February 02, 2012

The Pros and Cons from the Fabs Four

Top Ten Beatles Mistakes

Yes I know, lists are easy and tired, but it is with good reason that I have decided to list what I see as the ten biggest mistakes The Beatles made. For it is 43 years ago, this very day, that they were recording guitar overdubs for 'Your Mother Should Know', which is well worth celebrating, I’m sure you’ll agree. And just to clarify, by mistake I am meaning a ‘musical’ mistake, so I’m not to include silly things like getting Magic Alex to build a studio or the whole Apple Corp enterprise. It’s also worth noting that almost everything here relates to the second half of their career. This isn’t due to some preference for their earlier material – I am very much a ‘Blue Album’ person; it’s just that having made their mistakes early on, learning on the way, the expectation was so much higher 1965 onwards. I’m not here to criticise mistakes made due to lack of experience or naivety; more those that were pure misjudgement and often led the path towards, or exemplified, their ultimate demise. But criticism cannot be that harsh, for it was often their ‘mistakes’ that brought out their character (s) in the most effective style.

1.‘Her Majesty’

How to conclude the final album by the greatest band in the history of forever? How about a song called ‘The End’ featuring Ringo’s first ever drum solo, and 3 electrifying guitar solos featuring Lennon, McCartney and Harrisons differing styles? And a final lyric that declares ‘And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make’?

And so it should have been, ‘Abbey Road’ closing with an exciting, positive and collaborative final effort. But, with the album pretty much put to bed, Second Technician John Curlander decided to tag on ‘Her Majesty’, a left over segment from the albums ‘Long Medley’ idea, to the end of ‘The End’ and, unbelievably, The Beatles allowed it. As such, the ‘final thought’ we are left with from their unmatched series of albums and singles is a throw away ditty, featuring just Paul McCartney and his acoustic guitar making bland and meaningless sentiments about the Queen. Perhaps more a sign of their complete disregard for The Beatles as a band at that time, its still a disappointing mistake to have made, and always annoys me when I forget to quickly turn the album off after ‘The End’.

2. Eric Clapton

Getting Eric Clapton to join the band in recording ‘While My Guitar gently Weeps’ wasn’t a disastrous decision for The Beatles. But, come on, Eric Clapton? Not very cool is it. One of only two professional musicians to collaborate on a Beatles record (the other being Billy Preston), it unfortunately places his turgid, showy, ‘muso’ guitar playing on a much higher pedestal that it deserves. Harrison was struggling for a long time with the solo passages to this song (including trying to record it all backwards to sound like ‘weeping’) and recruited his good friend to help out. How did Clapton repay him? Nicked his wife, naturally. Poor George. Should never have got Clapton involved.

3. Just Let it Be

The majority of what became the ‘Let It Be’ album was recorded between The White Album and their swansong, ‘Abbey Road’. Yet it didn’t see release until after the latter. The idea behind the album was for the band to get back to its ‘roots’, that is, a more rock and roll, less experimental approach that focussed on the band working, and playing together as a four piece. After the disjointed approach to recording The White Album, this certainly made sense. However, in the end, it only served to stretch the already strained relationships between the group and the resulting recordings where left on the shelf.

The songs were later given to Phil Spector to pick through, and he ended up producing the album ‘Let it be’. With his signature production techniques all over, it flew in the face of the ‘warts and all’, ‘no overdubs’ approach of the original idea. McCartney in particular was upset with the treatment his ‘The Long and Winding Road’ had received. But since the band had just split, no one seemed to care, and history came to see ‘Abbey Road’ as the bands actual swansong, so its place as a failed experiment (that at least produced the legendary rooftop concert) was secured, no one really minding either way.

Except McCartney couldn’t let it go. And as such, 33 years after its initial release, it was made available in its ‘intended’ form as ‘Let It Be…Naked’. Gone are the swirling choirs and over the top orchestration and instead we are left with some simple and direct run thru’s of the same set of songs (plus Lennon’s fantastic ‘Don’t Let me Down’). So what’s the problem?

Well, the initial sessions were a mess. Utter misery, and probably the low point of inter Beatle relations. The hours and hours of tape betrayed the fact they had completely lost their focus and direction, and that at least 50% of the band weren’t interested anymore. The second attempt by Spector to rectify it was a hit and miss affair, and completely disregarded the ‘honest’ approach they had attempted, though he had chosen to leave in various false starts, between song ad-libs and conversations, which at least gave an impression of what it was meant to be.

But now, the third attempt at ‘getting it right’ was just as flawed. The between song banter was removed and placed on a bonus disc (22 minutes of random conversation – why?) and instead we are left with the bare bones of the songs. Admittedly, the remastered tracks sound fresh…but by meddling with history McCartney has taken the soul out of the music, the character. Even the original premise of it being ‘as was’ in the room was betrayed - an out of tune Lennon note was corrected digitally. What was this meant to be? Not to mention the album is now suspiciously McCartney heavy. At least the original album and accompanying film were interesting documents, showing the decline and dissolution of a great band. ‘…Naked’ added nothing to this, only took away from it.

But the big thing McCartney has missed is that, well, the songs just aren’t very good. It’s not a good album in the first place, and no amount of remastering and altering the order of the tracks is going to change that. ‘Get Back’, ‘Let it Be’ and ‘The Long and Winding Road’ withstanding (but I cant really stand the last 2 in that list) there’s nothing here that approaches The Beatles best, by some stretch. After THREE botched attempts to get something worthwhile out of the sessions, you cant help but feel that perhaps the whole thing would have been best left in the vaults, earning a reputation as being the ‘great lost tracks’. If McCartney’s interfering had revealed a real gem, then fine, but it doesn’t. It was all there in the title, all along. Why didn’t you just ‘Let it Be’ Paul?

4. ‘Wild honey pie’

Its well known that a large amount of The White Album was written during their stay in Rishikesh, and, as such, many songs were either acoustic based (at least in origin) and / or throw away in-jokes. And whilst I will discuss this in further detail later, special attention must be drawn to the track ‘Wild Honey Pie’, which is quite possibly the worst song they ever released. Perhaps (though only ‘perhaps’) other songs were more trite, more disposable, more careless, more ill thought-out, more misguided, but was ever a song so bloody annoying? Mercifully not much longer than a minute, its inclusion as track 5 on The White Album is utterly befuddling. From the nauseating group vocal to the horrible wobbly guitar, it simply recreates the feeling of being very, very ill.

On a wider level, it showed The Beatles instincts had been well and truly blunted. The belief, formed with their discovery of LSD, that ‘random’ elements and ideas were as equally valid as those well thought out ones had brought them some amazing success: ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’, ‘I am the Walrus’ etc but had also led to more self indulgent, less focussed work such as ‘All Together Now’ and ‘You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)’. Though ‘clean’ during their trip to India, this belief had clearly stuck around, hence the release of utterly inferior work like ‘Wild Honey Pie’.

5. Run For Your Life (little girl!)

A constant theme running through The Beatles work was ‘Love’; from the simplistic teenage infatuations’ of ‘She Loves You’ et al, to the more universal, hippy messaging of ‘All You Need Is Love’ it was the one constant in a diverse career. So fitting the lyric ‘I’d rather see you dead, little girl, then be with another man’ into this theory is a little difficult…

But worse than the nasty bitterness of this Lennon penned number is the pure hypocrisy. By the time it was released on ‘Rubber Soul’ in 1965, Lennon had long tired of his loveless marriage to Cynthia, and was openly engaging in affairs and one night stands with a vast amount of ladies. ‘Norwegian Wood (this bird has flown)’, also from ‘Rubber Soul’ tackled this very subject, but its ambivalent ending was due to some late lyrical changes, to avoid Cynthia finding out. Not that she wasn’t at least partly aware; Lennon would often brag openly in her company of his various conquests. It was his feeble way of rebelling against the gentle bourgeois hole he had found himself in. But how could he sing ‘If I find you with another man, it’s the end – little girl’ with any sincerity what so ever?

‘Rubber Soul’ saw the band developing greatly as songwriters, and the aforementioned ‘Norwegian Wood’ shows a more thoughtful and complex approach to dealing with personal issues. ‘Nowhere Man’ deals with a similar feeling of isolation and ‘In My Life’ is a beautiful and mature expression of love and melancholy. All Lennon numbers, and all fantastic.

Which makes it all the more surprising that ‘Run for Your Life’ sits along side them, as the albums closing number, no less. Later, older and wiser, and under the influence of Yoko Ono, he expressed utter regret at the song and its misogynist views. It’s hard to think of a bigger misstep in The Beatles catalogue, purely in terms of mood and intent and its bizarre that no-one, especially Brian Epstein or George Martin thought to point out the bitter taste it leaves. For The Beatles themselves, it would be the last bit of ‘filler’ they committed to tape until the LSD come down of Magical Mystery tour and the passing of tracks of this inferior calibre would see the onset of their imperial phase: Revolver and Sgt Pepper.

6. Quality Control, and The White Album

Now, let’s be clear; The White Album (some weeks) is my favourite Beatles album. Not because it has the best songs. Far from it. But because it has a unique atmosphere, a seemingly relaxed approach, once described as the ‘lazy afternoon’ of their career. The fact that most of the band were working in different studios on their own songs, mean it is incredibly diverse, and sways wildly from straight on ‘rock’ to twinkly folk, to mesmerising 9 minute soundscapes, each of the composers letting their personalities shine – even Ringo, with his first ever self penned composition. The 30 tracks show a huge range, and though there is a self indulgent element to it, it’s utterly fascinating if given the time.

That said, and as mentioned previously, it does contain some duff tracks. It’s an interesting exercise to try break the two discs down to one album, especially if you throw ‘Hey Jude’ and ‘Revolution (single version)’, recorded at the same time, into the pot.

The aforementioned ‘Wild Honey Pie’, whilst atrocious, does at least fit in with the Rishikesh sing-a-long starting point for the album. But the decision to release a 30 track double album resulted in crap like ‘Savoy Truffle’ and ‘Honey Pie’ being forced upon the world. And these weren’t quickly recorded throw away tracks – they were planned, thought out pieces that simply showed their authors to be, in the first instance, out of ideas and inspiration (a song about Eric Clapton eating chocolates – him again!) and in the second, literally going through the paces of recreating some awful dance hall pastiche, which can only leave the question – why? ‘Honey Pie’ in particular was an early sign of McCartney turning into the insufferable smug ‘entertainer’ role he later seemed to relish in.

A slight bit of trimming could have left us with an exceptional 26 track double album, or even, with a bit more work could have seen the inclusion of later solo tracks (Lennon’s ‘Child of Nature’, McCartney’s ‘Junk’ or Harrison’s ‘Not Guilty’) or even the wonderful ‘Hey Bulldog’, still at that time in the vaults, seeing eventual release on the ‘Yellow Submarine’ soundtrack a year later. But the problem was the egos, and the disintegrating relationships, no one writer willing to give up his space on the album. And whilst the track listing itself is a pretty awesome effort in creating a flow throughout its hour plus, the ‘kitchen sink and all’ approach sadly leaves some pretty big cracks. Some of these ‘cracks’ in the façade are fascinating. But some are beyond redemption.

7. Never toured past ‘65

When Beatles Manager Brian Esptein died in 1967, the band effectively lost their ‘rudder’, the man who had guided them through the turbulence of ‘Beatlemania’ and beyond. Since they had ceased touring in 1966, his role had become more perfunctory, yet his death still had a huge effect on the band. After the high of Sgt Pepper, McCartney stepped up to suggest a film project in order to keep them focussed, which became ‘Magical Mystery Tour’. The band then went on their Indian adventure, resulting in another album. But at the dawn of 1969, with Lennon and Harrison pulling in different, non-Beatle directions, McCartney dreamt up another idea, one that, he hoped, would bring them all closer together.

Sadly, and as already discussed, it pretty much tore them apart. The ‘Get Back / Let it Be’ project was, however, a good idea in principle; to re-engage the band by playing live, rehearsing carefully as a four piece after the separation of The White Album sessions.

Its yet another symptom of The Beatles malaise at this time that, after brainstorming ideas for the location of the ‘one-off’ gig to conclude the ‘Get Back’ sessions, which included an Atlantic Sealiner and a Tunisian Ampitheatre, they eventually settled on the roof of the apple building where they ‘worked’. Similarly, their final album was to be called ‘Everest’, until they realised that involved them all flying to said mountain for a photoshoot. They promptly changed it to ‘Abbey Road’ meaning they could step outside the door and be done in 20 minutes.

The result of all this being that we will never be able to hear The Beatles greatest songs performed live by the band themselves. Giving up live performance was undoubtedly one of the finest (and bravest) decisions they made. It allowed them to explore and experiment beyond the limits of sound and pop in the mid sixties. But, with the exception of ‘Revolution 9’ which isn’t ‘pop’ anyway, their last ‘pushing of the boundaries piece’ was probably ‘I am the Walrus’ in 1967. The trick they missed was performing all that 65-68 material in concert. Instead they pushed forth with the performance angle but instead tried to ‘get back’ to their Hamburg roots, a final attempt to reinvent themselves that ultimately failed

Sadly, after the split, Lennon only ever performed 3 of his Beatles songs live (Come Together, Yer Blues and Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds) and McCartney’s modern day touring band unfortunately polish the essence out of what were quirky as well as seminal recordings (I can barely listen to Hey Jude or Back in the USSR without seeing his wrinkled face backed by 20 plus session musicians)

Common belief is that it just wasn’t possible to create the sounds of their Pshycedelic peaks, but existing demos and alternate versions of ‘Strawberry Fields’, 'Tomorrow Never Knows', ‘I am The Walrus’ et al would suggest otherwise. Stripped back, with different elements to the fore, certainly, but how exciting would a live album have been, seeing all these classics reinterpreted by the band themselves? Live albums are often the nadir of any bands back catalogue; in this instance The Beatles could have revolutionised that concept too.

8. ‘The Ballad of John and Yoko’

Forget ‘Strawberry Fields’ or ‘Eleanor Rigby’, this has to be the most ‘un-Beatles’ single the band ever released. For one, it only features Lennon and McCartney, Paul only really agreeing to the whole enterprise in a doomed attempt to keep Lennon interested in being a Beatle. But Lennon’s mind was elsewhere, and in many ways, this could be argued to be his first ‘solo’ single.

Describing his recent run ins with the law, his bed in for peace and the medias treatment of Yoko, it is an interesting document of what was happening at the time, without being a great song. Its hard to tell whether its chorus refrain of ‘Christ, you know it aint easy, you know how hard it can be / The way things are going, they’re gonna crucify me’, is a tongue in cheek reference to his early (misquoted) suggestion that ‘The Beatles are bigger than Jesus’ or the onset of a messianic complex. Likely, it was a bit of both. Either way, as a song and a proposition, it raised questions about what a Beatles song could, and should be; the problem was it raised it in a way that only really offered one answer…

And so, featuring a lyric that no one in the world could relate to, bar Yoko Ono, ‘The Ballad of John and Yoko’ was Lennon at his most self obsessed, and self interested and further signalled the end for the band. Musically it is pleasant enough, in the style of the ‘Get Back’ sessions around which it was recorded, but is certainly no classic, and had any other band recorded it, it would have been long forgotten.

9. Anthology of disinterest

Anthology was a big deal. An opening of the vaults, a chance to hear unreleased Beatles material, all those lost classics that had been the subject of speculation for decades. A chance to tell a different story, reveal the secret history behind the worlds biggest band. But they kind of bottled it.
Whilst relations between the surviving members and Yoko had certainly improved by the mid nineties, in that they could at least talk fairly reasonably about things, the unsteady peace resulted in any member being able to veto any inclusions, for whatever reason. It wasn’t a case of majority vote, if someone wasn’t happy they could just walk away. They were a Beatle, they didn’t need this stress. They certainly didn’t need the money.

And so, what could have been an essential purchase, became a bloated run of backing tracks and uninteresting alternate takes. Yes, some tracks were excellent insights, but at 3 double disc sets,why no legendary 28 minute take of ‘Helter Skelter’? Or more of the White Album demos recorded at George Harrison’s house? Or what about ‘Carnival of Light’, a free form 20 minutes SGT Pepper era experiment that bridges the gap between ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ and ‘Revolution 9’? Nah, an instrumental version of ‘Eleanor Rigby’ is what we get. Cheers Beatles.

10. Come Together / Fall Apart

From 1965 to 1970 The Beatles output of singles and albums was phenomenal. Up until the release of ‘Come Together / Something’ in 1970, the only singles they released from albums were ‘Help!’ and ‘Eleanor Rigby / Yellow Submarine’. They tended to usher in new albums and directions with standalone singles; ‘Paperback Writer / Rain’ for ‘Revolver’, ‘Strawberry Fields / Penny Lane’ for Sgt Pepper, ‘Hey Jude’ for The White Album. It’s an astounding record, both from the perspective that whilst pioneering the idea of what an album could be, they were still producing ‘hit’ singles, that were equally pioneering and that so many of their well known tracks are simply really good album tracks. This consistent high quality is part of what makes them a great band; buying their albums is never a case of getting 4 hit singles and 8 fillers.

Which is why it’s sad, and symptomatic of their falling apart, that they released the split ‘Come Together / Something’ single from ‘Abbey Road’ AFTER the album was released. Not only were they both album tracks (and tracks 1 and 2 at that) but it was the only time they released a single after the album. That might not sound odd now, as that is generally common practice these days, but back in 1970 it was lazy and showed utter disinterest. Lennon’s typically dismissive comment was that they’d released it so people could hear the 2 decent songs off the album, without having to bother with the rest. Whilst clearly not true, to show such contempt for his own work spoke volumes and not long after The Beatles were no more.

One positive upshot was that the release of this single saw Harrison get his first Beatles A-Side and may well have been a goodwill gesture from Lennon / McCartney, both of whom praised ‘Something’ highly. But, regardless, the release of this single ended an unparalleled run of singles and albums that went: ‘I Feel Fine’, ‘Ticket To Ride’, ‘Help!’, ‘Day Tripper/We Can Work It Out’, ‘Rubber Soul’, ‘Paperback Writer’, ‘Eleanor Rigby’, ‘Revolver’, ‘Strawberry Fields’, ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’, ‘All You Need Is Love’, ‘Hello, Goodbye’, ‘Lady Madonna’, ‘Hey Jude’, ‘The Beatles (White Album)’, ‘Get Back’, ‘The Ballad of John and Yoko’, ‘Abbey Road’.

by Liscio
What Stuart Sutcliffe fan hasn’t wished to learn as much as possible about the fascinating young artist and Beatle?  His time with us was short yet incredibly creative; every surfacing artwork, picture, letter or anecdote is pored over with relish by admirers. But some things Sutcliffe-lovers were sadly certain they would never get to know: for instance—his voice.
That’s why the digital release of “Love Me Tender“, sung by Stuart himself, is an astonishing event generating stunned excitement and questions about the song’s origin and authenticity.
“Love Me Tender” was Stuart’s signature song; a ballad he performed so well in Hamburg it received the best applause during the Beatles’ sets at the Kaiserkeller and Star Club. Sutcliffe also performed Carl Perkins’ “Matchbox” and Elvis Presley’s “Wooden Heart”.  But “Love Me Tender” is the song most associated with his name.
His newly-released song, now available to the public for the first time in 50 years,  is compelling listening: Stu’s voice strains just slightly ending the first refrain, and he gives us a very sexy exhale at the end of another. In between, the notes are confident, strong, on pitch and melodic. Sutcliffe has made this version of Presley’s tune unabashedly his own.
In fact the track is so good, some listeners maintain they don’t even care if it is Stuart (though they hope it is) and skeptics are accusing the Sutcliffe family of overdubbing the voice of a professional singer. (One might point out that as a paid member of a hard-working rock band, Stuart was a professional singer).
Another quick discrediting attempt claimed the song originated from a 1979 American movie—that version has none of the soft nasality indicative of Liverpool accents, clearly evident in Stuart’s singing.  Noting this, listeners say Stuart sounds like John or George.  David Bedford, author of “Liddypool: Birthplace of the Beatles”—and a life-long Liverpudlian—confirms, “Yes, nasal talking is a scouse thing for sure.  As Stuart’s parents were Scottish, his accent was different to John’s and would sound different too – it differs on where in Liverpool you are from.”
So—where has such a sensational piece of musical history been hiding for the past 50 years?
Stuart’s sister Pauline says, “I never expected to receive this recording of Stuart singing ‘Love Me Tender’ because I was told the only recording which existed was locked away forever by a private collector.”
But quite unexpectedly in 2009, Stuart’s Estate became aware that a copy was available through another source. Once they’d obtained it, a substantial effort of time and money was spent trying to trace its provenance. “As far as we know for certain, Stuart’s ‘Love Me Tender’ track was recorded in Hamburg, probably 1961—after Stuart officially left the Beatles to pursue his art, ” says Pauline. “On one occasion we were told that it was a one-sided German Polydor acetate. Another source tells us that we have a copy from a reel-to-reel recording. We’ve also been advised that new instrumentation has been overdubbed.”
Though gaps in the history remain, one thing is unequivocally certain: it is Stuart. Says Pauline, “The family do know Stuart’s voice when they hear it – and this is Stuart’s voice.”
Those who are surprised that Sutcliffe could sing suffer from the same myopic misconception that had them believing he couldn’t play bass guitar. David Bedford  reminds us that as a young lad in Liverpool, Stuart was head chorister for St. Gabriel’s church in Huyton, leading the singing for Sunday services and weddings. The former choirboy still sounds youthful and earnest—some say his voice on “Love Me Tender” is “angelic”—some say “haunting”—while others are reminded of Phil and Don Everly’s sweet harmonies.
In a recent phone conversation, Pauline revealed that once the Estate possessed the recording, they were just “trying to get comfortable with it”.  One can only wonder what it was like for a sister to hold in her hands an object containing a special voice from so very long ago . A missing piece had at last come home.
In time, those responsible for overseeing Stuart’s Estate were curious to know whether the tape could be cleaned up. Help came in the form of Dan Whitelock-Wainwright, Pauline’s techno-expert great-nephew, currently at University and a member of the rock band Groan. Dan’s cousin Alex Whitelock-Wainwright (at University in Liverpool) also possessed a copy of the original tape and he wrote in his blog: “The original I have has a constant hiss throughout; that’s all that has been modified with the released version and the sound levels are higher. Talking to my cousin, who first tried to clean the track up, (he) believes that the noise frequencies have been totally cleaned out which has removed some instruments and they have been overdubbed back onto the track.”
It was the 24/7 division of IODA that finished the mastering, leaving Stuart’s voice unmanipulated, only louder. [Correction (11/3/2011): "24 Hour Service Station Distribution" and not "24/7 division of IODA" handled the cleaning up of the track. Marshall Dickson contacted us and explained: "I personally coordinated the sonic recovery, and also have strong reason to believe the original recording comes from an acetate, since the source file we possess has the sound of a needle sliding across a record after the music ends."]
There was never any doubt that the voice was Stuart’s. But the Estate has another reason to know the tape is genuine: they know Stuart.
The young bohemian led an accelerated life, traveling incredibly far in a very short time.  And his time in Hamburg was likely his most innovative.  Eduardo Paolozzi, Stuart’s art instructor at the School of Fine Arts in Germany, wrote: “He (Stuart) had so much energy and was so very inventive.”(1)  Musician and  artist Klaus Voorman said, “Every second of Stuart’s short time he was doing something.  His imagination was fantastic.”(2)  Everybody was aware of and amazed by Stu’s energy and the ease with which he was able to work in a variety of artistic areas.  It was completely in character for Stuart to have made this recording.
And the family’s got it in Stuart’s own writing that he planned to do just that.
Copyright: Stuart Sutcliffe Estate
Copyright: Stuart Sutcliffe Estate
Some of his Hamburg letters, reproduced here, reveal Sutcliffe’s interest in a new art project: his desire to make a movie with an accompanying soundtrack. The text reads:
Yes! Tomorrow comes Paolozzi and Tuesday we go once
more to that ship-breaking yard which we visited last semester. I
will have with me a film camera I borrowed of Theo, Astrid’s
cousin. I’m very quickly trying to learn the technique as I’m
enthralled by the possibilities but it’s so expensive. He has many
films including some of Astrid from a few years ago, very sweet
as you can imagine. I’ll have to take advantage of the few days
I’ll have it; I’ll probably tire of it all the more quickly because of
the complete inaccessibility of all the equipment required.”
‘I made a film last week when I was at the ship-breaking yard
and I have really caught a feeling for filming, the desire that is.
I made another today and wish to make a long film accompanied
by a tape-recording.
“Thank you for your letter and the catalogues. I should have
written before but have been busy with various odds and ends.
We started the week very tired after working all weekend making
photos, or rather Astrid worked while I grew tired looking on. She
was working on a commission for Polydor making photos of this
singer Sheridan and made some marvelous ones in black and
white and color.”
Stuart was well acquainted with Tony Sheridan.  While performing in Hamburg between 1960 and 1963, Sheridan employed various backup bands, most of which were really “pickup bands”, or simply an amalgam of various musicians, rather than a group proper.(3)   It was Polydor’s A&R (Artists and Repertoire) man, Bert Kaempfert, who arranged in 1961 for the Beatles to back Sheridan for an LP called “My Bonnie”. The standard (and decidedly incomplete) story is that Stuart was present during this session, but did not participate. But both John Lennon and Tony Sheridan swore that there were several other Beatle tracks that were recorded during the two-day session, and that either they were not preserved OR something else happened to them.(3)
Tony Sheridan (left) and Stuart Sutcliffe
Copyright Astrid Kirchherr; Pauline Sutcliffe private collection
Another group recording for Polydor was a German band called The Bats. “They (the Bats) went through the usual Star Club routine…(they) recorded mainly for Polydor. Drummer Toni Cavanaugh came from the circle of musicians connected with Tony Sheridan (and) also played drums for Sheridan’s Beat Brothers/Star combo. The band’s crew changed…once in a while ex-Beatle Stuart Sutcliffe joined in.”(4)
Hamburg’s music scene in ’61 was open and inclusive, with musicians intermingling on stage and in the studio. Astrid was there with her camera, recording visual tracks while the bands made musical ones. Stuart was right in the midst of it. He’d been to the studio, played with the bands, knew Kaempfert, had all the right connections.  It’s not implausible to think that at some time during that year his voice was captured on “a German Polydor acetate”.
Or perhaps Stu recorded his own voice, and instruments were tracked in later. The fact is that Sutcliffe intended to make a recording. Since “Love Me Tender” was the cool bassist’s spotlight song, one he’d sung a hundred times or more and was the ballad he’d dedicated to his darling Astrid, it was the natural choice.
Those free Hamburg days were unparalleled—a pivitol time for art and music.  Timing can be so deadly crucial—why did Stuart’s Estate choose to release “Love Me Tender” now?
It wasn’t a decision made lightly. Pauline has balanced two missions for nearly 50 years: working determinedly to ensure her talented brother’s legacy, and striving to protect his image from harm.  In the documentary “The Lost Beatle” she reminisces that Stuart “used to be my elder brother. But now he’s my kid brother…I want to take care of him…to protect him.” Regarding “Love Me Tender”, she was wisely aware of those who would cry foul even if the Sutcliffes presented a recording contract with Stuart’s signature at the bottom.
But recent events: a partnership with promotional agency CMG Worldwide; the successful stage production of Backbeat, now showing in London’s West End; the launch of Stuart’s Official Fan Club (www.stuartsutcliffefanclub.com); and next year’s world tour art exhibition “Conversation With Stuart Stucliffe”, convinced the Estate there was no better time to release Stuart’s song than now.
There has been a shift in perspective regarding the Beatle who left the band because he loved art and Astrid Kirchherr. The media is now far less likely to depict Sutcliffe shoved aside in his shades to an obscure corner…the reluctant, incapable bassist. Commentaries adhering to that badly-sketched-in picture show their inaccuracy and age. With every unexpected and exciting new event, the remarkably talented Sutcliffe is now receiving the worldwide accolade he deserves.
Some things are worth waiting for—even if it takes 50 years.  “Love Me Tender” was definitely worth the wait. Thanks, Stu, for making certain we’d hear your voice.
[Editor's Note: Those in Beatles history who knew Stuart at the time this song was believed to be recorded, (i.e., Astrid Kirchherr, Klaus Voormann, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr) have not yet commented on their personal knowledge of the existence of this recording. ]
© 2011 Daytrippin’ – This article including photos/images may not be reproduced without permission from the author and Daytrippin.com. A brief excerpt may be reprinted with a link to the article and proper credit.
Update: More in-depth analysis on this recording has been done by David Bedford, author of Liddypool: Birthplace of The Beatles. You can read his article here:

Update (Nov. 4, 2011): The Beatles Examiner has obtained quotes from Klaus Voormann, Tony Sheridan and Bill Harry concerning their opinions on the recording.
(1) John Willett 1967 “Art In The City”
(2) The Beatles In Hamburg/Bill Hillman Tracks (hillmanweb.com)
(3) Tony Sheridan Wikipedia
(4)  Discogs/The Bats (discogs.com)

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by Liscio
Shy and withdrawn, hardly able to play a chord, so unsure of his ability he hid behind dark glasses and turned his back to the audience—if this is your portrait of Stuart Sutcliffe, you’ve got the wrong rock bass guitarist.
Stu has been described as gentle, delicate, a boy of beautiful heart.  But he was funny enough to be on par with Lennon.  He was an original thinker, highly intelligent, responsible and mature beyond his young years, “vulnerable on the surface but extremely strong underneath”.  He was innovative (painting in Hamburg with metallic car paint and charcoal) and daring—art master Arthur Ballard remembered in the Beatles biography, Shout, that against college rules, Stuart painted on massive canvasses and was a sartorial trendsetter even before Hamburg.  Klaus Voorman said Stu could “see 10 times more than other people”—he was “miles ahead of everybody”, especially regarding the intensity of his life, his art, and his cutting-edge perception of style and imagery.  An amazing profile for a kid barely out of his teens.
But could he play the guitar?
The contention that Stu was “a bad bass player” is a piece of historical hokum that has no substantiation– meaning no factual evidence backs it up.  Stuart had basically only two detractors: the statements of one have been shown to be blatantly false—the remarks of the other are inconsistent and less than impartial.  Yet years of media repetition from these two sources have been accepted as truth.
Let’s start at the end of 1959 when teenaged Lennon, McCartney and Harrison were actively searching for a bass guitarist.  As is well known, they persuaded 19-year-old art student Sutcliffe to purchase a Hofner electric bass. George Harrison said it was “better to have a bass player that couldn’t play than to not have a bass player at all.” (1) Stuart straightaway recruited Dave May of the local Silhouettes to teach him Eddie Cochran’s “C’mon Everybody”.
The Forthlin Road rehearsals at Paul’s house, some of which were taped on Rod Murray’s (Stu’s flatmate) tape recorder, took place that March.  In a 2007 article, Murray said, “Stu would borrow the recorder and go to Paul’s house to record…but he had to buy his own tapes as they were so expensive.”  The audio quality is poor, but listening to these tapes makes clear that the entire band at this point was very rudimentary.  (Note: Of the 16 songs known to have been recorded at the Forthlin Road rehearsals, three were released on 1995’s Anthology 1: “Cayenne”, “Hallelujah” and “I Love Her So”.  You can hear these on Youtube).
Finding gigs in Liverpool was tough and everybody was still going to school; not having played much together “for months”, on May 10 the group found themselves before London musical scout Larry Parnes, who was looking for a group to back one of his stars, Billy Fury.  Photos of this audition do show Stuart playing with his back turned, perhaps attempting to hide his fledgling ability.  Paul McCartney said, “If anyone had been taking notice, they would have seen that when we were all in A, Stu would be in another key.  But he soon caught up and we passed that audition to go on tour.” (2)
These photos are the only ones of Stuart playing turned around—and this is where one of the sources of the “bad bass playing” got its start.
The idea sprang from the lips of one Allan Williams, a colorful man of dubious veracity who called himself the Beatles manager when he was, in fact, a booking agent for various bands in Liverpool.
Bill Harry, art school classmate of Sutcliffe and Lennon and creator of Mersey Beatmagazine, sets the record absolutely straight: “Allan Williams always comes out with the story that Stuart Sutcliffe played with his back to Larry Parnes at the Wyvern Club audition because he couldn’t play the bass, and that Parnes said he would take the group as Billy Fury’s backing group if they got rid of Stuart.  This story first appeared in Williams’ book, ‘The Man Who Gave the Beatles Away’.  Williams’ allegation is untrue. Parnes himself was to say that he had no problem with Stuart, that his objection was to drummer Tommy Moore, who turned up late for the audition, was dressed differently than the other members and was a lot older than them.  When we used to book the group for the art school dances there seemed to be no problem with Stuart’s performance.  In fact I never heard any criticism of Stuart as a musician until the publication of Williams’ book (which came out in 1977).” (3)
After returning home from their tour, the band played some twenty-odd venues around Liverpool before August 1960.  At this time, one of Liverpool’s best, established groups was Derry and the Seniors.  Seniors’ Howie Casey remarked for the ‘Beatles Anthology’, “they were a nothing little band.”  When he heard the Beatles were soon to play in Germany, Casey complained, “They might destroy the [emerging German rock] scene.  I said send a band like Rory Storm or the Big Three.  When they did turn up, they were vastly improved…the improvement was like night and day.”
Arriving in Hamburg, the Beatles (whose current playlist of songs could barely fill an hour) were shocked to learn they were expected to play close to eight hours nearly every night. They had to expand  their repertoire, and fast.
George:  “We had to learn millions of songs. We’d be on for hours…Saturday would start at three or four in the afternoon and go on until five or six in the morning.”
John:  “We got better and got more confidence.  We couldn’t help it, with all the experience, playing all night long.”
Paul:  “We got better and better and other groups started coming to watch us.”
Is it credible to think that all this learning, experience, confidence and improvement affected every Beatle except Sutcliffe—the others were roaring along, but Stu was still just plunking?   Stuart himself wrote home:   “We have improved a thousand-fold since our arrival.”
These “savage young Beatles” were now playing loud, thrashing, primeval and pumping proto-punk rock—a throbbing nightly musical orgy.  Lennon would say these Hamburg performances were the Beatles at their rock and roll best.
“Backbeat” director Ian Softley, after researching extensively and talking to bands and others who attended the German clubs, told the Los Angeles Times: “he (Stu) was very punk, very insistent.  He would turn up his bass really loud… it was dominant and driving.”
Howie Casey said in the same Times piece that Stu “had a great live style”.  He would know…while the recently-arrived Beatles were still playing the Indra, Bruno Koschmider (owner of both clubs) wanted continual music at the Kaiserkeller.  So he split up the Seniors and the Beatles–in effect, creating a third band.  Says Casey, “I was given Stuart Sutcliffe along with Derry and Stan Foster and we had a German drummer.”   If Stuart couldn’t play, a professional like Casey certainly wouldn’t have tolerated him very long. Casey never complained about Stu’s ability.  And this temporary split actually made Sutcliffe the first Beatle to play the sought-after Kaiserkeller gig.
In ‘The Beatles History’, Rick Hardy of the Jets confirmed: “Stu never turned his back on stage.  He certainly played to the audience and he certainly played bass.  If you have someone who can’t play the instrument properly, you have no bass sound.  There were two rhythm guitarists with the Beatles and if one of them couldn’t play, you wouldn’t have noticed it—but it’s different with a bass guitar.  I was there and I can say quite definitely Stuart never did a show in which he wasn’t facing the audience.”
Renowned artist and bassist Klaus Voorman says, “Stu was a really good rock and roll bass player, a very basic bass player, completely different.  He was, at the time, my favorite bass player…and he had that cool look.”  In a 2006 documentary, Voorman’s opinion was, “The Beatles were best when Stuart was still in the band.  To me it had more balls, it was even more rock and roll when Stuart was playing the bass and Paul was playing piano or another guitar.  The band was, somehow, as a rock and roll band, more complete.”
Interviewed on radio, Beatles drummer Pete Best revealed “what a good bass player Stuart was.”  Pete has said, “I’ve read so many people putting him down for his bass playing.  I’d like to set that one straight.  His bass playing was a lot better than people give him credit for.  He knew what his limits were…what he did was accept that and he gave 200%.  He was the smallest Beatle with the biggest heart.”
Stu, who had stayed in Hamburg after the others had gone back to Liverpool, received a letter from George that read in part: “Come home sooner, as if we get a new bass player for the time being, it will be crumby as he will have to learn everything.  It’s no good with Paul playing bass, we’d decided, that is, if he had some kind of bass to play on!”
And not long before his death, after he’d left the Beatles, Stuart was asked to play with a German group, the Bats.  He borrowed back his bass from Voorman (to whom he’d sold it), and played the Hamburg Art School Carnival and the Kaiserkeller.  The “James Dean of Hamburg” was obviously respected for his bass work.
There is no record of anyone commenting negatively about Stuart’s playing the entire time the Beatles were actually performing in Liverpool or in Hamburg…except for one.  At last we come to Stuart’s other detractor: Paul McCartney.
Paul has knocked Stu’s bass playing– remarks he made while working with Stu were perhaps spawned by their “dead rivalry” (at least that’s how Paul saw it), and are therefore open to question.  But many of Paul’s negative comments have been in retrospect.  In 1964, much closer to when he’d actually been playing with Sutcliffe, Paul said in a Beat Instrumental interview: “Not that I’m suggesting that every bass player should learn on an ordinary guitar.  Stuart Sutcliffe certainly didn’t, and he was a great bass man.”
