Thursday, September 29, 2022

Lennon, the Mobster and the lawyer - a book review

 





January 22, 1976 - having lunch at Sloppy Louie's seafood restaurant with Howard Roy, Harold Seider, Yoko, and Jay Bergen (author of this book). Photo By Bob Gruen.



 
It is Wednesday Review!  And tonight's review is a book I bought directly from one of John Lennon's lawyers, Jay Bergen, at the Fest for Beatle Fans this past August.   ,

I am always on the lookout for what I deem the "best Beatles book of the year," and Lennon, The Mobster and the Lawyer might be that book.   It tells the story behind John's lawsuit in 1976 with Morris Levy over Levy's "Roots" albums vs. John's Rock n Roll album. 


If you are a John Lennon fan, then I am sure you are familiar with the story.  John had recorded what was to be his "Rock n Roll" album in part because he owed Morris Levy three songs from the catalog of music he owned as an agreement made due to John's song "Come Together" sounding too similar to "You Can't Catch Me."    This wasn't a punishment for John because he loved to sing 1950s rock n roll and wanted to make an oldies album.  

He started making the album in L.A. with Phil Spector, and then Phil ran off with the tapes, and John didn't know where they were.  So he recorded and put out the "Walls and Bridges" album, and the "Rock n Roll" tapes returned to him.   John listened to them and realized that some of the tracks were bad.   Lots of drunk/high musicians all performing in different keys.   Some of the tracks were alright and just needed the typical cleaning up, but others needed to be re-recorded or removed altogether.  Morris Levy was pestering John about wanting to hear the tapes he had made with Spector.  He would not drop it, and John being who he was, finally gave in and handed the tapes over to Levy.   These were not rough tapes and were not meant for public listening.   Well, Levy took those and made his own John Lennon album, Roots, and sold it on TV through one of those cheesy commercials (Hear John Lennon sing all of the old rock n roll hits including  Peggy Sue, Angel Baby....but wait, there, is more!  Hear, him sing You Can't Catch Me and many more if you just call now!)   He slapped a terrible photo of John from the 1968 Rock n Roll Circus on the cover, and as you can guess, John fans were calling the number and ordering the album.  I mean -- wouldn't you?   If a brand new John Lennon album came out and the only way you could get it was through the telephone, I am sure you would have ordered it too.  I don't think at that time I would have really thought about what record company was putting it out.  I just would want to hear the music. 




There was a lot of confusion with the fans, and John had to rush and get the REAL Rock n Roll album released.   Obviously, what Levy did was completely illegal.  You can't just take tapes that someone gives you and make an album from that and sell them on TV without the record company and the artist's permission.   John didn't work like that.  He was into putting together the whole album package, and the Roots album was an embarrassment to him. 

That is where this book picks up.   The legal case against Morris Levy and told by his lawyer in the case, Jay Bergen.    And while I have always known the outcome of the case (spoiler alert -  John totally wins!), I did not know the ins and out because Bergan had never really told the story before. 

The book is SO much more than just the story of this case.   Bergan uses the actual court transcripts to tell the story, and you get to read John's exact words where he tells the judge precisely how he makes an album.   I don't know any other place where you get to learn from John the process he used to produce albums and how much he put into each project.   He also explains why he chose each song on the Rock n Roll album.   They weren't just random 1950's rock n roll numbers that he liked, but he put some profound thought into recording the songs on that album and told the judge his reasoning.   His reason for including Bony Maronie put a lump in my throat.   Rock n Roll has always been one of my favorite John albums, so this really was cool.   He also talks about his ideas for promoting the album, including what would have been a fun commercial that included Ringo and Harry.  He couldn't make the commercial or do most of the promoting that he wanted to do because of Roots and having to rush to get the real album produced.  

The chapters of the book are short, and the story moves quickly.   It isn't bogged down with legal jargon and is a fun book to read.  

I only had a couple of issues with the book, and neither one was a huge deal.  The first was when Bergan tells the story without quoting from the transcript, such as when he is meeting with John in the Dakota or having lunch with John and Yoko at Sloppy Louie's, he quotes what John and others said.  Does he really remember the exact words of the conversations they were having 40-something years ago?   I wasn't sure if he had kept a journal and written down exactly what John said or if he was going by memory, recalling the conversation, and guessing the exact wording.   Again --  not a huge deal, but something that stood out. 

