Today is Brian Epstein’s birthday. When Brian’s name comes up in the context of merchandising, everyone comments about the ‘agreement’ surrounding merchandise – 10% to Brian and the Beatles, and 90% to the management company. This always reminds me of a simple mantra – hindsight makes us all brilliant by giving us perfect 20/20 vision after the fact.
What makes it interesting is that Brian had no guide book to follow, no playbook to help, no experiences of other marketing campaigns before of this size to learn from…they were writing the rules as they went along. There had never been mass merchandising of an entity on this scale before anywhere, including Disney, Marvel, Superman, Elvis, etc. So I cut Brian a break.
He could have easily thought, “let me get this straight…we get 10% of monies, and we don’t have to do anything? We just loan you our name and a couple of photos and likenesses, and you hand us a check? This is the greatest gig ever!” And the precedent had been set…they had been doing UK deals in late ’63 at the 10%, so this wasn’t such a stretch.
Now it didn’t take long for him to change his mind. When they handed him the first royalty check in early 1964 for $9000, he thought it was great…until they reminded him that was his 10%. He did the quick math, realized they kept about $80,000 and immediately had the lawyers work to change it to more of a 50-50 split. That took six months, but by then, things had changed.
So Brian did his best with what was the current knowledge at hand, and we toast him on his birthday. Mark it ‘faB!’
As the Beatles’ career progressed, George Harrison gradually developed into a first-class songwriter on a par with the formidable John Lennon/Paul McCartney partnership. One of Harrison’s more unusual compositions, “I Want to Tell You,” fits in perfectly with Revolver’s experimental vibe. The pounding piano, pervasive dissonance, and a subtle reference to Harrison’s increasing interest in Indian music and culture add up to a classic and offbeat track.
In 1980, Harrison described the lyrics as addressing “the avalanche of thoughts that are so hard to write down or say or transmit.” Indeed, the verses paint a picture of someone constantly struggling with language. He laments that he has many thoughts to express, but lacks the words to communicate them. In addition, he fears offending the person he’s having the conversation with, explaining that he may appear “unkind,” but it’s not intentional his mind is clear and pure, but the body cannot move as quickly as the mind.
For me, the best lines in the song concern his frustration with his inability to communicate, yet he ultimately surrenders to his imperfection. He can wait for his thoughts to unravel he has the time. That sentiment fits in well with other songs on the album, as Lennon also advocates a laid-back lifestyles without worries in tracks like “Tomorrow Never Knows” (telling us to relax and float downstream” and “surrender to the void”) and “I’m Only Sleeping.” (“taking my time”).
Galloping Piano Accents
While Harrison’s lyrics are clever, the instrumentation further distinguishes “I Want to Tell You” from other rock songs of the time. The galloping piano accents the rhythm through dissonant harmonies, and Ringo Starr’s drumming easily navigates through some offbeat tempos. According to Alan Pollack, author of the “Notes On” series, Starr re-energizes the track with his driving percussion. “If you feel the momentum beginning to sag toward the end of this section, dig how that sudden burst of rapid triplets at the very end of the bridge helps to rejump-start your momentum for the verse that follows,” writes Pollack. Other percussion can be heard, including tambourine and handclaps.
As usual, the Lennon/McCartney/Harrison vocal harmonies sound tight, often singing entire lines instead of emphasizing certain words. As with many Beatles songs, the group experiments with beginnings and endings. Similar to “Eight Days A Week,” the track gradually fades in, this time over the distinctive guitar riff. Even more interesting, the ending fades out over the repeated phrase “I’ve got time,” and McCartney adds an unusual touch. As the sound fades, McCartney breaks into, as Pollack states, “free Indian-flavored melisma.” In other words, he sang the word “time” while oscillating among various notes. The move adds a touch of sophistication and world-music influence to the rock track.
Harrison often found it difficult to title his songs; according to Mark Lewisohn’s seminal work The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, the cut’s working titles included “Granny Smith,” “Laxton’s Superb” (another type of apple, foreshadowing later years) and “I Don’t Know.” On June 2, 1966, the Beatles entered the studio to lay down virtually all the track’s elements; they put the finishing touches on “I Want to Tell You” the following day. Mixing was completed on June 6.
