Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Nilsson: The Life of a singer-songwriter: A book review

Like many people, I discovered Harry Nilsson's music later in life than I should have.   I was in my early 30's when I really started to listen to Nilsson and was blown away by his voice and his song writing.   He didn't have a "style."   Some of his songs were funny and others were extremely sad.  Add the Beatles connection into the mix and Harry Nilsson has quickly became one of my top favorite singers of all time.

I was excited to read the book Nilsson:  the Life of a singer-songwriter by Alyn Shipton because side from the Harry Nilsson documentary, I really didn't know much about his life.    First I have to say that Shipton blew me away with the in-depth research he did for this book.   He was able to interview many important people in Harry's life, and those he wasn't able to interview, he dug into archives and found other interviews those people had done.   He was able to use parts of Harry's unpublished autobiography for writing the book as well.   So I have to tip my hat off to Shipton for writing an extremely well documented book about Harry Nilsson.    If anyone ever wanted to learn about Harry's life, this is the book to read.

Being a Beatles fan, the Beatles information was the most interesting to me.   There were many things that I didn't know or I had forgotten.   I never realized that Harry was with Derek Taylor when he lost his way in the fog on his trip to visit George on Blue Jay Way in 1967.   That was the first time Harry met one of the Beatles.     I guess I didn't realize how much Paul and John saying at the 1968 Apple press conference that their favorite group is "Harry Nilsson" really boosted Harry's career and things took off after that.     I liked reading about when Harry went to London shortly after that and met with Paul and spent time with John at Kenwood.  

A big part of the book talked about the "Lost Weekend."    There were some stories that were new to me about Harry and John.   However, I did not like how some people in the book were blaming John for being a bad influence on Harry.    They made it sound like Harry's career went downhill after working with John because he ruined Harry's voice.    However, Harry himself had sad that his voice wasn't the same before the Lost Weekend.     And I think both John and Harry were equally to blame for the mischief that occurred during that time.     Trying to make John Lennon out to be the "bad guy" didn't sit well with me.    However, the book did really show how John got RCA to extend Harry's contract with them and Harry got a lot of money thanks to John.   Harry was forever grateful to John for what he did at RCA for him.

The other Beatle friendship is of course the one he had with Ringo Starr.   I was disappointed that the book didn't say how the two best buddies first met.   When Harry went to London in 1968 and met with Paul, John and George, Ringo was in Spain.    So when did Harry finally get to meet Ringo?  Did they hit it off right away like it was with John?     I didn't realize how often Ringo and Harry worked together musically.   I guess I always just thought of them as best friends and drinking pals, but not much more.    I think this book really showed what a great friendship these two had.   I think that Ringo saw the Beatles as his brothers and Harry as his best friend.   What really touched me is that when Harry had a big financial hardship late in his life, Ringo stepped up and bought the Nilsson family a house and gave them a sum of money to make ends meet.   If that isn't a sign of true friendship, I dont' know what is.

The book was boring at some spots.   It went into detail about each and every producer Harry had on each album.   Every session player.   Details about every song.    Some of the songs I am not familiar with and so I had no reference and I ended up skimming over some of those parts of the book.   And while it is a very minor complaint, the author got the information about Beatlefest and Harry sort of mixed up.   I think he should have interviewed Mark Lapidos or the guys in Liverpool to get more information about Harry's performances at the Fest, as these were the few live performances Harry ever gave.

Overall, I really did like the book and I came away with it realizing that Harry Nilsson was a man with a lot of passion.   He had passion for his song writing and his music, he had passion for the musicals he produced, he had passion for his family, he had passion for making his friends happy and he certainly had passion for ending handgun violence and death.     Harry had his demons and his faults, but in the end, you can see that he was a man with a huge heart along with a great voice.

You can get this book like I did---it is on Amazon!

