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THE CALIFORNIA BAND GEORGE HARRISON SAID INSPIRED ‘IF I NEEDED SOMEONE’

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In 1965, The Beatles started on a new path. After racking up No. 1 hits with songs like “She Loves You” , the Fab Four began digging deeper. John Lennon, resolving to turn the lens on himself, had his most introspective moment to that point with “Help.”

Though he charted a path in a different direction, Paul McCartney was also growing rapidly as a songwriter. After delivering the masterpiece “Yesterday,” he followed with more like “Drive My Car” and “You Won’t See” me on Rubber Soul (released later in ’65).

By then, John was turning out classics like the sitar-infused “Norwegian Wood”.
On the track “If I Needed Someone,” George incorporated two new influences: Indian music and the Los Angeles band, The Byrds.

When The Byrds’ cover of “Mr. Tambourine Man” hit No. 1 on the U.S. and UK charts in ’65, “folk rock” or the “California sound” became known by everyone on the music scene. A year earlier, the group had formed when L.A. musicians wanted to combine the depth of folk with the energy of The Beatles.

After watching A Hard Day’s Night, Roger McGuinn went out and bought the 12-string Rickenbacker guitar George played. On their first album (Mr. Tambourine Man, 1965), The Byrds played three more Bob Dylan covers along with a track by Pete Seeger called “The Bells of Rhymney.”

While The Byrds freely acknowledged the influence of The Beatles on their early sound, this track would go on to influence George’s “If I Needed Someone” on Rubber Soul. George made sure to let McGuinn and his bandmates know about it.

When Derek Taylor (a Beatles press officer) moved to California in ’65, he brought a recording of “If I Needed Someone” and a message from George for McGuinn. “[Taylor] said George wanted me to know that he had written the song based on [“The Bells of Rhymney”],” McGuinn said in 2004. “It was a great honor.”

In ’65, The Byrds went to London to play some shows and capitalize on the success of their top-10 UK hits. Even though the tour wasn’t an overwhelming success, at least McGuinn, David Crosby, and the rest of the band got to meet both The Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

It wasn’t only a musical exchange. After seeing McGuinn’s signature rectangular “granny” glasses, George got himself a pair, which you see him wearing in photos from that era. (McGuinn claimed John’s small round glasses were based on these, too.)

At one point during these years, The Beatles even called The Byrds their favorite new band. So there was a lot of mutual respect between the two. As McGuinn said in ’04, “It was kind of a cool cross-pollination in a way.”

For George, that period stood as a high point for him in The Beatles. He called Rubber Soul his favorite album. “The most important thing about it was that we were suddenly hearing sounds we weren’t able to hear before,” he said in the ’90s. “Everything was blossoming at that time — including us.”


NEW YEAR’S GREETINGS

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BILLY CONNOLLY, COMEDIAN REMINISCED OF HIS FRIENDSHIP WITH GEORGE HARRISON

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Billy Connolly, comedian reminisced of his friendship with George Harrison on The Adam Buxton Podcast last week, sharing an amusing case of mistaken identity when Harrison was thought to be a retired Manchester United footballer.
Connolly said he never met John Lennon, but admitted: “I’m friendly with all the other Beatles.

“I like George Harrison. He’s not my favourite, none of them is my favourite. I treasure my friendship with them.
“George was a lovely man. I spent a lot of time with him. A lot more than the other ones.
“I remember we went for Chinese food in the East End of London and a waiter came out and served us.”
The comedian continued: “And then he came back all shuffly footed, and he said, ‘I believe there’s somebody here I should know.’

“One of the guys who was with us pointed to George and said, ‘He used to play for Manchester United.’
“[The waiter] said, ‘Great can I have your autograph?’ George signed it.
“He went away quite happy. And the waiter came back and he asked me something.”
He added: “And I said, ‘That’s okay man.” And I turned to George and I said, ‘I love man, you don’t have to learn anybody’s name. Just call them man.’
“George said, ’It’s good to be a man.’ And I said, ‘I suppose it is, it’s very nice.’
“He said, ‘We were the boys for so long.’ It was funny to see his side of it. He wasn’t allowed to be a man.”
Buxton asked Connolly what Beatles questions he would ask Harrison, to which he replied: “Yeah, just about songs. They didn’t realise he was a writer.”
Harrison, who is best known for writing Here Comes The Sun once revealed what his favourite Beatles album was.
He favoured Rubber Soul of the Beatles’ albums, according to the book This Bird Has Flown: The Enduring Beauty of Rubber Soul, Fifty Years On.
In 1995, George said: “Rubber Soul was my favourite album even at that time, I think that it was the best one we made.
“The most important thing about it was that we were suddenly hearing sounds we weren’t able to hear before.”
He added: “Also, we were being more influenced by other people’s music and everything was blossoming at that time — including us.”
Next year marks the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ 12th and final studio album Let It Be.
And to coincide with it, Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson is making a documentary film full of unseen footage from the studio recording.
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PEACE & LOVE FOR XMAS : JOHN LENNON, GEORGE HARRISON, ERIC CLAPTON, KEITH MOON & MORE

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The UNICEF event featured John and George’s first scheduled performance since The Beatles’ last concert in 1966, and John Lennon’s last UK live appearance.

A historic concert that, surprisingly, sometimes goes under the radar in the history of some British rock royalty took place at London’s Lyceum Theatre on 15 December 1969.

It was a charity event for UNICEF, the United Nations’ international fund, called Peace and Love for Christmas. The concert marked the live debut of the extended Plastic Ono Band, on this occasion featuring the incredible line-up of John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Eric Clapton and more with a brief appearance by Keith Moon. It came in the week of release of the Plastic Ono Band’s Live Peace In Toronto, the cover of which is pictured above.

 

The concert turned out to be Lennon’s last live appearance in his home country, and it’s also the answer to what could be a memorable trivia question, about the night Lennon and Harrison were on a bill that also featured Jimmy Cliff, Desmond Dekker, the Young Rascals and UK hitmakers Blue Mink. Tickets cost £1 each, and others joining the stellar cast included Klaus Voorman, Bobby Keys, Jim Price and Alan White, all regular collaborators to this extended family. BBC Radio1 DJ Emperor Rosko MCd the evening.

The Lyceum stage was adorned with a giant “War is over” message banner, previewing the sentiment of John and Yoko’s subsequent Christmas single.

This supergroup performed Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band’s then-current single ‘Cold Turkey’ and its b-side ‘Don’t Worry Kyoko (Mummy’s Only Looking For Her Hand In The Snow),’ both in extended versions. The recordings, mixed by Geoff Emerick, were included as the second disc, titled Live Jam, on the original release of the 1972 album credited to Lennon, Ono and Elephant’s Memory, Some Time In New York City. John introduces ‘Cold Turkey’ (which was in the UK chart at the time of the event, having peaked at No. 14) by saying “This is a song about pain.”
Lennon is quoted, by The Beatles Bible and elsewhere, expressing his enthusiasm for the night. “I thought it was fantastic,” he said. “I was really into it. We were doing the show and George and Bonnie and Delaney, Billy Preston and all that crowd turned up. They’d just come back from Sweden and George had been playing invisible man in Bonnie and Delaney’s band, which Eric Clapton had been doing, to get the pressure off being the famous Eric and the famous George.

“They became the guitarists in this and they all turned up, and it was again like the concert in Toronto. I said, ‘Will you come on?’ They said, ‘Well, what are you going to play? I said, ‘Listen, we’re going to do probably a blues…or ‘Cold Turkey,’ which is three chords, and Eric knew that. And ‘Don’t Worry Kyoko,’ which was Yoko’s, which has three chords and a riff. I said, ‘Once we get on to Yoko’s riff, just keep hitting it.’”
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JEFF LYNNE : “I WAS LUCKY ENOUGH TO START WITH GEORGE HARRISON”

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Jeff Lynne talks about his latest record From Out Of Nowhere, as well as reflecting on a glittering career that’s included producing The Beatles and playing in supergroup The Travelling Wilburys.

“Songwriter, singer, drummer, guitarist – you know, he can do it all,” is Paul McCartney’s opinion on the man in the dark glasses. Indeed, it was Lynne The Beatles called when they needed help.

There was a tour around the time of Zoom (2001) which didn’t pan out, and Lynne puts it down to the tech not being quite there yet.. ELO originally called it a day back in 1986 after the inessential Balance Of Power album. Lynne had had enough.

“I was fed up with the group at that time,” he explains. “I just wanted to disband it and be a producer, and not play live gigs. I was lucky enough to start with George Harrison. Then it was Tom Petty, then the Travelling Wilburys, and then Brian Wilson. You know, amazing people. I’d produce them and we’d have great big hits! Platinum albums! I had a marvellous time, and there was no gigs to go with it. You didn’t actually have to go on the road and I just loved making records with great people – and The Beatles!”

Ah yes, The Beatles. John Lennon once called ELO “son of Beatles”, which he meant as a good thing. Lynne first worked with his pal George Harrison on 1987’s smash hit comeback Cloud Nine. When the remaining Fabs decided to record some new music for the massive Anthology project in the mid-’90s, they needed a producer after George Martin had to decline the invitation due to hearing problems. Harrison fought to get Lynne involved, to work up a very basic demo recorded by John at the piano of a song called ‘Free As A Bird’. It must have been some experience for a Beatles maniac like Lynne.

“Oh yeah, it was ridiculous,” he says, laughing at the memory. “It was the most nerve-racking thing to start with, because it was called ‘The Beatles’ and all we had was John on a cassette – just his voice and piano in mono, which you couldn’t separate. So I had to build a great big Beatles track to go with it. It had to be kind of impressive or it would be less than we were used to. I had to manufacture all that with those three playing it, and then I had to somehow fit in John, which was very difficult. It was a long process that took me a couple of days to get right. I actually did it around two in the morning, ’cause I didn’t want to look like an idiot if I didn’t get it right.
“But anyway, it sounded good and was in time – the demo was out of time, because when you’re writing a song, you’re just trying to get notes down. To get it in time, I had to do a mathematical equation for all the different phrases and each phrase would be like say three or four words, so I put it into a sampler and flew them into the track, and then left it like that. Paul came in the next day and said, ‘Well done, Jeff! You done it!’ and he gave me a big hug, so I was thrilled.”

Paul McCartney is listening back to something you’ve done with John Lennon. Surely you’re thinking, “What am I going to do if he doesn’t like it?”
“That was part of the thinking, it was like bliss at some point and…”
Fear?
“Fear at the other!”

While artists like The Beatles and Brian Wilson – “he was one of my favourites, along with The Beatles. It was a real pleasure and he let me sing a couple of harmonies” – might look like an obvious fit for Lynne, working with Bob Dylan in late ’80s superstar busman’s holiday, The Travelling Wilburys, appears less so.

“The thing is I’d been working with George for a couple of months, and he said, ‘D’you know what? Me and you should have a group.’ I said, ‘What? That’s good. Yeah, I’m in! Who should we have in it?’ And he said ‘Bob Dylan’. Of course, I’m half laughing, but then I realise he’s serious. So I said, ‘Can we have Roy Orbison as well?’ He said ‘Yeah, we’ll have Roy’, ’cause they used to tour together and we both loved Tom Petty. So we said, let’s have him. And of course when it’s George Harrison that’s doing it, it was ‘Do you want to join our group?’ and the answer was ‘Yes’. We did the first album in 10 days, 10 songs in ten days, so that was pretty amazing – the rough tracks, not the finished product.”

Alongside the massive success of Travelling Wilburys Vol. 1 (1988), Lynne also worked on Roy Orbison’s fantastic Mystery Girl. There are some songs on the new record one could imagine Orbison tackling.

“He could have a go at anything, he had the greatest voice ever,” says Lynne, with obvious affection. “I think I produced three songs on Mystery Girl, and I co-wrote ‘You Got It’ with Roy and Tom, which was his first hit for like 20 years. Roy was thrilled out of his mind, and then there was a phone call early in the morning. ‘Mr. Orbison is dead.’ They hung up before I could get a chance to find out more, and I thought it was bullshit, you know. It was like six in the morning that call came so I stayed awake listening to the radio, and sure enough they announced Roy Orbison had died in Tennessee. That was the saddest thing I can remember, but what a wonderful time we had when we recorded together. He was such a lovely guy.”

Of all those huge production successes, is it possible for Lynne to point at one as a favourite?

“The trouble is that there’s bits of all of them that I love equally, but I think Tom Petty’s Full Moon Fever as a whole album,” he reckons. “I have more fun listening to that. There’s so many really good songs, the harmonies are really good, and I love Tom’s voice. I think that’s probably my favourite, but Cloud Nine is right there with it.”

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FIFTY YEARS OF MONTY PYTHON

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Monty Python’s Flying Circus my have only run on television from 1969 through 1974 for a grand total of 45 episodes, but the influence spurred by its brand of surreal sketch comedy is immeasurable. Lorne Michaels counts the show as a major influence on Saturday Night Live and its legion of creative progeny include Sacha Baron Cohen, John Oliver, Rowan Atkinson, Seth MacFarlane, Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Mike Myers, Jim Carrey, Matt Groenig, and “Weird Al” Yankovic. Author Neil Gaiman compared the Pythons as being the comedic equivalent of The Beatles.

Originally shot for the BBC, the sextet of John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, Michael Palin and Terry Jones, created a series of surreal situations, mixed with risqué and innuendo-laden humor, sight gags and observational sketches without punchlines. Gilliam used animation as segues to break up live-action bits centered on the idiosyncrasies of British life. The intellectual bent of this very Anglified brand of comedy nonetheless attracted a devoted American following, once the episodes started getting aired on PBS in the mid-1970s. Memorable sketches included “The Dead Parrot,” “The Ministry of Silly Walks,” “The Spanish Inquisition,” “Cheese Shop,” “The Undertaker,” “Nudge Nudge,” “Self Defense Against Fresh Fruit,” “Exploding Penguin” “The Fish-Slapping Dance,” “Spam,” “Fish License,” “The Lumberjack Song,” “The Piranha Brothers” and “Argument Clinic.”

While 1971’s And Now For Something Completely Different was the Pythons’ first foray into film via this compilation of sketches from the series, it wasn’t until the show wrapped up in 1974 that the troupe decided to embark on shooting their first proper film. The sophomore follow-up, 1975’s Monty Python and the Holy Grail was funded by investments from members of Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and Jethro Tull, was directed by Jones and Gilliam and was based on the Arthurian legend.
Released in 1979, the next film was Monty Python’s Life of Brian, a lampoon of the New Testament that focused on Brian Cohen, born at the same time in a neighboring stable to Jesus. Directed solely by Jones, the movie was financed by George Harrison of The Beatles.

In 1982, Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl was released as a straight-up concert film. The following year, Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life was released. Its string of sketches based on the ages of man from birth to death hearkened back to the dark, disturbing and surreal humor of the original television series.

With Chapman’s death in 1989, no full-on reunions of the troupe have prevented any official reunions, although members have gotten together for appearances. Among them were the five surviving Pythons and what was allegedly Chapman’s ashes receiving an AFI Star Award at the 1998 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival, marking the first time they reunited on stage for the first time in 18 years. A live tour in 1999 was agreed to in principle before Michael Palin backed out.

The surviving five’s last outing together was Monty Python Live (Mostly): One Down, Five to Go, a stage show held at The O2 in London in July 2014. Having lost a legal case to Holy Grail producer Mark Forester, the members owed him $994,600 in legal fees and royalties. The idea was to have a reunion to pay off this debt. The one show was expanded to 10 shows due to ticket demand. It was their first live performance together in 34 years, the first without member Graham Chapman, who died in 1989, and to date it has been their last.

John Cleese
The Cambridge University alum got his start as a scriptwriter and performer on The Frost Report after winning accolades at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Working with writing partner Chapman, Cleese often played absurd authority figures or foreigners with outlandish accents.

Graham Chapman
Often cast as the straight man, Chapman, who died in 1989 of tonsil cancer, frequently played authority figures like military figures, policemen or doctors. He also played leads in the Python films Holy Grail (King Arthur) and Life of Brian (title character Brian).

Terry Gilliam
The sole American Python, Gilliam’s primary contributions were cut-out animations including the opening title of the iconic giant foot. That said, Gilliam appeared as a series of characters including The-Knight-Who-Hits-People-With-A-Chicken, Percy Bysshe Shelley in the “Michael Ellis” episode and Cardinal Fang in “The Spanish Inquisition.”
Terry Jones

An Oxford University graduate, Jones worked with writing partner Michael Palin on Do Not Adjust Your Set and The Frost Report helping create Monty Python’s Flying Circus. A respected medieval historian, he is credited with being largely responsible for the show’s surreal structure of having sketches flow from one to the next without using punchlines.

Michael Palin
Nowadays known more for his series of travel documentaries, Palin came to Monty Python by way of prior programs The Ken Dodd Show, The Frost Report and Do Not Adjust Your Set. He most often wrote with fellow Python member Terry Jones and was considered by his troupe mates as having the widest range.

Eric Idle

The most musical of the troupe, Idle was not only a member of the parody rock band The Rutles and eventually won a Tony Award for Best Musical for writing music and lyrics for Spamalot, but penned many popular Python songs including “Always Look On the Bright Side of Life” and “Galaxy Song.”

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