Beatlemania, American Style! “8 Days a Week” review part two!

A review of Eight Days a Week; the Touring Years

A film by Ron Howard

Part Two: 1964 Mania, American Style

 

Read Part one here.

 

“Eight Days a Week” shows us (and proves to us) the hectic pace set by the Beatles from 1963 through 1966. During this time they toured constantly, stopping only to record singles and albums.

Other documentaries focus on the press constantly asking about their long hair (particularly in the US), but the most frequently asked questions (as shown in this film) were “How long do you think you will last?” and “What will you do when the bubble bursts?”

Because of the fear of the bubble bursting, the Beatles were not only put on a grueling tour schedule, but an equally grueling recording schedule –a new single every three months and a new album every six months. Milk it, baby, milk it!

November 22nd, 1963 was the day US President John F Kennedy was assassinated, but also the day the Beatles’ second album, “With the Beatles” was released. The movie shows each album and it’s time at #1 on the British charts. These are placed chronologically along with the performance clips.

A British radio reporter tells us about the Kennedy assassination and Paul tells us the bands reaction. None, well, not much. Diplomatically, he says they were too young to comprehend what had happened and they were too busy touring to let it really sink in.

At that point, touring America is discussed. Paul tells us they did not want to go to America until they had a #1 record. They did not want to go to America, flop, and then come home with their tails between their legs.

During clips of their shows in Paris, we learn “I Want to Hold Your Hand” was #1 in America. While the song plays in the soundtrack, we watch photos of the Fabs clowning around in their Paris hotel room.

There is much Beatle lore left out of this movie – its focus is on live performances and their records. The movies “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Help” were shown in clips, but only as it related to their recording and performing schedules.

There is no mention of, for example, John’s two books, their personal lives (two were married and two had children during this period) or their introduction to marijuana and LSD.

If you blink you will miss the one shot of Jimmy Nichols with the band. When Ringo had tonsillitis, Jimmy Nichols replaced him in shows in Denmark and elsewhere.

Ringo was back by the time the Fabs toured Australia to young people in the grip of a Beatlemania perhaps even larger than the American version!

During this time they were guests (and sometimes hosts) in many television shows all through Europe. Although the movie uses some of the interviews from the various television programs, it does not use the performances. Perhaps because of copyright issues; but it cements that the heart of the movie is live performances, not studio performances.

So no television performances.

With one exception.

A documentary set during the time of Beatlemania can skip Stuart Sutcliff and Yoko Ono; a documentary focusing on live performances can skip Lennon’s books of poetry and Jane Asher; but no Beatle documentary – even ones that are not Ameri-centric – can skip “the Ed Sullivan Show”.

The viewership was mentioned (half of the population of the United States watched) and bits of trivia (no reported crime in New York that evening), but the film focused on the performance itself rather than its impact.

That being said, the film does a fine job showing America in the total grip of Beatlemania with shots of fans at airports and hotels with newsreels and at-the-time interviews with the Fabs and the fans.

I finally have a complaint about the film: the first US press conference as well as footage of the Washington DC concert were colorized. Poorly so. Why? Why didn’t you colorize “Ed Sullivan” and “Hard Day’s Night”, too? Showing black-and-white footage won’t befuddle us or lose our attention. Treat us like adults, please? Ron Howard, you of all people should know … why don’t you colorize the black-and-white episodes of a certain show set in Mayberry, instead? Because you don’t have to. They are both fine as is. Leave them alone.

The only other complaint of the film? Another point that shows the producers do not have much faith in their viewers: unnecessary false audio. Documentaries showing silent films (particularly World War I docs) are bad about this too. In “8 Days a Week” it shows home movies of the Beatles swimming in a pool. We hear a “splash” at the appropriate time, but no other ambient noise. At other times the fans’ individual screams are dubbed in. At one point a girl screams Ringo’s name. It’s easy to lip-read. Yet the film-makers dub a youngster shouting “Ringo” 52 years after that clip was made. At no point while watching clips of girls screaming during Beatle concerts did I ever say, “What did she say? What’s wrong with the sound?” Again, please treat us like adults.

So, “Ed Sullivan” aside, no TV shows. During the US publicity tour, the film interludes with a brief biography of Brian Epstein and how he met the Beatles and became their manager. Bare bones – a youngster asked for a copy of their record in Eppy’s record shop, his curiosity made him seek the band out. He signed them on as clients. Back to the tour …

The Fabs move to Washington DC and then Miami (no concert footage) and back to the UK to film “A Hard Day’s Night”.

A little time is spent showing clips and some background on the film, but then back to the music and the grinding tour schedule; including an August tour of the US.

Which is a pity: Lennon didn’t like the film in retrospect. After two days following the band, the writers developed personalities for the Fabs that are still unshakeable – the smart one, the cute one, the quiet one, the lovable one.

