The Beatles in July: Producing Joy

With a reputation for an unequaled “work ethic,” The Beatles were also cognizant of the considerable worth of play. Their six-hour-gig Hamburg days were laced with equal amounts of raucous fun. And their lengthy North American tours included opportunities to fish, drive race cars, ride horses, meet celebrities, party around the pool, and take in films with Hollywood stars. Their most serious of Beatles recording sessions regularly included an oldies jam or two, plenty of “inside quips” and jokes, and their fair share of laughter. The boys never forgot to sleep, read, take in the arts, and refresh themselves with “mini-breaks” (short holidays). For some reason, most of The Beatles’ inspirational moments and occasions to celebrate occurred in their Julys together. Let’s look in…

 

July 1964

 

In 1964, the lads donned their finest and kicked up their heels at the London and Liverpool premieres of “A Hard Day’s Night.” in London, after the film opening, the boys partied with their parents and significant others in the elegant Dorchester Hotel. And in Liverpool, motoring slowly through a 12-mile, 8-row-deep crowd of adoring Scousers (including John’s lifelong mate, Pete Shotton, and Paul’s school master, Dusty Durbin), The Beatles were awarded the keys to the city at Town Hall. In a throng unrivaled in fervor, the Liverpool boys were welcomed home. That evening, at the Northern film screening, John called out from the stage, asking where his family was seated. Once the various Stanleys were located and greeted, he smiled broadly and permitted the ceremonies to commence. These were giddy, happy days for John, Paul, George, and Ringo as the fruits of their labors paid off in critical acclaim and box-office gains. Having worked “liked a dog” all spring on the film, The Beatles’ smiled, waved, and enjoyed the show!

 

Then, just for fun, the boys performed an aerial ballet at the Palladium’s “Night of a Hundred Stars.” Instead of showcasing and promoting their latest hits, the Fab Four were hoisted in mid-air where they cavorted for a delighted crowd. July 1964 was, indeed, a time of frivolity…and all of it was well-deserved.

 

July 1966

 

During The Beatles’ residency in Japan, the four decided to spend their off-stage moments creating a large collage, with each Beatle creating one part of the whole. Having studied at Liverpool College of Art, John’s segment of the piece, “Four Images of a Woman,” was superb, and the other Beatles were enthralled by the work as well. Photographer Roger Whitaker, watched the boys collaborating on the project and exclaimed, “I never saw them calmer…they were working on something that let their personalities come out! I think it’s the only work they ever did together that had nothing to do with music.” Whitaker observed that the collage — so foreign to what The Beatles did normally — truly rejuvenated them. He reflected that The Beatles didn’t even play music or talk as they painted; they concentrated in silence. “They’d stop,” he remarked, “go do a concert, and then it was, ‘Let’s get back to the picture.’” In the midst of a hectic, pressing tour, the four made time to unwind.

 

July 1967

 

On a mad whim, The Beatles jetted off together, on holiday in Greece. They chartered a yacht and following the coast of the mainland, spent their days island hopping. Accompanied by Mal, Neil, and several others, the boys danced, laughed, and attempted to buy an island together, in hopes of creating a “Beatles paradise.” Although Brian thought the purchase a ridiculous notion, The Beatles located a plot of land and initiated purchase negotiations. Yet before “t’s” could be crossed and “i’s” dotted, paperwork-wise, the four friends were back in England and back at work. Sadly, the island project fell by the wayside. However, the freedom and passion the lads had enjoyed during their “search for the illusive Eldorado” (see the poem by Poe) had rejuvenated them all for the days ahead.

 

July 1968

 

By July of 1968, tensions were challenging John, Paul, George, and Ringo, both as a group and individually. John was under fire from the press for his relationship with artist, Yoko Ono, and Paul had been shockingly seen in public without Jane Asher. Rumours flew. That’s when a moment of sheer fun stepped in to save the day! The cartoon film, “Yellow Submarine”, was completed, and to satisfy the press, a small launch party was hosted at Bowater House, in the Knightsbridge section of London. Paul, George, and Ringo were on hand, finding great relief in the opportunity to chat and smile. Then, mid-month, (17 July) all of the boys enjoyed the “all-stops-out” London premiere of “Yellow Submarine” in Piccadilly Circus. The gala was reminiscent of the “Hard Day’s Night” and “Help!” premieres, in happier times. Indeed, as The Beatles rolled up in their limousine, Beatlemania erupted — full-scale! — once more. The crowds and the boys were mutually elated. For a moment, the magic was back.

 

As far as I know, none of The Beatles (not even voracious reader, John) were fans of American poet, Walt Whitman. But had they been, I think they would have admired his quote: “Do anything, but let it produce joy.”

 

Having fun with their talent was always foremost in The Beatles’ minds, and when an endeavor — such as touring — ceased to be fun, they discarded it. Even during the Let it Be sessions, you can watch the four friends having fun…singing the old Cavern songs, dancing, and making each other laugh. They knew how to find joy in the grubbiest places, worst circumstances, and most trying times.

