Category Archives: Ringo Starr

YESTERDAY FILM REVIEW, “REALLY A FAIRY TALE/CARTOON.”

Yesterday Film Review: “ A FAIRY TALE/ CARTOON” by Alan Chrisman, copyright.

With the recent Beatles influenced  film, Yesterday,  I wanted to see it in a theater, but I waited until it hit my local second-run movie house(I usually wait until the hype has  boiled down on these things to make up my own mind).  I knew its basic plot about a young aspiring immigrant musician in England being in a bus accident and going into a fantasy that when he wakes up no one else had remembered Beatles’ songs, but himself. But soon after, he starts singing them and claiming he wrote them, and he’s about to become the biggest pop star on the planet. At first, it seemed the movie was a combination of director, Danny Boyle’s (Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting) and screenwriter, Richard Curtis’ quirky Brit. Rom- Coms., usually staring Hugh Grant (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Love Actually, Notting Hill) previous movies.  Or Slumdog Millionaire meets Bridget Jones- but with a Beatles song track-which in many ways, it was.  Interestingly, the back story is somewhat similar to the recent Queen bio.–pic., Bohemian Rhapsody, about real life immigrant , Freddie Mercury, wanting to become the next big  pop star too.  I thought upon viewing that film that it was almost a caricature , especially with the lead actor equipped with an excess of fake teeth, supposedly because Mercury had a larger mouth with more teeth than normal, which partly accounted for his wider range vocals in his songs and with his exaggerated mannerisms(although it was supposed to be a true story).

The characters in Yesterday are also almost carictures too. The musician, Jack Malik, played by Himesh Patel( Bit. soap opera, Eastenders) and his childhood friend,  first manager, and eventual crush, Ellie( played  by Lily James from Downton Abbey) are almost too wide-eyed naïve and innocent to be true( certainly in these times). They become pitted against the stereotyped Big Bad Music Business, personified by the Evil New Manager, played by Saturday Night Live comedian, Katherine McKinnon. Her portrayal, especially, is way over the top and extreme, almost like the evil nemesis Cruella de Vil in Disney’s original cartoon, One Hundred and One Dalmations.  I thought at first this movie was meant to be taken straight.  But later I realized the whole film was not only a fantasy, in the lead characters head, but in ours too.  The film was actually, I think, a more like cartoon.  Much as the 2nd Beatles film, Help was. Even though Beatles fans at the time, despite its silly plot (something about Ringo being chased around for his ring)  took it seriously as a continuation of their first Marx Brothers-compared movie classic, A Hard Day’s Night.  Even though the Beatles themselves knew better (spending most of the time on set for Help, high on pot and and giggling to themselves at the absurdity of it all). “We were extras in our own film.”, Lennon later said.

Like Help, what saves Yesterday is, of course, Beatles’ music. It also strangely reminded me of the Beatles cartoon, Yellow Submarine (which The Beatles themselves had little to do with in the making).  Yesterday, at some points as when it visits Liverpool landmarks, puts Yellow Submarine-like big colorful titles of some of their songs across the screen.  But it also continued the clichéd arc of films these days about pop music and rock stars: starting out unknown; being discovered virtually overnight (in Yesterday’s case, current pop idol, Ed Sheeran, playing himself, shows up at Jacks door); then getting caught up in the fame and temptations of the Music Business, but in the end( despite many rock stars in real life dying of their own excesses)– but that’s okay because their music will out survive them- goes the usual theme.  So the myths continue.  But in this fairy tale , of course, the hero comes to his senses and recognizes the error of his ways and they live happily ever after(“Ob La Di Ob La DA. Life Goes on Bra).” There’s also a scene with talk show host, James Cordon, doing his usual in real life fawning to rock and movie stars, which I think was meant to be a satire of the media coverage today and how they both build you up and then tear you down with the next breath. Ironically, it was Cordon who took Paul back to his childhood house in Liverpool last year. Paul probably only did it being the savy PR man he is, to promote his latest album, Egypt Station.

