Category Archives: John Lennon

Chuck Berry – Hail! Hail! Rock ‘N’ Roll

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 – I drove for more than a few miles Saturday evening with my mouth hanging wide open. I had just heard Cousin Brucie announce on his SiriusXM radio show that Chuck Berry had passed away. At the age of 90 we couldn’t expect one of the true originators to continue duckwalking across the rock and roll landscape forever, but it was still a shock.

It’s the end of an era – though the legend will live on.

It’s doubtful I ever go a day without hearing a Chuck Berry riff. As a Classic Rocker with musical tastes never straying too far from the basic three chord rock and roll that excited and influenced every important rocker that followed him, he is still an important foundation for my daily playlists. Chuck Berry was covered and copied by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and way too many others for me to even attempt to list. They handed it down to the next generation and the legacy continues.

If you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry.’” – John Lennon

I’ve stolen every lick he ever played.” – Keith Richards inducting Chuck Berry into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Since The Classic Rocker is about music and memories, here’s one of mine…

As fate would have it, I had just talked about my experiences going back to the roots of rock and roll in the most recent song on this Dream Song List. My album collection in the late 1960’s and early 70’s was being restocked with the originals by Chuck Berry and other members of the first class inducted into The Rock Hall. My goal was to play guitar like Chuck, piano like Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis, and sing like Elvis. It didn’t exactly work out that way, which is why you’re reading these ramblings rather than listening to any of my albums.

During my freshman year in college – and I’m not kidding – my dorm room featured Chuck Berry wallpaper. As a Berry fan, I might have been an originator among interior decorators.

Chuck was playing a show at another college nearby. Of course I would be there, but that’s another story for another song on this list. Especially since I wound up on stage with my hero and had a rockin’ good time. But the buildup had started a couple months before.

I went to my local record store (vinyl you crazy cats!) to check out what was new. I saw a stack of flyers on the counter advertising the concert. I went crazy (cat) right there about my commitment to the greatness of Chuck Berry. The store manager picked up the pile of flyers, handed them to me and said I could hang them up. I was probably guessing correctly he meant for me to hang them up around campus, but since no discount was offered to me on the ticket price or the album I’m sure I purchased that day, it meant the only place these flyers would be hung up were in my dorm room.

I have a photo somewhere of the coolest room on campus that spring, but would need to dig through too many boxes of Classic Rocker keepsakes to find it. Trust me when I say the flyers made the walls both colorful and unique.

Which is also a good description of Chuck Berry’s overwhelming influence on popular music. The exact birth date of rock and roll will always be debated, but it’s a no-brainer to say the fuse was ignited with his first big hit in 1955, Maybellene. The future of rock and roll followed in a direct line behind him. And when you think about it, there’s no higher praise you can give to someone that meant so much to so many.

Rock on Chuck Berry! You will be missed, but not forgotten.

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Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and author of The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. Visit Dave’s author page on Amazon.com.

Copyright 2017 – North Shore Publishing

#200 – I Can’t Get No Nookie

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#200 – I Can’t Get No Nookie by The Masked Marauders

masked marauders – I didn’t get completely taken in by this hoax in late 1969, but I’ll admit to being on the fence for a listen or two. It was an era of rock music exploding into different genres and groupings. Cream and Traffic had formed Blind Faith. The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and The Hollies begat Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. The Yardbirds had morphed into Led Zeppelin.

But the biggest supergroup of them all was The Masked Marauders. But then again, not really.

I remember “sort of” a rock and roll revival happening that fall with my buddies that were into music. The big album, of course, was Abbey Road. Paul McCartney’s song Oh Darling was a throw back to a 1950’s sound with pounding piano and raspy voice. I don’t know if that’s what triggered it, but a few of us started looking back to that decade to hear the originators.

It’s important to remember we were at the younger end of the baby boomer generation. The early rock’n rollers had been replaced by the watered down versions being fed to us in the early 1960’s. For example, we weren’t exposed to Little Richard singing Tutti Frutti. Nope. Instead we saw Pat Boone singing his tepid version on our black and white family television shows.

Lennon Jagger

Lennon and Jagger unmasked

I only knew songs like Roll Over Beethoven, Long Tall Sally and many more classics because they were covered by The Beatles. That was also true for releases by The Rolling Stones, Herman’s Hermits and other British Invasion bands. They were reworking American rock and roll hits and bringing them to my generation for “seemingly” the first time. The originals were standards for the older kids who were already teenagers when we were in preschool.

Around the time of Oh Darling and my early teenage years I wanted to know where this music came from.

I had a friend who went by his initials “BS.” He was one of the smarter guys in my high school class, but also an agitator who wasn’t afraid to use his column in the school newspaper to stir up trouble between the “jocks” and the “brains.” His initials stood not only for his first and middle name, but also the slang you might use to tell someone they’re “full of it.”

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Thursday March 9, 2017 – Lakewood, Ohio!

Join The Classic Rocker for a FAB evening of Beatlemania!

Doors open 6:30 pm – show time 7:00

FREE admission – reservations suggested

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The dates are a little out of whack, but I distinctly remember him turning me on to I Hear You Knocking by Dave Edmunds in late 1970. This was a throw back to real, three chord rock and roll from the 50’s while the Beatles, Led Zeppelin and other rock acts at the time were going for more complicated songs, sounds and arrangements. So along with those albums, including Abbey Road and Led Zeppelin I, we were digging through record bins for vinyl by Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Elvis.

