Monday, 24 August 2015

McCartney: Take it Away edit released

Paul is the cover boy, in this 1982 incarnation.
The new "Uncut" magazine is out tomorrow in Britain, and features an exclusive interview with Paul McCartney. They visit Sir Paul at his studio in Sussex where he talks openly about working with and without John Lennon – and discusses extensively the relationship that revolutionised music.

“When I think of John, I think of us writing together,” says McCartney. “‘A Day In The Life‘… stuff like that.”

Uncut has also gotten an audio exclusive, in the form of a 4:05 single edit of the track "Take It Away". The version is available via SoundCloud, but only accessible from the Uncut page. The single edit has previously available on the original vinyl single, as well as on the Wingspan album. It is also featured on a Rolling Stone webpage, and you can even download an mp3 from the download section of Paul McCartney's website (requires that you have registered your email address with the website). This version of the song is not scheduled to appear on the upcoming archival edition of the "Tug of War" album. The edit has been remastered in 2015 for promotional purposes only.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Lennon and McCartney in October

Rehearsals for the One to One concerts
Yesterday, the official John Lennon accounts on Facebook and Instagram published the above photo from the One to One rehearsal. The caption went:
Which one would you like to have heard?
On this day 20 Aug 1972 - At the Fillmore East at 105 2nd Ave & E6th St, NYC, John & Yoko and Elephants Memory rehearsed a series of songs for the upcoming ONE TO ONE Concert at Madison Square Garden:

Cold Turkey
Give Peace A Chance
Come Together
Well Well Well
Mother
New York City
Instant Karma
It's So Hard
O Sisters O Sisters
Woman Is The Nigger Of The World
Don't Worry Kyoko
It's Only Make Believe
Open Your Box
We're All Water
Tequila
Move On Fast
Roll Over Beethoven
Unchained Melody
New York City
Long Tall Sally
Hound Dog
Mind Train
Back Off Boogaloo
Bunny Hop

The posting has further boosted the rumour mill about an upcoming DVD/Blu-ray release of the recently revised film and audio recordings from these concert. At the request of Yoko, Jack Douglas has been working on these recording for some time now, as technology has finally caught up with how poorly this was recorded. Footage earlier deemed unusable for the 1985 video cassette/laser disc releases has now been improved enough by new techniques to be slated for inclusion.

If the photo really is a teaser for an upcoming release, it's likely that the release date will be on or around October 9, when Lennon would have celebrated his 75th birthday.

Live Peace in Toronto 2015
And just a few hours ago, Paul McCartney's website and Facebook account announced the first published date of Sir Paul's autumn tour, with a date in Toronto, Canada - October 17th.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Beatles concert to air on the radio


Celebrating fifty years since The Beatles played their one and only Minnesota concert, at the (Old) Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, local radio station WDGY has produced an hour-long retrospective on the show, including the Beatles' entire 35-minute performance and audio of the press conference they held beforehand. The show will air at 5 p.m. Friday on 740 AM and 107.2 FM HD. The broadcast will also be available at wdgyradio.com.
Although The Beatles toured America three times between 1964 and 1966 they performed one time only in Minnesota, in the middle of their 1965 US tour and played to an estimated audience of 25,000 fans, on August 21, 1965. That was the only concert of the tour that was not sold out, the capacity of the stadium was 45,000.
Some of the empty seats at the stadium.
Arriving at the airport, The Beatles were attacked by 3-4,000 crazed fans when they got off their chartered plane at 4:15 pm. Ringo was the first off the plane and a fan pushed through the cyclone fence and yanked at him.  Paul may have been accosted as well. Plans for picture taking were abandoned and they barely got into their car before the mob escaped the 60 Bloomington policemen.

Before the concert, the Fab Four held a press conference in the Minnesota Room of the stadium. Facing them were 12 microphones, 5 TV cameras, 150 reporters, and a few teenage "observers" who had won a contest.  Most of the questions were silly but then so were most of the answers. Also at the press conference, a Rickenbacker 360-12 electric 12-string guitar in a Fireglo red sunburst finish was presented to George Harrison on behalf of the musicians of Minnesota.

George gets a new guitar.
At the concert, "Twist and Shout" was reportedly not performed because John had throat problems. They performed 11 songs in 35 minutes:

She's A Woman
I Feel Fine
Dizzy Miss Lizzy
Ticket To Ride
Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby
Can't Buy Me Love
Baby's In Black
I Wanna Be Your Man
A Hard Day's Night
Help!
I'm Down

The Beatles on stage at the stadium.
During the concert, a helicopter hired by one of the competing radio stations came hovering over the stadium at one point, prompting Lennon to fire at it with his guitar mimicking a rifle.

