Tag Archives: beatles

Guest Book Review: “Fab Fools” by Jem Roberts

Thank you Amy McGrath Hughes for taking the time to write another fine book review…

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Fab Fools by Jem RobertsThis book is available to pre-order and will be released April 29, 2021.

Right off the top, let me remind everyone that the Beatles were British. From the north of England. With a very different sense of humor.

Plunging into the long-awaited Fab Fools (Candy Jar Books, 2020), I was immediately struck with what can only be described as a ‘new’ take on The Beatles. The term ‘comedians’ doesn’t pop up with regularity when describing their contribution to entertainment, but that is precisely what author Jem Roberts intends to rectify. And I must say, he’s done a very convincing job.

But let me backtrack a bit here: there is a lot of story to cover when going thru the history of The Beatles (hello, Mark Lewisohn). What Roberts has undertaken is an entirely different approach: within the context of their lives, he has placed the band in line with numerous examples (in studious detail) of how their wit and witticisms served them not only during the early years of moptop giddiness and awkward ‘comic’ appearances but gave them a voice – collective and solo – in shaping their character, their travels and their ability to find the silliness in almost every conceivable situation.

(I want to briefly interject that what is referenced in this granular study is heavily reliant on understanding British humor and British comic ancestry. While a casual Beatle fan may know names such as Peter Sellers and Dudley Moore, a more thoroughly invested fan will no doubt appreciate the intricacies of English show biz as Roberts gives over to the voices that shaped ‘Beyond The Fringe,’ the Temperance Seven and the very early noises of members of Monty Python.)

Roberts’ right reading of their producer George Martin (who had his pulse on British comedy long before he began his tenure with The Beatles) is another eye-opener for those only familiar with his steadfast, laidback approach and laconic observations. His ability to not only see the group from a musical perspective but be able to stand back and appreciate their shared humor (see numerous outtakes from any session at EMI Studios), was of course solidified for history when George Harrison responded with the legendary “Well for a start, I don’t like your tie,” in answer to Martin asking if there was anything they didn’t like at their very first recording session.

One must also recall from this far in the future that The Beatles were breaking new ground. As has been said many times, they were making it up as they went along and for the most part, their in-jokes become part of their DNA repartee. One of the first large scale exhibitions (and here we’re treading into the quicksand of 21st century PC-ness) was John Lennon’s ‘cripple’ impersonations. I’m fairly certain that anyone who has seen his claw-hands, tongue-pushing-out-bottom-lip, flailing foot-stomping renditions from the stage (and a few skewered passages from ‘In His Own Write’) knows exactly what I’m talking about. While there is no fair excuse today, suffice to say this was what humor was about back then and farther back to his childhood. And it did indeed become shouted shorthand when they wanted any loathsome individual out of their dressing rooms during the height of Beatlemania: “Crips, Mal!”

If you’re asking how deep can Roberts go and in what direction did comedy take them: the answers are numerous. He ruminates on everything from the band’s early Morecambe & Wise UK appearances, to winning over ‘serious’ journalists in the burgeoning London newspaper scene known as ‘music reporting,’ to ‘Big Night Out,’ ‘Juke Box Jury’ and of course (for those in the know) the king of Scouse humor, Ken Dodd.

As The Beatles moved on to the world at large, so did their witty style in winning over… everybody outside Britain. The JFK press conference, the multi-year Christmas flexi-disc for fan club members, more press conferences and then – ultimately – the highest tribute: a Saturday morning cartoon. Detested (and protested), this indignation to their respective images actually helped launch one of the best-known pieces of (apparent) Liverpool humor: 1968’s ‘Yellow Submarine.’

While not an outright obvious, ‘Yellow Submarine’’s dialogue was brought more into the forefront of in-jokes and Scouse dialect by The Scaffold’s Roger McGough. Being a native Liverpudlian (and 1/3 of the heralded comedy troop with John Gorman and Paul’s brother Mike), the film – with its tale of The Beatles thwarting Blue Meanies in their travels to Pepperland – was filled with the uncredited contributions of McGough, including the oft-used rhyme-y “de do doe don’t de doe?” The Beatles themselves however only appeared in a slightly stilted live epilogue, though none the worse for wear.

While there are several avenues that branch off into the solo years, a large portion of the book has Roberts espousing on the birth of Monty Python – via ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ – and into the 70s with the ultimate tribute/pastiche – The Rutles.

