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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

40% use the most popular paid subscription: Spotify.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

About our Guest Blogger:

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

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October 9, 2018 – John’s Birthday

Today we celebrate the life of a true game changer. John Lennon would have turned 78 today. His massive contribution to this society cannot be underestimated. We can only imagine what the world would look like today had he not succumbed to an assassin’s bullets 38 years ago. His loss will NEVER stop hurting. We must go forward and try to live our lives with the spirit and enthusiasm John lived by. Here is a quick test: Off the top of your head, name 10 influential people from pre 20th century…

I can almost guarantee some of these people you will mention are artists – Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Michelangelo, Shakespeare, Van Gogh, Renoir, Brahms, Shelley, Keats, Tchaikovsky, Da Vinci, Rembrandt, Emerson, Dickinson, Plato. Artists and their work are remembered and appreciated by society. Museums honor their achievements. We tend to remember them more than most of the world leaders from the past.

What John, with The Beatles and as a solo artist, has given this culture, will be remembered hundreds of years from now. It is a comfort to know we have lived in the same time on this planet as he did. All of our lives have been enriched beyond words by the music and art of John Lennon. Thank you for being the catalyst. Thank you for liking and approving my idea for a 10th Anniversary Beatles fans convention in 1974 I love you and will always miss you.

We also want to wish Sean a very happy birthday on this day he shares with his father. He is 43 today. On a personal note, this day was also shared with my father, Danny, who was certainly my biggest musical influence growing up, before 1964 came along.

All you need is love,
Mark Lapidos

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John Lennon: Why We Still Care – By Jude Southerland Kessler

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.

  

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Celebrating the Golden of the White Album

Here is Jude Southerland Kessler’s latest Blog:

The Beatles’ THE WHITE ALBUM: An International Symposium Conference

 

One of the joys of writing this blog is sharing with you the biggest events around us in The Beatles World. It’s even more rewarding when those special events involve members of our own close-knit Fest family, as well as those we’ve been fortunate to highlight through the years as Honored Guests at the Fest.

 

Such an event is now on the horizon. It will take place November 8-11, 2018, at Monmouth University, located in West Long Branch, New Jersey…only a good “Stones throw” (try Mick, he’s light) from our own New Jersey Fest location. The Beatles’ THE WHITE ALBUM: An International Symposium – a virtual collection of Beatles’ “Who’s Who” from all over the globe – will take place in association with the Bruce Springsteen Archives and Center for American Music on lovely Monmouth University Campus. And what a landmark event it promises to be!

 

In fact, our own fearless leader, Mark Lapidos, will be front and center! And the impressive cast of distinguished lecturers and authors around him include people whom Mark has hand-selected, through the years, to keynote at the Fest as well as familiar faces from our own Fest family! These include:

 

* the over-awing Beatles Guru himself, author, Mark Lewisohn

 

* the former U.S Manager of Apple Records and author, Ken Mansfield

 

* GRAMMY award-winning engineer (who graced the Chicago Fest this year), Geoff Emerick

 

* noted Beatles music theorist and author, Walter Everett

 

*the most respected name in Beatles discography, author Bruce Spizer

 

* award-winning Beatles music author and host of the “Something About The Beatles” podcast, Robert Rodriguez

 

* historian and author of the 9-volume John Lennon Series, Jude Southerland Kessler

 

* author and rock myth-buster, a.k.a. The Rock’n’Roll Detective, Jim Berkenstadt

 

* author of The Recipe Records Series and co-host of the “She Said She Said” podcast, Lanea Stagg

 

* author, associate editor of Beatlefan magazine, and host of the “Bottomless Soul” show, Dr. Kit O’Toole

 

* author and Executive Editor for Beatlefan magazine, Al Sussman

 

Indeed, there are so many distinguished writers who will be attending this conference that it’s almost overwhelming! And we are extremely proud to have so many from the Fest in attendance.

 

There is also a plethora of Beatles experts slated to speak who have been joyfully included for their stellar research and unique, outstanding roles in the music world. These include:

 

* Allan Kozinn, immensely-respected music writer for The New York Times, High Fidelity, and the New York Observer and co-host of the “Things We Said Today” podcast

 

* Scott Freiman, whose “Deconstructing The Beatles” programs are highly-sought-after

 

* renowned record producer, Chris Thomas, who worked with Sir George Martin at AIR and was part of the production team of The White Album

 

* author Richard Buskin and Eric Taros who co-host the “Swinging Through the Sixties” podcast

 

* author and Beatles music expert, Tim Riley

 

* author and contributing editor to Rolling Stone, Rob Sheffield

 

And, of course, we are especially proud of….drum roll, please…the man who conceived this once-in-a-lifetime gathering of Beatles greats and brought it to life: author of the highly-acclaimed biographies of Sir George Martin (Vol. 1, Maximum Volume and Vol. 2, Sound Pictures), Dean of the Wayne D. McMurray School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Monmouth University, and long-time friend of the Fest, Dr. Kenneth Womack.

 

Ken has planned a weekend for symposium attendees that will be unlike any other symposium to date. “We look forward to welcoming so many music fans and Beatles scholars to Monmouth University, where we will be celebrating the landmark recording and release of The White Album,” said Ken. “West Long Branch, New Jersey, will be the place to be for Beatlemaniacs in November!”

 

On Tuesday, 6 November, area fans will be happy to join Ken and Mark Lewisohn for Monmouth University’s “Tuesday Night Record Club.” And you guessed it: that month’s LP will be none other than The White Album. Then, on Thursday, 8 November, there is a pre-conference bus tour of famous rock’n’roll sites along the Jersey Shore led by authors Jean Mikle and Stan Goldstein. Attendees will get to see Asbury Park’s Stone Pony and Paramount Theater…and will, of course, zip over to Belmar for a rare photo op at 10th Avenue and E Street. Classic!

 

Also on the 8th, The Weeklings will perform, with several very special tributes to The White Album. And throughout the weekend, iconic films such as Paul Saltzman’s The Beatles in India and Jerry Zolten and Dick Boak’s Ballad of the Dreadnaught (the history of Martin acoustic guitars) will be shown.

 

In addition to all of the great talks from Beatles experts and scholars, Monmouth University will also be hosting music and recording demonstration rooms where attendees can learn more about how the bandmates and their production team performed and recorded some of the songs on The White Album.

 

If attendees can find a wee smidgen of spare time in between the incredible presentations, films, bands, and tours, they will also want to spend some time browsing through the Bruce Springsteen Archives. This collection of 35,000 items from 47 countries across the globe is truly mind-boggling! Besides honoring native son, Springsteen, the archive also houses memorabilia from Frank Sinatra, Woody Guthrie, Robert Johnson, and Hank Williams.

 

So…right now… STOP whatever you are doing and say this into your computer/phone/Alexa calendar app: “Attend THE WHITE ALBUM Symposium Conference, Monmouth University, Nov. 8-11.” Then hesitate no more. Go to https://www.monmouth.edu/the-white-album/#details for more details about hotels and travel. On September 21st, individual pay passes and tickets to the keynote addresses will be available for non-presenters. So be sure to check back on the 21st to book your ticket to ride at the conference!

 

This IS a “reeeeally big shooow,” an event that you mustn’t miss. Don’t pass it by (don’t make me cry, don’t make me blue…). Be there! It will be a weekend you’ll talk about for years to come!

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Hey Jude Released 50 Years Ago Today

Apple Records was an experiment of idealism in 1968. On this date, Monday, August 26, 1968, Apple released its “First Four” Singles – Hey Jude/Revolution, Those Were The Days by Mary Hopkin, Sour Milk Sea by Jackie Lomax, and Thingumybob. A major record company could release hundreds of songs in a year and not have the success of this new upstart company. Three of these songs are true standards and truly loved by everyone. Derek Taylor even predicted Mary Hopkin’s vocal gem would become a standard at weddings forever!

But I wanted to write about Hey Jude today. I was a waiter at Kutsher’s Country Club, Monticello, NY, and usually napped after breakfast (with my radio on, of course). I was half asleep when the song came on. It was a Twilight Zone moment. I was in and out of sleep and the song seemed like it was going for an hour! I could barely get my head around what I had just heard. I knew it was a new Beatles song of course, but how long was it on for? After lunch I rushed back to wait for it again (did not have to wait long at all!) It really hit me like a ton of bricks. I was totally amazed and knocked out by it. Two weeks later, it shot right up to #2 on WABC in NYC. Cousin Brucie said the switchboard was overloaded with fans yelling why it wasn’t #1. He apologized on air for it. It was Number One for the next two months, knocked out of the top slot by…you guessed it… Those Were The Days. To me it was much more than a single. It was like an entire album in one song. I was late to many of my classes in my senior year at Adelphi U. I just couldn’t turn the song off the radio while Hey Jude played, even thought I had the single on my turntable until the White Album came out 3 months later. And the ‘b side’ (Revolution) was not too shabby. Paul and John were at the height of their creativity. Hey Jude is my favorite song of all time and it usually ends up at #2 in the Classic rock fan voting for Greatest Song Ever (Stairway to Heaven has that honor, but not in my book). 50 years later, I still never, ever get tired of hearing it. I imagine I never will…na na na nanana na.

Peace and Love,
Mark

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WHY We Fest…

WHY We Fest…

 

By Jude Southerland Kessler

https://www.johnlennonseries.com

 

A decade ago or more, it seemed as if ages and ages crawled by between Fests. The span of time between the New Jersey and Chicago events dragged on forever! But now, the days seem to fly by, and I’ve barely unpacked before it’s time to find my Beatles sweatshirts, buttons, hats, and paraphernalia…and head right back again.

“You’re going to another Fest?” my hairdresser said (as I asked her to “put the fire back in those locks!”).

“Yep, as fast as my car can drive me!” I smiled.

“But…I mean…don’t you get tired of…it’s just…you go all the time, it seems like.”

“Well,” I really thought about it for a moment, “I know it seems that way to an outsider, but to those of us in what we call ‘The Fest Family,’ there can never be too many in a year. It’s never enough…”

Why?” She skeptically closed one eye at me. “What’s so special? Why do you…um, fest?”

And just like that, the question was on the table.

I mumbled my pat answer – I said that the Fest was like Thanksgiving for all of us. But, over the next few days, I really began mulling her question over. I thought about it as I mowed the yard, planned my book release party, drove to the grocery store, and worked on my Chicago presentations. And the answer finally came to me one night as I was running…a direct answer, in fact, – not from our own Liddypool boys – but from the Eagles!

They sang the answer into my earbuds…those haunting, beautifully immortal words from “Hotel California: “Some dance to remember…some dance to forget.” Yes, that was it! Dead right!

At times, we go to the Fest for Beatles Fans to remember…to recall the night we sat glued to our parents’ enormous black’n’white TV set while Ed Sullivan swept his arm across his body and shouted, “The Beatles!” We Fest to remember how it felt to see John, Paul, George, and Ringo scamper quickly off the concert stage after what we presumed (though no one could hear a note) was “Long Tall Sally.” We Fest to conjure up that rush we felt when the needle hit the first groove of Sgt. Pepper….to relive those Christmas mornings when even the shiny foil paper and full satin bows failed to disguise the latest Capitol album from our Fab Four.

We Fest to remember who we are…not grandparents or businesspeople or mothers or fathers or husbands or wives…but our truest selves: that young man proudly wearing the pale grey, pocketless jacket, Cuban heels, and “long hair” of his heroes; the giddy girl skipping school to trek out to JFK; the frightened but determined school reporter penning the essay defending John Lennon against the out-of-context Datebook quote…and ending up in the principal’s office for being so “disappointingly radical.” At The Fest, we are still the young, bright-eyed Sam Goody employee counting the seconds ’til the stroke of midnight when the next Parlophone LP will finally be released! We are the still young mother singing a “No Reply” lullaby to her child or the scared young dad pacing with his baby in the dark and weakly crooning, “Beautiful Boy.”

