Music in Heaven

The text read: “There is music in heaven tonight.” And that was how I found out about the passing of Sir George Martin.


All day in Louisiana, it has rained and rained, and while I think that heaven’s outpouring of tears is so fitting, I do believe in what my friend, Lanea Stagg, texted. There is quite a jam session going on just beyond our reach, just beyond our realm. There is a party for George Martin tonight!


George Martin loved music. Classically trained at the Guildhall School of Music in piano and oboe, he also adored complex jazz, folk music, and yes – after a season – rock’n’roll. And Martin’s various and elegant musical tastes came home to roost in the diverse catalog of The Beatles, as he introduced them to harpsichords, horns, and violins. Martin, a confident musician, urged them to take chances. He echoed their need to grow and evolve. And despite many obstacles, he found a way to make their complex recording dreams into concrete realities.


But most of all, George Martin listened and understood. When four unknown boys from the rugged North refused a Tin Pan Alley song – a sure hit like “How Do You Do It” – and insisted that recording it would “ruin them in Liverpool,” he listened. When they insisted that they were composers and that they could write a song that was “just as good,” he believed them.


When they said that they could rework their limping tunes and make them into winners, he stood beside them, giving them the chance to try. And when no other recording label would represent Brian Epstein’s skinny, ragtag Beatles, George Martin gave them that chance. He was the open door through which they walked and the welcome hearth at which they warmed themselves and felt at home.


George Martin was never “a friend of the lads.” They respected him too much to let him see the whole story. At first, they hid their drugs from him. They kept their language clean. They spoke to him with deference, even when they didn’t like his tie. As the years passed, they relaxed quite a bit. But The Beatles always looked up to George Martin as an uncle (in fact, he reminded John of his beloved Uncle Ge’rge), as a father, as a favorite professor in school. And he loved them in a way that he never did any other act or group or collection of recording artists.


Between them, there was a bond. It was a bond beyond music…a bond that allowed The Beatles to test limits and try new things, to step over the borders of the known and venture into the murky unknown. It was the bond one feels inside one’s chosen family: the family that is peopled by one’s truest friends.


And so The Beatles’ greatest moments were Sir George Martin’s moments. Their happy days were his. Their successes were his successes. And he never missed a chance to let them know. He flew to Paris and celebrated the announcement of their first American No. 1 hit. He flew to America to watch them perform at the Washington D.C. concert in February 1964. He sat in uncounted audiences, stood in the myriad stage wings with Brian, stayed up to ungodly hours in the studio, and endured tardiness, irritability, and frustration, when times were hard.


But most of it was pure joy. Most of the ride was one continuous smile. While some managers and producers built empires on the word, “NO,” Sir George Martin lived in the word, “YES.”


He always found a way to make things happen. He always found a way to create the quirky and unusual sound the boys (especially John) craved when no one else could.  He found a way to bring their magic to life and to bridge the gap between the possible and impossible. He could do that.


George Martin was a “Yes Man.”  No, not a sycophant or a toady, but a “Yes Man” in that he was ever and always ready to try anything and everything. With George at the helm, anything was possible. As Paul has gracefully told us, “Once there was a way…”


I wonder who’s performing tonight? Certainly John and George, center stage, smiles wide…and David Bowie, I’m quite sure. Perhaps, in a sidelight, a phenomenal lick from Jimi Hendrix. Some passionate soul from Otis Redding and Bobby Hatfield (who can finally be heard above the screams). And the clear sound of Glenn Frey blending with the velvet voice of Maurice White.


And there, in the midst of them all, stands Sir George in his crisp, white shirt – arms folded and head down, listening, mulling, finding a path. “Let’s try it once again,” he’s suggesting.  “And this time, let’s sing the intro instead of playing it on the guitars. Let’s speed it up a bit and…well, let’s see what happens. Shall we?” And so it begins.


There is music in heaven tonight, as there always is. But tonight, it has a new producer. My guess?  It’s destined for the Toppermost of the Poppermost. Odds are, He will love it.


