Merry of Soul

::: By Jude Southerland Kessler :::

If you haven’t watched “Outlander,” you should.

 

This science fiction/romance TV series is addictive — perhaps because, unlike many programs, it is both uplifting and inspiring. This isn’t to say that there aren’t complications, hitches, and plot lines that make each episode’s ending nail-biting…but overall, the story is one of a life’s devotion.

 

The series theme song, “The Skye Boat Song,” is a lovely and haunting adaptation of an old Scottish ballad about “bonnie Prince Charlie,” but the words have been altered to tell the tale of the show’s female protagonist, Claire Randall. And as I was listening to it a few nights ago, I was touched by one line that described this beautiful and bold healer as “merry of soul.” What an incredible tribute to be thought of as “merry of soul”! I know a few people who fit that bill.

 

One (perhaps) fictional figure who certainly matches that description is the quite seasonal Santa Claus. With his hearty “ho, ho, ho’s” and his year-in-year-out dedication to giving gifts to one and all, he is described as having “dimples [so] merry.” And ah, that magnificent smile of his! It makes me grin, just imagining it.

 

The Beatles, too — well, The Beatles of 1958-1964 — were also “merry of soul.” With their mickey-taking and inside jokes, silly walks and dances, sly innuendos and double entendres, and their enjoyment in making music, they drew us, unashamedly, to them. They were utterly joyous.

 

I think of them insisting, over Brian’s reluctance, that they make a 1964 holiday record for their fans. I think of them singing that nonsensical “Good King Wenceslas” and then, stepping up to the microphone to read their personal Christmas greetings. Merry! So many scenes from those early years were exactly that! You can’t watch The Beatles on the Feb. 1964 Washington, D.C. stage-in-the-round without absorbing their sheer delight! You can’t hear them on Live at the BBC, Vol. 1 without feeling their pleasure in being exactly who they are.

 

Right now, I’m working away on Vol. 5 in The John Lennon Series, where 1965 begins to take its toll. The book will be entitled Shades of Life because by this point in their career, John, Paul, George, and Ringo had begun to feel the tug and pull of Beatlemania — the grind of making a yearly film, doing two annual LPs, going out on a second World Tour, enduring yet another North American Tour, and grinding out one more U.K. tour while also giving interviews, doing television specials, starring on radio shows, and living complicated private lives. The unrelenting schedule was stripping these young men of vibrance and colour. The boys were becoming grey automatons — working incessantly, without a bit of bright.

 

I can empathize. I bet you can as well. Life is taxing. Having moved 32 times in the last 42 years, and facing yet another move this year, I am tired. Spending most of my time doing things I have to do rather than things that I want to do (such as write) and dealing with an auto-immune disease that complicates what I eat, drink and do, I’m frustrated.

 

Struggling to “right myself” after several rather significant lifestyle gut-punches, I’m cynical. It’s been a long time since I’ve been “merry of soul.” “Weary of soul” is more apt. Maybe you feel that way, too.

 

But tonight, as I walked in the just-before-Thanksgiving night air and watched twinkling Christmas lights going up in our neighborhood, saw huge campers being readied for “to Grandmother’s house we go” road trips, and heard the laughter of visiting children romping through front yards, I reminded myself that “Outlander”’s Claire had every reason to be “weary of soul”…and yet, she wasn’t. Like a person unjustly incarcerated for years, she missed out on so much that she could never recapture and enjoy, but instead of focusing on what she’d lost, she focused on what she still had to enjoy.

 

The Beatles were like that. Certainly, in the post-1966 era, they experienced argumentative and unhappy moments. But Beatles Guru, Mark Lewisohn, reminded us last year at the Monmouth University White Album Conference that the White Album wasn’t entirely written under an umber cloud, that the boys were still friends in Rishikesh, at George’s home in Esher, and in the studio days ahead. Even the fractious moments we see on “Let It Be” were only part of a larger puzzle — with intricate pieces of camaraderie, dissention, happiness, and agitation snapping together congruously to form a whole. There were still plenty of times, Lewisohn reminded us, where merriment had its home in the hands of The Beatles.

 

After all, when one stands back and summarizes the Fab Four’s career, what does one find? Love. Love, love, love! Innocent love in “I’m Happy Just To Dance With You,” “Do You Want to Know A Secret,” and “Love Me Do.” Romantic love in “Something,” “Here There and Everywhere,” “Please Please Me,” “Eight Days A Week,” and “This Boy.” Love denied in “For No One,” “Girl,” “Not a Second Time,” “Yes, It Is,” and “I’ll Follow the Sun.” Sexual love in “When I Get Home,” “I Wanna Be Your Man,” and “I Want You.” The love of friends in “In My Life,” “With A Little Help From My Friends,” and “Yellow Submarine.” The heartbreak of love in “If I Fell” and “Yesterday.” There’s even a tongue-in-cheek fondness for the Queen in “Her Majesty.” You can think of a hundred other examples. Because for The Beatles, it all boils down to love…in the end.

 

Perhaps “Outlander”’s popularity can be explained by the fact that in this angry and argumentative world of blame and shame, we yearn for a place where love truly is “all you need.” And perhaps The Beatles surpassed all other bands in history, in part, because no matter what, they lived out their greatest mantra: “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”

 

In moments of wonder and moments of despair, one thing remained: they were merry of soul.


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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Happy Thanksgiving from The Fest!

::: Message from Fest Founder Mark Lapidos on two Beatles anniversaries and Thanksgiving :::

Dear Fellow Beatles Fans,

I have very clear memories of both of these releases. I was a junior at Adelphi University and had a car. I went around to the guys in the dorm to see who wanted me to pick up a copy of Magical Mystery Tour on the day of its release and their choice of Mono or Stereo!!! There were a bunch! I was calling the nearby Record World store at Roosevelt Field every day. When it arrived (11/27/67), I immediately went to pick up both mono and stereo copies. The problem was their first shipment was stereo copies only. I was fuming. What was I going to do? In 1967, we were (falsely) led to believe that you couldn’t play stereo records on a mono record player! So I just HAD to purchase a stereo record player on the spot, so I could listen to it. It was definitely worth it.

