JAIMIE VERNON – 50 YEAR CONFLUENCE

72971_10151385368241355_2050420389_nAs the media has been very cognizant of pointing out all week, Sunday, February 9th marks the 50th Anniversary of the night the Beatles stepped on stage at the Ed Sullivan Theater in Manhattan and destroyed America – one sobbing, hormone filled teenager at a time. It was a typical scenario that had become de rigueur to Rock and Roll dating back to the Elvis Presley hip swivel and even Frank Sinatra simmering blue-eyed allure before him. The media and parents alike were quick to write these four Liverpool lads off as yet another passing adolescent fad. But they were so wrong.


Beatles_Zsa ZsaThis time it was different. These weren’t the Bobby-boppers (Rydell, Darren, Curtola). This tidal wave wasn’t just about wet panties and rebels with hard-ons. This was a counter-culture invasion of North America ripe with changes in hairstyles, clothing and especially music. Post-1964 pop music is rife with the direct influence of the Fabs – many of the musicians we now hold in high esteem strapped on a guitar 10 minutes after that last resounding chord of “I Want To Hold Your Hand” faded into the night. Within weeks bands were being formed and rock and roll began transforming before The Beatles had left the US and back to their already hectic touring lives – over-turning pop culture one country at a time like the Romans before them; Altering everything except the colour of the sky and the grass below them (though, in time, the Beatles’ embrace of psychedelics would have an effect on that too).

Admittedly I did not experience the Beatles in real-time. I was alive during their existence but too young to appreciate anything they did. However, I do have a very faint memory of hearing “Ticket To Ride” on the car radio. It certainly couldn’t have been while it was on the charts ‘cause that would mean I was 2 years old. I do, however, clearly recall hearing “Hey Jude” a LOT on the radio – I would have been 5 ½.
The Beatle bug hit me in 1976.

Hollywood BowlThe Fab Four’s deal with Capitol Records in North America was set to expire and the label negotiated a renewal that included a bigger commitment to repackaging their catalogue and to exploiting the vaults. It would be another year before the new Beatlemania would strike with Live At The Hollywood Bowl, and ‘Rarities’. But it was 1976’s ‘Rock And Roll Music’ – on the heels of McCartney’s re-domination of the charts with “Let ‘Em In” and “Silly Love Songs” – that made Baby Boomers start buying records by their heroes again.  Who’d have believed that 10 years after its initial release on ‘Revolver’  the song “Got To Get You into My Life” would be cracking the charts for the first time ever?

RnRMusicI received the gatefold 2LP Rock And Roll Music for my 13th birthday that year. It glistened from its tinfoil sheen which I eventually dropped and scratched on the front patio step while trying to impress the girl next door. To this day “Helter Skelter” skips at the “do-you-don’t-you-want-me-to-love you” part (which is what I was trying to ask that girl next door). The cover was decked out with artwork that seemed to suggest that the Beatles were 1950s sensations: wing-tipped Cadillacs, jukeboxes and soda fountains – all symbols of an innocent era that died with the assassination of JFK in 1963 – all memorable historical hallmarks prior to the Beatles getting off that airplane in New York in February of 1964. The anachronism of those images was lost on the art department at Capitol Records, it seems – John Lennon would later write a scathing letter to Capitol condemning them for misrepresenting the band’s image. And it’s still debatable whether Capitol’s decision to call the album ‘Rock And Roll Music’ at the same time as another former act, The Beach Boys, released a remake of the Chuck Berry song that the album was named after – in the same summer – was a deliberate F-U to the band, an unfortunate accident, or an ill-conceived marketing strategy (I pick the latter).

Early BeatlesRebranding the Beatles legacy of Top 40 hits as ’50s-styled “Rock And Roll” seems incredulous now. They were once a teen pop act and then grew into a serious songwriting pop entity. They stopped being a tried-and-true Bill Haley & The Comets type R’n’R band the minute they left the hellfire Star Club in Germany and Brian Epstein stuck them in charcoal grey collarless jackets and stove-pipe pants. Even a non-savvy 13 year-old like me could see that.

But the brilliance of picking the band’s ‘rockers’ as a compilation was second to none save for the inclusion of “Helter Skelter” which was not so much a rock song as a pre-cursor to heavy metal. Pitting McCartney’s Little Richard impressions against John Lennon’s Gene Vincent bravado was the first sign that the two Fabs had more in common than previously believed. And the importance of Ringo’s contribution was immediately re-written with a choice selection of cover tunes – “Boys”, “Matchbox”, et al  – otherwise relegated to reverb soaked album filler on the American repackaged versions of Beatles albums post-1964. George, alas, still received short-shrift as he had during his entire tenure with the band.

Beatles_collageNeedless to say, the album sparked an interest for me in the Beatles that I can truly call obsessive. Christmas of ’76 became a hunt for all things Fab. With the non-hits from that album as a primer, I decided to go after the hits. I finally snagged the Red and the Blue albums and spun them until the grooves turned white.

introducing-the-beatlesThe entire catalog was acquired using money I earned from a weekly paper route delivering the ‘Scarborough Mirror’ newspaper. One of my great est regrets was going to the Scarborough Town Centre’s old Music World record store, buying the Vee Jay Records issue of ‘Introducing the Beatles’ without getting it home and discovering the track list didn’t match the artwork. I returned it the next day under the presumption that it was a bootleg. Turns out it was a collectible misprint.

In my youthful enthusiasm I studied every Beatle and Beatles related album lyric and production credit until I’d committed it to memory. Following the release of George Harrison’s ’33 1/3’ LP and Ringo Starr’s ‘Ringo’s Rotogravure’ LP in 1976 I had noticed that the records were both distributed in Canada through WEA – which was located at 810 Birchmount Avenue, a mere bicycle 203_12312370218_769_nride from my house –           so I wrote them a letter asking for any and all promo material about the ex-Beatles and hand delivered the letter to the receptionist at WEA. In a few weeks I received a large envelope in the mail with full promo packages for each album. Alas, I would give those items to Goddo’s Greg Godovitz to add to his Beatle memorabilia collection in 2001. Sigh. Anyway….

Klaatu_1977Then something happened in early 1977 akin to a Superman/Bizarro World comic book crossover. Radio began playing a track called “Sub-Rosa Subway” by an act called Klaatu. As DJs were quick to point out, the song sounded very much like The Beatles. And as Steve Smith of The Rhode Island Journal in the USA had postulated following the band’s debut album ‘3:47 EST’ released to NO fanfare in September 1976 – there was a good case to believe that maybe the Beatles, who were hot again, might have been building up to a secret reunion. After all, Capitol had failed to re-sign any of the band members to new solo works except Paul McCartney that year. Lennon had done the ‘Rock & Roll’ album under duress in 1975 and eventually let his contract lapse into a life of blissful retirement until 1980; Harrison had launched his own Dark Horse Records while Ringo went to Atlantic Records – both via WEA.

Klaatu were not The Beatles (as I so clearly discovered when I worked with the band for a decade in the 2000’s). But clearly Beatles-influenced acts were now starting to intersect my own pop music tastes. As I grew my record collection I also began taking an interest in guitar. By 1978 I was taking guitar lessons but always frustrated that I couldn’t just learn the songs I wanted to. I soon bought ‘The Beatles Complete – Easy Guitar’ book and began teaching myself. I quit lessons and never turned back. Though my first band was a punk act, I never lost my pop sensibility. It lies at the root of everything I’ve written and recorded over the years in bands and as a solo artist. I owe it to the Beatles – and even to the Beatles influenced acts that came after them. Here are some that have impacted me…

Klaatu_-_HopeKLAATU
Let’s get to the elephant in the room right away shall we? They have Beatle-isms on all five studio albums. Fans who listen deeper can identify the Giles & Giles, King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Moody Blues, Turtles, Grassroots, Hendrix and other influences. But for those looking for the ‘a-ha’ Beatle moments “Sub-Rosa Subway” was always the obvious choice. So might I, instead, direct you to Exhibit B – the title track off their sophomore release (released AFTER the Beatle rumour had blown up)? If you’re gonna go Beatle influence do it with massive production. The “Because” harmonies are spectacular and the Harrison slide guitarisms a tasty homage:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzifM9squYc

CHEAP TRICK
1917_60106736354_9525_nThe band has made no bones about their love of The Beatles. They do an awesome “Day Tripper” and their remake of “Magical Mystery Tour” popped up on a ‘hits’ collection many years ago. In the last few years they’ve been recreating “Sgt. Pepper” live. They even worked with producer Sir George Martin on the ‘All Shook Up’ album. Singer Robin Zander does his best shredding McCartney on the song “Stop This Game” [BTW – the opening note of the song is a sample of the FINAL note of ‘A Day In the Life’]: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OyCfp_Zz5Ek

ThreatlesELO
Jeff Lynne’s Electric Light Orchestra was a force unto itself. But Lynne has never been able to hide his Beatle influence (hell, he’d go on to work with Harrison in the Traveling Dingleberrys and produce the last, ever Beatle songs “Free As A Bird” and “Real Love”) – using post-Pepper Beatle orchestration as a launch pad for the most basic of 4 minute pop tunes. Lennon was a fan saying that ELO would have been a natural evolution for the Beatles (or some such apocryphal revisionism). Most of ELO’s late period contains variations of many Beatle themes but I always found “One Summer Dream” to be very Beatlesque: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TbWBKcrMXL4

POLYPHONIC SPREE
Considered more chamber pop (think “Eleanor Rigby” or “Yesterday”) than Sunshine Pop but clearly swimming in the Beatles bird bath. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wN3rGIUx2ew

JELLYFISH
Jellyfish_BellybuttonA band that has made its own path of influence in pop circles, the short-lived Jellyfish lit the 1990s up with a return to straight up progressive pop influence-checking not just The Beatles, but Queen and even Cheap Trick. Witness their track “That Is Why” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQTj_2mMfSA

MICHEL PAGLIARO
Growing up in Montreal in an era of the Yeh Yeh Bands (French language acts singing Beatles songs phonetically), Pagliaro learned his songwriting craft as a devout disciple of the Fabs. “Loving You Ain’t Easy” is the obvious pick (though, admittedly it owes more to the Beatles junior A-team Badfinger) but “Some Sing, Some Dance” – co-produced by ex-Brit Terry Brown – shows more of The Beatles ‘brand’ in the various time changes and bass lines. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pqsAgtXNlZ0

THE WACKERS
Wackers Montreal Star CroppedBob Segarini and Randy Bishop swam in the Kool-Aid. And were eminently respectful of all things Beatle. Their covers of Beatle classics were a highlight of The Wackers’ energetic and legendary live sets. On “I Hardly Know Her Name” they channel the 1965 Beatle sound to perfection: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I-jkDnLSM1Y

TEARS FOR FEARS
The British duo were lambasted with their song “Sowing the Seeds of Love” for out-Beatling Harrison only 15 minutes after his own Beatle-homage “When We Was Fab” blasted up the charts. The fallout effectively had them rethink their approach and broke up the act. Roland Orzabal carried on under the TFF banner and continued as he had been. Writing an even better Beatle-esque track called “New Star”:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GEubV4kkBPw

1917_60127911354_8531_nJAIMIE VERNON
Yeah. Gotta toot my own horn here. Cause this blog is about me after all. And I’ve played The Cavern Club and The Cavern Pub across the street (twice) :- ) “Dear Chum” was actually designed as an homage to ELO. But that means it’s influenced by The Beatles in the end now doesn’t it? The song is a lament to Toronto’s CHUM-AM – the station that broke the Beatles in Canada in 1963. Nearly 6 months before they invaded America. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJ2CFH9oaW4

And if you love Beatle cover tunes themselves might I suggest digging into the new digital download series ‘It Was 50 Years Ago Today: A Tribute To the Beatles.

http://bullseyecanada.bandcamp.com/album/it-was-50-years-ago-today-a-tribute-to-the-beatles-vol-1
http://bullseyecanada.bandcamp.com/album/it-was-50-years-ago-today-a-tribute-to-the-beatles-vol-2

And now:
http://bullseyecanada.bandcamp.com/album/it-was-50-years-ago-today-a-tribute-to-the-beatles-vol-3

Send your CDs for review to this NEW address: Jaimie Vernon, 4003 Ellesmere Road, Toronto, ON M1C 1J3 CANADA

=JV=

Jaimie’s column appears every Saturday.

Contact us at: dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS_ButtonJaimie “Captain CanCon” Vernon has been president of the on again/off-again Bullseye Records of Canada since 1985. He wrote and published Great White Noise magazine in the ‘90s, has been a musician for 35 years, and recently discovered he’s been happily married for 17 of those years. He is also the author of the Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia and a collection of his most popular ‘Don’t Believe A Word I Say’ columns called ‘Life’s A Canadian…BLOG’ both of which are available at Amazon.com or http://www.bullseyecanada.com

5 Responses to “JAIMIE VERNON – 50 YEAR CONFLUENCE”

  1. Think I’ll dig out my Klaatu and Rock and Roll Music LP’s…for a peek. 🙂

  2. Nice read. A couple of things I’d like to add.

    Those of us who bought The Beatles LPs as they came out, sniffed at those compilations. However, the anachronistic cover of Rock ‘n’ Roll is not so hard to fathom, from the Mad Men, out-of-touch, PR perspective of the day: 1973 saw the release of American Graffiti and Happy Days debuted in 1974.

    “Just slap some cars with fins and a picture of Marilyn Monroe on it. It’ll sell like hot cakes even if we put it in a plain brown cover.”

  3. Jim Chisholm Says:

    My daughter turned 15 last week and we finally got together to celebrate yesterday on my 61st . . . which means I turned 11 on the life changing weekend when we where HIT by The Beatles. So I gave my girl a phonograph player for her birthday, which made her gasp in wonder and I gave her a crate of vinyl from my collection, which included a copy of The Beatles Twist And Shout ( The first record I ever had.) The first record that Maryah listened to on her new phono was Abbey Road. How perfect a transition this turned out to be!

    Thanks for sharing your fab enthusiasm Jaimie.

  4. A amazing good article Jaimie. My admiration of the Beatles reaslly hit me when I saw the band 1964 the tribute which made me love the band even more and I’ll always love the early stuff up to the White album.

  5. Another excellent article, Jaimie.
    You might find my Beatles tributs to be of some interest:
    THE HAMBURG YEARS
    http://www.hillmanweb.com/BEATLES
    POST-HAMBURG YEARS
    http://www.hillmanweb.com/beatles4

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: