Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Kept Beard

As planned, John and Yoko flew to the Bahamas on May 24th, 1969, but after one night in a sweltering and uncomfortable Freeport hotel, they realized it was an unsuitable location for their second Bed-In. Luckily, good old Air Canada came through with a flight to Toronto, which they took the evening of the 25th.

After a night at the King Edward Sheraton Hotel, John and Yoko had chosen their ultimate destination, Montreal. On the afternoon of the 26th, before checking out in Toronto, they allowed 14-year-old student Jerry Levitan to record an interview, ostensibly for his school paper.

At 10pm, John, Yoko, Kyoko, and Derek Taylor boarded a flight at Malton Airport, bound for Montreal. On board, John spoke with a CBC-TV news reporter about his intentions for the upcoming event.

The Montreal Bed-In was held in room 1742 of the Hotel Reine-Elizabeth, and officially began on May 27th. Here is a composite of several filmed interviews from that first day, conducted with Kyoko nestled in bed between her mother and stepfather.

One of the many media outlets covering the event was New York's WNEW-TV, which sent reporter Ted Kavanau and a camera crew to Montreal on May 29th. The result was a half-hour documentary with the unwieldy title John & Yoko Lennon Have a Message for the World from Their Bed in the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal, first broadcast June 6th.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Dark Hours

Thus far, The Beatles' output of 1969 was limited to a single ("Get Back"), with another soon to follow ("The Ballad Of John And Yoko"). But scattered sessions in Apple, EMI, Trident, and Olympic since January had produced more than an LP's worth of new songs (most of the eventual Let It Be album plus a head start on Abbey Road).

On May 9th, the group met at Olympic to hear Glyn Johns's latest mixes of the January material. The session became fractious when Paul refused to accept his bandmates' demand to sign a contract naming Allen Klein financial manager of Apple. When the others left, Paul blew off some steam at the drum kit behind Steve Miller; their jam became a single, "My Dark Hour".

Paul followed this by vacationing with his wife and stepdaughter in Corfu, prefacing the trip with an interview for BBC Radio Merseyside. On May 16th, Ringo and Peter Sellers set off to New York from Southampton aboard the Queen Elizabeth II. While waiting to depart, he was interviewed for an Associated Press newsreel, explaining that John and Yoko would be joining him if they could get visas in time.

As it happened, their requests were denied by the U.S. embassy, but they hatched plans for a "second honeymoon" (aka Bed-In #2) to be held in the Bahamas instead, where Ringo and company were currently enjoying a vacation. They described these plans in an interview circa May 24th, just prior to leaving London.

And what of George? His holiday in the sun wouldn't begin until June 1st, when he and Pattie flew to Sardinia, but in the meantime, here are two undated interview snippets from the era: George talks about his song "Piggies" and is cryptic about "Hey Jude".

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Life With The Lie-Ins

John and Yoko's second experimental LP, Unfinished Music No. 2: Life With the Lions, was released on the Zapple label May 9th (in the UK; May 26th in the US). To promote the record, and their ongoing peace crusade, the couple recorded several interviews for British radio, all from their office in the Apple building at 3 Savile Row.

On May 8th, they sat down with David Wigg for a long chat, aired in two parts on BBC Radio 1's Scene And Heard the following two Sundays. This 17-minute composite recording begins with a bit of the off-air broadcast, but is mostly from the unedited tape.

Also for Radio 1 was an interview with Pete Drummond, covered in an earlier blog post. And most likely from the same date is this in-depth conversation with Tony Macarthur for Radio Luxembourg, including a plug for the other Zapple LP, George's Electronic Sound.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Apple Skyline

April 1969 saw the resumption of Beatle activities, with recording sessions at EMI for a new single ("The Ballad Of John And Yoko"/"Old Brown Shoe") and the beginnings of a new LP ("Something", "Oh! Darling", "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" and "Octopus's Garden").

Sessions moved to Olympic in early May ("You Never Give Me Your Money") but quickly fell apart amidst business squabbles - specifically Paul's refusal to sign a management contract with Allan Klein.

Meanwhile, John and Yoko ramped up their peace campaign again. They formed Bag Productions on April 21st, made experimental recordings for their Wedding Album, and flew to Switzerland to attend a screening of Rape at the Montreux TV festival.

