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LEGENDARY LABEL EXECUTIVE JOE SMITH DEAD AT 91

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Joe Smith, a former label boss with Warner Bros., Elektra and Capitol Records, has died at the age of 91.

He was head of Warners during the period of signing Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper, the Doobie Brothers and others. Later, as head of Capitol, he wrote the 1988 book Off the Record: An Oral History of Popular Music, which featured interviews with Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Elton John, Neil Diamond, Billy Joel and others he was associated with. He also worked directly with first George Harrison and later Paul McCartney.

As a young jazz fan, Smith got his start in the music industry as a DJ before joining Warner Bros. in 1960 as a promotions executive. He became president 12 years later, before moving to sister company Elektra in 1975. He announced his retirement in 1983 but became boss of Capitol in 1987, before retiring for good in 1993.

“I’m so fortunate to have gotten out when I got out of it because there’s no fun anymore,” Smith told Variety in 2015. “We were there during a great time, and [then] it hit a wall. … I loved what I was doing, then it was time to hang it up. … The record business fell apart when you could get music for nothing.”

He recalled that the “best time was building Warner Bros. It was dumbfoundingly dull when we got there. … We bought Reprise, and Mo [Ostin] came aboard and the two of us had this magic run.”

Smith noted that the Grateful Dead were his “most important signing” because “we were changing from the Petula Clark-Frank Sinatra company to what was happening in music.”


GEORGE HARRISON’S GUITAR AND JOHN LENNON’S ROUND SUNGLASSES ARE BEING SOLD IN A BEATLE AUCTION

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The former driver for two of The Beatles is set to sell John Lennon’s round sunglasses and a parking ticket issued to Ringo Starr.

Alan Herring has made the “emotional” decision to sell the objects, saying he can still treasure the “memories”.
Lennon told Mr Herring, who worked for Starr and George Harrison, to keep his sunglasses after leaving them on the back seat of Starr’s Mercedes in 1968.
The driver said he had picked up Lennon, Starr and Harrison and had “driven the boys into the office”.

“When John got out of the car I noticed that he’d left these sunglasses on the back seat and one lens and one arm had become disconnected.

“I asked John if he’d like me to get them fixed for him. He told me not to worry, that they were just for the look!

“He said he’d send out for some that fit. I never did get them mended I just kept them as they were, as John had left them.”
Lennon started wearing round glasses in 1966, after he was given a pair to prepare for his role in the film How I Won The War.

The sunglasses are expected to fetch £8,000 at auction while other objects going under the hammer include Harrison’s guitar (£60,000) and shirts worn by the band.

Sotheby’s books and manuscripts specialist Gabriel Heaton said the “rather humble sunglasses are so representative of the cultural moment”.
“They are such an integral part of John Lennon’s image right from the mid-60s to his death,” he added.
“He goes through so many fashion changes but the one constant is the sunglasses – if you want to draw a caricature of John Lennon, it’s the long hair and the sunglasses.”


Mr Herring also kept the £2 parking ticket after it was issued on April 25, 1969 outside Apple records in Savile Row.
He said he usually managed to have a good relationship with the traffic wardens, but not on this occasion, and the brown, creased ticket, to be sold alongside other items, is expected to fetch £1,500.

A cigarette lighter kept in the car, “a special one for if The Beatles wanted to light a fag, or whatever it was they wanted to light”, is also going under the hammer

Mr Herring was a driver for Starr and Harrison in the late ’60s, “part of the inner circle right through The White Album, Abbey Road and when the band were breaking up”, Mr Heaton said.

