Saturday, December 4, 2021

Forgotten Hits Reviews The Get Back Film, The Let It Be 50th Anniversary Deluxe Box Set and the Get Back Companion Book


(Disney+ Special, The Book and The Deluxe 50th Anniversary Box Set)

In order to fully appreciate the “Get Back” / “Let It Be” sessions, one has to consider all of the following material that has been or become available over the past 52 years:

The original, Phil Spector-produced album; the multiple bootlegs of sessions that were already circulating prior to the official release of the album, including the Glyn Johns “stripped down” versions of these songs (and their original running order), not to mention the Paul McCartney mandated “Let It Be – Naked” CD that came out decades later; the original Michael Lindsay-Hogg film, “Let It Be,” released in theaters in May of 1970 (along with the Spector version of the album / soundtrack); the recently-released 50th Anniversary (actually 51st Anniversary, thank you very much, Covid) box set including (essentially) mixes of all above releases; and the excellent “Get Back” book that accompanies all the new hoopla surrounding the new well-over-six-hour “Get Back” film produced by Peter Jackson.

Once you have assembled the sum of all these parts … and all the hype and bad will you’ve read about for the past 51 years … along with the supposed white-washing of Jackson’s new film showing only “the happy Beatles,” what you’re left with can be summed up with the title of a George Harrison song …

It’s All Too Much

To state that the Jackson film is for die-hards only is an overstatement doesn’t do it justice … because I’m a die-hard and have always been a die-hard and even I found it to be WAY more than I ever needed to sit through … and I’ve been waiting for this on the edge of my seat for the past four years!

To someone just discovering The Beatles, or wanting to gain more insight into the process of their recording methods, there is simply too much information here being thrown at you repeatedly to actually ENJOY all that you’re seeing … which really defeats the whole purpose of what The Beatles set out to do in the first place.  Sadly, the pace and the repetition make The Beatles the one thing they never were in real life …


When first conceived back in 1969 as a television special (the original intent), it might have run an hour or two, heavily edited to show only the best bits, not every run-through of the same set of songs.  It was devised as a documentary filming The Beatles at work on their new album, culminating with what was supposed to be their first live show in front of an audience in nearly three years, ideally in some elaborate, exotic location for invited fans … but filmed (or broadcast live ala “All You Need Is Love”) for the whole world to see.  The concept was simple … let’s strip things down to the way it all began … just the four of them, playing together as a band with their core instruments, without all the fancy overdubs and added horns and strings … just the four Beatles, writing, rehearsing, recording and then performing their new LP.

(That original concept of The Beatles getting back to where they once belonged was thought to be lost forever when the original "Get Back" tapes were turned over to Phil Spector to "see what you can do with these" ... buried under Phil's lavish and lush arrangements, the end result was exactly what The Beatles said they DIDN'T want ... nor did it represent the soundtrack to the documentary anymore.  As was so often his way, Spector was trying to turn what the world was now calling The Beatles' "Let It Be" album into a Phil Spector album, showcasing HIS trademark traits rather than their original intent, thus leaving The Beatles' wishes behind in favor of his own agenda.)

In a sense, Peter Jackson’s film accomplishes the same result, just in a different way, by showing the oversaturation of these sessions to the nth degree.

I’ll give you an example.

Much was being touted about Jackson’s film showing, for the first time ever, the COMPLETE 47-minute rooftop concert.  But do we really need to see them performing “Get Back” three times?  Or “Don’t Let Me Down” and “I’ve Got A Feeling” twice each?  Especially after having already heard these same three songs a dozen times each during the previous five hours of footage?  Or is the “best take” all we really care about and want to see?

Learning all that went into staging this “concert event” … the last time all four Beatles would ever perform together live in front of an audience (albeit one several stories below that couldn’t actually SEE them) was interesting … the number of cameras used and their strategic placement, even having one placed both inside and outside the door of their Apple Records Headquarters, thus capturing what everybody already suspected (and hoped) would be the ultimate conclusion to the film … the crowd reaction below as The Beatles disrupted their workday … all of this provided interesting insight into the event.  But then, after all the hoopla regarding including all this additional footage, to show the concert in various split screens rather than from an “as it happened” point of view, made it all a bit difficult to watch.  Again, the best performance of each track, intercut with what was happening down below around them while they were playing, would have made for a far more enjoyable viewing experience … which is, essentially, what the first “Let It Be” film did.  (In fact, to my eyes and ears, Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s vision made the whole experience feel a lot more exciting.)

I will say this … each episode got stronger as the series moved forward.  I remember remarking after Part One finished that even with all that I had seen and heard over the past fifty years, probably close to 95% of Part One was new to me … which is a great experience for any die-hard Beatles fan.  But, now having seen it, I don’t know how much of that material I can honestly say that I really feel a need (or even a want) to ever see it again.  There’s just not enough compelling footage and material here to entice me to give it a second viewing.  (I can only imagine how someone not nearly as devoted as me watching the film must have felt!)  In fact, when the series completed, I felt that my “personal edit” would have scaled the film down to maybe a four hour special tops … showing only the very best bits and coming away with a far stronger and more moving film.  Quite honestly, the other 3-4 hours was just overkill and too repetitious to hold the interest of a mass audience.

And even then, I didn’t feel like I had seen all that we deserved to see.

For example …

After they finished filming the rooftop sequence, The Beatles wanted to come back inside and film themselves performing the remaining tracks of the proposed album.  (In total, only five songs were performed live on the roof:  “Get Back,” “Don’t Let Me Down,” “I Dig A Pony,” “I’ve Got A Feeling” and “One After 909.”  The original intention was to create a 14-track album.)

