Friday, June 29, 2012

The Ladders

During the course of 1972, Ringo had become fast friends with Harry Nilsson and his producer, Richard Perry. When Ringo decided it was time to record his first solo LP of pop/rock material, he turned to Perry, whose past efforts with artists ranging from Fats Domino to Tiny Tim were much admired by Ringo.

On February 28th, Ringo and Maureen flew to the US, where he and Harry were co-presenters at the Grammy Awards in Nashville on March 3rd:

Foruitously, The Concert For Bangla Desh won the Grammy for Album of the Year that night, and Ringo was happy to accept on behalf of George and the other participants:

Two days later, he and Harry flew on to Los Angeles to begin work at Sunset Sound Studios on what would become the Ringo LP. During their stay at the Beverly Hills Hotel on March 10th, both Ringo and Richard Perry taped radio spots for an anti-drug campaign.

The industrious team, abetted by Klaus Voormann, Nicky Hopkins, and Jim Keltner, completed the backing for eight songs in just under two weeks. George dropped by to land a hand on his composition "Sunshine Life For Me (Sail Away Raymond)" and his co-write with Ringo, "Photograph".

But is was the events of March 13th that would make jaws drop at Sunset Sound and find the music world abuzz for weeks thereafter. John had been uncharacteristically quiet for several months while Yoko recorded and promoted her own album, Approximately Infinite Universe. They had arrived in Los Angeles in early February, ostensibly for Apple business (such as the Red/Blue albums, and to discuss Allen Klein's management contract, which was set to expire at the end of March), but John must have itching to play some rock and roll.

Naturally, he socialized with Ringo (they took their wives and Richard Perry to see Last Tango In Paris one evening) and was impressed by what he heard at the sessions, particularly George's numbers. So on the night of the 13th, he offered up a song he had been working on since 1970, "I'm The Greatest", which seemed perfect for the occasion.

With Billy Preston sitting in on organ, it was January 1969 all over again; John played piano and sang a guide vocal, while Ringo drummed, George played guitar, and Klaus filled in on bass:

Although Paul hadn't been present, and John flew back to New York the next day, rumors began to emanate from Los Angeles that all four Beatles were secretly recording a reunion album there. The craziness would only ratchet up a notch when Paul added his contribution to the album back in London the following month.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Red Alpha/Blue Omega

1973 began with Ringo making another appearance on BBC Radio's Scene And Heard. His interview with David Wigg was taped January 3rd (probably in his office at Apple) and broadcast three days later. With no new product to plug, the discussion touches on financial matters, how to deal with bothersome fans, and the state of relations between the ex-Beatles.

Wigg guessed that Ringo would be the one to bring all four together on a project, a theory which would soon be borne out. But with no group releases since the split, and no greatest hits package available in the US, some unscrupulous entrepreneurs filled the market's gap.

Dubbing the recordings from whatever vinyl was handy, they pressed a 4-LP set collecting 60 Beatles songs, seemingly chosen at random and sequenced roughly in alphabetical order. Many hits were included, but so were album tracks such as "I'll Follow The Sun", "All I've Got To Do", and "Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby". Solo numbers including "Imagine", "Bangla Desh", and "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey" were also tossed in.

The unauthorized package, titled The Beatles Alpha Omega, was sold only by mail order and promoted with a series of TV and radio ads beginning around Christmas 1972; here's a radio spot from a January 27th, 1973 airing. It was quickly followed up by another 4-disc set, this time called Beatles Vol. 2, and likewise advertised on TV. The sequel had an even stranger track listing, with filler material ("Maggie Mae", "Why Don't We Do It In The Road") alongside solo cuts ("Apple Scruffs", "Crippled Inside", "The Lovely Linda") and even a George Martin number ("Pepperland")!

Needless to say, the Beatles and EMI were quick to counter the unofficial product; on February 16th, Allan Klein filed a suit against the producers, Audiotape, Inc., as well as ABC, which aired the offending commercials, for $15 million in damages. The best way for Apple to quash the pirates was to put out their own "greatest hits", so two official double-LP sets were hurried into production.

The intelligently-sequenced and attractively packaged sets, The Beatles 1962-1966 and 1967-1970 (colloquially known as the Red and Blue albums), hit US store shelves on April 2nd, accompanied by EMI's own TV ads. Both were certified gold based on pre-orders alone, on March 31st, and both would top the charts.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Recover From The Trip

After the satisfaction of their One To One benefit performance in August 1972, John and Yoko's world slowly began to fall apart. They spent most of October and November at the Record Plant, mixing the concert tapes and recording new numbers for a Yoko Ono album, Approximately Infinite Universe.

