Tag Archives: pop music

“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.




By  Alan Chrisman

On this day, July 20, two earth-changing events happened: Man landed on the moon in 1969 and Bob Dylan went electric in 1965, when his song,  “Like A Rolling Stone” was released on this day.  Dylan had been influenced by The Beatles and Dylan by them. The Beatles started paying more attention to their lyrics after hearing Dylan’s songs.  John Lennon’s writing, especially with songs such as “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” and “I’m a Loser”, started becoming more reflective and personal.  The Beatles also would soon release their folk-rock influenced album, Rubber Soul,

Bob Dylan would be booed for going electric at the Newport Festival on July25, '65

Bob Dylan would be booed for going electric at The Newport Folk Festival on July 25, 1965

by the end of ’65, with songs like “Norwegian Wood” and “Nowhere Man”.  Meanwhile, Dylan had been affected by them. Upon hearing, “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, Dylan said later, “They were doing things nobody was doing,” “Their chords were outrageous. It was obvious to me they had staying power. I knew they were pointing in the direction of where music had to go. In my head, the Beatles were it.” His next album, Highway 61 Revisited also released in’65, would be all electric.
Five days, after releasing the single, “Like a Rolling Stone”, Dylan would play the Newport Festival on July 25, and half the audience, the folk purists, would boo him for going electric and leaving behind his political folk-protest past.

Dylan and the electric The Band was still booed by some folk-purists in '66 at the Royal Albert Hall, London

Dylan would continue to be booed by some folk- purists in ’66 when he played with the electric mainly Canadian, The Band, at the Royal Albert Hall, London i

And even almost a year later, when Dylan toured England in ’66 with the electric, The Band, he was still being booed for playing rock-influenced music.  But “Like a Rolling Stone” had become his most successful hit and it reached #2, right behind The Beatles’ “Help.”  And like the Beatles, it changed the direction of music.  In 1974, I saw Dylan and The Band (who are mainly Canadian) perform “ Rolling Stone” In Montreal, as everyone got up and sang along.  Rolling Stone Magazine ranks, “ Like a Rolling Stone” as the greatest song of all time.

From Martin Scorsese’s documentary No Direction Home, Like A Rolling Stone”:


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



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:

"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?


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:


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


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



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

"Venus' was worldwide hit for Dutch group. Shocking Blue in 1970



By Alan Chrisman, copyright.

“Venus” (You Got It) was a #1 hit for Dutch group, Shocking Blue in 1970 and sold 7.5 million copies worldwide.  Then in 1986, all-female band, Bananarama, also had a hit with it again. Shocking Blue’s guitarist, Robbie van Leeuwen wrote the lyrics and their singer, Marisla Veres sang the lead.

Bananarama had big hit with cover of

Bananarama had another big hit with “Venus” in 1986

But it has quite an interesting story.  It’s an exact copy of a previous 1963 song “The Banjo Song” by the folk group, The Big 3. It was actually written by one of its members, Tim Rose. It contains the same guitar rift, bassline and melody as Shocking Blue’s “Venus”. Rose had also had a local hit with a slowed down-version of the song ”Hey Joe”.  Keith Richard’s girlfriend at the time, had suggested it for Jimi Hendrix’ to his manager, Chas Chandler (formerly of The Animals). It had already been recorded by the classic San Francisco band, Love, and many others, but as a fast version and it would later become a sort of anti-Vietnam war song in the 60’s, “Hey Joe” (‘what you doing with that gun?’).  Hendrix went to see Rose perform it in a small club in New York and adopted Rose’s angry slowed–down version and Hendrix’s became the most famous version.

Jimi Hendrix had hit with electrified version of

Jimi Hendrix had hit with electrified version of ” Hey Joe”

But also out of that short-lived folk group, The Big 3, was also to come Cass Elliot (Mama Cass) of the Mamas and The Papa’s along with Jim Hendricks (not Jimi Hendrix) who wrote Johnny Rivers’ hit, “Summer Rain”.  John Phillips, leader of the Mama’s and the Papa’s, was earlier in a band with Tim Rose. Phillips was then in The Journeymen with Scott McKenzie who sang the hippie anthem, “San Francisco (‘wear flowers in your hair’) which Phillips wrote.

John Sebastian and Zal Yanovsky (Canadian)later of The Lovin’ Spoonful, were in a related folk band with later Papa, Denny Doherty( another Canadian) of the time called The Mugwumps. This convoluted story of these later famous musicians’ connections is recounted in the Mama’s and Papa’s song, “Creeque Alley.”

“Creeque Alley” song by Mama’s and Pap’s tells story of musician’s connections

So there is this strange connection between the song” Venus” and Jimi Hendrix and The Mama’s and The Papa’s!

Shocking Blue doing their 1970 hit, “Venus”:



“Hey Joe”, slowed-down 1967 Tim Rose version which  Hendrix electrified:



The Mama’s and the Papa’s. “Creeque Alley” in which they describe   above mentioned musicians’ early connections:




Dick Clark began hosting " Rockin' New Year's Eve celebrations from Times Square in the mid-70's



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

When the calendar year was changed by the Church under Pope Gregory X111 in 1582, from the old Roman Julian calendar to better line up Easter with the Spring Equinox, and account for an uneven lunar cycle, the end of the year was designated to be December 31.  Ever since, most English-speaking countries have celebrated New Year’s Eve by saying good-bye then, to the previous year and welcoming in the New Year.

“Auld Lang Syne” has long been one of the songs to be played and sung at that time, at the stroke of midnight. The words to it are based on a poem, “Auld Lang Syne” (meaning ‘old long since’) by Scottish poet, Robbie Burns in 1788, and the melody is taken from a traditional Scottish folk tune.  As the Scots and others from The British Isles settled around the world they brought it with them and commemorated the occasion, so it became part of North America’s traditions.

Robert Burns, Scottish poet wrote the words to

Robbie Burns, Scottish Poet wrote the words to ” Auld Lang Syne” and they were later set to a traditional Scottish folk song

One of the musicians most associated with “Auld Lang Syne” for years was Guy Lombardo.  Lombardo was actually originally Canadian and he and his big-band dance group, The Royal Canadians, popularized it.  Lombardo was the headliner on New Year’s Eve for almost half a century at New York’s Roosevelt Hotel and later at the Waldorf Astoria from 1924 on, where live remotes were broadcast, in conjunction with celebrations on Times Square, which had become the center of  American festivities.  Those shows, first on radio then on TV, were transmitted into millions of American homes and became part of the shared tradition.

Guy Lombardo popularized

Guy Lombardo popularized ” Auld Lang Syne by playing it every New Year’s Eve from New York City

By the mid-70’s though, rock ‘n ‘roll promoter and founder of American Bandstand, Dick Clark, had up-dated and began hosting the show for younger generations. He called his show, “Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve’ and Clark’s array of acts, whomever was currently popular, soon became the most watched.  It carried on the tradition of watching the ball drop as everyone counted down the arrival of the New Year, which had become part of the ritual from New York’s Times Square. Clark continued on until, after a stroke in 2004, he had to eventually pass the hosting duties to Ryan Seacrest.

But even today, the first song played is still Guy Lombardo’s version of “Auld Lang Syne”. Since John Lennon’s death in New York in 1980, his anthem, ”Imagine” , is also poignantly played as well as Frank Sinatra’s “ New New York”.  For thousands who gather in Times Square, as well as millions more watching around the world, it has become the occasion to kiss those close and say good-bye to the old year and welcome in the coming year and say, “Happy New Year!”.                Happy New Year,Everyone!

Rod Stewart doing “Auld Lang Syne” at Scotland’s Stirling Castle, 2012:



Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne*?


For auld lang syne, my jo,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.