‘Give Peace A Chance’, 50 years young this year

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(photo by Roy Kerwood, May 1969)

I may be cheating, ’cause technically this isn’t a live number at all. It wasn’t even recorded at the same bed-in. The first bed-in, immortalized in the soon-to-be borning single “The Ballad of John and Yoko”, began March 25 to 31st in Room 902 at the Amsterdam Hilton, the Netherlands, five days after their wedding in Gibraltar. Media saturation was the key, bringing in TV and film interviewers, or anyone with a camera or tape recorder to hear their message of peace. Of course it was all recorded and released as film and audio.

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For the second bed-in they settled into Room 1742, Hotel Reine-Elizabeth in Montreal, Quebec. From May 26 to June 2nd, they again hosted radio and TV broadcasters, journalists and other visitors, and on the second-to-last day recorded one of the most enduring peace anthems of our generation in five minutes flat. It was taped on borrowed equipment with John on acoustic guitar and a host of friends chanting along to the chorus. A simple song with a powerful and irresistible message. Soon it would be established as part of John’s concert entourage, in one form or another.

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Single release date: July 4, 1969 (UK)

Available on: Apple single 1809, anthologized on Shaved Fish (1975), The John Lennon Collection (1982 Geffen), Lennon Legend (1997), Working Class Hero: the Definitive Lennon (2003), Power to the People-The Hits (2010). A rehearsal recording was released on John Lennon Anthology, CD-1 Ascot (1998).

Selected audio highlights from the first bed-in from Amsterdam comprised Side Two of their last experimental LP, The Wedding Album, released November 7, 1969.

Filmed highlights: Honeymoon (1969, 60 minutes), Imagine: John Lennon (1988), John and Yoko: the Bed-In (1990 home video), Bed Peace (2011)

Links: 

http://www.edmontonjournal.com/Kerwood+took+this+1969+photo+John+Lennon+Yoko+record+Give+Peace+Chance+their+famous+Peace+Queen+Elizabeth+Hotel+Montreal+Timothy+Leary+bottom+photo+Tommy+Smothers+playing+guitar+with+Lennon+Teenage+photographer+Kerwood+event+Montreal+radio/9521595/story.html

The Beatles Bible:

Give Peace A Chance

 

December 11, 1968 The Dirty Mac at the Rock and Roll Circus

In what might be the last act of the Beatles-vs-Stones rivalry, following a year after Magical Mystery Tour bombed, the Rolling Stones unleashed a literal circus of their own. A better production was presented to all, though it wouldn’t see the light of day till 1996. The Rock and Roll Circus incorporated actual elements from Sir Robert Fossett’s Circus, including acrobats, a fire-eater and a trained tiger, for starters, along with Jethro Tull, coming off their first album, Taj Mahal, The Who and Marianne Faithful. Also debuting for the first and only time was the Dirty Mac, a super group headlined by Beatle John Lennon.

Directing chores fell to Michael Lindsay-Hogg, who’d already helmed many of the Beatles’ promotional films (“Rain”, “Paperback Writer”, “Hey Jude” and “Revolution”), and was doomed to direct the Get Back/ Let It Be film. The irony is not lost here as this special was filmed partly as a promotional  tool for the Stones’ just-released record Begger’s Banquet. When his turn came, John and Mick Jagger sat through an awkward introductory segment wherein Mick almost completely loses his accent. Then John joins his mates live before an invited studio audience.

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For this two-song set John assembled a stellar backing combo: Eric Clapton on lead guitar, Mitch Mitchell from the Jimi Hendrix Experience on drums, with Keith Richards from the Stones on bass and John on rhythm guitar. And what’s that black bag moving on the floor?…Oh right, that’s Yoko.

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First up is a thumping rendition of “Yer Blues”, fresh from The White Album which had only just arrived in record stores three weeks before. This was a rockin’ cover considering that, for the most part it’s clearly not the same players. First John takes the solo, then Clapton steps in, and never was a sideman more apropos to a blues rendition.

The Dirty Mac circus

Now joined by ‘perpetual violinist’ Ivry Gitlis, Yoko Ono emerges from her bag after this first song for what starts out as a pleasant little jam. Yoko’s screams don’t even start until they’re a minute and a half in. Luckily they only had to jam for four and a half minutes. Provisionally titled “Her Blues” by John, it wound up on the eventual album release as “Whole Lotta Yoko”.

By the time the Stones took the stage it was 2 am and most of the studio audience had left. Even so, John introduced them with a sly “And now…”, at which point they jump right into “Jumping Jack Flash”. And if some of the audience had left, a lot of those who were left, in their fancy dress and red or yellow blankets were on their feet dancing. Now all that was left was to prepare for broadcast.

This gathering of the stars would not see the light for another couple of decades, however. One story says the Stones felt upstaged by the Who’s performance of “A Quick One While He’s Away”. Another is that they were disappointed in their own performance. That’s a hard one to swallow since, despite the fact that the Stones were exhausted and quite honestly on drugs, they put on a pretty damn good show. One possible reason that rises above the others might be that this was the last public appearance of Brian Jones with the group. The less said the better, for though he was present, well…apart from his slide guitar on “No Expectations”, most of his contributions were inaudible. In an odd turn of events, neither Brian nor John would be around to see this special released to the public.

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Available on: The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus, released on VHS, laser disc and CD, October 1996, following two days of screenings at the Walter Reade Theater during the New York Film Festival. The DVD followed in October 2004. This was reissued as The Rock and Roll Circus Expanded Edition 2-CD set & The Deluxe CD-DVD-Blue-Ray Edition in April 2019.

Note: the reissue includes unreleased tracks such as “Revolution Rehearsal”, a disjointed uptempo version of “Revolution 1” from The White Album, which slaps the ‘all right’ refrain on top instead of the bottom of the song; a “Warmup Jam” and an unused second take of “Yer Blues” where Clapton lays down an even bluesier twang.

 

Mikes’ latest book, FATHERS AND DAUGHTERS, is available at amazon.com.

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Mike’s Amazon page:

https://www.amazon.com/Mr.-Michael-Robbins/e/B00CMHSMYA

 

March 2, 1969 Lady Mitchell Hall, Cambridge University UK–“Cambridge 1969”

For a man who became understandably reluctant to perform as a Beatle, John Lennon managed to put in plenty of time as a solo performer. Even more astounding is how much live material was actually available in his own lifetime. And to show how much time I have to muck around I propose to review said performances. I will not be including John’s all-star 31st birthday party, as while he played a range of songs, this was done for the entertainment of friends and well-wishers, besides not qualifying as a public concert.

Now I might have said that John clocked in an amazing amount of time as a solo performer. I never said a lot of it was listenable. We can attribute that in part to the avante garde leanings of Yoko Ono. While such screeching might appeal to an undisciplined art student, it is certainly less tolerable to the average listener. I’m not trying to slander Yoko; when she wants to, her singing voice can be gorgeous. “Who Has Seen the Wind” is hauntingly beautiful. Say what you will about the Some Time in New York City LP, the most enjoyable cuts were often those by Yoko–‘Angela” or ‘Sisters, O Sisters” for example. “Cambridge 1969” is not in the same category.

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“Cambridge 1969” isn’t technically a John song at all; it was Yoko who was invited to perform at Lady Mitchell Hall, Cambridge early in 1969, for an audience of 500. But John sat in on the set, in the shadows in the back. I hope Yoko had plenty of water around ’cause she put her throat through a wringer with this piece. This ‘song’ was seemingly designed to torture small dog’s ears. Yoko opens with a short, almost shy introduction–then wails like a banshee for the next 57 seconds, pausing for breath before continuing on. John was there basically to provide guitar feedback, which had none of the resonance he gave to the opening of “I Feel Fine”.

john and yoko cambridge

We’re about nine minutes in before the feedback gets interesting, rising in pitch till at 9:50 it’s like a fire alarm going off. Only towards the end were they joined by a saxophonist and percussionist. This goes on for the entire first side of the Life With the Lions LP. God help the poor bastards–I mean, the student audience who sat in to endure 26 & ½ minutes of Yoko shrieking like a yowling cat.

 

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Available on: Unfinished Music #2: Life With the Lions

Release date: May 9, 1969 (UK)

The Beatles’ Bible entry:

John Lennon and Yoko Ono perform in Cambridge

 

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Mikes’ latest book, FATHERS AND DAUGHTERS, is available at amazon.com.

Mike’s Amazon page:

https://www.amazon.com/Mr.-Michael-Robbins/e/B00CMHSMYA

 

The spirit of Woodstock should animate us all

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We don’t need a Woodstock 50. Right now we are so divided, so unrighteous as a so-called Christian people, we could never pull it off. You know what, yes, it was messy, there was drugs in the juice you drank and frankly once it was over, Yasgur’s Farm probably looked like a war zone. It actually happened in Bethel, NY, 43 miles from the actual Woodstock. And it was the last time such an event could happen. But god, think about it.

Damn right, just stop, think about this. At its peak there were 400,000 young people gathered in its muddy fields. Apart from two people who died {one from being accidentally run over by a tractor and the other from ‘insulin usage’], there was no violence, no murders–but there were two births. Almost half a million kids got together for four days of peace and music. I would challenge any Trump rally to boast as much.

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Never mind, they can’t. Their forte is rancor and racism. Every time I put on Crosby Stills Nash & Young’s song “Woodstock”, I repeat it, at least four times. One, because I love it and two, I think we could all do with getting back to the land, back to the ideal. It became part of a story I once wrote about a concert, a very special concert. I was five years old when Woodstock happened, but that whole ’60’s vibe kind of informs the writing I do, that spirit of unity and brotherhood that crossed artifices such as race and gender.

I’d probably sell more books if I had pursued the whole Dystopian Future model. It certainly worked for the Hunger Games. I don’t think we need that. We’re already heading for a dystopian future as far as I’m concerned. You don’t have a future if its built on cynicism. All you wind up with is…well, what we’ve got now. I don’t want the people I write about to be in a world so f—ed up that I wouldn’t want to live in it. We have to believe we’re better than this. If we don’t believe we can make things better [and I’m speaking broadly here], we’ll never work to make it happen. And then we might as well all be the mindless drones our rich oligarchs expect us to be.

Naïve? Perhaps, but until something better comes along I’ll stick with it.

 

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Mikes’ latest book, FATHERS AND DAUGHTERS, is available at amazon.com.

Mike’s Amazon page:

https://www.amazon.com/Mr.-Michael-Robbins/e/B00CMHSMYA

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Elton John & John Lennon live: Yeah, but what about the show?

So many blogs have been written about the last legendary concert appearance by John Lennon, alongside Elton John in Madison Square Garden on Thanksgiving Day, November 28, 1974. Clearly you’d think there was nothing new to say. The problem with all these pieces is that they all say THE SAME DAMN THINGS–it’s John Lennon’s last live show, he and Yoko got back together after the show, he’d done it after a bet over his hit single “Whatever Gets You Through the Night”, yada yada. No one ever talks about the actual performance.

Ya know what? I’m not going over all that crap again. We know it. I’m going to leave some links at the end of this blog, if that’s the kind of background you want. This is my blog, my observations. The rest you can easily find elsewhere.

Among the frequent hand-me-downs from my brother Kenny was an Elton John Band single from 1975, “Philadelphia Freedom” (MCA-40364), a damn good song in its own right. The B-side, ‘Recorded Live’ the year before, was “I Saw Her Standing There”. Beneath the song title in small letters it read ‘Featuring John Lennon’.

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I didn’t know he’d done a live show with Elton John, beyond that one song. I wasn’t reading a lot of the nascent rock music press; I was barely aware there WAS one. Oh I knew about Rolling Stone, peripherally. My thing was comic books, Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 and the CBS Radio Mystery Theatre. Those were my ways of distracting myself from my dad’s marriages and divorces, our frequent moving back in forth between two towns. From the time my mom and dad split up to the beginning of high school, I’d attended three elementary schools and bounced three times between two junior highs. I was also learning how to impale myself with insulin shots, after five years of having them inflicted on me.

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-two examples of the inevitable bootlegs-

Putting the foregoing aside, I think I was very lucky, certainly better off because of my parents and siblings. Back to cases, that single was the only official release of that singular performance, outside of the inevitable bootlegs. Elton’s live LP Here and Now (1976) was a contract-fulfillment item. While good, it was a truncated single-LP collection culled from two performances done a year apart. Side One was taken from a London performance for invalid children at the Royal Festival Hall in May1974; Side Two from the aforementioned Madison Square Garden show.

In the 1970s an Elton John concert was a thing not to be missed. And because I was underage, I always did; I didn’t turn 16 years old until May of 1980. In 1995 Gus Dudgeon compiled a 2-CD album of both concerts in their entirety. CD-2 features that long-lost three-song set featuring John and Elton: “Whatever Gets You Through the Night”, “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” and “I Saw Her Standing There”. I’ve just finished listening to those CDs today in my car. I’m here to rate that performance while it’s still strong in my head.

Just to start with right after Elton’s introduction, while John is tuning his guitar I heard a few bars of “I Feel Fine”. I’d listened to this deluxe CD before and I’d never noticed that before. Both Johns give an energetic performance of “Whatever gets You Through the Night”, and I’ll bet John Lennon was having more fun doing this than he’s had in years. No politics, no preaching, just two guys duetting beautifully together, jamming on pure rock ‘n’ roll.

whatever gets you throu night

John is less prominent on “Lucy In The Sky”, but it IS Elton’s cover. He’s there for backing vocals and reggae rhythm guitar; you can hear his guitar in the right channel on your stereo. What’s never mentioned is the fact that this is the ONLY time John Lennon performed “Lucy” live in any capacity. The Muscle Shoals Horns blowing in the chorus add an extra zest to the live version.

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Finally John announces “a number from an old estranged fiancée of mine called Paul”, the first and only time he sang “I Saw Her Standing There”, as it was always Paul’s vocal. With Elton’s band behind him, John gives a roaring performance, vastly superior to the pussified version that Tiffany foisted on us in 1988. Really, how DARE she emasculate a Beatles classic that way? There were tears all around, and Elton allowed the pandemonium to go on and on, even though he still had 40 minutes left to go in his concert.

That was John’s last glory moment on a live stage, almost the last anyone would hear of him for five years. The times we would have with him during his brief comeback season in 1980 would be too tragically short.

 

Available on: “I Saw Her Standing There”, released as the B-side to Elton John’s single “Philadelphia Freedom”, MCA 40364, released February 24, 1975.

The entire set with both Johns appeared on the complete 2-CD reissue of Elton’s 1976 live album, Here and There (1996 Rocket)

Links:

John Lennon joins Elton John onstage at Madison Square Garden, New York

https://ultimateclassicrock.com/john-lennon-last-concert/

Something New, the next Hard Day’s Night

 

Beatles Something new

The harvest of Beatlemania of 1964 continued with their third Capitol album in a seventh-month period, Something New, a title which wasn’t that true at all. To summarize, The Beatles’ Second Album had only been released on April 10. The United Artists’ version of A Hard Day’s Night (US) was an abridged version of the original Parlophone (UK) LP. However, the US LP preceded the better UK version by two weeks (release dates, June 26 for United Artists vs. July 10 for Parlophone).

Beatles A Hard Day's night United Artists cover U.S. v., A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

Beatles A Hard Day's Night U.K. cover and the original Parlophone release

With me so far? It gets better. Something New followed the UK Hard Day’s Night by ten days and less than a month after the US LP. If this album has any weakness, it’s the lack of a strong lead single. On the other hand, apart from “Slow Down’ and “Matchbox”, it is notably lacking in the cover songs that would fill their LPs up through Beatles For Sale, or Beatles VI, depending on which continent you were born on.

Anal details: eight of its eleven tracks had already appeared on the original A Hard Day’s Night; five of  those songs had already appeared the month before on the United Artists’ album. It would be the third album release for “I’ll Cry Instead”, which we never even got to hear in the movie! Side One closes with two songs from the British Long Tall Sally EP. I’ll get to the song that closes in a bit. “A Hard Day’s Night”, “I Should Have Known Better” and “Can’t Buy Me Love” had already appeared on both/either Hard Day’s Night LPs. The only remaining orphans from the Parlophone album were “You Cant Do That”, which had already appear on The Beatles’ Second Album in April; and “I’ll Be Back”, relegated to Beatles ’65, soon to be released in December 1964.

Also of note, on the trivial side, in addition to being released in Mono, it was the only early Beatles album where all tracks were in true stereo. Alternate versions of “Any Time at All”, “I’ll Cry Instead”, “When I Get Home”, “If I Fell” and “And I Love Her” appear in the Mono mix. Parlophone released Something New to US Armed Forces bases in Europe; today those copies are appropriately great collector’s items. The German stereo version on the Odeon label has a reprocessed stereo version of “Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand” and an extended version of “And I Love Her” that repeats the closing riff six times instead of the familiar four. This mix appears on the US version of the now-defunct LP Rarities (1980). In 2004 the album was released on CD as part of the box set The Capitol Years, Volume I.

All fine, but how does it sound??? Despite being A Hard Day’s Night Redux, it’s actually a pretty listenable album. “I’ll Cry Instead” gets it off to a rocking start; “Things We Said Today” was a reflection on Paul’s relationship with actress Jane Asher. “If I Fell” and “And I Love Her” were two of John and Paul’s most tender love songs; given their relative youth, it’s surprising how much depth and maturity they could fit into two and a half minutes each.

https://www.thoughtco.com/the-beatles-only-german-recordings-4075314

http://www.beatlesebooks.com/komm-gib-mir-deine-hand

The final track, “Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand”, was a German language recording of “I Want to Hold Your Hand”. It wasn’t something they really wanted to do, and in the end they had to be dragged to the studio in Paris to get the job done. It wasn’t unknown for American artists in the ’60’s to record foreign-language versions of their biggest hits. The Temptations for example did the Beatles one better by recording “My Girl” not only in German but in Italian as well.

For “Komm…”, the band used the original instrumental track, then recorded eleven vocal takes, overdubbing handclaps later. And that’s all Capitol had to offer until November with the release of The Beatles’ Story, a two-LP spoken-word press release until Beatles ’65 arrived in December, with “I Feel Fine” rounding out the year.

 

Mikes’ latest book, FATHERS AND DAUGHTERS, is available at amazon.com.  Mike’s Amazon page:

https://www.amazon.com/Mr.-Michael-Robbins/e/B00CMHSMYA

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Bruce Springsteen, Born to Run (2016) review

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I like that Bruce doesn’t just talk about the records and chart positions. You get into the process, the thrill of seeing Elvis on TV for the first time, the arrival of the Beatles and the Motown sound. You get to know the man and the people he performs with, their gifts and foibles and all the reasons he loves them.

He spent his childhood walking in egg shells around his father Doug, a man always on edge, seemingly disappointed in how life did NOT turn out for him, disapproving of his children. He was Bruce’s foe as well as his hero, and he grew up never knowing when the fuse would be lit.

Ten years of groundwork went into his apprenticeship in New Jersey. Behind his songs was the lingering dread that was only relieved on stage. It wasn’t until the 1980s that Bruce was diagnosed with depression, something I never knew about, that most of us didn’t know, and it was then, before his biggest hit Born In the USA, that he began treatment and got the help he needed. It took a lot of courage to express that part of himself, a never-ending specter that rises up and must be endured. This he has done with medication and the support of his loved one. It’s a long read but worthwhile, on a level with or even surpassing Bob Dylan’s Chronicles. Highly recommended.