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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Carry That Weight a Long Time

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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


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

 

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

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The Fest For Beatles Fans: I Dare You!!!

By Jude Southerland Kessler

 

It was the hot “self-help” book of the Sixties. Although William H. Danforth had penned it in 1931, I Dare You came into its own during the late Fifties and early 1960s. I got my red leather copy in 1965 – a present from my parents upon my elementary school graduation.

 

In this slim motivational volume, Danforth – the founder of the Ralston Purina dog food company – challenged young people to reach for the very best in life by “fulfilling their full potential through his strategies of becoming a more risk-taking person.” He dared people to find the best in life by seeking the path not taken, by trying new things and seeing the world in diverse and challenging ways. Well, very soon you’ll have a chance to be a Danforth devotee!

 

Next weekend, you will arrive at the New York Metro Fest for Beatles Fans…something you’ve done three times, ten times, or perhaps even thirty times before (or more!). You’ll be wearing that sweatshirt and those buttons; you know, the ones you always wear. You’ll hang out with the same friends and plan to attend the same presentations you’ve attended since you learned to master the hand-clap pattern in “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” You’ll do the exact same things in the exact same way and then squinch your eyes up and whine, “Awww, things aren’t as good as they used to be. This is just the same ole, same ole. Ugh!”

 

But wait! Hold on a minute. In honor of Mr. Danforth, I DARE YOU!

 

I dare you to approach the Fest boldly this year…to try Something New. I dare you (like Thoreau in the Walden Pond woods) to come to the Fest to live intentionally…to set out with a conscious determination to test some unique experiences.

 

In fact, here are Number 9 Fun Adventures that I recommend. (There are tons of others…these are just a few that caught my eye!)

 

  1. I’m sure you know that 2018 marks the 50th Anniversary of The Beatles’ days in Rishikesh…that adventurous time that they spent in the ashram of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. And to commemorate that direction-changing event in their lives, come to the Fest with loose comfy clothes (a lightweight sweat suit or yoga pants and a loose top will be just fine) and try a yoga class. If you have children, there is a children’s yoga class as well…attend with them and have fun. I dare you!
  2. The Fest has a wealth of live music that you have probably never heard! For example, plan to see Scott Erickson celebrate the 30th Anniversary of The Traveling Wilburys by performing their Volume 1 in its entirety. If you’ve never heard Scott before, you’ve missed a treat. Seek him out.

 

Or, maybe you’d enjoy the mellow and gutsy stylings of Jacqui Armbruster. Check out her performance of “Come Together” at last year’s Fest.  Yeah, she’s great! And thus far, you’ve missed out! I dare you!

 

