Friday, September 21, 2012

They Say It's Your Birthday, Rory

Spetember 21, 1962

One gets the impression that Rory Storm is a fun loving guy who keeps all the performing politics in a proper perspective.  There's abundant evidence for that at today's birthday celebration for him at the Tower Ballroom.  The Beatles do a couple of sets, as well as four other bands.  Appearing with the Beatles, of course, is their drummer, Ringo Starr, poached from Rory's band, the Hurricanes only about a month ago.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Beauty Queen?

September 18, 1962

One of the rare days off for the Beatles, so let's assume they spent the day working up a new song.  There's pretty good evidence that "I Saw Her Standing There" is put into performance shape at around this time.  And wonder of wonders, there is a photograph that supports it.

"With John and me on a song, if I come up with some lines which I know aren't really very good and I'm just hoping to fool him, I know I won't. 'I Saw Her Standing There' was the best example of it. I thought of the idea driving home from a concert in Southport. I had 'She was just seventeen,' and then, 'Beauty queen.' I knew this was rubbish, and that I'd put it down just because it rhymed. When I showed it to John, he screamed with laughter, and said 'You're joking about that line, aren't you?' And I realized that, in fact, I was, and we changed it."  Paul McCartney.

The song was finished in the McCartney living room at Forthlin Road in September 1962.  The photo was taken by Paul's photography minded brother, Mike.  The tune very soon became a prominent feature of their live shows.  It is interesting that Paul is playing a standard guitar, not a bass and John is using his new J-160e.  (They are both fingering B7th chords.)

I recall seeing a high-res version of this and the lyrics on the page are for ISHST
Lennon and McCartney are just taking their first giant leaps on the way to songwriting super-stardom.  (Hey, we can do this!)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Get Ready, World

September 11, 1962

The Beatles return to EMIs Abbey Road Studio for the third time.  By now they are feeling less overawed and a little more confident in the recording process.  On the other hand, Ringo, who has only been in the band about a month, is devastated to find that session drummer Andy White is in attendance.  He has to be wondering, "Uh-oh.  Did I make a big mistake here""

They start recording at 5:00 pm London time and finish up at 6:45, something less than two hours.  (For recording artists today, I doubt if they'd have the guitars plugged in by then.)  First, the band makes 10 takes of the McCartney song "P.S. I Love You" with White on the skins.  Then, they lay down 18 more takes of  "Love Me Do".  (Ringo is relegated to maracas.)

Also, they make a version of "Please, Please Me", which is still imagined as a slow ponderous number, ala Roy Orbison.  Today is the day that they first get the idea that it may work as a more upbeat song.  John , who wrote the song as a kid in his bedroom at Menlove Park, said in a 1963 interview:  "Our recording manager (George Martin) thought our arrangement was fussy, so we tried to make it simpler. We were getting tired though, and just couldn't seem to get it right. In the following weeks we went over it again and again. We changed the tempo a little, we altered the words slightly, and we went over the idea of featuring the harmonica just as we'd done on 'Love Me Do.'

"Love Me Do" and "P.S. I Love You" are mixed and mastered immediately after the session and sent to the pressing plant for manufacturing.  In the early versions of this record, the version of LMD with Ringo on drums is used, so I recon Andy White wasn't THAT big an improvement over the little amateur drummer from Liddypool.

On the 14th, Operation Big Beat V at the Tower Ballroom organized by Sam Leach, gives the punters five and a half hours of rock and roll for one price, headlined by the Beatles.  Brian Epstein is making sure they have something to do almost everyday.  More than half of  those are appearances at the Cavern Club.

A major event occurring sometime around this day, John Lennon and George Harrison obtain Gibson J-160e guitars from Rushworth's Music Store, which is a few doors down from Epstein's North End Music Store.. (Mersey Beat Magazine has this presentation taking place on September 10th.  This is the same store where I got my guitar strap in 1998!)  These guitars will soon become essential to the developing sound of the band.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Sticking a Toe into the Water

September 4, 1962

I'm thinking today has about the longest entry of all in my Complete Beatles Chromicle by Mark Lewisohn.  I guess that gives you some sense of today's importance to Beatle history.

Abbey Road in 1998
The Beatles, with new member Ringo Starr in tow, fly down to London for another crack at making a commercially viable record.  They arrive at Abbey Road Studios after lunch and are soon rehearsing six possible numbers with Ron Richards. At 7:00 pm, London Time, they begin to record in earnest.

Before the session begins, supervised by George Martin, Mr Martin goes over some of the details of what he expects of them, introducing them to the "ins and outs" of the recording process.  He ends with "...and if there is anything you don't like, please feel free to let me know."  George Harrison, with a show of supreme confidence and cheek replies "Well, for a start I don't like your tie."  That breaks the ice, and Martin knows he has a tiger by the tail.

Martin had earlier sent a demo disk of the song he had chosen for them to record, which he had obtained through the old boy songwriters market.  A song called "How Do You Do It" by Mitch Murray.  That song is recorded rather languidly by the boys, who are far more keen to do their own material.  Lennon says later he would have been ashamed to show his face in Liverpool if THAT had been the first Beatles vinyl to hit the charts. Not a bad song, really, but not what Lennon and McCartney had in mind for a shakeup of the popular music world.

"Love Me Do" is also recorded, but with a new twist.  John has recently added the harmonica, which is such a central feature of the song we know.  Well, that meant he couldn't sing the title line of the song, because his harmonica overlaps it.  So Paul McCartney is pressed into service to perform it.  On the original unreleased version, available on the Beatles Anthology, it's easy to hear his hesitation after having performed the song so many times on stage with Lennon doing the honors.  This episode vividly demonstrates that there is no thought of using overdubs or other studio tricks, and the recordings are essentially live performances recorded straight through in one take.

Martin doesn't say anything, but he must be listening carefully to the new drummer.  Is this a significant improvement over that other kid, Pete?  Hmmm, well, maybe not so much.

The Beatles return to Liverpool tomorrow and play two, lunch at the Cavern and evening at the Rialto Ballroom, a Sam Leach production and the debut performance at this venue.  They continue to play almost everyday on various Liverpool stages.  The next trip to Abbey Road is quickly arranged for the 11th.