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Remembering Ben E. King - Tuesday, May 05, 2015

It may seem foolhardy to compare Ben E. King, who died last week at age 76, with The Beatles. Their music and their backgrounds seem so totally different.

But King, himself, did that when this writer interviewed him for a 2005 Paste story about the late 1950s/early 1960s pop music associated with New York’s Brill Building. And he expressed hurt and complaint when he discussed what the Beatles did to the world he knew.

As the urbane baritone singer with both eloquently clear diction and an underlying streak of poignantly soulful gruffness, first with The Drifters and then solo, King worked with a record company (Atlantic), producers (Leiber and Stoller) and songwriters (Pomus and Shuman, Goffin and King, Phil Spector and Bert Berns) associated with the Brill Building’s heyday. He also was an excellent composer himself, co-writing “There Goes My Baby” and the gospel-influenced “Stand By Me.”

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Rolling Stone's Top 100 Songs Of All Time And The Instruments You Didn't Know Were Being Played - Monday, May 04, 2015

What makes a song timeless? It could be the harmony, the subject matter or something intangible that defies explanation. Creating a song may seem easy enough -- add some drums, bass, guitars and vocal -- but some musicians go above and beyond to deliver a unique listening experience. Berklee College of Music experts applied their expertise to figure out what instruments were used in Rolling Stone's Top 100 Songs of All Time. The instruments employed most often shouldn't surprise you, but what about the timpani, mouth harp or sleigh bells?

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The Beatles, “Like Dreamers Do” (Decca Audition, 1962): Deep Beatles - Friday, May 01, 2015

In 1962, the Beatles did not pass the audition.

January 1 of that year was supposed to be the Beatles’ huge break, as manager Brian Epstein had secured an audition with Decca Records. Decca A&R rep Mike Smith had attended the group’s December 13, 1961 Cavern Club show. Liking what he heard, he approached the Beatles and Epstein to record an audition tape for the label. The recording session was set for December 31, 1961. What followed was a virtual comedy of errors.

First, road manager and assistant Neil Aspinall agreed to drive the boys from Liverpool to Decca’s West Hampstead Studios. However, the group encountered a snowstorm during the trip, resulting in Aspinall getting lost. When they finally arrived at 10 p.m. December 31, they had been on the road over ten hours. Epstein (who had arrived earlier via train) and Smith rescheduled the session for the following day, hoping the boys would be well rested.

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Paul McCartney, “Take It Away” from Tug of War (1982): One Track Mind - Thursday, April 30, 2015

Celebrated at the time as a partial Beatles reunion, Paul McCartney’s “Take it Away” certainly starts that way, with an off-kilter rhythm courtesy of Ringo Starr and all of the tasteful hallmarks of a George Martin production — right down to the stoic piano accompaniment. But there was more to this standout track from Tug of War, released in April 1982.

The song’s most interesting new element, really, comes from 10cc alum Eric Stewart, whose presence clearly sparked Paul McCartney to dabble in some of that group’s now-famous layering of background vocals. “Take It Away” ends with a soaring loop of wordless sighs from a thousand Pauls, Erics and Lindas. A darker undertone surrounds the album, too, no matter how high that coda rises. That had more to do with the Beatle who wasn’t there, rather than the ones who were.

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Roger Waters discusses the Beatles’ impact on Pink Floyd: ‘There was a value in that freedom’ - Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Pink Floyd recorded its 1967 debut just one studio over from the Beatles at Abbey Road studios. But that’s where the similarities between Piper at the Gates of Dawn and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band end, Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters says.

“I remember when Sgt. Pepper came out, pulling the car over into a lay by, and we sat there and listened to it,” Waters tells KLCS. “Somebody played the whole thing on the radio. And I can remember sitting in this old, beat up Zephyr Four, like that [sits for a long period, completely agape].”

You can hear the immediately influence of the Beatles’ “Lovely Rita” on “Pow R. Toc H.,” from Piper at the Gates of Dawn. But Roger Waters, then still in ascendency as the principal creative force in Pink Floyd, says his entire approach to songwriting was forever altered.

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McCartney recorded 'Hey Jude' in this Aston Martin - Monday, April 27, 2015

One day in 1968, Paul McCartney was driving his Aston Martin DB6 to visit John Lennon's son, Julian, when a song came into his head. There was a reel-to-reel tape recorder installed in the car's dashboard for moments just like this, so he turned it on and started recording.

This would have been the very first recording of the song that became "Hey, Jude." That Aston Martin is still around, and the carmaker let me take it out for a drive.