Julian, Morris, and Adam outside of the Emporium on Main Street U.S.A. at Walt Disney World 1974


The other thing is something that Bergen might not have quite known the answer to himself.   If John disliked Morris Levy so much, why did he, May, Julian, Morris, and Morris's son, Adam, all go to Disney World together at the end of 1974?   Was it just because they both had sons the same age?   The book explained that John refused to talk "business" with Levy during the trip, but I still don't understand why John would want to go on a trip with him in the first place.   Really all I can think is that he must have wanted Julian to have someone his own age to hang around while in Florida.  Because of that trip, I was under the impression that they were all really good friends until Morris did the Roots thing, and the,n friendship ended, but they were never friends.   I just find it confusing. 

I highly recommend this book to anyone who considers themselves a fan of John Lennon and his music.  You don't just learn about an interesting court case where John was the star witness.  You also get to learn about how John made his albums, his thought process, and what a great guy he was.  You don't want to miss out on this great book!



Amazon  

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

48 Hours



 

Do you remember the Paul McCartney special on the CBS television show 48 Hours?   I sure do!  It aired in 1990,  and I thought it was amazing.   I never thought I would ever get to see him in concert, so watching this special program was just fascinating to me.  I  thought the fan they highlighted was particularly interesting, and I wanted to be friends with her.    I located her story and how she got to meet Paul in person after the program aired.   


A long, winding road for McCartney Fan

On the Go with 48 Hours and Paul McCartney

By Joy Waugh – O’Donnell

Good Day Sunshine   #56

Summer 1990

 

After receiving a call from my friend Jay Geoppner, I really thought it would be a lot of fun to get a call from 48 Hours about a special they were planning to shoot about Paul’s upcoming tour.  Last August, my only concern then was to get tickets for all three concerts!  I received a call from an Associate Producer who asked me a lot of questions about Paul and The Beatles.  The next step was a few more interviews with her, a visit to our home, and a couple of additional interviews by the Producer, Rann Morrison.  After all this, I knew they were speaking to a lot of area fans, but I Was very flattered that they took the time to see me.

Then the fun began.  48 Hours called me on November 30 to ask me about my schedule for the weekend.  Well, I had a pretty full weekend coming up:  a trip to the hairdresser, some shopping before the concert, friends coming from three states to attend the concert, and 3 full days of Paul watching.  Sounds like a pretty full schedule, right?  Well, 48 Hours thought so too…

“That sounds just great, Joy.  We’ll start shooting on Saturday.  We’ll meet you at 2:15 on Saturday,” said Rann.  I spent the next two days very excited.  Imagine me on national television!  I thought it was all too good to be true!

Saturday, December 2, 2:15 pm:  Bob dropped me off at the mall, I got out of the car, and the cameras were rolling!  Can you imagine what it was like, walking through a major shopping mall 3 weeks before Christmas with a camera crew following you?  When people came up to me and asked who I was, I usually told them it was for a Paul McCartney special for television.  The first day was spent shopping, getting my hair cut, and in the evening, “casing” the hotel.  I saw Paul there in 1984 when he was in town for his Broad Street promotional Tour.  (Boy, it sure was easy back then.  I saw him all day!)

Sunday was the really big day.  Friends from all over came by to go to the opening night concert.  48 Hours were there, and they brought Victoria Corderi, their correspondent, to ask questions and take in all the madness.  I guess the funniest part of the afternoon was driving to the Rosemont Horizon with a cameraman holding on to the hood of my car.  There were a lot of puzzled motorists on the road that day!  As most of you know, the concert was absolutely fantastic!  Yes, even the cameras were rolling throughout the show, and as far as that goes, every night.

The next two days were spent on North Michigan Avenue in Chicago by day, the concerts at night.  48 Hours did a great job of capturing the important events of the day.  They caught the disappointments, the excitement, and the pure happiness of knowing that I was going to see Paul again, even if it wasn’t a face-to-face encounter.  One thing I think is very important about the 48 Hours filming.  Everything was spontaneous.  There was nothing planned or staged.  It probably was quite obvious, as I was standing on the corner by Paul’s hotel, crying because I knew my last chance for a wave or autograph was over.  It was a very personal moment for me, but looking back, I am glad I shared it with all the fans.  Before I knew I was chosen for 48 Hours, I told the producer, “I’m flattered to be considered, but take a bit of advice from someone who has ‘paid their dues.’  Make sure and pick someone who cares because WE can see right through that.  So, it came to the end of shooting on Tuesday night.  I tearfully said goodbye to Rann and the great camera crew.  The next day was a work day and back to reality.

