Saturday, February 28, 2009

Police Fans

What was most impressive was the way people who professed to be anti-Beatle people could be won over. A police inspector at Southend was bemoaning his fate at having to supervise traffic conditions there and said: "What are they, these Beatles? They just make a lot of noise and they can't even sing." Later in the evening he had a few words with them, soon joined in the general joking . . . and ended up surreptitiously asking for their autographs.

At Southend as at other places, the security was tightened up as far as possible. And there were questions from ratepayers as to whether it was money well-spent. Fair enough--this was a matter of local politics and local interest. But the boys hated being dragged into all the controversy. But the TV cameramen moved in and pumped them. Said Paul, perhaps the most diplomatic: "Look we don't ask for it all, you know. If the authorities think it is safer to lay on extra police, you can't blame us. We just don't want anybody to get hurt--especially the fans."

We talked with the boys about what they wanted to do in the year ahead. It's interesting to see now how much has come true.

They were all interested in the works of the Oxford Committee For Famine Relief and had been having picture sessions for the charity's newspaper and poster campaign. Of course, they don't get much free time--but they certainly did throw themselves into this charity work when they could.

Ringo admitted he wanted to learn all the dances, specially the new imports from the States. In fact, he was, even then, probably the best dancer of all the Beatles, but he reckoned he was too shy and too reserved to show off his talents. Paul, however, persuaded him into a short demonstration of the Hully Gully. Everybody applauded . . .

Friday, February 27, 2009

August 14, 1963 - Scene at 6.30

Taped: Wednesday 14 August 1963
Aired: Wednesday 14 August 1963

In the morning the Beatles drove to Granada TV Centre, Manchester, to record two songs, 'Twist And Shout' and 'She Loves You' for Scene. The first was transmitted that night.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Two Million Sellers

by Billy Shepherd and Johnny Dean

In December of 1963, the Beatles seemed to be cornering the market in Hit Parade successes . . . they had more hits in the same week than anybody had ever had before. So the headlines screamed out the triumph . . . and the fans screamed out the approval.

Let's just examine the charts carefully. Number one in the singles chart was "I Want To Hold Your Hand", a million-seller virtually as soon as it came out . . . it sailed in to top position from nowhere. Record shops could barely cope with the demand. It pushed down, to second place, another million-seller--and that happened to be "She Loves You", by the Beatles, of course. The whole situation was unprecedented. Million-sellers are very much rarer than people believe. To have two by the same group at the top of the charts just shook the living daylights out of the pop industry.

But lo and behold there were also three Beatle EP's in the Top Fifty--three extended plays selling just as fast as average singles. For the record, they were "Twist And Shout", "The Beatles No. 1", "The Beatles Hits", which were all actually in the top twenty. Then you glance at the Christmas-time '63 LP department and find the boys had number one and two spots with "With The Beatles" and "Please Please Me".

The boys didn't start on a big scale in the American Top Ten; so, just for a touch of nostalgia, let's list the names that figured there: Dale and Grace, Tommy Roe, Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs, the Impressions, Singing Nun, Lesley Gore, Nino Tempo and April Stevens, the Village Stompers and Los Indios Tabajaros. Mostly Americans; mostly not doing so well now. The odd one out: Elvis Presley, and his "Bossa Nova Baby".

So December started in on a wave of Beatle hysteria. Backstage at the shows which led up to the boys' Christmas show in London, a sell-out success of course, the talk was mostly about the fantastic loyalty and hysteria being shown by the fans. At Bradford, for instance, there was thick fog and heavy rain, yet there was a queue outside of 2,000 fans who'd waited up to twelve hours in pneumonia-catching conditions.

This worried Paul particularly. He said "Supposing one of these days one of those fans should get hurt or something. We'd probably feel terribly guilty, though it wouldn't be our fault." But it was John who felt that sometimes the police interfered too much with the fans and made the hysteria worse. Maybe his point was taken because 6,000 Beatlemaniacs at Leicester were comparatively well-behaved--and there was no heavy-handed police activity.

Thing was, though, there was a chance of some of the Beatles themselves getting hurt. For this icy December two years back saw a development of the "chuck gifts on stage" business . . . the boys working through a hail of jelly-babies and soft toys and not-so-soft toys. Paul caught one sweet neatly and accidentally on his left eyeball and was able to vouch for the fact that it hurt. In fact, they had to start making on-stage appeals to fans not to get too violent in making presentations of souvenirs.

We went to Southend to see the boys and met for the first time their new publicist, Brian Sommerville. An ex-Navy officer, he planned his first "dates" with the boys with all the skill of a naval manoeuvre. We stood back-stage in the dressing-room as four very tired Beatles worked through chicken and chips, hustled in from a nearby cafe. On two of the trays were special notes from the waitresses . . . Ringo didn't read his out aloud, but he obviously got a good giggle out of it.

The collarless jackets which had been so long a part of their uniform were on the way out. George said they wanted to devise something brand-new, but hadn't got the faintest idea what sort of new gimmick. The hair was still growing but the boys were getting fed up with answering the same old quetsions about that particular subject. They could be very cutting with any journalist who asked the same old stuff . . . stuff which could have been checked with any newspaper files.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Fan Letter to Paul McCartney, 1965

Dear Paul,

When I heard you were coming to the Gaumont at Sheffield, I dived into my Piggy Bank to pay for my Ticket but Alas no money. I felt like crawling down the drain. Now to worry though 'cos I still love you and I'm determined to be the first in the queue if you ever come to Chesterfield.

Gillian Walters has got a nerve thinking you must look ghastly in the morning. I mean you look fab all the time don't you. Seriously though I do really think you look smashing in all your photo's.

Luv 'n Stuff,

Margaret (Beatle) Booth,
Chesterfield, Derbyshire.

P.S.--Couldn't resist putting that bit in 'cos that's what all my relations call me now.

Paul answers:--
Well I think I look OK in the mornings but my mirror sometimes doesn't agree.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

August 27-30, 1963 - The Mersey Sound

Taped: Wednesday 27-30 August 1963
Aired: Wednesday 9 October 1963

On August 27, The Beatles were filmed playing 'Twist And Shout' and 'She Loves You' on stage, but with no audience, at The Little Theatre in Southport as part of the BBC TV Manchester documentary being made by Don Haworth. After a change of clothes to suggest a different occasion, they played 'Love Me Do'. Audience shots were then dubbed in from the previous night's concert. In the end their commercial recordings of these songs were used in the "documentary", which finished up about as close to reality as their movie A Hard Day's Night.

The next day, The Beatles were interviewed at the BBC's Manchester studios and also filmed as if backstage making up before a concert, and waiting in the wings with their instruments, all for Haworth's The Mersey Sound documentary.

On August 29, The Beatles acted an airport arrival for the "documentary" and also took a Mersey ferry between the Pier Head and Wallasey, signing autographs and meeting fans.

On August 30, Ringo was filmed pushing his way through extras outside his childhood home at 10 Admiral Grove in the Dingle for Don Haworth's film.

Don Haworth's BBC television "documentary," The Mersey Sound, was broadcast on October 9, 1963 to great acclaim.

Monday, February 23, 2009

A Report on The Music of Lennon & McCartney

A Report from Granada's Manchester Television Studios where the stars gathered to honour the songwriting of JOHN and PAUL

Granada say this is their biggest-ever spectacular. And everything I saw during the two days of busy shooting in Manchester confirms their claim. The production is built around John and Paul as songwriters. It will be seen throughout the U.K. on the ITV network from 9.40 p.m. on Friday 17 December and it will last fifty fast-moving minutes. Later it will be sold for screening all over the world.

It's to be an all-action show with no expense spared. There are a dozen fabulous-looking models to decorate the studio. There are six lively dancers to prance around the set. And the set itself? That's something else! It's an enormous structure made of scaffolding and massive sheets of mirror-surfaced metal. It fills the entire floor of Granada's giant Studio 6. From ground level it looks like a cross between some half-constructed futuristic building and something from "West Side Story"! From higher up you could guess it was the interior of some fictional space ship.

George Martin Conducts

The stars arrive in batches according to their various camera calls. Amongst the first is GEORGE MARTIN who conducts his 25-piece orchestra through his own amusing and artistic rearrangement of "I Feel Fine". Then Paul is called to do his gag introduction of famous American pianist HENRY MANCINI who plays a gentle keyboard version of "If I Fell".

For "World Without Love" PETER AND GORDON are encased in a huge metallic tower from which they emerge to wander amongst twelve gorgeous gals. Meanwhile diminutive LULU, bursting with energy even on a Monday morning, rehearses "I Saw Him Standing There" for which she is required to run up and down a lot of wooden steps.

Now there's a behind-scenes crisis as word reaches producer Johnny Hamp that French star Richard Anthony won't be flying in because his face has been damaged in a car smash-up outside Paris. Frantic phone calls to the continent result in the booking of DICK RIVERS as a substitute. He'll sing in French.

Next arrival is little ESTHER PHILLIPS who has flown in from the U.S. to sing "And I Love Him" on the show. John and Paul drove up to Manchester in John's macabre-looking all-black Rolls the previous evening. Now they're joined by George and Ringo for the filming of the group's newbie "Day Tripper", the finale of the first half of the programme.

Six members of Liverpool's Philharmonic Orchestra take up their places on the set, which is dressed with antique music stands and flickering candles. Upon the arrival of their leader these six quaintly attired musicians become FRITZ SPEIGEL'S BAROCK AND ROLL ENSEMBLE who feature in a Mozart-styled interpretation of "She Loves You".

At lunchtime, while everyone takes a canteen break, John and Paul go into a work-while-you-eat hustle with director Phil Casson and producer Johnny Hamp. CILLA BLACK joins them just in time to watch the play-back of tapes featuring PETER SELLERS. In no time the entire lunch party breaks up with laughter as everyone watches Sellers in a long wig draped across a massive throne reciting "A Hard Day's Night" in finest mock-Shakespearean tradition.

Soon the shooting schedule gets under way again with BILLY J. KRAMER AND THE DAKOTAS recalling their earliest Beatle-penned successes "Bad To Me" and "Do You Want To Know A Secret". Billy, newly-slimmed to a trim ten stones, looks in great shape wearing a black shirt and dark bell-bottoms which were a gift from Phil Everly at the end of their October stage tour together.

While male dancers perform all kinds of fantastic gymnastic feats around her CILLA BLACK presents "It's For You". Immediately afterwards she's hustled off by the press people to have her new short-with-fringe hairstyle pictured by the news photographers.

Paul and Marianne Sing 'Yesterday'

Now it's Paul's turn to go into the studio. He spends several minutes deciding which guitar to use for "Yesterday". In a darkened setting he's seen singing the first verse of this international hit. Then the cameras pull away from him to reveal MARIANNE FAITHFULL who takes up the lyrics for the rest of this beautiful ballad.

There's a complete switch of mood as organist ALAN HAVEN sits down before the cameras to offer his jazzy interpretation of "A Hard Day's Night". Percussive background support is supplied by ace drumming-man TONY CROMBIE.

All four Beatles take up their positions on the floor now with John seating himself behind a magnificent harmonium. His guitar is missing for this sequence. That harmonium has an interesting history for it has been borrowed from Granada's "Coronation Street" studio just down the passage. Yes, it's the instrument we normally see in Ena Sharples vestry! Paul shares out the vocal action with George and John as The Beatles launch themselves into the lively "We Can Work It Out", the second of the two all-new Lennon-McCartney titles to be showcased in the spectacular.

Jimmy Was There

Incidentally all kinds of celebrities have been visiting during the two days. Almost as many familiar faces can be seen out of camera range. Deejay Jimmy Savile seemed to be everywhere all the time. Herman was here too, having driven Lulu up from London. And most of the "Coronation Street" residents popped their heads around the studio door at one time or another!

