♫ Fool On The Hill ♫

I could have sworn that I had posted this song before, but I’m not seeing it in my archives, so … if I have, no matter, for I have it in my head tonight and am determined to play it for you.  I have always loved this song, and today the title, at least, has more meaning than I think it was ever intended to have!

Written and sung by Paul McCartney, it was released in 1967.  I find it interesting that a year later Sérgio Mendes & Brasil ’66 recorded the song and their version fared much better than the one by The Beatles.  While I like Sérgio Mendes’ music, I much prefer The Beatles’ version of this particular song.

The story, according to Alistair Taylor’s book, Yesterday, goes …

An event which prompted this song happened when Paul was walking his dog, Martha, on Primrose Hill one morning. As he watched the sun rise, he noticed that Martha was missing. Paul turned around to look for his dog, and there a man stood, who appeared on the hill without making a sound. The gentleman was dressed respectably, in a belted raincoat. Paul knew this man had not been there seconds earlier as he had looked in that direction for Martha. Paul and the stranger exchanged a greeting, and this man then spoke of what a beautiful view it was from the top of this hill that overlooked London. Within a few seconds, Paul looked around again, and the man was gone. He had vanished as he had appeared.

A couple of the music critics really did not like this song at all …

  • “Possibilities in this song outweigh its substance—it’s the most unworthy Beatles standard since ‘Michelle.'” — Tim Riley, NPR contributor
  • “… shows signs of becoming a favorite of the Simon & Garfunkel crowd and the transcendental meditators, who deserve it. A callow rendering of the outcast-visionary theme, it may be the worst song the Beatles have ever recorded.” — Robert Christgau, Esquire magazine

The Fool on the Hill
The Beatles

Day after day, alone on a hill
The man with the foolish grin is sitting perfectly still
Nobody wants to know him
They can see that he’s just a fool
But he never gives an answer

But the fool on the hill
Sees the sun going down
And the eyes in his head
See the world spinning round

His head in a cloud
The man with a foolish grin is talking perfectly loud
But nobody wants to hear him
They can see that he’s just a fool
But he never gives an answer

But the fool on the hill
Sees the sun going down
And the eyes in his head
See the world spinning round

But nobody wants to know him
They can see that he’s just a fool
But he never gives an answer

But the fool on the hill
Sees the sun going down
And the eyes in his head
See the world spinning round

But the fool on the hill
Sees the sun going down
And the eyes in his head
See the world spinning round

Songwriters: John Lennon / Paul McCartney
The Fool on the Hill lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

♫ Let It Be ♫

At the time of its release in 1970, this Beatles tune had the highest debut on the Billboard Hot 100, beginning its chart run at number 6. It was written and sung by Paul McCartney and was their final single before McCartney announced his departure from the band.

McCartney said he had the idea of Let It Be after he had a dream about his mother during the tense period surrounding the sessions for The Beatles aka the White Album in 1968. According to McCartney, the song’s reference to “Mother Mary” was not biblical. McCartney explained that his mother – who died of cancer when he was fourteen – was the inspiration for the “Mother Mary” lyric. He later said: “It was great to visit with her again. I felt very blessed to have that dream. So that got me writing ‘Let It Be’.” He also said in a later interview about the dream that his mother had told him, “It will be all right, just let it be.”

Now here’s something I didn’t know. According to Songfacts …

The Beatles weren’t the first to release this song – Aretha Franklin was. The Queen of Soul recorded it in December 1969, and it was released on her album This Girl’s In Love With You in January 1970, two months before The Beatles released their version (she also covered The Beatles “Eleanor Rigby” on that album).

Aretha recorded it with the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, who were a group of musicians that owned their own studio in Alabama, but would travel to New York to record with Aretha. David Hood, who was their bass player, told us that Paul McCartney sent demos of the song to Atlantic Records (Franklin’s label) and to the Muscle Shoals musicians. Said Hood, “I kick myself for not grabbing that demo. Because I think they probably dropped it in the garbage. Our version was different. We changed it a little bit from his demo, where their version is different from that demo and from Aretha’s version, as well. Just slightly, but little things.”

