An Injured Poem?

“A song is an injured poem

Which leans on music for its strength.”

                Anonymous

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Or consider:

 

“It’s only love and that is all.

Why should I feel the way I do?

It’s only love…and that is all.

But it’s so hard – loving you.”

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

You and I have memories

Longer than the road that stretches out ahead.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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


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


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

 

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

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Act, Naturally!

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

We’re waiting to hear from you.


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

 

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

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Tell Me What You See

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

5 April 1962

The Cavern Club

Liverpool

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“Don’t go soft on us, Da,” John spat.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“Thasso?” George’s eyes were bright.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Success! Farrell cheered. Fourteen shots to go.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

*********

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“They’re excellent quality,” Brian insisted.

 

“And itchy,” George said again.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“Get knotted.” Pete looked away.

 

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

 

*********

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“Now…” he began. Screams.

 

“Now…”  Cheers and applause.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Sources:

Lewisohn, The Complete Beatles Chronicle, 69.

 

Harry, The Ultimate Beatles Encyclopedia, 552.

 

Best and Doncaster, 134, 149.

 

Pawlowski, How They Became The Beatles, 64.

 

Norman, Shout, 148.

 

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

 

Spitz, 299.

 

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

 

Salewicz, McCartney, 130.

 

Lennon, Cynthia,  John, 81-82.

 

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

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


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

 

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

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Paul McCartney: Into His Life

As we continue looking at Side Two of Revolver, we thought it might be fun to compare and contrast two of Paul’s love songs…we’d love to hear from you about the similarities and differences you perceive!

 

Revolver is a Paul-centric LP. No doubt about it. It is the first of The Beatles’ LPs in which Sir Macca (and not the former “Leader Beatle,” John Lennon) dominates,  singing, and thus having composed, six of the 14 tracks. (Really, seven, if you count his predominate influence on “Yellow Submarine”).

 

John Lennon was the real-life “Ancient Mariner.” Like Coleridge’s weathered protagonist, Lennon always grabbed you by the elbow, and began to tell you his tragic life’s story. In “I’ll Cry Instead,” his BBC cover of Smokey Robinson’s “You Really Got A Hold On Me” (to which John adds the telling word, “Mother”), “If I Fell” or “I’m A Loser,” John is consistently bemoaning about Julia’s absence in his life and his consuming heartbreak over her loss…or perhaps, as he sees it, his inability to keep her.

 

“Beatle Paul” is just as thematically consistent. From early on, he composes songs about his struggling (and later, failing) relationship with Jane Asher. On Side One of Beatles For Sale, he reminds Jane in “I’ll Follow the Sun” that:

 

“One day, you’ll look to see I’m gone,

But tomorrow may rain, so I’ll follow the sun.

One day, you’ll know I was the one,

But tomorrow may rain, so I’ll follow the sun.

And now the time has come,

And so my love, I must go…

And though I lose a friend, in the end you will know…”

 

Then, on Side Two of Beatles for Sale, he tries a tougher tack, saying in “What You’re Doing”:

 

“You got me running…and there’s no fun in it…

Why would it be so much

To ask of you what you’re doin’ to me!?”

 

Over and over, in “We Can Work it Out,” “You Won’t See Me,” and “I’m Looking Through You,” Paul sings to Jane Asher of his frustration, of  his need for her to “be there” for him. In fact, our Fest Blog examined that theme earlier this year when we studied the lovely “Here, There, and Everywhere.

 

Now, here on Revolver’s Side Two, Paul speaks to Jane again, first in the uplifting “Good Day Sunshine” where he praises her for being with him on a sunny day, and then in the dark and poignant ballad, “For No One” and finally, in the brass-accompanied riot that is “Got to Get You Into My Life.” All three Side Two songs express Paul’s longing, in meter and verse, for his lady.

 

“Got to Get You Into My Life” – though admittedly a double entendre – a crafty nod to Paul’s use of marijuana – is in a basic, literal sense his mission statement.

 

“And then, suddenly, I see you!

Did I tell you I need you?

Every single day of my life!”

 

Song after song, ballad after ballad, Paul has been telling Jane (and hence, all of us) one thing: “Got to get you into my life.” And, the fact that Jane has justifiably resisted and sought her own very successful theatrical career has only inspired Paul to continue penning attention-getting poems set to music for her.

