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Beatles 50th Blog

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: December 18, 1966

On December 17, 1966, Mr. Tara Browne was driving with his girlfriend, model Suki Potier, in his Lots Elan through South Kensington at high speed (some reports suggesting in excess of 106 mph/170 km/h).

He was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol. He failed to see a traffic light and proceeded through the junction of Redcliffe Square and Redcliffe Gardens, colliding with a parked lorry. He died of his injuries the following day. Potier claimed Browne swerved the car to absorb the impact of the crash to save her life.

Browne was survived by his wife Noreen (Nicky) (MacSherry) and their two sons, Dorian and Julian Browne. According to some sources, he was the inspiration for the Beatles song "A Day in the Life".

"A Day in the Life"

On January 17, 1967 John Lennon, a friend of Browne's, was composing music at his piano whilst idly reading London's Daily Mail and happened upon the news of the coroner's verdict into Browne's death. He worked the story into the song  "A Day in the Life", later released on the album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The second verse features the following lines:

He blew his mind out in a car
He didn't notice that the lights had changed
A crowd of people stood and stared
They'd seen his face before
Nobody was really sure
If he was from the House of Lords

According to Lennon, in his 1980 interview with Playboy magazine, "I was reading the paper one day and I noticed two stories. One was the Guinness heir who killed himself in a car. That was the main headline story. He died in London in a car crash."

However the song's other lyricist-composer, Paul McCartney, had a very different inspiration. He is quoted as saying: "The verse about the politician blowing his mind out in a car we wrote together. It has been attributed to Tara Browne, the Guinness heir, which I don’t believe is the case, certainly as we were writing it, I was not attributing it to Tara in my head. In John’s head it might have been. In my head I was imagining a politician bombed out on drugs who’d stopped at some traffic lights and didn’t notice that the lights had changed. The ‘blew his mind’ was purely a drugs reference, nothing to do with a car crash."

Lennon remembered McCartney's contributions differently however, saying in Playboy, " Paul's contribution was the beautiful little lick in the song 'I'd love to turn you on.' I had the bulk of the song and the words, but he contributed this little lick floating around in his head that he couldn't use for anything. I thought it was a damn good piece of work."

A less well-known memorial to Browne was composed by Sean O Riada.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: December 17, 1966

The Beatles were in-between sessions today.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: December 16, 1966

UK single release: The Beatles’ Fourth Christmas Record – Pantomime: Everywhere It’s Christmas

The Beatles' Fourth Christmas Record – Pantomime: Everywhere It's Christmas was sent to members of The Beatles' UK fan club on this day.

The audio had been recorded on November 25, 1966, and mixed and edited on December 2, 1966.

Side one: Song: Everywhere It's Christmas; Orowanya; Corsican Choir And Small Choir; A Rare Cheese; Two Elderly Scotsmen; The Feast; The Loyal Toast.

Side two: Podgy The Bear And Jasper; Count Balder And Butler; Felpin Mansions (Part Two); The Count And The Pianist; Song: Please Don't Bring Your Banjo Back; Everywhere It's Christmas; Mal Evans; Reprise: Everywhere It's Christmas.

I drew the cover myself. There's a sort of funny pantomime horse in the design if you look closely. Well I can see one there if you can't. "Paul McCartney"

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: December 15, 1966

Studio Two, EMI Studios, London

Four trumpets and three cellos, brilliantly scored by George Martin, provided the distinctive brass and string sound which he and John had decided was necessary for the remake of "Strawberry Fields Forever". (The trumpeters were Tony Fisher, Greg Bowen, Derek Watkins and Stanley Roderick, the cellists John Hall, Derek Simpson and Norman Jones). The instruments were recorded onto take 25, which was then reduced again into take 26; onto this was then added two separate Lennon Lead vocals.