Three years to the day, (11/27/1970), came George’s first proper solo album, and what an album it was! One of the greatest of all time, by anyone!! I was working at the Sam Goody Record Store in Paramus, NJ and the shipment was delivered the day before we were allowed to sell them. At the end of the evening of the 26th, I went to my manager and told him I wanted to buy it before I went home. He said no (He was in his 40s and just didn’t understand!). I repeated myself (another sales person, Ralph, was by my side with the same need). I said to the mgr, either you sell me the copy now or I am going to just take it home anyway. He finally realized how important this was to both of us. I stayed up half the night listening to it and trying to take in so much music in one sitting.

Only four years and one day later, November 28, 1974, John surprised the sold out Madison Square Garden by joining Elton John to perform John’s #1 hit, Whatever Gets You Through The Night, Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds (that Elton took to #1) and “a song by an old estranged fiance of mine, called Paul”. They ripped into an amazing version of I Saw Her Standing There. Because of a ticket mixup, I was not at this performance. I was extremely upset when I found out John actually did show up!!

It is hard to imagine these three events were 45, 49 & 52 years ago! Where does the time go? I don’t know, but right now, it is time to wish every one of you a very safe and HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!

Peace and Love,

Mark (+Carol, Michelle Joni, and Tilly)

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Number Nine … things for which John Lennon was thankful

By Jude Southerland Kessler

The Beatles, not being American (of course), didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, per se. But somehow, as we near the close of the year, all of us tend to reflect on things for which we are grateful. And although John is so often caricatured as “John Lemon,” a tart and sardonic figure, he was, in reality, very appreciative of special people, moments, and belongings. After all, isn’t that what his song, “In My Life” is all about? Here are just a few precious elements of John’s journey here on earth things that he loved. Perhaps this will inspire you to make a similar list of your own.

 

And I think we can all begin by listing The Fest for Beatles Fans which draws us together twice a year as family…and for Mark, Carol, Tilly, and Michelle Joni, who very lovingly gave us this “Home Away From Home” in our lives.

 

  1. His Uncle Ge’rge – John was, for all intents and purposes, reared by his Aunt Mimi and Uncle George. And although Mimi taught him valuable lessons about determination and duty and instilled in him a love of reading, it was Uncle Ge’rge (as John called him) who taught the little boy about love. Each night, when John was kindergarten age, Uncle George taught the boy to read from that evening’s Liverpool Echo. Despite Mimi’s fury, he took the child to the Disney picturedromes (films) that came to Liverpool. And George wired speakers up in the child’s bedroom so that John could listen to radio programs such as “Dick Barton, Special Agent” and later, “The Goon Show.” George Smith was an artist, like John, and he understood the child’s heart. John simply adored him.
  2. His sisters, Julia and Jacqui – John’s mother, Julia Stanley Lennon, (after relinquishing John to Mimi and George) went on to have her own family with John “Bobby” Dykins at 1 Blomfield Road, Allerton…about a mile from the place where John lived with his aunt and uncle. Julia and Bobby had two precious little girls named Julia and Jacqui. And when, as an older child, John found this out, he didn’t resent the fact that his sisters got to live with his mother while he did not. He loved his sisters, and they adored him. After Uncle George’s death in 1955, John started spending a good bit of time with his mother and his sisters, and they threw impromptu parties with ginger beer and cakes, and of course, rock’n’roll. The girls enjoyed the earliest band rehearsals of the Quarry Men in the Blomfield bathroom. John’s sisters were always there and always supportive of him. In fact, when The Beatles were fêted by Liverpool during the Northern Premiere of “A Hard Day’s Night,” John specifically asked for his sisters from the stage. They meant the world to him.
  3. His friends – John was never a loner. He always wanted to captain a group. And one of the earliest members of “his gang” was Pete Shotton. Pete lived near John in Woolton, and the two went to Quarrybank Grammar (high school) together. They were so close that people laughingly called them “Shennon and Lotton”…and they were a deadly duo full of mischief. Later, at Liverpool College of Art, John met his soul mate — a friend closer than any brother — Stuart Sutcliffe. Stu told John over and over that John would “never be just a rock’n’roller”…that John’s music would always be his form of art. So, Stu encouraged John to dress differently, write unique songs, and use his album covers as a form of artistic expression. The dramatic impact of Stuart Sutcliffe on The Beatles is absolutely immeasurable.

 

Of course, all of The Beatles were John’s mates. During John’s tenure at Liverpool College of Art, George was John’s “younger brother,” shadowing John everywhere he went! And once Ringo and Maureen had married and moved out to Weybridge, Surrey (where John and Cynthia lived in Kenwood), Ringo and John became close companions as well. Each of The Beatles mattered throughout John’s life, long after The Beatles had dissolved.

