Tag Archives: Paul McCartney

Book Review: “A Cellarful of Noise” by Brian Epstein

My reading and review of A Cellarful of Noise by Beatle’s manager Brian Epstein has been too long in coming. This book was published in August 1964 and since I was born in July 1964 and was unable to read at the time, I think I have a firm excuse for being tardy.

I’ve known about this book for a very long time, but it was during the reading and review of Peter Brown’s book, The Love You Make, that I finally decided to invest in my own copy. These books don’t come cheaply. My first edition hardcover copy cost me $25 + shipping. If you’re not inclined to spend that much on a book, you can get a copy of A Cellarful of Noise on Kindle for $7.99. But I digress…

I had one trepidation about reading this book and that’s because it was ghost written by my arch-nemesis Derek Taylor. Anyone who has read along with my blog for any substantial amount of time will know that Mr. Taylor just gets under my skin despite the fact that everyone associated with him always writes very highly of him and his place in the Beatles organization. Still, I wasn’t going to let this stop me from reading what I consider to be an absolute must read experience for any Beatles freak!

To give you some background on the writing of this book, let me quote a paragraph from Peter Brown’s book:

The book’s entire interview and research period took place over a long weekend at the Imperial Hotel in Torquay in the south of England. On the first day Brian got through his childhood period without much trouble, but on the second day he started having difficulty telling Derek the story of his teens and early twenties.

At only 120 pages, this book is a short and abbreviated story of Brian Epstein, his life, career (with and without the Beatles) and his hopes and thoughts about his future, the future of the Beatles and his other artists. At some points, it seems to almost become a sales pitch for Billy J. Kramer, Cilla Black and Gerry Marsden since it was written so early on in Brian’s career as a manager, but still it is a very enjoyable read with a lot of stories I had already heard and some stories that were new and revealing to me (remember, I don’t consider myself a Beatles trivia expert, so a lot of tales are still very new to me). Brian, always being the consummate professional and purveyor of good manners, is kind throughout the pages and if he does tell any tales of arguments or disagreements, he’s sure to clear up any harsh exchanges with words of peace and harmony in the end. And even though I had my doubts about this book because of Derek’s influence in it’s pages, I’m led to believe that because of Brian’s inscrutable honesty in all manners, that he would have never allowed the release of any book that wasn’t a true story and depiction of himself or those around him. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “The Love You Make” by Peter Brown

I sincerely apologize for not posting this review last week. In all my heart, I truly believed I was going to read this 437 page book in one weekend! Stupid me. Time got away from me and try as I might, I just couldn’t get it read for a review last weekend….so here it is.

The Love You Make – An Insiders Story of The Beatles by Peter Brown (and Steven Gaines) was first published in 1983. I stumbled across my copy at a book sale at a local library for just $2.50, but according to Amazon.com, they sell for over $10 each. The book was re-released and 2002 edition is available as a used book for as low as $0.01!

But enough of the crap…let’s get on with the review…

Peter Brown started out as salesman at NEMS when
Brian Epstein recruited him from another store across the street. When the Beatles came along, he took over managing NEMS in Brian’s absence, but was soon to follow Brian in working for the Fab Four. This is his story…

For all my fellow Beatles freaks, you may find a lot of the information in this book as ‘old news’ though there are quite a few instances of Peter saying, “…told for the first time here”. Obviously, after 34 years, his new stories have become common knowledge or have been debunked. There are also the usually tall tales like that of John Lennon being born during an air raid when all official government reports from Liverpool say that there was no air raid on October 9, 1940.

I was informed by a friend that Peter Brown caught a lot of flack for some of the stories he told in this book and that there was a sizable backlash. He tells the story of Brian and John’s holiday trip to Spain after the birth of John’s son Julian with details that I’ve never heard before reading this book. He talks of their sexual encounter that is different from the story told by John’s childhood friend Pete Shotton in his book. In fact, this book tells a great deal of many of the Beatles carnal activities all the way back to their pre-Hamburg days. There are also the stories of John and Yoko’s heroin addiction and the usual praising of Derek Taylor‘s drug and alcohol fueled work at Apple. Paul’s extracurricular activities while living with Jane Asher are also discussed.

The stories go on and on…I can’t even make a dent in them in this review. You’ll just have to read it for yourself. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “All You Need is Ears” by George Martin

There are a lot of authentic reasons why Sir George Martin is referred to as the 5th Beatle…and they’re all contained with the pages of his book, “All You Need Is Ears: The inside personal story of the genius who created The Beatles“. Published in 1979, this book is still a delight to read for any true fan of the Fab Four.

This isn’t a book that’s just about his time working with the Beatles and in the studio. It’s the story of George’s  life along with his thoughts on musical theory, recording and producing. He begins where we would expect George Martin to begin, with when he was born in 1926 and his early days growing up in war torn England and his time in the Fleet Air Army. He spends very little time talking about his private life except to make quick mentions of meeting and marrying his first wife Sheena, the birth of his kids Alexis and Gregory, he impending divorce, his marrying Judy and the birth of his third and fourth children – Lucy and Giles. He talks about his studio engineers more than his own family.

Where he gives an outstanding explanation of the mathematics behind chords (something I’ve heard of but never had it explained to me), at the other end of the spectrum, he gives a wordy and tedious chapter on the ins and outs of mono, stereo, four track, eight track, etc., recording. There is also a rather long and (and I think) unnecessary chapter on becoming a record producer in the 1970’s when the book was written. At times it almost felt like either he, his co-writer Jeremy Hornsby or his editor was attempting to add quantity between the cover pages only to sacrificed the quality. Though, I do know a few people who will find the technical mumbo jumbo very interesting.

For those looking for possibles hints as to why Sir George left his first two children out of his will when he passed away on March 8, 2016, you won’t find any answer in these pages. Even though the whole matter is really none of anyone’s business, the fact that it made headlines can’t help but make one wonder what went so terribly wrong that a man would exclude two of his flesh and blood from enjoying his wealth. I have personally talked with Greg Martin and he’s a lovely man. By day, he’s an actor, but in his spare time he’s a gifted astrologer. He did a live reading of my chart for me via Skype about 4 years ago and he was able to tell me things that did eventually come to be. (In fact, if anyone knows how to get a hold of him, please send him my way. I’d love to have him read for me again).

Anyway…I digress…

This book is a must read for any true Beatles fan, McCartney fan, Lennon fan, etc. He doesn’t pay a whole lot of mind to Ringo and George, but does spend a good deal of time telling of his interactions with Brian Epstein. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “The Beatles: Every Little Thing” by Maxwell MacKenzie

It’s pretty amazing what you can find while wandering around your local public library’s used book sale racks! I was actually dropping off Help Wanted posters for my boss at the local libraries when I noticed that one of them had a bookstore. That’s where I found a gently used copy of The Beatles – Every Little Thing by Maxwell MacKenzie for $1.50(and another book which I’ll review at a later date). This book is describes as “a compendium of witty, weird and ever-surprising facts about the Fab Four.” It was originally published in 1998.

The 209 page book is simply divided into sections with headings such as: Early Influences; Early Gigs, Clubs and Auditions; Girlfriends, Wives, and Families; Banned Beatles; Beatles on Film; etc. From there, each sections is just a list of one-two sentence facts about John, Paul, George and Ringo.

I guess the two biggest questions one might want to know before investing in this book are: Is it accurate? And will you learn anything new? I’m only 34 pages into it so far (more on that later) and so far, I’ve found a couple ‘alternative facts’, such as the fact that John was born the night of an air raid. That myth was dispelled a long time ago. And as for learning anything new, well, that would depend on your level of expertise or who you’re buying this book for. As for myself, I’m not ready to give up on it completely. I plan on leaving it laying around and pick it up now and then for some light reading. It would make a nice gift for someone who’s just discovered the Beatles or maybe for a young reader who’s writing a report for school. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 2 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

On another note, I want to bring to your attention an amazing auction that is going on right now. Heritage Auctions of Texas is currently selling seven fab paintings by artist Eric Cash. Anyone who’s attended a Beatles Fest will know his work and who Eric is. This past month, I managed to save one of his paintings from the auction block when I bought “Sea of Green”. I couldn’t be happier and I’m waiting to take it to be professionally framed! In the meantime, check out the other pieces. You won’t regret owning one of these amazing paintings. Check them out here!

