Archive - February 2004
|February 29th, 2004
|Sometime back in the seventies, somebody--E.
Nelson Bridwell, probably--decreed
29th was the Man of Steel's official
Since this ever elusive day only clocks
once every four years, this was undoubtedly
a cute way of keeping the Kryptonian
younger than his actual amassed years.
don't know if this is adhered to much
days, but as you folks know by now,
a sucker for a celebration!
And actually, even though creator's Jerry Siegal and Joe Shuster didn't manage to get Superman published until 1938, he was fully ready to soar four years earlier, making the Big Red S a venerable 70 this year! Yes, gang, you WILL believe time flies!...
...Or you can just divide everything by four, and THEN Supes' age, well--it can get back!...
February 28th, 2004
|Now, if THAT doesn't prove conclusively that,
back in 1964, it was ALL about the
I don't know what will!!
(Photo courtesy of the 1997 edition of "The Beatles Memorabilia Price Guide", by the way. The authors assign a whopping price of $600 for a near-mint copy of this fun-filled follicle focused item, so folks, if you once owned one and didn't keep it, well then--it's about time to start pulling YOUR hair out, don't you think?...)
The Beatles page is up. Go take a peek, if only to check out the name and logo I chose for it. A little tip of the hat to my recently neglected comics' heritage...
Enjoyed Beatles Month? Then donate!
I really wish you would, because, frankly, as the man once said...
"You never give me your money, you only give me your funny papers..."
February 27th, 2004
As Beatle Month draws to a sad but fitting close here at Hembeck.com, I direct your attention to my perhaps misbegotten attempt at producing a Classic Cover Redo of Dell's 1964 BEATLES COMPLETE LIFE STORY. Considering that the original was a PHOTO cover, well, here's hoping you'll find the accompanying TEXT piece of some small interest despite whatever artistic shortcomings are blatantly on display in my (not "re" but just plain) interpretation! Yikes!
|(...The GOOD news for my ever generous pal,
Rocco Nigro, is that very soon he'll
get his copy of this historic comic
He loaned it to me--well, I don't want
say exactly HOW long ago, except to
out that there were guitarists in Wings
had shorter tenures in Paul's OTHER
than the duration this Joe Sinnott-illoed
biography-times-four took up residence
at Hembeck manor cuz, frankly, it's
embarrassing! Thanks for everything,
(And if you care to read a bit more about that rather strange illo of a feasting George Harrison that adorns today's entry, well, you KNOW where to go!...)
I must admit, I never expected to immerse myself so totally in my subject matter when I embarked on this four week long celebration of the fortieth anniversary of the band's arrival on these shores back on February 1st, but once I got started, people, things just snowballed. The truth is, I had a terrific time! Y'know, I really DID plan to cover some other subjects this past month, but, good golly gosh, I was having SO much fun, I ultimately decided to just go with the flow, and keep on mining my mind for Fab-related topics--of which, we've ALL since learned, there appears to be no discernible shortage!....
|Learning to post these pages on my own was
a big step, allowing me far more latitude
visually, and--YAHOO!--made things
exciting than they might've been. Look
more graphics in the days ahead, as
genie's out of the bottle!
Frankly, I think I learned a little something about myself to boot--as devoted as I am to the good ol' comics medium, I may be even be that much more a Beatles fan! I suppose I should've realized this a few years back when I went through my eBay phase. For about six months there, I was checking, bidding, and buying items off of the eBay, and in all that time, I purchased but one comic book. One. An old Ant-Man issue of TALES TO ASTONISH I was using for a redo/switcheroo cover series with DC's Atom. The rest? A couple dozen CDs, almost all of them being either rare or just plain out-right bootleg Beatles material (whether as a group or individually). Thankfully, I've mostly shaken myself of the eBay habit (it can run up quite the tab, y'know...), but there are STILL certain categories I make it a point to look in on periodically. And they always seem to revolve around one Liverpool native or other...
Despite posting something everyday for a month--a first for the site (okay, it IS a short month, but...)--I haven't come near to exhausting my topic. I may well have exhausted some of my reader's patience, however, so to give you ALL some relief--but myself some options--tomorrow brings the debut of a separate Beatles page at Hembeck.com! We'll organize links there to as much archival material that already exists here dealing with the band, and in the future, it'll be the home of any NEW material I'll undoubtedly be moved to contribute (save for a passing remark or short comment that'll no doubt wind up occasionally in "Fred Sez"). Part of the reason I held back on any lists, overviews, or retro-record reviews was because I felt such material would find a better home on a permanent--and inevitable--Beatles page. And of course, I still have scores and scores of personal anecdotes related to the Lads to lovingly relate!! (WHO'S that groaning out there? Don't think I can hear you, do you? You'd be surprised...)
One piece I planned to post in the "Words About Pictures" section was a fully illustrated survey of the Beatles in the comics, particularly ones issued in the ever swingin' sixties. Unfortunately, time ran out on this month before I could capably cobble it together, but look for it eventually as a dual entry on BOTH specialty pages!
Anyway, thanks for bearing with me, non-Beat fans! A lot of overdue comics material will show up shortly, as well as the latest in my fascinating (to me) life! In the immediate future, look for a special surprise on the 29th, and then my second annual Oscar show review on March 1st. Afterwards, in an effort to catch my breath, expect some "Best of Dateline:@#$%" postings and such, but I'll be back not long afterwards with more pithy puns, rambling run-on sentences, and maybe even, when you and I both least expect it, a word or two of wisdom!
Well, as the Sarge so eloquently put it, while we hope you have enjoyed the show, we're sorry but it's time to go!...
And remember, whatever you do, try NOT to blow your mind out in a car, okay?...
February 26th, 2004
NOT The Beatles, but--as the people at Diplomat records would have you believe--an incredible simulation!!...
Back in the piece recounting the tale of how I actually came to be the dedicated Beatles devotee that I am today, I explained how, in the year before the Lads took America by storm, the Hembeck family consistently supplied our brand new--if undeniably cheesy--record player with phonograph albums selected from the budget ( i.e., one dollar) racks as opposed to the area housing the bona-fide ( i. e., three dollar) name releases. Well, old habits apparently died hard, but as always around here, there's a little more to it than that...
Despite my fervor for my next door neighbor's copy of the "She Loves You"/"I'll Get You" 45 rpm, the first Beatles record I actually acquired was their smash Capitol single, "I Want To Hold Your Hand"/"I Saw Her Standing There", followed shortly thereafter by the iconic "Meet The Beatles" long-player. Regardless of the odd assortment of discounted melodies that abounded about our cozy domicile, from that point on I owned, for all intents and purposes, but a single album. And I played it over and over and over, up to and including past the point where the constant repetition caused my dad to blow his top! He wasn't all that crazy about the music to begin with, and the non-stop 12 song-cycle was clearly getting to him..
"STOP PLAYING THAT @#$% RECORD!!"
Well, okay--if you get me ANOTHER one. After all, the Vee-Jay pressing of "Introducing the Beatles" (consisting mostly of what was, in England, their TRUE debut, "Please Please Me") was still out there, and, naturally, very much desired by yours truly. Being the indulgent parents of an only child, they agreed--however reluctantly--to pick up that other Beatles disc for me during their next trip to the local department store.
Yeah, that's right--"Beatlerama" is what they came home with. That, and an extra two bucks in their pockets...
Despite my obvious initial disappointment, I sighed, took the vinyl out of its sleeve, and placed it on the turntable, out of resigned curiosity if nothing else. Much to my surprise and delight, it didn't sound bad, not bad at all! Mixing a combination of early Lennon and McCartney compositions with their own faux Merseybeat tunes, the album made for a decent stop-gap until I could get my hands on the REAL thing!
(...And, after informing the folks of their grievous error--AND whining as only an 11 year old can--I badgered them into agreeing to once again take a shot at picking up that other, honest-to-gosh, authentic Beatles album when they ventured out the following Thursday. And guess what? They blew it--AGAIN!! But, this time, happily, in a GOOD way--they came home with something I'd never seen before, something I had absolutely NO awareness of called "The Beatles Second Album", featuring--oh boy!--"She Loves You" AND "I'll Get You"!! Sometimes, you CAN do right even when you're wrong! Eventually, yes, I picked up "Introducing.."--the key word here being "I". The one thing this experience clearly taught me was to never, ever send a Lawrence Welk fan out to do a Beatlemaniac's job!!...)
But back to The Manchesters. Due to the intermingling of this exploitative song-set with the unforgettable onset of the true melodic masterworks of the trend-setting Liverpudlians, I have fond, fond memories of this album. Unfortunately, that's ALL I have--y'see, for some inexplicable reason, lost forever to the shifting sands of time, this weathered cardboard jacket is all I have left of "Beatlerama"!?!...
How and when the actual vinyl disappeared, I have absolutely no clue. Odds are, despite being in heavy rotation for most of 1964, I may well've never played the record again as my collection of legit discs--covering several other early British Invasion groups besides the Fabs--grew as 1965 beckoned. I didn't even realize it was missing until it came time to clean out the Yaphank house when my dad passed away in 1987. All our OTHER dollar discs were intact--including "Al Jolson--sung by Norman Brooks", that Polka LP with the lady in the fishnet stockings (yowsah!) standing cheerfully next to the chubby piano-player, and generic recordings of music from TV's "The Untouchables"--but "Beatlerama" turned up sadly empty...
I've never read much of anything about this disc, but a quick check on the Internet the other night turned up the scant information that The Manchesters were indeed a fake British Invasion band (well, DUH!...), and that they were responsible as well for a second volume of "Beatlerama", although neither cover was pictured.
The thing is, I LOVE that cover! It goes right to the heart of the matter--in 1964, the long hair was THE thing! The music, if considered at all, was likely to be secondary. In fact, there's not even a track listing on the back cover, so little did the tunes seem to matter to the folks at Diplomat. They did have THIS to say, however...
"Beatlerama is representative of the newest fad to take America by storm. The sound originated in Liverpool, England by a group known as The Beatles. After achieving phenomenal success in Europe, the sound soon became recognized in this country. The Beatles and their music approach the hysteria of the twist and similar music.
We feel we have captured the sound of The Beatles in this album and it is being presented in an effort to keep our friends abreast of the current trends.
This is also a further indication that good music need not be expensive."
This last point is brought home by an extensive listing of OTHER fine Diplomat recordings, including, besides the aforementioned Al Jolson impersonation, such titles as "Sing Along with Art Mooney", ( Hey, WHO needs Mitch Miller when you've got good ol' Art?...), uncredited tributes to Hank Williams, Glenn Miller, and Mario Lanza, folk songs by The Dooley Brothers (NOT to confused with the hit song, "Tom Dooley", of course...) (HA!), and something intriguingly titled "Cha Cha In Ping Pong Percussion"!?! Given THAT list, I ask you--why NOT "Beatlerama"??...
But at this point, for me it's only a wistful memory. Even if I had the disc, our last turntable died about a decade back, and I have no intention of either fixing it or supplanting it just to hear the Hembeck family's collection of Diplomat discs one more time. However, if there IS anybody out there--ANYBODY--who actually owns this record and would be willing to make a cassette tape of it for me, I would be eternally grateful! I'm sure the sounds, no doubt buried deep in my subconscious, would immediately come flooding back upon that anticipated-but-unlikely initial playing, and, well, it would just be SO @#$%ing cool!! (..pardon my punctuation.) If you've got an intact copy, contact me--PLEASE!
After all, who DOESN'T long to be kept abreast of the current trends via cheap and cynically produced imitations?...
February 25th, 2004
George would've been sixty-one today.
Yeah, it's a crying shame the guy isn't here to celebrate with us, but geez--the life he had!?! Besides the stuff we're all so very familiar with, I recently stumbled across THIS pretty little picture in "The Beatles Files", a collection of 400 newly discovered photos from the archives of England's "Daily Mirror" tabloid...
|Yup, that's our boy, George Harrison out
on the town with none other than the
Hayley Mills (the, um, prime object
of my most fervent boyhood crushes,
Don't they just make the lovely couple,
Turns out the pair was off to see the
of the Cary Grant/Audrey Hepburn comedy-thriller,
"Charade", at the classy
Theatre in their own mutual homeland,
date of the date being March 19th of
So let's see if I understand this correctly: not five weeks after conquering America with his band-mates, and only about three after turning 21, the man who, at this particular point in time, looks all the world to be the Happiest Beatle, is escorting the radiant 18-year-old Mills to a glitzy movie gala? MAN! And I always felt that I had a good year in '64!?!...
Actually, for a brief time after the band hit, Harrison WAS my favorite Beatle. I suppose the fact that my middle name is "George" had more than a little to do with it, but I was also genuinely fond of "Don't Bother Me". I found his initial solo composition provided an intriguing counterpoint to the more poppy sound of Lennon and McCartney--and some savvy double-tracking didn't hurt the tune's appeal any, either!
I was also an early advocate of L&M's "Do You Want to Know A Secret", with George handling the lead vocals (I likewise dug the version recorded by fellow Epstein act, Billy J.Kramer and the Dakotas). Nowadays, this ditty is virtually forgotten, but I nonetheless have a distinct memory of it being anointed the number one spot, top of the charts, on one of those big New York City radio stations I listened to incessantly in those exuberant weeks following the first flood of Beatlemania. Whether it was a legit hit or not--you'll notice it didn't turn up on the "1" CD--it remains (and this is NO secret) a sentimental favorite of mine...