walesonline


GEORGE HARRISON’S WORDS TO HIS WIFE

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George Harrison, died 18 years ago today. George is best remembered for his contribution to music as one quarter of legendary rock band The Beatles. His incredible legacy also includes a weighty back catalogue of solo material, with hits like My Sweet Lord and What Is Life. On the anniversary of his death, here’s a look at some of the touching tributes paid by his Beatles bandmates and his wife Olivia Harrison.
In an interview with The Telegraph several years after his death, George’s beloved wife Olivia revealed the sweet words he shared with her towards the end, when he knew he was dying.
She told the publication he would comfort her by saying: “Olivia, you’ll be fine, you’ll be fine.”
“Fine is okay, but it is not really good enough, is it?” she mused. “But George was right, I am fine and I am okay, although I will miss him until my dying day. But he walked his road and now I have to walk mine.”
Olivia also said her relationship with George was ongoing, even after his death, saying: “But it is just not a physical relationship any more. And the sooner one comes to terms with that, the easier it is, rather than feeling George has gone and he is never coming back.”
Olivia, explained how she still felt “in communication” with him, saying: “Because you feel so deeply in your heart that if you say a prayer, it goes straight to them.”
George died of lung cancer on November 29, 2001, at the age of 58, having first been diagnosed in 1997.
In May 2001, he underwent surgery to remove a cancerous growth from one of his lungs and, in July, received radiotherapy for a brain tumour.
When he was told treatments could no longer help, George opted not to die in hospital, travelling to Los Angeles, where he passed away at the home rented, at the time, by his Beatles bandmate Paul McCartney.
At the time, his family released a statement saying: “He left this world as he lived in it, conscious of God, fearless of death, and at peace, surrounded by family and friends.
“He often said, ‘Everything else can wait but the search for God cannot wait, and love one another’.”
Soon after George’s death, Paul paid tribute to his friend in a touching interview, saying he was “devastated” by his death.
“We’ve known he’s been ill for a long time,” he said. “I’m very sad to hear that he’s passed on.”
Asked how Olivia and George’s son Dhani were coping with the grief of his passing, Paul replied: “They’re devastated, like we all are. But they’re very strong.
“Olivia has her son Dhani. who’s a really great guy and is being very strong and very supportive in this situation.”
“In a way it’s probably a blessed release. George has been through a lot of problems recently,” he added.
“I understand the end was very peaceful, so that’s a blessing.”
Praising The Beatles guitarist’s talents, Paul went on to speak about the legacy he would leave behind, saying George was “like a baby brother” to him.
“His music will live on forever. He’s a very strong, loving man but he didn’t suffer fools gladly.
“He’s a great man and I think he’ll be remembered as a great man in his own right,” he said.
Paul also recalled the last time he saw George, calling him a “very brave man” and saying: “He was quite ill. But we were laughing and joking just like nothing was going on.
“I was very impressed by his strength but I kind of knew he’d be like that because that’s how he always was.
“He would’ve wanted us to get on and be loving and remember him as the great man he was.”
The only other surviving member of The Beatles, Ringo Starr, also paid tribute to George following his death.
“We will miss George for his sense of love, his sense of music and his sense of laughter,” he said.
The drummer later remembered his last conversation with George, sharing an insight into the George´s sense of humour.
Ringo recalled visiting his friend, who was, at this point, too ill even to stand, but having to leave to see his own daughter, who was suffering from a brain tumour, in Boston.
“I said, ‘Well, you know, I’ve got to go. I’ve got to go to Boston,” he said.
“And he was—” the musician broke off, choking back tears. “It’s the last words I heard him say, actually…
“And he said, ‘Do you want me to come with you?’ So, you know, that’s the incredible side of George,” he added.

express



GEORGE HARRISON WROTE LETTER TO FAN

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On November 27, 1963, when the Beatles were performing at the Rialto in York, George Harrison wrote a short letter to his fan.




JOE WALSH CHANNELED GEORGE HARRISON FOR JOHN LENNON SONG

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Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh said he was delighted with his contribution to “Grow Old With Me,” a John Lennon song that appears on Ringo Starr’s new album, What’s My Name.

The recording also features Paul McCartney on bass, while a string backing is taken from a George Harrison composition, making the song a sort of Beatles reunion.

Walsh – who’s also Starr’s brother-in-law – admitted he was uncertain about how to approach the session. “Oh boy, that was great,” he told in a new interview. “It sounds just like the Beatles. At first I didn’t know what to do, but I think I really nailed it, and I’m so proud of it. I just thought, ‘What would George do?’ And went with that. It’s a real honor and privilege to be on a song like that.”