By the end of the 2:30 - 12:00 pm session "Strawberry Fields Forever" had taken on an intensity of almost frightening proportion. With its frantic strings, blaring trumpets, heavy drum sound and two manic, exceptionally fast John Lennon vocals it was now but a distant relative of the original, acoustic take one. Would John be satisfied with it? For the time being, at least, it was labelled "best" and so was subjected to more rough mono mixing.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: December 14, 1966

John Lennon Interview: Look Magazine 12/13/1966 (Part Two)

This is what a Lester set is like: Once more, they are in a deserted German square, now, with all the paraphernalia of movie-making, with British 'soldiers,' Lennon among them, ready to comb the streets, with German 'soldiers' lying in wait. "Quiet please!" an assistant shouts -- just as a little boy walks into the scene. Apoplectic, the assistant rushes forward and shoves the child aside. Lester, whose normal weapon is humor, flushes. "Don't push!" he commands.

Once again, they are ready to shoot -- and once again, the child intrudes. For 15 seconds, Lester eyes the man silently. Then, "Boo," he calls, and "Boo" the cast joins in.

 

For Lester, a director makes no statement against violence by having thousands die. To him, each death must matter -- and in his new film, each does. Such were the ideas that captured Lennon, despite his doubts about himself.

He did not doubt alone. How I Won The War is staffed with seasoned British actors, all trained in repertory, all well-known at home and all suspicious. But none is today.

Samples:

 "We expected someone a bit kinky, bitchy, arrogant. He is none of those things. He's completely natural."

 "You're not working with another actor, you're working with an OBE, a multimillionaire -- in sterling, not dollars -- whose every word will be reported in the world press. The miracle is that he's so normal. I could wrap him up dialectically in two minutes, intellectually, in three. But he's got a certain inborn, prenatal talent. I have my talent, which I think is considerable, but it doesn't compare in his field."

 "I don't think he does anything with a conscious thought of trying to impress. He's remarkably free. He does not act the part."

"We talk about him all the time. All of us feel the same thing. We find it difficult to be as normal with him as he is with us."

Lennon's lack of pretense astonished the actors. "He's someone who just tries anything," one of them marveled. "No stand-in, no special treatment, no chair for him."

During a break for tea one raw morning, Lennon queued with the rest. When his turn arrived, his heart's desire was gone. "You don't have to be a star to get a cheese sandwich," he mused. "You just have to be first."

They like his humor too. That same morning, a German mother pushed her three-year-old son up to the Beatle, clutching his autograph book in his hand. "Sign it!" she demanded. Lennon did as bidden, telling the boy, "Yes, sir, you put us where we are today." On location in Spain one afternoon, the script required Lennon to drive a troop carrier along the beach. Accelerating too fast, he spun the wheels; the rear of the carrier sank. As his crestfallen director approached the cab, Lennon peered sheepishly over his glasses and gave him a limp salute.

Lennon is not on; he is simply original. "America used to be the big youth place in everybody's imagination. America had teenagers and everywhere else just had people." He recognizes his own impact on the changes since then, but he refuses to concede that youth today is all that different -- particularly youth in England.

The last generation might have been just like today's young adults, he maintains, had it not had to fight the war.

"If they said, 'Fight the war now,' my age group would fight the war. Not that they'd want to. There might be a bit more trouble gettin' them in line -- because I'd be up there shouting, 'Don't do it!'"

"It just so happens that some groups playing in England are making people talk about England, but nothing else is going on. Pop music gets through to all people all over the world, that's the main thing. In that respect, youth might be together a bit. The Commie youth might be the same as us, and we all know that, basically, they probably are. This kind of music and all the scene is helping. But there's more talk about it than is actually happening. You know, swinging this, and all that. Everybody can go around in England with long hair a bit, and boys can wear flowered trousers and flowered shirts and things like that, but there's still the same old nonsense going on. It's just that we're all dressed up a bit different."

"The class thing is just as snobby as it ever was. People like us can break through a little -- but only a little. Once, we went into this restaurant and nearly got thrown out for looking like we looked until they saw who it was. 'What do you want? What do you want?' the headwaiter said, 'We've come to bloody eat, that's what we want,' we said. The owner spotted us and said, 'Ah, a table sir, over here, sir.' It just took me back to when I was 19, and I couldn't get anywhere without being stared at or remarked about. It's only since I've been a Beatle that people have said, 'Oh, wonderful, come in, come in,' and I've forgotten a bit about what they're really thinking. They see the shining star, but when there's no glow about you, they only see the clothes and the haircut again."

