Monthly Archives: February 2012

TMBP Extra: Oscar night

Not initially intended as a feature film, Let it Be was indeed eventually released in theaters in May 1970, more than a year and three months since the end of the sessions. Paul became the final member to quit the band a month earlier, and famously, none of the Beatles attended the world premiere in New York nor the UK premiere.

By the time the subsequent Oscars rolled around, on April 15, 1971, the Beatles were, well, really broken up. George and Paul each had No. 1 hits in either the US the UK or both (All Things Must Pass LP and “My Sweet Lord” single for the former, McCartney LP for the latter), John would have his first later in the year (Imagine LP and single) and Ringo had just released his biggest hit to date, “It Don’t Come Easy.”

Also, everyone was suing each other.

But ancient history was relevant to the Academy,  who gave The Beatles — whatever that was anymore — the award for Best Music, Original Song Score over the soundtracks to The Baby Maker, A Boy Named Charlie Brown (one of this author’s chidhood favorites), Darling Lili and Scrooge.

Of course, the Beatles wouldn’t be at the awards, to pick up what would be their lone Academy Award (A Hard Day’s Night had two nominations in 1964, lost both). That honor would go to Quincy Jones, who had already produced a track on Ringo’s Sentimental Journey and would more than 10 years later work with Paul.

Paul’s absence, apparently, wasn’t for lack of trying by Jones, who said he visited Macca — presumably while he was recording RAM in New York — and tried to convince him to come out for the ceremony.

Paul would later get two nominations as a solo artist for best song (“Live and Let Die” in 1973 and “Vanilla Sky” in 2002), but he went 0-for-2.

And with that, John, Paul, George and Ringo’s trophy cases only had the lone Oscar for Let it Be — provided Quincy Jones gave it to them.

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TMBP Extra: Twickenham to close

Interrupting the 1969 timeline for some news from 2012.

Twickenham film studios to close (guardian.co.uk)

Twickenham Film Studios, which have been used for films as diverse as Roman Polanski’s Repulsion, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner and current Oscars hopeful My Week with Marilyn, are to be closed just one year ahead of the facility’s centennial anniversary.

Administrator Gerald Krasner said the business was losing money and would be wound down between now and June, with half of its 17 employees having already left. It was unlikely to be maintained as a film studio by new owners, he said. “We are selling it on,” Mr Krasner told the BBC News website. “Everyone will then be paid in full.”

Twickenham opened in 1913 as St Margaret’s Studios and was given its current moniker in 1929 by one of its most famous owners, British film magnate Julius Hagen. Built on the site of a former ice rink, it was the largest studio in the country during the era and is still considered one of the UK’s pre-eminent film-making facilities alongside Pinewood and Shepperton studios.

The Beatles’ “Revolution” promo, filmed Sept. 1968

It’s also, of course, where the Beatles filmed parts of A Hard Day’s Night, Help!, the “Hey Jude” and “Revolution” promos and the first half of Let it Be.

It’s back to the timeline next time around, when we pick up where we left off on Jan. 3, 1969.

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Jan. 3, 1969: No little thing

Just as the band was trying to find an agreeable venue for the concert that would cap the sessions, they likewise were searching for a setlist.

The new songs they were rehearsing were a given — at this early point, it was obvious “I’ve Got a Feeling” and “Don’t Let Me Down” were being worked on to reach that payable point and passed the generally accepted bar of “fast” ones good for a live show.

In a curious admission, George expresses his worry about putting on a TV show of all new songs. Of course, by that point,  the critical failure Magical Mystery Tour (the film) was a little over a year old, and it wouldn’t be seen in the United States until 1974, supposedly because of the negative criticism surrounding it.

But they’re still the Beatles! The White Album was in the middle of a nine-week run atop the charts in the U.S., en route to becoming their best-selling record (each sale counted as two). “Hey Jude” was the No. 1 song in the U.S. as recently as six weeks earlier after spending nine atop the Billboard charts, and it was still sitting at No. 15.

Also, they’re the Beatles.

Yet George was still concerned about how new songs would be received.

So of all the songs, George suggests an album track from 1964’s Beatles For Sale.

“We’re not going to do any oldies but goldies for the show?” George asks.

“Dunno, could be” says Paul.

“Cuz I’d like to do it,” George continues, agreeing with someone who says “it would be nice.”

“And also from the selling point of view, in America … maybe it’s all new, or maybe… If they had the album and then saw it, [the concert]  a week after. But just to hit… the first initial thing of us singing all completely new … they need something to identify with apart from us. It would be nice to start the show or end the show with a couple of… (then he either cuts himself off of the sound cuts out.)

I’ll tell you which is a good one..

Then George starts playing the beginning to “Every Little Thing.” Paul, the song’s author, joins in with little gusto.

(I can’t find a copy freely available online, but if you have Let It Be … Naked, it appears about seven minutes in on the bonus disc).

So of all songs George suggests would be a good kick-start — or capper — to the big concert, it’s not “Hey Jude,” not “Back in the USSR” — which George had been riffing on leading into this suggestion — not his own recent classic “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”  or slightly older “Taxman.”  He could have suggested “All My Loving,” which opened up the first Ed Sullivan appearance and won over the United States instantly. Or for the idea of going full circle, the first song off their first album in “I Saw Her Standing There.”

But instead it was “Every Little Thing.” A great song! But probably just a tick more familiar as the other new songs they’d debut.

I don’t question the choice from a standpoint of quality. It’s just surprising. And I wonder if it would have done anything to “ease” American audiences.

As it happened, the Beatles would, in fact, find an oldie of theirs to play at the concert that ended the sessions, and they dusted it off earlier in the day on Jan. 3. But while it was an old Beatles song, it wasn’t something that would be at all familiar to fans…

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TMBP Extra: Not Fade Away

Three years before the Beatles breathed life into music was the day the music died: Feb. 3, 1959, when Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper were killed in a plane crash, along with pilot Roger Peterson.

The influence of Buddy Holly & the Crickets on the Beatles can’t be understated; from their sound to their name and even their look in some ways (John felt OK to wear glasses), they were true inspirations.

The Quarrymen recorded “That’ll Be the Day” as their first acetate, and later the Beatles would tackle “Words of Love” for Beatles for Sale. “Crying, Waiting, Hoping,” was also done for the BBC. Paul, famously, went on to buy the rights to Buddy Holly’s songs in 1975, and both he and John Lennon — likewise, a major admirer — covered his songs during their solo careers.

And of course, Holly would be covered during the Get Back sessions.  So as we remember Buddy Holly, enjoy the Beatles remembering him, through his music. Worth noting, perhaps, that unlike so many of the other covers they’d touch on during the sessions, they often completed the Holly covers, or at least offer more than a few-seconds snippet.

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