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Book Review: “The Beatles 100: One Hundred Pivotal Moments in Beatles History” by John M. Borack

This review is by Amy Hughes…

The Beatles 100: One Hundred Pivotal Moments in Beatles History John M. Borack

One of the first 100 things you’ll ask about John Borack’s book The Beatles 100: One Hundred Pivotal Moments in Beatles History (Rarebird Books, 2021): are they actually pivotal? Do they carry that weight, to coin a lyric.

On one hand, any narrative that hinges on The Beatles’ most important moments can be considered subjective. I’m more than sure that while perusing each chapter, you as the reader/Beatles factoid gatherer/historian could compile your own list and match it to author Borack’s condensed history.

What I considered relevant were that the moments were not in chronological order, nor was the book confined to The Beatles’ inner orbit. Several passages at length called out the solo years and in that context, how each contributed to the canon of post-Beatles history.

Borack addresses the better known episodes in Beatledom: Hamburg, Love Me Do, Pete Best, Ed Sullivan, Shea Stadium, MBE’s, the Paul Is Dead hoax and even the Mono LP Box Set release. However, he also ruminates over numerous chapters concerning their solo careers and lives: Paul losing Linda tying into Run Devil Run; John and Yoko’s Double Fantasy leading into John’s death; George’s marital issues with first wife Pattie running into his 1974 Dark Horse album and subsequent tour and Ringo forming his All-Starr Band. Each chapter is headed by a quotation from a random Beatle or associate applicable to the subject matter.

While the events showcased are familiar, the narrative is casual and readable. I would not consider this a “list” so to speak, nor is it a perfunctory bulleted style treatise, pointing the reader in any certain direction. Choosing what moments to delve into is probably the most important note for anyone engaged in learning something more than superficial facts.

I will state that Borack does spend considerable time and effort in stating where most of the stories come from: mostly interviews with the press and such. A good load of quotes are coming directly from The Beatles Anthology and from Paul, his book by Barry Miles. There are also a number of rock press quotes as well, especially in context to the time of album releases from the group or in the solo years.

Overall, I found the book a good reference read and for a nice epilogue, Borack gives us his opinion on solo tracks, cover versions, and soundalikes. With all that said and sung…

I’m giving this book 4 out of 4 beetles

 

 

 

 

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Book Review and Interview: “My Ticket to Ride: How I Ran Away to England to Meet the Beatles and Got Rock and Roll Banned in Cleveland (A True Story from 1964)” by Janice Mitchell

Book reviewed by Amy Hughes.

My Ticket to Ride Janice Mitchell

Intrepid believer. Not the usual description to hang onto a 16-year-old female fan of The Beatles, circa 1964. But one that aptly fits the life events surrounding author Janice Mitchell who has now come forward with the mind-blowing circumstances surrounding the title of her book.

My Ticket to Ride: How I Ran Away to England to Meet the Beatles and Got Rock and Roll Banned in Cleveland (A True Story from 1964) (Gray & Company Publishers, 2021) hinges on Mitchell’s September 1964 whirlwind account of seeing The Beatles at Cleveland’s Public Auditorium and the very next day, jetting off to the UK with her best friend Marty, nearly all their belongings and holding onto the belief that no one would care where they ended up or if they would be found.

Be that as it may, the sum of the story doesn’t rely on the anecdotes or hard-to-believe storyline. What is documented clear and simple is Mitchell caught in the middle of a life not of her choosing and the desperate attempts to find meaning and reasoning beyond her grim upbringing. While winding the reader through the lifelines that gave her hope, one comes away with an understanding of why she needed to turn this adventure into something real, and travel to somewhere she could be happy for essentially the rest of her life.

Mitchell describes a harrowing childhood in an all-too-brief summary, riveting in it’s narrative and strikingly honest from her viewpoint. Her birth parents’ abandonment of her and her siblings forced her to live singularly with an aunt, uncle and cousin that at first glance seemed a more idyllic setting than anything she could have dreamed. But with the sudden death of uncle Mac, the closed environment of being with aunt “Toots” and older cousin Margie, coupled with a strict Catholic school atmosphere propelled her to seek out avenues of enlightenment.

From the first guitar janglings of The Beatles on Cleveland radio station WHK at Christmastime 1963, Mitchell’s world opened up. In her words, she “had something to live for.” Constructing the framework that would lead to her independence was in some way, more than she bargained for. Her alliance with KYW DJ Harry Martin – innocent on the surface from her perspective, but which proved fortuitous in just a few short months – paved the way for her first meeting with another up-and-coming British band: The Rolling Stones.

