Wednesday, November 30, 2011

So Little Time, So Much To Know!

By June 26th, 1968, all four Beatles were together again in EMI Studios recording their new album. The first two weeks of sessions concentrated on "Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey", "Good Night", and "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da".

Spare days saw them assisting other Apple artists, as Paul produced "Those Were The Days" for Mary Hopkin and George (with help from Paul and Ringo) worked on "Sour Milk Sea" with Jackie Lomax. On June 30th, Paul recorded the Black Dyke Mills Band performing "Thingumybob" and "Yellow Submarine".

A press preview of the animated film Yellow Submarine was held July 8th at the Bowater House Cinema in London. For some reason, John and Yoko failed to show up, but the other three were there to chat with reporters from ITV News and other outlets. All four Beatles did attend the movie's public premiere on July 17th at the London Pavilion, an event captured on camera for BBC1's How It Is.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Apple Plugging

As soon as they had begun, the "White Album" sessions were put on hold when George and Ringo flew to California on June 7th, 1968. During a visit to Big Sur on June 10th and 11th, George participated in filming for the documentary Raga, featuring Ravi Shankar:

Until George and Ringo's return on June 18th, John and Paul worked largely on individual efforts. They held sessions at Abbey Road to work on sound effects for "Revolution 9" and the play In His Own Write (John), and to record "Blackbird" (Paul). Rehearsals of the latter, from a June 11th session, were captured in a short promotional film, Apple, directed by Tony Bramwell:

Meanwhile, John and Yoko planted acorns for peace as their contribution to the National Sculpture Exhibit, attended the opening of In His Own Write, and produced a pair of short films, Two Virgins and Film No. 5 (Smile):

On June 16th, Paul taped a TV appearance with Frankie Howerd, introducing Apple's latest signing, Mary Hopkin. Then it was his turn to fly to California and promote Apple on the West Coast, staying from June 20th through the 25th and talking with Bobby Dale about the fledgling company.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Rousing Crescendo

The "White Album" sessions got underway May 30th, 1968 at EMI Studio Two. The first three dates were spent recording a version of "Revolution" which would end up split in two parts as "Revolution 1" and "Revolution 9".

On June 5th, the Beatles started work on Ringo's first composition, "Don't Pass Me By". The next day, as the others worked on overdubs in Studio Two, John sat with Victor Spinetti in Studio Three for a filmed TV interview. John's books had been adapted by Spinetti and Adrienne Kennedy into a stage play, In His Own Write, which would be opening soon at the Old Vic. Peter Lewis talked with John and Victor about the production for BBC2's Release, broadcast June 22nd.

With that done, John sat down "cross-legged on his amplifier", strumming a fretless guitar, and bantered amusingly with BBC Radio's Kenny Everett. When they had finished overdubbing, the other Beatles joined the fun, playing and singing impromptu jingles for Kenny. An abbreviated version of this recording, overlaid with sound effects, was heard on The Kenny Everett Show June 9th. A longer edit was released on a promotional Apple single, Una Sensazionale Intervista con I Beatles. Here is the unedited tape of the interview, complete with narration by Kenny's tape recorder-owning chum Tony Olivestone.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Miasmic Climaxes

The two weeks between John and Paul's return from America on May 16th, 1968 and the start of the "White Album" sessions on May 30th were a busy time for the Beatles.

A few days after returning to Kenwood, with his wife away in Greece, John invited Yoko Ono over; they broke the ice by recording Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins. George and Ringo were at the Cannes Film Festival attending the premiere of Wonderwall. They returned on the 19th, just in time to attend a housewarming party thrown by playwright Harold Pinter.

On the 21st, Paul and Jane Asher attended an Andy Williams concert at the Royal Albert Hall; on the 22nd, John and George attended a luncheon to launch Apple Tailoring, the company's second London boutique. On the 23rd, Paul and Ringo were filmed at EMI Studios for Tony Palmer's TV documentary about the British rock scene, All My Loving. It was aired on BBC's Omnibus series November 3rd.