Stuart was clear-eyed and candid about his musicianship.  He put it all out there and made no apologies.  He had the nerve to audition when he’d barely begun to play—that took guts.  He worked hard and grew in expertise along with the rest of the band in Liverpool.  Having to quickly master new material in Germany, Stu could rely, if not on deep innate talent, then on his very high IQ to memorize the “millions” of new songs.  Voorman gets the last word on the result: “It sounded amazing, fantastic.  I loved it from the first moment.  The other bands that played in the clubs were good, but none were as good as them.”
By all reliable accounts, Sutcliffe’s bass put down a hard-driving, rock and roll sound.  It wasn’t fancy…his attack was pretty basic.  But when it came to playing raw, exciting, sex-drenched rock and roll that hit you in the chest, electrified your limbs, made you want to dance all night and kept you coming back to the Top Ten Club for more, the band to see was Stuart Sutcliffe and The Beatles.
(1) ‘A Brief History of the Beatles’ online
(2) ‘The Beatles Bible’ online
(3) ‘The Beatles History’ online
Note: Additional references for this article include: The Life of John Lennon and Shout by Philip Norman; quotes by Astrid Kirchherr for Boston 90.9 WBUR and How Stuff WorksLiddypool: Birthplace of the Beatles by David Bedford; The Beatles in Hamburg by Hillman; Art by Lennon, McCartney, Sutcliffe and Starr; interviews by Garry James; British Youth Culture-Shapers of the 80’s; The Quarrymen Through Rubber Soul by Everett; Pete Best interview/terrascope; Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand by Knublauch, Korinth and Muller; Stuart Sutcliffe letters; Voorman/tripod.com Quotes; and John, Paul, George, Ringo and Stu-Los Angeles Times/Movies
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An in-depth exploration of how John Lennon’s love for Yoko
filled the void left by Astrid and Stu
by Josh Kennedy
It split the Beatles, this affair of the heart. She was an artist from an upper class family. She came from a foreign country that the previous generation in Britain had fought an all-out war to defeat. One Beatle was besotted with her, ready and willing to forsake the band for his new romance. She was always at his side; the intense couple even began dressing and wearing their hair alike. Paul McCartney was jealous, venting his frustration in petty ways that boiled over into the group’s professional work. The name of this lady was… Astrid Kirchherr.
It would happen again, and eerily so, when Yoko Ono appeared on the scene six years later. The personalities involved were different, but a similar stew of forces was present in both situations. When the Beatles story is examined as a whole, Yoko can be seen as an amalgam, combining the earlier roles of Astrid – the influential, foreign artistic woman – and of Stuart Sutcliffe – the brilliant but musically limited force who occupied much of John’s attention at the group’s expense. These striking parallels are worth exploring for any light they may shed on the eventual breakup of the Beatles.
When the Beatles met Astrid in Hamburg, there is no doubt they were impressed. As Cynthia Lennon wrote in her 1978 memoir, “John’s letters were full of Astrid… particularly her way of dress, her avant-garde way of life, and her marvelous photography.” John even went so far as to call her the “German Brigitte Bardot.” This comparison is illuminating. Bardot was the icon of John’s adolescent fantasies, to the point where he encouraged Cynthia to dye her own hair blonde in emulation. Very shortly before taking up with Yoko in 1968, Lennon would meet the real Bardot in person. He showed up stoned for the appointment, and had what he later described as a “fucking terrible evening – even worse than meeting Elvis.” Any illusions he still harbored about Bardot as the ideal woman were then shattered, and with them, perhaps, some regard for his own wife’s dyed-blonde image.
Yet Bardot was not John’s only ideal. As he recalled in a posthumously published reminiscence, “I’d always had a fantasy about a woman who would be a beautiful, intelligent, high-cheek-boned, free-spirited artist a la Juliette Greco.”  He went on to say that this ideal morphed slightly during a Beatles visit to Asia, becoming an artisticoriental woman. But back in Hamburg, “oriental” was not yet part of the idea. Astrid was not only a “beautiful, intelligent, high-cheek-boned, free-spirited artist” but was also, like Greco, a continental European.
As Kirchherr later told BBC radio:
“We got inspired by all the French artists and writers, because that was the closest we could get. England was so far away, and America was out of the question. So France was the nearest. So we got all the information from France, and we tried to dress like the French existentialists. … We wanted to be free, we wanted to be different, and tried to be cool, as we call it now.”
Small wonder that Cynthia felt intimidated about meeting her.
Of course, Astrid fell in love with Stuart Sutcliffe, the most bohemian Beatle, with his dark sunglasses and brooding James Dean image. “I fell in love with Stuart that very first night,” Astrid told author Philip Norman. “So pale, but very, very beautiful. He was like a character from a story by Edgar Allan Poe.” ‘They were the big love,” Paul McCartney says of this period, and Pete Best remembers the couple as being “like one of those fairy stories.”
Before long, according to Norman, Astrid was employing her own artistic talents “to model him (Stuart) into an appearance echoing and complementing her own.” Much has been made of Astrid’s visual influence on the Beatles’ haircut and fashion, and as an early band photographer. More overlooked is the impact all of this had on John’s ideal of a relationship. John may have joined his band mates in ridiculing Stuart at times, but as he later admitted to biographer Hunter Davies, “I used to explain afterwards to him that we didn’t dislike him.” Privately John admired his friend, and the intense partnership of Stu and Astrid might be seen as something of a model for John’s later, all-encompassing infatuation with Yoko.
Certainly the two situations produced some similar outcomes, for in both cases, Paul McCartney reacted badly. Lennon noted the cause of an onstage fistfight between McCartney and Sutcliffe:  “Paul was saying something about Stu’s girl, and he was jealous because she was a great girl, and Stu hit him on stage.” Later, when John found his own soul mate in Yoko, Paul tried to accept it, even inviting the couple to live in his house during the summer of 1968. This was a time when Paul was in a fragile state, having recently broken with his fiancée Jane Asher. As reported by Paul’s summer girlfriend Francie Schwartz, Paul’s true feelings of envy slipped out in a cruel jest. A note left on the mantle warned John: “You and your Jap tart think you’re hot shit.” Paul admitted leaving the note as a joke, but the dark underpinnings of this incident were crystal clear.
Indeed, jealousy was at the heart of the other Beatles’ relationships with both Stuart and Yoko. Stuart was a formidable presence in his own right.
Cynthia Lennon recalled:
“It was a very beautiful friendship John had with Stu. John, even though he’d gone into the music end of the art world and left his art behind, he still desperately wanted to be a painter, and Stuart was a fantastic and dedicated artist. They totally understood each other and gave to each other what they knew, what they had to offer.”
Stuart was hardly a musician, but joined the group because John liked having him around. “When he came into the band… we were a little jealous of him; it was something I didn’t deal with very well,” Paul admitted years later in The Beatles Anthology. “We were always slightly jealous of John’s other friendships… when Stuart came in it felt as if he was taking the position away from George and me. We had to take a bit of a back seat.”
George agreed, saying “..with all the stress we were under, a little bitching went on and Paul and he (Stu) used to punch each other out a bit.”
“We’d had a few ding-dongs, partly out of jealousy for John’s friendship, and Stuart, being his mate from art school, had a lot of his time and we were jealous of that,” Paul continued. “Also, I was keen to see the group be as good as it could be, so I would make the odd remark. Oh, you don’t play that right.” Here was evidence of the strict perfectionism which Paul would later direct towards George and Ringo in the studio.
Curiously, John would never lose his taste for inviting musically limited friends to join his band simply because he liked them. This trend had begun with John’s boyhood friend Pete Shotton scraping a washboard in the Quarrymen.
Of Stuart joining the Beatles, Shotton wrote:
“Thus continued the pattern that had begun with me in 1956, and would once again manifest itself with Yoko Ono in the late sixties. Since music came so naturally to John, it simply never occurred to him that anyone to whom he felt especially close could not also participate.”
Philip Norman’s 2008 biography Lennonshrewdly probes John’s decision to bring Yoko to Beatles recording sessions in 1968:
“Whatever John’s inner thoughts, he remained a fully paid-up Beatle, subject to the remorseless manufacturing cycle, which, in late May, had summoned them back to Abbey Road Studios… at the back-to-school session on May 30, his initial intention became clear: not to break up the old gang, but to augment it. ‘He wanted me to be part of the group,’ Yoko says. ‘He created the group, so he thought the others should accept that. I didn’t particularly want to be part of them… I couldn’t see how I would fit in, but John was certain I would. He kept saying, ‘They’re very sensitive … Paul is into Stockhausen… They can do your thing…’ He thought the other Beatles would go for it; he was trying to persuade me.’”
Lennon confirmed this remarkable notion himself, in his 1970 Rolling Stone interview:
“Yoko played me tapes I understood. I know it was very strange and avant-garde music is very tough to assimilate… but I’ve heard the Beatles playing avant-garde music when nobody was looking for years. But they’re artists, and all artists have fuckin’ big egos… and when a new artist came into the group, they were never allowed. Sometimes George and I would like to bring somebody in like Billy Preston, that was exciting, we might have had him in the group. We were fed up with the same old shit… and I would have expanded the Beatles… she came in and she would expect to perform with them like you would with any group…”
In his 2006 memoir, recording engineer Geoff Emerick noted a shift in Yoko’s role as the White Album sessions dragged on:  “I could see that she (Yoko) was gaining confidence. She seemed to feel she was part of the group now. In her mind, and in John’s mind, she had become the fifth Beatle.” Lennon later expressed indignation when scenes of Yoko vocalizing to a Beatles jam were cut from the Let it Be movie. Clearly, he took Yoko’s presence as a quasi-band member seriously.
Furthermore, John sought to enforce these wishes at a time when he was trying to reassert himself as leader of the Beatles. It was a role John had occupied during the early days, when Stuart had joined the group. By contrast, many Beatles ideas in 1967 had originated with Paul. Privately, Lennon simmered, as he told Rolling Stone: “When Paul felt like it, he would come in with about twenty good songs… and I suddenly had to write a fucking stack of songs. Pepper was like that. And Magical Mystery Tour was another.”  Perhaps, following the critical panning which greeted the Magical Mystery Tour film, John felt it was time for a change. Or perhaps, being with Yoko simply gave him renewed confidence.
John further told Rolling Stone:
“Bit by bit over a two-year period, I had destroyed me ego. I didn’t believe I could do anything. I just was nothing. I was shit… and she (Yoko) made me realize that I was me and that it’s all right. That was it; I started fighting again, being a loudmouth again and saying, “I can do this. Fuck it. This is what I want,” you know. “I want it, and don’t put me down.”
With Yoko, John felt he had reawakened his own crucial sense of personal authenticity. Years later, he gave this assessment of the Beatles’ split:
“…That’s how the Beatles ended. Not because Yoko split the Beatles, but because she showed me what it was to be Elvis Beatle and to be surrounded by sycophants and slaves who were only interested in keeping the situation as it was. She said to me, you’ve got no clothes on. Nobody had dared tell me that before.”
Nobody, perhaps, except for Stuart Sutcliffe.  In the early sixties, John wrote long, honest letters to Sutcliffe, sharing John’s inner thoughts, as he would later do with Yoko. Tellingly, in 1967, John remembered Stu with these words: “I looked up to Stu. I depended on him to tell me the truth.”
Feeling he was once more being true to himself, John was furious when Paul got the credit for announcing the Beatles’ split to the press in 1970. Lennon would continue to try to set the record straight for the rest of his life. It seems ironic that John’s wife has been lambasted for years for supposedly splitting the group up, an act for which John himself publicly sought credit. Those who blame Yoko Ono for breaking up the Beatles may have a hard time facing the truth: that John Lennon broke up the Beatles. As he confidently wrote in the late seventies, “I started the band. I disbanded it. It’s as simple as that.”
John elaborated on his decision to leave in a 1980 interview with Playboy: “What I did… in my own cowardly way was use Yoko… it was like now I have the strength to leave because I know there is another side to life.” This other side to life included a host of different artistic projects, many of them employing John’s latent art school talents. He collaborated with Yoko on a whirlwind of films, lithographs, and art shows, just as Stu had resumed his dedication to painting once the distraction of the rock band was removed. Yoko, then, became the escape from the Beatles that John had already been looking for. The template for this particular kind of escape had been established years before. We must remember that John was barely 29 years old when he told the other Beatles he was quitting the group in September 1969. For John, the best example of an appealing alternate life had been seen a mere eight years before, in the bohemian path of art and love chosen by his close friend Stu.
Pete Shotton remembers John describing his new romance with Yoko: “It’s just like how we used to fall in love when we were kids.”
John certainly remembered “when we were kids.”
He remembered Stu and Astrid.
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By Shelley Germeaux, Daytrippin’ West Coast Correspondent
[Editor's note: This article, originally published on Daytrippin's site in 2006, is one of our most popular articles on John Lennon. We decided to re-post it today in remembrance of John Lennon on the anniversary of his death.]
Now that the pay-per-view show entitled The Spirit of John Lennon has made its television debut, grossing over $8 million in one night, my in-box has been full of emails dismissing the show outright for its sensationalist production.
The show claims to have contacted John’s spirit during seances, psychic readings, EVP’s (electronic voice phenomena) and through channeled music by an Indian guru. The manner in which this show was produced, through scary background music and a narrator who sounds like the guy from the Twilight Zone, shot down any chance of the show being taken seriously. The best part of the show was the Indian guru who channeled a beautiful song from John on a sitar. When translated into an American style, it did sound like something John might have written. But most of the show reminded me of an over-produced magic show.
This tells me it is a good time to talk about the serious side of John’s spirit communications, for those having a penchant for the “other side.”  To be honest, I’m a closet spiritualist myself and am definitely a believer in the paranormal because of my own experiences. Many years ago I began having profound dreams, strange coincidences and paranormal occurrences about John Lennon and I couldn‚Äôt deny his presence in my personal life.
I haven’t really talked about it openly as of yet.  But one thing I can say for sure is that the feeling of his presence with me caused me to do the writing and research I have done about his life and the Beatles, which led me to Daytrippin’ Magazine. So to that end, if I’ve done something positive for his memory, then perhaps I’m fulfilling a worthwhile purpose on his behalf.
There are other people braver than I, who have published their experiences with John Lennon’s spirit, and this is the subject of this article.
A couple of weeks ago I received an email from a friend of mine, Linda Keen, asking ifDaytrippin’ readers would be interested in a review of her book, Across the Universe With John Lennon. First published in 1994, I had loved the book, and the similarity in my experiences inspired me to write to Linda and form a friendship that has lasted over 10 years.  I remember reading it at that time with rapt interest, shocked into realizing that I had not been imagining John’s presence after all. There was a lot more going on here than any of us understood. It changed my life and helped me to accept the profound spiritual guidance that John seemed to be offering. But would fans take the information seriously?
The same week that Linda wrote me, I had, coincidentally, just finished reading  Jewelle St. James’ book called All You Need Is Love, about her discovery of a past life with John in England in the 1700s. I had assumed that this book would simply be a discussion of her dreams, past life regressions, and things like that, that wouldn’t necessarily prove anything. Imagine my surprise when I could not put the book down, reading into the wee hours of the morning until I had reached the very last word.
She had actually backed up her dreams and psychic readings with genealogical type research, including traveling to England, finally uncovering documents that proved the existence of the lifetime in question.  It provided an element of proof of reincarnation that was stunning.
Later that week, the advertisement for the John Lennon seance on TV appeared, and I thought, well it’s time to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Here is a discussion of the books that have already been out there, hiding on bookshelves and on Amazon all these years, without too much excitement or publicity. These authors have really compelling, truthful and loving stories to tell, without giving a hoot about their own fame. They just want to get their stories out there, and have had to go to considerable personal expense to do it. The courage to do this, as I have myself discovered, is hard to come by. One has to go beyond the fear of ridicule from others, but also their own doubts.
Here are the books that are available should you want to pursue this subject:
Peace At Last: The After-Death Experiences of John Lennon
by Jason Leen, (Illumination Arts Publishing Company, 1982, 1989)
This was the first book that was published, from all I can tell, about John’s afterlife. Jason is a clairaudient who wrote The Death of the Prophet in 1979, the channeled works of Kahlil Gibran, who died in 1931. John came to Jason three nights after he died, only to say he was being kept strongly on the earth plane because of all the people who were grieving for him. He says he has a lot of adjustments to make to his new form, and that he needs to heal, but that he would be in contact.
Throughout 1981, John related what he experienced when he died, and what he was seeing and feeling. Jason describes John’s reaction at seeing his mother Julia waiting for him, and all she tells him.
After explaining the seven different heavenly realms, she explains that since John was such a powerful spokesman for the world, he is being asked to continue his work with humanity. She assures him that the world will listen. He learns that the earth is about to awaken, but that first, humanity must awaken and arise. He will be one of the spirit beings to interact with people on earth to get this message across.
He describes the various dimensions he is introduced to, and the realization that his thought alone can take him to a different place. He learns that Heaven is what you imagine it to be, and is as good as you can allow it. He talks about his wish to stay on the earth plane to help humanity. That he will be here as the planet goes through immense shifts and changes in the coming years.
The transmissions include many metaphysical terms about frequency changes, heightened awareness, and electromagnetic changes within our DNA that must occur in order to successfully accommodate the required growth.
More information about Jason is at www.kahlil.org, and www.kryon.com/inspiritmag/
Across the Universe with John Lennon
by Linda Keen
(Hampton Roads, 1999)
First self-published under the name John Lennon in Heaven in 1994, it was reissued in 1999 under the new title, along with her 2nd book, Intuition Magic. Linda and her husband owned and operated an Intuition school in Holland, and before John came along, Linda was teaching many techniques to help people develop their psychic and intuition skills to better their own lives.
When John suddenly appeared in a profound dream in 1986, her life began to change. Quoting from the introduction, where Linda describes the dream, she says, “I am visiting a woman who is planning to write a book entitled John Lennon in Heaven. She is going to converse with John about what it is like to exist after death, and apparently, he is very eager to participate–in fact, he has organized the whole thing himself . . .as I awaken, the quality of it lingers in my whole body and mind, leaving me inspired yet perplexed.”
Despite her efforts to dismiss the dream, John began popping up in her mind regularly; laughing at something she said, or giving her some advice. She couldn’t get him out of her mind, and she began searching for anything having to do with John Lennon and the Beatles. She became a Beatle fan all over again. The dreams began to increase. One night she dreamt that she was lifting John out of a grave, whereupon he got up on his feet and put her jeans on. In March of 1987 she made the decision to try and contact him directly.
From there on, the book describes her conversations with him, the spiritual lessons he taught her, the realizations about God, and the lessons he learned about his life. She helped him through his own grief, and he helped her through her doubts. He finally convinces her to get a computer (remember it was the early 90’s!) and begin writing a book, so she could communicate what he was teaching her to the world. It was a friendship based on spiritual guidance that grew and continues to this day.
It is a fantastic journey through the soul’s growth and through spiritual teachings. As John always believed during his lifetime, he teaches her that reality extends way beyond what we can see. There is much more to the ultimate truth.
Since the publication of her book in 1994, many people have contacted Linda to tell her about their own connection to John. Linda has a website at www.keenintuition.com .
All You Need is Love (second edition; May 2009)
by Jewelle St. James
(St. James Publishing, 2003)
Published in 1995 as Imagine: A Past Life with John Lennon, this edition continues the story and adds photos. Jewelle was a Canadian housewife and begins her story with the morning after John was murdered, December 9, 1980. She had not been a Beatle fan at all. She hadn’t even listened to the album, Imagine. But for some reason unknown to her, news on the television of his death caused a tidal wave of grief she could not recover from or explain.
Over the coming weeks, her embarrassment at the torrent of sadness and uncontrollable tears caused her to employ extreme efforts to get over it, to save face in front of her concerned family and friends, but it was futile. She would get in the car with the kids only to hear Starting Over on the radio, and suddenly burst into sobs. No one understood why she was obsessing over a dead rock star that she had never really cared for while he was alive. Neither did she. And now she was becoming a Beatle fan, collecting everything she could on John’s life.
She had the luck of being born into a psychic family, and after about three years of struggling emotionally, she approached her mother and sister, at separate times, with her problem.  She wanted an explanation that perhaps transcended current day reality. They told her such specific information about a lifetime that her and John shared, down to the names, that she began a search to discover whether any of it was true.
From there Jewelle discovers that her grief in this lifetime was a result of unhealed grief from the prior lifetime. John, in a prior life as the love of her life, John Baron, had died suddenly of illness, and she herself had died of a broken heart soon after.
She travels to England, where she eventually discovers records that actually document the existence of the two people she and John were. Soon she understands the unhealed emotions that needed to now be allowed expression. This is a story of karmic healing that is inspiring and fascinating, especially when it is realized that healing a prior lifetime also heals the current lifetime, and the soul for the rest of eternity.
Jewelle has a website at www.pastlifewithjohnlennon.com
Crossing Over: The Stories Behind the Stories
By John Edward
(Princess Books, 2002)
John Edward is internationally acclaimed as a psychic medium. He has hosted his own television show Crossing Over with John Edward, been a frequent guest on Larry King Live and many other shows. He also was featured in the HBO documentary Life After Life.
When John Edward was in Seattle a few years ago, tickets to his show were selling like hotcakes so I decided to go see what he was all about. Coincidentally, the day I bought the tickets, I happened to see this book prominently displayed as I was walking through a discount bookstore.
I immediately bought the book, and as I read through it I discovered a chapter called “Legends of Rock”. I turned to it instantly and began to read about how Carl Perkins’ daughter had wanted to have a reading with John Edward in 1998 after her dad died. A friend set the reading up, only saying what the daughter’s first name was. The reading was significant because John did not know who her father was, until, befuddled, he said “Elvis is with your dad..who was your dad?” Amazed, the daughter then admitted that Carl Perkins was her father and that he was the one who wrote Blue Suede Shoes.
Following the full description of this reading, which is fully outlined in the book, to my surprise Mr. Edward then recounts a story about John Lennon that I had been familiar with in part, from the 1998 video (VHS) called Paul McCartney and Carl Perkins: My Old Friend. I had no idea the story was in the book, and I learned some details that had not been on the video.
In 1981, just after John Lennon died, Paul and Linda invited Carl to stay with them in Montserrat. Paul wanted Carl’s help recording a song called Get It for his new album, Tug Of War. Carl spent eight days with them, and George and Ringo had been there to help out as well. It was a great time between old friends who had shared such a legendary musical past.
The night before he left, a song came to Carl that summed up his warm feelings about the visit, and he couldn’t get it out of his mind. It was so strong that Carl didn’t even write it down, which was strange for him.  He usually always wrote his songs down immediately.
In the morning, Carl Perkins sang the song, which he named My Old Friend, for Linda and Paul, saying it was his gift for having him as a guest. Half way through the song, after singing “if we never meet again this side of life, in a little while, over yonder, where there’s peace and quiet, my old friend, won’t you think about me every now and then?” tears streamed down Paul’s face and he stood up and stepped outside.
Not knowing what the matter was, Carl stopped and Linda put her arms around him, thanking him for helping Paul to connect with his grief over John Lennon’s death. Now this next part was not in the video, but according to the book, Linda explained that the last time Paul talked to John, he had said the same line to Paul, “think of me every now and then, my old friend.”
Carl had no doubt that the song was from John Lennon, as a gift to Paul.
The story doesn’t end there. The only reason this story is known publicly is because Carl told the story while being filmed in 1997 for what would later become part of the video I mentioned above. When he got done telling the story on camera, sitting in his studio, and sang the refrain, his wife buzzed in on the intercom, and said, “Carl, Paul McCartney just called.” Carl was so stunned at the coincidence he turned to the camera, speechless, and said “you tell me this boy has not got a connection to the spirit world!”
Carl Perkins coincidentally died exactly one year to the day later, after suffering two strokes. If he had not been inspired to do a video in 1997 on his musical career, and recounted this experience, we would never have known the story.
Shelley Germeaux is a John Lennon expert in her own right. She has done extensive research on Lennon including interviews with May Pang and Lennon’s half-sister, Julia Baird. Shelley is also an independent publishing consultant with Heritage Makers. Visit her website atwww.shelleys-memory-books.com

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