Monday, July 21, 2008

Bel-Air Beatles' Poolside Antics!

August 23 - 25, 1964

I recently received a nice email from a reader in Thailand who requested a post of these poolside photos of the Beatles, taken at their Bel-Air retreat during their first full-fledged U.S. tour. (This is the same Hollywood visit when George attempted to throw a drink on a paparazzo at the Whiskey and inadvertently doused Mamie Van Doren!) Despite that snag, from then on, the Beatles looked forward to their mini-vacation in L.A. while touring the States. By '65 and '66 they were partying with the Byrds, Peter Fonda, and Mama Cass during their stay!

The fabulous mansion that served as the Beatles' hideaway was owned by Reginald Owen. During the photo shoot, Jack Wagner, a Capitol Records producer, arrived to conduct what turned out to be a hilarious interview with John and Paul. As this was taking place, George and Ringo continued the photo shoot by the pool (I imagine this was when Ringo brandished his toy pistol as he played "cowboy" for the photographer). Ringo's recollection of the experience:
I loved meeting Burt Lancaster, too. He was great. The first time in L.A. we'd rented a huge house and I turned into a cowboy. I had a poncho and two toy guns and was invited over to Burt Lancaster's and that was how I went. I was all, "Hold it up there now, Burt, this town ain't big enough for the both of us," and he said "What have you got there? Kids' stuff." Later he sent me two real guns, and a real holster: he didn't like me playing with kids' guns. I just wanted to be a cowboy. (Anthology p. 150)
Ringo's wish definitely came true when the Beatles visited Dallas on the last stop of the tour in September--thanks to Mr. Reed Pigman, they went horseback riding and donned cowboy hats! To honor that stop as well, I've included a beautiful photo taken at that time (which I scanned from a teen magazine--click to enlarge).

If you'd like to hear the interview with John and Paul I was referencing, you can find it at Beatlegs Podcasts--you'll know which one by the picture that accompanies it!

(As always, a special thanks to John C. Winn for his immaculate research and well-written books!)

I only scanned three of the above photos (the first one of John and Ringo together, the black and white one of Ringo in the pink towel with the toy gun and the cowboy shot). I collected the other pictures on the Internet over the years. Some of them were provided by killerqueen1946 at the Beatlepics LiveJournal site.

The first vinyl bootleg I ever had was File Under: Beatles on the Gant label, and it had an actual photograph of the Beatles paper clipped to the front, as well as a strip of film from A Hard Day's Night. The photo that came with my copy is the one above where George has tossed the yellow ball into the air. I have it in a small frame on my bookshelf. Apparently each copy came with a different photo and stip of film! I remember hearing John's demo of "Bad to Me" and Paul's demo of "Goodbye" for the first time--pure bliss! Sound quality didn't matter--I finally heard those tracks. So, I have a certain fondness for this photo shoot...Enjoy!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

"Well...I Don't Like Your Tie!"

This post is dedicated to my good friend Mike, one of the most fervent Fab Four fans, who attended the special Sir George Martin "Making of Sgt. Pepper" presentation this past Friday. To celebrate the occasion, here are several pictures of Sir George at work with the Beatles in the studio--some were taken during the "Baby's In Black" session, while the others were snapped as they worked on "Paperback Writer." (Poor Ringo was relegated to a game of chess with Neil Aspinall as the others fine tuned the arrangements!)

My favorites have to be the one where George and John are sharing a laugh, and the one where George Harrison is breaking into a dance during playback!

Here is some information on the Sgt. Pepper presentation:

"The Making Of Sgt. Pepper"
July 11, 2008

University of Southern California, Bovard Auditorium, Los Angeles,
Reception: 7 p.m., Presentation: 8 p.m.

"The Making Of Sgt. Pepper" will feature an intimate reception and multimedia presentation by legendary six-time GRAMMY winner George Martin. Including music from the Beatles, video appearances by Phil Collins, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, and archive video of George Harrison, Martin will take the audience on a historical ride through Abbey Road Studios and the heart of the creative process that helped change popular music forever.

I can't wait to hear all about it!

Also, George Martin was recognized for his humanitarian and charitable contributions:

Beatles' widows honor producer George Martin

By Sue Zeidler

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The widows of former Beatles John Lennon and George Harrison led an all-star tribute on Saturday to Sir George Martin, the producer who molded the Fab Four into the world's most important pop music force.

Martin, 82, received the Grammy Foundation Leadership Award, in recognition of his humanitarian and charitable efforts, during a dinner and concert featuring the likes of singer Tom Jones and rock guitarist Jeff Beck.

"Awards don't come much better than this," said Martin. "I've been so lucky to work with so many wonderful people, and great talent all my life...I miss so many people who have died on me."

He was referring to Lennon, who was murdered in 1980 and Harrison, who died of cancer in 2001. Their respective widows, Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison, chaired the event at the University of Southern California. Surviving Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr were also listed as event chairs -- a ceremonial title -- but were not present.

The performers have all worked with Martin, who remained busy producing artists after the Beatles broke up. Others on the bill included the band America, composer Burt Bacharach, pianist Dave Grusin, and singer Michael McDonald.

Martin produced jazz, comedy and classical albums before signing the Beatles in 1962. Although the youngsters were rough around the edges, he thought they might have commercial promise. As both mentor and collaborator, he produced nearly all the Beatles' recordings.

Martin was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1996 and named by the Guinness World Records as the most successful producer ever, with more than 50 No. 1 hit records over five decades in the United States and Great Britain alone.

In 2006, he worked with his son Giles, to develop the Beatles-inspired Cirque du Soleil show "Love" in Las Vegas. The accompanying soundtrack album won two Grammys this year.

*And on a personal note, I'd like to congratulate the Invaders on their 200th show! Last night was so much fun! Love you guys! *
(As usual, you may click on the photos to enlarge them.)

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Peace & Love in Nashville

Greetings, readers! I have returned from Nashville, and after an evening of rest, I am ready to write about the July 6th All-Starrs concert at the Wildhorse Saloon. I took my mother to the concert for her birthday gift this year.

Despite my many visits to Nashville over the years, I had yet to attend a concert at the Wildhorse, so I wondered if the venue would be conducive to an enjoyable concert experience. We arrived there about 5:55, and the lines for entry were stretching for many blocks in two different directions! We found where we should be and began chatting with friendly fellow fans (and my buddy Robert) while waiting in the oppressive heat. Fortunately, the doors soon opened, and we quickly filed in to find our table. We were seated to the left at a tall table, giving us a perfect view of the stage. The floor in front of the stage was lined with banquet tables stretching to the back of the club. General admission ticket holders were seated on the upper tier balconies and appeared to have a good view as well. We were seated with a very nice man and his equally polite 14 year-old son who wanted to take in the experience of seeing the legendary Ringo at his kit, as he is a burgeoning drummer himself. (I suggested he also get to know the work of Keith Moon as soon as possible!) The delicious food and good company certainly enhanced our mood as we anticipated the beginning of the concert.

As the lights dimmed and the band took the stage, Ringo entered to the intro of "With A Little Help from my Friends" and segued into "It Don't Come Easy." Fans held up signs wishing him a happy early birthday, which Ringo graciously acknowledged. (I had slaved over an ornate sign myself, but I was obscured in the darkness, so he never saw it.) Ringo then chatted with the crowd, making several humorous comments, such as "The last time I was in Nashville, some of you weren't bald (born?) yet." (I believe he forgot that he was there 8 years ago.) He sort of mentioned Beaucoups of Blues in a round about way. Ringo dismissed one eager fan at the front, who was holding an album cover and pen, and apparently asking for an autograph: "I'm not going to sign your damn album! We've got a show to do!" He then proceeded to talk about the writing of the next song--"What Goes On." He followed this with "Memphis In Your Mind" from the Ringo Rama album.

Ringo then went to his kit to drum for the All-Starrs, who were all highly energetic and extremely talented. Billy Squier is an excellent hard rock guitarist, so the night was filled with those classic rock touches. I noticed one young girl was wearing a Billy Squier t-shirt, so she was clearly there to see him! He began the All-Starr set with "Lonely is the Night," followed by the Texas Tornado, Mr. Edgar Winter, performing "Free Ride." Edgar Winter really stole the show--he wailed on alto and tenor sax, marched about the stage with his portable keyboard, and kept the crowd in a frenzy. He was perhaps my favorite, followed by Gary Wright and Colin Hay.
Gary Wright appeared to be a very peaceful, friendly soul. He explained how George Harrison was the impetus behind his most famous composition, "Dream Weaver." Gary first met Ringo when the both performed on George's All Things Must Pass album. Gary had gone to India with George, and there George had given him a book of spiritual poems, one of which contained a line about weaving dreams. Gary went to his song journal and began writing the lyrics to what became "Dream Weaver." After the song, Ringo quipped, "George Harrison never gave me a book!" (I mumbled under my breath, "What about a book of Beethoven's poems?" You Beatles obsessives will know what I mean.)