I haven't mentioned every single act in this brisk-paced show. I missed for example, Spanish Dance star ANTONIO VARGAS whose fantastic footwork is said to be one of the surprise highlights of the programme. However, I'll be watching my telly along with an estimated 20 million other Beatle People on Friday 17 December to see what promises to be one of the most entertaining small-screen spectaculars of 1965!

"Revolution" - RM1 of Take 20

June 4, 1968 - "A day of curious overdubs and experiments for 'Revolution 1'. John re-recorded his lead vocal during this session, opting for the 'in/out' answer to whether he should or shouldn't participate in destruction as a form of revolution....A rough mono remix of take 20 was made and was taken away on a plastic spool by John Lennon at the end of the session." --The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions

This recording is presented below. Note the extended jam (including "mama dada" backing vocals) which became the basis for "Revolution 9."

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Neil's Column on Revolver

By the time you read my page, we shall be on our way back from America. And "Revolver" is sure to be at the top of the LP album charts here at home and in the U.S.

I wonder if you have decided in your own mind which was the very first "Revolver" track to be recorded when The Beatles started that marathon series of sessions just before Easter? The answer is "The Void". Don't start thinking you've been fiddled because you can't find "The Void" on your copy of the album. It was recorded on Wednesday April 6 under that title--but by general agreement it was given the new name "Tomorrow Never Knows" a couple of months later.

Different Ideas

No wonder that particular track has so many different new ideas worked into it. The boys had been storing up all sorts of thoughts for the album and a lot of them came pouring out at that first session! The words were written before the tune and there was no getting away from the fact that the words were very powerful. So all four boys were anxious to build a tune and a backing which would be as strong as the actual lyrics. The basic tune was written during the first hours of the recording session.

Special Tapes

Once the boys started bringing out their special sound tapes the studio technicians just didn't know what was going on! Because for "Tomorrow Never Knows" five different "tape loops" were used to create all those far-out noises. "Tape loops" are just very short lengths of recording tape and all the Beatles had been creating strange electronic noises with all the equipment they've got in their own homes. Paul was the most prolific in the tape-making field and he brought along some fantastic home-made sounds, which were incorporated into the finished version of "Tomorrow Never Knows". But it wasn't as simple as that--the "tape loops" were recorded at different speeds and even backwards to achieve all the weird and wonderful effects they wanted.

Eleanor Rigby

In order of recording, "Paperback Writer", "Rain", "Doctor Robert" and "Taxman" were made before the end of April. Another early session, on Wednesday April 20, produced Paul's vocal track for "Eleanor Rigby". Eight days later the strings--four violins, two violas and two cellos--were added. Of course there was no idea at that stage that "Eleanor Rigby" would become one side of The Beatles' next single. Much later on it was decided that Paul's ballad plus "Yellow Submarine" would be a single in America, but the idea of putting the same pair of sides out at home didn't come up until a fortnight before the August release date!

Paul had been carrying the basic ideas for "Yellow Submarine" in his head for ages and, from what he'd told the others, it was an obvious number for Ringo to sing. But this track wasn't recorded until June. John and Paul had everything worked out except the last few lines of lyrics. It wasn't until just before the actual session date that they completed their words.

Everyone Joined In

If you've listened closely to "Yellow Submarine" you must be convinced that there are far more than four voices joining in the final chorus. And you'd be right! The boys asked everyone in the studio including Alf, Mal, me and George Martin to come and make a sort of sing-along party for the finale. Even the engineers gathered round. So there's an Augmented Beatles Choir of at least 12 voices on that track!

Those Voices

The sound effects--the little bit of brass band, the submarine noises and everything--were put on a week or two later, just before we all left for Germany. Incidentally, in answer to umpteen letters on the subject, the voices you hear in the "submarine crew conversation" mid-way through the record belong to John and Paul. And further on that's John repeating each line of the lyrics in a sort of parrot-like voice.