Beatles With Records – Part 30

It has really been quite some time since we’ve done a Beatles With Records post.

Our Beatles With Records series is exactly that: photographs of the band actually holding those things they sold so many of: records and CDs. These can be Beatle discs, or discs by other artists.

The posts prompted quite a few readers to send in additional photographs, and also to do some amazing detective work on the sometimes mysterious records the Beatles are holding in photos. Sometimes the albums are easy to guess. Then there are others where you can only see a fragment of a cover, or the rear image of a sleeve, making it very difficult to identify – especially when the record is by an unrelated artist.

One recent photo to come to light is definitely in that latter camp. It comes from the recently released book by Paul McCartney’s brother, Mike McCartney (a.k.a. Mike McGear).

His book, published by Genesis Publications, is called Mike McCartney’s Early Liverpool and it contains some never-before-seen early photos of The Beatles, including this gorgeous one of John and Paul (and most probably George too, on the left). It is called Mathew Street, 1962 and hey are no doubt standing outside the famous Cavern Club:

This one had us intrigued. Paul is clearly looking at some 45’s, and John has under his arm what at first appears to be an LP of some kind. Further investigation though reveals it not to be a record but a bag containing a record from Liverpool’s NEMS record store. NEMS of course was owned by the family of their manager, Brian Epstein.

Wouldn’t it be great to know which LP John had purchased? What it is will probably never be known….

A couple of other items of interest have surfaced.

This one shows George Harrison in his kitchen at home at Kinfauns:

Quite interesting to see pinned up on the wall behind him a John Lennon/Yoko Ono album cover:

Here it is again, a different angle from the same photo shoot (click on image for a larger version):

It is Unfinished Music No.2: Life With The Lions, an experimental album on the Zapple label from 1969:

It appears to be an album slick opened out containing the rear cover image as well:

George seemed quite fond of putting up album covers, or elements of album covers, on his walls. If you look at the top left of this photo – taken in what seems to be a hospital ward – you can see two prints of the Linda Eastman photograph of Apple artist Mary Hopkin. That image was used for the front cover of the Hopkin LP Postcard:

(Turns out that George was at London’s University College Hospital, where he got his tonsils removed in February, 1969)

Here’s an image of Paul McCartney with what could be an early rendering of the Klaus Voormann cover for the Beatles Revolver LP. Either that or an attempt by a fan to replicate Voormann’s amazing artwork:

And finally, a still taken from the incredible Peter Jackson/Disney+ 3-part series Get Back on the making of the Let It Be album, this image of John Lennon taking a look at the latest Rolling Stones LP of the day:

See the other instalments of The Beatles With Records here.

Lennon Connection: The NFT Collection

NFT’s, or digital artworks, have become all the rage. And it looks like John Lennon’s son Julian is using them to sell one-off digital representations of some of the Beatle treasures from his personal collection: five gifts he received from his father, and one from Paul McCartney.

NFT stands for Non-fungible token. “Non-fungible” means that it is something unique and can’t be replaced with something else. NFT’s can be anything digital (such as drawings or music), but a lot of the current excitement is around using the tech to sell digital art. Oh, and you pay for them in Ethereum – a cryptocurrency, like bitcoin or dogecoin.

The Lennon NFTs are being sold through YellowHeart, an online site specialising in the NFT space, and also through Julien’s Auctions – a more traditional auction house. As you can see on the Julien’s site all current bids have already either met or exceeded the estimated selling prices. The auction closes on February 7.

The pieces for sale are three of John Lennon’s Gibson Les Paul guitars, his Afghan jacket from Magical Mystery Tour, the hooded cape worn for the movie Help!, and Paul McCartney’s hand written notes for an arrangement of the song he wrote for Julian called ‘Hey Jude’ (it was originally called ‘Hey Jules’). Each NFT is animated and includes brief audio of Julian discussing the item with that voice-over being incorporated as a part of the NFT.

It should be noted that a portion of the proceeds from this auction will go to Julian’s White Feather Foundation which is active globally on issues relating to education, good health, the preservation of indigenous cultures, the environment and clean water.  

If, like us, you don’t have very deep pockets it might be cheaper to seek out a copy of the lovely book Beatles Memorabilia – The Julian Lennon Collection. Each of these items is detailed there, along with a host of other rare collectables.

If you’d like to hear Julian talking about his collection and why he’s gone down the NFT route, check out this video from the True AF Podcast with Eric Fuller:

The Ages of Everyone in Get Back

These are the ages of all the key players in Peter Jackson’s Get Back documentary, set in January, 1969:

Paul McCartney – 26, John Lennon – 28, Ringo Starr – 28, George Harrison – 25.