The Stones were embarking on their first American tour and were stopping by ‘The Mike Douglas Show’ (then broadcasting from Cleveland) on June 18. Invited remotely by Martin, Mitchell arrived only to be told she couldn’t enter. As was her luck, she managed to enter into The Stones dressing room, watched from the side of the stage and after, was propositioned by bassist Bill Wyman (who kissed her). Little did Mitchell know that this episode in her life would circle back around to highlight her escapade in only three months time.

Mitchell chronicles the hysteria (after she managed to get front row seats with Marty) surrounding the now well-known Beatles gig in Cleveland on September 15: the show was stopped after the third song. The Cleveland police demanded The Beatles leave the stage until the crowd was brought under control. The chaos and screaming abated with the help of DJs Martin and Specs Howard and the Beatles returned and finished the set. For all that, the thought went through Mitchell’s mind as she walked amongst the broken chairs and shredded signs: she and Marty were leaving for London at 8am the next morning for “Beatleland.”

While the ensuing days there were a mix of finding living accommodations (a flat in Notting Hill), possible job opportunities for the two (Mitchell had sent letters to both The Stones’ fan club and Brian Epstein in hopes of finding employment), Mitchell nonetheless spins an air of innocence that to some could seem incomprehensible in its lack of forethought for the future. She had secured money from her savings, as well as Marty’s college fund and the duo appeared to have it all under control, living in Soho, going to clubs nightly and even meeting young musicians – the latter with circumstances that were not wholly explained to them in detail, lest Mitchell and her friend were questioned as to their real motives.

Meanwhile… back in Cleveland Heights, the law enforcement community were actively seeking their whereabouts, circulating flyers with their likenesses and as days wore on, involving the US State Department. The flimsiest thread to their location came back: Mitchell’s letter to the Stones fan club (calling out Wyman) and Epstein had been discovered. Both girls were “somewhere” in England.

Jumping from clubs to Tube stations, roaming the streets of London and even managing to meet with their musician friends and hitchhike to Liverpool,where Mitchell was crushed in not being able to enter the Cavern Club due to time constraints… it all seemed to be working out. There had been no communication with their families back in Ohio and both were oblivious to the havoc they had caused with their departure.

As with all the good things that came of this adventure, it did eventually end. As Mitchell and her musician friend walked along Oxford Street, she was spotted by a bobby. It was over. Mitchell and Marty – handled by her account very well by the British system – were speedily jettisoned back to the US. While Mitchell continually wondered what was going on, Marty in the ensuing timeframe during the transit froze her out. Both were hauled into the county juvenile system rather brutally and Mitchell in her innocence could not comprehend what they had done wrong. Through the harrowing ordeal, she remained stoic but scarred from the experience. Remanded back to her aunt, she felt the isolation suffocating.

While she recovered, rock and roll was moving on. Mitchell’s high profile shenanigans lifted her presence to a level that she didn’t expect: while facing the judicial system in tandem with her London exploits, a judge ruled that her and Marty’s actions directly affected live performances in the Cleveland area. Such music was condemned (including a return appearance of The Rolling Stones) and effectively, rock ‘n’ roll was banned in Cleveland.

As Mitchell stewed over the insanity of the ruling, she coped with daily life. She managed one last phone call to the musician who she befriended in London. But Marty – her Beatle cohort – had moved with her family from Cleveland Heights and their last communication was in 1968.

Mitchell also moved on, married, became a journalist, then a capital case investigator in New York City. She left after the trauma of 9/11 and moved back to her hometown. And while compiling and reliving all the moments of this lifetime ago escapade, Mitchell learned that Paul McCartney had been on the precipice of seeing them off at Heathrow back in October of 1964. However, the US Embassy nixed that plan. She did end up visiting Liverpool more extensively in 2018 and again nearly came in contact with McCartney during his ‘Carpool Karaoke’ segment on the Albert Dock. She was not lost thinking about the ironic twists of her life.

Stories from first generation Beatles fans such as Mitchell’s are very rare and her insightful perceptions, coupled with her 16-year-old gumption make this memoir colorful and poignant.

I’m giving this book 4 out of 4 beetles!

 

 

 

Listen to Jenn’s interview with author Janice Mitchell…

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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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Guest Book Review: “Fab Fools” by Jem Roberts

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

———————————————-

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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