Category Archives: Music

Neil Aspinall was one of The Beatles' longest and most trusted friends and laster head of their Apple Corp.

Tribute To Neil Aspinall: The Beatles’ Guardian Angel

Tribute to Neil Aspinall: The Beatles’ Guardian Angel by Alan Chrisman , copyright 2012. 

No one was more trusted by The Beatles than Neil Aspinall( who died on Mar. 24, 2008).  .  He was director of their Apple Records for 30 years after Brian Epstein and Allan Klein. He had started out in Liverpool at their very beginnings, driving them around in his van to their early shows and was their road manager.  He had been in the same class as Paul McCartney and knew George Harrison at Liverpool Institute and met John Lennon attending his first term at the Liverpool College of Art next door.

He became very good friends with Pete Best, original Beatles’ drummer and stayed at his house, where the Beatles first played Pete’s mother’s club, The Casbah, before The Cavern.  And when The Beatles replaced Best with Ringo, Pete advised him to continue working with The Beatles, despite their close friendship.

Neil Aspinall's van with original Beatles, including his friend, Pete Best

Neil Aspinall’s van which he drove early Beatles to shows with original Beatles, including his friend, Pete Best

Aspinall traveled with them to America and when George became sick, he stood in for him at rehearsals for the Ed Sullivan Show.  He would also accompany them to promote the founding of their Apple Corp. in 1968. It was his idea to have a Sgt. Pepper as the narrator of their land-breaking album.  He also participated in  the recording of “For The Benefit of Mr. Kite”, “Within You, Without You”, on “Magical Mystery Tour” and “Yellow Submarine.”

Neil Aspinall’s Van in which he drove early Beatles (including above, Pete Best) to their shows, outside The Cavern.

But his main role besides being their personal assistant along with Mal Evans, was their confidant and protector.  When Klein tried to “clean house” to save money at Apple and even let go of Aspinall, all the Beatles came to his rescue.  After Klein and The Beatles parted ways, Aspinall, who was trained as an accountant, was asked by them to take over the running of Apple.  Even during this period when The Beatles had split up and were suing each other, he was always able to maintain an impartiality with each of them, which couldn’t have been easy at times.  He would be instrumental in fighting for several lawsuits for them against Apple Computers and their EMI Record Company.

It was Neil Aspinall’s idea for the later very successful Beatles’ Anthologies in the early 90’s.  He had started working on compiling their official history as early as 1970 under the original title, “The Long and Winding Road.”

Although he had many lucrative offers to reveal inside secrets about The Beatles, he never did, maintaining their loyalty and trust until his death of lung cancer in 2008 (like George Harrison, whom he had first met sharing smokes behind a schoolyard shed).

A couple things which some people may not know:  While Neil Aspinall was staying at Pete Best’s place, the 19 year-old had a relationship with Pete’s mother, who ran The Casbah.  The result was the birth of Roag Best, Pete’s half-brother .  Pete and his brother, Roag, were musical guests at 1st. first Ottawa Beatles Convention which I organized in 1995.  It was there where I learned of this, for a long time, little-known connection between the two and this was during the release of the 1st Beatles Anthology.  By the next year, when Pete came back to play during my second Convention week, Pete had become a millionaire “overnight” (30 years having been dismissed by The Beatles, with no explanation), because he was on several songs on the Anthology. I’ve always wondered if Neil Aspinall hadn’t had something to do with Pete finally getting his due, since it had been his idea, as I said, for The Anthologies. It wouldn’t surprise me a bit, as Aspinall seemed to always strive for fairness for everyone.

Pete Best Band, including Pete's half-brother, Roag( and Neil Aspinall's son), guest at 1st Ottawa Beatles Convention

Pete Best Band, including Pete’s half-brother, Roag, (and Neil Aspinall’s son)

Pete Best Band (Including Neil Aspinall’s son and Pete’s half-brother, Roag, left) were  musical guests at the 1st Ottawa Beatles Convention.

Another interesting story is that my friend, Yury Pelyushonok, actually got to know Neil Aspinall a bit.  Neil had taken a liking to my Russ. Cdn. friend, Yury Pelyushonok and Yury’s book, Strings for A Beatle Bass, about how The Beatles helped bring down communism and Yury had been to see Aspinall in London at Apple headquarters a few times. This is an excerpt from my previous blog about how that originally came about:  “Yury was going to London, in April, 2000, and I suggested he leave a copy of his book with the Beatles’ manager, Neil Aspinall (the BBC lady had given me his contact at the Connecticut convention in’94, because I had alerted her about a dealer that was trying to sell a rare BBC film, which she got back).  Yury did leave a book there and upon returning, he called me one morning and said he’d had a dream, that Neil Aspinall had called me.  I’d always wanted to meet Aspinall because he had been there since the beginning and was their closest confidant.  And the very next day Yury calls me back and says, “Guess who just called?” I said “Who?”  He says, “Paul McCartney’s personal assistant, Geoff Baker!”

The Beatles’ record company, Apple, would also later call back for more copies for George and Ringo.  Yury went back to the Beatles’ headquarters a couple more times to discuss the possibility they would publish his book.  Neil Aspinall told him in advance that Paul McCartney was to play in Red Square in May, 2003; it was to be a world event.  Yury had taken a lot of flak for suggesting that the Beatles could have helped bring down Communism.   But Yury was interviewed in N.Y. on ABC- TV “BEATLES REVOLUTION” in 2000 with several celebrities  who agreed,  including Czech  director Milos Forman and Keith Richards (“What brought it down, in the end,  was blues jeans and Rock N’ Roll”).  And there was soon to be growing evidence that what Yury had first said, was indeed true.

Yury Pelyushonok's book,

Yury Pelyushonok’s book, ” Strings For A Beatle Bass’, about how Beatles helped bring down communism

Yury Pelyushonok’s book above, about how Beatles helped bring down communism.

Yury’s book and experiences were to partly inspire BBC film director, Leslie Woodhead’s film, HOW THE BEATLES ROCKED THE KREMLIN  Finally in 2009, the film was completed and shown on PBS in the States and CBC in Canada, in conjunction with the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall in ’89.  The film and idea got write-ups in the L.A. Times, Toronto Globe and Mail, etc.  Yury was interviewed again by the Ottawa Citizen.  And the film has since been repeated several times on both PBS and the CBC.  In 2013, Mr. Woodhead released a book of the same title, chronicling the making of his film, including a whole chapter on Yury and the visit to Ottawa in 2007 (including about the day we shot the video and both Tony Copple of The Ottawa Beatles Site and I, are described in it) to film an interview with Yury and the video shooting of his song, “Yeah Yeah Virus”. It is used as a theme throughout the film.  Yury had also told me about a call he received from Aspinall around the time of the premiere of The Beatles’ Love show and by Cirque du Soleil in 2006.  Aspinall put on the phone briefly an oriental woman (Yoko?), as Aspinall was still working on helping Yury get his book known up until close to his death.  As I said, he seemed to have taken a liking to my friend, Yury, and that was the kind of gentleman, Aspinall was.

My friend, Yury with Neil Aspinall at Beatles headquarters, London

My friend, Yury with Neil Aspinall at Beatles’ Apple Corp. , London

It was my friend, Yury, above with Neil Aspinall at The Beatles’ Apple Corp. London, which first described him as The Beatles’ earthly Guardian Angel.

Below video of those special few, including Neil Aspinall, who helped The Beatles, behind the scenes:

https://youtu.be/pBh47-WOk3Q

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"blurred Lines", 2013 Robin Thick hit , court rules was "copied" from Marvin Gaye's song, Got To Give It Up."

“BLURRED LINES”: Inspired By Or Rip-Offs?

“BLURRED LINES”: INSPIRED BY OR RIP-OFFS?

By Alan Chrisman (All Articles ARE written BY ALAN CHRISMAN), copyright 2012-2015 (A Praveen Patel has tried to hack them and claim them.)

A court recently ruled that Robin Thicke’s and Pharrall William’s 2013 hit, “Blurred Lines”, was a copy of Marvin Gaye’s, “Got to Get It On”, and awarded $7.4 million to Gaye’s heirs.  “Blurred Lines” already had a history of controversy because some women have complained of its “sexist” lyrics and stance. Its original uncensored nudity version video had been banned. Its creators have said this was always a part of their marketing plan and it became a massive hit.

Marvin Gaye is one of the most respected soul singers and writers of the 60’s and 70’s with many hits such as “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” and classic albums like,  What’s Going On and Sexual Healing.  It’s interesting that Gaye originally didn’t even want to record the song. He only did so because he was under pressure from his record company, Motown, to write and record a “disco” song (which he didn’t like, as he preferred jazz and funk) and because he was going through a divorce and needed money. He wrote it as satire of the genre and, surprisingly, it became a big hit in 1977.  Gaye was later shot and killed by his father during an argument in 1984. He left no insurance, but his children inherited his copyrights and they are the ones who won the lawsuit.

Marvin Gaye is one of the 60's and 70's top composers and singers

Marvin Gaye is one of the 60’s and 70’s top soul singers and composers

But it again raises a long standing question in pop music.  Just when does a song and composer cross that “blurred line” into not only being influenced and inspired to actually “stealing” it?  Rock is filled with cases of copyright infringement.

George Harrison was accused of “subconsciously plagiarizing” his biggest 1971 hit, “My Sweet Lord”, from The Chiffons’ 1962 song, “He’s So Fine” and ordered to pay its copyright owners royalties.  Harrison did admit that he was influenced by a traditional, but out-of-copyright gospel song, “Oh Happy Day.” The twist, is that The Beatles’ former manager, Allen Klein, later acquired the rights to the Chiffons’ song. Harrison, after several years, eventually settled by paying Klein’s company a half a million dollars, which Klein had paid for the song, but Harrison regained control of “My Sweet Lord’s” rights. Harrison expressed his answer to the whole dispute with his tongue-in–cheek 1976 ,“Your Song.”(There’s nothing ‘bright’ about it; Bright Tunes, Inc. was the original owner of “He’s So Fine.”) Ringo has said,” good artists steal and bad ones borrow. “ Meaning perhaps, if you’re going to copy your idols you should at least be up-front about it.

“This Song”, George Harrison’s answer to being charged with “subconsciously plagiarizing ” My Sweet Lord.”

