One on One With McCartney: Fan Tour Reports

Here is a selection of reports filed by Beatlefan contributors from the recent U.S. leg of Paul McCartney’s One on One tour. See Beatlefan #228 for more coverage.

Macca joined onstage by Billy Joel in Long island. (Photo: MPL)

Tom Frangione reporting on some of the New York area shows …

Following a seven-week summer hiatus, Paul McCartney and his band returned to the stage, launching the current leg of their One on One Tour with two shows at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ, which began on Monday, Sept. 11th. The venue is a short train ride across the river from New York’s Madison Square Garden, where they would be taking the stage a few days later for an additional two shows.

Sept. 11 is a somber date on the calendar, especially in the New York/New Jersey area, so Paul addressed the anniversary early on, dedicating the show to “those we lost on that day” 16 years earlier. He did not, however, reprise the song he wrote in the wake of the attacks, “Freedom”, as many had suspected he might.

Paul on acoustic at Madison Square Garden (Photo: Rick Glover)

The extended holiday did wonders for his voice, which was well rested and in fine form. The band tore through the standard tour set list, which showed little deviation from last time Paul was in town, barely a year earlier, with just two songs swapped out from the August 2016 repertoire: “Here There and Everywhere” and “The Fool on the Hill” were dropped, with “I Wanna Be Your Man” and “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” in their stead. For the former, Paul told the story of how he and John came to give that song to the Rolling Stones back in 1963 (quick! Someone get him a Mark Lewisohn book!) and, for the latter, he did acknowledge the 50th anniversary celebration we’ve all been immersed in this summer.

One of Paul’s band members, Paul “Wix” Wickens, noted that they had some surprises in store, given the number of frequent fliers (The Fans on the Run and others …) likely to see multiple shows during the eight-show run in the area. Beyond the two shows each in Newark and the Garden, pairs of shows also took place at the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island, and the Barclays Center in the garden spot of the world, Brooklyn, USA.

“I Saw Her Standing There” with Bruce Springsteen. (Photo: Bob Gannon)

For “I Saw Her Standing There” in the Sept. 15 encore at Madison Square Garden in NYC, Paul was joined was joined onstage by local hero Bruce Springsteen and his sidekick “Little” Steven Van Zandt, bringing the crowd to a frenzy. Two takes were done, presumably as a “safety” measure for possible release or web posting, or other editing.

Paul noted from the Garden stage that “New York has many special memories” for him, and he had many friends and family in the audience. To mark the occasion, he added a medley of “A Day in the Life” and “Give Peace a Chance” to the middle of the set list. The spirit of John Lennon was very much in the room, as it was during the acoustic performance of “Here Today.”

Kathy Urbanic reporting on the Sept. 23 show at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse …

The Syracuse show was fantastic, as always, so no need for me to to ladle on the superlatives. Paul was in high spirits, and he seemed happy and playful with the crowd, although I noticed early on that he seemed a little congested. He sneezed twice while introducing one of the early songs, made a joke of it and said, “God bless me.” I think he may have a bit of a cold — his voice seemed hoarse on some of the numbers — but you’d never know it by his energy level.

The Carrier Dome is not air-conditioned and, with the outside afternoon temperature hitting the high 80s, it was sweltering inside — for the concertgoers and for the band. Paul never commented on the heat, though, and the band members didn’t scale back on their energy, either. It occurred to me what a class act they are — consummate professionals. Paul and the guys gave it their all, even in decidedly uncomfortable conditions.

Paul with Rusty Anderson and Brian Ray at MSG. (Photo: Rick Glover)

I noticed two sign language interpreters on the floor in front of the section where I was sitting, a young guy and a young gal. It was fascinating to watch them, especially the young guy, who put a lot of body English into his delivery of the lyrics.

There was a scary incident that, thankfully, was quickly resolved: During “Live and Let Die,” some of the explosives ignited material at the top of the rigging at the right side of the stage (just above the big screen on that side). There were visible flames on the rigging that did not look like they would burn themselves out; in fact, they were getting stronger. We could see one of the crew members (or maybe it was a Dome staffer) climb up the rigging in the dark to douse the flames while Paul launched into “Hey Jude,” after which those of us who had spied the problem breathed a sigh of relief.

Peter Stergakos reporting on the Sept. 26 show at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Long Island … 

My initial intention was to write a “proper” review of one of Paul’s performances at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, NY.  However, after being a part of this concert experience, I feel the need to go much further. A simple musical analysis of McCartney’s performance is, I feel, a futile exercise at this point in time. The magnitude of the man’s significance far supersedes any commentary on his music or how well he performed it.

Onstage at Nassau Coliseum in Long Island. (Photo: James Liverani)

Upon seeing him in 2005 at one of his Madison Square Garden shows, I had made the decision that this was basically “it” for me. By this time, the decline in his vocal abilities was well evident and, in all honesty, I couldn’t subject myself to any more shows in which a man who was/is such a huge part of my life seemed to struggle to make it through a given performance.

For this reason, when my wife presented me with two tickets to one of the Nassau Coliseum shows for Father’s Day, my feelings were, at best, quite mixed.

At any rate, the night of Sept. 26 had arrived and here I was, going against my decision, getting (psychologically) ready to see a performance by a man who is one of the prime representations of my nearly 60 years of life. How would he sound? How much would he struggle? Would his performance envelope me, make me happy for him and proud of myself in being such a huge, diehard fan? Or would I be standing there shaking my fat head the entire night?

Well, let me state in no uncertain terms that, within less than 30 seconds of the evening’s opener (“A Hard Day’s Night”), every one of those concerns became nonexistent. Yes, his voice was clearly not what it once was and, if I’m being brutally honest, sounded even more strained than it did in ’05 (which was to be fully expected). So, why wasn’t I hoping this would be a quick evening?

The best way to explain is to quote my wife, who was at my side and, at best, is only an average music listener and certainly not a fanatic for Paul, The Beatles or any other musical artist. But, during the fourth song (“All My Loving”), she leaned over to me and said, “His voice isn’t so great, but I don’t care!”

And, there, you basically have it. This was Paul McCartney. A 75-year-old Beatle whose level of importance nearly excused any technical shortcoming he could possibly exhibit on a live stage. As his songs took us through the times of our lives, he exuded an energetic warmth and persistence which, for my part, are unmatched by any performer I’ve ever had the opportunity to see.

For the very first time at any concert, he made me realize that it was not about a “perfect” performance, from a technical standpoint. It was about the sincerity, desire and, yes, LOVE, that emanated from the stage. This is not a love “for the money” as many cynics would speculate; it’s a love for the music, the process which creates it and a very deep-rooted appreciation of the resultant adulation his fans put forth for that music and the man who played a crucial role in creating it.

It was more than a concert; it was an event I’m grateful to have been given the chance to be a part of.

Garry Wilbur reporting on the Sept. 26 show at Nassau Coliseum …

It was my 12th time seeing Paul in concert, this time at the newly refurbished Coliseum venue in Long Island, NY.

The set list was the exact same one he played Saturday night at Syracuse, with one exception which I’ll get to. It was a very enjoyable show, but Paul’s voice was threadbare for most of it, in my opinion anyway. I saw him last August and it didn’t sound as bad then.

Joked about which Nassau he was playing. (Photo: James Liverani)

He started off by quipping, “Hello Nassau! When I heard we were off to Nassau, I thought we were going to the Bahamas.”

Other notes from the show; lots and lots of oldsters in attendance, including me … Paul, before launching into “Here Today,” referred to John “passing away,” which always irritates me since he was actually murdered in cold blood … the big bathroom break song was “My Valentine,” but, for me, it was the men only/women only ending to “Hey Jude” … Paul reading signs from the audience: “Brooklyn girls do it 8 days a week” (must have been a holdover from the Barclay Center shows in Brooklyn the previous week) and “My 16th time seeing Paul in concert,” to which Paul replied, “That seems highly excessive” …  the “Give Peace a Chance” refrain in which Paul yelled out “to all the world” — a welcome and nice touch …  anecdotes about Soviet planes spraying clouds to prevent rain from spoiling Paul’s Red Square show, and imagining once that Robert Plant would be fatally zapped by laser beams at a Led Zep concert adding, “Must have been watching ‘Goldfinger’ too much.”

