Category Archives: Beatles influence

Book Review: “Wham! George and Me: A Memoir” by Andrew Ridgeley

Wham!, George Michael and Me: A Memoir by Andrew Ridgeley released October 2019 was not at all what I was expecting…but in a lot of ways, that’s a good thing!

I’ll let you all in on a little secret as to how I pick some of the books I read – when I see a suggestion for some music related book on Amazon, I’ll click on it to see when it was released. After that, I click on the Kindle version, then click on “See Inside” (above the picture). Usually, there is a search button, so I enter in “Beatles” to see if there is any references to our Fab Four. So before you judge me for reading the story of Wham!, know that “Beatles” was mentioned at least 3 times and Paul McCartney at least once.

If you had asked me to tell you about Wham! before I read this book, I would have gotten the story all wrong. I was in my early 20s when Wham! hit the charts and I was one of the many clubbers dancing to their music. I even have a very distinct memory of sitting at a bar with a friend and watching the video of ‘I Want Your Sex’ playing on a television in the corner. I would have guessed they were just two semi-musically literate, pretty boys from England that were discovered by some A&R person from a record company looking for the next big MTV hit. Not quite…

There was a sudden change in mood in the classroom. Conversations regarding Pan’s People, David Essex and those awkward summer kisses were shushed when our form tutor, Mrs. Parker, entered the room, trailed by a nervous-looking  boy. Dressed in a pristine, box-fresh school uniform, he wore a pair of oversized steel-framed specs. His hair, which looked like a dressing-up wig, appeared to have been made from coarse man-made fibre. And the pressure of facing down a room of new classmates had clearly shaken him.

This was Andrew Ridgeley’s first impression of an awkward and chubby, 13 year old Georgios Panayiotou (aka George Michael). On that day, he would volunteer to show the new kid around and meet his lifelong best friend. The two would become inseparable and later become Wham! despites George’s parents best efforts to keep the Andrew away because they felt he was a bad influence on their straight A son who they dreamed of going on to a university.

Brooke Shields The “Michael” Popstar Groupie (Jackson, George & Bolton) | FeelNumb.comThis book is Andrew Ridgeley’s story of his friendship George Michael and how they created Wham! He respectfully avoids any controversy about George’s sexuality, dating habits or history. He does disclose when George came out to him and his response. Andrew does reference George’s autobiography, Bare, a few times to clear up some varying points of view, but stays true to respecting George’s story and estate.

They were best friends until the end. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “Shake it up, Beverley” by Suzan Holder

You know that beach book you’ve been looking for this summer? Well, I think I found it thanks to Roag Best and The Liverpool Beatles Museum!

Over the past week or so, Roag has been posting on Facebook about the first ever book to be launched held at the Beatles Museum in Liverpool. I don’t know why it took me a week to look it up on Amazon, but when I finally did, I immediately ordered myself the Kindle version of Shake it up, Beverley by Suzan Holder. It’s only $2.99 and I didn’t feel like waiting for the paperback edition that’s not deliverable until June 10th (not sure why that is).

I know I should be reading more non-fiction Beatles related books for this blog, put for the past week or so, I’ve really needed a distraction…something I could enjoy without having to actually think about it. It was then that the posts started popping up on Facebook about this book. I knew then that it was meant to be reviewed for my site.

What a fun, relaxing read this was! How could I not love a novel where the protagonist, Beverley Wilson, is a fifty-something year old, mother of three, like myself? I think every middle-aged, female Beatles fan will be able to relate to her mild-manner, ordinary, ‘careful’ life that gets turned upside down when she decides to re-enter the dating world after the death of her husband. Her kids are all grown…what could possibly go wrong?

One of the fantastic elements about this book is that the author mixed in so much Beatles history and plenty of the Fab Four’s Liverpool landmarks into the story, including the McCartney’s home in Speke. And no wonder the book launch party was held at The Liverpool Beatles Museum, when the main character not only visits the museum, but also spends an evening at the Casbah Coffee Club!