However, one of the best lines from “A Hard Day’s Night” captures the essence of the Beatles on tour. “… so far I’ve been in a train and a room, a car and a room, and a room and a room,” says Paul’s film-grandfather. They should have used that – sums up their touring schedule perfectly!

Something I have not heard mentioned in Beatle movies or documentaries: the controversy over segregating the Gator Bowl! There were plenty of clips of the Fabs at the time decrying segregation – “Why treat other people like animals?” “We refuse to play a segregated hall”. How much controversy did this cause in the summer of 1964? The kerfuffle over Lennon’s Jesus quip in 1966 is brought up in nearly every documentary (this one, too), but surely bigots protested their comments on segregation, too!

And the movie probably gives the Fabs a bit too much credit on this point. The Gator Bowl may have been desegregated during their show, but afterward…? And segregation certainly did not end in the south due to their American Tour of 1964; more hearty seed had already been planted and would take root in the years to come.

Moving on to 1965 next time …

***

            Corporate shill department: I published a fictional account of John F Kennedy meeting the Beatles, titled, appropriately enough, “The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles”, available here on Kindle. I hope you enjoy it!

Original Material copyright 2016 Michael Curry

The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles – the Story Behind the Short Story

Announcing my first frenetic foray into fiction

I’ve been writing fiction since I was a kid in grade school. I love writing as much as I love reading but getting my stories published has always been frustrating.

Alas, I am writing in an age where fewer and fewer publishers are … publishing.  Were that this be the early twentieth century when newsstands were lined with magazine after magazine filled with fiction of every genre in all their pulpy goodness!

Those days are gone, but now cyberspace has replaced the old newsstand. You can still read stories of any genre and of any length online.

I have published three books online with some success. Regular readers know the titles by heart as I hype them with the frequency of a carnival barker: Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption, Toddler TV and The Brave & the Bold: from Silent Knight to Dark Knight. All non-fiction.

I have not published any fiction – novels, novelettes or short stories.  Until now!

(trumpet fanfare)

JFK Beatles moptops'

“The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles” is a short story (just over 5000 words) available through Amazon.

Wait, you say, John F Kennedy never met the Beatles. True.

All fiction starts with “What if…?”  What if elves and dragons were real? What if man could sail among the stars? What if vampires and zombies roamed the earth? What if three penniless sisters move to Kent, England during the Regency Period and experience love, romance, sense and …

What if Kennedy had lived? Either by surviving the assassination or by it not having occurred at all? What if he lived to see Beatlemania invade American shores? What if he asked them to perform at the White House?

Why would he ask them? Would the Beatles and their management agree? Would they say, “Stuff it”?

 

As a history buff, my recycling bin is filled with issues of History Channel Magazine (now defunct), Colonial Williamsburg Magazine (name and format now changed), Smithsonian Magazine and Renaissance Magazine.

I wrote “The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles” as if it came from such a magazine. It is very fact-driven – even with faux-footnotes.  Remember the old writing trope “show don’t tell”?  This is filled to the brim with “tells”. Think of it as a piece of fiction that thinks it is a piece of non-fiction.

And I like it! But then I say that about everything I’ve written.

But it’s true – I do like this story! It’s the kind of piece I would enjoy reading. I loved doing the research on the Beatles’ history and melding them with a fictional history of Kennedy’s second term.

I’ve also included quotes from the involved parties. Sometimes it was hard getting the voice correct – but I think I succeeded. I am particularly pleased with the quotes from George Reedy (LBJ’s advisor) and the humor in the press conference (“Did you vote for Kennedy?” Lennon: “I didn’t even vote for the queen.”)

I hope you enjoy it. Look for it on Amazon. It is available for viewing on Kindle and only costs $0.99.  You can enjoy it at lunchtime, before bed, or as one of many stories you can enjoy during a lazy summer.

Kennedy meets the Beatles

Here is the link to the short story available through Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Day-John-Kennedy-Met-Beatles-ebook/dp/B01HQQ7F8K/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1467304185&sr=8-1&keywords=beatles+kennedy+curry#nav-subnav

More fiction to come!

 

Copyright 2016 Michael Curry

Pluto Rocks!! The Classic Rock Connection – from the Moody Blues to Queen!

Pluto Rocks!!

If you can’t get the Moody Blues, Queen will do!

new horizon

In Mid-July the New Horizons space probe sent back spectacular photos of our solar system’s most mysterious planet (yes, I said planet, dammit!) Pluto. I blog about my initial reactions here.

The biggest reaction I got from my blog was from Moody Blues fans. Like hundreds (perhaps thousands or more) fans I trolled the interweb looking for any connection between the space probe and the Moody’s song from their 1972 album Seventh Sojourn (“New Horizons” was the second song on the Side A).

Nothing on a NASA-related site or a Moody Blues-related site showed any connection, other than fans like me wondering why not.

Too bad, it was a missed opportunity for both.