May 26th found Paul at Kensington Gardens directing a promotional film clip for Apple Publishing artists Grapefruit's new single, "Elevator". Somehow, during all this activity, the group found time to record close to 30 demos of songs for their next album, mostly composed in Rishikesh.

Finally, here are a couple of promos for Toronto radio station CHUM-FM, recorded by Paul on an unknown date circa 1968.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Where's Johnny?

The Lennon-McCartney publicity blitz promoting Apple Corps in New York City reached its zenith on May 14th, 1968. The day began with a 1:30 pm press conference at the Americana Hotel.

John and Paul then taped an interview for the local public TV station, WNDT, chatting with Mitchell Krause for Newsfront. The awkward and mostly unrevealing discussion was broadcast the following night, but only survives as an off-air audio recording.

Likewise the duo's appearance that evening on NBC's The Tonight Show, the master tape of which was erased along with most of Johnny Carson's first ten years as host. Carson wasn't even in town that night, so baseball announcer Joe Garagiola did his best to fill in as guest host; actress Tallulah Bankhead livened up the proceedings somewhat.

Friday, November 18, 2011

An Expanding Vista

With India seemingly in their rear-view mirrors, it was time for the Beatles to concentrate on their new business venture, Apple Corps. Apple Tailoring and Publishing were already established, and the record label would soon follow, along with Apple Films, Electronics, and a whole host of ideas that never made it off the ground. Now it was time to emblazon the company's name into America's consciousness.

Accompanied by Derek Taylor, Mal Evans, and Neil Aspinall, John and Paul flew to New York City on May 11th, 1968 for a press blitz unparalleled since their touring days. Many of the interviews were conducted out of the St. Regis Hotel on May 13th, most notably a filmed chat with their erstwhile touring companion, Larry Kane.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Limitless Undying Love

Before heading off to India, the Beatles spent a few days in early February, 1968 at EMI Abbey Road recording tracks for a stopgap single to be released during their absence. In the midst of the sessions, Ringo appeared live on Cilla Black's new TV series. "Lady Madonna" and "The Inner Light" ended up on the single, while John's "Across The Universe" was donated to a (much-delayed) charity LP, and his "Hey Bulldog" was slated for Yellow Submarine:

John and George flew to Rishikesh on February 15th, and Paul and Ringo followed three days later. ITV News interviewed Maharishi Mahesh Yogi at the outset of the group's pilgrimage to his his ashram.

Ringo and Maureen lasted only ten days, while Paul and Jane returned home on March 26th. At London Airport, Paul explained to the BBC's Richard Whitmore and another interviewer what life was like at the retreat, and their reasons for returning to England. By April 12th, John and George had also gotten their fill of the Maharishi; John beat a hasty retreat to London, while George stayed in India, visiting Madras.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Newer And Bluer Meanies

With Apple in its embryonic stages and no group projects in the pipeline, 1968 began on a quiet note for the Beatles.

On January 7th, George flew to India to record at EMI's Bombay studios. Most of the material was for the Wonderwall film score, but he also produced the basic tracks for "The Inner Light" there on January 12th.

Apple's first headquarters officially opened at 95 Wigmore Street on January 22nd; three days earlier, the Beatles had attended a launch party there for Apple Publishing's first signing, Grapefruit.

Later that week, they gathered at Twickenham Studios to film their closing cameo appearance in Yellow Submarine:

On January 27th, Kenny Everett visited Kenwood to record an interview with John for his BBC Radio 1 series, The Kenny Everett Show (broadcast February 4th).

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Frosty Reception

1967 ended on a disappointing note for the Beatles. Magical Mystery Tour was released as an LP (by Capitol in North America) on November 27th, and as a double EP (by Parlophone in the UK) on December 8th.

Along with the single "Hello Goodbye", the new music was well-enough received, but the TV film would have a different fate. It was previewed for the Beatles Fan Club Area Secretaries on December 17th (attended by John and George, as Ringo was returning from filming Candy in Rome and Paul was away in Scotland).