The Beatles filmed stage promotional videos of three other songs: “Let It Be,” “The Long And Winding Road” and “Two Of Us.”  The Jackson film hinted at these but then never actually delivered them, while they were one of the highlights of the original film.  It was impossible not to feel cheated out of these “staged” performances simply because Jackson didn’t want to duplicate anything that Lindsay-Hogg had shown in the original film, never taking into consideration that those of us who WERE die-hard fans would want to see these again in their gloriously revamped color and sound.  Or that we would want to see them in their entirety.

Those songs bring the tally to eight.  Still missing are George’s two tracks, “I Me Mine” and “For You Blue,” “Across The Universe” (GROSSLY neglected in Jackson’s film … they may have shown one complete run-through during the entire film … and even that wasn’t the final take … along with two or three VERY brief rehearsals), and John Lennon’s “Dig It,” which I’ve always felt never deserved to make the cut in the first place!  In fact, “Dig It” (one of the worst songs The Beatles ever recorded) ended up getting far more total screen time than Beatle classics like “Across The Universe” and “The Long And Winding Road” … and even to a degree, “Let It Be.”

Jackson’s refusal to use any of the original footage as shot became a real sore spot for me as I watched the film.  His boast of “Even if we happened to show the same scene, we show it from a different angle, which we can do because there were so many cameras filming at the time” made very little sense on a couple occasions … such as Paul’s long rap about George not wanting to do a film (“even ‘tho this is a film”), all shown from the perspective of the back of Paul’s head instead of as an actual conversation between him and John, both shown at full face in the original “Let It Be” film.  I also found cutting out two of the extended jam session segments that were a key part of the original film quite annoying … in Jackson’s edit, we don’t get George (a HUGE Smokey Robinson fan) leading the group through “You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me” or Paul camping it up on “Besame Mucho,” both of which were highlights in the original film.

But perhaps most annoying of all was seeing the very brief bit of John and Paul sharing a mic during a sped-up run-through of “Two Of Us” where Paul goes into his full-on Elvis imitation, sneering lip and all, the entire effect of which is now completely lost due to the far less flattering angle that Jackson chose to use so as not to repeat the original footage.

While far more conversation is captured in Peter Jackson’s edit of the film, I found the “Get Back” book to be invaluable in capturing all of the conversations between all four members … in the context of the book, you get ALL of the details, exactly as expressed at the time, some of which were cut or edited from the film.  One particular example would be The Beatles discussing Dr. Martin Luther King, stating what an incredible speaker he was and citing his “I Have A Dream” speech as an example, even though King had already been dead for nearly a year.  (In fact, John soon incorporates the lyrics of “I have a dream” into his “Dig It” ramblings.)  According to the book, what was actually said after this observation was something to the effect of “He would have been President” which elicited the response, “Yeah, that’s why they shot him.”

The Beatles spend a fair amount of time during the film reading the daily papers and commenting on such, especially when the articles pertain to them personally.  Some of these are done in completely camp voices and fashion, even sparking mock interviews between themselves.  The coverage in one of these tabloids of the incident when George briefly walked out of the sessions and quit the band had him and John “coming to fisticuffs” when, in fact, things never escalated anywhere near that far.

That being said, there were also considerably more discussions that took place revealed in the book than in the film regarding the reaction to George leaving the session.  At first, it was a matter of what they’d do if George didn’t come back, to which they decided to “divvy up his equipment,” almost in a  joking way … but then it went a step further and became a bit more serious when John said that he was sure he could get Eric Clapton to finish up the sessions … going so far as to say that both Eric … and Jimi … would be pleased to join The Beatles!  Clapton had just guested on The Beatles’ last LP … The White Album … on George’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” … and Lennon was simultaneously filming The Rock And Roll Circus with Yoko, Clapton and The Rolling Stones … Clapton would also join John for his Live Peace In Toronto concert a few months later … so there may have been more truth to these discussions than originally believed!


Let’s start by debunking some of the MANY myths that have surrounded these Get Back / Let It Be sessions for some time.

Throughout Beatles folklore, it has always been believed that Paul’s bossiness in the studio is what drove George away.  (George’s comments in the original “Let It Be” film, such as “I’ll play whatever you want me to play … or I won’t play at all if you don’t want me to … whatever it is that’ll please you, I’ll do it” only helped to fuel the fire.)

It has also long been accepted (erroneously as it turns out) that by this point, John had already left the group, even if only spiritually.  He just wanted to crawl into his little bag on stage with Yoko … his bed-ins for peace and War Is Over campaigns would follow.

But the truth of the matter is, John comes across in the film as VERY pro-Beatles and keeping the group together.  In fact, it’s clear that he wants to continue to rehearse and get things right for the final performance … and is also willing to travel in order to perform live regardless of where it is ultimately decided they need to go in order to do so.  He’s also already looking ahead to the next album … and when Paul and George DO clash (and George storms out with a “See you in the clubs” kiss off), it is John who tries to analyze the situation by saying that George “has a wound” … and “we’ve done nothing to try and heal it” … “we haven’t even given him any bandages” … all quite the opposite of the way he’s been portrayed up till now.

The supposed rift between Paul and Yoko also isn’t evident on the film … they get along quite cordially, in fact … perhaps even more obviously in the book, where they seem to agree on virtually EVERYTHING that comes up.  (We even get shots of Yoko and Linda having conversations while the boys are rehearsing their new material.)  Paul also acknowledges that if it came down to John having to choose between Yoko and The Beatles, there was no question that he would choose Yoko … and accepting THAT fact is most likely what allowed all of them to accept Yoko into the studio while they worked, an environment that had always played out as more of a “boys town” in the past.  Perhaps the strangest comment made on film is Paul speculating that “fifty years from now, people will be saying that The Beatles broke up because Yoko sat on an amp.”  This is all the more striking in that it really IS fifty hears from now in relationship to when that scene was filmed!

