Category Archives: John Lennon

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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Book Review: “Lennon in America” by Geoffrey Giuliano

Lennon in America Geoffrey GiulianoA couple weeks ago, I was digging through a box of books about the Beatles that I had in search of something to read when I stumbled upon Lennon in America , written by Geoffrey Giuliano and published in 2000. I was surprised to find this book because the author is quite controversial especially in one of the Facebook groups I belong to – Beatles Book Collectors. Though I haven’t kept up with exactly why people don’t like his books, I decided to take a look-see for myself and hoped that I could read this book without prejudice and write a fair review. Here it goes:

According to the subtitle of this book, 1971-1980, Based in Part on the Lost Lennon Diaries, Mr. Giuliano was at some point in time in possession of some of John Lennon’s written and audio diaries which he used extensively in writing this book. I tried to contact a friend to see if I could find out what diaries these were since I had heard of the diaries that were in Fred Seaman’s possession for a short time after John’s death. And… there are the diaries that were stolen that in the past several years that recently turn up in Berlin, Germany. I’m sure someone who reads my blog will be able to clear this all up.

This book, though easy to read, can be a bit choppy. I got the impression that the author was taking information from the diaries and other people’s books and just rewriting it. In fact, the bibliography reads like a Who’s Who of the most popular books about John Lennon, including books by May Pang, Fred Seaman, Cynthia Lennon, Julia Baird, Pete Shotton, John Green, Albert Goldman, etc.. What made me come to this realization was the continual contradiction of events, even within the same paragraph without explanation. I can only guess that without actually researching the events, the author was just trying to cover all bases by including all the stories from everyone who was there. Mr. Giuliano also writes heavily about John’s sex life. In fact, the entire 21 page prologue of this book is about every story ever told about John’s homosexual tendencies. I guess sex sells, doesn’t it?

I kinda left this book not knowing what to believe and more confused about John’s life than I ever was before. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 2 out 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “The Lennon Companion” by Elizabeth Thomson and David Gutman

First and foremost, I need to apologize to one of my avid readers for the review I’m about to give on this book. She recommended it to me and told me it’s one of the best books about the Beatles/Lennon that she’s read. My other readers may want to keep her opinion in mind while reading my thoughts on this book, because everyone sees (and reads) things differently.

The Lennon Companion by Elizabeth Thomson and David Gutman was first published in 1987 and then revised in 2004. My copy is the 2004 edition that I bought used on Amazon.com for a penny. It’s a collection of articles and thoughts on both the Beatles and John Lennon from various reporters, writers, magazines and newspapers around the world starting in 1963.9780028725956-us-300

Well, for the first time, dear readers, I’m going to admit that I didn’t finish a book. I take my book reviews very seriously and find it insulting to the authors and my readers to not read the book in its entirety before giving my opinion. I managed to get over halfway through the 260 pages after skipping several wordy articles that managed to say nothing as far as I was concerned. Many of the articles seemed to be written by reporters who wanted to jump on the Beatles’ bandwagon to help boost their own popularity and ratings. Page after page of nonsense was written for newspapers and then published again in this book!

This isn’t to say that all the articles were worthless. I did find one piece that was written about a playwright that was being considered to write a third movie for the Beatles. His screenplay was returned to him without ever being told why it was rejected, but it’s easy to figure out from the playwrights own thoughts on the subject. I did find it interesting to hear about the Beatles movie that was never made.8387494._UY200_

Now maybe somewhere in the second half of this book there is another gem of an article that could bring some enlightening new fact to my limited knowledge of the Fab Four. But truth be told, the book literally kept putting me to sleep. I could not keep my eyes open and napped frequently during my quest to finish the book.

Despite my review, and as I’ve already said, one of my readers considers this to be the best book she’s read. You can judge for yourself whether it’s a real page turner or a replacement for your sleeping pills by buying a used copy for yourself for $0.01 on Amazon.

I rate this book, 1 out of 4 Beetles!

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Book Review: “John Lennon: In My Life” by Pete Shotton

John Lennon: In My Life was written by John Lennon‘s childhood friend and original Quarrymen member Pete Shotton.  They met in 1946, when they were the tender age of 6 years old while John was living at his Aunt Mimi and Uncle George’s.  John and Pete would remain closed friends and confidants up until John’s death in 1980.  And anyone that knows anything about John Lennon, knows that long relationships of any kind were something very rare for Lennon, making this story unusual.

 

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From the get go, the team of Shotton and Lennon (or as John would call them Shennon and Lotton) spelled mayhem wherever they went.  Two young boys with very strong personalities, blood brothers, came together, both encouraging each other antics…they were to keep both their parents and teachers on their toes.  Throughout their early years in Liverpool, both would be blamed for leading the other astray, all the while, pushing the limits and laughing their way through their childhood and teenage years.

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I loved the honesty in this book.  Pete tells all the wildest and craziest stories from his and John’s days growing up in Liverpool.  Anyone that wants to know the very dirtiest of details about John, needs to own a copy.  This isn’t to say that the book is without it’s problems, especially when Pete seems to take exception to John’s dad and Cynthia’s mom both being supported by John.  I do believe this is what is widely known as the pot calling the kettle black and any good Beatles fans could tell you that the whole staff (which included Pete Shotton) at Apple Corps in 1968 were living the ‘high’ life off of John, Paul, George and Ringo!  Then again, the team of Shennon and Lotton were never known for the respect of parents or authority figures.

Kudos to Pete for telling the world when John whacked off for the first time and for telling us what John said REALLY happened in Spain with Brian!  And for that reason…

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beatles!

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You can purchase a used paperback copy of In My Life for under $10 on Amazon or Half.com.

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Book Review: “Beatlebone” by Kevin Barry


I started seeing mentions of Beatlebone by Kevin Barry on social media about 2 weeks ago. Couldn’t help but notice that major newspapers such at the New York Times were reviewing this book, so I decided to take a quick look see to find out what it was about. I don’t read other reviews of books before I review them…I don’t want to go into it tainted. But once I found out that it was a novel with John Lennon as it’s central character, I decided I needed to read it.

Within three days I was ranting to my husband about how wonderful this book is. The writing is in a style that I’ve never read before now. Conversations are without quotation marks, yet you feel as if you’re there with John and Cornelius as they try to get John to his island in Ireland. There’s darkness, then light. Darkness, then light.

Then…Part Six happens! What the f*ck, Kevin Barry and Doubleday?! Just when I was loving the story, Barry’s writing style, the cave, the hotel, the birds, the rabbits, the elf and the wolf…they dump Part Six in there. Seriously, folks? Why? I wanted so bad to give this book my best rating.

Go out and get this book, but when you get to Part Six, skip over it and then go back and read it at the end. Either that, or read it before you start the book. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

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Movie Review: Mugshots: John Lennon – Death of a Beatle

I found this movie through Amazon Prime and decided to give it a go.  Apparently, “Mugshots” is a whole series of movies about either famous people who have been murdered, famous murderers or famous murders.

Mugshots: Mark D. Chapman – John Lennon: Death of a Beatle – is actually not a bad documentary for Lennon fans, if you can get past the taped interview of Mark David Chapman.  But if you are one of the folks that lives by the belief that “he who’s name shall not be spoken”, should also not be heard, then you’re going to have a big problem with this film.

The movie is more of the story of John Lennon, his life growing up and his life as a Beatle.  Several very familiar people participated in the making of this documentary, including such names as Pete Best, Bob Gruen, and Scott Muni.

At times, it almost appears as if this is two separate stories being told…that of Lennon and that of his killer, with each of the stories being able to stand on it’s own if it had to.  Chapman’s words are haunting…his story is strange…and his reasoning just unfathomable when you hear him tell it.  Yet, like a train wreck, it’s hard not to look and listen just to try to comprehend what he did.

If you’re a true Lennon fan who has to know every detail, then yes…watch this film.  If you love Lennon, but believe Chapman’s name should not be spoken, then watch Hard Day’s Night.

This documentary is well made, but because of my own personal beliefs on the subject…

I rate this movie: 2 out of 4 Beetles!

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Book Review: “The Private John Lennon” by Julia Baird

Excuse me while a catch up on reading all the Beatles related books that have been collecting dust on my bookshelf these past several years.

The Private John Lennon: The Untold Story from His Sister by Julia Baird was published in early 2008.  In the UK, the title of this same book is “Imagine This: Growing Up with My Brother, John Lennon”.  This book was the basis for the film “Nowhere Boy,” which I reviewed when it first come out in theaters.  You can read that review here.

It’s always refreshing when you can read a first-hand account of someone’s life from someone who was actually there to witness it.  Much like Cynthia Lennon or May Pang‘s books, Julia Baird brings the reader into her and her families’ private lives to give you a glimpse of what it was like being John Lennon’s sister.  Those facts or times that she is unable to recall or know as fact, she’s gone about finding those family members and friends who can fill in the blanks for her and her readers.  It’s during her research that Julia uncovered several family secrets that help Lennon and Beatles fans better understand the world that John grew up.

This is a story of unbelievable tragedy.  Even if she wasn’t related to one of the Fab Four, one has to agree that they would not wish Julia’s losses throughout her life on anyone.   She tells of Cynthia’s kindness towards her and her sister Jackie after the loss of their mother and she tells of the embarrassment she felt at her brother John’s strange behavior after taking up residency with Yoko.

After reading this book, it becomes obvious what John saw in Yoko.  He was returning to the strange, controlled world that he had always known growing up.  Thank you Julia for telling your story.

If you’d like to read this book on Kindle, it’s available as an ebook in it’s UK title –Imagine This.

I rate this book: 4 out of 4 Beetles!

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Book Review: “Horse-Doggin'” by Dave Morrell

Horse doggin Author Dave Morrell is a guy you just love to hate!  He’s the guy that had that job working in the WEA distribution center…touching, feeling, smelling, caressing, fondling and listening to all the new records that all us ordinary people had to wait to get our hands on!  And he had the audacity to write a book about it!

After reading that Dave Morrell was to be a guest on Jude Kessler’s John Lennon Hour show on November 18, 2014, I decided it might be worth my while to find out who this guy is.  Jude wrote that he was friends with John Lennon and had written a book called Horse-Doggin’.  When I checked on Amazon, the Kindle version of Horse-Doggin’ was only 79 pages, presenting me with the opportunity to get the book and read it before his interview tonight.

If you like books with fluffy words and long drawn out descriptions of a look, a sunset or a song, this is not the book for you.  Dave is very concise and direct with his words.  There are no paragraphs with the same sentence written three different ways in this book!  Just the way I like my books.  He gets straight to the point of telling his stories without a lot of nonsense filler.  Along the way through his post high school years, he attends to the very best concerts of 1972-1973, meets musical legends backstage and at parties and even shares and exchanges albums with John Lennon.  He holds the very first Beatles convention in his bedroom and is often referred to as a Beatles Freak!

Wonderful book with wonderful stories.  Not the best writing style…but it’ll get you through the night!

I rate this book: 3 out of 4 Beetles!

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Book Review: The Beatles and Me on Tour by Ivor Davis

Ivor Davis bookI met Ivor Davis for the first time at the Chicago Fest for Beatles Fans in August.  The word most commonly used to describe Ivor was ‘charming’.  And that he was!  He won everyone over who had the privilege to meet him and take home a copy of his book.  I’ve finally gotten around to reading this book and here’s my honest review.

What an absolute delight this books is!  Refreshing and so well written, anyone can just breeze through it’s pages.  The only downside…it ends.  Ivor has spent his life as a reporter and it shows in his writing style…very easy and smooth, it’s an absolute joy to follow him along on his journey with the Beatles during their 1964 tour of America.  Ivor doesn’t bore you with HIS story…he tells the story of what was going on behind the scenes.  Readers get the inside story of the Beatles backstage, in the air, holed up in their hotel rooms like caged animals and the secret meetings and parties that went on with other stars of the time.

Without a doubt, this book is a must read and must have for any true Beatles fan.  And if you’d like to know more about Ivor and his book, you can go to his website at: www.IvorDavisBeatles.com.  There are also links to let you know where you can purchase your own copy.

And if you’re in the L.A. area, don’t miss the opportunity to meet Ivor Davis at the Fest for Beatles Fans in L.A. on October 10-12, 2014.

I rate this book: 4 out of 4 Beetles!

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Book Review: ‘Confessions of a Beatlemaniac’ by Dee Elias

'Confessions of a Beatlemaniac' by Dee Elias

‘Confessions of a Beatlemaniac’ by Dee Elias

‘Confessions of a Beatlemaniac’ by Dee Elias

I had the pleasure of meeting Dee Elias at the Fest for Beatles Fans in Chicago and finding out about her book ‘Confessions of a Beatlemaniac: A true story of a fan who broke all the rules to meet the Beatles!‘  Without even reading a word, I got the impression that Dee’s story is going to become huge among other Beatles fans.

Though this book is currently listed on Amazon.com as being for ages 10 – 18, it’s definitely a multi-generational read.  Taken from the pages of Dee’s diary when she was 14-16 years old, this book tells of the extent to which Dee, her friends and many other Beatlemaniacs would go to just to get close to the Beatles.   This is the story of how she honed her technique by managing to meet other stars like Sonny & Cher and Simon & Garfunkel.

Why did she wait so long to tell her story?  When I spoke with her at the fest, she said not only did she think no one would be interested, she also was still keeping her antics a secret from her parents 50 years later!

If you’re looking for a fun book directly from the heart of a true Beatle fan who was THERE, you’ll enjoy this quick (168 page) read.  (And you absolutely won’t want to miss the story of Dee’s encounter with Billy J. Kramer!)

This book is available for Kindle at Amazon.com.  Paperbacks are available exclusively through Dee’s website: www.ConfessionsOfABeatleManiac.com.

You can follow Dee on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/Confessionsofabeatlemaniac 

 

I rate this book: 4 out of 4 Beetles

 

 

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