Ah, 34 Montagu Square, the infamous ground floor and basement apartment once leased by Beatle Ringo Starr during the mid-1960s. Many celebrities sub-leased the apartment from Starr then, but perhaps the worst of the worst celebrity tenant award goes to a Mr. Jimi Hendrix.
Hendrix—along with his girlfriend, Kathy Etchingham—sub-leased the apartment back in December of 1966. They both lived on the lower-ground floor and paid £30 a month in rent. That’s a pretty rad bargain if you ask me even for back then. I’d consider it living situation that you’d probably not want to fuck up. But… Jimi Hendrix apparently did. One night while on an acid trip, Hendrix decided it would be a good idea to whitewash the entire place. He threw whitewash all over the walls because LSD. That, er, “mistake” led Ringo Starr to issue Hendrix an eviction. Bye-bye, Jimi!
Hendrix and Etchingham only lasted three months in the digs. Hendrix, did however, compose the song “The Wind Cries Mary” while he lived there. The song was inspired after a fight he had with Etchingham over her lack of cooking skills.
The photographs you see here, by photojournalist Petra Niemeier, are of Hendrix while he lived at 34 Montagu Square. Judging by these photos, I’m surprised Hendrix didn’t burn down the damned place while smoking in bed. Methinks the Beatle probably made the right call.
In the years following the success of her memoir The Happy Hooker and the launch of its film franchise, Xaviera Hollander dabbled fairly widely in merchandising the “Happy Hooker” name. She can hardly be blamed, it’s such a catchy phrase that it’s been cheekily co-opted by everyone from crochet hobbyists to fishermen. Hollander has been involved in drama production, written a long-running advice column (and penned plenty of sex-advice books), and she even had a Happy Hooker board game.
Lest you think I was kidding about that, here you go.
Hollander produced a kitsch artifact holy grail with her 1973 LP Xaviera! It’s mostly a spoken-word album, with tracks featuring Hollander detailing her philosophies regarding sex generally and prostitution specifically. There are a few tracks that are basically dramatizations of trysts, but the real money-shot here (sorry) is Hollander’s bonkers cover of the Beatles’ classic “Michelle.” It’s been a mix-CD staple of mine since I found it years ago on April Winchell’s old MP3 page (it’s not on her current page, but don’t let that stop you from heading there anyway to revel in all the marvelously bizarre delights contained therein), and it could not be more out of place, either on that LP, or on planet freakin’ Earth.
I don’t want to mislead, this isn’t anything like full on Mrs. Miller-level self-deuded badness. But it’s still pretty out there, and bad in a way and to a degree that make it truly compelling. At no time is the song ever actually “sung”—it’s moaned in a breathy, overwrought “Happy Birthday Mr. President” way that often out-camps most intentional campifications of sexuality. And when the most famous prostitute on Earth moans “I want you, I want you, I WANT YOU,” should it not maybe feel more believable? Fittingly, the track ended up on the Golden Throats 4: Celebrities Butcher the Beatles compilation, and as far as I know, it would be another ten years before Hollander endeavored to sing on an LP again, for the Dutch-only release Happily Hooked. (See what I mean about that branding? That shit is durable.) And even on that album—or at least the part of it that my DM colleague Amber Frost found—she still basically just talks over music. Not that exceptional singing is the reason you listen to it anyway, it’s all in good fun.
One last trivia nugget for the trainspotters: the Xaviera! LP contains a “special guest” credit to the rockabilly pioneer Ronnie Hawkins, who, apart from his own musical contributions, assembled the musicians who would come to be known as The Band. Whether his guest appearance is as the guitar player on “Michelle,” or as a male voice in one of the performances, or both, I couldn’t say.
I wish ‘70s-style TV variety specials would make a comeback. They represented everything great about awful showbiz crap. Actors who couldn’t sing sang and singers who couldn’t act acted. They almost invariably contained terribly-scripted sketch comedy in which stilted dialogue abounded. And ALL aspects of the productions were pushed past their badness thresholds—the musical orchestrations were exactly too bombastic, the costumery was exactly too glittery, and the stars were exactly too far past their prime. That shit was choice.
