Esher You Love It, Or You Don’t

The Esher Demos, those delightful “unplugged” precursors to The Beatles’ self-titled LP (commonly known as the White Album), were proof positive that Lennon and McCartney had completely different ideas about the way that rock’n’roll should be fashioned. 

 

From Day One, John firmly believed that music should be created extemporaneously — that reworking a piece over and over was “doin’ a thing to death.” John believed that a song’s beauty lay in its imperfection. Paul, on the other hand, thought that a musical composition should be slowly honed and developed…that a recording should be tweaked and re-recorded until the final product was exactly the way the songwriter wanted it. Two concepts. Both viable. 180 out.

 

Paul, therefore, arrived at George Harrison’s home, Kinfauns, in Esher, England on that day in late May 1968, with a pre-recorded tape of polished offerings for the next album. The songs that Paul played for his friends that chilly afternoon were very similar to the final product he offered listeners via the White Album tracks. Paul changed little in studio because he had worked diligently, (by himself and ahead of time) before he presented his Esher demos to The Beatles.

 

Not so with John Lennon. John arrived in Kinfauns with the beginnings of several excellent songs. He brought with him ideas and concepts that were to be “fleshed out by the band.” John proposed tangible ideas for his songs, but he had always believed that it took the consummate talents of the entire group to bring a song to life.

 

However, in the case of two tracks that John created for the White Album, there was a bit of theoretical acquiescence and compromise. In developing these songs, John did use the talents and efforts of his entire group, but he also employed the McCartney recipe for success. The two songs we’re about to look at evolved slowly, and they changed dramatically from May of 1968 to their eventual, delayed release. They are:

 

Child of Nature

 

Whist in Rishikesh, both John and Paul were inspired to write songs based on a talk that the Maharishi had given about the relationship between man and nature. Paul wrote “Mother Nature’s Son,” and John penned “Child of Nature.”

 

On some level, John must have known that the lyrics he’d scribbled onto paper were rather ludicrous. John was no child of nature.  In fact, I can only think of ONE instance in which he was profoundly touched by the majesty of his surroundings. In May of 1964, when John and Cynthia visited the Irish Cliffs of Mohr, John had perched alone, for some time, on a rocky, wind-swept Irish ledge. With Cynthia watching him protectively from a distance, John had taken it all in. And that afternoon as the sun set, he discovered a deep kinship with Ireland…a spiritual connection that spurred him to tell Cynthia that Ireland was where he wanted to retire, to spend the end of his life.

 

But otherwise, John spent as little time in nature as possible. Even when fervently trying to raise funds for a new guitar by mowing Mimi’s lawn, he never quite finished the job. Mimi told Ray Coleman: “He’d do half the job and give me a squeaker kiss for the rest.” John Lennon was no Euell Gibbons.

 

So here, in “Child of Nature” — as John tries to create a song about a theme that is foreign to him — he can’t quite take the job seriously. Indeed, as he sings his demo at Kinfauns, he warbles in a rather mocking way, filling the performance with exaggerated vibrato. It almost seems as if he is making fun of himself. In his heart of hearts, John knew that his lyrics lacked sincerity.

 

However, John didn’t give up on the offering…that afternoon, he diligently worked with his group. He double-tracked his voice on George’s Ampex recorder; he asked Ringo to use a shaker to accompany him. But despite a sincere effort, the song failed to soar.

 

Always shrewd and self-evaluating, John didn’t permit “Child of Nature” to be included on the White Album. For months after the LP’s release, he held it in abeyance.

 

Then, on the first day of the Let It Be sessions, John toyed with the offering again, recording it without that famous opening line, “On the road to Rishikesh.” By that juncture in history, John wanted nothing to remind him of the Maharishi. But try as he might, “Child of Nature” still didn’t work.

 

Finally, in 1971, John got down to brass tacks. He completely retooled the song into the very honest, open, and frank “Jealous Guy.” Now singing bespoke lyrics that suited his life and personality, John hit the mark.

 

I was dreaming of the past

And my heart was beating fast

I began to lose control, I began to lose control…

I didn’t mean to hurt you

I’m sorry that I made you cry…

 

Now this was about the real John…the little boy who had been so abandoned in his past that he could never trust future relationships…the child who had been so unloved that he could never relax into loving without the trembling query, “If I fell in love with you, would you promise to be true??” The lyrics of “Jealous Guy” were fitting for the man who often hurt people before they could hurt him. It was a genuine song.

 

In transforming “Child of Nature,” John had adopted Paul’s caution against work created too spontaneously. Though much later, John’s bent towards immediate release would succeed with “Instant Karma,” here a brilliant work was unearthed through years of change and reconsideration. “Child of Nature” was the germ of what would later become one of John’s most outstanding works.

