In which I aggressively screencap another Beatles video

Oh, hi. Nothing like new Beatles footage to bring me scrambling back to the blog. LOOK:

I’ve been waiting impatiently for any news of this documentary since its premiere was delayed earlier this year, so I nearly burst with excitement when I saw this update tweeted out this morning (it was literally the reason for getting out of bed: I had to go into another room to watch it without waking Alex up). August 2021 is so far away, but these few minutes of footage reassure me that it’s going to be 1000% worth. Thank heavens New Zealand has its act together and the crew can resume editing work.

If this indeed is an accurate picture of the film, then I am giddily looking forward to…

Coming up with a new drinking game, this time with tea.

More of George and Ringo’s frilly shirts.

Billy Preston! George Martin! Mal Evans!

Yoko and Linda just hanging out??

John antics (honestly, these two seconds are very relatable).

PAULBEARD.

All the vintage recording equipment (and the boys dunking on Glyn Johns).

And just generally seeing a happier side of this chapter. <3


And just to tide us all over a bit longer, here’s some footage from the original film, in the video quality I remember.

So stoked to see the Beatles get the Peter Jackson treatment.

Important Beatle People: Astrid Kirchherr

Astrid!

Photographer and lifelong friend to my favorite boys from Liverpool. I was so sad to hear of her passing yesterday, but grateful to see such an outpouring of love for her work. I’ve wanted to do a tribute to Astrid for a while now…along with Klaus Voormann, she played such a huge role in shaping the Beatles’ image, and captured them beautifully in pictures.


Astrid was introduced to the Beatles by Klaus when they were playing their residency at the Kaiserkeller in Hamburg. She asked if they wouldn’t mind her taking some photos of them (and thankfully for all of us, they agreed). The result was their very first photoshoot, which is, to say the least, ICONIC:

She fell in love with Stuart Sutcliffe (John’s BFF from art school and then-bassist in the band) and Stuart eventually left the band to live with her. They got engaged, but he tragically died of a brain hemorrhage at age 21. Astrid captured some beautiful photos of Stuart, and also of John and George in his studio after his death:

After Ringo joined the band and the Beatles became worldwide pop stars, they all remained close and Astrid took some wonderful portraits of them, when most others were either overly posed or just plain awkward. I also love the candids she shot. I’m sure they were more at ease with her than any other photographers, and it shows.

She hung out with them during their newfound fame, took behind the scenes photos during the filming of A Hard Day’s Night, and stayed friends with them long after the band broke up. (I love the photos of George and Paul on holiday with Astrid – and Paul’s derpy face, haha. She was so pretty!)

Astrid eventually traded photography for interior design and lived a relatively quiet life in Hamburg, although she did a few photography retrospectives in recent years, I think. She passed away yesterday, aged 81. If you want to read more about her, this is a nice article.

Danke schön, Astrid. JPGR were so lucky to have met you.

A few personal thoughts on George Martin

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Listen, I know Sir George was 90 years old and I know 2016 has already proved to be a year of crushing losses, but this still hit me right in the gut. I literally gasped when I saw the news on Tuesday night.

Ever since watching the Beatles Anthology as a teenager and listening to George Martin explain the studio techniques of my favorite band, I’ve held a deep respect for the man behind the Beatles’ sound. In everything I’ve seen/heard, he always seemed so professional, humble, and kind. Not only did he give the Beatles their first recording contract and produce nearly their entire catalog, he contributed some key piano solos (“In My Life,” “Lovely Rita”) and arranged the orchestral parts for some of their most brilliant songs (“Eleanor Rigby,” “All You Need is Love,” “Strawberry Fields Forever”). He was the perfect bridge between the classical music world and the Beatles’ revolutionary experimentalism.

I can remember the first time I heard “A Day in the Life”: I was 12 years old, sitting at my parents’ dinky old computer with headphones on, listening with the eagerness of a budding music nerd who’d just spent 45 minutes downloading a queue of Beatles songs on Kazaa*. I had no knowledge of music production and couldn’t have explained why, when I heard John’s echo of a voice dissolve into that insane 24-bar orchestral buildup, I very nearly lost my sh!t. At the end of the song, after that colossal last chord, I might’ve actually flung the headphones off and rolled backwards in my swively chair in shock (I know for sure that I immediately ran to my spiral notebook journal and scribbled in it furiously about how FREAKY it was and Is this what doing drugs feels like?). It was unlike anything I’d ever heard before.

