Category Archives: Beatles

Liverpool: In Search of The Beatles Story 

The first time I visited Liverpool was in November 2002. The weather was typical of the English North-West in autumn: above the nil, wind and RAIN.
It should be noted that the trip was an act of appeasement of this Russian girl who was ready to love Manchester United FC provided that no one would stop her from adoring The Beatles. You see, Mancunians are peculiar people. In their view, all best things had happened – or are happening – in Manchester. Therefore, Liverpool, or London for that matter, is a nuisance that throws its shadow on the splendour of the red-brick city. (A note: Liverpudlians secretly giggle at, yet uphold, this ‘competition’). God knows what I had to listen about Liverpool! All people there stretch “i” sound, it’s raining there, Scousers keep outplaying MUFC in the Premier League and at various championships; and on top of that, there is an incomprehensible urban planning and roads that are impossible to navigate. However, as I was eager to even take the train, and my hosts couldn’t risk letting me go on my own, we eventually went by car. 
…and for some reason it was the day of our trip that the firemen trade union had chosen for their strike! To avoid strikebreaking and any incidents, the lifts were switched off throughout the country, communications with the firemen were aborted, hence anyone using electrical goods, shaving and cooking in microwaves was doing so at his or her own risk. We nevertheless went on our trip, but you surely do understand that Liverpool was the cause of it all?!

None of my company knew the city and had barely ever visited it, so we spent a long time searching for Albert Dock where The Beatles Story Museum was located. At first, we ended up at a car park which was at the opposite end of our destination, so we had to brave the rain and wind. In search for a parking space we had to go as high up as level 6 or 7. And whilst going downstairs wasn’t much trouble for any of us, walking back up the stairs presented a challenge even to the healthier ones, who didn’t suffer from asthma and had no problems with legs. The parking was located somewhere near the university, and, as I recall, it was the first time that I saw some tropical plants, like palms, fluttering pathetically in the wind. Later I would see many an unfortunate tree, like those ones, that somehow got settled in the English North-West and in Wales and were courageously soaking wet in the intermittent, cold local rain, the icy winds tearing apart their leaves. 

The road to The Beatles Story was long, though not winding. We had no idea where the museum was, so we took the direction in which everyone wagged and waved. We had to stop regularly because the adults had difficulty walking. We got hungry and popped into a cafe; I tried scrambled eggs with salmon for the first time. This part of the journey took about an hour and a half. Mancunians kept looking for ways to pick at Liverpool, but, apart from the weather (which hardly differed from Manchester), there was nothing to discuss.

After lunch we went on to search for The Beatles Story under the rain. The longer you live in England, the more you realise that the rain is accepted as an inseparable part of life, its absence denying life altogether. Or at least without the rain life becomes palpably incomplete. That time in Liverpool, looking for the museum, I also figured that it was under this perpetual rain the young Beatles had been gathering at each other’s houses, composing and rehearsing songs, and then going to the historical Cavern club to play a gig. They soaked to the bone and got cold but still went wherever the music was taking them. 

Finally, we almost reached our destination: we got to the other end of Albert Dock. Yet we were in Liverpool that evidently decided that those arrogant Mancunians had to get beans for their sharp tongues. On our right a wall was rising, in front of us the boats were floating, and on the left a small bridge was leading to the other bank of the dock. Unconsciously, instead of all this we expected to see some remarkable building with a running inscription, like the British Museum or the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, for shouldn’t Liverpool have been proud of its famous citizens? But alas, there was nothing of the kind. Looking around in despair, I saw two street-signs, one near the bridge, another next to us. Both had “The Beatles Story Museum” arrows pointing at each other. Where they intersected, stood a red Royal Mail post box pinned right in the middle of the little cobbled space where we stood. 
The epic journey was becoming unbearable. This magical mystery tour seemed to be endless but then we noticed a man with his young son. To our question he confidently waved towards the brick wall, and we turned around it and immediately stumbled on a green garbage bin and a sort of cabins painted in the style of the Beatles’ cartoons. And a little farther there was the museum building, with a running inscription, but the entrance led downstairs, rather than upstairs, and The Beatles Story was beginning with the very first steps…

