If you thought the movie version of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was bad—and it is—here’s something that will really curl the toes of your Beatle boots.
All This And World War ll mashes up archival WW2 film footage with gung-ho Hollywood war epics and then tosses in a weird mix of rock stars covering Beatle tunes for its soundtrack. It manages to achieve a soul-deflating awfulness while occasionally allowing little worm like glimmerings of brilliance to ooze through the sprocket holes. Had it not been produced by 20th Century Fox, it might be mistaken for a long lost underground film directed by dadaist acidheads with a lot of rock and roll musicians for friends.
When it was released to theaters in 1976, ATAWW2 lasted all of a couple of weeks (critics hated it, audiences stayed away) before being pulled by Fox and buried forever. It has never appeared on VHS or DVD. Rumor had it that Fox had destroyed every existing print and negative of the movie (not true, but they probably should have). Even bootleggers found it close to impossible to unearth a copy.
Thanks to YouTube, it’s now possible to see this extravagantly misguided experiment as it lands on your screen with a sickening thud. An experiment that proves that if you put enough monkeys in an editing room and give them enough time and stock film footage they will create “something” that approximates a movie even if it’s no more than the cinematic equivalent of throwing shit against the wall.
I’m sure we can all argue which juxtapositions of song to images work, which ones are silly in the extreme or just plain irredeemably bad ... or all of the above. Helen Reddy singing “Fool On The Hill” as clips of Hitler unspool on the screen gets my vote for the movie’s maddest moment. Or is it Rod Stewart singing “Get Back” to footage of masses of goose-stepping Nazis? Or The Bee Gees singing “Golden Slumbers” as bombs drop on London and buildings explode in a maelstrom of smoke and fire? I don’t know. The film offers so many choices that my bad taste meter never left the red zone. And frankly, that alone is enough for me to recommend this anal wart of a movie.
Zsa Zsa Gabor, the much-married Hungarian-American actress and socialite (and great aunt of Paris Hilton) passed away yesterday at the age of 99. While she was an entertainer, her life didn’t have any obvious crossover with topics normally pursued on this site, but there was one. She played a not insignificant role in the creation of the Beatles song “She Said She Said”—even if she wasn’t actually aware of it.
As their 1965 U.S. tour wound down, the Beatles had a day off and used it to hang out with some Hollywood friends at a house they were renting from Zsa Zsa for six days. At the very height of Beatlemania and unable to socialize in public, with Gabor’s Spanish villa being besieged by hordes of fans and even paparazzi photographers trying to get shots of them from helicopters, they invited English actress Eleanor Bron over—she had appeared in Help! earlier that year—as well as folk singer Joan Baez, Roger McGuinn, David Crosby and the rest of the Byrds, actress Peggy Lipton, and Peter Fonda. The day in question was significant in terms of the Beatles’ transition from mainstream showbiz to more of a counterculture act with a working familiarity with psychedelic drugs. John Lennon and George Harrison used LSD for the second time that day, and it was the first go-round for Ringo Starr. Paul McCartney had used LSD previously, but he chose not to join them that day.
It turned out that George had a really, really bad trip and needed to be talked down by Peter Fonda. George’s problem was that he thought he was about to die. Here’s Fonda’s version of events:
I told him there was nothing to be afraid of and that all he needed to do was relax. I said that I knew what it was like to be dead because when I was 10 years old I’d accidentally shot myself in the stomach and my heart stopped beating three times while I was on the operating table because I’d lost so much blood.
John was passing at the time and heard me saying “I know what it’s like to be dead.” He looked at me and said, “You’re making me feel like I’ve never been born. Who put all that shit in your head?”
The Beatles in late 1965
In the book Lennon Remembers, a 1971 book that features the Beatle’s interviews with Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner, John described the day—at the outset he is explaining that the Beatles had little experience with LSD and so didn’t understand the risks that taking it would bring. Among other things they were worried about the presence of a Daily Mirror journalist named Don Short who had also been invited:
We still didn’t know anything about doing it in a nice place and cool it and all that, we just took it. And all of a sudden we saw the reporter and we’re thinking, “How do we act normal?” Because we imagined we were acting extraordinary, which we weren’t. We thought, “Surely somebody can see.” We were terrified waiting for him to go, and he wondered why he couldn’t come over, and Neil [Aspinall], who had never had it either, had taken it, and he still had to play road manager. We said, “Go and get rid of Don Short,” and he didn’t know what to do, he just sort of sat with it.
And Peter Fonda came, that was another thing, and he kept on saying, “I know what it’s like to be dead.” We said, “What?” And he kept saying it, and we were saying, “For chrissake, shut up, we don’t care. We don’t want to know.” But he kept going on about it. That’s how I wrote “She Said She Said”....
A beaming Hoshika Rumiko with The Beatles on the cover of issue number eight of ‘Music Life,’ 1965.
According to fans the Japanese magazine Music Life (published by Shinko Music Entertainment) is considered the greatest music publication in Japan. The magazine got its real start sometime in 1951 after a failed launch five-years earlier in 1946. When a former member of the magazine’s editorial staff, Hoshika Rumiko, took over as the magazine’s editor in 1964, she also became the first Japanese journalist to interview The Beatles in London and then once again when the band came to Japan in 1966. Rumiko even appeared on the cover of Music Life in 1965 along with John, Paul, George and Ringo dressed in traditional Japanese attire. When her interview with the Fab Four was published the magazine sold 250,000 copies—a far cry from their usual distribution of 50,000-70,000 copies per issue.
Known for its high-quality photographs printed on thick glossy paper Music Life was reportedly one of Japan’s best selling magazines during the 60’s and 70s and featured photos and interviews with EVERYONE that was anyone especially musical acts that were “big in Japan” like David Sylvian (of the band Japan), Queen, The Runways, David Bowie, Debbie Harry, Frank Zappa, and of course KISS. Most of the images I’ve included here I’ve never laid eyes on myself, like one of an eighteen-year-old Peter Frampton with a brown Beatle-esque haircut from 1968 and another of Iron Maiden posing the cover of Music Life in 1981 with a heavy metal-looking Kabuki entertainer instead of their faithful mascot Eddie.
The magazine called it a day in 1998 and Rumiko is currently working to complete her biography detailing her life as a pioneering female journalist in Japan (something I will absolutely be reading when it comes out in English) sometime late this year. As I know many of our Dangerous Minds readers enjoy collecting vintage music magazines, copies of Music Life are fairly easy to come by and will run you anywhere from $20 to about $75 bucks an issue on eBay. If you dig what you see in this post, you can also see more of the magazine’s cool covers that date back to 1968 at this archival site.
Marc Bolan of T.Rex on the cover of issue number twelve of ‘Music Life,’ 1972.
Yellow Submarine is such a brilliantly fun movie experience and so perfectly in the Beatles’ mass culture, mind-evolving spirit that it takes an effort to recall that the Beatles themselves didn’t really have very much to do with it. It says a lot, perhaps, about the strength of the Beatles brand at that time that Yellow Submarine could work so splendidly, even with most of the artists involved being forced to intuit what jokes and artworks constituted an acceptably “Beatles” and “fun” sort of thing. Not much doubt that they succeeded, eh?
The man in charge of the operation was a Czechoslovak-born German named Heinz Edelmann, an artist with a wide portfolio who seems to have become somewhat chagrined at always being thought of as the “Yellow Submarine guy”—that is, unless Peter Max (who was never involved with the movie in any way) was being called the “Yellow Submarine guy” in his stead!
Edelmann explained that he was contacted for the Yellow Submarine project by Charlie Jenkins, the art director in charge of the special effects who was responsible for the glorious “Eleanor Rigby” section of the movie, among other sequences. He also pointed out that Yellow Submarine did not represent the first attempt to “do” the Beatles in animation. Starting in 1965 there were also the series of short cartoons that made up the Beatles TV series. and in fact the producer and director of Yellow Submarine, Al Brodax and George Dunning, had also worked on the more rudimentary television shorts.
Things were moving so fast, Edelmann pointed out, that when the TV series was being made, the Beatles were primarily thought of as a Liverpool phenomenon, with the plots staying more or less true to that, but by 1968, when Yellow Submarine was released, that was no longer the case, they belonged to the world, and the tone had to be more universal.
That may explain one of the more intriguing false pathways the movie might have gone down—but didn’t. According to Edelmann, as hard as it seems for such a thing to be possible, the original conception of Yellow Submarine hewed to a Cold War framework. And it actually might have stayed a Cold War allegory—but someone ran out of red paint. Here’s Edelmann:
The point, I think was, what I thought the one meaningful thing about it all was, in ‘68 this was more or less the end of the Cold War. Even in the Bond movies they gave up the KGB as the enemy and turned to self-employed villains. So, one had in ‘67, one had the feeling that (a.) the Cold War’s over, that Russia is changing. But also our world is changing with new values to which, with a new vision of the world in which the Beatles played an important part. So, the Meanies, in a way to me, represented a symbolic version of the cold war. And originally they were the Red Meanies.
And only because the assistant who came in to do the coloring, she either did not quite understand my instructions, or deliberately did not understand them, but it also could be we didn’t have enough red paint in the place. So they became the Blue Meanies.
Certainly Edelmann’s status as a German, coming from a country that was split in two by the Cold War, half of which was experiencing repression from Moscow, would have had something to do with this—because it’s really rather difficult to derive any Cold War meanings out of the Beatles’ own lyrics, which tended to focus on a specific story or else espoused an adherence to universal values. Obviously a message like “All You Need Is Love” was in some sense about the Cold War, but—well, suffice it to say that the choice to make the movie more about intolerant conservatives and power-hungry buzzkills of all stripes was surely a wise one.
