The Absences of “Yesterday” (a world without Beatles)

Suppose your ever-expanding Beatles music collection …
not only disappeared … but never existed at all

“What would have happened to your lives if there had been no Beatles?”
My mother-in-law posed that question earlier this year, with no inkling that the alternative reality feature film “Yesterday” was on the horizon.
She was not being dismissive, simply curious. Over the years she had met so many people in my professional and personal circles with strong Beatles threads that to her it was an obvious question. How might our lives have turned out without the Beatles? Would we have intertwined at all?
After all, I first met future writing partner Harry Castleman in college through his radio show about The Beatles. There are countless others in my life like that, easily identified with a quick check of the editorial listings in Beatlefan or the guest lists at the Fest for Beatles Fans.
Yet I thought she posed an intriguing puzzle. Was an interest in The Beatles the only thing that connected us? Or were they the hook that opened a door that might well have opened anyway, if not in quite the same way?

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“McCartney” takes on McCartney

In 1970, Paul McCartney launched his post Beatles career in earnest. That also began his ongoing challenge of competing with himself.

The McCartney album popped onto the “Billboard” record charts when the Beatles as a group were still very much a commanding presence.

Abbey Road had just left the top ten, and was still number twenty when McCartney’s album had its debut at number fourteen. The “Hey Jude” Beatles compilation was number three. The “Let It Be” single was still in the top five following its two weeks at number one.

The McCartney album did quickly top the charts, but was itself immediately succeeded there by the Let It Be Beatles album.

Promotionally all of this was perfect timing for Paul. Yet the context also set audience expectations. Despite the declaration that he was on his own apart from The Beatles, there were still Beatles-level expectations for Paul McCartney solo.

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The Beatles’ Grand Symphony: The White Album

img_3869 - copyWhat should have been cut?

What should have remained?

What would have made this the perfect one-disc Beatles release?

Those questions have long accompanied evaluations of The Beatles a.k.a. The White Album, originally issued as a numbered, two-disc 12-inch vinyl set. Continue reading

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Remembering Dinner with Dick Gregory

IMG_8092 - Copy

“Excuse me while I have my dinner.”

As I remember, with that observation Dick Gregory (on stage) reached for a glass of what we’d now call a smoothie and demonstrated how his form of solid food fasting was anything but symbolic. Continue reading

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Adam West: The Batman Who Mattered

Adam West saved Batman.

At least, for me.

As a young viewer and comic book fan, I saw the Adam West Batman series from episode one and was thrilled as one of my favorite heroes made the leap from the pulp pages to the TV screen.

But it did not take long to observe the mocking “camp” approach layered onto the program by the production team. Even as Batman beat the bad guys, “they” seemed to be laughing at the very idea of the caped crusader and comic book adventures in general. They telegraphed their attitude from the beginning when the first on-screen over-the-top “Pow!” graphics appeared.

IMG_7614As Batman turned into an instant smash of the mid-1960s, it was within this guise. There were instant books and countless other cash-ins –even an album of songs “inspired by Batman” from one-time surfer singing stars Jan and Dean.

Yet through it all there was … the man under the TV cowl.

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Micky Dolenz solo concert: Victory Lap and Bucket List

Micky Dolenz knows what makes a performance tick.

For his Chicago show at City Winery (June 13) Dolenz reached way back to his Monkees audition number (“Johnny B. Goode”) and carried on through to his latest tunes (“You Bring The Summer,” “She Makes Me Laugh,” and “Me & Magdalena”) from the 2016 Monkees reunion album Good Times.


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The Rolling Stones Exhibitionism: Five by Five


The more you know going into The Rolling Stones Exhibitionism the more you’ll take out of it. It’s at Chicago’s Navy Pier, with tickets on sale through July.

Here are a handful of items to spark your navigation, including a few obscura facts along the way.

ONE: The Tongue.

Professional cameras are not allowed at Exhibitionism but cell phones are, so snap away, especially at the positioned-for-selfies model of the Rolling Stones tongue logo. The lighting and projected patterns and colors repeatedly change, so you’ll have plenty of different backgrounds to choose from.


OBSCURA: The first Rolling Stones album with the tongue logo (designed by John Pasche) was the April 1971 release Sticky Fingers, cover design by Andy Warhol.

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Embracing The Beatles: Eight Days a Week


“When did The Beatles break up?

That question was whispered to me as the Rooftop Concert sequence from Ron Howard’s Eight Days A Week wrapped up.

The query came from a long time baby boomer college friend sitting next to me during a first weekend theatrical showing of the film.

I knew she wasn’t looking for the long discussion on the subject that was part of the 400+ pages of my The End of The Beatles? book. She had a straightforward information question and I quickly whispered “1970” and added, “but they were coming apart in 1969.”

That was all she was looking for.

In that case, “less” was more informative than going on and on and on.

It was also a reminder as to why, in all my Beatles writing and research, I’ve always looked beyond my immediate circle of well-schooled audiophiles, collectors, and chroniclers for big Beatles fans who bring a more general view of what made John, Paul, George, and Ringo “The World’s Most Popular Foursome” (as touted on the cover of the U.S. album Beatles VI, which contained the hit single “Eight Days a Week”).

They are the ones who understood perfectly why Ron Howard won the 2017 best music film Grammy for The Beatles: Eight Days a Week — the Touring Years.

The film gave them just enough of what they were looking for.

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Jacob D. Dumelle, P.E. – His Public Service and Pop Culture Presence

Jake Dumelle Actor Photo 4949bOak Park resident Jacob D. Dumelle, P.E., Lt. Cmdr. (Ret.) U.S. Navy, passed away Saturday, June 14, at age 89.

Jake Dumelle was a Navy veteran, environmental advocate, and a successful administrator at the federal and state levels of government, working professionally under both Democratic and Republican leaders.

In his spare time, Dumelle also built a resume of appearances as an extra in such signature pop culture films as Home Alone (1990) and The Fugitive (1993). For The Lake House (2006), he spoke his first on-screen dialogue, cast as a concerned patient examined by the doctor played by Sandra Bullock.

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Behind a Fabricated Beatles History

IMG_9303For stories about the Beatles, the line “It was 50 Years Ago Today” is destined to serve as a repeated hook for the better part of this decade.

Most immediately, it was, in fact, also the title of an international Beatles conference staged at Penn State Altoona to coincide with the anniversary of the group’s arrival in the U.S. and first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.

At that conference, Beatles scholar Mark Lewisohn presented a talk drawn from the research for his book Tune In, taking the story through 1962.

Appropriately, at another session of that same conference, I described a very different take on key events in Beatles history from 1962 as an example of “Inadvertent and Deliberate Deceptions.”

This one was most definitely a deliberate deception, offered as liner notes to an album.

Follow this link to read the behind-the-scenes details in a new Harry Castleman and Walter J. Podrazik essay: The Untold Story of the “Untold Story” of the Beatles first recordings.

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