It would not have been the first time the Moody Blues were associated with space travel – it was a major theme in their 1969 album To Our Children’s Children’s Children.

I am a huge Moody Blues fan – ever since I started listening seriously to music as a child I loved hearing their songs on the radio. This was about the time “Nights in White Satin” hit the charts (around 1972) and was played frequently. Their greatest hits package This is… was an early purchase.

Moody Blues2

2015 is a great year for Moodies fans. March marked the 50th anniversary of their first hit “Go Now”, John Lodge released a solo album and Justin Hayward is doing a solo tour of the US (his St. Louis show on September 11th is sold out and I am begging on my knees-on-my-knees-Jacob-Marley for tickets).

Because of the Pluto probe, it should have also been a big year for the song “New Horizons”. But not one documentary or special I have seen – not one – feature the song.  Too bad, it would have been a perfect fit.

Imagine watching a special documentary on Pluto: with the stark image of the cold planet with these lyrics softly playing:

Where is this place that we have found? Nobody knows where we are bound,

I long to hear, I need to see; ‘cause I’ve shed tears too many for me,

But I’m never gonna lost your precious gift, it will always be that way,

‘Cause I know I’m gonna find my own peace of mind, someday…

 

It could have been the beginning of a wonderful two years for the band. Their publicity people could keep up the momentum until 2017 – which will be the 50th anniversary of the release of their iconic Days of Future Passed album. Rumors are already abound on the anniversary event. A one-time concert event with the “original” members is the most prominent – and the most likely.

Note that by “original” members I mean the iconic and most successful line-up. The 1965 Moodies who released “Go Now” fifty years ago had only three members go on to the more successful so-called prog-rock version of the group that is still around today. In fact, only one member – Graeme Edge – has stayed with the group all this time. The real original line-up was Graeme, Ray Thomas, Michael Pinder, Clint Warwick and Denny Laine (who was later the only lasting non-McCartney member of Wings). That group broke up but shortly reformed under the same name without Warwick or Laine. Their replacements were John Lodge (who played with Thomas and Pinder in prior combos) and Justin Hayward. This was the group that released Nights … In Search of the Lost Chord, Long Distance Voyager, The Other Side of Life, and more – totaling fifteen. Pinder left the group in 1978, Thomas retired and has since had a cancer scare (now in remission). Their last album was December, a Christmas collection – featuring only the remaining three. Their website spotlights only Haywood, Lodge and Edge.

All the members – current and former – have their own websites. Mike Pinder is still releasing albums! Most excellent!

The people at NASA and the Moody’s camp certainly missed a great opportunity here. Surely someone somewhere would have made the connection!

***

But those looking for a classic rock connection to the mission to Pluto need look no further than Queen!

Queen’s guitarist Brian May was in graduate school when the band took off. After the death of Freddie Mercury, the group disbanded and May finished his doctorate in astrophysics.  During New Horizon’s flyby of Pluto, he was recognized by NASA as a science collaborator for the mission. He used the images sent back to earth to create the first stereoscopic image of Pluto.

You can read all about it on his web-page.

When I first head about Brian May’s association with New Horizon, I was not surprised. One of his first solo efforts was Star Fleet, which featured Eddie Van Halen and members of REO Speedwagon and background vocals by Roger Taylor, Queen’s drummer. I loved the video when it first came out on MTV (note to the kiddies: this was way back when MTV played music). You can see it here.

starfleet project

***

Unfortunately, the photo showed no signs of the Mi-go. Well, the photos they are officially releasing, that is …

migo

But that can be the subject of another blog…

Copyright 2015 Michael Curry

 

 

Think you can name famous adopted people? You don’t know Diddley!

November is National Adoption Month! Throughout the month I’ll feature famous folk who have been adopted! 

 bo diddley

Culled mostly from Wikipedia:

 Ellas Otha Bates (December 30, 1928 – June 2, 2008), known by his stage name Bo Diddley. Bo Diddley is best known as … well, if you don’t know you are reading the WRONG blog… let’s just say anyone who has picked up a guitar since 1955 was influenced by his style and playing.

Born in McComb, Mississippi, as Elias Otha Bates, he was adopted and raised by his mother’s cousin, Gussie McDaniel, whose surname he assumed, becoming Elias McDaniel.

 

Be sure to visit Abby’s Road on Facebook for more Spotlights!

 The cover of Abby's Road

The cover of Abby’s Road

 “Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and how Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped” leads a couple through their days of infertility treatments and adoption. It is told with gentle (and sometimes not-so-gentle) humor from the perspective of a nerdy father and his loving and understanding wife.

Join Mike and Esther as they go through IUIs and IFVs, as they search for an adoption agency, are selected by a birth mother, prepare their house, prepare their family, prepare themselves and wait for their daughter to be born a thousand miles from home.

