Wednesday 28 February 2024

Furore #28: The Beatles in 1963

 "It's certainly a thrill."



Regular readers of this blog will know that one of my all-time favourite Beatles’ books is The Beatles’ London, A Guide to 467 Beatle Sites by Piet Schreuders, Mark Lewisohn and Adam Smith. It has inspired me and similar minded friends to walk (on feet) something like forty miles around the streets of the capital photographing places with a Beatles’ connection, and prompted me to start There Are Places I Remember – The Beatles’ Liverpool Locations as I made clear in my very first blog way back in 2009.

 

From day one, I’ve loved the research aspect of this hobby, finding new places with a proven Beatles’ connection and photographing them, but writing about my discoveries has always the difficult part. I left school in 1986 and had not had cause to write anything of substance unrelated to my employment until I started the blog. I think I’ve improved over the last 15 years to a point where I’ve developed a style of my own, such as it is, but I’m still not entirely convinced I have it in me to write an entire book, although those who know me are aware that this has been my plan for several years.  

 

Of course, some of my blogs have been more successful than others and I’m particularly proud of being the first to pinpoint the newsagents where Paul worked at the time he first met John, of proving where Paul's (not Mike's) photograph of a teenage George Harrison carrying flippers was taken, and for making chronological sense of the extant childhood photographs of John Lennon, which in turn inspired me to do something similar with all the photographs of the Beatles taken in 1961.  

 

It might have been one of these aforementioned blogs, or a different one entirely, or something completely unrelated, that first brought me to the attention of Piet Schreuders a few years ago.  As well as being co-author of The Beatles’ London, Piet also publishes Furore magazine, which occasionally has a Beatles’ special. He was kind enough to post them to me. I can’t recommend these issues highly enough as the articles are among some of the most interesting I’ve ever read, particularly those that take an in depth look at some of the locations for famous Beatles’ photographic shoots and provide then and now comparison photos.

 

You can imagine then how flattered I was when one of the people whose work has been such an inspiration to me first sent me an obscure Beatles' photo, and asked me to try and establish where it was taken, and he’s done it with other photos since.

 

Piet has now issued another Beatles special of his Furore magazine. The centre-piece of  issue #28 is an interview with Maureen O’Grady, a teen reporter from Boyfriend magazine, in an article which chronicles the advent of pop magazines in the British press in 1963, illustrated with memorabilia from her archives including some previously unseen photos. Very sadly, the author of the article, Andre Barreau, who many of you might know played the part of George Harrison in the Bootleg Beatles from 1980 until 2017 passed away in August 2023 before his contribution could be published. His friend Mark Lewisohn has contributed a eulogy, noting how Andre invented the work ‘locationist’ to describe the sort of person who goes around taking then and now photographs of Beatles’ locations.  I finally have a job title!

 

In this new issue, you will find an article about Beatles autopen autographs by Roger Stormo of the Daily Beatle Blog, ‘Abbey Road Trivia’ by Greg Armstrong who writes about the stamped dots on the wall pictured on the back cover of the album with some remarkable photographs of the same wall taken by Laurie Gay Linvill in 1970. Andre Barreau also contributes a piece on the location of Fiona Adam’s famous ‘Twist And Shout’ EP photograph correcting the earlier identification for it in The Beatles’ London in the process, while Piet looks at the ‘Beatles Ashram’ in Rishikesh and tries to pinpoint precisely what was where at the time they visited.

 

Last but hopefully not least, it’s an absolute thrill to confirm that this new issue of Furore also includes an article written by me, my first published work in print.  Piet invited me to contribute a piece about the efforts that are sometimes required when trying to identify where a particular photograph was taken, in this case the one that appears on the front cover of the magazine. I spent many long nights studying early 1963 photographs of the Beatles, particularly George and his atrocious fringe, but did I solve the mystery?  You'll have to buy the magazine to find out!  

 

Furore #28 can be ordered from FuroreMagazine.com

 

* Thanks to Piet Schreuders and Mark Lewisohn for their encouragement.

Friday 23 February 2024

John and Yoko: Peace Nuts.

‘On 15 June 1968, John Lennon and I planted two acorns for peace at Coventry Cathedral. It was the first of our many Peace Events’.  (Yoko Ono, 1 June 2008).


 

Between June and August 1968, the first National Sculpture Exhibition was held in the ruins of St. Michael’s Cathedral, Coventry. The exhibition was sponsored by the Arts Council and by invitation of Canon Stephen Edmund Verney.

 

The Cathedral had been destroyed during the Luftwaffe raid on Coventry on 14 November 1940, and in common with St. Luke’s Church in Liverpool was left as a permanent memorial to the Blitz.

 

In early June, John and Yoko managed to secure an invitation via Anthony Fawcett who was a member of the organising committee to display their work alongside such renowned sculptors as Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and Roland Piche.

 

Very much in the early stages of their relationship, both physically and creatively, John’s idea was informed by an earlier work of Yoko’s he’d seen at the Indica Gallery on the day they first met. Yoko’s ‘sculpture’ was an apple on a perspex display stand, an organic, evolving piece representing the life cycle of birth, decay, death and rebirth (the fruit gradually decomposing until only the seeds remained).

 

John decided to plant two acorns as a living sculpture alongside all the ‘heavy old sculptures’ explaining that ‘in fifty years’ time, people will understand what we’re trying to say when there are a couple of lovely great oak trees up there’.

 

Fawcett warned the couple that they might face resistance from Canon Verney who was troubled by the couple’s out of wedlock relationship. Both were actually married at the time, but not to each other.

 

The day before the exhibition opened, John’s driver Les Anthony and Anthony Fawcett arrived in a car towing a trailer where they were outside the Cathedral by Canon Verney.  On the trailer was a large, white, garden seat in wrought iron, a number of plant pots and acorns.  Verney flatly refused to allow them to unload, and a huge argument ensued.

 

After ‘much nastiness’ and several phone calls to some of Britain’s top sculptors, the Canon realised he could not go back on his work and relented.

 


Two acorns were ceremoniously planted in plant pots facing easterly and westerly positions in a hole dug for the occasion by John and Yoko, both of whom arrived sensibly dressed for gardening work in their white suits, much to the amusement of onlookers.  The circular iron seat was designed to slot together, surrounding the acorns which would then grown inside the bench. On the seat was an engraved silver-plated plaque reading ‘Yoko’ by John Lennon, ‘John’ by Yoko Ono, some time in May 1968 

 

Lennon told the Daily Express that the planting was to symbolize that ‘East and West have met in Yoko and me’.

  

As late comers to the Exhibition, John and Yoko’s acorn piece was not included in the official catalogue and so they made their own, arranging to be photographed by Keith McMillan at the appropriately named ‘Sprout’, a basement next to Gregory Sam’s macrobitotic restaurant in Notting Hill Gate. The resultant image made clever use of perspective to give the impression that John and Yoko were sprouting from the plastic flowerpots.

 

Coventry Telegraph, 17 June 1968

Two days after the exhibition opened, the Coventry Telegraph reported that Mr Norman Pegen, part of the group responsible for staging the event had claimed he had taken the decision not to include John and Yoko’s submission inside the consecrated ground of the Cathedral, which incidentally had been visited by three of the Beatles – Paul, George and either John or Ringo, and Kenny Lynch on Sunday 24 February during the Helen Shapiro tour. 

The bench and acorns had been moved about 50-feet to the Cathedral's gardens. Pegan was quoted as saying ‘the Lennon-Yono (sic) piece is very good – but only as a garden seat and is being used as such by visitors’. Another member of the Cathedral staff noted that fans had already stolen the plaque. 


Coventry Telegraph, 20 June 1968

  

On 22 June 1968, it was reported that the acorns had been stolen.

 

Coventry Telegraph, 22 June 1968




More coverage in the Coventry Evening Telegraph, 25 June 1968 (both)


On Friday 28 June John wrote a letter in response to Canon Verney’s stance prohibiting the installation of John and Yoko’s sculpture within the grounds of the Cathedral, and the distribution of their privately produced catalogue.

The letter finds John at times angry, at others thoughtful and seeking appeasement: ‘Thank you for your Christian attitude….do you have to explain an acorn? I don’t understand why you can’t distribute our leaflet unless you worry about gossip...You talk about young people as if you know something about them - you obviously don't or you wouldn't be worried about our influence on themJesus would have loved our piece for what it is… could we not substitute something that is not worth stealing… ‘Sit here and think of a church growing into a bigger church’.

 

Failing to reach a compromise, a driver was sent to retrieve the bench. It was returned to Kenwood, John's home and was seen briefly in the 1988 'Imagine' film. 

Thursday 26 October 2023

Now And Then

The release date of the 'final Beatles' song', Now and Then, an unfinished demo recorded by John Lennon in 1979 and worked on by the remaining Beatles during the Anthology project in 1995, and again over the last couple of years was announced today. 

The track will be released on a number of single vinyl formats, a cassette, and as the final song on reworked versions of the classic red and blue 'best of' compilations The Beatles 1962-66 and The Beatles 1967-70.

Predictably the news has sent Beatles fan pages and social media groups into overdrive, with fans sharing some very mixed opinions about the entire enterprise.  Personally I'm interested to hear the song, obviously. I absolutely hate the artwork for the single. I assumed it was a placeholder, like you sometimes see on Amazon before the final artwork for a forthcoming book or album is available, but no, that uninspiring bluey grey square with the song title written diagonally is the real deal. I don't think I've seen artwork on a Beatles' product as bad as this since Ringo's last EP.

I'm a second generation Beatles' fan who discovered them through my parent's copies of the red and blue albums. While the red has been criticized in the past for being too short and favouring 'Rubber Soul' tracks over 'Revolver'  (valid points) do we really need two dozen extra tracks added to these re-releases? In my opinion, changing the track-listing means  they're no longer the albums a lot of us seventies-born Beatle fans grew up with. Isn't this what playlists are for? Nobody buying these albums will agree on the additions and omissions which I strongly suspect was decided by committee, aka the surviving Beatles and the estates of John and George.  You can imagine the discussion: 'There's no songs with my Dad on lead vocals on the Red Album'.  'Ok, Dhani, how about Roll Over Beethoven and Taxman? What? You want 'Within You Without You' as well? Right'. 'What's that Sean? You really love 'I Want You (She's So Heavy)'? On a Beatles' best of compilation? It's seven minutes long! Ok, you're the boss. One of the bosses. You want 'Glass Onion' on there as well?!   Ringo, you've been very quiet. Are you sure you don't want 'What Goes On' alongside the rest of the 'Rubber Soul' album? 'Don't Pass Me By?' 

I know, I know. Nobody is forcing me to buy anything.

What I DO like, is seeing any 'new' footage of the 'Threetles' together and an excerpt from a 12 minute 'Now and Then' documentary film also premiered today including a lovely clip of Paul and George together. I can never get enough of that.

In keeping with the themes of this blog I also really like this imaginative series of images showing John's original 'Now and Then' demo cassette (with manufacturers brand name removed) which I assumed were photoshopped but according to reports actually appeared overnight, projected onto places particularly synonymous with the Beatles and their songs. 

Even though its now 60 years since they lived here it can never be said that The Beatles fail to acknowledge their birthplace when the opportunity arises.

Tuesday 17 October 2023

Sue Me, Sue You Blues: The Beatles and The Law

In December 1970, Dirk sued Stig and Nasty; Barry sued Dirk; Nasty sued Stig and Barry; and Stig sued himself accidentally...

It was the beginning of a golden era for lawyers, but for the Rutles,  it was the beginning of the end.


The above of course is from The Rutles, a 'mockumentary' which satirises  the career of the Beatles, but sadly, not too far removed from the reality, as I learned on Monday evening when I attended 'The Beatles and the Law', a lecture at the Yoko Ono Lennon Centre in Liverpool University. I was accompanied by my friend, fellow MA, Beatles' historian and blogger, Steve Bradley. 

        Ron Decline / Allen Klein

Wednesday 24 May 2023

Remembering Chas Newby, 18 June 1941 - 23 May 2023

23 May, 2023

I am greatly saddened to report that Charles ‘Chas’ Newby has passed away at the age of 81.




When the Beatles returned from Hamburg in December 1960, Stuart Sutcliffe decided to stay in Germany. With gigs booked and missing a bass guitarist, drummer Pete Best suggested his friend Chas Newby fill in. Chas had been a member of Pete’s group the Black Jacks , and was now at college however, he was on holiday, and so he agreed to play with the Beatles.

Chas first enters the Beatles’ story in 1959 when, as a guitarist in a group called the Barmen, he performed at the Pillar Club in ‘Lowlands,’ Haymans Green where he first encountered George Harrison. George was playing there during what he would later refer to as his ‘moonlighting period’ as a member of the Les Stewart Quartet. Chas would later tell Mark Lewisohn [1] that even at that stage, 'George could play Carl Perkins better than Carl Perkins. He was an order of magnitude better than everyone else, and everyone recognised that'.  

Chas and another member of the Barmen, Bill Barlow were friends with Pete Best, the three attending the Collegiate School.  In August 1959 the Casbah Club opened across the road from Lowlands in the basement of Pete’s house. Many of the Pillar Club regulars started going to the Casbah as well and it was here that Chas first saw the Quarry Men, then comprising of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ken Brown. He was really impressed by the fact that they could all sing, and particularly how they harmonised on numbers such as Three Cool Cats, 'which was brilliant'. 

Pete’s mum Mona ('a great character, an absolutely brilliant lady' Chas remembered) gave the Quarry Men had a residency at the Casbah from the opening night in August 1959 until early 1961, when, following a row with over their fee they stormed out vowing never to return.  In their place came a new band, The Blackjacks, a four-piece including former Barmen Chas Newby and Bill Barlow, former Quarry Man Ken Brown (all three on guitars) and Pete Best on drums, with Chas doing all the singing.

Pete joined the Beatles in August 1960 and went to Hamburg. Chas went off to college in St Helens.


Towards the end of the Beatles stay, George Harrison was deported for being underage. Needing a replacement guitarist Pete suggested his friend Chas Newby from the Blackjacks. Pete wrote to him from Hamburg and Chas replied by telegram explaining that he was away at college but was free for two weeks over Christmas if they still needed him. He was music mad and didn’t mind earning a bit of extra money over the holiday.

As is well known, following George’s departure the rest of the Beatles ended up coming home to Liverpool in disarray except for Stuart Sutcliffe, who had decided to remain in Hamburg with his girlfriend Astrid Kirchherr. Expecting to replace George in Hamburg, Chas instead found himself deputising for Stuart in Liverpool over the Christmas period.

Chas told the Liverpool Echo in 2019 'I borrowed a bass from a guy called Tommy McGuirk, but of course Tommy was right-handed, so I got this bass guitar and it's not as difficult as it sounds but I just played it upside down'. 

And so, Chas Newby, who coincidentally shared a birthday with Paul McCartney, became the Beatles’ first left-handed bass player.

'At that time they weren’t performing their own stuff', Chas recalled, 'It was just covers. I’d no idea that they’d been writing songs for years. George was the one I got on the best with. He obviously knew Pete from school: He was always telling funny stories about getting deported from Germany whenever we sat around chatting.'

Chas played four bookings with the Beatles:
  • 17 December at the Casbah Club
  • 24 December (Christmas Eve) at the Grosvenor Ballroom, Liscard, Wirral
  • 27 December, Litherland Town Hall
  • 31 December (New Year’s Eve) at the Casbah Club
George: Allan Williams put us in touch with a guy called Bob Wooler, a compere on the dance-hall circuit. He tried us out one night and put an ad in the paper: 'Direct from Hamburg. The Beatles'. And we probably looked German, too; very different from all the other groups, with our leather jackets. We looked funny and we played differently. We went down a bomb.

Paul: We all wore black that we had picked up in Hamburg. All the Liverpool girls were saying, 'Are you from Germany?' or 'I saw in the paper you are from Hamburg.'

John: Suddenly we were a wow. Mind you, 70% of the audience thought we were a German wow, but we didn't care about that. Even in Liverpool, people didn't know we were from Liverpool. They thought we were from Hamburg. They said, 'Christ, they speak good English!' which we did, of course, being English. 

It was that evening that we really came out of our shell and let go. We stood there being cheered for the first time. This was when we began to think that we were good. Up to Hamburg we'd thought we were OK, but not good enough. It was only back in Liverpool that we realised the difference and saw what had happened to us while everyone else was playing Cliff Richard shit.


The above comments from the Beatles Anthology are well known, as is a clip of John telling a similar story in the 1963 BBC Documentary ‘The Mersey Sound’ which has been re-used in numerous documentaries since. No doubt many fans have tried to visualise what these gigs must have been like, particularly the Litherland Town Hall gig, which has attained almost mythical status, but I wonder how many include Chas Newby in their mental image of the group on stage? 

It’s a pity none of the Beatles thought to mention his part in four of the most important gigs they ever played.

Speaking in 2012, Chas said he had no regrets about not sticking with the Beatles saying, 'to me then it was just four gigs with a different band, music was never going to be a living for me. All of us at that time were thinking what we were going to do with our lives, some doing teaching, or science, or whatever. I wanted to do chemistry. John, Paul, and George, they just wanted to be musicians.

They had been away in Hamburg. They’d played a hell of a lot over there, so they were very tight, very proficient, and they gave it some stick.


But I did the four gigs and went back to my college course the week afterwards.

They were getting £1 each per show, which was no living. I was working and having my education paid for by Pilkington Glass. [2]

By 4 January 1961, Chas was back at St Helens College, studying chemistry. While he remained a life-long friend of Pete Best and his extended family he only ever met one of the other Beatles in the flesh again after his time in the band – a random encounter in 1962:  'I was on my way home and I pulled up at some traffic lights. There, waiting at the crossing, was George. I said hello and asked if he needed a lift. He said he was waiting for someone and that was that. Off I went'.
 
When the Beatles finally hit the charts, he was ‘made up’ for them, explaining 'you’ve got to understand that the chances of them making it were miniscule. From when I left them to when Love Me Do came out was nearly two years.

The fact that they did make it was down to Brian’s hard work, their abundant talent and timing.'

Brian Epstein went round every record company he could. But everything was down in London. There were no recording studios in Liverpool, no music production industry at all.' 

By the time of the Beatles return to Hamburg to play at the Top Ten Club in 1961, Stuart had decided to leave the group permanently. It has been said that John Lennon asked Chas if he wanted to continue as the Beatles’ bass player, but he chose to go back to the college where he was studying.

After leaving college, Chas gained a master’s degree in chemical engineering from Manchester University. In 1971 he and Margaret moved to Alcester after getting work with Triplex, a firm manufacturing windscreen for trains and aircraft, including RAF Harrier jump jets and the Concorde fleet.

It was in the Warwickshire town that they had son Steve and daughter Jacqueline. Chas worked there until he retired in 1990. He then retrained as a maths teacher at Warwick University, before starting his job at Droitwich High School in Worcestershire.  He explained, 'I needed something else to do and I thought being a teacher would be good. I loved every minute of it – it was great. It was nice to be able to give something back. Some of my colleagues had been doing it for years, so were a bit fed up, especially when I turned up on my Harley Davidson motorbike looking like an old rocker.'

Sadly, his pupils were more interested in 1990s groups like the Spice Girls and Take That than their teacher’s amazing part in the story of the worlds most successful musical act.

Having practiced music in his spare time with a charity group, the Racketts, a 2016 meeting with Rod Davis at Bestfest in the Casbah Club led to Chas joining the reformed Quarrymen, the band John Lennon formed that later evolved into the Beatles.


As the author Philip Kirkland points out, this means that Chas Newby had the unique distinction of being the only man who was a Beatle first, then later a Quarry Man. 


The Quarry Men at the 60th anniversary of the Woolton Village Fete in 2017 -  John 'Duff' Lowe, Chas Newby, Len Garry, Rod Davis, Nigel Walley and Colin Hanton

Friday 28 April 2023

Monday 10 April 2023

Walking The Beatles' London - October 2022 (part eight): Chiswick House


Day 2 - Part 2

Chiswick House and Gardens,
Burlington Lane,
Chiswick, W4

Despite some strong competition from St Pancras Old Church and the area around Soho, our penultimate location on this trip was quite possibly the best location of the entire weekend.

The Beatles came here on 20 May 1966 with director Michael Lindsay-Hogg to film promotional films for both sides of their new 'Paperback Writer' / 'Rain' single. 

They had spent the previous day being filmed at EMI studios by Lindsay-Hogg - with whom they would later  make both the ‘Hey Jude’ and ‘Revolution’ promo clips in 1968 and the ‘Let It Be’ film in 1969 - giving straight to camera mimed performances of both sides of the single.  Multiple black and white takes of the both 'Paperback Writer' and 'Rain' were filmed (in black and white) in addition to a colour clip for each, the latter intended for broadcast on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’, with Ringo explaining in the specially taped introduction that they were too busy with the washing and the cooking (and recording 'Revolver') to fly over to New York and appear on the show in person.

Those clips were shot on video tape, and have visually dated. For the following day’s filming at Chiswick House, Lindsay-Hogg decided to use colour 35mm film, resulting in images that despite being 56 years old still look as crisp and sharp today as they did when they were recorded.  Arguably the Beatles' two greatest promotional films, they are now considered to be the precursors for today's ubiquitous music videos.      

'The idea was that we'd use them in America as well as the UK, because we thought, we can't go everywhere. We're stopping touring and we'll send these films out to promote the record... These days obviously everybody does that - it's part of the promotion for a single - so I suppose in a way we invented MTV' (George Harrison)

Sunday 9 April 2023

Walking The Beatles' London - October 2022 (part seven)


A recap: On Saturday 8 October 2022, I went down to London with my fellow Beatles historian Steve Bradley to attend Evolver 62, Mark Lewisohn’s one-man show at the Bloomsbury Theatre. 

The show didn’t start until 7.30pm so we agreed in advance that it would be too late to travel home afterwards and decided to make a weekend of it. Armed with The Beatles London, the indispensable guide to the 467 Beatles’ sites in the capital, Steve drew up an itinerary and we decided to try and visit as many as we could. 

Of course, we didn't get anywhere near the magic 467, but we managed to see quite a lot of them before we had to be at the Bloomsbury.

Sunday 9 October -  coincidentally what would have been John Lennon's 82nd birthday - was slightly more relaxed, but we still managed to visit two major Beatles' sites in London, and a couple of curios en-route, before our final destination, which will be familiar to anyone who has watched their second feature film.

And so, without ferda adoo, as we say in Liverpool, here's day two  - part one: 



We stayed at the Premier Inn Clapham (spotlessly clean and a magnificent all you can eat cooked breakfast), on Lavender Hill which co-incidentally - or probably not given Steve's meticulous planning - is actually a Beatles' location, appearing in the opening scenes of Magical Mystery Tour.

On the morning of Sunday 29 October 1967, Richard B. Starkey (Ringo) and his 'Aunt'  (Jessie Robbins) were filmed on Lavender Hill and some of the adjacent side-streets. To establish precisely which, we needed to go beyond my well thumbed copy of the Beatles' London (now with added Mark Lewisohn autograph).

Theatre Street, SW11

They are first seen huffing and puffing their way up a steep street of terraced houses towards the camera. The Beatles' London says this was filmed on Acanthus Road. In fact, it was filmed a few streets further up Lavender Hill on Theatre Street.


Ringo and Jessie at the bottom of Theatre Street, and the same view today.



They are then seen in profile arguing as they pass 19 Theatre Street, which rather wonderfully still appears to have its original front door today.



Lavender Hill, SW11

This is where it starts to get a little confusing.  Ringo and Jessie are then seen from behind as they reach the top of the hill and turn right onto Lavender Hill where the bus is parked. Here they are greeted by 'Jolly Jimmy Johnson, the Courier'. 

You would assume that this is the top of Theatre Street but no.  The bus was parked outside an estate agents called Woodruffs, and Ringo and Jessie are seen turning out of Acanthus Road. 




Walking The Beatles' London - October 2022 (part six)

Evolver '62


Thursday 16 March 2023

Behind That Locked Door: Inside the Harrison family home

25 Upton Green,
Speke,
Liverpool L24


When Beatles' historian Steve Bradley invited me and a few friends over for breakfast at the former home of George Harrison on Sunday morning, the opportunity to photograph the house from top to bottom was too good to miss. To amuse ourselves we also tried to recreate every known photograph of George at the house.

I remembered to bring some props, Steve remembered the buns, but did anyone remember the matches and candles?



25 Upton Green, the Harrison's family home from January 1950 until August 1962.