  1. Okay, you might not be a whiz kid, but you will LOVE seeing the people who are when Tom Frangione and Al Sussman host two great contests: “Beatles Trivia” and “Beatles Name that Tune.” The competitions range from easy to difficult, so “There’s a Place” for you. I promise. But even if you don’t participate (and I dare you to try), you will be wowed at those who do!! It’s lively and fast-paced! Give it a go!
  2. Need a less stressful change of pace? Well, Neal Glaser has the solution. Stroll through his art exhibit featuring the art of John, Paul, and Ringo. Not only are the incredible pieces that Glaser displays rare and amazing, but many are signed, and they’re available for purchase. Will you go home with an original McCartney? I dare you!
  3. Here’s a tip “From Me to You.” Did you know that there is a Sgt. Pepper juke box on display at the Fest? Find it and have your photo made beside it! (Or take a selfie.) In fact, why not stage a “Photography Contest” with a friend? Compete to see who (on one given afternoon) can capture the most unusual, artistic, or memory-filled photos. Agree beforehand on a prize for the winner, and get out there! IDY!
  4. One of The Quarrymen’s first “real gigs” (Saturday, 22 June 1957) was their appearance at the Roseberry Street Carnival in Liverpool 8 supervised by Mrs. Marjorie Roberts. And what a performance it was! John was so “on fire” that a group of breathless girls gathered at the foot of the stage…and the Hatherley Street gang (quite jealous that their birds were agog over Lennon) threatened to “smash The Beatles up.” Fortunately, young Charles Roberts was able to locate his mother and convince her to walk The Quarrymen off stage and into the safety of her home, where the boys remained until “the coast was clear.” Well, Charles Roberts himself will be at the New York Metro Fest! Meet him! Find him in the Marketplace and say hello! This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – work with me, people! 😊 IDY!
  5. There are so many authors – biographers, Beatles music experts, Beatles film gurus, etc. – who travel hundreds (in my case, thousands) of miles to attend the Fest and speak in their area of expertise. So, this year, baby, branch out! Attend a presentation by someone you haven’t heard before! Have you heard Dave Bedford talk about his bold, new book, Finding the Fourth Beatle? Heard Jerry Hammack talk about the intricacies of The Beatles’ recording sessions? Have you ever taken my trip of unusual Liverpool sites at the “Early Bird” presentation on Saturday morning? Have you attended the Historians panel with Fest emcee and Beatles DVD host, Susan Ryan; author, Kit O’Toole; Rebeat Editor Allison Boron, and many other distinguished Beatles experts? (This year, they’ll be discussing The White Album on the advent of its 50th Anniversary!) Don’t be Decca Records and reject the unknown…I dare you to experience an author to whom you’ve never given an ear.
  6. Now, this one takes a bit o’ bravery…or a few drinks. Gather a group of friends and head over to the Beatles Karaoke room. If you go in with a friendly group, this can only be a blast! You know the lyrics. (Look up the number.) Get in there and “SANG” your heart out! Try it. I dare you!
  7. I’m sure you’ve heard their weekly online Beatles discussion group, but have you ever seen the “Fab Four Free 4 All” in person? This year, all three members will be on hand at the Fest, and hence, you are in for a treat! When Rob Leonard, Mitch Axelrod, and Tony Traguardo get together anything can happen, and does!!! They debate and discuss Beatles issues, head-on. Plan to see it all transpire! IDY…

 

Admittedly, this is only a wee smattering of the incredible things to do at next week’s Fest! I mean, the wealth of Beatles primary sources – from Gary Van Scyoc who was in Elephant’s Memory Band and will be performing in Jeff Slate’s Birds of Paradox to Billy J. Kramer to Jon Cobert to Mark Rivera – is unequalled at any Beatles gathering anywhere in the world! And the nostalgically wonderful things to do throughout the weekend (i.e., dress up in Sixties garb, dance the night away, and join the bands all over the hotel for pop-up singalongs) are extensive! In fact, here is a link to the entire schedule for the weekend to come. Read it and find a few treasures of your own.

 

I dare you to go “Steppin’ Out.” I dare you to make each day at the Fest even better than “The Night Before.” I dare you to have the time of your life!

 

And if you can do it, then I can do it! Next week, I’ll join you. I’ll plan to break a few rules and make “all work and no play Jude” a less-than-dull girl. Shall we do this together? We shall. I very dare us!



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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May “A Paul” Fall Over The Land

By Jude Southerland Kessler

 

IT happened just after the Superbowl.

 

After four hours of knuckle-gnawing, hair-raising, supreme gridiron action…interrupted only by a halftime that piled choreography atop an incredible light show and special effects…after four hours of superb athletic play dolloped liberally with hilarious (Danny DeVito as a brash, red M & M) and extremely touching commercials (such as Verizon’s “Answering the Call” tribute to first responders), I took a breather. To calm and unwind, I found my quiet computer and sat down to handle some business posts on Facebook.

 

And there I found them…The Naysayers. They were alive and well, despite the joy of the evening’s incredible offerings, and they were quite vocal:

“Justin Timberlake did nothing for me!”

“The commercials were a big, fat yawn.”

“The refs were awful.”

“The halftime show was the worst to date!”

“I’m not one bit impressed.”

“What happened to all the great commercials we used to have?”

 

I could barely believe my eyes. Had these people witnessed the same game I’d just seen? Had they watched the heartfelt Busch “Stand by You” commercial? Had they taken a bathroom break during the brilliant “We Will Rock You” Ford Ram Vikings ad? Had they not sat on the edge of their couches and shouted at the television as I had? Or had the worst finally transpired…had we morphed into a world conditioned to gripe and grouse, 24/7??