The big cover up

Frequently girls sneaked out of their houses, skipped school, or said they were going to the library and instead went to see the Beatles wave from their hotel balcony or arrive at the airport.    Many times the girls got caught when a family member or neighbor spotted them on the evening news or in the newspaper.    These fans weren't going to get caught.   They used their Beatles photos to cover their faces whenever the cameras came around.  

The fourth Beatle

I found this photo online on a site about Beatles autographs.    They were trying to decide if the autograph on this photo was real or not.     I could care less about that---this is a great photo!

The literary Beatle

Just a couple of Wings

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

15 years without George

Photo scanned from Sara Schmidt's collection

Sometimes I forget that George Harrison is no longer with us.    Sometimes I am listening to George's music and it just feels like he is still here on earth.   And then I remember---remember that George smoked and it eventually took his life.   I remember that it has been 15 years since we read a funny or insightful thing that George said in an interview.    And yet I want to remind us all that while George Harrison is no longer here on earth, he still lives on through his music.   And he lives on through his son, Dhani, who works so hard to keep his father's memory alive through various projects.  

I encourage you all to take a moment to reflect on George tonight.   And to those of you fans that are smokers, I hope you start to seriously take steps to quit.    We lost George to smoking and we don't need to lose his fans for the same reason.  

On the cover of the Rolling Stone

A Motley Crew

George and fan early days

I couldn't decide which of these photos I wanted to post, so why not share all three?  

One of the best guitar players

Sunday, November 27, 2016

I know the English love me--and I love them.

I found this interview from Disc magazine in the Aug/Sept 1975 issue of The Write Thing.  Unfortunately they had to edit the interview down to fit into the fanzine.  

The following interview is from Disc-  May 31, and June 14, 1975.  These are the highlights.

Disc:  “Walls and Bridges” was considered by  many to be the best album you ever made.  Is it as personal an album as it sounds?

John:  All my stuff’s personal, it always has been to a great extent even since early Beatle days, I mean I think “Help” was personal.  “In my Life” was personal, and “Strawberry Fields” was personal, even though it became the psychedelic anthem, it really was a personal song.  Maybe the lyrics got more refined as I became older and got to the point quicker, but they are all personal.  We’re all sheep, you know, the artists and the critics alike really.  Ever since I went to Janov’s therapy “personal” took a new meaning.  You know, on the so called Janov album I’d written a couple of tracks before I even went to Janov.  They were personal, but they just somehow fitted in to that category.  So I’ve always  been a personal writer, like a reporter.

Disc:  Do you think “Walls and Bridges” is a bitter album?

John:  If it is, it is.  I don’t know.  To me ’74 was hell and I am glad to be alive and out of it.  A lot of my friends thought it was hell too actually, but just personally speaking it was a rough year and there’s no way I can’t let it show in my work – even if I was trying to write a third person “Tommy” or write about somebody else or pretend I’m writing about somebody else, there’s no way it doesn’t show through.  So maybe it was bitter.  Some of it was just vaguely sad.  But there’s not many emotions around.  There is up and down, right?  In between is a bit boring.

Disc:  Are you tempted to do the music of any of your contemporaries?

John:  I’ve often thought of it, like I’d often thought of doing the “Rock n Roll” album.  I’d often thought of doing old Beatle numbers again myself – I’ve thought about it many times in the last five years.  It all depends on how much time there is to do it.  I’d like to do a couple of Dylan’s and I’d like to do “Your Song” of Elton’s.  I love that song, whether I could do it or not is another point.  I’m not going to make a habit of doing other people’s songs!  Somebody reviewed “Rock n Roll” over here I think and said, “He’s doing it just for the money.”  I hope he reads Disc, because I get **** all from the album, I have to slip the producer some money, so I get least of all cash for that album.

Disc:  I know the Beatles’ legal problems have at last been settled.  Would you mind telling what difference that’s made?