 

  1. Cynthia Powell Lennon – Cynthia was John’s girlfriend at Liverpool College of Art, his first wife, and the mother of his son, Julian Charles Lennon. In the early days — long before The Beatles were popular — Cynthia would hold John’s microphone, taped to a broomstick, as he practiced away in the dank Jacaranda Club basement. Cynthia was also one of the earliest Beatlettes in the Cavern Club. And even though John invited her to his gigs after they were married, Cyn (as John fondly called her) wanted her husband to shine alone in the limelight. She declined. Encouraging her love to chase his dreams of “the toppermost of the poppermost,” Cynthia waited at home, keeping John’s life on an even keel. Indeed, The Beatles’ friend, Tony Barrow, called Cynthia “John’s centre, his peace.”
  2. Books – Throughout his life, John was a voracious reader. He read two to three newspapers a day, as did his Aunt Mimi before him. In addition, John read at least one book a week. Beatles’ tours in 1964-1966 gave him plenty of “down time” to read — backstage, on airplanes, and in hotel rooms. And when he wasn’t writing song lyrics or doing interviews, John had his nose in “a bloomin’ booke.” As a child, he loved Richmal Crompton’s Just William stories and Lewis Carroll’s magical books, full of wordplay. As an adult, one of John’s favorite works was Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. But when asked, in interviews, what his favorite literary work was, John would often flash a devilish grin and say either In His Own Write or A Spaniard in the Works…his own award-winning literary creations.
  3. His many cats – In Eddie Deezen’s article, “John Lennon Was a Crazy Cat Lady,” Deezen lists and describes each of the 16 cats that John owned during his lifetime. His earliest (in Mendips with Mimi and George) were Tich and Sam. Later, Cynthia and John had a cat sarcastically dubbed Mimi. In the 1970s, the lovely May Pang and John had two cats called Major and Minor. And those were but a few of Mr. L’s furry friends! Although John clearly adored felines, however, he also cherished his childhood mutt, Sally, who always nuzzled “his boy” when John was sad or lonely.
  4. Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and Bird’s Custard – John had simple breakfast tastes. He loved toast and tea. He loved Corn Flakes. And for dessert, the unbelievably delicious Bird’s Custard was always a hit. On tour, John ate so many backstage servings of steak and chips (fries) that he actually started to hate them after a time. But no matter how much of it he had, John always craved more Earl Grey Tea.
  5. American rock’n’roll of the 1950s – John turned 13 in 1953, so the music of the Fifties was his music! He loved all of the songs that eventually ended up on his 1970’s “Rock’n’Roll” album, including “You Can’t Catch Me” by Chuck Berry, Larry Williams’s “Bony Maronie,” and Little Richard’s hit, “Ready Teddy.” John’s cover of Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me” is considered one of his most poignant songs, and John (like all of The Beatles) loved the hits of American girl groups, such as the Shirelles. John’s mother, Julia, taught him to love the classic, “Angel Baby” and Elvis’s “Jailhouse Rock.” No doubt about it, John Lennon was, musically, a true child of the Fifties.
  6. Television – Television didn’t become a household item until John’s teen years, but once he found it, he was hooked! He had the television on “as background noise” almost all of the time while living in New York. But he watched many programs as well, especially newscasts. John was quite savvy about current events, trends, and rock groups; he kept up with the latest crazes on “the telly.” In the 1970s, John mentioned the television in several of his solo songs, (“I’m Steppin’ Out” and “Dear Yoko”), and he often wrote his lyrics in bed while the telly droned on, in the background…lyrics, perhaps, like these:

 

“There are places I’ll remember,

All my life, though some have changed,

Some forever…not for better…

Some have gone, and some remain.

All these places had their moments

With lovers and friends I still can recall.

Some are dead, and some are living…

In my life, I’ve loved them all.”

 

With love…

Happy Thanksgiving!


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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Turn, Turn, Turn

I can still hear The Byrds’ crystalline, jingle-jangle sound as they brought Old Testament wisdom to life:

“For everything,

Turn, turn, turn…

There is a season,

Turn, turn, turn…

And a time to every purpose under heaven.”

The year that they took “Turn, Turn, Turn” to Number 1 on the charts, my mother was a Home Economics teacher at Bolton High School, Alexandria, Louisiana, and I was in the 6th grade, where I spent my days madly in love with The Beatles. For me, the Byrds’ song had a gorgeous melody and a real hook, but honestly, the words were kind of…well, scary. “A time to break down” made me uncomfortable. “A time to weep,” when gruesome reports of Vietnam filled the nightly news, scared me. And “a time to be born, a time to die” was terrifying. The lyrics were so foreign to me then, so far removed from the childlike emotions I understood.

But now, “a time to die,” has become all too real. I lost my remarkable mother five years ago, and my dad, three years after that. Three of my dearest friends in The Beatles World are mourning the loss of their moms right now. And many others of us have losses fresh in our memories. Our sweet Carol Lapidos, for example, posted on John Lennon’s birthday a “Happy Birthday!” to John and Sean…and to her dearly departed father-in-law, Mark’s dad, as well. All of us are missing someone cherished. All of us are learning — first-hand — about the complicated emotions intertwined in loss, mourning, and remembrance. All of us are finding our way in this new season.

In 1965, when I first heard the Byrds’ lovely and haunting rendition of the words from the book of Ecclesiastes, I knew so little about death. I had only lost a grandfather whom I had never had the opportunity to really know. But a year later, I lost my quiet and faithful companion, my sweet cocker spaniel, Beau…and the reality of “a finite existence” began to sink in. Separation and acceptance became more tangible than they had ever been, and I started to value the importance of memories. In 1966, I learned to grieve.

And at a mere 13-years-old, the one healing unguent that got me through the pain of loss was The Beatles. Their music made sadness bearable. Their sound assuaged pain. Getting lost in the melody of “This Boy” or “In My Life” stopped the tears. The Beatles were a panacea.

And you know what? Very little has changed. Today, my friends and I (all ardent Beatles fans) are calling upon the same balm to tend our wounds. Fifty years later, we are still turning to the soundtrack of our lives as we — the ones left behind in this place called Earth — recall, remember, and re-target our lives. The Beatles still seem, somehow, to understand as John spools out his own heartbreak in “Yes, It Is.” As the boys seem to offer “a way forward” in “I’ll Follow the Sun.” Their lyrics, though written for them and about them, somehow fit our lives so well. We feel an inexplicable kinship with these four lads from Liverpool, lads we’ve never met and yet, have always known.

In that vein, I sat down a few years ago and wrote a poem for a friend who was walking through her own “Valley of the Shadow.” I so hoped that the words would strengthen her heart, and today I hope that wherever you are on your journey, she and I can share them to touch your spirit as well.

