance…that he will say cruel things to another child…that he will put himself or herself before anyone else. I think that only parents, teachers, mentors, and extended family can teach that child to be selfless… can convince that child to be kind, tactful, giving, and loving. Many of you will disagree with me. That’s to be expected. People have been arguing this point since the 1700’s without resolution.
 
Like John Lennon, I believe that we have to learn to give peace a chance.
 
This past week, the world has revolved in utter chaos. Twelve people were murdered in a Parisian newspaper office for speaking their minds. Hostages were taken by the assailants and murdered. Terror was on our lips. Violence, hatred, and suspicion reigned supreme.
 
In his famous chants about the divisiveness of “isms” in his song, “Give Peace A Chance,” John seemed to know that peace has little hope in our society. Early on, we take sides. But like that radical young man, Jesus of Nazareth, John urged us to turn the other cheek and to be a neighbor to people unlike ourselves. He reminded us (in “Instant Karma”) that if we fail to do this, “Instant karma is going to get you…gonna knock you right in the head!” Okay, John, we hear you.
 
But giving peace a chance!? Can that ever really happen? I’m very, very, very skeptical. However, despite all the evidence of its impracticality, I still believe that seeking peace is our ultimate goal.
 
However, giving peace a chance doesn’t mean blindly trusting everyone. Some people are untrustworthy, and we’d be stupid to toss our pearls before them. Giving peace a chance doesn’t mean being naïve or foolish.  Giving peace a chance doesn’t mean forgetting the wisdom learned from the past. And certainly, giving peace a chance doesn’t mean buckling under to bullies. What it does mean is that we should act daily as if “We Are Unafraid” to bring good into the world, no matter what.
 
In so many of his songs (even “Happy Christmas, War is Over”), John reminded us that we are all called to do good things, great things. And if we are called, we must try.
 
I’m willing to give peace a chance. How about you?
 
Jude Southerland Kessler
 
http://www.johnlennonseries.com
 
To hear the songs in this blog:
 
Give Peace a Chance https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RkZC7sqImaM
 
Instant Karma https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vEjUQ15lyzk&feature=youtu.be
 
Happy Christmas, War is Over  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8Vfp48laS8

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Fifty Years of Beatleness!

By Candy Leonard, author of Beatleness: How the Beatles and Their Fans Remade the World
 
With the exception of the great visionary Brian Epstein, no one would have predicted that we’d still be listening to and celebrating the Beatles in the 21st century. Across three generations and across the universe, their music continues to bring joy and happiness to millions.
 
Their story continues to fascinate and inspire people of all ages. The Gratitude Wall at the Fests are filled with heartfelt expressions of appreciation for the Beatles being there at life’s most difficult and most joyous moments.
 
When I was working on my book, Beatleness, I realized that there was no word to describe this amazing, complicated, fifty-year, multigenerational, cross-cultural phenomenon and how it makes people feel. I started calling it Beatleness, and it became the title of the book. It’s a way of describing the indescribable! Here are the three definitions of the word as they appear in the book.
 
Beatleness /bē-tl-nəs, bē-tl-nis/
noun
1. qualities or characteristics of the Beatles and their works; a manifestation of the essential qualities that define “the Beatles.”
2. an emotional or spiritual state, condition, or feeling resulting from exposure to or thinking about the Beatles and their works.
3. cultural references and artifacts, tangible and intangible, that evoke the Beatles; artistic or commercial use of words and images associated with the Beatles.
 
We asked you to use the word “Beatleness” in a sentence for a chance to win a copy of the book—and got close to 100 responses! Many of you talked about the Beatleness that was passed to you from your parents or the Beatleness you’re passing on to your children. Others talked about the positive messages of Beatleness. It’s a useful word – let’s keep using it in 2015!
 
Below are the Top Ten responses…
 
James F. Opalecky – If there were more BEATLENESS in the world, we would live in peace and harmony, feeling love for each other! ‬‬
 
Leslie Smith – The apex of Beatleness in my life was seeing Paul McCartney for the first time with my dad. We laughed, sang and cried together. It was a moment of pure music, love, and Beatleness that I hold dear now that my dad is gone.
 
