Friday, January 24, 2014

The Beatles Are Coming!

Actually, The Beatles Blitz is already here ... virtually everywhere you turn lately ... and there's a whole lot more coming as we countdown to the major anniversary of The Beatles' first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.  SO cool to hear that Paul and Ringo will be performing together for this very Special 50th Anniversary Event.  Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison will also be on hand to help celebrate ... although neither one of them had even met their husbands John and George yet at this point in time.

Which begs the question:  How might The Fab Four be celebrating this year, were they all still with us?  Of course, one can only speculate ... but as you look back over the events since the passing of John Lennon 34 years ago (incredible to think that he has now been gone nearly as long as he was with us!), you cannot help but wonder.

Of course several of the REAL Beatles anniversaries already passed last year ... but there was something about conquering America that still reigns supreme.

SO much has happened in the last 20 years alone.  The "Threetles" reunited to get "The Beatles Anthology" out ... I have to believe that John would have contributed heartily to that event had he been here to do so.  (Then again I suppose any one of them could have procrastinated, refusing to live in the past, but one would hope for such a momentous event, they would have reunited in spirit if nothing else.)  The documentary had been planned for ages, originally to be called "The Long And Winding Road" after the band's final #1 hit.

George Harrison campaigned for the Cirque de Solei "Love" tribute that is still playing at The Mirage Theatre in Las Vegas, a culmination of Beatles music set to visual delight.  (Paul, on the other hand, was the driving force behind "Let It Be ... Naked", a stripped-down version of The Fab Four's final album the way he felt the band had always envisioned it, pre-Phil Spector tampering with the tapes.)

The continual revamping and improving of their recorded catalog most certainly would have happened with or without them, simply from a technological standpoint.  

Might they have gotten together sooner?  Perhaps the emotion of any one of the events would have been enough to spark something, especially working on "Anthology".  Under the circumstances, Paul, George and Ringo added their contributions to a couple of rough Lennon demo tracks ... certainly the possibility exists that NEW music might have ensued if all four guys got wrapped up in the emotion of what they were working on.

The only thing that's certain is the uncertainty ... we'll never know.

SO much is planned ... yet I cannot help but feel that more can be done.  "The Night That Changed America" will tape the day after The Grammy Awards Ceremony (which will also feature Paul, Ringo, Yoko and Olivia) ... and then air on the actual 50th Anniversary of that first Sullivan appearance on February 9th.  Although I'm sure some vintage clips will be worked into the program, it seems like a television special devoted to the entire Sullivan catalog would also be in order.

And shouldn't SOMEBODY be airing "Anthology" now, too?  Whether it be the abbreviated ABC Mini-Series Television Special or the full-length ten hour commercial release it seems like SOMEBODY (ABC?  VH1?  Palladia?  PBS?) should have jumped on this.  Plus it would probably help spark new sales for this collection, much as the release of their American Albums Catalog did this week.

What about a movie marathon?  "A Hard Day's Night", "Help!", "Magical Mystery Tour", "Yellow Submarine" ... a weekend event in the making.

Which begs, of course, the OBVIOUS question ... WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON WITH "LET IT BE"?!?!?!

For over 25 years now we've been promised that this film would FINALLY be released ... but it has yet to see the light of day.  (I am one of the fortunate few who owns a copy on VHS.  In fact, back in the late '70's, when "Let It Be" was released on both VHS Tape and Laser Disk, I bought a copy ... for something like $89!!! ... and I didn't even own a VHS player yet!!!  I just knew that this was something I needed to own and, thankfully, I've held on to it all these years.)  It just seems that a legitimate, cleaned up DVD / BluRay edition is LONG overdue.  No, it's not their finest moment ... and maybe they feel in retrospect it portrays the break-up of the band ... but it is a KEY event in the story, featuring some great, timeless music, as well as their final live roof-top performance.  It deserves to be seen ... and owned!