A few other bits of trivia:

  • Sesame Street used this with the title changed to “Letter B.” The lyrics were changed to list words that begin with B.
  • The album had the largest initial sales in US record history up to that time: 3.7 million advance orders.
  • This was the first Beatles song released in The Soviet Union. The single made it there in 1972.
  • This song was played at Linda McCartney’s funeral.
  • This was the first Beatles song released in the Soviet Union. The single made it there in 1972.
  • John Legend and Alicia keys performed this song on the tribute special The Beatles: The Night That Changed America, which aired in 2014 exactly 50 years after the group made their famous appearance on Ed Sullivan Show. Legend introduced it as “a song that has comforted generations with its beauty and its message.”

Something else I didn’t know comes from The Vintage News site …

In July 1966 the Beatles toured the Philippines and unintentionally snubbed First Lady Imelda Marcos. Accustomed to high praise if not worship, she invited the group to attend a breakfast reception at the Presidential Palace in Manila, expecting the group to attend without hesitation. When the Beatles were presented with the invitation, however, they asked their manager, Brian Epstein, to politely decline it on behalf of the group, with an explanation that it had never been their policy to accept such “official” invitations.

Soon after, the band realized that the Marcos regime had rarely heard “no” from anyone–and there would be consequences. Imelda Marcos was infuriated when she found out that her grand planned party of 200 guests would not include the Beatles as special guests. Interestingly enough, the Philippine television and radio stations broadcast the snub. Shortly after, all of the Beatles security police suddenly disappeared. Epstein called for an interview, trying to make an apology on Chanel 5 at the Manila Hotel. But when his interview was about to be aired, the state-controlled channel blacked out.

Let It Be
The Beatles

When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

And when the broken hearted people living in the world agree
There will be an answer, let it be
For though they may be parted, there is still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer, let it be
Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be
There will be an answer, let it be
Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be
Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

And when the night is cloudy there is still a light that shines on me
Shine until tomorrow, let it be
I wake up to the sound of music, Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
Let it be, let it be, let it be, yeah, let it be
There will be an answer, let it be
Let it be, let it be, let it be, yeah, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

Songwriters: John Lennon / Paul McCartney
Let It Be lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

♫ Daydream Believer & I Wanna Be Free ♫

I had a Van Morrison song picked out for tonight until I heard the news that Peter Tork of the Monkees had died today after a 10-year battle with cancer.  Our friend Ellen sometimes gives me a bit of gentle ribbing when I fail to make note of certain important dates such as the anniversary of a favoured artist’s death, birthday, or date they last cut their toenails, so I knew I needed to do a tribute to Mr. Tork tonight.

peter-tork (1)

Peter Tork — Then and Now

According to Wikipedia …

The Monkees were a made-for-TV musical group whose comedic high jinks and misadventures were fashioned after the Beatles’ classic films A Hard Day’s Night and Help!

Their show debuted in 1966 and lasted only two seasons. But it did win an Emmy in 1967 for outstanding comedy series. The Monkees became overnight stars, producing a series of No. 1 hits such as “Last Train to Clarksville,” “Daydream Believer” and “I’m a Believer.” Their record sales in 1967 surpassed the Beatles and the Rolling Stones combined.

I was never a huge Monkees fan, but they had a few songs that appealed to me.  I had a friend in high school, however, that was so enamoured of Mickey Dolenz that she named her first child Mickey, even though it was a girl. Tonight, I am breaking my tradition of playing only a single song, and playing two.  One, Daydream Believer, was/is their signature song, and another, I Wanna Be Free, is one that I especially like and that seemed a fitting tribute, somehow, to the death of one of their members.  Another band member, Davy Jones, died in February 2012 of a heart attack.

*Note:  Both sets of lyrics follow the videos; Daydream Believer has about 20 seconds of dead time at the beginning, but be patient, for it will play.

And so, in honour of Peter Tork …


Daydream Believer
The Monkees

Oh, I could hide ‘neath the wings
Of the bluebird as she sings
The six-o’clock alarm would never ring
But six rings and I rise
Wipe the sleep out of my eyes
The shaving razor’s cold and it stings

Cheer up sleepy Jean
Oh, what can it mean to a
Daydream believer and a
Homecoming queen?

You once thought of me
As a white knight on his steed
Now you know how happy I can be
Oh, our good time starts and ends
Without all I want to spend
But how much, baby, do we really need?

Cheer up sleepy Jean
Oh, what can it mean to a
Daydream believer and a
Homecoming queen?