 

Sexy Sadie

 

Like the British Romantic poets (Keats, Shelly, Wordsworth, Poe, Coleridge), John was most productive during periods of trial. His gift (and his key to survival) was transforming pain into music. And since the spring of 1968 was replete with pain and anguish for him, John was writing superb music.  Therefore, John came to Kinfauns bearing splendid songs to offer his mates. Some, like “Sexy Sadie,” however, still needed work.

 

Most Beatles fans know that John had penned “Sexy Sadie” in Rishikesh, during the aftermath of a rumour that the Maharishi had committed a grave impropriety with one of the young females on the Rishikesh excursion (a Mia Farrow look-alike named Pat, a nurse from Southern California).

 

John, who’d fervently hoped that the Maharishi would be “The Answer” to his marital problems and his discontent, reacted violently to the “griff” that the supposed holy man was more man than holy. John deducted, very sadly, that the Maharishi, therefore, probably didn’t hold the peace he was seeking, and disgusted, John had begun packing to leave India.

 

The version of “Sexy Sadie” that John sang to his friends in Esher wasn’t, of course, the original Rishikesh version. Only George Harrison had heard the initial lyrics, and he’d wisely convinced John not to use them. George had also encouraged John to scrap the very pointed title, “Maharishi,” pointing out not only the legal ramifications, but also, the bad karma one might incur from such a rash move. And John had listened.

 

With wisdom prevailing, John didn’t perform the original song at Kinfauns, either. Already, he’d begun the process of transforming “Maharishi” into the more acceptable “Sexy Sadie.” John had already implemented changes that would permit this song to be played on radio.

 

On July 19 and 21, in EMI Studios, John continued to cultivate his song. But this time, he moved more rapidly than he did with “Child of Nature.” Following his long-held philosophy of developing a song in studio with his band, John worked with “the group” to shape the track. The Beatles did 21 takes of “Sexy Sadie” on July 19, and then, completed another 23 takes on 24 July.  And that work certainly paid off.

 

“Sexy Sadie” emerged as the version that we now know. Although it is a rather “watered down” shadow of John’s original manuscript, the enhanced track appealed to a much wider group of listeners. Who hadn’t, at least once, been duped by a charming and duplicitous man or woman? Who hadn’t been deceived? John Lennon had sagely turned a personal affront into a universal theme…and in doing so, had created one of the strongest offerings on the White.

 

To learn more about the Esher Demos, attend Dr. Kit O’Toole’s presentation at the 2019 New York Metro Fest for Beatles Fans where you’ll be able to hear gifted musician, Scott Erickson, perform many of these unique songs for you.

 

To order your own copy of the newly remastered Esher Demos, HEAD HERE


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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‘Tis the Esher Season!

Part 1

 

Prior to their 1968 summer and early autumn recording sessions at EMI, Paul McCartney stated that The Beatles’ original plan was to have several rehearsals prior to the recording of their new LP.[i] But “life,” as we all know, “is what happens while you’re making other plans.” [ii] And so, the boys got one day and one day only to present their ideas and concept songs for The Beatles LP to one another. But what a magical day it turned out to be…and what remarkable tracks have recently been revealed to us via the long-awaited mid-November 2018 release of the Esher Demos.

 

For McCartney fans, there are not as many diamonds to unearth on Esher as there are for Lennon or Harrison aficionados. In keeping with Paul’s lifelong belief that rock’n’roll should be well-manufactured rather than grown, extemporaneously organic, Paul came to George Harrison’s house at Kinfauns with his demo songs almost completely fleshed out. Prior to his arrival in Esher, Paul had performed and recorded the songs with full backing tracks. He’d left very little to the imagination. Indeed, few of McCartney’s Esher offerings deviate significantly from the version we’ve come to know so well on the White Album.

 

And although Ringo contributed significantly to the White Album, there was no original Starr composition proudly presented to the others on that late day in May 1968. Therefore, in Part 1 of our discussion of the Esher Demos, our focus will turn to two of George Harrison’s offerings, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “Not Guilty.”  In Part 2, we’ll consider Harrison’s “Sour Milk Sea” and a clever Lennon contribution: “What’s the New Mary Jane?” And in our final blog prior to the New York Metro Fest, we’ll examine John’s “Child of Nature” and “Julia.”

 

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While My Guitar Gently Weeps — In Rishikesh, India, George was less productive musically than John and Paul because he firmly believed that writing music was contrary to everything The Beatles had journeyed to India to achieve. They were supposed to be (he insisted) retreating from work and the pressures of business; they were supposed to be concentrating on their souls.

 

Paul later commented on the Rishikesh experience: “I remember talking about the next album, and George was quite strict. He’d say, ‘We’re not here to talk music; we’re here to meditate.’”[iii]  But agreeing to George’s face, Paul kept right on clandestinely writing music…while John meditated but worked openly — looking, all the while, for “a shortcut” to the Inner Light.