Fans continue to write in about the momentous event ... here are just a few of your letters from last week:

>>>The Beatles’ first American television appearance 50 years ago next month — said to be the most significant moment in pop music history — also marked a turning point for Top 40 radio.  Nowhere was the British invasion welcomed more warmly than at WLS AM 890, where the Fab Four dominated the Silver Dollar Survey on Chicago’s 50,000-watt giant for rest of the decade.

>>>By mid-December, British copies of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” started getting airplay in key markets , such as Washington and Los Angeles. Capitol moved up its release date to December 26.  “She Loves You” and all the other early singles were re-released to millions of eager fans ready to spend their Christmas gift money. In the week following Christmas, they had five hits on the charts and by the end of January, had sold 2.6 million singles. By the time The Beatles appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show” on February 9, 1964, they were already cemented as the biggest viral sensation in music history.

Hi Kent,
Coincidentally, Forgotten Hits is featuring 'The British Invasion' which I took part in.
The National Guitar Museum has awarded me 'The Lifetime Achievement Award' for my part in the history of the guitar.  I've copied the details below.  Your details of the TV Show at the end of the month mention many of the records I was on, so it's very relevant.
Such recognition by the Museum is a first for British session musicians, as was my having an evening at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame a couple of years ago where I talked about the impact of British music on the American scene, just as the USA music had on the UK music scene.  Wonderful how the interchange jumped the 3000 miles of 'the big pond.'
Keep up the good work, Kent and I hope we can meet up one day.
Very best wishes,

The National GUITAR Museum Announces Presentation of “Lifetime Achievement” Award to Vic Flick . . . The Man Behind The World’s Most Famous Guitar Riff.
NEW YORK, December 24, 2013: The National GUITAR Museum announced that Vic Flick, the guitarist who played on hundreds of London sessions — and is best know for playing the guitar on the James Bond theme – will receive its “Lifetime Achievement” Award for 2013. Flick is the fourth recipient of the award, following David “Honeyboy” Edwards in 2010, Roger McGuinn of The Byrds in 2011, and the legendary B.B. King in 2012.
Flick’s work spans four decades of popular music, from movie soundtracks to jazz to rock and roll. “It is arguable that Vic created and played the one guitar riff that has been heard by more people than any other in history,” says HP Newquist, the executive director of The National GUITAR Museum. “In 1962, Vic played guitar on the soundtrack to "Dr. No" – in the process creating the James Bond theme song. His sinister opening riff has been featured in dozens of Bond movies ever since, and the popularity of the Bond franchise means that hundreds of millions, if not billions, of people all over the world have heard Vic's playing. We’re honored to be able to recognize his contribution to the guitar with this award.”
Flick was so well respected in the London session scene that he was recruited to play guitar on the soundtrack to The Beatles' film "Hard Day's Night." He was asked to help promote the Fender Stratocaster when it was introduced in the UK, and over the course of his career he performed on albums by artists as diverse as Tom Jones, Nancy Sinatra, Herman's Hermits, and Henry Mancini . . . not to mention many more soundtracks. His stellar work was recognized in 2012 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Still making the occasional public appearance, Flick published his autobiography, appropriately titled "Vic Flick, Guitarman," in 2008. More on Vic's career and accomplishments can be found at
About The National GUITAR Museum
The National GUITAR Museum is the first museum in the United States dedicated to the history, evolution, and cultural impact of the guitar. Its touring exhibition, “GUITAR: The Instrument That Rocked The World” debuted in 2011 and is currently on display at the Fleet Center in Balboa Park in San Diego, CA. The Touring Exhibition consists of more than 70 guitars, along with engaging, entertaining, and educational displays that include historical artifacts, video screens, and computer interactives designed to appeal to visitors of all ages. In the next few years, the exhibit will become the basis of The National Guitar Museum and its permanent home.
The Museum’s Board of Advisors includes guitar greats Tony Iommi, Steve Vai, Ritchie Blackmore, Johnny Winter, Steve Howe, Liona Boyd, and Pat Kirtley.
Congratulations, Vic, on the well-deserved (and long-overdue) accolades ... you were certainly in the thick of it and it's great to see you finally getting some of the recognition you have long deserved.
Again, please feel free to comment throughout our salute to The British Invasion ... we'll be rekindling memories all year long in Forgotten Hits!  (kk)

