Friday, September 30, 2011

Original Thoughts

September 29, 1961

The Beatles play a new venue today, Knotty Ash Village Hall, a concert organized by Pete Best's mother, Mona.  It's their last performance before John and Paul uncharacteristically take off for two weeks in Paris, leaving the other band members and local promoters in the lurch. 

The Beatles now are almost exclusively a band that covers music written and performed by other artists.  Their main occupation is performing popular music for the jive shows in Liverpool, where their audience would meet, dance and socialize.  However, members of the band had penned a few of their own songs by this time and some of them made their way into the repertoire.  One gets the impression they see it as a side bar to the real job, recreating the music that their listeners were already familiar with.

The really interesting thing about these very early songs is that, while they are not up to the standard of sophistication that Lennon and McCartney (mostly) would soon achieve, they have a certain undefinable something that sets them apart from the ordinary.  It's as if we are seeing the embryo of some newly discovered extraterrestrial creature and wondering what will it look like as an adult.

Some of the earliest songs that are being played live now, but recorded later are:
   Hold Me Tight (McCartney 1961)
   Love Me Do (McCartney 1958)
   I'll Follow the Sun (McCartney 1960)
   One After 909 (Lennon 1957?)

There are also songs that are sometimes toyed with by the Beatles later in the studio, but which are never commercially released by them.  Sometimes these are later recorded by other artists, but for now they form part of the Beatles set list.
   Hello Little Girl  (Lennon 1957 - the surprise in the wrap up to this song is especially prophetic)
   Love of the Loved (McCartney 1958?)
   Like Dreamers Do (McCartney 1957)
   I'll Be On My Way (McCartney)

Also, some early songs not know to be played live at this time:
   I Call Your Name (Lennon)
   In Spite of All the Danger (McCartney 1957)
   Cayenne (McCartney/Harrison 1960)
   Cry For a Shadow (Lennon/Harrison 1961)
   Like Dreamers Do (McCartney 1957)
   Winston's Walk (Lennon 1960?- in a fit of post-WWII patriotism, his mother chose Winston as John's middle name)

One thing that strikes me about these songs is the dominant influence of McCartney.  It seems likely that he is the precocious songwriter who first sees the potential of writing music as a vocation.  That is probably a reflection of his unshakeable self confidence, a trait that Lennon, down deep, is sorely lacking.  It might be that Paul is inadvertently "lighting a fire" under John and initiating the very fruitful competition that would become the most successful songwriting team of all time.  It is a theme that the partners would use again and again.  Paul discovering the new thing and John putting his unique and crucial spin on it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Beatcomber One

September 14, 1961

Today, John Lennon's first article (under pen name: Beatcomber) appears in Mersey Beat magazine.  Bill Harry, the publisher, recognizes early the crazy genius that is John.  John, never one to be restricted by rules that apply to everyone else, writes in a wildly creative style that owes a lot  to Lewis CarrollHere's a link to that first article.

I love this quote from Lewis Carroll about coining a word for his poem "Jabberwocky", which I think might well describe John Lennon's process. 

On coining the work "frumious:: "[T]ake the two words 'fuming' and 'furious'. Make up your mind that you will say both words, but leave it unsettled which you will say first. Now open your mouth and speak. If your thoughts incline ever so little towards 'fuming', you will say 'fuming-furious'; if they turn, by even a hair's breadth, towards 'furious', you will say 'furious-fuming'; but if you have the rarest of gifts, a perfectly balanced mind, you will say 'frumious'."

Monday, September 12, 2011

Beatle Girls

September, 1961
John and Cynthia               Paul and Dot

The Beatles continue to play the usual venues and their local popularity continues to climb. John and Paul are both involved in serious relationships.  John, of course, is with his Cynthia Powell. And Paul is nearing the end of his long term relationship with Dorothy "Dot" Rhone.  (Do I detect portents of the future, e.g. Yoko Ono, Jane Asher?  Leopards really don't change their spots, I suppose.)

Cynthia's father has died, leaving a young widow to finish raising their daughter.  But now, Cyn is a young adult and an opportunity has arisen for her mother to emigrate to Canada in the company of relatives.  After weighing the pros and cons carefully, she has decided to make the move.  Cynthia has assured her mother that she is perfectly capable of looking after herself.

Her relationship to John is now in its fourth year and getting more and more serious.  John has already toyed with the idea of marrying her once or twice.  His relationship with her has always been a very complex one, as has been the case in all of his relationships with women starting with his own mother.  Tender concern and generosity can be quickly succeeded by brutal violence in their romantic life.  But through it all an abiding love cannot be doubted. In the event, Cynthia asks John's Aunt Mimi if she can occupy a room in her home as a paying lodger and it is agreed.  With John still living there, they see a lot of each other, although Mimi will certainly brook no nonsense under her roof in the romantic department!

To earn her keep Cynthia gets a job as a shop girl at Woolworth's and is expected to help with the domestic chores as well.

Paul, on the other hand is growing apart from his long term girlfriend, Dot Rhone.  She believes that she is more of a girlfriend in name only anyhow.  The temptations are many and the one night stands easy to fall into.  Dot knows about the wandering, but she has long since stopped caring, and the feeling she experiences is of freedom from a domineering relationship.  John often admonishes Paul, telling  him he should treat his steady girlfriend better, very much a bit of advice that might come from an older brother.  (Hmmm, sounds like a song idea.  Something like "You're Gonna Lose That Girl"?)

It all says something rather profound about the personalities of the two young men.  Don't you agree?  John is always searching for that deep commitment and ultimate fulfillment, Paul is mostly interested in enjoying the ride and making every second count.  Where will their partnership lead?

Friday, September 2, 2011

My Record Lies Over the Channel

September 1961

Polydor releases an EP of the recordings made in June by Tony Sheridan and the "Beat Brothers" into the German market.  (Beatles sounds too much like Peedles, Deutsch slang for a certain male body part.  Not exactly good for the image.  Hence the name change.)  In Europe in the 60's EP (Extended Play) recordings were very common format for retailing music.  They didn't become accepted in the US until much later.

In that day and age, when communication was as likely to be by letter as by telephone and email and blogging had not shown up in the most fevered dream of even the craziest sci-fi writer, the Beatles themselves probably didn't hear about it until weeks later.  The songs included on it are the famous "My Bonnie", a Sheridan original called "Why", a Lennon/Harrison original instrumental - "Cry For a Shadow" and the traditional jazz standard "The Saints" aka "When the Saints Come Marching In".

The Beatles are on out commercial vinyl for the first time!  Blissfully ignorant of  that fact, the band continues playing the Cavern, the Aintree Institute, Hambleton, and St Johns Hall.  Does music store entrepreneur Mr Epstein notice their omnipresence on the scene?