At the Fest, we return to who we are. We cross the barrier of time and age. We become US again.

A few years ago, I was crossing the Chicago lobby when someone shouted at me, “Hey Lennon Chick!” I chuckled. I wasn’t offended…or insulted or diminished or threatened. Instead, I smiled to know that someone saw me for who I was…not a studious author buried in research, manuscripts, and conference presentations…but a fan who loved John Lennon and wasn’t afraid to let the world know it.

Indeed, we Fest to remember.

But just as importantly, we Fest to forget.

“The world is too much with us, late and soon,” wrote British poet, William Wordsworth. Indeed, day after bitter day, we are being pummeled by the world…by politics, divisiveness, anger, and hatred. There are dark accusations lurking around every corner and enough suspicion and blame to make even Kent State look tame. Our world is madly enraged.

And so, we Fest to retreat from it all. We need to hear, “Give Peace a Chance” and “Love is All You Need.” We need to “Come Together” and “Let it Be.” We need to find common ground instead of fault. We need to hug our friends on both sides of the aisle and find in each other’s eyes a bond and not a barrier. We Fest to forget…if only for one weekend.

In many ways, I think, the quick, pat answer that I tossed out to my hairdresser was accurate. The Fest is my Thanksgiving (and yours) – a chance to sit down and share deep dish pizza at Giordano’s with a loud, rowdy group of people we love. It’s our chance to catch up on their lives and to tell stories of our own. We Fest to cry on each other’s shoulders and share the photos in our phones and stay up too late and tell too many corny jokes and secrets. Without a doubt, the Fest is our Thanksgiving.

But more than that, it’s the place at the end of the long and winding road where we are happy just to dance…some to remember, some to forget.

I hope to see you in Chicago. You can wear your favorite jeans or bell-bottoms. I’ll wear those same, old be-jeweled flip-flops that enable me to stand for 11 hours in my booth. I know you’ll still believe that Paul is the genius. And I’ll believe it’s John…and secretly, we’ll both agree that it took “two to tango.” But we’ll never admit that out loud. We’ll stick to our guns, because we’ll be at the Fest. And at the Fest, we aren’t grandparents or businesspeople or mothers or fathers or husbands or wives. We are BEATLES FANS…and that, dear friends, is what calls us to the dance.

 

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From Us To You… Cheers, Bruce!

By Jude Southerland Kessler

 

In case you missed the really big celebration in Beatlefan magazine (“Beatles, Roaches Launch a 20-Year Journey”), on Sirius radio, and on podcasts such as the “She Said She Said” show on BlogTalk Radio, the Fest for Beatles Fans’ own Bruce Spizer is being lauded and applauded across the nation. It’s his anniversary!

 

Over the last 20 years, Bruce has built a reputation as the most respected Beatles music expert in the world, or as the Fest family fondly refers to him, “The Beatleseffin’pedia.” Despite the fact that he is a very busy New Orleans tax attorney, Spizer has written nine books establishing his well-deserved creds as the “go to guy” on the Beatles recordings, records, and record promotions. He has covered almost every aspect of Beatles music history in these distinguished volumes:

 

Beatles Records on Vee-Jay (1998)

The Beatles’ Story on Capitol Records, Part 1 (2000)

The Beatles’ Story on Capitol Records, Part 2 (2000)

The Beatles on Apple Records (2003)

The Beatles are Coming! (2003)

The Beatles Solo on Apple Records (2005)

The Beatles Swan Song (2007)

Beatles for Sale on Parlophone Records (2011)

The Beatles and Sgt. Pepper: A Fan’s Perspective (2017)

 

Never intentionally setting out to write a book, Bruce’s personal investigation into authentic 1960s Beatles pressings (when his record collection was destroyed and needed to be replaced) revealed a wealth of intricate information. The more Bruce learned in his quest, the more convinced he became that there was a need for an accurate, detailed book covering The Beatles on the Vee-Jay label – and on the intricate legal battle surrounding the company’s dealing with the Fab Four. Therefore, in 1998, he published that very book. And in doing so, Spizer started a tradition that will not slow or stop. His books are requested…in fact, popularly demanded…by knowledgeable Beatles fans who want to learn more.

 

Almost the second his Vee-Jay book hit the stands, Fest goers were “wink-wink-nudge-nudging” Bruce with, “So, when’s the Capitol book coming out?” And once Spizer had given them “the Capitol book,” his readers (and they are many…his books have grossed $2 million since their inception) were clamouring for “the Apple book.” For Spizer, there was no resting on one’s laurels. He had to keep writing.

 

In 2007, Spizer released a volume that he was certain would tie up all loose ends, covering (he thought) every remaining shred of information about Beatles recordings – everything that he had not previously discussed. One of those topics was The Beatles’ catalogue on Swan records. So cleverly, Spizer entitled this “final, final, infinity final” work, The Beatles Swan Song. Except, of course, that it wasn’t. Spizer may have wanted this definitive volume to be the swan song of his author-itative career, but he wasn’t permitted to relax yet: fans wanted the complete Parlophone story as well. They were insistent that The Beatleseffin’pedia tackle it from A to Zed. So, Spizer did just that, releasing in 2011, Beatles for Sale on Parlophone Records.

 

Yes, it is…it’s clear that Beatles fans and music aficionados can’t get enough of the painstaking detail which Bruce Spizer provides. He hunts down myths about Beatles music and summarily dispels them. He speaks with primary sources, such as Walter Cronkite (who wrote the Foreword for The Beatles Are Coming!), and he sets right past errors. Bruce has said on many occasions that, “A worthy book about The Beatles can’t be a mere collection of quotes and facts from other previous works patched together…a good book must provide new research and cover new territory.” And that, Bruce has done.

 

But there’s more to Bruce’s story…the personal side…because for those of us who call The Fest for Beatles Fans our home, Bruce is family. Well-known for his Saturday noon Main Stage kick-off presentations and his Friday night panels with Al Sussman, Tom Frangione, Chuck Gunderson, and many others, Bruce has always been integral to The Fest…a tradition we all anticipate and enjoy.

 

It was at the 2004 New Jersey Fest that a novice author named Jude Southerland Kessler listened intently to Bruce’s speech and then went up to ask him about The Quarrymen’s 1957 competition at the Liverpool Empire against (amongst other skiffle bands) The Sunnyside Skiffle group. “Mr. Spizer,” I wondered, “I know that the lead singer for The Sunnyside Skiffle group – who defeated The Quarrymen that day – was energetic Nicky Cuff. But who were the other members of the group?” At that moment, Bruce Spizer did two things that impressed me tremendously: First, he admitted he didn’t know. (Many experts would have “bulled their way” through with a flimsy answer.) And secondly, he suggested that I get in touch with Radio Merseyside and ask them for assistance with my mission.

 

So, I did. I e-mailed Radio Merseyside and explained that I was writing John Lennon’s biography in narrative form and needed to know a bit about each member of the vivacious, charismatic skiffle band that had bested the ingenue Quarrymen in June 1957. I explained that, if possible, I needed to speak with someone from the band: to discover exactly why the earliest version of The Beatles had fallen short that fateful day. Well, Radio Merseyside did what Bruce knew they would do. They ran a contest to “Help the American Author” – and happily, that contest ended in a direct overseas call to me from Nicky Cuff himself!

 

As I chatted with Cuff – the leader of the band who’d taught John Lennon that rock’n’roll involved much more than just singing a song – I finally understood the old adage, “The bigger they are, the nicer they are.” Cuff was quite gracious. And though there was nothing “in it” for him, well-established author, Bruce Spizer, had also been extremely generous. He’d taken time to help an unknown. He helped me uncover information I truly needed, despite the fact that he didn’t know me or my work.

 

Bruce’s brilliant notion of ringing up Radio Merseyside came naturally, of course, because that is exactly the kind of in-depth scholarship he regularly practices. It’s Spizer’s “extra mile” – the path he consistently takes to uncover little-known facts.  Indeed, his thorough, comprehensive, “no stone unturned” research has always met with great respect from his fellow authors and with admiration from the fans and readers as well. For the last twenty years, we’ve all said, “Good on yer, son!” Moreover, we’ve continued to ask for “More, more, more!”

 

So today, Bruce, we salute you on this 20th anniversary and look forward to the books to come. You simply can’t stop now! As John would say, “Y’er on a rock’n’roll!”



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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An Injured Poem?

“A song is an injured poem

Which leans on music for its strength.”

                Anonymous

 

Or worded in plain-speak: “Songs are mostly appreciated based on the accompanying music.”[1]

 

This is the standard English teachers’ rule to which The Beatles hold myriad exceptions. In fact, literally hundreds of lines from Beatles’ tunes – throughout the span of their career – stand alone as poignant, memorable poetry.

 

Take for example, the haunting warning, “One day, you’ll look to see I’m gone. But tomorrow many rain, so…I’ll follow the sun.” Poetry! Tune, or no tune to back it up.

 

Or consider:

 

“It’s only love and that is all.

Why should I feel the way I do?

It’s only love…and that is all.

But it’s so hard – loving you.”

 

Read that verse aloud, without the music, and what you will find is the complete helplessness of the writer – the frustration and pain of loss – a loss made even more evident in the tuneless void. Spoken without the magical music behind the words, there is nothing to soften the blow. What you discover is a lover desperately trying to shrug off the intensity of his feelings and forebodings – and failing miserably. Utterly. You witness a very private moment and an unforgettable one. And that, my friend, is poetry.

 

The Beatles were, indeed, poets whose music only enhanced the strength of their compositions. Their lyrics are works of art, and “in their own write,” they succeed.

 

My favorite line from the immense Beatles catalog is, surprisingly, not a Lennon line. But I like to think that Paul was addressing his words to John – that he was reminding his old friend of the lifelong connection the two of them shared, despite the difficulties they were encountering in the moment. That image, in itself, injects the words with raw emotion. But the couplet also has a second level of meaning as my husband, Rande, and I prepare to celebrate our 40th Wedding Anniversary on 23 June.

 

You and I have memories

Longer than the road that stretches out ahead.

 

Sad, but true, I think. Although (who knows?) we may be lucky. My parents celebrated 72 years together. Dare we hope for 80? Perhaps. Though reality nudges me to admit that Paul’s affectionate and haunting line is probably closer to the truth.

 

The first time I heard these words, I was sitting in the lobby of the Gibson Guitar Factory in Memphis, Tennessee, waiting to take the tour. The invisible powers-that-be behind the scenes were playing The Beatles – as it should be – and the quiet group listened. I had heard “Two of Us” countless times, I’m sure. But I’d never really absorbed the words until they filtered into that immense room…until the poetry swirled over and around the atrium, washing every patron in deep emotion. Instantly, my eyes filled with tears…for my parents who were in their early 90’s and sitting with us that afternoon, for my husband and me – and yes, for Paul and John. It was a tender moment.

 

Beatlesongs. So many of the lyrics could stand alone without any music to lean on – mature, complete in themselves, needing nothing more. But why should they stand alone? When the poetry inherent in “In My Life” can be accompanied by the perfect melody, why not have the best of both worlds? Why not enjoy the whole package? We can be selfish, Beatles fans! We are blessed.

 

But if you had to pare down their songs to the lyrics alone…pare them down to the poetry – the most memorable words – which lines have touched your heart the most? Which lines from a song by John, Paul, George, or Ringo have stayed with you throughout the years? And why?

 

Please take a moment and share your thoughts with us here at The Fest…and you could win a collector’s tin of Beatles coasters! Just respond in our Comments section and in two weeks, we’ll draw a winner from the responses we receive. We truly love hearing from you, and we hope you enjoy taking a moment from the hectic, work-a-day world to revel in the music and poetry of The Fab Four.

 

Let’s talk Beatles. Let’s talk poetry.


[1] http://www.differencebetween.net/miscellaneous/difference-between-poetry-and-song/


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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