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What Goes On: The Beatles Break Up

Crawdaddy Features The Beatles
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What Goes On: The Beatles Break Up

This article originally appeared in Issue 8 of   Crawdaddy   in February, 1967.

TICKET TO RIDE: Sid Bernstein offered the Beatles one million dollars for a double-header at Shea Stadium; they turned it down. Brian Epstein, who should be busy enough already, has merged his NEMS Enterprises with another huge management organization (involved are the Cream, the Who, Crispian St. Peters, Reaction Records) and is interested in expanding into legitimate theater, films, and TV. The implications are clear, but no one’s been willing to draw them. Now the long silence has ended. In London’s Sunday Times Magazine, January 22nd, Paul McCartney talks of growing up: “We’ve all of us grown up in a way that hasn’t turned into a manly way. It’s a childish way. That’s why we make mistakes. We’ve not grown up within the machine. We’ve been able to live very independent lives. Now we’re ready to go our own ways. We’ll work together only if we miss each other. Then it’ll be hobby work. It’s good for us to go it alone.” The interviewer, Derek Jewell, asked Paul about his mustache: “It’s part of breaking up the Beatles. I no longer believe in the image. I’m no longer one of the four mop-tops.”

So, after months of contradictions, rumor becomes fact: the Beatles have broken up—they aren’t a group anymore. Each has his separate plans, and they don’t seem even to include group recordings. John and Ringo are involved in films, George in the sitar, and Paul seems very much the American college student, taking a year off to find himself: “I’m spending a lot of time alone in the house, just doing things or thinking. I’ve a year to find out what I want to do. It’s very self-indulgent.” Meanwhile, the Beatles are committed to one more group movie, and at least one album plus the movie soundtrack. And I think we can expect a few surprises.

DONOVAN’s U.S. tour, scheduled for February, has been canceled. No other plans for an American concert tour are known; Don is scheduled to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show in April, and will be touring the European continent in May. Don’s own company, Donovan Enterprises, will make an hour-long color film of the continental tour for CBS-TV in America.

JEFFERSON AIRPLANE  and the SIDETRACK (photo above—they’re from Montreal and I like them) will be at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania the 17th and 18th of February (respectively) for the Second Annual Rock ‘n’ Roll Festival. Workshops, concerts, lectures, seminars, films, dances, and considerable joy have been scheduled for the weekend.

Mao Tse-tung has cut a record for his own label, featuring his greatest quotations (listeners are expected to chant along with the record) and some live recordings of Mao with the Red Guards. Sales are brisk. Meanwhile, Ev Dirksen made a guest appearance on Hollywood Palace in early January to plug his single (which, incidentally, never made it into the Top 30). Capitol tastefully chose not to release a single on their Jack Ruby & Friends LP. That kind of attention to sensitive details will no doubt put them in a good bargaining position next time there’s an assassination.

The ROLLING STONES are back in the thick of things, thanks to the words of their new single. Ed Sullivan generously let them sing it as “Let’s Spend Some Time Together’; AM radio in New York (and most of the country) has banned it completely; and one Atlanta deejay spent an hour cutting and splicing a tape to record the “Let’s spend the night together’ part backwards. They never mention the song’s real title on the air. // The Stones’ next single might well be “Back Street Girl”/”Please Go Home,” two sides from the British Between the Buttons that were replaced here by “Night” and “Tuesday.” “Back Street Girl” is gentle and sad, with acoustic guitar backup; “Please Go Home” is a whining, screaming, pounding thing. On Buttons Ian Stewart plays piano during “Connection” and “My Obsession”; Jack Nitzsche plays piano on “She Smiled Sweetly.” And Mick is beating the bass drum with his hands on “Connection.” Everybody gets into the act.

The most exciting and most sought-after (by record companies) new group on the West Coast is San Francisco’s Moby Grape. The Grape have enormous impact on an audience. Three guitars, a very talented bass, and a drummer (all of whom sing well), they come on like a flash flood. Guitarist Skip Spence—-who used to be drummer for Jefferson Airplane—radiates joy in all directions, turning on the group, turning on the audience, turning the whole performance into an event, a celebration. The Grape’s music is excellent, and is likely to get better—the group is only a few months old, and when they really get together, they’ll be frightening.

Songwriter-performer LARRY WILLIAMS has produced a new LITTLE RICHARD LP for Okeh, and may bring several other early rock artists to the label.

“I’m a Believer” is the biggest-selling single since “I Want to Hold Your Hand”; the $3 million figure has already been passed in American sales alone. In England, where “CIarksviIIe” was a flop, the TV show just began its run, and 500,000 “BeIiever”s were sold within five days of release (less than two dozen records a year sell 250,000 in Great Britain). More of the Monkees had an advance order of 1.5 million, which makes it four times a million-dollar album before starting. The amusing thing about all this is its supreme unimportance—after it’s all over, and they’ve outsold everyone else in history, the Monkees will still leave absolutely no mark on American music.

MITCH RYDER will no longer perform with the WHEELS; he’s put together a ten-piece orchestra which will back him in all personal appearances. Thirty thousand dollars has been invested in choreography, lights, costumes, etc. for “The Mitch Ryder Show.” Meanwhile he and the Wheels are under contract to New Voice Records, and will continue to record together. The Wheels hope to get gigs on their own—they’re one of the best rock bands in the country, and shouldn’t be reduced to being studio hacks for Bob Crewe.

On your right, ladies and gentlemen, the PEANUT BUTTER CONSPIRACY; a much-talked-of new group who strike me as being quite good but rather unexciting. Their single, “It’s a Happening Thing,” is out on Columbia; judge for yourselves.

The MAMAS & PAPAS are in England for concerts the first two weeks in February; after that, they won’t perform until after Cass has her baby, due in April. Appropriately, they have a new album entitled: The Mamas and Papas Deliver.

The Temptations Greatest Hits is #7 in Billboard, live LP soon.

“…there are only a few things that exist: Boogie Woogie—highpowered frogs—Nashville Blues—harmonicas walking—80 moons & sleeping midgets—there are only three things that continue: Life—Death & the lumberjacks are coming”—BOB DYLAN, Tarantula. There is some doubt about whether Tarantula exists; l have the uncorrected proofs from last March, at which time, had Dylan given the okay, the book would have gone into production for August publication. Instead, he decided to rewrite it completely; August came and went; January came and went; and still the book isn’t finished. I’ve been told that the book will never come out; it’s been canceled altogether, at Bob’s request. But there are too many conflicting stories, from reliable sources, for me to be sure. The book isn’t a novel; it’s a collection of short semi-articulate mood pieces, punctuated by wonderfully paranoiac pseudo-letters from unlikely characters to their unlikelier acquaintances. Mainly, it’s a funny book; as such it’s tremendously successful. But anyone expecting depth or quality similar to the best of Dylan’s liner-note pomes will be badly disappointed. And critical reaction is sure to be poor; critics will find the book incoherent and will be at least unsympathetic to (at worst, unaware of) the humor, the sarcasm, the persistence of image by mere tumbleflow of concept—all the things that make Tarantula worthwhile.

These are important people: Bill Ham, Jerry Granelli, & Fred Marshall. Together they form the LIGHT-SOUND DIMENSION, the first really tight mixed-media group I know of. Bill Ham is well-known as the most creative lights-show man in the Bay Area; Jerry and Fred are former jazz musicians. Jerry plays drums, bells, and whatever; Fred has invented a new instrument, which he has patented and is attempting to sell to a manufacturer. It’s an electric stringed instrument, in two parts—the second part is sympathetic strings, and actually plays itself. The trio have been practicing privately several hours a day for close to a year in a garage on Laguna Street in San Francisco; every evening a few friends come to watch a totally improvised performance—no prepared films or composed music are ever used. The amount of visual event that can be improvised and projected onto a screen is amazing; the medium has practically no relation to film at all. And what makes it all succeed in terms of impact and communication is the tightness of the group (light and sound really work together, and no matter how familiar you are with the best the Fillmore has to offer, you’ll agree that Ham & Co. are on another level altogether), and the simple fact that visual media require audial participation for the audience to get into and respond to what’s occurring in a more than intellectual sense. And, of course, all three men are extraordinarily talented. The Light-Sound Dimension will first perform in public this month, at the SF Museum of Art; after that, they hope to play colleges and other concert dates. Their impact on the arts should be tremendous. (For information on bookings, etc., write to Jerry Granelli c/o Crawdaddy!)

William Stevenson (author of “Ask the Lonely”) has left Motown Records to start his own production firm in New York.

Friday, Feb. 24, 10-11 p.m., ABC-TV will present “The Songmakers,” a study of the writers and the writing of pop music, featuring the Mamas & Papas, the Byrds, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, Blues Project, Simon & Garfunkel, Butterfield Band, Dionne Warwick, and Judy Collins. The special—produced by ABC News—will also involve talks with songwriters, rehearsal sessions, etc.

CBS News also has a pop music special up its sleeves, mark the date—April 11—and we’ll tell you more later.

The Australian Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations has banned “Snoopy vs. the Red Baron.” Reason: the use in the song of the word “bloody.”

JlMl HENDRIX, twenty-two-year-old Seattle-born blues singer whom Charles Chandler (former Animal) discovered playing with the Blue Flames in New York, has broken into the British music scene with fantastic success; his record of “Hey, Joe” is already #9 in England.

Lloyd Price is opening a New York discotheque, the Turn Table.

Joan Baez  in Japan “eagerly responded,” says Variety, “to questions about the war in Vietnam, President Johnson, his State of the Union address, Mao Tse-tung, her lampooning by cartoonist Al Capp, love, killing, anti-war, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, her refusal to pay 60% of her taxes, apathy and the prospect of the world being blown up. But when asked her opinion about folk rock music, Miss Baez declined to answer. ‘It’s a very controversial subject,’ she said.”

In a nutshell: JEFF BECK did leave the YARDBIRDS; Jimmy Page did not. Beck will be recording as a solo act for Mickie Most.

“No Milk Today,” which should be the A-side of the new HERMAN single, was written by Graham Gouldman (“Bus Stop,” “Listen People”); the other side, “Hush,” is by Geoff Stephens (“Winchester Cathedral”).

The TROGGS really will be here for the first time at the start of this month (February—the other three trips they announced were eventually called off) for a ten-day, twenty-two-city promotional tour in a charter plane. Nice way to see the country.

DONOVAN on Tim Hardin: “Timmy gets right into what he has to say. He puts real feeling into his songs, but he’s nothing like his songs when you meet him.” …on Paul McCartney: “When Paul arrived at the ‘Mellow Yellow’ session, he made some comment about my still being hooked on ‘yellow,’ and stayed along for the session. In the middle of the take he suddenly yelled out ‘Mellow Yellow!’ and it’s still there on the single somewhere.” …on “Mellow Yellow”: “The secret of ‘Mellow Yellow’’s success in America has been that it’s a driving song. You have to have these things in mind when you write for the U.S. A great many of the discs are heard on car radios, and if the music is not sympathetic to the driver, one push of the button and he’s on another station. You can almost change gear in time to ‘Mellow Yellow.’” …on “Sea and Foam”: “That’s all about when I was in Mexico. It was beautiful out there. We took a little boat out at night and when you dipped an oar into the water it sparkled like a million diamonds in the night—that was the plankton, little tiny living creatures.” …on his arranger, John Cameron: “What John does for me is to find sympathetic settings for my lyrics and paint musical pictures around them.” Don may play the role of a minstrel in a March production of As You Like It at the Old Vic, singing and strumming his own adaptations of a number of Shakespeare sonnets.

The GRATEFUL DEAD, one of the Bay Area’s two most popular live rock acts, have signed a very strong contract with Warner Brothers Records; they will be choosing their own producer and will have complete artistic control of how they are recorded.

There never was a group called the Mothers of Invention. But someone at Verve-Folkways got cold feet at the last minute, deciding that even for a “Freak-Out!” album the name of the group—THE MOTHERS—was a little strong. So he cheerfully added “of Invention,” much to the Mothers’ surprise. Now Verve has decided that any group that sells so well deserves its own name back, and “of Invention” is going the way of all necessities.

The MAMAS & PAPAS, like the Beatles before them, have signed a contract allowing them to be used as subjects for an animated cartoon series on TV next fall.

The Dave Clark Five movie has been indefinitely postponed, for lack of a producer (and, one suspects, a potential audience).

Response to JEFFERSON AlRPLANE’s double-bill with Dizzy Gillespie at San Francisco’s Basin Street West has been really fine—mothers, fathers, even Variety reporters are going wild over the new rock! East Coast people, remember: the Airplane will be at Swarthmore (near Philly) February 17, Stony Brook, Long Island, February 18, and then, starting the 20th, two weeks at the Cafe Au Go Go in New York.

BUFFALO SPFUNGFIELD follow-up to “For What It’s Worth” should be “Hey, Mr. Soul”—fantastic!

SPENCER DAVIS GROUP has a new single out in England, a Stevie Winwood composition called “I’m a Man.” “Gimme Some Lovin”‘ isn’t as big here as it ought to be, but at least the group is getting some attention. Perhaps too much attention: some zealous a&r man added tambourines to the American release of “Gimme” and messed up the vocals somehow. The British single is much better. The WHO’s “I’m a Boy” was also remixed for U.S. consumption—not that anyone in the U.S. consumed. “Happy Jack,” the group’s latest almost-#1 in England, may not even be released here. It’s considered too advanced for our unsophisticated ears. But don’t let Britain get too snotty: after all, their #1 for the last seven weeks was “Green Grass of Home” by Tom Jones…England’s first home-grown million seller. Who’s sophisticated?

ERIC BURDON & the ANIMALS start a series of concerts in this country February 10, when they appear at Hunter in New York City. March 10 and 11 they play something called the Chicago Blues Festival. Watch for them in a town near you!

Something good is happening. Never mind Aaron Neville, Micky Dolenz, the
bl**dy Red Baron, or whatever else is on the radio. Go down to your friendly (maybe) record man and pick up the Doors album, the Youngbloods album, the new Stones, the new Donovan, the John Mayall Bluesbreakers LP (yes! yes! finally available in this country on London Records! You too can become an Eric Clapton fan), all of which came out in the last week as I write this. Never have there been so many great rock LPs out in one sudden spurt—never have there been so many different good things going on all at once—never have there been so many more good things promised for the immediate future. And this album activity comes at a time when we are just entering the millennium of performing rock, with college concerts replacing the teeny-bop bits, with the San Francisco scene beginning to spread across the country, with groups like the Airplane, the Spring?eld, Moby Grape, the Doors, who interact with an audience and present live rock in a manner that cuts absolutely everything that has gone before.

Everyone is getting into rock these days—and the only aspect of the scene that’s going downhill is AM radio. The reason is obvious: AM radio, with its Monkees, its Herb Alpert, its Nancy Sinatra, is returning to the subteens and the housewives from whence it came. Rock grew out of this, was born out of universality, popular appeal, the ability to sell a particular piece of material on a little 45-rpm disc. But the hard-core audience for this kind of music is not a musical audience; they want pleasure, not interaction. Eventually the Beatles grew away from them, and the Monkees stepped in. It was inevitable—pop music is not based solely on creativity, and the people who don’t interact had had it about up to here with creativity, new things every time you turned on the radio. It’s not as easy to enjoy that stuff, particularly without really listening to it. So simple, bouncy, silly rock starts coming back, and somebody is buying it. The beautiful part is: meanwhile rock has, through its growing goodness and through the graces of the generation that stayed with it, built up a huge audience for quality rock, creative rock, people who’d rather hear a good ten-minute rock track than an easy-to-listen-to, dull, catchy two-minute thing. These people know the difference between Question Mark & the Mysterians and the Buffalo Springfield, appreciate the aspirations of the Beatles and the Beach Boys as well as the easy musicianship of the Youngbloods or the Spencer Davis Group.

So we’ve come to that part of the circle where the Top 100 is heading back toward formula production tricks, reliance on catchy material, the whole bit. But we’re getting off the circle, getting out of pop music, and we’re taking a larger audience with us than ever before. We’re getting into what all of us have been waiting for: a broad, creative music interacting with every facet of our world, reacting off of other kinds of music and, more than that, other kinds of art, on a scale so large we can’t even begin to guess at the consequences. But Brian Wilson must be the first composer in history to know that twenty million people are going to hear, and respond to, his new composition within a month of his completing it. We are moving toward mass market creativity and interaction, and we’re doing it in a context of media flexibility and a new awareness of man (look at San Francisco, where the new music first took hold). We are moving toward the audience-author relationship that made Shakespeare possible; and if you find out from the friendly record man that the Monkees have sold over five million albums, you just buy the Doors LP anyway, and play it with a couple of friends in a dimly lit room, and turn the transistor radio off and leave it off, ‘cause that’s not where we’re going.

A little more news, maybe: Dylan has, as predicted, left Columbia; he’s on MGM, but who’ll be producing him, and how much control of things Dylan and his people will have, is still being negotiated, The deal involves more money than Dylan is worth as a recording artist—the amount of publicity he gets is second to none, and MGM will benefit greatly in prestige, but the number of LPs and singles he sells is not by any means phenomenal. The reasons for the move, other than getting the best financial deal, are uncertain; however, Grossman (Dylan’s management) has recently moved Ian & Sylvia to MGM, and has been trying to get Paul Butterfield onto Kama Sutra; and I can’t help suspecting that deals negotiated by Albert Grossman, involving production by A. Grossman, appeal to him.

Briefly: The BEACH BOYS are forming Brother Records, and will try to get Capitol to release them from their contract ahead of time in exchange for distribution rights; “No Time Like the Right Time” by the BLUES PROJECT deserves to be #1, and probably will be; watch for “Love in the Open Air.” Also, I’m doing a book on rock today for NAL, and other things are happening. Later, okay…?

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