Monday, July 31, 2006

Number one for Harrison at last

Official chart records are being changed to make former Beatle George Harrison's first solo album, All Things Must Pass, a No 1 record.

Postal workers, who were engaged in a strike in 1971 at the time of the triple album's release, are being blamed for creating havoc with official returns which robbed Harrison of the No 1 slot.

Instead, it only got as high as No 4, meaning Harrison, who died of lung cancer in 2001, never had a solo UK No 1 album.

During the eight weeks between February 6 and March 27, 1971, Simon and Garfunkel were in the top slot with Bridge Over Troubled Water.

Darren Haynes, of The Official UK Charts Company, said: "These days, barcodes and computers are used but, in 1971, record shops had to fill in 'diaries' of all sales and send them by post to the chart compiler.

"For those weeks in 1971, the strike resulted in no official album charts being included in Record Retailer, the official music business chart magazine.

"Historians let the last valid chart run across the missing weeks, meaning Simon and Garfunkel were given another eight weeks at the top but now All Things Must Pass has taken its rightful place as a No 1 record for the full eight-week period."

George's widow, Olivia, said: " He'd love that it reached No 1 in the country in which he lived."

The entry has now been changed in the official Guinness Book of British Hit Singles and Albums.

Paul McCartney releasing classical album

Paul McCartney has made his share of classic music: Now the ex-Beatle is releasing a classical album.

“Ecce Cor Meum,” which means “Behold My Heart,” is a choral and orchestral work in both English and Latin, due out this fall. Britain’s Magdalen College Oxford commissioned McCartney to create the music more than eight years ago in celebration of a new concert hall.

Though McCartney has released three other classically oriented albums, he acknowledged that writing “Ecce Cor Meum” was a difficult task that took revisions and public performances before he finally got it right.

“Eventually I made it all come together through correcting some misapprehensions,” McCartney, 64, said in a statement released to The Associated Press on Monday. “If it had been a Beatles song I would have known how to do it. But this was a completely different ballgame.”

“Ecce Cor Meum” is to be released on Sept. 26.

Was John Lennon's Murder Part Of A Plot?

We all know John Lennon was shot to death the night of December 8, 1980 outside of his New York City apartment, the victim of a deranged man. But was the killer, as some have suggested, part of a right-wing plot to permanently silence the politically-radical ex-Beatle?

All of us, Beatle fans or not, can remember where we were when we first heard the news that Lennon had been gunned down.

Lennon had recently turned 40 and had released a new album—“Double Fantasy,” which he recorded with his wife Yoko Ono--after taking 5 years off from the music business to enjoy family life with wife Ono and their son Sean.

But, both Lennon’s hopes for a stable domestic life and a musical comeback were shattered when a Hawaii man—25-year-old Mark David Chapman—emerged from the shadows and fired four bullets into Lennon as the rock star and Ono returned to their apartment after a late-night recording session.

Lennon was rushed by New York City Police to the nearest hospital, where, despite efforts by doctors to revive him, the legendary singer-songwriter was pronounced dead.

To view the last photo ever taken of John Lennon--in the New York City morgue--click on the gallery photo.

Crowds gathered outside the Dakota, the luxury apartment building where Lennon lived, to mourn his death as millions more around the world, stunned and grief-stricken, yearned to know why someone would murder an entertainer, idolized by legions of people around the world, for no apparent reason.

Chapman was a long-time fan of the Beatles, of Lennon particularly, and only hours before killing him, had met Lennon outside the Dakota and gotten his autograph.

Chapman is pictured in our gallery photos.

Chapman pleaded guilty to murdering Lennon and remains in prison to this day.

Chapman has given various reasons over the years for killing the singer. These reasons include his suffering from demonic possession (the devil made him do it) and his belief, at the time, that he was a real-life version of Holden Caulfield, the main character in author J.D. Salinger’s novel “Catcher In The Rye.” The Caulfield character is one that feels he must rid the world of “phonies,” and Chapman felt that Lennon, his one-time idol, had turned into a “phoney,” one who enjoyed immense wealth who at the same time held anti-capitalist, Marxist political views.

Simply, a whacko killed a celebrity and went to prison.


Or was Chapman the “fall guy” in a plot?

Legendary FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s hatred of Lennon’s radical left-wing political views formed a catalyst behind a right-wing movement to deport Lennon from the U.S. in the early 1970’s. Hoover’s FBI watched Lennon like a hawk, and Hoover urged President Richard Nixon to give Lennon the boot during Nixon’s Presidency.

Nixon is pictured in our gallery photos with Elvis Presley (who also hated Lennon and the Beatles for stealing the rock n’ roll spotlight from him in the 1960s).

Could it be the FBI was behind a plot to not merely give Lennon the boot, but get rid of him altogether?

Curiously, many of the FBI files on Lennon are still locked away.

The Bureau has also been exceptionally strenuous in its fight against the U.S. Freedom of Information Act to keep those files secret.

Lennon, it has been noted, began to make a comeback in 1980—the same year a conservative landslide sent Ronald Reagan to the White House. Reagan was the darling of the massive U.S. military/industrial complex, supportive of his aggressive anti-Communist stance and his incredible spending on the American military.

Could it be that the complex, fearing a musically-revived Lennon would be a thorn in their side, just as he was to the pro-Vietnam War Establishment in the late 60s and early 70s, used Chapman as their murder weapon to silence Lennon forever?

Chapman had worked for defense firms with links to the CIA, another part of the Establishment.

And how did Chapman manage to get his gun past the metal detectors at the airport on his way to New York?


Maybe, maybe not.

It is almost universally believed that Chapman was nothing more and nothing less than a dangerous loner, and that his murder motive was to drown his feelings of being a “nobody,” to achieve the fame he longed for, by killing the biggest “somebody” he could think of—in this case, John Lennon.

The Beatles-themed Hard Day's Night Hotel To Open Next Fall

Beatlemania just won't quit. There's the Cirque du Soleil Beatles show, LOVE, in Las Vegas. A Tokyo hotel has recreated the hotel suite where the Fab Five stayed forty years ago and now we hear a man is working hard to build a Beatles theme hotel in their hometown of Liverpool.

The Hard Day's Night Hotel, as the place is expected to be named, is the project of developer Bowdena and spearheaded by Jonathan Davies. Funded with some government money, the $31 million hotel is set to open in the Fall of 2007. But don't expect a place that's full of Beatle memorabilia everywhere you turn. While that is what you would expect from a themed hotel, Davies prefers his own term for it, "bouthemed."

"There will be subtle and clever references to the Beatles," said [Davies]."But if we have someone staying in the hotel who doesn't happen to be a Beatles fan then we don't want to hit them in the face with it.

"It is all about getting the balance right. You can't just cover the place in Beatles memorabilia. Each of the 110 rooms will have 110 photographs charting the history of the band.

"This is certainly going to be a very different type of hotel and we think people who are fans of the Beatles are going to love it. I've invented a word to describe it - bouthemed - a mix of boutique and themed."

So it's not going to reek of the Beatles, but each room has 110 photos of the band? Perhaps he should just stick with the "Themed" word instead.

Some other detes are that the hotel's logo will be a "guitar fretboard with circles representing the chord that is played at the beginning of Hard Day's Night", services and facilities are described as "first-class" and that the location is literally yards away from where the band was "born."

However, don't expect Ringo and Paul at the opening party since the remaining Beatles and their record label have nothing to do with the hotel.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Paul McCartney worries about Heather Mills stalling divorce proceedings

Despite previously claiming there was “an ounce of truth” in the rumour that she married him for his money, Paul McCartney now is reportedly worried that wife Heather Mills has become a gold-digger after she declined a £30million settlement in exchange for a quick divorce.

Heather initially suggested she would agree to a “quick and painless” divorce to avoid getting embroiled in a public battle for the sake of their daughter, Beatrice but now she’s changed her mind.

According to “a close friend” of Paul’s quoted in the Sunday Mirror, “Paul is a reasonable guy who doesn’t like confrontation. He wanted to keep the divorce quick and amicable for the sake of Beatrice - but feels Heather is being difficult and trying to drag things outs.”

“In his eyes they had agreed they wanted to make the divorce quick and painless and a settlement was virtually in place - but then Heather started getting unreasonable because she wanted more money.”

“She wants as much as she can. She’s a gold-digger.”

“Paul never wanted to go down this route, but Heather left him with no choice in the end.”

A source close to Heather though has claimed no settlement was offered, let alone refused: “There has been no financial offer … she is outraged by the suggestion she’s a money-grabber.”

“Paul has always been tight with his money towards her. She was having to pay the mortgage on their Hove home where she is based until a few months ago. She even went on chat shows to raise money to pay staff, people like her secretary. This is likely to form part of her counter-claim.”

Another friend of Paul’s though as claimed that she’s not just stalling because of the money: “Heather loves being Lady McCartney. It has given her power and influence.”

“For example, she’s met many of the major world leaders … and has become a world famous celebrity on the back of it. And she is terrified that when she returns to being plain Heather Mills all that will be lost.”

Paul McCartney's 'First Guitar' Sells For $600,000; New John Lennon Song To Hit Charts Soon

The guitar pop legend Sir Paul McCartney learned to play on has fetched $600,000 at an auction at London's Abbey Road Studios.

The instrument was sold by the former Beatle's school friend Ian James for three times its estimate.