The audience I saw it with was almost entirely Baby Boomers. When it first came out, on several Beatles sites, Boomers defended the film because they said it would allow younger generations to rediscover Beatles music (even in this watered down form) and hoped to take their own children and grandchildren to see it.  I thought it was revealing that my generation was so insecure about their own music, that they were even worried about this. I’m not, for the Beatles will be known, I’m sure, not only for their music, but because they also changed the wider culture. We don’t really know what pop music will be like in a hundred years or more from now. Maybe those grainy black and white photos and films of them playing on Ed Sullivan will be like us watching old silent films from the 20’s and 30’s. But just like we know the best of that era still, Chaplin, Keaton, and the Marx Bros. when people look back on our century the Beatles will be a part of it. Because they also represent a time of historical change, the 60s(which in turn affected them to change too). There’s a scene at the end of Yesterday, where, a character, (you-know-who) makes a brief appearance. The audience actually gets quiet as they recognize him(even though I thought it didn’t look that much like him or especially sound like him), as we waited for the icon he has become, words of wisdom(to borrow Paul’s expression).  But then its right back to Beatles covers. The Beatles and publishers reportedly got $10 Million alone for the use of their songs.

It would be curious to see what young people do see in the film, not having the baggage we do about our own music and memories. They might see the film more like a graphic novel, which ironically, there was a French one in 2011 called Yesterday, with a similar theme (which would fit in with my theory that the film is really more of a cartoon). But I don’t think most of the audience (or the critics, who gave it mixed reviews ) understand this. Most of the audience were just taping their toes along to the catchy nostalgia of it all (I noticed most of the songs were McCartney ones).  I overheard a lady next to me tell her friend that the actor in that climatic scene was played by his son, Julian. I responded that, no it wasn’t, but that if it had of been, it might have looked more like him. And that I had met his mother, Cynthia. We both stayed to watch as the credits rolled to see who was playing the part, but it didn’t seem to be listed. Research later showed it was Scottish actor (no wonder his accent seemed confused) Robert Carlyle, from the previous Boyle film, Trainspotting.  Then that woman said, “Well, the music today is not as good as our music.” I realized that each generation is caught up in its own little bubble. Yesterday was a light bubble of a film, whose Beatles’ songs saved it from bursting into reality. I came with a couple of friends: my ex-wife, whom said afterwards she didn’t get the film, but who usually likes Hugh Grant movies and happy endings. Part of that may be because we arrived a few minutes late and she didn’t realize it was a fantasy inside the lead characters’ head. My male friend, who also came with us and who’s into  early 60’s music, liked the character of Ellie( and the actress who played her, Lily James). He dreams in real life of women like her, which I joked probably don’t even exist anymore, since perhaps 1962, or in movies such as this. In some ways, her character and the film, reminded me of an innocence long gone by. Which is why, “Yesterday”, I maintain, is basically a Baby Boomer fantasy and cartoon. I also saw later, the Rocketman film about Elton John. There’s a scene in it in the Beatles music publisher, Dick James( who did later represent Elton John)  office where  Reg Dwight(” Elton John”) looks at a picture of the Beatles on the wall and the film makes it look like Elton got his name from Lennon- but it isn’t true. Elton John was actually named after Brit. blues singer, Long JOHN Baldry,  and after ELTON Dean (later of the Soft Machine) who, along with an early Rod Stewart, was in Baldry’s band. The Elton John song “ Somebody Saved my Life Today” was about when Elton almost tried to commit suicide, after his failed relationship with a woman, and Baldry had helped talk him out of it(their both having to come  to grips with being gay), at a time when in England it was still illegal. The film should have at least got this right about where Elton got his name. Yet despite that, I thought Rocketman was a better film than either Bohemian Rhapsody or Yesterday. It had more original imagination( and real feeling ) in it than Yesterday or Rhapsody. If you’re going to make a cliched rock film, you should least come up a few new ways to do it.

 

 

“IF JOHN HADN’T MET PAUL/IF PAUL HADN’T MET JOHN.”

by Alan Chrisman, copyright.

Let’s just suppose John Lennon hadn’t met Paul McCartney; how would things have been different?

Or what if they had passed their Decca Records audition? They might have been forced to record someone else’s songs, like Mitch Murray’s “How Do You Do it”. Decca might have released a single and it might have become a minor hit.  And on that supposed Decca album there might even have been, unnoticed, one of their early original songs like “Like Dreamers Do” . Or what if Brian Epstein hadn’t decided to manage them, would they have ever made it out of Liverpool, then London, let alone America?  And if George Martin hadn’t signed them, would any other producer had allowed them to do their own songs or experiment with new sounds? Would there have been a Revolver or Peppers without him and his innovative engineers?  On the other hand, Martin, without them, might have only become known for his James Bond soundtracks and comedy records.