On Thanksgiving of 1977, ABC-TV aired the one-hour Beatles Forever, a musical tribute to the Fab Four, starring Diahann Carroll, Ray Charles, Anthony Newley, Paul Williams, Mel Tillis, Bernadette Peters, Anthony Dowell, and Tony Randall. Yep, some crazy bastard thought Tony Randall singing Beatles songs was going to be good TV! About the only respectable performances came, unsurprisingly, from the great Ray Charles, who’d already been performing “Yesterday” as part of his own concert repertoire for years. A different kind of respectable performance came from Anthony Newley, by then deep into the Borscht Belt phase of his career, tackling George Harrison’s dense and trippy Sgt. Pepper’s number “Within You, Without You.” Dangerous Minds’ Marc Campbell wrote about that a few years ago, check it out here, its histrionics could permanently warp you. If only the video would turn up online—Canadian sound collagist and radio host Otis Fodder‘s description of the segment sounds about ten light years beyond bonkers:
This special starred a ton of folks, but this performance by Anthony Newley (with his over-dramatic vocal stylings) take the cake. The video clip of this is a laugh riot in itself with Anthony’s eyebrows doing most of the singing (as they move in a hypnotic motion that send you into a pure Zen state). It’s also very important to note that while Anthony sings this song he is in a Grecian bath room, in a toga, fog covering the ground and there are ladies in waiting!
For the most part, the show was heavy on tacky medleys, wherein every singer got a chance to quickly trainwreck a choice bit of a classic song. Audio of the entire show was made available in MP3 form by WFMU as the kickoff of their 2007 “365 Days” project. Video is maddeningly difficult to find, but the final medley survives on YouTube. It starts off quite nicely, with Ray Charles performing a respectful and tasteful take on Let It Be‘s “The Long and Winding Road.” Then, in under a minute, it all goes straight to hell.
In spring of 1970, mere months after the Beatles released Abbey Road, the Stax label’s elite house band Booker T. and the MGs released McLemore Avenue, a near-complete tribute to that LP. A lot of you probably guessed as much, but McLemore Avenue was the Memphis street on which Stax’s studios resided, just as Abbey Road was the street on which the EMI studio where the Beatles recorded was located. (The studio wasn’t officially named “Abbey Road Studios” until sometime after that Beatles LP came out. The more you know.) A lot of you probably also guessed that the Booker T. album is freakin’ excellent.
AVC: What inspired you and the M.G.’s to record McLemore Avenue, your instrumental cover version of Abbey Road?
BT: I was in California when I heard Abbey Road, and I thought it was incredibly courageous of The Beatles to drop their format and move out musically like they did. To push the limit like that and reinvent themselves when they had no need to that. They were the top band in the world but they still reinvented themselves. The music was just incredible so I felt I needed to pay tribute to it.
McLemore Avenue was divided into four tracks. Taking a cue from the extended medley on side two of the Beatles’ Abbey Road album, three of those tracks are medleys clocking in at seven, ten, and fifteen minutes each. Every Abbey Road song except “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” “Octopus’ Garden,” and “Oh Darling” appears in one or another of the medleys, but the order of the songs in each medley does not necessarily follow the order of the Beatles’ album. My favorite is the final track on McLemore Avenue, which adroitly combines “Sun King,” “Mean Mr. Mustard,” “Polythene Pam,” “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window,” and “I Want You (She’s So Heavy).” On the surface, covering a complete album of any group, let alone the Beatles, is quite a risky gambit. The MG’s pull it off with aplomb, in the process creating a parallel masterpiece to the quintessential Beatles album.
“Parallel masterpiece,” sure, why not, but it’s almost a shame it wasn’t a complete cover. I’d give a lot to hear the MGs do the affably goofy Ringo song “Octopus’ Garden.” It’s kind of tantalizing to imagine how Steve Cropper could have transformed that guitar lick. On the subject of Cropper, I was amazed to learn that he wasn’t present for the McLemore Avenue recording sessions, and that he overdubbed his parts later, still having never actually heard Abbey Road yet! Again from Soulsville, U.S.A.:
“Booker told me every note to play,” relates Steve. “I hadn’t even heard the Beatles album. I might have heard a cut on the radio but I had not sat down and listened to the album like they had. He showed me the changes and sat down to teach me the songs. I strictly played to what I heard Booker play. [When I heard] the Beatles versions of those tunes, I went “Holy shit!” I was very surprised. I didn’t know those songs at all.”
Here’s the album, in sequence.
1) Medley: “Golden Slumbers,” “Carry That Weight,” “The End,” “Here Comes the Sun,” “Come Together”
The relationship and eventual marriage of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, looked at from a slightly unusual perspective, can be seen as an alliance between the high pop mastery of the Beatles and the playful avant-garde methods of the Fluxus group. Ono was obviously one of the major Fluxus artists of the day, and in taking up with her Lennon exposed himself to avant-garde art in a particularly intimate way—and vice versa.
It would be a stretch to say that the Beatles were authentic pioneers of electronic music, but at the same time it couldn’t be clearer that McCartney and Co.’s relentless experimental incursions into the medium of pop music had an enormous effect on what was regarded as “in bounds” for rock music. The introduction of feedback on “I Feel Fine,” the use of reversed tape loops in “Tomorrow Never Knows,” the maelstrom of nonsense in “Revolution 9,” the symphonic collision of melody in “A Day in the Life,” and so on. In 1967 McCartney contributed a 14-minute tape loop composition called “Carnival of Light” to an awesome-sounding event called the The Million Volt Light and Sound Rave that has never reached the public even to this day (Harrison and George Martin loathed the piece; Harrison vetoed releasing it every chance he got). Meanwhile, Harrison himself made a key contribution to the canon of electronic music with the release of his second album, titled simply Electronic Sound, in 1969; the album consisted solely of two loooooooong Moog compositions, as my colleague Ron Kretsch ably explained on DM a few months back. Of course, Lennon himself was burrowing into weirdo musique concrete with Yoko, in various releases like Unfinished Music No. 2: Life with the Lions, Two Virgins, and Wedding Album.
In 1969 Paik teamed up with Fluxus-associated filmmaker Jud Yalkut to create Beatles Electroniques, a three-minute video in which Beatles footage is messed with electronically. I would argue that Beatles Electroniques is an essential proto-Plunderphonics text. I’m tempted to call it the first important Plunderphonics work in everything but name—the term “Plunderphonics” was coined by composer John Oswald in 1985 to describe works stretching back no earlier than the 1970s. Oswald’s key recordings include the Plunderphonics EP (1988) and the Plunderphonics album (1989). Key inheritors of the Plunderphonics style are Negativland and Christian Marclay. The Residents fucked with Beatles source material in The Beatles play The Residents and The Residents play The Beatles, but that was fully eight years after Beatles Electroniques.
In October 1965, Paik screened his first videotapes as part of a series of “happening nights” at the Greenwich Village nightclub Cafe au Go Go—a venue that included Lenny Bruce and the Grateful Dead among its roster of performers. … Beatles Electroniques, 1966-69, made with the experimental filmmaker Jud Yalkut, is nothing less than an early black-and-white music video. Paik grabbed bits from the mock documentary A Hard Day’s Night (directed by Richard Lester in 1964), refilming and further distorting the footage through his video synthesizer (developed with engineer Shuya Abe). Snippets of the Beatles’ faces are caught in a loop of warped abstraction. To accompany the endlessly folding imagery, Paik created a sound track with Kenneth Lerner, which featured fragmented Beatles songs recited again and again. Whereas the original film is an upbeat paean to Beatlemania, Paik’s strategies of appropriation and repetition are conceptually closer to Andy Warhol’s silk-screened paintings of celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe, 1962, and Steve Reich’s phasing of spoken words from a publicized racial incident in his sound composition Come Out (1966). Like these works, Beatles Electroniques brought seriality into the realm of sensory overload.
Nobody seems to know what these “fragmented Beatles songs” actually are, so transformed are they in Paik and Yalkut’s work. Without further ado, here’s Beatles Electroniques:
By October 1964, the Beatles were already veterans of the recording studio. When they entered Abbey Road to cut “She’s a Woman” they had released three albums and numerous singles. They had been working at a furious pace and dealing with incredible fame. Surely the Beatles were looking to cut loose.
Written primarily by Paul McCartney (years later, John Lennon remembered writing some of the words—maybe), “She’s a Woman” was recorded on October 8th, 1964. Take six of the song would be deemed best and came out in late November 1964 as the b-side to “I Feel Fine” in the UK, but in the US the sides were flipped, with “She’s a Woman” reaching #4 on the charts in the states.