Jennie Ann Hampton – I look at each and every person as an individual regardless of their race, religion or nationality. And I do feel that the Beatleness in my heart is partially responsible.
 
Debra Wallace Karina – Beatleness had entered my soul when I was young and will be with me every day for my entire life. I have shared it with my children !
 
Roger Yee – The world would be a much better place if more “Beatleness” existed.‬‬
 
Dan Vance – I’ve been a Beatle fan since I was a kid living in Europe. I worked hard to impress my kids with Beatleness since they were little kids, and I do believe it worked!!!
 
Marlene Reiter Yuzik – I have always had Beatleness in my life. Ever since I was 10 years old and saw them on Ed Sullivan. I have brought up my three children with Beatleness!!
 
Donna Bornemann – My best Beatleness moment – I had tickets to see Paul 1976 and went into labor so missed the concert and had a beautiful baby girl‬‬
 
Oscar Mayer – The Beatleness was all around and us and still has us under it’s power!‬‬
 
Briana Herzog – My Beatleness is obvious because I named my son Lennon!!!
 
And the winner is……James Opalecky!
 
Congrats, James. And thanks to all who entered!

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Alternate John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band

44 years ago today, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band was released.
 
The album, which was John’s first legit solo venture, was powerful, raw, honest, and emotional, and is listed at #22 on the Rolling Stone Top 500 Albums of All-Time list.
 
Recently, we put together a live version of Rubber Soul. For John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, we’ve put together a version made up of alternate studio takes, acoustic takes, and demos…
 
Mother (alternate studio version):
 

 
Hold On (take 24, with false starts):
 

 
I Found Out (alternate studio version):
 

 
Working Class Hero (demo):
 

 
Isolation (alternate studio version):
 

 
Remember (outtake from studio sessions):
 

 
Love (John Lennon Anthology version):
 

 
Well Well Well (acoustic demo):
 

 
Look At Me (acoustic version):
 

 
God (alternate studio version):
 

 
My Mummy’s Dead (acoustic demo):
 

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Today in Beatles history: Free As A Bird premieres

On today’s date in 1995, the first part of The Beatles Anthology premiered on ABC…
 
Remembers Fest Founder Mark Lapidos:
 
It was a Sunday night and the excitement was building all evening as they kept promoting the first new Beatles song in 25 years. Of course it was ‘Free As A Bird,’ and it certainly didn’t disappoint. It aired at the end of the show with the promo film, which blew everybody away with all those Beatles references. It received blanket coverage and airplay the next day on almost every radio station and newscast in the country.
 
Capitol even arranged for Beatles Anthology 1 to be in the stores on the next day (Monday), not Tuesday as had been the case for decades. It was a monumental effort to make that happen, and the CD went to #1 and sold a staggering 3 1/2 million copies. ‘Free As a Bird’ would have gone right to #1 as well, but the single was delayed and not released until December.
 
Remembers Fest Social Media Manager Danny Abriano:
 
I had recently turned 12 years old, but I was already a Beatles fanatic by the time Part One of the Anthology aired in 1995. With the internet in its infancy and social media nonexistent, there were no leaks or unauthorized sneak previews of ‘Free As A Bird,’ making the premiere at the end of the night on ABC an incredible and unique experience.
 
As soon as the Anthology 1 album was released, I grabbed my copy – on double-cassette. ‘Free As A Bird’ was the first song on the album, and I played the hell out of that song and pretty much everything else on Anthology 1. For someone who wasn’t around when the Beatles were together, seeing and hearing Paul, George, and Ringo play a new song with John was truly amazing.
 
Here’s the ‘Free As A Bird’ video, interspersed with some behind the scenes moments >>

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Billy J. Kramer will always sound like summer

To me, Billy J. Kramer will always sound like summer.
 
