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).