An amateur recording of the concert started to appear around 2002, sourced from a cassette copy of another cassette which had been transferred from an original reel to reel tape in the seventies. The audio files had been processed in Cool Edit by the uploader to enhance them. The resulting 128/44 mono MP3's were available for download in the alt.binaries.sounds.mp3.beatles newsgroup. These mp3-files were later used by one of the downloaders to make a bootleg compact disc. Here's the story of the original reel-to-reel tape recording, as recounted in 2004 by the person who taped it:

"I'm the person who originally taped the Beatle concert at Met Stadium. I had no clue that my recording might be the only existing copy of the Met Stadium concert. I haven't paid much attention to the bootleg concert market or any of that. In August of 65, I was a nerdy kid with a cheap Sears tape recorder. I went to the concert with a friend. As I recall, we sat about 8-10 rows from the field, just a bit beyond what would be first base at a ball game."

"I didn't tape any of the opening acts because I wanted to save my batteries. I waited until the Beatles were playing to start the recorder, but I did not miss any songs. The Beatles did not play 'Twist and Shout'. The first song, 'She's a Woman' does have a short missing part. The reason for this is, in my stupid excitement, I was pressing down on the lid of my Sears special and I had stopped the reels. I could see this through a little window in the recorder's tin lid. In the first part of the tape my friend and I were goofing around, making silly noises and watching the little VU meter bounce. It's embarrassing to think that there are all sorts of people listening to this nonsense (and cursing it for spoiling the Beatle noise). But please, cut us a break. We were just kids and had no clue."

"I'm sure others have written about the concert itself. I remember the radio DJ's of the day telling everyone that the Beatles wanted everyone to have a good time, but asked that people save the screaming for the times between songs. That seemed to have a great effect. In spite of the poor sound on the tape, my memory is that I heard the music very well. When the songs ended though, it was deafening. My parents were in the parking lot during the concert and they said the same thing. I wonder if I would have gotten a better recording if I had just left the tape machine with them."
"Another thing I remember about the concert is that &*@#! helicopter. Didn't people realize that they were witnessing history? :-)"

"So here we are, many years later. I recently acquired a working reel-to-reel and have gone through my old tapes. I've located an early copy of the recording, but I'm not sure if it's the original. Unfortunately, it's an old acetate tape in bad condition. The best copy of the recording I have is a cassette version that was made in the early seventies. The MP3's that are circulating are from that copy."

So, perhaps the original tape has been found, cleaned up and used to produce the concert portion of tomorrow's radio broadcast? Let's hope so!

The day will also be celebrated by an earlier two hour live radio broadcast from the Hard Rock Cafe, where invited guests will reminisc about the concert. A photo exhibition from the Bob Bonis collection will also take place at the Mall of America, which stands on the site of the old Metropolitan Stadium, where The Beatles played.

More about the events of the day: TwinCities.com
More about The Beatles' visit to Bloomington: Instamatic Memories (PDF)

UPDATE: The wording on the radio station's web page sounds like they are not airing the concert at all, but recreating the set list by playing records. Here's what they are saying: "WDGY and Dennis Mitchell, the host of Breakfast with the Beatles produced a special one hour show with story’s (sic), insight and the original concert set list."

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Hamburg Beatles collection on the market

George Harrison at the Beatles' living quarters in the cinema building across the street from the Indra Club.
German Beatles expert, fan, historian and collector Uwe Blaschke died in 2010, leaving a vast collection of memorabilia from The Beatles' Hamburg days behind. He used to display his collection on the website BeatlesCollection.de. The collection has now been divided into lots, and is for sale via Heritage Auctions. Among the amazing things there are several signed items, including unique one-of-a-kind items like letters and postcards, but also the original recording contract with Polydor for the Tony Sheridan sessions, which has been getting attention by the media at large. There are items from clubs the Beatles played in Hamburg, the Indra Club, Kaiserkeller, Top Ten Club and the Star Club. I want the pig-shaped tip jar from the Star Club ;-)
The auction also features lots from later on in The Beatles' career.

Here's a promotional video for the auction, which is held September 19-20.



You can take a closer look at the auction lots here.

Update: Indra photo found

The five Beatles at the Indra Club, Hamburg, August 1960.
Having just arrived at the Indra Club in Hamburg, fifty-five years ago, five piece band The Beatles was photographed inside the club, wearing their lilac stage costumes. At least one of the stage photos was used to promote the band at the club and was made into a postcard. Others, like the one above, showed them in a more casual pose, standing by the Indra bar.
The above photo includes the missing piece we requested in our last blog post. Clearly scanned from some magazine or newspaper, our reader Guus Limberger found the photo at the now defunct "The Gilly" Beatles photo blog. That blog was famous among the fans for posting images of the Beatles which had remained unseen for ages, due to the keeper of the blog constantly scanning images from vintage publications.
Many of the photos distributed to magazines in the sixties were used once and then either filed away, becoming victims of later fires, or binned after the photo had been published. Unfortunately, some of the photographers sold their negatives - and these photos are now only available in scans of old magazines, newspapers, books or library microfilms of the original publications. Hanne, keeper of The Gilly blog used all these sources for her blog posts.
In the case of this particular photo, we know that at least one uncropped vintage print still exists in Pete Best's collection, due to it's partial inclusion in his Best of The Beatles DVD.

This image is usually shown in a cropped version, where bass guitar player Stuart Sutcliffe and drummer Pete Best have both been removed, like this:

The common version of this photo.
As you can see, this image is in a much better quality than the vintage scan, and it also has a little more bottom and slightly more top - so there's still room for improvements. Here's a composite I made from the two versions of the photo:

The two images, one on top of the other.
Pete seemed to carry his drumsticks with him. We also have a lot more of the Indra wall behind Pete, compared to this earlier composite made by Chazz Avery, which had Stu and Pete inserted from a video still.

An earlier restoration, still with a bit missing.
Anyway, thanks to Guus Limberger for sending us the complete photo from "The Gilly", and hopefully some day we will see a good quality version of the complete photo. This is rather a historic photo session, since it was The Beatles' very first engagement as professional musicians, their first concerts in a foreign country, and the first step on a road that took them everywhere.

Monday, 17 August 2015

The missing piece

Paul, John and George at the bar, Indra Club, Hamburg, August 1960.
Fifty-five years ago today, The Beatles started their professional career as musicians. Leaving jobs, school and parents behind, they had left Liverpool to start their residency as a bar band in Hamburg's Indra Club, near the Reeperbahn. A series of photos were taken while they were there, not many - just a handful. The photo depicted above of Paul, John and George at the Indra bar is one of them.

This is how the photo is usually presented to us, but something is missing. The full photo shows the full band, with Stuart Sutcliffe and Pete Best standing next to them. Pete Best has the complete photo, and a part of it was shown on his Best Of The Beatles DVD.
For his excellent website of photos of the early Beatles, Chazz Avery has matched a still from the DVD with the one we all knew, resulting in this image.

Stu and Pete restored back in, from a partly shown image in a DVD film.
I've tried to get in touch with Roag and Rory Best to ask them publish the complete photo, but haven't gotten any answer back.

When the Beatles museum in Hamburg was in operation, all the images of The Beatles at the Indra club were on display, but this particular photo was taken from Avery's website and cleverly positioned behind one of the other photos to disguise the fact that it was, in fact, incomplete.

Can you help? If you have a complete version of this photo, get in touch. Or if you know Pete, Rory or Roag, show them this blog post.

The Shea Vox continental organ

Playing with his elbow, John Lennon at Shea Stadium, 1965.
The Vox Continental Portable Organ used by John Lennon at the historic August 15, 1965, Shea Stadium concert, as well as the Beatles' August 13, 1965 appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show and on the studio recording of "I'm Down" didn't last long.

The actual organ used at Shea Stadium in 1965.
In front of a crowd of 55 600, Lennon closed out the most famous concert in history with a frenzied rendition of "I'm Down", in which he wildly pounded on the offered keyboard, resulting in the organ not working properly for the next show in Toronto on August 17.
The next day in Atlanta, the organ was traded in for a functioning Vox Continental organ from the Thomas Organ Center - The Vox Shoppe, the exchange being completed by a local Atlanta policeman. At the concert in Atlanta they had a rare opportunity to hear the organ in concert, as the stage was equipped with something of a rarity for the Beatles in those days, monitor speakers!

It was done especially for The Beatles. FB 'Duke' Mewborn, the boss of Atlanta hi-fi store Baker Audio, decided to give the group something that had never been done before: monitor speakers on the stage, pointing towards the group, to allow them to hear their voices and instruments.
"It was adequate. We got over it, we were on top of it. You could hear them amidst the screaming," commented Mewborn.
It wasn't just on stage that the sound was different. The state-of-the-art setup on the field included four Altec 1570 amplifiers, each giving 175 watts of sound, which in turn powered two stacks of Altec A7 speakers. Although unremarkable today, in 1965 it was an unheard of amount of power for a pop concert. The difference was noted from the stage, with Paul McCartney exclaiming after "She's A Woman": "It's loud, isn't it? Great!"
Being able to hear themselves enabled The Beatles to play tighter than usual, and they were delighted with the results. Afterwards, Brian Epstein suggested that Mewborn deal with the sound for their other shows, but the offer was turned down.

