March 18, 2013

Did the Beatles Get Screwed?

Brow Beat is 
following the Beatles in “real time,” 50 years later, from their first chart-topper to their final rooftop concert. All last month we looked back at Please Please Me, which the Beatles recorded 50 years ago in February. It was toward the end of that same month that they started their own publishing company, Northern Songs.

On Feb. 22, 1963, the Beatles made what many consider the biggest business blunder of their career: They signed away a majority interest in their songwriting, to a struggling music publisher with no track record, for absolutely nothing.
 Decades later, McCartney would refer to the agreement that created their publishing company, Northern Songs, as a “slave contract.” Harrison would mock its terms in an outtake from Sgt. Pepper’s, singing “it doesn’t really matter what chords I play… as it’s only a Northern Song.” Lennon would say with some bitterness that the bald and bespectacled man who proposed the deal, Dick James, had “carved Brian [Epstein] up.”

In fact, by the standards of the day, Dick James made the Beatles—a band with one hit record and zero leverage in the industry—a pretty good deal.
Keep in mind that when Chuck Berry recorded his first 45 for Chess Records in the mid-’50s, the Chess brothers made him share songwriting credit—right on the label—with a prominent disk jockey, as well as with the company’s landlord. The publishing rights to Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti” were purchased by his label bosses for all of 50 dollars. This kind of wholesale theft was commonplace; in the early rock era, the ethics of the average music publisher could make a mob capo blanch.
But Epstein knew that the right music publisher could make a difference. Publishers were, in effect, hustlers. They promoted new songs by their artists, and even more important in the pre-Beatles era, when most artists didn’t write their own songs, they hawked the songs to other artists.

Love Me Do” had been published by EMI’s in-house publishing arm, Ardmore & Beechwood, which did nothing to promote it. As a result, it stalled at No. 17 on the charts, even though Epstein allegedly ordered 10,000 copies, nearly two-thirds of the record’s initial sales, as his own effort at “promotion.” When the much more promising “Please Please Me” was on the verge of release, Epstein set out to find his hustler.
This is where the London music scene’s old boys’ network came into play. James had been a modestly successful dance-hall singer, produced by none other than a young George Martin. His 1956 recording of “Robin Hood,” the theme to a British TV series, hit No. 14 on the charts—the biggest success either had ever had. This won James a regular spot on Radio Luxembourg, produced by a man named Philip Jones. (This connection would soon prove fateful, as I’ll explain below.) When James’s musical career sputtered to a halt, he got into music publishing. It was James who brought Martin and the Beatles “How Do You Do It,” which the Beatles hated but recorded anyway.

At this point, Epstein wanted to approach Hill & Range, the U.S. publisher that handled Elvis Presley’s catalog, about taking over from Ardmore & Beechwood. Martin, perhaps out of loyalty to his pal James, urged Epstein to go with a smaller, “hungrier” company. He in fact gave three names to Epstein, but added a special plug for James. When one of the other contenders was 20 minutes late for his appointment with Epstein, the Fabs’ manager simply left and showed up at James’ office early. James ushered him right in. Epstein played him an acetate of “Please Please Me” and told him that if he could help turn it into a hit, he could handle their publishing.

The Beatles in studio with George Martin in 1966.
Wikimedia Commons

In the eyes of some contemporaries, James may have literally been hungry at this point; Epstein was reportedly alarmed by the shabbiness of his office. But right in front of Epstein, James called his former producer Philip Jones, who had fortuitously taken over one of Britain’s most important pop TV shows, Thank Your Lucky Stars. He played “Please Please Me” into the phone, got the Beatles their first national TV appearance, and—seeming much better connected than he was—sealed the deal that made him wealthy beyond comprehension within 18 months.

After “Please Please Me” became a hit, it was James who suggested the Beatles form their own publishing company. While this wasn’t completely without precedent—Irving Berlin had owned his own songs—it was hardly the norm. The idea was, by making Lennon, McCartney, and Epstein partners in the venture with James, they could have some control over their creative rights, in addition to receiving royalties. George Martin saw it as “a very clever deal” because its generosity ensured the Beatles would sign with James for the long haul—ten years, initially.

The deal was signed in Epstein’s Liverpool home; it’s believed that Lennon and McCartney didn’t even read the contract. British record sales would be split nearly 50-50—about the same as the Ardmore deal—with James taking a 10 percent administration charge from the artists’ share. For overseas sales, James’ administration charge was 50 percent—also standard for the time, though it meant the songwriting Beatles and Epstein would share just 25 percent of, say, a huge American hit. Overall, James and his business partner managed to retain 51 percent of the company—a majority stake that caused a lot of headaches for the Beatles down the road.