If there is a villain (and there always has to be a villain, right?), then it’s got to be George … he is clearly fed up with every aspect of what they’re trying to accomplish by filming all of this material … and presenting a live show (especially is it pertains to traveling ANYWHERE in order to do so) for the bulk of the film … he doesn’t want to leave the country … or travel in any capacity … or really even do the live show at all.  He complains about the wealth of unrecorded material he has accumulated that isn’t even being considered since he’s typically only allowed a couple of tunes on each LP.  At one point when The Beatles can’t seem to make it thru fourteen new songs, he announces that he has at least fourteen of his OWN that he could do, all ready to go, contemplating whether he should give them out for other artists to do … while also acknowledging that he would REALLY rather do them on his own, if only to see what they’d sound like all put together in to one album setting.  Here, John encourages him to do so … and I know that in past interviews, the other Beatles also felt that Paul needed an outlet bigger than the group to keep up with all of the material he was creating.  I’ve said before, many times, in fact, that had the four of them simply agreed to take on the occasional solo project every now and then, they may have prolonged the duration of the band.  (After all, both John and Ringo were already filming movie roles by this point … George had gone to India and composed a soundtrack of Indian music … John had written his two books and Paul had done the movie score for “The Family Way” … it wasn’t unthinkable that each of them could continue to shine in their solo ventures while still creating new and meaningful music within the context of the band.  But George’s pissy attitude … and then daring to quit right in the middle of filming their committed-to documentary, thus disrupting everything that they had already agreed to and scheduled to do … was bad form indeed.

(Surprisingly, despite George being upset that he already had a backlog of 14 songs, he instead went with the three newest ones that he “wrote last night” while filming the documentary … “I Me Mine” and “For You Blue” both ended up on the album … while “Old Brown Shoe” became the B-Side of The Beatles’ next single, “The Ballad Of John And Yoko” … meaning his “backlog” continued to sit “in the can.”  Still, the 14 songs he says he had already written would have otherwise been split out over the next ten Beatles albums … and that’s not even taking into consideration all of the NEW material he would write during this time … so I truly DO feel for George’s frustration over this situation.  I also remember that when his incredible album “All Things Must Pass” finally came out in late, 1970, he revealed that some of those tunes dated back to the “Help!” album sessions … making them look quite sophisticated in hindsight.)

I’m surprised that Ringo seems so happy with the way Peter Jackson’s film came out … he looks bored and/or tired in nearly every scene … sick or not feeling well and actually falling asleep during the sessions.  (Remember that it was Ringo who said, when asked what he remembered most about the “Sgt. Pepper” sessions, “Oh, that’s the album where I learned to play chess.”  There was SO much downtime “waiting for the writers” that he really DID occupy his new wealth of free time by learning the game of chess!)

By the same token, if there is a hero in all of this, then it has to be, hands down, Billy Preston … who breathes new life into these sessions the minute he walks in the room.  (I’ve always heard that George brought him along in order to keep the others on their best behavior) … and the minute he plays on the very first song, John exclaims, “OK, you’re in the group.”  Again, reading the detail in the “Get Back” book, there actually was some discussion about asking Billy to join and officially become “The Fifth Beatle.”  His contribution was immediate … filling in all the holes that had been there due to their decision not to overdub during these sessions.  And there is no doubt that it was Billy’s piano fills that drove the rooftop concert.  (Plus, he also reaped the benefit of being signed to Apple Records!)  George kept him close for both his Concert For Bangla Desh and his first US solo tour (aka The Dark Hoarse Tour.)  Billy would move from his “sideman” role into his own spotlight, scoring number one hits like “Outta Space,” “Will It Go Round In Circles” and “Nothing From Nothing.”

The truth is, The Beatles weren’t very disciplined in the recording studio, even when working toward a definite deadline.  Although this topic came up a few times during their rehearsals (primarily by Paul), nothing was ever really done to change any of that.  They all agreed that since the passing of their manager, Brian Epstein (who they ALL still called Mr. Epstein all these years later), there was really nobody in place to enforce or make them stick to a schedule.  As such, a great deal of the first two weeks of rehearsals are essentially lost due to clowning around.  They had nothing of any value that was even close to recording yet.  (At one point, the producers asked them “Well, how many have you got ready so far” to which John Lennon replied, “None.”)  Yet once Billy Preston entered the picture, it all fell in place immediately … and you realized that they really HAD been learning and improving upon this material … it just never came across this way during their rehearsal sessions.

Another myth debunked – before a recording session, The Beatles only warmed up with rockers from their early days, playing in the clubs in England and Hamburg … but, despite an already extensive catalog of material available, never went back to revisit any of their own tracks …

This legend is also proven to be completely untrue, as evidenced here by brief performances of over a dozen early Lennon and McCartney compositions that predated their success as The Beatles … as well as tracks like “Run For Your Life” (from “Rubber Soul”), “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” “I’m So Tired,” “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road” and “Martha My Dear” from their previous White Album, “Every Little Thing,” “Kansas City” and “Rock And Roll Music,” one of several Chuck Berry songs performed during the documentary (but also one they covered on “Beatles For Sale,” thus also making it their own … and my personal favorite recording of this tune), from “Beatles For Sale,” “When I’m Sixty-Four” and a brief snippet of “Within You Without You,” both from “Pepper,” “Woman” (now THAT was a real surprise … the tune Paul McCartney wrote under the name of Bernard Webb for Peter and Gordon, which Paul then proceeds to sing in a booming Gordon Waller voice), “Help!” and “You’re Gonna Lose That Girl” (sung as “You’re Gonna Shag That Girl”), both from their second film, “Help!” as well as “Act Naturally” from the “Help!” LP, “A Taste Of Honey,” “Twist And Shout” and “Please Please Me” from the “Please Please Me” LP, as well as their first hit single, “Love Me Do,” which actually seemed to be considered with some serious intent in a new arrangement for the live how.  (The Beatles even agreed to be photographed, posed exactly as they were on their very first LP, on the exact same balcony by the exact same photographer using the exact same camera that was used to capture their “Please Please Me” album cover.  These photos ultimately graced the covers of Capitol’s Beatles Greatest Hits Double Albums, 1962 – 1966 and 1967 – 1970.  Clearly, The Beatles were in a great frame of mind when they elected to take on this new album project in 1969 … and seemed to be very focused on what they were trying to establish.  Performing “Love Me Do” again after all these years as part of the live concert would have been the icing on the cake!)