I first heard “Bad to Me” as we trekked back from City Pool to Bringhurst Park where Camp Denim Deb for Preteens was in full swing. It was deep summer in Alexandria, Louisiana – June bug and Popsicle days. And I was almost 11, or “one teen,” as I insisted on calling it. And it was in that “almost-one-teen summer” that I began noticing boys and dreaming of falling in love.

“The birds in the sky would be sad and lonely

If they knew that I’d lost my one and only…

They’d be sad! Don’t be bad to me!”

 
The words poured from our camp counselor, Joanne Wooten’s, transistor radio.  Walking single file through sun and shadow – our flip flops wet-smacking the sidewalk – my friends and I sang along…allowing ourselves to fall for the tune and the words and the way they made us feel, even though the hit wasn’t (or so we thought) by The Beatles.
 
The Beatles! They were my world. Well, John Lennon was my world. And had I known that he’d composed “Bad to Me” during his May 1963 trip with Brian Epstein to the Costa Brava and the Costa Del Sol, I would have flipped over it. Head over heels! But instead, I fell for the song gradually, mesmerized by the image of “softly sighing” leaves and the gentle sound of Billy J. Kramer’s voice.
 
Slender, brunette Joanne Wooton wore aqua contact lenses and tailored Capri pants. And as a teenager (almost an adult!), she was beyond cool. So when she informed us all that Billy J. Kramer was from Liverpool, too, and that he was blond, broad-shouldered, and handsome, we swooned. The Denim Debs had never seen Billy’s face, but listening to him plead, “Don’t be bad to me,” we were hooked.
 
It wasn’t until forty years later that I actually met Billy, face-to-face, at the Las Vegas Fest for Beatles Fans. Gathering all of my courage, I strolled over to him and said, “Billy, I want you to know that ‘I Go To Pieces’ meant the world to me growing up. In fact, I loved it so much that I sang it as a lullabye to my son each evening when he was a baby.”
 
Billy, who could have easily retorted, “Uhhhh, that’s not my song, you twit!” smiled a kind smile and tenderly replied, “Ah, that’s so nice. I’ll be sure to tell Peter Asher next time I see him.”
 
It took me ten minutes to figure out that I had named the wrong song. And ten months to get up the courage to speak to Billy again!
 
But since then, we’ve become good friends – me and this tall, sandy-blond NEMS star who wooed me away from John, if only for one small segment of summer. He and his wife have become one of the couples I most look forward to seeing each time we Fest for Beatles Fans-ers convene in New York or Chicago.
 
But this past Fest, as I sat in the Saturday night concert audience with my grown son, Cliff, and heard Billy J. sing the song I had REALLY crooned to my baby as a lullabye, “Bad To Me,” I was overcome with emotion.
 
Suddenly, it wasn’t 2014. It was 1964. And I was flip-flopping back to Bringhurst Park to braid a keychain made from rubber strands of brightly-coloured, waxy ribbon. I was singing along with the other Denim Debs and talking about the futility of attempting a cartwheel on the thick, grey tumbling mat that always smelled of feet.
 
It wasn’t October in Los Angeles as Billy sang. It was long ago…June bug hot and Popsicle cold. When Billy J. offered up “Bad to Me,” it was blue skies and birds on the wing.
 
For me, Billy J. Kramer will always sound like summer. His is the sound of days free from care. A lost innocence.
 
Jude Southerland Kessler is the Author of The John Lennon Series
 

http://www.johnlennonseries.com

 
Follow Jude on Twitter @JudeKessler
 
Follow Jude on Facebook here

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By Any Other Name


 
We call it The Fest.
 
We could say “convention” or “gathering” or “conference” or “meeting.” But it’s more than that.
 
It’s also “celebration” and “party.” The Fest for Beatles Fans – whether it’s held in New Jersey, Chicago, Las Vegas, or L.A. is always so much more than the trite, run-of-the-mill weekend symposium or show. It’s indeed a festival…a joyous fête uplifting of The Beatles and who they were and what they stood for, then and now. It’s a fest of their love.
 