In this age of sampling and the internet, it’s become increasingly more and more difficult to protect a creator’s original work. Williams (who wrote most of it) and Thicke say they wrote “ Blurred Lines” in less than an hour, trying to capture Gaye’s “groove and spirit.” Some have said, perhaps all along, they should have given part credit to Gaye. Now they will have to share in the more than $17 million the tune has made so far.  Lawyers for the Gaye family say they will also now try to stop the song being distributed until they can be assured they will get a proper accounting.  Ringo has said “ good artists steal anfd bad artists borrow

As I said, these are only a couple of the better-known of many, many copyright infringement cases over the years. And again it continues the on-going debate-just when does a song and new artist overstep the “Blurred Lines” of original creation?

George Harrison’s “This Song”, about “subconsciously plagiarizing” My Sweet Lord ”:

Judge other “copy” songs below for yourself:

“Blurred Lines” and Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up” comparison:

https://youtu.be/ziz9HW2ZmmY

And below the Top 10 “Sound-alike” songs:

https://youtu.be/1GWMvCXdsG4

Hi Fidelity, 2000 film with John Cusack, one of best films about music and relationships

Relationships: “It’s Complicated!”

RELATIONSHIPS: “IT’S COMPLICATED!”

There’s a section on G+ where people can describe their relationship. I noticed several people chose-“it’s complicated.”  Relationships, you know those things, most of us are either in, trying to recover from or are dreaming for.

Almost every pop song and most movies and novels are at least partly about these three states of relationships, so it’s a main part of the human condition.

Recently, I ran across and read two books which are somewhat both alike, but different. They are both memoirs and are two of the funniest books I’ve read in a long time. The first is Speedbumps (Flooring it Through Hollywood) by comic- actress, Teri Garr.  The other is Five Men Who Broke My Heart by New York writer Susan Shapiro.  Both are both heartfelt and hilarious.

Teri Garr, before she became known as an  actress, was in 9 Elvis movies as a dancer and got to hang out with The Beatles, even attending their recording of “Yellow Submarine” and club-hopping in London with them.

She was also in several acclaimed movies: Young Frankenstein (with Gene Wilder, Oh God (with John Denver and George Burns), Mr. Mom (with Michael Keaton) and Close Encounters of The Third Kind (with Richard Dreyfuss) and Tootsie (with Dustin Hoffman) for which she was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award.  Others may know her from her several appearances on David Letterman Show (one infamous one in which Dave persuaded her to take a shower).  She also later had a recurring role as Phoebe’s mother on Friends.

Terri Garr & gene Wilder from film, Young Frankenstein

Teri Garr and Gene Wilder from film, Young Frankenstein

But it wasn’t always so easy for her. Her father was an often out-of-work vaudevillian and an alcoholic gambler and her mother had been a dancing Rockette.   Her mother would pack up her children and follow her husband from city to city.  When her father died, she decided to “get serious” at an early age and become a dancer.  It was at one of those dance classes that she was chosen to be in her first Elvis movie, Viva Las Vegas in 1964 and became friends with him.  She was also in Pajama Party with Annette Funicello and was a go–go dancer in the 60’s TV shows, Shindig, Hullabaloo.  But she struggled between jobs, taking commercials, anything.  Because of the unsettled childhood she’d had, she most wanted her own financial security and a career, always worried about the next job, becoming a workaholic even.  And at first, nobody took her seriously as an actress.  She reveals the other side of Hollywood and the behind the scenes of  movie sets and describes her friendships with several other struggling actors  at the time, Rob Reiner, Albert Brooks, Harrison Ford, Richard Dreyfuss, Steve Martin, Denis Hopper, Jack Nicholson, Cher, etc.

By the time she was in her late 30’s, she realized she needed to slow down a bit and find a stable relationship and still have a child, but it continued to remain elusive.  Finally she got her daughter, Molly, through an adoption.  But she began to have more and more symptoms of her long misdiagnosed disease MS.  She’s had to learn to live with it (it comes and goes) and has become a National Ambassador for its organization and spends a lot of her time speaking about her experiences with it. She’s become a very strong person through all she’s gone through and she never seems to have never lost her devastating humor. Her book is full of her sarcastic observations of the ups and downs of herfascinating life.

The other memoir, Five Men Who Broke My Heart, by Susan Shapiro, is about a woman struggling in her career to be a writer and feeling older too without a child. She has been in a five year marriage with a workaholic writer for Seinfeld and Saturday Night Live and the Simpsons, but she is going through a mid-life crises.  So she convinces one of her magazine editors to let her do a story on going back to five of her former boyfriends to see what went wrong with each. Somehow her patient husband who’s pre-occupied with his own booming career allows her to pursue this.

Five Men Who Broke My Heart, a funny revealing memoir by Susan Shapiro, about going back to interview her old boyfriends.

Five Men Who Broke My Heart, by Susan Shapiro, a very funny, revealing memoir about going back to interview her old boyfriends

When she does finally track down her past lovers, she discovers that they haven’t turned out quite the way she remembered them. Of course, it’s also her attempt to catch back up with her fleeting youth.  She describes her own somewhat in a different way childhood, trying to be successful like both her doctor father and her domestic mother.  She has been living in New York City but grew up in Michigan.  She and her family and milieu are Jewish and they have a special kind of humor and she writes great, smart one-liners.  Her life could almost be like out of a Woody Allen movie, it’s so funny and poignant at the same time. Also her journey going back to question old lovers reminded me of the Nick Hornby book and film, Hi Fidelity. John Cusack plays a record store owner who’s having relationship problems and tries to go back and understand why his previous relationships fell apart.  It’s a classic 2000 movie about love and music and their effect on each other (it was also comic actor, Jack Black’s breakthrough role as the snarky record clerk).