On November 7th, Richard Nixon was re-elected in a landslide, striking a major blow to John's chances of staying in the country. Drunk and demoralized, he spent the night at a party blatantly cheating on Yoko within earshot of his wife and their chagrined comrades. Little would be heard from the couple for several months.

Meanwhile, Wings had spent more time in the studio following their European tour and emerged with a fantastic single, "Hi Hi Hi"/"C Moon", issued December 1st in the UK and three days later in the US. Paul and Linda recorded a goofy radio commercial to promote the single, and the band filmed clips for both songs on November 25th:

George Harrison had amazed the music world with the twin triumphs of All Things Must Pass and the Concert for Bangla Desh in 1971, then all but disappeared throughout 1972. It wasn't until October that he finally returned to the recording studio, taping new compositions for the LP Living In The Material World.

Ringo joined George as session drummer when he wasn't busy filming or attending premieres. On December 11th, he was at the London opening of Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, and on the 17th, he and Marc Bolan attended the gala premiere of their concert film Born To Boogie:

John and Yoko's film of the One To One concert was aired on ABC-TV the night of December 15th. On that evening's Eyewitness News on WABC in New York, Geraldo Rivera reported on the money raised by the benefit and previewed the telecast.

While none of the ex-Fabs had an exemplary musical output in 1972, 1973 would be a tremendous improvement for all four. Ringo's "Back Off Boogaloo" was chosen to conclude the December 28th Top Of The Pops year-end edition:

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Might Win An Oscar

While Ringo had spent the first half of 1972 in recording studios, sitting in on Harry Nilsson's Son Of Schmilsson LP, Lon and Derrek Van Eaton's Brother LP (for which he taped a radio spot), and recording his own single, "Back Off Boogaloo", the latter half of the year was spent in front of movie cameras.

From August through October, Ringo and Harry filmed the lamentable musical horror comedy Son Of Dracula for Apple Films. Ringo played Merlin, advisor to Harry's Count Downe (son of Count Dracula), and the music was taken from Nilsson's two most recent albums:

Ringo moved directly from that project into a far meatier role in That'll Be The Day, a nostalgic look at the early years of rock in Britain. Filming on location from late October through early December, Ringo was able to relive his days playing at Butlins holiday camps with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes (Rory had just died on September 27th). Ringo was right at home playing a street-tough Teddy Boy, and received the best reviews of his film career since A Hard Day's Night:

The Who's drummer Keith Moon had small roles in both films (playing a drummer, naturally), and he and Ringo were becoming close friends as well as drinking buddies during this period. In September, Ringo had performed the part of Uncle Ernie on an orchestrated LP version of the Who's rock opera Tommy. When this iteration of Tommy was performed at the Rainbow in London on December 9th, Keith took over the role of Ernie. Moon would deliver the ultimate Uncle Ernie in Ken Russell's 1975 film.

Meanwhile, Ringo could be seen on the small screen when the film Yellow Submarine made its US network television debut October 29th on CBS.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Welcome To The Rehearsal

Because it would be his first (and as it turned out, only) full live performances as a solo artist, John put in plenty of rehearsal prior to the "One To One" Willowbrook benefit concerts in August, 1972.

He and Yoko began rehearsing with Elephant's Memory at Butterfly Studios soon after returning to New York from the west coast. August 16th was "One To One Day" in New York City, with Mayor Lindsay making the proclamation at a ceremony attended by John and Yoko with Geraldo Rivera.

Rivera was at the rehearsals on the 18th to tape a series of radio spots for airing on local stations. The concert had sold out within hours of the announcement, so the ads alerted listeners that a matinee show was being added for the same day. Noise complaints from neighbors meant the rehearsals changed venues to the Fillmore East on August 25th.

On the 28th, John and Yoko appeared live on the WABC evening news, chatting with Geraldo at the TV studio and playing a bit of "Give Peace A Chance" rehearsal footage. Another TV report from around that time reminded viewers that tickets for the matinee were still available.

Ready or not, the shows went on as scheduled on August 30th at Madison Square Garden, with both houses being filmed and professionally recorded. Opening acts included Sha Na Na, Stevie Wonder, and Roberta Flack. Edited and remixed versions of the concerts were released on the LP Live In New York City in 1986, as well as on home video:

John, Yoko, and the band had one final commitment in 1972: performing on the annual Muscular Dystrophy Telethon, hosted by Jerry Lewis and airing from the Americana Hotel in New York. The night before their appearance, September 3rd, they were interviewed in their hotel room by Roy Carr of the New Musical Express.