As Forgotten Hits is looking back -- as we all are -- at the Beatles' arrival in America 50 years ago, I think it's interesting to see what the mainstream media, and others, considered their most important trait:  not their music, but their hair.
The Hartford (Conn.) Courant, where I was a writer and editor from 1968 to 1995, certainly exemplified this in news stories, letters, and editorials from early 1964.
From an Associated Press story of February 8:  "Britain's way out Beatles, equipped with rag mop hairdos and guitars, invaded the colonies Friday. ... The Beatles collectively are sort of a sheep-dog version of Elvis Presley."
Letter-writers to the newspaper complained about "your front page picture of Ed Sullivan and his gallery of four other freaks ... to inspire thousands pickle-headed female morons to slobber over these refugees from barber shops and normal habitats."
The Courant itself opined:  "They apparently are likeable, harmless young men with ordinary singing voices, who use the gimmick of haystack hairdos to attract attention. ... the bushy-haired boys whose sex is not immediately apparent."
The idea that long hair equaled femininity was mirrored in the 1965 song by the Barbarians (#55 on the Billboard Hot 100) which argued, "With your long blond hair / You look like a girl ... You're either a girl / Or you come from Liverpool." (By 1967, the Barbarians refused to play this song in concert. I am attaching a photo I took in spring 1967 of Victor "Moulty" Moulton of the group; note the long hair).
It was quite a while before America settled down to recognize that the most important thing about the Beatles was not the length of their hair.
Henry McNulty
Cheshire, Connecticut
Without question, The Beatles' hair received every bit as much coverage as their music in the early days ... it was the butt of virtually EVERY comedian's joke ... and the focal point in every major newspaper and magazine. It was just something we had never seen before ... The Beatles had NO idea how great an impact this would have on world fashion the first time they combed it down in Moe Howard fashion!  (lol)  In hindsight this probably wasn't even a preconceived marketing ploy ... but boy, it sure worked!   (Kids were even buying Beatles wigs!!!  Check out this picture of FH Reader Mike Mertes, wearing his and strumming his brand new axe!  lol)
Even the radio guys got in on the act.  Most famously, here in Chicago, the WLS Jocks were all pictured on the Silver Dollar Survey with their Beatle hair-cuts ... hysterical because back then a couple of these guys were already losing their hair!

But, as I'm putting together our new Saturday Surveys feature, I found that our station wasn't the only one!  Here's the K-Men in THEIR Beatle gear, too!