 

By 1966, however, it has become fairly obvious to them both that the relationship isn’t working. In fact, when Paul begs her to come home, “she takes her time and doesn’t feel she has to hurry…she no longer needs him.”  They’re at irreconcilable odds, really.

 

Perhaps, a clue to their unresolved issues is to be found in the way in which “For No One” was recorded. Because the entire song is Paul and only Paul. George and John are not needed. Ringo will play percussion…but Paul alone – the center of attention – will sing and perform his composition on the Steinway grand. Perhaps that is why for Jane Asher:

 

“… in her eyes, you see nothing,
No sign of love behind the tears
Cried for no one…

A love that should have lasted years.”

 

With the wrong instruments, “For No One” could have come off as “whiny and cheesy.” Instead, the composition (with the phenomenal clavichord work of Sir George Martin and the breath-taking French horn touches of Alan Civil) is elegant and deeply tragic on several levels. Because not only are Paul and Jane falling apart, but The Beatles are beginning to unravel as well.  When we hear those last words: “There will be times when all the things [they] said will fill your head. You won’t forget [them],” we somehow flash to the eroding friendship between John, Paul, George, and Ringo. We sigh.

 

And so, in the guise of his former, chipper self, Paul makes one last attempt on Revolver to woo Jane back again. Not discounting the very popular “marijuana theory” (which certainly exists on one level), in “Got to Get You Into My Life,” Paul expresses undiminished determination to get Jane into his life. He jauntily and emphatically speaks to her in hopes that the visions prevalent in “For No One” will never come to be. McCartney sings:

 

“What can I do, what can I be?

When I’m with you, I want to stay there!

And you know I’ll never leave…and if I do,

I know the way there!”

 

Here interestingly, Paul speaks his soul to Jane in an ear-catching new way, via a SOUL song! As Dr. Kit O’Toole, author of Songs We Were Singing: Guided Tours Through The Beatles Lesser Known Tracks has stated:

 

“The horns [in “Got to Get You Into My Life”] were a remnant of the band’s original idea to record Revolver at Stax Records in Memphis. They had long emulated the bass and drum sounds found on American soul records, and they wanted to extend that. So they recruited guitarist Steve Cropper of Booker T. and the MG’s to produce Revolver, and they asked Brian Epstein to “make it happen.” But all the Memphis studios wanted exorbitant fees to host The Beatles, so the boys ended up back in Abbey Road. But the soul sound still intrigued them, so “Got to Get You into My Life” is their interpretation of the genre.”  

 

“Got to Get You Into My Life” is one of Paul’s final attempts to catch Jane’s ear and to express his soul’s need for her lifelong companionship.

 

“You want her, you need her…

And yet you don’t believe her

When she says her love is dead:

You think she needs you.”

 

Both “Got to Get You Into My Life” and “For No One” are the swan songs for a love that could not survive. However, on 15 May 1967, when Paul met Linda Eastman in London’s Bag O’Nails, his long-deferred dream became reality. He got her into his life, and in that moment, everything changed.


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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What Price is Fame? The Message of “And Your Bird Can Sing”

The most overlooked and misconstrued song on Revolver is “And Your Bird Can Sing.” Far-flung explanations for John Lennon’s seething lyrics point to John’s purported jealousy of Frank Sinatra or his irritation over some failed one-night stand. But a deeper examination of the song reveals a more practical root for “The Leader Beatle’s” ire. Let’s take a look.

 

No one “did anger” the way John Lennon did it. (To wit, “Run for Your Life,” “You Can’t Do That,” “I’ll Cry Instead,” and “How Do You Sleep”). When provoked, John had no problems articulating indignation. He had “a chip on his shoulder that [was] bigger than his feet,” and John was never reluctant to let those who irked him “have it,” with both barrels.

 

In “And Your Bird Can Sing,” John is not only angry and frustrated; he’s deeply hurt. In this second song on Side Two of Revolver, John is speaking directly (and harshly) to someone he knows – someone very close to him, someone whom he feels has betrayed his trust. We know this is the case because John vows in the bridge that no matter how cruel the person is to him,

 

“Look in my direction,

I’ll be ’round; I’ll be ’round.”

 

In other words, John has no intention of turning his back on the offender. Despite his perceived disloyalty demonstrated by the former friend, John will always be there.

 

So, who is the “bad guy” in this scenario, and what did he/she do? Well, as the song unfolds, John gives us numerous (though cryptic) clues to the betrayer’s identity:

 

  • The person has “everything he wants.” (i.e.: He’s well-to-do: living in a chic locale and driving a prized car. He’s making headlines, rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous, and succeeding in his powerful career.)

 

  • The person has “seen Seven Wonders.” (He’s well-traveled. He’s seen the world from the Spanish Riviera to the width and breadth of North America to exotic Hong Kong, New Zealand, and Australia. In John’s eyes, this person has seen it all, done it all. He’s far more cosmopolitan than John, far more polished and experienced).

 

  • The person purports to “have heard every sound there is.” (This tidbit clues us into the fact that the individual in question is involved in the music industry. However, John’s legendary sarcasm here hangs on two words: “you say.” John is smirking as he hisses, “You say you’re a music expert. You say you’ve heard every sound there is.” We get the feeling that the individual to whom John is singing has made unwelcome suggestions to John about his compositions or performances).

 

  • The person has quirky, idiomatic tastes. (Well, after all, his bird is green…which leads us to perceive him as exotic and singular for his day).

 

  • Finally (and most significantly), this individual is extremely important to John. In fact, according to the lyrics, at an earlier point in their relationship, John wrongly assumed this person, “got him,” understood him, “heard him,” “saw him.” Now, in the sunless backlash born of faithlessness, John is striking out via verbal attack.

 

So…who can it be now? Who fits this five-point profile?

 

Who had a very intimate relationship with John – so deep that he shared John’s secrets and trusted John with his own? Who had been so close to John that it was rumored by mutual associates such as Yankel Feather and Joe Flannery that a possible love affair might exist between the two? Who had been John’s advocate before possessions, world travels, the myriad demands of business, and the intricate web of power struggles set in? If your answer is “Brian Epstein,” then we’re on the same page.

 

It is the reference to the “green bird” that really highlights Brian’s identity for us. In Liverpool’s Scouse lingo, a “baird” is a term for a girl or a girlfriend. And “to swing,” in the 1960s, meant “to step out from the norm sexually.” Thus, John’s reference to his friend’s unusual “green bird” – a bird who “swings” – was, in all likelihood, a Lennonistic dig at Brian’s gay relationships.  On The Anthology version of this song, when Paul and John sing, “and your bird can swing,” they snicker naughtily at their sly double entendre. Wicked schoolboys both, they are being naughty.

 

If we agree that John is, in fact, addressing “Eppy” in this song, a second question immediately arises: what on earth would have caused John to become angry enough with Brian that he penned this attack – a song only slightly less hostile than “How Do You Sleep?” Well, let’s think back:

 

By 1966, John yearned to stop touring. All of The Beatles did. And although they had expressed that sentiment to Brian over and over again, he had completely ignored them, turned a deaf ear to their pleas. While this was frustrating for Paul and George, it was a personal wound for John.

 

You see, in December of 1961 – upon assuming management of The Beatles – Brian had pledged to Mimi Smith that no matter what happened to the other boys, he would always protect John. He had vowed to work tirelessly to defend her nephew’s best interests. Always. But now, John feels that Brian has stopped putting him first. Consumed with desire for wealth, fame, and power, Brian (John thinks) is pushing The Beatles too hard – callously demanding new films, tours, singles and LPs, interviews, radio shows, television programmes, and personal appearances. As John might have phrased it, “He wants work without end, amen!” And once upon a time, long, long ago…Brian had promised better.

 

Hence, “And Your Bird Can Sing.”

 

“You don’t hear me!” “You don’t see me!” “You don’t get me!” John lashes out with real invective, linking each verse with the string of repeating accusations. John sees Brian’s refusal to address his needs as an infidelity.

 

This song, therefore, fits snugly into the “broken relationships” theme of Revolver. Originally entitled, “You Don’t Get Me!” it shatters the giddy mood of “Good Day Sunshine” and shoves us back into Revolver’s agonies. Track Two, Side One gave us “Eleanor Rigby.” Here, in Track Two, Side Two, John and Brian are “the lonely people,” standing in a church of broken promises, surrounded by memories from May of 1963, when they vacationed on the Spanish Riviera. During those days, John and Brian had formed a bond — a friendship born of shared vulnerabilities rarely voiced to anyone else. They had reached out to one another in mutual trust. Now a mere three years later, John is spewing fury over his perceived loss of that trust while Brian steadily continues to pursue the course he feels The Beatles must follow.

 

But for John, having “everything you want,” “seeing Seven Wonders,” “knowing every sound there is,” and owning an exotic green, swinging bird means nothing if, in the process of garnering such success, you sacrifice a friend. Frustrated and fuming, but promising to “be ’round” when Brian finally hears him, sees him, and gets him once again, John and the others are (for the moment) hanging on. However, the unresolved chord at the end of this song reminds us that in the future, anything can happen.

 

Sadly, by August 1967, anything did. Fame exacted its price. And the birdsong fell silent.


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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Something We Can Smile About

Over the last few months of 2016, we began taking a look at the songs on Revolver…and reminding ourselves why it was such a pivotal LP for the lads. Together (combining our Fest blog and your comments) we scratched beneath the surface of the music and lyrics to uncover new insights. Just as the year ended, we neatly completed our examination of Side One.

 

Now…

 

…perfect for the beginning of a brand-new year with myriad possibilities is “Good Day Sunshine.” Wisely selected to kick off Side Two of Revolver, this buoyant ditty expresses all the optimism contained in every “chance to begin again.” Martin employed its bright melody and uplifting lyrics to woo Beatles fans into the second half of the LP. After the anger rife in “Taxman,” the loneliness pervading “Eleanor Rigby,” and the deeply somber nature of “She Said She Said,” Paul McCartney’s “Good Day Sunshine” offered listeners something heartening, something upbeat, something to laugh (or smile) about.

 

Furthermore, for those fans who (by the close of Side One) were despairing that The Beatles they knew and loved had vanished – morphing into Revolver’s highly-engineered group of complex musicians – this song provided a return to The Beatles of yore. This is the way young John and Paul used to sound when they performed in Liverpool College of Art’s Room 21 at lunchtime. This is the sound of The Beatles, live at the BBC. This is the unplugged sound of The Beatles of old. And fans were glad of it.

 

Although both John and Paul admitted that Paul wrote 95 percent of “Good Day Sunshine,” the number is, without a doubt, highly influenced by John. But not John Lennon this time: the inspiration came from John Sebastian.

 

Over in America, Sebastian, the Greenwich Village-based lead singer and songwriter for The Lovin’ Spoonful, was hitting America for six! In 1965, he’d scored with “You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice” and swiftly followed up with “Do You Believe in Magic?”  Then in ’66, he had another big, big, BIG hit: “Daydream.” So, the very observant James Paul McCartney handily employed Sebastian’s easy-does-it, lazy-days techniques in his new composition, “Good Day Sunshine.”

 

In keeping with the Spoonful genre, the Revolver song’s lyrics were lighthearted and happy-go-lucky:

 

“She feels good! She knows she’s lookin’ fine!

I’m so proud to know that she is mine!”

 

That’s about as simple and content as a lyric line can get. Spoonful-esque! But remembering Russell Reising’s caveat that on Revolver, “there are no silly love songs,” savvy listeners long suspected that somewhere in this McCartney number, there was a deeper, hidden meaning. In the volume, All the Songs, the collaborative authors suggested that when Paul sang, “I feel good in a special way,” he might have been slyly alluding to his Revolver era fascination with marijuana. If this is true, then “Good Day Sunshine” was the predecessor to “Got to Get You Into My Life,” and both songs boasted a second level of meaning. (“More here than meets the eye!”)

 

But honestly, for original, old-time Beatles fans, added incentives to enjoy “Good Day Sunshine” were not necessary. All of the traditional “fab” ingredients were already present in the mix. The Beatles’ winning love song formula was there. George Martin’s honky-tonk piano lead was expert. The Lennon/McCartney backing vocals were spot on. And, as Robert Rodriguez pointed out in his insightful book, Revolver: How The Beatles Re-Imagined Rock’n’Roll, Ringo’s “cymbal splashes and added percussion touch-ups, such as handclaps” were welcome custom. Finally, the entire offering was infused with McCartney magic.

