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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.”


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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.



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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.



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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.