Category Archives: Reviews

Django Bates: Saluting Sgt Pepper review

Django Bates doesn’t play other people’s music often, but when he does, resemblances to the originals can be opaque. The unruly fiftysomething jazz composer has battered New York, New York into a free-jazz thrash, for instance, and interpreted Billie Holiday’s classic Solitude on a pub piano with two spoons and a bunch of keys hanging under the lid. But remaking the quixotic 1967 Beatles classic Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band has turned him almost respectful, to judge by his Saluting Sgt Pepper album, and the first of 12 shows he and a crack German band are performing at Ronnie Scott’s this week.

For the full review see https://www.theguardian.com/music/2017/sep/05/django-bates-saluting-sgt-pepper-review-beatles-ronnie-scotts

At Ronnie Scott’s, London, until 9 September. Box office: 020-7439 0747.

Reflections on Liverpool Beatleweek Part Four – British Music Experience and a Concert at the Pier Head

Day four for us opened with a visit to the British Music Experience. We went to this while it was at the O2 in London, and I was sad when it closed there, so it was great to visit it at it’s new home at the Cunard Building in Liverpool. We especially had great fun in the music room, with me playing drums, and Lilia guitar. If you go to Liverpool, it’s well worth a visit.

Blogger Richard Porter playing drums at the British Music Experience

We then went to the Pier Head, where Cavern City Tours has a great outdoor stage, right in front of the Liver Building. There we saw the great Nube 9, Rocks Off, a great Stones tribute band, and Back From the USSR, featuring the wonderful singer, Alyona Yarushina. Her version of Here There and Everywhere is the best I’ve ever heard (and that includes the Beatles!)

Blogger Richard Porter and daughter, Lilia, with Alyona

The weather at the Pier Head as very warm and sunny, very unusual for an August Bank Holiday in Liverpool!

It was then time to say goodbye to all our friends, and catch the train back to London. But we will see you all again next year!

 

Reflections on Liverpool Beatleweek Part Three, Remembering Brian Epstein, and the Adelphi Convention

A Visit to the Grave of Brian Epstein

On our day three of Beatleweek, we visited the grave of Brian Epstein, on the 50th anniversary of his passing. Normally, the cemetery isn’t open to the public, but special permission was given by the guardians of it to visit on this day.

Brian is buried in the small Long Lane Jewish cemetery, near Everton and Liverpool football grounds. It is next to the bigger Everton cemetery. It was very moving seeing his grave on the anniversary of his passing. If it wasn’t for Brian Epstein, the Beatles wouldn’t have got out of Liverpool, let alone become become the group that attracted thousands of people from all over the world to Beatleweek.

As is the Jewish custom, we places stones on Brian’s grave, to show that we visited.

The grave of Brian Epstein

Close to Brian are the graves of his mother and father, Queenie and Harry, and also his brother, Clive.

The grave of Clive Epstein
The graves of Harry and Queenie Epstein

The guardian of the cemetery told us that it had been vandalised recently. It’s very sad anti-semitism is still rife in 2017.

The Beatles Convention

After the visit to Brian’s grave, we went straight to the Adelphi Hotel for the annual Beatles convention. I have been going pretty much every year since 1981, but there was much speculation that this year would be the last Beatleweek, and much attention was given to an interview with Bill Heckle of Cavern City Tours, the main organiser. He told us that numbers at Beatleweek had been going down, and the work to put it on, in relation to the profits received, made it difficult for it to continue. Also Bill had been organising it for over 30 years, and it was time for him to step down. Originally, the plan was that his year’s Beatleweek was to be the last, but it was then decided to carry on, with a reduced format. From now on, the official events would run from Friday to Monday, rather than the Thursday to Tuesday of previous years. Also, there would be only 2 theatre shows, rather than the 3 at present. There was much relief in the packed hall when the announcement was made. I, for my part, would find it hard to conceive of an August Bank Holiday without a trip to Liverpool for Beatleweek.

Among the guest speakers were Ken Scott and Geoff Baker. Both were interviewed by Mark Lewisohn, but rather than have it as a long interview, each was broken up by the house band playing songs mentioned in the interviews. Well, that was the plan, but Geoff Baker ruined the plan by getting things completely out of the agreed order. He was very entertaining though, especially in his stories about Paul McCartney playing in Red Square, Moscow. Geoff said that as President Putin was due to make an appearance, there was very heavy security for the gig, with armed secret service men on roofs all away around Red Square. During the soundcheck, Geoff walked towards the stage when Paul’s main security man, Mark Hamilton said ‘You’ve had it now!’ Geoff looked down at himself, to see he had loads of red dots all over his body. The secret service men all had their guns pointing at him! Luckily, no-one opened fire!

During the convention, we took time off to join a gathering to remember our old friend Pete Leckie, who had been coming to Beatleweek for decades, but had sadly passed away a few weeks ago.

It was great to see so many old friends at the convention, and great to know it will continue next year.

 

 

Reflections on Liverpool Beatleweek Part Two- St Peter’s, Quarrymen, and the Summer of Love!

Saturday of Beatleweek saw, for me, the highlight of the weekend, a recreation of St Peter’s Church Fete, where, on July 6th 1957, John Lennon first met Paul McCartney.

The former church grounds are now part of a school, who kindly allowed their grounds to be used for the fete. On entering, we were all given a programme for the 2017 fete, and as a nice touch, a reproduction of the 1957 programme.

The undoubted highlight of the fete was the performance of the Quarrymen, 60 years after their historic first appearance here. Rod Davis, Len Garry, and Colin Hanton all played on that historic day. The rest of the band had historic associations with the Fabs too – Nigel Walley, now on tea chest bass, was the Quarrymen’s first drummer; John ‘Duff’ Lowe played with the band on their first professional recordings; and Chas Newby played a few gig with the Beatles in late 1960-early 1961, including at Litherland Town Hall, where many have said ‘Beatlemania’ began.

Just before the Quarrymen came onstage, the rather strange inflatable stage collapsed, much to the amusement of the crowd. After an attempt to put it back up, it was abandoned and the Quarrymen played without a cover over them. Luckily, it was a very nice sunny day, and it didn’t matter.

The Quarrymen gave a great performance, playing many of the songs they played 60 years ago. They were joined onstage at one point by our good friends, Jane from Russia, and Rolando from Italy. Len Garry asked how many people in the crowd were from overseas, and about 90% of the people there put their hands up!

The Quarrymen at St Peter’s

After the Quarrymen, Nube 9 gave a blistering rock and roll set, that got us all dancing.

Lucrecia of Nube 9 rocking out at St Peters

We also took the opportunity to visit St Peter’s Church Hall, where John Lennon was first introduced to Paul McCartney. While we were there, a lone guitar player played and sang ’20 Flight Rock’ – the song that Paul McCartney played to John Lennon, which persuaded John that Paul should join the band. A magical moment.

Inside St Peter’s Church Hall

After a short rest  we went back to the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall for the evening’s entertainment, which was ‘The Summer of Love Concert’, featuring Hal Bruce and the Rockits, and the Psychedelic Love Orchestra. The evening began with the Love Orchestra playing the Magical Mystery Tour EP. Last year they played as the Brighton Beach Boys, playing Pet Sounds, but this year they turned their attention to the Beatles, and did a great job.

Hal Bruce and his band did a nice set of songs which were supposed to be from 1967, but he cheated a bit by doing some from 1968 and 1969 too. I don’t think anyone minded too much though, but he got a bit wearing when he kept on plugging his CDs, cruises etc. Not really in the spirit of the concert.

To finish, the Psychedelic Love Orchestra played the whole of Sgt Pepper, plus some other Beatles songs from 1967. I really love this band, and I hope they become a regular feature of Beatleweek.

Irina and Lilia with Hal Bruce at the Philharmonic

 

End of Part Two

Intermission

Coming soon – Part 3, A visit to the grave of Brian Epstein; (not) the end of Beatleweek, remembering old friends, and the Adelphi convention.

 

More on ‘It Was 50 Years Ago Today’

The screening took place in a very nice screening room at the Hospital Club in Covent Garden. Those present included the director, Alan G Parker, and the co- producer Reynold D’Silva ( who also owned Ringo’s old flat in Montagu Square) and archivist Keith Badman. The film is produced by  Alexa Morris.

Alan gave brief speech before the film, telling us how the idea first came to him when he met Keith Badman at the Liverpool Beatles Convention in 1982.

The film begins with a recollections from the Beatles 1966 tours, focusing on the controversy surrounding John’s ‘bigger than Jesus’ comments, and they they decided they wouldn’t tour any more. During this section. there was a fascinating interview with Brian Epstein, filmed in late 1966, talking about the Beatles future plans, and really dodging the question about future tours.

The film then goes into the making of Sgt Pepper itself, and how the songs came about. There was a nice section on Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds, showing childhood photos of Julian Lennon together with Lucy O’Donnell, who was the inspiration behind Julian’s painting, that inspired John to write the song.

After talking about Sgt Pepper, the film covers the story of the Beatles meeting the Maharishi, and the death of Brian Epstein. I thought the section on Brian was done very well, and a very nice tribute.

Hunter Davies told a great story of how he went to Bangor with the Beatles to see the Maharishi. On the first night he took them to a Chinese restaurant, but realised he didn’t have enough money to pay the bill. The Beatles didn’t carry money with them, and the waiters in the restaurant didn’t recognise the Beatles, and were getting aggressive, thinking they wouldn’t be paid. George Harrison saved the day by asking for a knife, and slit open his shoe. From the shoe, he pulled out a £20 note, which he kept there ‘In case of emergency’

Views on the Maharishi are very mixed among the interviewees. Some really like him, but author and journalist Ray Connelly called him a con man.

Although most of the people in the film were known to me, one highlight was the interview with Barbara O’Donnell, who was a secretary at NEMS and Apple, and worked with Ringo until 1982.

The film ends with the release of the ‘White Album’.

The film was highly enjoyable, with enough new material and stories to keep the interest of even the die-hard Beatles fan that has seen nearly everything (yes, including me!) New fans would find it fascinating too!

At present, there are plans for premieres in Liverpool and London, around June 1st. I will give full details here when known.

The film poster for ‘It Was 50 Years Ago Today’.

 

 

 

It was 50 Years Ago Today! – a Review

Just back from a screening of the new film ‘It Was 50 Years Ago Today – The Beatles, Sgt Pepper & Beyond. 

The film very much starts where ‘Eight Day’s a Week’ ends – but for me was much more enjoyable. Where I found Eight Day’s a Week slightly disappointing, ‘It Was 50 Years Ago Today’ was far better than my expectations.

The film is expertly written and directed by Alan G Parker, who shows much love and dedication to his subject throughout the film. A brilliant cast of interviewees included Hunter Davies, who was present during most of the recording of Sgt Pepper; Philip Norman, who has written great books on the Fabs, and John and Paul; and Jennie Boyd (Pattie’s Sister). Also giving their insights were Tony Bramwell, Freda Kelly, and surprisingly, Pete Best, who talked about his families role in the making of Sgt Pepper. Although, because the film wasn’t sanctioned by Apple, there is no Beatles music, there is plenty of footage of the Fabs, much I hadn’t seen before, as collected by Keith Badman, Beatles archivist extraordinaire.

Altogether, the film is a great tribute to a great album. Highly recommended :>)

(More recollections tomorrow, after I get some sleep – it’s been a Hard Day’s Night!

It was 50 Years Ago Today.

Macca – The Music of Paul McCartney

Last night I went to the brilliant show Macca: Celebrating the Music of Paul McCartney. It starred Emanuele Angeletti as Paul – who also played Paul in the great Beatles show ‘Let it Be’.
This show is not a Beatles show though, it was mainly Paul songs after the Beatles. The first part was similar to a ‘Wings Over America’ gig and the second part lots of songs from the 80s and beyond, with a few Beatles songs too. Emanuele sang many songs that Paul McCartney has never done live, like Say Say Say (a brilliant duet with a female singer – which I thought worked much better than Paul with Michael Jackson) No More Lonely Nights (a real highlight here) and Pipes of Peace.
The whole show was a delight from beginning to end. Emanuleles vocals were spot on, and the musicianship immense. I especially loved the brass section – really going back to the Wings days!
The show is touring throughout the the UK – and is a must see! For more on the show, and to book tickets, go to http://www.maccathepaulmccartneystory.com/

 

Reflections on The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – the Touring Years

I have been lucky enough to see the film 3 times at the cinema, including the Gala Premiere, along with Paul, Ringo, Yoko, Olivia and many others.

I first saw the film at Picturehouse Central in London, which is right next to the London Pavilion, where A Hard Day’s Night, Help! Yellow Submarine and Let it Be all had their London premieres, so a very suitable location. It was a very big screen and great sound.

There was quite a bit of footage I had never seen before – the best being a press conference where George is seen using John’s hair as an ashtray while smoking a cigarette! There were also snatches of fan shot ‘home movies’ of gigs, including brief footage from Hammersmith Odeon in 1965.
Another great moment was when Paul talked about Ringo playing with the Beatles for the first time, and the others just looking at each other and thinking ‘Wow – this really works’! He got really emotional when he said this too.
As well as newly filmed interviews with Paul and Ringo, there is also footage of interviews with George and John, so like the Anthology, we get the views of all four.

I enjoyed the film. Well, watching the fabs for 2 hours can’t be anything but! However, I thought it could have been better. I was rather surprised at the poor quality of some of the film footage, and I didn’t like that some of it had been colourised. In my opinion, if something was shot in black and white, that’s how it should stay, especially as the colourisation looked very artificial at times.
I didn’t really learn that much that I didn’t know before, but as it says in the production notes “first and foremost, it is a film for those who were “not there”, especially the millennials.”

I also thought it was certainly made for an American audience, who believe the Beatles first ever performance was the Ed Sullivan Show. Well, actually they’d done thousands of gigs before this, and I thought this part of the Beatles career was covered much too quickly. I also noticed that the likes of Bill Harry, Sam Leach, Tony Bramwell Freda Kelly, and Allan Williams get credit for their assistance in the film, but are not seen in it. Hopefully, their interviews will be included as extras on the DVD

For me the best bits of he film was the footage from ‘Beatles Come to Town’ in Manchester in 1963, Shea Stadium 1965 and ‘Don’t Let me Down and ‘I’ve Got a Feeling’ from the Apple Rooftop in 1969. Of course, one could say that the rooftop concert shouldn’t have been included, as it wasn’t from the ‘touring years’ – but the sound and picture quality were amazing, so I will let them off! Don’t Let Me Down seemed to be the same footage as seen on the Beatles One DVD, but I’ve Got a Feeling had lots of different camera angles not seen before. (Note to Apple – your next Film/DVD release must be Let it Be!!)

The Beatles The Eight Day’s a Week, the touring years is a great way to introduce the Beatles to new fans. I would certainly recommend all fans to see it, but if you are a big fan like me, don’t expect to learn too much :>)

Footnote – don’t leave the cinema before the end of the credits, because over them we are treated to sections of the Beatles 1963 Christmas message! (Another ‘potential’ release, please, Apple!)
Also it was a very nice touch that the film was dedicated to the memory of Sir George Martin, and also to Neil Aspinall, Mal Evans and Brian Epstein.

Second Viewing

I saw Eight Day’s A Week for the second time at another preview screening at the Dolby Cinema in Soho Square, which is 3 doors away from MPL (Paul McCartney’s HQ) I was hoping Paul might turn up to watch it – but didn’t.

I suppose I enjoyed the film more this time than on the first viewing. I knew what to expect, and just enjoyed the great footage. I could see that director Ron Howard was trying to show how the Beatles were in the eye of a hurricane in the crazy touring days, and on this level, the film worked well.

The Premiere

I wasn’t expecting to attend the premiere, as Apple said it was full up. However, I decided I would go along anyway to soak up the atmosphere. That lunchtime though, I had a text from David Stark to say he had a spare ticket, and would I like to go. Talk about a no-brainer question.

Waiting for the show to begin
Waiting for the show to begin

I went down to Leicester Square about 3 hours before the premiere started, to soak up the atmosphere and to meet many old friends. When I arrived, the premiere workers were taking the covers off the blue carpet (not red!) and giving it a good clean with hoovers!

One of the nicest things about being there was to meet Gary and Vanda Evans. Gary is the son of Mal, of course the Beatles roadie. We had a lovely chat and I heard some great stories. Gary and Vanda are a lovely couple too, and I’m very pleased they saw the premiere. I also met up with Freda Kelly, who ran the Beatles Fan Club in Liverpool

premierefreda

Me with Gary Evans
Me with Gary Evans

We went into the cinema quite early, and watched Paul and Ringo arrive on the big screen. Paul wore the same jacket (designed by Dougie Millings) that he wore to the premiere of A Hard Day’s Night in 1964!  Before it began, Paul, Ringo and Ron Howard gave short speeches about the film.

Paul and Ringo arriving at the premiere
Paul and Ringo arriving at the premiere

There was great excitement in the cinema, with lots of reaction to parts of the film, and a round of applause at the end. Paul, Ringo and many of the other celebrities left just before the end of ‘Eight Day’s a Week, which might be why the planned showing of The Beatles Live at Shea Stadium didn’t happen.

The DVD of Eight Days A Week is to be released in the UK on November 21st (my birthday!). The deluxe version will include a booklet and about 90 minutes of bonus material. It’s good that many of the interviews with Liverpool people, like Freda Kelly, and Alan Williams.  The DVD can be pre-ordered at https://www.amazon.co.uk/Beatles-Eight-Touring-Years-Deluxe/dp/B01LTHLQ0K/ref=sr_1_1ie=UTF8&qid=1474488772&sr=81&keywords=beatles+eight+days+a+week+dvd

Richard Porter is a professional Beatles tour guide in London and former editor of the London Beatles Fan Club magazine. For more info on his tours, see www.beatlesinlondon.com