Cheer up sleepy Jean
Oh, what can it mean to a
Daydream believer and a
Homecoming queen?

Cheer up sleepy Jean
Oh, what can it mean to a
Daydream believer and a
Homecoming queen?

Cheer up sleepy Jean
Oh, what can it mean to a
Daydream believer and a
Homecoming queen?

Cheer up, sleepy Jean

Songwriters: John Stewart
Daydream Believer lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC


I Wanna Be Free
The Monkees

I wanna be free
Like the bluebirds flying by me
Like the waves out on the blue sea
If your love has to tie me
Don’t try me, say good-bye
I wanna be free

Don’t say you love me, say you like me
But when I need you beside me
Stay close enough to guide me
Confide in me, whoa-oh-oh

I wanna hold your hand
Walk along the sand
Laughing in the sun
Always having fun
Doing all those things
Without any strings to tie me down
I wanna be free

Like the warm September wind, babe
Say you’ll always be my friend, babe
We can make it to the end, babe
Again, babe, I’ve gotta say
I wanna be free
I wanna be free
I wanna be free

Songwriters: Bobby Hart / Tommy Boyce
I Wanna Be Free lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

♫ I Want To Hold Your Hand ♫

It was 55 years ago today that a young British rock group made their U.S. debut on the Ed Sullivan Show.  The name of the group, of course, was The Beatles.

From History.com …

Although it was difficult to hear the performance over the screams of teenage girls in the studio audience, an estimated 73 million U.S. television viewers, or about 40 percent of the U.S. population, tuned in to watch. Sullivan immediately booked the Beatles for two more appearances that month.

The group made their first public concert appearance in the United States on February 11 at the Coliseum in Washington, D.C., and 20,000 fans attended. The next day, they gave two back-to-back performances at New York’s Carnegie Hall, and police were forced to close off the streets around the venerable music hall because of fan hysteria. On February 22, the Beatles returned to England.

Now, I must confess to being a bit strange when I was young … shut up Joe, don’t even say it … and I was not all that impressed with The Beatles that first time I saw them on Ed Sullivan.  Nor was I impressed by the girls ripping off their clothes, screaming and fainting.  Eventually I came to appreciate The Beatles and their music, but unlike some others, it was definitely not love at first sight.

I am including two clips tonight.  The first is a clip from the November 18, 1963 edition of the Huntley-Brinkley Report by Edwin Newman.  The video no longer exists, but this audio-only copy was discovered in 2013, and I think you’ll enjoy it … I did!  The second is a video of one of the songs they performed on 09 February 1964.

I Want to Hold Your Hand
The Beatles

Oh yeah I tell you somethin’
I think you’ll understand
When I say that somethin’
I want to hold your hand
I want to hold your hand
I want to hold your hand

Oh please say to me
You’ll let me be your man
And please say to me
You’ll let me hold your hand
Now, let me hold your hand
I want to hold your hand

And when I touch you
I feel happy inside
It’s such a feelin’ that my love
I can’t hide
I can’t hide
I can’t hide

Yeah, you got that somethin’
I think you’ll understand
When I say that somethin’
I want to hold your hand
I want to hold your hand
I want to hold your hand

And when I touch you
I feel happy inside
It’s such a feelin’ that my love
I can’t hide
I can’t hide
I can’t hide

Yeah, you got that somethin’
I think you’ll understand
When I feel that somethin’
I want to hold your hand
I want to hold your hand
I want to hold your hand
I want to hold your hand

Songwriters: John Lennon / Paul Mccartney
I Want to Hold Your Hand lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

♫ Norwegian Wood ♫

I’m betting this is one you haven’t heard, or likely even thought of for a few years, at least.  I felt like dusting off something different tonight, and this was the first thing that popped into my head.

A bit of interesting history accompanies this one …

This was the first pop song to use a sitar – George Harrison played it. Harrison was new to the sitar and took many takes to get it right. He bought the instrument, which he described as “crummy,” and taught himself to play. It was David Crosby of The Byrds, and Crosby, Stills & Nash who had introduced Harrison to the sitar shortly after the folk musician Shawn Phillips had shown him the basic steps. A few months later, Harrison studied the sitar with Indian musician Ravi Shankar, who helped Harrison explore Eastern music and religion.

John Lennon, who wrote the song, explained why it was decided to use the sitar on this song …

“I think it was at the studio. George had just got the sitar and I said ‘Could you play this piece?’ We went through many different sort of versions of the song, it was never right and I was getting very angry about it, it wasn’t coming out like I said. They said, ‘Well just do it how you want to do it’ and I said, ‘Well I just want to do it like this.’ They let me go and I did the guitar very loudly into the mike and sang it at the same time and then George had the sitar and I asked him could he play the piece that I’d written, you know, dee diddley dee diddley dee, that bit, and he was not sure whether he could play it yet because he hadn’t done much on the sitar but he was willing to have a go, as is his wont, and he learned the bit and dubbed it on after. I think we did it in sections.”

Paul McCartney said he came up with the title, inspired by the Norwegian Wood furniture in the Asher household, where he was staying.

But the trivia I thought the most intriguing was what John Lennon said about the writing of the song …

“I was trying to write about an affair without letting my wife know I was having one. I was sort of writing from my experiences – girl’s flats, things like that. I was very careful and paranoid because I didn’t want my wife, Cyn, to know that there really was something going on outside of the household. I’d always had some kind of affairs going on, so I was trying to be sophisticated in writing about an affair, but in such a smoke-screen way that you couldn’t tell. But I can’t remember any specific woman it had to do with.”

Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)
The Beatles

I once had a girl
Or should I say she once had me
She showed me her room
Isn’t it good Norwegian wood?

She asked me to stay
And she told me to sit anywhere
So I looked around
And I noticed there wasn’t a chair

I sat on a rug biding my time
Drinking her wine
We talked until two and then she said
“It’s time for bed”

She told me she worked
In the morning and started to laugh
I told her I didn’t
And crawled off to sleep in the bath

And when I awoke I was alone
This bird had flown
So I lit a fire
Isn’t it good Norwegian wood?

Songwriters: John Lennon / Paul Mccartney
Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

♪ Yesterday ♪

Okay, so yes, this is a rather melancholy song, but every now and then we all have those melancholy moments, right?  The song itself is not necessarily among my favourite of the Beatles repertoire, but there’s just something about it.

According to Songfacts

This is the most covered pop song of all time, with over 3,000 versions Say WHAT??? recorded according to The Guinness Book Of World Records. For years, it was also the song with the most radio plays, but in 1999 BMI music publishing reported that You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ had passed it. Still, at any given time, some version of “Yesterday” is probably being broadcast somewhere.

Paul McCartney wrote this song and was the only Beatle to play on it. It was the first time a Beatle recorded without the others.

McCartney claimed that while The Beatles were touring in Paris, he tumbled out of bed and this tune was in his head. He thought he had heard it somewhere before, and played the melody to different people in the music industry to make sure he wasn’t stealing it. The working title was “Scrambled Eggs” until Paul could figure out lyrics.  Scrambled Eggs???  smh.

This song caused a rift between McCartney and Yoko Ono. When The Beatles Anthology album was released, McCartney asked that the writing credit on this read “McCartney/Lennon,” since he wrote it. Yoko refused, and it was listed as “Lennon/McCartney,” which is how they usually credited songs written by either Beatle.

Some of the artists who have covered this song include Boyz II Men, Ray Charles, En Vogue, Marianne Faithfull, Marvin Gaye, Tom Jones, Nana Mouskouri, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, The Supremes, The Toys, Andy Williams, and Tammy Wynette.  Tammy Wynette???  You’ve got to be kidding me!  

Okay … my curiosity piqued, I had to go listen to Tammy Wynette’s version.  For those who may not know of Wynette, she is heavy, heavy country … twang and all!  I survived a full 17 seconds before I felt ill and exited.  So now, here’s Paul …

Yesterday
The Beatles

Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away
Now it looks as though they’re here to stay
Oh, I believe in yesterday

Suddenly, I’m not half the man I used to be
There’s a shadow hanging over me.
Oh, yesterday came suddenly

Why she had to go I don’t know she wouldn’t say
I said something wrong, now I long for yesterday

Yesterday, love was such an easy game to play
Now I need a place to hide away
Oh, I believe in yesterday

Why she had to go I don’t know she wouldn’t say
I said something wrong, now I long for yesterday

Yesterday, love was such an easy game to play
Now I need a place to hide away
Oh, I believe in yesterday
Mm mm mm mm mm mm mm

Songwriters: Michel Jean Pierre Colombier / John Winston Lennon / Paul James Mccartney
Yesterday lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

♫ You Really Got A Hold On Me ♫

Tonight’s song is either going to take you back … way back … else leave you scratching your head and saying, ‘huh?’  Go back, if you can, to 1962.  I was eleven … how old were you?  In ’62, the Beatles, the Stones, and the Turtles weren’t yet around, and the sound of the day, at least for most of us, was Motown.  And there was none better than Smokey Robinson and his Miracles.

Smokey wrote and produced this one that was released in November 1962 under the Motown Tamla label.  It zoomed to #1 on Billboard’s R&B chart in the U.S.  It has been featured in at least 12 films and a television special,  Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever.  

Smokey Robinson said he was thinking about Sam Cooke’s Bring it on Home to Me (another great one, in my book) when he got the idea for this song.  Cooke’s song finds the singer apologizing to his girl after casting her off, promising to treat her right if she comes back. You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me is the same sentiment but with the roles reversed: the girl mistreats the guy, but he loves her unconditionally.  Gender equality, even in the ’60s.

The Beatles recorded this in 1963 and performed it in their last movie, Let It Be. The Beatles were the first big British band to come to America and admit they were influenced by black music. Robinson admired this admission, and felt they helped black artists by covering their songs.

The quality of this video isn’t the best, but hey … it was 1962 … YouTube and digital photography hadn’t even been invented yet.  There are more recent versions, but I felt this one had the most authenticity.  And now I give you …

You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me
The Miracles

I don’t like you, but I love you,
Seems that I’m always thinking of you.
Oh, oh, oh, you treat me badly,
I love you madly, you really got a hold on me.
You really got a hold on me, baby,
I don’t want you, but I need you,
Don’t want to kiss you, but I need you.
Oh, oh, oh, you do me wrong now,
My love is strong now you really got a hold on me.

You really got a hold on me, baby,
I love you and all I want you to do is just hold me,
Hold me, hold me, hold me.

I want to leave you, don’t want to stay here
Don’t want to spend another day here.
Oh, oh, oh, I want to split now, I can’t Baby,
I love you and all I want you to do is just hold me,
Hold me, hold me, hold me.
You really got a hold on me.
You really got a hold on me.
You really got a hold on me.
You really got a hold on me.
You really got a hold on me.

Songwriters: William Robinson Jr.
You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

♫ Blackbird ♫

Paul McCartney wrote this about the civil rights struggle for African-Americans after reading about race riots in the US. He penned it in his kitchen in Scotland not long after Little Rock Nine, when the federal courts forced the racial desegregation of the Arkansas capital’s school system.Little Rock Nine“I was sitting around with my acoustic guitar and I’d heard about the civil rights troubles that were happening in the ’60s in Alabama, Mississippi, Little Rock in particular,” he told GQ. “I just thought it would be really good if I could write something that if it ever reached any of the people going through those problems, it might give them a little bit of hope. So, I wrote ‘Blackbird.'”

McCartney-meets-little-rock-nine-2

McCartney with two of the Little Rock Nine

Blackbird
Paul McCartney

Blackbird singing in the dead of night, take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life, you were only waiting for this moment to arise

Blackbird singing in the dead of night, take these sunken eyes and learn to see
All your life, you were only waiting for this moment to be free

Black-bird fly
Black-bird fly, into the light of a dark black night

Black-bird fly
Black-bird fly, into the light of a dark black night

Blackbird singing in the dead of night, take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life, you were only waiting for this moment to arise
you were only waiting for this moment to arise
you were only waiting for this moment to arise

Songwriters: John Lennon / Paul McCartney
Blackbird lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

 

♫ No Matter What ♫

This one is a little off the beaten path, so some may not remember it.  It never got above #5 on the UK charts, and #8 in the US.  It did better, however, in South Africa where it hit #1 for a brief time.  It’s one of those that I don’t think about often, but about twice a year, for no discernible reason, it pops into my head and stays for a day or two.  I like the rhythm, but as with most songs, just tonight I discovered that I had been singing the lyrics all wrong!  I’ve been singing “Down by the ol’ mill stream, be a part of it all”, when in fact it is “Knock down the old grey wall, and be a part of it all”.  Sigh.  deaf

The song was recorded by the band Badfinger in April 1970 at Abbey Road Studios under the Beatles’ label, Apple Records.  Some actually thought it was the Beatles when they first heard it, and Peter Ham actually used one of George Harrison’s Gibson guitars on this.

This song is also noted for its false ending, after the final chorus, where, after a short pause, the song repeats the last line twice before its final ending chord.

No Matter What
Badfinger

No matter what you are
I will always be with you
Doesn’t matter what you do girl, oh girl with you
No matter what you do
I will always be around

Won’t you tell me what you found girl, oh girl won’t you
Knock down the old brick wall, and be a part of it all
Nothing to say, nothing to see, nothing to do
If you would give me all, as I would give it to you
Nothing would be, nothing would be, nothing would be

No matter where you go
There will always be a place
Can’t you see in my face girl, oh girl don’t you
Knock down the old brick wall, and be a part of it all
Nothing to say, nothing to see, nothing to do
If you would give me all, as I would give it to you
Nothing would be, nothing would be, nothing would be

No matter what you are
I will always be with you
Doesn’t matter what you do girl, oh girl want you
Oh girl, you girl, want you
Oh girl, you girl, want you

Songwriters: Peter William Ham
No Matter What lyrics © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd., Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

Saturday Surprise — John Lennon, A Tribute of Sorts

Welcome to Saturday Surprise and a cold beginning to the weekend.  I hadn’t given much thought to what to do for my Saturday Surprise post yesterday evening, for I was on a tear about my Friday pm topic, when an item plunked into my inbox and I thought, hmmmmm …. Maybe.  And so, while I was rolling smokes and baking cookies, I gave it some thought and decided it might be fun to take another glance at the past.  What was the item, you ask?  Well, yesterday, as it happens, was the 37th anniversary of the murder of John Lennon.  Some readers of this column may be too young to remember, but they still know who John Lennon and the Beatles were, no doubt, and anyway, most of my regular readers and myself remember quite well.  So, let us take a brief walk down memory lane and meet up again with Mr. John Lennon and by association, the Beatles.

Who Was John Lennon?

“John Lennon was born on October 9, 1940, in Liverpool, England. He met Paul McCartney in 1957 and invited McCartney to join his music group. They eventually formed the most successful songwriting partnership in musical history. Lennon left the Beatles in 1969 and later released albums with his wife, Yoko Ono, among others. On December 8, 1980, he was killed by a crazed fan named Mark David Chapman.”  – Biography.com

But that doesn’t really tell us much about him, does it?  Let’s dig a bit deeper. Lennon’s first band was actually called The Quarrymen, and was composed of Lennon and several school friends from Quarry Bank High School, which they attended. The name morphed from The Blackjacks to Johnny and the Moondogs to Japage 3, before finally becoming The Beatles in 1960. Lennon’s mother, Julia, taught her son to play the banjo and then showed Lennon how to tune his guitar in a similar way to the banjo, and taught him simple chords and songs.

Lennon and McCartney first met when The Quarrymen played St. Peter’s Church Rose Queen garden fête in Woolton on Saturday, July 6th, 1957, and McCartney was invited to join the band soon thereafter. Although he had practiced endlessly for his debut, McCartney played horribly at his debut performance on Friday, 18 October 1957, missing his opening cue and playing all the wrong notes!  Nerves? Everyone expected Lennon to say something sarcastic, but the sight of the always overconfident McCartney looking so crestfallen made Lennon laugh out loud instead.

Lennon and McCartney both started writing songs influenced by Buddy Holly, and both were impressed with each other’s efforts. The two began writing together, and their writing partnership would become very successful throughout the 1960s. As they began leaning more toward rock ‘n roll, many of the original band members left the band, and it became clear that they would need an additional guitar player. Enter George Harrison.

QuarrymenMcCartney recommended his school friend George Harrison, who first saw the group perform on February 6th, 1958 at Wilson Hall, where McCartney introduced him to Lennon. Harrison was only 14 at the time, and Lennon initially thought him too young.  McCartney, however, didn’t give up and set up various opportunities for Harrison to perform for Lennon.  Once Harrison turned 15, Lennon finally capitulated.  Later that year, with only the three of them left in the band, they changed their name to Japage 3 (combining letters from each of the member’s names: John, Paul, and George), but the name change lasted less than a year, and they went back to being The Quarrymen.

By March 1960, struggling to get gigs, the group changed their name once again, and this time the name would stick: the Beatles. In August of 1962, Richard Starkey, known professionally as Ringo Starr, left the band he was with, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, and joined the Beatles as drummer, completing the band that would ultimately go on to fame and fortune. The group continued to perform around Liverpool and in Hamburg, Germany, before being signed to Parlophone Records in 1962. After their signing, the Beatles achieved worldwide fame and became one of the most popular and successful musical artists of all time, before breaking up in 1970.

The Beatles achieved mainstream success in the UK early in 1963. Lennon was on tour when his first son, Julian, was born in April. During their Royal Variety Show performance that was attended by the Queen Mother and other British royalty, Lennon poked fun at his audience: “For our next song, I’d like to ask for your help. For the people in the cheaper seats, clap your hands … and the rest of you, if you’ll just rattle your jewelery.”

After a year of Beatlemania in the UK, the group’s historic February 1964 US debut appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show marked their breakthrough to international stardom. A two-year period of constant touring, moviemaking, and songwriting followed, during which Lennon wrote two books, In His Own Write and A Spaniard in the Works.

Lennon grew concerned that fans who attended Beatles concerts were unable to hear the music above the screaming of fans, and that the band’s musicianship was beginning to suffer as a result. Lennon’s “Help!” expressed his own feelings in 1965: “I meant it … It was me singing ‘help'”

In March 1970 he was unknowingly introduced to LSD when a dentist, hosting a dinner party attended by Lennon, Harrison and their wives, spiked the guests’ coffee with the drug. When they wanted to leave, their host revealed what they had taken, and strongly advised them not to leave the house because of the likely effects. Later, in an elevator at a nightclub, they all believed it was on fire: “We were all screaming … hot and hysterical.”

In an interview in 1966, Lennon made a comment that would cause quite a stir in the U.S., but barely a blink in the UK …

“Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink … We’re more popular than Jesus now—I don’t know which will go first, rock and roll or Christianity.”

The furore that followed—burning of Beatles records, Ku Klux Klan activity and threats against Lennon—contributed to the band’s decision to stop touring. Their final commercial concert was on 29 August 1966, and Lennon missed touring so much that he considered leaving the band then. He was almost constantly under the influence of LSD throughout most of 1967.

Lennon left the Beatles in September 1969, and agreed not to inform the media while the group renegotiated their recording contract, but he was outraged that McCartney publicised his own departure on releasing his debut solo album in April 1970. Lennon’s reaction was, “Jesus Christ! He gets all the credit for it!” He later wrote, “I started the band. I disbanded it. It’s as simple as that.”

Lennon went on with his solo career, but I have neither time, space, nor inclination to chronicle at this time.  Fast forward to that historic day, December 8th, 1980.

Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono, and their young son, Sean, were living in New York City at the Dakota, an old Gothic fortress at 1 W. 72nd Street. John and Yoko, returning home from a photo shoot, were greeted by fans begging for autographs.  One of those fans was a man named Mark David Chapman, who handed over his copy of “Double Fantasy” for Lennon to sign.

After a busy day of recording, John and Yoko headed home that evening arriving at 10:45 p.m. Just as they were about to enter their home, Chapman, who had been hanging outside the Dakota all day, pulled out a gun and fired five times, hitting John Lennon four out of the five in the back and shoulder.  John Lennon was pronounced dead on arrival at Roosevelt Hospital at 11:07 p.m. After shooting Lennon, Chapman put down his gun, sat down and waited for police to arrive while reading J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye.

And that was 37 years ago yesterday.  A legacy?  Sure, but also a human being who was subject to the same temptations and human frailties as we all are.  The man created some great music, though, and I share with you perhaps his most famous solo from the album of the same name, Imagine.

 

Imagine there’s no heaven

It’s easy if you try

No hell below us

Above us only sky

Imagine all the people living for today

Imagine there’s no countries

It isn’t hard to do

Nothing to kill or die for

And no religion too

Imagine all the people living life in peace, you

You may say I’m a dreamer

But I’m not the only one

I hope some day you’ll join us

And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions

I wonder if you can

No need for greed or hunger

A brotherhood of man

Imagine all the people sharing all the world, you

You may say I’m a dreamer

But I’m not the only one

I hope some day you’ll join us

And the world will be as one

Have a great weekend, my friends!