The brainchild of Python’s Eric Idle, the real and long-lasting prankster was ad hoc Python Neil Innes. Innes supplied the music to Idle’s first scripted shorts for the faux group known as the ‘Pre-Fab Four.’ What began as a rudimentary trip down memory lane with a few ‘laffs’ and spot-on impersonations, grew once Idle expanded his vision and Innes formed a band to make the mockumentary what it has become today: a not-serious/hysterical/musical/legendarily quotable/believable/alternate world known as The Rutles. After the 1978 film ‘All You Need Is Cash’ (which tanked in the US despite the inclusion of several ‘Saturday Night Live’ cast members and the heavily disguised cameo of George Harrison), The Rutles took on a life of its’ own. Suffice to say, if you believed in a Beatles afterlife, Innes was your crossing guard into that world. Sadly, he passed in December 2019.

As the book moves to its conclusion (with fascinating passages ranging from Starr’s Mr. Conductor persona in ‘Shining Time Station’ to McCartney’s ill-advised foray into film via ‘Give My Regards To Broad Street,’ Harrison’s work in HandMade Films and Lennon’s last few interviews talking up ‘Fawlty Towers’), The Beatles and the people and industry they inspired along the way is nothing short of fascinating. The education one can absorb from Roberts’ tome and lyrical style of writing is reader-worthy.

For everything above and more, I give this book 4 out of 4 beetles!

 

 

 

 

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Alert: Free Online Beatles Course

While perusing Facebook this morning, I saw an ad for Great Courses Plus offering a free online course about The Beatles. I decided to save all my readers the hassle of clicking on a Facebook ad (that only encourages more unwanted ads) and look into it myself.

The course is called England, the 1960s, and the Triumph of the Beatles and includes 12 lectures. Each lecture is about 25 minutes:

  1. The Magical Mystery of the Beatles
  2. Fateful Intersections in Liverpool

  3. Finding the Beat in the Beatles

  4. Nowhere Men: The Dark Side of the Beatles

  5. Beatles for Sale: Brian Epstein’s Genius

  6. The Cold War, JFK, and the Beatles

  7. The Beatles Conquer America

  8. The Englishness of A Hard Day’s Night

  9. Help! The Beatles at the Top in 1965

  10. Crossroads: The Beatles in 1966

  11. The Summer of Sgt. Pepper’s

  12. Hello, Goodbye: The End of the 1960s

From what I can make out from the website, once you’re registered and give them your credit card information, your 14 Day FREE Trail will begin. But here’s the fine print on the site with how to avoid having to pay for anything:

If you cancel, service access will terminate at the end of the current paid billing period. If you cancel during the free trial, access will remain until the end of the free trial period.
There is no refund for early termination.

I’m not sure how long this course has been offered, but the 26 reviews of it only go back one month, so it appears fairly new. It also appears to be the online Beatles related course on this site.

I feel the need to note that this is not an affiliate article. I get nothing for mentioning this course to you and am only doing to bring attention to something of interest to Beatles fans. So if you need something to do while staying home during the pandemic, you may want to check this out. I know I will be signing up…and then canceling the next day while still enjoying my 14 day free trail!

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Book Review: “BEATLES, BEATMAKERS, MERSEYBEAT, AND ME” by Karl Terry

BEATLES, BEATMAKERS, MERSEYBEAT, AND ME - Kindle edition by Terry, Karl. Arts & Photography Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.While searching for Beatles books that were published this year for my Best Beatles Book 2020 Poll, I stumbled upon Beatles, Beatmakers, Merseybeat and Me by Karl TerryKarl hails from Liverpool and got to not only experience Beatlemania first hand, but he was also in several bands that over the early years considered The Beatles their contemporaries, their competition and eventually the band to emulate.

This 112 page e-book was just published July 4, 2020. And the fascinating thing about it is that it tells the story of what was going on in and around The Beatles during their early years and their heyday. There are plenty of books about The Beatles and other Merseybeat bands, but nothing quite like this one. Karl Terry will give you an inside perspective of what it was like to be one of the other bands in Liverpool in the 1960’s while talking about the other scouser bands he shared the stage and bill with.

But it’s not just about The Beatles and Liverpool. Karl will make you laugh out loud at some of the more outrageous stories and near disastrous happenings of his own band mates and himself as they toured France, Spain and Germany playing to beat loving audiences. How fast can a band get kicked out of a hotel?