So I recommend these books, Teri Garr’s and Susan Shapiro’s bitingly funny memoirs, and the book and movie, Hi Fidelity, about both the joys and pains of relationships.

 

The Beatles were made up of 4 separate personalities which people could relate diffently

POP MUSIC and POP IDOLS: WHAT THEY TELL US ABOUT OURSELVES

POP MUSIC and POP IDOLS:  WHAT THEY TELL US ABOUT OURSELVES

By Alan Chrisman (All Articles ARE written BY ALAN CHRISMAN), copyright 2012-2015 (A Praveen Patel has tried to hack them and claim them.)

I’ve always been fascinated why people liked certain kinds of music and artists and if that said anything about them and us.

I began to believe it could tell us something about ourselves. I also observed how our preference for certain musicians and pop artists and their creations often reflected our own views and how we saw ourselves.  Humans are very social animals and we evolved to mainly be accepted by others-like us.  In fact, the growth and our current constant access to media, has only accelerated this and the obsession with pop celebrities and celebrity culture. There has always been celebrity worship, but we now live in an essentially secular culture, which has basically replaced many of our traditional institutions like religion and the nuclear family.  We now find our communities and “friends” through often less personal connections.

I have some practical everyday knowledge in this area because I ran record stores for several years.  One of the things I would do when people came into my store for the first time, was ask them what kind of music they liked.  Many would say, “Oh, I like everything.” Then I would say, ”Well then, who’s your favorite artist?”  Again, they would often, at first, say, “I don’t have any.” Now I knew that wasn’t probably true, having as I said, run stores for a long time, and it didn’t help me direct them towards the section they were most likely to purchase from.

So I knew I’d have to probe further if I was to help guide them to the right area. Then I’d say, “Do you like rap (or disco or country)”. I had learned a lot of people didn’t, especially, like those genres.  And they would often say, “No, I don’t like them.”  But it was really to get them to open up a little more.  And often, after a couple minutes of thinking about it, they might say, “Well, I kind of like the blues and the 60’s”, for example.  At least now I had a starting point. Then they might say,“ Actually, I like Eric Clapton.”  I could then direct them to that section.  But if they liked Eric Clapton, they often already had most things by him, so I might suggest something similar-guitar-driven, blues-based, maybe not so well-known, but somewhat alike, because I was always trying to expose people to new music. Fortunately, my stores were second hand and I could play them for them.  Some of these first time visitors would then become regulars and I got to know what they liked for the future.  The other thing is after doing this for several years, I could often even guess what people might chose, just based on my own experience, how they were dressed, etc., so that it almost became “instinctive”, without even thinking about it.  In fact, I’d often play a little game with myself to see if I could guess what they’d like.  Some probably (maybe 80-90%), I could figure out this way.  But there was the small minority which I didn’t guess “right.” These were the ones I most enjoyed because they intrigued me.

It wasn’t exactly a scientific study, but over the many of years of doing it, I must have seen perhaps hundreds of people anyway, maybe thousands. What this showed me, is that first of all, people like to think of themselves as “open” to everything, but actually most of us have certain tastes and preferences, whether we consciously realized it or not.  And a lot more than most people liked to admit, we could be fit somewhat into “types.”

Interestingly, we now live in a social media and internet age, where our interactions are determined by our “likes” and the similar communities and groups we join and mainly follow.  If, anything, our interactions have become even more “narrow” than ever. These new mediums were supposed to open us up to a wider variety and world.  But have they really?   None of us like to be reduced down to a stereotype, but we live in a society now where that is precisely what has happened. Our “likes” and preferences are being collected, along with the sites we visit, by search engines to create a profile on us to later sell to commercial companies (and governments too) to reach our particular interests and demographic to market and sell us products.

Then I began to wonder if there were certain personalities who were attracted to certain kinds of pop music and culture and musical idols?

Again, I learned that a lot of this was probably mainly sub-conscious. For many people just knew they liked something, without perhaps examining why.  And besides these likes and dislikes were probably mainly emotional rather than intellectual, since music and movies are largely emotional, aural and visual experiences.

My store specialized in vinyl and especially The Beatles, as it was named after them, although I carried a variety of styles and formats-from pop to jazz to folk to country to blues to classical, etc.  But I met a lot of Beatles’ fans (and also organized Beatles Conventions) over the years.  I noticed that certain people liked especially one Beatle member often more than another.  Because the Beatles were made up of four different, often distinct  personalities and, in general, wrote and played different kinds of songs, stereotypes again, but somewhat true, I could ask and observe which kind of customers and fans seemed to like each Beatle the most.

