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

::: By Jude Southerland Kessler :::

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

We can all shine on. And we must…


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

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

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Genius Having Fun: The Beatles in March

::: By Jude Southerland Kessler :::   Spring brings out childlike wonder and joy in all of us. We walk into the sunlight and marvel at exotic Japanese magnolia blossoms brashly defying winter’s last ice storms. We gasp in delight over surprising fields of yellow daffodils. We search for four-leaf clovers but find our truest fortune in the re-energized work we do, now that dark days have become light and fresh again.   The Beatles felt this. In five March calendars together, they were especially creative. They starred in films, wrote books, appeared on radio and television programs, and of course, created magical music that still plays in our homes and falls from the lips of our children and grandchildren. Invigorated each spring, The Beatles tended to greet March with an enthusiasm that found its way into archetypal creativity. For example…   March 1963…Fresh off the Helen Shapiro Tour (which had run from 2 February – 3 March), the boys gathered in EMI’s Studio Two on Tuesday, 5 March, to record the jaunty, “From Me to You,” a song that had been inspired by a newspaper column which John and Paul had spotted on the Shapiro tour bus. In studio, the ever-brilliant George Martin gave the number a very singular sound when he recommended that the boys sing rather than play the song’s “da-da-dum-da-da-dum-dum-da” intro. But “From Me to You,” wasn’t the only product of that creative date. The lads also recorded “Thank You, Girl” and “The One After 909.” “From Me to You,” however, was clearly the stand-out. An instant hit, it was throughout 1963, an important part of the lads’ catalogue. In fact, it was the opening song the night that The Beatles “rattled jewelry” at the Royal Command Performance, six months later.   March 1964…The Beatles began making their first film for United Artists, “A Hard Day’s Night” on Monday, 2 March 1964. Now, one would think that making a full-length feature movie and creating the soundtrack LP would be task-enough for John, Paul, George, and Ringo, but throughout the month, they were busy here, there, and everywhere. On the 19th, for example, they spent their lunch hour at London’s Royal Dorchester Hotel receiving the Variety Club Silver Heart award for “Top Show Business Personalities of 1963,” an honor presented to them by Prime Minister Harold Wilson. And that night, instead of going home when the other actors called it quits, they hurried to tape an appearance on Britain’s #1 pop TV show, Top of the Pops. The very next evening (in their spare time, after filming), the boys performed on the hit television programme, Ready, Steady, Go! (Deep Breath!!!) And of course, in addition to all of this, John Lennon also released his first book, a volume of prose and poetry entitled In His Own Write. What can I say? The Beatles’ well-lauded creativity was, in March 1964, both on and off-the-charts!   March 1965…Again, it was film-making season for the Fabs, but this time, in ’65, the United Artists’ film was “Eight Arms to Hold You,” eventually dubbed “Help!”. First, filming in Nassau for a fortnight, the boys flew home on the 10th, only to regenerate quickly and head out once again. Three days later, accompanied by newlywed, Maureen Starkey, and John’s wife, Cynthia, the boys were en route to Austria. During their time in the breathtaking Alps, John completed an extremely biographical song he’d begun at Kenwood, a number entitled “It’s Only Love.” Depicting his increasingly rocky relationship with Cynthia, this offering revealed so much of John’s vulnerability and tenderness that ever-after, he despised it. Paul told the press that John rarely let people see his soft side: “I’ve only seen him through the cracks in his shell because the shell is so hard.” But “It’s Only Love” so laid bare John’s love for his wife and their mutual struggles, that in the years to come, John would never have a good word to say about the revelatory song. In emotional and imperfect lyrics, it had too closely captured Lennon’s wounded heart.   March 1967…Wearing ponchos, flowered “kecks,” and National Health glasses, the boys were truly in creative heaven, working away in EMI Studios, on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. On 1 and 2 March, they worked for hours on John’s “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.” Then, on the 9th and 10th, they gave their attention to Paul’s “Getting Better All the Time.” And on the 15th, they began work on George’s “Within You, Without You.” But in every period of intense, unfettered creativity, there is always an inherent edge and potential danger. And 21 March 1967 was one of those experimental evenings that could have ended tragically. John, having taken LSD for inspiration, was feeling unwell and excused himself from Studio Two. Hoping to help John recover (and oblivious to the reason for John’s discomfort), George Martin followed him out and suggested climbing to the EMI rooftop for fresh air. When, moments later, Paul and George saw Martin return without Lennon and discovered where their friend was recuperating, they tore out after him…realising that the roof had no rails or barriers against a sheer, 30-foot drop to the ground. Fortunately, when they scrambled — breathless — onto the top deck, John was simply standing and staring at the night sky. But the boys were so thoroughly rattled that they concluded their recordings for that evening then and there. Creative inspiration had engendered a close call.   March 1968…Out of devotion to his mates, Ringo (and his wife, Maureen) agreed to go along with the others to the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s ashram in Rishikesh, India, for a soul revival. But after only 10 days abroad — hating the “Butlin’s holiday camp” life of the Ashram — the Starkeys gave the others their regrets and flew home. Twenty-five days later, on 26 March, after having worked prodigiously with John on a plethora of songs that would populate the White Album, Paul and Jane Asher flew back to London, accompanied by Neil Aspinall…and leaving only John and Cyn, George and Patti, and Alex Mardas behind. Although this excursion failed to end particularly well (if one knows the backstory of “Sexy Sadie”), March 1968 was undeniably a time of immense creative genius for The Beatles. Having the rare opportunity to rest, talk, write music, and have furtive fun together (when the Maharishi wasn’t looking), the boys created magical songs for the finest LP they’d offered the public in quite some time. Indeed, John alone wrote enough tracks for the White Album to have his own solo LP. The “Leader Beatle,” who had sadly relinquished his role in Sgt. Pepper and Magical Mystery Tour was back. They all were…in a flood of bright, spring sunlight that blended dramatically into pure White.   Albert Einstein once said, “Creativity is genius having fun.” And certainly, no group of people bear this out better than The Beatles. During the March months of their lives, they starred in award-winning films (creatively ad-libbing many of the famous lines), wrote and illustrated books of poetry and prose, composed and recorded music, starred on television and radio programmes, and sought new horizons of faith. But for the lads, ushering music, art, and literature into the world was never a job or a chore! It was always the product of the happiest moments of their lives. And may it be so, this month, with us as well. Shine on!
Jude Southerland Kessler is the author of the John Lennon Series: www.johnlennonseries.com Jude is represented by 910 Public Relations — @910PubRel on Twitter and 910 Public Relations on Facebook.
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A Month in the Life

::: By Jude Southerland Kessler :::

 

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

Henry David Thoreau

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 


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

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

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What The Beatles Found in January

::: By Jude Southerland Kessler :::

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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


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

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

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

From Fest Founder Mark Lapidos

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Peace and Love,

 

Mark Lapidos – FEST Founder

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Remembering the Concert for Bangladesh

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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Don’t you do it… Don’t you dare

By Jude Southerland Kessler, special to the Fest Blog

“Don’t you do it…don’t you dare!” is the very phrase that inspired…

 

  • My nine-year-old decision to jump from the top of Mom’s Mimosa tree…a fall that sprained both my ankles, in the very first week of summer.
  • My “rash” decision to move far away from my Louisiana family and friends to reside in Maryland where my boyfriend, Rande, was going to the Naval Academy. (Rande and I have now been married 40 years.)
  • And my decision to write “yet another” biography about John Lennon in the face of various groans and moans of: “Haven’t we had enough of such books already?”

 

Being dared NOT to do something has two out of three times worked wonders “in my life.” Indeed, quite often, daring someone NOT to do something produces miraculous results. So, let me give it a go!

 

Don’t do it!!!! Don’t leave your soft, slightly stained sofa and your “25% More! Free!” bag of Fritos Originals (which explains your greasy remote) to actually get up, get packed, and attend the Chicago Fest for Beatles Fans at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare, Aug. 9-11. Please…stay seated!! Relax into your comfy nest of cookie crumbs and lint, and nestle in for yet another riveting episode of “Everybody Loves Raymond.” It’s so much simpler. And besides, who needs a whole “weekend of unforgettable,” eh? Not you, right? You’re past all that!

 

Don’t do it…don’t be in the Main Stage Ballroom when the oh-so-knowledgeable Mark Lewisohn awes us with his Beatles acumen. I was privileged to hear him talk last November and suffice it to say, I actually offered him $200 for a mere copy of his notes! His talk is that good. No, let’s be honest: it’s better. Mr. Lewisohn is, of course, the author of The Beatles: All These Years, Volume One — Tune In, The Complete Beatles Chronicle, The Beatles Recording Sessions, The Beatles: Day by Day, and so many other respected works. But even his Beatles compendiums pale a mite in the face of his live presentations! And that poses a dilemma: you see, instead of relaxing into the cat hair and pistachio shells on your sofa, you’d actually be sitting on the edge of your seat, locked onto Mr. L’s two talks — one on Saturday and one on Sunday.

 

So, I must ask: Do you really need that? Is hearing the world’s #1 Beatles Guru worth the effort of tossing a toothbrush and a change of clothes into a valise? Is it worth the risk inherent in getting out with fellow Beatles fans who are learning and nodding and being utterly entertained? I shouldn’t think so! Not really.

 

So…don’t do it. Don’t you dare! Slip into your sweat pants and open another carton of “Chunky Monkey.” It’s the wiser move.

 

Safe at home, you’ll tactfully avoid a full hour with iconic drummer, Alan White, who literally on the spur-of-the-moment (the day before, in fact) agreed to join John and Yoko on stage at their 1969 Toronto Rock’n’Roll Festival performance. Who wants to hear about that experience, yeah? Who wants to sit at the feet of someone who worked shoulder-to-shoulder with John as “Instant Karma” was being recorded…or with George Harrison during the making of All Things Must Pass?  Why subject yourself to that sort of once-in-a-lifetime experience? Not when you can revisit “Charles in Charge” or “Malcolm in the Middle” or settle in for a cozy afternoon of “Home Alone.” Don’t do it. Don’t you very dare!

 

And furthermore, DO NOT even think of taking my seat at the Jeremy Clyde concert! Back off, sir! I’ve claimed that prime location where I can best hear Jeremy croon “A Summer Song” and “Willow Weep for Me.”  But most of all, I want to lean in and hear him reminisce about his days with The Beatles. I want to absorb the magic of 1964 and 1965. I want to be transported back to Swingin’ London — to soak in every fascinating detail about what Americans dubbed, “The British Invasion.” No, no, that sort of thing’s not for you! Keep in mind “that was yesterday, and yesterday’s gone.” (Exactly the song I’d like to hear!) So, why don’t you clean out the garage or trim the lawn instead? Go right ahead…leave the magic all to me.

 

Don’t dare set foot in the Hyatt Regency O’Hare while Ken Mansfield (one of the friendliest men on planet Earth) is walking about, shaking hands, and happily answering Beatles questions. Don’t settle in as he brings the world of Apple Records, U.S., to life or talks about his time in London with The Beatles…or shares the story of that amazing afternoon that The Beatles (and Ken) took to The Roof (Ken’s best-selling book) to “pass the [last] audition.” Ken was there for so many remarkable Beatles landmarks, and he will make you feel as if you’re there as well. Do you need that sort of enchanted afternoon? Not you! You’re the practical sort! There’s a hedge to be trimmed. Get to it!

 

In fact, I can’t think of one single reason why you’d enjoy sitting amongst other Beatles fans in the lobby and singing “I Want to Hold Your Hand”…or why you’d have fun going back in time with me (at Sunday morning’s Early Bird presentation) to attend John Lennon’s 1964 Foyles Literary Luncheon, to discover why he muttered “You’ve got a lucky face.” I mean, sure, yeah, it’s a touching and fascinating story…but you? You’ve better things to do.

 

Attending the Aug. 9-11 Chicago Fest can only mean one thing for you: fab fun! And who needs it? Really!  I mean, you’d be one of the very first to hear Beatles music expert, Bruce Spizer, introduce his hot-off-the-press, new book, The Beatles Get Back to Abbey Road! And you’d get to hear Wings’ Laurence Juber, Steve Holley, and Denny Laine rock the stage at the Saturday night concert! You’d get the opportunity to challenge yourself at Al Sussman and Tom Frangione’s “Beatles Trivia” contest, and you’d get to hear Kit O’Toole and gifted musician, Scott Erickson, explore the Esher Demo versions of your favorite White Album songs. You’d only find yourself shopping in the Marketplace, enjoying Beatles yoga in the Faboratory, cheering at the Battle of The Bands, and sitting in front of the Red Bar fireplace and sipping a glass of wine. None of that is productive, son. Not while there’s so much you could do:

 

  • You could scan old photos into jpeg files.
  • You could air out the autumn clothes.
  • You could strip that old wallcovering.
  • And of course, you could always indulge in the evening news. (God forbid!)

 

Or (and I’m certainly not endorsing this!) you could choose to enjoy “The Weekend of You”…a weekend of wearing your Beatles pins and T-shirts and socks and kecks…a weekend of wearing your Beatles smile! You could star in an impromptu, all-night Sing-Along or attend the late, late experts’ panel or hunker over an iced bourbon, hotly debating which album is better, the Capitol “Help!” or the EMI version. You could rock with The Weeklings…and dance to Liverpool! You could purchase the BEST Christmas present ever from Beatles artist, Eric Cash. And you could party late, sleep late, laugh out loud (unabbreviated), and have the time of your life!

 

The only problem is, the Chicago Fest for Beatles Fans would create memory: a memory you’d have to cherish for years. A memory you’d have to tell people about at the office, on the train, and at family reunions. A memory you’d have to carry with you, long after you’re 64!

 

It would be unique and special, your time at the Fest. So, unless your life needs something warm and wonderful and memorable and completely fantastic…best to avoid it at all costs. I promise that you’d fall in the love with The Fest for Beatles Fans, and, you’d want to go back. So, just don’t risk it. No, indeed.

 

Don’t you do it. Don’t you dare.

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It was January something or other

By Guest Blogger Michael Byrne

 

It was January something or other, 1964. I had just turned 9-years-old the previous September and was in the fourth grade. My family lived in a small town near Philadelphia called Morrisville, Pennsylvania.

 

The Phillies weren’t turning out very good teams, so like a lot of boys my age, my heroes were the Yankees’ Mickey Mantle and Roger Marris and astronaut, John Glenn, who had recently become the first American to orbit the earth.

 

My brother and sister are 8 and 9 years older than I, so I heard a lot of their music around the house. Their favorites included early Motown; rockers like Elvis, Buddy Holly, Fats Domino, and Little Richard; the Beach Boys and others. So, as you can see, I was exposed to some really great music as a little kid.

 

My parents were very musical, too. My Mom was a wonderful singer and my Dad was a self-taught organist. There was lots of music in my life!

 

I had asked for and received a transistor radio that Christmas, and after returning from school in the afternoon, was eager most days to walk  beneath “the blue suburban skies” with it held up to my ear, listening to WFIL, WABC and WIBG…hoping to hear my favorite songs.

 

At that time, “Louie, Louie” by The Kingsmen was the Number One song just about everywhere in the USA, and I loved it! I could listen to that song over and over again. I really didn’t want to hear much else. So, each week, I’d wait to hear the countdown to the #1 song. I was sure it would be that song with the great beat and the lyrics no one could understand.

 

This particular January week however, would be different…WABC’s afternoon DJ, Dan Ingram, informed listeners that there was a new Number One song on the charts. It had shot up to Number One out of almost nowhere, and the phone lines were on fire with requests to hear it! This annoyed me as I really liked “Louie, Louie” and couldn’t believe anything could be better than that song, but I stayed tuned in just to see what all the fuss was about.

 

“It’s now Number One…on 77 WABC!” I still remember that little intro jingle…

 

Well, the first three notes of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” smacked me right in the face. I literally stopped dead in my tracks and listened to something I had never heard before. It was such an exciting sound! The vocals, the drums, the build-up at the end of the “middle eight”: “I can’t hide, I can’t hide, I CAN’T HIDE……..!!! Wow! Incredible!

 

When it was over, Dan Ingram talked about this new band called The Beatles and how they were from England and how they were going to be on The Ed Sullivan Show in just a few weeks and how they were so different and…I swear to God, I turned around and ran home, bursting in the front door yelling, “Mom, Mom I just heard the greatest song I have ever heard on the radio and the band is… and they’re gonna be on…and can we please watch it?”

 

She was so cool and said, “Of course, we can.” (We watched Ed Sullivan every week anyway.) Settle down now.”

 

As the weeks leading up to February 7, 1964 passed, I heard “I Want to Hold Your Hand” many times, and its power never faded (and still hasn’t, for me). So, when the nightly news showed pictures of the airport press conference and the wild scenes outside The Beatles’ hotel, the whole thing became even more compelling! They looked incredibly cool, and they were so funny.

 

Q: “Are you going to get a haircut while you’re here?”

 

George: “I had one yesterday”.

 

(Hahaha.)

 

Q: “There’s some doubt that you can actually play; can you play for us?”

 

John: “No, we need money first.”

 

(Too cool!)

 

The radio stations also began playing other Beatles songs: “I Saw Her Standing There,” “Twist and Shout,” “All My Loving,” and “Please, Please Me”.

 

My Mom bought me Meet the Beatles. She was the coolest! I played it every day after school, and she didn’t complain at all. In fact, she liked it! She thought they were great. Of course, that hair was “ridiculous,” wasn’t it?

 

The 9 February Ed Sullivan performance was, of course, incredible, and it’s all anyone in school talked about for weeks! My life changed that day that I first heard “I Want to Hold Your Hand” on the radio. I will never forget it. Eventually, I became a musician myself, and I continue to play and write music to this day.

 

The Beatles and their music, style, and talent became a major influence on my life.

 

Their message was clear… “Love is all you need.”

 

Wouldn’t it be great if the whole world got it?

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In My Life — What are your earliest memories of The Beatles?

What are your earliest memories of The Beatles? How did your journey with the Fab Four begin? Jude Kessler, author of The John Lennon Series, shares her sentimental journey and encourages you to share yours! Our panel of judges will award 3 prizes for the best very brief stories in our Comments section below. The winners will get to expand their stories and be highlighted as our Featured Fest Bloggers in June!

 

Here’s Jude’s true tale:

 

I’ve told the story at least a hundred times: how 9-year-old Pattie Holly Singer — clasping an early Beatles 45-rpm photo jacket — waylaid me en route to class at Horseshoe Drive Elementary in Alexandria, Louisiana.

 

These are The Beatles!” she exhaled, her eyes dancing nervously. “Everyone’s in love with them!!! You’ve gotta pick one to fall in love with…by recess!” That was the beginning of it all, really — the sojourn into the frenetic and frantic land of Beatlemania.

 

All the rest of my memories that year center on The Beatles. I can’t recall anything else “in my life.”

 

My father, Dr. Tom Paul Southerland, the Rapides Parish Assistant Superintendent of Schools, was not impressed. Each month, he’d call me into his office and sit me down to begin the standard lecture: “You’re in love with that John Lennon, and it has to stop! He’s a hoodlum, I tell you. A hoodlum!” But the more my dad divulged that “fact,” the more I was attracted to the almond-eyed guitar player with his razored wit and deep, gritty voice…the more “The Leader Beatle” invoked devotion.

 

Despite my father’s despair over Lennon-mania, though, he saw sense. When “A Hard Day’s Night” came to Alexandria’s Don Theater, late that summer, he offered to take me to the film. He even did some research on it and commented on the cautious drive downtown, “I hear these Beatles are a lot like the Marx Brothers. Some people say they’re the Marx Brothers and the Keystone Cops, all rolled into one. In fact, down at the office, they tell me this movie really shows that side of their comedy.”

 

I don’t remember my response; I’m sure it was polite and agreeable. But in that fat, baby-blue-and-white, four-door Buick, I do remember thinking that I’d seen “You Bet Your Life” on TV and that John Lennon was nothing whatsoever like gruff, bespectacled, OLD Groucho Marx. I saw no correlation between Marx and Lennon, and frankly, I couldn’t imagine anyone who could! I bit my lip and sighed and thought my father and I, worlds apart.

 

At the end of film that afternoon, as the credits rolled across the screen (names I would come to know intimately in my adult life…some, like Victor Spinetti, whom I would meet and interview at our own Fest for Beatles Fans), I sat in the darkness and wept. I cried because I’d loved every minute of John’s film. (As Susan Ryan said to me years later, “What??! The other Beatles were in that movie????”) I sobbed because it had ended all too quickly. And I wept because there was no one there to understand my heart.

 

“Would you like to stay and see it again?” my father leaned over, asking me quietly. I was floored. Stunned! The man who had railed against The Beatles for months got it!!!! Somehow, he understood. And he was offering to devote two more hours of his life to a film he really didn’t want to see. It was a moment…one of the best of my childhood. My father had unwittingly conspired with The Beatles to create a forever memory.

 

Today, I live about two hours from Alexandria — or “Beatle Town,” as I call it. Every time I have an occasion to drive through the city or visit friends there, I fly back to 1964. I remember it all. I remember asking for my first Beatles album on my November birthday and getting, instead, a black-and-white LP by The Liverpool Beats singing, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “I Saw Her Standing There,” right alongside “Joshua” and “Maybe I Will.” I vividly recall fighting back hot tears over the sound of “Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you…” and trying to act thrilled over the errant record looming next to my chocolate cake. I also remember climbing into bed that night and writing a very early letter Santa, who surely, in just a few short weeks, would right the wrong and deliver the treasure I so craved.

 

On a very chilly and early 25 December 1964, as I tore into the thick, crimson foil encasing Capitol’s “Meet the Beatles,” my introduction to “the lads” was finally complete. In twelve short months I had found my passion for a lifetime and stepped into my future career. I had selected not only “a Beatle to love,” but had chosen the direction for my college course of study and the path of my professional life. From that day on, it would be all John Lennon, all the time.

 

And yes Virginia, it still is.

 

*********

Now…it’s your turn. Share your first and earliest Beatles’ story with us in the Comments below…let the memories Shine On.


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

 

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

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45 Years Ago Today — Fri., 4/26/1974 — The Start of the Most Important Weekend In ‘Beatlefest’ History!

BY FEST FOUNDER MARK LAPIDOS

 

This is my story (short version)
Little did I know on Friday morning, April 26, 1974 that I would hear an announcement that would forever alter my life’s direction. It started out pretty ordinary. I took the bus from NJ to NYC and headed over to Sam Goody, the flagship store of the biggest record chain in the area. By total coincidence, we were having a special on all Beatles albums that week, and I had all my staff wearing special 10th Anniversary Beatles shirts provided only to my store by Capitol Records.

 

It was when I returned home that evening when I turned on the radio to WABC and heard THAT announcement: John Lennon and Harry Nilsson would be appearing with Cousin Bruce in Central Park on Sunday (4/28/74) to support the 1st ever March of Dimes event. That is when I realized I was going to meet John to tell him my idea of a 10th Anniversary celebration of The Beatles Arrival in America! I had already thought of the idea at the end of November, 1973 and booked the Commodore Hotel for the weekend of September 7-8, 1974. The only thing missing was getting permission to honor The Beatles (I was an idealistic 26 year old). Of course, everybody thought I was nuts, but, apparently, that didn’t stop me!

 

I won’t go into the details here of how I found out (I have told this story before), but I did find out where John and Harry were staying. After their 15-20 minute talk with Cousin Brucie in Central Park in front of 100,000 people, I went to their hotel and knocked on the door. Harry graciously let me in, I told John about my idea. He said, “I’m all for it. I’m a Beatles Fan, too!”

 

So, within about 40 hours of hearing that announcement — 45 years ago today — I was sitting with John in his suite actually telling him all about my convention idea in detail! After that weekend, I was taken a lot more seriously and just over four months later, it happened. All of The Beatles donated musical instruments for our Charity Raffle, but John wanted to personally come down on the Sunday evening to pick the winner of his signed guitar. Yes, folks, it really did almost happen! Alas, he changed his mind and went up to his farm for the rest of the weekend. To this day, it was the biggest secret I EVER had to keep!

 

Have a great weekend!!

Peace and Love,

Mark Lapidos

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