Producer/Engineer Glyn Johns is 26, Director Michael Lindsay-Hogg – 28, and Producer George Martin – 43.

Yoko Ono is 35, Linda Eastman – 27. Her daughter Heather is 6.

Roadie Mal Evans is 33, Keyboard Player Billy Preston – 22, Photographer Ethan Russell – 23, and Tape Operator Alan Parsons – 20 (wouldn’t be 21 until December).

It is a fascinating glimpse into the world of The Beatles at that time. Catch it on Disney+ if you can.

New Album and Soundtrack: The Beatles And India

The Beatles And India documentary film (released last month) is an historical chronicle of the influence that India had on the Beatles – and how that in turn changed perceptions of that country in the West.

Through rare archival footage, recordings and photographs, eye-witness accounts and expert comments, along with location shoots across India, the film brings alive the journey’s of George, John, Ringo and Paul “from their high octane celebrity lives to a remote Himalayan ashram in search of spiritual bliss that inspired an unprecedented burst of creative songwriting. It is the first serious exploration of how India helped shape the development of the greatest ever rock band and their own pioneering role in bridging two vastly different cultures”.

The Guardian newspaper wrote of The Beatles And India: “The memory of the Beatles’ relationship with India is revived in this engaging documentary, and if there isn’t much really new here, it’s still salutary to be reminded of how these four young men…used their colossal influence, greater than any politician or movie star or religious leader, to direct the world’s attention to India.”

Now, following the release of the film, comes the original soundtrack to the film:

Not only that, there’s also a companion album called Songs Inspired By The Film The Beatles And India. This CD features interpretations by contemporary Indian artists of the songs the Beatles were inspired to write as a result of the time they spent there.

The album is evidence of the legacy of the enduring cultural and musical crossover which occurred and it features a diverse cast of Indian artists (Vishal Dadlani, Kiss Nuka, Benny Dayal, Dhruv Ghanekar, Karsh Kale, Anoushka Shankar, Nikhil D’Souza, Soulmate and many others) – each bringing their own musical styles, as well as contemporary and classical Indian influences and techniques to the record.

The companion CD release also includes a bonus disc of the original soundtrack score to the film. The music is composed by award-winning composer Benji Merrison and was recorded at Abbey Road Studio 2 (the legendary home of The Beatles recording sessions), and also in Budapest in Hungary and in Pune, India.

Here’s Nikhil D’Souza’s interpretation of John Lennon’s ‘India, India’, a song written by Lennon and recorded in 1980 as a home demo, but not released until 2010’s John Lennon Signature Box.

Song Exploder does Lennon’s ‘God’, and the McCartney Podcast ‘Take It Away’ is Back

Song Exploder is one of the biggest music podcasts going around.

Host and creator Hrishikesh Hirway works with musicians to take apart their songs and, piece by piece, tell the story of how they were made – delving into the specific decisions that went into creating the work. Guests have included Fleetwood Mac, Billie Eilish, U2, Metallica, Solange, Lorde, Yo-Yo Ma, The Roots, Bon Iver, and more. Here’s the full list of episodes.

Now, Song Exploder has taken a deep dive into John Lennon’s song ‘God’, from his 1970 solo album Plastic Ono Band. It’s the first time Hrishikesh has unpacked a song posthumously, teaming up with the Lennon Estate for a special, first-of-its kind episode using demos, out-takes, multitracks and interviews from their vaults.

“Earlier this year, I got an amazing email—the estate of John Lennon said that they have a treasure trove of audio material from his life, and they were wondering if I would be interested in making an episode around the song ‘God‘. I’ve never tried making a posthumous episode before, because hearing directly from the artist is at the heart of Song Exploder. But with all the interview archives that they have of him speaking, plus all the isolated tracks from the recordings, and the original demo, it actually seemed possible. So this is a very different and special episode of the show.”

Speaking about the episode on Instagram Sean Ono Lennon said “I’m a big fan of Song Exploder and the way Hrishi analyzes songwriting and recording using the multitracks and sessions and the creator’s voice. The shows are always intelligent, well-researched and beautifully edited, so we felt comfortable and confident opening up the archive to them to tell the story of this important song’s creation. They’ve done an amazing job and I’m excited for everyone to hear this special episode.”

In the episode we hear from John Lennon, Ringo Starr, Klaus Voormann, Billy Preston, and psychologist Arthur Janov.

Meanwhile in other podcast news, the very good Take It Away: The Complete Paul McCartney Archive Podcast is back.

After the tragic death of co-host Ryan Brady last year in a motoring accident, his podcast partner Chris Mercer has (understandably) been lying low for a while. The good news is that the show has returned.

Two weeks ago Mercer posted on Facebook: “I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome Paul Kaminski as the new co-host of Take It Away. Many of you will have guessed as much already. When it comes to the Beatles, Paul Kaminski is the real deal. He’s also a highly accomplished podcaster, having worked on the Jack White-related Third Men Podcast, the Beatles podcast Yesterday and Today, The Lucy & Annabel Show, and Now Hear This!, which he co-founded with Ryan Brady. We‘ve already had a productive collaboration going for some time, and we can’t wait to talk everyone’s heads off about music we love!”

The new team of Mercer and Kaminski sound great together and have released the final episode of Season 4 in which they unpack Paul McCartney’s McCartney III Imagined.

And they’ve announced there’ll be a Season 5 coming this fall. “While we will honor the show’s roots by covering McCartney‘s latest projects and expanding our Macca-related offerings, Paul and I are eager to take TIA to new places, and we think you’ll enjoy what we have planned” said Mercer.

Lennon – Imagine 50

On September 9, 2021, John Lennon’s Imagine LP turns 50 years-old.

With that anniversary comes a new logo, and a new opportunity to sell the LP to us once more….this is despite it having had something of a spectacular re-mix campaign reissue just three years ago in a wide range of formats.

To celebrate it’s 50th, Universal Music yesterday announced a 50th anniversary, limited-edition “collectors” white vinyl 2LP of Imagine.

This features the exact same 2018 “Ultimate Mix” of the album by engineer Paul Hicks and produced by Yoko Ono on disc 1, and the exact same set of album outtakes on disc 2.

When that 2LP set was issued in 2018 it was offered on a 2LP black vinyl:

And there was also a limited edition 2LP clear vinyl set:

As you can see, its now a case of “spot the difference” with this latest white vinyl iteration:

So, what do you think? Will you be buying it one more time?

The white vinyl version ships on September 10th. Here’s the track listing:

Side A
1. Imagine
2. Crippled Inside
3. Jealous Guy
4. It’s So Hard
5. I Don’t Wanna Be A Soldier Mama I Don’t Wanna Die

Side B
6. Gimme Some Truth
7. Oh My Love
8. How Do You Sleep?
9. How?
10. Oh Yoko!

Side C
11. Imagine (Original demo recorded at Ascot)
12. Imagine (Take 1)
13. Crippled Inside (Take 3)
14. Crippled Inside (Take 6 alternate guitar solo)
15. Jealous Guy (Take 9)
16. It’s So Hard (Take 6)

Side D
17. I Don’t Wanna Be A Soldier Mama I Don’t Wanna Die (Take 25)
18. Gimme Some Truth (Take 4)
19. Oh My Love (Take 6)
20. How Do You Sleep? (Takes 1 & 2)
21. Oh Yoko! (From Bed Peace footage – Sheraton Hotel, Bahamas 1969)

Rare John & Yoko Limted Edition Interview 10″ Vinyl

As we eagerly await the release later this week of the Plastic Ono Band super deluxe editions it’s been interesting to listen to two rare John and Yoko interview discs recorded during the same era.

The two discs are John Lennon & Yoko Ono Special Interview (January 25, 1971, in Tokyo), and John Lennon & Yoko Ono Special Interview (September 2, 1971 in New York).

Both these were only made available recently, and only in Japan. The one place to purchase them was from the museum shop at the Double Fantasy – John & Yoko exhibition, held at the Sony Music Roppongi Museum in Tokyo in late 2020/early 2021. We were lucky as a family friend who lives there got both discs for us and sent them via snail mail to Australia. It took a while, but they eventually got here!

As the titles suggest, these recordings date back to 1971, and hearing John and Yoko talking about their then just-released Plastic Ono Band LPs (one from John, one from Yoko), and also about Lennon’s Imagine LP, adds to our understanding: what they were thinking and saying about the albums at the time.

As you can see, these have been lovingly created in the typical Japanese style. They both come in gatefold sleeves with Grapefruit OBI strips, and they’re both pressed on lovely 10″ clear vinyl.

Gatefold for John Lennon & Yoko Ono Special Interview January 25, 1971
Gatefold for John Lennon & Yoko Ono Special Interview September 2, 1971

Both album sleeves say “Printed in Japan”, and state that the vinyl is pressed in Czech Republic. However, inside the labels say “Made in USA”. Confusing.