More after the jump…
In this fascinating article from the December 1966 issue of English pop-music magazine RAVE, George Tremlett (a pop music writer and author of various cash-in paperback books on David Bowie, David Essex, and The Who) broke down how much each member of The Beatles were worth back back then.
Armed with data collected from the London Board of Trade, Tremlett was able to ascertain that the fab-four were pulling in approximately £4 million pounds collectively a year with help from such endeavours as record sales, songwriting royalties, films and live appearances. With all that cash floating around you’d think that perhaps the band would had a good grasp on how much they were worth—but John, Ringo and George were fairly clueless when they were asked if they knew how rich they actually were:
John Lennon: We’ve asked them to to tell us how much we’ve got but they can’t—the money comes in from so many places
George Harrison: I never buy anything without asking our accountants—I just phone them up and they tell me whether I can afford it.
Ringo Starr: The accountants say I’m alright—that’s all I want to know.
The English pound sterling was basically a £1 to $2.80 exchange rate back in 1966. £1 in 1966 was equal to £$7.43 in 2016. Considering that the modern music industry was still then in its relative infancy, that’s some amazing earnings, which would only have gotten better for Lennon and McCartney once their songwriting royalties would have picked up in the latter part of the decade. Or at least one would have thought…
Of course that year’s Revolver begins with George Harrison’s lament about the “Taxman” and here’s the rub: The Beatles were in a tax bracket that I cannot imagine most people in Britain found themselves in other than maybe Sean Connery and a few captains of industry. Taxes in 1966 were notoriously confiscatory in Britain in the 1960s reaching as high as 85% for the wealthy, but there was also a “super tax” surcharge of 15% on top of that. For those making over £1,000,000 the progressive tax rate during Prime Minister Harold Wilson’s Labour party administration was 95%. Think about that for a second. No wonder the Beatles seemed to have no idea what state their finances were in.
Rather heartwarming to discover the fact that each of the Fab Four used some of their earnings to purchase homes for their parents (or in John Lennon’s case a home for his Auntie). Awww.
Check out the Beatles cash-flow breakdown after the jump…
“Girls with guitars? That won’t work,” quipped John Lennon as he watched four girls take the stage of the Cavern Club, Liverpool in 1963. The band was The Liverbirds and Lennon’s attitude was the kind of dumb prejudice these four faced every time they picked up their guitars and blasted an audience with their hard rockin’ R’n'B.
The Liverbirds were formed in Liverpool 1963. The original line-up was Valerie Gell (guitar), Mary McGlory (bass), Sylvia Saunders (drums), together with Mary’s sister, Sheila McGlory (guitar) and Irene Green (vocals). The band’s name was lifted from the liver bird—the mythical bird (most probably a cormorant) that symbolises the city of Liverpool and they were all girls (“birds” in the youthful parlance of the time). The group practiced every day until they were better than most of the local boy bands who were merely copycatting local heroes The Beatles.
The Liverbirds were apparently so good (if a bit rough around the edges) they were snapped up to tour with The Rolling Stones, The Kinks and The Rockin’ Berries. However, it was soon apparent that the girls—unlike the boys—were were being cheated out of a big part of their fees by booking agents—a crushing disappointment that led to the loss of their lead singer and guitarist to other bands.
It was beginning to look as if Lennon was right, but the girls refused to give up and continued touring with The Kinks. Unlike their northern counterparts, London’s all male bands The Kinks and The Stones were supportive of The Liverbirds—as Mary McGlory recalled in a letter to the Liverpool Beat in 2014:
The Kinks took us down to London to meet their manager, even booked us into a hotel, and told us to come to the studio tomorrow and bring our guitars with us (maybe there might be time to play a song for their manager). When we arrived there, the roadie came in and told The Kinks that their guitars had been stolen out of the van – so this was how The Kinks played our guitars on their hit recording of “You really got me“.
Absolute nonsense- they were a cool band but this DID not happen.
On YRGM I use my Harmony meteor thru the elpico green amp and ray used his tele and pete used his blue fender bass…what a load of bollocks.
However, The Kinks did help save The Liverbirds from splitting-up by suggesting they bring Pamela Birch in as vocalist. Birch was a big blonde bee-hived singer/guitarist. She had a deep bluesy voice which harmonized beautifully with Valeri Gell’s vocals. Birch was a perfect fit for the band.
They were a hit at the Cavern Club. They were a hit across the country. They were a hit on tour. But the band hailed as the all-girl Beatles at the height of Beatlemania couldn’t even get a record deal in England. However, things soon started to shift.
First Kinks’ manager Larry Page and then Beatles manager Brian Epstein wanted to sign The Liverbirds. But the girls were off to Hamburg to play the Star Club. The band was an instant hit in Germany as Mary McGlory recalls:
We arrived in Hamburg on the 28th May, 1964 and played the same night. The crowd was great and loved us right away. The Star-Club owner Manfred Weissleder became our one and only MANAGER.
A few days later he sent us to Berlin to play at a big concert with Chuck Berry, shortly before we went on stage we were told that it was forbidden to play any Chuck Berry songs. Well that was impossible for us, so when Val went to the mike and announced “Roll over Beethoven”, Berry’s manager ran on stage and tried to stop us playing, Val pushed him away and told him to “F. Off”.(She had probably had a shandy). Back in Hamburg, Manfred called us to his office, we thought he was going to tell us off, but no such thing, Chuck Berry’s manager wanted to take us to America. Manfred said he would leave the decision up to us, but then he added – he will probably take you to Las Vegas, and there you will have to play topless! Well of course that was his way of putting us off. After all, the club was still crowded every night.
The band had hits with the songs “Peanut Butter,” “Too Much Monkey Business,” “Loop-de-Loop,” and “Diddley Daddy.” Although in performance they played the very same Willie Dixon and Chuck Berry covers favored by the Stones and other boys, Birch also started writing original numbers, producing such favorites as “Why Do You Hang Around Me?” and “It’s Got To be You.” Though pioneering and incredibly popular, the girls (now in their late teens-early twenties) still faced the everyday sexism from record industry supremos who thought young girls should be on the scene, but not heard. Not unless they were in the audience screaming. These men wanted girls who dressed to please—not girls who played instruments better than the boys. Girls with guitars? That won’t work. Except for that, of course, it did. Splendidly!
In 1968, on the cusp of a Japanese tour the band split:
Until 1967, we played nearly all over Europe, recorded two albums and four singles for the Star-Club label and appeared on many television shows. Our drummer Sylvia married her boyfriend John Wiggins from The Bobby Patrick Big Six and left the band. Shortly after Val married her German boyfriend Stephan, who had a car accident on his way to visit her and was since paralyzed. So when we got an offer from Yamaha to do a tour of Japan at the beginning of 1968, Pam and I had to find two German girls to replace them. Japan was great, and the Japanese people really liked us, but Pam and I did not enjoy it anymore, we missed the other two, the fun had gone out of it. We thought this is the right time to finish, even though we were still only 22 and 23.
Today McGlory, Gell and Saunders continue with their post-Liverbirds lives. Sadly, Pamela Birch died in 2009. However, this all-girl guitar band should be given credit for pioneering rock and roll, R ‘n’ B and being right up there for a time with The Beatles, The Kinks and The Rolling Stones.
Unfortunately, the auction, going by the title “Legendary,” ends at 1 p.m. today Eastern time, right around when this post is set to appear live on our website. Presumably DM readers are more interested in viewing the auctions than they are in actually buying the (very expensive) stuff.
Some of the bigger-ticket items include signed items from the Beatles and the Stones, original handwritten lyric sheets from Bob Dylan and David Bowie, original painted canvases by Bob Dylan, rejected cover art for David Bowie’s album Station to Station, and a jacket worn by the Notorious B.I.G. The auction casts a wide net, including items from the Clash, the Cramps, the Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix,
Motörhead, the Sex Pistols, the Slits, X-Ray Spex, and Led Zeppelin.
As always, the details of the items only increases one’s interest in them. The paintings by Dylan are known as the “Drawn Blank Series,” watercolors and gouaches depicting “hotel room and apartment interiors, land- and cityscapes, views of sidewalk cafes, train tracks, and wandering rivers.” Dylan’s handwritten lyric sheet for “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall” actually dates from 2013, with “the 31 lines written out by Bob Dylan in black ink on a page of Holmenkollen Park Hotel Rica, Oslo stationary.” The full-color proof of the Station to Station album art was rejected by Bowie because he “felt that the sky looked artificial.”
Biggie’s jacket “features an embroidered logo reading ‘Flip Squad’ on its front and an applique ‘Funkmaster Flex’ logo on its back,” while the large Decca poster of the Stones was signed by Brian Jones, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, and Charlie Watts on Monday, October 19, 1964 “at the Locomotive nightclub in Paris during a press event in advance of their concert at the Olympia theatre the following day.”
Excuse me, I have to see my bank representative about a loan…..
Here are some images of the items to be auctioned; click on any image for a larger view.
But the album that sold in CD shops everywhere was quite different from the album that almost came out. Two tracks, “Scenario” and a cover of the Beatles’ 1965 track “I’m Down,” were cut at the last minute.
For years Beastie Boys diehards have circulated an alternate sequencing of Licensed to Ill called Original Ill in which “I’m Down” and its deleted partner “Scenario” are part of the tracklist. (In case you’re wondering, “I’m Down” occupies the 4th slot on side 1, after “She’s Crafty” and before ”Posse In Effect,” whereas “Scenario” is the last track on the album.) The phrase that is invariably used to describe those two songs is “deleted at last minute,” which definitely suggests a possible legal problem or some similar final-hour issue. In the case of “I’m Down” it does seem as if Def Jam or someone in a position to get sued might have been worried about Michael Jackson’s attorneys, whereas for “Scenario” the red flag was quite different—the mere mention of the popular smokable cocaine variant known as crack. (Michael Jackson had recently purchased the entire Beatles catalog; for his part Greil Marcus—see below—apparently understood worries about Michael Jackson to be the central problem at the time.)
On the crack tip, here’s the (oft-repeated) lyric from “Scenario”:
Well chillin’ on the corner this one time (time)
Coolin’ at the fuckin’ party and runnin’ that line (line)
Smokin’ my crack sayin’ them rhymes (rhymes)
Countin’ my bank just to pass the time
It almost seems as if the Beastie’s mentioning Crack was a bad thing because not only was Scenario completely removed from the album, which mentions crack all through out the song, but the original version of Rhymin’ & Stealin’ was edited to take out just two small phrases, “Most crackin-est B-Boy!!” “I Smoke My Crack!” The phrase is left intact on this release though so you can hear how it originally sounded. I do find it weird that they can mention dust, and being dusted out, over and over, but when they mention crack, songs and phrases get deleted.
It’s interesting that the line “And I’m never dusting out cause I torch that crack” still lingers on in “Hold It Now—Hit It,” however.
A curious artifact recently turned up on ioffer.com. Listed for sale is a copy of The BeatlesWhite Album, allegedly autographed by Charles Manson, and members of his “family”: Susan Atkins, Leslie Van Houten, Charles “Tex” Watson and Patricia Krenwinkel. If this thing is real, it’s one of the most intense pieces of music/murder memorabilia we’ve ever seen. And it can be YOURS for the low, low price of only $49,005.00
The significance of the item won’t be lost on anyone with cursory knowledge of the “cult” of Charles Manson and the murders associated with the “Manson Family.” It was argued by Prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi in court and in his book, Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders, that several of the songs on The White Album were interpreted by Manson as signs to a coming racial revolution that would lead to Manson emerging as a Christ-figure.
According to this UMKC site which also details Manson’s specific interpretations of White Album songs (at least according to Bugliosi):
Manson believed that the Beatles spoke to him through their lyrics, especially those included in the White Album, released in December 1968. Several songs from the White Album crystalized Manson’s thinking about a coming revolt by blacks against the white Establishment. He interpreted many of the songs idiosyncratically, believing, for example, that “Rocky Raccoon” meant black people and “Happiness is a Warm Gun” was a song about getting firearms to carry on the revolution rather than—more obviously—a song about sex.
The White Album played a key role in forging Manson’s warped ideology.
According to Family member Paul Watkins, “Before Helter Skelter came along, all Charlie cared about was orgies.”
The White Album of course contains the song “Helter Skelter”, very significant to the whole Manson saga.
All are signed in blue ballpoint or biro pen except Leslie Van Houten, who is signed in black. Manson added the inscription: “Can you live in sin or in it LAST WORD-NO easy, Charles Manson” and added a swastika through his signature.
The signatures were obtained by a gentleman who was at one time associated with the Manson family at the Spahn Ranch, I choose not to post his name here. He acquired them at the respective prisons where they are incarcerated in California, including Corcoran State Prison, and the California Correctional Institution for women.
The top and bottom seams are cut through with a knife, as the album was checked for possible contraband as it was brought into the prison. Because the seams were cut, the cover is now separate from the inner gatefold… The album cover shows other signs of wear, including a water stain in the lower left corner, the result of a fire in the previous owner’s home. Both vinyl records are included. There are a number of scratches on both which I expect would affect play.
As further provenance, I have two additional items from the same source: a bible from the prison chapel signed by the same five individuals, and a Life Magazine signed by Charles, see other photos. I am currently offering the bible here also. An iconic image of the sixties, and perhaps the ultimate signed Manson relic. I will also issue a certificate of authenticity with a photo of the item, the signing details, and will have it notarized as I sign it.
The price seems a bit STEEP to us—but it does include shipping, which is very generous of the seller. For spending nearly $50k, we’d hope, at least, for a Squeaky Fromme hand-delivery.
While it has been long believed that Paul McCartney was the first Beatle to ever admit taking drugs during an interview with Independent Television News (ITN) in June 1967, it can now be revealed that John Lennon was in fact the first Beatle who owned up to the band being “stoned” two years before this in an interview with an American journalist.
February 1965, The Beatles had just arrived on location at New Providence Island in the Bahamas to film Help!. On being asked what The Beatles had been up to on their flight over, Lennon replied “We got stoned.” There is a stunned silence before the interviewer says: “Alright. I know you’re only kidding.”
Of course, Lennon wasn’t kidding, as The Beatles had been popping pills since at least 1960 and smoking weed since being “turned-on” by Bob Dylan in 1964. Simon Wells exclusively explains for Dangerous Minds:
The Beatles took a chartered jet to the Bahamas for the start of filming of Help! on Monday 22nd February 1965. Perversely as it may seem, the Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein had become intoxicated with the idea of tax shelters and havens—and after his dismal performance of selling off the Beatles rights to A Hard Day’s Night for little more than the average house price in Britain, he sensed an idea to set up an offshore interest in the Bahamas, hoping that the money from the film would escape the extortionate financial red tape and punitive taxes that would attract to the film’s future successes.
To defer suspicions, Epstein cooked up the idea of filming part of Help! in the Bahamas and so eager was he to establish a presence there, filming for what would be the finale of the movie was shot first. Temperatures at a constant high for the area, the group would have to shield themselves from the likelihood of considerable tanning – an issue that would have colored (excuse pun) the earlier shots in the film, all set in London. Nonetheless, The Beatles knew little about this, and happily trundled onto the caravan of filming—the shores of Nassau were far more attractive than a gloomy British February. Equally, it meant a break from the rigours of touring, something they had grown to hate.
The group’s plane continued the majority of the film’s attendant circus, plus a few liggers and reporters to help things along. The nine-hour flight requiring more than just alcoholic sustenance, the band happily tugged on a succession of marijuana joints to elevate the time between touching down in the Bahamas. Since August the previous year when Bob Dylan famously turned the band onto the magical herb, the group had indulged heavily in the newly found pursuit. The effects were immediate on their dress and music, heavy shades and dissonant chords were now pitting their senses; introspection tossing “boy meets girl” out of the window.
While the media were well aware that The Beatles (and most of the other groups of the period) took drugs, there was no need for them to spill the beans and spoil the party. By 1965 standards, The Beatles were still good cheeky copy—guaranteed to bring a smile to the nation’s breakfast tables, and still with the consent of Britain’s parents, the girls and boys could shower them with unbridled adoration. Behind closed doors in Buckingham Palace and at (the Prime Minister’s home) Number 10 Downing Street, plans were already afoot to adorn the band with the M.B.E. If an admission of naughty chemical use had surfaced prior to the award announcement, it would have clearly stymied the whole pantomime. The press knew this too—so all was on course to preserve the Fab’s innocence—for the time being.
For those who chart such things, this is the first admission from a Beatle that drugs were now a part of their lives. The evident shock from the reporter is testament to the disbelief that these sweet boys could ever do such a thing. Predictably, the comment was not used in print, and it remained buried on the reporter’s tape – until now!
Simon Wells new book on The Beatles Eight Arms To Hold You is available from Pledge Music, details here.
Being one of The Beatles meant being mobbed, followed and even stalked everywhere you went. They quit Liverpool for London for its mix of anonymity and excitement—and because everything happened there. Eventually, John, George and Ringo moved on to the stockbroker belt to find peace, quiet and happy isolation. But even there, Lennon had unwelcome visitors who wanted a photo or to say that they understood what his songs were about, and touch the hem of his clothes.
Eventually, Lennon moved again, this time to New York where he said he could walk the streets without anyone bothering him. Going by these fan photographs of Lennon in London and New York, it’s obvious he was just as mobbed by devoted fans in the Big Apple as he had been back in the Big Smoke.
These fan snaps capture Lennon from the late 1960s, through his relationship with Yoko Ono, to just before his untimely death in 1980.
John Lennon signing an autograph outside the Abbey Road Studios, 1968.
If you’ve ever read a biography of the Beatles, you’ve probably come across the name of Alexis Mardas, or “Magic Alex,” as John Lennon called him. Mardas worked in electronics—Bob Spitz’s Beatles biography claims Alex was working as a TV repairman when he met the band—and the Beatles put him in charge of Apple Electronics, a company that was to have marketed Mardas’ inventions.
According to the books, Magic Alex was full of gear and fab ideas for the lads from Liverpool. Here’s one Ringo remembers: “He had this one idea that we all should have our heads drilled. It’s called trepanning. Magic Alex said that if we had it done our inner third eye would be able to see, and we’d get cosmic instantly.” My buddy Joel looked it up on wikiHow, and I am undergoing the procedure as I type this.
John Lennon and Donovan at Magic Alex’s wedding
When the New York Times called Mardas a “charlatan” in 2008, he sued the paper and issued a nine-page statement in which he attempted to set the record straight about his activities at Apple Electronics, his alleged role in the Beatles’ break with Maharishi, and the goodness of his name in general. (“As a result of these connections,” Mardas writes of his subsequent work manufacturing electronics, body armor and armored cars for governments around the world, “I developed personal friendships with the kings of Greece, Jordan, Spain, Morocco, and with the President of Egypt and the Prime Minister of Canada.”)
The whole statement is entertaining, but point fourteen is a special treat. In that section, to address “various allegations made by certain persons as to alleged promises by me to invent certain fantastical products,” Mardas enumerates every crazy gadget he is supposed to have pitched to the Fabs. I haven’t been able to read this list through once without laughing out loud. Can you?
I have never promised nor discussed, let alone try to invent any of the following:
14.1 an X-ray camera which could see through walls;
14.2 a force field which would surround a building with coloured air so that no one could see in.
14.3 a force field of compressed air which could stop anyone driving into one’s car;
14.4 a house which could hover in the air suspended on an invisible beam;
14.5 wall paper which could plug into a stereo system and operate as a “loudspeaker”;
14.6 an artificial sun which was intended to hover over Baker Street and light up the sky during the gala opening of the Beatles clothes shop, the “Apple Boutique” on 4th December 1967.
14.7 Magic paint which would make objects it was painted on invisible;
14.8 Electrical paint which could be plugged into a wall and would light up the room;
14.9 A flying saucer made from the V12 engines from George Harrison’s Ferrari and John Lennon’s Rolls Royce or
14.10 A force field around Ringo Starr’s drums that would isolate the drum sounds from the rest of the microphones in the studio. In this connection, I once had a discussion with John Lennon about this topic. I said that it was possible, theoretically, to create an ultrasonic barrier generated by ultrasonic transfusers. This would prevent sound travelling over a certain field. I never suggested that I would make such a barrier.
Just what is an ultrasonic transfuser, anyway? For fun, here’s point fifteen from Mardas’ statement:
15. Further, I deny any suggestion that I promised the Beatles in the presence of Liliane Lijn that I could levitate them using “electro magnetism” and also make them “disappear”. For a start, I never met this lady in the presence of any of the Beatles and the suggestion that I could “levitate” anyone is obviously absurd.
When Mardas refers to “certain persons” making these allegations, the Beatles themselves must be included among them. Some of these claims come from Paul, George and Ringo’s own mouths in the Beatles Anthology book. Paul: “He thought of using wallpaper which would act as loudspeakers.” Ringo: “Magic Alex invented electrical paint. You paint your living room, plug it in, and the walls light up!” George: “I was going to give him the V12 engine out of my Ferrari Berlinetta and John was going to give him his, and Alex reckoned that with those two engines he could make a flying saucer.” Faced with Mardas’ strenuous denials, one wonders where the Beatles got all these ideas, and why they attributed them to him.
In the outtake from Magical Mystery Tour below, a person who appears to be Magic Alex allegedly sings “Walls of Jericho.”
This 1987 interview released by PBS two days ago as the latest installment of its marvelous Blank on Blank series, features Lou Reed in perhaps his best interview form—and the man was a notoriously difficult interview. He’s impatient, imperious, cranky, dismissive of others, and sure of his own self-worth, putting down the Beatles and Doors and, frankly, every other musician in the world.
For, you see, the Velvets were out to “elevate the rock & roll song and take it where it hadn’t been taken before.” (Sure, the Beatles didn’t have anything like that on their resume.) In a particularly damning bit, Reed shits on Jim Morrison’s legendary and influential outfit:
From my point of view … the other stuff couldn’t come up to our ankles, not up to my kneecap, not up to my ankles, the level we were on, compared to everybody else. I mean they were just painfully stupid and pretentious, and when they did try to get, in quotes, “arty,” it was worse than stupid rock & roll. What I mean by “stupid,” I mean, like, the Doors.
The Doors were a great band, but anyone who had a Doors-obsessed roommate in college will understand where Reed’s coming from here.
The capper is surely Reed’s audible contempt as he consigns the consensus world’s best rock and roll band to idiot fodder: “I never liked the Beatles. ... I thought they were garbage. If you say, ‘Who did you like?’ I liked nobody.”
I’m sure on other occasions Reed showed more respect for the creativity of others, but not on this day…....
Joe Pesci moved in rock circles in the New Jersey of the early 1960s. A friend of the Four Seasons, Pesci also played guitar in Joey Dee and the Starliters several years before Jimi Hendrix’s brief stint in that band. I’m not sure what happened during the intervening years, but in 1968, Pesci released his debut album on the Brunswick label: Little Joe Sure Can Sing! It’s not easy to come by—at the moment, there are a couple of copies on eBay selling for around $100.
Pesci says that he took the name “Little Joe” in imitation of the great jazz singer Little Jimmy Scott, whom Twin Peaks fans will recognize as the singer of “Sycamore Trees”:
Just as he was called Little Jimmy, they were calling me Little Joe. My first album, in fact, was titled Little Joe Sure Can Sing. All I wanted to do was sing like Little Jimmy Scott. I became his disciple. I’d follow him around after gigs, see if I could help him in any way. [...] We’d sing together nonstop for hours, sometimes all night. He’d teach me phrasing and harmony.
The album includes Pesci’s interpretations of three Lennon-McCartney songs, but the only one I’ve been able to find online is his rendition of McCartney’s love song to cannabis, “Got to Get You into My Life.” [“It’s actually an ode to pot,” said Macca, “like someone else might write an ode to chocolate or a good claret.” Who knew?] This was the track Rhino chose to include on the fourth volume of their Golden Throats series, Celebrities Butcher the Beatles, which I think explains its relative availability. I hope someday to hear Pesci sing “The Fool on the Hill,” “Fixing A Hole,” and the album’s three Bee Gees covers (“Holiday,” “To Love Somebody” and “And the Sun Will Shine”).
If you’re hearing this for the first time, you’ll notice that there are some salient differences between a George Martin production and an Artie Schroeck production. At some point in this file’s chain of custody, someone bookended the track with snippets of dialogue from Casino and GoodFellas that are probably NSFW.
“Get Back” was a bluesy Beatles number so down ‘n’ dirty that it might almost have passed for a Stones song. So it might not be so surprising that in the sessions leading up to the recording of the song, the Beatles, specifically the future Sir Paul McCartney, used the song to spout some racist sentiments that may (or may not) have been intended as satire. The recording of “Get Back” was a protracted affair for the Beatles; as Kenneth Womack notes in The Beatles Encyclopedia, “Over the course of 17 days in January 1969, the Beatles rehearsed some 59 iterations of ‘Get Back.’” One of those iterations would infamously become known as the “No Pakistanis” version, well known to Beatles collectors and xenophobes alike. In the “No Pakistanis” version of “Get Back,” you can hear the familiar melody and chorus, but the verses express a darker vision of the white U.K. underclass. The verses include lines like ‘Don’t dig no Pakistanis, taking all the peoples jobs.”
With a good deal of nonsense words filling out the lines, you also get “Ronan Relimun, was a Puerto Rican, working in another world. / Want it thrown around, Say Puerto Rican, livin’ in the USA. / Pretty Ado Lamb, was a pakistani, living in another world, / Want it thrown around, don’t dig no pakistanis, taking all the people jobs.”
Yet another blues-based rocker, this track had the most unfortunate genesis of any track on the album, starting out with lyrics including the line “don’t dig no Pakistanis taking all the people’s jobs.”
McCartney claims—relatively convincingly—that this was intended as a satire on racist attitudes. But coming as it did straight after conservative politician Enoch Powell’s infamous “Rivers of Blood” speech, which ignited a wave of neo-Nazism in Britain that is still unfortunately there today, it would have been ill-judged at best to put it out. At least one neo-Nazi band has in fact performed a cover version of the song with these “no Pakistanis” lyrics, and had it been released that version would be the worst blot on the Beatles’ discography.
The best source on “No Pakistanis” is an April 2013 article that appeared in Salon by Alex Sayf Cummings under the title “‘No Pakistanis’: The Racial Satire the Beatles Don’t Want You to Hear.” Per Cummings, the song “tells us much about the limits of what musicians, even hugely popular and politically engaged ones, can say in popular music.” Cummings points out that “in a recording known as ‘Back to the Commonwealth’ or ‘The Commonwealth Song,’ the band blasts the politician by name”—this just a few days before the recording of “No Pakistanis,”
“Commonwealth” finds its roots in a January 9 session in which Lennon and McCartney improvised the song. “Commonwealth” was concocted in protest of the Conservative party’s reptriation movement to limit the sudden influx of thousands of Indian and Pakistani immigrants who had been denied the right to work in Kenya. … While “Commonwealth” never advanced beyond the Beatles’ January sessions, “Get Back” eventually began to take shape in its place, with McCartney originally satirizing Powell’s anti-immigration position, singing “Don’t dig no Pakistanis taking all the people’s jobs.”
After his “Rivers of Blood” speech, Powell was dismissed from his position as Shadow Defence Secretary in the Shadow Cabinet of Edward Heath—xenophobes and white supremacists in Britain would take up his betrayal as a sort of code, muttering “Enoch was right” as a way of signaling a common understanding of white resentment, rather in the way that conservatives in the U.S. will throw around the terms “Benghazi,” “death panels” or “Kenyan Socialist” to signal fervent allegiance to anti-liberal causes.
Predictably, there’s a thread on (definitely NSFW or anywhere where your Internet usage might be tracked) a stromfront.org forum (“the voice of the new, embattled White minority!”) in which the Beatles are adopted as allies in the white suprmacist cause: “It seems even the Beatles knew that packistani immigrants were bad for the economy!” A white supremacist band called Battlecry has apparently covered the song but I couldn’t find it.
The notion that Paul McCartney harbored racist ideas or was himself a xenophobe seems rather unlikely. The recording sticks out of the Beatles’ catalog like a sore thumb, “rich fag Jew” or no “rich fag Jew.” The Powell speech was clearly rattling around McCartney’s head, he was adopting the persona of a somewhat more “badass” band than the Beatles usually were, and, probably most pertinently, he was somehow enchanted by the magical syllabification of “Pakistani,” which is an unusually interesting word to say out loud. To listen to “No Pakistanis” is to hear a master musician drunk on words, yes playing with personae to be sure but also just really into the sounds of the words, dig? In the line “don’t dig no Pakistanis, taking all the people jobs” you can also, perhaps, hear a multi-millionaire international celebrity doing a certain degree of slumming but then again, it hadn’t been all that long before this when Paul and the gang were stuck in working-class Liverpool wondering what the future might hold.