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PAUL SALTZMAN WAS 24 WHEN HE STUDIED WITH THE BEATLES UNDER THE MAHARISHI IN RISHIKESH, INDIA. HIS NEW FILM “MEETING THE BEATLES IN INDIA” CHRONICLES THE EYE-OPENING EXPERIENCE

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“We were there four months—or George and I were. We lost thirteen pounds and (barely) looked a day older,” John Lennon told a BBC reporter while promoting the Beatles’ new business venture, Apple Records, of The Fab Four’s 1968 visit to India to study with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. “I don’t know what level he’s on, but we had a nice holiday in India and came back rested-to-play businessmen.”

“He’s on the level,” Paul McCartney, ever the diplomat, chimed in.

Fifty-two years ago, in the spring of 1968, the Beatles traveled to Rishikesh, India, to study with Maharishi, after meeting the ambassador of Transcendental Meditation in the summer of 1967. It’s an oft-discussed but little understood period in the band’s history, and came at a time when the Beatles were both at the top of the mountain creatively and culturally, but had also just come out of the rockiest period they’d ever experienced since exploding into the world’s collective consciousness earlier that decade.

While Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and the singles “Penny Lane” / “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “All You Need Is Love”—also part of the first global satellite broadcast—had broken sales records around the world and ushered in a massive change to the pop-music landscape, the Beatles’ television film Magical Mystery Tour had been met with derision, and their manager, Brian Epstein, had died of a drug overdose at the shockingly young age of 32.

“I knew that we were in trouble then,” John Lennon said, reflecting on the period to Rolling Stone’s Jann Wenner in 1970. “I didn’t really have any misconceptions about our ability to do anything other than play music. I was scared. I thought, ‘We’ve fuckin’ had it.’” And so, at the urging of George Harrison, already a disciple of sitar master Ravi Shankar and seeking a spiritual path beyond the doses of LSD he was popping—and Lennon was reportedly taking daily—the Beatles were off to India.
“We had all the material things, fame and all that, but there was still something needed, you see,” Harrison told the Saturday Evening Post at the time. “It can’t be one hundred percent without the inner life, can it?”

“They had everything they could ever want, but they’d realized that wasn’t the answer to anything,” recalls Jenny Boyd, a model at the time, and the sister of Pattie Boyd, George Harrison’s then-wife, who traveled with the entourage as part of their pilgrimage to India. “It was all very exciting because I thought, ‘Oh, gosh, this is what I want. I want to be able to have something that feels meaningful.’ Everyone else was quite excited, too.”
Still, Boyd had her concerns about Maharishi.
“When we’d gone to study with him the previous summer—when Brian died—I remember walking in the lecture hall and there were the four Beatles up there on the stage with him,” Boyd says. “It seemed a little bit like they were the goose that had laid the golden egg. So I was never sure about Maharishi. If someone calls themselves a holy man, you want to feel some connection, but I didn’t feel any connection.”

The visit to Rishikesh is the subject of a new film, Meeting The Beatles In India, from director Paul Saltzman, which opens via the Gathr online platform . Saltzman, who through a series of what can only be viewed as synchronistic events, ended up the only outsider at Maharishi’s compound during the Beatles’ stay there.

“I ended up there because I was heartbroken,” Saltzman, who at 24 was a successful Canadian TV actor at the time, remembers. Seeking enlightenment, he’d joined a documentary film crew as its soundman, before ending up at the gates of Maharishi’s ashram after receiving a Dear John letter from his then-girlfriend. Initially denied entry on account of the famous guests in attendance, Saltzman persisted, sleeping in an Army tent on the outskirts of the ashram. “I was looking for a way to ease the pain. I didn’t know and didn’t care that the Beatles were there.”

Eventually allowed in and taught meditation, though still relegated to the Army tent, Saltzman was also quickly accepted into the group of people studying with Maharishi, which just so happened to include John, Paul, George, and Ringo. Saltzman was soon at ease enough to ask each of the Beatles if they minded if he took some photos. They obliged, and Saltzman’s photos chronicling his time at the ashram by the banks of the Ganges—which were packed away and forgotten for many years—are remarkable; as intimate and relaxed as any of the Beatles, some of the most photographed people in the world, then or now.

“My daughter had become a Beatles’ fan and asked me to find them,” Saltzman recalls. “It was the beginning of a journey that endedin the making of this film.”

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“You’d get a knock on the door, early, and there’d be ‘Mango man,’ as we called him, with a lovely glass of fresh mango juice,” Boyd, who appears in Meeting The Beatles In India, recalls of her nearly three months in Rishikesh. “Then I’d hook up with Pattie and walk down to the breakfast table, then head back to my bungalow to meditate. After that, we’d go up on the roof and listen to John and Paul and George playing, and then have henna put on our hands, or learn how to put on a sari, or sometimes Pattie and I would go down to the Ganges and just sort of dip our toes in there. Once Pattie and I went across the Ganges in a little boat and went to look at the village of Rishikesh. So we’d do little things like that, and it just became a way of life. But mainly there was a lot of meditation. And we’d have our meetings with Maharishi, sitting outside. By that time I wasn’t hung up by not being sure about him, because the meditation was amazing and I’d proved it to myself how amazing it made me feel.”

“I would see them doing those things, and I would just be hanging out at a table by the cliff,” recalls Saltzman, who was at the ashram for eight days, and says the broken heart he was nursing was lifted the first time he meditated. “I’d do some meditation, I would read, I would write, I would meditate some more. And I was in heaven that I wasn’t in agony anymore.”

Of course it wasn’t all meditation and vegetarian meals for the most famous men on the planet.

“Apparently, there was a lot of experimentation with drugs and Maharishi was not happy about that,” Deepak Chopra, a close friend of George Harrison’s, recalls the former Beatle telling him of his time studying with Maharishi. “George did admit that there was a lot of drugs and that it was not appropriate for the ashram atmosphere. But they were also very creative, and they wrote lots of songs whilst they were there.”

Indeed, the Beatles were incredibly prolific while in Rishikesh. Though accounts vary, Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison wrote in the neighborhood of 30 songs while there, many of which made up the band’s holiday release that year, their fabled self-titled LP known as the White Album.

“They could just be themselves, and that was very rare,” Boyd, who has written extensively about creativity and is sure the atmosphere sparked the Beatles’ creative juices, recalls. “Even though we’d go to nightclubs all together that were filled with musicians back in London, and it was very cool, and nobody coming to ask for autographs or anything, they were still the Beatles. They couldn’t help but be affected by being in that fishbowl. But this was very different. It was the first time that they could just relax and be all together, because it was like living in a commune, in a way. There was no press; there was no pressure. They just had each other and their creativity, and of course, the inspiring surroundings. They could let whatever came out come out. All their inspiration just seemed to come from whatever was going on.”

“I know that once I began meditating, things started expanding in my awareness, and I started having epiphanies and creative insights that haven’t stopped for a single day, and George told me they all found it very useful and they found it very helpful to their music,” Chopra, who began meditating while a medical resident in 1980, adds. “With George, although he was of course supremely musical, I’m sure a lot of that focus came from meditation. I lived with him for a while at his home outside of London, and every time you spoke to George, by the time you finished speaking to him, in his head, he had a song. That was so amazing to me.”

Ultimately, as Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn recounts in the film, the Beatles fell out with Maharishi. But whatever John Lennon said in the years after the Beatles’ trip to India, the trouble appeared to begin after “Magic” Alex Mardas, an intimate of the Beatles, showed up in India.

“Magic Alex came over and I knew he was up to no good,” Boyd recalls. “He had come to visit me the night before we went to India, and John and Cynthia were there. He was still trying to get John to go to his guru instead. So there was a real jealousy there, because he thought he was John’s friend, and didn’t want anyone in his way. So when he arrived, I thought, ‘Uh-oh, he’s here to make trouble.’ I just had this feeling. I’d see him walking around the ashram hand in hand with this woman, and I could sense there was something being cooked up. Then he told John that the woman had said that Maharishi had tried something on her, and that Mia Farrow had said the same thing. So John went to George, and they both went to go and see Maharishi.”

Lennon confronted Maharishi. “’There was a hullabaloo about him trying to rape Mia and a few other women. The whole gang charged down to his hut and I said: ‘We’re leaving!’” Lennon later recounted to Rolling Stone.
“But why?” Maharishi pleaded.
“Well, if you’re so cosmic you’ll know why,” Lennon shot back.

“The next morning, George woke me up and said, ‘C’mon, you and me and Pattie are going to south India to join Ravi Shankar,’” Boyd recalls. “By then, I was so ensconced, it was really sad as we all walked past. There was Maharishi, he had been called, told that his prize troupe were leaving, he was sitting down and one of his people was holding an umbrella over his head, and he kept saying, ‘Boys, boys, why are you leaving?’ It felt awful. I just thought, ‘Nobody’s told him?’ I felt that we’d betrayed him.”

In true Lennon fashion, he also immortalized the souring of the relationship in song.

“Maharishi, what have you done, you’ve made a fool of everyone,” Lennon wrote in the original lyrics to “Sexy Sadie,” a song he came up with while waiting for the car that whisked him, his wife Cynthia, George Harrison, and Pattie and Jenny Boyd from the Maharishi’s ashram. It was only after Harrison suggested changing the title that Lennon softened the blow to the now familiar refrain of the song.

“I titled it ‘Sexy Sadie,’” Harrison recalled to Entertainment Weekly in 1987. “I don’t know what John would say about that, but he was sitting there and I was saying, ‘Well, John, wouldn’t it be more subtle to call it, say, something like ‘Sexy Sadie?’ It’s a bit obvious—‘Maharishi.’ The words, that was John’s concept of what happened to him. But even John was wrong some of the time.”

“We went to visit Maharishi in an ashram, and the first thing that George did—after offering him a rose as a greeting for him to bless and then give it back to us at the end—was to say, ‘I’ve come here to apologize on behalf of the Beatles,’” recalls Chopra. “Maharishi asked, ‘Why did you come to apologize?’ George said, ‘Because of what happened in 1968. You know, John said some unfortunate things about you.’ I don’t even know what it was, but it was something salacious, apparently, and it created a bit of a scandal. And Maharishi laughed it off. He said, ‘There’s nothing to apologize for. The Beatles are angels on earth. Because of the Beatles, the world will change. Their music will change the world and it will cause a big shift in collective consciousness. There’s never any need to apologize.’ And George was very emotionally moved, and he slept in the ashram that night.”

Ultimately, the Beatles were never again the four men, united against the world, that they had been before their visit to Rishikesh. From 1968 onward they were on parallel paths, and Paul Saltzman, whose journey led him from meeting the Beatles in India and, ultimately, to making a film about the experience, has some insight into why.

“When you delve into your inner self—with a capital S—which most people avoid and run away from, and when you touch into your heart and soul, which was what was happening at the ashram, you’re dealing with, in a sense, your best self,” Saltzman says. “You’re feeding your best self really well, you’re resting well, you’re touching into your inner self, heart, and soul through meditation. And I think you come back from that changed. And so I think India changed the Beatles—forever.”

thedailybeast/Jeff Slate


HOW SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE ALMOST REUNITED THE BEATLES

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The legendary late-night TV comedy show, Saturday Night Live, can boast a number of achievements during its long run as the only show to watch on Saturday night. That said, it nearly added the extraordinary accolade of reuniting The Beatles to its long list of merit-worthy musical moments, after a long-running gag almost got John and Paul back together.

The joke, which almost saw John Lennon and Paul McCartney make their way down to the famous studios at 30 Rock—and did actually manage to snag George Harrison—saw the producer of the show, Lorne Michaels, make a tongue-in-cheek plea to the band to reunite for their fans… and it very nearly worked.

In the iconic first series of Saturday Night Live—America’s home of alternative weekend hilarity—the show’s legendary leader, Michaels, set himself a fairly big challenge to really launch the show: to reunite The Beatles. He started as any SNL act would, with an unflinching piece directly to the camera that not only poked fun at the band, but also hinted at the chaotic comedy that was in store for the four decades to come.

Whether Michaels was performing with the real intent of reuniting the most enigmatic songwriting partnership to have ever existed in Lennon and McCartney, or he was just doing a sketch for a few laughs, Michaels shared the sentiment of a nation as he tried to bring the group back together only a few years after their world-famous disbandment.

The Beatles were still fresh in the memory of the public and, despite having seen all four members of the group finding solo success and excelling on their own merits, the desire to see the Fab Four together at once was still too much to not indulge. It was something Michaels was well aware of, realising that if nothing else he would have a funny bit for the show.

The initial plea saw the producer looking down the barrel of the lens, stating: “In my book, The Beatles are the best thing that ever happened to music. It goes even deeper than that — you’re not just a musical group, you’re a part of us. We grew up with you.” It’s all fairly standard stuff and likely something John, Paul, George and Ringo had spent much of the decade hearing.

“Now, we’ve heard and read a lot about personality and legal conflicts that might prevent you guys from reuniting,” says Michaels with a twinkle in his eye. “That’s something which is none of my business. That’s a personal problem. You guys will have to handle that. But it’s also been said that no one has yet to come up with enough money to satisfy you. Well, if it’s money you want, there’s no problem here.”

As the audience in the studio gasped, mirroring all those watching at home, the thought of NBC dropping mega-bucks to reunite the band was a tantalising reality. “The National Broadcasting Company has authorised me to offer you this cheque to be on our show. A certified cheque for $3,000.” It now becomes a little clearer that Michaels was always playing a joke.

The producer continues with the sketch and explains how all the band need to do is sing three songs: “‘She Loves You,’ yeah, yeah, yeah – that’s $1,000 right there. You know the words. It’ll be easy. Like I said, this is made out to ‘The Beatles.’ You divide it any way you want. If you want to give Ringo [Starr] less, that’s up to you. I’d rather not get involved.”

Little did the producer know that while Michaels entertained the audience in the studio with his skit, as well as the millions of folks watching at home who were likely laughing away with them—John Lennon and Paul McCartney were watching the show together in John’s apartment in the Dakota building just minutes away from the studio. What’s more? They were actually considering going down.

John said in 1980 when speaking with David Sheff for Playboy, “Paul was visiting us at our place in the Dakota. We were watching it and almost went down to the studio, just as a gag. We nearly got into a cab, but we were actually too tired. He and I were just sitting there watching the show, and we went, ‘Ha ha, wouldn’t it be funny if we went down?’ But we didn’t.”

Paul McCartney would later confirm the story, saying: “John said, ‘We should go down, just you and me. There’s only two of us so we’ll take half the money.’ And for a second. But It would have been work, and we were having a night off, so we elected not to go. It was a nice idea – we nearly did it.”

In 1976, and a few weeks after Michaels’ original offer, he returned to keep the joke moving. Michaels said with another piece to camera: “I was able to convince NBC to sweeten the pot. John, Paul, George and Ringo—we are now prepared to up the original offer to $3,200.” Still, even with such a gigantic increase on the offer, The Beatles remained quiet for months. Until George would break the silence and book himself a car to Studio 8H.

In 1976, George was guest spot alongside Paul Simon. Singing ‘Homeward Bound’ and ‘Here Comes The Sun’ as duets was a marvellous moment for all who witnessed it but perhaps George’s best performance of the night came in the skits. Not normally one to fool about, Harrison had clearly been let in on the cheque joke and was more than ready to poke fun at himself and the rest of the band.

Arriving with his guitar and an open hand poised for the weight of the ‘handsome’ $3,200 cheque. Yet he was met (as part of a skit it must be emphasised) by Michaels with a disappointing revelation. “See, I thought you would understand that it was $3,000 for four people, and it would just be $750 for each of you,” Michaels told Harrison backstage with the audience watching on monitors. “As far as I’m concerned, you can have the full $3,000.”

“That’s pretty chintzy,” George replied as he then limped off for his performances alongside Paul Simon. It’s a fair assessment given the TV gold the joke had given the audience more importantly what it almost gave them. While silly gags are par for the course at SNL, one joke would almost reunite The Beatles and it’s one we will happily watch again and again.

faroutmag


THE FORMER ABBEY CINEMA IN LIVERPOOL NEEDS A LIDL HELP FROM ITS FRIENDS

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Threatened Beatles cinema needs a Lidl help from its friends

The supermarket chain now controls the fate of Liverpool’s Abbey picture house – one of John Lennon’s favourite places
In the mid-1960s John Lennon wrote some lyrics that would eventually become the Beatles classic In My Life. He later described his rejected first draft, which name-checked places near his Liverpool home, as “the most boring sort of ‘what I did on my holidays bus trip’ song”.

In the original version, among the “places I’ll remember all my life” was the Abbey cinema in Wavertree. “In the circle of the Abbey, I have seen some happy hours,” he wrote. Fellow Beatle George Harrison was also a regular.

By 1979, a magnificent art deco edifice that could accommodate more than 1,800 people in its vast double-tier auditorium, had reached the end of its life as a cinema. Now a campaign has been launched to save the building amid fears that its owners, the supermarket chain Lidl, could seek to demolish it and replace it with a purpose-built store on the site.

An application for the Abbey to be listed has been submitted to Historic England, and almost 2,500 people have signed an online petition calling for the building’s preservation and suggesting its upper floors could be used for community arts.

Clare Devaney of Love Wavertree, which organised the petition, said“Wavertree has been pretty neglected and there’s been under-investment, but it has a beautiful built heritage. The Abbey has architectural value, cultural value and a Beatles heritage”.
The Cinema Theatre Association, which is supporting the listing application, said the Abbey was “a fine example of the best cinema design of its period, designed by an important Liverpool architect to be worthy of its prominent site in the historic Wavertree village. It formed a key part of the landscape in which at least two of the Beatles grew up, and their references to it give it outstanding national importance.”

theguardian


“WE LOVE YOU”: LENNON & MCCARTNEY ADD VOCAL SUPPORT TO ROLLING STONES

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John and Paul’s show of solidarity was a measure of the outrage felt about Jagger and Richards’ imprisonment.
The albeit fleeting incarceration of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards after their drug convictions of 1967 was one of the biggest stories of what became known — ironically, in their case — as the Summer of Love.

This extraordinary entry in the history of the Rolling Stones was soon illustrated by the band’s own memorable single inspired by the affair, “We Love You.” At a nighttime recording session at Olympic Studios on July 19 that year, backing vocals and percussion for the upcoming Decca release were laid down by Paul McCartney and John Lennon.

The gesture by the two Beatles was a show of solidarity for their friends and a measure of the outrage felt about Jagger and Richards’ imprisonment. Even as the case was ongoing, an earlier such gesture had been made by The Who, when they recorded swiftly-convened covers of “The Last Time” and “Under My Thumb.”

The Stones were at Olympic recording what became Their Satanic Majesties Request, their sixth British album, which followed in December.

“We Love You” wasn’t on it, which gives it an even more distinct place in the events of that year. Opening to the sound of prison doors banging shut, it then featured an imposing piano riff by Nicky Hopkins.

Defiant Jagger-Richards lyrics showed both appreciation for their fans’ support during the ordeal, and disdain for the establishment that, in their eyes, condoned it.

To make the point even more powerfully, there was a striking promotional film directed by Peter Whitehead.

“We Love You” was released on August 18 in the UK, and two weeks later in America.

It entered the UK charts on the 26th, and spent most of September in the British top ten, with a No.8 peak.

In the US, “Dandelion” was promoted as the A-side of the single and reached No.14, but interest and airplay for “We Love You” was enough to earn it a No.50 peak of its own.



TOP DIRECTOR TO SHOOT BIOPIC ABOUT BRIAN EPSTEIN

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Jonas Åkerlund-directed Midas Man to be produced by Trevor Beattie and shot in Liverpool.

“Midas Man” will be shot in London, Liverpool and the U.S. for release in 2021. Worldwide sales will be handled by Mister Smith Entertainment.The original screenplay was written by Brigit Grant and Jonathan Wakeham. The casting director is Dan Hubbard.

An award-winning director, who has worked with Paul McCartney on music videos, is to direct a major British film about Brian Epstein, the visionary manager and impresario who took the music industry by storm in discovering stars from the Beatles to Gerry and the Pacemakers.

The film, titled Midas Man, will be directed by Jonas Åkerlund, who has won multiple Grammy awards.

It will tell the story of a Liverpudlian record-shop manager with a talent for forecasting hits and spotting future stars. Epstein signed the biggest band of all time, the Beatles, and discovered Cilla Black and Billy J Kramer, opening his own theatre to promote and launch the likes of Jimi Hendrix and the Who. His impact on popular music and culture resounds to this day.

The film’s producer, Trevor Beattie, told the Guardian: “Epstein’s one of the most extraordinary men of the 20th century. His story hasn’t been told properly. He’s often taken for granted by the wider world, but he was ahead of his time from his vision of music and popular culture through to gender identity. He was gay at a time when homosexuality was illegal. He lived a secret life. He made some risky decisions in handling the business of his stars … Compared with what Brian had to live in his life, [they were] not a risk.”

Epstein’s achievements are all the more extraordinary because he died aged just 32, in 1967, following a barbiturate overdose.
Beattie said: “Epstein first met the Beatles in November 1961, when he was 25, and he was dead in August 1967. It is a tragic story. But it’s also life-affirming, a triumph for the human spirit because, in those few short years, he changed popular culture forever.”

His previous productions include the Bafta-winning Moon, starring Oscar-winner Sam Rockwell, and the acclaimed feature documentary, Nureyev.

For almost two years, he has been researching Epstein, talking to people who knew him, including Gerry Marsden, of Gerry and the Pacemakers: “He told me stories that haven’t been printed yet and that we’ll introduce into our film.”

Some relate to artists that Epstein encountered at the legendary Cavern Club in Liverpool, where Cilla Black was a hat-check girl: “Gerry said that Cilla would run up on the stage between Gerry and the Pacemakers and the Beatles and that she saw herself as a rocker. Brian said, ‘no, you’re a balladeer’. He changed the angle on her.”

He said of the Beatles: “It all started in 1961 at the Cavern. Brian saw four scruffy lads in leather jackets, drinking, smoking and swearing on stage. What’s fascinating is that, when he discovered them, there were no [John] Lennon/McCartney songs. They were singing Chuck Berry and Little Richard songs. Brian saw their potential. Today, we would say ‘he packaged them’. He put them in suits and turned their scruffiness into that Beatles look, with the mop-top haircut.”

Previous attempts to make an Epstein film have failed to get off the ground. But this production is collaborating with Liverpool, where much of it will be filmed, and it has received the boost of a multi-million-pound investment from China, where the Beatles and the 1960s look, sound and style remain hugely popular. Casting has begun and Midas Man will be released in cinemas next year.

theguardian


RINGO STARR ON BEATLES “GET BACK” DOCUMENTARY: “THERE´S A LOT MORE JOY”

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“We’re having fun, we’re playing, you know,” said Ringo of his reaction when he saw some of the footage.
Ringo Starr has been sharing his thoughts and early impressions of the much-anticipated The Beatles: Get Back documentary. The film, directed by Peter Jackson, had been due for release this summer by Apple Corps Ltd and WingNut Films, distributed by Disney. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s now scheduled for 21 August 2021.

Starr was speaking at a virtual press conference earlier this week to publicise plans for his 80th birthday celebrations on 7 July. He revealed that he had seen some portions of Jackson’s new interpretation of the many hours of footage filmed around the making of The Beatles’ Let It Be album. Notably, he added, of the group’s famous rooftop performance that will be central to the upcoming documentary.
“I’d only seen the on-the-roof stuff”
“I was disappointed [when the film’s release was delayed] because, I mean, I’d only seen the on-the-roof stuff that Peter edited together,” said Ringo. He observed that the new treatment vastly expands on Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s 1970 film Let It Be and casts the album sessions in a new and much more positive light.
“It was, I’m guessing ten minutes long,” said Ringo of the rooftop edit in the earlier film. “It’s now 36 minutes long and it is incredible…you know, he was still putting the rest of the documentary together his way.
“We have plenty to play with”

“You know how it started,” Ringo continued. “We found 56 hours of unused footage. So we have plenty to play with. And I always believed that the one that came out was a bit dull and it stuck to one second of what happened between the boys.
“When he comes into L.A.,” explained Ringo of his meetings with Jackson. “I’ll bring up his iPad Theater [app, to view the footage] and he’ll show me ‘Look, we’re all laughing or telling jokes. We’re having fun, we’re playing, you know, we’re always playing and there’s a lot more joy.” Starr concluded by explaining that Jackson has not been able to return to the studio since February.

udiscovermusic