Indeed, this nearly 50-year-old "Goodwood Green" sedan was in very fine shape. The smooth wooden steering wheel felt good in my hands. The shifter slipped easily from gear. Fortunately, I'd been in England a few days by that time and had finally gotten used to driving on the "wrong" side of the road and shifting gears left-handed.

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Jeff Lynne’s Productions With the Beatles Rank With His Best - Monday, April 27, 2015

As the young auteur behind Electric Light Orchestra, Jeff Lynne hardly made his admiration for the Beatles a secret, with his distinctive take on Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound engineering, multitracked studio wizardry and soaring multipart vocal harmonies owing a clear debt to “Abbey Road” and “Magical Mystery Tour.”

So it made sense that Lynne would go on to become the defining producer for the group’s post-1960s diaspora.

Not only has he produced solo work for Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison, Lynne was behind the boards for the Beatles’ final “new” hit records: “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love,” painstakingly recorded around existing Lennon demo tracks in honor of the Beatles’ massive “Anthology” releases in the 1990s. (The singles reached No. 6 and No. 11 on the Billboard singles chart, respectively.)

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Ron Howard to direct documentary about The Beatles - Sunday, April 26, 2015

Oscar-winning director Ron Howard will direct a documentary about The Beatles' early touring career. The film will chronicle Beatlemania, from the band's appearance in the clubs of Liverpool, England, to its final appearance at Candlestick Park in San Francisco in 1966.

The documentary will be produced by Apple Corps Ltd. (which represents the Beatles), White Horse Pictures and Imagine Entertainment. It will also feature interviews with Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison.

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Vinyl gold: What are the world's ten most valuable records? - Sunday, April 26, 2015

Avid record collectors will happily pay through the nose for the right piece of rare vinyl. But how much is their upper limit and what would they be buying?

Rare Record Price Guide has a list of the ten most valuable vinyl records commercially available. That's stuff you could have bought in Woolworths (remember them?) back in the day.

The big surprise? The top ten most valuable vinyl records are dominated by just two major groups!

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Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr-autographed Beatles piano raises more than $98,000 for veterans: ArtScape - Thursday, April 23, 2015

A piano with a Beatles theme -- signed by Sir Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr -- will allow East St. Tammany Habitat for Humanity to construct a home for a veteran and his or her family.

The two world-famous musicians signed the piano, restored and painted by Slidell artist Lori Gomez, in the fall. But it took months of effort to obtain certificates of authenticity and a certified estimated value before the piano could go up for auction on the Web site, Charitybuzz.com.

The auction started April 2, but it all came down to the final minutes before it closed April 16 at 2 p.m. About 50 ESTHFH supporters gathered at Carreta's Grill in Slidell to watch the final countdown on their smart phones and IPads.

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How John Lennon and Donovan dreamt up digital distribution...In the 1960s - Thursday, April 23, 2015

Digital distribution may have only reached its true potential relatively recently, but the concept of artists reaching music fans directly and instantly was actually being banded around by pioneering songwriter Donovan and his friends The Beatles half a century ago.

Speaking to Music Week, Donovan revealed that, way back in the 1960s, he and The Beatles discussed the concept of a communication network by which they could distribute music digitally and connect with anyone in the world, whenever they wanted - much like the internet as we know it today.

“The internet is what we spoke about, me and The Beatles, sitting around at Apple, but we didn’t know it was called the internet. We didn’t know that the military establishment were working on it and it was going to come,” he said.

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Why Visiting Mendips and 20 Forthlin Road is Something Every Beatles Fan Should Do - Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Liverpool is known all over the world as the birthplace of The Beatles. (And #scousebrow. Look it up.) Obviously, a large portion of the city's visitors are there to see what The Beatles saw in their formative days.

And there's a lot left to see, although most of it has been prettied up, such as the Albert Docks, which houses a Beatles visitor center, and The Cavern Club, where the band played in its early years. (The Cavern Club actually had to close down in the 1980s, but it was rebuilt using a lot of the original bricks.)

Of course, Beatles-themed tours are plentiful, ranging from the Magical Mystery Tour (a two-hour sightseeing bus tour) to the The Beatles Fab Four Taxi Tour (a private taxi tour.) But only one tour can get you inside the childhood homes of John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

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7 Facts That Will Change the Way You See Yoko Ono - Tuesday, April 21, 2015

It may seem like you know a lot about Yoko Ono. The artist, who has been prolific and active in the art world since the 1960s, was showing her conceptual work at a gallery in London in 1966 when she met John Lennon (see How Eight Art World Power Couples Met and Fell In Love). She released her first solo album in 1970 entitled Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band. And die-hard Beatles fans blame her for the immensely popular band's break-up. This year, the artist will have a survey at MoMA, "Yoko Ono: One Woman Show, 1960-1971," which will offer a look back at the early years, gathering roughly 125 performances, films, works on paper, installations, and archival materials. In anticipation of the show, we've uncovered some things about Ono that may change the way you see her.

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Ringo Starr Inducted, Green Day Shine at Rock and Roll Hall of Fame - Sunday, April 19, 2015

Lou Reed, Joan Jett and Bill Withers also receive special inductions

"It's like my record collection is actually sitting in this room," Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong said midway through his acceptance speech at the 30th annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. "The fact that I heard Patti Smith's Horses as a kid, and now there you are standing there."

Armstrong paused for a split second to take in the moment, looking out across the rows of tables that included Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Joan Jett, Stevie Wonder, Peter Wolf, Steve Van Zandt, Bill Withers, Jerry Lee Lewis and many other of his favorite artists. "I love rock & roll music," he said. "I have from the first moment I opened my eyes and took my first breath."

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Yoko Ono On John Lennon's Forgotten First Love -- Drawing - Friday, April 17, 2015

"He had a habit of just giving his art away to people," Yoko Ono softly explained, in a phone interview with The Huffington Post. "He was pretty generous about that."

Yes, that humble "he" refers to John Lennon, the legendary singer, songwriter, musician and artist who inspired the world to imagine peace. As such, it's not a huge shock that he enjoyed giving away his drawings. "We had a big lawyers meeting and the whole time they were talking he was just scribbling something," Ono said. "The lawyers would come to John and say, 'What are you doing?' And he was making this beautiful, beautiful artwork. And the lawyer said, 'Well, can I have it?' And he said, 'Sure, sure.' That's just how John was."

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Take an Interactive Virtual Tour of Abbey Road Studios - Thursday, April 16, 2015

Abbey Road Studios is among the most famous recording studios in music history, and while music fans are no doubt familiar with the albums that came out of Abbey Road – the Beatles catalog, Dark Side of the Moon, The Bends, among many others – not many have actually seen the inside of the storied London studio itself. That is, until now.

For Inside Abbey Road, Google has teamed with the studio to present an in-depth, multimedia guided tour through the famed studios by combining the search engine's Google Maps technology with YouTube videos, interactive exhibits and more.

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Ringo Starr snubs autobiography offers - Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Ringo Starr refuses to write an autobiography because publishers are only interested in his career with The Beatles.

The 74-year-old drummer has been approached to tell his story in a book on numerous occasions but has always refused because he doesn't want to pen a tome that primarily focuses on his time with The Fab Four and discounts his life and work after the band split in 1970.

Instead, Ringo prefers to tell tales of his life and share memories with his fans in his songs, starting with 2008 LP 'Liverpool 8'.

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Sir Paul McCartney Calls for an End to Canada's Brutal Commercial Seal Hunt - Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Sir Paul McCartney has issued an impassioned appeal for an end to the senseless slaughter of baby harp seals taking place off Canada's east coast. The Canadian government has authorized the killing of up to 468,000 harp, hooded and grey seals. The seals-almost all just a few weeks of age-are shot, clubbed and skinned for their fur despite dwindling global demand for seal products. Humane Society International is the only organization on the scene to bear witness to the 2015 commercial seal hunt.

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9 Beatles Songs That Clearly Influenced Heavy Metal - Monday, April 13, 2015

It’s difficult to find an area of music that the Beatles didn’t influence, but their contribution to the progression of heavy metal is often overlooked. Perhaps best remembered for their psychedelic art-rock and flawless pop singles, the Fab Four could certainly let their hair down and fire off some headbangers, inspiring metal architects like Ozzy Osbourne and Gene Simmons. Plus their pioneering work with distortion, feedback, unorthodox lyrical topics, and death metal roars helped provide the building blocks of the genre.

So without further ado, in chronological order, here are nine Beatles songs that clearly helped pave the road to heavy metal.

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'Mad' Ringo Starr Says He Was Drunk For Decades After Beatles' Breakup - Sunday, April 12, 2015

Were you upset by the breakup of the Beatles back in the day? So was Ringo Starr.

The Fab Four drummer told the Times of London that he often spent the 1970s and '80s in a boozy haze.

“I was drunk,” he said. "Some of those years are absolutely gone.”

Starr, 74, explained to the paper that the group's split affected him for a long time. “I was mad,” he said. “For 20 years. I had breaks in between of not being.”

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