On May 2nd, they discussed the film on BBC-TV's How Late It Is; two nights later, they joined Paul and Ringo at the wrap party for The Magic Christian. Sometime around May 5th, John and Yoko entertained reporters in their office at Apple HQ, pontificating about peace, art, Beatle arguments, and the still-dormant Get Back album.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Two Gurus In Drag

With their film Rape scheduled for a March 31st, 1969 premiere on Austrian TV, John and Yoko promoted both the broadcast and their peace campaign by flying to Vienna direct from the Amsterdam Bed-In. This time, the gimmick was to hold a press conference at the Hotel Sacher, answering questions from inside a bag (actually a hotel bedsheet tied in a bundle).

On April 1st, John and Yoko flew back to London Airport, where an ITV News reporter asked them about the goings-on in Amsterdam and Vienna. Later that night, they appeared on Thames TV's Today, chatting with host Eamonn Andrews on a bed brought into the studio.

John and Yoko accepted Andrews's invitation to appear on his self-titled talk show two nights later. Other guests on the live April 3rd Thames broadcast of The Eamonn Andrews Show included Jack Benny, Rolf Harris, and Yehudi Menuhin.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

So Did We

A mere four days after Paul tied the knot, John and Yoko flew to Paris, hoping for a romantic French wedding of their own. They settled for a ceremony in the British territory of Gibraltar on the afternoon of March 20th, 1969, flying back to Paris immediately afterward.

But the real honeymoon began on March 24th, when the newlyweds landed in Amsterdam to begin a week-long "Bed-In" to promote world peace. The event began the next morning with a lengthy press conference from bed in an attempt to explain the concept of the occasion to confused and bemused reporters. On the 25th, they also filmed interviews for ITV News and Dutch television.

They continued to accept visitors to room 902 all week, chatting live on VPRO radio's Hee on the 29th, and being filmed throughout by Peter Goessens for a documentary, Mr. & Mrs. Lennon's Honeymoon. Here is an earlier blog post with further Amsterdam Bed-In interviews.

Monday, December 19, 2011

We Got Married

After three years as the Most Eligible Bachelor of the Beatles, Paul McCartney finally took himself off the market on March 12, 1969, when he married Linda Eastman at Marylebone Register Office in London. Present at the ceremony were Peter Brown, Linda's daughter Heather, Paul's brother and best man, Mike, and no other Beatles. As it turned out, George would have his hands full with a drug bust at his house later that day.

A Reuters film crew interviewed the newlyweds outside their front door, and later in the day ITV News spoke with the happy couple at the wedding reception, held at the Ritz Hotel. Here is a sampling of how news bulletins reported the story to heartbroken fans around the world.

On March 17th, Paul and Linda flew to New York for a honeymoon and to visit the Eastman family. CBS News caught up with them at Kennedy Airport.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

One Big "Coronation Street"

While the rooftop concert was a natural endpoint, the Get Back sessions already had a self-imposed deadline of February 3rd, 1969, Ringo's first day of filming for The Magic Christian. Consequently, the Beatles spent most of February pursuing individual endeavors, uniting only for two sessions at Apple and Trident towards the end of the month.

John and Yoko stayed out of the spotlight, finally surfacing on March 2nd for a live performance at Cambridge University. Paul produced singles for the Fourmost ("Rosetta") and Mary Hopkin:

George was the busiest Beatle, having a tonsillectomy, recording "Under The Mersey Wall" at home on his Moog synthesizer, taping several solo demos at EMI on his 26th birthday, and ending the month with a quick trip to Ottawa.

On March 4th, David Wigg visited George at Apple HQ and interviewed him for BBC Radio's Scene And Heard. George downplays the group tensions which led him to walk out of the January sessions at Twickenham, even stating that the Beatles will stay together forever!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The End Of A Beautiful Friendship?

There are, of course, hundreds of reels of Beatles recordings from the January, 1969 Get Back sessions, including dozens of hours of conversation and dialogue. Actual interviews from the period are few and far between.

Filming and rehearsing began January 2nd in a cavernous soundstage at Twickenham Studios. By January 10th, George had walked out, vowing to quit the band, a fact John Lennon doesn't allude to when interviewed on the set January 14th by a reporter from CBC-TV.

News of a Beatle squabble did leak in the interim between the Twickenham and Apple Studios sessions, and Ringo fielded David Wigg's queries about the matter when interviewed en route to Apple on January 21st.

"Magic" Alex Mardas had attempted to create a usable multitrack mixing board for Apple's basement studio, but as this recording attests, the design proved unusable, and equipment was duly borrowed from EMI.