Instead of Apple labels, these are on Grapfruit labels (just like the ones used for Yoko Ono’s album re-issue campaign with Secretly Canadian).

(Click on any images to see larger versions)

On the OBI strip and on the record labels there are Columbia Records logos (i.e. Sony Music), while on the covers there are Sony Music, Secretly Canadian and Chimera Music logos printed on the rear sleeves.

And of course being Japanese releases, these both have a paper sheet inserts printed on both sides with more detail and info (in Japanese!) about the EP and the Double Fantasy exhibition:

One of these interview discs at least (John Lennon & Yoko Ono Special Interview (September 2, 1971 in New York) has been previously released. This was back in 1971 in Japan – and it came out on the Apple label. This release was a fan-only, 7″ 45rpm EP. It has the same artwork throughout as this 2020 re-issue and came in a gatefold cover too. Apparently in Japan in 1971 the first 1,000 copies of of Imagine contained a postcard which the buyer could use to order the interview EP for free:

Seeing the original Japanese Apple labels from 1971 reminds us of the amazing attention to detail the Japanese go to when recreating re-issues. If you look closely you can see that even the lettering has been meticulously copied from the Apple original to the 2020 version on the Grapfruit label:

The interview on January 25, 1971 took place in Tokyo’s Teikoku or “Imperial” Hotel. It is conducted in English and Japanese – but mostly Japanese. The Lennon’s state that they are in the country to visit Yoko’s family and are trying to keep a low profile, so it is not an official visit as such. But they’ve obviously called a short press conference to talk briefly about what would have then been their latest releases, the two Plastic Ono Band LPs.

As you can see from the sleeve images above, the two are photographed holding these albums (and The Wedding Album) on the front, rear and gatefold covers.

Here’s a short extract from this disc to give you a feel for what it contains. John is asked about the direct nature of his lyrics on Plastic Ono Band. Is it something like Japanese Haiku poetry?  

John Lennon & Yoko Ono Special Interview January 25, 1971 c. 2020 Yoko Ono Lennon

“This album is shibui!” he declares. Shibui refers to a particular aesthetic of simple, subtle, and unobtrusive beauty. Like other Japanese aesthetics terms, it can apply to a wide variety of subjects, not just art or fashion (see Wikipedia).

There is a small amount of original music on the January 25, 1971 interview disc. At one point Yoko is busy speaking in Japanese to the interviewer while John Lennon in the background has obviously picked up an acoustic guitar and gently finger picks the melodies of ‘Sun King’ and then ‘Dear Prudence’. And at the very end of the press conference there is a short live version of ‘Give Peace A Chance’.

The interview on the second 10″ clear EP takes place in New York on September 2, 1971. Here they talk a lot more about Imagine as it has just been released, but John compares it to Plastic Ono Band, the LP which precedes it. Lennon says the Imagine album is more relaxed compared to Plastic Ono Band. And ‘Imagine’ the song, he says, has almost the the same story as the song ‘Working Class Hero’ from Plastic Ono Band, only ‘Imagine’ is expressed in a more “child-like” way. 

Sound-wise he says he wanted Plastic Ono Band to be very spare, but this time (on Imagine) he wanted strings and saxophone, and to work using more musicians. The other contrast between the two LPs he makes is along the lines of: “Last year [when I made Plastic Ono Band] I had long hair and a beard. Now I’ve got short hair and no beard. So it’s like shaving. It’s a bit cleaner looking, more acceptable to people”.

So, two interesting releases to have in the lead-up to the Plastic Ono Band The Ultimate Collection box sets and vinyl re-issues. These will sit alongside them quite nicely.

The Wait Is Over – Lennon/Plastic Ono Band Finally Announced

The dream wait is over, what can I say? The dream wait is over, yesterday….

It’s taken a while (there’s even been an official countdown clock ticking down just for the announcement) but Yoko Ono and Sean Ono Lennon have at last revealed the release date (16 April), and the contents of the 50th anniversary box set of John Lennon’s legendary Plastic Ono Band solo album.

And it looks really good. The wait appears to have been worth it:

Rather than detail it all here it’s best to click through to the official John Lennon website which has all the information – and more – about what this 6 CD, 2 Blu-Ray Audio Disc Plastic Ono Band Ultimate Collection deluxe box set will contain. They’ve created a fantastic site with masses of information, images and memorabilia.

There is of course also a 2LP Half Speed Master release, a two CD edition, and a single CD release as well. Accurate track listings for each for each of these are also included on the Lennon site.

Also, for a great summary article, you can’t go past the great Super Deluxe Edition site.

The Lennon camp has embarked on a social media blitz to publicise the release, and there will be no doubt be more to come.

Given the tempo of the times, we particularly liked this image which appeared on Twitter and on Insta:

The caption reads: “What’s the meming of this?” 🙂

‘Double Fantasy – John & Yoko’ Exhibition – Tokyo

There’s a terrific exhibition on at the moment in Tokyo called Double Fantasy – John & Yoko:There are a couple of interesting collectors items that you can purchase from this exhibition. The first is the official exhibition catalogue – a thick book that serves as a comprehensive overview of everything on display:

It’s in Japanese and English, and packed with a wealth of great photos detailing all the displays. It’s available through the gift shop at the exhibition venue (Tokyo’s Sony Music Roppongi Museum), from Amazon Japan, or The Blue Sheep Shop.

We also liked the look of these two Limited Edition, 10-inch clear vinyl records which are only available through the Double Fantasy – John & Yoko museum store:

These contain interviews with John and Yoko. The first is ‘John Lennon and Yoko Ono – Special Interview, January 25, 1971 at the Imperial (Teikoko) Hotel’.

The second is ‘John Lennon and Yoko Ono – Special Interview, September 2, 1971 New York’. They are both on the same label as Ono’s album re-issues for the Secretly Canadian/Chimera label in the US, and the Sony Records International label in Japan – featuring a cut grapefruit instead of an apple.

There’s also this Limited Edition Yoko Ono single on white vinyl, released on November 25. Again this appears to be exclusive to the exhibition store:

Double Fantasy – John & Yoko is a large-scale exhibit which was first mounted in John Lennon’s hometown of Liverpool (at the Liverpool Museum in England) between May, 2018 and November, 2019.

In 2020 that very same exhibition has come to Yoko Ono’s hometown, Tokyo.

There are many connections for the couple with Japan. John, Yoko, and Sean Ono Lennon visited the country every year between 1977 and 1979 and enjoyed numerous family trips to various places as John’s green card (granted to him in 1976) made it possible for them to once again travel outside the United States.

Japan’s NHK TV last week ran a story about the exhibition. It included this insightful interview with Sean who shared his memories of visiting Japan, about growing up as the son of two of the most famous people in the world, and the role his parents played in promoting peace – it’s well worth a look.

Yoko was deeply involved in the curation of Double Fantasy – John & Yoko and it contains a wealth of rare original historic documents, photographs, films, objects, artworks and personal items from key moments in the lives of the two. It apparently takes more than two hours to view everything and get a thorough overview of what is on offer:   One of the treasures is John’s hand-made, teenage satiric magazine (from c.1957) containing his cartoons and drawings called The Daily Howl:

There’s also an original copy of Yoko’s book Grapefruit which she gave to John as a gift. First published in 1964, Grapefruit represents a seminal piece of conceptual art that had a direct influence on the lyrics and concepts behind the song ‘Imagine’:

Also on display are numerous handwritten lyrics by Lennon including ‘Imagine’, ‘In My Life’, ‘Give Peace a Chance’, ‘Happy Xmas (War is Over)’, and ‘Woman’.

There’s also one of the famous works that Yoko showed at her Unfinished Paintings and Objects exhibition at the Indica Gallery in London in 1966. It’s where John first encountered her art up close:Of course there’s also the previously mentioned Museum Shop offering a wide variety of other merchandise…..

Double Fantasy – John & Yoko opened at Tokyo’s Sony Music Roppongi Museum on October 9, the 80th anniversary of John Lennon’s birth.

It runs until January 11, 2021, and has marked the 40th anniversary of his death by setting up a place for visitors to remember John by leaving messages and floral tributes.

Lennon ‘Gimme Some Truth’ – Target Coloured Vinyl

Looks like the Lennon camp is belatedly getting in on the coloured vinyl craze – but nothing as lavish/extensive/crazy as the McCartney team (see * links and **image below).

There’s going to be an exclusive US Target store Opaque Blue release for the recent Gimme Some Truth 2 LP set:This Gimme Some Truth double gatefold, previously only available on good old black vinyl, will hit Target stores in the United States on February 19, 2021.

* To view the many, many iterations of Paul McCartney’s just-released McCartney III, check out the following links: The Many Different Versions Emerge, There’ll Be A Cassette, More McCartney III Variations, Orange Vinyl, and Yellow….and More.

**And here’s the latest graphical representation of all the McCartney III variations presently out there [click on the image to enlarge]: