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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Paul McCartney: Into His Life

As we continue looking at Side Two of Revolver, we thought it might be fun to compare and contrast two of Paul’s love songs…we’d love to hear from you about the similarities and differences you perceive!

 

Revolver is a Paul-centric LP. No doubt about it. It is the first of The Beatles’ LPs in which Sir Macca (and not the former “Leader Beatle,” John Lennon) dominates,  singing, and thus having composed, six of the 14 tracks. (Really, seven, if you count his predominate influence on “Yellow Submarine”).

 

John Lennon was the real-life “Ancient Mariner.” Like Coleridge’s weathered protagonist, Lennon always grabbed you by the elbow, and began to tell you his tragic life’s story. In “I’ll Cry Instead,” his BBC cover of Smokey Robinson’s “You Really Got A Hold On Me” (to which John adds the telling word, “Mother”), “If I Fell” or “I’m A Loser,” John is consistently bemoaning about Julia’s absence in his life and his consuming heartbreak over her loss…or perhaps, as he sees it, his inability to keep her.

 

“Beatle Paul” is just as thematically consistent. From early on, he composes songs about his struggling (and later, failing) relationship with Jane Asher. On Side One of Beatles For Sale, he reminds Jane in “I’ll Follow the Sun” that:

 

“One day, you’ll look to see I’m gone,

But tomorrow may rain, so I’ll follow the sun.

One day, you’ll know I was the one,

But tomorrow may rain, so I’ll follow the sun.

And now the time has come,

And so my love, I must go…

And though I lose a friend, in the end you will know…”

 

Then, on Side Two of Beatles for Sale, he tries a tougher tack, saying in “What You’re Doing”:

 

“You got me running…and there’s no fun in it…

Why would it be so much

To ask of you what you’re doin’ to me!?”

 

Over and over, in “We Can Work it Out,” “You Won’t See Me,” and “I’m Looking Through You,” Paul sings to Jane Asher of his frustration, of  his need for her to “be there” for him. In fact, our Fest Blog examined that theme earlier this year when we studied the lovely “Here, There, and Everywhere.

 

Now, here on Revolver’s Side Two, Paul speaks to Jane again, first in the uplifting “Good Day Sunshine” where he praises her for being with him on a sunny day, and then in the dark and poignant ballad, “For No One” and finally, in the brass-accompanied riot that is “Got to Get You Into My Life.” All three Side Two songs express Paul’s longing, in meter and verse, for his lady.

 

“Got to Get You Into My Life” – though admittedly a double entendre – a crafty nod to Paul’s use of marijuana – is in a basic, literal sense his mission statement.

 

“And then, suddenly, I see you!

Did I tell you I need you?

Every single day of my life!”

 

Song after song, ballad after ballad, Paul has been telling Jane (and hence, all of us) one thing: “Got to get you into my life.” And, the fact that Jane has justifiably resisted and sought her own very successful theatrical career has only inspired Paul to continue penning attention-getting poems set to music for her.

 

By 1966, however, it has become fairly obvious to them both that the relationship isn’t working. In fact, when Paul begs her to come home, “she takes her time and doesn’t feel she has to hurry…she no longer needs him.”  They’re at irreconcilable odds, really.

 

Perhaps, a clue to their unresolved issues is to be found in the way in which “For No One” was recorded. Because the entire song is Paul and only Paul. George and John are not needed. Ringo will play percussion…but Paul alone – the center of attention – will sing and perform his composition on the Steinway grand. Perhaps that is why for Jane Asher:

 

“… in her eyes, you see nothing,
No sign of love behind the tears
Cried for no one…

A love that should have lasted years.”

 

With the wrong instruments, “For No One” could have come off as “whiny and cheesy.” Instead, the composition (with the phenomenal clavichord work of Sir George Martin and the breath-taking French horn touches of Alan Civil) is elegant and deeply tragic on several levels. Because not only are Paul and Jane falling apart, but The Beatles are beginning to unravel as well.  When we hear those last words: “There will be times when all the things [they] said will fill your head. You won’t forget [them],” we somehow flash to the eroding friendship between John, Paul, George, and Ringo. We sigh.

 

And so, in the guise of his former, chipper self, Paul makes one last attempt on Revolver to woo Jane back again. Not discounting the very popular “marijuana theory” (which certainly exists on one level), in “Got to Get You Into My Life,” Paul expresses undiminished determination to get Jane into his life. He jauntily and emphatically speaks to her in hopes that the visions prevalent in “For No One” will never come to be. McCartney sings:

 

“What can I do, what can I be?

When I’m with you, I want to stay there!

And you know I’ll never leave…and if I do,

I know the way there!”

 

Here interestingly, Paul speaks his soul to Jane in an ear-catching new way, via a SOUL song! As Dr. Kit O’Toole, author of Songs We Were Singing: Guided Tours Through The Beatles Lesser Known Tracks has stated:

 

“The horns [in “Got to Get You Into My Life”] were a remnant of the band’s original idea to record Revolver at Stax Records in Memphis. They had long emulated the bass and drum sounds found on American soul records, and they wanted to extend that. So they recruited guitarist Steve Cropper of Booker T. and the MG’s to produce Revolver, and they asked Brian Epstein to “make it happen.” But all the Memphis studios wanted exorbitant fees to host The Beatles, so the boys ended up back in Abbey Road. But the soul sound still intrigued them, so “Got to Get You into My Life” is their interpretation of the genre.”  

 

“Got to Get You Into My Life” is one of Paul’s final attempts to catch Jane’s ear and to express his soul’s need for her lifelong companionship.

 

“You want her, you need her…

And yet you don’t believe her

When she says her love is dead:

You think she needs you.”

 

Both “Got to Get You Into My Life” and “For No One” are the swan songs for a love that could not survive. However, on 15 May 1967, when Paul met Linda Eastman in London’s Bag O’Nails, his long-deferred dream became reality. He got her into his life, and in that moment, everything changed.


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 Will You Bring?

You can say it a hundred ways:

 

“You get what you give.”

 

“You only get out of it what you put into it.”

 

“Cast your bread on the water, and it will return to you after many days.”

 

“Garbage in, garbage out.”

 

Or:

“And in the end, the love you take

Is equal to the love you make…”

 

In other words, in any venture in life, you’ll take away exactly what you bring to that moment. If you bring joy, you’ll reap joy. If you bring pessimism, you’ll walk away with pessimism. If you bring despair…well, you get it.

 

When my grandmother passed, she returned to each of us the gifts we had given her over the many years of her life. Those grandchildren who had given lovely, caring gifts received loving, caring gifts as rich mementos of her life. Those who had only eked by and given as little as possible reclaimed the tacky, shameful gifts that had been given. We all went to our homes that weekend with clear and obvious reminders of how generous and thoughtful (or stingy and miserly) we’d all been.

 

“And in the end, the love you take

Is equal to the love you make…”

 

The first year that I went to Liverpool, I went as a stuffy, American writer. I had trouble understanding Scouse. I wouldn’t try the local dishes. (Blood pudding? Eeeeek!) I dressed differently, and looked prim, stiff, professor-ish. And though I interviewed and observed, I never cracked a joke or smile. Bottom line: I didn’t fit in. Not a whit. Every minute of that trip, I was on the outside looking in. And though I learned a lot, I didn’t have fun being a stranger in a strange land.

 

The following year, I decided to do things differently. Instead of wearing my camel skirts, blazers, and sensible pumps back to dear old Liddypool, I donned tight leather pants and boots. I walked the streets of Merseyside instead of riding in taxis. I sat in The Grapes and The White Star and Flanagan’s Apple and learned the language and made friends.

 

That second year, strangers asked me for local directions over and over again…because they thought I was a Scouser! I had made the decision to blend in, and voila! I did! And when my nine days Merseyside were over, I reluctantly returned home not only better informed, but very, very happy.

 

“And in the end, the love you take

Is equal to the love you make…”

 

So, what will you bring to The Fest for Beatles Fans April 15-17? An old brown shoe? A sock (darned in the night)? A gently weeping guitar? A little white book? Some Semolina Pilchard? (Or Pilchard Semolina, for those who know the brand.) A 20-carat golden ring? A big brown bag? A portrait of the Queen? What will you bring?

 

Think! Because what you carry along with you to The Fest will determine what you take home. And, if you want to walk (drive, fly, or rollerblade) away from the weekend having had the time of your life, you need to bring a few, crucial items with (you…in Liverpool, you’d leave off the word “you” in that phrase). You’ll need:

 

1)      Suggestions for us about things we can host at The Fest to make you happy. (We love your ideas!!! Send them to us ASAP, please! We are trying to find out what you like and include it in our expanded offerings! And if you’d like to volunteer to lead a class or a hike, we’d love to hear about it…soon). Email Danny@thefest.com with any ideas!

2)      A spirit of FUN!!!

3)      The ability to take part in what you enjoy and to happily pass over the things you do not like! (After all, someone else might enjoy that event and dislike the things you like, right? Give and take.)

4)      A compliment or two for those who are presenting, singing, decorating, hosting, performing, cleaning up, selling tickets, emceeing, and making it all possible.

5)      A spirit of curiosity about new speakers, books, panels, and experiences! A mind ready to seek out, enjoy, and find the best in every situation. A sense of adventure!

 

If you pack these five items along with your bent-back tulips and jeans (except on Sunday), you’ll find yourself smiling, laughing, learning, nodding, singing, and making the most of every moment! You’ll find yourself ready to have a great time and go home happy.

 

What you bring to the party is up to you. I would hate your disappointment to show. Is there nothing for you here? Will you disappear?

 

Or will you go all out, all in, all together now for a unique, exciting, uplifting Beatles weekend of fun? I hope it’s the latter…because the love you take really, really, really IS equal to the love YOU make. Ahahhhhhhhhhh!

 


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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He Engineered the soundtrack of life: A tribute to Dennis Ferrante

The job of a Sound Engineer, as I understand it, is to oversee the mix of volume levels, sound effects, and instrument inputs in the recording studio…to work magic so that the artist’s song is presented in its very best light. Sometimes this involves moving microphones, and shuffling amplifiers and drums around so that the sound reverberates in a more effective manner. Sometimes this involves ingenious solutions like sticking overcoats in the drums to muffle them. Whatever it takes, a sound engineer does it.

 

That is what Dennis Ferrante did for John Lennon and Yoko Ono at The Record Plant in New York City. And that, essentially, is what Dennis did with his life.

 

Dennis was given “the gift” of a bum heart. During his life he had numerous heart surgeries, and in his last years, he was living with the use of only twenty percent of his heart in functioning condition. But with that twenty percent, he loved more, laughed more, and celebrated more than anyone I know. Dennis Ferrante was exuberant.

 

I first met Dennis when he guested on my “John Lennon Hour” show on BeatlesARama Radio. I had prepared 12 questions to ask Dennis during our hour together. In 60 minutes, he answered three. Dennis had a way of telling a story (with all the trimmings!) that kept an audience captivated. He didn’t answer a question with terse facts or data. He answered by unveiling – bit by bit – his colorful, thrilling adventures. He answered by letting the listener into the electrifying world in which he lived. When Dennis told a story, you walked his walk. His answers were lengthy and fascinating and chock full of life. You sat enraptured by the things Dennis said.

 

And when Dennis talked, everyone laughed! He was witty, raucous, and bold. When I greeted Dennis on that first show that we did together, I said, “So glad to have you with us, Dennis!” And he fired back, boldly, in his New Jersey accent, “So glad to be had!” I cracked up.

 

Over the next three years, Dennis appeared on my radio show three times, and when I moved to BlogTalkRadio, Dennis moved with me. The week that Cynthia Lennon died (and my heart was broken), I phoned Dennis and asked him if he would be my guest – I needed someone special that week to lift my flagging spirits. He immediately agreed. And even in that gloomiest of weeks, he made me smile.

 

Dennis wouldn’t take “sad” for an answer. On any given day, even in the hospital I imagine, he was mischievous, hilarious, and badly-behaved.

 

Dennis had incredible stories about his years in the studio with Cher, John and Yoko, Harry Nilsson, Lou Reed, and so many others. His stories of restoring Duke Ellington’s music to its original vibrancy and life (a meticulous task that won him a Grammy) were riveting. But he never told those stories to “name drop” or boast. He told them because they were funny; he told them because they made people grin, ear to ear. He told them because hearing those stories made others happy. You couldn’t be in Dennis’s presence without laughing. He was THAT guy. He was the one you wished you could be.

 

Dennis wasn’t without his problems. He had flat-lined several times before he died. Quite frankly, he knew his time was limited.

 

I had already invited Dennis to be on my radio show for my birthday this coming November, and he’d responded, “I’ll be there, if I’m still here.” Dennis knew his heart was iffy at best. But that never dampened his mood. Like any good sound engineer, he mixed magic…but in the studio of his life. He equalized and blended his attitude so that the only sound we heard was joy.

 

We all face tragedies daily, large and small. But it’s our choice to let those roadblocks control us or to shuffle things around and adjust levels so that we control them. Dennis engineered the soundtrack of his life. It’s now a heavenly anthem. And the angels are smiling.

 

 

To hear Dennis’s last interview with Jude (and it’s a classic!) go to:

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/thejohnlennonhour/2015/04/03/johns-sound-engineer-dennis-ferrante-makes-you-smile

 

 

 

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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LOVE WINNER… NUMBER NINE…

It’s the word… LOVE. It’s been said that it’s all you need.

We are so thrilled to send a burst of Beatles adventure (airfare, hotel and dinner for two included!) to yet another Las Vegas LOVE Cirque du Soleil giveaway winner. This is winner NUMBER 9 and counting!

For those of you in the main ballroom at the  Sunday night at FESTCHESTER, I read out 4 answers (drawn at random) to the question:

“How have The Beatles HELP!ed you in your life?” (OH, the ways! Comment below and share yours!)

It was up to you – the audience – to cheer for the one that resonated most. We were VERY close between first and second place. Unfortunately for her, the winner you picked was not in the audience and also has not responded to our emails. However… sitting in that very audience hearing his answer slide just below the cheer barometer was Carl B Maltzman, who said:

“The Beatles have HELP!ed me love my fellow humans. The Beatles have a very life affirming message.”

Carl has graciously accepted the prize in his runner up status! We are so pleased to give this trip to him — a true Beatles fan who, you will probably agree after reading his note, is oh so deserving of this trip.

The ::magic:: of the Beatles LOVE Cirque du Soleil experience is something to be experienced by every Beatles fan, taking our beloved songs and twisting them into flying, catapulting, technicolor theatrics, gymnastics and artistic heights. Thank you to everybody who entered, and stay tuned as we give away another trip before Chicago Fest in August! Be sure to like our Facebook page not to miss a thing.

FROM CARL:

“I have been a loyal Fest attendee since the first one in 1974.  In fact, I have a countdown clock that is set to countdown to the next Fest!

At the first Fest, the Beatles contributed instruments that were raffled off.  I didn’t win—although I did tap on the tabla from “Within You Without You” that another attendee won.  Years and years of checking my wrist band numbers as Mark called out winners, and all I’ve won is a Yellow Submarine DVD poster.

But this year I sure hit the jackpot!  I still can’t believe it!

I visited Las Vegas in 2009, but “Love” was sold out.  I was, of course, very disappointed.  I didn’t know when I’d make it back to Las Vegas—and all my friends and relatives who had seen the show telling me what I missed didn’t help.

Now thanks to the Fest I am returning to Las Vegas with a guaranteed seat at the show!  I have so many friends asking me to take them, I think I’ll have to have my own essay contest to choose a “winner.”

I would be terribly remiss to not thank the people who are MOST responsible for this:  THE BEATLES!  The Beatles were not just the greatest group in rock history.  They a miracle of not just being the best composers, but also were genius musicians who could perform better than anyone else, and were blessed with a producer who could expertly bring their ideas to reality.  They were four “mensches” who presented an uplifting message, who examined the human condition, told us that life can be wonderful, that we all have the ability to lift ourselves up, to work with each other, and make life wonderful.

Even though they could write a song like “Eleanor Rigby” that tears out your heart, they also told us that there will always be sunshine even when we are in winter, that rain is good, sad is just a state of mind, and of course, we CAN take a sad song and make it better.

That is why I firmly believe Beatles music will last forever.  As Paul said, they could have sung about the devil.  But they didn’t.  They followed their hearts and told us that life is wonderful if we only try.

So thank you Mark, Carol, Michelle Joni, Jessica, George Martin, The Beatles for giving me this wonderful trip to Las Vegas to celebrate the greatest band in history—The Beatles.”

 

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John approved my FEST idea 41 years ago today!

April 28, 1974. It was a warm Sunday – 81 was the high for the day in New York’s Central Park. Warm enough to wear my new Beatles 10th Anniversary Promotional T-Shirt to listen to John Lennon and Harry Nilsson talk to Cousin Brucie on stage during the first March of Dimes event. (It wasn’t a walkathon the first year but it has been every year since.) I told this story in a very detailed manner at the three FESTS in 2014 and was thrilled and humbled by the response. I will not retell that today. I just wanted to say hi and to let you know it was the greatest non family day in my life. Getting to see John (and it was because of that shirt I was wearing!) that day was an absolute thrill and to actually sit down with him only minutes after his appearance, in his hotel suite to tell him my idea of a Beatles fans’ celebration – well, what could be better. I can still hear him say those words to me – “I’m All For It. I’m a Beatles Fan, Too!”  It was the day that permanently altered my life. It has been a thrill and an honor to be able to have presented 123 National Beatles FESTS all around the country since then. The best thing about the FESTS is the coming together of Beatles fans from all over the world to celebrate our common love for the Beatles. There can no longer be a doubt their music will live forever!

Peace and Love!

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