Yet besides ALL of these interesting revisits that could have been explored (not to mention at least half a dozen tracks that wound up on their NEXT LP, “Abbey Road,” such as “Something” (“attracts me like a cauliflower”), “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” “She Came In Through The Bathroom Widow,” “Golden Slumbers,” “Carry That Weight,” “Her Majesty,” “Octopus’ Garden,” “I Want You (She’s So Heavy),” “Mean Mr. Mustard,” “Polythene Pam” and “Oh! Darling”) as well has another half a dozen tracks that ended up surfacing early in their solo careers (John Lennon’s “On The Road To Marrakesh” / “Child Of Nature,” which evolved into the most-excellent new track called “Jealous Guy” and “Gimme Some Truth,” George’s “All Things Must Pass” and “Hear Me Lord,” Paul’s “Another Day,” “Back Seat Of My Car” and “Teddy Boy” … the fact that nearly ALL of these are missing makes the reissued, deluxe box CD such a HUGE disappointment – virtually NONE of these tracks were given their proper moment in the sun, while the core tracks that made the original “Let It Be” album are repeated at least four times … and some as many as 6 or 7 times!   Where are all the extra in-studio bits and chatter of the boys just fooling around in the studio … and all the revisits to songs from earlier in their career – not to mention more snippets of songs that ended up on their future solo albums and “Abbey Road”?  With this much new material finally available, why repeat the same songs so many times on the box set … or in the movie where some of those same songs are repeated as many as eight or nine times?  All this does is add to the length of the film, which greatly slows down the pacing and momentum of the film … as well as the enjoyment of watching it.  Even as a die-hard, life-long fan, it ultimately became boring.  Anyone else watching, whether it be the more casual Beatles fan or somebody new trying to gain greater insight into their career and what made them so special and click the way they did likely turned it off before ever seeing some of the best bits that came later.

The new movie proves that there is SO much more than what we were treated to on the new CD. (For a complete, more comprehensive list of what could have been included, check out this link sent in by FH Reader Tom Cuddy …

Every song The Beatles play in Peter Jackson's 'Get Back'

This list suggests that The Beatles performed a total of over 400 songs during the course of the month-long shoot, 123 of which made Peter Jackson’s Disney+ edit.  Yet only ELEVEN previously unissued tracks made the deluxe box set (and that includes several versions of “Don’t Let Me Down,” which always SHOULD have been on the original LP in the first place.  All of these missing yet available tracks offer proof again that the fans were cheated when the Let It Be box set was assembled.  It is quite disappointing to think about what we COULD have gotten vs. what we got ... especially at trumped pricing to boot!

Keep in mind, Peter Jackson was given unlimited access to EVERYTHING that existed, all of it sitting in a vault for 52 years, untouched.  I’m sure he wanted to use EVERYTHING he possibly could.  (He’s also one of those directors who likes to go into a project with “the director’s cut” right off the bat.  Someone told me that when the film is commercially released next year, it could wind up being up to SIXTEEN hours long once you consider all the dvd and BluRay “extras”!!!  God, I hope not!!!)  As it is, I really can’t really envision myself watching this whole thing again … and that’s a shame.  If you were disappointed as well, consider watching the ten hour Beatles Anthology series instead.  It takes you through the band’s complete history with clips from every era and is FAR more enjoyable. 

Another technique I found annoying was that even when Jackson would acknowledge something like “This is the version that was included on the ‘Let It Be’ album,” he wouldn’t play the whole track.  This would have been FAR preferable (hearing the final result in its entirety) than all the shuffling about between songs that did nothing to advance them any further.  The end result / “final take” would have made a lot more sense, bringing each LP track to its conclusion.

They certainly also could have included the original “Let It Be” film as part of the box set … it’s been completely out of print for over forty years now … but I’m sure the decision there boiled down to not giving viewers ANY reason not to pay attention to the newly revamped film.  (Who knows … it may still come out … but if it does, I certainly hope they apply all of the same technology to clean this up and bring it up to the “Get Back” level of audio and visual or it’s doomed to look bleak and dismal in comparison.)

“Let It Be” was always said to show the dissolution of the band … their ultimate break-up … but this simply wasn’t the case.  (While “Get Back” shows much happier moments … and even has shots of Paul and John dancing! … The Beatles regrouped just three weeks after all of the filming was done to begin work in earnest on their NEXT LP, which turned out to be “Abbey Road.”  (By the way, George’s two contributions to “Abbey Road” were nothing to shake a stick at … “Something” and “Here Comes The Sun” ranked at the very top of Beatles Fan Favorites.  Let’s just say he was definitely holding his own against Lennon and McCartney at this point in their career.)  Audio that was released earlier this year suggests that at a band meeting, the group even discussed recording a new album AFTER “Abbey Road” … again debunking the notion that John was already happily off doing his own thing.  That audio reveals John’s plan that he, Paul and George should each contribute four new tracks to the follow-up LP, leaving one spot open for Ringo “if he wants to.”  Sadly, Paul’s response to that was that he didn’t feel George’s songs were up to par yet with their own and, as such, he and John should each get an extra track … proof again that, as Lennon said in the film, he and Paul weren’t do anything to help George’s wounds heal.  There is no doubt in my mind that George simply would have left again had things continued … only THIS time, never to return.

