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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.”

hotpress

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.”

longislandweekly

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.