I read this book in less than 2 days and the only bad part about it was that it had to end. I thoroughly enjoyed Beverley Wilson’s exploits, adventures and mishaps. Just when you thought you figured out one mystery in this book another one pops up to keep you entertained throughout. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

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Album Review: “Songs From the Green Couch” by Seth Swirsky

I got an email from Seth Swirsky‘s people asking if I’d be interested in reviewing his latest album – Songs From the Green Couch. For those who have been reading my blog for awhile, you may remember me reviewing his book – 21 Ways to a Happier Depression in 2018 and his album Now It’s All This by The Red Button in 2017. For those who don’t following along, Seth wrote the Grammy nominated song “Tell it to My Heart” for Taylor Dane. He is also a painter, so he’s quite the talented fellow!

There’s no denying Seth Swirsky’s talent for writing great songs with nostalgic melodies. Songs from the Green Couch will invoke memories of tunes from the 50s through modern day. You can hear the Beatles influence in several songs. Cashmere Sweaters is a beautiful (though a bit corny) song with an undeniable Beatles imprint. What Was I Thinking feels very McCartney/Wings-ish, and Dead has that dark John Lennon feel to it.

If you’re a fan of The Monkees, you’ll probably dig the first track – Sunny Day. And for the 70s soft rock fans there is the sweet sound of Every Time…that reminded me of Gilbert O’Sullivan.

Don’t let the early rock influences fool you…this is a great 15 original song album for putting on shuffle to mellow out with it’s really sweet love song – You Kind of Mood or what I like to call Seth’s laundry list of chores – New Painting! And then there is the power pop song I Don’t Wanna Lose You

I rate this album, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music” by David Grohl

The Storyteller tales of life and music david grohlUnfortunately, I didn’t give The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music (Dey St. Publishing, October 2021) by Dave Grohl the respect that it deserves. I actually let it sit HALF READ on the end table next to my couch for a month! Oh…the humanity…I hang my head in shame. But now that my load has been lifted (I work as a temp, but have decided not to take any new jobs this month), I finished it in two days…something that any sane person could have done with the entire book!

Is this book everything you think and expect it to be? Well…yes and no!

Does it contain:

The grungy little details about Kurt Cobain?…no.

When and who Dave lost his virginity too?…no.

Details of his first marriage?…no.

The suggestion that he may have been abducted by aliens?…yes!

The gory details of him falling off the stage and breaking his leg?…yes!

For those of my readers that may are not aware, Dave Grohl was the original drummer for Nirvana and the founder of the Foo Fighters and he is a huge Beatles and Paul McCartney fan. So, if you’re looking for Paul McCartney stories, he doesn’t disappoint. The book is filled with stories of meeting his musical idols and how he himself turns into a ‘fan’ upon coming face to face with them.

As a doting father, Dave also tells of the excitement he feels when he gets to introduce his daughters to rock royalty. Imagine Paul McCartney playing piano with your three year old or Joan Jett reading her a bedtime story! And Dave tells the stories so humbly that (unlike other rocker memoirs) it doesn’t come off as bragging. Along those same lines, you won’t be forced to read through endless tales of his sexual conquests, but you’ll learn how much he loves and respects his mother.

In 375 pages, Grohl covers a lot of ground, but leaves so many things untold. This book will definitely leave you wanting more. And I have a feeling there will be at least one more book to follow this one. After spending much of the book telling stories about being the father of three daughters, the youngest two don’t get their fair share of page worthy stories. Also, in the credits, he thanks his publisher Liate Stehlik, “who allowed me the honor of telling my story (or at least a tenth of it) to the world. Thank you. Someday I’ll have to tell you the rest.” I look forward to hearing them too!

And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

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Guest Album Review: “Blackbird: Lennon-McCartney Icons” by Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis, Jr.

Another excellent review from Amy McGrath Hughes:

McCoo Davis BlackbirdThis album is available for pre-order from EE1/BMG and will be released April 30, 2021.

There is no small coincidence in my mind about what went down in Minneapolis on April 20 and hearing the beautiful voice of Marilyn McCoo singing The Beatles “Blackbird” in a way only she can – uplifting and soulful – to see how timely and timeless the band’s music has always been.

With husband Billy Davis, Jr., this dynamic duo is back (and really, were they ever far away?) releasing a collection of Lennon & McCartney covers entitled Blackbird: Lennon-McCartney Icons. Way past what they both acknowledge to be relevant inspiration in today’s music culture, it really should come as no surprise that these legendary vocalists have truly risen above any sort of categorization and are in a class all by themselves.

I can say without question that the choice of songs is point on with their history and perspective in the entertainment industry. Having risen to fame in The 5Th Dimension in the late ‘60s and then going onto a stellar career in show business (breaking barriers for hosting their own variety show in the ‘70s), one can only say bravo for them reappearing with the collective voice their audience has never lost touch with.

With the songs that appear on Blackbird, it’s the vocal arrangements (and classy orchestration) that give this album its standout appeal. Both McCoo and Davis are in stellar form with the chosen material and are masters of interpretation with these well-known compositions. To be honest, any remake of a Lennon-McCartney song has got to be solid and believable for it to be worthwhile. McCoo & Davis’ tribute give the meaning and message more than enough power to sustain an entire collection.

While “Blackbird” the song has always held poignant historical weight, I appreciated the choices brought here: Davis’ laidback vocal in “Ticket To Ride” has just the right amount of jazzy inflection and fierce reading to render the original unrecognizable. McCoo’s smoky phrasing for “The Long and Winding Road” and her syncopated reading of “Yesterday” are the gifts that keep on giving. Meanwhile Davis’ powerful rendition of “Help!” literally gave me goosebumps with his gospel, throaty vocal rising to the occasion; it leaves you with one of those head-shaking moments wondering “where did THAT come from?”

Lennon and McCartney also each get a solo tribute: the duet are tender on Lennon’s “(Just Like) Starting Over” while Davis rips up (are you ready for this?) McCartney’s “Silly Love Songs.” Yes, you read that right. He hits the right amount of high melody that McCartney could only be dreaming of these days. And it’s to Davis’ credit he can do it justice.

Of course, their duet “And I Love Her” is magical. However what shows off the best range of their chemistry are the tunes tailor-made for their vocal give-and-take: “Got To Get You Into My Life” (featuring saxophonist Yancyy) and “The Fool On The Hill” (sharing a guest vocal with Natalie Hanna Mendoza) are highlights that remind you: keep on listening to this album or you are definitely going to be missing out on something special.

Producer Nic Mendoza has perfectly captured two unmistakable vocalists still in their prime. The social injustices we continue to endure and the over-arching messages of remembrance here are undeniably powerful and personal for both McCoo & Davis. Collectively, they have overcome obstacles once thought unthinkable and for all that this amazing collection has to offer to today’s music generation…

I give this album 4 out of 4 beetles!

 

 

 

 

 

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Movie Review: “Yesterday”

*Read at your own risk if you haven’t seen the movie yet!*

First there was the release of the official trailer for “Yesterday”…

 

And then there were articles being released a week in advance with titles like:

‘Yesterday’ comedy movie gets Beatles’ seal of approval

 

Are Paul McCartney And Ringo Starr In The ‘Yesterday’ Movie?

 

And then the movie came out…and Facebook lit up with everyone say, “It’s amazing…but I won’t spoil it…”, “It fantastic…but there is a twist in the last 10 minutes…but I won’t spoil it”, “It’s great…but I never saw the ending coming…but I won’t spoil it”

At this point, I gave up trying to go see this movie on my own terms and decided it was best that I go see it before someone actually spoiled it more than everyone already had. Now, some people may not consider the above things spoilers, but I do. It gets ones hopes and visions of the movie up and the expectations start to outweigh anything that the movie can produce.

And let’s not forget to mention that before the movie was even released, people were making comparisons between Himesh Patel, the star Yesterday, and Rami Malik – who played Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody! “Himesh actually sings the songs!” So what?! It’s like comparing apples to oranges! And yes, you can buy the Yesterday soundtrack, complete with Himesh singing all the classic Beatles hits….

Himesh Patel does a great job playing the part of Jack Malik (Malik? Where have we heard that name before?) the wanna be rock-star. His manager is played by Lily James, who I was impressed with back in the days of Downton Abbey, but now think I need a break from seeing her in everything. Joel Fry does a fab job playing the sidekick/roadie Rocky, but other than that, most of the performances where mediocre. Except for Kate McKinnon…who’s performance as the agent was annoying from the start.

This movie was fun and funny, even if the theater I was in was only about 1/4 full at a noontime showing when it was 90 degrees and humid outside. I think I was laughing more than anyone else at some of the obvious and inside jokes, like when Jack finds out that the band Oasis doesn’t exist either! (I had to explain to my son that it’s widely known that Oasis ripped off the Beatles when writing their own songs, so if the Beatles didn’t exist, Oasis could never have existed).

Yeah…go see this movie. And I hope you get to see it on your own terms without all the hype and chatter that’s currently going on all over the internet. One of my sons (I took both of them to see it…since, well, I didn’t name them after the Beatles!) asked me what I thought…and I said,

I liked it. And yeah, when it comes on TV, I’ll watch it over and over again whenever it’s on.”

And for that reason,

I rate this movie, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

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Book Review: “The Meaning of Contentment” by Mary McGuinness

The Meaning of Contentment by Mary McGuinnessSome of you may remember me NOT reviewing a book called Mary’s Prayer several years ago because of my rule not to review books of people I do PR work for. Well, The Meaning of Contentment by Mary McGuinness is the follow-up book that was just released this past December 2018…And since Mary has been doing such a swell job of promoting her own books, she hasn’t needed my help in any way…so here’s a review of her latest book.

For those that haven’t read Mary’s Prayer yet, Mary McGuinness wrote the book to tell the story about her struggles when she developed depression and panic attacks in her mid 30s while working as an accountant in Glasgow, Scotland. She talks of being forced to drop out of the workforce and her need to make peace with the fact that things will never be the same for her. Mary talked a lot about how music, especially that of the Beatles and John Lennon, really spoke to her during this difficult time and helped her to understand what she was going through.

Now, Mary McGuinness has continued her personal story in The Meaning of Contentment. In this 256 page memoir, McGuinness continues the story of how despite her best efforts to return to the workforce after getting an Honors Degree in Psychology, the universe led her in another direction. It was though helping her elderly uncle John with his daily needs that Mary learned that sometimes life isn’t about working 9 to 5 and bringing home a paycheck and that maybe her focus should be about helping others who also struggle with the hardships of life. She learns that contentment is found in some of the most unlikely places.

It takes a brave soul to be as open as Mary McGuinness is in this new book (and in Mary’s Prayer). Combined, the books cover 20 years of her personal battle with depression and panic attacks. She also continues to tell the story of her love of The Beatles and John Lennon and how her trips to Liverpool and The Peace Tower in Iceland brought so much joy back into her life. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

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Book Giveaway: “Once There Was a Way: What if The Beatles Stayed Together?” by Bryce Zabel

Once There Was A Way Bryce ZabelHappy holidays readers! While surfing my way through Facebook this week, I came across a post about this book – Once There Was a Way: What If The Beatles Stayed Together?  by Bryce Zabel. Since it was just released on December 5, 2017, I decided request a review copy from the publisher, Diversion Books. After offering to send me a review copy, they wrote back to me and asked if I would like to have a contest on my site and give away three copies. “Absolutely!”, I replied.

The book is a 308 page, fictional tale of what might have happened had the Beatles remained friends and never broke up their band.  I can’t wait to read and review it for everyone, but in the meantime, here is an excerpt from the book. I choose this one because it includes one of my favorite Beatles ladies…May Pang!

 

ONCE THERE WAS A WAY – EXCERPT

Lennon Kidnapping (1974)

Once Julian was safely back to the care of his mother, Cynthia, John returned to his party life in Malibu. The Weathermen followed him constantly. Ironically, even though Lennon spotted them several times, he dismissed them as junior FBI agents and ignored them.

The nightclubs they followed him into included the famed Troubadour in Hollywood. Wearing disguises, the Weathermen observed Lennon and Nilsson throwing back Brandy Alexanders like men who had been lost in the desert for a week. One night, an inebriated Lennon came from the restrooms wearing a sanitary napkin attached to his forehead. Dohrn and Ayers watched as a waitress questioned him as to whether he was leaving a tip on the way out.

“Do you know who I am?” Lennon asked.

“Yes,” the waitress shot back. “You’re the asshole with a Kotex on your head.”

The plan had been for Dohrn and Ayers to pick up Lennon after he left the Troubadour, but now there were too many people around, from bouncers to club owners to fans gathered to watch the stumbling Lennon. If anything, the scene convinced Dohrn and Ayers that Lennon was a worthy target who would benefit from some re-education—they’d just have to wait a little longer to implement their plans.

As it turned out, they didn’t have to wait as long as they thought. The evening of March 12, 1974, had been a dark one for John Lennon, now almost a year into his banishment by Yoko Ono. Lennon and Nilsson began throwing down more cocktails and decided to heckle the Smothers Brothers, the controversial political satirists.

“The comments got so ugly and personal that we were about to get pulled off the stage,” Tommy Smothers said. “We loved the Beatles and it blew our minds that one of them would try to ruin our show.”

As the situation escalated, club security attempted to remove the drunken and enraged rock stars in the audience. The struggle turned physical, and Lennon lost his memorable glasses in the scuffle.

All of this, of course, attracted just as much attention as the Kotex incident, but this time, the Weather Underground was prepared—they had a spotter in the crowd who used a nearby payphone to call Bernardine Dohrn, stationed at another payphone near Lennon’s rental house on the beach.

As a taxi dropped off Lennon, Nilsson, and Pang at Lennon’s, a coordinated team of five members of the Weather Underground made their move to grab Lennon. Nilsson tried to hold on to his friend but was punched out cold for his bravery, suffering a concussion when his head hit the stone driveway. A car appeared, driven by Ayers, with Dohrn in the passenger seat.

Pang screamed, terrified she might be raped, and was gagged, blindfolded, and thrown into the back seat. The Weather Underground radicals overpowered Lennon as well, tied his hands with duct tape, and threw him in the trunk of the vehicle. Within less than a minute of exiting the taxi, John Lennon, inebriated and vomiting, found himself locked in a dark car trunk without his eyeglasses.

The car sped off, going north on Pacific Coast Highway. Twenty miles away, on a dark, deserted stretch of beach highway outside of Trancas, a member of the rebel group threw May Pang from the car.

It took her over two hours to find her way to an all-night liquor store with a phone. The manager, a volunteer member of the Malibu Sheriff’s Department, took care of the frantic Pang and helped her remember the physical descriptions of the assailants as best as possible.

With Pang’s assistance, deputies found Harry Nilsson shortly before daylight, still unconscious, in the driveway of the beach house. Within another hour, AP had broken the story.

***

Breaking News

APB107

-BULLETIN- (AP)

(LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA)—THE RADICAL WEATHER UNDERGROUND TERRORIST ORGANIZATION SAYS THAT MUSICIAN JOHN LENNON IS IN ITS CUSTODY. LENNON, A MEMBER OF THE POPULAR MUSICAL GROUP THE BEATLES, HAS BEEN MISSING SINCE TUESDAY.