 

But despite their myriad of distractions from the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s teachings, the deep influence of India, nevertheless, filled the White Album. Indeed, George was later quoted as saying, “The experience of India was all embodied in that album.”[iv] And nowhere is it heard or felt more than in the reflective, soul-searching Esher version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”

 

Without being preachy (and George could occasionally be preachy, as in “Within You, Without You”), this quiet song enumerates the sins and faults of his “brothers” and almost pleads with them for repentance and a better way forward.

 

In this raw, primitive Esher version — minus the urgency of Clapton’s dazzling lead guitar — you can hear George’s heartbreak. Rock’n’roll author of The Recipe Records Series, Lanea Stagg, commented, “You can almost taste the salt of George’s tears.” Pared down to its essentials, Esher’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” is even more poignant and touching than its final iteration.

 

This May 1968 version of the song is the background that we hear playing as Martin Scorsese’s “Living in the Material World, Part II” opens. And it’s an apt beginning to the second half of George’s biography, because with this song, Harrison more or less declares his independence from The Beatle collective and dejectedly, but firmly, sets out on his solo career.

 

Once this song goes into EMI production — once it’s engineered and filled out — the listener will hear Harrison’s words less clearly, less pointedly. But here, with minimal embellishment, one digests the deep disappointment that George has found in John and Paul:

 

“I don’t know why nobody told you how to unfold your love,

I don’t know how someone controlled you,

They bought and sold you.”

 

 

However, although you can’t miss the sorrow in George’s voice (the regret that things have played out as they have), you can also hear his resolve. He has come to terms with the fact that the world is still turning; he realizes that there are other options for him. And if waiting around too long to be respected has been a mistake, well, “with every mistake, we must surely be learning.” And so, George is sadly — very sadly — realizing that he must now move on.

 

“While My Guitar Gently Weeps” always tugs at the heartstrings, but never more than when you hear it without any distractions. This is just George from Speke telling his boyhood Merseyside friends how much he has loved them and how much he has suffered…and now, at last, he intends to say goodbye.

 

In this version, it is George Harrison’s — and no one else’s — guitar that gently weeps.

 

Not Guilty –

 

“Not Guilty” is another of George Harrison’s songs (in the same vein as “Piggies,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” and “Sour Milk Sea”) in which he reprimands his mates for the way they’ve dealt with him through the years.  However, his other songs are rather veiled — somewhat softened. This track is not milquetoast. This is Harrison standing up for himself, without apology, without regret.

 

In fact, in 1999, George told Billboard Editor-in-Chief, Timothy White, that this song addresses “the grief I was catching from Lennon and McCartney post-India.” He went on to say that he was telling them once and for all that: “I wasn’t guilty of getting in the way of their career. I said I wasn’t guilty of leading them astray in our going to Rishikesh to see the Maharishi. I was sticking up for myself …”[v]

 

According to Harrison biographer Peter Doggett, in You Never Give Me Your Money, another issue that George was addressing was the incredible amount of money that The Beatles had invested on the launch of Apple. George had always been a sharp-eyed steward of the group’s finances, and in the spring of 1968, he felt that Apple’s extravagances were “too lavish” and unnecessary. In “Not Guilty,” Harrison relents and says he “won’t upset the Apple cart.” But, clearly, George isn’t pleased with the status quo.

 

The Esher version of “Not Guilty” is clear evidence that by May of 1968, George Harrison was no longer content to be long-suffering, to bite back his indignation, to “get along.” From the secure environment of his own home, Harrison cleared his throat, lifted his head, and sang his lyrics unabashedly — face-to-face with the friends who’d implied that he’d led them astray by convincing them to go to Rishikesh. He stared into their eyes and told them that he had never stood in the way of their progress…and that he had no apologies whatsoever for his behavior. It was a bold move, albeit an emotional one.

 

In the Esher Demo of “Not Guilty,” you can hear the passion in George’s voice. You can also feel the rigid, awkward silence all around him.

 

Next blog: “Sour Milk Sea” and “What’s the New Mary Jane?”

 

Purchase the re-engineered White Album with the Esher Demos and liner notes HERE.


[i] Howlett, Kevin, “Esher Demos” liner notes for the re-engineered White Album, November 2018.

[ii] Lennon, John, “Beautiful Boy” lyrics, with credit to Allen Saunders, an American cartoonist who created Mary Worth and used this phrase in a piece in Readers’ Digest in Feb. 1957.

[iii] Howlett, Kevin, “On the Road to the White Album,” liner notes for the re-engineered White Album, November 2018.

[iv] Howlett, “Esher Demos” liner notes for the re-engineered White Album, November 2018.

[v] Huntley, Elliot J., Mystical One: George Harrison – After the Break-Up of The Beatles, 165.


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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A Splendid Time Was Guaranteed (and Delivered) for All!