On the evening of September 4th, John and Yoko appeared live on the telethon, performing "Imagine", "Now Or Never", and "Give Peace A Chance". It would be the last time the couple performed together in front of an audience.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

One Long Loon

The second leg of Wings' 1972 European tour began August 1st in Copenhagen and concluded on the 24th in West Berlin.

Along the way they visited Finland (Helsinki and Turku), Sweden (Stockholm, Orebro, Goteborg, and Lund), Norway (Oslo), Denmark (Odense and Arhus), and Dusseldorf, West Germany.

By the time they reached the Netherlands on August 17th, Paul felt the act was tight enough to begin recording and filming the shows professionally for possible release.

The opening medley from the August 19th Groningen show, "Eat At Home"/"Smile Away", was recently released as a bonus download with the Ram deluxe reissue.

On August 20th, Wings played the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam; the same day, Paul and Linda were interviewed for the VPRO radio show Popsmuk. They also performed an exclusive ad-lib number for the broadcast, with Henry McCullough on piano, called "Complain To The Queen".

August 21st found Wings at the Congresgebouw in the Hague, a performance filmed for a potential TV special called the Bruce McMouse Show:

The B-side of "My Love", a live rendition of "The Mess", also comes from the Hague concert. August 22nd had Wings playing at the Cine Rome in Antwerp, Belgium; this concert was also recorded (it's the source of the outtake "Best Friend"):

Monday, June 18, 2012

Heading Out On The Road

After extensive rehearsal and recording, Paul judged Wings fit for a proper tour around the continent in July 1972. They began on the 9th with a concert in Chateauvallon, France, after which the BBC's Michael Wale interviewed a clearly relieved Paul and Linda, now past their opening night jitters.

The setlist was expanded from the University tour, with some covers dropped and new (but unfamiliar to audiences) numbers added, including "1882", "I Would Only Smile", "Best Friend", "Soily", and "Hi Hi Hi".

As they had in the UK, Wings traveled as a family unit, this time in an open-topped bus. They drove through France, hitting venues in Juan-les-Pins, Arles, and Paris. The band then arrived in West Germany for concerts in Munich and Frankfurt, winding up the first leg of the tour in Switzerland with shows in Zurich and Montreux, on July 21st.

Meanwhile, John and Yoko had decided to take a road trip of their own, heading west across the USA in a station wagon, bound for California. Part of the reason was a tip that Tony Cox might be hiding Kyoko in the San Fernando Valley, but John also wanted to see more of the country at ground level. By the middle of June, they had checked in to the Hotel Miyako in San Francisco, moving to a house in Mill Valley at the beginning of July for a lengthy stay.

They spent most of the summer out of the public eye (partly because they were undergoing treatment to kick a methadone habit), but re-emerged back in San Francisco on August 5th. That was when New York TV reporter Geraldo Rivera flew out to interview the couple around town, accompanied by a cameraman from local ABC affiliate KGO.

Back in February, Geraldo had produced an award-winning exposé of conditions at the Willowbrook State School for children with mental disabilities. Now he was enlisting John and Yoko's help by asking them to headline a benefit concert for the children of Willowbrook. After filming the couple in various locations around town, Geraldo joined them in their Hotel Miyako suite for a singalong of oldies (plus their last single). Rivera's finished report included a bit of music, plus an interview with John and Yoko promoting the upcoming gig.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Of Mice And Lambs

After spending the latter half of 1971 on the Bangla Desh concert/album/film, George took it easy for the first half of 1972. He and Pattie were injured in a crash on February 28th when George totalled his Mercedes on the M4. In the spring, they traveled to India, visiting Ravi Shankar's brother Uday in Calcutta. And on June 5th, George and Ravi were in New York to collect UNICEF's "Child Is The Father Of The Man" award for their relief efforts.

During March and April 1972, Ringo had been sitting in on sessions for Harry Nilsson's new album, Son Of Schmilsson, at Trident Studios. The proceedings were filmed for a still-unreleased documentary, Did Somebody Drop His Mouse?, in which Ringo appears briefly:

Meanwhile, Paul was back in the studio with Wings, who would record sporadically from March through December 1972 at EMI, Trident, Morgan, Olympic, and Island Studios, building up material for singles and (eventually) their next LP. Their next release was the single "Mary Had A Little Lamb", taped in March at Olympic, backed with "Little Woman Love", a leftover from the November 1970 Ram sessions.