"We weren't as open and as truthful when we didn't have the power to be. We had to take it easy. We had to shorten our hair to leave Liverpool and get jobs in London. We had to wear suits to get on TV. We had to compromise. We had to get hooked, as well, to get in and then sort of get a bit of power and say, 'This is what we're like.' We had to falsify a bit, even if we didn't realize it at the time."

If Lennon is compulsive about anything today, it's about truth as he sees it. But he protests when he's labeled a cynic.

I'm not a cynic. They're getting my character out of some of things I write or say. They can't do that. I hate tags. I'm slightly cynical, but I'm not a cynic. One can be wry one day and cynical the next and ironic the next. I'm a cynic about most things that are taken for granted. I'm cynical about society, politics, newspapers, government. But I'm not cynical about life, love, goodness, death. That's why I really don't want to be labeled a cynic."

It is in the context of the young man who recoils at distortion that his now-famous remark should be viewed. "I said it. I said we were more popular than Jesus, which is a fact." What he could not explain then was why.

He does not feel that one need accept the divinity of Jesus -- he, personally, does not -- in order to profit from his words. A frequent reader of ancient history as well as philosophy (his current lists includes a book on Indian thought and Nikos Kazantzakis's 'Report Greco'), he contends that man has mishandled Christ's words throughout the centuries.

"I believe Jesus was right, Buddha was right, and all of those people like that are right. They're all saying the same thing-- and I believe it. I believe what Jesus actually said-- the basic things he laid down about love and goodness -- and not what people say he said."

Christianity has suffered, he believes, not only because Christians have distorted Christ's words but because they concern themselves with structures and numbers and fail to listen to their vows. They 'mutter' and 'hum' their prayers, but pay no attention to the words. "They don't seem to be able to be concerned without having all the scene about, with statues and buildings and things."

"If Jesus being more popular means... more control, I don't want that. I'd sooner they'd all follow us even if it's just to dance and sing for the rest of their lives. If they took more interest in what Jesus -- or any of them -- said, if they did that, we'd all be there with them."

Would he call himself a religious person? "I wouldn't really. I am in the respect that I believe in goodness and all those things." And if being religious meant being 'concerned,' as Paul Tillich the late Protestant theologian, once put it? "Well, I am then. I'm concerned alright. I'm concerned with people."

At the age when most men are just beginning to adjust to the world, John Lennon has already nudged it a bit. The hysteria that surrounds him can no longer disguise the presence of a mind. His ideas are still rough, but his instincts are good and his talent, extraordinary. You may love him, you may loath him, but this you should know: As performer, composer, writer or talker, he'll be around for a long, long time.

 

 

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: December 13, 1966

John Lennon Interview: Look Magazine 12/13/1966 (Part One)

 In the fall of 1966, Look magazine's European editor Leonard Gross and photographer Douglas Kirkland visited John Lennon on-location during the filming of 'How I Won The War.'

 The article, entitled 'John Lennon: A Shorn Beatle Tries It On His Own', would be published in Look magazine's December 13th 1966 issue.

 John Lennon was chosen for this film role by director Richard Lester who had directed Lennon previously in the Beatles' first two films, 'A Hard Day's Night' in 1964 and 'Help!' in 1965.

 The Look article is Gross's firsthand account of events on the movie set. It also contains extended excerpts of conversations with John Lennon, which have been highlighted in blue for easier referencing.

Whoever would have dreamed that beneath that mop lurked a Renaissance man? Yet there, shorn, sits John Lennon, champion minstrel, literary Beatle, coarse truthsayer, who turned Christendom on with one wildly misunderstood gibe at cant. Now, face white, tunic red, playing wounded in a field of weeds, this pop-rock De Vinci is proposing to act for real. Relaxed to all appearances, he is all knots inside.

"I was just a bundle of nerves the first day. I couldn't hardly speak I was so nervous. My first speech was in a forest, on patrol. I was suppose to say, 'My heart's not in it any more' and it wasn't. I went home and said to myself, 'Either you're not going to be like that, or you're going to give up.'"

As he casts his weak brown eyes at the camera, the entire movie company jockeys for a glimpse. "I don't mind talking to the camera -- it's people that throw me."

