January 20 – Blimey, A Beatles Sequel, Mr. Martin?

A Beatles sequel four years after the Fab Four had folded? Well, not quite but not too far off either. America hit the U.S. top 40 this day in 1975 with “Lonely People”, a song written as a response to a Beatles hit. Not only that but none other than the legendary George Martin, the Beatles producer, produced it for them.

It was written by Dan Peek of the band, with help from his wife Catherine. Peek was probably the most spiritual of the band’s trio, and though a multi-instrumentalist talent, he wrote less of their popular material than bandmates Dewey Bunnell or Gerry Beckley. However, he hit paydirt on this one, which he wrote as a response to the Beatles “Eleanor Rigby.”

Peek said he felt emotionally “lacerated” hearing “Eleanor Rigby” and its chorus of “All the lonely people, where do they all come from?, All the lonely people, where do they all belong?” It resonated with him because “I felt like a melancholy, lonely person” until he got married, at which point “I felt like I’d won.” So he wanted to write a sort of follow-up to the song, but with a much more optimistic outlook for the lonely.

Lonely People” was the second single off their fourth album, Holiday, after “Tin Man.” the album itself was a bit of a response to their previous album, Hat Trick, which was anything but for them. That one was something of a flop, and failed to yield a hit single unlike their first couple of albums…although they did have “Muskrat Love” on it, which would be a hit for the Captain & Tennille later. That record had been almost entirely done by them, from writing to playing to producing, and they and Warner Bros. agreed that perhaps the results weren’t optimal. So they were encouraged to get some new blood from outside and they thought big. Who better to produce than Martin?

Luckily, he agreed and recorded with them at his London studios. Peek says Martin “put everybody at ease”. Bunnell added “it was great working with George…we had that British sense of humor.” Despite being American citizens, all three of the America members were born over there. They said Martin helped them with the vocal arrangements, guitar work and came up with lots of all-round useful pointers that helped the album do far better than its predecessor – getting to #3 in the U.S. and Canada.

Lonely People” made it to #5 in the U.S., their fifth top 10 single in three years. Bizarrely that was higher than “Eleanor Rigby”, which officially made it to just #11 there. Oddly, despite the presence of George and their own origins, it didn’t do much in the UK, failing to make the charts in fact.

America would go on to have a few more hits in the decade and early-’80s, but some of those were without Peek. He quit in 1977 to embark on a solo career in Christian music. He re-wrote this song with a few lines about Jesus added and his version made #2 on the more selective “Christian Contemporary” charts. It was covered later by Jars of Clay, while Rickie Lee Jones did a more conventional cover of the America version.

Advertisement

January 6 – Fab Four Said Goodbye ’67, Hello ’68 With A Little Deja Vu

The Beatles started 1968 pretty much the way they’d left 1967 – high on top of the world. Very high perhaps! They hit #1 on the U.S. album chart for the 11th time this day 55 years back, with Magical Mystery Tour. Meanwhile, a few pages over in Billboard, they were still at #1 on the singles chart with “Hello Goodbye” from that album.

1967 had been very good to The Beatles, and they to their fans. They released the super-successful Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band and standalone hit singles like “All You Need Is Love” and “Penny Lane.” They had gotten over their little fall from grace in the States the year before (due to John’s comments about being “bigger than Jesus”) and were again loved…and selling records by the ton.

Perhaps though, something was gnawing at them. They were big, no question about it, but they perhaps had competition for the title of most popular group. There were those pesky Monkees, and their TV show, who’d scored the biggest-selling album of ’67 in North America, More of the Monkees! While no one’s suggested as much, one might wonder if that didn’t influence Paul’s thinking when in early-’67, he decided the Beatles should make a fab fantasy movie, where the band could, err “monkey” around. Enter Magical Mystery Tour.

Now the film itself was designed to be a psychedelic “romp” loosely based on old bus tours out of Liverpool McCartney remembered his family taking when he was little. The movie premiered on the BBC on Dec. 26th, 1967. The film was…not universally adored. As Pitchfork would later say, “this understated experimental film turned into a sapping distraction.” But the music, that was something else. They created six new songs for it, including the title track, “I am the Walrus”, “Fool on the Hill” and the George Harrison-penned “Blue Jay Way.” That is where the Magical Mystery Tour “album” gets confusing.