They were

My safe place,

My known against the unknown,

My run-to, go-to shelter after midnight,

My flickering light up in the window,

Home.

Far back as I can go,

Far forward as I can imagine,

Reverse and forward,

Stop and pause…

They were always there:

A net beneath me,

A hiding place,

A room sequestered from the world

A vault where I could hide.

I huddled close beside them

And deftly hid my head,

With

Nowhere Man and Silver Hammer,

Mr. Moonlight, Lovely Rita,

Celebrated Mr. K

Performing feats on Saturday…

And standing in the gaps

Of the Helter Skelter in my brain.

Pretty little policemen, guard me.

Octopus’s garden, hide me.

I’m on my way home,

I’m on my way home…to you.

In the play-out tracks,

I heard they had a message

(Backwards perhaps and not in tune)

And I am there as well,

Covered in music,

Wrapped in lyrics,

Invisible…

Camouflaged…

Protected.

Sheltered in their sound

You can find me.

I am there,

Buffered.

If you are there with me…

Turn up the music. Turn up the hope. Turn up the volume and shout aloud these words that I would love to say to you in person: “You are not alone. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever.”

Winston Churchill said to all of us, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

Remember that seasons change. Nothing stays the same. If you are in a season of distress, it will dispel. If you are in a season of pain, it will fall away. If you are in a season of sadness, hang tight. We are a Beatles family, and together, we can do what we need to do.

Turn, turn, turn…you can go on.


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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And the Favorite Beatle is

By Jude Southerland Kessler

Over the last nine months, Recipe Records author Lanea Stagg and I have been asking our guests on the She Said She Said podcast one “bonus question” at the end of each interview: “Tell us who your favorite Beatle is and why?” And in posing this query, we’ve stumbled onto a trend.

Our female guests have all instantly piped up with a specific choice — generally Paul or Ringo, although once in a while, George, and even more infrequently, (the best Beatle!!) John. Our male guests, however, have tended to respond with a pause and then a response something like this: “Welllll, I don’t really have a favorite.” Or: “Hmmmm, it’s hard to separate the group. I mean, it takes all of them to make the music, right?” This “choosing a Beatle” question almost seemed foreign to them.

A month ago, I wrote an article for Culture-Sonar discussing the disappointing number of times that John Lennon’s songs are being aired on many Beatles streaming and radio stations…bemoaning the current “disappearing act of John Winston Lennon.” And the Facebook responses to this article’s observations were truly educational for me. Female readers answered with, “I’ve observed the same thing, and it’s aggravating!!” Or: “Well, Paul’s catalogue is much larger, so of course, he’s going to get more air time!” Or: “What if you were a George fan?! George was rarely heard from in the ‘fab days,’ much less now!!!!” You get the drift.

But my male readers (though not all!) saw my observations as rather “divisive.” One particularly well-written and insightful comment stated, “Interesting article, but I hate to hear the segregation of the songs through ’embryotic’ ownership. Beatles songs are Beatles songs. Start cutting them up and dishing them onto separate plates, and that is not how I want to remember them.” 

This comment really set me on my heels. It made me stop and think. Because “in my life,” as it were, The Beatles have always been very distinct individuals, openly competing with one another, and good-naturedly vying for the attention of their fans. (Think, for example, of John “hmphffing” disgustedly on Live at the BBC Vol. 1 when he reads aloud a piece of fan mail that says, “Love to the boys…especially Paul!”) From the very first day that I was introduced to The Beatles and was given, by my elementary school friends, only two hours (“until recess”) to “fall in love” with one of them, The Beatles have been quite separate and very individual. I have never thought of them as one indivisible unit.

In August, as I drove cross-country to the Chicago Fest, I mulled over my lifelong devotion to one particular Beatle (clearly, John) and about that similar “singular Beatle” response from my friends throughout junior high and high school. I smiled remembering that my friends and I, back “in the day,” readily identified ourselves as “John girls” or “George girls,” etc.  And even as adults, little has changed. In fact, not so long ago, Lanea Stagg and I aired a well-researched “John vs. George” debate on our She Said She Said podcast, discussing four of John’s songs from the White Album in contrast to four of George’s.  And we saw nothing amiss in the act of adamantly “standing by our man.”

Terry Crain, author of NEMS and the Business of Selling The Beatles in the U.S., 1964-1966, will tell you that merchandisers realized this “Favorite Beatle” phenomenon from Day One. Indeed, the entire purpose of selling “I LOVE PAUL” or “I LOVE RINGO” buttons was to make money off of female fans who quite definitely connected with one particular Fab.

Going back now to re-watch YouTube videos of The Beatles landing at various locations throughout the 1964 North American Tour, I see scads of female fans holding signs lauding one Beatle over another. I see girls passionately screaming not the word “Beatles!!!!!!!!!!!” but weeping and shouting, “George!” or “Ringooooo!” or “John!” or “Paul!” And I see those same girls wearing sweatshirts, T-shirts, buttons, and hair bands with their favorite Beatle boldly emblazoned on the garment. From these earliest days of Beatlemania, the great majority of female fans (though not all) were unashamedly choosing one Beatle and his songs over the others.

Once ensconced at the Chicago Fest last August, I began asking those who visited my booth in the Marketplace one question: “Do you have a favorite Beatle?” And just as I had begun to surmise, less than 10% of male fans identified with any Fab in particular. In fact, they looked at me with befuddled expressions and said things such as, “Well, I’m a drummer, so I guess I’d have to say, Ringo…but uh, really, I like them all.” Or: “Well, I like John’s straightforward approach to life, but I mean, I don’t have a favorite Beatle, per se.” The majority of them simply stated, “Nope, I like them all.”

Beatles historian, Sara Schmidt (author of Happiness is Seeing The Beatles: Beatlemania in St. Louis), who is currently writing a book on the Beatles Fan Clubs in America, recently told me, “At the Fests and other places, I usually give those attending my talks a free photo of one or all of The Beatles at the end of my presentations. And what I’ve discovered is: women almost always select a photo of one particular Beatle. They don’t bat an eye when I give them a choice. They say, “I’ll take George.” Or “Give me Ringo.” But men generally select a photo of the entire group.”

The Beatles knew this. In fact, in 1965 when 16 Magazine’s editor, Gloria Stavers, flew to the Bahamas to interview The Beatles on the set of “Help!”, she asked John Lennon, “To what do you attribute your incredible success with these scads and scads of female fans?” And John’s very direct response was, “Well, I’m a man, aren’t I?” Yes, indeed.

Undeniably, a sociological, sexual connection does exist between the four handsome, charismatic, and often flirtatious young men known as The Beatles and their female fans, while a great many male fans (though certainly not all) tend to be drawn to Beatles gear, Beatles discography, and that creative collective known as The Beatles who created Beatles music. That being said…The Beatles World is varied and colorful in its many textures, shades, and hues, and there are all sorts of variations in between the majorities. There are plenty of women who like the Fab Four for their music only and plenty of men who find The Beatles attractive.

And all of us, despite our unique vantage points, can agree on this: A song without Ringo’s “Match 10” force and power would be lacking. A song without Paul’s bass brilliance would miss something wonderful. A song without George’s magical lead would fall short. A song without John’s grit and extemporaneous genius would be ho-hum. The Beatles are undeniably different but equal.

And so are we. It takes the different but equal outlooks of males and females to create the extensive, over-awing fan base that has kept The Beatles “front and center” for nigh on 60 years now. We may view them in slightly different ways, but our devotion is the same. And when I raise objections about the small quota of John’s songs in the film Yesterday, it doesn’t negate my pride in the fact that a 2019 film is still lauding “The Boys” as unparalleled. Whether you view The Beatles as an inseparable group or as a once-in-a-lifetime gathering of unique, individual musicians, it matters not. In fact, what a “blah” world this would be if we all saw things identically. Like the horrid, same-same world that Charles Wallace, Meg, and Calvin encountered in Madeline L’Engle’s Wrinkle In Time, such an existence would be terrifying.

Let’s celebrate our differences and enjoy The Beatles as we will. There is no right way to sing “yeah, yeah, yeah.” There is no one direction to Strawberry Fields or Blue Jay Way. There is no single ticket for the Magical Mystery Tour. And thank goodness, there is room on the bus for everyone.

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45 years ago this weekend: The first Beatlefest

From Fest Founder Mark Lapidos…

SEPTEMBER 7, 1974 – 45 YEARS AGO THIS WEEKEND: We opened the doors to the first Beatlefest at the old Commodore Hotel on 42nd St, in NYC and Beatle fandom changed forever!!! I couldn’t possibly know at the time, because it was only a one convention idea! But, the public spoke and we listened! I can remember so clearly that Saturday morning. I was so nervous it made me sick. Not knowing what was going to happen, and how it will work out had caught up to me that morning. The program sheet was just printed the day before! The convention was set to start at 1PM.

At around 11AM, the doorbell to the suite rang. It was Tony King, VP of Apple and their official representative, who arrived with the films and the signed musical instruments from John, Paul and George. Ringo had sent signed drumsticks a few months beforehand. We chatted a bit before he took out 6 signed copies of The Penguin John Lennon book of his poetry. John wanted them to be auctioned off for the charity he designated – The Phoenix House Foundation (a drug rehab organization in upper Manhattan). He then took out a 7th book that John signed for me, with a wonderful inscription and some doodles, beginning with To Mark, September Beatlefest 1974! I was now coming out of my funk a bit.

It was Tony’s next utterance that lifted any anxieties or fears out of my being. He said, “John wants to come down tomorrow to pick the winner of his guitar.” I don’t remember my exact response, but this was a dream come true to the max! To say I was thrilled beyond belief is a major understatement!! I think I jumped up and told Tony I need to get ready to go downstairs. I arranged for John’s entrance through the kitchen and into the balcony overlooking the Grand Ballroom and had a microphone set up just for him. A NYC policeman who, by the rarest of coincidences, happened to be a childhood friend, who had come over to congratulate me, helped to make this happen. 1:00PM was upon me and I was on my way down to the ballroom. I stopped at the balcony floor, maybe 5 minutes after the doors opened and I looked out over the ledge. That moment in ingrained in my brain forever. I gazed at the completely and totally jammed packed ballroom full of Beatles fans and that it was I who had come up with this crazy idea. My energy level shot up to 100% and never stopped the entire weekend. Quick side story: The films were almost ready to start when someone asked me about the projectionist. A blank look come over me as that was a detail I hadn’t thought of. I can’t make this stuff up. At that moment in through the door a union projectionist comes in and said his boss read about the event and we were showing films. He said, “where do I go?”, and without a moment’s hesitation, I pointed to the projection area and off we went. John changed his mind and chose to go to his farm in upstate NY on the Sunday, but he was interviewed on that Saturday, and he mentioned me and the event (Lisa Robinson /Circus Magazine).

From this acorn of an idea, grew into an annual event here, and 3 years later in Chicago, plus ten other cities around the country over the years – 132 FESTS and counting! What we (my family and many who are like family to us) have created is like a Beatles Thanksgiving for many thousands of fans on any given weekend. This is the true joy of what we do!

Happy 45th Anniversary!!!

