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The third book in the Butterfly & Serpent series has logged another chapter, so I am making progress. The challenge is getting into another culture, another mindset, which might be hampered a bit by an inability to travel. The problem is compounded by the fact that just in the first section of the new book, I’ve had to learn not one but two cultures, diametrically opposed. But I’m keeping at it.
My biggest regret in this regard is that I wasn’t ready until now. I would have loved to have asked my grandmother Elsy about Spain, she was very knowledgeable about all things Spanish. That’s my bad. I’ve finished Vicente Blasco Ibanez’s classic novel Blood and Sand. If nothing else I’ve come away sharing the author’s healthy disgust with the whole ‘sport’ of bullfighting. I feel more for the bulls than the matadors. I can’t even talk to my wife about what happens to the poor horses. The people who go to these things are animals.
That’s where I’m at. I’m moving on to the next chapter. Thanks for the support, everyone.
Mikes’ latest book, FATHERS AND DAUGHTERS, is available at amazon.com.
To say 1964 was a fruitful year for the Beatles, as well as a bonanza for Beatles fans, may be the understatement of the past century. At least it was for their American fans, who were treated to seventeen single releases, twelve albums and a motion picture, not including a national tour and two appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show. All their native Brits got was two albums and an EP-single.
Actually, a serious analysis would show those numbers are a bit misleading, and in fact England got the better part of the deal. Two albums may not seem like much, but those albums were presented to them as nature (or their British label, Parlophone Records) intended. In 1963 the Beatles also had their radio show, adding up to 39 BBC sessions that year, and a further eight radio shows in 1964. While that certainly was a much reduced schedule for ’64, it was something we didn’t have access to in America, at least not before the advent of bootlegs in the 1970’s.
For the next three years screaming rabid fans would be the norm for the four lads from Liverpool. This new generation of record buying kids had developed an insatiable hunger for Beatles merchandise. The boys could have recorded an album of Gregorian chants, in basic Liverpudillian, and odds are it would’ve cracked the Top Ten charts.
Let’s start with Vee Jay. Introducing…The Beatles was Vee Jay Records’ attempt to cash in on Beatlemania, and that story is worthy of a blog by itself. Before their contract on the music had even expired, Vee Jay re-packaged the same album—twice; first as Songs, Pictures and Stories of the Fabulous Beatles (October 1964, chart peak 63), and again as a double album, The Beatles vs. the Four Seasons (Oct. 1964, chart peak 143), paired with a greatest hits package by the Seasons.
On February 26, 1964 Vee Jay offered another misleading title, Jolly What! England’s Greatest Recording Stars: The Beatles and Frank Ifield On Stage, reissued in October as The Beatles and Frank Ifield On Stage. While the Fab Four only had four tracks on the LP, none of them live, this was the only place to hear their hit single “From Me to You” until 1973’s compilation The Beatles 1962-1966 (‘The Red Album’) hit the market. The Beatles Story was a double-album propaganda piece that required little to no participation of the band members; and again it was slapped together in response to Vee Jay’s interview record Hear the Beatles Tell All (Nov. 1964). That’s seven down.
We’ll discuss the official U.S. capitol albums another time. Suffice it to say you can thank Dave Dexter, the Capitol Records exec who’d spend the next three years creating two albums out of one, with the addition of all their singles and B-sides. For now it is time to dispel the confusion…or perhaps to add to it.
The first Beatles album released in North America isn’t what you think it was. Capitol Canada got the jump on us by issuing their second British LP, what we know as Meet The Beatles! a couple months ahead of Capitol US, under the augmented title Beatlemania! With The Beatles. That was followed by Twist and Shout, the Canadian version of their first LP Please Please Me. The final Canadian-exclusive Capitol release was The Beatles’ Long Tall Sally, which incorporated the British EP of the same name with four tracks already released on the Beatlemania! album. The cover design was virtually identical to Capitol US’s The Beatles’ Second Album. From here on Capitol Canada followed the U.S. releases, beginning with A Hard Day’s Night.
Nor was their time wasted with Tony Sheridan. Their first professional recordings were backing the English singer on five tracks in 1961, although they were credited then as The Beat Brothers. “My Bonnie” (Polydor, 1962) would be the single that brought them to the attention of their future promoter Brian Epstein. And these recordings would be twice issued, as The Beatles with Tony Sheridan and Their Guests, augmented by six tracks featuring Danny Davis & the Titans (MGM/Atco, Feb. 2, 1964, chart peak 68); and then as Ain’t She Sweet, featuring an entire side devoted to British Invasion band the Swallows (Atco, Oct. 5, 1964).
Here’s a misleading list of all the Beatles’ albums from 1964:
-Official British releases for 1964:
Long Tall Sally (EP, June 19)
A Hard Day’s Night (July 10)
Beatles for Sale (Dec. 4)
-Beatles releases by Capitol Records for 1964:
Meet the Beatles (January 20)
The Beatles’ Second Album (April 10)
Something New (July 20)
The Beatles’ Story (Nov. 23)
Beatles ’65 (Dec. 15)
-Vee Jay LPs:
Introducing the Beatles (Jan. 27)
Songs, Pictures and Stories of the Fabulous Beatles (October)
The Beatles vs. the Four Seasons (Oct.)
Jolly What! England’s Greatest Recording Stars: The Beatles and Frank Ifield On Stage (Feb. 26)
[reissued in October as The Beatles and Frank Ifield On Stage]
Hear the Beatles Tell All (Nov.)
-Reissues of 1961 recordings with Tony Sheridan:
The Beatles with Tony Sheridan and Their Guests (Atco, Feb. 2)
Ain’t She Sweet (Atco, Oct.5)
Mikes’ latest book, FATHERS AND DAUGHTERS, is available at amazon.com.
I hate to break this to you, Ricky, but, uh…your religion, Christianity? It’s kind of based on Judaism. Every bit of it. The Ten Commandments, Genesis, Noah and the Ark, Isaiah, Jonah, Moses? ALL JUDAIC FOLKLORE. Oh, and Jesus? Yep. He was a Jew. I’m afraid you’ll have to blame the Romans for slapping the ‘Christian’ label on us; our ancestors didn’t pick it, we just decided to own it.
Force me to become Christian? Heh. You have no idea what a Christian is. You and your rabid viewers have no concept of the most basic Christian concepts. You shame us with your bile and your bigotry and your basic stupidity.
Plainly you don’t understand the least thing about Americans. We’re stubborn cusses. You don’t get to ‘force’ anything on any of us. Try and push us to do something; I promise you, we will shove you back and shove you on your ass.
Also, just one more question? Before you stick your foot any deeper down your gullet, exactly WHICH version of Christianity did you mean? My home town’s phone book last year had 20 PAGES or more of listings for churches. Which denomination did you intend to impose on us?
Y’know what, just stop. You’re making this too easy. It’s because of sacrilegious gits like you that I’m no longer among the converted. My eyes are open and my mind is unchained.
Required reading. Michael Herr takes you under fire with him and the Marines. You’ll find yourself under siege at Khe Sahn, breath their sweat, the marijuana, the fear. Despite it all, it’ll be one of those places you can’t leave behind. There are the improbable stories of daredevil war photographers such as Tim Page and of all people the son of actor Errol Flynn, Sean. Spot on-observations abound, such as, “TheGreenBerets doesn’t count. That wasn’t about Vietnam, it was about Santa Monica.”
One of the most apt summaries of the war, filed while it was still going on, appears on pg. 200: “Somewhere on the periphery of that total Vietnam issue…there was a story that was as simple as it had always been, men hunting men, a hideous war and all kinds of victims. But there was also a Command that didn’t feel this, that rode us into attrition traps on the back of fictional kill ratios, and an Administration that believed the Command, a cross-fertilization of ignorance, and a press whose tradition of objectivity and fairness (not to mention self-interest) saw that all of it got space.” This book was hard to get through, not hard to read per se but harsh in its details, and may be the most honest book about the Vietnam War.
You know your life has got to be pretty f—ed when the one who has to give you a pep talk is the Mad Titan Thanos. I have never met a hero so plagued with self-doubt as Adam Warlock. The depths of his self-recriminations exceed even those of Peter Parker, who honestly has better grounds for self-loathing. Besides which, the man has also died and been reborn more times than a Star Trek character.
It was through the pages of Warlock that we all first encountered the Most Dangerous Woman in the Galaxy, Gamora, daughter of Thanos, before she was a Guardian of the Galaxy or a member of the infinity Watch. I hadn’t realized this until I reviewed my collection. Warlock no. 15 would also be the first time Gamora met Drax the Destroyer–that is, the time that Drax in his rage flew right into her ship and blew it to smithereens. I showed that page to my wife and son, and they reacted the same way: “Damn! Drax has no chill!”