“And so, this is Christmas,

And what have you done?

Another year over,

A new one just begun…”

 

Usually, at the close of yet another year, when I hear John singing those words, I feel guilty. Maybe it’s my engrained American “work ethic” or perhaps I really never live up to my own expectations, but somehow in December, I look back and feel that I could have done more. But this once, I have to say…2018 was a pretty darned good year, all things considered. If we pause for a moment and look back together as a Fest Family, I think we’ll discover that we had quite a lot of spectacular moments to celebrate.

 

First, of course, there was the New Jersey Fest in which we were extremely fortunate to welcome Peter Asher, Billy J.Kramer, Jeremy Clyde, Neil Innes, and Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s hard-rockin’ Randy Bachman. Then, Fest favorites, Liverpool, The Weeklings, Mark Rivera, and Scott Erickson gave us a lot to write home about. It was a busy weekend, but now and again we stopped for a moment to take in the breathtaking view across the river: New York’s skyline. We absolutely love our new location!

 

Then…just a few weeks later, our own Michelle Joni Lapidos, released her first CD of songs, Swimming in Rainbows, produced by none other than the charismatic and beloved Mark Hudson. And Fest brother, Laurence Juber, performed with Michelle on several songs, making this LP a real “family affair.” If you missed Michelle Joni’s appearance on “She Said She Said,” radio show, give it a listen here.  She talks about the evolution of the LP and plays several tracks for you. Enjoy!

 

August was here before we knew it…and brought with it a brand-new book, Sound Images, from our esteemed colleague and friend, Dr. Ken Womack. (This is the second half of his incredible biography of Sir George Martin, entitled Maximum Volume.) Just weeks prior to the Chicago Fest, Ken premiered the book in England, and then, he came home to celebrate with us.

 

Similarly, I was thrilled to celebrate the release of Vol. 4 in The John Lennon Series, Should Have Known Better, at the Fest with a Saturday morning launch party. No other celebration that I’ve ever had even begins to compare to that event — being surrounded by my Beatles friends and family was a once-in-a-lifetime! Thank you all!

 

The Chicago Fest was off the charts! Big crowds, big sales, big fun! Jack Douglas was a Guest Speaker for the first time, and yes, he was spectacular! Funny, engrossing, and full of great stories about his time with John Lennon…Jack kept us all engaged. And we were all blessed to hear from Geoff Emerick as well. We had no idea, as we listened to him share his stories of days with George Martin and the boys at EMI, that this would be the last time we’d spend together. Geoff had made plans to return to the Fest for Jersey 2019. Those of us who were privileged to share that time in Chicago with Geoff were so lucky. The Fest always offers rare moments like that…if we will only take time to enjoy them.

 

Ordinarily, at the close of the Chicago Fest, we say “goodbye” to one another for the year, but in 2018, there was more to come…as we applauded the 1968 magic that was “Yellow Submarine.” Many members of our Fest Family, all across America, were asked to speak in major metropolitan theaters, introducing the re-released film that was being served up to audiences in August and September. Dr. Kit O’Toole, Bruce Spizer, and I were just a few of the authors who were asked to give moviegoers the history of this incredible film and to set the stage for the new release.

 

Speaking of new releases, our Liddypool mate, Dave Bedford, graced us all with his third incredible book this fall. A comprehensive look at each and every person who furnished that all-important backbeat for The Beatles, Finding the Fourth Beatle was released in September, and it’s remarkable!

 

Then — anticipating yet another Golden Anniversary for “the lads from Liddypool” — our dear friend, Bruce Spizer, released a gorgeous new book entitled, The Beatles White Album and the Launch of Apple. Filled with rare images, fan remembrances, and a unique look at 1968 supplied by guest writers Al Sussman and Piers Hemmingsen, Spizer’s work is up to his usual high bar. It’s a keeper.

 

Soon after, Ken Mansfield treated us to his insider’s look at what happened on The Roof. Subtitled The Beatles’ Final Concert, Mansfield’s moment-by-moment remembrance lets us live out what transpired on that cold and windy London day when John, Paul, George, Ringo, and yes, Ken, too (“the man in the white coat”) took to the roof to sing their final goodbyes. Sigh.

