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Leaving festivals like Woodstock and Monterey aside, there is no more famous gig in rock & roll history than when the Beatles played Shea Stadium, an orange and blue ass pit of a venue in front of 56,000 mostly teenyboppers on August 15th, 1965. It is a gig one might even term infamous, for all of the misunderstanding it has generated over the years, with one old saw after another getting parroted in the various histories of rock. 

If you've seen the footage, you know that the Beatles were positioned on a rickety stage on an infield diamond, with the screams raining down from all directions. The band laughs maniacally, exchanges "shit, can you believe this is happening?" looks and takes the piss with song introductions repeatedly.

Chances are if you've seen footage of a single Beatles gig, it is this one. And chances are, too, that you've heard they were rubbish as a live act once they became famous, couldn't even hear themselves, just wanted to haul ass out of Dodge ASAP, all of that. And, for many years, the tales surrounding that Shea Stadium gig, plus the footage, plus the bootleg of the show, reinforced all of this. Which is a shame, and a matter in need of redressing. 

Help! had just details

Rolling Stone has compiled a list of the 100 Greatest Songwriters and, not surprisingly, Bob Dylan lands at the top of the tally. In choosing the prolific folk-rock legend as the #1 songwriter, the magazine notes, “Dylan’s vision of American popular music was transformative. No one set the bar higher, or had greater impact.”

Coming in at #2 and #3 on the list, respectively, are former Beatles band mates Paul McCartney and John Lennon. Rolling Stone calls Sir Paul “pop’s greatest melodist,” while noting that he has “a bulging songbook that includes many of the most-performed and best-loved tunes of the past half-century.” As for Lennon, the magazine says, “No one better rendered the complexity of personal life or global politics, or better connected the two, than [he did] during his solo career in universal songs like ‘Watching the Wheels’ and ‘Imagine.'”

Rounding out the top 10 of the tally are Chuck Berry at #4, Smokey Robinson at #5, The Rolling Stones‘ Mick Jagger and Keith Richards at #6, Carole King and her ex-husband and songwriting partner Gerry Goffin at #7, Paul Simon at #8, Joni Mitchell at #9 and Stevie Wonder at #10.< details

During the Beatles years, George Harrison grew rapidly as a songwriter. He often dealt with philosophical themes of living for the moment and renewal. In “Love You To,” Harrison rails against people “who’ll screw you in the ground” and “fill you in with their sins.” A precursor to “Love You To,” “Think for Yourself” tells the story of a man distancing himself from someone who has lied and wreaked emotional havoc. Accented by Paul McCartney’s fuzz bass, the song not only reveals Harrison’s darker side, but foreshadows the thematically sophisticated tracks he would pen on subsequent Beatles albums as well as his solo works.

The inspiration for the bleak lyrics is unclear; in his autobiography I Me Mine, George Harrison wrote that he did not remember a specific incident that preceded the song. “‘Think For Yourself’ must be written about somebody from the sound of it — but all this time later I don’t quite recall who inspired that tune. Probably the government,” he said. Originally titled “Won’t Be There with You,” Harrison and the Beatles recorded the song in one session on November 8, 1965. A details

IT was 50 years ago today that Nigel saw the band play. Leamington businessman Nigel Robinson recalls attending arguably the most famous single pop concert in history.

FIFTY years ago on Saturday (August 15) history was made when the Beatles played the most famous concert of its era – and Beatlemania was at its height.

August 15 1965 at Shea Stadium, home of the New York Mets, saw a new level of mass hysteria, and gave birth to the modern day music concert.

And among the crowd of 60,000 plus – were two Warwick schoolboys there to witness it.

Nigel Robinson and David Treadaway were Warwick School sixth formers enjoying their summer holiday in the States when they managed to get tickets for the concert that set new records in attendance and the greatest gross in the history of entertainment.

“It was incredibly exciting,” said Nigel, now a director of Newsline Public Relations in Leamington. “Beatlemania was at its peak in the States, where only the year before in March 1964 the Beatles had an incredible 12 singles in the US top 100 – including all of the top 5!”

The Fab Four had arrived in New York and on the night on the concert they were t details

The internet just cannot stop eulogizing, analyzing, and generally fetishizing album covers. Arguably one of the great art forms of the previous century, LP sleeves are the subject of a thoughtful, well-edited video essay entitled “How The Beatles Changed Album Covers” by YouTuber Nerdwriter1, whose screen name seems rather like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In addition to videos about everything from Louis CK to Game Of Thrones, Nerdwriter1 has an entire series of educational clips about art and art history. “How The Beatles Changed Album Covers,” appropriately, is as much about art—specifically, consumer art—as it is about music. One of the main themes of the video is that the album cover’s true importance is as a tangible object, something which fans can collect and hold onto, even though music itself is both invisible and intangible.

The essayist gives viewers a thumbnail history of LP covers, including a nod to graphic designer Alex Steinweiss, who was a pioneer in the use of album covers as a means of artistic expression, beginning in the late 1930s.

Nerdwriter1 cleverly and succinctly demonstrates how The Beatles’ innovative album covers document the b details

What The Beatles did July 28, 1968 - Friday, August 14, 2015

Smack in the middle of all of the other craziness of 1968 was the transition of The Beatles from pop superstars to socially progressive musicians.

With The Rolling Stones nipping at their heels — and a global explosion in political protest — the four lads from Liverpool pushed themselves past the psychedelia of 1967’s “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and “Magical Mystery Tour” and into the much more abrasive and experimental “White Album” that came out in the early fall of 1968.

“Revolution” may now be thought of as the music that accompanied a sneaker commercial a few years ago, but 47 years ago the potent single tied in with the protests that brought France to a halt in the spring of 1968 and the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy in this country (and the resulting riots in cities all over the U.S.)

The “White Album” was already in the can when a horrified nation watched the police riot at the Democratic Convention in Chicago, but cuts from the album were just beginning to be heard at the end of that crazy summer.

The first single from the album — “Hey, Jude” — details

“So You Want To Be A Rock ’n’ Roll Star, then listen now to what I say, just get an electric guitar and take some time and learn how to play …”

So sang a chart-topping Los Angeles-based band called The Byrds in January 1967, at the height of the British Invasion. And thanks to an apparently endless parade of gifted singer-songwriters from beyond the sea, rock stardom didn’t seem all that remote at the time – even if those lyrics were mildly laced with acid.

Flash forward to 2015. I awaken to find yet another bumper crop of ads in my inbox, exhorting me to claim my rightful place as a rock ’n’ roll star. But when I behold the staggering array of software, guitars, pedals, amps, recording equipment, tutoring and degree programs that stand between me and fame, it fills me with wonder: How did the most creative period in pop music history ever get off the ground without the benefit of any of these toys?

Well, why not rev up the Wayback machine and see what a world without Facebook might have to teach us?

Seat belts fastened? First stop, Liverpool, 1961, the eve of the British Invasion.

It’s February, and the Beatles, fresh from a 14 details

Icons: Ringo Starr - Wednesday, August 12, 2015

I’m in a hotel room with a Beatle. And admittedly overjoyed to be there. For me there are stars, and then there are great songwriters and legends. And then, above all else, are The Beatles.

“Inspired?” he says with a laugh, when I use that word to describe the songs he wrote for his latest album, Postcards From Paradise. “We need to have you around more often!”

Seems like a great idea. His band The Beatles, as the universe knows, was the greatest ever, and the love they brought the world through their short but miraculous reign continues to radiate every day. He came together with John, Paul and George to churn out miracle songs from 1963 to 1969 almost non-stop, forever changing the art of songwriting as we know it.

It was Ringo who often came up with their titles and phrases (“A Hard Day’s Night,” he confirms, was his, though “Eight Days A Week,” often attributed to him, he says, was not) and also conceived distinctive drum parts. A songwriter’s dream drummer, he always crafted soulful parts that served the very essence of each song. Even his fills are legend: soulful grace and visceral power without ever overwhelming the song.

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Fifty years ago next week in the new Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, the British sensation known as The Beatles ran out to the stage at second base, tuned up a bit and immediately launched into the Isley Brothers’ hit Twist and Shout: “Shake it up, baby, now, twist and shout. Come on, come on, come on, come on, baby now, come on and work it on out!”

It was The Beatles – John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr – who were shaking up huge baseball stadiums on their second tour of America. An estimated 34,000 screaming fans that Wednes­day night of Aug. 18, 1965, saw what would be The Beatles’ only appearance in Georgia.

The tour had started three days earlier with The Beatles performing to 55,000 fans at Shea Stadium in New York City. Besides Atlanta, stops that August would include Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto; Sam Houston Coliseum in Houston; Comiskey Park in Chicago; Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, Ind.; Memorial Stadium in Portland, Ore.; Balboa Stadium in San Diego, Calif.; Hollywood Bowl in Hollywood, Calif., and Cow Palace in Daly City, Calif., near San Francisco.

During those stops, The Beatles would meet privately with The Supremes, details

The Beatles weren’t that good when they first formed.

Don’t take my word for it, Paul McCartney said in a recent radio interview: “We obviously weren’t that good. We were formulating it all.”

Record producer George Martin agreed. “When I first met them, they really couldn’t write a decent song. ‘Love Me Do’ was the best they could give me, yet they blossomed as songwriters in a way that was breathtaking.”

They became great because they worked at it. I’m not talking about that 10,000 hours Malcolm Gladwell has written about, though there’s no question that all the time in Hamburg helped. But if it was just down to putting the hours in, then Gerry and the Pacemakers would have become global icons. They were from Liverpool, managed by Brian Epstein and they too toured the Hamburg club scene; in fact, they stayed longer than the Beatles. Gerry and the Pacemakers focused on what worked, they wrote some huge hits and had three number ones in a row. But to shake up the world, the Beatles knew they were going to need a little something extra. Originality.

When Paul, John, George and Ringo were told how something was supposed to be do details

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