In Los Angeles two weeks ago, we experienced that feeling with an awareness borne from time to think and reflect. Oh there were crowds and we were busy, but we weren’t OVERWHELMED the way we were in February at the New York Fest…we weren’t inundated as we were in Chicago. The authors and presenters and speakers who gathered on the “Left Coast” had moments to digest what was going on and to let the HISTORY of the moment sink in.
 
Directly across from my booth in the Marketplace stood Julia Baird, John’s sister, taking time to have her photo made with every single person who asked – signing autographs and sharing memories. At times, I could feel how very exhausted she was, but like John, she turned no one away. Julia kept smiling and hugging and making each fan feel special and unique. And when they walked away she didn’t roll her eyes or secretly snipe at them. Her love for each person was genuine. I know. I could see.
 
Beside me sat Ruth McCartney, takin’ the mickey out of everyone in her path…especially me. She had a blast from the moment she arrived ‘til the last second that she walked away. Selling her own brand of McCartney tea, Ruth was a force of fun to be reckoned with…a whirling dervish of deviltry. She was all nudge, nudge, wink, wink. Loved it!
 
It was a weekend for standing and chatting with Bob Eubanks who once brought The Beatles to the Hollywood Bowl…a weekend for learning The Cavern Stomp from the lovely Freda Kelly, who (quite fortunately) will never  ever change…who will always, as the song says, “stay as sweet as you are.” It was a weekend for laughing with Ivor Davis over  Ringo’s 1964 escapades and for smiling from ear-to-ear as Dave Morrell spun his web of loosey-goosey experiences, sharing the moments he spent with John just “horse-doggin’.” Those were the days, my friend.
 
The L.A. Fest was a weekend of music: the rock rant of Mark Hudson, the mad sax of Mark Rivera, and the “Hey Jude” of Mark Lapidos. All reMARKable.
 
It was Denny Laine, Denny Seiwell, and Laurence Juber all WINGing across the stage together…together, minus  One.
 
It was Bruce with the serial number and history of every Beatles record ever made and Chuck with a photo of each stop along the concert highway. It was me with 4000 footnotes and Kit with two upcoming books and Michelle and Jessica flowing past in 8-inch platform heels and burgundy “Help”-inspired, hooded capes. It was “Liddy Dave” with his quick wit and Candy with her inborn Beatleness. It was Susan stepping up to emcee us all…and Wally toting his penguin, a wry Thisbe (or Pyramus?).
 
We photographed one another. We made Beatles news for Steve Marinucci and Adam Forrest. We got up the courage to tell Julia how much she meant to us (well, I did). We bought T-shirts and books from one another. We had dinner together. And we laughed. We laughed as if our lives outside those walls realm had vanished, as if Joy was all we had.
 
For one weekend, we were all sixteen again.
 
Someone called The Fest for Beatles Fans a family reunion without the squabbles…and it is. It’s  a magical mystery tour where she loves you and everyone feels fine. It’s a ticket to ride to a realm where each quirky person is completely accepted and totally loved.
 
When John Lennon gave his stamp of approval to Mark Lapidos’s idea to create a “Beatles Fest” forty years ago, he was unwittingly endorsing The New Apple…a gathering of creative souls to sing, dance, act, speak, read poetry, do yoga, imagine, and remember.
 
And so, in an important way, we are continuing The Business of The Beatles. But to most of us, it feels like nothing but “fest!”
 
How many days ‘til the next one?
 
Jude is a John Lennon author/historian whose writing style is geared for fans, as she explains in great detail all angles of events in a very enjoyable manner. Head to Jude’s website to explore her works:  http://www.johnlennonseries.com/
 
Follow Jude on Twitter @JudeKessler
 
Follow Jude on Facebook here

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Recap: The 2014 NYC Fest

Last month, over 8,000 Beatles fans from 45 states and 5 continents gathered at the Grand Hyatt on 42nd street for the biggest and best New York area Fest in our 40 year history!
 
