Friday, December 29, 2006

John's Music Room--Kenwood, June 29, 1967

Apparently, there has been a bit of a controversy brewing in certain internet communities concerning the origins of a photograph of John in his music room at Kenwood. In order to dispell this controversy, I decided to scan some photos I have to confirm the photo's authenticity.

On June 29, 1967, Beatles Monthly editor Johnny Dean and photographer Leslie Bryce visited John at his Tudor-styled home "Kenwood" in the stockbroker belt of Weybridge. Bryce photographed John in various interesting places throughout his home, even taking some lovely photos of John and Julian together. Over the years, a myriad of pictures taken that day have appeared in issues of the Beatles Monthly, and the one in question made an appearance in the Sept. 1988 edition. This photo shows John playing one of his keyboards, and above him is a beautiful, touching photo of himself with friend and partner Paul, taken by photographer David Bailey. Looking closely, one can see that the photograph is on a cabinet door, and the door is slightly opened at an angle to reveal the photo to the camera--the shadows also indicate this. When the door is shut, the photo is not visible. Hopefully these scans offer evidence that this photograph has not been photoshoped by sentimental Beatles fans; on the contrary, it shows us all what a "softie" our John was at heart.

I can imagine Paul coming over, guitar in hand, settling in for songwriting sessions with John, while Cyn brings tea and butties up to them from time to time. A joint wouldn't be out of the question either! And there's that photo--the two titans poised as if sides of the same coin, as if they are One great force of art, creation, joy, and love--as inspiration for the evening's work.

I will be posting more information about Dean and Bryce's visit to John's home, and of course, more of those wonderful photographs, at a later date.

Friday, December 22, 2006

A Traditional British Christmas

Okay--I have an obsession with traditional British Christmas cakes, such as the one pictured here that our lads are happily slicing and devouring for Robert Whitaker's camera. I also love the cake's appearance in The Who's promo for "Happy Jack"--Roger's on look out as the others attempt to crack a safe; alas, they become sidetracked by this Christmas treat. (Watching Keith Moon slap the merenguie about his face is hilarious.) A friend of mine has attempted to get the perfect cake for me over the past two years, but I've settled on a marzipan covered fruit cake with a holly decoration imported from across the pond. British readers--do you think I'll enjoy what I've got?

It seems as if every British band had their pictures taken around a cake or a pudding for Christmas photo sessions, and they're all delightful. There's something about those traditional decorations that I enjoy, and of course the festive time they commemorate. I guess I'm just a sentimentalist...

Here are some photos of The Beatles with their Christmas Cake, all taken by Robert Whitaker during the same photo shoot that produced pictures for every season of the year (they hold brooms and baskets for Autumn, springs for Spring, etc.) The most famous of these photos ended up cropped and served as the album cover for the Captiol record, Beatles VI. The one shown here is a reverse print, but still pretty good.

I am also including pictures from a restaurant in Sweden where they were presented with a Christmas cake in October! More Beatles Christmas-related photos to follow soon...

(The photo where John has the "Merry Christmas" wreath on his head graced my Christmas cards this year!)

Monday, December 18, 2006

"Reporting '66: End of Beatlemania" (!)

Speculation was running rampant. With no new release imminent, and individual members working on projects of their own, many critics were certain that The Beatles were breaking up. Headlines proclaimed: "Twilight of the Beatles". "The Beatles at the Crossroads". "Will They Tour Again?" Looking back, Paul McCartney loved getting the last laugh. While everyone was thinking the Beatles were washed up as a pop group, they were crafting one of the most influential and important albums in popular music history.

On the evening of December 20, 1966, The Beatles were individually met by reporter John Edwards on the steps of EMI Studios--and were also greeted with questions concerning a Beatles break-up. Some of this footage appears in the Anthology documentary, as well as The Making of Sgt. Pepper's special. The screen captures presented here are from the actual television broadcast, which circulates in its entirety. This strange special includes speculation from fans, director Richard Lester, and other critics, but without a narrator or any sort of introduction to accompany it.

Each Beatle stops to comment that they are not breaking up, but that they may do individual projects from time to time. Ringo chats the longest, and George bolts for the door after a quick "No!" in response to Edwards' question.

The 7:00 session at Abbey Road consisted of more work on Paul's "When I'm Sixty-Four".

(Does anyone know what album John has under his arm as he enters the studio?)

Here is a link to a very special Christmas treat for you: Leftfield Studio's Lego animation of The Beatles' 1966 Christmas Message--Pantomime: Everywhere It's Christmas. If you have not seen this, you must view it ASAP! It's perfect!

Coming up: A closer look at the Beatles' 1964 Christmas Shows...and the obligatory Beatles Crimble Photos...

I hope you are all enjoying the holiday season!

Monday, December 04, 2006

We Will Never Stop Believing

A Poem For John Lennon
By Randy California

In days of old when thoughts were bold, ideals were high, we reached for the sky.
A guiding light for all to see, one person's special dream for humanity
We were many but now we are few, hurt and confused by what happened to you.
It seems to always end this of peace are not wanted they say
It's not just one that does them in,
but the lower evil side of man that comes back to haunt us again and again

In our lives we loved you more, you opened so many doors..............

The shock of this will never leave, for I was one who did believe.
Beautiful man, questioning one, always searching for the reason.
You let us visit into your mind, your private world for a time......
and what you gave will never die...and I'll never stop believing in you, we'll never stop believing your dream can come true.

- Randy California

(Randy California is one of the greatest guitarists of all time; unfortunately, he is underrated and underappreciated. The first four Spirit albums are essential listening, so go out and discover this amazing artist and his equally amazing band! RIP, Randy...)

I will not be able to update my blog on Friday because I will be out of town.

I miss John Lennon every day of my life, though I never personally knew him. I was six years old when he was torn from his earthly existence, but I saw at that moment how his death affected the people around me and the rest of the world as well. I took out my mother's copy of The Beatles' Second Album that she had given me (that I had worn out from repeated listenings) and drew a thin line in ink under John Lennon's name. I felt such a connection with him and his music. Over the years, he has been a constant presence in my life. I find it very hard to put into words how I feel about John. I've always related to him, or have been drawn to him, even though our lives are not similar. His intelligence, creativity, wit, talent, genius, honesty and humanity are so compelling.

There are no words for what I feel.

This blog is a testament of my love for John Winston Ono Lennon.

I will try to write more this week.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

"The Answer's At The End"

Five years ago today, George Harrison departed this material world. Over the years, we as fans have missed him dearly--his wry comments, his unique smile, that light in his eyes. We have been comforted by his spiritual strength, words of wisdom, and the rich musical legacy he gave to us.

Five years ago at 4:00 AM, a dear friend called me to tell me that George had died. She didn't want me to hear about it on the news--she thought it would be best if she told me herself. I sat up in shock--even though he had been so ill, I still expected him to make a full recovery because I couldn't bring myself to accept the fact that he would not be with us physically anymore. I cried all morning but managed to make it to work where everyone was so sweet to me all day. My 8th grade students presented me with a copy of the People magazine tribute to George at our Christmas talent show--what a touching way to let me know they cared.

When I was going into the hospital for surgery in 2004, I took lots of Beatles things with me to keep in my room. I typed up the lyrics to George's song "If You Believe" to take with me for inspiration. That song means so much to me. George means so much to me.

My mother has remarked before, with tears in her eyes, "George was so wise." I agree. To be that serene, one must be that wise, too...

Not only was George wise, but he was kind as well. Tom Petty wrote in George's Rolling Stone tribute that George was the kind of person who would always hug you before you left, letting you know that he loved you. He also gave gifts to his friends--like ukeleles (Tom said George had given him 4 ukes, because, as George said, "You never know when you're going to need one").

I'm sure many of you know the anecdote Ringo recalled on Conan O'Brien's talk show--Ringo had been to visit George when he was really ill. As Ringo was leaving, he told George that he had to go be with his daughter, Lee, who was having surgery to remove a brain tumor. George replied, "Would you like for me to go with you?" Even when he was ill physically, his spirit was seeking to be with one of his best friends while he was dealing with something difficult.

In Beatlefan issue #147, there's an interview with Sam Brown--Joe Brown's daughter who sang on "My Sweet Lord 2000" and performed "Horse to Water" at the Concert for George (one of the highlights of the show!). She recalls something very sweet George and Olivia did for her mother when she was ill from cancer:

George and Olivia were hosting a Trio Bulgarka concert at Friar Park (Trio Bulgarka is a group of traditional Bulgarian singers who have performed on albums by Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel, to name a couple). Sam's mother (who had been a member of Liverpool group the Vernon Girls) loved Trio Bulgarka, but was very ill at the time. George and Olivia invited Sam and her mother to come early in the afternoon to watch the soundcheck. This meant so much to Sam's mother--it was very emotional for her to hear this beautiful music and share it with George and Olivia. It's these little things that we often don't hear about that illustrates what a thoughtful, caring person George was. Olivia is something special, too.

I have had a vivid dream of George. It was night, and he had made a huge camp fire out on a beach. A large group of people, myself included, were huddled at his feet, listening to stories and laughing with him.

As Joe Brown sang as the Concert For George came to a close,
"I'll see you in my dreams..."

(I am unsure as to who it was who created those two beautiful wallpapers I've included here--but whoever you are, thank you for making them five years ago--they still mean a lot to me today.)

Friday, November 24, 2006

"A Reel of Magnetic Tape that Captured a Magic Night"--Lewisohn

"Cranberry sauce"
I hope everyone had a festive Thanksgiving and ate entirely too much of your favorite foods!

November 24, 1966: Forty Years Ago Tonight...

Here are a couple of photos documenting George and Ringo's arrival at EMI Abbey Road Studios the night of Nov. 24th. The Beatles had not been in the studio in five months--not only that, but each had gone his separate way over those months; John filmed How I Won The War, George went to India, and Paul went on safari with Mal Evans. Ringo, left behind those months, felt a bit left out, "I'm sort of out of it there because, with John and Paul, they can still write even though we're sort of not working together. And George can, you know, learn his sitar and do things like that. And I've just been sitting around." Convening at Studio 2, The Beatles began the evening talking, sharing their adventures, and getting reacquainted before work began. George Martin asked what they had for him, and John shouted out, "I've got a good one, for a starter!"

Anticipating this evening, John had perfected his current vision of the song that would introduce The Beatles as truly a studio-only band. EMI engineer Geoff Emerick recounts John's introduction of "Strawberry Fields Forever" to the other Beatles in his book, Here, There and Everywhere: "From the very first note, it was obvious that this new Lennon song was a masterpiece. He had created a gentle, almost mystical tribute to some mysterious place, a place he called 'Strawberry Fields'. I had no idea what the lyric was about, but the words were compelling, like abstract poetry, and there was something magical in the spooky, detatched timbre of John's voice. When he finished, there was a moment of stunned silence, broken by Paul, who in a quiet, respectful tone said simply, 'That is absolutely brilliant'" (p. 135). Inspired and energized, The Beatles immediately began working on the track, figuring out how to embellish and perfect this 'brilliant' song.

Mal and Neil had transported John's own Mellotron from his home in Weybridge to Studio 2, and this evening was the first time it was ever used in a Beatles recording session. For the first take of SFF, Paul set the Mellotron on the brass setting (this was changed to the flute setting for the seventh take). Ringo muffled his snare and tom-toms with tea towels, George added Hawaiian-style slide guitar, and John played rhythm guitar. This simple first take, though beautiful, was only the beginning of a more complex recording that would take shape in the coming days.

November 25, 1966:
The following evening, The Beatles recorded their fourth annual fan club Christmas message, Pantomime: Everywhere It's Christmas, my personal favorite of all the fan club messages. I've included a scan of the psychedelic sleeve painted by Paul. It is a hilarious recording, several "skits" pieced together with Paul's piano playing and all the Beatles' using funny voices and acting out their roles.

(Information gleaned from John Winn's That Magic Feeling; Emerick's Here, There and Everywhere; Andy Babiuk's Beatles Gear; and The Beatles: 365 Days)

Monday, November 13, 2006

An Assortment of Pins and Photos

I have this insatiable obsession with Beatles pinbacks/badges. I'm especially fond of the original '60s pins, but I also enjoy collecting pins from the '70s through to the present. I decided to try and scan a few pins to see how it turned out, so here are some of my favorites from my collection. I'll scan some of my older pins later. I've also included some more ever-lovely John pictures and a strangely-tinted Beatles centerfold (a gorgeous picture nonetheless), scanned by me for the blog.

As other Beatles fans are inevitably doing at this time, I am eagerly anticipating the release of the LOVE soundtrack, as well as Paul's The Space Within Us DVD (which is due tomorrow). Check out the official website for some beautiful psychedelic e-postcards.

We are closely approaching the 40th anniversary of the recording of SFF/Penny Lane and the subsequent Sgt. Pepper sessions. In the coming months we'll delve into these sessions, reflecting on how this legendary album changed popular music, and why it seems to be currently (and unfairly) suffering a critical backlash...

Be sure to leave your comments and opinions as we go down this long and winding road together. Also, if you have any screen capture or photo requests, let me know.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Japanese 45 Picture Sleeves

As a Beatles collector, I love coming across unique items to add to my collection. These Japanese 45s certainly fit the bill, with their gorgeous color photo sleeves and distinctive Japanese touches. I purchased these from my friend Greg who specializes in selling import records and cds. He travels around to many record shows; his inventory can be perused at CVC Collectibles.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Blackpool Night Out Rehearsals: 1 Aug 1965

Many of John's fans have quite a fondness for the various hats he donned through the years. I particularly like this black and white houndstooth checked cap that he wore throughout the day on August 1, 1965, as The Beatles were practicing for their evening performance on ABC-TV's Blackpool Night Out. This was to be their first appearance on British television in over a year, and it ranks among my favorites of The Beatles' televised performances.

The Beatles Monthly crew spent the entire day with The Beatles during rehearsals, so a plethora of candid photos from the day exist. These were all scanned by me (click to enlarge).