John Lennon – 2018 US Postal Service Stamp Update

The US Postal Service recently issued a little bit more information on the John Lennon Forever stamp, part of its Music Icons commemorative series.

The stamp will be issued on September 7 in New York City, and with more details of the design being made public there’s been a bit of a surprise twist: there will be not one, but four different stamps in this issue.

As you can see above, because the stamp will be issued in a pane of 16 (with the stamp pane made to look like the sleeve of a 7″ record – which is kind of cool), the stamps in each row are to be treated in different gradient colors, creating four different varieties.

The colors on the stamps in the first row change from light orange to red; the second row changes from red to light purple; the third row is light purple to dark purple; and the fourth is dark purple to blue.

The image on the reverse of the pane is the black-and-white photograph taken by Peter Fordham at about the time of the Imagine album release in 1971. It is of Lennon at his white piano. His signature is in white above, and there’s a Music Icons logo bottom left.

The John Lennon stamp was designed by Neal Ashby and Antonio Alcala was the art director.The US Postal Service press release is here.

The Beatles in India

Something of a Beatles and India theme has emerged in 2018, with this year marking the 50th anniversary of the time the band spent six weeks in an ashram in Rishikesh learning about Transcendental Meditation (TM), and along the way writing a prolific amount of fabulous songs.

Last week the George Harrison estate announced the creation of a new record label to mine the rich Harrison archives and re-issue many of George’s musical projects with Indian artists. His visits to that country changed his life and his art forever.

Prior to that announcement there was the release in February of a beautiful book (in three different editions) called The Beatles in India

These books are to be followed up with a documentary film bearing the same name later this year.

There’s also another book called Across the Universe: The Beatles in India by Ajoy Bose:

And a further book, Maharishi and Me – Seeking Enlightenment with The Beatles’ Guru, by Susan Shumsky:Let’s look at each of these releases in some more detail.

The Beatles in India. The books. These are a photographic record of the time a 23 year-old Canadian, Paul Saltzman, traveled to India in search of himself. To his great surprise he discovered that The Beatles were also in India, studying at the same ashram in Rishikesh. Saltzman spent a magical week with them, learning meditation and hanging out with John, Paul, George and Ringo. Fifty years later, the photos he took at the time are being published once again* in a book called The Beatles in India. It is available in three versions: as a standard hardback (see cover image above); as a special limited edition (signed and numbered and only 1968 copies produced): 

And in a larger format super deluxe edition (signed and numbered and only 350 copies produced):

* It should be noted that is is not the first time that Saltzman has published these photographs. He first released them along with his memories in a book called The Beatles in Rishikesh, published by Viking Studio in 2000. So, what you get here isn’t totally new information.

The Beatles in India. The film. This is a documentary also being made by Paul Saltzman, who is now an Emmy Award-winning Toronto-based director-producer of over 300 film and television productions. As we already know from his books, in 1968 he learned meditation at the Maharishi’s ashram in India, an experience that changed his life. There, he photographed The Beatles, Jane Asher, Cynthia Lennon, Pattie Boyd Harrison, Maureen Starkey, Mia Farrow, Donovan, Mal Evans and Mike Love. The film will detail “….Saltzman’s return journey to India, The Beatles stay and the songs they composed at the ashram, as well as meditation as it applies to creativity, the divine inner journey and the healing power of love and music.” No release date has yet been announced. You can read the press release for this one here.

Across the Universe: The Beatles in India. “What we do know is that their stay in Rishikesh resulted in an astonishing creative burst of song-writing – the most prolific in their entire career.”

Ajoy Bose was a teenage fan when The Beatles visited India. His book is an in-depth celebration of what it meant, especially the creative impact their stay had on the band: “I believe that the real reason why they managed to write so many songs in India was because it was the first time since they became the Beatles they were allowed to be individuals and not just a band that needed to perform or record in the studios.”

“So a sabbatical did change the Beatles, at least temporarily, and particularly the songs they wrote in the ashram, because these were all individual pieces and were not created with an album in mind. That is why the ‘White Album’, which contains most of these songs, is considered so unique in the Beatles discography,” says Bose.

Amazon has a ‘Look Inside‘ link for more, and you can read a lovely review of the book here.

Maharishi and Me – Seeking Enlightenment with The Beatles’ Guru. Author Susan Shumsky lived and studied in the Maharishi’s ashrams for 22 years, and she served on his personal staff for seven of those years. Many books have been written about the guru, and (as we’ve seen above) about the time The Beatles travelled to India, but this is the only one to offer an insider’s view of what it was really like to live in Rishikesh. Yes, it includes chapters about the time that John, Paul, George and Ringo came to learn at the feet of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. But this book is about much more than that.

Shumsky says that it’s “….a way of sharing a few glimpses into my spiritual journey, and hopefully will help you make your own spiritual connection.” There’s a lot more information here about TM, what it actually is, and it’s impact not only on The Beatles but on people seeking spiritual enlightenment across the west.

Shumsky has some very good detail about how The Beatles found out about the Maharishi, how they first got into TM in London and Wales, and how as a result of a Beatle connection the rest of the world found out about TM too. She also writes in detail, across a number of chapters, about the India visit in early 1968. Here we discover what the day-to-day life and activities for the band would have been like.

On the way to the ashram, George Harrison told a reporter, “A lot of people think we’ve gone of our heads. Well, they can think that—or anything they like. We’ve discovered a new way of living.” But, as we know, it all ended badly, with The Beatles leaving the ashram disillusioned – especially with the Maharishi. Shumsky has a theory as to why this occurred, and devotes a chapter to the falling out. It makes for interesting reading.

If you’d like to get a taste of Susan’s story there’s also a ‘Look Inside‘ link on the Amazon site. Marharishi and Me is published by Skyhorse Publishing.

Strange/Unusual Finds of the Month – Nowhere Man and Double Fantasy

Every couple of months the Lifeline organisation (which offers a free phone crisis and suicide prevention counselling service in Australia) holds a huge fundraising book fair. They always have, as a side note, lots of second-hand CDs, and usually a few records too. These are usually placed in one corner and any Beatle titles would be scattered in amongst hundreds of other artists.

However, the Lifeline book fair last month had its very own Beatles section!

Obviously someone had donated a large collection and the volunteers had hived off a dedicated section of the tables just for Beatle stuff. There were books, a small selection of LPs and CDs, plus a very large stack of 45 singles. By the time we got through the door though another collector was well into sifting through the 45’s and so we had to wait patiently by for him to finish. Sadly (for us) he took just about all of them, and we were left to pick over the remains.

Much to our delight though we discovered a very clean copy of a Beatle EP that had been missing from the collection – one that is now considered rare and fetches hefty prices on eBay. It’s the Australian pressing of the band’s Nowhere Man EP, released on November 3, 1966:This one has the flipback tabs on the rear cover, and the early black and yellow Parlophone label with the Northern Songs royalty stamps included:We’d been looking for a copy of this EP for ages, so to find a copy in good condition was a real bonus. It completes a full set of all the Beatles’ Australian EP releases.

While biding time waiting for the other collector to sift through the stack of 45’s we checked out the books and the small number of Beatle albums on offer. Amongst these was this LP: This is the rarer Half-Speed mastered pressing of the John Lennon/Yoko Ono disc Double Fantasy. It is on the Geffen/Nautilus Superdisc label and dates from 1982. This limited edition release should come with a poster and a lyric sheet insert. Both these are missing, but it does have the original Nautilus ‘blue disc’ poly inner “Super Sleeve”:So, another strange/unusual find on what turned out to be a pretty good day.

Label Variations Part Eleven – Happy Xmas (War is Over)

A Christmas theme for the next installment in our occasional Label Variations segment.

This time it’s John Lennon, Yoko Ono and the Plastic Ono Band, with the Harlem Community Choir  and the 1971/1972 song ‘Happy Xmas (War is Over)’. Early versions (and some re-issues) were on green vinyl to suit the season.

The US Bell Sound test pressing:

Other US variations:

Some of the UK releases:

And Australia/New Zealand:

Here are some European releases. First Spain ‘Feliz Navidad’:

The Netherlands:

Italy:

France:

Greece:

Sweden:

An EU-made CD single from 2003:

Back to vinyl, this one is from Yugoslavia:

And a couple of South American countries, including Venuzuela ‘Felices Pascuas (Se Acabo La Guerra)’:

Brazil:

Mexico ‘Feliz Navidad (La guerra termino)’:

Here’s one from Japan ‘ハッピークリスマス戦争は終わった’:

Later on, when John Lennon was signed briefly to Geffen Records, that label released ‘Happy Xmas (War is Over)’ too:

(As usual, click on most images to see larger versions)

Please note that not all these are from our collection! Check out this link to a ‘Happy Xmas (War is Over)’ 40th Anniversary page. Catch some others in the Label Variations series here. And visit the Imagine Peace (War is Over!) site.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all our readers.

Some Sgt. Pepper’s Holiday Listening

With the holidays upon us, and to celebrate the release of the 2017 remix of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (on 180 gram vinyl) in single LP form – plus the Sgt. Pepper vinyl picture disc, here are a couple of Pepper-related items for your listening pleasure.

They all come from the Australian Radio National program, The Music Show – hosted by Andrew Ford.

For the 50th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper earlier this year The Music Show spoke to singer Barb Junger (whom you’ll hear has a record of Beatle covers out) and writer Joyce Morgan about their memories of first hearing the album back when it was first released in the Summer of Love:

The Music Show also spoke to Beatle biographer extraordinaire, Mark Lewisohn:

The program’s final Pepper installment came from Joanne Petersen, Brian Epstein’s personal assistant. Petersen, who now lives in Australia, recalls the time she heard a test pressing of Sgt. Pepper’s; details some of the launch activities (including John Lennon’s psychedelic Rolls Royce); and George Harrison refusing to cuddle British DJ Kenny Everett:

Their Pepper special also came with a special bonus. It’s a link to a fantastic mini documentary on the background to the people (and horses!) mentioned in the poster John Lennon used to inspire his song, ‘Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite’. And, believe it or not, there’s another Australian connection:

All audio is ex ABC Radio National. Visit The Music Show website for more of their great programs.

 

John Lennon – 2018 US Postal Service Stamp

Looks like the US Postal Service is to honour John Lennon in 2018.

The newest stamp in its Music Icons series will honor singer and songwriter John Lennon (1940–1980), “….a rock ’n’ roll hero successful both as a founding member of the Beatles and as a solo artist.”

If the photograph for the stamp looks familiar, it was most recently used on the cover of Philip Norman’s book John Lennon – The Life, which came out in 2008. The image is by legendary rock photographer Bob Gruen who knew Lennon well and has taken many iconic images of him. The photograph comes from a photo shoot for the cover of his 1978 album Walls and Bridges:  

The Postal Service has previously honoured The Beatles as a group on a 1999 postage stamp as part of its Celebrate the Century series. That issue depicted the Yellow Submarine from the animated movie and soundtrack Yellow Submarine. The upcoming Lennon release will be the first to feature an actual likeness of one of the Beatles on a U.S. stamp.

In 2007 Britain’s Royal Mail issued ten different stamps celebrating the importance of The Beatles to Britain and the world. These depicted album covers (With The Beatles; Help!; Revolver; Sgt. Pepper; Let It Be; and Abbey Road, plus the single ‘Love Me Do’), along with images of Beatle memorabilia. For more detail on those releases click here.

Detailed information and the issue date for the Lennon US Postal Service stamp will be revealed later. The stamp design is preliminary and subject to change until issuance dates.

The Salvos Take On a Vision for Strawberry Field in Liverpool

After a battle with local authorities The Salvation Army has finally received a full planning go-ahead to build a much-needed training and work placement hub for young people with learning disabilities at its Strawberry Field site in Liverpool. The site, which has been closed to the public for years, will also house an exhibition centre where visitors can find out more about John Lennon and his connection to the parklands, as well as a place to explore spirituality. It’ll look something like this:

The next phase of the project is to raise the money needed to move the Salvos plans from vision to reality. And that’s where you come in.

To find out how you can donate, purchase merchandise and support the project, visit www.strawberryfieldliverpool.com

You’ll be helping young people like Jordan Clark to overcome their learning difficulties, get jobs, and make a real contribution to the community:

One of the fundraising projects launched recently saw a group of young people from the City of Liverpool College and the Salvos’ Steps to Work programme come together to form a choir to record a version of John Lennon’s legendary ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’. They did it at the Abbey Road Studios in London, no less:

To hear the song in full, click here.

Jules Sherwood, Development Manager for The Salvation Army, said: “We believe Strawberry Field is the final piece of the Beatles jigsaw in Liverpool and once open will offer a magical experience to visitors who will be able to follow in the footsteps of the young John Lennon.”

“The very latest technologies will be adopted to create an exhibition where visitors will enter a space where “nothing is real” as they experience the wondrous, intertwined histories of the house, John Lennon and the writing and recording of the iconic song. The gardens will be filled with messages of peace and love which we hope will inspire visitors as Lennon himself was inspired.”

Strawberry Field is an iconic part of Liverpool’s history, as well as an important part of the local community in Woolton. The Salvation Army has owned the site since the 1930s and ran a children’s home there until 2005. John Lennon was inspired to write ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ after climbing over the wall and playing in the grounds. For him, it was a special place which had a lasting impact on his life.

If you’d like to help you can donate here, plus there’s lots of cool merch in the official Salvos store