Paul was the “cute” romantic, and mainly wrote melodic songs like “Michelle”, “Yesterday”, ”Let It Be”, etc.  George was considered the more spiritual, and introspective with songs like “My Sweet Lord” and ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, etc.  John tended to write songs more questioning, political and edgy like “Strawberry Fields Forever”, “I Am The Walrus”, etc.  Ringo, considered the down-to-earth “everyman”, didn’t write many songs with the Beatles and tended to like covers of more traditional songs and country like “Act Naturally” or the Beatles’ children’s song, “Yellow Submarine.” In fact, some have argued that that’s partly why they appealed to such a broad section of the society and were able to make such a variety of music styles.   When they were in The Beatles, they sometimes wrote songs together (Lennon & McCartney’s early songs especially), but by the time they split up, each, with a few exceptions, carried on in these particular veins primarily. So was it possible that certain kinds of people and personalities related most and tended to like one over the other? By observing The Beatles as a microcosm, together and solo and their followers, perhaps, this could be examined and certain “conclusions” could be reached.

Also this could also be extended to other kinds of music and groups as well, from harder rock and punk on one side to softer forms like folk, jazz and classical on the other.

Somebody said once there is no accounting for tastes.  But my observations taught me that there were, in fact, accountings for tastes.  Again, many of us might not be consciously aware of them, but they were there. And they could be somewhat predicted. Another interesting observation I made, was that there were, In general, gender differences too.  Women tended to like different kinds of music than men. The fact, up until the 70’s or 80’s, rock n’ roll was mainly created by males and reflected their points of view.  But as society became more open to females, there also began to be a change in rock as gradually more female musicians began to be heard. And younger generations began to support that difference more.  But still from the experience in my stores all the way into the early 2000’s, it was primarily males who came in to buy records.

I noticed, in general again, women tended to prefer the softer kinds of music, like folk, jazz and classical. This began to change over time, as I said, with exposure to more female songwriters and performers and with younger generations. Women sometimes sought out female artists whom they felt more spoke for them.  But overall, as some writers have maintained*, women still often looked at pop music and pop idols in somewhat different ways. Guys tended to collect records and to try and copy their favorite musicians and learn to play guitar while girls from the Beatles’ female teen-age fans screaming on, seemed to collect pictures to put up on their walls and to worship their pop idols more as “boy” bands (and interestingly still basically saw them that way into their older ages even). Of course, there were exceptions with females, especially those who were musicians, and whom learned instruments too.  But as we’ve now know scientifically, despite what was said sometimes in the 70’s, men and women are different and in fact, have different brains and their views on many things and pop culture reflects this (as well as because of the way boys and girls are still primarily raised differently).

* “Let’s Talk About Love, 2013 book by Carl Wilson and other essayists about tastes in pop music

These observations and statements of mine about pop culture and pop music, I understand, may not necessarily be shared by some people. They are, as I say, only generalizations, based on my own personal experience and encounters with many music fans and admirers over several years with a fair variety of people. I realize most people probably don’t even think about these things as intellectually as this, but instead just like or not like something and there’s nothing wrong with that.  But as one of my favorite pop culture writers, Chuck Klosterman, says,“nothing is ever only “in and of itself.”  

By doing so, I hope to at least raise some of these questions as to why we like certain kinds of music and follow certain pop figures. And perhaps, this can help us see the often deep effect they have on us and even what this can tell us about ourselves too.

* Carl Wilson’s, Let’s Talk About Love: Journey to the End Of Taste (2007) & Chuck Klosterman’s 2013 book, I Wear The Black Hat.

Below “Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs”, Chuck Klosterman’s classic 2003 examination of pop music and pop culture:

sex, drugs and rock and roll cover

Yoko Ono is now 82, and respected as her own artist

YOKO ONO: HER OWN ARTIST

YOKO ONO: HER OWN ARTIST 

By Alan Chrisman (All Articles ARE written BY ALAN CHRISMAN), copyright 2012-2015 (A Praveen Patel has tried to hack them and claim them.)

Yoko Ono is 82 on Feb. 18.   John Lennon said once that Yoko was one the most famous artists in the world, but few people have actually seen her work.  But that has changed over these past several years and she has emerged as her own respected artist. Her art had been shown and received critical acclaim in many major art exhibits all over the world*.  And several musicians from succeeding generations from The B-52’s to The Flaming Lips to Lady Ga Ga credit her with inspiring them. Many people may also not know that she has had 12 #1 Billboard Dance Chart hits of her own songs since 2003.

She is recognized as one of the founders of concept and performance art going back to her involvement in the early New York movement, Fluxus, who were influenced by recognized pioneers John Cage and Marcel Duchamp.  She published her book, “Grapefruit”, in 1964 (which contained a poem “Imagine the clouds dripping”) that helped inspire Lennon’s signature post-Beatles’ song and made her own avant-garde films.  This was all before she even met Lennon in 1966.  There’s no doubt that she helped expose him to concept art and how it could be used to make social statements and reach the public, such as in their Bed Peace events and the War Is Over (if you want it) campaign, etc.

Yoko introduced John to concept & performance art which they used to promote peace

Yoko introduced John to “concept & performance art, which they used to promote peace

Bed Peace

But besides seeing her husband, John Lennon, being murdered right in front of her by a crazed Beatles’ fan in 1980, she has had to endure years of some fans vilifying her. There are some that still accuse her of breaking up the Beatles, now 45 years ago. Even though, Paul McCartney said in 2012 that he did not blame Ono for the breakup of the Beatles and credited Ono with inspiring much of Lennon’s post-Beatles work.

When she married Lennon in ’69, she was called the racist name  “dragon lady” and was seen as cold and manipulative and later for her treatment of John’s son, Julian, from John’s first wife Cynthia.  But Paul McCartney, with whom she at one time had some copyright and other differences, has said since then“I thought she was a cold woman. I think that’s wrong….. she’s just the opposite….. I think she’s just more determined than most people to be herself.” Julian and Cynthia posed with her at Julian’s photo exhibit in New York in 2010.  And Sean and Julian remain close half-brothers. Some may also not know that Yoko in return thanked Paul for actually helping John get back together with her (while visiting with Ono in March 1974, McCartney, on leaving, asked “[W]hat will make you come back to John?” McCartney subsequently passed her response to Lennon while visiting him in Los Angeles. “John often said he didn’t understand why Paul did this for us, but he did.”

Most of these disparaging myths that have built up around her have become mainly water-under-the-bridge for the parties involved. And it’s the public who sometimes carry on these misunderstandings. It’s like any family that doesn’t always agree on everything, only it’s been magnified because they’re immensely famous.  But most Beatles fans, I think, have come to respect Yoko for carrying on John’s legacy and their commitment to peace and change.

A far as her music, she has been accused of not having talent and that her singing is just “screaming”. But a lot of people who have said that, again, have probably never even heard many of her albums. It’s really only on her first album, which was made at the same time as John’s own first real solo album, Plastic Ono Band, in 1970, right after they had both gone through primal “scream” theory with Arthur Janov. They continued to release solo albumsfor both of them for the next few years and these contained very few such songs. In fact, there are some very well-constructed songs by Yoko on her next album, Fly in 1971 (“Midsummer New York”, a rocker, and the haunting “Mrs. Lennon”).  Yoko’s next record is a double album, Approximately Infinite Universe with backing by the Elephant’s Memory band. It is my favorite of hers, and like my favorite Beatles’ album, The White Album, it’s full of great songs by her and in a wide variety of styles. With songs like “Death of Samantha”, “Looking Out from My Hotel Window”; the rocker, “ Move On Fast”, and the political plea, “Now or Never.” For anyone who would actually listen to the words and performance on this album, I believe, for example, it would soon dispel the myth that she can’t sing and write good music. In 1973, she released the jazzy, Feeling the Space.

Yoko's Approximately Infinite Universe album, 1972, contains a wide variety of songs and styles

Yoko’s Approximately Infinite Universe album, 1972 was like her “White Album”, containing a wide variety of songs and styles

When John and Yoko released his last album, Double Fantasy, both of them shared the duties and compositions, often counterpointing the other’s songs (such as his “I’m Losing You” with her’s “I’m Moving On”).  The night John was shot they were working on her song, “Walking on Thin Ice”, which later became a dance hit.  Yoko, like with her art, has continued to put out several albums over the years and as I said, has had many dance hits. Several others have recorded her songs from Elvis Costello and Rosanne Cash, to more recent urban and alternative artists.

Yoko is in her 80’s now, but doesn’t seem to be slowing down one bit in her art, music or pursuit of peace and social change. And more and more the world and fans are finally catching up with her.

I was privileged to see Yoko and Sean perform in a small Toronto club in 1996 for her album, Rising.  And it was interesting to see how she won over even the few Yoko detractors by the end of the show. I had actually seen one of her early films in a small movie theatre in my university town before I knew she had met John Lennon and got to hear a performance by legendary art concrete pioneer, John Cage, around the same time.

BOSTON HEARLD: Feb. 16, 2015:  Monday’s great women: Yoko Ono, Helen Mirren, Uma Thurman

I LIKE criticism. It makes you strong,” says LeBron James.

THIS IS perhaps true. And in that mind-set, Yoko Ono must be one of the strongest of humans. What Yoko endured during her marriage to John Lennon — and even for years after she was widowed — was enough to bring down another person. But Yoko stayed true to every single ideal of her life and her art. In doing so, she has survived triumphantly. In her 80s she has seen the cultural world turn around and embrace her — not just her own generation or people in their 50s or 60s who still carry a lot of nostalgia for the Beatles and John. Nope, Yoko became a big deal on the dance charts with her unusual and uncompromising music. Kids know Yoko!

Now she is being celebrated in a soon-to-be published limited edition book, “See Hear Yoko” by Bob Gruen and Jody Denberg. Gruen, who was Yoko and John’s personal photographer, and Denberg, who interviewed Yoko many times over a 25-year span, have packed their tome with more than 200 photos and observations about this impressive, talented and courageous woman. (And might I add, for all her strength, a much more vulnerable person than the insulting and racist “dragon lady” publicity of her early, fraught years with John.)

“See Hear Yoko” is out next week, from Harper Collins

http://www.bostonherald.com/inside_track/celebrity_news/2015/02/mondays_great_women_yoko_ono_helen_mirren_uma_thurman

Yoko is respected as being in on the beginnings of performance art in New York in the early 60's.

Yoko is respected as being in on the beginnings of performance art in New York in the early 1960’s

* From May 17 to September 7, 2015, The Museum of Modern Art presents its first exhibition dedicated exclusively to the work of Yoko Ono, taking as its point of departure the artist’s unofficial MoMA debut in late 1971.

Yoko singing her haunting,” Mrs. Lennon”, 1971:

http://youtu.be/9wZGwXFP7RY

Tony Sheridan was big influence on early Beatles in Hamburg, Germany

TONY SHERIDAN: BEATLES’ HAMBURG INFLUENCE

Tony Sheridan: Beatles’ Hamburg Influence 

By Alan Chrisman (All Articles ARE written BY ALAN CHRISMAN), copyright 2012-2015 (A Praveen Patel has tried to hack them and claim them).

Tony Sheridan, who influenced The first Beatles in Hamburg, Germany  died on Feb. 16, 2013.  When the original Beatles (John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Pete Best) first arrived in Hamburg in 1960, the most popular entertainer there was Tony Sheridan. He had a big musical and performing influence on them, and on George especially, with his guitar playing. George says Hamburg is where The Beatles learned to become The Beatles.

Sheridan was one of the first English musicians to go to  Germany, after showing promise as a guitarist backing several visiting American 50’s rock ‘n rollers to the U.K. like Gene Vincent (“Be Bop a Lula”) and Eddie Cochran (“Summertime Blues”). In fact, he just missed being in the car accident that killed Cochrane and seriously injured Vincent.  Sheridan was already performing at the Indra club in Hamburg when the still very young Beatles were sent there by their first Liverpool club owner/manager, Allan Williams in 1960.  And when the Beatles (this time with John’s friend, Stu Sutcliffe, on bass) returned to Hamburg for their second trip, they were moved to Kaiserkeller, the second club owned by the same German owner. The Beatles became even closer to Sheridan who was also performing there.  They would often share sets and back-up each other up on stage.

Tony Sheridan with John & Paul in Hamburg

Tony Sheridan with John & George in Hamburg

Tony Sheridan and original Hamburg Beatles

Tony Sheridan with original Hamburg Beatles

Sheridan was approached by Polydor Records producer, Bert Kaempfert, to record some songs from his set. This became the Beatles’ first real recordings, although they were mainly his back-up band for them and they were called the Beat Brothers. With Sheridan, they recorded “My Bonnie” and “The Saints” (Go Marching In) which became a #5 hit for Sheridan in Germany.  The Beatles themselves also recorded though, two songs, “Ain’t She Sweet”, with John on vocals and an early Lennon-Harrison instrumental, “Cry for a Shadow.” But their experience in playing with Sheridan was important in their development as performers and in being in a professional recording studio for the first time.

And according to legend anyway, these songs were the ones that first brought The Beatles to their later manager, Brian Epstein’s attention, when a customer came into his NEM’s Record Store in Liverpool and requested the recordings from this German group, The Beatles.

Tony Sheridan Cover Tony Sheridan back sleeve-sleeve-B

When The Beatles reached fame, Sheridan still continued on playing and recording in Germany. But he moved increasingly away from the early rock ’n’ roll music he had first done and more towards jazz and blues influences, deciding to remain out of the limelight, which his former students were now in.

In the late 60’s, he went to Vietnam and entertained the troops there. In the 80’s, Tony Sheridan came to Ottawa, Canada and played a small club called the Dill Pickle and I still have a poster from that event. Later I met an Ottawa musician, Joe Sunsari, who was Sheridan’s manager at the time and he let me read an advanced copy of an interesting biography of Sheridan he had written called, “Nobody’s Child”: The Tony Sheridan Story.”  But again, Sheridan shunned publicity and it was, as far as I know, never published. Also as I’ve said before, I’ve met Allan Williams, the man who had sent the early Beatles to Hamburg. And I met the sister Pauline, of Stu Sutcliffe, an original Beatle and promising painter, who would die of a brain hemorrhage shortly before The Beatles became known.  Pauline, co-authored the book on which the movie Backbeat, which tells the story of their Hamburg Days is based. And Pete Best, original Beatles’ drummer, was a guest at my first Ottawa Beatles Convention I organized in ‘95. All of the above played important roles in the fascinating Beatles’ saga.

Tony Sheridan with The Beatles ( Beat Bros.) backing, “My Bonnie”, 1961:

http://youtu.be/IgkAgyQgEH4

George Harrison's little-known visit to America in 1963

GEORGE HARRISON’S LITTLE KNOWN VISIT TO U.S. BEFORE BEATLES’ INVASION

GEORGE HARRISON’S LITTLE-KNOWN VISIT TO U.S. BEFORE BEATLES’ INVASION 

By Alan Chrisman (All Articles ARE written BY ALAN CHRISMAN), copyright 2012-2015 (A Praveen Patel has tried to hack them and claim them).

A (Partially) True Story

I was a young girl who had been working as a librarian in a small southern Illinois town when he walked into my library one day.  He was cute and seemed nice, but in a quiet sort of way.  He said he was looking for some books on guitar music and I helped him find the right section.  He said he was only in town for a few days, but that he liked to read especially about music and musicians.

He joked and it made me giggle.  After chatting for a bit, he said he was in town visiting his sister.  He had a British accent which was pretty unusual around where I lived and although I was shy myself, he intrigued me. So it surprised me when he mentioned that his sister was taking him to see a local band play on Saturday night.  He said if I’d like to attend he was going to be there too and maybe he’d love to see me there. It sounded like an invitation.