In Britain, it was released as a soundtrack, with the new songs on two singles, making a 19 minute EP. Over here however, Capitol decided to toss in some of the singles they’d released over the past year or so that hadn’t been on previous albums. So North Americans got a full, 37minute LP, with the movie songs on one side and “Hello Goodbye”, “Penny Lane”, “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “All You Need Is Love” and “Baby, You’re A Rich Man” on the other.

It’s perhaps surprising the music was as good. This was at the height of both the Beatles LSD use and their interest in Eastern spiritualism, and they were so off-putting to George Martin (the old-timer called it “disorganized chaos”) he more or less stepped aside and let his assistant Ken Scott, a sound engineer take over trying to rein the band in in the studio. And tensions were growing; Lennon was clearly miffed that Paul’s “Hello Goodbye” was chosen as the single instead of his “I Am the Walrus”.

But good it was. Critics were uncharacteristically kind to the record (the Beatles had fallen out of favor with some by then). Hit Parader, for example gushed “the beautiful Beatles do it again! Widening the gap between them and 80 scillion other groups,” while in their homeland, Melody Maker declared the EP “six tracks which no other pop group in the world could begin to approach.”

December 28 – Fab Four #1 At Being #1

A few weeks ago, Taylor Swift became just the third artist to have been #1 on Billboard‘s album charts for a cumulative 60 weeks, when her 2022 release Midnights went to the top. With it she surpassed Garth Brooks, who’d had albums on top for 52 weeks. The Rolling Stones, perhaps surprisingly had done so for only 38 weeks over their 60 years. So, like her or not, there’s no questioning Ms. Swift is the current Queen of Pop Music. But she’s got a ways to go still to top the “silver medalist” – Elvis Presley, who spent 67 weeks at #1. But it’s doubtful anyone will ever best The Beatles in that category. The Fab Four added to their total, which eventually tallied 132 weeks, on this day in 1968 when they scored their 11th #1 album of the ’60s – their self-titled one, generally referred to as “The White Album.” With it they ended ’68 on top, just as they had begun it, with Magical Mystery Tour. Remarkably, back in 1964, they had the top-seller for 30 different weeks, or over half the year. More than every other artist combined. That’s pop music dominance!

The White Album” is considered by some (like our regular reader and guest writer Power Pop Blog) as their best. Best or not, it was certainly their most ambitious and adventurous by far. For starters, it was a double album, rolling out 30 songs and 93 minutes of music for their fans. As such it was their most extensive album. George Harrison had begun to really show himself as a talented writer, writing four tunes on it including the classic “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” , which had Eric Clapton make a guest appearance on.

There was perhaps the most hard-rocking material of their career, in “Helter Skelter” , as well as more psychedelia they’d come to embrace on the previous couple of albums, with tunes like “Dear Prudence” and “Glass Onion.” There were lovely soft rock gems like “Blackbird” and “Julia”, some goofy pop ditties like “Ob la di, Ob la da”, and the downright weird… “Revolution 9”, which Yoko Ono had a hand in, for example.

The entire album wasn’t necessarily to everyone’s taste, but there was plenty of variety for any fan to find something they loved on it. Interestingly, one song that wasn’t on “The White Album” was the big hit they had simultaneously, “Hey Jude”. That was released as a standalone single, and keeping a trend that they’d begun on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, they in fact didn’t release any singles off it in their UK or in North America. “Ob la di, Ob la da” was put out as a 7” in Oceania, and it was a #1 hit in Australia and New Zealand, but the rest of us would have to wait eight years until it was released as a single, long after the band had broken up!

The White Album” would spend nine weeks at #1 in the U.S., and sell an estimated 17 million copies worldwide, third best in their catalog of studio albums behind Sgt. Pepper... and Abbey Road.

December 3 – Mojo’s #1 All-time Not Quite Good Enough For A Single?

A lot of artists can put out albums that have two or three really good singles on them. Not so many can put out albums that have two or three really good singles and have the rest of the record filled with tracks equally as good. Such was the magic of the Beatles at their prime, as we found out this day in 1965, when they put out Rubber Soul. It’s worth mentioning that was only five months after their previous release, Help!

Rubber Soul boasted two classic singles – “Nowhere Man” and “Michelle”. But many debate over whether these were even the highlights of the record, which also boasted “Norwegian Wood”, “You Won’t See Me” and a song Mojo once picked as the greatest ever – “In My Life.”

In My Life” was a John Lennon tune (*) and one he considered his “first real major piece of work. Up until then it had all been glib and throwaway.” Some might disagree with that, but few would argue that it was a vast maturing of sound from say “I Want To Hold Your Hand” only a couple of years earlier. Take for instance that nice little bit of keyboard work, which was actually played by George Martin, inspired by a work of Bach. Martin played it on a piano, but at Lennon’s suggestion, they ran the tape slow while recording then sped it up, resulting in a unique sound many thought was a harpsichord. Even though he’d refer to it as “the pot album” because of their habits at the time, Lennon said compared to earlier works, “we were more precise about making the album.”

The lyrics too reflected a new direction and serious introspection. They came about when a journalist asked John why he didn’t write songs about himself or his own life. John rose to the challenge and created a poignant look back at his life in Liverpool with reflections about his friends and relatives like “some are dead and some are living, in my life I’ve loved them all.”

The song is considered a classic, and with good reason. Rolling Stone‘s consistently rated it among the top 100 greatest songs of all-time and pick it as the Beatles fifth best. Canada’s CBC list it among their 50 best. Yet for all that, it was never released as a single, even as a b-side. Such was the strength of their catalog back then. Curiously, it is certified gold in the UK, solely on the strength of digital sales.

And you might be wondering what that * was for earlier. Well, it was widely recognized as a Lennon song, but as was their agreement back then, it was credited to Lennon & McCartney. The pair shared credit no matter which of them did most of the creation. But which one did has been a bit of a controversy around “In My Life.” Lennon certainly did the lyrics, but who really wrote the tune is a mystery; both claim to. McCartney said of it “I liked ‘In My Life.’ Those were John’s words and I wrote the tune for it.” He said he wrote it as something of an homage to Smokey Robinson’s writing. Lennon however disagreed, saying he wrote it primarily although Paul helped finish the bridge off. So serious is that debate that Harvard University had a study to run computer analytics; they found it was over 80% likely John wrote the tune.

John or Paul or both, it’s a great tune. Another mark of that – artists ranging from Johnny Cash to Ozzy Osbourne to Bette Midler have covered it!

August 8 – The Day A London Crosswalk Became A Tourist Attraction

If you happened to be in London 53 years ago this morning, you might have seen rock and roll history being made out on the street. One of rock’s most famous album covers was created on this day in 1969…just by having The Beatles walk across the street.

The Fab Four were close to wrapping up the recording of the last album they’d make, Abbey Road and of course Apple Records were anxious to strike while the iron was hot and get it done and out to the fans who were perhaps starting to wane just a wee bit that year. The recording was been done at the EMI Studios located on Abbey Road , not far from Grove End Road and Regent’s Park in London’s north end.

On this particular day, it’s said they were working on the John Lennon song “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” , which he’d written about Yoko. The album was close to completion but lacked a name and image. They’d had a tentative idea of calling it Everest but when the label decided that the appropriate cover should be them in the Himalayas, the band changed its mind and opted for the simple one they used. Given Abbey Road to work with, creative designer John Koss came up with the idea of having them walk across the real Abbey Road. That was easy and didn’t require a lot of extra time spent together, so John, Paul, George and Ringo liked it.

That put the pressure on photographer Iain MacMillan, who was hired to do the shot. Since it was a real road through a busy city, and the band were at each other’s throats and wanted to be done with it, he had to be quick. City police gave him 10 minutes during which they’d shut down the road to stop traffic and let the cover take shape. He had them walk across several times, and after climbing up a small ladder to get the right angle, took just six photos. Paul looked at the contact sheet through a loupe and picked the one which would make history.

The now-iconic cover came out more or less just like Kosh had imagined, including the lack of info. It was unusual to say the least, in lacking the band name or title on the front. The record company was irate apparently, but Kosh insisted the band was so well known no title was necessary for fans to recognize it for what it was.

He was right of course. When the album came out about a month or so later, it was an instant success and well-liked for some of the standout tunes, including the single “Come Together” (lyrics of which had just been written by Lennon during the bed-in he and Ono had in Montreal) and George’s best contributions to the band catalog, “Here Comes the Sun” and “Something.” He also recorded a demo for “All Things Must Pass” for the record, but it was turned down and was made into the title track of his mammoth post-Beatles solo debut.

Now, while some merely saw it as a cover photo, showing the band members and what they looked like in the here and now, others read into it much more deeply. There was already a conspiracy theory saying that Paul had died and been replaced by an impostor and the cover fueled the fire. The “Paul is Dead” lobby pointed to the VW Beetle in the background. The license plate had the number/letter combo “28IF” as a part of it… because Paul would have been “28 IF” he had lived they suggested!

More telling to them, the outfits the Beatles wore for it. To them, it suggested the imagery of a funeral. John led the way dressed in white… a priest or minister. Then came Ringo, in a black suit…like an undertaker. Trailing was George, dressed casually in jeans… ready to dig a grave. And then there was the third one, Paul (or the impostor Paul, they believed.) He was barefoot… like a corpse ready to be buried. And what’s more, he was holding a cigarette (note that if you have some of the newer copies of it, the smoke has been airbrushed out) …with his right hand! Since Paul was left, they theorized that the real Paul would always hold a cigarette with his writing hand. Wrong hand, wrong Paul. Simple.

Of course, to most it now seems “rubbish” as the Brits would say. MacMillan has shown some of the alternate shots taken which show Paul wearing sandals for other photos; he was apparently hot and found the footware too tight and kicked them off for a couple of photos. And when the Beatles played on the Apple roof months later, Paul was playing his bass left-handed as always which would be very difficult for a right-handed impostor the suspicious believed had taken over.

A fun story for a great album, and a photo which lives on almost as strongly as the music on it. Not only did the Red Hot Chili Peppers imitate it for a cover on one of their records, pop icons from The Simpsons to Lego characters have taken their own take on it, and the zebra-striped crosswalk is one of the most famous and popular tourist sites in Britain for music fans to this day.

Maybe it’s a good thing Ian wasn’t given the whole day to get the photo.

August 5 – Beatles Set Sail With ’66’s Super-single

If about four years in it seemed like The Beatles were a band for everyone, the Fab Four seemed to want to make sure no one felt excluded. Not even little children. So they set out to remedy that possible previous oversight on this day in 1966 with the release of the single “Yellow Submarine.” It was the first single off the great Revolver album which came out the same day.

Yellow Submarine” was different from their past hits in a couple of notewothy ways. First, although it was written primarily by Paul McCartney, it was the first one of their hits sung by Ringo Starr (and ended up being by far the biggest hit he’d sing for them.) Secondly, and obviously it was a rather silly or childish tune, sounding quite unlike most of what was on hit radio at the time. Which, perhaps it could be said was very characteristic of The Beatles in the mid-’60s: going where no band had gone before.

Although credited to Lennon & McCartney, and even though some of the music for the verse part was conceived by John, it was clearly a Paul song. Lennon later said of it, “it’s Paul’s baby…Paul’s inspiration, Paul’s title.” McCartney said he began it “thinking of a song for Ringo…so I wrote it not so rangey in the vocal, then started making a story. Sort of an ancient mariner (story).” He adds it “began as being about different colored submarines, but evolved to include only a yellow one…it’s a happy place. We were trying to write a children’s song. There’s nothing more to be read into it.” One person who actually added to the lyrics was Donovan, who was hanging out with Paul and suggested the “sky of blue, sea of green” line. Donovan himself would have a hit later in the year with another sunny-colored song, “Mellow Yellow.”

