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Monday, September 26, 2011

From Me to You b/w Thank You Girl

Before the album Please Please Me was even released, the Beatles were back in the studio on March 5th, 1963 to record their next single.  Manager Brian Epstein and producer George Martin now had a plan - the group would record and release two albums and a handful of singles in the space of a calendar year.  After all, the popularity of most recording artists tended to last only a couple of years, so it made sense to strike while the iron was hot.

And John and Paul were already hitting their stride as songwriters.  While all of their compositions were credited to both of them (at this point in their career the credit read McCartney-Lennon), a song was usually started by one of them with some assistance from the other to help finish it off.  But now they began writing, as John would later say, "eyeball to eyeball" for the distinct purpose of crafting a hit single.  The result in this instance was their most blatantly commercial single to date - in fact, probably the most blatantly commercial single of their entire career.  But that is not to say that the results were not absolutely wonderful.

From Me to You - The song opens with the nonsense syllables "da da da, da da dum dum da" and John's now-familiar harmonica.  This is pop, not rock - it's more laid-back than the opening burst of Please Please Me.  John and Paul then proceed to sing what is essentially an open love letter to their fans, who they realize are now predominantly teenage girls.  As their popularity has grown, their fan base has shifted from the tough Northern crowds to a broader, more generic audience, and they are quick to recognize this and capitalize on it.

Listen to how smoothly their voices flow from unison to harmony and back again.  They were big fans of the Everly Brothers, and they definitely shared an innate sense of harmony with that famous duo.  All of the little vocal tricks that they have learned so far are put into play here, including the occasional jump to falsetto.  And they introduce their trademark "woo" at the end of the bridge, which Paul will accentuate onstage with a shake of his moptop, eliciting a fresh barrage of screams from the crowd.

Thank You Girl - This song was written first and was originally intended to be the A-side of the single until they came up with From Me to You.  This, too, is a love letter to their female fans and it, too, opens with John's wailing harmonica.  The vocal tricks are here, as well.  The same formula is applied to both sides of this single.  The end of the song features a rare treat - after John and Paul sing their "oh oh oh"s, Ringo is given a couple chances to cut loose on his drum kit, sticking with his snare the first time and heading down to the toms for his second go-round.

Astute fans are aware that there were often different mixes for the British and American markets.  In this instance, we were treated to a few extra harmonica bits in the US, as you can hear on the Capitol Records release The Beatles' Second Album.  (I wonder how long it took the geniuses at Capitol to come up with that title.)  The flourish at the very end of the song is quite wonderful and definitely more exciting than the British release.  Why George Martin chose to leave it off of that version is a mystery. 

In England, this record was an indisputable number one, unlike Please Please Me, hitting the top spot on all of the charts.  Released hard on the heels of their first album, it catapulted them to stardom throughout their native land and set in motion a whirlwind of activity which would carry them for the rest of 1963 and, indeed, for the rest of their career.

The American story, as usual, is much more complicated.  Once again, Brian Epstein could only convince tiny VeeJay Records to release the single and, once again, with no promotion and little or no airplay, it went unnoticed.  In January of 1964, in the wake of I Want to Hold Your Hand, VeeJay repackaged From Me to You as the B-side to Please Please Me.  The song just missed the Top 40, hitting number forty-one.

Thank You Girl was repackaged as the B-side to Do You Want to Know a Secret and hit number thirty-five.  And, as I already mentioned, it appeared on The Beatles' Second Album.  But, curiously, From Me to You was never released by Capitol Records during the Beatles' career, the only major song to be thus treated.  In 1973, it finally appeared on the greatest hits package The Beatles 1962-1966, often called the "Red Album."  

Monday, September 19, 2011

PLEASE PLEASE ME - side two

Side two of the Beatles' debut album opens with the song that started it all, Love Me Do.  This is, in fact, the first release of the version with Andy White on drums and Ringo on tambourine.  The running order continues with the first B-side, P.S. I Love You.  Including the first two singles was a standard practice which helped insure sales of the album.

Baby It's You - Yet another girl group song co-written by another one of the Brill Building songwriters, none other than Burt Bacharach.  John takes the lead on this oft-covered number originally done by the Shirelles.  He once again gives an impassioned reading of someone else's material, with Paul and George supplying the silly "sha la la la la"s behind him.  On the wonderful Live at the BBC collection from 1994, you can hear host Lee Peters goofing around with the boys as they introduce this song.  This recording also received an overdub from George Martin - a celeste doubling Harrison's guitar line.