I knew the place he mentioned where they had regular Saturday dances, but I really didn’t go out much and still lived at home with my parents.  I wasn’t much into pop culture or music.  I preferred Broadway musicals.  But still there was certainly something fascinating about him, so it got me curious.

Enough, that by the time Saturday came around, I couldn’t think of anything else, but learning more about this mysterious stranger. I didn’t know what to wear, but I dressed up in my nicest clothes.  I arrived at the small Legion Hall early and there was a line-up there, but I got in with no problem.  I saw him sitting at a front table near the front and when he recognized me, he invited me over and introduced me to his sister and family there.  Soon the local band came on stage and began to play.  He even asked me to get up and dance with him and he was a good dancer.

The band mainly played country tunes.  And I was as surprised as he was, when the band asked him to come up on stage and join them.  Finally, with much encouragement from his sister, he couldn’t resist and got up and borrowed one of the member’s guitars.  After conferring with the band for a few minutes, they agreed on some Carl Perkin’s songs they both knew.  At these regular dances, most people were drinking and really didn’t pay much attention to the local band. But soon as this stranger started playing the guitar, the audience stopped talking and were quiet.  It seemed not only was this foreigner cute, but he could actually play quite well and the band asked him to continue playing with them that night. After the show, the tiny make-shift dressing room behind the stage was filled with all kinds of people, and everyone was drinking and talking and joking.

I was about to turn and go away, feeling totally out of place, when he noticed and came over to ask me how I enjoyed the show.  I was sort of taken back with all that was going on and the conflicting emotions within myself.  As I say, this was way out of my experience. But when he asked me if I would like to meet him the next day for lunch, I found myself shyly answering, “Yes.”

I, of course, couldn’t sleep the whole night, wondering what I had got myself into.  But right at noon, there was a knock at my door and it was him.  We had a great time over lunch at the local fast-food drive-in.  He said he especially enjoyed that as they didn’t have anything like it back in England.  He made me laugh a lot, something I hadn’t done enough, unfortunately, in my life before.

He said he was in this band back in England, and they were actually becoming popular in Europe, but I hadn’t heard of them.  He said they had already recorded an album and a couple Ep’s. They had had some songs released on a couple small independent U.S labels (including one out of Chicago), but they hadn’t gotten much radio airplay or reaction over here and the big U.S. record companies had turned down distributing them.  But he seemed hopeful that they would eventually be recognized in America.

We spent the rest of the day together and then he even kissed me goodbye.  He said he was leaving the next morning to go back to England, but he would try to keep in touch with me by sending me a card. This was in 1963.

I didn’t hear from him for several months and missed him, but figured he must have gotten busy and met many other girls, of course.

But one day, in early Feb. ’64, after “just another day” at the library, when I got home, there was a card in my mailbox. And it was from him.  It was an early Valentine’s Day card.  In it, he said that they had even gotten a record deal with a major U.S. label and they had become popular enough to come to America. In fact, they were to be on The Ed Sullivan TV Show that coming Sunday.  Sure enough, as I and millions of others watched that evening, there he was with his band playing  in matching suits their own songs, as all these girls screamed.  There was that friend, I had met that one day a few months before.  He had said his name was George.  And soon everyone would know the name of his band.

George Harrison, still unknown in America in 1963, makes visit to his sister, Louise , in Illinois in 1963.

George Harrison, little -known visit to a small Illinois town in 1963

Louise Harrison, George's Sister, guest, 2nd. Ottawa  Beatles Convention

2nd. Ottawa Beatles Convention’96: Guest Louise Harrison; J. Lennon’s Psychedelic Rolls Royce

The above fictional story was inspired by a true story told to this writer by George’s older sister, Louise, at my 2nd. Beatles’ Convention I organized.  She told there of a little-known visit by George and his brother, Peter, to her in a small town in Illinois in September, 1963.  He was persuaded by a local band to get up and play with them. The band played with George, some old rock ‘n’ roll including, “Roll Over Beethoven” , “Johnny B. Goode”, “Matchbox”, and “Your Cheatin’ Heart”.  After, one of the band members said to him, “You’re not a bad guitar player. If you keep at it, you might even get somewhere.”

Louise had previously been sent a copy of” Love Me Do” by her mother, Louise.  She had taken it to a local radio station. This was in June, 1963, and it was the first time a Beatles song was broadcast in the U.S.  Later when George arrived to visit her, the two hitch hiked  to the station and brought along “She Loves You” , which had been released in England the month before and the station also played it.  Two members of the local band, The Four Vests, took George to a music store in Vernon, Ill. where George purchased a red Rickenbacker guitar for $400, which he had painted black to match John Lennon’s.  The Rickenbacker 420 was first played in public on the British TV show, Ready Steady Go, on Oct.4, 1963. They also visited a local record store where George bought several singles including “Got My Mind Set on You” by James Ray, but written by mailman, Rudy Clark. George would later have his own hit with it in 1987. A few months later, on Feb. 9, 1964,The Beatles played on The Ed Sullivan Show. Louise would be the only Beatles relative to accompany them on the train to Washington, D.C.  And the rest is history, as they say.

Below George and his band doing, “If I Needed Someone”:

http://youtu.be/qu82FEEcD4U