 

All of us have been enduring extremely grim conditions for months now. We’ve struggled and bravely, we’ve forged on. But with what is left of July, let’s agree to join John, Paul, George, and Ringo in finding a bit of fun. Let’s take a break in the midst of our masterpieces, cautions, and concerns…and for just a moment, “Let it Be.” Smile, walk, paint, party, sing, sail, dream…and perhaps, even buy a frivolous island or two. Do anything! But let it produce joy!

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The Beatles: MAY-be I’m Amazed!

::: By Jude Southerland Kessler :::

 

The FEST for Beatles Fans has been tracing the “doings” of The Beatles, month-by-month, throughout their years together to see if we can glean a bit o’ wisdom from what “the lads” did in the seasons of their lives. From January’s events, we learned the value of industry and hard work. From April, we learned that suffering isn’t forever and will surely be followed by happier days!

 

What can we glean from the experiences that John, Paul, George, and Ringo shared in their Mays together? Well, let’s find out with John Lennon biographer, Jude Southerland Kessler…

 

May 1961 – The Beatles, in Hamburg for a second rollicking time, have been given the opportunity to actually cut a record — as a back-up band for headliner, Tony Sheridan. Though they were contracted to play at the Top Ten Club, the boys had been sneaking over to the Star Club, according to Tony Sheridan, and singing with the star on stage, and the Liverpool lads were quite popular there! As it happened, Sheridan — who had just been signed by music mogul, Bert Kaempfert, to a contract with Polydor Records — was looking for a back-up band to assist him with his first release. Naturally, he selected the popular Beatles and directed them to meet him “in studio.” Paul recalls, “We…expected a recording setup on a grand scale…Instead, we found ourselves in an unexciting school gym with a massive stage and lots of drapes.” But despite The Beatles’ clear disappointment, the boys (as The Beat Brothers) gave their back-up rendition of “My Bonnie” and “When the Saints Go Marching In” their all! And it’s THIS record — requested months later of Liverpool NEMS owner Brian Epstein — that induced Epstein to visit the Cavern Club on 9 November 1961 and “meet The Beatles.” That Hamburg school gym recording studio may not have been what the boys anticipated, but the results — which are still being felt today — were quite unanticipated as well! The modest recording studio led The Beatles down “a long and winding road” of lasting fame.

 

May 1964 – After completing their first film for United Artists, “A Hard Day’s Night,” The Beatles set out on some much-needed breaks. George and John, who’d decided to holiday together, traveled happily with John’s wife, Cynthia, and George’s girl, Pattie Boyd. Now, the concept of a yacht moored just off Papeete, Tahiti sounded divine after two long months of early mornings on set, 8-hour days filming, nights in EMI’s Studio Two recording a soundtrack LP, and many additional interviews and television shows sandwiched into the boys’ spare time as well. But once on board the rather ramshackle boat — with a sparse menu featuring primarily potatoes and a library with only one book (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes) — John became fiercely bored. He discovered that he was much happier filling his days with creative work. So, he began writing songs (such as “Any Time at All,” for Cynthia) and penning pieces (“Snore Wife and the Seven D…”) for his second book, eventually entitled A Spaniard in the Works. George complained that John — who’d been going on for weeks and weeks about “needin’ peace” — now only wanted to work. It was what Lennon truly longed for — John found out.

 

May 1967 – After working for weeks on their most unusual and controversial LP to date, in May of 1967, The Beatles were releasing Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band to a waiting world. And to celebrate what he thought would be the LP that encouraged his boys to brush shoulders with the public once again (perhaps even tour!), Brian Epstein celebrated via a lavish party in his Belgravia flat. Inviting in the “Who’s Who” of London, Brian expected John, Paul, George, and Ringo to serve as co-hosts — meeting and greeting the posh public. However, the boys arrived “rather out of it.” In fact, John — in a faux fur-lined, orange, print jacket — was deliriously giddy. Even Paul, who was customarily the group’s spokesperson, was rather agog that evening when an enchanting, blonde, American photographer he’d met four days earlier, Linda Eastman, knelt down in front of him to capture his picture. Deeply engaged in conversation, the two seemed quite taken with one another, and Brian was left to entertain his guests on his own.

 

May 1968 – Inviting his three friends to his Esher bungalow late in May, 1968, George Harrison anticipated a fun and relaxing afternoon. Sitting together on low, backless sofas, or wide, decorative cushions, The Beatles shared with one another the songs they’d been writing throughout the spring — both during their time in Rishikesh, India, and then back home in England. John demonstrated unpolished germs of remarkable songs. Paul offered up a tape of more perfected work. And George, wanting to remember the special afternoon, decided to record it all…just for fun. How surprised George would’ve been to see the impact of 2018’s remastered Esher Demos, his tape of that afternoon — the priceless seminal rendition of what would morph into the White Album. A lazy day shared by four friends in the British countryside was transformed: a priceless peek into The Beatles’ private lives and their methods of creating and recording music. What set out to be a jam session, more or less, ended up becoming a classic work of musical genius.

 

The Beatles’ Mays together seem to say one very Forrest Gump-ish thing, “You never know what you’re going to get.” Expecting Bert Kaempfert to afford them a lavish recording studio, the boys got a school gym recording space. Expecting that rather amateurish recording (so it seemed) to fall by the wayside, “My Bonnie” spawned sixty years of unequaled fame. Expecting a holiday on a yacht to calm his spirit, John Lennon discovered he craved work, and expecting an afternoon jam session to be just a bit of “in house” amusement, The Beatles inadvertently, “cut a record.” The boys’ days together in the “merry month of May” always afforded a wealth of surprises. Time and again, they were amazed…well, MAYbe.


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

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

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The Worst of Times, The Best of Times: The Beatles in Their Aprils

::: By Jude Southerland Kessler :::

 

Our 2020 Fest Blog continues to look at The Beatles’ days together, one month at a time. This month, there is an important lesson for us all on how John, Paul, George, and Ringo dealt with April…

 

 

April 1962: April 1962 was, without a doubt, the worst that John Lennon would ever experience: a dark and tragic month well-deserving of T. S. Elliot’s “April is the cruelest month” label. After being separated from his “brother,” his soul mate, Stu Sutcliffe, for three months’ time (whilst The Beatles rocked England and Stu studied art with Eduardo Paolozzi in Germany), John and Stu were to be reunited. Full of happy anticipation, The Beatles landed in Hamburg, Germany on 11 April for the happy “coming together” of these two fast friends. But instead of being greeted by Stu at the airport, John was greeted by Stu’s fiancée, Astrid Kirchherr — whose face was grim. She was meeting The Beatles to inform them that Stu had died of a brain hemorrhage, less than 24 hours before their arrival. John had just missed saying goodbye to his closest friend, just as John had lost his beloved Uncle George in 1955, without a chance to say goodbye…and his mother, Julia, without a final word in 1958. Now, Stu was gone as well.

 

For John, it was utterly overwhelming. He collapsed into tears and hysterical laughter. And he spent the ensuing month, inebriated and completely out of control. One evening found him on stage, wearing a toilet seat around his neck. And one early morning found him in the Hamburg streets, wearing only his underwear and cap — perusing the morning newspaper.

 

April 1962 seemed a place from which there was no recovery. And truly, in the years ahead, the other Beatles knew better than to mention Stu’s name in conversation. It summoned a darkness that didn’t lift for days. John never totally recovered from the loss of his best friend. But somehow, life did go on. And despite the crushing grief of 1962, John’s future did grow brighter. He found a way to put one foot in front of the other. And he did survive.

 

April 1964: Only 700 days later, John was not only on his feet again, but he was being fêted at London’s elegant Dorchester Hotel as the most acclaimed author in Great Britain. His first book, In His Own Write, was not only selling millions of copies but also surprisingly being heralded by critics as remarkable. Lennon’s mixture of bizarre poetry and prose was favorably compared to Lewis Carroll, James Joyce, and Edward Lear. Thus, John — as Foyles Bookstores’ Literary Award Winner — was asked, on Shakespeare’s 400th birthday, to deliver the annual address to the learned world.

 

But “The Smart Beatle” — though comfortable singing on stage with his mates— was extremely ill-at-ease when delivering a public speech. So, he turned the obligation over to his manager, Brian Epstein.

 

However, we all know that if things can go wrong, they will, and through a series of simple misunderstandings, John was very publicly called upon to deliver that postprandial speech himself on that celebrated day. Mortified, John stood and fumbled his way through the brief words that a Liverpool beggar mutters when he’s given a handout — something that he doesn’t feel that he deserves. “Thank you very much! You’ve got a lucky face!” John eked out. Then, he quickly sat down to a wave of “boos” and hisses. Quite fortunately, Epstein was permitted to stand and deliver the speech for John. And in the end, as the birthday boy once said, “All’s well that ends well.” The mishap was righted.

 

Most of April 1964 was filled with eventful and happy moments…with awards, #1 hit records, the making of “A Hard Day’s Night,” and far too many honors for The Beatles to mention here. Beatlemania was at its intense apex. And the dark days of 1962 were, for the most part, only a memory. Good had returned, in force, to The Beatles.

 

April 1965 – One year later, The Beatles were the undisputed Kings of the World. They spent the early part of April in Austria, filming scenes for their second United Artists’ movie, “Eight Arms to Hold You,” later known as “Help!” The boys had already recorded a good bit of the film’s soundtrack, but they were working on other songs. John was publishing his second book of poetry and prose, A Spaniard in the Works. And at the end of the month, The Beatles were in London’s Twickenham studios, finishing up their film. In between time on the movie set, John, Paul, George, and Ringo were doing interviews for the BBC and looking ahead to yet another World Tour. The Beatles were busy, productive, and engaged. The shadow of April 1962 only fell, now and again, on John. The rest carried on.

 

April 1969 – John had at last found a new soul mate, a partner he loved as deeply as he’d loved Stu. He had fallen for Japanese artist, Yoko Ono, and on 1 April, the couple returned to London after their much-publicized Amsterdam honeymoon “Bed-in for Peace.” Whilst privately wondering if John had “gone mad,” the press welcomed the newlyweds back with unexpected gusto. This, of course, inspired John to write “The Ballad of John and Yoko,” which Paul would (in May) help John record in studio. It would be one of their last happy collaborations, as The Beatles stood on the brink of solo careers. In just a few weeks, Ringo would begin filming “The Magic Christian” and George would fly off with Pattie Boyd to Spain, but in April, the boys were still The Beatles…one last time.

 

The great loss of Stu Sutcliffe in April 1962 colored John’s life, to be sure. And Stu was never forgotten as John penned “In My Life” and faithfully lived out Stu’s suggestion that The Beatles be “a work of art and not just a band.” But though Stu’s death was a tremendous tragedy, it was not an end. Happiness waited patiently ahead.

 

As all of us are struggling through this horrific month of illness and economic crisis, once again The Beatles show us that there is a future after disastrous times. Their story reminds us that there will surely be moments in the days ahead when we will once again achieve, create, spend time with friends, and live normal lives. Not even the shadow of death can defeat us.

 

We can all shine on. And we must…


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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Genius Having Fun: The Beatles in March

::: By Jude Southerland Kessler :::   Spring brings out childlike wonder and joy in all of us. We walk into the sunlight and marvel at exotic Japanese magnolia blossoms brashly defying winter’s last ice storms. We gasp in delight over surprising fields of yellow daffodils. We search for four-leaf clovers but find our truest fortune in the re-energized work we do, now that dark days have become light and fresh again.   The Beatles felt this. In five March calendars together, they were especially creative. They starred in films, wrote books, appeared on radio and television programs, and of course, created magical music that still plays in our homes and falls from the lips of our children and grandchildren. Invigorated each spring, The Beatles tended to greet March with an enthusiasm that found its way into archetypal creativity. For example…   March 1963…Fresh off the Helen Shapiro Tour (which had run from 2 February – 3 March), the boys gathered in EMI’s Studio Two on Tuesday, 5 March, to record the jaunty, “From Me to You,” a song that had been inspired by a newspaper column which John and Paul had spotted on the Shapiro tour bus. In studio, the ever-brilliant George Martin gave the number a very singular sound when he recommended that the boys sing rather than play the song’s “da-da-dum-da-da-dum-dum-da” intro. But “From Me to You,” wasn’t the only product of that creative date. The lads also recorded “Thank You, Girl” and “The One After 909.” “From Me to You,” however, was clearly the stand-out. An instant hit, it was throughout 1963, an important part of the lads’ catalogue. In fact, it was the opening song the night that The Beatles “rattled jewelry” at the Royal Command Performance, six months later.   March 1964…The Beatles began making their first film for United Artists, “A Hard Day’s Night” on Monday, 2 March 1964. Now, one would think that making a full-length feature movie and creating the soundtrack LP would be task-enough for John, Paul, George, and Ringo, but throughout the month, they were busy here, there, and everywhere. On the 19th, for example, they spent their lunch hour at London’s Royal Dorchester Hotel receiving the Variety Club Silver Heart award for “Top Show Business Personalities of 1963,” an honor presented to them by Prime Minister Harold Wilson. And that night, instead of going home when the other actors called it quits, they hurried to tape an appearance on Britain’s #1 pop TV show, Top of the Pops. The very next evening (in their spare time, after filming), the boys performed on the hit television programme, Ready, Steady, Go! (Deep Breath!!!) And of course, in addition to all of this, John Lennon also released his first book, a volume of prose and poetry entitled In His Own Write. What can I say? The Beatles’ well-lauded creativity was, in March 1964, both on and off-the-charts!   March 1965…Again, it was film-making season for the Fabs, but this time, in ’65, the United Artists’ film was “Eight Arms to Hold You,” eventually dubbed “Help!”. First, filming in Nassau for a fortnight, the boys flew home on the 10th, only to regenerate quickly and head out once again. Three days later, accompanied by newlywed, Maureen Starkey, and John’s wife, Cynthia, the boys were en route to Austria. During their time in the breathtaking Alps, John completed an extremely biographical song he’d begun at Kenwood, a number entitled “It’s Only Love.” Depicting his increasingly rocky relationship with Cynthia, this offering revealed so much of John’s vulnerability and tenderness that ever-after, he despised it. Paul told the press that John rarely let people see his soft side: “I’ve only seen him through the cracks in his shell because the shell is so hard.” But “It’s Only Love” so laid bare John’s love for his wife and their mutual struggles, that in the years to come, John would never have a good word to say about the revelatory song. In emotional and imperfect lyrics, it had too closely captured Lennon’s wounded heart.   March 1967…Wearing ponchos, flowered “kecks,” and National Health glasses, the boys were truly in creative heaven, working away in EMI Studios, on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. On 1 and 2 March, they worked for hours on John’s “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.” Then, on the 9th and 10th, they gave their attention to Paul’s “Getting Better All the Time.” And on the 15th, they began work on George’s “Within You, Without You.” But in every period of intense, unfettered creativity, there is always an inherent edge and potential danger. And 21 March 1967 was one of those experimental evenings that could have ended tragically. John, having taken LSD for inspiration, was feeling unwell and excused himself from Studio Two. Hoping to help John recover (and oblivious to the reason for John’s discomfort), George Martin followed him out and suggested climbing to the EMI rooftop for fresh air. When, moments later, Paul and George saw Martin return without Lennon and discovered where their friend was recuperating, they tore out after him…realising that the roof had no rails or barriers against a sheer, 30-foot drop to the ground. Fortunately, when they scrambled — breathless — onto the top deck, John was simply standing and staring at the night sky. But the boys were so thoroughly rattled that they concluded their recordings for that evening then and there. Creative inspiration had engendered a close call.   March 1968…Out of devotion to his mates, Ringo (and his wife, Maureen) agreed to go along with the others to the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s ashram in Rishikesh, India, for a soul revival. But after only 10 days abroad — hating the “Butlin’s holiday camp” life of the Ashram — the Starkeys gave the others their regrets and flew home. Twenty-five days later, on 26 March, after having worked prodigiously with John on a plethora of songs that would populate the White Album, Paul and Jane Asher flew back to London, accompanied by Neil Aspinall…and leaving only John and Cyn, George and Patti, and Alex Mardas behind. Although this excursion failed to end particularly well (if one knows the backstory of “Sexy Sadie”), March 1968 was undeniably a time of immense creative genius for The Beatles. Having the rare opportunity to rest, talk, write music, and have furtive fun together (when the Maharishi wasn’t looking), the boys created magical songs for the finest LP they’d offered the public in quite some time. Indeed, John alone wrote enough tracks for the White Album to have his own solo LP. The “Leader Beatle,” who had sadly relinquished his role in Sgt. Pepper and Magical Mystery Tour was back. They all were…in a flood of bright, spring sunlight that blended dramatically into pure White.   Albert Einstein once said, “Creativity is genius having fun.” And certainly, no group of people bear this out better than The Beatles. During the March months of their lives, they starred in award-winning films (creatively ad-libbing many of the famous lines), wrote and illustrated books of poetry and prose, composed and recorded music, starred on television and radio programmes, and sought new horizons of faith. But for the lads, ushering music, art, and literature into the world was never a job or a chore! It was always the product of the happiest moments of their lives. And may it be so, this month, with us as well. 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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A Month in the Life

::: By Jude Southerland Kessler :::

 

“If you have built castles in the air… that is where they should be…now, put the foundations under them.”

Henry David Thoreau

 

In this second installment of The Fest Blog’s study of The Beatles’ time together, month-by-month, John Lennon Series author, Jude Southerland Kessler, examines what the lads did during 5 fab February’s. As we walk winter’s weeks together, what can we learn from John, Paul, George, and Ringo? And how can that change the course of our own lives?

 

February 1963 – During one of the coldest U.K. winters on record, the shivering Beatles set out on tour with lovely, little Helen Shapiro, playing dank theatres and music halls in a concerted effort to propel their names and songs to the British public. But on the 11th, they took one day off from their rigorous schedule to race down to London, where they would record their very first LP, Please Please Me. With brilliant producer George Martin at the helm, alongside engineer, Norman Smith, and second engineer, Richard Langham, the boys — desperately ill with colds and flu — began work around 10 a.m. First, they recorded several fondly familiar songs from their old Cavern Club days. Then, as the morning gave way to afternoon, they tackled original tunes for this LP that Epstein hoped would propel his lads to the top of the charts. In the autumn of 1962, The Beatles had had a hit with “Love Me Do” and a Number 1 with the new LP’s title song, “Please Please Me.” However, to maintain that momentum, now they had to produce a host of songs proving their versatility, creativity, and star power. And they did! In only 12 hours, John, Paul, George, and Ringo produced a record that would stand the test of time. And when, at 10:30 p.m. that night — weary and shaking with fever — John Lennon tackled the performance of “Twist and Shout” for the pot-boiling close of the record, he gave history one of his finest tracks…in only one take! The LP was complete. Never had a group compiled a record of such magnitude in only one day. The Beatles had worked their way into stardom.

 

February 1964 – Landing at John F. Kennedy Airport to ecstatic screams that eclipsed jet engines, The Beatles stepped onto American soil on 7 February 1964, and began “The British Invasion.” In only two days, they were slated to play The Ed Sullivan Show. And despite the fact that George Harrison had contracted flu, the four “mop-tops from Liverpool” rose to the occasion. On Sunday night, 9 February, they sang into the cameras for the largest television audience in history (at that time), and instantly, their names became both legendary and household. Then, moving rapidly by train to Washington D.C.’s exhilarating Coliseum-in-the-round performance and up to the Big Apple’s fabled boards in Carnegie Hall, The Beatles made history! Without stopping to breathe, they flew on to sunny Miami for two more Sullivan appearances, while wooing the U.S. public via press conferences, interviews, photo opportunities, and phone chats with a plethora American DJ’s. In 14 days, The Beatles did the work of months, and then nearly exhausted, they winged their way back home to begin filming the oh-so-aptly-dubbed “A Hard Day’s Night.”

 

February 1965 – One thinks of the exotic Bahamas as a vacation locale, but in Feb 1965, The Beatles landed in Nassau to off-the-chart screams for the making of their new United Artists’ film dubbed “Beatles 2” and later, “Eight Arms to Hold You,” and finally, “Help!” Rising daily at 6:30 a.m. for hair and make-up, The Beatles worked on set from 8:00 a.m. to 5:30-6:30 p.m. each day, and in the evenings, frequently gave interviews to journalists such as Larry Kane, Derek Taylor (who, in 1965, was with KRLA, Los Angeles), Long John Wade, and others. John Lennon, additionally, was completing the work on his second collection of prose and poetry, A Spaniard in the Works. Prior to winging their way to the Bahamas, the boys had spent hours recording many of the songs for the film’s soundtrack, but additional work was yet to come. So, taking full advantage of their few nights off, the lads enjoyed a bit of time with Jim and Angie McCartney and their daughter, Ruth, and with George’s sister, Louise — all of whom were on location. As always, however, industry ruled the day. Even in paradise, The Beatles were working.

 

February 1967 – It wasn’t just another “Day in the Life” when, on 10 February 1967, The Beatles oversaw the orchestral recording of the final bars of the final song of their new LP, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. That evening, 40 classically-trained musicians arrived at EMI Studios, Studio One, to take part in the cataclysmic close to a song that frequently is listed as the best in The Beatles catalogue. Instructing the gifted musicians that he wanted “a musical orgasm,” producer George Martin requested a sound that gradually ascended and intensified before crashing in an E major chord…a sound burst. Throughout February’s weeks, the lads had been working diligently in Studio Two, recording various other songs for the LP (including the title track) and creating videos in Knole Park for their upcoming single, “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields.” But on the 10th, with Paul McCartney and George Martin alternately conducting the small “Day in the Life” symphony (gathered in what would eventually be known at “Abbey Road Studios”), another musical moment in time was captured forever, compliments of The Beatles.

 

February 1969 – January had ended with a rooftop concert that was, for all intents and purposes, the swan song of The Beatles. So, February was for all four boys, a time of re-invention. Ringo began work on his new solo project — a film with Peter Sellers entitled “The Magic Christian.” John, knee-deep in various avant garde happenings and recordings with Yoko, took time out to return to London’s Trident Studios to record “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” for what would eventually be the Abbey Road LP. George Harrison, in a bit of personal maintenance, had his tonsils removed at University College Hospital, London, but later in the month, he returned, full-throated, to EMI to record demo tapes of “Something,” “Old Brown Shoe,” and “All Things Must Pass.” Still infuriated by the late-January suggestion by John, Ringo, and George that Allen Klein should manage Apple and 20 percent of their personal incomes, Paul took immediate steps to ensure that the firm of Eastman and Eastman were appointed as Apple’s General Council, carefully supervising Klein’s management. However, Paul and Linda still found time to attend the release party for Mary Hopkins’s first LP (which Paul had produced), Postcard. In February 1969, each of The Beatles was discovering his new métier, and without a moment’s rest from the demands of Beatledom, they were exploring their chosen horizons.

 

The one quality that always distinguished The Beatles from other groups was their unfailing willingness to get up early, work late, give more than expected, and produce more than anticipated. They were, in short, driven. Their Februarys together bear this theme out, again and again. The Beatles never once shied away from rolling up their custom-made shirtsleeves to build “castles in the air” from rough brick and real mortar. They created enduring edifices by demonstrating to us all that lasting dreams require unflinching dedication and industry.

 


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

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

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What The Beatles Found in January

::: By Jude Southerland Kessler :::

 

Ever kept a five-year diary or calendar? No? Well, if you’d like to (as we used to say in The Sixties) “find yourself,” you might try it. The practice is highly touted by self-help experts and counselors because it helps to reveal trends and patterns we display seasonally, monthly, and even at similar times of the day. Journaling over a decade reveals even more about how we react to light, weather, seasonal stresses, and yearly events. Studying a record of what we do, year-in-and-year-out, highlights so much about our personalities.

 

Now, The Beatles didn’t journal…well, not that we know of…yet. But their day-by-day actions from 1964-1969 were highly chronicled. And studying their undertakings, month-by-month, is not only interesting, it’s informative. So, throughout 2020, the Fest Blog would like to take you on a month-by-month glance back at some of the most outstanding events of each month during The Beatles’ time together, beginning, of course, with some of The Beatles’ Januarys together.

 

January 1964…On 16 January, The Beatles endured a rather rough opening night at the Olympia outside Paris. Their amplification equipment failed three times! The audience, comprised mostly of young men (since teenage girls would have required chaperones to attend an evening performance away from home), was yawningly unimpressed and disappointingly unresponsive. John, Paul, George, and Ringo trudged “home” to the Hotel Georges Cinque in an umber mood. But waiting for them was a change of disposition: Brian held a telegram announcing that in the week ahead, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” would chart at Number 1 on the U.S. Cashbook hit list! Utterly phenomenal! And just in the nick of time, too: The Beatles were booked to fly into New York City on 7 February for a three-week tour. Cheering and cavorting, the elated Liverpool lads were filled with hope that soon they’d claim “the toppermost of the poppermost.”

 

[Note: A long-held legend states that The Beatles had vowed not to appear in the U.S. unless they had secured a Number One, and this good news gave them the “green light” to journey on to The States. Well, the truth is, The Beatles were already booked to appear in America on three Ed Sullivan shows, whether or not the Number 1 slot was attainable. Brian had arranged the trip back in autumn of 1963. So, the Paris telegram was truly a bit of happy serendipity! Good fortune to begin the year.]

 

January 1965 – John and Cynthia, George Martin and his girlfriend, Judy Lockhart-Smith, flew to St. Moritz, Switzerland for a few days of rest and relaxation, following the close of “Another Beatles Christmas Show” in the Hammersmith Odeon, London. One side goal of the Swiss trek was to give John an opportunity to learn to ski, since in just a few weeks, he would be filming a ski scene for The Beatles’ upcoming United Artists film. All four travelers were excited to hit the slopes with their private ski instructors. But on first night in the hotel, John and George were entertaining the ladies with mad antics, when George fell and broke his foot. For the producer, there would be no happy jaunts on the picturesque Alpine slopes. Not this trip.

 

The next evening, to amuse Martin and draw him out of the doldrums, John performed two new songs…songs that John had composed for the new film (eventually to be known as “Help!”). The first number was haunting and lovely, but because it was clearly a song about an affair John had had, Martin was unnerved. He felt awful that Cynthia was sitting only a few feet away, chatting with Judy. So, he urged John along to the next composition. This one was fast-paced — a hard-hitter about a girl who was leaving the singer flat. “Ticket to Ride” was, even in its early, unplugged version, incredible. Later, John would call the number “the first heavy song The Beatles ever did.” In fact, he said it was “heavy before there even was heavy!” It would be released on 9 April in the U.K. and go to Number 1 only five days later. This January 1965 composition, born of the desire for greater experimentation and variety in The Beatles’ musical creations, would take them in a new direction.

 

January 1966 – John had been married since August of 1962, and Ringo since January of 1965. But Paul and George remained eligible bachelors until January of 1966 when George and Patti Boyd said their “I do’s” at the Epsom Register Office in Surrey. In a very brief, 7-minute ceremony, the couple (who had dated since they met on the set of “A Hard Day’s Night” in 1964) became Mr. and Mrs. George Harrison. And full of hope, a new year and a new life began for The Beatle as well as his gorgeous new bride, a former model.

 

January 1968 – The end of 1967 had left The Beatles deeply despondent. They were mired in Apple’s machinations, and “Magical Mystery Tour” — airing on BBC1 on Boxing Day, 1967 — had disappointed both the public and the press. But in January, George Harrison, who had been in India, working on the music for the film, “Wonderwall,” came home filled with a serene spiritual peace. Certain that he could connect his mates to this new font of inspiration as well, George began to coax them to “at least listen” to “the truth” he had found. Already, seeds were being planted for The Beatles’ February 1968 sojourn to Rishikesh where, in the Ashram of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the four boys would refresh their weary souls, write most of “The White Album,” and return home with renewed energy and creativity for the studio. George had given them hope by reminding them that, as always, the world could not break their spirit.

 

And so, looking back over the lads’ myriad Januarys together, we find that The Beatles are not so different from you and me.

 

Hope visited The Fab Four regularly in January, as it comes to us all: a flicker in the dark of winter, a soft whisper that no matter how we’ve failed in the year before, we have a chance to try again: a new world to conquer, a new marriage to tend, a new song to sing, and a newness of soul to seek. Over and over, The Beatles kicked off the year, as we must, in a spirit of optimism — believing that life is doable, if only we can pick ourselves up and start again. They also began in expectation, claiming the year ahead as their own and pledging the determination and hard work to make it so. And so, my dear Fest family…so can we.


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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Monday, January 6, 1964 at 7:45 p.m.: A moment in time that changed my life, exactly 56 years ago!

From Fest Founder Mark Lapidos

 

56 years ago tonight, I heard I Want To Hold Your Hand for the first time.

 

I know I have told this story before but some stories are worth retelling.

 

Since Christmas and New Year’s fell on Wednesday in 1963-64, as it did this year, Monday, Jan 6th was the first day back in school in New Jersey. I was out of town for two weeks and my transistor radio did not work, so I heard nothing about The Beatles until that evening.

 

I remember it as if it were today. I was almost 16 years old, sitting on my bed doing my homework, listening to the radio – WABC in particular. It was the biggest station in the U.S. and was called a Top 40 station. They played all the hits of the day. At 7:45 p.m., the Legendary Scott Muni puts on this new record I had never heard before.

 

The song immediately caught my attention and I got so very excited, I put down my homework, jumped to the edge of the bed and listened, wondering what was I hearing. Who was singing?

 

By the time the song was over, I was hooked. Scott Muni said that was a song by a band from England who called themselves The Beatles. My immediate thought was “What a strange name!” The next day I came home from school and since Tuesday was always new survey day, the radio went on as soon as I got home. Within minutes, Dan Ingram (another radio icon) played the new Number One song and it was I Want To Hold Your Hand. How could that be — hearing it for the first time and #1 immediately!!

 

Apparently a lot of people must have had the same reaction as I did. I have met many fans at the FEST over the years who tell me a similar story. I guess that is why we celebrate our common love for The Beatles there. It was a moment in time indeed. My father bought me a guitar the day after he asked me if I wanted to learn how to play guitar. I was jumping up and down playing air guitar to Twist and Shout on the car radio and my dad (a professional musician himself) definitely took notice.

 

The Beatles took hold of me 56 years ago tonight and never let go. The Ed Sullivan Show was five weeks later and two weeks after that I saw The Beatles in the flesh leaving the Deauville Hoel in Miami Beach. My family happened to be staying at the hotel right next door on vacation. I was running down Collins Avenue alongside the limo waving and they were smiling and waving back at me as they headed off to the airport to go back to London.

 

Peace and Love,

 

Mark Lapidos – FEST Founder

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Remembering the Concert for Bangladesh

FEST FOUNDER MARK LAPIDOS’ THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS CONCERT AND THE ALBUM, WHICH WAS RELEASED 48 YEARS AGO TODAY

 

July 31, 1971, I cut my West Coast vacation short by one day, to take the Redeye back to NYC to attend the Concert For Bangla Desh on August 1, 1971 at Madison Square Garden. I went to the afternoon performance. The excitement of seeing a Beatle (2 actually) on a U.S. stage for the first time since their breakup was mindboggling! And it all happened because George’s friend Ravi Shankar asked for some help. George said yes, called a few friends and created the blue print for all benefit superstar concerts that followed. To this day, it is the greatest concert I ever attended! Walking out into the teaming rain, which nobody seemed to be a bit bothered by it, after we just witnessed, I announced that this will win the Grammy for Album of the Year! It was supposed to be released almost immediately to raise more money for the cause, but Capitol and Columbia records to over 4 months to come to an agreement (to use Bob Dylan’s performance on the record). That delay caused it to not be eligible for that year (as it turned out , that was a good thing because it would not have beaten out Carole King’s Tapestry album. But my prediction came true as it did win Album of The Year in 1972.

 

But I wanted to talk about its December 20, 1971 release. I was working at Sam Goody Record Store in Paramus, NJ. A dear friend and log time FEST contributor, Al Sussman, also worked there (that is where we met). I was the Record Manager at that time and I ordered 600 copies. The buyer was surprised. He called me to explain that it would be a very expensive album, with a list price of $12.95 he thought fans may not spend that kind of money. The store price was set at $12.79 as there was very little profit for any stores as it was for charity. I told him I was certain it would sell like crazy. We got word that the truck should be arriving at 3:00PM. The lines were almost out the door in this huge store. The only time I ever went to the loading dock in my years there was that day. I had Al waiting for me at the back door service entrance where we had the line begin. I watched the truck door open and there was the entire pallet in front of my eyes. Uncontrollably and unplanned ,I leaned in and gave the pallet of Albums a big hug!! I was opening the boxes as it went down the hallway to the store so Al could begin to hand them out immediately. That moment was so electric. To see the excitement of fans so eager to purchase this amazing three records of absolute history. Between 3:00PM and 10:00PM, we sold an astounding 252 Copies. We had to reorder more copies within 2-3 days. The rest is history. It did go to #1 and stands at the top of the mountain of the world of great charity album since.  Thank you, George.

 

On a side note, I had been  playing Here Comes The Sun on guitar for 22 months and could not get it right. Then I saw George (with Pete Ham) perform it live  and saw they used a capo on the 7th fret to get that sound! I went home and must have played it half the night.What a difference. To this day, at the end of each FEST, after all the packing is finished on Sunday night, and the sound of Beatles music can still can be heard with Festers playing in the lobbies and other places around the hotel, I come over, strap on a guitar with the capo in 7th position, of course, and I close the event playing Here Comes The Sun with a family of Beatles people joining in with many guitars, lot of singers harmonizing, that unique hand clapping George created during the middle eight, and into that uplifting finish. For me it is always a highlight of the weekend.

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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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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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