Saturday, 29 June 2013

Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!

It began when Paul McCartney was listening to a Bobby Rydell song "Forget Him". It was planned as an 'answering song' where McCartney would sing 'she loves you' and John Lennon and George Harrison would answer 'yeah yeah'. "We decided that was a crummy idea but at least we then had the idea of a song called 'She Loves You'. So we sat in the hotel bedroom for a few hours and wrote it — John and I, sitting on twin beds with guitars."
It was John Lennon who wanted the track to be 'stirring: " I remember when Elvis did 'All Shook Up' it was the first time in my life that I had heard 'uh huh', 'oh yeah', and 'yeah yeah' all sung in the same song. We added some"wooooo"'s, which we got from The Isley Brothers' 'Twist and Shout'.  We stuck it in everything we could think of".
John and Paul proudly played the finished song on acoustic guitars to McCartney's dad at home after the song was completed: "We went into the living room, 'Dad, listen to this. What do you think? And he listened and thoughtfully said 'That's very nice son, but there's enough of these Americanisms around. Couldn't you sing 'She loves you, yes, yes, yes instead!'. At which point we collapsed in a heap and said 'No, Dad, you don't quite get it!'".

EMI recording engineer Norman Smith had a somewhat similar reaction, later recounting, "I was setting up the microphone when I first saw the lyrics on the music stand, 'She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah, She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah, She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah, Yeah!' I thought, Oh my God, what a lyric! This is going to be one that I do not like. But when they started to sing it — bang, wow, terrific, I was up at the mixer jogging around."
One final touch was added at the recording studio where George Harrison suggested the three of them should end the song with an unusual chord. George Martin, the Record producer, was intrigued: "The final chord was an odd sort of major sixth, with George doing the sixth and John and Paul the third and fifths, like a old-fashioned Glenn Miller arrangement. They were saying, 'It's a great chord! Nobody's ever heard it before!' Of course I knew that wasn't quite true! But nobody had done it for 20 years, and certainly not in a Rock and Roll record!"

The Beatles recorded 'She Loves You' (and B side 'I'll get You') on 1st July, beginning at 5pm at Abbey Road's studio two, and finishing at 10pm, although the session had been booked for 2.30-5.30pm. For the first time, the studio came under siege from young female Beatles fans who rushed the commissionaire and actually got into the studio. Although they were eventually ushered out, they continued to pound on doors, try to break in and chant and squeal all evening, and the drama and panic of the day made it's mark on the song recorded- She Loves You has a dynamic, near hysterical quality that owes a little to being taped under such conditions.
Towards the end of the song, there's an edit piece where the line "pride can hurt you too, apologise to her" is added from a different take, purely because of the way the three singing Beatles phrased the one word 'apologise'. They never managed to sing it so uniquely again, so it had to be in the record. Technology being what it was 50 years ago (ie twin-track mono), the edit is not seamless, and the sound of the drums changes dramatically at that point before another edit takes us back to the original take.

Released on August 23rd 1963, 'She Loves You' quickly became The record of the Week, Of 1963, probably of the 60s, maybe of the 20th century, possibly of all-time, and remains the one song that instantly brings to mind four skinny cheerful young men in suits with 'long hair' shaking their heads and having the time of their lives.

Monday, 24 June 2013

When in Berlin...

 50 years ago today, June 26th 1963, came President Kennedy's most famous speech, at the height of the Cold War, in the heart of the city that symbolised the tensions and conflicts of the world in 1963. He said:
"Two thousand years ago, the proudest boast was "civis Romanus sum" ["I am a Roman citizen"]. Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is "Ich bin ein Berliner!"... All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words "Ich bin ein Berliner!"

Left: Kennedy's aide-memoir to pronunciation
(See newsreel of the speech, hear audio of it in full and read more about it here)

Monday, 10 June 2013

One Medium Step For a Woman

It was a different time, and only fifty years ago. The Americans had put chimpanzees into orbit, the Soviets a dog, and both had put men into space. But what next? Horses? Wildebeest? Wait! why not...a woman?

Left, USSR reports a brave hero, centre, the USA salutes a 'Space Cuite'
and right Britain snickers at the very idea of a lady in orbit. Bad show Old Bean.
In 1963, when that was a preposterous idea, it actually came true- the Soviet Union put a woman into space. Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova [Валенти́на Влади́мировна Терешко́ва] then 26, and a textile factory assembly worker, was selected from more than four hundred applicants to pilot Vostok 6 on 16 June 1963, as the first civilian to fly in space. Her three day flight was to determine if females reacted differently than males (or animals) while weightless. It was a triumph for the Soviet space programme- It would be twenty years before another woman went into space.
Read more about Valentina Tereshkova here
Hear about her on a new BBC programme for 5 more days here

A Summer Tradition Starts Here!

This day in 1963 a holiday custom began with the Dandy-Beano Summer Special. At one shilling and sixpence, at a time when the weekly comics were threepence each, this first edition had to be something special, and it was! Larger than the regular comic, on glossy paper, and with several pages of full colour painted artwork, it was a treat for the senses! The cover was drawn by Dudley D Watkins, famous for Desperate Dan, Biffo The Bear and Lord Snooty, among many others. This inaugural edition was mostly reprint, but subsequent years, when The Beano and The Dandy had their own individual editions, would be all-new material, and that tradition carried on delighting kids at the seaside until 2006. It wasn't the first ever special issue of a weekly designed for the beach, but it was the first regular annual one, and the longest lasting. Eventually, publishers DC Thomson would go on to publish many other titles in this special once-a-year form, but this was the first, and the only time that The Beano and The Dandy shared a title until the nostalgia boom of the 1980s.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

In a Big Country

Tuesday June 11th 1963
In the USA, two significant events at either end of the moral spectrum on this same day.

At Alabama University, right wing anti-segregation state Governor George C. Wallace defiantly stood in the doorway, blocking the entry of it's prospective first black students.
Back in Washington, Defence Secretary Robert McNamara ordered the Alabama National Guard to support Assistant Attorney General Katzenbach who faced Wallace to demand the
students be allowed to register. Wallace proclaimed he was forbidding what he called "this illegal and unwarranted action by the central government" in instigating this desegregation.
The National Guard told Wallace they would enforce the President's order and the
Governor stepped aside at 3:40 that afternoon. The students, James Hood and Vivian Malone, walked unhindered into the university and into the history books. Read more about it here
Back in Washington, President Kennedy delivered an historic Speech promising a Civil Rights Bill, asking for "the kind of equality of treatment that we would want for ourselves." Read the full text of Kennedy's speech here

Meanwhile, at the University of Mississippi, the first human lung transplant was performed by Dr. James Hardy. The patient turned out to be John Richard Russell, a convicted murderer serving a life sentence for a 1957 killing, who was given a full pardon for volunteering for the operation. He survived for 18 days but skills learned that day would revolutionize surgery worldwide. The history of lung transplantation here

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

End of the Line- Queen Square Fruit & Veg Wholesale Market

This is Queen Square in the very heart of Liverpool, where my dad's family, who ran Fruit and Veg shops (Parkinson's on Broadgreen Road and at nearby Broadgreen station, to those of you who might remember), used to arrive early in the morning to select the best items. I was taken there by my dad several times in 1962 and 1963, and remember the shouting, bustling, joking, the clatter of the carts and the roaring of the wagons and the smell- the stench of old cabbage, the sweet heady aroma of ripe fruit- and the tramlines in the cobbles. But it was all to change. My dad took a new job in June 1963 and so we never went there again. In 1966, a new Fruit and Veg depot was opened out on the road to the motorway, and in 1967, the last of the merchants at Queen Square moved out, and a vital, unique part of city life vanished for good. In 1969 the square, boarded up and abandoned, was bulldozed to make way for... well, it was never made clear what was meant to go there. Eventually, it became a car park, and, finally, in 1999, a hotel and restaurant area. This short home movie is of Queen square in the late 1950s, and it looked pretty much the same when I was there five years later.


On this day, 5 June 1963, British political life was jolted when Profumo resigned.

The whole complicated business had begun in 1961,when Conservative MP and war Minister John Profumo met Christine Keeler, good-time girl or, according to the newspapers, a call girl, at a house party at Cliveden, a mansion owned by Lord Astor. Rumours about an affair became public in 1962, as did the allegation that Keeler had a relationship with Yevgeny Ivanov, senior naval attaché at the Soviet embassy in London at the same time. Given Profumo's position in the government and the Cold war at its height, the ramifications in terms of national security and the adulterous nature of Profumo's relationship with Keeler,  the affair became a public scandal.
Profumo assured Prime Minister Harold Macmillan the rumours were untrue, and stated to the House of Commons in March that there was "no impropriety whatsoever" in his
relationship with Keeler and that he would issue writs for libel and slander.
However, on this day on 5 June, Profumo confessed that he had misled the House (ie lied) and resigned his cabinet position, as well as his Privy Council and parliamentary membership.
Profumo Affair wiki here

The real-life drama continued with court cases, further allegations and even suicide. The scandal that rocked Britain was in full flow.