Tag Archives: the beatles

Lame Adventure 440: Destructive Forces

When I was a scrawny kid standing barely four feet tall and weighing no more than forty pounds, my mother viewed me as a condensed package of pure trouble. She never wanted me near anything mechanical. She was taking no chances to give me any opportunity to break anything. She was certain that if I held my father’s “electric eye” movie camera I would drop it, the mix master was for someone else to use as I watched, and I should just forget about ever making a milkshake in the blender on my own. When I would enter a room when guests were visiting I was subject to “the look”, a fiercely watchful eye that screamed:

Mom: Don’t touch anything!

My dad would allow me to blow off steam and let loose my inner maniac. I would sit in the driver’s seat of his car where I would go crazy playing at the steering wheel. The engine was always off so there was no chance I could floor the accelerator I couldn’t reach and drive through a wall.

Fast forward to this year, early October. I’m walking down Hudson Street en route to my bank when I see a sight so incongruous, I almost throw out my neck: a mint condition Beatles lunchbox circa 1965 hanging off the handlebar of a stroller. It’s being pushed by a nanny tending three small fry. That happened to be the exact lunchbox I wanted when I was in first grade, but it cost more, so my mother bought me a compromise solution lunchbox featuring the Flintstones. The nanny’s charges were a tot of about two, a toddler girl around four and their big brother, a boy, I guessed was six and probably in first grade.

Me: Excuse me; I remember that lunchbox in my youth. May I photograph it?

Nanny: Of course! His father loves the Beatles. Everything with his daddy is the Beatles.

Does Mom have the Hope Diamond lying on the coffee table?

Does Mommy use the Hope Diamond as a doorstop?

So this lunchbox belonged to the little schoolboy. I thanked her for her time and moved on imagining that Daddy was at least my age, obscenely wealthy, and Mommy was a trophy twenty-five years his junior. Later I researched what a Beatles lunchbox in mint condition is worth: about a thousand dollars. There’s one on eBay priced at $6,500. I wondered what that kid’s lunchbox would look like at the end of the school year. Dented, scratched and battered? Who in their right mind would allow a six-year-old to carry his PB&J sandwiches in a collector’s item that will only increase in value over time? This isn’t yeah, yeah, yeah, but no, no, no! I ordered myself to calm down. Who am I to dictate what people do with their collector’s items? Let it go, or how about, let it be?

At month’s end, I spent a weekend on the West Coast with my siblings, Dovima and Axel. My sister lamented about how she wished she still had the Beatle fan book that she bought in 1964.

Me: It’s in Dad’s house.

Dovima didn’t believe me, but I assured her it was indeed there. It took us two days to dig through the entirety of our family archives, but finally, I unearthed it buried deep in a file box tucked high on a shelf that had not been opened in well over thirty years. My sister was elated. Hero-me gloated.

Back in the hands of its proud owner.

Back in the hands of its proud owner.

As we looked through it for the first time in decades, Dovima, in her excitement turned to the third page, but I insisted:

Me: Turn back; let’s look at it from page one.

On the lower right corner of page two we saw this.

Dovima was calm. I dropped a barrage of f-bombs.

Dovima was calm. I dropped multiple f-bombs.

I have no recollection of when or why I wrote my name on it, but possibly it was for  a school show and tell or maybe it was in frustration when my mother refused to let me set my own alarm clock or sharpen a pencil or ring the doorbell. Obviously, Mom did not keep me away from pens. I hope that that schoolboy with the Beatles lunchbox doesn’t follow my lead and do something stupid like give them all goatees. As for Dovima, when we saw that the autographed centerfold was still intact and unscathed, she breathed a sigh of relief. At least I managed to control my impulse to be the fifth Beatle, and I refrained from being the ultimate imbecile by signing my name with those of the lads from Liverpool.

John, Paul, George, Ringo and what a relief, no sign of me.

Signed John, Paul, George, Ringo and what a relief, no sign of me.

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Lame Adventure 410: Beatle Browsing

On Saturday morning, I was feverishly riding my spin bike to my usual destination, Nowhere, when I observed that the sky outside was a vibrant blue. The temperature that day eventually reached a high of 53. If one disregarded the piles of dirt-stained melting snow, the weather was spring-like and perfect for a genuine lame adventure featuring my favorite band, the Beatles. The evening before I was quaffing suds and chowing down bar snacks with my pal, Coco.

Me: What do you think of the Beatles?

Coco: Ugh. I think, “My parents’ music.”

Earlier that week I mentioned the Fab Four to my bud, Milton.

Milton: If I hear any more about the Beatles, I’m going to become a serial killer.

Milton is sick of the avalanche of stories and specials commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the Beatles coming to America this month. The combination of common sense and self-preservation suggested that I resist asking either of my two closest friends to join me for a visit to the New York Public Library for the Performing Art’s exhibit, Ladies and Gentlemen … The Beatles! It runs through May 10 and the price is my second favorite four-letter f-word: free.

This exhibit is a touring exhibit (it opens in Minneapolis on June 5) so it may eventually head to a city near you. It was curated by the GRAMMY Museum. It is a treasure trove of Beatle history, artifacts, memorabilia, videos, interactive stops (none of which I participated in because they required wearing communal headphones that activated my inner germaphobe), an opportunity to take a recorded drum lesson from Ringo (I passed) and a living history booth where visitors are encouraged to record their Beatle memories. No way would I subject myself to the humiliation of admitting on tape that even though I was born with a tin ear and can only drop a tune, I fantasized about being a Beatle myself.

Something I learned from this exhibit that I didn’t know before, was that George Harrison, accompanied by his brother, Peter, had visited the US for a few weeks in mid-September 1963. At that time, the four band members were taking a vacation. Paul and Ringo hightailed to Greece. John and his wife, Cynthia, bolted to France. George visited his sister, Louise, who was living in exotic (cough) Benton, Illinois. While there he bought a Rickenbacker guitar.

This guitar was originally red, but George had it lacquered black to look like John Lennon's.

This Rickenbacker 425 guitar was originally red. George had it lacquered black to look like John Lennon’s.

 Before returning to the UK, George visited New York City, and was able to pound the pavement in pre-Beatlemania anonymity.

New York these days (photo by Coco).

New York these days (photo by Coco).

Something else that I found interesting is that although it was teenage girls that initially went hysterical over the band, the artifacts on display were from vast Beatle collections maintained by Beatle worshipping guys in their fifties and sixties. I don’t know what this means, but I am sure some of you, my more intrepid followers, might be pregnant with opinion about this. Eventually, the program for this exhibit might be considered a collector’s item. It is also free.

More valuable than my company 401k.

Soon more valuable than my company’s 401k?

When I attended, about half the crowd was composed of boomers in their fifties and sixties, waxing nostalgic, but I didn’t see Coco’s parents. I overheard a few of the more demented ones softly humming the Beatle songs playing on the sound system. There were several members of the younger generation soaking it in, too. A popular spot for parents to take pictures of their small fry was in front of a typical Beatlemaniac’s bedroom back in the day.

My sister and I would not have seen anything wrong about this room in our youth.

Make the bed queen sized and I’d be okay with living there now.

I shot a few hundred photos with my iPhone, but most did not turn out very well. Naturally, that does not stop me from posting the best of the worst here as a small sampling of what’s on display. Thimble-sized spender me enjoyed this exhibit so much, I was compelled to stuff a Washington into the donation box upon exiting. If you’re in or near New York City, I urge you to visit this really big show. It rates the Lame Adventures greasy fingerprint seal of endorsement.

Library's outside entrance: yeah, yeah, yeah!

Library’s outside entrance: yeah, yeah, yeah!

The Beatles' instruments upon entering the exhibit.

The Beatles’ instruments upon entering the exhibit.

Ray Charles' suit; Ray was a Beatles influence.

Ray Charles (fg) and James Brown (bg) suits; guys who influenced the Beatles.

Elvis's guitar. The Beatles were big fans of his, but he was in no hurry to meet them.

Elvis’s guitar. The Beatles were big fans of his, but he was in no hurry to meet them.

Obviously, Og Philpott's guitar. The Beatles loved this rock legend.

Buddy Holly’s wild guitar. The Beatles loved this rock legend. So do I.

The set list John Lennon wrote for the Beatles first concert in the US.

The set list John Lennon wrote for the Beatles first concert in the US.

Song lyrics Paul McCartney threw in the trash that a hotel maid retrieved. Probably worth a million dollars today.

Song lyrics Paul McCartney threw in the trash that a hotel maid retrieved. Probably worth a million dollars today.

Script for one of the 39 episodes of the Beatles cartoon series that ran on ABC. I was addicted to this show.

Script for one of the 39 episodes of the Beatles cartoon series that ran on ABC. I was addicted to this show.

Pepsi product placement circa 1964. Each Beatle was given on of these transistors upon coming to America.

Pepsi product placement circa 1964. Each Beatle was given one of these transistor radios upon coming to America.

Ticket to see A Hard Days Night. What powers of perception   to save this? My mother would have ditched it as soon as I got home.

Ticket to see A Hard Days Night. What powers of perception to save this. My mother would have ditched it as soon as I got home.

We had this 45 and I remember this sleeve. We don't have it anymore.

We had this 45 and I remember this sleeve. We don’t have it anymore.

Even though these are surely worth a mint today, I much prefer wearing Jack Purcell's.

Even though these are surely worth a mint today, I much prefer wearing Jack Purcell’s.

I saw one of these selling on eBay for $99.

I saw one of these coin holders selling on eBay for $99.

Beatle dolls, Paul bubble bath bottle, Ringo figurine. Paul and Ringo themed merchandise were the most popular. Of course, I preferred George and Ringo.

Beatle dolls, Paul bubble bath bottle, Ringo figurine. Paul and Ringo themed merchandise were the most popular. Of course, I preferred John and George.

What the hell?

What the hell?

Gold record for "I Want to Hold Your Hand".

Gold record for “I Want to Hold Your Hand”. The version of this song they recorded in German gives my colleague, Godsend, hives.

The jacket Paul McCartney wore when the Beatles played Shea Stadium.

The jacket Paul McCartney wore when the Beatles played Shea Stadium.

Poster for the Beatles last concert performed in my home town. None of us attended. Idiots.

Poster for the Beatles last concert performed in San Francisco, my home town. None of us attended. Idiots.

A guy born without the shame gene sitting at a drum kit taking a lesson from Ringo.

A guy born without the shame gene sitting at a drum kit taking a lesson from Ringo.

Enter this booth to yammer your guts out about the Beatles for posterity.

Enter this booth to yammer your guts out about the Beatles for posterity.

Year-round Beatle exhibit in my lair.

Year-round Beatle exhibit in my lair.

Lame Adventure 237: New York Film Festival – George Harrison: Living in the Material World

Milton and I attended the sold-out screening of the HBO documentary George Harrison: Living in the Material World at the New York Film Festival.  This 208 minute film directed by Martin Scorsese with the cooperation of Harrison’s widow, Olivia, will be shown in two parts on HBO starting tonight.

We had fantastic seats, seventh row, almost dead center.  The filmmaker, Wes Anderson, was sitting behind us.  We saw Fisher Stevens and we also thought we saw the composer Philip Glass.  I pointed out a guy that I thought could have participated in a John Lithgow look-alike contest.

Milton:  He could have entered but he would have lost.  I can’t believe we have VIP seats!

Me:  Someone probably got fired for making that mistake.

As I was leafing through my program, chatting with Milton, I reached our film’s description page.  The woman sitting next to me, a Bjork-wannabe in the appearance department, floats her finger over George’s face in the photograph and mumbles his name into my left ear.

Floating finger re-enactment.

This unsolicited gesture captures my attention. I don’t want to encourage her but I don’t want to appear rude.

Me:  Yes, that’s George Harrison.

Milton mumbles her name into my right ear.

Milton:  Weirdo.

Olivia Harrison and Martin Scorsese introduce the film.  Then, the lights dim, the screen fills with tulips, and George’s middle-aged face appears in the garden.  He looks at the camera and flashes an ethereal smile.  I instantly feel a lump in my throat, but it just as instantly dissolves because Weirdo unfolds the oversized program guide and starts perusing it using her cellphone as a light source.  She is also leaning over my armrest.  She is so close to me that I can sniff her fragrance, Eau de Gag.

There I am sitting next to a stinky deranged space invader that I’d like to beat with a Rickenbacker guitar while watching what might be the definitive documentary about one of the most spiritual rock stars ever.  Instinct tells me that if I address her, this could get very ugly, very fast.  I inch closer to Milton and stay focused on the film, but I do notice that when I react audibly to whatever is happening on the screen, it  distracts her from her program guide reading and I can feel her staring at me.  If I were  to look at her, I know she’d be looking at me square in the face.  I stay focused on the screen.

Every so often her illuminated phone chimes.  It also fully rang once.  She quickly killed the ring, but the guy sitting next to Milton leaned forward and did address her.

Guy Sitting Next to Milton:  Shut that off!

She followed his order.  At that moment, I could have had that stranger’s child.

The first half of the film, told without narration and deftly edited by David Tedeschi, reveals George’s early life through archive footage and home movies, as well as interviews with the man himself.  This footage is intercut with interviews with key talking heads including the surviving Beatles, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, record producer George Martin, Harrison’s ex-wife Pattie Boyd, Eric Clapton, Yoko Ono, Phil Specter (filmed before his world imploded), and many others sharing anecdotes and personal insights about “the quiet Beatle”.  Until Paul McCartney revealed it, I never knew that young George referred to his highly stylized pre-Beatle haircut as “the turban.”

The film conveys George’s frustration as being the lead guitarist to the Beatle’s two domineering writers, John Lennon and McCartney.  In the beginning Harrison’s songwriting talent was undeveloped, but it blossomed over time (being in the company of Lennon and McCartney could not have hurt) but he had a tough time getting his less commercial songs on Beatle albums.  He smashed one hit out of the park with Something.  In the second half of the film, an interviewee suggests that although this classic Harrison composition is about a woman, it could just as easily have been about his close relationship with God.

Part two of the film, the post-Beatle half, devotes much more time to George’s original music as well as to his spirituality.  This was the half where I caught myself nodding out on several occasions.  Yet, whenever he or Ravi Shankar began strumming a sitar, I quickly regained consciousness.

The more controversial areas of George’s life including his philandering and his recreational drug abuse were downplayed.  Olivia skirts the topic of his indiscretions.  It was clearly a painful topic for her, but she answers her own question when she herself asks the secret to a lasting marriage:

Olivia: You don’t get divorced.

A glaring omission was not mentioning that George lost a major copyright infringement suit that lingered for years.  A judge ruled against him when it was deemed that he subconsciously plagiarized the Chiffon’s He’s so Fine when he wrote My Sweet Lord.  Milton and I are both deaf to the similarities.

What we also found baffling was why the filmmakers were so coy about the specific cancer that led to George’s death in 2001.  He was seen smoking cigarettes throughout the film and was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1997.  The subject of his cancer from the initial diagnosis through where he traveled for treatment was downplayed. Yet, it is mentioned that his cancer was in remission when an intruder attacked him in his home on New Year’s Eve 1999.  Dhani, George and Olivia’s only child, eludes that the stress of that brutal attack may have expedited his father’s death.  I am sure that that attack did not help George recover, but I am also sure that smoking a few packs for 30 or 40 years may have also contributed significantly to his passing.  Why not be straightforward about that?  I don’t think this film was funded by Philip Morris.

As we left the theater Milton observed:

Milton: I feel like I was lied to but in a very clever way.

Overall, this film is very entertaining, but there are gaps in the narrative.  As for Weirdo, she left her seat at intermission and did not return.  Maybe Krishna or possibly George himself interceded on my behalf.

Forbidden panel discussion iPhone photo that nearly got Milton handed his head on a plate by a watchdog usher. Left to right producer Nigel Sinclair, Olivia Harrison, Martin Scorsese, Margaret Bodde, David Tedeschi, and moderator Scott Foundas. Note woman in foreground wearing Sgt. Pepper-ette collection coat.

Lame Adventure 127: Don’t Leave It to Bieber

I was trying to read The New York Times online, but I suffered momentary ADD when I was distracted by an image of a bespectacled middle age male model in a shirt ad sporting an utterly ridiculous Justin Bieber-style haircut.  This made me wonder if there was a picture of a bespectacled Justin Bieber out there so I did a Google search to appease my curiosity.  Sure enough, there he was, the tween heartthrob and his mother’s retirement plan, wearing utterly ridiculous oversized spectacles.

A cultural low point.

Even New York Patriot’s quarterback, Tom Brady, took some heat when he appeared to be wearing Bieber-inspired locks.  Body beautiful Brady would have made an infinitely more attractive cotton shirt model.

Brady-Man vs. Bieber-Boy

A once again bespectacled Bieber posted a cringe-inducing rap video where he mocks Brady’s hair and takes ownership of the do indicating he’s never heard of the Beatles.  In 1964, a reporter asked George Harrison what he called the band’s hairstyle.  Harrison quipped, “Arthur.”

The Fab Four and Arthur.

Upon viewing Bieber’s awkward and embarrassing rap, which I hope he’s forced to watch on his fortieth birthday so he can feel my pain, it occurred to me that Bieber makes best forgotten Vanilla Ice appear to have been the second coming of James Brown.  One particularly Insightful Viewer posted this comment about Bieber’s rap:

I WOULD STAB THIS KID IN THE HEAD WIT A MILLION WATERBOTTLES…..

(For you pedants out there, “WIT” is an intentional Insightful Viewer spelling.)

When a 102 pound 16-year-old falsetto is influencing how men’s shirts are sold, this confirms that the planet is overheating in the worst way.  If Mad Men’s Don Draper were an actual retired 80-something ad man living in today’s world, and he had not succumbed to lung cancer, cirrhosis of the liver, or a massive coronary while getting horizontal with someone other than his wife, seeing ads like Cotton Work would have surely provided the tipping point that makes him happy to check out in 2010.

Lame Adventure 107: Happy Birthday John Lennon

I admit that the title of this post is premature.  Next Saturday, October 9th, would have been John Lennon’s seventieth birthday.  I find this incredible, but when I consider how much middle age female Viagra (Aleve) I pop, it does make sense that half the members of the Beatles are now septuagenarian – a word I can spell, but cannot pronounce.

When Ringo Starr turned seventy last July 7th, his milestone rated morning talk show and evening news mention.  He wanted his fans to say, “Peace and Love,” at noon as a birthday gift, as if uttering that trite utopian phrase would have an iota of impact on relations between the US and Iran.  During Ringo’s magical moment, I was in the process of disemboweling the office copier and predominantly thinking, “War and Hate.”

John Lennon’s milestone touches me far more.  I loved John Lennon.  I do feel genuine affection for the other three Beatles, and I felt sad when George Harrison died, but John is by far my all-time favorite Beatle.

John Lennon - a Beatle apart.

My sister, Dovima, was a Paul McCartney fan.  She wished that he was our brother, something that never made an iota of sense to me.  If Axel, our actual brother, wished that one of his sisters were Raquel Welch, he kept it to himself.

Axel's silent prayer, "Please God, please! Make her my third cousin twice removed!"

I had no desire for John to be my brother.  Although my attraction to him was not sexual, I was drawn to his music, wit, charm, and especially, his irreverence.  In 1966, when he made the faux pas of declaring that the Beatles were bigger than Jesus Christ, that rang true to this Catholic schoolgirl and atheist-in-the-making.  I was a hardcore Beatle believer, but religion thoroughly bored me.  My inability to memorize Catholic prayers earned me solid three’s in Religion (four was the equivalent of a failing grade), but if Sister Mary Angry had ordered me to recite every word of every Beatle song, I would have delivered that recitation accurately and with confidence.

I thought John was the coolest person in the world.  If I could have been born a Beatle, I would have wanted to be John, but I suppose what I pined for more than anything in my youth was to be that elusive fifth Beatle.  I knew this was unrealistic since I possessed zero musical talent, but if they ever needed a moppet that could play a mean triangle, albeit off-key, I was ready.

"Lads, trust me, I can give Mom and Granny the slip."

Soon, two new films about John will be released.  One is an excellent documentary packed with rare footage and audio about Lennon’s years in New York.  Appropriately it is titled, Lennon: NYC. Milton and I saw it when it premiered at the New York Film Festival where Yoko was in attendance.

Dapper Yoko with Lennon: NYC director Michael Epstein.

Our friend, Judy a.k.a. The Grande Enchilada, also attended this screening.  Milton and I agree that her review of it is spot on.  Check it out here.

PBS is going to broadcast Lennon: NYC on the American Masters series on Thursday, November 22nd at 9 pm.  It is also going to be screened for free at the Rumsey Playfield in Central Park on Saturday, October 9th.  Doors open at 6 pm, and the screening starts at 7 pm.

Lennon: NYC

Following the screening of Lennon: NYC there was a Q&A with director Michael Epstein and producer Susan Lacy.  As the Q&A was winding down, an audience member, whose name I believe was Dense Bonehead, demanded to know why this documentary only focused on Lennon’s life in New York City.  He was confounded over why it excluded coverage about Lennon’s years in Liverpool and completely baffled over why there was little allusion to what the Beatles accomplished in the Sixties.

This query from a muddled mind leads me to the second film about Lennon, a dramatic biopic called, Nowhere Boy, that opens in New York on Friday, October 8th.  It is entirely set in Liverpool providing Mr. Bonehead with a hearty fix of early circa 1950s John Lennon.  It explores his relationship with his free spirited, but troubled mother, Julia, and her grounded sister, Mimi, the strict aunt that raised him.  For anyone unfamiliar with Lennon’s youth, this film will seem like a revelation, but it’s not in the league with nuanced, less paint-by-numbers, cliche addled biopics, such as Walk the Line or Ray.

If Mr. Bonehead sees Nowhere Boy, he might gripe to the director, Sam Taylor-Wood, about why she did not show any footage of  John’s later years in New York?  This prompts my Sigmund Freud side to cry, “What do Beatle fans want?”

I know what this Beatle fan wants, and that’s to hear the music.  One devoted Beatle fan here in Gotham City is an infamous busker named Zack Heru.  Zack can frequently be seen indulging his love of the Beatles as he sings the band’s catalogue in the Fourteenth Street subway station tunnel between the Sixth and Seventh Avenue lines.  He has been doing this for at least ten years.  He told me that singing in this tunnel is his job.  I asked if he earns enough to support himself.  He answered, “I make enough to get a hotdog.”  I always enjoy hearing Zack play the Beatles music whenever I’m in that tunnel.