“I Want to Tell You” was never released as a single, and lingered in relative album track obscurity until years later. While touring in Japan with Eric Clapton in 1992, Harrison resurrected the song to the delight of audiences. That version, which features extended guitar solos, appeared on the Live in Japan album chronicling the brief tour. Appropriately, ELO founder and frequent Harrison collaborator Jeff Lynne performed the track at the Concert for George ten years later. It may have taken over four decades, but “I Want to Tell You” is finally receiving deserved recognition for its sophisticated arrangement and Harrison’s creativity in manipulating language.
Although Brian Epstein promised that The Beatles would return to The Cavern, they never did. 3rd August 1963 would the last of their almost 300 appearances at the Mathew Street club that had become their home since 1961.
Debbie Greenberg, a Cavernite at the time, would go on to be more involved with The Cavern when her father became the owner of the legendary club. Debbie’s story with the Cavern is detailed in her incredible book, “Cavern: The Inside Story“.
In this excerpt, she shares some of her memories and feelings of seeing The Beatles at The Cavern for the last time.
From Debbie Greenberg’s book:
I was about to leave our house on the afternoon of 3rd August 1963 when I spotted the Beatles arriving at the Harrison’s house in Macketts Lane. George’s car, a racing green Jaguar with the license plate 28 PXX. In their pink shirts. Brown suede waistcoats and dark trousers, they leapt out of the car and ran into the house.
I couldn’t wait to get down to the Cavern to see them play again and I made sure I was there well before the Cavern opened at 7pm. I met Sue in town at 5p.m. and we joined the queue outside the Cavern. It was wide to get there early, because by the time the doors finally opened the queue stretched all the way down Mathew Street. Little did we know this would be the last time we would see the Beatles at the Cavern.
The club was overflowing, we stood packed like sardines, but still managed to drum a beat with our feet and hands. From the back of the crowd we could see the Beatles on stage in the same outfits I had seen them in a few hours earlier.
It was the most incredible experience to hear them playing their number one hit, “Please Please Me”, after following them on their journey to stardom.
The memorable night was edged with tears. We had mixed feelings about the Beatles moving on. We were thrilled they had found fame but at the same time couldn’t help feeling sad that we had lost them to the rest of the world. After all, they were our Beatles.
On a warm July 28th in 1968, The Beatles went on ‘The Mad Day Out’, a phrase coined by now legendary photographer, Tom Murray. One of the locations was by the River Thames in Wapping. The Beatles posed on the river bank with Tower Bridge in the background.
Tom very kindly allowed me to use one of his amazing photos as the cover of my book ‘Guide to the Beatles London’.
The book is divided into the followings sections:
1. The Story of The Beatles in London. A chronological history from their first visit to London to their break-up.
2. A walking tour of The Beatles London. A three hour walking tour around major Beatles locations in Central London.
3. Drive My Car. Other Beatles locations in and around London. My book is still available
The Cavern had failed to keep going in the wake of The Beatles’ success with owner Ray McFall being declared bankrupt. In stepped Debbie’s father Alf Geoghegan and friend Joe Davey: Debbie was asked by her father if he should buy it! Guess what she said? A grand re-opening was planned.
The Prime Minister Harold Wilsonand VIP Guests
After months of working all the hours that God sent the day of the re-opening of the original Cavern Club finally arrived. The Prime Minister Harold Wilson, resident of No 10 Downing Street would metaphorically turn the key to another famous No 10.. My dad, (Alf Geoghegan) and Joe Davey had bought the lease to the Cavern in March 1966 when the previous owner (Ray McFall) went bankrupt.
Mathew Street was bursting at the seams with throngs of people eager to catch a glimpse of the V I P’s and celebrities that were arriving for the grand re-opening. Harold Wilson, followed by distinguished guests made their way down to the Cavern stage for the speeches and the unveiling of the commemorative plaque. The World’s Press simultaneously switched on their light meters and the surge of electricity caused the lights to fuse. None of the microphones worked and my dad had to shout from the stage “Is there an electrician in the house.” From somewhere in the darkness a voice answered, ‘I know where the electrics are, I’ll sort it.” We never knew who this saviour was until fifteen years later: that is a whole story in itself!
The ceremony resumed and the celebrations began.
The VIP Guest list
An eighteen-hour star studded marathon followed in three sessions. The Hideaways kicked off the entertainment, followed by numerous local bands and acts included Billy J Kramer, Marty Wilde, George Fame, Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky Mick and Titch, The Bachelors, The Searchers ,The Fourmost, The Merseys, Solomon Burke, Rufus Thomas, The Scaffold, and The Pete Best Combo.
Liverpool’s terminally happy and enthusiastic export, Angie McCartney, stepmum to Paul, is still loving life at 90, and in two great interviews here, listen to Angie being interviewed by Jude Kessler and Lanea Stagg on their She Said She Said podcast, and also our favourite Antipodean, Plastic EP!
Angie’s Fascinating Book
Angie with Jude Kessler and Lanea Stagg on She Said, She Said
Breathtakingly well-written… Absolutely, not to be missed!
What a unique and entertaining jaunt. For me, The Beatles’ number one fan (at least in my heart) 30 Minutes in Memphis by Paul Ferrante is made all the more special due to the 100% accurate attention to Beatle history as well as the general socio-political atmosphere of the nation back in 1966. When ultimate Beatles fan, Marnie––daughter of the Memphis police sergeant and a typical example of teenage innocence in the ’60s, is told that the Fab Four are scheduled to perform and that her best friend has secured tickets for her birthday, she is over the moon! That is, until a disastrous yet misrepresented quote by John Lennon, on Christianity’s declining popularity, is released in a popular teen publication, which ignites a firestorm in an already racially charged atmosphere.
Forbidden from going to the concert, Marnie is paralyzed with fear when she discovers that the local KKK chapter, led by her father’s boss, Lieutenant Joe Bob Sutter, is planning to make this Beatles concert their last. They plan to assassinate John Lennon, perhaps all four of them on stage. With the show just days away, Marnie and Myles must prevent this tragedy from occurring. 30 Minutes in Memphis is an absolute thrill ride from start to finish. A unique blend of historical fact and “on beat” storytelling that blends seamlessly, creating an indelible portrait of teenage life in the ’60s touched by the volatility of the period. Breathtakingly well-written, without a scrap of profanity. Absolutely, not to be missed!
Bill Harry, friend of John Lennon and Founder of Mersey Beat, who wrote the foreword to the book, says: “This is a treasure chest of research and a visual delight, this will prove to be a work no Beatles fan should be without.”
After “Liddypool“, David Bedford expanded a chapter from “Liddypool” called the Fab 27, which told how John’s first Quarrymen ended up as John, Paul, George and Ringo.
By the time he had expanded the story to include those who taught The Beatles to play and the artists they backed on stage, he had 104 people and couldn’t believe how many he had, and the connection with the Fab Four.
Geoff Lee, classmate of John Lennon at Quarry Bank School reveals for the first time how he suggested to John Lennon that, because of his great singing voice, he should start a skiffle group. The group Lennon started was called The Quarrymen: the Quarrymen became The Beatles.
Not only did Geoff suggest John start the group that became The Beatles, but gave the young Lennon his first guitar. Bedford says, “We had always thought that John’s first guitar was purchased by his mother, but it wasn’t!” John later remembered Geoff’s generosity.
“I used to borrow a guitar at first. I couldn’t play, but a pal of mine had one and it fascinated me. Eventually my mother bought me one from one of those mail order firms. I suppose it was a bit crummy, when you think about it. But I played it all the time and I got a lot of practise.”
Geoff’s story is featured in the new book by Beatles historian and author David Bedford, “The Fab one hundred and Four” which tells of the evolution of The Beatles from The Quarrymen to the Fab Four.
Featured in The Fab one hundred and Four are: 1. the first published photographs of Silver Beatles’ drummer Norman Chapman. 2. the real influences in their formative years – family members, schoolmates, mentors and musical contemporaries. 3. profiles of every musician who was a member of the group – from The Quarrymen to The Beatles – from 1956 through 1962. Whether they were in the group for a night, a week, a year, two years or more, they are all mentioned here.
Listen to David’s interview with podcaster Bob Sorrentino about the book.
Aussie VideoBlogster Plastic EP interviews Jude in a fantastic two-part interview, discussing her lifelong love of John Lennon and her commitment to completing her remarkable book series on John Lennon’s life.
They discuss her books and her current book and looking at the incredible recording process of The Beatles’ first LP, Please Please Me.
The Beatles had just returned from their second trip to Hamburg and were guests of The Swinging Blue Genes at the Cavern for their welcome home appearance. They were already by far the best group in Liverpool. Everything about them was exciting and intoxicating. They seemed to be infused with even more vigour and passion than before. The transformation was unbelievable, with their gyrating hips, humorous banter on stage and sexy outfits- clad in tight black leather with Cuban heeled boots.
Their repertoire was now wide-ranging making them stand out from other bands. The Beatles sound was unique and addictive their energy palpable. Liverpool had never seen or heard anything quite like them before. We couldn’t get enough of them.