They recorded the song in five takes in May of ’66 and then let George Martin go to work six days later, adding special sound effects. Martin’s experience doing comedy records for The Goon Show helped out as he was a master of sound effects. Some examples included having John blow through a straw into a bowl of water for gurgling water sounds, having studio crew whip chains around for the nautical feel and getting Ringo to yell about “drop the cables” outside the studio door to get the faraway effect. A number of visitors added some backing vocals including Patti Boyd, Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones and their friend Marianne Faithful.

It was a bold and unusual choice for a first single off an album, but it worked. With the great “Eleanor Rigby” on the b-side , it hit #1 in the UK (their 11th chart-topping single in their homeland) and Canada and a respectable #2 in the U.S., where it sold well enough to give them their 15th gold single in about three years. And so enduring was the popularity for them that it was turned into an animated movie two years later, and re-released on a soundtrack to that.

The real diehard fan might want to visit Liverpool and John Lennon Airport. There one will find a 51-foot metal yellow submarine placed outside in honor of the song, and the city’s most famous entertainers.

July 23 – Baseball Has Its All Star Game; Music Its All Starr Band

What’s a great drummer with years of hits behind him but no band to play them with anymore to do? Well, if you’re Ringo Starr and it’s 1989, you “went through my phone book, rang up a few friends and asked them if they’d like to have fun in the summer.”

Ringo needs no introduction of course, but by then he’d fallen into the realm of “what ever happened to?” shows. He’d last put out an album in 1983, and last hit the charts two years before that with the song “Wrack My Brain,” which only barely scraped into the North American top 40. But he wanted to play and realized there was a huge market wanting to see him play some of his own hits as well as Beatles music. Thus was born the idea of his All Starr Band, which premiered this night 33 years back at the Park Central Ampitheatre in Dallas.

Rolling Stone once noted “ultimately what’s most impressive about Ringo Starr isn’t what he’s been, but rather who he is – the man’s great heart and soul, his wit and wisdom.” A fair assessment (one might also add in his astounding energy even to this day!), and no doubt made it very easy for him to round up some friends who indeed wanted to have some fun with him that summer. His idea was rather a clever and new one. Instead of just recruiting new members to replace John, Paul and George and play Beatles and Ringo songs, why not get friends who are great musicians in their own right and let them play some of their own material in the show as well? It would be difficult for any musician to turn that down, when asked by someone like Ringo. But still, apparently Todd Rundgren and Peter Frampton did say no, but only because of prior engagements. Both joined later editions of the All Starr Band.

But he had plenty of star talent with him for the ’89 tour. Although there were one or two occasional fill-ins for a night or two, the opening night lineup was pretty much the standard for the tour : “fifth Beatle” Billy Preston on keyboards and acting as “music director”, Dr.John on piano, drummer Levon Helm and bassist Rick Danko from The Band, well-respected session drummer Jim Keltner (who’d played with the likes of John Lennon, Roy Orbison and the Bee Gees before), guitar legend Joe Walsh, and the E Street Band’s “big man,” saxophonist Clarence Clemons as well as its guitarist Nils Lofgren. Of course, in the spirit of having fun, several of the artists got to change instruments for a song or two; Helm played the mandolin at times, Lofgren the accordion and Walsh did a tasteful piano bit on “Desperado.” That being typical of the non-Ringo songs covered (it should be noted that while Ringo sang his own songs, obviously, and Beatles ones, he let the other guys step up to the mic to sing their own hits) ; the fourth song of the night was “such A Night” by Dr. John, who also did his ’70s hit “Right Place, Wrong Time”. Walsh closed the main set with an odd “Rocky Mountain Way” which included some of the traditional “Amazing Grace.” Nils Lofgren sang “Shine Silently,” while fans found that Clemons can sing when he’s not blowing on the sax. Along with Billy Preston, the “big man” sang “You’re A Friend of Mine,” a tune he’d done with Jackson Browne in ’85. The Band were represented by songs like “The Weight” (Levon helm singing) and “The Shape I’m In” (Rick Danko.) But doubtless the highlight for most was Ringo doing his thing. He opened the show with “It Don’t Come Easy,” followed by the “No No Song” and then the first Beatles number of the night, “Yellow Submarine.” He’d run through others like “Act Naturally,” “You’re Sixteen” and “Back Off Boogaloo” and come on back with “Photograph,” “You’re Sixteen” again and “With a Little Help From My Friends” as an encore.

The show was by all accounts a major hit, and he continued on doing 34 shows in 29 cities by September 4, when he finished it in L.A. Among the cities were six Canadian ones. They resumed at the end of October and played a number of shows in Japan, including two at the famous Budokan Theater.

While his setlist stayed reasonably constant through the tour, he added in “Get Back”, with Billy Preston singing, for the Japanese shows. Along the way, he periodically had other friends drop by. For instance, at a Holmden, NewJersey show in August, two more E Street Band members showed up. Roy Bittan played some keyboards for Joe Walsh and none other than Bruce Springsteen himself came by to play guitar on four songs. Paul Shaffer came to the final L.A. show to play keyboards and their finale saw actors John Candy and Chevy Chase singing backup!

No doubt it made it even harder for other musicians to resist when Starr came calling in future years. Among the long and talented list of musicians who’ve worked in his All Starr Band through the decades are the aforementioned Frampton and Rundgren, plus Randy Bachman, Dave Edmunds, Mark Farner of Grand Funk, Greg Lake, Graham Gouldman from 10CC, Howard Jones and one female All Starr – Sheila E.

Ringo’s back at it this summer, his age of 82 not standing in the way of a good show. This time he’s joined by Men At Work’s Colin Hay, Edgar Winter, drummer Gregg Bissonette (David Lee Roth’s band among others), Hamish Stuart of the Average White Band and Warren Ham of Kansas who plays everything from keyboards to flutes. By all accounts the show’s are wonderful and high energy, and they resume Sep. 5 in Massachusetts and work their way west through the East coast then the Canadian mid-section, to L.A. On Oct. 16 and then two shows in Mexico.

I love being in a band,” Ringo declares brightly. And we love you being in a band, Ringo, I’m sure we agree.

July 15 – Elton Began His Radio Reign 50 Years Ago

Maybe this was the day Elton John became a superstar 50 years ago. Because it was on this day in 1972, Honky Chateau, his sixth album hit #1 in the U.S. It was his first, but most definitely not his last chart-topper in the huge market where he first really made a name for himself.

Mind you, Elton was already well-known and a star on the rise by then. The previous year, his Madman Across the Water hit the American top 10 and delivered the now-classic “Tiny Dancer”; that came months after his first major hit song, “Your Song.” But with Honky Chateau, and its singles “Rocketman” and “Honky Cat”, his popularity was taken to the next level.

To get to #1, it had to dethrone the Rolling Stones, knocking their Exile on Main Street from the top spot. It would spend five weeks – most of that summer – as the top-seller in the land before Chicago finally knocked it out of #1. But he wouldn’t be out of the top spot for long. In fact Honky Chateau was the first of six-straight albums he put out to go to #1 in the U.S. It was followed by Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only the Piano Player , Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Caribou, his Greatest Hits package, Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy and Rock of the Westies. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road in fact was the top album of all of 1974; Greatest Hits #1 for 1975. In fact, by the end of 1975, he’d spent a remarkable 39 weeks at #1. In that time span, he put out 14 hit singles, plus “Candle in the Wind” which of course later became a smash hit in the ’90s.

How does that compare to other all-time greats? Well, it doesn’t eclipse the records of the Beatles. They put together a string of nine-straight #1 albums, from Beatles 65 through “the White Album”; the streak only ended with the Yellow Submarine soundtrack which got stalled at #2. But compared to his contemporaries, Elton was king of the hill. For instance, the Eagles, perhaps the next-biggest act of the ’70s, only had four #1s total, including their Greatest Hits. Later on, the “King of Pop”, Michael Jackson took his Thriller to #1 (his first) as well as his next four, upto and including 2001’s Invincible. Neither Bruce Springsteen, nor Madonna equaled it either.

All good things must come to an end though, and for Elton it was his late-1976 Blue Moves, an album generally regarded as only “so-so”. It topped out at #3 and it would be 18 years until he had another #1, that being the Lion King soundtrack.

July 7 – Nothing Opaque About Summer Of Love Anthem

Happy birthday to Ringo Starr, who turns 82 today. We hope he’ll be having a happy day and perhaps taking it easy…because 82 or not, he’s back on the road this fall with an extensive tour set to play North American places as far-flung as Clearwater, Florida, Laval, Quebec and Mexico City! No surprise given the international adoration and respect the Beatles earned. Speaking of which, The Beatles were on top of their game this day in 1967.

Riding high on the album charts with Sgt.Pepper… they released the “Anthem of the Summer of Love” this day as standalone single. “All You Need Is Love” would go on to hit #1 in the UK, U.S., Canada and many other countries and become their 17th gold or platinum single in the States. The song had been premiered on TV in June as part of the ambitious Our World. That was an unprecedented six hour show taking place around the world and broadcast via satellite to over 20 nations. While things like Marshall McLuhan being interviewed in Toronto and subway construction taking place in Tokyo were interesting, The Beatles were the highlight to most and wrote the song especially for it. Due to the international nature of the show, they wanted something easy to understand and got it. As Brian Epstein says, “the nice thing about it is that it cannot be misinterpreted.” John Lennon had written the lyrics, saying “I’m a revolutionary artist. My art is dedicated to change.”

His hand-written lyrics were sold for 1 million pounds (about $1.75 million today) in 2005. Although it was only a single at the time, the song later found its way onto their Yellow Submarine soundtrack and Magical Mystery Tour in North America.

June 26 – Title Explains How They Did So Much, Perhaps

Their seemingly superhuman musical abilities were matched only by their superhuman energy levels. Or so it seemed of The Beatles in 1964. They could write and record songs at the drop of a hat, tour the world, and become film stars to boot during their off-hours! Only four months after exploding on the U.S. scene via the Ed Sullivan Show, they were out with their fourth North American album, A Hard Day’s Night. This came a few weeks before the opening of the film of the same name, in which they starred, and two weeks before Brits themselves (as well as the rest of Europe and Australia) got their copies. However, as was usually the case with Beatles releases back then, it was a little confusing and the Europeans probably found the wait was worth it because the American and European albums were quite different!

The British one (with the familiar blue-trimmed cover and a grid of 20 B&W headshots of the band ) contained more original songs, 13 in all. The North American issue, the only one which came out on United Artists, had a red-trimmed cover, with larger, individual photos of each band member, had eight of the same songs plus four instrumentals scored by George Martin that were from the actual film. The Brits got added songs “Any Time At All,” “Things We Said Today”, “When I Get Home” (the three which would come out later in the summer on Something New here) plus “You Can’t Do That” and “I’ll Be Back.”

What didn’t differ was that no matter where you bought it, it contained some future Beatles classics and was their first entry they’d written entirely themselves – or actually, John and Paul had. It was very much a Lennon & McCartney vehicle, even if George did play a more prominent role with his Rickenbacker 12-string than before and get to sing “I’m Happy Just To Dance With You.” Ringo’s only contribution writing-wise, seemed to be originating the title, through a “Ringo-ism” someone at the record company had overheard.  Among the featured songs were the iconic title track, “And I Love Her”, “Tell Me Why” and the already-released single “Can’t Buy Me Love.”

Not surprisingly, the album and the single “A Hard Day’s Night” hit #1 in North America, the UK, Australia, Germany and quite a few other places; “And I Love Her” was released as a single in North America, and was a rarity for them then in, while not flopping, not being a chart topper (it hit #15 in the States, #12 in Canada.)

Of course, the album’s importance became clearer as time went by; it represented a leap forward for them and pointed the direction to what they’d be doing soon with records like Rubber Soul. Both Rolling Stone and allmusic rank it a perfect 5-star rating; Q magazine put it at #5 on their list of greatest British albums of all-time. But perhaps the best summation of the record comes from the book Pop Music From Bill Haley to Beyonce : “if you had to explain the Beatles impact to a stranger, you’d play them the soundtrack to A Hard Day’s Night.”