From The City of Optimists by Julia Shuvalova 

The Wired Sculptures by Ivan Lovatt

Ivan, Andy, and Soup
Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Ivan Lovatt was born in Kenya and then came to live in the UK. For the past 6 years he contributed, as a professional sculptor, his works to private collections, corporations and public exhibitions. His most famous pieces are made of chicken wire: “by layering, twisting and shaping this very ordinary medium Ivan creates both abstract and realistic representations, which are tactile, appealing to the viewer to touch.  As Ivan’s skills developed and evolved he was drawn to figurative work, and Ivan began a series of portraits of famous people which candidly demonstrates his superior level of craftsmanship and attention to detail“. 

 

Michael Jackson
Imagine…

You can visit Ivan’s official website, while here is a small selection of his portraits of famous people. Most of them are instantly recognisable; it seems that Ivan is experimenting more with the medium than the form. However, his portraits of The Beatles and John Lennon reminded me of a series of photographs by an Italian photographer Enzo Rafazzini who was once offered to participate in a project illustrating The Beatles’ lyrics. Rafazzini chose When I’m Sixty-Four

 

Enzo Rafazzini
Enzo Rafazzini

In the post, though, I’m using The Beatles’ Come Together. I thought the rhythm suits all the images quite nicely. 

Enzo Rafazzini

 

Enzo Rafazzini

A Stockport Auction Sells John Lennon’s Tooth for GBP19,500

The trend of obsession with celebrities limbs and other body parts continues this year with the sale of a tooth that belonged to John Lennon. The lovely town of Stockport on the border of Greater Manchester and Cheshire counties held an auction where one of the items was Lennon’s molar: it was given by the Beatle himself to his housekeeper in the 1960s.

Back in 2009 an Italian astronomer and scientist Galileo made the news when his tooth and “missing finger” were found in a jar. Now it is the famous musician’s tooth. The bidder, Michael Zuk, a dentist, was bidding by phone to secure himself the lot. He will now pay £19,500 ($30,000) for this highly coveted item.

According to Karen Fairweather from Omega Auctions who managed the sell-up of Alan McGee’s collection, the molar is “rather gruesome, yellowy, browny with a cavity“. Dr Zuk, from Canada, is now going to add the item to his personal collection of celebrity teeth, with which he occasionally tours.

To quote The Hollywood Reporter, “the author of Confessions of a Former Cosmetic Dentist, a tell-all of sorts about celebrity teeth, Zuk now plans to display his prize in his office and eventually take it on a tooth tour of other practices and dental schools“.

So, folks, if you can imagine yourself reaching worldwide fame, think twice before asking someone to dispose of your cut nails, teeth, hairs, and such like. You never know in whose collection it ends up.

 

The Kosher Beatles and The MopTops Medley

Truly, when/if you love doing something, you can find a thousand ways of doing it. The MopTops from L.A. have been a Beatles tribute band for years (and they’ve just reawakened my passion for The Four, thanks!). Well, apart from creating several amazing covers of The Beatles (where “Paul” actually sounds better than his British prototype), they also adapted the traditional Jewish song, Hava Nagila, to the rock’n’roll tune.

The Lonely Shepherd (James Last and Gheorghe Zamfir)

Update:

There is a wonderful arrangement of The Lonely Shepherd by Zamfir and Nana Mouskouri that I wanted to share with you. Also this is one of the top posts on the blog, and I think it will be interesting to many new readers. Unfortunately, the way YouTube works these days, not only the embedded video may become unavailable, it may not be showing in your country due to copyright restrictions. But let’s hope most of you will be able to watch this beautiful performance and once again listen to the enchanting melody.

Most importantly, as you know (or will know) from the post, this melody has accompanied me throughout my life, so it is touching in its way to hear your comments and to realise that we all share something so dear. Thank you all very much for this.

In hindsight… could Mother Nature’s Son be the Lonely Shepherd?

I‘ve had this thought for a while, but never took it very seriously… The answer is, of course, that he could well be. Either the protagonist of Beatles song could be the Lonely Shepherd; or the Lonely Shepherd could be Mother Nature’s son. Paul McCartney wrote another of his solo songs when the band was in India, and reportedly it was inspired by a lecture by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. As a matter of fact, it was 40th anniversary of this song release in 2008.