 

Well, as if these family accomplishments weren’t enough, 2018 gave us yet a bit more! Most of our cast and crew were still looking forward to yet another incredible event: The White Album Conference at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, New Jersey.  This distinguished symposium, hosted by Dr. Ken Womack in honor of The White’s 50th birthday, was (quite happily) our third “fest” of the year — an off-site gathering of our group with Jim Berkenstadt, Lanea Stagg, Al Sussman, Susan and Jim Ryan, Scott Erickson, Tom Frangione, Bruce Spizer,  Vivek Tiwary, Gary Astridge, Dr. Kit O’Toole, Jerry Hammack, Wally Podrazik, Nicole and Jacob Michael, Aaron Krerowicz, Janet Davis, Eric Taros, Karen Duchaj, Robert Rodriguez, Anthony Robustelli, Dave Thurmaier, Allison Boron, Erika White, Walter Everett, Mark Brickley, and of course,  our fearless leaders Mark and Carol Lapidos all taking part! At the stroke of midnight on 8 November (12:01 a.m., Nov. 9), Mark and Carol made it possible for us to purchase the very first re-engineered CDs of the White — at an opening event listening party where Bruce Spizer and Scott Freiman shared insights into these wonderfully old, but vitally new and refreshed, tracks.

 

For four days, our group was enthralled by presentations from some of the best and finest in The Beatles’ World, including Sound Engineer, Chris Thomas; American Head of Apple, Ken Mansfield; co-traveler with The Beatles to Rishikesh, Paul Saltzman; and of course, Beatles’ Guru, Mark Lewisohn! We heard from Allan Kozinn, Ken Michaels, Walter Everett, Jeff Slate, The Fab 4 Free for All (Rob Leonard, Mitch Axelrod, and Tony Traguardo) and so many more! What an event it was! Hats off to Ken Womack for a stellar event!

 

And so, dear John, for once at the close of December, we’re smiling. We’ve given it our all in 2018! We’ve
“represented.” We’ve shown up. We’ve written. We’ve painted. We’ve researched. We’ve sung. We’ve celebrated. We’ve remembered. But most of all, we’ve continued to shine on. And that — I know you would say — is good enough.

 

However, there will be more!! To be continued in 2019…


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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Happiness is a Warm Cell Phone: Drake vs. The Beatles

Hi everyone! We hope to see you all at Monmouth University this week for the White Album conference featuring Mark Lapidos, Mark Lewisohn, Walter Everett, Ken Womack, Bruce Spizer, Al Sussman, Tom Frangione, Lanea Stagg (our featured blogger this week), Kit O’Toole, Susan and James Ryan, and me (Jude Southerland Kessler)…and SO many more.

 

To give you an idea of the kind of interesting topics that will be covered, here is Lanea Stagg’s comparison of The Beatles chart-blasting record to Drake, who claims to have surpassed The Beatles’ 1964 accomplishment of 5 songs in the Top Ten at once. Is it a valid claim? Has Drake stolen the crown from our Fabs? Read on…

 

This summer, news media outlets began reporting that pop star rapper, Drake, had surpassed The Beatles’ accomplishments on the Billboard “Hot 100” chart. Even last week it was reported that he surpassed another chart record belonging to The Fabs. I have been inclined to blame it solely on “Fake News.”

 

But, in an effort to be fair, I have opened my mind to Drake. According to pop music lovers today, 31-year-old Drake creates music which is a softer alternative to rap, bypassing hardcore gangster rap and infusing catchy love lines to hook the girls. I spoke with one 20-something male who explained to me that he didn’t like Drake’s music at first, but “girls like Drake … so eventually, the boys have to like Drake, because then they’re going to win the affection of the girls.” Does that sound familiar?

 

Today’s Top 100 Billboard charts have become a completely new environment for music artists. Music streaming and downloading have become an important component in the statistics collected to determine pop song success. It is fair to surmise that today’s metrics for determining chart success is not what we grew up with. On April 4, 1964, The Beatles held the top 5 slots on Billboard’s “Hot 100” chart. The charts at that time were driven by record sales and radio play. Today’s charts, however, are driven by downloading and streaming with a little bit of radio and physical sales sprinkled in.

 

Donald S. Passman, wrote in his book All You Need to Know About the Music Business, “When the Beatles were around, there were horrible (accounting) records of who sold what. Nobody knew how many records were sold in retail, only how many were shipped to the store.” So even if the records went back to the company, the statistics were likely inflated. But at the same time, it was a lot more difficult for an artist to sell records and to get on the radio simply because there were physically fewer retail stores, radio stations and listening opportunities – there were no cell phones or social media. Today’s false inflation of sales data creates an inaccurate perception of chart success.

 

I found it quite interesting to look at how the charts are measured today and driven by consumer listening habits. I questioned how people are listening to music, interviewing and surveying 200+ college students in Columbia, Missouri. Here is what I found, and the data directly affects chart ratings:

 

99% of the group listen to music via cell phone.

46% of the 200 students use a free subscription like Pandora, Spotify, iHeartRadio, YouTube, etc.

42% use other paid subscriptions such as Apple Music, XM Radio, Amazon Prime, or Pandora;

20% actually purchase music via CD’s, iTunes, vinyl, etc. (which is shocking and exciting);

40% use the most popular paid subscription: Spotify.