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NAMM 2017: Laurence Juber live on stage

Believe it or not, I had never seen nor heard Laurence Juber play guitar until I saw him at NAMM 2017 on the Museum of Making Music stage! Unfortunately, my cellphone said I had recorded enough after only 3 minutes of his rendition of George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”. Still…this is an outstanding clip of his incredible guitar playing! Enjoy!

 

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Guest Post: Elvis Costello & John Pizzarelli – a comparison of memoirs

dave-thomasThis week’s post is brought to you buy retired music teacher & fellow Beatle freak – Dave Thomas. Dave wanted to write a comparison between two books written by musicians that have both colaborated with Paul McCartney. One of the books, Elvis Costello’s memoir, I reviewed on November 15, 2015…you can reread it here.

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While somewhere in the midst of reading Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink by Elvis Costello, and hearing him talk (albeit briefly) about his collaboration with Paul McCartney, I found myself thinking about a book by another artist who has worked with Sir Paul:  World on a String: A Musical Memoir by John Pizzarelli.  I read the latter book some time ago, and was struck by the similarities, yet drastically different tone and content of these two books.
I have never considered myself to be a huge fan of Elvis Costello’s music, but I have always had a great deal of respect for both the breadth of his musical knowledge, as well as his skills…and while I am not familiar with a great deal of his catalog, most of what I AM familiar with I enjoy very much.  When I am in the mood for lyrics that make me think, Elvis Costello has never disappointed.  His lyrics, by and large, are quite poetic, and in many cases, stand alone quite nicely apart from their musical accompaniment.  In his memoir, he will often slip in and out of these lyrics, using them to illustrate a point, or describe an event in his life.