But I bring up BS and sharing our rock music research because I distinctly remember him telling me about this supergroup called The Masked Marauders. I hadn’t read the Rolling Stone Magazine article that started the “buzz” but with Blind Faith and CSN&Y the hot groups at the moment, anything seemed possible.

Stones Dylan

Keef, Mick & Bob marauding about.

According to rumor, The Masked Marauders were made up of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan and Mick Jagger. There were also hints that Keith Richards and Donovan were part of the lineup, but there was no way this could be confirmed. In an era many decades before the internet and social media, all we could rely on were rumors and our ears.

In late fall 1969 or early winter 1970, BS informed us he had a copy of the self-titled Masked Marauders LP and invited us to his house to listen. Three or four of us sat through both sides of the disk with individual reviews of “no… yes… well, maybe?

I’m sure BS claimed it was real, but I left highly doubtful.

I know because if I had believed this gathering of my favorite rock stars had joined forces near Canada’s Hudson Bay (on the liner notes) and recorded an entire album, I would have run out and bought a copy. I never did.

masked-marauders-news-clipping

It wasn’t long after that everyone found out The Masked Marauders was an elaborate hoax from Rolling Stone Magazine. An article satirizing the trend for “supergroups” was a little too believable for many fans of the above mentioned (supposed) members. In taking the hoax a step further, a California based group was hired – along with Dylan, Jagger and Lennon impersonators – to record the album.

The Masked Marauders LP was released by Reprise Records in November 1969. It goes down in history as the only record ever on their just-made-up Deity label.

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The Beatles At Shea Stadium

The story behind their greatest concert and making the TV special

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I compare it to Orson Wells reading War Of The Worlds over the radio on Halloween in 1938. A lot of people bought into it and caused a panic that Martians were really landing. In 1969 the same “blind faith” almost landed The Masked Marauders onto the Billboard Hot 100 Album Chart.

One of the (many) fun things about writing The Classic Rocker is not knowing where the next song is coming from. If you’ve read the concept and followed any of these ramblings, some songs are from recent memories while others have been embedded in my subconscious and somehow just came out. In this case, the song I Can’t Get No Nookie has to hold the longevity record for being buried under decades of useless information before climbing to the top of my morning music chart. It happened on April 29th and I’m more surprised than anyone to add it to the subconscious list.

I’m sure someone must have played it when we were in college. Otherwise, the last time I heard it had to be in 1969 or 1970. The mind plays strange tricks – and in this case, strange music.

Dylan Jagger

Bob, Mick and Jack

I Can’t Get No Nookie has to be a play on (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction. On the MM LP the lead vocal is by the Mick Jagger impersonator. It’s also a catchy tune and with the word “nookie” I’m also sure as teenage guys we sang it for laughs more than a few times in high school or cruising around in cars on weekends.

There’s also another credit I can throw to this fake album.

Using the excuse mentioned above about not hearing the original rock’n rollers until after The British Invasion calmed down, I’ll embarrassingly admit The Masked Marauders introduced me to the classic Duke Of Earl. It was a track supposedly sung by Bob Dylan, but it connected with us as a new song. None of our favorite groups by 1969 had covered it and since there were no oldies stations on our radios at the time, chances were good we hadn’t heard – or remembered hearing – the original by Gene Chandler in 1962.

It made such an impression that for our high school talent show in the spring of 1970, we put together a group to perform the song. On the stage in our school auditorium we had a piano, bass, electric guitar (me) and drums. A few pals stood around one microphone singing back up (“Duke, Duke, Duke, Duke Of Earl, Duke, Duke…“) while our friend Gary did the lead vocals. Not that he was the best singer, but probably because he’s the only one that knew the words.

And before we started, we plugged in a string of Christmas lights draped over the upright piano as our “light show.” Both the lights and our song drew big applause.

david-1971

Classic Rock(er)

For the next year’s talent show we went even more retro with our rock’n roll revival adding greased hair, rolled up t-shirt sleeves, cuffed jeans and sunglasses. We called our group Peter Priest & The Rabbis (in good humor) and with two electric guitars, bass, drums and my pal Tim as lead singer, we rocked through loud versions of Blue Suede Shoes and Long Tall Sally.

We did two shows and played “by the rules” for only the first.

During the second show for the younger kids (9th and 10th grades) we decided to keep playing until we were chased off stage. Once we started some of the girls from our class ran into the auditorium and stood by the stage screaming. And after we finished our second song, we kept tearing through three-chord 1950’s rock’n roll until the teachers realized we had no intention of stopping.

The curtain was closed and as our class advisor ran on stage waving his arms for us to stop, Gary (our lead singer from the year before) opened them back up. The advisor ran off in a panic and we kept playing.

Finally he pulled the plug.

Since we were seniors graduating in less than a month and basically good kids, we didn’t get into any trouble. In fact there were more laughs than any supposed punishment over our “hoax” to keep the show going. We never went on to become an undiscovered supergroup, but like the legendary Masked Marauders we had our brief moment in the spotlight.

And it was very rock and roll.

Of course there is no video of the elusive Masked Marauders, but for your listening pleasure…

To purchase The Masked Marauders with I Can’t Get No Nookie visit Amazon.com

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Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and author of The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. Visit Dave’s author page on Amazon.com.