The organ remained in the possession of the owner of The Vox Shoppe in Atlanta for nearly four decades.
The organ itself is distinguished by a non-standard Vox Continental logo adhered to the front of the case, which is clearly visible in pictures and film from the event and from the set of The Ed Sullivan Show two days prior.
Before auctioning away the organ in 2008 at Christies's Punk/Rock auction at New York's Rockefeller Plaza for $182,500, the original organ was repaired, keeping all the original parts (which were in pristine condition) and was fully functional at the time of the auction.

The organ features a four octave keyboard, wood weighted black and white keys (reversed), detachable Z-shaped chrome frame stand, orange top and accompanying cases.

Prior to the auction, the organ was featured in exhibitions at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, Cleveland, Ohio, The Beatles Story in Liverpool and "John Lennon Unfinished Music" at Cite de la Musique in Paris.

I'm Down
"I'm Down" was specifically composed by McCartney to serve as the show closer, a studio version was recorded at the same day as "Yesterday" and released as the B-side of the "Help!" single and elsewhere. The Beatles had previously closed their shows with Little Richard's "Long Tall Sally", but wanted to be able to use one of their own songs as the closing rocker for their shows. Having tried for a while to write such a song, McCartney finally came up with "I'm Down". "That’s Paul…with a little help from me, I think," said John Lennon in 1980. Paul is quoted as saying, "I’m not sure if John had any input on it, in fact I don’t think he did.  But not wishing to be churlish, with most of these I’ll always credit him with 10 per cent just in case he fixed a word or offered a suggestion.  But at least 90 per cent of that would be mine."

Rehearsing.
"Long Tall Sally" was still used for their European tour in June/July, but starting with the fan club concert in Blackpool, August 1st, it was replaced by "I'm Down", just nine days after it had been released as the B-side to the "Help!" single in Britain. As we know, the song was the show closer for the USA tour in August. This was continued on the UK tour in December, and all in all "I'm Down" was performed at 34 concerts in 1965.

The song continued to be the set list closer in 1966, the first concert being the NME Poll Winners concert at Wembley Empire Pool, London, England on May 1, 1966. "I'm Down" was kept during the Bravo Beatles Blitztournee of Germany, as well as on their Far East tour of Manila and Tokyo.

Then came that final tour, the USA tour of 1966. Now The Beatles started to alternate between playing "I'm Down" and "Long Tall Sally". When the tour started at the International Amphitheater in Chicago, IL, on August 12, 1966 "I'm Down" was played at the afternoon concert at 3 pm, but substituted by "Long Tall Sally" for the evening's show at 7.30pm. This practice continued, whenever they played two concerts in a row somewhere, they would play "I'm Down" at one show and "Long Tall Sally" at the other. This rule is confirmed by the one exception, at both August 19 shows at the Mid-South Coliseum, Memphis, TN, "Long Tall Sally" was the featured closer. In the cities where they gave only one concert, "Long Tall Sally" was favoured, and was the closer of their last ever concert at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, CA on August 29. Their last performance of "I'm Down" was at one of their Seattle Center Coliseum concerts in Seattle, WA, on August 25, 1966.

As Paul McCartney was the principal singer of both songs, one would think that he would favour his own "I'm Down" when he started touring again, after The Beatles. However, it was "Long Tall Sally" that he chose to close the concerts on the Wings tour of 1972. In fact, he never sang "I'm Down" again, until the Concert For New York City at Madison Square Garden, New York, on October 20, 2001, where he opened with it. At the time, McCartney was criticised for opening with such an "unknown" Beatles song.

Another eight years went by, until he started playing the song regularly on his 2009 tour of USA. He performed it nine times in the middle of the set list during that tour, before again abandoning it. The performance of the song at Citi Field in New York City was released on a live CD & DVD album from the tour, "Good Evening New York City". In the concert film, "I'm Down" switches back and forth between McCartney's 2009 performance and The Beatles' 1965 performance at Shea Stadium. On the bonus DVD, the complete McCartney performance is shown.

