Tag Archives: Rock

“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 DAY BOB DYLAN WENT ELECTRIC

THE DAY BOB DYLAN WENT ELECTRIC

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”:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RHOdoJDgtrk

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

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/

Below documentary on Stu Sutcliffe: Including interviews with Pauline Sutcliffe, Tony Sheridan, Rod Murray, Allan Williams, etc.:

 

 

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

Stu Sutcliffe was one of the 5 original Beatles in Hamburg

Early letter and drawings from John Lennon to Cynthia

A TRIBUTE TO CYNTHIA LENNON & MEETING HER

A TRIBUTE TO CYNTHIA LENNON & MEETING HER

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

Cynthia Lennon, John’s 1st. wife, passed away April 1, 2015 at the age of 75 after a battle with cancer.  I’d always wanted to meet her and in 1994, I got my wish. Someone had told me of a Beatles’ Convention in Stamford , Connecticut and she was one of the main guests.

I had never been to a Beatles’ Convention before, but my fellow student and friend, Al Whyte, and I had just completed a course about putting on events and our two’s school project (only a fantasy) had been to do a Beatles’ Convention.  So we had a chance to actually go to one and also meet, as I say, John Lennon’s wife. I had read her book, Twist of Lennon, and could picture what it must have been like before they were very well-known in those early Beatles’ days in Liverpool.

Al and I met her briefly and she was even nicer and lovely than I had hoped. She signed my copy of her book and I nervously asked her some questions. I’d always wanted to see if I could try and see what John had been like past the pop star and media images.  We also ran into her later coming down in the elevator of the hotel where the Convention was being held. She had long blonde hair and wore wire-rimmed glasses like John.

I had read the romantic story in her book about how John had met her at their Liverpool art school in 1958.  But they were complete opposites.  John was the angry, chip-on his shoulder rebel, especially because his mother had been killed by a drunken driver when John was still a teenager. Cynthia Powell was the more middle-class “nice girl”.  But what they had in common was both of them being near-sighted and their love of art.   But she was able to detect underneath the Lennon sneer, a softer side too. They would sneak over to John’s aspiring-painter friend, Stu Sutcliffe’s room to make love.

Cynthia was very supportive of John and his early budding Beatles’ band.  And when Paul, George, Pete Best, and Stu Sutcliffe were sent to Hamburg, John would write back regular funny postcards and letters to her (even though they were playing in some of most decadent bars and temptations in Europe).  When they returned from Germany and first played the Cavern, she was there too. But Cynthia didn’t have it easy.  She was renting a room from John’s sometimes stern Aunt Mimi, while working at Woolworths and the two women didn’t get along.  She then moved to a small bedsitter room.

Cynthia Lennon's own artwork of the Cavern days

Cynthia Lennon’s own artwork of The Cavern days.

When Cynthia became pregnant with their son, Julian, they got married in 1962. (John said later, “it had been the thing to do”).  Even as The Beatles were becoming more and more popular, Cynthia was still stuck alone while The Beatles were on tour, having to put up with her husband being away a lot of the time, and with all the girls throwing themselves at the young men. And Lennon would sometimes take his frustrations out on her, violently even. There’s a scene in The film, Backbeat about the Hamburg days, where Astrid Kirchherr, the German art student who basically created the whole Beatles’ “look” says to Cynthia’s character, ”but John wants the world.”

At their height, as The Beatles were experimenting with drugs, Cynthia never really felt comfortable with their excesses.  Beatle wives were rarely allowed to be in the studio when their husbands were at work.  When their manager, Brian Epstein died, they all went to India to see the Maharishi, but John was secretly writing to this new artist, Yoko Ono.  On the plane home, he admitted to his wife the many affairs he’d had. John advised her to go to Greece for a vacation, the day she returned, she discovered Yoko had spent the night with him at her home.  Lennon and Cynthia soon divorced in 1968.

John had remarried Yoko but Julian had been pretty well ignored by his father ( much as John himself has been deserted by his father).  It wasn’t until Yoko and John had separated for several months in 1973 and John was with May Pang in L.A. that May encouraged John to re-connect with Julian.  Interestingly, I also met May Pang at that same Conn. Convention. I was surprised she was there; she wasn’t a scheduled guest.  But I soon learned she was good friends with Cynthia and had come in to see her.  I was able to meet May Pang too and get her to sign my copy of Lennon’s Walls and Bridges album and get photos of her too.

Meeting Cynthia Lennon & May Pang in 1994  led my friend, Al Whyte and I to put on Beatles' Conventions and meet several others who knew Beatles

Meeting Cynthia Lennon & May Pang in 1994, inspired our doing our own Beatles’ Conventions and meeting several who knew The Beatles

.Al and I were so inspired by meeting Cynthia and May Pang and others at that Conn. Convention that we decided to actually put on our own Beatles’ Conventions.  Also, soon after I got back home, Stu Sutcliffe’s sister, Pauline called me from England (I think Cynthia must have given Pauline my number).  We had presented Cynthia with our “fantasy”.  She seemed interested in our more ‘artistic’ convention than they usually were.  Cynthia was an artist in her own right and she would later have exhibitions of some of her art.  Cynthia Lennon’s own artwork of The Cavern.  Cynthia’s own drawing of The Cavern.

We even thought of having her son, Julian, whom had had a successful album, Valotte, as a guest too (which she liked).  Unfortunately, she couldn’t make it, but we did end up doing our Ottawa Conventions in ‘95 and ’96, with Pete Best and Louise Harrison as main guests, respectively.  Cynthia Lennon would later write a second book simply called John in 2005. She was a lot more critical of John in that book than her first and even said she wished in some ways, she had never met him.  Cynthia would, for years, have trouble getting much money and ran a couple failed restaurants and two of her marriages had ended in divorce before her final third husband died in 2013. When Yoko inherited John’s estate when John was killed in 1980, it still took years until Julian finally got a settlement which he shared with his mother.  Julian has been bitter the way he felt he had been treated, but over time, all the Beatles’ wives and children finally did appear together at certain functions such as the premiere of Cirque de Soleil’s Beatles’ Love show.

Cynthia, despite having been married to one of the most famous people in the world, as I said, didn’t have it easy.  But I was honored to meet her. I have no doubt that if Al and I hadn’t met Cynthia, we would never have actually done our own Beatles’ Conventions and gone on to meet several who knew The Beatles. That’s how much this lovely lady, Cynthia Lennon, had inspired me.

Below Julian Lennon’s video tribute to his mother, Cynthia, with his song:

https://youtu.be/fsyYqJxf9Qk

Cynthia Lennon's 1st book, 1978

Cynthia Lennon’s 1st book ,1978

Nancyb Sinatra had several hits, like " These Boots Are Made For Walkin", all pwritten and produced by Lee Hazelwood in the mid-1960's

“THESE BOOTS ARE MADE FOR WALKIN”: NANCY SINATRA/LEE HAZELWOOD

“THESE BOOTS ARE MADE FOR WALKIN”:  NANCY SINATRA/LEE HAZELWOOD

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

In the mid-1960’s Frank Sinatra’s daughter, Nancy, had several pop hits all written and produced by Lee Hazelwood.  Hazelwood basically created her whole “sound.” In 1966, Nancy Sinatra had a giant hit with his, “These Boots Are Made for Walkin.”  Later it would be covered by many bands, over the years, from pop to punk.  Ironically, it became somewhat of a feminist statement, ahead of its time, with its attitude (I think at the time, most guys anyway, probably bought her albums mainly for the sexy covers of her dressed in tight mini-skirts and go-go boots).  Nancy Sinatra, at that point, was considered more of an actress than a singer, having appeared in the Elvis movie, Speedway and Wild Angels with Peter Fonda.  But Hazelwood knew how to write catchy, distinctive songs to go with her image. They followed that up with other songs he wrote for her:  “Summer Wine”, “How Does That Grab Ya, Darling?”, “Sugar Town”, and on “Jackson” and “Some Velvet Morning”, he added his baritone male voice.  Nancy Sinatra later sang a title song for James Bond’s You Only Live Twice and her cover of Cher’s “Bang  Bang” was used in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill, Vol. One

Nancy Sinatra had great songs all written and produced by Lee Hazelwood ( but probably a lot of guys anyway bought for her sexy album covers too

Nancy Sinatra had big hits like “These Boots Are Made for Walkin”, all written and produced by Lee Hazelwood

All her hits had that Hazelwood production, something that he had actually developed in the 50’s.  For he had also developed the echo-production sound (originally Hazelwood couldn’t afford an echo chamber, so he used a 2000 gallon water tank) to capture the sound for which “twangy” guitarist, Duane Eddy, became known, with a string of instrumental hits, “ Peter Gunn”, “ Boss Guitar”, “Rebel Rouser” and Guitar Man.”

Duane Eddy had several

Duane Eddy had several “Twangy” guitar hits, also produced by Lee Hazelwood in the late ’50’s

After Nancy Sinatra’s hits, he produced another big hit, a duet with her dad, Frank, “Something Stupid” in 1967, as well as the soundtrack to Frank Sinatra’s film Tony Rome and wrote Dean Martin’s hit, “Houston.”  The theme which Paul Shaffer plays on The David Letterman Show for their regular feature “small town news” is actually taken from Hazelwood’s song, “This Town”.  Hazelwood also produced Graham Parson’s 1st album with The International Submarine Band, Safe At Home,  before parsons left to join The Byrds.  By the 1970’s, Hazelwood had moved to Sweden, but he had a unique production sound.

Nancy Sinatra doing her Lee Hazelwood-written and produced 1966 hit, “These Boots Are Made For Walkin”

http://youtu.be/SbyAZQ45uww

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SbyAZQ45uww

Elvis' 2nd Xmas Album, with Merry xmas Baby" was released in 1971

“MERRY XMAS BABY”, “PLEASE COME HOME FOR XMAS”, CHARLES BROWN

“MERRY XMAS BABY”, “PLEASE COME HOME FOR XMAS”, CHARLES BROWN

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

The Eagles released a cover of Charles Brown's

The Eagles released a cover of Charles Brown’s classic Xmas song, “Please Come Home For Xmas” in 1977

(Part of a series on Xmas-rock songs)

Charles Brown, a R&B piano player and singer in the 1950’s had Xmas hits with, “ “Merry Xmas Baby” and his own composition, ”Please come Home For Xmas.”  Brown’s laid-back jazzy-blues style piano playing had a big influence on, especially Ray Charles., who himself did a cover of “Merry Xmas Baby”.  It’s also been recorded by Otis Redding, Chuck Berry, B.B. King, Springsteen, Etta James, and Rod Stewart and Cee Lo Green.

Elvis would have his own Xmas hit with it, off his second Xmas album,971 Elvis Sings the Wonderful World of Christmas in 1971. It’s a great rendition of the song with  blues-guitar work by the legendary James Burton (see previous blog: “Rick Nelson: More Than a Teen Idol” & James Burton”).   Many people too did covers over the years of Brown’s, “ Please Come Home For Christmas”, including James Brown, Willie Nelson, Bon Jovi, Lady Antebellam, Grace Potter, etc. But The Eagles’ version in 1997 is probably the next most well-known.  It’s sometimes called, “The Bells Are Ringing” because that’s its beginning words.

Elvis singing a bluesy version of “Merry Xmas Baby” from his 2nd Christmas album, 1971:

http://youtu.be/rJcJbVBwREc

The Eagles doing Charles Brown’s “Please Come Home For Xmas”, 1997:

http://youtu.be/XeShHAZk3to