It began Friday morning on February 7th, when the Fest sent two busloads of fans from the Hyatt in Manhattan to JFK Airport in Queens to commemorate the exact moment in 1964 when The Beatles stepped off PanAm flight 101.
 

Donovan brings the house down with Liverpool

50 years to the day of the arrival of The Beatles in America, months of perseverance paid off with help from Q104.3 and the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey. With fans and media gathered at the TWA flight center at JFK, the Port Authority revealed a permanent Beatles plaque that marked the historic occasion.
 
As fans screamed and flashed homemade signs, our incredible house band Liverpool shook the airport with two live sets of Beatles hits. Ken Dashow of Q104.3 was on hand to deliver some remarks, and introduced Billy J. Kramer, Mark Rivera, The Lord Mayor of Liverpool, and John Lennon’s sister Julia Baird to the crowd.
 

Fest attendees had the opportunity to look back on 40 amazing years of the Fest

The event was a huge hit, and was covered on hundreds of newscasts later in the day.
 
Back in Manhattan, the Fest began at 5PM in 20 ballrooms and meeting rooms and it wasn’t long before everyone realized it was going to be a very special weekend full of lots of surprises. Our special musical guests – Donovan, Peter Asher, Billy J. Kramer, Chad & Jeremy, Mark Rivera, and Mark Hudson, were just the beginning.
 

Pattie Boyd poses with Carol Lapidos

Fest fans go wild at JFK Airport

Other musical guests – many previously unannounced – included Denny Laine (Wings), Neil Innes (The Rutles/Monty Python), Gene Cornish (The Rascals), and Terry Sylvester (The Hollies). Also rocking the Fest were The Smithereens, The Nutopians, and Birds of Paradox (featuring Steve Holley and John Lennon’s former band members Gary Van Scyoc & Adam Ippolito). Of course, Liverpool headlined the nightly Beatles concerts. We thank Steve Holley, who did a tremendous job pinch hitting for Chris Camilleri.
 
A wonderful surprise, Pattie Boyd joined us for most of Saturday for a great talk and a signing session. Along with Pattie, our non-musical guests contributed greatly to the festive spirit of the weekend. “Good Ol” Freda Kelly, Mark Lewisohn, Larry Kane, and 20 other guest authors and panelists helped fill the weekend with lots of great moments. Let us not forget Vince Calandra, Irene Katz & Alice Kestin, who told stories of what it was like to be at the Ed Sullivan Theatre or the Plaza Hotel during the weekend 50 years ago when The Beatles conquered America.
 

The Fest’s 40th anniversary cake/cupcake mosaic – presented by Baked by Melissa

Also spicing up the weekend were two live broadcasts. Saturday, Cousin Brucie, the legendary DJ who now hosts 60s on 6 on SiriusXM, took over the main stage for three hours to celebrate the anniversary of the arrival of The Beatles. Besides all of our musical guests joining Cousin Brucie, Ronnie Spector appeared and sang a great version of Be My Baby. Sunday Morning, Ken Dashow’s Breakfast With The Beatles aired live from The Cavern, where Billy J. Kramer & his band, Dana Fuchs, and Garrett Gardner (NBC’s The Voice) all performed live.
 

Cousin Brucie gets the crowd going

The Cavern was a highlight of the New York Fest, a brand new second ballroom of live music that featured more than a dozen up and coming bands, DJs spinning Beatles songs, live painting, and more. Among the highlights: Garrett Gardner brought the house down, Michelle Joni premiered her tribute to Yoko Ono’s Bad Dancer and sang with Michelle My Pelle, acclaimed singer-songwriter Laura Stevenson graced the stage, and Mark Lewisohn joined Bambi Kino for some very early Beatles jams. Other artists included Dani Mari, The Ferocious Few, People At Parties, DJ Natasha Blank, Josh Max, Peculiar Gentlemen, Cheap Sneakers, Odetta Hartman, Rony’s Insomnia, and Nick Demeris. The Cavern went to 2 AM on Friday & Saturday nights for those who still had energy left, and ended with a Fest after-party Sunday featuring Reserved For Rondee, who blew the crowd away with their unique style.
 