Peace and Love, 

Mark Lapidos



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Don’t you do it… Don’t you dare

By Jude Southerland Kessler, special to the Fest Blog

“Don’t you do it…don’t you dare!” is the very phrase that inspired…

 

  • My nine-year-old decision to jump from the top of Mom’s Mimosa tree…a fall that sprained both my ankles, in the very first week of summer.
  • My “rash” decision to move far away from my Louisiana family and friends to reside in Maryland where my boyfriend, Rande, was going to the Naval Academy. (Rande and I have now been married 40 years.)
  • And my decision to write “yet another” biography about John Lennon in the face of various groans and moans of: “Haven’t we had enough of such books already?”

 

Being dared NOT to do something has two out of three times worked wonders “in my life.” Indeed, quite often, daring someone NOT to do something produces miraculous results. So, let me give it a go!

 

Don’t do it!!!! Don’t leave your soft, slightly stained sofa and your “25% More! Free!” bag of Fritos Originals (which explains your greasy remote) to actually get up, get packed, and attend the Chicago Fest for Beatles Fans at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare, Aug. 9-11. Please…stay seated!! Relax into your comfy nest of cookie crumbs and lint, and nestle in for yet another riveting episode of “Everybody Loves Raymond.” It’s so much simpler. And besides, who needs a whole “weekend of unforgettable,” eh? Not you, right? You’re past all that!

 

Don’t do it…don’t be in the Main Stage Ballroom when the oh-so-knowledgeable Mark Lewisohn awes us with his Beatles acumen. I was privileged to hear him talk last November and suffice it to say, I actually offered him $200 for a mere copy of his notes! His talk is that good. No, let’s be honest: it’s better. Mr. Lewisohn is, of course, the author of The Beatles: All These Years, Volume One — Tune In, The Complete Beatles Chronicle, The Beatles Recording Sessions, The Beatles: Day by Day, and so many other respected works. But even his Beatles compendiums pale a mite in the face of his live presentations! And that poses a dilemma: you see, instead of relaxing into the cat hair and pistachio shells on your sofa, you’d actually be sitting on the edge of your seat, locked onto Mr. L’s two talks — one on Saturday and one on Sunday.

 

So, I must ask: Do you really need that? Is hearing the world’s #1 Beatles Guru worth the effort of tossing a toothbrush and a change of clothes into a valise? Is it worth the risk inherent in getting out with fellow Beatles fans who are learning and nodding and being utterly entertained? I shouldn’t think so! Not really.

 

So…don’t do it. Don’t you dare! Slip into your sweat pants and open another carton of “Chunky Monkey.” It’s the wiser move.

 

Safe at home, you’ll tactfully avoid a full hour with iconic drummer, Alan White, who literally on the spur-of-the-moment (the day before, in fact) agreed to join John and Yoko on stage at their 1969 Toronto Rock’n’Roll Festival performance. Who wants to hear about that experience, yeah? Who wants to sit at the feet of someone who worked shoulder-to-shoulder with John as “Instant Karma” was being recorded…or with George Harrison during the making of All Things Must Pass?  Why subject yourself to that sort of once-in-a-lifetime experience? Not when you can revisit “Charles in Charge” or “Malcolm in the Middle” or settle in for a cozy afternoon of “Home Alone.” Don’t do it. Don’t you very dare!

 

And furthermore, DO NOT even think of taking my seat at the Jeremy Clyde concert! Back off, sir! I’ve claimed that prime location where I can best hear Jeremy croon “A Summer Song” and “Willow Weep for Me.”  But most of all, I want to lean in and hear him reminisce about his days with The Beatles. I want to absorb the magic of 1964 and 1965. I want to be transported back to Swingin’ London — to soak in every fascinating detail about what Americans dubbed, “The British Invasion.” No, no, that sort of thing’s not for you! Keep in mind “that was yesterday, and yesterday’s gone.” (Exactly the song I’d like to hear!) So, why don’t you clean out the garage or trim the lawn instead? Go right ahead…leave the magic all to me.

 

Don’t dare set foot in the Hyatt Regency O’Hare while Ken Mansfield (one of the friendliest men on planet Earth) is walking about, shaking hands, and happily answering Beatles questions. Don’t settle in as he brings the world of Apple Records, U.S., to life or talks about his time in London with The Beatles…or shares the story of that amazing afternoon that The Beatles (and Ken) took to The Roof (Ken’s best-selling book) to “pass the [last] audition.” Ken was there for so many remarkable Beatles landmarks, and he will make you feel as if you’re there as well. Do you need that sort of enchanted afternoon? Not you! You’re the practical sort! There’s a hedge to be trimmed. Get to it!

 

In fact, I can’t think of one single reason why you’d enjoy sitting amongst other Beatles fans in the lobby and singing “I Want to Hold Your Hand”…or why you’d have fun going back in time with me (at Sunday morning’s Early Bird presentation) to attend John Lennon’s 1964 Foyles Literary Luncheon, to discover why he muttered “You’ve got a lucky face.” I mean, sure, yeah, it’s a touching and fascinating story…but you? You’ve better things to do.

 

Attending the Aug. 9-11 Chicago Fest can only mean one thing for you: fab fun! And who needs it? Really!  I mean, you’d be one of the very first to hear Beatles music expert, Bruce Spizer, introduce his hot-off-the-press, new book, The Beatles Get Back to Abbey Road! And you’d get to hear Wings’ Laurence Juber, Steve Holley, and Denny Laine rock the stage at the Saturday night concert! You’d get the opportunity to challenge yourself at Al Sussman and Tom Frangione’s “Beatles Trivia” contest, and you’d get to hear Kit O’Toole and gifted musician, Scott Erickson, explore the Esher Demo versions of your favorite White Album songs. You’d only find yourself shopping in the Marketplace, enjoying Beatles yoga in the Faboratory, cheering at the Battle of The Bands, and sitting in front of the Red Bar fireplace and sipping a glass of wine. None of that is productive, son. Not while there’s so much you could do:

 

  • You could scan old photos into jpeg files.
  • You could air out the autumn clothes.
  • You could strip that old wallcovering.
  • And of course, you could always indulge in the evening news. (God forbid!)