Copyright 2017 – North Shore Publishing

Beatles Program

#201 – I’m A Loser

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#201 – I’m A Loser by The Beatles

Beatles I'm A Loser – When it comes to personal memories, this song is a double-edged sword. Good vs. evil. The White Knight against The Queen of Darkness. It represents a battle in the generation gap war that I lost at the time, but felt I’ve gone on to win. And in my own convoluted way, I’ll tell the tale…

Like probably every first generation Beatles fan in North America, I first heard I’m A Loser on Friday, October 7, 1964 when a film of their live performance was aired on the ABC television show Shindig. This was a highly anticipated big deal since we didn’t actually see the group very often. There were no VCR’s or even a science fiction thought of YouTube, so fans only “saw” The Fab Four during their three February appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show (rerun on CBS that summer), a clip of Ed interviewing them on the set of A Hard Day’s Night followed by the performance of You Can’t Do That (edited out of the final concert scene in the feature film), or by going to the theater to see their first movie (as John Lennon called it, “The black and white one.“).

Interview Sullivan

Interviewing The Beatles

Many lucky fans saw them in person during the August – September tour or closed circuit theater showing of their first U.S. concert at Washington Coliseum. Unfortunately, I wasn’t one of those.

But other than that, all we had were the records and magazines.

So when ABC started running advertisements for their appearance on Shindig, I put it on my mental calendar as a “must watch” event. But I never realized that because it was on a Friday evening I would be called out as a “wannabe Beatle” in front of my classmates by an evil old school teacher.

Sound harsh? Yeah, I know…

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Thursday February 23, 2017 – Stow, Ohio!

stow-library-2017

Join The Classic Rocker for a FAB evening of Beatlemania!

Doors open 6:30 pm – show time 7:00

FREE admission – reservations suggested

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Friday evenings in the fall were “supposed” to be reserved for high school football games. I had been going since I was a little kid, mainly for something to do. We had absolutely no interest in what was happening on the field and spent our time running around under the bleachers and eating junk food. And since we lived in a small town in northern Ohio there was no danger walking to the games and home with friends. It was nothing out of the ordinary.

Host Jimmy O'Neill

Host Jimmy O’Neill

Not like seeing The Beatles on Shindig. There was nothing ordinary about that and was well worth skipping one game out of the entire season. So I stayed home to watch.

The next day I saw a kid in my class who told me our sixth grade teacher had been at the football game. From what I remember, she made a BIG DEAL out of going to only one game a year and wanted to make sure all her students were there because that’s where we were “supposed” to be on a Friday night. During her only appearance in the fall of 1964 she saw the other guys from my class and asked where I was.

They told her I stayed home to watch The Beatles. My friend said she wasn’t too happy about that.

Maybe I’ll set this scene a little deeper. I mean, why not. I’ve already said I sound harsh

The two teachers I had in sixth grade were a humorless old woman and old man that split the mornings and afternoons with two classes. They both should have retired years before. They were truly old school and I honestly don’t remember either being supportive or nurturing toward students. Their shared attitude was “learn this or suffer the consequences” and I blame them for making an entire year of school essentially joyless. To say they were verbally abusive to anyone that didn’t follow their golden rules would be an understatement.

In fact, I’ll go even deeper. The woman had been my father’s third grade teacher. My dad was an excellent trumpet player and taught me a lot about music. She’d also had our neighbor in her class, who was a teenager in the 1950’s. He was an excellent basketball player (earned a full ride to Ohio State University) but also liked Elvis Presley. When he was gone I’d sometimes sneak into his room with his younger brother and we’d listen to his record collection. Both were good students and good kids. So was I.

By the Monday morning following The Beatles appearance on Shindig, she’d had all weekend to stew over my absence at the high school football game and her BIG DEAL appearance. It was almost as if I had cussed out my mom, given apple pie to the communists and spit on the American flag. I have a vague memory of walking into the classroom and hearing her talk about being at the game, but not seeing everyone who should have been there.

Then class started.

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The story behind their greatest concert and making the TV special

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When she asked anyone a question, it was mandatory for the student to stand next to his or her desk to answer. I don’t remember whatever outdated nonsense she was trying to shove into our young minds, but before I knew it I was standing next to my desk and being asked a question I had no answer for.

That’s when the other edge of the sword came down.

She was determined to make me the loser in front of the entire class. Immediately she was shouting full volume at me. But it wasn’t about not knowing the answer – but the fact that I had skipped a high school football game and stayed home on a Friday night to watch THE BEATLES ON TELEVISION! In her eyes I was the enemy of all that was good and decent and a pervert among angelic high school football fans. Her exact words still ring in my ear:

  • “Your father wanted to be Harry James!”
  • “Your neighbor wanted to be a hound dog!”
  • “And YOU want to be a BEATLE!!!”

I had been singled out in front of my friends and classmates and verbally attacked like I had done something wrong. After flushing her anger about me and disapproving musical memories of my father and our neighbor out of her evil system she told me to SIT DOWN!

Harmonica Contraption

Harmonica Contraption

At the time I was shaken up (what 11-year old wouldn’t be?). But you know what? It was the only thing she ever said to me that made sense. I won’t give her any credit as an inspiration, but I think it’s pretty cool I went on to write two books about The Beatles and none about high school football.

Harsh? Yeah, but I look at my books as being the fun result of the double-edged sword!

I’m A Loser assaulted this Dream Song List on April 28th. It’s been a favorite since I watched the Beatles on Shindig and is on my digital playlist. That also places it into the recent memory category since I had just heard it.

I’m A Loser is also especially memorable because the group already looked different on Shindig than earlier that summer in A Hard Day’s Night. Their hair, especially Lennon’s, was a lot longer. He also had a harmonica hooked to a metal contraption around his neck that allowed him to play it and his guitar at the same time.

I had seen photos of Bob Dylan with the same setup, but he was still considered a “folkie.” Lennon as a pop-rocker made it cooler.

But there was definitely a Dylan influence in this Lennon-penned song. The lyrics were a lot more introspective than we’d heard on The Ed Sullivan Show only seven months earlier. It also signaled a more country-twang feel in some of their newer songs such as Honey Don’t, Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby and I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party.

Even though we’d heard I’m A Loser in October 1964, we couldn’t own a copy until the U.S. LP Beatles ’65 was released on December 15th. On first listen I immediately remembered it was the song from Shindig with John Lennon playing the harmonica contraption and acoustic guitar. He was cool and the song was cool – and this hit of countrified Beatlemania went a long way to make my personal sixth grade double-edged sword a lot easier to deal with.

Here’s a video of The Beatles performing I’m A Loser on Shindig from 1965

To purchase Beatles ’65 with I’m A Loser visit Amazon.com

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Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and author of The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. Visit Dave’s author page on Amazon.com.

Copyright 2017 – North Shore Publishing

#206 – She Loves You

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#206 – She Loves You by The Beatles

She Loves You – This was the drum roll into the 1960’s as many of us prefer to remember the decade. Yeah (yeah yeah), the “official” turn of the clock from the 50’s was four years earlier for U.S. baby boomers, but play any of us the opening of She Loves You and the reaction is similar to the first time we ever saw a color television.

Our senses took a direct hit and we were launched into the Swingin’ 60’s.

Okay, for a lot of us in early 1964 the only swingin’ we did was on a grade school playground, but it was obvious our world was changing. Only three months before (the length of summer vacation from school) JFK was in The White House and clean-cut pop crooners dominated the music charts. Folk music was considered edgy and the older generation(s) still made the rules.

Then it all changed. I set the date for this new wave at February 9, 1964.

My first notice of The Beatles was on Friday, January 3rd when Jack Parr showed a short film clip focused mainly on the group’s apparently out-of-control screaming audiences. At the beginning you can barely hear the song From Me To You. Then it switches to shots of The Beatles in collarless jackets performing She Loves You. This was after Parr’s tenure as host of The Tonight Show. Johnny Carson had taken over late nights in 1962 and The Jack Parr Program aired in primetime on NBC for one hour every Friday.

For many of us it was our first exposure to the now famous lyrics, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.”

That’s important to note because it became a hook for The Beatles early fame in the U.S. From my memory it was pretty common for the older reporters to throw in a “Yeah, yeah, yeah” somewhere in their headlines or articles referring to what “the kids of today” liked or the simplicity of pop music when compared to the older standards.

There was even a report from the British theater world about how the Beatles’ music and influence was infiltrating the upper society in a not-so-sophisticated way. When the 1963 Broadway musical She Loves Me debuted at The West End Theater in London, one of the characters says to another, “She Loves You.” And of course someone in the audience had to finish the obvious by calling out, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.”

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The story behind their greatest concert and making the TV special

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Since the two song snippets aired by Jack Parr were not enough to really grasp onto, most of us didn’t experience the full force of Beatlemania until Ed Sullivan introduced them on February 9th. The first complete song I heard by The Fab Four was All My Loving. Reviewing their performance from that Sunday evening, it’s no wonder we were knocked into another dimension of pre-(or-full-on) teenager. Every song including their rendition of the Broadway showstopper ‘Til There Was You is considered a Beatles classic.

And with She Loves You we were hooked by three shaggy heads singing, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.”

Hold Your HandI still find it strange this wasn’t the song that broke them in America. That didn’t happen until their next single, I Want To Hold Your Hand started getting U.S. radio play in December 1963. Capitol Records, the Beatles’ U.S. record company, refused to even release She Loves You – at first. The 45 rpm vinyl came out on Swan Records and did absolutely nothing until Beatlemania hit about six months later. Then it followed I Want To Hold Your Hand as the No. 1 song in March 1964.

Capitol wised-up that the group was making money for a rival label and very quickly took ownership from Swan and included the hit song on The Beatles Second Album released in April.

I’m sure The Beatles, their manager Brian Epstein and also movie director Richard Lester understood that “Yeah, yeah, yeah” was an important element in the group’s carefree image portrayed in the film A Hard Day’s Night. Though She Loves You would have already been considered an “oldie” (recorded in July 1963) when the Beatles’ first film was released in the summer of 1964, it was still included with their latest songs in the final concert sequence. I Want To Hold Your Hand wasn’t.

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Painesville, Ohio – Monday, December 19, 2016.

1966 Poster

The Classic Rocker will present The Beatles In Cleveland at Morley Library. Doors open at 6:30 pm with a display of Beatles memorabilia and FAB music. Program begins at 7 pm. Admission is FREE but seating is limited. Reservations are suggested by calling 440-352-3383. Includes rare films of the riotous concerts at Public Hall and Cleveland Stadium and never-before published photos. Books will be available at a special library discount following the program (think holiday shopping!). Morley Library is located at 184 Phelps Street, Painesville, OH 44077. Hope to see you there!

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Now putting my personal memory to use…

Following their February 9th debut on The Ed Sullivan Show, kids I knew had to have a copy of I Want To Hold Your Hand. I don’t remember how I got to my local record store since February in northern Ohio has always been too cold for a bike ride, but somehow I scored a copy of the 45 rpm (backed with I Saw Her Standing There) that week. But I really wanted an album.

That Saturday night my parents went on a “date night” shopping trip and surprised me with the LP Introducing The Beatles. Yeah (yeah, yeah) I had cool parents. But I really wanted the album showing their faces in half shadow and with shaggier hair. A week later I tagged along on their “date night” (three’s a crowd?) and came home with Meet The Beatles.

But none of these included She Loves You (no, no, no!). Once again, since I was only ten years old and my bike was not going to see the light of day until after the first thaw of spring, I had to rely on frequent Top 40 AM radio play to hear the song. Eventually within a couple weeks I ended up in a department store record section with a copy of She Loves You.

swanIt was on the smaller Swan label – and yes I still have it.

The song earned a spot on the Dream Song List on April 16th. Of course I own numerous copies, but it hadn’t been on my digital playlist for awhile, so it goes down as a subliminal memory. But with a hook as powerful as “Yeah, yeah, yeah” I’m sure it’s also been subliminally stuck in many other baby boomer’s minds for over half a century.

The song’s brief opening drum riff immediately transports us back to this era. It’s as important to the Beatles unique soundtrack as the count “1, 2, 3, FOUR!” in I Saw Her Standing There and the opening chord of A Hard Day’s Night. The song could have just opened with John, Paul and George singing “She Loves You, yeah, yeah, yeah” but it wouldn’t have been the same. The powerful impact of the drums sets the frantic tone that follows.

RingoThis credit goes to Ringo Starr. A number of years ago some music novices tried to downplay his importance and even suggested he wasn’t a great drummer. I’m pretty sure these knucklehead critics were either shouted down or embarrassed into obscurity. Their preferred heavy-fisted drum pounders or light-touching jazz percussionists could never have had the same impact. Ringo’s playing enhanced the vocalists and kicked in a beat that set the song’s pace without overwhelming what followed.

In my book that makes Ringo one of the best rock and roll drummers of all time. Case closed.

In 2009 it was announced She Loves You was the Beatles’ all time, top-selling single in England. That’s more than Hey Jude, I Want To Hold Your Hand and all the others. I’m sure it had to do with the hook. “Yeah, yeah, yeah” is tough to forget – even more than a half century later.

And here they are – in the glorious early days of technicolor – The Beatles singing She Loves You (yeah, yeah, yeah)!

To purchase The Beatles 1+ with She Loves You and every “must have” song visit Amazon.com

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Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and author of The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. Visit Dave’s author page on Amazon.com.

Copyright 2016 – North Shore Publishing

 

#209 – Hey Jude

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#209 – Hey Jude by The Beatles

heyjude2 – It’s easy to look back at an event and think, “Yeah, that’s when that happened.” Time gives you a historical perspective or as the old saying goes, “Hindsight is 20/20.” To go even further with this thought and put it into Classic Rocker terms, I’ll borrow a 1972 a song title and lyric from Johnny Nash:

I Can See Clearly Now.

There have been countless books written about the Beatles and like most dedicated fans, I’ve read many of them. With the passage of time, more often than not researchers and historians who are not first generation fans write the latest books. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s similar to new books about George Washington or Abraham Lincoln. No one writing these books was alive when these presidents were changing the world, but that doesn’t mean the authors are not experts on their subjects. They just have to look at their subject’s life from a historical point of view.

In other words, researching and writing on what has already happened. They have the benefit of clear hindsight and already know how each story ends.

But people living through these important moments don’t know – at the time – how important they might be in the long run. For example, no one including Sam Phillips had any idea how earth shattering the results would be when Elvis Presley first walked into the Sun Recording Studio in Memphis.

John and Paul AppleThe same can be said when the Beatles released Hey Jude. When we first heard it in August 1968 there was nothing on the radar – or even a hint – that we were entering the final phase of their earth-shattering career as a group. It was tuneful, uplifting and joyful. It was the first release on their newly formed Apple Records and would eventually become the Beatles’ all-time biggest selling single.

But looking back clearly with historic hindsight, it’s obvious something was different. First generation fans just didn’t know it at the time.

The Beatles had always been seen as a group. Again with hindsight we can see that wasn’t always exactly the case. For instance, when they performed live the 1963 album track All My Loving, Paul McCartney and George Harrison harmonized on the final verse. This is how it was presented to U.S. fans as the first song during their debut on The Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964. But read the back cover notes on Meet The Beatles (UK title: With The Beatles) and you’ll see Paul double tracked both vocals in the recording studio. Even during their years as a touring band Paul recorded as a “solo artist” on Yesterday, Eleanor Rigby and For No One. Beatles historians know this is also true with various songs by John Lennon and George, with the remaining three primarily serving as a backup band.

But to us they were still a group and everything we looked forward to in 1968 would still be a group effort. Hey Jude didn’t change that perspective, but the demise was on the radar and the final phase was in progress.

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In theaters with the new film Eight Days A Week

The Beatles At Shea Stadium – Restored and Remastered

Read the story behind their greatest concert and making the TV special!

Buy now at Amazon.com

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Following the Revolver album and final tour ending in August 1966, it was almost like they hung a Closed sign on the Beatles shop. After expecting at least two albums a year (more in the U.S. thanks to giving us less songs per LP) and a hit single every couple months, things went silent. The Monkees took over the Fab Four reign for younger teens and the rest of us had to wait until February 1967 for Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields Forever. And it’s no strain of the imagination to say these songs signaled a new psychedelic phase that included Sgt. Pepper and Magical Mystery Tour.

All the backward tape loops, studio effects and trippy lyrical images came to an almost immediate halt just over a year later in March 1968 with Lady Madonna. The song could be considered the group’s original Get Back – since it went back to a basic rock and roll feeling. I say almost because the flip side was the Eastern sitar raga rock track The Inner Light, which was George’s turn as a “solo artist.”

Then they seemed to close up shop again.

maharishi-mahesh-yogiExcept this time they should have hung up a sign saying “On Vacation” since they ditched their world-shattering ways and headed for India to meditate with their guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

In my opinion (and I’ll never say humble opinion because The Classic Rocker doesn’t have one) something happened. It wasn’t earth shattering enough to make the world news. In fact, if you’ve read enough books on the topic it basically seems like India was a laid-back (boring?) time of reenergizing by the most famous frazzled foursome of their era. But they definitely changed. I believe India is where the cracks that eventually caused the final split started. Each member vacationed into his own mind and spirit and stopped being the shared four-headed monster as Mick Jagger described them during his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction speech.

They wrote enough songs to fill the upcoming double album The Beatles (renamed The White Album by first generation fans) but when they returned to the recording studio and the public eye they weren’t the Beatles of All My Loving, Sgt. Pepper or even Lady Madonna. The dynamics had changed. Hey Jude was by Paul McCartney and the Beatles while the flip side, Revolution, could be credited to John Lennon and the Beatles.

And it would continue this way until The End (final song on Abbey Road). And by the way – I told you I’m not humble in my opinions. We didn’t know it at the time, but hindsight makes it all very clear.

Hey Jude joined the Dream Song List on March 20th. From my opinionated dissertation above you already know I own more than a few copies including my original vinyl 45 rpm. And though it’s hard to believe because the song is still the flag-waving “hey remember us!” standard everyday reminder of the Beatles earth-shattering and world-dominating career and is a constant on every respectable classic rock radio playlist – I hadn’t heard it in awhile. So surprisingly, it goes into the subliminal chart listing.

Wait – a Beatles fan that hadn’t heard Hey Jude in awhile? Please don’t go for a non-humble bad opinion of me. But I’ll have to admit if there is one Beatles song that could ever possibly be overplayed, this is it. Of course now that I’ve written these ramblings while listening to Hey Jude it turns out I can’t hear it enough. It’s currently set for an unlimited run on my digital playlist.

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August 1968 was the first new music we had from the Beatles in at least five months. It was only one month less than the length of time we waited between Revolver and Penny Lane. In hindsight it seems like a blink of an eye. But when you lived through it their absence made us feel they were on a permanent vacation and the shop was closed for good. Fortunately we still had a couple years left but in hindsight the writing was on the wall.

My first memory of Hey Jude was on a Friday evening at the beginning of my sophomore year in high school. Summer vacation was history and I was psyched and nervous for my first show as a member of the school marching band. Since I was still almost a year away from being old enough to drive, I was hanging around in my uniform waiting for one of my buddies to pick me up when this instant classic came on the radio. If he was outside in his car waiting I didn’t notice. There was no way I was leaving until the final “Na-na-na’s” had faded out.

Hey Jude CameraBut (another) wait – The Classic Rocker wasn’t a jock in school? Don’t make quick opinionated judgments. I had more fun playing music, even though I could run faster and jump higher than maybe one or two guys I went to school with. I proved that on the basketball and track teams through junior high and into high school. But when it became all too apparent I had zero interest in touching a basketball when there was a guitar or trumpet nearby and found running around a track as boring as listening to a radio station that didn’t play the Beatles, the jock stuff went on vacation and eventually closed down.

The decision wasn’t difficult to make, especially when an idiotic (told you I was opinionated) gym teacher (slash) basketball coach told me my (perhaps an inch long?) hair made me look like a girl. It didn’t because in those days there were still school dress codes for boys that included hair off our ears and collars. But wanting me to emulate his outdated crew cut style was a challenge worthy enough to be called a boomer generation dividing line.

And besides, like many musicians before and after, I found it was a lot more fun riding in the bus to sporting events and sitting in the stands with a bunch of girls rather than with a bunch of sweaty jocks. It didn’t take hindsight to know that at the time – and I don’t see it any clearer now than I did in 1968. And to prove that in historical proportion, years later I married one of the marching band majorettes from my high school – so score another one for the music department.

We can also score a HUGE classic rock hit for The Beatles with Hey Jude. Since they had stopped touring two years earlier, here’s the closest any of us ever got to seeing the group perform the song live. Because the musicians union in England prevented musicians from lip-syncing their songs on television, the instrumental backing is pre-recorded, while the microphones are live. Listen carefully and you can hear Paul’s recorded voice under his live vocals. The clip includes a fab introduction by TV host David Frost and an even “fabier” musical intro by the lads themselves.

 

 

To purchase The Beatles 1 with all their No. 1 songs including Hey Jude visit Amazon.com

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Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and author of The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. Visit Dave’s author page on Amazon.com.

Copyright 2016 – North Shore Publishing

August 15, 1965 – The Beatles At Shea Stadium

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– It started earlier than you might think…

sidbernstein

Sid Bernstein

During the winter of 1963 Sid Bernstein, a New York producer and entrepreneur, decided to expand his horizons by taking a course in Political Science. The instructor said if students wanted learn about democracy they need to study Great Britain, so Bernstein trekked down to Times Square every week and bought the British newspapers.

After reading updates about the government, he turned to where his real interests were – the entertainment section. He noticed the name of a pop group called The Beatles. At first the articles were small, but each week they continued to grow in size. They also included two words about their performances that caught Bernstein’s eye:

SOLD OUT!

To his producer’s way of thinking, these were the same words that described fame-predicting appearances by Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley, two of the BIGGEST names in showbiz. Since expanding his horizons could also mean taking a chance, he located the Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein and booked the group – then unknown in the U.S. – for two shows in February 1964 at Carnegie Hall in New York.

Epstein Beatles

Brian Epstein and “The Boys”

When dealing with Epstein there were always stipulations. If The Beatles were not getting radio airplay in the U.S. by December 1963, the deal was off. It was a long wait, but as history tells us they made the deadline. I Want To Hold Your Hand broke the airwave barrier, they were scheduled for three February appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show – and Bernstein SOLD OUT both shows at Carnegie Hall.

Following the Beatles summer and fall 1964 tour of North America, Bernstein took another chance and scheduled them to appear in the brand new, state of the art Shea Stadium in Flushing, Queens. Again there were stipulations that included no advertising without a paid deposit, but Bernstein made a bold guarantee and backed it up by selling 55,600 seats through word of mouth. Once again…

SOLD OUT!

Nothing on this scale for a pop concert had ever been attempted before. Elvis had performed a handful of stadium shows leading up to his army induction, but the largest had been in front of 26,000 fans at The Cotton Bowl. The Beatles had to more than double that number to fill Shea Stadium.

Dressing Room

Away from the crowd

On August 15, 1965 The Beatles landed on top of a building at the neighboring New York World’s Fair and were delivered into Shea Stadium via a Wells Fargo armored truck. The dressing room was crowed with visitors including Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and future kingpin business manager for Apple Corp and three of the four Beatles, Allen Klein.

If only Brian Epstein had known…

Their entire visit to New York, beginning Friday, August 13th through Tuesday, August 16th, was filmed for a Beatles In New York (not the title, but the idea) television special. Only backstage and concert footage was used for the final version.

Introduced by Ed Sullivan, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr ran to a small stage set up over second base on the baseball playing field and performed ten songs in about thirty-seven minutes. Whether anyone heard them depended on where they were seated, if they were screaming – or if they were next to someone screaming. Many of the male fans thought they sounded great. Many of the female fans don’t remember.

Shea on stage

Never before in the history of popular music…

Filmed in 35mm, the quality of the concert footage is similar to blockbuster Hollywood movies of the era. For comparison, The Monterey Pop Festival and Woodstock movies were filmed in 16mm.

The resulting television special, The Beatles At Shea Stadium, was planned for holiday (Christmas) airing in December 1965. One member of the Beatles inner circle approved the version submitted by Ed Sullivan Productions, while five others didn’t. A secret recording session took place in January 1966 to correct the sound and the special wasn’t broadcast in the U.S. until a year later. By that time fans were only weeks away from the release of Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields Forever by a mustached, psychedelic-clothes-wearing, pre-Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

The film has been restored, color-corrected with both the overdubbed and original audio remastered for mono and stereo. It has yet to be released.

But on television that January evening in 1967 they were still the mop-topped Fab Four riding high on the release of their summer 1965 film, Help! And they played, sang, laughed and sweated during a hot New York August night in front of a SOLD OUT audience of 55,600 fans.

It was 50 years ago on August 15, 1965.

It was the birth of stadium rock.

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Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and author of The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. Visit Dave’s author page on Amazon.com.

Copyright 2015 – North Shore Publishing

 

February 9, 1964

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I was taken by complete surprise. Well, almost.

Jack Parr

Jack Parr

I had heard of The Beatles before February 9th only because my mom let me stay up late the night Jack Parr aired a brief clip during The Tonight Show on January 3, 1964. It had to be a Friday night and not a school night, but I’m not sure. And it wasn’t because we knew The Beatles were going to be on. Again, I had never even heard of them. We just enjoyed watching Jack Parr. For me it was his sense of smug humor (for lack of a better term). I always thought it was a bit risqué to watch his show because I was still a preteen and he was for adults. It reinforces my opinion that my mom was a little more with it than other parents who wouldn’t let their children stay up late to watch when Parr was host of The Tonight Show.

I also thank her and my dad for taking me to a Beatles concert. Again, I’ve heard too many stories from other young fans “under parental control” who were not allowed.

Other than Parr’s brief clip I have no memory of hearing anything else about The Beatles until February 9th. There was too much other “stuff” going on. I’ve been very clear about my recollections of this time in past Classic Rocker columns and my books The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. We were still dealing with a very bleak time in our country’s history following JFK’s assassination in Dallas on November 22nd. We watched the funeral and news updates on television and heard discussions at home and in school about The Cold War and The A-Bomb. Even my neighbor had a bomb shelter and as a preteen baby boomer it was obvious things had changed very quickly.

I often describe my memories during these days as being in black and white. That probably comes from remembering and still seeing reruns of newsreels and television shows from that era being broadcast in black and white. The Beverly Hillbillies, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Patty Duke Show. You know the ones I’m talking about, so no need to mention them all. All the shows were in black and white which undoubtedly affects my memories.

I didn’t even know anyone who owned a color television in February 1964 – not even my neighbor with the bomb shelter. But having a color television wouldn’t have made a difference. The Ed Sullivan Show was broadcast in black and white.

Ed Beatles 2

Rehearsal pre-fab

My dad, mom, little sister and I had been on a four day family vacation that started on Wednesday, February 5th. It was a driving trip to Washington, DC and we arrived home in the early evening of Sunday February 9th.  I had no plans to do anything except eat dinner and avoid doing any homework until the last minute. As we did just about every Sunday at 8 pm we all sat down in front of our only television (“The black and white one,” as John Lennon described A Hard Day’s Night at their legendary Shea Stadium concert about a year and a half later) to watch The Ed Sullivan Show.

Dad, mom and sis were on the couch. I sat on the floor with my back against the couch. I remember it as vividly as where I was when my fifth grade teacher announced to the class President Kennedy had been shot. There are a few dates you’ll always remember if you were alive at that time. These are two of the earliest for me.

It would be cool to say we watched because of The Beatles, but don’t remember it that way. We always watched Ed Sullivan. Like for many of us in the U.S. he was part of our television family on Sunday nights.

As the first performers, he announced The Beatles.

Beatles Ed Sullivan

A moment in time

For myself at that moment and for millions of others watching, our world immediately went from black and white to color. It was that dramatic. To use a comparison from my book The Beatles In Cleveland it was like the film The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy was swept away from a black and white Kansas and unexpectedly dropped in colorful Oz.

And The Ed Sullivan Show was broadcast in black and white!!

Beatles music has been listened to, analyzed, discussed, broken down, recreated, and even taught and studied in universities since. There’s no need for me to do that now. The influence is still felt over half a century later.

But it wasn’t just the music. They had an image unlike anyone else before them. You can talk about how shocking Madonna, Michael Jackson and Prince appeared twenty years later, or even more recently with Lady Gaga, Lil’ Wayne and Miley Cyrus. In February 1964 the Beatles’ “look” was shocking compared to what was considered “normal” at the time.

To put it into a baby boomer context based on our television viewing habits. No man in 1964 had hair like that except for Moe from The Three Stooges.

John Lennon MarriedInstead of letter sweaters and slacks, the Beatles wore business suits with tight pants, skinny ties and boots with pointy toes and high heels (Cuban heeled Beatle Boots). It was shocking! And I only learned their first names because they were flashed under their individual shots on the television screen. The music was lively and happy, the Beatles bounced in time and the girls screamed. Then it was over.

Well, not quite for me. Where we lived in northern Ohio, the dividing line between Eastern Standard Time and Central Standard Time in 1964 was drawn between Cleveland and Toledo. That meant we had two separate television markets airing shows an hour apart. At 8 pm EST I watched the Beatles live on The Ed Sullivan Show. An hour later at 8 pm CST I tuned into the Toledo CBS affiliate and watched it again. I did that for each of their three appearances that month.

Beatles Ed 2

Long haired rock’n roll

I was able to watch their U.S. debut on The Ed Sullivan Show twice that same night. It was also rerun later that year, but then I never saw it again until buying a bootleg videotape on 8th Street in Manhattan more than twenty years later. Now like many other fans, I own a legit DVD copy of The Ed Sullivan Show appearances and pretty much have every moment memorized.

The very next day it was also obvious things had changed.

On the Wednesday before, I had left school early for our drive to Washington, DC. There had been no mention of The Beatles in my classroom or anywhere that I can recall.

On Monday morning following The Ed Sullivan Show most of the girls in my fifth grade class had Beatles fan magazines hidden in their desks and their television debut was the main topic of conversation. The guys tried to act cool about it – or at least that’s my perception because we weren’t supposed to be attracted to them like the girls were. They were in love and lust. But I remember listening to their conversations and know some of the guys, me included, wanted to be like The Beatles. It seemed a lot more fun than kicking a ball around the playground.

I’m sure it was also within that first week one of the guys in my class came to school with a Beatles wig. I bought one myself and still have it. There were also a lot of Beatles trading cards, photos, magazines and other merchandize brought to school that would be considered valued collectors items today.

Beatles Bowing

From black & white to color

Of course, there was the music. By the Saturday following their debut on The Ed Sullivan Show I owned the LP Introducing The Beatles as a gift from my parents after listening to me beg for a week. The next Saturday (after more pleading) I had a copy of Meet The Beatles. Somewhere within that time frame I came up with the sixty cents (somewhere in that $$ neighborhood at that time) for the 45 rpm record I Want To Hold Your Hand b/w I Saw Her Standing There.

The floodgates were open and haven’t been closed since. It was February 9, 1964. It all changed that evening and nothing was ever the same again. Thank you to John, Paul, George and Ringo. It’s been a memorable journey to say the least.

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Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and the author of The Beatles In Cleveland and The Beatles At Shea Stadium

Visit Dave’s author page on Amazon.com at THIS LINK.