Take seven was their last stab at the song. Possibly sensing this attempt wasn’t up to snuff, they might have looked at each other and figured: “Why not get crazy?” Maybe they were finally comfortable enough in the studio to goof around and blow off some much needed steam. Or were the Beatles just giddy over writing their first drug reference? Here’s John Lennon referring to the line “Turn me on when I get lonely” in a 1980 interview:
We were so excited to say ‘turn me on.’—you know, about marijuana and all that, using it as an expression.
Ten days later the band recorded “I Feel Fine,” with a happy accident leading to the use of guitar feedback as the song’s intro—widely regarded as the beginning of the Beatles experimenting in the studio. Perhaps the hair-raising joy heard at the conclusion of the final “She’s a Woman” is the moment when they gained the confidence to take a shared step into the abyss.
There was a time I would have gone to the mat in defense of the idea that the first ever mashup release was 1996’s “Whipped Cream Mixes” single by Columbus, OH’s Evolution Control Committee, a marvelous collision of Public Enemy a cappella tracks with music beds by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. If you don’t know them, my God, take a few minutes out of your life to properly dig some awesomeness:
Though that single is an acknowledged influence on the UK bootleg scene, I was mistaken in my Ohio-proud belief that the ECC invented the now-standard “Band vs Band” form. But I was educated. By the graces of Regretsy creator April Winchell’s amazing MP3 share page, I was alerted to the existence of composer/arranger Alan Copeland’s 1968 work “Mission: Impossible Theme/Norwegian Wood,” whereon Copeland’s chorus sang the lyrics to the Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood” over an orchestral performance of Lalo Schifrin’s indelible theme music from the secret agent TV series.
Copeland was already known for his work in The Modernaires, and on television with Your Hit Parade and The Red Skelton Show when ABC records released his weird hybrid as a single. That single won a Grammy award in the Best Contemporary Pop Performance, Chorus category. According to several sources I’ve found, The Alan Copeland Singers actually performed “Norwegian Wood” on the Skelton show, but frustratingly, I can find no indication of whether it was performed with the “Mission: Impossible” music, nor can I find any video of the appearance online. Frankly, for a Grammy-winning major label single, the tune is an elusive motherfucker. The 7” photo above is of my copy—can you make out the 98¢ price sticker? The idea of finding it that cheaply nowadays is, um, wishful. (To be clear, I paid way, WAY less than the eBay seller at that link is asking—no 7” is worth a shopping cart full of groceries.)
The song resurfaced in 1997 on a compilation from Rhino Records (naturally!) called Golden Throats 4: Celebrities Butcher the Beatles, a comp that is itself out of print and rare now. I managed to find it on Grooveshark, but that site’s embeds evidently don’t work on mobile devices, so for readers who browse DM on a phone or tablet, I’ve also included a YouTube link to a faithful cover version, by an Australian vocal group called the Unisounds. Somehow, you will hear this song, dammit.
Per IMDB, Alan Copeland is still living, and teaching choir in Berkeley, CA.
Beatle wigs were surely the biggest game-changer in the celebrity merchandise racket until the introduction of screenprinted t-shirts. While actors and singers had launched sartorial fads since the advent of the star system (and is selling crap to the rubes not half the point of said system?), I’m not aware of, nor has more digging than I really wanted to do turned up, for example, a trademarked line of bobby socks emblazoned with Frank Sinatra’s smilin’ mug, or a clothier who marketed a specifically Elvis-branded shirt-jac. But the way the Beatles seismic popularity completely blew up western culture? Cuban-heeled ankle boots were ubiquitously rebranded as “Beatle” boots, and collarless Edwardian suits were sold as “Beatle” suits. But those were garments that already existed. The wigs? I suspect the widespread desire of fans to purchase crappy wigs to emulate their heroes’ hair may have been novel. There’s maybe an arguable precedent in the Fess Parker-inspired fad for raccoon fur caps in the ‘50s, but a hat doesn’t mean the same thing as a wig does it? The semiotic is a different one.
I almost kind of even get why it happened. In the U.S., where the Beatles’ hair inspired the most scandalous media attention, crew-cuts were the ubiquitous men’s haircut, so growing one’s hair out to the newly trendy length could take a year. If you rocked a duck’s ass, you could just forego your pomade and trim your bangs to achieve the style, but DAs were for greasers who probably hated the Beatles anyway, not clean teens who stayed home on Sunday night to watch Ed Sullivan’s “really big shoe.”
“Necessity” being the mother of invention, the Beatle wig was born. Never mind that actually wearing one made you look less like Paul McCartney than a forgotten Howard brother who got kicked out of the Three Stooges for lurking around playgrounds, the damn things really caught on. Can you imagine if this had stayed a thing? Suppose gazillions of kids bought Quiet Riot wigs—don’t let mom throw out your ultra-collectible Kevin DuBrow pre-hairplugs model!—Vanilla Ice wigs, Jonas Brothers wigs. THE HORROR!
NOT A COPY—THE REAL THING? Um, unless they scalped Ringo, this is pretty much the definition of a copy.
And of course today, as with all things Beatles, original wigs now cost a fortune. (A friend of mine once quipped, on observing original press Beatles records at a collectors convention which were fetching car-payment prices despite looking like they were the victims of a piss-deluge and a vigorous flaying, that one could probably just write the word “Beatles” in jelly on a piece of white toast and some bug-eyed, bowl-mulletted dipshit would give you money for it.) Some of the molded plastic ones, which amusingly foreshadow DEVO’s New Traditionalists-era plastic pompadours, can go for an astonishing $600. But even the ghastly cash-in-quick cheapos that were hastily stitched together from fun-fur can fetch some serious bucks.
Here’s a fun newsreel doc from the terrific British Pathé discussing the fad, and even showing the details of the wigs’ manufacture.
John and I wrote “She’s Leaving Home together.” It was my inspiration. We’d seen a story in the newspaper about a young girl who’d left home and not been found, there were a lot of those at the time, and that was enough to give us a story line. So I started to get the lyrics: she slips out and leaves a note and then the parents wake up ... It was rather poignant. I like it as a song, and when I showed it to John, he added the long sustained notes, and one of the nice things about the structure of the song is that it stays on those chords endlessly. Before that period in our song-writing we would have changed chords but it stays on the C chord. It really holds you. It’s a really nice little trick and I think it worked very well.
While I was showing that to John, he was doing the Greek chorus, the parents’ view: ‘We gave her most of our lives, we gave her everything money could buy.’ I think that may have been in the runaway story, it might have been a quote from the parents. Then there’s the famous little line about a man from the motor trade; people have since said that was Terry Doran, who was a friend who worked in a car showroom, but it was just fiction, like the sea captain in “Yellow Submarine”, they weren’t real people.
—Paul McCartney to Barry Miles in 1997
The Daily Mirror story that inspired “She’s Leaving Home” was about Melanie Coe, then aged 17. “Wild child” Coe snuck out of her parents’ comfortable North London home in February of 1967. She was pregnant and afraid of what her mother might do, but had not run off with the father of her unborn child—or “a man from the motor trade,” for that matter—but rather with a croupier she’d just met. They shacked up for ten days before her parents found her. She returned home and had an abortion.
But here’s the weird part: three years earlier Coe had actually met Paul McCartney when he was the judge of a miming contest that Coe won on Ready, Steady, Go! Coe mimed to Brenda Lee’s “Let’s Jump The Broomstick” and Macca gave her the award. Winning the contest meant Coe would be a dancer on the show for an entire year.
Over the weekend, when the sad news spread about the passing of Tommy Ramone, a really touching image circulated online, showing the Ramones debut LP, then the same cover with Joey, Johnny, and Dee Dee Photoshopped out, and then, at last, Tommy removed as well. Dangerous Minds even shared it on our Facebook page.
The middle image, of Tommy standing alone in front of that iconic brick wall, seems to have come from a Tumblr called “Live! (I See Dead People),” which is devoted entirely to skillfully removing deceased musicians from their LP covers—sort of like “Garfield Minus Garfield,” but with a more serious intent. The subjects range from cult figures like Nick Drake to canonical rock stars like Nirvana and The Doors, and the results are often quite poignant. The blog hasn’t been updated in almost three years, so it seems unlikely the artists behind this project, Jean-Marie Delbes and Hatim El Hihi, will re-do that Ramones cover. Indeed, their Morrison Hotel still features Ray Manzarek, who passed on a little over a year ago.
While the style is certainly recognizable, the tone of George Dunning’s 1970 cartoon “Moon Rock” is a vastly different from its predecessor, Yellow Submarine. After a countdown and blast-off, our faceless astronaut lands on what appears to be the Moon, where a series of psychedelic characters are there to greet him, including a Blue Meanie-reminiscent slug-thing requesting chocolate and jelly. Interspersed with real video footage, the surreal subjects and austere setting make “Moon Rock” a product of its time without being dated. The trippy ambient music is from Ron Geesin, who also co-composed the “Atom Heart Mother” suite with Pink Floyd.
Apparently Dunning based the narrative on the notion of “lateral thinking,” a creative problem-solving concept from New Agey self-help consultant, Edward de Bono. For some frame of reference on de Bono, in 2000 he recommended sending Marmite to Israel and Palestine because he believed an unleavened bread-related zinc deficiency was exacerbating aggression in the region. Crazy? Sure, but it makes for darn good animation!
Sure, you can have your Joe Walsh, your Peter Frampton, your Katy Perry (and be sure to check out that preposterous headline in that link, there). When it comes to Beatles tributes, I’m very comfortable going with the delirious disco version that Italian dancer Raffaella Carrà headed up on Italian TV in 1978. She truly captured the essence of the Beatles.
Carrà was kind of a big deal in her native Italy as well as Albania, Greece, Latin America, and elsewhere. According to Wikipedia, “She was the first television figure to show her belly button on camera. This was met with heavy criticism from the Vatican.” I’m pretty sure they mean “in Italy,” there.
The video features at least a dozen dancers working their asses off—working hard. The medley gallops through eight Beatles classics in fewer than eight minutes, and each song gets its own stage set (there’s a lot of green screen)—naturalmente Carrà gets a different stunning outfit for each set/song. They seem to be obsessed with the Beatles’ Britishness—lots of Union Jack and bowlers throughout. I’d describe more but you really have to see it to believe it.
How is it possible that fewer than a thousand people have witnessed this glorious video on YouTube?? It boggles the mind! Press play and behold the tacky genius.
In May of 1969—a full eleven years before Paul McCartney baffled his fans with the goofy electronic experiment “Temporary Secretary”—George Harrison released his second solo album, Electronic Sound, consisting of two side-length explorations composed on a modular Moog synth, “Under the Mersey Wall” and “No Time or Space.”
Unsurprisingly, the album barely charted in the U.S. and failed altogether in the U.K.—even in a period as indulgent as the late ’60s, a novice knob-twiddler’s pair of lengthy beepscapes wasn’t going to fly with the masses—and has only been reissued once, in 1996. But as it was one of the first albums ever to feature a Moog exclusively, and because let’s face it, it was made by a Beatle, it remains an item of interest among historically bent electronic music obsessives and Beatles completists. You can hear the entire album below. For whatever it’s worth, I’m a little more partial to side two (a composition that was the subject of a minor controversy), which starts at about 18:44.
The LP was the second release on Apple Records’ “Zapple” imprint. Zapple was intended to be Apple’s avant-garde subsidiary, but it only existed for a few months in 1969 and only released two albums, John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s also very rare Unfinished Music No.2: Life With The Lions being the first. The label was folded by Beatles manager Allen Klein only a month after Electronic Sound’s release—evidently enough was already enough. Harrison himself had much to say about the difficulty of curating a record label in this rare contemporary interview.
Lennon and McCartney are the most covered songwriters of all time (“Yesterday” is supposed to be the #1 most covered song in history). I used to make a sport of finding great Beatle covers to make mixed tapes with, and let me tell you, there are some really good ones and then again there are some really crappy ones, too.
But when it comes to the bad Beatle covers—and there are a ton of ‘em—none are so awful as the numbers found on the absolutely shit Beatle Barkers novelty album, where the songs of the Beatles are… uh, barked (and it doesn’t even include “Hey Bulldog!” What gives?).
It’s painful to listen to, as you might imagine, but there is a certain level of “so wrong it’s right” to the proceedings as well. It’s not even real dogs barking, it’s human beings imitating dogs! You can listen to the entire thing at the WFMU blog... if you, uh, really want to…