How would that have changed music in Britain? Would it, after skiffle had faded in a year or two, have reverted back to imitating U.S. pop stars and sounds.  Without The Beatles leading the assault on America would there have been a British Invasion? No English bands had before made much of a mark on American shores.  What if Kennedy hadn’t recently been assassinated and the pop charts weren’t filled with clean-cut white “Bobby Bobbys”, as Jerry Lee Lewis called them, because most of the 50’s often black founders of rock’n’roll had vacated the spots for various reasons.  So there was a real vacuum to fill.

Of course, the 60’s would still have happened, civil rights and anti-Vietnam demonstrations and drugs and acid rock from California. In England, some Brit. bands like the Rolling Stones, Yardbirds, and Animals would have still copied their blues heroes.  But how many would have written their own songs if Lennon/McCartney hadn’t shown that it was possible?  Would Brian Wilson have gone against his record company and some of his fellow Beach Boys, wanting to move past just writing about girls, cars and surfing?  Although he was already experimenting with pot and sound textures, without Rubber Soul, would he made the Good Vibrations of Pet Sounds?  And even Bob Dylan , already with a following  on college campuses with his protest songs, but also craving a mass audience, having been booed for going electric, if he hadn’t heard “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and recognizing that “was where music had to go.”? Would his new direction have been accepted by the general public without the  revitalization of rock by the The Beatles too?  What if there had been no Hard Days’ Night movie and The Byrds’ Roger McGuinn hadn’t seen George Harrison’s Rickenbacker guitar and decided to put it together with Dylan’s folk and help popularize folk-rock?  Pop music might have just remained entertainment for teenagers, but The Beatles, especially, showed that it could be so much more- even art.

What might each Beatle have done instead? Would Paul have become a teacher as his mother wanted; perhaps at Liverpool Institute where he might have become a headmaster? Or with his natural musical talent, he might have become a Prof. of Music and composed a classical piece about his childhood called, “Liverpool Oratorio.” Or he might have become just a songwriter providing songs  for pop singers like Welsh singer, Tom Jones(whom in real life turned down “Long And Winding Road”). Or perhaps with his boyish good looks and charm, he might have been the next pop idol a la Cliff Richard and had hits with his ballads “Yesterday” and ” Michelle.”  But unlikely then, he would have been allowed to display his more rocky side, such as “She Loves You” “Lady Madonna” or “Paperback Writer”.  Although he could have still had massive hits with his own songs, “Hey Jude” or “Let It Be”. Or maybe he might have gone another way and become like an Andrew Lloyd Weber and written a show for Broadway based on a character whom had a lonely wedding called “Eleanor Rigby”. That’s all possible.

George Harrison, might have joined his mate, Jackie Lomax’ Liverpool band, The Undertakers, and they might have written together a guitar instrumental, like “Cry For A Shadow.  But unlikely anything as majestic as  “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” or “Something” or “My Sweet Lord”, with Lennon/ McCartney not providing him expert competition.

And Ringo?  After Rory Storm broke up, his drum skills would have gotten him steady work in several Liverpool bands and he’d have been a regular at Butlins’ Holiday camps.  And maybe opened a hair dressing shop and married its hairdresser, Maureen. In short, he would still have been Ringo.

But what of John Lennon-if he hadn’t met Paul?  After his teenage band, The Quarry Men, fell apart,  would “Johnnie” Lennon, as he might have been called, like his estranged father, “Freddie”, have become a Liverpool pub entertainer, playing old rock covers(and perhaps an occasional original tune), when he wasn’t in jail for getting in drunken fights? Or might he have done stand-up comedy like his Dove Dale Primary School classmate, Jimmy Tarbuck?  Comedian Lennon, known for his politically-incorrect jokes about “cripples.” For as a Liverpool School of Art friend had said, “You will one day hit the bottle or hit the top boy and nothing in between.” 

Would his pub friends have believed him when he said he knew he’d always been a genius? Would there have ever been a “Strawberry Fields Forever” or “Walrus” (or “Imagine” or “Give Peace a Chance”, if he hadn’t met a Japanese avant garde artist), or a more commercial, Paul McCartney?

It took a lot of just the right circumstances and personalities and talents to all come together. Fortunately, they all did. A Beatle flapped its wings and the universe opened up-for us all.

 

“EIGHT DAYS A WEEK”; Impressions of Ron Howard’s Beatles Film

I just saw the new Beatles film, “Eight Days a Week” and these are some of my impressions. I didn’t think I would actually like it that much. The Beatlemania years, frankly, don’t interest me as much as their more interesting Liverpool and Hamburg beginnings or their more creative period in the studio. The usual story is that, most of the time, they were just going through the motions, unable to hear themselves play, with all the screaming fans’ madness (especially near the end of their “Touring Years”, as the movie’s subtitle is called).

I thought director Ron (“Happy Days”) Howard might only cover the nice parts of Beatlemania. He does in the first half of the film and captures the pure energy of their early performances. He has assembled some not usually-seen footage and photos of their early concerts and appearances in Liverpool and Europe. These sometimes black and white images give it an almost old newsreel and historical feel. The film does seem primarily aimed at the North American market though.  There were only a couple Liverpool interviewees included in the theatre version, except for some trusted Beatles-insiders like roadie and later Apple director, Neil Aspinall (although I understand the later-to-be-released Deluxe 2 DVD version will  include more of these and lots more).

Howard also puts the Beatles Invasion into context with the tumultuous events the U.S.A. was going through in the mid-60’s with the Vietman War, Civil Rights demonstrations, and the assassination of JFK, which had only happened a few months before. The American people, especially its teenagers, were certainly ready for something to lift them out of their depression.  Along come these 4 English lads with the funny Liverpool accents and humor and it’s just the right medicine.  The Fab Four did so with its own version of the, ironically, America’s export, rock and roll, and the simple but catchy words and rhythms of their early original songs.  But what struck me again, upon seeing the film, is just how young and mainly female so many of their fans were.  For by this time, The Beatles themselves were already grown men in their early 20’s, playing to some only half their age.  Some of the most interesting and humorous moments for the movie audience, I was with anyway, was seeing again the complete hysteria they created in their fans (remember early attendees to their performances in the Cavern and Hamburg, evidently, didn’t originally scream).

But by ’66 and for most of the rest of the film, the whole atmosphere begins to change around The Beatles and they themselves could do little to contain it. Of course, there was the infamous “we’re more popular than Jesus” Lennon remark and the reaction it caused.  But it wasn’t only in America that they began to feel a backlash; there were death threats in Japan and, in the Philippines, they barely escaped when its First Lady Imelda Marcos felt snubbed. Howard has said in interviews promoting the film, that he didn’t want to go intodark corners.  But I have to give him credit for also not shying away from this part of their story too. For it seemed the once innocent teen hysteria had indeed turned into a far more dangerous form of madness. Howard includes excerpts from John and George’s recorded comments and also present day interviews with Paul and Ringo on both, the good and bad, aspects of this period.

The pall of these later more disturbing times toward the end of their touring years, which somewhat descends on the last half of the movie, is fortunately broken by his choice to also include their famous last public appearance on their Apple company’s rooftop in 1969.  What this reveals once again, is that even to the end (which they would also demonstrate on their last recorded album, Abbey Road) these were first and foremost musicians and original songwriters. Once they decided to finally get off the road because of the mounting pressures they were feeling, it would also allow them more time to spend in the studio and become more and more creative artists and not just entertainers.

Also shown in the movie theater after, was a half-hour film of their ’65 Shea Stadium concert. With improved color footage and remixed sound for this project by George Martin’s son, Gilles (although some in the particular theater I was in, said the sound wasn’t that good-but it may be fine in the movie and DVD itself), it shows just how good of performers they could be, even in often chaotic conditions. Ringo says that they really did try to always give their best-all four of them.  You can tell by their on-stage jokes that they are still having fun-most of the time. In the Shae Stadium show, Paul does one of his best, but perhaps underrated  rockers, “I’m Down”, with which they often ended their concerts, but for some reason was never released on a regular Beatles album(it was the B-side of the “Help” single).  John seems to be his old self, mugging and delivering gobbledigook asides and Paul is always the consummate showman. George is the musician, making sure he doesn’t miss a single guitar note and Ringo is driving the beat and shaking his hair. They alone were in the eye of the hurricane, but the film does seem to capture what it must have been like.  Howard’s title for his film is appropriate, for it really was “8 Days a Week.” As I said, the DVD will be released later this fall with some interesting extras.  But I would recommend, if you can, going to see this film still in the movie theater, and getting that feeling of enjoying it with other fans, which is what the best of Beatlemania was all about.