So, to recap (and this seems to be the general consensus of every reader I’ve heard from since the Disney+ special aired) …

Review in a word:  Boring

Review in a word:  Disappointing

Most of the people I heard from said they stuck it out to the end, simply because they wanted to “enjoy watching the process of The Beatles working on their new LP" … but every single reader I heard from, bar none, also said they found themselves bored and distracted at various times throughout the viewing … and sympathetic toward their significant others who tried valiantly to watch the film with them, simply because they knew how much this experience meant to their spouse.  Most of those friends, family members and spouses ultimately gave up … there just wasn't enough happening or advancing to hold their interest or keep them tuned in due to the amount of repetition ... and those who did ultimately throw in the towel were greeted with an understanding “I know … I get it” from their more devoted or committed spouse.  To say that this film isn’t for everybody is a gross understatement … to wonder out loud if it is actually for ANYBODY may be the better question.


The 50th Anniversary Deluxe “Let It Be” deluxe box set:  

Disappointing in that it only offers up about 20% of what it should have (and could have) had the powers that be simply put some more thought and effort into this project.  They had over 150 hours of audio to choose from … where are all the “extras” that a commemorative collection like this should be offering?  The track list looked so bleak, I nearly didn’t buy it (but just couldn’t imagine myself NOT having it.)  Still, when one considers how much of this same material has been available for decades in bootleg form, it really was a pretty lackluster release.  (Rating on a 1-10 basis:  a 7 for improved sound … and a 2 for song selection.  Overall Rating:  4)

The film:  

Both boring and disappointing … as stated above, there is just WAY too much information included to make it watchable.  Personally, I would have gone with a two night, four hour event, neatly trimmed to still show the process of each song’s development along with some of the fun the boys were having in the studio.  The quality of video and audio is unsurpassed, especially when one considers that this is 50 year old footage originally shot on 16mm film and then blown up to 32mm, cleaned up and enhanced with top notch sound and clarity.  The film looks beautiful, a true testament to all that went into making it.  It just lacks the substance that fans (including us die-hards) really want to see because that substance is so muddied up with filler and crap that adds nothing to the journey.  (Rating on a 1-10 basis:  Part One = 3; Part Two = 5; Part Three = 6.  Overall:  4.  I consider it to be a boring disappointment … characteristics not typically associated with The Beatles.  I must say that I am a bit surprised by the amount of praise I’ve seen and heard Paul and Ringo send its way … maybe it triggered special memories that the rest of us just aren’t privy to … quite possibly because both George and John are gone now.)  When all is said and done, the Peter Jackson film comes across much the same way as the original album did once it was turned over to Phil Spector ... over-produced.

The book:  

Excellent … and beautifully done.  Designed to be a companion piece to the film, it actually outshines it in every way.  Here, you get the true insight as to all that was said and done in the studio, as it actually happened.  The quality again is superb.  (You can skip the Hanif Kureishi chapter completely … boring … but don’t miss Peter Jackson’s Foreward … VERY well written and shows from Jackson’s own perspective how he grew up loving The Beatles … and was likely completely blown away by the opportunity to make this film.)  Rating on a 1-10 basis:  8

Friday, December 3, 2021

The Friday Flash


Chicago and Brian Wilson with Al Jardine and Blondie Chaplin have announced a co-headlining 25-city tour across the US.  With both Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame inductees, the Live Nation-produced tour brings together the timeless music of Chicago and the classic sounds of Brian Wilson.  

The tour kicks off on June 7th at Ak-Chin Pavilion in Phoenix, AZ, making stops across the U.S. in Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Tampa, Cincinnati and more before wrapping up in Clarkston, MI at DTE Energy Music Theatre on July 26th.

Tickets go on sale this Friday, December 3rd, at 10am (local time) and there will also be a pre-sale for Citi credit card members with access to purchase presale tickets beginning Wednesday at 10 am (local time) until Thursday at 10 pm (local time) through Citi Entertainment.

For complete presale details, visit


·         Tuesday, June 7th – Phoenix, AZ – Ak-Chin Pavilion

·         Thursday, June 9th – Los Angeles, CA – The Forum

·         Friiday, June 10th – Irvine, CA – Five Point Amphitheatre

·         Saturday, June 11th – Concord, CA – Concord Pavilion

·         Tuesday, June 14th – Salt Lake City, UT – USANA Amphitheatre

·         Thursday, June 16th – Morrison, CO – Red Rocks Amphitheatre

·         Saturday, June 18th – Maryland Heights, MO – Hollywood Casino


·         Monday, June 20th – Kansas City, MO – Starlight Theater  

          (Brian’s Birthday! - kk)

·         Tuesday, June 21st – Rogers, AR – Walmart AMP

·         Friday, June 24th – Dallas, TX – Dos Equis Pavilion

·         Saturday, June 25th – The Woodlands, TX – Cynthia Woods Mitchell

          Pavilion presented by Huntsman

·         Tuesday, June 28th – Tampa, FL – MIDFLORIDA Credit Union 


·         Wednesday, June 29th – Alpharetta, GA – Ameris Bank Amphitheatre

·         Friday, July 1st – Charlotte, NC – PNC Music Pavilion

·         Sunday, July 10th – Mansfield, MA – Xfinity Center

·         Monday, July 11th – Holmdel, NJ – PNC Bank Arts Center

·         Wednesday, July 13th – Camden, NJ – BB&T Pavilion

·         Thursday, July 14th – Bethel, NY – Bethel Woods Center for the Arts

·         Friday, July 15th – Wantagh, NY – Northwell Health at Jones Beach


·         Sunday, July 17th – Saratoga Springs, NY – Saratoga Performing Arts 


·         Wednesday, July 20th – Noblesville, IN – Ruoff Home Mortgage Music 


·         Friday, July 22nd – Burgettstown, PA – The Pavilion at Star Lake

·         Saturday, July 23rd – Cincinnati, OH – Riverbend Music Center

·         Sunday, July 24th – Tinley Park, IL – Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre - 


·         Tuesday, July 26th – Clarkston, MI – DTE Energy Music Theatre


Now here are two acts that have never toured together before!