If you want to know more about "I'm Down" you must be a Beatlemaniac, but here it is.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Meryl Streep at the Shea Stadium concert - the truth

Meryl Streep with dark hair and a cap at a Beatles concert at Shea Stadium.
One recently much publicised myth is that actress Meryl Streep was at the famous Beatles concert at Shea Stadium in August 1965, when she was a kid. Yes, Meryl was at a Beatles concert, yes it was at Shea Stadium. It just wasn't the famous 1965 concert but the largely forgotten 1966 concert at the same venue. Famously, the three surviving Beatles didn't even remember having played Shea Stadium twice when they were interviewed for the "Beatles Anthology" TV-series. Here's one of those YouTube clips who are pretending it's the 1965 concert:


In the clip, the TV reporter's line of questioning reflects the disappointing ticket sales, which makes him ask if the Beatles' popularity is on the decline.
Whereas the 1965 tour of the USA was a triumph with sold out venues everywhere, this was not the case with the 1966 tour, which came after a controversial statement from John Lennon about the Beatles' popularity versus that of Jesus Christ. The disappointing 1966 tour of USA ended with the Beatles giving up touring altogether.
Here's an older and longer version of the newsclip footage, which doesn't try to pass this off as the 1965 concert, but correctly identifies it as the 1966 Shea Stadium concert.



Born June 22, 1949, Meryl Streep was 17 at the time of the 1966 Shea Stadium concert in August. In 1990, she presented a Grammy lifetime achievement to Paul McCartney, and in 2013 she made an appearance in McCartney's music video to "Queenie Eye", filmed at Abbey Road studios in London.

The posting of this fact was spurred by the many claims that Streep was at the 1965 Shea Stadium Beatles concert. Unfortunately, this corrective will be a feeble attempt to set the record straight, as popularly believed myths usually triumph over the truth.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Help! photo from Beatlefan

The upcoming issue (#215) of "Beatlefan" celebrates fifty years of Help!
In the upcoming issue of Beatlefan, there is going to be a trivia competition where the winner will get a 16" x 16" print of the image used on the cover. The photo comes from the Vincent Vigil collection, and is one of the images which will be going into the permanent collection of the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. The scene is from the performance of the title song "Help!", early on in the film. That part of the film is the only black and white portion of it, and it was also very probably filmed using black and white film stock. Luckily, photographers shooting colour film were also present, capturing images like this one. Filmed at Twickenham film studios, the mimed performance of "Help!" was also used as a promotional film (music video of the day) on TV.
A sample issue of Beatlefan costs $8 in the U.S. or $11 elsewhere. U.S. funds only. Be sure to specify #215. For more information, email goodypress@gmail.com.

Speaking of "Help!", remember what we posted a few days ago about the shooting of the cover? As you know, the order in which the Beatles are standing from left to right is different in the USA and the UK. Also, there is the matter of whether or not some or all of the images have been presented mirror-flipped.

UK positions: George, John, Paul, Ringo.


USA: Apart from being in black and white, only George keeps his position, but is mirror-flipped.

On the US cover, the image actually kind of spells out HELP. Not in semaphore, but with their names. Positioned in this order there is H for Harrison, L for Lennon and P for Paul. The odd one out is Ringo, which makes them spell out HRLP or HSLP, using his first or last name.

USA movie poster: Same as on the US album.
So this brings us these questions: Why were the USA figures presented in black and white, why did they not appear in the same order as in the UK, and why was Georges image mirror-flipped?

WogBlog reader Stephen McGowan wrote to us about these issues, and presented us with the puzzle, which he also seemed to solve during our mail exchange.

The simplest answer (which often is the correct one, mind you), is perhaps that Capitol Records, who released the album in the US, did not have the colour photo negatives (or positives, for that matter), of  those four individual shots of The Beatles which were going to be used on the British "Help!" album cover. What they did have were images from the film itself, and they presented those in a colourful gatefold cover. As for the four individual shots, which they used for the album sleeve and United Artists reused for their movie poster, they probably just had black and white negatives of those.

Adding to the confusion, there's also a book of sheet music from Northern Songs.

UK edition of the "Souvenir film and song album" book. 
Inside this book are these four individual black and white shots, which upon close inspection reveal that George, John, Ringo and Paul are standing on a white platform for the photo shoot:

George, as on the UK sleeve

John, as on the UK sleeve

Ringo, as on the UK sleeve

Paul, mirror-flipped compared to the UK sleeve
The positioning of each Beatle on the cover seems to have been a last minute decision. In our previous blog post about the royal world premiere of "Help!", we showed a photo of the outside of the London Pavilion. We would like to draw your attention to the large figures on display on the facade of the building:

The "Help!" figures outside the theatre.
George, Ringo, John and Paul. Exactly in the same order, not as on the UK album sleeve, but as on the US one. Did the Capitol executives see this photo and used it to position the four black and white photos for their album release? Or was it a coincidence? George is like he is on the US album (notice the light glare in his hat), but Ringo is mirror-flipped, hinting that it was perhaps the latter.