  Sure enough, he blows his lines. He waggles his head in shame. "Sorry about that." But under the low-key coaxing of Director Dick Lester, Beatle John becomes Private Gripweed, a complex British orderly, in an unorthodox new film, How I Won The War.

Lennon on his own -- rich for life at 26, yet poor still in what men of all seasons crave -- full knowledge of himself. Beatling by itself, he has found, is not enough. "I feel I want to be them all-- painter, writer, actor, singer, player, musician. I want to try them all, and I'm lucky enough to be able to. I want to see which one turns me on. This is for me, this film, because apart from wanting to do it because of what it stands for, I want to see what I'll be like when I've done it."

They stood silently in the deserted German square that Sunday morning, three young British actors costumed like the soldiers who had taken the town 22 years before. Then the one whose notorious locks had recently been chopped short observed, "I haven't seen so much fresh air together for about four years."

For John Lennon, the Beatles' leader, it had been one swift crazy ride to the top. But now, there were distortions, and he had recoiled. Grownups were twisting a Beatles' kids' song into an LSD trip -- an ingenious lament that he and Beatle Paul McCartney had polished off one wild night was, current rumor had it, actually the synopsis of an opera so bitter it could not be sung. A passing remark about religious hypocrisy had made Lennon a devil or a saint, depending on your tastes. Others might enjoy them, but to Lennon, who is nothing if not honest, the distortions had become a threat.

"I don't want people taking things from me that aren't really me. They make you something that they want to make you, that isn't really you. They come and talk to find answers, but they're their answers, not us. We're not Beatles to each other, you know. It's a joke to us. If we're going out the door of the hotel, we say, 'Right! Beatle John! Beatle George now! Come on, let's go!' We don't put on a false front or anything. But we just know that leaving the door, we turn into Beatles because everybody looking at us sees the Beatles. We're not the Beatles at all. We're just us."

"But we made it, and we asked for it to an extent, and that's how it's going to be. That's why George is in India (studying the sitar,) and I'm here. Because we're a bit tired of going out the door, and the only way to soften the blow is just to spread it a bit."

In that kind of mood, a Dick Lester set was just the therapy for Lennon. Each man is the kind who makes the New Theologians jump. To them, the individual is more thrill than threat -- a unique being who should be taken for what he is. Lester, who directed both Beatle films, gratefully recalls his first meeting with the group, when the movies were just an idea. "They allowed me to be what I damn well pleased. I didn't have to put on an act for them, and they didn't put one on for me."

 

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: December 12, 1966

The Beatles are in-between sessions and taking a break

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: December 11, 1966

Brian Epstein presents legendary American rock ‘n’ roll singer Little Richard in two concert performances at the Saville Theatre. After the concert, Brian offers Richard a management contract, which is rejected.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: December 10, 1966

UK album release: A Collection Of Beatles Oldies

Since 1966 was to have no new Beatles long-player released for the UK Christmas market, EMI decided to release its first greatest hits compilation.

A Collection Of Beatles Oldies contained eight tracks which had previously appeared on UK albums, and a further eight singles tracks which were issued here on LP for the first time. Just one song, Bad Boy, was previously unreleased. This made the album an essential purchase for 1966 Beatles completists, although it was less value for money for other fans.

The album was issued as Parlophone PMC 7016 (mono) and PCS 7016 (stereo). It entered the UK charts on 10 December 1966, and peaked at number seven. In all it spent 34 weeks on the charts.

A Collection Of Beatles Oldies was the first Beatles album to fail to reach number one. At the time Revolver was still selling strongly, and the top seller that Christmas was the soundtrack to The Sound Of Music.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: December 9, 1966

Studio Two, EMI Studios, London

With much overdubbing still to be done to "Strawberry Fields Forever", the previous night's edit of takes 15 and 24 were reduced to just the track on the four-track tape and called take 25 at the start of this 2:30-10:00 pm session. All manner of overdubs were then applied onto this, everything from backwards cymballs to a swordmandel (an Indian instrument, not unlike a table harp). For the purpose of cutting more acetates a quick mono mix was prepared halfway through the session.