John:  No, I don’t mind telling about it.  All that did in actuality was to make us get paid directly.  Because even with the individual albums we were doing the money was still going into a collective pot.  So that meant all the Beatles stuff—which still sells!—and all the new stuff was all going into one pot and then it had to be worked out to come out again.  The main thing of the settlement was to release the monies to ourselves.  It did not break all ties with each other, because it’s a bit more complicated than that.  We’re still pretty well tied up in many ways.

Disc:  Do you miss England?
John:  Yes, I do, but I’m not going to walk away from it (immigration struggle) now!  I’ve spent so much effort on it.  When I get the green card… I keep telling myself, Britain will still be there when it’s over but from time to time I get the idea that maybe it’ll float away!

Disc:  What will you do when and if you get that green card?

John:  I haven’t thought that far ahead.  I’m just getting the card.  If I ever did tour, I’d probably tour the world.  Touring at the moment isn’t my idea of fun but I’m always changing my mind so I can’t tell.   If I did I think I’d do it all over.  I just want to go back to Britain and see it and have a cup of tea, not to perform or anything, just to be there.  When people ask me about it, I tend to remember my childhood in Liverpool rather than the time I spent in London in the ‘60’s.  And because of that I may emotionally miss Liverpool, although it is 99 to 1 if I came to Britain I’d come to London.  I probably wouldn’t have the time to go to Liverpool. 

My idea of fun is to travel from London to New York, to Paris.  I may even go to Germany, I don’t know why but I just fancy going there.  I wanna go and see the places I didn’t see, like Munich and Berlin.  Even when we toured Europe, I didn’t see them.

Disc:  I’ve been told you have a beautiful apartment here.

John:  I guess it’s pretty good, yeah.  It’s in a building called the Dakota, and it’s really very European, in other words it’s very very old building.  It’s on the park and most of the rooms face the park.  So it’s good and it’s large enough to get a little lost in i.  If the “garden” which is Central Park, belongs to New York and there’s a doorman at the door to keep Jesus from Toronto coming in and asking me for the message and the answer, that suits me fine.  I get a lot of weirdos here.  I don’t know why, because most of my lyrics and sons are pretty straightforward.  They were more sort of mystic in the ‘60’s. But still somehow that word Beatle manifests some sort of mysticism in people’s head and I’m thinking ‘why are they calling?  What are they bothering me for?”  I just say I feel crap or I feel great in my songs, there’s no mysticism in it.

Disc:  Not so much was heard in England about the Janov thing.  Could you tell us a little about it?

John:  The Janov thing was just a new form of therapy.  I’m very English in that respect – think psychiatrists need to see psychiatrists.  They’re a lot of baloney psychiatrists, and I was never interested unil I read his original book ‘the Primal Scream” and my instincts told me there was something about it, that there is some kind of primal scream in all of us.  That’s how I got interested.
In a nutshell the only thing I can tell you that I learned was to cry.  That’s something you lose the art of because of the way one is brought up.  A lot of women already do that but men don’t have it:  they’re told not to.  It was good for me.  It didn’t help me not to.  It didn’t help me behave myself in ’74, but  I think if I hadn’t been there I might have even been in worse condition.  It took me a  little time to recover from the Janov experience which left me bitterer than when I went in, and that did shake me up for a couple of years.  In fact, I probably only just recovered from it this year.  It was a bit of a mind blower and it left me—well, I suppose faithless is the best way to put it.  I do have faith now, and have still gained something from the experience of going there.

John was then asked about Julian

John:  Well ,he was here—because I can’t leave the country, he has to come here and see me—and I was working, and I was worried that he might be a bit bored.  But he loved the studio, and he was always playing and banging round.  So I recorded him, or the engineer did, when he was banging on the drums and I was playing piano.  I thought he’d be thrilled by it, I kept saying “there’s a surprise on ‘Walls and Bridges’ when it comes out.”  And he called me:  he said, ‘Was that it?’ and I said, ‘Yeah, didn’t you like it?’  He said, “Is that on every record?”  Also I said “Yeah” thinking he’s love it and he said, “that’s terrible, we should have done it again!”  He takes it so seriously and it was only an ad-lib

He’s into guitar and piano and playing in this group.  He knew all the chords and all that.  I spent hours with him trying to work out the lick from “My Sweet Lord” and I couldn’t play the damn thing because I didn’t have anything to do with it.  It was George.  We had a terrible three hours with Julian furious at me because I didn’t know how to play it.