The single was released May 12th, 1972 in the UK, and Wings appeared on Top Of The Pops May 25th to mime the A-side. On June 6th, the band videotaped several promo clips of "Mary Had A Little Lamb" for use on various TV shows. One was aired on The Basil Brush Show June 24th, a second on Top Of The Pops June 29th, and a third on US TV's Flip Wilson Show, broadcast October 12th on NBC:

And don't think I've forgotten John and Yoko! David Peel's LP The Pope Smokes Dope was finally released by Apple (in the US only) on April 17th, and on May 24th and 25th John and Yoko were interviewed by Peel's friend Ron Skoler for ROCK magazine, discussing Peel and their general views on art.

John and Yoko's own album, Sometime In New York City, came out in the US on June 12th to lukewarm reviews and horrible sales by ex-Beatle standards (failing to reach Billboard's top 40). Its release was delayed until September in the UK, where it inexplicably sold much better, peaking at #13. Here is a vintage radio ad promoting the album.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Bold As A Sergeant Major

John and Yoko's busy spring of 1972 continued apace with another quick visit to Washington DC on May 9th for a private party attended by US Senators and other politicos sympathetic to the Lennons' immigration fight.

The next day, they flew to Chicago for a short promotional trip, taping a TV appearance on the nationally syndicated talk show, Kup's Show, hosted by local columnist Irv Kupcinet. After an in-depth discussion of their deportation case, John explained why his latest single, "Woman Is The Nigger Of The World", was being widely banned.

The controversial single was also a topic of conversation on May 11th when John and Yoko visited the Chicago headquarters of Jet magazine. The publication, aimed at an African-American market, assigned comedian/activist Dick Gregory to interview the couple, and he agreed with John's point of view that it was mostly white male disc jockeys who had a problem with the song.

John and Yoko returned to New York on May 12th for yet another court hearing, with several character witnesses testifying on John's behalf. The hearing was adjourned until May 17th, on which date John himself testified. On the street outside, David Peel and others showed their support in song.

On May 18th, WNBC reporter Pat Collins interviewed John and Yoko on the roof of their Bank Street apartment building, for a piece which aired on the following evening's news.

Monday, June 11, 2012

John Lemmon

In between fighting to stay in the country and holding recording sessions, John and Yoko continued to lend their celebrity to causes, particularly the one dearest to their hearts: peace. On April 22nd, 1972, they appeared at a large anti-war rally in New York, in a chilly spring rain, giving a brief speech and leading the crowd in a singalong of "Give Peace A Chance".

On April 28th, they turned their attentions back to the deportation case, flying to Washington, DC where they held a press conference at the National Press Club. Here they announced the National Committee for John and Yoko, a way of organizing public support for their fight.

Some good news arrived on May 2nd when John and Yoko were given "second preference" status based on their valuable contributions to the culture as artists. The following day, they taped a second appearance on The Dick Cavett Show, discussing the latest events and performing "Woman Is The Nigger Of The World" and "We're All Water" backed by Elephant's Memory:

By now, the Some Time In New York City album was in the can, but John and Yoko continued recording at the Record Plant, producing sessions for David Peel and Elephant's Memory. All parties were present in the studio May 5th (as was visitor Mick Jagger) when a camera crew arrived. Reporter Chuck Collins was there to videotape an interview for the Chicago-based series, Underground.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Long Johns

Thanks to Steve Marinucci for pointing out the link to a longer recording of the phone call between John Sinclair and John and Yoko (December 13th, 1971). I'd previously posted the excerpts as aired on The Lost Lennon Tapes, but here is the full six-minute conversation.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Son Of Tricky Dicky

Since their arrival the previous summer, John and Yoko had been living in New York from visa to visa, always receiving the extensions they applied for allowing them to remain in the US. That all changed on the final day of February 1972, when their latest visa expired.

Beginning with Senator Strom Thurmond, several elected officials had been exchanging private correspondence looking for a way to keep the publicly radical ex-Beatle out of the country in this election year. The Immigration and Naturalization Service proved to be the perfect weapon, thanks to John's 1968 guilty plea for cannabis possession in a London court.

It was that same conviction that had kept John from entering the US during his 1969 Bed-In period, so he probably wasn't too worried when on March 1st he was given 15 days to leave the country. The immediate problems were twofold: firstly, John and Yoko were currently busy recording a new LP, Some Time In New York City, with Phil Spector at the Record Plant.