GEORGE HARRISON – THE FIRST BEATLE ON AMERICAN SOIL

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In the summer of 1963 the Beatles had some time off and while the other three members of the band went on holiday to Europe, George Harrison became the first Beatle to visit America, when, on 16 September 1963, along with his brother Peter, he went to Benton, Illinois – population, 7,000 – to visit their older sister, Louise.

According to George, “I went to New York and St Louis in 1963, to look around, and to the countryside in Illinois, where my sister was living at the time. I went to record stores. I bought Booker T and the MGs’ first album, Green Onions, and I bought some Bobby Bland, all kind of things.” George also bought James Ray’s single ‘Got My Mind Set On You’ that he later covered in 1987.

When the Harrisons arrived in Benton, George and Louise hitchhiked to radio station WFRX-AM in West Frankfort, Illinois taking a copy of ‘She Loves You’ which had been released 3 weeks earlier in Britain and on the day of George’s arrival in America. ‘She Loves You’ got a positive review in Billboard but very little radio play, although WFRX did play it. According to DJ Marcia Raubach “He was unusual looking, he dressed differently than the guys here. He was very soft-spoken and polite.”

It’s often claimed that in June 1963 Louise took a British copy of ‘From Me To You’ to WFRX that she had been sent by her mother and that Raubach played it. This is probably true but the claim that this was the first time The Beatles’ music was broadcast in America is not. ‘From Me To You’ was released in Britain in late April and then topped the British singles’ chart for seven weeks’. With the Beatles at No.1 in Britain Vee Jay records released their single of ‘From Me To You’ / ‘Thank You Girl’ as VJ 522 on 27 May 1963. The single was made ‘Pick Of the Week’ by Cash Box magazine, but was not a success.

With the Beatles success in Britain in early 1963 Parlophone were anxious to take advantage of their new asset and so contacted their sister label in America, Capitol Records that was owned by EMI. Capitol was underwhelmed by the Beatles records and so decided against releasing any of their records. Instead Parlophone turned to a small US label called Vee Jay, a company started by a husband and wife in Gary, Indiana that specialised in black R & B music.

It was an irony probably not lost on the Beatles who loved and had been influenced by exactly that kind of music. In February 1963, two days after ‘Please Please Me’ made No.1 in Britain, Vee Jay released it as a single in the US. VJ 498 did get some airplay from the major Chicago top 40 radio station WLS and it even made their own chart for a couple of weeks, but nothing happened nationally on the Billboard charts. Not helping the band was the fact that Vee Jay managed to miss-spell the bands name on the record as “Beattles”.

So it was that when George stayed at his sister and brother in law’s house in Benton he really was an unknown in America; Louise’s husband Gordon was a Scottish mining engineer who had emigrated to work in Illinois’s coal mines. George did play with a local band, The Four Vests and later members of the band took him to a Mt Vernon, Illinois music shop where George bought a red Rickenbacker 420 guitar. George wanted it to be re-finished in black, which the store-owner did for him. The guitar was first seen in public on 4 October on TV’s Ready Steady Go, the day after George and his brother returned to London.

Back in Britain, Beatlemania proper was about to begin. On 1 November they began their first tour as undisputed headliners. The venue was the Odeon Cinema, Cheltenham, and the sedate town in the West of England had never seen anything like it – so much so that one newspaperman coined the phrase ‘Beatlemania’ in an attempt to describe it. Three days later Beatlemania met royalty when the band appeared at the Royal Command Performance at a prestigious London theatre. John Lennon famously quipped that the people on the cheap seats can clap; those in the expensive ones can simple rattle their jewellery.

On 7 February 1964, The Beatles left London’s Heathrow Airport on-board a Pan Am Boeing 707 for New York’s JFK Airport where, upon arrival, they held a press conference. The American press unsure what to make of the four boys from Liverpool tried everything from sarcasm to open mouthed incredulity. The following day, after a press-call in a cold and snowy Central Park the band rehearsed for their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Ironically, they were without George for the press call or the rehearsal as he was feeling unwell. Fortunately by the following day George was better and at 8 pm the band appeared before an audience of 73 million people – exactly a year earlier they had been playing to a few thousand at a cinema in Sunderland in the north of England as a lowly support act to Helen Shapiro.