Ringo performed "Boys" behind the kit, introducing it as a Rory Storm and the Hurricane's fave, and I think I was more into this song than many of the others there. I do believe I was the most enthusiastic person sitting in my vicinity, though some fans seated at the long tables down from us were really into the show. After "Boys" Hamish Stuart (of the Average White Band) led the band with the white funk classic "Pick Up the Pieces." Ringo returned to the front for "Liverpool 8." He mentioned Dave Stewart--I screamed my acknowledgement, but no one else did! Ringo joked, "I see he is very famous in Nashville!" He also talked about the Liverpool 8 album. As he introduced "Act Naturally" he talked about his love for Nashville's music and writing songs with people from the city. He also acknowledged that Barbara Orbison, Roy's widow, was in the audience. When introducing "Yellow Submarine," he mentioned, "If you don't know this song, you're in the wrong venue!"

Edgar and Gary shone in the solo spotlight this night. Edgar gave an amazing rendition of "Stormy Monday" that was soulful and moving. Ringo did not return to the stage unto after "Frankenstein," which seemed to be the crowd favorite of the evening! When he returned, he had changed clothes into a navy western shirt and faded dark jeans. He then dedicated "Never Without You" to George, and then followed it with "Choose Love." Ringo went behind the kit as Billy Squire then performed his most famous song and classic rock staple, "The Stroke." (Sadly, he didn't do "My Kind of Lover" or "Everybody Wants You.") Hamish led again with "I Got Work To Do" before Ringo did "I Wanna Be Your Man," which he dedicated to all the women in the venue. At one segment, Ringo pointed out one woman, saying she looked like an angel with the light falling around her hair. When someone jumped in to steal the attention, he admonished him/her--"No, not you in the checked shirt! Her!" I loved that he performed the songs he always did in concert with the Beatles. Ringo also made some jokes about homemade gifts from younger fans--a star-shaped birthday card that had been placed on the stage and a t-shirt one fan was wearing. "I've got kids. If they spit on a piece of paper it went right up on the refrigerator!" The concert continued with "Love Is Alive" (Gary), "Who Can It Be Now" (Colin), "Photograph," and "Oh, My My" (which was guessed by a knowledgeable fan when Ringo mentioned "one we've never done before"). A woman yelled out, "I love you, Ringo!" to which he replied, "I love you, too! It's nice when it's a young high voice saying it. At some shows you get these ( said with a gruff, manly voice) I love you, Ringo." Then, Ringo explained that he thought the concept of these fake encores were stupid, "you know we're coming back anyway," but he still wanted the crowd to cheer as if the band had left the stage. To conclude, the band performed "With A Little Help" and the refrain of "Give Peace A Chance." Ringo had discussed his plan for everyone to say "Peace & Love" and flash the peace sign at noon on his birthday. I believe Ringo was genuinely surprised with former Roundhead/songwriting partner and Nashville resident Gary Burr joined
the band on stage for the encore. He must have been hanging out backstage. I was glad things were amicable between them. Gary is a very nice guy and such a huge Beatles fan.

We had a wonderful time--I recommend the show for anyone who is looking for a fun night out, even if this type of music isn't necessarily your thing. You'll be surprised as to how much you'll enjoy their showmanship, enthusiasm and talent, and you'll leave respecting them even more. Of course, it's always amazing seeing a former Beatle in the flesh! Ringo looked and sounded fantastic. It's hard to believe he is 68 years old! By the way, the merchandise is plentiful and quite expensive--$40 t-shirts!--Ringo is also selling signed prints of his artwork.

(The above article is from the July 2001 issue of MOJO, and was sent to me from my friend Jeff--an excellent interview with Ringo!)