Jude Southerland Kessler is the author of the John Lennon Series:


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


Remembering George Martin

From Fest Founder Mark Lapidos:


It is a sad day in Beatles World and for music lovers around the world. George Martin passed away last night at the age of 90.


There is no question George Martin will be remembered as the most important and successful Record Producer of all time. How did a comedy record producer for a small EMI subsidiary get to be the producer of the greatest band of all time? It was because, being from Liverpool, The Beatles had a wonderful sense of humor and knew some of those recordings. During their first sessions, Beatle George broke the ice with his now famous line “For starters, I don’t like your tie.” Together over the ensuing seven years, they created the soundtrack of our lives. George first as their producer, then teacher, then interpreter of how they wanted their recordings to sound. It was a team effort and the stars were indeed aligned.


I had the pleasure and honor to meet with Sir George a few times, with the most notable encounter coming in the mid 1980s in Los Angeles. We got to spend about 30 minutes together in a private session and I found him charming, engaging, and a delight to be around.  At the end of the talk, I asked him if I could ask one question that had puzzled Beatles fans for almost 20 years (at the time). He said okay.  “How come the promotional copies of Penny Lane had the trumpet at the end, and the released version didn’t?” He said something like this: Capitol was bugging us for a new single so we reluctantly sent them Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields Forever (we all know he regretted not holding them for Pepper). They were so deep into the Pepper sessions, they sent the final version over, not even aware there was any difference! It was just one of those things during a day in the life of recording with the Beatles.


We are all so lucky to have his body of work almost at our fingertips now. Today we are fixing a hole in our sad hearts in knowing that George Martin has left this world. He will never be forgotten. Our condolences to his wife, Judy, son Giles and the rest of his family. Through the music, we all became part of his extended family. It has been a ride of a lifetime.


Peace and Love,


Mark Lapidos


Cynthia Lennon: Shine On

At the New York Metro Fest for Beatles Fans two weeks ago, I delivered a talk called  “Cynthia Lennon: the Real Fifth Beatle.” And with all my heart, I believe she was just that.


She was there in the basement of The Jacaranda, holding John’s microphone for him (well, a mic duct taped to a broom) in 1959…long before Stu or Brian or Pete or George Martin ever appeared on the scene. She lovingly told John that he was “too big for Liverpool” as she watched him rehearse with Paul and George in Room 21 at Liverpool College of Art during those lunchtime sessions of 1959 and 1960. And unswervingly, she believed in his destiny to achieve “the toppermost of the poppermost” long before the Beatlettes (or even the Wooden Tops) existed. Cynthia was the first to understand and cherish John’s dream.


When Cynthia found out the she was pregnant, John immediately (immediately!) offered to marry her. And had she pressed him to leave the band and become a “proper husband and father,” I believe he would have been just as dutiful in doing “the right thing.” But Cynthia never asked that of John.


Instead, Cyn spent her honeymoon night alone – moving in to Brian’s Falkner Street flat and making a home for John, even though he had offered to take her along with him that evening to his gig. Cynthia refused. She chose to remain in the background and to shun the limelight and to give John a home to which he could always come when he was tired, frustrated, and in need of love.


During the year (August 1962-August 1963) that Brian forbade her to appear with John in public, Cynthia acted accordingly and vanished from sight to help her husband’s career. She ran from reporters. She shielded her husband and her son. She pushed her needs aside and endured aching loneliness so that The Beatles could grow and emerge as the stars she knew they were to be.


When girlfriends joined the troupe of Beatles – as did Maureen Cox – Cynthia befriended them and made them feel welcome. She worked side-by-side with Freda Kelly to answer John’s fan mail, and she endured the torrent of fans in Emperor’s Gate for much longer than was humanly possible. Cynthia did whatever John needed her to do to help him achieve the life for which he longed.


Did John love Cynthia? Devotedly.


In January of 1964, The Beatles were appearing for three weeks in Paris. During that time, they got one day (one day!) off. The other three Beatles spent that day sight-seeing and sleeping and having a grand ole time. John flew back to London for that 24 hours to spend the time with Cyn. It was worth it to him. She recharged him and inspired him and made him whole.


And on that one day in which they were together, John invited Cyn to come along with him on his first American visit in February of 1964, even though Brian had forbidden him to ask his wife along. John wanted Cynthia to share in the excitement and the joy of his success – a success that her devotion had made possible. And she accepted. At Ed Sullivan, Carnegie Hall, Miami, and Washington, D.C. Cynthia was there.


In America, reporters tried to get her to talk. She would not. She stayed in the shadows and let her husband take the bows. She made her life about John and about John’s son, her beloved Julian. And even when she wrote her first book, A Twist of Lennon, she minimized John’s faults and played up his strengths. She was his best friend.


In Lennon Revealed, Larry Kane writes, “The romance between Cynthia Powell and John Lennon, somewhat forgotten in the modern era of Lennon remembrances – and often ignored when it was in full bloom – is a significant one for the young artist. Although the marriage was prematurely instigated by the pregnancy that brought Julian to life, there is no question that Cynthia was John’s first real and intense romantic love and that her role in his early days of creativity with The Beatles cannot be discounted.”


And Tony Bramwell, Kane notes, adds, “Cynthia was beautiful, physically and on the inside. Although she knew he was apt to find love on the road, she was totally dedicated to his success, and I might add, influential. He was insecure and Cynthia was always there to pump him up, to buttress…his weak side. She was a wonderful mother who loved John deeply.”


John’s indiscretions were ignored by Cynthia. His anger was forgiven. His focus on his career rather than his marriage was never even considered a problem to his adoring wife. Cynthia wanted the best for John, always. And that kind of unconditional love sparked “When I Get Home,” and “Do You Want to Know a Secret” and “I Call Your Name” and “It Won’t Be Long” and so many more. Even when Beatlemania began to take its toll on their marriage, John penned the haunting “It’s Only Love” for his Cyn.


Today the world has lost the Fifth Beatle. But more importantly, it has lost a true lady who made “night time bright, very bright.” Cynthia Lennon will always shine on.


Beatles Saluted During “The Night That Changed America.”

Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr perform together during last night’s taping of “The Night That Changed America.”

By Danny Abriano
Last night in Los Angeles, CBS taped what will become the Beatles special titled “The Night That Changed America.”  The special will air on February 9th to mark the 50th anniversary of the appearance of The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show.
A night after they united to perform on stage at the Grammy Awards, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr again took to the stage together – this time to perform Beatles hits.
The two legends had more than a little help from their friends during last night’s star-studded concert.  If you want to be surprised when the special airs, read no further.
Some of the stars who performed at the show were Maroon 5 (“All My Loving”), Alicia Keys and John Legend (“Let It Be”), Imagine Dragons (“Revolution”), Dave Grohl with Jeff Lynne (“Hey Bulldog”), the reunited Eurythmics (“Fool on the Hill”), and Stevie Wonder (“We Can Work It Out”).
As was the case last night, the highlights of the evening were provided by those central to the world of The Beatles.
Dhani Harrison, the son of George, took to the stage to play “Something” with George’s one-time bandmate (Traveling Wilburys) Jeff Lynne.
Ringo Starr performed “Matchbox,” “Boys,” and “Yellow Submarine,” and Paul McCartney performed “Magical Mystery Tour,” “Birthday,” “Get Back,” “I Saw Her Standing There,” and “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
Paul and Ringo again performed together, this time belting out “With A Little Help From My Friends” and “Hey Jude” (with Ringo on drums).
“The Night That Changed America” will air on CBS on February 9th.


Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr Rock The Grammy Awards

By Danny Abriano
To recognize the 50th anniversary of the arrival of The Beatles in America, the Grammys made last night’s ceremony a Beatles-centric one, and Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr were the rightful centers of attention.
The two legends were on hand to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award, were seated next to one another in the front row, and both took the stage.
Aside from Paul and Ringo, Yoko Ono, Sean Lennon, and Olivia Harrison were also in attendance. Yoko and Olivia presented an award with Alicia Keys near the end of the ceremony.

The FEST took out a half page ad in last night’s Grammy program book saluting The Beatles.

It was Paul (the winner of five awards last night) and Ringo, though, who were the highlights of the evening.
First, Ringo took to the stage to sing his 1973 hit “Photograph.” Starr and George Harrison co-wrote “Photograph” in 1971, and the pictures of the Fab Four flashing behind Ringo as he performed made for a poignant, moving moment.  The crowd rose in unison as Ringo performed, and it was a truly special scene.
A bit later on, Paul McCartney took to the stage to play “Queenie Eye” from his new album. With Paul playing a piano from the Magical Mystery Tour era, Ringo joined in on drums, creating the surreal and amazing site of the two living Beatles performing together.
The last time the two performed together was in 2010, when Paul surprised Ringo on the occasion of his 70th birthday at Radio City Hall and the two performed “Birthday” together.
Incredibly, last night’s scene may simply serve as an appetizer for Beatles fans who are hungry for more. Tonight, CBS is recording a special titled “The Night That Changed America,” a two hour salute to The Beatles that will air on February 9th at 8PM.
A few days ago, Ringo confirmed that he and Paul would be performing together for the special being filmed tonight. Not to take anything away from the incredible performances we were fortunate to witness last night, but one would imagine Paul and Ringo will be performing Beatles hits together for “The Night That Changed America.”
It was amazing to see Paul and Ringo together last night, and the February 9th special airing on CBS should provide us with more memories that will be long lasting.
Check out a clip of Paul and Ringo performing together last night:


Ringo Confirms Upcoming Performance with Paul

Ringo and Paul perform at Radio City in 2010. Photo by Rob Shanahan.

By Danny Abriano
Ever since it was reported that both Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr will be in attendance at this year’s Grammy awards – and that there would be a special Beatles tribute the night after the Grammy’s, rumors have been swirling that the two would perform together.
Last night, Ringo confirmed to Access Hollywood that the two would be performing together.  According to Ringo, the performance will take place the night after the Grammy’s,  during filming for the CBS special “The Night That Changed America: A Grammys Salute to The Beatles.”
The special, including the performance by Paul and Ringo, will be taped on January 27th, and will air on February 9th – the 50 year anniversary of The Beatles’ earth shattering performance on the Ed Sullivan show.  Said Ringo:

To celebrate the 50 years since we landed in New York in February [1964], they are putting on a big show on Monday and we will be doing it there.

It’s unknown at this point exactly what Paul and Ringo’s performance will entail, but let’s hope it involves Paul at the microphone and Ringo behind his kit – at least for part of the performance.
Paul and Ringo have played together a handful of times since The Beatles broke up in 1970.  The most rollicking one occurred in in July of 2010, when Paul surprised Ringo for his 70th birthday at Radio City.  The crowd went insane, Ringo got on the drums, and Paul belted out “Birthday” with Ringo playing behind him.
Ringo’s photographer Rob Shanahan, who captured the above image of Ringo and Paul at Radio City, will have that photo and other memorable Paul and Ringo photographs, gallery prints and lithographs available for sale in his gallery at this year’s NYC Fest. Check out Rob’s site here.


John Lennon Live in NYC to get a Reworking

In our email yesterday, we made mention of John’s NYC Concert may be coming out in DVD and CD. We neglected to give credit to the source of the information. So with apologies, here it is:

EXCLUSIVE: Beatlefan contributing editor Howie Edelson reports that during a chat with Jack Douglas the producer revealed that plans are in the early stages for him to overhaul John Lennon’s 1972 Madison Square Garden performances for an upcoming CD and DVD release, with a 5.1 mix likely as well. The still-untitled collection is still in the planning stages with Yoko Ono. The new set will be an entirely new project apart from the 1986 “Live in New York City” collection, with Douglas examining all existing audio and film sources for the set.

This iconic photo of John was taken at the concert by Bob Gruen.


Happy Birthday Ringo

On the seventh day of the seventh month we celebrate the birthday of the greatest rock and roll drummer of all time.

In what is now a Ringo Birthday tradition, wherever you are at 12 Noon today, hold up a peace signal and say Peace and Love, Peace and Love, Peace and Love.

Keep on Rocking!!


Ringo’s Peace & Love Exhibit – Los Angeles

Our Beatles Expert Tom Frangione on ‘the kit’ at the Grammy Museum in LA

Ringo Starr: Peace & Love
Grammy Museum Los Angeles, CA
Opening June 12, 2013

Field report by NY METRO FEST Discussion Room Host Tom Frangione

“Gonna take a sentimental journey
Gonna set my heart at ease
Gonna make a sentimental journey
To renew old memories”
–          the first verse of the first song on the first solo album by Ringo Starr

In a Beatle-filled summer dominated by Paul McCartney’s “Out There” tour and series of Wings era reissues, Ringo Starr is making headlines of his own.








For starters, he’s bringing his 12th All Starr Band out for an unprecedented 3rd leg of a tour that began in the States last summer and hit the road again at the start of the new year, traveling to Japan and the Pacific rim. In the fall, the current band heads to South America before returning to the States for a two night stand in Las Vegas to wrap things up.


But the big news this summer is the Ringo Starr: Peace & Love celebration now on exhibit at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles. Not unlike New York’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Annex exhibit dedicated to John Lennon a few years ago, it is a treasure trove of mostly unseen artifacts, media, and interactive exhibits that any Beatles or Ringo fan (count me in for both) will absolutely delight in.


That such a collection was able to be culled together at all is noteworthy, as much of the memorabilia Ringo had kept was destroyed in a 1979 fire at his home. Gathered from storage facilities his handlers managed, and even a few boxes of early mementos Ringo took possession of when his mother died in 1986, the exhibit covers the earliest Liverpool days, through each phase of the Beatles story, his careers as both a solo performer and with the All Starr Band (can they really be approaching their 25h anniversary next year?).


Upon landing in LA, I was struck by the street lamp banners lining every major street in the metropolitan area, including Hollywood Boulevard near the Capitol Records tower at Vine Street, where all four Beatles’ stars now reside on the walk of fame. While the Grammy Museum is home to numerous temporary and permanent exhibits, it was clear from the moment of entry that they rolled out the carpet for Ringo.

In the lobby was a replica Beatles stage set up, with Ludwig drums, an Epiphone guitar and a (gulp! Right handed) Hofner bass which fans are encouraged to use for photo ops. On that note, while the tickets state “no photography”, no such restriction was even remotely enforced on the exhibit floors.


An elevator deposited fans near the Clive Davis theater where a continuous 17-minute loop of video highlights is offered, containing some rarely seen concert and movie footage, as well as snippets of various promo films. (An exit escalator was itself a treat, as a hand painted Beatles/Ringo mural adorned the incline).


A chronology of Ringo’s life and career wraps around the exhibit walls, with a timeline of album releases guiding the way. The Beatles period is represented by two such lines (one each for the UK and US releases), which merge into one as the later years releases come into alignment. The chronology and album timeline continues through to the solo years, but sticks to proper studio releases (don’t look for Scouse the Mouse or any live albums). The center floor contains five huge display cases – one for the Liverpool years, one each for early-mid-and-later years of the Beatles, and one each for the solo and All Starr periods. Among the highlights:
–          Letters from Rory Storm and Brian Epstein;
–          A Rory Storm and the Hurricanes business card;
–          Original stage costumes, including the one from the 1967 Our World broadcast, the 1969 rooftop concert and of course, the Sgt. Pepper robe;
–          The suit Ringo wore for the David Frost Show “Hey Jude” taping;
–          The Goodnight Vienna “spaceman” suit;

Drumheads, posters, handbills, and a host of rare memorabilia flesh out each case. It must be pointed out that any “replica” items are fully designated as such, such as the “antenna” logo drumhead from the early Cavern Club days.

Speaking of drums, three iconic kits are on display (under glass): the Shea/Ed Sullivan kit (with replica drumhead), the later years set as seen in the Let It Be movie and rooftop concert, and a latter day All Starr Band set.

Beyond the movies and music memorabilia, there are sections dedicated to Ringo’s artwork and photography, including his new e-book Photograph, which proved spectacular. I’m old school and prefer my books on paper, thank you very much, but the interactive capacity such as Ringo’s own narration describing some of the shots, was a real treat.

On the topic of things interactive, there is a sing-along booth (amounting to a karaoke version of “Yellow Submarine”, complete with lyrics monitor. First, Ringo is heard on the original Beatles track, then the vocals go away and you take a stab at it. During playback, the on-screen offerings include “play it again” and “make it stop!”.

You say drumming is your madness? Two kits are on display, where fans are encouraged to take a virtual lesson with Ringo, via a computer screen mounted atop the bass drum. My musical DNA is of the six-string variety, but I have to admit it was a total blast!

More of a behind the scenes type? Try your hand at remixing a live version of “With A Little Help From My Friends” at the mini studio.

Elsewhere, a video station with a menu of on-demand career clips is available, as are several listening stations featuring Ringo’s biggest hits. A testimonial video with artists such as Jeff Lynne and Max Weinberg discussing Ringo’s musical legacy is offered as well. Select quotes from key figures in Ringo’s life adorn snare drum heads, tastefully sprinkled throughout the exhibit area. My favorite comes from George Harrison: “Playing without Ringo is like driving a car on three wheels”. Similar testimonials from John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Martin, Jim Keltner, Max Weinberg, DJ Fontana and others round out the set.

Fans should allow 90 minutes to two hours to fully experience the exhibit (and more to see the other museum fare). The only disappointment I found was, of all places, in the gift shop. The only disappointment I found was, of all places, in the gift shop. Discounting a couple of mounted hand-signed drumheads put together by Ringo’s longtime associate, and FEST regular Neal Glaser of Celebrity Art (asking price: $1200 each, with 100% of the proceeds going to Ringo’s charity, the Lotus Foundation), there wasn’t a single item offered that was unique to the exhibit and mentioned it by name. There were Peace & Love t-shirts and other Ringo  garb typical of the merch offered at his concerts, and a selection of Ringo and Beatles CD’s and DVD’s. But if you wanted something with his name and the museum, and didn’t have the aforementioned $1200, you had to settle for a glossy two-sided announcement card, available in the lobby and various music outlets around town.

Fans living in or visiting the in the LA area are encouraged to do whatever it takes to navigate the mind-numbing traffic (ya know it don’t come easy) to experience this Sentimental Journey celebrating your friend and mine, Ringo Starr.

General admission tickets cost $12.95 and are available at the museum box office or by calling 1-888-9-AXS-TIX. The museum is open daily until 7:30pm.  For more information, visit


They Say It’s Your Birthday – Paul!

And we certainly hope you’re gonna have a good time!! Finishing up the first U.S. part of his world tour last week, we can only watch in awe how Sir Paul is still going strong at 71 and performing for almost three hours, giving so many fans the greatest concerts they will ever see. For those of you who saw Paul in the past 3-4 weeks, we are sure you noticed many young fans in attendance. For all of us baby boomers, who have seen him in concert over the years, we know how great and special those shows have been. For the younger fans (10-30 years of age) who see him now, WE know they have just seen the greatest concert they will EVER see in their entire lives! Paul is simply the best at what he does. He has no equals. We are forever grateful and thankful for his long and winding trip he has taken us on. Happy Birthday, Paul. We love you.