05:18gAPD  03-15-74

APB108

LENNON-BULLETIN-TAKE 2

FBI DIRECTOR CLARENCE M. KELLEY CONFIRMS THAT BUREAU AGENTS BELIEVE THE COMMUNICATION FROM WEATHER UNDERGROUND LEADER BERNARDINE DOHRN IS AUTHENTIC.

 

Thrilling…huh?

To enter the contest to win one of three copies of Once There Was A Way, just leave a comment below and tell me what you believe may have happened (or wished had happened) if the Beatles had stayed together. One entry per person. Contest ends and winners will be announce at 9 a.m. on Sunday, December 24, 2017.

Good luck and happy holidays….and thank you to Christine at Diversion Books for giving my readers a spectacular holiday!

 

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Book Review: “A, B, See…The Beatles! A Children’s ABC Book” by Jill Davis

**I have a big surprise for my readers on Sunday, December 17th, so I’m posting a review a little early…

A B See The Beatles Jill DavisA, B, See the Beatles!: A Children’s ABC Book by Jill Davis and illustrated by Jeanne Conway was published on August 4, 2015. Jill, an elementary school teacher for 35 years, was inspired to write this book for her grandchildren after going on the Magical History Tour of Liverpool and London in 2010.

This is going to be a short review, because otherwise the review will be longer than the book itself.

Jill Davis needs to be congratulated on her very unique choice of Beatle-y words and topics to go with each letter of the alphabet and to her illustrator for doing a fantastic job of bringing the words to life through large colorful paintings. That being said, this 36 page book starts off the alphabet with:

A is for Apple, not the kind you eat.

Okay…now explain to me how you’re going to explain to your 3-5 year old exactly what she means by Apple if it’s not the eating kind? And how do you explain the letter E, which is for Epstein and Eggman?

“What’s an Eggman mommy?” Well, darling, it’s the nickname of Eric Burdon of the band The Animals because he used to break raw eggs on his sex partners.

Beautiful book, beautiful pictures, but in my opinion the choice of Beatle words Ms. Davis chose for a lot of the letters are far beyond the scope of your average pre-school child whether they are fans of the songs or not. Expect to do a lot of explaining. I do recommend it though for Beatle book collectors. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 2 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

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Song & Video Review: “What’s It Like in Liverpool?” by Marc Kenny

Early this week, I was doing my usually daily stroll around my social media accounts when I saw someone had posted this video.  “What’s It Like in Liverpool?” is a song by native Liverpudlian Marc Kenny.

The song is catchy and fun.  The video is bright and lively with scenic shots of Liverpool and the Cavern Club.  So what’s my gripe?  I have to wonder if this song is just another attempt to capitalize on the proud home of the Fab Four?  Kenny’s biography says he’s been reading and writing music since the age of 9 and that while other kids at school were learning classical pieces, his parents bought him the Beatles music book.  I can’t argue with that, I did the same for my son.  But why write a song about Liverpool with lines from Beatles’ songs in it and with a video filled with Beatles related images from around the city?  If someone is so talented (and you only have to read Marc’s long bio to know how talented he claims to be), why resort to capitalizing on the greatest band in the world to become famous?

Then again, I have to wonder whether maybe I’m the only one that is even having these thoughts, since the video currently has over 4,000 viewings and according to Facebook, it’s been shared over 6,000 times.

Well, I do have to admit…I’ve hit the play button at least a half dozen times myself.  The song is very good, the video is also well done, and yes, Marc Kenny has got talent.  And for that reason…

I rate this song and video, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

4beetle 3beetle 2beetle

 

 

 

You can buy a copy of What’s It Like in Liverpool? on Amazon.com for $0.89 if you’d like to support Marc Kenny.  Or you can buy the studio and live versions, plus one other song here for $2.67.

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