The Quarry men, July6, 1957: the day john Lennon met Paul McCartney

THE DAY THAT CHANGED MUSIC: JOHN LENNON MEETS PAUL McCARTNEY, JULY6, 1957

THE DAY THAT CHANGED MUSIC: JOHN LENNON MEETS PAUL McCARTNEY, JULY 6, 1957

By Alan Chrisman

Paul McCartney met John Lennon for the 1st time on July 6, 1957. Lennon and his teenage skiffle band, The Quarrymen, were playing a Liverpool church social. After Paul’s friend introduced him to the band. The 15-year old McCartney was able to show John guitar chords (John had only learned banjo chords from his mother.) Later, the band discussed if they should let this new kid join. But it wasn’t until two weeks later when Pete Shotten, John’s best friend, and Quarryman, ran into McCartney on his bike and approached him. The way Len Garry (another original Quarryman who was at their original meeting and I met) described it to me: Paul replied, ”Well, all right”, and then just nonchalantly rode away. Neither John nor Paul wanted to admit to the other directly, they liked and needed each other. And that was the beginning of one of the most fruitful songwriting and musical partnerships in history and would go on to change popular music and  the whole culture.

The Quarrymen on truck in parade the fateful day John met Paul

The Quarrymen on truck in parade on fateful day John Met Paul

Paul MccArtney would later join and perform with John's teenage band, The Quarrymen

Paul McCartney would soon join and perform with John’s teenage band, The Quarrymen

Below:John & Paul both describe that day they met:

A TRIBUTE TO STU SUTCLIFFE: THE LOST BEATLE by Alan Chrisman

Stu Sutcliffe one of the original % Beatles in Hamburd and a promising painter.

Stu Sutcliffe was one of the 5 original Beatles in Hamburg

Stuart Sutcliffe was born on June 23, 1940.  He was one of the original 5 Beatles who went to Hamburg and was John Lennon’s close friend and a big artistic influence. There have been many myths built up over the years about Stu’s bass playing, as with Pete Best’s drumming, that they both weren’t that good and that’s one of the main reasons Stu left and Pete was later let go. But several Liverpool people who knew them and witnessed their playing, dispute these myths (including Bill Harry, Editor of Mersey Beat Newspaper, and who had introduced John to Stu at their Liverpool art school). Bill Harry says “the photo floating around in which Stu’s back is turned to the audience was taken during a tune up session. It’s pointed out that none of the Beatles were accomplished musicians at that time, that George Harrison wrote Stu after he left asking him to ‘please come back’, It is suggested that he actually was a good bass player, certainly not bad, and his reason for leaving the band was something other than his musical abilities.”  They and others have also said that there was competition between Paul and Stu for John’s friendship.  Pete Best says: “When we came back from Germany I was playing using my bass drum very loud and laying down a very solid beat. This was unheard of at the time in Liverpool as all the groups were playing the Shadows’ style. Even Ringo in Rory Storm’s group copied our beat and it wasn’t long before most drummers in Liverpool were playing the same style. This way of drumming had a great deal to do with the big sound we were producing.” This beat was referred to as “The Atom Beat”.  Pete was actually the most popular Beatle in Liverpool and called, “ Mean, Moody, Magnificent” Pete and when they played the Cavern with new drummer , Ringo, George got a black eye from some of the fans. Cynthia Lennon told me she  thought Pete just couldn’t compete with John and Paul’s egos: he was too nice. 

Stu was also a talented painter who left The Beatles right before their success to pursue art and stay with his German girlfriend, Astrid Kirchherr. .Astrid, an art student and photographer, would also have a huge effect on The Beatles who posed for her iconic black and white photos and encouraged them to change to their later famous Beatles haircuts and helped create their whole image.  Stu would die soon after of a brain hemorrhage at only age 21.

I was fortunate to meet Stu sister, Pauline and to see some of Stu’s paintings and artwork at an exhibit in Toronto in ’95. I had actually talked on the phone to her before that, because when I met Cynthia Lennon and May Pang at the Conn. Beatles Convention the year before, when I returned there was a call from her (I assume Cynthia. had given her my number, because I had mentioned to her that I planned to put on my own more artistic Beatles Conventions), which I did.  I was also to meet several from their beginnings including one of the Quarrymen, who was there the day John met Paul on July 6, 1957, Allan Williams who had sent them to Hamburg, Tony Sheridan, who they backed up in Germany and first recorded with, Pete Best who was guest at my 1st Convention, Louise Harrison, George’s sister, guest at my 2nd. B. Wooler Epstein’s assistant, and others. When I met these and others who were there, since I was especially interested in this period, I would ask their opinions on these and other Beatles’ stories.  Pauline Sutcliffe would also co-write the book, Backbeat, which was the basis for the film of the same name, which told of their fascinating time in Hamburg and Stu’s short but productive life. Stu would pass away on April, 10, 1962. Ironically, The Beatles would officially break-up on April, 10, 1970, exactly 8 years later to the day.

“BACKBEAT FILM: HAMBURG BEATLES & INSIDE STORIES.” : https://beatlely.wordpress.com/2014/11/19/backbeat-film-hamburg-beatles-inside-stories/

Interviews about Stu with:  Astrid Kirchherr (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=39qqW7z8dAk), and a Liverpool musician (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cWpzUOxmY7g).

 

 

Stu Sutcliffe one of the original % Beatles in Hamburd and a promising painter.

Stu Sutcliffe was one of the 5 original Beatles in Hamburg

RINGO STARR is now the 4th Beatle to be inducted into the R'n'R Hall of Fame

RINGO RECOGNIZED: RINGO IS INDUCTED INTO R’n’R HALL OF FAME, APR.18, by PAUL McCartney

RINGO RECOGNIZED: The Still Down-To-Earth STARR

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

Ringo was inducted into The Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame by Paul McCartney on April 18, 2015.   He was the fourth Beatle to be recognized there as his own solo artist, besides the Beatles as a group.

Ringo always was portrayed as the “everyman” in the group, often overshadowed by the giant song writing talents of John and Paul and later, George Harrison. Lennon-McCartney tailored certain songs just for Ringo to sing on Beatles’ albums like “Help from My Friends” and “Yellow Submarine.” Otherwise, he mainly sang covers of his favorite country heroes like “Act Naturally.”

But Ringo was the consistent drummer on all their albums.  Ringo had replaced Pete Best just after they had gotten their record deal in 1962.  Producer George Martin, as was common in those days, hired a session drummer to fill in for Ringo on the Beatles’ first single, “Love Me Do.” Ringo had actually been in a more popular Liverpool group than The Beatles at the time, Rory Storm & the Hurricanes, but he had sometimes played together with the Beatles when they were both in Hamburg.   But Ringo was always much more than just a drummer while in The Beatles, for he was an integral part of that mysterious chemistry that made the Beatles, uniquely, The Beatles. And he had that same kind of off-the-wall humor.  Someone said once they were like a four-way marriage with all their personalities and talents plugged into each other. And Ringo always seemed to be the “grounder.” He not only kept the beat grounded, but sometimes the members’ egos too.

When the Beatles split in 1970, many wondered about his solo future. He had only written a couple Beatles’ songs, “Don’t Pass Me By” and “Octopus’ Garden.” So it was to everyone’s surprise when he was to have one of the most successful ex-Beatles’ solo’s albums with his Ringo album in 1973, with several big hits including the George Harrison co-written song ,“Photograph.” He would go on to have seven Top Ten hits like, “It Don’t Come Easy”, “Back Off Boogaloo “, “ You’re Sixteen”, “Only You’, etc.  Even when the other ex- Beatles sometimes were still not talking with each other much , they would still continue to appear on his albums and he theirs.

Then in the 80’s & 90’s, he put together his own of several All-Starr Bands with well-known musicians who hit the road playing their hits and his.  Ringo has continued to release albums over the years.  And he has actually turned into a pretty good co-writer and songwriter himself.  Particularly with albums like his 2008, album, Liverpool 8, it was noticeable his growing skill in that area too.  Also with that album and song, he has been writing songs looking back at his Liverpool beginnings.  Ringo has continued this on his new recently released album, Postcards from Paradise, with a song called “Rory & the Hurricanes.” It is Ringo’s 18th album.

He also has appeared in several films as well: Magic Christian Music, Candy, Caveman (where on set, he met his current wife, Barbara Bach, in 1981).  I think his best role is in That’ll Be the Day, where he plays a working-class carny at a holiday camp (similar to the ones Ringo’s band, Rory Storm, would have actually played). It perfectly captures early 60’s England just before The Beatles hit.  He is also an accomplished photographer and shot the covers for his friend, Marc Bolan’s T-Rex albums and directed a film on him.  Quite a career and life for a sickly, poor, relatively-uneducated lad named “Richie” Starkey, who only picked up drumming banging on biscuit tins with sticks in the beginning!  Ringo said he had just hoped to make enough as a Beatle to maybe open a hair dressing shop.

Like has also been leveled at Pete Best (Cynthia Lennon told me, shy Pete didn’t have the ego to compete with John and Paul’s), over the years, some have even accused Ringo of not being the best drummer.   Ringo himself has never claimed to be a trained drummer. But several other respected drummers have disagreed, crediting him with developing a whole “Ringo” sound, which many have copied.  At one point during the making of The White Album, Ringo felt left-out and walked away from the sessions, but came back when the other Beatles sent him a postcard which said “You Are the Greatest Drummer in the World- Really.” Others have said he was just lucky to have been there at the right time.  Paul McCartney has said they wouldn’t have stayed with Ringo, if they didn’t believe he was a good drummer.  It’s hard, indeed, to imagine those Beatles’ songs without his distinctive back-beat rhythms.

POstcard from the other Beatles asking Ringo to come back when he momentarily left in 1968

Postcard from the other Beatles asking Ringo to come back to the band, when he momentarily left in 1968

Ringo's famous drumset

Ringo’s famous drum set, now art R ‘n’ R Hall of Fame

Below Beatles’ postcard to Ringo asking him to return to The Beatles & Ringo’s iconic drum set on display at the R’n’R Hall Of Fame:

John Lennon said: “Ringo was a star in his own right in Liverpool before we even met.  Ringo was a professional drummer who sang and performed and was in one of the top groups in Britain, but especially in Liverpool.  So Ringo’s talent would have come out one way or the other … whatever that spark is, in Ringo, we all know it but can’t put our finger on it. Whether it’s acting, drumming, or singing, I don’t know. There’s something in him that is projectable and he would have surfaced as an individual … Ringo is a damn good drummer.

The Beatles were more than just the sum of their parts. Ringo was and is much more than just a drummer, who happened to play in the best band in the world. He has his own personality and persona and talents and loyal following.  Ringo still seems to be that same down-to-earth star that’s such a rarity these days, especially, with whom we can all still relate.

When McCartney and rock royalty induct Ringo into the Hall of Fame, it will be time and well-deserved.  Paul and he are now receiving all kinds of accolades and still carrying on their great legacy and still performing.

Ringo has announced another tour starting in October with his All-Starr band line-up of the last 12 years to support his new album, Postcards from Paradise.  I met his 1995 All-Starr band including Billy Preston, Randy Bachman (The Guess Who and BTO), and Felix Cavaliere (The Rascals).  I’m very happy I was able to get tickets for his new show in October in Montreal, where I also saw Paul in ‘89 and George in ’74.  I also saw Paul in Ottawa in 2013. We should still see these living legends while we still can, as they continue to put on great shows.  Some things which are good, never change.  And Ringo, as I said, is like that, or as he would say, like “Peace & Love” too. The Hall of Fame ceremony will be broadcast on HBO May 30.

RINGO

RINGO’S latest album, POST CARDS FROM PARADISE, 2015

Ringo doing his rocker, “Rory & the Hurricanes” about his beginnings, from his new album, Postcards from Paradise:

https://youtu.be/HPjQcqRsqBQ

Ringo on his new album and tour:

https://youtu.be/uGdhtLV8c50

Freda Kelly was RThe Beatles' secretary and Fan Club head

Freda Kelly: The Beatles’ Secretary & Fan Club Head

FREDA KELLY: THE BEATLES’ SECRETARY & FAN CLUB HEAD

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 just saw a documentary on Freda Kelly, The Beatles’ secretary and who was in charge of their official fan club.  The film is named “Good Ol’ Freda” after a shout-out The Beatles’ make about her in their 1962 Xmas’ message.

I thought it would be interesting, as she was one of the few who were there at their very beginnings.  And it is, as she relates many everyday stories about them. She worked with them for 11 years, from 1961 on.  She had been working in a typing pool and was a regular at The Cavern.  Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein, approached the seventeen-year-old to come help him deal with the growing workload at his NEMS Liverpool record store and help with his new band, The Beatles.

Besides her regular office work for Brian, a lot of her duties consisted of answering the, at first, a few letters a day to later thousands in big mailbags, from their increasing numbers of fans.  Out of that grew her starting their first official Beatles’ Fan Club and newsletter and Beatles’ Monthly Magazine.  She saw The Beatles’ often as they would drop in to Epstein’s office and got to know each well. They would have cups of tea and autograph the rising pile of fan letters requesting signed photos, snippets of hair and clothing.  Freda also often had to go around and visit the Beatles’ homes after her already long hours at work to get them to sign more photos or papers, and she got to know all their families well.  Ringo’s mom, she became especially close to, as her own mother had died when she was only 18 months old and was raised by a father, who saw no future in her working for a pop group.

Beatles Offical Fan Club Membership card

Beatles’ Fan Club membership signed by Freda Kelly

The Beatles' Monthly Magazine, run by The Beatles' secretary, Freda Kelly

The Beatles’ Monthly Mag. run by The Beatles’ secretary, Freda Kelly

All these stories and descriptions of The Beatles and the people around them are fascinating enough, but what really makes the film is Freda herself.  She’s a very interesting person.  While many others around the Beatles have exploited their connections to them, she never did.  She calls herself a very private person and always wanted to respect their privacy too. She had even told little of her Beatles’ involvement to her own family and friends.  She had given away most of the leftover Fan Club photos, magazines, etc. to fans with whom she identified and felt committed to, as she had been originally just a fan herself.   At one point in the film, she goes into her attic and rummages through the last few boxes of Beatles’ material she has kept.  She still feels a fierce loyalty to them and their story.  After The Beatles broke up in 1970, she got another job as a private secretary and she is still working and living in Liverpool.  She only agreed to tell her story (for the one and only time, she says) when her daughter finally persuaded her and for her grandchild, when approached by the filmmaker nephew of another Liverpool friend and band at the time, The Merseybeats.  That’s the kind of person, Freda Kelly is, still not anxious to tell secrets on her old friends and bosses.

Freda Kelly, The Beatles' secretary and George Harrison

Freda Kelly and George Harrison

I, as I’ve said, have been fortunate to meet several people who knew The Beatles. I’ve written about several of these and others around them, as well as a series of recent tributes to Neil Aspinall, Tony Sheridan, and Cynthia Lennon (who passed away, Apr. 1st).  Some have written books, appeared at Beatles’ Conventions, and been in documentaries. The Beatles are, of course, Rock Royalty now, but some behind-the scenes people, like Freda Kelly, haven’t gotten much recognition.  Few around them became became rich or famous.  Some have even preferred to remain mainly private: Astrid Kirchherr (who created their “look”), Bob Wooler (Cavern DJ), Tony Sheridan).  I have found very interesting stories about The Beatles through theirs and others’  eyes and stories like Pete Shotten’s (Quarrymen  and Lennon’s childhood friend), Derek Taylor and Tony Barrow Beatles’ publicists), etc.   But as Freda Kelly breaks down near the end of the film and says, not many of them are still here anymore.  What struck me about most, if not all, the people whom I met who knew The Beatles’ at their beginnings, is their reverence for The Beatles and what they experienced.   That and their remarkable down–to-earthness, which must reflect their often Liverpool humble roots.  Freda Kelly comes across like you could just drop in for a cup of tea, as she often had with The Beatles.

Trailor for film, “Good Ol’ Freda”:

https://youtu.be/LqO3DIaKTXM

Complete film Dvd available:

http://www.magpictures.com/goodolfreda/

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.  

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

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, copyright. 

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, copyright.

Yoko Ono’s birthday is 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