In any case, plans for Get Back, conceived as a live TV and/or concert performance tied in with a "making of" documentary and LP featuring new material, quickly collapsed. The only immediate result was the legendary January 30th performance on the roof of Apple. In this undated interview, Paul discusses the difficulties of tackling a live Beatles show in the post-Beatlemania era.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Beatlegmania For Xmas

Just a quick note to let you know that Multiplus Books is having a sale from now until the end of 2011 on the latest two volumes of Beatlegmania.

I've discounted each book by $10, or you can order volumes 3 and 4 together and receive a $25 total discount. Volumes 1 and 2 are sold out entirely, and there aren't too many copies of Volume 3 left.

To purchase either volume individually, visit the Multiplus Books website and click on the "buy now" button of your choice:

If you want both Volumes 3 and 4 with the $25 discount, just send the appropriate amount to my Paypal account (

US customers - $37

Canada/Mexico customers - $42

All other customers - $47

Please include a note with your payment reminding me that you are ordering both books.

Thanks and happy Beatling!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Randy Legmeat And The Incredible Brown Bag

December 1968 was the first month of a year-plus-long media blitz by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, promoting their conceptual art, their avant-garde recordings, and ultimately advocating world peace.

On December 3rd, John was interviewed at home by students Maurice Hindle and Daniel Wiles. On the 11th and 12th, he and Yoko participated in the Rolling Stones' ill-fated Rock And Roll Circus TV special:

Just after midnight on the 12th, John and Yoko participated in a live broadcast, part interview, part disc spinning, part happening, for John Peel's BBC Radio show, Night Ride. While there, they promoted an upcoming appearance (in a white bag) at the "Alchemical Wedding" on the 18th at the Royal Albert Hall.

Sometime around this date, John had a dentist appointment in Knightsbridge; while he was being worked on, Yoko was interviewed in the waiting room by Abram de Swaan for the Dutch TV show Rood Wit Blauw. Once he was done in the dentist's chair, John took over from Yoko, chatting through an anesthetized mouth about their recent drug bust, revolution, and capitalism.

Meanwhile, John and Yoko's film Rape (Film No. 6) was due for airing on Austrian TV in early 1969. A film crew from Austria had been following the couple around, shooting some of the Rock And Roll Circus taping, and filming scenes at Kenwood of Yoko describing her art pieces while John strummed guitar in the background.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Overwhelming Oddities

Even before the "White Album" sessions concluded with a marathon 24-hour mixing date on October 16th-17th, 1968, the Beatles had started to go their separate ways for the year.

Ringo split to Sardinia on the 14th, and two days later George flew to Los Angeles where he would produce Jackie Lomax's Apple LP, Is This What You Want? While in California, George appeared on underground radio and The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. He spent Thanksgiving in New York, hanging out with Bob Dylan and The Band.

Back in England, John and Yoko were busy dealing with a drugs raid on their apartment (and Yoko's hospitalization and subsequent miscarriage). This left Paul to promote the new album, now officially titled The Beatles, on Radio Luxembourg.

With all four Beatles in separate locations, they had to tape their contributions to the annual Fan Club Christmas flexidisc individually for the first time. The results would be skillfully joined together by Kenny Everett and mailed to club members on December 20th. Here are the unedited and unprocessed takes of John's contributions, two poems commonly known as "Jock And Yono" and "Once Upon A Pool Table".

Friday, December 2, 2011

Mad Days In

The Beatles spent most of the summer of 1968 hidden away at EMI's Abbey Road Studios recording the "White Album" and a new single. By summer's end, the claustrophobic and contentious sessions had caused engineer Geoff Emerick, producer George Martin, and drummer Ringo Starr each in turn to go on strike/holiday.

Their absence from the spotlight means a dearth of interviews from this period, but they were seen in public occasionally, including a day-long group photo shoot on July 28th at various London locations. On July 30th, they were filmed in Studio Two rehearsing and recording "Hey Jude":

Ringo's self-imposed absence lasted from August 22nd through September 2nd; he often tells the story of spending this time in Sardinia, but that actually occurred in October after the LP was completed. The Sardinian trip was spent on a yacht owned by Peter Sellers, and Ringo apparently spent his time away from the group in August compiling a tape of rough "White Album" mixes as a gift for Sellers. He closed side A of the tape and opened side B with special home recordings meant for Sellers's ears only.

John and Yoko's You Are Here art exhibition opened July 1st at the Robert Fraser Gallery in London, and they appeared live on LWT's Frost On Saturday August 24th to explain Yoko's unusual concepts. David Frost also introduced the Beatles on September 4th at Twickenham Studios when they videotaped promotional clips for "Hey Jude" and its B-side, "Revolution":