When I sent the special announcement to Tom Cuddy, a MAJOR fan of both artists, he blew me away with his response … and now I know why …



You might not even realized this, but you had an exclusive on this tour earlier this year in a Brian Wilson review I wrote for FH:


>>>Lastly, Brian is in negotiations for an arena / shed tour next summer with another legendary act and, if it happens, it will be the first time Brian and this HOF act have ever performed together.  (Tom Cuddy)


Now, do you remember??!!


When Chicago’s longtime manager Peter Schivarelli asked me my thoughts on this possible pairing earlier this year, I said:


“I think it would be a fantastic tour and I hope logistics can be worked out.”


Now, Mr. Kotal, I’ll give you another exclusive:


Since Brian will co-headline the first half of the show, and Chicago will handle the second half, Brian has let Chicago know that he would be happy to join them for a couple of songs in the second half!


I can’t wait for summer!


--Tom Cuddy


I sure DO remember … and boy, was I way off the mark!!!

Without knowing or being privy to any of the details, I remember instigating a discussion about the possibility of Brian Wilson touring with Paul McCartney (!!!), something the two have been talking about doing for years now.

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever consider a Brian Wilson / Chicago pairing …

But what a GREAT show this is going to be.

And why not … The Beach Boys have toured with Chicago for DECADES now …

Just never with Brian Wilson as part of the equation …

So this should be something to see …

Especially if Brian comes out to join them in the second set!

While The Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre is certainly not my favorite (nor the easiest to get to) venue in town, we just may have to brave the traffic and venture out for this one!  Thanks, Tom!  (I’m going to go listen to “Wishing You Were Here” right now … in fact, why don’t we ALL give it a listen!!!)  kk


In other Chicago news, long-time guitarist Keith Howland has just announced his retirement from the band after nearly 27 years.  (His replacement, already onboard, is Tony Obrohta, up till now a member of Peter Cetera’s band … guess he won’t have to learn the set list!)

Howland broke his arm on November 15th and has been out of the line-up ever since.  Knowing that it’ll be awhile before he can play the guitar again (and probably wondering just how long it’ll take him to get his chops back), Keith issued a statement on Thursday that said:

“As you all know, I broke my arm just before we were supposed to go on stage in Louisville. I have given serious thought in the last few weeks and honestly as to what my future might look like. I can’t play the guitar right now, and it’s probably going to be several months before I can get back to anything normal.  At this point, I have decided to move on to the next chapter in my life. I will no longer be performing with Chicago. You may see me pop up musically here and there, but we shall see how that comes to fruition. I am extremely grateful for the 27 years that Chicago has given me musically. I am honored and blessed to be part of the legacy that is Chicago. … I love you all, and I will be seeing you.”

Howland’s tenure with the band makes him their longest standing guitarist, having joined in 1995.  We wish him a speedy recovery … and a bright future.  Meanwhile, Peter Cetera’s got some time to evaluate the candidates who’ll be responding to his Help Wanted ad … as of right now, he has no new tour dates scheduled. 

Chicago’s biggest fan, Tom Cuddy, tells us that in addition to being Peter Cetera’s most recent lead guitarist, Tony Obrohta has been a guitar player and singer in Nashville for 26 years.  He has toured with Wynonna, Le Ann Rimes, Little Big Town, Gretchen Wilson, Jo Dee Messina, Big And Rich, Suzy Boggus and several others. He has already been filling in since Keith Howland broken his arm … and will simply stay onboard … and be part of next year’s tour with Brian Wilson.  (kk)

Meanwhile, Carlos Santana has postponed his tour due to an “unscheduled, unexpected but necessary heart procedure.”  (He was due to start a Las Vegas residency on December 1st)


In a video statement released earlier this week, Carlos said that on Saturday, November 27th, his wife, Cynthia, took him to the hospital. “I had this thing happening in my chest. When we went there, we found out that we needed to take care of it. So, I am. I’m going to be taking time out for a little bit to make sure that I replenish and I rest, and catch up with my health so that when I play for you, I play like I’m used to. Thank you for your caring.”  (kk)


In other touring news, Gilbert O’Sullivan confirmed his 2022 tour this past week.  He will be hitting a number of City Winery locations when he arrives in the US next spring.  (We will have been holding tickets for his Chicago appearance for two years when he finally arrives here in March … damn you, Covid!!!)


O’Sullivan was never much of one for live shows back in the day … story was his voice was too weak to translate well from the stage … but this one’s being billed as a “Just Gilbert” tour, so I’m guessing he’ll do just fine, just he and his piano, in these much smaller venues.


After nine US dates (seven at City Winery locations), O’Sullivan heads back to Europe (and Japan!) for ten more shows.


