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WHAT DOES THE BEATLES’ ‘HELP!’ ALBUM COVER MEAN?

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On Aug. 6, 1965, the Beatles issued their fifth LP, “Help!”, comprising the seven songs featured in their just-released feature film of the same name, plus seven additional tracks. (The U.S. version was offered as a soundtrack album that included only the songs appearing in the film, plus additional incidental music.)

In 1965, adventurously offbeat or arty record album covers were rare in the pop music world, and “Help!” did not contribute much to breaking that pattern, offering a rather plain display of the group and album names, along with a picture of the Fab Four garbed in clothing they wore while filming skiing sequences in the Austrian Alps for the “Help!” movie:

But as Beatles fans were wont to do enthusiasts scoured all aspects of the band’s records for hidden messages and meanings. In this particular case, the rumored secret message was the interesting (if unexciting) claim that the Beatles were posed on the album cover in such a way that their arm positions spelled out H-E-L-P in semaphore.

In fact, the Beatles weren’t posed in a way that spelled out H-E-L-P, or anything else meaningful, in semaphore. Their arm positions corresponded, at best, to either the sequence N-U-J-V or N-V-U-J, depending upon whether one examined the U.K. or U.S. version of the album (which featured slightly different arrangements of the four group members on their covers).

Photographer Robert Freeman, who shot the cover for “Help!” as well as three other Beatles albums, acknowledged that he had initially considered trying to arrange the group shot to spell out H-E-L-P, but in the end he opted to simply go with the positioning that had the best visual appeal — regardless of meaning:

“The Beatles were filming a sequence in Austria where they stood on a skyline in the snow waving their arms to a music playback. From this I had the idea of semaphore spelling out the letters HELP. But when we came to do the shot the arrangement of the arms with those letters didn’t look good. So we decided to improvise and ended up with the best graphic positioning of the arms. The shot was set up at the film studio near London where the Beatles were finishing the last scenes. They stood on a specially constructed platform with a white painted background wearing the black hats, coats and capes from the film wardrobe. I used a larger format camera to get detail on their faces because of the distance at which the shots were taken”.,said Robert Freeman.

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NOSTALGIC BEATLES PUBS: GUIDE

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Ye Cracke is a small pub that is tucked away just off Hope Street, on Rice Street. It is around the corner from the old Liverpool Arts College that was attended by John Lennon, and Cynthia Powell. Most days after college they lads were found inside Ye Cracke and this pub arguably has more significance to John Lennon than any other pub in the city. It’s been referenced in many biographies about him since. Most notably the conversations he would have with Bill Harry, Stuart Sutcliffe and Rod Murray – They all watched a terrible poetry recital one night and decided to take it upon themselves to put Liverpool on the map. It was in Ye Cracke that they formed a group called The Dissenters. Sutcliffe and Murray went on to enjoy success as artists, Bill Harry founded the Merseybeat magazine which transformed the Liverpool music scene.John brought Cynthia Powell here on his first date.

The Jacaranda was an old watch shop in 1958 and it was bought by Alan Williams and turned into a coffee shop. When the Beatles met Alan Williams they hounded him for a chance to play in places Alan owned. He let them play in the Jacaranda if John and Stuart painted the place. John and Stuart painted the lady’s toilets and there is still a section of wall that appears to have been preserved. When the Beatles left Liverpool for Hamburg, they left in a bus parked outside the Jac.

Today its well preserved and known for its cult status. It hosts a fine record store upstairs, it has a middle floor pub and its basement hosts talented local musicians and bands and is one of the best pubs for mid-week drinking. It has something for everyone in here, including fantastic cakes to eat during the day while you listen to vinyl records that you can play from the table you’re sat at.

Heading down to the other side of town is where you will find the world-famous Mathew Street. Today it hosts many pubs and clubs and not all have Beatles connections at all but do play on the theme. One pub, The White Star, is still very traditional. It is known in Beatles history as the pub where Alan Williams and Bob Wooler (the original cavern club DJ and huge figure in Merseybeat) would pay their acts. The Beatles would go into the back room to receive their money, today there is a “Beatles back wall” in the exact place where they received their earnings. Brian Epstein later met with Bob Wooler in here in 1963 and discussed The Beatles performing on the Ed Sullivan show in the back room.

When Merseybeat was in full swing, Mathew street was full of warehouses and very few places to drink. The Cavern didn’t sell alcohol, so for the Beatles the best place to go for a drink was The Grapes.
Throughout their time on Mathew street, The Grapes was visited as frequently as The Cavern by the Fab Four. Pete Best famously went to the grapes to drown his sorrows when he was kicked out of the band and famously George Harrison got a black eye outside of here, because Pete had been kicked out of the band. It was refurbished a few years ago, but it still has Beatles heritage.

 

It wouldn’t be a Beatles pub crawl without a visit to The Cavern. The Beatles performed in The Cavern Club 292 times and people travel from all over the world to visit the club that had its own smell, its own dance and where most of the planets biggest stars have performed.

The original cavern opened in 1957 as a jazz club and was taken over by rock and roll, thanks in some part to the rebellion of John Lennon, who would regularly get notes passed to him on stage by the owner to “stop playing that bloody rock and roll!” By 1959 it had been sold to a new owner and Beat groups were regularly playing.
In 1973 the Cavern Club was closed down and knocked down to build an underground rail loop – that never came to be. In turn it was then rebuilt in 1984 out of many of the same bricks and to the original plans, moving its door further down the street and building a second stage. It remains one of the most visited attractions in Liverpool and today it hosts music all afternoon and night and some of the world’s greatest Beatles tribute bands play here. Situated opposite is a wall of fame featuring all the great acts that have performed on Mathew street and in the world-famous Cavern Club.


BRIAN EPSTEIN STATUE APPEAL

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A Crowdfunder campaign to create a lasting legacy to former Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein has less than two weeks left to reach its target– and organisers are appealing for the support of the public.
The team behind The Brian Epstein Statue Project are urging Beatles fans, music fans, and local residents and worldwide supporters to throw their support behind the campaign.

The Brian Epstein Statue Project aims to create a world first with a statue honouring the man fondly known as the Fifth Beatle, Brian Epstein.
Almost £10,000 has already been pledged – but there is still a long way to go to reach the appeal’s £60,000 target.
The Crowdfunder appeal will close at 6pm on Thursday 21 November 2019 – so time is running out fast.

Pledges of any amount can be made and will be gratefully received, and a number of new rewards and incentives have also been announced as part of the appeal countdown.
A Beatles experience for the ultimate Fab Four fan includes a two-night stay for two people in the Lennon Suite at Hard Days Night Hotel in Liverpool, including breakfast and dinner, as well as tickets to The Cavern Club, The Beatles Story, The Magical Beatles Museum, and Magical Mystery Tour. Suggested pledge £1,300.

Enjoy a ride in a replica of John Lennon’s vintage Rolls Royce. A personal driving tour from the owner will make it an unforgettable experience in this striking classic car. Suggested pledge £150.
Pledge £25 to own a limited edition mounted print signed by artist Tom Donahue and author Marie Darwin from the book, What Did Grandad Paul Do When He Was Little? There are just 10 prints available.
Various levels of donation are also available including the Hall Of Fame, Certificate Of Support, and Add Your Own Clay. A full list of rewards and incentives is available on the Crowdfunding page.
The Beatles’ former manager, Liverpool-born Brian Epstein, is credited with catapulting the Fab Four to global success. Yet there is no lasting tribute to recognise and celebrate the vital role he played in the band’s history, nor how he changed the face and sound of popular music. Brian Epstein made history.

The Crowdfunder campaign was launched at the Epstein Theatre, located on Hanover Street in Liverpool city centre, which also marked Brian Epstein’s 85th Birthday.

Project manager and cultural activist Tom Calderbank commented: “Brian needs a bit of help from his friends. We’re encouraging, urging and pleading that people come together and be part of something special to celebrate Brian’s legacy. We’ve worked tirelessly since the appeal went live – but it’s proving to be quite a task. But we’re not beaten – we’ve still got time. We hope the fantastic new incentives and rewards will generate more interest.
“We think we’ve reached more than a million people worldwide through our appeal and media coverage – but it’s just not enough. A big thank you to everyone who has already pledged, people have been very generous and understand what we are striving to achieve in Brian’s name. If you believe in us and want to see this project happen, then please get involved.
“Each and every one of us have something to thank Brian for – he changed the course of music and social history. That deserves a fitting lasting tribute in his honour.”

The Brian Epstein Statue Project committee have wealth of experience and expertise across public art, publishing, theatre production, and the local Beatles industry. Collectively they have a strong desire to ensure the project is successful and are passionate that a lasting tribute to Brian and all he achieved in the history of popular music should be created in Liverpool to celebrate his role in history.

The committee includes cultural campaigner and activist Tom Calderbank; Beatles’ fan Marie Darwin who was part of a group who campaigned for a plaque to be placed on the birthplace of Brian Epstein; Beatles’ historians, researchers and authors Kevin and Julie Roach, and son Robert; Larry Sidorczuk was the personal assistant to the late Joe Flannery, Brian Epstein’s original business partner and bookings manager; and Bill Elms, a producer of the smash hit play Epstein: The Man Who Made The Beatles, which was staged in Liverpool and London’s West End.
Brian Epstein owned NEMS record shop in Whitechapel. It was a lunchtime visit to The Cavern Club in the heart of Liverpool to watch a four-piece rock and roll band on 9 November 1961 which would change the course of history. Music and life in Liverpool would never be the same again. That band was The Beatles – who Brian would go on to manage.
In addition to managing The Beatles, Brain Epstein is credited to creating and developing the Merseybeat movement. He also signed a number of other performers including Cilla Black, Gerry And The Pacemakers, Billy J Kramer And The Dakotas, and The Moody Blues.

The Brian Epstein Statue Project has the support of Brian Epstein’s family, and the Willis family representing the late Cilla Black.
The project is also being backed by Liverpool-born actor Andrew Lancel, who appears in a short video on the appeal’s Crowdfunder page. The former Coronation Street and The Bill actor portrayed Brian in the smash hit play Epstein: The Man Who Made The Beatles on stage in Liverpool and London’s West End to critical acclaim. He later played Brian again in the recent tour of Cilla The Musical – and is a huge advocate of recognising all Brian achieved.

Author Kevin Roach recently published his latest book, Brian Epstein And The Beatles 1964: The Year That Changed The World – proceeds of which will be donated to The Brian Epstein Statue Project.
Sculptor Andy Edwards has been commissioned to create the state of Brian Epstein. Andy is best known for his iconic sculpture of The Beatles located at Pier Head Liverpool, part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Andy sculpted The Truce, which can be found in the grounds of St Luke’s Church, depicting the historic moment on Christmas Day 1914 during the First World War ceasefire when a game of football spontaneously broke out between British and German soldiers. He also co-sculpted the statue of Cilla Black on Mathew Street.

Donations can be made by visiting https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/the-brian-epstein-statue-project

NEW STUDY IN GERMANY: “OB LA DI, OB LA DA IS “THE PERFECT POP SONG”

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This is not a hot take, this is science.
A new study published by researchers at the Max Planck Institute in Germany has crowned The Beatles as the owners of “the perfect pop song.” The song in question is “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” from the band’s 1968 hit from The White Album.

Researchers analyzed 80,000 different chord progressions from 700 songs recorded between 1958 and 1991, according to NME. Chords were subsequently assigned a score for how “surprising” it was compared to the chord preceding it.
A group of volunteers was then invited to listen to and rate how enjoyable chord sequences from 30 songs were. The songs were stripped of lyrics and melodies so that the original song was unrecognizable.
“It is fascinating that humans derive pleasure from a piece of music just by how sounds are ordered over time,” Ph.D. student Vincent Cheung told The Times. “Songs that we find pleasant strike a good balance between us knowing what is going to happen next and surprising us with something we did not expect.”
Other high-ranking songs include: “Invisible Touch” by Genesis, “Hooked on a Feeling” by BJ Thomas, “I Want You Back” by The Jackson 5, “There She Goes” by The La’s, “When It’s Love” by Van Halen and “Red Red Wine” by UB40.
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PETER ASHER TALKS ABOUT HIS NEW BEATLES BOOK

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Peter Asher was part of the British duo Peter and Gordon, who had a huge hit with World Without Love” written by Paul McCartney who was dating his sister Jane. He’s managed James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt and also did an incredible version of “I Go Pieces” with Albert Lee at McLoones Supper club during the Light Of Day in 2017.

Asher has a very successful Beatles show called “From Me To You” on a satellite radio channel and has come out with a new bookThe Beatles from A to Zed,” which was based on an idea he had for his show. It’s not just songs in alphabetical order.

“I use that letter not just for song titles but for people and instruments and styles and places and all kinds of stuff,” Asher said. He first met the Beatles in a pub. “I was excited, they were already a big deal or becoming one, they were being much talked about and the whole ‘Beatlemania’ was just getting fired up.” Once the Beatles hit America, it opened the door for other British bands like “Peter and Gordon.”

“What the Beatles did when America finally realized how good they were and took it seriously it changed everything because suddenly this music which was all based on our love for American music we meant it as a homage, we were all one giant tribute band.”

Asher says the surviving Beatles have not commented on the book but have heard the radio show from which the book is derived from. “Ringo suddenly listens to the radio show from time to time, I believe Paul does,” Asher said.

I became a Beatles fan in the early ’70s when I was babysitting one night in Marlboro and channel 7 ran both “Help” and “A Hard Days Night” back to back. The next day I took the money I had made and bought Beatles albums. My favorite Beatle was Lennon. I loved his personality, the way he looked through sarcastic eyes at this world that worshiped him, and laughed at the irony of it all. He was the first to use his celebrity to advance his cause and his cause was peace. I was hooked and spent my time reading all kinds of books and articles and everything I could about him.


ROBERT FREEMAN DIES: PHOTOGRAPHER FOR ICONIC BEATLES ALBUMS, WAS 82

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Robert Freeman, the photographer whose iconic photos and album covers of The Beatles had a major cultural impact, has died. No cause of death was given, but he had been ill for some time. His death was confirmed by official The Beatles’ Twitter page.

Freeman began his career as a photo journalist at the British newspaper The Sunday Times. He made an early impression with black and white photographs of several jazz musicians, including saxophonist John Coltrane, and that brought him to the attention of Beatles manager Brian Epstein. He commissioned Freeman for a group portrait in 1963.

The group shoot led to a long association with the four boys from Liverpool, including the design and photography for the album covers for With The Beatles (Meet The Beatles! in the U.S.), The Beatles For Sale, Help! and Rubber Soul. He also designed the end credit sequences for the Beatles’ first two films, A Hard Day’s Night and Help!, as well as some of the graphics and photography displayed on the films’ posters and promotional materials.

Freeman later worked as a director on the films Swinging London and the cult film The Touchables, the latter featuring music by the original band named Nirvana. He was also the photographer for the first Pirelli Calendar.

One bit of Freeman trivia that has made the rounds is that his wife, Sonny, was the inspiration for John Lennon’s Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown). She allegedly was having an affair with the songwriter at the time of its writing. The claim was backed by reporting in Philip Norman’s 2008 biography of Lennon and by Lennon’s ex-wife Cynthia Lennon in her own biography.

Freeman suffered a severe stroke in 2014 and his family sold some Beatles memorabilia to support his recovery.

Paul McCartney remarked on the passing of Freeman on his official blog:

Dear Robert Freeman has passed away. He was one of our favourite photographers during the Beatles years who came up with some of our most iconic album covers. Besides being a great professional he was imaginative and a true original thinker. People often think that the cover shot for  Meet The Beatles of our foreheads in half shadow was a carefully arranged studio shot. In fact it was taken quite quickly by Robert in the corridor of a hotel we were staying in where natural light came from the windows at the end of the corridor. I think it took no more than half an hour to accomplish.

Bob also took the Rubber Soul cover; his normal practice was to use a slide projector and project the photos he’d taken onto a piece of white cardboard which was exactly album sized, thus giving us an accurate idea of how the finished product would look. During his viewing session the card which had been propped up on a small table fell backwards giving the photograph a ‘stretched’ look. Instead of simply putting the card upright again we became excited at the idea of this new version of his photograph. He assured us that it was possible to print it this way and because the album was titled Rubber Soul we felt that the image fitted perfectly.

I will miss this wonderful man but will always cherish the fond memories I have of him.

Thanks Bob.

Ringo Starr and the official Beatles Twitter account also saluted Freeman.