Another photo, taken inside the London Pavilion of Ringo, his wife Maureen and Paul reveals a bit of a "Help!" poster behind them.

Note that Paul's image on the poster is like in the songbook, not like the sleeves and the facade of the theatre.
The photo shows inconsistency between the figures on the facade outside the theatre and the poster in the lobby inside. As you can see, on this poster the Paul figure is mirror-flipped, just like in the songbook rendition. Another inconsistency occurs in the newspaper advertisement for this premiere, where the fabs are positioned as on the US album cover.

Newspaper ad before the Royal World Premiere.


Then it's the finished UK movie poster. Made by United Artists, it's probably not that surprising that they used the same order as they had done for the US poster - and once again presents the four figures in black and white.

UK film poster

The sum of all these discrepancies is evidence that the positioning of these four Beatles figures, and their appearance on the upcoming album sleeves had not yet been decided upon.

So who was flipped and who was not? During the photo shoot for the album cover, scenes for the film were still being, as it were, filmed. Still needed on the set in different clothes, the Beatles just changed to their Obertauern costumes for the "Help!" album cover.

George
Here is a shot of The Beatles in their costumes, from Obertauern:

Wearing the same costumes in Obertauern, earlier in the filming.
If this black and white shot is correct, and going by signs behind it is, it means George is mirror-flipped on the UK "Help!" sleeve, as per the side of the buttons in his coat. That means he is correct on the US album sleeve.

George, as per the US album sleeve, only in colour.
Ringo
If the film stills featuring Ringo are correct, which we know they are (we've all  seen it enough times) then the large one on Pavillion is correct and all others are flipped, including both the UK and US sleeves.

Still from the film, ring on right hand.

In the Help! cover photo, the ring is not on his right hand, but on left. Perhaps it was added afterwards, you might ask? Not according to this photo, taken during the photo shoot:


Ringo at the photo shoot: ring on his right hand.
This shows that the photo on the UK and US album covers was a mirror image. So here's what he really looked like in the photo:

Flipped the correct way, blue colour removed.
Paul
If Paul is flipped, then he would be wearing a watch on the wrong hand for a leftie. Though his fringe is most unPaul like, compared to this picture with Victor Spinetti, taken on the same occasion.

Spinetti, in costume, seems to be omnipresent on this occasion.
As you can see, Paul's costume for the album cover shoot is the same as he was wearing in Obertauern, a rather black, furry thing (before he became an animal lover) with a zipper.
Colour photos of Paul taken in Obertauern wearing the same costume reveal that it's really black, and has been coloured blue only for the UK "Help!" cover.

Photographic evidence of the true colours of The Beatles' costumes.

So, taking the wristwatch issue into consideration, Paul is probably correct on the album sleeves, but was flipped in the song book.

Paul, what we assume is the correct way, blue colour removed.
John
Was John's image reversed? Once again we turn to a photo with Victor Spinetti on the occasion of the cover shoot at Cliveden House.

John in cover shoot costume, Spinetti once again in a costume appropriate for the day's "Help!" scenes.
If we use the same reasoning re buttons as we did with George, and if the photo with Victor Spinetti shown above is correct, (and Spinetti's buttons are consistent through all images), then yes - John is flipped on the album sleeves.
John, flipped back and blue removed.
We could  really do with a contact sheet of the actual shoot to see whether or not we are correct in our assumptions. Photographer Robert Freeman's photo books "Yesterday" and "A Private View" do not contain these photos, so either he's not showing, or United Artists, EMI or Apple own them, or they may have been lost to time.

Since the pictures were individually taken, and furthermore not actually correct for the semaphore of spelling out H E L P, then a correct order is irrelevant - there is no correct order. However, eager as we are to please, here's a rendition of the UK "Help!" album front cover, with no Beatle reversed.

The UK "Help!" album front cover, after restorations.
Thanks to Stephen McGowan for all the photos he sent and the conclusions he came to. For the recent re-releases of the "Help!" film for the home video market (2007 on DVD, 2013 on Blu-ray), the box covers look like the UK album cover. In conclusion, some of the Beatles were reversed on both the UK and the US album sleeves. John, George and Ringo are reversed on the UK cover, only Paul is presented the right way around. John and Ringo are reversed on the US album cover, Paul and George appear as they were photographed. The funny thing is, Paul is the only Beatle presented the correct way on both covers, but if they had mirror-flipped him, he would actually have been spelling the requisite HELP letter P in semaphore. As presented on the UK cover, the Beatles are actually spelling NUJV, and NVUJ on the US cover.

The Beatles and their doubles on location in Obertauern, Austria.
From left to right: Hans Pretschner, Ringo Starr, Herbert Lürzer, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Frank Bogensperger, George Harrison and Gerhard Krings. Photo: Tourismusverband Obertauern
Here's a photo which shows the Beatles and their stunt doubles on location in Austria, revealing that there were at least two of each costume made. Except for Paul's. His stunt double wore a plain black jacket, not a furry one.

A twenty year old discussion on this same theme can be found here, it eventually comes to the same conclusions.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Introducing The Beatles to kids

New book for young readers: Fab Four Friends - The Boys Who Became The Beatles
We die-hard fans may know who John, Paul, George and Ringo were, as will a generation of baby boomers, and also that generation I belong to, kids who grew up in the seventies. People born in the seventies, growing up in the eighties will also be familiar with the fabulous foursome, thanks to Paul McCartney's solo successes, George Harrison's stray hit with "Got My Mind Set On You" and The Traveling Wilburys. People who grew up in the nineties may have caught the fever with the "Anthology TV"-series. Forty-five years after the Beatles broke up, their popularity remains undiminished, with 41.8 million likes on Facebook, 2.8 million Twitter followers, a ranking as the "most important band" on Wikipedia* and the #1 spot on Rolling Stone's list of 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. But there are new generations who are no longer recognising those four names as a unity, the most popular pop/rock band ever.
A new book is going to try and remedy that, introduce the band to kids today. Fab Four Friends: The Boys Who Became the Beatles is a new picture book from Macmillan that introduces the next generation of fans to the story of John, Paul, George and Ringo. Focusing on the early years, written by author Susanna Reich and illustrated by Adam Gustavson, the book shows how four boys from Liverpool became the bestselling band in history.

Beatles biographer Bob Spitz calls the book "the perfect introduction to the mythic pop band — a thoughtful and delightful retelling that, like the Beatles, hits all the right notes."

The book traces the Beatles’ roots through each boy’s childhood and teen years. Evocative language and richly-detailed paintings tell the story of the band from its earliest days as a skiffle group to its explosion onto the world stage.

It’s all here, from John and Paul’s meeting at St. Peter’s Church to George’s audition on a double-decker bus and Ringo’s early love of the drums. Heady nights in Hamburg, sweaty gigs in the Cavern Club, the adoration of hometown fans, the crush of being told that "guitar groups are on the way out," the thrill of Beatlemania—this ultimate rock 'n' roll story will appeal to readers of all ages, the press release assures us.

To be released in hardcover on August 18, 2015 (13 September in the UK), the book looks for an audience whose age range is 6 - 10 years, and has 32 colourful pages.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

At last - Lennon at the Hit Factory 1980

Stills from video of John Lennon in the studio, 1980
Yesterday, we could finally feast our eyes on moving images from the footage of John Lennon recording "I'm Losing You" at the Hit Factory Studio. On August 19th, 1980 at the Hit Factory recording studios in New York City, director Jay Dubin filmed John Lennon & Yoko Ono with the intention of producing music videos to promote their upcoming release "Double Fantasy". The recording sessions for "I'm Losing You" and Yoko's "I'm Moving On" were filmed. Two cameras were in use, and the footage was committed to 1 inch video tapes. Only the raw film exists, as Dubin never edited the footage.
This incredibly important footage turned out to be the last documented time that John Lennon was filmed making music, and even more incredibly, has never been seen by the general public. Footage from the recording of "I'm Moving On" was used in the 1985 documentary "Yoko Ono: Then & Now", released on VHS home video. Approximately 10 seconds of footage from the session is shown, and underneath the narrative, you can clearly hear Yoko's song, "I'm Moving On". On April 20, 1992, NHK-TV of Japan broadcasted a nearly 15 second clip of the footage, which also included clips of drummer Andy Newmark, guitarists Earl Slick & Hugh McCracken, and Yoko Ono getting ready to sing at the microphone.

Yesterday, Revolver Records & Video uploaded a version of the 1998 "line drawing" video for "I'm Losing You", intersped with footage from supposedly the secondary camera of John Lennon singing and strumming his limited edition futuristic Sardonyx guitar in 1980. Link to the video.
This footage proves that Lennon's attempt to drown the film in his bathtub (which was what was reported at the time) was unsuccessful. Apparently, Lennon was dissatisfied with the way he looked in the video. Most of what we see is Lennon aggressively strumming and slapping his guitar, but there are also a few cutaways to his face, he still has long hair and is wearing Yoko Ono's cap. It's sad to see John Lennon being so alive and eager to play when we know the outcome of this story. Published only yesterday, the video clip has already attracted more than 10,000 visitors. Revolver Records & Video have used the wrong version to dub this footage, the proper audio to accompany this clip appears on HMC's "Oddities 3" release.