 

January 25, 1990 - My husband Bob and I were told by 48 Hours that we may only be on for 1-2 minutes.  We watched the show that night alone, and kept seeing us over and over again!  What a surprise!  It’s really funny, as we actually stopped eating in restaurants for about 2 months.

Thursday, February 1st - Since I work for an advertising agency, Thursdays are always the busiest day of the week for me.  I got a call from a gentleman who said he was Paul’s publicist Paul wants to meet who?  Me!  He had seen 48 Hours and thought that I had gone to a lot of trouble.  What?  I’d been doing this for years, not just in Chicago but in London too.

On Friday, February 10, Bob and I flew to Worchester, Mass, to meet Paul.  Everything was at his expense, the airfare (first class, of course), the beautiful room at the Marriott hotel, and a limousine to the concert.   We were met at the airport by Paul’s publicist, Geoff, and a tour photographer, Phil.  There were so many people at the airport.  I told Bob, “Paul must be here!”  Then, when we walked through security, all these flashbulbs started going off.  The people were there to see us.

Our limo took us to our hotel, and after a quick hello to some Paul fans, we went up to our room.  We had a whole half hour to prepare for an interview at 4 pm with CBS Chicago.  Yeah, I was getting used to it.  At 5:00, we were driven to the Centrum just in time for the sound check.  It was really strange walking into an empty arena.  Then, there was Hamish, Robbie, Wix, and Chris Whitten all saying hello.  Stagehands and roadies we saw on 48 Hours were waving and saying hello.  As I was talking to the people for CBS, Bob says, “There he is!”  Paul jumped on stage, Linda took her place at the keyboards, and they were waving at us!

You know, the ride to the Centrum was really a wild one.  For years it was me on the other side of that limo.  I can’t even tell you what it was like to see the sea of faces and hands reaching out to the car.  Just to be polite, and of course, to keep the fans informed, I put the window down to assure them that Paul was definitely not inside our limo, just me and my husband Bob.

When I proceeded to lower the window, there was a great rush of Paul fans, and I yelled, “He’s not in here!  Honest!”  Seeing I was the “48 Hours fan,” they reached in the car and kept screaming, “Where’s Paul??”  I just replied, “I don’t know!  Honest!”

Well, back to the real good stuff – the soundcheck!  Can you imagine how it feels to sit in a large arena, just you, the maintenance and stage crews, and Paul’s band warming up?  Paul was great up there, even with no audience (well, except me).  He joked and smiled all the time while the band performed “Matchbox” and “C Moon.”  After each number, we clapped and showed our utmost appreciation.  The big moment then arrived!  He put his guitar down, came down the few steps from the stage, and there we were, face to face.  After saying, “I heard you were the star of the show!”  I just stared at him.  He said, “How ya doing?  I’ve heard a lot about you.”  I figured I may as well tell him the same thing since it was true.  After a kiss and a hug, I introduced Bob to him, and told him I felt that we were long departed family, and asked him, “Where have you been all these years?”  We gave him some gifts backstage and then we saw Linda.  She was very nice to me and gave Bob a kiss. Paul then told the television cameras that were following us that we were going to have some private moments, which we did.  It was really great meeting the family and being photographed with Paul.  After some conversation and an autograph session with him and Linda, Paul had a couple of interviews to do.  He gave me and Bob some treasured gifts, and we then went around to meet the rest of the band.  His publicist, Geoff was the greatest, he always made us feel at home and comfy.  Paul then gave us our tickets to the show.  Since we had VIP passes, we actually watched part of the concert behind the stage, which was a thrill beyond belief. 

What a thrill, what an honor.  Believe me, I’ve had a lot of f people tell me that they have been living their dreams through seeing this all happen to me.  I consider myself to be one of the luckiest fans in the world.  But each and every one of you were with me that day. 

Lots of love for the Beatles


 

One person realizes a photo is being taken


 

George on the steps




 

I find these photos of George sitting on the steps with this young boy to be so sweet.  I wonder what they were talking about.