The granddaddy of Beatles fan conventions, the Fest for Beatles Fans (formerly known as Beatlefest), returned recently to Los Angeles for the first time in 14 years. Correspondent Peter Palmiere was on hand and filed this report. …
John Lennon once said that Elvis might have done the right thing staying away so long because people missed him so much. After an absence of 14 years, the Fest for Beatles Fans added an L.A. show this year, and fans generally gave it two thumbs up.
A good gathering of guests, a somewhat healthy flea market, great live performances, entertaining speakers and a reunion of old Beatle friends made for the most high-energy, enjoyable Fest since the late 1970s and early ’80s.
Producer Mark Lapidos was greatly aided this time by the services of publicist Jean Sievers, who handles the likes of Brian Wilson and Rockaway Records. Sievers launched a media blitz utilizing the Web, a billboard overlooking the 405 freeway (a major artery in Los Angeles), magazines and local TV and radio.
KLOS helped sponsor the event; their very own Chris Carter was the Fest emcee.
The flea market was in two different ballrooms — one exclusively devoted to The Beatles and a flea market for other great finds. The tables were sold out and there was a wide variety of interesting items available.
The big highlight in terms of displays belonged to Rockaway Records, which had two major items of interest on consignment. The first was the original wall from “The Ed Sullivan Show” stage autographed by the Fab Four; it boasted a $500,000 price tag. The other was the actual contracts that were signed by Vee-Jay Records and EMI giving Vee-Jay the right to release Beatle records in the USA. That asking price was $100,000. Although the items went unsold, they brought a lot of people to the tables.
Other veteran sellers of memorabilia, including Jim Hansen of Austin and Cliff Yamasaki of San Francisco, were there. Oddly enough, there was not an abundance of vinyl. Only Hansen, Rockaway and Freakbeat Records had any. At all. The crowd inside the flea market bought a healthy amount of vinyl and were clamoring for more. Bootlegs were present, but not out in the open — vendors perhaps being mindful of the 1998 bust.
The main complaint about the flea market was the absence of vendors and collectors from the U.K., Japan and Mexico. The vendors were somewhat reasonable with pricing — nothing too outrageous, with only a couple of exceptions. Most vendors did very well in terms of business.
Guest speakers Bob Eubanks, Freda Kelly and Mark Rivera were very entertaining. Eubanks shared his story of booking The Beatles into the Hollywood Bowl and gave glimpses into their personalities at the time. Kelly, who was Brian Epstein’s Beatles Fan Club secretary, gave an engaging talk about her experiences. The warmth of her voice and personality made her talk an engaging one. You could see why Brian and The Beatles trusted her so much. Mark Rivera mainly spoke about his experience with the All Starr Band and how Ringo played on Rivera’s new album.
Also on hand for the first time was legendary session drummer Hal Blaine. He drummed on many classic ’60s hits, including those by Simon and Garfunkel, the Beach Boys and, of course, the legendary Phil Spector-John Lennon rock ’n’ roll sessions. He said Spector fired a gun while in the studio with Lennon during the sessions and also when Stevie Wonder came in to visit.
Blaine also said Lennon was always respectful to the musicians at the sessions, despite being drunk most of the time. Conversely, he was quite rude and disrespectful of any executive or producer who came through the door.
He also stated that Ringo was a great force in rock ’n’ roll because of both his drumming and his persona. Blaine had recently spoken to session drummer Bernard Purdie, who admitted his statements regarding his drumming on many Beatles classics were untrue. The only thing he drummed on were the Tony Sheridan tracks issued by Atco Records.
Although Blaine’s interaction with The Beatles was limited, he received a huge standing ovation at the end. People knew of his playing on so many hits they loved and remembered.
The performers at the Fest — including Joey Molland, Billy J. Kramer, Mark Hudson, Rivera and three members of Wings: Denny Laine, Denny Seiwell and Laurence Juber — gave spirited performances.
The performance highlight, though, went to former Apple Records exec Peter Asher, who entertained the audience with concert performances of Peter and Gordon songs, reminiscing about his career, and showing vintage video clips. Through the magic of video, his show included a performance of “True Love Ways” with the late Gordon Waller of Peter and Gordon. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house and the performance was given a huge standing ovation.
Asher, to his credit, did a full two-hour show, despite being jet-lagged. He took a transatlantic flight from Britain to Los Angeles, going onstage a scant two hours after his arrival.
Finally, I spoke at length with Mark Hudson, Ringo’s former long-time producer. Hudson said that the relationship between him and Ringo was in the healing stages; they were discussing putting out a CD this summer called “Demo Daze,” which would consist of songs that they made as demos but which didn’t make the cut on any of Ringo’s solo records. Ringo likes the idea or, in Hudson’s words, “Ringo loves demos! He likes bootlegs, too.”
Hudson has hopes this could lead to a full reconciliation, both personally and professionally, with Ringo.
Hudson also revealed his favorite track off the “Vertical Man” album was “What in the … World,” which he wanted released as a single instead of “La-De-Da.” His favorite tracks on the Christmas album they did together were “Come On Christmas” and “Winter Wonderland.” And, Hudson said, the line about “It’s a bad point of view / If Pat Boone got through to you” in “Memphis in Your Mind was a direct result of Ringo’s hatred of the fact that Boone had a hit with Fats Domino’s “Ain’t That a Shame” in the USA.
Lapidos also had a huge gathering of Beatle authors for the Fest that included Bruce Spizer, Chuck Gunderson, Al Sussman and Wally Podrazik. Beatlefan Contributing Editor Tom Frangione did an onstage interview with Lapidos at the convention.
While those who attended were very pleased with this year’s L.A. Fest, attendance was disappointing, with most estimates running in the 3,000 range for the weekend, which leaves you wondering whether the Fest will return again to L.A. next year.
— Peter Palmiere