I should make some mention of the fact that the Harrison estate decided to commemorate the occasion by releasing a gala box set, "George Harrison:The Dark Horse Years 1976-1992", featuring 6 remastered albums (one, originally a double disc), an exclusive DVD, and other swell bells and whistles. I'll admit it--I had a copy in my hands yesterday, but ultimately decided to put it back on the shelf. Frankly, the hefty price tag discouraged me, at least for now. Y'see, you can ALSO buy 5 of the reissued CDs separately, and the one you can't--the double "Live In Japan"--I already own (I also have a copy of "Cloud Nine", but have avoided picking up copies of the other four since news of an eventual reissue of these records, replete with improved sound and bonus material, has been in the works and impending release for several years now...)
I suppose, if I didn't already have the hard-to-find Japan concert discs, or if they'd been just a teensy-weensy bit more generous with the bonus cuts (6 measly songs spread out over 5 discs!?! Gee, thanks! THAT"LL get me to pry a century note out of the ol' wallet, by golly, you bet, uh huh!) the debate now is--buy 'em one at a time, or take a deep-breath and spring for the extravagant package? Ah, who am I kidding--it'll be the latter, I'm sure, but as a small protest, I'm waiting things out until Best Buy sends me one of those periodic coupons of theirs that, on a specified weekend, entitles me to take 10% off any CD purchase. Then, at least, I'll feel less like I'm getting ripped off. Ten percent less, anyway...
Well, let me just finish up by saying the obvious: Happy Birthday, George!
Oh, and did you hear? Paul married your old escort Hayley's sister, Heather!
(She IS one of the Mills sisters, isn't she? Hey, I KNOW she ain't one of the Mills BROTHERS!?!...)
February 24th, 2004
I thought I'd take a break from talking so relentlessly about Beatles DVDs today, and instead talk about the ORIGINAL DVD--Dick Van Dyke!
Why? Well, for one thing, today is the official release date for the third swell set of DVD DVDs, covering the trailblazing--and timeless--"Dick Van Dyke Show" series from the early sixties. On my way over to play volleyball later, I'll be sure to stop off at my local Best Buy emporium, hoping to find the show's complete 1963/64 season not only available for purchase, but also at a reduced sales price (hey, save a penny here, save a penny there--it all adds up, y'know...)!
I'd watched the cleverly constructed travails of comedy writer Rob Petrie over and over so many times when I was a kid that, well, all these decades later I somehow avoided amassing a collection of episodes on tape--or even watching more than a stray handful--due to what I perceived to be an exhaustion of the material, viewing-wise, but when the first two seasons were issued as a pair of handsome DVD sets late last year, I decided it was well past time to jump back on board...
Popping that first disc in with mild trepidation, wondering if indeed the widely praised program was as good as I remembered it to be, I confess to being initially disheartened: the first three episodes were only okay. Not awful, by any means, but not Hall of Fame quality, either. Gee, maybe the rose-colored gauze of nostalgia HAD been influencing my previous appraisal after all, and this was just one of those "good-for-its-time" series?...
And THEN I watched the hilarious fourth episode, and, yup, they've all been top-notch ever since! So, yeah, this particular sitcom was indeed just as wonderful as I remembered it to be, and my DVD money was being well-spent on--say it with me now!--DVD! So, even without having a chance to review any of the '63/64 episodes yet, I can confidently recommend the set to any of you out there who might be in need of a good laugh--and friends, who amongst us ISN'T, eh?
!964. Hmm. Something ELSE happened that year, didn't it? Something to do with the recording industry and such, I believe--not to mention a pair of famous musicals were produced that very year as well. A couple of little gems known to us all as "Mary Poppins" and "A Hard Day's Night". This quirky confluence casually came to mind when I innocently stumbled across this photo...
|The caption accompanying this snapshot (found
in the October/November !964 copy of
magazine called TEEN TALK, the only
of which I ever bought) reads, "Popular
TV and movie star Dick Van Dyke pays
to the set", with the film set
being, naturally, the Liverpool lads
cinematic vehicle, the aforementioned
Hard Day's Night". Although unidentified
by the not-quite-on-top-of-it TEEN
staff, that woman standing in between
and Paul McCartney is obviously Ms.
herself, Julie Andrews (and the fellow
of hair in the background is most likely
"AHDN" director Richard Lester),
although I'll shamefacedly admit that
I didn't recognize her initially without
Not really the best of photos, is it? Composition-wise, I mean, but it certainly packs more than some small historic interest, wouldn't you say? After all, when was the last time YOU saw a picture of Dick Van Dyke with one of the Beatles? Trust me, gang, I've seen MORE than my share of Fab snaps, and this is the ONLY one I've ever come across co-featuring an erstwhile Alan Brady employee!! (There ARE rumors of a Pete Best/Richard Deacon polaroid circulating, but until I see it for myself, I'll consider it just that--a rumor...)
Too bad Macca looks less than thrilled at this star-laden summit, and poor DVD himself appears to be working overtime just to force a pained smile of some sort across that normally rubber face of his. Ah well, who knows--maybe that raunchy Julie Andrews dame (Did you see her in "S.O.B"? She out Janeted even the lady Jackson in THAT one, people!?!...) just made some typically off-color remark, thereby turning the mood hopelessly awkward? Hey, it happens. Oh well, at least the unassailable photographic evidence of this meeting solves ONE long-held mystery...
Now we FINALLY know who taught Van Dyke's chimney sweep that delightful accent of his, don't we?...
February 23rd, 2004
While the date of December 8th rightly sends shivers up the spines of Beatles fanciers world-wide, given the tragic events that transpired outside of New York City's stately Dakota on that night back in 1980, most folks tend to overlook the OTHER significant event in post-Fabs history that occurred just four years later on that very same day: Ringo Starr hosted NBC's "Saturday Night Live", the only ex-Beatle to, thus far, appear on the long-running comedy show in that capacity.
Having only seen the episode once, on the evening it was originally broadcast, I possess only two clear memories of the event--and one, in actuality, dated back to the show from a week earlier. It was during the Ed Begley, Jr. hosted program that one of the cast members--Gary Kroeger, maybe?--took a moment to inform the audience that the following week's SNL would be hosted by none other than Ringo Starr! I vividly recall that this information was delivered by the messenger with a palpable mixture of pride, awe, and excitement, due no doubt to the coup of persuading an authentic ex-Beatle to reign over the proceedings. I ALSO recall, both vividly and excruciatingly, the undeniably lack-luster response of the studio audience to this (for me) plainly exciting news, a response that could--and this might even be stretching things--be characterized as "tepid". Well, me and Gary were thrilled, anyway!...
The single thing about the telecast in question that's stuck with me all these years actually has nothing to do with Ringo himself. Its the odd little fact that, as best I can discern, having viewed a good 95% of the SNL episodes aired these past several decades, it may well be the ONLY one that didn't include the regular Weekend Update segment!?! Too much star time for Starr, apparently...
|Like I said, that's all I clearly recalled
on my own, but thanks to several tomes
in the Hembeck.com collection of Pop
Minutia, a few other keys facts have
sprung to light. The glossy coffee
book from 1994, "Saturday Night
The First Twenty Years", recounted
key skits from that evening's performance
in some small semblance of detail (and
me with the nearby photos). The cold
that night began with Martin Short
over an auction of Beatle memorabilia.
offering the assembled bidders such
as "the tooth brush used by Paul
during the "Rubber Soul"
These unquestionably trivial items all wind up selling for enormous amounts of cash, until finally, Ringo himself is wheeled out on a trolley, as lot number 36. He's wearing one of those silly little collarless jackets the boys had ditched just before they hit the U.S., but which nonetheless live on in the public's consciousness via a steady stream of early--and seemingly endless--publicity photos.
Well, the joke here is that no one in attendance seems at all interested in Ringo. A bidder DOES show some curiosity regarding that jacket, though--particularly if, as she asks, "Was it by any chance ever worn by Paul?" Told no, the crowd begins to disperse, so Short desperately tries to play up the item's musicianship and his "very interesting ring collection". When asked if the up- until-then-mum drummer could indeed talk, Short replies in the affirmative, and hands Ringo a card to read as proof...
"Live from New York, it's Saturday Night!"
|Ringo's opening monolog then cleverly baits
the audience into anticipating that
his former band-mates is about to imminently
hop on stage to sing a duet with him,
well-worn guise of "Sammy Davis,
trades hit for hit with the drummer.
pair trade off on a medley of "With
A Little Help From My Friends",
Kind Of Fool Am I?", "Act
"I Got To Be Me", "Octopus's
Submarine", and a final reprise
A Little Help...", with Ringo
declaring of "Sammy", "you
ARE the walrus!"...
Later, playing themselves, Ringo and his wife, Barbara Bach, join Crystal's Fernando ("You look mahh-valous!") for a typically skewed interview. Starr also gets a chance to exhibit his keen thespianism by taking on a character role, performing opposite Martin Short's demented Ed Grimley in a sketch. As for the rest of the show, well, aside from having Herbie Hancock handle the musical chores on the show--beyond that cute mock medley, of course--there's not much I can tell you about its contents. It IS interesting, however, that Ringo hosted during the lone all-star year in SNL's long history...
|The 1984/1985 season was the only one wherein proven comedy stars were called in to anchor the cast. It was Crystal and Short's only year as regulars, as well as the sole go-round for Christopher Guest and Rich Hall (and one of two, widely separated and reportedly contentious stays for Harry Shearer). Future star Julia Louis Dreyfuss was on board, as was the never fully appreciated Mary Gross. AND Gary Kroeger (like you could forget THAT, huh?...). The following year, things went back to the old way--developing stars on SNL, not hiring them, but even with all that star power, things apparently weren't running all that smooth in the week leading up to Starr's appearance.|
Then-producer Dick Ebersol is quoted in Tom
Shales and James Andrew Miller's recent
history of the now-venerable program,
From New York", thusly:
"About eight shows into that season, just before Christmas of '84, we did a show which Ringo Starr came to host. And everybody was exhausted. I think it was the second of three in a row or something. But everybody was just worn out. And the Wednesday night read-through was a travesty. And I took Ringo and Barbara Bach, his wife, and walked, as you can from NBC, almost underground all the way back to the Berkshire Hotel over on East Fifty-second Street and kept saying, "Don't worry," to them, which you often tell a host. Lorne used to say--and maybe he still does--you're basically bluffing the host from Monday 'til Friday.
In this case, I leveled with Ringo. I said, "What you saw today won't be the show," and I went back with Billy and Chris and about ten people on the writing staff. I think this may be the only time it happened in the history of the show. I said, "We have nothing. I know everybody is exhausted. But let's take all our best characters and write a show around them. And let's break the rule that you go three or four shows between great characters," whether it be Fernando at that point with Billy, or whether it was Marty doing Grimley. I said everything's fair game. We just have to show this guy a great show. We've got nothing now.
And that night, with no sleep for two days, each one of them wrote a piece, and it turned out to be a pretty good show. I offer that all as evidence of the fact that here you have mature adult stars, as they were in the world of comedy--all of them--and they easily accepted, with no complaint, starting completely from scratch that late in the week, which up to that point never happened in the history of the show. They were pros."
Which only goes to prove two things, I guess: the enormous respect the SNL people had for the legendary drummer; and that when it comes to writing solid comedy material, hey, you KNOW it don't come easy!!
(Okay, OKAY--I realize you're all sick of that particular punchline! I'm getting a little tired of it myself. I'll try and restrain myself for the rest of the week, okay? No promises, though...)
One final, intriguing, and vaguely unsettling, fact about that broadcast--according to Keith Badman in "The Beatles: After The Breakup 1970-2000", the show was actually taped at 8 PM that evening, and later aired during its usual live slot of 11:30PM-1AM! I've never heard this confirmed--much less mentioned--elsewhere, and I've detected a propensity for British scribes like Badman to get their facts wrong when it comes to matters of American television, but if this was indeed the truth of the matter, well, it makes a sort morbid sense. After all, only four years had gone by since John Lennon had been brutally gunned down--why take a chance and give some OTHER nut the opportunity to mark this grim anniversary in all too memorable a way?
Better to pre-record an episode than risk the world losing ANOTHER Beatle, I must say...
February 22nd, 2004
For all the fuss that's made about the Beatles historic debut appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, there's one key point that I rarely, if ever, see brought up, and that's the almost side-man-like role the group's ostensible leader, John Lennon, seems to be reduced to.
This hit me again last night when I was watching the updated DVD version of the Maysles brothers proto-"A Hard Day's Night" documentary,"The First U.S. Visit", which now incorporates a majority of the performances the Liverpool musicians gave from their three week stint with television's ol' Stoneface. It wasn't all that long ago that I viewed these very same numbers on the recently released Sullivan/Beatles DVD set, so I was hardly surprised by what I saw, but I was nonetheless once again struck by the disparity displayed, planned or not, between Paul and John.
See, here's the thing: the boys performed five tunes that night, three of which were McCartney showcases ("All My Loving", "Til There Was You", and "I Saw Her Standing There"), leaving John to handle lead vocals on the group's two current smash hits, "She Loves You", and "I Want To Hold Your Hand", closing out each of their two featured spots with a chart-topper. I can only guess, but the thinking may've gone, okay, let's give Paul three selections--including the parental-pacifying ballad from "The Music Man"--and then John can come in and handle the (as Ed might say) rrreally big hits. Not a bad plan, except for one small glitch--to these Beatle-sensitive ears, Lennon's mike clearly doesn't seem to be working!?!
Luckily, the two ditties in question called for harmony from both Paul and George, so there's never an awkward silence, but there IS the decidedly odd sensation of hearing Macca's distinctive vocals overriding the far more familiar sound of Lennon's voice on those two key tracks! Viewers tuning in, weeks later, for the two subsequent programs featuring the group were probably surprised to discover that this John fellow could indeed sing after all, just like that Paul character who so thoroughly dominated their first appearance! And yet, forty years later, NOBODY seems to mention this!?! At the time, folks probably couldn't tell them apart yet, but by now, you'd think it'd be a wee bit noticeable.
ROLLING STONE ran a cover story commemorating the fortieth anniversary of the band's U.S. arrival recently (while certainly nice enough, the six pages of coverage was down substantially from the 31 plus pages the magazine devoted to the band's twentieth anniversary, a fact I stumbled upon while attempting to track down some appropriate photos for use hereabouts) (and no, I don't currently have any stats on the THIRTIETH anniversary issue...), and in that story, interviewing Sixth Beatle, Vinny Calandra (the CBS employee who stood in for an under-the-weather Harrison at rehearsal), he revealed some interesting back-stage info. Apparently, after the run-through, Lennon and McCartney both walked into the control room to listen to a playback--very much a no-no for talent to do at the time. Despite the initial shock caused by this breach of decorum, Vinny insists that, due to the lads respectful and pleasant attitude, they wound up getting exactly the more instrumentally heavy sound mix that they desired. Upon listening to the results, though, one has to wonder...
Could Lennon, with his famously sardonic wit, have inadvertently rubbed one of the key technicians in the sound booth the wrong way? Perhaps, even, to such an extreme extent that, as a way of showing up this perceived British upstart, certain, ah, buttons were pushed, dials modulated, and levers levered, all towards the goal of turning the Fabs debut into little more than a Paul McCartney coming out party? Hey, sounds plausible to me...
One last comment about the Maysles documentary and the Sullivan show--as the years progressed, George Harrison quite rightly attained the reputation of being the sullen Beatle, but by golly, watching this footage, I don't think there was anyone present who clearly seemed to be enjoying himself more--not even Paul!--and remember, the poor lad was dogged with both the flu AND Murray The K at the time!?!...
Sometimes, living in the material world AIN'T so bad after all, I guess!...
February 21st, 2004
We're calling today's entry, "Bits of Beatle Business", spotlighting follow-ups on several recent topics, dig?
Let's start with my stated declaration that "Hey Jude" was the longest running single to ever top the Billboard music charts. Correspondent Craig Smith says "Whoa, Freddy!", and points instead to Don McLean's 1971 chart-topper, "American Pie", identifying it as a disc that easily surpassed the Beatles ditty, clocking in at over 8 minutes! That would seem to put an end to "Hey Jude"s lofty claim, except for one thing--the actual McLean 45 RPM, as issued, broke his epic tale of rock's nascent era into two separate parts, meaning the A side ran little more than 4 minutes!
Sure, most radio stations ran the whole blamed thing when they spun it, but when the
Chartmeisters took the actual disc into consideration, what they found was merely a 4 plus minute running time! So, on a technicality, if nothing else, let's croak out a roaring chorus of "na na na nananah", and leave the Lads this dubious distinction all to themselves, shall we? And even if we awarded Don the crown, well, just WHAT are his ditty's lyrics concerned with anyway, hmm? Among other things--ta da!--the Beatles themselves! Yeah, the Fabs win this one no matter WHICH way you look at it...
Craig also contributes this, um, interesting analysis of one of the group's earliest hits...
|"She Loves You" is terrific but there was always something a little weird about the song and I think I figured out what it is. The singer is terribly excited but it's not about discovering a hot girl being in love with him: it's about her being in love with his friend and him about ready to pee his pants with excitement in reporting this to his buddy. Talk about living your life vicariously through others! That may not be bad but it's not so good.|
|Thanks, Craig--that was both illuminating
AND hilarious, always a welcome combination!
We also heard from our cyber-colleague, David Allen Jones a/k/a Johnny Bacardi. First off, he wanted to let me know that his good friend from across the pond, Dave Puckett, not only knows a healthy amount about both the Beatles AND funnybooks, but that he also owns an actual copy of the very comic book Ringo Starr was reading in the photo I ran on February 10th! (And in the smaller, second pic that was ALSO included in Terence Spencer's book, which you'll no doubt spot nearby.)
It's AMAZING STORIES OF SUSPENSE #178, a 50 page, black and white, collection of short stories (5 or 6 pagers), all but two of which are by Steve Ditko (credit Jack Kirby with the remaining pair), culled in large from the pages of late-fifties Charlton Comics by the local British firm, Alan Class Publications. Thanks for the info, double Daves, and do you suppose Ringo STILL has that comic, or do you think he perhaps long-ago traded it to Macca for a tune or two for one of his solo LPs? Hope not, cuz, well, finding ANOTHER copy of that particular issue--dare I say it?--it don't come easy!!...
|David the first went on to say, by the by,
that when it comes right down to it,
a "John man" (as opposed
to a just
plain "John", which is a
'NOTHER situation!). Well, thanks for
clue, pal, but it really comes as no
surprise to me. Otherwise, wouldn't
spiffy little site most likely be called
"The Paulie Bacardi Show", righty-o?...
Dave sprung a pleasant surprise on me, though, when he heartily seconded my enthusiasm for the unfortunately obscure but nifty disc McCartney produced for his baby bro Mike, "McGear". In fact, you can even read a swell piece he wrote about it by moving your magical mouse here. While it was reassuring to hear this, I've been sadly remiss in not mentioning the fellow who, some thirty years back, first played the "Norton" single from that very album for me, my great chum from the halcyon days of college, Charlie Johnson. Folks, if there's anyone that I've ever met in the flesh who may--I repeat, MAY--be a bigger Beatles fan than yours truly, it'd have to be Charlie! He knew the joys of "McGear" decades before the rest of us, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if he's hoarding an original copy of "Thrillington" too, just waiting patiently for it to skyrocket in value! Charlie, buddy boy--we should all live so long!!..
Lastly, to move onto the subject of comics for just a teensy bit, I'd like to direct your attention over to the Oddball Comics site where, for the past week, Scott Shaw! has been focusing on Bob Bolling's wonderful LITTLE ARCHIE comics. I know I've said it before, but I'll say it again: those late fifties, early sixties giant-sized editions starring a pint-sized version of the Riverdale gang, masterminded by writer-artist Bolling, are not only some of the most thoroughly beloved books in my entire collection, but are also, sadly, some of the most unjustly overlooked in comics history. For his efforts in shedding just that much more light on how tremendously well-done these books actually were, Scott has TRULY earned his exclamation point! Good job, friend! And folks, if you haven't been over to Oddball Comics lately, what can I possibly say, but...
"Get back! Get back to where you once belonged!!" (...yes, you just KNEW it had to end this way, didn't you?...)
February 20th, 2004
As a group, the Beatles were justly renowned for setting one dazzling musical precedent after another, but what's usually overlooked was how, in their own way, each individual member blazed a trail or two during their later solo careers. This is particularly true at the outset, when each of the Formerly Fab But Now Fightin' Four was responsible for writing a new chapter--or at least, some interesting footnotes--in the book of rock. With one overwhelmingly obvious exception, however, these pioneering efforts have generally been overlooked by critics and the record-buying public alike...
The exception? George Harrison masterminding 1971's "The Concert For Bangla Desh", the rock world's first all-star charity event, and certainly one of it's most successful. Harrison and his colleague's were justly praised for their humanitarian efforts, and happily, sold bushel's, barrel's, and boatload's of the elaborate 3 LP soundtrack album that accompanied a filmed documentary of said gala, both released in early 1972 to the general public. While his 3 ex-mates would sell far, far fewer pieces of black vinyl with their own idiosyncratic landmark LPs--for far less laudable reasons, as well--I think they're worth noting nonetheless. So...
You're all familiar with the concept of the tribute album by now, right? Take a handful of tunes associated with one best-selling artist, and then have several other best-selling artists cover them in their own inimitable manner as a sort of, well, tribute. Not to mention a tidy way to sell some product without having to gamble on new, untried material. Anyway, to take the concept one step further, there have been several classic albums that have been entirely re-recorded, track by track, by new artists. Fleetwood Mac's "Rumours" has been afforded this royal treatment, as has Carole King's "Tapestry", and Bruce Springsteen's "Badlands". Rockers have gone in and wove their magic on the score of "West Side Story", and REAL former teen idols were gathered together to produce a unique version of "Grease". And, of course, several Beatles' classics have been redone orchestrally, including both "Sgt. Pepper" and "Revolver".
|But the very FIRST disc to be afforded such a grandiose redo? Well, best as I can ascertain, it was Paul McCartney's second solo release, 1971's "Ram". And the artist responsible for this re-recording? Why, Percy "Thrills" Thrillington, of course! He took each of the ex-Beatle's compositions and molded them into vastly different orchestral variations of the originals on his 1977 release, "Thrillington". Sounding like a camped-up cross between the Ray Coniff Singers, the Doodletown Pipers, and the adventurous if somewhat wacky muzakil musings of Esquival, what few listeners this odd concoction managed to rope in were no doubt left mightily confused upon giving this dizzy disc an initial spin! They had absolutely NO idea what kind of craziness they were listening to!!|
|And here's the punchline, friends--what they
were listening to was (are you ready?)
himself!?! Yes, that's right--the very
tribute record ever was actually masterminded
by, um, the man whose talents it was
albeit under the cover of a (modest?)(silly?)
pseudonym!?! Hey, that's Paul for you!
truth was, the whole affair was recorded
shortly after "Ram" back
only took three days--but then sat
shelf, moldering, until '77. Although
was done under the supervision of Big
himself, the actual arranging and conducting
fell to a fellow by the name of Richard
a musician who'd previously worked
Fab One on, amongst other projects,
Hopkin's debut LP. Those indeed were
Surprise: "Thrillington" didn't sell a lick, and in fact, I never even knew of it's existence until it was long, long out of print. My belated opportunity to grab myself a copy came when a CD version was released in 1995, by which time I knew the back story behind one of rock's oddest vanity discs. Given that the original "Ram" album is one of my favorites, and that I must admit to harboring a certain undeniable fondness for the sort of muzaky-music found on "Percy's" sole recorded venture, I'll confess to enjoying "Thrillington" far, far more than I have any sane right to! Truth be told, I probably play it with a higher frequency than several of Paul's "real" albums, fer gosh sakes! (Again with the "London Town"...) Turning your own rock and roll ditties into elaborately produced MOR-lite tracks, the sort your old mum could hum along to, well, that sure may seem like a peculiar way of paying tribute to oneself, but like I said, that's Paul for you! Who are WE to question the inscrutable whims of a man blessed with his musical genius, hmm? After all, the movement isn't on YOUR shoulder, now is it?...
And speaking of music your mother should know (Hey look! A Beatles segue!), how about the REAL thing? How about those good ol' tin-pan alley standards, tunes sung by each and every crooner who'd wrangled their way into an ill-fitting tux, attempting to entertain the still vast pre-rock audience of the day? What about those songs, huh? Okay, nowadays, with the recent success of Rod Stewart's two volumes of his "Great American Songbook" series, and similar collections in times not long past by artists ranging from Cyndi Lauper, Carly Simon, George Michael, Linda Ronstadt, and Robert Palmer to the various rockers involved in some high profile Gershwin and Cole Porter collections, it seems like no big deal to mix up the two once scrupulously separated genres, but lemme tell ya, thirty years back, the very the notion was a jaw-dropper! And a sales killer as well...
1973's "A Little Schnmilsson In The Night", in which Beatle co-hort Harry Nilsson finally squanders whatever good will he may've built up with his audience, positive vibes that his mega-selling "Nilsson Schmilsson" earned him two years--and two albums--earlier, by singing a lushly orchestrated but confusing selection of familiar standards, WASN'T actually the first to attempt this-decades-before-it's-time musical match-up, just the most notable. The honor for being rock's first Bingle-wannabe crooner goes to none other than Mr. Ringo Starr himself! Or, as the album's original titled would have it, Ringo Starrdust...
|Instead, the drummer's first solo disc--recorded
while the group was still officially
but released in March of 1970 just
stunning news of the Beatles break-up
hitting the tabloids--was called "Sentimental
Journey". With arrangements contributed
by the likes of Quincy Jones, Elmer
Richard Perry, Klaus Voorman, George
Maurice Gibb, the ever irrepressible
as well as several others, the disc
Ringo belting out perennials such as
title tune, "Night and Day",
Always Hurt The One You Love",
Is A Many Splendored Thing", "Bye
Bye Blackbird", "Have I Told
Lately I Love You?", and, of course,
|Ringo's vocal crooning over some fascinating
if decidedly throwback arrangements
in some surprisingly affecting music,
at the time, the public just wasn't
to listen to one of their long-haired
belt out Big Band numbers, the sort
their stodgy and square parents still
to each week on "The Lawrence
and--no shock here--"Sentimental
stiffed. Oh, maybe not as thoroughly
but Ringo had to be the one Beatle
for his day job back when the sales
came trickling in. Despite evidence
contrary, hit records DIDN'T come easy...
I'll admit that even I avoided purchasing it upon its initial, as they say nowadays, drop, though I had plenty of opportunity to pick up a copy for quite some time afterwards. I passed on "Beaucoups Of Blues" as well, the Nashville based county album Ringo issued later that same year. Like most people, I didn't plunk down hard-to-come-by-cash for a long-playing Starr disc until the Richard Perry produced "Ringo" spectacularly revived his stalled career in 1973. And that's a shame, really, because "Sentimental Journey" is actually a lot of fun, something I FINALLY discovered upon it's long overdue CD release in 1995!
(Incidentally, Ringo and/or his record company so wanted to disassociate themselves with the two groundbreaking but poorly performing niche albums Starr used to launch his solo career from his blockbusting-third-but-feels-like-first "Ringo" record that when he released his sixth long-player in 1977, it was misleadingly titled "Ringo The 4th"!?! Hey, believe me, people, time has been substantially kinder to those initial pair of "non-albums" than they have to most everything falling between "Goodnight Vienna" (his real 4th) and 1991's "Time Takes Time", but who knew back then? A disc of moldy old chestnuts seemed vaguely embarrassing to the him after the fact, it would appear, but perhaps he was just the easiest one of the quartet to embarrass, hmm?...)
Speaking of which...
|Forget all about Janet Jackson and her infamous half-time peep show at this year's Super Bowl--the very first stark naked rock star was--yes!--a Beatle! John Lennon and not-yet-wife Yoko Ono showed it all--and I do mean ALL--on the cover of their avant garde LP, "Two Virgins", which has the distinction of being released the exact same month as the nigh-legendary double disc White Album, back in November of 1968. My point being, however misguided a move one may've felt this was for Lennon--and frankly, I've yet to get behind the idea (heh heh--I said "behind"!!...)--you certainly can't say he was trying to revive a fast-fading career with a sexsational publicity stunt like Ms. Jackson so obviously was.|
|No, he was already way up on top when he
peeled down to his birthday suit, and
anything, this questionable move--audaciously
admirable though it may've been--probably
hurt him far more than it helped him.
all, with a cover like that, they really
couldn't sell many records, y'know?
wasn't gonna move outta the racks on
strengths of its tunes, believe me!
on "Two Virgins" wasn't in
way commercial--let's be honest, it
"Revolution #9" sound like
Jude"--but that unforgettable
cover snapshot (still covered up with
wrapper after all these years) insured
package (heh heh--I said "package"!...)
a great and near-immortal notoriety.
guessed it--extremely sparse sales.
Ah well, dubious accomplishment though it may well have been, when you're asked, years from now, "Grampa, WHO was the first nude rock star? Was it Madonna, those guys in the Red Hot Chili Peppers, or Christina Aguilera? It--it wasn't..choke..Ruben Stoddard, was it?...", you can look the little tyke square in the eye and proudly proclaim, no dearie, it was the once-clever-but-eventually-drafty Beatle!!
Because, you know, everybody has something to hide except John Lennon and his donkey!! (...also known as a-s-s!!)
(Heh heh--I said, well, you KNOW!...)
February 19th, 2004
|Yesterday, my friendly neighborhood mailman
blessed me with the 146th and latest
of Bill King's long-running and reliably
bi-monthly magazine, BEATLEFAN. Yes,
it's a fan publication in the truest
of the word, it's nonetheless highly
in every way that counts: comprehensive,
well-written, fair, and attractively
True, "glitzy" isn't a word
associate with this black and white
one that usually tops out at just under
pages, but in this case, friends, content
is just so exhaustively first-rate
if you're longing for those splashy
stills from "Help!" and the
well, you can be assured you can get
elsewhere. The round-up of news, reviews,
interviews, and commentary--THAT, with
due respect to the Internet, you can't
ANYWHERE else! Not in such a well-done,
issued, single concise venue, anyway...
|Yesterday, my friendly neighborhood mailman
blessed me with the 146th and latest
of Bill King's long-running and reliably
bi-monthly magazine, BEATLEFAN. Yes,
it's a fan publication in the truest
of the word, it's nonetheless highly
in every way that counts: comprehensive,
well-written, fair, and attractively
True, "glitzy" isn't a word
associate with this black and white
one that usually tops out at just under
pages, but in this case, friends, content
is just so exhaustively first-rate
if you're longing for those splashy
stills from "Help!" and the
well, you can be assured you can get
elsewhere. The round-up of news, reviews,
interviews, and commentary--THAT, with
due respect to the Internet, you can't
ANYWHERE else! Not in such a well-done,
issued, single concise venue, anyway...
The Georgia-based BEATLEFAN recently celebrated it's 25th anniversary, and while I've only been on board for about the last ten or so of those years, I find it completely indispensable, and can't imagine living without it. As you may well have garnered by now, I'm somewhat of a Beatles fan ("No?!"), and if there are any others of you out there who likewise consider yourselves to harbor more than a mere passing fancy for the fantastic music of the Fabs, well then, you most decidedly owe it to yourselves to hop aboard the BEATLEFAN subscription roll, and pronto! You can check their web-site for details, either via yon convenient little link, or the one that'll be found, in perpetuity, residing over at our splendiferous Beatles Links page.
The latest issue, pictured above, offers some unique insights into that fateful February day, 40 years back, when the lads took America by storm, including an illuminating interview with Vince Calandra, the SIXTH Beatle. Vince, y'see, stood in for the flu-plagued George Harrison during the afternoon rehearsals for the Ed Sullivan show, where he just happened to be working as a production assistant. Still employed as a talent exec at CBS, most newspapers gave him a paragraph or two in their February 9 tie-in pieces--if that--but BEATLEFAN turns over a full two fact-crammed pages to Calandra's fascinating recollections of his once-in-a-lifetime gig, being drafted into service as a stand-in Beatle. Good reading.
While it's true that, due the vagaries of what some folks snidely call "snail mail" (...but NEVER your ever respectful host, I assure you!...), this issue reached me almost 10 days after the date in question was marked by media outlets throughout the land. No matter, as BEATLEFAN'S comparatively in-depth coverage more than compensated for this mild glitch in timeliness. However, the sad irony is, ANOTHER publication, arriving in my mailbox the very same day, clearly demonstrated that even the smallest gap between rolling off a printing press and what comes streaming over your computer screens can sometimes lead to inadvertently disheartening results. I'm talking about the February 27th issue of COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE (#1580)...
At first glance, the large headline spotlighting the name "Julius Schwartz" on the front page, accompanied by a small picture of the legendary comics editor, leads one to immediately assume CBG is reporting his recent passing, having occurred a little over a week ago now. However, on closer inspection, one soon realizes that the editors of this weekly publication have turned virtually the entire issue over to saluting Schwartz's 60 years in the business, producing a special issue with the aid of many of Julie's past associates, only to sadly see the subject of all these well-earned accolades expire during the short but crucial period between when it left their desks and eventually reached readers mailboxes. Sometimes, it seems, circumstances can be so cruel. I recall the time the then-latest issue of BEATLEFAN confidentally reported that George was indeed doing fine. Three days later, I woke to the news that, unfortunately, he'd succumbed to his ailments...
I imagine the NEXT issue of CBG will again concern itself with Julie's many accomplishment's, only this time, with a definite tinge of sadness overriding the now-mournful proceedings. Such are the occasionally glaring drawbacks of the print medium, I suppose. On the plus side--and let's root around desperately here to find one--if ever anyone deserved two issues in a row from CBG, it'd have to be Julie Schwartz.
But even he'd have to tell you, that's one tough way to get publicity!...
February 18th, 2004
In between the years Elvis first reigned and the Beatles exploded on the scene, there was one performer who, at the time, seemed to be just as big as either of these unquestionably important pop music phenomenons. Nowadays, that man and the undeniable hysteria he was responsible for in the early sixties, is all but a footnote in the ever-expanding story of Rock and Roll, generally overlooked in even the most thorough recounting of the genre's nascent growth and development. Hey, I should know--I forgot about him, too!
Strolling down memory lane in this piece, clinically detailing my almost complete ignorance of the then-current music that led up the day the Beatles first took the Ed Sullivan Show's stage, I scrupulously named the half dozen discs that nonetheless got past my anti-rock defenses and still managed to make an impression. But, like most everyone else, it seems, I forgot a painfully obvious one: "The Twist"!
Of COURSE I'd heard about this wild dance craze--who hadn't? And since it was sung by a guy with a nutty name like Chubby Checker, well, you couldn't help but sit up and take notice! Fact is, I have a distinctly clear memory of my third grade teacher, during a small in-class party, happily announcing that we'd all soon be able to take part in a Twisting contest, and after that, there'd be a Mashed Potato competition as well. I remember being deeply puzzled at this odd notion--goofball that I was, sure, I'd be more than happy to give the gyrations a go, but since I didn't spy any kitchen cutlery nearby, much less Long Island spuds, how, I wondered, were we supposed to have ANY sort of bake off?? And folks, I assure you this is no cheap gag--I ACTUALLY thought that!...
My teacher was, of course, mildly amused, and gently explained to me that the Mashed Potato was, in fact. a popular new dance. Okay, fine, I guess, but not NEARLY as popular a one as Mr. Checker's bread-ticket, that much even I knew!...
Not that the former Ernest Evans actually wrote the thing--that would've been Hank Ballard, who enjoyed a modest success fronting his group, the Midnighters, several years earlier, but certainly nothing like the man now brandishing the irresistibly catchy name of Chubby Checker subsequently had with his composition. Chubby, still only 18 years old, propelled it all the way to the number one position on the charts back in the fall of 1960, and as if that weren't enough, in an unprecedented bit of Billboard excitement, watched a rerelease of the VERY SAME RECORD reach the sales summit once again just about a year later!! AND, in the time intervening, he also hit big with "Let's Twist Again" (..like we did last summer, right gang?..)!
It's hard to quite fathom nowadays, but the man WAS the biggest thing going in all of show biz, if only for what amounted to one, brief glorious moment. EVERYBODY was twisting--teens, their parents, stuffy society matrons, even the kids in my third grade class! Our dancin' fool, so full of his enormous success, was just waiting for E to cede him his crown. And then, 1964 beckoned...
These musings came to me as I was making the drive home from playing volleyball last night. I had "The Beatles Anthology, Volume 1" cranked up, and soon enough, a typically high-energy live take of the boys belting out "Twist and Shout" came flooding through the speakers. Several things suddenly coalesced in my admittedly Beatle-preoccupied mind--the brilliant version they knocked out to finish up the recording of their very first album remains, far and away, the Beatles most famous cover-tune, turning up in movies, television, and even these days--can you believe it?--on the radio?
Not a stunning revelation, true, but what I may well've realized for the first time was that, A.) this song, a mild hit for the Isley Brothers in 1962, was one of a heaping handful written with the express intention of cashing in on the Twist craze. So, I'm thinking, when adults saw these peculiar looking musicians joyfully screaming out the lyrics to this number on the telly (as they often did in those days), B.) this probably reassured the still-square generation that, like the very dance they apparently were singing about, the Beatles too would be little more than the passing fad that it's now fast fading predecessor was. Not, as it turned out, C.) the best of prognostications...
And yet another odd conclusion I came to, listening to this song with fresh ears--the Beatles' "Twist and Shout" is now, simply, THE Twist song. While the Chubby one's pair of variations haven't disappeared entirely from the culture's collective memory, they've undoubtedly been superseded by Lennon's raucous vocal workout (and, if truth be told, probably by Sam Cooke's superior 1962 "Twisting the Night Away" as well...). I'd never really thought of it in these terms before, but you might actually consider this a transitional recording of sorts, as the lads from Liverpool gleefully grab the torch out of Mr. Checker's hand--and then NEVER give it back!?!...
And what of the hottest thing to hit the dance arena since Arthur Murray? (Don'tcha just LOVE these dated references?...) Well, he scored a few other big hits besides his pair of twisting discs, namely "Pony Time" (#1, 1961), "The Fly" (#7, 1961), "Limbo Rock" (#2, 1962), and a third helping of his signature sound, making it, appropriately, to number three in 1962, "Slow Twistin'". But after the long-forgotten "Popeye The Hitchhiker"(!) squeaked in at number 10 in September of 1962, he never registered a hit that high again. According to the "Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits" by Joel Whitburn, his last scrape with the higher echelon of the charts came in May of 1965 when he crawled up to that tome's cut-off fortieth position with his sadly pathetic recording of "Let's Do the Freddie"!?!...
Whether or not this was a straight re-recording of the goofy dance record that was, at best, a modest hit for the bespeckled leader of the minor British Invasion group, Freddie and the Dreamers own "Do The Freddie", or his own misguided elaboration thereof, I honestly couldn't tell you, as I thankfully never heard it. I WILL say that the group and their frontman--think Pee Wee Herman in thick, black-rimmed glasses with dark, curly hair--were the bane of my existence for a while as I was growing up! A nerdier lead singer you'll never find--not even that OTHER Fred in the B-52s--and while they managed to make some mildly pleasant pop music that I admittedly enjoyed at the time ("I'm Telling You Now", for instance), it was this silly dance the group's leader insisted on doing during each and every one of their seemingly endless TV appearances that made MY life miserable! Gawkingly flapping his arms back and forth, as if he were a really, REALLY stiff bird hoping to take off--but ever unlikely too--all the while shifting from side to side with each leg--THAT's how he sang his songs! I imagine Freddie and his Dreamers had some extremely ODD groupies...
This geeky dance of his became SO popular, a tune was quickly cobbled up, and released. But, as both Freddie and Chubby alike soon found out, it was no Twist!! (Around MY neighborhood, however, it was inordinately popular, but friends, that's ANOTHER story entirely, perhaps one best left to a shrink's couch!...)
Chubby? Well, he's still with us, and as best I can tell, fairly delusional! Every so often you read remarks he's made that leads you to believe he REALLY thinks he belongs right up there at pop's pinnacle, smack dab between the King and the Lads. Best I can tell, he's the ONLY one with that belief. About a year ago, I seem to recall hearing something about him demanding that they erect a statue of him out in front of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum in Cleveland?
Geez--talk about twisted?!?
Hey, Chubby--let's take our medication, like we did last summer, hmm?...
February 17th, 2004
|Turns out it's all her fault...
Yoko gets more than her fair share of grief. Linda was looked upon suspiciously from certain quarters. Cynthia had her critics as well. But if it weren't for HER, we may never've had to endure what is, to my mind, the WORST recording in the entire Beatles catalog, the mystifyingly inane and annoyingly abrasive "Wild Honey Pie"! Thank heavens this White Album "treasure" is also the SHORTEST track in the Fabs extensive ouerve...
|Paul McCartney--the sole perpetrator, responsible
for all vocals, acoustic guitars and
on this eminently throwaway track--is
in Steve Turner's "A Hard Day's
Story Behind Every Beatles Song"
as saying this, ahem, song--developed
a spontaneous singalong that emerged
the lads trip to Rikikesh, India, whilst
studying with the Maharishi--"It
a fragment of an instrumental that
not sure about, but Pattie Harrison
it very much, so we decided to leave
Nice call, blondie.
Luckily, the two songs you DIRECTLY inspired--hubby's magnificent "Something", and pining lover Eric Clapton's epic "Layla"--are far, far better tunes. Heck, say what you will about the oft maligned "Revolution #9", but at least John and Yoko--and George as well--put more time and effort into that sound melange than Macca did on his silly little time-waster. I love the guy, people--you know that, but sometimes I think he just gets a bit cocky and figures, hey, it's a bona-fide original Paul McCartney musical composition--how bad can it be? Fella, you DON'T wanna know--especially were we to nose around into some of the more shadowy corners of your not always brilliant solo efforts! Some ditties there would only qualify as gems on the far-flung Bizarro World, believe you me!! (Yes, comics fans, I DO remember those four-color fantasies! More on them NEXT month, promise!...)
Another musical misadventure that regularly winds up near the very top of these negatively oriented "Worst Beatle Song Ever"-type polls is the unforgettably Lennon led 1964 "Beatles For Sale" cover version of an obscure B-side released only two years earlier by the equally obscure Dr. Feelgood and The Interns, "Mr. Moonlight". I'd have to heartily agree with that assessment, especially in those years before George's wife had come to have any significant say in selecting album tracks for the group...
Actually, the thing about "Mr. Moonlight" that so unsettles a listener is the absolutely berserk way John simultaneously screams AND elongates the word "mister" at the song's outset. Once he makes it all the way to word two--"moonlight"--things calm down tremendously, and the boys then peacefully embark on a quaint, if hardly worthy, little tune. A Hammond organ solo midway through reminds one more of a trip to an ice skating rink than fresh-off-the-bloom Beatlemania, but no matter--it's the Clever Beatle's unnecessarily bloodcurdling screech at the outset that mires THIS recording at the rock bottom of many fan's list of favorites.
Speaking from experience, back when I was growing up, I always felt a certain impending unease as these tracks approached. Our house wasn't especially big, understand, and there was just the three of us--Beatlefan Fred, and a pair of real squares, a/k/a, the folks. They could generally hear every disc I spun on our well-played stereo--how could they help but not?--and sometimes, mom even sat in the same room with me as the turntable made with the RPMs. Despite the severe differences in our tastes, I was nonetheless defiantly proud of the magical music my boys were producing, and played it without apology.
Except, of course, for those two cuts...
Y'see, I always leaned over and adjusted the volume control when "Mr. Moonlight" was imminent, lowering the sound just as John Lennon had his Howard Dean moment, then cranking it back up again right afterwards for the track's duration. And "Wild Honey Pie", well, sometimes I'd lower it, sure, but mostly I'd just endure it, knowing that, mercifully, it'd soon be over. It was irritating, true, but at least it didn't have the wholly undesirable capacity to waken virtually every canine in the neighborhood!?!...
|"Maybe it's no "Layla", but
I wrote it for you, luv--what say we
it a go and put it on the album then,
There's plenty of room, and if not,
just do what we always do--bump one
February 16th, 2004
On this, President's Day 2004, we here at Hembeck.com proudly salute some of our nation's greatest Chief Executives!
Legendary statesmen like...
President Van Buren!...
|....What's that? You say that's neither our
9th President, William H. Harrison
nor his grandson, Benjamin Harrison
our 23rd Commander-In-Chief? Oops.
Well, at least there IS one President in that picture!...
Y'know? Albert Shankar, long-time President of the New York City Schools Teacher's Union? (...Sorry folks. Local joke...) (...Barely...)
In any event, take a moment to sit back and ponder just exactly what today symbolizes, and then remember what Pat Nixon would repeatedly tell her husband in those days not long after he'd stepped down in disgrace from the most powerful position on Earth, hopelessly imploring her to PLEASE go into the kitchen and fix him a grilled cheese sandwich:
"I am NOT a cook!!"...
February 15th, 2004
|And they said Ringo was the natural comedian!...
(Though, as a Zeppo stand-in, Pete Best does a fine job, wouldn'tcha say?...)
This unique snapshot is courtesy of the bassist's baby brother, little Mike McCartney. Two year's younger than Paul, he nonetheless followed his singing sibling around, even in the earliest days, manning a trusty camera. Who ELSE would be able to get as a goofy a photo as this, save for family, after all? Decades later, the junior Macca included it in his evocative 1992 book collection, entitled simply "Remember"...
He copped to his REAL name for that little project, but back in the late sixties and into the seventies, he went by the name, "Mike McGear". The point being, y'see, was that he didn't want to be seen merely as exploiting the name of his hopelessly more successful brother. And, as a member of a three man satirical troupe called the Scaffold, Mike actually penned a little number that went top twenty on both sides of the pond back in 1967, "Thank U Very Much"! (A song who's spelling, if nothing else, apparently made quite the impression on a young fellow by the name of Prince Rogers...).
In 1972, the man called McGear released his first solo album of entirely serious--not satirical--songs, entitled "Woman". Blessed with a decent voice and a modest talent for melody, the record nonetheless seems a bit slight to these ears. In fairness, I only stumbled across a copy of the CD reissue about a year ago, and haven't listened to it nearly often enough to be totally fair. Still, what I HAVE listened to a considerable amount of times is "McGear", his undeniably superior 1974 followup recording...
Finding that Rycodisc reissue in a randomly arranged bin of cut-outs about 5 years back is the sort of happy occurrence that somehow justifies all the wasted time spent trolling through these usually miserable but always unpredictable collections of can't-sell-selections. "McGear" is a forgotten gem. Unlike his previous outing, wherein our pal Mike wrote all the tunes (save for a few co-authored by a Scaffold associate), 8 of the cuts on this disc bear the "McCartney/McGear" byline, while two are assigned to big Macca alone. Not surprising when you consider older brother Paul produced, played, AND sang on said recording as well!
|Fact is, the whole enterprise stands up remarkably
well next to the then-head Wings-man's
output. Hey, truth is, I even PREFER
some of my least favored seventies
releases, ("London Town",
which amounts to either a left-handed
or right-handed slap, since the man
was clearly instrumental in the making
a majority of the double Macced music.
(shh! Don't tell!) without question,
"McGear" to a surprisingly
percentage of the records made by the
three members of Paul's old group--and
time, I'm NOT talking about Wings!!...
|So, okay I'll admit it. Let's get it out
in the open--I'm a Paul man. Hey, when
find yourself digging his little bro
of that Plastic Ono stuff, you just
KNOW which way you're leaning!?! Hasn't
been that way, however--Harrison was
my favorite back in the initial wake
though that probably had a lot to do
the fact that MY middle name is George--and
clearly, John's music stands out right
up to, but not necessarily including,
From THAT point on, well, my preferences
lay here, there, and you know where...
Given the perhaps unfair advantage of being alive, Paul has, unlike his ill-fated ex-collaborator, made the most of the solo years, always bouncing back from the seemingly inevitable lack-luster release with a several strong collections of melodic McCartney ditties to follow. So yeah, despite my admiration for each and every one of the lads, you'd best put me squarely in McCartney's camp.
Hey, what's the worst that could happen to me by admitting this bit of Beatle-bias? Yoko could start screaming or something?...
(...Or wait--maybe she's SINGING? You can just never know for sure, now can you? ...)
February 14th, 2004
|Given that today is Valentine's Day, I thought
it'd be appropriate if I dug this photo
of the archives, enlisting the Lads
romantically reminding my international
that, yes, truly,"All You Need
(..at least, that's what I THINK each of those placards say. Since I don't actually speak--much less READ--any of those foreign lingos, for all I know, they could just contain cleverly concealed clues, a lost part of the infamous "Paul is dead" brouhaha!?! But ladies, even if that IS true, please remember that, especially on this day of all days, it's NEVER good form to turn to your snuggling honey-bunny and coo seductively in his ear, "Turn me on, dead man"!...)
I'd like to thank the fine folks over at The Johnny Bacardi Show for the nice plug they sent this way yesterday, and in turn, heartily recommend any of you unfamiliar with proprietor David Allen Jones wide-ranging pop culture site, groovy graphics and all, to take a peek--you won't be sorry! But, irony of ironies, those of you who were directed this way yesterday probably found several spots of abject confusion here at ye olde blog. Thing is, after a full year of relying on darlin' Lynn (Happy V Day, dearie!), I realized it was time to learn how to upload my blatherings my ownself! Well, after several weeks of training, I began unassisted posting just these last few days, and folks, I was SO proud!! So VERY proud! Because I no longer felt I was imposing on my dutiful wife--at least, no more than usual--I began including more and more pictures. And somehow, that must've caused a still mysterious error hereabouts, as several previously posted pics, as well as several key paragraphs, just up and VANISHED!?! Yikes! How, I don't rightly know, but it just goes to show--trained monkeys should NEVER get cocky!!
Well, Lynn and Julie helped me this morning, and happily, we've been able to reconstruct das blog to pretty much the way things were before the big boo-boo. So if yesterday was your first visit here, you may consider taking another look. I guarantee you, things will make more sense now!
If only by the smallest of margins...
February 13th, 2004
Everybody has their favorite Beatle. There are Paul people, Lennon devotees, Harrison acolytes, Ringo groupies--by now, everyone's made their choice. And once made, emotions invariably run high among fans in always spirited attempts to defend their chosen ones from those backing OTHER camps. Why, such Beatle-based-bickering has even been known to cause rifts amongst celebrities and their families! One such argument was reported to have occurred between the Smothers Brothers themselves. What started quietly as a reasoned discussion ended loudly when Tommy Smothers turned to his brother Dick and screamed with pure pent-up indignation,
"MOM ALWAYS LIKED PETE BEST!!!"
Yes, friends, what BETTER Beatle-based subject for a dark and gloomy Friday the 13th than Pete Best, the unluckiest man alive? And what more fitting way to start than with that awful little joke, one I must shamefacedly take full and total credit for? Sorry. But not as sorry as ol' Pete...
|You all know the resume, right? Drummer for
the Beatles from 1960 on up through
initial attempt at recording what would
be the group's first single, "Love
Do", in 1962. Then, in August
self-same year, he was called into
Brian Epstein's office to be unceremoniously
sacked. Why? Well, in the interest
(always at a premium here at Hembeck.com),
let me quote for you a paragraph that
in a special publication focusing on
Fabs from Britain's Q magazine, issued
"Theories about the dismissal include: The Beatles' jealousy at Best's popularity; their dissatisfaction with his drumming style; his lack of personal chemistry with the others; his rejection of Epstein's homosexual advances; his inability to grow a mop-top haircut; and, more darkly, his mother Mona's pregnancy following a liaison with one of The Beatles inner circle."
The product of said union, Roag Best, wrote a book last year (with his two half-brothers, Rory and Pete), and though it was one of those tomes I managed to take a pass on, I garnered enough info from reviews to discover that, for the very first time in print, long-time Liverpool associate and current Apple headman, Neil Aspinall, was finally identified as the fired drummer's potential step-dad!! And therein lies a very important key to today's rant...
|Y'see, through Neil, communication between
the Boys and Mona--who, when she ran
Casbah Coffee Club, was one of the
earliest employers--continued even
her son was let go. Why, for gosh sakes,
she even lent John her father's military
medals for Lennon to wear on the cover
"Sgt. Pepper", a good (or,
Pete, a BAD) five years after the bloodbath
in Eppy's office!?! And yet, Pete Best
gone on record recently as stating
since that dark August afternoon, not
one of his three former bandmates has
spoken with him again.
Not George Harrison, the Spiritual Beatle.
Not John Lennon, the Outspoken Beatle.
Not even Paul McCartney, the Gregarious Beatle.
(We'll give Ringo a pass here, since he came in after the fact, folks. If he DID have opportunity to speak to his predecessor, however, he'd most likely blurt out something like, "I don't know what you did, mate, but whatever it was, THANKS!"...)
I always found it curious that these three individuals, always ready to deal with whatever confronted them, good or bad, seemed to go out of their way to duck the fellow they (inadvertently) sentenced to a miserable existence, one destined to forever having his nose pressed agonizingly up against the glass door of immortality, only to be impotently locked out while still tantalizingly looking in. Hey, maybe they were simply embarrassed by the way they dumped him, letting their manager, gay individual that he was, perform the wholly unsavory task they weren't, collectively, man enough to accomplish on their own? Can't say I wouldn't feel incredibly sheepish if I were in their place, either. After all, what WOULD the old associates chat about had they met on the Mersey streets back in '64?...
"Hey, fellas. Saw how you conquered America on the telly the other night. Nicely done."
"Thanks, man. So, what 're you up to, Pete?"
"Looking into the Civil Service, lads. Provides a nice pension, y'know?..."
"Uh, that's great. Well, gotta go. Making a movie, and have to get back to the set and all . Say hi to Mona for us!..."
"Will do--and when you see Neil, tell him if he's looking for his burgundy trousers, they're over at the house!...."
The first time I ever saw Pete Best was when, in that great explosion of early Beatlemania, he turned up as a guest on the long-running quiz show, "I've Got A Secret", and boy, did he EVER!?! The sad thing is, thinking back, that very evening, host Gary Moore spoke more words to him than Macca has in the past 42 years!! I believe this might be the proper place for an indignant "blimey!" And the exact reasons behind his dismissal--perhaps the biggest pop culture mystery this side of the elusive explanation for Steve Ditko's never-revealed decision to walk off the AMAZING SPIDER-MAN book--remain clouded to this very day. Don't believe me? Then go to Pete's official web-site and take a look--the poor guy's STILL confused!?!...
And Paul, if you're reading this?...
Look, the sad truth is, it's too late for the other two lads, but you've still a chance to make amends of a sort, however belated. And if the prospect of a face-to-face rattles you after all these years, well, it IS the cyber-age, y'know. Start slowly--just go sign his guest book, righto? It'd be the decent thing to do, don'tcha think?...
And after THAT, you might consider having poor little Jimmy Nicol over for dinner once in awhile, okay? I'm sure he'll consent to veggie...
February 12th, 2004
And how's YOUR Beatles Bookshelf, hmm?
|Wait--forget "Bookshelf"--make that Library!! Odds are you could easily stock one with all the Fab Four themed tomes that have appeared over the last forty years. I myself, unsurprisingly, own more than a mere handful, though by no means anywhere near a majority of the myriad manuscripts published--honest! While I may indeed be a proud BeatleGeek, I do my level best to suppress my more dubious collector instincts and instead struggle to be choosy when selecting from the vast array of titles (more than half of which appear to be nicked from the group's lyrical ouerve) when plunking down cash for yet another re-telling of (let's face it) my favorite real-life fairy tale. But, t'wasn't always so...|
|Once, Beatle books didn't so much flood the market as exploit it, as any short-lived fad might. That's why, way back in 1964, I re-routed enough precious coinage from my by then inveterate comic book hoarding to purchase three quickie paperbacks: Bantam's "The True Story of The Beatles" by Billy Shepherd, Lancer's "The Beatle Book", and Dell's novelization of the Liverpool lads' first film, "The Beatles in A Hard Day's Night" by John Burke.|
|The latter two sold for fifty cents apiece, while the ostensibly "true" story offered by Bantam would ultimately set you back an extra dime, retailing for the princely sum of sixty cents. Perhaps the extra tariff was meant to cover the additional expenses incurred due to the, um, increased access the author had with his subjects. As the back cover clearly states, "This is our true story as we told it to Billy Shepherd", and the signatures of George, John, Ringo and Paul are printed directly below this declaration of authenticity, so hey, what are you gonna do? Sometimes the truth just costs MORE, y'know?...|
|The oddest of the lot has to be the anonymously authored Lancer "Beatle Book". The photographs included within are drawn from the files of Dezo Hoffman, who, like Robert Freeman and our recently spotlighted Ditko fan, Terence Spencer, would go on to issue his very own compilation of Fab snaps during the as yet unending Beatle book deluge of the last two decades. Here, however, though replete with several by-now familiar iconic images, there are also a substantial share of curious group shots, most taken as the boys frolicked on various British telly programs.|
|Without so much as a clue, the book's publisher chose two such peculiar shots to adorn both the front and back covers of this thin paperback. Let's face it--these days, you don't see Ringo emulating Napoleon overmuch, now do you? And as for the lads in their swell striped swimming outfits, well, while I can confidently state that virtually every doggone daily newspaper in America ran a story about the Beatles on February 9th, I also guarantee you that not a SINGLE ONE ran a picture of the group preparing to take a dip in the ocean, gaily bedecked in their turn-of-the-last-century-like togs to accompany said text piece, you dig!?!...|
|And funny thing--this book came out so early
in the developing story that the fellows
hadn't quite settled intro their assigned
cliches yet. Each member of the group
his own ten page or so individual photo
and its interesting to see the labels
First up: "George Harrison...the Youngest Beatle". Okay, true, if not particularly exciting or illuminating.
Then we have perhaps the appellation that was most similar with what was to inevitably follow, "Paul McCartney...the Gorgeous Beatle"! Oh, be still my heart!
Sitting at his drums, looking for a hook to hang his persona on, we have the desperately dubbed "Ringo Starr...the Swinging Beatle". Buddy Rich, watch out!
And then, finally, sorry girls, but here's "John Lennon...the Married Beatle". Hey, why not just add, "...With a Child, and Soon Headed For Divorce" while they're at it, hmm?...
|Those early Beatle books had all the depth
of a fave-rave feature in 16 magazine
ah, I ALSO bought at the time, but
a whole 'NOTHER shamefaced confession...),
and after the initial excitement settled
down, there was a decided sparsity
literature regarding Liverpool's favorite
sons. But that all changed in 1968
of "The Authorized Biography of
Beatles" by Hunter Davies.
(Hey! What about Billy Shepherd? You mean to tell me I coughed up ten extra cents and the tale wasn't even TRULY true? What a drag, man...)
|By this time, the group was being taken a
whole more seriously than they had
FIRST time the publishing world geared
their printing plants, ever ready to
a tree to happily exploit a passing
Only, turns out these boys WEREN'T
at least not yet, so THIS tell-all
be issued as an-honest-to-gosh hardcover
(for the stunning fee of $6.95), and
destined to climb to the upper reaches
the best seller list.
|The imminent release of Davies much ballyhooed
text caused quite the buzz--AND inspired
the quick buck artists to once again
out of the woodwork! Slapped hastily
to take advantage of the pre-existing
this authorized manuscript was garnering,
the folks over at Berkley Medallion
quickly got their own version of the
to the nation's paperback racks with
Beatles ..The REAL Story", selling
for the far more modest sum of seventy-five
Don'tcha just LOVE that unbelievably pretentious cover painting? The artiste remains uncredited, I'm sad to report. And hey, maybe I was wrong about our pal Ringo--he clearly seems to be attempting the signature Bonaparte hand gesture here once again, isn't he? Hmm. Its always the short fellows, eh?
Well, anyway, the one thing these two competing books had in common (something that was conspicuously missing the first time around four years earlier) was a franker attitude towards the previously undiscussed subjects of sex and drugs (two areas naive li'l Freddy was blissfully ignorant of during Beatlemania's initial onslaught, a bonus factoid I add for no particular reason). Of course, their approach proved tame compared to some of the loose-lipped revelations that were to be revealed in all their gory glory come future retellings, but THAT, friends, is another topic entirely!...
|A few words about the author. When I scurried
downstairs last night to dig out these
volumes, it was fully my intention
on you all a brain-twisting bit of
trivia that I'd never, ever heard anywhere
else from anyone else! Something that
I and I alone had been patiently nursing
since the late seventies! So, y'see,
part of my motivation for picking Beatle
books as the topic du jour in my seemingly
endless salute to John, Paul, George,
Ringo, was the opportunity to FINALLY
this with someone, however few readers
may have left here!!
Even in those aforementioned late seventies, when I first heard the ABC television network promoting lavishly mounted mini-series like "Immigrants" and "Freedom Road", grandly announcing that they were based on best-selling historical novels by one Howard Fast, I felt an inordinate sense of pride at the very notion. No, I never actually WATCHED any of said productions, but it was still more than enough for me to know that a fellow who cut his teeth churning out a lowly Beatles bio knock-off was now, a decade later, a highly lauded scribe, one whose tales of triumph and tragedy--just like his earlier Mersey saga!--were suddenly being turned into prestigious tube fodder! Wow--not bad for the guy who first clued me into the fact that the chorus on the tune "Girl" was "tit tit tit"!
That would make a GREAT story, don'tcha think? There's only a ONE tiny, little flaw with it, unfortunately...
It's not true!
Yeah, your eyes aren't on the blink--the cover plainly credits authorship to one JULIUS Fast!
Ah well, there goes my award-winning slice of Fab minutia. I didn't realize my error until I brought the book upstairs and took a good look at it. And then, when I Googled ol' Howard, I discovered he was hardly a novice when ABC got ahold of him, having written the novels that served as the basis for the films "Cheyenne Autumn", and most famously, "Spartacus". As there was no scene in the batted-out-bio that went anything vaguely like, "I am Ringo!"...
"No, I am Ringo!"
"Uh uh--I AM Ringo!"
I should've known he didn't pen it...
What then of Julius? Best I could find out, he's been writing ever since 1944, has won multiple awards for his mystery stories, and had a non-fiction best-seller back in 1970 entitled "Body Language", a field he apparently pioneered and still teaches a course in. I guess when the folks at Berkely Medallion needed a quick turnover on their so-called real story, they signed him up because, well, isn't it obvious?
They needed a FAST writer!...
Me? Hey, I'm still wondering if there's any connection between Billy Shepherd and Billy Shears, y'know?....
February 11th, 2004
Between the time when, for some still unfathomable reason, distribution of both my beloved Marvel and DC Comics was abruptly cut off from my friendly neighborhood source for my, by then, deeply established four color fix late in 1965, and the time I gained my own mobility about five years later (that's a car, for you slower readers...), I was TOTALLY dependent on my parents to feed my obsession. I still get a shivery chill up my very spine reliving the trauma of being cruelly cut off from the easy access afforded me by merely jumping on my trusty Schwinn and peddling a mile down the bucolic streets of small town Yaphank, off once again to Heisenbuttels General Store to scarf up some of the greatest comics of the Silver Age (and a fair amount of rotten ones, too, I'll have to admit... )! The next closest venue, y'see, was nearly a half dozen miles away, and even that outlet didn't last long before I found the need to travel even further away for my funnies. Oh, it was a trying time, a VERY trying time, lemme tell ya...
But, gotta give 'em this--my folks were tres accommodating, if far from enamored of my inexplicable interest in this dubious form of literature. Still, they went along, however begrudgingly, assisting me in my neverending quest. Being an only child DOES have its perks, dig, and I suppose this here was one one of them. In any event, we soon established a routine: each week, after school on Thursday--Ma and Pa Hembeck took their off days on Thursday and Friday, for some reason, choosing to work the weekends instead (the better to see less of MOI, perhaps?...)--we'd hop in the car and head off to the quasi-cosmopolitan Patchogue for a little shopping. After parking, I'd head off to purchase the latest releases, then maybe cruise a few book and record emporiums on the way back before we all met up at a pre-established time and place. We'd follow that up with a fine meal at a local diner, or perhaps--and this was ALWAYS a heavily favored choice--our local "Bonanza" steak house!! MmmMMM--I can still taste that dee-licious Texas Toast!!...
Finally, the expedition ended with a weekly visit to the grocery store. Curiously, as best I can recall, I NEVER went food shopping with the folks, not even once. No, I stayed in the car while Mom and Dad decided on the item's needed to create the dishes for that upcoming week's menu (which, invariably, would be extremely similar to those of the PREVIOUS week's menu...), happy instead to rifle through my latest acquisitions. And, of course, listen to the radio...
My memory is far from a steel trap, friends, but there ARE those special occasions that just lodge themselves in the ol' cerebellum, and one particularly memorable one occurred during the early fall of 1968. As always, I was comfortably ensconced in the back seat of our old Chevrolet, skimming the latest triumphs from Stan Lee and his ever-talented associates, paying precious little attention to the music pleasantly emanating from the tinny speakers on the dashboard. Then, without quite realizing it, I suddenly became aware of a totally unfamiliar--and unusual--tune being broadcast by the usually ultra-repetitive AM Top Forty station I had no choice but listen to whilst waiting out these weekly food purchases (the FM radio with its hip sounds was at home, y'see...). My attention shifted almost immediately from my fresh four-color treasures to the intriguingly unadorned, almost plaintive, voice coming over the radio...
This curious song kicked off with only spare instrumentation backing up the vocalist, but following the initial shake of a well-placed tambourine, more and more musical muscle was slowly added with each subsequent stanza, including supplementary vocalists providing a counterpoint chorus. I found myself mesmerized by this slow yet powerful tune, and as it seemed to build to an undeniably exuberant crescendo--WHAM!--the thing just shifted entirely, and seamlessly transformed itself into a raucous, joyous, irresistible singalong, a coda that, much to my initial astonishment, just seemed to go on and on--and ON! By now, the comics were all but forgotten, as I was completely under the sway of this hypnotic composition. This new record was pure GENIUS!! But who, I wondered, WHO was responsible for this melodic masterpiece? Could it have been...
Yup, it was. Duh. Perhaps the most unbelievable part of this story--at least to ME--is that, despite championing these four fellows for the past four years, playing their LPs over and over--and OVER!!--despite all this, I honestly failed to recognize the musicians responsible for "Hey Jude" the first time I heard it, and THAT peculiar little fact stuns me to this very day!?!
Okay, by the time they got to the "Nah, nah, nah, Nananah" parts I was definitely having my suspicions, but you'd've thought our pal Paul's vocal would've struck a chord with these ol' memory banks! But no--I sailed blithely through THAT section, completely unaware. What I DID recognize, though, was the absolute magnificence of this tune, and on our very NEXT Thursday afternoon shopping journey, I, like an awful lot of other Americans my age, eagerly snapped myself up a copy of the 45rpm! And then, I played it over and over and--well, you get the idea...
For a long time, I considered "Hey Jude"--the Beatles debut release on their own eventually-imploding Apple label (AND, hogging the top spot on the charts for a record 9 weeks, their most successful single release ever!)--to be my all-time Fab Four tune, but these days, well, I'm not so sure I feel quite THAT strong about the record anymore. Its still way up there, in any event...
A few side quibbles, since we're on the topic: I recently read somewhere that the recording remains the longest running number 1 single release in the entire history of the Billboard charts, clocking in at a whopping 7:04. That sent my antenna up--what about Richard Harris's "MacArthur Park", I wondered? You know, the one about leaving the cake out in the rain and other frosting flubs, a vastly popular tune which had preceded the Liverpudlians on the charts by several months back in 1968?..
Sure enough, at 7:21, it WAS longer! However (and here's the catch), it only made it to number TWO!?! But I've gotta say, just like Avis, it tried harder. Sorry, lads, but as I was listening to your anthemic masterwork on the car CD player on the way home from playing volleyball last night (headed, I should proudly if parenthetically add, in the proper direction throughout!...), and I noticed several inescapable facts. First off, the volume begins to decrease noticeably roundabouts when the music meter hits the 5:50 mark, and things just get increasingly softer and softer from there on out. The deal is, without the aid of headphones--never the BEST way to drive, please note--I didn't even HEAR one itsy-bitsy "Nah nah" after 6:58!! And let's face it--back in the day, after that first month or so of chart supremacy, it was the rare DJ who didn't either cut things short shortly after the five minute mark, or took the opportunity instead to read the weather report, give the sports scores, or perhaps give out one of Richard Harris's favorite cake recipes, all backed up by the languidly fading finish!...
When Harris warbled out those unforgettable Jimmy Webb lyrics over some of the most sprawling orchestration ever heard on Top Forty radio, there was no slow fade-out, nosirree, only a big, wonderfully overblown finish, one that your typical garden variety disc jockey had little alternative but let come to its natural conclusion, once they committed to dropping the needle onto the song's opening groove. So, you knew when you heard "MacArthur Park" on the radio in those days, you'd hear all 7 minutes and 21 seconds of it, EVERY time you heard it. By contrast, "Hey Jude", after the novelty wore off, generally finished up at 5:55, if not thirty seconds or so sooner.
So sorry, John, Paul, George, and Ringo--I gotta give the prize for longest hit single ever to the brooding Brit thespian.
But guys, YOURS was a number one, and his wasn't, so derive some small satisfaction out of that if you can, okay?...
(And you REALLY thought I was gonna talk about comics today, didn't you, folks? Hah! Fooled ya!...)
|"That's a good one, lads, but the REAL question is, will Fred be able to tell its us?..."|
February 10th, 2004
Ditko and the Beetle...
|The Beatle and Ditko...
|That's quite the picture, ain't it now?
The famed drummer appears to be reading a British reprint of an early sixties Charlton comic. While the cover is clearly one drawn by the mysterious yet magnificent Steve Ditko, done years before he himself had a go at the always game Blue Beetle, it can't possibly be categorized as one of his best, I'm afraid. Then again, no one ever said Ringo was the most photogenic of Beatles, and THIS goofy snapshot may set new lows even for Mr. Starr! So let's just take ourselves a brief glance, marvel at the oddness of it all, call it a wash, and hastily move on, shall we?...
Actually, I dug this out of a splendid collection of photos snapped by photographer Terence Spencer called "It Was Thirty Years Ago Today", a book that came out, oh I don't know--ten years back or so? I picked it up as a remainder, but it's worth seeking out if you're a hard-core Beatlenut like myself. Seems this Spencer fellow was a LIFE magazine shutterbug for decades, generally based in war zones. At the urging of his daughter--and with the reluctant approval of his bosses--he spent four months with the lads in 1963 during a time period when they were big enough to qualify as home-land heroes, but hadn't as yet become the world-wide sensations they soon would blossom into as the calendar year turned to 1964. Spencer clicked 5,000 times, and aside from a precious few turning up in LIFE as America fell to Beatlemania, most remained unpublished. Until this book was assembled, natch. The pics really are a remarkable bunch, and the fellows look great throughout.
...Except for maybe THIS photo! With another 4,000 to choose from, about the only explanation for ITS inclusion is that this Spencer guy is as big a Ditko fan as I am! Either that, or Ringo owed him some serious money, and this was his ONLY way of getting satisfaction on an unpaid loan!...
You KNOW what they say about getting money out of Ringo, don't you?..
It don't come easy!...
February 9th, 2004
It was forty years ago today...
|Yup, forty years ago today that four young
men, merely by association, inadvertently
granted an immortality of sorts to
middle-aged gossip columnist, a man
happened to preside over the most popular
television variety program of the era.
about it: people always assign mucho
to Ed Sullivan for having a pivotal
of the responsibility for the Beatles
success, but as Frank Gorshin might
riddle me this, Beatfans--where exactly
Ed be today without his key if ultimately
peripheral role in the fairy tale-like
Forgotten, most likely. Oh, there'd still be that matter of Elvis and shooting him from the waist up so as not to offend America's delicate sensibilities, but a quaint footnote in the history of video censorship hardly equals the triumph of introducing the biggest act of the decade--possibly of the entire century--to his wide-eyed countrymen! And now, every time the legend of the Liverpool Lads is trotted out, so is ol' Ed! Without them, he might just as well be another Arthur Godfrey, Dave Garroway, and yes, even the recently departed Jack Paar...
Godfrey was a giant in his day, an absolute titan of the airwaves. Now? All but vanished from the national consciousness, I fear. The pioneers of early television won over the audience largely due to their comforting immediacy, but have subsequently found themselves languishing in the shadowy corners of history, chiefly because of this once-virtue, unwatched and unknown to the generations of tubesters that blithely followed. And Ed, for all his longevity and many other accomplishments, might very likely have joined his trodden-over trail-blazing brethren.
|If not for the Beatles.
I thing the old PR man in him would've been smugly proud of the impressive amount of foresight he probably didn't even know he had!! After all, you don't want to hitch ALL your wagons up to the likes of Topo Gigio!...
But of course, now, due to the magic of modern technology, everyone can watch those historic performances, as the group's first four appearances on Ed's "Rrrreally big shoe" (Sorry, but how could I NOT slip one of those in here somewhere, I ask you?...) have been gathered together, in their entirety, on a double disc DVD set. At some later date, I'll take a few minutes to comment on the various bits of curious minutia I've discovered whilst viewing them again, four decades later, but suffice it to say, I STILL get chills when those first, exciting chords of "All My Loving" burst out of the speakers!...
|"All My Loving". The first song
they performed on the Sullivan stage,
thus, the very first number a whole
American's ever heard them sing. While
even released as a single, it somehow
to these ears, the quintessential sound
early Beatlemania, even more so than
chart-topping hits as "She Love
and "I Want To Hold Your Hand".
The undeniably joyous insistence as
inexorably charges forward, opening
with Paul McCartney, sans instruments,
double-time, "Close your eyes
kiss you, tomorrow I'll miss you",
those giddily jangling guitars soon
in, adding yet another layer to the
And THEN, the so-called middle eight,
the other two lads step up to the microphone
to add their effervescent "ooos",
followed by George Harrison's simple
brilliantly charming ascending guitar
WELL! How could America NOT love 'em
Of the many splendid early tunes, "All My Loving" is the one that still has the most visceral effect on me. Whenever I hear it, my pulse quickens, a smile forms unbidden, and then, curiously, the hint of a tear wells up in the ol' eye ducts. More often than not, big macho fellow that I am, I manage to stave off the unnecessary waterworks, but certainly not when I witnessed that self-same Paul McCartney sing that very song during our twice-in-a-lifetime visitations to his last tour. As vintage 1964 black and white footage of the bassist and his mates younger incarnations played across the enormous banks of video monitors festooned behind the AARP-bound Macca, singing this anthem of an earlier era with a voice as pure as ever, the bittersweet mixed emotions of joyfulness and loss were impossible to contain. Happy for something we once all shared, yes. Sad that, though, all these years later, it mostly qualifies as part of our generation's own specific "good old days".
"Get out the hanky, mum--I think he's gonna do the one about writing home every day!..."
Of course, February 9th, 1964 wasn't a red-letter day for EVERYONE, y'know. Take, for instance, the comedy team of Charlie Brill and Mitzi McCall. They too were making their big-time TV debut that very evening on the Sullivan show. Fact is, they landed the spot just before the Beatles came back for a second helping of audience adoration. And folks, they bombed. Big time. Hey, I saw the DVD--I could've told you that WEEKS ago. But a far more interesting perspective is provided by the duo themselves in a fairly in-depth article wherein they relive their nightmarish experience. Y'see, THEY were well aware they bombed, too, though there WERE some mitigating circumstances. Take a look.
And myself? Well, the other day I posted a piece of, ahem, moderate length over in the Life Story section detailing how I went from being a acolyte of Al Jolson ( yes, you heard me right) to a life-long Beatlefreak, all due to events that occurred in the course of that fateful Sunday afternoon, forty years back. Check that out as well, if you'd like.
And then? Well, all together now--go spin a Beatles disc! I will. Don't let me down.
February 8th, 2004
This is gonna be a tough one. It seems I always did find myself at a loss for words around the legendary Julius Schwartz, and now that, sadly, he's passed on, why should things be any different, I suppose?...
Y'see, I'd only ever had but a handful of occasions to find myself in Julies's company, and, well, things may not've always gone as swimmingly as one might've hoped. Our first meeting pretty much set the tone for all future encounters, usually brief greetings upon bumping into one another whilst wandering the aisles of some comic-con or another. That initial meeting, though, occurred within the confines of the estimable editor's DC Comics office...
My good friend and neighbor, Joe Staton, had, in the course of delivering some artwork, taken me--probably at my own behest--into the company's NYC based offices one day. I forget exactly which year it was, but I'm pretty sure I was still doing those tiny gag cartoons on the "Daily Planet" promo pages at the time, so it had to be early eighties at the latest. The point was for me to do a meet and greet, finally coming face to face with a lot of the folks I had been working long distance with via Ma Bell and the US PO. Bob Rozakis, Tony Tollin, Mike Gold, Jack Harris, Todd Klein--even quick cameos from Joe Kubert and Jeanette Kahn--I was greeted warmly by all. And then, finally, towards the end of the day, pal Joey and a whole gang of us eventually wound up in Julie's den...
Now, understand, Julie had a well known reputation for being gruff and lovable, but usually the lovable part comes with time. Pretty much all I got was the gruff part! Not that there was all that much conversation between us, understand. After the obligatory intros, Julie directed most of his irascible comments towards the rest of the gathered group, most all of whom seemed to relish his demeanor. Me? Well, I found myself just thoroughly intimidated, and sat there quietly, making little or no attempt whatsoever to contribute to the dialog. Probably due to growing up with parents substantially older than myself, I'd always been more than a tad uncomfortable around those considerably my senior, and this was NOT going to be any Stan Lee-like exception, THAT was painfully obvious...
Of course, I always felt that--based on nothing more than a paranoid hunch--Julie saw me as one of "Stan's boys", because, frankly, in my earliest work, I WAS a bit over the top in my praise for those early Marvel Comics. While it was true that Stan has always been my main man, there's no denying that editor Schwartz's comics played nearly as important a role in my formative years. The man had already inaugurated the Silver Age of Comics single-handedly by the time I started plunking down pennies for his product in 1961, so for me, his greatest achievement was rescuing a hopelessly beleaguered Batman from the brink of oblivion in 1964...
|Those first few years of the Schwartz controlled "New Look" Batman still remain, to this day, my "Favorite Look" for the Caped Crusader and his Boy Wonder buddy. And I've said so, more than once over the years, including, I hasten to mention, in some of my earliest "Dateline:@#$%" strips. So Mr. S. may well have known the high regard I held his efforts when first we met. What he DIDN"T know was how those self-same efforts made such an tremendous impression on me, that they, however briefly, actually made me lose all good common sense!...|
|For a short time in early 1965, as a culmination
of the previous year's initial "New
Look " offerings, BATMAN and DETECTIVE
COMICS became my two top-most favorite
eclipsing even my beloved Marvel Comics!
More importantly, the Gotham Guardian
ascended to the peak of my personal
character list. Nothing startling there--or
so it would seem...
Are you familiar with those hats that have an ear flap? The kind that hunters and/or extras in "Deliverance" wear? Well, I had me one, a dark blue one as it turned out. By the ripe old age of twelve, though, I'd designated it too irredeemably dorky to ever wear again, so it just sat in my closet, unused and unloved. Until one day, when I suddenly got an idea, a CRAZY idea...
I figured if I first cut the front brim off, then turned the hat around, made a pair of eye holes in the now reversed flap, and glued some triangular ears on either side, I'd have me a swell facsimile of my Bat-bedecked heroes headgear! Yeah, man! Not THAT nutty a notion, I'll grant you, but y'see, it didn't stop there. My plan wasn't simply to don it for costume parties, Halloween galas, or what have you. No--and this, I swear, is the good-golly-gosh-honest truth, though I can't possibly imagine just exactly WHAT I was thinking at the time--the plan was to put on this crude mask, and then PATROL MY LITTLE TOWN OF YAPHANK! Just like the Big Guy did in Gotham!! Really!..
I must've been CRAZY! And I wasn't just some little kid at the time, I was nearly a teenager. But I vividly recall planning for the first of my soon to be nightly patrols! Well, guess what? It never happened. Not even close. Common sense apparently kicked in. I wore the modified hat for the clear amusement of a couple of my friends, sure, but I never did manage to put it to any, ahem, further use. But for just a moment there, a milli-second of insanity enveloped me, and the much-needed Batman overhaul Julie and company engineered inspired me SO intensely that I briefly deluded myself into believing that I myself could become a junior grade crimefighter!
Too bad I never got to tell Julie that. I would've liked to have thanked him for providing me with such inspirational reading material! And then I would've angrily shook my finger, and chided him for almost getting me KILLED!?! Hey, I've got MY irascible side too, y'know!...
It's a shame I never got to know him well enough to get past the gruff area and safely into the lovable realm that so many others basked in. Ah well, I'll always be grateful for all the stylish, trend-setting comics the man presided over, books that have made my life, and the lives of so many others, all the richer.
My heartfelt condolences go out to all of Mr. Schwartz's loved ones, and frankly, to all of us as well. He'll be sorely missed.
February 5th, 2004
Need any more proof that, by the end of 1964, the Beatles were EVERYWHERE? Well, grab a gander at THIS--Jim Warren was desperate enough for sales that he plastered their shaggy mugs on the cover of his magazine devoted to (generally) classic movie serials and the like, SCREEN THRILLS ILLUSTRATED.
|No, folks, that ISN'T a typo--it really DOES
say "Exclusive! Beatles versus
Now, "Beatles versus Stones"--THAT
one you'd probably be expecting. "Beatles
versus Stooges"--not seen nearly
Sadly, though, there were SOME things even the Lads were unable to resuscitate, as this February, 1965 cover dated issue of SCREEN THRILLS ILLUSTRATED was the 10th and final one to be published. But with a nice overview of the Lone Ranger's long and dusty trail through the canyons of many a medium, Joe Franklin's heartfelt tribute to the recently departed Eddie Cantor, and a report focusing on fellow emerging sixties icon, James Bond, STI went out with panache--even if they DID continually insist on labelling the Beatles' coiffes as "Moe Howard haircuts"!?!...
Actually, for a mag that was clearly operating WAY outside of their standard element, the uncredited author of the short article that accompanied their cover appearance was kinder than many similarly unqualified contemporary critics, if maybe perhaps a bit TOO effusive with his rosy predictions for their filmmaking future. Speaking of "A Hard Day's Night", he wrote in part...
"Director Richard Lester and writer Alun Owen fashioned a feature film for The Beatles, so unlike anything else ever done that there exists no standard to compare it by. The film sets its own standard. It must be considered a free-form fantasy as plot and structure are definitely secondary to the nonsense that takes place in it. By all means of judging motion pictures, however, it is a success. One which certainly should launch The Beatles into a successful film career, outlasting the "wild craze" phase which they are going through."
|Oh, you mean movies like, "How I Won
Maybe even...gulp... "Give My Regards To Broad Street"?...
Or...or...(choke), "Shanghai Surprise"??...
You think maybe THOSE were the coming cinematic classics that our soon-to-be-out-of-work scribe was predicting as he looked into his crystal ball (as well as the Want Ads)? Okay, so the group never, ever--individually, or as a quartet--managed to approach the sheer unadulterated brilliance of their initial screen appearance again, not even in the followup to "AHDN", "Help!", but our Warren writer hit ONE universal truth dead head on the money--the Beatles most surely DID outlast their "wild craze" phase, and then some!!
And friends, by the time "Sgt. Pepper" burst onto the scene several years later, all comparisons between the Moptops and Moe Howard had long since subsided.
It would be a number of years, however, before the Charlie Watts/Harpo Marx connection ceased to be topic of heated discussion. If memory serves, that came to an end mostly likely roundabouts '71, which I believe was the first year the Stones drummer actually spoke.
And perhaps was the last...
|February 2nd, 2004|
"Blimey, lads--someday, we're going to make Michael Jackson a rich, rich man!!..."
|Never let it be said that here at Hembeck.com,
we don't, whenever possible, exhaust
possible angle of a given topic. We
correspondents in the field, hither
investigating all sides of every story,
to report back in with their exclusive
One such field agent is Craig Smith,
he submits the following for our edification...
What a coinkiedink! I went to the Museum of Television and Radio in Beverly Hills today and witnessed the Paar show of which you speak in its entirety (well at least up to the part The Beatles were over and Paul Lynde was reading corny poetry...). The intro you mention is correct and then it switches to screaming British female fans while you hear "From Me to You" playing live in the background. Unlike your impression, I thought Paar didn't "get it" and he was sure all of it was going to be a silly quickly passing fad. One of several derisive comments was like, "Can you imagine this is the next generation of females to run a household and raise kids?"
Then Paar shuts up (thankfully!) for an entire song. The Beatles are shown singing live (as opposed to lip-synching) "She Loves You" but it's obviously a very old clip probably from when the song was new four and a half months before. The reason I can tell is the lads are still wearing the silly collarless suits that mercifully were ditched months before coming to this side of the Atlantic.
Anyway, hope this gives you a better idea of the actual telecast.
P.S. If you want to see an even better example of someone who didn't know what he had check out the Stones first U.S. appearance on the Dean Martin Show. Dean gives them an intro like, "I don't know what they are but here's the Rolling Stones." Brian Jones was so miffed you can see him giving old Dino the finger while playing the harmonica. After the Stones finish "I Just Want to Make Love to You" Dean rolls his eyes and mocks them with "Weren't they great?!" The final insult comes an act later where a trained acrobat is doing all these death-defying feats from a platform. When he finishes Dino slurs, "That's the Rolling Stones' Dad...ever since he heard them play he's been trying to kill himself!"
Thanks Craig! Bet you didn't even know you were out on assignment, huh? Well, you did a tip-top job in filling in the blanks regarding details concerning the Beatles quasi-debut with the late Jack Paar. Can't say I totally disagree with you in your assessment of the talk show host's cultural cluelessness, Craig. I'll readily admit, a red flag went up when I heard him say he'd NEVER once featured a rock and roll act on one of his programs in his previous seven years on the air! I just figured this merely pegged him as being guilty of a snobbery typical of the era, as opposed to, say, the more rabid stance held by his video peer, Steve Allen...
While its true that Steverino famously showcased one of Elvis's earliest TV appearances, by making him sing "Hound Dog" dressed in a tuxedo TO an actual hound dog, Allen effectively mocked the entire musical genre. Kind of having his cake (big guest star) and eating it, too (putting down an upstart--and unwelcome--form). He had a rather famous bit wherein he recited the lyrics to Gene Vincent's "Be Bop A Lula" as if they were meant to be serious poetry--a gag he reprised decades later utilizing Donna Summer's "Hot Stuf"--which only made the lyrics sound all the more inane. Don't get me wrong--I've always been a big, big fan of Steve Allen (more so actually than Paar--but then, there were plenty more chances to see Steve over the years...), but even as a naive kid, I could sense his bitter--and obvious--frustration with the new-fangled music that was eclipsing his beloved jazz and tin pan alley tunes, eventually going on to consume nearly the entire musical landscape. Yes, Steve, the words WERE silly, but shame on you--as a musician yourself, you should've realized, in their finished form, those songs made for some dynamite recordings! So come on, pal--don't be such a smock!
My point being, while his bespeckled compatriot seemed to have a true, deep-seated dislike for this wild new rock and roll music, Paar exhibited a more casual Laissez fair attitude. It was almost as if he didn't give it all that much thought, because, hey, as long as he had Judy Garland and Robert Goulet available to book, it just didn't concern him overmuch. Now, as for our pal Dino, well!...
I vividly recall watching the Stones' first American television appearance as it happened, and everything Craig described regarding Dean Martin's abusive introductory style is one hundred per cent true! (Being a tad young at the time, however, I missed the hand gesture from the ever delightful Brian Jones, though it was indeed verified in print much later on...) I need to correct Mr. Smith on ONE point, however: ABC's Saturday Night variety hour, "The Hollywood Palace", was the venue for this clash of the generations. Ol' Dino, y'see, was just one of a number of rotating hosts given the task of presenting the program's guests to the public. You'd've thought his belligerent manner might've scared network bigwigs away, but apparently not--maybe someone high up at NBC hated the Rolling Stones, too, as it wasn't long afterwards that the Peacock network awarded Jerry's ex his very OWN long-running variety hour. One, I should note, I never, EVER watched during its lengthy run, a fact I attribute at least partially due to my extreme distaste for Dino's cavalierly bellicose treatment towards the poor li'l Stones!!...
And then, several years back, almost inexplicably, I suddenly became a huge Dean Martin fan!?! Go figure. That's amore, I guess. But yeah, I still like the Stones too...
AND the Beatles! (Have I mentioned that lately?...)
My daughter, Julie, you might recall, is, on the other hand, strangely obsessed (is there any other way?) with Michael Jackson. We're not football fans around these parts by any means, understand, but she had me tape last night's Super Bowl in the hopes of getting a small peek at Michael's sister, Janet...
And did she EVER!
Forget the CBS Eye--THAT was a CBS Eyeful! And as these contests go, you know what the wags are saying?...
"Breast Super Bowl EVER!"
(...what ARE wags, anyway?...)
February 1st, 2004
|Last night, after we got home from a slightly
belated birthday celebration for yours
over at my mother-in-law's house, I
got around to watching a tape of "Jack
Paar: Serious Laughter", a program
had run only a few hours earlier on
NYC PBS station.
|Though this documentary clearly hadn't been
thrown together hastily in light of
show pioneer's passing last week, the
at the end ("Copyright 2003 Jack
indicated that not only was it produced
recently, it also couldn't help but
its subjects non-subjective viewpoint.
that latter point, one was almost surprised
to find that there was no mention whatsoever
of the infamous water closet incident,
neither Paar's walking off of or his
return to "The Tonight Show"
even hinted at. No doubt, after all
years, Paar had long tired of being
solely identified to later generations
the man who quit his TV gig over a
From all evidence given by the folks interviewed for this affectionate overview of Paar's career, he seemed to be most proud of talking with important newsmakers of the day on a far more relaxed level than they were generally accustomed to, and in introducing exciting new talent to his audience. While it was fun watching Paar explain to the viewers how he'd gotten wife Pat Nixon to set up a recording machine next to hubby Richard's piano so as to tape him playing his sole self -penned composition--emphasizing that NONE of this was done on the sly, mind you!! THAT would be WRONG!!--so that additional orchestration could be scored to accompany the present, future, and always Tricky One as he tickled the ivories for a moderately entertained late night viewership, the lengthy, tedious and stump speech-like JFK clips, on the other hand, seemed added to the mix merely to say, "Hey look! We knew him when!" But then, sitting there on my couch, shortly after midnight (yup, it had just turned February 1st), I FINALLY got to see Jack Paar introduce the Beatles!! Yeah, yeah, yeah, indeed!
He seemed genuinely impressed, noting that he felt this act was going to be the biggest thing to come out of England in 25 years or more, at least. Nice call, Jack. After noting that he'd never actually included a rock and roll act on one of his shows before (!), he screened a short clip of the boys playing to a now-familiar flock of frenzied female fans. During the course of this display, he made several gentle digs at these new teen-age sensations--hair gags, and the like--but nothing particularly mean-spirited. You really couldn't even hear what the Beatles were playing in the background, and then, before you knew it--BOOM!--the sequence was over, short and not nearly sweet enough. I was initially puzzled by this, as what he showed seemed hardly enough to give folks even the slightest hint of the revolutionary new sounds they were producing! But then, watching the credits at the end, I spied the tell-tale listing, "Music Clearances". My educated guess is that the people in charge weren't able to get the rights to the actual music for the piece, but still wanted to show Paar's foresight in being the first to present the biggest act of the sixties on his show (albeit via the videotape route), so they fudged the sound a bit and truncated the film. Like I said, a guess...
And wonder of wonders, after running the tape, Jack tells the audience that Ed Sullivan--who, remember, aired on rival network CBS, NOT Paar's home NBC--was slated to bring the group to America to sing live on his stage later in February!! Yup, he was essentially shilling for a competitor! You don't see THAT much anymore, gang! But aside from that, as we know all too well, Paar certainly had his facts straight, as the lads from Liverpool soon after took the stage on Ed's venerable variety hour February 9th, 1964, nearly forty years ago! Which is why, in a unilateral decision made totally by me, I'd like to dramatically declare February 2004 as Beatles Month here at Hembeck.com! And you KNOW that can't be bad!...
After stumbling across that long-denied clip--or, at least part of it--just as the anniversary month rang in, it seems only appropriate. Only hours earlier, for my birthday (and please note, our visual today is card from a past celebration, one that looks even niftier when it fans out open to spotlight each and every Fab member of the group), Lynn had gotten me this swell 3 CD collection of White Album Outtakes, the latest in a specific ongoing series of extremely professional yet home-made bootlegs that we''ve acquired over the Internet in recent times. More on THOSE sometime later in the month!
John, Paul, George, Ringo, Pete, Stu, Murray, Brian, George the elder, Jane, Patti, Linda, Yoko. Aunt Mimi, Billy, Phil, and even little Jimmy Nichol--they'll ALL be here! Look for Classic Cover Redos spotlighting the foursome, Dateline:@#$% strips concerning their pulp paper appearances, newly written reminiscences by moi, a specially prepared set of links, and as many other surprises as I can come up with! In other words, every little thing...
But don't worry--it won't be ALL Beatles. Uh uh. After all, I wouldn't want to scare the Stones fans away, now would I?...
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