 

Sometimes less truly is more. And this unadorned, joyful ditty proves that rule. Fans who were bewildered and confused by “She Said She Said” were – after singing or toe-tapping along with “Good Day Sunshine” – pulled back into the fold. They leaned in once again, hovering over the turntable and listening…just as George Martin had predicted they would. They reconnected.

 

Then…the second selection on Side Two began and Revolver, once more, took a dark and unexpected turn! What was it? And to whom was that next song written?

 

See you next time for “And Your Bird Can Sing.”


1. For those unfamiliar with this British phrase, “hitting someone for six” means making an impact. It originate in cricket when a player hits six off the bowling.

2. Turner, Steve, A Hard Day’s Write, 112-113.

3. Reising, Russell, “Vacio Luminoso,” 127.

4. Rodriguez, Revolver: How The Beatles Re-Imagined Rock’n’Roll, 144.


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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Instant Karmal Knowledge

“And so this is Christmas,

And what have you done,

Another year over…

A new one just begun.”

 

Already it’s here. The final blog of 2016. The year is winding to a close faster than any of us ever wanted it to or imagined it could. But try as we might, we can’t slow its pace or turn back time. Life is rapidly moving on.

 

Two springs ago, the night my mother passed, she pointedly looked at me and said, “But…I didn’t get to do all the things I wanted to do!!!” It’s a haunting quote – one I’ve never forgotten. I wonder if John felt the same. I wonder how many people do.

 

I have a little snow globe on my desk that says, “Time is a gift.” Every day, I shake it, only to watch the snow flakes quickly settle to the bottom and fall silent. And as the magic swiftly vanishes, I think to myself how precious each moment is…how precious – and how fleeting.

 

Plainly said, each of us has but a moment – a brief time to reach out and offer love, to be kind, to be open, to give peace (and people) a chance, to appreciate life and those around us, to set things right. If The Beatles taught me anything, they taught me that we are here to give of ourselves to others. In Biblical terms, to “be not weary in well-doing.” The boys said it over and over:

 

  1. Love is giving, giving love.
  2. Ah! Look at all the lonely people!
  3. With our love, we can change the world…
  4. I get by, with a little help from my friends.
  5. Love, love, love…love is all you need.

 

And just in case you missed the message – couched as it is in this poetic form – John (in his unvarnished, lay-it-on-the-line manner) spelled it out for us all very clearly. You can’t miss the memo here:

 

Instant Karma’s gonna get you
Gonna knock you right on the head!
You better get yourself together…
Pretty soon you’re gonna be dead!
What in the world you thinking of
Laughing in the face of love?
What on earth you tryin’ to do?
It’s up to you! Yeah, you!!

Instant Karma’s gonna get you…
Gonna look you right in the face!
Better get yourself together, darlin’,
Join the human race!
How in the world you gonna see
Laughin’ at fools like me?
Who in the hell d’you think you are?
A super star?
Well, right you are!

Well, we all shine on
Like the moon and the stars and the sun…
Well, we all shine on!
Ev’ryone, come on!

 

 

I don’t know what “getting yourself together, darlin’” involves for you, but I know what it involves for me, and I think I’d best be doing it.

 

Because as the wild ride known as 2016 begins to tick away into memory, I think we can all agree that it has been challenging for us all. Some things were said that should never have been said. Some things were done that should never have been done. And while we’d like to believe that karma is not instant and life will give us abundant opportunity to make things right, the unrelenting march of time does not, my friend, slow for regret.

 

Instead, there is a finite amount of days before the ball drops in Times Square, a precious moment before the snowflakes settle. There isn’t “tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow,” as Shakespeare once suggested.  Instead, there is, “a bit of hurry up involved” to quote another Englishman, just as wise.

 

And so this is Christmas…and what have we done? Well, not as well as we’d hoped, actually. But perhaps in the next 30 days, we can undo some of that. We can try to Come Together and be friends again…repair and reunite, heal the hurts, and walk into 2017 closer than ever.

 

And that, I believe, is the message not only of our Beatles but of the season. May that light Shine On.

 

In honor of our beloved Sir George Martin and dedicated to the lasting memory of John Winston Lennon. John, you said that you never die until the last person who speaks your name is gone. “I call your name” daily. You will always be remembered.


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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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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