The encore was interesting. Paul muffed the beginning of “Yesterday,” then restarted after joking about it. Then, he brought on Billy Joel, who was wearing a baseball cap with an H on it (for Hicksville?). The home crowd went crazy. Paul asked Billy what song he’d like to do and “Get Back” was the reply. Unfortunately, Billy looked out of it the whole time he was onstage. He stayed at piano for the next song, “Birthday,” then, after a big embrace with Paul, he stumbled off the stage (maybe he’s not fully recovered from his hip surgery?). After Billy exited, Paul thanked him for being a good sport and showing up on such short notice. I wondered if he woke him with a call while he was sleeping!
After the finale “Abbey Road” medley song ‘”The End,” a pretty confetti dropping closed out the show.

I never miss a chance to see Paul in concert when he tours in the NYC area. I hope I’ll be able to see him many more times. And, that his voice will hold up. At 75, he shows amazing stamina and energy! And the songs, even with his voice showing more wear and tear than ever, remain wonderful and exciting to hear.

Check out Beatlefan #228 for news of the One on One U.S. tour leg and for Rick Glover’s report on Macca’s New York Takeover.

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‘Give More Love’: A Track-by-Track Preview of Ringo’s New Album

Beatlefan Publisher Bill King previews Ringo Starr’s “Give More Love” album, set for Sept. 15 release on CD and download and Sept. 22 on vinyl. …

 

If you’ve listened to Ringo’s three most recent albums that he’s self-produced with engineer Bruce Sugar (2010’s “Y Not,” 2012’s “Ringo 2012” and 2015’s “Postcards From Paradise”), you already have a pretty good idea what to expect from most of the tracks on Ringo’s 19th solo studio album, “Give More Love” — upbeat philosophy, lots of midtempo rockers, an unabashed love song to wife Barbara, a host of famous sidemen, and plenty of namechecks from the drummer’s storied career.

This time, however, he offers more tracks on the CD and digital configurations. And, refreshingly, Ringo takes a slightly different approach to a few of the numbers. While, overall, the album is very much in keeping with recent Ringo efforts, the sound is a bit rockier in places, and there’s also a straight-up country number, a taste of ’50s rock ’n’ roll and some surprisingly bluesy numbers.

The overall set isn’t quite as strong in terms of material as “Postcards From Paradise,” which received regular play in my car CD player for a good three months. But I’d give a strong thumbs-up to half of the 14 tracks. And Ringo is in good voice throughout; he’s much more versatile as a singer than in his earlier days.

Paul McCartney and Joe Walsh guest on the album.

Recorded at Roccabella West, Ringo’s home studio in Los Angeles, “Give More Love” has 10 new tracks featuring collaborations with friends, including Paul McCartney, Joe Walsh, Edgar Winter, Steve Lukather, Peter Frampton, Benmont Tench, Timothy B. Schmit, Richard Page, Amy Keys, Richard Marx, Nathan East, Gary Burr, Dave Stewart, Glen Ballard, Don Was, Gary Nicholson and Gregg Bissonette.

The three advance singles available as downloads are the catchy title track; the hard-rocking “We’re On the Road Again,” which features McCartney on bass and backing vocals; and the country number “So Wrong for So Long.”

The four CD/digital bonus tracks that won’t appear on the vinyl version are remakes of “Back Off Boogaloo,” “Don’t Pass Me By,” “You Can’t Fight Lightning” and “Photograph,” and generally present the tracks in a more stripped-down, bluesier style than the originals.

The new version of “Back Off Booglaloo” is based on the original recording Ringo made when he wrote the song. The other three bonus tracks are collaborations based on performances from Starr’s 2016 Peace & Love birthday event. Anglo-Swedish rock band Alberta Cross performed “You Can’t Fight Lightning” and Louisville, KY-based indie-folk group Vandaveer performed “Photograph” and “Don’t Pass Me By.” Starr loved their renditions and asked them to record the songs for his new album, adding his own vocals.

The new album picks up where the last one left off.

The album was produced by Ringo and “recorded” by Sugar, and the two of them mixed the tracks.

Here’s a track-by-track look at the album, complete with credits, my thoughts in italics, as well as comments from Ringo provided by Universal Music Enterprises:

“We’re on the Road Again”

Written by Richard Starkey and Steve Lukather

Ringo Starr: Drums, Vocals, Percussion

Paul McCartney: Bass

Steve Lukather: Guitar, Keyboards

Jim Cox: Piano

Backing Vocals: Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney, Joe Walsh, Gary Nicholson, Gary Burr, Georgia Middleman, Edgar Winter, Richard Marx, Steve Lukather

This upbeat rocker features a raucous lead guitar riff that should sound very familiar to those who’ve listened to Ringo’s recent albums, and the lyrics are self-referential, as is common on his albums. Macca plays some throbbing bass and adds some shouts at the end. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear this one played by the All Starrs in concert.

RINGO SAYS:

Steve Lukather is Mr. Vitality when he’s rocking, and that’s how we got this rocker going. Luke and I were hanging out, and we had a bit of a rhythm pattern going and started to put a track down. We got a bit crazed in the beginning thinking that there’s already Willie Nelson — who we love — singing his “On the Road Again.” But we realized Willie doesn’t own that line, and our road trip is a lot more rocking. Yes, that is Paul McCartney on bass and on screams, too. I didn’t ask Paul or others on this song to scream — they just did it; like Paul, Edgar Winter and Joe Walsh at the end. They all went off and rocked. Real rock & roll and screams just seem to go together.

“Laughable”

Written by Richard Starkey and Peter Frampton

Ringo Starr: Drums, Vocals, Percussion

Peter Frampton: Guitar, Background Vocals

Benmont Tench: Keyboards

Timothy B. Schmit, Richard Page Amy Keys: Backing Vocals

Matt Legge: Additional Engineering

This midtempo number features some tasty playing and a nice electric guitar solo, but it’s not a very memorable tune.

RINGO SAYS:

Recording with Peter Frampton.

This is the first song that I’ve ever written with Peter Frampton. Pete came up to the house, and he had that line about things these days being, “Laughable / If it wasn’t sad.” That’s all we need. Anyone can have a good line, and we can write a song all around it. Pete wanted this song to get a little bit more political, and I thought it was political enough. And, in every interview, I am not political — I’m about Peace & Love. But the expression of the song does speak to the times we are in now.

“Show Me the Way”

Written by Richard Starkey and Steve Lukather

Ringo Starr: Drums, Vocals, Percussion

Steve Lukather: Guitar, Keyboards

Paul McCartney: Bass

Jim Cox: Organ

Timothy B. Schmit, Richard Page Amy Keys: Backing Vocals

This love ballad for Barbara has only a so-so melody but it benefits from having Macca on bass and a very good guitar solo by Lukather.  

RINGO SAYS:

“Show Me the Way” is for Barbara. She shows me the way. We’ve been together 37 years, You have ups-and-downs. I’ll cry. She’ll cry. We’ll cry — there are those days. But there’s so much love and so much support. We’re still getting to know each other and loving it. Steve Lukather co-wrote this one with me. I really wanted Paul to play bass on this track, because it’s an important track to me because of the expression to Barbara, and Paul said “Yes.” For me, he’s still the most melodic, incredible bass player. Paul plays every note great. And, yes, we have some history and chemistry. That also comes into play. I’d love someone with a big, great voice like Celine Dion to sing this song, because I love it and it’s important to me. But, until then, I’ll have to do.