If you enjoy traveling back to 1960’s Liverpool and the clubs of Germany, you’ll definitely love reading this short, but thrilling journey. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “Em & Moo: Legacy of a ’60s Female Rock Duo” by Kathy Bushnell


When I put out a request earlier this month for guests for my podcast, I Saw The Beatles, I got an email from Kathy Bushnell, the author of the recently published book – Em & Moo: Legacy of a ’60s Female Rock Duo. After recording a show with her, I was anxious to read her book!

Kathy calls her book a memoir and talks about her exciting life growing up in New York City and how a series of events, including seeing the Beatles play at Shea Stadium in August of 1965 inspired her to become a musician. But she didn’t just become a multi-instrumental talent, she went on to form her own female rock duo that toured Europe. Not just any rock duo, but the FIRST female rock duo in Britain.  Their band, Emily Muff, went on to open for such bands as Yes, Family, Steppenwolf and America and eventually played the Royal Albert Hall in London.

You would think this would be exciting enough to read about, but no. It’s her encounters with the Glimmer Twins – Mick Jagger and Keith Richards that makes her story even more dynamic. She first met Keith, Brian Jones and Bill Wyman when her brother helped sneak her into a bar in NYC when she was just 16. She would have run ins with the Rolling Stones several more times after she moved to London after she dropped out of college. And still, the stories don’t stop there…like when one of her flat mates in London tells her he just joined a new band and they’re going to call themselves…Yes!

The great stories never seem to end in this book. I couldn’t put it down. And I doubt too many other readers won’t have the same reaction. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

 

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Film: Mersey Boys by Girard Farrell

An adorable 10 minute film….

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Urgent: The Brian Epstein Statue Project needs your help!

I haven’t posted in awhile, but I wanted to take a moment to bring every Beatles Freak’s attention to a truly worthy CrowdFunder to create a statue of Brian Epstein that will be added to the statues of The Beatles on the Liverpool waterfront. This project needs to raise £60,000 by October 24th to receive the funding it needs to make this venture happen. Currently, they have only raise about £7,712 with 11 days to go!

Image result for beatles statues

 

 

They are offering some great rewards for donors, but if you’re not in the position to give to this campaign, then please help by sharing the link with all your Fab Four friends to help get the 5th Beatle back where he belongs…with his boys!

https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/the-brian-epstein-statue-project

Until next time…

 

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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: “On the Road with Janis Joplin” by John Byrne Cooke

Several months ago, I embarked on a project that involves writing about several well-known rock stars. Not too many people know about my project, but one of my friends that I’ve been consulting and sharing with suggested I include Janis Joplin (along with a couple other women rockers). “UGH!” I thought. “I hate Janis Joplin. Why would I want to include HER of all people in my work?” Well, I couldn’t seem to shake the idea from my mind, so I did a little investigating to find out if there was a link  between Janis and my project…and lo and behold, there was! But I needed to find out more about her….

For the past several weeks, I’ve been reading On the Road with Janis Joplin by author, musician and Janis Joplin’s road manager John Byrne Cooke (son of Alistair Cooke). There are several other books about her: One by her sister and one by her lover/roommate, but I decided this one would probably be the most unbiased look at her life.

Reading this book was slow going at first because, well…she’s not one of my favorite people! I was happy to see a couple Beatles references in the early part of the book as the author tried to put her early development into perspective with what was going on in the music world at the time. Janis was originally from Texas, but moved up to the Haight Ashbury section of San Francisco in the mid 60’s to join the band Big Brother and the Holding Company. She would end up having two more bands before her death in 1970, and would tour extensively with all of them. It wasn’t until her final album (that would have to be finished without her after her sudden death) that everyone would feel that she had finally learned to control her vocals to put out her very best album.

Interesting trivia from UtimateClassicRock.com:

The last recordings Joplin completed were ‘Mercedes-Benz’ and a birthday greeting for John Lennon. On Oct. 1, 1970, Joplin recorded the old Dale Evans cowboy tune ‘Happy Trails’ for the former Beatle, which is sort of spooky given the lyrics are “Happy trails to you, ’till we meet again.” The tune was titled ‘Happy Birthday, John (Happy Trails)’ and released on the Janis box set in 1993. Lennon told talk show host Dick Cavett that her taped greeting arrived at his home after her passing.

But a strange thing happened as I read further and further into Janis’ story. I came to love and respect her for who she was. This is a young woman who was voted “The Ugliest Man on Campus” at the University of Texas at Austin in her freshman year (I was told I was the ugliest girl in the 7th grade), and it would seem that she carried the scars from her unpopularity in high school and college with her into her career. To put it bluntly…she was lonely. Very lonely…and her drug use was to comfort herself through the pain. My heart aches for her now.

If you don’t know about Janis Joplin, but want to learn more about her, this book is a good place to start (I’ll probably end up reading the books by her sister and the one by her lover/roommate). I did get a little frustrated with the author going off on his own story a little too much for my liking, but all in all, this was a fine book. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

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FREE Beatles college course & Upcoming Beatles Symposium

So…you think you know the Beatles? Or, you want to learn more about the Beatles? Well, there is an online course called, “The Music of The Beatles” and it’s FREE! The course is offered through the website Coursera where you can take all types of free college courses. In fact, I encourage you to do a search on any topic in their search engine! The Music of The Beatles is offered on the site by the University of Rochester and the instructor is Dr. John Covach. It’s a seven week course, but if you can spare 2 hours a day, you can actually get through an entire week in just one day. I’ll be finishing up this course as you’re reading this on Sunday morning when I publish it. In the meantime, head on over to the site and check it out. If you’d like more than just a warm fuzzy feeling for finishing the course, you can pay the $49 to get a certificate for having completed it..but you’ll have to download and print it out at home.

John Covach University of Rochester Beatles Symposium

Professor John Covach

Speaking of John Covach, he’s also the Program Chair for the upcoming Beatles symposium to be held September 27-29, 2019 at the University of Rochester. This three day event is titled, Come Together: Fifty Years of Abbey Road, and obviously will have presentations, interviews, etc. based on the Beatles’ album Abbey Road that was released in 1969. According to the website, the featured speakers include John Kurlander (engineer on Abbey Road), Andy BabiukWalter Everett, and Kenneth Womack …just to name a few. Currently, the symposium is still in the Call For Papers stage of being set up, so there are not many details on the website, but I would advice you keep up to date on it and check back often: Come Together: Fifty Years of Abbey Road

In the meantime, why not pick up a copy of Covach’s book, What’s That Sound?: An Introductory to Rock and It’s History

 

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The Beatles Tarot

A month ago, I received an email from someone named Russ asking me about a tarot card review on my website. He said that he had done a Google search and found my website, but when he looked on my site, he didn’t see it. He went on to say that his son has created a set of Beatles Tarot cards and a companion book and asked if I had reviewed it. Uh….no! The reason he found my site was because of my review of the book by Yoko’s tarot card reader, but hey…I love tarot cards…and asked about his son’s website.

So here’s my back story…I’ve always had decks of tarot cards since I was a teenager (over 35 years). At one point in my early 20’s, I actually became quite good at reading them until a really spooky incident on New Year’s Day 1986  happened and I stopped. I picked it back up in my 30’s and then life got too busy to be bothered with reading. I still have my favorite deck…Legend: The Arthurian Tarot. The deck was given to me by a friend and they say that the best decks are ones given to you by a friend. I’ve had other decks, but never warmed up to them.

The point of telling you about me and my decks is to let you know that I’m no stranger to tarot decks, so when I went to look at this new Beatles Tarot site, I went in with my eyes wide open. (Note: If I really wanted to dig into the HTML code of this guy’s website, I could probably put a pic or two of his deck, but since he coded it so that it’s not easily accessible, I’ll assume he wouldn’t appreciate me posting any).

Several things caught my eye (and ear) after looking through the cards, which he displays every card he created in the 78 card deck. First off, he has music and interviews playing on each page, which I found terribly distracting. My next thought as I looked through the minor arcana cards was that I couldn’t find a real link between the images he created and the meaning of the cards (remember, I know how to read cards). His major arcana is pretty decent. My third thought was, “I hope Apple doesn’t see this, because he’s going to get a cease and desist letter from them!” I expressed these last two thoughts to Russ, the creators father and never heard from him again. I could have asked for a complimentary deck to review since I have no idea what the quality of the actual deck is, but I knew from what I had seen that I would never use it and I’m not into getting something for nothing just because I’m a reviewer.

So there is my story about this deck. My advice is to go to the website and check it out for yourself. Hopefully, you won’t find the background noise as annoying as I did. If you’re really into tarot decks or really into collecting all things Beatles, then by all means, buy a set! My guess is that after word gets out, Apple is going to put the kibosh on this and it will be a collector’s item!

Wouldn’t it be interesting to ask John Green what he thinks of this deck?

No review…no rating!

 

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