McCartney used the Rex acoustic guitar - which belonged to James - to learn his first chords. He also used it to audition for John Lennon's The Quarrymen, the band the pair played in before The Beatles.

McCartney provided a letter of authenticity for the guitar, which reads, "The above guitar, belonging to my old school pal Ian James, was the first guitar I ever held. It was also the guitar on which I learned my first chords in his house at 43 Elswich Street, Liverpool 8."

The buyer was American Craig Jackson, the president of an auction company, who says, "This is such an important piece of rock history and I am an extremely happy man tonight. Without this guitar The Beatles may never have existed and it is a fantastic acquisition."

Lennon's Chart Comeback

John Lennon could return to the top of the charts with a rare and long-forgotten track that has been unearthed.

The hidden track Attica State was written by the late former Beatle more than 30 years ago and is being used as the soundtrack for upcoming documentary "The US Vs John Lennon." The human-rights ballad has been polished using the latest technology and is set for release in September.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Yoko Ono To Buy Up Happy Christmas Billboards

Yoko Ono, the wife of the late John Lennon, will reprise the couple’s 1969 Happy Christmas (War Is Over) war protest in 2006.

The original billboard campaign in New York will be given a global campaign in some of the world’s largest cities later this year.

The Lennon’s conducted the original protest in retaliation against the war mongering tactics of the Nixon administration. The Yoko 2006 protest sends a message to the Bush administration.

John Lennon was hounded by Nixon, who had to try and have the British rock star deported from the USA for speaking out. Nixon resigned from his position as US president in disgrace before he completed his chore.

Never in a million years, did we think that promoting World Peace could be dangerous. Were we naive? Yes, on that account, we were. John sings: 'Nobody told me there'd be days like these.' That was his true confession," says Yoko Ono in a statement, "These songs have become relevant all over again. It's almost as if John wrote these songs for what we are going through now."

The story will be told in the new movie ‘The US vs John Lennon’ due shortly from Lionsgate Films.

The movie, done with the full support of Yoko Ono, features pieces together historic news footage to tell the tale.

"I believe John would have loved this film," says Ono Lennon, "It's the kind of cool film he would have liked even if it were about somebody else. It's not tabloid, but rather it tells it like it was. 'Gimme Some Truth,' indeed. If John were here today, he would have felt good about being represented by such a film, and the fact that we took the chance to make it and present it to the world. War Is Over (If You Want It)."
EMI Records will release the soundtrack to the film on September 26.

It will feature a previously unreleased live version of the Lennon’s ‘Attica State’ and the movie’s theme instrumental based on the Imagine album track ‘How Do You Sleep’.

The Man Behind the Beatles

Brian Epstein, the man who discovered the Beatles and shaped them into the biggest music sensation of the 20th century, died 40 years ago at age 32. The pivotal role the enigmatic and charming Epstein played made him the world’s most admired band manager. But outside of music circles, his name is fast being forgotten.

During his lunch break on November 9, 1961, Brian Epstein—the 27-year-old Jewish proprietor of Liverpool’s popular North End Music Store—walked the 250 steps from his shop, through an alley and down the 18 stone stairs to a local cellar club appropriately called the Cavern.

Passionate about classical and Broadway music, Epstein had paid little attention to the city’s burgeoning teenage beat scene until, as legend has it, October 28th. A customer named Raymond Jones had come into his shop asking for the single “My Bonnie,” by a band called the Beatles. A few days later, a gaggle of girls had made the same request. Epstein was puzzled: There was no such record available from any British label. After some digging, he’d found that the record had been issued in Germany. The band was not credited anywhere on the disc but it was available as an import. He’d been surprised to discover that the group was from Liverpool and was, coincidentally, playing at a nearby club on Mathew Street.

When Epstein and his assistant Alistair Taylor arrived at the Cavern that day, they were the oldest guests and certainly the only ones in suits.The lunchtime show had drawn in a flood of scruffy teenagers. As Epstein wrote in his 1964 autobiography, A Cellarful of Noise, the atmosphere was not at all to his liking. “Inside the club it was black and deep as a grave and I regretted my decision to come.”

The band—John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and then drummer Pete Best—were wearing black leather jackets, their hair wild and unkempt. Epstein was intrigued by what he heard but, trained in theater and fastidious in his own appearance, he was put off by the band’s primitive stage habits. “They smoked as they played, and they ate, and pretended to hit each other…. But they gave a captivating and honest show and they had very considerable magnetism. I loved their ad libs and was fascinated by this, to me, new music with its pounding bass beat and vast engulfing sound.”

During a break, Epstein poked his head into the tiny room next to the stage, introduced himself and Taylor, and complimented the band. Harrison looked up and smiled. “Hello there,” he said dryly. “What brings Mr. Epstein here?” Harrison called over his band mates, all of whom were delighted that Epstein had enjoyed the music. They recognized him from the record shop, where they liked to hang out between gigs.

Epstein invited the band members to his shop on Whitechapel Street for a “chat” on December 3rd. In the intervening weeks, he sold over 100 copies of “My Bonnie.” When the Beatles arrived, he announced in his soft-spoken way: “Quite simply, you need a manager. Would you like me to do it?”

While Epstein had no experience as a band manager, he had the intuition of a natural businessman. He sensed that the appeal the boys possessed had enormous potential. The Beatles were thrilled when he offered his services. He promised to secure higher performance fees for their shows, extricate them from their German record contract and sign them with a British label. The Beatles were particularly impressed when Epstein assured them that he would not interfere with their music. Impatient for success outside Liverpool, it was Lennon who was the first to commit: “Right then, Brian, manage us. Where’s the contract? I’ll sign it.”
Epstein was only six years older than Lennon, the band’s self-styled leader, but to the Beatles, young men from the working class, Epstein was from a different world. The Epstein family was one of the most prominent Jewish families in Liverpool, residing in the genteel suburb of Childwall where, it’s been said, “doors had silver letterboxes and a ding-dong bell would chime and an aproned maid would answer it.” Elegant with his swank accent, Epstein wore pinstriped suits with silk cravats and drove a luxury Zephyr Zodiac. “We thought he was some very posh rich fellow,” Harrison said in the 1995 documentary The Beatles Anthology. To Lennon, “He looked efficient and rich,” and, McCartney: “We were very impressed by anyone in a suit or with a car.”

Some of their parents weren’t so easily won over. “Olive Johnson, the McCartney family’s close friend, received a call from [Jim] McCartney in a state of some anxiety over his son’s proposed association with a “Jewboy,” according to Philip Norman’s 1981 biography, SHOUT! The Beatles in Their Generation.
Epstein met with each family individually, and soon the parents were as pleased as their sons. “My Dad, when he heard about Brian wanting to manage us, said, ‘This could be a very good thing,’” McCartney said in an interview with producer Debbie Geller for a 1998 BBC documentary called The Brian Epstein Story. “He thought Jewish people were very good with money. This was the common wisdom. Dad thought Brian would be very good for us. He thought Brian was very sensible, very charming. He was right.”

Brian Samuel Epstein was born on September 19, 1934, on Yom Kippur to Harry Epstein and Malkah “Queenie” Hyman. (Malkah means queen in Hebrew.) Two years later, Queenie gave birth to another son, Clive. By all accounts, the Epsteins had a loving home. “It looked in those days that the Epsteins were a golden family, quite like a fairy story,” Harry’s sister Stella Carter once mused.

Harry and Queenie were both children of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. Harry worked with his father, Isaac, in the family’s I. Epstein & Son. It was a lucrative business and the Epstein house at 197 Queens Drive in Childwall was spacious and comfortable, with a front lawn, a back garden and a garage. Inside there was rich wood paneling, stained glass, two bathrooms and five bedrooms, each with a mezuzah on the doorpost.

Although Harry kept the store open on Saturdays, the Epstein family was observant. “On Friday nights she [Queenie] lit the Sabbath candles and Harry said prayers,” wrote the late Ray Coleman, author of the 1989 biography Brian Epstein: The Man Who Made the Beatles, who interviewed Queenie before her death in 1997. “In the kitchen, the milk and meat dishes were separated, as were the cutlery and crockery. Jewish dietary rules were observed.”

The Epsteins were members of an Orthodox shul—Greenbank Drive Hebrew Congregation—where Brian and Clive attended cheder on Sundays for religious studies and to learn Hebrew. When it was discovered that Epstein had been taught the wrong parsha for his bar mitzvah, he quickly mastered the new one. “He was obviously well educated in Hebrew and Hebrew liturgy,” an uncle told Debbie Geller, who, in 2000, also published In My Life: The Brian Epstein Story, a collection of interviews about Epstein. After the bar mitzvah a reception was held at the house with over 100 guests. As a gift, Harry enrolled Brian as a synagogue member in his own right, and later did the same for Clive.

Michael Swerdlow, who belonged to the congregation, says that he admired the smartly dressed Epstein men when they arrived at services: “I recall Harry Epstein attending on high holy days and being followed into the synagogue by Brian and Clive, wearing bowler hats, which was quite fashionable for British synagogue goers to wear.”

Harry Epstein helped support the synagogue, and the family’s reputation was one of financial and social solidity. “Whenever I saw the Epstein family, they looked just like a very Jewish family, the kind I would see in the Bronx or Miami Beach,” recalls Nat Weiss, who was later to become one of Brian Epstein’s closest friends and a business partner. “Their values were very Jewish.”

Unfortunately for Epstein—who preferred the arts to sports and academics—much of his childhood was not spent in Childwall but in expensive single-sex boarding schools that children of his class were expected to attend.

At age 10, he enrolled at the prestigious Liverpool College. “Brian was rapidly convinced that there was an anti-Semitic strain running through it,” wrote Coleman. The school insisted that Brian attend school activities on Saturday mornings, which prevented him from going to synagogue with his father. Another Jew who studied at Liverpool College, Brian Wolfson, has said that the culture of the school wasn’t anti-Semitic, but “there were 600 boys, a half dozen Catholics and 25 Jews. Life wasn’t easy,” especially for a sensitive boy like Epstein.

Later Queenie and Harry decided to send him to Beaconsfeld School, a Jewish boarding school. “This I enjoyed a little better and I took up horse-riding and art, both of which I did pretty well,” Epstein recalled in his autobiography. “I began to feel more at evens with the world and I made friends with a horse called Amber, who got on very well with Jews and didn’t care that I’d been expelled from Liverpool College.”
Epstein flourished in acting and painting, and at one time wanted to be a dress designer, a calling his parents discouraged. With mediocre grades, however, he couldn’t get into a top school like Eton, and attended what was called a “minor” public school. “Naturally, my first term at public school was slightly marred by the ragging—being a Jew and not showing a great keenness for sports, the boys had good enough reason for my persecution,” Epstein wrote.

His school experience left an indelible mark on his psyche, according to Rex Makin, a Queens Drive neighbor. Makin—president of the Stapley Home for Aged Jews in Liverpool while Harry was treasurer—told Geller he believed that these anti-Semitic experiences at school left Epstein ambivalent about religion and gave him “an inferiority complex.” But Epstein would emerge from his formative years with a perspective on life that set him apart from most Liverpudlians. As Geller observes, being Jewish was an important factor in Epstein’s makeup. “It meant he was an outsider who appreciated the importance of transcending society’s view.”

Life on the stage was Epstein’s dream but he was destined for the family business. “I am the elder son—a hallowed position in a Jewish family—and much was to be expected of me,” he wrote. “My father… naturally sought in me some sign of an adequate heir to the family business, but alas, he scarcely saw a sign of any quality at all beyond a loyalty to the family, which, thanks to the steadfastness of my parents, has never faltered.”

In 1950, at age 16, Epstein dropped out of school to join his grandfather and father at the store on Walton Road in Liverpool. I. Epstein & Son was a proper, even stuffy establishment that outfitted households throughout the region. Young Epstein brought a fresh eye to the business that at first may have aggravated his grandfather but, as it turned out, he had quite a talent for display work and interior decorating, making him an ideal furniture salesman. Epstein possessed a reassuring and persuasive manner that convinced customers to “trade up” in quality and quantity.

At 18, Epstein was called up for the mandatory two years of National Service in the British military. It was a miserable experience for him. Although he excelled at clerical duties, he was a disaster in field situations. He hated the regimentation of army life, but was disappointed he hadn’t been promoted beyond the rank of private. After returning to his barracks in London’s Regent’s Park one evening dressed in his normal civilian attire—suit, bowler hat and umbrella—Epstein was mistaken for an officer and found himself facing a trumped-up charge of impersonating one. The army sent him to several psychiatrists and finally came to the conclusion that he just wasn’t soldier material. Epstein was relieved when he was given a medical discharge in January 1954.

Back in Liverpool, he worked at the furniture store by day and enjoyed the life of a bon vivant by night. He and his childhood friend Joe Flannery loved to go to the theater and see music shows, except on Friday nights when Epstein joined his parents and brother for Shabbat dinner. “One time Vivien Leigh came to Liverpool to play at the Royal Court for two weeks in A Streetcar Named Desire, and we booked the same two seats for every night,” Flannery says. “On the Friday night Brian wasn’t with me and Vivien Leigh took the trouble to put her foot through the footlights and lean over the stage and ask, ‘Where is your friend tonight?’ I said, ‘It’s Friday night and you should know,’ and she said, ‘Yes, that’s right.’”

“Brian had no qualms about being Jewish,” says Flannery, who knew the Epsteins well. Though Flannery was raised Catholic, Harry Epstein used to teasingly call him “Yossel,” Yiddish for Joseph. He and Epstein would meet for lunch regularly as Flannery worked at his own family’s store just down the street from I. Epstein & Son.

The two friends had long talks and sometimes discussed Epstein’s sexual attraction to men. In an era during which homosexual behavior was not just controversial but illegal in England, the young man felt tortured by his feelings and the situations in which he found himself. In those years gay relationships had to be cloaked in secrecy, especially in Liverpool explains Flannery.

“It was after the army that I found out about the existence of the various rendezvous and homosexual ‘life,’” Geller quotes from Epstein’s diaries. His predicament was made worse by the fact that he gravitated to a rough crowd. On more than one occasion he was involved in scuffles that left him bruised and bleeding. “All the time that I knew him, I don’t think one could say that he ever had any proper long-term emotional relationship,” Flannery says. “The people he was attracted to were not the kind of people you settle down with. He wasn’t comfortable about the fact that he was gay and, therefore, that led to a situation where he couldn’t have a successful homosexual relationship. That inability came from the fact that being gay was not his ideal way of living his life, subconscious, as that may have been. I don’t think that was unusual for his time.”

Epstein’s homosexuality added another dimension to his Jewish sensibility of being an outsider. “At no time did he want to be notorious for being gay,” says Weiss. “It wasn’t a crime to be a Jew. But it was a crime to be a homosexual.”

Life in Liverpool became stifling. In 1956, Epstein convinced his father to give him leave from the business to attend the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London. His contemporaries included such performers as Susannah York, Peter Blythe, Peter O’Toole, Albert Finney and Joanna Dunham. While Epstein was a respectable actor, he realized that he would never advance beyond secondary roles. He did not return for the fall term, ending what then seemed to be another dead-end venture outside the family business.
Rather than send Brian back to armchairs and cocktail tables, Harry teamed him with Clive for a new spin-off business, North End Music Stores (NEMS), devoted to domestic and electronic goods. Clive was responsible for the hardware department, including washing machines and radios. Brian was put in charge of the record section. He was responsible for the selection, purchase and in-store promotional display of recordings from all genres. He developed a keen ear for anticipating pop music hits and ordering stock accordingly. In short order NEMS became the place in Liverpool to find music and the store developed a reputation for unrivaled customer service. This included “listening booths” that allowed customers to preview discs before purchase, which made the well-stocked NEMS stores a favorite teen hangout. Young fans could commandeer a booth and sample the latest releases. It was also NEMS policy to guarantee to provide any record that a customer requested. And it was this promise that led Epstein to take notice of the local group with the odd name playing in the club down the road.

Now a confident businessman, he was looking for a bridge that would bring him back over to the artistic world. His sights were set on a life beyond Liverpool: He just hadn’t yet worked out how to get there. In some ways, says Geller, his vision of a better life was a legacy of his Jewish upbringing. “He reflected the attitude of Jewish immigrants that each generation would become more successful. They would look to America, especially New York, with a bit of envy; success there became a goal. This was especially true in show business. America had its own kind of glamour. Epstein was not provincial. He was cosmopolitan. Local success was not enough for him. He could envision more.”

The little-known band and its first-time manager had found each other at the perfect time. The Beatles had reached the glass ceiling for rock ‘n’ roll bands in Liverpool. In Eppy, as they called him, the Beatles had found a manager with integrity and honor, primed to devote himself to their success in a way no one else could.

“Brian fused everything,” says Nat Weiss. “The Beatles were together before they met Brian and they had the talent. But it was Brian who was the emotional and psychological catalyst. He had the vision to say that the Beatles would be bigger than Elvis in 1961.”

Epstein treated his band with respect; in return, they listened to him. “He was in charge and they did what he said,” George Martin, the man who would later become their producer, told Geller. “I mean, he was their only hope.”

His first task was to recast their image. He had their hair styled, and took them out of the leather jackets and put them into finely tailored mohair suits. On stage, he insisted that they look and act like professionals. They started showing up to gigs on time, stopped drinking and smoking on stage, began to play from a set song list and added an endearing polite bow in unison at the end of each performance. “I think the [RADA] theatre training—and Brian’s immersion in pop at the record store—is what made him aware of the potential for the group—style, clothing and so on,” says Alan Swerdlow, a friend of the Epstein family.

Next, Epstein began making trips to London to pitch the Beatles to record companies. But landing a record contract was a formidable challenge. Epstein had to convince the major labels in London to even consider looking at Liverpool for talent. “It was Epstein’s credibility as a major record retailer that got anyone to give him the courtesy of a listen at all when he was first trying to get the Beatles a contract,” says Geller. “His retail business was important to them.”

The Beatles were rejected by nearly every major label. “The boys won’t go, Mr. Epstein,” Epstein recalled Decca executives telling him. “We know these things. You have a good record business in Liverpool. Stick to that.” Only his polished manner and persistent follow-up kept the process going.

“John and I used to wait at Lime Street Station in a little coffee bar called the Punch and Judy,” Paul McCartney told Geller. “We used to wait for Brian arriving back from London, and when he’d come in we’d take a look at his face to see if the news was good or bad, and it was bad. It was always bad. He’d be, like, ‘Sorry.’ We’d go, ‘Oh,’ and we’d have a cup of coffee and discuss what had happened. He would just say, ‘You know, people aren’t generally interested. You know, it’s going to be a hard sell.’”

But Epstein wasn’t so easily dissuaded. Nerve-wracking as the search was, he continued his pursuit, all while maintaining his responsibilities at NEMS.

Although they were as supportive as usual, his parents were afraid that their eldest son, having finally become a responsible businessman, was foolishly risking his career on behalf of four non-entities. They were troubled by his foray into Liverpool’s raucous and less-than-respectable music scene. Their concern was warranted. Epstein’s intense commitment to the Beatles did have its dark side according to Epstein friend and business associate Peter Brown. “This is when he started taking amphetamines,” Brown told Geller.

The Beatles got their big break when Epstein was introduced to the music publisher for EMI Company at a record shop in London. Although the group had already been rejected by three of the four main labels at EMI, the publisher—Sid Coleman—directed him to George Martin, the producer and A&R [artist and repertoire] director of the fourth and smaller jazz and comedy label—Parlophone. Martin was impressed with the young manager. “[Epstein] certainly wasn’t cast in the mould of hardened professional. He seemed to be a little bit ingenuous but he was fresh,” Martin has said. “I liked him. I thought he was good and I was persuaded by his enthusiasm.” This meeting led to the Beatles’ first test recording session on June 6, 1962, less than six months after Epstein had signed on as their manager.

Martin liked what he heard and offered to sign them, with one proviso: He felt Pete Best’s drumming wasn’t up to par and planned to use a studio drummer. That clinched a growing desire by Lennon, McCartney and Harrison to replace their band mate, and they left it to their manager to deliver the news. On August 16, 1962, Pete Best was out and Ringo Starr, the drummer for another popular Liverpool band—Rory Storm and the Hurricanes—was in.

The Beatles, as we know them, recorded their first single the following month. On October 5, 1962, Parlophone released “Love Me Do.” Brian Epstein and the Beatles began their wild ride. After years of dreaming, the five young men stepped together into a film running on fast forward. When “Love Me Do” reached number 17 on the British charts, they were overjoyed.

Throughout 1962 and in the first months of 1963, the band toured Britain nearly nonstop, with every detail meticulously planned by Epstein. “There was a touch of a parent’s pride as they grew,” says Geller. “He was very much part of that growth, especially in the early days of touring both in Britain and in the United States. He was always there for the shows, usually standing off at one side of the stage.”

Though he’d gotten himself closer to the stage, Epstein could still only circle the spotlight. “Brian was a failed creative person,” says Geller. “The Beatles were successful performers. Brian envied that; he was a wistful admirer. He wanted to be an artist, not a manager. But he also had the self-awareness to see the difference between what you can do and what you’d like to do. He chose what he could do. He propelled them.”

Sometime alongside this flourishing business relationship, a deep personal bond had formed between Eppy and his boys. In 1962, Lennon’s girlfriend, Cynthia Powell, became pregnant. Aware that the band’s appeal depended in part on the “availability” of its members, Epstein quietly arranged the wedding and gave them his flat in Liverpool. When Julian Lennon was born, Epstein was named his godfather, and would later be best man for both Harrison and Starr.

“We all liked him,” Cynthia Lennon has said, “because he was so obviously genuine. He had a sunshine face, manners and was very sweet, a gentleman. He was much older than us mentally. I held him a little in awe because I’d never met ‘a Brian’ before. He had life all sussed out, it seemed to us. He had suits and ties that matched.”

Although Epstein never played favorites, he had a clear affection for John. There are lingering rumors that he was in love with Lennon and that their relationship was consummated during a vacation the two took together in Spain shortly after Cynthia gave birth to Julian. Most friends, including other Beatles, have said that this is simply untrue. Lennon was a confirmed heterosexual, and Epstein wouldn’t have crossed professional boundaries.

Lennon was a captivating man and it is not outside of the realm of possibility that Epstein was physically attracted to him, says British rock journalist Steve Turner, author of the forthcoming The Gospel According to the Beatles. “Epstein liked rougher people, he liked being taunted and being treated in a cruel way,” he says. “There was something in him that drove him to this: Maybe he came to see abuse as something that he deserved. John did have that kind of wicked way of talking.”

Lennon was known for biting remarks made at everyone’s expense, and he did not spare Epstein, whom he is said to have admired and liked greatly. “‘In Baby You Are Rich Man,’ Lennon is reported to have sung ‘Baby you are rich fag Jew’ at the end of the record,” says Turner. There were other such jibes over the years but Lennon, wrote Coleman, may have been the Beatle who truly grasped the extraordinary qualities in Epstein that made him the driving force behind the group. “Epstein put up with Lennon’s remarks. Anyone working with Lennon learned to live with his caustic tongue.”

In February 1963, the Beatles second single “Please Please Me” hit number one and the following month their first album began its 30 week stint at the top of the charts. Fame was quick to follow. “It happened suddenly and dramatically,” wrote Epstein, “And we weren’t prepared for it.”

On November 4, 1963, the band received its highest recognition to date: An invitation to play for Queen Elizabeth and her family at the annual Royal Command Performance. Deferring to Epstein’s judgement, Lennon agreed to clean up a planned humorous remark directed at the royal family in which he invited them to rattle “your jewelry” rather than your “fucking jewelry.” The expletive-free version went over well and the band was a hit. Princess Margaret was smitten.

The Beatles now had broad appeal throughout Britain. “Without Brian the Beatles never get out of Liverpool,” says Glenn Frankel, a Washington Post reporter who is researching Epstein’s life. “Liverpool was a small subsidiary of the Empire. It was Podunk and people in London looked down their noses at Liverpool talent. There was no way to get from here to here to there. Without Brian they could have been Michelangelo but they didn’t get out. Without Brian, they were just the best band in Liverpool.”

In less than one year, the Beatles went from releasing their first record to being the number one act in England. The British press coined the term “Beatlemania” to describe the fanatic reception the group received in public. Epstein’s role for the group took on a new aspect. It was only a few months ago that Epstein was knocking on all doors to sell the Beatles. Now, he was their first line of defense, guarding them from incessant press exposure and mobs of excited fans. Under his watchful eye, Epstein guided the “Fab Four” through the whirlwind they were creating.

During it all, Epstein transformed NEMS into a full-fledged talent management company, hired a staff and signed on other talented Liverpool artists such as Gerry and the Pacemakers and Cilla Black. Elvis Presley’s manager, Col. Tom Parker, found it astounding that Epstein found the time to manage more than one major group. But no matter how many artists Epstein had to juggle, the Beatles were always his first love.

Epstein had his eye on America but his connections were limited to the United Kingdom. In the autumn of 1963, New Yorker Sid Bernstein called him at home in Liverpool to ask if the Beatles might be interested in playing Carnegie Hall. Bernstein was a music business student at the New School for Social Research and while he hadn’t heard the group’s music, he’d studied British newspapers for class. Mention of the Beatles had simply been impossible to miss.

Bernstein offered Epstein $6,500 for two shows and Epstein was impressed. According to Coleman, he couldn’t wait to tell his friends at Isow’s, a Jewish restaurant in London’s Soho district where agents socialized. For Bernstein, it was always a pleasure to do business with Epstein. “Once he gave his word he never changed terms or renegotiated.”

The two made deals on the phone, not relying on written contracts. “It was like a handshake on the phone. He just had that kind of quality, you believed him, you trusted him. That isn’t true of very many people in the business. My experience has taught me that it is very few and far between that you find someone like Brian.”
Bernstein and Epstein planned the concerts, and in November, Epstein flew to New York and arranged the three now-famous Beatles appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show. Their first show still ranks as one of the most viewed programs on American television ever. By the end of 1964, the Beatles had replicated their British success in the United States and were the top performers in the nation. “Not only did he get them to the United Kingdom,” says Frankel, “He got them to America. No British pop act had ever succeeded in doing that. They were the first to cross over.”

Now that the Beatles were a worldwide success, the time had come for all five men to leave Liverpool. NEMS moved into flashy new offices near the London Palladium. Epstein bought a townhouse at 24 Chapel Street in Belgravia.

It was a heady time for Eppy and the boys. London in the ’60s was a happening place and the band fit right in. They released films such as A Hard Day’s Night and Help!, and in 1965, they were knighted as Members of the British Empire (MBE). Epstein simply glowed when the Beatles received their MBEs and Paul McCartney announced that MBE really stood for “Mister Brian Epstein.”

Some have speculated that Epstein believed that he was excluded from the honor because he was a homosexual and a Jew, but most say he never expected to be knighted. By now Epstein was a secular Jew who was observant only when in the company of his family, but he never hid his religion. “Once in a while people would make a remark that was anti-Semitic,” recalls Weiss. “He would say, ‘I am Jewish.’ He spoke out against anti-Semitism. He’d get very angry. He was against all prejudices.”

As the Beatles matured musically in the studio, Epstein arranged ever-larger venues for their live shows. Stops on the 1966 international tour in Japan and the Philippines were especially exhausting, marred with misadventures that were out of Epstein’s control. It was, however, the U.S. segment of the tour that threatened to be dangerous.

It all started with a Lennon interview that made American headlines right before the Beatles were due to arrive in the States. “Christianity will go,” Lennon had said while discussing the state of world religion with a reporter from the London Evening Standard. “It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue with that; I’m right and I will be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now; I don’t know which will go first, rock ‘n’ roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It’s them twisting it that ruins it for me.”

Lennon’s words set off a storm of outrage in the United States. Demonstrators burned Beatles albums and Epstein was afraid that Lennon would be assassinated. “After Lennon made those remarks,” recalls Weiss, “Epstein wanted to cancel the whole tour, I met him at the airport and he asked me how much it would cost to cancel. I said about one million. He wanted to pay it. He didn’t want anything to happen to them and for them to be exposed to violence. And he wanted to make sure that anyone who had invested in the tour wouldn’t lose money.” The tour went on, stopping at stadium venues from Chicago to San Francisco.

When the Beatles came home they decided to exclusively focus on studio recording and went to work on one their seminal albums—Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Epstein loved touring and was disappointed by the band’s decision, but ever supportive, he helped launch the album with a party at his London residence.

Epstein was the glue that kept the foursome focused as they redefined popular music. “The Beatles followed him and believed in Brian,” says Bernstein. “He handled himself so beautifully and reduced what might have been huge problems to ‘Let’s get on with it, boys,’ and they did. It’s always tough keeping a group together. Each band member has their own problems and multiply it fourfold. But he kept them together, unified and they followed his recommendations to the letter.”

Even without touring, there was more than enough to keep Epstein busy. “There were so many deals, important deals,” says Bernstein. “His phones never stopped and the proposals given to him were of an enormous, enormous nature and enormous amounts of money.”

In hindsight, Epstein has been criticized for failing to secure the most lucrative deals for the Beatles during the 1960s. “It was a different era,” says Turner. “Bands today realize that they can make as much money from T-shirts, programs and spin-off products. But in those days, they didn’t know it.” Epstein was one of the first band managers to deal with merchandising contracts. “He really almost gave stuff away.”

Overall, the Beatles were pleased with Epstein’s management style and understanding of his shortcomings. “The problem arose because… he hadn’t done this kind of business before,” said Paul McCartney in In My Life. “He had a great theatricality. But I think some of the deals he got us were great for the time but not so great, it turned out.… I think for what he knew and for what he could bring us, he was really excellent, and I don’t think the Beatles would have been the same without him.… He was the director. That’s what he really was.”

Epstein’s value to the Beatles could not be measured by money, says Weiss: “I don’t think that what the Beatles needed was a great businessman. They needed a person who would inspire them, whose neurosis was sufficient for him to identify with them. And for Brian the Beatles were an alter ego. Brian was on stage with those Beatles emotionally and he devoted his life to them.”

The pressure of staying on top of the music world was relentless. The pill-popping habit that began when Epstein was first pitching the Beatles grew worse. He became dependent on sleeping pills and suffered from insomnia, depression and excessive irritability. He would take drugs to stay up at night and sleep away the day.

Despite Epstein’s manic hours and drug abuse, he made sure to pull himself together when he visited with his family, says Weiss. He remained especially close to his mother. “She had great taste and he had great taste. She was a very sophisticated lady, almost aristocratic in her bearing.” Mother and son discussed everything, including his relationships with men and her hope that he would one day get married. Joe Flannery says that Epstein “was also attracted to ladies, and I am saying ladies, and they were attracted to him. There was one, Alma Cogan [born Alma Angela Cohen], a huge star in the 1950s. He was very fond of her and she of him. Remember, he was very young. He was very busy and he didn’t really have any time for long-term relationships. If he hadn’t died he probably would have had a [long-term] relationship [with a man] by now. And a wife.”

On July 7, 1967, Harry Epstein died at the age of 63. Brian Epstein was at Queenie’s side within hours of the death and made the arrangements. “The loss of his father shattered Brian,” wrote Coleman. “The years of pre-Beatles misunderstanding had been replaced by Harry’s pride in his eldest son’s achievements and fame. On the return from the cemetery to the new Epstein home in Woolton, he sobbed uncontrollably in the car.”
Epstein stayed with Queenie at her house during the week of shiva. Away from the world of the Beatles, he found time for reflection. “My father’s passing has given me the added responsibility of my mother,” he wrote his friend Nat Weiss. “The week of shiva is up tonight and I feel a bit strange. Probably been good for me in a way. Time to think and note that at least now I’m really needed by Mother. Also time to note that the unworldly Jewish circle of my parents’ and brother’s friends are not so bad. Provincial, maybe, but warm, sincere and basic.”

For the next three weekends Epstein traveled to Liverpool to be close to his mother. When he was away he phoned her every night, and on August 14th, she came to London for a 10-day visit, during which he comforted and lavishly entertained her. “He rose at early times and went bed at a normal time, a routine refreshingly different for him,” wrote Coleman. They made plans for Queenie to move to London so that she could be near him.

Two days after she left, on August 25th, he drove up to his new five-acre 18th century country home—Kingsley Hill. He dined with friends Peter Brown and Geoffrey Ellis, and then waited for some guests he had invited for the evening. When they didn’t show, he drove back to his home in London.
The next morning several friends made calls to Epstein’s house but received no answer. When no one heard from him by evening, they became alarmed and broke down to his bedroom door. They found his body, still in bed. Next to him was a pile of open correspondence, a working script for the Beatles movie Yellow Submarine and a book he was reading, The Rabbi, by Noah Gordon.

The coroner’s report ruled his death accidental, the result of an overdose of the sedative Carbirtal. Brian’s brother, Clive, and his wife Barbara, then eight months pregnant, got the call and were the ones to break the news to Queenie. Still in mourning, she had sustained another unthinkable loss. “The poor woman was devastated at having lost her husband and son within three months,” says Weiss.

The Beatles were on retreat with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, spiritual leader and founder of the Transcendental Meditation movement, in Wales, when they were notified. “It was just like one of those phone calls: ‘Brian’s dead,’” recalled McCartney. “You just sort of went pale and immediately traipsed off to the Maharishi. We said, ‘Our friend is dead. How do we handle this?’ And he gave us practical advice. ‘Nothing you can do. Bless him, wish him well, get on with life’ kind of thing. But we were very shocked and what added to it, as it always does with celebrities, the media wanted to know how you feel and it’s always too quick… you just can’t talk about it.”

Rumors spread that Epstein committed suicide but his friends and family never believed this likely. There was no note or legal will, and Epstein had many plans for the future. Most of all, he was devoted to his mother, who needed him more than ever at the time of his death.

The family wanted a quiet Orthodox funeral at the Greenbank Drive Synagogue and asked the Beatles not to attend for fear that it would draw too much public attention. Following Orthodox tradition, only the men accompanied Epstein’s body to the Jewish Cemetery on Long Lane in Aintree. Epstein was buried near his father. “After the burial, the rabbi, who didn’t know Brian, said something about him being a symbol of the malaise of his generation, which was amazing,” says Weiss. “How can a man who filled stadiums, who literally was the catalyst for the greatest musical event of the 20th century, be treated as a malaise of his generation? It was such an unjust epitaph. It was disgusting.”

Six weeks later, the Beatles attended a memorial service at the New London Synagogue on Abbey Road. All four wore black paper yarmulkes. This time the officiating rabbi, Louis Jacobs, praised Epstein, “He encouraged young people,” Jacobs said, “to sing of love and peace rather than war and hatred.”

In the months after Epstein’s death, the Beatles would come to realize what they already suspected: Brian Epstein was irreplaceable. Without him, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr had no one they trusted to look out for their interests. Without Epstein’s unique combination of ethics, protectiveness and charm, they were forced to handle business details and interpersonal squabbles by themselves.

There was no obvious successor. McCartney, then engaged to Linda Eastman, supported her brother, Lee, a lawyer, for the role. (Eastman’s family was Jewish; coincidentally, Eastman was an anglicized version of their original name, Epstein.) The other was Allen Klein, an established rock manager who handled such acts as the Rolling Stones. Klein did take care of some key record company negotiations and reorganized the new company that the Beatles had formed—Apple—with the blessing of Lennon, Harrison and Starr, but McCartney never signed on.

The Fab Four began managing themselves but without their long-time mediator and polished representative, the atmosphere grew increasingly acrimonious. In his book Here, There, and Everywhere, studio engineer Geoff Emerick remembered the 1968 sessions for what became The Beatles album, most commonly called The White Album, being painfully difficult, as interpersonal tensions spilled into the studio. Viewers of the theatrical feature Let It Be, filmed during recording sessions held in early 1969, could see the tension for themselves on screen.

Even as the band identity that Epstein had so carefully crafted began to disappear, the momentum he had helped build, continued. From 1967 to 1970, the Beatles went on to produce some of their greatest music, including “Hey Jude,” their most successful single, and Abbey Road, one of their most respected albums. But the old feeling was gone. “We made a few more albums but we were sort of winding up,” said McCartney. “We always felt we’d come full circle and Brian’s death was part of it.” In 1970, less than three years after Epstein passed away, the Beatles disbanded. “After Brian died, we collapsed,” said Lennon in a 1971 Rolling Stone interview.

There are few reminders of Brian Epstein left in Liverpool. A plaque and an oil portrait hang in the lobby of the Neptune Theater, which is currently closed for remodeling. Photographs and notes about Epstein line the wall of “The Beatles Story Exhibition.”

Outside of town is the small Jewish cemetery where the Epstein family plot can be found. “It’s the saddest thing,” says Glenn Frankel, who visited the cemetery recently. “Brian had finally escaped Liverpool and was back before he was 33. Clive died of a heart attack in 1988 at the age of 51. And there is Queenie, who survived all her men and who was pretty miserable at the end of her life, having her golden family fall away.”

The epitaph on Epstein’s tombstone does not say anything about his life accomplishments. The grave is simple, says Weiss, as befits a man whom he calls a good Jew. “Brian adhered to the best tenets of Judaism, he kept to the highest values of the Jewish faith,” he says. “He was an honest man, extremely fair in his dealings. He was very compassionate and understanding of his fellow man, he believed in mercy and compassion. He was very kind and very generous. He was like a saint in that respect.”

Steve Jobs invites Beatles to iTunes

After successfully defending itself from a lawsuit by Apple Corps ), Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs on Monday invited the Beatles to join the iTunes Music Store.

"We have always loved the Beatles, and hopefully we can now work together to get them on the iTunes Music Store," said Steve Jobs in a statement provided to Macworld.

The judgment brings to an end the lawsuit that accused Apple Computer of violating a 1991 agreement in its use of the Apple logo in association with what it regards as music-related products, the iPod and iTunes.

Apple Corps -- owned by Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, along with the widow of John Lennon and the estate of George Harrison -- wanted to win an injunction to prevent Apple Computer using the apple logo in connection with its iPod and iTunes products.

The judge disagreed and said the use of the Apple Computer logo was a proper one.

"We are glad to put this disagreement behind us," said Jobs.

While Jobs may want to have the lawsuit behind him, it's not over yet. Apple Corps confirmed in a statement that it plans to appeal against the decision.

Apple Corps confirmed last month that work was being done to remaster the Beatles collection in preparation for digital downloads.

The fact that the Beatles music will go online does not guarantee Apple's market-leading iTunes Music Store will get the collection. When Yoko Ono made John Lennon's catalogue available digitally last year, she did so on Real/Rhapsody, Napster, MSN and Yahoo! Unlimited, but not on iTunes.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Unreleased Lennon Cuts Enrich Documentary Soundtrack

The soundtrack to the upcoming documentary "The U.S. vs. John Lennon" will be released on CD and digitally Sept. 26 via Capitol/EMI. The album will feature 19 original Lennon songs including "Imagine," "Instant Karma (We All Shine On)" and "Happy Xmas (War is Over)," as well as two previously unreleased tracks: "Attica State," recorded live at the John Sinclair Freedom Rally in Ann Arbor, Mich., in 1971, and the film's instrumental version of "How Do You Sleep."

Additionally, the CD and digital packaging will include liner notes written exclusively for the release by Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono.

The controversial documentary explores the government's attempts at silencing Lennon as a proponent of humanitarian and anti-war causes, which included FBI surveillance, wiretapping and deportation proceedings. The story is told through archival film clips as well as Lennon's original music.

"We were allowed to 'strip' lead vocals from Lennon's original recordings, so that we could use his own instrumental work as the score for the movie," says David Leaf, who co-wrote, directed and produced the film along with John Scheinfeld. "I think it's the first time that John's solo catalog can be heard in this way."

"The U.S. vs. John Lennon," distributed by Lions Gate Films, will be released in New York and Los Angeles on Sept. 15, with a wide release scheduled for the end of the month.

We had the Beatles coming to our shows

Of all the bands on the bill at this year's folk festival, the one who has the longest relationship with the event must be The Chieftains.

The legendary Irish folk group first played at Cambridge in 1969 when they had just two albums and all still had day jobs.

It may have been nearly 40 years ago, but it's a day the band's founder Paddy Maloney remembers well.

"There was just four of us at the time because two of the lads were kind of on a sabbatical," he recalls. "So I didn't have a harp but we had bodhran and pipes and fiddle and the response there was just incredible, we were coming back on to do encores and it felt like there was 25,000 people there. It was just fabulous.

"It was a sunny day, thank God. I can't remember who was headlining, but I do remember all the folky flower people around and that great sense of a new awareness and recognition of folk music."

It was a time when groups like Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span were starting out and folk seemed to be an unstoppable force in music once again. Paddy remembers the surprise of hearing John Peel playing The Chieftains in amongst Jimi Hendrix and Rolling Stones tracks.

"I was amazed in the interest from other musicians," he says. "We had The Beatles and Marianne Faithful and people like that coming to our shows in the 60s.

"There was a great buzz in what we were doing even though it was still a period where if you were seen going down the road with a fiddle under your arm you'd get a terrible slagging from your mates. But that all passed and we got tremendous respect from all quarters."

The band were dealt a sad blow in 2002 when harp player Derek Bell - known affectionately by other band members as Ding Dong Bell - died of a heart attack.

But they carried on and will bring several guest artists to Cambridge, including young harpist Trina Marshall, stepdance specialists the Canadian brothers Jon and Nathan Pilatzke and bluegrass singer Clem O'Brien.

The bluegrass connection is something they have developed over the years. The band have always enjoyed great popularity in the US and Paddy began to research the influence of Irish music on early American folk music finding many similarities.

In 2002 they worked with many of the top names in Nashville on the album Down the Old Plank Road which filled in the missing links between songs that came to America from the earliest Irish immigrants and the bluegrass standards of today (Thursday, 27 July).

"To go to Nashville and spend two weeks there was like going to another town in Ireland," says Paddy. "These people all had it in them - Ricky Skaggs and Emmylou Harris and Vince Gill, Earl Scruggs and Alison Krauss, it was just like going home".

The Chieftans have been on the road together for 44 years and Paddy is nearing 70, but their popularity shows no signs of abating. They still play to packed venues around the world, but one of the questions they often get asked nowadays is, 'how long can you keep going?'.

"We've been saying we'll retire for the last 10 years," laughs Paddy. "We were going to do it next year but then a promoter came back to us from Japan and said 'You promised me two years ago you would come back', so now we're going to Japan and then other things came up and so it goes on."

The Chieftans headline the festival on Saturday.

MPs vote Beatles best band

The Beatles proved the most popular band among MPs in a survey which proved most have their musical tastes stuck in the 1970s.

The British Library asked politicians to name their favourite number one album.

Among those who opted for the Beatles was Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell, who chose Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Walton MP Peter Kilfoyle opted for the Beatles' 1966 album Revolver, together with education Secretary Alan Johnson.

Former Tory leader Michael Howard went for the White Album.

Led Zeppelin's 1969 classic Led Zeppelin II came out on top, with Pink Floyd and Deep Purple also popular.

Lib Dem MP Lembit Opik said: "Zeppelin made a new kind of music. They created a genre many have copied but no-one has equalled.

"And Whole Lotta Love is the greatest rock song ever."

Conservative MP Damian Green dubbed it "the ultimate album for teenage boys - metal as art. No-one ever topped it.

"The opening riff is straightforward perfection".

Labour MP Alison Seabeck said: "Led Zeppelin simply blew me away."

Among the more daring choices was Never Mind The Bo****ks Here's The Sex Pistols, nominated by Labour MP Greg Pope.

"It changed the face of music forever and meant we never had to listen to Boney M again," he said.

Respect MP George Galloway chose Blood On The Tracks by Bob Dylan.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

McCartney in log cabin spat

The former Beatle was refused retrospective permission to keep the secluded log cabin and gym in the grounds of Woodlands Farm in Sussex, southern England.

The legendary musician, 64, failed to get planning permission for the two-bedroom, one-and-a-half-storey timber lodge and Rother District Council has warned that the building will have to be pulled down if the matter is not resolved swiftly.

McCartney's representatives said he needed the log cabin to maintain his privacy.

Frank Rallings, the council's head of planning, said he expected revised applications to be submitted outlining McCartney's justification for the lodge, but nothing had been received so far.

"After four years, a building which has been constructed without planning permission becomes immune from enforcement action, so the clock is ticking for us," he said.

"We cannot let this go on forever, but we may have to resolve it through enforcement and appeal."

A statement on McCartney's behalf in one of the failed planning applications read: "The owner has a requirement for privacy, seclusion and security that the buildings at Woodlands Farm cannot provide.

"This is due to the proximity of the public footpath that passes by the farmhouse and through the farmyard and also the activities connected with the working farm and machinery movements creating noise disturbance and safety issues.

"The intention is not to increase the amount of residential property."

Monday, July 24, 2006

McCartney told to demolish Mills' home

Paul McCartney has been told he must tear down the house where his estranged wife Heather Mills is living.

The timber lodge, which sits on McCartney's 16-acre estate in East Sussex, England, has been condemned by council officials because it does not have planning consent.

Mills and the couple's daughter Beatrice moved into the house with McCartney's permission earlier this year to escape the media circus surrounding the couple's split in May, but the star's leave of appeal against the local authority's decision has now run out.

The large house, which has a gym and is only 200 yards from McCartney's home, allows the former Beatle easy access to his two-year-old daughter while lawyers process the couple's divorce.

Frank Rallings, head of Rother District Council's planning department, said: "We will be seeking to enforce the order to demolish the lodge and gym annexe. He has the right to make another application on fresh grounds."

An aide for the star said: "Paul claims the lodge has no environmental impact, but because of who he is they (the council) are not budging."

Regina Spektor:How the Beatles' Rubber Soul Changed My Life

The Beatles were the first—really the only—pop music I knew growing up in Russia. I listened to them before I knew English. I learned all the songs phonetically even though I couldn’t understand a word. For a long time, all I listened to was classical music and the Beatles.

Rubber Soul sounded to me like pure happiness. It was like superconcentrated happiness droplets! The Beatles’ voices just felt so good. The “beep beep, beep beep, yeah!” in “Drive My Car” is just pure goodness!

When I moved to America and learned English, I was finally able to understand the words and I loved Rubber Soul even more. I love the characters they were able to create, these bigger-then-life people like “Nowhere Man.”

Another thing I love about Rubber Soul is how diverse it is. A song like “Norwegian Wood” is so far away from “I’m Looking Through You.” That’s something I’ve always tried to do on my records. I don’t want to ever make a consistent or cohesive record—that’s just boring. Of course, Rubber Soul is cohesive in some ways, but it also takes you from one world to another in a way that can be pretty drastic.

My producer, David Kahne, has worked with Paul McCartney, and David invited me and my parents to see him at Madison Square Garden. It was one of the greatest musical experiences of my life. It was mind-blowing! Paul played for two and a half hours and it felt like five minutes. He played so many songs I grew up on. I can feel my childhood when I listen to him.

Now that I’m a musician and I know about production, I can experience the Beatles on a whole new level by hearing how they’re using the studio. It’s like when you love a book, then take an amazing class where the professor walks you through the biblical references and historical tie-ins inside it. Instead of just getting it on an instinctual level, you have the tools to understand it in a bigger way.

That’s why the Beatles are classic. If you grow, they’ll grow with you. And that’s an amazing thing.

Regina Spektor’s new album, Begin to Hope, is out now on Sire.

The British Open- How The Beatles predictions from 40 years ago came true this weekend

With the British Open at Royal Liverpool, it is difficult to ignore the fact that The Beatles began their legendary careers in the same area. In fact, the last time the championship was held at Hoylake, the Beatles were at the peak of their popularity. And when one looks more closely at some of their songs, both the well-know and the obscure, it becomes eerily obvious that the fab-four not only knew their way around the guitar strings, but also were able to predict many of the events that would transpire at the next Open to be contested near their home town.

"And when the broken-hearted people living in the world agree/there will be an answer/let it be"

The lyrics, written in 1969, point directly to the fact the Tiger Woods and Chris Dimarco, both having recently lost parents, would find solace, even if only for a moment, here at Royal Liverpool. The two tied for the course record on Friday with a 65, and then went on to finish first and second.

"Follow her down to a bridge by a fountain, where rocking horse people eat marshmallow pies"

The Beatles preferred to be somewhat inconspicuous in their prophecies, and thus they gave us these lines. This string of words together makes exactly as much sense as Nick Faldo saying that Tiger "still has flaws" in his swing after Friday's round, and with "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" they were helping us practice finding meaning in absurd statements.

"Why don’t we do it in the road?"

Wait - that must have been a prediction about last year's 17th hole. Their foresight was not bound only to their hometown, but stretched across the entire U.K.

"Think of what you're saying. You can get it wrong and still you think that it's all right. Think of what I'm saying We can work it out and get it straight or say good night. We can work it out"

Lennon and McCartney wrote this song with the sole purpose of helping Tiger make the overblown feud between he and Faldo a thing of the past, thereby allowing him to build a lead he would never relinquish.

"Life's what happens while you're busy making plans."

They tried to warn Mickelson about his OCD-like preparation for the Open, but it was too little too late. Tiger was racing cars and bungee jumping while Phil was plotting line graphs and studying statistics. Here's an equation for Phil to analyze (Number of Tiger's majors >Number of Phil's majors times 3 plus 1)

"Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away, and I need a place to hide away, oh I believe in yesterday."

The Beatles wrote this ballad to show their empathy for Mark Calcavecchia today. He followed up a pair of tasty little 68's with an 80 on Sunday, leaving him longing for the past.

"I am the Walrus."

Ok, so maybe their bold prediction of Craig Stadler pulling off a miracle didn't come through, but at least they got everything else right.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Heather buys £550,000 home near Sir Paul

Heather Mills McCartney has bought a £550,000 home to share with baby Beatrice just a 15-minute drive from her estranged husband's estate, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.

The five-bedroom converted barn has been visited by Sir Paul McCartney as they plan their future apart.

It was previously thought that Heather, 38, intended to stay at a house in the grounds of his home while the couple's divorce was finalised.

But Land Registry documents show she bought the property without a mortgage on May 26 this year - just nine days after their split was revealed.

Heather and Sir Paul have recently been spotted several times separately visiting the barn which stretches along a leafy lane and comes with a small plot of land to the front and rear. It also has a large unfinished wooden annexe that could be a play area or office space.

Last night a neighbour said: "I am a huge Beatles fan and so are my children so it was quite surreal to see Paul McCartney and Heather coming and going."

Heather is already the owner of a £2million seafront home in Hove, East Sussex, which was bought in her name in 2001, two years after the couple's six-year love affair began. Her burgeoning property portfolio is a far cry from the modest home she had in Basingstoke, Hampshire, before she met Sir Paul.

But the landmine campaigner has some way to go to match her estranged husband's seven homes which are believed to be worth in the region of £32million.

Heather appears to be planning to use the new house as the base for three new companies she has set up in the past month with her sister, Fiona. The first company is called Dissoi Logoi. The words refer to the ancient rhetorical practice of arguing both sides of an issue.

The second company's name, Raspberry Fields Productions, appears to be a variation of The Beatles' classic Strawberry Fields Forever.

And the final company - set up just last week - is bizarrely named Beauty And The Baby. Two other companies, I Do Care and You Care - both believed to be linked with Heather's charitable activities - are registered to a rented property in Stockbridge, Hampshire. A spokesman refused to comment on the purpose of the businesses.

Since the announcement of their separation on May 17, Heather has been living at her home in Hove.

Guitar ‘that made the Beatles’

In the corner of John Collins’s Surrey office, over the showroom from which he used to sell used Ferraris and next to the shelf that shows him collecting a polo trophy from the Queen, there are several guitars. One has markings that indicate it was once used by Carl Perkins. Another was played by Roger McGuinn of the Byrds. A 1952 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop once belonged to Frank Zappa.

Among these instruments is another, less impressive-looking piece. It’s a Rex with a sunburst finish and laminate top. There is nothing flashy about it and its worth (an estimated £100,000) is revealed only when you consider the extras it comes with. There are two photographs: one, from 1957, shows the guitar’s owner, Ian James, bare chested and be-quiffed, strumming it in his back garden. The picture was taken by his boyhood friend, Paul McCartney, who holds the instrument in the second photo and has provided a letter that confirms it was the first guitar he ever held.
It was also the instrument on which he learned his first chords, and James had it with him on the day the Beatle first met John Lennon at the Woolton church fete. Lennon may have handled it that night and James thinks it is possible George Harrison played it.

Collins, the Glasgow-born managing director of the auctioneers Cooper Owen, which is selling the guitar, has no doubt about the significance of the piece.

“The McCartney guitar is radical. He never poses for a picture or signs a letter of provenance on anything. That’s the guitar he played the chords on that so impressed Lennon, who then invited him to join the Quarrymen and the Beatles. Without that guitar, and the guy teaching him the chords, there might not have been the Beatles as we know them.”
Collins’s route into rock memorabilia was circuitous. He began his professional career as a copy boy on the Glasgow Evening Citizen. In 1968 he was made a trainee reporter after he went to work on his day off after hearing Robert Kennedy had been assassinated.

He moved to the Govan Press and the Kilmarnock Standard, then realised he could make more money if he took the photographs as well as writing the stories.

He learned photography at art school in Kent and dabbled with the rock’n’roll lifestyle as a soundman for the band Vanity Fare, before returning to Scotland to start a news agency.

He can still offer a checklist of his scoops, from photographing the rescue of Greenpeace activists during a seal cull off Orkney, to the exclusive shot of a car crash involving Princess Caroline of Monaco’s entourage when she was honeymooning on Arran in 1978.

As his interest in photojournalism grew, he covered the war in Beirut and the Pope’s visit to Ireland. His increasing wealth also allowed him to indulge his fondness for Ferraris.

Before long he was selling the vehicles — financing his purchase of £3m worth of cars on a deal that would have cost him his house if it hadn’t come off. After two years, Collins had a £30m turnover. He sold the company in 2000.

Since forming Cooper Owen a year ago with his friend, the singer-songwriter Louise Cooper, Collins has handled some of the most intriguing rock memorabilia. Prior to forming the company he owned a pair of John Lennon’s glasses and the guitar used by Elvis Presley’s guitarist Scotty Moore.

He reaches for a photograph. “That’s me with Scotty Moore,” he says. “I had his Gibson L-5. I regret selling it. I sold it for £300,000 when, God, it was priceless. That was the main guitar — his favourite. The L-5 was the sound that cracked Elvis on Mystery Train. It was really important. I had bought it to be used on some sessions with Louise, and being a typical dealer I sold it.”

He bought Lennon’s glasses for $20,000 (about £11,000) and was unimpressed with the valuations given by established auction houses when he decided to sell. When Cooper Owen sold the specs they went for £65,000.

“I find it fascinating. To see McCartney’s guitar is like the fascination I had with the Ferraris. Every different car that came in I was like: ‘I’ve got to drive that up the road.’ Now it’s like every Beatles jacket or guitar . . .”

As we speak, a FedEx envelope is delivered. Collins tears it open and pulls out some yellowing sheets of foolscap on which are the handwritten lyrics for several songs by Cream. The sheet on which I Feel Free has been written is decorated with doodles of aeroplanes. Collins also has the lyrics for Cream’s White Room, which he plans to sell as a limited edition reproduction.
Suddenly enthused, he leaps up from his desk and reaches into a filing cabinet. He pulls out a statuette — the one Lennon received in 1963 for She Loves You — and a small painting of a bird, signed by him at the age of 11. Next up is a 1948 Rupert Bear annual, inscribed, and doodled over by the young McCartney and his brother Mike. “That is a museum piece,” Collins says.

And he’s right.

Increasingly, pop memorabilia is being bought by museums. Previously it was the preserve of Hard Rock Cafes, but in the past decade the market has boomed, underscored by the foundation of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Experience Music Project in Seattle, Washington.

Last year, Cooper Owen sold the handwritten lyrics to All You Need Is Love for £690,000 and Collins is in no doubt such artefacts offer a good investment opportunity. “Ten years ago you got John Lennon lyrics for $15,000. You couldn’t get them for less than £150,000 now.”

In terms of value the Beatles are number one, followed by Elvis and Jimi Hendrix. But the forthcoming auction has something for everyone: how to choose between the Who drummer Keith Moon’s oxygen bottle and face mask and the wedding dress worn by Lulu for her marriage to Maurice Gibb? The latter is a tasteful number in white watered silk, with a sleeveless Cossack-style, ankle-length hooded wedding coat trimmed in ivory mink. (Estimate: £2,000-£3,000.) But as Collins discovered when selling Ferraris, the blurring of pleasure and business can be painful. “It was a billionaire who bought the Scotty Moore guitar. He paid £300,000. Heartbreak hotel for me. I think it was worth $1m. When I was in Nashville everyone said: ‘Are you mad, John, are you crazy? Do you know what they paid for Maybelle Carter’s Gibson L-5? $1m. And Scotty Moore’s was just as important.’ ”

Collins rummages through his papers, produces a picture of himself with the guitar and Moore’s letter of authentication.

“I had the crown jewels. I can’t believe I sold it,” is his lament.

Friday, July 21, 2006

"Love" them do: a tribute to the Beatles

The Beatles on the Vegas Strip?

If you're thinking some tired tribute show with guys in bowl haircuts, wipe the image from your mind.

In a darkening theater, as four shaggy ragamuffins clutching daffodils wander across a spit of stage, the wordless harmony from "Because" bursts into your brain as you never heard it before, as if it's 1969 and John, Paul, George and Ringo are standing in a circle and you're in the middle. Aaaaah aaaah ...

You hold your breath for "Love is old, love is new."

Instead, the chugging chords that kick off "Get Back" rattle the room, the lights begin to flash, and up near the high ceiling you see couples improbably hanging from ropes in full horizontal boogie. The bobby-soxers on the bottom fall nearly to the floor on bungee cords, then vault back into their lovers' embraces, as dancers fill the stage below them.

That's just the beginning.

If you hold dear, vivid memories of the Beatles' astonishing, unparalleled impact on pop culture, their irresistible exuberance and musical genius, the new Cirque du Soleil show "Love" will bring the spirit of the band's heyday to life. And if you're too young to remember, you poor thing, it will give you a taste.

"Love" was conceived in 2000, when Cirque founder Guy Laliberte met George Harrison: Love your music, love your circus, let's do something together.

Sadly, Harrison, who died in 2001, didn't live to see the fruit of that meeting. But Laliberte developed the show with the cooperation of surviving Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr as well as Harrison's widow, Olivia, and John Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono.

More directly involved was Sir George Martin, the prolific and brilliant producer who had helped the Beatles create their albums.

Using the master tapes from Abbey Road Studios and the latest technology, Martin and his son, Giles, transformed them into a version of the Beatles' music no one has ever heard before.

The 90-minute show's soundtrack combines pieces of 130 songs — just a few notes of some, others in their entirety — with charming tapes of the Beatles goofing off in the studio. It serves the whole glorious mashup on a sound system of more than 12,000 speakers, including six built into each seat of the 2,013-seat theater.

"Love" ended up in Las Vegas after plans to base it in other cities didn't work out. It made sense for Cirque du Soleil, which was founded in Canada 22 years ago but has four other permanent shows in Las Vegas ("O," "Mystere," "Ka" and "Zumanity").

Cirque du Soleil has become as much a fixture of the Las Vegas vacation as gaming, dining and lounge shows.

"Love" is performed at the Mirage, in the theater formerly occupied by Siegfried and Roy's big-cat act. In a practice room downstairs, where young women dangle serenely in lotus poses 15 feet off the floor, you can see where the tiger cages used to be bolted to the walls.

The theater was gutted and remodeled at a cost of more than $130 million, much of it for the complicated mechanical gear needed for Cirque's brand of dreamlike, gravity-defying performance. The in-the-round plan puts no seat farther than 98 feet from the stage.

"Stage" is a fluid concept for this show, in which giant, glowing sea creatures swim through the air during "Octopus' Garden" and a billowing white sheet pours from a bed to envelop the audience during "Within You, Without You."

" Love" is not meant to be a documentary about the Beatles. In fact, in keeping with Cirque's style, it's not even particularly linear.

Developing the show was a new challenge for Laliberte and director-writer Dominic Champagne. Cirque's previous shows have all been independently conceived, not based on any existing story or work. Most of its shows do not even use language.

For "Love," they were working not just with existing music and lyrics but with perhaps the best-known and most beloved entity in 20th-century pop culture.

Church school questioned after giving Lennon no marks

The inclusiveness or otherwise of faith schools has come into the spotlight again after a Church of England school in Exeter, Devon, refused to allow John Lennon’s 1971 hit ‘Imagine’ to be featured in an end-of-term concert – because a teacher complained to the head that it was ‘anti-religious’.

Geoff Williams, head teacher of St Leonard’s Primary School, denies press reports that he banned the song – which contains the line “Imagine there's no heaven... and no religion too.” But he admits that it was removed from the concert set list after being “deemed inappropriate”.

The school has ties with nearby St Leonard’s Church, a well-known conservative evangelical worship centre. Some parents at the school are reportedly unhappy with the decision.

Mr Williams declared: “We are a Church school and we believe God is the foundation of all that we do. We chose … to perform another song we had practised which better reflected the theme of Songs for A Green Earth.”

However, critics, including both Christians and humanists, say that the decision smacks of intolerance and belies the claims of faith schools to be open to people of all backgrounds and convictions.

Andrew Copson, education and public affairs officer at the British Humanist Association, told the BBC: “It seems a little cruel to prevent children from singing the song if they want to. This represents a degree of religious intolerance and does not take account of those parents who may not share the beliefs of the head and the governors.”

Simon Barrow, co-director of the UK Christian think tank Ekklesia, who lives in Exeter himself, said that the decision would “strike a lot of people as silly, and will hardly encourage the public to believe that church schools really are open to people of whatever background or persuasion.”

This week Canon John Hall, who is the Church of England’s chief education officer, criticised an article by Natasha Walter in the Guardian newspaper which suggested that church schools were divisive and quoted alleged instances of parents having to lie about their beliefs in order to get children into them.

Canon Hall, in a Guardian response column yesterday (20 June 2006), said that church schools were inclusive and multi-cultural, though they provided their services “within the context of Christian belief and practice.”

Critics say that, in practice, as in the case of John Lennon’s song at the Exeter C of E school, this often involves imposing an interpretation of one belief system on pupils with different convictions.

On the impact of selection by faith, Canon Hall wrote: “You can't judge the extent of it on the basis of a few anecdotes.” He went on: “Many Church of England schools admit a majority of pupils without any faith test.”

However the Church of England has so far been unable to produce any clear statistical data about the extent of faith-based selection in their schools, and has not indicated that it intends to do so.

Religion (or not) has become a hot topic in Britain’s schools. Christian groups repeatedly complain of anti-Christian bias in state schools, especially around major festivals like Christmas and Easter - notably the media-fuelled annual 'Winterval wars'.

Meanwhile secularists protest that Christian festivals are imposed on them, and advocates and opponents of a multi-faith approach dispute the presence or absence of particular provisions.

Says Ekklesia’s Simon Barrow: “What we need is a genuine level-playing field in education – a proper recognition of the needs of both religious and non-religious pupils, an inclusive approach to spiritual and moral development which encourages conversation between different life-stances, and an end to selection on the basis of religious affiliation in publicly funded schools.”

Ekklesia claims that the current debate is marred by the idea that being supportive or critical of ‘faith schools’ is seen as a matter of whether one is ideologically for or against religion. It points out that critics of such schools actually include a leading Jewish rabbi and Christian chaplains, and that they do so on theological not just social or political grounds.

“The other difficulty is special pleading”, says Barrow. “For example, Christians try to bar public cultural expressions they find offensive, but then church schools block a John Lennon song. Similarly, some secularists argue for free speech, but then want children who wear religious jewellery prevented from doing so.”

“We need a consistent approach which neither imposes nor prohibits religious or non-religious expression in public institutions – but which encourages positive engagement and better understanding,” he says.

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