Having said that, the vision McCartney conveys in this song is that of a dreamy, poor but fairly happy child. I dare say the image I’ve always had in my head when listening to The Lonely Shepherd was that of a young man. I’ve never contemplated much the meaning of “loneliness”, neither did I consider The Lonely Shepherd to be primarily a love song. But, of course, as boys grow older, Mother Nature’s Son could very well develop into a romantic young man…


Original post – 09 December, 2006

I remember loving this melody since I was three or four, but my mother told me recently that I was humming it to myself when still in a pram, and that was long before I was even three years old. In all these years it has always been my favourite piece of instrumental music. It’s kind of shame to think that on YouTube and elsewhere it is often defined as a soundtrack to Kill Bill, considering for how long even I have known it. I love the melancholy and grace of this melody, and it was nice to see it performed by the James Last Orchestra (which I adore) and Gheorghe Zamfir. Unfortunately, I used to have two YouTube videos embedded here previously, first one, then another, and both are no longer available (see the explanation below), so I decided to take the picture down, as well.

You can still, however, scour YouTube, and, judging by some of the comments, this amazing music and a fantastic inspiring performance don’t leave anybody unmoved. Myself and everyone who visits this page are, I am sure, very thankful to all of you who have already shared their appreciation of this wonderful composition. As before, if you have any special notes or memories about this music and don’t mind sharing them, leave a comment! 🙂

Links:

Official site of Gheorghe Zamfir (English, French and German versions)
Wikipedia entry for James Last Orchestra
James Last and His Orchestra – fansite created by Last’s German fan, Günter Krüger (English and German version).
An excerpt from The Lonely Shepherd on Last.fm.

Update:

This is a poem by Johann Wolfgang Goethe, called The Shepherd’s Lament (1803). I think there may certainly be a connection between this poem and the melody that we all love.

THE SHEPHERD’S LAMENT.
On yonder lofty mountain
A thousand times I stand,
And on my staff reclining,
Look down on the smiling land.
My grazing flocks then I follow,
My dog protecting them well;
I find myself in the valley,
But how, I scarcely can tell.
The whole of the meadow is cover’d
With flowers of beauty rare;
I pluck them, but pluck them unknowing
To whom the offering to bear.
In rain and storm and tempest,
I tarry beneath the tree,
But closed remaineth yon portal;
‘Tis all but a vision to me.
High over yonder dwelling,
There rises a rainbow gay;
But she from home hath departed
And wander’d far, far away.
Yes, far away bath she wander’d,
Perchance e’en over the sea;
Move onward, ye sheep, then, move onward!
Full sad the shepherd must be.

And one more update:

Unfortunately, I noticed lately that many of the videos I’ve blogged about, including this (now former) performance of The Lonely Shepherd, have been removed from YouTube. I have no clue as to what the reason is, especially because many more videos have been suspended that I used to watch a lot (I don’t have a YouTube account myself). I doubt the issue is in the copyright, since some versions of those video clips still exist in other users’ folders, but of a much poorer quality. Whether or not it may have to do with YouTube and Google merge, I don’t know, if you are familiar with the problem and know what happened, please do leave a comment and put my angry mind to rest.

In the meantime, there is a different version on my blog; if one day it stops working, we’ll know, why. I do hope this won’t happen – The Lonely Shepherd is a popular melody in every sense of the word: many people like it, and it’s very well-known. And because this is a televised version of the performance anyway, I cannot see the reason why the fans of Zamfir and James Last should not enjoy the chance of watching it – it is quite obvious that sitting in a concert hall listening to a live performance would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, incomparable to any video recording.

Amsterdam Bed-In 40 Years On: Memories and Reflections

They say that Twitter helps you find ideas. With regards to this post, Twitter helped me find the most of it… starting with a reminder about the famous Amsterdam bed-in at the Hilton Hotel staged by John Lennon and Yoko Ono between 25 and 31 of March, 1969. Although a seasoned Beatlomaniac myself, I have forgotten about the 40th anniversary. But then someone reminded me of it.

It was Joel Warady from Chicago with whom I share both professional activity (marketing, see Joel Warady Group website) and the passion for the Grand Four from Liverpool. His first tweet was a mere mention of the 40th anniversary, but he also mentioned that at The Hilton Hotel in Amsterdam there was a plaque on the room’s door. I was curious, so I asked if one could actually see the room. Joel’s answer was positive… and next I was asking him if he would be willing to answer a few questions. The Q&A exchange happened at Facebook, so in a nutshell here is an example of harnessing the potential of some Social Networks to do the work.

So, off to Joel 🙂 And many thanks to him for agreeing to answer the questions.


Joel Warady: This was the room where John asked for peace…

JD: Let’s start with your visit to Amsterdam. Did you deliberately choose to stay at The Hilton?

JW: I tend to go to Amsterdam for work purposes, and in 2007 I decided to stay at The Hilton. I didn’t actually think that it was there that John and Yoko had staged their bed-in. But once I arrived, I recognised it straight away and asked some questions. The front desk person was the one who confirmed it, and told me that if I wanted to see the room, the General Manager would be happy to show it to me.

JD: You mentioned there was a plaque at the room commemorating the bed-in. So, you got to see it – what was the impression?

JW: I did have a chance to see the room. I saw it many times before in the clips, but it was still very inspiring to physically be there. It was very cool, it felt historical, but also a bit sad. I was thinking that this was the room where John asked for peace, but then remembering that he was shot in an act of violence… it really got to me.

JD: Do you remember your reaction to the news on December 8, 1980?

JW: When I first heard that John was killed, I was in my car, driving in the suburbs of Chicago. Ironically, I was selling life insurance at the time, and when I heard he had been killed, I pulled off the road, and cried.

JD: John seems to be an important figure for you… am I right?

JW: John’s humour was always what made me smile the most. While I enjoyed his singing, his personality was what made it for me.

JS: And what about the Beatles, then? I notice on Facebook you list them among your favourite artists.

JW: Beatles did mean a lot for me. I’m old enough to remember their US introduction, but still young enough to introduce their music to younger coworkers. Even today when I hear certain Beatles songs, I tear up thinking of when I first heard the song. It also saddens me to hear John’s and George’s voices on certain songs, knowing that they both are gone.

JS: Do you have a favourite song?

JW: This would be a tough one! Obviously, there are so many… but if I have to choose one, it is ‘If I Fell‘ from A Hard Day’s Night album.

JS: As everyone knows, we the fans love going to our stars’ concerts, visiting the places where they lived or worked, collect memorabilia. What about yourself – have you seen the Beatles perform? Or went to Penny Lane, perhaps?

JW: Well, here is what really sad: although I’ve been to the UK over 70 times, I still didn’t get to visit Liverpool or Abbey Road. I do keep promising myself to do so, of course. At the same time, I have visited the site in Soho where they had their store. The same goes for those sites in London where I know they used to be in their early days, I love going there. I’ve never seen them live, but a few years ago I went to see Paul in concert, and that was awe-inspiring. Seriously, it was one of the best concerts I’ve ever attended.

The Significance of the Amsterdam Bed-In

The 40th anniversary of the Bed-In (commemorated in The Ballad of John and Yoko) was highlighted in the media, as well as marked by a special exhibition organised by Yoko Ono and The John Lennon Estate. The exhibition at The Hilton this year showcased John’s art work, posthumously fulfilling his dream to achieve recognition as a visual artist. On a personal note, I own what must be one of those collections of coloured prints that Yoko produced to popularise John’s work. To quote John Lennon Arts Projects,

Lennon’s style as an artist has been written about extensively, and consisted of two main techniques: quick sketching and the art of sumi ink drawing, which involves the use of a fine sable brush with very black ink and water. This Oriental art technique leaves very little room for error; the consistency of the water and ink has to be carefully controlled, and the brushstrokes must suit the consistency of the ink. Quick sketching was also well suited to Lennon, as he could draw extremely fast; many of his quick sketches were made in one continuous movement in which he did not lift his pencil from the paper, thereby creating an entire complex image with a single line.

