Friday, October 27, 2006

"It's Not Too Bad"

While John was in Santa Isabel, Spain filming How I Won The War, he began composing what was to become the pinnacle of British psychedelia and one of his greatest personal creations, "Strawberry Fields Forever." Equipped with a portable tape recorder and a nylon-stringed acoustic guitar, John retreated to his hotel room and documented the genesis of a masterpiece.

Fortunately for us Beatles collectors, virtually every stage in the development of SFF was released on the 1997 Pegboy CD It's Not Too Bad (the original title of the composition). If only we could have the pleasure of observing the creation of every Beatles song in such a manner as this. It's Not Too Bad is certainly one of my favorite Beatlegs of all time--listening to the way John worked, how he fleshed out the lyrics and continued perfecting the sound when he returned to Kenwood in November. An intimate and privileged feeling, being privy to a genius at work. And what a voice! I love the different ways he finger-picks before settling on a strumming style that is best for the song. (It's playing in my headphones as I type.) I imagine John in his attic studio at his mellotron, perfecting overdubs and making up those strange little songs like "Pedro The Fisherman"...Ah, to have been there.

I remember when I first became fully aware of "SFF"--I was 12 years old, and my aunt had a cassette of the "Blue" album. While visiting her, I listened to the tape numerous times. I was a Beatles fan, but since my parents were really only fans of early Beatles music, I had not been exposed to all of their latter material. I immediately became drawn to "SFF" and "Revolution."

Do you ever think about times in the lives of the Beatles you would have loved to have been a part of--not things like the Ed Sullivan Show or Shea Stadium, but those singular moments of magic between the boys? I often think of the time John and Paul shared a joint and wrote out the lyrics to "The Word", proceeding then to paint and decorate the sheet. Can you imagine that? I also think about John's studio in Kenwood and the creations it spawned. Listening to It's Not To Bad at least allows me to imagine what it must have been like. Those of you with a copy may be inspired to give it a listen and allow John to "take you down."

Here are some pictures of John in Santa Isabel with his acoustic guitar, perhaps working on "Strawberry Fields Forever." The color photo of John on the hotel room bed was sent to be by my friend, Mike. (What an amazing picture!!) I've also included a scan of the cover of the Pegboy CD. The other photos are from the December 1966 issue of Look magazine, scanned by me for you. (Click to enlarge.)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

There Is Still A Light That Shines

I just had to express my total support for Paul McCartney as he is going through one of the most difficult times in his life.

It is well documented that Heather Mills has a problem with the truth. Many of her lies have been exposed by those who have known her over the years, and I feel this whole debacle will blow up in her face. She and her legal team apparently leaked the document themselves, as it is against British law to publish such divorce papers in the press. If it was handed to them on a silver platter as this was, I'm sure they would not refrain from plastering it all over the place, however.

It is apparent that Mills cares nothing for her daughter--all she had to do in response to Paul's petition for divorce was to agree that the marriage could not be saved. No dirty laundry aired, no additional pain for both parties. This was done to hurt Paul--to hurt him emotionally, and to destroy his reputation. Heather's obsessive need for attention demanded that she make herself out to be some sort of victim, which is incredibly laughable. Heather has never tried to appear weak or disabled, and now she is playing up these atributes to obtain more money and public sympathy for her plight. I never liked her, but I never thought she would stoop to such a level. (Her hard-core bitch personality would perhaps drive someone to behave in uncharacteristic ways...)

As "TheChief" noted in an SH forum post, Paul McCartney has been scrutinized by the public eye for over over 40 years and never once has he been accused of being a violent person. No ex-girlfriend or lover has popped up with some lurid "tales of drunkeness and cruelty". Linda was married to him for 29 of those years, rarely spending any moment away from him. His children adore their father.

This is all just incredibly ludicrous.

Even if one iota of these claims were true, I'm sure Heather distorted and exaggerated what occurred to benefit herself and make herself out to be the innocent victim. I'm sure their marriage was "stormy", but I'm equally sure she actively participated in and most likely instigated any argument the two had!

Tomorrow I'm wearing a Paul t-shirt and my "I Love Paul" Vari-Vue pin to work, prepared to field any comments headed my way. People who have not kept up with Heather's escapades will need to be educated!

I'm very upset about this. I seriously had a hard time sleeping last night.

Here are some pictures of Paul for all his multitude of fans.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Lennon's Activism--A Journey from Gripweed to Self-Proclaimed Peacenik

As tribute to Richard Lester's Brechtian satire How I Won The War, you will find three articles, two of which were written at the time of filming, and one in retrospect. The first is Neil Aspinall's column in the November 1966 issue of the Beatles Monthly, the second is a re-print of NME's coverage of Lennon in Spain, and the last is a 2004 Uncut article.

Fast forward forty years--currently in theatres, audiences can view a supurb documentary covering Lennon's peace activism and how his political stance struck fear in the Nixon administration. I finally saw The U.S. vs. John Lennon on Friday night--in a theatre containing only my friend, myself, and about eight other "peacenik" John fans. But what an experience it was! I was riveted--I could not take my eyes from the screen. This engaging film tells the story from all sides involved, including radical activists like Bobby Seale, Angela Davis and Tariq Ali as well as former Nixon aide G. Gordon Liddy and former FBI agents involved in the harassment of Lennon and Ono. Anyone interested in this part of U.S. history would be enthralled.

I've read some unfair criticism of the documentary, citing its brushing over of Lennon's Beatles years, and that it fails to mention Julian Lennon at all. (Personally, I was more suprised that there was no mention of the "lost weekend".) The U.S. vs. John Lennon is not a biography; if it was, more attention would need to be paid to The Beatles and Julian. However, this is a documentary covering John's activism, and the inspiration behind it. It is also unfair to say the film portrays Lennon as a saint--on the contrary, he is seen as very human, as someone who was frightened at what was happening to himself and his wife, but not afraid to fight for his right to remain in the U.S. I won't spoil the surprise, and there is one, for anyone wanting to see it--therefore, I advise you to go as soon as possible, before it leaves the big screen. It's astounding to see Lennon larger than life, being his witty self and having the courage to stand up against a whole administration. (It goes without saying that the music will knock you out.)

As the film drew to a close, all ten of us applauded loudly, wiping away tears from our eyes. A few of us lingered as the credits rolled, singing and clapping along to John's "Instant Karma!" What an inspirational evening.

Enjoy these articles and photos from Lennon's first anti-war film (click on scans to enlarge). For a wealth of Gripweed pictures, visit Trini's Breakfast with the Beatles blog.

Monday, October 09, 2006

In His Life

Another post for our John's special day...
These painting were created by Shannon, the preeminent Beatles airbrush artist. The Seven Faces of John Lennon is one of my favorite of her paintings--the life-like quality of her work is astounding.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

It's Johnny's Birthday

John Winston Ono Lennon would have been 66 years old today had he not been physically torn from this world by an assassin's bullets. In spite of the efforts by many to silence him throughout his life, and even after his death through slanderous character assaults, John's words and messages are stronger than ever before--reaching more and more people across the universe. On John's birthday, I find it a most fitting time for us to renew our own committments to peace and social justice. Some suggestions I would like to offer on how to honor John's life and legacy: Please visit Gold Star Families For Peace to read about the current peace campaigns. Perhaps you will be inspired to sign the Codepink Give Peace a Vote petition, or even give monetarily to Camp Casey. Another suggestion is to visit Amnesty International's website and read about their honorable work. You may consider joining this cause as well. Truthout is another resource that can help you stay abreast of current news on the peace front. John's work was not in vain--he helped shape my social consciousness and that of countless others, and for that I am eternally grateful.

Also on this day, John's son Sean is celebrating his 31st birthday. In 1971 when John was celebrating his own 31st, he and Yoko were in Syracuse, NY, for the opening of Yoko's art exhibit, This Is Not Here, at the Everson Museum. That night, John and Yoko celebrated John's birthday with a party on the 7th floor of the downtown Syracuse hotel. Those friends in attendance included Ringo and Maureen Starkey, Phil Spector, Allen Ginsberg, Klaus Voormann, and Jim Keltner. A fun jam session erupted, which was tape recorded and is in circulation on different bootlegs. (I always listen to it on John's birthday, just for fun!) The party was also filmed by Jonas Meklas, and the screen captures above are from the Meklas film. (Phil Spector is exceptionally annoying during these recordings!) The songs that were run through that night include "Yellow Submarine", "Yesterday", "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey" (!), "My Sweet Lord", "He's Got the Whole World in his Hands", "Take This Hammer", "Imagine", etc. John also began composing "Attica State" during this party. You can find the track listing here. I thought it would be very appropriate to commemorate John's 31st as Sean is celebrating his own 31st.

Happy Birthday, John and Sean. Light a candle, listen to your favorite Lennon music, but above all hold on to hope, and spread the message of peace and love in your own way today.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Some of my Favorite Photos

The scan of the first picture comes from my sealed LP of the Lost Lennon Tapes Vol. 33 on Bag Records. (Never opened it because I have the collection on cd; this album is supposedly pressed on pink vinyl--how I've resisted opening it I'll never know.) This is one of my favorite pictures of John, and I've rarely seen it circulating on the Internet; however, I have seen other black and white photos from this shoot elsewhere. I made a small icon of this picture for use on the Beatlelinks Fab Forum a few years ago. The color is vivid--John looks intently into the camera, yet his eyes are still soft. (I also love the royal blue/purple shirt.) There have been many requests for a large scan of this photo!

The second picture is from an original 1964 U.S. teen magazine. John's smile is genuine, and I like the unruly strands of hair sticking out. It seems like a very natural photograph, capturing him at a moment of contentment.

The third photo circulates in a cropped version, so I thought I would include a scan of the entire page. (I found this full photo in a John Lennon tribute magazine from 1980.) It's another exceptional photo. John always looked handsome in a tweed jacket!

The last is from the "Paperback Writer" session. Beatles Monthly photographer Leslie Bryce took a number of great photos that day, particularly close-up captures of John's face, and also many of John playing that beautiful orange Gretch 6120, and wearing those green velvet pants with a rather large zipper for the fly! (More photos from this session to follow).

I am also planning the following upcoming posts: How I Won The War, and a tribute to the genesis of "Strawberry Fields Forever", also some scans of my Japanese 45 picture sleeves. Stay tuned!