I've told this story several times over the years ... by the timing is probably most appropriate now. 
Unlike apparently MANY teen (and pre-teens) in January of 1964, I had absolutely NO clue who The Beatles were until they appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9th.  (I was only ten years old at the time and hadn't even really discovered listening to the radio yet ... although this, too would change, six months down the line.) 
Anyway, Sunday Night we all sat down to watch The Ed Sullivan Show together as a family (like families all over America did) ... and we couldn't stop laughing at the way the girls in the audience screamed while The Beatles sang.  I didn't really know any of their songs yet ... but thought they were pretty good. 
The one who first caught my eye was George Harrison ... several times during their performance, our family discussed how much George looked like my Dad's Army Buddy Bud Baer ... except for the long hair and all.  In fact, when The Beatles appeared again the following week ... and then again the week after that, we all kept laughing and teasing my dad about his buddy Bud Baer being on TV.  (We had been on camping trips together so we knew Bud pretty well.  When he stopped by to visit he couldn't believe that we had been making fun of him for looking like one of those long-haired weirdos on tv!!!) 
The Beatles made such an impression on me that I didn't even remember their name the next day ... but boy, EVERY girl in school sure did ... that's ALL they were talking about.  Even in fifth grade, the girls were going ga-ga for The Beatles! 
The Monday night after their first Sullivan appearance my dad took all three of us boys for haircuts.  (Yes, barber shops were open on Mondays back in 1964!)  The barber ... who had been giving the Kotal boys crew-cuts for YEARS, kept kidding around about giving us Beatle hair-cuts ... (I was game!) ... again, everywhere you turned that Monday, The Fab Four were the central topic of discussion.  I even clearly remember him telling my dad how if these haircuts ever caught on, he'd soon be out of business! 
Virtually ALL of the newspapers and magazines focused on their hair rather than their music ... it was unlike anything we had ever seen before ... and within the next couple of weeks boys who had enough to do so were soon combing their hair forward into what WE called the "Moe Howard look", rather than The Beatles Cut. 
Before their third appearance I was hooked ... I had already bought "I Want To Hold Your Hand" / "I Saw Her Standing There" and "She Loves You" / "I'll Get You" ... and played them constantly.  When my mom took me shopping to buy their first album I remember being really confused ... "Meet The Beatles" and "Introducing The Beatles" were displayed side by side in the album racks, prominently displayed where you couldn't miss them in the store.  When I asked about them, the store clerk told me that "Meet The Beatles" was the one I wanted ... "that other one has a bunch of old stuff on it that was recorded before they were famous."  (Yeah, right!)  Little did anyone know that soon those "Introducing The Beatles" tracks like "Please Please Me", "Love Me Do", "P.S. I Love You", "Do You Want To Know A Secret" and "Twist And Shout" would soon be racing up the charts right along side their "new stuff" on the "Meet The Beatles" LP. 
It seemed like only a matter of weeks before EVERY record on display had some sort of Beatles take-off displayed on its cover ... "The Beatle Buddies" were a bunch of girls dressed in turtlenecks and posed just like The Fabs on their "Meet The Beatles" album cover, with half their faces covered in a shadow.  Beatle rip-off albums were everywhere, too ... "Jolly What!  The Beatles and Frank Ifield On Stage" (implying a LIVE album when, in fact, you just got three or four recycled tracks from the "Introducing The Beatles" album ... an album that was recycled itself in several different configurations including one packaged with a Four Seasons Greatest Hits album, Vee Jay Records' other big predominant recording act.  (I finally gave in when the "Songs, Pictures And Stories" LP was released with the gatefold cover.  Even though it was the exact same track line-up I had ignored up till then, I just HAD to have this album.) 
I remember walking home from school with three girls from my class (Cindy, Sue and Beth ... wow, we were ten years old and I STILL remember this) because they knew the words to EVERY Beatles song by heart and would sing the entire "Meet The Beatles" album to me on the way home from school.  (Clearly, I just couldn't get enough ... I needed to hear this music during every free, available moment!) 
As the year wore on, so did my Beatles record collection ... 45's mostly, especially if they had picture sleeves, which nearly ALL of The Beatles' singles did.  I remember having GREAT debates about which side of the record was the better song ... because nearly every single Beatles record was also a two-sided hit ... and my allegiance changed regularly between the A-Side and B-Side, simply because BOTH sides were so great! 
As I said earlier in the week, I find it hard to believe that I can recall SO many details from 50 years ago with the absolute clarity that I can ... nobody EVER believed this music would last ... and yet it has in some fashion inspired every bit of music to come since, just as The Beatles themselves were inspired by the early days of American Rock And Roll. 
I've said it 10,000 times and I'll say it 10,000 more ... this music is TIMELESS ... NO other music has EVER had the incredible lasting impact that this music has had.  We are SO fortunate to have lived through this experience first hand ... and I am SO pleased to be able to share these memories today with those who may have missed it the first time around.  There has NEVER been a more exciting time in music ... it deserves to be heard and it deserves to live on.  And this year the entire world is doing exactly that.  (kk)