Tag Archives: Abbey Road

Book Review: “Maximum Volume: The Life of Beatles Producer George Martin, The Early Years, 1926-1966” by Kenneth Womack

Maximum Volume George Martin Kenneth WomackI met Kenneth Womack, the author of Maximum Volume: The Life of Beatles Producer George Martin, The Early Years, 1926–1966in 2013 when he was the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and a professor at Penn State (Altoona). Ken has written three books about the Beatles: Long and Winding Roads: The Evolving Artistry of the Beatles; The Cambridge Companion to the Beatles; and The Beatles Encyclopedia: Everything Fab Four. In February of 2014, Ken organized and hosted “It was 50 Years Ago Today – An International Beatles Celebration” – a 4 day Beatles conference at Penn State in Altoona, PA. He also holds a PhD. in 20th-Century British Literature and has written three novels. Pretty impressive, huh?

I remember attending a lecture on the Beatles a couple years ago and sitting down next to Ken in the auditorium as he was typing away at this book, the first book in a two volume set. I was really amazed at how he was doing it with no notes, just his fingers frantically beating away at the keyboard. After chatting with him briefly about what he was creating, I began really looking forward to reading it since everything else I’ve read about George Martin just seems to skim the surface of his life beyond the Beatles.

This book isn’t a simple read as it took me two weeks to take it all in even though it’s only 314 pages. The first half of the book is really intense, but unfortunately, the second half seemed to lose its gusto. No longer is the reader reading much about George’s personal life outside the studio (all the stuff I was looking forward to hearing about). Except for a couple paragraphs thrown in here and there about his divorce from his first wife was being final, and a spattering of paragraphs about the other artists he was working with, the second half of the book reads like a combination of George’s autobiography and Geoff Emerick’s book “Here, There and Everywhere”. The book seems to become just a daily log of recording the Beatles, what tracks were used for which instruments or vocals and techniques used for each song.

And then there is page 85! Whoa! *shakes head in utter disbelief*

The day before the meeting, which had been set for 11:30 AM on May 9 at Abbey Road, Brian asked Derek Taylor, a Liverpool journalist and his close friend and confidant, “What’s the point? Should I even bother going?” He then turned to Derek’s brother Alistair, his colleague at NEMS…”

WHAT?! Derek and Alistair were brothers? Why am I just hearing this now? How could I have read Derek’s book, Alistair’s book and Brian’s book…let alone all the other books I’ve read and never have heard that they were brothers? Did Kenneth Womack uncover some deep dark Beatles secret in his research? Ten pages later, I was still wondering about it, so I text a Beatles expert and friend and asked him about it. He said he’d get back to me and sure enough a couple hours later, after he consulted with a couple other Beatles experts and confirmed….it’s an error!

OMG…it’s a glaring error by the guy who wrote The Beatles Encyclopedia: Everything Fab Four.

I’m still looking forward to reading the second volume in this set when it’s released, but for all the above reasons…

I regretfully rate this book, 2 out of 4 Beetles!

UPDATE (Oct 2, 2017): After reading this review, Kenneth Womack contacted me via email to say: “Thanks for the review. The error has been corrected in the eBook and new edition, which is being published next week.” Thanks for the update, Ken!

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Ladies and Gentlemen…The Weeklings!

weeklings-studio-2-cover

I thought I was doing a favor for a fellow publicist, but little did I know that she was doing me a huge favor! Thank you, Maureen, for introducing me to the music of The Weeklings.

Maureen asked me a couple months ago if I would be interested in doing an article on my Beatles Freak Review page about the new band she is repping. She explained that their new album, Studio 2, was named after the studio at Abbey Road where the Beatles did all their recording, AND that her band, The Weeklings, had recorded this new album (their second album) there.

I was sent a preview copy of The Weeklings: Studio 2, and I couldn’t have been more pleasantly surprised. Slipped it into the CD player in my car and immediately wanted to start dancing. This album not only takes you back to the 60’s with it’s hand-claps and harmonica riffs, it does it in a new millennium style…STEREO! Add to that, that the last four cuts on this original album are the bands renditions of four very rare McCartney/Lennon songs, brought back to life for us old rockers and modernized for the new rockers. The album will be released on November 18, 2016, but you can listen to clips of the Studio 2 on Amazon and pre-order a copy for yourself.

The Weeklings are: Lefty (Glen Burtnik), Zeek (Bob Burger), Rocky (John Merjave), and Smokestack (Joe Bellia).lefty-zeek-rocky-smokestack

The Weeklings‘ CD release party and concert will be held on Friday, November 11, 2016 at the House of Independents in Asbury Park, NJ. You can get more information and tickets here. I’m really hoping to make this show myself. This is definitely a band I want to get up and dance to…

I decided to email some questions off to the band in hopes of getting more background information to write this post. As it turned out, both Zeek and Lefty decided to take on my questions and what ensued was so witty and charming, I decided to post the interview verbatim! So here it is, folks…The Weeklings!

1. Explain the name “The Weeklings”.  Not a very strong name…

From time to time many people ask what are Weeklings? Why Weeklings? Ugh, Weeklings, how did the name arrive? So we will tell you. It came in a vision – a man appeared on a flaming pizza and said unto them ‘From this day on you are THE Weeklings with an ‘E’. An alternate theory is that not a Week goes by that the band doesn’t write, record or perform their music. –ZW
 
Zeek is lying. I think it’s pretty obvious from our Hulk-like appearances that we met at the gym. At the beach really, in Venice Beach in California, where we were all four working out. We thought it’d be funny, calling ourselves The Weaklings, since we are such buff, pumped up wham-a-jamas. But we are bad at spelling. So, we hadn’t realized we spelled our name wrong until the first record was already out. So we stuck with it. We thought about changing it to The Weeklongs, The Zeeklings, The Wing Dings and The Changelings, but we kept changing our minds and figured it’s easier to just go with the flow, ya know. – LW
 
2. There’s a lot of rock n roll history in your member’s roots. How did you all manage to all come together to form this band?
 
Lefty and Zeek have been a song writing team for many years.  The members of the band also worked together for years in different situations, including the Glen Burtnik ‘BeatleBash’ shows.  At one point we did a show of all very early Beatle material and discovered how great it was to perform that music as a simple quartet.  We then did several quartet shows and the band just fell together. – ZW
 
I can’t believe what a liar Zeek is. The true story is Rocky & Smokestack met at a convention for Supercomputing engineers (hackers really). Smokestack, being a software engineer at Intelligent Medical Objects and Rocky being a graphics programmer for Android development at Talas Analytics, Inc, they paired up, first recognizing each other as competitors but eventually getting to like each other’s arm wrestling finesse. In time this led to rock music, as it does, and they found both Zeek and Lefty strung out in a bar of ill repute. – LW
 
3. How long have you been together? And where is your band based?
 
2+ years now.  We are based in Asbury Park, NJ. – ZW
 
Wrong. We’ve been together since 1956 and are based in Sofia, Bulgaria. I cannot believe Zeek’s insistence on misrepresenting the facts! – LW
 
4. Your website refers to you as “a Beatles inspired power pop”.  According to your history, two out of four of your members have actually played with Paul McCartney and your bass player has played Paul McCartney on Broadway. Any other brushes with the Fab Four you’d like to mention?
 
Lefty also met both McCartney and Ringo.  We also connected with Ken Scott and Alan Parsons (both were engineers on Beatle sessions), as advisor before recording at Abbey Road. – ZW
 
Finally, Zeek makes some sense. Rocky’s played with Billy Preston & Klaus Voorman. Pretty much everyone’s played with Denny Laine. There are lots of über talented Beatle-affiliated cats around which Rocky & I have musically crossed swords with. Steve Holley, Denny Seiwell, Laurence Juber, Joey Molland, Father MacKenzie, Lovely Rita, etc. – LW
 
5. Listening to your first album, released in March 2015, is like stepping back in time… as if listening to a transistor radio in the 1960’s! Are all the songs originals by The Weeklings?
 
No, but we’re glad you asked.  Six songs are original, and six are Lennon/McCartney/Harrison songs that were not released by the Beatles.  Our goal was to mix the material together to create the excitement of an early Beatle recording. – ZW
 
Zeek’s right for once, as much as I hate to admit it. – LW
 
6. You’ve got a new album coming out called “Studio 2”, named after the now famous studio at Abbey Road where the Beatles did most of their recording. Where did you come up with idea to go to London and record there? Is there a Beatles vibe being in that studio?
 
It was Lefty’s bucket list idea to record at Abbey Road.  But it made sense, since we recorded several more very rare Lennon/McCartney/Harrison songs, that to our knowledge have never been covered.  What more appropriate studio could there be to do that?  There is a distinct Beatles vibe to being in the real Studio 2.  You could hear the sound of the records just being there, and we were constantly pinching ourselves.  Hopefully, you’ll hear it on our “Studio 2” record. – ZW
 
It was Zeek’s idea. –LW
 
7. The new album will contain four rare Lennon/McCartney tracks. How did you discover these tunes?
 
“Because I Know You Love Me So” – is from an off-the-cuff demo sung by Lennon and McCartney that appears on the Let It Be “Fly On The Wall” album.  We liked it and decided to write an arrangement. “You Must Write” and “Some Days” – these are taken from a 1960s Beatles rehearsal tape recorded by McCartney.  We became aware of this tape via Mark Lewison’s book (“Tune In”), where the original songs were mentioned.  The tape was actually previously released on CD but is now out of print.  We found the songs by trolling YouTube. 
“Love Of The Loved” – this is really not so “rare”.  It was recorded by Cilla Black and was a minor hit in the UK.  It is known to most Beatle freaks.  Our arrangement of course is very different from the original Cilla Black version. – ZW
 
What Zeek said. – LW
 
8. While recording in London, did you get the opportunity to play in any clubs? Or have you played in the U.K. prior to this trip?
 
We didn’t play any clubs (no time!).  The individual members have played in the UK, but not The Weeklings as a band. – ZW
 
We DRANK in the pubs, but didn’t play music in any, as we were too intoxicated. – LW
 
9. Will there be any touring to support the new album?
 
As much as possible.  We are currently planning our 2017 schedule to support the album. – ZW
 
I plan on touring local condos and other available dwellings in the next year. Yes, there’ll be much touring ensued and libations imbibed. – LW

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