Doug Thompson: “WE LOVE YOU BEATLES, OH YES WE DO. WE LOVE THE BEATLES AND WE’LL BE TRUE. WHEN YOU’RE NOT NEAR TO US, WE’RE BLUE. OH BEATLES WE LOVE YOU, YEAH, YEAH, YEAH, YEEEAAAAHHHH!”

Doug Thompson headshotThis month’s title comes from a 1964 medium-sized chart hit (it climbed to # 39 on Billboards’ Hot 100), “We Love You Beatles” by The Carefrees, a British female trio also known as The Vernons Girls (see the rest of that story below).  It was an adaptation of “We Love You Conrad” from the Broadway musical (and later movie), “Bye, Bye Birdie”.  It was one of many Beatle novelty songs that hit the airwaves and the record stores once Beatlemania firmly established itself in North America starting in February of ’64.  Quite a few of these novelty songs were played on the radio, even if their life was brief (this was near the end of the novelty record era), but most of them didn’t make even a dent on Billboard, Cashbox or Record World charts.

Here’s a bit of background on a couple of them.

Lennon and spectorLegendary record producer Phil Spector (now serving a sentence of 19 years-to-life for the second degree murder conviction of actress Lana Clarkson), had been on the same plane that brought The Beatles to New York from London on February 7th, 1964.  Phil later took on the task of producing the Beatles 1970 released album “Let It Be”, when no one, and I mean absolutely no one (including long time producer George Martin or any of The Beatles themselves), wanted anything to do with the massive amount of audio tape recorded over many months.  In John Lennon’s 1971 interview with Rolling Stone Magazine, he said, “[Phil] was given the shittiest load of badly recorded shit with a lousy feeling to it ever, and he made something of it.  When I heard it, I didn’t puke.”

Phil’s production techniques on “Let It Be” had always irked Paul McCartney and eventually in 2003, he had all of the ‘Spector touches’ (strings, female choirs, etc) stripped off and EMI re-released it as “Let it Be… Naked”.

After “Let It Be”, Spector worked on several singles and albums with John Lennon as well as George Harrison’s 1970 # 1 three record set, “All Things Must Pass”.  But back in March of ’64, Bonnie Jo MasonPhil tried to cash in early on The Beatles phenomenon with a young singer he called Bonnie Jo Mason (you know her better today as Cher).  Although he’s listed as a co-writer on the 45 single, “Ringo, I Love You” and the song is published by Spectors’ Mother Bertha Music, Phil’s name does not appear anywhere on the record label as producer and it certainly isn’t his usual ‘Wall of Sound’ production style, so it is possible that he didn’t produce it.  He also didn’t release it on his popular Philles label, but rather used the Annette label instead (named for his first wife).  The flip side, “Beatle Blues” was a short instrumental piece of fluff, which was Phil’s way of ensuring that radio DJ’s didn’t flip the record over and play the side Phil DIDN’T want aired.

Then there was “The Beatles Flying Saucer” by Ed Solomon with someone doing a decent impression of CBS TV’s Ed Sullivan).  This was a Dickie Goodman style ‘break-in’ novelty record, featuring song snippets from various hits of the day including “Surfin’ Bird”, “Louie Louie”, “I Want To Hold Your Hand” and “She Loves You” as answers to a mock Beatles press conference.  Needless to say, some radio stations may have played this for its novelty value, but it certainly didn’t make the national charts.

While KRLA Los Angeles DJ  Casey Kasem received a letter from a 12 year-old Beatles fan named Elaina, who shared her (then) recent experience of meeting George Harrison at The Beatles concert at the Cow Palace.  Casey read the letter on the air while playing an instrumental version of “And I Love Her” in the background.  It proved so popular that Casey recorded a new version for Warner Brothers Records and it was released as the 45rpm single, “A Letter From Elaina”.

ShaggyIt only made it to # 103 on Billboard Magazine’s ‘Bubbling Under’ chart, but the listener letter became a regular feature on Casey’s local LA radio show.  In 1970, when Casey co-created “American Top 40”, he incorporated the feature, now called ‘Long Distance Dedication’ into the internationally syndicated weekly countdown show.  Casey, who’s in extremely poor health these days, will forever be remembered as the voice of Shaggy from the Hanna-Barbara Saturday morning animated TV Series “Scooby-Doo”.

Next, we come to The Vernons Girls, a trio of British female singers, who released the single “We Love The Beatles” in ’64 on Decca.  It didn’t make the Billboard singles chart either, but there are a couple of interesting Beatles connections with this group.  Back in the late ‘50’s, early 60’s, when The Vernons Girls was a 16 piece vocal group, they were signed to Parlophone Records (the same label as The Beatles were later signed to in England).  Lyn Cornell, one of the later paired down trio of Vernons Girls, was married to session drummer Andy White, the same guy producer George Martin hired to play drums on The Beatles’ “Love Me Do” recording session instead of Ringo Starr.

In 1964, The Vernons Girls also recorded the previously mentioned “We Love You Beatles” as The Carefrees.

In February of ‘64, Texan Sonny Curtis, a teenage pal of Buddy Holly’s and former member of The Crickets (he joined after Buddy’s death in ’59 and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a Cricket in 2012), co-wrote and recorded the country tinged song “A Beatle I Want To Be” with Lou Adler, producer of The Mamas and The Papas, Carole King, Cheech & Chong, Barry McGuire and so many more.  Guess what?  “I Want To Be A Beatle” didn’t chart on Billboard, but you probably already figured that out.

That same year (’64) Curtis released an album titled “Beatle Hits Flamenco Style Guitar” on the El Records label.  Sonny had previously written The Everly Brothers’ 1961 Top Ten hit “Walk Right Back”.  He also wrote “I Fought The Law”, a 1966 Top Ten hit for the Bobby Fuller Four.  Sonny Curtis also composed and sang the opening theme (“Love Is All Around”) for the “Mary Tyler Moore” television series (1974 to 1977).

Comedy writer-turned-singer Allan Sherman took his best shot at the Fab Four in ’64 with “Pop Hates The Beatles”.  Although he’d climbed to # 2 hit in ‘63 with “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh (A Letter From Camp)”, “Pop Hates The Beatles!” didn’t even crack the Hot 100.

BONUS! Here’s a snippet of Alan Sherman’s song when it was performed on “The Dean Martin Show” with Sherman, Vic Damone, and Dean Martin….

Capitol Records (record label home of The Beatles in North America) wasn’t immune from trying to reap even more moolah at the expense of their cash cow.  Early in ’64, Donna Lynn’s Capitol 45, “My Boyfriend Got a Beatle Haircut” only slightly scratched the Hot 100, peaking at # 83.

BONUS! Donna Lynn didn’t stop with just one Beatle inspired single….

The Four PrepsThe Four Preps saw their novelty record, “A Letter To The Beatles” stall at # 85 in the spring of ‘64, allegedly because Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein was upset about the song.  They’d had several previous hits, including “26 Miles (Santa Catalina)”, a # 2 hit in 1958; “Big Man”, a # 3 hit that same year; “Down By The Station”, # 13 in 1960 and a # 17 chart hit with “More Money For You And Me”, a parody (featuring damn fine imitations of early 60’s singers and their hits).  Years ago, I interviewed former Four Preps member-turned-TV-series-creator Glen Larson (“Battlestar Galactica”, “Buck Rogers In The 25th Century”, “The Fall Guy”, “Knight Rider” and “Magnum P.I.”.  Larson, fellow Prep-py Bruce Ballard and Ivan Robert Ulz co-wrote “A Letter To The Beatles”.  It was released on Capitol Records in March of ’64 and tells the tale of a boy whose girlfriend adores The Beatles more than him.  She sends them letter after letter professing her love, but the group writes back saying that, besides all that love, “you gotta send us 25 cents for an autographed picture, one dollar bill for a fan club Larsoncard.  And if you send in right away.  You get a lock of hair from our Saint Bernard.”  The Beatles manager Brian Epstein was apparently livid and pressured Capitol to stop promoting the record.  Larson told me: “They [The Beatles management] found the song offensive, that we were accusing them of being blatantly commercial.  We got word that Capitol was going to stop shipping [our] record.  [There was] no announcement, nothing [and] the appearance was worse than if it was publicly known because it looked like we simply had a bomb.  It just stopped selling, but that’s because [Capitol] didn’t ship any more.”

Nilsson and the BeatlesLastly, we come to a Beatles cover version/novelty record from one of my all time favourite singers (and Bob Segarini’s as well).  Harry Nilsson recorded The Beatles song, “You Can’t Do That” in 1967 as part of his debut RCA Victor album, “Pandemonium Shadow Show”.  Harry managed to work in around 20 additional Beatles titles into the song and although it only ‘bubbled under’ the Hot 100 at # 122 in the U.S., it was a Top Ten hit in Canada and brought Harry Nilsson to the attention of The Beatles.  So much so that at a 1968 press conference in New York to announce the launching of Apple Records, John Lennon was asked who was his favourite American performer.  “Nilsson” was his instant answer.  Harry became close friends with both Lennon and Ringo Starr and the Nilsson/Lennon legend looms large in John’s so called ‘lost weekend’ in L.A. when he was estranged from Yoko Ono in the mid 1970’s.

Harry also did quite well with his own music, charting six Top 40 hits.  “Without You”, Nilsson’s only # 1, came courtesy of a group signed to The Beatles’ Apple Records.  Badfingers’ Pete Ham and Tom Evans had merged two separate songs, “If It’s Love” and “I Can’t Live” into “Without You” and released it on their 1970 album, “No Dice”.  Nilsson and producer Richard Perry recorded “Without You” in 1971 in London and the song went straight to the top of Billboards’ Hot 100 chart for four weeks.  It survived for 5 weeks at # 1 on the British pop charts and went to # 1 in Australia, Ireland, New Zealand and Canada.  “Without You” won Nilsson his second Grammy award for ‘Best Male Pop Vocal’.

BONUS! The original version from Badfinger….

I spent a little time with Nilsson in 1989 when my then boss, John Candy asked Harry to write and sing the theme song to “Camp Candy”, a weekly NBC Saturday morning animated series that aired from 1989 ‘til 1992.  Although Nilsson hadn’t performed in years, he said he’d do it only if John sang the theme with him.

John said ‘yes’…and so did Harry.

By the way, all of the above mentioned Beatle novelty songs (and quite a few more) are on the 2006 released CD “Beatlemaniacs!!! The World of Beatles Novelties” (still available at amazon.com)

And speaking of The Beatles…

50 years ago on Billboards’ Hot 100 chart for the week of April 4, 1964, The Beatles held the top 5 positions in the Top Ten:

  1. Beatle Chart 1064Can’t Buy Me Love (remained at # 1 for 5 weeks)
  2. Twist And Shout (# 2 was the highest position this song achieved)
  3. She Loves You (was # 1 for 2 weeks in January of ’64)
  4. I Want To Hold Your Hand(# 1 for 7 weeks
  5. Please Please Me (the highest chart position achieved was # 3)

This achievement was truly historic.  It had NEVER happened before and hasn’t happened since.  50 cent came close in March of 2005 with three songs in the Top Ten, “Candy Shop” at # 1, The Game feat. 50 cent with “How We Go” at # 4 and “Disco Inferno” at # 5.

As for total number of # 1 hits, The Beatles still top that list with 20.

Elvis Presley comes closest with 18½ # 1 hits.  The ½ is “Blue Christmas”, which only made # 1 on the Christmas charts.  Mariah Carey follows that with 15 # 1’s.   Michael Jackson isn’t far behind with thirteen.  Madonna and The Supremes are next on the list with twelve # 1’s each.  They’re followed by Whitney Houston with eleven.  Stevie Wonder, George Michael and Michael’s little sis, Janet Jackson log with ten # 1’s each.  Even The Rolling Stones, The Beatles biggest rivals during their early years, only managed to rack up eight # 1 hits.

Variety 100thTo mark its 100th anniversary in October 2005, Variety, the magazine bible of the entertainment industry, asked its readers to vote for the ‘Icons of the 20th Century’.  The Beatles were voted #1, above Elvis Presley, Mickey Mouse, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Charlie Chaplin, Marlon Brando, Humphrey Bogart, Lucille Ball and Louis Armstrong.  Variety called The Beatles, “the sole group who has most shaped the face of modern day show business.”

Was there any doubt?

=DT=

Doug’s column appears here every 4th Monday.

Contact us at: dbawis@rogers.com.

DBAWIS_ButtonDoug Thompson has spent his entire adult life in broadcasting, both in Canada and the U.S. and has won 152 awards for his work.  He worked with Canadian actor John Candy for 17 years, writing and producing commercials, specials and several weekly radio programs.

Currently, he’s writing and producing the second season of a television program for the Hi Fi channel in Canada called “Hi Fi Salutes”, a series of short biographical documentaries on Canadian musicians, producers and record industry pioneers.  One of those programs recently won a Platinum Award at the World Film Festival in Houston.

One Response to “Doug Thompson: “WE LOVE YOU BEATLES, OH YES WE DO. WE LOVE THE BEATLES AND WE’LL BE TRUE. WHEN YOU’RE NOT NEAR TO US, WE’RE BLUE. OH BEATLES WE LOVE YOU, YEAH, YEAH, YEAH, YEEEAAAAHHHH!””

  1. Great post.

    Would argue, however, that Bing Crosby had more #1s. For proof I offer: http://bingcrosby.com/bing-bio/entertainer/bing-the-recording-star/number-one-hits

    I have a HIGH-LARRY-US John Candy story. Have a seat:

    So . . . I was manager of Skate City in Toronto, a roller-skate rental dealie with 3 locations. This was before inline skates, so we were renting 4-wheeled skates. One location was at Bedford Road and Davenport. I managed all 3 stores, so I just happened to be there the day John Candy walked in the door in a suit with a briefcase.

    He’s curious about rollerskating and whether it’s good exercise. I tell him it’s a breeze. Anyone can do it. And, it’s a good wortk out. He asks to strap on a pair and I’m not going to say no to John Candy.

    So, we measure his feet, find the right skates, and just casually shot the breeze. He was so very down to earth. Then we slowly ventured out onto the sidewalk.

    From this moment on it was like a John Candy movie. He was a total klutz, barely getting from one parking meter to another, to pole, to building. Several times it looked like he’d pitch one way or another, but a wild pinwheeling of his arms kept him upright.

    All I could think of was that I’d go down in history as the guy who killed John Candy.

    He skated the few doors west to the corner at Bedford and then skated back. Then he took them off, thanked me, and left.

    I always wished this story had a better ending.

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