That musical experience—a song on a pop album creating a profound physical reaction that I still remember 15 years later—that is George Martin’s legacy. He was the man responsible for channeling the Beatles’ increasingly ambitious musical visions, and he did it more effectively than any other producer ever could.

Thank you, sir. Because of you I’ll always listen to music with a keener ear.

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Recommended listening: 
The progression of “Strawberry Fields Forever” with commentary by GM. His brass and strings arrangement for this song (2:25-4:55) is killer.
George + Brian Wilson in the studio. Too much genius for one room! Cool breakdown of “God Only Knows.”
Love – the album. (Pretty sure this will be taken down soon…honestly, just do yourself a favor and buy it.) A collaboration between George Martin and his son, Giles. Originally conceived by George Harrison. Listening to this makes me fall in love with the Beatles all over again.
A Day in the Life.” Relive the madness.


*In case you had any doubt, I’ve abandoned my pirating days and have since purchased all of the Beatles albums on CD and record.

 

The man who made music history

I generally would not use a word like “cool” to describe a legal document, but hey, look at this cool document!

The Beatles’ original management contract with Brian Epstein. “hereunto”!

“Why had I not signed it? I believe it was because even though I knew I would keep the contract in every clause, I had not 100 percent faith in myself to help the Beatles adequately. In other words, I wanted to free the Beatles of their obligations if I felt they would be better off.”
-Brian Epstein, A Cellarful of Noise, 1964

Oh Brian, I think it’s safe to say that you helped the Beatles more than adequately. And you sure did the rest of us a solid by making sure their music was heard.

This is long overdue, but in my next installment of Important Beatles People, I present to you: Mr. Brian Epstein.

Firstly, let’s acknowledge the fact that Brian was absolutely responsible for the Beatles’ rise to fame. He took a huge chance on them, having never managed a group before and after being told by friends and colleagues that the Beatles were “absolutely awful” (Alistair Taylor’s words, not mine). Regardless, he was enchanted by them and was determined to get them a record deal. Every single major label said no, but Brian kept going until he finally got a deal with lil’ old Parlophone (thanks to George Martin, also a huge part of the Beatles #dreamteam). Then, he steadily booked shows, tours, and TV appearances so that the band got more and more exposure. He stood by their side from the dingy Cavern Club all the way to Shea Stadium and beyond. He was the Beatles’ biggest fan. <3

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Brian introducing the Beatles at the Majestic Ballroom, 1962….

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….3 years later, at Shea Stadium

The Beatles adored him. Yes, they poked fun at him (like they did at each other, and pretty much everyone), but they had complete faith and trust in Brian, in both business and personal matters. He was best man for both Ringo & Maureen and John & Cynthia (who also asked him to be Julian’s godfather, awww). Looking at photos and video footage, the Beatles + Brian were pretty inseparable those first few years.

Brian with Ringo and Mo on their wedding day. So happy!

And most importantly: when things got rough, he was always right there in the thick of it with them. He literally took punches for them on the Philippines tour, and had the fun job of answering to the press after John’s infamous Jesus quote. Brian managed several other successful artists once the Beatles hit it big, but it’s obvious that they were his pride and joy. When the Beatles stopped touring and went on to focus on studio work, he more or less stayed out of their way in the studio, but did arrange the famous global broadcast of “All You Need is Love” and held a smashing album release party for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. His story ends sadly and abruptly after that, with an overdose at age 32.

I have a lot of feelings about Brian Epstein. I think he and the Beatles were an unlikely but perfect match, a balance between his natural business smarts and their raw Liverpudlian energy. I think it is wretchedly unfair that he had to live in a certain amount of fear, being gay during a time when it was illegal in England (homosexuality in the country was decriminalized literally one month after his death). I think he was courageous for fighting so hard for the Beatles, and for devoting his entire career to their success. And I think he was a humble, dignified, and beautiful soul.


To finish, three lovely Brian pics (btw, the man was incapable of taking a bad picture. You know how there are so many awkward, dorky pictures of the Beatles? Not so with Brian. Even when he’s totally in the background of a photo, he looks positively dashing):

brian-epstein-photo-courtesy-of-katie-hickox
<3

16th January 1964:  Band manager Brian Epstein (1935 - 1967) relaxing in Paris with Beatles members John Lennon (1940 - 1980) and Ringo Starr.  (Photo by Harry Benson/Express/Getty Images)
adorable.

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The most important manager in music history.

PS – This post inspired by The Fifth Beatle, a beautiful graphic novel about Brian Epstein which made me all weepy. Go read it.

Martha My Dear

For some light Saturday viewing, here is a pictorial tribute to Martha, Paul’s sheepdog a.k.a. The Real Fifth Beatle:

Why that last picture never made it as an album cover is a mystery to me.

And also, because Post-Beatles Martha must not be forgotten, here are some McCartney family photos that also happen to showcase how cool of a dad 70s Paul was:

AAAAND because I’ve already gone too far with this post, might as well share this video featuring more Martha and Cool Dad Paul. Can I also just take this opportunity to profess my unabashed love for Linda McCartney, and how unfair it was that she had to die and Paul subsequently got involved with this hot mess? I like to keep things chill on this blog, but for the record, Heather Mills is the absolute worst.

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But back to Martha.

She lived a long life (15 years!) and saw Paul through the end of the Beatles and the start of his family. It’s obvious from the pictures and video that they were meant for each other. <3

Stuart Sutcliffe: Not for the Faint of Heart

I won’t even pretend that this is anything other than a Stu Sutcliffe picspam. But first, for non-Beatle fans, Stu’s tragic story in a nutshell: joined the Beatles because he was John Lennon’s best friend, learned how to play bass and got harassed on the daily by Paul, fell in love with a German photographer and left the band to pursue art, suffered a brian hemorrhage and died at 21.

.Sometimes I wonder what would’ve happened if he hadn’t died so young and might’ve remained good friends with the band. Would he have reunited with them eventually? Or would he have ended up one of those guys who appeared at Beatles conventions, charging $20 for autographs (like Pete Best)? Doubtful…I think he would’ve kept to himself, continuing to paint and not capitalizing on the Beatles’ success.
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One thing’s for sure: if Stu had stayed in the band, there would’ve been no question who the Sexiest Beatle would’ve been (no wonder Paul was so defensive around Stu). The other guys wouldn’t have stood a chance. I mean, seriously:
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You’re welcome.*
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*Real credit: Astrid Kirchherr is to thank for most of the hott Stu pictures in existence. Her photos of the Beatles in their early days are some of my absolute favorites, definitely worth checking out

The Beatles weren’t the Beatles without….

Fun fact: I’ve had this post in draft form since 2008. Not sure why I never posted it.

Another fun fact: It’s now 2013 and George Martin is pushing 90 years old WOW. 

Alright. Time to address the age-old question: Who is the real Fifth Beatle? There are a lot of opinions, and here are just a few of mine…

Brian Epstein – Probably the biggest contender. In terms of elevating the Beatles to pop culture icon status and securing them a permanent place in music history, Brian Epstein is to thank. It’s hard to come across a band who has such a close relationship with their manager as the Beatles did, and I think his untimely death was a huge factor in their eventual rift. +1 for Brian.

Lovin the popped collar, Brian. The man had style (tumblr agrees).
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Pete Best – Ok so he was there for the early rise of Beatlemania, and he was a member of the group for several years…but since he virtually disappeared after getting the boot, I don’t really associate him with the Beatles. Plus he charges 20 bucks for autographs. -1 for Pete.

About to get pwned by Ringo!
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Stuart Sutcliffe – Awwww Stu. I love Stu. But he wasn’t really that keen on being in the Beatles from the start, and had to learn how to play bass just to stay in. But he had a lot of artistic influence on John, and was also there when the Beatles started to get popular (and their crazy Hamburg days), so he definitely deserves some credit. It would’ve been interesting to see where he ended up. +0.5 for Stu.

Hipster Stu: was in the Beatles before it was cool.
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Yoko Ono – …no.

George Martin – In my humble opinion, Sir George deserves the most props and is my personal vote for 5th Beatle, although he has publicly denounced the title. I have so much respect for this man. He took the Beatles through their entire recording career, produced all their albums (except Let It Be…that’s another story), and was very much involved in their creative and musical progress. Many of the orchestral pieces were scored/conducted by him (think Eleanor Rigby), and you can hear him playing the keyboard solo in “In My Life.” What a bamf. +100 for Sir George.

Demonstrating proper guitar technique, undoubtedly.
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Sgt. Pepper Era = GM going along with everyone’s crazy ideas.
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Judging Paul’s engineering skills.
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Aww, cute.
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