All four Beatles threw a fancy dress party on the 21st to officially launch the film, but the initial broadcast on BBC-1 (in black and white) on Boxing Day was a critical disaster. So negative were the reviews that Paul agreed to appear on Rediffusion-TV's The Frost Programme the very next evening, where he defended the project to David Frost as a noble failure.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Plenty Of Jam Jars

I seem to have already posted most of 1967's remaining interviews and spoken word bits, so here's a quick recap:

John and George pontificated about Transcendental Meditation on The Frost Programme September 29th and then again on October 4th.

In mid-November, John appeared on BBC Radio's Where It's At, chatting with Kenny Everett and Chris Denning about Magical Mystery Tour.

On November 28th, the Beatles recorded their fifth (and in my opinion, funniest) Fan Club Christmas Message:

Early in December, George spoke about Ravi Shankar and Indian music in general on the PBS series Public Broadcasting Laboratory.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

It's A Mystery To Me

In the immediate aftermath of Brian Epstein's death, the Beatles' future was in question. The seeds for Apple Corps had already been planted, and Brian's brother Clive would succeed him as the head of NEMS Enterprises. Beyond that, Paul took the reins in leading the group into the studio and then on location for the Magical Mystery Tour project.

They spent the week of September 5th-8th, 1967 working on songs for the film at EMI, then piled into the big yellow motorcoach on the 11th to begin filming. The next afternoon, as the cast and crew stopped for lunch at Plymouth's Grand Hotel, BBC reporter Hugh Scully tried in vain to get Paul to describe the project for viewers of Spotlight South West.

On the 13th, George sat down with Miranda Ward and went into much greater detail about the reasons for the film, as well as his latest spiritual developments, for Scene And Heard. Ward chatted with Ringo the next day about far less weighty matters.

The second week of shooting was centered around a single location, West Malling Air Station in Kent. When it was done, the group returned to EMI for further recording dates.

September 25th found them recording "The Fool On The Hill", with reporter Rumiko Hoshika and photographer Koh Hasebe visiting from Japan. The lengthy tape of Rumiko's interviews, as well as "Fool On The Hill" rehearsals, only circulates in atrocious sound quality. Far easier on the ears are these messages to Rumiko, recorded sometime after her earlier visit to London (she had attended the session for "It's Only Love" on June 15th, 1965).

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

You Just Keep Going, Really

Pattie Harrison had begun studying Transcendental Meditation in 1967, so it was natural that she would encourage her husband to attend a lecture on the topic at the London Hilton by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. George rounded up John and Paul for the August 24th event (Ringo was busy attending to his wife and newborn son, Jason).

After meeting the guru backstage, the Beatles readily agreed to drop everything and participate in the Maharishi's week-long TM conference in Wales. The next day, the Maharishi spoke to a reporter at Euston Station in London before he and all four Beatles boarded a train bound for Bangor.

They barely had time to settle into a routine at Normal College before harsh reality intruded: on the morning of August 27th, Brian Epstein was found dead in his bedroom of an apparent drug overdose. Paul and Jane Asher took the next available train back to London, while his bandmates spoke to reporters from ITV and BBC News about their feelings.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


The Summer of Love rolled along as July 1967 turned to August. Just two days after returning from Greece, George and Pattie Harrison (accompanied by Neil Aspinall) flew to Los Angeles on August 1st, where they would spend a week visiting Derek Taylor. Taylor's tardiness that first evening inspired the composition "Blue Jay Way".

Most of the week was dedicated to Ravi Shankar, as George visited his music academy on the 2nd, held a joint press conference with Ravi on the 3rd, attended Shankar's Hollywood Bowl concert on the 4th, and stopped by tabla player Alla Rakha's recording session on the 5th.

On August 8th, the Britishers made an enlightening (in a disappointing sense) visit to San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district. Later that night, George, Pattie, and Neil flew to New York for a one-day stay before returning to London. Shortly before their flight home on the 9th, George stopped by WOR-FM's studio to grant an interview with Murray "the K" Kaufman, who seemed to have eagerly adopted and embraced the hippie way of life.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Be At Leso

At the urging of their new electronics guru "Magic" Alex Mardis, the Beatles decided to take a holiday in Greece during the last week of July, 1967. Soaking up the warm Mediterranean sun and tripping the days away, they hatched elaborate plans to purchase an island, build a recording studio and homes for the entire Beatles clan, and pack up and leave chilly England for good.

Back in the sobering light of British day, once the legalities had been examined, the idea was abandoned. Ringo returned to London first, on the 26th, and five days later, he represented his bandmates in recording a farewell message to Radio London. The Marine Offences Act would be passed on August 14th, effectively shutting down all pirate radio stations off the UK's coast. Ringo's message was played on August 5th, Radio London's final broadcast day at sea.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Two Of The Beautiful People

Even as late as the summer of 1967, it was possible to meet a Beatle by simply marching up to the front gate of their home and ringing the bell (or waiting for them to arrive or exit). Two American students, Leslie Samuels and Donna Stark, accomplished the feat on July 12th, bringing their cameras and a tape recorder to document the occasion.

Crude but lengthy recordings of their meetings at 7 Cavendish Avenue and Kinfauns circulate; more details and photos of the pilgrimage can be found on Sara's Meet The Beatles For Real blog.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Acid Test

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was launched with a press event at Brian Epstein's London flat on May 19th, 1967. A day later, Kenny Everett broadcast most of the LP for the first time on BBC Radio's Where It's At, accompanied by exclusive interviews with John, Paul, and Ringo.

The album was released June 1st to near-universal acclaim, kick-starting the Summer of Love. But before the calendar had officially turned to summer, Paul McCartney found himself in hot water for comments about LSD. In the June 16th issue of Life magazine, he was quoted as saying, "After I took it, it opened up my eyes... If the politicians would take LSD, there wouldn't be any more war, or poverty or famine."

Of course, many pop stars had been experimenting with LSD for the better part of two years, including Paul's bandmates, but this first public admission came as a surprise to most of the British public. Paul spoke at home with an ITV News interviewer on June 19th, and turned the questions around, wondering why media outlets would disseminate this "news" if they were worried about it corrupting the youth of the world.

All was forgiven and forgotten a week later when the Beatles represented their homeland on the global telecast Our World, singing "All You Need Is Love".

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

I.T.'s All Too Much

The Sgt. Pepper recording sessions wrapped up April 3rd, 1967, with the final overdubs on George's contribution, "Within You Without You". The same day, Paul flew to the US, accompanied by Mal Evans, to surprise Jane Asher in Denver on her 21st birthday. On his April 11th return flight to London, Paul sketched out a rough idea for a Beatles TV film. By the 25th, the band was back at EMI recording the film's title song, "Magical Mystery Tour".

On the evening of April 29th, John Lennon dropped acid and dropped in on the 14-Hour Technicolor Dream, a "happening" taking place at the Alexandra Palace in London. One of the events being presented was Yoko Ono's "Cut Piece", although it's not known if John was aware of the connection (or even there to witness it):

A couple of weeks later, George Harrison sat down for a very lengthy interview with Barry Miles, co-founder of London's underground paper, the International Times. The contents of the rambling conversation are far removed from jelly babies, haircuts, and the usual Beatles interview fodder. In addition to discussing the Technicolor Dream, George and Barry ponder universal love, drugs, Zen Buddhism, mantras, reincarnation, and other weighty topics.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Completely Different Scene

As winter turned to spring in 1967, the Sgt. Pepper sessions were drawing to a close. After four months with nary a peep from the Beatles (apart from a groundbreaking single), it was BBC Radio's Brian Matthew who returned with news from the front following his visit to EMI Studio 2 on March 20th.

His first task was to record John and Paul accepting three Ivor Novello awards, and discussing the winning songs, all Lennon-McCartney compositions. The recording would be played back during the ceremony on March 23rd and subsequently aired on BBC Radio March 27th.

Brian then chatted with John and Paul about the upcoming LP, and the future of the Beatles' concert career, for Top Of The Pops, sent to BBC Radio's overseas customers for broadcast in America and other markets.