 

Nearly all of the 128 students who purchase Spotify receive a discounted student rate: only $5 per month for unlimited music. This means they are allowed to stream and download millions of songs – 35 million to be exact. One student told me that Spotify has replaced listening to the radio. The music subscription creates its own playlists, and they tailor playlists based upon your past listening history. Spotify also sends listeners e-mails, i.e.: “Drake has a new album out.” And you can follow your friends and see what they are listening to as well.

 

Meanwhile back in 1964, Beatles fans were listening to The Fabs in conventional locations – in front of the only family television or on the radio in the family wagon, and who remembers that joyful scene in “That Thing You Do!” when the band heard their record for the first time on a transistor? A nostalgic, exciting moment – however, this mode of listening has all but disappeared.

 

So, what does this have to do with our topic? Drake vs. The Beatles?

 

Well, we all know that The Beatles climbed the charts – one physical record sale at a time. But for Drake, the climb to the top happened rapidly, via the aforementioned instant downloads.

 

Let’s take a look at this past summer, for example. On July 14, 2018, Drake “dominated” the Billboard “Hot 100” chart – seven spots in the Top 10 belonged to Drake. Multiple media outlets, and Drake himself, reported that he had “surpassed The Beatles’ record of five hit songs in the Top 10 at once.

 

However, a careful look at the facts will show us a bit of a difference. While The Beatles held spots 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, Drake did not. Drake held spots 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 8, and 9. One week later, Drake only held three tracks in the Top 10, at spots 1, 4, and 6.

 

It should be noted that on June 29, 2018, Drake released his 25-track disc titled “Scorpion,” and all 25 songs were on the Billboard “Top 100” chart immediately. So, when his entire disc of 25 songs was released, definitely the Spotify kids had it on their phones instantly – and so it gets tallied and accounted instantaneously.

 

Even the controversial media outlet BuzzFeed wrote on September 13, 2018, that “Spoofing Spotify by fans – (is) eroding the metrics of Billboard charts.” Remember that half of the students in my collegiate test group purchased Spotify for only $5/month. That allows them to download and stream all the music they can listen to (35 million songs!!) for only $5. Washington Post reporter, Travis Andrews, astutely observed, “The charts have struggled to come up with a streaming equivalent to an album purchase – or a song download. [But one must bear in mind that] it was harder to purchase The White Album than to put a stream of “Lemonade” on repeat, after all.”

 

The Senior Vice President of Charts and Data Development at Billboard magazine said this summer, “What we do is react to the marketplace around us. I think we are fairly nimble on downloading and even more so on streaming, to make sure we’re reflecting where the music consumer is going. Where that will end up, though…I don’t know.”

 

Why do charts matter, anyway? Charts matter mostly to record companies in terms of market share or clout. The music consumer isn’t as driven by the charts.

 

One example of record sale success overshadowing chart success happened in ’67 when “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane” were released as a double A-side 45-rpm. Early predictions were that this single would perpetuate The Beatles’ unprecedented achievement of 12 straight Number 1 singles in the UK. However, the 45 was not released as one single, but two. This divided the sales data between the two songs, and hence, Engelbert Humperdinck’s “Release Me” took the Number 1 spot on the “Hot 100” over our Fabs, breaking their four-year “roll” as George Martin called it. However, Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane 45rpm sold 2.5 million copies, outselling Humperdinck two-to-one. Indeed, chart success in this case and many others does not guarantee either the superior sales success or music superiority of the record.

 

If you give Drake an honest, fair chance, it is apparent that he has achieved success. He is chart-topping. He is Grammy award-winning and platinum-selling, not to mention charming and charismatic. And oh yeahhis dad was the drummer for Jerry Lee Lewis. So, we can’t ignore that something is happening with this powerhouse. Many thought that The Beatles were a fad, so I try to consider that when I analyze today’s music trends. But in my opinion, Drake is primarily a brilliant marketer. Let’s give credit for Drake’s popularity where that credit is due: to downloading and streaming. Should we mark our calendars and plan for HIS “White Album” celebration in 50 years? Tomorrow never knows.

 

About our Guest Blogger:

Lanea Stagg is the author of the Recipe Records Cookbook Series: Recipe Records, Recipe Records-The 60s Edition, Recipe Records-A Culinary Tribute to The Beatles, and The Rolling Scones: Let’s Spend the Bite Together. The series combines music trivia, quips, quotes, and playlists with clever recipe titles that pay tribute to great music of many genres and decades.  In addition to the series, she has authored children’s books, a blog, and contributed to entertainment publications, along with co-hosting BlogTalkRadio program: “She Said She Said,” with Jude Southerland Kessler, the author of The John Lennon Series. Lanea will be giving a presentation on this topic at The White Album Conference next week at Monmouth University.

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John Lennon: Why We Still Care

Over three and a half decades after his passing…and still we pause on 9 October, celebrating the life of John Lennon, looking back not with misty-eyed nostalgia but with clear-headed vision that embraces both his many strengths and his many weaknesses.