Of course, for all of us who in one way or another were influenced by Lennon’s work, and by The Beatles in general, there will be those who are more or less immune to their charms. Michael Archer of The Guardian, for instance, attempts to explain the significance of the bed-in, but ends up speculating more about the phonetic similarity between Lennon’s “peace” and Ono’s “piece”, as she called her own artwork (now, of course, “piece” as a term has been so much appropriated by artists and art critics alike, it is probably impossible to appreciate the 1969 pun in its own terms). He also puts the bed-in in the context of the Vietnam war and compares it to the Grosvenor Square demonstration of 1968. What he forgets to mention, however, that 1968 was generally the year of protests (May’68 in Paris was fittingly commemorated in Bertolucci’s Dreamers); these happened in many countries, and the Vietnam war wasn’t the only cause. Lennon wasn’t too idealistic, after all, and certainly didn’t expect the world leaders to stop fighting to watch him and Yoko possibly having sex. The bed-in was an attempt to seize the moment, to get the world come to the Amsterdam Hilton and to “give peace a chance”. To quote one of the commentators on Archer’s article:

I was in NYC the night John Lennon was shot. Driving by the Dakota the next day on the way out of town was one of the saddest experiences in my life. In some ways, it has seemed to me that that day was a turning point in our civilisation and that everything went downhill since then… I still miss John Lennon for his music also, of course, but the world today could certainly use more of his wit, wisdom, and sarcasm. A special thanks to Yoko for keeping John’s memory alive…

P.S. I was hoping to add more “value” to Joel’s interview, as I found a video on YouTube (a Social Media channel, by the way) of Hans Schiffers, a Dutch journalist, interviewing Hans Boskamp at The Hilton Hotel. The video went online in February 2009. I tried to connect with Hans via YouTube mail, but was far less successful. My attempts at securing help of other Dutch speakers I knew, sadly, failed, but the readers of this post who know Dutch are very welcome to participate. You can leave comments or email me with the transcript. Either way, it will be quoted, and a full credit will be given to you.

You can also view a series of bed-in clips at Mojo4Music.

Ten Beatles Songs About Driving and Riding Vehicles

Is there a subject for a song that Beatles never covered? They sang about Lady Madonna, Nowhere Man, Fool on the Hill, and This Boy. They composed songs about Lovely Rita, Michelle, Eleanor Rigby, and a Day in the Life. Their guitars wept, and the mighty foursome rolled over Beethoven while the crowds of their fans twisted and shouted in ecstasy.

Have we realised, though, how many songs Beatles had written about driving or riding (flying and sailing) different vehicles? No, it is not just the famous Drive My Car. For all you Beatlomaniacs out there, this is a recap of Beatles songs on the subject of driving.

1. Back in the USSR. A very quick commemoration of the fact that, to get to the (now former) USSR, one needed to take a plane. “Flew in from Miami Beach BOAC… On the way the paper bag was on my knee, Man I had a dreadful flight”. You still need to take a plane to go to Russia from Miami. We hope the quality of flights has improved, though.

2. Penny Lane. Under the blue suburban skies there once were “a banker with a motorcar” and a fireman who liked “to keep his fire engine clean”. Oh yes, there were also a barber and a nurse, but apparently they had no memorable vehicles to them.

3. A Day in the Life. In the middle of the song John Lennon’s character “made the bus in seconds flat”. Before that, though, the character got to see a film and to read a story. The story from the newspaper was rather gruesome. It was about a man “who made the grade”: “he blew his mind out in a car. He didn’t notice that the lights had changed”. Next time you decide to speed up, remember this song.

4. Lovely Rita. Not sure Paul or John would be particularly impressed by the modern meter maids, especially since so many of them are guys and not really approachable either. But back in 1960s it was so much more different. Even though a girl looked “like a military man”, she agreed to a dinner, paid the bill (!), and even brought the guy home to sit on a sofa “with a sister or two”. This is when you begin to regret the passage of time.

5. Ticket to Ride. The song is packed with motion verbs: “the girl that’s driving me mad is going away, she’s got a ticket to ride”. It doesn’t get better than this…

6. Day Tripper…. unless you consider the phraseology of this song. If you are unaware of “day tripper” as the reference to drug addiction, then the song is a story of a carefree girl who nearly drove the guy mad (and then took a ticket for a Sunday drive). If you know about the other meaning of being a day tripper, then there is evidently much more to the song.