 

At that very moment, IT happened…yes, indeed it did. This ardent John Lennon devotee was driven straightaway into the emotional camp of Paul McCartney! In the blink of an eye.

 

I’m here to stand up and shout: The world needs more Pauls. The world needs more smiles, more “thumbs up,” more tact and kindness. The world need more brave faces. We need more “let it be.”

 

From Day One, The Beatles recognized that Paul was a great asset, and not just as a musician. Of the four boys, McCartney was by far the best-equipped to handle their public relations, to smooth rough corners, to manage sticky situations. In his book, Beatlemania: The Real Story of The Beatles U.K. Tours: 1963-1965, author Martin Creasy writes: “McCartney had an in-built sense of exactly the right or wrong thing for a Beatle to say at any given moment. Among all his other talents, Paul was the PR heavyweight who rarely, if ever, let slip anything that could damage the group’s reputation. He soon realised that unguarded moments…could result in unwelcome headlines.”[i]

 

But even before there were headlines, Paul was busy making life rosy for the other Beatles. On their first tour with Johnny Gentle to Scotland (in May 1960), the Beatles minibus unfortunately rear-ended a car that was legally stopped at a four-way crossing. Two very startled and scared elderly ladies sat in the damaged car, shocked at this assault by a van of teenagers. The Beatles, for their part, were injured (especially drummer, Tommy Moore) and very afraid of the legal ramifications. Paul was immediately elected to get out and make everything right.

 

Now, I ask you, how does one explain careening into the back of a cautiously stopped vehicle? How does one make the officious ramming of a sedan driven by two sweet, old grandmas acceptable? I have no clue, but Paul did. He smiled and gestured and was his affable self…and within minutes, the ladies were feeling sorry for the skinny, tired, young entertainer whose driver was falling asleep from an extreme dearth of rest. Paul made it all okay.

 

On the few occasions when Paul wasn’t at the “Happy Helm” of The Beatles, the center began to fly apart. No one is sure what miffed Paul into silence at the Cleveland press conference during the North American Tour of 1964, but miffed he was. He sat at the press conference table and doodled away, saying not a word to anyone. (Well, once he snarled at John when John suggested that their education in Liverpool wasn’t the best. But other than this singular flare, Paul sketched and kept his head down.) And though easy-going Ringo tried his best to fill in the large gap left by the muted Gregarious Beatle, Ringo struggled. George and John, of course, were as honest and forthright as ever. It was a very tense, touch-and-go afternoon.

 

You see, we need those who mend fences. We need those who bite their tongues, now and again. We need those who try to compromise or see the good in the opposite viewpoint. We need the Pauls who find something happy in every situation…the Pauls who elect not to fight at every bend in the road, but who make life easier on all around, simply by refusing to complain.

 

I thrive on John Lennon’s biting satire and commentary. I love George Harrison’s blunt honesty. I adore Ringo’s mournful complaints when he’s attacked with scissors or girls who steal his medals and rend his clothing. Like most people, I cherish the frankness of The Beatles, the brash sincerity that made them so trusted and thus, beloved.

 

But every once in a while, I wish we could all take a large dose of Sir Macca’s positive approach and “can do” outlook. I wish we could all make an effort to say, “Good Day, Sunshine” and really mean it.

 

It seems to me, we could all use that Macca miracle drug…uh, yesterday. Seeing Sir Paul in concert, it’s a cinch to observe his zest for living, his utter enthusiasm. No one would guess him a day over 50, much less 70! Why? Because being joyous defeats age; it reverses wear and tear. It invigorates and rejuvenates. It refreshes. (Exactly why Sir Mc was an ideal Superbowl halftime performer in 2005!)[ii]

 

So, I fervently pray that somehow “a Paul” may fall over our land, as it were. We need something to laugh about…and it’s that (instead of money) that I want.

 

[i] Creasy, Beatlemania: The Real Story of The Beatles U.K. Tours, 1963-1965, p. 290.

[ii] To see Sir Paul McCartney perform his full 2005 Superbowl Halftime Show, go to:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9QWw0WM_dos



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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