I Saw The Beatles – Episode 31 with guest Ida Langsam 

Welcome back to Episode 31 of I Saw The Beatles! This week’s very special guest is Ida Langsam of New York who saw the Beatles three times in New York City!

Source: I Saw The Beatles – Episode 31 with guest Ida Langsam 05/27 by I Saw The Beatles | Pop Culture

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I Saw The Beatles – Episode 30 with guest Rick Snyder 

Welcome to Episode 31 of I Saw The Beatles! This week’s special guest is former Albany, NY, radio disc jockey Rick Snyder. Rick saw the Beatles three times, compliments of the radio station, including one time while escorting six busloads of kids!

Source: I Saw The Beatles – Episode 30 with guest Rick Snyder 05/18 by I Saw The Beatles | Pop Culture

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Book Review: “Cornflakes with John Lennon” by Robert Hilburn

Cornflakes with John Lennon Robert HilburnLast month I decided I needed to get out of the house, and while on my adventure, I came across a used bookstore where I stumbled upon a copy of Cornflakes with John Lennon: And other tales from a rock ‘n’ roll life by Robert Hilburn. I kept thinking the author sounded familiar, but it wasn’t until I actually started reading and realized that he was a Los Angeles Times music critic that it occurred to me that I had seen his name while I was doing research on Jim Croce. Hilburn had reviewed a Randy Newman show in 1972 with Jim opening and had given Randy one paragraph and Jim three & a half paragraphs worth of praise. But I digress…

No reason to beat around the bush, this book rocks from beginning to end. Published in October 2009, this 270 page tribute to rock ‘n’ roll is a real page turner. Hilburn spent over 30 years as the Los Angeles Times rock critic, so he knows what the rock and roll public want and doesn’t let them down with the stories in this book. He starts off immediately with a story about John Lennon, then fills the rest of the books with personal, inside stories and encounters with the likes of Bono, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Elton John, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Janis Joplin, Ice Cube, etc. (Hell, even I liked Bob Dylan after reading this book!) And Robert lets us get a peak into the world of Curt Cobain, or so it appears…

Robert Hilburn becomes with friends with almost every rock, country and folk star he reviews and interviews along the way, even admitting to giving them advice on their shows which he seems surprised to find they take to heart the next time they hit the stage. He gets phone calls and invitations from rock gods around the world…he had the job we all dreamed of having! There were a few hiccups along the way…George Harrison got miffed and stopped taking his calls and requests for interviews. But all-in-all, Hilburn sure makes it all sound like the ultimate joy ride for the last 3 decades.

I don’t know why I’m still talking. If you’re like me and somehow missed this book when it came out, take my advice and go to Amazon.com where you’ll find plenty of used copies for under $5 and add this book to your collection. The stories about Lennon alone are worth $2! And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “The Last Days of John Lennon” by James Patterson

The Last Days of John Lennon by James Patterson The Last Days of John Lennon by James Patterson

Does that title and the author sound familiar? The title you might recognize because it’s the same as the book written by Frederic Seaman in 1991…but I’ll discuss more about him later.

The author of this book, James Patterson, is the world famous author who has written over 200 mostly fiction books since 1976 and sold in excess of 375 million copies. I’m not sure why he chose to write a book about John Lennon. Maybe because he’s a hardcore Beatle fan like the rest of us? I could probably look it up somewhere, but in the end, it’s not really important as to why he wrote this book. He’s a talented writer and maybe he just wanted to break up the monotony of writing all that fiction.

The other thing I can’t explain is why it’s taken me a month and a half to read this book. From the get-go I just couldn’t seem to get into it. You’d think with the subject matter and the author this would be a no brainer that anyone would read in one sitting. It could have been me that was the problem because I knew the ending and didn’t want to deal with reading the (bloody) details again. But, there were a couple other things that didn’t sit right with me.

This book is not the “last days” of John Lennon’s life. In fact, Patterson starts at the very beginning of the Beatles creation when John Lennon met Paul McCartney. Intermixed with the Beatles story is the story of Lennon’s killer starting 2 days before he actually shot Lennon. Maybe that’s what the title is about, but it’s not what 80% of this book is about. And for Beatles fans who know the story of their rise to fame, it’s a bit much to have to rehash the whole thing again. There really are no surprises there.

As for the story of John’s killer’s, it’s a little too detailed..to the point of wondering where Patterson got all this inside information into the killer’s psyche. There are over 90 pages of “Notes” in the back of this book, detailing the sources for every page of the book, but sometimes even the notes don’t explain some of the ‘thoughts’ Patterson includes. I have to wonder if he was slipping in some of that fiction he’s famous for into his text.

And while I’m talking about Patterson’s notes, let’s bring back the subject of Frederic Seaman and James Patterson borrowing(?) the title from his book. Coincidence? Accident? I don’t know if we’ll ever know the truth about that one, but what I can tell you is that Fred Seaman is mentioned three times in this book as having conversations with John Lennon, but not one of those conversations is sourced back to Fred’s book. For those who are heavily into the story of John Lennon, his assistant Fred Seaman, and Yoko Ono, this might leave you scratching your head. Or maybe it’s just me…

All in all, this book is really well written (as to be expected), but I think the title may be a little misleading and the content a little redundant for diehard Beatles fans, but maybe we weren’t the target audience. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

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Book Review: “After Abbey Road: The Solo Hits of The Beatles” by Gary Fearon

I’ve been a little slow these days in getting my books reviewed. Once again, it’s not because I’m not reading. It’s just that I’m mixing in Beatles books with other books as you may have noticed from my last several posts.

I bought this book a little over a month ago and it’s been sitting on the stack of books next to the couch waiting for me to post my praises of it to my audience. Well, today is the day…

After Abbey Road: The Solo Hits of The Beatles by Gary Fearon was published on May 18, 2020. It’s a 240 page reference guide to all the hit songs that were released by the individual members of the Beatles after their breakup in 1970. There are a couple songs that predate the break-up, but you get the gist. There are 220 songs in all up until the November 2019 release of In A Hurry by Paul McCartney.

There are several things I really love about this book. The first being that Fearon lists all the songs in the table of contents in the front of the book. The second thing I love about this book is that the song titles are in chronological order according to their date of release. And last, but not least, is that Fearon is very brief but concise about the history and meaning of each song limiting them to one page that includes: title, which Beatles recorded it, written by, recording date, release date and title of the album it appeared on. Also listed at the bottom of each page are the other musicians who played on the song.

This isn’t a book that you would sit down to read cover to cover (unless you’re caught in lockdown during a pandemic), but it is a great reference book that I think every true Beatles fan should have on their shelf! And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

 

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NEW! I Saw The Beatles – Episode 29 with guest Richard Adler 

Welcome back to Episode 29 of I Saw The Beatles! This week’s special guest is Richard Adler who had the pleasure of his first concert experience being that of seeing the Beatles perform at Carnegie Hall! But that wasn’t all…he went on to see them 3 more times!

Source: I Saw The Beatles – Episode 29 with Richard Adler 03/29 by I Saw The Beatles | Pop Culture

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Guest Book Review: “Joy and Fear: The Beatles, Chicago and The 1960s” by John F. Lyons

Joy and Fear The Beatles Chicago The 1960s John F Lyons

This guest review was written by Amy Hughs.

As a die-hard Beatles fan, I know pretty much a ton of their backstory on a global scale. What I appreciated about author John F. Lyons’ newly published ‘Joy and Fear: The Beatles, Chicago and the 1960s’ (Permuted Press, 2021) were the personal reminiscences of those in the Chicagoland area during the time period they played there in 1964, ’65 and ’66.

While there is a good deal of time spent analyzing their impact on culture and the media across the globe, the more insightful passages are those that detail the incidents and people that surrounded the band’s performances. On September 5, 1964, they played the International Amphitheater to a screaming throng of 15,000. From Lyons’ colorful descriptions of their landing at Midway Airport, driving to the Sahara Inn at O’Hara, their standard set amidst the chaos and their immediate departure thereafter, one would believe that the band was not a welcome sight for those in charge. And to a large degree, that was the truth. Chicago and it’s staunch Midwest Christian beliefs, coupled with an older political generation – held in check by the legendary Mayor Richard J. Daley – kept The Beatles at arms’ length. So far at length that Lyons’ recollections via newspaper and media outlets’ reviews seemed confusingly hostile in hindsight.

Lyons goes on to accurately portray that all-too-real generational gap between teens and their elders. He does pepper throughout various chapters revelatory passages on the negative atmosphere in Chicago towards The Beatles. The joyous occasions that one perceives today in regards to the band’s receptions in the US is juxtaposed with hardline beliefs that The Beatles were to be viewed with disdain and be shown the door as quickly as they entered. Surprisingly, a good portion of these chapters reflect the audience that they were targeting: young females who were the objects of their affection.

1965 was by all Beatle-related accounts, a repeat of the previous year. Live performances for the US tour were scaled back in scope, however Chicago was fortunate to host them again, this time at a much larger outdoor venue – White Sox Park – with 2 shows and a combined audience of 62,000. One of the more amusing and detailed accounts in Lyons’ book are the reminisces of the support acts for the tour, including dancer Denise Mourges (who was part of the Discotheque Dancers with the King Curtis Band) and Sounds Incorporated’s Alan Holmes. However once again the prevalent attitudes – despite accounts of Beatlemania being at fever pitch – were now slipping south.

Although the ‘scene’ was in their favor (and city officials and promoters had gotten hipper in allowing the local DJs from WLS radio to be emcees), the prevailing attitude of negativity continued to spiral downward. However prior to the coverage of the 1966 tour, Lyons does spend a good deal of time focused on the Chicagoland groups that were making names for themselves locally: the New Colony Six, the Shadows of Knight, the Amboy Dukes, the Buckinghams, and all-girl groups including Daughters of Eve and Marie Antoinette & The Cool Heads.

1966 brings The Beatles back to the US and the start of their tour in Chicago. But prior to their August 11 arrival, Lennon’s out-of-context remarks on the group’s popularity eclipsing Jesus Christ had taken hold of media outlets. Chicago became the epicenter of the firestorm, with Lennon (in tears before the press conference) apologizing in every form possible to the assembled gathering at the Astor Tower Hotel. The Chicago press were going for blood, found it and trumpeted it. The numbers only proved in lax ticket sales that their time and popularity were waning, despite the two show outings back at the International Amphitheater. As Lyons writes, the last visit left a mixed impression, mostly conjuring up images of the stockyards, hotels and cars and as George Harrison noted “race riots.”

Whether Harrison’s view was accurate, Chicago’s atmosphere was becoming more politically charged. While Lyons goes on to analyze The Beatles’ influence with the release of ‘Sgt. Pepper,’ it’s worth observing that the group’s influence still had a global stronghold, pop culture-wise, as noted in Chicago with the start-up counterculture newspaper The Seed. Lyons devotes several pages to other timely subjects: free love, drugs, psychedelia and then as 1968 comes into play, transcendental meditation and the arrival of Yoko Ono.

The decline of their popularity thru the remainder of the late sixties (with the assassinations of both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy), the Manson murders and of course for this book, the Democratic National Convention is recalled vividly with anecdotes from Chicagoland teens, media outlets and political observers. The volatile atmosphere – partially charged by Mayor Daley and his conservative viewpoints – was not without incident for those in the music business. Venues such as The Kinetic Playground (a popular target of police activity) did their best to give the city notoriety – and as the owners of Head Imports discovered, when they were arrested on obscenity charges for selling ‘Two Virgins’ – Chicago and The Beatles were not on the best speaking terms.

Lyons goes on to chronicle their break-up and gives mention to the post-Beatles visits in Chicago, most shockingly how a frozen Lake Michigan influenced Yoko Ono’s ‘Walking On Thin Ice’ (the last recording of John Lennon) and McCartney’s several shows since 1976. Lyons gives a great overview of the time period covered and Chicago in detail. His global Beatles history (while known to someone who has details galore would find more of a retread), I found to be helpful for those who need a refresh to contextualize the time period. For these reasons and more…

I rate this book 4 out of 4 beetles!

 

 

 

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Book Review: “30 Minutes in Memphis: A Beatles Story” by Paul Ferrante

30 Minutes in Memphis Paul FerranteMy followers all know how much I don’t like fan-fiction when it comes to my Beatles books, so it takes a pretty special book to safely make it to my review blog without getting ripped to shreds. Lucky for author/writer Paul Ferrante, he’s written just such a book!

I met Paul online a couple weeks ago through a Beatles book group on Facebook. I had never heard of him or his books, but he had seen one of my posts and was inquiring about my PR serves for another book he’s writing that is not Beatles related. That’s when I saw this book – 30 Minutes in Memphis: A Beatles Story listed on his page. I questioned him extensively about it, reiterating over and over again about my dislike for fan fiction and authors who claim their fan fiction is just an ‘alternative history’. HA! Paul promised that it is fiction, but…it’s not fan fiction.

30 Minutes in Memphis is the story of 15 year old Beatles fan Marnie Culpepper. Marnie finds herself in possession of a ticket to see the Beatles in her hometown of Memphis, Tennessee with her best friend Myles in 1966. Unfortunately, John Lennon’s comments about being more popular than Jesus has the city in an uproar with boycotts, album burnings and protests planned for the day of concert. Not to mention, Marnie has been grounded for two weeks and prohibited to attend the concert by her former marine dad who is a sergeant with the city police force. So, what’s Marnie to do when she finds out there may be attempt to snuff out the Beatles? Read the book and find out…

Paul Ferrante did a great job in telling his fictitious story while staying true to the Beatles story. Writing most of the book with alternating chapters between his story of Marnie Culpepper and the story of the Beatles’ 1966 tour, this 257 page book is not only fun to read, but educational. And rumor has it…that John Lennon’s sister Julia Baird read it in one sitting and called the author all the way from Liverpool to tell him so! And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beatles!

 

 

 

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More off-topic book reviews: The Handmaid’s Tale and F. Scott Fitzgerald

Yeah, I’m a little behind…The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood was published in February 1986! I had downloaded this book to my iPad over a year ago because I so desperately wanted to understand what all the hubbub was about (several women were dressed as handmaid’s at the Women’s March in Washington when I attended in 2020) and I wanted to watch the series on TV (but I’m a stickler about reading the book first). And it’s not like I don’t have many other books to read as you may have noticed by my last post…and the pile of unread books has only gotten higher with more books arriving tomorrow. Phew!

So, back to the review. Everyone who’s read this blog knows I don’t care for eBooks. I like the actually paper pages in my hands and the ability to use anything I want as a bookmark, so that may have contributed to this unread book being on my iPad for over a year. But the itch to watch the tv series arose again, so I tried for a third time to read it. This time it stuck and once I got a few pages in, this book was simply amazing! I was 21 years old when it was released and am truly surprised at how I had never heard of it until the last 5 years. I couldn’t put it down…and kudos to Ms. Atwood for the unique way she ended it. But as it turns out, Atwood has been hounded over the decades about what happened to her main character, Offred, and the Republic of Gilead, where women are very much controlled and used as baby factories. And I too was left wanting after tearing through this 300+ page book in 2 days. So, what did I do? I logged into my local library’s website and download book 2 in the series – The Testaments. This 381 page book was published in September 2019 and was Atwood’s way of answering all the questions she had been asked over the decades about what became of the characters and their republic. Not quite as enthralling as Handmaid’s Tale, and the writing is lacking the certain umph, but that could be attributed to the fact that this book is in three separate voices belonging to other characters from the first book as they tell their own tales of living in Gilead. Still…zipped through it in 2 days!

I rate The Handmaid’s Tale 4 out of 4 Beetles!

I rate The Testaments 3 out of 4 Beetles!

I have no idea when I got in the habit of trying to read more than one book at a time, but I’ve been skimming through F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Life in Letters for months now. I decided I needed to clear some books off my end table so I set out to finish this off this week. My interest in this book was aroused while I was reading the series The Letters of Ernest Hemingway which currently stands at 4 volumes in length with more books to come. It’s disappointing that Fitzgerald’s letters fit into one 500 page book. Still, it was great to get into his mind beyond the stories he’s written and see the workings of a trouble man who fought for the people he loved, could never seem to get out of debt and died a tragic death at the age of 42. Like Hemingway, it brings the author into a whole new light away from the rumors of drinking and carousing that we’ve all heard and were taught in high school. I just wish this book had been more complete. I may have to find a biography or two on Scott and Zelda to help me fill in some blanks left by this book. And for that reason…

I rate this book – 3 out of 4 Beetles!

**You may be happy to hear that I, personally, will be returning to reading Beatles related books, but in the meantime, expect another Guest review of a new Beatles book sometime this week.

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(Virtual) Fab4Con Jam – Feb. 20 & 21

 

If you are in need of some entertainment this snowy, cold weekend, checkout the virtual Fab4Con Jam. They said ticket sales ended last night, but I was still able to buy a basic $35 ticket to join in the festivities tomorrow.

 

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