 

John Lennon was no saint…that’s for sure. He never – not even as a teen – suffered fools lightly, and when the press (in 1963-66) asked him ridiculous questions such as “What do you do with all that hair while you sleep?” he, often as not, presented a jaw-clinched, disgusted visage and a sharp retort. He admitted that he had “a chip on [his] shoulder bigger than [his] feet,” and so his anger often flared, whereas Paul was always able to discover some politically-correct and charming response. And yes, John was often jealous and sharp-tongued. And yes, he was infrequently physical with Cynthia.

 

But despite the faults that his latter-day detractors have hurled at him, he is still one of the most exceptional individuals I’ve ever known. John Lennon endured a string of life tragedies that none of us could weather, and ultimately, he used them for good. He used them to create beautiful, haunting, lasting lyrics and compositions…he gave us the soundtrack of our lives.

 

Look, John had every reason to be bitter. At age five, his parents (for very complicated reasons) surrendered him to his Aunt Mimi and Uncle George to rear – and although George Toogood Smith was truly “too good” (exceptionally kind and loving), Mimi was not. She was the soul of decorum and discipline. And when six-year-old John – begging for love – would ask her, “Mimi, why are you here every day when I come home from school?” she would only respond, “Because it’s my duty to do so.” Mimi taught John many important things: to study, go to church, mind his manners, to behave…but she never taught to him to love.

 

As John grew into his preteen years, John “found out” that his mother, Julia, lived only about a mile from Mimi’s house. And he began to visit her frequently, getting to know his two half-sisters, Julia and Jacqui. It was a bond John cherished, but the knowledge that his mother didn’t “despise children,” after all – that she wanted her two girls and not him – was a heavy cross to bear. Alone in his bed at Mendips, it hurt. He wondered what he’d done to make her push him aside.

 

But that doubt must have been dispelled somewhat when, after the loss of John’s beloved Uncle George (when John was almost 15…a time when he needed a “father” most), Julia came back into his life as his best friend. For two years, his mother and he bonded. Julia encouraged John to skip school and hang out with her. She taught him to play the banjo, told him he “had music in his bones,” played her rock’n’roll records for him, and helped him form a skiffle band, The Quarrymen. She invited the fledgling band to practice in her acoustically excellent bathroom, and many times she banged on pots and pans, their drummer. Julia was beloved by them all, part of their group. However, on 15 July 1958, she was hit by a drunk driver and instantly killed. And once again, John had lost her. This time forever, to death.

 

If this had been John’s last tragedy, he would have been completely justified in being angry at the world. Even at this juncture, had every reason to give up and quit – to become a delinquent, a criminal, a bitter hermit, withdrawn from society. And many (including Dave Bennion, the “Head Boy” at Quarry Bank Grammar) thought Lennon would do just that.

 

But instead of surrendering to a life of sorrow, John began to write songs born of the pain. And over the next five years, he wailed at the microphones of Merseyside and then Hamburg and then the United Kingdom and finally, the world, for Julia. He told us all, “If she’s gone, I can’t go on, feelin’ two foot small.” And, “I’m a loser, and I’m not what I appear to be,” and “I’ve got every reason on earth to be mad, ’cause I just lost the only girl I had. If I could get my way, I’d give myself right up today, but I can’t, so I cry instead.” And using his loss to weave beauty, John Lennon created The Beatles and relentlessly pushed them (when on many occasions, they gave up) to achieve, to conquer, to succeed.

 

In his life, John did many great things. He was a talented writer, penning two award-winning books of wry, satirical poetry and prose. He was a gifted single-line artist whose gallery still tours the world to critical acclaim. He was a global advocate for peace. He was a fighter for Irish independence, writing two songs for the cause and leading the New York City march on BOAC on behalf of the Irish people. John had myriad talents.

 

But today, we remember him most because he left us the example of a life well-lived. He left us an example of a man who never surrendered to the lashing that the world can dole out. John never let the unending tragedies that tried to crush him snuff out his soul.

 

After the loss of his mother, John went on to endure the death of his soul mate, Stu Sutcliffe. John also suffered at the hands of an unfeeling press when a remark he’d made to a close journalist friend, Maureen Cleave, was lifted by Datebook magazine, taken out of context, and used to generate a hate campaign against John and The Beatles…and for months, John was vilified by the world. In later life, he suffered a messy divorce from a girl he had once loved deeply. And in his last decade, he and his second wife lost several children to late-term miscarriages. Even his career was rocky:  John’s music was banned by the BBC for his support of Ireland. Life for John Lennon was never ever easy.

 

But he never surrendered. And when on certain days, I feel down or depressed or hurt or angry, and I threaten to throw up my hands and walk away…I think of John. I think of his resolve and his “toppermost of the poppermost” attitude and his unflinching determination. And on those occasions, I repeat about John Winston Lennon the very best compliment that I could ever give  anyone: he never gave up.

