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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