 

Winner, Honorable Mention, 2014, Great Midwest Book Festival


Abby’s Road is available at Amazon here: 
http://www.amazon.com/Abbys-Road-Long-Winding-Adoption/product-reviews/0692221530/ref=cm_cr_pr_top_recent?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=0&sortBy=bySubmissionDateDescending


at Barnes and Noble here: 
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/abbys-road-the-long-and-winding-road-to-adoption-and-how-facebook-aquaman-and-theodore-roosevelt-helped-michael-curry/1119971924?ean=9780692221532


and at Smashwords here:
 https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/457270

 

Copyright 2014 Michael Curry

 

 

Part Two of “Come and Watch us Sing and Play”; the Monkees Live in St. Louis!

(Part Two of) Come and Watch Us Sing and Play

          The Monkees at the Fabulous Fox Theater, June 5th, 2014

St. Louis, Missouri

1110421_ET_1107_monkees_reunion_02_DPB

The concert started with the screen tests aired as bits during their TV show (there were no never-seen-before bits on the screen), followed by the theme song and opening video of their show. I’m kind of glad they didn’t perform it.

  1. Last Train to Clarksville (from The Monkees – first album)
  2. Papa Gene’s Blues (from The Monkees – first album)

3.      Your Auntie Grizelda (from More of the Monkees)

  1. The Kind of Girl I Could Love (from More of the Monkees)
  2. She (from More of the Monkees)
  3. Sweet Young Thing (from The Monkees – first album). This was the first of many times Pete played banjo. Ironically, days before I was listening to George Harrison’s Wonderwall Music on which Peter played the banjo. Legend says his track was not included on the album – but it was in the movie – but I hear banjo…)
  4. I’m a Bleeder – er – Believer (from More of the Monkees)
  5. (I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone (from More of the Monkees)

Here was the first “break” featuring many video clips of the show – including Mike’s rapid-paced singing of his own “Different Drum”.

A wonderful part of the show was dividing the sets into their respective albums. The next set featured (mostly) songs from their most popular album Headquarters, unless otherwise noted:

9.      You Told Me

10.    Sunny Girl Friend

11.    You Just May Be the One

12.    Mary Mary (from More of the Monkees) (with this song Mickey took over the drums – I watched and he did very well – and the other drummer did percussion)

13.    Girl That I Knew Somewhere (B-side of A Little Bit You, a Little Bit Me)

14.   Shades of Grey (this song had a particularly great video montage – although it did distract from the band – it was here Mickey’s teasing Pete’s hair during the chorus). This was the first Davey song, although he co-sung it with Peter.

15.   Randy Scouse Git (this was preceded by the clip from the British TV show Til Death Do Us Part that inspired the title. The show was Americanized by Norman Lear and renamed All in the Family. So during a trivia night if you ever want to link the Monkees with Archir Bunker … here is it!

16.    For Pete’s Sake

17.    No Time

Video clips during this set break were clips of the show in Spanish.

18.    The Door Into Summer (from Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd … pant pant, hereinafter “Pisces”)

19.    Words ((from Pisces)

20.    Tapioca Tundra (from The Birds, the Bees and the Monkees)

21.    Going Down (B side of Daydream Believer)

The video screen showed clips of their movie “Head” … oh dear god in heaven are they going to do songs from “HEAD”!!??

The movie was awful, but the soundtrack was the best thing they ever did. It should air with Sgt. Pepper as examples of sixties pop/rock. I’m not kidding.

This was the best part of the show.

22.    Porpoise Song. Oh my god, they did the Porpoise Song. If anyone recorded this that loud voice in the audience singing along was me.

23.    Can You Dig it

They showed the video of Nilsson’s Daddy’s Song with Davy singing. The CD has a bonus track of Mike singing it. I liked that version better. So much so that I forgot that the “official” singer was Davy!

24.    CIRCLE SKY!!! (caps intentional – by now my sister and nephew asked me to sit down and stop embarrassing them. I never. NEVER. thought I would hear this song live. I hoped that someday I might see a solo set by Mike Nesmith, but this was a thrill.)

25.    As We Go Along (and by now the people sitting next to me were reacting and ushers had to be called. This is one of my favorite “deep tracks” by the Monkees. Hardly anyone knows about this beautiful Toni Stern/Carol King tune)

26.    Long Title: Do We Have To Do This All Over Again

After this wonderful set more videos aired as we headed for the big finish…

27.    What Am I Doing Hanging Round? (from Pisces. THIS is my favorite Monkees song. I was sooo glad they did it. Plus they did it at a slower tempo than the original. Overall the “new” live arrangements were superb, sometimes better than the originals)

28.    Daydream Believer (from The Birds, the Bees and the Monkees). This was sweet. Each of the surviving members took a verse, with Mike Nesmith taking the last. His velvety voice fit perfectly.

Encore:

29.    Listen to the Band (from The Monkees Present) (this was accompanied by a video of the song that I never knew existed)

The band members were introduced.

30.    Pleasant Valley Sunday (from Pisces). You knew this song was coming. It was one of their biggest hits and one of my favorites. Damn fun to play on the guitar, too.

I asked my sister how the show compared to the others. I expected the ones with Davy to be more Vegas-y. Lots more showmanship, horns, dancing, etc. I pointed out Mickey’s dancing during “Going Down” as an example of “Vegas-y”.

No, she said, those featured rock bands and were done in similar styles as this. The first tour with Mike Nesmith featured some of his solo songs. Ooo, I would have liked to hear some Nesmith tunes – Joann, for example.

She said there was more banter between the band members in their 2012 tour. There was some here, but not as much. I don’t mind that – I go to a show to watch them play. They can banter on Letterman…

The audience went bananas throughout. And there was quite an age mix – older men and women and small kids. Nothing like the Wiggles show, mind you, but there were kids under ten there. They used to introduce “…Believer” with “we used to do this before Shrek did…”

We need to start a petition to either make them put out a live album or a studio album of these arrangements pronto. Who’s with me?

Gentlemen, you were never jokes; you were never Beatle rip-offs. Bravo for Peter’s jibe about “we were accused of not being the Beatles, along with three million other bands…”

Thank you for nearly fifty years of wonderful music. And thank you for performing it for one night!

I am so glad I went – what a wonderful show. If you can, go see them. As Davy Jones’ death proved, we might not have many more chances to see them. In other words – you’d better get ready; they may be coming to your town.

 

Here’s another great review of the show: http://www.thetelegraph.com/news/lifestyle-news/1414036/The-Monkees-turn-back-the-clock-in-fun-energetic-show

 

Copyright 2014 Michael Curry

Come and Watch Us Sing and Play – The Monkees Live in St. Louis

Come and Watch Us Sing and Play

          The Monkees at the Fabulous Fox Theater, June 5th, 2014

St. Louis, Missouri

Part One

 monkees2014

This was my sister’s fourth Monkees concert – two with Davy and now two with Mike. This was my first. I was a Monkees fan before I was even a Beatles fan – the pre-Fab Four’s TV show reruns on Saturday mornings helped their songs to be as familiar to me as the theme songs to HR Pufinstuf or Scooby-Doo.

With some exceptions I have retired from concert-going since 1992. Shows were expensive even back then and my poor ears were suffering from enough tinnitus I didn’t need to aggravate it. I wore earplugs to my last shows – even Bob Dylan. During one, ZZ Top, I pulled out an earplug just to see how bad it was. I winced. Not at the music – they were in good form and supporting a great album – but at the volume.

I’ve come out of retirement twice not counting this show – Ringo Starr playing free at the VP Fair in St. Louis (a Beatle for free? Yes, I will come out of retirement to see a Beatle for free) and Rik Emmett playing a solo show in San Antonio (do I want to see the founder of Triumph for ten bucks? Oh yes…). I’ve not attended any other concerts. Rock concerts … the Wiggles and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra notwithstanding…

Until now.

The Monkees concert was a gift from my sister in exchange for purchasing some DVDs for her at Comic Con. She took her ten-year-old son and asked if I wanted to go.

They’ve toured extensively over the past eleven years; but I had to ask myself: “when am I ever going to get to see the Monkees again?”

Their story is familiar: NBC wanted a TV show to cash in on the success of the Beatles and capture the fun of their movies “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Help”. The execs thought about getting an actual group – legend says the Loving Spoonful was considered – but decided to cobble together a group from actor/musicians. Stephen Stills tried out and convinced his friend Peter Tork to do likewise. Mike Nesmith was another budding musician. Davy Jones appeared on the famous Ed Sullivan show featuring the Beatles’ first appearance along with his fellow cast-members of “Oliver”. Mickey Dolenz was also child actor.

The plots of the show dealt with an up-and-coming band playing gigs and getting into various zany antics – spies, monsters, gangsters, and mistaken identities – the gamut of 1960’s sitcom fare.

But the music set it apart. During this show the band showed their admiration for the many wonderful song-writers they used and named them – Goffin/King, Neil Diamond, Neil Sedaka, Harry Nilsson, etc. And rightly so…

At the time the songs and the Monkees – although very successful on the music charts – were written off as bubblegum music. Well, that term came a few years later, but the criticism was the same.

The Monkees were mocked for not playing their own instruments on their songs and albums. The band members complained about this too, and were allowed to do so beginning with their Headquarters album.

Eventually the show was cancelled, their movie and TV special each bombed and their albums and singles failed to chart. One by one they left the group to do their own thing.

Their popularity grew as new fans discovered their show’s reruns on Saturday Morning (me) and in the 1980s on MTV (my sister). Their detractors were silenced over time as their music aged well. Very well.

They would reunite throughout the decades, usually Mike being the hold-out as his career was moving along and his participation was not necessary.