 

And that…that is why we still care.


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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Carry That Weight a Long Time

When our lush, wax-leaf Ligustrum limbed out over the wall into our neighbor’s pool, I smiled and offered to take care of the intrusion for her. My husband, Rande – I chirped – would climb up and cut the limbs back. (Any excuse to use the trusty chain saw, right?) And I would enjoy “suntan aerobics” by dragging the branches across two yards to the street dumping point.

 

At first, it was a brilliant idea! Rande was whirring (and sweating) away, experiencing the ultimate joy of power tools, and I was getting a fantastic workout, hauling gigantic limbs. But the first half hour turned into an hour and then, it was two hours, and I began to sing, “Boy, you’re going to carry that weight, carry that weight a long time!” Some 50-odd years after The Beatles penned those lyrics, I began to understand their real meaning.

 

You know, it’s fairly easy to carry something – even something heavy – for a short duration. If there’s an end in sight, you can do it! You just grit your teeth, lift with your legs, breathe, and go for it.

 

But when you have to carry a weight a long time, that’s a completely different story. It takes real character to endure the long haul.

 

I just finished writing Vol. 4 in The John Lennon Series after four years of some pretty intense research, writing, and editing. And, in this last year as the worked stretched on and on and on, I began to doubt that I could carry that weight any longer…even though my husband and best friend, Lanea, were working right along with me – even though I had great editors and a wonderful research assistant. Still, the work seemed overwhelming…even unendurable, at points. For the first time in my life, I considered giving up.

 

But I had a great role model in perseverance: The Beatles. No one I’ve ever known could do it better. Just in 1964 alone, the boys steeled themselves to complete two LP’s; the film, “A Hard Day’s Night”; a World Tour, a lengthy North American Tour, and a “no frills” Autumn U.K. Tour…all the while writing songs, giving interviews, starring on TV specials, doing radio shows, and even performing an aerial ballet at “The Night of 100 Stars.” And though, by December, they were truly knackered – bone weary – somehow, they found the verve to do it all again in 1965.

 

What was The Beatles’ secret? My theory is that they were able to endure because they knew what was required of them was important and necessary. Those who survive do so because they realize that if they want to reach “the toppermost of the poppermost,” they must be constantly “workin’ like a dog,” “eight days a week.”

 

You see, I think our most difficult struggles are important ones. We live through chemo to cure the cancer. We accept the disorder and loneliness of moving to a new location to find that new career or new school or new life. We take the pain of a dissolved relationship to move ahead into a new hope. We work without sleep, ’round the clock, to create something that will last. Carrying the weight generally means that we are constructing tomorrow – that we are hauling in immense building blocks for something worthwhile. And that’s never easy.

 

One of the hardest parts of long-suffering (of “carrying the weight a long time”) is the feeling that no one else is hurting the way we’re hurting – that everyone else is leading a better and/or happier life and that we, alone, are in constant pain. But that is never true.

 

Attending church with my son and daughter-in-law two Christmas Eves ago, each family was given a book written by one of the pastors at the church. It was entitled Everyone’s Perfect (Until You Get to Know Them). I so love that title and the truth in its premise.

 

I sincerely believe that ALL (and yes, I mean ALL) of the people whom we eye enviously (you know, those folks who are sailing blissfully through life while we struggle under the load), are secretly carrying a tremendous weight as well. They may disguise it, but they are heavy-laden, in some form or another, just as we are.

 

Tonight, I heard a brilliant quote from newsman, Brit Hume. He said, “Every person you know is dealing with something you don’t know about. Be kind. Be very kind.” Every. Person. You. Know.

 

Each and every individual has a burden. No one is exempt.

 

We’re in this together, and we all share the same fate: that is, we must keep going. We must keep moving forward, keep trying, keep trudging toward the goal line. The Beatles didn’t say, “We suggest you carry the weight,” or “We think you should carry the weight,” or “It would be nice if you carried the weight…” No, they said, “Boy, you’re GOING TO carry that weight, carry that weight a long time.” It was a flat statement of fact: you will do this. This will happen. This must be.

 

Our boys, as always, were quite right. Our lives consist of putting one foot in front of another. Our days are built upon the motto, “Keep on keepin’ on.” Life is certainly no picnic, no simple chore. But knowing we’re all in this together, it’s something we can do. We get by with a little help from our friends.


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 Not Always Going to Be This Grey

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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


1. Shakespeare, William, from Richard III

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

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


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

 

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

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Time for Christmas!

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

 

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

 

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

 

Why?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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


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

 

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

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Two…Well okay, 30…of Us

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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


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

 

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

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Not What I Appear To Be

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Sadly, so few people repeat that quote.

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

 

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

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