Do You Want to Know a Secret - George gets his second vocal outing on this number written by John.  It was his first to be recorded on this day, however, and you can hear the nervousness in his voice.  John said that his inspiration for this song came from Jiminy Cricket singing When You Wish Upon a Star in Walt Disney's Pinocchio.  It's not hard to imagine that tune as this one's antecedent.  And it had a special meaning for Lennon, as he had an early childhood memory of his mother Julia singing it to him.

The hidden beauty in this recording is McCartney's bass line.  He will gain a reputation in years to come as a virtuoso bass player, but you can hear an early indication of why he will attain that status right here.  

A year later, this song was released as a single on VeeJay Records in the US and rose all the way to number two, quite a coup for young George, who would not even get a song on a UK single until 1968.

A Taste of Honey - The most far-reaching selection on this record is this title song from a film based on a British play.  Yet from all accounts, audiences responded favorably when Paul would perform this tune in their live set.  His vocal in the bridge is the only one on the album to be double-tracked.

There's a Place - This little-known song is also one of the most highly-praised by those who write about the Beatles.  The composition is by Lennon and foreshadows by a few years his songs about states of mind.  Where is this place he can go?  "...it's my mind/And there's no time/When I'm alone."  In their essay Portrait of the Artist as a Rock and Roll Star, Robert Christgau and John Piccarella write, "...this early song typifies his urge to say a great deal...within the conventions of the rock and roll love song.  For the first time John makes a primitive style serve the ironic complexities of his own half-schooled modernism."

The song is also a delight to listen to.  From the opening plaintive wail of John's harmonica to the three-part harmonies in the fadeout, it is an aural celebration of the serene state of consciousness that John was always seeking but seldom found in his life.

Twist and Shout -  To close the album (and the "show"), George Martin wanted a real blockbuster, and he knew that this number by the Isley Brothers always brought the house down whenever the Beatles played it onstage.  He saved it for last on this day, but he knew he was playing with fire because John had a cold, and after almost ten hours of recording (and smoking cigarettes and drinking milk - I can imagine vocal teachers everywhere shuddering), he had next-to-nothing left.

Legend has it that Lennon stripped to the waist for this performance.  Employees from other parts of Abbey Road Studios wandered into the control room to see this band that had been recording all day long and was now into overtime.  Like most of the other songs on the album this is live, no overdubs, just four guys singing and playing their hearts out - and they got it in one take.  They did attempt a second one, but John's voice was truly gone.

This song was also released a year later in the US on Tollie Records, and it, too, went to number two.

The album was released in England on March 22nd, 1963.  It hit number one several weeks later and remained in that position for twenty-nine weeks.

In the US, manager Brian Epstein could once again only interest VeeJay Records.  They released it as Introducing the Beatles, after dropping the songs Please Please Me and Ask Me Why which they had already released as a single.  (The standard American album had only eleven or twelve tracks in contrast to the fourteen in Britain.)  And once again, with little or no marketing, the album went unnoticed.

In March of 1965, more than a year after the Fab Four conquered America, Capitol Records released eleven of these songs in a package titled The Early Beatles.  Two of the songs which they omitted, Misery and There's a Place, did not appear on the Capitol label until 1980 as part of a compilation titled Rarities.
 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

PLEASE PLEASE ME - side one

"There can scarcely have been 585 more productive minutes in the history of recorded music," states Mark Lewisohn in The Beatles: Recording Sessions.  The boys only had one day to lay down the necessary tracks to complete their first LP, and though they were still neophytes in the studio, they were consummate professionals as a live act, so George Martin went with their strength and was able to produce their first concept album.  Concept album?  Yes, indeed.  Sgt. Pepper was still four years in the future, but Martin conceived the idea of a live-in-the-studio album almost from the get-go.

Once the single Please Please Me jumped to the top of the charts, it was only natural for Parlophone to expect an album from their new stars.  This was a standard industry practice.  But most albums were predominantly filler material packaged around an artist's latest hit song for the sole purpose of making a quick buck.  The single was still the primary unit of commerce at the time.  Martin wanted a quality product, something that would stand out in the marketplace.  He knew that the Beatles had a dynamic stage act culled from years of almost non-stop performing in the red-light district of Hamburg and the highly competitive club scene in Liverpool.  If he could capture that on tape, it would be the equivalent of lightning in a bottle.

He had actually wanted to record the Beatles performing live in the Cavern Club, but a trip to Liverpool to witness one of their lunchtime gigs in the dark, sweaty cellar convinced him otherwise.  The only alternative was to bring them back down to London to play a live set in the studio, albeit without an audience.  But manager Brain Epstein had them playing a different venue every night, constantly criss-crossing the country as their fame began to grow.  They had one off date - February 11th, 1963.  That would have to do.  Since the normal British LP at the time consisted of fourteen songs, and since the first two singles were to be part of the package, they would only have to record ten songs.

Ten songs!  This was considered to be a doable task.  The time allotted for this was three three-hour sessions between 10am and 10pm.  But even playing live with minimal overdubbing, it takes time to get the right sound and the right performance for each individual number, so after only working on two songs during the first three-hour block, the Beatles astonished Martin and his staff by remaining behind in the studio and rehearsing right through their lunch break.  And though the pace picked up after this, the day's work did not conclude until 10:45pm, already an unthinkable break of protocol at the Abbey Road Studios.  But George Martin got what he wanted - as close a portrait of the group as you could get at the time before they began to change all the rules of the recording business.

The sequence of songs on the album was of vital importance to Martin, and not just the overall sequence, but the sequence of each side, as well.  We're not talking CDs or downloads here.  When you put a piece of vinyl on a turntable, the idea was that you listened to the entire side from start to finish, and for George Martin the flow from song to song was critical.  Again, this was not the usual way of thinking in 1963.

I Saw Her Standing There -  Martin gives us the feel of a live show right from the top with Paul's "One, two, three, faw!"  count-in, edited from take 9 onto take 1, which, as it turned out, was the best.  The band kicks in and delivers Paul's first great rocker.  By the time he sings the second line "And you know/what I mean," we know that he means business - and this record is going to be fun.  Just before the instrumental break, he lets out a wild scream, something he had already been doing for years.  You can hear him screaming throughout several of the songs they recorded as a backing band for Tony Sheridan in Hamburg.  It's not forced or affected in any way - he simply can't help himself.  He loves playing this music.

George Harrison then turns in his first guitar solo on an official Beatles' record and acquits himself admirably.  He was still learning at this point in his life, and his attempts were often clumsy or workmanlike, but he is clearly caught up in the excitement of the day and he delivers.

The fact that take 1 was the best is very telling.  While the Beatles were unparallelled at delivering the same performance night after night, they had not yet developed the ability to do so take after take, but this, too, was a skill that they would soon master.  No other song in their repertoire could have opened the album so effectively.

Misery - In his book Beatlesongs, William J. Dowlding attempts to give a definitive breakdown of the Lennon-McCartney songwriting partnership, trying to determine from numerous sources just how much each of them contributed to each song.  For Misery, he figures that the song is 60% Lennon and 40% McCartney (he notates this as .6 and .4, the figure 1.00 representing a total song).  John and Paul had only recently written this tune for singer Helen Shapiro, who was on tour with them.  Her people rejected it, so they decided to record it themselves.  Very soon, other acts would be clamoring for material from the rapidly maturing tunesmiths.

Despite the ominous title, the song is a lightweight pop number, which they sing as a duet, tongues planted firmly in cheeks.  By the fadeout, John is singing falsetto "la la la"s, giving an indication of just how seriously they take this song.  On February 20th, George Martin added a simple piano part, making this one of the few songs on the album to receive an overdub.  It's a brisk little piece which serves as a nice transition between the opening rocker and the first slow number.

Anna (Go to Him) - While John and Paul were adamant about recording only their own compositions as singles, they had no such compunctions when it came to making this album.  They were, after all, taping their stage act, and like most bands, their act was chock-full of cover versions of other people's songs.  The Liverpool sailors brought in new singles from the US all the time, and all of the local bands fed upon the influx of fresh material.  One of John's favorites was this torch song by an obscure American rocker named Arthur Alexander.  While he had been flip with his own material only seconds ago on the album, he sings this song (and I will use this expression many times in describing Lennon's singing) as if his life depended on it.  It's the first time we hear such passion from him, and, as we will later learn, he is only scratching the surface here.  A wonderful performance of a little-known song.

Chains - One of the reasons John and Paul wanted to be songwriters in the first place was because of the great tunesmiths from New York's famed Brill Building, including the great songwriting duo Goffin and King.  The Beatles pay homage to their heroes by recording this number, originally done by a girl group called the Cookies.  And though much of the song is sung in three-part harmony, the solo spotlight is focused for the first time on George.  This was an important facet of their stage act, especially during the marathon sets they had to perform every night in Hamburg.  No one singer was forced to carry the load all night long.  They took turns in front of the microphone, and the material varied according to their personal tastes.

This fact was not lost on George Martin.  When deciding whether or not to take a chance on this unknown group, he had wrestled with the problem of picking a frontman.  But he wisely chose not to tinker with their chemistry.  They were a group.  Though John and Paul took turns dominating the lead vocals, George always got his turn, as well.

Boys - And then there was Ringo.  He had a large following in Liverpool, too, from his days with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes.  He had to have his turn at the microphone, as well.  And, back to back, we get songs from girl groups, this time the Shirelles.  This song had been the B-side of their smash hit Will You Love Me Tomorrow?  The Beatles had an unabashed love of these songs.  They performed many of them in their stage act and would record more than a few of them.  Ringo sings this one with abandon with some wild backing vocals from John and Paul. 

And so, only five songs into the album, we have been introduced to all four members of the group.  Their individual personalities have been allowed to shine through and we have already learned that this group is unlike any other.  The London-based groups developing at the same time, such as the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds and the Who, all came from a background that was primarily centered around rhythm and blues.  But the Liverpool groups had a much broader knowledge of pop music in general thanks to the local sailors and the constant flow of singles from America.  And nobody had a greater knowledge or love of this material than the Fab Four.  As a result, they could sound like a different band on almost every track.  By resisting the urge to homogenize them, George Martin opened them up to limitless possibilities.

Side one concludes with Ask Me Why and Please Please Me, the B and A-sides of the recent single, which I have already covered in my previous entry.  Closing side one with the title song  is a masterstroke - most producers would have opened the album with it.  But Martin leaves the listener both highly satisfied and hungry for more, eager to flip over the record.  I hope you feel the same way and will join me next time for side two.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Please Please Me b/w Ask Me Why


"Gentlemen, you've just made your first number one record."  So said producer George Martin after the Beatles recorded Please Please Me on November 26th, 1962.  But was his prediction correct?  More on that later.

First, we must go back to September 11th, 1962 and the session which produced their first single.  After recording both Love Me Do and P.S. I Love You, there was still some time left over.  And so, with Andy White still sitting behind the drum kit, they set about recording John Lennon's composition Please Please Me.  When time expired, George Martin knew that they hadn't gotten it right yet, but according to Mark Lewisohn in The Beatles: Recording Sessions he told his assistant Ron Richards that "it's too good a song to just throw away.  We'll leave it for another time."

Most accounts mention that the song was rather slow and bluesy when first demoed for George Martin, but as you can hear on Anthology 1, the pace is already brisk on this date with White driving things along nicely.  The only major difference is that George Harrison is playing the distinctive riff on guitar.  He would have a less prominent role on the finished product.

When the Beatles returned to the studio in November, Ringo was back on drums, the question of his competence apparently resolved.  And John was playing the opening riff on harmonica, although this had to be overdubbed after the basic track was recorded.  The song is exciting from the opening moment.  This is not the laid-back skiffle of Love Me Do.  There is an immediate sense of urgency and exuberance which would characterize most of the group's music over the next few years.  Their trademark harmonies are becoming recognizable, as well, with Paul singing the high part except for the rare moments when John simply can't resist jumping up for a falsetto note.  The entire performance clocks in at just two minutes, leaving both band and listeners breathless.

The composition is also a marked improvement over Love Me Do.  The importance of this cannot be overstressed.  From this point on, George Martin will never again question the quality of the material they will present to him for singles or dare to suggest that they record a song by anyone else.  Lennon and McCartney established themselves as songwriters, one of their self-professed goals, right from the start.  And, by doing so, and by being so damned good at it, they set the first of many new standards for the industry.  It would soon be expected that all new groups be capable of providing their own material, which had not been the norm before.

The breadth of their songwriting ability is evident on the B-side, John's Ask Me Why.  For me, this song is one of the group's many hidden gems.  It's corny, old-fashioned and quite uncharacteristic for the angry young Lennon.  And it is hard to imagine John, Paul and George singing lines like "I love you-woo-woo-woo-woo" and "Now you're mi-yi-yi-yi-yine" with straight faces, but there is such a genuine warmth to the whole thing that they somehow manage to pull it off. 

But to return to my original question:  was George Martin's prediction correct?  Did Please Please Me hit number one?  Well, yes and no.  Unlike the United States, the UK did not have a single chart like Billboard.  There were, in fact, several charts at the time and the song did go to number one on all of them - except one.  On the Record Retailer, it peaked at number two.  If you own the collection "1" released in the year 2000, you know that it contains 27 songs by the Beatles that hit number one.  Please Please Me is not among them.  That is because the Record Retailer was used as the official source for that collection instead of the New Musical Express or Melody Maker, only two of the other charts where the record did go to the top spot.  To me, this is a grievous omission.

And how did it fare in the US?  After exhausting all other options, manager Brain Epstein was finally able to convince a small Chicago-based label called VeeJay Records to release the single, but with no marketing budget and practically no airplay, the Beatles' initial US record went virtually unnoticed.  A year later, in the wake of I Want To Hold Your Hand, VeeJay rereleased the song backed with From Me To You and it went to number two on the Billboard chart.

So, technically, no, it was not a true number one.  But it will always be a number one in my eyes.






Sunday, September 4, 2011

Love Me Do b/w P.S. I Love You

First day in the studio - September 4, 1962
To paraphrase Tim Riley in his book Tell Me Why, it's difficult to imagine a more inauspicious debut than Love Me Do.  I daresay that nobody hearing this song for the first time in October of 1962 could have predicted that in less than a year these four young men would be the biggest act in the world.  John Lennon's Aunt Mimi, never one to mince words, flatly told him: "If you think you're going to make your fortune with that, you've got another think coming."

And yet, it is easy to imagine that nothing else on the radio sounded remotely like it.  The recording has a raw, stripped-down, bluesy feel to it, with John wailing away on his harmonica.  The lyrics are simple bordering on simplistic.  Rock and roll was not yet ten years old at this point, but it had already lost its edge.  The great early rockers who were the Beatles' heroes had given way to an array of slickly-produced teen crooners.  Though this song is not strictly rock and roll (the influence is more British skiffle than American R&B), the overall sound hearkens back to early rock more than anything else released at the time.  The Beatles were true to their root sources.

They were, however, lucky to get it recorded and released at all.  When they had auditioned for EMI's Parlophone label back on June 6th,  this was the song that made engineer Norman Smith perk up and send for producer George Martin, who had set up the session, but was not initially present.  It was not the Beatles' music that got them a recording contract on that day.  Martin and the staff were won over by their collective sense of humor and engaging personalities - with one exception.  Pete Best's sullen demeanor and uneven drumming did not serve him well in the producer's eyes, and manager Brian Epstein was duly informed of Martin's reservations.

When the group returned to the London studio on September 4th, Ringo Starr was behind the drum kit and George Harrison was sporting a black eye, courtesy of a scuffle with some unhappy Pete Best fans back in Liverpool.  The Beatles set about recording two songs for their debut disc on this day, the first being How Do You Do It, a slick pop number which Martin had provided for them.  This was standard practice at the time.  It was not the norm for recording artists, particularly new, untested ones, to write their own material.  And Martin, quite frankly, was not very impressed by what they had presented to him thus far. 

The Beatles do a creditable job on How Do You Do It - you can hear it on Anthology 1.  It's light, perky and perfectly harmless.  It would have blended in nicely with the music of the teen crooners I mentioned above.  And they probably would have had a very different career as a result.

But Lennon and McCartney were insistent on recording their own material, and so, after completing the first song, they launched into Love Me Do.  As simple as the song is, it took fifteen takes before it was done to everyone's satisfaction.

Well, not exactly everyone's.  Listening to the finished product after the session, George Martin was not happy with the result, but he was still willing to give the song a chance, so he set up another session a week later.  The Beatles returned to London on September 11th for another go at it.

To poor Ringo's chagrin, Martin had brought in a session drummer named Andy White to play with the group.  Apparently, Martin had already decided to shelve How Do You Do It by this point, because the first order of work on this day was to record another Lennon-McCartney number called P.S. I Love You.  White's work on this number is quite distinct from Ringo's style.  Listen to the tap, tap, taptaptap of his drumsticks along the rim of his snare.  The sound is filled out by Ringo on maracas.  The song itself has a brisk, pop feel to it.  It, too, would have made a fine A-side, but it would have given the public a very different perception of who the Beatles were right off the top.  In the end, it wound up being the B-side of the single.

Now, it was time to re-record Love Me Do.  It took eighteen takes on this day, and to my ears at least, Andy White's drumming is not significantly different from what Ringo had done a week earlier.  The tempo is the tiniest bit faster, but the performances by Paul, John and George are practically identical to the original recording.  Indeed, the only way most people can distinguish one version from the other is by the fact that Ringo plays tambourine on version two.

Ultimately, George Martin himself must have realized that the differences were minimal, because he chose the September 4th version for the single.  However, when the song was added to their first album, he opted for the Andy White version.

And how did the single fare in the charts?  It peaked at number 17 in the UK, not a bad showing for a debut by a group from up north that most Britons had never heard of before.  The fact that Brian Epstein bought up 10,000 copies for his NEMS record shop in Liverpool didn't hurt matters, either.

Epstein could not find an American label willing to take a chance on an unknown act from England, not even EMI-owned Capitol Records.  No British act had ever done well in the States before and there was no reason to believe that that was about to change.  The songs were released several months later with no fanfare on the VeeJay album Introducing the Beatles, which promptly went nowhere.

A year and a half after the original recording sessions, when the Beatles had finally hit it big in America, the single was released on Tollie Records.  It must have already sounded quaint and unsophisticated when compared to their most recent release Can't Buy Me Love.  But so insatiable was the appetite of the American public for anything by the Fab Four that it achieved the feat it had failed to do in the UK - it went to #1.  It was, in fact, already the fourth #1 for the Beatles in the US.

Not too shabby, that.






Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Splendid Time Is Guaranteed For All

The Studio Years 1967-1970 at the Bridgewater Public Library

 


Welcome to my blog dedicated to the music of the Beatles.  At the toppermost of the poppermost, I feel compelled to justify my reasons for adding to what is already a massive array of information about the Fab Four.  It came about in this manner:

A few years ago, while I was experiencing one of the lulls which occur to all actors at one time or another, my wife Jane asked me if I would be interested in putting together a program which I could market to local schools, libraries and community groups.  She naturally assumed that I would come up with something related to acting and the theater, but I surprised her by admitting that I had always wanted to do a lecture based on the work of my greatest heroes - the Beatles.  She knew my passion for the subject and she quickly set about learning the guidelines for applying to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for the necessary grants.

My task was to actually begin putting together a presentation which would be both entertaining and informative for both the casual fan and the avid enthusiasts like myself.  I discovered early on that the subject was simply too broad to cover in one evening session, so I divided my look at their recording career into two separate presentations - The Beatlemania Years 1962-1966 and The Studio Years 1967-1970.  Each program would run about an hour and fifteen minutes and would include a number of musical selections to illustrate my tracing of their development as recording artists.

I have done each program a number of times now and have gotten wonderful feedback from fans of all ages.  But I still know that I am only skimming the surface of the subject as I briefly touch on the milestones of the Beatles' incredible whirlwind career.  There are so many fascinating details which I simply do not have enough time to delve into as I endeavor to keep the presentation brisk and accessible.

Hence, this blog.  This forum will allow me to tell each story at my own pace and, hopefully, maintain the interest of anyone who stumbles upon it.  My plan at the outset is to journey through the entire official Beatles catalog, giving my take on each song they recorded and released between 1962 and 1970.  To avoid any possible copyright infringement, I will not be providing a download of any of the songs.  They are all out there in multiple formats, and you can easily find them, I am sure. 

Now, I am not a musicologist, nor do I pretend to be one.  I am merely a fan, albeit one who has almost obsessively devoured practically every book about the Fab Four that has come out in the past forty-plus years.  I am less interested in the tell-all books (like Albert Goldman's spiteful The Lives of John Lennon) and much more interested in the books that talk about the music (like Tim Riley's Tell Me Why and Mark Lewisohn's indispensable The Beatles:  Recording Sessions), which is the reason I fell in love with the group in the first place.  This will be reflected in my approach.  I will only refer to events and personalities if they directly relate to the recordings.

But most importantly, I have listened to the music all of my life.  I own almost all of the original vinyl - records now so scratched and worn that they would be of no value to serious collectors, but to me they are priceless.  I also possess the entire catalog on CD, and I even have many of their post-career compilations on cassette, as well as numerous bootlegs sent to me by friends and family.  I believe that my musical taste is broad overall, embracing not just rock, but also blues, jazz, classical and Broadway show tunes.  But, for me, the work of the Beatles is the greatest and most astonishing output in recording history.  No one else, not Sinatra, not Elvis, not Michael Jackson, has even come close.

Tim Riley puts it best.  I use this quote in both of my presentations.

"...as a microcosm of the rock experience, nothing equals the Beatles catalogue: it integrates the best of what came before and signals the array of styles that would soon follow.  They may not be responsible for everything, but nearly everything that comes after would be impossible without them."
                                                                                                                     Tell Me Why, p. 11

I hope you will enjoy the show.