I am a big fan of Nesmith’s solo music and a subscriber to his video ranch productions. Check it out: http://www.videoranch.com/

Nesmith appeared on stage with the other three on occasion and helped with the album and TV special for their last album “Justus” in 1996. But otherwise, when the members were not doing solo shows or participating in “Teen Idol” festivals, the Monkees toured as Davy, Mickey and Peter.

Davy Jones died in 2012. Mike agreed to tour with Peter and Mickey in 2012 and again this year. Among the excellent band members were Mike’s son Christian on guitar and Mickey’s sister as one of the back-up singers. The other back-up singer, Circe Link and Christian are in a band called “Circle Jerks” and the bass player is their manager – so there was a lot of family up on the stage.

 

The musicians were wonderful. They rocked even during the more poppy numbers. Throughout the show I was amazed at how well these songs have aged.

And the Monkees themselves have also aged well. Mickey can still hit the high notes – particularly on “Words” and “Randy Scouse Git” and only rarely being unable to hit the higher ranges – most notably on “She”. Mike still sang with a caramel smoothness. Peter suffered the most from comparison, but then, he was never known for his strong vocals.

Recommendation: the Monkees should think about making a studio album of their live set to show off their musicians and the new, wonderful arrangements of their classic songs. Their version of “Daydream Believer” will likely make the charts, or at least be a popular download.

A video screen above the band showed constant clips of the TV show, their movie and TV special. At times I found it distracting. I’m there to watch the show, not clips from “The Monkees’ Paw”. But it helped give the band a break during sets and keep the audience cheering.

Next: Part 2 – the set list!

 

Copyright 2014 Michael Curry

A Night of the Most Excellent Order – a review of “The Beatles – a Night that Changed America, a Grammy Salute

A Night of the Most Excellent Order
A review of “The Beatles – a Night that Changed America, a Grammy Salute”.
            Popular music and I have not said a kind word to each other in over twenty years. That is why, up until the afternoon of February 9, 2014, I had no plans to watch the CBS Special “The Beatles – a Night that Changed America, a Grammy Salute”. It was taped some weeks ago, but it aired 50 years to the day – to the hour – that the Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan. It was the most-watched television program up to that time.
            Reading through the list of scheduled performers – the ones hyped, that is – was akin to reading “Entertainment Weekly”. Page after page of people I don’t know starring in TV shows and movies I don’t care to see. The only group I had heard of was the reunion of The Eurythmics. Oh joy. A combo I didn’t like 30 years ago are reuniting so I can dislike them all over again.
            But it was necessary to get the public to pry themselves away from reality shows to watch musicians play songs from fifty years before.
            It wasn’t until previews were available on Youtube that I decided to watch it. Well, Tivo it. Stevie Wonder performed. Okay, so it’s not just “American Idol” rejects wailing their way through the Beatle catalog. There was some talent involved.
            Fortunately, instead of a parade of the latest talent-less celebrities known more for their tongue and twerks, we saw some fine performances!
           
            And it was a great show! The performers – all of them – did an excellent job! The bits in between the songs were of more interest to me, but I was not disappointed by the performances. The ones I knew, the ones I only heard of and the ones I never heard of – all did superbly. I have no desire to run out and get their latest albums, but …
            I had to look up the spelling of some of the performers on Google, I apologize if I didn’t get them right…
            The show started with the original intro tag. Coming up next on the “The Ed Sullivan Show” … a great way to start it.
            LL Cool J gave us an introduction to the reason for the special and introduced a clip from the “The Ed Sullivan Show” – the Beatles performing “All My Loving”. It segued into Maroon 5 finishing the song and they then performed “Ticket to Ride”.
            Throughout the show shots of audience members peppered the performances. Mostly they concentrated on Paul and Ringo and their wives in the front row; but occasionally we saw Yoko and Sean and George’s widow Olivia as well as other stars. I only recognized a few of them.
            Next came Stevie Wonder with his hit “We Can Work It Out”. Rumor is he did it twice because he did not like the first take. “Fire me, sue me,” he told the audience. It’s Stevie Wonder. He could have done a dozen more…
            And now we get to see the house band – Peter Frampton doing his usual excellent guitar work. He was an uncredited guitarist on George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass” album. Steve Lukather, a touring member of Ringo’s All Starr Band also played guitar excellently. Had he played this well with Toto they might not have sucked. Kenny Aaronson played thunderous drums. He played with everyone – EVERYONE – in the 1980s and I know him from the woefully underappreciated album “HSAS” with Sammy Hagar and Neil Schon. The director apparently loved Kenny too – they cut to him playing every six seconds or so.
            Johnny Depp introduced the song “Something” performed by rock veterans Joe Walsh and Jeff Lynne. They were joined by George’s son Dhani. It was the only stage appearance by a Beatle-spawn. Sean Lennon was in the audience but did not perform. Why didn’t he?
            Eric Idle appeared next, reprising his role as the narrator/TV journalist from his “Rutles” specials. They gave his character a name – Nigel Spasm (although his name was never given in the original Rutles programs). He mentioned the Rutles performing that night 50 years ago. He was hilarious.
            He introduced (and narrated) short biographies of the Beatles beginning with John Lennon. John’s was the most effective. It ended with the death of his mother and the line “… the love of music his mother shared … would … transport him our of Liverpool and across the universe.” Lovely.
            Why did they decide to colorize part of the black and white photos in these biographies? We the People do not need big, bright and loud colors to keep our attention; we can handle black and white photos, thank you. Treat us like adults and we will start acting like adults. Deal?
            Next began a series of excellent, excellent, walk-throughs and interviews with Paul, Ringo and David Letterman. They discussed the studio, the set list, their choice of name, etc. It was usually done after the commercial break and was one of the highlights of the show.
            Some of my favorite bits throughout were interviews from women (girls) who were in the audience 50 years before. This was peppered with Ed Sullivan performances of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “I Saw Her Standing There.”
            Kate Beckinsale (someone who starred in movies I’ve not seen) introduced Ed Sheeran (a singer I’ve never heard of) doing “In My Life”. He did an excellent job! Wonderful guitar work – I’d like to learn his version of this song (which was performed at my wedding).
            More audience shots. Ah, I recognize someone – Tom Hanks! Tom Hanks was in an audience that had camera shots and this was the first time he managed to get his mug in front one? Wow.
            They showed a clip from “Let It Be”. They got the rights to show a clip from “Let It Be”. This is akin to showing footage of Bigfoot. It was the rooftop concert version of “Don’t Bring Me Down”.
            In the middle of the song it segued into two singers named John Mayer and Keith Urban singing the song (ala “All My Loving” at the beginning of the show). They cut off a clip of “Let It Be”. THEY CUT OFF A CLIP OF “LET IT BE”. To use the previous analogy – is would be the same as showing ten seconds of authenticated proof of Bigfoot then airing a bit from “Harry and the Hendersons”.
            Katy Perry managed to cover her cleavage long enough to sing “Yesterday”. There was some controversy when she changed the lyrics by switching gender (“I’m not half the girl I used to be”). Oh, get over it. Happens all the time. That is no controversy; leave her alone. 
            Then came the Beatles’ Ed Sullivan performance of “She Loves You”.
            An aside: strange that the two songs most associated with the Beatles – not the most popular but the most iconic – “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “She Loves You” are the two least-covered songs in their repertoire. They did not cut away to anyone “taking over” “She Loves You” from the Ed Sullivan clip – whereas they did twice earlier in the show.
            At this point, and peppered throughout the rest of the show, were my favorite bits. Interviews with the crew of the “Ed Sullivan Show” on that day 50 years ago. Bill Bohnert, art director/set designer, John Moffett, associate director, and Vince Calandra Sr, production assistant and George’s stand-in during rehearsal were interviewed about their work on the show that day and during rehearsals. Bill tells the story that Paul said, “We’ve always wanted to do ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’.”  Funny, not a half-hour ago Paul said they had never heard of “The Ed Sullivan Show” until they were booked on it. No one else seemed to care …
            There was a moving story of John Lennon’s awe at standing in the same spot as Buddy Holly when he did Sullivan a few years before.
            LL Cool J introduced the song “Revolution” performed by Imagine Dragons. “What!?” says I. “The kid’s band? Disney’s version of the Wiggles?”  No, that was Imagination Movers – this is Imagine Dragon. They did a very good acoustic version of the song.
            Dave Grohl was next. He was in the Foo Fighters and Nirvana with Kurt “what a weird bong” Cobain. He gave a moving tribute, saying his mother had always been a fan of the Beatles; saying his daughter is a fan of the Beatles; and lying about HE always being a fan of the Beatles. I recall 22 years ago he and his fellow grungy ilk saying they don’t like music by dead people.
            They stopped saying that when Cobain showed us what his brains looked like.
            I guess being invited to a Beatles tribute helped his love of the group along a bit.
            That being said, he and Jeff Lynne did a superb version of one of the Beatles’ best and least-known songs. “Hey Bulldog”.
            Back to Kate Beckinsale introducing The Eurythmics. There is no “The” in their official name. When they were popular they insisted that DJs NOT call them The Eurythmics, just Eurythmics.
            So THE Eurythmics played “Fool on the Hill”. I said that correctly – they PLAYED “Fool on the Hill”. If you recall The Eurythmics were a purely electronic band; all computerized. Yet, when they performed they had drums, back-up singers and guitars. “If they were true to their art,” I said on the radio back in 1985 or so, “they would set up a computer on stage, put in a floppy disk, press play and tell the audience to enjoy the show.”
            Annie Lennox has a lovely voice and is a powerful singer, but I’ve never liked it personally – oil to my water. Dave Stewart was once in a band in the 1970s called Longdancer. It was an EXCELLENT group. And some of his post-The Eurythmics bands harkens back to those rock ‘n roll days. So The Eurythmics reunite. From the hype you’d think this was the highlight of the show. It wasn’t. It was GOOD, mind you, but not the highlight of the show.
            Alicia Keys andf John Legend gave testimonials and then gave their rendition of “Let It Be”.  I had heard of them both but never heard their music. I only knew of John Legend when I would joke about (ironically) him being in the Beatles with Paul McKenzie.
            John Legend has an excellent voice! Alicia Keys … well, it’s like the issue I have with anyone – ANYONE – on “American Idol”. I would have more respect for her talent if she could sustain a solid note for more than two seconds. Was someone shaking her seat or does she cover the entire musical scale with every note?
            More bits with audience members and crew members. Here they included reminiscings from Mitzie McCall and Charlie Brill – a comedy duo who also performed on “The Ed Sullivan Show” that night! I wanted more of this – I wanted to know who else was on the show as well as what else was on that night? What did NBC and ABC air? This show’s main focus was on the Beatles, true, but it was also focused on “The Ed Sullivan Show”, too. I have the Beatles’ appearances on Sullivan on DVD, so I know who else was on the show, but a few clips of the other performers wouldn’t have taken up much time.
            Actress Anna Kendrick, who starred in movies and TV shows I’ve never seen, introduced the song “Here Comes the Sun” and gave us a history of its writing. Would it have violated some law to mention it was a hit for Richie Havens, who died last year? Pharrell Williams and Brad Paisley, whom I have not heard of, performed the song with members of Cirque du Freaks, er, Soleil pole dancing above them. Other members of the circus troupe sat in front of them holding dolls. This circus troupe is popular why?
            Gary Clark Jr., Dave Grohl and Joe Walsh did a rousing rendition of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”. A fun moment was the camera cutting away to Ringo who was miming Grohls’s drums. I love Joe Walsh. He is an excellent guitar player and even shared some vocals here (not his strongpoint one must admit). He, as well as the other two, was wonderful, but … would it have been so hard to get Clapton? Really?
            Jeff Bridges gave a wonderful testimonial and introduced Ringo. Ringo then made us forget the past hour and a half and stole the show. He perfomed “Matchbox”, “Boys” and got the audience involved in “Yellow Submarine”. Musically, it was the highlight of the show. And kudos to Ringo for introducing at least one member of the house band – sometimes All-Starr Peter Frampton. Ringo gave a shout-out to Grohl and his daughter. You could tell Ringo was impressed with his drumming.
            Sean Penn, who is looking more and more like DeNiro, introduced Paul McCartney. After Ringo’s funfest this seemed almost anti-climactic. Paul went through rote versions of “Birthday”, “Get Back” and “I Saw Her Standing There”. The house band left and Paul performed with his group. By now Paul could do these songs in his sleep. He nearly did. Too bad. He had nothing to prove, true, but it was almost as if we were supposed to enjoy McCartney being McCartney and not enjoying his performance.
            Case in point: Paul did “Sgt. Pepper”. He would have been forgiven if he changed the lyrics to “50 years ago today…” The press would get on Kate Perry but not HIM. Just before Ringo joined him onstage, Paul sang “Billy Shears”. He could have said “Ringo Starr”. The audience would have loved it. I would have loved it! To me this shows how Paul was going through the motions rather than relishing the moment.
            Paul and Ringo have only performed together (post-Beatles) once in 2010. So their “With a Little Help From My Friends” was momentous and fun. Ringo brought back the enthusiasm he apparently took with him from his previous set.
            For the finale, “Hey Jude” they were joined by the house band and the other performers and producers.
            Yoko, Sean and Olivia never took the stage. I think that was a wise move. They would have been given a standing ovation, to be sure. But they were there to honor their husbands and father.
            It was a wonderful program and I enjoyed it very much. Probably not enough to rush out to get the DVD, but I liked it and was glad I saw it.
            I did have some problems with it: as I said earlier, this was about the Beatles, but there was enough about “The Ed Sullivan Show” to wonder why they didn’t talk about who else was on that “America-changing” day” Why not show a clip of Frank Gorshin’s hilarious stand-up from that night? Or a bit from Sophie Tucker?
            Would it have hurt to have Mickey Dolenz give a two-minute tribute to fellow-Monkee Davy Jones? He was on the show too that night, doing a song from “Oliver” as the Artful Dodger.
            Also, perhaps after two-and-a-half hours the powers-that-be were afraid We the People would not have the attention-span for another 50 minutes; but why not SHOW the entire Ed Sullivan program from February 9, 1964. It couldn’t have been a question of acquiring the rights – they showed a clip from “Let It Be” for god’s sake!
            And where the hell was George Martin?
Copyright 2014 Michael G Curry
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 
 
 
             

 

 


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