Overall, his 2016 memoir (Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink) left me with very mixed feelings.  Perhaps it was the out-of-sequence way in which it was told, which made the story a bit difficult to follow at times.  Costello has worked with many musical partners over the years, in a variety of musical genres and styles…but the way the book has been edited left me with a case of musical and literary whiplash as we jumped into and out of stories featuring this eclectic mix of characters.  Perhaps it’s just that after 688 pages, I really don’t feel like I “know” Elvis Costello any better than I did before.  I know many more things about him than I did before, but all of these facts fail to leave me with a clear picture of who he really is. While clearly a talented, intelligent man, neither Mr. Costello’s music, nor this book, gives one the impression that he is “accessible”.  Perhaps that was his intention – he appears to be a private person who, although he sought fame, is not as comfortable with the reality of it, as he is the idea.
Given the length of the book, I would have hoped for more detail in his stories.  I was particularly disappointed at the lack of anecdotes surrounding his late 1980’s collaboration with Paul McCartney, which led to McCartney’s album “Flowers in the Dirt”, and also had an impact on Costello’s album, “Spike”….but the whole book felt somewhat lacking in specifics.  He dances around the edges of stories, especially those originating from a more reckless time in his life, in the earlier stages of his stardom.  He mentions several failed relationships along the way, but we never get a real understanding for why they failed; neither do we hear very much about his current relationship with the talented Ms. Diana Krall.
He talks quite a lot about his musician father, Ross McManus.  Elvis’ relationship with his father seemed to often be rocky, but he does owe a lot of his early musical influences to his father’s work as a musician as a trumpet player and singer.  They even collaborated on a few projects together, starting with a commercial jingle in 1973.  But it is difficult (based upon this book) to draw a clear musical line from the father’s work to the son’s.
There are a few (and just a few) moments of lightness and humor in the book, much of it having an air of lessons learned and a few regrets…but Costello’s tone seems to soften slightly when he talks about his father’s failing health robbing them of the music that was a large part of the bond between them.
This is all in very stark contrast with World on a String, by John Pizzarelli.
First – full disclosure:  While I cannot say I “know” John Pizzarelli, I have had numerous opportunities to interact with him, (along with his father, Bucky, and his brother, Martin) over the years – starting with the wedding of some mutual friends (mine and John’s) about 30 years ago.  John was still in his early 20’s, honing his skills, and I’ve enjoyed watching his talent develop and grow over the ensuing years.  Because of the interactions that we’ve had, I can tell you without equivocation that John Pizzarelli is one of the nicest, hardest working guys in “show business”.  So without any slight intended toward Mr. Costello, I acknowledge that this review may tend to favor Mr. Pizzarelli’s book.
I used the term “show business” above for many reasons, not the least of which is that it evokes an era that Pizzarelli is completely familiar with and comfortable in – the era which gave us the “Great American Songbook”.  The names Berlin, Mercer, Gershwin, Schwartz, Porter, van Heusen and Arlen come up frequently on his recordings, in his shows, and in this book.
John is a master story-teller, a pretty decent mimic (a talent which he employs often when telling stories), a wonderful crooner and a world-class guitar player.  Like Costello’s book, Pizzarelli spends a great deal of time talking about his father’s musical career, but in this case, the direct career line from father to son is unmistakable.  In fact, a great deal of John’s early career was spent playing gigs with Bucky, and the two still occasionally play together, as Bucky continues to demonstrate his mastery of the instrument at age 91 (as of this writing).
Unlike the somewhat dry, factual recounting we get from Costello’s book, Pizzarelli’s mood is upbeat and jovial, his stories full of amusing anecdotes and inside stories of well-known musical figures. The only change in tone comes when he speaks of his 1st manager, and to a lesser degree, his co-star in the Broadway musical Dream, Lesley Ann Warren.  Every story has enough detail to give you a “you are there” feel, despite the fact that at 304 pages, it is less than half the length of Costello’s book.
The Pizzarellis were, and are, a typical New Jersey Italian household: Sunday dinners were a very important event!  What was not typical was the people around the table at those dinners:  Les Paul, Zoot Sims, Joe Pass, and many, many other musical legends who knew and worked with John’s father, Bucky.  Reading this book (or better yet, listening to the audio version, read by John), you’ll feel like you’re at one of his shows, and at times, even sitting around in his living room being regaled with stories of jazz history.  His writing style puts you at ease, with a great deal of humor sprinkled throughout.
Unlike Mr. Costello, whose parents divorced when he was not yet out of secondary school, John’s childhood centered around a very strong home life.  It is no coincidence that Bucky, who was the original guitarist for the Tonight Show, decided not to move to California when Johnny Carson took the show from New York City to Burbank, because most of the Pizzarelli family was on the East Coast.  John was taught to play guitar by his father and uncles, and has worked all over the world for the last 30 years, often with his father Bucky on guitar and/or his brother Martin on bass.  In fact, both John and Bucky perform on Paul McCartney’s 2012 release, Kisses on the Bottom, (along with Costello’s wife, Diana Krall), and Pizzarelli’s stories about working with Sir Paul are much more forthcoming than Costello’s.
The reader gets the impression that his strong family ties are the main reason why John has stayed so grounded over the years, despite working with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney, Doc Severinsen, James Taylor, Paul McCartney, and probably most of the jazz musicians any reader could name.  The book leaves you with the impression that John is every bit the same person in private as he is on stage.
Two artists of our generation, born 6 years and 3,500 miles apart, with very different backgrounds, very different talents, and each having (for the most part) a very different fan base….  but both their paths intersected musically with Paul McCartney.  Such is the power of music to unite, and such is the magic of a Beatle.  But then, The Beatles have been uniting people through their music for over 50 years, so I guess that’s no great surprise.

 

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NAMM 2017: Rickenbacker and The Beatles

At NAMM 2017, I had the privilege to talk with John Hall, the CEO of Rickenbacker Guitars, about his father meeting the Beatles in 1964 and about presenting Paul McCartney with a custom left handed bass guitar.

 

 

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