7. Yellow Submarine. This is a story about inspiration: “a man who sailed to sea” told “about his life in the land of submarines” with such gusto that a whole neighbourhood migrated below the waves. And they had all they needed on their yellow submarine. Oh, and an Octopus’s Garden in the vicinity.

8. Taxman. The list of songs about driving and riding would be incomplete without the mention of the notorious taxman. “If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street… if you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet”. So true, so true.

9. Honey Pie. The song’s protagonist was urging his sweetheart to “sail across the Atlantic”, otherwise his position was to get more and more frantic. “Will the wind that blew her boat across the sea kindly sends her sailing back to me?” OK, the Atlantic is actually an ocean… but you could still do with coming back, honey pie.

10. Drive My Car. By far, the most car-related and car-focused Beatles song. A very humorous one, as well. Never mind your own prospects, boy, if you can drive my car, you are in for a fortune. OK, not before I am really famous and with a car, but “I found the driver, that’s a start!

The image of John Lennon’s Rolls-Royce Phantom V is courtesy of Beatlemania.ca. The article by John Whelan about the car.

The Use of Religious Symbols (Saki, The Easter Egg)

The symbols of our religious festivals aren’t as innocent as we’d like them to be. Recently the State Russian Museum in St Petersburg exhibited the works by Yuri Khrzhanovsky, a Russian artist. One of the paintings was “The Ode to Joy”, which depicts two extraterrestrial characters, one of whom is playing a guitar. If you look closer at the image, you’ll see that the guitar is made of a Cross and a Wreath. The Cross is also repeated in the painting itself, and the picture has been criticised by one of the museum’s researchers as “the ode to blasphemy”. I suppose here in the West the story of “blasphemous” Christian images that had some grains of truth in them is age-old, and one only has to remember the immortal saying by John Lennon, that Beatles were more popular than Jesus. Bearing in mind the present crisis in religious mores, he couldn’t be more right, even if it came at a cost at the time.

Speaking of Easter Eggs, they were an inspiration to some, like Peter Carl Fabergé. There is a Wikipedia article about the awesome Easter Eggs he produced for the Russian Imperial Family, with information about almost all of them. Many of the eggs are now on display at the Kremlin Armoury, and if you’re planning a visit to Russia, absolutely include a trip there (consider the Kremlin as the Russian analogue to the Tower, especially because there is also a Diamond Fund, which only rivals the British Royal Jewellery Collection at the White Tower).

But Saki painted a rather gruesome story in The Easter Egg, which you can read in full if you follow the link. In the story the egg was used to carry out a terrorist attack, and it certainly reads as a rather humorous story, thanks to Saki’s style.

“It was distinctly hard lines for Lady Barbara, who came of good fighting stock, and was one of the bravest women of her generation, that her son should be so undisguisedly a coward. Whatever good qualities Lester Slaggby may have possessed, and he was in some respects charming, courage could certainly never he imputed to him. As a child he had suffered from childish timidity, as a boy from unboyish funk, and as a youth he had exchanged unreasoning fears for others which were more formidable from the fact of having a carefully thought-out basis. He was frankly afraid of animals, nervous with firearms, and never crossed the Channel without mentally comparing the numerical proportion of lifebelts to passengers. On horseback he seemed to require as many hands as a Hindu god, at least four for clutching the reins, and two more for patting the horse soothingly on the neck. Lady Barbara no longer pretended not to see her son’s prevailing weakness, with her usual courage she faced the knowledge of it squarely, and, mother-like, loved him none the less.”

It all changed on the day when the Easter Egg was to be presented:

“The next moment Lester was running, running faster than any of those present had ever seen a man run, and–he was not running away. For that stray fraction of his life some unwonted impulse beset him, some hint of the stock he came from, and he ran unflinchingly towards danger. He stooped and clutched at the Easter egg as one tries to scoop up the ball in Rugby football.”

So, a Cross for a guitar, and an Easter Egg for a terrorist attack. Not that we thought that religion was all about peace, did we?