Did the Beatles get screwed by the very creation of Northern Songs? It’s hard to see how. They’d released just two 45s—one of them barely a hit—and yet they formed their own company, a move that did give them some say in their creative lives, and would soon be imitated a thousand-fold. James not only helped to launch “Please Please Me” with a prime TV spot, he worked to see that their songs were covered by everyone from Herb Alpert to Petula Clark to Ella Fitzgerald—which was the business Lennon and McCartney hoped to be in once their performing careers fizzled out. After all, in 1963, no one could have predicted the value or longevity of the Beatles’ canon. Lennon would tell Gloria Steinem in 1964, “I know this thing can’t last. I’m saving the money.” And as late as 1965, McCartney would say, “We’ve got people we trust—our manager, our recording manager, our publisher, and our accountant—they’re all trustworthy people, I think. So we leave it to them and I don’t have to worry.”
Knowing what we all know today, could the Beatles have kept 75 percent of their publishing, which is standard today? Could they have owned and managed their publishing outright, like Berlin, and hired cheap flaks to do the hustling? Of course they could have. But back in February 1963, not even the Beatles knew that they’d become the Beatles.

Places I Remember: The Beatles as you’ve never seen them before…

March 15, 2013 7:35 pm

Exclusive interview with photographer Henry Grossman

 By Gabrielle Pantera
 “There are so many stories behind the pictures,” says My Time With the Beatles photographer Henry Grossman.


“This new book is the best of my many Beatles photographs. I’m happy to share some of my favorite work and thoughts on those scenes. These are souvenirs of places I remember and some very memorable friends.”
“Even though The Beatles had lots of photographs taken of them, occasionally one of the photographers would be out of the ordinary,” says former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney who wrote the book’s introduction. “Henry Grossman was one such photographer.”

“These had been lying dormant for maybe 40 years because after Life magazine sent back the negatives and slides, I put them in my archives,” says Grossman. “I was a busy working photographer so I had other assignments to work on.”
In 1964, at 27 years old, Grossman was hired to shoot the Beatles’ first U.S. television debut at what is now their most iconic and famous performance on The Ed Sullivan Show. In 1965 he traveled with the band to The Bahamas and Austria during the production of Help! Over the next three years, Grossman photographed private moments at home, parties and recording sessions. Grossman shot over 6,500 photographs of them, almost all of the photos unseen and unpublished until now. My Time With the Beatles is a compilation of 1,000 photos of the Fab Four shot between 1964 and 1968.

The book weighs 13 pounds and is 528 pages. Images are both color and B&W. The photographs are presented in chronological order, and Grossman gives details as to the photos and the situation for the photo that was taken.
Grossman’s editors are Brian Kehew and Kevin Ryan at Curvebender Publishing. “I met Brian Kehew and Kevin Ryan when they came to me in New York looking for a picture to include in their book called Recording the Beatles,” says Grossman. “I brought out a slew of contact sheets and when they saw how many there were they flipped. Brian and Kevin told me I had the largest number of unseen Beatle pictures ever. They chose a picture of the Beatles recording at Abbey Road. That book is now a standard in the recording industry with its deep research into the technical aspects of machinery, tape, engineers and so on.”

“Any one of these unpublished sessions turning up would normally be a great find,” says editor Kevin Ryan. “It was even more incredible that this many wonderful photos had gone unseen. This is not just another book of Beatles photos. This is among the most significant collection of Beatles images in existence, both artistically and historically.”

Henry Grossman was born in New York City to renowned etcher Elias Grossman who had been commissioned to do portraits of Gandhi, Einstein, Mussolini, Paul Robeson and others. After attending Brandeis he studied acting with Lee Strasberg where his classmates included Dustin Hoffman and Elliot Gould. In addition to being a photographer, Grossman performed at the Metropolitan Opera as a principal tenor and on Broadway for a run of more than 1,000 performances in Grand Hotel.

My Time With the Beatles is limited to 1,200 numbered copies and costs $495. Books one to 250 are signed by Henry Grossman and are $795. The book is housed in a clamshell box. Available at Prints available at Grossman’s website is


March 10, 2013

New Beatles Releases

The Beatles have historically timed many of their releases for the pre-holiday season. With the 50th anniversary on Oct 5th and John's birthday on October 9th, this fall will see a number of important films, books, and recordings by and about the Beatles family hit the shelves. Here is a checklist of some of the most interesting releases to watch out for. You can also read our celebration of Oct 5th, 1962 and the first James Bond film and Beatles record release here.

The John Lennon Letters (book/Oct 9): "John Lennon was one of the greatest songwriters the world has ever known, creator of "Help!", "Come Together", "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", "Strawberry Fields Forever", "Imagine", and dozens more. But it was in his correspondences that he let his personality and poetry flow unguarded. Now, gathered for the first time in book form, are his letters to family, friends, strangers, and lovers from every point in his life. Funny, informative, wise, poetic, and sometimes heartbreaking, his letters illuminate a never-before-seen intimate side of the private genius. This groundbreaking collection of almost 300 letters and postcards has been edited and annotated by Hunter Davies, whose authorized biography The Beatles (1968) was published to great acclaim. With unparalleled knowledge of Lennon and his contemporaries, Davies reads between the lines of the artist's words, contextualizing them in Lennon's life and using them to reveal the man himself."

Paul McCartney Live Kisses (movie/Nov 13): "Live Kisses captures Paul McCartney performing the songs from his acclaimed Kisses On The Bottom album live from the legendary Capitol Studios in Hollywood. Paul is joined by a virtuoso group of musicians led by Diana Krall on the piano in these sparkling renditions of classic songs from the American songbook and the wonderful new song My Valentine. In between the songs there are interview clips with Paul, Diana Krall and many of those involved in the recording of the Kisses On The Bottom album. This is an intimate and charming performance which adds yet another facet to Paul McCartney's already broad canvas of talents."

Ballad of the Skeletons (music): Allen Ginsberg teamed up with Paul McCartney and Lenny Kaye to produce this song in 1996. Long out of print, the piece has returned as an MP3 download on Amazon. 

The Unknown Paul McCartney (book/April 2013): This out of print study of Paul's experimental work outside of pop returns as a Kindle book. "Throughout his career, McCartney has initiated and participated in projects that have taken him very far away from the kind of music associated with his career in The Beatles, in Wings, and as a solo artist. From as far back as the 1960s there have been experimental solo projects, both under his own name and incognito. These include the legendary 'Carnival of Light' sixties freak-out, the Percy Thrillington diversion in the 70s, techno, ambient and chill-out releases as The Fireman, pure noise performance art as well as less-publicised activity, much of which Ian Peel now reveals in depth in print for the first time."

The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour (movie/Oct 9): Beautifully remastered edition of The Beatles experimental film. Includes many special features and unseen footage. Although the film often confused fans expecting another A Hard Days Night, the movie is a great time-capsule into the group's interest in surreal imagery and the multilayered songwriting of the Sgt Pepper/Magical Mystery Tour period. A deluxe edition includes a book and the original 2-record vinyl EP in Mono.
The Beatles: Magical Mystery Tour and Beyond! (magazine special/Oct 10): "Celebrating the re-release of the band's mythical 1967 film on DVD/Blu-ray (out on October 8), this one-off issue combines archival features on Rubber Soul, Revolver and Sgt. Pepper... with brand new material including Jon Savage's reassessment of the Magical Mystery Tour film, a rundown of The Beatles' 67 Greatest Psychedelic Moments and a treasure trove of iconic and unseen photographs. Special Limited Edition 'Walrus' cover is officially the rarest issue of MOJO ever (only 1000 copies are available, all exclusively via Mojo)."

The Beatles Stereo Vinyl Box Set (music/Nov 13): "Manufactured on 180-gram, audiophile quality vinyl with replicated artwork, the 14 albums return to their original glory with details including the poster in The Beatles (The White Album), the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band's cut-outs, and special inner bags for some of the titles. The albums are accompanied by a stunning, elegantly designed 252-page hardbound book in a lavish boxed edition which is limited to 50,000 copies worldwide." Records will also be available separately. The Mono remasters will also be released on vinyl in 2013. 
Produced by George Martin (movie/Sept 11): "Produced By George Martin is a feature length profile of Sir George Martin, Britain's most celebrated record producer. The film talks about his childhood, his war experience and his early days as a music student. In the early fifties he joined EMI/Parlophone and started working on orchestral music, comedy records and music for children. Then in 1962 he signed The Beatles. Together George Martin and The Beatles revolutionized pop music and recording techniques forging probably the greatest producer / artist collaboration there will ever be. The film is in an intimate portrait of George Martin at home and at work. It features numerous classic clips of the artists he has produced and new interviews with many of them including Sir Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Michael Palin, Jeff Beck, Rolf Harris, Cilla Black, Millicent Martin and Bernard Cribbins."

Love Me Do by Bill Harry (book/Sept 7): "Love Me Do" was the Beatles's first single. Longtime Beatles friend and fan Bill Harry takes us behind the scenes in honor of the 50th anniversary. He tells about how Pete Best was replaced by Ringo Starr after the first recording session, how John stole his harmonica, why the vocal was switched from John to Paul, how George got a black eye, and the real story behind the legend that Brian Epstein bought thousands of records to get the song on the charts." Free for Kindle until Oct 9. 
Beatles Stories (movie/Oct 2): "Songwriter Seth Swirsky grew up in the 1960s idolizing the Beatles their songs, their sound and their style. In 2004, he set out, video camera in hand, to talk to people who had crossed paths with his heroes. From Sir Ben Kingsley to Sir George Martin, and Beach Boy Brian Wilson to astronomer Brian Skiff, Swirsky filmed hundreds of personal recollections from people who knew them well to those who just had an unforgettable encounter. Others who shared their recollections of the Fabs include: actors Henry Winkler (aka 'The Fonz') and Jon Voight; former Beatles recording engineers Norman 'Hurricane' Smith, Ken Scott, and John Kurlander; musicians Smokey Robinson, Jackie DeShannon, Graham Nash, Davy Jones, Susanna Hoffs and Art Garfunkel, among dozens of others."

Beatles Collected (book/Nov 13): "2013 is the fiftieth anniversary of the Beatles' major arrival in America. This book is the first serious book about Beatles collectibles. Beautifully photographed and designed, it includes a range of Beatles merchandise from guitars, plastic models, clothes, wigs, bubblegum cards, and even Beatles mothballs." 

The Beatles in Liverpool by Spencer Leigh (book/Oct 15): "Chronicling the story of the Beatles in their native city of Liverpool, this rock biography combines authoritative text with the most striking images from their time in the city. Documenting the seminal events of this English quartet—from the Beatles’ childhood, the influence of Liverpudlian humor on their lyrics, and whether John was really a “working class hero,” to the other acts that the Beatles played for, the influence of visiting American rock and rollers, and Brian Epstein’s pre-Beatles troubles—this recollection reveals the Fab Four’s evolution from the Quarrymen (an early version of the Beatles) to international musical icons. Combining exclusive interviews with musicians, promoters, club managers, and audience members as well as fans, friends, and family along with rare photographs and memorabilia, this history is the definitive, fully illustrated account of the formative years of the world’s most influential rock and roll band."
The Beatles in Scotland (book/Oct 1): "In intimate detail, this account reveals the pivotal part Scotland played in the genesis of the Beatles and the extraordinary connections that were fostered north of the border before, during, and after their meteoric rise to global fame. Following the Fab Four as rough-and-ready unknowns on their first tour of Scotland in 1960—when they were booed off stage in Bridge of Allan—and then in 1964 as all-conquering heroes, this insightful biography also shares how the momentous decision to break up the band was made in Scotland. Facts about Paul and Linda McCartney’s connection to Mull of Kintyre and Lennon’s childhood holidays in Durness are included, as are eyewitness accounts, anecdotes, and many never-before-seen photos." 

The Beatles: The Playboy Interview (book/Sept 17): "In mid-1962, Playboy founder Hugh Hefner was given a partial transcript of an interview with Miles Davis. It covered jazz, of course, but it also included Davis’s ruminations on race, politics and culture. Fascinated, Hef sent the writer—future Pulitzer-Prize-winning author Alex Haley, an unknown at the time—back to glean even more opinion and insight from Davis. The resulting exchange, published in the September 1962 issue, became the first official Playboy Interview and kicked off a remarkable run of public inquisition that continues today—and that has featured just about every cultural titan of the last half century."

Paul Talks by Julia Baird (audio book): Intimate interview by John Lennon's sister with Paul McCartney during the 1980s. 

Time: Paul McCartney (magazine special/Sept 18): "When Paul McCartney played Yankee Stadium in July 2011 for two sold-out concerts, the 69 year old "looked as if he was having a boyish romp," said the New York Times, marvelling at his 35-song performance. Age hasn't slowed down this former Beatle, nor dampened his ambition. As the most successful musician in pop-music history turns 70 this June, the editors of TIME will publish a celebration of Paul McCartney's unparalleled career. Written by James Kaplan, author of the acclaimed Sinatra biographyFrank: the Voice, TIME's richly illustrated book will give readers a backstage tour of the many chapters of Mc-Cartney's life: as the precocious son of a Liverpool trumpet player, the "cute Beatle" of the Fab Four years, the prolific song writing partner of John Lennon, the psychedelic seeker, the devoted husband of Linda Eastman, the reborn frontman of the band Wings, the shrewd businessman with a net worth of hundreds of millions, and the social activist with concerns ranging from animal rights to land mines. For McCartney, the adventures never cease."

Yoko Ono: To the Light (book/Oct 31): "As a pioneering conceptual artist, performance artist, film-maker, poet, musician, writer and peace activist for over five decades, Yoko Ono (born 1933) has influenced several generations of artists, musicians and cultural workers across the globe. Throughout her career, Ono has explored an incredible range of media, coining new kinds of artistic genres--most notably with her instruction pieces, which she began making in the 1950s and continues to devise today. Yoko Ono: To the Light accompanies the artist's major 2012 overview at the Serpentine Gallery in London. Included in this volume are reproductions of installations, films and performances, plus archival material relating to several key early works. Yoko Ono: To the Light is a concise introduction to the vast scope of this era-defining artist's many endeavors."

John Cage Shock 2 (music/Sept 11): In celebration of the 100th birthday of John Cage, Japanese label EM Records has released a 3-volume set of very rare Cage recordings from a Japan tour in 1962. Volume 2 features an historic live performance of Aria and Solo for Piano with Fontana Mix (mislabeled on the CD and vinyl as 26'55, 988 for 2 Pianists & a String Player) featuring John Cage, Yoko Ono, and David Tudor. Quite a haunting and surprising piece and recommended for fans of Cage and avant-garde music. The set also includes performances by Yoko's first husband, composer Toshi Ichiyanagi, and compositions by Tohru Takemitsu. 

Reaching Out With No Hands: Reconsidering Yoko Ono (book/Oct 23): "John "From her earliest work with the Fluxus group and especially her relationship with John Cage, through her enigmatic pop happenings (where she met John Lennon), her experimental films, cryptic books, conceptual art, and her long recording career that has vacillated between avant-garde noise and proto-new wave, earning the admiration of other artists while generally confusing the public at large who often sees her only in the role of the widow Lennon, Reaching Out with No Hands is the first serious, critical, wide-ranging look at Yoko Ono the artist and musician."

Yoko Ono Collector of Skies (book/Jan 1): "This lyrical biography explores the life and art of Yoko Ono, from her childhood haiku to her avant-garde visual art and experimental music. An outcast throughout most of her life, and misunderstood by every group she was supposed to belong to, Yoko always followed her own unique vision to create art that was ahead of its time and would later be celebrated. Her focus remained on being an artist, even when the rest of world saw her only as the wife of John Lennon."

YokoKimThurston (music/Sept 25): "This is NYC avant garde convergence at its finest. The idea of a meeting between Yoko Ono, Kim Gordon & Thurston Moore is so perfect, so obvious, the only shock is that it didn't happen earlier. Recorded in 2011 at Manhattan's Sear Sound, the album features lead vocals by Yoko, with backing vocals & guitars by Kim & Thurston. It's a wild collision of song-form, poetics, free-rock & classic glossolalic ecstasy. Yoko has not allowed herself to sound this raw since the earliest recordings of the Plastic Ono Band. There's a remarkably empathic & comfortable quality to the sound. The 3 communicate as though they'd been playing together forever." 

Other releases that should be on your radar:
Walrus & the ElephantS; John Lennon's Year of Revolution (book): just announced for Sept 2013.
Abbey Road: The Best Studio in the World (book): Foreword by George Martin.
Paul McCartney in His Own Words (CD): BBC archives of Paul interviews.
Mechanical Mammoth (music): Free MP3 song by Sean Lennon & Greg Saunier.
Strange Fruit (movie): New doc film about The Beatles and Apple.
Early in the Morning (music): limited-ed vinyl by Yoko Ono and Sonic Youth
Music of James Bond (book): Study of 007 music, includes McCartney.
thefearofmissingout (music): New album by Dhani Harrison's band, thenewno2.
In the Beginning (music): New vinyl of the Tony Sheridan/Beatles album.
The Beatles in Comic Strips (book): Collection of Beatles cartoon strips.
She Loves You (book): Kindle sample of Vol 3 in Jude Kessler's John biography.
Grey Album (music): Quarrymen do rockers and a sound-collage, No. 6.
Magical Mystery Tour website


March 08, 2013

Paul McCartney - My Funny Valentine Video

Paul McCartney's 'My Valentine' Featuring Natalie Portman and Johnny Depp . Music Video. Youtube Backup.

Beatles - Get Back Video

Get Back - From the film Let It Be

Get Back - 2009 Remaster