Writer Roy Thomas and artist Gil Kane had repositioned Warlock as a Savior in his original comic book run. Jim Starlin was another kettle of fish. Sorting through story possibilities in the mid-1970’s, he became intrigued by the character of Adam Warlock. He would guide the strip through its second phase as both artist and scripter, while upending Adam’s role from Messiah into that of the Devil. Oh, he also gave him that funky cape.
Starlin presented a cosmos as psychedelic as the times in which they were published, his ideas broad-ranging while sprinkled with a subtle, warped sense of humor. Some of my favorite stories were penned and inked by Jim Starlin. It was he who introduced Thanos in IronMan no. 55 in 1972, and transformed a mediocre Captain Marvel into a cosmically aware champion in CaptainMarvel no. 29, 1973. The science may be exaggerated, off-kilter, but wasn’t that always the fun in old comic books? As I re-read his old tales, I’ve come to think of him as the Master of Exposition. Starlin can devote an entire two page spread to recaps and backdrop information dumps on all the evil-doings, in a way that’s both entertaining and vital to the tales unfolding.
There have been many blogs about the Magus Cycle already, so I’ll dispense with another in-depth analysis. But let me summarize; an unknown woman summons Adam Warlock. She dies needlessly at the hands of agents of the Church of Universal Truth, which forces him to use his Soul Gem to resurrect her soulless body and interrogate her. The enemy as they say in the old Pogo comic was ourselves. The all-powerful being Adam must defeat is called the Magus–Latin for wise man, magician, or Warlock. The enemy in fact is his own twisted future self. Every action he takes against the Magus, every step forward only seems to lead Adam down the dark path to his evil future.
He is joined in his quest by the ne’er do well troll Pip and, at Thanos’s direction, by Gamora. Equally problematic is the Soul Gem which was given him by the High Evolutionary. In Thomas & Kane’s hands it was a useful tool; in Starlin’s it has become a malignant presence with a vampiric thirst for souls.
Perhaps reflecting his own personal turmoil after his service in the Navy during the Vietnam War, Starlin’s stories incorporate themes of suicide and self-destruction against an omnipresent congregation. While Thanos engages the Magus, Warlock leaps into his own timeline and erases the path that leads to the Magus, but with that bargain seals his own death in two years’ time. Despite the fact that yes he was absolutely, utterly and definitively erased from history, well, the Magus will be back in one form or another. ‘Cos that’s what Starlin does, what any author does when you think about it–he always comes back to the characters he loves.
Warlock # 14, August 1976, art & story by Jim Starlin
Funny the images that stick with you…
I was a young lad of thirteen when I first saw this and now that I’ve re-read the series I’m finding it hard to get out of my mind. Clearly the science isn’t all up to snuff, but this is the kind of thing that just fires the imagination.
The stars have been vanishing not just from the evening sky but throughout the universe. The culprit, Adam Warlock discovers, is Barry Bauman, a bedridden man with infinite cosmic abilities. This man, rightly named the Star Thief, is deaf dumb blind comatose and under the constant care of a male nurse hired by his wealthy father. All these years and I never realized before–Star Thief is Tommy!
[If anyone doesn’t know the rock opera by The Who, you must look it up. Play the CD once, you’ll get it.]
Our golden-skinned hero is forced to undergo a series of trials testing his assertion that he is in fact a true Warlock. These take the form of beasts in the form of the classical elements–earth, air, water and fire. Although he was clearly a transitional villain, the filler between main events, I quite liked Star Thief, not only because he was supremely powerful but, he was also a royal smartass:
“The third threat will be aquatic. It’s a fearsome creature quite popular in the imaginations of our fellow Earthmen and…it’s sneaking up behind you.”
Barry’s goal is to plunge the Earth into panic and chaos before he extinguishes our Sun as well. Problem one for Warlock is that he’s light years away from our solar system. In another of the many psychedelic twists artist-writer Jim Starlin prides himself on, to accomplish his mission our hero is forced to risk a trek through a black hole. [OK, I should mention that the science is often psychedelic BS but it is applicable to the plot.]
Once he makes the transit however, Adam Warlock faces a bigger problem. Seriously, which leads to one of the most intriguing applications of the Expanding Universe Theory in comic book history. Warlock has reached Earth but he cannot touch his enemy without destroying every other person on the planet.
In the end he serves as enough of a distraction for Barry Bauman’s nurse to shake off his mental control and murder him. And Warlock’s colossal size, while intriguing, is not to last long. In fact by the time he meets up with Spider-Man in Marvel Team-Up # 55 (March 1977) a few months later, by some cosmic reverse trick [or writer’s lapse], he is back to normal size, just in time for the last round-up. As it turns out, for the second time around…