More crucially, they were still trying to track down Tony Cox and Yoko's daughter Kyoko, attending a court hearing in Houston on March 3rd which granted Yoko temporary custody. During their initial appearance before New York's INS on March 16th, the couple pointed out to the assembled press how difficult it would be to find the girl if John was forcibly deported.

A return court date was set for April 18th, and the Lennons kept busy in the interim, finishing off their album, and attending (along with George and Pattie) the world premiere of Apple's Concert For Bangla Desh film on March 23rd:

Apple and 20th Century Fox also issued a radio promo disc containing two 60-second and two 30-second commercials plugging the film. The "soundtrack" LP had already been issued at the end of 1971 and spent six weeks at #2 on Billboard's chart (stuck behind Don McLean's American Pie).

Sometime around April 17th, John and Yoko were filmed in conversation with composer John Cage, a long-time acquaintance of Yoko's and their current Bank Street neighbor. The chat was part of a documentary, Birdcage - 73'20.958" For A Composer, being produced for German television's WDR. It can be seen here in full.

John and Yoko's follow-up hearing at the INS offices arrived as scheduled on April 18th, and in what would become a familiar pattern, their attorney Leon Wildes argued for an delay, and proceedings were postponed until May. By now, press interest was starting to build in the case, and both CBS and ABC sent news crews to interview the couple and their attorney outside the INS building.

WABC's Geraldo Rivera also got an exclusive interview with John and Yoko, filmed inside ABKCO's offices on Broadway. John took the opportunity to plug their new single, "Woman Is The Nigger Of The World", officially released April 24th but already banned from airplay on dozens of radio stations thanks to early promo copies. As such, the song would only reach #57 in the US chart (Apple didn't bother to release it in the UK).

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Born To Boogaloo

Although he'd been out of the public spotlight in recent months, Ringo kept busy during the winter of 1971-1972 as a session drummer, playing on sessions for Peter Frampton, Bobby Keys, and Lon & Derrek Van Eaton, among others.

He and Maureen also attended the 40th birthday party for Elizabeth Taylor, held in Budapest, Hungary on February 27th, 1972:

Ringo's main job during this period was to oversee Apple Films, and for his directorial debut he chose Born To Boogie, a documentary about the hottest band in the UK, T. Rex. He had been hanging out with frontman Marc Bolan, whose lingo had inspired Ringo's new single, "Back Off Boogaloo".

Ringo promoted the single and discussed his film projects during an appearance on BBC Radio's Scene And Heard, aired March 18th. That evening, Ringo was busy shooting concert footage of T. Rex at the Empire Pool, Wembley.

Scenes for Born To Boogie were also filmed on location at John's former home, Tittenhurst Park. It was there on March 20th that Ringo shot a promo clip for "Back Off Boogaloo":

The following day, filming moved to Apple's basement studio for a T. Rex recording session, with Ringo on drums and Elton John playing piano:

Monday, June 4, 2012

Bloody Nazis

Wings began its touring career in the lowest-key fashion possible on February 8th, 1972. Paul and Linda merely loaded a van with band members, kids, dogs, and equipment and headed down the highway with no destination in mind. They ended up at the University of Nottingham, inquired about playing a gig, and played to a few hundred gobsmacked students the next afternoon.

With no intention of playing Beatles numbers and no back catalog of Wings hits to choose from, Paul chose a setlist heavy with covers and simple blues numbers, plus a couple of tracks from Wild Life and the band's next single, "Give Ireland Back To The Irish". The novelty of playing unadvertised (and thus critic-proof) shows to small college audiences appealed to Paul, and the impromptu tour carried on through York, Hull, Newcastle, and Lancaster before arriving at Leeds on February 16th.

It was there that a reporter finally caught up with Paul, when Steve Hague interviewed him at a hotel restaurant for Radio Leeds. Paul brushed aside Hague's Beatle-related queries, plugging his band and new single. On February 17th, Wings played the University of Sheffield, and the following morning, Paul and Linda chatted with Heather Richardson of Radio Sheffield. Her interview was also aired on BBC Radio's Woman's Hour February 24th.

The "tour" wrapped up on February 23rd, and "Give Ireland Back To The Irish" was released in the UK two days later. The song's controversial topic caused it to be banned from airplay on the BBC, a fact which US reporter George Watson asked Paul about in an interview for ABC News, aired March 7th. The piece was filmed at Paul and Linda's Cavendish Avenue home in London, and the unaired B-roll footage of Wings rehearsing their new single still exists: