Saturday, April 28, 2007

Mystery Solved?

February 28, 1967:

While looking through some Beatles Forever magazines from 1976, I came across the top 3 photos taken at Abbey Road's Studio 2. At first, I was not able to determine the session at which they were taken, so I immediately got online and opened Ken Wood's Sgt. Pepper Sessions Photo Page. He has two of the photos in the "unknown" section, but he did not have a scan of the picture of John that's at the top. After looking through photographs and doing a little research, I have come to the conclusion that those 3 photos were taken during the rehearsal sessions for "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" on February 28, 1967. John appears to have removed his jacket and cape, revealing more of the green and purple striped shirt whose collar could only be glimpsed in previous photos. He's also wearing the same shoes. Though he is playing his blue Strat in the color photo, he's moved on to his Epiphone Casino (with it's Japanese charm around the neck) for these pictures. Ringo seems to have on the psychedelic tie he was wearing in the "pink" background photos (that appear to have been taken at the studio, too). George has on that long black coat as well. In the third picture, it seems to me that Paul is playing the Lowery organ off to the right, and George has removed the long black coat, but otherwise everything is the same.

Earlier in the day, LIFE magazine had arrived at Kenwood (edit: It has been determined that the photos were taken at Ringo's home Sunny Heights) to photograph the Beatles in their new Sgt. Pepper look. The photos of John wearing that beautiful Victorian military tunic are from that session. Later they accompanied the Beatles to Abbey Road, and that is perhaps where the photos where John is wearing a cape (or two) and the lads having a cuppa were taken. The photographers also stayed to watch the rehearsal, during which George Martin commented that nothing was going to be finished that night. Eight hours later, the rehearsal was over.

So, what do you think? I've included many pictures from that day, though this post is not meant to be comprehensive. I only scanned the top 3; the others have come from various places over the years that I managed to save on my hard drive--thanks to all those who share their Beatles' photos! If you click on some of the photos, their actual size may be larger.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Dream, Dream Away

I wish I could be in London tonight. I would love to be a part of the 40th anniversary celebration of the legendary 14-Hour Technicolour Dream, and get to see The Pretty Things perform, as well as the Syd Barrett-themed play, Madcap. Here is some information about the happening tonight, sent in a mailout from The Freak Emporium (my favorite UK online music store):


To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the 14-Hour Technicolor Dream, held in April 1967 at Alexandra Palace, the ICA is proud to present an array of rarely seen 60s films, full-on lightshows, avant-garde theatre, a Q&A session with the leading lights of the 60s underground and a range of bands both old and new.

Film screening 1: What’s A Happening?

In conjunction with the BFI, we bring you an hour and a half of rare, lost and unseen psychedelic masterpieces, including the BBC documentary about the original Alexandra Palace event, Anthony Stern’s 1968 “San Francisco”, which features an unreleased Pink Floyd soundtrack, a Jeff Keen trilogy and Arthur Johns’ extraordinary ‘Solar Flares Burn For You’.

Film screening 2: Weird and wonderful 60s animation

In 1967, Dick Arnall launched the first London animation festival, and in tribute to his work, we present a dizzying array on multi-national cartoon craziness, including Jan Lenica’s ‘Labyrinth’, ‘Les Jeux des Anges’ by Walerian Borowczyk, Ryan Larkin’s Oscar-nominated ‘Walking’ and two Jan Svankmejer shorts.

Film screening 3: Boyle Family films with music by Soft Machine

Mark Boyle and Joan Hills were pioneers of British projections and their liquid light show was a major feature of the 60s psychedelic scene.

Their farewell 'lightshow' films, Beyond Image and Son of Beyond Image were shot for a circular screen environment and will be remixed live by Joan Hills and Sebastian Boyle to a recording of Soft Machine.

Tell it like it was: The round table speaks

60s underground luminaries like record producer Joe Boyd, International Times journalist and Indica Books main man Miles, Indica Gallery founder John Dunbar, Social Deviant, agent provocateur and general ne’er-do-well Mick Farren UFO visionary and organiser of the 14-Hour Technicolor Dream, Hoppy Hopkins, offer their takes on what the event was like, where it came from and where it ended up.

Freak out, Ethel! An evening of musical mayhem

To a backdrop of the mind-blowing Optinkinetics lightshow, Britain's finest neo-medieval psychedelic folk-rock band Circulus, the original God of Hellfire, Arthur Brown and the group behind the first rock opera, ‘S.F. Sorrow’, rabble-rousing R’n’B hooligans turned psychedelic pranksters The Pretty Things tune in, turn up and freak out! The bands are preceded by Malcolm Boyle’s one-man Syd Barrett-themed play, Madcap.

April 29-30, 1967:

The 14-Hour Technicolour Dream was held at the Alexandra Palace, affectionately known as the "Ally Pally" and "The People's Palace." The happening was held to benefit the International Times underground newspaper, which had been raided by police on charges of obscenity. Many of my favorite bands played at this underground party, including Pink Floyd (with Syd), The Pretty Things, The Move, The Creation, The Soft Machine, and Tomorrow, as well as many others. Yoko Ono also hosted a performance art piece entitled "Happening" where attendees were given scissors and instructed to cut away at bras and panties being worn by models.

Surprisingly, Paul did not attend the Dream (Paul was actively involved with IT and Indica)--it was John, who had been at home tripping with Indica gallery co-owner John Dunbar. They saw something about the event on television and spontaneously decided to attend. This was a new experience for homebody John, though he apparently enjoyed the experience. According to IT editor Mick Farren: "I swear I saw Lennon standing in [the] zone of dissonance moving forward and back looking quite fascinated." Lennon, Dunbar and chauffeur Terry Doran left before Pink Floyd took the stage.

I've included some screen captures of John and other ravers, taken from Peter Whitehead's footage filmed at the event and later added to his film, Pink Floyd '66 - '67. (I'm sure Syd would appreciate John being prominently featured, as Lennon was his musical hero.) Also included here are scans of a reprint of an original Melody Maker article about the Dream, a picture of Pink Floyd playing at the Dream, and a picture of the psychedelic poster created to advertise it.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

So, You Wanna Be A Rock 'N' Roll Star

February 22, 1967:

Beatles Monthly photographer Leslie Bryce and editor Johnny Dean were granted access to document an important overdub session for "A Day in the Life" the evening of February 22, 1967. Dissatisfied with the previously recorded "hums" ending of the song, Paul came up with an idea to use a piano chord instead. John, Paul, Ringo, and Mal attempted nine takes of a synchronized E chord, hoping to capture a massive sound that seemed to extend into infinity. The perfected take is actually one minute long, from the striking of the keys until the last sound fades away. One can actually hear a piano bench squeak and the air conditioning at Abbey Road turn on before the last vibration dissolves. The pianos produce such a majestic ending, very appropriate, and a vast improvement over the hum! (The hums ending can be heard on the Anthology Directors Cut and the Yellow Dog A Day in the Life boot. It was nice to finally hear it, but it's easy to see why they had to find a "suitable ending.")

According to engineer Geoff Emerick, it was after this session that George Harrison arrived at the studio with Byrds' member David Crosby, who was in London for a promotional tour. John jokingly chastised George for missing the session, but soon a party atmosphere emerged. The studio was filled with many guests, including Teenset editor Judith Sims (a color photo of Paul at the drums would be a future cover for the magazine), Alistair Taylor, Peter Brown (who can be glimpsed in between John and George in a picture above), folk singer Shawn Phillips, Ravi Shankar's brother, and George's wife Pattie.

As the visitors chatted, John introduced "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" to Ringo and Paul using his Gibson J-160E acoustic, moving on to a piano next. When John was finished, Paul ran through "Lovely Rita" on piano, the song the Beatles were planning on recording at the next session. As Paul ran through the song, Mal and Neil jotted down any changes Paul made in the lyrics. Everyone added some ideas for lyrical changes, often comical in nature!

Once the informal run-throughs were complete, an "end of session experiment" began. Paul spent a few minutes on the drums before handing them over to Ringo. The other Beatles (and I'd imagine some of the guests, too) began playing congas, tambourines, etc. Three tracks of a four-track tape were filled with this experiment in sound--20 minutes in the making. I wonder what this sounds like, because it has never been bootlegged or emerged in any other fashion. (This would definitely be something that should appear on a dream Sgt. Pepper 40th anniversary box set!) Apparently most of their sessions in 1967 ended with a sort of jam session. Nine hours after it began the session ended; the Beatles, their guests and friends then departed for a bit of repose before the next night's session.

(I would give anything to have been able to witness a Beatles recording session. I don't think my heart could contain such joy. I'm the kind of girl who's idea of a splendid evening is putting on the four CD set of Studio Sessions at Abbey Road, slapping on the headphones, reading along with John Winn's books, and imagining what it would be like to actually be there with them in the middle of those beautiful moments.)

These pictures document the proceedings of the evening--it's amazing to be able to see John run through "Lucy" on the Gibson, and David Crosby laugh with the lads...Enjoy the beautiful photos. Click to enlarge, as usual. I love the Beatles' fashions, particularly John's "Down With Pants" badge.

By the way: I get a little sad seeing the photos of Mal and Neil. I wish Neil lots of love, and many thanks for his years of service and devotion to the boys we all adore. We wouldn't have the Anthology if it weren't for him!

(References: Scans from the April 1967 and October 1991 issues of The Beatles Book Monthly; information from The Best of the Beatles Book, p. 182) A small request: if you post these photos on other sites, please credit where you found them or link back. Thank you!