Early Sunday morning it was announced that Cilla Black, a popular British singer and television personality had passed away in Spain at age 72.
“Seventy five is a good age to go,” Black said.
“If things are starting to drop off – like the hearing – and I’ve got twinges in the morning, I do think that.”
From today’s Fresh Air, a wonderful interview with producer Kevin Howlett. Worth a listen. Hearing about The Beatles early show business career, and early appearances on BBC radio programs, reminds me of interviews with members of Monty Python. As they described it, England’s radio and television landscape at the beginning of the 1960s, was buttoned-down and formal. The notion of performers talking informally in front of a microphone, improvising and being mischievous, was unprecedented. What the Beatles were allowed to do was — though it’s hard to imagine now — was revolutionary.
Also of interest, the BBC never preserved any recording of the Beatles broadcasts, in all those years. Producer Kevin Howlett had to seek them out from individual collectors who’d recorded the live broadcasts. Good thing he did!
NPR: England got a lot more of The Beatles than Americans did during the group’s formative years. Between 1962 and 1965, The Beatles were featured on 53 BBC radio programs, including their own series, Pop Go the Beatles. They performed originals and covers and chatted with BBC hosts.
The Beatles: On Air-Live At The BBC Volume 2 has just been released. Kevin Howlett produced both that and the newly remastered reissue of the first volume, which was originally released in 1994. For reasons he explains to Fresh Air host Terry Gross, Howlett had to search for many of these recordings, and they weren’t easy to find.
Howlett has written a new companion book called The Beatles: The BBC Archives,which includes transcriptions of the band’s BBC radio and TV interviews as well as fascinating internal memos about the Beatles and their music.
On the challenges of his project working in the BBC archive
My quest to restore the BBC archive [of the Beatles] goes way back to 1981 when I joined the national pop network in this country, BBC Radio 1, as a young rookie producer. I was 24 years old. The management knew I was a Beatles fanatic, I was a child in the ’60s growing up with the Beatles, and they gave me this task. What a dream thing to be handed. They said, “Can you investigate what programs the Beatles performed music in and what songs they did?” And the BBC’s written archives are a wonderful place where they kept every single piece of paper relating to the Beatles’ performances, so when I wrote the book it was a magnificent source of material: memos, contracts, audience research reports — so that was fine, you could find out all of the information.
But then finding the music on the tapes? That was a completely different matter. Some of these recordings come from transcription discs, LPs that were distributed by the BBC to other countries for broadcast. Some come from producer listening copies. There were some producers at the time that thought maybe it is worth keeping this material, and in some of these cases, listeners who taped off the radio.
On The Beatles’ audition for the BBC
The very first thing that Brian Epstein did when he took over the management of The Beatles was to fill out an application form for the variety department of the BBC. This, again, reminds us that there was no rock business as we know it. This was show business and they would be on with all sorts of other acts, radio ventriloquists even, that kind of thing. Read the rest of this entry »
This is either a misguided exercise, with the well-intended aim of illustrating complex economic theory, or a refreshingly inventive way to combine pop culture and economics. I can’t tell, I’m inclined to think it’s the latter. It’s definitely worth a look. Personally, I think Adam Smith would have approved.
Longwood University music teacher Chris Kjorness writes:
It has been 50 years since the Beatles arrived in the United States, forever altering the landscape of popular music. But contrary to the general notion that the mop-tops hopped off a plane in 1964 and were just so talented and lovable that they took the states by storm, the Beatles’ conquering of America was actually the result of a long and complex struggle. It was the end result of the actions of numerous people acting in their own interests, with little knowledge of or concern about what the other was up to.
While the Brits are credited with giving the world the idea of popular music through the comic operettas of W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, after World War II British popular music was in a creative slump. Weak transnational relationships between record labels and the dominance of state-controlled media tended to keep out foreign records (particularly American ones), leaving British audiences to make do with British artists’ covers of American hits. As a result, recordings of American folk and rhythm and blues artists became almost contraband, complete with all of the cool rebelliousness the black market can provide.
Columnist James Wolcott examines a new spate of books that look back on the time when America met the Beatles
O, you poor Generation Xers, Generation Yers, and Millennials (bent under the load of student debt as if it were a brick-filled backpack), how I pity thee. Thanks to us Baby-Boomers, the demographic bulge that refuses to budge, the remainder of this decade looms like a commemorative rerun of a show you late arrivals didn’t see the first time. It will be a Ferris wheel of golden anniversaries, a rinse cycle of 60s nostalgia nourishing the collective narcissism of Boomers, who held the title of most coddled generation until the unholy rise of hipster parenting. The 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the subject of my previous dispatch, is succeeded by the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ invasion of America, in 1964, the subject of the column before you. And we’re just getting started, so save your groans until the end. Lying ahead are the half-century retrospectives of Bob Dylan’s going electric (1965), the debut of Star Trek (1966), the flower-power Summer of Love crowned by the release of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, and the riots at the Democratic convention in Chicago (1968), then, capping this cavalcade of last hurrahs, the Woodstock festival, the Manson-family murders, and the moon landing (1969). As any fan ofMad Men knows, the deeper we move into this decade, the darker the events being memorialized and the more nihilistic the fury, with even the mud bath at Woodstock shadowed by the violence months later at the free concert at the Altamont Speedway, where pool cues wielded by Hell’s Angels came whaling down. At least the anniversary of the Beatles’ arrival and their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show is one of unalloyed joy. The touchdown of Pan Am Flight 101 at J.F.K. Airport on February 7 that brought the Beatles to America set off a thunderclap of euphoria heard round the world and proved to be no temporary flash of mass hysteria or passing fad but the re-start of the 60s after J.F.K.’s funeral procession. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr were the heralds of America’s spring awakening, a puberty rite writ large.