“Speed of Sound”

Written by Richard Starkey and Richard Marx

Ringo Starr: Drums, Vocals, Percussion

Richard Marx: Acoustic Guitar, Backing Vocals

Steve Lukather: Guitar

Peter Frampton: Guitar, Talkbox guitar solo

Nathan East: Bass

Windy Wagner, Amy Keys: Backing Vocals

A midtempo rocker with a strong drum beat and some of Frampton’s voicebox guitar.

RINGO SAYS:

Fooling around with Richard Marx.

I was writing with Richard Marx and he said, “I want to do something raucous,” because usually we do something more ballady. Richard had a good line about the “Speed of Sound,” and I thought, how can we show that? That’s why I asked Pete Frampton about doing a little talkbox for me — something he and Joe Walsh both know a lot about. Richard is so great and so easy. We have a competition, he and I. We have to write the song in 25 minutes, so, if it takes 34 minutes, it’s like, “Oh no, it took FOREVER.” I love Richard. These days, I don’t have time for hard cases. We have fun, and we know what we’re doing.

“Standing Still”

Written by Richard Starkey and Gary Burr

Ringo Starr: Vocals, Percussion, Claps

Nathan East: Upright Bass

Gary Burr: Acoustic Guitar, Backing Vocals

Georgia Middleman: Backing Vocals

Greg Leisz: Dobro

Steve Dudas: Guitar

Bruce Sugar: Drum Programming, Claps

One of the album’s best tracks, “Standing Still” has a very bluesy sound, thanks to the guitar and dobro. I like the rootsy feel, and it has a very catchy chorus.

RINGO SAYS:

Gary Burr was in Ringo and the Roundheads for years, and we’ve been friends ever since. Now, Gary’s with Georgia Middleman and she’s a great writer and a country girl. Gary and I wrote this song together, and then Gary and Georgia came back and do the harmonies. It’s great to have people you love on your record. I’m still thinking of putting a country record together, but I don’t know if I’ll do it at home or in Nashville. I went to Nashville to record before a lot of people, but, lately, Nashville’s been coming to me. And what about that Greg Leisz on dobro? He plays with such emotion, and it was so great to find him.

“King of the Kingdom”  

Written by Richard Starkey and Van Dyke Parks

Ringo Starr: Drums, Vocals, Percussion

Nathan East: Bass

Dave “Wawa” Stewart: Guitar

Edgar Winter: Tenor Sax

Steve Dudas: Guitar

Bruce Sugar: Keyboards, Synth Programming

Windy Wagner, Amy Keys: Backing Vocals

This sprightly number features a reggae beat (and a lyrical tribute to Bob Marley) backed by some funky guitar and a sax solo. I’d rank it in the second tier of tracks from the album.

RINGO SAYS:

A couple of songs from the new album might show up on the next All Starr tour.

Van Dyke Parks is an old friend. I’ve known Van Dyke since like 1975. And on most of my records lately, we’ve written a song together because I do tend to call my old pals. Van Dyke came over one day and I had a bit of a track, and I said something about, “She’s the king of the kingdom, and I’m in charge of the band.” Then, because the emotion on this song was kind of reggae, we started talking about Haile Selassie. So, we went on the Internet to read up on him, and that led us to “One Love” and, of course, to Bob Marley. I wanted to reference Bob Marley and give credit to Bob Marley because I loved him and what he brought to music.

“Electricity”

Written by Richard Starkey and Glen Ballard

Ringo Starr: Drums, Vocals, Percussion

Joe Walsh: Guitar

Don Was: Bass

Benmont Tench: Keyboards

Glen Ballard: Rhodes Piano, Backing Vocals

Windy Wagner, Amy Keys: Backing Vocals

Each album, in recent years, Ringo has done one of his Liverpool/autobiography songs, and this is the one for the new album. He namechecks Rory and the Hurricanes (subject of last album’s song) and, mainly, Johnny Guitar, with brother-in-law Walsh doing the honors on axe.

RINGO SAYS:

“Electricity” was written with Glen Ballard, who I originally met through Dave Stewart. This is another one of my personal history lessons that talks about my old band Rory and the Hurricanes, and Johnny “Guitar” Byrne, who was an amazing player we had in the group. There’s also a reference to “Gangster of Love,” which is a classic by another great player, Johnny “Guitar” Watson, from America. Glen had the bit about “electricity going through his fingers,” so I put that crazy vocal effect on so this track would feel very electric. This was the first track we put guitar on for the album and I got Joe Walsh to come down, because he’s a relative and a very electric guy, too, a beautiful human who plays great. What else do you need?

“So Wrong for So Long” 

Written by Richard Starkey and Dave Stewart

Ringo Starr: Drums, Vocals, Percussion

Dave Stewart: Guitars

Nathan East: Upright Bass

Greg Leisz: Pedal Steel Guitar

Jim Cox: Keyboards

Gary Burr, Georgia Middleman: Backing Vocals

Ned Douglas: Additional Engineering

Ringo goes traditional country on this tale of heartbreak, complete with pedal steel guitar and a namecheck for “Johnny Cash and June.”

RINGO SAYS:

Here you have two Brits — Dave Stewart and I — writing a great country song. In a way, this was the start of this record, because we were originally going to go to Nashville last June to do a country album. We wrote a few songs before we’d go there so we’d sound professional. Then, they offered me a summer tour, so I went on the road instead. Dave’s a great friend who’s very inventive and great to have around. I remember I had the line, “I hope you’re happy / I hope he’s happy too / But just like all the others / I’ll get over you.”  That’s my favorite line — some of my own lines blow me away!

“Shake It Up”

Written by Richard Starkey and Gary Nicholson

Ringo Starr: Drums, Vocals, Percussion

Don Was: Upright Bass

Steve Dudas: Guitars

Gary Nicholson: Acoustic Guitar

Edgar Winter: Piano

Windy Wagner,  Amy Keys: Backing Vocals

An upbeat, 1950s-style rock ’n’ roll number, this one is basically a riff on “Shake, Rattle and Roll” and, in fact, gets Rutlesclose to being a remake of that song at points. But it does a nice job of re-creating the musical feel of that era.

RINGO SAYS:

Ringo is in good voice on the new album.

I love Gary Nicholson. As soon as this record is out, he’ll be calling me and saying, “So are you starting a new record, because I’m coming to town.” We have a good time writing together. He is so professional. He has a computer full of things and phrases he’s said. Usually, there’s a good title going down. For me, “Shake It Up” is like the school hop — on this track, it’s like we’re in white jackets and we’re rocking. He’s on guitar. I’m on drums. Edgar Winter is on it — Edgar is rock & roll, and so is Don Was, who I first worked with in 1990 on “Time Takes Time.” I had four producers then, because I was so insecure. It was sort of left in his hands. Don always does a great job.

“Give More Love”

Written by Richard Starkey and Gary Nicholson

Ringo Starr: Drums, Vocals, Percussion

Steve Dudas: Guitars

Matt Bissonette: Bass

Greg Bissonette: Hang Drum

Jim Cox: Keyboards

Timothy B. Schmit, Richard Page, Amy Keys: Backing Vocals

Another concert-likely number, this one is sort of quintessential latterday Ringo. It has a comfortable feel, like a pair of old shoes, and is pretty catchy.

RINGO SAYS:

I wrote “Give More Love” with Gary Nicholson, too, and it’s a great message for the album, because it’s what I’m all about. This track features so many friends, new and old. Jim Cox is back on keyboards and it’s great to have him. We have Matt Bissonette on bass, and his brother Greg Bissonette on Hang Drum. Olivia and Dhani Harrison gave me this steel drum, one you can just sort of have on your knee, and that’s what Gregg was playing. And you can’t do better than Timothy B. Schmitt, Richard Page and Amy Keys on backing vocals. What a beautiful sound with the three of them: Amy and the boys, who can sound more like girls than she does!

“Back Off Boogaloo”   

Written by Richard Starkey and George Harrison

Ringo Starr:  Drums, Vocals, Percussion, Guitar

Joe Walsh: Guitar

Jeff Lynne: Acoustic Guitar

Nathan East: Bass

Bob Malone: Piano

Steve Jay: Additional Engineering

This re-do opens with Ringo’s original acoustic guitar demo for the song and then turns into a rockier reading of the number. One of the album’s high points.

RINGO SAYS:

The original version was a hit single for Ringo.

We were moving house to Los Angeles, and a ship brought six containers of my stuff — of course, most of it was Barbara’s. But I’m going through it, and found a box of little two-inch reel-to-reel tapes. My assistant Scotty was checking out everything in the office, and he said, “You should listen to this.” It’s me singing “Back Off Boogaloo” with this great guitar. I’m thinking who the hell is that playing? Then I realize, I’m on guitar! It’s 1971, Marc Bolan had been over the night before and used the word “Boogaloo,” and I woke up and the reel-to-reel captures the song coming. So, I gave the tape to Jeff [Lynne] to do some new production around that, which he did, then he got busy on tour, but his guitar is on it; so are Nathan East and Joe Walsh.

“Don’t Pass Me By”

Written by Richard Starkey

Performed by Ringo Starr and Vandaveer

Ringo Starr: Vocals, Piano

Mark Charles Heidinger: Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Bass Guitar

Rose Guerin: Vocals

Tom Hnatow: Resonator Guitar, Acoustic Guitar

Robby Cosenza: Drums, Percussion, Harmonica

Track produced and engineered by Duane Lundy

My favorite track, this re-do features a more overtly country reading of the song than on the White Album, and throws in a bit of “Octopus’s Garden” at the end. The resonator guitar gives it a much rootsier sound than most Ringo tracks.

RINGO SAYS:

See Ringo’s comments on “Don’t Pass Me By” below, paired with “Photograph.”

“You Can’t Fight Lightning”

Written by Richard Starkey

Performed by Ringo Starr and Alberta Cross

Track produced and arranged by Petter Ericson Stakee and Peter R. Ericson

Engineers: Viktor Buck and Fred Appelvist

Recorded at Fred´s Kitchen Studios in Stockholm

Ringo Starr: Vocals

Petter Ericson Stakee: Guitar, Backing Vocals, Percussion

Matthew Pynn: Guitar, Lap Steel

Fredrik Aspelin: Drums, Percussion

Erik MacQueen: Bass Guitar

Pete Remm: Piano, Hammond Organ

Viktor Buck and Peter R. Ericson: Backing Vocals

The original version from 1981 was done with Paul and Linda and featured Macca on drums. This version is slightly less weird, with a bluesier feel and a better vocal by Ringo than on the original, which was basically just a jam.

RINGO SAYS:

For my birthday “Peace & Love” celebration last year in Los Angeles, my publicist, Elizabeth Freund, arranged for a few talented young groups to perform. Alberta Cross — a Swede and a Brit who come from Brooklyn — picked “You Can’t Fight Lightning,” which was a wild choice of an obscure song I wrote a long time and recorded with Paul and Linda many years ago. Paul produced that track, and I played guitar since it was all one chord. But Alberta Cross did such a great job with the song, it made me want to rediscover the song again with their help. I love it.

“Photograph”

Written by Richard Starkey and George Harrison

Performed by Ringo Starr and Vandaveer

Ringo Starr: Vocals

Mark Charles Heidinger: Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Bass Guitar

Rose Guerin: Vocals

Tom Hnatow: Resonator Guitar, Electric Guitar

Robby Cosenza: Drums, Percussion

Track produced and engineered by Duane Lundy

Not as majestic as the Richard Perry-produced original, but a nice variation on a classic. I wish Ringo would consider doing an entire album of material in the same style as “Standing Still,” “Don’t Pass Me By” and “Photograph” are done here.

RINGO SAYS:

[“Don’t Pass Me By” and “Photograph”] are two songs that people already know and love that I did here with Vandaveer, who also played my birthday party in Hollywood. Vandaveer is a very cool musical project from Louisville, Kentucky, led by a man named Mark Charles Heidinger. These are not obscure songs at all, but Vandaveer did them great and they did them differently, so that even the old songs on this album feel new.

All in all, a solid effort from Ringo, with some very welcome stylistic variations.

— Bill King

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McCartney on Tour: Still Worth it? Oh, Yeah!

Beatlefan Publisher Bill King saw the July 13 stop of Paul McCartney’s One on One tour at Infinite Energy Arena in Duluth, GA. His thoughts on the evening …

Macca at the magic piano in the Atlanta suburb of Duluth.

Say what you will about Paul McCartney’s mostly unchanging show and his occasionally faltering voice, it’s still a wonder of nature watching him onstage, thoroughly pleasing an audience for nearly three hours with pop music’s most stellar songbook, served up with charm and whimsy to spare.

Admittedly, when I first saw the set list for the current edition of McCartney’s One on One tour, I was a bit underwhelmed, as there was nothing on it that he hadn’t done live somewhere before (though “I Wanna Be Your Man” never had been a regular part of the show before this tour).

Macca has a way of winning over even jaded fans.

But, after the amazing 2-hour-53-minute show by the 75-year-old legend at Infinite Energy Arena in the Atlanta suburb of Duluth had finished, I had the usual big smile on my face — as did every other concertgoer I saw.

Yes, as a hardcore fan I would have loved a somewhat fresher selection of tunes. And it baffles me why he skips over a couple of decades of his career like they didn’t exist. As my friend John Sosebee (who attended the show with me and Leslie) noted, the lack of any “Flowers in the Dirt” songs this time around was particularly surprising, considering that album just recently had gotten the archive reissue treatment. “My Brave Face,” a favorite on the first solo tour back in 1989-90, is a terrific tune that drew acclaim at the time and is in a key Paul easily can handle.

Still, there’s no denying the sheer entertainment power of the numbers presented onstage. Most of the crowd looked like they are probably getting the same Medicare mailers I am, but there also were youngsters who seemed to appreciate what they were seeing and hearing, including the young lady with green hair and a nose ring in front of me, who stood for most of the show.

The set list was heavy on Beatles, as usual.

It was a great concert, and his voice was surprisingly good, only a bit shaky on a few numbers and never to the point where it really detracted.

The set list was the same as opening night of this tour in Miami: 24 Beatles songs, six Wings songs, seven solo songs (three of which were from the “New” album), one Quarrymen song, and the tune he did with Kanye and Rihanna.

It went like this:
1. “A Hard Day’s Night”
2. “Save Us”
3. “Can’t Buy Me Love”
4. “Letting Go”
5. “Temporary Secretary”
6. “Let Me Roll It,” with the “Foxey Lady” jam at the end
7. “I’ve Got a Feeling,” also with a jam at the end
8. “My Valentine”
9. “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five”
10. “Maybe I’m Amazed”
11. “We Can Work It Out”
12. “In Spite of All the Danger,” with a reprise at the end
13. “You Won’t See Me”
14. “Love Me Do”
15. “And I Love Her”
16. “Blackbird”
17. “Here Today”
18. “Queenie Eye”
19. “New”
20. “The Fool on the Hill”
21. Lady Madonna
22. “FourFiveSeconds”
23. “Eleanor Rigby”
24. “I Wanna Be Your Man”
25. “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!”
26. “Something”
27. “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da”
28. “Band on the Run”
29. “Back in the USSR”
30. “Let it Be”
31. “Live and Let Die”
32. “Hey Jude”

Encore:
33. “Yesterday”
34. “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)”
35. “Hi, Hi, Hi”
36. “Birthday”
37. “Golden Slumbers” /
38. “Carry That Weight” /
39. “The End”

It was an evening with a lot of musical high points.

Among my favorite numbers were “In Spite of All the Danger,” featuring a nifty acoustic guitar solo by Paul; and “I Wanna Be Your Man,” which is done closer to the Beatles arrangement than in 1993 (and featured an entertaining story about Mick and Keith of the Rolling Stones, who were given the song to record).

Also a high point for me, surprisingly, was Macca’s George Harrison tribute, “Something,” which I’ve seen him do quite a few times. Atlanta Journal-Constitution music columnist Melissa Ruggieri got it exactly right in her review when she wrote: “There might not be a more beautiful sonic live experience than the moment ‘Something’ shifts from McCartney on ukulele to the full band kicking in like an exploding rainbow. It’s a moment worth revisiting a hundred times.”

John agreed that “Something” has only gotten better over the years. He also really enjoyed the mid-show acoustic set. For some reason, he said, “‘You Won’t See Me’ got to me emotionally, which has never happened to me in any concert I have ever attended.”

John also thought “Love Me Do” was fantastic, with “Wix playing the harmonica perfectly,” and loved the one-two rocking punch of “Sgt. Pepper’s” going into “Hi, Hi, Hi” in the encore, saying those numbers had him “singing at the top of my voice, on my feet. The kids sitting next to me were looking at me in amazement, watching a 62-year-old old man rocking.”

Sharing the mic with Rusty Anderson.

Leslie is a fan of the upbeat rockers, and particularly liked the latter part of the main set starting with “Band on the Run.” She’s also a big fan of “Let It Be.”

Quibbles? Again, I would have loved to have heard some songs never previously done live in place of, say, the holdovers from “New.” And, as John said, now that I’ve seen “Temporary Secretary,” I don’t need to see it again. It largely was lost on the crowd.

Leslie also said she wouldn’t mind not hearing “Hey Jude” again, but, let’s face it, that’s never leaving the set list, because these shows draw a lot of first-timers or folks who haven’t seen him since Wings, and they expect the classics. The same goes for “Let Me Roll It,” which John said he wouldn’t mind never hearing live again.

As for “Maybe I’m Amazed,” it also falls into the expected-classic category and it’s his “for Linda” song (which is why it also made Leslie’s highlight list from the evening), but there’s no denying it’s not well-suited to his vocal range any more. Many fans would hate it if he ever dropped that tune, but there are other Linda songs he could sing. Unfortunately, “My Valentine” is pretty much it for a “Nancy song,” so I think we’re stuck with it — unless he writes a new one.

Becka Phillips’ sign got her called up onstage.

The bottom line: A lot of my friends who aren’t hardcore fans went to this concert, and they were raving afterward on Facebook about what a wonderful set list it was. So, it’s a balancing act that seems to work for Macca.

The Duluth show also excelled in the nonmusical aspects. Fans got a kick out of the local authorities renaming a road behind the arena Paul McCartney Boulevard, and the freshened production effects were top-notch, with the pyrotechnics bigger than ever — though the smoke lingered for the rest of the evening in the 11,500-seat arena, reportedly the smallest Macca is playing on this leg of the tour. (His usual Atlanta venue, Philips Arena downtown, is undergoing renovations, and the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which he was interested in opening, wasn’t ready in time for this summer’s tour schedule.)

Paul comforted the emotional young fan.

The band — Abe Laboriel Jr., Brian Ray, Rusty Anderson and Paul “Wix” Wickens — seemed just as thrilled to be playing with Macca as when they first hit the road with him 15 years ago.

And Paul’s stage patter may rely on tried-and-true stories for the most part, but his interaction with the audience has gotten warmer and more quick-witted over the years.

Speaking of that interaction, we didn’t just get one fan invited onstage, but a host of them, including a family of four from Bowling Green, KY, wearing Sgt. Pepper costumes. Paul let the young boy strum his bass.

But, the show was stolen by a young woman named Becka Phillips from North Carolina, who was brought onstage before the family. She had a sign that Paul had read out loud earlier in the evening asking, “Plz help me tell my family I’m gay!” Paul asked her if her family was in the arena, and she said her dad was.

Paul turned to the crowd and, with a grin, said, “Hey Dad … She’s gay!” Paul also told her, “Good on ya comin’ out like that,” gave her a hug and then, as requested, signed her upper chest.

Another hug from Macca.

By this point, the young lady was in tears and, like a father, Paul pulled her close and gave her another hug. A sweet moment that she later said on Facebook was “everything I thought it would be and more.”

So, yes, the One on One stop in Duluth was another wonderful evening with Sir Paul.

Each time he goes out on the road now, I hear from fans wondering if this will be the last time. Again, I think Melissa Ruggieri hit the nail on the head when she wrote: “McCartney loves music too much to ever declare a farewell outing, and, between his apparent stamina and the sturdiness of his band, he just might stay on an endless tour.”

She added: “Trust us, no one would complain.”

Certainly not the audience in Duluth!

— Bill King

Photos by Rick Glover (who was seeing his 149th McCartney show). Look for more tour coverage (and more photos) in Beatlefan #227 in August!

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Screw It! A Beatles Podcast Without the Pontificating

Beatlefan Executive Editor Al Sussman looks at a refreshingly unassuming Beatles podcast that a group of young fans are doing.

If you’re a regular or even occasional listener of the more popular and long-running Beatles podcasts available online, you may have detected a down-the-nose, cynical, elitist tone that has crept into some of them, with a certain amount of pontificating. (Full disclosure: Until recently, I was one of the pontificators.)

It’s one thing to, hopefully, impart information that the average listener may not know, but not everyone appreciates being talked down to. If you’re one of those disaffected listeners, I’ve recently discovered an entertaining alternative — a podcast called “Screw It! We’re Just Gonna Talk About The Beatles.”

When I first encountered this podcast via iTunes, the original description said that it was begun by a group of Los Angeles comics who were so pissed off by the results of the 2016 election that they decided to get together and just listen to Beatles albums and talk about them. A newer description is somewhat more refined, saying that their purpose in doing the podcast is, “We just want to because we’re obsessed with the band, like any rational human.” (The podcast can be found here as well as at iTunes.)

The creator of “Screw It!” is Will Hines, an L.A.-based actor-writer-producer who also performs and teaches improv with the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. Other participants in the podcast include fellow 20- or 30-something creative types within the L.A. scene (most with a UCB connection) who have a common love of The Beatles and their music. Among the more frequent participants are singer-songwriter Ariana Lenarsky, writer-TV producer Curtis Gwinn, writer-actor Ben Rodgers, musician Joel Spence, writer-actor Adam McCabe, Canadian-bred producer-director Brett Morris, actor-writer-director-singer-dancer Heather Woodward, actor-producer Connor Ratliff, actor-casting director-improv coach Wayland McQueen and his writer-actor wife Katie Plattner, comedian Jackie Michele Johnson, sole U.K. native James Bachman, writer-actor Jen Krueger, and writer-actor Lynsey Bonell.

As you can see from that list, only a couple of professional musicians are involved with “Screw It!,” and no know-it-alls. Therein lies the podcast’s charm. A short introductory episode by Hines was released on Jan. 12, along with the first main episode, in which Hines, Gwinn, Rodgers and Lenarsky listen to The Beatles’ “Please Please Me” album (yes, they do play the recordings while they listen, which could cause problems in the future). It has the feel of listening in on, well, a listening session with a group of millennial Beatles fans.

To be clear, if you’re a hardcore fan and you can’t abide hearing any inaccuracies, this may not be your cup of tea. In his podcast notes for the first episode, Hines says, “Although the band was still taking shape (Ringo, after all, had just joined the week before they recorded this), there is still plenty of evidence on this record of how great The Beatles were.” His overall point is fine, but Ringo Starr had been a Beatle since the August before the “Please Please Me” LP was recorded in February 1963. The first review of the episode said, “Listened with interest until hosts stated ‘P.S. I Love You’ and ‘Misery’ were covers on the Beatles’ first album. Do you homework …” Indeed, Hines has brought up the “Do you homework” crack on occasion and freely admits that, while they do some research, neither he nor his cohorts are Beatles “experts.”

Will Hines.

Somehow, though, that lack of Beatles “scholarship” gives “Screw It!” a charm missing from a number of other podcasts. These really are gatherings of young people, albeit all within the pop culture world, listening to and showing their appreciation for Beatles music, so the historical bloopers are less irritating than one might expect.

The group did 14 shows between mid-January and mid-April, covering each of the EMI/Apple Beatles albums, with some of the period singles thrown into the mix and a few episodes ending with a Beatlefest-type sing-along to one of the discussed songs. As well, various participants would throw in alternate takes from the “Anthology” sets.

No sermons about the riches on the Twickenham “Get Back” rehearsal tapes or the Esher demos for what became the White Album. In fact, for the “Let It Be” episode, Hines simply engineered and made it an all-female panel, and the dissection of “Let It Be” thus gave way to a discussion of the sexiest Beatles songs, with the consensus being that John Lennon provided most of those.

After the shows examining each album came two mini-episodes, one on the similarity between Paul McCartney’s and TLC’s songs called “Waterfalls,” and another with Hines’ Aunt Sue, who saw The Beatles live as a sixth grader in 1964. Then came two full episodes in which the group nominates John songs vs. Paul songs. In between those came an “emergency episode” that Hines labels “nerdy and specific and fawning and fun,” as the group plays the remixed “Sgt. Pepper,” just weeks after they did an episode in which they listened to the standard stereo version of the album. Finally, in the podcast’s 20th episode, Wayland McQueen polls the group with a set of “which song” questions.

One episode looked at John songs vs. Paul songs.

In the meantime, Hines set up a closed Facebook group for “Screw It!” (saying that virtually anyone who asks can join). From the comments and submissions I’ve seen, most of the Facebook group members are also millennials or slightly older. I happily haven’t seen much of what one might call the “usual suspects” from Facebook’s sometimes ponderous Beatles discussions, save for Tom Hunyady, himself a youngish Beatles fan and host of the McCartney “2 Legs” podcast.

Hines has been taking suggestions for topics for what he calls the “second season” of “Screw It!,” which may or may not be a good thing, since some of the suggested topics do veer toward Beatles nerd territory. But, the first set of episodes of “Screw It! We’re Just Gonna Talk About The Beatles” are a charming escape from the pomposity that has crept into much Beatles discussion online, and, if you don’t mind the occasional historical blooper, are well worth checking out.

— Al Sussman

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‘Sgt. Pepper’ Lives … Onstage!

The “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album kicked off The Beatles’ “studio” period, when they made music that they didn’t think adequately could be re-created in concert. That’s no longer the case, however, as Rick Glover details. …

It’s hard to grasp that, only nine months before the press event to promote the new album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” The Beatles were taking their final bow as a touring unit on the stage of Candlestick Park.

After that show, the Boys decided — for several reasons, in reality — that the concert stage was no longer for them, ostensibly because the music they were making was not able to be performed live. That last show only included two songs from the two most recent albums — and none from the just released “Revolver.”

Retreating to the studio would allow the band to focus on the recording process and use the studio itself as an instrument. The result was, of course, the masterpiece that is used as a line of demarcation in the history of popular music: Before “Pepper” or After “Pepper.”

Macca on his 1990 world tour.

But, did the changes and complexity of the music really need to be contained in the studio? Well, maybe at that time, but flash forward, say, a few decades and it appears the various former Beatles, especially Paul McCartney, rethought the decision. Since 1989, when McCartney returned to the stage for live performances, songs from the “studio period” have featured regularly in the set list — and no album has been featured more than “Sgt. Pepper.”

In fact, it is possible to assemble a nearly complete live version of the “Sgt. Pepper” album from various live performances of tunes from this benchmark album.

“Pepper” was conceptually a McCartney vehicle and shows his breadth of musical influences, as well as other influences of the time. So it’s not surprising he has embraced the album for his concert tours.

The opening title track of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” with a segue into the reprise near the end of the album, was performed throughout the 1989-90 tours, and was performed as recently as 2005 alongside U2 at Live Aid (with a horn section in full Pepper regalia).

Teaming up at Radio City Music Hall.

Paul and Ringo performed “With a Little Help From My Friends” in New York at Radio City Music Hall (with somewhat of a missed opportunity, by NOT performing the “Sgt. Pepper” intro to the song), and “With a Little Help” has been a mainstay of Ringo’s All Starr Band set lists.

“Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” was performed at John Lennon’s very last concert performance, at Madison Square Garden with Elton John.

“Getting Better” was a staple on Macca’s Back in the U.S. tour in 2002, along with “She’s Leaving Home” and the reprise of the title track into “The End” to close the show up through 2004.

“Fixing a Hole” was a highlight on Paul’s US tour in 2005 — and was performed for McCartney’s VH1 “Unplugged” special.

“Lovely Rita” and “Mr. Kite” were both featured on the most recent One on One tours, with the latter given a groovy psychedelic lighting treatment with lots of black-lights and lasers.

The album finale of “A Day in the Life” has been in and out of Paul’s set list for a few tours, also given special lighting and graphics for appropriate atmosphere.

That only leaves three tracks from the album that haven’t been performed live by a Beatle — “Within You Without You,” “Good Morning Good Morning” and, oddly enough, “When I’m 64,” which would have been perfect on Paul’s tour about 10 years ago!

Lennon with Elton John at Madison Square Garden.

So, a whopping 10 of 13 titles from “Pepper” have been performed live — 77 percent of the tracks on the album, which is the highest percentage of ANY Beatles album!

Here’s a look at the percentages of songs from The Beatles’ albums that have been performed live by a Beatle in the years since the group broke up:

“Please Please Me” — three songs (of 14) routinely performed in concert: “Please Please Me,” “Love Me Do” (by both Ringo and Paul) and “I Saw Her Standing There” — for 21 percent (28 percent if you throw in the one-off performance of “Twist and Shout” with Bruce Springsteen at the Hard Rock Calling concert in 2012).

“With The Beatles” — Four of 14, for 29 percent: “All My Loving,” “I Wanna Be Your Man” (by Ringo, Paul and Ringo and Paul together) and “Till There Was You,” and Harrison doing “Roll Over Beethoven”.

“A Hard Day’s Night” — four of 13 tunes performed live (title track, “And I Love Her,” “Can’t Buy Me Love” and “Things We Said Today”) for 31 percent.

“Beatles For Sale” — Two tracks of the 14 from this record regularly have been performed regularly — “Eight Days a Week” and “I’ll Follow the Sun” — but Paul also has performed “Kansas City” twice (only in that city), which would score this album at 21 percent.

“Help!” — “The Night Before,” “Another Girl,” “I’ve Just Seen a Face” and “Yesterday” have been performed individually, and the title track as part of a “Lennon Medley” performed on the 1990 tour. That’s five of 14, for 36 percent.

“Rubber Soul” — Five of 14 from this record, with George doing “If I Needed Someone” and Paul performing “Drive My Car,” “You Won’t See Me,” “The Word” and “I’m Looking Through You,” for 36 percent.

Onstage in 2005.

“Revolver” — Eight of 14 songs have been performed from this album: George did “I Want to Tell You” and “Taxman,” Ringo does “Yellow Submarine,” and Paul has done “Eleanor Rigby,” “Here There and Everywhere,” “Good Day Sunshine,” “For No One” and “Got to Get You Into My Life,” for 57 percent.

“Magical Mystery Tour” — Scored as an album (not the EP), the title track, “The Fool on the Hill,” “Your Mother Should Know,” “Hello Goodbye,” “Strawberry Fields Forever” (also as part of the “Lennon Medley” of 1990), “Penny Lane” and “All You Need Is Love” all have been done by McCartney. That’s seven of the 11 tracks, but is still only 64 percent.

The White Album (“The Beatles”): Ringo doing “Don’t Pass Me By” and George performing “Piggies” and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” (which Macca also has done) plus Macca’s performances of “Back in the USSR,” “Ob-La-Di Ob-La Da,” “Blackbird,” “I Will,” “Birthday,” “Mother Nature’s Son” and “Helter Skelter,” as well as a one-off performance of “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road,” adds up to a tally of 11 of the 30 songs here, for 37 percent. (This album has the most tracks performed live of any title, though the percentage is less than for “Pepper.”)

“Yellow Submarine” — The title song (as previously mentioned, performed by Ringo, and also occasionally done partially by Paul), “All Together Now” and, again, “All You Need Is Love,” so that’s three of the total 13 tracks, for 23 percent, or, if you discount the seven George Martin tracks on the album, three of six Beatles tracks, for 50 percent.

“Abbey Road” — Live performances of “Something” (by both George and Paul), “Here Comes the Sun” by George, “Come Together” by John, plus Macca doing“You Never Give Me Your Money” and the four-song closing medley, and the occasional Ringo one-off of “Octopus’s Garden,” count as nine of 17 titles for 53 percent. (A couple of songs from this album, “Oh! Darling” and “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” are sorely missing from the concert stage!)

“Let It Be” — Seven of 12 titles performed: “Two of Us,” “Let It Be,” “I’ve Got a Feeling,” “One After 909,” “The Long and Winding Road,” “Get Back” and “For You Blue” from the Concert for George, for 58 percent performed live.

Finally, Harrison concerts also featured “Old Brown Shoe,” originally a 1969 nonalbum B-side that later was included on various compilation albums. We won’t get into those albums, but it’s worth noting as another late-period Beatles track later done live by one of them.

Paul also chose four out of the five Beatles songs he performed on the Wings Over the World tour in 1976 from the Fabs’ post-touring days.

So, today’s technology has provided the ability to adequately perform songs that previously the band had perceived as unable to be played live — overcoming the limitations that took The Beatles off the stage and into the studio.

— Rick Glover

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First Impressions: Sirius/XM’s Beatles Channel

Beatlefan Executive Editor Al Sussman offers some random observations on the early days of Sirius/XM’s channel devoted to The Beatles.

By now, you probably know the trivia. “All You Need Is Love” was the first song played on The Beatles Channel, Channel 18 on Sirius/XM, following an introductory sound collage at about 9:09 a.m. ET on May 18, which climaxed a couple of days of sound collage teasers. Next came “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and “With A Little Help From My Friends” from the newly remixed “Sgt. Pepper,” the chief vehicle behind the timing of the channel’s launch. And the first solo track, George Harrison’s “What Is Life,” aired at about 9:50 a.m., by my watch.

The channel’s programming is heavily weighted toward the group’s catalog — after all, it is called the Beatles Channel — but work from the solo years gradually became more of a presence over the first couple of days. And virtually anything from the solo catalog seems to be fair game. Early on, I heard Ringo Starr’s “Y Not,” the title song from his 2010 album and a track that, let’s face it, rarely is heard on any Beatles radio show, terrestrial or Internet. However, there’s essentially nothing here by any wives, relatives, offspring, or from the Apple or Dark Horse records catalogs.

Now, to be fair, Internet radio outlets like Fab4Radio and Pat Matthews’ Beatles-A-Rama have been playing largely this same format for a number of years and, of course, “Joe Johnson’s Beatle Brunch” and the various “Breakfast With The Beatles” shows around the U.S. have been tilling this soil for decades.

Even some relatively obscure solo tunes are featured on the channel.

But, with the growing popularity and portability of Sirius/XM, thanks in no small part to the presence of dedicated channels for Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Presley, The Grateful Dead, Pearl Jam, Jimmy Buffet, etc., a Beatles channel has long seemed a natural. Still, it required the “okey-dokey” from Apple and a waiver from the dreaded Digital Music Copyright Act, which restricts the number of songs that can be played by any one act in a given hour, on any form of radio. This has been a headache for programming Beatles shows on both terrestrial and Internet radio, but Sirius/XM obviously got the Apple endorsement that those other outlets don’t have.

Of course, a steady diet of even the Rolls-Royce of pop music catalogs and selections from the solo works can take on the feel of a jukebox or an iPod on shuffle (already a quaint reference), especially since there were no air personalities for the first few days and still are none for most of the day as this is written. So, there are little between-songs sound bites — reminiscences by fans or Paul and Ringo, factoids by Chris Carter called “Every Little Thing,” standard radio segues, etc.

And, as on the Internet Beatles formats, there are songs by artists who influenced The Beatles (“they were listening to this before they were Beatles”), the first of which was the recently departed Chuck Berry, and covers of Beatles songs, some old (Emmylou Harris), some new (The Beat Bugs).

In my listening, which was not a steady diet, I didn’t hear anything that appeared to come from bootlegs and I’ve been told on good authority that everything heard is from an official source. There are (Yay!) plenty of BBC recordings, but those come from either the two official 2-disc sets or from the iTunes package of 1963 recordings from a few years back. The only non-BBC live recordings are from the Hollywood Bowl, and those seem to pop up very occasionally or in the channel’s “Magical Mini Concerts.”

George Harrison’s “What Is Life” was the first solo track played.

Of course, no launch of a new radio station or format would be complete without some bloopers, and I heard at least two. One of those sound-bite segues on the first day had Ringo Starr talking about how, during a series of Beatles recording sessions, time would be set aside for Starr’s customary vocal spot. That segued into … a live All Starr Band version of “No No Song.” Oops. That same day, one of the “The Beatles were listening to this before they were Beatles” tracks featured was Mary Wells’ “My Guy,” which was a hit single in the months after The Beatles’ initial conquest of America in early 1964. Of course, to be fair, only music nerds like me would even notice hiccups like these.

Featured programs began on Monday morning, May 22, with the debut of a weekday version of Chris Carter’s “Breakfast With The Beatles,” which runs 8-11 a.m. ET. If you’re familiar with Carter’s long-running Sunday morning show on KLOS in Los Angeles, you know what the weekday show is like. Indeed, during that first week, Carter played a long set of the opening song from each original EMI/Apple Beatles album, a programming vehicle he uses every so often on the Sunday show.

Wednesday night brought the debut of “The Fab Fourum,” basically a live two-hour talk show with some music elements (on the debut, that included some session material from the about-to-be-released “Sgt. Pepper” album) and phone calls, always a crapshoot (“Longtime listener, first time caller. … I think they should fire Jeff Jones…”). The show is hosted by longtime New York FM personality Dennis Elsas, a consummate pro, and writer Bill Flanagan, who’s not as smooth on the air and doesn’t have the greatest command of facts. Fortunately, they were joined in the second hour by Beatlefan’s Tom Frangione, who was so impressive that he was asked back for the second show. A live first show is always problematic, and the first-show jitters hopefully will be smoothed out in the weeks to come.

On Thursday night, a one-hour show hosted by Peter Asher called “From Me to You” debuted. Those who have seen Asher’s in-person multimedia shows knows his Zelig-like role in the pop/rock world of the ’60s and beyond, and the debut installment, with Asher obviously showing some first-show nerves, really just hinted at the treasure trove of stories and music (and not just Beatles and Peter & Gordon) that Asher hopefully will be sharing as this series develops.

Other specialty shows on the schedule include “Get Back: The Beatles in Britain,” hosted by Geoff Lloyd; the Flanagan-hosted “Northern Songs,” a “themed playlist of hits and rarities”; a one-hour “Guest DJ” show; the half-hour “Magical Mini Concert”; and a daily “My Fab Four,” programmed by a fan or a celebrity.

The 50th anniversary reissue of “Sgt. Pepper” provided the impetus for the Beatles Channel.

And, of course, what Beatles-connected event in the 21st century would be complete without the Greek chorus of comments from the wonderful world of social media? While many were looking forward to the channel with nearly as much anticipation as for the “Sgt. Pepper” 50th anniversary splash, carping began almost immediately. Some of that, naturally, came from supporters of already-existing Beatles programming, both on terrestrial and Internet radio. There were comments questioning why solo material was being played (“Isn’t it supposed to be a Beatles channel?”) or why so little solo music was being played. Some alert listeners picked up on the fact that selections from “Sgt. Pepper” were bouncing between the 2009 stereo and mono remasters and Giles Martin’s 2017 remix.

Others, clearly people who don’t listen to much radio, complained about the repetition of certain popular tracks. This is, after all, radio — even on the satellite — not a jukebox or an iPod. All radio stations are programmed so that what’s popular is going to be heard more often than the rest, and that’s been the case with all forms of Beatles programming over the years.

Yes, one is going to hear “Hey Jude” or “Ticket to Ride” or “My Sweet Lord” more often than “Not a Second Time” or “Tell Me What You See” or “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” Since the Beatles Channel is competing with Sirius/XM’s other music channels, and since it’s a fact of life that most people listen to radio of any kind for only a finite amount of time each day, the hits and most popular album tracks are going to get the most exposure. That’s Programming 101.

Overall, though, the reaction to Sirius/XM’s Beatles Channel has been quite positive. The rollout has taken place during a free listening period that ends with the beginning of June. The big test then will be to see how many people decide to pay for, as critics put it, music that one easily can get for free elsewhere.

— Al Sussman

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The Beatles, Pete Shotton and Me

Pete Shotton (third from right) with John Lennon in the Quarrymen.

Bill King looks back fondly on an evening of Beatles stories and more with the late Pete Shotton.

It’s always sad to hear about another of The Beatles’ old Liverpool pals passing on, but I couldn’t help but smile when I got the word that Pete Shotton, John Lennon’s lifelong buddy, had died at 75, because I have my own fond memories of him.

Shotton and Lennon during their school days in Liverpool.

For those who might not be up on their early Beatles history, Pete was Lennon’s best friend from age 6. Shotton attended Dovedale Primary School and Quarry Bank High School in Liverpool, where he was a mischief-making classmate of John’s, and he briefly was a member of John’s pre-Beatles skiffle band, the Quarrymen, as a washboard player.

Although Pete decided music wasn’t for him, he remained a part of Lennon’s life after The Beatles had left their hometown and become famous. John bought a grocery store for Pete, later enlisted his pal as manager of the short-lived Apple Boutique on Baker Street in London, and made him one of the early directors of The Beatles’ Apple Corps Ltd.

Pete also was present when a number of Beatles songs were written, and even contributed the occasional idea that got used in the lyrics.

Pete’s book, written with Nicholas Schaffner.

It wasn’t until a couple of years after John’s death that Shotton decided to share his Lennon stories. He teamed up with a very talented friend of mine, the late Nicholas Schaffner, an early contributor to Beatlefan and author of the acclaimed book “The Beatles Forever,” among other titles. (Nick died in 1991.)

Their book, “John Lennon in My Life,” first published in August 1983, and later republished as “The Beatles, Lennon and Me,” was a frank but affectionate telling of Lennon’s life, spending a large amount of time detailing John’s pre-Beatles years, complete with boyish pranks, sexual escapades and earthy language.

I had visited with Nick at his loft in New York City’s Greenwich Village during the time he and Shotton were working on the book, and Nick assured me I’d get to interview Pete for Beatlefan after it came out. So, when Shotton’s five-week tour promoting the book in the U.S. brought him to Atlanta that September, I spent an evening chatting with Pete.

It was easy to see why Lennon liked Pete so much.

Pete with Nick Schaffner (left) and PJ Dempsey. (Courtesy of PJ Dempsey)

The blond Liverpudlian, who was 43 at the time we met, had an extremely engaging manner and a way of making you feel comfortable. We started out the evening with dinner in a restaurant at downtown Atlanta’s Hyatt Regency hotel, talking about the book and The Beatles and all of the other sorts of things you’d expect a reporter and author to cover in a publicity tour interview.

But, by the time we parted company more than 4 hours later, we’d spent quite a bit of time sitting in the hotel bar, chatting about everything from the economy to the differences in British and American food. Pete also kept up a running commentary on the many attractive women who passed by us!

At the time, Shotton, who had a brother living in New Orleans, was involved with another old Liverpool pal, Bill Turner, and others in several businesses on Hayling Island, off the southern coast of England, near Portsmouth, including a couple of restaurants. (He had sold the grocery store that John had bought for him some years earlier.)

Pete’s restaurants eventually evolved into the successful Fatty Arbuckle’s chain of American-style diners all over Britain, which he sold around 2000.

But, at the time the book came out, he told me he spent most of his time running a betting shop (gambling is legal in Britain), the very business that Lennon originally had offered to set him up in.

Although he said he had not seen Paul McCartney or Ringo Starr in years, he was still in touch with George Harrison, and said he spent the night occasionally at George’s Friar Park estate.

Shotton with Lennon during the “Sgt. Pepper” era.

During that same time period, two other Lennon volumes — by John’s former girlfriend May Pang and John and Yoko’s tarot card reader, John Green — were attracting quite a bit of attention for some of their warts-and-all tales of the Beatle’s life, and some publications had lumped “John Lennon in My Life” in with those books, which greatly displeased Shotton.

Although Pete and John’s relationship grew more distant after the arrival of Yoko Ono on the scene, Shotton particularly disagreed with portrayals of Lennon as being dominated by his wife. 

“That’s another one of the myths,” Pete told me. In Yoko,  he said, Lennon “met someone he considered his equal intellectually and spiritually. And, of course, he totally adored her. But, by the same token, he was still John Lennon. He was always prepared to argue with Yoko when it came to the crunch, where he really wanted to do something. He’d just found someone he respected enough not to walk all over.”

The picture of Lennon provided by Shotton wasn’t entirely favorable, but he said that was “because I don’t want to be accused of glossing over. You know, John Lennon was human. I tried to be perfectly honest about it. I think I’ve given a full picture of John for the time that I knew him.”

Pete and John together at a 1967 film premiere.

Pete said he wrote the book because he was reading stories about Lennon that were distorted and wrong in newspapers and other books. “Two friends kept encouraging me, saying ‘You’re the one that knew him best all those years. If anyone can put the record straight, you can.’”

However,  if Lennon still had been alive, Shotton said, “this book would never have been written. And, may I say by the way, that I could have made a hell of a lot more money out of John while he was alive than I’ll ever make out of this book.

“I always refused to do it, although he used to encourage me. He’d say,  ‘Pete, for God’s sake, will you please make some money out of knowing me.’ And I wouldn’t do it, because I thought the relationship was not only important to me, but even more important to John. … There were very few people that he could totally relax with, speak his mind, say what he wanted without thinking, and know there was no way it was ever going to reach [the public].”

It was a conversation with his teenage son that finally made Pete decide to tell his story.

“I was talking to my son, Matthew … and he was telling me about something he’d done that day with one of his friends, and it reminded me of something I did with John. I started telling him about it. My son had done a thesis in school on The  Beatles … and he read all the Beatle books. I said to him this such and such that John and I did, and he interrupted me halfway to say, ‘Hang on Dad, that’s not right. Because in ‘Shout!’ [the Philip Norman Beatles biography] it says this.’

“And I was totally and utterly stunned. This is my son talking to me, and he’s contradicting me on something written in a book by a guy that never even met John! I said, ‘Son, I was there, I should know.’ In that moment, it came together. I said, I’ve got to do it.”

Pete and John relaxing with friends.

We talked a lot more that evening about John and The Beatles and Pete’s work with Nick on the book, but, long after my tape recorder was turned off and our interview officially was over, Pete continued to regale me with stories from the old days, including one that’s always been a favorite:

Pete was at John’s house one night watching television with him and the other Beatles during their Maharishi period, and someone suggested they meditate. Sitting on the couch, they all closed their eyes and did just that.

Pete, however, wasn’t really into Transcendental Meditation, and soon grew bored. So, he said, “I opened my eyes.” What he saw was Ringo, also with his eyes open, sitting quietly on the couch watching the TV while the others continued to meditate.

Ringo looked over, noticed Pete, and simply winked.

That’s one of my favorite Beatles-related images. And my evening with Pete is one of my favorite Beatles-related experiences.

That’s why, sad as I am that he has passed on, I have to smile at the mention of Pete Shotton.

— Bill King

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