Friday, June 29, 2012

Tower Ballroom and Barnston Women's

June 29-30, 1962

On the 29th, the Beatles do lunch at the Cavern (as usual) and appear in the evening at the third of Sam Leach's "Operation Big Beat", a five and a half hour extravaganza showcasing 10 local bands.  Sam always gave good value for your entertainment shilling.  The Beatles top the bill.
 And on the 30th, they do a return appearance at the Heswell Jazz Club, held in Barnston Women's Institute. View promotional posters and admission ticket here.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Casbah Begins to Fade

June 24, 1962

My pic of Number 8 Hayman's Green 
(Can't you just imagine them schlepping
guitars and amps up this walk?)
It is difficult to believe, but the Beatles, who have come so far, are still playing the neighborhood club run by Pete Best's mother out of their basement, the Casbah.  Three years ago, the teenage Beatles helped paint and decorate the club as a place for Pete's friends to hang out, drink coffee/cokes and listen to records played on a "hi-fi" turntable.  It has also been a place where, even when other venues weren't working out, the Beatles could play a few numbers for whatever members happened to be about.  Today, the polished Beatles play the Liverpool Casbah for the last time.

Did you notice that, more and more, events are beginning to be about leaving the past behind and moving on?  At the end of the month, the Casbah will officially close, its essential place in music history fully secure.

Of course, a special relationship between one of Pete's friends, their lodger and Beatle road manager Neil Aspinall, and his mother has blossomed and Mona is now 8 months pregnant with Neil's child.  (Scandal!)  I recon that may have had something to do with the closing.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Another Channel

June 21, 1962

Brian Epstein is developing a new strategy that starts today for bringing his band, The Beatles, to the top of mind of British music consumers.  He's going to book some A-list acts (especially American), so the Beatles can be seen to be sharing the stage with them.  Today, a Thursday evening, is their first foray into this arena.

The headliner is Bruce Channel and his harmonica player, texan Delbert McLinton.  The friendly McLinton shares the finer points of rock and roll harmonica with John Lennon.  Lennon, who is working on Beatles songwriting arrangements, borrows the musical  hook to Channel's "Hey, Baby" and inserts the result into their "Love Me Do".  The harmonica (along with hand claps) is soon to become a prominent (and catchy) feature of early Beatle arrangements.

The show is hosted by Liverpool jive hall impresario, Bob Woller at the Tower Ballroom.  And it's just one more example of how Brian Epstein, with his upper class manners, can open doors that are closed to most Liverpudlians.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Radio II

June 11, 1962

The Beatles return to Manchester's Playhouse Theatre to record for a second crack at the BBC radio listenership.  The do a couple of songs before a studio audience for broadcast on the Teenager's Turn programme on the 15th. The Beatles Fan Club is in full swing and is organizing bus tours following the band to out of town gigs, one of which is the Playhouse.  Guess they'll have an appreciative audience this night.  (And I trust you appreciate the British spelling.)

They are playing very heavily at the Cavern Club - they're practically the house band now.  The Merseybeat sound has come a long way in the last couple of years.  Not long ago they'd have to call Jailhouse Rock a blues number to put it on at the Cavern and the response from management would be "Quit playin' the bloody rock."

Liverpool's been conquered.  Now it's time to focus on the rest of England.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Perhaps the Biggest Day of 'Em All

June 6, 1962

--->>> Big Big Big Big Day <<<---

The four Beatles and their roadie, Neil Aspinall, ascend the steps and walk down the corridor to Abbey Road's Studio Two for the first time today.  They set up and play under the watchful of eye of George Martin's assistant, Ron Richards.  It is one of EMI's recording engineers, Norman Smith, who's ears are pricked up and who summons George Martin to come and have a listen.  It is the first day of a collaboration between Martin and the Beatles which would last for their entire career.

First, they audition a long list of songs, of which four are chosen for test recordings.  The old chestnut, "Besame Mucho" :-) and three originals, "Love Me Do", "P.S. I Love You" and "Ask Me Why".  None of the originals can be ranked among Lennon and McCartney's best work, but I think you get a sense of what was important to the record company.  Even though Martin is signally unimpressed with their songwriting, three of the four songs chosen for the test are originals.  There are certainly many covers that the Beatles would have done exciting versions of.  No doubt they get the message loud and clear.  WRITE SOME MORE AND BETTER SONGS!!!

For George Martin, this is a golden opportunity.  The rumors have been flying that HMV may be considering selling off perennial underperformer Parlephone.  Martin has a well paid, responsible position and it's up to him to make some things happen for his division.  That's why they give him the big bucks (or should I say colossal quid).  And he happens to like his job.  The obvious answer is a rock and roll band or two.  The teenage market is buying that stuff like it's going out of style!  The Beatles seem to have the makings of  a triple threat.  Great musical style, attractive personalities and novelty appeal (those odd hairstyles and suits).

Right now, Mr. Martin is thinking, which one will be the leader?  At that time, the standard rock band format was almost always "So-and-so and the Such-and-suches" (e.g. Cliff Richard and the Shadows).  In the course of the session, he notices their offbeat humor and the "us against the world" attitude that they bring.  He begins to see that maybe they shouldn't have a designated leader.  That their strength comes from four equally important but different parts.  (What an world shaking insight!)  Now, Mr Martin thinks, I just need to find the right original song for them and - Presto! - a hit record. 

The odd man out seems to be Pete Best.  Handsome guy but he is also very quiet and sullen, in a James Dean kind of way.  Martin doesn't remember him saying a word during the entire test.  He also thinks Best's drumming style is a bit too rough and ready for the recording studio.  At the end of the session, he informs Epstein that, if he does agree to cut a record with them, he will insist on a session drummer.  He assumes that Best will continue to play live dates with the Beatles, but a real professional will be used in the studio.  For Lennon and McCartney, this is the final nail in Pete's coffin.  Ringo Starr fits in so much better with their new more polished direction.  How can they get Pete out and Ringo in?  Pete will continue sitting at the skins for most of the summer's gigs, but Lennon and McCartney must be trying to image how the dirty deed will be done.  I think this episode marks a major turning point for the band.  Loyalty and camaraderie have been essential for the long hours and incessant demands of a traveling jive hall band.  But now it's time to turn the page and go up the next rung of the ladder.  The Beatles history is demonstrably all about change and evolution.  It is sometimes quite difficult and people will be disappointed, but the rules of the game are changing and the band has to be ready to adapt. 

Tomorrow, they make their way home to await the results of the test and to play their welcome home show at the Cavern Club before an amazing 900 young fans.  The kids must have been hanging on the walls like bats and sitting on each others shoulders.

Saturday, June 2, 2012


June 2, 1962

The Beatles, their contract with the Star Club fulfilled, leave Germany for England this afternoon.  They fly (yes, fly, this is the big time!) Lufthansa to London Airport (now known as Heathrow) and then make a connection to Manchester.  Tomorrow and the next day they rehearse in private at the Cavern in anticipation of their upcoming recording session.

Beatle coincidences are everywhere, if you just keep an eye out for them.  I was in Chicago this week and stopped to rest at a nice little public space called Lincoln Square.  Noticed a rather ornate lamp installed there.  Wandered over to take a closer look and here's what I saw.

Did the Beatles cross the bridge and wander past this lamp just before leaving Hamburg exactly 50 years ago?  I think this is what Carl Jung would call "synchronicity".   Oh, and my Beatles tribute trio is playing a gig at the Scarab Club in Detroit, tomorrow.  (For the full effect, you must check the link above.)  WTF?!