 

Or (and I’m certainly not endorsing this!) you could choose to enjoy “The Weekend of You”…a weekend of wearing your Beatles pins and T-shirts and socks and kecks…a weekend of wearing your Beatles smile! You could star in an impromptu, all-night Sing-Along or attend the late, late experts’ panel or hunker over an iced bourbon, hotly debating which album is better, the Capitol “Help!” or the EMI version. You could rock with The Weeklings…and dance to Liverpool! You could purchase the BEST Christmas present ever from Beatles artist, Eric Cash. And you could party late, sleep late, laugh out loud (unabbreviated), and have the time of your life!

 

The only problem is, the Chicago Fest for Beatles Fans would create memory: a memory you’d have to cherish for years. A memory you’d have to tell people about at the office, on the train, and at family reunions. A memory you’d have to carry with you, long after you’re 64!

 

It would be unique and special, your time at the Fest. So, unless your life needs something warm and wonderful and memorable and completely fantastic…best to avoid it at all costs. I promise that you’d fall in the love with The Fest for Beatles Fans, and, you’d want to go back. So, just don’t risk it. No, indeed.

 

Don’t you do it. Don’t you dare.

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It was January something or other

By Guest Blogger Michael Byrne

 

It was January something or other, 1964. I had just turned 9-years-old the previous September and was in the fourth grade. My family lived in a small town near Philadelphia called Morrisville, Pennsylvania.

 

The Phillies weren’t turning out very good teams, so like a lot of boys my age, my heroes were the Yankees’ Mickey Mantle and Roger Marris and astronaut, John Glenn, who had recently become the first American to orbit the earth.

 

My brother and sister are 8 and 9 years older than I, so I heard a lot of their music around the house. Their favorites included early Motown; rockers like Elvis, Buddy Holly, Fats Domino, and Little Richard; the Beach Boys and others. So, as you can see, I was exposed to some really great music as a little kid.

 

My parents were very musical, too. My Mom was a wonderful singer and my Dad was a self-taught organist. There was lots of music in my life!

 

I had asked for and received a transistor radio that Christmas, and after returning from school in the afternoon, was eager most days to walk  beneath “the blue suburban skies” with it held up to my ear, listening to WFIL, WABC and WIBG…hoping to hear my favorite songs.

 

At that time, “Louie, Louie” by The Kingsmen was the Number One song just about everywhere in the USA, and I loved it! I could listen to that song over and over again. I really didn’t want to hear much else. So, each week, I’d wait to hear the countdown to the #1 song. I was sure it would be that song with the great beat and the lyrics no one could understand.

 

This particular January week however, would be different…WABC’s afternoon DJ, Dan Ingram, informed listeners that there was a new Number One song on the charts. It had shot up to Number One out of almost nowhere, and the phone lines were on fire with requests to hear it! This annoyed me as I really liked “Louie, Louie” and couldn’t believe anything could be better than that song, but I stayed tuned in just to see what all the fuss was about.

 

“It’s now Number One…on 77 WABC!” I still remember that little intro jingle…

 

Well, the first three notes of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” smacked me right in the face. I literally stopped dead in my tracks and listened to something I had never heard before. It was such an exciting sound! The vocals, the drums, the build-up at the end of the “middle eight”: “I can’t hide, I can’t hide, I CAN’T HIDE……..!!! Wow! Incredible!

 

When it was over, Dan Ingram talked about this new band called The Beatles and how they were from England and how they were going to be on The Ed Sullivan Show in just a few weeks and how they were so different and…I swear to God, I turned around and ran home, bursting in the front door yelling, “Mom, Mom I just heard the greatest song I have ever heard on the radio and the band is… and they’re gonna be on…and can we please watch it?”

 

She was so cool and said, “Of course, we can.” (We watched Ed Sullivan every week anyway.) Settle down now.”

 

As the weeks leading up to February 7, 1964 passed, I heard “I Want to Hold Your Hand” many times, and its power never faded (and still hasn’t, for me). So, when the nightly news showed pictures of the airport press conference and the wild scenes outside The Beatles’ hotel, the whole thing became even more compelling! They looked incredibly cool, and they were so funny.

 

Q: “Are you going to get a haircut while you’re here?”

 

George: “I had one yesterday”.

 

(Hahaha.)

 

Q: “There’s some doubt that you can actually play; can you play for us?”

 

John: “No, we need money first.”

 

(Too cool!)

 

The radio stations also began playing other Beatles songs: “I Saw Her Standing There,” “Twist and Shout,” “All My Loving,” and “Please, Please Me”.

 

My Mom bought me Meet the Beatles. She was the coolest! I played it every day after school, and she didn’t complain at all. In fact, she liked it! She thought they were great. Of course, that hair was “ridiculous,” wasn’t it?

 

The 9 February Ed Sullivan performance was, of course, incredible, and it’s all anyone in school talked about for weeks! My life changed that day that I first heard “I Want to Hold Your Hand” on the radio. I will never forget it. Eventually, I became a musician myself, and I continue to play and write music to this day.

 

The Beatles and their music, style, and talent became a major influence on my life.

 

Their message was clear… “Love is all you need.”

 

Wouldn’t it be great if the whole world got it?

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In My Life — What are your earliest memories of The Beatles?

What are your earliest memories of The Beatles? How did your journey with the Fab Four begin? Jude Kessler, author of The John Lennon Series, shares her sentimental journey and encourages you to share yours! Our panel of judges will award 3 prizes for the best very brief stories in our Comments section below. The winners will get to expand their stories and be highlighted as our Featured Fest Bloggers in June!

 

Here’s Jude’s true tale:

 

I’ve told the story at least a hundred times: how 9-year-old Pattie Holly Singer — clasping an early Beatles 45-rpm photo jacket — waylaid me en route to class at Horseshoe Drive Elementary in Alexandria, Louisiana.

 

These are The Beatles!” she exhaled, her eyes dancing nervously. “Everyone’s in love with them!!! You’ve gotta pick one to fall in love with…by recess!” That was the beginning of it all, really — the sojourn into the frenetic and frantic land of Beatlemania.

 

All the rest of my memories that year center on The Beatles. I can’t recall anything else “in my life.”

 

My father, Dr. Tom Paul Southerland, the Rapides Parish Assistant Superintendent of Schools, was not impressed. Each month, he’d call me into his office and sit me down to begin the standard lecture: “You’re in love with that John Lennon, and it has to stop! He’s a hoodlum, I tell you. A hoodlum!” But the more my dad divulged that “fact,” the more I was attracted to the almond-eyed guitar player with his razored wit and deep, gritty voice…the more “The Leader Beatle” invoked devotion.

 

Despite my father’s despair over Lennon-mania, though, he saw sense. When “A Hard Day’s Night” came to Alexandria’s Don Theater, late that summer, he offered to take me to the film. He even did some research on it and commented on the cautious drive downtown, “I hear these Beatles are a lot like the Marx Brothers. Some people say they’re the Marx Brothers and the Keystone Cops, all rolled into one. In fact, down at the office, they tell me this movie really shows that side of their comedy.”

 

I don’t remember my response; I’m sure it was polite and agreeable. But in that fat, baby-blue-and-white, four-door Buick, I do remember thinking that I’d seen “You Bet Your Life” on TV and that John Lennon was nothing whatsoever like gruff, bespectacled, OLD Groucho Marx. I saw no correlation between Marx and Lennon, and frankly, I couldn’t imagine anyone who could! I bit my lip and sighed and thought my father and I, worlds apart.

 

At the end of film that afternoon, as the credits rolled across the screen (names I would come to know intimately in my adult life…some, like Victor Spinetti, whom I would meet and interview at our own Fest for Beatles Fans), I sat in the darkness and wept. I cried because I’d loved every minute of John’s film. (As Susan Ryan said to me years later, “What??! The other Beatles were in that movie????”) I sobbed because it had ended all too quickly. And I wept because there was no one there to understand my heart.

 

“Would you like to stay and see it again?” my father leaned over, asking me quietly. I was floored. Stunned! The man who had railed against The Beatles for months got it!!!! Somehow, he understood. And he was offering to devote two more hours of his life to a film he really didn’t want to see. It was a moment…one of the best of my childhood. My father had unwittingly conspired with The Beatles to create a forever memory.

 

Today, I live about two hours from Alexandria — or “Beatle Town,” as I call it. Every time I have an occasion to drive through the city or visit friends there, I fly back to 1964. I remember it all. I remember asking for my first Beatles album on my November birthday and getting, instead, a black-and-white LP by The Liverpool Beats singing, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “I Saw Her Standing There,” right alongside “Joshua” and “Maybe I Will.” I vividly recall fighting back hot tears over the sound of “Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you…” and trying to act thrilled over the errant record looming next to my chocolate cake. I also remember climbing into bed that night and writing a very early letter Santa, who surely, in just a few short weeks, would right the wrong and deliver the treasure I so craved.

 

On a very chilly and early 25 December 1964, as I tore into the thick, crimson foil encasing Capitol’s “Meet the Beatles,” my introduction to “the lads” was finally complete. In twelve short months I had found my passion for a lifetime and stepped into my future career. I had selected not only “a Beatle to love,” but had chosen the direction for my college course of study and the path of my professional life. From that day on, it would be all John Lennon, all the time.

 

And yes Virginia, it still is.

 

*********

Now…it’s your turn. Share your first and earliest Beatles’ story with us in the Comments below…let the memories Shine On.


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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45 Years Ago Today — Fri., 4/26/1974 — The Start of the Most Important Weekend In ‘Beatlefest’ History!

BY FEST FOUNDER MARK LAPIDOS

 

This is my story (short version)
Little did I know on Friday morning, April 26, 1974 that I would hear an announcement that would forever alter my life’s direction. It started out pretty ordinary. I took the bus from NJ to NYC and headed over to Sam Goody, the flagship store of the biggest record chain in the area. By total coincidence, we were having a special on all Beatles albums that week, and I had all my staff wearing special 10th Anniversary Beatles shirts provided only to my store by Capitol Records.

 

It was when I returned home that evening when I turned on the radio to WABC and heard THAT announcement: John Lennon and Harry Nilsson would be appearing with Cousin Bruce in Central Park on Sunday (4/28/74) to support the 1st ever March of Dimes event. That is when I realized I was going to meet John to tell him my idea of a 10th Anniversary celebration of The Beatles Arrival in America! I had already thought of the idea at the end of November, 1973 and booked the Commodore Hotel for the weekend of September 7-8, 1974. The only thing missing was getting permission to honor The Beatles (I was an idealistic 26 year old). Of course, everybody thought I was nuts, but, apparently, that didn’t stop me!

 

I won’t go into the details here of how I found out (I have told this story before), but I did find out where John and Harry were staying. After their 15-20 minute talk with Cousin Brucie in Central Park in front of 100,000 people, I went to their hotel and knocked on the door. Harry graciously let me in, I told John about my idea. He said, “I’m all for it. I’m a Beatles Fan, too!”

 

So, within about 40 hours of hearing that announcement — 45 years ago today — I was sitting with John in his suite actually telling him all about my convention idea in detail! After that weekend, I was taken a lot more seriously and just over four months later, it happened. All of The Beatles donated musical instruments for our Charity Raffle, but John wanted to personally come down on the Sunday evening to pick the winner of his signed guitar. Yes, folks, it really did almost happen! Alas, he changed his mind and went up to his farm for the rest of the weekend. To this day, it was the biggest secret I EVER had to keep!

 

Have a great weekend!!

Peace and Love,

Mark Lapidos

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