The complete schedule as it currently stands is as follows:


March 4th – Houston, TX – Main Street Crossing
March 7th – Philadelphia, PA – City Winery
March 8th – New York, NY – City Winery
March 10th – Boston, MA – City Winery
March 11th – Chicago, IL – City Winery
March 14th – Nashville, TN – City Winery
March 15th – Atlanta, GA – City Winery
March 17th – Los Angeles, CA – The Mint
March 20th – Washington, DC – City Winery
April 8th – Leeds, UK – City Varities Music Hall
April 12th – Birmingham, UK – Town Hall
April 23rd – Tokyo, Japan – Sinjuku Cultural Center
April 24th – Tokyo, Japan – Sinjuku Cultural Center
September 2nd – Limerick, Ireland – Lime Tree Theatre
September 3rd – Castlebar, Ireland – Royal Theatre
September 6th – Kilkenny, Ireland – Watergate Theatre
September 9th – Cork, Ireland – Cork Opera House
September 11th – Dublin, Ireland – Bord Gais Energy Theatre
November 5th – Amsterdam, Netherlands – Carre Theatre

All concert appearances are subject to health conditions at the time.  (kk)


Billy Joel’s comments last week about Taylor Swift being “this generation’s Beatles” has been quite the buzz lately.


Frank B sent us this …


Billy Compares Taylor To Beatles

Taylor Swift says comparison from Billy Joel broke my brain



Happy 40th Birthday to Britney Spears (December 2nd)

WHAT!?!?!?  Seriously?!?!?  How can that be?!?!?!?

But it’s true.  (Man, some of you folks out there are REALLY getting old!!!) 

Between 1999 and 2013, Spears racked up (and yes, that WAS pun-intended) TWELVE Billboard Hot 100 Top Ten Hits, including FOUR #1’s!  She hit Billboard’s Top 40 24 times!  (I will admit to liking “… Baby One More Time” (#1, 1999), “Oops! I Did It Again” (#9, 2000) and “Womanizer” (#1, 2008) …but not much more.)  kk


Speaking of which, it’s hard to believe that it’s been 20 years since George Harrison died.  Man, where did the time go?


I mean, with John, he’s now been gone longer than he was ever here … that horrible anniversary is also right around the corner … but it seems impossible to think that George has now been gone for twenty years as well.


Ultimate Classic Rock reported that both Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr have shared touching online tributes to George Harrison on the 20th anniversary of their bandmate’s death.  (George died on November 29th, 2001, at the age of 58 following a long battle with lung cancer.)

McCartney wrote on Twitter:  "Hard to believe that we lost George 20 years ago.  I miss my friend so much. Love, Paul."

In a Twitter post, Starr said: "Peace and love to you, George. I miss you man. Peace and love, Ringo."

On the day that Harrison died, McCartney said he was thankful to have had a final visit with him in 2001. "He was still laughing and joking, very brave man.  I'm just privileged to have known him and I love him like he's my brother. It's a very sad day for me and for a lot of other people, but I think he would have wanted us to get on and be loving and remember him as the great man he was."

Starr said in the 2011 Harrison documentary “Living In The Material World” that he caught up with Harrison for the last time in Switzerland, where he was being treated for his illness. “I was going to Boston, ’cause my daughter had a brain tumor.  And I said, ‘Well, I gotta go to Boston,’ and George goes — they’re the last words I heard him say, actually — and he said, ‘Do you want me to come with ya?’ So that’s the incredible side of George.”

We love ya, George.  You certainly came into your own over the years and left us with an incredible library of music.  (kk)

My mother is 91 and has been in a nursing home for a couple of years.  When I visit, I often hear soft music playing from the individual rooms.  Sometimes I hear a polka or a waltz.  Today when I walked down the hall, one of the older residents was blasting 'Get Off My Cloud' by the Rolling Stones.  The times they are a changing!


It is SO cool to think about these older rockers rockin’ in their rocking chairs!!!

This music is TIMELESS, people!!!  (Now if we can just get your Mom to light a guitar on fire or something to show everyone who’s boss!!!)  kk


Well, that didn’t take very long, did it?

Rolling Stones touring bassist Darryl Jones posted on his social media this week:

“Thanks to everyone that made it to one of the No Filter shows!

Looking forward to the next tour.”

Will The Stones tour again without Charlie Watts?

My guess is a resounding Yes.

There is just too much money to be made and too much fun to be had … and the fact that fans are still turning out to make every show a sell-out, they’d be crazy not to.

(Of course, I can remember back in the mid-‘60’s when Mick Jagger was asked how long he thought The Stones could continue, Mick saying “Well, I can’t see meself up there singing ‘Satisfaction’ when I’m 30.”  So I guess singing it when he’s 80 isn’t all that much of a concern anymore!  (kk)

LESLIE WEST’s Bluesy Version Of “SILENT NIGHT” Is Released On 7” Vinyl!

Talk about the perfect stocking stuffer for guitar lovers!

Check out this fantastic 7” vinyl from the celebrated guitarist and founding member of classic rock giants Mountain, Leslie West, who passed away just a few days before Christmas, 2020. The vinyl’s A-side is a deeply moving instrumental version of the beloved holiday hymn “Silent Night,” originally released in 2015 on the Blues Christmas compilation, that opens with a gorgeous and moving acoustic guitar arpeggiation before West comes in with a massive electric slide guitar like a six-string slingin’ Santa coming down the chimney. The track is the perfect distillation of West’s unique combination of tough and tender playing, and a beautiful way to make this holiday season a little extra bright.

Stream/download “Silent Night”:

The B-side is no lump of coal either … it’s a killer cover of The Doors’ “Roadhouse Blues,” with organist Brian Auger and blues master Rod Piazza!

This 7” is available as a limited-edition BLUE vinyl release, so don’t delay and pick one up for the blues rock lover in your life today!

Order the 7”:

Well, Dion has done it again … 

His brand new blues album, “Stomping Ground (released just one week ago, last Friday, November 26th, by Keeping The Blues Alive Records, has premiered at the #1 Position on the brand new Billboard’s Blues Album Chart being released later this week. 


The album features special guests including Boz Scaggs, Mark Knopfler, Eric Clapton, Peter Frampton, Patti Scialfa, Bruce Springsteen, Billy F Gibbons, Keb’ Mo’, Sonny Landreth, Joe Menza, Mike Menza, Marcia Ball, Jimmy Vivino, Rickie Lee Jones, Wayne Hood, Joe Bonamassa and G.E. Smith, and follows his 2020 Blues With Friends album to the top spot on the Billboard Blues Chart, where it rested just 14 months ago.  


When Dion heard the good news, he commented, “Number 1 on Billboard already? Wow! You know, every time I step into the studio, I want to make music that cannot be denied. I want to reach people — and I want to give back something GREAT to the fans who’ve been listening to me for a long time. Well, this is how I know I’ve succeeded. Billboard’s algorithm takes into account disc sales, radio play, streaming, and downloads. And apparently the new album is killing it in every category.”


Dion first topped the Billboard Pop Singles Chart sixty years ago with his #1 Hit (and Rock And Roll Anthem) “Runaround Sue.”  In all, he’s had fifteen Top 20 Pop Hits, including “A Teenage In Love” and “Where Or When with The Belmonts in 1959 and 1960, “Lonely Teenager” (1960), “The Wanderer” (1962), “Lovers Who Wander” (1962), “Ruby  Baby” (1963), “Donna, The Prima Donna” (1963), “Drip Drop” (1964) and “Abraham, Martin And John” (1968).


For the past several years, he has released a series of blues albums … and has leapt to the head of the class in the arena.  The new album’s notes include a foreword by Pete Townshend, which reads, in part, “Dion, like a circling star that never fades, generates the energy and fire we need to pull ourselves up and start again.  Dion is a star who knows well how to start again, how to keep shining.  He looks at his watch every few years. Damn! Let’s make a record.  Take care. This one will blow those little white things in our ears right into your brain.”


Dion had a hand in writing 13 of the album’s 14 tracks, the sole exception being “Red House,” the Jimi Hendrix song that has become a blues standard over the years. It’s notable that the follow up single release to Dion’s 1968 smash hit “Abraham, Martin and John” was “Purple Haze,” serving to underscore the connection that Dion has long had with the Hendrix legacy.


In other Dion news, The Wanderer, a musical based on the singer’s life and music will stage its world pre-Broadway premiere at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, NJ, on March 24th.  Michael Wartella (Wicked) stars as Dion, alongside Christy Altomare as Susan, Dion’s wife of 58 years. Original New Kids on the Block member Joey McIntyre (Waitress) plays Johnny, Dion’s best friend.  The Wanderer was written by Charles Messina (A Room of My Own) and directed by Kenneth Ferrone (Cruel Intentions) and choreographed by Sarah O’Gleby. Tony Award-winner Beowulf Boritt is the scenic designer. The Wanderer is produced by Paper Mill Playhouse in association with Jill Menza and Charles Messina.  (kk)


Combining Christmas music … and the blues … here’s Billy Gibbons’ new Christmas single, “Jingle Bell Blues” …


You’ll be able to listen to The Top 100 Christmas Hits all over the country again this year on great stations like Me-TV-FM.  Hosted by Wink Martindale and written by our buddy Gary Theroux, they always revamp the list a little bit each year to keep things fresh and interesting.


Meanwhile, Billboard Magazine asked their staff to put together a list of what THEY felt were The 100 Greatest Christmas Songs of All Time …


And here’s what they came up with …


Best Christmas Songs: 100 Holiday Classics – Billboard


OK, I will admit to not even knowing nearly half of these … and disagreeing with rank placement of nearly everything else.  Let’s just say that in THIS case, I’m glad we don’t hear a lot of these tunes at Christmastime!!!  (kk)


More Jimi praise …


I remember seeing Jimi Hendrix in 1968 at Chicago’s Civic Opera House, which also happened to be one of the first major concerts I ever attended.  Even at a young age, I somehow realized that I was seeing someone so talented and innovative in all aspects of his music and performance that I probably would never see his likes again; and of course, I was right!  

Although I never had the honor of meeting Jimi in person, I thought I knew him - not only through his music, videos and the countless books I have read over the years, but also through my work with Experience Music on several campaigns during my twenty years at Fender guitars.  But lo and behold, Harvey and Kenneth Kubernik have created a work, both so lyrical and unique in its perspective, that I now look at Jimi in a whole new light.  In some ways, you can say that after all these years, I have finally met the real Jimi Hendrix.

Del Breckenfeld

Former Director, Entertainment Marketing for Fender Musical Instruments Corp.

Chief Amplifier, Amplify Entertainment Marketing


And again, you can’t talk about Jimi Hendrix and not mention The Monkees …


Micky Dolenz will be Cousin Brucie’s guest next Saturday (December 11th) …

Hot off the heels of his Monkess Farewell Tour, MICKY DOLENZ will be Cousin Brucie's guest Saturday Night, December 11th, at 7:00 PM ET on his WABC Talk Radio Show, Brucie's Saturday  Night Rock 'n Roll Party.  Micky will also be discussing his forthcoming tour with Felix Cavaliere.

You can check it out here: 

Just what you need, right?  ANOTHER great book at Christmas?? 

Check this out from today on CBS Morning News!

Clark Besch

Frannie normally gets me a new music biography every year for Christmas … this year, I’ve asked for the new one on John Mellencamp, which I’ve seen some pretty good reviews for.

Several years ago, she got me Graham’s first photography book for our anniversary … and I STILL haven’t started it!!!  (My backlog is MASSIVE!!!)

That being said, Graham Nash’s own autobiography is an EXCELLENT read … so I can highly recommend that one to anyone out there so inclined!  (kk)


Here it is December already and I was thinking about this month back in 1962 when

Chubby Checker had another of his Number One Dance Songs, “Limbo Rock!”


Coincidentally, during this same time period just last year ~~~ 

CB ( which stands for "Chubby Boy!" )