The new events at the Fest proved to be very popular. The Ashram, a mind-body-Beatles experience, featured yoga, guest lecturer (Dear) Prudence Farrow, sound healing, talks on modern spirituality inspired by George Harrison, Deco’s poetry jam, and more. The Modern Drummer Drum Symposium was packed, and featured Liberty DeVitto (Billy Joel), Danny Seraphine (Chicago), Carmine Appice (Vanilla Fudge), Aaron Comess (Spin Doctors), Steve Holley (Wings), Dennis Diken (Smithereens), and Shawn Pelton (SNL Sessions), world class drummers who paid tribute to Ringo Starr – the greatest drummer of them all. Also new this year were sold out New York City Beatles Walking Tours on Saturday & Sunday, and “We Can Write It Out” with Mark Hudson, where songs were created during each session.

Other highlights from the weekend were Photographers Bob Gruen, Allan Tannenbaum, and Rob Shanahan, and Artist Eric Cash showing their amazing exhibits, the incredible 40th anniversary Fest cake that was presented by Baked by Melissa on Saturday night, puppet shows and a parade led by Bob Abdou, a children’s concert by mr. RAY, two couples who got married the day of the Fest before coming to the Fest together for a “Beatlemoon,” Beatles trivia, “Yesterday and Today” winning the Battle of the Beatles Bands, Jeff Goldberg winning a trip to Las Vegas to see Beatles LOVE, and of course all of the late night jams throughout the hotel!
 

Shawn Pelton, Carmine Appice, Danny Seraphine, and Liberty Devitto pose at the Modern Dummer Symposium

We are currently gathering all of the pictures from The Fest. Many more pictures of all the guests and events will be shared in emails, on Facebook, and via www.thefest.com in the coming days and weeks!
 
We’d like to give a special thank you to Q104.3 for being a wonderful presenting sponsor. The Touch Tunes Karaoke and the Nation-wide sing-along led by Ken Dashow in the Q104 Lounge were big hits. We’d also like to thank The Grand Hyatt, who did a terrific job hosting the Fest. Most of all, thank you to all the guests and fans who came to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of The Beatles’ arrival in America and the 40th anniversary of the Fest for Beatles Fans with us. You all helped to make it the special event that it was. We look forward to Chicago and Los Angeles later this year and many more Fests to come!

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39 Years Ago Today (9/7/1974) – First FEST

39 years ago today, Saturday, September 7, 1974, we opened the doors to our first Beatles Celebration – then called Beatlefest. It took place at the Commodore Hotel on 42nd Street in New York City. I didn’t know what to expect. My brain was overloading with details. Did I forget anything? Was everybody going to show up? Was John going to surprise everyone and show up to pick the winner of the signed guitar he donated for charity? An amazing calm came over me the moment I came down to the main ballroom and saw the entire ballroom completely filled with fans, and then I realized that all these fans were here because of my idea of a 10th Anniversary Celebration of The Beatles Arrival in America. 8,000 people showed up over that weekend. I was interviewed by the NY Times (it appeared in the 9/8/74 edition, plus we made the covers of both Rolling Stone and UK’s Meloday Maker. I had no idea I would put on another FEST the next year, but thanks to all the calls and letters we received, I did and it has been an annual event ever since. Soon after, we started holding them in other cities, too! Now 119 FESTS and all these years later, we find ourselves gearing up for our 40th Anniversary Celebration at the same site, now called the Grand Hyatt and on the EXACT 50th Anniversary of the days The Beatles Arrived in America and appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, February 7-9, 2014. It has been quite a journey for the Lapidos Family, and the best part has been meeting so many other fans over the years and to have been able to present and meet guests who have been an integral part of The Beatles Story. Thank you for a wonderful 39 years, so far…

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