Disc:  About the other Beatles, have you seen or heard from the others recently?

John:  I spoke to Ringo on the phone before he left for England (in May), and then I spoke to him there.  The last one I saw was Paul on his way down to New Orleans.  Like I said before, I was supposed to go down to New Orleans to mess around with him, but I got back to Yoko instead and I was too busy going home to go to New Orleans.

The others are alright by me.  There’s nothing in the wind about working together but I’m game for anything, it’s just that I can’t get it together.  Yoko and I are together and we’re happier than ever before.  We were so wrapped up in each other that I just never made it to New Orleans.  Sorry Paul.

Those eyes---that jacket---

A sunny day is Austria

Look at the crowd behind them---reminds of the windows of those morning television shows.

That one big bass

Remembering Al Brodax

Cartoon Beatles expert and one of the co-hosts of the "Fab 4 Free for All" podcast Mitch Axelrod has informed everyone that Al Brodax passed away on Thanksgiving day.

Al is an important figure within the Beatles story because if it wasn't for him, we would not have the Yellow Submarine as we know it.   There wouldn't be Yellow Submarine lunchboxes, Lego Sets, figurines, shower curtains, etc etc etc.

Al Brodax worked for King Features on such cartoons as Popeye, Casper and Krazy Kat.   He got an idea about doing a Beatles cartoon by chance after bumping into a guy that had drawn some Beatles cartoon sketches in his office building.    From there Al was able to get a hold of Brian Epstein and to make a very long story short, the Beatles cartoon was produced for ABC starting in 1965.   Many people (including the Beatles) hated the cartoon, but it was very cute and exposed a whole new group of people to the music of the Beatles.

The Beatles' cartoon was a hit and Brian Epstein had told Brodax that if the cartoon took off, he would consider him for a full length Beatles animated movie.    Brodax had an idea of love vs. bad film and wanted to call it "All you need is Love."    But Ringo came along and said that he thought "Yellow Submarine" was a  better choice because there was a lot of things you could put into a submarine.     And so Yellow Submarine it was and while the Beatles trotted off to India, Brodax and his team worked on the animated film full time.

Here at Meet the Beatles..for Real, I sent my condolences to Al Brodax's family and friends.   Al will always be remembered for what he did for the Beatles in animation.  

Paul talks to Al Brodax

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

Taking time off this evening to do the Thanksgiving thing.   Have a great weekend Beatle fans!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Beatles Eight Days a Week Blu-Ray disc 2 review

The Beatles' film of 2016, Eight Days a Week:  The Touring Years is now out on DVD and Blu-Ray with a special edition that includes a second disc with over 100 minutes of bonus footage.   I watched the bonus disc this afternoon and I am going to review each section and let you know what I thought of them because some parts were much better than others.

Words & Music:    This was all about the Beatles' writing and recording of songs until Revolver (1966).   It was good because of the new interviews with Paul and Ringo.   Paul talked about how he didn't want to play the bass at first, but John wasn't going to do it because he was a powehouse rhythm guitar player.  But then Paul heard some American bass players and realized that the bass wasn't so bad.   Ringo talked about how he never wanted to do fancy drum fills because of the focus on the singer and how he worked with the singer to make the song better.    Nice interviews---nothing new.   They also interviewed Peter Asher that talks about Lennon-McCartney writing songs for him and Gordon.    And then there was long interviews with some guy named Howard Goodall.   From what I understand, he is some BBC guy, but I have never heard of him and his parts were boring and rambling.   This part of the disc would have been so much better without that guy.

Early clues to a new direction:    Hands down the worst part of the disc.   It was to talk about the Beatles' roots in Liverpool and how from their beginning grew to the mania where young girls and even boys loved them because not only their music but their humor.     Nice idea, but the interview people I never heard of!   Various historians and authors that I have no clue who they are.  Did these people write books about the Beatles?  I don't think so.   There are so many great Beatles historians out there that should have been interviewed instead.    And how come they didn't talk to any female authors or historians.   It would have been nice to hear a female voice when you are talking about the effect of the Beatles on girls.   Sure they talked to Sougorny Weaver and Whoopi, but those girls only know of their personal experiences.   There are female Beatles historians.    The worst quote was "the girls were not only screaming for the Beatles, but also for themselves."  

The Beatles Live:  This is one of the best parts.   Apple could put out a DVD of all live Beatles performances and that would be awesome.  There are five songs included from 1963-1965.   There's a good mixture of Paul and John songs (no George or Ringo).   I really liked the Manchester 1963 performances.   It is really awesome to see the boys from 1963 in glorious true color.   My only complaint was the the 1965 Blackpool performance of Help! (which was in fake color, but I can overlook that) wasn't the performance version.   We all have the Anthology and know that John messes up the words.   It is part of the charm of that performance.  Why use a different track?

A Deeper Dive:
Liverpool:  Now THIS is how these interviews should be!   They went down into the Cavern Club and interviewed amazing people from the Cavern days from Liverpool.   Freda Kelly, Allan Williams (which they used captions for, which I didn't think was needed),  Bill Harry, etc etc.  

Three Beatles' Fans:  Another great segment.   They talked to three ladies that saw the Beatles during their first U.S. visit in 1964.    Two of them were seen screaming on the Ed Sullivan Show and the other saw them in Washington D.C. and met them afterwards.   I loved this part!   (And the DC girl has a photo that I had never seen before---bonus!)

Ronnie Spector:  I am not really sure why she was included.   She said that she took the Beatles to Harlem when they were in New York in Feb. 1964.    Never heard that before.   When did that happen?   Did that happen?

Shooting a Hard Day's Night:  This should have been part of the Hard Day's Night re-release and not included here.   Nice interview with people involved in the film.    Just seemed out of place.

The Beatles in Australia:   Again--nothing new here.

Recollections of Shea Stadium:  This was fun.   It was Tony Bennett's son talking about going to see the Beatles in 1965 at Shea Stadium.   He had a good story of getting kicked out of the Beatles locker room.   Showed a snippet of silent footage he took of the concert.     Only thing that bothered me was that he kept saying that the Beatles had just released "A Hard Day's Night" and that they came out in their "Hard Day's Night" suits.

The Beatles in Japan:  This was included in the film when it was shown in Japan.   It should have just been included in the film in general.   They interviewed the photographer that was with the guys in Japan and showed various common footage.    It was nice to have the Japan shows represented.  I would have been better to hear from one of the fans and see how she got into the Beatles and what she remembers of the concert.

An Alternate opening:    Glad they didn't use it.

Overall I would say that the extra disc is alright.    I think I like the film better.   There were some nice moments, but I am not sure if it was worth spending the extra money on it.

I hope no one is tired of these....

I think the last time I posted photos of John from "How I won the War", I said it would be the last batch.   And then what happened?   I found more on my computer that I hadn't shared.   And since I love John's look so much from this time (didn't really care of the film, but liked the look!), I decided to just go through the files and pull out the ones that haven't been shared and call it a day.    So these will be the last ones for at least a while.


 November 22, 1966:  50 years ago, Paul was sporting this look.

Liverpool 1979

November 23, 1979:   Paul McCartney and Wings are in Liverpool for interviews and photo shoot before their concert.   Many fans were on hand to get autographs and snapshots.  

Another day of filming