Many people have refused to believe that this footage actually exists, finally we have evidence that proves them wrong. We can only hope that Yoko (or bootleggers) are planning to release a fully edited version of the footage from cameras one and two, but word is that all that still exists is twenty minutes from camera two.

You can read more about the guitar Lennon is playing at the Guitar Player site. The outdated Double Fantasy Video mystery Page has the full history behind the filming of the footage.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Beryl Bryden meets the Beatles in Barcelona

Paul McCartney and unknown lady at the Beatles' hotel room in Barcelona. Photo: Juana Biarnés
Beryl Audley Bryden (11 May 1920 – 14 July 1998) was an English jazz singer and washboard player, who played with Chris Barber and Lonnie Donegan. Ella Fitzgerald once said of Bryden that she was "Britain's queen of the blues". Bryden joined the Chris Barber band on washboard, and played on the group's gold disc earning, "Rock Island Line" in 1955 with Lonnie Donegan on vocals. She made her last recording in 1998, shortly before her death. Beryl Bryden died in 1998 at the age of 78.
In August 1965, she wrote a piece in British music paper New Musical Express (issue # 970, August 13, 1965) about her encounter with the Beatles in Barcelona on July 3, 1965:

The clipping also included a photo of Beryl with the Beatles in their hotel room in Barcelona.
Beatles remembered Beryl's washboard.
«The Beatles may be off to America this week, but it'll be a long long time before I forget the time I met them on another part of their world travels!»
«I was appearing in Barcelona, when I was invited to the press conference before their recent show at the main bull ring. I was sure I hadn't met the Beatles before, so you can imagine how amazed I was when they saw me and shouted: "Hi Beryl, where's your washboard?" Seems they remembered me from their old days in Hamburg, when I dropped in to see their show after a jazz concert.»

«It really was fun, that press conference. A lady journalist was trying to interview Paul even though she didn't speak English, so he was using Spanish! He seems to know it quite well.»
John and Paul
«The boys just seem to live music – it was going all the time, what with John, Paul or George playing the guitar – or Nina Simone or the Byrds on the record player.»

«At their hotel after the evening show, John got me to sing "Movin' On" to his guitar accompaniment, then Paul played some flamenco. But they kept asking me to play my washboard and after a while I made a 20-minute dash to my hotel just to get it. It was a session too good to miss!»

«It kind of worked out skiffle and blues, with George and Paul on guitars, John on the harmonica and Ringo playing maracas. I played the washboard, and an unknown spectator worked out on the spoons!»

«I guess it was about 5am when I left – nine and a half hours in which the marvellous Beatles really warmed my heart and I left thinking what charming, natural, humourous and down-to-earth people they are.»

According to a Spanish news report, the party was broken up by Brian Epstein, who had received complaints from the hotel's management about the noise coming from the Beatles' living room.  The Beatles shared three rooms at the Hotel Avenida Palace, with two Beatles sharing bedrooms, occupying rooms 109 and 110. These were both adjacent to room 111, which served as a living room, accessible from both bedrooms.

The Beatles Suite, room 111 at Hotel Avenida Palace. Photo: Marcel·Lí Sàenz
Room 111 is now "The Beatles Suite", decorated with about fifty photographs, magazine covers, articles, posters, reports and official documents and even a replica of the bass guitar that Paul McCartney used,  a Höfner 500/1 model. You may book the room for between 200 and 450 euros, depending on the hotel season.

Juana Biarnés
Photographer Juana Biarnés was Spain's first female photo journalist. She first took photos of the Beatles during the flight from Madrid to Barcelona, where she had been hiding in the plane's toilet. When she knocked on the hotel room door in Barcelona, Ringo opened and quipped: "You again?", before letting her in. The pictures she took of the Beatles secured her a contract with People magazine.

Barcelona has always been a Beatlesfriendly city. When I, as editor for the Norwegian Wood Beatles fanzine, corresponded with Beatles fan clubs around the world back in the eighties, I was surprised to find that the city of Barcelona had no less than two Beatles fan clubs. I subscribed to a magazine published by one of these clubs for a while, and was astonished by the quality of the full colour magazine "The Beatles' Garden" and the pins they produced for their members. Today, they run a Facebook page.

There's also a Beatles themed bar in Barcelona, "La Garrafa dels Beatles", partly a bar and partly a museum, which opened in 1976.