Category Archives: Record Companies

#147 – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

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#147Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles

The Band

– It was late spring 1967 and we really didn’t know what was going down. At least not where I was living in small town northern Ohio. It had been less than a year since we saw the Beatles at Cleveland Stadium during their (what we thought at the time) annual summer tour. And while we waited for the next Beatles moment, we were being entertained by a new show on NBC called The Monkees.

Yeah, I won’t deny they were the cool thing at that moment. When the show premiered in September 1966, it seemed most of my eighth grade friends had a case of Monkeemania. But since we were first generation Beatles Fans, the novelty began running out not long after the release of their second album and hit single I’m A Believer, which was right around the Christmas holiday.

After that I had the feeling that we went into the winter months waiting to see what The Beatles would do next.

In January 1967 we were treated with the primetime television special The Beatles At Shea Stadium, which kept us in a fab mindset. But by that time the 1965 birth of stadium rock was more historical document than a current event. It was still very exciting to watch, but comparable to a greatest hits album.

We were ready for something new.

The Look

Then in February, we were finally gifted with the group’s latest guaranteed hit, Penny Lane with the flip side, Strawberry Fields Forever. All of a sudden, the pop music of The Monkees and other Top 40 hits seemed more for a younger generation.

The original Beatles fans were maturing with the group.

But the first thing we noticed from the picture sleeve for their latest single was that they looked different. The mop tops and matching suits were gone. The new look was longer hair, mustaches and colorful clothes. Then once we heard the music it was a game-changer. It was a long way from I Want To Hold Your Hand to Strawberry Fields Forever.

Then came another bombshell.

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Three of the wildest concerts in Beatles – and rock & roll – history!

The Beatles At Shea Stadium:

The Story Behind Their Greatest Concert

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The Beatles In Cleveland:

Memories, Facts & Photos About The Notorious 1964 & 1966 Concerts

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Both books available in paperback and eBook through Amazon.com

For information about Dave’s author programs visit BeatlesProgram.com

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In May 1967 I read a short newspaper article that said the Beatles would not tour that summer. In fact, they may never tour again. I learned later, as an author of two books on the group, they had made this final decision during the 1966 North American tour. But their manager Brian Epstein kept it under wraps in hopes they would change their collective minds and not put his job scheduling concert tours in jeopardy.

And if you don’t believe me, a copy of a newspaper article titled Beatles May Sing Swan Song appears in my book The Beatles In Cleveland. I cut the story out of our newspaper in May 1966 and saved it since it was ground-breaking news at the time and… well, still is.

The Album

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was released in the U.S. on June 2nd. I honestly can’t say, because I honestly don’t remember, if that was the date that I actually bought the LP. Since my small town in northern Ohio wouldn’t be on any record label’s list for first-day releases in stores, as I assumed it would be in New York or Los Angeles, I’ll say it arrived for us a few days later. I just know I first heard our local record store had copies on the day of the graduation party for my eighth grade class. I phoned my pal Kevin (who had seen the Beatles with me in Cleveland), we jumped on our bikes and rode off to make our purchases.

Kevin was and still is a year older than me, which might have given him the advantage. He moved fast to the record bin and grabbed the last copy of Sgt. Pepper with the prized word “Stereo” displayed at the top of the now famous, pop culture work of art album cover. The only one left for me read “Hi-Fidelity.”

What’s the difference?

In 1967, supposedly a lot. With newer stereo technology, you could sit between the stereo speakers and hear different sounds coming at you from both sides. In Hi-Fi or mono, the same sounds come out of both speakers.

But you know what? We didn’t find out until decades later – at least as fans – that the Beatles never intended Sgt. Pepper or any of their earlier albums to be stereo. It was all “mixed” in the studio to sound great coming out of one speaker. That’s why when looking – and listening – back, early Beatles albums including Sgt. Pepper don’t sound as fab as the mono mixes. They were given “artificial stereo” technology that carried the Instruments out of one speaker and the voices out of another.

That was not the way their songs were meant to be heard.

Though I was disappointed when I bought the album in Hi-Fi, it turned out I was the winner all along. From the first time I listened, it was the way The Beatles meant for it to be heard.

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Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – the song and not the entire album – joined this Dream Song List on December 14th. Yes, I own a copy. And as a matter of historical reference, I still own the same Hi-Fi copy bought in early June 1967. Except now my listening is digitalized. And since a true Classic Rocker can’t go very long without hearing it, that’s why the opening song on the album that provided the psychedelic soundtrack to The Summer Of Love floats into the recent memory category.

But don’t let the above term psychedelic be a reference to my personal summer of 1967. As an eighth grader heading into his first year of high school in the sheltered environment of a small town, the closest any of us would come to experiencing psychedelic was when we listened to Sgt. Pepper with our eyes closed and imagining Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.

As mentioned, the album landed in my local store the same day as our eighth grade graduation party. I made it through one entire listen before my mother chased me out of the house so I wouldn’t miss the first social event of my pre high school experience. I’m pretty sure I would have stayed home long enough to hear it again, but the party was promising to be a good “boys sneak out to find girls” all-nighter that none of us could really afford to miss if we wanted to head into ninth grade with a “cool” rep.

The guys were set to camp out on a small island in the middle of a man-made lake that was in the middle of a new housing development. I don’t know where the girls were staying, but if I remember correctly, we planned to meet on a nearby golf ball driving range after it closed. I also have this vague memory of all the guys having to swim to this island with our dry clothes in plastic bags on our heads. But that might have been just what we did on a hot afternoon anyway. I’ll go ahead and assume there was a rowboat that we took to stay dry as we escaped from the island for the evening driving range rendezvous.

The summer soundtrack?

And since there were probably about two dozen of us, that rowboat was kept busy most of the night.

The last memory is of most of us still not being as cool as high school students yet. The golf ball driving range turned into a grade school playground where we ran around, found golf balls and acted like the kids we were. Eventually the girls disappeared back to where they were staying and the guys took turns rowing a small boat back to our small island where we talked, laughed and probably made rude noises in sleeping bags under the stars.

It was a great way to start a fab summer. And the soundtrack wasn’t too bad either.

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The Beatles never performed Sgt. Pepper live – but here’s what is being called the “official” video:

 

To purchase the remastered classic LP Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, 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 2020 – North Shore Publishing

 

#158 – Stay With Me

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#158 – Stay With Me by Faces

Faces

– Summer heat and a packed stadium of wannabe boomer hippies morphing into mod rockers. Okay, maybe you won’t think it was as game-changing as I’m making it out to be, but let’s put it this way:

You had to be there.

Since The Classic Rocker is all (well, mostly) about memories this song brings back more than a few – including the scene mentioned above. Rod “The Mod” Stewart, future Rolling Stones guitarist Ron Wood, future Stones keyboard sideman Ian McLagan, future Keith Moon replacement in The Who, Kenney Jones, and original Small Faces bassist Ronnie Lane were throwing a booze-fueled rock and roll party on stage and everyone was invited.

And it was a needed party. At least that’s how I remember it.

This was happening in July 1972 following my first year in college and the country was going through a very heavy scene. We were hearing a lot of message songs on FM and campus radio not only about protesting the Vietnam War, but also serious odes to peace and love and coming together as a community. These were important topics for our generation and had been growing stronger since the late 1960’s.

In the Navy!

It especially hit home when my age of U.S. males became eligible for the military draft. With the end of student deferments and low draft lottery numbers (mine was #52 which was way too low for comfort), some of my college friends had no choice about their futures. You either went in or went on the run.

It was pretty serious stuff.

We still had rockers like The Who and Led Zeppelin blasted out future classics with attitude, but a lot of music was meant to be listened to. Acoustic guitar playing troubadours with flannel shirts and denim bellbottoms dragging on the floor were a popular sound and style. But as teenagers in the early 1970s some of us could only sit cross-legged around a stereo digging the heavy vibe for so long until feeling the need to cut loose.

The Rolling Stones’ Brown Sugar had kicked off the summer of 1971 and offered us an alternate vibe. The message was sex and being wild – and if that’s not rock and roll someone needs to come up with a better definition. It had crunchy electric guitars, a heavy beat, a screaming saxophone from Bobby Keys and major attitude. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards weren’t going to waste their time or ours by standing around with acoustic guitars looking introspective and thoughtful.

As soon as the stereo needle hit the vinyl we were in a better place.

Faces also sang about rock’s main topics, backed by electric guitars, keyboards and a drum beat that made sitting cross-legged on the floor virtually impossible. And it was a heck of a lot of fun.

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20% OFF Author Signed Copies!

The Beatles At Shea Stadium

The Story Behind Their Greatest Concert

20% OFF Retail Price with FREE Shipping (Continental U.S. Only)

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Legendary as the ultimate ode to backstage groupies, Stay With Me by Faces – as opposed to “The” Faces, which would be like saying “The” Led Zeppelin – was a definite party-starter. The song closed the first side of their late 1971 album A Nod Is As Good As A Wink To A Blind Horse and opened my eyes on September 26th as a recent memory. It’s one of my all-time favorite rock songs (along with Brown Sugar) and rarely off my digital playlists for any great length of time. In other words, I had just heard it.

So, what did I mean earlier about morphing from wannabe hippies to mod rockers? It all started on July 3, 1972…

As a nineteen year old U.S. male home from college with the second year riding on the results of an upcoming U.S. military draft physical, I was doing my best to emulate the Woodstock culture of the boomers a few years earlier. The style included hair to my shoulders, a faded t-shirt and faded denim bellbottoms long and wide enough to drag on the floor. My three best pals were also clones of the look as we took off in a beater car for a major rock concert experience at the Akron (Ohio) Rubber Bowl featuring Cactus, Badfinger and the main attraction, Faces.

When we arrived, the stadium was already packed with like-minded hippie wannabes. But for some reason we felt brave enough (stupid enough?) to wade our way through the crowd sitting cross-legged close to the stage. When we reached a space that gave us a great view, we sat. Seriously – we just sat down, practically on top of the fans who were already there. I remember some teenage girls and guys giving us the evil eye and saying something about our arrogance (stupidity?) but it worked out. We were basically good guys and actually funny enough to resemble a hippie comedy team.

It didn’t take very long before we were making friends and they let us settle in for the show.

Come to think of it, we probably made these fast friends because one of my pals had hid a bottle under his shirt and was free in passing it around. Combined with the 3.2 percent beer we were allowed to buy from venders at the legal age of eighteen, everyone seemed pretty friendly and the atmosphere could be described as party central.

Badfinger

Except for being a hot, humid day in July with more dirt and dust than grass covering the stadium’s pre-Astroturf college football field, I don’t have any highlights of the opening acts to share. I don’t remember any of us being into Cactus. They might have been part of the country-rock scene out of California, which we weren’t into at the time. I was psyched about seeing Badfinger since they were a Beatles-related Apple band, but they were a bit of a disappointment. I have a memory of one or two of them sitting on stools while playing the hits we wanted to hear. Not exactly the rock and roll energy we expected.

Faces fronted by Rod Stewart were the complete opposite.

They rock and rolled, pranced and posed and made no secret they had a party central happening on stage. We were close enough to see bottles of booze on the amplifiers and they took healthy swigs before, during and after songs. I’m not sure if Stay With Me was the closing number, but I like to think it was. As a dedicated soccer fan, Rod kicked soccer balls into the crowd and at one point either he – or it might have been Ron Wood – landed on his butt after an especially energetic and booze-fueled kick.

We roared our approval.

But what did I mean about a change from wannabe hippies into mod rockers?

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Faces were far from being flannel shirt and denim rockers. They were decked out in brightly colored slim-fitting, wide lapel jackets, flashy shirts, bellbottoms and high-heeled shoes. There’s no way these guys would’ve felt comfortable walking through the mud at Woodstock or showing up for a military draft physical.

They were traveling in style. Which is something I started to do within a few weeks of the concert.

My goal was to fashion myself like Rod and the band with what I can only call a “rock and roll jacket.” It had to be slim fitting with wide lapels, which turned out not to be as easy to find in northern Ohio as it must have been in London.

Not as cool as this!!

After hours of driving with my concert-going buddy Gary to every clothes store we could find near and far from Cleveland, we finally wound up back in Akron at a then-known but now-gone 1970’s fashion trendsetter clothes store called Chess King (as opposed to “The” Chess King). A mod-rocker sales dude pulled out a jacket in my (tight) size and I reached for my wallet.

And even though muddy brown sugar would never be called a flashy color by Faces or London fashionistas, I proudly wore it to add mod to my rocker status.

To end this Classic Rocker rambling in a way I feel is even more dramatic than landing on my butt after an energetic and booze-filled soccer ball kick into a standing room only stadium crowd of boomer, mod-rockers, the military draft fizzled out only months before my lottery number was scheduled to be inducted. That meant the rock and roll jacket would be my main uniform during a second year of college.

That also signaled another needed party – and I’m sure I wore my jacket. And even though it didn’t inspire the Rod Stewart solo-hit, in my teenaged mind I probably thought it: You wear it well.

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Here’s a live video of Faces performing Stay With Me looking like 1972 rock and rollers!

 

 

To purchase A Nod Is As Good As A Wink To A Blind Horse 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 2019 – North Shore Publishing

#160 – Those Were The Days

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#160 – Those Were The Days by Mary Hopkin

 – Take an old Russian folk song, rewritten English lyrics, a talent show winner and a Beatle and you come up with a 1968 hit record. That was the formula for one of the earliest releases by Apple Records that hit number one in England. In the States it was kept from the top spot by another early Apple release, Hey Jude by the same Beatle and his three business partners.

Working off trivia memory that I must have read somewhere, Paul McCartney heard this song performed in a London club by Gene Raskin, an American folksinger. Raskin is the guy that wrote the English lyrics, which is information I can’t claim to have in my memory bank. He’s given songwriter credit on the record.

One Beatle and Mary

McCartney liked the song, but never had any intention for the Beatles to record it. Those Were The Days was so very different than anything else on the pop charts that he needed someone very different to record it. When Mary Hopkin won the televised British talent show Opportunity Knocks, he found the voice. Taking a break from recording The Beatles (The White Album) he took her into EMI Studios and produced this very different sounding song.

It was also a very different way to wake up on September 21st with Mary Hopkin’s voice singing this song in my mind. It’s not one you hear… well, at all on Classic Rock Radio. And since I don’t own a copy and haven’t heard it in… well, it seems like forever, it goes in the subliminal category of Dream Songs.

But I did own a copy at one time. It’s a very catchy tune and after hearing it on Top 40 AM Radio late that summer, I bought the 45 rpm single. But it wasn’t the type of song my friends and I would play at parties because it wasn’t exactly uplifting. It wasn’t the vinyl you’d put on a turntable to get everyone up to dance.

But speaking of parties…

My best friend and I were fifteen years old and had summer jobs at my family’s bakery when this song was climbing the charts. We lived in a tourist town on the shores of Lake Erie and though we started work early in the morning, we’d usually be finished around noon. That gave us plenty of daytime to hang out at the beach or ride our bikes around town looking for adventures. And since fifteen year old guys don’t need a lot of rest, we’d stay up most of the nighttime supposedly sleeping outside in one of our backyards (both with and without a tent), which was actually an excuse to have no parental supervision. That meant we could also ride our bikes around town all night looking for more adventures.

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20% OFF Author Signed Copies!

The Beatles At Shea Stadium

The Story Behind Their Greatest Concert

20% OFF Retail Price with FREE Shipping (Continental U.S. Only)

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We were pretty much inseparable and kept ourselves – and our circle of friends – very entertained.

I’ll go ahead and say Kevin and I were ringleaders of fun because we always had ideas and something going on. One of our objectives was to have parties so we could hang out with the cool girls in our class. But we didn’t want to throw a party like everyone else. We had to make it seem like an event, which meant we would have a theme.

Our most popular was a movie premier.

If you wanted to see a movie in 1968 you either went to the local theater or watched television. There were no video rentals, we had never even heard of Beta, VHS or the very futuristic DVDs, cable, internet or streaming services. Of course that lack of technology wouldn’t stop this great theme idea. We just had to make our own to make it happen.

Something like this!

Kevin’s family had a home movie camera (we’re talking about using a reel of film) so we became producers, writers, actors and directors. Kevin and I were cast as the stars (hey, it was our movie) and if we needed villains for any scenes, we’d use his younger brother and best friend. We’d pick on them anyway, so the only difference would be filming it.

We’d create short scenes of craziness and comedy bits, separated by brief psychedelic light shows. This visual effect was accomplished by holding the camera lens directly on different colored light bulbs for a few seconds each, resulting in changing color bursts when we projected it on a screen, signaling the end of one bit and the beginning of the next.

We had no editing capabilities, so whatever we shot would be in the movie. There was also no sound with 1968 home movie cameras (at least not on the one we had), so like silent movies we had to write out any important dialogue on poster boards and hold it up in front of the lens. It’s no wonder our sight gags (silent) worked the best.

Much of this is lost to memory, but one bit is worthy of being stuck in my mind.

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The scene opened with me sitting at an empty kitchen table. I’d rub my stomach acting like I was hungry, act like I had a great idea and snap my fingers. Kevin would stop the film and I’d stay motionless as he put an empty dinner plate in front of me. He’d start the film and just like in the television show Bewitched, it looked like I had magically made the plate appear. We continued with the routine until I had silverware, a napkin, lit candles, a wine glass and then the glass filled (but not with wine). In what should have been my final finger snap conjuring up a delicious meal, an old shoe appeared on the dinner plate.

But wait – that wasn’t the end of the bit. Acting disgusted, I snapped my fingers again. Then, like magic, I disappeared and Kevin was sitting in my chair at the table with a sandwich on the plate. Acting happy, he reached for the wine class (not with real wine) and took a sip.

Laughter and applause from our audience, a psychedelic light show on the screen – and then onto the next scene.

Samantha Stevens

As the scene’s featured thespian my emotions had to run from hungry, to surprise, to almost elated and at the end, disappointment. Too bad we never came up with an awards ceremony theme to our parties because I would’ve been a shoe-in (pun intended – thank you).

The final films were about ten minutes long. But just so our invited guests (especially the cool girls) didn’t have to watch a completely silent movie, we’d also record a soundtrack playing various instruments (we had some talent) onto my reel-to-reel tape recorder. We’d do our best to sync the sound and film when we’d hit “play” on both at the same time.

Together we were also a good promotional team and built up the anticipation for these premiers that would happen at one of our houses. And since we also had a good group of friends these were successful parties. There were always enough laughs for us to show the latest film a few times, then play the latest records, dance, laugh some more and talk up the cool girls. And if our star power was bright enough (like a psychedelic light show) the evening might end with a kiss, or two… or three.

So, would I say those were the days? Yeah, they really were fun.

But even though I enjoy reminiscing as The Classic Rocker, and Mary Hopkin with Those Were The Days stirred up memories of my cinematic career as a fifteen year old child actor (where was The Disney Channel when I was looking for a job?) I don’t think I’d ever want to go back. Just like each song on this countdown serves as a reminder, I think there are plenty of adventures, laughs – and even a little magic – down the long and winding road ahead. I’m still finding ways to entertain myself. Yesterday was cool, but you never know – tomorrow might be even cooler.

I just wish there was a psychedelic light show I could use to signal my next bit. Why? Because it would look very cool projected on a screen before my entrance into the new scene.

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Here’s a video from 1968 (with production quality a lot better than mine!) of Mary Hopkin performing Those Were The Days.

 

To purchase Come and Get It: The Best of Apple Records with Those Were The Days and Mary’s follow up hit Goodbye (written by Paul McCartney) 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 2019 – North Shore Publishing